B.G. Hilton – Author

In Search Of S03E21 Ghostly Stakeout

“Ghostly Stakeout”. Sounds like the most awesome 1980s comedy that never was. A rule-bound cop must team up with a streetwise ghost to stop a drug cartel or something. Eddie Murphy could be the ghost… maybe Robert Duval as the cop? Just spitballing here…

Leonard Nimoy's In Search Of Ghostly Stakeout
Creepy-ish house, I guess. Seen creepier, you know?

Unfortunately, “Ghostly Stakeout” isn’t quite so much fun as that. The intro implies that the episode will be a re-enactment-polusa, but when we get into the episode proper we move straight into dullness. The extraordinarily un-edifying Sylvia Browne is in a trance to contact a malevolent spirit in  a supposedly haunted house. She mutters some new-age/pop-Christian buzzwords during a séance. The In Search Of… cameras supposedly pick up the image of something moving, but even Nimoy wonders out loud if it’s just an electronic glitch.

Nimoy stands in a spooky house, giving a well-delivered if underwhelmingly written monologue about ghosts, and we move on to a crappy looking California house. We see a team of ‘ghosthunters’ getting ready for their ghostly stakeout.

We’re given the background – in the olden days there was a mysterious tragedy at the house and now it’s haunted. That’s some killer research, guys. Just killer. The researcher speaks to the ranch house to find out what happened. I hope they get back to us with the end of that story.

The psychics – Sylvia Bronwne and Nick Nocerino – point at things for a while as they wander around the yard ‘picking up psychic impressions’. Then they talk to the spirits and find out what happened. Does this make the researcher seem kind of redundant? Honestly, yes.

Both psychics blather a bit. Nocerino says that ghosts move too fast to see, so he has to use high speed film. No really. He says that.

Eight minutes in and stuff all has happened. I’m watching three very boring people walk through an uninteresting building. I might as well be watching House Hunters. The researcher has pinned the date of the ghost causing event to the 1920s, so Sylvia blathers about parties because every 1920s house was owned by Jay Gatsby.

Seriously, there must have been unsociable homebodies back in the ’20s, surely?

The re-enactment begins, showing two 1920s-y people living in the house. The psychics start making up stories about the 1920s people as reenactors strut about in old timey clothes. The story leads towards the woman reenactor running away from the male reenactor in the direction of a cliff.

Now we’re looking a local cowboy, and it’s just like we’ve gone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Zane Grey. He confirms the psychic’s story, apparently, though we don’t actually hear him say that. If he does genuinely confirm the story, this also confirms that the story is public knowledge. Make of that what you will.

The owners of the ranch (who, if you will recall, have not been quoted as saying anything out of the ordinary happened) say they’ll stay in the house (presumably, because nothing out of the ordinary happened).

However in other situations, homeowners are scared of ghosts! We move onto this chapter, elsewhere in California. A country inn in the Sierra Nevada is haunted, I guess. A journalist was contacted because the property was supposedly haunted. The guy who built the house supposedly went insane. So maybe he’s the one haunting it? I guess?

We’re talking now to a woman who was a guest in the inn, until she had a spooky experience. She woke up scared and heard noises but saw nothing. She said that she’d never stay there again.

The psychics and their spouses have dinner at the inn. They do some psychic paperwork in their pyjamas (seriously). An owl hoots. Nick hears strange noises, apparently, and goes looking for vibrations. So does Sylvia. The music and lighting are doing its best to make things spooky. Honestly, though, there’s only so much you can do to turn two middle-aged, pyjama-clad people standing in the corridor of a comfy hotel into a horror movie.

The next day, they go to the grave of the guy who built the house. Sylvia begins building a crappy romance novel about the guy and his wife. There’s a re-enactment of the house builder guy chained up in the basement. Nick apparently is hearing ghostly banjo music. Poor bastard.

It seems it’s the ghost of the wife of the bad inn builder who is haunting the building. Plot twist! The psychics spend the rest of the episode imposing imagined motivations on people who have been dead for centuries. And then they decide they can’t expel the spirit and move on.

Nimoy sums up, underlit by a creepy light, and leaning on the banister of a spooky house. This manages to be more atmospheric than anything in the actual ghostly part of the episode

This one is bad. Some of the ghost episodes on this show have been fun – they’ve been atmospheric, or at least contained cool stories. This one is just boring. Some people look at a house and make up stories about its former occupants. It’s residential fanfic, basically.

I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I do love a good ghost story. This is not a good ghost story.


Nimoy: “Ghost hunting is, at best, an inexact process.”

Summing up

Atmosphere: 5/10, Cheap reenactments: 5/10, Nimoyness: 7/10, Interesting guests: 2/10, Ghosts: 0/10. Overall: 19/50. Fail

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B.G. Hilton - Author