•  
  •  
 

DOI

https://doi.org/10.7275/f3wf-ga75

Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1801-6700

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abstract

This article revisits controversial BBC television film Ghostwatch (1992), a seasonal feature-length television special about a family plagued by a poltergeist and the television crew has entered their home hoping to capture ghostly phenomena on camera. Fictional, scripted, and filmed in its entirety prior to airing, Ghostwatch follows the formal conventions of live, factual television: well-known British media personalities host from the studio and on location, interviewing experts on the paranormal, and periodically inviting the watching public to call the show via the BBC phone-in number, 0818118181, which had both a diegetic and an actual function. The high volume of calls that the BBC received during the program caused the switchboard to jam, leaving reportedly tens of thousands of callers unable to speak to an operator.

Typically considered as a media hoax à la Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, this article moves away from such claims to assert that the circumstances of Ghostwatch’s broadcast opens up a problematic that traverses narrative and information theory: what promises do communications networks make, if any, about providing meaning? Framed through Roland Barthes' and Friedrich Kittler's respective approaches to information theory, this article proposes that Ghostwatch can be used as a starting point for rethinking problems of technical media and interpretation.

Share

COinS