It was over 20 years ago but Yvette Fielding will never forget her first ghost encounter while exploring the dark backstage corridors of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London for the TV series Most Haunted.
“I needed the loo but refused to go on my own, so three of us went with the camera following us,” recalled Yvette of a memorable night filming the first series of her cult-paranormal investigation show.
“You see us walk along a corridor to the top of a staircase and immediately stop. All three of us saw a pair of legs, walking in slow motion up the stairs. The legs were wearing over-the-knee boots with no body attached to them. You’ll never see three people turn and run so quickly!
“All three of us describe seeing exactly the same thing and that’s wonderful because people can’t say we imagined it. Many people have seen that ghost, The Man in Grey, but I just saw his bottom half! I couldn’t get my head around it. It made me want to investigate more.”
While it initially sent Yvette running, the encounter fuelled a fascination with the paranormal that shaped her career. It also set the bar for what thousands of viewers at home loved about Most Haunted – the spookiness of the team’s ghost hunts coupled with the hilarity of their terrified reactions, the speculation over whether it was real, and what it meant about the afterlife.
Following presenting stints on TV shows like Blue Peter and City Hospital, Yvette came up with the idea for Most Haunted with her co-producer husband, Karl Beattie. Despite initially struggling to get the show on air, it ran for 23 seasons, initially for eight years on Living TV and then, after a four-year hiatus, on Really TV from 2014 to 2019.
“One minute you’re a bit scared and hiding behind a pillow, then the next, you’re falling about laughing at our team’s emotions and reactions, which are completely real,” “said Yvette, 55, over the phone from her haunted home in Cheshire. “It has that mix of comedy and fear while also making you question things.
“We still meet fans of the show who are in their 20s and grew up with Most Haunted as kids and became fascinated by the paranormal as adults. Some say knowing there is an afterlife has helped them cope with relatives passing.”
A dedicated fan base has helped Most Haunted evolve away from our TV screens. Yvette and Karl have been running their public events, Most Haunted Experience, for nearly 10 years and share live ghost hunts on their official Most Haunted YouTube channel. “We’ve no budget so are doing it purely out of a love for it,” admits Yvette.
So when the couple were approached to turn Most Haunted into a stage show last year, they grabbed their night vision cameras and Ouija boards and have never looked back.
Taking to the stage
Since last August, Yvette and the rest of the Most Haunted team have been back exploring potentially haunted theatres across the country and will head to Glasgow’s Theatre Royal in September. As well as sharing their favourite and most frightening Most Haunted moments, the team goes on live, filmed ghost hunts around each theatre.
“It’s really important for the audience to be involved with what we’re doing, so they can experience it for themselves. Seeing is believing,” said Yvette. “When audience members come back on the stage after they’ve investigated, they’re so excited that they’ve experienced something they can’t explain, or that we’ve communicated with a relative that’s passed. It’s especially satisfying when the person was sceptical beforehand!”
Be it flying knives, jerking tables, coins falling from the ceiling, crew members being yanked up stairs or scratched by unseen forces, a multitude of strange occurrences have been recorded on Most Haunted. As with anything paranormal, cynicism comes with the territory. Most Haunted was often accused of fakery but Yvette and her crew insist it’s all real.
“I always say to people to come with us on a Most Haunted Experience to see for themselves,” said Yvette. “We have nothing to hide. It’s not made up for TV. There are no effects. It is genuine paranormal activity and, usually, someone with an open mind will have a similar experience.”
Throughout Yvette’s journey with Most Haunted, husband Karl has been by her side. They met on the set of City Hospital when Yvette was a presenter and Karl a cameraman. Karl proposed to Yvette live on air and this year they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.
Yvette says Karl remains spontaneously romantic and believes working on Most Haunted has brought them closer. “He’s come home tonight with sausages, mash and peas and is going to cook my tea, how romantic is that?!” laughs Yvette.
“We’ve been on one hell of a journey together with this TV series we thought would only last one season but it’s been years and has taken us around the world. We’ve grown together while being scared or in wonder of what we’ve seen or just laughing at our reactions. We’ve been very lucky to have found each other. I really do think we were meant to be together and to make Most Haunted together.”
A full believer
Thanks to Most Haunted, Yvette has gone from an open sceptic to a full believer in the afterlife. Now an expert in the use of a Ouija board, she says being able to contact and feel the presence of lost loved ones, like her father Alan, is a great comfort.
“I didn’t believe in it initially but after doing this for over 20 years, I now know there’s an afterlife,” said Yvette. “When my father passed, I got very specific messages from him that only I could understand. That showed me there is life after death, and I am going to see my loved ones again. Early on during lockdown, I was at home and very frightened, upset and confused. I couldn’t stop crying. He came through with this knocking and tapping phenomenon and on the Ouija board he spelled out, ‘Please don’t cry, everything will be alright. I’m always with you.’ That was such a huge comfort. It’s wonderful to know I can still talk to him.”
Paranormal activity at her home in Cheshire is less frequent these days. “We always had lots of activity in the house but since the children moved away it’s incredibly quiet. I think young people expel this amazing energy we can’t see but the other side can interact with.”
Maybe it was just her kids playing tricks on her all along? Not a chance, says Yvette. “Once, when there was nobody else in the house, I’d locked up, gone to bed, came down in the morning and couldn’t get into the kitchen because one of the chairs was jammed against the door. I eventually pushed my way in and found the remaining chairs stacked on the table like a pyramid. I peed my pants!”
Yvette’s children have both been involved in Most Haunted over the years, behind and in front of the camera. In fact, Yvette hopes to one day pass her Scream Queen crown to her daughter. “Mary has been a team leader on Most Haunted Experience so I’ve told her she’s taking over.”
‘Kids are intrigued by ghosts’
The paranormal has also inspired Yvette’s writing. She released her first children’s book five years ago and, following her successful Ghost Hunter Chronicles series, Yvette’s latest is the first in a new line of non-fiction books about haunted places for young readers.
Most Haunted Theatres is followed by Most Haunted Castles later this year.
While some parents may think it best to shield children from ghost stories, studies suggest it helps them build resilience and develop a sense of control over fear. Yvette takes her cue directly from her readers.
“We did a ghost hunt for under-16s with Most Haunted Experience and I couldn’t believe all these youngsters turned up. It was fantastic,” she said. “I said I was writing a ghost story for kids and asked how scary I should make it. They said the scarier the better. One child told me he wanted to be so frightened he’d be shaking under his duvet!
“The world of the paranormal has become incredibly popular with young people. Lots of teenagers and youngsters are going off with adults with torches and cameras into the woods and other spooky places and sharing their fantastic videos on social media. They’re intrigued by the whole subject.”
Most Haunted Theatres by Yvette Fielding is published by Anderson Press.
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