Everybody knows the story of Orson Welles and the infamous radio broadcast of WAR OF THE WORLDS on Sunday, the 30th of October in 1938. How it set off pockets of panic across the country (NOT a nationwide panic, as if often erroneously reported) because so many people thought it was real. It was presented as real; its first half, anyway. It was Welles’ idea of a Halloween prank, though he later denied that he and his acting troupe at THE MERCURY THEATRE ON THE AIR had suspected it would elicit such a reaction. (Perhaps they didn’t suspect it would cause SUCH a reaction, but there’s no way the program wasn’t constructed to scare people. It was a Halloween special, remember.)
I’d never heard of GHOSTWATCH, however. Maybe because it was a British thang. On Halloween night of 1992, BBC ONE aired GHOSTWATCH. It was a pseudo-news broadcast supposedly airing live from a haunted residence in Northolt, which is located in northwestern London. (I know this last because I looked it up. Hey, does that make it a suburb?) RED DWARF actor Craig Charles played the reporter, but despite his somewhat recognizable visage, a lot of folks, especially kids, thought the show was for real when things of a terrifying and paranormal nature started to happen. GHOSTWATCH was intended as a commentary on the blurring of the lines between entertainment and news–and it was way ahead of its time in that respect. Its creators succeeded. They succeeded too well. Kids got PTSD and there was even a suicide attributed to the show.
Traumatizing children. Orson would have been proud.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!