In mythology and folklore, a vengeful ghost or vengeful spirit is said to be the spirit of a deceased person who returns from the afterlife to seek revenge for a cruel, unnatural or unfair death. In certain cultures where funeral and burial or cremation ceremonies are important, such vengeful spirits may also be considered as unhappy ghosts of individuals who have not been given a proper funeral. In Japan, these kind of spirits receive the name of onryou (怨霊, lit. "hateful spirit") and are a type of yuurei (幽霊, lit. "dim spirit"), a type of Youkai and the equivalent of ghosts in the West. Typically a Ghastly Ghost, at least from the point of view of those who did them wrong.
In most cases, the object of a vengelful ghost's revenge is always a living person, or at least a deceased one whose spirit the ghost wants to forcibly drag to hell. But for whatever reason, said person rarely ever comes back as another ghost once his ghostly pursuer kills them, and the chances of that ghost seeking revenge on the other vengeful ghost and possibly perpetuating a Cycle of Revenge are likewise extremely slim in fiction. When the writer addresses this scenarion, expect some Hand Wave or justification as to why it doesn't occur — such as the universe having specific rules concerning who gets to become a ghost (which the victim naturally won't meet), vengeful ghosts being far stronger than recently deceased spirits, or the latter having cannibalistic tendencies on top of being extremely bloodthirsy.
Part of Our Ghosts Are Different and Revenge Tropes. Sister Trope to Onryo, a Japanese counterpart to this trope that has distinctive traits but the same objective, and Revenant Zombie, in which the person returns as a zombie but keeps all their memories and personality, including the memory of the one who killed them and the desire for vengeance.
See also Unfinished Business, when revenge is not the (only) reason to come back as a ghost, Ghostly Goals, for when the primary mission of the ghost is revenge, and Murder Into Malevolence, a reason for why the ghost can turn violent after the death.
- DC Comics
- Despite his name, the Gentleman Ghost is a supervillain that lived in 1800s England as a thief and later entered the U.S. illegally and was killed by Nighthawk, one of the incarnations of Hawkman. Revived as a ghost, he became not just the Arch-Enemy of Hawkman, but also a supervillain to stand against every superhero out there.
- The Origin Story of The Spectre is about this: the cop Jim Corrigan was murdered by thugs and eventually came back to life as the form of The Spectre. With the time, Spectre becomes more as the Spirit of Vengeance by his own and later he got other human hosts, two of the most famous ones are Hal Jordan and Crispus Allen.
- A '90s Anti-Heroine example is Ghost. Elisa Cameron, a reporter who finds herself dead under mysterious circumstances, gains the abilities of intangibility and teleportation as a result of becoming a ghost. Now she must try to find out how she ended up dead in the first place.
- The Crow franchise is mostly about this. In many incarnations, a pair of lovers, a father and son, or some other characters with a bond of love are killed by a gang, an organization or even by Dirty Cops. One of the pair is revived as "The Crow", seeking a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against EVERYONE in the group that killed them and their loved ones, not just limited to the killers, but also the highest ranks who managed that event.
- Invoked by Ghost Rider, being more known as "The Spirit of Venegance" in any of his incarnations (excepting the first Western version, later known as "Phantom Rider", a vigilante that takes the "ghost" as his alter-ego instead being really dead).
- The Wraith: The Wraith initially comes Back from the Dead to take down the gang who killed him and his brother, and stays there to battle other evil.
- Spawn: Al Simmons and Jim Downing are basically this, although Al is at first led to believe he is a Revenant Zombie.
- In Chapter 13 "The Abandoned Route" of Pokémon: Nova and Antica, Ash and the other members of his posse encounter Master Silverplien. Although he acts cordial and helps into his house when they're lost, he is in fact a vengeful revenant bent on "saving" people from the harshness of life. Why is he like this? He and his family had their lives unceremoniously taken by Team Hectic.
- Jabberwock: Hank fully expects this trope to be played straight when confronted with his son's ghost in chapter 24, and is momentarily at a loss when Cole cheerfully subverts it. But only momentarily.
- Candyman is the nickname of the son of a slave named Daniel Robitaille, who was brutally tortured and murdered because of a love affair with the daughter of a local (white) plantation owner. "Candyman" himself became an urban legend: if you mention his name five times in the front of a mirror, you can be killed by him. The film is about how a girl discovers the urban myth is not just a myth and after that things Gone Horribly Wrong.
- The ghost at the centre of Lemon Tree Passage is seeking vengeance for her rape and murder.
- In Atlantics, the Boys died on their boat with some unfinished business, and will not rest until they are given proper funerals and returned the lost unpaid wages they are owed. They go around starting fires and threatening the wealthy. The ghosts are portrayed more sympathetically than usual, and their demands are presented as entirely reasonable.
- Deadtime Stories: Volume 2: After being Driven to Suicide in "On Sabbath Hill", Allison returns as ghost to take revenge on Professor Weaver.
- Fighting Fantasy: The gamebook Night of the Necromancer is one of the few entries where the player character is a ghost; slain by a cultist at the beginning of the adventure, after returning home from a three-year crusade, the player spends the entire story uncovering the truth behind his death and avenge himself eventually, while saving his kingdom from the forces of evil.
- In Julie and the Phantoms the three Phantoms discover that all the music they wrote while they were alive was stolen by their surviving bandmate who didn't credit them. They decide to haunt him as revenge.
- Supernatural has this as a constant theme, with one of the most frequent Monsters of the Week being vengeful spirits who are unable to move on and seek revenge on the ones who murdered them. Some examples:
- In "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning", the ghost of a woman is out to kill her former coworkers in revenge for a Deadly Prank they pulled on her that inadvertently got her killed.
- Defied by Bobby Singer, as he realizes that he's beginning to turn into one when he's about to kill Sam, and in "Survival of the Fittest" he asks the brothers to destroy the flask that's keeping him tethered to the mortal world, which they do.
- Parodied in the The IT Crowd episode "The Haunting of Bill Crouse", in which the titular Bill Crouse, believing that Jen has died, falsely claims that he was the last person to sleep with her in order to win sympathy from others. Throughout the episode, Jen tries to confront him about it, but each time, circumstances cause him to believe that she's a vengeful ghost haunting him.
- Korean series Cheo Yong is about the eponymous protagonist who's a police detective that can see ghosts since he's a child and solve misteries around them. In both seasons, various of the crimes are made by vengeful ghosts, including the Big Bad of Season 1, a former partner of Cheo Yong that seek vengeance against him.
- In Engine Sentai Go-onger, Hiramechimedes is killed by the Go-ongers, but his hatred is so deep that he returns for a last time as a yurei.
- In all the world, they're their own and distinctive vengeful spirits. Some of the most known ones by region:
- In Americas, there are plenty of vengeful ghost depending of the zone: in North America there's the Chindi a vengeful ghost that causes dust devils in Navajo mythology; in Latin America there's a prominent number of female vengeful spirits, everyone with different motifs, like La Llorona ("The Crying Woman", also known as The Woman In White) who lost her children and now cries while looking for them in the river, Sayona, who believed her husband had an affair with her mother, Dama Branca who died after childbirth, Patasola who lures men and later devours them by converting into a beast and Sihuanaba, who had an affair and attacks unfaithful men.
- The Green Lady: A restless female spirit said to haunt certain locations in Scotland, mostly in certain castles. In some tales she was murdered in a green dress, and then stuffed unceremoniously up the chimney by a servant. It is said that her footsteps can still be heard as she walks the castle in sadness.
- China has Mogwai, a vengeful ghost or demon; Nu gui, a vengeful female ghost and counterpart of japanese Onryo; and Yuan gui, the spirits of persons who have died wrongful deaths.
- Chudail, a female ghost of Indian folklore, well known in North India and Pakistan. This spirit is said to originate in a woman who died either in childbirth, in pregnancy or during her menstruation, in a state of ritual impurity.
- Southern India has the Mohini, a spirit that shares a great deal with the Japanese onryo (being a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl in a white sari). While the old explanation for this ghost is that it is the result of a young woman dying a virgin, modern horror films will instead just go with the basic "vengeful ghost of murdered woman" origin.
- Japan has Onryo: A generic name of the Japanese folklore for ghosts (yurei), who come back from purgatory for a wrong done to them during their lifetime. Onryo are mostly women and often manifest themselves in physical rather than spectral form.
- Eastern Europe has Rusalka, an overlap of this trope with Enthralling Siren; the ghost of a woman who committed suicide after being wronged by a husband or lover, she lures men to their deaths.
- In Classical Mythology there are various vengeful ghosts too: Lemures in Roman mythology are the wandering and vengeful spirits of those not afforded proper burial, funeral rites or affectionate cult by the living; and Keres, spirits of violent or cruel death in Greek mythology.
- In Blades in the Dark, spectres are a type of ghosts that have been twisted by their deaths and are driven by the desire to take vengeance upon the living by consuming their life energy. Many start off with a specific target (e.g. their murderer), but once the target dies, transfer their hatred upon all of the living.
- Exalted: In the game, human beings have two souls. The Hun or "upper soul" governs intellect, morality, consciousness and higher thinking, while the Po or "lower soul" is concerned with a person's passions, instincts, and animalistic urges and drives. After death, the Hun departs to either reincarnation or the underworld, while the Po remains behind to watch over the body. If a deceased person was not buried or was buried improperly, the Po will manifest as a ravenous, predatory Hungry Ghost, resting in its body by day and going out by night to cause chaos and attack the living until it is pacified by being given a proper funeral. It is also possible for a Hungry Ghost to be created by a violent or painful death, and necromancers often torture victims to death to purposefully create ghosts to use and control.
- Most editions of Dungeons & Dragons have the "Revenant" monster.
Fueled by hatred and a need for vengeance, a revenant rises from the grave to hunt and kill its murderer. Devoid of any compassion, emotion, or logic, a revenant has but one purpose, and cannot rest until it has found vengeance.
- Mitos y Leyendas: The 2016 Bushido expansion has "Yurei", which illustration is based on classical despictions of yurei. The card has the ability of return 2 ally cards from your graveyard if this card goes to one. This is the setting text:
Usually appear between 2 am and the dawn, to scare and torment those ones who offended them in life.
- Warcraft III: The Avatar of Vengeance can spawn invulnerable Spirits of Vengeance from corpses, regardless of the corpse's original allegiance.
- Basara Kubikiri from Samurai Shodown series. An undead case of Love Makes You Evil, Basara and Kagaribi were lovers slaughted by Zankuro Minazuki, but the hate Basara has about this makes him come Back from the Dead in the form of a yurei. In a plot twist revealed in V, in reality Basara was the one who killed Kagaribi and then he commited suicide. In 2019 is also revealed that Kararibi is this for Basara, haunted him until he continued the hunt for their forgiveness.
- Yurei Ninja is an Endless Running Game for Android about a Ninja that came Back from the Dead as a yurei to get revenge against a samurai warlord with the blackest of hearts who turned against him. Although this is another Running game, also counts as a Gameplay Roulette, since the game has parts where you play it as a Hack and Slash game, Boss Battle included.
- Doubling with Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, there's Hisako from Killer Instinct reboot, who is the ghost of a samurai's daughter who is reanimated after her grave was disturbed. Also, her stage is full of yurei from the people of her village.
- In Hitman 2 a challenge requires you to drag the unconscious body of the local sweet muffin making old lady to the room where her victim once perished. Doing so will cause the doors of the room to open and shut repeatedly.
- Haunting Starring Polterguy: Poltergeist Polterguy's main motivation is to take revenge on the Sardini family. He is a Friendly Ghost towards the player still.
- Ghost of Tsushima: The player character Jin Sakai is not a ghost, but he has this reputation. A local peasant woman he rescues describes him as such.
"He is a vengeful spirit. Back from the grave to slaughter the Mongols."
- Morgana of The House in Fata Morgana blames three men for her torturous confinement which led to her Dying Alone of illness. Her hatred causes her to curse the three men's second lives, leading each of them back to the titular house in different time periods, under circumstances slightly modified from their first lives which enable Morgana to effectively torment them until their deaths, after which their souls become trapped in an afterlife copy of the house to be further subjected to her vengeance.
- In the second Paramedium game, the bus driver is killed by the ghosts of the students he kidnapped (and then becomes a vengeful ghost himself before being put down for good).
- In the Spirit Hunter series, finding and pacifying vengeful ghosts is the central concept of the games.
- Death Mark:
- Chapter 1 has Hanahiko, the spirit of a cross-dressing boy who largely despises adults. He'll also kill you if you tell him he's pretty... and fail to give him that "red stuff" he's been looking for. It's his mom's red lipstick, a memento of the one person who never judged him. Hanahiko has cursed Saya Kujou (who died when her Mark remained unsolved before running out of time), Moe Watanabe, Tsukasa Yoshida, and ex-detective Satoru Mashita.
- Chapter 2 has Shimi-O, a figure in the forest who kills people with a power drill. He used to be a member of a cult, the Honey Bee Family, near H Shrine and had botched his suicide to a degree. One of Mashita's fellow officers had tried to infiltrate the cult, but was outed. Shimi-O's victims would be turned into new "beehives". His cursed victim is high school student Shou Nagashima as well as Satoru Mashita, who intentionally got in an encounter with Shimi-O out of his own curiosity.
- Chapter 3 has Hanayome, who has a thing about people "seeing it" and eats the eyeballs of her victims. She was Seiko Hasegawa, a bride who was gang-raped before committing suicide out of shame and the fear of photographic blackmail when her rapists pulled out a camera. Her cursed victims are Otaku Eita Nakamatsu, journalist Christie Arimura, and young Suzu Morimiya.
- Chapter 4 has Miss Zoo, a former teacher at H Elementary that loves animals. She was also a former misanthropic researcher named Manabi Zukawa who willingly turned herself into a vengeful spirit so she could continue her experiments with animals. Her cursed victims are idol/actress Ai Kashiwagi and fortune teller Towako Yasuoka.
- Chapter 5 has the Kannon Soldier, an experiment gone wrong that killed the IJA scientists that performed on it back towards the end of World War II. Its cursed victims are science researcher Madoka Hiroo, Dr. Shuuji Daimon, and vagabond Banshee Itou.
- Chapter 6 DLC has Red Riding Hood, who drives people crazy to the point of them committing suicide if they go into the abandoned love hotel with her where she haunts when it rains. She was a high school student known as S-ko who had threatened to tell on her fellow students of their highly questionable "part-time job" at the love hotel Masquerade, but was tricked into a BDSM "game" by the very teacher she had respected because he was also one of the "clients" of Masquerade. She later committed suicide from the sixth floor of the hospital where she had been sent to, the very same floor where the "special clients" went to at Masquerade and where she was tortured. Her cursed victims were Madoka, Banshee, and Shou.
- Spirit Hunter: NG:
- Chapter 1 has the Urashima Woman, the spirit of a pregnant woman who was murdered by her midwife after she gave birth, and then dumped in the lake alongside all evidence of the crime. She kills those who throw rocks into the lake, as she interprets it as an attack on the dead fetuses that the midwife also disposed of there. She's pacified with evidence that her son is alive and well, and destroyed with the fake evidence that her son was stillborn.
- Chapter 2 has Kubitarou of Kintoki, a giant man who chops the heads off of animals. In actuality, Kubitarou is a woman who was mentally disabled in life and mistook a bear plushie as her younger brother. When said plushie lost its head, she started bringing animals heads to a sacred tree in the hopes of reviving him. She cut the tree down in anger when it didn't work, and in retaliation, the villagers tied her up and starved her to death. She's pacified when a new head is attached to her bear plushie, or otherwise destroyed if she's lured in front of a passing train.
- Chapter 4 has Killer Peach, who in life was a dietwoman seeking to expose injustices. She was brutally murdered by the 5/5 Club after she was about to expose the president's involvement in an arson case - after she became a spirit, she sought her revenge on all four of the men. She's pacified by evidence that the remaining member of the group is also dead, or otherwise destroyed if she's overloaded with his scent.
- Death Mark:
- In Concession, a good part of the plot appears to be influenced, directly or indirectly, by the ghost of Joel's sister Miranda. After Melusine's murder, she too comes back as a vengeful ghost, probably influencing Artie avenging this "honour killing" on the entire Dolphin community.
- Inverted (and exploited) in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, where baron Greyfort arranges for his burial ceremony to be carried out wrong so that his ghost can keep an eye on his family.
- Played for Laughs in The Boondocks episode "Stinkmeaner Strikes Back". The spirit of Colonel H. Stinkmeaner (an elderly jerkass who was accidentally killed by Robert Freeman in a street fight from an earlier episode) rises out of Hell to seek revenge on his old enemy. Stinkmeaner possesses the body of Robert's oblivious friend Tom DuBois, eventually coming over to Robert's house to try and murder him.
- In the first episode of DuckTales (2017), the triplets and Webby accidentally summon a Ghost Pirate coming for "Scrooge McDuck's head", implying that he's seeking revenge on Scrooge. The old duck defeats him by giving him the head of a statue of him, which makes the ghost vanish.
- Gravity Falls: The Monster of the Week for "Northwest Mansion Mystery" is a ghost lumberjack who came to seek revenge on the Northwest family, as their ancestors went back on a deal and indirectly killed him and his fellow lumberjacks. He only manages to find peace when Pacifica, the Northwest family's White Sheep, opens the gates, allowing the townsfolk to enter the mansion and finally fulfill the deal.