They’rrrrrrre (Almost) Heeeeeeere!

The 1982 movie Poltergeist seems to have been ahead of the times in predicting “ghosts in the machine” (i.e., the television viewing machine), since that appears to be the trend these days. Back in the pre-cable, antenna era, I suppose it was possible in a way to see “ghosts” of the staticky, disrupted signal sort on your screen, but nothing truly scary (unless you were trying to focus in on Charlie’s Angels and couldn’t quite make it out). Today, while ghosts are not literally reaching their hands out to pull us into the TV screen like poor Carol Anne, those very screens are filled with phantoms; or, at least, people whose television livelihoods depend upon a popular belief in phantoms.

The next few weeks the airwaves will be haunted by a number of eerie presences (and I’m not just talking about Larry King):

Ghost Hunters — The popular SCI FI Channel hit returns with new episodes starting June 6 and airing Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT. Grant, Jason and the gang bump up the fear factor to 11 (and hopefully have less of the personal conflicts within the team) with such episodes as “Irish Ruins,” “Hell-Fire Caves” and “Toys of Terror.” SCI FI may also very well co-opt these titles for use in their original movie franchise. Beginning tonight at 7pm ET/PT, Jason and Grant will be hosting a Ghost Hunters marathon of their personal favorite episodes. This marathon will also be kicking off a promotion for the “Hunt for the Hunter” — a national search for the newest member of the Ghost Hunters team. Beginning June 6, brave Ghost Hunter wannabes can visit scifi.com to enter. Contenders will be offered online tools such as the Ghost Hunter’s Gear Guide and the T.A.P.S. website to prepare for the competition. Hopefuls will be asked to submit an audition video for consideration, and online viewers will rate the videos. Jason and Grant will choose three finalists, who will be announced in the first fall episode, and they will prove their mettle in the annual Ghost Hunters live Halloween telecast. The survivor will return in a Season 4 episode.

Most Haunted — Beginning this Friday at 8pm ET and running through 3am June 2 on Travel Channel, the team from this series will be broadcasting live in the U.S. for the first time. The location is the infamous Eastern Penitentiary in Philadelphia, and the gang will be determining whether there is a paranormal presence at this former prison. If it’s like most episodes in this series, there will be a lot of irritating night vision shots, constant bleeping out of frightened curses, people shouting “What was that?” a lot, a psychic spotting people no one else can see, and nothing really conclusive determined. As you might tell, this show doesn’t do a lot for me; it seems to be similar to what I imagine those seances in the early 1900s were like, where the medium insisted on doing the event in the dark so he/she could play tricks on poor souls (human souls, that is). If you can imagine an episode of Scooby-Doo with considerably more swearing, you might get a sense of Most Haunted. But we don’t even get to see a crooked roller disco owner unmasked at the end.

Destination Truth — Can you handle the truth? Well, it may not matter whether you can or not, since what truth may come out of this new series is likely debatable. But it should still offer some thrills. Kicking off June 6 at 10pm ET/PT on SCI FI Channel and airing Wednesdays, the show is sort of an updated In Search Of … sans Leonard Nimoy that looks at mysteries around the world. The good thing is that they don’t always go after the usual suspects like the Loch Ness Monster. Some of the premiere episodes include a hunt for a live Iguanadon and a mermaid; a dragon-like flying creature; and a visit to Thailand to witness not just a haunted house, but an entire haunted village. You thought your city was creepy!

Into the Unknown with George Noory — On June 13 at 11pm ET/PT, SCI FI Channel is debuting a special featuring Noory, host of Coast to Coast AM, one of the most listened-to nationally syndicated late-night radio programs. The 30-minute special will feature an interview with Gary Busey (frightening in itself) about the star’s own near-death experience (the guy’s only had one?) and his claims that angels spoke to him and changed his life. There’s also a report from Florida about a dead woman’s singing that has been recorded on tape (man, even the deceased are trying to get a spot on Idol), and a look at the Paranormal P.C. — a computer designed specifically to record ghostly activity. Aside from specters telling us that they want John Edward added to their no-call list, I wouldn’t be surprised if a check of the P.C. reveals a lot of porn sites visited by denizens of the afterlife — must get pretty lonely over there.