Ghosts. It’s a powerful concept usually provoking fear, even terror for most of us. These days it’s the main keyword in many hit reality show titles. “Ghost Hunters”, “Ghost Lab”, “Celebrity Ghost Stories”, “Ghost Mine”, etc, the list goes on and on like the haunting of a famous landmark. The simple answer to the enormous popularity of these shows is merely the fact that we love being scared. We can’t let go of seeing what goes bump in the night. But there’s a deeper, more meaningful reason why so many of us want to search and find ghosts. The afterlife. Ghosts assure us there’s something more than the everyday. Their purported existence, despite the near impossibility of ever definitively proving they really do exist, help guarantee another chapter beyond the life and reality we collectively experience as mortal humans.
Ghosts mean a continuance to our existence. Ghosts abolish the end.
Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining”, remains one of the most widely known and beloved ghost stories ever told. It was a huge best selling hit and then was turned into a big box office film, directed by master storyteller Stanley Kubrick, responsible for such iconic films as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Full Metal Jacket”. King didn’t exactly love the changes Kubrick made to his novel story, in fact, he initially hated the movie. One can agree or disagree ove the film’s quality, but must admire the casting of Oscar winner Jack Nicholson as main character Jack Torrance, opposite a perfectly hysterical Shelley Duvall as wife, Wendy. King relates a fascinating interaction with the legendary Kubrick over whether there was life after death, and it’s supported by Kubrick’s own stepdaughter, Katharina Kubrick Hobbs.
Kubrick’s views on God and the afterlife are illustrated by this anecdote from Katharina Kubrick Hobbs. “I asked him once after The Shining , if he believed in ghosts. He said that it would be nice if there “were” ghosts, as that would imply that there is something after death. In fact, I think he said, “Gee I hope so.”
Is Kubrick’s optimism on an afterlife haunted by ghostly phantasms – giving us hope for more after the death of the body – the basis for our modern ghostly pursuits? Indeed, even apart from the glut of ghost chasing on cable television, the amateur ghost hunter or horror hobbyist is everywhere today. On the Internet there are tons of ghost busting groups, where they podcast about their ghostly pastimes and post videos of weird things happening in a darkened cemetery or abandoned mental hospital.
Going to church in America – at least in the organized sense of travelling to a brick and mortar place for worship – has declined. From an article in The Washington Post: “Across the board – among white evangelical, white mainline and racial/ethnic congregations – there was a decrease in attendance. While the number of megachurches almost doubled over the decade, congregations with 2,000 or more weekly attendees make up just 0.5 percent of all congregations. There are more megachurches, but, in fact, they’re getting an increasing piece of an overall shrinking pie… In many cases, congregations are seeing not only fewer people in their pews but older ones. At least one-third of members in more than half of mainline Protestant congregations are 65 or older.”
It appears that our American youth would rather go out ghost busting with a paranormal crew or sit at home and watch the ghostly gathering adventures of fellow ghost fans. In essence, is this their new church? Has the supernatural lure of the spooky spirit – instead of the Holy Spirit – beckoned to them in a way that a bible thumping preacher or priest simply can’t compete with anymore?
Some religions tread the kind of non traditional or even bizarre territory which most of the mainstream rejects or even mocks. Believers in say the belief system of Scientology – with big celebrity supporters like Tom Cruise or John Travolta – have a hard time explaining or simply justifying the validity of their church. With ghosts, one day maybe soon, a Church of The Ghost – hold the Holy, please – may just spring up to gain massive followers. It appears, however, that “Ghost Church” may already be in full swing and session. Its passionate congregation tune in to massive TV ratings, and joyously practice phantasm like tenants with their paranormal hobby crew, as they venture boldly, exploring haunted places on spiritual weekend jaunts.