In today’s instalment of my Halloween Blogtober series I wanted to talk about ghost hunting TV shows. Usually they’re all over the TV at this time of year and I have to admit they are a guilty pleasure watch for me.
I grew up watching Most Haunted. It was the same format each episode, Yvette Fielding, her husband Karl Beattie, a psychic medium and a production crew would investigate a supposedly haunted building at night and attempt to catch footage of a ghost in the flesh… well, in the ectoplasm, I guess. Since the show began back in 2002, it took fifteen years for a potential ghost to be caught on film by the team. Whether it really is a ghost is, of course, up for debate but the footage clearly shows a figure walking down some steps. But, if it took all that time to finally catch a ghost on camera, what has kept the show going so long? Until 2018, the show was mostly filled with odd phenomena, ranging from tapping to objects being moved, EVP recordings to spooky assessments from mediums and even the odd Ouija Board session. And honestly, it was entertaining. It was good spooky viewing, especially at Halloween and it was up to the audience whether they wanted to believe the show was genuine or not.
The thing is, you can’t really speak about Most Haunted without mentioning its controversies. Most notably this came in 2005 when an investigation into Bodmin Jail (Bodmin’s third mention this Blogtober!) saw the show’s resident psychic medium, Derek Acorah, caught lying about being possessed by the spirit of a man called Kreed Kafer. What he didn’t know was that the show’s skeptic at the time, Ciarán O’Keeffe, suspected not all Acorah’s possessions were real so he made up a fake entity, whose name is an anagram of ‘Derek faker’… ouch, and fed this information to the medium. Acorah then claimed to be possessed by this particular spook on the show. O’Keeffe came forward after the show aired and Acorah was subsequently replaced for future series.
Although the evidence is pretty damning against Acorah, I do have sympathy for the situation. When you’re making a show that thrives on the audience expecting to see some paranormal activity, there is pressure to give that to them, whether it’s real or not.
Ghost hunting shows are presented on TV as entertainment shows, they aren’t scientific documentaries. However, there is a question to be asked as to whether it is ethically ok to create shows using potentially faked evidence of the paranormal. Here’s how I see it, theres’ a fine line when it comes to ethics and the paranormal. I don’t think it’s ok to knowingly deceive an individual into thinking that you have access to a dead loved one of theirs or to ask for money for something intentionally faked. But, what’s harmful about a ghost show? It’s not picking on individuals and the only ones paying for it are the TV networks who get the viewing figures as their reward for the broadcasts. As it doesn’t really hurt individuals and, for the most part, people aren’t paying their TV licenses just to watch ghost hunting shows, I don’t think there’s any malice in them.
I should also say I’m not accusing every ghost hunting show of fakery. I feel like I can say with confidence that a lot of potentially paranormal activity captured on TV has perfectly reasonable explanations. There are some moments though that aren’t so easy to explain away. There are clips from ghost hunting shows that are truly spooky and I don’t believe are faked. That brings me back to the Most Haunted footage of the figure walking up the stairs. A big part of me wants to believe it’s real and I actually think it could be.
Whether they’re fake or not though, as I said at the start I love a good ghost hunting show and they’ll always be one of my spooky guilty pleasures. What do you think of ghost hunting shows? Let me know in the comments.