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Halloween Baby Names: Greatest Ghost Names– Araminta, Caspar and Claudia

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By K. M. Sheard of NookofNames.com

In keeping with the season, here is an offering of my favorite ghostly names:

Alexander. One of the ghostly children of Lucy M. Boston’s Children of Green Knowe, who lived and died during the reign of King Charles II. The most famous Alexander is, of course, Alexander the Great.

Araminta. Although not actually a ghost, AramintaMintyCane travels in time and appears as a “ghost” to a boy in the eighteenth century, in Helen Cresswell’s children’s novel Moondial.

Banquo. The tragic figure of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who was murdered by his erstwhile friend. The origin is uncertain, but even the historicity of the man is questioned. It is quite probable he was invented by a sixteenth-century Scottish academic.

Caspar. The perennial “friendly ghost,” first introduced to the world in 1945. Caspar started out as the Dutch form of Jasper, but has long been established in the English-speaking world too.

Claudia. A child-vampire, and later ghost, in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

Elly and Blair. Elly Kedward is the name of the “Blair Witch,” a woman supposedly hanged for witchcraft at Blair, Maryland, in the eighteenth century. Elly is usually a short form of Eleanor or Ellen, but Elly Kedward is actually an anagram of Edward Kelley — the sixteenth century ceremonial magician and alchemist.

Elvira. The dead wife in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit (1941), summoned by Madam Arcati. “Elvira, Mistress of the Dark” has added perhaps a bit too much color to poor old Elvira these days.

Emily. The “Corpse Bride” of Tim Burton’s film.

Erik. The “Phantom of the Opera.” Today, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical is the definitive version everyone thinks of, but it actually began as a 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra). Technically, of course, Erik is not actually a ghost, but his heart was in the right place…

Hamlet. Probably the most famous literary ghost of all time, Hamlet’s father — also called Hamlet — is pivotal to Shakespeare’s play. The late medieval English name Hamlet is a pet form of Hamon, from the Old German haimi “house” and “home”; but Hamlet in the play is used for the medieval Danish Amleth, which is probably a form of Olaf.

Helena. Helena Ravenclaw is the reclusive “Grey Lady” of Ravenclaw House, in Rowling’s Harry Potter tales. The original Greek Helenê means “torch,” but as far as Helen of Troy’s name is concerned, this may be coincidental — but certainly, the Ancients used to interpret the name as meaning “shining.”

Herbert. The young man killed in W. W. Jacobs’ classic 1902 short story The Monkey’s Paw, brought back to life by the second wish… Herbert is a Germanic name meaning “bright army.”

Jacob and Marley. With his clunking chains and grey, transparent pallor, Jacob Marley typifies the classic Victorian image of the restless ghost, when he appears to Scrooge on Christmas Eve to warn him to mend his ways.

Linnet. Linnet Oldknow is another of the ghosts of Green Knowe. A “linnet” is a type of small songbird, but as a name, its roots probably lie ultimately with the Welsh Eluned.

Melanie. The ghostly bride of Disneyland, Paris’s Phantom Manor. From the Greek, meaning “black.”

Peter and Quint. Is Peter Quint a ghost — or not? He is one of the former employees that the governess thinks she sees and grows increasingly fraught about in Henry James’ masterpiece ghost story The Turn of the Screw.

Sam. Sam Wheat is the ghostly hero of the 1990 hit film Ghost. Usually short for Samuel, Sam could also be used as a short form of Samhain (although Samhain is pronounced “SOW-en”).

Simon. Sir Simon de Canterville is Oscar Wilde’s Canterville Ghost, who fails miserably to scare an American family from his ancestral home.

Over to you. What are your favorite “ghost” names?

This blog appeared previously on the author’s website.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, K. M. Sheard is the author of the encyclopedic reference Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names, and writes  Nook of Names, a blog on all things onomastic.

 

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Nook of Names

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, K. M. Sheard is the author of the encyclopedic reference Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names, and writes Nook of Names, a blog on all things onomastic.
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