When I was younger, the first paranormal type show I watched was a show in Australia here called 'The extraordinary'. My fellow aussies will know exaclty what I am talking about. I guess you could say it was similar to shows like 'Paranormal Witness' where people would talk about their paranormal encounters and there would be reactments along with the spooky voice of Warrick Moss. Most Aussies look back quite affectionately at that show. Fast forward a few years and when I was in my late teens I started watch a little show called 'Most Haunted'. It was the first show I had seen like it. I am sure you have all seen Most Haunted so there is no need for me to tell you about it, but it was the first time I had seen the format of people doing a paranormal investigation. Followed shortly by Ghost Hunters, we as the general public who had an interest in the paranormal finally thought 'wow this is something you can actually do?' Even though many dedicated investigators had already been doing this, it opened the door for a lot of enthusiasts that didn't realise it was something you could actually do. Fast forward around 14 years or so and there is no shortage of paranormal shows. There is also no shortage of paranromal investigators and experiences that people can pay to be a part of be it a ghost tour or paranormal investigation. Long story short, the paranormal is now a big money making business thanks to these paranormal shows.
A discussion that many of us who are actively working in the field however often have the discussion, do these shows help or hinder our field? Some questioned why I would even ask this as it is clearly entertainment, but it goes deeper than that in my opnion. If it is public knowledge that shows like Most Haunted fake evdience, do people think we all fake things? If people watch Zak Bagans going through run down buildings (which he has permission to do), does that make them think they can break into an abandoned building to do their own investigation? Do certain buildings deny access to investigators because they are afraid people will break in and they don't want the paranormal reputation? Do people that attend a public investigation think that they are guarenteed to have an experience because every single episode of a paranormal tv show is edited to make it look like something always happens? The answer to all of the above is yes. A lot of people think all of things because they have a false sense of paranormal investigating thanks to these shows. It is not every single person, but I am saying I have encountered people that answer at least one of those questions (some of them all at once). There is no denying how instrumental these television shows have been in attracting more people into the field. I wonder however though, how many of these people really last once they find out what paranormal investigating is really about? . We investigators know that it isn't like it is on tv. There is a lot of sitting around waiting for something to happen, but we also know that it wouldn't make good television. It has to be entertaining or people wouldn't watch. The people on the show have to be engaging or we would tune out. I put the question to the LLIFS followers on my facebook page what they think on this issue so they could contribue their take and this is what they came up with.
Some felt they were just entertainment and didn't really cause any sort problems within the field. :
Glenn McPhee: Entertainment really. Dont hinder really. They hinder it as much as River Monsters does fishing...lol
Mark Moorhouse: I think it depends on what you expect out of the show. They are just entertainment now, but you can still adopt methods and look at equipment used.
Jess Vinter: It's great to see how they investigate and the equipment they use but (and it's really disappointing) so much of what happens is put on for the sake of making "good" tv. watching shows like most haunted and other ghost hunting shows growing up is what fuelled my love for all things paranormal and it is exciting to watch things that go bump in the night but it's nothing like being in the moment out on an investigation seeing things happen before your eyes
Nicole Botham: Depends on how the show do their investigations and how serious they are in what they do. Ghost Adventures I believe do a good job and are serious in what they do. They are keen to get the facts, serious about their equipment they use and debunk activity when it isn't true activity. However there are some show that are great but at times, I think it's more for entertainment with some making a joke of it. I strongly believe that the dead should be respected, as they were once a living person.
Dan McMath: They do not help, nor do they hinder. I've never, NEVER had any issue with any client or location because they think paranormal reality tv shows are fake or real. Never enters into any equation. I know that some within the "field" think they affect how investigations are perceived, but it really has no bearing. After all, I'm
Not investigating to prove anything to anyone but myself. Actually, they help a little. Some locations are more willing to open their doors to you because they've "seen it on tv". Lol
Some feel that the general public find it difficult when determining what is entertainment and what is real.
Rob Wilson: Guess Australia is lucky........we only have one shit show to deal with & it got canned after one season, thank God........so our treasured locations dont constantly get shit on by production companies & sellout investigators, but I really do think the percentage of people that do believe that these shows are legit is decreasing. Its entertainment people, simple as that.
Scott Faulkner: I don't believe they are a hinder, though they do give some people a false idea on Investigations.. some people think that on an investigation we have constant activity from start to finish. Then when I explain that it's not like that and that we might not anything the first or second visit they look at me like I mustn't be doing it right lol
Aaron Galloway: I think if I had to weigh it, they do more harm then good. The good is they bring light to the subject. They also make it easy to talk about it and make it less taboo. They also make it easier for people to seek out help. The bad. Most shows show terrible investigation skills/practice that people take as the norm. Such as doing all of the investigation in the dark and using K2 meter as their only emf meter. They also make people believe in evidence such as the stupid flashlight going on and off by itself trick, despite the fact it simple physics. They also create the groups of people that watch a season or two, go and buy a recorder and an emf meter and then call themselves paranormal investigators. The shows are at least entertaining, even if it's all mostly faked. They also get the locations business and their names know. Again just my opinion
Unfortunately, it seems that some have suffered within the field directly at the hands of a local reality tv show:
Craig Powell: I've had one paranormal TV show *cough, Haunting Australia, cough* cause me some major issues at a particular location we had been investigating for over a year. Huge mess, that I had to clean up, whilst they moved on to the next location.
Finally, I had a very passionate response from someone who has actually appeared in some of the tv shows before and offered some excellent advice to those who may be considering going down the tv path. Make sure you have control:
Pat Fitzhugh: I have seen the issue from all angles. Having been an investigator for a long time, and due to my work on several high-profile mysteries, nearly every paranormal "reality" show has asked me to come onto their show at least once. I have turned them all down, except for a show on A&E, because they allowed me to be myself and say and do what I wanted to. The other show offers were much different. And that's fine, if someone wants to be an entertainer. I still do plenty TV, but I limit my choices to documentaries, spookumentaries, and shows that focus more on training, methodologies, and critical thinking--shows where actual paranormal investigation experience matters, and just having acting experience and sending your name, age, and a picture to a casting director or company. The second angle is from the non-TV investigation angle--where seasoned investigators investigate but don't become involved with TV. The "shows" are catch-22. They acquaint lots of people with the paranormal investigation field, but they also create a lot of "copycats" who are NOT paranormal investigators--but only think they are. The interest in the paranormal they generate helps give you more clients (for private investigations), and more customers (for public investigation events). However, more is not always better; not everyone is cut out to be a paranormal investigator. One of the biggest problems I have run into is that when I mention I am a paranormal researcher and investigator, some people instantly ask me why I like to ruin old buildings, scream at the top of my lungs, and curse and say disrespectful things to the spirits. Of course, I have never done any of that, but non-investigators don't know any better--they think REAL paranormal researchers are just like those who PLAY the characters of real paranormal researchers on TV. This same wild, negative perception of paranormalists that the TV shows create also applies to potential investigation locations; I have had several say "no" because they think I am going to do what so-and-so does on TV. Not all of the paranormal "reality shows" are fake, or give a bad name to real and serious researchers. Some do, others don't. The ongoing problem is that most paranormal investigators already realize this, but the general, non-paranormal public does not. They are a much larger group than we are, and that's how they judge us (unless they finally come on a real investigation and see for themselves). Differentiating between reality and entertainment is a big challenge for many people.
So what is the conclusion? Well it depends who you talk to like anything but you can see by above it has good and bad points. I personally think at the end of the day when you decide to get into the field, it should be because you want to. Do it because you want to and you love the paranormal. Not because you think it is going to make you money or you want to be a tv star. Find your own answers. If you are going to be in the media however, make sure you have full creative control. I have heard many people complain of how they were portrayed or where vital scenes of them debunking activity has been left out by the producers. Why was it left out? Because it just doesn't make good television. If you filmed a real paranormal investigation, in all likelihood, you are not going to see much apart from people sitting quietly in a dark room waiting for something to happen. Some of these tv shows are not filmed in only one night. They are filmed over several nights and cut together. Then there is what we call creative editing. Add some creepy music to build a bit of tension and edit footage in a certain way, and you can make it seem like something is happening when it really isn't. These shows are for your entertainment and that is it. Some shows are more notorious than others to go as far as faking evidence in the name of entertainment. Not everyone does this but it does happen. I think like some have said above, watch it for entertainment and maybe it will give you some ideas for experiments to try or a new piece of equipment to build. The shows have been great bringing in a new generation of keen investigators and it has helped some locations stay open, because they have been able to captilise on this niche market and make some money. Would we have a field like we do today if it weren't for these tv shows? It wouldn't be as big as it is now and you certainly wouldn't have conventions that rely on 'paranormal celebrities' to get people through the door. I have met a few people now that have been on the shows and they are generally really nice down to earth people. They have day jobs because believe it or not, being on a paranormal tv show doesn't pay all that well (unless you work on Ghost Adventures). They are people that live normal lives and they do their own research. I often see people asking former television personalities why they don't investigate anymore. The thing is they do, they just don't plaster it on social media or show it on television. They are still out there doing the work they love doing. Not everyone on tv is looking for fame, they merely had an opportunity they couldn't pass up and I know a lot of people would do the same. There are some fame whores out there looking for a buck anywhere they can get it but that is in any field. I know I probably wouldn't be in the paranormal field in the capacity I am today without first knowing about it from these shows. So where does this leave us? Like any investigator, be smart and use your brain - out investigating and when watching these shows and you will be fine! And just so you know, there is nothing wrong with a little guilty pleasure on a Sunday watching some paranormal tv. Us investigators are allowed some entertainment from time to time, and it gives us a reason to throw our pillows at the tv in frustration, or is that just me!
So tell me in the comments below, what do you think? Do paranormal reality tv shows help or hinder the paranromal field?
Don't forget to LIKE the Facebook page for updates on new content www.facebook.com/livinglifeinfullspectrum
Don't forget to follow the Facebook page for regular updates
Join the mailing list to receive weekly updates of NEW articles. Never miss an article again!
Buy the latest and past issues Haunted Magazine
Check out the books written by LLIFS