They are said to look like a beautiful but very skinny lady carrying a red lantern in the shape of a peony flower, dressed in an amazing kimono. Hone-onna sometimes appear, later, as fully skeletal, though they are also pictured with only the hands or head as bones.
Not much is known. Perhaps they are the ghosts of wives killed by their husbands so they could marry another, younger woman, which would explain their need to seek out men and lay with them - only to steal their life afterwards.
Hone-onna are said to visit men and seduce them in the hope of sleeping with them. Similarly to the Succubus in the Western world, the story goes that they kill men by extracting their lifeforce or by grabbing their hands and holding them until the victim becomes a skeleton itself. But there are also stories telling of Hone-onna who are good to Humans, helping them find their way home at night.