The TV programme that caused so much controversy when it was originally broadcast that it was banned from British TV.
Ghostwatch is a British reality–horror/mockumentary television movie, first broadcast on BBC1 on 31 October (Halloween), 1992.
Despite having been recorded weeks in advance, the narrative was presented as 'live' television. Following its first and only UK television broadcast the show attracted a considerable furore.
The 90-minute film was a horror story shot in a documentary style and appeared as part of BBC Drama's Screen One series. It involved BBC reporters performing a live, on-air investigation of a house in Northolt, Greater London, at which poltergeist activity was believed to be taking place. Through revealing footage and interviews with neighbours and the family living there, they discover the existence of a malevolent ghost nicknamed Pipes from his habit of knocking on the house's plumbing. As the programme proceeds, viewers learn that Pipes is the spirit of a psychologically disturbed man called Raymond Tunstall, himself believed to have been troubled by the spirit of Mother Seddons – a 'baby farmer' turned child killer from the 19th century. In the course of the programme Pipes makes various manifestations which become more bold and terrifying, until, at the end, the frightened reporters realise that the programme itself has been acting as a sort of "national séance" through which Pipes was gaining horrific power. Finally, the spirit unleashes its power to the fullest extent, dragging Sarah Greene to her probable death behind a doorway and then escaping to express poltergeist activity throughout the country. He takes control of the BBC studios and transmitter network, using the Ghostwatch studio as a focal point and possessing Michael Parkinson in the process.
Many viewers believed the events to be true and some controversy ensued after its airing. This was all in spite of the fact that Screen One was a drama slot, the programme aired with a "Written by ..." credit at the start, and a cast list was published in the BBC's Radio Times listings magazine. There is a long running rumour that Sarah Greene had advertised the programme on her Saturday morning children's show Going Live, including a "visit" to the location of the "haunting" and gave the impression that she was taking part in a 'reality show' and not a drama. However, the Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtain blog (which gathers information for a long mooted documentary about the show) acquired the three most likely episodes (the week before, the day Ghostwatch was shown, and the week after) and found no reference to the show. The BBC was besieged with phone calls from irate and frightened viewers, and British tabloids and other newspapers criticised the BBC the next day for the disturbing nature of some scenes, such as Greene's final scene where she is locked in an under-stairs cupboard with the howling ghost, and Parkinson's eerie possession scene.
The reaction to the programme led the BBC to place a decade-long ban on the programme being repeated after its initial broadcast and, although this has now been lifted, it remains unlikely that it will ever be shown again on British terrestrial television. The British Film Institute released it on on VHS and Region 2 DVD in November 2002.