The simplest trick in horror is to make something natural act in a way that isn't. Ghosts can usually
fly, walk through walls, disappear, and so on. But one need not invoke the whole suite of supernatural effects to achieve unsettling ends. Sometimes, a more subtle approach can achieve truly disquieting effects.
A Ghostly Glide is when a character gets around by less than ambulatory means. The trope is usually invoked in one of two ways. Sometimes, fluid movement gives a character the appearance of floating, meant to highlight the character's grace and beauty. More often, however, it creates an unsettling effect. In most cases, the floating is clearly a sign of supernatural influence.
Compare Power Floats
, which is when the floating is done as a show of power, rather than to disquiet, though the two can overlap. A good rule of thumb is if it looks like the director put the character on a skateboard and then pulled the character across the screen, that's a Ghostly Glide. If a menacing character hangs in midair, that's Power Floats
. Can be paired with Marionette Motion
if the character in question is under the control of others.
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Anime & Manga
- Slayers: Copy Rezo begins exhibiting eerie symptoms, including this trope. Later melds with Power Floats when its revealed he merged himself with Zanaffar's spirit.
- Ulysses 31: The dead denizens of Hades' kingdom are floating above the ground. For added creepy, they also always move backward, their back facing the mortals they're chasing.
Films — Live-Action
- The Blues Brothers. At the end of the scene with the "Penguin" (Sister Mary Stigmata) and Jake and Elwood Blues, she moved back through an open door into a room as if she were floating on air. Along with the other magical effects she demonstrated earlier in the scene, this was the crowning moment of creepiness.
- Death Becomes Her: Creepy nuns float down the hallway leading to the morgue, past Bruce Willis' character.
- Nosferatu: Count Orlock rises slowly and mystically from his coffin without any visible means of doing so.
- In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula's wives do this. Both lampshaded and subverted when he tells them to knock it off, and the women stomp off instead.
- A very subtle example. The Maitlands glide while wearing sheets and "pretending" to be ghosts. However, when Lydia begins taking pictures of them, they begin to show more normal signs of movement.
- A more direct example comes at the climax when Lydia, suddenly garbed in her red wedding dress, slides effortlessly to Bettlejuice's side. Though this is not of her own accord.
- Big Trouble in Little China: Lo Pan floats like this when he's in his ghost form.
- The Martians from Mars Attacks! are seen walking, but their leader and ambassador are usually clad in a cape and seems to be gliding for added effect. Also the case with the spy disguised as a human female.
- Carnivŕle: During one of Brother Justin's visions, the ghosts of children float into, then out of, view.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Gentlemen in the episode "Hush" hover inches off the ground rather than walking, adding to their creepiness.
- Wilfred: Parodied in the episode "Respect", wherein Wilfred glides around the room as a dark messianic character, choosing which old people to die. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Babylon 5: Kosh (and other Vorlons in contact with younger races) wore an "encounter suit" to conceal his true form, and moved in a silent, gliding motion. He could have moved pretty much any way he wanted to in his true form (even through bulkheads), but chose to present himself in this way. He could seem to suddenly appear to a character due to this silent movement — not necessarily to scare but to make a dramatic impression.
- The Janitor from Scrubs dresses up with a white sheet and roller skates around the pediatric ward to scare the kids. He does this to discourage the kids from making messes that he would have to clean up.
- Happens to Lydia in the Teen Wolf episode "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" during one of her psychic fugue states.
- The Undertaker is said to have this power as part of his gimmick, and in at least one Wrestlemania event "floated" to the ring via a moving platform concealed under fog.
- Dustin Rhoades floated to the ring via invisible wires in his one and only appearance as "Seven" in WCW, after which he cut a Worked Shoot promo berating the gimmick. A rare "visible feet" occurrence of the trope in a live-action setting.
- Warhammer 40,000: Necron Monoliths, like most other Necron vehicles, hover as a means of movement. Unlike most other vehicles, however, the Monolith's slow, ponderous approach is infinitely more eerie and menacing.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Edition 3.5 has the Elocator psionic Prestige Class. The first power gained is "scorn earth", the ability to float and move a foot above the ground. Used mostly for practical purposes rather than creepiness, though, but a creative player will sure find a way.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The Death Sword hovers in the air until it crashes down on you. Then floats back up and heads slowly for you. Only when you use the wolf's senses do you see the robed ghost holding it up.
- The Happy Mask Salesman from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask never walks anywhere. He usually "cuts" from frame-to-frame to different locations, though at one point he turns around to face the camera by slowly rotating on the spot....
- The ghost girl in Lumiose City of Pokémon X and Y doesn't have a walking animation when she moves. The effect is very creepy.
- Liches and banshees in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Neither appear to even have legs, though as the latter are spirits and the former have their physical form generated by their phylactery, it's understandable to a degree.
- anti-HEROES: Quentas the Psion is always floating above the ground and gliding around rather than walking. Since this a comic based on D&D 3.5, he probably has a level in the Elocator Prestige Class.
- The Venture Bros.: The sinister cadre known as The Silent Partners are shown not only gliding smoothly from place to place, but also have the habit of entering or leaving a room by levitating out of/ in to the floor.
- Done during a Imagine Spot in Arthur when the librarian tells the kids that the "Scare Your Pants Off" books (a expy of the then popular Goosebumps series) has been taken off the shelves. The kids understandably freak out and we cut to the librarian shushing them then the camera pulls back to reveal she has no legs and glides back into the library.
- Marceline on occasion in Adventure Time, though she usually floats a majority of the time.
- Raven in Teen Titans Go! glides around everywhere, her legs usually hidden by her flowing cloak. (This doesn't prevent her from slipping on a banana peel, though). Here it's more for comedic purposes than creepiness, as an exaggeration of her flying powers in the original series.