Ghost Hunters - Stories From The Other Side Review
I miss Most Haunted. I miss the thrill of seeing dust particles being described as orbs, the excitement that comes when a television turns itself on or a barrel rolls down a slope or when my skin prickles at seeing Derek Acorah being possessed by a wandering spirit. A spirit that would, invariably, speak as though it originally hailed from Birkenhead and would, were it inclined to be up to no good, have to deal with Sam, Derek's spirit guide, in a ghostly kind of tussle. Most of all, I miss Most Haunted Live, three hours of television that managed to be enormously exciting in spite of absolutely nothing happening. Nothing, that is, except for some drawings faxed in by viewers without any artistic abilities whatsoever, at least not that is apparent from their scribblings. No matter where they travelled to, castles, stately homes or Transylvania, Most Haunted Live ensured that any spirits that were about were shooed away for the duration of their broadcast. I would wager that if Most Haunted Live were to ever feature Hell itself, there would be nothing more than a puff of smoke, a rock that might have moved by itself and a Beelzebub with a Scouse accent. Oh, and orbs.
Now I know that Most Haunted is still broadcast on Living TV but it was quickly becoming the only show that was watched in our house that didn't belong on the free-to-view channels and so my Sky subscription was cancelled. With it went Most Haunted. So there was much to be happy about when Ghost Hunters - Stories From The Other Side dropped through my letterbox, sent via DVD Times from Delta Music. It's a three-disc affair that comes in a nice fat package and features the tones of William Wollard, who's not dead it would seem, narrating stories of hauntings up and down the country. At first, it does seem odd to hear Wollard concerning himself with something other than fuel consumption and braking distances but his is a warm tone that accompanies chilling tales of murder, hauntings and restless spirits.
Much of these twelve episodes will be familiar to anyone with an interest in the occult. The first episode concerns itself with the famous appearance, in the basement of the Treasurer's House in York, of a troop of Roman soldiers and of their being seen by Harry Martindale. At least, this haunting is famous enough to be mentioned in my Usborne Book Of Ghosts And Hauntings and Collins' Ghost Hunters' Guide To Britain, both of which tell of Harry Martindale seeing the ghosts and running to the museum's curator, only to be asked, "By the look of you, you've seen the Romans, haven't you?" This episode actually features Harry talking about his sighting of the Roman ghosts of York and the drawing that he made of them, which doesn't actually do very much to prove the existence of the ghosts other than it apparently throws up something that pricked the curiosity of historians.
Indeed, there isn't very much in any of these episodes that proves anything as regards ghosts. Avoiding the flash of an episode of Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters tends towards the parochial. Harry Martindale is identified simply as 'Harry - Plumber'. This isn't helped when, in episode two, Jim arrives to talk about the haunting of Marston Moor by the ghosts of the civil war and, leaning on a gate, is identified as a local resident. Frankly, he could be anybody, even a rather burly actor hired for his appearance on this show but though there's much to sneer at in Ghost Hunters, there is, if you have a liking for this nonsense, much to enjoy. The third episode, The Phantom School Master, plays on the suspicions around Ouija Boards by telling the story of the use of such a thing to get in touch with a spirit haunting a studio in Watford, that of a headmaster called Keith Cook. Writing down his history from the Ouija sessions, Cook's existence was confirmed by checking school records and the census of 1841, even to understanding Cook telling, via the Ouija board, of his dying in a fire in the school that year and it being rebuilt in 1842.
As dull as all of this might sound, at least as it is presented with the no-nonsense tones of William Woollard, Ghost Hunters is actually fairly entertaining. Stick with the show and for every story of a restless civil servant, there's some poking about with exorcists, psychics and, though they're not much to get excited about, more local residents. However, it's problem is only ever hearing about hauntings, clearly not having the budget nor the volunteers to sit up all night with camcorders, tape recorders and a couple of easily-frightened souls. Granted, that's a different show - to be fair, it's actually Most Haunted - but eventually the vast number of interviewees with rural accents and a limited vocabulary does tend to become rather dull. The better episodes, such as Priest And Professor and The Posession, show some evidence of hauntings but all too often, Ghost Hunters doesn't extend to showing much more than empty hotel rooms, graveyards and empty stretches of road. Sometimes these interviews catch one's interest, such as one with Chrissy as she attempts to explain her contact with the ghost of a biker and what the spirit world looks like but they are, more often than not, "Yarr...I thought that I saw this yere ghostie on thar hill!" Of course, if the local news is your thing, you'll feel at home here with random stories about ghosts apparently hiding in hedgerows and hanging up trees but one actually longs, in the end, for orbs, people staring at open doorways for minutes on end and a Liverpool psychic shouting, "Mary loves Dick!" Oh, for those days once again.
It's obvious that Ghost Hunters - Stories From The Other Side was produced on a relatively limited budget - and so William Woollard and not a more starry narrator - and so it proves as it comes to DVD. The picture is on the homespun side with it looking as though it was produced on videotape and cheaply with it. The actual transfer isn't bad but though Delta haven't pushed the storage capacity of each disc, they've only done a functional job of getting the series onto DVD with little remastering of the picture and leaving it looking washed out and flat. However, from my days of watching the Discovery Channel, I remembered that many locally-produced shows looked like this, leaving Delta looking as though they've done a fair job on Ghost Hunters. Without any subtitles, some points can be knocked off the scores for this release but the DD2.0 audio track is fine, sounding clear for most of the time and leaving the big box of audio effects alone for most of its running length. Then again, there is a few minutes in Phantom Pilot where the sound drops out quite badly, being there but also be hard to understand, leaving this looking poorly at times.
There are no extras on this DVD release.
No, it isn't at all frightening but for a show that was originally broadcast in a free hour on the Discovery Channel alongside Life Of Bees, Great Oil Rigs or Bras Of The Stars, Ghost Hunters is the sort of thing that fills in a half-hour here or there. Watching the whole 272 minutes of this in a couple of sittings was much tougher but limit it and it has its moments. What is a shame is how they avoided many of the most famous sites of hauntings in Britain, such as Glamis Castle, Borley Rectory, Beaulieu in Hampshire, The Theatre Royal in Bath or St Osyth's Priory in favour of the odd pub or stretch of road. A better show would, if you'll pardon the pun, haunt these places of interest. This one, on the other hand, dallies around less well-known places, which isn't without some interest but not quite enough.