April 17, 2009
GH: Gaither Plantation
This investigation aired as a 2nd-halfer to the Georgia Aquarium (Titanic Exhibit) investigation and joining TAPS again were Joe & Diana Avena, two investigators local to the Atlanta, GA area. The Gaither plantation was an old cotton plantation built in the decade prior to the U.S. Civil War and among other things Confederate soldiers were rumored to have been quartered on the premises, and perhaps some died on the property as well.
During the years Ghost Hunters has been on television we've seen Jay go home (or back to the hotel) sick a handful of times, one just recently in fact, but I believe this investigation may mark the first time Grant has taken ill. Before the investigation proper began he apparently headed back to his room and Jay spent the evening investigating with Joe Avena. Those who have been reading my writeups for a while and who watched the investigation will likely know exactly where I am going next with this. One of my pet peeves about TAPS (and this problem doesn't seem to exist with GHI) is the way women investigators are treated differently than the men. In this case, Diana's husband was co-opted by Jason so she was relegated to investigating with "the girls" Kris & Amy. In my mind, it would have been nice if Jay investigated with both Joe and Diana but failing that she could have investigated with Steve & Tango or she could have switched off and investigated with Joe (who I assume to be her husband) later in the night. Instead, the only time we see a three-person investigation team seems to be when they have an extra female to assign to put on the all-girls team.
Out of the entire property, the only place their host seemed afraid to venture was the attic in the main house. Jay & Joe went up their and began hearing footsteps. Citing an old investigation technique he and Grant used to use years ago, Jay thought it would be interesting to sprinkle flour on the ground and see if any imprints appear in the white powder — not a bad idea, especially if you want to rule out rodents as a possible cause for the sounds. I did find it slightly contrived however, because we've never seen them do this before and Jay claimed to come up with the idea spontaneously, but he had a bag of flour right outside in the car. Even if we're being generous I think we have to at least assume it wasn't spontaneous at all and Jay had been planning on using the "old flour trick". I mean, unless we're supposed to believe he'd been planning on bringing it back to the hotel to make his own pancakes.
More worrying is the interpretation of results: After a while they notice what seems to be a shoe-print in the flour, and closer examination finds two more prints, leading from one end of the attic towards the stairs. Immediately they sought to rule out their own footprints and those of their camera operator. Right there that tells me they weren't sure whether or not they might have stepped in the flour and contaminated their evidence, and that's a pretty stupid thing to not be 100% sure about. The next thing that occurred to me was that this is the sort of test that "rules in" normal explanations. In other words, if you sprinkled flour all over the floor of a room and came back later to find the furniture all rearranged but absolutely no disturbance to the flour, that would be extremely interesting. However if you saw the furniture was rearranged and there were footsteps entering the room, all over the floor, and leaving again, it would be pretty safe to assume an actual person was to blame.
Instead, despite believing it was possible they might have contaminated their own evidence they came up with excuses why it probably wasn't any of them, and therefore must be a spirit or something. Running with that for a moment, we've heard so much about "residual" activity including sounds like footsteps when the floor itself isn't even vibrating (thanks to those geophones a few investigations back) so what exactly are we supposed to believe now? That sometimes disembodied footsteps (or the sound of furniture being moved, etc) are just sounds playing over and over like a recording, and sometimes there is actually an invisible person there that wears invisible shoes and is subject to the laws of gravity pushing down onto the floorboards despite not being visible or tangible in any other way?
Worse, it looked to me like the shoe-prints in the flour had tread marks to them. I'm no expert on shoemaking, but it occurs to me that any shoes made in the 1800's would likely have smooth leather soles, not rubber soles with the intricate tread patterns we find normal on today's shoes. In short, absolutely nothing about their interpretation of the flour evidence makes very much sense at all.
There were only two other noteworthy events from this investigation, and one of which seemed to be mentioned only in passing. During the reveal a recording is played for the client where someone asks a question and gets 3 knocks in response. I don't recall seeing this during the investigation and I'm a little confused why something TAPS would normally consider extremely impressive seemed to be shoved into 10 seconds of episode time. The second bit was a buffet cabinet door swinging open by itself — another thing that actually seems quite impressive, except again Jay & Grant seem to bizarrely play it down.
They show the video of the door opening on its own, and while the video isn't clear enough that we could definitely rule out hoaxing with fishing line, ignoring that possibility it really doesn't seem to leave a lot of room for reasonable explanation. They even said they pulled the door open by hand and noted it didn't swing nearly as far, so for it to open the way it did on camera would require a significant amount of force, yet after seemingly ruling out the possibility that it just swung open from a vibration or breeze, Grant laments that it didn't close by itself and suggests their guide install a magnetic latch and see if it still opens of its own accord.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not convinced the buffet door opening was paranormal. It's entirely possible that someone walking directly above it might cause a vibration that happens to jar the door loose with enough force to open it as seen, but after the big-to-do about the flour I found the sudden hardcore skepticism surrounding the cabinet door to be disturbingly odd. I must say, I really miss Monsterquest and Destination Truth because I feel like those investigations give their audience a consistency TAPS just doesn't seem to have. It really seems to me that if you take the same piece of evidence and place it in three different investigations, one time TAPS will shout from the rooftops how impressively paranormal it is, another time they will say it's inconclusive, and the third time they'd offer up some flimsy explanation that doesn't really fit and call it a solid debunk.
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