Ghosts premiered in May 1882 in the United States, when a Danish touring company produced it in in Chicago, Illinois, at the Aurora Turner Hall. Ibsen disliked the English translator William Archer's use of the word "Ghosts" as the play's title, as the Norwegian Gengangere would be more accurately translated as "The Revenants", which literally means "The Ones who Return".
The play was first performed in Sweden at Helsingborg on 22 August 1883.
The play achieved a single private London performance on 13 March 1891 at the Royalty Theatre. The issue of Lord Chamberlain's Office censorship, because of the subject matter of illegitimate children and sexually transmitted disease, was avoided by the formation of a subscription-only Independent Theatre Society to produce the play. Its members included playwright George Bernard Shaw and authors Thomas Hardy and Henry James.
Ghosts was first produced in New York City on 5 January 1894. It was produced again in 1899 by the New York Independent Theatre with Mary Shaw as Mrs. Alving. Russian actress Alla Nazimova, with Paul Orleneff, gave a notable production of Ghosts in a small room on the Lower East Side. When Nazimova was a student in Russia, she wanted to “play Regina for my graduation piece at the dramatic school at Moscow, but they would not let me. Ghosts was at that time prohibited by the censor, because it reflects on the Church.”
The play received many European performances. In its 1906 production in Berlin, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch was commissioned to create the original stage designs.
A Broadway revival of Ghosts ran from 30 August to 2 October 1982 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in New York City, and starred Kevin Spacey as Oswald in his Broadway debut. The cast included Edward Binns, John Neville (who also directed the production) as Pastor Manders, Liv Ullmann as Mrs. Alving, and Jane Murray as Regina.
A touring UK production, designed by Simon Higlett and inspired by Edvard Munch's original stage designs for a 1906 staging in Berlin, began performances at Kingston's Rose Theatre in the United Kingdom on 19 September 2013, prior to an official opening on 25 September. Directed by Stephen Unwin, the cast included Patrick Drury as Pastor Manders, Florence Hall as Regina, Kelly Hunter as Mrs Alving, and Mark Quartley as Oswald.
An award-winning 2013–14 London production opened at the Almeida Theatre on 26 September 2013 and transferred to the West End at Trafalgar Studios on 9 December, running through 22 March 2014. Adapted and directed by Richard Eyre, it featured Lesley Manville, Jack Lowden, Will Keen, Charlene McKenna, and Brian McCardie. Manville and Lowden won Olivier Awards for their performances; Manville also won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actress, and Lowden also won the Ian Charleson Award. Eyre won the Evening Standard Award for Best Director. The production also won the Olivier Award for Best Revival, and received Olivier Award nominations for Best Director and Best Lighting Design. A filmed February 2014 performance of the production screened in more than 275 UK and Irish cinemas on 26 June 2014. The entire filmed performance is viewable online. The production was also adapted for radio by director Richard Eyre, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 15 December 2013 and re-broadcast on 26 April 2015.