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A White Lady (or Woman in White) is a type of female ghost, typically dressed in a white dress or similar garment, reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with local legends of tragedy. White Lady legends are found in many countries around the world. Common to many of these legends is an accidental death, murder, or suicide, and the theme of loss, betrayal by a husband or fiancée, and unrequited love.
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. They also appear within photos just before or after death. According to The Nuttall Encyclopædia, these spirits were regarded as the ghosts of deceased ancestors.
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. Although usually speechless, she 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. 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 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. According to legends, this ghost was most apparent in the settlements of Rožmberk, Český Krumlov, Jindřichův Hradec, Třeboň and Telč. The story of White Lady is also included in the Ancient Bohemian Legends.
The most famous white lady of Estonia is said to reside in Haapsalu Castle. According to the legend, a canon fell in love with her, so she hid in the castle disguised as a choir boy, but she was discovered when the Bishop of Ösel-Wiek visited Haapsalu and subsequently 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. According to legend, she can be seen on clear August full-moon nights.
Stories of white lady ghosts are associated with residential castles of the Hohenzollern family.:
- Two persons are supposed to be the historical basis of a ghost haunting the Plassenburg. According to legend, the countess Kunigunda of Orlamünde murdered her two children, because she believed, this could enable her to marry Albert of Nuremberg, who married Sophie von Henneberg († 1372) instead of her. She became a nun and died as an Abbes of the monastery Himmelskron. A white lady ghost is claimed to have appeared in 1486, 1540,1554 and 1677 as harbinger of misfortune. A variation of the tale holds that the white lady of the Plassenburg is the unfortunate widow Bertha of Rosenberg from Bohemia, overthrown by the heathen Perchta.
- A white lady ghost, said to be a harbinger of death and misfortune, was claimed to be seen in the Berliner Schloss in 1598 shortly before the death of John George of Brandenburg, and again in 1618, 1625, up until 1940. The castle is the residence of the kings of Prussia, and the stories associate the lady with several historical figures, most notably Anna Sydow, the paramour of Joachim II of Brandenburg (father of John George), who bore him two extramarital children. Sydow was imprisoned in the Spandau Citadel after Joachims death by John George, despite his promise to care for her. She died in 1575 without regaining her freedom.
The castle of Düsseldorf is claimed to be haunted by a white lady. The castle was built in 1260 and demolished in 1896 with only an old tower remaining. According to legend, a duchess named Jakobine and her lover were murdered by her jealous husband. Her ghost was said to be seen before each of a series of fires that plagued the castle.
Burg Friedland in Brandenburg is claimed to be haunted by a white lady, supposedly the daughter of a baronet cursed by her father for not giving him an heir. According to the legend, her ghost haunts the castle and surrounding forests, strangling anyone who talks to her.
Burg Lahneck is the site of a legend of a white lady ghost claimed to be stalking the castle. It is said that the ghost is Idilia Dubb (the main character of a novel, The Diary of Miss Idilia).
There is a legend about an adulterous nobleman's wife in the civil parish of Batenhorst, Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Westphalia. The legend originates from the time of the Thirty Years' War. According to the story, the nobleman encased her in the cellar of his manor Haus Aussel to assure she could not betray him while he went away to war, but he never returned, and her spirit supposedly haunts the premises forever afterwards. During recent renovations to the manor, workers found no human remains that might give factual basis to the legend.
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 Charles Fort (Ireland), there is the story of a white lady, the ghost of a young woman that died on her wedding night. Her death was a suicide which followed the death of her husband at the hand of her father.
People also report sightings of a female dubbed "The woman in the white dress" or "an bean bán" (The white woman) in an abandoned house next to the white river in Dunleer, Co. Louth
In Japanese folklore, the yūrei and onryō are frequently depicted as women with long black hair and white dresses. This is due to these spirits commonly appearing in the condition they died, and in Japanese culture, people are buried in white kimonos. The depiction was cemented for the rest of the world by Japanese horror stories and films, such as The Ring or Ju-On.
Legend has it that many years ago, the niece of Grand Master de Rohan, was engaged to be married to a suitor whom she did not love. Her father told her that she must always do as her fiancé said. The wedding day was soon upcoming, but just before the ceremony, she committed suicide by jumping off a balcony. She was wearing her wedding gown when she died. This is why she is still known, to this day, as The White Lady. It is said that she haunts the Verdala Palace and many people who attend the August moon ball confirm that the apparition does appear in the palace.
According to another Maltese legend, the White Lady of Mdina was killed by her lover after being 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 a benevolent and 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 mistreated them. 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 might 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 like 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.
"Den Hvite dame" at Utstein Abbey (Norwegian: Utstein Kloster) in Stavanger Norway, is a White Lady that haunts the former abby. She is Cecilie Widding Garmann (1734–59), who died in child birth. Her husband is said to have promised never to remarry, but 20 years later he did. During the wedding in Stavanger Cathedral, he claimed to see Cecilie. He fell into coma and died a week later. Today, Cecilie is claimed to be the ghost of the monastery, called "Den Hvite dame". Utstein Abbey is Norway's best-preserved medieval monastery.
White Ladies, indigenously known as kaperosa, 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 when a taxi crosses Balete Drive, and a stunning 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 a reporter manufactured this legend in the 1950s as a combination of multiple stories from the area.
"The Maidens of Uley" is an East Siberian legend of the west Buryad people from the village of Ulei (or Ungin), Irkutsk Oblast, Russia. The legend tells about a young lady, Bulzhuuhai Duuhai, who did not want to marry. She kept running away from her husband, who treated her disrespectfully and locked her in a black yurt, instead of a traditional white one. Bulzhuuhai then hanged herself in a barn after singing and dancing at someone else's wedding for eight days and eight nights, feeling unwanted and unloved. After her death, she became a "zayan" (spirit). She joined other spirit maidens (some 350 of them), who haunt fiancés on their wedding day, bewitching them with their beauty and dragging them to the netherworld.
A popular legend has been associated for centuries with the ruins of Rouelbeau Castle in today's municipality of Meinier in the canton of Geneva. It centers around a woman without a name, supposedly the first wife of the knight Humbert de Choulex, under whose leadership the castle was constructed in a swampy area at the beginning of the 14th century. He reportedly repudiated her when she did not give birth to a son. The ghost has been linked to the disappearance of people and deaths from unexplained causes. It is unclear whether such supposed appearances occurred rather during moonless nights or full moon. However, it is undisputed that Christmas Eve is said to be her preferred timing. On some occasions, the whole castle and its former inhabitants were reportedly resurrected in its old glory for the night. La Dame Blanche herself is rumoured to be of striking beauty and wearing a diadem.
In a version from 1870, which was published in 1902, a certain Jean Bahut told the story that he went out to the castle ruins on Christmas Eve as a sixteen-year-old during the French occupation of Geneva at the beginning of the 19th century to shoot some animals for dinner with his widowed and impoverished mother. He was hit by an ice-cold breath of air, which made him shudder, his blood clot and his hair stand on end. In the darkness, a white shadow came out of the tower uttering hollow groans. It touched him and disappeared. The young man tried to flee but could not lift his feet from the ground. While the White Lady rewarded his commitment to his mother with a treasure of gold and silver, she punished his wealthy and greedy relative one year later in a deadly way by tricking and locking him into the vaults.
A dirt road through the fields next to the ruins is named Chemin de la Dame Blanche. In addition, a street about one kilometer to the North of the ruins bears the name Chemin de la Dame, a bus stop at its junction with the main street is called Vésenaz, La Dame. Some two and a half kilometers to the South in the municipality of Vandœuvres another street is named Chemin de la Blanche. The neighbouring municipality of Choulex still bears the name of the family, whose lineage Humbert as the first lord of the castle was from and which was first mentioned in a document almost nine hundred years ago.
In late September 2019, the Geneva Chamber Orchestra performed a series of five concerts in the inner court of the castle ruins. The collaboration by four Geneva-born and/or -based artists, included a video installation and was titled Qui a Peur de la Dame Blanche?:
"Who is afraid of the White Lady?"
In Thailand, there is a story of teenagers going into a deserted house in Thawi Watthana, suburban Bangkok to look for ghosts and afterward died from accidents. In each case, witnesses claim to have seen a mysterious long hair woman in a white dress. A medium claimed that this was a vengeful spirit named "Dao" or "Deuan".
Thirteen tales within England 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 2019, 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. However, 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.
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; 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.
An old ballad is sung about a ghost, that is haunting Okehampton Castle: "My Ladye hath a sable coach, with horses two an four. My Ladye hath a gaunt blood-hound, that goeth before. My Ladye's coach hath nodding plumes,the driver hath no head. My Ladye is an ashen white – as one who is long dead."This lady is said to be a Howard-lady of the 17th century, who has murdered several husbands and children of hers. Her curse is to collect grassblades in the castle ruins until the end of time. No historical event or person could be found to correlate.
The ghost of a Pomeroy-lady called Matilda (also called Margaret) is told to haunt Berry Pomeroy Castle (near to Totnes in Devon) as a harbinger of death to everyone to see her in the dungeon of the St.Margaret-tower. Matilda is said to have been starved to death by her sister in that dungeon. Edward Montague created a novel titled "The Castle of Berry Pomeroy".
In Welsh tradition, Y Ladi Wen (The White Lady) or Dynes Mewn Gwyn (Woman in white) is a common apparition in the Celtic Mythology of Wales. Dressed in white, and most common at Calan Gaeaf (the Welsh Halloween), she was often evoked to warn children about bad behaviour. Y Ladi Wen is characterized in various ways including being a terrifying ghost who may ask for help if you speak to her.
Y Ladi Wen is also associated with restless spirits guarding hidden treasures, with perhaps the best-known example of this at Ogmore, Bridgend. The Ogmore apparition story is also noteworthy for containing many of the archetypal aspects common to such Celtic and Welsh stories, including a hidden cauldron, changing physical characteristics, and a chastising morality. Here, a spirit was long said to wander the area until a man finally approached her. When such a man eventually did so, the spirit led him to a treasure (a cauldron filled with gold) hidden under a heavy stone within the old tower of Ogmore Castle and allowed the man to take half the treasure for himself. However, the man later returned and took more of the treasure. This angered the spirit, who, with her fingers turning into claws, attacked the man as he returned home. The man became gravely ill but only died once he had confessed his greed. After that, an ailment known as Y Ladi Wen's revenge was said to befall any person who died before disclosing hidden treasure.
Welsh Topography inspired by sightings and tales of Y Ladi Wen can be found throughout Wales. The village of Ewenny has both a White Lady's Meadow and White Lady's Lane, and St Athan also has a tradition of Y Ladi Wen.
United States of America
A White Lady 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 her daughter's body. The latter 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 being married and 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, a woman 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 hitchhiker, 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. 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 Burnt Bridge Road's history. 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 the 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 and 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
This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2021)
- The pilot episode of the horror/drama TV series Supernatural features a White Lady. However, 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 traveling alone on the 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 her children's ghosts whom she drowned. (See La Llorona, the inspiration for this character)
- In the blockbuster movie The Curse of Highway Sheila, the 'Lady in White' referred to as Highway Sheila from the Higginson Highway in Chatsworth Durban is portrayed by two types of stories, and shown to be nothing but a Curse of stories by foreigners. The myth of The Highway Sheila is explored and revealed.
- 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 history 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 can 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.
- The White Lady appears in the short story "Red Dirt Witch" in the short story collection How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin
- In the 2021 novel "All Our Hidden Gifts" by Caroline O'Donoghue, The White Lady appears under the name The Housekeeper and is one of the main antagonists.
- In the Witcher series, the player may encounter creatures known as Noonwraiths, or Południca, based upon the same being from Slavic folklore. In the game, as well as in the folklore, they are depicted as women wearing white.
- Lady Dimitrescu and Slenderman are both purportedly based on Hasshaku onna(八尺女 lit. eight-foot woman), a creepypasta yurei that wears a straw hat and a white sundress, and kidnaps children.
- Apparitional experience
- Baobhan sith
- Bloody Mary (folklore)
- Dames blanches
- Lady in Red
- La Llorona
- Pinky Pinky
- Leanan sídhe
- List of ghosts
- Moura Encantada
- Madam Koi Koi
- Pontianak (folklore)
- Resurrection Mary
- Niles Canyon ghost
- Sadako Yamamura
- Shadow people
- Weiße Frauen
- Witte Wieven
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