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Tags "Ghostwatch" , ghosts , paranormal tv shows

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Old 30th October 2017, 12:40 AM   #1
Pixel42
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Ghostwatch: The BBC spoof that duped a nation

There's an interesting article on the BBC website about the making of the infamous programme Ghostwatch, which was broadcast exactly 25 years ago, and its aftermath. I saw it live, and remember a lively discussion about it at work the following day.

I had a brother-in-law, a man whose willingness to believe something seemed to be inversely proportional to the amount of evidence for it, who maintained until his dying day that it had all been real, and the claims it was a spoof was a coverup.

Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41740176
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Old 30th October 2017, 01:25 AM   #2
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Doesn't the fact that in the show two of the hosts died or were possessed and yet still continued to work rather show it wasn't real?

Also the fact Radio Times published a cast list including for the family in advance of the supposed 'live' broadcast is rather conclusive I'd say, and that's without even arguing if ghosts are real or not.
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Old 30th October 2017, 02:17 AM   #3
Tomtomkent
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
There's an interesting article on the BBC website about the making of the infamous programme Ghostwatch, which was broadcast exactly 25 years ago, and its aftermath. I saw it live, and remember a lively discussion about it at work the following day.

I had a brother-in-law, a man whose willingness to believe something seemed to be inversely proportional to the amount of evidence for it, who maintained until his dying day that it had all been real, and the claims it was a spoof was a coverup.

Here's the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41740176
I was a kid at the time. I missed the live broadcast because I was on a Scouts activity. However, although I remember the tragic discussion in the news about the poor man who committed suicide, and some of the backlash and complaints about people who thought it was real, I didn't experience any of that.

Kids I knew all seemed to be aware of it being a Screen One play (and it was trailed heavily as being in the Screen One slot, even if the trails played it as if it was live broadcast from "the most haunted house in Britain", or some such).

Mostly the discussion was how many times people spotted Pipes, and how often he actually appeared, with a suggestion the film was "cursed" in the same way the Exorcist was considered to have spooky effects.

However... I do remember there being shows around he same time, there were shows in the style that Ghostwatch tried to ape for the studio sections. I have a fairly vivid memory of a live show with call ins around the same time, where psychics were discussing a supposedly cursed and haunted skeleton of a "small alien" or "shrunken sailor", that turned out to be (when investigated by a doctor) the skeleton of a developing foetus, preserved by a teaching hospital. Other shows had phone in sections asking to solve strange mysteries, such as a vanishing mansion house, a lost village, and other things many people remembered that were not there (which today would be examples of the Mandella effect).


I am not suggesting memories of multiple shows got bound together, simply that for some people perhaps the first two thirds of Ghostwatch might not have seemed as far from what some expected from "real" shows, as it may now seem. But... As soon as Sarah Greene and Parkinson turned up on TV alive and well, the idea of it being real should have been blown away.

Personally, as far as cruel hoaxes go, I was more disturbed by Paul Daniel's series seeming to end on a trick going wrong. That really did leave me uncomfortable as a kid!
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Old 30th October 2017, 02:31 AM   #4
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I'm not seeing how the programme can be held at all responsible for the tragic suicide of the young man.
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Old 30th October 2017, 04:02 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by MarkCorrigan View Post
Doesn't the fact that in the show two of the hosts died or were possessed and yet still continued to work rather show it wasn't real?

The written, but unfilmed, sequel covered that aspect.
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Old 30th October 2017, 04:24 AM   #6
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I was a firm believer in the supernatural when Ghostwatch first aired, I was working long hours at the time, hadn't read or heard anything about it being fiction and was completely taken in by the beginning (I believed stories like the Enfield Poltergeist) and remember being really excited by the thought that phenomena like water circles had been caught on film. We had a tiny portable telly at the time and I only really remember seeing Pipes the first time (in the dark of the bedroom) and it being too small and unclear to be sure. This was after all before pausing and rewinding live TV was possible! I had to go work and left it recording to catch the rest and as things ramped up realised it was fiction when I watched it the next day.

I've watched it many times since, although it's never been repeated it did get a dvd release which I snapped up. It still stands up well as a drama, but nothing recaptures the combination of unquestioning trust that this particular cast inspired at the time or the effectiveness of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it glimpses when you had no way to confirm what you thought you'd seen.
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Old 30th October 2017, 04:38 AM   #7
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I had the mirror image of that experience. I didn't know it was a spoof but, starting from a complete disbelief in anything supernatural, I thought it was likely to be a dull show. I can't now remember at what point the lightbulb came on and I realised it was a spoof.
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Old 30th October 2017, 04:51 AM   #8
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As has been said - not only was it trailed as a drama, the programme started with a title card crediting the writer. The difference is that at that time people weren't used to the lines between fiction and reality being blurred in that way.

As for the boy who committed suicide, while I have sympathy for his family, it all reads like the kind of "the media caused him to do it" stuff that there is no evidential support for. I find it very hard to believe that there wasn't something else going on that his parents were unaware of.

The programme itself was brilliant. It's very good at recreating the kind of cheesy programme that something like that would have been (and Parkinson, Smith, Greene, and Charles are 100% perfect casting who could have very credibly played those roles had it been "real"), and they pace it incredibly well with basically nothing unusual happening for the first hour. It's even well-observed enough to have production mistakes like cutting to the wrong camera at times written in to the script.

Great programme, and one that could only have happened at the time that it did.
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Old 30th October 2017, 05:58 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
As has been said - not only was it trailed as a drama, the programme started with a title card crediting the writer. The difference is that at that time people weren't used to the lines between fiction and reality being blurred in that way.
IIRC I tuned in just in time to miss the credits... Perfect timing!

But to be entirely honest, I believed it was real because I wanted to believe it was real and that this was genuine investigation and evidence.
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Old 30th October 2017, 06:02 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Tomtomkent View Post
I was a kid at the time. I missed the live broadcast because I was on a Scouts activity. However, although I remember the tragic discussion in the news about the poor man who committed suicide, and some of the backlash and complaints about people who thought it was real, I didn't experience any of that.

Kids I knew all seemed to be aware of it being a Screen One play (and it was trailed heavily as being in the Screen One slot, even if the trails played it as if it was live broadcast from "the most haunted house in Britain", or some such).

Mostly the discussion was how many times people spotted Pipes, and how often he actually appeared, with a suggestion the film was "cursed" in the same way the Exorcist was considered to have spooky effects.

However... I do remember there being shows around he same time, there were shows in the style that Ghostwatch tried to ape for the studio sections. I have a fairly vivid memory of a live show with call ins around the same time, where psychics were discussing a supposedly cursed and haunted skeleton of a "small alien" or "shrunken sailor", that turned out to be (when investigated by a doctor) the skeleton of a developing foetus, preserved by a teaching hospital. Other shows had phone in sections asking to solve strange mysteries, such as a vanishing mansion house, a lost village, and other things many people remembered that were not there (which today would be examples of the Mandella effect).


I am not suggesting memories of multiple shows got bound together, simply that for some people perhaps the first two thirds of Ghostwatch might not have seemed as far from what some expected from "real" shows, as it may now seem. But... As soon as Sarah Greene and Parkinson turned up on TV alive and well, the idea of it being real should have been blown away.

Personally, as far as cruel hoaxes go, I was more disturbed by Paul Daniel's series seeming to end on a trick going wrong. That really did leave me uncomfortable as a kid!
Bolding mine...

I remember that one. Thought it was quite well done and even though I was sure it was a joke, there was a brief moment where I wondered - probably because I still remembered seeing Tommy Cooper die on live TV.

Last edited by Ethan Thane Athen; 30th October 2017 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 30th October 2017, 07:42 AM   #11
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The Paul Daniels thing is the escape from a box before it was hit by a racing car, right? I remember that. The "distress" flag was sent up before the car hit, and the car ignored it and destroyed the box, with Daniels in it. Except, of course, it was Daniels driving the car.

In fact, I've found it:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


At the end of that episode.

Not a bad trick, all things considered. A minute and a half for Daniels to go through the trap door, get out of the chains etc., change clothes, and emerge as Stewart.
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Old 30th October 2017, 08:29 AM   #12
Tomtomkent
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
The Paul Daniels thing is the escape from a box before it was hit by a racing car, right? I remember that. The "distress" flag was sent up before the car hit, and the car ignored it and destroyed the box, with Daniels in it. Except, of course, it was Daniels driving the car.

In fact, I've found it:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


At the end of that episode.

Not a bad trick, all things considered. A minute and a half for Daniels to go through the trap door, get out of the chains etc., change clothes, and emerge as Stewart.
No. The one I meant does not feature him emerging. It left you thinking it had gone wrong.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDecB2A9HkA
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Old 30th October 2017, 08:58 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Tomtomkent View Post
No. The one I meant does not feature him emerging. It left you thinking it had gone wrong.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDecB2A9HkA
Oh, I do remember that now, yeah. Thanks.
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Old 30th October 2017, 02:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
The Paul Daniels thing is the escape from a box before it was hit by a racing car, right? I remember that. The "distress" flag was sent up before the car hit, and the car ignored it and destroyed the box, with Daniels in it. Except, of course, it was Daniels driving the car.

In fact, I've found it:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


At the end of that episode.

Not a bad trick, all things considered. A minute and a half for Daniels to go through the trap door, get out of the chains etc., change clothes, and emerge as Stewart.
Despite the sneering from 'fashionable' media types I liked his shows, he was a very good magician.
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Old 30th October 2017, 10:50 PM   #15
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Different show but similar story; back in 1995 Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) produced and directed a hoax TV documentary called "Forgotten Silver". It purported to present the amazing life and career of a forgotten New Zealand silent film pioneer named Colin Mackenzie; the whole thing was fiction (and very funny if you were in on the joke) but played and presented absolutely straight.

My uncle, who had spent years working in the Hollywood film industry, had just arrived in New Zealand and we contrived to have him come over and watch the "documentary" with us. He was astounded by all the faux-revelations but his jaw hit the floor when his own mother (my grandmother) suddently appeared on screen in an acting role. He knew that what she was saying was false, but he couldn't get that to gel with what he'd assumed to be a serious, factual documentary.

The movie's well worth seeing if you get a chance.
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Old 3rd November 2017, 06:41 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Squeegee Beckenheim View Post
The Paul Daniels thing is the escape from a box before it was hit by a racing car, right? I remember that. The "distress" flag was sent up before the car hit, and the car ignored it and destroyed the box, with Daniels in it. Except, of course, it was Daniels driving the car.

In fact, I've found it:

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE


At the end of that episode.

Not a bad trick, all things considered. A minute and a half for Daniels to go through the trap door, get out of the chains etc., change clothes, and emerge as Stewart.
The CAR ignored it???
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Old 3rd November 2017, 06:56 PM   #17
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Cars ignore pretty much everything except for direct working of their controls.
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Old 4th November 2017, 07:16 AM   #18
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Ah, so the driver ignored it.
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