As Lily investigates the missing kids at her school, she encounters corporeal ghosts, a group that pretty much hates everyone but their own. They’re lively and have a flair for drama. They’re my punk kids, my conspiracy theorists, my gang for making mischief. They skirt the line of playful and illegal.
But most ghostly legends and mythologies are tackled individually—a particular being has reason to stick around after death—be it a grudge, a wrong-doing, a broken heart.
That’s what makes them the most fun to play with. They can be anything: the cold that bleeds fear into a room, the knocking in the attack, the flash of eyes in the dark.
Most often, they’re just stuck.
I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the particular cultural mythologies they embody.
Like the vanishing hitchhiker legend in the US, where people traveling encountered a normal passenger who’s left something behind or asks to borrow protection from the cold. Often, the loaned garment is found draped over a local gravestone.
Close to home in Rochester, NY, comes the White Lady, who haunts Durand-Eastman Park. She’s also been noted as the Lady in the Lake, wandering the park and obsessively looking for her daughter’s body, who’d been slain by a boyfriend. The mother, the White Lady, died of heartbreak.
Another version of the White Lady comes as a murder or suicide victim that died before she could share the location of a hidden treasure in the UK. In Germany, the wife of a prince was caught cheating. The lover drowned in a moat, and the prince locked the princess up behind a wall with some food and water. He died in battle, and she died in the manor.
In Brazil, they are the victims of honor killings. Yet, for the Netherlands, she embodies the banshee, abducting babies and women, punishing people who treated them badly.
The White Lady burned in a castle farm on her wedding day in the Schinveldse Bossen forest. And in Malta, a young bride jumped to her death, wearing her gown, the day before the wedding.
The White Lady is such a popular ghost tale that she’s found a home in a slew of pop-culture shows, like Supernatural, and movies such as, The Grudge, and Scary Movie 2, etc.
The Mononoke, from Japan, are vengeful, dead, and live spirits in their classical literature, who possessed individuals and made them suffer, caused disease, and sometimes death. They are often referred to as changed beings.
One of my favorites is the Filipino Aswang, a shapeshifting monster who combines the vampire, the ghoul, and the witch. The creature was meant to frighten the people and discourage mobility in the sixteenth century. The story of dwelling in the outskirts of forests spread quickly between towns.
Another interesting ghost comes from Chinese Buddhism and traditional religion: the hungry ghost. As most become a regular ghost when die then slowly weaken and die a second time, a hungry ghost occurred in unfortunate circumstances or evil deeds. They exist in perpetual emptiness, aching for fulfillment or relief.
All of them suffer for something that happened in life, by their own doing or not, something that cannot be denied any version Lily may come across.
Stay tuned for more mini-ethology lessons from Lily Graves’s world and sign up for an ARC of the first in her series, GIRL WITH THE GLOWING HAIR.
Got a ghost story to share? Tell me about it in the comments below!