Last week, I wrote about one of my guilty pleasures, the Animal Planet show Finding Bigfoot. Tough for me to admit, because on the whole, I don’t really enjoy the current crop of paranormal TV offerings. But I must admit that there are a few I watch, and mainly because even though they are not perfect, they have some qualities that distinguish them from the rest, and I can actually enjoy them on some level. Not sure how many more of these I’ll have left in me, but this week I tackle Celebrity Ghost Stories, which was first on The Biography Channel, and then recently moved to the Lifetime Movie Network (blah) for season 5.
I’ll admit that I was a little late hopping on the Celebrity Ghost Stories bandwagon. By the time it premiered, I was already totally burnt out by paranormal TV. Ghost Hunters had become a mockery of its former self, Ghost Adventures was, well, Ghost Adventures, and everything else seemed like a desperate attempt to ride the popularity wave those shows created. But again, like Finding Bigfoot, once I gave it a chance and watched a few episodes, I was hooked. So what do I like about Celebrity Ghost Stories?
They’re ghost stories: And who doesn’t like a good ghost story? The aforementioned shows that were initially intriguing because they showed the investigation of paranormal claims just became too self-aggrandizing for my tastes. Celebrity Ghost Stories goes back to basics, just someone sitting down and telling the story of something weird or creepy or scary that they encountered. But it’s not just anyone telling these ghost stories…
They’re celebrities: Duh. I’ve been into the paranormal since the day I could read, and maybe even before that. Nowadays, being into the paranormal is “cool,” but believe me, that wasn’t always the case. Sure, there were stories of President Jimmy Carter talking about his UFO experience, or Shirley MacLaine professing to be psychic, but by and large, you didn’t hear too many stories of high-profile people talking about their paranormal experiences. And while calling some of the people featured on this shows “celebrities” is a stretch in even the most generous of conditions, they have managed to nab a few really good guests, such as Regis Philbin, Cary Elwes, Carrie Fisher, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Sammy Hagar, tons of cast members from The Sopranos, half the kids from The Brady Bunch, Chachi, Charo, a CHiP, and a ton more.
Reenactments: I love me some reenactments. Why? Don’t know, just do. Unlike another paranormal TV show out there that relies on reenactments (*cough* A Haunting *cough*), CGS actually tries to get actors that resemble the subject for the reenactments. Which makes sense, considering who the show is spotlighting. But the reenactments are usually pretty good, all things considered.
Nothing is definitive: I like that the show just presents the ghost stories, and for the most part, the celebrities fully admit that they have no clue what to make of their experiences other than they were spooky and weird. No self-proclaimed experts declaring a location haunted or that something is definitely paranormal. It really leaves it in the viewer’s hands whether or not to believe the tale.
Once again, though, it’s important to note that the show isn’t perfect, and I do have a few issues with it. For one, many of the stories featured on the show could be explained away by sleep paralysis. As a general rule, I err on the side of caution regarding any potentially paranormal experience that happens to someone (myself included) when they are sleeping. Just way too much of a chance that the person was dreaming and not really experiencing what they thought they were. None of us are immune to waking up on a Saturday and thinking it’s time to go to work, or not even knowing who we are for a few seconds when we first open our eyes. These things happen, and being woken up by a “ghost” is much more likely to just be another instance of our brains playing tricks on us.
And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. Most of the celebrities on this show aren’t really celebrities anymore. They may be comfortable, they may be successful in behind-the-scenes roles, and they may have been really famous at some point, but most of these shows feature a marquee star and two or three lesser-known celebs. All fine and good. But, the question inevitably arises: are these celebrities being honest with their stories, or is this just an attempt to jump-start their careers again? Are they embellishing true stories to make them more interesting for TV? Or are they simply reading a script? Most of them seem sincere, but then again, most of them are actors. We’ll never know for sure, but that can be said when it comes to anyone telling a ghost story. Ultimately, the person telling it is the only one who knows for sure. And when it comes right down to it, that’s what makes a ghost story so spooky.