Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Book: Ghost Hunting (oh the embarrassment...)

In my defense, I expected something completely different.

I thought that this would be a sort of 'behind the scenes' book, maybe explaining more about the evidence gathered on the show, or stories that didn't get shown on TV, or how some of the instruments work, or what the camera guys who work on the show experience... something like that. More in-depth geekery, if you will.

Instead, I got over 30 'chapters' of bland show summaries, grouchy finger-pointing at one particular team member, and tales of ghost encounters so matter-of-factly reported as to be frankly boring.

I was very disappointed, although I still read the whole book (my brain is functioning on a very low level so this book was at least mildly entertaining).

Quick background for the uninitiated: TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) was founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, two plumbers (yep, plumbers) who had experiences with the paranormal and wanted to explore further. They operate under the assumption that most 'paranormal' activity can be debunked or explained rationally -- so that when you are left with something truly unexplainable, you can come to the conclusion that it is true paranormal activity. They've got a very large paranormal-research team and their own TV show: Ghost Hunters. I am totally addicted to this show and find these dudes (they are complete dudes) funny and smart, and dedicated to their cause in a refreshingly un-New-Agey way.

The book was apparently written mostly by Jason Hawes, the 'bad daddy' of the group. Grant Wilson, self-admitted softie, pitches in with a few comments here and there. Another person, Michael Jan Friedman, is also credited as an author, although I have no idea why since this whole book reads like Jason's sophomore-year thesis on his summer of ghost-hunting. With the exception of the introduction (how this particular ghost hunting team developed, and the paranormal experiences of the founders) and a few stories from before the TV show started, each 'chapter' was about a page and a half of poorly written show summary, with a precious few behind-the-scenes 'extras'.

Hawes (or whoever wrote this masterpiece) stuns with grammatical and literary acccomplishments such as: "After a while, Grant realized that something had changed. Using his iPod for a light source, he saw that the closet door to his right was wide open. He hadn't heard it open, but there it was. So he experienced the door phenomenon as well." And, "Previous owners had heard footsteps and voices and seen entities, including gray mists, dark shadows, and so on. They had seen doors open and close on their own. Pretty much the gamut of paranormal activity." Yep. This is compelling writing, I tell you.

Sigh. I have to say, these guys describe ghost hunting with about as much enthusiasm as you would expect them to describe their jobs as Roto-Rooter employees. Grant chips in with such bon mots as, "Jason's yell spooked me more than the sudden appearance of the bats... Of course neither of us was in any danger. The bats were more of a nuisance than anything else."

I guess part of the appeal of this crew is that they are just regular Joes, doing their Roto-Rooter jobs during the day, ghost hunting at night. No crystals, no psychic connections with the beyond, no airy-fairy anything. They're just dudes, looking for ghosts. This book was a pretty accurate reflection of that. If they were trying to pull in someone with hair-raising, spine-tingling tales, they should have (pardon the pun) used a ghost writer. I don't know what this extra author, Mr. Friedman, contributed -- but this book is not going to lure anyone over to the supernatural side.

Compare this to Will Storr's tale of supernatural exploration, and the difference becomes dramatic. Upon reflection, that was actually a pretty good book and fairly compelling. This book was almost comic in its underwhelmingness.

However, this does not dim my love for the show, nor the subject, one single bit. It wasn't exactly worth reading, but I still enjoyed it in spite of myself -- the few behind-the-scenes gossipy bits were fun, and the bad writing was amusing. Just goes to show: I will read anything. I'm an addict. Thankfully, I'm currently reading something actually worth reading. Review coming soon.


Kate said...

Oh, that's unfortunate. I wouldn't have expected Jason or Grant to come up with a masterpiece, to be honest, and can I guess that most of the gossipy finger-pointing goes to that guy, oh gosh I wish I could remember his name, Steven or something who's always on the phone with his girlfriend? You know the one, the equipment guy who had the stellar "Dude, run!" moment in one of the episodes. Oh dear, I'm sorry this wasn't so great for you.

Daphne said...

Exactly, Brian. Yes, Jason was quite snippy about him.

This was not exactly high art. Oh well!! I still love the show!

Alex said...

What channel is this show on? I learn new things every time I visit this blog.

On a somewhat related note, I got an entirely serious request today from the GTU (where I did my MA) for feedback on how my religious beliefs might change when and if the existence of extraterrestrials is proven. Apparently there is something called the "Mars Project" that does work on this in academic settins.

It was pretty funny to fill out this official survey asking things like, "When extraterrestrials are discovered, do you think they'll have religious beliefs similar to ours?"

It's the book the Bible forgot to include... Jesus visits Mars!

Daphne said...

It's on the SciFi channel (and is available on NetFlix). Hit-and-miss, of course, but definitely interesting and fun. If you decide to check it out, look for whichever episode features either the St. Augustine lighthouse or The Stanley Hotel (inspired The Shining). I'm kind of addicted.

That is hilarious about the survey. I would like to see results from that!

Alex said...

OK, cool. I netflixed S1 and will let you know what I think. I'm in the mood for a new reality show. I'm almost done with my "48 Hour Mystery" library.

I read "Goodnight, Nobody" by Jennifer Weiner today. I enjoyed it... kind of like a really long popcorn flick. (I even ate some popcorn while I was reading.) My one complaint is the author's overuse of sarcastic comebacks. Really grates after a while.

Veronica said...

LOL....They are pretty "Matter of fact" guys. I bet I know who the grouchy remarks were aimed at to! In fact, I wrote an article about Brian...and even now sell T-shirts with his picture and a caption that says "Where's Brian?" lol. Still in all, I do like the show. Donna left for health reasona I found in my research, and she and Brian are now on Blogtalk. Anyway, funny review of the book. I know not to get it now