ByJancy Richardson, writer at
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

The story of the Enfield Poltergeist has (quite literally) haunted the public imagination since it was first investigated in the late '70s. It's a gripping story, and recently became the biggest horror movie box office smash of 2016 in its newest incarnation in .

However, 24 years before The Conjuring 2 terrified theater-goers, a much more daring and terrifying movie inspired by the Enfield Poltergeist came to the small screen. Ghostwatch was a television special for the BBC in 1992, a mockumentary ghost-hunting feature and a pioneer in found footage horror.

Seven years before The Blair Witch Project, Ghostwatch went a step further with the found footage realism: on LIVE TV, events on Ghostwatch were presented as real, which would have been fine if it weren't so damn good. The result of this wild broadcasting: 30,000 complaints to the BBC switchboard and a ban from ever airing again on British TV.

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Way ahead of its time, Ghostwatch scared viewers so badly that the show was heavily condemned in the press and never shown again on UK TV. Like most movies the world wasn't ready for, Ghostwatch accrued a cult following in the years that followed, with popular retrospective documentary Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains released in 2013.

A rare sighting of Pipes in 'Ghostwatch' [Credit: BBC]
A rare sighting of Pipes in 'Ghostwatch' [Credit: BBC]

Ghostwatch builds on a feeling of creeping unease, but it's the legendary ending that really destroyed its early '90s audience.

Culminating in a children's TV presenter and a broadcasting national treasure being physically attacked — and even possessed — by a malevolent spirit is really breathtaking audacity. Truly bold television.

Don't be fooled by the fuzzily nostalgic '90s vibes; this is a horror landmark and deserves to be treated as such.

Ghostwatch is now airing for the first time ever in the US, available on sleek horror streaming site Shudder. The Conjuring 2, eat your heart out.


Which is the scarier adaptation of The Enfield Poltergeist?


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