“I really wish the dearly departed would stay that way…” – Baron Straus
It’s time for us to return to the topic of the undead. We’ve spoken of ghouls before, and now it is time for us to turn out attention to ghosts!
The afterlife and passing on can all be a rather tricky and complicated affair. Most spirits make their way to where they’re meant to be after death… but some do not.
These spirits who have been left behind can take many forms. Ghosts are one of the most common of these. Going through the various reasons or ways in which a spirit remains in our world voluntarily or otherwise would take far too long. Like I said, the afterlife is a complicated affair, and things do go wrong.
However, there are several notable factors that can often lead to spirits remaining with us.
A traumatic death is by far the most common. There are many theories as to why this is the case. One of the most popular ones being that a traumatic death leads to a confused spirit with wildly fluctuating energy. This disturbance is thought to disrupt the process of passing on, leading to a ghost being stuck in our world.
Ghosts stuck in this way are often confused, disoriented, and unable to fully understand their surroundings. They will often ‘live through’ their death over and over again. It’s not uncommon for battlefields to be filled with ghosts stuck in endless combat. Following orders from officers who aren’t there and being unable to even ‘see’ the world as it is.
Their condition isn’t all that different from that of some of those who survive such horrific events.
The good news is that these ghosts can be reasoned with and helped to pass on even without the aid of magic. However, the trick is getting them to somehow snap out of their trance-like state for long enough to even acknowledge you.
If you can get them to do so, it’s possible to get the spirits to realize that they are in fact dead and to put their trauma behind them. When they are ready, they will then depart for wherever they were meant to go in the first place.
Unfinished business is, of course, another common one. Now, maybe you’re worried that someone you knew will now start haunting you because you never did return that book of theirs. But, this is very unlikely.
Yes, it’s common that ghosts have unfinished business, but then almost anyone who dies has unfinished business and most of them pass on without issue.
Because of this, I’ve had a few heated debates with colleagues over whether it is, in fact, a cause at all. Sure, many ghosts stay behind due to unfinished business (or so it seems) but what about all the others who feel just the same but move on perfectly fine?
Like everything in life (or death as the case may be), further research is needed. There is always more to learn, and as frustrating as that is, it’s also rather exciting.
All that being said though, these ghosts can also often be reasoned with or helped. Some cannot. Some are violent and dangerous, and others simply have no interest in moving on.
Keep in mind that ghosts can still pose a significant danger to those of us who are alive, but we’ll get to that in a bit. First, I thought it good to say that the above types of ghosts are perhaps the most commonly dealt with by the layman. Even you.
If you’re good at talking, working things out, and helping people… well, perhaps you’ll become one of those who goes around helping these restless spirits pass on. Just keep in mind that they can be very dangerous, and not all of them are so innocent or friendly.
Ghosts are people after all. Just… dead ones. (Animals can, of course, be ghosts as well, but this is rare and communicating with them would be absurdly difficult.)
So, now we get to the last cause I’ll discuss here. The cause that you should not try to rectify. No, this is best left to the experts and only the experts.
Heed this warning or die.
Magic. As soon as magic is involved all the rules change. A spell gone wrong can easily cause spirits to be trapped, summon them from beyond, call them from elsewhere on the same plane, bind them… or an infinite number of other things.
Magic that causes such things can be just by accident, but it can also be by intent. Necromancers commonly use such magic, and not all of them for nefarious purposes. But, there are twisted, dark magics that would devour even the most black-hearted wizard from the inside out.
There are too many spells, and the complexities involved are quite frankly beyond me, but suffice it to say that there are many places in this world that have become haunted and cursed as the result of such twisted magic.
When magic is involved talking, and reason will not help, and even the spirit of your best friend might reach inside your chest and rip out your spine.
Even those skilled in dealing with such matters often choose to simply avoid them.
But, all that being said let’s discuss more about ghosts themselves.
When it comes to personality or behavior… there isn’t much I can do. We aren’t talking about chimeras or wyverns here. These are people (and sometimes animals but those are almost always the result of magic for some reason). As such, their personalities differ wildly.
What they do. What they say. How they talk, even what language they speak or if they speak at all… depends on the ghost.
So, rather than focus on behavior, let’s discuss a bit of what ghosts are capable of. The full extent of their abilities and even how they do what they do isn’t known, but we do have a lot of records. So, just remember that any ghost you encounter may or may not be able to do these things and may be able to do something you could never have expected.
So, let’s get started.
Ghosts are ethereal beings, and as such conventional weapons do nothing to them. The tales of ghosts being held back by a line of salt or iron are greatly exaggerated.
Salt and iron do seem to disrupt them a bit but keep in mind they can fly or drift over lines of salt without difficulty. Being struck with iron appears to make it harder for them to keep their form, but it won’t actually cause them any harm. They’ll just reform right away. Perhaps slightly annoyed.
It takes very specialized magic to deal with ghosts. Normal spells fare little better than ordinary weapons. Given that ghosts don’t have a body to strike, this is hardly surprising.
Even magical weapons have to be enchanted specifically to deal with ghosts. After all, what good is a sharpness enchantment when ghosts have no flesh to cut?
It’s also good to keep in mind that ghosts are souls. They’re spirits. They obviously can’t be killed, and unlike corporeal undead, they don’t have a body. So, even those magics that are effective against ghosts usually only cause them to dissipate for a time.
Unless the ghosts are trapped or sent somewhere else (through the use of magic or otherwise), they will remain.
So, what are ghosts capable of?
Perhaps when you were small your mother tucked you into bed and told you they couldn’t hurt you. That all they could do was make you afraid…
If only that were true…
While harming ghosts is incredibly difficult, the reverse cannot be said. They are incorporeal but are still able to interact with the physical world to a greater or lesser extent.
They can touch you. Strangle you. Cut you. And, often the wounds a ghost inflicts are worse than a physical blade. Not just because of the harm they can do to your spirit and psyche, but because they can choose what they interact with.
They can reach through your flesh and squeeze your heart.
Although, steel armor does help mitigate such dangers as they have trouble keeping themselves together enough to inflict serious wounds through iron. There are also other, far rarer, metals that give ghosts significantly more trouble than iron.
Some ghosts are capable of telekinesis as well. The ability to move objects with their mind. Not unlike the wizard spell.
So, they could hurl you into the air and allow you to plummet to your death. Throw knives, and other deadly objects, or otherwise turn your life into a horror show.
Ghosts also project an aura of fear, much like the spell.
And no, it’s not just because ghosts are scary. It has been thoroughly tested, and the fear they induce is magical in nature. Many have control over this, however.
Ghosts also seem to conjure or create objects that don’t really exist and will usually vanish should the ghost pass on.
And so the list goes on…
Ghosts are capable of so much, but thankfully their control is often lacking.
Perhaps now you begin to understand why even those who know how to deal with them choose to avoid it as much as possible.
But, all that being said, whole fields of research have opened up because of all the things ghosts are capable of as people begin to explore what we might be capable of even while alive.
What powers do our souls possess?
- Nicholas Wolfram, Professor of Monsterology at Lestria University