Calling ghosts are ghosts of the dead or spirits who call out the names of the living to attract their attention and lure them to their death.
Calling ghosts are rooted in the superstition that one should never answer the call of a stranger who knows your name and wants you to approach her, for she could be a calling ghost in disguise. The sirens of Greek Mythology are of this type of spirit.
The sirens were water nymphs whose beautiful singing lured sailors to their death. They lived on an island between Circe’s isle and Scylla. They sat on a flower bed surrounded by the rotting corpses of the men they had killed. In art, they were portrayed as beautiful women or as birds with women’s heads and upper bodies. Odysseus defeated the sirens by having his men plug their ears with wax. But because he wanted to hear the song himself, he had himself tied to his ship’s mast as it sailed past the sirens.
There is a strong tradition of calling ghosts in Hawaii. According to lore, they are disembodied female voices who call your name at your back and ask you to turn around. If you do so, you make yourself vulnerable to illness or death. They like to catch a person unawares so that the person reacts without thinking.
- Grant, Glen. Obake Files: Ghostly Encounters in Supernatural Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1996.