Special Briefing: Not Your Mother's Ghost Stories - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Special Briefing: Not Your Mother's Ghost Stories

Special Briefing: Not Your Mother's Ghost Stories

By Dan Peleschuk


Because ghosts will always be fascinating.

By Dan Peleschuk

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.


What’s happening? Widely acknowledged as goth Christmas, Halloween is finally, hauntingly, upon us. So catch up with this original OZY series of ghostly tales from decades past, as well as those shaping our future. From the arts to technology, our centuries-old fascination with the spirit world is being pushed into a new era.

Why does it matter? Humanity’s relationship with ghosts has persisted about as long as humanity itself. These days, 46 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts, while 15 percent of the population even claims to have seen one. But even those who aren’t paranormally inclined are likely to contribute to the estimated $8.8 billion Halloween industry.


New thrills. Developers are marrying technology and terror in a way that’s never been done before, using virtual and augmented reality to create experiences where everyday settings — from a kitchen to a warehouse — turn into haunted houses. VR additions to escape rooms and museum exhibitions are cropping up nationwide, and could soon find their way into your own home. This tech’s terrifying potential isn’t held back by the temporal limitations of brick-and-mortar haunts either, which should appeal to Americans, who spend more than $300 million on haunted house tickets annually.

Write it out. Alma Katsu spent more than three decades witnessing true horror. In the 1990s, she ran “complex contingency operations” for U.S. intelligence agencies to stomp out mass atrocities around the globe. Now she’s using that knowledge to boost her second career as a popular horror writer. Her latest, The Hunger, was named one of the best horror novels of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times and others, and even earned front-cover kudos from horror icon Stephen King. Sure, she’s a lovely person, her editor says — but she’ll “tell you stories that will curl your hair.”

Hitchin’ a ride. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that tore through Japan in 2011 left 16,000 dead and flattened towns along the coast. But the departed don’t go quietly in a place where ghosts are culturally accepted: One sociologist studying the phenomenon spoke to taxi drivers who reported having passengers simply vanish from their cabs. Firemen, meanwhile, have been known to pray for the deceased residents of destroyed homes after receiving ghostly calls from the properties. Japan’s prevailing Shinto religion, which requires that spirits be cared for to ease their journey to the afterlife, means locals are likely more ghost-conscious.

Spooky attraction. Next time you’re in the City of Lights, don’t miss The Live Thriller — Paris’ most engaging, and absolutely terrifying, interactive theater experience. Though it’ll likely appeal to the adrenaline-chasing escape room crowd, it’s more like being inside a horror movie or video game, where your decisions and ability to connect the dots affect the story. Participants are tasked with solving a ghostly mystery, which involves rushing between locations in the 18th arrondissement, chasing people and finding clues. Running around the creepiest of places, you’ll bump into professional actors who play fellow detectives, or suspects who will help or hinder your criminal investigation.


The Great Inventors Who Really Wanted to Talk to Ghosts, by Addison Nugent on OZY

“Virtually every new communication technology invented between 1860 and 1930 was promoted as a means of reaching the spirit realm, and not just by charlatans — by the inventors themselves.”

Skip This Scary Show and Read This Book Instead, by Lauren Cocking on OZY

“‘The fear invoked by fiction … somehow works to remedy the very real terrors of life.’”


Are Ghosts Real? 

“We call these interbreeding species ‘ghost species.’”

Watch on Natural History Museum on YouTube:

Could You Survive This Haunted House for $20K?

“What they are inducing is a form of psychological torture — but for fun.”

Watch on Fox Business on YouTube:


Sneak-a-treat. Festive trick-or-treaters might do well to keep an eye on Mom and Dad this season, since around 78 percent of parents admit to stealing from their kids’ candy stashes.

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