Ghost Appreciation Month – The Beginning

1 10 2010

[written by Mark S. Deniz]

Ghosts are much more compelling to me than vampires, werewolves or zombies (mentioning the three previous events I’ve been involved in) and even though the reason may seem trivial, for me it’s so simple it’s undeniable.

They exist.

Well, we’ve not had any proof of that (or have we?) but they fall much more into the realms of something we can at least, maybe, accept is out there. The others are just man-made creations, created to scare us, to excite us, to disgust us. They deal with our humanity in different ways, our animal urges, our mortality, etc. but ghosts hit us with something much much deeper and scarier, the restless spirit, unable to reach the undiscovered country.

We can think of ghosts popping up in all forms of classic literature: Hamlet’s father, Scrooge’s former partner Marley and the famous past, present and future triumvirate, the mariner making a few errors with the bird of good omen, the albatross, and anything by M. R. James, to name a few…and they were popular then and they’re very popular now. Films involving ghosts feature highly in the Top 100 Box Office films of all time (both in the adjusted for inflation and unadjusted chart) and they seem to be able to scare the living daylights out of us like nothing else can. In fact, one of the Ghost Appreciation Month team has admitted they are not going to be able to watch the entire schedule, as this will result in them not sleeping well for the whole month!

Wikipedia has this to say about our insubstantial friends:

In folklore, fiction, philosophy, and popular culture, a ghost is the soul or spirit of a deceased person, taken to be capable of appearing in visible form or otherwise manifesting itself to the living.

and that is what started it all off for me as a child, I mean, I was scared by vampires too but there was something deep down inside that told me they weren’t really real. I could never really convince myself of this, and as I grew older and less susceptible to the stories that had freaked me out as child, I was introduced to The Unexplained magazine (I can see a few of the UK writers in my generation reacting to this now), as my Uncle was a subscriber and the fears came back. I mean this was a highly respected magazine, dealing with all areas of the paranormal: UFO’s, The Bermuda Triangle, spontaneous human combustion, and of course, ghosts. How could you not believe it and be scared all over again?

The more I’ve read within the field of ghost fiction, the more I’ve come to love reading about them. This is due to two things: the first being my fascination with, and dread of, their reality. That they might actually be out there and that I’ll be visited by one. The other being the way I love that authors work with them, making them not just a spirit of the deceased but also a metaphor, they symbolise the loss of our humanity, they symbolise the ‘hole’ the something missing within us, something that we miss/lost/threw away.

Two contemporary writers that use ghosts as symbols to perfection for me are Gary McMahon and Robert Hood, both of whom have crafted the ghost to be something as terrifying as those wispy forms of old because they say things we don’t want to hear, they show us what we are missing, why we are broken, and what can be more frightening than that?

And tonight it all begins, with our first film, a 1921 silent film from Sweden, the country in which I have made my home. I have been looking forward to seeing this film (Körkarlen – The Phantom Coachman) for quite some time now and this makes it a perfect opportunity to see it, as part of the Ghost Appreciation Month series of films, which will include: The Orphanage, The Others, The Shining, Ghostbusters, High Plains Drifter, etc. With blog entries written by: Robert Hood, Kaaron Warren, Orrin Grey, Mary Rajotte, Lou Morgan, Sharon Ring, Neal Romanek and others. Interviews with: Stephen Volk, Gary McMahon and Charles Dickens – we’ve got it all!

So welcome all to what we hope is going to be thirty-one days of pure pleasure and edification for those wanting to know a little bit more about the ghost as a literary form (and real life terror), as we delve into film, literature, music and facts about the ghost, in my opinion the finest of all of genre fictions’ vehicles of fear. For when we hear the bump in the night, we don’t think vampire, we don’t think zombie, we don’t think werewolf, and, in fact, we don’t even think murderer, we think ghost. It’s the ghost that dwells in our unconscious, it’s the ghost that springs to mind.

Did you hear that?…




One response

2 10 2010
Patrica Esposito

Should this have made me smile? Despite the chill, and the sometimes dread, I guess I love the idea of spirits lingering because it means there is a spirit. I agree ghosts are closer to us, more real, and I think our emotions can range from fear to compassion to curiosity and wonder, because we identify, and as you say: “ghosts hit us with something much much deeper and scarier, the restless spirit, unable to reach the undiscovered country.” And maybe sometimes a lingering guardian?

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