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Ghosts were a phenomenon of mythology and popular culture regarded throughout the universe. Though they were a source of scepticism, those who believed in ghosts sometimes held them to be souls that could not find rest after death, and so lingered on in the world of the living. This inability to find rest was often explained as unfinished business.

Terms sometimes used interchangeably with "ghost" included "phantom", (AUDIO: The Genocide Machine) "spirit", (AUDIO: The Spirit Trap) "spectre" (PROSE: Cyberon) and "wraith". (TV: Hell Bent) In the area around Fetchborough, a ghost was sometimes referred to as a fetch. (TV: Image of the Fendahl) A location which was known for ghost sightings was referred to as haunted. (AUDIO: The House of the Dead)

The Fourth, (AUDIO: The Haunting of Malkin Place) Ninth, (AUDIO: Girl, Deconstructed), Tenth (AUDIO: Ghosts) and Twelfth Doctors (TV: Under the Lake) maintained that ghosts could not exist, and that there was always a rational, scientific explanation for hauntings and sightings. (AUDIO: The Haunting of Malkin Place) The latter incarnation, once convinced, was delighted at the prospect of finally meeting real ghosts, (TV: Under the Lake) though as usual, he eventually came to understand their true nature. (TV: Before the Flood) The Thirteenth Doctor was mostly sceptical on the existence of ghosts, largely maintaining that they did not exist, but remained uncertain. (TV: The Haunting of Villa Diodati)

There were instances of genuine ghosts appearing, such as the ghost of a ticket inspector who haunted a warehouse after he was killed by a bus. (PROSE: Just the Ticket)

Common attributes[]

Ghosts were commonly believed to be transparent beings, which only came out at night and had the ability to walk through walls. (TV: Under the Lake) Nardole noted that sometimes they could fly. (PROSE: Plague City) When removed from a living individual, souls could manifest as ghosts. (TV: From Out of the Rain) Some religious individuals, such as Isobel Abney, believed that ghosts were unshriven; those who did not make their final confession became restless spirits, left in purgatory between one world and the next, and doomed for a certain term to walk the night. (PROSE: Plague City) In some cases, if ghosts completed their unfinished business, they were able to move on. (TV: Random Shoes)

Types of ghost[]

In folklore, there were various types, the names of which could be synonymous with the term ghost. Poltergeists, of German origin, were able to move objects. (AUDIO: Winter for the Adept) Banshees, of Irish origin, were omens of death. (PROSE: Screamager)

Manifestations of spirits[]

Unexplained manifestations[]

In 1903, after receiving a wealth of information from the future, Grigori Rasputin saw ghosts. (AUDIO: The Wanderer)

Sergeant Benton once confronted spectres, the tortured souls of his military father and child brother, who had both tragically lost their lives, holding him in contempt, to the grave and beyond. Now facing up to his traumatic past, Benton was lost in a psychotic fantasy world, a sadistic game devised by his forebearer and sibling to teach him a lesson. Finally set free, he was at last able to get back to his post where he was desperately needed. (HOMEVID: Wartime)

Graham Stevens claimed that the ghost of a headless woman in white with a black dog used to walk through his bedroom at midnight. (PROSE: Cat's Cradle: Witch Mark)

A Cardiff building was haunted by three cowled men with scythes. It was unknown what these things actually were, but they were considered ghosts. Toshiko Sato and Ianto Jones were sent by Torchwood Three to kill them. They appeared in front of them, and were shot dead, revealed as just "shadows" cast by the Rift. (TV: Exit Wounds)

Individual ghosts[]

Allan Ramsay was a member of an expedition to Antarctica in 1903. After his death, his ghost took other members of the expedition. (PROSE: Mirth, or Walking Spirits)

In 2000, after being forcibly injected with the Cyberon drug, Lauren Anderson encountered the ghost of George Cooper, a patient and friend of hers who had recently died after being a test subject for Cyberon himself. George was unable or unwilling to confirm to Lauren whether he was the actual soul of George Cooper, kept in existence thanks to the connection he had by the time of his death to the Cyberon hive mind, or if he was an artificial psychic construct generated by Lauren's own Cyberon-aided mind based on her memories of George in life. After she fought off the influence of the Cyberon drug, she could no longer see George or any of the other things the Cyberon had allowed her to perceive. (PROSE: Cyberon)

The Mnemosyne present in the London Underground from 1903 to 2010 turned the psychic engrams of those who died in the Northern Line of the Underground into deadly, ghost-like servants with which to kill others to turn them into more servant engrams. The Mnemosyne's ghost-like engrams all perished when the Mnemosyne was destroyed. (COMIC: Ghosts of the Northern Line)

Eugene Jones could interact with Gwen Cooper of Torchwood Three for a time after his death as a de facto ghost. He briefly became visible to not only Cooper, but to everyone, before "crossing over" and ceasing to be a ghost. This was due to his consumption of a Dogon Sixth Eye beforehand, granting him a new perspective on life. He would eventually unlock the secret to true peace and happiness, allowing him to let go. (TV: Random Shoes)

The Ghostmaker and Pearl collected the last breath of humans, taking a part of their lifeforce that manifested as ghosts. Victims included David and Faith Penn, Nettie Williams, a restaurant owner and couple with their children. All but the boy perished. (TV: From Out of the Rain)

There once was a ghost of a ticket inspector who haunted a warehouse filled with double decker buses. Panda almost successfully managed to get the ghost to move on, but Iris Wildthyme trapped it and released it on an uninhabited planet. (PROSE: Just the Ticket)

In 2040, ghosts of people having conflicts manifested in Manda's rooms in a Buildworth domicile block. These included a man and his wife arguing, a mother abusing her son, and two male lovers fighting. Manda believed them to be the result of stress and fatigue affecting her mind until she received a note from the Seventh Doctor telling her that the ghosts were real. She eventually learned that the ghosts were being caused by a creature reliving the conflicts it had fed upon. (PROSE: Separation)

The ghost of Albar Prentis. (TV: Under the Lake)

In the underwater base the Drum in 2119, a Tivolian ghost named Albar Prentis converted people into ghosts on the occasion of their death. (TV: Under the Lake) This plot was actually started by the Fisher King, who had originally killed Prentis in 1980. The Fisher King, an alien warlord would create the ghosts in an attempt to transmit Earth's coordinates to his race. Following the arrival of his race, the Fisher King would invade and destroy Earth. His plan was foiled by the Twelfth Doctor, who used a hologram of his own ghost to trick the Fisher King into thinking he'd won, only to be destroyed by the flooding of the Drum.

Ghosts created by the Fisher King and Prentis included Jonathan Moran, Richard Pritchard and Alice O'Donnell. The ghosts all seemingly dissipated after UNIT sent the Faraday cage in the Drum containing the ghosts into space and away from Earth's electromagnetic energy. (TV: Before the Flood)

On the Cirrandaria, the crew of the ship appeared like ghosts. They were translucent beings that drained energy from the living to survive. They could change the viscosity of their matter, becoming more or less solid as they wanted to and being able to reform themselves as a fluid would. They appeared like misshapen fluctuating beings of scales, feathers, claws, fur and beaks to those that saw them. (PROSE: Vanderdeken's Children)

A Cloister Wraith guarding the Matrix. (TV: Hell Bent)

The Cloister Wraiths were creatures found in the Cloisters, a crypt beneath the Capitol of Gallifrey which provided access to the Matrix. They were apparitions of dead Time Lords who had been uploaded into the Matrix. (TV: Hell Bent)

Parapsychology and spiritualism[]

Parapsychology was the study of psychic powers. (PROSE: Psi-ence Fiction) Ghost hunters used technology to try and prove the existence of ghosts. These technologies included the ACR 99821 (TV: Hide) and EMF readers. (PROSE: The Stone House) The Preternatural Research Bureau investigated cases of paranormal activity on Earth in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. (HOMEVID: The Zero Imperative, HOMEVID: When to Die)

Some spiritualists and clairvoyants, including Ned Talbot and Evadne Wintergreen, believed that it was possible to make contact with the dead using methods such as a séance. (AUDIO: The Haunting of Malkin Place, The House of the Dead)


Not everybody believed in ghosts. Sceptics included Sarah Jane Smith, (TV: Eye of the Gorgon) Clara Oswald (TV: The Snowmen) and - despite having written about them in his fictional works - Charles Dickens. (TV: The Unquiet Dead)

Mistakenly identified as ghosts[]


The ghost of Harding Wellman haunted Miss Tremayne's finishing school, although the Fifth Doctor claimed that it was merely a being of pure energy who had taken on Wellman's memories and personality. (AUDIO: Winter for the Adept)

On the Moon, in 2070, Jamie McCrimmon thought a Mondasian Cyberman was a "Phantom Piper" of his own Scottish culture. (TV: The Moonbase) The Cybermen of Cybus Industries were once mistaken for an army of ghosts when crossing over from a parallel universe. (TV: Army of Ghosts)

The Gelth were mistaken for ghosts, as their gaseous forms could fly and were a translucent blue, their physical forms having been destroyed during the Last Great Time War. (TV: The Unquiet Dead)

In Arcopolis, the Eyeless were mistaken for ghosts. (PROSE: The Eyeless)

The planet Kar-Charrat was rumoured to be haunted by phantoms, which turned out to be the native lifeforms' attempts to communicate with visitors. (AUDIO: The Genocide Machine)

According to the Twelfth Doctor, ghosts on Earth had been inspired by the Spyrillites, creatures from the Void who fed on the artron energy given off by dying space-time vessels as well as devouring their crews. (COMIC: Playing House)


In 1890s London, the 51st century Magnus Greel employed the holographic technique to pretend the presence of a ghost guarding his lair under the Palace Theatre. (TV: The Talons of Weng-Chiang)

The planet Demonese 2 was supposed to be haunted by ghosts, actually corrupted holograms as disclosed by the Tenth Doctor. (AUDIO: Ghosts)

Space-time anomalies[]

Sometimes, ghosts and hauntings were simply events of the past or future replaying themselves in the present. Sarah Jane once explained that events get recorded on their surroundings and under certain circumstances can get played back again, in what was known as the Stone Tape theory. (TV: Eye of the Gorgon) Similarly, the Eleventh Doctor explained that psychic residue was a cause of many ghost sightings. (TV: The Pandorica Opens)

When Sarah Jane was sent back to 1889 to collect a fragment of Chronosteel, she encountered a ripple from the future, echoes of a traumatic moment that had yet to happen. Her actions helped to prevent the event from occurring. (TV: Lost in Time)

A nurse in 1918 St Teilo's Hospital thought that humans time shifting from the 21st century were ghosts. (TV: To the Last Man)

The quantum transducer was an extradimensional artefact that amplified residual hauntings into empathic visions. These ghosts were explained as psychic residue from powerful emotional events. The transducer was dubbed the "Ghost Machine". (TV: Ghost Machine)

The planet Arkheon was thought to be inhabited by ghosts after its destruction during the early stages of the Second Dalek War, earning it the name "Planet of Ghosts". This was in fact the Arkheon Threshold - a time rift projecting echoes onto the planet from other time periods - as explained by the Tenth Doctor, who claimed there was no such thing as ghosts. He sealed the rift after the war. (PROSE: Prisoner of the Daleks)

The First Doctor himself was once mistaken for a ghost when an error made while he was fine-tuning the TARDIS sent him adrift through time. Between 1816 and 1890, he appeared a number of times in the restaurant of a hotel in India. The hotel's manager, Suresh Parekh, believed the Doctor to be cursing the guests as those the Doctor interacted with while he was present died shortly after. The Doctor was able to explain later, however, that it was moments in time in which a life was about to end that gave him a brief temporal stability, causing him to appear, and that he had nothing to do with the deaths. Susan eventually managed to retrieve the Doctor from the time stream. (PROSE: Indian Summer)

Similarly, both the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith were once mistaken for ghosts. (PROSE: The Ghosts of N-Space)

Hila Tacorien manifested as a ghost. (TV: Hide)

Projections of events from other space-time locations could also be recorded as ghosts. The Caliburn Ghast, sometimes referred to as the Witch of the Well, was a ghost which haunted Caliburn House. The Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald discovered that it was in fact Hila Tacorien, a time traveller trapped within a pocket universe. (TV: Hide)

The woods around Fetch Priory were long believed to be haunted, the result of its being near a Relative Continuum Displacement Zone. This anomaly leaked images and other phenomena from light years away onto Earth. (TV: Image of the Fendahl)

The "ghosts" encountered at Ashen Hill Manor were actually people who had been trapped in-between the dimensions by Erasmus Darkening's malfunctioning equipment. (TV: The Eternity Trap)

Professor Alistair Gryffen's numerous failed attempts to retrieve his family with the Space-Time Manipulator eventually began to take their toll on the continuum, warping reality into the shapes of his wife and children. They functioned as de facto ghosts, needing to trade places with Jorjie Turner and Darius Pike to take physical form, even going so far as to restore the Professor to his default setting, as he was before he lost them. They were ultimately banished back into nothingness. (TV: The Fall of the House of Gryffen)

In the 2010s, Judy was warned to stay away from the Devil's Cairn by her brother because there were "ghosts in the hill". This was in fact due to the cairn being the location of portal between dimensions which had been buried in the 2nd century. (TV: The Eaters of Light)

Physical individuals[]

Sir Reginald Styles claimed that a ghost (actually a time travelling guerrilla from the future) tried to kill him. (TV: Day of the Daleks)

When visiting the North Pole in a dream, Shona McCullough on first sight thought that the Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald were the ghosts of "a skeleton man" and "a girl in a nightie". (TV: Last Christmas)

Cultural depictions[]

On Earth[]

Charles Dickens wrote about ghosts in his book A Christmas Carol and in his short story The Signal-Man. (TV: The Unquiet Dead)

On several occasions, the Doctor and his companions referenced the film Ghostbusters when visiting locations known for paranormal activity. (TV: Army of Ghosts, Hide)

Television shows about ghosts included Ghostwatch (TV: Army of Ghosts) and Most Haunted. (PROSE: The Stone House) Scooby-Doo featured Scooby and Shaggy facing various monsters including ghosts and vampires, although they often turned out to be men in masks. (PROSE: Slow Decay)


Clara Oswald once said that didn’t believe in ghosts. (TV: The Snowmen) When visiting the end of the universe, in conversation with the Eleventh Doctor, she commented "we're all ghosts to you", in reference to the fact that she, and the rest of his companions, would have died billions of years prior. (TV: Hide) When on Gallifrey, the Twelfth Doctor explained the Matrix to her as being "a computer made of ghosts", adding on that the Cloister Wraiths were more ghosts who served as the Matrix's guardians. (TV: Hell Bent)

The Eighth Doctor once said he didn't believe in ghosts. (TV: Doctor Who) The Twelfth Doctor likewise shared the sentiment, but when he briefly believed the ghosts at the Drum were a natural phenomenon, he got excited. (TV: Before the Flood)

Grant used the alias "the Ghost" after he gained superpowers, including invincibility and the ability to fly. (TV: The Return of Doctor Mysterio)

Behind the scenes[]

Several ghosts of the Drum are used as enemies in the Doctor Who: Legacy mobile game.

External links[]