By Bobby Elgee
There is no denying the popularity of paranormal television shows. We’ve come a long way from the days of In Search Of. And though ghost stories, Bigfoot, aliens, and other high weirdness have always made for high ratings, we are deluged with choices including “reality” shows Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Lab, A Haunting, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Destination Truth, and several others, not to mention the fictional fare including Fringe, Warehouse 13, Supernatural, and others too numerous to mention.
Some people say that Ghost Hunters–a television program on the Scy Fy network featuring members of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S)–started this explosion in popularity, generating spin-offs and copycat shows that feature teams of paranormal investigators visiting haunted locations. Though varying somewhat in structure and “methodology,” they generally follow the same basic format: a team of investigators–after having done some amazingly cursory historical research–interviews a few witnesses to said paranormal activity, then “investigates” the location using audio recorders, infrared cameras, sonar, gieger counters, and a host of other equipment. This specific format has been expanded from just hunting ghosts to include programs that also feature cryptozoology (Destination Truth) , ufology (UFO Hunters), in what others would lead us to believe is spiritual and psychic warfare (Paranormal State).
Other paranormal television shows follow different schemes including featuring reenactments of famous hauntings interspersed with interviews with the people that experienced them–A Haunting–as well as a program featuring famous people sharing their own encounters with the supernatural–Celebrity Ghost Stories.
Though paranormal television has a history that extends to a time before cable, there is no denying the relatively recent increase in the popularity of such fare. In fact, the interest in supernatural phenomena has probably never been greater since the Spiritualism craze of the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s. There may be many sociocultural reasons why this interest has risen in recent years, but certainly paranormal television has a lot to do with it.
One could argue that the biggest influence of paranormal television has had is on the hobby of ghost hunting. Though I feel that paranormal television has contributed relatively little to the actual understanding of the reasons behind paranormal phenomena, literally thousands of teams of ghost hunters have sprung up across the country as a result. Many members of these groups will state that Ghost Hunters was their single biggest influence in the decision to form or join a team of ghost hunters and a vast majority mimic their methods. Before these shows, it was difficult to find a local team of paranormal investigators. Though such respected paranormal luminaries as John Zaffis and Troy Taylor have been around for years–well before the recent craze–now one can find multiple teams of ghost hunters in every region in the country.
Personally, I joined a ghost hunting team because of two reasons. First, I experienced some possibly paranormal activity. Second, I saw a story in a newspaper about a ghost hunting crew looking for members and joined Soul Seekers Paranormal Society. The individual who started the team I joined–albeit a ghost hunter for many years previous–specifically founded the team as a direct result of being exposed to Ghost Hunters.
Interestingly enough, paranormal television has had an even more direct impact on the group I’m currently a member of. Several people left my team, Sights Unseen Paranormal, and started their own team in response to Ghost Hunters decision to film an episode at a specific location. Though the details are tedious and certainly not worth repeating here, it’s a simple fact that if you need a ghost hunter nowadays, you don’t have to look very hard and it’s obvious that just one of these television shows has had a huge influence on many people.
Considering the number of people now involved in this hobby, and the amount of time and money spent by these teams on equipment, travel to haunted locations, and attendance at ghost tours, conferences, and workshops, it is readily apparent that paranormal television has certainly generated a significant economic impact. Consider the number of hotels that now find that advertising their haunted status is good for business, the formerly unused and derelict properties that are now open for ghost tours, and the haunted taverns where you can have a drink with a ghost. It’s pretty simple, ghosts are good for business.
There are several interesting developments that I’ve experienced first-hand–as a paranormal investigator–that I feel are a result of paranormal television. One of these developments appeared to be an intense interest, now followed by an increasing wariness of business owners to get involved with ghost hunting teams.
Perhaps this reluctance has to do with the recent recession–business owners are becoming increasingly leery of potential negative impacts. I suspect that this wariness is also due to the amount of requests for investigations these locations receive from the large number of amateur ghost hunting teams in existence. I feel that these same dynamics may also apply to home owners.
Yet another reason that I perceive it appears to be increasingly difficult to procure investigations is that these home and business owners see these television shows and form misconceptions about what a paranormal investigation really is, and thus are hesitant to contact a team based on the stereotypes seen on television.
Of course, I could be totally wrong, and this is simply an inaccurate perception. The reasons for my perception that it is increasingly difficult to secure an investigation–specifically of businesses–could be do to a variety of reasons NOT related to paranormal television, however I do suspect that paranormal television has influenced the majority of possibility haunted businesses owners–and private homeowners–in one way or the other.
This article could go on to discuss paranormal television’s influence on ghost hunting tactics, marketing of paranormal groups, movies, the Internet, and other media, however we’ll leave it at that for now, and declare this article “under construction.”
I am more interested in what you–the reader–feels about this subject. I sincerely appreciate all input and will make sure your insightful opinions on this interesting subject appear in the form of comments to this article.
About the Author
Bobby Elgee is an investigator for Sights Unseen Paranormal,a team of paranormal investigators based in New England. Offering supports including metal detecting, historical research, and paranormal marketing advice for businesses, Sights Unseen Paranormal realizes that people come first and their wholistic investigations extend well beyond just attempting to capture “evidence” of paranormal activity.