A mundane ghost story is a scary story involving rational worries rather than implausible phobias.
Someone tells a Ghost Story
in classic fashion, probably around a campfire or with a flashlight aimed up under the face, only the ghost story is about something that is not really scary in the traditional nightmare sense, but is more like Adult Fears
: being stuck in a loveless marriage, dying alone, bigotry, living an unfulfilling life, being homeless after losing your job, sexual inadequacy, or the death of offspring. However, this is usually played for laughs, avoiding anything involving physical pain or death, dealing with something sillier
like having to wear a stupid outfit to school, having a bad haircut, or eating something terrible.
This type of scary story usually bypasses fantastic and / or supernatural horrors found in the common ghost story, for something that tends to actually happen in real life to sane people.
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Anime & Manga
- Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin has hiccups and asks Hobbes to tell him a scary story to cure him.
Hobbes: OK, our oceans are filled with garbage, we've created a hole in the ozone that's frying the planet, nuclear waste is piling up without any safe way to get rid of it...
Calvin: I meant surprise me.
Hobbes: That doesn't? Boy, you're cynical.
- There was a particularly disturbing (by its standards) Family Circus Sunday strip with Jeffy asking his dad about monsters, the dad assuring him there were none, and the final frame showing the dad walking out of Jeffy's room with Not Me ghosts marked "taxes", "recession" and "war" floating around him.
- Jason does to this Paige in FoxTrot. After his conventional ghost stories fail to scare her, he tells her one that ends with "...and when she opened the closet, all the clothes were polyester!".
- An editorial cartoon from... I want to say the 90s... had a father telling his kids a campfire story that ended with "...and we sat on the runway for hours with only peanuts to eat!" (dramatic hand gesture)
Live Action TV
- The Yuletide ghost stories in Kingdom of Loathing usually do involve ghosts, but most of them have incredibly mundane endings, like an Indian Burial Ground being dealt with by lawyers, but cursing all burgers cooked on the site to be raw on the inside but burnt on the outside.
- This Youtube video called Disney Horror, about overcrowding at Disney World during Christmas.
- Freakazoid!: The scariest thing in the world would be if Sinbad got another TV show! (the comedian, not the adventurer).
- Or is you went to touch something, and it wasn't there...because it turned to WOOD!
- The Simpsons: The season eight episode "The Springfield Files" (the Bizarro Episode-cum-crossover episode with The X-Files that had Leonard Nimoy narrating it for the first two acts) had Homer and Bart out in the woods in search of the alien. Bart asks Homer if he can have some beer, with Homer telling him that beer is only for "...daddies and kids with fake IDs note " then Homer suggests that they tell ghost stories to pass the time. This was Bart's:
Bart: ...and that is how much college will cost for Maggie.
: No! NO! NOOOOOO!!!!!
- There is an alternate scene on the season eight DVD set in which the original mundane horror story was about the contents of an Oscar Meyer weiner, with Homer reacting the same way.
- The Simpsons, again, featured a carnival "house of horrors" ride that presents an old woman in a rocking chair who says, "Behold! The ravages of age!"
- Arthur, Arthur was the carnival barker at a "house of horrors" that featured the most embarrassing moments of his friends, such as the Brain wearing pajamas to school.
- Futurama, "Where the Buggalo Roam":
Bender: ...and even though the computer was off and unplugged, an image remained on the screen. It was... the Windows logo!
Leela: Pfft! That's not scary.
Bender: It is if you're a laser printer.
- The Daria episode "The Teachings of Don Jake" had Jake tell a story about a boy who hears weird splashing noises in his sleep and wakes to find his father gone. Turns out it's yet another Hilariously Abusive Childhood story about Jake's father getting drunk during a father-son camping trip:
Jake: Then, lying there in the darkness, the boy heard a tiny splashing sound. Psh! Psh! Like waves on a faraway shore. Except...the nearest ocean was a hundred miles away. The boy reached out for his sleeping father...but he was gone. Shaking with fear, the boy stumbled out of the rickety lean-to, and that's when he saw it: his father, sitting alone at the campfire. ALONE!...with a whole case of beer! Psh! Psh! (pantomimes drinking): The selfish old bastard was WASTED AGAIN!
- And then there's Quinn's ghost story:
Quinn: So, Cinderella said, "I can't go to the ball in these rags." So her fairy godmother waved her magic wand and behold! She was wearing a gown of silver and gold — big, clunky silver and gold sequins that you wouldn't wear to one of those '70s nostalgia proms, much less a formal party at a palace! And when she went to look in the mirror — the one that made her look thin — instead she looked BLOATED!
Helen: Quinn, honey, is this really a scary story?
Quinn: Wait! I haven't gotten to the shoes yet!
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep," Twilight Sparkle is throwing a slumber party by the book, running down a checklist of activities that includes ghost stories. Applejack and Rarity, however, are not feeling charitable toward each other, and have been using each activity to snipe at each other, and this is no exception:
Applejack: I'd like to tell y'all the terrifying tale of the prissy ghost, who drove everypony crazy with her unnecessary neatness! OooOOOooo! I'm sure y'all are familiar with that one.
Rarity: Never heard of it. But I have a much better one. It's the horrifying story of the messy, inconsiderate ghost, who irritated everypony within a hundred miles! OooOOOooo!
Applejack: That's not a real story! You made it up.
Rarity: It is a ghost story. They're all made up.
- Family Guy: Quagmire would find this story scary.
- In The Fairly OddParents, Timmy travels to the past and tells his dad scary stories from the future.
Timmy: In the future there will be 500 TV channels!
Timmy: ...but nothing to watch!
- An episode of Johnny Bravo had Johnny try to tell a traditional campfire tale...to a bunch of computer-geeks, who of course aren't scared because the monster is "impossible." Then Carl tells a story about a kid who discovers his hard-drive has crashed and all content on his computer is deleted, which gets a much better reaction.
Camper: B-Boy, that sure was scary, right Johnny? *everyone notices Johnny is missing* Johnny?"
*cut to Johnny hiding in a tree, trembling*
Johnny: *addressing the audience* I don't know what he said....but it was the way he told it.
Person 1: You know, I hear if you put in a Windows disk in your drive upside-down, it plays a Satanic message.
Person 2: That's nothing. If you put it in right-side up, it installs Windows!