ASSOCIATES (2006, July, v. 13, no. 1) -

Library Life:
A Column Of Eclectic Rantings


Katie Buller Kintner

Wendee tells me that this month’s theme is environment. She suggested library environment, work environment and physical environment, which got me thinking. As usual, I’m going to take it one step further and this month’s column is sort of about the environment. The metaphysical environment, that is. Yep, I’m talking about ghosts again.

Ok yes, I know this isn’t Halloween but I’m talking about the real world of ghost hunting. This activity doesn’t just encompass going out to darkened decrepit houses and scaring yourselves silly. It covers actual investigative procedures and some consider it a science of sorts. Libraries are a very important part of the ghost hunter’s tool bag. Not only do most libraries have at least a few ghost and ghost hunting selections, but the reference department is also a valuable resource for researching historical documentation about a given area or building. In fact, maybe sometime when I really am feeling ambitious, I’ll do a few reviews and how-tos for this journal. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who are anxious to get hunting. Ok, maybe not.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, ghost hunting is becoming a more and more popular activity for skeptics and believers alike. I would attribute this to the proliferation of ghost hunting shows on cable television in the last year. Programs such as “Most Haunted”, “Dead Famous” and “Ghost Hunters” seem to regularly pop up on my TV screen and being curious, I started watching them. There are many more programs than these three, but for me, this particular trio has a special fascination as the producers go on actual “ghost hunts” and record their findings.

I wouldn’t look for these shows in the Emmy nominations and if they aren’t on your viewing schedule, let me describe them briefly for you. Ok, I admit it—this is a TV review column!

“Most Haunted” is produced in England and features sexy, pouty hostess Yvette Fielding leading a group of intrepid producers, cameramen, makeup girls and psychics into historic structures reputed to be haunted. Since Great Britain is littered generously with such places, you would think that they would exhaust themselves trying to cover so much, but somehow they also found the energy to take a tour of several reputedly haunted locations in the USA. A typical investigation takes the group into the haunted building where psychic Derek Acorah contacts his otherworldly guide “Sam”, who gives Derek the ghostly who’s who of the site. Then with Derek in tow, the group heads into the spookiest rooms to conduct séances have Ouija board readings, and other ghostly daring-do. Usually every little house noise gets a response of “what’s that!” or Yvette screaming as we look up her nose through her night-vision camcorder. When things are boring, Yvette’s producer husband Carl is not above jabbing someone in the ribs and claiming it was a ghost. You can catch “Most Haunted” on the Travel Channel here in the US and on Living TV in the UK.

Psychic Chris Fleming and prerequisite British hostess (and somewhat skeptical) Gail Porter are our hosts on “Dead Famous”, which features ghost hunts for dead celebrities. Naturally, the best place to hunt for dead celebrities is in their former homes but Chris and Gail can rarely get into those so they settle for places that celebrities spent time as children or when they were just starting out. This takes them all over the country to investigate such places as the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake (IA) to find Buddy Holly's ghost or to cavernous historic Hollywood studios to find Lucille Ball floating among the catwalks. My favorite episode had them “contacting” Frank Sinatra through a séance and instead of Frank, Sammy Davis Jr. supposedly came through to tell them to leave Frank alone! Oh my. Just like in real life, huh? “Dead Famous” is also on Living TV in the UK and you can catch it on the Biography Channel in the US.

My clear favorite among these three is the Sci Fi channel’s “Ghost Hunters”, featuring actual real live ghost hunters Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS). I like this one because it shows normal people doing this abnormal activity. These two work together as plumbers during the day, but on weekends, they don their “TAPS” jackets and shirts and go to work for clients of a different sort. From their HQ in Rhode Island, they take calls from all over the country from people seeking help with their respective ghost problems. They have a caravan of specially equipped vans, more cable and cameras than many small TV stations and a group of investigators, technicians and trainees that changes with every show. What sets this show apart is that we not only see the investigators doing their thing on an investigation, but we also get to see the dynamics of their personal relationships as well. For instance when technician Brian (an audience favorite) was having a rough time with his girlfriend, it showed in the way he screwed up on investigations. This resulted in him being tossed out of TAPS by Jason and Grant, then ultimately returning to the show after he left his girlfriend and apologized to Jason and Grant while the cameras were running. Brian is also known for bolting out of a spooky situation while yelling “DUDE RUN” to his cameraman. What they were running from was something that was never established but the two words turn up everywhere he goes on the show.

So, you might ask, does anyone on a ghost hunting TV show ever actually find a ghost? Well, yes and no. Like an actual ghost investigation, it all depends on who was there, what happened, how it was recorded, how many witnesses were there, who is the most believable and how controlled the physical environment was. So when we see tiny “orbs” floating by cameras on “Most Haunted”, we are to assume that they are ghosts and not to think that they might be reflections in the camera lens or bugs flying by. On “Dead Famous”, often the only ghostly contact is through psychic Chris Fleming so we are left hanging as to whether Chris actually had contact or he is just adept at covering his butt. With the “Ghost Hunters”, the actual evidence they gather is shown to the TV audience but is also debunked in front of the camera. Most of what they gather is explainable natural phenomena but on occasion catch something that seems quite incredible, such as strange black shapes running past cameras or ghostly voice recordings (“Electronic Voice Phenomena” or EVP). But we rarely get to see what the long-term follow-up verdict is on these particular cases. They are presented to the “client” as a possible haunting and the viewer is left scratching their head.

Ghostly television is probably a trend that won’t last too much longer, but I have to say that if these programs went off the air, I would miss them. After all, ghosts were people too, right?

See ya next time.

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