Ghost Stories is a British horror story about Professor Phillip Goodman, a man who has dedicated his life to debunking all supernatural occurrences. He idolizes Charles Cameron, who rose to fame disproving psychics, magicians, and other supernatural occurrences. Cameron went missing for years, but Goodman receives a cassette tape recorded by Cameron disclosing his location and requesting his presence. Once Goodman finds Cameron, Cameron gives him a file of 3 unexplainable cases and asks for his help. Throughout the film, you can tell that things are off, but (SPOILERS AHEAD) it’s hard to tell what’s truly going on until the end when we find out that Goodman is actually in a coma and has been hallucinating the entire movie. There are clues placed in each scene that show the audience that something is amiss. Here are the common themes and items that you may have missed when watching Ghost Stories:
The same 9 numbers pop up; house numbers, hymns on the hymn board, and graffiti all have the same 9 numbers that the bullies had spray-painted on the wall of a dark tunnel before sending their victims in to “find the 10th number” in order to join their crew. The cruel joke is that there is no 10th number.
2. A Girl In A Yellow Dress
The creepy girl haunting the abandoned asylum seen by the watchman looks just like the doll in the crib of Mike Priddle’s unborn son. At the end of the film, we see this doll sitting on the chair in Goodman’s hospital room.
3. Dead Birds
After Goodman receives the files from Cameron, he sits on a bench and looks out on the water. On the beach, he sees a boy torturing another boy with a dead bird. The creepy girl in the asylum is holding a dead bird when she sees the watchman. There are birds on the mobile in Priddle’s baby’s crib. The boys on the beach were the bullies responsible for Kojak’s death. At the last second of the film, a bird flies into the window and presumably dies.
4. Everywhere is Empty
No matter where Goodman and his “subjects” are, they are the only people there. With the exception of Simon, Goodman is alone in Cameron’s neighborhood, at the bar with the watchman, on his surveillance of the scene of Simon’s sighting, at the nursing home with his dad, and Priddle’s house. It gives the eerie illusion that they are the only ones who exist, and in a way, they are, as Goodman’s hallucinations focused solely on the main characters and did not populate any of the scenes.
5. Finger in the Mouth
When the creepy girl approaches the watchman, she sticks her finger in his mouth just like Kojak sticks his finger in Goodman’s mouth. The finger is revealed to be a ventilator that has been in Goodman’s mouth throughout his coma.
6. Locks and Keys
Locked-in syndrome is mentioned several times throughout the film, and we come to realize that is what Goodman is suffering from. The more metaphorical indications of this are all the locks and keys throughout the movie: the keys carried by the watchman to open the cells, the locks on Simon’s door to keep him safe, and the keys and locks all over Priddle’s house.
7. All Male Cast
With the exception of the two female demons and the faceless mother, the entire cast is male. The director explained that he purposefully chose to highlight men’s often inability to cope with emotions, and it ends up haunting them throughout their lives.
8. Every Story Is Based On Guilt
Goodman carries an immense amount of guilt after leaving Kojak in the tunnel, and this guilt is manifested in all of the ghost stories that he is presented with. The nightwatchman feels guilty for not seeing his daughter in the hospital, and a quick scene shows Goodman visiting his father. Simon feels guilty for upsetting his parents, a feeling Goodman shares with him as illustrated by the opening scene of his childhood in which his father screams at his sister for dating a person who is not Jewish. Mike Priddle feels guilty for focusing so hard on his work that he feels incapable of having a family, something that Goodman didn’t have either.