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Ghost Asylum S01E02 – Kuhn State Hospital

imageFor this episode, the members of Tennessee Paranormal Society head to Mississippi to investigate the Kuhn State Hospital. The hospital was established in 1832 and has been the scene of some nasty events. It certainly housed victims of smallpox as well as the injured in the Civil War. It was also a mental hospital and prison. As with most asylums of the day, lobotomies, ice baths and electroshock were prescribed regulary. It would also be pretty hard to image that there wasn’t some sort of abuse or mistreatment of both patients and prisoners. Like other facilities, it seems this was built to store the unwanted of society rather than take care of them.

As we learned from the previous episode, the goal of the team is to actually capture spirit energy. To that end they are working to devise a "trap" that can hold the energy while at the same time giving some sort of measurement reading to prove they actually have it. It’s certainly an interesting idea (and yes, it sounds like the plot of Ghostbusters), but can something like that actually be done? Can you really hold spirit energy the same way you store energy in a battery? Does the technology and know how exist to make it happen. And more importantly, is this group the one that will make it happen?

The reports for such a place could be guessed before talking with anyone. "You can feel their presence when you walk in the door", full bodies apparitions and shadow figures that roam through the halls and come darting at you when you view them straight on. Really the only thing missing was the footsteps and the glowing red eyes. Perhaps those were claims but were just edited out.

The part I do like about this show is they take baseline readings during the day and the team sticks around for more than just one night. At least they can get a sense of the building and understand some of the noises it makes so they don’t think every bump and creak is paranormal. It’s also nice to not see orbs or flying dust particles mistaken for paranormal events. They do seem to get a few hits during the daylight hours and from this they mark their "hotspots".

As the investigation goes along it appears the entities are attracted to Brandon who has Asperger’s. Back in the day, this would have been seen as a mental disorder and someone like Brandon would have found themselves as a patient in such a facility. The team feels that Brandon is seen as a kindred spirit and the energy is attracted to him.

As they make their way around the massive 40,000 sqft facility they hear the usual bangs and bumps and get repeated hits on their mel meter and K2. I can’t say I’m satisfied with either of these devices, but they were making noises and have  flashing lights. If that’s an indication of the paranormal then so be it.

The trap they create and set up consists of a doorframe, some glass sheets in the frame and a crystal suspended in the center. The crystal is supposed to hold the energy and they’ve added lasers so they can see if anything is moving within the panes of glass.

To be honest, I’m not sure which trap seems the most unusual. I know many people feel that crystals focus and contain energy, but are you able to capture a spirit with one? And especially in this sort of contraption?

The team uses lasers to "herd" the spirits toward Brandon who is trying to lure them into the container. The meters go off, bangs are heard and in the end they feel they’ve captured something in the crystal. However, when they get it back to Tennessee they aren’t able to get any readings to confirm they have something in their trap.

As they review the evidence they pull up footage of what they believe is a full-bodied apparition. Tucked away in the corner is a mass that seems to reveal itself then disappear. What do we have there? Is this an actual spirit or "matrixing" that makes you try and make out shapes and patterns even though they don’t really exist?

This wasn’t a bad follow up episode, but I’m in no way convinced their "trap" is going to work nor do I believe their "inventions" are inventions at all. Putting a diffuser on the end of a laser pointer isn’t an invention. Brandon may be a bit of a tinkerer, but to say he’s an inventor might be stretching things.

While this isn’t a bad show, it’s by no means great. Sometimes the low tech answer is the way to go, but I don’t know if you’re going to catch a ghost with door frame parts you find at a hardware store. But as with so many of these shows, it’s about the location and story behind it rather than actually capturing evidence. I was unaware of Kuhn State Hospital before this episode, but there is a fair bit of information out there. I’m sure going inside and wandering through the halls would be a thrilling adventure. Here’s a couple interesting links to begin your own research.

Additional information on Kuhn State Hospital:

Pictures of Kuhn State Hospital at Abandoned Playgrounds – Notice how the buildings lay out in the form of a cross.
Abandoned Mississippi: Kuhn Memorial State Hospital
Pictures of Kuhn Memorial Hospital at World of Decay

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Ghost Asylum S01E01

imageA new show has entered the paranormal arena, Ghost Asylum, put on by Destination America which follows the investigations of the Tennessee Wraith Chasers (TWC). For their inaugural episode the team heads to Scottsville, Kentucky to investigate the Old War Memorial Hospital which served as both a hospital and an asylum until it was closed in the late 90’s. It’s an old abandoned hospital that now servers as a Halloween attraction. People report all sorts of activity including voices, shadow figures, apparitions, footsteps and the appearance of one of the old doctors. An interesting location to be sure.

The TWC team is to do more than just capture evidence and sounds of the paranormal – their goal is to actually capture a spirit. Yes, indeed, their stated goal is to actually capture and contain spirit energy. The stuff of Ghostbusters fame is going to be attempted for real. Is it really possible to contain the essence of spirit energy? And what would happen to the entity if such a thing could be done?

To be honest, I’ve had my fill of paranormal shows and while I’m always ready to see what they have to offer, Ghost Asylum won’t have me as a fan. You don’t even have to watch the show to know there will be a blip on the Mel Meter, a jump on the K2, a shadow figure and some horribly grainy and low voice speaking to them. This is nothing more than a rinse and repeat of everything else that’s been on in the last 8 years. At least these guys stay and do more than one night’s worth of investigations and they actually go into the location during the day to get some baseline readings. They at least get credit for that.

The hook to make their show different is the want to actually capture a spirit. That actually sounds incredibly interesting and ambitious, but when it all comes together it almost laughable like some horrible high school science fair project gone wrong.

Their "ghost trap" consists of a couple layers of chicken wire, a capacitor and solar cells. The chicken wire is charged which draws in the spirit and then the capacitor captures the entity. On the one hand the idea sort of makes sense. If spirits are indeed energy then "storing" that energy in a battery is plausible. But when you see the whole thing cobbled together it doesn’t instill confidence in any sense of the word. Their experimental equipment makes me roll my eyes just it did for all the ridiculous gear I saw on Ghost Lab.

It’s really hard to believe that 5 guys from the hills of Tennessee are able to capture spirit energy using chicken wire and solar cells. Seems like it should be a little scientific and high tech. I suppose low tech answers can be just as good, but this seems a little silly.

Anyway, I’ll tune in for another episode just to see where this goes, but I doubt it’ll change my mind. Paranormal shows are all doing the same thing with the same cast of heavy set, beard wearing, I know how to make electronic devices no one has ever seen before, guys like every other show. The investigation is the same, the evidence is the same, hell even the shadow figures are the same. At least they aren’t gasping every time they hear a sound or standing with their mouth hanging open because they thing something crossed their path.

The timing is right for another paranormal adventure and I’m always looking for something new. I’ll see what next week brings, but I’m pretty sure I’ll just keep waiting.

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Penny Dreadful Season Finale

So, which one of these characters is Penny Dreadful? Well, there’s the rub. If you recall, a penny Dreadful was the name given to the 19th horror stories that were serialized in different publications. With that in mind, this series brings to life serial interesting literary characters. First, we have the hunt for what we assume is Dracula since Mina Harker has disappeared. Vanessa and Mina were childhood friends until Vanessa did a bad thing and seduced Mina’s fiance on the taxidermy table. Not a good way to keep friendships I’m afraid. She is aided by Sir Malcolm, who just happens to be Mina’s father and the mad who seduced Vanessa mother. Oh dear, what a tangled web we weave.

Next we have Dorian Gray, who lives a life of excess and decadence knowing his image will bear the brunt of his abuses. He has a fancy for Vanessa and a few other characters.

Helping to hunt down Dracula is Victor Frankenstein who has his own demons to wrestle with. Victor has a habit of dabbing with the undead and cobbling people together. It appears he just wants a friend and strangely enough he makes one. But the bromance doesn’t last as his previous creation comes back seeking vengeance for being abandoned by his creator. Now this new, unamed, creature wants a bride and has set a deadline for Frankenstein. This monster has no problem in ruining everything Victor has worked for.

And finally we have Ethan from the Bill Cody Wild West Show. He provides the muscle for this rag tag band and he happens to have a thing for his tuberculosis ridden love interest Brona. It’s a fairy tale romance of boy meets girl, it just happens this girl coughs up blood on a regular basis. She does have a tendency to put a damper on the evening but Ethan is willing to look past that.

So the search for Mina continues. The gang has run into several creatures that seem to stalk the night, but they haven’t found their king yet. Reinfield may hold the key, but he’s a little punch drunk at the moment to really offer anything solid.

Overall this is a slow moving show that is still introducing characters and building the plotline. It’s been a very short season with only 8 episodes, but that’s not a bad thing. That is just enough to get the main points across and set the wheels in motion. This isn’t a high action drama and there won’t be big explosions or car chases or ridiculous fight scenes. This is the 1800’s, things happen a little more slowly. You have to be patient. You can’t search through documents on a computer and you can’t just zip down to the lab to get something analyzed. That’s actually why I like these sorts of shows, you actually have to think a little bit.

In many ways this feels like Dracula or at least where I think Dracula was headed. That show had a slow build as well. It was trying to build layers and give the characters a solid background. I think they should have extended that show for a second season.

But anyway, an interesting show that should yield an interesting story for next year. I wonder which characters they’ll introduce next time around?

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Da Vinici’s Demons – Season 2 Finale

We catch back up with Da Vinci in a most unusual predicament. It seems he’s been captured by the Mayan’s or a culture that seems very similar to the Mayan’s and it’s believed they have the Book of Leaves. Oh my goodness, oh my damn, Da Vinci has to put his life in the hands of Riario for them to work together to snag the book and make their daring getaway, get back to Florence and find Da Vinci’s mother. And they have to do it before Florence collapses because Lorenzo Medici has been cut off by the Pope and the city now faces turmoil and bankrupcty. But here comes the bastard son, Carlo de’ Medici to help out his long last family and to help himself to, Clarice, the long lost wife or Lorenzo. Quite a bit of bed hopping we’ve got going on here.

But don’t feel back for Lorenzo, he’s seems to have found comfort in the arms of his own lost love, Ippolita, who just happens to be the wife of the crazed Alfonso, the guy who wants to kill Lorenzo at the dinner table. They’re a bit of a mad family that’s for sure. Their idea of entertainment leaves a little something to be desired. The game of the smack the horse in the ass and shoot the rope before it breaks your neck doesn’t seem all that fun.

The thing that’s interesting is the character of Riario. We learn he killed his own mother in the name of the Pope. He had no qualms with slaying her in the street, but yet he is utterly in love with Zita, the woman that offers herself to him while they’re at sea. Up to this point, Riario has been utterly heartless with a stern conviction to his cause and his beliefs. He has no room in life for anything else. But then we see his seemingly total commitment to Zita. When her life is put in danger, Riario stops at nothing to get her back. And when he’s faced with yet another challenge that puts her life in jeopardy, it appears to crush him both physically and emotionally. I wasn’t expecting that!

And we see that he and Da Vinci work very well together. They are strong will, smart and determined. Together it seems they will overcome the trials put before them. But, nothing last forever and once they find themselves back in Florence they realize they must once again be at odds with each other. But Riario finds himself in a desperate place. He has lost his love, his faith and his will to continue on with a quest he doesn’t believe in. But in the midst of his desperate act he is saved by a strange group that bring him into the fold and around to their way of thinking. Curse the bad luck, it’s the same group that Carlo is apart of and their goal is to bring down the Medici’s. Oh dear, back where we started from.

And it would be a season finale unless there was a cliffhanger so we present Lucrezia being sent as the messenger as the Turks line up to invade Alfonso, Lorenzo and of course Da Vinci himself. But Da Vinci has devised a plan and some cannons and he’s ready to light this candle when he makes the startling discover of who the mysterious prophet on the boat happens to be. Oh dear, he has a gun pointed a mom. This does not bode well.

I quite like Da Vinci’s Demons, it’s an interesting look, albeit quite fictionalized, at Da Vinci and the world in which his inventions and ideas took place. They’ve added some nice drama and made some interesting plot twists. Not all of them make sense I’ll admit, but they’re still fun to watch. I’m curious to see how Da Vinci deals with the impending attack and how he’s going to handle this strange new visitor. The person he’s been looking for in his grasp, but he might have just blown them up. Talk about bad timing.

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