Michael Jackson's Ghosts

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Michael Jackson's Ghosts
Ghosts MJ.jpg
Directed by Stan Winston
Produced by Michael Jackson
Stan Winston
David Nicksay
Screenplay by Stan Winston
Mick Garris
Story by Michael Jackson
Stephen King
Mick Garris
Starring Michael Jackson
Pat Dade
Music by Michael Jackson (songs)
Nicholas Pike (score)
Cinematography Russell Carpenter
Edited by Marcus Manton
MJJ Productions
Kingdom Entertainment
Distributed by SMV Enterprises
Release date
  • October 25, 1996 (1996-10-25)
Running time
39 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Michael Jackson's Ghosts is a 1996 short film starring Michael Jackson, co-written by horror novelist Stephen King alongside Mick Garris and directed by film director and special effects guru Stan Winston which could also be classified as a long-form music video. 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 a total of five roles in the film.

The film tells the story of a scary Maestro with supernatural powers, who is being forced out of a small town by its mayor all the way to New York, pictured as a comically arrogant, plump man. The movie includes a series of dance routines performed by Michael Jackson and his "family" of ghouls. Every song from the film was taken from Michael Jackson's albums HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.


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]


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. One of the children tells his mother, who 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 has done nothing wrong, and ask that they leave him alone. But the mayor says that he's weird and cannot be 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 greeted by Maestro himself. The Mayor angrily confronts him, calling him "strange", "weird", and a "freak", and telling him that he's not welcome in their town. Maestro defends himself, and in response the Mayor threatens him to leave. Maestro replies by scaring the townspeople. The frightened townspeople run for the doors, which Maestro shuts with his magical powers and saying they are his guests.

Maestro then introduces his "family" of ghouls who, along with Maestro, perform extended dance routines which alternately impresses and scares the townspeople.

After Maestro's performance ends, he asks whether they still want him to go. While the townspeople respond "no", the mayor says "Yes". Maestro quietly agrees. He falls, 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. The mayor however thinks he has come out victorious and heads for the doors. When he opens them, he finds a monstrous-looking Maestro-demon head which terrifies him, and he runs away scared. The townspeople then turn back to the now open front doors to see the Maestro standing there. He asks if they all had a good time, and the townspeople realize they did. They figure he isn't so bad after all and make peace with him.

During the credits, backstage footage of Jackson's make-up sessions and shots are revealed.

Songs used in the film[edit]

  • "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.[3] 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 of 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.[4] 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
B-side "Ghosts" (Mousse T's Radio Rock Singalong Remix)
"Is It Scary" (DJ Greek's Scary Mix)
Released January 11, 1997
Format CD maxi single
Genre R&B, pop, soul
Length 4:39 (short version)
4:53 (long version)
Label Epic Records, Sony Music
Songwriter(s) Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds
Michael Jackson
Producer(s) Babyface
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"They Don't Care About Us"
"On the Line"
"Blood on the Dance Floor"

"They Don't Care About Us"
"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.[4][5]

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.[4][6]


  • Written and composed by Babyface and Michael Jackson[7][8]
  • Produced by Babyface[7][8]
  • Solo and background vocals by Michael Jackson

Track listing[edit]

Limited Edition Minimax CD (EPC 665268 2)[9]

  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. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Ghosts". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  4. ^ a b c Halstead, Craig (2007). Michael Jackson: For the Record. Authors OnLine. pp. 243–244. ISBN 978-0-7552-0267-6. 
  5. ^ "Amazon.com: Get On The Bus: Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  6. ^ "Song info on Amazon.com". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-11-12. 
  7. ^ a b "Michael Jackson - Limited Edition Minimax CD (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  8. ^ a b "Get on the Bus (1996) - Soundtracks". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  9. ^ "australian-charts.com - Michael Jackson - On The Line". australian-charts.com. Retrieved 2010-08-01. 

External links[edit]