On Wednesday, on Ghost Hunters, a comforter moved mysteriously on Grant. Or, I should say “mysteriously” because the trouble with spooky shit is that it relies a great deal on “Is this happening?” for its spookiness.
Let’s just say that I was sitting here and out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the orange cat float by about four feet off the ground. That would shock the shit out of me. I’d be screaming and carrying on and trying to figure out who I could call to have them come over here and hunt down the orange cat.
But let’s say that I was sitting here and all of a sudden the tiny cat leeped into the air and floated by me at about four feet off the ground. I could follow him around. I could check for strings. I could rub his belly and he could bite me, as usual. That would be weird, but it wouldn’t be spooky.
I think that’s one of the things that The Blair Witch Project, for all its enormous problems*, got right was that it’s much scarier when you don’t quite know what’s going on, when there are things, but you don’t know if they’re clues. Spooky is when you don’t know how to attribute meaning, or even what to attribute meaning to.
Once you know those things, spooky kind of loses its edge.
If meaning can be attributed in some unexpected way, like in The Sixth Sense, that can be satisfying. But usually, once you see what you’re dealing with head-on, it’s not spooky any more**.
And so we return to that cutie Grant and his mysterious moving bed cover. Everything about the shot was so perfect. The camera was right where it should be. The bed cover moved just how it was supposed to move. And you could see exactly what was going on.
It wasn’t spooky.
Sure, it was weird, but not spooky.
And so, as a viewer, even though it seemed like some of the most compellingly weird footage they’d ever shot, my first reaction was, “Well, okay, that was weird. I wonder how that happened.” Because, clearly, it did happen, so I immediately started searching for rational explanations.
Sometimes, I think these shows work best when you’re not even sure what’s happening. If you can’t be sure of what you’re experiencing, you can’t begin to search for explanations of why it’s happening. And it’s in that tension, I think, that the drama is created***.
*One of them being that it just seemed like a snipe hunt gone bad.
**With maybe the exception of the Buffy episode where there wasn’t any speaking and those weird men kind of floated around. Those men were spooky even when you saw them head on.
***Speaking of unnecessary drama, Sci-Fi’s got this new show that follows right after Ghost Hunters. A week ago, they set out to “debunk” voodoo, which would be like me setting out to debunk Unitarianism. What do you even mean by “debunk” when you’re talking about a religion in the first place?
But anyway, here are all of these “experts” and Rob from Survivor, who, for some reason, all the voodoo folks loved and they’re down in New Orleans and they meet up with two different people who interact with Marie LaVeau. One gets messages from her at her tomb, the other channels her during a ritual.
Well, shoot, if you want to “debunk” something, if both women really are getting information from the same place, shouldn’t you be able to tell Marie something in the afternoon and pick back up on that conversation in the evening?
If I sat here advertising interactions with the Professor and you came to me and said, “What does the Professor think of blueberry pie?” and you heard me holler, “Hey, Professor, what do you think of blueberry pie?” and then I turned and said to you, “She likes it and she wants me to tell you that she knows how much your aunt liked it, too.” that might be proof that I guessed something right about your aunt. It might even be proof, as it is, that I got my information from someone in the spirit realm. But is it proof I got that information from the Professor?
And say later on you run into Bridgett and Bridgett says, “I can channel the Professor for you” and you say, “Hell yes.” and Bridgett says, “Oh, yes, my child. I am the Professor and I am here with you. What is your question?” and your question is “Does my aunt like blueberry pie?” shouldn’t “The Professor” remember you talked about it that afternoon?
Shoot, if the Professor and I had spent all day talking about blueberry pie, by the end of the night, we’d have ended up with some. She wouldn’t have forgotten that it came up twice in conversation with me.
And yet our “experts” never tried to establish that they were talking to the same entity on both occasions. So much for debunking.
I tend to believe in that shit and I would have wanted to test that.