Ghost in photography

Me: Have you ever heard some ghost stories from your parents or grandparents?

S: Yes. I once heard a scary story from my parents.

Me: Why did they tell you this story?

S:You know, adults like to make fun of kids by telling them ghost stories and see how they are terrified.

Me: What is the story then?

S: It happened in a ‘Village-In-The-City’. A boy died of traffic accident and a funeral was held for him. Several girls passed by and one of them picked a flower from the wreath for the boy. She was going to a photo studio, hence she put the flower on her hair and took the photo. When the photographer developed the film, he barely saw a boy’s face behind the girl. He waited for the girl to come back and take the photo, but the girl never returned. He managed to get in contact with the friends of the girl, only to be told that the girl had died due to another traffic accident.

Context: The information was collected in a informal private conversation.

Interpretation: Both photos and ‘Village-In-The-City’ are related to ghost in Chinese cultural background. When photography was first introduced to China, people were terrified because they thought that the soul of human would be captured by the photos. So, when the girl picked the flower from wreath, an action that was considered to be irreverent, the soul of the dead boy might just followed her and was captured by the photo. ‘Village-In-The-City’ may be a special phenomenon in China when the city area expanded so fast that the original village is unable to move away. It is kind of a liminal space where the urban area overlaps with rural area, providing a good background for ghost stories.