In the past few years Americans and British alike have been swamped with every kind of ghost show imaginable. Europe too has had its share of paranormal docu-dramas in recent history, where though some of these shows can be entertaining, and in some case enjoyable, for those of us who take the concept of psychical research more seriously, however, these programs tend to do more damage to the field than good. Today, reality TV is the king of the heap. It dominates over actual entertainment based on something more pleasant to watch after a hard day’s at work or when settling down for a little TV on the weekend. Indeed, I can remember waiting to watch the latest episode of The Night Gallery with Rod Serling, or Ghost Story AKA (Circle of Fear), with Sebastian Cabot, and of course, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, with the late, great Daren McGavin. This was entertainment for many kids and adults of my generation, and we knew it. And throughout it all, we understood the difference betwixt fact and fiction. Yet, when those of my age group wanted to watch something more realistic, or at least that which many believed to be real, but was on the fringes of what most considered reality and that of accepted science, we would watch the ever popular documentaries of the day. Indeed, in the 1970s and early 1980s, we had a grand selection to choose from. We had The Legend of Boggy Creek, UFOs are Real, Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot, The NICAP Story, Chariots of the Gods, Arthur C. Clarkes Strange Universe and Mysterious World, The Stone Tape Theory and many, many others to enjoy. We had a veritable smorgasbord of honest and well-thought material to choose from. Today, sadly, and I say with no reservations; that TV has sunk to an all-time low. There are reality shows on housewives; garbage men; and storage unit managers; angry tow trucking services; threatening bounty hunters and a good number of in-your-face meanness disguised as entertainment, including those people inclined to the ever popular ghost hunt. OK, whatever makes you happy — That’s fine. But, think for a minute about the later profession and the people that spent a good portion of their lives researching, completing serious studies, honing their craft and sacrificing to make those professions their careers? For instance, could you imagine spending six or more years becoming a psychologist and educator, mastering your discipline for even more years just to have a person come along and say that they surpass you, and will achieve more, without a day spent in a college or without having any proper training? That’s what’s happening each and every day for those involved in the serious research of what we call parapsychology.
I can understand that we like to see conflict and to be frightened…Just turn on the evening news. Its horror and threat 24-hours a day and its none-stop. We seem to be designed by the media to crave such things, and that this is just what we are, so we should get used to it, and should certainly not buck the system. Undeniably, in the United States, even the cooking shows are tainted with anger and fear. Really, when Gordon Ramsey is working in the U.S. for his show here, we will see him screaming at some restaurant owner who’s trying to make a name for him/herself, thinking that the master chef is going to bury a cleaver in their skulls, while this same show hosted in the United Kingdom has this famous chef speaking eloquently and polite to his pupils as if partaking in tea with the Queen herself…Are we really this mean and nasty in the United States? Well, when we have such behavior in documentary-like shows regarding the research of ghosts and other elements of parapsychology, that answer becomes painfully clear. Undeniably, we can see the ever-popular ex-plumbers hunting ghosts, using various pseudo-technical gadgetry, that’s sold as actual ghost detecting devices, with these people giving advice as if they had actual and definite answers to the age-old questions, such as hauntings and the nomenclature of ghosts in general. The show is riddled with the customary fights, bulling and drama befitting a street brawl…But is it reality?
In addition to this, we also have flamboyant, tattooed thugs screaming at the alleged ghosts of equally alleged haunted locations. Spiked hairdos and the threat of being beaten up has taken the place of a college professor, and the novice, uneducated cad has overthrown the studious grad student, all in favor of making a few dishonest bucks from the seemingly endless cascade of an equally uneducated populace. No, rubber spiders and cotton cobwebs have taken the place of the classroom, just as Paper Mache skulls and fog machines have usurped the laboratory in a continuous effort to fool, beguile and dupe an otherwise lazy culture that nonetheless houses an honest interest in the unknown. To this end, I believe this aspect of the human condition is an unfortunate side-effect of what we are as curious creatures. If you go to any school yard and a fight between two lads ensues, you’re sure to find a dozen or so other kids loitering around to watch that fight, secretly yearning to see a bloody nose. This is no different than those who will come out of their homes to watch the fire trucks or ambulance crew pulling out a corpse from a nearby house, or the strange group of blank faces that mysteriously appear to watch every action as the medical examiner’s crew cleans up the remains of an auto accident…Its just what we do. Therefore, can we really blame the average TV consumer for wanting for the plumber/ghost hunter to walk into that dark ball room of that alleged haunted hotel that Stephen King once stayed in, expecting to discover a ghoulish spectre of the past? And when we watch that muscle-bound, tattooed boy screaming at the alleged spirit of a suicide victim, while investigating the alleged haunted motel room where she pulled off the deed, do we not secretly wish to see the pissed-off spook of that poor lady to leap out from behind the shower curtain, with eyes blazing red and talon-like finger nails preparing to rip the flesh out of that foolish lad?
Of course we do!
Yet, with all this, it’s not entirely our fault for wishing for the scary or the spooky in life once and awhile. After all, if we didn’t, there would be no horror movies, or haunted amusement attractions, and no one would buy that Stephen King novel. We would be pretty boring, wouldn’t we? Having said that, we should at least realize that there should be a separation between fiction and the desire of the fantastic and that which is intended to be serious and true in nature, keeping one from the other and in its perspective place. Indeed, many serious psychical researchers and associated parapsychologists have been unfairly labeled and mistreated by mainstream science due largely because many self-proclaimed psychics, ghost hunters, demonologists and monster hunters have labeled themselves as the aforementioned professionals; sadly confusing the public from the actual, dedicated psychical researcher with said showman and huckster. Actual psychical researchers, in retrospect, are usually college and university professors of a hard science such as mathematics, physics and biology or the human services like psychology and sociology, and who have years and years of dedication to the profession. The opposite end of these people have brought a vast and illogical amount of nonsense to the field and have intermingled such into true science, thus muddling the honest goal of finding answers to the mystery of what we call the ‘paranormal.’ Though many of us search for these things of fringe science and those odd, bumps in the night, or the misty spectres of a long-dead persona, we must at the very least separate the makeshift ghost hunters who pull gags, flatulate on the air and who admit to falsifying documentation and setting up events to appear as ghostly phenomena to that of the serious student of psychical research…This is the crux of critical thinking in research.
Therefore, until we have had enough of this silliness; as much as we have had enough of bell-bottom jeans and fuzzy legwarmers, we’ll have to endure these shows or boycott them all together until we’re taken seriously once again — Have patience, something’s gotta give! Until that time, however, I happily suggest a few of my favorite docu-parapsy-shows for your enjoyment, and for a better look into the realm of psychical research, which is conducted from a far more serious foundation.
Ghost Hunters: Stories from the Other Side [UK DVD]
Here’s one of my favorite series from the United Kingdom. These shows are produced from a serious vein of both science and folklore, whereby the legend of an alleged haunted location is housed by reason to that of the tabloid, consisting of the legend, which is usually quite ancient from most standards, due largely because England is so old to begin with. Moreover, the show also interviews the experiencer, as well as professionals in the field of psychical research, such as those involved with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). Of the many time-honored stories investigated:
1. Legends of the Legionnaires.
2. Spirits of the Civil War
3. The Phantom Schoolmaster
4. Castle Leslie
5. Ghost hunters at Work
6. Phantom Fisherman
7. Echoes From Beyond the Grave
8. The Possession
9. Priest and Professor
10. Spirits of Bodmin Moor
11. Mysteries at George Inn
12. Phantom Pilot.
Ghost Hunters: Back From the Dead [UK DVD]
1. Severn Triangle
2. In The Shadow of Snowdonia
3. The Haunting Of County Wicklow
4. Battlefield of The Somme
5. Haunted By-Pass
6. Across The Great Divide
7. Phantoms of Chingle Hall
8. Men Who Talk To Ghosts
9. Invisible Intelligence
10. Holy Ghostbuster
11. Haunted Ballroom
12. Tales From Dartmoor
13. Ripples In Time
14. The Case of Gorton Poltergeist
Ghost Hunters: Spirits of Bodmin Moor – Mysteries at George Inn/Phantom Pilot [UK DVD]
The third in this series explores unexplained incidents and extraordinary phenomena are told in these stories that happened at everyday places. Volume 4 takes a look at three incidents. In Spirits of Bodmin Moor we are taken to a place of history and intrigue where, among other events, King Arthur was supposed to have lived. Some of the locals claim to have experienced many paranormal incidents, including encounters with King Arthur himself. In Mysteries at George Inn, an 18th century drinking house is the site of some eerie hauntings and exorcisms. In Phantom Pilot, a recently deceased pilot appears at an airport lounge in Scotland and chats with a fellow pilot…All in all, fascinating material from credible witnesses.
Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers
This show, being one of the key shows to enlighten and inspire me to research and write about the unknown, Arthur C. Clarke, the notable scientist and author, investigates from a scholarly foundation, and offers the viewer a chance to understand various aspects of what we consider strange or paranormal. In World of Strange Powers, this thirteen-part television series, first broadcast in 1985 in the UK by Independent Television Network (ITV), the sequel to the 1980 series Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, is introduced by the acclaimed scientist and fiction writer in short sequences filmed at his home in Sri Lanka. The show covers many aspects of parapsychology, fringe science and Cryptozoology respectfully, giving the audience a scholarly, yet enjoyable format.
Arthur C. Clarke’s World of Strange Powers
1-The Journey Begins – September 2, 1980
2-Monsters of the Deep – September 9, 1980
3-Ancient Wisdom – September 16, 1980
4-The Missing Apeman – September 23, 1980
5-Giants For the Gods – September 30, 1980
6-Monsters of the Lakes – October 7, 1980
7-The Great Siberian Explosion – October 14, 1980
8-The Riddle of the Stones – October 21, 1980
9-Out of the Blue – October 28, 1980
10-U.F.O.’s – November 4, 1980
11-Dragons, Dinosaurs and Giant Snakes – November 11, 1980
12-Strange Skies – November 18, 1980
13-Clarke’s Cabinet of Curiosities – November 25, 1980
Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World
1-Warnings from the Future – April 3, 1985
2-Things That Go Bump in the Night – April 10, 1985
3-From Mind to Mind – April 17, 1985
4-Stigmata: The Wounds of Christ – April 24, 1985
5-Ghosts, Apparitions and Haunted Houses – May 1, 1985
6-Have We Lived Before? – May 15, 1985
7-Fairies, Phantoms and Fantastic Photographs – May 22, 1985
8-An Element of the Divine – June 5, 1985
9-Walking on Fire – June 12, 1985
10-Message from the Dead – June 19, 1985
11-The Roots of Evil – June 26, 1985
12-Metal Bending, Magic and Mind Over Matter – July 3, 1985
13-Strange Powers: The Verdict – July 10, 1985
NOTE: Check to see what the format is. For U.S. citizens, look for region 1 format.
*For more information on these and similar shows, check out the following websites. And, if you feel that you have another show to recommend, please let us know, and I’ll list it here.
Popular seller websites:
Ghost Television http://www.ghosthaunts.com/ghost_shows.html
Haunted TV: A History of British Supernatural Television http://webspace.webring.com/people/th/hauntedtv/
The UFO Store http://www.theufostore.com/