Sometime last year, possibly even further back than that, I watched a Most Haunted Live. I didn’t watch it because I’m either a believer or a sceptic. I didn’t watch it for an insight into the paranormal world. I watched it, as many do, to rip the piss from it.
The Most Haunted Live I saw was at the start of a week long series covering the seven faces of evil, or something evocatively daft. The first face of evil was something ghosty, then there was a ghost, then some more ghosts, I think one night was a witch, some poltergeist or other (do poltergeist have faces?) and I remember something about the final night being a demon or some load of old bunkum like that – possessing Karl and making him feel a bit queasy (ooo, the power).
Throughout the shows, along with the copious adverts and long, long segments of Paul Ross blathering on and on, trying to prove that he’s every bit the equal of his brother (good luck with that, my round-faced friend) a few things came to my attention. Firstly, the séances are different to any séance I have ever heard of before. I was always of the belief that you had to hold hands, or at least make contact, with each member around the table to generate the energies needed to summon the spirits from the other side. It would seem, however, watching Most Haunted that you simply start off touching fingers and then can wave your hands around, point, chat and generally not concentrate on the circle to your heart’s content and the spirits will continue to make the room cold, or make people feel ill, despite your complete disregard for tradition. They also, on one show, explained that some kind of TV aerial that had an electrical arc in it helped to draw the spirits. Maybe that works if you’re trying to channel Evil Edna off of Will-O-The-Wisp, but it didn’t cut the mustard with me.
My main observation though, throughout the proceedings came when the gang are walking around the haunted locations, in night vision (yet mysteriously never walking into anything) – actually, scratch that, I have two observations during these moments. The first is that Kath, loyal friend Kath, actually looks better in night vision that she does in normal lighting conditions – everyone else looks weirder, but Kath looks strangely normal – then the lights go on and the illusion is shattered. The other thing, though, and the point I think I set off towards at the start of this ramble is that Yvette has a very annoying habit of going into a room and demanding that the spirits copy her. “Copy me,” she will cry as she enters a room, banging on the walls. “Copy me, come on, you make a noise now.” She’s eager for the spirits to bang back to her, “tap once for every spirit in the room,” she’ll say before listening to the deafening silence of no taps – or the sudden rapid tapping of an off-camera colleague building up the suspense as Yvette counts the taps in the style of the Count from Sesame Street. I’d like to think that there are ghosts in the room sitting on their hands. Just sitting there, hands under their legs, not tapping. And if one of them succumbs to the charms of the pasty-faced ghost hunter and makes a noise, all the other ghosts turn, and look, and shake their head in that kind of disapproving way you’ll often encounter from a parent.
Yvette’s other trick is to ask the ghosts to whistle. She’ll whistle and expect the sound to be copied by the ghost. If I was a ghost, I really wouldn’t want to be haunting a place just on the off-chance someone comes along and asks me to whistle, although I imagine the spirit of a jaunty postie or milkman would be well up for a spot of etherial whistling for the entertainment of the nation. No, my problem lies in the fact that Yvette is making the assumption that the ghosts know how to whistle. Everyone knows how to whistle, don’t they. You just put your lips together and blow. What if, though, there’s a spirit who, when on the mortal coil, never learnt to whistle and so, unbeknown to our team of plucky ghost hunters, is standing there going, effectively “pffffft”. There is another assumption at work as well… what if, and this is a biggie… what if ghosts just don’t have lips. Think back to the sheet on your head, two eye-holes to see from, ghosts of yore – you only ever cut the eyeholes. You never made lips. You’d never think you’d be in a position to need to whistle for the sake of someone who couldn’t make pancakes on Blue Peter.
Once the novelty of nothing happening every week wore off I stopped watching. I occasionally watch little bits of the show but nothing’s really changed. I think I even caught a bit of a new Most Haunted Live which seemed to boast Eight Flavours of Evil or something – basically another level of evil had been invented since the last time, although I’m willing to bet it was a ghost, rather than a Skeleton Warrior or something. Once you realise that the spirits are there, and either lipless or sitting on their hands, it’s a much different programme. And if you ever happen to be watching a Live episode and the text message “What if the ghosts have no lips? They wouldn’t be able to whistle” scrolls along the bottom of your screen, between something about cats acting weird and someone who says they can see morris dancers skipping round a maypole in camera feed 2 then you’ll know it was me, mobile phone in hand, just wondering if they’d show it on air…