Sunday, February 28, 2010


Back to work tomorrow. I'm settling down before bedtime with a few episodes of the late 1990's TV series, "Scariest Places on Earth." This had the potential to be a really good show, and I can tell you what spoiled it in 2 words: Alan Robson.

Alan Robson is a radio DJ from Northeast England, who decided to get involved in paranormal investigations. Supposedly he's had some pretty spooky encounters of his own. The man is a great storyteller, and therein lies the problem.

Picture this: you are a psychologist trying to do a scientific study to gather evidence for a hypothesis. A credible scientist would try to filter out as many factors as possible that would taint the results of his or her study. Instead of doing this, you gather all the participants, tell them what results you expect and why, and then say, "Oh, but draw your own conclusions." This is Scariest Places on Earth's strategy for managing paranormal investigations. What they do is recruit families to investigate haunted sites using scientific equipment. The families are always met upon arrival by Alan Robson, whose sole purpose, other than having the participants do some goofy "portal-opening" ritual or voodoo or some shit, is to scare the crap out of the participants before they even get started. He loves to tell them, "You shouldn't be doing this."

The earliest episodes weren't so bad. The Chillingham Castle visits were probably the best ones, in spite of their Robson-ization. But as the series went on, the family investigations just got stupider and stupider. They should have just hired a bunch of screaming horror movie extras. Robson would get the families so worked up they were seeing ghosts and demons every time a curtain moved. This is not entertaining. It's annoying. If the show had any intention of bringing credibility to the notion of the paranormal--well, it was an epic fail, as far as I'm concerned. There MIGHT have been some good evidence if no one had screwed with it.

I also have an objection to Robson using these portal opening rituals. If they're as effective as he claims they are, then you DON'T DO THEM WITH A BUNCH OF AMATEURS, DIPWAD. He even says that a clergyman would tell you "not to mess with this." I'm not clergy, and I'm telling you the same thing. If you don't know its potential psychological impact, then stay away from it. I have the same objection to the show "Extreme Paranormal". Clearly the producers of these shows think it's all BS and wouldn't it be fun to scare a bunch of people. Haha, let's wreck someone psychologically for life, or stir up some bad energy in some place. What fun! It's like the Micah character in "Paranormal Activity" has replicated himself and is producing reality shows. You don't have to believe in demons or ghosts--you're messing with the psyche, and at the risk of sounding redundant, this is bad. Some people can swim in deep water, but (probably most) others will drown. It's just irresponsible.

The worst investigation of Chillingham Castle was the one initiated by the Ghost Hunters International team. I hate to say that, because I really like the GH shows (though I have no interest in the new Ghost Hunters Academy show). But Chillingham was an early episode, where you had Robb Demarest acting like a robot Jason Hawes, and Donna LaCroix and Shannon Sylvie behaving less than professionally throughout the investigation. I was really disappointed, because I would have liked to have seen a real, professional investigation of the place, and GH/GHI are about as good as it will get for television. The new Ghost Hunters season starts this Wednesday, and I hope it's good. I've been a bit let down by Ghost Hunters, namely because whoever is filming it is turning it into the Kris Williams's Boobs show. Yes, she is an attractive young female, but I am sure that all of the paranormal activity is not happening inside her bra. And I've already kvetched about the overly-slick formulaic production of the show as of late, so I won't do it again.

The fact that I don't like a lot of melodrama and screaming doesn't mean that I don't like the suspense and mystery factor. It is something mysterious (assuming it's not a hoax), after all. That's why the Weird US approach doesn't appeal to me, either. Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran are great guys, and they run a fantastic magazine (Weird NJ). The series of "Weird" state books are also amazing--I own most of them. But the TV show, Weird U.S., was a little too flippant about the unusual and the paranormal. One got the sense that the things they were investigating were a joke or a bunch of nonsense. Maybe some of them were. But the rather silly tone of the show also took away from the investigation. I find that I prefer to stick with the books and magazines.

Ah well, time to finish my short story and go to bed. Pleasant dreams.

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