The legend of Lady in White appeared in many parts of the world. The term refers to a type of female ghost or spirit that is frequently associated with folklore and ghost stories. As the name implies, they are typically depicted as apparitions of women donning white clothes or white gown and normally has long hair (well, a short-haired female ghost won’t look scary won’t it?). They are known to be looking ethereal and often have eerie appearances. Most of the time they have a tragic backstory that involves a tragedy or unfulfilled love.
White Lady legends and stories are found in various cultures around the world and they often vary in their specific details. This is where this entry is going to focus on. Let’s go!
North America: White Lady
In general, the story of Lady in White for North America involves suicide and a castle. Most of the time, they come from a noble background. Yeah, these are rich ghosts. White Lady is a common folklore in North America. One of the famous ones would be Dames Blanches (literally means Lady in White). Unlike other ladies in this list, Dames Blanches is pretty tame. Irish folklore author, Thomas Keightly, even described her as ‘a less benevolent one’ and a type of fairy. On the same note, what do they do if you ever encounter one? They might ask you to dance with them. Oh, my dear God. If you do entertain them, they’ll make many courtesies before vanish.
Unlike other Lady in White in North America, Dames Blanches lurk in constricted areas such as ravines, bridges and forests. It is believed that Dames Blanches is a remodified character of a female goddess during the pre-Christian period. So, dance anyone?
Europe: Catalina Lercaro
Catalina Lercaro is a renowned female ghost of the Spanish Canary Islands. She is the daughter of a rich Spanish nobleman in the 16th century. Yes, we got ourselves another rich ghost. Unlike Dames Blanches, her backstory is quite tragic. She grew up in great wealth and was kind of spoiled. Everything could be provided at her whims except for one, which is marriage. Upon knowing the fact that she would be married to someone whom she didn’t love, she did something extreme i.e. she decided to end her life.
So, on the night before the wedding, she dressed herself in her beautiful gown. She wore her finest jewellery and headed straight to an open construction site located in the courtyard of her family’s mansion and jumped. Since her family is a devout Catholic and the fact that she had committed suicide, she could not be buried in the Church site. Her father recovered her body and buried her in one of the many rooms in the mansion. It is believed that her body is located in a chamber behind a wall.
Centuries later, the mansion was turned into The Museum of History of Tenerife and her presence haunted the place. So, a personalised tourist guide, anyone?
South America: La Llorona
This story is probably one that you are aware of because there are a lot of movies made based on this folklore. The word La Llorona means ‘the weeping woman’. The story has many variations such as Mexico, Guatemala, United States, and Venezuela. The theme of the story remains similar. It involves a mother who kills her children and then kills herself in a body of water/river/pool. But whatever it is, water is involved. Yes, we have an infanticide ghost.
The motives are different from one story to another. In one version, it is believed that she was driven by a blind rage of jealousy when her husband cheated on her so she killed her children. In a different version, she committed the crime because she, as a married woman, had an affair and became pregnant so she drowned the poor child in a river so that her husband wouldn’t know. So, for that sin of killing her children, she was condemned eternally to roam the earth until she found her children. So, picnic by the lake, anyone?
Australia: Poinciana Woman
Poinciana woman is a famous urban legend in Australia. Her favourite place to hang about is a Poinciana tree, a tree that has bright red and orange flowers. Beautiful hanging spot. Good for you, girl.
Similar to the other Lady in White in this entry, her origin story is unclear and tragic. But they follow the same theme: she was raped and hanged under a Poinciana tree. In one version, she was identified as an Asian migrant woman who was raped by Japanese fishermen in Darwin. Due to this heart-breaking event, she became deranged and when she found out that she was pregnant, then, hanged herself. In a different version, she was an aboriginal woman and the men were soldiers.
Poinciana Woman is sort of scary though. When she, first, appear in front of you she’ll be dressed in a white garb, looking pretty and her long hair… loose. And then she would let out a distinctive shrill screams and change into an ugly wild-haired eagle clawed old woman before trying to kill you. Oh, she would eat your innards as well. Fret not, she only does this to men. Yes, she’s a men-killer ghost.
So, let’s hang out in the park, anyone?
Africa: Madam Koi Koi
Among all the other White Ladies in this entry, Madam Koi Koi is considered the most stylish one. It’s unclear what type of colour she usually adorns but from my readings, the pictures mostly depict the ghost in a white shirt, red skirt and red shoes. Contrary to the other ghosts in this entry, Madam Koi Koi also had a job as a teacher. Here we have a teacher ghost. Awesome.
The story of this ghost is popular in Nigerian and African urban legends. During her lifetime on earth, she was quite famous for being a punitive and abusive teacher. Sometimes students were punished for no particular reason, hence she was hated by most students.
There were two versions of her backstory. In the first version, she was beaten to death by the students that she had abused. In the second version, Madam Koi Koi was fired for slapping a student to the point that she injured her ear. On her journey home, she had gotten into an accident. On the brink of her death, she swore that she would have her revenge on the school and its students.
Since her death, students reported to have heard the ‘koi koi’ sound in their school hallways, dormitories and toilets. The sound that came from her high heels (sometimes a heel) roamed to haunt them at night. It is believed that whoever looks at her will disappear. So, go back to school, anyone?
This particular ghost is one of the most famous tales in the Asian region. She is the White Lady in Asia. She has several names such as Kuntilanak (Indonesia), Pontianak (Malaysia) and Langsuir (her general commercial name in Asia).
Her uniform is very similar to Poinciana Woman in Australia i.e. a blood-smeared white long dress and silky hair or wild hair (depending on her mood that night). Her taste is quite wild since she is bloodthirsty and quite a carnivore. She enjoys eating internal organs as well. And they typically aim at men as well. So, we have another men-killer ghost.
According to research, her origin story is tragic but more or less the same as Poinciana woman i.e. she’s a victim of rape, had gotten pregnant and was killed by her rapist. The baby in her tummy was stillborn by the way. In a different version, she was a woman who died during childbirth.
She used to roam places such as jungles but with the rapid development of Asian countries, she expanded her territories to empty houses, tall buildings etc.
So, want to visit KLCC, anyone?
Despite being dubbed as the most haunted place on the planet, in my research, I couldn’t find any information about Lady in White the Antarctic version. In general, most of the stories I have read involved a group of ghosts scattered in places around the area. Keyword: group. No lonesome scary-looking women alone wandering around crying and wailing.
There were sightings of apparitions and orbs. But that’s just about it. The scariest thing I found is probably their Blood Falls. Thanks to science, it turned out to be iron oxide-tainted saltwater. However, if you do come across Lady in White in Antarctica, do let me know.
From the examples above we can see that the tales of Lady in White exist around the globe, except for Antarctica. These spooky stories were usually told orally and they make their way into every fabric of society. If you pay close attention, these stories have underlying messages such as avoiding being a naughty student or staying off the river site at night. Whatever it is, the tales of Lady in White play a role in the majority of cultures around the world.