GHOSTS ON TV
JOHN G. SUTTON
On Thursday 15th November 2001 BBC TV screened a programme titled ‘The Secret Life of Ghosts and Werewolves’. The title effectively captured the essence of this hodgepodge of unrelated ‘paranormal’ subject matter. The makers of this mysterious amalgam of bizarre ‘facts’ decided to reduce the communication of spirits to a discussion on magnetic fields and sound waves. The ubiquitous Dr Wiseman was featured explaining his psychological theories that invariably discount the presence of discarnate entities. Also amongst the participants in this collection of unrelated clips was Dr Susan Blackmore, seen strapped into a form of Ganzfeld sensory deprivation equipment under the auspices of the Canadian scientist Michael Persinger. (They were attempting to replicate the experience of alien abduction) Mind you Dr Blackmore doesn’t really require a blindfold, she has been examining spirits and Spiritualism for years with both eyes seemingly closed.
The problem with programmes such as ‘Ghosts and Werewolves’ is that it potentially creates within the mind of the viewing public a sense that the subject matter is related. As Spiritualists we should feel deeply insulted that this religion is being held up to ridicule on national TV. Imagine the outcry if the notion that the actual body of Christ plays no part in the service of Holy Communion within the Catholic Church and was discussed by the likes of Wiseman and Blackmore in a similar fashion. Would the BBC screen a programme titled ‘Transubstantiation and Cannibalism’? I seriously doubt it. The religious leaders of the Islamic faith would certainly not sit back and smile at a TV broadcast that suggested their beliefs were linked to feral children or murderers. The word fatwa springs to mind at the mere thought of such a thing being televised. Yet the BBC did link the communication of spirits, the essence of the Spiritualist religion, with unrelated sensationalist subject matter such as the ‘Monkey Man’ of India. And if that isn’t an insult to Spiritualism then I wonder what is?
At the risk of labouring the point our current Home Secretary is discussing introducing into legislation an Act that would create an offence of inciting religious hatred. It will be interesting to see if the likes of Blackmore and Wiseman along with their cronies at the BBC can be called to answer for their seemingly protracted attacks upon the Spiritualist religion and its basic tenets. Why are these obviously intelligent people and the authorities that fund and support them so interested in degrading the idea that life after death is a fact? Could it be that Michael Roll is correct in his assumptions and that they are part of some conspiracy to prevent the truth of eternal life being accepted by the general public? It seems unlikely that respected academics would knowingly involve themselves in such matters but something is going on as proof is being not only denied but subjected to ridicule. This may be denied but inclusion in TV programmes such as ‘The Secret Lives of Ghosts and Werewolves’ is hardly likely the enhance the reputation of Ph.D level commentators on the subject of paranormal research. (Dr. Blackmore when asked re this stated that she knew nothing of the ‘Ghosts and Werewolves’ programme and the section featuring her with the Ganzfeld experiment was taken from a serious documentary for the ‘Horizon’ TV series).
‘Ghosts’ on TV and Spirit Mediums are frequently portrayed in a negative light. Even the psychics that do appear are most often presented as being odd or as mere show business performers. In the BBC TV programme ‘Ghosts and Werewolves’ there was no mention whatsoever of Mediums or Psychics. So it seems that either Spiritualism is held up for ridicule or it is effectively ignored.
Any Spiritualist invited to take part in a TV chat show or documentary should be aware that it is highly likely that the producer/director will have a hidden agenda. I speak from personal experience and have been present in numerous television studios as the pre-arranged loud mouth pseudo-sceptic shouts abuse at the guest Psychic or Medium. These so-called sceptics are little more than ill-informed, low-paid actors posing as disbelievers to create an argument so that the TV producers have a ‘show’. I have yet to see one of these doubters shouting insults at the token clergyman that is also a usual addition to the proceedings. Now that would create a show: ‘Are YOU! Telling ME that this guy not only came back from the dead having been nailed to a cross for three days? BUT then HE also pushed a huge boulder away from the cave HE was buried in? Not only that But HE then FLOATED up to HEAVEN!!. I want some of what you’ve been on MATE!’ Imagine the outcry if that happened? Yet Spiritualists receive that kind of insult time after time when they appear on TV.
It is a sad fact that Spiritualism is portrayed in such a down-market way by television. There was even a recent advertisement for Toffee Crisp that featured a mock up of a séance with a wrapper floating down as if the spirit had eaten the confectionary. It is hard to imagine the Christian equivalent but:
Scene. Inside the confessional:
Lady:‘I have sinned……I have been eating to many sweet things……forgive me’
An empty Toffee Crisp wrapper is pushed through the closed curtain.
Priest: ’Me too, it’s a miracle in its own right’
Now would that advertisement get past the religious thought police and onto our TV screens? I doubt it very much as it ridicules an important aspect of Christianity. Yet not a dissenting voice has been heard re the skit on spirit communication.
So how can we as Spiritualists get our message across in this age of television and the Information Super-Highway or Internet as it is most commonly called? I believe that we should all be prepared to speak out at every given opportunity using the media to our best advantage. All those that are invited into discussion on television or radio should ensure that they are properly prepared to answer the insults that are most certainly going to form at least a part of any interview. All those that can create web sites offering insights into the truth of eternal life should do so and seek to publicise the same. It is of great importance that we do not just sit back and permit the likes of Wiseman and Blackmore to expound their supposedly scientific interpretations of life after death. They would not do to Christianity, Islam or Judaism what they are attempting to do to Spiritualism. In fact they only get away with their activities because we are permitting them to do so. Now is the time to let the public know that eternal life is NOT conditional and subject to faith. Now is the time to act and promote our understanding of the truth of survival. If we fail to take action we most surely will face further decades in which the facts of our eternal existence are denied by pseudo-science, the established church and subsequently the media.
I for one do not believe that we should be prepared to have Spirit Communication lumped together with Zombies, Witch-Doctors, Werewolves and Monkey Men. Do the media think we are weird or something just because we talk to the ‘dead’?
RESPONSE FROM Dr. Susan Blackmore to the above:
I would just like to mention how it seems from my point of view. After spending 30 years sincerely looking for paranormal phenomena and never finding any I honestly came to believe that they do not exist. This was not prior bias, nor fear of them, nor any other motivation of that sort. It was that I searched and did not find them. Then I found myself on numerous TV programmes where the agenda was clear – make the scientists look like completely closed-minded idiots who are biased from the start. In the end I had had enough and that is why I gave up. I was (and am) only interested in the truth rather than what people want to believe and it is terribly difficult sticking only to that. Most people want to believe in paranormal phenomena and will do so regardless of the evidence.
Well …. I tried.