Ghosts can do it: 8 pop cultural instances of human-on-ghost love

Graphic: Karl Gustafson

Earlier this year, a 45-year-old Irish woman named Amanda Teague came forward to share a joyful announcement with the world: Two years earlier, she had married a wonderful man. His name is Jack—a funny coincidence, as Teague makes her living as a Jack Sparrow impersonator—and he’s her soulmate. He also happens to be a 300-year-old Haitian pirate ghost. Or is it ghost pirate? We’re never sure. Anyway, although Snopes has debunked Teague’s claim that the marriage is legally binding—take note, aspiring spectral spouses: International waters aren’t quite the “anything goes” zone many think they are—there’s no real way to fact-check her claim that she and Jack are physically intimate. Notorious British tabloid The Sun quotes her as saying, “You can feel the weight of the spirit, their touch, the pressure. You can literally feel the physical act of what the spirit is doing to you, and the spirit can feel it, too.”

Although “ghost marriages,” where one or both of the spouses are already dead—a tradition in many countries around the world, including France, where the president of the republic still has the power to wed a living person to a dead one by special decree—are usually celibate, Teague is far from the only living human being to claim to have sex with ghosts. In fact, the late Anna Nicole Smith was a noted spectrophiliac, saying in 2004, “A ghost would crawl up my leg and have sex with me at an apartment a long time ago in Texas. I used to think it was my boyfriend, then one day I woke up and found it wasn’t.”

For all this talk of undead lovemaking, sex scenes between living human beings and ghosts are relatively rare in pop culture. Sometimes, it’s merely implied, as in the 1990 romantic classic Ghost. More often than we’d like, it’s sexual assault, as in The Entity (1982), which was left off of this list on purpose after no one could defend it enough to write about it. Even some of the entries that did make the list—looking at you, Ryan Murphy—are iffy in the consent department. But every once in a while, when a dead fictional character and a living fictional character love each other very much and/or are overcome with interdimensional lust, they, well—they do it. Here are eight of those times.

Ghostbusters (1984)

Of all the somethings strange that occur in the original Ghostbusters, a brief dream sequence where Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz is visited by an ethereal woman in white who unzips his pants and, um, produces some ectoplasm has to be the strangest. The film isn’t entirely wholesome—sure, it’s rated PG, but that was before the PG-13 came along—but the scene still seems jarringly out of place in an otherwise relatively family-friendly movie. As it turns out, it’s a matter of context: The ghost blowjob was supposed to be the punchline to a much longer scene where the Ghostbusters visit a haunted barracks, prompting Ray to try on an old uniform before falling asleep in the officers’ quarters. That additional context would have turned the supernatural sex scene into a comedic case of mistaken identity, which is even weirder, honestly. But at least it isn’t out of nowhere. [Katie Rife]

Empire, “Cupid Kills” (2016)

Andre (Trai Byers) was always much more loyal to Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) than he ever was to his family—yes, even his mother, Cookie, despite the fact that she’s played by Taraji P. Henson. The Lyon scion so loved his late wife, who was murdered by his father’s ex Anika (Grace Byers, who’s married to Trai in real life), that when he did finally move on with Nessa (Sierra McClain), he basically engaged in a threesome with her spirit. You might say that instead of giving up the ghost, he gave it up to the ghost (well, you might not say that). As silly as that sounds, it was really just an extension of the couple’s sex life—when she was alive, Rhonda would listen eagerly as Andre told stories of seducing this or that high-powered individual. This time, she was more of a spectral spectator. [Danette Chavez]

American Horror Story: Murder House, “Pilot” (2011)

The first season of American Horror Story wasted no time in letting viewers know exactly what kind of batshit-insane show they were watching. Midway through the premiere episode, Connie Britton’s Vivien Harmon is getting ready for bed when she’s greeted by a figure wearing a full-body latex rubber bondage suit, complete with mask. She assumes it’s her husband, Ben (Dylan McDermott), and the two proceed to have sex. Of course, Vivien doesn’t yet realize her family has moved into a haunted house, replete with spirits wandering the premises, and this Rubber Man romancer isn’t her husband, but rather Tate Langdon, the ghost of a school shooter who died some 15-odd years prior. That’s already creepy as hell, but of course, this being American Horror Story, there was far grosser stuff to come. Still, as far as ghost sex goes, assault via false identity is pretty fucked up. (Plus, the editing is terrible, quite frankly, which is a crime of a different sort.) [Alex McLevy]

Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Leave it to the endlessly depraved Scary Movie series to force The A.V. Club into a discussion of when consent between a ghost and a woman begins. In the venerable series’ second installment, a horny wandering shade happens upon a slumbering beauty (Tori Spelling) and decides to ignore her crusty toenails and possibly old underwear and begin having sex with her. When she finally awakes—midway en route toward some gravity-defying ceiling sex—she responds enthusiastically, shouting, “Kinky is my middle name, bitch!” and flipping through a variety of positions. In a post-coital moment, she professes her desire to marry the ghost, because, presumably, “women.” (He splits immediately.) Spelling is wearing a football jersey bearing the number 69 the entire time, obviously. [Clayton Purdom]

Grey’s Anatomy, season five  (2008-2009)

Even by Grey’s Anatomy standards, Izzie and Denny’s ghostly affair stands out as ludicrous. As fans know, in season two, Izzie (Katherine Heigl) fell in love with a patient—an ethical no-no everywhere except for Seattle Grace—stole a new heart for him (ethics, very suspect), and he died anyway. In season five, Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) returns in a strange series of sexy hallucinations, leading Izzie to shut her invisible boyfriend and herself off in the break room for some mind-blowing ghost sex. But Denny’s appearance signifies disaster ahead: Izzie’s hallucinations are a result of her metastatic melanoma, and his frequent refrain of “I’m here for you” immediately switches from sweetly supportive to Grim Reaper-esque. Izzie’s illness appeared to be a ploy by showrunner Shonda Rhimes to keep the outspoken Heigl in line—the actor had pulled her name from Emmy consideration, saying the show’s writing was not up to par—with Izzie’s fate up in the air by the end of the season. Izzie survived, but Heigl wound up leaving the series anyway in season six, making this entire storyline even more pointless. [Gwen Ihnat]

High Spirits (1988)

Neil Jordan won an Oscar for 1992’s The Crying Game, forever intertwining his name with that film in the public consciousness. And he’s probably glad for it, too, because that means no one really remembers that time he wrote and directed a movie where Steve Guttenberg and Beverly D’Angelo play a bickering, miserable American couple who, while vacationing at a haunted Irish castle, indulge in illicit affairs with dead people played by Daryl Hannah and Liam Neeson. The film is called High Spirits, and while it’s not very good, it’s available in its entirety on YouTube should you insist on watching it anyway. Technically, within the film’s wild internal logic, ghosts can’t have sex with the living, lest they instantly age the centuries since their death and crumble into dust post-coitus. Good old horny 80s-movie Guttenberg finds a loophole, though. [Katie Rife]

Lace Crater (2015)

What, you thought having sex with ghosts didn’t have consequences? Yes, just because your lover doesn’t have a body doesn’t mean they can’t still give you an STD, as the unlucky heroine of the obscure micro-budget horror movie Lace Crater finds out. After a one-night stand with a ghost named Michael, an unhappy, recently single woman named Ruth starts experiencing inexplicable supernatural symptoms, including coughing up black gunk and terrifying hallucinations. Sounds pretty unpleasant, but we’re mostly wondering—wouldn’t it hurt to hook up with a ghost who’s completely covered in burlap? [Katie Rife]

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) and its many spin-offs

The role that death and reverence for one’s ancestors plays in Chinese culture is ancient in origin, profoundly spiritual, and too complex to do any sort of justice to here. But we will say that one of the more unusual aspects of this long-held system of belief—at least to Western eyes—is the plethora of softcore films on the topic of human-ghost relations that have come out of Hong Kong in the past 30 years or so in the wake of the massive success of the A Chinese Ghost Story series of (non-softcore) romances. There’s the Erotic Ghost Story series, of course, as well as Chinese Erotic Ghost Story (different thing) and a plethora of ghost-seduction scenes in Hong Kong horror films not explicitly (no pun intended) based around the theme. [Katie Rife]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter