Yūrei are a type of Japanese ghost, usually female (though males do exist), traditionally shown as wearing all white with long black hair that hangs in front of their face. They are typically bound to specific places or things, and often have a mission of vengeance.
Yūrei have been featured in such movies as The Grudge, The Ring and Silent Hill in the U.S., which unfortunately led to some confusion among U.S. audiences that the characters were somehow the same in each of the movies. Western audiences were not familiar with the look of the Yūrei, which share very little in common with the “transparent man in a sheet” type of Western ghosts. As J-Horror remakes continue to be made, it’s likely that American audiences will eventually learn to accept the look of this new type of ghost.
Yūrei are often Onryō, a ghost seeking vengeance and tied to the physical plane by strong emotions, usually anger. Kayako from The Grudge (seen above) is a perfect example of Onryō. Samara Morgan (or Sedako) of The Ring would also be an Onryō, but while she does thirst for vengeance, she seems to have transcended the traditional role of the vengeful spirit to become more of a plague-like being bent on the destruction of all who watch her tape. This is not quite in keeping with the Onryō.
Unlike Western ghosts which may have limited ability to interact with the physical world, Yūrei seem to have no problem passing through the boundary between the land of the dead and the living. Western ghosts are also often susceptible to exorcism, while Yūrei often can never be truly defeated or banished. Yūrei rarely desire to communicate with the living, and they are often less concerned with frightening someone as they are outright killing them. Yūrei curses are often so potent that even those who had nothing to do with their vengeance are pulled into the curse and punished – they are indiscriminate killers.
Of all the ghosts of the world, Yūrei are some of the most dangerous. They cannot be reasoned with, contained or destroyed, and often they cannot be banished by any means. They have near unlimited power in meting out their curse and often will punish anyone and everyone who gets in their way. They act more as a force of nature than a simple vengeful spirit, like a tsunami of evil compared to the simple thunder storm of Western ghosts.