Sunday, January 17, 2010

TAPS - Ghost Hunters - Honest or The Shell Game?

I like a good chill as well as the next woman, so it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite shows on TV is Ghost Hunters. You know what they do. Each week TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) team members Steve Gonsalves, Dave Tango, Chris Williams and Ami Bruni, along with co-founders Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, investigate "haunted" places and try to either debunk claims of the paranormal, or capture evidence of it.

Too cool, isn’t it? And even better, supposedly it’s all on the up-and-up...

... or is it?

Lately, their own viewing audience has done a little debunking of their own, trying to debunk the debunkers via dangling tantalizing evidence on youtube of what they’ve deemed as questionable content—ie: among others, the ol’ ‘fishing-line-running-from-the-coat-collar-to-the-pocket-and-giving-it-a-tug-to-make-it-look-like-a-ghost-grabbed-you’ routine. And maybe they’re right. Of course, I say this after watching repeated (ad nauseam) shots of Grant's oddly moving collar from every conceivable angle and speed, along with the usual assortment of directional arrows and highlight circles in every color of the rainbow. Heck, two women went so far as to demonstrate how it could be done without anyone—including a video camera close-up—being the wiser (and did a very good job of it, I must add).

Makes you think, donnit? And as a viewer, once you start thinking, you start questioning. Once you start questioning (especially questioning the credibility of a supposedly honest show), then you stop believing everything they show. Once you stop believing, you eventually stop watching and move on to something less a waste of your time... like, say, making wire jewelry, perhaps. Or, heck, writing! But is that what happened here? Truthfully, how would I know. But I will say this: writing is akin to a perceived true and honest TV show. Once the reader or viewer catches the author/story/TV show in a lie, they’ll drop it like a rancid bagel. Why? Because the trust is gone, and with it, credibility.

Take, for instance, my dad. He loved carnivals as a kid, couldn’t wait for them to come to town. So when one did, he was one of the first in the gate... and straight to “The Shell Game.” You know, the one where the carnie has three overturned shells side-by-side on a table, drops a pea and covers it with one of the shells, slides the shells around (all the while talking your ear off), then asks you to pick which shell the pea is hiding under. Simple, you’d think. Honest, too, you‘d think. So my dad watched for a while and then moved to the front of the line. When it was my his turn, the pea dropped, the shells slid around sufficiently, dad said to the carnie, "The pea is still between your fingers!” and the angry voice of the carnie answered, “Get this kid off the grounds.” Of course, everyone walked away, and that was the last seen of The Shell Game in Springhill, Nova Scotia.

I can’t help wondering how much of Ghost Hunters is honest and how much is The Shell Game. Whatever the answer, here‘s a word of advice for TAPS members: stick with honesty. Your viewers are not stupid. They also are not forgiving.

PS: Since it's very hard to know the real from the fake (if TAPS has had anything real, that is), I'm officially done with TAPS. Even one instance of falsehood in the paranormal arena—an area already steeped in controversy and skepticism—casts falsehood on the lot. Folks don't tune in to such shows to hear snake oil salesmen. What they want, what they're looking for, is proof and the truth.
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