Ghul, Ghulah, Ghul of the waste, Grave-creature, coffin-fiend. Etymologically "Ghul" is a calamity, a panic fear; and the monster is evidently the embodied horror of the grave and the graveyard. It is sometimes confused with the Indian Vetala. The star Algol is also named after this creature from Arabian legend.
Ghouls have their origin in the Arabic/Persian/Indian tales of Alf Laylah wa Laylah - the Thousand Nights and a Night and in their root stories. The Arabian ghoul lures travelers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them, and also robs graves and feeds on the flesh of the dead, or on young children. As a result of this latter habit, the word ghoul is also used to refer to an ordinary human grave robber, or any individual who delights in the gruesome or morbid.
Some occultists believe that the Ghoul superstition comes from wild animals that disturb graves at night. It is also seen as an embodiment of the natural fear and horror which a man feels when he faces a really dangerous desert.
Ghouls are considered to belong to a true monster race. Allegations that ghouls are created by contamination or when a mortal drinks the blood of a vampire are totally false.
Sir Richard F. Burton, nineteenth century translator of the Nights, wrote some interesting foot notes on the subject
Arab. "Ghul," here an ogre, a cannibal. I cannot but regard the "Ghul of the waste" as an embodiment of the natural fear and horror which a man feels when he fases a really dangerous desert. As regards cannibalism, Al-Islam's religion of common sense freely allows it when necessary to save life, and unlike our mawkish modern sensibility never blames those who
Alimentis talibus usi
Produxere animos. ("Employing such food extend lives.")
The Ghulah (Fem. of Ghul) is the Heb. Lilith or Lilis: the classical Lamia; the Hindu Yogni and Dakini; the Chaldean Utug and Gigim (desert-demons) as opposed to the Mas (Hill-demon) and Telal (who steal into towns); the Ogress of out tales and the Bala yaga (Granny-witch) of Russian folk-lore.
Forms and functions
Ghouls are true cannibals but do not seem to prey on humanity only through necessity. Their appetite is nearly insatiable. In modern fiction, ghouls are often confused with other types of undead, usually the mindless varieties of vampires and zombies. Although modern fiction (post-1968) suggests that the latter beings share cannibalistic habits with ghouls, it is nonetheless generally believed that vampires and zombies prefer live prey and focus on blood or brains.
The Arabian ghoul is known as a desert-dwelling, skin walker demon that can transform itself into the guise of an animal, especially a hyena but in the modern fantasy lore, ghouls do not shift are often described as having the following strengths and weaknesses.
Humanoid. They are gaunt in the face with bulging yellowish eyes, and large mouths lined with rows of tiny razor-sharp teeth. They have long and lanky arms with clawed hands, and they walk on short, sinewy legs. Their skin is a thick and fibrous hide, usually of a light blue-gray color large. Ghouls often appear naked, or wearing the last vestiges of clothing they wore before they became a ghoul. They crave on mammalian flesh (preferably human) taken from the living or recently-dead. They can normally be found prowling cemeteries at night for the newly buried corpses.
Ghouls have relatively low intelligence and are incapable of articulated speech. They have a only a basic understanding of simple tools, and are fundamentally driven by their instincts and lust for food. They are primarily nocturnal, preferring the cover of night to satisfy their vast appetite for human flesh.
When discovered, they will usually hiss and growl to ward off intruders and, if that fails, they will attempt a quick escape. Ghouls will only fight if they are cornered, or if they outnumber the living by at least three to one odds. Single ghouls have been known to attack infants, children, and in rare cases - wounded or sickly adults.¨
The ghoul is impervious to pain, does not age, needs no air to breathe, and is immune to drugs, poisons, and gases. Guns and knives can wound these creatures, but they will not destroy them, as the ghoul possesses remarkable regenerative powers, enabling them to withstand large caliber weapons and even small explosives.
The ghoul's strength level is at normal human-levels, but they are extremely agile and fast. They use their large claws for digging and cutting through flesh.
The ghoul possess keen night vision similar to a vampire's, and can smell human flesh (alive or dead) from up to a mile away.
Despite their cowardly demeanor, the ghoul can be dangerous. Attacking unmercifully to bring their victims down, especially when they hunt in packs. With their razor-sharp claws and teeth, a pack of four ghouls can bring a full-sized adult human down and devour in under 5 minutes, leaving only the bones for remains.
The ghoul is a nocturnal creature, and is repelled by sunlight and artificial light. Although neither cause them any real harm, their speed and strength can be drastically reduced when subjecting them to daylight, making them easier to destroy. Ghouls are highly susceptible to fire, and this is the best way to destroy these fiends. A ghoul can be burned and subsequently destroyed by concentrated acid or electrocution as well. Decapitation is also another effective way to destroy a ghoul.