Around The World In 80 Ghosts: Part One

Given the current state of the global pandemic, worldwide travel is still a distant memory for most us. So, thought I, why don’t we take a moment to appreciate the wonderful world of weird via the relative safety of the internet, and explore some of the ghastliest global ghouls we can find!

So before I regret my decision, let’s dust off our passports and set a course for the unknown! Suitable for fearful flyers, like myself.

Don’t follow me, I’m lost too.

1. Hungry Ghosts – China and East Asia

In certain Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, Hungry Ghosts are spirits of the dead, tormented by insatiable hunger due to their misdeeds in life. Physical descriptions can vary due to the nature of their human acts, however they are most often depicted with huge, empty stomachs that can never be filled. Alternatively, the spirit of the deceased may transform into a hungry ghost if they are not properly venerated by their descendants. 

During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the gates of the underworld open to allow all deceased to return to earth. During this month, the Ghost Festival is held, in which offerings are made in the form of food, incense and joss paper models to honour of visiting spirits. Although done for the benefit of all deceased, it may also provide some relief for the Hungry Ghosts. This might sound like a good time, but if you find yourself watching a performance at the festival, avoid the front row seats – they’re reserved for the spirits.

2. The Ancient Ram Inn – England, United Kingdom 

Said to be one of the most haunted locations in the UK, The Ancient Ram Inn, in Gloucestershire, is a former pub with over 800 years of ghostly goings on. Its residence are said to include a pair of ghostly monks, a spectral shaped and his dog, a succubus, several murder victims and a mummified cat. In recent years, it has hosted a variety of paranormal shows and is open throughout the year for pre-booked ghost hunts. A trip advisor review gave The Ancient Ram Inn’s Sunday roast a measly 2 stars in November 2021, which is surprising since the pub hasn’t been open for decades. Perhaps the reviewer’s frosty welcome was due to a very confused ghost being mistaken for a waitress.

3. Dybbuk – Jewish Mythology

A Dybbuk is believed to be an evil spirit capable of possession. Although first mentioned in 16th century Jewish writings, the Dybbuk remerged in popular culture with the tale of the Dybbuk Box, a supposedly haunted wine cabinet that appeared on eBay. Its owner claimed it as the source of several misfortunes, a pattern which current owner, Ghost Adventures investigatorZak Bagans, says continues. The authenticity of the box is more than questionable, with Kevin Mannis, the original owner, revealing it to be a work of fiction in a 2021 interview with Input, however, the spirit itself is firmly rooted in Jewish folklore.

4.The Wild Hunt – Across Europe

Seen across Europe, the Wild Hunt is a party of spectral hunters, chasing their unseen prey across the land or sky. The hunt’s leader varies by region, as does the origins of its hunters, but claims include King Arthur and the fae folk, Odin (or Wotan, as he was known in Germanic parts) and the Valkries and various biblical figures.If you see it, don’t be tempted to join in. You may find yourself lost in the underworld and it takes forever to get an Uber home. Trust me on that one.

Asgårdsreien or The Wild Hunt of Odin, 1872 by Peter Nicolai Arbo

5. Strigoi – Romania and Eastern Europe 

In Romanian mythology, the Strigoi is said to be a spirit with the ability to feed of the blood of the living by night and return to their graves in daylight. Does that sound familiar? It should do, because it’s the basis of the common Vampire mythology which prevails to this day. One of the easiest historical Strigoi was Jure Grando Alilović, who terrorised his village for 16 years after his death in 1656. The haunting only ceased after the corpse – which was said to be in perfect condition – was exhumed and decapitated.

6. The Bell Witch – Tennessee, USA

A disgruntled spirit, who became known as The Bell Witch, haunted the Bell family from 1817-1821. The entity claimed to be the ghost of Kate Batts, a deceased neighbour who had an ongoing feud with the Bells. The spirit was blamed for a series of poltergeist like activity, was able to speak and was sometimes seen in the form of a dog-like creature. The haunting culminated in the poisoning death of the family patriarch, John Bell Sr. The story was the inspiration behind The Blair Witch franchise, whose lore runs much deeper than the original film series. 

7. Resurrection Mary – Illinois, USA

Named after Resurrection Cemetery, where she is said to be buried, Resurrection Mary I perhaps the most famous of the “Vanishing Hitchhiker” ghosts. According to legend, Mary had spent the night at the local dance hall boyfriend. An argument occurred between the two and Mary left, but was struck and killed by a car o her way home. Since then, many have reported spending the night dancing with a beautiful woman who disappears from their vehicle on their drive home. She is sometimes seen peering through the bars of Resurrection Cemetery. Be careful who you dance with in Illinois.

8.White Lady – Worldwide

Ghostly sightings of women dressed in white are reported globally. Their tales are often ones of sadness, in which a lady passes away in violent or tragic circumstances. In some variations, the sighting of a White Lady is said to foretell death. 

Haunting (1893—1894) by Odilon Redon. Original from The MET museum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

9. La Llorona – Mexico, Central America and South America

Although her exact origins vary by region, the legend of La Llorona is that of a mother who drowned her children in a fit of rage. Overcome with remorse, she is unable to enter the afterlife and, is cursed to roam the earth until she finds her children, wailing. Her ghost has become a traditional boogeyman to many, with parents using the tale to frighten children into behaving, or dissuade them from roaming the dark alone.

10. Obambo – Various Folklore Across Central Africa

Seen throughout Central African folklore, the Obambo (or Obambou) is a spirit that is often held responsible for possession or sickness. In cases, the spirit is that of a person who has been buried incorrectly and thus, can not rest appropriately in death. These spirits may return to their village and demand a house be build for them. The Obambo hates loud noises, so if a person is suspected of being possessed, the spirit is cast out with singing, shouting and drumming. If an Obambo was threatened with my singing, it would be outta that body quicker than pea soup outta Regan MacNeil.

11. Madam Koi Koi – Nigeria

The playground is the birthplace for all sorts of weird and wonderful tales. Put a bunch of kids together and they’ll tell you all about that time their big brother’s older sister’s cousin’s friend saw a ghost in the library. Perhaps that’s why the legend of Madam Koi Koi is so popular. Most popular in Nigerian boarding schools, similar tales featuring a  vindictive red shoed ghoul are seen across Africa and, with variations in classrooms across the world. Madam Koi Koi is said to be the spirit of a deceased teacher who enjoyed tormenting innocent children in life. Although tales of her demise change, she returns as a spirit to haunt dormitories, toilets and classrooms of the schools she once terrorised. Her name derives from the “Koi, Koi” sound her red high heels make as she roams the hallways. Best avoid getting an after school detention then.

12. Kuchisake-onna or The Slit-Mouth Woman – Japan

Another sinister spectre, the legend of the Slit-Mouthed Woman is one of Japan’s most popular. In modern tellings, she covers the lower half of her face with a surgical mask and approaches her victims with a simple question: “Am I pretty?” If the answer is “yes”, she removes her mask to reveal her mouth, which has been slit from ear to ear and asks “how about now?”

Regardless of your answer to either of her questions, Kuchisake-onna will either kill or mutilate her victim. I’m told the best way to avoid this fate is by answering with an indifferent shrug, the audacity of which confuses her long enough to escape.

Do you know how difficult it is to find illustrations of very specific ghosts in the public domain?
Kohala Koheiji by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), a traditional Japanese Ukyio-e style illustration. Digitally enhanced from our own original edition by Rawpixel.

13. Vetala – India

The Vetala is an evil spirit of Hindu folklore, known to haunt cemeteries and possess corpses. Although they are partial to acts of evil, they are said to have supernatural knowledge of the past, present and future, and as such, are sometimes forced into servitude by equally cruel sorcerers.

14. Kichkandi- Nepal

The Kichkandi is a female spirit in Nepalese folklore, formed when a piece of their body has not been fully cremated. They share many similarities to the White Lady and Vanishing Hitchhiker legends, with the exception that they may feed upon the life force of travellers – a vampiric twist! A Kichkandi can be identified by looking at their feet, as they are known to be twisted backwards.

15. Black Dogs – United Kingdom 

Known by a variety of names, including Black Shuck, Barghest and Gwyllgi, phantom hounds have been sighted in every corner of the British Isles. As their name suggests, they are depicted as unnatural large, black dogs with glowing eyes and can usually be spotted at crossroads, cemeteries and ancient lanes. Although they are often seen as an omen of death, they are often benevolent, with tales of phantom hounds protecting lone travellers from danger. 10/10 would pet.

A good boy.
The Hound of The Baskervilles, The Strand Magazine, 1914

16. Aswang – Philippines

Rather than a stand-alone being, the Aswang are a collection of malevolent creatures in Filipino folklore. They are typically nocturnal and often feed off the blood or organs of the living, however, unlike their European cousins, these Aswang feed using their tongue as a straw essentially treating its victim as a walking milkshake. Other Aswang are able to take the form of domesticated animals, so if you think the family cat is up to something, it may well be an Aswang.

17. Knights of Alleberg – Sweden 

These twelve ghostly knights fell during the battle of Åsle in 1389, and now sleep inside the mountain, Ålleberg. They are said to be patiently waiting for another war, at which time they will rise inn their golden armour and fight for their country, hoping at last to be give entrance into Heaven. Tread lightly as you pass, or else you may hear a spectral voice ask, “Is the hour yes come?”

18. The Moving Coffins of Chase Vault – Barbados

This Barbadian burial vault gained notoriety in the 1800s for the changing positions of its resident coffins. The vault, with its sealed marble entrance was opened five times between 1808 and 1819, and upon each occasion, the lead lined coffins it housed were in disarray. The cause of such restlessness is unknown.

19. Chaonei No 81 – China

Described as “Beijing’s most celebrated haunted house”, Chaonei No81 is a French Baroque style house that has sat abandoned for many years since its construction is around 1910. The ghost is most often attributed to a woman who died after hanging herself from the rafters of the house. The house is also rumoured to be involved in the disappearance of a team of construction workers and a British priest. Although a chalked message near the entrance of the house assures that no ghosts reside within its walls, I’m not sure I’d take my chances there alone. 

20. Stanley Hotel – Colorado, USA

Popularised as the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining, this former health  retreat in Colorado has hosted numerous paranormal investigators and TV shows. Despite a gas explosion in 1911 which injured eight employees, the Stanley Hotel has survived a rather unassuming history, with its guests and ghosts residing side by side quite peacefully. I’m assured that no one has been maimed by topiary lions. Yet.


Am I going to regret summarising 80 ghosts, haunted places and hauntings over four posts?

Probably!

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