When Derek Acorah's death was announced this week, I thought of the broken-hearted period where I binged on Most Haunted—a TV show with the chaotic air of a children's sleepoverby Eleanor Margolis / January 6, 2020 / Leave a comment
A broken heart—I learnt in 2010—can make some quite odd demands. That year, I found myself dumped, back at home with my parents, and binge-watching Most Haunted with my older brother. My uni finals were fast approaching, but the only activity permitted by my mind and body was lying in a foetal position on the sofa, watching Yvette Fielding running around in the dark chased by a camera crew, as her dilated pupils glowed with pure, animal fear.
Most Haunted was a significant (if underrated) part of British reality TV’s golden age. It aired between 2002 and 2010 on what was then LivingTV at a time where the reality genre was new, trashy beyond all imagining, and utterly compelling. There were the early seasons of Big Brother with their manufactured heroes and villains; Come Dine With Me, with its snide commentary on the idiosyncrasies of middle England; and high-stakes competition shows like Pop Idol and X Factor. The common thread in all of these was intense, unscripted interpersonal drama. But Most Haunted was the only one in which that drama might play out between, say, a 400-year-dead viscount and a self-styled “psychic medium” from Bootle.
Ghosts aside, the interplay between said medium, Derek Acorah, and permanently-startled former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding was nothing short of balletic. The former died on the 4th of January, and will undoubtedly be missed by aficionados of the reality/paranormal genre like me. In the histrionic style of an evangelical preacher, Acorah would channel vengeful spirits with inexplicable accents, which would—more often than not—send the increasingly wide-eyed Fielding several steps further down the path to a full-on nervous breakdown. The premise of Most Haunted is one of the simplest in all of reality TV: Fielding and co travel to different supposedly haunted locations in the UK, stay the night, switch off the lights and see what happens. The genius being in the fact that almost nothing ever happens, and yet when it does—say, something vaguely goes “bump”—the reaction is total emotional chaos, all heightened by flashing eyes and green tint of the night vision footage.
Acorah was dropped from Most Haunted in 2006, after “psychically” coming up with the name “Rik Eedles,” during the filming of an episode. It turned out the name had been fed to him beforehand, and was an anagram of “Derek Lies.” At this point, Fielding herself denounced him as a…