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Quieting the Unquiet Dead

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"It is your solemn duty to seek out those who have fallen, but cannot find their proper rest, and give them succour."
Almala Sull, Priestess of Morr, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Old World Bestiary

When the dead rise, undead hunters step in. Some of them fight the dead with salt, wooden stakes, holy water, and the odd shotgun.

But there are alternative approaches. The unquiet dead may not be the enemies of the living, but victims of circumstance or of the living themselves. Rather than violently destroy the undead, it is often possible to quietly lay the dead back to rest and allow them to pass on to whatever comes after. This often involves accomplishing a lost soul's Unfinished Business or resolving the Afterlife Angst that is keeping them from passing on, and often includes Revisiting the Cold Case if the spirit in question cannot rest until their murderer is found. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of the haunt not having received the rites Due to the Dead that has them trapped in the land of the living.

This is more commonly done with ghosts than with other types of undead. Depending on what's required to accomplish the task, characters may be Demon Slayers, Hunters of Monsters, Occult Detectives, The Real Spoofbusters, I See Dead People, Willing Channeler, Magnetic Medium, and/or Vampire Hunters.

The inverse of necromancy, though depending on the work it may involve similar techniques used differently. Related to Don't Fear The Reaper, where the representatives or gods of death are compassionate caretakers rather than Grim Reapers. See also Hollywood Exorcism, Banishing Ritual, Spooky Séance, and Turn Undead for ways this may be done done. Compare Precautionary Corpse Disposal, where steps are taken to prevent needing to do this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: This is the primary function of the Shinigami/Soul Reapers. Their zanpakuto swords are used to pass the souls of the unruly dead on to the Soul Society so they can rejoin the cycle of reincarnation: stamping ghosts with the hilt passes them on peacefully, while man-eating Hollows are defeated in combat, which cleanses the sins they committed as dead—although ghosts and Hollows that committed heinous acts in life are condemned to Hell. Their beef with the Quincies stems from the fact that Quincies destroy Hollows outright, preventing them from reincarnating.
  • Inuyasha:
    • Chapter 35 (Episode 12 of the anime) has Kagome and Inuyasha dealing with a Vengeful Ghost named Mayu Ikeda, who was the late older sister of Sota's friend Satoru. The duo is informed that if Mayu is unable to quell her hatred of her mother and brother, believing they purposely left her to die in the fire that killed her, she will be Dragged Off to Hell by the Soul Piper. Fortunately, with help from Kagome, Mayu is able to make up with her mother and depart for heaven, now finally at peace.
    • The Soul Piper itself is an example, being a benevolent demon that normally plays with the ghosts of dead children until they're ready to pass on. However, it will drag them to Hell if they are unable to let go of grudges they held when they died.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable: Reimi Sugimoto is the ghost of the first victim of Serial Killer Yoshikage Kira. After she was killed, she and her dog Arnold decided to remain in an alleyway said to be the space between Morioh and the afterlife until her killer was brought to justice, where Reimi and Arnold would then finally depart to heaven.
  • Naruto: Edo Tensei is a technique developed by the Second Hokage where the user is able to resurrect a deceased individual in an indestructible body at the cost of a Human Sacrifice. The only ways to break the technique are to seal the target away or if they manage to find peace, at which point they can break free from it on their own.
  • Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs: As a spirit medium, helping the dead find rest is one of Fuyuzora Kogarashi's tasks, because a ghost that remains in the living world for too long eventually turns into an evil spirit. When he was younger, many ghosts resolved their lingering regrets by possessing him in order to pass along their knowledge, while others he simply exorcised. Neither of those is an option for resolving Yuuna's situation, and his efforts to help her resolve her lingering regret drive the main plot of the story.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Ghosts are souls being tortured and bound to some sort of physicality. "Killing" them actually frees them from torment into presumably their afterlives.
  • Sorrowful and Immaculate Hearts: "Let's Dance" deals with a ghostly ballet that performs on a loop, with fatal results for their trapped audience, until someone fills in for the one missing performer. As it happens, Batman knows his Swan Lake.

    Films — Animation 
  • ParaNorman: Every year on a certain day, someone has to read from a book in a graveyard before sundown to keep a witch (really Agatha Prenderghast) from rising from the dead, as she put those who wronged her under a curse for executing her because of her ability to talk to the dead. Norman, however, decides to put her to rest for eternity by getting her to see that she shouldn't forget those who were kind to her. Now that she is at peace, she ascends to the afterlife.
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: The ghosts that the gang keeps encountering are revealed to be victims that Simone, Lena, and Jacques had drained in order to sustain their immortality. These spirits are simply trying to warn away people from suffering the same fate. After the three antagonists are defeated, the spirits on the island are finally put to rest.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Poltergeist: The medium Tangina coaxes all but one of the ghosts haunting the Freelings' house to pass into the light and the next plane of existence in their after-life journey.
  • In Silent Tongue, Prescott finally lays Awbonnie's ghost to rest by burning her body, which is what Awbennie had wanted and what Talbot was refusing to do.

  • Fighting Fantasy:
    • The backstory of Crypt of the Sorcerer has the titular villain, the vile sorceror Razaak slain by the warrior, Kull, only for Razaak to curse Kull into becoming a skeleton forced to roam the land for centuries while holding his magic sword, until the sword was eventually taken from his grasp - at which point the skeletal Kull then dissolves into dust, finally at peace.
    • In Legend of Zagor, you might come across the Vengeful Ghost of Remstar the Wizard in the Chamber of Heartfires. If you know his name, you are given the option to pacify him by spending 1 Magic Point to have Remstar laid to rest, overcoming him without a fight.
    • Bloodbones have you boarding a ghost ship called The Sea Maiden and confronting the ghost captain, Velyarde. You'll be forced into an unavoidable duel, but if you win, you then release the ship's crew from the afterlife - for the only way they can be lifted from their curse into sailing the seas for an eternity is for a worthy challenger to defeat their captain.
  • Give Yourself Goosebumps
    • The Knight in Screaming Armor have you running into a cenobium of ghost monks in a haunted abbey, who wants to make you one of their ranks. You can however lay them to rest for good by escaping to the abbey's clock tower and ringing the bell, allowing them to pass on. The difficulty is trying to reach and trigger the bell though, whose solution is a Moon Logic Puzzle.
    • Lost In Stinkeye Swamp has a good ending where you finally put's Annabelle's spirit to rest, releasing her from the afterlife after haunting Stinkeye Swamp for 200 years. You get rewarded by finding the treasure after that, of course.

  • The Faraway Paladin: The benediction of Gracefeel, the goddess of reincarnation, is said to "grant repose and guidance to the souls of the dead". Most people treat this as What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?, so she has few worshipers, but when main character Will swears an oath to her and becomes her paladin, he discovers that it lets him Turn Undead by freeing their souls back into the cycle of reincarnation (which runs on a Hindu model). This proves extremely useful, since one of his primary enemies is Stagnate, the god of undeath.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer: In an uncharacteristic moment of compassion, the Villain Protagonist helps a ghost admit that he's dead and creates a Runic Magic threshold for him to cross over to the afterlife.
    Johannes: There. Walk through. It's as simple as that.
    Ghost: I'm not sure I can. I've sort of tried in the past. I couldn't leave here.
    Johannes: That was before I opened the way for you.
  • In the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix, the Abhorsen family are necromancers who wield Charter Magic to return the Dead to Death.
    Terciel: Where others of the art raise the Dead, I lay them back to rest. And those that will not rest, I bind.
  • Oliver Twisted: Oliver can grant peace to the woe-begottens by magically freeing their souls from their decaying roaming bodies. He doesn't regard it as killing because he's repulsed by the idea of taking lives.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: As seen in Princesses Don't Play Nice, ghosts are formed by Unfinished Business and finishing it frees them into their afterlives.
  • World of the Five Gods: One of the most important duties of the clergy is to help direct the spirits of the dead to the correct god. This is because after someone dies their spirit has only a short amount of time to get to its god before it is "sundered" and doomed to slowly fade away. This is considered to be literally a Fate Worse than Death.
  • The Witness For The Dead: Witnesses for the Dead can use their abilities to learn a ghoul's name, then use its name to compel it to rest again. However, only Witnesses for the Dead can actually do this; a normal Ulinese priest tries it after reading a book claiming that anyone can do it, and pays for it with his life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The Soul Hunters collect the souls of worthy individuals at the point of death. Given that in this setting souls not only exist but are physically observable, most sentient species refuse to deal with Soul Hunters and their appearance always means trouble. In Season 5 episode 'Day of the Dead' an afterlife is also confirmed to exist, making the Soul Hunters especially unwelcome. Releasing souls provides closure for the lost, but not without collateral damage.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor finds himself in this role in "Mummy on the Orient Express" when he deduces from the various clues that the "mummy" is actually a soldier kept alive by ancient regenerative tech, and sends him back to rest by saying "I surrender!" and then saluting the ancient soldier before sending him on his way to the afterlife.
    • Later in the same season, Danny Pink convinces an army of Cybermen created from the corpses of Earth to perform a Heroic Sacrifice to stop Missy's plan by Taking a Third Option (her choice being that a cyber rain converts all of the Earth, or the Doctor assumes responsibility for the newly formed Cyber-army and uses it to right wrongs across the universe as he sees fit, thus betraying his ideals).
  • In Season 4 of Lois & Clark, a man attempts to drive the titular characters out of their home by waking up the ghost of a woman who was murdered there and promising to put her to rest. In the end, he cannot deliver, and it's the heroes who must do the job.
  • The Sentinel: In "The Waiting Room", Jim turns out to be capable of seeing ghosts. In this case, the ghost of a woman who was murdered 45 years ago. The heroes put her to rest by solving the murder, for all the good it does after all this time.
  • In Supernatural, Hunters' usual tactic for ghosts is to destroy their remains and render them Deader than Dead, but a peaceful approach sometimes works:
    • "Roadkill": A ghost is trapped by her worry for her husband, who was in the car crash that killed her. When she learns that she died but her husband survived safely, she accepts the truth and Disappears into Light.
    • "Death Takes a Holiday": A dead boy remains as a ghost because he doesn't want to leave his mother. When the Winchesters convince him that he's only hurting them both by haunting her, he leaves with a friendly Psychopomp.
    • "Bad Boys": The ghost is a mother violently protecting her son from beyond the grave. The Winchesters' usual method of burning bones and other relics doesn't work, so they need the boy, Timmy, to reassure the mother that he'll be okay without her attacking people.
  • The Ultraman Cosmos monster Mudon is a living saurian skeleton kaiju animated by the troubled soul of the dinosaur, who went on a rampage because she is unable to rest without seeing her baby one last time. In the episode's penultimate battle, rather than killing Mudon, Ultraman Cosmos instead brings a giant-sized portrait of Mudon's offspring to life, allowing Mudon to reunite with her child, at which point the satisfied Mudon then Disappears into Light, finally at peace.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • Every ghost stayed behind due to something, from its unsolved murder to simply wanting to experience more of life. If that's resolved, the ghost peacefully vanishes forever, no matter whether it's an earthbound poltergeist or an Undead Abomination in the depths of The Underworld.
    • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Sin-Eaters have wide-ranging powers related to death and the dead, and naturally attract ghosts who want to communicate, so they're expected by tradition to help ghosts with their Unfinished Business and neutralize the most dangerous ones. Sin-Eaters also have a natural incentive, as helping a ghost to pass on can automatically refill their store of Plasm.
  • GURPS Monster Hunters: In sourcebook 2: The Enemy, it is said that one of the easiest ways to stop a ghost is to simply find what's keeping it in this realm.
  • Ironclaw: The Phelan druids planted Rune Oaks that quiet any undead which approach them. Unfortunately, since the Bisclavret converted to S'allumer they've started cutting them down.
  • Pathfinder: Ghosts will rejuvenate if destroyed normally, even if by the most powerful spells. To permanently get rid of them, it's needed to find the reason it's persisting and to fix what was made wrong.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The restless dead are a particular concern of both the Priests of Morr, God of the Dead, and wizards of the Lore of Death. They fight malevolent undead, but deal peacefully with those who want to resolve their Unfinished Business and move on, and have specialized magic for both functions.

    Video Games 
  • Acrylic: The goal in each floor after the first one is to pacify the Vengeful Ghost on each floor by telling them their name and how they died, which spirits forget upon death. You do this by finding the items associated with their name and death and giving it to them.
  • AMBER: Journeys Beyond: Three ghosts are haunting a North Carolina estate your ghost-hunting friend Roxy moved into, and the player must use an Astral Projection headset to delve into a strange limbo-world they inhabit to help them recall how they died. On top of this, Roxy used a defective prototype of the headset, leaving her mind scattered between the ghosts until you aid them.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: As Godwoken, the Player Party are among the few who can see and communicate with spirits. Many of them have minor Sidequests to resolve their Unfinished Business and let them pass on — or the Godwoken can devour them for power.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the map location called the Exalted Plains has recently been the site of heavy fighting in the Orlesian civil war. Both sides have presently called a truce, but the living are trapped inside their respective camps because the extremely angry dead are shuffling around on the battlefield under the direction of one of the Big Bad's supporters. Before much of anything else can be done in the region, the Inquisition has to deal with the supporter and light the funeral pyres so that the soldiers who are still alive can stay that way.
  • Dust: An Elysian Tail: An unusual example, as you both fight and help the same undead being. In the Sorrowing Meadows, you have to collect four meaningful objects while sometimes being pursued by the monstrous ghost of Baron Kane. Once they're collected, you fight Kane himself. Defeating him restores him to his right mind, allowing him to rest in peace.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
      • Most undead are generic monsters with Hard-Coded Hostility. However, one Sidequest has you help a Friendly Ghost move on by freeing his corpse from the shackles that caused him to drown.
      • The spirit of an evil necromancer feigns remorse and asks you to help him pass on by reassembling his dismembered body in his tomb. You have to fall for it, but his Boss Fight quiets him by force.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
      • An early sidequest in Whiterun involves this. The local priest of Arkay, the Divine of life and death, has misplaced the amulet that allows him to confront and bring peace to the restless dead. The Dragonborn is tasked with going down into the catacombs, fighting through the skeletons that have arisen, and recovering the amulet so the priest can do his duties.
      • A quest for the Temple of Mara, the Divine of love and marriage, also involves this. Most of the quest involves helping various separated lovers reunite or realize their feelings for one another, but the last pair are two ghosts who died far apart from one another. Bringing their spirits back together allows them to finally be at peace and move on to the afterlife.
  • Fable: The main quest has the Hero calm a powerful ghost by returning its stolen grave goods, then later give it and its undead True Companions the warrior's deaths they were denied in life. A Sidequest also has him avenge a ghost's murder and deliver her last gift.
    Ghost: At last I can take that nap. Goodbye, dearie!
  • Final Fantasy X: Summoners put the souls of the dead to rest in a ceremony called the Sending. Those who don't get Sent become restless spirits that coalesce into fiends, or in some cases continue on as Unsent (who aren't considered zombies for the most part since they keep their memories and personality). Some of these include Sinister Ministers Seymour and Mika, the wandering historian Maechen, and even Team Dad Auron.
  • The Forest Quartet has the player assume the role of a deceased singer, Nina, who must unite her band one last time before she can move on. When she succeeds, she then disappears into the afterlife.
  • Jade Empire: The role of the Spirit Monks was to shepherd lost souls back to the Water Dragon in Dirge. With the Water Dragon taken from Dirge, restless spirits wander the land with increasing frequency. The player, as the last Spirit Monk, encounters many of them and resolves the issues keeping them rooted to the world. On the Open Palm path, even the Water Dragon is put to rest.
  • King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella has Rosella explore an old house with its own cemetery. In the attic, she's visited by various ghosts, who all require some trinket to lie quietly. The third or fourth of these ghosts is a small boy, who requires a toy. Once he's gotten it, he'll open a compartment that contains sheet music that's essential to winning the game.
  • Koudelka: Charlotte D'Lota is a ghost of a little girl, who died after years of being imprisoned in a monastery. She's fully convinced that she has never been loved, and hates the world. Normally, the player must confront her and kill her monstrous form, but if you find letters of her mother, who loved her despite the circumstances, she no longer has a justification to linger, and vanishes in a Puff of Logic.
  • Monster Hunter (PC): Ghost mooks, unlike the other monsters, are not "killed" when defeated. Instead, by dousing them with Holy Water, the Hunter can put them back to rest allowing them to disappear into mist.
  • Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous: During Sosiel's first companion quest, the funeral for several of his fellow priests is attacked by a necromancer who starts raising corpses from the graveyard. The revenant of one local noblewoman comes out intelligent, and after being convinced that she's dead, she gives the PC a magic item and allows them to lay her back to rest (which Sosiel accomplishes with a cure moderate wounds spell).
  • Pokémon: The Gen I games (as well as their remakes) feature a Marowak ghost who was killed by Team Rocket in Lavender Tower. In Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow (as well as their initial remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen), beating the Marowak calms her down and sends her to the afterlife, allowing the player to continue. However, in Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee, she is instead calmed and goes to the afterlife upon seeing her child.
  • Quest for Glory IV tasks the Hero with helping multiple undead to let go of whatever holds them back in the mortal realm and to pass on to the afterlife: Anna, who doesn't even realize she has been a ghost for years, needs to be reunited with her husband Nikolai; the Rusalka (a.k.a. Elyssa) needs revenge on her murderer and a kiss from a true Hero; and Paladin Pyotir needs someone to restore his honor by delivering evidence to his grandson that Pyotir died in battle, rather than walking out on his pregnant bride. In the same spirit, there is the soul of Archmage Erana, who has Sealed Evil in a Duel for almost 80 years after her physical body had been killed: she is not, technically, undead, but still unable to move on to the afterlife until the Hero helps her complete the banishment of the Big Bad.
  • In The Sims 3, this is one of the possible ways to deal with "angry ghosts" as part of the Ghost Hunter profession. There is an option to try to just suck them into the Banshee Banisher, but it's also possible to calm them down by reassuring them about their full lives and loved ones, which will then allow them to move on when asked to do so.
  • The Spirit Hunter games revolve around doing this. Each chapter in the games focuses on a specific Vengeful Ghost haunting a specific area, wherein the protagonist and their companions have to investigate, find out the source of the spirit's grudge, and either destroy them by causing them great pain (which gets you the bad end where your companion is killed by the grudge) or assuage their pain and purify them (which gets you the good end where everyone survives).
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Knights of the Old Republic: On Korriban, the Player Character encounters the Force ghost of the ancient Sith Lord Ajunta Pall, who has spent thousands of years in his tomb. He has come to regret his actions in life, and the PC can convince him to repent and return to the light, at which point he becomes one with the Force.
    • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Darth Sion's body is a broken, decomposing husk, animated by The Power of Hate alone. If the player character convinces him to let go of his anger, he peacefully becomes one with the Force.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
      • During Chapter 2 of the Sith Inquisitor storyline, the Player Character binds a total of four Sith ghosts to themself using a Sith sorcery ritual called the "Force walk". At the end of the class story, a light-side Inquisitor has the option to draw on the light side of the Force to redeem them and allow them to become one with the Force at long last.
      • Inquisitor companion Ashara Zavros is introduced attempting to do this to one of the ghosts the Inquisitor wants, as a training exercise imposed by her Jedi Masters. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Forcewalking is a requirement, and an ability Ashara lacks, so the ghost—her own ancestor, renegade Jedi Master Kalatosh Zavros—spends each session terrorizing her until the Inquisitor finally binds him.


    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Ghosts tied to the mortal realm are capable of moving on to the afterlife if they are able to remember how they died.
  • The Ghost and Molly McGee: The episode "Howlin' Harriet" has the titular ghost, the spirit of a woman who was run over by a train and lost the toes on her right foot in the process and is now said to roam the Brighton woods looking to reclaim them, and is finally able to pass on after Libby makes her some replacement toes.
  • Gravity Falls: The episode "Northwest Mansion Mystery" has the ghost of a lumberjack who helped build the Northwest Mansion, having placed a curse on the family because they broke their promise to let the townsfolk into the party to celebrate the construction. After Pacifica upholds the deal for her family (despite her parents' protests), the ghost is able to finally move on and the curse is lifted.
  • South Park: In "Dead Celebrities", a bunch of celebrities like Billy Mays, Bea Arthur, and Walter Cronkite start haunting Ike because they can't depart until Michael Jackson accepts his death, which he won't until he becomes what he always wanted to be: a little white girl. The boys remedy this by disguising a Jackson-possessed Ike as a girl and entering them in a beauty pageant.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", Squidward pretends to be a ghost to scare SpongeBob and Patrick into doing his bidding. When he gets angry at them for their bungling, the two decide that he needs to be put to rest and proceed to give him a proper funeral. Squidward confesses to pretending to be a ghost, but even then SpongeBob thinks he's just in denial and decides to send him to the Great Beyond with a giant bubble that takes him to the surface, surrounded by hungry seagulls. "He's in a better place now."


Video Example(s):


Darth Imperius and Sith ghosts

"The Dark Council". During chapter 2 of the Sith Inquisitor class story, they collect and bind a total of four Force ghosts of ancient Sith Lords. At the conclusion, the lightside Inquisitor, now known as Darth Imperius, is able to use the light side of the Force to redeem them, pacifying their restless spirits and allowing them to become one with the Force. (Video by YouTuber Darrell Story.)

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