Ghosts: A Haunted History
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Tracing the ghost’s constantly shifting contours, Morton asks the most direct question—What exactly is a ghost?—and examines related entities such as poltergeists, wraiths, and revenants. She asks how a ghost is related to a soul, and she outlines all the different kinds of ghosts there are. To do so, she visits the spirits of the classical world, including the five-part Egyptian soul and the first haunted-house, conceived in the Roman playwright Plautus’s comedy, Mostellaria. She confronts us with the frightening phantoms of the Middle Ages—who could incinerate priests and devour children—and reminds us of the nineteenth-century rise of Spiritualism, a religion essentially devoted to ghosts. She visits with the Indian bhuta and goes to the Hungry Ghost Festival in China, and of course she spends time in Mexico, where ghosts have a particularly strong grip on belief and culture. Along the way she gathers the ectoplasmic residues seeping from books and film reels, from the Gothic novel The Castle of Otranto to the 2007 blockbuster Paranormal Activity, from the stories of Ann Radcliffe to those of Stephen King.
Wide-ranging, informative, and slicked with over fifty unearthly images, Ghosts is an entertaining read of a cultural phenomenon that will delight anyone, whether they believe in ghosts or not.
sides, waiting to devour me … There is heaven and there is earth, and there are numberless worlds in the universe, but in not one of them can I find a resting place.12 The Dybbuk spawned several film adaptations, a television version directed by Sidney Lumet in 1960, operas and ballets. The dibbuk was at the centre of a twenty-first-century paranormal happening now known as the Dybbuk Box. In 2003 a man named Kevin Mannis purchased a wine cabinet at an estate sale, and soon began to experience
has two souls, a ‘mental soul’, which ascends to Heaven at death, and a ‘bodily soul’, which remains on Earth and may become a ghost. ‘Living under the ancestors’ shadow is the central link between the Chinese world of human beings and their world of spirits’, the anthropologist Francis Hsu has suggested.1 If we begin our examination of Eastern ghost beliefs with China, then we should start with Taoism, the oldest of the three principal religions found there (the other two are Buddhism and
ministers consult the Book of Fate and discover that Mr Sung’s mother has nine years left to live; with that, they release Mr Sung to care for her. He awakens in his coffin, and his overjoyed mother tells him he’s been dead for three days. He looks after her until her death, at which point he dies as well. His wife, who lives some distance away, witnesses him arrive suddenly in the hall, make an obeisance and depart. She later finds out that he was already dead. Another story in Chinese Studio,
jungle who is also linked to a baghaut, the ghost of a man who was killed by a tiger. Perhaps most terrifying, though, is the Singaporean and Malaysian pontianak, which is said to haunt isolated roads, begging a lift from any men who might be driving alone. The pontianak will originally appear as a lovely, seductive woman, but – if the man should give in to the illusion – will suddenly manifest in her true, frightening form and slay the unwary driver. A pontianak leaves behind it the scent of
on the clash between traditional beliefs and contemporary scepticism. A witch doctor, Osanyin, has a friend named Aro, who inherits a great deal of money and tells Osanyin that he plans to bury it under a particular tree. Osanyin takes the money and blames Aro’s dead father. Aro is forced into poverty, but marries and has a son, Ajaiyi, before he dies. Ajaiyi grows up poor, and, after accruing debts he can never repay, seeks Osanyin’s help. Osanyin preys on Ajaiyi’s credulity just as he did with