Slide 1 of 21
Ghosts are both everywhere and nowhere. They are famously elusive when it comes to proving they exist, yet ghosts feature prominently in our culture. They are in television and film, from "Medium" to "The Sixth Sense." Ghost stories are found around campfires and on bookstore shelves, in both fiction and nonfiction sections. Around Halloween, pop-culture images of ghosts haunt nearly every store, and hang as decoration in homes across the country.
Ghosts even influence some of our everyday customs, in ways we may not recognize (for example, the "bless you" heard after someone sneezes comes from an ancient belief that ghosts can enter the body during a sneeze). Here are some of the most famous ghosts of all time.
King HamletSlide 2 of 21
Though ghosts appear in several of Shakespeare's plays (such as "MacBeth" and "Julius Caesar"), King Hamlet is among the better known of the Bard's ghosts and plays an integral part in "Hamlet." Hamlet may be the central character in the play named after him, but without his father's ghost, there would be no story.
King Hamlet appears three times in the play, each time during the night (apparently ghosts, like vampires, prefer darkness). The ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered by his treacherous brother Claudius, and asks Hamlet to avenge his death.Slide 3 of 21
The Flying DutchmanSlide 4 of 21
The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman, the world's best-known non-human ghost, is a seventeenth-century merchant ship said to haunt the high seas. According to sea lore, the ship, which often appears as a hazy image or a strange light, is said to be a portent of bad luck and doom.
The ship and its crew became eternally cursed when its Dutch captain refused to take safe harbor during a storm despite pleas from the crew and passengers. Instead the impudent Dutchman challenged God to take them down. The "ghost ship" has been reported on the ocean from time to time, including appearing off the coast of South Africa in 1923. Though never seen on land, The Flying Dutchman most recently appeared in movie theaters across the country in the"Pirates of the Caribbean" films.Slide 5 of 21
The Bell WitchSlide 6 of 21
The Bell Witch
The events that allegedly happened at John Bell's Tennessee farm between 1817 and 1821 are said to be one of the classic American ghost tales. Bell shot at a strange animal on his farm, but the creature disappeared before it could be harmed. Several weeks later, the Bell family was tormented by a ghost that made terrifying sounds, shook the house, and physically attacked Bell's daughter Betsy. The spectral assaults continued for several years, and at one point Andrew Jackson is said to have dabbled in ghost hunting and did his own investigation.
Though some authors recount the Bell Witch tale as a true account, there is little evidence that it is anything other than a ghost story. Jackson, for example, never mentioned the Bell Witch case at all; it seems that the future president's role was created from thin air, possibly to lend verisimilitude (the appearance of reality) to the fictional tale.Slide 7 of 21
CasperSlide 8 of 21