By Paula Hendrickson
As Syfy’s long-running series Ghost Hunters celebrates its 10th season and 200th episode this week by having TAPS’ co-founder Grant Wilson re-join the team for a special case, it’s hard not to notice that Ghost Hunters is far from the only paranormal investigation show on the air.
Over the past year or so, I’ve kept a running list of all the ghost/haunting/paranormal series I’ve run across. At last count, there were more than 30 titles on that list. Sure, some have probably (and thankfully) been canceled by now. And Ghostland Tennessee has morphed into Ghost Asylum. But a frightening number of these types of shows air every week on several channels, and not just around Halloween.
Some viewers tune in to ghost shows for a visceral thrill at watching intrepid investigators walking through creepy places in the pitch dark, often baiting or daring spirits to communicate with them. Other viewers prefer to watch these shows scoffing that the “orbs” could be dust or bugs, or pointing out how funny it is that most of the action is seen off camera. (Convenient that spirits are said to drain camera and recorder batteries, huh?)
Personally, I prefer shows like Ghost Hunters that seem to try to debunk more “evidence” than they confirm as opposed to shows like Travel Channel’s popular (and far more sensationalistic) Ghost Adventures where Zak Bagans and crew provoke spirits, and Bagans provides each episode with overly dramatic voiceovers. Yet, I still watch Ghost Adventures because it’s oddly compelling entertainment.
Whatever the reasons people watch these types of shows, the fact is they get solid ratings, and cable network programming executives want to capitalize on that trend. Travel Channel even found an interesting way to extend the Ghost Adventures franchise by repeating episodes with viewer tweets and revisiting old episodes in Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks in which Bagans catches up with the people they encountered in past episodes. If you ask me, Aftershocks is more interesting … but still a bit over-the-top.
Some networks seem a bit too eager to cash in on the paranormal trend. In recent weeks, Destination America has added Amish Haunting and Ghost Stalker to the mix. I watched a couple episodes of Amish Haunting out of curiosity, and it was as bad as the title sounds. Unless, of course, you like cheesy re-enactments of (supposedly) Amish folk tales.
I haven’t watched Ghost Stalker yet, but I’m sure I’ll give it a try between now and Halloween. Meantime, check out Ghost Hunters’ 200th episode and see why it’s probably the longest-running paranormal investigation series around.
• The 200th episode of Ghost Hunters airs Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. Central on Syfy.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Oct. 22-28, 2014, issue