The Parkie effect
Parkinson's added validity
BBCi: How do you feel about the amazing reaction to Ghostwatch?
Stephen Volk: What astonished me was the public’s reaction. It went in totally opposing directions, from people who saw through it in seconds and thought it was awful and stupid, to people who believed in it completely all the way through.
In fairness, I was after the middle ground: people who would watch it, get intrigued, sucked in, ‘get it’ then enjoy it nevertheless.
It was weird to be accosted by a lady in a shop the next day who said, "Ere! My young lad was awake all last night because of you! We had to take down his luminous skeleton off the back of his bedroom door!" (To which one might say: what was the skeleton doing on his door in the first place?)
I was also amazed that a friend of mine, whom I had told to watch out for this programme "wot I wrote", phoned me to say she had believed it totally. I said, "But I told you I wrote it." She said, "I know, but as soon as I saw Michael Parkinson I thought you must have got it wrong!"
BBCi: When did you realise that most of the public had bought into the programme asa reality show and not fiction?
Stephen Volk: I didn’t fully realise until I read the Sunday papers the next day. It was a hell of a shock, the extent of it!
The Ghostwatch phone line, the number which flashed up during the programme, was manned by people from the Society of Psychical Research. Their first response to any call was the explain that the programme was totally fictitious.
Ruth, Lesley and I were all very keen to build in this safeguard but it didn’t stop the switchboard being jammed at the BBC with mostly irate calls: my favourite of which being the man who thought the BBC had evoked demonic forces simply by broadcasting the show.
Oh, and a later caller who (in a scenario more fantastic than any X File) said he thought the show had actually happened and the BBC was now covering it up by pretending Sarah Greene was still alive!
Read our review of Ghostwatch >>