31 Oct:
The BBC’s Halloween Hoax

‘Ghostwatch’, a Halloween drama in the style of a documentary, reached 11 million viewers on its first and only UK broadcast on BBC 1, on 31st October, 1992. It starred Sarah Greene, Craig Charles, Mike Smith, and – in a stroke of genius – trusted veteran broadcaster Michael Parkinson, who became possessed by the voice of ‘Pipes’ as the programme reached its terrifying climax. 

The show caused outrage for its disturbing content and the way it blurred the line between fact and fiction. Most of the 30,000 complainants didn’t believe the events portrayed were real; they were simply distressed that the BBC would make a horror drama that borrowed the visual language of current affairs television.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why the entire cast and crew were holed up in a Chiswick sailing club during the transmission; consider how the show’s pioneering style influenced the likes of Derek Acorah and ‘Most Haunted’; and document the astonishing effect the show allegedly had on young viewers… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Ghostwatch is 30: “It got a reputation as something subversive”’ (Radio Times, 2022): https://www.radiotimes.com/tv/fantasy/ghostwatch-oral-history-rt-rewind/

• ‘30 years on, Ghostwatch is still as haunting as ever’ (Little White Lies, 2022): https://lwlies.com/articles/30-years-on-ghostwatch-is-still-a-haunting-watch/

• ‘Ghostwatch’ (BBC, 1992):