Halloween used to be the busy season for ghosts, but that was before reality TV. Now, every day of the year—or at least those days when cable shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, Most Haunted and Paranormal State are airing—is go time for our supernatural kin.
And they’re making the most of their new popularity. Indeed, while none of the shows mentioned above has introduced us to a new Casper, or even the ghostly equivalent of, say, Taylor Hicks, the spirits they do showcase are surprisingly camera-friendly and often quite talented. Take, for example, a recent episode of Ghost Hunters involving the shadowy exhibitionists who haunt a bed and breakfast in Ocala, Florida. When one of the show’s paranormal investigators taps out a series of knocks on an antique wardrobe, a percussively inclined phantom completes the sequence. Another performs a magic trick of sorts, making a crew member’s flip-flop disappear when he isn’t looking; only after much searching is the missing footwear found behind a closed door of a room no one has entered until then. How did the mischievous sprite pull that off, the crew wonders, and of course, there’s only one answer: America’s undead got talent!
But are the producers of shows like Ghost Hunters exploiting that talent as fully as they might? The search for new ghosts is what propels these shows, but simply finding ghosts is no longer particularly dramatic, even when those ghosts are as chatty as Regis Philbin. Ghosts are found in pretty much every episode, after all. Several times an episode, in fact. In this over-supplied market, when paranormal entities are as plentiful as American Idol wannabes, why not focus on only the most charismatic and entertaining ones? And pit them in a long, drawn-out contest against each other to further encourage their competitive spirits, with viewers voting for their favorites? Or how about a supernatural dating show, in which a bunch of ghostly hotties vie for the hand of a semi-famous celebrity ghost? Flavor Flav isn’t going to live forever, but does that mean he can’t forever entertain us?