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When Whisper was seven his mother was murdered by a mysterious shadowy figure. Finding a gold coin left beside his mother's body he took it and did not pass it to the police. The coin belonged to Charon, the ferryman who takes the dead over the river Styx, one of many carried by Charon. The ferryman wants his missing coin back but cannot see Whisper while he holds the coin.
The coin allows the carrier to see and interact with the spirits stuck on earth – this includes ghosts, demons, angels, nature spirits and other such ethereal beings. It also makes him immune to death – but not pain.
He came by the scythe, Acerbus, later. It is an intelligent object, imbued with the spirit of an imp. While mischevious and often prone to leading Whisper into danger, Acerbus has a care to ensure Whisper's safety. The imp's motives in doing so however remain unclear. As a reaper instrument he noticed Whisper and thought he was one of Charon's minions. Only once bonded to Whisper did Acerbus realise his mistake.