A frightened television crew had to be rescued from the dark depths of Epping Forest after allegedly stumbling upon the ghost of Dick Turpin during a live night-time broadcast.
The crew from the LivingTV cable and satellite channel went into the forest with a psychic medium who, live on air, tracked down the famous highwayman’s spirit and enjoyed a revealing conversation with him.
However after the close encounter the crew realised they had strayed from the path and were hopelessly lost.
They were in the forest as part of a three-day live shoot following Dick Turpin’s last days for the channel’s Most Haunted series.
Turpin, who was born in Essex, roamed the whole forest including the areas which form part of modern Waltham Forest.
Among other things he is believed to have used the Green Man, then a coaching inn and refuge for highwaymen, at the top of Leytonstone High Road.
He stole the racehorse Whitestockings from Joseph Major in 1717 just 40 yards from the inn, now an O’Neill’s pub.
In pursuit of his ghost, the television crew, fronted by former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding, headed into the Loughton Camp area of Epping Forest, just outside Loughton, in the late evening of Tuesday, December 30, armed only with torches, and their equipment.
The crew, who were filming in infra-red with remote wireless cameras, tracked the highwayman’s spirit down after an hour in the forest.
LivingTV’s director of programming, Richard Woolfe, said: “The psychic medium was basically trying to show Yvette Fielding the spirit of Dick Turpin, which actually presented itself in the undergrowth and this was why they went off the footpath and deeper into the forest.
“They suddenly realised they had no idea where they were. They hadn’t got a clue.”
After the encounter the team was forced to radio for help and luckily head forest keeper Keith French was nearby and able to lead them out.
Mr Woolfe said: “It was fortunate he was nearby because otherwise we don’t know what we would have done.”
Recounting his experience to the Guardian, Mr French said: “I drove down to where the sound crew were and walked off into the forest with a torch looking for them. They’d just become disorientated in the dark but seemed very grateful that I found them.”
The ghost of Turpin allegedly told the medium, Derek Acorah, that he spent most of his time in the forest these days, ever since being hanged in 1739.
“He revealed all sorts of things about what he does in the forest. He rides through regularly and a lot of viewers got in touch with us saying they’ve been in the forest and heard hooves and felt someone watching them,” Mr Woolfe said.
The show has been LivingTV’s most successful live broadcast with three million viewers over the three days.
The shoot started in Hampstead Heath on December 29 and finished in York, where Turpin was hanged, on New Year’s Eve.
Mr Woolfe said the response from viewers regarding Epping Forest had been great with many local people reporting strange goings on during the programme, such as power cuts and lights going on and off.
“One of the crew’s torches mysteriously drained as well, even though it had brand new batteries,” he added.
Dick Turpin was born in Essex in 1706 and was hanged 33 years later. He got his highwayman reputation when he and his partner in crime used to hide out in a cave in Epping Forest and rob unsuspecting passers-by of their belongings. Before this he robbed homes in the area.
Epping Forest attracts many film crews who all have to operate under strict regulations and have to obtain a licence to film from the Corporation of London.
Other programmes which have used the forest include period dramas, nature programmes and ITV’s football soap drama Footballers’ Wives.
Waltham Forest Guardian, London / England – Jan 09.04