The original Ghost Hunters return in a new reality tv series, but one you’ll find familiar, and … I’ll say it … a tad boring. Get the scoop after the jump.
Ghost Nation Background
It’s been 5 years since Ghost Hunters ended. A&E jumped in to revive the series with Grant Wilson, one of the original cast members, in August 2019. The new Ghost Hunters would also have a different cast. Many fans thought “How can you have Ghost Hunters without Jason, Steve and Dave?”
Much like the original series, Jason and crew team up with local TAPS family members to help with their toughest cases.
Jason Hawes founded TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) with Grant Wilson, and he starred on the SyFy series for all 11 seasons. Jason now has a nationally syndicated radio show, Beyond Reality Radio. You can follow him on his Facebook page and Twitter.
Steve Gonsalves starred on Ghost Hunters as the tech manager. On Ghost Nation, he’s moved to lead investigator. Steve was on all 11 seasons, too. You can follow him on this Facebook page.
Dave Tango joined Ghost Hunters in 2005, the second season. He was a tech manager as well. Now, he acts more as a researcher/investigator. You can see him dig up the truth behind a haunt on Ghost Nation. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
On every episode, Ghost Nation helps TAPS family members solve haunted cases. A local investigator or two will join Jason, Steve and Dave as they try to understand the paranormal activity. I think it’s a nice touch to showcase the TAPS network.
Ghost Nation focuses on private residences. In the premiere, they went to an old farmhouse in Tennessee, and they recently visited a home in Franklin, Massachusetts. Jason and crew focus on cases where the residents could be in danger. They hope to discover if the haunting is, in fact, dangerous.
In most cases, the hauntings are residual, and the residents have nothing to fear.
There’s also some behind-the-scenes banter and fun had by the cast, which is a nice touch. It also lets us get the know the guys better.
Ghost Nation spends a week at a site to find ghostly activity, which gives them ample time to collect, analyze and debunk it.
This is the part where I look at the show through a paranormal researcher’s perspective. Keep in mind that most reality ghost hunting shows put the emphasis on how the team reacts to ghostly phenomena, not the investigation itself.
For this review, I’ll use “The House at Deadman’s Curve“ (episode 6) to illustrate it.
I’ll give my take on the investigation in a grey box throughout this review. I guess you could call it color commentary, eh?
***Spoiler Alert On***
Before the team goes to the house, they meet with Yari Ramos, a local investigator, to get some background on the area and see shadow figure evidence. Next, they arrive at the house and interview the homeowner and witnesses about their encounters.
It turns out the house is also on the site of a burned-down Amish farmhouse. The current residents bought the land and used a controlled burn to destroy the former house in 1993. Then, they built a new home in 1994.
The crew collects the claims and witness accounts to setup the experiments. They focused on these points:
- The cat’s focus on the living room
- A girl apparition in the kitchen
- Driveway shadow figure
- 2 male apparitions (one headless) in a mirror
- Claims of 30 people dying on the curve
- Hauntings caused by an Amish cemetery on the property
- Shadow figures captured by Yari Ramos
- Physical touch on the homeowner’s ankle and waist
Jake: This is all well-done and what you’d expect on a ghost hunt. I don’t have any quibbles with their approach during the walkthrough.
Research & Experiments
I’d say Ghost Nation puts more emphasis on debunking than most other shows. In fact, I’d say the show is all about debunking. When I say experiments, it’s really debunking sessions. Disprove it first; then look for haunting reasons.
Jason and crew set out to debunk each of the points from the walkthrough. They found reasons for the the cat’s fixation in the living room with a thermal imaging camera and tapping. The house has animals in its walls.
Jake: A simple and effective way to debunk.
The driveway shadow figure couldn’t be debunked, so it may need more research into people who died at the curve. They tried to recreate the encounter, but this is a tough one to do.
Jake: It’s only been seen once and the conditions didn’t match up. This is where I’d go on vigil to see what happens over time. I think they gave up too easily on this one.
Next, Jason had a local contractor to map the ground and find the Amish cemetery. The contractor didn’t find anything except for pipes. This means it’s unlikely an Amish spirit is bound to the property.
Jake: I wouldn’t have thought about this. In general, I’d go to the historic society to find burial places. Kudos to the Ghost Nation team for trying this out!
After debunking the cemetery, Dave goes to city hall to find details about the victims of Deadman’s Curve. In reality, only 3 people died there, not 30. Dave will use the 2 male victims’ names (Scott and Chris) to see if they can get a response. These men may be the 2 male apparitions that Lauren reported. Jason and Steve will use a drone to capture heat anomalies from the curve to the house.
Jake: Now, the drone is a nice touch. I’m not sure if it would be able to detect a signature clearly so far away. I like the idea, but not sure about the application. Anyway, Jason and Steve didn’t capture anything. As for Dave and Yari, they use the names during an EVP session. Dave was able to debunk Yari’s shadow figure by comparing it to photos on the wall. I thought this was well done and a practical approach.
Jason and Steve got to Jackie’s bedroom (the homeowner) to investigate the waist-grabbing claim. They use a smoke machine to see if a ghost displaces it. They also examine the bed’s structure to see if it could be the reason for the grabbing phenomenon.
Jake: So, this is a no for me. I know that they’re looking to see an anomaly, but smoke is notorious for creating matrixes. Any breeze or door opening could shift it and make it seem like an anomaly.
Next, Steve and Jason meet a local historian to find out about the girl. Estella Babbitt may be the ghost. She disappeared from the town’s history. She was listed in 1870 and then no other records. It’s possible she died on the property and would fit the age range, 5-years old.
Jake: Nice job! I’d do the same if I had the time.
On the final night, Dave and Yari watch the monitors while Steve and Jason try to contact the little girl spirit. Steve uses live listening to monitor an EVP session. Next, they try to explain why the girl would be quiet during the EVP session.
Jake: Yep, this is standard practice, although Jason whispered to Steve. That’s a no-no during an EVP session. They did have a good answer to why the girl spirit wouldn’t talk to them: They’re strangers.
Next, Dave and Steve go upstairs to see if they can contact the male apparitions seen in a mirror by Lauren. They use an EVP session and use the names, Scott and Chris. Steve also uses a full-spectrum camera to scan for apparitions. To debunk it, Steve bends the mirror to see if it’s just a distortion.
Jake: This is all reasonable to do. I’d do the same thing, but I’d stop using the names after a while. If they haven’t had a response to them, then the ghosts could be people who died later at a hospital and return.
In this episode, the analysis gets skipped and Jason goes right into the reveal.
Jake: I believe they did enough debunking of visual evidence that they didn’t need to replay footage. I assume they didn’t capture any EVPs because they used live listening or played back all the files and found nothing.
Jason always leads the reveal session with the client. He quickly recaps the main ghostly claims, then provides the debunked activity and what could really be a ghost.
It’s all done gracefully. In this case, they admit the house was ‘quiet.’ They believe the spirits may not want to communicate with men. It’s women who are more likely to have experiences. The homeowner, Jackie, even admits that they had no activity when her son was home. Jason also stated that ghosts don’t always interact when you want them to. In the end, there’s nothing for the family to fear.
Jake: This is all true, but you have to raise the possibility that the house isn’t haunted. In this case, the ladies living there have had activity. I’d say the touching and girl apparition have the best argument for real ghostly activity.
Ghost Hunting Gadgets
Ghost Nation doesn’t use gear that’s inclined to register a ghost. Those gadgets would be spirit boxes, Ovilus, SLS Kinect and Paranormal Puck. They go with environmental scanning devices, similar to Ghost Hunters (2019) on A&E. Personally, I like that they use gear you and I will have on our own teams.
In this episode, the guys used:
- EMF meters
- Infrared cameras
- Zoom H4n audio recorders
- Thermal imaging cameras
- Fog machine
- Thermal-imaging drone
- Ground-scanning system
I didn’t see them improperly use any gear. The ground-scanning system and drone were creative uses for ghostly detection, but the fog machine was a bust. I thought they used it for the TV production more than finding ghostly evidence. At least, they didn’t matrix a ghost forming, unlike Ghosts of Morgan City in its premiere.
Anyway, it’s just a quibble or two with the gear. Overall, they knew what they were doing. And I got to see something new (the drone) to add to my own ghost gear arsenal.
I’ll admit that this section is something you probably wouldn’t notice unless it’s done poorly. These things would be the SFX, editing, pacing and overall visual and sound design.
To me, you can tell this is a top-notch production studio. Ping Pong Productions makes shows like Expedition Unknown and Destination Truth. I found the transitions between segments and haunted hotspots to be fluid. The special effects (SFX), which were used during the walkthrough to simulate the ghosts, were acceptable for cable TV. Sound design, which focuses on cast audio quality and background music, were solid. Pacing was brisk, considering Jason and crew didn’t capture much evidence. I think the video editing is the strongest production element of the show.
For SFX, it’s hard to compete with Ghost Adventures‘ haunting recreation effects. They do it oh-so-well. When you compare Ghost Nation’s simulations with Ghost Adventures, GA wins hands down. However, I like how the SFX team creates a 3D model of the location and then show the locations within it, like Jackie’s bedroom in this episode.
But there’s two things that bugged me; narration, and skipping back 10 seconds at breaks.
For narration, it deals specifically with the EVP sessions. I could tell when Jason and Steve read back lines in post-production and not during the investigation. There’s also one part where it sounded like Dave added a line about a possible danger before he and Yari go upstairs. Dave’s part was to add some dramatic tension. I think the Jason and Steve parts were to fill in silence for the broadcast reel. At least, that’s how it comes off. It didn’t happen often, but I noticed it.
The other thing that bothered me dealt with replaying 10-seconds after a commercial break. It really got redundant. I know it’s important to refresh your memory going into the next segment, but it could be a montage or something. It just told me I could take a longer pee break or add some extra mustard to my sandwich. In other words, it’s not adding anything other than time. It’s a minor quibble and it could just be me.
Ghostly Activities’ Take
I recommend it. It’s my favorite of the recent batch of ghost hunting shows. Although, Ghost Hunters (2019) is close behind.
Readers of Ghostly Activities gave polarizing results in their comments and a Facebook poll. They either love it or think it’s boring. There’s not much in-between. My assessment deals with audience segments: Folks, who watch for entertainment, think it’s boring and want more jump scares and personality from the investigators. People, who watch for professional ghost hunting tips, love it because it portrays the craft in a better light.
I think this is the Ghost Adventures effect. Many people grew up watching that show and expect more scares and drama. That doesn’t happen often (if ever) in real life.
For me, Ghost Nation is the show I try to watch when it originally airs. If you know cable TV and the increase in delayed viewing, that’s a big deal. And I do believe it’s one-of-two series that presents ghost hunting in a realistic way.
Ghost Nation airs on Travel Channel every Friday at 10 PM ET. It’s produced by Ping Pong Productions.
All images used in this article ©2019 Travel Channel & Ping Pong Productions