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Haunted Heroine

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"You best start believing in ghost stories, Miss Turner. You're in one!"

A heroine haunted equally by her own past and the uncanny events around her.

This character continually pops up in films involving ghosts or supernatural characters. She moves into Haunted Headquarters without any idea of what's in store for her. She seems attractive, capable and altogether normal until...the strange noises from the attic keep waking her up. Or that Creepy Housekeeper keeps making cryptic comments. Or her kid starts going on about some Imaginary Friend who might not be so imaginary after all. The Haunted Heroine typically comes equipped with a kid (or younger sibling) that is inevitably the first one to notice the supernatural goings-on, possibly because kids are supposed to have more imagination. It won't take long however, before the woman realizes she's being haunted.

Now the fun begins as the Haunted Heroine sheds her well-groomed exterior to reveal the barely-concealed neuroses and phobias hidden underneath. This character tends to have a Mysterious Past and hinted-at childhood trauma. She might be sexually repressed or traumatized too. Whatever her problems, there's always the subtle suggestion that she herself might be imagining the whole thing because of her messed-up psyche. Freud would have loved the Haunted Heroine. It doesn't help that nobody ever seems to believe her story. As the story continues, expect to see hints of Mama Bear in her as well when her kid or kids are threatened.


The originator of this trope is Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, in which a governess becomes convinced that her dead predecessor and her lover have somehow come back from beyond the grave to mess with the kids. This famous and influential story set the tone for a slew of Supernatural Fiction ever since that tries to imply it might be All in Their Minds. All this while still having a lot of fun with the ghosts.

Compare and contrast with Supernatural-Proof Father. See also Haunted House Historian, who typically warns the Haunted Heroine and gets ignored for their trouble.



Anime and Manga

  • Rohan in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. From the manga to the one-shots, every story about Rohan involves him encountering ghosts.


  • Grace from The Others: Subverted with a twist: the haunted heroine and her children are the ghosts.
  • Yoshimi and Dahlia from Dark Water, both the 2002 Japanese original and the 2005 American remake, respectively.
  • Julia from Full Circle, who tries to escape her overbearing husband and the trauma of her daughter's tragic death, which she may have caused, by moving into a house that turns out to be (apparently) haunted.
  • Laura from El Orfanato, also known as The Orphanage.
  • The Watcher in the Woods, an atypical (suspenseful) Disney movie from 1980.
  • House played this entirely by the book, except in two ways - it was a comedy, and the protagonist was a dude, played by William Katt. Still, he was trying to rescue his disappeared child, there was some implication that it was all in his head (although it turned out that it wasn't), and it all centred around trauma in his past (specifically, The Vietnam War).
  • Any version of The Ring has this character as the protagonist except for the book, which has a Haunted Hero.


  • The Turn of the Screw, of course. As well as The Innocents, the 1961 film version with Deborah Kerr.
  • Subverted in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, where the heroine is a young widowed mother who might just be imagining the hearty sea captain's ghost out of romantic yearning, but the ghost himself is utterly benign and the heroine can matter-of-factly tell him not to reveal himself to her daughter as she's much too young for ghosts.
  • Eleanor Vance of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, both the book and the 1963 movie.
  • Angela in The Good House. She moves into her grandmother's haunted house, but people don't believe her suspicions of supernatural activity until it's too late...
  • Former governess, apparently a normal, sweet young woman, whose neuroses bubble up to the surface as uncanny events pop up — Vera Claythorne from And Then There Were None fits this trope to a T, but subverted in that she did deliberately cause the death of her charge, and she ends up snapping completely in the end.
  • The unnamed narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper keeps seeing movement in the wallpaper — and this is supposed to be the result of her medical treatment. There is also a baby in the house (the narrator's own; it's implied she may suffer from post-partum depression) but the narrator isn't allowed to have anything to do with her care or raising; that wouldn't be "restful."
  • Sara Crowe in The Red Tree takes a lot of emotional baggage (and a seizure-inducing neurological disorder) with her when she moves into a farmhouse near the eponymous tree. How much this affects the goings on in the book is left for the reader to divine.
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison: Sethe is haunted by the ghost of Beloved (the child she killed) and her tragic past, which is full of slavery, cruelty, murder, and rape.
  • It certainly seems to be the case in The Dark Beneath The Ice, as the entity shows classic poltergeist behaviour, writes creepy threats in foggy mirrors, interferes with electronics and even messes with a psychic reading when our hero seeks help from the tarot-reading mother of her new friend.

Live-Action TV

  • Lydia on Teen Wolf. Initially it seems that she is only being influenced by Peter Hale. But lately it has become apparent that she can hear other ghosts as well, and that it is not a voluntary ability.
  • The title character in The Haunting of Sarah Hardy has spent her life being haunted by the suicide of her mother. After she marries, the viewer learns that her husband and her supposed best friend have been gaslighting her in hopes that she'll kill herself and leave him to inherit her fortune. At some point, she figures out what's happening and turns the tables on him, but it still ends badly for her.

Video Games


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