The Feminine Journey of the Woman in a White Dress

In Quezon City, Philippines, there is a well-known ghost of a long-haired woman in a white dress. This woman is said to have died in a car accident while driving along Balete Drive. There are many variations to her story, but they usually involve a taxi driver who was driving late at night and a beautiful woman who asked him for a ride. Along the way, despite the taxi driver’s attempt to strike up a conversation, the woman seemed to be disinclined for a chat. At one point, the driver looks behind and sees the woman’s face was full of blood and bruises, causing him to abandon his taxi in horror.

Woman in White Dress Fueling Car During Night

In Malaysian folklore, a pale-skinned woman with long black hair wearing a white dress are called the Pontianak, the spirits of women who died while pregnant. The word pontianak is a corruption of the Malaysian perempuan mati beranak (“woman who died in childbirth”) The same spirit is called Churel in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Legends have it that a woman who dies during childbirth or pregnancy or from suffering at the hands of her in-laws will come back as a churel for revenge, particularly targeting the men in her family.

This long-haired woman in a white dress also exists on the other side of the world. Her story is also told in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Only this time the ghost was a newlywed who was killed along with her husband on her wedding night when their car skidded out of control and crashed into a tree in the park.

Charming woman resting on windowsill in shabby bathroom

We all have heard variations about this woman. She is a female ghost dressed in all white and associated with some local tragedy. Common to many of these legends is the theme of loss or betrayal of a husband or lover. Also common is the story that she is a restless spirit who has lost her children. She may also be a young woman who was murdered and seeks vengeance. Whatever her reason may be, the result remains the same – the Woman in White walks the earth long after her death, searching for her children, her murderer, or anything else she needs before she can move on to the afterlife.

Still from the 1912 film The Woman in White, featuring (from left) Alec Frank, Janet Salisbury and Lyman R. Abbe

The Woman in White is already a famous figure in hundreds of years earlier. Sogi Shokoku Monogatari (“Sogi’s Tales of Many Lands”), written in the Muromachi period (1392 – 1573 CE), tells the story of how he saw a spirit of a woman in white when he was staying in Echigo Province, indicating that the legends of the woman in white already existed in Asia in this period.

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