Michael Jackson Spent Millions on a Music Video Stephen King Co-Wrote

Horror was a surprisingly large part of Michael Jackson’s musical career. In addition to “Thriller,” Jackson made another horror-themed music video — one which was far more extravagant. Here’s the story behind a music video Stephen King co-wrote which cost Jackson around $15 million.

Michael Jackson holding a microphone
Michael Jackson | Joe Traver/ Liaison

The movie that got Michael Jackson into horror

Jackson worked with many famous movie directors during his career. One of them was Mick Garris, the horror director behind several adaptations of King’s work including the miniseries versions of The Stand and The Shining. According to Entertainment Weekly, Garris gave fans insight into how Jackson got interested in horror.

“I’m really fortunate to have been able to work with, and become friends with, Michael Jackson,” Garris said. “It was right after [the release of An American Werewolf in London] — Michael had seen that and had been blown away by it. He wanted to do something on film like that. Michael was very frightened of horror films and was fascinated by the makeup [in them].” Thanks to King, Jackson and Garris would collaborate on an ambitious music video/short film called Michael Jackson’s Ghosts.

The trailer for An American Werewolf in London

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Why Stephen King helped create the hugely expensive video

King told Entertainment Weekly it all started with a phone call. Jackson called King on the set of The Stand and said he was a huge fan of King’s work. Jackson said he wanted King to help him make the scariest music video ever.

King liked this idea because he figured creating Jackson’s proposed “minimusical” would be a welcome change of pace. King lauded the finished film, saying “the video contains some of the best, most inspired dancing of Jackson’s career.” On the business end of things, Garris revealed the budget of the music video ballooned to about twice its original size.

“It had a very large transformation over the course of it and eventually became by far the most expensive music video ever made,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “We shot for two weeks and never got into the music video part because when you work ‘Michael hours,’ they’re not the same as regular hours. By the time everything shut down, we’d spent $7 million dollars. It ended up coming in at about $15 million dollars, all of it out of Michael’s pocket.” Jackson certainly invested a lot into the film — so how did the public react to it?

A scene from Michael Jackson’s Ghosts

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How the public reacted to ‘Michael Jackson’s Ghosts’

Over the course of its 39 minutes, Michael Jackson’s Ghosts includes three songs by Jackson: “2 Bad,” “Is It Scary,” and “Ghosts.” While Jackson had numerous hits, none of the songs included in Michael Jackson’s Ghosts reached the Billboard Hot 100. Compare this to “Thriller,” which reached No. 4. The music video might not have become a cultural juggernaut like the “Thriller” video, but it remains a memorable — and costly — collaboration between two icons: Jackson and King.