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A ghost is a convention term to denote a person(s) who attends a convention in some way without registering; in particular, without paying. Such a person is said to be ghosting (or to have ghosted) the event.

A ghost may limit their activities to those which occur in public areas of the venue, and/or those which are not official convention activities (such as room parties), or they might attempt to gain access to areas meant for registered attendees through badge-swapping or other means.

Convention organizers generally view ghosts of all kinds as problematic. They may discourage some from attending, while encouraging others to purchase membership, perhaps enticing them with the opportunity to earn future membership through volunteer work that aids the convention.

Motivations and reception[edit]

Ghosts may be unwilling or unable to obtain convention membership for a variety of reasons. They may only be there to see their friends, and have insufficient interest in the events that the convention offers, perhaps having "seen it all before."[citation needed] Conversely, ghosts may wish to attend certain events, but feel they are not worth the membership fee, or simply do not have sufficient money to pay for membership.[citation needed] They might not like the convention organizers, fueling a desire to "stick it to the Man." They may even be banned, and unable to legally obtain membership.

The level of tolerance for ghosting varies among convention attendees. Convention staff usually consider ghosts undesirable, because they get "something for nothing" - the people the ghost is there to meet would not be there without the convention, and the convention would not be there without effort from the staff. Ghosts also tend to include those who have been warned or banned for causing trouble in the past. The threat of badge removal for violation of convention standards - which has been used by operations and security staff to close down room parties and enforce discipline - is ineffective against ghosts, as they are non-members. They may also take up hotel space that could have been occupied by paying members.

For those not directly involved with the convention, the question is more complex. Like registered members, ghosts may pay others for a share of the room and transport to and from the convention. Some members consider registration a condition of sharing a room, perhaps because they consider ghosting immoral. Others do not ask, especially if the ghost is popular with them or their friends. As hotel fees typically form a major proportion of the cost of attending a con, room owners stand to benefit from ghosts who are willing pay their share; it could potentially mean the difference between attending or not. Those who do not pay may be allowed to stay anyway, out of friendship or charity.

Ghosting and furry[edit]

Shortly before Anthrocon 2007, convention chairman Uncle Kage made a post critical of the practice of ghosting to his LiveJournal and to   anthrocon LJ community,[citation needed] arguing that friends of ghosts should disavow them for not helping to pay for the convention.

In reply to one comment, he suggested those who allowed ghosts to stay in their rooms might find their convention room rate revoked, resulting in a greatly inflated hotel bill unless the ghosts' registration was paid for.

Some were[who?] highly supportive of this idea, sharing his view of "people who spend more than a reasonable amount of time in our company without paying their fair share." Others[who?] criticized such actions as extortion, taking the position that if the room owner was a member they should be entitled to the reduced room rate, whether or not a ghost was present.

Factors in the resulting discussion included the wide range of activities which might or might not be considered ghosting, disagreement over whether the reduced rate was a benefit from the convention or the hotel, and the actual cost or benefit of ghosts to the convention and its members.

In the end, Kage conceded that ghosting was "not as great a concern at Anthrocon as I had at first thought." Anthrocon registrations grew 14% that year, but as growth was expected anyway it is unclear whether the discussion had any significant effect.

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Convention terms