On the night before Halloween in 1938, many people across the United States turned their radios on and began listening to The Mercury Theater. Orson Welles, a writer, director and host for the Mercury Theater was in the middle of his production of The War of the Worlds. This radio program went down in history for causing one of the biggest mass hysteria events in America’s history via a radio program. The program was done as a normal radio broadcast of its time, complete with weather reports and musical numbers by an orchestra. In the middle of one of the musical numbers, a news bulletin broke in to report on strange explosions on Mars and the drama to follow. The results of the infamous program were widespread, with reports of people shooting at water towers in the dark thinking they were the Martian tripods, people claiming to smell the poisonous gas, switchboards of police stations and the board at CBS itself flooded with panicked callers demanding to know if the drama was true.
Of course, The Mercury Theater did say at every break and at the beginning of the show “You are listening to a CBS presentation of Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater on the Air’s dramatization of The War of the Worlds” but many people either didn’t hear it or tuned into the program in the middle. It’s hard to say. The reason I’m bringing this up is I watched a ‘mockumentary’ called Ghostwatch that reminded me so much of Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast just in a different way.
Ghostwatch was a mockumentary broadcasted back in 1992 in England via the BBC. It was shot on location in a small neighborhood and house and mimicked the case of The Enfield Poltergeist case from back in the 1970s but with a more modern, at the time of 1992, twist. The show switches up the perspectives between several spots: The people in the studio, the host, the parapsychologist and the man running the hotline, the crew outside the house on Foxhill Drive and the reporter, her crew and the family of the house within the house. The show acts like a real live broadcast including a call-in number that encouraged people to call in with their own ghost stories. The hotline they called had a recorded message at the beginning that told them ‘this is fake’ but encouraged them to share their story nonetheless.
I loved learning about the paranormal. Give me a good ghost story any day or a good show on haunted houses. When I was told about this show, I had previously heard about it from a friend and eventually sat down to watch it. It turned into a counting game of how many times I could find the ghost when it showed. I enjoyed the show though, at times, it did freak me out or make me uncomfortable with some of the scenes that were filmed and the way they were filmed.
I had mentioned that the show reminded me of Orson Welles’ The War of the Worlds and it was inspired by it, but the show and radio program had both caused hysteria because people had thought it was real. Without ruining the whole show, the program had easily tricked people same as the Orson Welles’ program.
Despite the times of the program, Ghostwatch actually was really well done but there are times you can tell some things are cheesy. I enjoy watching paranormal shows and ghosts throwing things around and ripping stuff off the walls but I can tell when you’re pulling a t-shirt across the floor with a fishing wire. I’m not complaining about the cheese. It actually is hilarious to me. Ghostwatch revolves primarily around a reporter and her crew investigating the hauntings in this family’s home with them and getting way more than what they had initially hoped, from terrifying noises to the ghost itself.
Another thing that I enjoyed about this is the ghost isn’t up front and center, the ghost is pushed far into the back. You only catch glimpse of it here or there, you more hear the ghost than see it. Speaking on the ghost sightings many fans have turned it into a game to try and pin point times and places of the ghost. So far there have been eight reported sightings with the director saying there are thirteen in the mockumentary.
Ghostwatch is the first of its kind from a decade that gave us a lot of found footage and budding new horror mockumentaries. Ghostwatch is worth a watch, there are times it creeped me out and had me feeling uneasy because of the clever use of the cats yowling and the tiny house with nowhere to go. I applaud the BBC for this film and can understand how it made people panic and why it was banned. It’s a bit of a flash to the past in terms of quality but so worth the watch.
10/10. Worth the cheese.