How Paranormal TV Shows Do More Harm Than Good.
By Sarah Harrison
There has been an explosion of shows on TV dealing with the
paranormal. There are good things associated with their popularity. It's
making paranormal investigations more acceptable and less fringe.
Those of us who are paranormal investigators are not seen as kooks
I watch many of these paranormal TV shows and sometimes laugh and
sometimes cringe. There are decent paranormal shows on TV, such as
"Ghost Hunters" on Sci-Fi Channel. "Ghost Hunters" has problems
also which I will discuss later.
One show, "A Haunting," on Discovery Channel, is especially
egregious. Most episodes show "demonic" hauntings, possessions,
and people being physically harmed by entities. One show sticks in my
mind. It involved a young child, 5 or 6, possessed by a demon. This
child floated around in the air. Nice trick. My first thought was "quick
call the Amazing Randi, collect a million dollars, and then have the kid
This type of Hollywood spin on paranormal investigations has an
affect on the viewing audience who are not schooled in the
paranormal. I've had people call me for investigations who are scared
to death. They've seen an apparition and heard "things that go bump
in the night." The first thing out of their mouth is "I'm afraid it's a
demon and I'm scared of demonic possession." Yep, these folks have
watched "A Haunting."
I once had a workshop on using dowsing rods for ghost hunting. I
received emails from people telling me that dowsing rods are
dangerous and can lead to demonic possession. This is solely
because they saw an episode of "A Haunting" where someone used
dowsing rods in a cemetery and a demon entered through the
dowsing rods. Of course, an exorcism followed. Great Hollywood stuff.
I have the same problem with the new A&E series "Paranormal State."
Many of the hauntings are labeled demonic. While we deal with
non-human entities that are not entirely pleasant, these shows are
greatly exaggerated and cause unnecessary fear in people who are
dealing with hauntings in their own homes.
"Ghost Hunters," on Sci-Fi, is one of the better shows. But it, too, has
some problems. The Roto-Rooter guys have not quite grasped the
concept that the spirits they are investigating were once living people.
One of things they do is to taunt and provoke the spirits to obtain
EVP's. This is disrespectful for one thing. Also, at the end of the night,
they pack up their equipment and go home. The clients are left to deal
with a spirit that might be a little ticked off. On an episode of the new
"Ghost Hunters International," a couple of team members were
investigating sightings of a little girl ghost. They boxed up some of the
toys left for her by kind hearted people. They removed the toys from
the room saying loudly that they were going to burn them. They were
trying to get the child to materialize or provide some EVP's. You
wouldn't do that to a living child. Can you say "ghost child abuse?"
This is callous and cruel even if it's "just a ghost." This behavior is
going to be emulated by other paranormal investigators, thinking this
is an acceptable way to conduct an investigation.
The bottom line is these shows are to be viewed as entertainment. It is
not necessary to be afraid of demons around every corner. Nor is it
necessary to be disrespectful to spirits in order to conduct an
investigation. Remember, ghosts were people too.
For The Living
When paranormal investigators are contacted for an investigation, the people we deal with have
real concerns. Sometimes they are scared to death. When doing the pre-investigation
interviews, you not only gather the facts of the haunting, but you also must, at times, be a
therapist. I have been called back numerous times before an investigation because the clients
are scared, need comforting and reassurance.
Many groups just do ghost hunting. They come in and take pictures, EVP's, etc. After the
investigation, they show off the pictures they took, say the house is probably haunted, and
leave. There is no help for the homeowner. At the very least, these groups need to have contact
info to refer the homeowner to someone who does spirit rescues or a member of the clergy
who is open to doing house blessings. One TV ghost group tells the homeowners to order the
spirit to leave or they should move out of their home. Just ordering the spirit to leave rarely
Our group's main focus is to do spirit rescues or spirit cleansings. We do investigations, use
scientific equipment, and then step aside to let the sensitives do their job. Many groups are
about science only and are trying to prove to the world that ghosts exist. We are not out to
prove anything to anybody. We are here to help the living and the dead.
Many groups charge for investigations, including the other local group. I believe this is
unethical. If you do nothing for the client except tell them their house is haunted, then you are
just taking their money. Even groups that do spirit rescues should not charge. This just opens
up the field to con artists. Besides, there are no guarantees that the spirits can be removed.
We are not Terminix.
For more info, see website for essay," Do No Harm."
For The Dead
Ghosts and spirits can be pretty scary things. We love a good ghost story, the scarier the
better. And there's nothing better than a good Hollywood horror movie. People don't stop to
think that human spirits were once alive as human beings. The spirits may not know they are
dead or they may be unwilling to move on. They need to be treated with compassion and even
Ghost Hunters, on Sci-fi Channel, try to provoke and insult spirits to get a reaction. This may be
good TV, but is disrespectful of the spirits you are dealing with.
Human spirits need to be treated with compassion and SHOULD be helped to move on to the
other side, if possible.
I was recently at a paranormal conference in SC and one of the hosts was a woman who could
see and talk to ghosts. I asked her how often she helped the spirits to cross over to the over
side. She looked at me like I was crazy. Her group was only about investigating. It is
disheartening that someone with this gift did not understand that souls, who are stuck, should
be helped to move on to where they are supposed to go.
No matter what you see on TV, spirits are not playthings for ghost hunters. We can take
pictures, video, EVP's, etc., but at the end of the investigation we should remember we are there
to help the living and the dead.
There are exceptions to the compassion rule. When we deal with non-human entities, we
generally have to get tough and forcefully remove them.
We have dealt with human spirits who were bad people in life and just as bad in death. We
always start out treating them nicely. But if they refuse to leave and are causing harm to the
living, we will forcefully remove them. But only if they are causing harm to the living. We've had
spirits refuse to cross over, but if they behave themselves, we don't force them out.
Ghost Hunting Ethics
By Sarah Harrison