Wolf Sees Ghosts: The Eagerly Un-Awaited Return Of Most Haunted
I should’ve posted this over a month ago but I got ‘sidetracked’. Slightly out of date, I suppose, but never mind. It’s a piece about the resurrection of the cowardly TV paranormal investigation team, Most Haunted…
For those of you unfamiliar with the classic Most Haunted format I shall enlighten; a team of ‘paranormal investigators’ led by ex-Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding go to a purportedly real haunted location and spend the night. They were usually accompanied by a medium, a historian and a parapsychologist. For 10 minutes the audience was treated to a history of the location. Then for a further 10 minutes the medium, from whom the location has been kept secret (yeh, right…), will attempt to ‘sense’ any spirits present and spunk forth precise information which is then analysed for accuracy by the historian. Then they turn the lights off. For another 5 minutes the medium continues, this time in night-vision. For the remaining 20 minutes, various members of the team go off around the location either in groups, or singly. These are called ‘vigils’ but if your name is Stuart Torevell (cameraman/rigger & cousin of Yvette) it is called a “vij-u-ull”. They may try a séance, some table-tipping or a Ouija-type thing with a glass tumbler. They might hear bumps, grunts, raps, growls, knocks, moans or perhaps see an ‘orb’. They will not be able to corroborate any of it.
I stopped watching episodes of Most Haunted probably when they were into Season 7 (I’d watch ‘em at work via YouTube during lunch). I stopped watching because they weren’t even trying to find a ghost anymore (given it’s arguable they ever were). In fact they had pretty much quashed that idea by S3 and had settled comfortably into lengthy and loud bouts of amateur histrionics. By this time, it was brazenly obvious that certain members of the crew (Stuart-cough-Torevell-cough) weren’t being entirely honest; some, for instance, would take advantage of the dark and should the team react to an involuntary sigh clearly emanating from the land of the living, the opportunistic sigh-ee (Yvette-cough-Fielding-cough) would quickly go along with the ensuing excitement. Shame, really. I genuinely believe they were making an effort, circa S1 & S2. There’s no doubt in my mind that Beattie & Fielding thought ‘we can have some fun with this and hey, who knows, maybe we’ll catch something on film into the bargain…’
They got the idea for Most Haunted from an episode of the BBC’s Playhouse season, Ghostwatch, a moderately effective 1992 drama cunningly dressed up as a ‘live’ investigation of an urban haunted house. It caused a right parental furore; distressed poppets the length and breadth of the country allowed to stay up and watch their Children’s TV heroes Mike Smith and Sarah Greene unexpectedly become demonically compromised. I’m scratching my head as to how anyone thought Ghostwatch was anything but a fiction – probably the same people who believe an out-of-focus winged insect is an ‘orb’ if Yvette tells them it is. Interestingly, Stockport lass Fielding (IMDB lists her as an actress) was approached to play the role subsequently given to Greene but was advised it might be a retrograde step in her burgeoning career. Yet here she is, full circle.
Basically, they got found out and there were a few disgruntled viewer complaints aimed in Ofcom’s direction. Ofcom eventually ruled that Most Haunted was for ‘entertainment purposes only’ while the show’s creators, Yvette Fielding & Karl Beattie still contest that the programme is a serious investigation of the paranormal, a statement that is patently ludicrous. A serious investigation, for example, when told of several eye-witness accounts of a particular door that regularly opens/ closes, would then set up static cameras covering the door in its entirety inside and out in an effort to debunk this phenomenon. The fact that Most Haunted does not is, in my opinion, telling. Likewise, if your resident medium ‘contacts’ the spirit of a little girl, ‘no more than 5, I should think, Ivvy…’ and they ask her for a sign that she is present, I wouldn’t expect, after a sturdy thump on the floor/ wall, either one or all of the serious investigative team present to comment expertly along the lines of ‘cock fucking shit bastard!’ Again, in my opinion, it’s an inappropriate way to greet a 5 year-old, irrespective of her current earthly status.
And then it all went south – and I don’t mean Birmingham, I mean way down south, dig. It started in Season 6; his name is Derek Acorah, psychic medium. By all accounts Derek is a nice bloke and he was a large part of the reason so many folk (including me) tuned in. You see, Deggsy was entertaining, him and his invisible Ethiopian spirit guide, Sam. His shenanigans were preferable to witnessing a bunch of grown adults screaming profanity at the slightest supernatural fart and giving us the ‘terrified’ night-vision up the nose selfies. I mean, Derek got possessed to order. But his crowning achievement had to be – “Mary loves Dick! Mary loves Dick! She’s got this great love for Dick…” By S6, though, it seemed he was being undermined as Karl & Yvette brought in another medium (cuddly David Wells) to shadow him. Maybe Deggsy felt threatened and thought he needed an edge to keep himself in the limelight. Enter cuddly Ciaran O’Keeffe & The Acorah Incident™.
Oh, twas devious… Parasychologist O’Keeffe, who joined the team properly for Season 5, wasn’t convinced Deggsy was blessed with a piercing cryptesthesia. So it goes, under orders from Karl Beattie, O’Keeffe ripened the story of a false ghostly presence, left the juicy info for Acorah to find and then, as the cameras rolled, stood back to watch Deggsy get possessed by an angry South African named ‘Kreed Kafer’ (an anagram of ‘Derek Faker’). Just to be sure, O’Keeffe did it again, Acorah this time sensing the spirit of a departed highwayman, ‘Rik Eedles’ (‘Derek Lies’). Both shows aired. In another location, O’Keeffe spun more cobblers, a back story concerning Richard The Lionheart, a witch and Richard’s ghost seen walking into a wardrobe (think about it…). Derek duly used the lot. So out went Deggsy – ‘to preserve the integrity of the show’. Stop that laughing at the back!
At this point it gets kinda messy; Acorah delivered Most Haunted to the top of Living TV’s viewing figures, surely all that Beattie & Fielding had ever desired – a hit show. Why cut the legs from under it? Was it a jealous reaction to his popularity? After all this was their show and Fielding was supposed to be the star. It was also no secret that Acorah wanted his own show (I believe he had grown tired of Beattie & Fielding’s control freakery), a show that might possibly steal their thunder and it was therefore a coincidence, I’m sure, when O’Keeffe went to the Daily Mirror with the ‘Kreed Kafer’ story just before Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns debuted. Hilariously, the Mirror twisted O’Keeffe’s words into an attack on Most Haunted in general causing much consternation at the offices of Living TV.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole sordid panto was a question of ‘discredit Derek before he discredits us’. He certainly did discredit them, judging by an interview he gave to White Noise Radio. I say ‘judging by’, etc, but I haven’t heard it; Antix (Beattie’s production company) sent the lawyers after WNR, the interview got yoinked and just about anybody else with a copy of it got a chasing. Acorah, too, was threatened with legal action unless he offered a retraction and his retort was ‘see you in court’. It was Antix who backed down. From what I gather, his wasn’t simply a ‘Most Haunted is faked’ takedown, he spoke of bullying and physical violence directed against crew members, pretty serious stuff. I’d love to hear the interview… Anyway, viewing figures fell and though it limped along for a few more seasons, Most Haunted inevitably got the hook.
All of which brings us round to now. The first episode of the new series… erm… wasn’t. I understand it was an ‘on-line only special’ but I didn’t know that until a few days ago, thanks to Wiki. Verdict: horrifically bad. Here was a programme made by a bunch of idiots who know it’s all bollocks and know that every sane person on the planet knows it’s all bollocks. If I hadn’t known any better, I would’ve thought I’d tuned into an unfunny Most Haunted parody. This is for the kind of people who believe everything they are told and everything they are told to see. There used to be structure, an on-screen map to tell you where everybody was in the location which at least suggested an element of control. Here (in a theatre in Bacup, Lancashire), there was pandemonium, people talking all at once, a babbling cameraman just asking for a smack in the chops and random, nonsensical rushing around. Rolls of tape moved. Rolls of tape got thrown. Did anyone lock a camera on a roll of tape? No they did not. I thought I heard the babbling cameraman babble something about a locked camera and a roll of tape but it was confusing and I didn’t see any footage. The night vision was minimal; they were using torches and other available light sources. They laughed a lot and joked with each other. The episode concluded as the early seasons used to, with a sceptic, a Dr. John Callow this time in a studio somewhere reviewing the phenomena. The bloke spoke haltingly and without emotion. He was also reading from a prompt.
Episode 1 proper (Newton House, in Wales I think) didn’t differ significantly in style or personnel from the on-line show. It’s a different crew apart from Yvette, Karl and Stuart, and then there’s demonologist Fred Batt who featured in a couple of early episodes as a hauntee and then joined the team in later seasons. The parapsychologist, medium and historian are gone and with them, any faint sense of legitimacy. Here, we had guest ‘investigators’, rock band Bullet For My Valentine with whom I am not familiar musically. In answer to allegations levelled at the crew over chucking objects around in the dark (Stu’s not known as ‘Pebbles’ for nothing), they spend a large amount of time chucking stuff with the lights on instead. It isn’t any more convincing. Likewise, the supernatural knocking sounds are so incessant they are rendered invalid. There was a very funny moment when Torevell ‘fainted’ and then doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing on the floor. The same way you normally end up on the floor, pal.
Fred Batt tried his best to inject some dark gravitas into proceedings; futile, it’s barely worth him being there and at times he appeared miffed by the rock band’s excited burbling. There was an embarrassing moment when he tried to impress on everyone that there was nothing but pure evil present and they must be careful who they call out to, but everyone just kept going ‘blah-blah-blah… did you say something, Fred… blah-blah-blah…’ The Ouija came out; a glass got pushed around. ‘Whistling’ Beattie and the now thankfully recovered ‘Pebbles’ Torevell went off separately to do a lone “vij-u-ull” (presumably to get some screen time); both got inexplicably locked into their location and both got inexplicably unlocked in again. Beattie did his famous, ‘I can’t take anymore of this, I’m getting out of here…’ with the night-vision up his nose. Dr. John Callow was even more pod-like than previously seen; he was reading the prompt so carefully I expected him to lean forward, squinting and fumble on a pair of specs.
Shows like Most Haunted are the natural progression of a Victorian séance. It’s almost ‘Revenge Of The Victorian Séance’. It passed out of darkened parlours and into sumptuous theatres, but then in the comfort of your own home, the flickering eye of the television screen arrived and killed the ectoplasmic psychics off. Most Haunted delivers Victorian parlour tricks directly into your living room to hoodwink the gullible and the grieving once again. Yvette once said she wanted to bring us proof of an afterlife. She won’t find any afterlife hiding in Torevell’s pockets or tooting between Beattie’s puckered lips or secreted within the greenly-lit nasal cavities of various members of the crew. In fact, after 16 series and a welter of ‘live’ spin offs, I doubt she ever will.
R.I.P. Most Haunted. Expect Deggsy to be in touch soon.
Mary Loves Dick: http://tinyurl.com/mhbc2tt
ThereWolf, November 2014