Created By: KoverasJuly 20, 2011 Last Edited By: KoverasJuly 27, 2011
Troped

A Projection, Not A Ghost

A ghost turns out to be a living person's Astral Projection.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
A character who looks, feels, and talks like a ghost turns out to be a living person's out-of-body experience. Common variations include:

  • The "ghost's" body "merely" lies in a Convenient Coma, but they don't know that and fervently believe themselves to be actually dead (especially if they Never Found The Body). A soul-body reunion in the end can help avoid what would otherwise become a Downer Ending.
  • A Haunted House turns out to be the one a character always sees in their dreams... because they are the one haunting it.

A Sub Trope of The Reveal and an Inverted Trope of sorts to Dead All Along. As this is a revelatory trope, spoilers will be found ahead.

Anime and Manga
  • In Kara No Kyoukai, the ghostly antagonist of the first chapter/movie turns out to be an out-of-body experience of a bedridden, blind girl named Fujou Kirie.
  • In Natsuneko's Blue Line, the ghost of Yuria's "dead" little sister Yui turns out to be her OBE while her body lies in coma in the nearby hospital.
  • Happens to Ash Ketchum and Pikachu in the Pokemon episode "The Tower of Terror" (which infamously spent a few years off the airwaves due to its title alone) after getting struck by a falling chandelier. As the three Ghost Pokemon show them what it's like to be ghosts, Ash befriends Haunter and, after being reunited with his body, asks him to help him against Sabrina back at Saffron City.

Film
  • In Just Like Heaven, it turns out that Elizabeth (Lauren in the book) is actually in a coma, and the protagonists have to get her 'ghost' back into her body before the hospital takes her off life support.

Literature
  • In The Dresden Files, in particular, the Ghost Story, Harry Dresden himself believes he is a ghost allowed to return to help his friends; turns out he is having an OBE while Queen Mab and Demonreach heal his body.
  • André Maurois' short story "The House". A woman repeatedly dreams of a house. One day she finds the house she's been dreaming of but the people who live there are frightened of her. When she dreamed of the house she appeared there as a ghost. The story was made into a segment of the Night Gallery show.
  • Poledra in The Belgariad appears occasionally as a ghost to aid the main characters, having died in childbirth some three thousand years previously. At the end of the Malloreon, she reveals she never really died at all, but faked it in order to carry out a vague plan to help uphold The Prophecy.
  • The ghost in The Time Of The Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones turns out to be one of these.
  • For part of Sean Williams' Changeling trilogy, the protagonist is assisted by the ghost of a friend who he thinks he saw die; later, he learns that she survived, but has been in a coma ever since, and is able to restore her.

Live Action TV
  • Soap ended with many plot threads hanging, including Jessica about to be shot by a firing squad in Central America. Next season, she shows up on spinoff Benson as a ghost which only Benson can see. But then she finds out she's not really dead, she's just in a coma in a Central American hospital.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "Day of the Daleks", the ghosts the Doctor is asked to investigate turn out to be projections of time travellers from the future.
  • In a sketch on The Benny Hill Show Benny plays a man who literally dreams of going out partying at night, getting away from his harridan of a wife. Then one day he's out in the daytime he happens by the very same place he goes in his dreams. Amazed, he knocks on the door. A bunch of women answer.
    Lead woman: You can't come in here!
    Benny: Why not?
    Woman: This place is haunted!
    Benny: dismissive Who by?
    Woman: YOU!

Real Life... kinda
  • In a famous Urban Legend, a woman has a recurring dream where she is wandering around a strange house. One day while she is driving she sees that house with a for-sale sign out front. She goes in to look at and finds out that it is extremely underpriced. When she asks the realtor why, the realtor says the house is haunted, but she doesn't have to worry about that, because she is the one who is haunting it!
Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • July 20, 2011
    ryanasaurus0077
    Title confused the hell out of me. OBE is better known in the UK as "Order of the British Empire", appearing after an honoree's name, eg Fred Bloggs OBE.
  • July 20, 2011
    ryanasaurus0077
    Sorry if you see my name above the above comment. I accidentally hit the wrong button while trying to make a new comment.

    Anyway, let's get down to business.

    Happens to Ash Ketchum and Pikachu in the Pokemon episode "The Tower of Terror" (which infamously spent a few years off the airwaves due to its title alone) after getting struck by a falling chandelier. As the three Ghost Pokemon show them what it's like to be ghosts, Ash befriends Haunter and, after being reunited with his body, asks him to help him against Sabrina back at Saffron City.
  • July 20, 2011
    Arivne
    Literature
    • André Maurois' short story "The House". A woman repeatedly dreams of a house. One day she finds the house she's been dreaming of but the people who live there are frightened of her. When she dreamed of the house she appeared there as a ghost. The story was made into a segment of the Night Gallery show.
  • July 20, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Soap ended with many plot threads hanging, including Jessica about to be shot by a firing squad in Central America. Next season, she shows up on spinoff Benson as a ghost which only Benson can see. But then she finds out she's not really dead, she's just in a coma in a Central American hospital.
  • July 20, 2011
    Ryusui
    I agree with the first comment. What the @#$% is an OBE?
  • July 20, 2011
    captainbrass2
    I agree with ryanasaurus that the current name will be confusing for most people. How about A Projection Not A Ghost instead?
  • July 20, 2011
    Generality
    Poledra in The Belgariad appears occasionally as a ghost to aid the main characters, having died in childbirth some three thousand years previously. At the end of the Malloreon, she reveals she never really died at all, but faked it in order to carry out a vague plan to help uphold The Prophecy.
  • July 20, 2011
    BlackMageJ
    In Just Like Heaven, it turns out that Elizabeth (Lauren in the book) is actually in a coma, and the protagonists have to get her 'ghost' back into her body before the hospital takes her off life support.
  • July 20, 2011
    foxley
    OBE is Out of Body Experience.

    In the Doctor Who serial "Day of the Daleks", the ghosts the Doctor is asked to investigate turn out to be projections of time travellers from the future.
  • July 20, 2011
    Xtifr
    I thought OBE was Order of the British Empire. I think the current title is way too unclear!
  • July 20, 2011
    ryanasaurus0077
    To captainbrass2: I didn't make that comment originally. The earliest one I actually made was the second one from the top. If you had actually read that, you'll see that I apologized for accidentally hitting the wrong button as I was trying to suggest an example.
  • July 20, 2011
    PaulA
    • The ghost in The Time Of The Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones turns out to be one of these.
    • For part of Sean Williams' Changeling trilogy, the protagonist is assisted by the ghost of a friend who he thinks he saw die; later, he learns that she survived, but has been in a coma ever since, and is able to restore her.
  • July 21, 2011
    Koveras
    @All the people who read the title but not the write-up and complained about the former: I realize that the "OBE" part can be easily confused with the British order, so I included a request for a better suggestion in the last line. I also explained the abbreviation "OBE" as "out-of-body experience" in the first line of the write-up. So far, I have received only one suggestion (A Projection Not A Ghost) and about three or four idle complaints. If you want to help, please do.
  • July 21, 2011
    Xtifr
    That one suggestion you have is already an improvement; I'd recommend substituting it for now, even if you still want further suggestions. That should cut down on the "I'm completely confused and need to express it" posts. I'm not coming up with much myself, maybe Still Living Ghost?
  • July 21, 2011
    randomsurfer

  • July 21, 2011
    JoeG
    • In a famous Urban Legend, a woman has a recurring dream where she is wandering around a strange house. One day while she is driving she sees that house with a for-sale sign out front. She goes in to look at and finds out that it is extremely underpriced. When she asks the realtor why, the realtor says the house is haunted, but she doesn't have to worry about that, because she is the one who is haunting it!
  • July 21, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In a sketch on The Benny Hill Show Benny plays a man who literally dreams of going out partying at night, getting away from his harridan of a wife. Then one day he's out in the daytime he happens by the very same place he goes in his dreams. Amazed, he knocks on the door. A bunch of women answer.
    Lead woman: You can't come in here!
    Benny: Why not?
    Woman: This place is haunted!
    Benny: dismissive Who by?
    Woman: YOU!
  • July 24, 2011
    Koveras
  • July 24, 2011
    Bisected8
    Looks ready to me.
  • July 24, 2011
    deuxhero
    Inverted in Planescape. The In Series Nickname for characters that travel the planes via the Astral Projection spell (instead of in-person) is "Ghost(s)"
  • July 24, 2011
    Koveras
    ^ Are there actual stories where this becomes a reveal?
  • July 24, 2011
    YapoolSeijin
    Western Animation

    • Futurama: This occurs when the programming of deceased robots are set as projections in a castle that Bender has to stay the night in (and ends up failing after running out screaming). Once the Planet Express team finds wires in the graveyard they disconnect them.
  • July 24, 2011
    arromdee
    Anime:

    Ballad Of A Shinigami has this in the last episode, where the shinigami shows an apparently dead girl what life is like after she's gone. Turns out the girl is not dead but in a coma, and recovers.

  • July 24, 2011
    Acebrock
    Video Games:

    Happens in the guantlet in Dragon Age. Whoever you failed to save in your character's origin is there to tell you that you should move on. The Dalish projection actually tells you it is this.
  • July 25, 2011
    bbofun
    Hate to be "that guy", but the current title is still problematic. I took it to mean that it's a fake ghost, created by a projector- as seen in many a tv show and movie.

    Maybe just add "Astral" in front of projection? Or, The Ghost Is Alive? Or just Not A Ghost? Our Ghosts Are Different (yeah, i know- just asking for trouble with that one).
  • July 25, 2011
    Koveras
    @Acebrock: Not sure about DA example. First, two out of three characters (Human and Dwarf Noble) are actually dead by that point, one is possibly executed (Magi), and anyway, the characters you meet are not their respective ghosts but the same spirit taking form of someone from your Origin.

    @bbofun: You pick now to object about the title rather than before I went to all the trouble preparing this for launch? -__- Very well, go ahead, do your worst. The Ghost Is Alive is non-descriptive because it suggests that the ghost is somehow alive, rather than it's presumably dead body elsewhere. Not A Ghost begs for the question "What is it, then?" and opens an ill-definable spectrum of possible answers.
  • July 25, 2011
    Tiiba
    A girl in Seirei No Moribito ends up this way after drinking wine with a magical flower in it.
  • July 25, 2011
    randomsurfer
    Seconding bbofun's suggestion of An Astral Projection Not A Ghost as the title.
  • July 26, 2011
    Koveras
    Isn't that a bit unwieldy?
  • July 26, 2011
    cityofmist
    One of the hauntings dealt with in Supernatural sometime in season three turns out to not be a spirit, but the projection of a girl in a coma.
  • July 26, 2011
    JoieDeCombat
    In the midst of all the actual ghosts in Psychic Detective Yakumo, one apparent ghost turns out to be the projected spirit of a terminally ill but still-living girl, whose anxiety about her impending death causes her to project her spirit to other people at night while she's sleeping.
  • July 26, 2011
    Koveras
    Isn't there a shorter word to express "Astral Projection"?
  • July 26, 2011
    bbofun
    Sorry- I haven't been on TV Tropes in a while (trying to un-ruin my life, I suppose).

    How about Ghost Of The Living?
  • July 26, 2011
    Koveras
    ^ Your life is forfeit, anyway, troper. Might as well just give up on it.

    Ghost Of The Living is the definition of an Astral Projection, as it doesn't convey the revelatory aspect of this trope.
  • July 27, 2011
    PaulA
    I like Ghost Of The Living.

    It's a ghost! ...of a living person!
  • July 27, 2011
    Koveras
    How about A Living Spirit Not A Ghost? An Astral Body Not A Ghost? If it has to be long, then at least with a meter...

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable