The ghost of a person on the verge of death. According to lore the wraith appears as an exact likeness of its human counterpart, and commonly reveals itself to the friends and family of the person who is about to die. If a person is unfortunate enough to see his or her own wraith, it is regarded as heralding death within a fortnight. The tradition appears to have developed from the ancient belief that a person’s soul is a precise duplicate of the person’s physical form and that it escapes the body when death is imminent. Perhaps the most famous example occurred to the poet Shelley (1792–1822), who supposedly saw his own wraith as he was about to step on a boat which was to take him across the Bay of Spezia in Italy to the town of Livorno and a meeting with his old friend, Leigh Hunt. A storm hit the boat on the return trip and Shelley drowned, fulfilling the tradition of the wraith.
See also Doppelgänger.