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Powers and Abilities
Appearance Varies; the form of the deceased, which may have visible signs of trauma or decay.
Episode(s) See below

Well, like you said. There's always a choice. I can't make you come with me. But you're not getting back in your body. And that's just facts. So yes, you can stay. You'll stay here for years. Disembodied, scared, and over the decades it'll probably drive you mad. Maybe you'll even get violent.

Tessa, 2.01 In My Time of Dying

A ghost or spirit remains connected to the mortal realm because it is attached to it through unfinished business or an unwillingness to move on.[1] They may, as Dean nearly did and Bobby as well, refuse to accompany their reaper who is tasked to help them move on.[2][3] Many ghosts have a desire for revenge against those who they perceive to have caused their deaths, or will target people like them, for example Constance Welch, Peter Sweeney, Dirk McGregor and Fiona Duncan.[4][5] Others like Dr. Ellicott, Dr. H.H. Holmes, and Nurse Glockner were evil in life and continued this after death.[6][7][8]

Sam seems to feel some sympathy for ghosts:[1]

Molly: I don't understand how a guy like this can turn into that monster.
Sam: Well, spirits like Greely are like wounded animals. Lost... in so much pain that they lash out.
Molly: Why? Why are they here?
Sam: There's some part of them that... that's keeping them here. Like their remains, or unfinished business.
Molly: Unfinished business?
Sam: Yeah. It could be revenge. It could be love, or hate. Whatever it is, they just hold on too tight. Can't let go. So they're trapped. Caught in the same loops. Replaying the same tragedies over and over.
Molly: You sound almost sorry for them.
Sam: Well, they weren't evil people, you know. A lot of them were good, just something happened to them. Something they couldn't control.

Ghosts are not always present by choice or as a result of unfinished business. Ghosts can also be summoned and controlled by witches or demons.

  • Walter Dixon uses necromancy to summon the ghosts of past Hollywood actors and crewmen and forces them to kill people who have wronged him.[9]
  • The demon Lilith raises the Witnesses, who are spirits of the dead who died from supernatural causes, to attack hunters and break one of the 66 Seals.[10]
  • The demon Samhain summons ghosts and raises people from the dead, creating zombies.[11]
  • Jimmy Tomorrow binds the ghost of Margaret Fox to him so she will kill other psychics he has a grudge against. Though he also appear some for of intimate relationship with her ghost, evident by her bones being found in his bed.[12]

Types of Ghosts

There are many types of ghosts, many of which have been created due to the manner they had died while living.

  • Buruburu – A type of ghost that died in state of fear in a terrifying manner. They have the ability to pass on their fear through a ghost sickness, once a person is infected the symptoms will manifest at first in subtle ways such as being afraid of everyday things, eventually the sickness will spread and wounds mimicking the ghost's will begin to appear and their fear will become more irrational until the infected's heart finally gives out. If a buruburu's remains cannot be destroy, the only other known method to stop one is to use fear and scare it back to "death."
  • Death Echo – If a person dies in a particularly traumatic manner, they may start reliving their death in the spot it happened, trapped in a loop. A spirit can break free of the loop if it is confronted by someone the deceased had a connection to in life.
  • Death Omen – Death omens are typically ghosts that have been murdered, but rather than seeking vengeance they seek justice and will appear to people in similar situations to warn them of their impending deaths.
  • Hell GhostsSouls of the damned released from Hell. Unlike typical ghosts, Hell ghosts are stronger and are not tethered to any one place or object, allowing them to roam freely.
  • Myling – The vengeful spirit of a child in Scandinavian folklore, said to use their cries to lure adults to their deaths.
  • Phantom Travelers – In some cases, the spirits of the deceased, specifically those that died with malice in them could infuse their evil spirits to an object like a ship ala the Flying Dutchman or a truck like Cyrus Dorian, making the the vehicles extensions of the ghosts.
  • Poltergeist – Malevolent vengeful spirits. Unlike typical vengeful spirits, a poltergeist is indiscriminate in who it targets, only wishing to harm the person or persons they are haunting.
  • Spectre – A type of avenging ghost that possesses a person, and seeks out anyone that the possessed feels betrayed by and enacts vengeance upon. A spectre will typically only rise if their grave site has been desecrated in some manner. Unlike typical ghosts, a spectre leaves behind green ectoplasm rather than black.
  • Woman in White – A woman whose husband had been unfaithful to her in life, and due to this she suffers from temporary insanity and murders their children. Once the guilt of what they have done hits them, the woman commits suicide, cursing her spirit to roam back roads and waterways looking for unfaithful men to kill.
  • Vengeful Spirits – When a spirit fails to move on, the ghost will eventually begin to deteriorate and turn into a vengeful spirit. Vengeful spirits will act out to avenge some wrong they encountered during their life, but due to the deterioration from being dead, their judgement can become warped and attack those who they deem have wronged others, whether or not they were innocuous or justified.

Powers and abilities

Ghosts can affect objects in the material world. This is an ability that must be learned. Sam and Dean learn how to move physical objects and fight when they become astral projections in 4.15 Death Takes a Holiday. The ghost Haskel Crane explains to Bobby Singer and Annie Hawkins that to do this, the spirit must either become very calm and enter a Zen-like state, or tap into "explosive, anger and pure, red-hot rage."[13]

Some ghosts have been shown to possess unique abilities: Freeman Daggett seemed to be able to make Sam disappear and reappear in the blink of an eye, transporting him from the first floor to the basement, Whitman Van Ness could destroy other ghosts and absorb their energy, Mary Worthington could kill anyone through a warped reflection of themselves that accused them of the various deaths they were responsible for. This was also able to be turned back onto her.

  • Elemental control – Ghosts can influence the elements, such as causing the temperature to drop in their presence. In rare cases spirits have been shown to have control over fire and water, if it was an element that led to their deaths such as Peter Sweeney and the Sailor’s Ghost.
  • Electromagnetic interference – A ghost's presence can cause electrical interference in the place they are haunting. Ghosts can manipulate electronic equipment to communicate by EVP. They can be detected by the interference they cause with electromagnetic fields through use of an EMF meter.
  • Flight – Some ghosts have shown the ability to take on a "smoke form", appearing not too dissimilar to how demons appear, and take flight. Though, ghosts take on a more grey / white smoke appearance in this form, over the black of demons.
  • Invisibility – Ghosts occupy the space within the Veil, making it impossible for humans to see them. Through practice and either intense or zen like concentration, a ghost can manifest itself in the living world.
  • Shapeshifting – Ghosts such as Constance Welch, Timmy's Mother and Fiona Duncan showed the ability to shift their forms from a beautiful young woman to a more monstrous appearances. The ghost of John Wayne Gacy was also able to manifest into a more monstrous form of his clown alter ego, Pogo the Clown.
  • Possession – Ghosts have the ability to possess humans, a tell tale sign of ghost possession is the sudden secretion of ectoplasm from the possessed. Possession also extends to inanimate objects. Ghosts have been known to possess everything from cars to stereo equipment and computers.
  • Soul absorption – The spirit of Whitman Van Ness showed the ability to destroy ghosts and absorb their strength for himself, making him stronger.
  • Superhuman strength – Ghosts have strength that far exceeds that of when they were human. The ghost of Bobby Singer was capable of throwing and keeping down the leader of the Leviathans Dick Roman. Chester Johnson was able to overpower officers while possessing a teenage boy.
  • Telekinesis – Through practice and concentration, a ghost will be able to influence their surroundings with simple gestures. Very powerful ghosts are capable of throwing and pinning people with little effort.
    • Biokinesis – Some ghosts can inflict wounds like the ones they received on others. Stronger ghosts can create the wounds in the victims, without needing to have received the wounds themselves.
  • Teleportation – Ghosts can teleport, but typically only in the areas they are haunting or in the vicinity of an object they are tethered to. This ability allows ghosts to move at incredible speeds.

Dispatching Ghosts

The boys commonly force a ghost to move on by salting and burning its corpse. Sam admits that, "My dad always said it's like death for spirits. But the truth is, we never know."[1] Bobby Singer later tells Annie Hawkins that he personally believed that ghosts just cease to be when their bones are burned.[13] It has been revealed that when a ghost's remains are burned, a reaper takes their soul to where it belongs, or as in the case of Bobby Singer, somewhere else if an outside source convinces them to.[14]

Burning the bones of the deceased is a successful way of dispatching a spirt in most cases, including those of Dr Ellicott, Nurse Glockner, Jonah Greely and Whitman Van Ness and his victims.[6][8][1][13] Sometimes, however, an object can anchor a person's ghost in the living realm. With the Hook Man, the Winchesters salt and burn the corpse of Jacob Karns but also have to melt all the silver from his hook, due to the hook having been part of him in life as well as being his murder weapon, giving him a deep connection to it.[15] Cyrus Dorian was salted and burnt but only banished when he and his truck are lured onto holy ground.[16] In most cases, the object that must be destroyed to force the ghost to move on contains a small amount of DNA that has been preserved. This is true of Melanie Merchant and Dirk McGregor, whose remaining hair had to be burnt.[17] In the case of P.T. Sandover, his gloves needed to be destroyed, which may have contained some skin cells or fingernail clippings.[18] In one memorable case, Rose Brown's kidney, which she donated to her still living sister, Isabel, bound her ghost to a living, moving object. Even though her body is burned by Sam, she cannot be dispatched, and Sam and Dean consider using hoodoo to keep Rose in check. Before they can explore that option, Isabel's sudden death, caused by Rose herself, forces Rose's ghost to move on.[19] In Mary Worthington's case, Sam and Dean were able to turn her power to kill those that have been responsible for other people's deaths with their own reflections back on her by showing her her own reflection.

Iron will repel ghosts, contact with iron will cause the spirits to temporarily disapper. For example, Sam uses an iron poker to protect himself and Sarah from Melanie Merchant.[17] The use of iron to repel ghosts has another link with the electromagnetism theory, as striking a ghost with an object made of iron grounds their electric charge, disrupting them and warding them off until they're able to recover. If a person is possessed by a ghost, any contact with iron will repel the spirit from the body, as shown by Sam and Dean using an iron railroad spike to eject Chester Johnson from the possessed.

Sam and Bobby Singer also successfully "scare a ghost to death" by making him relive his torture and violent death, thus effectively dispatching him (although they only resorted to this questionable method because the circumstances of his death -- he was dragged behind a car for a prolonged distance- meant that it was unlikely at best that all of his remains had been collected after his demise as parts of him would have been scattered over the road). This only worked due to the fact that that kind of spirit was created from fear and made of fear so it could be killed with fear. Presumably it wouldn't work for every type of spirit.

Occasionally, a ghost is dispatched when it is forced to deal with its unfinished business.[20] Others must make the choice to crossover, like Molly McNamara, Cole Griffith and Timmy's Mother.[1][21][22]

Sometimes one ghost has been shown to be able to destroy another ghost: The ghosts of Constance Welch's children made her disappear when she finally confronted them, Corbett was able to destroy Freeman Daggett and Whitman Van Ness was able to destroy ghosts and absorb their energy into himself.


Over time, spirits may go mad, or simply degenerate into a state Bobby refers to as "Ghost Alzheimer’s."[3] While they remain trapped in the Veil, spirits will physically and mentally deteriorate at different rates until nothing remains.

When Bobby and Annie Hawkins investigate the Van Ness House, they are unable to gain the attention of any of the ghosts. They meet Haskel Crane who explains that the other ghosts around them are falling apart until nothing remains. One nearby ghost even reached both the brink of madness and complete deterioration. According to Victoria Dodd, the vengeful spirit of Whitman Van Ness uses these spirits for food and perverse entertainment. After dispatching Whitman's spirit, they burn the remains of the other ghosts trapped in the house.


Ghosts in Lore

Ghosts or spooks are controversial phenomena which have several possible definitions:

  • The spirit or soul of a person who has died, especially one which haunts a place which was of emotional significance to that person when living.
  • The personality of a person after his or her own death which is not directly tied to the soul or spirit. A sort of psychic memory-imprint.
  • The character or memory of some being or thing which has died or, if it was never alive, been somehow destroyed or disassembled, which nevertheless remains existent (and sometimes detectable) in a semi-corporeal form.

According to reported sightings, ghosts have taken the shape of humans, animals, and even vehicles. There are reports of ghosts (usually of deceased humans) in most cultures throughout the world. There is a great deal of dispute whether ghosts are figments of the imagination or part of objective existence. Ghosts are among the subjects studied by parapsychologists.[23]

See also