Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ghost at your back

Ghosts are in this year. Several cable channels have reality programs about ghosts ("reality" being a word taken with a grain of salt). SyFy has Ghost Hunters, Biography has Celebrity Ghost Stories, Animal Planet has The Haunted. Travel Channel has Ghost Adventures, which I watched a couple of days ago. An episode took place in Tooele, Utah, the town my mother lived and worked in for 15 years. The Ghost Adventures guys visited an old hospital which is now a haunted house attraction called Asylum 49, and the other side of the building is a nursing home for elderly residents. That's a creative use of space, if not out-and-out weird.

(Tooele, pronounced too-willa, is the home of Tooele Army Depot, where nerve gas is stored, and the gateway to Dugway Proving Grounds. Dugway is being called by some "Area 52" because some conspiracists and UFO buffs are sure some of the secret ops that went on for years at Area 51 in Nevada have been transferred to Dugway. Its out-of-the-way desert location makes it ideal. Tooele is no stranger to weirdness.)

The Ghost Adventures guys go into buildings at night with the lights off and their nightvision lenses taping everything, trying to get ghosts to appear. In this episode they were looking for the ghost of a child and a shadow man, a black figure of a man that sometimes appears in the corridors. I should mention the nurses from the nursing home are pretty spooked by all of it, and none of them like the graveyard (heh-heh) shift, when according to them the creepy stuff happens.

If you google this show you get a lot of Ghost Adventures fake! comments and blogs. I think if the show is not totally faked then it's certainly overblown in its claims of the paranormal, but that's show business in general. So the guys set up in the night, calling out ghosts. Whether they succeeded in finding anything depends on how you interpret it; someone would say, "I can feel a cold spot," or "Something just brushed my leg!" and we're supposed to just accept those statements as facts.

I went to Travel Channel's website and found a purported recording from the Tooele episode, of a child's voice on magnetic tape using an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Taken at face value the recording is interesting if not conclusive.

I am intrigued by the technique of using white noise, which ghosts are supposed to communicate through, even though I don't know if any of that can be believed, either. It could be sleight of hand, a simple trick, running something pre-recorded through the white noise machine. My wife has a white noise machine she used years ago to cover noises by our neighbors so she could get to sleep. Maybe one of these days I'll use it, see if I can hear voices from Beyond the Grave. I know a couple of people I'd like to hear from given the opportunity. There are a lot more I'd prefer not to hear from, and that--and my natural skepticism--keeps me from doing it right now.

I went to YouTube for examples of the white noise technique. The video of "A Man in pain," is "really wierd [sic]", but besides the groans whatever the man is saying is unintelligible.

The video is accompanied by creepy music which sets up the viewer for something spooky. I have to give this one a D-minus or an F for realism. When you think about it even if you believe in ghosts communicating with their voices why do they need the white noise?

So I'm a skeptic, but sometimes a good story can override my skepticism. Perhaps it's superstition, or an ancestral memory of ghost stories told around the fire. I got a chill when I watched an episode of The Haunted on Animal Planet. A couple knows there is an entity in the house. The dog reacts to it (it is Animal Planet, after all, and they have to tie it to animals somehow). At one point all the lights in the house go out, and the woman goes down into the cellar to pull the breaker. She's standing in total darkness and hears someone behind her, laughing. The thought of that gave me a shiver. I was alone in the house that night, and when I turned out the lights to go to bed I thought of that, how terrifying it would be to think you are alone, and then suddenly hear someone laughing. It was a long walk to my bedroom that night, and that's no laughing matter.


No comments: