What Really Separates Ghost Stories From Zombie And Vampire Tales

Illustration for article titled What Really Separates Ghost Stories From Zombie And Vampire Tales

The undead, in all sorts of forms, have been haunting our fiction, both lately and in the much more distant past. Here, author Lauren Oliver tells us why (despite competition from plenty of other supernatural characters) ghost stories remain simply unkillable.


Image: Larkwind

Oliver joined us today to take questions about her novel Rooms, whose characters occupy the haunted house at the story's center. Among the questions she answered was what it was about ghost stories that separated them from the zombie and vampire tales, and how that difference had kept them alive for so long:

Lauren Oliver

I think there are some parallels, but I think that ghosts occupy a primary—and primal—place among the roster of supernatural creatures because 1) they are a permutation of the soul, not the body and thus 2) can be seen not as a perversion of a human but in some cases as its high metaphysical form. They are not always scary, in other words, but are actually conceived of often as being full of grief and emotional longing, an inability to move on—I think that makes them feel both relatable and almost tragic. And in general our obsession with post-death forms (zombies, vampires, ghosts) stems from our innate drive to understand death, to deal with bodily decay and spiritual ascension, to imagine ourselves as continuing.

You can read the full Q&A, where Oliver also speculates on what kinds of stories ghosts might tell about the living and compares writing for adults and teenagers, right here.



Speaking as someone whose early life was dominated by a fear of ghosts exclusively, and no other supernatural monster, what separates ghost stories from all the others is that you can't shoot ghosts in the face. Not very scholarly, I know.