Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review Bomb | The Best Kind of Reality Shows

905656. sy475  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If you are unfamiliar with this first show, allow me to give a little background. Ghost Hunters (not to be confused with the trash that is Ghost Adventures, don't even get me started) came to be because of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. They founded T.A.P.S. - The Atlantic Paranormal Society and conducted investigations on public properties and in private residences at the request of the owners, and filmed many such investigations. Something I have always appreciated about this team is that they did not go into every case assuming the activity was paranormal. It was their priority to first make their clients feel safe - especially if they were investigating a private residence where there were children involved. The team would debunk everything they could, and even if they could not explain something away, they still hesitated to call it paranormal more often than not. Unfortunately the team is no longer together and only bits and pieces of info are available here and there. Though, I think it is quite telling that Grant Wilson is using the Ghost Hunters show title with a completely new team, while Jason Hawes, Dave Tango, and Steve Gonsalves have gone on to create a new show called Ghost Nation. Tango and Gonsalves were also on the original Ghost Hunters (and are hilarious; great comic relief!).

I liked this trip down memory lane for two reasons, first being that it included cases I loved that aired on television, second being that it included cases that occurred before the series began and so were brand new to me.

Some of my most favorite investigations were here, which was delightful. If you can catch a rerun of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, DO IT. If that episode does not make you believe in the paranormal, that at least there is SOMETHING out there, nothing will. The same could be said for their investigation of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

Side Note: The Stanley is DEFINITELY haunted. I don't want to make this post any longer than it is already going to be, but Eleanor's dad and I stayed there on a trip eight years ago. We did one of the ghost tours, and then investigated on our own after that was done. We heard the children up on the 4th floor say hello after Chase asked if there was anyone there who wanted to play a game of hide and seek. As we left that hallway I heard the sound behind me of a hand dragging along the wall; every time I stopped, it stopped a moment later. I also got a photo where you can see the outline of a child in the reflection off the patio door. Additionally, both Chase and I are incredibly heavy sleepers, but both nights I was woken up by sound coming from the room above us, of what sounded like furniture or something being dragged across a hardwood floor, and of very loud stomping around in what sounded like boots or some other thick-soled show. When I asked at the front desk the morning of check-out, I was informed that when the hotel was the private residence of the Stanley family, the 4th floor had hardwood floors, but as a hotel all the floors had had carpet for many decades now. During the time the Stanleys lived there, the 4th floor had been the nursey and place where the children and nannies played and slept, as well as the maids and their children, I believe. This was such a cool experience, nothing felt malicious. It was so peaceful.

Back to the book though, otherwise I will be telling ghost stories all night.

We do get some backstory on the show regulars, but the main focus remained on the cases that came their way. I can appreciate this on one level, because they are professionals and want to remain recognized as such. We saw their personalities come out on the show, but I was hoping for a bit more in-depth look at how/why they got into the business and what keeps them going. I believe Jason wrote the bulk of the material, as it is written very much the same way that he speaks. Jason is very matter-of-fact and strict, while Grant is a bit more easy going but not totally (especially when a crew member messes up big-time in a way they should not have because they should know better).

You would not necessarily have to be a fan of the show to find this book interesting. They are very thorough and professional, explaining things that one with an interest in the paranormal would already know, such as the equipment most of often used, what it does, etc. The cases are presented in short chapters so you could read quite a few at once if you were interested. You wouldn't even have to read the cases in order, but could find the ones most interesting to you first. I personally wish the chapters would have been a bit longer, with a bit more depth to each case; there is only so much you can see in an hour of television after all, and less than that when you take into account commercials, the lead-up to the investigation, the walk-through, and the final analysis. That leaves you with maybe 20-25 minutes of actual investigation shown, when they record hours, and sometimes on multiple nights.


I adore Josh Gates. He is exactly the person you would want to travel with because first of all, he is a riot; sarcastic and snarky and witty and intelligent. Even if something really shitty happened on your travels, you could count on Josh to at least make you laugh your ass off about it. His current show is Expedition Unknown, but this book deals exclusively with his first series, Destination Truth.

The premise of this show involved Josh and his team investigating various legends (Bigfoot, the Ri, Chupacabra, etc) and various location deemed haunted (holy shit, the episode filmed at The Great Wall of China was fucking lit and I would never in a million years want to be there after dark) to try to come sort of conclusion. This involves the team researching information, heading out, Josh trying all the disgusting food each locale has to offer, the team getting some sort of vehicle that definitely looks like it could explode or break down or both, and some really great footage of beautiful countries that most people will never see in-person in their lifetime. My only complaint is actually about the show, not the book, in that the team did two locations per show. I wanted so much more time at the haunted locations!

So, obviously, the paranormal action was my favorite. I didn't mind the other stuff, but I am always down for a good ghost hunt. There are several episodes where I was not disappointed. The first is the episode at The Great Wall, which I already mentioned. Other great investigations include spending the night in the tomb of King Tut in the Valley of the Kings (Josh totally hates camels and it is hilarious whenever he has to ride one), the ruins of Petra, ruins of once-mighty Incan cities, Easter Island, Angkor Wat, and my most most most favorites: investigations at Masada, Pompeii, and Chernobyl.

What I love most about this book, besides the behind-the-scenes glimpses, the in-depth information on the locations/legends, and the great photos, was Josh himself. It felt like having a conversation with an old friend and as I was reading I could hear him speaking the words, and not my own internal voice going. That is the mark of an exceptional writer, which Josh proved to be. I was a bit cautious at first; just because one is witty and intelligent on camera, does not guarantee the same result in a different medium. Luckily, the book is just as great as any episode. Josh is incredibly articulate and knowledgeable (something obvious if you watch the show for two seconds), and I found myself laughing out loud constantly at his narration of all the things we didn't see when filming, because they are actually on location for days and sometimes week. Yet everything gets condensed down into one twenty-minute segment, two segments per hour-long episode. There were definitely times I was grossed out (same as on the show; the team ate some pretty yucky stuff), and also time a chill ran down my spine remembering some of the spookier investigations.

For Josh, the 'traveler' part is as important as any part of the investigation. He is a world traveler in every sense of the word and stresses the importance of this throughout the text. It is not enough to take in famous tourist traps wherever you happen to be (but I'll be damned if I am not going to the Tower of London on my next trip to the UK), but to truly become a traveler. When it is safe to do so, leave the beaten path and find the hidden gems. It will always be worth it and the memories will last a lifetime.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not simply a rehashing of every single investigation. Josh shares plenty of information about the locations his teams went to, but he is also constantly encouraging people to go out an explore. This does not mean you have to get lost in a jungle looking for velociraptor-like creature; it simply means get out of your comfort zone and find something new about the world you didn't know before. Josh gives tons of advice on how to do this, and perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book is the point where Josh gives the reader a lesson in how to not be a total d-bag when you travel internationally (I would say this is a great lesson for Americans, but those of us who feel the need to travel so desperately would probably not insist everyone speak English to us to begin with, so...)

There are so many one-liners throughout the book, much like on the show, that I wanted to share dozens and dozens. This mini-review has rapidly turned into a regular-sized review, so I will share only this one, which came from their Egyptian adventures:

"To make matters worse, the entire country is an infrastructural disaster. After they erected the greatest civilization in the history of the planet, it's as though the Egyptians said, 'Okay. That's enough. Let's just call it a day for the next 5,000 years'" (page 198).

So perfectly Josh, and I am here for it. I love his dry humor and that is part of what made me love the show so much. Even when I was less interested in whatever monster they were looking for, I could always count on his narration of events to keep me hooked.

Perhaps my biggest take away from all this though is that, despite all the adventures he has had, all the evidence he and his team have captured at dozens of locations all around the world, Josh still can not say for sure where or not he believes in ghosts. The things he has seen and done would make a believer out of me in an instant, and I think this gives him even more credibility. All of that, and he still says he is not sure.

Though it would help to understand some of the stories, and to appreciate his wry and sarcastic humor, it is not necessary to have seen the show. This is as much a travelogue as it is a memoir, and it is deliciously perfect.

9267564. sy475  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The first time I saw an episode of River Monsters was a night that Eleanor's dad was sitting on my couch with Eleanor in his lap while I got in a shower and pumping and everything else I could not do before he came over after work, because I literally held my baby all day and it was glorious.

I took one look, said, "This guy is crazy," and went back to whatever I was doing.

Little did I know, Jeremy Wade would soon become a very important member of our household and I would see the episodes on Netflix so often, I would have them memorized. More on that in a bit.

If you are unfamiliar with Jeremy Wade, I can give you some quick backstory. He is a biologist and basically travels the world in much the same fashion as Josh Gates, looking for monsters of a different kind. He is searching for monster-sized fish, and most of the time he finds them. No location is too remote, not legend or story too dangerous to deter him from catching his fish. This book goes even deeper, and we get great insight into Jeremy's life and career and we see the work that goes into tracking down information, speaking to locals about the specific species, and then how he goes about planning to catch (and release) these mighty beasts. I am not by any stretch of the imagination what you would call an "outdoor girl", so the fact that I could not only watch episode after episode, but read a book on the very same subject, should be pretty telling about Jeremy's ability to tell a great story and keep you coming back for more.

One of the things I appreciate most about Jeremy Wade is that he truly cares about the natural world and these fish he is seeking out. He never sought them out to catch them and kill them or keep them; it was solely to see if there was truth to the legends or myths he had discovered, and to find what creature could be behind such stories. He is a conservationist above all else and he speaks - both on the show and in the book - of these fish in such a way that you can tell he feels this is deeply important. This is his mission, his life's work, to bring attention to these beautiful, deadly, fascinating wonders and show how humans are impacting even those who live in the most out-of-the-way locations. Fish populations are dwindling rapidly and we are 100% the cause. This is not something Jeremy can abide and his passion for his career shines both in the show and on the page.

With this one, like the others, it is not terribly necessary that you see the shows before you read the book. I think anyone who has an interest in travel and remote locations would find Jeremy's stories of interest, even if you are not necessarily into the actual fishing aspect of the show, as was my case. It was so fascinating to watch him collect information, interact with local populations in his pursuit, and - more often than not - come away with footage of the elusive fish he was after that day.

Now, going back to the quick story of how Jeremy Wade and River Monsters became a staple in our household. As I said, Chase would watch it sometimes when he would come over after work in those early days after Eleanor was born. Eleanor was never a fussy baby, there was no time when she would just scream her head of for no reason. She would get restless sometimes, I guess is the best way to describe it? When it happened, she would get very wiggly and honest to God, the only thing that would settle her was River Monsters. It was not just the sound of Jeremy's voice, but also his British accent (she truly is her mother's daughter, I am a total sucker for a beautiful boy with a British accent). I would turn on River Monsters and as soon as she would hear him speak she would become still and listen. She would try to look in the direction that his voice was coming from, and it never failed, BOOM. Calm baby.

I thought it would be really cool if I could somehow contact Jeremy Wade to share my story about Eleanor, maybe even get him to sign a birthday card for her first birthday (I thought of this sometime in the spring; she is a July baby). I scoured the Internet and found an email address for him, but the website did not look like it had been updated in quite a while, so I thought chances were slim that the email would reach him.

Except, IT DID!!!

I had asked if he would be able to sign a birthday card and explained how we called him 'Uncle Jeremy' because it was like he was part of our family, and how he was always be able to calm my restless baby girl. I even sent him a few photos of Eleanor, and a disc with a couple short clips of her watching the show; as she got older and was no longer a restless newborn, she would still drop everything the moment she heard his voice. He responded that this was perfect timing, because he was back in the production office for a very short time before heading back out again to film. I sent off the small package right away and hoped it would arrive before he departed. Within just two short weeks, I received a package back; not only had Jeremy signed the card as well as some smaller promotional photos, he specifically signed the card 'from your Uncle Jeremy', I am forever grateful, because that is a keepsake that Eleanor will cherish forever.

Fish on!


  1. Replies
    1. To which part??

      After looking at this today, I regret my decision to make it all one post, haha

    2. no, it's just a subject i don't pay a whole lot of attention to, but is sort of startling...

    3. Ahhh, gotcha. River Monsters probably should not have been in this post either, because the show isn't really about monsters, just monster-sized fish. But I loved all three dearly and miss them terribly. They're just about the only 'reality' television that I watch!

  2. Ghost Hunters sounds cool! I love that sort of thing but I also have an overactive imagination and would get freaked out reading it, lol.
    Destination Truth sounds like it would be more my thing based on your description of the writer's "voice" (I love me snark, wit and intelligence!) but again, I'd end up scaring myself. :)
    River Monsters would be an epic no from me! It sounds weird but I'm more afraid of water beasties than I am of ghosts. *shrugs*

    1. The show might actually be better for you than the book, for Ghost Hunters anyway. Then you see what they see and then your imagination can't runaway like it could with the book.

      Destination Truth is absolutely awesome! Even if it was just about Josh Gates traveling the world, I would watch it. I have seen a lot of episodes of Expedition Unknown and like it too, but DT has a special place in my heart. I hope he continues to write about his travels.

      I am TERRIFIED of natural water. Obviously because there could be sharks. And everyone laughed at me when I said this, until some random B movie came out called Shark Lake where a guy put SHARKS INTO A LAKE! So, yeah, I don't go into natural water more than a couple feet from shore. Seeing Jeremy Wade's passion for these fish, and how beautiful some of them truly are, is pretty cool. You might be okay with the book, but definitely not the show!


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