Everybody loves a good ghost story. Some are classics. We first heard them around a campfire or at a sleepover, the storyteller’s features distorted by the light and shadow caused by a Sears flashlight. Or we read them in a book in the school library when we were supposed to be studying the Declaration of Independence. Or we overheard our older sisters or brothers talking about them when we were way too little to hear such stories. Either way, certain ghost stories are burned into our memories forever. Often the most poignant feature a beautiful or wrathful woman. Submitted for your approval, we give you the most famous, most frightful, most terrifying female ghosts.
The White Lady
Many, many, MANY cultures have a White Lady figure in their mythology. In medieval times in England, The White Lady would act as a harbinger of death – appearing night and day in a home where someone is about to die. The Scottish version of the White Lady is said to be the ghost of a young disgraced girl who got stuck up in a high tower and flung herself out of said high tower, and since then she haunts the grounds of the castle and the room of her banishment.
England, full up with White Lady stories, also has a haunted castle in Cumbria that has its own White Lady. The ghost in question is one of Mary Bragg, who was hanged by a bunch of drunk guys. The name is supposed to be sort of ironic, because Mary was sort of, well, course with her language.
Here in the US there are plenty of other White Lady legends. Many stories are variations on the same theme – a bride who died, either accidentally or because of murder, on her wedding night. Hence the white dress, hence the name. One of the most famous White Lady stories in the US is the White Lady of Durand-Eastman Park in New York.
Legend has it that the lady who became the Lady in White had a daughter who vanishes. The lady went out every night with her two dogs, German Shepard, searching for her daughter. Discouraged and distraught over weeks of no word about her daughter, the woman threw herself off a cliff. To this day, her spirit can be seen walking around, still searching for her missing daughter.
white dress, someone female flinging herself off of something tall, a female being betrayed, a female searching for revenge
Straight out of the mountains of West Virginia, the story of Screaming Jenny is more horrifying than it is spooky. Sweet Jenny was poor but happy, living in an abandoned storage shed along the railroad tracks. She always went out of her way to do things for others, and she was nice, and good-natured, and not terribly observant.
On a late October evening, Jenny sat huddled close to the fire, trying to keep warm. She didn’t notice when a spark hit her woolen skirts, nor did she notice when they caught on fire. In fact, her whole outfit sort of went up in flames before she noticed she was on fire. She jumped up and ran out of her house, screaming at the top of her lungs. Because this was pre-fire safety, Jenny did not stop, drop, or roll, and she ran and screamed and ran some more toward the station.
Fast forward a month from Jenny’s death. A train come around the tracks and was confronted with a burning, screaming ball of fire. Unable to slow down fast enough, the train mowed right over the screaming, burning ball of fire. The subsequent search of the area showed no burned, train-struck body, and they all came to believe they’d encountered Jenny’s ghost.
Every year on the anniversary of her death, you can see Jenny burning and screaming, burning and screaming, in pain and fear and misery forever.
A Maryland ghost story, Black Aggie is actually a statue that was the grave marker in Druid Ridge Cemetery. Put there in 1926, the statue is a copy of a similar statue called Grief which is located in a cemetery in Washington, D.C. Black Aggie sat above the grave of General Felix Angus and his wife. It is rumored that his wife was mistreated and sorrowful. Those traits and emotions got transferred to the already haunting and creepy statue.
One legend said that if you slept the night in Aggie’s lap you could see all the spirits in the cemetery – they would all gather around Aggie every night. Another legend says that the statue itself animates at night and roams around the cemetery, grieving. Others say that her eyes would glow red at night.
Because of all these legends lots of people would break into the graveyard to see if the rumors were true. The remaining members of the Angus family donated Aggie to the Smithsonian in 1967 (one year after the photo above was taken). She sat in storage until she was moved to the Dolley Madison House in Washington, DC.
There are several different stories regarding Bloody Mary. Some believe that the name Bloody Mary refers to Queen Mary I, who, as her reign as Queen of England, failed to produce an heir and had many miscarriages or fake pregnancies. Some people even think that she made the miscarriages happen herself. She was also cruel in the punishments she meted out to those she called heretics. For one or both of those reasons, her nickname became “Bloody Mary.”
Another Bloody Mary legend revolves around a witch named Mary Worth. This is the most popular legend. It says that the witch killed children to keep herself young (Elizabeth Bathory, what?) and that she was eventually burned at the stake.
So, What Do You Do?
Regardless of the identity of the Bloody Mary Character, the ritual to call her is still a rite-of-passage, initiation, thing-you-do-when-you’re-all-sitting-around-freaking-each-other-out thing you do. Well, maybe you do it. I don’t. Allegedly, you can look in the mirror and say her name and she appears. In some schools of thought you have to say her name three times. In others, you have to turn around three times. In others still you have to tell her “Bloody Mary I killed your baby” and that brings her forth.
In some stories, Mary will tell you your future. In others, she’ll allow you to talk to a deceased person of your choosing for exactly eight minutes. In others, she’ll rip your face off. So, who’s for not taking any chances? ME!