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Ghost Butler

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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.

Subtrope to Unable to Retreat.


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    Comic Books 
  • Beasts of Burden: In "What the Cat Dragged In", once the cats and Hoke get into the house, the door closes behind them, trapping them inside.
  • 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.
  • Tintin: In Cigars of the Pharaoh, the opening to the Egyptian tomb slams shut behind Tintin.

    Films — Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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 as they approach, and then closes by itself behind them. 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.
  • Ghostbusters:
    • Ghostbusters: The least of the poltergeist activities all around, but it happens.
      • Notably, the door to Dana's kitchen open when she's dragged on a possessed armchair toward Zul, and closes behind her.
      • Vinz Clortho in Louis Tully's body doesn't bother touching the door, it opens and closes behind him.
    • Ghostbusters II has a door shut and lock itself so Ray and Egon would be trapped in a room on fire.
  • Disney's The Haunted Mansion (2003):
    • 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.
  • Haunted Mansion (2023): Not only does the door close behind Ben, Kent, and Travis, the windows shrink to prevent them from escaping.
  • In The Haunting, doors shutting on their own might be a sign that Hill House is haunted, but it also has a rational explanation: the hallways are built at such an angle that gravity eventually causes the doors to swing shut. The real problem comes when a previously closed and locked door is suddenly opened.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In Spider-Man: No Way Home, just as Peter is about to ring the bell of the Sanctum Sanctorum, the doors open up by themselves. And then they close behind him as he enters. It is the dwelling of the Sorcerer Supreme, after all.
  • 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.

  • Inverted in Dragon Bones, Oreg, the house ghost, is a more benevolent example. He shows (or creates?) secret doors just when needed. (He could do the opposite, as he can make himself invisible, but is never seen actually doing so) It is also mentioned that the lady-in-waiting, whom he likes, always finds her knitting needles just where she looks first, even if she forgot them in a different room.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: Doors in the titular Haunted House often close themselves while they're unobserved, even when propped open with heavy objects. Someone says that the housekeeper must be shutting them... rather than watch them swing shut on their own.
  • James and the Giant Peach: There is a moment of this when James first enters the stone of the peach through a small door. Once he is inside and is terrified by his first sight of the giant insects, he considers fleeing, but the door has vanished behind him; this is never explained.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In American Gothic, Lucas Buck really likes telekinetically slamming doors to intimidate people.
  • 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.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once the Scoobies enter the school to perform the exorcism, all the doors slam shut on them. Buffy later has to use her Super-Strength to break open the door so they can escape The Swarm of wasps.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Rose", Rose is in the basement of the shop where she works when 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.
    • "Knock Knock", doors start slamming shut and shutters close over the windows once the dying starts in the episode's Haunted House. Not the work of ghosts, though, but of alien swarming insects.
  • "The Giggle": The doors in the Toymaker's domain all slams shut by themselves behind the Doctor and Donna. And they either can't be opened, or don't lead back to the same place if they can. That's how the Doctor and Donna ends up separated.
  • 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.
  • In Loki episode 6, "For All Time. Always.", the doors to the Citadel at the End of Time open by themselves just as Sylvie is hesitating to push them. And then, they close behind Loki and Sylvie once inside, just adding to the spooky atmosphere.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: This happens to anyone who enters the closet, and a few times to people who enters the house when it is under a spell.
  • Used at the beginning of a video for PBS's Square One TV, "Ghost of a Chance."
  • 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.

    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.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In the Thunderbirds episode "The Uninvited", a pyramid has a door which suddenly opens to let the visitors in, and then closes behind them, trapping them inside.

    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 near the beginning of Alone in the Dark (1992). Derceto's main entrance stays open when your character enters the mansion, but after making your way back down from the attic again, the front doors close themselves in your face and you hear a disembodied laugh that sounds a bit too much like Goofy to be properly scary. Trying to open the doors again before destroying the evil lurking inside Derceto is not a good idea.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: In the final area at The Consortium's underground facility, after Ann has stepped through the Point of No Return, the security door shuts itself behind her and locks the way back.
  • All the bosses and minibosses in the Banjo-Kazooie series for the Nintendo 64 have the entrance/exits sealed somehow before the fight begins.
  • Doom: "Demonic presence at unsafe levels. Lockdown in effect." Cue Multi-Mook Melee.
  • 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.
  • Fallout 3's Dunwich Building has a few doors that open or close spontaneously.
  • In Faria, doors in the towers will often slam shut as you pass through them, either to set you up for an Inescapable Ambush or just to enforce one-way movement.
  • Fear Effect: In some areas when the team enters a new room, the passage shuts from behind as enemies pop in.
  • The type-in BASIC adventure game Haunted House (from Write Your Own Adventure Programs for Your Microcomputer) has the front door slam behind the player once they enter the house. There's no way to open it again, so the player has to find an alternative way out.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue: The doors slam shut behind the party upon exiting any of the trial sections of the Haunted House.
  • Myst: Every door, drawer, or other manipulable object immediately returns to its initial state as soon as you're not looking for it, heralded by an appropriate sound effect. This saved the creators from having to render multiple variations of each scene to account for their different configurations. The sequel, Riven, intentionally averts this, as the position of various doors is important to several puzzles.
  • Rhem: The games use a similar mechanic to the above. Most doors close automatically behind the player, but those that avert this usually have a clue on the other side, often requiring the player to close a door and circle around the level to see the clue from another angle.
  • The first Nightmare Creatures have this occasionally happening, where doors behind you will slam shut on their own and you can't open it to backtrack, regardless what happens. The eighth level notably starts with you exiting a mansion, into a garden with opened gates and some health pickups. The gates closes the moment you walk through, and if you didn't collect any of the pickups they're lost forever (or, you know, quit and reload your last save).
  • This happens in Ninja: Shadow of Darkness, when you face the first boss. Walking through a pair of double doors into a courtyard, suddenly the doors slams close behind you (even though you didn't leave any enemies alive in the prior area) and in front of you, the boss drops in. Cue boss battle.
  • Pizza Tower sees this occur at the start of each stage, with the entry door dramatically slamming shut on its own behind Peppino. It only reopens after reaching the level's end and activating Pizza Time.
  • RuneScape: Draynor Manor's front door will automatically close itself when you walk in, and can't be opened from the inside, leaving the player stuck with a mad scientist, ghosts, a ghoul, and a vampire... until they manage to find the back door.
  • Carl Denning finds the front door completely boarded up in The 11th Hour, and the door leading outside from the kitchen never works. Justified with the house being a Genius Loci.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Taking the elevator to the suddenly-materialized 4th floor of Alchemilla Hospital in Silent Hill triggers another visit to the town's hellish Dark World. The floor consists of nothing but rooms you can't enter and doors that lock themselves behind you the moment you pass through them until you end up back on the 3rd floor to begin exploring the place. After that, the 4th floor itself disappears from the elevator panel again and a wall materializes to block access to it from the stairwell, as if its only purpose was to shunt you into this otherworldly version of the hospital.
  • Every door in the haunted cathedral in Thief: The Dark Project will shut itself after a few moments if you leave it open.
  • 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.
    • A literal one is encountered in a room when you open a secret compartment holding a book you need. Contact with the ghost is of course lethal so you have to get him out of the way by scaring him with a spider.
  • Which: The semi-last door in the game will close and lock behind you during the ending.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Zork, the trap door that leads to the dungeon from the kitchen closes behind you after you entered. It is also barred.

    Web Animation 
  • Chadam: When Chadam and Simkin go to explore the Pallid part of the city, they have to enter through a dark tunnel, and the door immediately slams behind them.
  • After Vivi, Arthur and Mystery enter the Haunted House in Mystery Skulls Animated the doors close behind them. In this case the entire house is just an extension or construct of the vengeful ghost within so presumably he closed the doors even though he was in the basement at the time.


    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Steven Universe: In "Horror Club", the door to the upper area of the lighthouse slams on Ronaldo and won't open. Everyone smashes it down and goes across, then the pieces reform in place.

    Real Life 
  • A downplayed variation occurs via different methods:
    • A strong enough gust of wind can close doors.
    • Changes in air pressure can also result in doors left ajar closing themselves.
    • Parts of the door are actually starting to fail, causing it to close on its own.
    • The door and frame have mismatched alignment.
    • Hinges aren't lined up properly.


Video Example(s):


Pizza Tower Freezerator

A rare Video Game example, the level title card for "Refrigerator-Refrigerador-Freezerator"

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / EpisodeTitleCard

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