Ghosts are usually people who have died, but their spirits are still lingering around. Some are friendly, some are neutral, and some are wrathful. It all depends on what kind of story is being told.
Avenge me! The ghost was killed through foul play, knows it, and wants the murder avenged. Sometimes, this also comes with a Clear My Name sidebar. This one can also lead to ghosts becoming violent and angry if not avenged. They may explicitly say that they cannot rest easy in the graves until they are avenged.
Unfinished Business: something that was significant or important to the person they used to be when alive remains undone. The ghost hangs around until this is done, and may or may not move on afterward.
The ghost hasn't yet figured out they're dead, or are so attached to what they did in life they are still doing it out of habit and/or affection. This can lead to a Tomato in the Mirror shock, an Obi-Wan or a Spirit Advisor.
They're aware they're dead and angry at the living for still living.
The ghost suffered so in life that the spirit was drawn to the place where the worst torment took place.
They can move on any time they want; they just don't want to because they're having too much fun.
There's also the odd rare case of a ghost that was never a living human being. It may be an animal. It may just be some odd spooky apparition. Or it may be some sort of... thing pretending to be a ghost to suit its purposes.
Intangibility or Phasing: Default state of ghosts tends to be intangible. They can, with an effort of will, become tangible, but they usually cannot pass on that intangibility to anything they were holding. Typically, if they pass through solid matter while holding something, the solid matter remains behind after the ghost has passed through.
Invisibility: Ghosts can usually, but not always, decide whether or not to be visible.
For example; ghosts in Ghost Whisperer are always invisible to humans who don't have the gift required to see them.
Materializing: Ghosts can usually create a body/illusion of themselves as they were when alive. However posing as a human will usually result in slight flaws in their facade, like lacking a pulse or cold skin.
Demonic Possession: Some ghosts can take over the body of a living person and operate it like a puppet. For some ghosts, this is the next best thing to being alive again. For others, it's simply an expedient because they can't experience what their host is experiencing.
Dreamwalking: some ghosts can inject themselves into a living person's dreams. Usually this person is someone psi-gifted, though.
Weather Manipulation: Some ghosts can create rain, thunder, lightning, high winds, even sleet or snow. In The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Mrs. Muir reveals that the Ghost can never fool her about his emotional state because the weather barometer always reveals his genuine mood.
Some ghosts are only able to show up between sundown and sunrise.
Jacob Marley Apparel - the ghost is confined to appearing in what s/he wore at the time of death (sometimes in the condition it was in at the time of death)
Wounds - Ghosts who died in particularly violent fashion end up carrying their wounds with them into eternity.
Some ghosts are unable to enter churches.
Most ghosts are restricted to haunting a specific house or object. If you can leave the premises you're usually safe. Destroying said house or object will usually remove the ghosts' anchor to the material world and force it to move on. Except when that just frees it to haunt wherever it wants.
Interaction With The Living
Avenge Me! Ghosts can often appear to their closest friends or family. Like, you know, Hamlet.
Attention-seeking. A lot of paranormal investigators who subscribe to the view that ghosts are spirits believe that this is the major reason for most hauntings.
Needless to say that as ghosts are the dead, and resolving their issues often reveals details about their death: SPOILER WARNING. Please proceed at your own risk!
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Anime and Manga
In one of the few InuYasha stories to take place in the present day, Kagome encounters the spirit of a little girl who died in a fire and is angry at her mother for not rescuing her. The girl haunts her mother and little brother until Kagome manages to redeem her with The Power of Love.
Bisco Hatori's manga Millennium Snow included a side story about a girl who, after a suicide attempt, is possessed by the ghost of her unborn twin brother.
An episode of Mahoromatic features Red Haired Ando, a girl's ghost rumoured to haunt the local high school. Her hair is red because of the blood, as she died in an accident.
A few variants, usually bought to light by Tomato Surprise, appear in Revolutionary Girl Utena. In the series proper is Souji Mikage, who in reality was Professor Nemuro. He died years and years ago from a fire that he set off after seeing the woman he loved cheat on him and her younger brother, who he held affection for, die. Akio finds his "ghost", so to speak, and gives him False Memories in order to manipulate him to fight Utena, and his sister Anthy disguises herself as Mamiya in order to prod him forward. This sets off the Black Rose Arc. By the end, Mikage realizes that he was manipulated and passes on, and is eventually forgotten. Needless to say, the poor guy could've used some therapy...
In the mind-warped movie adaptation, Touga is actually dead, but appears normally until about two-thirds through. It turns out that in this version, he died from drowning. He also loved Utena in the past (and was a more sympathetic character in general in that version). Why he's there beforehand is never explained. In the television series and the original manga, he's alive.
In addition, there is the Sega Saturn game's antagonist, Chigusa. She was the spurned lover of the player character's father because he found her to be cruel, and he settled for the more demure woman who would become the player's mother instead. She loses it and grows a rather interesting philosophy about women, in that there are only two types: Snow White, the princess, and the evil queen. One of the endings reveals that Souji and Mamiya, under Akio's influence, had created her (the game is set between the first and second arcs, so it serves as something of a preview to the latter). Destroying a tablet exorcises her.
Sayo Aisaka of Mahou Sensei Negima!. Tied to her seat for more than sixty years due to reasons still undisclosed. Can't leave the school grounds until Asakura got a special doll for her to possess. Is absolutely terrible at being a ghost, getting scared of the slightest noise and managing to trip on her feet despite lacking feet. Also recently gained a robot body with lasers and stuff, comparing herself to Chachamaru before flying off to blow up Negi. The original plan was to make a pactio. She's very different.
In Hikaru no Go, a ghost (Fujiwara-no-Sai) is one of the main characters. He possessednote More like Sharing a Body; he can only be seen and heard by Hikaru yet he can't control him. or at least he never done so. Hikaru, the protagonist, and became his Mentor. The story puts a great focus in his conflict of not having a body or an actual life on his own (the life is Hikaru's after all) and his fear of disappearing.
Spirits and corpses in Shikabane Hime are animated through regrets they had when alive, such as a mother who died giving birth and is hanging around to take care of her child, except as a giant hideous monster. A few more powerful shikabane result from people embracing their true natures and in doing so discard their humanity.
Oshizu of To Love-Ru is haunting an abandoned school building for some reason. At least until she gets an artificial body to move around it. When stressed, she'll often leave her artificial body by accident...and cause some chaos with her telekinesis.
In Bleach all the major characters and antagonists are fundamentally ghosts, or are humans with ghost related, derived, exterminating powers. Ghosts themselves come in three flavours: 'pluses' — your regular unquiet spirits, 'hollows' — pluses who lingered in the mortal world too long and became monsters, and shinigami, who have been granted tremendous supernatural powers to police the afterlife.
Nahashi and Lilith's ghosts in Venus Versus Virus episode 12 get summoned by Laura, and restrain Lucif from attacking the girls. See types 2 & 7.
In Ghost in the Shell, the "ghost" is the essential factor that can only be possessed by a truly sapient being. It can be housed in artificial hardware by replacement of organics with cybernetics (the Ship of Theseus model), though the main character worries about the certainty of her ghost's integrity. Direct copying not only produces an inferior knockoff, it kills the original.
Despite being wrongfully imprisoned when she was alive, the Cute Ghost Girl in Keroro Gunsou is not out for revenge or anything like that, she just wants to be noticed. She does have some poltergeist-like powers, like stealing and eating slices of cake right in front of a person. The crumbs somehow stick to her ghostly face. Unfortunately, due to everyone being sidetracked by the Keronians, the ghost girl was quickly forgotten until in one episode she decides she's had enough of being ignored and spirits Natsumi and Keroro away. And it turns out she didn't even die in prison; she stuck around after her death because she wanted to see the "kappa" (hinted to be a previous visiting Keronian) she'd befriended when she was alive.
In concept and execution, the ghosts from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt are closer to the Heartless rather than any of the several types of spectral beings listed in this trope. To elaborate: they are unholy abominations created by the sorrow and suffering of people (The ghost shitbeast from "Excretion Without Honor and Humanity" being the spirit of a plumber that was killed by the stench of a clogged toilet) or even objects (the Panty Thief ghost from "High School Nudical" being the grudge of discarded underwear) that perished and got lost/trapped in the limbo.
One of the weirder episodes (which is saying something) of Paranoia Agent revolves around three people trying to kill themselves. At its conclusion, they realize that they succeeded early on and didn't notice. The implication is that ghosts in the Paranoia Agent universe don't know they're dead. The only visual sign of their death is that ghosts don't have shadows (as made clear when a man tries to kill himself by jumping in front of a subway train; he staggers away, bitching about his failure, but he has no shadow - and really, you can't survive that). There's an odd moment after The Reveal when the ghosts, happy to have died, stop in the background of a schoolgirl's picture-taking; when the girls look at their photo, they scream in terror. We don't see the picture, so it's not clear what happened (though it's possible only we see the ghosts as they were in life, and the girls saw their corpses).
In Cardcaptor Sakura, Nadeshiko (the protagonist's mother) died at age 27 from an unknown illness. She was very attached to her family, so she often makes appearances to check up on them. She eventually stops doing that, particularly after Touya gives up his clairvoyant ability to save his boyfriend. She is notably very different in that she appears more like an angel than a ghost.
Also, from the first movie to that series, we have "Madoushi", Clow Reed's ex-girlfriend (and former student) who has been waiting for centuries for him to free her from an interdimensional prison he made for her after she started practicing dark magic. Sakura helps her move on, even facing her fear of ghosts... and this particular one's wrath.
Ai Kora had a chapter involving a Cute Ghost Girl who was being haunted by a horde of other, male ghosts who had fallen madly in lust with her and who wouldn't pass on until she did a sexy dance for them(with some encouragement from Hachibei and Shibusawa). She showed up in a later chapter having possessed Shibusawa's mentor Aburazaka, where it turned out she was actually the spirit of a girl who was still alive, but in a coma.
In Undertaker Riddle, ghosts are mostly harmless, can be seeing by certain persons and stay because of lingering attachments but also they can turn into evil spirits who hunt down other people's souls to eat.
Kana is the ghost of a girl who killed herself but doesn't remember why. She is stuck, alone, in the apartment complex in which she committed suicide for years until Daikichi shows up. This happens and that happens and in the end, it doesn't really matter to either of them if she's a ghost as long as she and Daikichi can be together.
Many Child Ballads have ghosts coming back to drive their killers crazy ("The Cruel Mother", Child #20), or just to say goodbye ("Sweet William's Ghost", Child #77; "The Wife of Usher's Well", Child #79).
In some variants of The Famous Flower of Serving Men, the heroine's love appears to the king as a bird to explain how he was murdered and the heroine had to disguise herself as a man and go to work for the king.
In "The Unquiet Grave", the dead love begins to speak after A Year and a Day to complain that the lover's laments will not let her rest.
Phantom Girl/Apparition is a subversion. It's just a codename; she's from an alien world where everybody can phase.
Except for the period during the post-Zero Hour run of the Legion of Super-Heroes during which Apparition really was a ghost, having been killed by a member of the White Triangle, and was intangible all the time. She got better.
Johann Kraus from B.P.R.D. is a ghost that's technically still alive.
Ye Olde Tyme Golden Age Comics had Sgt. Spook, the ghost of a police officer who was able to interact with his medium - an orphan boy, of course - and solve crimes. These crimes varied from bank robbers and gangsters to supernatural romps.
The comic book mini-series Brody's Ghost, naturally enough, has several types of ghosts.
Regular ghosts, like title character Talia, are invisible and intangible, but can interact with the world in one specific way that’s different for every ghost. Talia, for example, can break glass with her mind.
Site specters, are the same as regular ghosts, except that they attach themselves to specific locations.
Demighosts, which are ghosts controlled by other ghosts, and who can actually touch things.
One tale by The Brothers Grimm featured a ghost of a little girl. Someone finally realized she looked like she was trying to pull up a board in the floor. They looked, and found a coin her mother had given her to give to a beggar, but which she had kept for herself. They gave it to the next beggar and she stopped walking.
A common trope in fairy tales is the hero having paid off a dead man's debts so he could be buried, he acquires a companion who aids him. In the end, the companion tells him that he was the dead man. This is known as the "grateful dead man." (Yes, BTW.)
The Anatomy Of A Fall has ghost!Frank interact with living characters with varying degrees of difficulty.
The Price Of Magic takes place after Harry's death, and stars him in a romance with Snape.
Ghost, Ghost, I Know You Live Within Me has Ghost!Shepard who can move things around but it exhausts her even just for a few minutes. On her own, she never feels tired or hungry. If she goes too far with her actions, she will disappear for days. Meanwhile, Garrus is the only one who can interact with her, though he can't really change her body's state for a long period. (ex: can make love to her but can't give her any marks since her skin won't change)
Films — Animated
Monster House is a case of an angry and vengeful spirit who hates children in particular, possessing her own house after her reactions to prankster children caused her accidental death.
Containment - a clockpunk house made almost entirely of shatterproof, soundproof glass, the walls of which were covered in spells. This keept the ghosts from moving through them, logically granting said ghosts intangibility.
Wounds - many of the ghosts died horribly, and it shows.
The comedy Topper features a husband and wife, killed in a car crash, who figure out that they need to do a good deed to get into heaven. They can appear and disappear at will and can interact with their environment even when they're invisible, causing much hilarity.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. In both the series and the film, it is stated that Captain Gregg the Ghost remained more out of stubbornness than anything else: he had intended to renovate the house, and he was not about to let his unplanned death interfere with what he had decreed would occur! As film/series continues, he realizes how foolish it has been for him to haunt the house over petty mulishness, but by then, he had fallen in love with the widow Mrs. Muir.
Ghostbusters and its related media have hit just about every example on the list, although their ghosts have less limitations than others, like when Stay Puft steps on the church in the first film. They even tackled the odd demon here and there, up to and including Cthulhu.
The expanded universe details the nature of ghosts in much greater depth. Ghosts are classified by nature and power level but to make things confusing the "Class" terminology is used for both. In terms of classification - Class 1 is incomplete manifestations like sounds or lights, Class 2 are partial manifestations like hands or heads, Class 3 are complete humanoid manifestations - but are spirits representing ideas like Christmas or greed rather than deceased humans, Class 4 are full-fledged apparitions and the only class that can be determined a traditional ghost of a deceased human, Class 5 (like Slimer) are non-humanoid extradimensional spirits representing emotions or emotionally-charged events (like Gluttony in Slimer's case), Class 6 are the ghosts of animals, and Class 7 are demons and gods. In Power Levels, they're ranked from Class 1 (able to cause minor lights and move small objects) to Class 11 (essentially a god).
Ghost, with Sam Wheat being the ghost in question:
Ghosts whose ability to haunt varies in effectiveness
The exact nature of Betelgeuse is left undiscussed; he says he's a ghost, but there's nothing mentioned of who he was in life. Meanwhile, the star Betelgeuse is home of some of Lovecraft's creations and in [[this http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Betelguese,_a_trip_through_hell]] poem by Jean Louis is described as being a hellish dimension of corruption and chaos.
Unfinished business one was a serial killer who'd come back to keep killing because his ashes had not been scattered over holy ground... and he'd left his girlfriend behind, who was just as nuts as he was
Jacob Marley Apparel - Frank's two friends were stuck in the outfits they'd been wearing in death until they went to heaven, at which point they got wardrobe updates.
A ghost who'd been in the military in life had spectral, ectoplasmic machine guns that could deal damage to other ghosts.
A ghost who was masquerading as The Grim Reaper had a scythe that could deal damage equally to humans or other ghosts. And when this ghost was defeated, its victims turned out to be very polite, laid-back Avenge Me! types.
Poltergeist had a group of ghosts who were of the "angry at the living" type. Adding insult to injury, their graves had been desecrated.
These ghosts were adept with the haunting.
They turned an already-creepy clown doll into an extremely creepy one. They also used trees and ectoplasmic tentacles.
They also had the power of illusion to make the hallway to Carol-Ann's room seem five times longer than it really was.
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is a significant subversion. The comedy featured Bill and Ted dying, coming back as ghosts, and then getting exorcised and sent to hell when they tried to communicate about their predicament. At which point they challenged The Grim Reaper to games for their souls, and went to petition Heaven for assistance against the bad guy before returning to earth alive and well.
Scoop had a recently deceased legendary reporter interview a recently deceased secretary who thinks she was poisoned because she found out information that could lead to a notorious serial killer. The reporter escapes back to the land of the living a few times to reveal hints, clues, or whacks with a guilt club to the school newspaper reporter he randomly appeared to the first time appeared.
The '90s horror flick Idle Hands has examples of Jacob Marley Apparel and possession. After the protagonist's best friends are murdered by his hand they decide not to go to heaven and possess their own dead bodies. The bodies function normally despite the fact that one has a beer bottle in his head and the other was decapitated. They can interact normally with everyone else too. Once they duct tape the head back on they can even go out in public. So I guess they aren't really ghost even though they are dead. You know what, never mind.
Repo! The Genetic Opera has Dead Marni. She died of a rare blood disease shortly after her daughter was born, and apparently hung around. She mostly appears to Nathan to guilt trip him.
She's also once helped along in the apparition department by Blind Mag in 'Chase The Morning.'
She's a hologram. A ethereal lookin' one, but still...
The ghost in The Devil's Backbone is caught in an existential loop, doomed to repeat his death until he can get revenge. The heroes help him out (and vice versa), but he actually kills the bad guy personally.
The ghosts in Ghost Town reverse the traditional Unfinished Business idea - it is the inability of the living to let their loved ones go that keeps the ghosts around.
Ben Willis/The Fisherman in I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer appears to be the Resounding Psychic Echo type. He's actually lacking in a lot of powers associated with ghosts (apparently only able to appear and vanish at will) and can be physically harmed (even bleeding, though it's evident the only thing that actually hurts and doesn't just annoy him is his original hook).
Sadako Yamamura seeks vengeance upon all of mankind. Her manifestation is originally psychically anchored to the well where she died, whereupon it projects abstract thoughts and images that can be conveniently recorded by electronic equipment. Anyone who experiences this is cursed to die in seven days, and experiences both psychic projections as well as prophetic dreams (whether they're awake or asleep.) Her appearance is similar to the clothes she died in (a white dress.)
Samara Morgan, in addition to Sadako's attributes above, also has full control of her psychic abilities —telekinesis, psychography, possession of electronic equipment— and can also possess people. Not only does her appearance resemble her condition upon death, but her final manifestation displays the decay and rot of her corpse inside the well. Not a pretty sight.
Dave Bowman in 2010: The Year We Make Contact was kinda-sorta a ghost of the "resounding psychic echo" variety. He even says at one point "I was Dave Bowman."
Although What Dreams May Come is primarily about the afterlife, its protagonist does hang around in the living world as an invisible, intangible ghost for a bit, unwilling to bear leaving his home or wife. When he tries to touch her, she's immediately overwhelmed by her grief and wails miserably, which convinces him he should move on and spare her from the pain of his unseen, unreachable presence.
Lake Mungo: Alice's ghost is pretty standard with the exception that she saw her own ghost before she died.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in the 2004 musical film of A Christmas Carol is different from most depictions, rather than a Grim Reaper-like figure, it is a woman shrouded in shredded bedsheets who somewhat resembles a banshee.
In the French film The Day of the Crows, ghosts do not possess their original faces but rather realistic looking animal faces instead.
Captain Elliot Spencer's wayward soul in Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, who is stuck in some sort of limbo before the afterlife, and represents Pinhead's noble human side before he became a Cenobite. He contacts Joey to inform her about his past and Pinhead Unbound's creation, and how to defeat him by bringing him back to Spencer's realm.
The ghosts in Ghost Ship are the trapped souls of dead people on a Ghost Ship. They're intangible and can project (false) visions to living people. They're not all malevolent, as their morality is largely informed by their personalities in life. Some actually try to help the living, while others try to kill them because they've been marked by one of Hell's accountants.
The ghosts in The Dresden Files are deadly haunts, and some cannot enter holy ground. They are also residual psychic echoes, except a very select few that can maintain their souls, mainly via interventions of major beings or via necromancy.
Some also displayed the wounds that killed them.
Ghosts in the The Dresden Files are described as fossils, imprints of a personality. The more emotionally charged the death, the stronger the ghost. For example, graveyards in the books are always filled with ghosts, but most of them are so weak that they are imperceptible to normal people. While if someone commits suicide, or dies while emotionally distressed their ghosts can take on physical forms and even heavily effect the material world. Ghosts don't disappear unless killed by magical means or the reason they are created (normally unfinished business) is fulfilled.
It is possible for a ghost to be created even if someone's death is very brief, i.e., they were revived via CPR after suffering a bout of clinical death. Also, powerful individuals like wizards can leave very powerful ghosts behind when they die. In Grave Peril, Harry takes advantage of this by passing unconscious so a ghost can kill him in his sleep, only to be revived by CPR, and thus creates a ghost of himself that he teams up with to beat the crap out of the hostile ghost that killed him. The ghost Harry disappears once this is accomplished, as the purpose that caused him to linger as a ghost has now been fulfilled.
And in Ghost Story, Harry gets to know just how different these ghosts are, since he's now one himself, a la Type One, Avenge Me style. At the end he discovers that his body is still clinically alive, having been kept on magical life support by Mab and Demonreach, enabling him to return to life and explaining why he was able to run around Chicago as a genuine disembodied soul rather than the "psychic imprint" type of ghost previously described.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts is a rare Haunted Castle where the ghosts are generally nice and have little impact on the actual plot. They're all in the same shape they were when they died - the Bloody Baron is still Chained by Fashion and Nearly-Headless Nick's head will forever hang by that one sinew. After Sirius dies, Harry asks Nick why more people don't choose to be ghosts. Nick, who's used to recently-bereaved students asking him stuff like this, explains that the only people who actually become ghosts are those too afraid of death to cross over, and that being a ghost is a pretty sorry state, all in all.
Professor Binns, the teacher for magical history classes just kept coming to work even after he died. The only difference with his past life seems to be that he can now take a shortcut through the chalkboard. On the positive side, he works cheap. On the negative, he's in contention with Sybil Trelawney for the title of second-worst instructor in the school.
The Resurrection Stone can actually call back the spirit of a person (albeit they are NOT brought back to life, their spirit has just been temporarily called), but not Priori Incantatem, which only conjures an "echo". This is likewise described as a miserable experience for both parties.
Moaning Myrtle haunts a girls' toilet because she had been hiding there from her tormentor, classmate Olive Hornby, when she died. Initially after her death Myrtle followed Olive everywhere until the Ministry of Magic forced her to stop, at which point she returned to the toilet and stayed there.
Peeves the Poltergeist is most likely the last type of ghost; it's suggested that he's simply a spirit of chaos who never was a living being, and just showed up when the castle was built. Unlike the "regular" ghosts, he can interact with the physical world (mainly by playing pranks on them).
The Sonja Blue series by Nancy A. Collins had a mad architect design a house he called Ghost Trap, and it did just that — trap and confuse ghosts inside its bizarrely designed walls. (Collins probably based this on the real life Winchester Mystery House, designed to do exactly that.)
The title character of the 1965 young-adult book The Ghost of Dibble Hollow by May Nickerson Wallace had unfinished business holding him to the earth, and very strict conditions controlling who could see (and thus help) him.
King Verence I and the other ghosts in the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters cannot rest until they've been avenged(which, given the castle is crowded with ghosts, including the first king, must almost never happen), can only be seen by close relatives, psychics and cats, and, officially, cannot leave the castle (although if a bit of the castle, such as a single stone, is moved they can go with it). Jacob Marley Apparel also applies; Verence is wearing his crown, and at one point, when trying to decide if his son is wearing the real crown, takes off the ghostly version to compare them.
Note that ghosts' Psychic Powers seem quite limited in this setting, as it took every bit of fortitude Verence I had, merely to sprinkle unpalatable amounts of salt on his killer's food.
One-Man-Bucket from Reaper Man admits that he remained around as a ghost because he can't set aside his craving for alcohol. He plays the role of "spirit guide" at Mrs. Cake's seances; because she's a medium, his voice can be heard by anyone who is in her presence.
Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency features a character who's learning what it's like to be a newly restless spirit. He's definitely in the Unfinished Business camp; luckily his business consists merely of finishing the long-winded voice messages he was in the middle of when he was so shockingly, unexpectedly shot.
Although the main point of finishing his message was to warn his sister.
Forgotten Realms in addition to usual xDnD's cloud of incorporeal undead has its own phantom people. Watchghosts, watchnorns, spectral harpists. Few are even more unusual, like ancient archwizard Mharrander Dorolkh ("Ander" for friends) who got some disembodied sort of "immortality": he has a low opinion of liches "shuffling about as crumbling, putrefying wreckage until they collapse altogether" (Elminster: The Making of a Mage).
Peter S. Beagle's A Fine And Private Place revolves about a romance between two recent ghosts.
Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book features a young boy who lives in a cemetery that is inhabited by ghosts and ghost-like creatures, and they accept him as one of their own. The villain is actually another human.
In the medieval Chivalric RomanceSir Amadas, Sir Amadas pays a dead man's debts so that he can be buried. A White Knight appears to help him. After Sir Amadas has married a princess, the knight reveals that he is the ghost of the dead man.
E.W. Hildick's Ghost Squad books followed a group of ghosts who band together for company. They Fight Crime with the help of living friends who they communicate with via a homebrew word processor. Here, the ghosts are invisible but not intangible, stuck with Jacob Marley apparel, and can only exert a very small amount of physical force at the cost of great effort. A human being touching a ghost feels a slight chill while the ghost feels a cold and sharp pain. Ghosts themselves can interact physically with each other. While lacking psychic abilities, the ghosts are very good at reading facial and body language on account of lacking things like breathing to distract them. Lastly, the ghosts are prone to falling asleep for days at a time, especially after exerting the energy to physically manipulate things.
Ghosts in The Hollows seem to be of the 'unfinished business' variety. The ghost Pierce's unfinished business was bringing a vampire pedophile to justice though being buried in blasphemed soil likely didn't help. Later Pierce's 'unfinished business' turns out to be an attraction to RachelWhite Magic can be used to summon a ghost and give it solid form for one night though they arrive Naked on Arrival. Black Magic can be used to anchor a ghost into a recently dead body permanently.
The title character of Odd Thomas can see the spirits of the lingering dead, who look much as they did in real life, save that some may manifest the wounds of their deaths. They are unable to speak, but they can touch him (and seem to be able to see in complete darkness). Most of the time, they cannot harm the living, but if sufficiently angered, they can cause poltergeist activities that can hurt the living via shrapnel and flying objects.
In one Goosebumps book that had a girl suspect that her new neighbours were ghosts only to find out that that she was actually the ghost, having died when her house burnt down. She proceeds to save her neighbour girl from ending the same way she did.
"You don't care for Ghosts, then," I ventured to suggest, unless they are really terrifying?" "Quite so," the lady assented. "The regular Railway-Ghosts—I mean the Ghosts of ordinary Railway-literature—are very poor affairs. I feel inclined to say, with Alexander Selkirk, 'Their tameness is shocking to me'! And they never do any Midnight Murders. They couldn't 'welter in gore,' to save their lives!" "'Weltering in gore' is a very expressive phrase, certainly. Can it be done in any fluid, I wonder?" "I think not," the lady readily replied—quite as if she had thought it out, long ago. "It has to be something thick. For instance, you might welter in bread-sauce. That, being white, would be more suitable for a Ghost, supposing it wished to welter!"
Central to his poem "Phantasmagoria".
In the Night Huntress series, sentient ghosts are rare and are created when a person felt an usually strong emotion at their time of death. They can only be seen by the undead. They cannot possess humans but they can experience sensations such as drinking alcohol by passing through the human's body.
Why have you come back from the gray lands of death to terrify me? I was always your true liegeman in your lifetime—
In "The Phoenix on the Sword", Conan is surprised at the Dead Person Conversation because although tales tell that his ghosts helps the country, he's a foreigner.
In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", the Snakeman control the ghost of a long dead king.
"Yes, I remember the tale now. Gods, Kull! that is another sign of the frightful and foul power of the snake priests—that king was slain by snake-people and thus his soul became their slave, to do their bidding throughout eternity! For the sages have ever maintained that if a man is slain by a snake-man his ghost becomes their slave."
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, Mephisto's Familiar was hit by a car. He still, however, can summon it, and it looks like there ought to be a cat there, but there isn't one.
In The Pale King, Post 047 is haunted by two ghosts: Garrity and Blumquist. The former is extremely chatty and distracting, and the latter is silent but companionable.
In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, Lucian hears Matthew Kellogg speak to him after his death, and later, when the horse refuses to go down any path but one, sees him wink before he fades away.
In Magic For Beginners, a collection of short stories by Kelly Link, there is a story called "The Great Divorce" wherein the existence of ghosts is common knowledge. Living people and ghosts can marry and are even able to have children together (the offspring of the coupling are usually born dead). Predictably, marrying a ghost is not without its complications. The story is probably one big metaphor, but the events and descriptions are played straight enough.
Life, like red hair and blue eyes, is a recessive gene.
Ghosts in The Parasol Protectorate appear when an individual with excess soul dies instead of being converted into a vampire or werewolf, and are formally addressed as “Formerly (Insert Name Here)”. Ghosts in this universe are tied to their physical remains; the more their body decomposes, the further they can roam from it. Unfortunately, their ethereal bodies and sanity erode with it until they reach the wailing, incoherent “Poltergeist” state and drift around as spectral, disembodied parts. The only way to exorcise a ghost is for a Preternatural to touch its remains.
Galaxy of Fear features a Jedi ghost in one book, who could move on but feels like too great a failure, and he's Invisible to Normals. A later book has the wraiths of Kiva, who can be seen by anyone and can tear at them, but are vulnerable to ion weapons. This is because of how they were killed.
In Blackwood Farm the main character, Quinn is haunted by and symbiotically bound to Goblin, the spirit of his twin brother, who died not long after he was born. At first Goblin is a best friend to Quinn, but after Quinn becomes a vampire Goblin does as well, and constantly attacks him.
In Tim Powers' Expiration Date, ghosts are lingering echoes of the dead person's personality, without real sentience or drive. They sometimes coalesce into tangible figures that wander the streets, babbling nonsense and eating rocks for subsistence (it is implied that this phenomenon accounts for a good deal of the homeless people in Los Angeles). Non-tangible ghosts can be captured and bottled, and are bought and sold like drugs by people who are addicted to the power that comes from ingesting them.
The Priest The Scientist And The Meteor has... Dinosaur ghosts. Who have siezed control of a meteor. And are planning on crashing it into Earth. In revenge for humanity not sharing its ice cream with them. Yeah...
In Pact, a ghost is explicitly not a soul, but rather an impression left upon the world by a traumatic or inspiring event, which then relive that event over and over and force others nearby to do the same. This means that, while the majority of ghosts are created by death, it's possible for a ghost to be created from an experience that left the creator alive.
The ghosts (or Visitors, as they're sometimes called) in Lockwood & Co. run a whole range of ghostly types and goals. Type One ghosts are rather harmless, but the Type Twos have some purpose or objective, and they tend to harm the living. Most importantly, ghosts in this setting (the Type Twos, at least) are capable of killing people just by touch.
In the TV version of Topper it's not really made clear if George and Marion are being forced to try change Cosmo Topper's stodgy ways in order to move on to pay for their own wasted lives, or if they are just doing it for fun and their own concern for the banker. Ether way, Neil's just in it for the booze.
Dead Last was about a band ready to break through until they find the amulet that turns them into a ghost Unfinished Business Resolution Service.
Reaper is about a kid forced to apprehend souls escaped from Hell. As they're escaped from Hell, they're all of the nasty poltergeist sort. They were murderers and vandals in life, and they have powers that reflect what they got sent to hell for.
Marty Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was of the Avenge Me! stripe. He stayed out of his grave for too long and couldn't go heaven for another 100 years (in the Remake he only had to wait until the person he was haunting, his ex PI Partner Jeff Randall, dies). Ghosts can only wear white. The only people who can see him are Jeff (who he's haunting but in a non-malicious way), animals, and occasional psychics and very young kids.
Of course, Ghost Whisperer and Medium are Dueling Shows that involve psychic women helping ghosts finish their business. Medium uses the dream method, while in GW, the ghosts are only visible to the lead (and her coworker's son in later eps).
The show also has the recurring character of Dennis, Cordelia's phantom roommate. He's a surprisingly nice guy, considering his own mother bricked him up in a wall because she didn't like his fiancée.
Wesley was brought back in After the Fall by the Senior Partners. This is doubly ironic, as Wesley is bound to a "standard perpetuity clause" in his contract, the same as Holland Manners and Lilah. Furthermore, he now serves as liaison to the Senior Partners, taking over from Hamilton (whom Angel killed in the series finale).
Ghostwriter was a ghost which could read and arrange letters and phrases to communicate with persons he choose, but couldn't see any images or talk. Just who or what he was before is very ambiguous. He also gains New Powers as the Plot Demands, such as traveling over the Internet or Time Travel with enough concentration, though that one takes enough out of him that he wound up having to take The Slow Path back to the present after repeated trips. What non-word-related aspects of the world he can see can vary with the plot as well.
Beetleborgs had this in the form of Flabber- a phasm who looked like a cross between Jay Leno (host of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno) and Elvis Presley. Flabber's a rather genie-like ghost who lived in a pipe organ until he got freed accidentally by those kids. Plus he's the one that gave them their powers.
On one episode of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno during the Monday headlines segment, a picture of Flabber was sent to Leno, which got laughs from the audience but Leno was more than just not pleased with it.
Filmation's The Ghost Busters dealt with ghosts who took the forms of classic film and literature ghosts (e.g. Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, the Abominable Snowman, etc.) but all had some comical twist.
Subverted on Eureka, when Allison thinks she's seeing a ghost, but really it's a hologram programmed into her logic diamond necklace.
Bones had a full-on TANGIBLE ghost showing up when Booth was trapped on a ship about to explode. Tangible as in, could pick stuff up, could help Booth open doors, Booth physically picked the guy up and carried him... and then the guy disappeared as the helicopter came to rescue him.
Being Human has Annie. She can interact and pick things up like a living human, but her visibility rides up and down the scale with her confidence. She can also teleport.
There's also Gilbert. In the episode he's in, it's explained that when a person becomes a ghost they can only pass on to the afterlife once they've solved whatever problem kept them from passing on in the first place (for Gilbert, it was that he never loved anyone which is solved when he falls for Annie. For Annie, it was her fiance killing her, which is solved when she drives him mad with a secret). Once they are able to move on, a ghost sees a door appear and walks through it. If a ghost is upset enough, they can become a poltergeist and move or break things mentally. Also, all ghosts can't eat or drink, can randomly teleport, and are stuck in whatever clothes they died in ("It's just as well I didn't die in a Star Trek uniform or a giant squirrel costume..."). Ghosts can also hide the living or undead by wrapping them in their clothes, referred to as "swaddling".
They also apparently date other ghost people and force their friends to babysit their ghost babies (who need to be kept the colder the better and can't be hurt if you drop them). It's not clear if ghost babies age but they don't seem to until they pass on. They can also be calmed down by telling them ghost stories.
The US/Canadian remake has Sally. She is intangible all the time and invisible to normal humans. She cannot interact with physical objects, but seems to be able to sit on objects (the production team made special wooden and concrete cushions for her to sit on, but they do not conform to her body). When upset, she disrupts the electronics and pipes around her. While she is initially not able to leave the house she died in, she is later taught how to leave. Objects close to the ghost, such as Sally's engagement ring, will constantly find their way back to the owner. Salt will create a barrier that ghosts cannot cross, and iron will disperse a ghost's energy, causing it to reform in the location in which it died. A ghost passes on to the other side after resolving unfinished business. As with the British version, Sally's door does not appear until she forces her fiancé Danny who killed her to admit to his crimes. However, she has to pass up her door to save Aidan. It is after this event that Sally discovers she can pick up and interact with physical objects. This also appears to be an ability that stronger ghosts exhibit, such as when Danny is able to hold the iron poker that Sally intended to disperse him with. Ghosts can also possess humans, so long as the human is willing (or inebriated), and destroy each other, defined as "shredding".
This is played with in LOST, when Hurley learns of Miles' ability to talk to ghosts. Hurley says that ghosts regularly talk to him and even play chess, but Miles insists that, in his experience, ghosts only represent the last thoughts of dead people and cannot interact with the living.
Ghosts appear regularly on Supernatural. Their appearances are heralded by a Ghostly Chill. They can be repelled with salt and iron. Laying them to rest usually involves destroying their remains with fire, though one was simply persuaded to Go Into the Light. Hostile ghosts tend to be pale with stringy hair. Many attack the living through telekinesis, and some are capable of possession. Benign spirits and those who don't know they are dead can be indistinguishable from the living. Eventually all ghost that haven't ascended to the afterlife end becoming vengeful spirits.
Round the Twist varies from episode to episode. It was based on short stories mostly out of continuity with each other, but Unfinished Business is a common theme - even for a ghost dog and a ghost seagull. The ghosts often seem bound by different rules - some ghosts are mute, whereas others can talk. Then out of the blue there was a (pretty hilarious) episode about a ghost who needed to complete his 'scare test' to get a better site to haunt.
Ghosts appear all over Earth in the season 2 finale of the new series of Doctor Who. Subverted, however, in that they are actually beings from a parallel Earth that haven't quite broken through the barrier between the worlds yet, making their appearance ethereal and roughly humanoid, although specific characteristics are impossible to make out. Of course, this doesn't stop humans from assuming they are literally their dead loved ones returning, even believing they can smell/see certain traits associated with the real person (for example, Rose's mother believes she can smell her father's cigarettes).
In American Horror Story: Murder House the ghosts are confined to the house and its grounds (except on Halloween). They can manifest physically to an extent that they are indistinguishable from the living, which can get really confusing. They can also be invisible but can still affect the physical world.
The Fades has the titular Fades, spirits unable to move on to the afterlife. They're Invisible to Normals and can't generally interact with anything physical, though they aren't intangible and can't fly. They can, however, regain a physical form by eating human flesh.
Dickie Lee's song "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" is about a young man who picks up a girl who needs a ride. When he gets to her destination, the seat beside him is empty, though he never stopped the car. All that remains is her sweater. When he knocks on the door with the sweater to see if she went inside while he wasn't looking, the person who answers is astonished to see the sweater. It belonged to his daughter, who was killed in a car crash at about the spot where the young man picked up the hitcher girl...25 years earlier. The song was inspired by the urban legend of the Vanishing Hitchhiker.
The young man of the song takes Laurie back to her home, leaves, realizes he forgot the sweater he gave her to keep warm with, and goes back for it. The person at the house tells him "She died a year ago today" and that she's buried in the local cemetery. He goes there to look at her grave, and finds the sweater folded up on top of it. So, even truer to the Vanishing Hitchhiker legend.
All made especially effective and actually creepy by the disarming early 60's (made in 1965) music that accompanies this telling. Not surprisingly, Dickie Lee was responsible for about three or so of the songs that Don McLean called 'dirges in the dark' in American Pie—the song, not the movie series.
Possibly a case of Word Salad Title. UltraMantis Black's Power Stable the Spectral Envoy's name would seem to mean "a ghost sent by a government to represent it in dealing with another government," even though there is nothing about the gimmick that would suggest any connection to ghosts or to governments.
The Old World of Darkness games Wraith The Oblivion and Orpheus were both about ghosts, dealing with them in different ways. Wraith focused on spiritual existence and society, while Orpheus dealt more with blurring the lines between life and death.
Changelings killed by cold iron would not reincarnate and could become ghosts.
People and places that kept a ghost attached to the world of the living were called fetters.
Wraiths in the World of Darkness saw said same world as way darker than the living did. Shiny new cars would be dilapidated wrecks. Buildings would be all run down and in disrepair, etc.
Wraith powers are called Arcanoi (plural of Arcanos), and range from telekinesis to limited substantialness to emotion control to possession of objects and people. Orpheus had similar skills, called Shades, but they were more of a direct reflection of the character's personality.
Wraiths bear remnants of how they were killed, known as "Deathmarks."
In the New World of Darkness, ghosts are somewhat less elaborate. Whether or not they are the human soul is deliberately unclear, but magic can bind a person's soul to an anchor and thus make it into a ghost. They have trouble communicating with mortals, and the specifics of their powers (Numina) vary from ghost to ghost. A ghost tied to its Anchors is basically a psychic echo of the actual human, unable to fully comprehend that they're dead and unable to change. Once the ghost is free of its Anchors and descends to the Underworld, however, it regains its sense of self and is able to change.
And then there's Geist The Sin Eaters. The geists of the title are essentially ghosts who've been boiled down to the bare essence of what defined them in death (e.g., a soldier who died at Ypres in a gas attack becomes the Gasping Colonel, a gaunt figure with wheezy breath and a gas mask that appears to be made of tanned human skin). As a result, their human memories are fragmented, to say the least, but they gain access to the power sources of the Underworld and can make bargains to bring the mystically inclined back from the dead... as long as they get to come along as passengers.
Warhammer 40,000 brings rather different sorts of ghosts to the field-all of which are armed to the teeth. Eldar Wraith-constructs are the souls of dead Eldar given material form, and the robotic shells of the Necrons house the souls of the long-dead Necrontyr. Necrons Wraiths in particular drive the point home, being able to phase in and out of existence. Space Marine Dreadnoughts aren't technically dead, they're just the head and vertebrae of a 'mostly dead' Space Marine hero. Although since they are inside a tank sized mini-mech you'll call them dead if they wish to be called so.
Dungeons & Dragons has creatures known as Allips. To quote the book, "An allip is the spectral remains of someone driven to suicide by a madness that afflicted it in life. It craves only revenge and unrelentingly pursues those who tormented it in life and pushed it over the brink."
D&D in its various incarnations has so many different types of undead, corporeal or otherwise, that any attempt to tell them apart merely by sight and behavior is probably quite doomed to failure. Is that figure flitting about in the ruins a ghost? A specter? A wraith? Something notionally else altogether? Usually you won't know until it attacks, and sometimes not even then. Just make sure you bring along a cleric.
The Ghostwalk setting, which never really made it to the big time, ran with yet another kind of ghost. In this version, they were still the spirits of the dead, but instead of being monsters, they were playable - dead adventurers could take levels in the eidolon and eidoloncer classes to keep advancing despite being dead. This lasted until either they were raised, at which point they could swap out the ghost classes for mortal ones, or their ghost levels outweighed their normal ones, at which point they would be subjected to the Calling and they'd disappear into the afterlife. The book actually specifically recommends not including typical D&D ghosts, since they'd only serve to dilute focus.
No surprise that Ravenloft has ghosts by the truckload: about the only variants of this trope that aren't present are the hokey bedsheet-wearer and anything played purely for comedy.
Au contraire - there is, in fact a bedsheet ghost: The Sheet Phantom. Admittedly it was a First Edition critter IIRC (in the Fiend Folio), but there was at least one Third Edition (unofficial) sourcebook that took every 1st ed critter that didn't make the cut and gave third ed stats for it. As well, the original Ravenloft module was in first edition, meaning a GM could insert them as well.
In In Nomine, humans who have either achieved their Destiny or met their Fate in life, and who have some kind of unfinished business, or strong attachment to some particular thing, may instead of ascending to their heavenly reward, or descending to Hell, end up lingering on the corporeal plane, bound to some object, or place that was significant to them. Unfortunately the process requires giving up part of their being, so some ghosts end up as nothing more than will o' wisps, with no sapience, or ability to interact with the world, others end up as poltergeists, non-sapient but able to interact tangibly with the physical world, or apparitions, with intelligence, but not the ability to affect the physical world directly, true ghosts with both intelligence and the ability to interact with the physical world are quite rare, partially because they are the ones most likely to complete their unfinished business or resolve whatever attachment kept them from moving on. Of course, all types of ghost can also simply be banished, with a ritual or by destroying their anchor, or destroyed outright.
Since humans have two souls, only one of which can be reincarnated, they also leave behind a Hungry Ghost, a generally animalistic entity that guards the corpse of the fallen, and can be given to rampage if they don't receive proper Due to the Dead or the body (or its tomb) is desecrated.
Angels In America has two separate cases: the first is Prior Walter's two ancestors (also named Prior Walter), who return to announce the coming of The Angel; the second is Ethel Rosenberg, the spy Roy Cohn put every bit of influence he had into sending to death row thirty-two years ago, who returns to haunt Roy as he slowly dies from AIDS.
Disney Theme Parks offer three different variants. The Haunted Mansion is said to be a retirement home for spirits from all over the world. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, however, states that the ghosts there are trapped within the hotel permanently. Finally, the Phantom Manor contains a malevolent ghost tormenting a bride in old age.
In one of the very few cases of ghosts appearing, Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 2010 will feature TWO houses involving ghosts: Legendary Truth: The Wyandot Estate, which is about ghost hunters purposely trying to gather the spirits murdered in a house in Ohio and getting more than they bargained for, and Psychoscarepy: Echos of Shadybrook, which has you traveling through the Shadybrook Asylum of past horror events 15 years after closing and facing the restless spirits of the patients.
Alone In The Dark 1992 features a ghost woman sitting in front of a fireplace, as well as several ghost dancers in Jacob Marley Apparel in the ballroom. If any of these are disturbed by touching them, they will shapeshift into a swirling multicolored mist which proceeds to chase the player. If it makes contact again, it's a One-Hit Kill to you. Fortunately, they are not intangible, i.e., they can't pass through walls or closed doors.
When a Sim dies in The Sims 2, the method of its death is visible to the player and affects the game.
Drowned Sims turn blue and leave puddles and may leave bubbles in bathtubs.
Electrocuted Sims randomly jitter with electric shock.
Sims who burned to death turn red and occasionally leave piles of ash.
Sims who starved to death will attempt to raid the refrigerator.
Additionally, the ghosts in the Sims are haunters who can scare other Sims badly enough they wet themselves. Or die of fright which produces a pink ghost.
And rather than call a ghostbuster or someone of that nature, simply moving the gravestone can get rid of a Sim Ghost.
They become playable characters in The Sims 3 once you complete a certain opportunity. They control more or less the same as normal sims, though they can walk through walls and other objects, as well as have a creepy sound effect on at all times. They're also immune to most forms of death. By making ambrosia, you can fully restore them to life. They are also capable of having ghost children.
Ghosts are just another type of Pokémon in the Pokémon games. In general, most Ghost-type Pokémon like to play pranks on people and scare them. A key characteristic of most is that they seem to be composed mostly of gases rather than solid flesh. And for that exact reason some people don't think of them as real ghosts in the common sense... They simply have characteristics of ghosts.
The exception to that general rule are Yamask, Cofagrigus, Phantump and Trevenant who are real human ghosts.
Drifloon and Drifblim are also stated to be human and pokemon spirits.
Honedge, Doublade and Aegislash are ancient metal swords possessed by spirits, but are still considered ghost-types.
One of the strangest is Shedinja, a discarded cicada shell that returns to life when its "parent" pokemon evolves.
Cubone's mother in Pokémon Red and Blue is an actual ghost, being a spirit out for revenge until calmed. You can't see its form unless you have a Silph Scope, and even then you can't catch it.
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon obviously has ghosts as well, and these ones seem to be kept harmless by the Dark Moon. When it's broken (probably by King Boo), the Restraining Bolt gets removed and they seemingly attack on sight.
Also the ghost of the Zora Queen, or the very chilling ghosts of the guards of Hyrule castle, who silently and desperately point Link to the Princess.
The very first The Legend of Zelda game featured ghosts called Ghinis haunting the graveyard in the West of Hyrule. Most games since have featured ghosts of some sort, including friendly ghosts and boss fights against ghosts. Also of note: in the first game, Peahats (flowery enemies fluttering around the screen) are described as being the spirits of dead plants.
All spirits seem to linger near their bodies after death in Ghost Trick, but only certain ghosts have special ''ghost tricks' which allow them to move around and affect the world through possessing inanimate objects or living bodies, or swapping similarly shaped items, as well as go back in time four minutes before a recently-deceased person's death. Only people who die near the Temsik meteorite receive ghost trick power, indicating even in that world it's a very unusual thing.
The Metroid series gives us Phantoon, a flying, bulbous, tentacled thing with an eyeball in its mouth. Its powers include invisibility, levitation, intangibility, and attacking with flaming blue balls of plasma. Apparently it gets its nutrition by sucking on the electrical current of the wrecked ship it lives in. Also inhabiting the wrecked ship are coverns, ghost-like entities that look like half a dozen rotting human heads rolled together into a ball.
Then he returns in Other M, where he's also absolutely huge with some sort of dimensional powers.
Pac-Man is a partial subversion. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (or Sue) are ghosts that are deadly unless Pac-Man (or Ms. Pac-Man) eats a power pill.
Them being ghosts may not be true. They're referred to as either "monsters" or "ghost monsters", the "ghost" part being due to an early Fan Nickname. They appear to be alive and made of flesh, instead of being dead and untouchable.
The Unsent in Final Fantasy X, who look and act like alive people do, but due to incompetent 'burial rituals' (usually the dead person's soul is sent to afterlife by summoner) they continue living.
Though some can also be held to the realm of the living if their death was unclean — e.g., they were killed before their time through malice such as Lord Jyscal — or if they have unfinished business with examples including Auron and possibly Maester Mika. I suppose if you think about it, Yu Yevon also counts.
Ultima Underworld II has various kinds of ghosts. Normal ghosts are white, with red haunts and black shades as more powerful variants. A few of the ghosts in the game are still rational and are important characters, though most seem to be mindless.
The titular Phantoms of Phantom Brave unable to interact physically unless confined to an object.
Poltergiests are considered to be separate from the other types of spirits. Instead, they're constructs created by unusual powers. For example, the Prismriver sisters, were created to resemble the sisters of their creator, a girl named Layla. None of the four sisters are alive in the present day, but the poltergeists persist.
Phantoms are the true nature of animal and planet spirits. They can naturally come into existence or can be produced by magic or the deceased. They lack physical bodies and generally have inspecific forms, but are able to convert what they experience into thoughts, producing identity, and can passively influence the emotions of living people. The following are all subtypes of phantoms.
Ghosts are the souls of the dead who don't realize that they are dead, are strong enough to be unwilling to accept their deaths, or have some other significant attachment to the world of the living, and do not go to be judged. Only humans can become ghosts. Normally a white tear-like blob of floating spectral matter, strong ghosts can maintain human-like forms and participate in human-like activities. They possess enough physical composition to be able to manipulate things and just enough to make it hard for them to pass through physical substance freely. They must remain protective of their physical remains as it is their primary weak spot. The most notable ghost in the series is the carefree and whimsical Yuyuko Saigyouji who resides in Hakugyokurou (generally translated as the Netherworld).
Youmu Konpaku is a half-ghost, or half-phantom. She is followed around by her own ghost manifested externally, separate from her living body. In other words, she's literally half dead. It's not clear how this originally happened, but there was at least one other half-ghost before her and it's implied she was born that way.
vengeful spirits are ghosts that had committed sins while they were alive. Certain kinds of youkai can also create vengeful spirits if they steal a human's body before their spirit properly moves on.
The ghosts that appear in System Shock 2 and BioShock are referred to as a psychic echo and are only replaying the event that they act out. Often these events involve the violent death of the individual, such are one ghost reenacting his own suicide.
On the other hand, the "ghosts" in BioShock Infinite are actually quantum superpositions of two versions of the same person from different universes, one living and the other dead. They are aware of their state, but most are paralysed with confusion over which version of themselves they are. Lady Comstock, on the other hand, is angry about her state, and is able to extend the power of the dimensional tear that brought her back to resurrect dead enemies as her henchman.
Fomors in Final Fantasy XI are the restless souls of dead soldiers and adventurers given shape. One region in the game has them aggro depending on if you've defeated more of them or the beastmen that murdered them. Appease them enough, and they won't attack you unless you engage them.
Fatal Frame / Project Zero: The games are all about people being drawn to/trapped in haunted areas, the spirits of the dead are either the original inhabitants who died during a horrible supernatural event, or the spirits of other people who later became trapped and killed by the ghosts there. There is also the Camera Obscura, your only weapon in the games, which seems to steal energy from the ghosts until they can no longer materialise (as opposed to capturing them, since they have a habit of turning up again later).
In King's Quest IV: The Perils Of Rosella, the heroine must lay to rest several ghosts in a haunted house. To achieve this, she must unite them with an object that was dear to them during their lifetimes. For instance, the baby wants its rattle; a weeping woman wants her locket, the miser desires a pouch of money; a soldier is searching for his medal; a little boy wants a toy horse. Oddly enough, all these objects are found in the graves of these individuals, alongside their earthly remains...leading one to wonder why that wasn't enough to set them all at rest, or why the ghosts themselves didn't know where these items were.
Naturally, ghosts play a central role in The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure, where they range in power and malevolence from fleeting translucent figures, to a pesky kid who keeps pushing the elevator buttons, to dangerous roiling black smoke-columns that hound you around the room.
Ghosts in The Elder Scrolls are immune to 'normal' weapons and arrows (they pass though them) but are apparently solid if you try to walk pass them, even able to hit you. They also seem to be related to werewolves in that they can be killed by silver weapons.
Eternal Darkness has several character return from the dead as glowing blue ghosts to continue their struggle against the Darkness.
Ghosts are in Monster Rancher, and to get one, one of your Monsters has to die.
Silent Hill 3 says that ghosts who killed themselves or were killed unexpectedly must re-live the moment of their death over and over because they don't know they're dead, and will try to kill other humans because they've grown mad from it. Needless to say, one tries to kill you.
Also in Silent Hill 4, the ghosts you encounter are all Walter's Victims. They come out of walls leaving blood and goo behind, and just being near them causes Henry to get massive headaches and lose health. They look like mangled versions of their former selves, and in the case of some of them like Jasper◊, exactly how they looked while dying.
City of Heroes: Metronome, the Praetorian counterpart to the Clockwork King is described as a disembodied psychic entity. He has a tendency to inhabit robotic bodies, has the power to control multiple robots simultaneously, and can transfer other beings' souls.
There's also Ghost Widow, one of Big Bad Lord Recluse's lieutenants, the Ghost Ship, the ghosts haunting Thriving Ghost Town Croatoa, the Pirate Ghosts in Fort Hades...it has a lot of ghosts, really.
Also worth a mention: the Ghost of Scrapyard. His character description contains a lampshade:
You really hope every cape who has felt your wrath doesn't pull this poltergeist routine. It'll be a busy decade if they do.
Ghost Master has many types of spirits. Some are formally living people and animals (such as one surfer dude hedgehog), while others are natural entities and even the collective will of hundreds of dead chickens. Interestingly some seem to have been 'born' ghosts. One particularly interesting case is a ghost described as the dream a man was having when he died given form.
Dragon Age: Origins has a few ghosts that appear (along with demons) in places that The Veil (the border between the mortal realm and the The Fade) is thin. They don't seem to have any special powers, and do nothing but harass the party (either by attacking them or just speaking nonsense and then running away faster than you can catch up). Some also speak intelligibly, either replaying scenes from their lives (usually having to do with their deaths) or singing creepy songs.
In Dead Space, numerous people, a significant portion of them Unitologists, have claimed to see 'ghosts' near areas where necromorphs are on the loose. This phenomena is actually caused by the presence of a Marker, which can project the images of dead people- but only dead people- into other peoples' minds in order to manipulate them. The Black Marker did this in Dead Space: Martyr, and in the original Dead Space, the Red Marker did this by creating an image of "Nicole" to keep Isaac on track.
RuneScape, while still having it's fair share of "ghosts are just dead people", has one particular slayer monster called "Aberrant Spectres"; ghosts that smell so bad you need a high slayer skill and a nose-peg to not take fatal damage while fighting them.
F.E.A.R. has a couple very odd ghosts. The main antagonist of the series, Alma, has been dead for nearly 30 years, walks through walls, teleports, and does other things you'd expect of a ghost... yet still seems to have a physical body; her full powers weren't unleashed until her corpse is released from its stasis pod, and at the end of the second game, she gets pregnant. She also is able to conjure hundreds of ghostly beings out of her fractured psyche unconsciously. It seems a trait of extremely powerful psychics in this series to simply not die when they die, and Alma is the single most powerful psychic to ever live...
The Evil Ecto in The Halloween Hack. It looks like a green Palette Swap of the Soul Consuming Flame. They are found in the creepy part of Twoson sewers. They have a creepy yell and can Mind Rape Varik with Brainshock Alpha.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has The Sorrow, a long-dead psychic who haunts an enemy of his old team by forcing him listen to the tortured souls of all the people he's killed on his mission.
The defunct Ghost Cat webcomic.
Ghost Cat could become tangible if it wished... at least solid enough to stick a Post-It note to.
Sluggy Freelance had a problem with ghosts for a while when they lived in Kesandru House.
Mort is a Bed Sheet Ghost who's a Shape Shifter and a Master of Illusion, haunting the Court and trying to scare people simply because it's his job. (When he isn't trying to scare you, he's a pretty nice guy.) He's visible to anyone, and he has implied that ghosts are attracted to Spirit Mediums — or maybe he's just attracted to one Medium in particular. According to Word of Tom, Mort's haunting is not normal for spirits in the afterlife, but something that had to be arranged with the psychopomps, explored in chapters 46 and 47.
Chapter 46 also introduces The Realm of the Dead (ROTD for short), which can be entered through any normal door so long as one knows the password ("I... Am... A ghoooost!"). The appearance of the afterlife depends on the observer, and we only see it through Kat's eyes who sees all of it as cheap Halloween decorations, while Annie and Mort see something much more grotesque and befitting of the afterlife. Even the Scryer (a rolodex), the Vault of Memory (a cabinet with a lone VHS tape), the means to view the memories (a TV with built in VCR), and the guide to the memories (a book full of VHS time codes), and the Records Keeper (a man wearing a monster glove and a black cloak with the tag showing appear mundane to her). It is only in the bonus page that we see things as they truly and frighteningly are, or at least in Annie and Mort's eyes. When Annie goes to ask if Mort can leave his job posting, the head of the ROTD says that it's not really a job, as he takes off his Nosferatu mask to reveal a normal looking human (ghost at least) and reveals the ROTD is only made possible by the Ether as a means for those who have died without entering the Ether being given some purpose in the afterlife, meaning Kat saw it for what it truly was and Annie and Mort were subject to the illusion.
Martin (the boy in the hospital in ch 16) presumably is a more "normal" ghost. He was lingering in this world because he didn't realize he was dead, and because he was scared of The Guides. He seemed to possess powers similar to Mort's, but which operated on a completely subconscious level, and were negated in the presence of a Medium. His coming to grips with his own death allowed him to pass on.
Although it's unclear if he would have been able to remain there if there wasn't a dispute between two Guides about who held jurisdiction.
There is also a Ghost Lady With A Sword ( Jeanne), who attacked Antimony. An etheric arrow split her soul into pieces, and the Ghost is all of Jeanne's rage and despair, forged into a spirit of undirected vengeance. As a result, the Guides don't have any idea who she is, and (revealed by Chapter 46) it's possible she would kill any Guide that tries to take her into the afterlife.
Lee in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is one with a wide variety of Ghostly Goals: he wants to protect someone, he can't rest because he's hanging from his neck in an abandoned theater, he's a bit in denial about being dead, and he's angry at Zombie for getting a second chance at life.
Recent hidden pages suggest that the body protects the spirit from a form of radiation, and the longer a ghost refuses to pass on the more like an Eldritch Abomination they become, also Miranda feeds on despair.
In Crazy Ghosts you get a whole bunch of different ghosts living together in one house, one of which is the personification of death and a another is apparently the prototype for all ghosts
There is also the ghost of a succubus and a the ghost of a Cat Girl
About an hour later from the Troll's perspective, Feferi Peixes gets killed, only to also come back as a ghost. Though, the latter was known well before the former.
This type of ghost is expanded on later. It turns out the Gods of the Furthest Rings formed dream bubbles in their realm which hold all the deceased players of Sburb, those who were died in offshoot timelines and the sleeping consciousness of those who can't dream normally. These ghosts can't leave the bubbles, but can travel through the memories of anyone in the bubbles and influence the actions of the living dreamers in the bubbles.
Weirdly, the game's kernelsprites display more of the properties of traditional ghosts than actual dead people do. All sprites have Fog Feet. Additionally, Nannasprite and Jaspersprite have also been shown flying through walls and leaving a trail of ectoplasm behind, but both were prototyped with the remains of the dead. It's uncertain whether the sprites made from those who were still living at the time can do this or not.
Hollows in Chaos Fighters are materialized souls of dead people and comes in various colors, but they are only having human silhouettes. At higher willpower, they become hullow instead, which are humans made from hollow crystals. At even higher willpower, they become ghoan, which are almost indistinguishable from regular human. In rare cases, they can even made out of material. In Chemical Siege it becomes a plot point when the hollows are made from chemicals, causing environmental damage.
In The Pentagon War, entering a rogue hyper hole removes you from Real Space and sends you into Parallel Space, where time, matter, and possibly even distance have no meaning. Yet, it's possible for your consciousness to persist, and even perceive light that originates in Real Space. Should this happen, you'll be able to instantly move your vantage point to any location in the universe. It's also possible, under the right circumstances, to take control of the arm movements of a Centaurian and use them to type out messages.
In The Monster Girl Encyclopedia, ghosts are spirits fuse with Succubi's demonic energy, so they are all pervert. At first, they can't interact with the world physically and will possess humans. The victim will get his or her mind filled with obscene imaginary from possessing ghost. The ghost will get spirit energy by absorb it from a male host (or during female host's sex act), until it's enough to manifest herself in physical world, then she will engage in sex act directly.
Red vs. Blue may win the Our Ghosts Are Different competition, as it turns out the characters who became ghosts after being killed are actually AIs, and their ghostly apparitions are just freefloating holograms. For the most part, they "possess" robot bodies, so their ghost status doesn't matter much.
Casper the Friendly Ghost is a complicated case. In The Movie, he was a boy who died of an illness, but in the comic books... it would seem that ghosts in the comicverse are one more Enchanted Forest species, not humans who die. The animated shorts do little to clarify, though one does involve a fox that Casper tried and failed to save becoming a ghost.
As for abilities, "Ghostly Powers" in the comics are kept very consistent and what they are is told often: they can fly, become invisible, or become intangible - all under the ghost's control. Occasionally, Casper encounters a "ghostproofed" wall or prison. What is inconsistent is which objects can be turned invisible or intangible along with the ghost: Spooky's hat never becomes invisible with him and has given him away many times, but Pearl's bow has changed with her sometimes and not others.
Lisa Simpson once theorized that Casper was the unquiet soul of Richie Rich, having despaired of the empty pursuit of wealth and taken his own life.
The new cartoon Casper's Scare School has Casper and his uncles back to being ghosts that were never "fleshies".
Sidney Poindexter was bullied in life so much that his spirit haunts a ghostly clone of Casper High circa 1955. Seeing people get bullied turns on his poltergeist rage. He once possessed Danny under the mistaken impression Danny was a bully.
Ghosts in the Danny Phantom'verse are capable of reproduction. Box Lunch is the future child of the Box Ghost and the Lunch Lady.
Possession is called "overshadowing" instead because it's a kids show.
And for some reason, despite at least one common victim stating more than once that he hates being overshadowed, the concept of overshadowing people without their permission for no good reason being an immoral violation not befitting a hero is never, ever touched upon.
The ghost puppy who got Danny in touch with Valerie could morph from cute puppy to vicious hound until Danny resolved his issue — he only wanted his squeaky toy.
Vlad Masters has a hunting lodge. Every animal that appears as a trophy on the wall is a ghost animal under Vlad Plasmius' thrall. He also has ghost vultures.
Youngblood has a ghost sidekick which could morph into an animal of its choice to fit whatever costume Youngblood was using at the time (Parrot for pirate, Horse for Cowboy).
Wulf is a ghost werewolf who speaks broken Esperanto.
Every other ghost is made of ectoplasm and doesn't resemble any living or human being.
Skulker is a weird little ghostly entity who does not appear to have ever been human; he wears a cybernetic suit.
The ghosts who taught Danny to use his freezing power are all appear to be Yeti, or something similar.
There's a ghost who is a plant and who controls them.
There's a metal that harms ghosts or half-ghosts.
Johnny 13 has a ghost motorcycle.
Youngblood has a ghost pirate ship.
Ember's ghost guitar would let her use Mind Control based on what song she was playing.
Skulker has a number of ghost traps, weapons and devices (with the weakness of being hackable by normal earth tech).
Technus could literally be the ghost in the machine (which is not the same as the Ghost in the Machine trope). Danny could as well.
Jack and Maddie Fenton were able to invent and use (with varying degrees of success) devices that protected from ghosts or trapped them. The garage sale episode featured a lot of mundane stuff the family owned getting contaminated with ectoplasm.
Enemy Freakshow has a staff with a gem on it that exerts Mind Control on ghosts. Danny is only partially susceptible.
Overall, it seems that in Danny Phantom there are three main types of ghosts. 1) Ghosts of people/creatures who died, like Poindexter and Cudo. 2) A entity that was never living, but seems to be a unique life-form formed of ecto-plasm, who can create races and even reproduce. (Such as the race of the 'Far Frozen'). 3) A concept or idea that has taken on conscious form. Clockwork is the ghostly form of Time, Vortex the manifestation of bad weather, etc. Half ghosts (Danny and Vlad) seem to be still-living humans with ectoplasm fused to their DNA in a similar vein as Spiderman.
The animated Beetlejuice has most of the same tropes as the movie, but:
The method of death showing up on the ghost has been removed. It's a kids' show.
The Neitherworld, where Beetlejuice dwelled, was full of nonhuman ghostly entities.
Beetlejuice himself was arguably an In-Universe version, since he displayed all kinds of strange powers most other ghosts didn't seem to have.
Transformers has Starscream the ghostly robot. He has a unique reason for his existence: his spark is indestructible and can continue to exist without a body.
In an episode of Futurama, an old house is revealed to be haunted by ghosts because some electric wires crossed under a nearby graveyard. Eventually, it's revealed that they're robot ghosts. Except they're actually just holographic projections of the dead robots, which is completely different,of course.
Hermes does comment that the last ghost died over 200 years ago, to which Bender responds with "the last human ghost."
In the episode "Ghost in the Machines", Bender dies and emerges as a ghost. The Robot Devil explains to him that he's stuck in Limbo — "Your software was exported to the computational cloud. Your disembodied programme is now running on the wireless network shared by all machinery." Bender later discovers that his software can control electronics, and uses this to haunt Fry.
In Dude, That's My Ghost!, the ghost of Billy Joe Cobra can twist his form into all kinds of shapes, and his ectoplasm can have bizarre effects on both living people and inanimate objects. He can also only be seen by someone if they are wearing one of his former possessions.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: In addition of the Ghost Gang, there are more various types of ghosts present. Some look like the old designs of the original four and even turn blue when frightened. Others however look vastly different such as the red four-eyed black jellyfish-like ones, the Japanese thunder god-like Ghosts and the large cyclops-like brutes.
Scooby-Doo. The series has quite a few actual ghosts alongside the fake ones, ranging from one shot gags (like haunted bones or mice or things from the end of certain episodes), to almost demon like Witch's Ghost in one of the animated movies to (as it says on the tin) The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, all of which have unique powers and abilities.