By Tony Harrington
When “Ghost Hunters” premiered in October of 2004 on the SyFy channel (Then still called SciFI), there was nothing quite like it on the U.S. airwaves. The program introduced the world to Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, two plumbers who in their free time headed up “The Atlantic Paranormal Society” (TAPS) out of the New England colony of Rhode Island.
The program became an instant hit, drawing record numbers and putting the network on the map.
The show spawned several spinoffs including “Ghost Hunters International”, “UFO Hunters”, and “Ghost Hunters Academy”.
Additionally, the immense popularity of Ghost Hunters caused an insurgence of similar thematic programming on other networks. Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, Most Haunted, and more found their way into the homes and the collection consciousness of American audiences.
Encountering a haunting went from something private and embarrassing to vogue at breakneck speed and suddenly groups of amateur paranormal investigation teams began cropping up across the US to meet the ever-increasing demand of people wanting to have their homes or businesses deemed “haunted”, or to have their home cleansed of unwanted spirits.
At the time, a lot of the organizations that came to fruition on the coattails of TAPS subscribed to the New England company’s model of investigation, taking a lot of what was presented on the show as fact and incorporating it into their investigations.
Many agencies sought out TAPS accreditation, to become a sister company of the famous organization.
While it seems logical for an organization wanting to be connected with the most popular of paranormal teams, it could very well have been the beginning of the end for the paranormal bubble.
As of today, the number of cases organizations are getting has dwindled considerably, often weeks or months separate inquiries and actually landing an investigation has become burdensome. So what caused the sudden decline in paranormal popularity?
A lot of it has to do with trends. At the height of its popularity, Ghost Hunters was probably responsible for the resurgence of paranormal investigations. Conversely, as the show’s viewership began to wane over the decade, so too did the interest in the paranormal. Contributing greatly to the decline was rumors of TAPS faking certain findings to keep viewers hooked. When the team responsible for making the paranormal cool was questioned, that began to signal the beginning of the end.
TAPS can’t take the full brunt of the blame. In addition to the interest in the pop-culture phenomenon declining, there were some high-profile cases of groups doing some rather unethical things such as when a Texas paranormal team burned down a historic building out of anger because they couldn’t capture any EVPs or proof of paranormal activity.
The biggest problem with paranormal investigations is that anyone could start a group. All they needed was some friends, some equipment, and the desire to spend long nights camped out at an allegedly haunted location in the hopes of catching proof that ghosts do indeed exist.
Another issue with the “paranormal bubble” is that there was no unifying body or organization in charge of setting standards of practice for how investigations were to be conducted. Every group could conduct investigations in any manner they saw fit. There was no education being conducted for the most part, any information about the world of the paranormal was obtained from the Ghost Hunters television program, but who were they to set the standard? They are nobodies to be honest. They were simply a group of people doing what other groups of people do all over the world. They just happened to get a television deal. It does not make them subject matter experts. It makes them quasi-celebrities with opinions on certain things.
Market saturation became a problem and it ultimately led to animosity or rivalries between competing local groups. When every group out there is belittling every other group, it undermines the entire industry.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the entire paranormal bubble is that most agencies sprung up simply to cash in. They became more obsessed with becoming celebrities than actually caring about the cases they took on. Radio show appearances, book deals, television appearances, etc…derailed the true focus of the organizations. It could be said that we created our own demise by losing focus on why we chose to become paranormal investigators in the first place.
As with all things, interest in the paranormal is cyclical. Ghost Hunters is still on the air, The Conjuring and Insidious franchises are still strong and rake in some big bucks at the box office, and paranormal themed scripted shows are being produced regularly. In time there will be another resurgence and there will be a great demand for established groups.
The best the remaining long-standing groups can do is use this downtime to educate themselves and revamp their teams in preparation for the next inevitable boom. Let go of people not willing to stick it out. Part ways with team members who don’t contribute to the betterment of the team but are only interested in when the next investigation is. Stay in the public eye by keeping your websites current and conduct networking workshops within your community. Take on social causes such as volunteering to clean up parks, or work adopt a road and maintain it. Doing community services can bolster awareness for your organization and presents your team as upstanding members of society and community. People won’t know how to reach you if you allow your team to slip into obscurity.
Has your organization seen a decline in cases or interest in the paranormal overall?
What, in your opinion, aside from what was mentioned above, do you feel caused the bubble to burst?
Share your thoughts and ideas in our comments section below.