I’ve been avoiding real life by watching “Ghost Adventures” and other ghost-hunting shows on the Travel channel. I generally watch these because I like the creepy settings, which are world-building fodder for writing. Plus, sometimes they talk about local lore and things that happened historically…again, more writing fodder.
Sometimes the shit is really creepy and you can hear weird stuff and see weird stuff (although a lot of it is probably not paranormal). And yeah, I wonder if some of it is staged, but I like the whole idea of contact with another realm, and how thinking about that and imagining it might translate into longer stories.
It’s escapist for me, and given the current circumstances, I think it’s not a bad thing to look for a little bit of escape.
That said, I always wonder about the approaches ghost hunting teams use and the questions they ask when they’re infiltrating an alleged paranormal space. I understand the idea behind this — paranormal entities may want to communicate with living entities, so why not talk to them?
Here are some of the most common types of questions that I’ve heard ghost hunters on these shows ask:
- Did you die here/how did you die?
- What’s your name?
- Can you move something?
- Why don’t you show yourself?
- Do you want us here?
And they generally ask these questions IN ENGLISH even if they’re in another country where most likely, ghosts probably don’t speak much English, if any.
Tell you what, if I was a ghost hunter, I’d have a different approach.
First, I’d have more women/queer folx/MOC on my teams, and I’d try to bring in a local or two (especially if dealing with a locale in which English may not be the primary language). Second, I’d do a fuck-ton of research about the place and alleged paranormal activity before heading out. That would involve archival work, checking on local lore, possible news reports of tragic events; fates of people historically in a setting — a full-on historical and investigative background. I think that would be a cool element of a ghost-hunting show, actually, is to show them doing that kind of research in preparation for a visit to a setting. Which, by the way, I wouldn’t necessarily visit at night. Most weirdnesses actually happen during the day. The night factor is just for added reality show creepiness, I’d argue, but there’s a historical basis for that, too.
As Benjamin Radford, writing at the Skeptical Inquirer notes, spiritualist/medium fraud was a lot easier to get away with at night, because they could better hide tricks and hoaxes. Also, psychologically, night time always creeps people out, so they’re more open to suggestion.
Sightings of potentially paranormal activity occur most often in daylight hours (makes sense — more people are awake during the day). But night could also offer some advantages for observation because the sounds of daylight (e.g. traffic and the mundane buzz of daytime activities) have diminished and you might be better able to hear things in certain settings that could be buried under daytime sounds.
Regardless, my ghost-hunting would probably take place during daylight hours, and if you ever watch that show “Paranormal Caught on Camera,” you’ll see a whole lot of weird stuff caught on camera during daytime.
I’d also ask different questions of potential beings on my ghost hunts, because it seems rude to ask a paranormal being about their death, which is a pretty personal kind of question, and maybe it was a really shitty death and they don’t want to talk about it. So I think a ghost-hunting team should acknowledge a setting with a little pre-entry ritual and treat the outing as an ethnographic or anthropological investigation, where you’re gathering some data and information using specific tools.
And I’d ask questions based on the research I and my team had compiled, about the setting and the potential beings involved. Like confirmation about relevant local historical events, perhaps. I might ask if there are children in the setting and who they are. I might ask about pets, because I freaking always wonder about pets. And rather than ask what a being’s name is, I’d use my research and say something along the lines of, “I’m looking for Ms. X. Is that you?”
I don’t think I’d ask a being to materialize or demand that it do so. That seems a bit rude, too. Plus, maybe a being doesn’t have the ability to materialize, and demanding that it do so…rude, bro. Rude. Same reasoning behind asking a being to demonstrate its existence by moving something. And asking a possible paranormal being if it wants you there — that’s just asking for trouble. Because if they say “no,” well that just totally blows the mood and you’re probably not going to get much communication after that. And if they say “no,” then you’re being kind of an ass if you ignore that and keep asking questions.
Basically, a paranormal investigation for me would most likely end up being a historical investigation and a research trip to the setting and most likely, nothing would happen beyond learning some interesting things and seeing some potentially cool historical objects/houses/structures. I’m not suggesting there aren’t paranormal things that happen or inexplicable things that happen. There are things in this world I don’t understand and I’ve had my own experiences. But there are also plenty of non-paranormal things that happen and have happened in the past that are pretty cool, too.
Regardless, watching these shows helps me escape and think about things beyond the fuckery surrounding us all. Maybe at some point I’ll be fortunate enough to do some actual paranormal investigations in interesting settings with interesting history.
Who’s with me? 😀