The twelve ghosts which make up the fictional "Black Zodiac" all have their own unique back story. Although these stories were not described in the film, on the DVD the production and make-up teams explain their guidelines. All the ghosts were contained in glass prisons. Dennis' psychic abilities and Cyrus' resources are used to catch them. Cyrus narrates each ghost's back story. 1. The First Born Son - The First Born Son is the ghost of Billy Michaels, a boy who was a fan of cowboy films. One day, a neighbor found a real steel arrow in his parents' closet. He challenged Billy to a duel, with Billy using a toy gun. However, his plaything was no match for the arrow, and he died when the neighbor shot it through the back of his head. In death, Billy is in his cowboy suit and holding a tomahawk, with the arrow still protruding from his head. His ghost whispers "I want to play". 2. The Torso - The Torso is the ghost of a gambler called Jimmy "The Gambler" Gambino. He spent most of his days on the track, making bets and brainwashed into winning. One day, he made a deal with a rich business man, and so sealed his fate. When he bet heavily on a boxing match and lost, he tried to welsh on his bet and slip out of town. The mob and the winning boxer, to whom he owed money, caught up with Gambino and cut him into several pieces, wrapping them in cellophane and dumping the corpse into the ocean. His ghost is just his torso, trying to walk around on its hands, while his head lies nearby screaming within the cellophane. 3. The Bound Woman - The Bound Woman was a cheerleader named Susan LeGrow, who was born privileged and had a penchant for seducing men and tossing them away. This left a long trail of broken hearts. When her boyfriend found her cheating he strangled her an killed the other boy. He buried her body at the 50-yard line of the local football field. The boyfriend was convicted and sentenced to death; before his execution, he was quoted as saying, "The bitch broke my heart, so I broke her neck." Her ghost is in her prom dress, hanging suspended by the strangling implements with her arms tied behind her back. 4. The Withered Lover - The Withered Lover is Jean Kriticos, Arthur's wife. She was burned severely saving her family from a devastating house fire and later died of her wounds in the hospital. Her ghost initially appears in a hospital gown, hooked up to an IV pole and showing severe burns on her face. Unlike the other ghosts, she is not a vengeful spirit, electing to help her family rather than show malevolence. At the end of the movie, she appears fully healed and in her normal clothing. 5. The Torn Prince - The Torn Prince is the ghost of Royce Clayton, born in 1940 who was a gifted baseball star in high school, albeit with attitude issues and a superiority complex. In 1957 he challenged a greaser named Johnny to a drag race, but was killed as his car spun out of control and flipped over; the cause of the accident was a cut brake line. He was buried in a plot of earth that overlooked the baseball diamond. His ghost carries a baseball bat, and in the background in his cube his wrecked car can be seen. Half of his body is torn to shreds from when he was dragged under the car. 6. The Angry Princess - The Angry Princess is Dana Newman, who did not believe in her own natural beauty. Abusive boyfriends fueled her low self-esteem, which led to much unneeded plastic surgery for imagined defects. Eventually she got a job working for a plastic surgeon, getting paid in treatments rather than cash. Alone at the clinic one night, she tried to perform surgery on herself, but wound up blinding herself in one eye and permanently mutilating herself beyond saving. She committed suicide in the bathtub by slashing her body repeatedly with a butcher knife. When she was found, people noted that she was as beautiful in death as she had been in life. Her ghost is naked, still carrying the knife she killed herself with and showing all the wounds, and the inside walls of her cube are splattered with her blood. In her bathroom scene, the phrase "I'm sorry" is visible on the floor in blood; subtitles also reveal that the blurred, hissing speech that announces her arrival is her whispering "I'm sorry." This was written on her suicide note. When her cube opens, she advances toward Ben Moss, who backs up into an open doorway to get away from her and is killed when it snaps shut on him. 7. The Pilgrimess - The Pilgrimess is the ghost of Isabella Smith, an Englishwoman who traveled across the Atlantic and settled in New England during colonial times. She was an outsider to the town she moved into, and this isolated her from the other townsfolk. She was found guilty of witchcraft after livestock began to die mysteriously; when she emerged from a burning barn completely unharmed, she was sentenced to the stocks (pillory) with no food or drink until she died. As a ghost, she is still locked into her stocks. 8. & 9. The Great Child and The Dire Mother - The Dire Mother is the ghost of Margaret Shelburne, who was an attraction in a carnival due to her being only three feet tall. She was raped by the "Tall Man," another carnival freak. Her son Harold (the Great Child) was born as a result of that rape; he eventually weighed over 300 pounds (136 kg). Harold, spoiled, was raised as his mother's protector and kept a child-like mindset, to the point that he wore diapers his entire life. One day some of the carnival employees decided to play a little practical joke on Harold, and kidnapped his mother. Enraged, he set out to look for her, but when he caught up with the culprits, he found that his mother had accidentally suffocated to death in the bag that she was kept in. Harold killed the kidnappers with an ax, keeping their remains and displaying them for paying customers. Later, when the owner of the carnival found out what Harold had done, he ordered a mob of people to tear Harold apart. Their ghosts are always together, and Harold still wields the ax and wears a bib stained with food that his mother has spoon-fed to him. An alternate version of the story is told in the DVD commentary. It was said that their deaths were caused by the Great Child rolling over on the Dire Mother while asleep, thus suffocating her, then him starving to death. 10. The Hammer - The Hammer is the ghost of an African-American blacksmith, George Markley, who lived in a small town in the 1890s. He was wrongfully accused of stealing by a white man from his town, and when threatened with exile, refused to leave town. A gang led by his accuser hung his wife and children and burned their bodies; in revenge, George used his sledgehammer to beat the culprits to death. He was then subjected to a cruel form of frontier justice by the townsfolk, being chained to a tree and executed by having railroad spikes driven into his body with his own sledgehammer. As a final touch,they cut off his hand and attached the sledgehammer - handle and all - to the hand that was cut off. His ghost is seen with the railroad spikes protruding from his body and a sledgehammer for a left hand. 11. The Jackal - The Jackal is the ghost of Ryan Kuhn, who was born in 1887 to a prostitute. Ryan had an insatiable lust for women, rape, and murdering prostitutes. Wanting to be cured, he committed himself to Borehamwood Asylum, but after attacking a nurse, he was put in a straitjacket and thrown in a padded room. After years of this imprisonment he went completely insane, scratching at the walls so violently that his fingernails were torn completely off. The doctors kept him permanently bound in his straitjacket, tying it tighter when he acted out, causing his limbs to contort horribly. Still fighting to free himself, Ryan gnawed through the jacket until the doctors finally locked his head in a metal cage and sealed him away in the dark basement cell. There, he grew to hate any kind of human contact, screaming madly and cowering whenever approached. When a fire broke out in the asylum, everyone but Ryan escaped. He chose to stay behind and face the fire. As a ghost, his arms are free from his jacket, and the bars of his cage are ripped outwards, showing that he may have escaped his bindings again sometime before the fire started and that his cage may have heated up enough to where he could have ripped it open before the fire consumed him. 12. The Juggernaut - The Juggernaut is the ghost of a serial killer named Horace "Breaker" Mahoney. Standing seven feet tall, he was of such grotesque height and appearance that everyone ostracized him as a child. His mother abandoned him at birth, so his father raised him - putting him to work in the junkyard crushing old cars. After his father died, Horace was left on his own, and soon went mad. He would pick up female hitchhikers and drive them back to his junkyard, then tear them apart with his bare hands and feed them to his dogs. One day he picked up an undercover female police officer, who called for backup, for a SWAT team to surround the junkyard. Since close combat was impossible, the police instead struck the yard, and arrested the giant. However, Horace broke free from the cuffs, and three officers lost their lives. Quickly, five SWAT officers, took out their guns and brought Horace down in a hail of bullets. When he finally went down, they shot an extra round into him, just to be safe. His ghost still shows bullet holes all over his clothing, and the wound that finished him.
In the movie, the characters need special glasses see the ghosts. In the original 13 Ghosts (1960), viewers needed special glasses to see the ghosts. This is one of the few details from the original that was kept.
Shawna Loyer attracted a small cult following thanks to her brief role as the Angry Princess. A rumor circulated that the role was actually played by porn actress Aria Giovanni using a pseudonym, but this is incorrect (Ms. Giovanni was in an adult parody titled Thirteen Erotic Ghosts (2002).
The budget, opening weekend box office gross, and box office gross overall of this film are all virtually identical (within one million dollars) to that of House on Haunted Hill (1999), which opened almost exactly two years earlier. Both films were adapted from stories written by Robb White and originally directed by William Castle.
In the special features section on the twelve ghosts of the Black Zodiac, the back-story for the Bound Woman ghost shows a newspaper clipping regarding her death. It includes a reference to an "Inspector Lebeda" - William Lebeda and Picture Mill created the titles for the film.