Some societies in our current world have strong beliefs about ghosts and spirits. This affects their architecture, e.g.

6 Bizarre Ways Architecture Is Designed to Ward Off Ghosts

By Christina H December 14, 2010

The methods vary from the colour of paint you use to the shape of doorways.


In a world where spirits were known to hide in corners and come out at night to cause trouble, how would this affect architecture? What about cupboards, beds, refrigerators, carpets, etc?

In particular I'm trying to work out how large buildings would look both from the inside and out. Can anyone suggest good ways to conserve materials - rectangular rooms are after all quite efficient from a packing point of view.


You can consider a spirit to be a sphere of diameter from 1cm - 100cm. They adhere to a corner at two or more points on their surface by flattening themselves slightly where they touch. They are unable to deform themselves very much however and always retain a roughly spherical shape. They can however extend pseudopodia at night to form limbs. These limbs cannot be less than 1cm across or longer than 1 metre. A pseudopod forms part of the volume of the ghost so the sphere diminishes in size accordingly. They only have pseudopods when they are moving around at night causing mischief.

enter image description here Note: The spirits are the greyed-in circles. The walls are the black lines. If the spirits can touch in two places they can hold on. A green tick means that the spirit can hold on to the surfaces. A red cross means that the spirit cannot hold on.


At night the ghosts leave the corners and move around the building. Their maximum speed is about walking speed of a human but like most ghosts they can move through walls. They mainly operate like poltergeists. What they can move depends on their size. A 1cm ghost could knock an empty teacup over. A 5cm ghost could hide your TV remote or your keys. A 30cm ghost can open doors, pull your bedding off or pull drawers out and spill the contents. A 1m ghost is the most dangerous. It can knock large furniture over, shake your bed, pull you out of bed while you are asleep - even levitate you.

All ghosts can do a sort of Vulcan mind-meld while you are asleep. The small to medium ones can give you nightmares. The larger ones can employ phenomena such as temporarily possessing you as in the Exorcist movie.

Interaction with solid objects

Ghosts, like poltergeists, can choose to interact with solid matter. When sleeping, they can hold onto surfaces. During the night they move around and grip things with their pseudopods. They can drift through solid walls but they cannot simultaneously interact with solids and drift through them. Therefore they have to slingshot themselves through solid objects. The reason that they must roost somewhere during the day is that they are not affected by gravity. They would simply drift off into space if they didn't hold onto something.


Ghosts like to congregate near people. They prefer an inhabited house to an uninhabited one. However if they cannot find somewhere to hide near people, they have to go further afield in order to find a daytime sleeping place.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it fair to translate this question architecturally as, "how can humans live where the radius of curvature of all internal corners must be greater than 1m?" If a yoga ball can touch 2 surfaces at once, its' bad? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 21 '15 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ How about putting pointy things on the surfaces to make the ghosts uncomfortable, like pigeon spike strips? $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Aug 21 '15 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure how well this would work, but I'm thinking about regular old rectangular rooms, but with a bunch of parallel cords/strings in all corners, about 1cm apart, forming a curve along the surface. If done properly, there shouldn't be any spaces to hide in there, while using a minimum of material. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ Another possibility: moving walls. All interior walls can be taken down or moved during the day. If the ghosts are smart, they'll see that it's a dangerous place to go to sleep. With luck, you won't even need to move the walls most days, just the threat is enough. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon that would make "go stand in the corner" be a pretty cruel punishment :P $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Aug 23 '15 at 7:15

Everyone lives in yurts.

enter image description here

Most homes are compounds comprised of multiple yurts inside of a circular wall, though some people can only afford a single yurt, with partitions inside to break up the space and provide privacy.

The round shape provides no corners, though some care has to be give for where the wall and roof meet.
enter image description here

For added protection, look at our line of incense and other spirit wards.

Really late edit:

So I was looking this answer over and had another thought. Getting the spirits to not stick around by creative architecture is a good defensive strategy, but what kind of offensive strategy could be used?

One idea I came up with was to use the spirits known tenancies against them and build traps.

So you make a square box with the right dimensions and put them a little way outside of the village. When the sun comes up the spirit goes into the box to rest. Then you load the box onto a catapult and launch it. The box would be constructed in such a way that it would fall to pieces once it is launched, and since the spirit isn't affected by gravity and has nothing to hold on to, it will be launched into space never to return.

So, Ghostbusters with catapults.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you add some source/location information for those photos? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Aug 21 '15 at 10:00
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    $\begingroup$ This room would have spirits in your sofas, cupboard and table, not exactly an ideal situation during a party. The room itself might not be that big a deal, but how do you effectively make a storage container without corners? A closet would be pretty tricky. $\endgroup$
    – Theik
    Aug 21 '15 at 12:51
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    $\begingroup$ The yurt pictured would also have ghosts living where the wall meets the floor and outside, where it meets the ground. $\endgroup$
    – ckersch
    Aug 21 '15 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ It would have to be a bit different than these pictures because we humans create things with straight lines. But these people would not, and would design their stuff accordingly. Picture is just an example. That being said, they might not have furniture because of these issues. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Aug 22 '15 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the advertisement For added protection, look at our line of incense and other spirit wards $\endgroup$
    – Josh
    Aug 23 '15 at 15:50

Two things come immediately to mind:

  1. Rough textures would have to be forbidden as well. The 100cm ghosts could attach to surfaces that are rough enough to have valleys with curvatures greater than that of the ghosts' bodies. How smooth the surface has to be is dependent on how far apart and how large the attachment points need to be. (A related concern: nature provides an abundance of rough surfaces.) Soft objects like curtains might be problematic as well.

  2. Ghost traps. Structures designed to encourage ghost infestation by virtue of their shape. These could be design as an odd-shaped box or structure that meets the prohibition requirements on the outside but has a network of cords inside. There might even be a profession whose job would be to go around opening or dispatching the containers in the morning and setting up or closing them in the evening. Usefulness depends on ghost population densities, ghost intelligence, and available disposal methods.

If we can assume that moderately rough surfaces are acceptable (popcorn ceilings are out but stucco is okay), I'd imagine towns of organic, flowing architecture with a lot of convex rounded surfaces. Windows might be non-existent, instead favoring organic-looking openings, water catches, and light reflectors.

You mention "come out at night to cause trouble". I suspect technology would lead in a direction that favors anti-ghost technologies beyond inconvenient architecture. (Long burning, redundant lamps? A tendency for the population to favor lit areas, long days and short nights? The buildings would still have the organic look because of tradition.) But as industry rises, convenience and technological advancement might lead to some mix between that and what we see in our world today.

A world like that would need consideration beyond just the architecture. Once the scientific process is discovered, ghosts, being at least partially physical entities, would become of the subject to experiments. Eventually this will lead to things like weaponization, enslavement, utility, etc.

Even without the scientific process, trial and error could have its way. Just as noting that corners tend to attract these ghosts, other things would also be noted. How does the rest of nature grow to deal with them? Nature is great at doing trial and error testing on a massive scale and so it seems likely that there would be creatures that the ghosts avoid, creatures that can damage ghosts, that feed on the ghosts, that are food for the ghosts. (Assuming such things are possible in that world.) Humans would note those tendencies as well. Perhaps instead of architecturing around the ghost problem, they domesticate some creature(s) that acts as a repellent to ghosts (much the same way as dogs are used to deter trespassing).

There are a lot of world altering repercussions when considering a creature like that as we don't really have such a thing here. I apologize for going on if your interest was only in the architectural changes.

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    $\begingroup$ Very thought provoking. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ The point of naturally evolved ghost-eating creatures is really clever :D It would open up a lot of possible world development (such as people using dog-like ghost eaters to guard their houses et cetera) ;) Really cool answer! $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 9:49

What's the simplest shape that has no corners? A circle! That means that most buildings would be built using circular rooms and walls - irregular shapes are possible, too, but they make calculations difficult.

The solution here is to make circular buildings with circular rooms. Putting one room on each story is trivial; putting multiple rooms in a story can be difficult if you need to maximize efficiency. To best do this, we need to look at circle packing in a circle. Take a floor with eight rooms. The optimal arrangement, for eight rooms which are all the same size, is the following:

I modified this in Paint to add in hallways, which are partially circular:

You can also add in smaller rooms or irregular rooms to put the remaining space to use.

DoubleDouble pointed out that this is a three-dimensional problem. Therefore, I propose a solution: Consider the floors, ceilings and walls to be all one surface, by smoothly joining them together, like so:

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's directly applicable, but you might find this interesting regarding other shapes and packing: math.udel.edu/~pelesko/PBLOG/M&M.pdf $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is that where the hallway meets the room on the outside looks to me like a corner! Is it all solid material between the open spaces? If so there will be a lot of material used to fill the gaps between rooms. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK I intended for it to be open space, and all the black bits are open. You could save more space by curving the edges and eliminating any pseudo-corners, though, thereby also gaining more space by using the extra areas as irregular rooms. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Aug 20 '15 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget that this is a 3 dimensional problem. Where the floor meets the wall is a "line where two planes or surfaces intersect" $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ @HDE226868 - Because the spirits must touch at two or more places in order to cling on. A small spherical spirit cannot cling to a curved wall with a larger diameter because it can't touch it in two places (see diagram). $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 19:04

Use hexagonal rooms to pack them together nicely and then internally plaster/etc the corners into smooth curves so that you end up with rooms with no corners.

The amount of space you loose smoothing out the corners depends on just how curved they have to be to allow them. You can probably run cables and suchlike through the space they leave though.

  • $\begingroup$ You must not even build the corners if the first place. As soon as you do, you will attract spirits. Even if you fill them in, there is still a corner under the surface and spirits can pass through solids so they can still live there. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ The other problem is with the internal spaces (for running cable etc.). They must not have corners either. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic - Like poltergeists, they can interact with solid matter - when they want to. They are not affected by gravity so if they don't have attachment points when sleeping, they could drift off into space or into the centre of the Earth. They have to choose whether to interact or not. If they interact with surfaces, they can't simultaneously pass through them. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic - I've now updated the question to cover this. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 13:01

Just round all the corners.

enter image description here

Each section of drywall can come with pre-rounded edges from the factory. When joined, they create a rounded joint. Given your updates, this picture is still accurate, but doesn't appear to scale. The rounded corner has a radius of one meter. Picture a city block rather than the wall of a home. The bottom edge would be rounded in the same way.

Alternatively, you say that:

The smallest space that a spirit can hide in is 1 cm in radius. Most spirits are 10 - 100 cm. You could have a square pipe that is less than 1cm across and a spirit would not be able to get inside.

So, just make all boards 1 cm thick, now their corners are too small for a spirit to fit inside and you don't need to worry about rounding them.

If your intention was to not let any "meta-corners" exist, that is a corner made from separate things that themselves contain no corners. Then simply offset any boards so their too small corners do not line up to create larger corners.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes but they hide at the intersection of two surfaces. A 10cm ghost does not have to fit right into the corner. It can hold on to the two walls. I agree that a 1 cm spirit couldn't hide if there was a .75cm fluting on the inside of the corner but bigger spirits could hide. I'll make this clearer in the question. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ Do you want no corners or do you want no intersecting surfaces? Because anything but an infinite flat minecraft world will have problems with that. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Aug 20 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ I have now clarified that you can consider ghosts to be roughly spheres. They can cling on to a surface if they can touch it at two separate points and fit into it. Therefore they cannot cling to a flat surface or a surface with a larger radius than their own. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK Ah, the the better solution then is to simply call the Ghostbusters. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Aug 20 '15 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ See my new diagram. Ghostbusters would only provide a temporary solution. There are always new ghosts forming and looking for a home. $\endgroup$ Aug 20 '15 at 18:45

I think we need to know more about the physiology of these spirits. Why do they need to attach to a corner? What happens if they can't attach? Are they stuck in an alternate dimension and can only come to our dimension if they can get two attachment points? How long does it take to attach? What happens when they do attach? Are they deadly or do they just sing your least favorite songs while you're trying to sleep? How hard is it to make them go away? Can we rotate guards to just patrol the sleeping areas and whack pesky spirits with Ghost-B-Gone® before they cause damage? Or, as pointed out above, just domesticate some spirit-eaters and let them roam the house at night.

What about the bazillion things that have to exist around us that naturally have corners? For example, humans. There are corners between our fingers and toes, in our armpits and groins, between our buttocks, inside our mouths and nasal cavities, between our nose and face, around our ears, etc.

If the spirits can't attach to organic matter, then we'd just build normal houses with organic coatings, or use organic materials. If they can't attach to "living" matter (now comes the wonderful question of how to define that), then we could weave houses out of living plants. Trees would be planted in room-shaped patterns, then vines could be grown between them to form walls. Barbaric, but animals (or people we don't like) could be flayed alive and their (still-attached) skins used to form walls, doors, etc.

People would probably have to run around naked to avoid spirits attaching to our clothing. If they can only attach to a fairly stationary object, then we'd just sleep naked. If spirits take a while to attach, then we could just wake up periodically through the night to move our bedding around to disrupt any in-progress dimension tunneling.

Throughout the day, we could just wave brooms around the various corners to disrupt the "corner", although it seems from your question like we really just need to worry about night-time. We could put all beds inside a spherical room the spirits can't enter.

But now we have a problem: you mentioned the spirits can move through solid objects at will. This means the spirits would just attach at one of the virtually infinite natural corners outside of town then descend on the town every night, rendering architecture meaningless. Also, what's to stop the spirits from simply attaching inside an object? A broom handle could support every spirit ever if they just attach to positions inside the handle, then "walk through" the handle to escape into your house. Likewise, they could attach inside the ground then raise to the surface.

Then is the problem with tools, appliances and furniture. Any place a tool or chair is sitting on a surface creates a "corner". Every night, everyone in the village would have to take all of the above outside town, or leave it in a spirit-proof box or room. But if we can spirit-proof the boxes, then would could just spirit-proof the bedroom (or possibly the entire house). So really, furniture would be practically non-existent and any kind of tools (including plateware, stored foods, etc.) would be kept in a community building outside of town. Of course, now that we've made individual houses practically useless, why bother? Just have everyone sleep in one big, curved room outside town, then migrate into the village to work, play and eat all day.

  • $\begingroup$ You have made some good points. I'll take some time to ponder them and come back. Meanwhile, I can say that, when the night is nearly over, they start searching for a corner to roost in for the day. They want to sleep in a corner and will keep going until they find one. $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 8:05

(@Andy got his answer in, during the very long time I spent causally pondering this answer, without reloading the page. He is right, Everyone lives in Yurts.)

Why have buildings with multiple rooms at all? One Building per room.

You want to go to the kitchen, leave the lounge room building, walk a few meters outside, over the separate kitchen building.

In large parts of the word, (including where I am), this is completely viable all year. Indeed, I believe there are countries where this is the predominant building style [citation needed]. Even a few generations ago in the western world we had separate buildings for the toilet or "outhouse". This is also a common style for long term camping, where you have 1 kitchen tent, 1 dining tent, and a number of bedroom tents.

So long as it doesn't heavily snow or rain, you don't really need roofed corridors. A bit of rain will just get you damp. A lot of things will need to be water-proof. Even with snow, it is likely not a significant issue. Monsoonal rain might be worse.

Now the next question is could society even form at all? A lot of simple building techniques used in prehistoric times, almost certainly had corners. Eg any kind of Tee-Pee, or lean-to. But there are not needed everywhere -- many caves are naturally rounded, and if the area is high in clay then domes etc can be constructed even with primitive tech. If long springy sticks are available (eg bamboo) then dome style tents are possible.

Be also aware that as well as the walls and sided being curved (at all joints), so too must the floor. so prior to building a floor bowl should be dug, that will extend and flow up into the walls and roof

As to furniture: Cupboards are trivially replaced with bags, and beds with hammocks. You can design around these constraints for furniture, but there is little pressure to. Refrigerators may be replaced with water tight (or not) bags in cold running water. Or with separate cool rooms -- just another building which is kept cold.


What can and can't they hold on to? Because contents of the room (read; people) are going to cause intersects. If they can cling to anything, it's an impossible problem.

If they can only cling to inanimate objects, then use water and air pressure. Ever used a Dyson blade hand dryer? Blow that up 100x and use air pressure to create roofs and other structures that can not be created with flowing water.

Water would have to make up the floor and walls and people would sleep on personal flotation devices.

Power would be the only issue.

  • $\begingroup$ They cling onto corners during the day. They do this so that they can sleep. They pick corners of buildings out of preference because they don't expect them to move. A moving corner would wake them up and probably throw them off. They cannot move around during the day because they have no pseudopods at that time. If they were flung off, they might end up in outer space or the centre of the Earth. chasly from UK 29 mins ago $\endgroup$ Aug 21 '15 at 12:44

Just to add a separate thought to what is already here. There will come a point when people are not scared by the ghosts any more but are simply a nuisance. With this there comes a certain stage when people stop trying as hard to develop against the ghosts and just learn to live with it. So there comes a point when no further advances in 'ghost-protection' measures happen.


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