Afterword: How to Survive as a Living Ghost?



In Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice, Barbara and Adam Maitland, a young married couple, have a car accident. They find themselves back home and only realize that they have died when they cannot see themselves in the mirror and find a copy of the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, instructing them that ‘functional perimeters vary from manifestation to manifestation.’ In other words, not all the deceased have the same capacities. When a family moves into their house and starts redecorating it in a way they consider tasteless, Barbara is dejected, but Adam’s spirits are raised when he realizes what they now are: ‘we’sre not completely helpless, Barbara. I’sve been reading that book and there’s a word for people in our situation [sounds and looks excited]: ghosts!’ Here, identifying as a ghost produces a sense of agency derived from the ghost’s assumed power to disturb the living. However, when the couple embraces this newfound status and stages some stereotypical scenes of haunting, including one where Adam displays his severed head, their targets turn out not to see them, leading Barbara to exclaim: ‘What’s the good of being a ghost when you can’st frighten people away?’ When they turn to their afterlife ‘case worker’ for help, she tells them to consult the Handbook’s ‘Intermediate Interface Chapter on Haunting’, insists that ‘haunted houses arenst easy to come by’, and advises them to start simply.


Undocumented Migrant Television Series Spectral Multiplicity Historical Injustice Ghostly Status 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Esther Peeren 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Media StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamNetherlands

Personalised recommendations