So, in the early nineties, the BBC performed a special "live" show on Halloween. A bunch of real reporters, people viewers would recognize like Michael Parkinson, participated in a news special investigation of a haunted house. The home was shared by a mother and her two little girls, and had been the location of a series of frightening occurrences, some of which were caught on film. So they set up cameras, perform seances, all while the camera is rolling. All good holiday fun, until the shiz hits the fan and people start getting hurt, and the studio gets call after call of strange things happening in their own homes, the ghostly activity being spread by the broadcast.
It's all great stuff. Slow, but convincing in the right context. And it would seem that many viewers agreed, because within the day the BBC had themselves a War of the World's level ordeal on their hands. Real, earnest viewers were convinced that the ghosts were real, a newsperson they knew and were familiar with had been killed, and another had been possessed by a demonic force, all while said force terrorized all of Britain.
Seriously. How awesome is that.
I love events like this, because they never do them anymore. You'd think the fake-news format would be exactly what networks are looking for, with how popular found footage and mockumentary styles are getting, their costs so low and their payoffs so real. But the "event show" isn't a common thing anymore. And it's a shame.
You can find Ghost Watch online for free. It's on Vimeo, divided up into sections, the first of which can be viewed here, if you have some free time and are into this silly stuff like I am.
Even better is the U.S. production Special Bulletin, a much more realistic and, I think, chilling demonstration of the same gag, this one dealing with a nuclear threat, presented as a "breaking news" interruption to regular programming. It's free on youtube here.
And last but not least, the creepy-awesome asteroid disaster piece "Without Warning" is a lot of fun, and even features Jane Kaczmarek, the mom from Malcom in the Middle. Watch it! It's free!