Do You Believe In Ghosts?

         In M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 movie The Sixth Sense, the one line everyone in the theater left with was a line by a young boy named Cole, played by Haley-Joel Ormond, "I see dead people." In the movie the young boy is the only person who sees the ghosts just as the governess was the only one to see ghosts in the 1898 story The Turn of the Screw, written by Henry James.

         In Jack Clayton's 1961 movie, The Innocents, there are several instances where only the governess, now named Miss Giddens, "sees" a ghost even if other characters are in the same room. One example where Miss Giddens sees a ghost occurs while she is out in the garden and looks up at the tower. She perceives what appears to be a man (Peter Wyngarde) looking at the house. What is strange about the sighting is that when she explains the ghost's features to Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkin), Mrs. Grose actually recognizes the ghost as Peter Quint, a person who used to be employed by the children's uncle. What is stranger about this is that Miss Giddens had never seen Peter before and yet is able to describe him. This happens many times in the movie The Sixth Sense. Cole is able to see dead people, people he had never seen when they were alive. At one point he even helps a family find out the way their young child had died.

         Another instance of a ghost sighting in The Innocents takes place out by the lake. Miss Giddens and the viewer could clearly see that there was a young woman, a ghost (Clytie Jessop), in the weeds across the stream. Flora (Pamela Franklin), who was dancing alone when Miss Giddens arrived, does not notice the ghost at all. Even when Miss Giddens points the ghost out, Flora pretends to have no idea what was happening. This also happens in The Sixth Sense. At one point Cole and his doctor, played by Bruce Willis, walk by ghosts, and only Cole sees them even when he points the ghosts out to the doctor.

         What is unusual about the story of The Turn of the Screw and The Innocents is that, as it unfolds, the governess becomes more and more unstable. It makes the readers and viewers believe that the ghosts are only a figment of her imagination. Then, on the other hand, how is Miss Giddens, the governess, able to describe the ghosts so clearly when she had never met them before they died?

         Upon finishing the story, I think that it was Henry James's plan, carried out also in The Innocents, all along to leave the viewer mystified. All of this makes the reader/viewer wonder if the ghosts really were genuine, or if Miss Giddens, the governess, was crazy. I do not know what other people left thinking, but I was definitely unsure as to whether the ghosts were real or not.

Jill Hawanchak

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