Top Ten Ghost and Monster Reality Shows to Watch this Halloween

It’s the season for pumpkin spice, trick or treat, scary movie marathons, and ghostie and monster TV shows.  Especially ghostie and monster TV shows.  Don’t get me wrong, I love these shows for the sheer entertainment value.  It’s not that I don’t believe in ghosts, exactly; it’s that I don’t buy these ghost hunters for one moment.  Most people don’t realize these are heavily edited and scripted for maximum viewer impact.  That said, some seem more realistic than others, some are downright hilarious, and some just *may* make you wonder.  Here is a listing of some ghostie and monster hunting shows you may, or may not, want to check out.

Ghost Adventures

Follow the adventures of Zac Bagans and his crew, including the much-abused Aaron Goodwin, as they seek out haunted buildings that specifically feature nasty ghosties.  Zac must wear a respirator due to allergies when he is in old buildings, but more offensively, he wears it while investigating occupied houses, too.  No matter what the owners of the building claim, Zac is “immediately overcome by feelings of *fill in the blank*.”  He is constantly being “touched” by ghosts yet continues to challenge them despite his hilarious fear.  Poor Aaron is always sent to the most dangerous rooms, and usually shoved in from behind while Zac slams and locks the door behind him, lights off, alone, and against his will.  The show has a fair number of EVPs, orbs and other spooky happenings per episode.  Zak narrates the episodes with a dreary monotone voice that is somehow amusing in itself.

Boo Factor:  3 boos, for sheer entertainment value

Mountain Monsters

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you gave a set of self-professed hunters and trappers rifles and the freedom to track Bigfoot through the mountains while filming them bumbling, firing at trees, and falling over rocks in the forest at night?  Wonder no more; Mountain Monsters is classic goofy viewing for all audiences.  The crew chases a different iteration of Bigfoot (yes, apparently there are countless breeds of Bigfoot) each episode, creating elaborate traps to catch the monsters which, of course, they never do. The combination of stupidity and over-the-top dramatic acting, delivered in deep southern drawls (which, in any other context, I absolutely love), will make you laugh at loud.

Boo Factor: 3 boos, too funny to turn off

Ghost Stalkers

You may know Chad Lindberg from Fast and Furious as well as (ironically, perhaps) Supernatural (where, if you want to know, he played one of my fave side characters).  He teams up with author John Tenney to look not only for ghosts, but for portals that spirits use to travel from the beyond to our world.  Putting aside that Tenney will have you picturing Dragnet the entire time or that Chad can scream with the best of them, the entire premise is hilariously flawed as “portals” seem to be everywhere in every haunted location they visit.  Perhaps people should stop inviting these guys to parties?  They use a wide array of what looks like very expensive equipment but never really seem to catch any evidence whatsoever.  One person locks themselves into the location for half the night, then his partner does the same.  Each monitors the other from inside a van, with very dramatic narration delivered in such a monotone that it makes Zac Bagans seem like he is on speed in comparison. This show is a complete waste of time, unless men screaming and running through empty halls is your kind of entertainment.

Boo Factor:  1 Boo

Finding Bigfoot

This show takes a little more realistic and scientific approach to the hunt for Bigfoot.  A couple of researchers and one skeptic comb the US and check out potential clues, debunking several as they go while finding some compelling evidence as well.  This is a drama free show that may make you wonder if there is a big, hairy monster out there after all.

Boo Factor:  5 Boos for an intelligent quest without overacting and drama

Haunted Collector

What if it wasn’t your house that is haunted, but an item you have in the house?  That’s the premise with this show. It may be of interest to know that “Friday the 13th – the Series” had this idea years ago. I’m not saying that Haunted Collector stole borrowed the idea … just pointing out it’s been done. Anywho, these paranormal investigators somehow track ghostly activity to objects within the house.  At that point, Lead Investigator John Zaffis willingly takes on the burden of the haunted object, storing it in his basement full of other haunted objects.  Interestingly, the objects tend to be high value, rare, or of historic value. Go figure.  It’s still a fun and creepy romp, though.

Boo Factor:  3 Boos for the creepy premise

The Dead Files

If a show *might* make you believe, it *may* be this one.  At the very least, it’s a fun romp for an hour.  Amy Allan, psychic medium, and her partner the infinitely skeptical, tough, ex-New York homicide detective Steve DiSchiavi.  Amy Allan investigates the haunted sites at night, seeing spirits and filming what they are “telling” her, while Steve interviews occupants and researches the property.  The two supposedly never meet until the Big Reveal with the family after the investigation is over when, amazing surprise, all the facts from the two separate investigations add up perfectly.  Still, this is one of the better, far less over-reaching ghostie shows around and while you know it’s fake, well, what if it’s not?

Boo Factor: 4 Boos

Ghost Asylum

Hunky front man and lovable side investigators, these guys now have a live show presented every Friday night.  Known as the Tennessee Wraith Chasers, the team breaks out the usual equipment to investigate haunted locations live on TV, with watchers tweeting what they see as they monitor cameras themselves.  It’s kind of neat that the guys respond and investigate on things the viewers tweet to them in real time.  Prior to this, their show Ghost Asylum was a classic yuk-yuk fest, with them somehow miraculously catching spirits in home-made inventions to take back to their office and store in ghost chambers, just like Ghostbusters.  The show can be little other than ridiculous as it starts with a disclaimer that ghost hunting is dangerous and best left to professionals. Ummm… okey-dokey, guys.  Still, it’s a fun way to pass an hour.

Boo Factor: 4 Boos for the live show on Friday nights

Deep South Paranormal

Remember our bumbling deeply southern Bigfoot enthusiasts from Mountain Monsters?  What if this same type of chaw-chewing, bearded crew hunted ghosts with equipment instead of Bigfoot with rifles?  You will be spellbound by the group’s use of southern rock guitar to draw out spirits (who apparently like southern rock; who knew?), ridiculous homespun sayings, and love of grits.  Sadly, this show lacks the overacting of Mountain Monsters, which let’s face it, is why we watch Mountain Monsters.

Boo Factor:  1 Boo

Ghost Hunters

I couldn’t have this list without including the plucky plumbers who started it all; TAPS.  Sort of like a Hydrox is the original Oreo, this show laid the groundwork for all the rest.   Millions of viewers tuned in weekly to watch this ghost hunting duo justify dust orbs caught on film.  Compared to the shows that followed, this one is stripped to bare bones like EMF detectors and thermal cameras.  At one time TAPS was the “real deal,” in a manner of speaking, but has been overshadowed by its descendants and lacks the nonstop “evidence” displayed by them.

Boo Factor:  2 Boos

Josh Gates:  Destination Truth and Expedition Unknown

Josh Gates is an explorer whose shows cover a wide array of subject matter, from monsters, near death experiences and ghosts to lost treasures and myths.  His approach is very light hearted and fun, and his investigations are free of dramatic emotion; very straight forward and sincere.  As far as great shows covering all kinds of spooky and fun topics, this one is a must see.

Boo Factor:  5 Boos

So there they are, my top ten ghostie and monster hunting shows to watch, or not. I urge you to give them a look though. Seriously, they are nothing if not fun. Oh, and if you do, be sure and come back to leave your own “boo rating” below!

 

Game Night

Did I die and go to heaven?  Is there a game that covers my two personal geek niches, trivia and horror, at the same time?  Well, yes, yes there is.  Here it is. One hundred years of horror! Sign. Me. Up.

You may not realize this, but 1981 was a great year for nerds.  This epic year saw the release of Trivial Pursuit (thank you Canada!), the game that allowed us to shine. Cut us some slack; chances are, if we were masters of Trivial Pursuit, we didn’t have a whole lot of outdoor sports skills available to us.  The game itself was originally released in 1979 … but it took a couple of years for it to catch on and catch on it did. It has since exploded with a litany of variations: Star Trek (lucky UK!), Baby Boomers, Lord of the Rings, Silver Screen, and even a Book Lovers edition, just to name a few.

At the peak of Trivial Pursuit’s meteoric rise – between 1983 and 1986, I was lucky to be surrounded by other nerds, and we threw intimate parties to showcase who knew the most about nothing at all.  We took this seriously, and generally divided ourselves into teams: the classic boys vs girls, with the boys excelling in the sports category while the girls swept the rest.  I think it goes without saying that alcohol was a part of these parties, but my memories are of good friends and good times.  At least I think that’s what I remember; like I just said, alcohol played a part of the gatherings.

Trust me, the apple didn’t far fall from the tree… at least in so far as gaming goes (remind me to tell you about my mother’s addiction to the original Mario Brothers sometime). Like most of us in days gone by, my family had game nights.  Today’s kids will never know the joy of bankrupting your brother in a rousing, friendship ending game of Monopoly.  My parents taught us card games like Hearts, and a quirky little game called I Blew It (back off, guys, it was just a dice game).  Then, geeks and nerds everywhere rejoiced with the release of Trivial Pursuit, and my family was right there with the best of them. We were able to showcase our knowledge of state capitals, obscure authors, foreign etiquette, and bizarre scientific facts.  Take that, jocks!

I still love Trivial Pursuit and it’s new-age ilk … I have an unrepentant addiction to the aptly named TriviaCrack.  My brain isn’t full of many useful things, but by golly, I can tell you that John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States, that the first letter on a typewriter is Q, that Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built, and that amoebas can group together and form something called a slime mold.

At the same time, anyone who would be so inclined as to check my Netflix lists would think I am slightly, or mostly, unhinged by my “recommended” movies and watched list.  Goofy monsters, slashers, aliens, and ghosts; if its creepy, I’ve watched it three times. I am nothing if not a horror aficionado.

Now, Trivial Pursuit has raised the bar with a horror movie edition. Horror trivia? Be still, my heart.

I can’t recall where I am supposed to be tomorrow at four (but I know it’s someplace important), what I had for breakfast, or what I did last night, but I can sing every word to the creepy “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you” song and I just happen to know the best-selling fiction book of all time.  Hint: it’s Don Quixote. 

In a world where walking fast is an Olympic Sport, I want to find a way to make money playing Trivial Pursuit, the Horror Edition.

Steaming up the Shower

Sex has become such a predictable part of novels and movies that it isn’t a matter of if the protagonists are going to get it on, it’s when are they going to get busy.   For me the burning question is, where are our sex-starved lovebirds going to get it on?   It seems no setting is too awkward and no place is off-limits.  I recently watched Jurassic World to familiarize myself with how the movie left off before seeing the next one.  Out of all the special effects, blood, gore, body parts and roaring dinosaurs, one scene struck me as ridiculous.  Towards the end, in a burning street with pterodactyls swooping around them and picking up kids to carry them off for unpleasant pterodactyl things, with dinosaurs thundering towards them while they were covered in dirt, sweat and blood, the protagonists stood atop an overturned car and shared a passionate kiss.  Really?  No matter how much I like the guy, I’m not thinking swallowing tonsils is an appropriate response to rampaging dinosaurs. Maybe that’s why Chris Pratt isn’t knocking down my door.

In staged sex scenes, everything is smooth and perfect.  The bedroom is large enough to house a family of four and their seven cats, three dogs, and parakeet. The participants’ clothes slide off and fold themselves nicely on the chair.  Candles light themselves with no outside help.  The bed is neatly made and no one trips over the comforter.  No one’s head slides between the pillows, and the female never gets her hair stuck under her back or in the male’s armpit.  No one giggles like a child over noises or says “eww.” When it’s over, everyone finds their socks.  Flawless execution, beginning to end.

What really fascinates me are the shower scenes.  Somehow our extraordinarily perfect heroes fit into a perfect shower perfectly.  Where can I find these showers?  I don’t want to have shower sex with anyone, I just want to find a shower that would fit two people in it to begin with. And who the hell has a bathroom the size of my living room? Seriously, I just want their living quarters.

Let’s compare, shall we?

Movie shower scene:

Female is in shower, hair slicked back and sexy with water.  Gentle billows of steam frame her naughty bits as the chiseled male slides back the glass door.  He lifts her effortlessly, pushing her against the wall or pushes her against the glass door for added visual fun for the viewer.  These two are obviously Yoga masters.  They kiss passionately, the deed is done, and suddenly they are having coffee in the kitchen while wearing bathrobes.

Reality:

Female is in the shower with mud mask on her face, shaving her legs while her hair is lathered.  Male pulls aside the shower curtain.  Female protests about the puddles of water now all over the floor.  Male diligently adjusts shower curtain.  He turns to female and attempts to lift her smoothly, but her skin is slippery so…not so much.  They both pretend they meant to stand at the awkward angle in which they now find themselves.  Male reaches around female to lower the temperature of the water.  Female turns it back up.  Both struggle to stay under the spray so no one is left out, shivering in the cold.  Kissing ensues, followed by spitting mouthfuls of water out as sexily as they can.  They turn in the space, about as large as a kitchen cabinet (if you lived in a studio apartment, that is), to find an angle where they can fulfill their shower fantasy.  Bottles of shampoo go flying off shelves, and the shower-caddy is knocked to the floor.  Female ignores it because bending over to pick it up is…not sexy.  She is covertly trying to wipe shampoo from her now burning eyes. Feet are placed in shallow corners of the tub in a vain attempt to balance.  What transpires next depends on the height differences of our heroes, but it probably isn’t pretty.  Afterwards, male plops down in front of TV to watch football while female straightens the bathroom and mops water off the floor.

Couch sex isn’t pretty, either.  Somehow in movies they find couches that are seven feet long and six feet wide.  Our heroes will never know the frustration of sliding pillows, or the victory of finding a Dorito between the cushions.  They won’t hit their shins on the coffee table or knock over the lamp, or know the special joy of a dog trying to get on the couch, too.

Let’s face it, real sex isn’t necessarily pretty.  I honestly don’t want the perfection of movie sex, because the laughter is part of what makes it so enjoyable.  Our heroes never seem to make the mistakes that make sex so fun.

But damn, I would love to have their houses.

People Are Alike All Over

And now for something completely different. And no, this has nothing to do with Monty Python. I swear. Though maybe I’ll get to them another time.

There’s an old saying: “People are alike all over.” To me, that means that despite all of our apparent differences, if you boil people down to their true essence, you’ll find that most of us are pretty much the same despite color, creed, nationality, or wealth.

I’ve thought about this saying and think it can be expanded to include not just the foundation of Mankind, but religions as well. Because to me, it seems that religions are alike all over, too. At least for the most part. It may seem like the different spiritual paths out there are entirely separate entities, but are they really? I may be overly simplistic in my thought processes (or perhaps in the alternative, I over-analyze things), but I believe that when you trace back many religions to their roots (much like moving down a family tree) you in fact will find all sorts of similarities at their base.

Look at the myths that exist in each religion to explain their belief system. A lot of them are really, really similar. It’s almost as if centuries ago a lot of religions were actually based on one single religion and as people started migrating to different parts of the world, their stories shifted to suit their new surroundings. Or perhaps it’s like that game of telephone we old folks played back in kindergarten. The story changed ever so slightly as it got retold down the line.

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but sadly I can’t. If I could, I’d be reaping the rewards of all the books I would’ve written on it, living a much better life right now on a beach or in a cottage somewhere in France with a much prettier view. What I just described, in a nutshell, is a branch of study called “comparative religion/mythology.” The idea being that religions, by and large, are fairly complementary at their core.

So, let’s start with the basics: creation myths. That’s my favorite. How did we get here? There’s no getting around that question. Everyone wants to know that, so every religion has an answer ready to go.

According to the Old Testament, God the Supreme Being created man. Eventually he got around to making a woman too and soon the two of them were prancing around together in a garden east of Eden. Satan, in the guise of a snake, butted in and got Eve to disobey God’s word. Then, she got Adam to do the same.  (Yep, the fall of man was all Eve’s fault! Go figure.) There’s a whole thing involving another of God’s little creations known as Lilith. Yeah, don’t get me started on that one. I’ll get into that story another day.

Anyway, we know this as the story of Adam and Eve, but if you take a look at the creation stories from around the world, it’s hardly a unique tale. In reality, the Babylonians told it first. This was centuries before Judaism and Christianity even existed.

Then there’s the stories told by a multitude of Native American tribes that lived an entire continent away. They all have a similar progression. A “Great Spirit” created everything and men and women came from the Earth. I have to admit, I like these stories better than the ones that say we were created out of God’s snot. (I swear I remember reading that somewhere, but when I went back to look for it, all I came up with was webpage after webpage devoted to our snot — and I don’t think I want to go there. Yuck.)

Getting back to Native American myth, the Great Spirit had an enemy (i.e. Satan) who sought to destroy the Great Spirit’s creation.  Then comes the part of the story where the humans rebel against the desires of the Great Spirit and then there’s a great flood that destroys everyone, except a handful of people the Spirit decides to spare so they can repopulate the Earth and well, we all know how that goes. We just heard it a bit differently.

Which brings me round to the popular flood story.

There’s an old Babylonian flood story in the “Epic of Gilgamesh” that predates the Hebrew Bible story by centuries.  The gods who lived in a city by a river wanted to create a flood. One of the gods warns a human to tear down his house and use it to build a ship so that he will survive. Sound familiar? It’s not the only flood story by a long shot. There are several.

Then there’s the story of Jesus. The ultimate tale of death and resurrection. Except…this story shows up in other religions around the world as well.

For example, Egyptian mythology features the god Osiris, whose death and resurrection resembles that of Jesus. (And, of course, the whole culture of ancient Egypt was about ensuring that those who died would live happily ever after in the Afterlife — or paradise.)

Then there’s the Indo-Iranian Mithra myth whose story so parallels that of Jesus that it’s downright uncanny. Born to a virgin mother (Anahita), he gathered 12 followers, and traveled around performing miracles. His sacred day was Sunday and when he died, he arose from the grave three days later. In the end, he sacrificed himself for world peace and ascended to the Heavens.

Some religions are ancient. Some religions are relatively new. Yet many of them share a common core of mythology. But what do I get from all of this?  My personal conclusion is that perhaps people really have more in common than they think.  And to me, that is a good thing, a very good thing. I wish more people could see that. The world would be a better place.

It’s most definitely interesting though, isn’t it? Compare all these similar stories, or these “parallels” to use the technical term…and it makes you wonder about our beliefs and where they really came from and how we’re all connected.  It does me, anyway, even though I’m not what you would call a religious person.

Of Books and Beauty

The only reason I’m sharing this is because I love the artwork. No witty remarks or long, drawn-out commentary. Looking at it just makes me feel good, and I wanted to hopefully pass that feeling along. Not only does it illustrate what it is like to be lost in a story — perfectly, I might add — but I think it’s beautiful as well. Of course, this is one of my favorite books, so there’s that too.  I don’t know who the artist is and would love to give them credit, however, as soon as I find out, I’ll update this entry.

Update: thanks to Angel of Anthropology, I found out this artwork is by Kylie Parker and is entitled “The Book” (photo below updated).

“The Book” by Kylie Parker

Real World Views

In case you haven’t noticed, just about every television show nowadays is some sort of “reality TV” program. A cooking show. A travel show. A spouse finding show. A house flipping show. A rich-people-fighting show. Heck, there’s even shows about people taking their junk into pawn shops! Every channel is teeming with shows that peek into the (heavily edited and likely scripted) lives of our fellow non-celebrities or even would-be-used-to-be celebrities.

Believe it or not, despite how inescapable it is, I’ve never been bitten by the reality TV bug. My parents watch Big Brother and Survivor. They’ve been trying for years to get me hooked on them, but I just can’t. Not for lack of effort, though. To be fair, I did watch Survivor ONCE. What happened in that episode? Let’s see. If I recall correctly, one of the players stole all of the other team’s stuff before they even got to the island where the contest was supposed to take place. When that happened I said “screw this” and put reality TV in my rearview mirror. I just find that watching cheaters do terrible things to other people is more annoying than it is entertaining. As it turns out, that’s pretty much the entire foundation that reality TV is built upon. Not just Survivor, but all of them. Apparently, playing dirty is the norm and expected.

Sometime after the Survivor fiasco, I went back to the well and tried again. This time I chose Dancing with the Stars (after it had been on for a while). That one wasn’t too bad. I even made it through a couple of seasons. The first season I watched was okay, but I had my qualms. I didn’t like that the fan voting made it more of a popularity contest than a dancing contest, and the good dancers got sent home because of it. The second and third seasons kind of lost me when I realized some of the “celebrity” guests they threw in there were pretty much professionals themselves who had obvious dance expertise (a choreographer, an ice skater, a gymnast). How is that fair to the others? That’s like competing in a swim meet and the person you’re up against is a professional lifeguard. Plus, the one guest celebrity who had absolutely no dancing experience and yet was improving over time (which I thought was the whole point of the show) was treated horribly by the judges. I mean horribly. It was cringe-worthy. That turned off whatever interest I may have had in the so-called contest.

Even though I’ve been burned twice, I can’t say that I’ve given up on reality TV quite yet. Much to my dismay, actually. My daughter has turned me on to Project Runway and, to be blunt, it’s driving me insane. I get anxious. Then, I get angry. Then I get anxious AND angry, not to mention loud. And while the emotional roller coaster the show puts me through is not exactly a pleasant experience, I just can’t turn away. I must see who wins. And if it ends up not being the person I want to win, well, I simply can’t be responsible for my actions or what happens to my TV. The problem is that I get too invested. I feel attached to certain players. I become incensed over the rude comments made by the judges. I feel betrayed pissed off when someone cheats. I take offense when a player reveals they are two-faced. How annoying is all that!?  And hey, it’s only my first season of watching. So, yeah.

Watching reality TV just reaffirms everything I hate about people in general and I find it very frustrating that I now wait anxiously for Thursdays to roll around so I can see what the hell happens. I won’t be watching another season of Project Runway, I’m sure, but as it stands now, I just want to make it through this one with my TV and vocal chords intact.

Into the Fray

I belong to several different online groups, especially on Facebook. They’re mostly book clubs, classic movie fan sites, and vintage photo connoisseurs. I’ve noticed that, especially in one of the vintage photography groups, people are becoming unnecessarily mean and argumentative. In this group, anyone can post pictures of anything vintage, whether it’s their family, celebrities, locations, etc. Someone posted a photo of Doc Holliday and “Big Nose Kate,” his girlfriend/wife, and there were people – you’d think it would be just men, but women as well – who jumped in to immediately say how much Kate looked like a man in a dress (she didn’t) and of course the comments spiraled out of control from there. Good grief! This Hungarian-born, frontier woman has been dead for 77 years. Let it rest.

In the same group, a controversial photo of Billy the Kid was displayed. It’s been authenticated, but some historians still have their doubts, which I won’t get into here. Still, it was as if some of the group’s members had been personally attacked or offended or perhaps had some vested interest in the origins of this photo for all the rage and insulting comments they were throwing out…directed at the photo, the original poster, as well as to those who mentioned, correctly I might add, that the photo had indeed been authenticated and even insured, controversy within the industry notwithstanding.  Nothing is as irksome as self-appointed vintage photo police.

Photos will be posted of family members and people will scream “Photoshop!” even though the photo is obviously old and photoshopping didn’t exist then. While it’s possible the photo was manipulated in the dark room all those 100’s of years ago, who the hell cares?  In any case, it’s the person’s family, so they would probably know if it was accurate or not. People will post old Victorian spirit pictures (which are well-known to be faked) and the commenters jump on those too – screaming, “fake, fake, fake!” As if no-one else had any idea and they are exposing some modern-day fraud. These Visual Vigilantes attack the original poster and anyone else who voices a positive opinion of simply liking the photo or thinking that it’s “cool,” or complimenting the dark-room work, regardless of whether it’s real or not.

Now I know the Internet, and Facebook in particular, is a breeding ground for arguments, but it has become increasingly apparent to me that people will indeed argue about anything and everything. However, it’s amazing to me that in a group that is supposed to be all about simple, innocuous, and light-hearted fun, there are those who cannot contain themselves. It’s as if they MUST be hateful, mean, and argumentative – as if they’ll implode otherwise, by containing all of that vile vitriol…like pressure-cookers left unattended. Or would they explode? Either way, it would be a big mess.

What is wrong with people that they can’t seem to find enjoyment in anything?  Perhaps arguing and being hateful are their forms of enjoyment? If so, our society is going to hell a lot faster than I originally anticipated.