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Haunted Fetter

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A subtrope of Host, and sibling to the Haunted House, a Haunted Fetter is an object that sympathetically binds a ghost to the world of the living. Typically, the item had some significance to the deceased in question before (s)he died. However, the item has to have once been owned or been in the presence of the deceased in order to become a fetter, else millions of ghosts would be fettered to a celebrity or a dream house in a foreign country.

Exceptions to the rule are when a necromancer binds a ghost to an item (sometimes called a "Soul Jar"), or an important loved one of the deceased puts specific emotional memories on a specific item that reminds them of the specific ghost.

What a ghost can usually do with a fetter is manipulate whoever touches or uses the item (even to the point of Demonic Possession), manifest through the item, telekinetically move the object, or use similar powers. The item will sometimes even become indestructible until the ghost is removed, as the dead use their powers to repair even the most unfixable damage. However, if the fetter is an actual person (quite rare), then it's more likely that the ghost cannot repair any damage done.

Can overlap with Haunted Technology.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: When someone dies, they become a Plus, a ghost bound to their body by a length of chain coming from their chest called a "Chain of Fate". If the person has regrets about something when they die, the chain will become bound to that thing instead. They are then called Jiibakurei if the chain becomes attached to a place or a Tsukirei if it is to a person. If the Chain of Fate of a ghost is destroyed, they then become a Hollow.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Class 3-A's resident Cute Ghost Girl Sayo Aisaka's only initial fetter is Mahora Academy (she can't travel far outside the school). Later Kazumi Asakura, who has sat next to her for more than two years, serves as a fetter, a bit of a different sort. Finally, she is given a doll to possess, which lets her travel to the magical world as well as providing a physical body to manipulate.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman story Kryptonite Nevermore, the Quarmerrs -incorporeal beings of an alternate dimension- enter Earth across dimensional portals and bind themselves to different items. One of them penetrates the statue of an oriental war-demon and possesses it, causing it to come alive.

    Fan Works 
  • In the backstory of Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger, Darth Nihilus discovered that as he drained the Life Energy from those around him, his body gradually underwent a Cessation of Existence as it faded away into the Force. To keep himself anchored to the mortal realm, Nihilus bound his soul to his mask, which his spirit continued to haunt for several millennia. Anyone who touches the mask ends up possessed by Nihilus's Force ghost.

  • Tanith Lee's Kill The Dead. Ghosts have an item from their previous life that links them to this plane. If the item is damaged or destroyed the ghost is sent to its final destination.
  • The Ghost and the Gogglebox by Duncan Ball. A television is haunted by its previous owner, who got trapped inside after he died watching it.
  • The Discworld novel Sourcery begins with a wizard escaping death by binding his soul to his staff, which he continues to haunt, exerting a baleful influence on the staff's next owner.
    • Invoked in Wyrd Sisters: The ghost of King Verence slips a pebble from the castle into Nanny Ogg's pocket while she's in the castle, allowing him to talk to her (the ghosts are bound to the castle stones). Unfortunately, this also causes the other ghosts to visit, and while Nanny doesn't mind some of them, the monkeyman (the castle was built over his burial mound) and the screaming woman in the chariot need to go.
    • Cribbins stole a set of spring dentures from a man just before killing him in Making Money which are possibly haunted by the previous owner's ghost. Certainly he has great difficulty in keeping the things in his mouth, and finally exercising Laser-Guided Karma at the climax when a spring goes through his brain.
  • In Haunting Christmas Tales short story The Cracked Smile, an attic-stored broken doll, owned by protagonist Ian's late sister, seems to channel an echo of her fatal bus crash.
  • Alex Verus faces off against a mind mage who put his brain in his ultimate weapon to possess anyone who picks it up.
  • In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, discovering where the fetters are is crucial to disposing of ghosts.
  • The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth: The Venebretti necklace acts as this to Madeline Stanhope's ghost in The Venebretti Necklace.
  • In The Girl from the Well, the ghosts of murdered children are bound to their murderer until he dies. Okiku, an unbound ghost, acts as a Serial-Killer Killer in order to free such trapped souls to pass to the afterlife.
  • In Shaman Blues, wraiths have focus objects which they're bound to and which they must follow, although they have quite a leeway in how far they can stray from them.
  • The Locked Tomb: Revenants can theoretically house their souls in anything with enough exposure to their thalergy, i.e. Life Energy, and thanergy, i.e. the necromantic energy of their death. Usually this means things like grave goods or the weapon used to kill them, but sufficiently strong-willed beings can use more tenuous connections or even generate new thanergetic connections posthumously.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar uses a few variants on this trope.
    • The ghosts of Herald Vanyel, Bard Stefen, and Companion Yfandes willingly bind themselves to a forest to serve as magical guardians there. In a short story, Van tells a living human that he's aware of every animal and blade of grass in the forest, and that as long as anything in the forest survives he can't be banished. When the three spirits need to travel, they ask a magical being to move the remains of Stefen's harp to the new location so they can migrate to it.
    • The ancient mage Ma'ar uses his own bloodline as his attachment to the world (he's been body-surfing for centuries). Whenever any descendant of his with Adept potential uses a certain spell, Ma'ar's spirit can instantly take over.
    • The spellsword Need turns out to be inhabited by an old spirit who died so that her soul could empower the blade. When the magic holding the sword together finally evaporates, her spirit departs the world — though of course she's not "dead" in any strong sense and could, if she so desired, even come back.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: The Thackery family has long theorized that Sid, the titular family skeleton, is either a really skinny zombie, or this trope — a ghost haunting his own bones. Main protagonist and narrator Georgia Thackery prefers the latter theory.
  • In the Evernight series, wraiths (another name for ghosts) are drawn to objects they had a strong emotional attachment to in life, such as gifts from a loved one, which can help them use or amplify their abilities. They can use them to take on a corporeal form and teleport to the location of the object. Objects made of materials that were once alive too are even more potent, such as jet (wood) and coral. After becoming a wraith, Bianca has a jet brooch given to her by her boyfriend, which she regards as a symbol of their love for other.
  • Ghost Roads has an inverted version called Ghost-Tokens. If one of the living keeps something of a ghost in memory of them and reminisces strongly enough about them, it can be used to call and manifest an existing Ghost. Rose's is the corsage Gary was going to give her for Prom. As soon as she's free of Bethany she makes sure to destroy it.
  • Goblins in the Castle: In Goblins on the Prowl, the ghost Werdolphus can only manifest in one of two places — Toad-in-a-Cage Castle, where he died, or near the cannonball which killed him. He has Fauna and her group take the latter with them on their journey to rescue William so he can travel between it and the castle, bringing messages back and forth.
  • The Visitors of Lockwood & Co. run on this, being tied to their Source, which draws them through to the real world from the Other Side. The Source is always something the ghost cared about in life - usually "personal organic remains" but often a keepsake or treasured possession. Destroying the Source banishes the Visitor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dresden Files: Bob the Skull is the bound soul of Hrothbert of Bainbridge, an evil sorcerer and necromancer fettered for eternity to his own skull.
  • In The Vampire Diaries Elena's necklace is used by the Original Witch it once belonged to to give her a connection to the living world, and let her cast spells to further weaken the barrier between the world of the living and the dead.
  • Supernatural's version simply permits ghosts to continue not to cross over even after their remains are properly disposed of, so long as the treasured item (most effectively, with some of their DNA) remains.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Call", Mary Ann Lindeby's spirit possessed her self-portrait, a bronze sculpture on display at the Civic Art Gallery, after she committed suicide.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Obviously used in Wraith: The Oblivion, where destroying a fetter is one of the best ways to get rid of a ghost, putting them through a Black Bug Room.
    • Destroying all of a ghost's fetters will un-anchor them from the world of the living, confining them to the depths of the Underworld. Resolving said fetters (using the gun that killed the ghost as evidence to convict their murderer, for instance) will allow them to pass on to the true afterlife instead.
    • The Arcanos Lifeweb allows a ghost to affect the living world directly through a fetter, break another ghost's connection to their fetter, and create new fetters for both themselves and other ghosts, among other things (it does not, however, allow a ghost to resolve a fetter.)
    • Geist: The Sin-Eaters likewise has Anchors, which in some cases can be objects that a ghost can directly influence through its Numina. The Sin-Eaters also make good use of Fetters, objects created when a troublesome ghost is bound into its own Anchor. Use of a Fetter allows a Sin-Eater access to new power sources, as well as one of the ghost's Numina.
  • This is also used in Exalted. The Neverborn are the ghosts of dead Primordials, and all of Creation is their fetter. Their goal is to destroy Creation so they can fall into Oblivion, as the cycle of rebirth was never designed for Primordials (they never imagined that they could actually die.)

    Video Games 
  • In the PC game Ghost Master, each ghost can only be assigned to certain types of fetters depending on what kind of haunter they are, e.g., electrical themed ghosts can be assigned to a microwave or refrigerator or the like.
  • Spirit Monks in Jade Empire could create these, but they didn't like to, finding it morally reprehensible. Emperor Sun Hai, after wiping out the Spirit Monks and stealing the Water Dragon's power, didn't have such qualms. For instance, Death's Hand is the spirit of his brother, bound into their other brother's armor.
  • In the Girls' Love Visual Novel Akai Ito, the Ryugetsu is the fetter for Nozomi and Mikage. Destroying it might solve the problem permanently in some routes. In other routes... let's say that it's just the beginning of the battle.
  • Arthas from Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, who has been corrupted by the sword Frostmourne which contains the spirit of the Lich King.
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game has these like no-one's business, from the Sedgewick Hotel's candelabra-crawlers to the Public Library's book-bats.
  • In Ghost Trick, one character, Ray, possessed a lamp. Ray turns out to be an older version of Missile from ten years ago. Missile possessed the lamp so he could be there when Sissel died and thus coerce Sissel into saving not only the city but also everyone involved with Yomiel's case.
  • Used a few times in the The Witcher universe, particularly when dealing with Wraiths, especially those of the Noon and Night variety. In this case, even if they're slain the wraith simply returns after a short while, drawn back by its fetter. Exorcising them normally involves finding the fetter, discovering its significance, and either returning it to the Wraith or preforming a ritual to purify/destroy it.
  • One of the magic coins acts as this to Lazerby in The Pirate's Fate. Given its power of (sort of) granting desires, he's using its magic to stay tied to this world, and anchoring it with the chains of greed he forged in life; without it, he disappears immediately.

    Web Animation 
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: Lewis's heart locket, floating in front of his chest, is the only part of him still physical; he can retreat into and out of it at will, it alters itself with his mood or emotions, and others can interact with it.

    Web Original 
  • Curls from AJCO is usually seen sporting a pair of goggles that she claimed from a decidedly unpleasant bandit after she killed him. She doesn't find out that they are linked to his ghost until after she accidentally summons him and he throws her across the room while possessing Egg, before seriously wounding Nights by shooting her in the shoulder.
  • The Seanan McGuire Patreon short story "Inflatable Angel" is about Caroline, a worker at a shipping warehouse who was crushed to death under a pile of packages. After she's dead, she finds out she's a ghost bound to an inflatable dragon put in someone's yard as a holiday decoration. The dragon is on a timer, and once it deflates in the early morning, she goes back to The Nothing After Death. After a few nights, she meets Abby, the woman who owns the inflatable, and at the end Abby brings the dragon and timer inside so they can be together even after the decorations are put away.