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Friday, May 25, 2007

Most Haunted Live coming to the United States on June 1st!

For those who don't know, I'm a big fan of the British- based show Most Haunted which is hosted by Yvette Fielding. Fielding is is usually flanked by spiritual medium, David Wells and a small band of regulars - team members who investigate paranormal activity, and crew operating cameras and sound equipment. There is great chemistry with the group as they look for spirits from the netherworld during their weekly taped broadcast. The show airs in Britain on LivingTV, and in the United States on The Travel Channel, Fridays at 10 p.m. (with a usual repeat airing on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. for those of us that need the sleep - check listings).

Well there is exciting news for Most Haunted enthusiasts! On June 1st - to sort of kick off the new season - the Most Haunted Live crew plan to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary located in Pennsylvania for an unprecedented seven hour live broadcast beginning at 8 p.m on the Travel Channel. ESP, as its fondly referred to was built around 1828, and is full of lore and reports of ghostly happenings. This is a perfect site for our gang of paranormal investigators to research and the fact that its States-side is even more exciting!

My thoughts on the show

While I won't get into the topic of whether or not I believe in ghosts in this article, I have to concede that there is good reason that Most Haunted has a huge world-wide fan base that is near to a cult proportion following amongst its viewers. The show is incredibly entertaining and is so well produced that you want to tune in each Friday to see what happens next.

The show has something for everyone since it contains elements of history, architecture, drama, storytelling, terror, humor, and some buffoonery - all components that make it all the worth while to tune in each week. It generally follows the same format in a very predictable fashion - which is obviously what works since the ratings are through the roof here and abroad. In fact, the UK is currently airing its ninth season on LivingTV (and we will be viewing the seveth series here in the United States via Travel Channel beginning on June 8th).

Each episode starts out with a brief two minute introduction by Yvette Fielding on where this weeks' location is and what kinds of creepy happenings have been seen or heard by visitors to the location. This sort of level sets the scare to raise your expectations and level of anxiety. This is then followed by about a 7 minute daylight tour of the location led by the show's guest medium, who is usually flanked and fed leading questions by Director Yvette Fielding who clearly is rooting for something to creep up and haunt the crew to haides. The medium almost always picks up on vibes or sees images in his minds eye showing events or people that have dwelled in the building, and are still in astral form on the premises, who are, we are told, watching the crew as they walk the location. And there is usually a promise that the location is quite active tonight, and they can expect "activity".

What is usually remarkable (or silly depending on your take) about this part of the show is that the viewers are always told that the medium is never provided any information about the location prior to his arrival. So then when the medium generally manages to "pick up on" or "communicate" with a person who is identified by name, and that name fits almost precisely with a previous owner or resident's name - and is confirmed by the team skeptic/historian (who accompanies the medium and Fielding), it lends to either solidify the "ohhhs and ahhhs" for those who believe that what they are seeing is real, or provides laughter for those who think the show is nothing more than a choreographed sketch. Either way, its extremely gripping.

After receiving a commitment of ghosts and ghouls watching (and sometimes warning), we switch to night vision camera mode. The rest of the show is filled with the team investigating the rooms (and sometimes grounds) either alone or in small groups, filming and recording sounds like moans, creeks, bangs and knocks that show a terrified crew screaming and jumping about asking "what was that"; occasionally light anomalies are captured on screen that show up as orbs and streaks of light - and generally appear at the time that the spirits are called upon to "let them know they are there." Most Haunted rewinds these particular sightings for us to see for ourselves in the case we missed it, or want to validate for ourselves.

The team tend to do much of the same each week and at times to give it flavor they practice "table tipping", to operating a make shift Ouija Boards where yes or no questions are often fed to the spirit to get provocative answers to stir the moment. Sometimes, and particularly when Derek Acorah was a member of the team (more on him later), the audience would have to endure a "possession" or two by a spirit over the medium. When they occur, they are by far the most hokiest part of the show that generally leaves viewers perplexed and agitated.

All in all, its an entertaining hour that speeds by. You get just enough of each segment to leave you wanting more, and there is generally enough 'evidence' to get you to partially believe that what you are seeing makes the case that ghosts do in fact haunt the location. I can recall early in the initial seasons that there were a few investigations that had gone bust. For some reason, this never happens now, although activity ranges from active to slightly active. The viewers are told that the MH crew has more ghostly experiences because the trust they have in each other after working together so long benefits their ability to make contact with those who have passed on. Simply put, it would be a very boring show if they just sat around in the dark with nothing happening.

Staging Elements and Derek Acorah; Most Haunted exposed

Most Haunted went through a rough period of accusations of staging. To some this is like what Pro Wrestling went through in the 1990s, when it was revealed that it was choreographed staging and entertainment than actual competitive battling. But like wresting, there are those who are going to believe its real no matter what evidence you provide. And today wrestling is as popular as ever and still taken as real by some viewers.

The problem with MH is that its base viewership probably wants to believe - because spiritualism is a very serious thing for some people - and MH provides a link to that whole world, so when stories or videos leak on the Internet exposing MH, there is an angry backlash amongst the viewership. A series of events exposing Derek Acorah happened during a few Most Haunted tapings which eventually ended up with either Derek's dismissal from the show or his leaving. We still don't have the straight story on this and perhaps never will. CiarĂ¡n O'Keeffe, paranormal investigator and MH skeptic called Derek out and accused him of being a fake after O'Keefe intentionally slipped a name to him through the MH crew which was nothing more than an anagram that read "Derek Faker" and another time they slipped one in that read "Derek Lies". There is a good article here from the UK's Daily Mirror expose on Most Haunted's most entertaining, and least trusted medium. And here is another article on the matter.

I have to admit that even my wife found Derek's antics over-acted, and his numerous possessions came across as very fake, violent, and down-right agitating. I think for most of us, who sort of sit on the fence on what we are seeing, felt as though we were be pushed over to the "this whole thing is total BS category" nearly every time Derek appeared. And the more he appeared, the worse his antics became. Ultimately, I believe Derek's leaving had much to do with saving Most Haunted's reputation with viewers. He became a liability they could no longer float. Reports are that the crew on the show wanted Derek gone much sooner but the producers had to weigh this against his popularity which helped with ratings. This site provides video that pretty much closes the book on Acorah - you can view for yourself and decide. I think to save both Derek's professional career and Most Haunted's credibility, the two simply agreed to part ways quietly. Thus Derek was gone after Series 6.

Life after Acorah

In contrast, David Wells, who now serves as Most Haunted's full time medium, is a mild, mannered, low-key, believable medium, who tends to approach his work cautiously and seriously. At times, he simply cannot reach the spirits, which I believe lends to his credibility, and adds to the show's overall credibility. Wells is a full time medium and UK astrologer who devotes time to other shows and specials on spiritualism, etc.
It's sort of remarkable that when Acorah and Wells were on the same show, the often didn't pick up on the same spirits. I would bet that from a professional standpoint, Wells and Acorah probably don't comment on each other's talents.
Nothwithstanding, the show continuous to flourish, and there appear to be plenty of sites for the Most Haunted crew to investigate world-wide. Fans are hoping that MH doesn't run its course and come to an end, but with 175 episodes already taped, there are always the reruns for those who want to watch.
As part of this blog, I think I will begin commenting on Most Haunted Live and Series 7 which will all begin on June 1st with the Eastern State Penitentiary show.
Happy viewing!
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Anonymous said...

Hi I'm in Canada and I love Most Haunted but the woman's network has dropped the show on friday evenings do you know if any of the new shows will be aired in Canada ?

The King said...

I would hope so. It's hard to imagine that such a popular show would be taken off the air when there's such demand for it.

In the US, we are lucky because not only does it air on The Travel Channel on Friday nights at 10 pm EST, but it also reairs Saturday morning at 9 am.

If you are getting hosed out of your MH fix, then I'd recommend doing the following:

1. Contact your cable TV company and ask them to provide a network that shows MH
2. Contact MH via their parent network and tell them you can't get the shows in your area of Canada (they could put pressure on your network to air them)
3. I don't know how serious Canada is about enforcing copywrite laws, but you could always try and download off of a sharesite - many MH shows are available for download.

Good luck.