In the plantation region of the Sambirano Valley in north-west Madagascar the spirits of wandering foreign dead haunt the region's forests. They are the displaced ghosts of migratory Antandroy, drawn here in search of employment. As pastoralists from the island's distant, arid south, Antandroy as an ethnic category are juxtaposed to self-perceptions voiced by indigenous Sakalava, whose kingdom coincides with this Valley. Tandroy difference is defined in reference to local constructions of savageness and strangeness: as pastoralists they are obsessed with herds; they migrate; they willingly participate in wage labour. In life, they are tolerated ‘guests’ of the region but in death they frustrate Sakalava with their persistent presence. Unlike any other migrant group, deceased Antandroy may continue to haunt the region, begging and stealing what is not rightfully theirs: food, wives, work, and fortune. Close analysis of these perplexing spirits reveals a localised ambivalence that characterises migrant identity and the meaning of work in an urban community shaped by the forces of multiculturalism and capitalism. By virtue of their persistent presence within the social and sacred geography of the Valley, the Tandroy dead threaten the integrity of Sakalava identity in a community (and nation) where indigenousness is defined by rootedness to the land. Central to the arguments presented here is the potency of the spiritual stranger, a social category that extends the anthropological analysis of religious appropriation beyond the boundaries of possession and embodiment. Further, the decipherment of complex meanings associated with alien spirits emerges ultimately as key to more general understandings of the symbolics of difference.