Are Ghosts Real?
A fiction author aims to transport readers from their grounded reality into a fantasy. For example, building a bridge too far-out concepts like vampires, planet Vulcan, warp drive, and zombies. We know these concepts are 100% fiction, but we still love make-believe stories. What is going on when we read a pure fantasy concept? Our minds turn off obvious logic, which, in some ways, makes a fantasy story even better.
What about ghosts? Science is mostly sure there is no basis for ghosts, yet there are ghostly videos and (arguably) physical proof. I even have experienced one. In college, a ghost walked right past me. I clearly remember the experience, and even today, I am sure this event occurred.
Writers use ghostly concepts to the extreme. People die, become ghosts, and live a full afterlife. One of my favorite books is “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. In this story, dead people become ghosts and raise a child. They have average lives and go about daily activities just like the living. Side question. Do ghosts eat ghost food? Do ghosts poop? They must do something.
Is this fair to the reader? Should Neil Gaiman take a more scientific approach? My heart screams no, but my logical mind (very quietly) says yes. Ghostly stories make us want to believe that our deceased relatives are doing just fine. How about my Uncle Al? Is he floating in a misty form while yelling at their neighbors to keep their dogs quiet? Is he whispering his unique brand of wisdom to the living?
Of course, I want to believe Uncle Al is next to me as I am typing, but my logical mind shows I should not make this leap. Is it fair to taunt myself with this notion? I suppose it is nice to have hope. I want to think Uncle Al is there, subtly guiding me. I think about our conversations and his voice often. Is that the actual definition of a ghost? The voice in my head? My memories? The pictures of him? Should I taunt others by writing about my Uncle Al? Am I teasing you right now with the belief that he is still with us?
I have lightly written about this topic in my first book. The story is about immortality, and the main characters (similar to a vampire) must kill to survive. Because they have so much experience with death, they notice ghostly figures appearing right after a person dies. I provide a quasi-logical scientific explanation for the action, but the ghosts do not become characters. This plot device forces the main character to think about (regret) his deceitful actions.
Is it fair to give readers false hope? My logical mind says no, but my heart wants to give readers a great story and let them decide what is real. Wow, what a cop-out.
What about the ghost that walked past me? I know what I experienced, which means (in my mind) there must be some middle ground. I suppose I should conclude that ghosts probably are not real and not overthink the subject. However, there is no harm in enjoying a ghostly story. Will I become a ghost when I die? There is only one way to find out…

You’re the best -Bill
November 07, 2018 Updated October 14, 2023
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