Folk Game/Prank (Australia)- “Ghosting”

The goal of “ghosting,” according to the informant, is to follow a person walking on the street for as long as possible without them noticing. “Someone will be walking on the street and someone else will go behind the person and follow them step-by-step.” You can ghost by yourself, take turns with other people, or follow two or more different people at the same time with another friend or friends, and you can mount somebody on your shoulders while you ghost. However it is done, “ghosting” is “about getting into someone’s personal space without them realizing.”

The informant stated that she first learned this folk game/prank from an Australian TV show about two years ago when she was 18 and has known friends who play it. The game is always played outside on the streets, most likely “when you are bored.” “Ghosting,” according to the informant, “is pretty fun but stupid.”

Though the informant stressed “ghosting” as a game instead of a prank, stating that “Australians are pretty cool about it” if they find-out that somebody is ghosting them, I believe that this game can be understood as a prank as well for several reasons. First, the game has a definite group of insiders, or those who are doing the ghosting, as well as a definite group of outsiders—those who are being ghosted, or followed closely while walking. Moreover, the group of insiders, or the participants in the game, are clearly “in the know,” while those who are being followed, the outsiders, are unaware that anything unusual is taking place, and this gap of knowledge is only overcome when a transition into awareness of the game occurs as they find out they are being followed. Finally, it also seems that ghosting might serve as a form, albeit a very mild one, of initiation whereby certain members of the group are selected or perhaps “dared” to engage in the prank or game; in this respect, there could even be “insiders” and “outsiders” within this group itself determined by who has had the courage to participate in the game and possibly incur the wrath of some random pedestrian who they are ghosting if the latter should find out what the ghoster is doing.