As the sorcerers’ war between Edward Cross and Martha Fokker heats up, Ivy McIlwraith finds herself on the sidelines, unable to help directly. But Ivy’s stock in trade, as a scholar and librarian, has been information, and she decided to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the two combatants. But before the night is over, Ivy will confront a new mystery that she must solve! Read chapter 31 of Martha’s Children, my serial of cops, vampires, and sorcerers in 1969 Chicago, to find out what dire threat Ivy faces!
Considering that they are usually considered undesirable creatures, I’ve found surprisingly little on how one gets rid of ghosts. The traditional ghost in British-American folklore comes back to finish business left undone in life, such as taking vengeance on the person who killed it. It generally goes away once the business is completed. More recently, people have called in mediums or other spiritualist, who either try to communicate with the ghost and get it to “move on,” or engage in some sort of spiritual cleansing ceremony to banish it. (Sometimes this is called an exorcism. I thought that term applied only to demons, but I’ve found out I was wrong.)
The horror movie classic, The Legend of Hell House (1973) supplemented the use of mediums with technology. In the movie, a physicist theorizes that ghosts are manifestations of electromagnetic energy, and deploys a machine to eradicate such entities. While the device fails, subsequent events show that the theory was correct. It was just that the ghost had anticipated such an attack, and had shielded its source of power! 1984’s Ghostbusters took the technology a step further. It featured ghost traps, technological devices that somehow sucked in and imprisoned ghosts.
But even before modern technology, it was possible to build a ghost trap. Ghosts are the souls of the dead, and any magic that could trap the soul of a living person could at least in theory do the same for a dead one. Mirrors not only reflected the image of souls (which is why vampires are often said not to have reflections), but could conceivably capture them. So a mirror ghost trap seems a likely possibility. Certainly I’ve encountered them in fiction.
Outside of the British-American tradition, the power of ghosts and the methods of removing them vary greatly. For example, several Icelandic sagas mention ghosts that materialize as superhumanly strong physical entities, and yet vanish into their graves. One of these is called a draugr. Just as they seemed both physical and spiritual, they could be banished by both physical and spiritual means. If one could wrestle them into their graves, something only a hero could manage, they would cease to trouble the living. Destroying the body by fire also worked, sometime. And in at least one case, in the Eyrbyggja saga, two gangs of them were forced out of a house through a spiritual judgment.
Ultimately, how you trap a ghost depends on whether you think it is a spiritual entity or a physical entity. Against the former, magic should prove effective. Against the latter, best hope that someone builds a Ghostbusters trap soon. The machine in The Legend of Hell House was too big to be portable.