Liveblogging A Haunting

So, on a whim, I’m finally going to liveblog an episode of “A Haunting” on the Discovery Channel. Then, I’m probably going to throw up a little. Join me, won’t you?

Yes, in this world, there is “real evil.” There’s also “imaginary evil.” Guess which one this is!

Oh man, did I hear that right? A paranormal investigator has to save her son from ghosts? Great!

Nightmares become reality? Or maybe they become nightmares.

“When skepticism blinds the truth…” no, no, it’s finds the truth.

“The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, the most famous ghost picture of all time. Could it be a fraud?” Sure; it could also be a blurry smudge on a staircase.

“With energy photos such as this one”…what the fuck is an energy photo?

Stacy Jones, paranormal investigator, married to a “true skeptic” (or something along those lines). Their kid says “I guess the paranormal is pretty normal to me.” I guess he’s not truly skeptical enough, or at least not conveying it to the kid. Then again, he’s just a stepdad, so I guess he might not have much say.

And her colleague deals with demons. Fantastic.

Stacy makes these token gestures toward skepticism. One lady tells her that there’s a lot of activity in a local cemetery, and she says “alleged activity.” Yeah, that’s the bit you should have a problem with.

Infrared cameras, digital audio recorders, and dowsing rods! God fucking damn, these people are awesome! “Dowsing is an ancient procedure for finding ionized [something] underground–water, metal. Nothing more, nothing less.” Actually, it’s quite a lot less. Real Stacy expresses doubt

Stacy is skeptical of what people report (such as moving shadows) in these cemeteries and such, because they go in wanting to be scared. That’s pretty reasonable.

The actor playing Jamie (Stacy’s son) is frigging clueless with the dowsing rods. She tells him that, according to her slightly-more-credulous comrades, the rods supposedly can take you to a specific grave. He asks them to point him toward a grave marked Smith. They don’t respond, but eventually they’re responding, and lo and behold, it’s over a grave marked Smith.

Stacy suggests that in a grave this size, there must be hundreds of graves marked Smith, and the rods were probably responding to metal or something in the ground. So close, and yet so very far. Jamie asks didn’t she think it was weird that they were vibrating?

Real Jamie complains that his mom is always downplaying experiences, suggesting that there has to be a scientific explanation for them. It’s a shame she doesn’t know about basic explanations like the ideomotor effect.

“What is the first rule of paranormal investigation?” “Be skeptical.” If that were really true, there’d be far fewer paranormal investigators. And the rest would be Ben Radford and Joe Nickell.

“Stacy fears they have just encountered shadow people”–apparently malevolent ghost-things that dart between trees and tombstones. Stacy knows they aren’t human spirits (of course not, they’re Vashta Nerada), and runs away because she didn’t feel safe and learned to trust that instinct. What was that about people wanting to be scared, Stacy? Remember, she said that about people who reported seeing moving shadows in a graveyard.

Apparently, while feeling like they were surrounded by shadow people, something happens to Jamie that makes him go all double-imagey, and now he’s woozy and doesn’t talk.

Looking at her photos of the cemetery, Stacy laments to her husband that she thinks she needs a better camera. He offers that maybe there’s nothing there. Good for you.

Jamie wakes up to find a star tattooed or carved into his thigh. I guess it’s carved. He shows mom, and she asks him what he did to himself, and tries to bandage it. Jamie is hurt that she doesn’t believe it happened on its own. “What are the chances it would be a perfect star?” Pretty slim, slick; I’m curious as to what it actually looked like. My pareidolia senses are tingling.

Over the next few days, Jamie feels the world begin to change. He’s numb to the people around him as he starts school. He gets taken to the principal’s office by a teacher for “incessant mumbling.” Hey, you know what that sounds like? Like he’s the unpopular kid in high school whose mom is a fucking Ghostbuster.

“Everything’s changing, there’s no happy point…there was nothing for me, all I had to do was sit in my room and listen to music. That’s it.” Yeah, welcome to being fucking sixteen, dipshit. If the posters on his wall before the incident are any indication, then he wasn’t exactly Donny fucking Osmond before the shadow people showed up. He’s a grunge kid with a thing for skateboarding and punk music; I’m sure he’s got no attitude issues at all. Not to stereotype or anything.

A tape dispenser “swipes” across his room, and he questions if it actually happened. “It just seemed fake.” This entry rights itself, you know?

“I thought, maybe my house is haunted.” He goes to tell mom again, but she’s just opened a letter from school about his detentions. She says there’s obviously some sort of problem. He shifts into douche-speak: “I don’t have a problem, Stacy, but if I did, do you think you’d be able to face it?” Stacy thinks he’s going through a phase: “this isn’t Jamie. He doesn’t get in trouble, he’s a good kid.” They keep seeing paranormal, I keep seeing teenager.

As Halloween nears, Stacy’s constantly lecturing, and Jamie feels so very alone. Oh, they meant she was lecturing about ghosts, so she was out of the house a lot. I thought it meant she was nagging the kid.

“I heard a gross frictiony wet noise.” That’s Goosebumps-caliber dialogue right there.

Jamie questions whether he should tell his mom about the strange sound–“like lips smacking, except for louder”–that he heard while all alone in a dark house at night. He thinks she won’t accept his vague feelings that it’s due to malevolent spirits. She suggests that it’s the neighbor’s cat.

I like it when this show, and shows like it, use the nightmares of people who are already anxious as proof that there’s something paranormal happening. You know, most of us use nightmares as evidence that we need to not eat spicy foods before sleeping, or somesuch. In this case, Jamie sits up in his bed to find his mom (?) hanging from the ceiling (as in, via a noose), bloody and beaten, with a sign hanging around her neck that says “you know why.” He then wakes up for real, and expresses the feeling that there’s some impending violence. He’s right; my forehead is going to violently hit the wall. Repeatedly, in fact.

Stacy wonders if there’s more to Jamie’s behavior than a plea for attention. She digs into his dresser drawers and finds that he’s been hiding his report cards, which show that he’s failing everything. She also finds her jewelry. “What is going on with this kid?” I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s green. Keep digging in that sock drawer, Stacy. This is already halfway to being a Lifetime movie.

Among the things Jamie has in his messy room is a large disembodied porcelain doll’s head with a straw hat on it. If I had that in my bedroom, I’d have nightmares too.

Holy shit, they just did a clip of interview with Real Jamie that was edited like the “Rock Bottom” clip on that Simpsons episode, where they made Homer look like he was admitting to molesting the babysitter. Complete with jerky movement and cutting out in the middle of sentences. It was mostly just stringing together feelings rather than trying to make him look like he was saying something he didn’t actually say, but it still looked sloppy and suspicious.

Stacy begins to think that, since her relationship with her teenage son has changed suddenly, he might be under the influence of pot. Oh, wait, sorry, that’s poltergeist. Well, fuck.

Poltergeists go after teenagers almost without exception, but rarely last longer than a month. I love it when woo-types (or in this case, omniscient narrators) make claims of fact that there’s no way they could know. ‘Well, unicorns are prone to trampling flowerbeds, but thankfully they only go into the suburbs in April.’ What?

Oh, she breaks the news to Jamie, and suddenly he gets mysterious scratches appearing on his chest and back. “Make it stop! Make it stop!” I agree.

Stacy calls her demon-hunter colleague, which promises to make the intelligence quotient of this show just fucking plummet.

Jamie is “the right age” to be haunted by a poltergeist. He’s not a little girl sitting in front of a TV…

“Last night, these scratches just appeared on his chest.”
“That’s no poltergeist.” It’s a space station!

“By playing with the dowsing rods, he opened up the doors so that something could come in and attach to him.” I love woo-convergence!

Hm…those scratches are in different places than they were when they appeared. This show needs a continuity editor.

John the Demonologist suggests that Jamie needs an exorcism, because there’s a demon on him. Jamie refuses to give consent, and Real Jamie talks about how he starts thinking about movies, like the Exorcist. “She’s throwing up, she’s all scarred and stuff, do I really want to do that?”

“Without Jamie’s consent, there can be no exorcism.” Guess they need to relocate to Texas.

They arrange for the exorcism to happen in the home of an “independent priest.” That sounds less like an exorcism, more like the priest is going to have to be relocated. They’re going to use the Roman Method, some ancient exorcism technique, or something. The priest’s wife Debbie has the power of discernment, which allows her to see demons. Oh, she’s Voodoo!

Debbie: “I can also see and hear the demon; I am witness to both sides.” Man, Stacy suddenly looks like the brightest person in the room. Wifey says she feels nauseous when a demonic presence enters the room, but she has to concentrate to discern the demon’s name. Apparently, they don’t wear name tags. Darn those inconvenient demons.

The crew starts singing some retarded songs–in English, which sort of gives the lie to the “ancient Roman method.”

An hour into the exorcism, Jamie gets fidgety, and Debbie almost has a name.

“Debbie psychically steps into Jamie’s head.” She finds out the demon’s name, finally: “This is the name I’m getting. There are two: nothingness, worthlessness, vanity.” Debbie, that’s three names. And they’re really more like random words than names.

Knowing the names, they’re finally able to cast the demons out. I swear, the priest just said “In the name of Our Lord, Satan, Jesus Christ.” I guess it must have been “and saviour,” but that would have been a good twist. After all, he’s an “independent priest.”

Stacy cradles Jamie in her arms, rocking back and forth and crying. It’s done.

“In the months following the exorcism, Jamie’s life returns to normal.” The period had been incredibly depressing, but everything’s normal now. Similarly, this last hour has been incredibly depressing for me. And there’s another episode on…if it weren’t one I’d already seen, I’d totally do that one too. But I just can’t handle this; Tom needs food badly. There’s another episode tomorrow, though…

What the fuck, Discovery Channel?

You know, I realize that the Discovery Channel isn’t exactly a bastion of critical thinking and good science. It’s pretty much “Mythbusters” and the occasional special, and then everything goes downhill. Much like the History Channel, which seems to be about ghosts, Nostradamus, UFOs, “Bible history,” and conspiracies any time it’s not Nazis.

But “A Haunting”? Really? I’m watching their notoriously unreliable Urban Legends show, which is bad enough (interviewing “self-proclaimed Psychic Twins” about mistaken identity? Really?), but then this dreck comes on. Now, I’ve heard about “A Haunting” before–it’s the show that tells hour-long “paranormal” anecdotes entirely through voiceover, dramatization, and interviews with the anecdote presenters–and I knew it was terrible, but I had no idea.

And this is speaking as someone who grew up on “Unsolved Mysteries;” at least they told multiple stories per episode, some of which may have had some element of truth. This? This is ridiculous. It has an opening segment that would be better suited for “The Outer Limits” (or better yet, “Tales from the Darkside”) and sound cues stolen directly from “Torchwood.” A kid gets scared at night in the woods surrounding his house, and he’s “a very logical person,” so it can’t possibly be something normal. Gosh, strange noises and sights in a house surrounded by forest? I would never have expected such a thing. They hire a priest, a “paranormal investigator” who goes on about gravity and vortices and “impossible,” and then a “respected psychic” who tells them that their house was the site of several murders, where bodies were kept in the crawlspace until they could be buried. It seems to me what they need is an exterminator, a babysitter, and a psychiatrist. The “logical” kid is our token skeptic, but if the reenactment is any indication, he’s jumpy and dumb. Oh, and he saw “orbs of light in the trees.” Fucking fantastic.

I came into this episode in the middle (I was on the phone for the beginning), so I can’t say much about it, but it’s pretty clearly written by someone who’s seen “Poltergeist” and “The Amityville Horror” a few too many times. Oh noes, things stackeded in middle of room! I must haz a ghosts!

Sigh…it’s a trainwreck, and I can’t look away. If it’s on again tomorrow, I think I may liveblog it. Because, you know, I’m a glutton for punishment.

On an unrelated note, why is Discovery Channel using “Gimme Shelter” to advertise their show about going into space? Specifically the line “war, children, it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away”? I mean, it’s catchy and upbeat, but you really ought to listen to the lyrics before you use the song.

I’ve been playing a lot of “Rock Band” lately with some friends, and let me tell you, it’s weird as fuck to sing that song. It’s a little hard to belt out Mick Jagger’s upbeat “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, it’s just a shot away” several times in a row.

Edit: Another episode of this crap showed up while I was doing dishes. Not even a token skeptic in this bunch. We have a family who hired the Nick and Nora of paranormal investigators–a “religious demonologist” and his ancient clairvoyant wife–and their student, a worthless fucking tool who claims to believe in ghosts “the way most people believe they’re breathing air. It’s not even a question.” The family is beset by the most mundane of hauntings, with strange creaking noises and a “loud crash” that “couldn’t be natural.” I suppose “falling branches” are now an impossibility. Daddy has a bad dream where he’s covered in bugs, and it “felt so real,” therefore ghosts. Gosh, if I’m stressed and easily scared, I can’t possibly expect to have (ridiculously common) nightmares. When the five-year-old started choking, our worthless tool decided that the proper course of action would be prayer and salt and threatening the ghosts with Jesus; I don’t know, I think my first inclination would be the goddamn Heimlich Maneuver.

But the best bit is when Nick and Nora decide that they need to do an exorcism, but first they have to get permission from the Vatican. Oh great, not only is there an imaginary threat, but there’s imaginary bureaucracy. The whole bit reminded me of this example of imaginary protocol:

I think two hours W.O.O. would be appropriate punishment for these dipshits too.