Now that Ghost Hunters has gone on its mid-season break, I was casting around for some more entertainment. Having never watched Paranormal State, I picked an episode at random and sat down to see what it had to offer.
Ghost Hunters has really become the benchmark for TV shows about ghosts. I tried hard to set aside all of that, and watch Paranormal State on its own terms. I was moderately successful at this.
Paranormal State occupies that strange middle ground on the continuity between “totally real” and “totally fake.” From what I gleaned online, the homeowners are real people, the investigators are real investigators, and the scenes are not “creative re-enactments.” That being said, the people on screen seemed very stiff, and their dialogue often seemed forced. Not unlike what you might see on, say, Unsolved Mysteries.
The conceit of the show is that Penn State’s Paranormal Research Society travels around the countryside to investigate hauntings. College kids? Really? I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what these kids were studying, and whether they were skipping class for this. Shouldn’t they be at home writing papers or something?
The youth of the players also works against their credibility. For me, anyway. But then again, I’m 38. Apparently the show is meant to target a younger demographic.
In this episode, the team investigates a spooky Victorian house in Indiana. The family has had a lot of odd things happen after they started renovations. (The discerning ghost hunting-watching audience will note that renovations often kick up ghosts, along with plaster dust.) I’m not very convinced by reports of electrical problems in a house that old, but whatever.
The house, which was used by smugglers during the Prohibition era, is really awesome. It’s chock full of secret compartments, mysterious basement rooms, a lot of odd history. And all the upstairs rooms have locks on the outside, which is a little disturbing.
About halfway through the episode they drag in a psychic. “I’m feeling trap doors,” she says, waving her hand over the basement where we know there are trap doors. Was she prepped? Everything she says is far too pat. She gives a story about a little girl lured to a secret basement room, where she died. The homeowner explains that during the renovations she found a collection of a little girl’s things in a hidden room.
The psychic also says she senses George (an evil old man) and Abigail (who is maybe the little girl, or maybe a schoolteacher, I wasn’t quite sure). A team-member proceeds to the local library, where she learns that an Abigail did live in the house. As did a George, who ended up being committed to a mental hospital for “a nervous disorder.”
This was all way too pat for me. Particularly coming from a psychic, you know? Psychics are never that accurate. I smell pre-show prepping.
At any rate, this was a reasonably interesting episode. Nothing very spectacular happened in the way of evidence, although a team-member did have some kind of scripted psychic meltdown at the end as the team tried to coax Abigail to move on into the light.