Imagine watching multiple episodes of Most Haunted, except switch out Ciarán O’Keeffe with staunch sceptic (not with a ‘k’, and with a lower case ‘s’) Ian Boldsworth, and instead of Yvette Fielding you get the joyously naive believer Barry Dodds. They’re both comedians too, so add a healthy dose of laughs and shenanigans along with the ghost hunting and you get The Parapod Movie. Considering that most podcasts probably shouldn’t even be podcasts, it’s a bold step to take that formula and attempt to make a film of it. It seems however that they’ve managed to pull it off. With a healthy dose of crowdfunding, primarily from the audience of the aforementioned podcast, the movie is now on general release.
With a number of well-known members of the Skeptic community making appearances, and a cringeworthy cameo at QED as well, we thought it was appropriate to sit down with the disagreeing duo for a chat. Unfortunately Ian is under the weather just now, but that gave us the perfect opportunity to grill the proponent of the paranormal Barry Dodds on his own:
The Skeptic: Does Ian know that you’re doing this interview, and did he give you any guidelines to follow?
Barry: [laughs] He doesn’t know I’m doing it. I’m keeping my contact with him to a minimum because he’s not very well at the moment, so I just figured he doesn’t need to know about this one. Although, it’ll probably be like the scene in Father Ted when Ian finds out, you know, that “You let Dougal do a funeral?” scene, and it cuts to the hearse burning. It might end up being like that.
The Skeptic: Well, you’re free-range chicken for now, so enjoy it while you can. At the time of this interview, the movie’s been on general release for about a week, and you’ve been wandering the country doing screenings and Q&As. What kind of reception are you getting?
Barry: The screenings are finished for now. I was doing them with Ian and so we were just knocking around backstage having a laugh and a catch up, and then we would go out and do the Q&As, but for the last couple of them Ian was poorly so I had to go and do some on my own. I had to come up to sunny Glasgow for the day, which was lovely. It was nice in Glasgow, but then I went and did Bristol on my own, and I really missed Ian for that one. But the reception has just been really nice. Nobody’s been rude yet. There’s one or two people that have called me a couple of names, but compared to how it used to be in the past it’s been relatively mild.
The Skeptic: Well, that’s good to hear, but let’s talk about that one percent though. Are you aware of any feedback specifically from people within the paranormal and the ‘believers’ community?
Barry: I’ve always tried not to make myself a representative of that community. I’m not part of any Facebook groups, I’m not in any clubs is such. I mean, there’s one company that I do work with now and again, and they help with the article that I write for Chat magazine. It’s a company called Haunted Happenings. They’re actually in the movie. They came to see it in Nottingham and they all loved it. I said to them outside “Listen, I’m really sorry, but I’ve done a terrible job of representing us”, and they they were like, “It’s fine. It’s fine. As long as you’re being yourself that’s the only thing you can do”. They’re quite grown up about it, but I’ve maybe seen one or two comments along the lines of “This is not representative of ghost hunting”. Well, that’s not really what we set out to do. We set out to make a movie version of our podcast, which is, sort of my, my belief in it with little research and little knowledge in any of the gadgets I’m using [laughs]. I just know if it lights up there’s something there, but if you ask me, why does it I couldn’t tell you. Yeah, I think some people maybe whinge that I didn’t show what real ghost hunting’s like, but the reality is that real ghost hunting is very, very boring.
The Skeptic: I think this was made clear in the podcast – that it’s primarily comedy, and the secondary thing is exploring the paranormal – so I would hope that people on both sides of that believing fence would take it in the ethos it was meant to be delivered with, right?
Barry: Yeah, I mean, I remember talking to Ian about it, a while back, and he said he said it’s almost like the podcast isn’t about ghosts, it’s about people. Him being the critical thinker, and I’ve just come to accept it now that I’m quite easily tricked and deceived by things. I have a house full of tat where I’ve been deceived by online adverts. I saw an ad for a light sabre once. It looked incredible, and I went and bought for Ian. It turned out to be like something out of a pound shop, and that was his birthday present, but I was just wowed by the by the amazing video, and all the sparkly lights of it. Then some tat turned up. I’m very easily tricked and deceived. I’m getting better, and I’m a bit more careful these days.
The Skeptic: It’s nice to know that it’s having a positive effect on you in some way.
Barry: Yeah, I try. Ian would maybe dispute that I do it as much as I say, but I do try and think a bit more critically. Like, when I see a bit of ghost footage, instead of just immediately being amazed by it, I kind of think “How does this footage exist? Why does it exist?”, you know? Why would anyone ever look at the security camera footage where a door just moves a little bit. Why is that thing? So, I’m trying to think a little bit more.
The Skeptic: After watching the movie, do you think many minds will have been changed in either direction?
Barry: No [laughs]. I think I might have pushed one or two believers on to the skeptical side.
The Skeptic: We should be thanking you for that. It’s really hard to get traction so, anything you can do is very much appreciated.
Barry: Um, yeah, I don’t think I’ve convinced anyone. I think there’s a couple of things that happen in the film that I won’t mention because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but there’s a couple of things do go unexplained. One being a thing that I experienced, and another thing that happens towards the end of the film that we just can’t explain and people always go “Why don’t you talk about that thing at the end?”, and it’s like, because we don’t know what it was is the honest answer.
The Skeptic: Considering Ian has his hands on the scissors when it comes to editing both the movie and the podcast, do you ever feel like you’ve been unfairly represented or had something positive on your side left out?
Barry: [Laughs] I don’t. Of course, everything is changed around in edits. I used to watch Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity they would always come out and go “It’s all in the edit”, and I was like “Oh, he’s just making excuses”. But now I’m like, yeah, you can really change a lot with everything. I don’t think any of it’s been unfair. The one bit that I remember being an edit in the Parapod where I was like “Oh, you’ve been sneaky there”. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this before actually, but there’s a bit in the podcast while we’re talking about one of the rituals, which we used to do at the end. It was this thing about putting stuff on your stairs in your house and then Ian goes something like “Are you just making the film Home Alone?” and we both laugh and he goes “What a brilliant joke I just did”. The reality of that was I just went “You do all this when you Kevin McAllister” and he went “Who’s Kevin Mcallister?” and I said it’s the kid from Home Alone. He says “Oh, okay. All right. Let’s re, record it.”, and then he said the line then took the credit for it. I was like “You fucker”. So that’s the only thing I’m being precious about is, like, maybe he nicked that joke off me.
The Skeptic: OK, we’re going to out him for that now, and I’m sure there’ll be a lawsuit pending.
Barry: [Laughs] Sorry Ian!
The Skeptic: It does lead on nicely to the next question though: Ian seems to be relentlessly merciless with you in the movie and in the podcast. Is he nicer when the microphones are off?
Barry: Yeah. You couldn’t be like that all the time, otherwise you wouldn’t ever be around that person. I said this in Sale and he disagreed with me, but I’ll say it again: I think we’re actually both quite similar people, similar sort of background, similar sort of political beliefs. It’s just that we very much disagree on the idea of there being anything that happens after death. He’s very fixed in his ways and I think sometimes you can just have a complete difference of opinion on something and still be friends at the end of it. I know there’s some people who just can’t imagine that.
The Skeptic: I would imagine it depends on the thing that you have the differing opinion about. Maybe something like this, where there’s less real-world harm then then maybe you get away with it. Maybe the, the fact that both of you are aware that everything’s been played for laughs makes some of that ok.
Barry: Well, yeah. My big thing is always “If it’s funny, it’s worth it”, regardless of whether I’m the butt of the joke or not. There’s a scene in film where I’m in quite a horrible situation where I’m stuck somewhere. Well, the important thing is that when I’m in the cinema, if people are laughing, then it’s like, yeah, it was worth it. I’m fine with it as long as people enjoy it. It was always the first thing I said to Ian when we finished recording anything. I’d always go “Is it funny?”. I know we did this whole team Dodds, team Peackock/Boldsworth thing, but I was never ever that bothered about it. So I didn’t want to win. The objective was it [to be funny], probably just cause my proper “job” is as a comedian. I’ve been a comedian for twenty years, so funny always takes precedence over everything else.
The Skeptic: The premiere of the film was way back in early 2020, followed by a planned screening tour round the country. Then the pandemic hit, and it must have felt like the movie was cursed somehow. Can you tell us about the impact that had on you, Ian, and the film in general?
Barry: It was disappointing. I remember I was getting ready to go to London on the Tuesday and Ian was already down there. I called into his radio show, which I used to do all the time and just have a chat with him, which I think used to really annoy his producer. I’ve got to take this one on the chin, because we were meant to be going on the Tuesday to do Richard Herring’s podcast and then on the Wednesday was the London screening, and I rang up the radio show and was like “Oh, I think this Richard Herring show is going to get canceled. This is ridiculous. Why is all this getting canceled?”. I just had no idea, but I suppose no-one did really. And then, all of a sudden, in like 24 hours this thing just became like “Oh, no, this is a real thing. This isn’t this isn’t just a media storm. This is really serious!”. So, I suppose that sort of overtakes any disappointment really, because you can’t sit around complaining that your film isn’t out when there’s people dying. At the end of the day was it was like, okay well, we’ll wait until the time’s right, and then we’ll carry on where we left off. We’ll just be patient.
The Skeptic: The third season of the podcast was about conspiracies, and you seemed to believe a disturbingly large number of them. Nowadays, following on from talking about Covid, we’re seeing some real-life harm caused by that sort of conspiratorial thinking when it comes to the pandemic and the vaccination program. Do you buy into any of those Covid conspiracies at all?
Barry: This is the thing: with the third series it was all conspiracies and I sort of picked them out and there were some that I thought – these have got some really good arguments about them [Brian raises eyebrow]. I thought the arguments for the moon landing were quite compelling [Brian raises other eyebrow]. I thought some of the JFK stuff was very interesting [Brian orders botox], but the problem is that my interest is ghosts. I’ve always been into ghosts. Conspiracies, although I’ve got a passing interest in them, it’s not my focus of attention. It’s like this whole thing about flat earth. When people out there say it’s flat and honestly, if it is, I’m not bothered. I’m not bothered that it’s round. It doesn’t make a difference to me in the slightest. In the same way, I’m not bothered if we haven’t really been to the moon. It makes for an interesting, hopefully funny chat on a podcast. I never I never left thinking I’ve got to get to the bottom of the truth behind this conspiracy. It never really got to me in that way. So this whole thing with, you know, the vaccine and Covid. Even if it was made in a lab or something there’s nothing I can do about it. At no point did I hesitate to get my jabs. And then you see stuff like Bill Gates put a microchip in it. Well, even if he has, I’m not bothered. He’s not going to find out much. It’s a weird one, and some of the stuff that I’ve read is just seriously mental. All this stuff about Hillary Clinton’s got some lair and she eats kids, and Donald Trump’s a saviour from God – it’s just a bit daft. I’m sure there’s stuff that goes on that we don’t know about, but I wouldn’t give any weight to people not getting a vaccination.
The Skeptic: If even Barry Dodds says it’s mental then it must be, right?
Barry: [Laughs] Yeah. Honestly, if Bill Gates wants to track me, he can. He’d probably end up quite depressed.
The Skeptic: Ok, this one’s a bit more personal. For many people, their belief in the afterlife is framed as something comforting perhaps, because it’s maybe a means of maintaining connection to a loved one that’s passed away. For you it seems much more of fear-based or thrill-seeking kind of ethos. Why do you think that’s the case, and what do you get out of it?
Barry: I think it’s changing with me. When I was younger the idea of ghosts and ghost stories used to really scare me, but I’ve always been really drawn to things that scare me mainly because I get a bit of an adrenaline rush. I hated fairgrounds when I was younger. Really hated them. I love roller coasters now. I love that thrill, that rush. The fear of a ghost hunt, that rush again. I hate public speaking, like, even in assemblies at school, I can remember always saying to the teacher I don’t want to do anything where I’ve got to say something, I don’t want to speak. Now I’m a stand-up comedian. My job three or four times a week is to stand up and not just speak to people, but to make them laugh or they’re going to be aggressive back to me. So, I’m drawn to things that I’m scared of, because I do get a rush from it. As I get older I’ve got a real fear of there being nothing after death. That idea I really don’t like, because I love life, I don’t want it to end. I don’t want this particular roller coaster to come to an end because it’s amazing. When I speak to people and they say it’s just black, it’s just nothing, you go back to how you were before you were born. I just think what’s the point then? Let’s just go and get there now, otherwise we’re just wasting our time. I understand that the thing about you’re here once, have fun and make the most of it, and I really like that ethos, but I don’t want it to be the end.
The Skeptic: In one of the most awkward and uncomfortable scenes in the movie we see you speaking at QED, one of the biggest conferences for skeptics. So, the conference is happening again in 2022…
The Skeptic: Would you…
Barry: No [laughs]. Not a chance. I get the feeling that you were all very kind to me but you probably wouldn’t want me to do that again, at your conference.
The Skeptic: I was thinking a different format from last time. Maybe as part of our panel discussion or something, but okay. I don’t book the speakers anyway, but I know some people that do. I was going to put in a word for you, but I guess not.
Barry: I can’t tell you how awkward I felt at that. It was horrible, and that’s why I’m coming out with such rubbish, because my brain has just left the building and my mouth just knows that it’s got to keep going.
The Skeptic: Well, further to what we said earlier on, it made for good laughs so you scored some points there.
Barry: Well, yeah, so it was worth it.
The Skeptic: So, finally, what does the future hold for the Parapod ‘brand’?
Barry: I think the reality is that we’ve made no plans. So, we haven’t discussed doing anything more, but we haven’t discussed the idea of sacking it off completely. I think we’re both, now, just sat back watching what happens with the film. Currently it’s only out in the UK, so we need it to go around the world and just see what the reaction is, and if there’s demand for more of it. There might not be, so we can’t make any plans until we see what the reaction is.
The Parapod Movie is now available on multiple platforms. You may not see any great answers about what lurks on the other side, but there’s plenty to offer nonetheless. As such, we recommend you check-in your skeptical senses at the door on the way in and just enjoy the ride.