Shudder Brings Infamous Banned BBC Program Ghostwatch to the States

Hallelujah! For many, many years people have been talking about the BBC program “Ghostwatch,” which upon airing caused quite a fervor in the UK. The show starred respected UK journalists and television personalities and was the perfect Halloween treat, but many viewers found more trick in that they believed what they were seeing was real. Think Orson Welles reading The War of the Worlds, but with spooks!

Shudder, the premium thriller, horror, and supernatural streaming service backed by AMC Networks, is releasing the BBC’s infamous faux paranormal documentary “Ghostwatch” for the first time ever in the United States.

Produced as a part of the BBC anthology series “Screen One,” it was presented as a live television investigation of paranormal activity, not as a scripted TV movie. It was banned after the premiere because of disturbed viewers making an estimated 30,000 panicked calls to the BBC switchboard in a single hour. “Ghostwatch” was never re-aired on UK television, never aired in the United States, and has never been made available on home video in the U.S.

The premiere of “Ghostwatch” on Shudder marks the second time in two months the streaming service has debuted a largely unseen piece of genre history for U.S. viewers; Shudder premiered Ken Russell’s controversial 1971 masterpiece The Devils in March, making it widely available for the first time in decades.

Directed by Lesley Manning and written by Stephen Volk, “Ghostwatch” is a documentary style on-air of a house in Northolt, Greater London, that’s experiencing bizarre poltergeist activity. The recording of “Ghostwatch” was presented as live television, causing a panic for viewers similar to The War of the Worlds in the United States.

About “GHOSTWATCH’s” release on Shudder:

  • Has never aired in the United States, nor has it been made available on home video in the U.S.
  • Aired once on BBC1, on Halloween night in 1992. Presented as live television and not a horror mockumentary, it resulted in an estimated 30,000 calls to the BBC switchboard in a single hour. It has never re-aired on UK television and was banned in the UK until released on DVD by the British Film Institute in 2002.
  • Features actual BBC personalities playing themselves, adding to the confusion for an unsuspecting audience.
  • A clear precursor to The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and the found-footage genre
  • Has a cult following: An annual event, known as National Séance, occurs every year on Halloween night at 9:25 PM (the original broadcast time of “Ghostwatch”), when fans are encouraged to hit “play” on their own personal copies of “Ghostwatch” and live tweet the special.
GhostWatch

Picture shows: MIKE SMITH, MICHAEL PARKINSON and SARAH GREENE
© BBC 1992

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Steve Barton

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