Meaning faint spirit or dim soul, yūrei (幽霊) is the Japanese word for ghosts. Though yurei can be male or female, Westerners are most familiar with female yureis as they star in a number of well-known horror flicks including The Ring (right) and The Grudge.
Like their Western counterparts, yurei have difficulty moving on after death. Some are bound by feelings of a love or hate, while others are troubled by the violent nature of their death, be it accident, murder, or suicide. Many yurei are motivated by vengeance. Yureis will continue to haunt the Earth until they’re able to accept their fate or complete the unfinished business that binds them to this plane of existence.
As anyone who’s seen The Ring or The Grudge can attest, Yurei look quite different than the wispy, transparent ghosts of the West (and in my opinion, a lot creepier). Some haunt the night in white robes, while others wear traditional kimonos. The female yurei’s hair, which often falls across her face, is long and disheveled and her skin is ghastly white. Some yureis hover above the ground, while others skitter on all fours. They are not bound by traditional laws of physics and can easily scale walls and crawl along ceilings. Eerie floating flames known as hitodama also accompany some yureis.
Yureis, like ghosts in the West, do not wander about at random, but haunt specific people and places. They typically appear between 2 and 3 a.m., the Japanese witching hour, and will not move on until their business on Earth is finished. Some yureis, like the vengeful onryō (a yurei who seeks to avenge wrongs done to him or her in life), may linger long after they’ve wrought their revenge. A yurei may also be categorized as an ubume (a mother who died in childbirth or left behind young children), a goryō (vengeful ghosts from the aristocratic class), a funayūrei (a man or woman who has died at sea), a zashiki-warashi (the ghost of a child), a warrior ghost, or the ghost of a seductive woman.
Photos: The Ring, Fatal Frame II (an excellent video game series, by the way!)