Monday, 25 February 2013

Where ghost stories come from?

ITV starts showing a new ghost story, Lightfields, this week (in the UK). Is it just me or have there been more ghost stories on TV over the last couple of years compared to the previous decade? If so, I wonder if it has been prompted by the ghost hunting boom, which would be ironic indeed.

I always watch TV ghost stories despite the fact that the events portrayed are rarely like any real-life ghost case. As a bit of fun, I like to rewrite the plot in my head, only without the ghosts. It is surprising how little the ghostly elements contribute to the plot! And just as you can remove the 'spirit' element from many a ghost story without affecting it too much, the same is true of real life.

There is no compelling evidence in real-life cases that ghosts are spirits. So where do the ubiquitous 'assumption-led methods', so popular in the ghost hunting boom, come from? The most obvious answer is ghost fiction. If ghost cases really did play out the way they are typically shown in ghost stories then assumption-led methods might make some sense! Has the unavoidable influence of ghost fiction led some people to try, albeit unintentionally, to impose 'stories' on ghost cases which, in real life, look more like meaningless events?

Many people assume that the current ghost hunting boom originated with the reality TV ghosting shows. But with any 'boom', you need a fertile soil first for it to grow in. My own theory is that the recent upsurge in the popularity of role playing and video games may just have blurred the formerly obvious line between fiction and real life a little. Enough, perhaps, to make the boom possible. How else can you explain the fact that few serious ghost researchers thought spirits were involved in hauntings back in the 1980s and 1990s? Something significant changed over that period in the zeitgeist.

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