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10 More Consistent Ghost Story Elements

Ian Zanni . . . Comments

As mentioned before, ghost stories can have some elements that are alike. Let’s be honest with ourselves, with so many dead spirits roaming the planet, there are bound to be uncanny consistencies. I mean, how many of us have been walking around a public place or watching television and seen our doppelgänger? So why can’t the same be said for ghosts? They are bound to see other, more well-known spirits haunting us living souls, and thought, “I can do that!” And so a clone ghost story is born. Obviously, unoriginal apparitions are the best explanation for for our fireside stories sounding so close together, right? No way us humans spread the fake lore ourselves, that would be preposterous.


Only Reacts to One Gender


So there was this young girl, right? She bites it, probably from getting jilted by her husband. Well, a husband, not necessarily hers. She’s pretty down in the dumps, now she hates men, and she either gets sick and dies or takes the ghosts’ favorite way out, suicide by hanging. Either way, she is dead, but it wouldn’t be a ghost story if she didn’t remain to haunt (pick one of the following: her old residence, her burial site, a favorite location of her and her lover, or the place where she died). You and your friends, naturally, go in search of the spirit. But, you are all guys, and the story says she hates men so she will only react to a girl. Better bring somebody’s girlfriend, fellas, and hope she doesn’t freak out too easily so your ghost hunt doesn’t get flushed down the toilet. Or, maybe a few states or provinces away, a similar spirit will only torment your male friends. Either way, it will be frustrating to prove this is legit.


Abandoned Buildings

Ruins-Of-Detroit Marchand-And-Meffre 18

What is creepier than an abandoned building? Who knows what could be in there? Creaky floors, holes in the walls, feral dogs, a vagrant or two or three. Anything I’m forgetting? Oh, duh, ghosts! Evil entities and sorrowful spirits flock to abandoned locations like it’s a pilgrimage to Mecca. Where else is better? You can lurk in peace, and those pesky kids with their cameras will wander around, looking over their shoulder at every tiny noise you make. They’ll blame it on the floor creaking or building settling at first, but soon you will get your credit where it’s due. Wait until their breathing is at its fastest to pop into one of their pictures, that is the best time to do it!


Blacked-Out or Distorted Photos


Speaking of photos, many haunted locations have the ability to distort your photos or black them out entirely. Many a camera malfunction has probably unnerved an unwitting photographer, but how do you explain when faces are blurred out or certain features get scratched out? Back in the heyday of film cameras, this could easily be explained as a bad exposure. After all, those darkrooms have a tendency to live up to their names. But at some point, it has to be a ghost or demon marking his next victim, right? I would say so. Look for this spooky element in the trailers and posters for the upcoming film Harry Potter and the Woman In Black.


Moving Objects


In this item, we will not be discussing poltergeist activity (visualize plates flying all over the place while the doors and cabinets slam open and shut, and confused parents and an angst teenager watch from the other room). We will be discussing the behind-closed-crypt-doors rearranging of which the dead seem so fond. A prime example is a local legend from my neck of the woods, where a young girl hung herself from a tree in the back of a small cemetery, and has to constantly pick up and move her tombstone in the front to the spot where she died, in the back. A more internationally accessible example is the Chase Vault in Barbados, where coffins are continuously moved and rearranged in the vault. If the people burying the dead got the Feng Shui right the first time, the deceased souls wouldn’t have to do it themselves. That’s like asking somebody to come in for a shift after they retired, so inconsiderate.


Exclusive to the Moon Phases


Well, we went to our local haunted cemetery, snapped photos, recorded unanswered questions asked to thin air, and just all-round wasted our night walking around in the cold, looking for the apparently non-existent ghosts. We went home, put our heads in our hands, and determined there must not, in fact, be ghosts. After one member of our ghost hunting team couldn’t handle the declaration as truth and ran crying from the room, we reread the legend and came to a happy conclusion. Our lack of evidence was due to the fact that we didn’t search during a full moon! If we came back in a few weeks, we were bound to get something. In the meantime, we are going to embark on a road trip to the next state over to catch that hitchhiker that only appears in your backseat during new moons.


Ambiguous or “Lost” Locales


What a great legend! Let me tell you about it. So there was this girl, and she jumped off of a bridge… What was that? You asked what bridge? Well… I’m not sure, EXACTLY, but, okay, I have no idea where this ghost story happened. I Googled it, and it got hits in five states and three other countries. Well, I can tell you about this other legend, we will totally have to check it out… Well, the house it happened in got moved by the original owners to a knew location. Or maybe it was the one that got demolished? Actually, let’s just play Modern Warfare 3 instead.


Summoning the Spirits

Ghosts&Klein Seance Ghostsm

Like a rockstar from his dressing room or a silver screen starlet from her trailer, some spirits only reluctantly make an appearance when they are relentlessly summoned. The biggest celebrity in this summoning spirit game is our favorite, Bloody Mary. Like any good ghoul, Miss Mary has plenty of variations around the world, but she isn’t the only ghost to come when called. Introducing Bloody Mary’s understudy in case she doesn’t show, the Midnight Man. His full ritual can easily be found online, but his rider contract is a little more extensive than Mary’s. It involves candles, blood, and perfect timing. After the Midnight Man enters your place of residence, and stalks you and your friends for 3 and a half hours. Make sure your candle stays lit, and if it blows out you better work quick to surround yourself with the mythical circle of salt, or prepare to face the horrific hallucinations of your worst fears incarnate. Tell us about your favorite spirits to summon and how well it worked out for you, in the comment section!


Unfinished Business

Jo Scream

Let’s not drag this one. It’s high up on the list because of how common it is, but we can smell the cliche from a mile away. “Oh, dammit!” our featured apparition presumably says, “I bit the dust too early, I never got to spin a clay pot with my lover!” Now the poor lost soul has to haunt some place, looking for somebody sensitive enough to paranormal entities to pick up your signal, interpret it, and squash the urge to run away screaming long enough to help you accomplish your task.


Civil War Ghosts


That would be the American Civil War specifically I have no idea how this war differs from the rest of them in creating ghosts to eternally haunt former battlefields, but it just seems to be greatest war for ghosts. How many times have you been flipping through your television channels, and you stumble upon a documentary featuring “ghosts of Gettysburg” or some such nonsense. I have barely heard tales from either World War, The American Revolution, and forget wars from other countries. They get no international love, as far as I have heard. But the American Civil War? Forget it, as far as I’m concerned, every soldier from North and South who died in combat, died of infection, or passed on from dysentery, is still in this Earthly realm, and still hates their counterparts to the north or south.


Perceptible to Children or Animals

Scared Dog1

Well, consider this the catch-all explanation for why you don’t get to see and hear the ghosts in your house. You aren’t a five year old, that’s all! Or a dog. Does you toddler point at the “bad man” in the corner? Does your dog start growling at the empty hallway? Cat hiss when the room temperature inexplicably drops a few degrees? Does your children wake you up at night claiming the strange lady is at the foot of her bed again? Many stories the world over, and reports of actual activity, claim that only children and animals can perceive the beings haunting our dwellings (or at least perceive them better). As paranormal studies is not yet a proven science, only straw-grasping and indecisive explanations have cropped up, all of them explaining the children’s and animals’ odd behavior. I hear these odd stories, personally, and remember two things: a lot of animals have heightened senses compared to humans (dogs have better hearing and smell, remember?), and I don’t know about you, but I had quite the active imagination as a kid. So I’ll leave this one up in the air.

  • Pat Bateman


    • Annie


      • JamesD

        I’m pretty sure that the author has already insinuated that he’s aware of its lack of truth, and it’s not like he’s claiming it to be factual.

    • NedNoodle

      This is the most pointless list I have ever read on this site in the 2 years I’ve been coming here. Oh dearie me!

    • Liss

      Especially the mention of “Harry Potter and the Woman in Black”. The ignorance in the entries is obvious.

  • dizit

    I love ghost stories.

  • Frank

    Decent list. Being first I also want to point out there are a large number of faux Franks and Frank wannabes clogging up listverse with their antics. I AM THE REAL FRANK and the rest of you Mongoloids can f*ck right off!

    • Frank

      Ok, third then!

      • Frank1

        You stole my name!

    • Frank

      Yeah tell me about it!

    • Frank

      No, I’M the real Frank.

      • Frank

        will the real frank please stand up, please stand up, please stand up

    • Frank

      Now, let’s be frank….

      • Phrank

        No, frankly?

      • Spartacus

        I’m Spartacus! Wait, what were we saying?

        • Frank

          I killed Frank and took his identity

        • Spam Man

          I’m Spam Man

    • Spongebob

      This is obviously a frank…

      • ‘n Beans

        Hey, there you guys are!

    • frankimus123

      its nice to see that people can have nice, frank discussions on listverse

    • Frank

      No, you fools! I am the real Frank!

    • Man McBuff

      I’ll be honest. This topic is rubbish, Anne Frankely, I won’t stand for it.

      • GrammerNazi

        Who would ever try to take franks name? He is a complete loser. Frank if you’re so concerned about people taking you name, why dont you create a f**king account? Now kindly shut the f*ck up about it—->that parts for maggot. He thinks it’s cleverly funny when someone says “kindly” and “f*ck” in the same sentence.

        • Maggot

          Usually things are only funny the first time. When you hear it over and over again, it becomes tedious. Kind of like your useless drivel.

          • ianz09


        • GrammerNazi

          I am stoopid

        • LiveUpToYourName

          Frank’s, your, don’t, part is.

    • The Real Frank

      I am the real frank the rest of you are fakes!

      • Juri Han

        Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

  • ianz09

    Hope you guys like it!

    • ianz09

      Barring, of course, the “I’m Spartacus” exchange occurring above

      • Spartacus

        No, I’m Spartacus.

        • Spartacus

          No, I’m Spartacus… Actually I’m Andy Whitfields ghost.

          • Andy Whitfields ghost

            no your not i am and you know nothing of my work.

          • Flibble

            After reading all of the posts up to this point, I think it’s safe to say this place is permanently in the crapper…

          • The Crapper

            It can sod off.

          • DanF

            It is beginning to resemble forums on sites such as Just idiots commenting for no reason and making no sense to anyone but themselves.

          • Spam Man

            I’m Spam Man.

        • mbonisi

          I’m in a spar. In west tacus.

  • k1k1k1

    there are 2 kinds of people who are being deceived by these stories: those who believe and those who don’t.

    • ianz09

      This was either super meta or not well thought out

      • p1t1o

        HA! yeah.

  • jarrodnb

    The problem I have with ghosts is: They are supposed to defy gravity (ie. float and travel through anything), yet the Earth is being whirled through space at many kilometers per second.

    So are ghosts flying though space extremely fast to keep up with us?

    Maybe that’s why they appear blurry in photos XD

    • Metalwrath

      Interesting point XD
      It’s true that if they don’t have a mass they shouldn’t be affected by gravity. Though there are the popular images of ghosts with these iron weights attached with a chain to their leg… Regardless, perhaps they’re bound to earth, their “prison”, by some other force which acts like gravity to them. ^^

      • mbonisi

        I think ghosts don,t respect us. At least they should say something. They know we want to know what’s on the other side. 150k years of consciousness and not 1 ghost on larry king/ letterman, oprah?

  • sorcy79au

    How delightfully cynical. Though I do concur that all the stories I’ve ever heard of have at least one of these elements.

  • Ben

    Doesn’t meet my high standards. Filed it in the rejects bin.

    • ianz09

      Someday I will not only write a list that satisfies these standards, but blows your mind in the process. Someday, Ben.

      • Ben

        I hope so Ian. I will, however, give you points for sticking around and interacting with us avid Listverse readers. It makes me feel happy.

        • ianz09

          I aim to please, Ben

          • JamesD

            I’m sure that we’d all be delighted to see this list which you claim would be of the most desirable standards; please, let us read it soon.

  • janique

    enjoyable list – lol at spinning a clay pot!

  • the ghost herself

    confusing narration

  • kh

    i now cant sleep, thank you listverse

    • JamesD

      I find that I’m far more fearful of the living than the dead, and it is the living that can truly do damage and cause trouble after all.

  • bomboozle

    crybaby bridge always got me.. just a fucked up story.. plus theres one in every town!

  • bomboozle

    crybaby bridge always got me.. just a f*cked up story.. plus theres one in every town!

    • Poog

      True, but I actually knew someone who did jump off a bridge. My cousin, and some of my other cousins claim to see him, but only when they are drunk.

  • Christine Vrey

    Great list!! I love ghost stories… even if they where to be a load of toss, I still get the spine chills, even as I did reading this list!! Thank you =-)

  • Pauly

    I had contact with a ghost.

    • bob

      No, you didn’t.

    • Pauly

      Yes, I did. I had sexual contact.

  • oouchan

    Ghost stories are fun and entertaining, but not to be believed. Interesting topic, and nicely written.

    Fun list.

    • ianz09

      Thank you!

  • Alex

    Cool list! Maybe someone should do ‘top ten Franks of all time’ so we can put this issue of who the real Frank is behind us.

  • Bones

    This article is written at a sixth grade level.

  • Zan

    Lol yes Alex i agree. I like ‘what if’ lists. Something to get the brain tingling. Everything doesn’t always have to be black or white.

  • gay focker

    The gay ghost of gayville says booooohoooo i like cock

  • Frank

    uhm.. did i miss something?

  • ashley lopez

    haha, fun list. bloody mary was very popular when i was growing up. i was always too chicken $h!t to do it though. you still couldn’t pay me to do it.

  • Blue4

    To point out, this list applies only to ‘folk’ ghost stories, like spook tales. Better ghost stories are like when a man is seen asking an aquaintance for for his death certificate days after his funeral. Or a phantom car that disappeared though an intact wire fence recorded on a police dash cam..

  • DanF

    The reason there are so many more civil war ghosts that other military ghosts is because the USA has no history rich enough to create any other ‘beings’

    • Maggot

      If you want to take a cheap shot at the US, just take it, rather than trying to wrap it around a question raised in the list’s narration and missing the point of the question entirely, thus making yourself look like an idiot in the process.

      • DanF

        I believe I did just take it…

      • DanF

        Also if you understood my point it is that the fact that there are so many Ghost stories around the civil war is because Ghost stories are made up and the US is limited in what they can base the stories around. We don’t see any neanderthal ghosts. I can see your focus yesterday was just to insult everyone anyway.

        • Maggot

          if you understood my point…

          I understood your point. I’m saying it was misguided. The point of the list question was: why only (relatively speaking) the Civil War and no other American wars either before or after that one. So the US’s “limitation” isn’t really relevant to that question, and when you derogatorily focused on that to address the question, it made your little shot seem rather silly and unnecessary.

          I can see your focus yesterday was just to insult everyone anyway.

          Oh cry me a river. I insulted YOU, not an entire country of people like you did, unprovoked I might add. When I “insult”, I’ll back it up with solid reasoning. It’s not gratuitous. And I usually only “insult” people who have it coming by way of them laying the first salvo. Like you did. So get over yourself.

          • DanF

            Obviously you don’t understand my point. You do realize you have a superiority complex?

        • Maggot

          Obviously you don’t understand my point.

          Well, your point seemed pretty straightforward to me, but since I’m apparently not getting it, why don’t you explain it to me so that I can understand it? And then explain how my criticism of your point, as it pertains to the question posed in the list, should change based on my soon-to-be newfound understanding of it.

          You do realize you have a superiority complex?

          Yeah, and I probably realized it before you did. Because I’m so superior and all. Now that that’s settled, how is this germane to the discussion? Or were you just saying that to make yourself feel superior to someone like me who has such deep-rooted psychological problems? Lol.

  • LevinSmith

    This list cracked me the hell up. Damn good job, Ian. Took me a bit to understand the narration, but when I got it, It turned to gold.

    • ianz09

      Why thank you!

  • sbtier

    Battles of the Revolutionary War occurred all over my neighborhood and the surrounding towns (I live in the next town to Lexington, MA). I have never in 44 years heard of anyone seeing a ghost from the Revolutionary War around here. Maybe we’re just more skeptical in the North.

  • Frank.

    Hi, this is Frank. Have there been any messages?

    • Carl Bob Hi II

      Is this my twin, Frank Bob Hello I?

  • MorganGray

    A fair old number of the “Ghosts of Gettysburg” stories mentioned in this list are … um … fabrications.
    One which is presented as fact was written by a reenactor’s daughter who created it as a fictional short story for a class at Gettysburg College. The story got picked up by the compiler and presented as an actual occurrence.

    A funny incident happened to a friend who is part of Park Watch. He was sitting on a rock near “The Triangular Field”, a supposedly haunted spot. He was enjoying a fine cigar at the time. All of a sudden two vans pull up and discharge a bunch of ghost hunters, with their meters and detectors and so on. One woman among them stops in her tracks about 10 feet from my friend, sniffs the air and says, “I smell cigar smoke, there must be a ghost around.”
    She then turned to my friend and says, “Do you smell that cigar smoke?”
    His reply was to take a big puff on his Perdomo, and say “No, I don’t smell a thing.”

    • ianz09

      That’s fantastic lol

    • Sbtier

      That reminded me of a program I saw about UFOs. They brought an ‘UFO hunter’ near an airport in broad daylight, where she pointed out the planes landing and taking off as UFOs.

  • inconspicuousdetective

    i believe. sorry to tell ya. more importantly, these are consitent elements in most ghost stories. alittle sarcastic for my taste, but well done.

  • 504KO

    Awesome list. shitty comment section.

    • ianz09

      Good summary, I’d say lol

  • me

    Given a choice between this non-topic list and the 8 Most Extreme Tourist Attractions on, I’m heading over to Oddee. Listverse is really sinking.

    • brian

      oddee is just as crap. pretty much any site of this type is crap. they dont listen to criticism nor do they even seem to care.

  • TheItalian

    Good list! Funny and we’ll thought. Could do without the comment trolls, though.

  • Peter

    The thought of having a dog bark at like a wall, or just stare out of the window at night just scares me. Like you can’t do anything about it…you can’t see it, smell it, hear it, or anything… ._.

  • helltotheno89

    Maybe would have been a better list if from an impartial point of view … The listr is clearly. Non-believer

    • ianz09

      You’d be surprised.

  • Vagabond_Sam

    I think that the list would have been vastly improved by the addition of fleshed out (See what I did there.) stories to accompany each item. Several entries seem to contain no hooks beyond ‘A lot of ghost stories happen in abandoned buildings.’

    The tone of the article seems to slant towards disproving ghost stories, which is fine. Just seems to lack any real arguement besides ‘Ghost stories are ridiculous’. There are plenty of examples of ghostly behaviour being explained by science if thats the path desired and would have made the list very interesting.

    Cheers for the list though.

    • ianz09

      Although I understand your point, I will clarify that list doesn’t so much put down ghost stories in general as much as parody the repetitive nature of many ghost stories, which makes me believe they are carbon copies. It is hard to support a ghost story being legitimate, if you believe in ghosts, if the same story happened in two other states as well. I love ghost stories, and while I don’t necessarily believe, I find the spooky nature to be terrifically entertaining. I love ghost stories even more, when the origins of the legend can be historically verified. Gives it an edge over copy cat stories as far as being creepy and fun. And I decided to keep too many specific stories out of the entries in order not to muddle it down, and so people would see it as fun parody and not confuse it with subjective support of either view on the paranormal

  • Steve-O

    That stock abandoned building photo is the Lee Plaza in Detroit.

  • The ghost of Mr. Prickles

    Really? Really!? “Flow Arts” and now this? How about someone writes a list of absolute bullshit and calls it a list of absolute bullshit.

    • Maggot

      Isn’t that pretty much what Ian did here?

      • ianz09

        You’re my hero Maggot lol

  • Ed Simpkins

    What has always amazed me is the consistency to which some feeble minded people cling to the idea that such thing as ghost exist in objective reality, when nobody has ever been able to claim Randi’s million dollar reward by conjuring one up.

  • The Mick

    that’s it ! I’m calling Bill Murray and co.

  • Joe Momma

    I always wondered why is it common that we hear of ghosts from fairly recent eras? If the souls of the dead are here for a eternity than there should be a good amount of ghosts from different eras. I’ve never ever ever heard of a caveman ghost! But I’m sure tons died a tragic death over a partner who made another cave mans “bed rock”. Or a entity from biblical eras? Is that a jesus ghost? Hogwash I tell you, pure hogwash!

  • rahma


  • Princess711

    Gettysberg does have some credibility. I don’t believe in ghosts, but when I was there, things happened that you could not fake, in uncontrolled environments. As I said, I’m not really a believer, but there’s something going on there!

  • looser at the end

    No one’s going to read my comment anyway. You t*ts.

  • mbonisi

    I really like the new format. Schweet.

  • Jinxx

    This list had potential, it seemed like an interesting topic. The writing was pretty bad and confusing, seemingly condescending while trying to be humorous. Stick with 1 style of writing and it could have been good, sarcasm like this doesn’t sound right as you read it. Good try though.

  • Blackburn

    Lost all credibility when you mention modern warfare 3

    • ianz09

      Says the Battlefield fanboy….. lol I actually play both games so I can’t criticize.

  • Roxie

    Is it just me, or is that the Munster’s house in the pic at #5???

  • Liss Popplewell

    Harry Potter and the Woman In Black? Not only was the last Harry Potter film released in July, but the Woman In Black hasn’t even come out in the UK yet. God lord, I can’t tell if the writer of this list is ignorant, playing a crappy prank or just plain dumb.

    • ianz09

      I choose the fourth door, making a joke. I saw it sail over your head earlier

  • Argento
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  • Kate

    This list is balls.

  • MPOP

    Active imagination as a kid? Screw that, my imagination is still EXTREMELY active!

    Also, this list makes being a ghost sound like fun.

  • molli

    I am recovering from surgery and finished my pain meds over a week ago. I am pretty sure they have cleared my system, so why can’t I understand what Ian is writing here?
    Do you speak English buddy or am I still f’d up from the meds? Please, anyone, help me clarify!

  • schiller

    one of the most absurd and stupid list i have ever read…

  • scary

  • yea

  • Wellbeing economics

    General health and fitness identifies general health. It indicates keeping the right body weight as well as an ability to handle exercise without having deteriorating too rapidly. General …

  • Prank

    Well at least nobody copies my name.

  • juleigh

    Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. Or a f*ck.

  • Shinra42

    It wasent really all that bad a list imo, yes it lacked a bit in the seriousness catagory. But if everybody is ready to gun down every list that isnt serious then I think we’re limiting this site quite a bit.

  • I didnt know about the moon phases thing.

  • Katie

    You should amke a list called Top Ten Competing Websites. For instance, Google and Bing.