‘GHOST’ (1990) – A Researcher’s Review

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, in one of the m...

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, in one of the most famous scenes from the movie ‘Ghost’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The person who came recently to ask for a workshop with me about ‘The Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo , the Mother, and the Spiritual Dimension of Auroville’ could stay for a while when she came, so after we fixed our first appointment for the next day, she sat with me and we watched a film together.

On an impulse, intuitively, I chose to show her a film I had just seen again after a long time, hardly a week before, with great appreciation: ‘GHOST’. I didn’t mind at all seeing it yet another time, for in that way I could actively register in my consciousness all that could be learned from that film, made in 1990 but still quite fresh and gripping.

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD…! Plenty of them!!!

Just previous to that young lady’s coming, I had looked up on Internet the various reviews about it. Most people were raving about the so moving love story in it, the perfect chemistry between the two main actors, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore – Sam, a banker, and Molly, a potter – which makes their couple so touchingly believable; the reviews were raving about the many moments when their love for each other shines through their every look and expression on their face and movement of their body. Most reviewers put that film on their list of all-time best love-stories. And it is true,  that movie is a very beautiful love-story indeed. bringing tears to my eyes every single time I have watched it.

But I was surprised to see that nobody even mentioned the main particularity in that specific love-story: the fact that one of the two lovers was actually dead from almost the very beginning of the movie!!!

The story-line does a a very good job in fact of showing us what happens to us at the moment of death, from the example of what happened to this young man, Sam, after he gets killed (a mugger attacks them at night on the street). As a researcher in this topic among many other such unusual but important topics, I have listed out in this post the various bits of information one gets as the movie proceeds, actually in almost every single scene, so the list covers almost the entire film, from the mugging on:

– Sam goes out of his dying body to run after the attacker, but doesn’t notice at first his being out of his normal body – he is as conscious and feels as alive as usual, nothing seems to be wrong at all – until he looks back and sees his bleeding body lying there in the  distance on the lap of his beloved Molly crying and calling for help. Sam starts realizing then the terrible truth.

– Right at that moment of understanding Sam has the surprise to see a strange beam of light coming down from apparently nowhere towards him, with living lights inside it reaching out to him; although he too is attracted to them and starts moving towards them, his concern for Molly’s intense sorrow and panic at his sudden and horrifying death make him turn back towards the spot near her; the lights recede; has he missed his chance? At that time, he doesn’t care, in his love for Molly he cares only for her.

– As the days pass and he attends, unseen, his own funeral (next time you go to a funeral, think of that…) he learns from experience that his new, invisible non-physical body goes easily through material obstacles such as doors or walls, or even other people’s bodies, but has no grip on material objects, so that he cannot ‘do’ anything any more in the material world that he still inhabits out of love.

– At the hospital’s emergency room, while cardiac reanimation is attempted on a dying person, someone staying like himself in the corridor suddenly sees him, when no one else can: that one is actually another ghost, who has been around for quite some time and has watched often already the beam of light and the lights within it that the two of them now watch together as the spirit of the dying person leaves its body. It looks like the disembodied spirits whose inner condition attracts them to that Light, are able then to ascend into it. Sam remains silent; he understands his case is not unique, but perhaps he did miss his chance…?

– Animals generally can feel or see him: One night, as he tries again to get Molly to feel his loving presence still with her in their apartment, when Molly goes out for a while the door silently opens and the mugger who killed him enters, thanks to the key he got from Sam’s wallet; the killer is looking hastily for something upstairs; Molly comes back in, unaware of the danger; Sam had noticed already before that their cat could see him – but Molly had listened only to her rationality and dismissed any possibility that the cat’s strange behavior was because of her lover’s presence, invisible to her. Sam this time deliberately scares the cat again, and it scratches the mugger in the face, making him run away before he could harm Molly, who only hears the cat hissing and the door closing,  but that is enough to make her realize at least that someone has been there, who shouldn’t have been.

– By following invisibly the mugger back to his own home, Sam learns his address and name, and discovers through a phone call the man gives to someone, that his killing was not really accidental, he had been murdered; and, worse even, the someone in question was still looking for something that was not in Sam’s wallet, but somewhere in the apartment where Molly still lived. She too was in danger.

– Frustrated by his utmost inability as a ghost to move even very small objects or manipulate any instruments, even very light, Sam deliberately finds again the violent ghost who had attacked him on the train he had taken along with Willy Lopez to follow him; that ghost not only had of course seen him, but had been acting like a poltergeist, throwing things at people in the train. Having found again the same train with the same poltergeist ghost aboard, Sam manages to learn from him how to move and manipulate at least  small size objects when he really wants or needs to.

– We can see that this poltergeist ghost, who heinously claims that train as his, didn’t stay behind as a ghost out of love like Sam did; he accepts to teach his own acquired skills to Sam, and starts even revealing that someone pushed him to his death under that train (No, he insists angrily, he didn’t jump or dive) but then he   gets angry at Sam again, suspiciously shouting ‘What are you doing here?! Who sent you?!’ Sam can answer only with silent compassion, and goes away.

– Trying to get a message from himself to Molly for warning her, Sam enters a medium’s parlor, where a black woman called Oda Mae, whom he quickly can see is a fake medium, pretends to contact the dead for some naive still living friends or relatives. She is really a good person and she hates this cheating, but that’s how she makes a living for herself and her two sisters, so she reluctantly keeps doing it.

– The conclusion that we, seeing this, could easily reach, is that all mediums are fake and that there is nothing to mediums at all, it’s all cheating. This is not quite true, we soon learn, for Oda Mae’s mother and grand-mother really had ‘the gift’, she says in confidence to her sisters, and she is genuinely sorry not to have it herself.

– Well, ‘the gift’ was there in her at least to some extent, and Oda Mae suddenly is quite shaken with surprise and fear: although she cannot see Sam any more than she can see any other ghost, she can hear him quite well when he starts talking to her. All this makes for a few quite funny scenes, in which, with her other scenes  to come as well, the considerable comic talent of actress Whoopi Goldberg is so irresistible it earned her an Oscar and several other Awards for this role!…

– In some more hilarious scenes, Sam explains the situation to Oda Mae, and the need to help him warn Molly; it takes a lot of persuasion on Sam’s part until Oda Mae, not getting the attention of Molly when simply phoning her, accepts most reluctantly to go to the affluent street where Sam used to live with Molly, and from where that building stands, to shout upwards detail after intimate detail she repeats after Sam tells her, until Molly finally convinced comes down and takes her up into the now lonely apartment – to the great relief of the neighbors understandably irritated by all this crazy shouting from the street! The two women have a good talk together, Oda Mae of course telling Molly also everything Sam wants to convey to her…

– In the next scene we get to see, alas, what is the common reaction from all ‘normal’ people to such a weird situation involving a ghost: on the advice of Sam through Oda Mae, Molly goes to the police with the name and address of the mugger who killed Sam and might want to kill her too. But when she has to reveal how and from whom she received that information, she is not taken seriously any more, the police at once declines any support, and is only willing to check if they have any file already about this ‘Willy Lopez’ accused by… a ghost.

– The file checking make things even worse: not only there is no file against Willy Lopez, but on the contrary there is a file on Oda Mae herself, and a very damning one: she is known to be a fake medium taking advantage of people’s naivete. As until then she had been always cheating, although Molly stated again and again that this time Oda Mae was genuine, telling her facts she could know only if they were revealed indeed by Sam in his ghost form, the police doesn’t want to hear about any of those valid facts repeated by Oda Mae from Sam. Of course they have no idea that ‘the gift’ can start truly developing at any time under unexpected circumstances, for them once a cheater, ever a cheater – anyway, those mediums are always only faking it, aren’t they? – and poor Molly has to go away without being promised any help at all.

– Back home, Molly attempts to tell everything to Sam’s best friend, Carl, who has come to visit her as he does now as often as he can under the pretext of consoling Molly… when actually he is coveting her for himself, as ghost Sam has already noticed. Molly meets only total scorn and irritation on the part of Carl, who assures her that this fake medium is just trying to frame that Willy Lopez, whoever that may be, for her own shadowy purposes: however, to please Molly, he says, he will himself go immediately to the given address and check on that Willy Lopez.

– Invisible witness to the previous discussion between Molly and Carl, Sam of course invisibly joins his supposed friend, going in Carl’s outstanding new car to the address of his murderer. Sam is afraid for Carl’s safety, but when they arrive he quickly sees that Carl actually knows Willy very well: he is the ‘someone’ whom the mugger was phoning to previously!!! Carl warns Willy about Oda Mae; obviously she will have to be somehow silenced…

– Appalled and furious, Sam invisibly accompanies his so-called ‘best friend’ Carl to the bank Sam used to be running, with Carl as a trusted helper. The morning before he died, Sam had noticed, and said as a secret confidence to Carl, that there was something strange in the accounts: too much money!… Now he sees Carl frantically trying to trace a huge amount of money he had temporarily deposited in a fake account in the name of a Zia Miller, until he could send all that money to its real address. Sam at once becomes a poltergeist kind of ghost, scaring Carl stiff with invisibly moving an apparently empty chair, and typing ‘Murderer’ with invisible fingers; and when Carl in his terror shouts ‘Who is doing this???’,  he types again, this time ‘Sam’. repeated nonstop on two lines!…

– Sam then at once visits Oda Mae again, and finds an unexpected scene there: aware that Oda Mae is really
developing ‘the gift’, all kinds of ghosts are invisibly crowding her parlor, one of them even dares, in his impatience, to use her body for communicating directly with his wife who has come for a consultation!
Outraged, infuriated, Oda Mae shakes him out of her being, and sends everybody out (they all disappear through the wall)… only to find that one is still there: that impossible Sam again!!!

– Sam asks her to go with him to the bank, in her best dress, and pretending to be that Zia Miller, to close the account, taking simply as a check the huge amount that was in it: four million dollars… She nearly faints when discovering which enormous sum she is taking out. More hilarious scenes follow, with invisible Sam dictating to Oda Mae her every word and move while in the bank; once it’s all done and they are out, Oda Mae, under Sam’s adamant insistence, very reluctantly hands out in the end the four million dollars check to some religious charity organization through two nuns who happen to be there with a stand on the street; they too faint with emotion when they see the amount on the check…!

– Carl in the meantime has tried to empty the ‘Zia Miller” account to redirect its money… Too late! The account has just been closed, all the money taken out from it!!!  Aghast and desperate, he goes to see Molly, asking her if Sam perhaps did something with that account before he died;  and then disaster strikes: Molly happened to be herself coming back from the bank, she has got a glimpse of Oda Mae just as she (plus invisible Sam) was going out; surprised to see her there, Molly had found from the  bank staff that this lady, called Zia Miller, had just closed her account.

– Invisibly present when Molly innocently reveals all that to Carl, and now terribly afraid for Oda Mae’s safety, Sam rushes to her parlor… He only has time to warn her about the revenge visit planned by Carl, who arrives with Willy, gun in hand, but Oda Mae was able to find refuge with her two sisters in some other people’s apartment; Sam of course becomes a poltergeist ghost again, scaring even the terrible Willy out of his wits, out of the apartment where he was going on a rampage, and finally out in the street. Some guys hanging out there take him on, he ends up on the street itself, and just as Sam who had followed him arrives on the scene, the accident happens, Willy’s bloody body lies on the front part of the car that just hit him.

– Unaware of what happened to him, Willy is already rising up as a ghost, astonished to now see Sam right there, who full of compassion informs him that he is dead – a look by Willy backward toward his physical body confirms terribly that fact; but as he lingers, stunned, on the scene, Sam suddenly sees, appearing from the ground, some ghastly dark shapes that silently surround Willy’s ghost and carry him away in spite of his screams. Dreadful. So, not everyone’s spirit is welcome by the Light after it has left its body!…

– Sam enrolls Oda Mae again to make Molly call the police to her home before a maddened Carl arrives. Molly, after the ‘Zia Miller’ apparent cheating at the bank, doesn’t trust Oda Mae anymore, but when the whole real situation is explained to her through the door, she finally opens it to the courageous black woman and her invisible, but so important companion. The police is called. While waiting, the two lovers now separated physically pine for each other, as they would like so much to be able to hold each other a last time.

– Deeply moved by their plight, Oda Mae, out of pure tenderness for them,  exceptionally invites Sam to use her body so that physical contact becomes possible again, however briefly. On the tune of ‘The Unchained Melody’, which used to be their favorite tune as seen before, the couple starts dancing together one last time, thanks to Oda Mae’s kind offer.

– But they are brutally interrupted by Carl’s arrival; the two women flee through the big window, pursued by Carl while Sam is temporarily incapable of stopping him, his energy all spent in using Oda Mae’s body to physically dance with Molly.

–  Outside the building and up the metal ladders that are there, Carl has caught up with the two terrified women. Convinced that Oda Mae’s still has the check, Carl threatens her dangerously with his gun, but suddenly it gets thrown out of his hand, and he has now his invisible enemy to fight with. Grabbing this time Molly, he uses her as a shield against the blows from Sam. Carl tries next to hit Sam with a heavy metallic thing hanging there, but it then swings back towards him and breaks the large glass panel in the window above him; the inevitable happens, under Sam’s horrified eyes.

– Carl’s spirit form rises impulsively out of his body – the look on Sam’s face, which he now can see, alerts him to something awful behind him. Turning around, what he sees says it all: his bloodied body, the big piece of glass still sticking out of it. Carl immediately understands. But already some dark shapes are appearing on the scene, who seize upon him and carry him away just as had happened with Willy. Again, Sam’s eyes fill up with sadness and compassion in spite of all.

– Discovering the two women huddled together in a corner, Molly resting her head fearfully on the chest of stronger Oda Mae, Sam goes towards them, saying a few words of comfort; to the utter surprise of the three of them, Molly exclaims that she can hear him! And in the wonderful Light that starts coming down, both Oda Mae and Molly realize that they can see Sam as well! Sam this time is ready for the Light. The farewell scene that follows is extremely moving, beautiful and meaningful, Sam’s last words when finally leaving reveal the most important secret; ‘You know, the love within… That stays with us…’


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. donsalmon
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:36:23

    Thank you Bhaga, for these wonderful comments. I remember seeing the movie in 1990, and being struck by how accurate the film was in terms of portrayal of the after-death state.

    Interestingly, Liz (my wife at the time) had our own kind of “after death” experience connected with that movie (don’t worry – no spoilers here:>)

    About 6 months before the movie came out, I learned by my Aunt Betty had contracted lung cancer. I immediately knew it was very important that we go out to visit her before she died. That August, we flew out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she lived, and had a very wonderful, joyous time with her. She knew she didn’t have much time left, but seemed completely calm and accepting of it. She was her usual energetic, buoyant self.

    One thing important to know about Aunt Betty – very intelligent and highly cultured, she was an adamant atheist and didn’t want to have anything to do with anything religious or mystical. needless to say, she never even entertained the idea that anything happened after death except a complete end to all consciousness.

    Liz and I flew back to Carrollton, Georgia, where we were living at the time. About one week after our visit with Aunt Betty, we went out to see Ghost. We loved it, and were very deeply moved by it.

    After we arrived home, we decided to sit outside, on our porch for awhile before going inside. It was a beautiful, clear summer evening, and we sat in silence for awhile. At one point, one of us said, “It’s almost like there’s a presence here. I wonder if it has anything to do with Aunt Betty.” It was like the whole atmosphere was tangible, so palpable was that sense of a presence.”

    After some more quiet sitting, Liz went inside. She came out a few moments later and said, very quietly, “That was a message from Betty’s niece. Betty passed away earlier today.”

    We immediately felt that connection between the presence we felt and the fact that Betty had just passed away. It was particularly interesting, in that we were probably the only ones in Betty’s family or circle of friends who ever expressed to her any interest in mystical realities or anything about what might happen after death. We wondered if Betty – now perhaps somewhat amused by the fact that her consciousness persisted despite her materialistic beliefs – might have “sought” us out in some way.

    In any case, we were grateful for that last connection. She was truly a wonderful person, and we’re grateful that our hearts were opened enough by watching that film to be receptive to her presence.



    • Bhaga
      Nov 13, 2013 @ 16:47:18

      Thank you so much, Don, for this most welcome personal testimony! I have myself had two such experiences at the time, in two occasions, when a friend died, a fact i learned only later. It’s actually all so simple, isn’t it?
      Sorry for answering your comment so late, I was busy going on with giving a workshop, and still also finishing a second post about the same film, which I just finally put up, hence my ability now to turn at last to your comment, noticed and appreciated long before, but not yet physically so!!! 🙂



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