Horrifying History for Halloween – What was the first ghost?

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. Dating from around 2100 BC, it may be the earliest surviving great work of literature.

More importantly, with approaching Halloween, it records what may be the first ghost.

All my skin and all my bones are now dead

The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the adventures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The highlight reel includes slaying Humbaba , the ogre guardian of the Cedar Forest and Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven.

Enkidu ends up trapped in the underworld and dying – not for the first time. Gilgamesh, naturally upset with this state of affairs, prays to the gods. They raise up Enkidu to speak with Gilgamesh and tell him about the things he has seen in the underworld:

He [Nergal] freed Enkidu to speak once to kin and showed Gilgamesh how to descend halfway to Hell through the bowels of earth.

Enkidu’s shadow rose slowly toward the living and the brothers, tearful and weak, tried to hug, tried to speak, tried and failed to do anything but sob.

“Speak to me please, dear brother,” whispered Gilgamesh. “Tell me of death and where you are.”

“Not willingly do I speak of death,” said Enkidu in slow reply. “But if you wish to sit for a brief time, I will describe where I do stay.”

“Yes,” his brother said in early grief. “All my skin and all my bones are dead now. All my skin and all my bones are now dead.”

Chilling, no? Not to mention a spot-on description of grief.

Read here for the complete section on the Netherworld, or Tablet XII.

Enjoyed reading about the first ghost?

Click here for the fascinating real-life first Mad Scientist.