Why Ghosts Are The Scariest Monsters In Horror…After Demons

Posted: April 16, 2014 in Reflections, Scary Stuff
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Vampires are scary…but also kind of sexy and occasionally needy or envious of humans. Werewolves are scary…but in some cases they are cute and sometimes even sexy. Zombies…just walk a little faster and you’ll avoid them. Frankenstein’s monster…take the guy to a therapist to talk over his daddy issues. Witches….just tell them you have no intention of burning them at the stake and that you’re more interested in working with them and maybe using their powers to better mankind. Or leave them alone if they have Satanic leanings. Demons…well, they’re basically an incarnation of ultimate evil. Not even religion or faith can protect you sometimes.

But after demons, ghosts are probably the scariest of monsters, and they’re certainly my favorite. And I have some pretty good reasons why they should be your favorite as well. Let’s run through them, shall we?

1. There are plenty of people trying to prove their existence. Just go on TV, you’ll find shows dedicated to paranormal investigators who go to reportedly haunted locations (I’m a huge fan of Ghost Adventures, personally). And while some of what they find can be explained through science and reason, and while their methods may not exactly follow the scientific method, some of what they’ve found is pretty compelling and hard to explain rationally, which is more than I can say for some people who go hunting for Bigfoot or aliens. And plenty of paranormal investigators will take the time to show people who are skeptical that while the methods they use aren’t perfect, they will attempt to show you that their methods are as free from interference as possible.

2. Ghosts are found in nearly everywhere on Earth. Nearly every religion on Earth, every ethnic group, every cultural group and every philosophy has some conception of what the afterlife is like, and a good number have stories of the dead coming back to intervene in the lives of the living. Heck, even the Judeo-Christian tradition does (the witch of Endor, for example). Is it Jung’s collective unconscious at work? A human need to calm ourselves with beliefs of life after death, that we still exist in some form after our bodies begin to rot? Or maybe it’s something more.

3. Everyone believes in ghosts at some point. Don’t try and deny it. At some point everyone’s a believer. I’ve seen people discount werewolves or vampires or the Loch Ness monster right off the bat, but when it comes to ghosts they’ll admit that, if they don’t believe in them now, they certainly believe in the possibility or that they did in one point in their lives. And why not? After all…

4. The former victims of death are just as scary as death itself. Think about it. Death seems like the worst thing that could happen, but then there’s the possibility that something worse than just dying. And nobody wants to see a reminder of death, of how it can twist the soul and turn the spirit inside out, coming our way to do us harm. At least not most people I know.

5. There’s no set rules about ghosts. Minus that they’re the souls of the dead, of course. Vampires drink blood and are usually afraid of sunlight. Werewolves react to the cycles of the moon and are allergic to silver. Zombies are the undead and need a good beheading to kill them off. But ghosts are much more flexible than other monsters. They can be confined to one singular place, or they can be mobile spirits that can travel to various places as they are allowed. Everything from appearance to how they haunt to how they can mess with the living. It’s all pretty open, much to the delight of every horror author ever.

Now, I’m not trying to convince you that ghosts exist (though I do think ghosts are one of those things that skeptics can come to believe in much more easily than with other subjects and if I did somehow make you a believer, then welcome t the club). But I certainly think that ghosts are out there, and that they are honestly some of the scariest things out there…that aren’t the result of humans, I mean. So the next time you hear about a movie or a book featuring ghosts, take a moment and think about what that movie or book is tapping into. It’s more than just a primal fear of death, it’s something that could actually conceivably exist and do us harm. And that is one of the most terrifying thoughts of all.

Oh, and you know which culture has the scariest ghost legends of all? Japan! The yurei is a spirit that exists on the physical plane because of some lingering grudge or regret that keeps it from moving on. Yurei tend to wear white robes, have pale skin, long black hair and no legs. There are also subcategories of yurei, depending on how they died, what keeps them there, and who exactly has died. The most famous yurei is probably the onryo, a spirit that stays on this Earth out of a desire for revenge. And if you’ve ever seen The Ring or the Grudge (Japanese or English versions) you know what I’m talking about. Those things are Terrifying with a capital T!

Look at this thing! Can you blame me for being terrified?

  1. bfostrickson says:

    Eugh, I find ghosts really chilling in writing, but werewolves do it for me on TV. I watched that horrible movie Ginger Snaps at the wrong age and at the wrong house (creepy place in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods). That thing in the picture is pretty freaky! I regret reading this before bed. 😉

  2. Charlie Alford says:

    I agree Ghosts can be (are) the most scariest mostly because they are the most believable in this world. It is far easier to rationalise spirits clinging to the earth than believe there are immortal vampires and the undead roaming the planet. Although, I have to admit I do love my vampires – mostly from a social/historical perspective than the blood thing…

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