Ghosts: An idea that plays a significant role in Pop-Culture

The idea of ghosts plays a major role in human society, dating as far back as when film, media, and writings first gained popularity. In the more contemporary society and recreation, ghosts are the common mainstay- from the famous Charles Dicken’s book, A Christmas Carol and Casper- This Friendly Ghost to The Amityville Fear, Ghostbusters, Poltergeist, The Sixth sense, and Ghost Whisperer. Ghosts and spirits represent a huge part of pop culture. We may see some ghosts as friendly and some, as terrifying as they can get.

From cartoons to their real-life portrayals, ghosts embrace our pop society reality. Ghosts are so established in our minds that they naturally happen to occur in some of our creative endeavors as well. Since the human mind is so powerful and capable of imagining vivid thoughts and figures, the idea of ghosts continues to gain its popularity in pop culture alongside the creativity of humans. To understand the symbolic role that ghosts play in Pop culture, we must first have an understanding of what pop culture is.

The simplest explanation of Pop Culture is “A set of the practices, beliefs, and objects that are dominant or ubiquitous in a society at a given point of time.” It is evident from several studies that pop culture is more influential for the younger age groups, primarily teenagers, and also, they are the biggest and active users of pop society. According to a recent census which was conducted in 2017, the percentage of people aged between 13 to 19 of the human population is about 11.

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2%. From this statistical data, we can see that a fairly large part of the present human population consists of teenagers who are the main targets of films that are known to have an enthralling effect on the human mind. Ghosts have been an intriguing topic for humans mainly due to their portrayal in films and books. Ghosts have been viewed differently according to different cultures and have been feared accordingly. This is another reason why ghosts have a large scope, especially in the film world. Film directors have a vast pool of conceptualizations to choose from for the theme of their films.

The creativity of the human mind is evident in books written by renowned authors like Stephen King, Anne Rice, Sidney Shelton, etc. One particular book that I would like to mention is The Shining by Stephen King. In the book, King effectively conveys the idea of what a ghost can be and how deep it can get. The ghost portrayed in this book is the spirit of the former caretaker of the hotel which attempts to possess Jack (the husband) and kill his wife and bring his child to the evil spirit which has possession over the house. Since our prime goal is to focus on the popularity of ghosts in the world of pop culture, I did some thorough research of some horror films that feature ghosts in them as the main mode of horror. Ghosts may range from people who wrap themselves up in white sheets to scary monsters who can cause harm to mankind. Costumes depicted in horror films are often white or filled with blood.

The reason behind choosing this particular costume is to increase the credibility and horrifying effects of the film. The dark-themed background along with the actor or actress dressed in pure white makes a perfect combination to increase the effect of the film. The dark-themed background and sudden sounds in films make it scarier for the audience as it like everything happens in the shadows. The bloodstains on clothes or on faces symbolize death and show the audience that they have experienced bodily harm. The main motive of such kind of horror films is not only to make the movie terrifying but also to inculcate a feeling of fear in the minds of the audience, giving a warning that ghosts do exist, and they are not just these monsters that are shown on screen. As we dive deeper into the popularity of ghosts in pop culture, it is important to take into account their historical and cultural significance. The concept of ghosts is believed to have originated from the literary world. It is believed that the term “ghosts” was first recognized in letters written by Roman statesman Pliny. The term “ghosts” officially came into existence after being coined by Professor Walter William Skeat in his annual address as President of the Philological Society in 1886.

Cultures all around the world believe in the fact that spirits that survive death live in another world or a matter of fact, ghosts are considered to be one of the main causes for paranormal phenomena. According to a poll conducted by HuffPost in 2012, it was observed that about 45% of the American population believes in the existence of ghosts. It is also seen that about 20% of the American population has claimed to come in contact with the dead. From this statistical data, it is evident that a large percentage of people believe in the existence of ghosts. This is another reason why filmmakers all around the world are constantly trying to improve the standard of horror films, trying to make them a terrifying and enthralling experience for the audience. This idea in the existence of an afterlife, as well as testimonies of the spirits of the dead, is a widespread belief in almost all parts of the world and it dates way back to the time of the Native Americans. A famous Native American, Black Elk has been quoted as, “The Great Spirit is everywhere; he hears whatever is in our minds and our hearts, and it is unnecessary to speak to him in a loud voice” (Black Elk Quote). From his words, it is crystal clear of the belief of the Native Americans on ghosts.

To the people of the ancient world, there was no room for doubt that the spirit of a human survived after their death. In the ghost stories that inhabit a multitude of literary works, ghosts terrify those who they encounter in their path. A plethora of these stories create an impression of ghosts as harmful spirits who cause bodily harm to the human race. The malevolent character of ghosts is often considered to be a result of the forlorn life that lived or due to improper burials of their corpse. In most of the ghost stories, we see that ghosts rarely try to haunt locations where families were known to live joyous lives. Ghosts in the classic world often seem to appear in the form of vapor or a hollow figure often dressed in white, but during different times they were characterized as appearing in the same form they had been at the time of death. There were numerous views on this topic but regardless of everyone’s views, culturally it was believed that the souls of the dead survived in another form that required some kind of sustenance.

The description of the afterlife varied according to various cultures but there is a common link between all of these convictions of ghosts: they all survived on another realm. “In Mesopotamian culture, death was the final act of life from which there was no return. The land of the dead was known by many names; among them was the Irkalla, the realm beneath the earth known as the land of no return.” It was also a common belief that ghosts would not be able to leave their realm until given concession by the gods to return to the land of the living. Personal experience is one aspect of ghosts, but scientific documentation is another. A major difficulty of investigating ghosts is that there is no universal interpretation of what a ghost is. This is evident from the analysis of the cultural significance of ghosts and also the role they have played in history. In his book, Jeanie Banks Thomas has been quoted, “That is, we imagine them as ethereal forms and as those who’ve died before us- and not as those of us who are alive today.

However, our DNA makes us, in part, the ghosts of our ancestors.” This statement of Banks is a particular description of ghosts and is one that has a lot of meaning to it. This mutable description of ghosts is the backbone of the film industry, which is why ghosts still continue to flourish in the industry despite being portrayed frequently in films and books. The great scientist Einstein has mentioned in his Theory of Conservation of Energy, “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only transferred from one form to another.” If a human perishes from this world, isn’t it a question of doubt to wonder where this energy goes? These factors are all in favor of raising the popularity of ghosts and side by side their standards as well. These notable words by Einstein only made the topic of ghosts more interesting to look into. There are many instances where people would argue against the popularity of ghosts in pop culture.

The claim that they make is that there are no ghosts in this world and everything that is said about ghosts in just some made-up story or myth. There are sufficient articles on the web and also through a thorough analysis of their historical and cultural values, we see that there have been a large number of cases where people have also claimed to have come in contact with a spirit. If we look into the newspaper articles of the traditional days, we see that there are some cases where there have been reports of houses being haunted by a ghost. In the modern world, some films contain a message that gives us an insight into the existence of ghosts and the harm they cause to the human race. For example, in films like The Conjuring, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Rite, etc., at the end of the film, we are shown a screen with the statement “Based on a true story.” If ghosts actually don’t exist, then there is no possibility that there can so many reports of “hauntings”. As a whole, till date there has been no scientific experiment that can prove the existence of ghosts., but from the films we watch, though very entertaining, we should be alerted that the topic of ghosts and spirits are not something to be played with.

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Ghosts: An idea that plays a significant role in Pop-Culture. (2021, Dec 13). Retrieved from

Ghosts: An idea that plays a significant role in Pop-Culture
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