There is a well-known trajectory to a ghost story. An unsuspecting party interacts with a person, place, or object that is believed to be haunted. They pay no mind to superstition, even as an outside party or discovered diary explains the dire circumstances that caused said person, place, or thing to be haunted. Things reach a confused and fevered pitch, and the next morning, as the police cart the bodies away, a final fact is revealed that shows us that the ghosts were, in fact, real.
We have M.R. James to thank for this trusty formula. Though an accomplished medievalist scholar, Montague Rhode James will always be remembered for his fun, engaging ghost stories which set the tone for hundreds of authors to come.
While James’ ghost stories seem dated now, they were praised at the time of their publication for being set in the modern world, and not, say, 1710 France. More so, James’ ghost stories are not worried about seeming sensible as many of those written before his time were, and so do not distance themselves from the supernatural events that occur–no “I heard this story from a sailor one night”, no “My bunkmate in the war told me there’s a local legend in his town”, and so on. These characters meet the ghosts, and the ghosts actively pursue them.