Hey kids, do you like ghosts? Jason and Grant do. Who are Jason and Grant? They're two guys who spend their days working for Roto-Rooter installing toilets and fixing pipes, and at night head out all around the East Coast of these here United States either proving or, just as frequently, disproving evidence of paranormal activity. This unlikely hit has done good things for SyFy, proving to be one of their longest lasting and more popular original series, which just goes to show that there are a lot of people out there with an interest in this type of material. There have been a couple of spin-offs so far (Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Hunters Academy) but the original is still the most popular thanks to its interesting mix of supernatural sleuthing and the regular cast members who make up the investigative team.
At any rate, Jason and Grant formed TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society - a group that specializes in using high tech equipment, with a deft blend of common sense, experience, education and speculation to figure out what some people consider to be actual hauntings. Ghost Hunters Season Five Part One gives them a chance to, with cameras rolling, do their thing and the results are pretty interesting. Grant and Jason aren't the only members of the team, however. There's a heavily tattooed ex-cop named Steve who helps out with the cameras, a technical expert named Dave Tango, and a few other experts out to lend a helping hand.
The series has been airing on Sci-Fi/SyFy for the better part of a half a decade at this point, but Jason and Grant still manage to find a lot of interesting places to investigate. Not every investigation produces chillingly eerie results, which is what makes this series more believable than rips off like Ghost Adventures (where every investigation seems to yield all the evidence that the viewer could hope for). This first half of the show's fifth season, however, has some pretty good episodes. Here's a look:
Betsy Ross Hoss: The team head to Pennsylvania to visit the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia where specters haunt the basement and the museum of the home where the American flag was created.
Star Island: T.A.P.S. journeys to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to investigate some strange happenings on the remote Star Island and then to nearby Gilford to check out the supposedly haunted Kimball Castle.
Edith Wharton Estate: In their home state, the Ghost Hunters explore this massive old home after dark which was once home to a the noted author who was obsessed with the supernatural.
Cuban Club: T.A.P.S. heads south to Florida where they explore the Cuban Club, rumored to be haunted by the ghost of an actor who died there. They later venture to The Trelles Clinic which was once run by a doctor and is now apparently haunted by various spirits.
Belcourt Castle: In this episode the team heads next door to Rhode Island where they return to a castle they'd previously investigated. With new equipment and more experience under their belt, will they be able to make any more conclusive statements as to the legitimacy of the haunting?
Atlanta Aquarium: The Titanic Exhibit was on display when the T.A.P.S. crew was called out to investigate the aquarium where some strange occurrences seemingly related to the exhibit were occurring on a fairly regular basis.
Spalding Inn: T.A.P.S. calls in the Ghost Hunters International team to explore this old inn that Jay and Grant actually purchased and have been fixing up. There's a weird history here and some interesting results are captured on EVP and camera.
Essex County Hospital: This amazing and mammoth structure that was once a mental hospital provides the setting for one of the stand out episodes of the season. The place is just creepy as creepy can be and the less you know going in, the better.
Ladouceur House: Back in their home state once again, T.A.P.S. where the owners claim to have seen some very eerie things in the basement of the house.
Samuel Mudd House: Dr. Samuel Mudd was very much on the side of the Confederates during the Civil War. His spirit supposedly haunts his old home and T.A.P.S. is on hand to see what's up.
Thornbury Farm: More Civil War high jinks are the focus of this episode where they explore the Thornbury Farmhouse in Pennsylvania where a bloody battle played out during the Revolutionary War. They later explore a farm in nearby Virginia where part of the Civil War played out. Spooky!
Essex County Jail: T.A.P.S. goes back to New Jersey to check out an old jail which is eerie enough on its own just to look at but which provides some interesting evidence upon the investigation.
This is one of those shows that skeptics will have no problems picking apart, as it's really just nigh-impossible to prove or disprove how much of what T.A.P.S. is legitimate or not. That said, it makes for interesting and sometimes very spooky viewing. The crew does go to some very interesting locations and each episodes provides a mini history lesson of what happened. The 'reveals' at the end are always interesting and while the show is, at this point, pretty formulaic in how it plays out and how it is structured, the appeal of just maybe seeing evidence of the supernatural never really gets old. Approach the series as you would any other 'reality show' and know that parts of it are probably altered for the camera if not flat out staged, but enjoy the entertainment value that it provides and if you learn something, consider it a bonus.
The series is shot on video and sometimes with infrared cameras and under less than ideal lighting conditions but for the most part, everything comes through looking pretty good. There's some video noise in a few spots but that's part and parcel with the format and the way that this series has been shot. Overall there aren't any serious issues with the transfer in terms of mpeg compression artifacts, edge enhancement, or damage to the elements used for the presentation. It doesn't look perfect, nor will it ever, but it is definitely watchable.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is on par, in terms of presentation quality, with the video in that the way that it was recorded and the conditions under which it was recorded have affected the audio quality. Thankfully, again like the video, the dialogue comes through clean and clear and the added background music never really drowns anything out or hurts anything much at all. There aren't any problems in terms of hiss or distortion and while there are some fluctuations with the levels, for the most part this track is fine.
Extras are slight in this set but on the third disc you'll find a collection of twelve deleted scenes with a combined running time of over an hour and a half. Most of this material was cut for reason and doesn't really change the quality of any of the episodes, but often times bits of it are quite interesting, and there are some fairly frightening segments included here that maybe should have been included in the broadcast versions of the respective episodes that they were snipped from. Aside from that, there's not much here save for some very simple menus and episode selection.
Ghost Hunters is broadcast on SyFy a lot so much of this material will probably be very familiar to regular viewers of the show, but anyone interested in having the series on video can consider this set recommended. Some commentary tracks or interviews sure would have been welcome but there's a lot of deleted bits here that certainly adds some value to the show, while the audio and video presentation, if not reference quality, is fine. Consider Ghost Hunters Season Five Part One recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.