Strange Sunday – Ghosts and other spectral affairs

ghost apparition photo

“Ghost” by Joe-Roberts

Ghosts are awesome. If done right, they are scary for several reasons. First of all, they are unnatural and not from this world, which invokes this natural fear of the unknown every human possesses. Next to that, they can appear at any time and anywhere. Sometimes there are portents that herald their appearance, and sometimes they just scare the living bejeezus out of you by just appearing out of nothing. Finally, they come in many shapes. From the creepy manifestations of Poltergeist, to the ruthless black-haired spirit of The Ring, ghosts can look different in every story.

What saddens me though, is that ghosts ar,e most of the tim,e the spirits of deceased persons, stuck in this world to exact their vengeance or to resolve matters. It’s a shame though, considering that there are many other origin stories for the undead. In this week’s Strange Sunday, I want to highlight two sources of fiction who do spectres and apparitions a little bit different, or should I say…a little bit stranger?

Torchwood: overlapping timelines

I’ve never seen Doctor Who, but I watched the first season of its spin-off show Torchwood. It’s an amazing show, and if you haven’t seen it yet, watch the adventures of Captain Jack Harkness and his crew as soon as you can.

Talking about Captain Jack Harkness: in the episode that shares his name, we are introduced to an origin of ghosts that I find shockingly logical. In the Who-verse, ghosts can be a sympton of overlapping timelines, popping up in places where the time-space continuum is disturbed. This causes images and sounds of the past to pop up. Considering ghost origins, this explanation has a nice, semi-scientific touch to it, and lots of possibilities. Are there any Doctor Who episodes where this is further explored? ‘Cause I sure as hell would love to see them!

Werewolf: the Spirits

Okay, the game I’m referencing is of course called Werewolf: the Forsaken. The second game in the rebooted World of Darkness is all about shape-shifting man-wolves, who patrol the borderlands between our world and that of the spirits. Though spirits are not the metaphysical remnants of the dead, their origin and creation can easily be applied to the undead.

You see, in Werewolf, many things from our world have a reflection in the so-called Hisil, or Shadow, a parallel dimension. In that world, places, buildings and items are “awakened” when they are charged with emotional resonance. The site of a mass murder will be filled with dangerous spirits of death, while a hospital in the Shadow will harbour spirits of disease but also of hope. If we apply that to the world of ghosts, we could turn them into incarnations of great emotions. A house could be haunted not because the spirit of its last owner haunts there, but because it has been “charged” with negative emotions over many years. This would make ghosts even more metaphysical, and would have the protagonists of stories use new methods to fight them. It can be a hard job to turn the site of a mass murder into something that can give birth to happy joy-joy spirits…

Well, this apparition will stop haunting this blog now. If you have any further input about this spectral topic, feel free to share your opinion below in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter.

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