Ghost Hunters, "Norwich State"

Ghost Hunters, "Norwich State"

This episode marks the end of the first half of the sixth season.  Ghost Hunters is going on that mid-season break that seems to take foreeeeeeeever, which makes me sad every year.  Chrissy's comment reminded me that I hadn't reviewed this episode yet (slacker!) partly because it took a while to digest.

TAPS sent us out with a bang this year, by investigating Norwich State Hospital.  This is the same location which was featured in a Celebrity Paranormal Project episode I recently watched, titled "Pearl."  The Celebrity Paranormal Project episode aired in 2006, and in that time some clean-up has apparently taken place at the hospital.  The big pile of stuff in the stairway was cleaned out, for one thing.  But the drifts of paper in the administration area are still there.

Norwich State Hospital is an excellent example of the down side of ghost hunting.  This property has been severely damaged by amateur ghost hunters and trespassers.  Haunting though their resulting photo galleries may be, this irresponsible behavior has caused a lot of destruction, both intentional and accidental.  

It's also entertaining to compare the props and artifice and complicated schemes and "missions" of Celebrity Paranormal Project with the simplicity of Ghost Hunters.  Setting aside TAPS'impressive experience and scientific mindset (recently praised by Discover Magazine as "the best science show on TV"), you get far better television out of sending two people out into the darkness.  

It's the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid.  Amy Bruni and Kris Williams standing in a silent empty hallway is a thousand times more engrossing and unsettling than an entire episode of celebrity machinations and fakery.

When it comes to ghosts, less is more.

Which brings me to my only criticism of this episode: the Syfy channel needs to knock it off with the "sinister" soundtrack.  I had to listen to Jason and Grant's "ghost dog" clip three times before I could finally figure out which noise they were talking about.  And the overall atmosphere is completely spoiled by the soundtrack at several points.  If I'm straining to hear the slightest noise along with the investigators, it destroys the experience for the soundtrack to add DUMM DUMMM DUM BOING CRASH BANG.

The minimalism of Ghost Hunters is its best strength.  I found myself contemplating this truth after the hair literally stood up on the back of my neck when Amy Bruni and Kris Williams emerged from the creepy tunnel into an undocumented falling-down hospital.  No amount of special effects wizardry or action-packed paranormal CGI sequences could match the simple moment when Bruni and Williams realize they have no idea what building they're in, but that it's almost certainly haunted.  

I chose to be deliberately vague with this review, because I don't want to spoil any of the specifics.  If there's only one episode you watch this season - possibly ever - it should be this one.  I will say that I think every TAPS member completely loses his or her cool at least once during the investigation, which is a pretty impressive feat for a little ol' abandoned mental hospital.