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 singer 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. As of 2019, the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray Disc in Europe. 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 Mayor of Normal Valley leads a mob to the mansion of the Maestro, who has been entertaining local children with magic tricks and ghost stories. The children assure the parents the Maestro has done nothing wrong, but the Mayor intends to banish him as a "freak".

The Maestro challenges the Mayor to a "scaring contest": the first to get scared must leave. He performs magic tricks and dance routines with a ghostly horde, and finally possesses the Mayor, forcing him to dance. After the performance ends, the Maestro agrees to leave and crumbles to dust, but returns as an enormous demon. Terrified, the Mayor leaps through the window. The families agree that they had fun and allow the Maestro to stay.


The project began production in 1993 under the title Is it Scary? with director Mick Garris. It was planned for release in conjunction with the family comedy Addams Family Values. A work print version was created that had featured Christina Ricci, Jimmy Workman, Kaitlyn Hooper, Christopher Hart and, very briefly, Carel Struycken reprising their roles from the film. Ken Jenkins, of future Scrubs fame, portrayed the mayor in the work print version.[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, Garris said 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]


  • Michael Jackson as the Maestro / the Mayor
  • Pat Dade as Pat
  • Amy Smallman as Amy
  • Edwina Moore as Edwina
  • Yasiin Bey as Dante
  • Seth Smith as Seth
  • Kendall Cunningham as Kendall
  • Loren Randolph as Loren
  • Heather Ehlers as Heather


  • "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).

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]