Because We Are Not Ghosts

Take an old bedsheet and throw it over yourself – voila!, you are a ghost, easiest and maybe the oldest or most basic Halloween costume of all. Why do ghosts wear sheets, anyway? Maybe because the sheet is a shroud, the cloth that wraps a corpse. The cloth catches the spirit and animates its ethereal presence as it rises from the cadaver… It is a bolt of cloth that entombs us… metaphorically, it is the clothing that enshrouds us in life.

Spencer Tunick, Mexico, 2012

Because we are not ghosts, we celebrate Halloween, and we remember our departed loved ones on El Día de los Muertos. We detect on the breeze–in the flickering candlelight, in the wafting aroma of chocolate or coffee or chrysanthemums–the spirit of someone who used to be alive, who used to be animate, animated (from the root for soul, anima). Because we are our bodies, because we are embodied and fleshed, we don over our flesh a costume–a ghost, a skeleton–to remind us that the end of all things is death. “The secret of life is that it stops,” said Kafka.

Spencer Tunick, Mexico, 2012

Spencer Tunick’s 2012 photoshoot for el Día de los Muertos in Mexico features nude participants wearing translucent ghost shrouds, and it is a beautiful illustration of this idea: let us celebrate our living bodies while we can, while we are still alive – our living bodies that allow us to be animated, without shame, without fear. Underneath the sheets, and underneath the gravestone, we are all the same.

2 thoughts on “Because We Are Not Ghosts

  1. Love the article! Having been declared terminally ill four years ago (doc's advice: \”Don't buy any green bananas) and sent home with enough morphine to kill a rhino, the idea of being dead has personal interest to me…However, having not croaked (and never having seen the 'white light' either time I 'coded'), all I can say is that being alive is good! And Halloweenis a fun time to flip a finger to the whole idea of death while we can!It's interesting to note that the various forms of ancestor worship or remembering the dead flies in the face of more modern ideas of spiritualism which emphasise that 'remembering' or even thinking about the dead attracts their attention and distracts them from achieving their goal of freeing themselves from this world and continuing on. In short, remembering them hurts them!Food for thought, the next time you fondly remember Grandma… ;-)Happy Hallowe'en!


  2. Talk about ghosts… I thought you had retired your site! Well, it's nice to see you're back from the great beyond. Thanks for your comments! I will add your site back to the side column.


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