Bad enough that you have to endure a three hundred year reputation for hanging supposed witches, but now you must endure the antics of snickering TV-star ghost hunters.

It seems that when the Ghost Adventures team approached the good folks of Salem, MA with a proposal to do an episode in their historic (or infamous) town, they actually put it up for discussion before the town council (sound familiar?). The small town gets plenty of mileage from its notorious history, of course, but just the same, they probably wanted to avoid some garish carnival of predatory mass media vulturism…which, after they approved the Travel Channel proposal, is exactly what they got.

Now, we’ve been generally supportive of the GA guys. They do (or used to do) some genuinely out of the way places, and they methodologies were generally sound – sticking to EVP and video evidence gathering, and often calling in others to validate or comment their evidence, a laudable practice too little used in the TV paranormal world. Not that any of the outsiders ever seriously questioned any of the evidence…but, whatever.  

Without too much bellyaching about their inexplicable (and scientifically opaque) new gizmos, we were astonished at how generally rude, fratboyish and trivial they behaved on this investigation, which took place at old Magistrate Corwin’s place, the last standing building in Salem tied directly to the trial, as well as the somewhat counterintuitive notion that the ghost of a hanged not-witch would haunt the home of her imprisoner.

Dashing up to the people on the street, asking them if they were witches, doing bad joke riffing on the word itself, and then calling in some freakshow warlock to summon the spirits of the earth or some such nonsense – all this constituted about about two thirds of the 60 minute episode. Throw in a now-familiar “I can feel the spirit energy all around me” filigree and top it all off with a hopelessly fragmentary soundbite they characterized as the disembodied voice of Bridget Bishop, one of the supposed “bewitchers” who was hanged, along with 18 or so others, and you get  a distressingly trivial, disrespectful and needlessly empty episode, of a program circling the credibility drain.

For all the dumb goofing off in the streets and cafes in town, they might have actually explored the roots of witch-paranoia (which extended back a couple of centuries to the Old World), and maybe even touched on a few science-based inquiries into what people today think may have caused a few of the women’s odd behavior. (Bread fungus is the most convincing we’ve heard.)

But instead…we get this nonsense.

They’re becoming camera-enthralled jerks, and those of us who treat investigations with respect for the place and the deceased and the history are worse off for it.

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