Ghosts: The Anatomy of the Ghost Story

Ghost stories have been with us always.  They’ve been told ’round campfires, in Victorian drawing rooms, and later, the subject of many films, books and telecasts.  What’s kept them going?

  • Ghost stories are often cautionary tales. There’s  always a moral to the story!  When you read or hear a ghost story, think “what’s the message?”  They are a teaching tool!


  • Ghost stories demonstrate what might happen if you don’t pay attention. The guy who keeps going back to the vampire’s castle, despite warnings from the local peasants and other omens, does so at his peril!  Part of this is a lesson – don’t touch the hot stove! And part is referent to perceived perils of the paranormal.


  • Ghost stories translate into tales about how we deal with our problems: not always so well!  Like the characters in the stories, we can be in denial about the “ghosts” or dysfunctions in our lives.  We may feel like victims (things “happened” to us, we have no control) or we can accept what is and make the best of it.  I will write more about this in an upcoming post.


  • In ghost stories there is often cause and effect. If the characters pay attention, they avert disaster. If not – they regret it. Often, something they do causes the supernatural to emerge!


  • Ghost stories demonstrate the difficulty we have dealing with the unexplained, the unknown, the scary. Do we hide, avoid, leave? Are we in denial? Or do we face up to whatever it is (the ghost) and deal with it?


  • Ghost stories can be analogous to dysfunction (as discussed in an earlier post) or to illness: people can either accept the situation or be in denial about it, reducing the sick person to a victim who is helpless, and creating a platform of blame (the doctors, caregivers, God, whoever didn’t “save” the patient).  More on this to come.


  • In ghost stories, the action often accelerates as time goes on. It’s not just a “Hi, I’m here” one-time visitation. Sometimes the visitations descend into something darker than ghostly glimpses.


  • Some ghost stories take place in lovely settings. Haunted locales are often pleasant, not ruins.  What’s that about?


So, while ghost stories make great entertainment, there’s much more going on.  Stick around – as usual, I’ll have more to say!

30 thoughts on “Ghosts: The Anatomy of the Ghost Story

  1. A good ghost story is so thrilling. One feels like enjoying it, yet the story goes under the skin. A real good story drops inn
    uendo and insinuates but never descends into a gross physical structure. It works in a shadowy world. Films like Excorcist and Conjuring (not part two) are nice ghost stories.

    Liked by 2 people

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