There were a slew of Hollywood remakes of Japanese horror films that featured a similar ghost archetype. The most notable examples are (warning, links are images of examples) The Ring and The Grudge.

The common traits are:

  • White dress
  • Long black hair that mostly covers her face
  • A small girl
  • Stilted movements
  • Usually has really dirty clothes, hair and skin
  • Usually out for revenge of some kind

Is there a term for this type of character that is more specific than "ghost"? When I think of "ghosts" in American culture I don't think of these girls.

  • Not specific enough but: poltergeist might get you somewhere...
    – Mou某
    Aug 18, 2014 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


They are called onryō.

In traditional beliefs of Japan and in literature, onryō (怨霊, literally "vengeful spirit", sometimes rendered "wrathful spirit") refers to a ghost (yurei) believed capable of causing harm in the world of the living, ailing or killing enemies, or even causing natural disasters to exact vengeance to redress the wrongs it received while alive.

A ghost costume consisted of three main elements:

  • White burial kimono, shiroshōzoku (白装束?) or shinishōzoku (死に装束?)
  • Wild, unkempt long black hair
  • Face make-up consisting of white foundation...


Tvtropes describes as Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl and also mentions onryo:

An entity often seen in Japanese horror movies is a ghost, usually that of a young woman, with long, stringy black hair that covers her face, clad in a white burial kimono or shroud. Her face itself is often quite ghastly to look upon. In some cases, this type of ghost will appear with a pair of ghostly blue flames hovering around her.

This is actually a type of ghost known as an onryo, the ghost of a young woman who was greatly wronged by a man in life and now seeks vengeance on the living.

enter image description here

  • I don't suppose you know how to pronounce that?
    – MrHen
    Aug 18, 2014 at 21:29
  • I can guess but here is an explanation: wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_pronounce_onryo
    – ermanen
    Aug 18, 2014 at 22:19
  • 1
    The consonants in syllables like ryō and ryu are particularly hard for English speakers to pronounce. Unless there's some reason you need to pronounce it authentically, I'd recommend just listening to the word and doing the best you can. Here's the forvo.com pronunciation. Mar 2 at 16:59

From the Wikipedia page on Yōkai

Yōkai (妖怪?, ghost, phantom, strange apparition) are a class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. The word yōkai is made up of the kanji for "bewitching; attractive; calamity" and "apparition; mystery; suspicious".[1] They can also be called ayakashi (妖?), mononoke (物の怪?), or mamono (魔物?). Yōkai range eclectically from the malevolent to the mischievous, or occasionally bring good fortune to those who encounter them. Often they possess animal features (such as the Kappa, which is similar to a turtle, or the Tengu which has wings), other times they can appear mostly human, some look like inanimate objects and others have no discernible shape. Yōkai usually have a spiritual supernatural power, with shapeshifting being one of the most common. Yōkai that have the ability to shapeshift are called obake.

Japanese folklorists and historians use yōkai as "supernatural or unaccountable phenomena to their informants". In the Edo period, many artists, such as Toriyama Sekien, created yōkai inspired by folklore or their own ideas, and in the present, several yōkai created by them (e.g. Kameosa and Amikiri, see below) are wrongly considered as being of legendary origin.[2]

Has a lot of terminology that could, potentially, fit.

Yōkai itself seems to be a English term now for all sorts of "monsters" in Japanese horror cinema, might be a bit broad but still works better than ghost.

  • From that article: "In general, yōkai is a broad term, and can be used to encompass virtually all monsters and supernatural beings, even including creatures from European folklore on occasion." This is a good start but it does seem too broad.
    – MrHen
    Aug 18, 2014 at 15:44
  • Yōkai isn't well known everywhere.
    – Tristan r
    Aug 18, 2014 at 20:06

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