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If running this blog has taught us anything, it’s that there is a certain stigma attached to being a paranormal enthusiast. As a topic most people take about as seriously as Morris Dancing, telling people you have even a fleeting interest in ghosts immediately invokes looks of pity or contempt. Either way, you’ll probably find yourself invited to far fewer parties. With your social status diminished to a low you never imagined possible, you might as well have told your friends you were a child molester.

One of the many problems we imagine paranormal enthusiasts often encounter is the lack of evidence to support their beliefs. “If ghosts exist,” many will scoff, “show me the evidence.” And then when you do try to show them some form of evidence, they’ll simply refute it with reasoning and logic. And, most likely, punch you in the face.

Frankly, when stories like this surface, it’s difficult to feel much sympathy.

This report from the expertly written and definitely not racist Daily Mail claims that a young family from Coventry (I know, but bear with us) have “fled their house in terror” after capturing poltergeist activity on video. Seriously, the Daily Mail again? We know it’s always looking for new and inventive ways to scare the life out of people, but it’s fast becoming the paranormal rag of choice. Who’s the Editor over there these days; Derek Acorah?

The Mannings, pictured here looking terrified.

Anyway, the story drones on about phantom footsteps, doors slamming, lights flickering – the usual generic ghostly crap. Read it here if you’re interested; it’s far too dull to talk about at any length. Except for the bit about a dog flinging itself down the stairs. That was fairly amusing.

One thing you must do, however, is watch the accompanying video. This is the “evidence” the paranormal world has apparently been crying out for, and it takes the form of shaky video footage of a chair being pulled across a room on a piece of string.

“It’s like living in a scary movie,” wails Lisa Manning, mother of the family, although as a resident of Coventry this is presumably a sentence she’s uttered many times before.

Perhaps that’s the problem: knowing that this event took place in Coventry reduces the story’s credibility by approximately 98%. The other 2% is reduced by the canine suicide.

I think we can all agree that if, one day, irrefutable proof of ghosts does surface and there is to be a world-wide media storm,  it isn’t going to happen in the Midlands.

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Searching through some online audio clips recently, which is nowhere near as much fun as it probably sounds, Looking For Ghosts discovered an interesting debate on an American radio show from a few years ago. It featured Most Haunted’s Yvette Fielding, who had agreed to take part in a phone interview with the guys from US TV programme Ghost Hunters.

Fielding was, presumably, entering into what she thought would be an amicable discussion about the paranormal, a mutual interest of both parties. However, despite the two shows having an almost identical format, what followed was an astonishing attack on Fielding and the credibility of her beloved Most Haunted. You can hear it in all its punishing glory here.

Who finds the best ghosts?

Not wishing to take sides, or start an Anglo-American slanging match (after all, both shows are ostensibly bullshit), we couldn’t help but find this exchange a little unfair. As Fielding herself was keen to point out, when she wasn’t busy trying to defend herself from a verbal mauling, both shows share the same problem: they both address a subject matter that most people don’t take seriously. Transatlantic rivals they may be, but rather than squabbling, she reasoned, they should show some solidarity and work together to bring ghost hunting to “the masses”.

Despite making some salient points, Fielding didn’t come out of the debate very well. Clearly frustrated by the hostility shown towards her, she eventually lost her cool and resorted to personal attacks, hilariously retaliating that some of the Ghost Hunters team used to be plumbers. They gave her enough rope and, by rising to the bait, she duly hung herself.

Granted, she was outnumbered by two to one and she evidently came unprepared for such an argument (perhaps highlighting her own naivety), but the result was clear.  In the end, she was a broken woman being mercilessly picked apart by her American counterparts.

But who is the real winner? And, more importantly, is there any value whatsoever in ghost hunting shows like these?

Disrepute

Most Haunted has more than its fair share of critics, with people seemingly queuing up to bring it into disrepute. This won’t have been helped by numerous tabloid reports that some aspects of the show are faked, including revelations by one of the show’s former stars, Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, that viewers are being misled by “showmanship and dramatics.” He also makes the epoch-shattering claim that the show’s resident medium, Derek Acorah, can’t really talk to dead people. Hold the front page!

Derek Acorah is easily the least convincing medium on the planet. His thick Liverpudlian accent makes any spirits he’s supposed to be “channelling” sound like a deranged Ringo Starr, so he was never fooling anyone anyway. His only real purpose was to act as a comic interlude to break up the monotony of the rest of the show, which consists of some people standing in dark rooms listening very hard. He might as well have dressed up as a hotdog for all of the integrity he added to proceedings.

Derek Acorah, seen here talking to the ghost of his career.

But all of this is irrelevant. No one watches Most Haunted because they believe what they are being shown is real, unless they are criminally stupid. You would have to have had several lobotomies to give any credence at all to the notion that any of the knocks or bangs captured on tape are caused by anything more than shuffling cameramen or warping floorboards.

What Most Haunted is, primarily, is entertainment. The “showmanship and dramatics” that O’Keefe is so eager to lament is actually what draws viewers in. And it obviously works: you don’t get to series number 14 without doing something right.

No Clean Hands

The tabloid negativity that Most Haunted has faced is evidently what fuelled the Ghost Hunters team when launching their assault on Fielding, but they too have been accused of exactly the same thing. Search for “Ghost Hunters fake” on YouTube and you will be shown hours of footage highlighting details of their own embellishments. There are no clean hands here.

They claim to approach the paranormal from a “scientific” angle, even though a ghost hunt is about as far away from a scientific experiment as it’s possible to get without actually living in a different galaxy from one altogether. Watching their team pratting about with scarcely-believable electrical gizmos is almost painfully embarrassing at times and only serves to make them look far too worthy and righteous for their own good. At least Most Haunted doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Ghost Hunters apply one of their many "scientific" techniques to push a wall on a ghost.

But Ghost Hunters also pulls in a big audience, so who cares? The common ground Fielding was alluding to is that both shows are in the business of making good television; whether you choose to use pseudo-science or theatrics in order to achieve this is surely immaterial.

By laying into Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters look like they’ve missed the point entirely. The point being that they are both peddlers of absolute garbage and they should just sit back and enjoy the spoils.

What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, or even want to leave us some abuse we can masturbate to, we encourage you to leave your comments.

In fact we insist.

Looking For Ghosts

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