31 October 2017 | Your Stories
This October we are going to bring you some of the most interesting #true paranormal cases we can find. You can discover more true, terrifying accounts of the paranormal right here.
Twenty-five years ago something terrible happened on TV. A show that terrified a whole nation. Take a look at this bone-chilling report from the BBC…
It was billed as a drama, but many of Ghostwatch’s 11 million viewers were taken in by the BBC’s fake investigation, which in one tragic case led to a teenager taking his own life. On its 25th anniversary, his parents and the creator of the show talk about its impact.
It’s Halloween night in 1992, and families across the UK are excitedly huddled around the television.
Saturday night TV is at its peak – Gladiators has just premiered on ITV, Casualty is enjoying its seventh series and Noel’s House Party is pulling in 15 million viewers a week.
But tonight’s big draw is the BBC’s heavily-promoted Ghostwatch, a supposedly “live” investigation into paranormal activity being recorded at a family home in Northolt, north-west London.
The programme was the brainchild of horror writer Stephen Volk, who had originally conceived it as a spooky six-part drama, but who was instead asked by producer Ruth Baumgarten to create a 90-minute ghost story for the broadcaster’s Screen One series.
“I said to her, ‘why don’t we do it instead as an investigation, a mystery story – pretending it’s a live transmission from a haunted house?’,” Volk recalls.
“I remember that moment very clearly, when she was really excited by that.”
Volk’s idea was arguably visionary, years ahead of today’s scripted reality TV shows, where the likes of The Only Way Is Essex routinely blur fact and fiction.
The script went through numerous rewrites as TV executives continued to be confused by the concept.
“There was a lot of head-scratching and puzzlement when Baumgarten had meetings with people trying to explain what we were trying to do,” he remembers.
“They didn’t get it when they read it, why it was written in this peculiar way. They didn’t understand how it was going to work.”
The team wanted to push the boundaries of reality even further. They didn’t want it fronted by conventional actors – they wanted familiar and friendly TV personalities to bring the story to life.
Michael Parkinson, one of the BBC’s most trusted faces, was asked to present it. Alongside him was popular children’s television presenter Sarah Greene, together with her husband, TV and radio host Mike Smith – a fact Volk calls a “happy accident”.
“It was offered to Sarah [initially] and Mike – I think – happened to read it over her shoulder and said “can I be in it [too]?’
“I quickly thought, ‘this is a real bonus’,” says Volk.
It was groundbreaking television in many ways – from the infra-red, heat-seeking camera used to “spot” ghostly activity to the pixellation of an interviewee’s face.
They also used videotape, instead of the typical 16mm film, to make it look more homemade.
Though the production team wanted it to look realistic, shortly before its transmission the programme featured on the cover of the Radio Times, inside which it was explained it was a drama.
But not everyone read the Radio Times. And when Ghostwatch aired at 21:25 GMT, there were consequences the corporation had not foreseen.
Find out what happened next by reading the whole grisly as reported in a BBC news article here.
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