In the Nov/Dec 1996 issue, began a three-part special on Ghostwatch compiled by writer, Richard Middleton. And this week, after many years of searching, we finally tracked down Part One of the series, at long last completing the set!
Issue #59 serves as a thorough and gripping intro to the Ghostwatch phenomenon (and reaction thereof), teasing an extended interview with producer, Ruth Baumgarten, in which she reveals that, among other examples, The Late Show's format initially proved useful in shaping the final narrative (unsurprising, as my personal all-time favourite documentary – Mary Harron's sublimely atmospheric 1989 Batman Special – was indeed part of this strand).
Issue #60 concludes the interview with Ruth, and segues into a second with writer, Stephen Volk.
On Page 12, you might notice one of the earliest known breakdowns of the total number of phone calls to the BBC Switchboard that evening – according to Ruth: over one hundred thousand during the peak five minutes, and an estimated one million in total..!
There is also an interesting quote from interviewer, Richard, in which he posits how at the time, an official BBC VHS release may have proven to be an 'antidote' to the Ghostwatch effect – i.e. the more times you see something, the less frightened you remain. Despite the suggestion being an entirely logical one at that, nevertheless, with no less than two DVD releases of the film released to date, for the most part, this doesn't appear to have considerably lessened the show's impact, thus far – if anything, quite the opposite, ironically. Ruth also discusses the idea of a post-broadcast 'decompression zone' – something that both Sarah and Mike discussed in so many words, during their interview for the doc.
Steve reveals his inspiration for attempting to capture a feeling of suspense in being trapped inside the house in Foxhill Drive (in his own words, similar to that of a 'siege') was partly inspired by Hitchcock's The Birds, and also The Haunting, Night Of The Living Dead, and even the legendary Quatermass – which too features experts adrift in a swell of potentially dangerous new discoveries.
And how/why these words have yet to become more frequently quoted, I'll never know... "It's not sadistic people who write horror stories, it's neurotic people." - Stephen Volk, 1996
Issue #61 features just two pages, that nicely rounds off Steve's interview and brings the article to a close. On Page 25, there may even be one of, if not the very first seed of what ultimately became the short story sequel, 31/10.
Curiously, across the fleeting spread of these issues, the magazine itself goes through some fairly noticeable changes. Issue #59 is a standard A4 size, whilst #60 is marginally smaller by at least a couple of centimeters. Issue #61 retains the reduced size, but also features a brand-new logo, a slightly-revised layout, and what appears to be a different paper type!
But enough with my antiquated fascination with dehydrated pulp – what is most important here, of course, are the words, and certainly quite a bit to be gleaned in the above. And boy, am I a sucker for lo-res, monochrome VHS screen-grabs – somehow, they just seem even more... authentic. And not to mention, reminiscent of the very era in which these interviews were gathered, evoking the undoubted tangible fascination in then-discovering precious new facts pertaining to the film itself.
... How times have(n't) changed.
Until next time, Ghostwatchers... try not to have sleepless nights.