Most Haunted and the Convergence of Traditional Belief and Popular Television

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Abstract:

LivingTV's flagship series, Most Haunted, has been haunting the satellite network since 2002. The set-up of the series is straightforward: a team of investigators, including a historian, a parapsychologist, and "spiritualist medium" Derek Acorah, "legend-trip," spending the night at some location within the United Kingdom that is reputed to be haunted, with the hopes of catching on video concrete proof of the existence of ghosts. However, unlike other reality television or true-life supernatural television shows, Most Haunted includes and addresses the audience less as a spectator and more as an active participant in the ghost hunt. Watching Most Haunted, we are directed not so much to accept or reject the evidence provided, as to engage in the debate over the evidence's veracity. Like legend-telling in its oral form, belief in or rejection of the truth-claims of the story are less central than the possibility of the narrative's truth - a position that invites debates about those truth-claims. This paper argues that Most Haunted, in its premise and structure, not only depicts or represents legend texts (here ghost stories), but engages the audience in the debates about the status of its truth-claims, thereby bringing this mass-mediated popular culture text closer to the folkloristic, legend-telling dynamic than other similar shows.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00155870701337403

Publication date: August 1, 2007

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