Here we have the ghostly women who originate from Celtic Mythology. They are usually noted for their voices, which are either hauntingly hypnotic wails, or blood-curdling screams. Traditionally, hearing a banshee wail is a Portent of Doom, though this is often Sadly Mythtaken for the wail itself being a sonic attack or Brown Note that causes death, which to be honest is a lot cooler and a lot scarier.
They are also prominent in Irish legends, where many of the more well-known banshee stories come from, as being a type of fairy typically connected to a single family. Banshees are one of the worst examples of Sadly Mythtaken, as, believe it or not, their crying was actually due to mourning for members of the family who were already about to die, which often served to warn others of their loved one's death. There have been stories of banshees haunting families even as late as the 19th Century. And, as often in the original folklore, the fairy woman might be explicitly described as a ghost; The Fair Folk were a little unclear about the edges.
In modern fiction, along with the above-mentioned sonic attack, they are usually depicted as purely a type of undead or ghost, without a hint of The Fair Folk. A clue to their origin can be found in their name; bean sídhe can be translated as "fairy woman".
- Magic: The Gathering has several banshee cards. They are typically Black creatures with abilities that weaken other creatures or injure players without discrimination.
- Corto Maltese: In one story, Corto meets an Irish girl named Banshee and asks her why she was given such an inauspicious name. She dodges the question, but she isn't, as far as the story goes, a supernatural creature.
- Marvel Comics' Banshee was a male mutant with yelling and bizarre flight powers. His daughter, incidentally, was originally called Siryn. Having accepted her father's death, Siryn has taken on his name — including a Lampshade Hanging that she was never quite sure why he named himself after a female spirit in the first place. X-Men writer Roy Thomas actually meant for Banshee to be a woman, but Stan Lee decided that a male character would be better. When Siryn was created, Thomas' reaction was "that was what Banshee was supposed to look like all along!" So, with Siryn's taking on the name, the Banshee he'd created has finally arrived... and it only took thirty years. But hey, Legacy Characters can take a while.
- DC Comics has Jeanette, of the Secret Six, and Superman's foe the Silver Banshee. The banshee of the DCU are typically mystical in origin, receiving immortality, superstrength, and a hideous scream that can kill those who hear it.
- In order to affect you, Silver Banshee has to know your True Name. Her power doesn't work on Superman because she doesn't know his birth name is neither Superman nor Clark Kent, but Kal-El — or, at least, it won't kill him, but it will intense pain. An absurdly loud sound, at close ranges, being heard by someone whose ears are sensitive enough to pick up a whisper from across the city? Not fun. However, if she does know your true name, her scream is less "standard sonic attack" and more "Brown Note as you're forced to relive her botched beheading".
- In The New 52, Silver Banshee gets reimagined, this time a girl who inherited a family curse, and became a friend of Supergirl. She retains the hideous scream, which now lays waste to anything around, but also gets the power to speak any language, even alien or animal, after hearing only a few words. Her father, who she inherited the curse from, became one of the undead, feeding on others' souls.
- Dylan Dog: In one story, Dylan meets a girl named Banshee, who brings death and bad luck to all those who are close to her. Of course, our hero tries to seduce her and break the nefarious curse by surviving himself.
- Death Vigil: Banshees' screams are enough to blow Sam halfway across a graveyard and paralyze him until Bernie intervenes.
- Child of the Storm has the traditional Marvel male Banshee, Sean Cassidy, who's Irish-American by background (though he moved to Ireland a long time ago), like in the First Class film, which probably explains why he picked it for a name: he heard about the banshee, connected it to his powers, but didn't realise that they're all women. A friendly experienced super-hero and Old Soldier who looks several decades younger than he is, he's nevertheless extremely dangerous. For starters, unlike his comics counterpart, he has absolutely no compunction about killing with his Make Me Wanna Shout powers if he deems it necessary, and having spent decades refining his powers, knows a number of horrifying methods of doing so (and that's before you get on to whatever he did with his Compelling Voice during a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when his wife was killed by an IRA cell that ended up giving Nick Fury nightmares). All in all, he's not someone you want to cross.
- Harbinger (Finmonster): Ember Mc Lain(from Danny Phantom) is a banshee instead of a ghost. According to her, they're people chosen by the Fates, neither ghosts nor fairies. Ember appears to have Magic Music, channeled through the literal Strings of Fate on her guitar, and she leeks creepy black tears when she detects evil forces nearby. And since she's from Ireland, she has a Funetik Aksent.
- Son of the Western Sea has a banshee appear as a white haired woman with bloodshot eyes, whose wail induces grief and mourning for people the listener knows that have died. Most of them retreated under the hills ever since the Olympians influence spread to Ireland and they do not like demigod children of the Olympians.
- Banshee!!!: These ones are winged, vampiric creatures that can cause hallucinations with screams that humans can't hear.
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People has a banshee that appeared and wailed to warn that someone was about to die. It also summoned the Cóiste-bodhar (Death Coach) to take away the soul to the afterlife. It's generally considered a standard-bearer of childhood terror.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: The opening song This is Halloween references banshees, although no such creature actually appears in Halloween Town.
Skeleton Jack might catch you in the back
And scream like a banshee
Make you jump out of your skin
- In Irish and Scottish folklore, the banshee (or bean-sidhe) is a fairy-woman and often guardian spirit of the old Gaelic families who can foretell death in "her" family; she wails and cries through the night to warn the family that one of them will soon die; if the family hears her crying three nights in a row, they know that they should begin planning a funeral. As she can foretell death in the family that she protects, the banshee is also grieving for the family as well as warning them of impending death. When multiple mná-sídhe (fairy-women) are heard wailing at once, it foretells the death of an important political or religious figure. As she is often a guardian spirit to specific clans and can foretell death in "her" family, she is mourning the impending death as well as warning the family. Most often, the banshee is depicted as an old, frightening woman, but she can also appear as a strikingly beautiful woman of any age that suits her.
- Much of Latin America believes in the legend of La Llorona, the spirit of a woman who died after she drowned her children and cannot enter Heaven until she has found them; she is heard crying "¡Ay, mis hijos!" ("Oh, my children!") as she searches for them. Those who hear her crying supposedly are doomed to die soon.
- The langsuir of Malaysian Mythology is the flying ghost of a woman who died in childbirth with long fingernails and the ability to turn into an owl. They eat fish and can be Brought Down to Normal by plugging the whole in the nape of their neck.
- Book of Imaginary Beings: As no one has ever actually laid eyes on one, banshees don't seem to be tangible creatures so much as a dismoded keening that comes to houses in the Scottish Highlands to foretell the imminent death of a resident.
- Discworld gives us two different varieties of Banshee, the only sentient species on the Disc that evolved natural flight. There's the civilized type, which typically wails when someone is about to die (the one we meet has a speech impediment, so he just slips a note under their door). Then there's the feral variety, which are the reason for the legend—they also wail when someone's about to die, but in this case it's generally because they're cutting out the middleman and hunting you down themselves. The two we've seen (one of each) are both male. The civilized one hung out with the local undead support group; it's never really established if he was undead himself or just spending time with the other outcasts, but the term is rather broad in that universe in any case (including werewolves and bogeymen for example), with the definition seemingly being 'it comes from Uberwald and it's really, really hard to kill'.
- Dragonlance: Banshees are the typical D&D kind, as that's the setting of the novels. The most noteworthy banshees in that setting are the three former elven clerics who sabotaged Lord Soth's quest to stop the Cataclysm, since they were part of the elf supremacist conspiracy that led to it, in the belief that they could force the Gods of Good to empower them to wipe out all evil races. Because of that, they are cursed to constantly tell the story of how their own blind arrogance led to the destruction of the old world and their own damnation.
- In The Gypsies in the Wood, an in-universe series of twee English children's stories features a stereotypical leprechaun with a housemaid named Brenda Banshee. The Every Episode Ending of these stories is Brenda howling with distress after being punished for misbehaving.
- In Harry Potter, a Boggart turns into one when it's Seamus' turn; she's described as 'a woman with floor-length black hair and a skeletal, green-tinged face'. Seamus uses the Riddikulus spell to make her lose her voice.
- The Icewind Dale Trilogy: In The Halfling's Gem, Drizzt do'Urden and Wulfgar have to fight a classic D&D-style banshee. Both sides survive, because the local village actually relies on the fact that a banshee lairs nearby for tourism, and Drizzt and Wulfgar promised not to destroy her. This is a plot point because her lair holds the enchanted mask that lets Drizzt pass as a plain old elf to avoid the obvious problems of being recognized as a dark elf on the surface and that eventually falls into the hands of Artemis Entreri.
- SERR Ated Edge, by Mercedes Lackey, has a male Banshee as an enemy of the elves, with a painful false etymology (mixing Gaelic with Old English) that banshees are the bane of the Sidhe.
- Shadowfae, by Erica Hayes, features banshees with siren-like abilities. These banshees seem to be a type of fae with a magical affinity for sound rather than death, although they can kill with a song or scream if they want to. They can also cast a variety of spells through song, manipulate humans, and secrete venom from beneath their tongues that they can use as an additional weapon besides their voices. Their magical affinity for sound gives them preternatural hearing but also gives them the ability to filter sounds so they don't get overwhelmed by auditory stimuli, as well as enhancements to their inner ear that give them extraordinary balance and agility. They all look like attractive human women, but with unusually colored hair and eyes, and usually their eyes and hair are of different but unnaturally bright neon or metallic colors. They are known for being violent, lustful, and usually just a little psychotic, and in one book, a banshee is employed as an enforcer and bodyguard for a supernatural version of the mob. They are born with innately magical voices, but their magic can be taken from them by some other kinds of supernatural beings who use the banshee's voice magic for themselves.
- In Shaman of the Undead, banshees are people who can predict somebody's death and, more often that not, they're also the ones to deliver it. Oddly, wailing not included.
- Soul Screamers has Kaylee, who carries on the banshee wail whenever someone is near-death.
- The Spiderwick Chronicles: Banshees are detailed in the series' field guide. They are described as ghost-like beings that appear around homes when an occupant is about to die, wailing without end. A single individual can appear by the same home for generations.
- In Too Many Curses, Bethany the banshee haunts Margle's castle, immaterial and imperceptible except when foretelling disaster. As she's a sociable sort, eager for any excuse to chat with the castle's other residents, she shamelessly stretches the definition of "disaster" to include such grave tragedies as over-salted soup or a bruised shin.
- In Charmed (1998), banshees are spirits attracted to heartbroken humans; they use their high-pitched screams to kill them. If they use their screams on a witch the witch turns into a new banshee.
- In Lost Girl, banshees are a type of Fae who get involuntary premonitions of death. They don't consciously know who, how, or when, only that it's someone around them, that it has to be a member of one of the ten Noble Families (five human, five Fae) and that it will be soon. They do keep the details subconsciously, however, and it can be forced out of them using iron, to which they're highly allergic. In the relevant episode they used a liver shake.
- In The Quest a banshee haunts the bog that the players have to cross in one episode and must be placated with an offering.
- So Weird: Fi fears that a banshee has come for her Irish grandfather.
- In Teen Wolf, Lydia is eventually revealed to be one. This comes with the ability to sense death and a piercing scream. In this universe, banshees scream to drown out noises that might distract them from listening on a psychic wavelength only they can hear. They can also use their scream to purposefully hurt other supernaturals, as fellow banshee Meredith demonstrates later on.
- Lore mentions banshees, most notably in episode 112.
- Betrayal at House on the Hill: One of the possible hauntings is a banshee of the ghostly type.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Banshees have shown up throughout the game's history, although older editions refer them as "Groaning Spirits". They're pretty nasty because they're essentially ghostly undead of usually elvish origin whose wail (at least at full power; in at least some editions it has limited uses per day) forces anyone in range to save or die on the spot. The Wail of the Banshee spell allows a high-level wizard (or sorcerer in 3rd edition) who knows it to mimic this, although each casting is only good for one such attack.
- Games Workshop games:
- In Warhammer 40,000, the Eldar Aspect Warriors of the Howling Banshee shrines take on the image of the banshees of Eldar myth who were said to be the heralds of death an ill-fortune. The Howling Banshees go to war wearing masks that contain psychosonic amplifiers that magnify their battle cries into piercing screams that can destroy the minds of their foes.
- In Warhammer, the Vampire Counts army, banshees are ethereal undead whose screams can stop the hearts of weak willed enemies. Depending on the edition of the game, banshees either act on their own or lead units of wraiths.
- In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, Tomb Banshees are a part of the Nighthaunt hosts, swarms of ethereal undead that plague the mortal realms. The Tomb Banshees themselves are the souls of women who have been slighted and betrayed who have returned to the Mortal Realms to take revenge on the living. Their piercing scream is enough to freeze the life of any they encounter.
- Orpheus: Banshees are a Shade of ghost/projector. In keeping with the name, their major talents are the ability to see the future and a wail that can either control emotions or shatter your eardrums.
- Scion: The original Celtic breed show up in Scion Companion, under their original name of bean sidhe ("sidhe" is pronounced "shee"). Since White Wolf has Shown Their Work, they're fixated on death but aren't particularly big on screaming.
- Banshees are elven vampires (well, elven victims of the HMHVV virus). They aren't really much for screaming, but they do feed by using their Emotion Eater powers to induce fear and drive people to exhaustion.
- Bean sidhe are entirely different things, being spiritual beings closely tied to certain Scottish and Irish families. They wail to announce the imminent deaths of these families' members, and are apparently in good standing among Europe's spiritual entities — summoned spirits and elementals simply refuse to oppose them. Some bean sidhe, however, go mad and use their wails to spread death indiscriminately, and these other spirits have no qualms about fighting.
- Blood has ghosts which screamed. You got used to AAAAAH! AAAAH! AAAAH! as you had to fight these things. Their screaming didn't do any damage but holy hell, it was loud.
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has the Cyhyraeth, a notorious Beef Gate with incredibly powerful attacks, the ability to inflict the Curse status, and a slew of resistances that cover most available early-game weaponry and Shards.
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: One of the enemies in the English version is called the Banshee (in Japan, it was an onryo). One quest requires you to record its scream on a phonograph.
- In City of Heroes, Cabal bosses with sonic attacks are called "Bane Sidhe," and their description makes the intended folk etymology explicit.
- Daily Life With Monster Girl Online, now defunct, had Nia the banshee. As the name of the game implies, Nia is a Cute Monster Girl almost indistinguishable from a human besides her Mystical White Hair and red eyes. Personality-wise she's entirely benevolent: she's described as a total woobie prone to crying jags when she randomly remembers an unfortunate event, and she enjoys animes with happy endings. Whether she has a sonic scream or anything of the sort is unclear, but unlikely.
- Fable I has Screamers, which fit the appearance, being floating female ghost-like creatures whose mouth outstretches as they scream while rush towards their prey, and their attacks drain life directly, ignoring both armor and Physical Shield.
- Fable II: Banshees are enemies that tend to be accompanied by Undead Children.
- The Final Fantasy series has a few Mooks called banshees, generally either sprite or pixie-like creatures or undead of various stripes. The Final Fantasy XII incarnation (which is a zombie) is distinguished by having as its signature move the strongest of the game's many sonic attacks.
- Halo: Averted with the Covenant Banshee flyer, which is actually rather quiet.
- In Mass Effect 3, the Reapers turn humanoid species into cyborg-zombies. When it's done to the Always Female race of Blue Skinned Space Babes with Psychic Powers, the result is called a Banshee for good reasons. In addition to a psionic scream that targets any nearby creatures, they can also cross large distances in a fraction of a second and make turns around corners, making it very hard to stay away from them.
Joker: Mutating people to turn them into living weapons is one thing, but the yelling? Why make them yell?! That's totally uncalled for!
- Miitopia: Banshees appear as enemies, but their gimmick is crying instead of shouting. Their Crocodile Tears can inflict the Crying status on the playable Miis. There is another variant, the Basheevil, who instead turn Miis evil.
- Mortal Kombat's Sindel fits the criteria thanks to her Banshee Scream attack and ghostly appearance. She even returned from beyond the grave in her debut.
- Mystery Case Files: The "Frozen Lady" in Dire Grove is identified as a banshee. She doesn't have a scream attack, but when you can freeze a good chunk of England solid while still mystically bound, do you need one?
- Nancy Drew: Nancy investigates banshee sightings in The Haunting Of Castle Malloy. Turns out it's a weird old hermit woman who'd been spotted flying around with a jetpack.
- Nexus War: The Doom Howler in Nexus Clash is louder to the tune of up to three different screaming-related attacks. The most basic one merely demoralizes the enemy, but the worst can kill huge numbers of people if left uninterrupted.
- Pokémon: Misdreavus and its evolution Mismagius are a relatively lighthearted take on banshee, as they use their cries to scare others for fun as often as they use them to battle. Perish Song, which causes both combatants to faint if they listen to it for three rounds, appears to be their Signature Move, though other Pokemon can use it. They're portrayed as ghosts/witches rather than fairies, and can be male.
- Quake IV: Played With with the Strogg Iron Maidens. They hover and teleport like ghosts, scream like banshees, and emerge from a coffin-like enclosure that's inspired by the Iron Maiden execution device.
- Shadowgate: A banshee makes a brief appearance in the form of a Jump Scare.
- Starcraft II: Referenced with the Banshee, a ground-attack chopper with Screamer missiles and cloaking capabilities. The pilot has a few lines on its namesake.
In space, everyone can hear me scream... 'cuz I'm the banshee, get it?
- The Force Unleashed has the character of Shaak Ti as one of the bosses on the planet Felucia who has a sonic scream attack which can summon native Felucians to attack the player during the contest and sounds uncannily like a Banshee wail.
- Warcraft banshees are Undead units who attack with their high-pitched screeches. They function as spellcasters, making enemies miss, rendering units invulnerable to magic, or possessing enemies. They were once High Elves whose bodies and souls were defiled by the Scourge, forcing them to exist as bitter, spiteful ghosts.
- The most notable Banshee is Sylvanas Windrunner. Originally forced into a ghostly state as a final cruelty by Arthas, she was the first Banshee and became the "Banshee Queen". As a reward for her service to Arthas, she eventually received her original (now undead) body to possess.
- They also show up in World of Warcraft, unsurprisingly. Part of them keep their long-range wail attacks while others melee the player, most still use curses that reduce stats or make the target miss. At least one (a boss) can temporarily possess players.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The Blood and Wine expansion has banshees as enemies. Functionally they are a specter enemy similar to higher wraiths like the noon and night variant, but with a sonic scream that can stun Geralt and the ability to summon skeletons to harass him. Lorewise they are closer to the original folklore: they are drawn to death and misfortune and weep over it, but despite not being particularly malicious they are still considered a bad omen.
- Arthur: A banshee appears in one episode.
- Casper the Friendly Ghost: Casper's teacher Ms. Banshee, who had a particularly powerful scream.
- Catscratch: A banshee appears in an episode when Gordon seeks to confirm whether or not he's really Scottish.
- Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers had an Oireland episode with a banshee in it.
- DuckTales (1987): In "Luck o' the Ducks", Far Daric sends a banshee to scare Scrooge and company away, so the leprechauns won't have to grant Scrooge's wish for the leprechaun king's gold.
- The Extreme Ghostbusters fought Banshee sisters; one was the stereotype, the other could use her voice to hypnotize people. It was a trap: The Siren was the carrot, the Banshee the stick. In the episode, the banshee & siren could stay young if they stole the youth of humans. So they would use the siren to lure young people in and the banshee would then steal the youth.
- Filmation's Ghostbusters had a banshee, but its screams created storms, and only a leprechaun's magic could stop it. It's inaccurate, but then again, the show seems to treat banshees as a type of ghost with different variations.
- Gargoyles features a villainous banshee who is one of Oberon's Children. She has a small cameo in a second season episode when she refuses to answer Oberon's summons; as punishment, she's dragged back by the Weird Sisters and gagged indefinitely.
- The Real Ghostbusters:
- In the episode "Banshee Bake a Cherry Pie?", the group had to stop an Irish rock star who actually was a banshee and was scheming to use her powers to destroy the entire United States through a broadcast concert.
- Kenner's toyline has a monstrous "Banshee Bomber" in its ghostly ranks. It's a large, red, dragon-like creature that drips "Ecto-Plazm" [sic] from its mouth.
- Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends has a banshee as a main character.
- Ruby Gloom: Misery is often suspected of being a banshee due to her wailing screeching singing voice, along with her all-female family, although it's not official. She also serves as a herald of misfortune, but mainly to herself.
- In Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo, Scooby and the gang face a number of threats, including a banshee that was imported to America because the castle it had been associated with in Ireland had been brought, brick by brick, to the U.S. Shockingly, in the Scooby-Doo tradition, it turned out to be a fake.
- In X-Men, the above-mentioned Banshee makes an appearance, and he flies by screaming. So, naturally, at one point he has to give Wolverine a ride. Logan is not happy about this.
- The Irish and Scottish tradition of keening (singing a lament combined with wailing) over the body during the funeral procession and at the burial site is strikingly similar to the death wail of the Banshee
- "Keen" comes from the Gaelic verb "caoin", meaning "to cry/weep, to mourn" and its active article "caoineadh" ("weeping", "crying", "wailing") can also be translated as "elegy/lament". The caoineadh itself was often composed and performed in an improvised way, with at least one keening woman (bean chaointe) hired to lead the rest of the mourners, who generally joined with the chorus. The caoineadh generally consisted of stock poetic elements (the genealogy of the deceased, praise for the deceased, emphasis on the sorrow of those left behind etc.) set to vocal lament.