As defined by Webster, " The supposed disembodied spirit of a dead person, conceived of as appearing to the living as a pale, shadowy apparition".
There seems to be a negative connotation to ghosts, while we collect figurines and books on angels. How did this all come about?
Back when most people paid homage to trees and rocks, they didn't understand a lot of things in nature. The best explanation at the time was that fire, storms, and sudden death, among other things, must be the result of someone displeasing the spirit world. So they offered a virgin to the volcano, and polished their good luck charms. Then came conquering armies, with their belief systems. The concept of one Supreme Being was introduced. Forces of nature were still a mystery, though, and virgins continued to be sacrificed. They still are today, but that discussion is deferred to the Psychology Editor.
Major religions all have sacred Books, which tell of visits from the world beyond, called by many names. That world is where The One is. So visits from there must be okay, because The One is good. The One loves us and cares for us. We call apparitions from The One angels, a word originally meaning messenger. Historically, they are described in human form. Let's face it, if they came as kumquats, we couln't relate. Moses could communicate with a burning bush messenger, but everybody else went for a bucket of water.
Bad things still happened to good people, though, so the perceived presence of evil spirits persisted. These usually did not take completely human form. Horns, tails, smells, grotesque features and menacing powers distinguished the bad guys. This tradition is alive and well today.
The very origin of Halloween is to mimic these bad spirits, these ghosts. By making fun of things, they seem to become smaller, manageable. This is the same basis for the existence of bullies. If we can insult or laugh at something, we might not be so afraid.
Yet look again at Webster's definition. There is no negative connotation. It all boils down to human nature. We're comfortable with what we know, and fear the unknown and unfamiliar.
And Hollywood is making fortunes on it. Hey, if all messengers looked like Patrick Swayze, who would complain?
This topic bubbles to the surface frequently when a family is preparing for the death of a loved one. A clergy person is often asked if the Dear Departed will come back. This question takes one of two forms. It either means "Will she come back so I won't be so lonely, and know she's okay?" or "Am I ever going to have to deal with that son-of-a-gun again?".
Let's do some deductive reasoning here. The One has sent messengers to Earthlings through all of recorded religious history. As the Supreme Being, we may safely assume The One didn't stop talking to us on page 947 of The Book. The One is still speaking. So messengers will be sent, in recognizable form, to give us a clue.
Will we be receptive to it? Some more than others. Many are aware of it, but still refuse to accept it. Some dismiss the concept entirely. Either way, you're okay. The recommendation here is that if you're getting messages from The One, it behooves you to pay attention and get with the program. If you can't deal with this form of communication, another will be found. The idea, based on the standard assumption that The One is good, is that none of this is meant to harm. So relax, and be open to it. Do you need visits from the Departed? It will be granted.
The plethora of TV shows dedicated to this topic speaks to our curiosity and desire to control it, if not understand it. Call it mere entertainment if you wish. If you really want first hand knowledge, talk to someone raised in the Irish culture. Explanations as to why that group of people are more open to it and about it are unclear. The fact stands that they are.
Now, about those icky spirits. Does evil exist? One read through the newspaper verifies it.
Going back again to The Books, stories are written there of those that opposed The One, and spend their time lobbying for support for their way of thinking. They use any means available, and humans are most susceptible to fear. It's very powerful.
This begs the question: if you readily accept the reality of negative spirits, how can you deny holy messengers? If you are bothered by the dark side, why would you deny the Light?