According to Wikipedia, a ghoul is " an evil spirit in Arabian mythology, associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh. The oldest surviving literature that mention ghouls is likely One Thousand and One Nights. The term was first used in English literature in 1786, in William Beckford's Orientalist novel Vathek, which describes the ghūl of Arabian folklore".
So the word is of Arabian origin - ghūl - and it is an 'evil spirit'. T C Lethbridge, however, gives a better and perhaps more helpful definition:
T C Lethbridge – Ghost and Ghoul
The word 'ghoul' is used to describe a feeling of oppression and horror which is often accompanied by the sensation of intense cold. I have met the ghoul on several occasions. It is not a premonition, and it is not a ghost, which is a visible thing. Neither has it the properties of a poltergeist.
As far as I am aware, it is never seen, but I may be wrong in this, for many ghost stories appear to combine the ghoul and the ghost. All that I can say is that I have never experienced the two together.
Figures in the mist | by Helgi Skulason
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