These Horrifying 'White Ladies' Have Caused Centuries Of Terror Around The Globe

Ghosts tend to look pretty similar. No matter the location or period, witnesses typically describe them as transparent, floating, pale, and haunting the places they once lived. Even more specifically, there are many ghost legends of "ladies in white" all over the world.

Scary stories about women in white pop up in many cultures, ranging from tales of bloodthirsty ghostly creatures to sightings of long-dead locals. No matter the legend surrounding them, ghostly women in white are all around us, wherever we go. Some of the sagas don't even involve an apparition wearing white, but they still fit into the same tradition of ethereal female ghosts.

Stories of female ghosts range from the pleasant to the profoundly creepy. Some of these spirits are said to be looking for a lost love or warning others of danger. Others are downright malicious, and won't hesitate to kill if the opportunity presents itself. 

Folklore about ghostly white women goes back centuries, and each tale has its own fascinating and chilling properties. Oddly enough, many of them do have a few things in common.

  • Bloody Mary Is Still Waiting Behind Your Mirror

    Bloody Mary Is Still Waiting Behind Your Mirror
    Photo: lookcatalog / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Few adolescents can resist reawakening the legendary Bloody Mary. According to long-standing tales, you can summon the ghost by standing in front of a mirror and saying her name a certain amount of times. Sometimes you need to write her name on the mirror; sometimes you need to face away from the mirror - it all depends on the version of the story. Then, a horrifying, blood-streaked ghost appears. However, not everyone knows the origins of this Mary.

    Folklorists have attempted to trace the origins of the legend, though they've never conclusively determined who inspired it. Mary I of England has a pretty incriminating nickname: She earned the moniker "Bloody Mary" after ordering the deaths of hundreds of Protestants. Other suspects include Elizabeth Bathory, an alleged serial killer nicknamed the "Queen of Blood," and Mary Worth, who was supposedly targeted during the Salem witch trials, though no one by that name appears in any historical records.

  • La Llorona Is Still Searching For Her Lost Children

    La Llorona Is Still Searching For Her Lost Children
    Photo: berenicegg / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    The legend of La Llorona is a sad one and is told throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Though the stories vary, they all tend to have the same basic details. There was once a woman named Maria, who was very beautiful. She married a wealthy man and had two children with him, but her happy life soon became miserable. Her husband started to ignore her and lavished attention on their two children instead. Maria began to feel she was losing her man. One day when she was out near the river with her children, she saw her husband with a pretty, wealthy lady. 

    At the sight of her husband with another woman, she lost her mind. She threw both her children into the river, and they were swept away. When she realized what she had done, she began running along the river in horror, calling for her children to no avail. She started to weep, and, depending on the version of the story, she either died of grief or threw herself into the river.

    Now, she roams near rivers and other bodies of water at night dressed in white, crying out "where are my children?" The tale says that if you are a child, and she catches you out late at night, she may take you as a replacement for her lost children. 

  • Beware The Call Of The Rusalka

    Beware The Call Of The Rusalka
    Photo: Ivan Kramskoi / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The rusalka (plural: rusalki) is a mythical creature with a long history in Slavic mythology. Often sighted in groups, rusalki are similar to sirens or mermaids, and their origin stories vary wildly. Some say these female spirits died violently. According to legend, many of these women drowned themselves after being betrayed by a lover or becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Other traditions say they are the souls of babies who were never baptized. No matter their origin, they are said to have a specific look.

    Rusalki remain on Earth until they have completed a purpose, and sometimes that purpose is revenge. They haunt bodies of water, and are slim, pale, and very well endowed. Their clothing is made of mist, and they are supposedly very beautiful, which adds to their power. They are associated with fertility and bless the land with good harvests. They may even be playful. However, they may also crawl out of the water in the middle of the night and sneak up on unsuspecting men. They drag them back into the water, and they are never seen again.

  • The Hitchhiking Ghost Of Mukilteo, Washington, Might Have Bad Intentions

    The Hitchhiking Ghost Of Mukilteo, Washington, Might Have Bad Intentions
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    Although she may not be as well-traveled as other white-clad mythical creatures, the ghostly hitchhiker of Mukilteo, WA, still mystifies locals and visitors. Like La Llorona, this ghost is said to hang out near a body of water and is often seen weeping. Some say you can hear her wailing near the waterfall next to Clearview Drive in Mukilteo, but she does more than just weep.

    According to legend, she will try to hitch a ride from drivers passing by in the night. If you stop to help her, there will be no one there. Conversely, she may suddenly appear in the middle of the road before simply vanishing.

    But what does she want? Locals think she has evil intentions. She has been known to throw things, or leave mutilated animals on the road. When asked about finding her, a resident only had this to say"Go down Clearview Drive [at] half past 8 pm. There ain't no comin' back. She'll find ya; she can smell your blood and fear."

  • You Could Share A Room With The Headless Bride In Yellowstone

    Yellowstone National Park has a variety of ghosts, but one of the most famous is a lady dressed in white, known locally as the headless bride.

    In 1915, a young woman allegedly fell in love with an older servant who worked in her house. Her father vehemently disapproved, but couldn't stop the wedding. He gave the newlyweds a large dowry under the condition that it would be his only act of charity, and that they would permanently leave New York. He thought this would make the servant back out of the marriage, but instead, the couple was thrilled and decided to go to the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone for their honeymoon.

    However, things quickly turned sour on the honeymoon. The pair constantly argued and blew through their money. One day, the husband suddenly fled the hotel. When hotel staff checked the couple's room, they found the bride's headless body in the bathtub. Not until days later did the staff finally recover her head.

    Today, hotel patrons continue to report encounters with a woman in white walking the halls, her head tucked neatly under one arm. While she doesn't seem harmful, she still startles many a visitor. 

  • Keep Your Eyes Open For The Drowned Bride Of Willow Park

    Keep Your Eyes Open For The Drowned Bride Of Willow Park
    Photo: Ðenise / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Many ghosts on this list happen to be brides, which makes sense considering that brides typically dress in white. One such ghostly bride resides in Willow Park in Merseyside, England. 

    According to local lore, this bride was wed to an abusive husband. Here, the tale gets a little muddled. One version says her husband drowned her on their wedding night. Other accounts say she hung herself in her kitchen.

    Either way, locals say her spirit never left the park. Some say they have seen her, clad in white and gliding across the lake, doomed to forever stalk the place where she met her watery end.