Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Most Haunted house in Britain...


Despite on face value, Ghostwatch and Living TV's Most Haunted bearing more than a few striking resemblances, they are in fact, very different programmes at heart. One of the many long-running rumours connecting the two shows is that fellow Blue Peter host Yvette Fielding was once considered for Sarah Greene's 'Reporter' role (not true).

A familiar face, particularly to fans of the cult, investigative series (which ran for eight years, and now continues to air online), and also kids' TV classic, Knightmare (his team being one of only a handful of winners in the show's history, no less) we recently spoke to presenter and self-confessed Ghostwatcher, host Jason Karl concerning his appreciation of Ghostwatch, and own experiences with the Paranormal... 

Hi Jason, so how, where, why and when did you first check out Ghostwatch, and do you recall your initial reaction to the show? 

I remember clearly the day when Ghostwatch was broadcast – I was busy that night and recorded it on video.  I watched it the next morning, with the prior knowledge that it was a dram and not ‘real’.  Despite this it scared me so much that at one point (where the real vox-pops) are shown, and the tape ‘jams’ I had to switch it off as it terrified me.  Its ability to make the viewer sit on the edge of their seat with carefully constructed and perfectly executed tension meant that despite knowing it wasn’t real, it was very, very frightening.  I recently watched the DVD of the programme and enjoyed it all over again.  It no longer has any real scare factor for me, but is still a benchmark in televisual drama presentation. 

How did you get involved with Most Haunted? 

I was asked to join the original cast of the show when it was commissioned by Living TV (as it was).  I spent a year working as a location researcher and then as the ghost hunter on the first series, which was subsequently re-edited into a longer version and re-broadcast as Most Haunted Unseen.  As a result of this I was approached by a television production company to present the UK’s first ever live investigation into a haunted house on ITV1 and ITV2.  The programme was called Haunted Halloween Live and was the first real live investigation of a haunted house on UK terrestrial television to my knowledge. 

What's your take on the Paranormal, and did that (plus, your appreciation of Ghostwatch) factor into your work presenting Most Haunted? Do you have any personal spooky stories?

Having spent much of my life being involved with paranormal television in various territories, I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time in hundreds of ‘haunted’ locales.  Having reflected on many ‘happenings’ I believe that my more personal experiences (off TV) hold more credibility as being truly ‘unexplained’.  I take the stance that you should form your belief on what you have personally witnessed, and I have personally witnessed several things which I am still unable to explain, and that I personally believe are beyond our current understanding of the world we live in.  In simple terms – I believe in ghosts. 

Dr. Ciaran O'Keefe (one-time Most Haunted adviser), and many other fans have pointed out the many similarities between the look and presentation of both shows - silver-haired presenter, blond reporter, night-vision footage, etc. Do you think this is a possible reference/homage to Ghostwatch, or just a coincidence?

I am not aware of any direct reference to Ghostwatch during my time with Most Haunted, having said that, in literal terms of course there are similarities, as there are with many forms of entertainment or television.  Whether or not this was intentional or coincidental I would have no idea. 

Do you feel that Ghostwatch and Most Haunted have influenced how the paranormal, and also Reality TV is perceived since first airing, and if so, how? Also, what is your take on the similarities/differences, and fandom that surrounds both shows?

The history of paranormal research stretches back much further than modern day entertainment television, but I think it is fair to say that these shows, and many others like them, have informed a generation of viewers about the possibility of the paranormal world, and inspired many of them to actively go out and seek ghosts themselves.  The growth of the paranormal events industry is a perfect example of this.  With regards to the similarities and differences in the two shows mentioned, Ghostwatch was a contrived dramatic presentation intended to scare viewers, while Most Haunted is an entertainment programme which intends to show real investigations – the two are therefore fundamentally very different.  Likewise the viewer base for each is very different.  With regards to the fandom legacy from each programme, I cannot speak for Most Haunted as I have no connection with that world, but with regard to Ghostwatch I think it is fascinating that a BBC special, broadcast only once, over 20 years ago STILL carries a fan-base. 

What do you think is the future of paranormal/reality programming, particularly as entertainment? Also, what are you working on, at the moment?

Observing the trends in paranormal television, the audience has significantly diminished in recent years, meaning that many shows and series’ which have followed the same basic construct of ‘ghost hunting’ in various guises, have ended.  There are only so many ways you can present essentially the same thing.  I moved away from paranormal television many years ago, and now work as a freelance presenter for a variety of channels and programmes.  I am also Chief Creative Executive for AtmosFEAR! Scare Entertainment, which is Europe’s biggest producer of location based live scare entertainment attractions.  We work with theme parks, heritage attractions and tourist attractions.  My job takes me all over the place designing ways to terrify guests using the latest technologies and scare tactics, I am currently leading the creative team behind one of Europe’s biggest new permanent scare attractions in Portugal.

Thanks again to Jason for taking part in the interview! To find out more concerning his work in Horror attractions, follow this here hyperlink to www.atmosfearuk.com

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