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The Secret Life of Ghouls

Updated on October 10, 2014

There's more to Ghouls than you think

Ghouls are not just any ordinary old cannibalistic, flesh-eating or creepy monsters. If you thought so, you would be wrong.

You're probably confusing Ghouls with other types of the Undead, usually the mindless varieties of vampires and zombies who populate old cemeteries in the dark of the night.

A Ghoul is an entirely different species, not as dangerous perhaps, but distinctly dire and dreadful all the same.

The Original Ghoul

The original Ghoul (ghul) of Arabic lore was really, really gruesome. He (or she) was a demonic, child-eating, shape-shifting Jinn which you encountered in graveyards..

These diabolic creatures were capable of constantly changing form, but their presence was always recognisable by their unalterable distinguishing sign - instead of feet, a Ghoul had donkey's hooves.

These days, the modern Ghoul rarely has the feet of a donkey, and all supernatural powers have long since been lost.

Check if the flesh is decomposing
Check if the flesh is decomposing

How to Recognise a Ghoul

In earlier times in the deserts of Arabia, it was pretty easy to recognise a ghoul. Now most of the original, strikingly awful and generally ghoulish characteristics have faded.

Once a quick sideways glance at the ankles was enough, but the telltale donkey feet have vanished, as have the goat horns. But there are other ways to check if the creature in the graveyard is a Ghoul.

Take a good look, is the clothing tattered? (Sometimes the clothing has disappeared completely). Is the flesh decomposing? Be suspicious of sunglasses, Ghouls will often wear sunglasses to conceal their bulging yellowish eyes.

Of all the graveyard creatures, the most common is the Ghoul

Be on your guard in old Graveyards

Graveyards have long been a frequent haunt of unpleasant creatures. Especially 19th century graveyards with lots of wrought iron railings.

Fortunately most of the gruesome residents have fled in these modern times, but that's no excuse not to be on your guard. You never know where an old ghoul, the last of his kind, could be concealed.

Ghouls Like to Lurk in Graveyards

Lovecraft's Theory on Ghouls

H.P. Lovecraft described Ghouls as a subterranean species.

According to his numerous works of horror, Ghouls were previously humans but after living beneath ground and consuming human flesh, they mutated into disgusting monsters.

Lovecraft's Ghouls

The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death
The Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft: Dreams of Terror and Death

Lovecraft's Ghouls may be revoltingly ugly, but they're not very frightening.


First Ghoul in Film

The first Ghoul to be a main character on the screen was played by Boris Karloff in 1933.

Boris Karloff's Ghoul was a real Ghoul. A horrible creepy decrepit creature who threatened to end civilisation as we know it. Karloff set the tone for any following Ghoul in cinema and, quite arguably, any storyline involving Egyptian lore.

In The Ghoul, Karloff plays an Egyptologist on his deathbed. He's in possession of the Eternal Light, a scarab jewel that is said to grant immortality.

He orders his servant to bury him with the jewel and contends that if the majestic nugget is pilfered, he will rise from the grave to claim what is rightfully his.

Needless to say, the Eternal Light is promptly stolen from the tomb.

The Ghoul 1933

The Ghoul
The Ghoul

In an eerie, fog-shrouded London, an ancient curse has been unleashed and a reign of terror is about to begin!


How Dangerous are Ghouls?

On the whole, Ghouls are not overly burdened with intelligence. Not only are they, to say the least, pretty stupid but they forget things very easily. Ghouls are also very slow moving, they can only lurch and shamble towards you.

If you see a Ghoul it's usually enough to run away fast. The Ghoul can't possibly keep up and he's going to forget all about you in five minutes.

However, now and then you may have the misfortune of coming across a particularly brutish Ghoul who will insist on pursuing you.

In this case, quickly set fire to any flammable object that's nearby and threaten your pursuer with the flames. Ghouls don't like fire.

The best way to get rid of a Ghoul is with fire

Cool Ghoul Costume, Large
Cool Ghoul Costume, Large

For the smaller ghoul, just decayed a little


What do you say?

Just how Scary are Ghouls?

See results

© 2010 Susanna Duffy

Lurk a Little in my Guestbook

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    • SusannaDuffy profile imageAUTHOR

      Susanna Duffy 

      4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Remember that you can defeat a Ghoul with fire

    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      I feel a sudden chill up my back and hairs standing on end

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Slow moving - not very intelligent - forget things easily? OMG I think that I may be a ghoul! I even enjoy checking out graveyards. (Oh oh.)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Ghouls are not slow moving. They are extremely fast and agile. Very dangerous when in packs. Still, eaters of the dead not much threat to the living.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      A ghoul is a (folkloric) monster associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh, often classified as undead. These creatures are thought to dwell in burial grounds and cemeteries.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Well... I can handle a ghoul, I think. I'd just swat him with my broom and feed him to a zombie.

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 

      8 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      This used to be the monster that would scare me the most when I was younger! Still creeps me out a little, though I'm sure I could outrun one ;)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Congratulations! You've been SquidBoo Blasted. Happy Halloween!


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