As mentioned in the past, I’m a horror buff. This started early. One of the first books I remember picking out of the library myself was an absolutely terrifying children’s book (supposedly based on a true story – words to strike fear into any child’s heart, because that meant IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU) about a boy who somehow became possessed (is that the word? Bedeviled? Followed? Stalked?) by a poltergeist. I was probably seven or eight, and became convinced that whenever anything fell/moved/made a noise, it was my own poltergeist, who would start hounding me until I would have to be put in the mental institution (which was the final outcome for the poor boy in the book.) (Yes, this begs the question, “why at this age were you reading things like this?” I can’t answer that, really.) I can’t find this book online to research if it really was this scary, or just scary for my age group, because I have apparently blocked its name out of my mind.
I also read a book called The Red Room Riddle. I can’t remember much about it, other than it scared the everloving hell out of me. I think there were some kids trapped in a red room in a haunted house? And there was some tie-in to the Biblical massacre of the innocents? Is that even possible? I can’t imagine a children’s book had a tie-in to children being murdered in the Bible. But I remember there being a tapestry of the murder, and someone explaining the massacre to the children. Just horrifying. There was also an ABC Weekend Special based on it, but it wasn’t as scary. Nothing based on the book is, usually.
Then there was Unsolved Mysteries. “OK, Unsolved Mysteries?” you’re thinking. Among the killers on the loose and bank robbers and things of that nature, sometimes they would have an “unexplained” segment. And those were scary. One of them was about a ghost that was haunting a bunk bed (shut up, I know it sounds stupid, it wasn’t,) and the family ended up having to burn that bed because the ghost wouldn’t leave their son alone. And he was on the top of his haunted bunk bed, and his clock radio started changing channels on its own and flipping around through the music and turning on and off and it was the very clock radio I owned. Super, super creepy. Obviously, those clock radios were more prone to possession by bunk bed ghost. (Matt at X-Entertainment did a great piece on Unsolved Mysteries a while back – read his take on that very segment here – #3 on the list. I’m not alone in this!)
As you can see, my mind was warped at a very early age.
Someday I’ll tell you about the handful of times I’ve encountered something I can’t explain – not “my pencil just fell to the floor I think it was a poltergeist,” but things that were a little more real, and why I feel like Shakespeare’s “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” quote is right on – but this is about something much less serious than that, I promise. Much less serious; much more reeking of hair gel.
Not too long ago, I became aware of these paranormal investigator-type shows on television. I thought they would be entertaining. I watched a few and became aware of the following:
1. “EVP” is static. You can say the ghost is saying whatever you want, but really, it’s static. You’re not convincing me otherwise. The hiss between radio stations does not sound like “get out of my house” to me. It sounds like static.
2. Cold spots are usually just cold spots. Every house has them. My office has them, but I’m pretty sure it’s not haunted. It’s just air-conditioned poorly and inconsistently.
3. “Orbs.” Dear paranormal investigators: the “orbs” you see on photographs or on film are dust, lit up by your flash. I have them in a lot of photos I’ve taken, because I refuse to dust (it’s a waste of time – things just get dusty again almost immediately. Why would I dust when I could be using my time more productively watching television, or researching how Pop-Rocks are made?)
4. Paranormal investigators are melodramatic.
Now, there are some shows that are more serious than others. Ghost Hunters is not as bad as some of the others. The guys don’t seem like total tools. I still don’t hear anything in the EVP, and I have trouble taking what they’re doing very seriously, but they don’t seem like asshats out to make a buck, so they’re better at acting, I guess. Because they’re obviously out to make a buck. Sure, they’d like to see a real ghost, I’m sure. After years of doing this, they’re probably desperate to see one. But they can at least pretend well, and kudos to them.
In one of their episodes, they were investigating a haunted jail, and I swear I really saw something on the video. I’m sure it was staged, but it was really, really creepy. It turned me off to ghost hunter shows for a while, because when I see something like that, I’m pretty sure it’s in my closet once I turn off the lights, waiting to steal my breath. So they get a tentative stamp of approval.
Now, on the flip side of the coin – Ghost Adventures. This show is the worst thing ever. It’s as bad as that Nickelodeon show Goosebumps that the kids I used to babysit were obsessed with. The lead of this show is a douche named Zak (isn’t there supposed to be a “c” in that name? Are you too cool for the “c”, Zak?), whose hair – ok, here:
There. See? But that isn’t really doing justice to the hair. Do an image search for Zak Bagans. Seriously. Or, just imagine the most Ed-Hardified guy you can think of, tight t-shirts to show off his muscles which he is constantly flexing, hair gelled in weird architectural configurations which sometimes start to melt off one way or the other like a fall cornfield once he’s been ghost-hunting for a while – and he says “Dude” and “Bra” every other sentence. It is horrifying. It is like seeing the end of the world on your television. Yet you can’t look away! You can’t imagine that anyone like this would be allowed a program, and apparently is SOME SORT OF SEX SYMBOL! Seriously, in doing research for this blog post, I found blogs of people who seem to be SEXUALLY ATTRACTED TO THIS PERSON! But he would make you so greasy, what with the gel, and the attitude, and he’d call you “bra” while you were doing it, ew, ew, EW – so you keep watching it. And cringing.
The best episode of this show in the history of the world was set in a place called Preston Castle, which used to be a reform school. The way the show is set up is that the investigators (Zak – who, from here on out, I will call The Douche, because he is) and his two sidekicks, one of which – Aaron – I am vaguely attracted to, and slightly embarrassed about) meet with people who are familiar with the history of the place they are going to investigate for the first twenty minutes, working themselves into a frenzy about the ghosts they will encounter and such; then they investigate for approximately twenty minutes; then they recap for approximately ten minutes (the rest is commercials for old-people things like erectile dysfunction pills and Wilford Brimley berating you about dia-beee-tus because this is the Travel Channel.) Oh, also they taunt the ghosts a lot. There’s a lot of “show yourselves! You baby! You’re too scared to show yourself to me!” (“You baby?” Really? To a ghost? Way to use the insults, bud. Love the command of the language.) Anyone who’s ever watched anything scary, ever, knows this is not a good idea.
The investigators learned about what they might encounter in this very, very scary reform school. One of the things they might encounter, they learned, was a female ghost who was very flirtatious. I can’t seem to find a recap of this online, so I’m going from memory, here – and take it under advisement that my memories go through a filter to make them a more heightened, and therefore more entertaining, version of reality. The Douche enters the room where the ghost was, and brings her a flower, as she likes those, according to the history person who knows these things, and sits in her chair (for some reason, the original furniture is always in these ancient haunted places, as if the hauntings have caused people to run out without their belongings, or the set dressers got there first.) The camera goes to the other two guys, who are being “scratched” by ghosts elsewhere in the castle (this is also lame, they’re all “Oh! I feel like something’s scratching my leg!” Then the camera goes away from the person being scratched, and you hear scratching, then it goes back to the leg, and there are scratch marks that you’re fairly sure the cameraman put there himself. Sad.)
All of a sudden, the sidekicks realize, “We have not seen The Douche in a while!” so they go looking for him. I am not sure why they separated in the first place. It’s been a while since I saw this episode. Wouldn’t you stick together? Strength in numbers, and such, in this very, very haunted place? No? Ok, then. You’re the “experts.” They enter the room where The Douche is still sitting in the haunted chair, and they call out his name, and he turns around, and in his best Mae West, he responds to them thusly (this is not verbatim – I’m sure if you wanted to see the actual show – and why would you do that? – you could find it on YouTube, or the Travel Channel says they’re repeating it this week, so watch it, if you want the truth of the matter. This is nowhere near close, yet encapsulates what happened perfectly):
Sidekick 1: Zak? Dude?
The Douche: Well, hellllooooo, boys. Come up to seeeee me, have you? (Flips imaginary hair)
Sidekick 2: Zak? Duuuude.
The Douche: Aren’t you two just the cutest little love monkeys to ever climb my banana tree.
Sidekick 1: Bra. What’s going on?
The Douche: I’ve been so looooonely, here all alone. (bats eyelashes)
Sidekick 2: I’m beginning to think he is possessed by a spirit.
Sidekick 1: You must be right. It is a female spirit. (These things are said as if read off a cuecard.)
The Douche: Do you see my flooooweeeerrr? (Flirtatiously feints at them with the flower)
Sidekick 1: What should we do? Zak. Bra. Dude. Bra?
Sidekick 2: Bra! Dude! Bra!
The Douche: There’s no Zak here…
The sidekicks go out in the hallway to discuss their options. The Douche starts singing to himself in a high voice and doing a little dance with his flower. Because he is a lady.
The sidekicks decide to tough love the ghost and return.
Sidekick 1: We want our friend back. (Me: Oh, God, why? He’s so much better like this!)
Sidekick 2: Release him, spirit!
The Douche then gives this totally stagey full-body shudder, straight from every single possession movie ever, and then blinks his eyes like he’s just waking up.
The Douche: Wh..where am I? What happened?
Sidekick 1: Bra. You were possessed. That was weird.
Sidekick 2: And a ghost totally scratched my leg a while back, dude.
Sidekick 1: This place is wack, yo.
The Douche: I don’t remember anything. Wh-why do I have this flower? WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?
At this point, I was laughing so hard I was in tears. My father and I watched this together and he still brings up “the time that stupid ghost guy thought he had a girl ghost in him.”
Now, you’re probably curious, and you’re going to watch the show, and it isn’t going to be anything like this, but in my head, this is exactly how it went down. Because it’s funnier that way.
Things to take away from this:
1. The Douche apparently took flirting lessons from when Bugs Bunny dressed as a girl flirting with Elmer Fudd to get out of a jam. NO ONE FLIRTS LIKE THIS.
2. There are people online who comment on message boards about how this is the scariest episode of anything they have ever seen, ever. Sample: “Zak this was awsome bro. When the gost was insied you did you want to make out with yerslf. Cuz I wuld. Also super skary. I want to be a gost hunter when I grew up or a scuba divre.”
What I want to happen is for these three to come up against something like was in the Stephen King story 1408 – no, NOT the movie, don’t even TALK to me about the movie, Cusack couldn’t even save that movie. I want all of the ghosts they’ve taunted over the years to stand up, all “Oh, hell no” and make them hang themselves with their own camera cords. Now that would make for some compelling television, dude. Bra? Dude.
(Note – the title is from the man, the dude, the bra himself, from one of his “best tweets,” according to the Travel Channel, describing his tattoo. Um. Random capitalization? Check. Mispelling? Check. Abbreviation when it’s not needed? Check. Do you need further proof of doucheitude? I rest my case.)