Apparitions (ghosts, phantoms, etc.) are described by Frederick S. Frank as a characterization of supernatural encroachment. In the Gothic, supernatural figures tend to enter the lives of the characters and impinge upon and disturb the order of the natural world. These phantoms are sometimes ancestral and often engage the hero or heroine during a night journey. One famous apparition in the Gothic is the bleeding nun, who appears in Lewis’ The Monk. Conforming to Frank’s description, Lewis’ bleeding nun reveals herself during a night journey, and turns out to be one of don Raymond’s ancestors. The bleeding nun tale is not original to The Monk, however. In a letter to Sir Walter Scott, Lewis claimed to have read the story in a German book of folk tales. Regardless of source, the bleeding nun is one of the most popular characters to come out of The Monk, as evinced by her adaptation for use in dramatic plays, burlesques, operas, paper toys, and toy theatre sets.
Eino Railo describes the ghost as an ancient storytelling trope, which is embraced by romanticism along with all things ancient and wonderful. They are changed, however, by Gothic writers to serve two purposes: to create a creepy atmosphere, and to achieve a moral purpose which could not be obtained without them. The bleeding nun, for example, serves to warn the reader that every crime has its punishment; in seeking revenge for her own murder, the nun forecasts Ambrosio's eventual punishment for his crimes against women.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
Used for: ghost; phantom/phantasm; spectre/specter
Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics : A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. New York : Garland Pub., 1987. Print.
Railo, Eino. The Haunted Castle; a Study of the Elements of English Romanticism. New York: Humanities Press, 1964. Print.
Horatio and Camilla; OR, THE NUNS OF ST. MARY. A TALE OF THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY [Transcript], Sarah Scudgell Wilkinson