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Ghosts – or the (Nearly) Invisible

Spectral Phenomena in Literature and the Media


Maria Fleischhack and Elmar Schenkel

In this volume, ghost stories are studied in the context of their media, their place in history and geography. From prehistory to this day, we have been haunted by our memories, the past itself, by inklings of the future, by events playing outside our lives, and by ourselves. Hence the lure of ghost stories throughout history and presumably prehistory. Science has been a great destroyer of myth and superstition, but at the same time it has created new black boxes which we are filling with our ghostly imagination. In this book, literature from the Middle Ages to Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman, children’s stories, folklore and films, ranging from the Antarctic and Russia to Haiti, are covered and show the continuing presence of spectral phenomena.

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‘They only see what they wanna see’: Traumatised Ghosts and Ghost Story Conventions in The Sixth Sense and The Others


Abstract: The essay elaborates on post-mortem films whose ghost-protagonists do not know that they are dead. It takes its point of departure from cognitive narratology and assumes that The Sixth Sense and The Others disguise their narrative unreliability under the cover of established ghost story conventions. It is argued that the films’ unreliability is based on their main characters’ restricted perception which is caused by their dissociative amnesia, that is, they repress the memories of their violent death. Apart from discussing the symptoms of trauma that the protagonists display, it is shown how the discovery and acceptance of their actual demise solves the inner and outer conflicts in the respective ghost story.


In a small village in Kansas, the young woman Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is on a day trip with two friends when they accept a challenge to drag race, but are forced off of a narrow wooden bridge. The car sinks into the murky depths, and all the three women are assumed drowned. Although the police and volunteers search for the wreckage in vain, sometime later, and to everyone’s surprise, Mary emerges unharmed from the river, but she cannot remember how she survived. After her recovery, she accepts a new job in Salt Lake City. While driving to Utah, Mary suddenly sees a horrid apparition, a deathlike figure dressed in a tuxedo, with black-rimmed eyes and white hair (Herk Harvey, also the director and producer of the film), that arouses fear...

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