After telling you all my spooky stories, I thought I ought to at least own up to my own point of view. Do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know. I hope so. I believe that some folks, if they could come back, would.
Supposedly, Jean-Claude Schmitt says that ghosts are those who resist the social necessity of forgetting. I think there’s some truth to that. In order to live, you have to move on–from successes as well as tragedies, sadly enough–but ghosts ask us to linger, both with them, and on them.
Here, they seem to say, is a spot the past hasn’t let go of, a place where long ago still is. Every ghost has the luxury of fresh grief. They inhabit a place–whether real or imagined–where faces aren’t forgotten, smells are still fragrant, a touch is still soft, and the knowledge of those things is not dulled by time. Places ghosts are said to inhabit are places where the past comes leaking back into the present.
(And I think ghost stories fascinate us because they’re little love notes to a fucked up world. No matter how bad things are, someone loves this place enough to never want to leave it.)
Ghosts don’t move on, and that’s what frightens us about them; they inexplicably linger. And the living are their mirror image, rushing on to forget, to put it behind us, whatever “it” may be. Between the living and the dead, because there are haunted places, there’s a necessary balance, one that allows us to move on without completely forgetting.
That, I must say, is why “ghostbusters” make me sad. They storm into places and contact the disturbing spirits and send them off “into the light.” The connection between the “what has been” and the “what is” is severed. The haunts can no longer continue to confront us.
And I think that’s too bad, because real or not, ghosts connect us with our own pasts, some of which we’d like to leave behind, and some of which we’ve missed so desperately, we’re glad to have it back, if only for a spine-tingling moment.