“Steve is Acting Up Again” — The Made-Up Ghost


J is a 35 year old woman from The Bay with three young siblings. She is my co-worker and a graduate student at USC. When anything unexplainable happened in her house growing up, her family would blame it on a ghost named Steve. Although she has never seen a ghost or had a divine encounter, she believes they are real.


J: “My mom and I had this thing where we would say there was a ghost named Steve in the house for a long time. And anytime something would happen, we’d be like, there’s Steve. Oh, Steve’s acting up again. If a light flickered or if you heard a sound or if you couldn’t find anything, like that kind of stuff. Unexplainable things that no body wanted to take responsibility, we’d blame it on Steve. We didn’t ever see him, or anything, though.”


Many people use encounters with the divine as ways to explain what they deem the unexplainable. By doing so, they can find an answer for everything. In terms of the way J was using Steve, it was a bit similar. She and her mother blamed “unexplainable” things on Steve as a joke, even when those things could be explained. The reason they did this was comfort humor. By attributing everything to Steve, responsibility was lifted from their shoulders. It was also a way for J to take a break from carrying the blame for everything her siblings did.