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Murder Into Malevolence

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"When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage... a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death. Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury. "

A theory that crops up often in paranormal studies and theories is that actions and emotions leave a sort of "residue" on locations. This concept is usually used to explain why a place is haunted, suffering from poltergeists, and whatnot: bad things have "stained" the place. And sometimes, it seems, bad things stain souls as well.

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It's an old saw: someone is killed, often in an extremely cruel or vicious way, but they don't stay dead. Unfortunately, they don't stay themselves either. The actions that led to their demise have completely consumed them; all they want is to lash out at anyone they can, no matter how much or how little the person had to do with their demise. In a deeply tragic sense, they have suffered an even deeper, more final victimization; the murderer's deeds have corrupted them into something else. Sometimes you can reason with these poor — albeit dangerous — souls; sometimes they're just seeking revenge but striking out blindly... but sometimes they just want to keep inflicting pain. Madden Into Misanthropy has gone to its final, logical extreme: the person persists despite being dead, and all the entity wishes to do now is evil.

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This trope only applies if the victim was a good or at least neutral person before their death. People who were monsters in life and remain so beyond the grave do not count.

Compare with the Vengeful Ghost which is a subtrope of and the vengeful variant of the Revenant Zombie: although they might be monstrous, they focus their anger on their killers. Those entities overlap with this trope if they aren't satisfied with avenging themselves on their killers, but also target innocent victims.

A Sister Trope to the Tortured Monster and to the Monster from Beyond the Veil. In some works, this makes undeath a form of The Corruption. Contrast the Non-Malicious Monster.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Junji Ito's story The Seashore has this. A group of schoolchildren tragically drowned and seem to be spending their afterlife luring in new people to drown for the sake of killing them.

    Comic Books 
  • Jason Todd from Batman is always a troubled, aggressive child, but he stands by Batman's Thou Shalt Not Kill code and fights by his side as Robinnote . Then the Joker kidnaps and brutally murders him during A Death in the Family, and years after that, the events of Infinite Crisis cause him to return to life.note  Jason then adopts the Joker's original identity, Red Hood, and attempts to take over organized crime in Gotham in a ploy to kill Batman's Rogues Gallery while getting the Caped Crusader to finally kill a man, by any means necessary. Unlike most examples, he eventually manages to take a few steps back from the brink, though he remains the most radical and prone to trouble of the Robins.

    Film 
  • In both the original Japanese version of The Grudge, Ju-On, and its western remake, Kayako Seiki is an innocent woman with No Social Skills, who is killed alongside her child by her jealous husband and returns as an Onryo ghost. She kills her murderer first... then stays in her house and murders absolutely everybody who crosses her path or even telephones her house.
  • Ringu has Sadako Yamamura, at least in her original backstory. Born with immense psychic powers she couldn't control, she attempted to lead a normal life before she was raped and tossed into a well to die. Only then did she decide she wanted to bring harm to the whole world. Her western remake incarnation, Samara, gets hit with Adaptational Villainy and is implied to have been evil in life as well.
  • In the Candyman horror trilogy:
    • Daniel Robitaille was a freedman raised in "polite society", i.e. white society, who fell in love with a plantation owner's daughter while painting her portrait. When she became pregnant, her father had a mob chase him down and brutally murder him. End result: Robitaille becomes the Candyman, a murderous spirit who now only cares to "empower his myth" by hunting down anyone who chants his name five times into a mirror and gutting them with a hook.
    • Candyman invokes this trope himself in the first film: he torments and ultimately causes the violent death of the female protagonist. The twist ending reveals she too becomes a murderous spirit.
  • In The Mummy (1999), Imhotep is a fairly shady character in life — murdering his liege lord for the sake of his lover, who is strongly hinted not to have had a choice in her relationship with said lord — but then gets The Punishment of a terrible curse that makes him suffer for eternity in undeath. When his sarcophagus is disturbed, he rises from the grave with horrific powers and a long list of grievances against the world.
  • Subverted in Maniac Cop. The eponymous character was Lawful Good before being framed, sent to jail, and subsequently attacked in prison. In this case, it's implied that he's a Revenant Zombie (which the sequel confirms and runs with), but his more brutal behavior is down to brain damage changing his personality rather than being undead.
  • In Necronomicon "The Cold" segment features a journalist being told the story of a young woman named Emily fleeing an abusive home by her daughter. It's revealed that he "daughter" is actually Emily, resurrected in the same way as Dr. Madden after being fatally shot by a rival for his affections. She's been coldly (no pun intended) killing people for their spinal fluid in order to still feel Madden's baby kicking inside her.
  • In Darkness Falls, Matilda Dixon was a kindly widow who gave the children of her town gifts in exchange for their teeth. However, the fact she wore a mask and only came out at night (due to suffering severe burns somehow that left her sensitive to light) made the adults suspicious, and when two children disappeared, they blamed her and promptly lynched her... before the kids returned on their own, unharmed. As she died, Matilda swore vengeance, and afterwards haunts the town of Darkness Falls as a murderous ghost, killing anyone who sees her, seemingly at whim.
  • They're Watching takes place in an isolated European villa where the nearby town burned a witch at the stake due to a plague. The Reveal is that the witch both foresaw her death and the events that would allow her return, and upon returning/reawakening/reincarnating (it's unclear), she promptly kills the whole village in a storm of terrible black magic. Assuming that the original witch did not cause the plague, it's a terrible case of Revenge by Proxy, since the townsfolk who killed her are all long dead.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe reveals that the titular Jane Doe was a victim of the witch trial hysteria and was horrifically tortured/murdered. Her rage over this and the baseless, hypocritical reasons for it happening seemingly turn her into a "witch": a powerful malevolent entity that haunts (and preserves) her corpse, who is still killing innocent people generations after her actual murderers died.
  • The Ghost of Yotsuya: After Iemon murders his wife Oiwa and her friend Takuetsu, they come back and haunt him, bent on his destruction. Oiwa is a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl with a horrific facial disfiguration caused by the poison Iemon used to kill her, just to up the creepy. It's an adaptation of stage play Yotsuya Kaidan (see Theatre below).
  • The Driver from the Rest Stop duology was a random motorist who was torture-murdered by a family of deranged, inbred Christian fundamentalists. His spirit now haunts the lonely stretch of highway where he was killed, torture-murdering anyone who passes through it.

    Literature 
  • In the Stephen King novel Bag of Bones, Sara Tidwell was a (black) blues musician who watched her son be viciously murdered due to racism, and then was raped and murdered herself. Her lingering spirit decides that it's not enough for the men responsible to pay for this crime: their descendants, including young children, all have to die as well. There's a vague line that outside forces might have caused Sara's ghost to become so nasty, but this is never confirmed in any way.
  • This also (debatedly) happens in King's Pet Semetary as well: it's strongly implied the cursed burial ground has a will of its own and arranges Gage's death (hence murdering him), before reviving him as a monstrous parody of a child. Though in this case, it's the killer (force) that provides the malevolence, but it was only able to do that once Gage was dead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This gets applied to the titular Doctor of Doctor Who in the episode "Hell Bent" after the events of "Heaven Sent". After being killed and cloned in a cycle for several billion years, the Doctor deposes the government responsible and begins to abuse time travel technology to try and prevent a friend's death in a way that threatens the entire space-time continuum.
  • Two different episodes of Masters of Horror revolve around a vengeful female ghost who came back from the dead due to some past injustice in their lives.
    • In "Right To Die", Cliff sabotages his car so that his wife Abbey (who was actually pregnant) will go into a coma, then he performs euthanasia on her. Suffice to say, she was friggin' pissed and refused to move on.
    • In "Dream Cruise", a Japanese ghost is haunting a specific sea area and attacking any ships who come near as a result of having been murdered by her unfaithful husband.
  • In Supernatural:
    • "Dead in the Water" has Peter Sweeney, who was accidentally drowned by two of his childhood bullies. Over the next 35 years, his Vengeful Ghost enacted a brutal Revenge by Proxy, killing those bullies' loved ones until the last surviving bully offers his life to lay the ghost to rest.
    • Ghosts usually succumb to Sanity Slippage, especially since Unstoppable Rage helps them affect the physical world. After Bobby is murdered, he slowly becomes more driven to attack his killer and less concerned about the well-being of others, until he has his Haunted Fetter destroyed to stop him from "going vengeful."

    Myth and Folklore 
  • In Japanese folklore, onryō could be formed from a person who dies a particularly violent death.
    • The most famous example of this aside from Oiwa is Okiku, the servant of a samurai who tried to blackmail her into sleeping with him by framing her for losing one of his family's priceless plates. When she continued to refuse him, he threw her down a well to her death, but her vengeful ghost haunted him until being exorcised by a priest.
    • The kitsune Tamamo-no-Mae became an onryō called Hoji after she was slain by Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, manifesting a cursed stone called the Sesshoseki that killed anyone who touched it.
    • The Kuchisake-onna is a woman who was given a Glasgow Smile by her husband and was Driven to Suicide. She returned as a malicious ghost who baits people by asking them "Am I pretty?", then revealing her mouth and asking again, inflicting the same mutilation on them whether they answer "Yes" or "No".
  • Tấm Cám, the Vietnamese take on Cinderella, is this. Tấm starts out as a naïve, gentle, sweet girl who, with the help of the Buddha, gets the king. She then goes through a Trauma Conga Line where she's murdered by her stepmother and stepsister Cám and then Reincarnated four times, all violently. After the last time, she boils Cám to death and tricks the stepmother into eating her corpse, which causes the stepmother to die of shock when the Awful Truth is revealed. There is considerable debate over whether this grisly ending is justifiably Paying Evil Unto Evil for the repeated horrible murders or whether it turns the kind-hearted heroine into an unredeemable monster, and several Bowdlerized versions reduce or omit Tấm's Revenge.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • This is built into the rules for making a ghost in some editions; their Character Alignment becomes Neutral Evil regardless of who they were in life.
    • Victims of undead with the "create spawn" ability (such as wights and ghouls) always fit this trope: they return as Always Chaotic Evil shadows of their former selves (literally in the case of Living Shadows), which must be slain to resurrect them or allow them to pass on to the afterlife.
    • 1st Edition AD&D Fiend Folio: the revenant is an undead that can be created when a humanoid creature dies a violent death. It is dedicated to hunting down the creature that killed it, as well as any creatures that helped in the killing. Once it finds them, it will try to strangle its killer(s) to death.
  • Pathfinder:
    • The game has similar rules regarding ghosts as D&D, but doesn't necessarily include an alignment change; it only notes that this trope is likely because the inherent trauma that would cause a spirit to linger could also cause an alignment shift to Chaotic Evil.
    • There's a kind of Revenant Zombie called the Pale Stranger, which arises when a gunslinger is killed by a hated foe, or before they can take their revenge on said foe. The immense, frustrated rage these people feel as they die corrupts them and raises them as an undead horror, which will always be Neutral Evil regardless of their alignment in life. The rage that corrupted a Pale Stranger will stay with it forever, and after taking their revenge its will take to wandering the wastes, venting its constant, unending rage on anyone it finds.
  • "Specters" in Blades in the Dark are a category of ghosts that most commonly results from the dying person being wronged somehow, but especially if they are violently murdered. All specters are inherently evil, seeking to harm and drain the living, with especial hatred towards those they see responsible for their misfortune.

    Theatre 
  • In Yotsuya Kaidan, Oiwa is horribly disfigured and Driven to Suicide so that her husband can replace her with a younger woman and, with her dying breath, curses her husband's name. She comes back as an onryo, or vengeful ghost, and drives her husband to madness.

    Video Games 
  • The Girl In Red, a.k.a. Sachiko Shinozaki, in Corpse Party. Just a normal little girl in life, who saw her mother murdered for no reason, and then was chased down and killed by the murderer, who might have also later returned and mutilated her corpse based on his own gnawing guilt. End result: a spirit so angry and vengeful that it creates a wholly separate reality to pull in and cruelly murder hundreds of victims.
  • The ghostlike Screamers in Fable I are described as victims of the Big Bad, who are trapped as Tortured Monsters between life and death and can only find relief by devouring their victims' life force.
  • In the first Five Nights at Freddy's, it's implied that the animatronics are haunted by the ghosts of murdered children, and one of the possible reasons they're targeting the player is that they can't tell the difference between their killer and Mike Schmidt.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, Lord Raedric is not the nicest person around, going Knight Templar about his misguided attempt to cure the Hollowborn plague in his domain. Still, if you help him secure his power base, he will ease his draconic measures after the plague is actually cured (by unrelated efforts), and prove himself a capable, if harsh ruler who will rebuild the Gilded Vale back to glory. However, if you kill him to stop his brutal ways, he will come back as a Black Knight and, if you don't kill him again, lay waste to his own old domain until nothing remains alive in it.
  • In Final Fantasy X, fiends are the souls of humans whose unfinished business kept them on earth until they became bitter, angry monsters with no other purpose than to attack the living. Sin's attacks often leave huge numbers of souls that will quickly become monsters if they aren't sent on by a summoner.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt:
    • One quest takes the protagonist Geralt to a cursed and haunted island, where he finds the ghost of a young woman pleading to help her spirit leave the island. It turns out that she's a nobleman's daughter and, during a peasant uprising, her entire family was slaughtered and the invaders had planned to rape and murder her. Instead, she drank a sleeping potion which put her in a death-like state that fooled everyone... including her boyfriend, who ran away and wished that everyone would die. Eventually, everyone DID die and she was stuck in her fake death, unable to move as the rats in the tower ate her warm body alive. The combination of the boyfriend's curses, her Cruel and Unusual Death, and the plague the rats carried (which is a long story in itself) turned the young woman's spirit into a Petra—a Plague Maiden that cursed the entire island.
    • A Baron and his wife were in an unhappy marriage where he beat her constantly and she found herself pregnant with a child she didn't want. The wife was eventually visited by three evil witch spirits who offered to get rid of the unborn child if the wife agreed to serve them for a year. She agreed, and not long afterward, her husband beat her so badly that she miscarried. The wife and her other daughter decided to escape from the Baron that night and left the dead fetus on the bed. The Baron found his dead child and, in his grief, buried it in an unmarked grave without giving it a name. The dead child transformed into a Botchling — a malevolent and murderous spirit created from babies that died unwanted or unloved.
  • Downplayed with Charlie as of Street Fighter V. Back in Street Fighter Alpha, he was murdered by getting shoved off his helicopter by one of his fellow Air Force comrades... who turned out to be a disguised Shadaloo member. Then Urien and Helen, members of Illuminati, brought him back to life (albeit Living on Borrowed Time) with a single mission: to stop M. Bison, leader of Shadaloo. Charlie, who's filled with rage and grudge due to what happened to him, simply obliges; he also becomes a cold and dead serious guy who won't hesitate in killing people if they hinder him and has nothing good to say for his old friend Guile. Despite all that, however, he's still one of the good guys, and later come to the realization that he can't do all this alone.
  • Warcraft III:
    • Banshees are ghosts of elven women slain during Arthas' conquest of Silvermoon, with only their voices left to express their hatred and suffering.
    • The first banshee was Sylvannas Windrunner, the honorable Forest Ranger who leads Silvermoon's defense. Arthas ignores her request for a quick death and instead consigns her to the eternal suffering of undeath; when freed from his domination, she becomes a cruel and spiteful creature who eventually leads the independent splinter faction of the undead known as the Forsaken.
  • Dead by Daylight: Yamaoka "The Spirit" Rin, a ghost of hateful rage in the vein of the classic onryo. Her origin, unlike all of her 'peer killers', was that of a normal young woman who was brutally murdered by her father. Her father had been the intended 'target' of the 'Entity' that 'recruits' killers into its 'game', having helped drive him over the edge to murder (family annihilator style), but Rin's anger over her cruel death was so great that it changed its mind and took her instead, to stalk and kill victims that had absolutely nothing to do with her death in classic shrieking, spectral fury.note 

    Webcomics 
  • Invoked in Gunnerkrigg Court: the Court's founders sacrificed a woman and murdered her lover in front of her, which caused her to rise as a furious ghost with The Power of Hate, then bound her spirit to an eternity wandering the river that surrounds the Court, killing anyone who tries to cross over.
  • Parodied in chainsawsuit where a malevolent ghost kills anyone who wanders into the house where she was murdered. A man Lampshades how ridiculous this is, pointing out that her killer is long dead and the whole thing is an exercise in futility. The ghost obviously doesn't listen and kills him anyway.
  • Daniel: After the shy, genial title character is tortured and Buried Alive, he rises as a monstrous vampire who can manage only the barest veneer of civility over his predatory nature, murders entire households without a second thought, and slowly tortures his killers to death. Once he stops Resisting the Beast, he starts specifically targeting his former friends and loved ones.

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