Paranormal investigators are the focus of our upcoming March 18 lecture, but what about those wily ghosts who evade them? As worthy adversaries for even the most equipped and savvy ghost hunters, your Black Museum curators have searched through old chests, library microfilm and dark attics to come up with our five favourite spooky spectres.
One of the finest ghost dramas wasn’t on the big screen but the BBC, as a made-for-TV movie. While the recent theatrical remake drew liberally from ghost cinema history, this earlier gem is a masterpiece in its own right, a largely minimalist spookshow about a lawyer who keeps seeing the titular spirit and hearing distressing noises around a decrepit estate called Eel Marsh House. It’s a triumph of atmosphere, and a fine example of the way even peaceful, unobtrusive cinema ghosts can carry their own sense of menace.
Some ghosts create creepy atmospheres unseen. Others are gauzy apparitions seeking help from the living. But let’s face it – some are just terrifying and gruesome to behold. The so-called Spider Demon, a triumph of early ’80s FX, emerged from a bedroom closet only to live on in the nightmares of kids who were lucky(?) enough to see it at a young age.
The ghostly presence of evil patriarch Emeric Belasco permeates every aspect of John Hough’s remarkable THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. The almost living, breathing structure of the house itself retains all the unspeakable sexual atrocities and Dionysian depravity its owner indulged in. Belasco attacks the team of paranormal investigators trying to survive a stay at his pad with bursts of violence and poltergeist activity designed not only to scare them away, but kill them. We’ve come a long way from the falling chandeliers and dark basements of early ghost films.
One of the scariest things about ghosts is the way they forcibly invade our personal spaces, so why not the most intimate kind of invasion? Subtlety isn’t a strong suit of the unnamed rapist-ghost in Sidney J. Furie’s THE ENTITY, who sexually terrorizes a woman (Barbara Hershey) and provides a difficult time for investigator Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver).
Most screen ghosts you can see at some point, but SESSION 9’s malevolent spirit Simon is a presence only sensed and heard over the course of this indie horror hit. The discovery of a series of disturbing tapes in a decrepit old asylum gets even creepier as a patient, Mary, reveals a secondary personality, Simon, who embodies her violent tendencies. The team of workers hired to help remove the asbestos from the asylum then discover their own dark secrets bubbling out, as Simon’s story is resurrected.
You know, some might call a ghost who’s also a paranormal investigator a traitor.