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Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghosts Are More Than Just the Spirits of the Dead

Take a walk through a creepy forest
Photography by Jack Cain

What Are Ghosts?

Are they the benevolent spirits of our loved ones who have passed on? Or are they malevolent specters haunting the shadows, waiting for the moment to attack unwitting victims? Modern folklore says that ghosts are the souls or spirits of a dead person or animal that can often be perceived by the living. These apparitions vary widely in descriptions, whether they be completely disembodied sounds, translucent forms of a person who has passed, or wisps, orbs, shapes, and other realistic silhouettes. From firsthand experiences and stories passed down through the ages, it seems that these entities can be fully aware of their surroundings, or simply faded recordings tragically repeating moments from within their own lifetime.

There is a widespread belief in the afterlife, including the manifestation of spirits which is highly intertwined in the ancestor worship that has appeared in cultures across the world since before the written word. These beliefs have led to funeral rites, exorcisms, and attempts to contact those who have passed as a means to put the spirits of the dead to rest. Contacting those who haunt your halls can be done in a number of ways, most notably through a séance wherein participants use Ouija boards or mediums.

Disembodied spirits are identified not necessarily by their appearance as apparitions, but by the displacement of objects, strange or flickering lights, as well as an auditory presence—laughter or screams with no origin, footsteps when there is no one else around, ringing bells or other spontaneous music that comes from untouched musical instruments. Haunted locations are believed to be associated with possessing spirits who still have a strong attachment to the location from their own past, whether it be sorrow, fear, or distress due to a violent death. People can be haunted as well—not entirely unlike possession, but the person being haunted does not have their body inhabited by the spirit itself, instead, they are likely associated in some way to the unhappy experience that keeps the spirit tethered to the world of the living.

Ghosts walking down the road
Photography by JR Korpa

There are multiple types of spirits that are known to haunt the living, even in the modern age. First, is called the interactive personality—these are considered the most common of all and are often human in nature. Whether it’s your deceased Aunt Sally coming to tell you that she’s not happy that you took her vintage jade brooch or a person lost to history they’re not always kind apparitions. These personalities can make themselves known in a variety of different ways, whether visible or not, some can speak, make noises, touch you, or even cause odors reminiscent of when they were alive (i.e. a perfume they used to wear, or cigar smoke). Those who study and hunt for ghosts are convinced that these spirits retain their personality and can still feel the emotions that would have been relevant to them during life.

Not all of the commonly acknowledged apparitions go out of their way to communicate with people—if you’ve ever heard of the White Ladies, you know that most if not all of these women keep to themselves, by lingering mournfully in a cemetery, or an aging historical building. These White Ladies are described as being dressed entirely in white and can be heard sobbing, crying, or wailing over the painful loss that drove them to take their own lives. They’re not known to necessarily interact with their environment, so much as to be painfully aware of where they are and continue to wallow in the depth of grief that keeps them stuck where they died.

The term poltergeist would most likely conjure images of a swirling vortex and alternate dimensions resulting from disrespecting ancient burial grounds of Native Americans, but it’s not the most accurate portrayal. Poltergeist is actually one of the most common names for a ghost that can interact with their environment—except that instances of these spirits are more often associated with violent interaction with their physical environment. They can knock items off of shelves, open cabinet doors, slam doors, stack chairs, or generally displace objects from their original resting place. Not too surprisingly, poltergeists are the most terrifying because they give us the impression that if they can move things around us, then they can also take physical action upon us.

So, whether you’re experiencing unnatural phenomena throughout your house or are out hunting ghosts in an abandoned building, you may find that there are multiple types of entities that you come across. Ghosts are herein described as the spirits of people or animals that have passed away that may have an unordinary attachment to the world of the living–good or bad, it depends on the person they were in life. Due to the lack of documentation that has been proven to be authenticated, it’s unlikely that you will be able to capture viable evidence that would declare with finality that ghosts are real. It is, however, important to continue to try to document proof of the existence of ghosts, because otherwise, we may never know.

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Why the Dead Come Back to Haunt Us

A common question on the minds of those who believe in ghosts, is what causes a dead person to reappear as a ghost? Unfortunately, this topic isn’t as well researched as the topic of whether or not ghosts actually exist, so there is no real scientific data to back it up—but there is plenty of folklore and a bounty of ghost culture to draw appropriate conclusions from. If you have friends like mine, you’ve likely heard the words, “if I die, I’m coming back to haunt you!” This is largely due to the extensive amount of lore that exists about ghosts and what may have caused the deceased person to turn into a ghost after passing. There are reasons that are not quantifiable by science that cause the spirit to linger after death, whether it be justice or revenge—as was displayed in The Tale of the Red Skeleton, as well as The Ghost’s Tea Kettle, the ghost usually has a reason to come back—soul-consuming grief or simply unfinished business that needs to be attended to, or settled before they can rest.

Common Apparitions That Haunt the Living

These are, of course, assumptions based on select ghost sightings, most of these sightings are ones that can be considered common, where the history corroborates any reason for the ghost to be there at all.

The White Lady

The White Lady walking through the forest
Photography by Chirobocea

As can be assumed by their moniker, a White Lady or Lady in White is a female ghost, whose apparition is always fully clothed in white. Her appearance is always associated with a local tragic legend and she appears in areas that used to be either rural or continue to be rural. The White Lady apparitions are found across the world and are especially prominent in English-speaking countries, or places where there used to be a large English-speaking community. The appearance of one of these spirits follows the history of a woman committing suicide after the heartbreak of losing a child, husband, or father—with a heavy emphasis of innocence on the part of the woman who ends up becoming the White Lady. It is theorized by ghost hunters and enthusiasts alike, that the appearance of these spirits is due to a lingering connection to the world of the living, even after death, due to the magnitude of the grief that they experienced just prior to their deaths.

The Lady in Red

The Red Lady standing alone in a room
Photography by Vladimir Fedotov

In what would appear to be direct opposition to the White Lady, the Red Lady is also a female ghost, but her sightings are attributed to a woman that was not quite as chaste. The Red Lady or Lady in Red is always associated with a woman who displayed vanity in life, a prostitute that was the victim of passion gone wrong, or a jilted lover. Not unlike the White Lady, the Red Lady is found worldwide. She does haunt different types of locations though; places that have historic value, such as old hotels, theatres, and other public venues. There is a particularly large concentration of them that are located in old mining communities, due to the commonality of brothels being such a booming business. It is important to note that in the case of this kind of apparition, the woman is wearing a red dress and is commonly thought of as a victim of objectification. Despite her poor treatment in life, she is never really described as a hostile spirit, but may not be overly friendly all the time.

The Witte Wieven

Witte Wieven amassing as fog on a hill
Photography by Ricardo Angel Gomez

The folklore of the Witte Wieven dates back to the pre-Christian era of what is now known as the Netherlands, Belgium, and France—they are the spirits of wise women, who in life were the highly regarded female herbalists and healers, who cared for the physical and mental ailments of their people. Much like the White Lady, the Witte Wieven is said to appear as a pure white apparition, but instead of a clear figure, she is more of a fog or a mist the engulfs the entirety of the location she appears in. More often than not, when the Witte Wieven is mentioned in the text, it is often cited that they were known for their ability of prophecy and generally looking into the future. These women held such a high status that upon their deaths, a celebration would be held at their burial site in their honor. With the trend of other spirits lingering on due to some type of woe, or unfinished business, it might seem strange that the Witte Wieven, according to their mythology, remain on the earthly plane in order to help and sometimes hinder those who encounter them at their gravesites and other sacred locations.

What Haunts the Dead?

It’s not quite clear if there is always a reason for a spirit to remain behind, as the spirits mentioned above are just common cases that have been reported and can easily be tracked by their notoriety. It’s important to keep an open mind to the idea that there may be another reason why these spirits are unable to move on—but with the limited information that is available on the where, why, and how of spirits and their manifestations, it is commonly believed that these spirits are equally haunted by the living as the living are haunted by the dead.