Ghost stories lend themselves well to fiction. They leave the imagination entirely free. In ordinary fiction, especially of the realistic type, we expect some concessions to be made to facts but when it comes to a ghost story we assign no limits to the imagination. This is because the supernatural world offers us no standards for curbing our fancy. Icarus is given impunity in that atmosphere and there is no sun to melt his wings. Whatever our wishes, we do not expect ghosts to be real, and we are fancy free to invent or distort as we may. But in the twilight of human knowledge it was not thus. The boundaries of the real and the unreal were undefined and the belief in the supernatural, while it allowed the imagination free reins, revealed little difference between its creations and the ideas men held of the actual world. In this overlapping of the real and the imaginary, the ghost story arose and has never lost its interest for men, though the cold judgment of science deprived the real thing of its terrors.


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Great Ghost Stories James H. Hyslop