An open letter to the guys from Ghost Hunters.

Dear Grant and Jason,

I want to start by saying: I really respect what you guys do. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of 21st century life it can be easy to neglect the people doing dangerous or unseemly jobs, poking around in places of the world most folks would just as soon avoid. You guys identify and solve special types of problems, and you do it in such a way that most people don’t even know said problems exist. I know I could never do the good work you guys do so, really, my hat is off to you, and the rest of the gang down at Roto Rooter.

Pretty much everything else about you irritates me, though. First off, your names are backwards. Of my two best friends, Grant is the chunky bald guy and Jason is the skinny dark-haired guy. You screwed it up and that really irks me. I guess that’s not precisely your fault, so I’ll try to not dwell on it too much.

No, really I want to call attention to your reality show on Sci-Fi. For example, it’s a reality show on Sci-Fi. Is there a little cognitive dissonance here? Why would you want a show about reality on a channel devoted to being unrealistic? I guess you guys solved this little problem by simply making sure your program had absolutely no reality in it whatsoever. Phew! Dodged that bullet!

I think I hear one! Quick, hand me the electrospookometer!

"I think I hear one! Quick, hand me the electrospookometer!"

You’re about to roll into your, what, fifth season now? That’s pretty impressive, except it’s not. I mean, let’s be honest, peddling bullshit to the American public isn’t exactly a difficult proposition. What you guys have done is wrapped it up in a neat little box and marketed it towards people who prefer watching shows about aliens to shows about lawyers. You’ve taken Madame Cleo’s late-night infomercials and expanded them across an hour-long weekly “docudrama”, except you’ve managed to do it without an on-screen reminder that it’s for entertainment purposes only.

Let’s get one thing clear: you guys don’t believe in ghosts. If you do, you are quite possibly the most thick-headed people on television, and I’ll remind you this is a group of people that includes Bill O’Reilly and Peter Petrelli. Even if you thought ghosts were real going into this TV gig, four years of thorough investigations turning up precisely nothing time after time after time must have dulled you over by now, right? I mean, if you lose your keys and they’re not under your bed, you might check under the bed a couple more times just to be absolutely sure, but eventually you’ll just decide they’re not there. No, the reason you do this show is because Sci-Fi gives you giant sacks of money with doller signs on. So we can dispense with the pretense that you think you’re doing anything worthwhile here.

Of course that opens you up to defend yourselves with “That’s right, we’re trying to debunk the existence of ghosts!” Which would be a pretty good defense except the title of your show is Ghost Hunters, not Ghost Debunkers, and that you call yourselves “paranormal investigators”. No, you guys go out to haunted mansions and ancient hotels and other hotspots for nonsense, wander around for an hour of screen-time jumping at shadows or shivering in hallways, and then you check off either “no” or “maybe” on your list before moving on to the next episode.

See, I think this is my biggest problem with what you do. Why haven’t we seen a “yes!” yet? Your typical investigation involves you rolling up into some old white lady’s house, spending the night with all your cameras and recorders rolling, then telling the old white lady  hey well we didn’t find anything absolutely conclusive but you never know. Roll credits. What I want to know is, what happens to all the footage you don’t show us? Let’s be charitable here; commercials cut your hour long-show down to forty-five minutes. Seven minutes to set up, another seven to wrap up, so that’s what, about a half an hour per investigation? Presumably you’re going to fill that thirty minutes with the absolute best stuff you’ve got, right? Most times you’ve got two groups of investigators checking out a location simultaineously, and if they each continuously record for, say, eight hours while you sleep in the beautiful colonial-style suites of whatever bed’n’breakfast paid you for an episode’s worth of marketing that gives us sixteen hours of footage to edit down. You then show us about three percent of that, which involves a lump in a sheet, some creaky floorboards and (if we’re really lucky) a somewhat human-looking shadow. That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got?

Never mind the hokey junk science involved in your methods of looking for cold spots or electromagnetic fields. Since nobody’s actually ever been able to show that ghosts are real, there is no set of properties that can be attributed to them. Er, none outside of Halloween stories and Shyamalan movies anyway. So okay, say the mysterious cold spot in the old attic is a paranormal event; how do we know it’s really a ghost and not an invisible vortex to the Supernatural Plane of Infinite Ice? How do we know the extra clicks on your gieger counter are spirits and not microscopic radiation fairies? Why isn’t one completely outlandish explanation as good as another?

And even if I give you the EMF recorders and improperly used thermal imaging techniques, you know what ghost-hunting practice is sure to fail? Standing in an empty room asking over and overif a spirit is nearby, and assuring it you’re not going to harm it. No spirit has ever answered you. Ever. At least when you wave your magic wands around people who are ill-practiced in critical thinking might say you know what you’re doing. When you call out a ghost’s name a dozen times you just look like a crackpot. And by the way, that’s ninetey seconds of screen time you could have used to show us a smoking gun.

Anyway guys, I really appreciate you letting me get all that off my chest. And again, mad kudos on the plumber gig. I can absolutely respect a plumber. The Mario Bros. are plumbers, you know, and now that I think about it at least one of them owns a real haunted mansion. Maybe you guys could check it out for your next Halloween special.


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