"The BBC gives over a whole evening to an 'investigation into the supernatural'. Four respected presenters and a camera crew attempt to discover the truth behind 'The most haunted house in Britain', expecting a light-hearted scare or two and probably the uncovering of a hoax. They think they are in control of the situation. They think they are safe. The viewers settle down and decide to watch 'for a laugh'. Ninety minutes later the BBC, and the country, was changed, and the consequences are still felt today." - IMDB
"It was the day after Halloween, I was ten years old. I arrived back from my Nana's with my mother - my father and sister had indeed watched something very disturbing that night. Well, maybe not my dad, naïve and sceptical of all things unseen. The item that was the buzz of the media for the next few days was a show which was presented as true, which was in fact a staged drama of a paranormal investigation into the self-proclaimed `Most haunted house in Britain'. Even better, since bed-time was 9pm in those early days - it was on tape, for my enjoyment!
The documentary started and progressed much-like Children In Need, oozing of Crimewatch-esque scenes - subtle, crowds gathering outside the spectacle, minor celebrity Craig Charles (now of Robot Wars fame) chatting to the neighbourhood in the dead of the night. And, in the studio, Michael Parkinson radiates professionalism, giving the show an undeniable sense of seriousness. In the BBC, Parkinson and Sarah Green had never acted a staged drama before.
A young-looking Craig Charles used humour and traditional `Halloween's just a bit of fun' tactics to lighten the atmosphere early on, which sucked the youthful audience in until they wouldn't ever want to escape. Then, at the point of no turning back, a masterstroke in film was pulled off and the audience was taken in by a whirlwind of strange activity which cut the proverbial throat of all fun and games and drove the drama into new heights of dread and evil.
As Parkinson fails to digest any of the happenings and focusses on his presentation from the studio, Sarah Green, presenting from the house, with family of the victims of a ghost they named `Mr Pipes', are locked in an atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Here, the film programs your mind to become paranoid creating a scene which will weld you to the screen, eyes fixated. The film uses all the tricks of a real documentary to create a familiar tone, the phone-ins, promotion of books, viewers actually phoning up - combined with the presence of the paranormal, it is a lethal concoction.
Very early into the film we see supposedly supernatural footage on tape, of a bedside lamp exploding. A curtain reveals a vague outline of what the children and the mother believe to be the offender, `Mr Pipes'. The overall conclusion is that this is just a trick of the light. Into the `live' filming, we are teased with dimly lit areas and lighting which could suggest Pipes is present on screen at all times, unknown to Green and to the audience. Scenes in contrast from the loud social of the street to the silent, dimly-lit homeliness of the house work perfectly, the feeling of dread and of a presence, and an evil one of that, are never absent throughout the last thirty minutes.
After being shocked to our skins with suggestive occurrences, and god forbid the force actually concealed within the confines of the screen, in
darkness and in light, the show reaches a climax and all hell breaks loose. Total darkness engulfs the house like a black mist with the motivation of juggernauts, Green trying to find a solution, Charles with a noticeable absence, joking attitude dead and buried, as Parkinson can only look on from the comfort of the studio. The final scene comes, is over-the-top, but would at least wake the audience up from their sleep that this was not a real BBC investigation. As silly as it was, there could be no alternate ending for a sixty minute TV documentary which was paced with perfect accuracy. Parkinson breaking a sweat, the evils of this world embrace the studio and nowhere is safe. The credits roll as you wake up from a horrible nightmare.
Without a doubt, this was a masterpiece of film. The next day EVERYONE was talking about it. It was a cult hit within a matter of days, and beyond, people were traumatised. The media linked this to the suicide of a man - I was not surprised, Ghost Watch gave me nightmares for months afterwards. The curtains in my room became a homage for all kinds of faces, outlines, and mysteries which I could not comprehend. The film an inspiration, I vowed for the days where I could watch movies like Poltergeist and Amityville. Neither of those sequence of movies, or any other, for that matter cast a shadow on what was televised at half nine on BBC1. Sadly deleted and banned from screening ever again, the tape that Ghostwatch graced was accidentally wiped by my father, and has not been seen since 1993. At the time of youth, I didn't accept the work as fiction, until my Aunty tried to get hold of a copy of the book seen in the film. The book shop had been swamped with requests, familiarity overcame her face, the solemn answer was; `It was staged, the book doesn't exist'.
Hopefully I will get my hands on a copy of Ghost Watch again to watch after almost a decade. Today, Tony Parkinson still hosts his late-night interviewing show, Sarah Green is an old face in the crowd, Mike Smith is still around, and Craig Charles is the main face of Robot Wars, bereft of credibility after his media speculation." - IMDB