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Ghost Butler

The plucky heroine has just entered the Haunted House. She opens the door and walks slowly inside. Suddenly, the door slams shut. She turns around, gasping. She has just been tricked by the Ghost Butler. One has to wonder how these people would react to automatic doors. The chronically Genre Blind say, "It must have been the wind."

In yesteryear, this was a standard feature of horror films — to show just how spooky the Haunted House was. It was used to the point where you are more likely to see it parodied than used straight. If this trope is used straight, then not only do the doors close suddenly, but they cannot be opened, preventing the heroes from choosing to leave at that moment. Now it can be used in any situation where creepiness is needed, even if there are no ghosts.

This commonly occurs in video games, forcing a player to deal with a situation such as a Boss Battle or Descending Ceiling without running away. Expect The Hero to be surprised every time this happens, even if he's encountered ten Ghost Butlers already.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In the Donald Duck comics story "The Old Castle's Secret", in which the ducks are searching for treasure in a Haunted Castle, the "ghost of Sir Quackly" (who turns out not to be a ghost at all, but a thief using invisibility spray) does this to Donald's nephews, Uncle Scrooge and finally Donald himself, locking them all out on a battlement.
  • The Egyptian tomb in Tintin, Cigars of the Pharaoh.
  • Alfred Pennyworth becomes one after his death in Superman & Batman: Generations, up until he deals with the ghost of Dick Grayson tormenting a very old and frail Joker.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Spirited Away, lots of doors open or close this way under Haku or Yubaba's power, or maybe even their own — one door actually talks to Chihiro, telling her it is rude not to knock.
  • In The Pagemaster, in one of his challenges Richard Tyler has to go into the mansion of Dr. Jekyll (and soon afterward, Mr. Hyde). When Richard enters, the door closes and locks itself behind him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Blues Brothers, when Jake and Elwood go to visit the Penguin in their old orphanage, the door to her office opens of itself as they approach. Of course, the only Ghost in play here would be the Holy one.
  • Played with in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, starring Don Knotts. When he tries to open the door himself, it's locked. As he turns away to absorb the eerie surroundings, the door mysteriously opens all by itself... Knotts gapes in horror for a second, then tries to proceed inside, only to have it slam shut again. Consumed by his nerves, Knotts chooses to walk away from the door, staring at it fixedly, wondering what he should do next, when suddenly a trap door opens up from beneath him.
  • Disney's The Haunted Mansion
    • The same thing as in the theme park ride happens. Except for the fact that the ghost butler is literally just that; a deceased butler with the typical ectoplasmic presence and spooky abilities.
    • The door of a crypt also closes just as the protagonists are trying to flee from a horde of undead. And then it gets covered with spiders, and it's up to the arachnophobic ten-year-old to open it again.
  • In Trick 'r Treat, Sam appears to have one of these following him around. That, or he's telekinetic. Well, Sam (a.k.a. Samhain) IS the physical embodiment of Halloween, so he's bound to have plenty of tricks up his tiny, orange, candy-scarfing sleeve.
  • Ghostbusters II has a door shut and lock itself so Ray and Egon would be trapped in a room on fire.
  • Happens in A Nightmare on Elm Street series whenever someone enters Freddy's home.
  • As per the Paranormal Activity 2 trailer "This is the freakiest thing that happened to me last night: This is the door closing by itself."
  • Hellraiser: Inferno. When Joseph visits his parents at the hospital he somehow walks into his childhood bedroom, only for the door to magically shut itself behind him. He has to listen to his parents being tortured and murdered on the other side.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A staple for The Addams Family or The Munsters.
  • Subverted in Angel. Cordelia moves into a haunted apartment, and the ghost does the normal Ghost Butler thing... but then it turns out that Dennis the ghost isn't a really bad sort at all and he ends up actually being Cordelia's butler.
  • Played straight in the first episode of the new Doctor Who. Rose is in the basement of the shop where she works. The door slams shut behind her. To her credit, she instantly runs to it instead of passing it off as the wind and carrying on.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: This happened to anyone who entered the closet, and a few times to people who entered the house when it was under a spell.
  • In an episode of The Wild Wild West called "The Night of the Man-Eating House", this trope is employed several times throughout the episode (rather annoyingly). This isn't the work of a ghostly butler, however, but the house itself, which is embodied by the spirit of a dead woman. It turns out to be All Just a Dream anyway. Oh well.
  • Used at the beginning of a video for PBS's Square One TV, "Ghost of a Chance".
  • Inverted in the first episode of House of Anubis: When Nina arrives at the house for the first time, the door opens to let her in without her touching it.

    Music Videos 
  • Played as an intentional homage to old horror movies in Michael Jackson's long-form video Ghosts: the Maestro's mansion works this way, closing and opening doors for the angry mob that's arrived there.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Every game of Betrayal at House on the Hill begins with the doors of the house locking themselves behind the adventurers. Some scenarios require the heroes to figure out how to unlock them and escape.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a spell called "Unseen Servant", which closes doors, windows, lights candles and can set tables, etc.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the various versions of Disney's The Haunted Mansion theme park ride, the entry to the ride vehicle automatically closes at the start of the ride and reopens at the end, and the narrator (who is a ghost) takes credit for both.

    Video Games 
  • Happens in the beginning of the first Alone in the Dark video game in the Derceto mansion.
  • All the bosses and minibosses in the Banjo-Kazooie series for the Nintendo 64 have the entrance/exits sealed somehow before the fight begins.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories uses this trope, minus the corny turn and gasp. After entering Castle Oblivion, Goofy turns to shut the door before exploring, only to find that it's already been shut.
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • Whenever Link enters a room in a dungeon with a mini-boss or boss fight, the door often closes and locks itself behind him.
    • Lampshaded in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The first time Link climbs the tower, the door slams and locks and he is captured and thrown into the sea. The next time he's more cautious and waits for the door to lock. He gives a relieved sigh when it doesn't. Then after a little cutscene, the boss shows up and the door magically locks and the fight/deathcourse starts!
  • Super Mario Bros.: This happens in boss fights in various games.
    • To Luigi, a few times, in Luigi's Mansion, since he is in a Haunted House. You even have to fight an actual ghost butler.
    • Happens in New Super Mario Bros. Wii when the characters enter a ghost house, fortress or castle. In the former, the doors not only slam shut but actually vanish in a flock of Boos if you try to come back out the door you came in.
    • A literal example shown above: Bootler from Paper Mario.
  • A nasty version happens in the NES game Uninvited. There's a prison with an opened cell door. Ignoring a brief warning from a ghost not to go in leads to it slamming shut behind you as soon as you enter. You starve to death, as there's no way out of the cell.
  • Every door in the haunted cathedral in Thief: The Dark Project will shut itself after a few moments if you leave it open.
  • Carl Denning finds the front door completely boarded up in The 11th Hour, and the door leading outside from the kitchen never works.
  • Roughly half of all boss battles in World of Warcraft start like this, with a door or gate or giant membrane closing or an insurmountable wall of fire springing up. Of those that don't, some have no escape anyway, because the boss will follow any players that run or use attacks that have infinite range. Some bosses, though, will reset if all surviving players and/or whoever has aggro at the time run too far from where the fight started. There is no apparent rhyme or reason to this.
  • Kirby 64 The Crystal Shards, when you fight minibosses. As an added touch, each barrier has a theme related to the environment (e.g. In the jungle, the exits become blocked by vines).
  • You Have to Burn the Rope features a long corridor and a Boss Room at the end. When you enter the room, a wall appears at the end of the corridor.
  • Occurs a few times in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, mostly towards the beginning of the game.
  • In Zork, the trap door that leads to the dungeon from the kitchen closes behind you after you entered. It is also barred.
  • In The Elder Scrolls: Arena, when you're in a dungeon with doors, they will always close behind you with a loud clanking, yet delayed a minute or two. Yes, it is somewhat creepy.
  • In Lunar: Eternal Blue, the doors slam shut behind the party upon exiting any of the trial sections of the Haunted House.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts
    • Although the front door is knocked down off its hinges, this still happens to Mickey, Donald and Goofy in Lonesome Ghosts... except that the door is picked up from underneath them and then slammed up.
    • Played straight in The Haunted House.
    • In The Gorilla Mystery, it really is the wind... but Mickey freaks so badly that he initially runs away and hides.
  • In the House of Mouse cartoon "How to Haunt a House", this is shown to be a critical step. The cartoon features a (temporarily) deceased Goofy who pulls a Ghost Butler on a very Genre Blind Donald, who happily comments, "Oh! Automatic doors! How convenient!"
    • To be fair, Goofy opened the door rather than close it, which is admittedly not as scary.
  • Scooby-Doo and his friends have had their fair share of these.
  • This is played straight in the Code Lyoko episode "New Order", when Odd, Ulrich and Yumi enter the Hermitage for the first time, searching for Aelita. XANA is already waiting for them, having sent a specter to play poltergeist, and starts with closing the front door. Later, the malevolent program locks up Yumi and Ulrich in a room which he turns into a Sauna of Death.
  • Monster Buster Club's Halloween Episode, "Trick or Treat... or Alien", has a haunted house whose door close behind Danny, locking him inside, and then doing the same to the rest of the MBC. No ghost here, though, just the usual alien trying to scare away too-curious humans.


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