Michael Jackson's Ghosts

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Michael Jackson's Ghosts
Ghosts MJ.jpg
Directed byStan Winston
Produced byMichael Jackson
Stan Winston
David Nicksay
Screenplay byStan Winston
Mick Garris
Story byMichael Jackson
Stephen King
Mick Garris
StarringMichael Jackson
Pat Dade
Music byMichael Jackson (songs)
Nicholas Pike (score)
CinematographyRussell Carpenter
Edited byMarcus Manton
MJJ Productions
Kingdom Entertainment
Distributed bySMV Enterprises
Release date
  • October 25, 1996 (1996-10-25)
Running time
39 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million

Michael Jackson's Ghosts is a 1996 short film starring Michael Jackson, written by horror novelist Stephen King and Mick Garris, and directed by Stan Winston. It was filmed and first screened in 1996 and released along with select prints of the film Thinner. It was released as promo a year later internationally on LaserDisc, VHS and Video CD. Jackson plays five roles.

The film tells the story of a Maestro with supernatural powers, who is being forced out of a small town by its mayor all the way to New York. The film includes a series of dance routines performed by Jackson and his "family" of ghouls. The songs are taken from Jackson's albums HIStory (1995) and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997).


The project initially began production in 1993 under the title Is it Scary? with director Mick Garris. It was originally intended to be released in conjunction with the theatrical release of Addams Family Values.[1] Garris stated online of the film's genesis and change to Ghosts:

It was before we ever got to the intended songs, as we never shot those. It was originally planned as promotion for Addams Family Values. Stan Winston was in charge of the makeup and visual effects, and took over as director when I went off to make The Shining.[1]

After contract disputes negated the connection with the Paramount Addams Family sequel, the project morphed into Ghosts with Stan Winston at the helm as production resumed in early 1996. Filming was completed in the summer of 1996 after six weeks of production.[2]

In a 2017 interview, Mick Garris a writer for Michael Jackson's Ghosts stated that after several years of production development for the Ghosts short film "it became the most expensive music video ever made ... it ended up coming in at about $15 million dollars, all of it out of Michael's pocket".[3]


The Maestro (Michael Jackson) lives alone in a creepy-looking mansion on top of a hill, overlooking the town of "Normal Valley", and occasionally entertains the local children with scary magic tricks and scary ghost stories. One of the children tells his mother about this, and out of fear for her kids, alerts the Mayor (also Michael Jackson). He in turn organizes the townspeople to go to the Maestro's mansion and force him out of town. The children assure the parents that the Maestro is friendly and harmless, and has done nothing wrong, and even ask them to leave him alone. But the mayor says that he's a weirdo and cannot be allowed to stay in their town.

The front gate opens and the townspeople make their way to the front door. They make their way into the house, and once they are all inside, the front door slams shut and locks itself. Two more large doors swing open revealing a large, darkened dance hall. Hesitantly, the townspeople make their way to the dance hall, where they are both frightened and greeted by the Maestro himself. The Mayor angrily confronts him, calling him "strange", "weird", and a "freak", and telling him that he's not welcome in their "normal" town. The Maestro defends himself, saying that all he has done is tell some harmless little ghost stories to the kids just for fun. In response the Mayor taunts him by calling him "freak" and threatens to hurt him if he doesn't leave. The Maestro replies by having a scaring contest between him and The Mayor. The first person to get scared, has to leave. After stating that he "doesn't play games with freaks", The Mayor reluctantly accepts the challenge believing he will win no problem. As the contest begins, The Maestro reveals himself to be a ghost and scares everyone by warping his face and pulling his skin and hair off of his skull. He returns his face to normal, but the frightened townspeople run for the doors. The Maestro shuts them with his magical powers, saying that they are now his guests, and that no one shall leave until the scaring contest is over.

The Maestro then introduces his "family" of ghosts by using his magical powers to summon them. Along with The Maestro, they perform extended dance routines which alternately impresses and scares the townspeople. Even with The Maestro pulling off his skin and dancing as a skeleton, as well as his family transforming their faces into demonic creatures, The mayor is the only one in particular who isn't entirely impressed, to which The Maestro possesses his body and uses it to dance. He ends the performance by temporarily deforming The Mayor's face into that of a demonic looking "freak", and uses the same taunts and threats that were said earlier before leaving his body and returning him back to normal.

After The Maestro's performance ends, he takes a bow in front of The Mayor out of respect, and asks everyone whether they still want him to go. While the townspeople respond "no", The Mayor angrily says "Yes". Reluctantly, The Maestro quietly agrees to leave. He falls to the ground, and smashes his hands and face into the floor. His face and body start to crumble into dust on the floor, which is then blown away by the wind. The townspeople are saddened by this, and somewhat sorry to see him go, feeling that they have made a huge error in judgment. The mayor however thinks he has come out victorious and urges the townspeople to follow him as he heads for the doors. When he opens them, he finds a giant, monstrous-looking, demon like version of The Maestro's head in the doorway. The Maestro's horrific visage terrifies The Mayor, and he runs away scared, leaving a silhouetted impression of his body in a glass window as he runs out of the old mansion. The townspeople then turn back to the now open front doors to see The Maestro standing there. He smiles and asks if they all had a good time, even though he scared them, to which the townspeople genuinely admit they had fun. They complement his performance and make peace with him, allowing him and his family of ghosts to stay. The kids then scare The Maestro as a joke, which even he applauds them for. One of the kids ends the video by doing something horrific to his face, but the camera cuts away before he does it as screams are heard in the background.


  • "2 Bad" (film version)
  • "Is It Scary" (film version)*
  • "Ghosts"*
    • Taken from Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix
  • "Ghosts" and "Is It Scary" were not featured in the first version of the film, because they were not completed in time. In the original version, the audio from these dance segments was a sampled beat from "2 Bad". An unfinished version of "Ghosts" was used in the credits for the original version of the film, featuring an alternate bridge, different bass and sound effects, and an alternate ending.


The film was screened out of competition at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[4] In 2002 the Guinness Book of World Records honored Ghosts as the longest music video in history. The original film version of Ghosts was also given multiple screenings at Hoyts Cinema in Sydney (together with a 75mm print of the HIStory teaser) the evening before the HIStory tour commenced its Australian leg (and the evening before Jackson's wedding to Debbie Rowe), and that print had the red background version of the SMPTE Universal Leader at the beginning.

Deluxe Collector Box Set[edit]

In December 1997, towards the end of promotion for Michael Jackson's remix album Blood on the Dance Floor, a Deluxe Collector Box Set of Ghosts was released in the UK and Europe (however, it was not released in the US). The box set included a VHS release of Jackson's Ghosts mini-movie on home video and his Blood on the Dance Floor album on CD, as well as a CD maxi single named the Limited Edition Minimax CD. "On the Line" was the first track on this single.[5] Since "On the Line" was the leading track of this single, some fans simply call the Limited Edition Minimax CD "On the Line".

A Japanese version of the box set was also available.

"On the Line"[edit]

"On the Line"
Single by Michael Jackson
ReleasedJanuary 11, 1997
FormatCD maxi single
Length4:39 (short version)
4:53 (long version)
LabelEpic Records, Sony Music
Songwriter(s)Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds
Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Stranger in Moscow"
"On the Line"
"Blood on the Dance Floor"

"On the Line" is a song co-written and produced by Babyface. Michael Jackson performs the track and is also credited in its writing (on the writing credits of The Ultimate Collection). It was originally recorded by Jackson for the Spike Lee movie Get on the Bus (1996), but it was not featured on the soundtrack.[5][6]

The full-length version of the song was released on November 16, 2004 as an album track of his limited edition box set The Ultimate Collection.[5][7]


  • Written and composed by Babyface and Michael Jackson[8][9]
  • Produced by Babyface[8][9]
  • Solo and background vocals by Michael Jackson

Track listing[edit]

Limited Edition Minimax CD (EPC 665268 2)[10]

  1. "On the Line" (Short Version) – 4:37
  2. "Ghosts" (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Remix) – 4:25
  3. "Is It Scary" (DJ Greek's Scary Mix) – 7:12


  1. ^ a b Rob Galluzzo (2016-05-09). "Check Out The Long-Lost Michael Jackson Video Directed By Mick Garris & Written By Stephen King!". blumhouse.com. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  2. ^ Mike Smallcombe (2016-10-31). "The story behind Michael Jackson's Ghosts". makingmichael.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  3. ^ S, M. "How Hocus Pocus writer Mick Garris went from 'Thriller' extra to Michael Jackson collaborator". EW. Retrieved Oct 16, 2017.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Ghosts". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-27.
  5. ^ a b c Halstead, Craig (2007). Michael Jackson: For the Record. Authors OnLine. pp. 243–244. ISBN 978-0-7552-0267-6.
  6. ^ "Amazon.com: Get On The Bus: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  7. ^ "Song info on Amazon.com". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12.
  8. ^ a b "Michael Jackson - Limited Edition Minimax CD (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
  9. ^ a b "Get on the Bus (1996) - Soundtracks". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
  10. ^ "australian-charts.com - Michael Jackson - On The Line". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2010-08-01.

External links[edit]