Remember The White Lady of Stow Lake and La Llorona from last week? Even if you hadn’t heard those particular stories, you’ve definitely heard of some other floating white female ghost in a tattered gown. It’s pretty standard fare for ghost stories everywhere, across a lot of cultures. It turns out phantom white ladies are a whole thing, you guys.
I dug into the White Lady Ghost Canon, and it turns out that they have more than appearance in common with our White Lady of Stow Lake and La Llorona. To start, many involve dead children. In Germany, the Berlin Palace is said to be haunted by Countess Kunigunda of Orlamunde, who murdered her two young children because they stood in the way of her marriage to Albert of Nuremberg. In the UK, the White Lady of Portchester Castle is eternally searching for her child, who fell in the moat. They both drowned. How much you want to bet they blamed her ass for it, too?
Just as many of these stories involve dudes being dicks. Surprise! In Brazil, the Dama Branca is the ghost of a woman who either died in childbirth or was killed by her husband for denying him sex (that’s quite a spread on the story TBH). In one horrifying version, she dies from starvation after she refuses to eat the body of her husband’s enslaved worker.
In Estonia, Haapsalu Castle is haunted by a white lady who fell in love with a priest. She disguised herself as a choir boy so she could be with him, and when the bishop found out HE HAD HER BURIED ALIVE INSIDE A WALL. No fucking shit that place is haunted! In Malta, The White Lady of Verdala Palace haunts the spot where she leapt to death rather than marry a man she hated. Good call, White Lady of Verdala. Good call.
Like the White Lady of Verdala, many of these ghost women leapt to their deaths in a dramatic fashion. In Canada, La Dame Blanche haunts the cliffs of Montmorency Falls, where she jumped off after finding out that her fiance died in a war. IN HER WEDDING DRESS, OBVIOUSLY. This is basically the only slightly romantic and nice-ish story of the bunch and of course it’s fucking Canadian. I appreciate you, Canada.
In fact, a lot of the women are seen as brides, wearing white wedding dresses. San Francisco actually has another White Lady, one that haunts California Street in Pacific Heights. She’s said to be the ghost of Flora Sommerton, a socialite fleeing an arranged marriage in her wedding dress.
Beyond the standard hauntings, there’s also a certain class of white lady ghosts that perform a helpful function in their cultures. The banshees of Ireland wail to warn you that someone you love will die soon. The Witte Weiven of the Netherlands are a type of fairy folk - sometimes they’re helpful, aiding in childbirth and offering advice, sometimes they’re assholes, stealing babies, making changelings, and attacking people they don’t like.
In the UK, some white lady ghosts will lead you to treasure. The Welsh Dynes Mewn Gywn guards a treasure in the tower of Ogmore Castle. When a man had the courage to approach her, she rewarded him with half of it, but in his greed he tried to take it all, so she turned his fingers into claws and then he died. Moral of the story: don’t be a selfish dick and share with ghosts that help, IT’S ONLY FAIR.
And because all of the cultures mentioned about are literally white as well, let’s mix it up and mention the Kaperosa of the Philippines. She is a female ghost wearing a long dress who - wait for it - WAS BETRAYED BY HER HUSBAND. She is back from the grave to take care of unfinished business, but it seems like she’s more mild mannered. She shows up and haunts, but she’s not threatening. She also likes to hitchhike, which is a whole other genre of ghosts that we’ll get into in a later post.
Halloween is coming, and next week we’ll find out why ghosts are part of the folklore surrounding this very old holiday. In the meantime, watch out for the white ladies in your part of town. . . better yet, drop me a line and tell me about any encounters you have had with them.