You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost
Random Guy: What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost!
Random Guy #2: (points to Martha)
I just did! Look!
— Half Magic
of Literal Metaphor
. It started as nothing more than a simple simile in the real world to describe a look of utter shock, surprise, and/or fright. But at some point, no one knows quite when and no one knows quite where, some genius realized characters in fiction who really have
seen a ghost would... look like they've just seen a ghost. Ergo, when characters enter screaming and running from a ghost (or any supernatural creature that would frighten your average Muggle
), it is customary for a Genre Blind
character to say in complete jest, "What's wrong with you? You look like you've seen a ghost." Alternatively, the line may be said mockingly by the 'ghost' - whether they're literally a ghost, some other kind of undead, or merely wrongly believed to be dead
like crazy these days, but the mystery abounds as to why this isn't a Dead Horse Trope
yet. A Sub-Trope
of I Was Just Joking
Anime & Manga
- Ryo uses this exact wording in the FAKE manga when Dee and Bikky race into his room after seeing a young girl's ghost in the mansion they're staying in. When Dee and Bikky insist that they did, Ryo's hidden Deadpan Snarker tendencies come out and he says coolly, "There are no such thing as ghosts."
- With the main characters appearing as spirits and investigating paranormal events in Ghost Hound, the characters and spirits around them often get this reaction.
- Line used by the immortal Luck Gandor in Baccano! when speaking to a man involved in his "ventilation".
- One of Tetsuo's lackeys asks a different corrupt follower what's wrong and makes this remark when he first sees Tetsuo's horrifically mutated arm in the AKIRA manga.
- Loveless says this in Wild Wild West after he gets out of the Abe Lincoln Cake.
- Used by Lady Van Tassel in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. Shortly after said character had faked her own death.
- In Back To The Future Part III , Doc says this to Marty after Marty finds Doc's grave. "You're not far off, Doc."
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier had Kirk say this to Spock when he'd seen his long-lost half-brother. "Perhaps I have, Captain."
- Tombstone: "Why, Johnny Ringo, you looked like somebody just walked over your grave."
- The second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has Raph saying "I thought I just saw a ghost!" as he's infiltrating the Foot Clan's new headquarters with Keno, and with good reason — he's just caught a glimpse of the Shredder, who he thought was dead following the last movie.
- Averted in Outpost. "You look like I've just fucked your sister."
- In Scream, Billy says this to Sidney when he reveals himself as the killer.
- One of the lyrics from "Sometime Around Midnight" by the Airborne Toxic Event, said by the singer's friends to him after he encounters his ex in a bar.
- Lampshaded in World of Warcraft. Upon turning in a quest dealing with the ghost/spirit/essence of the Big Bad's innocence, Thassarian says to the player "What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost... Not that that would be all that unusual in these parts now that I think about it..." Also worth pointing out Thassarian himself is among the undead, albeit a Death Knight, not a ghost.
- This is among the final lines of Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull, when two Muggle NPCs find the Master Detective lying on her back in the Louisiana swamp. She's just watched a Ghost Pirate drown the people who were going to murder her.
- Spoken verbatim by resident Lady in Red Femme Fatale Ada Wong in Resident Evil 6 when protagonist Leon Kennedy first meets her in an underground catacomb. Considering the circumstances under which they last saw each other and what happened in the previous game, his reaction is actually rather understandable.
- In Episode 1 of The Dr. Steel Show, Doctor Steel sees a ghostly vision of a magical transforming toy ("Winky") hovering about his lab, but it disappears into an air duct before he can get a Polaroid snapshot of it. Slightly inverted as he was more awed by it than scared.