Two teams of paranormal investigators. Both have high TV ratings and several (mostly inferior) spin-offs. But which one is the real deal?

On one team you have a beatnik stoner (“Shaggy” Rogers) and his friends Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, and Velma Dinkley, along with Scooby Doo, a Great Dane with a weakness for snacks. This is an animated television series with fictional detectives investigating monsters and ghosts in absurd situations.

On the other side you have two guys, Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes, who seem to think they see better in the dark and enjoy using gadgets that blink and beep to look for spirits. This is a “reality” television series with fictional detectives investigating monsters and ghosts in absurd situations.

Who’s approaching ghost investigations the right way? Let’s evaluate them on the following criteria.


The Scooby Doo team’s methods vary; when Fred is in charge, he usually devises complicated traps for the monsters and ghosts, which Shaggy and Scooby often fall into and ruin. Velma, the brains of the bunch — who has nerdy sex appeal that her lumpy orange sweater barely contains — usually solves the mystery.

The Ghost Hunters team is led by two plumbers, who are likely excellent at investigating clogged drains, toilet leaks, and the latest innovation in faucets. There seems to be no particular scientific method to their “ghost hunt;” it’s mostly wandering around in the dark, hoping to record something they can’t explain.

The Ghost Hunters, like many other, untelevised “investigators,” engage in what’s called anomaly hunting. As I describe in my new book Investigating Ghosts: The Scientific Search for Spirits, anomaly hunting is a problematic investigation technique; it is not particularly useful in solving mysteries, and is in fact usually counter-productive. That’s because scientific paranormal investigation begins with a specific claim (e.g. “A ghost in my house throws plates at me”), which is then closely analyzed. Anomaly hunting reverses this process, essentially putting the investigator in the position of needlessly generating spurious new claims.

It’s the classic paranormal fallacy of arguing from ignorance (or personal incredulity): “I don’t understand X, therefore it’s an anomaly.” Scientists, unlike ghost hunters, have an idea of how to identify a true anomaly. Scientists educate themselves with reliable knowledge about the characteristics of what they’re studying; ghost hunters cannot. Alleged ghostly phenomena is very poorly defined and includes an impossibly wide variety of “signs,” including cold, heat, noise, silence, wind, fear, and so on.

Point goes to the Scooby Doo gang.

Guest Stars

Scooby Doo had awesome guest stars, ranging from The Three Stooges to the Harlem Globetrotters to Don Knotts, and even science fiction writer Harlan Ellison. By contrast, Ghost Hunters‘ guest “stars” were mostly fellow ghost hunters like Ben Hansen, Amanda Tapping, and Colin Ferguson — Who, you ask?


While a few notables showed up — probably having lost a bet or been blackmailed by their agents — such as singer Meat Loaf and former pro wrestler CM Punk, the roster was pretty thin, and several Ghost Hunter guest stars were caught faking evidence. Boo.

Point goes to the Scooby Doo gang.


Despite the fact that Scooby Doo is a cartoon and therefore has ample comedic content (including jokes, pratfalls, funny sound effects, and slapstick), the truth is that Ghost Hunters is actually a funnier show for those who understand scientific methodologies and competent investigative techniques.

It’s not clear whether the cast and crew of Ghost Hunters are aware of their slide into satire, which in some ways makes it even funnier (the clueless band members of Spinal Tap, for example, are funny precisely because they are not in on the joke). Ghost Hunters has also spawned numerous humorous pop culture catchphrases such as a faux-alarmed, “Dude! What was that?”

Point goes to the Ghost Hunters gang.


At the end of the day, what really counts is results: Is your team better at figuring things out or creating issues by anomaly hunting? Can you tell a real clue from a red herring? Can you, like, you know, solve a mystery?

Scooby Doo has been actually solving mysteries and finding answers since 1969. Sure, it’s usually some old guy in a mask (and/or the third character introduced), but at least they solve the mystery — and they usually do it in about 26 minutes.

It typically takes the Ghost Hunters team twice as long to not solve the mystery — the show ended its run in 2016 after 11 seasons of not finding ghosts. ‘Nuff said.

Point goes to the Scooby Doo gang.

In the end the Mystery, Inc. crew is the clear winner in this battle of the investigators, with three out of four points! Better luck next time, Ghost Hunters!

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