Freddy Jones: With these cameras set up around the house, we’ll be able to watch and record anything that comes after my dad. There’s only one problem; I’m a trap guy. I have absolutely no idea how this stuff works.
Velma Dinkley: Don’t worry. I’ve been stripping dielectric insulation off my coax since before I could walk. Get ready to worship The Velma!
Just as 21st C. CGI and fantasy SFX finally caught up with Tim Burton’s imagination, 21st C. ghost-hunting gizmos and paranormal paraphernalia finally caught up with the original Geek Girl, Velma Dinkley and her tech needs. Allow Moi, your own Miss Hannah Hart, ghostdame of the Hotel del Coronado to elucidate.
See, kids, before there were tacky, black ops wannabe, caravans of windowless, black Suburbans cruising the countryside at night, there was the Mystery Machine: the epitome of groovy, a rockin’, hippie, aqua-and-orange surfer van carrying four hip, sleuthing friends and their ever-hungry, always scaredy-cat, Great Dane named Scooby-Doo.
Scooby, Shaggy, Freddy, Daphne and Velma have been hitting the road in style, in the Mystery Machine for nearly thirty-five years, meddling in the nefarious affairs of grouchy, greedy locals: these wayward townfolk oft disguised as the supernatural in a variety of form and function. Although Velma Dinkley, short, curvy, turtlenecked, know-it-all, bobbed-brunette, appears the wallflower of the gang, she is the bespectacled brains behind this adventure crew, forever playing second fiddle to the beauteous ginger, Daphne Blake. To boot, like any geek girl in love from afar, her passion for Shaggy goes mostly unrequited, sitting backseat to the shared loves between a boy and his dog: mad sandwich skillz and Vincent van Ghoul flicks.
Interpersonal issues aside, the Hanna-Barbera creation (1969) of Joe Ruby and Ken Spears just finished its eleventh iteration of the family-friendly, spooky, sleuthing series: Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated (2010-2013). The first incarnation not run first as a Saturday morning kids’ show, this latest series contains a running, arcing mystery involving an antique locket and a Tod Browningesque parrot named Mr. E. The overarching tale knits in and out of fifty-two episodes which originally aired on Cartoon Network in a 2:00p.m., afterschool time slot, over a spotty three-year period. If you missed its original run, S1 is now available via Netflix.
A Warner Bros. Animation, Mystery Inc., shares the same quality as many another WBA production: Pinky & The Brain, Animaniacs and just about any Looney Tunes short. The writers understand adults are watching, too. The genius and longevity of such entities as The Muppets, Disney and Warner Bros. comprehend that vital, full-spectrum hook.
“Grab this! It’s a fairway wood, it’s safe!” Freddy Jones puns as he extends a golf club toward the ceiling to save his dad, Mayor of Crystal Cove, who’s being tossed around the room by a violent poltergeist. A fine example of WBA humour, indeed.
Now, some three decades of understated humour and Witching Hour investigations later, Velma Dinkley has access to an arsenal of high-tech ghost-hunting tools she’s been waiting for and, paired with Freddy’s Traps Illustrated obsession, mystery solving in 2013 could not be easier. An excellent example of this? Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated, “A Haunting in Crystal Cove” (S1e23).
Although the supernatural inevitably end up just being rubber-masked, servo-driven, CGI-enhanced townfolk, the front-end of any Scooby-Doo endeavor has the best of spirit-hunting intentions, entrenched in the hunt for the unexplained. Whilst Daphne’s smokin’ hot-pink getaway sticks get more screen time than Velma’s digital, detecting devices, you know she has them stashed somewhere and puts them through more tests and trials than a Wired product reviewer.
- Full-spectrum cameras: Velma’s got the hammer-and-nails of any pro ghost-hunting outfit. No consumer-grade for this kitten; she’s gone pro-grade with a modified 16GB card-compatible, 18x zoom, 12.2 MP resolution, dual image stabilization Fuji PRO series. (I think our Dr. Lucy might be jealous and/or nervous. Time for a new camera and/or better hiding places, Lucia!) Set up a string of these babies in any room and along any stairwell, hallway or doorway and they’ll catch the invisible light waves, and the clandestine action therein, at either end of the light spectrum, a.k.a. infrared and UV, where we spookies reside.
- EVP monitor: Similar to a baby monitor, it picks up cooing and gurgling throughout the netherworld via telepathic electromagnetic impulses, all while weeding out external, earthly noises. Babies, too, I guess.
- EMF detector: With Southron gatorpeople and evil, Renaissance Faire gnomes lurking about the night, Velma will need a gauge identifying varying electromagnetic fields. It seems high EMF readings could not only signify a cluster of electrical wires bundled in attic walls and giving you monster headaches and hallucinations, but it could also signify the very real energy of Demon Frightnight. It would be good to know with which one you’re dealing. Trust me.
- After the biscuits, come the gravy: tricolor flashlights (full colour spectrum for night vision and clarity), laser grids (for detecting disembodied movement), thermal imaging cams, temperature change sensors, wireless phone pods and headphones (for on-the-go listening to iPods, mp3s and EVPs), FM frequency sweep radios and shadow detection devices (for, well, detecting shadows).
- Best of all is the creepiest of all: the Rag Doll K-II, sold by TheGhostHunterStore.com. An EMF detector hidden within Dolly’s dress, it’s meant to be a kinder, gentler object for child-spirits to approach than boring old, shiny, sharp, tech gear. If Spookedy Ann’s face or hands light up … you might have a ghost child. ~shiver~ Run, kittens, run!
Clearly, Velma doesn’t schlep all this gear to each and every mystery. We rarely see more than a Smartphone and Coke-bottle glasses on her person. If she did, the Mystery Machine would be packed to the gills, with cables, power sources and monitors alone, rather than housing just Shaggy, Scooby and their various to-go feasts in the back. Still, the instruments and implements appear when necessary. Maybe Velma stores them at the back of her mom’s coffeehouse/bookstore/town museum.
Long before the stars of reality TV’s paranormal invasion were just filthy thoughts in their fathers’ eyes, Scooby-Doo and his groovy gang were criss-crossing the Southern swamps, abandoned theaters, run-down plantation homes, dilapidated boardwalks and rusted-out amusement parks across our great, haunted country. Long before nice guys Grant & Jason of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, before those thug half-portions Nik, Aaron & Zak of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and before the moody Ryan and Eilfie of A&E’s Paranormal State, there was the affable, hip, fashionable, cheerful Scooby-Doo and the Gang. You won’t find Freddy schlubbing around in jeans and a black t-shirt to meet the Lord of the Manor. (Okay, Shaggy is, well, a bit shaggy; but at least he sports corduroys and is almost always flashing a smile.)
Even before we were blessed with The X-Files‘ Scully and Mulder, our grunge-era, supernatural sleuths extraordinaire, there was another skeptical but open-minded, saucy, brainy, bespectacled, over-achieving, single, geek girl with a short do and sensible shoes who was so fierce, so confident and so rockin’ she needed only one name: Velma. Rock on, Velma. (BTW, kids, if you see any new episodes with the Mystery Machine crossing the bridge onto Coronado, give me a heads-up! Lucy and I might need to hit the road!)
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