Initiated in September 2015 with a visit to a supposedly haunted house in Pontefract, The ParaPod ran to thirty episodes plus special editions over three seasons as “sceptic” Ian Boldsworth and “believer” Barry Dodds investigated the paranormal through ghosts, hauntings, urban legends, mythical creatures and later conspiracy theories, their growing following having gathered sufficient strength to crowdfund a feature film of the same name.
Subtitled A Very British Ghost Hunt and premiered in January 2020, its wider release then delayed due to wider global circumstances, it sees the duo tour the country, revisiting sites such as East Drive, Pontefract, home of “the Black Monk,” and Pluckley, “the most haunted village in Britain,” as well as new locations such as the tourist attraction of the underground vaults of Niddry Street in Edinburgh and the QED sceptical conference in Manchester.
Travelling in their customised ParaPod hearse, the apparent intent of Dodds is to experience and evaluate the reported phenomena with an open mind, while Boldsworth has made it his purpose to berate, badger and cajole his associate, distracting him at every chance, interfering with equipment and throwing objects to create false results then dismiss them, entrenching Dodds in his mindset rather than coaxing him out through enlightenment.
The age of reason giving way to unreasonable behaviour, rather than investigative the tone is adversarial and hostile; “I’m not meant to be helping,” is Boldsworth’s condescending defence of his latest interruption, but nor should it be the place of a partner to actively hinder with sneering mockery, labelling Dodds a “gullible buffoon” and forcing him to humiliate himself repeatedly for his own gratification.
The interviews with talking heads such as psychologist Chris French and cultural anthropologist Deborah Hyde considering that while the existence of ghosts has neither been proved nor disproved the widespread belief in them is undeniably real, the snippets are too brief to explore the valid questions raised of why people are drawn to supernatural explanations of what they do not understand, of how our senses are fallible and can be easily tricked or misled in the right circumstances such as darkened rooms when prompted by a suitably ghoulish narrative.
The most astonishing thing about The ParaPod how long it runs with nothing to support it, some of the locations visited are suitably oppressive and others are magnificent in their wintry glory, but with the soundtrack the main contributor to atmosphere and suspense rather than anything actually happening it is easier to side with Dodds than the unlikeable Boldsworth, the most satisfying moment of the film the broadside he receives from a plain speaking resident of Pontefract: “I don’t need to prove anything to you.” Typically, rather than responding to what is being said, his response is to dismiss the speaker.
The ParaPod is scheduled for release on Monday 27th September