Storytellers are familiar with traditional ghost stories and hauntings that take place in American and English locations. There are also many examples from around the world. Here are a few.
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The Draugen is the ghost of a dead ﬁsherman who did not receive a Christian burial. He sails in a half-boat with shredded sails. Anyone who sees him suffers death by drowning.
Hans Hagen is the ghost of a German soldier or secret service agent from World War II. He is said to haunt the so-called Amerika quarry and the surrounding caves near Prague. He murders or imprisons intruders by causing parts of the caves to collapse.
There is also said to be a stalactite that can be struck like a bell. Anyone foolish enough to hit it and say, “Hagen, take me!” will die within a year.
The Book of Enoch, which was written between the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, describes evil spirits that wander the world endlessly yearning for food and drink, even though they have no mouths. They seek to possess the spirits and bodies of weak-willed men and women.
In Hindu belief, pisachas, also known as vetala, are hostile spirits of the dead whose children did not perform the necessary funerary rites in their memory. These spirits haunt cemeteries and ruins, and they can drive people mad, kill children, and cause miscarriages.
Mae Nak was a beautiful young woman who married a man named Tid Mak. While she was pregnant with their ﬁrst child, Tid Mak was called to join the army in northern Thailand. When he returned, Tid Mak found his family waiting for him. When he embraced his wife, Tid Mak was shocked at how cold Mae Nak’s body felt, but he thought nothing of it.
When the family sat down to dinner, a sudden gust of cold wind made Tid Mak drop his spoon. Mae Nak lengthened her hand to catch it. Tid Mak asked her about this action, and she cried out and told him that she had died. Only then did Tid Mak realize that his wife and child were ghosts.
A pontianak is the spirit of a woman who died in childbirth and comes back to seek revenge against the living. She sometimes appears in the form of a beautiful woman, but also materializes as a head and neck with dangling intestines. The pontianak takes this hideous shape when she wants to feed and kill.
The only way to stop the pontianak is to plunge a nail into the back of her neck. This traps her in human form so she can be killed.
There are many Japanese ghost stories. One example is the story of Okiku, who worked as a maid at the home of the samurai Tessan Aoyama. One day while cleaning a collection of ten precious ceramic plates, Okiku accidentally broke one of them. The outraged Tessan Aoyama killed Okiku and threw her corpse into an old well.
Every night afterward, Okiku’s ghost rose from the well, counted slowly to nine, and broke into heartrending sobs, tormenting the samurai. Finally, vengeance was wrought when Tessan Aoyama went insane.
In an alternate version, the samurai wished Okiku to become his mistress and falsely accused her of breaking a plate so that he could offer forgiveness in exchange for her love. When she refused, he killed her.
In Blackfoot mythology, the stau-au are the ghosts of wicked people. Usually, the deceased live in a certain range of hills, but malignant spirits loiter near encampments. They cause harm to the living, especially after sunset.
This sampling of ghost tales reﬂects the universality of the genre and the rich international sources available to the storyteller.