Ghost Mine investigators Kristen Luman and Patrick Doyle

The para-reality TV series parade continues, and we’ve been catching the first season (first season?) of Ghost Mine on SyFy.

Contrary to some skeptical mail we’ve gotten over the last several months, we don’t hate the TV para-teams and all the TV shows, nor are we “jealous” of their “success”, although to the extent that the TV guys represent everybody in this field, including us, we’re not shy about contesting some the evidence and the overall presentation in terms of pure investigative integrity, when we see something we think is disrespectful or cynically staged.

We’re actually kind of warming up to this one, for a few reasons. The paranormal team is a couple (like us), although it’s not clear that they are married or involved personally. (I presume they are…but it really doesn’t matter.) They have cool toys – we really like the Mars-rover-type buggy they send in, with the K2 and voice recorder and other stuff strapped on its back, though we struggle to imagine where besides a hard rock mine something like this would be needed or even practical. They have a fairly level temperament, don’t seem overly primed to play to the cameras and seem to be generally straight up about their evidence and presenting it.

Having said that, it’s also quite obvious to us that this program is pretty heavily scripted. The first episode, for example, tells us that women, especially redheads (like the female on this program), are notoriously considered bad luck in mines, and they make a pretty deal out of it, evidently being a long held superstition amongst miners. These guys work alongside the possibility of sudden and violent death every day, they have more than earned their right to time-honored superstition. And yet, it never seems comes up again.

This is just one of the linear-narrative flags (it came up as an issue with the miners in the first episode, but was then dismissed cleanly and completely) that suggest that the thing is pretty well written out in advance and carefully paced, the whole redhead-in-a-mine thing was a plot-framing device, and thus the notion of discovering ore and or ghosts along the way, presented as spontaneous events, likewise seems conveniently timed and placed within the narrative.

This of course might call into question the integrity of the evidence, so far consisting of a couple of interesting thermal hits, some marginal EVP’s and inexplicable EMF readings. (We don’t count equipment failures or cold spots in deep, wet underground mines as evidence…seriously, would you?)

So if the thing is a setup, and we’re not convinced one way or another, we can at least say it’s fun to watch, the miners are a suitably hardscrabble and authentic bunch of guys (doing an amazingly dangerous and physically demanding job), and the production tenor is reasonably low-key.

One complaint about this week’s episode; when they learn (gasp!) that the dead miner they have been suspecting as being a recurring spirit presence in the investigation was a Mason, and that the mine itself, when last operated 80 years ago, was owned by the Masons, we’re set up to take this as a somewhat mysterious and possibly sinister development.

Anyone who has spent any time in the mining-town cemeteries of the US West (and this is something we DO know about) knows that the Masonic order was very common in the 19th and early 20th century. It still exists today, although it’s more like a fraternal men’s club now than a craft guild. There is nothing, with the exception of some funny rituals and some lingering imagery, mysterious about Masons.

Or at that the mine in question, a Hail-Mary investment gamble by the current owner, would suddenly reveal an entirely unknown passage, leading directly to a health vein of hig-grade ore…. Seriously – this guy invested thousands in a mine, hired workers and rented tons of equipment, without researching the exact layout and dimensions of the mine ahead of time? Really ??

We’re told that next week is the season finale – suggesting that the program may well extend into a second season (if the accountants at SyFy agree) – and that also leaves us a little perplexed. If the place is haunted (and presumably by now, they have established this to their satisfaction), what’s the purpose in continuing to hang around ?

Unless it’s “Cleansing The Ghost Mine” next season, in which case….we may not stick around.

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