Meet the man who's met everyone (...Even a ghost!)

A huge thank-you goes to Sir Michael Parkinson for choosing the next topic for his special, Hallowe'en-themed blog...

Be sure to click the banner above and head on over to Sir. Michael's new official homepage, where you can read his very own Hallowe'en memories of working on Ghostwatch...

Week In Words (30.Oct.08) 

If you want a really scary Halloween then buy, borrow or rent a DVD of ‘Ghostwatch’, a programme I appeared in 1992 and which caused such a panic at the BEEB it was never repeated. 

‘Ghostwatch’ was a television programme which visited a supposed haunted house in the forlorn hope of seeing a ghost. I played the host safely ensconced in a television studio and commenting on an outside broadcast from a council house with a sinister past where the other presenters got more than they bargained for.  

The other reporters were Craig Charles, Mike Smith and Sarah Greene, all playing themselves, and it was this ploy of employing presenters in a seemingly real life situation which persuaded some people that the show was real. It was a genuinely frightening and disturbing show brilliantly written by Stephen Volk, the man responsible for the ‘Afterlife’ TV series starring the wonderful Lesley Sharp.

They wouldn’t tell me how it ended so I sat in an empty TV studio while cameras went berserk around me as the evil spirit released in the house came seeking the people who had disturbed its resting place. All I could see was a pinprick of red light moving across the gantry and down the stairs towards me.

There were those watching who believed it to be a documentary and were genuinely frightened. Others saw it for what it was, a well produced and disturbing drama. It was watched by over 9 million people and the critics were kind. Then, tragically, a young person committed suicide and it was claimed he did so because the content of the programme disturbed his mind. Since that time the BBC avoided the controversy of a repeat, wrongly, I think, because with all the resultant publicity surrounding the programme there could be few who would make the mistake it a second time for a real event.

The DVD is released by the British Film Institute, that important guardian of our film and television heritage. The programme also provided me with an unlikely reward because I was put forward as a BAFTA nominee for Best Actor. When my thespian friends get on their high horse I sometimes have to remind them who they are speaking to.

So you can get a feel for just how good my performance was we have added a trailer and an interview with the creator Stephen Volk, taken from Channel Four's 100 scariest moments, to the site. Why not take a look, if you're brave enough.
('Presenter', Ghostwatch)