Created By: PapercutChainsaw on October 25, 2011 Last Edited By: Arivne on June 12, 2016

Trapped On The Astral Plane

A ghostly reality on top of our own...

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Trope
A character has somehow been transferred to another plane of existence. Not ascended to a higher one, mind you. This is just an invisible world sitting "on top" of the one we live in. Beings trapped in it can observe our world and move around in it, but are unable to interact with anything or anyone. Their friends will not be able to see or hear them, and they will pass straight through any solid objects they come across.

Some variations involve the character leaving their body behind in the physical world, but others have them disappear from this world entirely. Generally speaking, this trope should only include living characters, since we have other tropes for ghosts and spirits.

Other residents of the astral plane may include magical creatures, spirits, ghosts, Energy Beings, or even just a whole crew of other humans who were trapped in it over the years. Science fiction variations are also possible, but are less likely to be already inhabited when a character enters one.

Subtrope of Layered World. May overlap with Phantom Zone, Spirit World and Astral Projection (often combined with Power Incontinence or An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost). If the trapped character finds someone who can see the astral plane, expect them to ask "You Can See Me??"

Examples

Comic Books

Literature
  • In The Skin Jacker Trilogy, children who get lost on their way to the afterlife (or who are in a coma) go to Everlost, which is the same as Earth, except invisible to living humans, and the only "solid" objects in it are places and objects that were greatly loved and/or left its mark on history. Certain children can interact with the living world by "possessing" living humans or "ripping" objects out of the living world into Everlost.
  • Sophie's World has a variation on this, in which all fictional characters, including Sophie herself exist in a world on top of the "real" one, able to observe real people, but generally not being able to interact with them.

Live-Action TV
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation Due to a transporter malfunction Geordi & Ro are phased out of sync with the rest of the universe. They can see everyone else but nobody can see them, so people think they're dead.
  • Sliders episode "Gillian of the Spirits". This happens to Quinn when the wormhole gets struck by lightning.
  • Charmed had more than one example, including an episode where Piper and Leo ended up on another plane thanks to a plot of Gideon's, and an episode where Piper was badly wounded by some demons and ended up on the astral plane, where she met Cole.
  • Stargate SG1
    • In one episode Daniel ends up on another plane thanks to a crystal skull that was also an alien teleport device. Only his grandfather, who had been exposed to the device before could see him. For a while he thought he'd died, before the truth came out.
    • In another episode, Carter and Daniel get stuck in another plane of existence and can only communicate with the rest of the world by tapping the keys on the device that trapped them there in the first place.

Other Sites
  • SCP Foundation, #451 "Mister Lonely". He's a former agent, who can be detected by the Foundation but he can't perceive them. At first, he thought that everyone else had vanished.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang (being the Avatar and all) is more spiritually-attuned than most, and has had to travel to the Spirit World on several occasions. During at least one instance was Aang permanently trapped there with no knowledge of how to escape. Luckily for Aang, he's bailed out by his past life, Avatar Roku.
  • In the Aladdin: The Series episode "As The Netherworld Turns", Iago and Abu are sent to the Netherworld by the Eye of Gazeem, an artifact they find in Jafar's old lab. They can't interact with anyone living and no one can see or hear them, and the only way they can communicate is through people's dreams.

Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • October 25, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Sliders: "Gillian of the Spirits"- this happens to Quinn when the wormhole gets struck by lightening
  • October 25, 2011
    Astrokid248
    Charmed had more than one example, including an episode where Piper and Leo ended up on another plane thanks to a plot of Gideon's, and an episode where Piper was badly wounded by some demons and ended up on the astral plane, where she met Cole.

    Stargate SG1 has an episode where Daniel ends up on another plane thanks to a crystal skull that was also an alien teleport device. Only his grandfather, who had been exposed to the device before could see him. For a while he thought he'd died, before the truth came out.
  • October 25, 2011
    Astrokid248

    Stargate SG1 also had an episode where Carter and Daniel get stuck in another plane of existence and can only communicate with the rest of the world by tapping the keys on the device that trapped them there in the first place.
  • October 25, 2011
    X2X
    Western Animation
    • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang (being the Avatar and all) is more spiritually-attuned than most, and has had to travel to the Spirit World on several occasions. During at least one instance was Aang permanently trapped there with no knowledge of how to escape. Luckily for Aang, he's bailed out by his past life, Avatar Roku.
  • October 25, 2011
    randomsurfer

    See also Just One Second Out Of Sync.
  • October 26, 2011
    Ninjat126
    • There is an SCP based around this. He's a former agent, who can be detected by the Foundation but he can't perceive them. At first, he thought that everyone else had vanished.
  • October 28, 2011
    cityofmist
  • October 28, 2011
    Arivne
    ^ Didn't Roy die before this happened to him?
  • October 28, 2011
    Koveras
    ^ He did.
  • October 28, 2011
    DRCEQ
    X Men: The Shadow King is trapped in the astral plane from a point of origin at Mt. Kilimanjaro. It's for the best that he stays there.
  • October 28, 2011
    Dawnwing
    • In The Skin Jacker Trilogy, children who get lost on their way to the afterlife (or who are in a coma) go to Everlost, which is the same as Earth, except invisible to living humans, and the only "solid" objects in it are places and objects that were greatly loved and/or left its mark on history. Certain children can interact with the living world by "possessing" living humans or "ripping" objects out of the living world into Everlost.
  • July 29, 2012
    TBeholder
    A bit of mix-up, though can be improved.

    I Want To Talk, But I Am A Ghost?
  • July 30, 2012
    AgProv
    Graham Masterton's Night Walker series of horror novels, in which a group of people capable of walking the Astral become a sort of Dream Police sworn to fight back nightmare intrusions - like Captain Zed And The Zee Zone for adults. Having your astral body sundered from the physical body - and effectively dying in your sleep while your conscious essence roams, never to return - is a very real horror.

    The "Richelieu" horror stories by Dennis Wheatley, while very seriously dated, also deal with the theme of the Astral Plane and the things that can happen there - like one's wandering soul being trapped or seperated from its body by the powers of Evil. His novel The Ka Of Gifford Hillary deals with exactly this. (the Ka is an ancient Egyptian name for the astral body). Richelieu, btw, is an old French occult adept pledged to Good.

    In fact: part of the folklore and occult significance of the Astral Plane is that this is the wonderland to which our astral body - or soul-matter - goes at night while we apparently sleep: its memories of wandering in the Dreamworld, or unheeded and un-noticed in the real world, are the stuff our memories of dreams are made of.

    The western animation for children - Captain Zed And The Zee Zone - is in fact the perfect expy of this trope, in that it deals with dream policeman Captain Zed, who patrols the Dreamworld (Astral Plane) of children to keep nightmares out. (It may sound twee, but it is British animation. Twee it is not - and very, very, funny.)
  • July 30, 2012
    HonestGent
    Video game example in The World Ends With You, where the protaginists, having died, can still interact with the real world in limited way, but those still alive are totally oblivious to their presence.

    The films 'I Know Who Killed me' and The Lovely Bones have a similer ideas as plot points, but it's been a while since I've seen them so I'm not sure they fit the trope all that well.
  • July 30, 2012
    PapercutChainsaw
    Not sure whether to include ghosts and afterlives in this one, since we probably have other tropes for that. Most of the time, it's a sort of Spirit Realm, and the characters are able to come out of it alive.
  • July 30, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the opening of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season six, Willow gets trapped on the astral plane - she can see Buffy and everyone else, but nobody except Spike can see or hear her. She eventually gets better.
  • July 31, 2012
    captainpat
    The description would be better without the Example As A Thesis.
  • July 31, 2012
    TonyG
    In the Aladdin episode "As The Netherworld Turns", Iago and Abu are sent to the Netherworld by the Eye of Gazeem, an artifact they find in Jafar's old lab. They can't interact with anyone living and no one can see or hear them, and the only way they can communicate is through people's dreams.
  • July 31, 2012
    LeeM
    Music: some of the unfortunate astronauts in Van Der Graaf Generator's "Pioneers Over C" seem to undergo such a fate ("People around, No one to touch")
  • August 6, 2012
    Dawnwing
    Let me rephrase the Skinjacker Trilogy one, as I made it sound like a totally seperate afterlife.

    • In The Skinjacker Trilogy, children who get lost on their way to the afterlife (or who are in a coma) go to Everlost, which is a plane layered on Earth, except invisible to living humans. If you're on the Everlost side of things, you can see Earth and the people walking around on it, but nothing is "solid" (i.e. if you stand still, you can slowly sink through the ground all the way to the center of the earth) unless it's a place or object that was greatly loved and/or left its mark on history, or if someone died there. Certain children in Everlost can interact with the living world by possessing ("skinjacking") living humans or "ripping" objects out of the living world into Everlost.
  • August 6, 2012
    captainsandwich
    This happens to Fin and the Ice king in Adventure Time, they actually are able to exert a weak influence onto the 'real world' though. However on the 'real world', which I assume the Ice King is native to, he can see things on the other plane with his "wizard eyes" but can't interact with it (or at least doesn't know how).
  • August 29, 2012
    Koveras
    • This is what happened to Brogan Dace in the Dragon Age Origins DLC The Golems of Amgarrak: you find him stranded on one of the reality layers of the eponymous Thaig, mentally unhinged and unable to figure out a way to return to the material layer.
    • In the end of Dreamfall The Longest Journey, Zoe is left comatose and unable to wake up, but since she is a Dreamer, she still can travel other worlds as a material "ghost".
  • September 14, 2013
    DAN004
    So this would be a plot trope rather than a setting trope, amirite?
  • September 14, 2013
    DracMonster
    Does this have to be about being trapped? I think just title it The Astral Plane.

    Several examples are also Barred From The Afterlife.
  • September 14, 2013
    Earnest
    May require an Orphean Rescue to save the lost.
  • September 14, 2013
    PapercutChainsaw
    ^^^ Yes, that's right.

    ^^ the concept of an astral plane is covered by Layered World. This is about a plot element.
  • September 14, 2013
    zarpaulus
    In the second Stargate SG 1 example it was initially Carter and Mitchell, not Carter and Daniel. Though Daniel did end up on the same plane later on in the episode, which sped up the resolution of the issue as he could read the Ancient text the device was projecting on the Astral plane.
  • September 14, 2013
    azul120
    • Adventure Time: In "Beyond This Earthly Realm", Finn gets trapped in the astral plane after touching an ancient artifact, where all of the spirits roam. Much to his chagrin, the only one who can see him is the one person who can see into the supernatural realm, the Ice King.
  • September 15, 2013
    Morgenthaler
    Stargate SG 1 and Charmed should be properly indented. And Aladdin The Series has its own page now.
  • September 15, 2013
    DAN004
  • September 15, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced work titles and corrected improper Example Indentation.
  • September 15, 2013
    DAN004
    @OP: You may want to change the laconic so to make it clear that this is a plot trope. Drac Monster got confused already. :P
  • September 2, 2015
    zookx1
    Suggested addition: Jackie Chan Adventures has this happen to Jade, and possibly others (been a long time since I saw the series).
  • September 2, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Literature
    • This is the method used by the Three Ghosts of Christmas in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer Scrooge back in time to his younger days; the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge on a tour of the lives of his fellow men; and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows Scrooge the wretched fate that awaits "if these shadows remain unaltered." In every case, Scrooge can witness everything transpiring, but can manifest no effect thereon.
  • September 3, 2015
    Arivne
    Compare Remote Yet Vulnerable, which can occur if they left their body behind on the material plane.
  • September 3, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Comic Books
    • In Young Justice, Secret spent most of the series trapped between the world of the living and that of the dead as a result of her evil brother sacrificing her as part of a ritual to gain powers. The final issue has her turned back into a normal girl.
    • In Project Superpowers, Fighting Yank dies and becomes stuck on the astral plan after he agrees to take his ancestor's place in exchange for receiving enough power to save his friends from a deadly situation.
  • September 3, 2015
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • As long as there are believers, the Guardians in Dream Works' Rise Of The Guardians are large and strong and able to influence events on Earth. However, to nonbelievers, the Guardians are invisible and immaterial, almost to the point of nonexistent. Also, as their believer count dwindles, so does the Guardians' size and strength.
  • September 3, 2015
    Darthcaliber
    Jackie Chan Adventures: The sheep talisman grants the user the power of astral projection. The first time Jade used it Shendu's spirit took over her body trapping her astral form out of it as long as he was inside.
  • September 4, 2015
    Arivne
    Added information to the SCP Foundation example and changed it to Other Sites because it's a Wiki.
  • September 7, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Add to Star Trek The Next Generation
    • In "Realm of Fear" Lt. Barclay thinks he's seeing things while being tranpsorted and thinks he has Transporter Psychosis, but he's actually seeing some people trapped in whatever they transport through when using the transporter. Barclay grabs one of them and hauls him back into reality, and then some security officers are sent in to rescue the rest.
  • September 7, 2015
    SolariusScorch
    • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward, Ling and Envy are swallowed by Gluttony and end up in an Another Dimension of his stomach, which is impossible to leave. Naturally, they find a way.
  • September 9, 2015
    Chabal2
    The Authority: One arc had a supervillain's organization kidnap baby Jenny, them and their base overlapping with New York while being invisible and intangible explained away as existing at different vibrational frequencies.
  • September 27, 2015
    DAN004
    Bumpeth
  • June 11, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Thrown in a hat.
  • June 12, 2016
    DAN004
    Who's managing this now?
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