We Tell Ghost Stories In Order to Control Our Fears

“One of the primary experiences ghost stories deal with is fear,” Chris Yokel explains. “Many literary critics recognize that the management of fear is one of the important explanations for the existence of the ghost story. Julia Briggs in her book Night Visitors says, ‘Both the recital and reading of stories of the terrific unknown suggests a need to exorcise in controlled circumstances, fear which in solitude or darkness might become unmanageable. By recounting nightmares, giving them speakable shapes and patterns, even if as compulsively as did Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, we hope to control them and come to terms with them.’”

Do we control our fears when we tell stories of indomitable evils, of horrors that cannot be held back, or of despair that literally eats at us? How much do our stories define for us this “terrific unknown”?

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