White Lady (ghost)
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A White Lady is a type of female ghost dressed in all white reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. While White Lady legends are found in many countries around the world, they are most prominent in parts of the United States, Ireland and Great Britain. Common to many of these legends is the theme of loss of a daughter or husband and a sense of purity before death (as opposed to the Lady in Red ghost).
In different parts of the world
In popular medieval legend, a White Lady is fabled to appear by day as well as by night in a house in which a family member is soon to die. According to The Nuttall Encyclopædia, these spirits were regarded as the ghosts of deceased ancestresses.
Called Dama Branca or Mulher de Branco in Portuguese, the Brazilian Lady in White is said to be the ghost of a young woman who died of childbirth or violent causes. According to legend, she appears as a pale woman in a long white dress or a sleeping gown, and although usually speechless, will occasionally recount her misfortunes. The origins of the myth are not clear, Luís da Câmara Cascudo's Dicionário do Folclore Brasileiro (Brazilian Folklore Dictionary) proposes that the ghost is related to the violent deaths of young white women who were murdered by their fathers or husbands in an "honor" killing. The most frequent reasons for these honor killings were adultery (actual or suspected), denial of sex, or abuse. Monteiro Lobato in his book Urupês describes a young woman starved to death by her husband because he suspected she was in love with a black slave and only gave her the stewed meat of his corpse for food.
A popular legend claims that the surroundings of the Montmorency Falls, near Quebec City are haunted by a white lady. It is said to be the spirit of a young Canadienne woman whose soon-to-be husband was killed while fighting against the British in the battle of Beauport. The young couple allegedly used to meet near the top of the falls and, accordingly, the grieving woman is said to have chosen the site to end her life by throwing herself in the raging waters while wearing the wedding dress that she had recently ordered to be made. A smaller waterfall in the vicinity now bears the name Chute de la Dame Blanche (White Lady Waterfall) in reference to this legend.
The best-known White Lady of the Czech Republic is the ghost of Perchta of Rožmberk at Rožmberk Castle. Perchta of Rožmberk (c. 1429–1476) was a daughter of an important Czech nobleman, Oldřich II of Rožmberk. She married another nobleman, Jan of Lichtenštejn (John of Liechtenstein) in 1449. The marriage was quite unhappy. One of the reasons might have been the fact that Perchta's father had been reluctant to pay the agreed dowry. Legend has it that as her husband was dying, he asked for her forgiveness for his treatment of her. Perchta refused, and her husband cursed her. This is why she haunts his holdings, which include Český Krumlov Castle, where she has been seen most often. During her married life, Perchta wrote many letters to her father and brothers with colourful descriptions of her unhappy family life. Some 32 of these letters had been handed down.
The most famous white lady of Estonia resides in Haapsalu castle. She is said to be the woman who a canon fell in love with. She hid in the castle as a choir boy, and remained a secret for a long time. But when the Bishop of Ösel-Wiek visited Haapsalu she was discovered, and immured in the wall of the chapel for her crime. To this day she is said to look out of the Baptistery’s window and grieve for her beloved man. She can be seen on clear August full-moon nights.
A White Lady was first reported to be seen in the Berliner Schloss in 1625 and sightings were reported up until 1790. This castle is the residence of the kings of Prussia, so the Lady has been linked to several historical figures:
- the guilt-ridden countess Kunigunda of Orlamünde, born Landgravine of Leuchtenberg (Oberpfalz), who, according to legend, murdered her two young children because she believed they stood in the way of her marriage to Albert of Nuremberg.
- the unfortunate widow Bertha of Rosenberg from Bohemia, overthrown by the heathen Perchta.
There is a legend of a White Lady who was a prince's wife in the town of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Westphalia. The prince was away, fighting in the Thirty Years' War, and his wife took a wandering minstrel as a lover. The prince returned unexpectedly, caught the two lovers, and drowned the minstrel in the moat. He then took his wife and encased her behind a wall in his manor with some food and water, so that she wouldn't cheat on him again as he returned to the fighting. The prince died in battle, the food and water ran out, and his wife died. Her spirit now haunts the manor. When the manor was renovated, the new owner had his builders tear down the wall behind which she was immured. The next day, the worker who tore down the wall was working on the roof of the manor when he fell, broke his back, and died. The manor is called Haus Aussel.
Legend has it that many years ago, a woman was to be married to a man she did not love. Her father told her that she must always do as her fiancé said since he was soon to be her husband. On the day of her wedding, she committed suicide by jumping off a balcony. This is why she is to this day known as the White Lady, because she was wearing her wedding gown on the day of her death. It is said that she haunts the Verdala Palace and many people who attend the August moon ball confirm that she does indeed appear in the palace.
According to another Maltese legend, the White Lady of Mdina was killed by her lover after she was forced to marry another man. Many have claimed to see this spirit, always after eight o'clock in the evening. She usually appears to children under eight years old, heart-broken teenage boys, and elderly men. While she tells the children goodnight and bids them to return home, she advises the teenagers to "find another" or to join her and become a part of her "shadow" (her ghostly followers). She also attempts to lure elderly men into her "shadow".
Vrouwen in wit (plural of vrouw in wit), or "witte wieven" as these women are called in local dialects, are mythical creatures of Lower Saxon origin and so most known in the eastern and northern parts of the Netherlands. Sometimes referred to as witte joffers ('white maidens'), they can have both a benevolent as well as a malevolent nature. Often related with witches and/or ghosts, they show many similarities with the banshee, the fairy, and the elf. Understood as malevolent beings, they abduct or switch newborns, abduct women, and punish people who have treated them badly. As benevolent beings, they may aid in childbirth or offer good advice. Indeed, though the adjective wit means 'white', it may originally refer to the Germanic word wid, related to English 'wit' and 'wise', and so may be better understood as 'wise women', as they are known in Germany, where they are connected to the Völva.
The Schinveldse Bossen forest is also home to another White Lady story. Archival evidence suggests that the forest was once home to a castle farm that was built in 1396. In the 17th century (estimated 1667), this site was burned down killing the daughter of Lord Lambert Reynart. This historical event has spawned a few variations on a White Lady ghost story based around the death of the woman who burned with the castle farm. The most common versions of the tale involve the woman having two fighting lovers or of the site being burned on her wedding day by a jealous nobleman. However, all versions claim that she now wanders the forest as a ghost in a long white dress, some saying she only appears at midnight, and others saying she only appears on nights of the full moon. The site of the former castle farm is referred to as Lammendam after the ghost who supposedly haunts the area. The term is a Dutch adaptation of the French "La Madame Blanche". It is now protected as a cultural historical site.
In popular culture, Dutch singer Joep Rademakers mentions this ghost in his song: "t Sjilves Paradies". Dutch symphonic black metal band Carach Angren also has a full concept album dedicated to this version of The White Lady.
White Ladies are popular ghost story topics in the Philippines. White Ladies are often used to convey horror and mystery to young children for storytelling. Sightings of White Ladies are common around the country. The most prominent one is the White Lady of Balete Drive in Quezon City. It is said that it is the ghost of a long-haired woman in a white dress who, according to legend, died in a car accident while driving along Balete Drive. Most stories about her were told by taxi drivers doing the graveyard shift, such as the one where a taxi crosses Balete Drive and a very beautiful woman is asking for a ride. The cabbie then looks behind and sees the woman's face was full of blood and bruises, causing him to abandon his taxi in terror.
In other instances, it is said that when solitary people drive on that street in the early morning, they briefly see the face of a white-clad woman in the rear-view mirror before she quickly disappears. Some accidents on this road are blamed on apparitions of the White Lady.
Many sources have said this legend was actually manufactured by a reporter in the 1950s, and also a possible combination of multiple stories from the area.
In Hungarian mythology, a white lady was the ghost of a girl or young woman that died violently, usually young women who committed suicide, were murdered or died while imprisoned. The ghost is usually bound to a specific location and is often identified as a specific person (i.e. Elizabeth Báthory).
In Thailand, there is a story of teenagers going into a deserted house in Thawi Watthana, suburban Bangkok to look for ghosts and afterwards died from accidents. In each case, witnesses claim to have seen the presence of a mysterious long hair woman in a white dress. A medium claimed that this was a vengeful spirit named "Dao" or "Deuan".
Several tales out of the U.K. also suggest that the White Lady may be a victim of murder or suicide who died before she could tell anyone the location of some hidden treasure. Around 1800, the castle of Blenkinsopp in Northumberland was occupied by a family. One night the parents woke to their boy screaming "The White Lady!" By the time they arrived at his bedside, she had vanished, but the boy reported that the lady had been angry and tried to take him away after he refused to accompany her to a box of gold buried in the vaults below. She could not rest while it was there. The same events took place the following three nights. When the child began sleeping with his parents, the White Lady no longer disturbed him, but he never again traveled through the castle alone for fear of her. A second instance of treasure being involved exists in Welsh tradition. Near Bridgend, Glamorgan in Wales, "Dynes Mewn Gwyn", or the lady in white, appeared to guard a treasure located in the tower of Ogmore Castle. When a man had the courage to approach her, she rewarded him with half the treasure. In his greed, he took it all, but the White Lady retaliated, her fingers turning into claws. The man later wasted away and died.
The White Lady (also known as the "Running Lady") of Beeford, East Yorkshire resides on the "Beeford Straight", a stretch of road between Beeford and Brandesburton. Motorists have reported her apparition running across the Beeford Straight toward the junction of North Frodingham. Anecdotal tales also report a motorcyclist picking up a female hitchhiker on the same stretch of road. A few miles later the motorcyclist, upon turning around, noticed the passenger had vanished. In one instance, a car crashed into a tree killing 6 people. It is rumored to be the white lady's curse.
In another story a White Lady is seen retracing her steps as she was said to have jumped off the Portchester Castle while trying to retrieve her fallen child. Her spirit is said to haunt the castle to this day.
A White Lady who is said to haunt Durand-Eastman Park in Rochester, New York. Also known as the Lady in the Lake, the 19th-century White Lady wanders the park area, obsessively looking for the body of her daughter, who was slain by a boyfriend or group of hoodlums, depending on the story you hear. Legend has it that the human White Lady either killed herself in grief, or died alone and heartbroken.
"The Lady in White" or the "White Lady of Avenel", is the most commonly reported apparition at Avenel (Bedford, Virginia). The apparition is thought to be Mary Frances "Fran" Burwell, of the Burwell family of Virginia. "The legend has it that she stayed on the front porch waiting for her husband to come home from the Civil War, but he never did." says Adam Stupin, founder of SouthWest Virginia Ghost Hunters.
Tolamato Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida, has been home to stories of a haunting by a "lady in white" since the 19th century. Legend states that the ghost is the spirit of a young woman who died suddenly on her way to be married, and who was buried in her wedding dress.
In Madisonville, Louisiana there is a legend about a woman called "The Silk Lady". Her ghost is said to haunt Palmetto Flats by Highway 22. The story goes that back in the mid-1800s there was a woman who was riding back from town after seeing her lover off. She was riding down an old logging trail when a snake spooked her horse. She fell, hit her head, and died as a result of the injury. Several people have reported her as a woman dressed in a wispy, silky dress and that her feet don't touch the ground. When she sees someone she is said to cackle like a banshee.
In Altoona, Pennsylvania she is known as the White Lady of Whopsy. Her ghost is said to haunt Wopsononock Mountain and Buckhorn Mountain in the western part of Altoona. It's said that she and her husband had an ill-fated crash over what's known as Devil's Elbow as you head into the city itself where both of them tumbled over the side of the mountain. According to legend, she is seen looking for her husband on foggy nights, has been picked up as a hitch hiker, and her reflection is not seen in the mirror but she always disappears around Devil's Elbow.
In Yermo, California at the Calico Ghost Town, author Lorin Morgan-Richards is said to have seen the ghost of a White Lady up close while it roamed the outskirts of town and he wrote about it in detail in his book Welsh in the Old West.
In Fremont, California there are White Lady (called the White Witch) ghost sightings in Niles Canyon. A woman named Lowerey was one of the first people in the area killed in an automobile accident. People claim to have seen her in a cemetery in the area with strange lights and local legend says you can see her walking the ridge between the Niles Hollywood-style sign and the canyon.
In Hattiesburg, Mississippi a Woman in White is connected with the history of Burnt Bridge Road. In the 1970s a woman was killed in a car accident while crossing a wooden bridge over a small gully. The resulting fire destroyed the bridge, which was later rebuilt in concrete, and gave the road its new name. The charred and decaying remains of the original bridge can still be seen near the new bridge.
In Dallas, Texas at White Rock Lake Park it is reported that ghost of a twenty-year-old looking girl, known as "The Lady of White Rock Lake" described as wearing a water soaked 1930s evening dress, who usually appears at night along the roadside of East Lawther Drive. Witnesses claim the phantom asks to be taken to her home on Gaston Avenue in Dallas before disappearing in the car during the ride leaving behind a waterlogged car seat. Legend claims the woman to be a drowning victim from a boating accident in the 1930s. Reports of the ghostly encounters were published in Dallas-area newspapers in the 1960s.
In popular culture
- The pilot episode of the horror/drama TV series Supernatural features a White Lady though she is referred to as a Woman in White named Constance Welch. In the episode, her husband's infidelity drives Constance insane and causes her to kill their children. After realizing what she had done, Constance took her own life. In revenge against her husband, the Woman in White seeks out men who are traveling alone on a road near her old home. As a ghost, she tries to seduce the men and if they are unfaithful, she kills them. In this episode's case, the white lady is attempting to return home but is afraid of facing the ghosts of her children whom she drowned. (See La Llorona, the inspiration for this character)
- A British children's TV series in the 1970s, The Ghosts of Motley Hall concerning the adventures of a group of ghosts from various periods of the past, featured Sheila Steafel as a character known only as "The White Lady". No one knew her past or how she died, including herself.
- A White Lady is central to the plot of the 2006 movie from the Philippines called White Lady.
- Emily, the main antagonist of the 1971 horror film Let's Scare Jessica to Death (played by Mariclare Costello), combines elements of the White Lady archetype with that of a vampire.
- The Grudge, a horror series by director Takashi Shimizu, is all about the hauntings of a woman in white; Kayako Saeki's ghost appears as a woman in white and her face is almost always hidden by her long dark hair.
- Guild Wars 2 features a hidden quest in which the player is able to escort a Lady in White home. Upon reaching the courtyard of her home, she becomes hostile and attempts to kill the player.
- The Mulher de Branco appears in AdventureQuest Worlds. This version is a recolored and redesigned version of the Siren. It is among the creatures that attack Terra da Festa before the Carnaval Party.
- There is a White Lady parodied in Scary Movie 2, who is the wife of Hugh Kane the ghost, and upon her murder she also haunts the mansion. She kills Professor Oldman (Tim Curry), but in a comic twist she is seduced by Shorty and ends up his girlfriend.
- The White Lady is mentioned on Blackmore's Night song "I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore", where the character in the song gives a lift to a lady dressed in white that doesn't speak to them, and disappears when they pull over.
- The 1988 film Lady in White is based on the White Lady legend.
- The 2008 album titled Lammendam by Dutch symphonic black metal band Carach Angren is an adaptation of a White Lady story from the Netherlands.
- Two adventures of the Belgian comic book series Spike and Suzy are devoted to these white ladies: De Jolige Joffer and Het Witte Wief.
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