The Legend of the Woman in White

Updated on November 26, 2018


The general term for this mythical creature is a "White Lady." She is also often known as a Woman in White or a Weeping Woman. A White Lady is a type of female ghost/apparition and is often seen in rural areas and associated with tragedy. The most common story behind this legend is that of a woman being betrayed by a husband or fiancé and then taking her own life.

In some myths, the women murder their own children after the betrayal of their spouse, and then commit suicide. These apparitions are often said to be harbingers of death. It is also often found under "Ghostly Hitchhikers" and the like because in some stories, she is seen by the side of the road, waiting for unfaithful men to pick her up.

The names "White Lady" and "Woman in White" refer to reported sightings describing these ghosts as a Caucasian females wearing a flowing white dress. "Weeping Woman" refers to a specific Hispanic Legend (explained below). Several variations of this myth from the United Kingdom, United States, Slavic mythology, and Brazil are also detailed below.

Though there are many apparitions that people give the "White Lady" title to, not all of them fit with the actual description of what she is. To claim a female spirit is, in fact, either a "White Lady," "Weeping Woman," or "Woman in White," she has to have been betrayed by a lover.

If this is not a factor, but the apparition still cries, "weeps," or screams when seen, then she might be described as a "Weeping Woman" even without a story of betrayal.

Hispanic Legend

La Llorona ("The Weeping Woman")

Though this story is often linked to Hispanic Cultures, it is popular within both North and South America. According to the myth, a beautiful woman by the name of Maria drowned her children in order to be with the man she loved. When he would not have her, she then drowned herself in a lake in Mexico City. It is said that in the afterlife, she was not permitted into heaven, having been challenged at the gate as to the whereabouts of her children. Maria was forced to wander the Earth for all eternity to search for her murdered offspring. Her constant weeping is what gives her the name "La Llorona."

In some versions, she will kidnap wandering children who resemble her own, or children who disobey their parents. People who claim to have seen her, say she only appears at night near rivers or lakes in Mexico. Some say that those who hear her weeping are marked for death.

Legend says she will cry "Ay, mis hijos!" which translates to "Oh, my children!"

United Kingdom Legend

When researching legends in this culture, the story of the White Lady of Willow Park fit the description the most.

Willow Park is a heavily wooded area in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, in Northwest England. This ghost is thought to be the tormented spirit of a bride who was drowned in the lake by her husband on their wedding night. Other variations of her death say that she was either trapped in a cave, or hung herself in the kitchen (though there is no mention of a husband in these accounts).

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn
Old Faithful Inn | Source

United States Legends

There are tales of a ghost, known by "The Headless Bride," who haunts the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park. She and her husband were on a trip to Yellowstone, where he supposedly gambled away all of their money. When the bride asked her father for money, he refused, leading to the husband beheading his wife and then fleeing the scene. According to the legend, she only haunts the Old House, since that was the only part that was built when she was alive.

This next story fits the description of a "Weeping Woman" more than a "White Lady."

In Mukilteo, Washington there have been many sightings just off of Clearview Drive in the forest. When night falls, rumor has it she will try to hitch a ride from drivers, or will stand in the middle of the road pointing before disappearing suddenly as if to trick them. There have been reports of crying and screaming around the waterfall on Clearview (giving her the "Weeping" title).

Clearview Drive, Mukilteo, Washington

Slavic Mythology

In Slavic Mythology, there is a similar creature called a Rusalka, which is a ghost of a girl or young woman who died violently. The young woman either committed suicide because she'd been betrayed by a lover, or was an unmarried pregnant woman when she died. Unlike the White Lady, the Rusalka may take the form of a ghost, nymph, succubus, or mermaid. They are more commonly known as "fish-women" who live at the bottom of rivers.

Rusalka ("The Mermaids")
Rusalka ("The Mermaids") | Source

Brazilian Legend

This legend is called Dama Branca or Mulher de Branco in Portuguese and is said to be the ghost of a young woman who either died in childbirth or from violent causes. People say she appears as a pale woman in a long white dress or sleeping gown, and although usually speechless, will occasionally recount her misfortunes.

In the Brazilian Folklore Dictionary by Luis de Camara Cascudo, this story is told as a ghost of a young white woman who was murdered by either her father or husband in an "honor" killing. The most common reasons for these killings were adultery, denial of sex, or abuse. Another book, Urupes by Monteiro Lobato describes a young woman who was starved to death by her husband because he suspected her of having an affair with a black slave and only gave his wife the stewed meat of his corpse for food.

Popular Culture/Media

  • The pilot episode of the horror/fantasy/drama TV show Supernatural features a Woman in White or Weeping Woman named Constance Welch. In the episode, her husband's infidelity drives Constance insane and causes her to drown her two children. After realizing what she had done, Constance took her own life by jumping off a bridge into a river. As a ghost, she hitchhikes for rides by unfaithful men and then kills them. If the man isn't unfaithful, she may force them to be with her, claiming they will be unfaithful. In this case, the ghost is afraid to return home because she cannot face what she did to her children.

Supernatural's "Woman in White"

The "Woman in White" from the pilot episode of Supernatural
The "Woman in White" from the pilot episode of Supernatural | Source

A Fan-Made Video (Not My Own) of the Woman in White on Supernatural

Similar Creatures

  • Bloody Mary (ghost or spirit conjured to reveal the future)
  • Banshee (a fairy woman who wail when someone is about to die)
  • Baobhan Sith (female vampire in Scottish Mythology)
  • Leannan Sidhe (Celtic folklore: a fairy woman who takes a human lover)
  • Huldra (a seductive forest creature in Scandinavian folklore)
  • Sayona (vengeful spirits of women who appear to unfaithful men - Venezuelan Folklore)
  • Soucouyant (Dominican, Trinidadian, and Guadeloupian folklore: a witch vampire)
  • Samodiva (woodland fairies found in South-Slavic folklore)
  • Cliodhna (Irish Mythology: Queen of Banshees)
  • Aswang (Filipino folklore: vampire-like creature)
  • Pontianak (Indonesian Folklore: vampiric ghost)
  • Manananggal (Filipino Vampire)
  • Rusalka (Slavic Mythology: female ghost, water nymph, succubus, mermaid-like demon)
  • Succubus (female demon that seduces men)
  • Mouras Encantadas (Portuguese and Galician folklore: female fairy)
  • Weisse Frauen (German folklore: elven-like spirits)
  • Witte Wieven (Dutch Mythology: elven beings known as "wise women")

The Woman in White

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    • profile image

      Lara Walker 

      14 months ago

      There is an American tale, most commonly "The Lady in White." There is one publishing of a children's tale, "The Woman in the Purple Dress". The story is the same: It's a dark and story night. A man picks up a woman in white to give her a ride home. He turns around and she's gone. So is his jacket that she borrowed. He goes to the door and there's an older couple. He asks them about this young woman. They explain that their daughter died in a car accident on prom night 30 years ago. On stormy nights like that one, she tries to get back home, but never does. They tell him where she's buried. He goes the next day to her grave and there is his jacket!

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Have you herd of the Adilade women in white?

    • chelseafrasure profile image

      Chelsea Frasure 

      4 years ago from Idaho

      I appreciate all these legends, but I definitely think that they all stem from a similar fear of a woman harbinger of death. :) Nice Hub!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Legend has it there are many women in white around the world. They are mistreated by their husbands (being cheated on, hit, etc.) then driven to kill their children for mental disorders such as manic depression and such, feeling guilty they commit suicide.In their rage they hitch hike near their death place and ask unfaithful men to take them "home" where they kill them.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      6 years ago from USA

      Congratulations on your Rising Star nomination. There are a lot of stories and legends about women ghosts, and you have recounted quite a few. Very interesting. Voted up


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