Leap in the Dark was a lovely British television anthology series with a supernatural theme. It was broadcast on BBC 2. It ran for 4 seasons – in 1973, 1975, 1977 and 1980 – and over 20 episodes were shown. The first season was documentary, subsequent episodes consisted of docudramas re-enacting real-life cases of paranormal occurrences.
Here’s my favourite episode – In the Mind’s Eye (1977) – A Local Legend about an Evil 18th century vicar and his pretty female accomplice who murder and rob unsuspecting Seamen along the docks of East London. The programme investigates the supposed many stories of local workers of sightings of a ghostly 18th century old vicar still seen wandering along the docks in 1977.
Here’s what the maker of the programme Colin Wilson had to say about the making of it.
“The Ghost of Ratcliff Wharf
by Colin Wilson
Prof Wiseman and Psychic Suggestibity
Back to… Skeptics in the Media
Colin Wilson draws a distinction between psychic suggestibility and genuinely paranormal phenomena but becomes worried when sceptics show signs of refusing to look facts in the face.
In 1971, many people began to report seeing a ghost near Ratcliff Wharf, on London’s Isle of Dogs. An elderly clergyman would be observed gazing up the river. But as soon as people took their eye off him for a moment, he would vanish. Many people reported seeing him over the next couple of years, and their accounts were carefully chronicled by a journalist named Frank Smyth. In past centuries, the area had been well known for robbery and violence, and a favourite theory was that the old man had been murdered in a cheap boarding house for the contents of his wallet.
I happened to know this was untrue. For the ghost was the invention of Frank Smyth, who made up the story one day to fill an empty space on the back cover of a magazine called Man, Myth and Magic. He was astonished to learn that his phantom had became part of the folk lore of the East End.
Which explains how I came to take part in a deception of which I still feel slightly ashamed. I was working for BBC2, as the presenter of a series of programmes on the paranormal called A Leap in the Dark. And for our final programme, the producer decided to try and demonstrate how easily people can become the victims of suggestion. We went to a waterfront pub whose owner was convinced he had seen the ghost, and he and his wife both described the sighting to me on camera – the old fashioned black clothes and white ruff that 18th century clergymen often wore instead of a dog collar. I hated doing this to them, and was inclined to refuse, until I reflected that the rest of the series had already been filmed, and that this was, after all, making an interesting point about people’s proneness to suggestion.”………………………….
A supernatural drama-documentary anthology based on real life tales. Episode list:
Series 2 (19 Sep – 10 Oct 1975)
(1) The Rosenheim Poltergeist
(2) The Search for Pat MacAdam
(3) The Battle for Miss Beauchamp
(4) The Vandy Case
Series 3 (14 Jan – 18 Feb 1977)
(1) Dream me a winner
(2) The Fetch
(3) The Ghost of Ardachie Lodge
(5) Parlour Games
(6) The Mind’s Eye
Series 4 (4 – 12 Sep 1980)
(1) Jack Be Nimble
(2) Poor Jenny
(3) The Living Grave
(4) Come and find me
(5) Room for an inward light
(6) To kill a King
(7) Watching you watching me.