Ghostly goings on


Just a quicky! Might post something more later..

I’m considering entering a writing competion. More for the motivation of having to write to a deadline and theme than in any genuine belief I’ll win…but the topic is Ghost Stories.

I have a question. Does a ghost story have to have a ghost in it, or can it just be something spooky and strange? Not as in “real life” weirdness, but an alternative reality of a scary nature?

What do you think?


I did some researching and found a few definitions:

“A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters’ belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has been developed as a short story format, within genre fiction. It is a form of supernatural fiction, and is often a horror story.” – From Wikipedia

In “Some Remarks on Ghost Stories”[3] (1929), M. R. James identifies five key features of the English ghost story, as summarized by Prof. Frank Coffman for a course in popular imaginative literature:

  • The pretense of truth
  • “A pleasing terror
  • No gratuitous bloodshed or sex
  • No “explanation of the machinery”
  • Setting: “those of the writer’s (and reader’s) own day”
Not sure that helps though!

One response »

  1. I don’t know if you actually need a ghost per se, but I would have though some allusion to a ghost may be needed even if it never actually shows. HP Lovecraft was of course the master of alluding to horrific barely describable monstrosities, and then not actually describing them at all.

    But it does ask the question, where is the line between a ghost story, a horror, a drama and a fantasy story. I would suggest that the same story could be characterized many ways, and more down to the genre preferences of the reader rather than any hard or fast rules.

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