Are There Too Many Celebrity Ghost Hunters?
WriterBy Matt Scofield
There's a constant ongoing debate in the paranormal community over whether paranormal teams and individual investigators should be striving for fame and fortune within the field.
Of course seeing ghost hunters on television is nothing new. When a former 'Blue Peter' presenter burst on to our screens in night vision in 2002, a genre was born. 'Most Haunted' presented by Yvette Fielding was the first true ghost hunting show, it was followed two years later by the US series 'Ghost Hunters' featuring Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. Then in 2008, Zak Bagans first appeared in the now long-running series, 'Ghost Adventures'.
Since these early days in the world of paranormal reality shows, there's been a change in the way we consume entertainment. We're no longer ruled by the restriction of a TV guide with access to a limited number of channels. Today services like YouTube and Amazon Prime have opened up the floodgates allowing just about anyone to broadcast themselves to the world.
This new wave of entertainment brings with it a new generation of celebrities, many of which are now more famous than mainstream stars. A 2014 survey carried out by Variety found that the five most influential figures among Americans aged 13 to 18 were all YouTube stars. This does mean there is an audience waiting for paranormal teams on these digital platforms, as well as traditional television stations.
When it comes to producing paranormal entertainment, in most cases being entertaining comes before being thorough and truly investigative. The team are never at a location with the sole purpose of proving or debunking a haunting, most are primarily there to film an episode of a television programme. Their aim is to ensure they come away with enough interesting footage to put together a full episode that will entertain their audience.
This doesn't necessarily mean that teams that feature in shows aren't credible or trustworthy, it just means their reason for investigating is different to an independent paranormal team or investigator who visits a location purely to seek out evidence of the paranormal.
However many within the paranormal community feel that once an investigator or team reaches a certain level of exposure that their integrity slips and they focus more on producing a television show than investigating the paranormal. In some cases this can lead to exaggeration of the evidence captured, failure to debunk occurrences properly and outright fakery.
This isn't the case with all shows. Often it's the teams with natural character and personality that gain the most exposure, get the most YouTube subscribers or do the deal with the television network. They are entertaining but are still credible, thorough and trustworthy. Plus even if you did pick the most worthy investigator out there for a show, wouldn't the cynics then just call them a sellout?
The vast majority of people who watch paranormal reality shows aren't an active part of the paranormal community and wouldn't label themselves as paranormal investigators, so is it such a bad thing that the television shows feature the most entertaining ghost hunters rather than the world's most respected paranormal investigators? Well, no. At the end of the day, these shows are for entertainment purposes. All of them.
Any team that posts videos of their investigations online are doing so to entertain. If these videos weren't for entertainment purposes then there would be no need to edit the footage into highlights add opening credits and shoot introductory pieces to camera. If their aim is merely to share or document an investigation for educational purposes, then why not just upload the complete unedited raw recording?
It tends to be those within the paranormal community who take offence when a new celebrity team appears on our television. They often feel like the stars of the TV show are belittling their work, discrediting the field or setting false expectations about what ghost hunting is about. The amount of bitterness projected at celebrity ghost hunters also suggests a hint of jealousy that someone is making a living from the paranormal field.
For many, paranormal investigation is a part-time pursuit or just a hobby - it's something they are passionate about and enjoy doing. So, who wouldn't want to turn their hobby into a career and make a living doing something they love? Whether it's playing football or performing music, in most walks of life people's achievements are celebrated when they make the leap from amateur to professional, yet this doesn't seem to be the case in the paranormal world.
Take Alan Titchmarsh for example, would he be considered to be "cashing in" on the gardening industry or stepping on other gardeners' toes? Has he forgotten his roots and got lost in the dizzy heights of celebrity gardening? Perhaps he has, but it's no bad thing. There is clearly an appetite for gardening shows on television, and Titchmarsh is the go-to garden presenter. This doesn't mean other gardeners should be jealous of him and the same is true for paranormal investigators.
So are there too many celebrity ghost hunters? Well, no. There's never too many. If you don't like them, don't watch them, but their very existence should create competition and encourage those you do watch to work harder and better themselves and the content that you enjoy watching. A constant stream of fresh talent will mean those that don't keep at the top of their game will get pushed aside and replaced in the same way artists in the top 40 go out of trend.
If anything there is a shortage of celebrity ghost hunters in the UK right now. The Really channel, which is the only British television station to show new ghost hunting shows at the moment, almost exclusively shows American programmes, with the exception of 'Help! My House Is Haunted' and 'Unexplained: Caught On Camera' - both of which have been off our screens for at least six months - and repeats of old episodes of 'Most Haunted'.
However it's the television stations' loss, because viewers are going elsewhere to find good British ghost hunting content. There are some aspiring British YouTube creators and web series that are growing in popularity, in some cases beyond any level of exposure they'd get on a small digital-only television channel. Creators like 'The Ouija Brothers', 'Paranormal Hauntings', 'The Haunted Hunts', 'Are You Haunted...?', and 'Ghosts Of Britain'.
Another argument that gets used against paranormal television shows is that the attention these shows bring to haunted locations means that independent teams are no longer able to investigate the locations themselves. The problem here is that the public see these allegedly haunted places on television and want to visit for themselves, so they book onto a public ghost hunting event.
Because these paranormal events companies are selling sometimes up to 60 or 70 tickets per event, they have significantly more budget than a small paranormal team of two or three people. This drives up the price of hiring a haunted venue for the night and prices out the smaller teams.
You could say that it is selfish and greedy of the property owners to give priority to events companies, but is it really selfish? You could also argue that a small team of two or three people spending the night at a location is selfish when a large group of interested members of the public could be there.
Plus, these teams often follow in the footsteps of television teams anyway and visit the same locations. If these teams are genuinely interested in paranormal investigation over entertainment, then they could be at any unknown haunted house rather than visiting a famous haunted location.
The truth is, there's no right or wrong. It's easy to see why smaller teams that are grounded and passionate about capturing paranormal evidence first and foremost earn a greater amount of respect within the paranormal community.
It's also easy to see why people who have dedicated their lives to seeking out proof of the paranormal might feel put out when someone lacking experience appears on television waving around dubious ghost hunting gadgets, no matter how entertaining they are.
For those who aren't part of the paranormal community, those armchair ghost hunters watching at home, it's understandable that the thing they want the most is a team they enjoy watching, a good (but not over the top) reaction to the evidence they capture, a glimpse inside some interesting haunted locations and a few jumps and scares along the way.
Plus, what do we know? We write about paranormal entertainment. The more the better!
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