Michaeline: Spooky Fun Month!

Holy moly, have you seen the news cycle? I was offline for a few hours, and everything is different. James Hamblin, a doctor who writes for The Atlantic magazine, tweeted this: 

Text: Just to recap, in the past 24 hours we’ve learned: the president had a high-risk exposure; the president has tested positive; the president is symptomatic; the president has received an experimental treatment; the president will spend “several days” at Walter Reed hospital. – Oct 3, 7:01 a.m. (according to my Twitter feed, so I’m not sure if that’s Japan time or Hamblin time).

I don’t feel anything, really, besides the anxiety of a chess player who suddenly sees there are a hundred different moves on the board, and some of them lead to disaster, some to hope, and some to both. ANYTHING can happen in 2020; that’s how I feel.

Cover of March 1930 Ghost stories magazine. A woman scrying sees a flapper ghost while a handsome young man looks contemplative.So, it may be slightly tacky to talk about ghost stories, but since it’s also October, why not?

Ghost stories do present a few problems for some readers. First of all, like murder mysteries and vampire stories, somebody has to die. That’s often the inciting incident: the unpleasant act of leaving the mortal coils behind. Telling a light-hearted fun ghost story can often run into whatever greed, jealousy or stupidity that led to the death in the first place, and make the reader sad. On the other hand, though, some people like to feel a little sad. Ghosts can anchor a light fluffy story and give it a bit of heft.

Second, some people just don’t believe in ghosts, and find the whole premise ridiculous. They also don’t like fairies, witches, magic and other unbelievable things. That’s OK; they are a niche group, and you don’t have to write to that niche.

Then there are people who believe in ghosts, and are altogether traumatized by the experience, or slightly upset by a whimsical treatment of ghosts and the afterlife. If you make sure your title and your cover/main illustration is a content warning, you’ll save both them and you some pain. The illustration is particularly important – pay attention to the coding and make sure it matches the kind of ghost story you want to tell.

On the plus side, ghost stories have been popular for ages. Homer’s Odyssey and the Old Testament described encounters with ghosts. Ghost stories often have a strong romantic element. Orpheus, the Greek musician, visits the underworld to see the ghost of his wife and bring her back to the land of the living. The Tale of the Genji uses spurned lovers who die and become vengeful ghosts as powerful plot movers – not as ghost ex machina, but as part and parcel of the larger themes of the story.

Housewife conquers ghost with outhouse with Vanish cleanserAs a young girl, I remember seeing many ghosts stories on the Turner Broadcast System. I don’t know if they are still good, or if the Suck Fairy has visited them, but I remember loving the concept of Topper – a guy buys a used car that’s haunted by the two drunken and fun-loving spirits who died in it. Then there was The Ghost and Mrs. Muir about a woman who takes a house by the sea and falls in love with the ghost of a sea captain who haunts it. (Note, these are my 35-year-old takeaways, and may not accurately reflect the contents of the movies, LOL.)

There was also Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow about a love triangle that is resolved when the bumbling apex meets up with a scary ghostly horseman on the way home from a party. My all-time favorite romantic ghost story is Beetlejuice, the story of a loving eighties couple who wind up dead and having their house haunted by the living.

The eighties were a great time for ghost stories; we’ve also got Ghostbusters. In the original, the romance element was a bit . . . of its time, shall we say. The creepy pervert parapsychologist with a heart of gold moves on a client with a really, really bad ghost infestation. The nice, almost-normal parapsychologist has a one-night stand with a ghost (or is it just a dream? At any rate, a bit graphic and out of place). And the brilliant but probably asexual one is the object of unrequited longing by his secretary. The poor girl could do much better emotionally, but goodness, as a teen, I totally understood her point of view! I had a crush on Egon, too.

I liked the 2016 remake of the Ghostbusters, but I felt the romantic elements were stripped out. There was a little heavy-breathing around the beautiful male secretary, but I don’t remember any other romance. It was a sisterhood show, and that was fine.

I’ve talked before on this blog about how romantic Halloween can be – the traditions around fortunetelling and predicting future mates meant Halloween was a great date night in days of yore.


And here’s some more romantic traditions from Kay! https://eightladieswriting.com/2013/10/31/kay-keppler-halloween-or-50-ways-to-find-your-lover/

So, with the world going mad around us, let us retreat a little bit into fiction, and enjoy some spooky fun this month.

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Spooky Fun Month!

  1. I loved Topper when I first saw the movies about 40 years ago, and when I saw them again a few years ago, they still held up for me. I never did like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir—that unrequitable romance made me too sad. But Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice were terrific, as was Ghost, maybe the hottest-of-all-time ghost story. Did you ever watch the TV show Sleepy Hollow? Based on the original Washington Irving short story, it had a lot to do with supernatural creatures, although ghosts per se not so much. I like ghost stories without actually believing in ghosts. As long as the stories don’t verge too far into horror. I’m not a big fan of being overly scared. 🙂

    • I would love to get my hands on a copy of Ghost! I can’t seem to find it, or maybe it’s always rented out.

      I did start watching Sleepy Hollow, and there was some really good stuff there, but I can’t remember why I started falling away from it. That was the one with the time traveller and the witch wife, right? I remember really liking the concept, but . . . why? Was there too much gore? Or some stupid relationship problem? Or maybe both? Wasn’t time traveller guy in a love triangle of sorts with a modern woman (cop?) and his dead witch wife? Gosh, it STILL sounds exactly like something I’d like to see. Maybe I should see if we’ve got it on our streaming service. The DVDs made it over to Japanese rental stores when it came out, but it’s old now. (Grimm or some other fairy tale in modern setting also made it over here about the same time. Now that one I didn’t like by mid-season because of gore and character stupidity, IIRC. Maybe I’m conflating.)

      I am totally with you — I like some laughs with my ghosts, and no thank you to being overly scared (or grossed out).

  2. Great tips on how to signal what kind of ghost story you’re selling!

    A friend of mine, Stacy McKitrick, has a ghost series that’s a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a ghost-infested romance, check her out!

    • Oooh! Thanks, Jeanne!

      I should have expanded on that a bit, but I don’t know so much about the market coding. But a fun little ghost story often uses a cartoon approach.

      I really love the Beetlejuice poster — it reflects that this is a little scary, but terribly fun and turns tropes on their heads.

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