Announcement: Monsters, Witches, and Michael Jackson’s Ghosts

An article by Willa was published by Popular Musicology Online just this morning. You can read the full article here, and you can read a brief overview of the article and share comments here.

Note: Michael Jackson’s Ghosts was never officially released outside of Asia so is not widely available. If you don’t have a copy, here’s a link to a high-definition version available on YouTube:

Also, while much of the information in the “Monsters” section of this article is already very familiar to fans, this is the first time a balanced review of the evidence has appeared in an academic journal, and it has rarely been reported in the mainstream media. We think it’s very important that this information be made available to the general public as well as Michael Jackson’s supporters, so if you have ideas about ways to share this article with readers who may or may not be fans, please feel free to do so.

About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on January 8, 2015, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Willa: So thrilled that you have published this important article. Your voice continues to be one of the most significant in support of Michael Jackson’s truth and the true overview meaning of how his life as artist, performer, innovator and human being played out.

    Since I first heard it, “Is It Scary” has to me brilliantly encapsulated the depth of intention and self-awareness at which he operated and which most people missed entirely, and his levels of subtlety also not appreciated by a mass audience dulled by sensationalism and narrow thinking. It remains my favorite song of his entire canon.

    You posit so many fascinating aspects of Michael’s experience and the world’s experience of him and collect many others’ observations and opinions to flesh them out – I commend you so highly for your intent to bring these things to light on a far wider scale.
    My ongoing gratitude and respect to you.

    • Hi Chris. I was driving this morning when “Is It Scary” came on the stereo, and it reminded me of your comment. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite but, boy, “Is It Scary” is surely one of his best, isn’t it? I love it for the song itself and for how intensely he sings it – I mean, how many songs out there are both threatening and wistful? The phrase “hauntingly beautiful” really fits this song.

      But it also seems to me that “Is It Scary,” along with the short film that features it, Ghosts together provide a key to understanding his later work. They’re almost like a manifesto of his aesthetic.

      btw, I need to look this up, but according to testimony by Karen Faye, I think it was, during the trial after he died, “Is It Scary” and “Ghosts” were originally one song. Later they were split apart and developed into two separate songs. It’s interesting to listen to them together with that in mind, and try to imagine them as one song.

  2. Congratulations, Willa! I look forward to reading the article.

  3. Congratulations, Willa! The article is fascinating, clarifying and amplifying your ideas concerning the artistic intentionality of MJ’s appearance and the implications of the public response to his seemingly ever changing, but always recognizable face.

    Like Chris, I love “Is It Scary” … and I love Ghosts and Scream (and Morphine) — so I always welcome your insights into these songs, and the insights they provide into MJ.

    Thanks for all the work you do to right the wrongs done to MJ and to increase the world’s appreciation of Michael Jackson’s genius.

  4. Thank you, Willa. Just a terrific article, discussion and placement of ‘truth to power’ in academic study. Finally.

  5. Well done, Willa. Great summary of the allegations and trial in this article. I am so glad you were able to get it published. It is long over due.

  6. Absolutely pitiful. No one in the fan community believes Michael Jackson sang, let alone wrote, the hideous ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Monster.’

  7. Congratulations Willa – Devoured the article this morning, early, when the rest of the house was alseep and absorption of your fine points would be acute. You have a great way of connecting the horrid reality of the false case and misrepresenation presented against Michael Jackson and his artistic reesponse to the mischaracterization of his person – Beutifully woven into the article were the real “monsters” that threatened his very life, liberty and pursuit of his bliss … which brings me to more of his lyrics that fit nicely with your premise.


    The unknown monster is about to embark
    From a far corner, out of the dark
    A nightmare, that’s the case
    Never Neverland, that’s the place
    This particular monster can read minds
    Be in two places at the same time
    This is judgement night, execution, slaughter
    The devil, ghosts, this monster is torture
    You can be sure of one thing, that’s fate
    A human presence that you feel is strange
    A monster that you can see disappear
    A monster, the worst thing to fear.

    We’ve took the liberty to blog an small excerpt and part of the intro with the url directing to the full article on Popular Musicology on our MJJJP wordpress – The majority of Michael’s fanbase works together in a unified manner to promote the conscious effort of thoughtful, scholarly and academic examination of facts with supported documentation – We will do our part in making sure your article gets promoted by other MJ Advocacy groups – Congrats Again ..

  8. Thank you, Willa, for giving your time and energies and love to PAYING MICHAEL FORWARD…I am convinced that we must continue our truth telling…for no one else will do it. Education is the answer to dispelling myth-making and the constant and repeated lies of the media and extortionists. Michael’s life, artistry and legacy has profoundly contributed to our culture. He is unparalleled and unique and continues to inspire people across this entire planet. When we say we are better people because of Michael Jackson…we join a choir of millions committed to continuing the tireless work that Michael started. Please continue your tireless efforts. You are an important voice. I send my love and gratitude, Jude Ling.

  9. CONGRATS, Willa! I was so excited to see this annoucnement! Not only do I look forward to reading, I also am thrilled to have another academic source out there! More after I read!

  10. I forgot to add: as far as sharing, we all have social power. USE it to spread the article. I know people who we not regularly reading this blog, are also doing their part. It’s amaing how powerful this fanbase is when we use our energy productively.

  11. I love you Michael!

  12. Beautiful Willa… thank you for such an enriching and beautiful article… God bless!

  13. Thank you all so much, both for your encouraging responses to the article and for the warm and stimulating community of voices you all have created. It’s really become an important part of my life.

    To be perfectly honest, getting this article published has been a long and extremely frustrating struggle. All together, it’s taken nearly three years to finally see it in print, and I think a lot of that has to do with deep biases in the US about race in general and Michael Jackson in particular. There’s also a taboo against questioning the validity of sexual abuse allegations, and a mood of hysteria that tends to erupt whenever those kinds of allegations are made – a hysteria that was intensified in the Michael Jackson case by racial prejudice, homophobia, and a fear of difference more generally.

    Whatever the reason, I could not find a single editor in the US willing to publish this article. One editor of a popular US journal (not an academic journal) was intrigued by the ideas in the “Ghosts” section but was extremely uncomfortable with the “Monsters” section. So he asked me to make numerous changes over a 10-month period to shorten that section, soften it, move it so it was less prominent – in short, do everything possible to minimize that section without actually deleting it, which I was unwilling to do. Just when I thought I’d made the final edits and the article was about to be published, the Wade Robson allegations broke and the editor lost his nerve and cancelled the article. As he said, “While you clearly provide a lot of documentation about the case, … I don’t think [this journal] is really the forum to try or exonerate MJ.” It was devastating.

    After all those frustrations, it is incredibly exciting to finally see the article in print – and I have to admit, it’s much stronger now than it was when I first started looking for a publisher three years ago. (For example, the initial version article only addressed the Chandler allegations, while the final version addresses all of the allegations against him.)

    And in large part that’s because of you all – because of the ideas you’ve shared, the stimulating yet respectful discussions we’ve had, the admiration you have for Michael Jackson and his powerful body of work, the tremendous knowledge you have as a group about all things Michael Jackson, and your openness to considering diverse and even controversial opinions (even when you respectfully disagree with those opinions). I value that tremendously, and have learned so much from your discussions.

    So thank you all, sincerely!

  14. Great article Willa ! Thank you so much

  15. Thank you, Willa. It is disheartening to learn that editors refused to print your well researched paper and I’m happy that this outlet decided to do so. Kudos to them and much appreciation for your determination and commitment to get it done.

  16. Willa – It is an uphill climb to have Michael Jackson reality told to the masses but its particularly imperative that we do succeed in this endeavor. To slander a good man is a grave sin and there will be recompense on the Day of Judgement but in the meantime – we need to share the facts and expose the mischaracterizaton of Michael through the media as much as we can. We, at MJJJP acknowledge the arduous road you’ve traveled and your dedication to forge forward against the obstacles to get this published. Your efforts honor Michael’s own persistence in achieving goals. Thank you

  17. Hi Willa!
    I’m writing you from Argentina (so excuse any failure in my writing… 😉 ).
    First of all, CONGRATULATIONS for this superb article. Well written, well documented, and above of all that, well thought. “Enough tabloid!” said once Elizabeth Taylor, it was time for somebody to approach MJ in a serious way. Your points of view are really interesting and defying. MJ was a true genius of our time, like our own Leonardo Da Vinci.
    Then, I want to share with you only one disagreement: the plastic surgeries. I hate to admit it, but I don’t think there were only a few. This may be just an opinion from an “outsider”, but in the documentary “MJ – The life of an icon” (check 1h:25′-1h:29′ aprox.), some people of his “circle of trust” think in the same way: David Gest, J. Randy Taraborrelli, Frank Dileo… even his sister Rebbie! You may say, “well, they think they know”, but the same we can point about our own opinions. The only difference is that they lived and shared with him in a way none of us did.
    ¿What do you think?
    Love, Rodrigo.

    • Hi Rodrigo. That’s a really good question. As I mentioned in the article, there are a few photos where his face does look very different. (But then, there are a few photos where my face looks really different!) But if you ignore those outlier photographs, it appears the structure of his face did not change over time.

      What changed is how we perceive his face. That’s a very different issue, and I think he was in complete control of that. For example, he was a master of disguise, starting from fairly early in his career. In a 1987 interview with Molly Meldrum, he says, “I have incredible disguises. I can fool my own mother.” Here’s the interview, and he says that about 8:15 minutes in:

      I think over time he led the public at large to misread his face – and that included some people close to him, like his brother, Jermaine. But his mother denies the rumors of extensive plastic surgery in her interview with Oprah, saying, “He had other operations on his nose, but any other thing, he didn’t, except his vitiligo.” And I think his mom would be the ultimate expert…

      • Hi Willa, thanks for your answer.
        I pretty much agree with your point of view, but I’m still thinking about David Gest’s words on this subject.
        In the same documentary, he says that his “second major surgery” was in 1981, that he look after him for 4 weeks, and to that point the “results” were ok. He thinks that he should have stopped then, but he didn’t. Why would Gest lie? How can anybody fool the person who is taking direct care of your health?
        In my opinion, this are facts, and not just our -in this case, Gest’s- perception of them.
        Thanks again, love,

        • Hi Rodrigo. I agree that Michael Jackson had plastic surgery on his nose in the 1980s. I don’t think anyone disputes that. In fact Michael Jackson himself says he did in his biography, Moonwalk, which was published in 1988. And I think most people agree he looked pretty fabulous both before and after.

          What I debate are all the rumors that he destroyed his face in later years through excessive plastic surgery – for example, that he didn’t have a nose anymore, or that his face was “disintegrating,” as Martin Bashir claimed. Those stories were carried by a lot of tabloids and even some fairly reputable media outlets, and they are quite simply false.

  18. It has taken me this long to finally finish your article, Willa. What a remarkable piece! Michael truly used his face, body, mind and soul to bring about transformation in our world. He literally sacrificed himself not only for his art but because his passion to make the world a better place COMPELLED him to do no less. He threw himself on the altar of hatred, bigotry, ignorance and indifference in order to heal us. I can think of no other artist in the last century – or even before – that comes even close to doing what he sought to achieve.

    Pouring over this, I was again reminded how acute his intelligence was. I read once that he had a 150 IQ. Couple that with his highly empathic spirit and renaissance creativity and you have a man that was very threatening to a majority of the population and I think he intuited that at some level from a very young age. He knew how unique he was and how alone he was because of that uniqueness; thus the sadness that haunted him much of his life and yet he persevered.

    I have probably watched Ghosts 30-40 times. Every time I find something I’ve never seen before. There are layers upon layers of genius. Truly a loss it was never released in the US. As others have said, It it Scary and Ghosts have long been two of my favorite songs.

    Thank you for your passion, perseverance and commitment to bringing Michael’s truth forward.

    • “Pouring over this, I was again reminded how acute his intelligence was.”

      Hi corlista1. I agree completely – the more I learn about his work, the more awestruck I feel. He was truly a brilliant artist.

      And he gave himself fully to his art, as you say so well: “He threw himself on the altar of hatred, bigotry, ignorance and indifference in order to heal us. I can think of no other artist in the last century – or even before – that comes even close to doing what he sought to achieve.” That perfectly expresses what I feel also. He knowingly took on the role of Other and endured all the vitriol that released – and I believe he did it “to heal us,” as you say. Just thinking about the level of his sacrifice is humbling.

    • corlista1, I would like to second Willa’s comments. I agree with you completely and you expressed how I feel perfectly.


  19. Willa and Eleanor, thank you for your comments. It is humbling. I have followed both of you for some time and have so much respect for your work.

  20. Hey guys! Can you all do an analysis on “Tabloid Junkie”, there are some very interesting lyrics in that song and I want to know what they mean. Thanks.

    • Hi kateclay. Those lyrics are fascinating, aren’t they? Joie and I talked about “Tabloid Junkie” a bit a couple of years ago in a post about the constant scrutiny he was under, and what he had to say about that in his lyrics. But it would be interesting to take a closer look at “Tabloid Junkie” on its own.

  1. Pingback: “Monsters, Witches and Michael Jackson’s Ghosts” by Willa Stillwater | MJ Truth Now

  2. Pingback: Popular Musicology presents -Monsters, Witches, and Michael Jackson’s Ghosts by Willa Stillwater- | mjjjusticeproject

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