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Are ghost-type Pokemon formerly Pokemon of other types that have come back as ghosts, or were they born as ghosts?

The fact that they can breed with other ghosts in the daycare center and have ghost eggs would imply that they are born as ghosts.

On the other hand, the Pokemon tower in Lavender Town is said to be resting ground of deceased Pokemon, but it is full of mostly ghost Pokemon, although the one ghost that is explicitly stated to be a deceased Pokemon is shown in its original form (rather than as a Gastly or Haunter, for instance).

Given this, my thought would be that ghost-type Pokemon and ghosts of Pokemon are two separate concepts, and that the ghost type is a reflection of their incorporeal nature, rather than an indication that they are deceased former Pokemon.

Is there any official in-game material that definitively answers this question?

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    There's definitely backstory surrounding ghosts/spirits and the afterlife in Pokemon. In the first generation, players have to find the Silph Scope in order to be able to identify the 'Ghost' as Cubone's mother and lay it to rest. Then there's Lampent - who's description reads "The spirits it absorbs fuel its baleful fire. It hangs around hospitals waiting for people to pass on.". However 'Ghosts' and Ghost types are mostly seperate concepts. If you reworded this to focus on the concepts of ghosts in Pokemon instead of 'where do they come from' it may be reopened. I can't guarantee however – Robotnik Mar 13 '14 at 7:44
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    Oh, and I forgot Yanmask!: "Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry.". Freaky Nintendo. Just freaky. – Robotnik Mar 13 '14 at 7:45
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Are all Ghost-type Pokémon the ghosts of Pokémon? Certainly not. Best way to sleuth this out is simply to read Pokédex entries on Bulbapedia (reading them all in-game would require about a dozen games):

Gastly:

Born from gases, anyone would faint if engulfed by its gaseous body, which contains poison.

Yamask:

Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry.

Banette:

A doll that became a Pokémon over its grudge from being junked. It seeks the child that disowned it.

Phantump:

According to old tales, these Pokémon are stumps possessed by the spirits of children who died while lost in the forest.

Ghost-type Pokémon are a collection of beings that are either literal ghosts (Yamask), poltergeists (Banette) or simply unusual beings that have properties similar to ghosts (Gastly). Some, but not all, Ghost types can actually be ghosts of Pokémon though. Drifloon is the only one I've found:

Drifloon:

A Pokémon formed by the spirits of people and Pokémon. It loves damp, humid seasons.

Most Ghost types are simply referred to as being "spirits" that inhabited some sort of object or spontaneously generated some sort of body. "Spirits" is usually left ambiguous, though several entries specifically mention human spirits, and fewer mention Pokémon spirits. And many simply have no explanation for their existence (Duskull and Misdreavus. And Frillish which doesn't even make mention of any ghostly properties at all other than a grim malice).

The anime apparently has a "Ghost World" which is a home to Ghost Pokémon, which is implicitly the one mentioned in Dusknoir's Pokédex entries:

The antenna on its head captures radio waves from the world of spirits that command it to take people there.

  • Spiritomb X/Y entries, and for a different take on mythology Dusknoir – user98085 Mar 20 '14 at 14:03
  • @FEichinger yeah Spiritomb is one of the more generic "spirits" that seems like it could be pokemon or humans. Several entries just mention "a spirit" or "spirits" rather than humans or pokemon. I'd assume the ambiguity is deliberate, since the Yamask, Phantump and Jellicent entries show no compunction against implying the death of humans – Ben Brocka Mar 20 '14 at 14:12

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