Today, my special guest, fellow Musa author, George Wilhite, talks about ghosts. Take it away George.....
Do you believe in Ghosts? Stories in my new book SILHOUETTE OF DARKNESS Explore this Universal Theme
It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.
-SAMUEL JOHNSON, The Life of Samuel Johnson
This quote is as true today as ever. Even though the show Ghost Hunters and its countless imitators has offered a certain level of proof spirits exist, most often that evidence is still not nearly enough to win over stanch skeptics.
Over two hundred more years have passed since Johnson wrote this—two hundred years of vast technological advancement—and still, this subject comes down to the simple notion of belief vs. disbelief.
Fiction provides an effective venue where this debate can be mediated in a safe environment. While readers entertain the notion that ghost smay exist, we are safe in this created world we can leave at any time, compared to a more extreme form of experiment, such as agreeing to attend a séance or serious session with a Ouija board.
In his book The Fantastic (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1975), Tsvetan Todorov offers one of the best explanations of how readers participate in a “gothic hesitation” to sort out this potentially disturbing subject.
The fantastic, we have seen, lasts only as long as a certain hesitation: a hesitation common to reader and character, who must decide whether or not what they perceive derives from reality as it exists in the common opinion. At the story's end, the reader makes a decision even if the character does not; he opts for one solution or the other, and thereby emerges from the fantastic. If he decides that the laws of reality remain intact and permit an explanation of the phenomena described, we say that the work belongs to another genre: the uncanny. If, on the contrary, he decides that new laws of nature must be entertained to account for the phenomena, we enter the genre of the marvelous.
I have had my own brushes with the uncanny and found there is always a frustration when trying to relay the experience to a friend later on. In the moment, I was positive I was faced with the “new laws of nature” Todorov presents, and that “all belief was for it,” but once I began explaining it to another person, the certainty became diminished with each passing word I tried to place upon it.
This is why ghost stories are so popular. We read the book, or watch the film, and can safely entertain the notion, in the guise of fiction, that we accept the supernatural as real. We are safe there. We wander the halls of The Overlook or Hill House expecting entertainment but also to enter the world of the what if, the Todorovian hesitation that allows for the real possibility that the spirit world is real.
Silhouette of Darkness includes two ghost stories.
The Blues in A Minor
Since surviving a tragic accident, Mona is troubled by blackouts. Waking from one of these spells, she enters an eerie tenement and discovers Zach, a young man who plays blues guitar that speaks to her soul.
An Act of Naming
Norman wanders the streets after a night of drinking and meets Angela, a homeless amnesiac. The moment their eyes meet is the beginning of an evening of mystery.
These stories are not meant to frighten or disturb, as are most of the other selections in Silhouette of Darkness. Rather, they explore the classic themes at the heart of every ghost story—who are the ghosts and more importantly why are they spirits? What has trapped them in the region between life and whatever exists beyond death?
To read these ghost stories, and eleven other tales of horror and dark fantasy, check out Silhouette of Darkness, available in all electronic formats through Musa Publishing here.
You can find George on his blog.