Problems with a Ghost World

I’m trying to build a world in which ghosts are a real and palpable presence. In fact, ghosts are so ordinary it’s unusual to find a place that’s not haunted, and so powerful that, if there’s enough in an area, they can start doing real damage. It also has “ghost-like” monsters–that is, monsters from myths and legends associated with ghosts or the dead.

And…I’m having real issues pulling this together. I have a sketchy outline of ideas, but none of my puzzle pieces fit together very well, and I still have large gaps.

So what I’m asking for is simple brainstorming; I’d love to hear the coolest myths and legends you’ve read or heard on ghosts or undead monsters–yep, even urban legends. :slight_smile: What are the coolest ghost concepts you’ve read about, or even come up with yourself? I’m not looking to snag ideas so much as see what others have done. Heck, I’ll even take book recommendations. Anything to knock the gears into turning again.

I’ve always held the idea that ghosts are merely time-travelers, passing through our time on their way to the future or past. Basically: if they’re out of sync with our time, they’d still be able to interact with what’s there, but either wouldn’t be seen, or would be only slightly visible.

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Well, if you’re looking for different types of paranormal beings, I know of quite a few that aren’t used all that often. I love reading ghost stories and the like, so I know of a bunch.

For example, I’ve always found stories about Black-Eyed Children interesting, but it’s not something I’ve seen in horror movies yet (if anyone has, I’d love to see it!). Basically, these are beings that look like typical children, but their eyes - the whites, irises, and pupils - are all black. They bring with them an extremely powerful sense of dread, that people sometimes feel before they even know the beings are there. They will approach a person’s residence and knock on the door, asking to use the phone for whatever reason. They will insist upon being let inside, and once they are allowed in they will kill you, usually by means of draining your life energy or soul from you. They’ll usually target those who are alone, and if someone else intervenes they will run away temporarily. Once they’ve targeted a person, they often won’t leave them alone and will follow the person no matter where they move. They often don’t leave unless a cleansing or exorcism of some sort is done on the person.

I’ve also read stories about a type of spirit that I’ve been calling “Watchers” (though I don’t think that’s actually what they’re called - I don’t remember what they were called originally) that are essentially “shadow people” but like… all they do is watch you, it seems. Like, you’ll be walking into a hallway and at the end there’s just a group of black shadows, like you’re on a stage and they’re the audience or something. They’re very creepy. Granted, I don’t recall everything about them, as I’ve only seen one or two accounts of them, and that was a number of years ago. I’ve been using them as part of the inspiration for my OC, who was essentially a “watcher/observer” who would go to different universes and observe specific events to ensure that they play out “the way they’re supposed to”, so to speak. I imagine these creatures being similar, but standing just on the border between our world and the ether. Messing with them is said to be extremely dangerous, though I wouldn’t know how exactly. Maybe they’re powerful enough to actually do harm to living people? I don’t remember the details, tbh.

Granted, these come from stories I’ve seen on forums where people share their experiences with the paranormal. I’m not sure if these forums are still in existence, but these two creatures have stood out in my memory and I don’t see them used at all. I hope these ideas help a little. :slight_smile:

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Okay, I am fascinated by the paranormal and ghost stories…but completely freaked out by them at the same time. Like, I enjoy reading them…and then I scare the crap out of myself and can’t sleep for days. Anyway, this brings back something that I saw on TV once, but I figured that I’d pass it along.

I was watching one of those random channels, like TLC or something, and they were doing some ghost stories. One that I remember (and it freaked me out for a long time…I even went on Google to see if there was any truth to it!) was about what they called “spirit vampires”. Basically, they were presences in homes and these spirit vampires would slowly drain the life force from the inhabitants of the home. Like, the people would just feel exhausted and they would not know why. In that show, they brought in their paranormal detection team and ended up exorcising the house. I don’t know if they ever got rid of the so-called “spirit vampires” because I turned off the TV and went to my room to cry because I was really scared and freaked out by that point.

(My Google search actually turned up very little truth about “spirit vampires” but maybe this story will help get something going for your story!)

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What I’m wondering is, what gets rid of ghosts? Unless something is getting rid of them frequently, or turning into a ghost is rare to begin with, the ghosts will vastly outnumber the living.

I once read a line by Arthur C. Clarke that went something like, “Behind every living human stands twenty ghosts.” Meaning: by one estimate there are about 20 times as many dead historical humans as currently living humans.

A world that is mostly ghosts would be interesting, but probably very disturbing. If the ghosts are mean, everybody alive is going to be terrified, and if the ghosts are benign, the living might develop a high rate of suicide or murderous warfare (well, a higher rate than we currently have :confused: )

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Oh yeah, I know all about the Black-Eyed Children! I read up on them one night and slept with the lights on they creeped me out so much. But the jury is out on whether they’re real or a story someone threw online to fool the gullible which has now turned to an urban legend. It would make sense, as it slots neatly into the idea in UFO circles that abductions were at least partially about impregnating women with hybrid alien babies. If so, Black-Eyed kids are certainly the next logical step, and if stories are to be believed, at least once they were picked up by what looked like Men In Black.

I have them slotted as a definite maybe for another story, but they may be a bit too physical for here. They’re also hard to use–their mystique and the horror surrounding them is actually wondering what they will do if you give them their way. After that tension, things like mere murder seem prosaic.

Watchers sound like a subset of shadow people, actually. I hadn’t realized that subcategory existed; I don’t recall it from my last round of research. This is actually pretty awesome, thanks! I’ll have to look them up!

That’s…well, first off, that is an awesome story idea. But I agree, I’ve never heard such a subcategory of ghost before. It sounds more like someone was riffing off “psychic vampires.” Those are people you hang around who seem to get charged even as your batteries drain, and not in the introvert/extrovert sort of dynamic. It adversely affects you, making you feel fatigued, slow, sick, plummeting your mood, etc. The idea is they’re actually unconsciously siphoning energy from you, and in some cases it’s enough to harm. They often don’t even know they’re doing it. I bet if you google that you’ll find more hits. :slight_smile:

Actually, that’s the crux of the story–our heroes are the ghost getter-ridders. :smiley: And yeah, I’m going to need a powerful ghost/human dynamic, including keeping folks alive. I don’t think that’ll be too hard, though–in most cultures with ancestor worship and deep belief in a spirit world, people weren’t exactly aching to shuffle off the mortal coil. But I am going to worldbuild in a few safeguards, as well.

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There’s a manga called Butterfly that does one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen a ghost story do. Except that it’s not quite about actual ghosts. Since you said you were wanting to see what people have done rather than looking for ideas, though…

Basically, the two main characters work as a team to “exorcise” ghosts. Except ghosts aren’t actually real; what’s happening is that all humans are varying degrees of psychic without really realizing it, and certain strong emotions and/or a build up of belief in a lot of people can cause them to sort of… conjure up a vision of a “ghost,” whether there was ever actually a dead person who matches the belief. Which other people can see, which just makes belief in it stronger. (I’m not sure I explained it very well, but one of the cases is about a bunch of kids at school who so wholeheartedly believe that that a kid died from being shut in one of the lockers a long time ago, and that his ghost still haunts the locker, that even a teacher who didn’t believe it actually starts hearing and seeing the ghost, even though no kid actually ever died in that way.)

The people that act as exorcists in this universe are particularly strong psychics in one of two ways, and you have to have one of each to form a pair. One can pick up on what other people think about the ghost and how they imagine it to form a strong mental image accurate to how people believe the ghost should be looking and acting, so they can “summon” the “ghost” for exorcism. The other can actually physically interact with the “ghosts,” which is something very few people can do, and can therefore be seen to physically destroy it. Basically the only way to get a “ghost” to stop showing up is to convince people that it’s been taken care of and won’t show up anymore, and showing people the “ghost” being destroyed as proof is basically the only way to get them to stop expecting it to keep showing up (and therefore keep conjuring the “ghost” again).

Obviously, if ghosts are real in your world, this is not very useful, but I think it’s incredibly neat and wanted to offer it in case there is anything in there you can use! :slightly_smiling_face:

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