Ghost
Overview
 
In traditional belief and fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

, a ghost is the soul or spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

 of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts
Apparitional experience
In psychology and parapsychology, an apparitional experience is an anomalous, quasi-perceptual experience.It is characterized by the apparent perception of either a living being or an inanimate object without there being any material stimulus for such a perception...

 vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to realistic, life-like visions. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as necromancy
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

, or in spiritism as a séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

.

The belief in manifestations of the spirits of the dead is widespread, dating back to animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 or ancestor worship in pre-literate cultures.
Encyclopedia
In traditional belief and fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

, a ghost is the soul or spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

 of a deceased person or animal that can appear, in visible form or other manifestation, to the living. Descriptions of the apparition of ghosts
Apparitional experience
In psychology and parapsychology, an apparitional experience is an anomalous, quasi-perceptual experience.It is characterized by the apparent perception of either a living being or an inanimate object without there being any material stimulus for such a perception...

 vary widely from an invisible presence to translucent or barely visible wispy shapes, to realistic, life-like visions. The deliberate attempt to contact the spirit of a deceased person is known as necromancy
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

, or in spiritism as a séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

.

The belief in manifestations of the spirits of the dead is widespread, dating back to animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 or ancestor worship in pre-literate cultures. Certain religious practices—funeral rites, exorcism
Exorcism
Exorcism is the religious practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed...

s, and some practices of spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

 and ritual magic—are specifically designed to appease the spirits of the dead. Ghosts are generally described as solitary essences that haunt particular locations, objects, or people they were associated with in life, though stories of the phantom armies, ghost trains, phantom ships, and even ghost animals have also been recounted.

Terminology

The English word ghost continues Old English gást, from a hypothetical Common Germanic *gaistaz. It is common to West Germanic, but lacking in North and East Germanic (the equivalent word in Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 is ahma, Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 has andi m., önd f.).
The pre-Germanic form was , apparently from a root denoting "fury, anger" reflected in Old Norse geisa "to rage". The Germanic word is recorded as masculine only, but likely continues a neuter s-stem. The original meaning of the Germanic word would thus have been an animating principle of the mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

, in particular capable of excitation and fury (compare óðr
Óðr
In Norse mythology, Óðr or Óð, sometimes angliziced as Odr or Od, is a figure associated with the major goddess Freyja...

). In Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism
Germanic paganism refers to the theology and religious practices of the Germanic peoples of north-western Europe from the Iron Age until their Christianization during the Medieval period...

, "Germanic Mercury", and the later Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

, was at the same time the conductor of the dead and the "lord of fury" leading the Wild Hunt
Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is an ancient folk myth prevalent across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal, spectral group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground,...

.

Besides denoting the human spirit or soul, both of the living and the deceased, the Old English word is used as a synonym of Latin spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

us
also in the meaning of "breath" or "blast" from the earliest attestations (9th century). It could also denote any good or evil spirit, i.e. angels and demons; the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxon may refer to:* Anglo-Saxons, a group that invaded Britain** Old English, their language** Anglo-Saxon England, their history, one of various ships* White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, an ethnicity* Anglo-Saxon economy, modern macroeconomic term...

 gospel refers to the demonic possession
Demonic possession
Demonic possession is held by many belief systems to be the control of an individual by a malevolent supernatural being. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying...

 of Matthew 12:43 as se unclæna gast. Also from the Old English period, the word could denote the spirit of God, viz. the "Holy Ghost".
The now prevailing sense of "the soul of a deceased person, spoken of as appearing in a visible form" only emerges in Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 (14th century).
The modern noun does, however, retain a wider field of application, extending on one hand to "soul", "spirit", "vital principle", "mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

" or "psyche
Psyche (psychology)
The word psyche has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and has been one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older...

", the seat of feeling, thought and moral judgement; on the other hand used figuratively of any shadowy outline, fuzzy or unsubstantial image, in optics, photography and cinematography especially a flare, secondary image or spurious signal.

The synonym spook is a Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 loanword, akin to Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

 spôk (of uncertain etymology); it entered the English language via the United States
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 in the 19th century. Alternative words in modern usage include spectre (from Latin spectrum), the Scottish wraith (of obscure origin), phantom (via French ultimately from Greek phantasma, compare fantasy) and apparition. The term shade
Shade (mythology)
In literature and poetry, a shade can be taken to mean the spirit or ghost of a dead person, residing in the underworld....

in classical mythology
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

 translates Greek σκιά, or Latin umbra, in reference to the notion of spirits in the Greek underworld
Greek underworld
The Greek underworld was made up of various realms believed to lie beneath the earth or at its farthest reaches.This includes:* The great pit of Tartarus, originally the exclusive prison of the old Titan gods, it later came to be the dungeon home of damned souls.* The land of the dead ruled by the...

. "Haint" is a synonym for ghost used in regional English of the southern United States, and the "haint tale" is a common feature of southern oral and literary tradition. The term poltergeist
Poltergeist
A poltergeist is a paranormal phenomenon which consists of events alluding to the manifestation of an imperceptible entity. Such manifestation typically includes inanimate objects moving or being thrown about, sentient noises and, on some occasions, physical attacks on those witnessing the...

is a German word, literally a "noisy ghost", for a spirit said to manifest itself by invisibly moving and influencing objects.

Wraith is a Scottish
Scottish English
Scottish English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Scotland. It may or may not be considered distinct from the Scots language. It is always considered distinct from Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language....

 dialectal word for "ghost", "spectre" or "apparition". It came to be used in Scottish Romanticist literature, and acquired the more general or figurative sense of "portent" or "omen
Omen
An omen is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change...

". In 18th- to 19th-century Scottish literature, it was also applied to aquatic spirits. The word has no commonly accepted etymology; OED notes "of obscure origin" only.
An association with the verb writhe was the etymology favored by J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

. Tolkien's use of the word in the naming of the creatures known as the Ringwraiths
Nazgûl
The Nazgûl are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium...

 has influenced later usage in fantasy literature. Bogie is an Ulster Scots term for a ghost, and appears in Scottish poet John Mayne
John Mayne
John Mayne , was a Scottish poet born in Dumfries, South West Scotland. In 1780, his poem The Siller Gun appeared in its original form in Ruddiman's Magazine, published by Walter Ruddiman in Edinburgh. It is a humorous poem descriptive of an ancient custom in Dumfries of shooting for the "Siller...

's Hallowe'en in 1780.

A revenant is a deceased person returning from the dead to haunt the living, either as a disembodied ghost or alternatively as an animated ("undead
Undead
Undead is a collective name for fictional, mythological, or legendary beings that are deceased and yet behave as if alive. Undead may be incorporeal, such as ghosts, or corporeal, such as vampires and zombies...

") corpse. Also related is the concept of a fetch
Fetch (folklore)
A fetch is a supernatural double or apparition of a living person in Irish folklore. It is largely akin to the doppelgänger. Francis Grose associated the term with Northern England in his 1787 Provincial Glossary, but otherwise it seems to have been in popular use only in Ireland...

, the visible ghost or spirit of a person yet alive.

Anthropological context

A notion of the transcendent
Transcendence (religion)
In religion transcendence refers to the aspect of God's nature which is wholly independent of the physical universe. This is contrasted with immanence where God is fully present in the physical world and thus accessible to creatures in various ways...

, supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 or numinous
Numinous
Numinous is an English adjective describing the power or presence of a divinity. The word was popularised in the early twentieth century by the German theologian Rudolf Otto in his influential book Das Heilige...

, usually involving entities like ghosts, demon
Demon
call - 1347 531 7769 for more infoIn Ancient Near Eastern religions as well as in the Abrahamic traditions, including ancient and medieval Christian demonology, a demon is considered an "unclean spirit" which may cause demonic possession, to be addressed with an act of exorcism...

s or deities
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

, is a cultural universal
Cultural universal
A cultural universal , as discussed by George Murdock, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others, is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide. Taken together, the whole body of cultural universals is known as the human condition...

. In pre-literate folk religion
Folk religion
Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

s, these beliefs are often summarized under animism
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

 and ancestor worship.

In many cultures malignant, restless ghosts are distinguished from the more benign spirits involved in ancestor worship.

Ancestor worship typically involves rites intended to prevent revenants, vengeful spirits of the dead, imagined as starving and envious of the living. Strategies for preventing revenants may either include sacrifice
Sacrifice
Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or people to God or the gods as an act of propitiation or worship.While sacrifice often implies ritual killing, the term offering can be used for bloodless sacrifices of cereal food or artifacts...

, i.e., giving the dead food and drink to pacify them, or magical banishment of the deceased to force them not to return. Ritual feeding of the dead is performed in traditions like the Chinese Ghost Festival
Ghost Festival
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries...

 or the Western All Souls' Day. Magical banishment of the dead is present in many of the world's burial customs. The bodies found in many tumuli (kurgan
Kurgan
Kurgan is the Turkic term for a tumulus; mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves, originating with its use in Soviet archaeology, now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology....

) had been ritually bound before burial, and the custom of binding the dead persists, for example, in rural Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

.

Nineteenth-century anthropologist James Frazer
James Frazer
Sir James George Frazer , was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion...

 stated in his classic work, The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough
The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer . It first was published in two volumes in 1890; the third edition, published 1906–15, comprised twelve volumes...

, that souls were seen as the creature within that animated the body.

Ghosts and the afterlife

Although the human soul was sometimes symbolically or literally depicted in ancient cultures as a bird or other animal, it appears to have been widely held that the soul was an exact reproduction of the body in every feature, even down to clothing the person wore. This is depicted in artwork from various ancient cultures, including such works as the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which shows deceased people in the afterlife appearing much as they did before death, including the style of dress.

Fear of ghosts

While deceased ancestors are universally
Cultural universal
A cultural universal , as discussed by George Murdock, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Donald Brown and others, is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide. Taken together, the whole body of cultural universals is known as the human condition...

 regarded as venerable, and often imagined as having a continued presence in some sort of afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

, the spirit of a deceased person which remains present in the material world (viz. a ghost) is regarded as an unnatural or undesirable state of affairs and
the idea of ghosts or revenants is associated with a reaction of fear
Fear
Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger...

. This is universally the case in pre-modern folk cultures, but fear of ghost also remains an integral aspect of the modern ghost story
Ghost story
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has...

, Gothic horror and other horror fiction
Horror fiction
Horror fiction also Horror fantasy is a philosophy of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural...

 dealing with the supernatural.

Common attributes

Another widespread belief concerning ghosts is that they are composed of a misty, airy, or subtle material. Anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 link this idea to early beliefs that ghosts were the person within the person (the person's spirit), most noticeable in ancient cultures as a person's breath, which upon exhaling in colder climates appears visibly as a white mist. This belief may have also fostered the metaphorical meaning of "breath" in certain languages, such as the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 spiritus and the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 pneuma
Pneuma
Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for "breath," and in a religious context for "spirit" or "soul." It has various technical meanings for medical writers and philosophers of classical antiquity, particularly in regard to physiology, and is also used in Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible and in...

, which by analogy
Analogy
Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another particular subject , and a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process...

 became extended to mean the soul. In the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 is depicted as animating Adam with a breath.

In many traditional accounts, ghosts were often thought to be deceased people looking for vengeance, or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. The appearance of a ghost has often been regarded as an omen or portent of death. Seeing one's own ghostly double or "fetch
Doppelgänger
In fiction and folklore, a doppelgänger is a paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune...

" is a related omen of death.

White ladies
White Lady (ghost)
A White Lady is a type of female ghost reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband or fiancé...

 were reported to appear in many rural areas, and supposed to have died tragically or suffered trauma in life. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or regarded as a harbinger of death similar to a banshee
Banshee
The banshee , from the Irish bean sí is a feminine spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld....

.

Legends of ghost ships have existed since the 18th century; most notable of these is the Flying Dutchman. This theme has been used in literature in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest major poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in 1797–98 and was published in 1798 in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. Modern editions use a later revised version printed in 1817 that featured a gloss...

by Coleridge.

Locale

A place where ghosts are reported is described
as haunted, and often seen as being inhabited by spirits of deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property. Supernatural activity inside homes is said to be mainly associated with violent or tragic events in the building's past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide — sometimes in the recent or ancient past. But not all hauntings are at a place of a violent death, or even on violent grounds. Many cultures and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

s believe the essence of a being, such as the 'soul', continues to exist. Some philosophical and religious views argue that the 'spirits' of those who have died have not 'passed over' and are trapped inside the property where their memories and energy are strong.

Ancient Near East and Egypt

There are many references to ghosts in Mesopotamian religions
Ghosts in Mesopotamian religions
There are many references to ghosts in Mesopotamian religions - the religions of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria and other early states in Mesopotamia. Traces of these beliefs survive in the later Abrahamic religions that came to dominate the region....

 - the religions of Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

, Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

 and other early states in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. Traces of these beliefs survive in the later Abrahamic religions that came to dominate the region.
Ghosts were thought to be created at time of death, taking on the memory and personality of the dead person. They traveled to the netherworld, where they were assigned a position, and led an existence similar in some ways to that of the living.
Relatives of the dead were expected to make offerings of food and drink to the dead to ease their conditions.
If they did not, the ghosts could inflict misfortune and illness on the living.
Traditional healing practices ascribed a variety of illnesses to the action of ghosts, while others were caused by gods or demons.

The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 contains few references to ghosts, associating spiritism with forbidden occult activities cf. Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 18:11. The most notable reference is in the First Book of Samuel
Books of Samuel
The Books of Samuel in the Jewish bible are part of the Former Prophets, , a theological history of the Israelites affirming and explaining the Torah under the guidance of the prophets.Samuel begins by telling how the prophet Samuel is chosen by...

 (I Samuel 28:3-19 KJV), in which a disguised King Saul
Saul the King
According to the Bible, Saul was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel and reigned from Gibeah. He commited suicide to avoid arrest in the battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, during which three of his sons were also killed...

 has the Witch of Endor
Witch of Endor
The Witch of Endor, sometimes called the Medium of Endor, was a woman who called up the ghost of the recently deceased prophet Samuel, at the demand of King Saul of the Kingdom of Israel in the First Book of Samuel, chapter...

 summon the spirit/ghost of Samuel.

There was widespread belief in ghosts in ancient Egyptian culture
Ghosts in ancient Egyptian culture
There was widespread belief in ghosts in ancient Egyptian culture in the sense of the continued existence of the soul and spirit after death, with the ability to assist or harm the living, and the possibility of a second death. Over a period of more than 2,500 years, Egyptian beliefs about the...

 in the sense of the continued existence of the soul and spirit after death, with the ability to assist or harm the living, and the possibility of a second death. Over a period of more than 2,500 years, Egyptian beliefs about the nature of the afterlife evolved constantly. Many of these beliefs were recorded in inscriptions, papyrus scrolls and tomb paintings. The Egyptian Book of the Dead compiles some of the beliefs from different periods of ancient Egyptian history.
In modern times, the fanciful concept of a mummy coming back to life and wreaking vengeance when disturbed has spawned a whole genre of horror stories and movies.

Archaic and Classical Greece

Ghosts appeared in Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

and Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, in which they were described as vanishing "as a vapor, gibbering and whining into the earth". Homer’s ghosts had little interaction with the world of the living. Periodically they were called upon to provide advice or prophecy, but they do not appear to be particularly feared. Ghosts in the classical world often appeared in the form of vapor or smoke, but at other times they were described as being substantial, appearing as they had been at the time of death, complete with the wounds that killed them.

By the 5th century BC, classical Greek
Classical Greece
Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC. This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundation of Western civilizations. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as...

 ghosts had become haunting, frightening creatures who could work to either good or evil purposes. The spirit of the dead was believed to hover near the resting place of the corpse, and cemeteries were places the living avoided. The dead were to be ritually mourned through public ceremony, sacrifice and libations, or they might return to haunt their families. The ancient Greeks held annual feasts to honor and placate the spirits of the dead, to which the family ghosts were invited, and after which they were “firmly invited to leave until the same time next year”.

The 5th century BC play Oresteia contains one of the first ghosts to appear in a work of fiction.

Roman Empire and Late Antiquity

The ancient Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 believed a ghost could be used to exact revenge on an enemy by scratching a curse on a piece of lead or pottery and placing it into a grave.

Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, in the 1st century AD, described the haunting of the baths at Chaeronea
Chaeronea
Chaeronea is a village and a former municipality in Boeotia, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Livadeia, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 2,218...

 by the ghost of a murdered man. The ghost’s loud and frightful groans caused the people of the town to seal up the doors of the building. Another celebrated account of a haunted house from the ancient classical world is given by Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

 (c.
Circa
Circa , usually abbreviated c. or ca. , means "approximately" in the English language, usually referring to a date...

 50 AD). Pliny describes the haunting of a house in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 by a ghost bound in chains. The hauntings ceased when the ghost's shackled skeleton was unearthed, and given a proper reburial. The writers Plautus
Plautus
Titus Maccius Plautus , commonly known as "Plautus", was a Roman playwright of the Old Latin period. His comedies are the earliest surviving intact works in Latin literature. He wrote Palliata comoedia, the genre devised by the innovator of Latin literature, Livius Andronicus...

 and Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

 also wrote stories about haunted houses.

In the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 has to persuade the Disciples that he is not a ghost following the resurrection
Resurrection of Jesus
The Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus states that Jesus returned to bodily life on the third day following his death by crucifixion. It is a key element of Christian faith and theology and part of the Nicene Creed: "On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures"...

, Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

 24:37-39 (note that some versions of the Bible, such as the KJV and NKJV, use the term "spirit"). In a similar vein, Jesus' followers at first believe him to be a ghost (spirit) when they see him walking on water
Walking on water
Jesus' walks on water, or Jesus walking on water, is one of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. Accounts of the miracle appear in three Gospels: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and...

.

One of the first persons to express disbelief in ghosts was Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century AD. In his tale "The Doubter" (circa 150 AD) he relates how Democritus
Democritus
Democritus was an Ancient Greek philosopher born in Abdera, Thrace, Greece. He was an influential pre-Socratic philosopher and pupil of Leucippus, who formulated an atomic theory for the cosmos....

 "the learned man from Abdera
Abdera, Thrace
Abdera was a city-state on the coast of Thrace 17 km east-northeast of the mouth of the Nestos, and almost opposite Thasos. The site now lies in the Xanthi peripheral unit of modern Greece. The municipality of Abdera, or Ávdira , has 18,573 inhabitants...

 in Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

" lived in a tomb outside the city gate
City gate
A city gate is a gate which is, or was, set within a city wall. Other terms include port.-Uses:City gates were traditionally built to provide a point of controlled access to and departure from a walled city for people, vehicles, goods and animals...

s to prove that cemeteries were not haunted by the spirits of the departed. Lucian relates how he persisted in his disbelief despite practical joke
Practical joke
A practical joke is a mischievous trick played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or...

s perpetrated by "some young men of Abdera" who dressed up in black robes with skull masks to frighten him. This account by Lucian notes something about the popular classical expectation of how a ghost should look.

In the 5th century AD, the Christian priest Constantius of Lyon
Constantius of Lyon
Constantius of Lyon was a priest from what is Auvergne in modern-day France, who wrote a hagiography of Saint Germanus of Auxerre....

 recorded an instance of the recurring theme of the improperly buried dead who come back to haunt the living, and who can only cease their haunting when their bones have been discovered and properly reburied.

Middle Ages

Ghosts reported in Christian
Christendom
Christendom, or the Christian world, has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Christians, adherents of Christianity...

 medieval Europe
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 tended to fall into two categories: the souls of the dead, or demons. The souls of the dead returned for a specific purpose. Demonic ghosts existed only to torment or tempt the living. The living could tell them apart by demanding their purpose in the name of Jesus Christ. The soul of a dead person divulged their mission, while a demonic ghost was banished at the sound of the Holy Name.
The Christian Church
Christian Church
The Christian Church is the assembly or association of followers of Jesus Christ. The Greek term ἐκκλησία that in its appearances in the New Testament is usually translated as "church" basically means "assembly"...

 considered ghosts as beings who while tied to earth, no longer live on the material plane, as it were lingering in an interim state
Intermediate state
In Christian eschatology, the intermediate state or interim state refers to a person's "intermediate" existence between one's death and one's resurrection from the dead...

 before continuing their journey to heaven. On occasion, God
God in Christianity
In Christianity, God is the eternal being that created and preserves the universe. God is believed by most Christians to be immanent , while others believe the plan of redemption show he will be immanent later...

 would allow the souls in this state to return to earth to warn the living of the need for repentance
Repentance
Repentance is a change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law...

.
Most ghosts were souls assigned to Purgatory
Purgatory
Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven...

, condemned for a specific period to atone for their transgressions in life. Their penance was generally related to their sin. For example, the ghost of a man who had been abusive to his servants was condemned to tear off and swallow bits of his own tongue; the ghost of another man, who had neglected to leave his cloak to the poor, was condemned to wear the cloak, now "heavy as a church tower". These ghosts appeared to the living to ask for prayers to end their suffering. Other dead souls returned to urge the living to confess their sins before their own deaths.

The question of necromancy
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

 was a controversial subject in both Christian and Jewish tradition from Late Antiquity, throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. The prevailing opinion was that it was sinful
Sinful
To be sinful is to have committed an act that violates a known moral rule.Sinful may also refer to:* Sinful , a 1979 hard rock album* Sinful , a 1965 Mexican film-See also:* Sin * Sinner...

 to attempt communication with the deceased, in accordance with Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 XVIII: 9–12.

Medieval European ghosts were more substantial than ghosts described in the Victorian age
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

, and there are accounts of ghosts being wrestled with and physically restrained until a priest could arrive to hear its confession. Some were less solid, and could move through walls. Often they were described as paler and sadder versions of the person they had been while alive, and dressed in tattered gray rags. The vast majority of reported sightings were male.

From the medieval period an apparition of a ghost is recorded from 1211, at the time of the Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

. Gervase of Tilbury
Gervase of Tilbury
Gervase of Tilbury or Gervasius Tilberiensis was a 13th century canon lawyer, statesman and writer, apparently born in either East Tilbury or West Tilbury, in Essex, England.-Life and works:...

, Marshal of Arles
Arles
Arles is a city and commune in the south of France, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, of which it is a subprefecture, in the former province of Provence....

, wrote that the image of Guilhem, a boy recently murdered in the forest, appeared in his cousin's home in Beaucaire, near Avignon
Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

. This series of "visits" lasted all of the summer. Through his cousin, who spoke for him, the boy allegedly held conversations with anyone who wished, until the local priest requested to speak to the boy directly, leading to an extended disquisition on theology. The boy narrated the trauma of death and the unhappiness of his fellow souls in Purgatory, and reported that God was most pleased with the ongoing Crusade against the Cathar
Cathar
Catharism was a name given to a Christian religious sect with dualistic and gnostic elements that appeared in the Languedoc region of France and other parts of Europe in the 11th century and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries...

 heretics, launched three years earlier. The time of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France was marked by intense and prolonged warfare, this constant bloodshed and dislocation of populations being the context for these reported visits by the murdered boy.

There were some reported cases of ghostly armies, fighting battles at night in the forest, or in the remains of an Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hillfort, as at Wandlebury, near Cambridge, England. Living knights were sometimes challenged to single combat by phantom knights, which vanished when defeated.

Haunted houses are featured in the 9th century Arabian Nights (such as the tale of Ali the Cairene and the Haunted House in Baghdad).

European Renaissance to Romanticism

Renaissance magic
Renaissance magic
Renaissance humanism saw a resurgence in hermeticism and Neo-Platonic varieties of ceremonial magic.The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, on the other hand, saw the rise of scientism, in such forms as the substitution of chemistry for alchemy, the dethronement of the Ptolemaic theory of...

 took a revived interest in the occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

, including necromancy
Necromancy
Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

. In the era of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, there was frequently a backlash against unwholesome interest in the dark arts, typified by writers such as Thomas Erastus
Thomas Erastus
Thomas Erastus was a Swiss physician and theologian best known for a posthumously published work in which he argued that the sins of Christians should be punished by the state, and not by the church withholding the sacraments...

. The Swiss Reformed pastor Ludwig Lavater
Ludwig Lavater
Ludwig Lavater was a Swiss Reformed theologian working in the circle of his father-in-law, Heinrich Bullinger...

 supplied one of the most frequently reprinted books of the period with his Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By Night.

The Child ballad "Sweet William's Ghost
Sweet William's Ghost
Sweet William's Ghost is a folk song, collected by Francis James Child in 1868 as Child ballad number 77. It exists in many forms but all versions recount a similar story. It was printed in Allan Ramsay's The Tea-Table Miscellany in 1740, and again in Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English...

" (1868) recounts the story of a ghost returning to beg a woman to free him from his promise to marry her, as he obviously cannot being dead. Her refusal would mean his damnation. This reflects a popular British belief that the dead haunted their lovers if they took up with a new love without some formal release. "The Unquiet Grave
The Unquiet Grave
"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78....

" expresses a belief even more widespread, found in various locations over Europe: ghosts can stem from the excessive grief of the living, whose mourning interferes with the dead's peaceful rest. In many folktales from around the world, the hero arranges for the burial of a dead man. Soon after, he gains a companion who aids him and, in the end, the hero's companion reveals that he is in fact the dead man
Grateful dead (folklore)
Grateful dead is a folktale present in many cultures throughout the world. The most common story involves a traveler who encounters a corpse of someone who never received a proper burial, typically stemming from an unpaid debt. The traveler then either pays off the dead person's debt or pays for...

. Instances of this include the Italian fairy tale
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 "Fair Brow
Fair Brow
Fair Brow is an Italian fairy tale collected by Thomas Frederick Crane in his Italian Popular Tales.Italo Calvino included a variant from Istria in his Italian Folktales. He noted that the grateful dead man was a common medieval motif.-Synopsis:...

" and the Swedish "The Bird 'Grip'
The Bird 'Grip'
The Bird 'Grip is a Swedish fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it The Pink Fairy Book. It is Aarne-Thompson type 550, the quest for the golden bird/firebird; other tales of this type include The Golden Bird, The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener, How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon, The Nunda,...

".

Spiritualist movement

Spiritualism is a monotheistic
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 belief system or religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, postulating a belief in God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, but with a distinguishing feature of belief that spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s of the dead residing in the spirit world
Spirit world (spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to Spiritualism, is the world inhabited by spirits. Though a concept of a spirit world is in the constitution of most religions, it is not "itself the religion". Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits...

 can be contacted by "mediums
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

", who can then provide information about the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

.

Spiritualism developed in the United States and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-language countries
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

, By 1897, it was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and upper
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

 classes, while the corresponding movement in continental Europe and Latin America is known as Spiritism.

The religion flourished for a half century without canonical texts or formal organization, attaining cohesion by periodicals, tours by trance lecturers, camp meetings, and the missionary activities of accomplished mediums. Many prominent Spiritualists were women. Most followers supported causes such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

. By the late 1880s, credibility of the informal movement weakened, due to accusations of fraud among mediums, and formal Spiritualist organizations began to appear. Spiritualism is currently practiced primarily through various denominational Spiritualist Church
Spiritualist Church
A Spiritualist church is a church affiliated with the informal Spiritualist movement which began in the United States of America in the 1840s. Spiritualist churches are now found around the world, but are most common in English-speaking countries, while in Latin America, where a form of...

es in the United States and United Kingdom.

Spiritism

Spiritism, or French spiritualism, is based on the five books of the Spiritist Codification
Spiritist Codification
Spiritist Codification is the customary name given by spiritists to the set of books codified by Allan Kardec. The books are a compilation of questions made by Allan Kardec and answers allegedly dictated by Spirits, between the years 1857 and 1868...

 written by French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 educator Hypolite Léon Denizard Rivail under the pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec is the pen name of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail . He is known today as the systematizer of Spiritism for which he laid the foundation with the five books of the Spiritist Codification.-Early life:Rivail was born in Lyon in 1804...

 reporting séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s in which he observed a series of phenomena that he attributed to incorporeal intelligence (spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s). His assumption of spirit communication was validated by many contemporaries, among them many scientists and philosophers who attended séances and studied the phenomena. His work was later extended by writers like Leon Denis
Léon Denis
Léon Denis was a notable spiritist philosopher, and besides Gabriel Delanne and Camille Flammarion, one of the principal exponents of spiritism after the death of Allan Kardec...

, Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

, Camille Flammarion
Camille Flammarion
Nicolas Camille Flammarion was a French astronomer and author. He was a prolific author of more than fifty titles, including popular science works about astronomy, several notable early science fiction novels, and several works about Spiritism and related topics. He also published the magazine...

, Ernesto Bozzano, Chico Xavier
Chico Xavier
Chico Xavier, born Francisco de Paula Cândido was a popular medium in Brazil's spiritism movement who wrote 413 books, ostensibly using a process known as "psychography"....

, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Waldo Vieira
Waldo Vieira
Waldo Vieira is a Brazilian dentist and physician who first proposed the theories of and , two closely related nascent sciences which posit that human consciousness is a non-physical phenomenon...

, Johannes Greber and others.

Spiritism has adherents in many countries throughout the world, including Spain, United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, England, Argentina, Portugal and especially Brazil, which has the largest proportion and greatest number of followers.

Scientific skepticism

Joe Nickell
Joe Nickell
Joe Nickell is a prominent skeptical investigator of the paranormal. He also works as an historical document consultant and has helped expose such famous forgeries as the purported diary of Jack the Ripper. In 2002 he was one of a number of experts asked by scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr...

 of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, wrote that there was no credible scientific evidence
Scientific evidence
Scientific evidence has no universally accepted definition but generally refers to evidence which serves to either support or counter a scientific theory or hypothesis. Such evidence is generally expected to be empirical and properly documented in accordance with scientific method such as is...

 that any location was inhabited by spirits of the dead. Limitations of human perception
Perception
Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information. All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs...

 and ordinary physical explanations can account for ghost sightings; for example, air pressure changes in a home causing doors to slam, or lights from a passing car reflected through a window at night. Pareidolia
Pareidolia
Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse...

, an innate tendency to recognize patterns in random perceptions, is what some skeptics believe causes people to believe that they have 'seen ghosts'. Reports of ghosts "seen out of the corner of the eye" may be accounted for by the sensitivity of human peripheral vision
Peripheral vision
Peripheral vision is a part of vision that occurs outside the very center of gaze. There is a broad set of non-central points in the field of view that is included in the notion of peripheral vision...

. According to Nickell, peripheral vision can easily mislead, especially late at night when the brain is tired and more likely to misinterpret sights and sounds."

Some researchers, such as Michael Persinger
Michael Persinger
Michael A. Persinger is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked at Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, since 1971.-Early life:...

 of Laurentian University
Laurentian University
Laurentian University , was incorporated on March 28, 1960, is a mid-sized bilingual university in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada....

, Canada, have speculated that changes in geomagnetic fields (created, e.g., by tectonic stresses in the Earth's crust or solar activity
Solar variation
Solar variation is the change in the amount of radiation emitted by the Sun and in its spectral distribution over years to millennia. These variations have periodic components, the main one being the approximately 11-year solar cycle . The changes also have aperiodic fluctuations...

) could stimulate the brain's temporal lobe
Temporal lobe
The temporal lobe is a region of the cerebral cortex that is located beneath the Sylvian fissure on both cerebral hemispheres of the mammalian brain....

s and produce many of the experiences associated with hauntings. Sound is thought to be another cause of supposed sightings.
Richard Lord and Richard Wiseman
Richard Wiseman
Richard Wiseman is Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.Wiseman started his professional life as a magician, before graduating in Psychology from University College London and obtaining a Ph.D...

 have concluded that infrasound
Infrasound
Infrasound is sound that is lower in frequency than 20 Hz or cycles per second, the "normal" limit of human hearing. Hearing becomes gradually less sensitive as frequency decreases, so for humans to perceive infrasound, the sound pressure must be sufficiently high...

 can cause humans to experience bizarre feelings in a room, such as anxiety, extreme sorrow, a feeling of being watched, or even the chills. Carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause changes in perception of the visual and auditory systems, was speculated upon as a possible explanation for haunted house
Haunted house
A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

s as early as 1921.

European folklore

Belief in ghosts in European folklore
European folklore
European folklore or Western folklore refers to the folklore of the western world, especially when discussed comparatively.There is, of course, no single European culture, but nevertheless the common history of Christendom during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period has resulted in a number...

 is characterized by the recurring fear of "returning" or revenant deceased who may harm the living. This includes the Scandinavian gjenganger
Gjenganger
A Gjenganger is the term for a revenant, the spirit or ghost of a deceased from the grave, in Scandinavian folklore.- Causes :...

, the Romanian strigoi
Strigoi
In Romanian mythology, strigoi are the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality...

, the Serbian vampir
Vampire
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person...

, the Greek vrykolakas, etc.
British folklore
British folklore
British folklore refers to the folklore of any of the home countries of the United Kingdom. For more information see :*English folklore*Scottish folklore*Welsh mythology*Irish mythologyOr :...

 is particularly notable for its numerous haunted locations.

Belief in the soul and an afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 remained near universal until the emergence of atheism
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 in the 18th century. In the 19th century, spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

 resurrected "belief in ghosts" as the object of systematic inquiry, and popular opinion in Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 remains divided.

India

A bhoot or bhut (भूत, ભૂત, or بهوت) is a supernatural creature, usually the ghost of a deceased person, in the popular culture, literature and some ancient texts of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

. Interpretations of how bhoots come into existence vary by region and community, but they are usually considered to be perturbed and restless due to some factor that prevents them from moving on (to transmigration
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

, non-being, nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

, or heaven or hell, depending on tradition). This could be a violent death, unsettled matters in their lives, or simply the failure of their survivors to perform proper funerals.

In Central and Northern India, Shaman
Shamanism
Shamanism is an anthropological term referencing a range of beliefs and practices regarding communication with the spiritual world. To quote Eliade: "A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = technique of ecstasy." Shamanism encompasses the...

 spirit guide
Spirit guide
"Spirit guide" is a term used by the Western tradition of Spiritualist Churches, mediums, and psychics to describe an entity that remains a disincarnate spirit in order to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being....

s play a central role.. It duly happens when in the night someone sleeps and decorates something on the wall and they say that if one sees the spirit the next thing in the morning he will become a spirit to and that to a skondho kata which means a spirit without a head and the soul of the body will remain the dark with the dark lord from the spirits who reside in the body of every human in Central and Northern India. It is also believed that if someone calls you from behind never turn back and see because the spirit may catch the human to make it a spirit.
Other types of spirits in Hindu Mythology include Baital, an evil spirit who haunts cemeteries and takes demonic possession of corpses, and Pishacha
Pishacha
Pishachas are flesh eating demons, according to Hindu mythology. Their origin is obscure, although some believe that they were created by Brahma. Another legend describes them as the sons of either Krodh or of Daksha’s daughter Pishach. They have been described to have a dark complexion with...

, a type of flesh-eating demon.

Austronesia

There are many Malay ghost myths, remnants of old animist beliefs that have been shaped by later Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim influences in the modern states of Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Malaysia and Brunei
Brunei
Brunei , officially the State of Brunei Darussalam or the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace , is a sovereign state located on the north coast of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia...

. Some ghost concepts such as the female vampires Pontianak and Penanggalan are shared throughout the region.
Ghosts are a popular theme in modern Malaysian and Indonesian movies.
There are also many references to Ghosts in Filipino culture
Ghosts in Filipino culture
There are many references to Ghosts in Filipino culture, ranging from ancient legendary creatures such as the Manananggal and Tiyanak to more modern urban legends and horror movies....

, ranging from ancient legendary creatures such as the Manananggal
Manananggal
The manananggal is a mythical creature of the Philippines. It resembles a Western vampire, in being an evil, man-eating monster or witch. The myth of the manananggal is popular in the Visayan region of the Philippines, especially in the western provinces of Capiz, Iloilo, and Antique...

 and Tiyanak
Tiyanak
The Tiyanak is a vampiric creature in Philippine mythology that imitates the form of a child. It usually takes the form of a newborn baby and cries like one in the jungle to attract unwary travelers. Once it is picked up by the victim, it reverts to its true form and attacks the victim...

 to more modern urban legends and horror movies.
The beliefs, legends and stories are as diverse as the people of the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

.

There was widespread belief in ghosts in Polynesian culture
Ghosts in Polynesian culture
There was widespread belief in ghosts in Polynesian culture, some of which persists today.After death, a person's ghost would normally travel to the sky world or the underworld, but some could stay on earth. In many Polynesian legends, ghosts were often actively involved in the affairs of the living...

, some of which persists today.
After death, a person's ghost normally traveled to the sky world or the underworld, but some could stay on earth. In many Polynesian
Polynesian culture
Polynesian culture refers to the indigenous peoples' culture of Polynesia who share common traits in language, customs and society. Chronologically, the development of Polynesian culture can be divided into four different historical eras:...

 legends, ghosts were often actively involved in the affairs of the living. Ghosts might also cause sickness or even invade the body of ordinary people, to be driven out through strong medicines.

China

There are many references to ghosts in Chinese culture. Even Confucius said, "Respect ghosts and gods, but keep away from them."

The ghosts take many forms, depending on how the person died, and are often harmful. Many Chinese ghost beliefs have been accepted by neighboring cultures, notably Japan and south-east Asia. Ghost beliefs are closely associated with traditional Chinese religion based on ancestor worship, many of which were incorporated in Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

. Later beliefs were influenced by Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, and in turn influenced and created uniquely Chinese Buddhist beliefs.

Many Chinese today believe it possible to contact the spirits of their ancestors through a medium, and that ancestors can help descendants if properly respected and rewarded. The annual ghost festival
Ghost Festival
The Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries...

 is celebrated by Chinese around the world. On this day, ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm
Underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

.
Ghosts are described in classical Chinese texts as well as modern literature and movies.

A recent article in the China Post stated that nearly eighty seven percent of Chinese office workers believe in ghosts, and some fifty two percent of workers will wear hand art, necklaces, crosses, or even place a crystal ball on their desks to keep ghosts at bay, according to the poll.

Japan


are figures in Japanese folklore
Japanese folklore
The folklore of Japan is heavily influenced by both Shinto and Buddhism, the two primary religions in the country. It often involves humorous or bizarre characters and situations and also includes an assortment of supernatural beings, such as bodhisattva, kami , yōkai , yūrei ,...

, analogous to Western legends of ghosts. The name consists of two kanji
Kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

, 幽 (), meaning "faint" or "dim" and 霊 (rei), meaning "soul" or "spirit". Alternative names include 亡霊 (Bōrei) meaning ruined or departed spirit, 死霊 (Shiryō) meaning dead spirit, or the more encompassing 妖怪 (Yōkai
Yōkai
are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for "otherworldly" and "weird". Yōkai range eclectically from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them...

) or お化け (Obake
Obake
and are a class of yōkai, preternatural creatures in Japanese folklore. Literally, the terms mean a thing that changes, referring to a state of transformation or shapeshifting....

).

Like their Chinese
Chinese folklore
Chinese folklore includes songs, dances, puppetry, and tales. It often tells stories of human nature, historical or legendary events, love, and the supernatural, or stories explaining natural phenomena and distinctive landmarks.-Folktales:...

 and Western counterparts, they are thought to be spirits kept from a peaceful afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

.

Tibet

There is widespread belief in ghosts in Tibetan culture. Ghosts are explicitly recognized in the Tibetan Buddhist religion as they were in Indian Buddhism
History of Buddhism in India
Buddhism is a world religion, which arose in and around ancient Magadha, India , and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama , who is known as the Buddha...

, occupying a distinct but overlapping world to the human one, and feature in many traditional legends.
When a human dies, after a period of uncertainty they may enter the ghost world.
A hungry ghost
Hungry ghost
Hungry ghost is a Western translation of Chinese  , a concept in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion representing beings who are driven by intense emotional needs in an animalistic way....

 (Tibetan: yidag, yi-dvags; Sanskrit: preta, प्रेत) has a tiny throat and huge stomach, and so can never be satisfied.
Ghosts may be killed with a ritual dagger or caught in a spirit trap and burnt, thus releasing them to be reborn.
Ghosts may also be exorcised, and an annual festival is held throughout Tibet for this purpose.
Some say that Dorje Shugden
Dorje Shugden
Dorje Shugden , "Vajra Possessing Strength", or Dolgyal Shugden , "Shugden, King of Dhol" is a deity in Tibetan Buddhism, especially its Gelug school, who is regarded as a Dharma Protector or "guardian angel." The practice of Dharma Protectors is central to most religious Tibetans and...

, the ghost of a powerful 17th-century monk, is a deity, but the Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is a high lama in the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" branch of Tibetan Buddhism. The name is a combination of the Mongolian word далай meaning "Ocean" and the Tibetan word bla-ma meaning "teacher"...

 asserts that he is an evil spirit, which has caused a split in the Tibetan exile community.

Mexico

There is extensive and varied belief in ghosts in Mexican culture
Ghosts in Mexican culture
There is extensive and varied belief in ghosts in Mexican culture. The modern state of Mexico before the Spanish conquest was inhabited by diverse peoples such as the Maya and Aztec, and their beliefs have survived and evolved, combined with the beliefs of the Spanish colonists. The Day of the Dead...

. The modern state of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 before the Spanish conquest was inhabited by diverse peoples such as the Maya and Aztec, and their beliefs have survived and evolved, combined with the beliefs of the Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

 colonists. The Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in many cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it attains the quality...

 incorporates pre-Columbian beliefs with Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 elements. Mexican literature and movies include many stories of ghosts interacting with the living.

United States

According to the Gallup Poll News Service, belief in haunted houses, ghosts, communication with the dead, and witches had an especially steep increase over the 1990s. A 2005 Gallup poll found that about 32 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.

Depiction in the arts

Ghosts are prominent in the popular cultures of various nations. The ghost story
Ghost story
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has...

 is ubiquitous across all cultures from oral folktales to works of literature.

Renaissance to Romanticism (1500 to 1840)

One of the more recognizable ghosts in English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

 is the shade of Hamlet's murdered father
King Hamlet
The ghost of Hamlet's father is a character from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, also known as The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In the stage directions he is referred to as "Ghost."...

 in Shakespeare’s The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Hamlet, it is the ghost who demands that Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet
Prince Hamlet is a fictional character, the protagonist in Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet. He is the Prince of Denmark, nephew to the usurping Claudius and son of the previous King of Denmark, Old Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles with whether, and how, to avenge the murder of his father, and...

 investigate his "murder most foul" and seek revenge upon his usurping uncle, King Claudius
King Claudius
King Claudius is a character and the antagonist from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. He is the brother to King Hamlet, second husband to Gertrude and uncle to Hamlet. He obtained the throne of Denmark by murdering his own brother with poison and then marrying the late king's widow...

. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, the murdered Banquo
Banquo
Banquo is a character in William Shakespeare's 1606 play Macbeth. In the play, he is at first an ally to Macbeth and they are together when they meet the Three Witches. After prophesying that Macbeth will become king, the witches tell Banquo that he will not be king himself, but that his...

 returns as a ghost to the dismay of the title character.
In English Renaissance theater, ghosts were often depicted in the garb of the living and even in armor, as with the ghost of Hamlet’s father. Armor, being out-of-date by the time of the Renaissance, gave the stage ghost a sense of antiquity. But the sheeted ghost began to gain ground on stage in the 19th century because an armored ghost could not satisfactorily convey the requisite spookiness: it clanked and creaked, and had to be moved about by complicated pulley systems or elevators. These clanking ghosts being hoisted about the stage became objects of ridicule as they became clichéd stage elements. Ann Jones and Peter Stallybrass, in Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory, point out, "In fact, it is as laughter increasingly threatens the Ghost that he starts to be staged not in armor but in some form of 'spirit drapery'." An interesting observation by Jones and Stallybrass is that
Ghosts figured prominently in traditional British ballads of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly the “Border Ballads” of the turbulent border country
Border Country
Border Country is a novel by Raymond Williams. The book was re-published in December 2005 as one of the first group of titles in the Library of Wales series, having been out of print for several years. Written in English, the novel was first published in 1960.It is set in rural South Wales, close...

 between England and Scotland. Ballads of this type include The Unquiet Grave
The Unquiet Grave
"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78....

, The Wife of Usher's Well
The Wife of Usher's Well
"The Wife of Usher's Well" is a traditional ballad, catalogued as Child Ballad 79, originally from Britain, and is more particularly considered a Scottish ballad, but also popular in North America...

, and Sweet William's Ghost
Sweet William's Ghost
Sweet William's Ghost is a folk song, collected by Francis James Child in 1868 as Child ballad number 77. It exists in many forms but all versions recount a similar story. It was printed in Allan Ramsay's The Tea-Table Miscellany in 1740, and again in Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English...

, which feature the recurring theme of returning dead lovers or children. In the ballad King Henry
King Henry (song)
"King Henry" is Child ballad 32.It is a version of the tale of the loathly lady. This form of the tale appears in Hrólfr Kraki's saga and also in the Scottish tale, The Daughter Of King Under-Waves...

, a particularly ravenous ghost devours the king’s horse and hounds before forcing the king into bed. The king then awakens to find the ghost transformed into a beautiful woman.

One of the key early appearances by ghosts in a gothic tale was The Castle of Otranto
The Castle of Otranto
The Castle of Otranto is a 1764 novel by Horace Walpole. It is generally regarded as the first gothic novel, initiating a literary genre which would become extremely popular in the later 18th century and early 19th century...

by Horace Walpole in 1764.

Washington Irving
Washington Irving
Washington Irving was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He was best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works...

's short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is a short story by Washington Irving contained in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., written while he was living in Birmingham, England, and first published in 1820...

(1820), based on an earlier German folktale, features a Headless Horseman
Headless Horseman
The headless horseman has been a motif of European folklore since at least the Middle ages.The Headless Horseman is a fictional character who appears in a short story called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” which is in a collection of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon written by Washington Irving...

. It has been adapted for film and television many times, such as Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow (film)
Sleepy Hollow is a 1999 American period horror film directed by Tim Burton. It is a film adaptation loosely inspired by the 1820 short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving and stars Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Marc Pickering, Michael Gambon, Jeffrey Jones,...

, a successful 1999 feature film.

Victorian/Edwardian (1840 to 1920)

The "classic" ghost story arose during the Victorian period, and included authors such as M. R. James
M. R. James
Montague Rhodes James, OM, MA, , who used the publication name M. R. James, was an English mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge and of Eton College . He is best remembered for his ghost stories, which are regarded as among the best in the genre...

, Sheridan Le Fanu
Sheridan Le Fanu
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era....

, Violet Hunt
Violet Hunt
Isobel Violet Hunt was a British author and literary hostess. Her father was the artist Alfred William Hunt, her mother the novelist and translator Margaret Raine Hunt. Her younger sister Venetia married the designer William Arthur Smith Benson .-Biography:Hunt was born in Durham; the family moved...

, and Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

. Classic ghost stories were influenced by the gothic fiction
Gothic fiction
Gothic fiction, sometimes referred to as Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Gothicism's origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled "A Gothic Story"...

 tradition, and contain elements of folklore and psychology. M. R. James summed up the essential elements of a ghost story as, “Malevolence and terror, the glare of evil faces, ‘the stony grin of unearthly malice', pursuing forms in darkness, and 'long-drawn, distant screams', are all in place, and so is a modicum of blood, shed with deliberation and carefully husbanded...”

Famous literary apparitions from this period are the ghosts of A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of...

, in which Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge
Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens's 1843 novel, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novel, Scrooge is a cold-hearted, tight-fisted and greedy man, who despises Christmas and all things which give people happiness...

 is helped to see the error of his ways by the ghost of his former colleague Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley
Jacob Marley is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' 1843 novella A Christmas Carol.- Relationship with Scrooge:In life, Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks in another business...

, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's comedy The Canterville Ghost
The Canterville Ghost
"The Canterville Ghost" is a popular short story by Oscar Wilde, widely adapted for the screen and stage. It was the first of Wilde's stories to be published, appearing in the magazine The Court and Society Review in February 1887. It was later included in a collection of short stories entitled...

has been adapted for film and television on several occasions. Henry James's The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw is a novella written by Henry James. Originally published in 1898, it is ostensibly a ghost story.Due to its ambiguous content, it became a favourite text of academics who subscribe to New Criticism. The novella has had differing interpretations, often mutually exclusive...

has also appeared in a number of adaptations, notably the film The Innocents and Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

's opera The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw (opera)
The Turn of the Screw is a 20th century English chamber opera composed by Benjamin Britten with a libretto by Myfanwy Piper, "wife of the artist John Piper, who had been a friend of the composer since 1935 and had provided designs for several of the operas". The libretto is based on the novella...

.

Oscar Telgmann's opera Leo, the Royal Cadet
Leo, the Royal Cadet
Leo, the Royal Cadet is a light opera with music by Oscar Ferdinand Telgmann. The libretto was by George Frederick Cameron. It was composed in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1889. The work centres on Nellie's love for Leo, a cadet at the Royal Military College of Canada who becomes a hero serving...

(1885) includes Judge's Song about a ghost at the Royal Military College of Canada
Royal Military College of Canada
The Royal Military College of Canada, RMC, or RMCC , is the military academy of the Canadian Forces, and is a degree-granting university. RMC was established in 1876. RMC is the only federal institution in Canada with degree granting powers...

 in Kingston, Ontario.

Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things
, often shortened to Kwaidan, is a book by Lafcadio Hearn that features several Japanese ghost stories and a brief non-fiction study on insects...

is a 1904 collection of Japanese ghost stories
Kaidan
Kaidan is a Japanese word consisting of two kanji: 怪 meaning “strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparition" and 談 meaning “talk” or “recited narrative.”-Overall meaning and usage:...

 collected by Lafcadio Hearn
Lafcadio Hearn
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn , known also by the Japanese name , was an international writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things...

, and later made into a film.

In the United States, prior to and during the First World War, folklorists Olive Dame Campbell
Olive Dame Campbell
Olive Dame Campbell was an American folklorist.Born Olive Arnold Dame in West Medford, Massachusetts, she married John C. Campbell, American educator, in 1907. After his death, she co-founded and directed the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina in 1925...

 and Cecil Sharp
Cecil Sharp
Cecil James Sharp was the founding father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century, and many of England's traditional dances and music owe their continuing existence to his work in recording and publishing them.-Early life:Sharp was born in Camberwell, London, the eldest son of...

 collected ballads from the people of the Appalachian Mountains, which included ghostly themes such as The Wife of Usher's Well
The Wife of Usher's Well
"The Wife of Usher's Well" is a traditional ballad, catalogued as Child Ballad 79, originally from Britain, and is more particularly considered a Scottish ballad, but also popular in North America...

, The Suffolk Miracle
The Suffolk Miracle
-Synopsis:A young maiden of noble birth comes to love a young commoner, so her father sends her away. Whilst in exile, the maid wakes one night to find her lover at her window mounted upon a fine horse. They go out riding together until the man complains he has a headache; the maid tends to him and...

, The Unquiet Grave
The Unquiet Grave
"The Unquiet Grave" is an English folk song in which a young man mourns his dead love too hard and prevents her from obtaining peace. It is thought to date from 1400 and was collected in 1868 by Francis James Child, as Child Ballad number 78....

, and The Cruel Ship's Carpenter. The theme of these ballads was often the return of a dead lover. These songs were variants of traditional British ballads handed down by generations of mountaineers descended from the people of the Anglo-Scottish border region.

Modern Era (1920 to 1970)

Professional parapsychologists and “ghosts hunters”, such as Harry Price
Harry Price
Harry Price was a British psychic researcher and author.-Early life:Although Price claimed his birth was in Shropshire, he was actually born in London in Red Lion Square on the site of the South Place Ethical Society's Conway Hall. He was educated in New Cross, first at Waller Road Infants School...

, active in the 1920s and 1930s, and Peter Underwood, active in the 1940s and 1950s, published accounts of their experiences with ostensibly true ghost stories such as Price's The Most Haunted House in England, and Underwood's Ghosts of Borley (both recounting experiences at Borley Rectory
Borley Rectory
Borley Rectory was a Victorian era mansion located in the village of Borley, Essex, England. It was constructed in 1863, on the site of a previous rectory, and destroyed by fire in 1939....

).

Children’s benevolent ghost stories became popular, such as Casper the Friendly Ghost
Casper the Friendly Ghost
Casper the Friendly Ghost is the protagonist of the Famous Studios theatrical animated cartoon series of the same name. As his name indicates, he is a ghost, but is quite personable...

, created in the 1930s and appearing in comics, animated cartoon
Animated cartoon
An animated cartoon is a short, hand-drawn film for the cinema, television or computer screen, featuring some kind of story or plot...

s, and eventually a 1995 feature film.

Noël Coward
Noël Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...

's play Blithe Spirit
Blithe Spirit (play)
Blithe Spirit is a comic play written by Noël Coward which takes its title from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "To a Skylark" . The play concerns socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant, Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to...

, later made into a film
Blithe Spirit (film)
Blithe Spirit is a British fantasy comedy film directed by David Lean. The screenplay by Lean, Anthony Havelock-Allan, Ronald Neame, and Noël Coward is based on Coward's 1941 play of the same name...

, places a more humorous slant on the phenomenon of haunting of individuals and specific locations.

With the advent of motion pictures and television, screen depictions of ghosts became common, and spanned a variety of genres; the works of Shakespeare, Dickens and Wilde have all been made into cinematic versions. Novel-length tales have been difficult to adapt to cinema, although that of The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House
For the Richard Matheson novel, see Hell House, made into a film titled The Legend of Hell House.The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 novel by author Shirley Jackson. Finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the twentieth century,...

to The Haunting
The Haunting (1963 film)
The Haunting is a 1963 British psychological horror film by American director Robert Wise and adapted by Nelson Gidding from the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It stars Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn. The film centers around the conflict between...

in 1963 is an exception.

Sentimental depictions during this period were more popular in cinema than horror, and include the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir romantic fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It is based on a 1945 novel written by Josephine Leslie under the pseudonym of R. A. Dick...

, which was later adapted to television with a successful 1968-70 TV series
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (TV series)
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir is a situation comedy based on the 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which was based on the 1945 novel by R.A. Dick. It starred Hope Lange as Carolyn Muir, a young widow who rents Gull Cottage, near the fictional fishing village of Schooner Bay, Maine along with her two...

. Genuine psychological horror
Psychological horror
Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror fiction that relies on character fears, guilt, beliefs, eerie sound effects, relevant music and emotional instability to build tension and further the plot...

 films from this period include 1944's The Uninvited
The Uninvited (1944 film)
The Uninvited is a 1944 American supernatural mystery/romance film directed by Lewis Allen. It is based on the Dorothy Macardle novel Uneasy Freehold.Charles Lang was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Black and White Cinematography.-Plot:...

, and 1945's Dead of Night
Dead of Night
Dead of Night is a British portmanteau horror film made by Ealing Studios, its various episodes directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. The film stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers and Michael Redgrave...

.

Post-modern (1970-present)

The 1970s saw screen depictions of ghosts diverge into distinct genres of the romantic and horror. A common theme in the romantic genre from this period is the ghost as a benign guide or messenger, often with unfinished business, such as 1989's Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams is a 1989 American fantasy-drama film directed by Phil Alden Robinson and is from the novel Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella...

, the 1990 film Ghost
Ghost (film)
Ghost is a 1990 romantic drama film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker.-Plot:...

, and the 1993 comedy Heart and Souls
Heart and Souls
Heart and Souls is a 1993 fantasy/comedy film about the souls of four deceased people who are trapped on earth and can only be seen by a single living human being who is recruited to help them take care of their unfinished business...

. In the horror genre, 1980's The Fog
The Fog
The Fog is a 1980 horror film directed by John Carpenter, who also co-wrote the screenplay and composed the music for the film. It stars Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins and Janet Leigh...

, and the A Nightmare on Elm Street
A Nightmare on Elm Street (franchise)
A Nightmare on Elm Street is an American horror franchise that consists of nine slasher films, a television show, novels, and comic books. The franchise began with the film series created by Wes Craven. The franchise is based on the fictional character Freddy Krueger, introduced in A Nightmare on...

series of films from the 1980s and 1990s are notable examples of the trend for the merging of ghost stories with scenes of physical violence.

Popularised in such films as the 1984 comedy Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters is a 1984 American science fiction comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The film stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis and follows three eccentric parapsychologists in New York City, who start a...

, ghost hunting
Ghost hunting
Ghost Hunting is the process of investigating locations that are reported to be haunted by ghosts.Typically, a ghost hunting team will attempt to collect evidence claimed to be supportive of paranormal activity...

 became a hobby for many who formed ghost hunting societies to explore reportedly haunted places. The ghost hunting theme has been featured in reality television series
Reality television
Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors, sometimes in a contest or other situation where a prize is awarded...

, such as Ghost Adventures
Ghost Adventures
Ghost Adventures is a weekly American paranormal television series that premiered on October 17, 2008 on the Travel Channel. Currently produced by MY-Tupelo Entertainment , the program follows and stars ghost hunters Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin, as they investigate locations that are...

, Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters is an American paranormal reality television series that premiered on October 6, 2004, on Syfy . The program features paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who investigate places that are reported to be haunted. The two originally worked as plumbers for Roto-Rooter as...

, Ghost Hunters International
Ghost Hunters International
Ghost Hunters International is a spin-off series of Ghost Hunters that airs on Syfy. The series premiered on January 9, 2008...

, Ghost Lab
Ghost Lab
Ghost Lab is a weekly American paranormal documentary television series that premiered on October 6, 2009 on the Discovery Channel. Produced by Paper Route Productions and Go Go Luckey Entertainment, the program is narrated by Mike Rowe...

, Most Haunted
Most Haunted
Most Haunted is a British paranormal documentary reality television series. The series was first shown on 25 May 2002 and ended on 21 July 2010. It was broadcast on Living and presented by Yvette Fielding. The programme was based on investigating purported paranormal activity...

and A Haunting
A Haunting
A Haunting is an American paranormal docudrama anthology television series that originally aired from October 28, 2005 to November 9, 2007 on the Discovery Channel. The program features narrations, interviews, and dramatic re-enactments based on various accounts of paranormal experiences at...

. It is also represented in children's television by such programs as The Ghost Hunter
The Ghost Hunter
The Ghost Hunter is a general name for a series of novels by Ivan Jones about a Victorian shoe-shine boy who has become a ghost. The boy, called William Povey, is trying to escape from the evil and obsessive Ghost Hunter, Mrs Croker...

and Ghost Trackers
Ghost Trackers
Ghost Trackers is a children's reality show on HBO that was previously aired on Discovery Kids Canada, & YTV.-Show summary:Middle-school age contestants compete for the title of "top tracker" by investigating supposedly haunted places armed with "ghost tracking technology." Previously hidden...

. Ghost hunting also gave rise to multiple guidebooks to haunted locations, and ghost hunting "how-to" manuals.

The 1990s saw a return to classic "gothic" ghosts, whose dangers were more psychological than physical. Examples of films from this period include 1999's The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense is a 1999 American psychological thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film tells the story of Cole Sear , a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist who tries to help him...

, The Others
The Others (2001 film)
The Others is a 2001 psychological horror film by the Spanish-Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar, starring Nicole Kidman. It is inspired partly by the novella The Turn of the Screw....

, and HBO's 2001-2005 series Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under
Six Feet Under is an American drama television series created and produced by Alan Ball. It premiered on the premium cable network HBO in the United States on June 3, 2001 and ended on August 21, 2005, spanning five seasons and 63 episodes. The show was produced by Actual Size Films and The...

.

Asian cinema
Asian cinema
Asian cinema refers to the film industries and films produced in the continent of Asia, and is also sometimes known as Eastern cinema. More commonly however, it is used to refer to the cinema of Eastern, Southeastern and Southern Asia. West Asian cinema is sometimes classified as part of Middle...

 has also produced horror film
Horror film
Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's most primal fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of macabre and the supernatural, thus frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres...

s about ghosts, such as the 1998 Japanese film Ringu
Ring (film)
is a 1998 Japanese horror film by Hideo Nakata, adapted from the novel Ring by Kōji Suzuki, which in turn draws on the Japanese folk tale Banchō Sarayashiki. The film stars Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Rikiya Ōtaka as members of a divorced family...

(remade in the US as The Ring
The Ring (2002 film)
The Ring is a 2002 American psychological horror film directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson. It is a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film Ring....

in 2002), and the Pang brothers' 2002 film The Eye
The Eye (2002 film)
The Eye, also known as Seeing Ghosts, is a 2002 horror film directed by the Pang brothers. The film spawned two sequels by the Pang brothers, The Eye 2 and The Eye 10...

.
Indian ghost movies are popular not just in India, but in the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and other parts of the world. Some Indian ghost movies such as the comedy / horror film Chandramukhi
Chandramukhi
Chandramukhi is a 2005 Indian horror, comedy and drama film directed by P. Vasu and produced by Ramkumar Ganesan. With a few deviations, it is a remake of Vasu's 2004 Kannada film Apthamitra, which was in-turn a remake of the 1993 Malayalam film Manichithrathazhu...

have been commercial successes, dubbed into several languages.
Generally the movies are based on the experiences of modern people who are unexpectedly exposed to ghosts. They usually draw on traditional Indian literature or folklore, but in some cases are remakes of western movies, such as Anjaane
Anjaane (2005 film)
Anjaane is the name of an Indian ghost movie, a Bollywood movie released in 2005. The main cast consisted of Manisha Koirala, Sanjay Kapoor, Tejasvini Kolhapure and Helen. The film was directed by Harry W. Fernandes. The genre of the film is "horror-drama"...

, based on Alejandro Amenábar
Alejandro Amenábar
Alejandro Fernando Amenábar Cantos is a Spanish- Chilean film director. Amenábar was born in Santiago, Chile to a Spanish mother and Chilean father, but the family moved to Spain just one year after his birth...

's ghost story The Others
The Others (2001 film)
The Others is a 2001 psychological horror film by the Spanish-Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar, starring Nicole Kidman. It is inspired partly by the novella The Turn of the Screw....

.

In fictional television programming, ghosts have been explored in series such as Supernatural
Supernatural (TV series)
Supernatural is an American supernatural and horror television series created by Eric Kripke, which debuted on September 13, 2005 on The WB, and is now part of The CW's lineup. Starring Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester and Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester, the series follows the brothers as they...

, Ghost Whisperer
Ghost Whisperer
Ghost Whisperer is an American television supernatural drama, which ran on CBS from September 23, 2005 to May 21, 2010.The series follows the life of Melinda Gordon , who has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts...

and Medium. In animated fictional television programming, ghosts have served as the central element in series such as Casper
Casper
Caspar, one of the Three Biblical MagiCasper may refer to:-Given name:*Casper , 5th Century ruler of the Mayan city of Palenque*Caspar Badrutt , Swiss businessman and pioneer of alpine resorts...

, Danny Phantom
Danny Phantom
Danny Phantom is an American animated television series created by Butch Hartman for Nickelodeon, produced by Billionfold Studios. The show was about a teenage half-ghost boy, who frequently saves his town and the world from ghost attacks, while attempting to keep his ghost half a secret...

, and Scooby-Doo
Scooby-Doo
Scooby-Doo is an American media franchise based around several animated television series and related works produced from 1969 to the present day. The original series, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, was created for Hanna-Barbera Productions by writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears in 1969...

. Various other television shows have depicted ghosts as well.

See also

  • Demonic possession
    Demonic possession
    Demonic possession is held by many belief systems to be the control of an individual by a malevolent supernatural being. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include erased memories or personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying...

  • Afterlife
    Afterlife
    The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

  • Ethereal being
    Ethereal being
    Ethereal beings, according to some belief systems and occult theories, are mystic entities that usually are not made of ordinary matter. Despite the fact that they are believed to be essentially incorporeal, they do interact in physical shapes with the material universe and travel between the...

  • Ghost hunting
    Ghost hunting
    Ghost Hunting is the process of investigating locations that are reported to be haunted by ghosts.Typically, a ghost hunting team will attempt to collect evidence claimed to be supportive of paranormal activity...

  • Haunted house
    Haunted house
    A haunted house is a house or other building often perceived as being inhabited by disembodied spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property...

  • Fear of ghosts
    Fear of ghosts
    The fear of ghosts in many human cultures is based on beliefs that some ghosts may be malignant towards people and dangerous ....


Further reading

  • Fairly, John & Welfare, Simon, Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers, Putnam: New York, 1985.
  • Felton, D., Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories From Classical Antiquity, University of Texas Press, 1999.
  • Finucane, R. C., Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts, Prometheus Books, 1984.
  • Johnston, Sarah Iles, Restless Dead: Encounters Between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece, University of California Press, 1999.
  • Hole, Christina, Haunted England, Batsford: London, 1950. At Google Books
  • MacKenzie, Andrew, Apparitions and Ghosts, Arthur Barker, 1971.
  • Moreman, Christopher, Beyond the Threshold: Afterlife Beliefs and Experiences in World Religions, Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  • Newman, Kim, ed. BFI Companion to Horror, Cassell: London, 1996.

External links


The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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