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Most Haunted series six
cast: Yvette Fielding, Derek Acorah, David Wells, Karl Beattie, and Jon Gilbert

producer: Karl Beattie

725 minutes (15) 2005
Contender DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
SPOILER ALERT!
In case readers aren't familiar with this TV show, Most Haunted follows a film crew as they spend 24 hours in a haunted location. Equipped with handheld cameras, motion detectors and night vision, the crew conduct séances and other experiments to try and communicate with the ghosts in the area. They often, apparently, succeed. The series (first season, 2002) has proved immensely popular and has spawned several imitations and countless live events with Derek Acorah, the star medium, pulling in crowds across the country. Until, that is, this series, when the wheels came off in an utterly spectacular manner.

It all starts off quietly enough and in many ways, more impressively than previous series. A new parapsychologist has joined the team, Ciaran O'Keefe, who instantly comes across as a great deal less credulous than his predecessor. He's a real asset to the show, with the scientific and sceptical elements making a welcome return to the foreground. The vast majority of episodes here finish with him calmly and logically dismantling what the team claim to have seen, a welcome refresher from hours of running through darkened corridors and screaming.

However, the exact nature of his contribution only becomes apparent a few episodes in. One of the particular standouts sees the team spending the night in Bodmin Gaol. During this session, Derek is apparently possessed by a South African, called Kreed Kafer, who still frequents the area. Derek's possessions are a mainstay of the show and this one doesn't disappoint. He climbs a railing, shoves boxes around and yells in a deep, booming voice. There is, however, one problem. Kreed Kafer is an anagram of Derek Faker. Fed fake information earlier in the day to test how reliable he was, Derek became possessed, apparently, by someone who never existed.

When this story broke in the mainstream media, the effect was instantaneous. In short order it was revealed that Acorah and presenter (and producer) Yvette Fielding were at each other's throats and that Acorah's contract was up. As a result of this, and his planned move to his own TV show she and her husband Carl (another producer and show regular) had set out to do everything they could to discredit Acorah. The disintegration of their working relationship took place across this series and it makes for fascinating viewing.

As the series progresses, there's a gradual decrease in the amount of time Derek Acorah spends on camera. The team's other medium, David Wells, becomes far more of a fixture and in all fairness, is a plausible and somewhat more sympathetic figure. Where Acorah would lecture passionately about whatever he was sensing, Wells is a gentler, less assertive figure who is as likely to get frightened by events as the crew. At the same time as his ascension begins, Yvette Fielding herself moves from the role of dispassionate observer to direct participant. In a two-part return to Lower Well Head and Tynedale farms, the site of supposed witch-related murders and what appears to be a Most Haunted littered by psychic carnage, she is first identified and then possessed by the spirits of the witches present and eventually driven into a hysterical fit. The final scenes of the episode see her, revived, being helped by Carl and his love for her finally revealed on camera.

Which of course makes for fantastically entertaining, if not entirely reliable, television. Rumours also persisted, and still do, that events were manipulated to make them appear more unsettling and that in a lot of cases, Yvette Fielding and her crew were complicit in this. It does have to be said that across this four-disc set, there are a lot of moments where supposed spectral sounds don't carry over, where something moves by itself off-camera and where spirits seem unwilling to do anything but tap irregularly. If you're a septic, Most Haunted will not so much challenge your beliefs as give you a warm sense of absolute certainty. After all, this is the series that will be remembered as much for the backstage acrimony as the on-air hauntings.

And yet, there are moments where you can't help but buy into what's going on. Each episode is accompanied by a backstage video-diary from one of the crew and they speak with such passion about what they're doing that it's difficult not to believe that they care about it. They seem convincing and, for all the controversy surrounding the show, it's difficult to get past that.

Ultimately though, there is one moment which stays in the memory. Two crewmembers were sent ahead to a location and spent the night there, their cameras recording the whole time. The episode shows one, fast asleep as his TV turns itself on. He searches for the remote, finds it and turns the TV off, only for the process to be repeated. He's a clear six feet away from it, clearly does not have the remote in his hand when it first comes on and claims to have no memory of the incident the following morning. It's an intriguing incident and one which sums Most Haunted up perfectly; do you pay attention to the man behind the curtain or just get swept along for the ride? Either way, it's fascinating television.
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