Written by Shelby Hatfield
It is common knowledge that our world is becoming more technologically advanced every day. What is considered modern now is almost obsolete in what seems like the blink of an eye. But with all of our machines and technology, there is still one thing that the modern world has never been able to understand: the world of the supernatural. Ghosts, ghouls, demons, and creatures of the night have forever remained a mystery to the empirical society that we are today, but that has never mitigated our interest in the uncanny.
The paranormal has more recently become a popular subject in Western society with the constant flow of books, television shows, movies, and more about anything ghostly or mythical. In an interview I conducted with Kitsie Duncan, director of the television show The Oddity Files, we discussed where this show lies on the spectrum from pop culture television show to evidential documentary. Duncan says that her show “presents the evidence and it is up to the viewers from there.” Marc E. Fitch, author of the study Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFO’s, and Bigfoot, writes that at least three out of four Americans have admitted to believing in at least one paranormal idea (3). According to Fitch, this number is similar to how many Americans have confessed to believing in God (3). Numbers like these make it hard not to believe that many viewers see ghost-hunting shows like Duncan’s as non-fiction.
Aside from directing her television show, Duncan is also an actress, a makeup artist, and a writer of fictional ghost stories. She says she loves not only the learning experience of ghost hunting, but also the collection of evidence. Duncan’s show has attained some 15,000 viewers, and there are many more like it. This form of reality television ghost hunting has become more popular now than it has ever been before; “I mean come on, there are even ghost shows on Animal Planet now,” says Duncan. Why is it that ghosts are now the “in thing”? In Paranormal Nation, Fitch says that reality shows like these have made ratings skyrocket for the networks that air them. Networks such as Syfy and even the History Channel have gone off the charts because of their reality shows, and networks are airing a variety of television shows, like American Horror Story, that essentially are scary. People want to view shows like this despite their fears of ghosts and supernatural beings. This all begs the question of why people want to watch a show about the things they fear. Whether they believe these shows are scientific evidence or just interesting to watch, networks have the ratings to prove their popularity.
Duncan believes that her show serves as entertainment and illustrates “new ways to collect evidence.” Peter Buse and Andrew Stott point out that “proving or disproving the existence of ghosts is a fruitless exercise, it is more rewarding to diagnose the persistence of the trope of spectrality in culture” (3). The Oddity Files is a part of this trend because it participates in the act of ghost hunting, which is a main part in the popularity of these kinds of shows in our culture. Deciding whether or not Duncan’s show proves the existence of ghosts or functions as a form of entertainment isn’t the point. Rather, it is more important to understand why this is such a fascinating subject in our culture.
Right now, ghosts are haunting us in more ways than one. For anyone who would like to decide for themselves, check out the episode “Black Moon Manor” from The Oddity Files.
Buse, Peter and Andrew Stott. Ghosts: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Print.
Duncan, Kitsie. “RE: Interview Questions.” Message to the Director. 30 Oct. 2013. E-mail.
Fitch, Marc E. Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, UFO’s, and Bigfoot. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2013. Print.