Ghostwatch: spot the ghost

So good, you'll get PTSD

Ghostwatch - Spot the ghost

Remember Ghostwatch? It was a BBC1 drama that went out on Halloween, 1992, and purported to be a live show, hosted by Michael Parkison, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Craig Charles, investigating ‘Britain’s most haunted house’.

It was originally intended to scare the nation crapless by not revealing it was a drama until the end, but the Beeb didn’t have quite enough guts for that and ended up adding warnings in the Radio Times, the standard drama idents, etc, so that it wouldn’t get shot down by Parliament, the Daily Mail, etc. Of course, there’d be no chance of it ever even thinking of making Ghostwatch now.

Ghostwatch was pretty terrifying to be honest, despite some duff acting and a slightly unconvincing ending, although Michael Parkinson proved to be surprisingly good as an actor (he talks about the experience in his biog). It was so terrifying, in fact, that

  • numerous people complained to the BBC thinking it was real
  • 20,000 viewers rang the show’s fake phoneline while it was on
  • one paranoid schizophrenic viewer committed suicide and
  • at least two children ended up with PTSD, the first reported cases of a television programme giving anyone PTSD.
  • The Beeb ending up banning repeats of the show for a whole decade.

I heartily recommend it.

I won’t spoil it for you, particularly since you can buy it on DVD (or watch in on YouTube) to see for yourself, but one of the highlights of the show was the ghost, ‘Pipes’. He was more terrifying than your normal ghost because you never really saw him full on – you only spot him in reflections for fractions of a second and you never know when he’s going to appear – so much so, there are at least three appearances I didn’t spot despite repeated viewings.

Thankfully, there are helpful people in the world. You can see a guide to Pipes’ eight appearances here, and in the embedded YouTube vid below.

Or is there a ninth?

If you end up loving Ghostwatch, BTW, check out ‘Ghostwatch: Behind The Curtains’ – both the blog and the YouTube channel. They’re busy putting a documentary together with the support of Ghostwatch‘s writer Stephen Volk, who was also responsible for Afterlife. See if you can help.

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  • leyton_jay

    Awesome post! It was great to watch Ghostwatch via Virgin Media On Demand recently.
    I remember Ghostwatch, not sure if I was scared per se, but I was totally captivated by this strange new format! The show was totally unlike anything that had been on before. Nowdays we're familiar with programmes like 'Most Haunted' and we've all seen films like 'Blair Witch' and 'Paranormal Activity'. But back then TV and film just weren't shot like that; stories were not told in that way, so it seemed 'real'.
    Looking back now, Smithy and Sarah's acting was atrocious and hammy, but at the time they were well-known documentary/reality presenters and succeeded in suspending my dis-belief.

  • Thank you! Glad you liked it!

    I remember watching it at the time and I was scared, even though I knew it was drama. What surprised me most was the people who didn't realise it was a drama, given the prominent Radio Times article at the time, the Screen One logo at the beginning, etc. It was brilliant work, but it really shouldn't have taken so many people in.

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