Stay, illusion! If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me: If there be any good thing to be done,
That may to thee do ease and grace to me …
—Horatio to the Ghost in Hamlet
For almost as long as people have built campfires, ghost stories have teased us with ideas about life after death. The greatest artists have wrestled with their fear and curiosity by giving shape to their afterlife imaginings, whether inspiring or terrible.
Shakespeare's famous ghost, Hamlet's murdered father, is one of the most haunting phantoms in all of literature, with his tales of hellish torment and his appeal to Hamlet for justice and vengeance. Movies frequently echo this episode—in The Devil's Backbone, a murdered child appeared to some orphans, leading them to avenge a horrible wrong. I found the film to be one of those rare ghost stories that rises above simple tricks and surprises to become a profound work of art. The ghost became a symbol of war's innocent casualties, those who are ignored by powerful clashing armies and then left behind, forgotten, devastated, with no one to avenge them.
But finding a meaningful ghost story is a challenge. Most cinematic spook-stories recall another Shakespeare line—"A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Most are so sloppily told that some Christian film critics go so far as to ignore or condemn any movie in which heroes come into contact with ghosts.
I'd like to hear from you: Has a movie about ghosts or the afterlife ever been a rewarding experience for you? If so, which one, and why? Do you think any of these supernatural expeditions offer real insight, encouragement or comfort? Or is this subject a dead-end? Are ghost stories off-limits for Christians? Write me ...1
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