Imagine the modern society, except all dead people spawned ghosts upon death.

The ghost of the dead inherits memory and personality of its past living self, appear as translucent wraiths that can partially interact with the material world by blowing objects about as though a gust of wind.

The ghosts have to consume "ghost-juice" or Ectoplasm to survive (as a ghost), they do this either by attacking and disintegrating another ghost then feasting upon its remains, or by absorbing the "soul" of a living human being.

When a living human being's soul is consumed, nothing really harmful happens, except when a human with a weakened soul dies, the ghost that spawns from that person will be weak and may straight-up disintegrate upon "birth". (Souls are generated steadily by a living human being from infancy, and small losses can be recovered, but an ordinary person cannot generate more than 2 or 3 "ghost-worthy" amounts of Ectoplasm, while a ghost needs to consume an amount of Ectoplasm equal to itself every 50 years or so to stay healthy. Consuming more will make it stronger proportional to the amount of extra consumption.)

Now, assuming no method of artificially creating Ectoplasm is available, will the human race become hostile towards the ghosts? (Manifested by researching methods to eliminate them) If so, why? Since the only reason a still-living person can be hostile towards ghosts is because the person wants to be a strong, healthy ghost themselves after death, which makes their loyalty to humanity necessarily short-lived. Also, would it be reasonable to expect that some rich or powerful people will continue their existences as ghosts after death and hire/coerce a bunch of humans to regularly "donate" their souls to them? Or would becoming a ghost automatically invalidate a person's status as a ruler? Can humans and ghosts eventually work out a sustainable situation?


  • There are no ghosts belonging people who had died before the year of 2016, that was the original idea.
  • "Strength" describes mostly a ghost's ability to kill other ghosts.
  • Ghosts can "die" from attack by other ghosts, Ectoplasm-starvation or mental degeneration, all of which leads to it exploding into a cloud of Ectoplasm.
  • Ghosts can easily communicate with living human by whispering or doing sign-language (they can't speak loudly due to limited interaction with air.) Supposedly, stronger ghosts will be larger and "denser", allowing greater, though never as complete interaction with ordinary objects as compared to real human.
  • $\begingroup$ You know that there is more dead than living people, right? And why turn hostile? If we always were a game animals for ghosts? $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ You've essentially asked what would happen if humans had an extra stage in their life cycle. Which happened to subsist solely by means of cannibalism... Disturbing. $\endgroup$
    – AngelPray
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean all humans and all ghosts or do you mean some humans and some ghosts? I think the answer is pretty clear in both cases. Humans haven't been able to work things out with other humans even while others made peace even with the trees. Especially with related ghosts in decent families peace shouldn't be a problem. I think you should overthink your premise and maybe take a more "tribal" = way more realistic approach or just write your story regardless of what would happen in the real world - who can prove you wrong anyways $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ You say consuming more ectoplasm will make the ghosts stronger. Do stronger ghosts have more influence on the physical world? Rather than just a gust of wind, can they manifest a windstorm? Or can they manipulate physical objects? If the strong ghosts can have an impact on the lives of humans, there would be much more incentive to destroy them. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ So, how would you define "peacefully coexist"? In the purest and most general sense, humans obviously don't coexist peacefully with anything, not even other people. Do you mean to ask "would such ghosts be functional members of our society?" Or are you simply asking "can such ghosts exist without all-out war between the living and the dead?" $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 19:52

8 Answers 8


Situation You describe is inherently unstable unless You put an upper limit to the amount of "ectoplasm" each ghost can consume.

Without this restraint there would be a full scale war between ghosts leaving just a one alive in each "zone" who will roam it and consume all "newborns" (obviously weaker) as soon as they emerge. Dimensions of the "zone" would be only dependent on how fast, efficient and relentless this super-ghost may be to his task.

In this situation "living" task would be to preserve their own "ghostiness" and also to shield it after birth/death.

You have better to introduce some kind of "ghost indigestion" refraining ghosts to consume more than a "soul" every 50 years.

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    $\begingroup$ And as soon as one of those Ghosts consumes all the ghosts of dear people who died, the living relatives will start researching a way to kill this monster-ghost who took the souls of their departed family and friends as revenge. $\endgroup$
    – Falco
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 13:41


If they exist, someone will find a way to kill them. Humanity doesn't exist peacefully alongside any thing or any one. There is nothing we have encountered that we haven't found a way to kill. Why would these ghosts be any different?

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    $\begingroup$ These ghosts would be different e.g. from animals because they're the spirits of people, and retain the memories and character of the departed. Living humans are just as capable of killing, and can be just as motivated by material gain to kill. So unless ghosts are feral shadows of their former living selves, or have no regard for their own existence, they'll stay in line because as you say a way to destroy them will certainly be discovered. So, if ghosts are well-behaved, then why wouldn't we get along? $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ A bad ghost just ate my grandpa. Who you would call? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ @talrnu because the spirit of your grandfather ate the spirit of my grandfather, because my mother in law was bad enough when she was alive, because I don't want them telling anyone where the bodies are hidden, because I can. The reasons are endless. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Those sound a lot like reasons already used to kill living people. Why would those reasons make it more difficult to live with ghosts than it is to live with the living? Unless you're saying we don't even coexist peacefully with ourselves, which... is not an invalid argument, I'd have to agree. $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @talrnu, I wouldn't kill my mother in law for being irritating (not that I have one) but I might methylate her spirit for it. As I said, we don't get on with anyone, ourselves included. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 7:11

In the current scenario, there would be 100 billion ghosts to only 7 billion living humans.

Therefore 107 billion * 2.5 Ectoplasm = 267.5 units of Ectoplasm.

The rate at which Ectoplasm is consumed by the ghosts will far outnumber the rate at which Ectoplasm is being created.

In the first 50 years, the ghosts will have consumed the Ectoplasm at a rate which would imbalance the food chain thereby causing anarchy and then total destruction.


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    $\begingroup$ Except that those ghosts have been eating each other all this time, so far fewer would remain. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ And ghosts would much rather eat other ghosts than humans, since humans create more food and ghosts do not. $\endgroup$
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 13:13
  • $\begingroup$ Your whole argument is based on the assumption that every dead person still has a ghost that is still trying to eat ectoplasm. Ghosts are eating each other, and most of them will not remain around. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 14:59

We'd all be still serving the ghost of some ruler of old. Possibly Genghis Khan.

Violent regimes sometimes get very stable, but death is inevitable, and you can always count on succession conflicts to eventually shake things up.

If we had a means of immortality as easy for the powerful as cannibalizing some peasant every 50 years, that removes the source of instability. The still-living nobility invested in the old order will still obey their dead ruler, assuming communication is still possible. Their services can be rewarded with something less than full immortality, to avoid unsustainable dynamics. They live 1000, 500, 300, 200, 100, or 50 years as ghosts, according to rank. The underclass is large enough to sustain the nobles' rewards, and no peasant ever lives as a ghost. The only one truly immortal is the one emperor.

So, worldwide, stable empire. Whether to call that "peace" is subjective. On one hand, repression and privilege. On the other hand, no wars.


The whole system is extremely unstable. Ghosts being able to consume others to not just sustain themselves, but make themselves stronger implies that sooner or later a soul hungry for power will consume more and more ghosts, while nothing would stop it from consuming humans in particular at the end of their life-span. As Nishanth Menon has already pointed out, there is by far not enough ectoplasm to support all ghosts. Before long, humans would have to be hostile and find ways to defend themselves or even destroy the souls of 'known' greedy and power-hungry persons directly after death as long as they are still week to prevent such a secnario.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting... the justice system could punish criminals by feeding their souls to ghosts. Helps alleviate ghost hunger, motivates good behavior in the living without affecting their quality of life, and ensures the criminally power-hungry will be too weak as ghosts to survive long enough to be a problem. $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 15:10

it sounds like living humans are helpless against ghosts, but ghosts can fight each other. as such, ghosts would protect the living souls the way we protect children. similarly, i imagine ghosts would continue to own their property the same way that the elderly continue to own their property. they may not be able to physically stop you from taking it, but other living people will defend ghost's property rights to ensure their own property is not taken upon their death.

if it is no more difficult to detect and punish soul theft than it is to detect and punish child abuse, then ghosts would probably be welcomed in polite society as well as any adult man. on the other hand, if detecting soul theft is much harder (e.g. because ghosts can walk thru walls), then ghosts might be banned from human settlements. even still, interaction would probably be peaceful.

this answer assumes ghosts have normal human motivations. if you modified your question to suggest ghosts had an overwhelming hunger for souls, then the outcome would be quite different....


The fact:

  • No one (almost*) would live forever. Thus, all people (or the majority) must accept this. Human 'Ectoplasm' cannot feed all ghost population forever. Therefore, some ghost must die.

    Ghost can kill human by eat all their Ectoplasm (effectively kill human when they actually die). Human can kill ghost with some 'special weapon'. In this war, human gain upper hand. Because when human kill ghost, ghost die. But when ghost 'eat' human, human does not die immediately. He will die until he 'die' as a ghost. So, he can stand an kill many ghost. Now, ghost must negotiate with human to exist.

In this situation, the social contract is required to keep everything in place. Government law can work too, but it have to begin with social contract.

'Ghost life' can be view as a part of human life. Well, consider when a people become 'ghost', he 'retired' from physical work (like you quit a job).

Let's view at 'in labor' and 'retired people' in real world. In labor population have to support retired population by some mean, direct (son support his old mom) or indirect (government via tax of in labor population). By any mean, however, retired population depend on in labor population to stay alive (or starving).

Let's apply 'in labor' = alive as human, 'retired' as ghost.
Direct support: family feed their love one so they can stay longer. For example, a husband loss his wife in car accident. He feed his wife, so they can stay together. He have enough 'food' for his wife until he 100 year old and die (as you said, 1 human = 2 ghost-food of 50 years).

Indirect support: Company paid for Ectoplasm to feed their worthy employee (with a lot of $, you can buy anything). Government tax Ectoplasm to feed their great leader (suitable for Communism or so).

Some crime may happen, live living people kidnap human to feed their 'ghost'. This is similar with Organ theft. How we deal with them may similar to what our real world do with organ theft.


I believe it's possible to keep a sustainable system and still making the balance delicate enough to allow for interesting stories to develop in your world.

Ghosts will eventually realize that they depend on the living to keep their existence; so it is likely that responsible ghosts will want to keep the living people with healthy souls to grow and consume later.

I'm going to sound a little cheesy with this, but imagine there is a way for ghosts to "farm" living people's ectoplasm. For instance, by making the living live richer experiences filled with strong emotions, their ectoplasm level could increase, allowing the ghosts to profit from the surplus. In that sense, "evil" ghosts could farm people by causing fear and "good" spirits could help the living by communicating about opportunities and transferring knowledge. Responsible ghosts can fight power thirsty ones, while evil ghosts can fight good ghosts for territory. Living people will likely side with whichever kind of ghost they prefer. Powerful or evil ghosts could ally with living individuals to gather living people in exchange of favors. Nice ghosts could likely roam around their living families to enrich their lives and keep evil ghosts away if in enough numbers.


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