In mythology and folklore, a vengeful ghost or vengeful spirit is said to be the spirit of a dead person who returns from the afterlife to seek revenge for a cruel, unnatural or unjust death. In certain cultures where funeral and burial or cremation ceremonies are important, such vengeful spirits may also be considered as unhappy ghosts of individuals who have not been given a proper funeral.[1]

Vengeful ghost
The spirit of the vengeful priest Raigo returns as a rat plague and destroys the Mii Temple. T. Yoshitoshi 1891
GroupingLegendary creature
Sub groupingGhost, undead
Similar creaturesRevenant
Other name(s)Vengeful spirit
RegionThe Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa
As a husband passes by the place where his pregnant wife was brutally murdered, her ghost appears and hands their child to him. She then tells him the story of her murder and assists him as he takes revenge for her death. Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1845


Cultural backgroundEdit

The concept of a vengeful ghost seeking retribution for harm that it endured as a living person goes back to ancient times and is part of many cultures. According to such legends and beliefs, they roam the world of the living as restless spirits, seeking to have their grievances redressed, and may not be satisfied until they have succeeded in punishing either their murderers or their tormentors.[2]

In certain cultures vengeful ghosts are mostly female, said to be women that were unjustly treated during their lifetime. Such women or girls may have died in despair or the suffering they endured may have ended up in early death caused by the ill-treatment or torture they were subject to.[3][4]

Exorcisms and appeasement are among the religious and social customs practiced by various cultures in relation to the vengeful ghost. The northern Aché people group in Paraguay cremated old people thought to harbor dangerous vengeful spirits instead of giving them a customary burial.[5] In cases where the person has been killed and the body disposed of unceremoniously, the cadaver may be exhumed and reburied according to the proper funerary rituals in order to appease the spirit. Others have been known to salt and burn their body, the place where they were killed or the instrument that they were killed with.


Vengeful ghosts have been featured in many contemporary movies of different countries such as Candyman, The Grudge, The Pit and the Pendulum, Mostly Ghostly: Who Let the Ghosts Out?, Poltergeist, Ghost, The Fog, High Plains Drifter, The Ward, Cassadaga, Kaal, Left for Dead, Bees Saal Baad, Darling, Ragini MMS, Dark Shadows and the Troublesome Night film series, as well as television series Spooky Valentine, Spooky Nights, Charmed, Ghost Whisperer, Supernatural and the popular Thai television soap opera Raeng Ngao. They are also part of the theme of novels such as Tamír Triad and Tamsin, comics such as Gentleman Ghost, animated television series like Danny Phantom and adventure games such as Chzo Mythos.


Ancient RomeEdit

  • Lemures in Roman mythology are the wandering and vengeful spirits of those not afforded proper burial, funeral rites or affectionate cult by the living.[6]

Ancient GreeceEdit

British IslesEdit

Eastern EuropeEdit

Jewish CultureEdit

  • Dybbuk, a malicious spirit that possesses living people.

China and VietnamEdit

India and PakistanEdit


  • Onryō. A generic name of the Japanese folklore for ghosts (yūrei) who come back from purgatory for a wrong done to them during their lifetime. Onryō are mostly women and often manifest themselves in physical rather than spectral form.
    • Funayūrei (船幽霊 or 舟幽霊, lit. "boat spirit") are ghosts that have become vengeful spirits at sea. They are mentioned in the folklore of various areas of Japan.
    • Kuchisake-onna, the vengeful ghost of a woman mutilated by her husband
    • Mu-onna (無女), the vengeful spirit of a mother who lost her child to famine or war
    • Goryō. A certain type of spirits, usually the ghosts of martyrs, from Japanese mythology[15]

Latin AmericaEdit

  • Dama Branca, also known as Mulher de Branco meaning 'Woman in White' in Portuguese, is the ghost of a young woman who died of childbirth or violent causes in Brazilian mythology.[16]
  • La Llorona. Also known as 'The Weeping Woman'. Can be a female spirit from Mexico who drowned her own children because her husband left her.
  • La Sayona. A female spirit who believed her husband had an affair with her mother in Venezuela and Colombia.
  • Patasola. A female spirit from South America that appears as a beautiful woman. She attracts men and lures them to the depths of the rainforest where she turns into a beast and devours the man.
  • Sihuanaba. A female spirit who had an affair and attacks unfaithful men in El Salvador.

North AmericaEdit

Southeast AsiaEdit

  • Krasue (Thai: กระสือ), known as Ap (Khmer: អាប) in Cambodia, as Kasu in Laos, and Palasik, Kuyang, and Leyak in Indonesia a nocturnal female spirit of Southeast Asian folklore.
  • Phi Tai Hong (Thai: ผีตายโหง), the restless spirit of a person that suffered a violent or cruel death in Thai folklore.[17]
  • Phi Tai Thang Klom (ผีตายทั้งกลม), also known as Phi Tai Thong Klom (ผีตายท้องกลม), a Thai ghost, the wrathful spirit of a pregnant woman who committed suicide after being subsequently betrayed and abandoned by her lover.[18]
  • Suanggi is a malevolent spirit in the folklore of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia.
  • Sundel bolong, in Indonesian mythology, the ghost of a woman who died when she was pregnant and gave birth in her grave so that the baby came out from her back where she has a large wound.[19]
  • Wewe Gombel, a female ghost in Indonesian mythology. It is said that she kidnaps children.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Kwon, Heonik (2008). Ghosts of War in Vietnam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88061-9.
  2. ^ Jerrold E. Hogle (4 December 2014). The Cambridge Companion to the Modern Gothic. Cambridge University Press. pp. 216–. ISBN 978-1-316-19435-5.
  3. ^ Henry Whitehead, The Village Gods of South India, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi 1988 (First ed. 1921), ISBN 978-8120601376
  4. ^ Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom, Barcelona 1999, ISBN 84-7254-801-5
  5. ^ Pierre Clastres, Chronique des indiens Guayaki. Ce que savent les Aché, chasseurs nomades du Paraguay. Plon. Paris, 1972
  6. ^ St. Augustine, The City of God, 11.
  7. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 211, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White
  8. ^ Crathes Castle
  9. ^ Nu Gui (女鬼) at the anime festival in Shenzhen, China
  10. ^ Kong Zhiming (孔志明) (1998). "左傳中的厲鬼問題及其日後之演變 (The ideas of vengeful spirits in the Zuo Zhuan and later developments)" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  11. ^ Janet Chawla (1994). Child-bearing and culture: women centered revisioning of the traditional midwife : the dai as a ritual practitioner. Indian Social Institute. p. 15.
  12. ^ Cheung, Theresa (2006). The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World. Harper Element. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-00-721148-7.
  13. ^ Fane, Hannah (1975). "The Female Element in Indian Culture". Asian Folklore Studies. 34 (1): 100. JSTOR 1177740.
  14. ^ Bane, Theresa (2010). "Chedipe". Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. McFarland. pp. 47–8. ISBN 978-0-7864-4452-6.
  15. ^ Iwasaka, Michiko and Toelken, Barre. Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experiences in Japanese Death Legends, Utah State University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-87421-179-4
  16. ^ É de arrepiar: Mulheres de Branco - Supernatural Brasil
  17. ^ Phi Tai Hong Thai book
  18. ^ Ghosts in Thai Culture
  19. ^ Clifford Geertz (1976). The religion of Java. Anthropology/comparative religions Page 658 of Phoenix books. University of Chicago Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-226-28510-8.
  20. ^ Indonesian Ghosts

External linksEdit