The Othersiders is a new show on Cartoon Network where teen friends visit alleged haunted locations and perform so-called investigations, similar to the Ghost Hunters and Ghost Trackers. It’s fun to be scared and to imagine ghosts exists and places are haunted. I love all things paranormal and really wish these supernatural concepts were supported by something more than good stories. Alas, poor ghost, I find popular ghost hunting activities extremely unscientific and self-deceiving.
The Othersiders will premier on June 17 – I have not seen any episodes yet (note the post date). From the website, we see they will be using the standard fair of sciencey-looking equipment – temperature indicators, electromagnetic field meters, night vision cameras (everything is in green), tape recorders. Do they know what they are measuring or looking at? Since science has never described what a ghost should be or act like, why should one assume they are measuring the effects of a ghost?
There are also several other red flags on the website that suggest what the intent of this show will be. There is a ghost figure in the spinning night vision camera and other equipment, spooky sounds, “facts” about the places that are not facts at all but based on anecdotes, and the token skeptic who needs “hard core proof”. The team members say “It’s real, it’s happening.” Sure it is, but WHAT is happening? I don’t think our interpretations will be exactly the same. However, I’m not in a creepy place at night expecting the unexpected.
Call me psychic (then again, please don’t), but I predict The Othersiders will follow the same formulaic pattern of all the other ghost shows. I bet I can make some spooky predictions about how it will go. See how many come true:
- Investigators will visit places already aware of the popular haunting stories of the place, predisposing them to expect an experience. They will know which areas have the best stories. Bet on them being uncomfortable in these locations. They have been primed.
- The focus will be on belief and terms like ‘proof ‘and ‘evidence’ will feed into that belief, not dispute it. Stories and personal experiences will count heavily towards influencing belief.
- There will be a lot of “I don’t know what that was but it was very weird.” (Cue the jump to paranormal conclusion.) Token skeptic will be shaken up. It’s hard to be left out when everyone else is having fun with the story.
“After each investigation, we’ll put up our verdict and let you make your own decision,” notes the website. This is a standard disclaimer for all paranormal-themed shows. You decide (after we show you an edited, biased, unconfirmed version of the events). Remember, it’s not real. It’s an edited, manipulated situation on TV.
I find interesting how obvious it is when “paranormal investigators” scare themselves and each other. They have started with the assumption that what they are investigating is paranormal. Bad move, very unscientific. What is most disturbing about these shows is that they send a message to impressionable teens trying to make sense of the world – the paranormal is a genuine explanation. Instead of being happy with, “Gee, that was weird”, they assume, “It was a spirit that haunts this place.” After 200 years of looking for ghosts, we still lack substantial evidence for spirit entities – the best we have are stories and personal experiences. If we just get more of that from The Othersiders, what a waste. We could sure use something different.
If I am wrong and The Othersiders promotes critical thinking and logical explanations, not the supernatural, I will certainly applaud the creators. So, watch it, look for these themes, and ask questions.
Questions: Are they promoting a pro-paranormal viewpoint? What are some more normal explanations for these occurrences? Are activities being manipulated – are you being primed for what to see and hear at the locations and from the instruments? Are they so psyched about ghosts that they find every little movement and noise to be “paranormal”? Do they consider those or discard them in favor of more interesting causes – like spirits? Are they just freaking themselves out?