On October 31st, 1992 at 9:30 pm, I remember sitting down to watch a BBC television programme called "Ghostwatch". What I saw on this show would be permanently imprinted into my mind. For years afterward I would always ask friends if they remembered "that" show which was on at Halloween.
To date, it still stands strong as one of the most controversial TV shows ever shown on a British screen, fooling an entire nation and accumulating an impressive 30,000 calls to the BBC switchboard in the first hour of broadcast!
"Ghostwatch" was a one off television drama masquerading as a "live" broadcast with popular presenters from the BBC. It was produced for anthology series "Screen One" and was written by Stephen Volk and directed by Lesley Manning. Even though it was presented as a "Screen One" drama including credits before the show and a large section in that weeks Radio Times, the public were under the impression that what they were seeing was real.
In the following days a lot of anger was directed at the show and the day after the show most of the tabloids had "Ghostwatch" as their front page news. It was the first TV show to be placed in the British Medical Journal for being the cause of post-traumatic stress (specifically in two 10 year old boys).
The BBC imposed a 10 year broadcasting ban and to my knowledge, it has never been shown in Britain again (I could be wrong haha) but has been broadcast in a few countries outside the UK.
"Ghostwatch" is made to look like one of the phone in shows which were popular at that time and the focus of the show is the investigation of the so called "most haunted house in Britain", with a team of presenters in the studio and out on location at the house.
In the studio is the well known Michael Parkinson, who is the interviewer, and Mike Smith, who is running the switchboards. Out at the house is Sarah Greene, who is interviewing the family at the house. She was a popular family presenter and is actually married to Mike Smith in real life and also in the show. Outside the house talking to the public and giving comedy relief is Craig Charles, famous for playing Dave Lister in "Red Dwarf".
Stephen Volk states that he underestimated the effects the show would have on the public as they found it hard to differentiate between the live feel of the show and the dramatised aspect. Because of this there were a lot of angry people who believed they were misled. Stephen Volk has said it was never his intention to mislead the public and that some of the story was so dramatic, he never believed anyone would take it so seriously.
The show was inspired by the "Enfield Poltergeist", a remarkable true story about events that transpired on a London street in the seventies. If you would like to know more about it I have put a youtube clip on the bottom of the page.
The dvd is unfortunately out of print and is apparently either quite hard to buy or quite expensive. I imagine eBay would be your best bet or possibly a link online. There is currently a Ghostwatch twitter and facebook page online and there are plans for a retrospective documentary to possibly be released next year called "Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains" and hopefully the show as well!
Anyone reading this blog from outside the UK, I'm not sure if you have ever heard of this show but I urge you to seek it out, I promise it will leave an impression.
This is no April fool though they have pretended that the ghost "Pipes"
was going to be in ''The Simpsons"!