Truth Seekers on Amazon: Nick Frost on ghostly encounters and the paranormal

Nick Frost loves being scared, and he wants to make sure you are too.

Frost and frequent collaborator Simon Pegg have a new TV show out this weekend. It’s called Truth Seekers and it follows a broadband installer who moonlights as a paranormal investigator who posts his findings on YouTube.

It’s both creepy and funny – in other words, exactly the kind of show Frost wants to watch himself.

The idea was born out of his own fascination with things that go bump in the night, a hobby he and Pegg were already indulging in two decades earlier.

“When Simon and I lived together, some weekends, if we weren’t going out trying to be big hits with the ladies, we’d be holed up in an old, gothic graveyard, or trying to get into a Saxon church or a creepy building,” he told

“We used to go ghost hunting and inspire meetings with the paranormal, that was our weekend. We enjoyed doing s**t like that. I don’t think we ever saw anything, but we always frightened ourselves!

“We always enjoyed being afraid and we’d usually just end up running off or getting in the car and driving away at high speeds. We always loved the paranormal.”

Frost and Pegg may not have encountered anything otherworldly during those nights out around among the dead, but he does recall one incident in his younger days when there may have been a brush with someone who wasn’t there.

“I was laying on my couch in a house that I was sure had a female ghost in it. I was kissed on the forehead and I spun around and there was no one else in the house,” he said. “That was probably my nearest [encounter].”

media_cameraNick Frost’s new series, Truth Seekers

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That lingering question about whether there’s another dimension of spirits most of us don’t seem to experience is the linchpin of Truth Seekers – although in Truth Seekers, it’s very much real.

Premiering on Amazon Prime Video today, it’s an eight-part series that’s a mix of classic case-of-the-week episodes (possessed dolls, ghost dogs, poltergeists) with an overarching conspiracy that may spell the end of the world.

The fact that his series is coming out at a time when real-world conspiracies are spread further every day and people are protesting and vandalising 5G towers isn’t lost on Frost.

“As a writer, you can’t help but be influenced by what’s going on around you, especially if you’re writing a show about bad people trying to take over the world behind everyone’s backs using telephone signals.

“I think it just drips in, and someone like Trump and Twitter and Instagram and people setting fire to 5G masts, it just adds into the depth of it all. Hopefully it will add to the creepiness and spookiness of it.”

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been working together for decades
media_cameraSimon Pegg and Nick Frost have been working together for decades

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Even while filming Truth Seekers, which was co-created by James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders, there were moments when Frost felt a little spooked out, including a location that was an abandoned school for deaf children.

“They had a warren of tunnels underneath the school and we shot a lot in there,” he recalled. “There were days when I had to be on my own down there, while the crew were all out doing technical stuff, and just being down there on my own was, like, if you’ve got an imagination then it’s very easy to scare yourself when you’re down somewhere like that.”

Frost credited his devout Catholic upbringing for his susceptibility. “Watching The Omen and The Exorcist were like documentaries for me. It was something that we all loved.

“When The X-Files came out, Simon and I felt like that was written just for us. We love The X-Files, and not just the arcs but those little ones that were so interesting and fun, and they were often the best ones for me in a season.”

But what he really wanted to do was make a comedy about the occult culture, which was the perfect excuse to lose himself on the internet watching videos of supposedly possessed Italian women being put through an exorcism.

Frost said that while he’s mostly a nonbeliever these days, he has watched enough stuff on YouTube to think “f**king maybe, it’s kind of creepy, I’m kind of creeped out now”.

Truth Seekers is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video

Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as Star’s ghostly encounter: ‘No one there’

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COVID-19 fears could get public out of jury duty, as Victoria encounters huge case backlog

Fear of contracting COVID-19 could be used as a valid excuse to get out of jury duty call-ups, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd has said.

Pressure on the state’s justice system is set to ease from November 16, when juries will be brought back to courtrooms, with a backlog of about 750 County Court trials in Melbourne and up to 400 in regional areas.

New jury trials have been suspended since March. Plans for a July resumption were scrapped when the state’s second wave took hold.

Chief Judge Kidd said the Supreme and County Courts would take significant steps to reduce health risks, including staggered times for jury panel selections to avoid large crowds gathering in courtrooms.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd said the traditional jury system was well supported by judges.(ABC News: Tom Hancock)

Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne, Chief Judge Kidd was asked whether prospective jurors could refuse to sit on the jury if they had concerns about spending days, or potentially weeks, locked in a deliberation room with others.

“I think the broad answer is yes,” he said.

“The juries commissioner will be asking prospective jurors, before they even come to court, about any concerns they have.

“We’re conscious that within the community, there are people who have certain health issues and other concerns relating to COVID and we want to manage that.”

Who is eligible for jury duty?

The outside of the County Court of Victoria building.
Other measures will include larger jury deliberation rooms, regular cleaning and potentially shifting family and media to overflow courtrooms.(ABC News: Patrick Rocca)

The Chief Judge said it was unlikely a medical certificate would need to be produced to be excused from jury service, and he was confident they would still find enough suitable members to run trials.

Other measures taken by the County and Supreme Courts include spacing jurors at least 1.5 metres apart, compulsory mask-wearing, larger jury deliberation rooms, regular cleaning and potentially shifting family and media to overflow courtrooms.

In Victoria, jurors can be randomly selected if they are over 18 and enrolled to vote.

Valid reasons to be excused from jury duty include old age, disability or illness, living more than 60 kilometres from court, caring for children, working for a small business or being a full-time student.

Previously, empanelled jurors would be required to attend court between 10:00am and 4:15pm each trial day.

The courts pay jurors $40 per day, increasing to $80 if a trial runs longer than six days. Employers are legally required to pay the difference between the juror payments and what a person would have normally earned in their job.

What about judge-only trials and plea-bargaining?

The Victorian Government has allowed courts to take the uncommon step of holding judge-only criminal trials during the pandemic.

They can only occur with the accused person’s consent, and according to a Nine Newspapers report last week, only six had taken place since July.

“I think we’ve had about 25 applications since it came in … we’ll see what happens at the end of the emergency as to whether the judge-alone trial regime remains,” Chief Judge Kidd said.

“The jury system is a good system and has the support of the judges.”

Chief Judge Kidd said nobody could be forced to plead guilty. He said the courts had done more case management during the pandemic with the aim of resolving cases early or receiving guilty pleas before a trial.

He pointed to 60 cases that were scheduled for trials that would no longer proceed, saving up to 450 court sitting dates.

“Ultimately, it’s not going to resolve all the trials and the backlog will remain. We need to look at other options,” the Chief Judge said.

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Correctional officer contracts COVID-19 after brief encounters with infected individuals

A case study of a correctional officer who tested positive for COVID-19 despite having no sustained exposure of at least 15 minutes with any infected individual is providing new evidence that the virus can be transmitted in brief encounters.

The study, released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, has prompted them to expand their definition of a “close contact.”

On July 28, the study states, six incarcerated or detained individuals who had not yet received their COVID-19 results arrived to a Vermont correctional facility from out of state, and were transported to a quarantine unit. In the process, all six — who were not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms — briefly interacted with a 20-year-old correctional officer.

The six tested positive for COVID-19 on July 29. In the contact tracing process, officials looked at every interaction the six had while they would have been infectious, and determined that the 20-year-old correctional officer was not a close contact who needed to be quarantined, according to the Vermont Department of Health’s rules, since he had never been within two metres of any of them for 15 minutes.

Thus, the correctional officer continued working — until August 4, when, at the end of his shift, he started feeling the symptoms of COVID-19, including a loss of smell and taste, a cough, a headache and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.

He tested positive for COVID-19 on August 11.

In order to find out how the correctional officer had contracted the virus, officials observed video surveillance on July 28 to tally up the time the officer had spent within two metres of any of the six individuals who had COVID-19.

“Although the correctional officer never spent 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of an [incarcerated person] with COVID-19, numerous brief (approximately one-minute) encounters that cumulatively exceeded 15 minutes did occur,” the case study stated. “During his eight-hour shift on July 28, the correctional officer was within six feet of an infectious [incarcerated person] an estimated 22 times while the cell door was open, for an estimated 17 total minutes of cumulative exposure.”

The study added that while the six incarcerated or detained people wore cloth face masks during some of these interactions, there were a few interactions in a cell doorway or the recreation room where they did not wear a mask.

The correctional officer was wearing a face mask and eye goggles at all times.

Since the officer had no travel-related exposure or any other known close contact exposures, officials surmised that he’d contracted the virus during one of his interactions on July 28.

A “close contact” according to the CDC is someone who was “within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset.”

In the wake of this study, they are adding to the definition anyone who spends 15 minutes cumulatively within six feet (two metres) of an infected person, even if those 15 minutes are the result of numerous brief interactions, and not in one go.

Fifteen minutes has never been the make-or-break length of time that is necessary for an exposure — there is no magic number detailing exactly how long it takes the virus to successfully make the jump from one body to another.

There are numerous factors that contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the 15-minute mark is merely a benchmark to allow officials to categorize at what point exposure is most likely, in order to know how to prioritize resources for contact tracing.

In Canada, the official COVID Alert app also uses the 15-minute rule, only alerting those who were closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes to a person who tested positive.

The risk of exposure can be minimized or increased by a number of things, including physical proximity, whether they’re in an enclosed space, whether there is adequate ventilation and air flow, as well as whether both individuals are wearing masks, among other factors.

The case study concluded by advising that public health officials consider the extra risk of cumulative exposure due to brief interactions in settings where frequent interaction within two metres of a person is necessary, such as within a correctional facility.

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Do two close encounters mean more sharks are in Tasmanian waters?

There have been two high profile shark encounters in Tasmanian waters in less than a fortnight — what is happening?

On Wednesday, a father and son videoed the moment a shark collided with their boat as they were observing a seal colony at Tenth Island, around 10 kilometres off the coast of Beechford in the state’s north.

It happened less than two weeks after a 10-year-old boy was pulled from a boat into the water by a shark of Tasmania’s north-west coast on July 17, with the child’s father jumping in to save him credited with saving his life.

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A shark identified as a great white makes contact with a boat about 10 kilometres off the coast from Low Head in Tasmania’s north (Supplied: James Vinar)

Experts have said while these types of encounters are infrequent, they are also not surprising.

Professor Culum Brown from Macquarie University has been working in the field of shark behaviour for over 10 years, and said it was uncommon for sharks to come near boats.

“It’s pretty unusual for them to approach boats unless the people are fishing or something like that, and then they’re chasing a hooked fish into the boat,” he said.

“Occasionally when it does happen, and it is rare, it’s more often that it’s a kayak, a kayaker or a stand-up [paddle] border or something like that, where the silhouette actually looks a bit like a seal from underneath.”

As warmer waters push further south, so too will sharks.(ABC News)

Searching for food — and a cooler climate

Professor Brown said seals are also likely responsible for the close encounters with sharks in Tasmanian waters recently.

“Their [sharks] behaviour is driven by food and whatever moves their food around, that’s what moves the sharks around, and that can be ocean currents and upwellings and those sorts of things.”

He said unusually warmer waters along Australia’s east coast also play a role in bringing seals, and consequently sharks, further south.

“The East Coast Current is actually pushing further down into Tasmania than it would normally … and that’s only going to continue to strengthen as we move forward with climate change,” he said.

Shark swimming with smaller fish, seen from below.
There are estimated to be as few as 800 adult individual sharks along Australia’s east coast.(Pixabay)

“One thing that you can guarantee is that where there are seals and seal colonies, and particularly seal pups, then there will be white sharks,” Professor Brown said.

Given that, Professor Brown said being anywhere near a seal colony would be “more than enough” to encounter a shark.

“If you were driving your boat or going fishing anywhere around the seal colony, then you’ll probably encounter sharks in one way, shape, or form.”

Adaptable, but vulnerable

Shark researcher and author Chris Black said white sharks are part of the Lamnidae family, meaning they are able to adapt to cooler waters — like those in a Tasmanian winter — making them a common predator at this time of year.

“They [Lamnidae] are all endothermic, that means that they can keep their body temperature above that of the surrounding seawater,” he said.

“Some people call it almost like a warm-blooded shark, even though that’s not technically correct, but they are able to regulate their temperature in that way.”

Dent on the side of a fishing boat
The shark left a dent in the fishing boat when it launched itself over the side to grab the boy.(Supplied: Ben Allen)

Mr Black said it is difficult to estimate how many sharks would currently be lurking in Tasmanian waters as they don’t tend to stay in the one area.

“It’s almost impossible to say in fact, white sharks are so cosmopolitan. They’re cruising over the ocean the whole time.”

But Professor Brown said there are fewer sharks than people might expect across the entire east coast of Australia

“[Our east coast population] estimates are around about 800 adult individuals only, and if you include juveniles, it might be up around the 2,500 mark is the best ‘guesstimate’,” he said.

“There are not a lot of animals on the east coast of Australia at all, and in fact, white sharks are federally listed for conservation protection for that very reason.”

The family of Lucas Arnott speak at a press conference in Devonport, 19 July 2020.
David Arnott said the father-son duo were not cleaning fish on the boat when the incident happened.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)

Caution, and understanding, vital out at sea

Both shark researchers said boaters and fishers should be careful on the water knowing the presence of seals will generally mean there’s also sharks nearby.

“We just have to keep in mind, sharks are doing their thing. They’re in their environment, and we actually represent a far greater threat to sharks than the other way around,” he added.

Tasmania Police search the coastline off Kingston Beach, near Hobart, after a shark sighting, 9 January, 2020.
Tasmania Police search the coastline off Kingston Beach, near Hobart, after a shark sighting in January.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Mr Black agrees, saying people on the water need to ensure they exercise caution, but understand they’re in the shark’s territory.

“It’s very hard to keep an eye out for a shark, but it is something to keep in mind,” he said.

“We must understand whether we go out in boats or whether we go diving or surfing, we shouldn’t stop doing those things.

Great white shark, pictured in unidentified location.
People are urged to remember when on or in the water, they are in the shark’s territory.(Pixabay)

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