Last night I had a blast from the past as I managed to watch the complete Ghostwatch on Youtube (give it a search). For those of you who didn’t grow up in England, let me explain.
It was a cold night on Halloween in 1992 and there was a horror movie scheduled for later in the night on BBC. While waiting for it I found myself watching a documentary hosted by Michael Parkinson (a well known serious programme host in this country) about a supposedly haunted house. Craig Charles (star of Red Dwarf) and Sarah Green (host of saturday morning childrens television) were in the neighbourhood and the house respectively, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery and the house is covered in cameras. The usual BBC telephone number was put on the screen regularly to let people share their own paranormal experiences and a few people phoned in, one of them with information about the house.
Round and round the garden like a teddybear. One step, two step, tickle… I smell blood.
Pipes possessing Suzanne
We met the family in the house: a mother and her two daughters. They explained that they’d first thought the strange noises were water pipes in the house and had named the ghost Mr Pipes because of that, as they led us on a tour of the house. At one point we start hearing banging and the camera crew rushes towards the noise only to find one of the daughters causing it herself. She’s sent to bed early and it seems like the programme is all a hoax that’s been exposed.
That’s when odd things start happening. The daughter disappears from her bedroom but doesn’t come out onto the landing. More noises start to occur including the noise of a howling cat, objects fly of walls sometimes injuring people, and the girl is later found, covered in what appear to be cat scratches and catatonic. The crew realises it’s time to get the girls out of the house and we cut back to the studio as they do.
Here, someone who used to live in the street has called in and is relating the history of the house from then. Apparently a man has committed suicide there. Further research shows that he was continually tormented by the ghost of a child killer from the nineteenth century, and now seemingly provides the physical manifestation of Pipes. This is where things get more disturbing.
We start to see the ghost despite the camera crew and hosts mostly missing it, apart from an excellent sequence (sightig five on the video) where the cameraman races up the stairs, into the bedroom catching sight of Pipes for a second as the camera turns and he is gone as the camera spins back. By the end of the show it has become clear that the ghost is collecting people, possessing them and adding their souls to it’s own power core. It has also become clear that the live broadcast is acting as a nationwide seance and giving Pipes an incredible amount of power. He manifests in the studio, people running and screaming as lights explode leaving a very confused looking Parkinson. Sarah Green is last seen going into the cupboard under the stairs which slams shut behind her and cannot be opened. The end comes dramatically and terrifyingly.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the show wasn’t actually a documentary, more a drama portrayed in a documentary style (a style enhanced with trappings which all of the modern day ghost hunting programs have adapted as their own). The actors who portrayed the family and experts had all been on television that week yet were largely unrecognised. We didn’t have Most Haunted and it’s ilk back then so we were totally unprepared for something like this. Children were admitted to hospital suffering from symptoms closer to post traumatic stress disorder (the first cases of PTSD caused by television) than anything else. A woman wrote to the BBC demanding they pay for some new trousers as her Paratrooper husband had shat himself. A couple of suicides were directly and indirectly attributed to it. Ghostwatch was banned and hasn’t been shown on the BBC since then.
I didn’t sleep well last night. The water pipes in this house were playing up and kept banging. It was bugging the cats and they were yowling occasionally too. Bad timing really, isn’t it?