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Ghost Goes Hollywood: A Band, a “Ghovie,” and Fan-Love

By Sarah Hajkowski

When Ghost the Band is mentioned in mixed listener companies today, awareness of the theatrical Swedish rock artist is on a steady increase thanks to TikTok, meme sounds, among other sources. But those who have only heard the chorus of Ghost’s 2018 narrative ballad “Mary on Cross” have not yet scratched the surface of Ghost’s ineffable hold on its loyal fans, nor the inner life that said fans have created for the group’s stage personas, with so much love and mania. Said love is on the rise for those anticipating Ghost's upcoming feature film or "Ghovie", 'Rite Here, Rite Now.'

Photo: Album cover (back), Seven Inches of Satanic Panic, Ghost’s third EP, released in 2018 / LOMA VISTA RECORDINGS & CONCORD MUSIC GROUP. INC.

Being asked, “What is Ghost?” X formerly Twitter user Luka @empress_luka teasingly answers, “A lifestyle at this point.”

Readers may have a certain passing sense of Ghost the Band’s branding and iconography–a frontman in stagy skull paint and supporting musicians in Jules Verne-style diving helmets and stage blacks. They may even have heard Ghost’s beloved frontman called by his in-character title, Papa. But venturing any further than a foggy acquaintance with Ghost the Band and its many millions of fans one invariably feels that they are entering an entirely other world. There are reasons for that.

"Early on in the creation of Ghost…I would be disappointed if it turned out to just be four or five dudes just standing in jackets and t-shirts…It sounds more like an experience…the aesthetics and the ideas are a mash-up of everything that I grew up watching and listening to. It’s black metal mixed with horror films and showmen."

An experience, that is: affecting multiple senses rather than “just listening to music.” A memorable, self-contained happening, with some of its own language, its own imagery.

Well for starters, a Ghost show is not called a concert by those in the loop, it is a Ritual. The experience is a fictional persona brought to life on stage. Tobias Forge plays “Papa Emeritus,” a title bestowed on four of his frontman personas so far, each with their own style, Roman numeral I-VI, and fan-given name. Each also boasts their own band of trusty supporting musicians, the nameless ghouls–who likewise receive honorary names bestowed by fans. Thus, iterations of Ghost, fronted by a Papa for each “era,” have “reigned” and been retired in the timeline of the band’s existence and its discography.

The honorific ‘Papa’ originates with Forge and the band’s aesthetic and ideological sympathies with Satanic symbolism; each Papa is an “Antipope” in opposition to the canonically chosen Pope, and Papas Primo, Secondo, Terzo, and Copia have each served to resist convention, repression, imposed order, and artificial balance as ills of the real world. While Forge himself identifies as a Satanist, Ghost the Band is more a celebration of disorder than a solemn Black Mass. Ghost is a party, and macabre dancers of all backgrounds are welcome.

Cardinal Copia (affectionately Cardi) complicated things with his strikingly poignant storyline as a claimant to the Anti Papal throne despite not being of “the bloodline” Emeritus, but ascended to the Anti Papacy in 2020. His strengths include caring for his pet rats and making a biretta look badass- his weaknesses number among them a hellish inferiority complex and a poor impression of Schwarzenegger's Terminator.

Supporting the narrative of these original characters, Ghost the Band creates and distributes original short films called Chapters–part quirky family melodrama, part Gothic succession skit. And as hopefully implied by Forge in the quote above, fans have indeed taken this blend of music and storytelling and run amok with it.

The inner life of the Papas is a malleable collection of characters and appearances that fans have stretched and shaped to inform the structure of a full-fledged alternate universe. Every Anti Church must have its Ministry, and so Ghost’s fans playfully identify as “Siblings of Sin,” and “Children of the World” complete with scandalously short nun’s habits and the inverted cross ‘Grucifix’ with a G for Ghost. 

When one of the band’s earlier tracks plays during a Ritual, Papa selects one fan to share a special moment with–clasping their hand emulating the music video for “Cirice” –pronounced SIR-eece.  To be thusly “Ciriced” is the honor of an afterlifetime. What Ghost really offers to fans, though, seems to be a refuge for the weird and wounded and offbeat and passionate. 

“Having a community that seems to have some sort of shared experience where being trans or queer won’t make you a laughingstock…time doesn't exist and there are no concerns to be had, everything that isn't loud music and a thumping floor and screaming along to the lyrics with the people next to you simply doesn't exist or matter. It’s trance-like.”

Leshy @pulledbygraves via

Photos: Leshy @pulledbygraves (left) in full Secondo paint dons a trans flag at Comic Con + (right) tries out a Papa V cosplay complete with bat makeup.

As a weird kid and Ghost fan myself, my love for the band bloomed like a bloodred rose swiftly in my listener’s heart for reasons I can dimly sort out. These include the fun of engaging in a new fictional world, Gothic metal bangers that recall my upbringing on Metallica and Foreigner, and an inclusive fan space with many kindred vibrations of strange. Perhaps this is what X formerly Twitter user Damien @H4unt3dMansion means by saying that the attraction of Ghost includes "their warmth and theatrics, their kindness."

What does it mean then, for the odd ones of the rock listening world to anticipate a movie that promises to be part tour footage and part wacky character antics–in short, deeply on-brand for Ghost the band?  

Well, the trailer released May 9 only told us so much–still it was enough to electrify fans and get social media abuzz. Average and hardcore fans cannot forget that concluding the band’s most recent jaunt around the world, Re-Imperatour, fourth Papa Copia heavily implied that like the three frontman personas before him he would be retiring.

“This finale, it's just going to be my last show, and I'm going to do my best to deliver that show to you. And that would just have to be enough, OK?”

So many questions hang in the thick, thurible-centered air about the characters and content that will figure into Ghost’s big-screen adventure Rite Here, Rite Now, releasing June 20 this year. As Leshy @pulledbygraves put it: “I have no real expectations coming into this, knowing how Tobias likes to hit everyone with a completely unexpected thing each time we think we're onto him.” I reached into the Ghost fan community–a worldwide network that personally speaking includes some of my best friends and occasioned meeting the man I plan to marry one day. What are the Siblings of Sin excited and afraid about, Rite Here, Rite Now?

Copia the Boxer

With Ghost’s official May 1 announcement came confirmation that the “Ghovie” will include footage from the band's 2023 Rituals in Los Angeles. To many fans a look at this footage boils down to one thing: Copia in a boxer’s robe and gloves. Famously while performing their last scheduled Ritual in America, Copia sprung for a costume change, forever altering fan conception of the band’s 2022 political smash “Twenties,” in a uniform honoring one of his own film heroes, Al Pacino as Rocky Balboa. For more background on that, one need only consult "Chapter Twelve: Ghost Goes Hollywood" with Papa dressed down in sweats trying to make an old-school self-tape replete with Blockbuster movie references.

A combative track in itself, “Twenties” acerbically links the jazz motifs and tragically misplaced optimism of the 1920s with commentary on the modern era and its peril of repeating history with a wealth-disparate and hypocritical mainstream. So when Copia geared up in a boxer’s uniform for a select crowd of Los Angeles fans it made waves. Is Papa prepping to fight the social mainstays of our time in another way? Will orgiastically excited fans lose it when they see his electric blue robes and gold gloves on the big screen?

We Need to Talk About Saltarian

First introduced in “Home Coming & Special Guests,” the 10th of the aforementioned short film Chapters, Mr. Saltarian sparked questions from the get-go as to who he is and what he will mean to the world of Ghost. The chatter only intensified as he continued to be a fixture in “Chapter 13: The Beach Life” where Papa Copia went to visit him at the seaside and appeared to be training with him in some kind of martial art–further fueling the developing picture of Papa IV as a fighter. To boot, “The Beach Life” ends with a reference by Saltarian to “that European Summer tour.” How is Saltarian linked with the Ministry, where does his ethereal serenity come from, and how will he impact Rite Here, Rite Now? Only time [and Tobias] will tell.

Seestors Before Misters

Another major character in the Ghost Ministry universe is Sister Imperator, affectionately “Seestor” owing to the faux-Italian accent with which Copia and others pronounce her name. Sister is a somewhat controversial figure in the world of Ghost, as implications abound that she is the mother of Cardinal Copia and the lover of the Ministry’s crotchety grandfather figure, Papa Emeritus Nihil. In spite of the love in these attachments, Sister Imperator has proven significantly capricious and critical of others including Copia. This plus her age–having been in Ghost Chapters since the cycle for 2015 album Meliora–and shifting importance in the lore lead some to speculate that she may be being primed for a deathly exit. A judgy stickler she may be, still so many have great affection for Seestor, and it’s hard to imagine what Chapters and more would be like without the Angela Martin of the Ghost universe.

End of an Era

Inevitable. Subversive. Unthinkable. Perhaps most weighty in the minds of Ghost fans entering theaters for Rite Here, Rite Now is the fate of much-beloved frontman persona Copia Emeritus: Papa IV. Concerning precedent, every Papa before him has had their reign and tour with the band eventually come to a bittersweet but theatrical end. Forge has helped this conjecture along with statements like “...between now and when the next album comes, there will have been a change” (Joel) this Jan., and stating in-character that he “feels frail” and that “everything must come to an end.” By the same token, Forge does equally like to avoid predictability. The official explanation for the previous Papas being “killed off” onstage was to make way for Copia’s time in the spotlight. The question is, what Ghost will do with him now he comfortably reigns?

Looking Ahead

While a not-insignificant degree of anxiety is with Ghost fans as the clock ticks down to Rite Here, Rite Now's theatrical release, there is still a sweeping sense of the love in the general community.

The fans themselves say it best: Luka @empress_luka muses at the prospect of a 'new Papa:' "I hope Copia retires safely and lives his best life, I'll miss that silly rat man... But I'm open-minded about Papa V."

As Ghost's recognition across the world has grown, Forge has prioritized that no retirement of a Papa should look the same—yet it's not exactly untrue to suggest that Ghost's fans have the resiliency of having been through the "loss" of a Papa before. "I really just hope that Copia is going to be okay," says X's Damien @H4unt3dMansion. The deep affection and trust which Tobias Forge has built with fans and the team that forwards his vision for Ghost is real. No matter what happens, we must then hope that he will honor it--in his own cheeky, irreverent, and darkly provocative fashion.

Tremendous thanks for viewpoints collected with Damien @H4unt3dMansion, Luka @empress_luka, and Leshy @pulledbygraves.


About the Writer

Sarah Hajkowski is a poet, playwright, and journalist based on the East Coast, USA. In addition to Erato, she is a writer on, publishes plays to NPX: New Play Exchange, and freelances as a theatre artist. If not writing, she will be listening to music, watching horror movies, and connecting with likeminded humans.

Find out more at and reach out on social media.


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