More like Most Horses#*t. Koch Vision has released a six-disc, seventeen-hour boxed set of Most Haunted: The Collection, containing the first two seasons of the hit British cable series Most Haunted, featured here in America on The Travel Channel. While I wasn't convinced once that I witnessed anything paranormal in these episodes, I supposed some of the locations were pretty (hence its run on The Travel Channel), and fans of the show will no doubt enjoy it, so....
Debuting in May, 2002, Most Haunted follows a trio of investigators - sort of a live-action Scooby-Doo "Mysteries, Inc." without the laughs - who travel all over England, visiting haunted castles, bars, rooming houses, halls, houses, and anywhere else ghosts and apparitions have been rumored to be seen. Host Yvette Fielding starts off each episode with historical background on the particular location, and then introduces the viewers to various historians as well as the caretakers of the location, who fill in the details of the various alleged paranormal activity. Then, Yvette discusses the "scientific" approach that will be used to chronicle the haunted locations with Phil Whyman and Dave Scanlan, who are listed as "Paranormal Investigators." Then, "Spiritualist Medium" Derek Acorah enters the scene (as night falls on the location), immediately jumping into the psychic stew boiling under the surface, channeling various historical and anonymous people who may have lived - and died - at the location. Finally, the lights go out, and the night vision cameras get turned on, and lots of bumps and groans are heard throughout the places, with Yvette screeching every few minutes or so.
If I sound dismissive of the show, I'm not alone. The series has been challenged by experts who question the science involved in the show, as well as the manipulation that necessarily goes into any reality series. Judging for myself, and taking the series at its own, I wasn't convinced I saw one genuine "paranormal" experience that couldn't have been accounted for by legitimate scientific explanations. And indeed, the show itself is very careful to couch its conclusions and conjectures in plenty of "maybes" and "perhaps" and "judge for yourselves" terminology. So let me be equally careful and state that maybe Most Haunted: The Collection is a big, fat fake, and perhaps the realities of mounting such a show based on the supernatural demands some fudging of the facts.
Chief bogus element of the entire series has to be "medium" Acorah. Let's just put it this way; after watching Acorah's act; I certainly wouldn't want to buy a used car from him. Let me be careful, though: maybe he's for real. But I doubt it. His act wasn't even that convincing, with plenty of phony bravado in the "possession" scenes that made me laugh out loud (host Fielding has publically stated that she thinks Acorah has faked previous possession scenes for the show). The funniest parts of the episodes are when the hosts act shocked when Acorah comes up with these "astounding" revelations that supposedly came out of thin air - revelations about places that are famous for their so-called hauntings, and whose stories of spooky goings-on have been circulating for hundreds of years in some cases. Again, the show is careful to explain that perhaps Acorah only "believes" that he's being possessed, and that it's really up to the viewer if they believe or not. Well..."not" I think, for me.
It's important to remember that "ghosts" equal big money in England, that haunted fairyland of castles and intimidating moors, where the rumor of a disgruntled spirit roaming the halls of a B & B can mean a 30% increase in tourist bookings once the latest guide book comes out. There are no shortage of people looking to make their newly acquired businesses or family-owned historical landmarks stand out, and it certainly doesn't hurt older, more established locations to keep their colorful paranormal histories alive - just in time for the tourist season. Don't get me wrong; it makes good business sense, and to an American like me, I find absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just don't expect me to buy the whole snow job because it's packaged in a so-called "scientific discovery" show. It's fun to pretend and think, "What if...." but seriously.
The show itself is depressingly rote, with the same set-ups episode after episode. The artificially flashy production - colored lights, the switch from black & white to color, the creepy green eyes of the hosts from the night vision cameras, the lightning-fast editing that makes "ghosts" look like bobble-heads on acid, the jump cuts between master shots, the goofball music cues - all signal "desperation" to me, and an obvious attempt to cover up a thin premise in bells and whistles. Really, the whole series is just showing the location, and then having the "medium" act like he's communing with the afterworld. Oh, and Yvette gets to screech and squeal and generally act like an idiot on cue, once the lights go out. While I'm sure that true believers in this kind of stuff will stand by this nonsense, that's their business. More power to you, and enjoy yourselves; Most Haunted: The Collection will probably delight you. I found it rather dull though, with little to recommend it unless you happen to buy all that crap. Its production was as unconvincing as its "science."
Here are the 20, 48-minute episodes of Most Haunted: The Collection:
Station Hotel Dudley
The Skirrid Inn
Clerkenwell House of Detention
The Bell Inn
Llancaiach Fawr Manor
The Clock House
RAF East Kirby
The Schooner Hotel
The Muckleburgh Collection
The Galleries of Justice
The widescreen, 1.85:1 video image for Most Haunted: The Collection is crystal sharp, although some of the blacks -- and there are a lot of them -- fail to hold.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo mix is quite nice, with some good levels during the musical cues.
The sixth disc includes a special ten minute behind-the-scenes featurette on each episode, along with an "Extended Walk Around" for the Clerkenwell House of Detention episode. Again: not convinced.
To those who may feel the need to email me, trying to argue that Most Haunted: The Collection is all real; feel free. If you know something I don't, I welcome the info. Going just by the series, though, I wasn't convinced. And more importantly, I wasn't all that entertained, either. It's all rather juvenile, actually, and the production is subpar History Channel. Fans will no doubt enjoy this boxed set, but all others should rent first before committing a buy for Most Haunted: The Collection.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.