(Image by Amastroph)
When it comes to the subject of Ghost-types, the question on whether they are dead or alive is an interesting one. While other types are clear that the Pokémon is alive, the Ghost-type is different because these spectral fellows are normally associated as dead beings since our understanding of ghosts is one of having an absence of life. Perhaps this needs to be investigated, so if you want to read more, let’s delve into this and go on.
So, the first question one must ask is, why are ghosts normally seen as “dead”? Perhaps it is the fact that people believe that there is life after death, and our limited understanding is that the second life manifest itself as something that exist in our world, since the idea on what the other world is like is beyond us. Because of the soul’s lack of a physical station, something intangible yet visible is imagined, thus we have the concept of ghosts. In this case, it’s a form of reincarnation.
This is supported by the PokéDex, in which there are entries for certain Ghost-types that mentioned them being a manifestation of dead people. Some examples include Yamask, Froslass and more recently, Phantump. It is unclear if this is actually true, since we never see this in any form of media. Perhaps it would have been too heartbreaking, or there would be a moral dilemma as a result. Imagine this: a friend of your is reincarnated this way, and then you use it as your Pokémon in battles (thus making them subservient, in a way).
A graveyard area, such as the Lavender Tower and the Celestial Tower, are places where Ghost-types could be found. One could infer that those who are dead is reincarnated this way, which is why there is an abundance of Ghost-types in said areas. Another theory could be that they are there for the soul feast, since some Ghost-types are soul-eaters, such as Litwick and Haunter. This extends to the other various Ghost-types in other places, such as the seas (Frillish), forests (Phantump) and caves (Misdreavus).
Ghost-types could also be a product of the manifestation of the emotions from dead Pokémon or people, and usually it means it is more malicious in nature. Consider that Ghost-type moves are malicious themselves: do Spite, Grudge and Curse mean that they will benefit the victim? One such Pokémon in which this is clear is Shuppet, who owe its existence to revenge on negligence.
There are other instances of ghosts, but not as Ghost-types. There is a difference. While the latter is a type of Pokémon, the former is referring to real ghosts. The best known ghost is the Marowak in Lavender Tower, in which it was more of a spirit in unrest. Based on this, it is possible that the spirit of Pokémon could return if they have some unfinished business. There are ghost people mentioned as well, though it is quite a rare sight.
Not every Ghost-type are ghosts, because there are quite a few based on artificial objects. Golett and Honedge are clearly based on something man-made, so they might not even be reincarnated or being dead in the first place. Since they are soul-powered, perhaps the life they are given is otherworldly in nature, kind of a parallel of how other living things live.
What about Pokémon that evolves into a Ghost-type? The only two Pokémon to do this are Shedinja and Snorunt. In Shedinja’s case, it is more of a discarded skin given life, since Ninjask is the main result (note that Nincada could evolve into two Pokémon, and Shedinja only gets in if there is room). What about Snorunt? One could argue that when Snorunt evolves, it “dies” due to the Ghost-type is supposed to be “dead”.
There is also the possibility that Ghost-types are alive, only merely taking characteristics common among ghosts.
They May Be Alive
There is reason to believe that Ghost-types are actually alive, as in, they never require death in the first place. Tangibility is something found on Ghost-types. When we think of incorporeal bodies that result in death, perhaps they couldn’t be touched since they are just a spirit. The fact that they could be touched could mean that they have a body like any other animal, and their ability to be intangible is one of the abilities.
It is true that Normal- and Fighting-type attacks cannot affect them, but consider that you have ways around this, them being Odour Sleuth, Foresight and Scrappy, meaning that the intangibility isn’t absolute. Moreover, Physical attacks that are not either of those types could affect them even if they are supposed to be immune to anything physical. In that case, what kind of material are they made of? Perhaps spirit energy could be it, with a bit of flesh. Of course, it is easier to comprehend the tangibility of possessed objects.
Ghost-types could even execute activities that living things could do, namely eating and breeding. Usually, these activities are confined to things that still live, so this is proof that they could do these is an indicator that they are living things. Speaking of living things, some Ghost-types resemble living things themselves. Jellicent, for example, is a jellyfish (interestingly, Jellicent was originally a pure Water-type before the change). Sableye is more like a goblin, which is while a fantastical creature, is nonetheless living. In that case, it’s all the more plausible that they are based on living things.
If Ghost-types are alive, then the Ghost-type could be more like a characteristic that manifest itself in physical form and give a Pokémon special abilities. On the physical side of things, a Ghost-type isn’t necessarily just a spirit in visible form, but it even include shadows and possessed things. By being a Ghost-type, they are able to go through objects like ghosts would be able to do, perhaps in their default mode. Invisibility is another trait. Examples include Phantom Force and Shadow Force, as they encompasses both abilities of going through things and invisibility.
Trick-or-Treat, a move learned by Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist, merely gives an extra Ghost-type on another, which is temporary I should add. Since it doesn’t actually kill that target, considering how something dead cannot be revived, that move only gives Ghost-type characteristics and nothing more.
Having a Ghost-type Pokémon as being mortal could be a good thing, since anything that dies and becomes Ghost-types could be a source of overpopulation. For one, death numbers cannot be reduced, so as time goes on, there will be even more Ghosts. There is also the fact that if a Ghost-type dies, would they be reincarnated into another Ghost-type? Perhaps it could be explained that Ghost-types cannot die, but still, the point stands. If that were to be the case, then it’s little wonder Ghost-types are super-effective against itself, as well as the ability of some Ghosts to consume spirit energy: to control the overcrowding.
To conclude, since this is a fantasy universe, the room for interpretation is open on if Ghost-types are dead, or whether they are a result of dead people/Pokémon or living things. There might be a set of rules governing this question, so it’s probably not quite clear-cut. There are ghost people and ghost Pokémon (not Ghost-type, like Marowak), but they are classified as dead, and not Ghost-types. From my point of view, it is either, meaning that dead people/Pokémon could be given a second life, and then it’s the end.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it.
Thanks for reading.