Debunking the flapdoodle of ghost-hunting entertainment

Originally published at: Debunking the flapdoodle of ghost-hunting entertainment | Boing Boing


I remember one of these shows from the 2000s, from the last-gen of standard-definition TV, wen’t viral because on DVD or upscaled for broadcast in 4K you could see the fishwires and such.


My brother-in-law worked there in the 80’s. Yeah, they had some fun with the guests.


About 20 or so years ago, I was working on a book involving ghosts. Part of what I needed to was learn about all the different approaches for looking for ghosts or the signs, I don’t remember which. It’s fascinating stuff, but it was obviously pretty hokey.

The one I thing I couldn’t do was listen to recordings of ghosts. I knew it was going to fire up my imagination in a way I didn’t want.


While attempting a general ‘What is the scientific method?’ class a professor (for whom i was a TA at the time) wanted a solid example of something which failed the proper expression of occam’s razor (or law of parsimony). Y’know: selecting the hypothesis which spawned the fewest number of additional unresolved issues. “So what’s it to be? UFOs? Loch Ness monster? Some religious construct?” …in short, we fetched up on “ghosts”, and what states of matter or energy they would embody, where they can occur (why never in a sunlit park?), what defines an unresolved matter by which they became ghosts, what’s up with the ectoplasmic goo? …etc. Admittedly this was within a year of when the original Ghostbusters(1984) came out.


I would trust those ghost hunting shows more if at least once in a while they concluded “nope, clearly no ghosts here” and left it at that.

Not that I’ve watched a lot of them, but it always seems like they end up with “it sure felt spooky, we couldn’t get any conclusive photos, but this one sure looks weird, right? The case remains open.”


I’ve participated in a couple of ghost hunts as part of Halloween revelries over the years. I found it fun, but shockingly did not find compelling evidence of the supernatural. The use of technology is supposed to add an air of scientific authenticity to the proceedings, but to me it just highlighted flaws in the methodology. At its best, it is permission for adults to play–getting creeped out in the dark like they did when they were kids.





I mean, this is all well and good, but did anyone ever figure out what this ghostly message was about?

The cake is a lie


Give me ghost walking tours or cemetery tours any time. I’d much rather take a stroll through an actual place and listen to stories of what people claim to have experienced, learning some real history of an area along the way.


Yeah, those shows are all bullshit. I grew up about about a mile from the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Been there several times, never felt remotely scary. It’s definitely a unique piece of architecture, but nothing supernatural.

There is a new movie on the Shudder streaming service called Deadstream, and I thought it was hilarious. It skewers ghost hunting shows and social media influencers, which I really loved. You could do worse than get a free trial of Shudder just to watch it.


TV once required us to interpolate a lot with our imaginations, even when it was nominally past the radio-with-pictures era :tv:


Fun fact: the term high-definition television is from 1936.


Phun fact: Philo Farnsworth is a fun name to say!

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