Ghost Hunting – Reality v. TV Shows, Revisited

Ghost hunting is more than what you see on reality TV showsIn the early 2000s, ghost hunting TV shows helped many people learn more about paranormal research and haunted sites. That helped this field expand, almost overnight.

However, many viewers were disappointed when they went ghost hunting, themselves.

I’ve talked about this in the past, and – I’ll admit – ranted more than a little.

But this week, a news report confirmed what I’ve been saying… and more concisely (and perhaps more authority) than I have.

The article is “5 Myths about Reality Television,” and it’s in the Washington Post.

Here’s part of what it said:

With very few notable exceptions (like “Big Brother”…), most reality television is shot first over a period of days or weeks, then edited. A month in the field could be whittled down to 44 or 22 minutes of action. That way, the audience sees reality stars only in essential moments… Almost nothing airs exactly as it fell into the lens, but the final product is usually more or less what happened.

That’s true about many (not all) ghost hunting TV shows. A typical one-hour episode might require three to five days of daily filming at the site.

Then there’s the editing, to make the show compelling to watch, with cliffhangers immediately before each commercial break.

What viewers see are the highlights of an investigation. They don’t see time spent waiting while nothing happens… and that’s most of what goes on, at many (perhaps most) investigations.

Viewers also don’t see the dozens of “haunted” locations scouted by people like me, where ghost stories turn out to be more fiction than fact.

But yes, what viewers see “is usually more or less what happened.”

I’m seeing a shift – towards almost radical authenticity – in some ghost hunting TV shows. Most Haunted remains one of the leaders in this trend. (In the UK, it’s on Really, usually on Fridays.) Also, I noticed that the show producers are considering shows featuring outtakes. That’s a fun idea. (See @OnlyMostHaunted at Twitter.)

While more authentic ghost hunting TV shows aren’t the adrenaline fuel of their fast-paced, highly edited counterparts, I like this trend.

And, for the record: the only sites I’ve investigated for just 22 minutes (the length of a 30-minute TV show, sans commercial breaks) are those that seemed too dangerous for research. Usually, that had nothing to do with ghosts; instead it was about creepy people in the area, or imminent lightning strikes.

If I’m familiar with a site, I might investigate just 44 minutes (the content of a one-hour TV show). Usually, that’s a follow-up visit, to debunk (or confirm) anomalies noted in an earlier, far longer investigation.

Though this isn’t exactly new news, I was glad to see mainstream media mention the reality behind many “reality” TV shows.

And, once again, I encourage researchers to arrive at events and investigations with low expectations. Lots of waiting may be required.

But, that’s a good opportunity for you to do a thorough (and sometimes repeated) “baseline yourself” check, so you’re always aware when weird things start happening at a haunted site.

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And, if you want to be on a ghost hunting TV show, search related keywords at sites like, and – for the UK –,, and similar sites. (There are many.)

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