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Headscratchers: The Sixth Sense
If by some chance you don't already know the secrets of this movie, you might want to stop here, because there are many unmarked massive spoilers ahead.

  • Why is the movie called The Sixth Sense? He sees dead people. Sight is one of the five senses. Its an extension of one of the five senses, not a sixth one.
    • He sees DEAD people, you know, ghosts. Some people think that seeing ghosts and spirits and whatnot require a sixth sense. Hence the title of the film.
      • Let's not forget the scene where Cole explains to Malcolm that prickly sensation where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. That sounds pretty sixth sense-y to me.
    • I'm not at all certain if it's literal sight. In film they have no choice but to use two senses to represent all sorts of different things (imagination, hallucination, visualization, metaphor, and in this case, psychic phenomena), and of course a child wouldn't know how else to express the experience in words but to refer to it as though it were literally "seeing" dead people, and would be so used to the experience that he no longer consciously recognizes the difference between it and "ordinary" sight. Or maybe he does literally see him and they just needed a snazzy title. Alliterations sell.
      • If it were him taking visuals that are indistinguishable from normal sight, that would still be sight, just sight of a different kind. Similar to using infrared goggles - you're seeing things the naked eye could not, but you're still seeing them. If he could mistake regular sight for sensing ghosts, then it has to be sight.
    • A sense is a means in which your body perceives outside stimuli, the way in which you conceptualise it is related, but not the same thing. The actual mechanics of the boy's power are unexplained, but I'm going to guess that it is not a case of light reflecting off a ghost, hitting his eye and being picked up in this manner. He clearly has some ability to pick up stimuli that normal humans lack, hence an additionalnote  sense.
    • It comes from old folk tales where such things (seeing dead things, talking to spirits, etc) were considered an additional sense as they were something above and beyond the senses everyone else had. More broadly, it's not a literal bodily sense, it's a extraordinary/spiritual/non-tangible/non-physical sense. It's using these older definitions.
  • Why is the boy's mother taking him to see a dead psychiatrist?
    • She isn't. The psychiatrist finds the boy, and it's presented in such a way that the unspoiled viewer erroneously fills in the blanks and thinks the mother arranged it.
    • If she had, I'm sure she could find a much better dead psychiatrist than Bruce Willis.
    • The way I originally interpreted it was that Bruce Willis's character was put on the case before he died, hence why he shows up at the kid's house at the beginning. However, the mother doesn't know that he's hanging around all ghostly and still being a therapist; as far as she knows, he passed away and she's on the waiting list for another guy/Cole is seeing another therapist on the side/she gave up on the idea of therapy.
      • The same reason all the other ghosts do. He needs help getting closure.
  • Does Cole realize this guy helping him is dead, too, or is he fooled in the same way as the viewer?
    • He knew from the word go. Notice how he always treats Willis warily, and says "You can't help me," and "Oh. You're one of the nice ones." Never drawing attention to Willis, touching him, or asking his mom about him. Part of his "therapy" could be considered his relationship with Bruce changing his POV on all ghosts being evil/bad/threatening, to "they need help, which I can give them".
    • How would he know he's a ghost upon first contact? (Note: Title Drop, maybe?) He feels eyes on him when Willis is around him near the bench, but when he follows him into the church he is totally unafraid upon seeing him and appears not to recognize him as the presence he felt before. Even if he did make the connection, that wouldn't prove the guy watching him was a ghost. Willis's wounds are covered up and since he's not in the room with anyone while he's pissed off until the end, their breath is never visible. But Cole is uncertain, starting to get a little paranoid about everyone he meets since he's around ghosts so much these days, and says, " going to see you again...aren't I??" He's wary again when Willis shows up at his home, but he warms up to him quickly and once again, has no proof that he is a ghost. If the idea is still in his head at all later in the film, he's probably pushed it out by the time it suddenly hits him, during the infamous "I see dead people" scene. That's when the shit hits the fan. You can see the fear flood into his eyes when Willis tells his story because he realizes he's heard stories like this before. He knows this mentality. He's been hanging out with a ghost! But he decides to stick with him. Because they've already started to grow close and, as he tells Willis later on, "If you can't help me, no one can!"
      • At the absolute latest, Cole has to know Malcolm is a ghost by the time they talk after the Sword in the Stone play. He's happy because for him, things have taken a turn for the better, yet he's also on the verge of tears and can't quite keep his smile - watch that actor, the boy is amazing! That's why he thinks they won't be seeing more of each other - he's heard Mal's story, he knows this will have given him the closure he needed, and now he'll be moving on.
      • It's firmly established in the film that people can detect ghosts, but don't - it gets cold when they get emotional - it's cold in Cole's house, and when Willis figures it all out at the end you can see his wife's breath. One can easily assume that someone as sensitive as Cole can tell a ghost from a mile away no matter how the ghost is feeling.
      • Do note that after Cole and Malcom's first meeting in the church, that Cole, on the way to the exit, loots one of the religious figurines from a nick-knack table. Apparently, he feels the need for an additional protective totem for his anti-ghost tent at home. Interesting...
  • The boy says that ghosts 'don't know they are dead'. Wouldn't the trio of ghosts hanging from nooses in the school hallway notice the rope? Or the fact that they've been hanging around (sorry) for a number of centuries?
    • The implication is that ghosts have a very diminished awareness, sort of their own personal Weirdness Censor. They continue as if they were alive, not noticing any signs that their life is over and the world can't see them. Otherwise, they would have all figured it out very quickly.
    • They probably think they're still dying and the strangely dressed people are part of a really weird dream.
    • What Cole said was that some ghosts don't realize they're dead. The ghosts from the school are probably in the group that does realize it.
  • Nobody noticed the kid wandering around the wake with no parents?
    • Since it's the death of a child, some people might think he was either the dead girl's brother (whose parents are obviously otherwise occupied), a classmate who had been dropped off, or had just walked away from his parents.
      • In social events like that, adults tend to be unaware of children they're not responsible for and/or aren't doing anything out of the ordinary.
  • Why didn't the mom take the kid to an actual shrink?
    • Maybe she did. The Weirdness Censor might have kept Bruce Willis from seeing the shrink. Since an actual shrink would not have that unique condition, the kid never told the shrink about his problem and it was never dealt with. That or she refuses to admit that her son has a problem.
    • IIRC, she was quite poor. Therapy is expensive and not everyone can get (or wants) charity.
    • I assumed that she had originally intended Bruce Willis to be Cole's shrink; when he died, she was put on a waiting list for another shrink or gave up on the idea. Otherwise, there's no explanation for why he showed up at Cole's house at the beginning.
  • How on earth does someone manage to go an entire year without noticing that noone is talking to him or even noticing him?
    • By being a quiet person with a lot on their minds. This troper spent most of her high school lunches being ignored in silence and is probably not dead.
      • You sure?
      • Is who sure? (This troper agrees with the one below, to a degree, and Bruce Willis was only fully manifest for things that wouldn't have killed his weirdness censor, and was just metaphorically and absentmindedly kicking a can around the street to pass the time.)
      • I was merely questioning if the troper I was replying to was sure about the "probably isn't dead" thing. Perhaps a Troper in life is left a Troper in death, and is unaware of death because existence as a ghost is filled entirely with surfing this web page rather then interacting with humans. Of course, the question is if that's heaven or hell.
      • I was kidding. That was what the link to Weirdness Censor was suppposed to indicate. You See Dead People. By the Eyes of the Blind may have been better, but I didn't think of it. My apologies for any confusion. In addition to the opinion above and below that Bruce Willis' ghost stopped paying attention to existence most of the time, just wandering around without thinking, it's also possible, nay probable that he would have figured it out before, and blanked it out, like a lot of ghosts do in other movies. Probably what the hanged ghosts were doing almost constantly. "I've been hanging here a while, when am I going to finally die? Hey, that kid in the weird clothing walked through my leg! I must already be dead! Nooooooo! Noooo! Nooo... Ah, well, whatever." Three hours later: "Hey, I've been hanging here a long time..." You've got to remember, he wasn't dating and most of his patients stopped seeing him a while back.
    • I once read a very key theory about this film: he's only manifest when he's on-screen. Therefore, he hasn't been knocking around for a year, he simply thinks he has because his brain is filling in the gaps in his awareness.
      • This makes sense. If you notice, when he thinks he is late for his anniversary he says "I can't seem to keep track of time" or something similar. He also does seem to notice himself 'losing' time, and reguarly thinks he is late for things.
    • I assumed that, deep down, Crowe knew he was dead. That's why he was very careful not to do anything that would make him face it, like directly addressing Cole's doctor or mother.
  • Why did the mother poisoning her daughter not put the poison in the soup when it was made instead of doing it right in front of her sick daughter?
    • Maybe it just never occurred to her that it might be a bad idea to poison the soup in front of the girl. After all, she didn't seem to even bother making any effort to appear upset by her daughter's death, and even called attention to it by wearing bright red to the funeral, which naturally made her stick out like a sore thumb in the sea of black suits and dresses.
      • Throughout the movie, the colour Red means something has been touched by the Dead People. Rule of Symbolism.
      • It's called Munchausen's Syndrom By Proxy. The mother abuses her daughter in order to gain attention and sympathy for herself. The bright red suit (apart from being a lovely piece of symbolism) is just an expression of that desire for attention.
    • Possibly she was making soup for more people than just her daughter, or her husband was there with her while she was making the soup.
    • The mother had her back to the girl, and probably thought she couldn't see what she was putting in it. In fact, she might not have, but for the camcorder that Mom didn't realize was running.
    • Maybe she reasoned that poisoning the soup while she was in the kitchen making it was too much of a risk. Someone (i.e. her husband) could have walked in and seen her doing it. Doing it in the girl's room while blocking her view has a much smaller chance of being caught.
  • Do we ever find out why the mother was poisoning her daughter in the first place? For the Evulz? I mean, what the hell?
    • Munchausen's Syndrome is a mental illness where you seek attention by harming yourself; Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy is the same, but you seek attention by harming (and possibly going so far as killing) those in your care, particularly your children. This is the obvious reading of that part of the movie. It might be possible to come up with an alternate reading but there'd have to be some pretty good explanation to go with it.
      • Besides having all the hallmarks of Munchausen's, there's also the fact that the little sister is growing ill - the mother has moved on to a secondary target. Had the ghost not sought Cole's help, or Cole not conquered his fear to help her, the mother would've continued harming her daughter, giving her an infinite supply of sympathy for the poor woman with one daughter dead and another sick. (Possibly consolation: With no further victims to move on to, it's unlikely she would've deliberately killed her - just kept her ill and miserable.)
    • That was her mother? I thought she was an Evil Stepmother.
  • At the end we can see Anna's breath because it gets cold when ghosts get mad. But was his character really angry? I always thought he was rather sad and wistful at the realization, and he gives a touching goodbye rather than getting angry and fighting the realization.
    • I'm going to go out on limb and say that any strong emotion can cause a temperature drop, and anger / sadness are the most common for ghosts. So as he realizes he's a ghost the emotional shock makes the temperature drop.
    • After finding out that I'd been dead for a year and too much of a jackass to realize it, I'd probably be FURIOUS. Besides, emotions are almost never mutually exclusive, even in the weirdest combinations. One can be sad, wistful, and angry all at once. And more besides.
  • Why is Cole encountering so many ghosts in his house? I had this discussion with my little brother, and his thought was that the kid who'd been shot was the son of the abused lady, and that the husband/father killed both of them. This makes sense, until you think about why the poisoned girl was there. She seemed to be seeking Cole out, which doesn't make sense if we accept that the ghosts don't know they're dead.
    • The house is about 200 years old, by the look of it / neighbourhood it's in. The kid that accidentally blew his brains out while showing a friend his dad's gun had hair and clothing that indicated he was from the early 70's. The housewife that slit her wrists (apparently as a way to escape her husband), looked like she was from the 50's. Neither realize that decades have gone by, because of the strange time-sense. (Hence the ghost at the school still protesting that he didn't steel the master's horse.)
    • The poisoned girl probably did know she was dead, thanks to the tape. The boy is implied to have accidently killed himself while showing off the shotgun to a friend, and the woman slit her wrists. One of the rules is that the ghosts see what they want to see, and maybe to them, the rest of the world is a blank slate, other than their place of death and Cole's house. Maybe they can sense and seek him out, just as he can to them. The woman talks to Cole as if he were her husband, but maybe she somehow sensed that Cole can see and hear her, and so she used him as an outlet, since her husband probably has no awareness of her ghost.
    • Cole's gift makes him a Weirdness Magnet.
      • Indeed. The ghosts are probably attracted to him, even if they don't know they're dead. Possibly because they don't know they're dead.
    • This troper always assumed ghosts were just drawn to Cole. It's stated the reason they're still hanging around is because they want his help - that's why they go to him (or to others who can see them, like Vincent). But they "only see what they want to see". They probably don't realise they have gone to him. The sick girl said to him "I'm feeling much better now"; she probably thought he was her father, or stepmother. The woman screamed at him as if he were her husband. It wasn't until Cole specifically said "Do you have something you want to tell me?" that the girl gave him the tape. They kind of know they want something off him, but in a subconcious way, and they don't know what. If they actually were fully aware that they were dead, at least one of them would have said "Hey, kid, can you give me a hand with this?" and made a conscious effort not to frighten him.
      • Ditto for when Crowe is listening to the old tapes of his sessions with Vincent, where he can hear the Spanish Ghost sepaking to Vincent. Based off of Law Of Averages, this Troper suspects it would be highly unlike that some Spanish man died in Crowe's office was at the time or where ever the session was being conducted.
  • Why didn't Kyra give her father the videotape before she died? Was she just Too Dumb to Live, or was I just missing something?
    • That was likely the incident that killed her. She was "making a recovery", as we see in the tape, so the mother gives her a stronger dose of the stuff. She may not even have seen it before dying. Many speculate that watching the tape after death is what lead Kyra to realizing she was, in fact, dead.
    • Besides, a dead person asking a living person to avenge their death after the fact is a classic ghost story trope.
  • I thought she had the camera in her room because she knew that her step mother was trying to kill her and wanted to catch her in the act hoping her dad would see it.
    • We see a lot of tapes on her shelves, with little hearts and stuff. Filming her toy shows was a regular thing to her. She seems to have only meant to film her doll performance and then forgotten to turn it off. The camera ran as long as the tape held out, which was just barely long enough to provide evidence.
  • Another thing about Kyra: what the fuck was her (step?) mother giving her that six doctors over two years didn't notice? The bottle looked like it could have been cleaning solution, but... you'd think that would show up in a blood test or something. Or caused a more abrupt, ghastly death instead of prolonged illness.
    • She might have been giving her several different things and even lying about symptoms.
  • How come Cole is so calm when meeting Malcolm for the first time when he's shown to be terrified of ghosts? I know that he figured Malcolm was nice, but with the other ghosts he was scared from just sensing or seeing them, without them necessarily doing anything to him. Yet when Malcolm shows up he stays completely calm and has no trouble conversating with him (not counting his shy manner of speaking). Though I guess that if Cole had been shown to be frightened of him at first, the ending might have been given away...
    • Crowe's wound wasn't visible, so he wasn't scary to look at. All the ghosts that scare Cole have been pretty horrible in appearance.
      • Why wasn't Crowe's wound visible? We could clearly see it after he got shot in the opening.
      • It was threw and threw and off to the side where it could be hidden by his jacket or arm or whatever. He bled out through his back.
  • Once you know the twist, the anniversary dinner scene briefly becomes Fridge Brilliance before you realise that it reduces to Malcolm's wife inexplicably booking a table at a fancy restaurant in order to sit and eat alone, getting upset in public about her dead husband and paying for the privilege.
    • Some people continue the traditions started with dead loved ones even though it emotionally hurts.
    • She wasn't getting angry at her husband, if that's what you mean. It seems like it before you know the twist, but after the big reveal it's clear she was feeling sad about his death. As the above troper said, continuing to observe traditions you shared with a dead loved one is not uncommon. It's just a natural part of the grieving process in most cases.
  • How did the voice of the spanish-speaking ghost get recorded on the tape that Malcolm had of his appointment with Vincent? If ghosts can't be seen or heard by anyone with the exception of those with powers like Cole and Vincent, it doesn't make sense that their voices could be recorded, or at the very least, only those with powers should be able to hear the voice on the recording. If ghosts can be recorded, they surely would have been discovered by the general public given how they are everywhere and many of them are quite loud; you'd think plenty of people would have caught them in audio recordings over the years (or even possibly video - if their voices could be recorded, why not their bodies?). This seemed to me to be a very major plot hole, is there any explanation?
    • Possibly Malcolm was sensitive as well, to a much lesser degree, and didn't realize it.

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