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Headscratchers / Ghosts

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Our Ghosts Are Different

  • Why is it that in almost any work in which ghosts exist, people are surprised to encounter said ghosts. If a significant number of the deceased come back as ghosts, shouldn't they just be an accepted fact of life?
    • That would depend on the statistics involved. If, say, only one in ten million dead came back us ghosts, it wouldn't be very likely that it has happened to anyone you know.
    • But the usual qualifier for becoming a ghost is having Unfinished Business. If everyone who had unfinished business when they died became a ghost, there would be a heck of a lot of ghosts floating around.
    • Maybe it's a matter of stubbornness and the importance of the Unfinished Business. If your unfinished business was, say, mowing the lawn, that probably wouldn't be enough to turn you into a ghost. Even if it was something important, maybe after death, material things seem less important, so it's only people who are really, really fixated on an issue that remain as ghosts.
      • Alternately, if the lawn is unmowed, you become a ghost, but pass on once you've mown the lawn.
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    • Because they don't really believe ghosts exist. There have been numerous accounts of ghosts, but you'd still be shocked if one suddenly appeared to you.
      • Pretty much this. There have been ghost sightings all over the place in real life, some of which were even caught on camera, but there's still a lot of people who don't believe in them.

  • Why is it that non-flying ghosts are intangible to everything except the floor? Doesn't seem like there would be a difference.
    • Really any supernatural being that has intangibility, but not flight, as a power does this. See Required Secondary Powers. It's probably by choice though. The ghost doesn't want to fall through the floor, so s/he doesn't, or it's psychological in that they don't think they should fall through, so they don't. Or they do have flight, and the footsteps are mimed (i.e. they don't actually touch the floor, but they make the movement a living human does).
    • If they are intanglible, gravity can't affect them, and falling through the floor does not occur to them.
      • If they weren't affected by gravity but couldn't fly, then the Earth would move around the sun without them and they'd be floating in space.
      • Maybe that's why there are so few of them around. Chilling thought.
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    • Ghosts are shadows of their living selves. They cannot manipulate objects, nor are they affected by objects around them, but they can mime the things they did in life. So if they walked through a doorway in the past, they can pass through the door now, even though that door is closed. They can walk right through objects like furniture placed across their path, or walls that have been newly erected, if those things weren't there when they were alive. They can even walk up stairways that have been demolished.

  • In a setting where ghosts are former humans and visible to everyone, why do they make no attempt to continue their old lives? For example, why doesn't the spirit of a dead college student continue taking classes until graduation? After all, just because you're separated from your physical body doesn't mean that you shouldn't be treated as a person. Is there some sort of Prime Directive that all ghosts instinctively follow?
    • They don't need (and cannot have) anything they can buy, they often can become/always are invisible, they can't do all that much anyway etc. etc. Besides, there's usually Unfinished Business to take care of.
      • Give a sapient ghost a dictaphone, a few other things depending on what they can do (writing, editing, designing recipes, working on a phone sex line), a DVD player or voice-controlled game emulator (most RPGs and all true visual novels can easily be run with six to twelve voice commands since they don't require timed manoeuvers), and a living roommate or part-time aide and you've lessened that ghost's post-life boredom by 90% (and likely lessened his bored trickery of mortals by 90-and-9%). A college student ghost is even better, because they usually don't need to sleep and can probably keep enough of a night job to pay for a corporeal assistant and classes since they don't have to pay for food and living space. If they are good at what they do, or are Inspirationally Disadvantaged from the full-body amputation, you can change the world by letting a ghost go back to college. Using neuroprosthetic technology (the sort that is controlled by a person's mind based on set patterns of activity), or if you've got a poltergeist in the first place, a ghost could theoretically do anything a human could do plus anything a robot could do, plus walk through opaque walls (intelligence agencies would have a field day if they started getting ghost appplicants).
      • This could be a very unconventional solution to the "humans vs. robots" space exploration debate...

  • If you die naked in a universe with Jacob Marley Apparel, is your ghost stuck being nude for eternity?
    • Yes. Stardust provides a prime example of this.
    • As does Ghost Town.

  • Why are all ghosts encountered in fiction from fairly recent history? That is, usually no earlier than one or two hundred years ago — maybe The Middle Ages at the most. Why aren't there ghosts of people from the Stone Age floating around? I mean, you're stuck as a ghost for eternity, right?
    • Everything Fades. Alternately, we're back to Unfinished Business. If you haven't got it sorted out after five or six centuries of haunting, chances are you never will. Might as well just give up and go to your eternal rest.
    • Not all, The Sixth Sense has Weirdness Censor built into every ghost, so they very often don't notice or care that their unfinished business can't be done. See the ghosts from two centuries ago hanging in the school.
    • The six-thousand-year-old ghosts tend to have already either passed on or figured out the ways of being a ghost and upgraded themselves to "powerful spirit". The ones that can't learn, like recording-type ghosts, are pretty common in local mythology (like the Memories of early medieval and pre-Saxon hunts, or the Roman soldiers that have been seen marching through a celler in York).
    • This depends on the setting. Wo D(and N Wo D) does have ancient ghosts(though in N Wo D they tend to be absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt FUBAR and resemble Cthulhu more than typical ghosts). It also does have a fairly reasonable explanation for why ancient ghosts aren't encountered that often. Simply put, if it's the unfinished business that "anchors" you to the world, then once your opportunity to resolve it passes you can't really move on. And then, you fall into the Underworld.
      This can also be easily tied into settings without an Underworld or some sort of a ghosts-without-anchors residence. Maybe, it's your unfinished business that gives you any sort of power over the world and once it's gone, you simply can't affect the physical world nor can you be seen, even to people who can see all the usual ghosts(and maybe even to young ghosts themselves).
      ** You become a ghost if you fail to meet the requirements of your belief system to get you into another form of the afterlife (heaven, hell, etc.) If you're still a ghost when every living person who shared that belief system is dead, you cease to exist. In short, when the believers die, the god dies and the ghosts of that faith "die", too.

  • That ghosts do a very poor job pursuing their Ghostly Goals, and can never just tell their "helpers" what's up.
    • Ghost Amnesia?
      • Maybe they don't know themselves? Often in fiction, a ghost is created from the memory of a traumatic death. I mean, people suffer amnesia from experiencing horrifying events (physical abuse, natural disaster, murder, car crash etc..), and if you died of it, you'd want to be pretty far away from that incident in your head as well. If their unfinished business was connected to their death, little wonder they can't explain it outright. The poor things go mad.

  • How does Jacob Marley Apparel work if two people die wearing the same clothes (at different times), like a crown or a pair of poisoned boots, what does that say for the clothes? That the clothes are a result of Your Mind Makes It Real (which works for the clothing but usually not for the more sudden causes of death), or that clothing has regenerating souls?

  • why do ghosts always have unfinished buisness? what about those who, when they die want to continue to fuck around in the world for a while? what happenes to them?
    • They can stay. Simple as that. I mean, what's the point of staying in the afterlife if all you are going to do is be angsty? No one wants to have an emo that whines a lot around they cannot kill!
    • It's usually explained that you need a powerful reason to be able to resist the call the afterlife. You don't get to stay just because you like the scenery.
    • The explaination that I'm inclined to go with is that a ghost is what happens when the will to live exceeds the body's ability to actually do so. While you may get the occasional Determinator who can manage it on their own, most people need something to focus on in order to achieve the necessary will power.

  • If you are a vampire, or a werewolf, or whatever, during life, would you become a ghost? And then, would you gain special abilities?
    • Depends. In some works, vampires don't have souls, and since ghosts are essentially disembodied souls...
      • Well, what about werewolves? They have souls, right? They just turn into wolves. Actually, wouldn't they technically have two souls? One for the wolf side and the other for the human side?
    • In some folklore, werewolves can become vampires after death.

  • Why don't people who "die" on the operating table spawn a ghost?
    • Are you talking about people who 'die' clinically and are revived later? I have read plenty of stories involving this happening. They just return to their bodies when they wake up.

  • What exactly are ghosts made off? They're described as being made of ectoplasm, but what sort of elements constitute that?