Horror Aficionados discussion

351 views
Horrorpedia > What's so scary about a ghost?

Comments Showing 1-50 of 89 (89 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by C.E. (new)

C.E. Martin (cemartin2) | 43 comments What really is scary about a ghost? I ask as I'm about to start on a new novel with ghosts in it.

Is it the fear of the unknown? The fear of being hurt by something you can't kill?

What if you couldn't be hurt by anything? Would you still fear a ghost?


message 2: by Holly (new)

Holly (goldikova) I think that ghosts represent the unknown; to me it is more compelling than frightening. Maybe the idea of living in a haunted house is scarier than the ghost itself? A home is where a person should feel safe and in control, a place where you can let your guard down, a haven from the craziness of the outside world. A haunted house is a home gone horribly wrong.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) | 875 comments Not sure why people are so scared of them, maybe it reminds them of their own mortality.


message 4: by S.M. (new)

S.M. Oberhansley (smober) | 57 comments Coming here to second what Holly and Erin both said.

Ghosts represent our own mortality as well as the unknown. We fear the unknown naturally, and what comes after life is the grandest form of "unknown" there is, because you can't know for sure until you get there. It's like jumping off a cliff without knowing whether there's jagged rocks, a soft landing, or water below.

I think part of it is also the fear of becoming "stuck" ourselves. Cultures and religions all over the world teach of going to the "Great Beyond," which means beyond our earth. We fear the idea of being stuck in limbo for eternity, bound to earth completely alone.


message 5: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) | 1416 comments I guess I'm afraid of ghosts because there's no way to fight back if one starts messing with you like in the horror movies. At least a crazed killer you can try to fight back, run away, stab him in the eye with a fork, etc, but a ghost... you can't.
A friendly ghost wouldn't be so bad though, that aspect of ghosts is fascinating, like in some other stories. One who can hang out and talk to you, like Annie in Being Human or something, lol.


message 6: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 1437 comments I always see ghosts as some sort of metaphor for a person not being able to move on. I guess it's the character's (in this case, the ghost) reaction to that that I find scary. If they can't move on because they need to help another character learn something, that's not scary. If they're angry about being stuck, then I feel a violent or antagonistic reaction can be scary.


message 7: by TJoseph (last edited Dec 19, 2012 04:20PM) (new)

TJoseph Browder (TJosephBrowder) | 195 comments I'll agree with most of the above and add one thing. I'm unsettled by the idea of an intelligence watching me and mine, seeing the things we do, hearing the things we say, you get the idea. Not that we're doing anything wrong, mind you, but having an intelligent spirit zipping around the house feels a little too Big Brother to me.

Okay, I read that back and it sounds paranoid as hell--the CIA has special agent ghosts on the loose!!! Not at all what I meant. It's just unnerving to think your every move may be observed. By anything.


message 8: by E.J. (new)

E.J. (ejschoenborn) | 61 comments I was always scared of ghosts because (in some forms of movies and stuff at least) you can't see them. They could be sitting right next to you and you wouldn't notice until the ghost wanted you to know. It could be breathing right in your ear and you wouldn't even know it...

And also that they were once someone alive and human has always creeped me out because of one question:
"Do we still look like our corpse?"
Like if I was chopped in half or something would i be falling apart as a ghost? or would I go back to normal?
Ghosts can do anything...
I'd like to be falling apart if I was a ghost.
More terrifying that way I think... or comical.


message 9: by Bud (new)

Bud Bane (budbane) | 2 comments This may seem weird, but what really scares me when thinking about ghosts or spirits of the dead, is the idea that they simply *might* exist and be hanging around watching everything we do.

Much the same as "T." mentioned above. What really scares me to the core, is just the idea that my beloved Grandmother (never mind the spirits of strangers) may be present while I'm showering or after a shower while I'm looking at that weird mole in that strange place on my body; naked and bent like a contortionist before my mirror.

That's the subconscious fear I'm hiding from and confronting at the same time while reading good ghost stories, because it's what I know would plunge me down the rabbit hole of paranoia and land me in Psychoticville if I ever learned that ghosts were fact.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) | 875 comments This has actually turned into a deep, profound, and complex discussion :D


message 11: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 177 comments I think that ghost stories function as a metaphor for the way you can't escape the past. The chickens will always come home to roost, and sometimes in terrible ways. Sometimes the consequences of burying the past will fall on the innocent bystanders ...

As far as why the prospect of ghosts in real life is scary, though, I think it's because the idea is uncanny -- it's wrong and unnatural and if reality can be violated in that way, then where are the firm foundations? Also, how do you know that ghost is really the spirit of your nice granny, and not ... SOMETHING ELSE?


message 12: by Dax (last edited Dec 27, 2012 01:36AM) (new)

Dax | 18 comments I think that if they able to harm you then they are scary yes. If not able to harm you then no not really scary. Why they always hurt in horror, haha.

Cathy wrote: "As far as why the prospect of ghosts in real life is scary, though, I think it's because the idea is uncanny -- it's wrong and unnatural and if reality can be violated in that way, then where are the firm foundations? Also, how do you know that ghost is really the spirit of your nice granny, and not ... SOMETHING ELSE?"

If they did exist wouldn't that be natural though? I mean if ghosts do exist, then isn't that what happens when we die and just would be a part of the cycle of life and death? Which life and death is about as natural as it gets, is it not?


message 13: by Kilgallen (new)

Kilgallen | 73 comments Speaking for myself ghostly experiences can be frightening because they are so out of our control. The idea of a intelligent being able to influence me and my surroundings without any control on my part is quite disturbing. Now throw into that the potential for evil intent.*shiver*

I suppose there is also the shock of seeing or hearing or feeling something or someone in your space when you know you should be alone....that sudden realization that something is in your house, room, etc....


message 14: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 2849 comments Seeing someone that you can see through literally and knowing they arent suppose to be there? ehh..seems scary to me.


message 15: by C.E. (new)

C.E. Martin (cemartin2) | 43 comments Okay, let's consider ghosts as the monster-of-the-week in fiction. Are they still scary? There's a big difference between being in a dark, old building and feeling you're not alone and seeing a hero on TV facing off with a ghost.

What makes ghosts scary in fiction?

I ask this as I'm working on a novel and can't really think of a way tomake the ghosts scary. They're going to end up just being immaterial monsters-of-the-week. I think because we're so numb to seeing ghosts in fiction.


message 16: by Holly (last edited Dec 28, 2012 05:46AM) (new)

Holly (goldikova) In reply to C.e. message 16:

I know this doesn't sound scary, but, what if the ghost in your house kept hiding your car keys? Every time you need your keys, they aren't where you left them, necessitating a whole-house search every time you need to leave......only to end when the keys are located in some bizarre place.....or right where they should have been originally?

What if you have a newborn, and each time you put the infant down to sleep, you lay it on it's back the way you're supposed to, but each time you go back in to get the little one, the baby is sleeping on it's belly? That would be horrifying to any protective new mother.

A gourmet cook whose dishes turn out sour and rotten tasting, a gardener whose prized blooms wither and blacken during the night.....any character can have his/her hot button issues, multiple ones.

A ghost doesn't have to be dramatic, the subtlety of having one's own personal universe go awry is really the psychological essence of every successful haunting.


message 17: by C.E. (new)

C.E. Martin (cemartin2) | 43 comments I'm with you on that Holly. I think that is the way for a ghost to be scary. I think when they're out in the open, a noncorporeal being, serving in that monster-of-the-week capacity I'll be using them for, they lose their scariness.

great discussion and I appreciate all the viewpoints- keep 'em comin'.


message 18: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 5 comments The former owner of the house i lived in died in our front bedroom. Just so no one thinks its just me that's crazy, we have had 5 people stay at our house who without knowing the back story came to us after staying there overnight to tell us the house is haunted. We knew it but we usually dont tell people.

The ghost we have is not scary at all. She likes to make the rocking chair in that room rock (on carpet no less) and she stomps in the attic a lot. Play something in spanish and she really makes a racket, yes we have a bigoted ghost.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* (erinpaperbackstash) | 875 comments Brad T. wrote: "The former owner of the house i lived in died in our front bedroom. Just so no one thinks its just me that's crazy, we have had 5 people stay at our house who without knowing the back story came to..."

What is it with ghosts and rocking chairs??


message 20: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 5 comments Doesn't everyone like to rock?


message 21: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Alaspa (bryanalaspa) | 25 comments I do think that it is a fear of the unknown. The fear of someone who has died coming back and being invisible, but able to influence the real world. Plus, the ways in which many say they can communicate are just creepy - the whispers in the darkness - the manifestations out of the corner of your eye.


message 22: by Bob (new)

Bob | 73 comments I agree with what a lot of people here have said already. It's that fear of the unknown, of what they can or cannot do, are they friendly or not, what is their purpose for even being here, do they have unfinished business here, are they attached to a certain person or place, was their death so horrific that they stayed to have revenge on others who still get to live their lives while theirs was cut short. So many possiblities and so few concrete answers.


message 23: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Blum | 3 comments I can comment on this from first-hand experience. I used to ask myself the same question. Who really cares so much about ghosts?! They can't really hurt you (or at least kill you) so what's the big whoop? Then I decided to spend the night at a haunted house....and my world literally changed after that night.

Basically, I used to think that ghosts weren't "allowed" to leave their residence and follow people. Boy, was I wrong!

I would argue that overall, the biggest fear is that of the unknown. You can't always see ghosts or know their intentions which is very unsettling.

I invite you to visit my recent blog post to continue the discussion!

http://www.whatreallyscaresyou.com/gh...


message 24: by Ardy (new)

Ardy Ardy (ardybooks) | 1657 comments I think that the concept of ghosts isn't as scary as the concept of becoming a ghost. Most ghosts in fiction, and in "real life" encounters and experiences tend to be tragic figures, trapped by some event in their past, unresolved issues, or even a curse and can't move on. To me, that would be terrifying. I would rather encounter a ghost, even a malicious one, than become one myself. To me, ghosts are terrifying because the thought of being trapped on the etheral plane and not being able to escape is terrifying.

And T. I like your CIA ghost comment. In fact, I think that would make an interesting story...


message 25: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Ghost stories can be either the scariest or least scary of horror stories (and interestingly being non-scary doesn't necessarily make the story bad in the case of ghosts in the way it usually does with vampires and werewolves).

Ghosts offer unlimited possibilities, and it's up to the writer to determine how the metaphysics work.
Ghost stories intrigue or horrify best when they are slowly unfolding, when they begin as a few minor tricks that might have a logical explanation.

It's all about sleight of hand and tricking out the reader. A good ghost story is hard to pull off, but has results that are worthwhile.
Personally I think ghosts are the best of the monster archetypes, more versatile and timeless than vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the like.


message 26: by 11811 (Eleven) (new)

11811 (Eleven) (11811) | 1561 comments I ain't afraid of no ghost.

[image error]


message 27: by Marc-Antoine (new)

Marc-Antoine | 2888 comments Lol


message 28: by Anton (new)

Anton (antonb3) | 115 comments Overlapping with what several people have already said, I think a ghost is scary to the extent that the ghost and its motivations are unclear. M.R. James does that really well. Disclosing too much corporealizes the ghost in a sense, and defeats the whole purpose of having a ghost.

But, when the ghost's motivations are at least partially revealed, its pretty terrifying when they seem to entail some kind of cosmically amplified perversion of human rage or lust or some other generally repressed emotion. Like in the Legend of Hell House, the Shining, Poltergeist, the Last Innkeeper, Paranormal Activity, Sinister (last two are about demons, I know, but they do include ghosts or ghost-haunting qualities).

I also think the idea of unsettling the domestic is frequently really affecting in ghost stories: i.e. the classic haunted house. Ghost narratives often coincide with narratives of family dysfunction (Shining, Poltergeist, Dark Water, the recent Mama) and the most terrifying moments for me are when children seem to be being seduced away from the family.


message 29: by Anton (new)

Anton (antonb3) | 115 comments Holly wrote: "In reply to C.e. message 16:

I know this doesn't sound scary, but, what if the ghost in your house kept hiding your car keys? Every time you need your keys, they aren't where you left them, neces..."


Everything Holly has described sounds terrifying to me. Much, much more terrifying than a finely CGI-animated walking corpse.


message 30: by Alan (new)

Alan Toner | 69 comments It has often been said that the living can do you more harm than the dead, an adage that has often been borne out in movies like Eden Lake, Halloween and Psycho.


message 31: by Alan (new)

Alan Toner | 69 comments My all time favourite haunted house film is The Shining, closely followed by the British production The Legend of Hell House.


message 32: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments You say they aren't scary.. I assure you when you wake up to a nightmare and you bathroom sink and tub water starts running at full blast and lights go out.. you also get this creepy feeling.. You don't know how to handle it...no control over the situation the reason its scary..Also when you feel pressure on your chest and you think you can't breathe..you wonder if something is wrong with you physically .its very very scary.. people won't beleive you so there no calling anyone.. you call your friends who tell you its your imagination.. you can't protect yourself with a gun or knife..also you sometimes get this nashaus feeling ..


message 33: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
.....you know someone has been going through your underwear drawer and watching you do that disgusting thing you do when you're alone and telling all the other invisible dead things, and posting photos on Afterlife Facebook......


message 34: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments Jon Recluse wrote: ".....you know someone has been going through your underwear drawer and watching you do that disgusting thing you do when you're alone and telling all the other invisible dead things, and posting ph..."

Jon doesn't your wife do that now? lol


message 35: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Wife?


message 36: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments aren't you married?


message 37: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments Jon Recluse wrote: "Wife?"

I assumed all you guys were..lol


message 38: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Teresa wrote: "aren't you married?"

No.

I'm a recluse.


message 39: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Teresa wrote: "Jon Recluse wrote: "Wife?"

I assumed all you guys were..lol"


No.

I'm a heterosexual nonparticipant.


message 40: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments Jon Recluse wrote: "Teresa wrote: "aren't you married?"

No.

I'm a recluse."


ok..so I'm thinking you live in the middle of the woods.. no socializing..go into town once a month for food and supplies...lol


message 41: by Teresa (new)

Teresa B. | 883 comments Jon Recluse wrote: "Teresa wrote: "Jon Recluse wrote: "Wife?"

I assumed all you guys were..lol"

No.

I'm a heterosexual nonparticipant."


i'm a heterosexual not willing to marry anyone that I participate with..lol


message 42: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Teresa wrote: "Jon Recluse wrote: "Teresa wrote: "Jon Recluse wrote: "Wife?"

I assumed all you guys were..lol"

No.

I'm a heterosexual nonparticipant."

i'm a heterosexual not willing to marry anyone that I par..."


ROFL!


message 43: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Teresa wrote: "Jon Recluse wrote: "Teresa wrote: "aren't you married?"

No.

I'm a recluse."

ok..so I'm thinking you live in the middle of the woods.. no socializing..go into town once a month for food and suppl..."


Nope.
I live in New York and try to make believe the people aren't really there.....


message 44: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) I think they are the most scary because they are the most like us.


message 45: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
Two dimensional?


message 46: by 11811 (Eleven) (new)

11811 (Eleven) (11811) | 1561 comments <- asexual recluse.


message 47: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
IT'S SPREADING!


message 48: by 11811 (Eleven) (new)

11811 (Eleven) (11811) | 1561 comments Everyone gear up their body condoms!


message 49: by Jon Recluse (new)

Jon Recluse | 12043 comments Mod
I still call them hazmat suits, but it's the thought that counts.....


message 50: by Robb (new)

Robb Bridson Revisiting this issue after thinking more about ghost stories...

I think the key to it is in the difference between a story I'm reading now about giant spiders vs. the movie (supposed to be a comedy) "Arachnophobia."
As an arachnophobic, spiders scare the hell out of me... but the spiders in the '90s movie crept me out a lot more than the giant spiders I am reading about.

Realism? No.
Because I've found the same kind of fright in "Bag of Bones" and other ghost stories, despite not believing in ghosts. Ghosts scare me more than Hannibal Lector who is at least plausible.

But it is about the way ghosts manifest not only as real things, but as in everyday things, things that are often going on WHILE YOU ARE READING. Images in the corner of the eye, strange sounds in the walls, voices you hear while half asleep, the ineffable sense that someone is watching you.

No matter how implausible the idea of an afterlife, the ghost is really a being made of those little things that scare you everyday... only forming a pattern and carrying with them a frightful mystery and eventually real danger.
They use our irrational fears better than any other supernatural creature and better than the most "realistic" monsters.

Ghosts don't worry about being realistic. They arrive at suspension of disbelief through distraction and through making your own environment part of the horror.


« previous 1
back to top