I wrote this blog as part of my upcoming Dark Spirits Author Takeover of Facebook’s Fantasy and Science Fiction Readers Lounge. Join me this Friday, October 4th, and we’ll talk all about dark and evil ghosts.
Lord Banquo from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
,Macbeth and Banquo were war buddies until the Three Witches foretold that Macbeth would be king and Banquo would father a lineage of kings. After Macbeth kills the reigning king and assumes the monarchy, Banquo pledges his loyalty, but wonders about Macbeth’s quick ascent to the throne. “I fear you played most foully for it,” Lord Banquo says of Macbeth’s crown, prompting Macbeth to turn his foul play on Banquo himself. Macbeth succeeds in having Banquo killed, but his son narrowly escapes.
Banquo’s bloody ghost haunts Macbeth’s feast, as an apparition only Macbeth can see, inhabiting Macbeth’s seat at the table. Lord Banquo’s ghost shows up again later in the play, along with eight of his future descendants, all destined to be kings.
Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Many people would name the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come as the spookiest of specters in Dickens’s parade of phantoms, but I argue he was doing his job. If Scrooge were a good person with lovely Christmases in his future, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come would seem like a jolly elf.
On the other hand, Marley’s ghost is bleak. He’s doomed to an eternity of chain dragging and painful wailing. Marley is damned, not to hell, but to Earth, where he’s compelled to wander endlessly, carrying a physical representation of the anguish he inflicted on others by being greedy and selfish. If I were Scrooge, I wouldn’t need the other three ghosts to convince me to clean up my act, seeing Marley’s spirit would be enough.
The Dead Men of Dunharrow from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Dead Men are a ghostly army, also known as the “Oathbreakers” because they refused to provide promised aid in the ancient war against Sauron. They are cursed and must haunt the caves and the mountains they fled to when running from the conflict.
To earn their freedom, the Dead agree to fight in the latest battle against Sauron. While they appear as a spectral army, complete with horses, banners, and weapons, they don’t fight with their swords; fear is their weapon of choice.
Miss Jessel and Peter Quint from The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Jessel and Quint are by far the darkest spirits in literature and the first ghosts I thought of when conceiving this blog topic. Before their deaths, Jessel and Quint were illicit lovers working at the Bly estate, spending a lot of time with the two young children living at Bly, Miles, and Flora. If the children’s current governess’s grim musings are to be believed, the pair survived death by possessing the children.
The Turn of the Screw is especially terrifying due to the implied corruption of innocence, coupled with the creepy, gothic atmosphere suffocating the residents of Bly. Jessel and Quint’s ghosts may not be real, but if they aren’t, then there’s something seriously wrong with both the children and their governess. Very dark indeed.
What is the darkest spirit or scariest story you've ever read?