The term, the idea, the concept of ghost hunting is now a social identity marker, and one that carries a great deal of cultural significance.
In 2007, I started watching Ghost Hunters. This is actually an impressive feat by itself, for I am not an avid TV viewer. For reasons I do not yet fully understand, the show helped me rediscover my American identity. Other people are intimately tied to Paranormal State, or even Ghost Adventurers and Ghost Lab. These shows have changed lives, regardless of how clichéd some may view the content. I can certainly point out how my life has been positively altered: I emerged as a writer in this process. Because of that, I value my Ghost Hunters experience to the point that I simply will not give anyone else permission to taint my personal journey.
Dr. O’Hara, an English professor at Penn State, suggests that paranormal reality TV offers far more social commentary than other types of reality TV programming. This is reassuring, for many desperately hope that Jersey Shore’s Snooki is not representative of American ethos and identity. Paranormal reality TV is ultimately about spirituality, metaphysics, history, and belonging. Viewers take this amazing weekly journey armchair style as cast members work out these larger issues for us on our TV screens.
Whew, I know that the above paragraph is a mouthful.
The nature of shows like Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, and others allows people to project their own deeply personal journeys into the viewing experience. Everyone, it seems, wants the shows and cast members to somehow provide personal legitimacy. This is one reason why “Science” comes up so often – it is one way to make a seemingly weird interest appear unquestionably useful to larger society.
It is also fascinating how many individuals in the paranormal community define their persona almost exclusively as a ‘paranormal investigator,’ regardless of what their day job may be. In reality, the paranormal community is a small demographic and one still under-the-radar in larger, mainstream American society.
This becomes problematic, for so many desire proximity to this particularly weighty cultural pulse. The journey is so transformative – it is often littered with profound personal insecurities. These fault lines, as I call them, often function to discredit or disassemble other truths in an effort for individuals to obtain their own need for legitimacy. It is interesting commentary that few other types of TV programming encourage such complex communities.