Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Why Ghost Stories Persist

In THE NEW YORK TIMES Book Review, an essay by Parul Sehgal was published Oct. 22, 2018. The topic is  appropriate for Halloween: Why the ghost story persists. I found a lot of thoughtful comments and information in this piece and recommend it.

Sehgal observes: “Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition.” I myself have found much more of a demand for stories with a supernatural edge than those set in the verisimilitude of reality. Maybe people are looking for psychological escapes from the real world more than ever.

Many of the classics of literature such as Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” or Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” provide us with eerie ghost stories. Today’s ghost stories vary. They may be written in the classic mold or entirely unique. They may reflect our modern society or hearken back to the past. Sehgal observes: “ghost stories are never just reflections. They are social critiques…” 
He further observes that ghosts in the modern American novel protest the norms of social injustice. I don’t entirely agree with his statement.

However, in my novel DARK MOON RISING, there are two ghosts, women from two different centuries who haunt the family home of the men who wronged them. These ghosts seek justice via revenge.

Some of my ghost stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines. The ghosts remain earthbound because of unfinished business in their lives.

Sehgal comments that ghost stories are often drenched in sex and violence. But obviously that is not the only thing that makes them appealing to readers. I think that one strong appeal of ghost stories is the suggestion that there is life after death. What is your opinion? Also, are there any ghost stories that particularly have appeal to you?


  1. Great post Jacquie. Personally I don't like all the zombie stuff but a good ghost story is fun. I believe in life after death and when the ghost is a friendly or helpful one I'm ok with that. Haven't read yours yet but I'm sure your ghosts handled their revenge with grace.

    Good luck and God's blessings

  2. I pondered the very thought, what comes after life, when I wrote, Race for the Sun. I think most of us try not to think of it, but there is s morbid fascination. Great post. Thanks again for sharing and Happy Halloween!

    1. Zari,

      I believe many people hope there is an afterlife. You take a very interesting approach in Race for the Sun.

  3. Interesting post, Jackie. And I think we all ponder those "big" questions from time to time. I think there's a lot of reason ghost and supernatural stories are popular. But one of them is to fill a void people feel. As for them dealing with social issues, those must be dealt with in the real world and, imho, in "real" stories. They can't be solved from beyond.

  4. Paul,

    I agree with you in regard to social issues. I believe the author of the article may have overstepped there.