Ghost Busted: a Critique of Ghost Hunters

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Here in the United States, we have a highly entertaining television program called Ghost Hunters. A team of former plumbers from Rhode Island travel the country conducting investigations wherever ghosts have been allegedly haunting the world of the living. I like watching the show. I enjoy the fact that the investigators appear to be serious in their mission. They even use their expertise in plumbing to debunk some of the claims of paranormal activity.

But, there are some glaring flaws in their investigative routines, and I feel compelled to point out three of them here.

  1. Always at night. This one bugs me the most about the show. Inevitably, people have reported seeing, hearing or feeling the presence of ghosts during their normal waking activities. While watching TV, a shadow is spotted skirting across the room; while making dinner, disembodied footsteps are heard; while taking a bath, a rubber ducky stares ominously at the bather. It’s pretty rare for a person to notice a ghost while they are asleep, with all the lights out, or while they aren’t in the supposedly haunted building at all. Yet, in each and every investigation, the Ghost Hunters team listens to these ghostly claims and then proceeds to do the entire investigation at night, with all of the lights out, with the residents away. There are good efforts to recreate some of the situations that people reported seeing ghosts in, but all in the dark at night. I’m sure this makes for creepier television, but it doesn’t make sense from a scientific point of view.
  2. Ghost whispers. After all the camera and audio footage is taken, the team analyzes their recordings. Nearly every episode features some static or ambient sound so quiet that the investigators never heard it live, but when it’s boosted, filtered & otherwise enhanced, it sounds vaguely like unintelligible whispers. I would like the Ghost Hunters to take some similarly recorded audio from an antiseptic, ghost-free location and spend hours listening for subliminal signs of the dead talking. This reminds me of a bizarre method that some promote to listen to ghosts: playing the static between radio stations loudly until you think you hear the dead talking.
  3. Other sounds. Inevitably, there’s a scene where we see two investigators through an infra-red camera, are walking about a room in the dark and suddenly, one says: “Did you hear that? It sounded like footsteps!” The other confirms that he or she heard it. They ask each other if either of them made the noise and they both say “no”. The ghosts are stomping! What they fail to do is ask the camera operator if she or he made the noise. If you are straining to hear ghost sounds, an errant step by a camera operator could easily be mistaken for ghost steps. For that matter, a camera operator could be, even unintentionally, whispering under his or her breath in response the the investigator’s questions to the spirits. The camera operator could even be breathing hard enough for the sound to be just barely picked up by mics for future boosting, enhancing & interpreting as ghost talk.

Now, I can hear any of you who are still reading this post saying, “Chilax, dude, it’s just a TV show!” That may be true, but, um, good point.

I placed the one and only movie review I’ve ever posted under one flower and an important question about The Dark Night Rises under another. Choose wisely:

dasydasy

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2 Responses to Ghost Busted: a Critique of Ghost Hunters

  1. as a retired investigator I feel compelled to point out a few things.

    1. night time is the best time to investigate for many reasons. Rodents are most active, during my 11 years I’ve had numberous cases such a scratching, missing food items, broken glass some genuine some the work of rodents. The reason this gets reported during the day because they slept through it. The lights are out to cut down on emf readings. The other reason for the dark is at night the air is denser then by day rendering sounds able to travel faster and farther. There is also a decline in sensory input which heightens the other sences. Though the draw back is hitting something in the dark….hurts more.

    2. I think your refering to class d evps. These are faint undistinguishable sounds heavy in static and best to be deleted or saved for personal experiments in the pursuit of better cleaning techniques by applying the latest in audio forensics. I also believe there is no such thing as ghost free. The most surprising to me was an abandoned gas station. Property records showed it had no owner before being sold, further research provided no deaths on the property, yet we had amazing evps and experiances. I also disapprove of the white noise as our brains are always trying to find patterns this is called matrixing. White noise is no different.

    3. You are very right camera operators are a possible source of contamination. That is why they are a hollywood team complete with acting. Yes they do act, no team I have been with reacts in such a manner. Every team I have worked with has used military hand signals. Specifically contact left/right to indicate a sound, danger area to point out dangers, freeze to stop, this is to avoid stepping on possible evps, and cut down on contamination.

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    • EricIndiana says:

      Thanks very much for your detailed response, livindolcevita! As a former video producer, I’ve always wanted to go in to places rumored to be haunted and investigate. I see what you’re saying about the advantages of investigating at night. But sometimes, from the stories people tell, it seems like ghosts or poltergeists are reacting to things that people are doing during the day, especially construction or anything that’s tearing up part of a house. So, I’d like to recreate those situations to try to record evidence.

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