Ghostwatch, the greatest TV Halloween hoax of all time

When I was a kid, home alone in 1993, I turned on the TV to find one of those live call-in shows. "Ghostwatch" was presented as light-hearted Halloween fun from the BBC, jumping between phone calls from the public, panel discussion and an on-location "real life" paranormal investigation.

In the studio was the trusted greybeard and sceptic Michael Parkinson, talking to an expert on the paranormal. In the house, engaging with a mother and two young girls, was the Children’s BBC darling Sarah Greene. Greene’s husband, Mike Smith, manned a bank of phones in a Crimewatch-style set up, with a number flashing at the bottom of the screen. If you called the number, as thousands of people did, you got through to a bank of real parapsychologists. ... Craig Charles, then at the height of his fame with Red Dwarf, was the reporter on the ground, mocking the entire enterprise...

But it was really a movie, a novel and realistic hoax. Ghostwatch (available now on DVD) headed an inch at a time from its convincing, deliberately boring reality show framing into a demonic nightmare. This was stunningly original work in 1993 and the nation was savaged by it. The over-the-top ending, intended to make it all look like hokey fun, seemed to have the opposite effect: they killed the key presenter of Children's BBC on "live" television, at the hands of a dead child molester's spirit, while knowing that the children would be watching! Or, worse, sent to bed by their parents as they realized where the show was going. Read the rest