Monday, June 4, 2007

Total crap on the Eastern State ghost broadcast

I watched some of the crapfest on the Travel Channel Saturday night, in which two credulous/lying Brits attempted to scam an American audience into believing that Eastern State Penitentiary is haunted by the angry spirits of former prisoners. (See my previous post for background.) I could only take about an hour before grinding my teeth and turning the channel in disgust. I think the final straw was when the presenter referred to the site as East State Penitentiary. Next time I'm in London I'll be sure to swing by royal crib Birmingham Palace and mod clothing center Cannery Row. Close enough, right guv?

The fact that the entire thing was filmed in the same green-tinted night vision effect as the Paris Hilton sex tape didn't help me want to stay tuned either. (I know this, incidentally, from seeing's hilarious Gaping Maw review of the tape a few years ago, which I wanted a link to but which appears to have been removed owing to scary new government censorship regulations.) All of Center and what appeared to be Cellblock 5 were brightly illuminated with a massive amount of light, but the areas to be explored by a crew of "paranormal investigators" had to be filmed in darkness, for effect. Idiots.

Now, the funny thing there for the insider is that 5 block is likely the least structurally stable of the bunch, and it was most likely uncool city code-wise to have a large number of crew setting up
a large amount of lighting equipment in there. But management doesn't care; there's money to be made. The city isn't about to enforce it's own regulations at its/our own property either. Nor does the city seem to have the least bit of interest in enforcing city-wide ordinances against paranormal fraud, not even on their/our property. If you're interested in battling this sort of crap in our fair city, allow me to recommend contacting the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, or PhACT. I'm sending this info along to them as well, and I hope something comes of it.

If you believe the bad actors on Most Haunted, a person can't wander through ESP in the evening without being assaulted by "astrals," who caused two of the crew to seek medical attention (I want to see some medical records!) if we believe these clowns in front of the camera. This comes as quite a surprise to those of us former employees who spent many evenings in the place, both for after-work exploration fun and guiding amateur ghost-hunting dorks, without so much as an astral paper cut or psychic wedgie to show for it.

For reasons well beyond human understanding, the "astrals" can
transcend death itself, but can't appear in daylight, not even by flashlight. That's not even good sci-fi/fantasy writing, which at least adheres to an internal logic. "The ghosts are afraid of... something or other!" Daytime TV perhaps. I'm no fan of Susan Lucci myself.

Also a mystery is why, even though 99% of the people who did time in the prison didn't die there, the spirits would fly back to prison for all eternity. Especially confusing is the issue of the "psychics" experiencing the spirits' anguish of the solitary system, even though many of those prisoners only spent up to two years in those conditions, while the vast majority of the relative handful of
prisoners who died there did so in the congregational years. The background mystery to all of the ghost nonsense is why our hospitals and hospices aren't the scary haunted places, what with all the misery and dying there. Perhaps the lighting is too good, or maybe (after)life insurance doesn't cover it. Apparently the spirit thinks "I shall transcend space and time! I shall cheat death and stalk the Earth! But instead of hanging out in the dressing room at a local strip club, I'll hang out in the crappy cell I did a few years in for that robbery and wait throughout eternity to pinch a member of a camera crew!"

The Most Haunted team has been thoroughly discredited in Britain itself, which might account f
or the push to move to American TV. According to this story filed by the BBC, "this programme should be seen in the light of shows where techniques are used which mean the audience is not necessarily in full possession of the facts." A tactful way of calling the show total BS. The low point came when the "team" tossed a note wrapped around a stone "at the ghosts" (off camera) and it was "thrown back" (from off camera). That wouldn't fool kids at a Punch & Judy show, at least not the ones who came on the long bus.

The attitude of the current management is also BS. They aren't true believers in this "astrals" crap, they just want to remain silent and let the "experts" declare the place haunted while taking their (smaller) cut of the swag. The site is owned by all of us and should be a center of understanding of very critical problems we're facing on the crime and incarceration front. Instead a handful of dolts who lik
e to pretend they're museum professionals are using the site as a platform for raking in dough by sowing the seeds of paranormal hysteria. If you want to let the ringmaster of the bullshit know how you feel about this use of your tax dollars and this public perception of your city, contact him personally at this email address:
The operable name of our small-scale P.T. Barnum is Sean Kelley.

You might find this useful:
"Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. works to preserve and restore the architecture of Eastern State Penitentiary; to make the Penitentiary accessible to the public; to explain and interpret its complex history; to place current issues of corrections and justice in an historical framework; and to provide a public forum where these issues are discussed. Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. carries out these activities using the highest standards in educational and public programming, and in conservation. While the interpretive program advocates no specific position on the state of American prisons, the program is built on the belief that the problems facing Eastern State Penitentiary’s founders have not yet been solved, and that the issues these early prison reformers addressed remain of central importance to our nation. Adopted by the Board of Directors, December 1999."
Just as I suspected, not a damn thing about Casper. You might get some nonsense in reply about how the ghost tour crap raises funds for the other programs at the prison, or how lying to the public about hauntings helps support the educational mission. This is BS and should be treated as such. The prison flies staff to conferences on the latest in haunted house technology, but not to serious history conferences. The prison pays theater professionals for a one-month Elvira-style frightfest production but let people with graduate degrees in the social sciences go, only to replace them with audio wands and cheaper, less educated staff. The prison (over)pays local rock radio for haunted house ads. Essentially the prison, from a financial standpoint, is a haunted house and gift shop with some history stuff appended as an afterthought. A competent historical museum staff could be running a world-class interpretive center in the black, with an educational mission, and with a shred of dignity and credibility.


Anonymous said...

This from a publication calling itself "Catalyst II," put out by the "Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia--Two Forces. One Vision." I get these types of newsletters at my job.

LUKOIL with ESP Historic Site:
After LUKOIL sponsored "Terror Behind the Walls" last Halloween.

Quote: "the result: Attendance increased by 20%, which generated additional revenue for the historic site and significantly raised awareness for LUKOIL's roll-out of a new brand in the region."

Perhaps the new brand for ESP should be new and improved whoredom, now completely guilt-free.

QuizMasterChris said...

I believe this might be the same year that ESP expanded its days from 5 to 7. That's 40% more days available for tourists to come in, so if one increases visitation by 20% it's really not keeping pace.

Kinda an important fact to put in any recitation of numbers like that, eh? I'm willing to bet that didn't make the newsletter...

There is the further irony of Lukoil being highly tied to Russian organized crime. The less said about the selling out of cultural institutions to large for-profits in general, the better...