17 December 2017

REVIEW: Most Haunted - Series 1 Episode 1 (25th May 2002) Athelhampton Hall, Dorchester


I asked before on social media if people would be interested in me reviewing Most Haunted from the very beginning. And overwhelmingly people said yes. So I managed to grab the episode from Youtube and my review is below.

Depending on how engaged people are with this review will depend on if I continue on. Hopefully my expertise and knowledge on Most Haunted will let me give you previously unknown insights on the show as I look back.

Lets start with how Most Haunted was conceived.

BBC1 Halloween night, 1992, a new type of TV show was born, never before seen, that show was called Ghostwatch. It was a show filmed like a documentary, but it was a spoof, there was a warning before the show explaining that, much like how today we get "For Entertainment Purposes only", the show was clearly advertised as a spoof. Unfortunately many people quickly forgot about that, and after the show aired there was reports of people with PTSD, and sadly Martin Denham, an eighteen-year-old factory worker with learning difficulties, committed suicide five days after Ghostwatch aired.

Ghostwatch had become the most complained about show of all time, and was immediately banned. Terrestrial TV channels would take decades before aired any similar shows, no one dared even touch the subject in such a manner, but Living TV a satellite channel in 2002 finally agreed to give Most Haunted, a show that was basically a remake of Ghostwatch a chance, but aired with very strict disclaimers admitting it was just entertainment. Whereas Ghostwatch was written and scripted and then acted by professionals, Most Haunted was purely a vehicle for Yvette Fielding to relaunch her career and hopefully get her back on mainstream TV. Sadly as you know now Yvette quickly because typecast and has never broken away from the show or the genre. Her career never really getting back on track, and from being viewed by 10 million people on Blue Peter, she is still stuck on Most Haunted which rarely gets more than 300,000 viewers. And the odd appearance on reality TV shows with other Z List celebs.

So now you know the origins of the show, let us begin.

Back in 2002 Karl Beattie still had his original hair colour, his blurb was thick and strong, and luckily I managed to find the remnants of such blurbage and you can read that below.

"The Most Haunted crew travel Great Britain in a search into the paranormal. Experience the tears, laughter and fear of the Most Haunted team as the stay overnight at Haunted locations. Setting experiments and using some of the most up-to-date equipment Most Haunted captures some of the best paranormal activity ever seen."

As the show opens up, Yvette Fielding looks straight at the camera and says
"We guarantee no tricks, no camera illusions, and no practical jokes"

Many people often look back at the first series as a genuine investigation, but what they don't know is that the show was always "faked", just not to the obvious level it is today. She claimed no tricks, we see tricks every episode now, with items pulled by fishing wire or Karl being pulled up steps by a rope wrapped around his waste, no camera illusions, well we all remember the video overlay effect of ghost Stuart walking up stairs, or camera edits before beds are tipped upside down, and as for no practical jokes, well usually a practical joke is exposed as such right after, that is the joke bit, so I can give that to them, they don't do practical jokes do they.

Also worth noting that Yvette must be early to mid 30s here, and is looking quite hot. Leather skirt, hair typed up. 


Hilariously Yvette says "If we find nothing, you will see nothing", if that was true, the show would have tanked after 2 or 3 episodes and forever cancelled.

Blimey as the titles roll, they have not changed the music in 15 years!
Also the production value was so much higher back then, who would have thought that 15 years later they would be making episodes on a shoe string budget.


We then get introduced to the "Parapsychologist" Jason Karl, now it is worth saying that back in 2002 no one was really familiar with this title, it sounds "sciency" so automatically makes you think that Jason Karl must be some kind of scientist who has decided to move into this field. In fact Jason Karl was just a jobbing ghost hunter employed to play the part of a parapsychologist, and his claim to fame at this point was an appearance on kids TV show Knightmare under his real name Julian Smith. (Source IMDB). Amazingly despite his lack of real knowledge or experience, I do remember him as being one of the best skeptics they ever had on the show, and he quickly became popular. (Which was also the reason he was eventually let go, remember the show is a launching pad for Yvette)

Jason introduces us to the EMF meter, and sadly this is the start of thousands of idiot ghost hunters buying these useless machines to wave about just because they have seen it used on TV.

Quite a few shots of Yvette sat on chairs with her legs crossed. The filming was so much better back in 2002, more atmospheric shots and really playing up to Yvette.


Derek Acorah has arrived, we are continually told he doesn't know the location, he didn't know he was coming here before hand and so on. It is funny looking back now how much they wanted to insist that Derek had no prior knowledge. Lots of stories would go around of his wife Gwen hidden away on a laptop looking up info that she would then pass to Derek. All very funny.


The crew are sat around the fire and discussing ghosts, this is great. Fantastic idea. Now I am watching the "unseen" version of this episode, so not sure what made the original airing or not. 


Long before Watson was even born, we had this little fella, he is looking at something, and before you know it Derek proclaims that he is looking at an ape, a monkey, yes Derek Acorah is claiming that there is a ghost monkey present. And that the dog is looking at the ghost monkey.

Now surely if there was a ghost monkey there the dog would be barking or even run at the monkey.

Jason and Derek start bickering a bit about what the dog is seeing. All very bizarre.

Derek then gets possessed by the Monkey, I am not even joking.


Quick reminder of what Yvette said earlier.
"We guarantee no tricks, no camera illusions, and no practical jokes"

After a break we are back, and Derek has been taken over by a spirit called Martin, I had forgotten how great Derek's possessions were. TV gold.

While all of this is going on Jason Karl is looking incredulous as he writes things down on his notepad.

It is interesting to see how much of the show was about Derek, and how he would become such a star through Most Haunted. 


These 3 are pretty much all you see on screen from the crew, no Karl, no crew members with cameras pointed at themselves. So refreshing.

They hear a noise and a rocking cot is slightly moving. Derek says it must be one of the ghost women present. 

20 minutes in an they are finally turning the lights off, they do this because stupid Jason Karl said that they are more likely to get paranormal activity in the dark. The irony being that historically the vast majority of ghost sightings are reported in the light.


Rick Fielding is Yvette's brother, and strangely he only worked on Most Haunted for a couple of years, he has since worked in America on a few TV shows as a cameraman. I do not know why he left, or anything more about him, but in his brief appearance in episode one, it is clear he is a big wuss and scared of everything, so you would think he would fit right in.

If anyone knows any more about him please let us know in the comments. Just curious.

As he is scared to go near a door, Derek and Jason investigate. Derek sees a spirit near a door, Jason does not pick up anything on his EMF meter. Derek is now talking to his spirit guide Sam, suddenly Derek has a name.

"de Lafontaine"


We get some info on screen that matches the name. This is an incredible piece of psychic evidence from Derek, such an unusual name, it could only possible come from the spirit world, there is no other possible explanation.

Just for fun here are a couple of non paranormal explanations.
1. The name is written on a plaque on a wall, in the gardens and so on.
2. In literature for the Hall this name could be written, maybe on leaflets near the entrance.

The point is that even back in 2002 there were many ways to get such information. You would not need to do massive amounts of research, such keep your eyes open as you walk around. And if in a big location like this, if you had been before, you would most likely remember such information, especially if it is part of your job.

So you have to ask yourself what is more likely, did Derek pluck the name out of the spirit realm, breaking the laws of physics, or did he just read it on a sign as he came in the building?


We get our first shot of Karl, full head of hair, and you can even see his jaw line.

You can also see how many people are present.

Derek has his eyes closed and comes up with another name. 

"Ralph Bankes likes this room"


Hmmm another owner and likely person mentioned in any literature or signs around the location for visitors to see.


Another name given, incredibly specific here. Yet when you see Derek live he seems to be so vague.

Belief in Derek comes down to one thing, trust, the only way you can believe him, is if you trust that he is telling the truth, because clearly it would be very easy for him to cheat.

I can understand why Jason Karl became so popular on this show, his looks of pure incredulity towards Derek are brilliant.

We now start to understand why Derek was possessed by a Monkey earlier as we are told about the legend of Martin's Ape.

By the way for anyone wondering, yes from episode 1 they used green filters to fake night vision. 


We now get a first shot of Stuart, full head of hair! He mumbles a bit about things and they quickly move on.


Jason Karl is up close and personal with Yvette, a position that Glen dreams of.

There is a lot of talk of a secret passage that a monkey would go down. They go into the passage.

Karl feels a breath on his ear, so must be a ghost.

Yvette has moved that rocking cot from earlier to a new position. Jason Karl is now asking the ghosts to give them a "flashing orb" this is the first mention of an orb in the show, so we now know we can blame Jason Karl for starting a generation of idiots who think that orbs are spirits and not just bits of out of focus fluff or insects.

The monkey ghost is breathing in Karl's ear.
Despite him sat by some stairs in an old house that is full of drafts.


As Yvette and Jason look at the cot, there are some digital artifacts that appear on the footage, remember this is 15 year old technology, but they are calling them orbs. This is easily debunked by anyone even vaguely familiar with digital photography.

The investigation ends, and we now get the summary interviews as various cast members talk about the show and what has happened.

I genuinely had forgotten how incredibly entertaining Derek Acorah was, and how he truly was the star of Most Haunted from the very first episode. It is sad to see the show today and how far they have fallen, and how it is the same old rubbish every week.

As much as I disliked Derek back at the time of this show first airing, I can better understand now that he was just playing a part, doing what he was employed to do, and he was making the most of his TV time to make a name for himself.

Of course now it seems ridiculous to even try to use facts to debunk Derek, back in the day we would spend ages looking things up as a way to prove he had researched things, and desperately tried to catch him out. Now I can watch these old episodes and just enjoy how ridiculous it all was.

Episode 1 and Derek got possessed by a ghost monkey, how did anyone ever think that was real?

For a first episode, I have to give this a really decent score, I was entertained, I never got bored, even Yvette was fun to watch as she wasn't screaming, or running around like an idiot, or having blatantly staged arguments with Karl, it was just her being herself, and she came across quite genuine.

If you take Derek out of the equation, nothing really happened, there was a cot that started rocking OFF CAMERA (I had to throw at least one of them in), and a few digital artifacts on some camera footage that they claimed were orbs, and other than the Ghost Monkey breathing in Karl's ear, nothing really happened.

And Yvette looked rather hot in her leather skirt and knee high boots.

Derek was the star by a mile, or should that be the Ghost Monkey?

I give this episode a strong 7/10.
Light years ahead of what they produce 15 years later.

If you enjoyed this review and would like me to continue to review the old episodes let me know in the comments. If you don't then I wont.

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By Jon Donnis

1 comment:

  1. You're right, the show was much more entertaining when Derek was on it. Keep doing reviews of the old shows please, this was hilarious.

    ReplyDelete