Written by Shelby Hatfield
It is common knowledge that our world is becoming more technologically advanced every day. What is considered modern now is almost obsolete in what seems like the blink of an eye. But with all of our machines and technology, there is still one thing that the modern world has never been able to understand: the world of the supernatural. Ghosts, ghouls, demons, and creatures of the night have forever remained a mystery to the empirical society that we are today, but that has never mitigated our interest in the uncanny.
Written By Ashley Starling
“You’ll finish [reading] and that will be that, until a moment will come, maybe in a month, maybe a year, maybe even several years. […] Out of the blue, beyond any cause you can trace, you’ll suddenly realize things are not how you perceived them at all. For some reason, you will no longer be the person you believed you once were. […] And then the nightmares will begin.” – Johnny Truant, introduction to House of Leaves
Written By Jared Lynch
In the introduction to her book Gothic Hauntings: Melancholy Crypts and Textual Ghosts, Christine Berthin discusses the findings of French psychoanalysts Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok. They explain that when haunting is transgenerational, it “takes the shape of a secret transmitted within a family or a community without being stated because it is associated with repressed guilt, shame or is the result of a trauma that has not been worked through” (4). When the ghost is transferred, it becomes “a lost object to the unconscious of the child, the living subject or ‘phantom carrier’” (4). This transgenerational concept of haunting is evident in Maxine Hong Kingston’s chilling essay “No Name Woman” in which Kingston learns from her mother that her father had a sister who had committed suicide after bringing shame to her family. Kingston’s mother tells her, “‘We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born’” (2704). This transference of the No Name Woman’s story from mother to daughter marks the inheritance and continuation of a repressed specter, and Kingston becomes a “phantom carrier.”
Written By Elizabeth Palmer
Sigmund Freud writes that the uncanny is a distinct “class of…frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.” He goes on to rhetorically ask how it is “possible…[for] the familiar [to] become uncanny and frightening.” What frightens us most are the things which we can almost recognize. Sometimes, that almost recognizable thing is memory. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the word “rememory” is used when the main character, Sethe, recalls moments that have been forgotten. She is faced with these uncanny re-memories—moments that are not quite familiar because they have been tucked away for so long—and at their sudden manifestation, becomes haunted by their existence.
Written by Brittany Means
Spook (2005) by Mary Roach is a detailed investigation into cultural attitudes toward the idea of the afterlife. In her other books, such as Bonk (2008) and Stiff (2003), Roach takes a scientific approach to the subjects of sex and the life of cadavers, respectively. Spook is no different, which Roach conveys in the introduction when she writes, “[T]his is a book for people who would like very much to believe in a soul and in an afterlife for it to hang around in, but who have trouble accepting these things on faith” (14).
Written by Lauren Lutz
Ghosts in recent movies and television shows are increasingly autonomous and empowered. In 2012’s The Woman in Black, the ghost of a woman made vengeful after the unjustified death of her child seeks to kill other children by influencing them to commit suicide. In 2013’s The Conjuring, Bathsheba, the ghost of a woman who sacrificially killed her child and cursed her land, possesses mothers who live on her old property and has them kill their own children. The ghosts in American Horror Story’s 2011 season “Murder House” continually manipulate the living in an attempt to better their lives as spirits in the human realm or exact revenge upon those who wronged them while they were alive. In each of these cases, the ghosts have quite a bit of power and influence over the living, creating a potent, fear-inducing presence. However, according to Jennifer Bann’s article “Ghostly Hands and Ghostly Agency: The Changing Figure of the Nineteenth-Century Specter,” ghosts have not always been portrayed as such formidable figures in popular culture.
Written by Dr. Adam R. Beach
“I feel like something bad is going to happen to me. I feel like something bad has happened. It hasn’t reached me yet, but it’s on its way. And it’s getting closer. And I don’t feel ready. I feel like I can’t do anything.” Alice Palmer in Lake Mungo.
Lake Mungo (2008, dir. Joel Anderson) is a quiet, sad, and stunning ghost movie set in rural Australia that tracks the haunting of the members of the Palmer family by their teenage daughter/sister Alice, who drowns during a family outing to a nearby dam. The film is a rich and complex text that lends itself to many different kinds of analyses. Its combination of the ghost story with the faux documentary genre raises questions about what it means to “document” both the lives of those who have passed away and the possible existence of their ghosts. The film’s fascinating engagement with photography and video asks us to think about such technologies both as creating ghostly and haunting images of our loved ones and as a potential means for capturing empirical evidence of ghosts. And the film expertly creates uncanny effects, especially in its final sequence, by making an already familiar Palmer family photo into something radically unfamiliar and incredibly sad—in this sequence, the film presents a textbook case of Freud’s version of the uncanny and the powerful and unsettling effects produced when the familiar becomes unrecognizably different in ways we never could have foreseen.