What’s so great about writing ghosts?

With all of the paranormal possbilities out there, from demons to werewolves to succubi or something completely made up, why pick ghosts as a major source of material? On the surface of it, ghosts may seem kind of blah. They’re ethereal things, generally leaving the world of the living alone other than to haunt places they’ve died. They’re a mostly sullen lot, given to moping around a lot (if you’ve been killed, you likely have good reason to mope) and making a nuisance of themselves by opening/closing doors, making strange noises, and freaking people out by their general presence. Mostly, they don’t want anyone around, preferring to do their moping in peace, and make efforts to let any living soul around know this.

These, of course, are more your garden variety, taken from the headlines sort of ghosts. We dig a little deeper, and ghosts become far more interesting in my opinion. Spiritual forces have played a powerful role in pretty much every culture’s history. Reality beyond our physical one is a great unknown. This makes it both wonderous and creepy. Because we can only speculate, the spectrum runs from beautiful and miraculous to downright evil. Ghost stories take us from saving lives clear over to murderous rampages. Spiritual forces can interact with the physical world that defy reason and/or logic. This gives the fiction writer a fabulously large canvas to draw on.

For me, the interest comes in examining the reality within which ghosts reside. The universe in which spiritual forces reside is not the physical one (or perhaps it’s just a greater part of our own physical universe that we just don’t comprehend), so what exactly is it? What is the universe beyond our own in which such things exist? Spiritual forces come from somewhere, where the normal rules don’t apply, and life is just not like we understand it. Perhaps it is a heaven and hell sort of scenario that many religions envision or a place with beings far more powerful than human, which interact with the physical world for reasons of their own, whether good or bad. Paranormal stories are a great way to explore such things, far more than just giving a writer reason to have a villain with super-human powers.

What lies beyond our world? Is it heaven and hell? Is it some other dimension (or dimensions) of reality beyond our own, that we pass on to upon death? If it is, why and how do ghosts come back to interact with our physical world? What non-human forces exist in these places (if any) ? And what role does humanity play here? It’s all endlessly fascinating to me and makes for great storytelling possibilities.

What about you? What do you think about ghosts and the possibilities of an existence beyond our physical world?

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3 responses to “What’s so great about writing ghosts?

  1. You know, it’s impossible for the human brain to comprehend non-existence. Especially because the idea of not existing makes our day-to-day lives seem utterly meaningless. If there is nothing after this world, then what is the point? The idea of the soul living after our human bodies decay is comforting, but if we have souls, WHERE do they go on living?

    Where did we come from? Where will we go when we die? These questions, I think, are what drive the myths and stories that involve the afterlife. No one can tell us what happens because no one has been beyond the living world and back (or not without proof, anyway). Some people claim to see ghosts and interact with the dead, but these mediums have no substantial proof or certifiable evidence of what’s beyond. It’s all speculation.

    I am just as fascinated as you are about the subject, and I think that as writers, we can explore what might be out there. We can explore the realms outside of the living world, and we may find truth in what we imagine, even if it is only for ourselves. There’s no insistence that what we write or discover is fact. It’s only a possibility.