The ghost story is enjoying a revival. No wonder – we’re hardly short of repressed fears to turn into fiction
I’m not expecting to see a ghost tonight, but I will go in search of one. I’ve always assumed that any self-respecting spectre would run (float?) a mile from the lurid carnival trappings of contemporary Halloween revelries. And yet I still entertain a faint hope that, after the sticky children have been and gone with their plastic pumpkins and benign extortion, and I settle into a favourite chair with a book of ghost stories, there might be some corresponding fluttering of the curtains, a tap at the window, a shadow in the doorway, a sudden unexpected chill.
I realise that in confessing my yearning for a haunting I risk my credentials as a good rationalist and proud patron of Humanists UK, but I suspect that this fascination with the idea of ghosts lies below the surface in all of us. I know several people – you probably do too – educated, sensible professionals, not given to histrionics, who quite calmly relate encounters with the unexplained that produce pleasing goosebumps. I want to believe them. As Dr Johnson observed about the existence of ghosts: “All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.”