Ghost stories and where they come from: Examples from Middish folklore

People are superstitious, that's a fact. Every culture of this world is filled with stories of monsters, ghosts, and curses. If a good fraction of those have no real basis, a lot have real origins in Shadow Creatures, or complex interactions with the ambient Consciousness flux.   Rural folklore is where one can find the best ghost stories. Indeed, rural areas are the most susceptible areas to dangerous mental constructs: The population density is too low to effectively raise the consciousness chaos. As a result, villages and farms dwellers typically don't have the usual mental protections against perturbations of the consciousness flux. They both produce, receive and process large amounts of informations. However, unlike nomadic people, the fact that these peoples are sedentary, and oriented toward cities that they depend on for goods and services, makes them highly undereducated regarding spiritual issues. This combined to a good deal of superstitions, and the natural tendency of people to tell each other stories, leads to the very tangible presence of monsters across farmlands.   This text focuses on ghosts and spirits: creatures that, even if they may attain some form of physical presence, initially originate from purely mental constructions. In particular, the link between the stories and their actual origin is the central point of this document.
by Pouaseuille
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Brain gnats and folklore

  As odd as this may seem to deep nomads for whom these parasites are merely an inconvenience, or large city-dwellers who are not even aware of their existence, brain gnats are thought to be responsible for a large majority of rural ghost stories. The vulnerability of locals and their tendancy to spread stories makes them easy prey for mental parasites. Over the repetition of stories, and the anchoring of their beliefs, some gnats managed to slowly increase their influence, and obtained a concerning level of power over some regions. The following are example of well-known brain-gnats found throughout the Middish Plain.  
Eyes in the dark
by Pouaseuille
  The Eyes in the Dark are one of the most common manifestation of brain gnats in the Middish plains, as they are in most of the world. These parasitic visions hijack one's natural fear of the dark to thrive and reproduce. They usually manifest themselves at night. Eyes can be seen in the darkness surrounding one's camp, while one starts to get the ominous feeling they are being watched by a dark, powerful entity.   The best way to fend off such small brain gnats is to ignore them. While they can almost takeover one's consciousness, they are incapable of directly interacting with people if they are denied conscious attention.   In middish folklore, Eyes in the Dark are typically associated with traveller's spirits. It is said that these are the ways for the many-eyed gods to keep watch of nomads at night. In some areas, the Eyes are also said to be the souls of the living, observing and judging their peer's behaviours. Needless to say, such legends can affect both the way the Eyes manifest, and their actual powers on people.   The Field Mares (somewhat dangerous brain gnats that managed to acquire some powers: will be written later)   The Witches of the North are a perfect example of the worst possible consequences of a brain gnat infestation associated to mythical creatures and left unchecked. The Witches' zone of influence span the Hayerwins region almost all the way down to the Millerfort countryside. The Witches are said to control the weather, and the health of cattle. They are attributed the power to horribly mutate humans and animals and have them do their biddings. In fact, the Witches have gained so much influence that their presence is comparable to that of a cult. Sacrifices are regularly performed to appease the witches: live animals or humans are attached to trees nearby farms or villages, and disappear overnight; only their shadow remains, as if burned on the ground.   From a purely spiritual point of view, the Witches appear to originate from brain gnats: their consciousness, and the way they mostly manifest themselves from an everpresent fear and hallucinations are typical of such entities. However, the entities have mutated at some point in their history: instead of simply reproducing their simple consciousness, they managed to remain as one fused consciousness. As legends surrounding them became more and more present, their powers increased from the amount of people being influenced by them. Eventually, the entity managed to summon Ghostpowder from the depths of the Cylinder, and used it to physically modify the influenced lifeforms. From there on, the legend fueld itself in a dark spiral: as people became physically, the word of the reality of the Witches spread, and so did the fear of their wrath. Icons of the entity were dressed at some point, which allowed it to physically manifest itself even more strongly.   The phenomenon of the Witches of the North raises the question of the origin of other potent cults and religions across the Cylinder. It may be possible that several modern religions, and local Protector Spirits may have similarly originated from potent brain gnats and rumours, only for them to eventually lose their reliance on fear and to gain some powers of protection over the region.    

The Polter of Crookentoft

Polter of Crookentoft - simple sketch of an apparition
by Pouaseuille
  Located in the north of the Plains, Crookentoft wouldn't be a very noticeable city were it not for its famously cursed lords. The city, inhabited by thirty thousand souls, is a relatively small regional power that influences the surroundings of the Anglepreaks mountain range. However, its rural area is the home of one of the most famous ghost stories of the Plains: that of the Polter.   According to the legend, the Polter of Crookentoft is the result of a curse. Long ago, the lords of the city, members of a large Wandrel family, were happy and united. They ruled in peace, focusing on the region's health and happiness. However, everything changed over a fateful event.   One day, as the future new lord of that time reached adulthood, they went with their parent's sibling to perform a wandrel coming-of-age rite. They had to go to the wilds, enter the Spirit world, and use the combination of their physical strength and their mental powers to overpower a wild beast.   Sadly, the ritual went terribly. Unlike nomadic Wandrels, the youth had been raised inside city walls. They were very poorly atuned to their mental abilities, nor to the unfamiliarities of the spirit world in the wilds. Following their omner's advices, the kid tried to take down a mountain bear. Mentally helpless, they were no match for the beast, and after a short but intense fight, got their jaw torn off by the beast. They were left for dead by their mentor.   According to the folk tales, this is where the curse began. As the mentor came back to town alone, the actual lord became mad with grief. They accused their sibling of murdering the youth, and disappeared in the wilds to find their child. They never came back.   Since then, the Polter has been regularly observed. It is usually seen at night or in the rain, and is said to resemble a human figure from afar, though it seems blurry: as if one couldn't really focus on their traits. If one approaches the figure, they will for a moment notice that it doesn't have a face, but a skull with a broken jaw. Its hands consist in long sharp claws, that lose themselves in the shadows. If one approaches too much, the vision disappears. Sometimes, observers claim that they subsequently lost memory of the events following, and simply woke up later, their chest and back covered with claw marks. Numerous disparitions are said to be the Polter's doing.   It is said that the Crookentoft lord family is now cursed. That their souls are now tied to the Polter, and that they all join the Polter's consciousness as they die. It is also said that since then, the Lords have slowly been corrupted by the curse. They have become more belliquous, and more greedy. They now turn toward the surrounding cities and countrysides with envy.   Of course, a large part of this story cannot be proved or disproved easily. The Lords of Crookentoft are a very reclusive family, and are said to never answer to any question about that hypothetical curse anyway. It is however historically known that the city-state of Crookentoft has slowly turned to more and more aggressive behaviours over the past century. Besides, the Polter in itself is a very real entity. Numerous and various sources, including the humble author of this document, have witnessed the odd apparition. It has also been observed that noble and Wandrel funeral sites become unnaturally quickly buried by vegetation, and become petrified with stone.   The current scholar explanation of the Polter is that it did originate from a human being. While it is unknown whether it was the young lord of Crookentoft or simply some other urban Wandrel, the likelyhood is that the polter appeared from an untrained human opening their mind to the spirit world. From the lack of training, they didn't manage to fend off mental projections from the depths of the Cylinder. Their consciousness quickly shattered, their emitting body started to physically attract ghostpowder, which itself increased the potency of the projection. Overtime, this presence reinforced itself. The properties of Ghostpowder managed to keep the human alive for centuries, while it was slowly being encased in stone by the petrificating properties of deep ghostpowder. As rumors went, and as people started to search for the Polter, its potency increased even more, and it managed to decentralize itself from the remain of the original human. The entity is now able to take over the consciousness of a dying brain, and protect it from putrefaction. It also uses its influence to attract victims with apparitions, and can rob them of ghostpowder they may have in or on them, or simply takes over their body.   However, the Polter's influence is limited by distance. The further it is from points of origin, the more it becomes influenced by rumours about itself. Around its borders, its consciousness becomes less coherent, and regularly splits into fragments: those fragments behave like regular brain gnats, and simply feed on fear and hallucinations.  

Cursed signs, rumors and murders

Cursed sign
by Pouaseuille
  (This is a third category of legend: rumors that have no spiritual origin whatsoever. Their only way of gaining some form of reality is then through believers acting differently, more or less consciously acting in accordance to the legends. This part is still largely to be written.)   Cursed signs are the more common example of self-fueled legends. In several villages in the South of the Plains, tragic phenomena such as murders, disappearances or famine are associated with the mysterious apparition of carved signs on walls and roads. No one remembers carving the signs, yet anyone may do so. Sometimes, signs first appear a short while before the phenomena in itself: simply because the carvers unconsciously gather information from their surrounding peers, and understand the upcoming tragedy.

Cover image: by Pouaseuille


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