Patrick Swayze in 'Ghost': A paranormal pop culture trendsetter

Back in the '80s and early '90s, Patrick Swayze pulled off the impressive feat of being both an action hero and romantic heartthrob.

But aside from portraying a Russian-fighting teen, bank-robbing surfer, philosophy-spouting bouncer or bad-boy dance instructor from the wrong-side-of-the-tracks, Swayze was famous for being a specter.

In the romantic drama Ghost, Swayze plays Sam, boyfriend to Demi Moore's Molly. When Sam is killed in a mugging that turns out to have been premeditated, he misses his chance to "go into the light" and wanders around New York City with a desire to avenge his death and protect his gal.

Basically, as a ghost he's got a big to-do list and has a lot to learn.

For a movie that pre-dates the current paranormal pop culture boom, and was released before we all knew the lingo oft-repeated on paranormal reality-TV, Ghost gets a lot right - as far as we can know it to be right.

The movie deals with shadow people, intelligent hauntings, poltergeist activity, mediums and possession. The concept of ghosts being just like regular people with an assortment of personalities, motives and dispositions - just without a body to inhabit - was pretty novel. And ghosts learning new skills, drawing energy to move objects and harassing a medium (Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae, in a role that earned her an Oscar) weren't plot devices widely used in ghost movies when the film was released.

"They did get a lot of things right from my perspective," says psychic and medium Chip Coffey of A&E's Paranormal State and Psychic Kids. In a recent interview with The Paranormal Pop Culture Show on the Paranormal TV Network, the film came up and Coffey added that while he couldn't verify whether every aspect of the film is correct, it is "not so far off from the way things happen with a psychic and a medium."

Although Ghost may have been close to the target, it was alone in being so when released in 1990. That year, ghosty paranormal pop culture tended to be dark (The Exorcist III, Flatliners). Meanwhile, despite spooky scenes, Ghost is never overly preposterous (pottery-making sex scene notwithstanding) or foreboding, and is an optimistic flick at its core.

Frankly, I can't help but get a case of the warm fuzzies (bordering on the misty-eyes) when - once he's resolved the issues that held him on Earth and tells Molly he loves her - Swayze delivers the line, "It's amazing Molly. The love inside, you take it with you."

The film provided a relatively new approach to the entertainment industry's take on the in-between realm after death. We talk a lot about there between more of a mainstream acceptance of the paranormal, and I believe that that seed was planted with pop culture fare like Ghost.

Patrick Swayze passed away Monday after nearly two years battling pancreatic cancer, but it was a good fight. And if he can hear his colleagues, family and fans saying how much he was loved, I'm sure he's saying, "ditto."

-aaron sagers

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