Aeris's (Aerith's) ghost refers to an event and a glitch that occur in Final Fantasy VII. Both the event and the glitch allow the player to see Aeris at the Sector 5 slums church. While there is no explanation for either event, they are widely believed to be the ghost of Aeris.
When returning to Midgar after Cloud Strife rejoins the party after the events in Mideel, Aeris comes into view on the flower bed. She flickers and disappears when the player moves across a certain spot on the ground, or attempts to leave the church. Moving across the spot on the ground when approaching the scene cancels the event permanently, as Aeris's appearance is a one-time-only event.
It is possible to move next to her if the player moves past the spot next to the broken pew before the location fully loads. In this case Aeris will not disappear, but she cannot be interacted with. The two kids' dialogue is different while Aeris is on the screen, and changes after she has disappeared when the player moves across the designated spot. The player can only have the first set of dialogue if they use the aforementioned trick of moving past the spot that makes Aeris disappear before the area has fully loaded.
Witnessing Aeris tending to the flowers is a one-time event. The point in the story where the Aeris event activates in the church is after defeating Jenova∙LIFE, but the player cannot yet return to Midgar at this point. The first time the event can actually be seen in a normal playthrough is after Cloud has been saved from Mideel.
Within the game's Debug Room the player can find options for triggering the Aeris tending to the flowers in the church. If the 'After Aeris's death' option is selected in the Debug Room, the game will teleport the player to the church, where Aeris will be tending to the flowers.
The event can never occur if the player talks to the Innkeeper during the Kalm flashback and selects the option "Let me know the situation of the town." after talking to him a second time. It is unknown why this stops the event from occurring since it is unrelated to Aeris and the church. That the event can be prevented by talking to the Innkeeper is likely a programming error.
Before defeating Jenova∙LIFE, or if the player talked to the Nibelheim Innkeeper about the situation of the town, it is possible to see Aeris in the church, however, she will not be tending the flowers, but will appear in the center of the church facing the entrance, and will disappear when the location is fully loaded. While Aeris tending to the flowers seems to be something purposely put into the game, this Aeris is not. Regardless of whether the tending Aeris will appear when entering the church or not, a number of oddities will occur as the location loads.
When the location is entered the boy and the girl will be standing in the center of the room facing the entrance, and Reno is at the bottom of the screen. After this the boy is moved to his position on the left side of the flowers, and his pose changes so that he looks to the right. The girl is moved to her position on the right of the flowers, and her pose is changed to look over the flowers in the same way. Reno disappears altogether.
If the event where Aeris tending to the flowers will not occur, then Aeris will appear in the center of the room in the same place the boy and the girl are. Only one character can technically appear in the spot at a time, and the girl only appears after the boy is gone, and Aeris only appears after the girl is gone. Due to the screen fading in from black, Aeris is the last thing seen and therefore easier to notice by the player.
There is a further difference to the loading scene depending if Aeris tending to the flowers appears or not: the loading of the positions will work at different speeds. All the events are rectified quicker if Aeris isn't meant to appear tending to the flowers than if she is. If she is set to be tending to the flowers, then the boy and the girl can be easily seen in the middle of the screen as it is loading, as is Reno at the bottom of the screen.
The boy and the girl appear in the center of the room before being moved to their set positions, while Aeris can appear in the center of the room in one scenario before disappearing. This occurs because characters are set an initial position just as they are set other positions when certain events occur. However, when the location is entered, the initial positions for the characters do not load and they are placed in the center of the location instead as a default position. Along with initial positions, movements and stances are also set, which is the explanation for the boy and the girl changing their positions during the location's loading.
Reno appears as the scene is loading. His appearance is a glitch, and his appearance also explains why Aeris appears in the center of the room when she is not meant to be seen tending the flowers. There are a number of different characters who appear in the room: the two children, Reno, Cloud, and the soldiers. The location appears to load all these characters as the player enters, but when the location is fully loaded all the characters not intended to be there are removed. Cloud appears in the scene as the player controls him, Reno appears at the bottom of the screen, and it can be assumed the soldiers also appear, but they are off-screen behind Reno.
If the tending Aeris does not appear, she is seen in the center but disappears. Only the tending Aeris is seen if she is meant to appear. This can be explained as the tending Aeris image's initial location is already set, and therefore she does not appear in the center of the room first.
Dummied NPC near the church
The area left to the church with a save point has dialogue assigned to a non-player character who is never actually seen there, although his dialogue can still be viewed in the game's script files. Among the lines this scrapped NPC says is the following line:
- "I saw her!
- I really did!"
- "This woman just disappeared!
- Right there around the old church."
- "I waited around a long time,
- but she never came out again!"
- "I tell you, it's one of them
- ...haunted churches!
- Ohhh... shiver... shake..."
Even if the deleted NPC may be referring to the time Aeris escaped the church through the roof, meaning the NPC would not have seen her leave the church, it is interesting that he would refer to the church as a haunted place, fitting for Aeris's ghost to appear there.