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"What is a ghost? A tragedy doomed to repeat itself?"
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Ghosts in fiction are usually people who have died, but their spirits are still lingering around. Some are friendly, some are neutral, and some are scary and vengeful. It all depends on what kind of story is being told.

Reasons include:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 or a Spirit Advisor.
  4. They're aware they're dead and angry at living people because they are still alive.
  5. That's just how the Afterlife works in this universe. No alternate dimension, Higher Plane of Existence or anything — you just become a ghost when you die.
  6. The ghost suffered so much in life that the spirit was drawn to the place where the worst torment took place.
  7. Resounding psychic echo. The ghost isn't even the person's soul, but just a spectral imprint left behind by the person's death that's gained a form of sentience. In paranormal fields, these are usually called residual hauntings.
  8. The Power of Love. They feel someone they love can't make it without them, or needs protection.
  9. No funeral, no grave — they cannot rest without proper memorialization — or perhaps their graves have been moved or desecrated.
  10. Or maybe someone is mourning them too much, and as a consequence, they are bound to this world.
  11. The person who arranged for their burial was a beneficent stranger, and they must make return for this good deed. This type is the original "grateful dead".
  12. They were very, very naughty in life and fear crossing over to the Afterlife and facing possible cosmic retribution.
  13. They were very, very naughty in life and ghosthood is their cosmic retribution. If it's of a purgatorial type, sometimes humans can help out.
  14. They're a spirit form of some sorcerer, and actively made preparations to ensure themselves eternal life after their bodies gave up, or just ended up that way because of their power.
  15. They were magically prevented from going to, or were magically drawn back from, the Afterlife.
  16. The boundaries between the realms of the living and dead have been weakened; this tends to bring about lots of ghosts. This can be a regular, normally annual, occurrence, in which case you just want to propitiate them, or indicate serious problems as a one-time thing.
  17. They can move on any time they want; they just don't want to because they're having too much fun.
  18. There's also the odd rare case of a ghost that was never a living human being. It may have spawned from something. It may be part of a broader species that's made of the same kind of "matter" as human ghosts. It may be an animal, or a Genius Loci. It may be a synthetic ghost made by alchemy. In cartoon setting, a ghost child can be considered to be the son of a couple of "normal" ghosts, born after the two normal ghosts's death (this is mainly to have a young ghost spectators can identify to, without addressing the issue of a child's death). Or it may be some sort of... thing pretending to be a ghost to suit its purposes.
  19. There is an afterlife, the soul splits in parts: One to decide whether or not they ascend, one for reincarnation, and one stays in the afterlife. The ghost is the last part.
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Powers include:

  • Brown Note: Some ghosts have strong psychological or even physical effects on the living. These may result from being in the presence of, seeing or hearing, or (generally the worst effects) touching the ghost. These effects may range from temporary to permanent, and may include:
    • Brain Fever: Common in 19th century works. Sometimes fatal, sometimes survivable.
    • Death Touch: Has its own entry under "powers"on this page.
    • Insanity, of varying duration and severity.
    • Tangible physical injuries, of varying severity, often caused by a touch. Sometimes all or part of these injuries become a Wound That Will Not Heal, ranging in severity.
  • Death Touch: This is a very common ability for ghosts in stories written before the 20th century; it can still sometimes be seen in later works. The death may occur instantly, or the victims may linger for a time (rarely more than a matter of days), the better to gibber madly about the unutterable horror of what they saw (and in the process provide story significant clues). Variants include curses, life drains, and visual or acoustic ranged effects. Especially in 19th century works, death may come by Brain Fever, or extreme Fear.
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  • 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.
  • Dream Walker: Some ghosts can inject themselves into a living person's dreams. Usually this person is someone psi-gifted, though.
  • Elemental powers are not uncommon.
  • Equipment the ghost used in life may become an ectoplasmic version of same that can hurt other ghosts.
  • Fear: One of the most common ghostly powers, and one almost universal for ghosts in stories written before the mid 20th century. As literal spirits of the dead, and metaphorical personifications of death itself, ghosts often induce unreasonable fear in anyone in their presence, above and beyond any reasonable fear they may induce. This often results in cowering, psychological paralysis, terror or even madness.
  • Flight/Levitation: Not necessarily limited to the ghost itself.
  • Game Face: When ghosts do not look the same as when they were alive, they can often disguise themselves as such. However posing as a human will usually result in slight flaws in their facade, like lacking a pulse or cold skin.
  • Intangibility or Phasing: The default state of ghosts tends to be intangible. They can touch and interact with physical objects if they concentrate on doing do (except in works which play up the toll on their sanity), but they usually cannot pass on their intangibility to anything they are holding - typically, if they pass through solid matter while holding something, the solid matter remains behind after the ghost has passed through. If they can't affect objects, the lack of touch is often used as a symbol of their loneliness and misery, as in Tragic Intangibility. This is most common in modern works; ghosts in older stories are more likely to be solid, and some can even pass for living humans.
  • Invisibility: Some ghosts can choose whether they want to be visible to anybody. Others are visible only to the spiritually sensitive, or to people with close personal ties to the ghost. Sometimes this is dependent on the ghost's power, with strong ghosts being easier to see than weak ones.
  • Psychic Powers: Usually telekinesis for moving and throwing things around in a ghost tantrum/poltergeist fit.
    • Other times, they can project Scary Visions into the mind of a victim.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Ghosts can sometimes morph into morbidly, gruesomely horrific, grotesque (or amusing) shapes to terrify their haunts. If their emotions flare, this effect may happen involuntarily.
  • 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.

Limitations include:

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.
  • Mediums can see and/or hear ghosts.
  • Magitek - Ghosts can become a literal ghost in the machine, and operate phones, computers, etc. without actual tangible hands. (See psychic powers above)
  • Artifacts - there are magical gewgaws and doodads, Holy Relic items and that sort of thing lying around The 'Verse that will allow one to contact ghosts. Or are possessed by ghosts.
  • Ectoplasm - "He slimed me. I feel so funky."
  • Containment - Some heroes have enough Mad Scientist mojo to have come up with a way to contain ghosts, or protect themselves and others.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts - Interferes with electronics with just their presence.
  • Ghostly Chill - Their presence, vicinity or interaction cause the temperature to drop off visibly. The only source for cold spots.
  • Haunting - They will torment the living, annoy, or bedevil the living, or seek to drive the living into confessing if they've done wrong.
  • Angst and Wangst are often involved with ghostly hauntings, particularly when love is involved.
  • Often (particularly in media intended for children) only a select few can see/hear them.
  • Popping in and disappearing just as fast, leaving those who saw them claiming It Was Here, I Swear!.
  • Silly Spook — Ghosts who do funny things and/or behave playfully. Expect them to incorporate the aforementioned powers into their antics.
  • Spirit Advisor or Fairy Godmother — who can often conceal being a ghost until The Reveal at the end. Usually when the ghost has a Protectorate, such as a child, or the person who arranged for burial.
  • Ghostly Wail — Ghosts somehow let out ghostly wails or moans to scare the living.

Possible appearance:

  • As they looked when they were alive, possibly being either a Cute Ghost Girl or Guy. Some variations have them appear to be in the prime of life even if they were quite elderly when they died.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: As they wear the clothes they died in.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Covered in a white shroud. This white sheet may be the only part of them that's visible.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: A Japanese variant. Wears a kimono/robe with long stringy black hair covering her face.
  • Hitodama Light: Another Japanese variant, where a coloured flame (usually purple) is attached to the ghost or showing a person possessed by a ghost. People wearing candles on their head are invoking this appearance.
  • As they look now - rotted, filthy, partially skeletal and covered in worms or maggots, wearing the clothes they were buried in.
  • If they died violently, they may be covered with their own blood, with visible deadly wounds like in The Sixth Sense.
  • Fog Feet: Most ghosts have these genie-like tails instead of having two legs.
  • Monochrome Apparition: Ghosts can not only be any tint or shade of color, but also glow color of vapors such as mostly blue, light blue, gray and white.
  • Missing Reflection and Casts No Shadow: Ghosts don't need a reflection nor a shadow.
  • Any of the above can also be combined with transparency or the ability to become invisible.
  • Good ghosts may be even more beautiful than they were in life, either as a reflection of their true self or as a reward.
  • Multiple forms: Changing appearance depending on their mood, e.g. looking almost alive while minding their own business and rotted-looking when attacking someone. The ghost equivalent of Game Face.
  • Ghostly Animals: They may take on the appearance of animals.

Weaknesses

  • A ghost can be put to rest once their bones are salted and burned.
  • Destroying an object the ghost is haunting can also make it go away.
  • Ghosts can be susceptible to purified or "holy" objects, such as pure iron or salt.
  • Sometimes you can simply trap them by creating a barrier of salt around them.
  • A ghost can be blasted with a proton pack and sent to a ghost trap.
  • Other times, you can simply help the ghost with their Unfinished Business, giving them reason to move on.

Some good ghosts get to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence (either literally heaven, or something else) once they've sorted out their issues or unfinished business.note  Bad ones can get the express elevator all the way down. Some of them have problems with Ghost Amnesia. Every ghost has different Ghostly Goals, again depending on what they want.

Shows and movies will usually address these baseline rules, whether or not they're enforced.

See also Our Souls Are Different. Compare Living Memory. Despite the name, The Ghost is not usually an example.

Compare The Disembodied, for when they lost their corporeal form without being "dead". The Ghost King is a sub-trope.


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!


Example subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, the Slayer of a Thousand Goats is technically a ghost, due to Wolffy using a portal to pull him into the present. He isn't solid once transported to the present day, but can still move and possess solid objects until Wolffy and the goats send him back into the past.

    Comic Books 
  • B.P.R.D.: Johann Kraus is a ghost, except technically he's still alive. He's a medium whose body was destroyed while his ectoplasm was outside. Lobster Johnson's ghost is a more straightforward example with Unfinished Business.
  • 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.
  • The DCU: 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.
  • Sgt Spook: The titular character is the ghost of a police officer who is able to interact with his medium — an orphan boy, of course — and solve crimes. These crimes vary from bank robbers and gangsters to supernatural romps.
  • Spook: James Calley and Mr. Nobody are soldiers and spies who have been transformed into ghosts by technological means after their deaths, explaining many classic ghostly acts as psychological side-effects of prolonged isolation.

    Fairy Tales 
  • A common trope in fairy tales is the hero, after having paid off a dead man's debts so he can be buried, acquiring 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".
  • Fairy Tale stepchildren are often aided against the Wicked Stepmother by their dead mother, as in "Aschenputtel" and Andrew Lang's "The Wonderful Birch".
  • In "Brother and Sister", the sister returns as a ghost. When her husband seizes her, she comes back to life.
  • The Brothers Grimm:
    • One story features the ghost of a little girl. Someone eventually realizes that she looks like she's trying to pull up a board in the floor. They look and find a coin her mother had given her to give to a beggar, but which she had kept for herself. They give it to the next beggar they find and she stops walking.
    • "The Shroud" has a little boy returning because his mother was mourning too strongly: her tears had soaked his shroud so he could not sleep.
  • Child Ballads: Many 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).
  • The Famous Flower of Serving Men: In some variants, 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.
  • "The Three Little Men in the Wood": The murdered queen's spirit haunts the castle, taking the shape of a duck while she swims up the gutters where she was thrown in, and reverting to her human shape when she visits her baby.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Autumn's Children has Ubo somehow chained to Kurapika after she kills him. He latter "passes on" in a Villianous Sacrifice.
  • The Anatomy of a Fall has ghost!Frank interact with living characters with varying degrees of difficulty.
  • Being Dead Ain't Easy: Joey exhibits intangibility, invisibility, very limited flight, and the ability to affect the living world if he really, really concentrates.
  • Demented Verse explicitly states that wizard ghosts (Harry Potter) aren't automatically dangerous, unlike muggle ghosts (Supernatural), although Sam and Dean still take precautions when going around Hogwarts. Malfoy also observes that it is impossible for wizard ghosts to be death echoes, which affirms that something unconventional is going on when the death echo of Charity Burbage appears in Malfoy Manor.
  • Ghost Ghost I Know You Live Within Me has Ghost!Shepard who can move things around, but it exhausts her even if done 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, although he can't really change her appearance when they interact.
  • Harmless: There are three main types of ghosts that are described in the first chapter: those that spontaneously form, those that are formed by the deaths of people with strong emotions or will power at the time of their demise, and those that are formed by belief. And of course, there are also the halfas like Danny and Danielle, who are incredibly rare and the result of an accident (or genetic manipulation)...
  • The Price Of Magic takes place after Harry's death, and stars him in a romance with Snape.
  • The Red Web of Fate: Yuriko is still around after more than 340 years to try and right what killed her in the first place. She shares a body with Nikkari and can telepathically communicate with him; she is also capable of interacting with other humans for a while in a semi-invisible form if given permission.
  • Say It Thrice: A lot of effort has gone into explaining how the residents of the Netherworld and the Ghost Zone play by different rules - the former are dead souls who aren't made of ectoplasm, are mainly limited to haunts, and are governed by a tightly obstructive Celestial Bureaucracy, whereas the latter may be dead people or different supernatural manifestations, are free-roaming and routinely intrude on the living world, and lack any real authority - even King Plague ruled only by virtue of sheer power. The Netherworld consider the Ghost Zone a dump for things that doesn't belong anywhere else (and actively pretend it doesn't exist, because it's annoying) while the residents of the Ghost Zone either don't know or don't care about the Netherworld.
  • Tears Of Epoch: There are the Chromas, the successor to the Shades from the original game. They, unlike the Shades, are formed using sunlight instead of darkness, but are also formed out of nightmares and ill omens. It is said that the only way to take down a Chroma and even defend a Chroma attack, is to believe in dreams that are actually beautiful and happy, as opposed to ill and dark. It is even witnessed by Ernaut that if a victim is attacked by a Chroma, they eventually become infected and mutate into one.
  • In There Was Once an Avenger from Krypton, the Ghost Zone ghosts are rather different than the Underworld ghosts Nico is used to. The former are fully tangible if they want to be and capable of powerful feats, showing up in Amity Park on a regular basis, while among the latter few can escape Thanatos and return to the mortal realm without being summoned by a necromancer, and even as a son of Hades Nico couldn't make his sister semi-corporeal enough to touch her, let alone enough to assume some semblance of life.
    • Valerie later elaborates that as ectoplasm collects and ages, it tends to mutate into ectopuses, which can either be consumed by another ectopus, eat enough other ectopuses to evolve into a native Ghost Zone entity, or merge with a human soul with Unfinished Business binding it to Earth, creating what Amity Park thinks of when they think of a ghost. Danny later clarifies that ghosts don't have organs, bones, or a nervous system, and don't even feel pain the way that humans do; their bodies are basically just globs of ectoplasm modeling themselves around the human soul that they're melded with. You can hurt them, but unless you completely destabilize them they'll bounce back eventually. Half-ghosts, while resistant to damage, still bleed just fine though, and half-ghosts are also apparently guaranteed to become a full ghost on death.
  • Walking with a Ghost and its sequel Running with a Ghost change the nature of Alex's ghostly status. As Hal drank her blood after her death before she manifested as a ghost, this inadvertently 'anchors' Alex to Hal, with the result that she is essentially 'real' to Hal to the extent that he can even have a sexual relationship with her or drink her blood, and Alex can even eat and change clothes so long as she doesn't teleport after prolonged time in Hal's presence. Hal notes that such bonds have occurred in the past, and becoming a vampire elder requires the vampire in question to drink from vampires who have formed such a bond to boost their own power.
  • In the Supernatural/NCIS crossover "When Worlds Collide", Dean is visited by the spirit of deceased NCIS agent Paula Cassidy in a dream, who reveals that, contrary to what Zachariah implied, ghosts can come back to Earth from Heaven to just visit their loved ones if they wish (she speculates that Ash was so caught up in doing his own trick that he didn't realise this was an option). According to Paula, ghosts that manifest in this manner are unaffected by iron, although salt is still uncomfortable even if they can step over it if they want to, and can be seen by psychics in the real world and visit others in dreams (Paula notes that Dean's dead friends wouldn't do that to him because he wouldn't let them in out of a subconscious fear they'd reject him, whereas Paula got in by "wearing a bustier").

    Films — Animated 
  • The Book of Life:
    • At the beginning as young Manolo speaks with his father about missing his mother, Carlos explains that while family is remembered with love, we can always feel their presence. Ghostly versions of family members begin appearing all over town near their shrines, showing love to the living.
    • When Manolo returns to life to fight Chakal, Xibalba, The Candlemaker and La Muerte decide to exercise their leeway. The Sanchez ghosts all appear, and then are briefly restored to life to help Manolo fight.
  • Monster High has several types of monsters named after several types of ghosts but only one seemed to be an actual ghost, finally in the movie "Haunted" Spectra explains “There's another world—a Ghost World—where all the different types of ghosts come from. There are phantoms like Operetta, banshees like Scarah... even faceless ghosts like my old frind Kyomi Haunterly." all-in-all they have six types of ghosts
    • Tradional ghosts like Spectra and Johnny Spirit
    • Faceless ghosts as Kyomi, a traditional japanesse ghost
    • Banshees such as Scarah, an Irish ghost and Death Omen, and one of the two types of ghost that seem to be "Solid"
    • Phantoms that are actually based on the Phantom of the Opera and are solid as well, and have fondness for caves
    • Reapers, the name says it all
    • And the ghosts of Past, Present and Future, the halll monitors of Haunted High
    • Then we got legendary ghosts as the Red Lady, or Ghost Pirates as Vandala
      • They also seem to have poltergeist but the guy just like to screw with the principal
      • Then there is also Sinçrena who is actually a ghost hybrid, half mermaid and half ghost.
  • 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.
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas has a ghostly animal: Zero is Jack's ghost dog.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2010: The Year We Make Contact: Dave Bowman is a ghost of the "resounding psychic echo" variety.
  • Beetlejuice has:
    • Ghosts who don't know they're dead.
    • Ghosts whose method of death shows on the ghost... quite grisly in some cases.
    • Ghosts who have Voluntary Shapeshifting powers.
    • 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 poem by Jean Louis is described as being a hellish dimension of corruption and chaos.
  • 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.
  • A Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in the 2004 musical film is different from most depictions as, rather than being a Grim Reaper-like figure, it's a woman shrouded in shredded bedsheets who somewhat resembles a banshee.
  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow: These are awakened by a thirst for vengeance, and can interact with the living world. Their appearance shifts at will between what they looked like on death and complete invisibility.
  • The Day Of The Crows: Ghosts do not possess their original faces but rather realistic looking animal faces instead.
  • The Devil's Backbone: The ghost 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.
  • Endless: Ghosts are souls still trapped between Earth and the afterlife, "limbo" over some unfinished business. They're capable of teleporting from one place to another. With time they can also affect matter. Normally they can't communicate with the living. Jordan is astonished after Chris is able to speak with Riley, saying he had always heard it was impossible.
  • The Enchantress has kung-fu fighting spirits. Turns out the ghosts used to be members of a Japanese clan, who's betrayed by their Ming compatriots due to fearing their power, and returned 18 years later for vengeance. The female protagonist is actually the daughter of the ghost's queen, who's slain whilst pregnant with her and she was therefore born as a ghost, and yet she's able to walk around in broad daylight.
  • Ghosts in Extra Ordinary (2019) are formless and invisible remnants of deceased people. They often try to manipulate inanimate objects, and those with "Talents" are capable of communicating with them directly, either by hearing them speak or acting as a Willing Channeler. When a ghost passes on, the Willing Channeler vomits ectoplasm which can be used a material for rituals.
  • The Frighteners: Ghosts have:
    • Unfinished business — one is a serial killer who's come back to keep killing because his ashes had not been scattered over holy ground... and he'd left his girlfriend behind, who is 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.
    • the Medium: Frank himself, and Lucy, later.
    • 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.
  • Ghost (1990): Sam Wheat is a ghost with Jacob Marley Apparel who believed he'd been mugged but turned out to have been murdered, and so became an Avenge Me! type of ghost. He cannot leave his girl due to The Power of Love, which also lets her hear him. He needs to learn Psychic Powers, and so seeks out a Spirit Advisor in the form of another ghost. After learning them, he uses them to torment his murderer. With effort and training, Sam masters intangibility. He's able to physically lift a penny to prove to Molly he's really there. Oda Mae is a medium whom Sam tormented with bad singing until she agreed to help him. She's also possessed by him, once willingly and once not. He Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence at the end.
  • 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 fewer 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 such as the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future from A Christmas Carol 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 Ship: The ghosts 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.
  • Ghost Town (2008): The ghosts reverse the traditional Unfinished Business idea - it is the inability of the living to let their loved ones go that keeps the ghosts around. When a person passes through the ghost, the person will sneeze.
  • Hallowed Ground: These are freed from their dead bodies by fire and can possess living objects or people to interact with the living, but are most powerful when possessing a newborn and growing up in the new body. However, they are vulnerable to anything that would damage their current vessel. They can also take animal forms.
  • The Haunting (1999): Nell sees the ghost children that live inside the bedsheets and curtains every night. Well, the children's ghosts are the Avenge Me! type while Hugh Crain's ghost is an "angry-at-the-living" type.
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth: Captain Elliot Spencer's wayward soul, 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.
  • 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.
  • I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer: Ben Willis/the Fisherman 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).
  • Jug Face: The Shunned are the ghosts of sacrifices the Pit rejected, doomed to haunt the woods forever.
  • Lake Mungo: Alice's ghost is pretty standard with the exception that she saw her own ghost before she died.
  • Nekrotronic: These are spirits that are Invisible to Normals, but can be seen by nekromancers. Most are barely conscious and don't try to interact with the human world, but ones bound to Earth by nekromancy latch onto their resurrector. They have purple eyes, can teleport through shadows, and have the ability to distort their bodies.
  • Night of the Scarecrow: These appear to be yellow light in their primary forms, and can possess objects to interact with the outside world. They can impersonate others' voices, teleport, phase in and out of objects, and create seeds to grow plant monsters. If they have magical abilities, they're severely limited, but their souls can be placed back in their bodies. They're can feel pain, but can only be destroyed if their bodies are.
  • The Others (2001) has the Tomato in the Mirror ending, in which it turns out that the family who thinks their house is haunted realizes that they've been Dead All Along and they've been haunting the house.
  • Poltergeist (1982) has a group of ghosts led by the Beast who are of the "angry at the living" type because their graves had been desecrated. They pull harmless pranks on the family, which they are invisible by stacking chairs, bending utensils, and breaking cups.
    • The lead ghost, which manifests visibly as a glowing translucent woman-like figure and the orbs who followed her are visible to the cameras as well as the "alone" ghosts, which represent as glowing orbs.
    • The Beast is adept with the haunting:
      • It turns an already-creepy clown doll into an extremely creepy one. They also manipulate gnarled trees and ectoplasmic tentacles.
      • It also has the power of illusion to make the hallway to Carol-Ann's room seem five times longer than it really is.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera: Dead Marni, who died of a rare blood disease shortly after her daughter was born, is a subversion. She looks and plays the part, and mostly appears to Nathan to guilt trip him, but she's actually a hologram.
  • The Ring:
    • 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 humans. 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.
  • Scarecrow (2002): These were tormented in life and return to avenge their abusers by possessing inanimate objects. When possessing said objects, they are significantly more acrobatic than in life, and immune to any damage that doesn't completely destroy their vessel.
  • 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 Sixth Sense:
    • Cole is a medium who see the ghosts.
    • The ghosts tend to be the Avenge Me! types, mostly.
  • Sledgehammer (1983): These are vengeful byproducts of violent ends, who think everybody they come across is their victimizer(s). They can take multiple forms, including what they looked like when they died, and are corporeal, being able to use weapons and be injured.
  • Star Wars: Powerful Force users can, under very specific conditions, linger on as Force ghosts — translucent, off-white versions of themselves — to provide guidance for the living, and fade away to the afterlife once their task is completed. Dark-siders cannot become Force ghosts, however, as doing this requires a degree of selflessness largely antithetical to the self-worship of the Dark Side.
  • Stir of Echoes:
    • The ghost who haunts the protagonist and his Medium child is of the Avenge Me! variety. She's very passive, though.
    • The sequel is a lot darker and nastier and is also an Avenge Me!
  • Thir13en Ghosts had ghosts with the following:
    • Jacob Marley Apparel, (more a lack thereof in one case).
    • 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.
  • Tigers Are Not Afraid: These are shadowy, raspy-voiced specters trapped on Earth by violent deaths. They can communicate with people who have special abilities and interact with the outside world either by possessing objects or contact with a medium.
  • 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.
  • What Dreams May Come: Although the movie 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.

    Literature 
  • Blackwood Farm: 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 Quinn's best friend, but after Quinn becomes a vampire Goblin does as well, and constantly attacks him.
  • Boojumverse: In "The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward", Cynthia witnesses ghostly apparitions which the Arkhamers call "pseudoghosts". They are visions of people from the past or future, visible through time due to the spacial warping caused by Boojums.
  • A Christmas Carol, as well as being the Trope Namer for Jacob Marley Apparel. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come had the haunting for terror down.
  • Cradle Series: When something filled with madra dies, it leaves behind a Remnant, the remains of its power. Weaker Remnants act completely at random, but stronger ones have some intelligence and are even capable of speech. Notably, Remnants actually get stronger the longer they last, rather than weaker. Because nearly everything on the planet is filled with madra, nearly everything leaves behind a Remnant. Humans are of course top of the list, but sacred animals (animals that have lived long enough to start using madra) and even sacred trees leave Remnants. In fact, one of the all-powerful Monarchs is the Remnant of a sacred tree; she was murdered, but her Remnant managed to recover her memories and begin advancing again.
  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • Reaper Man: One-Man-Bucket 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.
    • Wyrd Sisters: King Verence I and the other ghosts cannot rest until they've been avenged (which, given the castle is crowded with ghosts, including the first king, rarely happens), 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.
  • Dragon Bones: Oreg is somewhat ghostlike, and thought to be a ghost by most of the cast. However, when Ward inherits him, he learns that Oreg is not quite a ghost, he's the soul of castle Hurog. Not a soul that developed along with the castle, though — he was magically bound to it. Ward experiences some Fridge Horror when Oreg tells him that he's basically property, and has been treated as such by many of his previous owners.
  • The Dresden Files: Ghosts are deadly haunts, and some cannot enter holy ground. They are also residual psychic echoes, and aren't the actual people who died — the soul leaves for the afterlife after death, and the ghosts is essentially a magical imprint left in the mortal world — except a very select few that maintain their souls, mainly via interventions of major beings or necromancy.
    • Some display the wounds that killed them, while most do not.
    • Ghosts in 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's 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.
      • In Ghost Story, Harry gets to know just how different these ghosts are, since he's 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.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: Wraiths are angels that were stripped of a physical body. They still retain the powers they had as an angel, though they're far weaker than they were before.
  • Enchanted: Rumbold hears whispers in the castle, calling on him to "Free me"/"Kill me"
  • A Fine and Private Place revolves about a romance between two recent ghosts.
  • Forgotten Realms, in addition to usual D&D 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).
  • 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.
  • The Ghost Of Dibble Hollow: The title character has unfinished business holding him to the earth, and very strict conditions controlling who can see (and thus help) him.
  • The Ghost Pirates: As the title suggests, the story is about a ship being invaded by ghost pirates. But some of the crew members theorize they might not even be pirates or ghosts but just entities from another dimension and they are just as confused as the humans characters.
  • Ghost Squad follows 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.
  • Goosebumps: One book has a girl suspect that her new neighbours are ghosts, only to find out that she's actually the ghost herself, having died when her house burnt down. She proceeds to save her neighbour girl from ending the same way she did.
  • 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 Great Divorce, we only see the Ghosts who decide to visit Heaven, who are tiny, selfish creatures so insubstantial touching things outside of Hell hurts them. There's also a passing reference to some of these ghosts who have taken visits back to Earth.
  • 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).
  • Hitchers: A terrorist attack in Atlanta that kills hundreds of thousands opens a rift into the realm of the dead that forces dead spirits into the bodies of the living, although the possession is intermittent.
  • The Hollows: Ghosts are 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 Rachel White 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.
  • Journey to Chaos: There is a difference between a soul/spirit and a ghost. The former is the genuine spiritual essence of the person; their Heart Drive so to speak. The latter is a spiritual echo of the former; it's compared to the residue that milk leaves behind on a glass. Like the glass, long standing buildings need to be cleaned of this residue or it will interfere with magecraft and cause sympathetic hallucinations. The souls themselves are pulled to The Abyss ninety percent of the time. In the case of a real soul hanging around someplace, they're referred to as "mana-breed" and included in the federal census.
    • The University of Roalt's History Department is a designated historical reservoir and so it is "haunted" by alumni and such.
    • One such example of this is "Grey Dengel", the scholarly aspect of Dengel Tymh that was haunting his Cehia Lair. It had no idea it wasn't alive until Eric came along and stirred him into awareness
  • Lockwood & Co.: The ghosts (or Visitors, as they're sometimes called) 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness: The finale reveals the hyohlu, the titular Guardians of the Darkness, to be the ghosts of the previous participants in the Giving Ceremony. Only the strongest spear-wielder among the present participants can lay them to rest as the Dancer, turning their souls into luisha to feed the people of Kanbal.
  • Night Huntress: Sapient 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.
  • Odd Thomas: The title character 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 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.
  • 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.
  • The Parasol Protectorate: Ghosts 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.
  • The Priest, the Scientist, and the Meteor has dinosaur ghosts who have seized control of a meteor and are planning on crashing it into Earth... in revenge for humanity not sharing its ice cream with them.
  • Prospero's Daughter: In 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.
  • Robert E. Howard:
    • Conan the Barbarian:
      • In The Hour of the Dragon, Conan surprises a follower who thinks he's this.
        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 "The Castle of Terror", ghosts are normally insubstantial and harmless. But the countless ghosts in the ruins sense Conan's vitality and crave it so badly, that they combine whatever energy they retain and manifest as a giant blob of multiple faces and limbs. This ghostly amalgamation is corporeal and Conan can hit it with his sword, but any cut he makes instantly seal up without a trace. This is one of the few times where Conan is forced to flee an enemy with no hope of defeating it.
    • Kull: In "The Shadow Kingdom", the Snakemen are described as being able to control the ghosts of humans whom they slay.
      "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."
  • Shaman Blues: Ghosts are people who have died violent deaths (although not all of those become ghosts) and are tied to the place they died in. They amass power from emotions around them, eventually becoming powerful enough to first start influencing physical world through Mind over Matter and then breaking free of their death's location.
  • In Shaman of the Undead, they are either souls of dead people who haven't went to the Land Of The Dead yet or came back at call, or souls that came (or were pushed) out of their still living bodies. They can be destroyed, tainted by black magic or turned into demons, and can shatter if tainted too much.
  • Sir Amadas, a medieval Chivalric Romance, has Sir Amadas pay 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.
  • Sonja Blue has a mad architect design a house he called Ghost Trap, and it does just that — trap and confuse ghosts inside its bizarrely designed walls.
  • 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.
    • Three Days to Never: Ghosts experience time backwards, so if one has the proper apparatus one can talk to ghosts to get hints of the future. There's also the very angry ghost of someone who, rather than dying badly, was never born as a result of his ancestors' lives being altered by Time Travel.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Ghosts are encountered either alone or in large groups. Single ones usually haunt mansions and outdoors, but oddly enough rarely castles or palaces where people could be expected to have died from foul play. This seems to be because they linger as a result of having unfinished business. Groups of them will wait in cemeteries. Single ones will desire vengeance over whatever matter is keeping them around in the world. Regardless, it's best for Tourists to be wary of ghosts generally, because they can still harm the living. Being deceased, living people will also have a hard time killing them.
  • The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus: Ghosts are mostly just echoes of the people they were when alive with Unfinished Business. The exceptions are "wailers", ghosts so consumed with grief that they become incapacitated, and "poltergeists", ghosts so consumed with rage that they become monsters.
  • Tales Of Mundane Magic: Ghosts can be human or animals, and Ziggy the ghost dog is a prominent adorable example of the latter. Ghosts can 'move on' if they don't have Unfinished Business, and can't cross salt, which includes saltwater. If they get angry enough they become poltergeists.
  • Vampire Academy: Ghosts are drawn to the shadow-kissed, hate the Strigoi, and typically can not speak. Mason Ashford is the only exception, managing to warn Rose about Strigoi coming to the Academy.
  • Warrior Cats: Ghosts are typically of the Unfinished Business variety, with a few quirks: they are Invisible to Normals, lack the senses of smell and touch, are capable of "think and you're there" Flash Step-like teleportation, and can seize control of a living body, ejecting the soul that rightfully belongs there.
  • Women And Ghosts: Ghosts can be projections of people still alive, ex-employers seeking revenge, a strange chest of drawers, a jealous dead lover, an incarnation of Laksmi, fat people who seem to be supernatural apparitions, the ghost of a little girl, or even an Evil Twin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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. Some ghosts (like Nora Montgomery) don't seem to realize they're ghosts, some ghosts (like Chad, Patrick, and Moira) do, and some (like Tate) seem to vary based on the situation. Moira is unique amongst American Horror Story ghosts in that she can drastically alter her appearance; to living heterosexual men she appears young and sexy like she did when she died, to others she is a middle-aged woman (who actually looks older than she probably would have had she not been murdered).
    • Ghosts in Hotel are similar and expand on the rules. Those who die in places of great evil such as the Murder House or the Hotel Cortez will become a ghost no matter what. Those of great evil will also become ghosts such as the various serial killers in the Hotel. Oh, and they're immune to certain forms of magic which Queenie discovered the hard way.
    • Even if you weren't evil in life, becoming a ghost tends to make one somewhat amoral, with a tendency to scare living people at best and murder then at worst, including people who haven't done anything to deserve it. As Larry from American Horror Story: Murder House puts it, "they've got nothing to live for anymore", and they get bored.
    • There have been a few examples of living people who are aware of ghosts trying to cause their loved ones to die in a place that generates ghosts (like Constance trying to drag Addie's body onto the Murder House lawn so that she can't pass on, or even people who allow themselves to be killed in such places so they can hang out with their ghost friends after they die (like Liz Taylor in the Hotel Cortez).
  • Beetleborgs has this in the form of Flabber, a phasm who looks 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 was accidentally freed by those kids. Plus he's the one that gave them their powers.
  • Being Human (UK):
    • Annie 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.
    • 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 Malik. 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".
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Halloween", spell turns people's costumes literally real. Willow is wearing a ghost costume, and so she appears to die and become a ghost. In the end, she returns to her body just fine after the spell is broken.
    • In another episode, a pair of ghosts of the "reliving a traumatic event" variety possess people and reenact a school shooting. Over and over.
    • Angel:
      • Spike turns up as a ghost after a Heroic Sacrifice in the Buffy finale.
      • Dennis, Cordelia's phantom roommate, is a recurring character. He's a surprisingly nice guy, considering his own mother bricked him up in a wall because she didn't like his fiancée.
      • Wesley is 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).
      • Matthias Pavayne in "Hell Bound" is the ghost of a serial killer who tortures any ghosts in the L.A. of Wolfram & Hart before sending them to Hell and given that W&H is Evil, Inc. full of Bad Bosses even when the heroes are running it, he gets a lot of victims, including the aforementioned Spike.
  • 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.
  • Doctor Who: Ghosts appear all over Earth in the season 2 finale of the new series. 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).
  • Eureka: Subverted when Allison thinks she's seeing a ghost, but really it's a hologram programmed into her logic diamond necklace.
  • 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.
  • The Ghost Busters deals with ghosts who take the forms of classic film and literature monsters (e.g. Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, the Abominable Snowman, etc.) but all with some comical twist.
  • Ghost Whisperer involves a woman who can see ghosts that are only visible to her and to her coworker's son and helps them finish their business.
  • Ghosts (UK): Most people who die Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, either immediately or some time later. The titular ghosts are the ones leftover who haven't done this, and it is a source of frustration to them that they don't know why. They are non-corporeal to the living, but solid to each other, and usually Invisible to Normals. Additionally, they can sit/lie down on surfaces and require sleep.
  • 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.
  • Lost: Played with 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.
  • Medium involves a psychic woman who contacts ghosts in her dreams to help them finish their business.
  • Misfits: Ghosts are immediately aware of their deaths and can only be seen by people with certain powers. If they have unfinished business, they end up stuck in a sort of limbo state, but can move on once it's resolved. This can be anything from reuniting with a loved one to getting revenge. One character can bring these spirits back, where they essentially become like regular people again; they can eat, drink, do drugs, have sex, and kill living people with ordinary implements, vanishing once their business is complete. Interestingly, while there is an afterlife, there is seemingly no God.
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy tends to feature the wrathful variety, with the occasional Unfinished Business thrown in.
  • Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased): Marty Hopkirk is of the Avenge Me! stripe. He stayed out of his grave for too long and can't go heaven for another hundred years (in the remake he only has to wait until the person he's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Supernatural: Ghosts appear regularly. 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 ghosts that haven't ascended to the afterlife end becoming vengeful spirits. In fact there are defined to be at least 3 types of ghosts:
    • Vengeful Spirits, who target people who wronged them in the past. There's one who becomes electricity and haunts the internet to kill his murders, and one who has flesh and blood since she grinds her own flesh and bone, mixed her blood in a painting. Also an expy of the Mona Lisa.
    • Specters, who are not so different from vengeful spirits, except they leave black ectoplasm instead of the usual green. They posses those who feel betrayed and carry on their vengance for them, though they must hold something haunted by them.
    • Poltergeists, another type similar to a vengeful spirit, although unlike vengeful spirits poltergeists do not target people who committed crimes similar to how the spirit died, and are more indiscriminate.
    • Shojo, a Japanese ghost/spirit, different from others in that it's tangible and alive, however similar to a ghost, it is invisible, and only those who are drunk can perceive them.
    • Demons can also be considered ghosts since they are former human souls transformed by their stay in hell. Bobby said once they're nothing but ghosts with a an ego.
  • 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.
  • Trilogy of Terror: These are trapped in inanimate objects by magic, but can interact with the world if the gold chain sealing them in is removed. They have fangs, and are capable of possessing the living.
  • Truth Seekers: The majority of ghosts in the show are living souls transplanted into other objects or creatures at the moment of death, a process which can be achieved voluntarily or involuntarily by occult or scientific means. Ghosts can return to the mortal world from 'the other side' of their own accord, but can seemingly only do so in the vicinity of a conduit like Elton.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "A Game of Pool", Fats Brown comes down from the afterlife as soon as Jesse inadvertently challenges him to a pool game. Jesse beats Fats and, after he dies, he has to return to Earth every time that he is challenged, having become trapped in a kind of Ironic Hell.
    • In "Showdown with Rance McGrew", Jesse James returns to Earth to tell Rance McGrew that he, his brother Frank, Billy the Kid, Sam Starr and the Dalton brothers, among others, are angry at the inaccurate way in which they are depicted in his show. He eventually assumes the role of McGrew's agent to ensure that the series is more accurate from now on.
    • In "Young Man's Fancy", Henrietta Walker's ghost is summoned by her son Alex's strong desire to return to his supposedly idyllic childhood instead of having to face life as a grown man.
    • In "The Changing of the Guard", the ghosts of seven of Professor Ellis Fowler's former students, Artie Beechcroft, Bartlett, Dickie Weiss, Thompson, Rice, Hudson and Whiting, appear to him in order to prevent him from committing suicide. They tell him that his teachings inspired them as he taught them about patriotism, courage, loyalty, ethics and honesty.
    • In "He's Alive", the ghost of Adolf Hitler appears to Peter Vollmer in order to help his small, ineffectual neo-Nazi group to grow and gain influence.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Voices in the Earth", the historian Professor Donald Knowles visits the devastated Earth aboard a survey ship 1,000 years after humanity abandoned it. While exploring the ruins of a library, the ghosts of people who were unable to get off the planet appear to him. The ghosts' leader explains that they are unable to travel through warp space safely as they have no ships and previous efforts have resulted in either their destruction or insanity. They are therefore tied to Earth but plan to leave it by taking control of Knowles' body. However, Knowles is eventually successful in convincing them to use their powers of restore the biosphere even though what is left of their consciousness will most likely be destroyed in the process. Before he leaves the living Earth, Knowles assures the ghosts, who may no longer be able to hear him, that humanity will return to reclaim the planet one day as they had hoped.
    • In "The Crossing", Father Mark Cassidy is haunted by the apparition of a car containing his long deceased girlfriend Kelly crashing over a cliff. The original accident, which happened more than 20 years earlier, was caused by his careless driving. It is something for which he has been trying to atone ever since. He finally realizes that the car is appearing to him so that he can get into it and die in the crash, thereby gaining peace and salvation. Several days later, Kelly's ghost is seen at his funeral. She places a rose on his casket as it is being carried out of St. Timothy's Church.
    • In "The Hunters", the ghosts of prehistoric hunters inhabit the paintings found on the walls of a 12,000-year-old cave. Every night, they leave the walls and enter the real world to kill animals belonging to the local farmers such as sheep, cattle and a brood mare. The hunters then go back onto the walls before morning, though their positions often change. After killing Dr. Klein, they are able to take her back with them onto one of the walls as a trophy. The sheriff seemingly destroys them when he washes away all of the paintings.
    • In "There Was an Old Woman", the ghosts of Brian Harris and about a dozen other kids appear to the children's author Hallie Parker in her home and ask her to read to them. Hallie is deeply moved and agrees to do so, glad that she can once again be useful.

    Music 
  • 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.
  • This trope applies to two different music videos for the same song, Steinman's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now". In Celine Dion's version, her late lover's ghost manifests first as shadows on the walls, and then in flashbacks within mirrors, his intangible presence only becoming visible near the end. In the Meatloaf/Marion Raven version, Marion's ephemeral ghost is visible to the audience all along, but her widower Meat only becomes aware of the haunting when objects start moving by themselves in his mansion, and doesn't seem to actually see her at all.
  • Lynn in the music video of "White Noise" by PVRIS. She is basically a ghostly version of Diane Freeling.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Catholics believe that the dead in Purgatory can visit living people to request prayers for purification; the living should never attempt to initiate this contact, and these souls are not the same as demons. By contrast, most Protestant churches believe that all ghosts are demons masquerading as the spirits of the dead.
  • Ghosts (usually referred to as revenants) from Medieval folklore are usually malevolent and decidedly physical, with there being stories of people wrestling with ghosts or ghosts being restrained until a priest can arrive and perform an exorcism.
  • In Buddhism, ghosts are called pretas. They are people whose craving of something (be it food, sex, or money) was so strong they could not properly reincarnate, leaving them in a state of And I Must Scream until they could build up enough good karma to reincarnate.
  • Ghosts are a prominent feature of Malaysian Mythology. They are referred to as hantu, used by shamans and witches as Familiars, frequently kept in jars, have a physical form (usually an animal, but sometimes a human) and usually need to be fed. Some specific examples:
    • Bajang, vampiric ghosts of stillborns in the form of polecats who eat milk and eggs. Bajang owners are Always Male.
    • Pelesit, ghosts of stillborns in the form of crickets who eat saffron rice. Owners of them are Always Female.
    • Hantu Raya, a superhumanly strong doppelganger fed on ancak note 
    • Polong, a Familiar summoned with Blood Magic.
    • Pontianak, vampiric ghosts of mothers who died in childbirth with long fingernails who can be turned human by plugging the hole in their neck.
    • Lang Suir, pontianak banshees who eat fish and can turn into owls.
    • Toyol, ghosts of dead babies in the form of goblins with a childlike mindset.
  • In Hong Kong, it was widely believed that a woman who committed suicide in a red dress could return as a ghost to haunt her tormentors.

    Podcasts 
  • Less Is Morgue: Ghosts in Less is Morgue are invisible without a camera, and can only be seen by fellow undead, the people they're haunting, and mortals who are either on specific drugs or are mentally unstable. Ghosts of murder victims retain their wounds and appear red-tinted, while ghosts of people who died in accidents or of natural causes have a blue-green tint.
  • Unwell Podcast: Mount Absalom has several ghosts, most of whom can still eat and go about normally despite dying and having a funeral. However, they don't age. Norah Tendulkar is an exception to this; she is bound to the place she died, and can collect sounds made in the building she haunts.
  • Hello From The Hallowoods: Percy is a ghost bound to a piano. He is not the only ghost bound to an instrument.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The Mexican luchador Fantasma de la Quebrada, the ghost of the broken. He and his successors are best known for their time in CMLL, AAA and AULL. Yes successors, these ghosts can have sons.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The game's various incarnations have had 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.
    • Allips are spectral remains of people driven to suicide by madness. They crave only revenge and unrelentingly pursue those who tormented them in life and pushed them over the brink.
    • Typically, ghosts are so terrifying that they cause people who look at them to suffer Rapid Aging and can also possess people.
    • Wraiths are incorporeal undead born from hatred and darkness, and deeply despise all living things. Their touch can drain the life from their victims, and all creatures they slay rise as new wraiths enslaved to their killer's will. They cannot bear sunlight, however, and must retreat to shelter when the sun rises.
    • The Sheet Phantom is specifically the bedsheet ghost version.
    • Ghostwalk: Ghosts, the spirits of the dead, but instead of being monsters, are playable — dead adventurers can take levels in the eidolon and eidoloncer classes to keep advancing despite being dead. This lasts until either they're raised, at which point they can swap out the ghost classes for mortal ones, or their ghost levels outweighed their normal ones, at which point they're subjected to the Calling and disappear into the afterlife. The book specifically recommends not including typical D&D ghosts, since they'd only serve to dilute focus.
    • Ravenloft has ghosts by the truckload: about the only variants of this trope that aren't present are the bedsheet-wearer and anything played purely for comedy.
  • Exalted: Ghosts and the afterlife were never supposed to exist. Then the titular Exalted killed a few of the creators of the world, who were too vast and complex to be subject to the cycle of death and rebirth they had ordained for the rest of Creation. The result was the creation of the Void, and the Underworld that formed around it. Now, anyone who dies with a strong attachment to the world will end up as a ghost in the Underworld instead of reincarnating. If they're lucky, they can resolve their attachments and return to the cycle of reincarnation. Otherwise... well, remember the Void in the middle of the Underworld? The ghosts of the slain Primordials are still there, they're bent on destroying everything so they can die for good this time, and they have a nasty habit of overwhelming ghosts with the desire to kill everything that lives and destroy everything that's not alive, consigning all that exists to Oblivion. Or forging the uncooperative ones into soulsteel.
    • 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. This can result in the interesting scenario of an Exalted fighting the ghost of her prior incarnation when they decide to look for artifacts.
    • Ghosts are corporeal, and can interbreed with the living to create ghost-blooded children who are neither fully dead nor fully alive.
  • Ironclaw has ghosts and phantoms, which fortunately cannot physically harm the living (unless they were mages in life) but they can attempt to scare someone to death. The downside of their incorporeality is that only magic can harm them, if "killed" they depart from the world of the living. There are also indistinct "spirits of the restless dead" that Necromancers draw their power from but can lose control of them at which point they may try to possess people or fresh corpses. And then there's shades, kind of the "psychic echo" type, which actually don't count as undead and aren't affected by Black or White magic, but Green and Purple mages can communicate with or control them.
  • Magic: The Gathering has some ghosts within the "Spirit" creature type, a category that also contains things that may or may not have been living people once and things that were definitely never anything else. The rules ghosts operate under also change from world to world, so it's hard to pick out a pattern, but they're often aligned with Blue mana, the kind most associated with knowledge and the mind.
    • Ghosts are particularly prominent in the Gothic Horror plane of Innistrad, where they're the result of the slumber of the dead being disturbed by unresolved business, strong attachments to the living or the world, disturbance of their graves or evil magical activity.
    • In Kaldheim, people who don't die glorious deaths in battle, including every animal and monsters, becomes spirits in the foggy underworld of Istfell. These ghosts lack the passion and drive they had in life, and spend their afterlives drifting aimlessly like fog, repeating without purpose the motions of the things they did in life.
  • 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.
    • Dream-shades are similar to ghosts, but technically a distinct type of being. Ghosts are mortal souls who cling to the corporeal plane; dream-shades cling to the ethereal plane — the world of dreams and manifest archetypes — instead. Some are the souls of mortals who died in their sleep and knowingly or instinctively clung to the dream world; others can be anchored there by powerful ethereal spirits. They always retain all of their memories and sense of self, but cannot manifest in the material world.
  • Talislanta has Disembodied Spirits, which are stereotypical Ghosts, and Reincarntors, which are the spirits of dead Torquaran wizards who possess mortals.
  • Unknown Armies has two different kinds of ghosts:
    • Reverants are spirits without ego. They fall into different categories based on how they died and who they were in life, but boil down to repeating actions over and over in a mindless, pathetic way. Mourners show up and crowd around dead bodies, snowfallen show up during snowstorms and sing prophetic warnings, etc.
    • Then there are demons, human spirits that are entirely ego, who remain active and cognizant entirely through the force of their will and obsession. They are universally awful and dangerous because, even if their obsession is something noble, they will possess and destroy you to accomplish their goals. Add to that the fact that while they still think and feel, they're utterly lacking in the emotional depth that hormones give you, making them incapable of love or even basic empathy, and you have the nastiest creeps in the whole setting.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has a few ways for the souls of the dead to linger as incorporeal spirits:
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Changeling: The Dreaming: Changelings killed by Cold Iron do not reincarnate and can become ghosts.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion and Orpheus are both about ghosts, dealing with them in different ways. Wraith focuses on spiritual existence and society, while Orpheus deals more with blurring the lines between life and death.
      • People and places that keep a ghost attached to the world of the living are called fetters.
      • Wraiths see the world as way darker than the living do — shiny new cars would be dilapidated wrecks, buildings are 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".
    • New World of Darkness:
      • Ghosts are somewhat less elaborate than in the Old. 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.
      • 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.

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • Hamlet: Hamlet's dad returns from Purgatory to demand revenge. And boy, does he get it. Hamlet considers the possibility that the ghost is a demon sent to tempt Hamlet as Protestant ideas go against ghosts and this is the first reason that he delays his revenge, in order to make sure that Claudius is guilty which becomes simultaneously known to the audience as well.

    Theme Park 
  • 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 features 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Hanyuu is a Cute Ghost Girl who died hundreds of years ago due to being sacrificed for being a Horned Humanoid. The sacrifice ended up making her a god. She looks like a child but died as an adult and can transform between the two at will, as well as become physical if she wishes. Rika is normally the only person who can see it however when people reach a certain level of Hinamizawa Syndrome they can hear her. It usually doesn't help their paranoia when they see thin air repeating "I'm Sorry" constantly.
  • Kindred Spirits on the Roof features Sachi and Megumi, two teenage lesbian ghosts who recruit the protagonist to get yuri couples together so they can consummate their relationship. The ghosts, or "kindred spirits," as they prefer to be called cannot leave the school campus, can only go to places they've been while they were alive (Sachi can't go to the rebuilt building except for the roof, while Megumi can't go to the third-years' building due to having died as a first-year). They have a few special powers, as Megumi can leave messages in blood, Sachi can cause objects to shake and both can possess people to feel what they're feeling.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • Misfile: Kamikaze Kate's sister Angelica was a combination of types 1, 2, 4 and 7. She was eventually persuaded to move on when Rumisiel showed her just how much her presence had hurt her sister's life.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Roy Greenhilt's father Eugene is barred from the Afterlife by an unfulfilled Blood Oath, so he settles for appearing as a spirit when Roy holds their family's Ancestral Weapon. He has no power to influence the mortal world or even be perceived by anyone else, except when he hijacks a planar summoning spell to manifest properly. When Roy spends some time dead, he's unable to communicate with anybody except an Oracle of Tiamat, since nobody is carrying his sword.
    • There's also the positive energy spirits of the Sapphire Guard, sworn to protect the Azure City throne room as a final line of defense. Redcloak muses on the trope here, observing that they're technically not undead at all.
    • In the afterlife, Roy's mother Sara appears as a young woman even though she lived to old age. She explains that his father Eugene looks like a wrinkled old man because he always was a wrinkled old man on the inside even before he became one on the outside.
  • Parisa: The Spirasi are genderless, shapeshifting spirits, pretty much ghosts, who bond with the still-alive Parisi through pacts. They're usually named after the places where they were found.
  • Pumpkin Flower: Ghosts can be seen by everyone and have to sleep. Powers and form seem to depend on the individual, but they're all insane. Even Dell but no one talks about that.
  • Sluggy Freelance had a problem with ghosts for a while when they lived in Kesandru House. And Oasis might be a weaponized ghost.
  • Unsounded: Ghosts start out as clusters of memories cleansed from the souls of the dead by the setting's Background Magic Field, the Khert. Some are intense enough to absorb similar memories and slip from the Khert to the physical world, where they seek out things that resonate with their theme. The most common are smoke eels, when ghosts of pain and suffering form ephemeral bodies of dust or smoke; and haunted pymarics, when ghosts hide inside Magitek and co-opt it for their own use. Sette's Team Pet Boo is an unusually complex and precocious ghost that holed up in a pymaric spider.

    Web Original 
  • Chaos Fighters: Hollows 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.
  • Gaia Online had a Halloween event that started when a by-product from the Omni Drink Corporation's operations was revealed to form a spectral barrier that prevented the spirits inhabiting the graveyard where it was dumped from moving on. Unfortunately, by the time OmniDrink's disinherited heir managed to fix this, the ghosts had all gone a bit Ax-Crazy from being trapped in their graves for decades...
  • Limyaael's Fantasy Rants: Limyaael has a little rant about ghosts in fantasy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Simple Complications has a ghost that appears throughout the first volume. It is a blue humanoid figure, but without any distinctive features beyond that, where you can't even tell which is it's front and back. It causes certain electrical machines to stop working, some temporarily and some permanently. Otherwise it is mostly seen floating around, and doesn't noticeably interact with people. Eventually it leads some of the characters to a coded document it wrote when it was still a person, Joshua Teleros, a character from Chrono Hustle.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Yue, Roku and his three predecessor Avatars turning up as Spirit Advisors.
  • 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.
  • Ben 10 has Ghostfreak, a ghost-like alien who becomes a lot scarier when he escapes, and wants Revenge on Ben. We also find out then, that without the protective shell that the Omnitrix generated, sunlight destroys Ghostfreak.
  • 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.
    • The new cartoon Casper's Scare School has Casper and his uncles back to being ghosts that were never "fleshies".
  • City of Ghosts: The ghosts are friendly and at times mischievous, and eager to share stories of their former lives and their communities. Some take other forms, such as a magpie or mythological creature.
  • Danny Phantom has a whole bushel of examples:
    • Overall, there are three main types of ghosts. 1) Ghosts of people/creatures who died, like Poindexter and Cujo. 2) A entity that was never living, but seems to be a unique life-form formed of ectoplasm, 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 Spider-Man.
    • Danny himself is a "half-ghost" and technically never died. So is Vlad Plasmius. And because she was created, so is the Distaff Counterpart, Dani Phantom.
      • Danny has the "Ghostly wail" which is a powerful sonic attack, effective on ghosts. This seems also to be a power particular to half-ghost/half-humans.
      • Danny has the ghost sense (an Homage to Spider-Man's spider sense), which turns out later to have been the precursor to his freezing power.
    • Ember McLain got power from the adulation of fans she never got in life.
    • Desiree was obligated to grant wishes, though not always as the wisher would have preferred.
    • 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.
    • Ghost animals:
      • 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.
    • Nonhuman Ghosts:
      • 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.
    • Ghost Gear:
      • 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.
  • 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.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters had ghosts that could take tangible form in our dimension; a Dematerializer stripped them of these forms and forced them to escape to the Spirit World.
  • Futurama:
    • In "The Honking", 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 comments that the last ghost died over 200 years ago, to which Bender responds with "the last human ghost."
    • In "Proposition Infinity", a ghost is seen married to a horse. It's unknown what type of ghost this is.
    • In "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.
  • Hanna-Barbera: The Funky Phantom
    • Mudsy was not interested in haunting, really. He was a confirmed coward who just wanted to be left alone.
    • In a case of nonhuman ghost, Mudsy's cat [appropriately named Boo] was also a ghost alongside him.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: One episode has Beezy being haunted by the ghost of his uneaten pizza crusts.
  • 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.
  • The Real Ghostbusters: Ghosts usually resemble living monsters more than ghosts; discussions of death were verboten in Saturday morning fare at the time. There are a few notable exceptions to this. "The Old College Spirit" featured ghosts who were deceased frat brothers who had failed to graduate. "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Ghost" had the ghost of a man trying to reconnect with his beloved niece so that he could say goodbye before departing. "The Man Who Never Reached Home" featured Simon Queg, a spirit forced to wander the Earth for his misdeeds in life, until he confronted his darker self. "Bustman's Holiday" had ghosts that were explicitly from a battle on the Scottish moors. And "The Bird of Kildarby" had a group of Irish ghosts who were haunting a relocated castle. "The Last Train to Oblivion" featured the ghost of Casey Jones. "Ghostfight at the OK Corral" featured Doc Holiday and the Earps.
  • 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.
  • Teen Titans Go!: In the Halloween special, Scary Figure Dance, the Titans become ghosts after the die and before trying to scare the HIVE. They were only white, have no legs, have four fingers instead of five, and lacks a nose. In Real Magic, Laundry Day, Ghostboy, and Hot Garbage, it is shown that the ghosts of the Titans resemble the Titans but in blueish or greenish tint.
  • Thunder Cats and ThunderCats (2011) have Court Mage Jaga as Spirit Advisor.
  • 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.


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Dr. Killjoy

Dr. Killjoy is one of the ghosts that haunts Carnate Island.

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