Not Just an Urban Legend: The Terrifying Ghostly Tales of the Lady in White

There is a famous “ghost” of a long-haired woman in a white dress in Quezon City, Philippines. According to legends, she died in a car accident while driving along Balete Drive. Her stories usually involve a taxi driver who was driving late at night and a beautiful woman who asked him for a ride. Along the way, the taxi driver tried to strike up a conversation. However, the woman seemed to be disinclined to chat. At one point, the driver looked behind and saw the woman’s face was full of blood and bruises, causing him to abandon his taxi in horror.

On the other side of the world, in Newark, New Jersey, USA, the same story is told, only there the ghost was a newlywed who was killed along with her husband on her wedding night when their car skidded out of control and crashed into a tree in the park.

Scary specter in white

Scary specter in white (C BY-ND 2.0)

The Ghastly Woman in White

We are all familiar with the Woman in White. She is usually described as a type of female ghost, dressed in all white and associated with some local legend of tragedy. Her story is fluid, changing to fit circumstances with each local history. Common to many of these legends is the theme of loss or betrayal of a husband or lover. Also common is the story that the Woman in White is a restless spirit who has lost her children. She may also be a young woman who died before her time, or a woman who was murdered and seeks vengeance. Whatever her reason may be, the result is the same— she walks the earth long after her death, searching for her children, her murderer, or anything else she needs before she can move on to the afterlife.

The ghost of a woman confronts her murderer on a stormy night.

The ghost of a woman confronts her murderer on a stormy night. (Wellcome Images/CC BY 4.0)

Although Ellayn De Vera and Charrissa M. Luci in “Balete Drive: White Lady, Haunted houses and other myths” mention sources that have said this legend was a combination of a story manufactured by a reporter in the 1950s and pieces of multiple stories from the area, the Woman in White is, in fact, already a famous figure from hundreds of years earlier.

In 1625, the Woman in White was first reported to have been seen in the City Palace in Berlin, linking the woman to several historical figures, such as the guilt-ridden countess Kunigunda of Orlamünde, who, according to legend, murdered her two young children because she believed they stood in the way of her marriage to Albert of Nuremberg.

The Gray Lady

The Gray Lady (CC BY 2.0)

However, it is true that although she is quickly dismissed as an urban legend, the Woman in White is a result of a combination of a wide range of qualities of ancient goddesses, spirits or demons.

From Ancient Egyptian Religion to Slavic Mythology: Madness, Illness, Decapitation!

In Slavic mythology, a young woman dressed in white roamed field boundaries, assailing people working in the middle of hot summer days, causing heat strokes and sometimes, madness. She often took the form of whirling dust clouds and carried a scythe to stop people in the field to ask them difficult questions or engage them in conversation. If anyone failed to answer her question or tried to change the subject, she would cut off their head or strike them with illness. This woman was only seen on the hottest part of the day and was a personification of sun-stroke (severe heat illness). Legends about her were told to scare children away from valuable crops.

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