A case of the heebie jeebies

Haunted Towns, Help! My House Is Haunted, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted – these programmes all show one after the other during the week on a channel called Really, the irony of which is, I think, unintentional.

Add to that Jack Osbourne investigating Portals To Hell once a week, something called Destination Fear, Ghost Nation, Ghost Loop and Paranormal Lockdown and you get the idea of what this channel is all about from 9pm onwards.

I have watched all of these shows for you, dear readers, although it’s almost impossible to tell some of them apart. I have suffered for my art and now it’s your turn.

All of them run on the same method of psychological manipulation which relies on narration that contains key suggestions, even to the point of speculating: “Could this be the restless spirit off..” to every floorboard creak, conversations suddenly cut off mid sentence as someone claims to have heard something which has completely escaped the viewer and the all important staged shock of camera crew being touched or pushed by a ghostly hand. On the American shows this is inevitably punctuated by a loud “OH MY GOD, DUDE!”

Shows like this all have to begin with a disclaimer that they are for entertainment purposes only, but the only entertainment comes from the characters in the investigative teams – former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding and director husband Karl Beattie’s comedy bickering in the dark during Most Haunted is priceless, some elderly guy called Fred who walks about the cellars with a massive book imploring demons to come forward and show themselves (much to the cartoon chagrin of the Most Haunted crew), various crazy mediums and so-called empaths from the American shows and my own personal favourite, Help! My House Is Haunted “truth seeker” Sandy Lakdar, who is in fact a French film actress with her own IMDb page.

Sandy sounds like Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau (possibly the next series of comedy classics to be wiped from history in our new don’t breathe you might offend someone world).

Well j’accuse all you like snowflakes, I think she’s hilarious and I’ll happily watch Help! My House Is Haunted just for her.

Someone who is far from funny, however, is Zak Bagans, principal host of Ghost Adventures, Deadly Possessions and the mini-series Ghost Adventures: Quarantine in which he and his crew are locked into his museum in Las Vegas for 14 days during the coronavirus pandemic.

You only need watch the trailer for this lockdown show to get the measure of the Zak persona. Staged gravitas oozes from every pore. Just imagine Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring films minus the acting chops and big screen appeal.

Zak favours sentences containing words like “without a shadow of a doubt” and “concrete evidence”.

Unless he’s actually talking about concrete, I’m not buying it.

But Zak’s not the only one. I heard “without a shadow of a doubt” twice in as many minutes as his show ended and another began on Friday.

It’s like they all work from the same general script outline in which certain buzzwords have to appear.

To finish, I should say, I have an open mind on the subject of the paranormal, it’s not that I don’t believe it – I just don’t believe these snake oil salesmen.

But I can image many people who blindly accept everything that goes on from objects being thrown off camera to spectral whispers supposedly from beyond the grave.

Belief is one thing, but exploiting someone’s susceptibility is something else entirely.

Now… what time is Dr Pimple Popper on?

Stupid TV Quiz answers of the week

Tipping Point

Q: Which animal appears flying over Battersea Power Station on the cover of the Pink Floyd album Animals?

Contestant 1: A dog?

Contestant 2: A fox?

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Edward Case

Columnist