Ghouls don’t lurk in graveyards anymore. Nowadays, they live and work in cities. They have jobs that put them close to freshly dead bodies. Get the scoop on these corpse eaters after the jump.
Ghoul Background & Variants
What we, as Westerners, know about ghouls came from a French translation of “One Thousand And One Nights” by Antoine Galland. That just means we got the lore from the Middle East.
Ghouls were thought to be demons that fed on the living and dead, but had kleptomaniac tendencies, too. They had a thing for gold coins. And kids. Kids because they’re tasty. Gold coins because they’re shiny.
The modern take I use for this article springs from The Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. I also borrow a bit from the TV series, Supernatural.
Ghouls have a lot variations over 1,000 years. Some of them include:
- Insane djinn
- Body-stealing green mists
- Mindless monsters like in the movie, The Descent
- Possessed corpses
And there’s more versions out there. You can check the Resources section at the end of this post for more on ghoul history and lore.
Let me be clear about one more thing: Ghouls are not zombies. Ghouls eat rotting flesh, not living flesh. Ghouls are also alive and they age just like people do (if they’re a human variant).
Ghouls come in a 2 major varieties, human and demonic, and one ghoul-ish type. Notice the -ish part.
This variant is just like you and me (minus the rotting flesh eating part). They get married, have little flesh eaters, have a job, and live in the suburbs. But they usually reek of rot and dirt. Luckily, we’ve got Febreze to solve that problem.
Anyway, they do have some clues that give away their nature. First, their hands seem big for their bodies. They also have thick fingernails and well-developed forearms, shoulders and back muscles. That’s because they can shovel dirt by hand or burrow through the ground to a fresh grave.
Here’s a couple more characteristics to watch for. Ghouls have yellow, orange or red tint to their eyes because they can see in the dark. People tend to get sick when a ghoul moves in because they carry disease from eating all those dead bodies.
At the end of the day, you can kill a human ghoul just like a normal person.
Note: I don’t know why these are considered demonic other than their appearance. You can kill them the same way as a human variant.
Demonic ghouls have the same attributes as the human versions: It’s their appearance that’s different.
These ghouls have shimmering obsidian skin, pointed ears, glowing red eyes and razor-sharp nails. They also have a rapid healing factor.
But, demonic variants have a weakness that human versions don’t: They can’t stand sunlight. During the day, they burrow into the ground and only come out at night. Sunlight won’t kill them like a vampire, but they can’t see during daylight. You can see how this can make people think they’re vampires.
Special Abilities For Both Ghoul Variants
Both variants can develop a special ability, which helps them escape notice. They can shapeshift. It’s limited in scope: They can’t just change at will. For it to work, they consume a living person and take on their form.
As you can imagine, it helps the ghoul get out of trouble once the locals realize there’s something in the graveyard or forest. The ghoul waits for its chance, eats a search-and-rescue member, assumes their form, and skidaddles out of town. In another case, they devour the director at the local funeral home, and then it’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Crafty buggers, eh?
Vamp-Powered Ghouls (The -ish version)
There’s another take on the ghoul. This one involves the human slaves of vampires. In this case, the vamp feeds its blood to a human. This puts the human under the vamp’s control. Vamp-powered ghouls get some vampiric powers like speed, strength and rapid healing. If the human doesn’t continue to feed on the vamp, they’ll return to normal. But those blood withdrawals are a bitch.
Oh, vamp-powered ghouls don’t eat rotting flesh. They just want their master’s blood.
Rotting human flesh is the ribeye of the ghoul world. Nothing beats a freshly dead person. A few maggots and some bloating won’t bother them much. It’s why we have Worcestershire sauce, right?
In a pinch, a living person will do. Well, they won’t attack and start chewing on you. You have to be dead first.
That just means a starving ghoul will stalk hiking trails, lonely roadways, rail lines, and back alleyways. Waiting. Eventually, some drunk, druggie, runaway or other unfortunate soul will come by. Then, the ghoul will smash the victim’s head with a bat, brick or other hard object to kill quickly.
Brains are for zombies. The ghoul wants that thigh meat.
So, ghouls are pretty smart. They know cemeteries don’t have the best meat anymore. Really, all that embalming fluid is bad for your digestive system.
Nowadays, ghouls use their jobs to find food. That means they can be a mortician, EMT, cemetery grounds staff, firefighter, police officer, homicide detective or other profession with access to the newly dead. Every big city has ample opportunity for feeding, and for leaving. You’ve got major highways, airports and train lines for escape. Plus, cities offer more anonymity: No one wants to know their neighbors in New York City (I kid!).
It also means they tend to roam cities over the countryside, unless you’re a demonic ghoul. They like places with lower population densities. Some place they don’t have to worry about witnesses. Plus, the rural areas let you hunt your food along those lonely highways.
Unlike many other monsters, ghouls are thriving. Just think about it: Modern society has more victims of violence, drugs and just dumb accidents. We’ve become less social with one another, and we don’t care as much about our fellow human.
That’s ideal for ghouls.
This creates a steady stream of food. They just have to hang out around a cemetery, funeral home, morgue or homeless camp in a city. Eventually, a meal will fall right into its lap.
I don’t see ghouls becoming a threat to our population. They’re human-carrion feeders, not alpha predators. Plus, they keep to themselves.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more roaming our streets than you think. Bring your mace on your next night-time jog, eh?
- Politicians are ghouls
- Ghoul background
- Ghouls: How Stuff Works
- Ghoul series on Netflix
- Ghouls on Horrorpedia
Jacob ‘Jake’ Rice grew up with ghost stories and monster hunting. Today, he searches for paranormal critters, writes about urban legends, and hunts a ghost or two.