Ghost Fence
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Basic Information

A ghost fence is a magical ward created from a row of severed heads impaled on poles. Traditionally the ward was most effective if the severed heads had previously possessed the same allegiances as the people you were trying to keep out - but in a pinch anyone's head would do.

This technique derives from the Celtic tradition and their erection and demolition was one of the mysteries of the Druids - it's not immediately clear what was meant to happen to anyone who crossed a ghost fence: probably a curse of some kind but they could equally well be prevented by a magical barrier, assailed by the bound spirits of the dead or afflicted by some other form of magical attack.

The Celtic ghost fence appears to have been intended to deter living enemies but similar barriers seem to exist in other traditions that are intended to deter the undead and/or other spirits and these may also be refered to as ghost fences.

A related concept is the sentinel head - a single severed head on a spike that was meant to scream when strangers violated the area which it guarded (generally a doorway or a clearing).


1. Appears several times in Bernard Cornwall's Warlord Cycle used, appropriately enough, by Merlin and assorted other druids.
2. A ghost fence also appears in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - in this case to serve the combined purposes of containing the contagion of The Blight, deterring the members of the Sixth House from wandering the island and containing various restless spirits.

Game and Story Use

  • The GM will need to figure out what ghost fences do if he's to use them in an RPG. NPCs might not dare to cross them, but you can bet a PC will be feeling lucky…
  • Note that crossing a ghost fence may invoke the law of consent against you and make it a lot harder to resist whatever attack you come under.
  • This is a good explanation for all of those heads on spikes that appear in various parts of the standard fantasy setting - most of them are (or were once) forming part of a magical barrier.
  • A ghost fence might be a good sign of an area protected by a significant druid, necromancer or shaman.
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