Screen savors: A dispiriting ghost story

If you have bad reception, you probably saw more ghosts than we did while watching this Sci-Fi Network import.

What could be more timely than a show called Ghost Hunters right around Halloween? After all, besides missing the Tootsie Rolls and other great candy we collected "trick or treating" back in the old country, we also long for some spirits to move us. Too bad Star World's attempt to spook us out is heavy on high tech and light on ghosts. Truth be told, if you have bad reception, you probably saw more ghosts than we did while watching this Sci-Fi Network import, screened Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Somewhere Casper is hanging his head, wondering why the TAPS (that's short for The Atlantic Paranormal Society) folks didn't ask him to make an appearance. People just love a good ghost story, which is fine, but these aren't good. We caught bits of one episode and last week's full one, in which a "haunted" lighthouse was checked out, and came away still completely in the dark about what the TAPS folks believe is out there. The TAPS gang - who have hats and a cool van and something that look a lot like the COPS logo from another popular Star World show from a few years back - consist of lead investigators Jason and Grant, goofy tech coordinator and go-fer Brian, twin (yes, twin) demonologists Carl and Keith, and other specialists called in, depending on the occasion. This time around, that included Heather - a "pagan and wiccan," a.k.a. witch, but not the kind houses land on - and Andy, another investigator. This week they've been asked to investigate just what is leaving wet footprints on the floor of an unmanned lighthouse; the US Coast Guard wants to know. The scariest part of the whole assignment: since no one lives at the lighthouse anymore, there are no bathrooms. Fortunately, that eliminated the need to take along too much toilet paper in the "packing" sequence, in which our boys are shown loading up their fancy ghostbuster detection gear. The sequence plays a little like the "building" sequences in The A-Team where Face, Murdoch, BA and Hannibal build a nuclear sub out of some twine and a couple of pieces of bubblegum. Before you can say Davy Jone's Locker, our team is out at the lighthouse (naturally filmed in creepy black and white from the creepiest angles), and interviews a Coast Guard staffer who claims to have heard a shower curtain rustle. Someone alert Janet Leigh. After setting up enough tech equipment to sink the lighthouse and exchanging enough incomprehensible tech-talk as they use it to check for ghosts ("I've got a 5.7! 4.6! 6.5!") to keep you watching, they revert to some plain talking to the spirits. But lines like "I demand that you show yourself," are pretty lame, and when Brian says: "We need to know what you want," we were hoping the ghost would reply: "More toilet paper!" Back at TAPS headquarters - where there's some truly boring footage of our boys having a good old-fashioned cookout between investigations - Brian and Andy review the videotape. Making references to "fog" on the video, which is conveniently difficult for home viewers to make out, the two go wild when a chair in one room seems to move by itself. And that, my friends, is all the ghost you get. Feel ripped off? Hey, the Coast Guard was convinced the lighthouse is haunted, although they're not telling anyone so its crews will still service the facility. As for us, we find Ghost Hunter heavy on atmosphere and tech jargon, and embarrassingly light on spooks we can actually see or even hear. With no one even half as entertaining as Mulder or Scully around, there isn't a ghost of a chance we'll waste more time on this show, which is far more trick than treat.
More about:Brian Wilson