As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’ve been obsessed with “true” ghost stories since about first grade, so the last 5-6 years of TV have been a big thrill for me because of the huge number of ghost investigation programs. However, sometimes I get tired of everything being filmed in night vision. Also, for all their equipment, they never seem to actually prove anything (still waiting for science to catch up), and am I the only one who can’t understand EVPs or is skeptical of what they are often interpreted to be saying? Oh well, I enjoy these shows for the most part now while they last, because I know that whenever something becomes mega-popular, it’s also inevitably got to suffer from a backlash and then disappear.
Anyway, I was thrilled to find this 1977 episode of In Search Of featuring paranormal investigator Hans Holzer because it’s something different from what we get today. Not better or worse (okay, the lack of night vision cam was better) but different. And it’s not as if, like with horror movies, older is necessarily better; sometimes old documentaries have information that is such common knowledge now that they make you want to go duh.
In this one, Holzer checks out Washington Irving’s estate and determines that it is not haunted even though the people who work at the now museum think it is because an iron mysteriously fell off a table. Ooookay, that doesn’t measure up to the Headless Horseman somehow, but I can see why they are curious especially since Irving himself was said to have thought it might be “fun” to come back as a spirit. Holzer’s determination for no ghost? There would be no motivation for Irving to be a ghost. Holzer was all about the idea of a ghost having unfinished business and needing to be guided to the other side.
In the second half of the program, Holzer goes to a house in a small fishing village and finds the ghost of an 1840s sailor’s widow who wishes she didn’t live in such a podunk town. I hear you, sister! I hope I don’t get trapped for eternity in the small former fishing village where I live. The way he determines that this case is an actual haunting is to bring in a medium who gets a bunch of info from the ghost, and then checks with a historian to discover that the facts are actual and factual. Also, the inhabitants of this house see a ghost and hear footsteps rather than finding an iron on the floor. Oddly, though, there is no actress playing the ghost, as the program relies on the description of the witnesses and the viewer’s imagination.
At the end, Mr. Spock tells us that we should try to guide ghosts into the light if we see them, because we would want someone to do the same for us. And that really is in the best spirit of the 70s, when everyone wanted to buy the world a Coke and not pollute or burn down the forest. Also, the theme music for the show itself is very wocka chicka. So I approve! At only 20 something minutes a show, I’m gonna find more of these and watch ‘em. I can’t believe I haven’t before, or if I have, I don’t remember doing it. I’ve always been aware of the show, so I don’t know why I didn’t watch it in reruns. But it could be worse; I could have never found it at all.
One last thing: I’m always kind of intrigued and a little creeped out when I watch old ghost shows and look up the investigators to find that they have died. (Hans Holzer, who wrote a zillion books on hauntings, died in ’09.) I’m not fascinated because they’re dead they’re dead they’re dead they diddle-diddle died, but because I wonder if they set up a signal with anyone before they died so that after they died they could do the agreed upon thing and therefore prove that they were right about ghosts n’ stuff. Probably nobody has done that, though, or we would have heard about it by now. And I don’t want to consider that Hans is over there wanting to tell us the truth and unable to, or worse, there is no “over there.” That would be no fun at all.