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Val Kaliban is one of the world's greatest escape-artists, and uses his extraordinary abilities together with special effects to commit spectacular crimes and make people believe he was a real ghost. After several battles with Batman, he is defeated and beheaded by Damian Wayne.


Earth One[]


Val Kaliban was an architectural draftsman for a legal engineering firm involved in city planning for Gotham City. Kaliban tampered with the plans for its maximum security prison, to permit the construction of a network of secret passages throughout the prison. After the prison was built, Kaliban intended to use the secret passages to release convicts for a high price.

Kaliban murdered his superior at the engineering firm, because he had learned of Kaliban's plan. Sentenced to die in the electric chair, Kaliban found a look-alike and somehow substituted the look-alike for himself. The double was executed, while Kaliban, believed dead, remained at large. Kaliban then made certain that the Gotham maximum security prison was built the way he desired.


Ten years after his supposed execution, Kaliban, in the costumed guise of The Spook, offered "escape insurance" policies to criminals for a price. The Spook guaranteed that he would free any of his policy holders who were imprisoned. The shrouded rogue first reappeared in a puff of smoke inside the jail cell of "Big Turk" Ramis, "four-time loser and one-time syndicate boss". Despite being imprisoned in an escape-proof new maximum security penitentiary, Ramis was assured by the Spook that he could be freed easily. Because Big Turk had refused to accept the hood's "introductory offer," his "'escape-insurance' policy will cost you double!". Within minutes, Ramis' cell was empty, save for a Spook doll atop his bunk.

Taking part in the subsequent manhunt for Big Turk, Batman began to wonder if the Spook might be the bigger threat. Stopping to arrest two small-time hoods, the Dark Knight found them surprisingly cocky, confident that they would be freed with ease. En route to the police station, Batman was forced to bring the Batmobile to a screeching halt when the Spook himself sprang up in his path. Leaving the vehicle to investigate, Batman quickly realized he'd been duped "by the simplest fool-the-eye 'illusion' stunt in the magic books! An inflatable 'Spook' figure ... blown up by underground city-steam" from a man-hole. Alerted by the abrupt absence of his car lights, Batman turned to find "my Batmobile -- my prisoners -- the whole works -- gone!". The vehicle eventually turned up -- minus the prisoners -- in the police department impounding lot, complete with a Spook mannequin cuffed to the steering wheel. It was soon revealed that the villain had an elaborate surveillance system in place, one that tracked beepers on multiple "clients" throughout Gotham, alerting the Spook when one of them was taken into custody. Discovering such a device on the recaptured Big Turk's glasses, Batman took his place and returned to prison, anticipating a face-to-face encounter with the spectral racketeer. The Spook had anticipated Batman, who was unaware that there was a back-up beeper on Ramis, and he sent a hypnotized surrogate in his place.

After the Spook succeeded in breaking a number of criminals out of prison, Batman discovered the secret passages, eventually tracking the villain to his nerve center, based in an abandoned section of the Gotham Subway tunnel. Defiant to the end, the unmasked villain vowed to Batman that "neither you nor all the bars in creation will ever hold the Spook!". A fingerprint check came back with positive identification on the mastermind's identity -- and a stunning fact: "Ten years ago -- Val Kaliban was executed in the electric-chair!"

Always a man of logic, Batman was confident that all of the rogue's seemingly unearthly escapes had a simple explanation. "Make no mistake, we're dealing with a man -- not a 'spook' who can cheat even the electric chair!". With Alfred Pennyworth and investigator Jason Bard recruited to draw the Spook into the open, Batman trailed him to the site of the now-abandoned original Gotham prison and ended up in a seeming deathtrap. Even strapped to the same electric chair that "killed" Val Kaliban, Batman beat the odds and brought the Spook to justice.

Discussing methods of keeping Kaliban in custody with Commisioner Gordon and the warden, Batman produced "the product of Kaliban's supreme ego ... a blueprint I found while searching his hideout." The warden continued, "He couldn't resist the challenge to design an escape-proof cell not even the Spook could break out of." The case had an impact on Batman's life in other ways. Framed for the murders of Ra's al Ghul and Talia only months later, Batman was able to escape prison only thanks to one of the Spook's as-yet-unsealed secret passageways. In later years, Batman had transformed a portion of the abandoned subway tunnel into a secondary Batcave that was situated near the Wayne Foundation building.

Later, the Spook resurfaced briefly in Detective Comics #526. He, along with Mr. Freeze, Black Spider, and Signalman ambushed Batman, Catwoman, and Talia. Talia fired into the Spook's chest, only to have the real Spook seize her from behind. "You can't kill a spook,....but he can kill you!" Talia, however, easily defeated the Spook, using a judo move to flip the Spook over her back and allowing for Batman to capture him once again.

New Earth[]


Val Kaliban was previously an architect of prisons in Gotham City, as well as an operative for the U.S. Government. On one mission, Kaliban was given the job of working with rebels and American oil magnate Morris Baron to assassinate the dictator of small South American nation, Santa Terre. However, Kaliban and the rebels were betrayed by Morris who had struck a deal with the dictator. Many of the rebels were massacred while survivors, including Val, were tortured leaving Val as the sole survivor.

After this, Kaliban became the ghost inspired, "Spook" to eliminate those involved in the massacre. Spook killed three of his targets, including Barron before being stopped by Batman. The fight with Batman caused Spook to fall out of a helicopter to his apparent death though he was found out to have survived.


Val was institutionalized within the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum under Jeremiah Arkham. When Jeremiah was manipulated by Mister Zsasz into incarcerating Batman in the asylum. Spook was amongst the inmates released on Batman in Jeremiah's, "Punishment Room" to get vengeance on him. Spook appeared in costume beside Black Mask and in-between Two-Face and Riddler before being defeated by Batman.

On a later incident, Spook was imprisoned within Blackgate Prison rather than Arkham. When Gotham was hit by an earthquake turning it into a No Man's Land, Spook did not try to escape and as a result was later let out on parole. However, Val returned to crime but was tormented by Batman and other heroes into handing himself in to authorities.


Upon learning one the prisons he designed was to be demolished, Val kidnapped the mayor of Gotham. Spook's plans were foiled by Batman's biological son Damian Wayne who murdered Val, shoving a grenade in his mouth and decapitating him. Batman and Commissioner Gordon found Val's body without the head while Damian brought the head back to the Batcave to torment Batman's adopted son Tim Drake, before attacking Tim and knocking him off a cliff.

Powers and Abilities[]

The Spook was a master escape artist second only to Mister Miracle (Scott Free) and Batman. He was also trained in the art of hypnosis, and could easily manipulate the weak-minded. His aptitude in this arena was so strong that he once convinced a death row convict to take his place in the electric chair. The Spook utilized a wide array of gadgets and devices in order to simulate various supernatural effects. Some of these devices include inflatable effigies of himself that can float through the air, finger-tip and boot suction cups for scaling buildings, and smoke machines for obscuring the perceptions of others.