Ghostwatch and the haunting of mediapurchase PDF
Authors: Murray Leeder
Ghostwatch was an infamous mockumentary broadcast by BBC1 on 31 October 1992, documenting the ‘live’ investigation of a London haunted house. Its careful recreations of the conventions of live television were such that it successfully fooled many of its spectators into believing that BBC personalities, playing themselves, were in danger, and Britain was undergoing a massive haunting facilitated by television itself. A suicide was attributed to the programme, as well as several cases of post-traumatic stress disorder in children. This article links Ghostwatch with the supernatural implications that media of transmission are often understood as having, at least since the early linkages between spiritualism and telegraphy. It also explores how the programme exploits the conventions of liveness as a dark parody of the ways children are taught to understand television: as a semi-permeable barrier that looks even as it is looked at. Finally, it considers the implications of the BBC becoming perverted into a national haunting force in terms of its putative role as a nation-building public service broadcaster.