Discussions in class and in our group regarding the role of media in tales of horror and terror has given me reason to mention GhostWatch. It was a program aired by the BBC in 1992, who hoped to have one every year as a Halloween tradition. It was so effective, that it was actually banned from ever airing again and has only recently been allowed on DVD, now that all the children traumatized by it have grown up and wish to be re-traumatized, please.
In brief: Ghostwatch is a show interviewing Mrs. Early and her two daughters, who have become the topic of journalistic mocking due to believing their house is maliciously haunted. Mrs. Early hopes Ghostwatch can bring some legitimacy back to her family and maybe even help uncover the source of the haunting. It’s presented in that strange semi-serious, long dull-sounding interview way that characterizes 1990’s talk shows ( at least, the way I remember them) . Then the audience finds out the truth about the haunting. Then the questions arise. Then the audience finds out the real truth about the haunting. Then
I’m not going to finish that sentence. You’ll just have to watch and find out.
There are two reasons for the horror this show inspires. The first was that the majority of the people were playing themselves. Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, even sound man Mike Aiton are portraying themselves, giving the viewing audience a sense of realism. The second is Pipes the ghost and the way media uses him. Ghostwatch shows Pipes at various times throughout the program and despite the technological advances made since, does it better than most shows and movies do today. There are eight confirmed sightings, done with such an artistry that the viewer can miss some of the less obvious or even second guess.
The first appearance of Pipes for example, shows him in front of the window curtains in the daughters bedroom. The footage is repeated three times, but Pipes only really appears once and when para psychologist Dr. Lin Pascoe points it out, it is obvious that she’s wrong, that she’s circling his shoulder and calling it his head but there is a need to believe she’s right, because Pipes is/was clearly there- isn’t he? In this show even the camera, which should be able to “view” everything in the most empirical sense, has proven it can be tricked.
In addition there’s all the theories that are implanted throughout. Similar to the way we want to know how much of what we’re reading in American Psycho is actually happening and how much is Patrick’s hallucinating, Ghostwatch asks the viewer to consider: Is this real? How much of it? And if it is real, why? with answers to the latter ranging from an evil woman‘s to the properties of poltergeist activity to the implication of a cursed land.
You can read more about it on Wikipedia, but don’t, because that entry spoils everything and half the “fun” is sighting Pipes. If you must, go to the TVTropes page: Ghostwatch. The page picture shows his first confirmed appearance. Maybe.
The YouTube link I originally found this movie at has been torn away for multiple third-party infringements and there are numerous videos titled Ghost Watch that have nothing to do with this show. Vimeo subscriber Encounters with Spirit, however, was kind enough to download it in three parts, starting here. http://vimeo.com/62986600. Don’t read his/her summary though, it’ll spoil the fun.
Ten years later, Ghostwatch creator Stephen Volks talks about its effects in this article: http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/220/ghostwatch.html
Oh and don’t worry about that knocking sound.
It’s just pipes.