We’ve had celebrity impersonators: think of Elvis. We’ve had celebrity holograms: Tupac was brought back to life by technology, as was Whitney Houston.

Now we have celebrity ghosts.

In the first months of this year, Americans have reported a more than 300 percent increase in the sighting of ghosts of famous people. 


It started in LaFayette, Alabama, where a nineteen-year-old woman named Jeanie Griggs was walking home from school and felt a cold wind at her back. “I turned around and there he was: Joe Louis. I recognized him from old magazine covers my grandfather collected.” The legendary boxer, born in LaFayette in 1914, passed on back in 1981 in Nevada, but there he was, home again. 

“He raised a hand to me, didn’t say anything, and then dissolved into what seemed like dust,” said Griggs.


That incident was reported in local papers, with less-than-respectful headlines (“Crazy Secretary Claims To See Brown Bomber,” “Was She Punch-Drunk? Griggs Woman Steps Into The Ring”). 

As it turns out, Griggs’ encounter with Joe Louis’s ghost was just the first of many similar sightings. 

A week later, a lawyer in Oklahoma City was on her lunch break when she witnessed, in a diner, the ghost of the author Ralph Ellison. A week after that, a landscaper in Port Arthur, Texas, was unloading his trunk when he nearly bumped into the ghost of Babe Didrikson Zaharias. And a week after that, a young man walking in Brooklyn stopped to tie his shoes only to have the ghost of Rita Hayworth sweep rush through him.

All the sightings had the same pattern: all ghosts were American-born; the mortals spotting the ghosts were of the opposite gender; and the sightings occurred in the home towns where the ghosts, back in their living days, had been born. And they happened like clockwork, one a week, on Thursdays.

“We don’t know any more than that,” said Dr. Pablo Gomez, a noted parapsychologist. “We don’t know why it’s happening, exactly. Some unfathomable energy earthquake rips open up in the past and ghosts filter through. I don’t mean to be too technical.”



This past week, the sightings increased in frequency. There was one on Thursday, when the ghost of Liberace was spotted on a rooftop in West Allis, Wisconsin. But then came Friday, and two more sightings: the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly turned up in St. Louis in a furniture showroom (the spotter was a young policeman) and the ghost of former president Chester Alan Arthur was seen by an up-and-coming lingerie model a bowling alley in Fairfield, Vermont. 

“Arthur’s ghost was especially exciting, because he was bowling,” said Gomez. “He picked up a spare.”

Gomez acknowledges that celebrity ghosts are a poorly understood phenomenon. “Ghost so appear in clusters,” he said. “Often, they’re grouped by the time they died, or by region. This time, the unifying principle seems to be fame.”

And even that, Gomez pointed out, is subject to dispute. “Joe Louis was super famous, of course,” he said, “but not to a nineteen-year-old. I’m 31, and I only kind of knew about him. So what does it mean to be a famous ghost? Do we mean Slimer? Casper? Everyone knows them. So why aren’t we spotting them?”



In light of the recent spate of famous ghosts, a Las Vegas betting house has started to issue odds on which ghost will be seen next. Current favorites include Steve McQueen (coming off at 3-to-1 odds), Teddy Roosevelt (4-to-1), and Dinah Washington (5-to-1). 

One celebrity has even been taken off the board, according to oddsmaker Ayberk “Four Thumbs” Kızılçay. “Elvis,” said Kızılçay. “People see him all the time. We’d lose our shirt.”

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