Spall in Good Spirits; Harry Price: Ghost Hunter Puts the Ethics of Professional Psychics in the Spotlight. Rafe Spall Talks Sceptics, Superstition and the Supernatural with Keeley Bolger

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 26, 2015 | Go to article overview

Spall in Good Spirits; Harry Price: Ghost Hunter Puts the Ethics of Professional Psychics in the Spotlight. Rafe Spall Talks Sceptics, Superstition and the Supernatural with Keeley Bolger


AFE Spall doesn't share his Harry Price: Ghost Hunter character's interest in the paranormal, but they do have one very significant thing in common.

"He [Harry] was a real guy, who happened to go to my school," Spall explains. "And I found out the most bizarre fact - his name is below mine on the school website of notable alumni!" Set in Twenties London, the stand-alone TV film - which also stars Cara Theobold, best known for playing kitchen help Ivy in Downton Abbey - is based on Neil Spring's novel The Ghost Hunters, a fictionalised account of real-life ghost hunter and sceptic Harry Price, who investigated tales of the paranormal and supernatural.

An expert at sleight of hand and with a keen eye for identifying charlatans, Harry has fallen on hard times and, professionally and ethically, has lost his way.

"He started out as a serious psychical researcher, going around debunking all of these things and finding logical reasons for the happenings," explains Spall, 32. "But he started to get depressed with the idea of disappointing people, so he started to make it up, to give them something.

"He now resorts to making his living as a fake medium and fraudulent ghost hunter, conducting seances for unsuspecting families who have lost loved ones during the First World War.

"It's a big, ethical conversation about the merit of people [who work as professional mediums]. I don't believe it - generally, when those people contact somebody - [I think] it's a trick - but they'll say, 'Look, your son's at peace'.

"I don't really see what's wrong with that, because if it's giving someone solace, then fair enough. Except in our story, that has pretty brutal consequences. Something happens through him [Harry] doing that, that he will never be able to make up for."

For someone who has had "absolutely zero supernatural experiences", Spall found a number of striking personal connections to the story along the way - including the fact that his mum "started a PhD in Victorian psychical research but didn't finish it". …

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