Paranormal Pop Culture: Ghost Hunters

A promotional image from the show's final season. Jason Hawes is pictured center.

A promotional image from the show's final season. Jason Hawes is pictured center.

The popular paranormal reality television show Ghost Hunters premiered on Syfy in October of 2004, although at that time the network was still known as the Sci Fi Channel.  The show originally starred Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, following them from their day jobs as plumbers with Roto Rooter into their nighttime pursuit of paranormal investigation with The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS).  Ghost Hunters was an instant hit for Syfy, and quickly found a dedicated fanbase among paranormal enthusiasts.  It lasted for 11 seasons, ending in 2016, and featured over 20 different investigators during its run--with founding member Grant Wilson leaving the show in 2012, but returning for the 200th episode in 2014.

The show's investigative style was a skeptical, scientific approach to the paranormal, and the team would seemingly find rational explanations for initially unexplained phenomena as often as not--especially in their early seasons.  Mainstream science never accepted their methods for collecting evidence, but the team was outspoken about approaching the paranormal from as objective a perspective as possible.  The investigative team of Ghost Hunters used a variety of equipment on the show, including digital thermometers, EMF meters, handheld and static digital video cameras, digital audio recorders, laptop computers, and perhaps most famously night vision cameras, which gave the show its distinctive look.  Many scientists maintain that digital thermometers and EMF meters, especially, are prone to misinterpretation, and that there is no evidence they are detecting anything other than normal environmental effects or equipment malfunctions.  

As the series progressed, critics of the show began to claim that much of the 'evidence' presented by the Ghost Hunters team was staged.  In one highly publicized incident, Grant Wilson was accused of faking a ghostly hand pulling down his jacket collar.  Skeptics claimed that Grant used a string attached to the inside of his jacket to simulate the effect. Wilson's right hand did remain awkwardly at his side throughout the encounter, but he maintained he played no part in hoaxing evidence. 

The paranormal community remains divided regarding the impact of reality shows like Ghost Hunters, with some applauding them for bringing paranormal investigation into the mainstream, while others decry their often controversial investigation techniques and claims of staged evidence.  Despite the controversy, Ghost Hunters had a powerful influence on the field of paranormal investigation; the techniques it made popular and investigative careers it launched will likely be felt for years in the paranormal community.

ghostsTobias Wayland