An Idea that Haunts Me, Spatial Emotion and Temporal Memory

An Idea that Haunts Me, Spatial Emotion and Temporal Memory
Photo by Michael Mouritz / Unsplash
This text is written in course of discussion of Hauntology with Possible, Probable, and Preferable (PPP). As I have little knowledge about Hauntology, this text is purely speculative and personal in terms of its understanding of Ghost and Ontology.

As the name suggests, this name, Hauntology, reminds me of a ghost, a figure with no specific form nor definite identity but a clustered energy or atmospheric sensation around us. It is already a reasonably tricky question to ask what the ghost is and what it means to us because it relates to cultural, social, personal, and even aesthetic understanding of the spirit or the human. The idea of a ghost is spread across the world with different stories or logical structures as if we share everything but do not share anything. It is something that we know might exist but cannot understand what it is. Therefore, my text will be purely speculative on the spatiality of the ghost in relation to the human.

In many films (especially Japanese horror films), there are two distinct types of how ghosts appear to us: spatial and temporal. The first is the residual ghost that stays in one place without temporal sense but only with unresolved anger, sorrow, or even longing that merged into the place/object. The second type of ghost is the temporal ghost (it can be seen in the traditional ghost stories in Korea), which is haunted by the last memory before their death. The reason why they became ghosts is related to their memory or cause of death and have weaker ideas about space. Both types can be combined with an extra feature. For instance, in Ring (1998), Sadako became a ghost because of her anguish of despair and the cause of her death, which made her drift from video to video as a pure emotion of sorrow in the image of well. (If she was on the internet, she could live forever until the server went down) There could be a lot of interesting points of defining what types of ghosts are or what ghosts mean to us. Instead, I want to trigger a small question: Where does this ghost exist exactly? I want to approach this question using some examples of films.

The majority of ghost stories in Asian films show malignant spirits, which I would like to call spatial ghosts. The haunted speciality can vary from being called a haunted house or object. But what is being haunted is not the haunted house but the ghost that is haunted by the emotion within the spatial site. This spatial ghost is stuck in a place or object whose entire world is limited to that place/object without the sense of time but only the experience of intense emotion, which can be represented as spatial memory. However, is it in the same place as a human being? A most interesting example would be The Others (2001), which shows two different layers of humans and ghosts that share the same space and time, and for both layers, there is no true reality, but both are realities as much as they believe.

This relative space might sound like the trendy word “multiverse”, but it differs from what the people share in the multiverse compared to what the multi-space offers us. The concept of the multiverse originated from quantum physics and now spread to franchise films, which are more famous in “Marvels” comics and films. Every decision makes a forked universe. (I am not sure how individual decisions by all creatures would create multiple universes, which would not be a countable number) However, this concept divides layers of the universe where people living in the same world will share the same spatial experience as a global or universal space, but each universe cannot share its history or experience with the same geography or orientation. However, in the sense of spatial ghosts, humans and ghosts share the same formations of the world in a limited sense but never see each other nor recognise others. The moment they realise each other is that they encounter each other through certain sensations, shocks, and violence as an atmospheric experience.

In the traditional ghost story in Korea, a water ghost is represented as a pure, invisible sensation of pulling force under the water. It has both spatial and temporal features but intensifies its force that affects the human body and energy that can possess the human mind. The Paranormal Activity (2007) visualised this experience in the domestic environment with semi-CCTV style, which heightened fears toward the unknown and strangeness. In the film, we only see the existence of the ghost through the atmospheric sensations, movement of the objects, and technical effects–camera movement, shots, sounds, etc. Unlike the general horror film, it intentionally derives the sense of ‘haunted’ from the ghost to the human and, more specifically, to the home. In the film, the ghost has no backstory of memories or emotions but becomes a pure action, which I would call an excessively sensuous style of ghost that can be seen more in recent horror films, such as Host (2022), which embellish the end with brutal and bloody panic and terror.

Because of their sensuous intensity, ghosts are no longer apart from the human world but within us, with us, and alongside us. It is unidentifiable what haunts whom, but all are united but crumbling ghosts, humans, and places. It is more clearly visualised in a recent computer screen film, showing a part of reality that humans do not occupy any place but float on the screen like a temporal ghost. A ghost only with memories, ideas, conceptual thoughts, emotions, and desires, brave enough to discard the sacred body to be a spiritual being willingly, or a ghost haunted by thoughts and desires cannot afford to look down where they stand. After all, the ghost is a thing that was once a human. It is the shadow of the human or the world, but they are not a shadow on the cave wall but the shadow that stands alongside us.