The Case of Minnie Turner
Ghosts and Phantasms
Ghosts and other spirits of the dead are all too real in WitchCraft, and they are coming back from the grave in increasing numbers. Some are misguided and lost souls trying to finish things death left undone. Others are the souls of those who would not go gently into the night, who wish to perpetuate their existence at any cost.
Ghosts are the most common spirits of the dead, still self-aware, but bound to anchors from their life. Phantasms are much stronger and, more importantly, are free from anchors and many of the weaknesses of ghosts. See below for more details about both.
Cycle of Life and Death
In the world of WitchCraft, death is not the end of everything, but only the next stage in an ongoing cycle. Death releases the person’s Essence from her body. This Essence contains the dead person’s memories, personality and thinking processes. It is, in effect, the soul, which is almost impossible to destroy, although it can certainly be damned and diminished.
The recently dead have a number of choices. The Cycle of Life and Death has many possibilities, some dictated by the beliefs of the deceased, others a combination of chance and destiny, and by what the Eastern cultures call Karma — one’s actions through life, and the consequences of those acts. Many humans are reborn in a new human existence, forgetting their previous lives except in the most rudimentary of ways; these reincarnations appear to be shaped to fit as a reward or punishment for one’s previous existence, although often in strange and mysterious ways.
Many others end up in the Death Realms, sections of the Otherworlds where the spirits of the dead can recreate their pasts, be punished for their misdeeds, or enter into the service of many of the powerful entities that dwell therein, for good or ill. Some Death Realms are the dwellings of demons and Fiends, and some humans are dragged there to be punished for their misdeeds. Others are the abodes of entities that claim the names of mythological gods, the realms of Hades and Valhalla and the Underworld. A spirit venturing into the Otherworlds may experience many lifetimes of adventure, strangeness and horror.
Finally, some go into the great Beyond, into the part of the Otherworlds known as Kether, the Fount of Creation, where it is said the True God, the Creator, dwells. What happens to these souls that enter Kether remains a mystery. Not even such beings as the Seraphim truly know the fate of these souls. They may become one with God, or enter into Heaven or Nirvana.
Spirits of the Dead
Such is the Cycle of Life and Death. Not all souls choose to participate in it, however. A few have the determination to remain in the physical world. These are the beings known as ghosts, phantasms and apparitions. Some do not realize they are dead, while others have urgent reasons that necessitate their remaining on Earth. Here only Ghosts are discussed. Other spirits of the dead are covered in the Mystery Codex, and future WitchCraft supplements.
Restless Spirits who remain in or near Earth, Ghosts are the most common of the wandering dead. The weakest ones are obsessed with their memories and are often condemned to relive significant moments of their life; they are only a little more powerful than Apparitions. Others are more aware and capable, although they are usually bound to a physical location and are able to affect the physical world only erratically and with great difficulty. As the Reckoning approaches, however, the barriers between the Death Realms and the physical world are becoming weaker, and Ghosts, who before were only able to recreate moments of their past or produce weak and erratic manifestations, can now perform amazing and terrible deeds.
Ghosts can be cruel or compassionate, selfish or generous. For all their supernatural abilities, they remain all too human, for good or for ill. Some Ghosts are consumed by thoughts of revenge or strong emotions like love or hate. Others are adventurous explorers of the worlds of the living and lands of the dead. A few yearn for a return to the flesh and may try to steal the body of an unwary human; some cases of “multiple personalities” and strange changes in character or demeanor are the result of such ghostly possessions.
In occult circles, the term “Ghost” is used to label those spirits of the dead who are not bound to one of the greater Death Realms, places like Hades, Hel, and Valhalla. Souls in those places have the equivalent of a material body and have many of the limitations of normal living humans. Ghosts are free Spirits who either wander the Earth or dwell in the Twilight World. Many Ghosts visit Earth only occasionally, and they cannot stay there for long. A substantial percentage, however, spend most of their existence on Earth. These Spirits have established a link with a location, a person, or a specific purpose, and through this link they are able to remain in the physical plane indefinitely.
Also known as the Wandering Ones, the Free Souls, and the Fugitives, Phantasms are to Ghosts what the Gifted are to Mundanes. These Spirits do not need to be driven by an obsession or trauma to avoid being dragged back into the Cycle of Life and Death. Phantasms are free from most of the constraints that limit other errant souls. They can travel freely through the Death Realms and to Earth, they are never bound to a place or time, and they are even able to become material for short periods of time, which allows them to satisfy the sensual urges denied to Ghosts.
There are many theories that try to explain why Phantasms are different from other souls of the dead. It is believed that Phantasms are the souls of Gifted men and women, whose greater power and strength allows them to overcome the usual limitations affecting the Mundane. This does not explain why many dead Gifted come back as Ghosts, however, nor why many Phantasms were perfectly ordinary people in life. Others postulate that Phantasms were freed from the constraints of Death by one of the Powers of the Otherworlds; perhaps Phantasms were meant to be used as agents and warriors of one of the rulers of the Death Realms, or even the Death entity itself. For the time being, however, Phantasms appear to be free to serve whom they please. Some do take service under some of the Death Gods or even the Infernal Powers, but most refuse to acknowledge any masters and pursue their own goals.
In the past, Phantasms were a rare breed of the Dead. Before the approach of the Reckoning, there were only a few hundred of them, their numbers rising slightly during the worst historical crises. The last fifty years or so, however, have been marked by the appearance of hundreds more Phantasms. Some are the spirits of recently killed individuals, others claim to be the souls of famous historical figures.