I don't believe in ghosts. There, it's out. I'd like to. Most of my favorite horror novels and movies are about ghosts. I've written stories about ghosts and I've tried to make them scary and entertaining. But in terms of personal belief, yeah, I can't buy into it. I admit that sometimes freaky shit happens and the explanation is elusive. You know someone who claims their dog stares into an empty corner of the house and barks and whines. It's weird and it can creep you out and it's difficult to explain. Maybe their house is haunted. Or maybe their dog is just stupid. I don't know.
There are any number of "reality" shows that feature people on the hunt for ghosts. I admit I've watched a few episodes myself. It's either a psychic who wandewrs around the house and then "senses" something in the atic or the basement; or it's guys with infrared cameras wandering around an abandoned sanatarium or prison and they hear weird noises and down the corridor a shadow passes in front of the camera. Then at the end of the show it's always the same thing. "Well, Mr. Jones, we found some interesting stuff here. You might have a ghost but we can't be sure." Gee, thanks for the help.
Here's the thing about these reality shows and why I don't believe anything they say. If they caught real footage of a ghost it would be all over the news. The news networks would run the clips ad nauseum and the super religious would flock to the spot and hold prayer vigils. You'd have psychics all over the place vying to be interviewed by CNN. And of course you'd have the opportunists vowing to exorcize the ghost. For a fee, naturally. And all this would happen six months before the episode aired. Since that breaking news never breaks why would anyone waste their time watching the show itself? If they had actually found concrete evidence of a ghost you'd know about it already.
A quick digression: This is precisely the same reason I never bother with shows about the search for bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster or werewolves or whatever else they're searching for that week. If someone had footage of bigfoot we'd know about it instantly. Hence there's no reason whatsoever to watch these shows. They have failed at their stated goal and you know that before you even tune in to the thing.
All this is not to say that ghost stories aren't cool. They are. Or they can be if handled properly. Dorothy Macardle's 1942 novel Uneasy Freehold is excellent. It's the basis for the 1944 movie The Uninvited starring Ray Milland. The movie is great, too.
Peter Straub wrote the too-obvious-to-be-a-title novel Ghost Story in 1979. Two years later it was made into a movie with John Houseman, Doughlas Fairbanks, Jr. and Fred Astaire(!). Both the novel and the movie are excellent.
And of course we have the mother of all ghost stories, Henry James's masterpiece The Turn of the Screw. Numerous adaptations have made it to the screen, almost all titled The Innocents. The best is the one with Deborah Kerr from 1961.
The Overlook Hotel is crawling with ghosts in Stephen King's The Shining. Both the novel and the movie are fantastic. The TV miniseries from a few years ago is okay but simply not in the same class as either the Kubrick film or the source material.
There are more. The Sixth Sense (1999) is brilliant with a twist ending worthy of Rod Serling. And speaking of Serling there were numerous episides of The Twilight Zone and a few from Night Gallery that dealt with ghosts. I'm not gonna list them all here but suffice to say Serling knew how to spin a good ghost yarn.
My novel The Last Battleship featured (SPOILER ALERT!) a kind of hybrid ghost/zombie menace in the form of the crew of the USS Louisiana. My third novel, Dark Annie (release date to-be-determined but should be sometime in October 2013) is a straight-up ghost story. Why? Because I really do love a good ghost story. With all due respect to zombies my favorite type of story in horror fiction is the ghost story. I think it's because ghost stories are just so cool. I just wish I could believe in ghosts.