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Wednesday, October 3, 2012


"I've just been goosed by a ghost!"

No, that isn't a quote from an Abbott and Costello movie.  It's one of the paranormal highpoints of Image Entertainment's 4-disc DVD set GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SEVEN PART 2. 

As always, the SyFy Channel series "Ghost Hunters" follows the ectoplasmic exploits of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), whose founders Jason Hewes and Grant Wilson are Roto-Rooter plumbers by day and seekers of the supernatural by night. 

As they explain it, they want to help those who call on their services by getting to the bottom of whatever hauntings they're experiencing by either communicating with the spirits or debunking them.  (The fact that they expose so many sightings as natural occurrences and/or simple misperceptions seems to enhance their credibility, at least as far as I'm concerned.)

Some of the episodes in this set begin with the familiar dramatizations of Jason and Grant grimly struggling to fix someone's toilet when they get a call from TAPS case manager Amy Bruni, informing them of their next assignment.  Then it's off in their SUV caravan to the ghost-plagued location with the rest of the team, which includes tech guy Steve (who's in charge of all the equipment such as monitoring cameras, electromagnetic field and heat-seeking devices, spectral voice detectors, ion generators, etc.) and team members Amy, Dave, Adam, Britt, and sometimes K.J.  Maddie the dog returns but does little this time besides look cute and growl at a few things that aren't there.

I don't know why I enjoy watching this stuff so much, but somehow I just like hanging out with these guys on their investigations.  I do seem to be getting kind of used to the show by now, though.  "Lights out" isn't as scary as it used to be--guess I'm getting used to seeing them creeping around in these old buildings with the night-vision camera making them all ghostly white.  And all the disembodied footsteps, knocks, and other noises begin to take on a numbing sameness after awhile.  Even the TAPS gang don't get as giddy and freaked-out by this stuff as they used to.

But just when I think I'm immune to it, "Ghost Hunters" gives me the creeps in spite of myself.  Usually it isn't because of any one major scare, but just an accumulation of subtle events that are unsettlingly spooky.  Although every once in a while, the guys will visit a location--usually some hellish old prison or mental institution, or the site of a major tragedy--in which the haunting goes beyond some benign residual presence and ventures into the truly bizarre and frightening. 

"Dark Shadows" features the Seaview Terrace in Newport, Rhode Island, where exteriors for the famous horror soap-opera were filmed.  "Ghostly Evidence" takes place in a Lizzie Borden-type setting in Massachusetts, with both a solid debunking and some rather convincing visual evidence caught on camera.  In "Ghosts of Carnegie", the team experience several unexplained noises and voices in the Carnegie Library in Pennsylvania, followed by a disappointing night in a haunted police station that yields more debunkings than ghosts.

Yet more debunkings highlight "Harvesting Murder", both on a Hawaiian sugar plantation and in a Massachusetts mansion where the scariest occurrence is when Steve gets dive-bombed by a bat.  "Well of Horror" doesn't live up to such a promising title, and is notable mainly for the first appearance of Jason's daughter Haily as a sometime apprentice member of the team.

"Roasts and Ghosts" takes place at New York's famed Friar's Club, where the ghost of a comedian who died in the Frank Sinatra room still seems to be wandering the hallways.  A theater near Niagra Falls is home to a tragic female spirit in "Stage Fright", a spooky one in which the team experience all sorts of strange phenomena.  In another eerie episode, "Murdered Matron", a sailors' retirement home in Staten Island is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a woman killed by her developmentally-challenged son whom she'd been keeping chained up in the basement until his escape.  Guest ghost-hunter Meredith Viera joins the team on this very eventful case.

The huge, crumbling Missouri State Penitentiary is the site of "The Bloodiest 47 Acres", which sounds scary but is notable mainly for giving us (and some creeped-out TAPS members) a firsthand look at what it's like to sit in a darkened gas chamber and a dungeon still heavy with the aura of suffering and death.  "Distillery of Spirits" lightens things up as we tour a Kentucky bourbon distillery benignly haunted by its former owner, who may or may not be the spirit responsible for giving that ghostly goose to both Jason and Grant at the same time in different locations!

"Membership Denied" tells of an Elks' Club building where a deceased member doesn't seem to approve of the new rule allowing women to join.  "Christmas Spirit" takes us to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the show's season ender, in which a sad little boy haunts one inn while a seemingly happy and playful little girl lingers in another.  One of the show's best pieces of visual evidence occurs when the dark figure of a little girl appears to be captured by one of the team's cameras. 

My favorite episode of the season, "Voices of Pain", takes the team back for a third visit to the Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Kentucky, voted in a viewer poll as the show's "Scariest Location" thus far.  The rambling compound of dark, decaying buildings, where 60,000 (!) inmates are said to have died over the years, doesn't disappoint, yielding a wealth of shadows, dark figures, loud knocks and other noises, and some eerily distinct disembodied voices that seem to be conversing amongst themselves.  This, to me, is "Ghost Hunters" at its best, the kind of spine-tingling foray into the unknown that makes me hesitant to watch the show after sundown. 

The 4-disc set from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby stereo sound.  No subtitles or closed-captioning.  Discs 1-3 contain the set's 13 episodes, while disc 4 is loaded with deleted scenes.

Even if you don't believe in the supernatural, it's still unsettling to watch these guys creep around such spooky locations in the dark of night, reacting to various sudden noises and movements with their familiar startled cry of "Wuh-wuh-ZAT?"  (Or its variant, "HELL-wuh-zat?")  And if you do believe, it's enough to have you sleeping with the lights on.  While GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SEVEN PART 2 isn't quite as consistently blood-curdling as some other sets in the series, fans should still get a nice ghostly goose out if it.

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