The Othersiders is a new show on Cartoon Network where teen friends visit alleged haunted locations and perform so-called investigations, similar to the Ghost Hunters and Ghost Trackers. It’s fun to be scared and to imagine ghosts exists and places are haunted. I love all things paranormal and really wish  these supernatural concepts were supported by something more than good stories. Alas, poor ghost, I find popular ghost hunting activities extremely unscientific and self-deceiving.

The Othersiders will premier on June 17 – I have not seen any episodes yet (note the post date). From the website, we see they will be using the standard fair of sciencey-looking equipment – temperature indicators, electromagnetic field meters, night vision cameras (everything is in green), tape recorders.  Do they know what they are measuring or looking at? Since science has never described what a ghost should be or act like, why should one assume they are measuring the effects of a ghost?

There are also several other red flags on the website that suggest what the intent of this show will be. There is a ghost figure in the spinning night vision camera and other equipment, spooky sounds, “facts” about the places that are not facts at all but based on anecdotes, and the token skeptic who needs “hard core proof”.  The team members say “It’s real, it’s happening.” Sure it is, but WHAT is happening? I don’t think our interpretations will be exactly the same. However, I’m not in a creepy place at night expecting the unexpected.

Call me psychic (then again, please don’t), but I predict The Othersiders will follow the same formulaic pattern of all the other ghost shows. I bet I can make some spooky predictions about how it will go. See how many come true:

  • Investigators will visit places already aware of the popular haunting stories of the place, predisposing them to expect an experience. They will know which areas have the best stories. Bet on them being uncomfortable in these locations. They have been primed.
  • The focus will be on belief and terms like ‘proof ‘and ‘evidence’ will feed into that belief, not dispute it.  Stories and personal experiences will count heavily towards influencing belief.
  • There will be a lot of “I don’t know what that was but it was very weird.” (Cue the jump to paranormal conclusion.) Token skeptic will be shaken up. It’s hard to be left out when everyone else is having fun with the story.

“After each investigation, we’ll put up our verdict and let you make your own decision,” notes the website. This is a standard disclaimer for all paranormal-themed shows. You decide (after we show you an edited, biased, unconfirmed version of the events). Remember, it’s not real. It’s an edited, manipulated situation on TV.

I find interesting how obvious it is when “paranormal investigators” scare themselves and each other. They have started with the assumption that what they are investigating is paranormal. Bad move, very unscientific. What is most disturbing about these shows is that they send a message to impressionable teens trying to make sense of the world – the paranormal is a genuine explanation. Instead of being happy with, “Gee, that was weird”, they assume, “It was a spirit that haunts this place.” After 200 years of looking for ghosts, we still lack substantial evidence for spirit entities  – the best we have are stories and personal experiences. If we just get more of that from The Othersiders, what a waste. We could sure use something different.

If I am wrong and The Othersiders promotes critical thinking and logical explanations, not the supernatural, I will certainly applaud the creators. So, watch it, look for these themes, and ask questions.

Questions: Are they promoting a pro-paranormal viewpoint? What are some more normal explanations for these occurrences? Are activities being manipulated – are you being primed for what to see and hear at the locations and from the instruments?  Are they so psyched about ghosts that they find every little movement and noise to be “paranormal”?  Do they consider those or discard them in favor of more interesting causes – like spirits? Are they just freaking themselves out?

5 thoughts on “Will The Othersiders just scare themselves?

  1. I have 3 kids and as you might imagine the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network are frequently on my TV and because of this I have caught “The Othersiders” a few times. Quite honestly the show makes me weep for future humanity. It was bad enough when Ghost hunters was pimping this nonsense to adults but now kids are the target. I guess the producers pulled a page out of tobacco marketing for this one. To say that there is conformation bias is like saying water is wet. A bunch of teenagers are given all of this “ghost hunting equipment” that they have no clue how to use let alone interpret the data, and are put into an area or building that they are told is haunted. Every sound they hear, every anomaly that shows up is a ghost. Another hypothesis is rarely to never even suggested.

    Kids watch this show and because of they way it is presented they think that they are doing science. After all they have all this fancy equipment and equipment equals research. Just take a look at the forums for the Outsiders. About the only people that don’t believe in ghosts are the religious nut jobs who claim that the bible says ghosts are not real. How far do you have to fall from grace when the only rational people in your forum are religious zealots?

  2. Thanks Richard, I just completed some research on tobacco industry marketing, as a matter of fact. They were real scumbags. At least ghost hunting won’t (usually) get you killed. But it might get you shot. Your mileage may vary.

  3. I think that the othersiders is a great fact my favorite show.Many people think that watching stuff about ghosts is bad for kids,but its educational.

    1. I would not go so far as to say it is education more than any other non-reality reality TV show is educational. They leave out a lot and are not truthful or get the facts wrong. There is no science here, even the history is likely wrong. It’s OK to watch for entertainment but I’m sad that many people think whatever is done or said on television is the way life really is. It’s not.

  4. Wow! if that show is considered educational…. I am home schooling when I have kids. It’s not entertaining; it is annoying. The show is like taking all the brainless ditzy kids in my old junior high in a room together with cameras. Actually, I take that back. That would be more entertaining because at least there would be more variety and not just be a copy of Ghost Hunters. I pretty much just want to punch these teens in the face.

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