The spooky supernatural: Ghosts
We find the concept of the undead both spooky and exciting. According to legends, they cry their eerie moans through deserted passages, rattle their chains in the inky night and make untimely spectral appearances.
Bizarre incidents and ghostly sightings have been recorded for all of time. In many societies, the spirit world is accepted as fact, and people's daily lives are interwoven with rituals and beliefs, which take into account the needs of their ghostly companions. Objects and places may be associated with particular spirits, and people will call on spirits to intervene on their behalf to deal with life's problems. This page however, deals with the ghosts of western society: with the spectres, spooks and ghouls who inhabit our nightmares. People are intensely curious, indeed fascinated by ghosts, even though most would claim to be sceptical about the realm of the dead.
While stories vary over place and time, some threads seem fairly consistent in the generally accepted view of the ghostly world. For example, not everyone is destined to turn into a ghost. Ghosts may be those who have died a violent and untimely death, those who have suffered great hardship, or those with unfinished business, such as a quest for revenge. These factors are often portrayed as holding the ghost back from their journey away from the mortal world to whatever awaits them next.
In terms of their manifestation or appearance, the descriptions are less consistent. Some ghosts are the exact image of the person they were, others are only recognisable by their faces. Often just a blur of white light is present. Some are said to be solid, some are translucent, others only noticeable by a breath of warm air or a cold hand. A ghost may not appear at all, but be recognised by eerie sounds or moving objects. Other spirits such as poltergeists are said to cause mischief, ranging from spilt milk or tangled yarn to grave accidents, even death.
One of England's most famous ghosts is the wicked Lady Howard, who in a phantom coach made from human bones - the bones of her four late husbands. The skeleton of a dog runs beside the coach. The story goes that each night the coach comes to Oakhampton Castle in Devonshire and the skeleton dog picks a blade of grass from Oakhampton Park to carry back to Lady Howard's family home. She has to take this journey every night until every blade of grass is picked - that is until the end of the world - as a punishment for murdering her four husbands.
When King Henry VIII wanted to marry another woman, he accused his wife, Anne Boleyn of treachery and had her beheaded. Anne's body is said to haunt the Tower of London where she spent her final hours. She has been seen as a pale figure in a grey dress, who carries her head under her arm.
Ghosts may not only be people. In 16 41 the Flying Dutchman was sailing around the Cape of Good Hope on its way to Holland. Its captain was a man called Henrik Vanderdecken. A huge storm blew up but the captain was so desperate to get home that he cursed God and swore that he would sail until Doomsday rather than stop. For these words against God he was doomed to sail forever until he could find another ship's captain to accept a letter from him which begged for the Lord's forgiveness. This has never happened and it is said that any ship that comes into contact with the Flying Dutchman will suffer a terrible fate.
There are many alleged ghosts residing in places of great suffering. These include prisons, battlegrounds, hospitals and execution chambers. Spectral appearances send shivers down all our spines and we can't help but wonder.
Other Types Of Ghosts From Around the World
The LORELEI (pronounced lorer-lei) is a German ghost who appears as a beautiful woman. She sits on a tall rock the banks of the river Rhine and sing a song so enchanting that sailors who hear it lose all sense of direction and steer their boats onto the rocks.
The BAKA is a Haitai ghoul - the body-eating ghost of someone who joined a secret society when they were alive, which taught them the way of the baka.
The DUPPY is a West Indian ghost who will appear if coins and a glass of rum are thrown on its grave. Duppies are pure evil. If they breathe on someone that person will become very sick, and anyone touched by a duppy will have a fit. If they don't get back to the grave by dawn they can no longer do anyone any harm.
The Indian MUMIAI (pronounced moo-mee-eye) is like a poltergeist, a ghost who throws things around and attacks people. They especially like to make trouble for people who are lazy or criminal.
The Canadian WENDIGO is a ghost who is half-animal, half-human who lives in forests and eats people, especially children. Wendigos are said to have made a deal with evil spirits who also lurk in the forest and help them to kill their victims.
The Japanese UMI BOZU is a huge sea ghost who haunts Japanese sailors. It is bald and has enormous, terrifying eyes.
On the other hand, the SHOJO, also a Japanese sea ghost is harmless. Shojo have bright red hair and love drinking and parties. In fact they can be lured from their usual pastime of dancing on waves by offering them sake (strong rice wine.)
The BUGABOO is an Indian ghost or spirit, which is said to be friendly, guarding its village against evil spirits.
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