Saturday, April 4, 2009

Susan Hill on Ghost Stories

Susan Hill has written an excellent article on what constitutes a ghost story. Read it here. To summarize:
  • Ghost stories must have a ghost, which she defines as "the remaining spirit of a person who has existed in this life, but who is known to have died."
  • The ghost must have a purpose, and that purpose "is not usually benign. The ghost may seek revenge or retribution for what happened to it in life and the presumption is that, once this is obtained, the haunting will cease."
  • There must be a "ghostly" atmosphere to the story, an "atmosphere of real malevolence, threatening the lives, souls and sanity of the innocent". Let me intrude a comment here to say this is where Susan Hill's The Woman in Black excels. She cites Henry James' Turn of the Screw as "one of the most horrifying of all ghost story-masterpieces".
I do not fully agree with Ms. Hill's assertion that there must be an atmosphere of malevolence in ghost stories, but that will be addressed at another time.

I don't propose to discuss only ghost stories on this blog, but at the moment I am in one of my ghost story enthusiasms, and so that is what I am going to write about for now.

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