Since it's October and Halloween is just around the corner, it's time for ghosts and goblins and the things that go bump in the night. For the most part, this is all good fun, and despite some skeptics' claims that there is no legitimate use for the supernatural, even in art, monsters and demons can serve cathartic purposes, showing us our deepest fears and reflecting the special anxieties of our lives.
But there is a big difference between using the supernatural as a set of symbols and metaphors to enliven fiction and claiming that the ghosts are not just real but really here...right now. Here in New York's capital city, Albany, the state capitol building is offering "ghost tours" all month long, informing tourists about the haunted history of the city's most iconic nineteenth-century monument. While these tours are offered in the spirit of fun, I can't help but think there is something amiss when the state government tells visitors that not only are there ghosts walking the building, but that a small carving of a "demon" among the elaborate Victorian decorations is evidence of a dark curse placed over the building during construction. (That never happened.) It may be designed as harmless amusement, but I would prefer that my government stop imagining that demons and curses are both real and manifest.
On the other hand, it would explain the state's dysfunctional government.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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