I have been waiting months to start these articles! I am here to talk about all things dead and undead. Well, except vampires. They deserve their own list, but yes, vampires are among the legions of the undead. Today, we are going to cover ghosts, zombies, and more.
We have seen them in multiple movies such as 13 Ghosts and Zombieland and TV shows like, well, Ghost and The Walking Dead, so they are everywhere we look. Now that we are in spooky season, streaming services will fill up with them. With them so saturated in popular culture, have you ever wondered about them? What is each one? Or the differences? Possibly where they came from? Cultures from all over the world have their versions of the dead and undead and even how to deal with them.
In today’s article, I will define each one and then discuss them. In the Found in section, I will not be adding everything they, just the top few notable examples and, hopefully, at least one area they are found in. Otherwise, you won’t get this article until
Definition: The real-life definition is it is a dead body. The fantasy definition, however, is it is a reanimated dead body. It is usually a powerful dark magick user that can become a lich or cause someone else to become one.
Liches have their intellect bound to a phylactery, which has to be destroyed before the lich can be killed, making them harder to end. So, while they are similar to zombies, they are smarter than them. Liches have a cadaverous or skeletal appearance. As with most undead I can think of, they are stronger, faster, and, as stated earlier, hard to kill. Former magick users do not lose their ability to control magick.
Found in: They are in European folklore and can be traced back to the English tales. The stories could have come from the Russian tale of Koschei the Deathless. In World of Warcraft, Arthas is the Lich King.
Definition: undead animated corpse revived with the sole purpose of haunting the living, or it is a half death for those bitten by a vampire and under its thrall, but I will talk about that aspect in my vampire article.
Revenants are the revived dead who hunt with a purpose. It is usually to right a wrong done to the revenant in life, but they can be brought back for nefarious reasons. Revenants have two speed settings: high and low. When dormant and not actively hunting, they are slow and sluggish, but during a hunt, they are quick unless they must thoroughly search an area. They are also strong and tough to kill. You might want to grab a flashlight and pack a lunch to take down a revenant because it will be an all-day job.
Found in: You can usually find them in their vampiric aspect, like Renfield in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There are revenants in Mortal Kombat, though. Also, while they are found in many cultures, they can be found in Norse and Celtic mythology.
Definition: an undead being that robs graves to eat the dead
Ghouls tend to have pale gray, rubbery skin that sometimes feels scaly and are hairless. Their facial features have warped, too. They can look nearly human but not quite, or they can look bestial. They are not allergic to sunlight like vampires are, but they certainly don’t like it because they have sensitive eyes.
Found in: the Anita Blake series, but it probably started in the Middle East. A text, A Thousand And One Nights, is a collection of stories from antiquity, and ghouls are featured in it.
Definition: undead created through the reanimation of a corpse
The reanimation can be for whatever reason, I am looking at you zombie virus movies, but it can be magickal like in the Anita Blake series. Laurell K. Hamilton stayed close to the lore by bringing Voodoo in books. Zombies are usually decaying reanimated corpses. Zombies do not have a soul or intellect tied to them, so they are only consumed with their basic needs. In Hati, a bokor uses necromancy to raise the zombie, and the zombie is a slave to that bokor.
Found in: the Anita Blake series, the Resident Evil franchise, the World War Z movie, and more. It is believed to have started in Haiti with the Voodoo religion—at least our more modern interpretation of them.
Definition: the soul or spirit of a dead person that appears to or makes its presence known to a living being in a misty, vague, or shadowy form.
Ghosts, unlike most of this list, are non-corporeal. They have no physical strength because they have no form. Poltergeists have psychic strength but still no physical because they have no body. I found descriptions of five kinds of ghosts. I had only had them in two categories in my head until I researched for this article: ghosts and poltergeists. The five are:
Interactive personality is a ghost that looks similar to how they did in life and can interact with people and animals around them. These are the most common.
Funnel ghosts are ghosts that are rooted to a spot—usually an old building such as a historic castle or manor. People can see them, or they may appear in a photo taken at the site.
Mist-like ghosts are like funnel ghosts, which tend to be in old places and can be seen as an apparition or in a photo, but they can be anywhere. Both leave cold spots.
Poltergeists are the rarest of these entities. They are also the most angry and violent. That can be violent and may be dangerous all the way to being completely malevolent.
Ghost orbs are ghosts that are shining balls of light. They are typically described as blue, white, or shiny spheres that move fancifully. They are thought to be souls that are traveling.
Found in: Hocus Pocus when Binx dies at the end, Charmed on several occasions, and the movie Poltergeist, to name a few. There is no one culture or belief structure that I can pinpoint for the beliefs and stories. Ghosts permeate our lives in every corner of the globe.
Definition: At one point, it just meant living human beings. Now, it is in fantasy and has come to mean, in that genre, immortal, undead beings. In mythological terms, it means a mythical, sentient being who is usually undead.
In European folklore, a wight is a human with only half a soul. Because of this, they are required to take the lives of others. They are not a vampire, though. While yes, they are both undead and drain life, vampires take blood, and wights take life force. Both make “offspring.” Vampires make other vampires, brides, or revenants. Wights make zombies. Ok. Fine. So, an argument can be made for wights being a type of vampire, especially after reading both the Anita Blake series and the Dresden Files series.
Found in: They are found in media such as the Lord of the Rings world, the world of Game of Thrones, D&D, and the video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. They, like revenants, can be found in Norse and other Scandinavian folklore, as well as European tales.
There. Wow, I learned a lot about all of this. How about you? Did you get any new information? What is your opinion on wights? Are they completely different from vampires, or are they different sides of the same coin? Let me know in the comments below. Until next time, have fun storming the castle!