GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON 2
2.1: 27 Jul 2005 - 2.2: 03 Aug 2005 - 2.3: 10 Aug 2005 - 2.4: 17 Aug 2005 - 2.5: 24 Aug 2005 - 2.6: 31 Aug 2005 - 2.7: 07 Sep 2005 - 2.8: 14 Sep 2005 - 2.9: 21 Sep 2005 - 2.10: 28 Sep 2005 - 2.11: 05 Oct 2005 - 2.12: 12 Oct 2005 - 2.13: 19 Oct 2005 - 2.14: Halloween Special - 2.15: 29 Mar 2006 - 2.16: 05 Apr 2006 - 2.17: 12 Apr 2006 - 2.18: 19 Apr 2006 - 2.19: 26 Apr 2006 - 2.20: 03 May 2006 - 2.21: 10 May 2006 - 2.22: 17 May 2006 - 2.23: 31 May 2006
2.1: 27 Jul 2005
I divurge somewhat from my usual reviewing slate here, because this is one of those few reality series that I actually think has a compelling subject matter. I could really care less about people redecorating at this point, makeovers that emphasize conformity, dating shows that emphasize conformity, etc. And since I don’t really care much about cars, all those shows can take a hike, too. (Yes, I watch “Survivor” and “American Idol”, but I don’t pretend that they have any lasting effect on my consciousness.)
“Ghost Hunters”, on the other hand, offers a potent double punch: compelling individuals with a rather unique perspective on the world, and possibly the most scientific approach to paranormal investigation I’ve seen. And there’s part of why I love this: I’ve actually participated in this kind of thing before, and Jason and Grant are correct when they say that most groups try to prove the existence of the paranormal. These guys try to debunk hauntings. The difference is that what some might say is evidence is, to them, not enough to meet their expectation.
Of course, the best part is delving into the crazy little world that they’ve created for themselves. There’s a whole subculture out there that considers TAPS to be highly reputable. I look at how they describe and rationalize their own experiences, past and present, and consider it an interesting take on how people respond to questions that they cannot answer. Every so often, they stray from evidence into sincere discussion about demonology. One could easily decide that these people are crazy…and yet, who doesn’t try to reconcile something that science and religion cannot fully explain?
The best part of the series, of course, is the investigation aspect. I love seeing the process that they go through, both the “science” and the subjective comments, and I love the fact that they show anything that they “find” and then break it down for the audience. A lot of what they find, they dismiss and explain away, even when it’s fairly compelling evidence to the audience. This episode was no exception.
I’ve actually been to the Myrtle’s Plantation, back in my Anne Rice fandom days in the mid 1990s. A lot of those “hot spots”? I’ve actually been there! I remember hearing a lot of the same stories, so I was very interested in seeing what they would find. I’ll admit, though, that I was slightly disappointed in how little they documented, especially when people started flipping out. And way too much time was spent on Brian and his possible firing. (This just goes to show how hard it is to get rid of a bad employee.)
OK, so on to the “evidence”!
I find it very interesting that neither Jason nor Grant remembered that little story about the 17th step, because that’s exactly the spot at which that heat signature showed up on the thermal camera. It was too much of a coincidence, in my book, and given their eventual conclusions, it would have been a great combination of anecdotal evidence and a recorded anomaly.
The other thermal image wasn’t linked to anything, but it was a lot more bizarre. Because they had to spend so much time at the beginning of the episode rehashing the mission statement and concept behind the series, they didn’t get into the operation of the camera. That kind of anomaly is hard to reconcile, especially since the recorded image was of something very close to the camera. If something “normal” had been there, Jason and Grant would have seen it.
I found it odd that the most compelling evidence was considered to be the lamp. Sure, they tested how the lamp would have to be moved to reproduce the effect, and it wasn’t easy to pull off, but it wasn’t like the chair that moved by itself in the first season! It was just odd how they missed the obvious connection earlier, and then focused on something far more questionable.
Also odd is the dismissal of that shadow that appears out of nowhere at the front door, when everyone on the team is otherwise accounted for. Could it have been someone outside? Sure…but looking at that footage, I’m not at all convinced that the figure wasn’t inside that door. And that would have been a lot harder to explain.
So what do they conclude? As one would expect, they believe Myrtle’s Plantation is haunted. My problem with that? The evidence wasn’t as strong as it could have been, and it might give new viewers a false impression of how high Jason and Grant set the bar. Thankfully, it looks like the next episode will feature both a debunked case and a more active site.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.2: 03 Aug 2005
If you think of this series as a serialized drama with “reality TV” as its source material, to be edited and used as necessary, then it doesn’t take long to wonder if all that attention on Brian last week was meant to inform the events of this episode. There are little hints about things not getting done correctly during the first case, and during the analysis of the second case, the emphasis is strongly on Brian and Steve fooling around and missing possible evidence. Not good for Brian!
This episode also highlights the difference between Jason and Grant, who take this all very seriously and personally, and some of the support staff, who seem to have their own psychological reasons for wanting to be a part of TAPS. I’m not convinced that Brian is there for the work itself; as he mentioned before, it’s more that he’s got nothing else in which to invest his life. At least Steve is just a guy who needs to learn how to retain attention on a task.
Andy’s another odd one. I love his sincerity, but the underlying message of the episode for him was self-control. Andy gets a bit too worked up when on a case, and it hurts the credibility of the team. The way I see it, just reacting like that changed the way everyone else approached the case. Subjective interpretations are par for the course, but it doesn’t help when one person’s reaction (and a questionable one at that) starts influencing those interpretations.
But this was another example of how TAPS operates. Setting aside the usual questions of staged drama and fake cases (I have little patience for those who seek to tear down something based solely on the logic of their own ill-informed conjecture), episodes like this are necessary. Sure, it’s not as much fun as the more active cases, but if every episode was filled with evidence of extreme activity, I’d be a lot more skeptical. Episodes like this demonstrate that some cases have simple, “real world” explanations, and I think it’s important to remind the audience of that.
OK, so on to the cases themselves!
First stop: Cranston, RI. Quite frankly, I think Andy was having a panic attack based on what he thought might happen, not what was happening. That said, I was intrigued by the fact that there could have been something happening in the basement. Sure, basements are drafty, and there wasn’t really enough to pin a case on, but it was intriguing. One can’t help but wonder if there was evidence, but it was missed.
But it’s more of a case of people seeking unusual explanations for things that, at this point, seem rather mundane in substance. It wasn’t exactly hard to figure out what was happening with the kids, and the parents should have considered that possibility. And don’t even get me started about the cat! Any cat owner knows to discount a lot of strangeness when a cat is running around in the dark!
Next stop: Grafton, MA. Well, they really do everything possible to smooth over the news, but Jason and Grant both seem to think that Hayley is at the center of classic poltergeist activity. Typically, it’s not that spirits are hostile towards a young woman, so much as the activity is a subconscious psychic reflection of psychological issues that the young woman carries within her. Why it happens largely to young women is somewhat bizarre, but going by the historically anecdotal conclusions of others, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The evidence, in my opinion, points to the idea that the two women in the house are causing the phenomena to occur, and when Jason was beginning to catch on to that, he was “attacked”. Is it 100% certain that it happened that way? Of course not. It wasn’t on camera, so we only have Jason’s word on it. But it does fit the profile, doesn’t it?
Anyway, the second case was more important in terms of showing how the evidence should be analyzed, instead of the haphazard manner in which Brian and Steve run through it. I’m not convinced in terms of the EVP, but Brian did miss it, and that’s an issue. Personally, I think that Jason and Grant might be better served to replace Brian with the new guy and put Andy on the review of evidence. If Andy is that hair-trigger with his interpretations, then he’s probably the perfect guy to present possible evidence for Jason and Grant to review. Part of the problem is that Brian and Steve are making the judgments themselves, and it’s clear that it’s not working.
Chill Factor: 6/10
2.3: 10 Aug 2005
Case #1: DeVille’s House
Case #2: Brennan’s Restaurant
Short review this time around…I’m still catching up from the double whammy of vacation and a colleague’s exit at work. I was a bit concerned when I heard that the episode had changed at the last minute. That’s rarely a good sign; I wonder if there were issues with clearances, or worse, signs that someone had interfered with the investigation. This ought to get the naysayers all a’twitter.
This wasn’t the most exciting of episodes. I think, for me, the highlight was the focus on Paula. A gorgeous young scientist with an interest in the paranormal…be still, my beating heart! The TAPS Team gets my respect for that addition. When she pegged the halogen lamp as the source of electrical interference with the digital thermometer, I felt like Mulder when Scully said the words “spontaneous combustion”.
Anyway, on to the first case:
This one was interesting, if only because of how well it established the credibility of TAPS above and beyond the creation of “Ghost Hunters”. It’s more and more clear to me, as time marches on, that what gets on the air is not comprehensive. There’s a lot more instrumentation in place at each location than the audience ever gets to see. And that makes sense…the intent is to dramatize, and the editors only use what they feel tells “the story”. That sometimes makes the TAPS Team look foolish or unprofessional, and it feeds all those nitwits who claim fakery.
So as I’m watching this case unfold, I notice how the team tries to accommodate the desires of the clients. This guy was a real piece of work, and his various claims about his overall attractiveness to women were somewhat hard to believe. At the same time, if the local TAPS affiliate says that there’s merit to the case, then why not look into it?
The only real evidence was the movement of the door. Some will claim that not enough was explored in terms of a “real world” explanation. I assume that much of that was actually edited out, since it wasn’t compelling enough. I think it’s interesting that the one piece of evidence matches the claim so closely, but even Jason and Grant seemed to think that the real value was in the eyes of the client. They certainly had their doubts.
As for the second case:
What a waste of time. This must be the price of modest success. I’ve been to Brennan’s on a “Ghost Tour of New Orleans”, and we heard the same story, in nearly the same exact words. It was all about the restaurant wanting a bit of free advertisement and the chance to say that TAPS was there. I’m sure that they will be adding “Ghost Hunters” to the long list of television shows that featured their establishment.
Did anyone else feel like the footage was manipulated to highlight the comments on the food? I wonder if the network helped arrange that case. Whatever else might be true, I think it’s safe to say that the restaurant had little or no intention of letting a serious investigation take place.
Again, there’s the silliness over Brian’s behavior, Steve’s seeming lack of attention with the evidence, and the little intrigues that would be better replaced with a closer look at the investigation methods and evidence. Then again, on an episode like this, where the ups and downs of the business are highlighted, perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Chill Factor: 4/10
2.4: 17 Aug 2005
Case #1: Mordecai House
Case #2: USS North Carolina
I can just imagine what the naysayers are going to say about this episode. Despite the fact that several moments in this episode were devoted to comments on method, equipment, and training, there will be critics saying that it’s not enough. Once again, I say: it’s clear that the editing process cuts a lot of the technical setup out, and even when two groups work together, the resources are still not “ideal”.
While I found Dustin and Kim’s training to be rather spotty at best, it was also heavily edited, so it’s hard to determine whether or not it was sloppy or edited to highlight the more goofy moments. I lean towards the latter, especially since the editing has already been suspect from the very beginning. They always emphasize the silly “behind the scenes” drama, and as usual, it’s the weakest part of the episode. I don’t care about Dustin and his hair, and seeing only the very beginning of his training gives off the impression that it’s the only thing he learned.
Anyway, as for the first case:
If Brennan’s restaurant was a waste of their time, then the Mordecai House was a waste of our time. Even though it only took one act of the episode to cover what happened and why it wasn’t successful, I can’t figure out why they wanted to waste so much time when the second case was far more interesting. Sure, it shows some of the ups and downs, but in the end, it’s reflective of why the “drama” is the weakest part of the series.
Moving on to the USS North Carolina:
Despite the lack of recorded evidence, I think this was one of the better investigations. Like they said themselves: it’s hard to imagine that two nights worth of investigation wouldn’t yield something in a location so storied. I know…the criticism is, why didn’t they find recorded evidence if they had so much equipment and two nights? For me, the answer is simple. They openly admit that they concentrated on so-called “hot spots”, but that never guarantees that activity will take place there. To expect otherwise is to believe (quite illogically) that the phenomenon follows a simple, predictable pattern.
Interestingly enough, when they do have a sustained level of activity in the bowels of the ship, Jason and Grant immediately suspect a prankster. They spend a lot of their time trying to find the source of the noise, and they even accuse the cameraman and crew. It’s not until they start seeing things that they start to consider another option, and even at the end, they don’t come right out and say that it was a ghost. They lean in that direction, but they don’t rely on their own perceptions as final proof. I like that.
I wish there had been more. EMF fields are weak, and the camera movement was strictly up/down…nothing particularly exciting there. The EVP was all right, but nothing like the ones that were so intriguing during the first season. There really wasn’t much else to the case, unfortunately.
Four episodes in, and there hasn’t been a completely solid case yet. The first season had only a few, granted, but there were only ten episodes. I hope that things get more active as the season progresses.
Chill Factor: 6/10
2.5: 24 Aug 2005
Case #1: Bradley Playhouse
Case #2: Harris Firehouse
I’m now operating on the belief that the season is building towards something big, because otherwise, this has been a rather disappointing season thus far. There’s way too much emphasis on Brian and the “drama” behind the scenes (a rather common complaint, it seems), and the cases aren’t producing nearly as much intriguing evidence as in the first season (which was shorter).
The focus this time seemed to be on a case where Brian’s personal issues annoyed the entire team and cast a negative energy over everything they did, and a second case where his absence allowed Steve and Dustin to step up and do things right. OK, I understand that reasoning, but it didn’t have to be the dominant “story”.
On the other hand, this is part of the give-and-take of such a series. TAPS has a fairly substantial caseload, but SFC only gets to film a certain percentage of cases. If I understand the situation correctly, the cases that make it on “Ghost Hunters” are either cases lined up by SFC or cases where the proper clearances were given by the owners/civilians on site. It’s incredibly hit or miss, and of the many locations where SFC does film, the cases that actually make it to the series are probably chosen after the fact.
This gets back to what I was saying before. There’s very little indication of when the cases were actually filmed, though a general timeline is evident. Even so, I can easily imagine a situation where the cases are shuffled to allow the scientific debunking to be established firmly in the audience’s mind, before something truly unusual occurs. It may just be wishful thinking, but that’s all I’ve got.
So, onto the first case:
Ho, hum…EMF, vague feelings, whatever. Though I have to say, I’m getting tired of hearing the entire team butcher the actual meaning of EMF. Perhaps Paula can educate them a little on the topic, since she’s clearly the smartest person on the team when it comes to the science. And not only is she scientifically oriented, but she’s so very hot. When a woman looks that good in both normal and night vision…well, it’s rare!
And the second case:
A little more here, but not much. It was mostly all about the lack of Brian-ness and…more EMF readings. The bit with the surround sound system was interesting, but mostly as a technical exercise. This case really demonstrated the fine line between deeming a situation “paranormal” and going to great lengths to find “real world” explanations. Science points to the frequency issue, which is indeed true. Outside sources can send the right signal to activate remote devices.
However, it doesn’t take much to recognize that millions of people live in cities and manage to use remote devices utilizing radio and IR frequencies all the time without interfering with one another. Certainly I have a lot of electronics in my house, and I live in a very busy area (and a block away from a police station). How likely is it that the frequency explanation explains this? (And for that matter, an IR thermometer would not work to switch on a stereo like that. Some claim that it would, in their zeal to criticize TAPS.)
But here’s the thing. Jason and Grant clearly don’t believe that the place is haunted. But they also know that the firefighters want to believe it. Are they going to come right out and say it’s not haunted, or are they going to try to manage the situation and leave the clients happy? It’s not brain science to recognize that they would say what they need to say to smooth things over.
Chill Factor: 4/10
2.6: 31 Aug 2005
Case #1: Ledge Lighthouse
Case #2: Merchant’s House Museum
Every week, it seems like I have to remind myself to be patient. It ought to be easy enough to understand why this sort of thing happens. In my line of work, a person can take a square inch sample off the inside of a 20,000 square inch tank for microbes and wonder if they picked the right spot when nothing is found. I imagine that hunting for evidence of the paranormal is similar, if it’s done correctly.
It’s all about proving a negative, which is, of course, impossible. You sample a tank in specific spots because you believe that those are the most likely areas where the microbes might be, if any were there. There’s a lot of thought and consideration that goes into planning the whys and wherefores, but at the end of the day, it’s only a reasonable, defensible guess. One must draw general conclusions from a relatively small collection of data points and observations.
In this case, every time Jason and Grant walk into a place, several factors play against their success. Even if one assumes that the paranormal activity can be recorded (or even exists), there are difficulties in capturing that evidence. One issue is timing: if the activity doesn’t happen that night, regardless of how frequently it happens otherwise, then it simply didn’t happen. The other issue is location: if the equipment isn’t in the right location at the right time, then it won’t capture the evidence. And then there’s the question of getting the right equipment, using it correctly, etc.
Logically, I understand all of that and accept that any “candid reality” series based on such a situation will rarely, if ever, produce something worth seeing or hearing. That’s why a series like “Most Haunted” is so ludicrous; every little piece of dust and noise is attributed to paranormal activity, because otherwise, there would be little to discuss. It’s also why I laugh when other “paranormal investigators” criticize TAPS for not catching anything. Logically, if one is taking a harsh look at the evidence, 99.9% of what’s found will be considered routine and “normal”, even if it’s unusual.
My point is this: know all of that doesn’t make it any easier to see a series built on “ghost hunting” produce so little in terms of evidence. Especially when the first season was a lot more substantial. I can’t help but wonder if the only places willing to have SFC film on premises are the places that want to promote their legends, rather than places with more substantial claims.
This one falls directly on Andy, and reinforces what I already thought about the guy. He’s too damned eager, and his agenda doesn’t really mesh with the agenda of TAPS all the time. They’re trying to debunk, in the hopes that in turn, they will find something if it’s there. Andy was all about going someplace with crazy activity. Not exactly the most objective approach! But it does fit into my emerging suspicion: SFC pushed for it because it had “documented” evidence of activity, and they wanted it on film.
This was another situation where there was a lot of anecdotal evidence, but not much else. I actually think that the owner was pissed that nothing was found, but when so many things can be explained away, what other conclusion can one come to? It highlighted the fact that Jason and Grant can only guess how best to approach clients when presenting the reveal.
Regardless of all else, my main issue with this episode (and the season to date) has been the emphasis on the interpersonal issues. It was there last season, too, but not nearly as much as this season. The stupidity between Steve and Andy is the kind of “office politics” that I can’t stand in the “real world”, and all that time spent on Brian was a waste. Clearly, the man is going through rough times. Why make him stage a conversation with Jason and Grant? I have a feeling he’ll be back at the end of the season, all for the purposes of some idiotic “character arc”.
Chill Factor: 3/10
2.7: 07 Sep 2005
Case #1: Child Haunting
Case #2: Sutcliffe House
After half a season of episodes devoted to silly personal drama and precious few interesting cases, we finally have an episode with a clear study in contrasts. I’ve said before that the previous episodes seemed to be structured to present the case for Jason and Grant’s professional manner. Basically, if the audience needed convincing as far as their methods and integrity were concerned, the non-active cases were meant to provide that.
Leaving aside the fact that there will always be detractors (of varying competence and sanity), I found that this episode was more impressive for coming after so many episodes of “negative space”. It’s the contrast that makes it work. On a show like “Most Haunted”, where every speck of dust is an “orb” and every noise is spirit communication, it’s easy to dismiss something that might be genuine. Because so little has happened over the past several weeks, when small moments of oddness shine through, it’s far more substantial.
This is the set-up, in my book. A case where Jason and Grant demonstrate without a doubt that they don’t look for paranormals explanations for normal behavioral and environmental issues. I was very happy to see them point out the environmental issues in the basement, for instance. The commentary on the effects of before-bed gaming was also admirable. As a relatively low-key gamer myself, I know that I can’t use my PS2 or PC for gaming right before bed, because I’ll be too energized to rest. It has to be even worse for children!
Did I think that Jason and Grant went a little off topic with the EM hypersensitivity? A little bit. After all, there were far more obvious explanations. But again, I think they were trying to split hairs and give the homeowners something more vague than chemical fumes to hang their hats on. By making it something a little more intangible, it covered more than a few isolated effects, making the observation a bit more psychologically helpful.
After the episode with the lighthouse, I would have thought that a location like this would be of little interest to Jason and Grant. Chasing after locations with a “history” seems to go badly for them lately. And Jason is far more restrained in his comments about the Warrens than I would have expected. For all that, they had quite a few moments of possible activity in the house, which is more than they’ve had for a long time.
The major item is the door, which still doesn’t quite do it for me. However, it was satisfying to watch Jason go from skeptical but intrigued to clearly baffled. This is one of those situations were the editing probably doesn’t do the case justice, because you have to know that Jason tested that door in every which way. Of course, I also try to keep in mind that a lot of what happened last season was on par with this, so I shouldn’t have been expecting much more.
Dustin’s experience and the vibrating furniture are the kinds of things that I think would be dismissed quickly on “Most Haunted”, but the relative lack of such occurrences on this series makes it easier to believe. Usually, personal experiences aren’t enough on their own, but the door adds something to the mix that Jason and Grant cannot ignore.
Hopefully this won’t be the most active moment of the season. I would hate to think that a longer second season would be less impressive than the shorter first season was.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.8: 14 Sep 2005
Case #1: Astor Mansion
Case #2: Roselle Park, NJ
Like the previous episode, this is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, there’s the site that has a number of quirks, all of which add up to unsettle the staff. That makes sense, and nearly everything can be debunked. And then there’s the second case, where it’s one person living in an old home, where things happen that the investigators find hard to explain, even after they debunk several aspects of the “haunting”.
I also enjoyed the fact that there were a lot less of the “personal drama” moments that plagued the earlier episodes of the season. Sure, there was that minor issue with Steve and the power cord, but it was quickly resolved and over with. (Though I still don’t understand why they didn’t just run out to a store and get a replacement; they’re cheap and several stores are within a few minutes of that site!)
That brings me to the other thing I enjoyed about this episode. The second case was practically in my backyard! I actually used to live down the road in a neighboring town (where I, incidentally, had some unusual activity). It’s a lot of fun to see my local area on TV in something other than “The Sopranos”!
This is one of those situations where that whole “psychological effect” kicks in. There are some who believe that most, if not all, of a haunting is a psychological effect due to environmental conditions: reactions to EM fields, power of suggestion, and so on. I like to think of it as a more balanced phenomenon. I think there’s something happening, but because it is often fragmentary at best, the brain needs to develop something within its available range of sensory interpretations to account for the activity.
CC is a perfect example. The mansion seems to have plenty of maintenance issues that result in unusual circumstances: cold drafts, moving doors, etc. Because of her growing anxiety and the suggested haunting that she’s associated with it, she begins to experience things like apparitions and auditory phenomena. At least, that’s what the investigation and its presentation in this episode seemed to suggest. (That’s also not an insult to CC, because this seems to be a very human trait.)
The second case looked to be as easily debunked as the first, given that a truly amateur group had originally run the show. I find it interesting that CNJPS continues to have a very small membership, and Dave doesn’t seem to be working with them anymore. They’re also not part of the “TAPS Family”, according to the TAPS site, which makes me wonder.
Anyway, while the skeptics are sure to find those problems with Grant’s computer to be very convenient (remember: Windows…’nuff said), the fact that the footsteps and movement were caught on tape make it hard to dispute. Of course, that’s assuming that there wasn’t someone up there intentionally messing with the team. But if someone was trying to fake activity, there were easier ways to do it, so I’m taking this one as presented.
One last comment: I was listening to the Haunted New Jersey podcast this week, and they made an interesting point. They all tend to be skeptical of these TV shows on the podcast, but they did seem to indicate that TAPS’ methods and integrity seem to shine through. The podcasters do, however, point out that some things discovered during investigations seem questionable, as if someone were trying to make sure the team finds something. They made a very clear distinction, of course, between this and the ludicrous “Most Haunted”, particularly in the sense that activity is rarely found on “Ghost Hunters”.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.9: 21 Sep 2005
Case #1: TAPS Trainee
Case #2: Rolling Hills Asylum
This is another episode where not a lot happens. Oddly, this is also an episode where the team fools around a lot more than usual, even Jason and Grant. I imagine this will feed the naysayers with all kinds of grist for the mill, but at this rate, certain critics are unwilling to give them any benefit of the doubt.
I don’t enjoy the episodes with excessive personal drama, and similarly, I felt that the antics in this episode grew tiresome rather quickly. I will say this for “Most Haunted”…while most of what they do is complete fakery, they spend the entire hour immersing the audience in that experience. I understand that this series is meant to be about the people just as much as it’s about the cases, but sometimes the balance isn’t there.
I like Dave as a new member of the team (home state, represent!), and as usual, my love for Paula grows with every new appearance. As much as it annoyed me by the end, it was good to see Jason and Grant let loose a little. Jason often looks like he’s one night away from a coronary, and his less acerbic side is hardly ever in evidence.
The big things here were the “moving snare drum” and the “womanly cough”. I dismiss the cough just as easily as Jason and Grant dismissed the “EVP”…it could have been the homeowner in some other part of the house. That’s the danger of not vacating the premises for the night, even when you want to draw out typical behavior by keeping the residents in play.
The snare drum is a little harder to dismiss, because I don’t think that Grant would lie about it. Here’s an example of something the naysayers will harp on: it didn’t happen on camera. Inevitably Grant will be accused of faking it, and the team will be accused of not properly debunking it.
There was way too much fooling around in this case, and it got on my nerves. Two things happened here as well: the issue with “Dustin’s ear”, and the “Basement Door of Evil”. Dustin’s ear is not all that compelling because it’s not something you can quantify. Plus, I still don’t have a sense of Dustin and his integrity. I want to believe him, but it’s not enough to overcome my skepticism.
When it comes to the Basement Door of Evil, though, I’m really torn. They show the door moving, but Jason is out of sight. I really don’t see Jason and Grant as people who would fake something like that, but when I can instantly predict how the naysayers will cry fraud, it doesn’t sit well. Had it happened when Jason and Grant weren’t standing out of view, I would have been more inclined to accept it.
More than ever, this episode highlights the fact that if one takes this series as a documentation of TAPS and the kind of people working the operation, then one big component is accepting their integrity as presented. I’ve not had reason to doubt them before (can’t say the same for SFC crew), and I’m not changing my mind now. But I don’t want to see them present anything in a way that undermines their credibility, and I think that the second case did not serve them well.
Chill Factor: 5/10
2.10: 28 Sep 2005
Case #1: Eastern State Penitentiary
Case #2: Vacation Home
Well, as the current season winds down (the newly ordered episodes may be the third season rather than an extension of the second), things are more or less the same. I’m still not happy about the fact that each episode covers two cases, since I prefer seeing more of the investigation. Besides, more investigation would mean more Paula!
As a sidenote…this is an episode held over from earlier in the season. I’m not exactly sure why that is, though I have a feeling it had something to do with Brian and his departure. I don’t have a lot more to say about this episode so I’ll get right to the cases.
Well, if anything proves out the fact that even active sites have boring nights, this will do it. I’m afraid this only reinforces the theory that the guards faked that “apparition” last season. SFC seemed to edit every possible instance of someone mentioning an odd feeling or odd sound into the recap, and it was still about half the content as usual. I’m not sure I would have even included that footage if I were putting the series together (though who knows whether or not there’s an obligation).
This was a little more interesting. As usual, the evidence won’t prevent critics and naysayers from claiming fakery, and nothing was completely groundbreaking, but it’s more than we’ve had for a while. I love EVPs, and there hasn’t been a good one all season. This is still not great, but it did make things more interesting. I’m not sure about the flashlight, since it wasn’t on camera per se, but I don’t think Jason would fake something like that.
Admittedly, I was otherwise distracted this week with “Serenity”, so I was annoyed that so much time was spent on that silly “blessing” montage. I also found all the comments about “inhumans” rather amusing. There’s a fine line between a scientific explanations and unsupported folklore, and whenever they start talking about demons and what not, they cross it. For a group that typically dedicate itself to disproving paranormal activity, it’s a little odd to classify entities with such conviction.
Chill Factor: 6/10
2.11: 05 Oct 2005
Case #1: Winchester Mystery House
Case #2: Queen Mary
Another episode, another whirlwind investigation, another round of disappointment. It’s not that I expect much to happen at the more “infamous” sites, because I had my serious doubts, but I’m surprised at how little has been found during the investigations this season. And considering how many more sites are being covered, the overall effect is worse. Sure, most of the time, nothing happens during an investigation. But how can the series stay afloat when the implication is that something will happen?
In this case, however, the TAPS team gets to once again underscore the depth of their integrity. If this were “Most Haunted”, a lot of things from this episode would have been tossed out as perfect evidence of a haunting. The TAPS team was a lot more thorough (which makes it hard to understand why they goof off while reviewing evidence, if they know subtle clues are important).
In fact, I was a little annoyed when Steve took Donna to task for not reviewing the evidence with enough dedication. Who else remembers all those episodes earlier this season, where Brian and Steve were obviously fooling around and not playing attention? I find it more than a little ironic. That said, it was good to see the contrast with Dave Tango, from fooling around to finding evidence of tampering.
What a waste of time. Here’s where the editing makes it look like a lot more fooling around was being done, because if you pay attention, you can tell that the whole issue was only being discussed for something like 20 minutes. They were really reaching when they tried to play up tension, and it wasn’t working. I think that place is considered haunted more for the atmosphere than the frequency of activity.
Well, now, isn’t this interesting? There are a lot of people who claim that Jason and Grant fake everything they catch, and yet here’s something that they would love to see, handed to them on a silver platter. So why didn’t they just accept it? Because that’s not what they’re about, that’s why!
I suspect that the hot little “ghost guide” was the one behind the incident, because whenever she discussed the footage, she would start blinking furiously (tell-tale sign). Also, nearly everything she said was all performance; she was blatantly lying about things and playing at being sensitive. Granted, that may simply be how she was portrayed, but let’s face it: it’s her job to make the ship look super-active. I suspect they brought TAPS in for no other reason than to use them for publicity (and some comments/observations since that investigation apparently bear that out).
I also think it’s odd when people get mad that TAPS won’t call a place “haunted” if they don’t have solid evidence. I’ve always recognized that Jason and Grant are saying that they themselves don’t have the evidence to support that a haunting is taking place. It would be impossible for them to claim, with any credibility, that no haunting is definitively happening. Semantics, of course, are always a source of easy criticism.
Chill Factor: 4/10
2.12: 12 Oct 2005
Case #1: Reformatory
Case #2: Lizzie Borden House
I think I finally realized why I don’t have a problem with Jason and Grant and the rest of the TAPS gang. It’s not just that we all live in the Northeast and share a similar regional frame of mind. It’s more an appreciation of a certain personality type. As an engineer, I use a lot of the same equipment, and quite often, I’m interacting with the hard-working, hands-on personnel in the trenches. So basically, I work with people like Jason and Grant all day long. What some perceive as a bad attitude is, simply, making sure that things get done.
I mention this only because I have read many comments over the past few months about Jason’s attitude in particular, and I simply wasn’t seeing the problem. I think I’m just used to that kind of thing. The way I see it, if Jason was really a jerk, why would people devote their time and energy to put up with that for free? It doesn’t make sense to think that he’s just some unhinged ass.
Anyway, another episode filled with contrasts. One case with some interesting evidence and an investigation finally covered in some relative depth. And then, another case where style seems to be winning out over substance. Coming on the heels of an episode where the client might have faked something to use for promotional purposes, I think it’s clear where the downside of the business lies. It has to be hard when a client wants TAPS to show up to validate a historical haunting, when there’s a stake in the answer and comments will be spun for marketing.
So, first case:
I really liked this one. And it wasn’t just because I thought Paula was really cute in the pink top! It was actually the amount of footage devoted to the investigation itself and how it all played out. I know the naysayers will claim that some things were a little too convenient, but I’m not playing their game this time. Jason and Grant both noted that the layout made it very easy to see shadows where none should exist, and there is something to be said regarding the power of suggestion when the team members hear the stories beforehand, but other things happened that are very suggestive of activity. I wasn’t spooked, but I was definitely intrigued…more than I was for Eastern State, to be honest.
Well, I had a feeling this would be a wash, and sure enough, it was. Like Steve said, any place with a gift shop is probably not haunted! OK, it’s not so simple as that, but I think the investigation itself said quite a bit. There wasn’t even a hint of activity. Sure, the client was right in saying that activity isn’t always going to happen on cue, but even including this felt more like a contractual obligation than a substantial investigation worth covering.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.13: 19 Oct 2005
Case #1: Crescent Hotel
Case #2: Dr. Ellis’ House
I haven’t commented at all on the ratings this season, because that information hasn’t been easy to find. Also, it’s hard to correlate data when two seasons run for different periods at different times of the year. I also didn’t want to get depressed at the effect “Lost” would have, since even I TiVo “Ghost Hunters” under these circumstances.
Well, now the genie is out of the bottle, and the ratings are available. I have to say, I’m impressed! It’s impressive to think that “Ghost Hunters” is getting ratings, at least for the “season finale”, that approach “Battlestar: Galactica” numbers. This show deserves to be a success, and by gaining viewers against “Lost”, I think it clearly has succeeded.
So we’re getting a Halloween Special at the end of the month and 9 more episodes starting in January 2006. Excellent! That’s a grand total of 23 second season episodes, which is more than the typical one-hour drama gets these days. Another sign of success! Now would be the perfect time for SFC to take a good, long look at their approach to the series.
What would I like to see? Less of the goofy effects and more of the investigation. It wouldn’t kill them to focus on one investigation per episode, or in lieu of that, cover three investigations across two episodes of time, like the first season. Less of the manufactured drama, which was ramped up this season. Oh, and the more Paula Donovan, the better!
Since this was the apparent season finale, they clearly saved the best for last. And I mean “saved”, because these investigations clearly took place earlier in the season, just after Dave joined and Steve took over the technical department. I can only imagine that the post-production process revealed that the subsequent investigations weren’t producing much, so the apparent apparition was saved until the presumed end.
Well, obviously, this is all about the apparent apparition. I know that there will be a million naysayers picking that one apart, but based on what was demonstrated and revealed, I can’t see how that’s a fake. Not only that, but the apparent apparition actually moves as if turning to look into the camera. It’s rather impressive as a whole, especially since they took quite a bit of time to debunk it and couldn’t.
Here’s the thing. This really brings the whole “real or fake” question to a head. Now, I’m sure someone is going to claim that this was digitally manipulated and the whole thing is a hoax, but as usual, I have to ask the logical question: why would they go through so much trouble and risk exposing themselves just to capture something on camera? Naysayers never consider that it’s much more work to fake something like this than it is to do it right. After all, if it were easy, it would probably look and sound a lot like the obvious fakery on “Most Haunted”, and there’s a clear difference.
Now, this I find a bit harder to swallow. It’s not that I completely dismiss psychic phenomena; I just don’t buy what happened in the episode. The “far too specific” reading was anything but, at least on film, and that temperature gradient could have been explained by the heating system in the house itself. I do accept that Jason and Grant would have checked into that, but since it wasn’t shown (in favor of the more unusual explanation), I can’t make assumptions. Even so, it was very interesting as a starting point to a different realm of experimentation.
Despite my doubts regarding the medium, I have to say that this is probably the best episode they’ve ever had. Not only did they highlight their own attempts at debunking at all the right moments, they also managed to do something that is rarely done: they caught an apparition on film. What else is there to say?
Chill Factor: 10/10
2.14: Halloween Special
Case #1: Boyer House
Case #2: Cemetery
Case #3: Brewery
I have to say, I was a bit leery of the whole idea of a “Halloween Special” (which I’m listing as just another second season episode for simplicity’s sake). It’s bad enough that the second season was largely devoted to investigations where little happened. Dumping a special into the mix almost demands that something happen on camera, just so that it can live up to the hype. Clearly, based on just the wardrobe alone, this was a promotional stunt. So the question is: was this all just good timing, in terms of the results?
A comment on Brian’s return: I think this is a mistake. The group has run ten times better without him, because he’s a distraction. Sure, he has plenty of experience, but that doesn’t count when he can’t play well with others or do the job he’s assigned to do without constant supervision. Believe me, I have someone in my work situation with exactly the same kind of work ethic issues, and it’s a constant drain on my time.
I am pleased, of course, with the amount of success that allows them to say “First Annual”, which certainly implies a long-term relationship between SFC and TAPS. The future is bright! Never mind the promotional joy of so much apparel. I like it when people I like succeed. One caveat: where was Paula this time? I want more Paula Donovan!
Anyway, first case:
Well now. That’s one hell of an EVP. I’m really surprised at how clear it was. Usually there’s a lot more background hiss and white noise involved. For that reason alone, I’m a bit concerned. Sure, it fits the history of the building perfectly, but that’s exactly the point. I’m not at all convinced that the SFC personnel wouldn’t ensure that TAPS had evidence during such an important investigation. (I stop very short of even suggesting that this was a purposeful hoax by TAPS or TAPS personnel.)
Damn, am I glad the cemetery thing wasn’t the rest of the episode. There’s a reason I hate cemetery investigations, and this highlights every issue I have. A bunch of people running around in a space with tons of ambient noise, animals, and people looking to mess with your head. Though I was impressed that the team kept running towards the unknown, not away from it!
This is the one that’s going to cause the most discussion, and I’m afraid it will be to the great detriment of TAPS and their credibility. That “ghost” in the basement looked super-fake, like someone told a kid to run into the room with a blanket over his head. The mist was a little better, but still not conclusive. I’m not sure what the situation was during that case, but my natural skepticism definitely kicked in.
For all that, this is what a lot of viewers wish every episode could be like, in terms of the amount of “evidence”. And that’s why some will question the timing. For my part, I was highly entertained, and if I question the veracity of some of the evidence collected, I point to SFC as a likely culprit. I also believe that it will be a long wait until January for new episodes!
Chill Factor: 8/10
2.15: 29 Mar 2006
Case #1: Waverly Hill Sanatorium
It’s been quite a while since “Ghost Hunters” had a new episode, so I was looking forward to this since the date was announced. And it didn’t disappoint! I usually prefer it when they investigate houses or buildings currently in use, since there’s less chance of unusual light and shadow effects or acoustic tricks, but there’s also a certain allure to the big, abandoned buildings like this one.
I also liked the fact that this was an episode devoted to one particular case. Granted, a lot of time was spent rehashing the ground rules for TAPS and the personal histories of the main players, since this was something of a premiere in the middle of a season, but there was a lot of investigation footage, which is always welcome.
A few of the moments were cringe-worthy. I’ve never been particularly happy with Brian; he just rubs me the wrong way sometimes, at least in terms of how his footage is cut for the episodes. On top of that, it felt like the moment when he and Tango were running was staged for effect, as if to play on Brian’s past history, and I find the staged conversations to be a bit annoying.
One other interesting topic: “shadow people”. Believe it or not, I don’t question that. And I don’t question it because I’ve come across this phenomenon myself. In my case, I was with a group of three other people and every single one of us saw the exact same thing. We must have spent hours investigating that space to figure out what it might have been, but that experience was something that fed my early interests in “paranormal” activity and the concept of non-corporeal intelligence. The explanation given in the episode is actually quite logical, even if it is a bit short and general.
Anyway, on to the case:
The best evidence, in my mind, was the thermal footage. I agree that it looks unusual, but I’m not so convinced that it wasn’t an animal. That’s one big building, and large dogs could run around without being heard or even seen in the dark. They never showed the thermal image of Grant standing in the spot where the image was recorded, so it was impossible to make a good comparison.
I’m also not sure about the strange object that went wafting across the hallway in the camera footage. To me, it looks like a patch of old paint whipping off the wall and out of camera focus. The condition of the walls alone should make that a primary possibility. I understand why it looks unusual, but my first reaction wasn’t “paranormal” by any means.
Most of the other evidence was personal experience. Now, some will inevitably claim that the personal experiences are evidence of fakery or “manufactured drama” or some such nonsense. I’ve been following TAPS outside of “Ghost Hunters” long enough to know that Steve, Jason, and Grant wouldn’t play that game.
I honestly believe that they were communicating what they thought they saw and what they thought the probable source was. Even the most seasoned individuals are going to react to the conditions of the environment. Running around a building like that in the dark, especially with little ambient noise to serve as distraction, will mess with your head. So it’s very possible that Steve thought he saw something, even if it wasn’t there, and it slipped past his defenses. I doubt anyone would be immune to such assumptions in a place like that!
Chill Factor: 8/10
2.16: 05 Apr 2006
Case #1: Holliston, Mass.
Case #2: Palladium Theatre
Last week was centered on a single investigation with a lot of unusual circumstances, so it stands to reason (and expectation) that this week would be somewhat less dynamic. Sure enough, that’s what happened. Perhaps once I would have been less than enthusiastic about such episodes, but I find it a lot easier of late to take it in stride.
In between episodes (and, in fact, during the hiatus), I had a chance to become more informed on what the TAPS team is up against, thanks to filming “Ghost Hunters”. Every episode, including investigation, takes up to a week of time. Considering that 20 or so episodes were filmed in the past year, that’s a huge chunk of time and maybe half the possible investigations that the team can reasonably handle in a year (not counting time off for the day jobs and good behavior). Just going by Jason’s 80% Rule, that means that perhaps 4 episodes out of 20 will actually feature something that can’t be reasonably explained.
Of course, the question is where that line is drawn. Is he just referring to the investigations where he’s forced to admit a place might be haunted? That would be my interpretation, and as such, neither investigation in this episode meets the criteria. A couple of odd occurrences are well below the line. (Not that Jason claimed that those places were haunted, per se, but you get the picture.)
So, onto the first case:
I’ve been in places where you get that same unusual feeling of dizziness or skewed equilibrium, and it is incredibly unsettling. It’s also very interesting that the experience was different for Steve and Brian. That little situation with the board is a little weird, but I’m not convinced that it wasn’t sitting the wrong way and just fell on its own. It’s strange for an EM field to come and go like that, but it’s not impossible. Even with the discovery of the former occupant named Grace, I’m not convinced. There are indications that something could be happening, but certainly not enough to make a concrete claim to a haunting.
This was another one of those situations where the owners desperately wanted to hear that the place was haunted, so no matter how much evidence was presented to the contrary, it was a losing battle. But it does highlight what I really like about TAPS: they will take the time to find a scientific cause for what appears to be paranormal. (Though I’m somewhat skeptical that Jason would actually mistake that for a real orb!)
I could bicker about the amount of time spent on Brian and his issues, but I’m a bit more forgiving at this point, because there should be some readjustment problems. Since those kind of personal issues are part of the series, for better or worse, there’s really no point in complaining anymore. Thankfully, there’s more than enough good to go with the annoying!
Chill Factor: 5/10
2.17: 12 Apr 2006
Case #1: Leonard House
Case #2: Valentown Museum
Of all the things I appreciate about Jason and Grant, it’s how they react to a possible threat against a child. It could be the least haunted spot on the planet, but if a child seems to be in peril, they will do what they can to help. Contrast that to the less reputable “ghost hunting” groups out there, who would nickel and dime a family like that and care less about the welfare of the toddler.
It’s something I’m not sure Steve or Brian can fully appreciate (though I suspect that confrontation was largely staged). Jason will bend over backwards to find the evidence necessary to calm the fears of a parent. I think it has everything to do with the fact that he’s got a brood of his own and can relate directly. I’m not particularly fond of children in a general sense, but if I see a little kid getting into trouble, my parental instincts definitely kick in and I’ll make damn sure something is done about it.
The episode wasn’t the most exciting; if anything, it focused on equipment issues that can derail an investigation. What surprised me was the fact that I finally agreed with Brian on something, since I usually don’t like his attitude. I still don’t, but I did notice that Jason and Grant were a lot less critical of Kristyn after she killed an entire night of wireless audio than they were of Brian for less substantial offenses. I can see their point of view, in terms of personal history, but I was a little surprised. (And once again, I admit that it could have been a case of manufactured drama.)
Anyway, first case:
Frankly, I’m not surprised at how many incidents were chalked up to the condition of the house and utilities. That house reminded me of a place I lived in right after college. I would have been more concerned about the state of the electrical wires and plumbing than possible ghosts, but TAPS did everything possible under the circumstances. And that was one damn cute kid!
Again, I don’t think that the conditions of the building were amenable to a strong investigation, and the loss of so much evidence certainly didn’t help. There were a few personal experiences, but they were easy enough to debunk or dismiss. I was actually surprised that they made so much of the railing. I caught that very quickly. I have the feeling that this was something that was exaggerated slightly for purposes of the drama.
Chill Factor: 4/10
2.18: 19 Apr 2006
Case #1: Mike Dion’s Case
Case #2: Willard Library
We’re approaching the mid-point of the “back nine”, to coin an industry phrase, and so far the action has been pretty low-key. The same thing happened earlier in the second season; a lot of minor incidents with personal experiences, capped with something that was definitely worth talking about. This had some more interesting elements to it, but still nothing particularly substantial.
It’s interesting how each investigation is given a particular flavor, and how episodes are constructed as if a certain theme is in play. For instance, I would call this the “existing evidence review” episode, because in both cases, TAPS was shown going over the evidence submitted by others rather than generating evidence of their own. And the analysis of that evidence, however short, paralleled the experience of the TAPS team in each location. I’ll give the editors credit for that nice touch.
That said, I wonder if SFC would consider, based on the relative success of the show, adjusting the format to allow more episodes. Here’s the idea: instead of cramming two investigations into one hour, focus on one investigation per episode, keeping the total number of investigations intact. Just on the basis of the second season, that would be something like 40 episodes in a given year! (OK, maybe not practical, but it would at least satisfy my desire to have more substantial investigation footage and less worry over renewals!)
On to the first case:
Some critics will inevitably point out that Grant wasn’t on camera when he was supposedly struck by this unknown assailant. They will also point out that most of what happened was personal experience, which they will say was dramatically faked. I don’t buy that, because Grant’s reaction felt genuine. When these guys “act” for the staged conversations, it’s pretty damned obvious, and Grant looked seriously uncomfortable leading up to that attack.
I love EVPs (which is why I really enjoy the Haunted NJ Podcast), and considering how often Grant says they are recorded, I wish we could hear more of them. Notice how this house, with credible EVP recordings by the homeowner, had something going on. (And that’s even accounting for the breath looped in so the audience would think it was recorded.)
Oh, look, another famous haunted site. What are the odds that the evidence wouldn’t pan out? Once again we have an example of a team that doesn’t conclude “ghosts” as soon as something odd happens. Yes, they consider possibilities, but then they rule them out systematically. And here we have photographic evidence that Jason and Grant could explain away rather easily. It might be that something is happening there, but with all those windows and stacks, it’s very easy to get odd shadows and the impression of movement.
Chill Factor: 6/10
2.19: 26 Apr 2006
Case #1: Hilary’s House, NJ
Case #2: Hartford Conservatory
This is the swing episode for the “back nine”, and things are beginning to heat up. We have another situation where the cases are drastically different depending on the circumstances. The first case, taking place at a private home, yields some interesting evidence. The second case, taking place at a public building, yields a lot of nothing. The second season has gone a long way towards demonstrating how most places that claim to be haunted are banking on rumors and urban legend.
OK, that’s a gross generalization, but it puts the lie to shows like “Most Haunted”, which seems to highlight a “haunted” historical or public building with plenty of “activity” every single episode. When a private residence is involved, it comes down to two simple things: the stability of the individual and the evidence. A place already claiming to be haunted is another thing entirely.
I have to say, Brian annoyed me a lot less this time around. Perhaps the editors weren’t trying so hard to manufacture storylines. Actually, they spent a lot more time with Donna in this episode, which I find a lot more preferable. I thought Donna was very cute in this episode, especially when she kept hearing the piano sound! For that matter, I wonder if she’s changed her look, because she seemed different. (And by that, I mean better!)
On to the first case:
I live in New Jersey, and I’ve run into enough odd phenomena in old houses (just in the places I’ve lived!) to give this homeowner the benefit of the doubt. I was especially struck by the fact that the husband wasn’t on camera, though Hilary mentioned that he had seen some of what she described. That suggested to me that they really believed in what they saw. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the quality of the EVP, but I did make out “We’re coming” in both recordings. Taken with the odd noises and personal experiences of the homeowners, that’s not exactly comforting! But as Jason said, it’s only the beginning in terms of pulling together evidence.
Granted, it’s not like the Hartford Conservatory is running around claiming to be haunted already, but the place was screaming for a good debunking. It was fun to see Donna react to the sound of the piano notes, but it was even better to see how quickly they tracked down the source. It’s amazing how easily some anecdotal evidence can be dismissed with a little digging and observation.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.20: 03 May 2006
Case #1: St. Augustine Lighthouse
I had heard about this episode several weeks ago during an interview with Grant on the “Slice of SF” podcast. He made it very clear that this was his favorite episode among the spring batch (though thankfully, he said this wasn’t the only episode with activity). Just the fact that the episode was devoted to one particular location was an improvement over the overly brisk pacing of previous episodes.
But this is, in many respects, the best episode of the series to date. The first season had the apparent attack on Frank, one of the sound guys, and the second season hit the hiatus with what appeared to be a thermal image of an apparition. Those were good, but this was better, especially the video footage.
Now, before I get too far into it, I want to address the obvious. I’ve already read comments that the video footage was fake, and that the voices were added in post-production. It’s certainly possible for something like that to happen, and the SFC editors don’t help matters by adding stupid ”spooky” sound effects over the actual investigation footage. But I maintain that Jason and Grant have demonstrated their integrity, and manufactured video evidence is usually very easy to debunk (especially in this day and age of pervasive CGI).
I do find it very interesting that so much activity this season has been related to “shadow people”. It’s almost like there’s a theme going, though I think it makes sense. If there is something there with the intention to manifest, it would take a lot less energy to take on a form without discernable features. (In fact, I still think most “recognizable” apparitions have a psychic component; what you see is a combination of the physical form and some kind of mental connection.)
Whatever the case, here’s my rundown on the evidence:
First, the audio evidence. I love the fact that you could hear something before anyone reacted on screen, especially with Jason and Grant. The murmuring in particular was very obvious. I do think it’s a little odd that the wireless audio didn’t pick up those sounds independently, though that might have happened without on-screen verification. But that’s the sort of thing that would have really cemented the reality of it.
All the moments when the camera was just jumping around while everyone was pointing to stuff that couldn’t be seen in “real time” were an annoyance, but I realize now that they showed so much of that because they had plenty of actual video evidence waiting in the wings. Contrast this to “Most Haunted”, where it’s nothing but whipping around the camera while the “investigators” scream at every creak and bang.
The two highlighted clips were quite impressive. I’ve seen the “shadow people” phenomenon for myself and that is, in fact, what it looks like, taking graininess into account. I liked how they peeled back the layers of enhancement over the course of the episode, so the original footage was shown to give the audience a sense of what that kind of thing would look like in “real time”. The fact that reference points were available (the motion detector lights in particular) made it very easy to notice movement. But the clean-up versions were stunning.
This is the kind of thing that I’ve been waiting for, and it definitely lived up to the hype. I can’t imagine how the rest of the season is going to measure up!
Chill Factor: 10/10
2.21: 10 May 2006
Case #1: Domani’s: Roselle Park, NJ
Case #2: St. John’s County Jail
After the previous episode, I wasn’t sure how the series could follow it up. I mean, shadowy figures, voices recorded that were plainly audible in real-time, that’s not something they catch on a regular basis. So I was a little concerned that it would be a huge letdown, with two investigations where literally nothing happened. Sure, that’s the reality of the field, but it’s hard to deny expectations.
Thankfully, this was an episode with plenty of EVPs. I’m fascinated by EVP, because it’s not something that can be explained very easily. I also follow the “Haunted NJ Podcast”, where they play a number of EVPs from their own cases, so I’m very familiar with the various interpretations and pitfalls. What I like is that the phenomenon isn’t necessarily due to “haunting”; it might also play into aspects of physical reality that aren’t typically apparent. For instance, EVPs can be a recording of sounds “imprinted” within the physical material of a building or object, rather than a traditional haunting.
It also doesn’t hurt that the first case was very close to home. Not only do I know where Domani’s is located (points in the direction of the building), but I’ve been there before! (Donna’s right…the penne is great! And Donna wasn’t bad, either!) I love it when they come to central NJ, because chances are, I’ve been there or driven past the building. I do kick myself a little bit, since I have to wonder if they drove by without me noticing!
Anyway, first case:
A couple personal experiences and some good debunking, topped off with two good EVPs. The second one was pretty clear, and it did sound like a child’s voice. One thing about EVP is that the context isn’t there. Is that a response to a question, or a recording of a past event? The first EVP, however, seems like a definite response. I know that they interpreted it as “What is that contraption?”, but I didn’t hear that. I heard something more like “What was it you(something)?” or something similar. Definitely four words before the longer word, though.
This one was interesting because of the unusual EMF results and the EVP. The EMF could have been one of those opportunities for educating the audience, but it didn’t happen. Sure, Brian thought it meant something was there, but they were sitting in the middle of a building filling with metal. Toss in ambient electromagnetic properties for the region and from the weather, and it’s no surprise that there’s a regular, detectable flux. And frankly, that could go a long way towards explaining the movement of metal doors, if the effect was strong enough.
The EVP, though, was unusual. Is it possible that the voice wasn’t speaking English? I couldn’t make out any discernable words, but it sounded like purposeful phrasing. The other possibility is that the sound of conversations elsewhere in the building resonated in the metal itself, causing enough vibration to sound like a conversation without distinct phrasing. I don’t recall them saying where the audio was recorded or when, so it’s a little hard to tell.
Chill Factor: 8/10
2.22: 17 May 2006
Case #1: Stone Lion Inn
Case #2: Edgerly House
Am I the only one who feels like the second half of the season has been a lot more fruitful than the first half? Actually, I think they’ve had more happen in the “back nine” than in the rest of the series to date. It seems like they’ve managed to grab more EVPs, for instance, and there’s a lot more talk about “shadow people” than before. I guess statistics don’t lie, since a long drought was sure to give way to something before long!
I tend to be wary whenever the evidence seems to point to a specific interpretation, especially since that only really happens in the movies. So I was struck by the evidence collected in the first case. It really felt like it was too easy to make certain logical connections, which brought to mind how hard it must be to maintain objectivity. So many “pop culture” interpretations must leak in whenever the slightest evidence is uncovered.
This was a rare occasion where I read comments on an episode before seeing it, due to some scheduling and personal issues during the past week. The comments made it sound like Dustin really went into dome deep territory. Well, maybe he did, but it didn’t necessarily make it on-screen. I didn’t find it particularly insightful, especially since I would have assumed that the investigators had considered the implications of their work a long time ago.
On the other hand, if he was genuinely having this moment of revelation in his life, it does add another element of realism to the show. I always felt that Steve’s issues with spiders and heights were aspects that would never be written into a manufactured personality for a series like this. Brian’s confused and confusing issues, if manufactured, are sloppy and slapdash in comparison. It all adds up to a picture that strikes me as genuine.
Anyway, first case:
Like I said before, it feels like a relatively simple story is being told here. The two clear EVPs sound like a child’s voice, and the fact that it seemed to be leading Jason and Grant to that storage closet in the basement (“find me”) suggests that a child was buried there (or worse, died there). And that just feels a little too “Hollywood” to me. Perhaps that’s why Jason and Grant didn’t speak to possible interpretation; I also wonder if the editors cut the episode to suggest that interpretation.
If TAPS was the fraud that critics claim, they never would have taken the time to point out the environmental factors at work in this case. Instead of jumping right into the paranormal, they pointed out several sources of altered mental states: chemical agents in the ventilation, a strong unshielded EMF source, and that incredibly dangerous black mold. I suppose some people just react to their own interpretation of what the show and organization is, rather than looking at what they do and how they do it.
Chill Factor: 7/10
2.23: 31 May 2006
Case #1: Stanley Hotel, CO
Well, here we are, the final episode of the second season. In technical terms, this series has aired more material in its second season than “Battlestar: Galactica” or any other original SFC series. Sure, it’s a lot less expensive, but it’s nice to know that the show has gained that much support and public awareness. (Though, honestly, can’t we hear about a third season already?)
This time around, it’s even a super-sized finale. I had no idea going in that it was 90 minutes, so it was like getting bonus footage! So I was a little surprised when the episode turned out to be relatively slim on the strong evidence. Even Jason had been talking it up just before the episode! (Then again, from his perspective, he was right there for the best stuff, so why wouldn’t he say it was great?)
That said, I could watch unfiltered evidence for hours and still be happy, so I’m not going to complain very much! I found it cute that the season actually managed to have a dramatic arc! Brian’s life issues over the second season made for a somewhat tortured and poorly conceived story. I’ll give it to the editors for trying to put together a pseudo-storyline, but it’s really not necessary. (Like the weird music, or the weird overdubbed noises, and everything else they add in post.)
So, onto the evidence:
I love the fact that the majority of the evidence was debunked: the banging, the reflections in the thermal footage, the shaking bed. That’s the sort of thing they do very well, and it does make it a lot easier to accept items like the jumping table at face value. For me, that’s still a hard sell, but only because of the camera angle. I’m not claiming fakery here (everyone knows me better than that by now), but what was shown will play right into the hands of those who believe Grant does fake things. (I also wonder if the editing wasn’t done to make it seem questionable.)
The best evidence, of course, was the first night in Jason’s room: the closet door and the broken glass. I’m sure the skeptics will find ways to explain the closet door, even though you can clearly see Jason is alone in the room and still on the bed when the door closes. But the glass is a more interesting situation. I really don’t see how that could have broken as it did, and it actually sounds like the piece of glass fell off before the sound of the glass breaking was heard. Very strange!
This is the part where I would usually launch into a discussion about the season as a whole, but I’m doing things a little differently moving forward. The “Ghost Hunters” post-mortem (so to speak) will be the main focus of an upcoming episode of “Dispatches from Tuzenor”, a new podcast started as an expansion to the written reviews conducted every season. That episode should be up relatively soon, and it will include some comments from the weekend I’m spending in Warwick with some TAPS members and fellow fans! So I invite anyone interested to drop by the archive site (www.entil2001.com) and click on the link. (It’s also available on iTunes.)
Chill Factor: 8/10
(Season 2 Final Chill Factor: 6.4)
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