In today’s post, I explain an idea I have for a television show I really hope someone will make.
My wife and I occasionally engage in the guilty pleasure that is watching terrible, terrible television shows about “ghosts.” There are a few of them, but they all have the same basic plot: a bunch of twenty-something white guys spend the night in a “haunted” house with “scientific” instruments to prove or disprove the presence of ghosts there. Based on the kind of people hosting it, we’ve termed the shows (collectively) “GhostBros.”
Setting aside the fact that the basic premise of the show is flawed — before one determines the presence of ghosts, one ought to first consider providing evidence of the simple existence of ghosts — I have an idea for a new ghost show, a GhostBros Redux, if you will, which could inject just a little bit of skepticism into the process while at the same time adding a few new levels of entertainment.
If you’re a television executive and you want to make this show, by the way, I expect at least a high five and a drink when it turns out well for you. Just saying.
So here’s the idea: each episode will take a team of self-proclaimed ghost hunters, and take them to two undisclosed locations. One will have a history of being “haunted” — reports, local stories, “eyewitness” accounts — and the other, well, that’ll just be something the producers have rigged up to seem haunted. They’ll be told at the start that only one of the places is haunted. Then they’ll be filmed spending the night in each place, explaining to the audience at the end which one is haunted and why.
Before, of course, it’s revealed which one is “actually” haunted.
Maybe you even give them a small prize if they’re “right.”
For added entertainment, you could enlist skeptics — someone like Brian Dunning, maybe — to spend the night with the “hunters,” filming them and periodically asking basic questions about their techniques. Things like “what is it about ghosts that makes the room colder, do you think?” and “what do you suppose a ghost is made of?” and “why aren’t there any dinosaur ghosts?”
Their answers could then be checked with brief interviews with scientists and people who know what the words “energy fields,” “electromagnetism,” and “neutrinos” actually mean.
First, it’d make good tv, which at its best is both entertaining and edifying. Second, if you ran the experiment for long enough, you’d have a data set that shows that experts are only as good as coin flipping. The only problem is, it’d take a lot of episodes. I guarantee you’d get a steady stream of “hunters” to “prove” they’re as good at what they do as they say they are — after all, people keep going to casinos and buying lottery tickets, and people keep letting themselves be interviewed by the Daily Show staff.
And in the meantime, while we’re building that data set, hey — at least it’d be something fun to watch.
If you want to make this show — and I sure hope you do — drop me a line. I’d love to watch it.
Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and techno-futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.