In Shawna Ryan's Water Ghosts, a town of Chinese immigrants in America is visited by three women who have sailed there on a boat. One of the women, Ming Wai, is the wife of a man from the town, Richard, the other two are not claimed. As the men in the town clammer all over themselves to court the two, and Richard slowly gets weaker, the story reveals the three women are all dead. They must have died in water somewhere, as they are now water ghosts. They can reclaim their earthly lives, but only if they are able to drown someone to take their place.
I have to say, Ming Wai's devouring of Richard's life reminded me of Beloved and Sethe, but what I was really reminded of was the movie The Ring. While the movie is much more intense with its purpose being to scare the living daylights out of a person, the idea is quite similar. Both feature a ghost who perished in the water, and wants something that's just out of reach.
Samara, the creepy ghost girl in The Ring, died in a well (*gasp* not another well!) after her adopted mother pushed her in, still alive. Not only that, but her birthmother tried to drown her in a fountain when she was just a baby. This girl does not have a friendly relationship with water, or mothers for that matter. By the end of the movie, Rachel, our main character, has figured all this out. She's even found the well, and brought the body out for a proper burial. What she doesn't realize, is that what Samara wanted wasn't peace, it was a mother. Queue the sequel!
Samara's birthmom, by the way. Real piece of work
Once Samara's soul has been released from the well prison, she attempts to take possession of Rachel's young son Aiden. She wants to take his place as her child, to finally have a real mother. She almost does it too, with Aiden getting weaker and weaker, only being able to communicate with Rachel when she's asleep. The only way to stop Samara is to trap her back in the well. Send her back to the water. Sound familiar? (cough, cough If you're not familiar with the book, the other two unnamed women are unsuccessful in swapping lives and end up re-drowning[?] cough, cough).
Being "sent back" is a big idea, especially in the second movie. Samara's birthmother attempts to drown her, and later explains as can be heard in the trailer, that children have to be sent back and their mothers have to oblige. Which makes it rather interesting that Samara is killed by pushing her into a well, a popular Gothic symbol that represents the womb. Not only was she sent back to the land of the dead (where her birthmom supposes children come from) but she was also metaphorically sent back to where she began, in a womb.
Oh my goodness, breakthrough! Ming Wai makes it back into the land of the living, and ends her story with the idea of possibly bearing a child. Samara was just pushed into a
womb well. She can be reincarnated as Ming Wai's future child! That'd be karma gold. Alright, you'll have to forgive me, it's late and I had far too much candy at the movies earlier. Moving on.
In both stories there is an antagonist whose goal is to gain possession of something they didn't have before or wanted to regain possession of. Ming Wai wants her life back. Samara would settle for a proper mother figure. Either way, the desperation felt by water ghosts who died before their time or whose lives were taken from them leads them to fight their way back. They seem to have unusual scope and unnatural powers, perhaps fueled by their anger and desire for revenge. This idea is also present in What Lies Beneath, as well as The Changeling. Both are worth checking out, even though I haven't gone into them here (trust me, you don't want to read the novel I could write if I talked about them ALL). So, the lesson for today kids, don't murder anyone in water. They will become stronger than you and scarier than you and then you will die. Most likely in a horrific way. Well, have a good day!
If you're interested in anything touched on in this post:
Water Ghosts can be picked up at your local bookstore or online (hint! I found a copy as cheap as 6 bucks on Amazon!)
The Ring can be streamed through Amazon Instant Video for $9.99
What Lies Beneath can also be streamed through Amazon for $9.99
The Changeling is a bit harder because of its age. With the Internet however, it's definitely not impossible
Same with The Ring 2, If I'm able to find it, so can you. I believe in you dear reader!