From time immemorial we have been fascinated by what happens to us after we die. Because of this, writers and story-tellers have always explored topics such as death, ghosts, the paranormal and the afterlife.
Our human brains are naturally geared towards finding meaning in everything, so it makes sense that people would tell each other stories as a way to try and make sense of things that went bump in the night. Whenever there is something mysterious in life, there will be countless theories which try to explain it. Herbalists and practitioners of natural medicine were once misunderstood as witches. Unexplainable lights in the sky become alien spaceships in our imaginations.
Real witches and spaceships may well exist, but a lot of the time it is our minds trying to make sense of what we can’t fathom.Supernatural topics have now become more popular in mainstream fiction, rather than just being contained within the typical genres of horror, paranormal, sci fi or fantasy. This has led to a broader variety of ‘ghost stories’ and in a way it has pushed writers to become more imaginative and creative with how they portray the mysterious.
A number of commercially successful authors have written about the afterlife in recent years. Will Self’s ‘How the Dead Live’, Mitch Albom’s ‘The Five People you meet in Heaven’, and ‘Damned’ by Chuck Palahniuk are as varied examples as you could get. Yet their common themes are death and the afterlife. The modern ghost story is no longer about trying to explain what we don’t understand; they are now about playing with the ‘what-if’s’.