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DVD Review

Most Haunted
Series 9


Starring: Yvette Fielding
Universal Pictures
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: 15
Available 28 April 2008

Join Yvette Fielding and the team as they venture through the darkest depths of Transylvania, investigating the eerie paranormal activity in a medieval well even uncovering human remains. Will Karl ever be the same after being trapped with an unknown skeleton? With Psychic David Wells and paranormal investigator Ciarán O'Keeffe aiding the investigations, revisit all the scares and suspicious shadows of Cammell Laird and Brougham Hall. Who is the phantom Queen of Hever Castle? And are the team in for the ride of their life at Alton Towers?...

Yvette Fielding and her producer/director husband Karl Beattie must be laughing all the way to the bank. For nine year's they've thrown together the most ludicrous excuse for a TV show, conned their audience and got away with it.

Before I start to tear Most Haunted apart I thought it only fair to give you a little bit of background on my stance on the paranormal. I'm not a huge believer in ghosts and ghoulies. I currently live in an old converted barn which is haunted - something I didn't know until I'd moved in. Strange phenomena has occurred in the house to both my girlfriend any myself (I won't bore you here with all the details) but it was significant enough for me to talk to the old owners about it. They confirmed that it was indeed haunted. Before we moved in the building was the local tearooms and the owners, and nearly all of the staff, have stories to tell. Over the last two years I've met many of the locals who worked in the tearooms, many of whom were students who are now employed in respectable jobs - and certainly not the sort of people to benefit from lying about ghostly encounters.

All of these people have strange stories to tell and a lot of them tie in with our experiences of living in the house. We've learnt that all of the other strange events happen in the same parts of the building that we've experienced odd phenomena.

So, it's not as though I am a total sceptic and am coming to Most Haunted with blinkers on. I watched every episode on this five disc box set, as well as each show's Extra behind the scenes featurette, and to be honest I might as well have watched one random episode and written my review from that - they're practically identical.

Each episode opens with Yvette Fielding doing a piece to camera on the location of that week's haunted building as well as a run down of the history and ghostly sightings. Then we see footage of two of the crew spending a night at the location alone. This is followed by more historical information on the ghosts, which is occasionally backed up by eyewitnesses interviews and a guest medium. Then Ciarán O'Keeffe, the show's parapsychologist, talks us through what he expects of the night's scout. Next up David Wells, the show's medium, walks through the building and tells us very accurate information on the ghosts that he can see. Then we get to the bread and butter of the show - the team wandering around in the dark, with infrared cameras, filming what they see and hear.

The show concludes with O'Keeffe debunking the events we've witnessed, which reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World. I half expected O'Keeffe to sign off by saying: "Do ghosts really exist? Personally, I doubt it". However, he always stops short of accusing the team of faking the paranormal activity - which is what I would do.

A basic rundown of the ghostly stakeout usually involves stone throwing (go figure), rapping (not of a musical kind), table levitation (or to give it it's proper term - one of the team raising it with their knee), groans (mainly from the audience); and the occasional brushing and touching (sexual harassment case pending).

At no point is any of this recorded properly. O'Keeffe wanders around wielding his equipment like a Star Trek tricorder. But then I wouldn't put much faith in a man who openly admits that his favourite film is Ghostbusters and that he's always wanted to be Peter Venkman. In fact I almost expected him to pee his pants at Dartford Library - he was that excited (his favourite Ghostbusters scene is the one set in the library).

My biggest problem with the show, other than the whole thing is staged from start to finish, is that Wells never comes out with anything that he couldn't have read on the Internet or in any one of a million ghost books. Because almost all of the locations are tourist attractions, there is already plenty of material available on who lived there and what they did for a living, as well as what strange phenomena has been witnessed by others.

For those who stubbornly refuse to believe that the whole think is faked (believe me there are plenty out there on the Internet who strongly defend the show as a fact based programme) why is it that the team experience so much activity at every location, and yet have never managed to capture anything even half believable on camera?

In the Alton Towers episode, you can clearly see one of the crew do an unnatural hand movement seconds after stones have been thrown. Hmm. Could it be that this team member dropped the stones?

Now while I don't have too much of a problem with the show fooling a gullible audience, I do find the use of celebrity guests to be one step too far. In this collection both Carol Thatcher and Lee Ryan are invited on in an attempt to give the show more credibility (probably).

Thatcher appears in the Tatton Old Hall episode. I loved the fact that she humoured everyone, yet asked questions that obviously left the team a little nervous that she might rumble them. So halfway through the night, after no ghostly activity whatsoever, Thatcher leaves. Apparently the ghosts were scared to death of her, as once she is out of the way they come out of the woodwork chucking stones a plenty and banging more than Mr Rabbit on his honeymoon.

Musician Lee Ryan (Blue) on the other hand is made to look a complete twonk. The poor sap almost wets himself when his scarf becomes the object of paranormal activity (picked up and moved by someone when everyone else is out of the room). Now poor old Ryan is a believer of ghosts (nothing wrong with that) and for the Most Haunted team to use him and make him look foolish is unforgivable.

The last two episodes are slightly more interesting. Here the team travel to Romania and spend the night in a building that contains (apparently) human remains in a grave, and get lowered into a very deep well - which again (apparently) contains human remains. These episodes are interesting for the historical information only, not because the team tap on walls and pretend to be chatting casually with the dead.

Those that need further proof that the show is a load of baloney need simply search the Internet. Two of my favourite video clips include the infamous "Mary Loves Dick" cut scene from an earlier series and Fielding admitting that possessions are not real. Both of these YouTube clips are from when Derek Acorah was the regular medium, but if you spend a bit of time searching I'm sure you'll stumble across several with David Wells messing up too.

The show was investigated and cleared of fraud by TV watchdog Ofcom, which ruled that it contained: "a high degree of showmanship that puts it beyond what we believe to be a generally accepted understanding of what comprises a legitimate investigation. On balance, we consider that overall Most Haunted/Most Haunted Live should be taken to be a programme produced for entertainment purposes. This is despite what appear to be occasional assertions by the programme that what viewers are witnessing is real. As such this programme should be seen in the light of shows where techniques are used which mean the audience is not necessarily in full possession of the facts."

In other words, the show is fake and viewers should have the common sense to realise this when they watch the show. It's no more credible an investigation into the paranormal than Scooby-Doo!

How this show has managed to survive for nine series is beyond me. Maybe they should give up the ghost and lay it to rest - they're even revisiting locations they've already visited for goodness sake. If it wasn't for the historical context and ghost stories that surround each location, this review would have got a big fat zero.

Most Haunted is co-produced by Fielding and her husband Karl Beattie. Maybe the two are eager to keep the show running for as long as possible because they themselves are haunted by their own demons. According to an Yvette Fielding fan site, her biggest fear is "being a bag lady on the street with no money and family", and Karl may not want to go back to his old job - apparently he used to design "a lot of those toys that you find in cereal packets."

Avoid this DVD release at all costs - why should you fund a show that takes the p*ss out of both its viewers and its guests. In fact, I'm wracking my brains trying to work out who would enjoy this... gullible idiots that still believe in the Easter Bunny, probably.


Darren Rea

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