In this episode we investigated paranormal activity in one of Britain’s most famous port towns. Situated on the south east coast, Harwich became a hub of maritime trade – and an important naval centre in times of war – during the 16th and 17th centuries. For hundreds of years locals have complained of being haunted by ghosts of long dead mariners and soldiers.
We started our investigation in a pair of alleged haunted lighthouses and an ancient ‘Crane House’, where centuries ago children were forced into hard labour. Rather than the usual blog of talking about the whole episode this blog will concentrate on one of the vigils in the lower of the Harwich Lighthouses. More so I will try and explain how and why a show is edited as it is but also give you 30 minutes of content that wasn't broadcast. Hopefully this will explain to the paranormal investigators out there how a TV show is pitched at a generic audience.
Harwich Lower Lighthouse
The vigil that I want to examine is the one that myself Paul Hobday and Ian Lawman Paul found the most intriguing and that was the 3 minute segment in the show where we investigated the cellar in the Lower lighthouse.
Before I do that firstly lets look at time limitation for a Ghost Chasers episode. Each episode visits 2 locations and the broadcast time allowing for advertising is 48 minutes of show. 2 minutes of the show is taken up with the opening sequence and the end credits. This leaves 46 minutes for both locations which then each get 23 minutes of air time. Hours and hours of footage were shot at each location for the series but this is often overlooked as what you are watching are literally the highlights of each investigation. With this in mind lets move onto the cellar segment of this episode.
I have uploaded the 3 minute segment of the show here but this then continues with the complete audio recording from my Zoom H2n recorder. This alone is quite atmospheric to listen back to but does show that the vigil itself took 36 minutes from start to finish.
Ok did you listen in the dark? So from the video you can see just how condensed that one vigil had been cut for this episode. For the paranormal investigators out there who have sat in the dark for hours on end you may have already experienced something like this. When you start a vigil the mood is more of expectation and hope that something will happen. As is the case with this vigil we were lucky and had some phenomena occurring that we couldn't explain with the sounds and interference bouncing from one radio to another and then from a remote monitor on the upper floor.
Over the 36 minutes the mood changes from expectation to apprehension,intrigue or in Kay's case fear but! and it is a big one this change in mood is like a roller coaster ride that takes the whole 36 minutes to take you through these emotions ending possibly with relief when we left the area. This was certainly true for Kay don't forget this was only his 3rd ghost hunt!
Going back to the limitations of the program there were only 3 minutes to show this segment in the allocated 23 minutes.To add atmosphere backing sound effects are used to drive the emotional state of the the viewer very quickly to try and add the emotion that we were experiencing over the 36 minute time period. We receive a variety of comments about the show and the biggest complaint we get from the paranormal community is the use of these background tracks. However television in its nature is targeted for a mass audience.
The mass audience or generic viewer may never have been on a ghost hunt or may not even be interested in the paranormal and may have stumbled across the show while channel hopping. To keep a viewer interested the atmosphere has to be generated in a very short space of time and sound is a great way to do this. Imagine watching your favorite horror film with no backing music. The industry term for these sounds is called 'Tension Bed' this is used in all genres of Movie and TV. Even game shows have clever tension beds to enhance the effect of running out of time. The clock on 'Countdown' is a great example.
Hopefully this has demonstrated that the vigils we experienced were intense at times and helps you to realise that although you are watching the highlights there were many hours of investigation put in to this program to generate enough engaging content. This was a great example to use to highlight the way tension is generated however I do have well over 80 hours of audio from this microphone, recorded from the show, sat on my hard drive a lot of which creates no atmosphere at all as nothing happened while recording.
Chris Howley Ian Lawman and Paul Hobday at Harwich Lighthouse
The following evening we investigated a military fort known as the ‘Redoubt’
The Harwich Redoubt fort was built between 1808 and 1810 to protect the port of Harwich against the threat of Napoleonic invasion. It was part of the scheme that included the construction of 29 Martello Towers on the East Anglian coast.
The Redoubt is of circular shape, approximately 200ft in diameter, with a central parade ground of 85ft diameter. Hoists lifted shells from the lower level to the gun emplacements. It is similar in design to earlier redoubts at Dymchurch and Eastbourne.Though difficult to imagine as it is now surrounded by houses, when the Redoubt was built it was on a hill top with free views in all directions. A house was demolished to make way for the Redoubt, and a large elm tree - used by ships as a navigational mark - was also removed. It is said that French prisoners of war were made to help in the construction.
Originally armed with ten 24-pounder cannon, the Redoubt was remodeled in order to accommodate increasingly heavy guns, as technology and the perceived threat changed. In 1861-2, work was carried out to accommodate a 68-pounder cannon, and the emplacements were strengthened (by adding granite facing) to withstand improved enemy artillery. Only a decade later in 1872, three of the emplacements were altered to take enormous 12 ton guns. In 1903, three emplacements received 12 pounder quick firing guns.
Despite this ongoing modernisation, the Redoubt never fired a shot in anger. It is also probable that its strategic importance declined towards the end of the 19th century with the construction of the more powerful Beacon Hill Battery just to the south. In the 1920s the area around the Redoubt - previously kept clear to provide fields of fire - was bought by the Town Council. The Redoubt itself was allowed to fall into disrepair.
The Redoubt was briefly taken back into military service during World War II, when it served as a detention center for British troops awaiting trial. Examples of the graffiti left by the soldiers can still be seen in some of the rooms.Following World War II the Redoubt was used by the British Civil defence organisation who used it until they were disbanded. That was the end of the Redoubt's military service.Following a listing as an Ancient Monument, the restoration of the Harwich Redoubt began in July 1969 and has continued until the present day. When restoration began, one of the 9-inch 12 ton RML guns was discovered buried in the (dry) moat - it had been pushed in when it became obsolete, as they were too large and solidly constructed to be broken up for scrap.
Currently open as a museum, the Redoubt is the largest ancient monument in the UK being restored by a voluntary group. In addition to some of the original guns that armed the Redoubt, there are a number of other guns on display. Around the parade ground on the lower level, the various rooms are either fitted out in reconstruction of how they might have looked, or are used as display rooms for other exhibitions.
Harwich Fort was another great investigation and after explaining the time limitations of the show here is another example of the problems this causes for the production editors. This is when they have too much content to try and squeeze in.
From the show the highlights of this segment were the noises and moving objects culminating in the cell door being slammed shut and us being locked in. What wasn't shown in the episode is the examination of the cell door or the fact that our director Dan Edwards was so panicked when he heard us shouting that he ran to the top of the fort to get a mobile signal to phone the owners to come down with a key to let us out. The bemused owners response was 'There is no key as the cell door does not lock!' It was while he was on the phone the door mysteriously opened up!
More content that didn't make the cut was another EVP (electronic voice phenomena) that was captured in the empty ship room you can hear this below. (The ship room is the first picture in the gallery below the video clip.)
As you can see from the screen grab this audio file is over 4 hours in length, this was reviewed during breaks in filming and also back in our hotel rooms after the investigation. In the clip you can see all the markers that I place as I listen back these are just pins that help me go back to review the file more thoroughly. Out of the 19 or so markers in this clip only this one file still remains unexplained but due to time limitations this didn't make it onto the episode.
Hopefully this blog goes some way to explain to you how the show is cut together and some of the reasons why it is produced as such. In life you can never please everybody all of the time but by explaining the hours of investigation that were put in to make this show we hope you can appreciate how difficult it is to come up with what we think is a credible balanced show.