Recap #281: Ghostwatch (1992)
Title: Ghostwatch (1992)
Summary: The BBC investigates the “most haunted house in Britain”, with Michael Parkinson in the studio with parapsychologist, Dr Lin Pascoe and Mike Smith, and Sarah Greene and Craig Charles on location at Foxhill Drive at the haunted house itself.
Ok, so if you’ve read my recap of The Worst Witch, you will know that the UK hasn’t got a clue about Halloween, especially in the 80s/90s. And my recap probably led you to believe that The Worst Witch was our only stab at trying to do something about it.
That’s not exactly the case. The UK tried once more, with this mockumentary, and it ended, tragically, in literal death. After that, this was scrubbed from the BBC’s history, the Radio Times was told to never mention it again, and nobody had a copy of this movie for the longest time.
If you think we were all daft for getting sucked in, maybe you’re right, but it wasn’t very clear that it was fiction. There was an announcement before it aired, and the opening titles do give a writer’s credit, but if you tuned in a few minutes late, which you probably did because you were watching The Worst Witch on ITV, you missed it. [bat: So, basically, this is the UK’s version of the Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.] [JC: That was my first thought as well, although reports of people thinking that broadcast was real have been grossly exaggerated over the years.] [Dove: That and the Enfield Poltergeist were inspiration for it.]
Add to that it was hosted by Michael Parkinson. Parky, for god’s sake! The man’s an institution. You’d trust him with your soul, your life savings, and your internet history. I’m aware that this may be a hard sell to a country that may dimly recognise him as “that chat show host that got a lap dance from Bill Nighy in Love Actually”, but he really is trustworthy.
Then you’ve got Sarah Greene, a staple of the Saturday morning shows – Going Live!, at the time I believe – that every kid in the UK watched religiously, and her real-life husband Mike “Smithy” Smith, neither of which are actors.
The only oddball there is Craig Charles, but even that seems plausible, since Red Dwarf was super popular in 1992. Also, look at the season of Catfish where Max was absent. Literally anyone that was on hand was called in to co-host, regardless of their experience. You just grab the most famous person you can to make up the numbers. [Raven: Craig Charles was a good choice rather than an random celeb. He’s an established play-it-for-laughs cheeky scouser, and the perfect call as comic relief presenter for the fake show while having acting chops for the scripted reality. Also, hello everyone! I’m Raven.] [bat: I’m actually doing commentary with Raven on a recap. I think is a first. *faints*] [JC: I have had very little interaction with Raven, and so am excited to see him here! Also, I have no idea who any of these people Dove has named off are.]
And finally, the number you call in to? 081 811 8181 – that’s the number for Going Live!, and every other BBC programme that needs a call-in number. Everyone my age not only knows that number, but gives it in an odd delivery (saying “one” as “wuhnnn”) thanks to the Going Live! jingle.
And boy did people call in! In theory, if you called, you’d hear a recorded message saying that the programme was fiction, but thanks for your interest. It’s just that if half the population of the UK calls the same number at once, the entire system falls apart and nobody hears that message.
So sure, we were dim. But we were all dim together.
Except Dame Judi Dench.
She’s friends with the actress who plays Dr Lin Pascoe. She was disappointed to quickly realise it was fiction when she saw her friend on screen.
But that’s cheating, Dame Judi! Hell, even Parky’s mum took it seriously.
Of course, eventually it was released, and the Beeb have realised that there’s a strong online fandom, even if some of us have PTSD from the show. You can buy the DVD quite easily now. The thing that’s nigh impossible to locate is Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains, a documentary about the show. It’s released, as far as I can tell, in batches when enough interest is generated. Damnit, dudes, just rip it to mp4 and sell it as an online download. People are desperate to watch it.
[bat: Okay! I know nothing about this, partly because this kind of thing is not something that interests me and I live in the land of Halloween, so I’m a part of this recap commentary because of Dove. So this is largely her fault, good or bad. I have zero clue what I’m about to get myself into. I am going in blind, as they say.]
[JC: My impression before watching was that it was going to be Ghost Hunters meets Paranormal Activity. I think I was pretty accurate there. After watching it, I’m adding in the “Television Terror” episode of Tales From the Crypt.]
WARNING: Mentions, but no on-screen depictions, of the deaths and abuse of animals and children.
We open with Parky announcing that tonight’s programme is a paranormal investigation and sensitive viewers may be upset by the content.
Side note: the black and white swirls either side of the bank of monitors were achieved by dragging a fancy doorknob across a photocopier while it was mid-copy.
We move straight on to footage shot in July [JC: Except this is written “11-7-1992” and then switches to “12-7-1992” and I legit thought these girls slept for a literal month before remembering y’all list the day before the month. ‘Merica: doin’ it wrong since 1776!] by a parapsychologist. The house in Foxhill Drive has been the subject of paranormal attack for the past ten months. The footage shows two sisters in their shared bedroom, Suzanne (the elder) and Kimmy.
The kids switch off their lamp and go to sleep. Kimmy wakes up at 3:55am, and switches the lamp on. She leaves the room, and Suzanne sleeps on. Moments later, there is a sound of banging pipes, the kids (repeatedly) yell for Mum, and Suzanne cries, “Don’t touch me!” and similar. Suzanne screams, and it looks like a sheet has floated upwards by itself (but it’s shot in a way that could easily be a person off screen). Then their bedside lamp floats upwards as Mum rushes in and ushers them out. The lightbulb explodes and the kids scream and run out of the room.
[bat: I just want to say, the wallpapers chosen by citizens of the UK largely amuse me. I don’t know if this is just from television programmes or what, but I don’t think it is, having watched more than my fair share of UK documentaries. Otherwise, all I have to add is… this smells of fakery immediately and maybe that’s because I’m American.] [Dove: I’m pretty sure this was a normal house with almost no set dressing at all. That wallpaper was perfectly normal for the time.]
There’s then a montage of BBC media trucks and lights going up. It’s basically a cool-down beat so you can have a sip of tea and ready yourself to actually listen to Parky, rather than turning to your mates and going, “Gosh, that was a rather feisty opening, wasn’t it?”
[bat: I love all the people standing in a group being blinded by the lights, that really lends an air of authentic credence, “This is totally reals, you guys! We’re not faking this!” Lord, help me.]
Parky explains the format. He and Dr Lin Pascoe are hosting, Smithy will be manning the call area, and Sarah Greene and Craig Charles are on location. There will be expert opinions from Dr Pascoe and from America (see, I told you we can’t do Halloween without you guys), and we, the viewers, can call in with our own ghost stories.
We then cut to Craig Charles (Lister from Red Dwarf, to most) who says later he’ll be interviewing the person who tried unsuccessfully to exorcise the house, but for the most part, he’ll just be displaying way too much perk and personality for the otherwise serious tone of this programme. [Raven: He’s light to the dark, and an important factor.]
[bat: I have to ask: seeing as these are almost all well-known actors and actresses in the UK, how was anybody to believe this was “real”? Like, here, it would be more likely to hire a vast swath of unknowns with zero experience in order to sell something like this. So how did anyone in the UK think this was real, if it was populated with actors you all know of?? PLEASE EXPLAIN.] [Dove: Because, aside from Craig Charles, nobody here is an actor. Parky is a British institution, known for interviewing the likes of Fred Astaire, Orson Welles, James Stewart, Anthony Hopkins, Bette Middler, Bing Crosby, Cher, Madonna, Michael Caine, Richard Harris (and that’s barely the tip of the iceberg)… He’s not some bubblegum dude known for dicking around, he’s a grownup. He’s there to appeal to the grownup demographic. Sarah and Smithy are a happily married team of presenters, mostly known for children’s TV (Sarah) and radio (Smithy). Again, not acting. When we see them present this show, that’s normal. That’s exactly what they do for a living. And Craig Charles isn’t there to act, he’s there to do interviews because he’s a young, popular (good looking?) actor. It kind of takes care of the kids and teens demographic. Everyone else has either never been on TV or was Girl 3 in one episode of The Bill eight months ago.] [Raven: It’d be like, I dunno, the US doing a scripted paranormal drama presented as a talk show hosted by Ellen, Oprah and Dr Phil or something. And this was also generally before the time when actual newsreaders or presenters had cameos as themselves in TV or Films.] [bat: Ah. Thank you both for the clarification. It’s always been a case of when a news anchor or presenter shows up in a movie or television programme, it’s various obvious they are playing a character version of themselves/their job. I think that may have contributed to my confusion.]
He’s going to interview Pam Early, the mum, and she gives him the serious side-eye when he hums the Twilight Zone theme. Apparently he’s going to interview her later, because she doesn’t really get to do anything than look exasperated by his exuberance. He’s kind of like a puppy. At the opera.
Back to the studio, and there’s a reminder to call in to the hotline, and it is established, for those that didn’t grow up watching Smithy and Sarah all the time, they are happily married, and they both jumped at the chance to be involved in this programme, because they’re both into the supernatural.
Side note: I adored Smithy and Sarah back in the day. Don’t know why. I think when you find out that two people you liked separately are actually married, you feel oddly pleased. Like when we found out that Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant were married. Yay! The universe does work occasionally.
And back to Craig Charles, with the Early family, Pam, Suzanne and Kimmy, for a quick rundown on what’s been going on. Short version: stuff breaks, stuff gets stained, and the central heating broke down. At first the girls got the blame, but there is good explanation for the ongoing problems. [bat: STAINED CLOTHES, THE HORROR!]
Parky joins Dr Pascoe and gets her take. “The first thing we can do is believe them,” she says. And if you’re into drinking and can take it, drink every time she uses the word believe.
Over to Sarah – there is going to be a lot of swapping between the locations, just go with it. It seems jarring to write it, but it flows perfectly naturally when you read it. Sarah says that she had her own ghostly experience once and would love to tell that story later if there’s time. [Raven: The weird back-and-forth is pretty shambolic, but it does help create the vibe of realism.]
She introduces Alan Demescu, who is basically the ghost-tech guy, working from the Beeb van parked outside the house. They have cameras with thermal readers in every room, that sort of thing. [JC: Every time you type “Beeb,” I for some reason think you’re talking about Justin Bieber. I . . . haven’t slept much this week.]
She also introduces her own camera guy, Chris Miller, who looks like Mike Gatting (Raven confirms this is true) [Raven: Indeed it is. This is also another good piece of inconsequential realism that helps disarm the viewer.] [JC: . . . I have no idea who that is.] [Raven: Mike Gatting was a English cricketer of the time. Famous for being a beardy chonk. Why you should know this is anyone’s guess.]. He gives the rundown on his camera. He calls it lightweight, and it probably was in 1992, but from the way it moves when he hands it to Sarah so she can film this portion, it’s got heft. It also uses infrared.
Next is the sound guy, Mike, who looks like Adrian Edmondson [JC: I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE.] [Dove: *shakes head sadly*], and with everyone introduced, they head into the house.
Side note: This house is basically the same shell as my mother-in-law’s house. Raven and I can’t help but rearrange the walls of his mum’s house to match this one. When we stay over, we stay in the haunted bedroom.
Back with Parky, he asks how Dr Pascoe found out about this family, and she says she ran a computer programme and a census of paranormal investigators, and both unanimously pointed at Foxhill Drive. Parky asks if she thinks we’ll see any phenomena tonight, and she says that it’s hard to know for sure. Sometimes the house would be perfectly well behaved, and other times it was like a “war zone”. She adds that there are usually more reports of supernatural events on Halloween, but perhaps people are just more primed to see them. [bat: “Let’s have an apple bob! That’s so very much an American Halloween tradition!”]
Next up, Smithy introduces a caller, Emma Stableford (from Slough, home of paper companies [Raven: And actual home of the Mars Bar.]), who was originally going to tell of her ghost story, but wants to actually point out something she saw on the first footage shown tonight. She saw a dark figure by the curtains as the camera panned around. She thinks it was a woman, or a figure in a black dress, standing there.
Dr Pascoe says she’s reviewed the footage multiple times, and never noticed. Parky asks Emma to speak to their call centre and identify the moment when she saw the figure, and they’ll look into it. (Don’t worry, I do have screen caps of this. Keep reading.)
Um, Parky, love, it’s 1992. How’s she going to do that? You can’t rewind TV yet, it hasn’t been invented. If she’s recording the show, she’s going to have to stop recording – and who wants to do that when they’ve successfully called in?
Side note: I just spent about an hour goggling Bob Monkhouse videos, trying to locate the infamous story of someone trying to play The Golden Shot from a payphone without access to a TV as an idea of what Emma’s conversation with the Ghostwatch Team might be like. The nearest I could find was this. It’s not quite the final story, but near enough, I guess. And watching Bob Monkhouse vids is never a waste of time. [Raven: Agreed!]
Back to Sarah, who is apple-bobbing with the girls. [JC: They’re bobbing for apples in a goddamn mixing bowl. I’ve never seen any actual human person bob for apples, but movies would have me believe you don’t do it in a goddamn mixing bowl.] [Raven: Having bobbed for apples repeatedly in my youth, it was done EXCLUSIVELY in mixing bowls.] They are interrupted by a thumping noise. They follow it to the pantry, where Craig leaps out wearing a mask. Apparently he and Smithy wanted to know if they could get Sarah to swear on live TV. Sarah, the consummate professional, gathers herself as best she can and calls him a beast. He also adds that the girls were in on it, which is actually a nice touch. Let’s fuck with Sarah, but do it safely around the traumatised family.
Sarah leads the camera upstairs to the girls’ room and says that everything started on 28 December 1991.
Side note: This room, people. This room is so early 90s, I can’t even right now. There are posters of Jason Donovan (again, the Americans are like, “Who?”, but the Aussies and Brits are like, “FUCK YEAH, JASON DONOVAN!” – god, I hope that’s a search term that leads people to this site), New Kids on the Block (we think), MC Hammer posters, Forever Friends posters, Care Bears duvet sets, and some smaller pictures of The Two Coreys (Haim and Feldman, for the uneducated). I deeply hoped for a Chesney Hawkes poster, but was disappointed. I think I can see a Lady Lovely Locks horse over Sarah’s shoulder. [Raven: The MC Hammer song “U Can’t Touch This” was inspired by an unexplained poltergiest experience in the childhood Hammer home. True story.] [JC: Oddly enough, NKOTB’s “The Right Stuff” was inspired by this same incident.]
The Earlys tell us of an incident that started it off. Suzanne had argued with her mum over whether she could stay up and watch a movie, and was ultimately told no. Suzanne went to bed. She assumed that her mum came in to tuck her in, but someone just stood in the doorway before walking away. It turned out that Pam didn’t tuck them in that night because she’d fallen asleep in front of the TV.
A few days later, Pam heard thudding from inside the walls all around her. The girls heard it too and were terrified, so to reassure them, Pam said, “It’s just the central heating pipes,” and since then, they have dubbed the haunting “Pipes”.
Kimmy says that Pipes tends to stand by the window, but he actually lives in the cupboard under the stairs. [bat: You’re a haunting, Harry Piper!] Referred to exclusively as the “glory hole”. Let’s all have a giggle about it, and move on. For reference, we had a cupboard under the stairs, and never once called it that. [Raven: We had an alleyway at the rear of the parental home that was called the Back Passage.] [JC: I might be able to giggle and move on if they didn’t repeatedly present such stellar opportunities for glory hole jokes, Dove. God, it’s like you don’t even know me!]
Kimmy says she’s seen him in there, she’s peered through the cracks around the door. The door, by the way, is nailed shut. She then shows the picture she drew of Pipes. It kind of looks like The Snowman as imagined by someone with a deep love for red crayon. (Why am I always linking to The Snowman on this website?) [JC: Every time you do, I always think you’re either referring to the R.L. Stine book, or the ridiculous movie with Michael Fassbender where his name is Harry Hole.] [Dove: I remember watching the trailer for the movie and wondering if it was a Point Horror adaptation. It was an early trailer and looked kind of goofy.]
Kimmy gives the picture to Sarah as a gift, and Sarah suggests they put it up somewhere everyone can see it. It goes on the fridge. Kimmy comments Pipes will like it being there, he likes everything freezing cold.
We’re downstairs now, by the way, and Pam shows Sarah one of Suzanne’s exercise books, which has some kind of scrawling on one page. I can’t make out what it says, but I’ve screen capped it. “Bloody loves like ____ a __ good ___ bloody”? Sorry if I’m being slack here. [JC: I’ve got “something something none rock-a-bye baby something blood blood something bloody”]
Also, something I’ve literally never noticed before because I’ve been too busy looking at the words is the drawing on that page.
Jesus on the cross, complete with blood gushing out of the nails in his hands and wrists. But the real hook of the picture is the gigantic cock the size of his torso spaffing out jizz. [Raven: Oh Cum, All Ye Faithful?] [JC: Cum, Thou Long Expected Jesus?]
“I was going to hit her, I was so mad,” Pam says, safe in the knowledge that it’s 1992, and this is the sort of thing that merits physical punishment with no recourse from Social Services.
Suzanne says she doesn’t even write like that. Ah, but Suzanne, do you draw like that?
Back in the studio, Smithy updates us saying that he has eight or nine calls just like the one from Emma also saying they saw a dark figure in the girls’ bedroom.
They have the footage now, and roll it again. Neither see the very obvious form of Pipes in the footage, but they rewind and watch again. This time he’s not there. Here’s three captures of the same footage at the same timestamp. Pipes was not there in the same frame in the original footage.
Dr Pascoe says it must be an optical illusion. Parky calls for the “sophisticated technology”, which is a giant TV on a trolley that Dr Pascoe can draw on and it will display on the main screen. She draws around the curtain and says it gives the impression of figure being there, and when faced with an abstract vision, the first instinct for humans is to try and find a human shape in there.
Back in the house, Pam tells her worst story, which is when she went into the glory hole one night looking for a letter from her solicitor about the divorce. [JC: It’s rare to find a woman using a glory hole.] She got stuck in there, as if the door was held by someone outside. She felt the presence of a man in there with her, and a smell of rotten cabbage. She could feel him breathing on her face. She screamed for the girls and eventually they managed to get her out.
Pam did what any mother of the 80s would do when faced with a predatory supernatural presence. She wrote to the council to ask to be moved. [Raven: To be fair, she was ruddy annoyed.] They did not take her seriously. I’m not being sassy about writing to the council, that was pretty much the only option for the working classes. Even now, my mum still tells me and Raven to “get on the council waiting list”, because she’s convinced that’s the best way to deal with housing. We privately rent and have since 1995, but even so, she. is. convinced. [JC: This is one of those British situations that Americans don’t understand, isn’t it? I’m sure the explanation is too long to answer here, but rest assured I’m scratching my head at the thought of having to write to any sort of council in order to move.] [Dove: Instead of renting privately, if your situation allows (e.g. you have low funds or a disability or many other factors), the council will find you a house/flat that will be significantly cheaper than private renting owned by them. Once you are in, you’re kind of stuck there unless you suddenly acquire much more money and are able to rent privately. If the property they find you isn’t suitable, you can ask to move, but because of the waiting list, it’s not a quick process — unless you’re in immediate danger, sometimes not even then though — so this is why Pam contacted them. She wanted to be moved to a different council house. If she rented privately and had the funds and her tenancy agreement allowed, she could move whenever she wanted.]
Next she went to the papers. The tabloids, to be specific. Our tabloids are an absolute shitshow. I’m looking in particular at The Daily Mail and The Sun, but honestly, they’re all bastards. Naturally this portrayed the whole family as a bunch of satanic loonies.
After that, Pam tried the local TV, which they show a single sentence from, where Kimmy opines that Pipes wants to hurt everybody and do nasty things. [Raven: This was one of the first “this is fictional” clues for me. Like, if they were in the papers and on the telly, why didn’t I know about it before now?] [Dove: I was eleven. Of course I hadn’t a clue what was going on in the world. Made sense.]
And now we get to the most nonsensical part of the show – maybe this makes sense for people who work in TV, and if you do, please comment, I’m happy to be wrong – where Pam is sent to the van outside to chat with the studio. However, Sarah’s been chatting away merrily with the studio with no discernible lag, so… why?
I think Sarah has an earpiece in to link with the studio, so why not give Pam one, surely an earpiece is cheaper than an entire media van? Whatevs, let’s just assume there’s a good TV reason for it, and I just don’t get it. I only know two people who work in TV and they’re both utter assholes – one of which mansplained collecting My Little Ponies to me on a post I made about how I’d been collecting MLP for years, and the other votes Tory – so I’m not fucking asking them.
Once Pam’s wired up, she uses her moment to reassure anyone dealing with the supernatural that they’re not going mad, like she thought she was, and she would believe them.
We get a call from Sandra Hughes (Sussex), who has not much to say other than she encountered a haunting as a child and… um, that’s really it. Thanks, Sandra. Bye.
And then they’re done with Pam, but she has to wait in the van for when they want her back. They move on to Dr Pascoe’s book, the cover of which looks like the infamous “levitation” picture of the Enfield Poltergeist.
Side note: I do not believe in ghosts. Hauntings are either active hoaxes or misguided people. The Lutzes (Amityville) are the most famous frauds, but there should be a special shout-out to Ed and Lorraine Warren. Anyway, I always think that Enfield “levitation” photo looks exactly like someone jumping in the air. Y’know, because Janet’s hair is moving up as if she’d jumped up and was coming back down. If she was being levitated, her hair would not be moving upwards. But sure. It’s totes real. [JC: Last Podcast on the Left has a really interesting episode about the Enfield poltergeist; I highly recommend. Personally, I’m on the fence about ghosts. There are incidents that haven’t been explained to my satisfaction, so I like to keep an open mind. Now, I’ve mentioned this to Dove before, but there’s a really interesting documentary called My Amityville Horror, which focuses on the oldest Lutz child, who is of course a grown man now. He’s convinced the haunting was real, and feels a deep sense of gratitude toward the Warrens, who got involved with the family after the fact. You gotta feel bad for the guy; he’s obviously got some form of mental illness, and was abused and terrorized by his stepfather, George Lutz, who by all accounts was a real piece of shit who was into all sorts of occult shit and hypnosis. Which might possibly explain how he convinced the kids the haunting was real. Anyway, it’s a good watch, but you will want to dig ol’ George up and murder him over and over.]
And as quickly as it’s raised, the topic of the book is dropped without a word – and this should have been an indication that it wasn’t real. Any author of a hot topic would want to at least get the release date out there, even if you can’t do advertising on the Beeb. Possibly she could have said, “It will be out in the New Year” or “My book is available now”, without noting any bookshops in particular.
Next we’re shown a quick video of Suzanne undergoing sensory deprivation because this apparently brings out “the voice”. And then instead of showing Suzanne doing “the voice”, they move to a reel to reel to play audio of it. [JC: A reel to reel. In 1992.] If anything, this sells it as being even more “legitimate”, because have you noticed how there’s never any clear evidence of ghosts. Like on ghost hunting shows, when they do EVP, there’s nothing but white noise, and then someone says, “DID YOU HEAR THAT? OMG! PROOF!” and everyone else is like, “YES! I TOTALLY HEARD THAT!” and then the “psychic” quickly jumps in to tell everyone what they heard, so it fits the narrative they’ve researched in the area.
Dr Pascoe confirms that the audio has not been edited in any way. Oh good. When you’ve got irrefutable proof such as some person nobody has ever heard of saying, “This totally isn’t fake”, that’s all you need. Again, this sells it as a completely legitimate show. If it was a movie, we’d have seen the video. [Raven: To me, this disconnect between the video and the audio recordings might make it seems more authentic as a show, but it makes me doubt the supernatural aspect becuase if it WAS a realistic supernatural phenominon then they’d show it on video. The fact that the “experts” don’t show it on video makes them look like fakes, and makes me doubt their credibility in the story.]
The video, by the way, would have shown that they filled Suzanne’s mouth with coloured liquid and taped her mouth shut (good thing she didn’t drown, right?) and the voice still continued. Actually, I don’t know why they didn’t film it. It would have been so easy, Suzanne wouldn’t even have to lip synch.
Again, this takes a lot of beats from the Enfield Poltergeist story, where I think Janet had a mouthful of water, but would only talk when nobody was looking. Uh-huh.
The audio is basically a load of crash, bang, wallop, while Dr Pascoe narrates what she’s seeing (flying objects), and then it goes silent. A male voice says “Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear. One step, two step, tickly…” Dr Pascoe then asks who he is. He claims to be Jesus Christ. [JC: . . . thank you, Dove. I couldn’t make out a single word the voice was saying. Not that it would have made a lick of sense if I had made it out . . .] [Dove: Urgh. So many rewatches to get this.]
Experts at Cambridge analysed the recording and confirmed that the voice and Suzanne’s were two separate voices. There is video of Suzanne trying to duplicate the voice and she just giggles a lot. Apparently she failed to get the same voice even under hypnosis. [Raven: “As you can see, your honor, the glove does NOT fit Mr Simpson. If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”]
We get a close up of the levitation photo and Dr Pascoe says a pillow moved across the room towards her face. “How do you fake that?” and Parky sniggers, obviously assuming that someone threw the pillow.
They also show a load of broken cups, plates and ornaments. Pascoe says that they did analysis on the breakages and they were caused not by being dropped but by intense temperature change. Clocks and watches stop in the house. Dr Pascoe shows a pink Mickey Mouse watch, which I’m sure was not ok’d by the Mouse, and I wonder if Mickey will climb out of Valhalla to fuck everyone up for using his image without permission. [bat: “Disney lawyers, on line one.”]
We cut back to the house where Sarah is playing a board game with the girls. They ask Suzanne about the marks that appear on her face. She gets scratches on her face, she’d wake up feeling like someone was “all over” her.
Parky asks if the poltergeist is focused particularly on Suzanne, and Dr Pascoe admits that it hits all the usual markers: girl approaching puberty, broken family, introverted, etc. Parky asks Pam Early what she thinks of that, and she takes it very personally saying that even if Suzanne is “funny” – which she’s not – then how do you explain everything else that happened. Uh… with literally what Pascoe said. That Suzanne is a target because of where she is in life, not that she causes it, you muppet.
Parky says then Pam must believe it’s an actual ghost, and she says, “Don’t you, Lin?” and Lin waffles vaguely, using a very passive “I’m not disbelieving”, rather than an, “Exactly! Big bad ghostie obsessed with your kid!” Parky says a lot of people would say there’s nothing there at all. Lin counters that some time ago, most would say you couldn’t walk on the moon.
It’s a weird segment, I don’t know why Lin was suddenly so passive for a few sentences for no reason when usually she’s so assertive on this topic. Was it just to make Pam defensive, if so, why? It goes nowhere.
Now we cut to New York with Dr Sylvestri, professional sceptic. Please note: the image behind him is not a window showing the New York skyline. It’s a picture. That’s how tiny the budget was. Although I think he is a real American, so that’s something. Also, why does America need to weigh in for the sake of fairness? Couldn’t someone in the country take the opposing viewpoint? I only ask, because it’s not specified that Dr Sylvestri is one of the leading minds in professional debunking, he’s just a dude who disagrees with Dr Pascoe, therefore him being in the US is sort of irrelevant. [Raven: Maybe it’s got something to do with James Randi being the only well-known sceptic, and he’s Canadian (and thus has a similar accent)…? James Randi died last week. Sadface.] [JC: I have no idea what the logic here was. I’m just weighing in to say that this dude’s voice sounds exactly like Bill Maher’s, and therefore I spent every second he was onscreen wanting to punch him.]
(Maybe when it comes to Halloween, we Brits are so out of our depth, we need to involve America for legitimacy?) [bat: The answer is Yes. But even at this point, this whole show is one of the most faked things I’ve ever lost time on.]
Dr Sylvestri picks holes in the evidence, pointing out that everything either has a rational explanation or has been faked. Dr Pascoe says, “She’s not lying, believe her.” (DRINK!) Dr Sylvestri says he’d love to, just as he’s love to believe he was going to heaven, but it doesn’t make it a scientific fact. This is one of the few times that Dr Pascoe raises her voice. Dr Sylvestri is unmoved and sasses that she should be selling crystals on Venice Beach.
Generally speaking, fandom loves Dr Sylvestri. I think every ghost hunting programme should have a Dr Sylvestri. [Raven: Agreed!]
Back to Sarah, still playing board games, and she gets to tell her ghost story. Very briefly, she was staying with some friends and woke one night to hear chamber music. When she tried to sleep again, she kept seeing an Indian woman’s face, with the eyes going from left to right, and then they rolled up, completely white and the face went.
The next morning she found out that the house had once been owned by the Viceroy of India, and he’d had two concubines. After their death, he was not allowed to have them buried in consecrated ground, so they had been buried in the grounds of the house. Now there’s talk of digging up the grave to see what else was down there (wut???), but ultimately decided against. Sarah went into her bedroom and reassured the room that nothing would be disturbed and experienced a feeling of great peace after that. [Raven: This is such a nonsensical and randomly specific story. I was fully expecting something like “I saw what looked to be a floating sheet at the foot of my bed, but I was half-cut so I proper shat myself.”]
Kimmy then taps Sarah on the shoulder to say she wants to go to bed, so Sarah takes her up. Why? I know she’s good with kids, since that’s her job, but their mum is right outside in the van. Nobody needs Pam on camera at the moment, and even if they did, surely they could work around her putting her kids to bed.
After putting Kimmy to bed, Sarah notes the cold and says she thinks they’ve all earned a coffee break. [JC: First, since when do you guys drink coffee? Second, oh my god, this is instant coffee! Nonononono! Wait, I can’t really make out the label, but is that NesCafe? You Brits do not Coffee properly. I am triggered.] [Dove: It was the 90s. That was the only coffee we had.] As she brews up, Sarah comments that the waiting is kind of ominous and she’d almost rather something was happening. The camera and sound guys chip in, one thought he might have heard scratching or animal movement, the other says his watch stopped just before they started filming.
Suzanne joins them, now in Mickey Mouse PJs, and is delighted to see her mum on a screen set up in the kitchen. Why is Pam out there? WHY?
Next up is a segment with a man with pixels for a face telling his ghost story. It started with duvets being tugged off them in the night, then escalated to saliva all over their food. The dude shouts in response and spit appears on his shoes. Next up is poop on the bathroom cupboard door.
Now we cut to Craig Charles outside the house. He walks to the local playground just round the corner to get the story on some nasty happenings.
The neighbours from across the road say that one night they heard a lot of banging. They saw that Pam and Kimmy were crying in the front garden and the top window was broken. Also, it’s not just the house, a young girl named Julie Welland went missing, nobody knows what happens to her. A five year old was knifed in the neighbourhood. In the park, a dog was found dismembered. The dog had been pregnant, and that was evident from the tableau. [Raven: Grim.]
Craig then heads over to find Arthur Lacey, who attempted to exorcise the house. Actually, he corrects Craig, he just went and prayed with the family and tried to offer the spirit a way to walk towards the light. It did not work, and he was ill for the week after. He says that he got a real feeling of “spiritual decay”.
They are they interrupted by two kids in costumes who are trick or treating. Which is bullshit. Nobody made any real effort with Halloween in the 90s. We might use it as an excuse to have a sleepover and watch horror movies, but there was no point trick or treating, since nobody was prepared for it. [Raven: I beg to differ. I always went out Trick or Treating as a kid in the Eighties, as did my brother and sister in the Nineties. It was still low-key, but it was in costume, door-to-door, around the estate.] [bat: I’m just here to watch Dove and Raven discuss the weird abnormalities of how Halloween was celebrated in the UK.] [JC: Y’all are ignoring the real holiday, which is Nov. 1 – Half-Price Candy Day.]
We have to cut back to Sarah, who has an important update. In the living room there is a circular wet patch. She checks the light fitting above, but there’s no water on it, and the ceiling is dry and not water marked, so it has not come from above. [JC: Maybe it came from the glory hole.] There is no scent to the liquid. They take a sample for Dr Pascoe.
And then Suzanne appears saying she’s having a rebellious stomach, so Sarah makes her something to settle it. I have no idea how old Suzanne is, but there are very few girls of – let’s just guess, thirteen? – her age that would admit on live TV that their stomach is misbehaving.
Next up, Kevin Tripp from Wales calls in, and I have ripped the clip, because it is pure joy.
After that, we cut back to Sarah, who is clearly agitated. There is a scratching noise coming from Pam’s room, so they pull out the bed to try and get to the source of it. They get behind the bed, and then there’s a scampering noise as if it’s run away from them. They follow it to the wardrobe, but at that point the kids come tearing in yelling that Pipes is here, downstairs in the kitchen.
Sarah tells them to go back to bed, and then heads downstairs. The noise has stopped but the kids’ pictures that were stuck to the fridge are now scattered across the floor, leading to the patio doors. A cat mews from the other side of the glass, and Sarah nearly bricks it, and laughs at herself. But as the camera pans up, you can see the reflection of a man – not Sarah’s crew – in the glass door. [Raven: Looks like a Sontaran.] [bat: Is that the person who voiced Tabby in The Worst Witch??]
He’s not in the kitchen when the camera pans around. And then they hear another banging noise. Wing, like myself and Raven, probably can’t help but respond with “New! Day! Rocks!” because it follows the same pattern.
Sarah sets off towards the noise while Parky tells her to stay where she is. Sarah cheerfully ignores that because have you met her? She’s awesome. (I actually have met her back in the 80s. She was very nice.) Parky then clarifies that the cameras showed Suzanne got out of bed, so Sarah needs to stay put.
They cut to the camera on the landing and it shows Suzanne sitting in a cupboard banging pipes. This really is inspired by the Enfield haunting.
There’s a scream and Sarah runs into the bedroom, where Suzanne is lying facedown on the bed, wailing, “It wasn’t me!”
Cut to Parky saying that they’ve exposed a hoax, but Dr Pascoe says not to be too hasty. There is a cycle of genuine phenomena, followed by some fakes when the children feel obligated to give the experts something to work with. Parky gets a bit patronising, saying it’s understandable Pascoe is upset after devoting eight months to this, only to find out it’s nothing. Pascoe snaps back that she’s seen plenty of inexplicable things, and this is one isolated incident. [Raven: I proper loved the hoax thing. Having no knowledge of the Enfield Poltergeist or similar, this just added legitimacy to the whole affair.]
Back at the house, Suzanne is tearful and asking for her mum – and for fuck’s sake, get Pam out of that fucking van, people. Even if every moment of this is an absolute fake, that kid wants her mum, and keeping her in the van, when there’s no fucking reason for it, is just upsetting the whole family. (That “kid”? Probably older than all of us recappers!) [Raven: Not me, I was eighteen when this aired. #OldAsPipes] [bat: I would have been 11, so I’m pretty sure Raven is the eldest and therefore probably the least susceptible to this fakery at original airing.] [JC: I also would have been 11, and I doubt I would have thought it was real. If only because it was on TV, and all TV is fake.]
Parky asks Suzanne whether she faked everything, but she says she doesn’t want to talk about it, and finally they fetch Pam, who comforts her. Dr Pascoe asks why, and Suzanne says that she wanted to “show them”, because the experts might leave if they didn’t deliver something spooky.
Parky seems very happy that that’s all neatly sorted out. Everything was a fake, no ghosts here, and over to Dr Sylvestri to be smug about this turn of events. He says they are attention-seekers and Pascoe played right into their hands giving them a prime-time TV show. “This is not the end. Please believe me,” (DRINK) says Pascoe. She thinks the ghost is deliberately muddying the waters.
Over to Smithy, who confirms that people are still calling in in droves about the shadowy figure in the bedroom, bald, male or female, dark eyes or no eyes, long black robe or dress, buttoned right up the neck. This causes Dr Pascoe to ask if the techies can dig out her university interviews, there’s something she wants to see.
We cut to another true ghost story, this one told by Laura – by the way, these stories are “true”, in the sense that they are were told to the researchers by members of the public who believed them. They’re being told by actors, and the wording has been smartened up, but they are “true” in that sense. Laura lays the groundwork for her tale, but before she gets to the point, we experience technical difficulties. We cut back to the studio, and there’s a random dude handing Parky something, and they’re caught off-guard.
He tries to cover the gap in programming by going to the calls. Smithy only has one (bwhahahaha, by this point in the night, the switchboards had buckled under the weight of all the calls) – this woman wishes to remain anonymous.
She says that she has a glass table. Her husband rested a finger on it and it exploded, cutting his face and arms. Her kids are very upset and it’s all their fault. Parky says it’s past the watershed (to the non-Brits: the 9pm cut-off point where everyone acknowledges that the TV content gets a bit less family-friendly), and maybe she should put her kids to bed. She says she can’t. They won’t go. They won’t stop watching. She can’t drag them away, and all the clocks stopped at 9:30pm.
Parky tries to rationalise that they’re over-excited at Halloween, there’s been an accident, they’re probably in a bit of shock. Time to turn off the telly and send them to bed. He cuts off the call before Dr Pascoe can say anything else, so she appeals to the caller to take photographs if she can as evidence. Parky just talks over her, and says that people shouldn’t be alarmed, hauntings are rare. [Raven: Love the precise language. “Rare”. Not “impossible”.]
He adds that the video that Dr Pascoe wanted is ready now. It’s an interview with Kimmy from 17 July (might be off on that date, it’s white text on a beige background) and she describes Pipes thusly: really old, one eye gone, face covered in scratches, bald, long black dress with buttons from top to bottom with petticoats under.
Annoyingly, Pascoe asks to rewind it as if we’ve missed something that flew under the radar. No, love, we got it. It matches the phone-in descriptions.
We cut to Sarah, who’s been trying to get their attention because Pam is hearing cats wailing all around. We can’t hear anything initially, but then we can hear it too. Kimmy gets their attention saying that something’s wrong with Suzanne. They rush upstairs and find that her face is now covered in scratches.
Sarah asks what they should do. Smithy asks if Sarah is ok (and I love this) and she says she is. Dr Pascoe wonders if it’s psychosomatic. WOMAN, PICK A FUCKING LANE. You either do believe there’s a ghost, or you don’t. If you do, then it doesn’t matter that we have proof of Suzanne faking one incident, when you’ve seen plenty of real ones. If you don’t, then stop asking people to believe (DRINK) the Earlys. Parky wonders if she scratched herself with her fingernails, which is a more sensible option for not-a-ghost. However, Suzanne has the stubs of a fingernail chewer. Or just nails that don’t grow well.
Something nobody mentions at all is the odd way the sheet has been twisted into a rope. Why is nobody worried about this? Ghost or not, that’s a very distressed girl and why on earth is she making her bedsheet into a rope? Remember how that ended for Rod Lane?
It’s freezing in the room, but Suzanne is burning up and flinches every time someone touches her.
Pam sends Sarah to get a wet flannel to clean the wounds and in the very dated avocado bathroom, she jumps, thinking she sees something behind the door. I don’t see anything, but maybe you guys did? If not, Sarah might be jumpy at this point.
When she returns, Kimmy keeps babbling that they’ve got to stay and see what happens.
We cut back to Parky who claims that they’re overrunning and the scheduled programme is being bumped in order to keep up the coverage on the events in Foxhill Drive. Again, maybe we should have seen that this had already booked out the full 90 minute slot in the TV guide, but you don’t exactly check these things as they happen. [bat: One thing I have always noted about British television programmes: they run weird lengths. Like… I don’t know how exactly to explain it but whereas in America, if something is blocked for 30 minutes, it’s generally around 25 minutes with the rest of the time filled with advertisements. In the UK, you have weird programme lengths and shit ends at like 15 past the hour or abruptly ends when you least expect it, therefore I never fully got the hang of how to read the TV guide while I was in London, just trying to watch episodes of The Simpsons!] [Dove: The BBC doesn’t have adverts, we pay a license fee, which means they don’t have to advertise. It’s fucking magical.] [Raven: I think the weird lengths thing is entirely because of American progamming. The BBC has no adverts, as Dove says, which, again as Dove says, is incredible. So when they make their own programmes, they run for an hour or thirty minutes or whatever. But when they import stuff from America or elsewhere, there are so many advert breaks in those shows that a thirty-minute programme only runs for eighteen actual minutes, so the timings in the TV Guide look weird. Also, when WE do adverts over here, we have the good grace to warn the viewer that a break is happening, usually with a flash screen saying “end of part one” or similar. I genuinely hate the US skip-to-adverts-instantly nonsense, as it breaks up the narrative in a very ugly way. And don’t get me started about having adverts for other show in the bottom corner of shows that are currently airing, which is literally the work of Satan. But anyway, only about five people under sixty-five watch syndicated TV in the UK these days, so it’s no longer an issue.] [bat: Huh. Mind blown. The only way America gets around commercials is to DVR the show and fast forward through them. And pop ups / promos /crawls are so inherent now, they were both parodied by The Simpsons and Family Guy. And with that, I have worked in the one thing least expected to be in this recap.] And it’s fucking Parky, he’s inherently trustworthy.
Parky asks about Dr Pascoe’s theory that Kimmy was the main focus of the poltergeist. Um, wut? She’s never put Kimmy forward as the focus before… has she? It’s always been Suzanne. For a moment I wondered if I’d messed up the names, but I remember saying “If my Suzie’s ‘funny’…” in the earlier interview when Dr Pascoe suggested that Suzanne’s age and situation made her prime fodder for hauntings.
Dr Pascoe doesn’t remember that though, and just vaguely responds, “Maybe they’re both involved?” Parky suggests she doesn’t know what’s going on, and Pascoe merely looks thoughtful.
Smithy breaks in to say that they must take this call. It’s Mary Christopher, and this caller is played by the director, Lesley Manning. Anyway, she’s calling to say that she’s from the area, and the local bogeyman was Mother Seddons, a baby-farmer, who didn’t take care of the infants, she drowned them. As it turns out, local legend was actually true. And she used to live in one of the terraced houses on Foxhill Drive, and she’d be willing to bet that it’s the house the Earlys live in. [bat: Please explain “baby farmer” to the clueless American.] [JC: You gotta take those prime baby seeds and plant them in the ground; grow you a nice crop of premium babies.] [Dove: It’s not really a common term here either. But basically someone who takes guardianship of infants in exchange for payment.] [bat: It sounds more like someone into child trafficking then a legal guardian.]
We cut back to the house, and Smithy again wants to talk to his wife. Sarah reassures him that she’s fine, and I just love these two.
Side note: posters in the background? Kriss Kross, The Two Coreys, Garfield and Whiskers. [Raven: And, like Kriss Kross, Ghostwatch will make ya… Jump! Jump!]
Sarah says they’ve all decided it’s best to get the kids out of the house. Kimmy acts like a tiny drunk, which I find oddly hilarious. She stomps about and snaps that she wants to talk to somebody. I know she’s meant to be possessed, but I’m just reminded of all those posts about how toddlers and drunk friends have exactly the same feelings about bedtime.
Sarah and Pam have to bundle her out the door, where she screams and cries about it. Suzanne is up and about and irritably snaps that she’s not a baby, she doesn’t need escorting out.
On the landing, there’s a bang. The camera takes a final sweep around the room, and Pipes is by the curtains again, but when the camera swings back he’s gone.
Things get a little screwy from this point. Kimmy is very petulant as the adults bundle her into a coat. Parky is now a voice-over and what’s on the screen is Craig Charles chatting away, assuming he’s off camera, with the locals.
Back in the studio, Smithy summarises the calls he’s been receiving: stopped clocks, dead radios and pinging microwaves, not to mention barking dogs and misbehaving pets. The latter was one of the original ideas. They wanted to broadcast the programme with a sound that only animals could hear in order to agitate them. However, TV programmes have to adhere to certain standards in order to be broadcast and this tone would not be acceptable.
Dr Pascoe goes into maths mode, asking for frequency and location, has Smithy done any analysis of the data (I worship her for that). I also worship Smithy for irritably snapping back that he really doesn’t have time. Parky opines that every single one is a prank.
Parky insists we cut back to the house. Sarah says she can barely hear them, and there is massive video interference and a painful electrical feedback sound. Basically, the kids won’t leave the house. Suzanne is sat behind a chair against a wall. The feedback increases and the banging sound starts again, and it doesn’t seem like the studio can hear Sarah.
It all culminates in a picture falling off the wall. [Raven: THIS IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE!]
Sarah races off to find Kimmy, while the camera zooms in on Suzanne, who is talking in the male voice, reciting more nonsense. “What big eyes you have” this time. Pam raises her voice to her, and eventually Suzanne responds saying, yes, of course she can hear Pam. But leave if you don’t want to be here, Pam just messes everything up. Suzanne hates her. It’s actually the first natural delivery she gives, which is kind of chilling.
Sarah races around the house trying to locate Kimmy, who is now missing, and finds Kimmy’s toy bunny being drowned in the sink (remember Mother Seddons drowning the babies?). She finds Kimmy hiding behind the fridge door. Kimmy says Pipes said to do it, he was a bad bunny. Here are his eyes.
The cat wailing noise is back, and it seems to be coming from the glory hole. [JC: Things you would not expect to find in a glory hole: pussies.] Sarah and her sound guy manage to take off the boards blocking it, and open the door. We get a brief glimpse of a human figure in a long dress, but before we can see fully, the camera is jerked away when a mirror falls off the wall and knocks out the sound guy.
Sarah says she’ll get help, but before she can get out of the house, there’s a scream. Suzanne’s voice comes from the glory hole saying “he’s touching me, he’s hurting me,” and calling for help. The cameras switch between the rooms, and then static overtakes the broadcast.
Cut to outside and Craig is talking to Alan Demescu with no idea he’s live. He tries to pull it together but since, as far as they’re concerned, nothing is happening, the house is quiet, they have nothing to say. Then he thinks he’s off air, and has a bit of a moan that he had no warning they’d be going live. [JC: I just noticed Craig is wearing a Chicago Bears jacket. I now need him to sit in on the SNL sketch about “da Bears” please and thank you.] [bat: DA BEARS! For those who do not understand that reference, here you go.]
Confused voiceovers from Pascoe and Parky and then we cut back to the house, where everything is normal and Sarah is playing board games with the two girls again. There’s no sound, but everything looks calm, so they assume the sound guy was removed.
Parky comments that Smithy must be relieved. “I’m delighted. I was ready to, um… I don’t know,” he replies, which is probably the most British reaction ever.
“Panic over… hopefully,” says Parky, while Pascoe looks on doubtfully.
Parky asks for the next caller, since they’ve got a lot waiting, and Smithy is distracted for a moment before he sends a call through.
The caller is a male who doesn’t want to give his name. He says he has information about the house. Pascoe says they have all that, all the deeds and searches, with history of the site going back to the Domesday Book (which means they have history going back to 1086). He asks if they know Mr and Mrs Sellers. Pascoe says yes, they were tenants in the sixties.
The caller says yes, but they sublet a room, off the books, to their nephew, Raymond Tunstall. The caller was Raymond’s social worker when he came out of psychiatric hospital. He had multiple convictions for the assault and abduction of minors. He shouldn’t have been allowed near any community. He also thought there was a woman on the inside of his body, trying to take over and making him do things he didn’t want to do. He started to wear dresses.
Things got so bad for Raymond that he took his own life. He hanged himself in the glory hole while his aunt and uncle were away. He wasn’t found for twelve days. And he kept cats, and they were hungry during that time.
I just want to say, I don’t think this is one of those narratives that uses the “trans = deranged and dangerous” message. I think this is a case of supernatural possession from Mother Seddons, latching on to a human already primed for doing terrible things. [JC: Agreed.]
Obviously, you can interpret it how you like, but you should consider it through the lens of British TV. At the time our soaps were exploring HIV/AIDS, homosexual relationships, and I remember one episode of Casualty had a trans character. Obviously, none were perfect, and I’m sure there were plenty of awful schlocky shows too, but the Beeb is a bit too classy for pushing an ugly narrative like that. [Raven: On a “lighter” note, the whole thing with the cats eating their owners still gives me the creeps to this day. Great stuff.] [JC: Animals like to go for the fleshiest bits first, so his face was where they ended up, and definitely not where they started. You know. Just thought I’d add my own lighter note.]
The caller hangs up. Dr Pascoe wonders if the plot of land is infected by some horrific entity and whether the nasty things that have happened, such as Mother Seddons and Raymond Tunstell, are just symptoms of this existing evil.
Parky seems to lose his temper here, snapping that everyone needs to stop calling, the switchboard is jammed – this is literally true – and Pascoe comments back that a ghost once took over the telephone exchange. Don’t close the phone lines, she needs to know what’s happening.
Pascoe leaps out of her seat and approaches the monitors. She stares at the image of Sarah and the kids playing games in concern. She says the ghost is in the machine. The picture that fell off the wall is now back. They’re not watching a live feed, this is older footage. [JC: Yeah, yeah, okay okay okay, but couldn’t they have just re-hung the picture?] [Dove: I think a shot showed the glass had shattered, although since it fell on carpet, that is actually unlikely.]
At the reveal, there is a scream, static, and then the picture shows Kimmy in bed, then the earlier shot of Suzanne saying that she was just giving the audience what she wanted, which glitches and loops.
Back in the studio, there is now a wind blowing – and Parky lampshades how ridiculous that is – and the lights flicker. Dr Pascoe realises that they’ve created a massive country-wide séance. [bat: …whut?] [JC: I think what you’ve created is more akin to a tulpa, but whatevs. Potato, tomato, we’re all gonna fucking die regardless.]
There’s footage of the sound guy being carried out by paramedics, and Craig Charles walking with him as the emergency services arrive. And there’s something so entertaining about someone with such a Scouse accent saying, “The police! The police! The police are here!” in tones of equal worry and excitement. [Raven: “Excuse me sir, are they hubcaps under your jacket?”] [JC: . . . I hate to inform you of this, but the average American isn’t really differentiating a Scouse accent from any other English or even British accent. Like, on a good day we can identify Irish or Scottish and mayyyyyybe Welsh from English, but otherwise your regional accents are lost on us. For reference, it would be like challenging you to spot the differences between a Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Maine, Wisconsin, and Florida accent.] [Dove: I think I can do Wisconsin… that’s it.] [Raven: Oh sure, but it’s not just the Scouse accent that’s the point. It’s the stereotype of Scouser, which involves being a cheeky thief or criminal. I understand that the US might not get that, but over here we’d get the stereotype New York character, or Redneck, or Cali hippy or whatever. And Scouse is a pretty big stereotypoe this side of the pond.]
A strong wind is blowing outside the house, and Kimmy is outside. She waves and runs to her mum… who… it’s very dark. It looks like Pam runs back to the house, and Kimmy runs after her. Then Pam is walking back out of the house, comforted by Craig.
Parky says that we’ve seen Pam, Kimmy and the sound guy. That leaves Sarah and Suzanne unaccounted for.
It cuts to the thermal camera, which appears to be manned by Chris, the camera guy. Sarah calls out for Chris and Suzanne. He calls to her and they meet up. Sarah asks for Chris to check the room for Suzanne, but no sign. Next she asks for his lighter and uses it to guide the way. The lighter in infrared looks HUGE.
She uses the lighter to find a torch, and now it’s back to normal cameras. There are some… uh, circles on the kitchen floor, maybe of water? There’s a huge rumble and bang and Suzanne calling for her mum.
Back in the studio, the lights blow and various set pieces are knocked over by the wind.
Back in the house, they realise Suzanne’s voice is coming from the glory hole. [JC: PSA: glory holes are not for children.] The door is stuck so Sarah works at it and asks Suzanne to push it from the inside.
“Get off me!” yells Suzanne and the door flies open.
Sarah deliberates for all of no seconds flat, because she’s awesome, and leans into it.
Chris, her camera guy, reaches for her, but in seconds, Sarah is pulled into the glory hole and the door slams shut behind her.
There’s a howling wind accompanied by cat noises, which culminates with a light blowing (back in the studio) and Pipes being visible for a few seconds.
Someone yells for everyone to get out of the studio, while all the noise and mess continues to go on. Parky stays in his chair, trying to narrate, while we can hear Smithy refusing to leave and demanding they get the link back.
It goes completely dark and silent, and Parky continues to narrate. Emergency lighting kicks in at a low level. Smithy and Pascoe appear to have vanished, while Parky is still wandering around commenting on how he doesn’t know which cameras are working.
He sees that the autocue is working, and reads from it. “Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear,” he says in a quizzical tone. Then “the Voice” takes over and says, “Didn’t believe those stories about Mother Seddons, did you?” The cats howling intensifies and then as he adds, “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” everything goes black and silent.
And finally, there is a sequel, written by Stephen Volk, which can be found (badly formatted, unfortunately), here.
Once upon a time there was a lovely neat pdf, officially released by Volk himself on his website, but that appears to have left the internet. Thank goodness I saved my copy.
Grade: A+ for being outstandingly disturbing in a low-key British way.
This is an absolute Halloween staple for me. The Worst Witch has all those nostalgia feels, but this one is shrouded in mystery. Well, not really, but the way it was shown once and then was utterly purged and scrubbed from the history books just gives it that extra oomph.
The low production values only add to the atmosphere, and the clever use of the must-have presenters – not actors – of the day (and Craig Charles) just makes it work. Also, it may seem like I’m endlessly jabbing at Craig Charles. I’m not. The reason he keeps getting singled out is because he’s the one actor in it. Sure Dr Pascoe is, but she was an unknown (or largely unknown, Dame Judi cannot be considered a fair sampling of the British public). But overall, everyone does what they should, Parky is Parky, Sarah and Smithy are charming, Dr Pascoe is understated (which works) and Craig Charles is there to keep it from getting too SRS BSNS.
I will say, I’ve just realised that I’m constantly going on about how trustworthy Parky is, but in this he’s possessed, so he’s kind of an asshat throughout. You’re just going to have to trust me, ok?
The one low spot is the girls, who are not the greatest actors on the planet, but even that sort of works with it. If you’re feeling generous (and I am, so mark this day in history: TODAY IS THE DAY DOVE GIVES THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT), Kimmy being young and stressed is showing off and shouting for the camera, because she really wants you to pay attention. Suzanne is stilted because she’s older, going through puberty and having her hellish life shown on live TV to the world – in theory, she has to go to school on Monday and face all the asshats who saw it. She could be facing a metric fuck-tonne of ridicule in the morning.
Basically, this movie is awesome. Fight me.
I can only imagine what a complete shit-show this would be if it was made today. I should imagine endless jump scares, screams and silliness. Probably hosted some gobshite YouTubers.
Oh, and since I’ve mentioned YouTube, if you’re interested in this show and YouTubers that are not gobshites, please feel free to watch and enjoy Inside a Mind’s take on it. I love pretty much anything they do.
[Raven: I remember watching this when it aired. I was sat in my parent’s sitting room, watching it alone. I’m pretty sure I knew it was a drama going in, but it caught me up and I felt extremely discombobulated by the end. It stayed with me for a very long time. Due to the BBC blackout, I never saw it for years. Until Dove and I watched it early on in our relationship. It still packed a spooky wallop more than ten years later. This is a seminal TV moment, a pure watercooler thriller, a landmark push-pin in the UK viewing map. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.]
[bat: Well… that happened. I think it’s very much a product of its time and place; watching it now, the only thing that I can compare it to via experiences would be the first time I watched The Blair Witch. It reminds me a bit of that. Although Ghostwatch was prior to the film, again, not knowing the people hosting it (and having zero context on why they would be trustworthy) doesn’t help me feel lulled into a sense of anything. I did not read anything prior to watching it, only had what Dove told me sparingly, so it wasn’t that colouring my experience. It would probably also help to know the Mother Siddons’ story; again, something I don’t have context for. Overall, I’m sure this would delight loads of people who are into this stuff. I am not one of those persons. I do enjoy the stories of the fallout over its airing, though, that’s the kind of stuff I’m more interested in.]
[JC: I enjoyed this quite a bit. Probably because I’m not burnt out on the Paranormal Activities of the world. I’ve never seen a single one of those movies, in fact. Admittedly, this is a pretty slow burn until about 20ish minutes from the end, where it all starts ramping up to the climax. I am into “true” ghost stories and hauntings; partly to be scared, partly to try to figure out a mundane explanation. One of my favorites that I’ve only just discovered recently thanks again to Last Podcast on the Left is Gef the Talking Mongoose. It’s hilarious and ridiculous, but also a little scary if you’re reading/listening to a podcast about it all alone at night. Or if you’re freaked out by the thought of animals that should not be able to think and talk thinking and talking at you. If one of my dogs started talking to me, I would lose my fucking shit for real. Anyway, I’m skeptical that people thought Ghostwatch was real, but then again, people believed the Blair Witch was real, too. Including Boyfriend, which sent me reeling for a good while when he admitted that. I don’t know, maybe I’m just too distrustful to believe “true stories.” *shrug*]
Great recap thanks! I was a little too young to have seen this when it first went out live, but I watched it a few years ago because I’d heard so much about it. I found it very effective and genuinely creepy, though I can only imagine how completely terrified I would have been if I had seen this live! It’s one of those experiences that you had to be there for and that will be harder to replicate as watching live TV becomes less common. Hving said this, I feel like last year’s live Halloween episode of Inside No. 9 was the Ghostwatch for our times, absolutely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet, though it may lose something when you don’t see it live. We watched it when it went out live and were utterly taken in! Though we should have known that Rhys and Steve would have had something surprising up their sleeve, they usually do!