Last year, I wrote about the infamous “War Of The Worlds” broadcast, and all the wackiness that ensued therein. While a lot of the fallout has now, over time, been more folklore and hyperbole, and we can look back and laugh at the alleged gullibility of a simpler time, it took a more modern television special from Britain to remind us all that gullibility transcends generations.
Ghostwatch was a 90-minute special that was essentially one of the first documentary-style horror movies made, only it was for television, and nobody in the viewing audience was in on the joke. It was played as a live news report on the paranormal experiences of a family plagued by a malevolent poltergeist. The realism was enhanced with the use of four recognized BBC presenters, and little to no hints as to the true nature of the program. Everyone thought this was the real deal. The result? Several thousand phone calls, thousands of angry letters, and at least one report of an induced labor while watching the show.
What’s even more impressive is that Ghostwatch was released on Halloween of 1992. That’s right. It wasn’t done back when television was still a novelty; this was a time when televisions were ubiquitous, and most viewers the most jaded we’ve ever been. This got such a reaction that, according to this article on Mental Floss, the UK’s Broadcasting Standards Council ruled that the producers of Ghostwatch had deliberately set out to “cultivate a sense of menace”.
In other words, the BBC had been found guilty in scaring the crap out of 11 million people. For that, I salute you, gentlemen. And women, I’m sure.