Ghost stories and other tales of the supernatural were once as commonplace as stories of bending iPhones and cat memes are today. But as time progresses, ghost stories are becoming less and less prevalent.
I was reading an old volume on the folklore and superstitions of the Ozark region of Missouri and Arkansas today and one section of the book was dedicated to ghost stories. A quote from one woman on the disappearance of ghost stories from daily life attributes the disappearance to the lack of “lonesome places” in modern society.
The book was published in 1947.
Today, there are fewer “lonesome places” than there were then as we continue to build and connect through expanding global commerce, social media, etc. We no longer consider ourselves to be alone at any given time. And to be alone, even for an instant, seems to be viewed in an almost sinful light.
The lonesome places, i. e. abandoned houses, abandoned factories, desolate highways, ghost towns, tracts of empty land, are quickly disappearing and the stories that accompany these places are vanishing along with them. The tales of things unfamiliar– ghosts, devils, the like–are vanishing as our surroundings are becoming more and more familiar.
As we constantly build a world to better suit our image of what the world should be, the inevitable outcome is the passing away of unfamiliarity.
Every day, we now not only build our surroundings to be more familiar and comfortable, we see images, hear stories of places we have never been. Through social media we can get to know the individuals of almost every culture the world over until all that we once held to be strange becomes familiar.
As the world becomes a more familiar place to each of us, the mystery of the world becomes less and less evident.
And as the days of mystery wane, as the “lonesome places” give way to peopled environments and recognizeable locales, tales of ghosts, goblins, things unfamiliar, things mysterious also wane.
Today, everything seems familiar. All things seem universal. Everything is a little less mysterious than it was in days past.
But as the lonesome places vanish, as isolation is less prevalent, as mystery wanes, as ghost stories are told less frequently, does our sense of wonder vanish, as well?
As we become familiar with everything, as we build and connect and become less isolated, do we destroy that simple emotion called wonder that requires mystery to thrive?
If we neglect mystery, do we forget wonder?
If we forget our ghosts, do we forget ourselves?