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Ghost Pirate

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"Who be disturbin' the Flying Dutchman in his own lair?!"
"Little does she realize pirates always have ghosts...!"
Jason Fox, FoxTrot

Sometimes the most scurvy and fearsome of Pirates, even after being sent to Davy Jones' Locker, just don't stay in their watery graves. Instead, they continue to terrorize the seas as fearsome undead scourges, complete with a Ghost Ship crewed by the damned. Despite the name, the Ghost Pirate trope includes all forms of undead pirates, including zombie or skeletal variants (literal skeleton crews).

Occasionally, their sojourn as the living dead is due to a terrible curse that keeps them sailing (which may or may not involve voodoo). Other times, they're just too tough to stay in hell. They are typically Ghastly Ghosts, though there are also some friendlier examples.

This is a common form of Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot. Legends of Ghost Pirates and Ghost Ships alike may derive from the tale of the Flying Dutchman, a phantom ship reportedly doomed to sail the oceans for eternity. Though of course, not all ghost ships are literally ghostly or include any pirates. Also see Davy Jones, who may sometimes be a Ghost Pirate himself.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The pirates from Berserk are more like Technically Living Zombie Pirates under the control of an Eldritch Abomination.
  • One Piece:
    • Brook is a living skeleton brought back by the powers of his Devil Fruit after he died once. Surprisingly for this trope, he's a good guy!
    • Gecko Moria's crew, of which only four members are alive, the rest being zombies. Perona is a new take on this, as her Devil Fruit allows her spirit to leave her body, essentially giving her a ghost form.
    • Subverted with Vander Decken, who sails on the infamous underwater ship Flying Dutchman like his real-life counterpart and is believed to be a ghost pirate on a cursed ship, but actually is just a regular fishman pirate. Rather than being the ghost of the infamous Vander Decken, the one the Straw Hats encounter is actually his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson Vander Decken IX. Not that it makes him more of a nice guy.
  • While she does not look the part Captain Liliana from Queen's Blade Rebellion is an Undead Pirate Captain — the members of her crew, on the other hand, are little more than walking skeletons.

    Comic Books 
  • In issue #16 of Cartoon Cartoons, a Courage the Cowardly Dog story featured a ghost pirate visiting the Bagge farm. His name was Captain Long John Longjohns.
  • At least two ghost pirates have appeared in The DCU, both of them historical characters that used to have their own series. The Black Pirate appeared as a ghost in Starman (DC Comics) and Captain Fear in the Dr. Thirteen mini-series. Bizarrely, Captain Fear might be able to die again, implying that there are tiers for this sort of thing.
  • In one Hellboy story, the title character fights an undead Blackbeard.
  • Man-Thing features a shipful of these laboring under an ancient curse.
  • Minor villain The Baron in Nikolai Dante is an over-the-top voodoo master with an all-zombie crew. This lets him keep his crew for the battle royale, since the rules stipulate he be the only person on his ship, but corpses aren't people, right?
  • Requiem Vampire Knight: The Pirate Guild in Requiem is composed of ghouls and skeletons who go around in flying ships. This doesn't make them particularly special however, given that pretty much everyone on the planet is some form of undead monster.
  • Rulah, Jungle Goddess: In "The Bloody Moon!" (Zoot Comics #13a), Rulah battles the ghost of Black Bart: a pirate and slaver who was killed by one of Rulah's predecessors and now returns every blood moon to prey on Rulah's tribe and seek revenge.
  • Tales of the Black Freighter, the Show Within a Show from Watchmen.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The title page for "The Treasure of Capt. Storm" depicts Capt. Storm and his crew as ghostly pirates aboard their sunken vessel, but in the story itself they only appear in flashback and the real villains are the modern day pirates who end up hunting for Storm's buried treasure.

    Comic Strips 
  • Jason's attempt to invoke this trope in FoxTrot provides the page quote. Paige was smart enough to tell him to not try it.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1968 Disney comedy Blackbeard's Ghost is built around this, as one might expect. Protagonist Steve accidentally summons the ghost of the real-life pirate Edward "Blackbeard" Teach (hammed up by Peter Ustinov) from Limbo, where he had been cursed to stay by his spiteful wife. Only Steve can see Blackbeard, and hijinks ensue as they scheme to rescue the historical hotel that bears Blackbeard's name. The hope is that this good deed will release the restless spirit.
  • "Skull and Crossbones" segment from Campfire Tales (1991) tells a tale of two pirates who wash ashore on an island with cursed Pirate Booty. Anyone who tries to take the treasure and/or leave the island has to face the reanimated corpses of the other pirates who got stuck there.
  • The horror film CrossBones had a zombified pirate killing contestants of a reality TV show.
  • Curse of Pirate Death has a ghost pirate offing students and other random people who discover his treasure.
  • DVD menus of The Fog make it seem that the film's ghosts are pirates (as the menus show a hook-handed one) but they are actually a leper colony who drowned with their ship.
  • A demonic pirate unleashed from a chest is the antagonist of Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter's Cove.
  • Los Dark, the villain of the Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger movie.
  • The Pirates of the Caribbean series has so far featured four distinct and separate varieties of undead pirates.

  • William Hope Hodgson wrote The Ghost Pirates which you might think you would a trope maker, but by "ghost" he meant bizarre shadow people rising out of the ocean and by "pirate" he meant they take over and sink the ship it's set on.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, a ghost directing Rachel to Pirate Booty (from a wreck, not from burial) is aware of this trope and assures her that because the pirates were not afraid of death, their ghosts do not haunt it.
  • Vampirates features a flooded future world haunted by vampire pirates, one crew of which are not bad people, but a mutineer leaves the ship and goes off to make an arch-villain of himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Supernatural: In season 8, Dean learns that his new vampire friend Benny's old coven used to raid ships in search of new victims. He quickly dubs them "vampirates".

  • Unsurprisingly for a band with a pirate theme, this comes up in Alestorm's music videos:
    • The video for "P.A.R.T.Y." features the band as skeletal pirates, playing for an audience of the same.
    • In the video for "The Battle of Cape Fear River", the band members become ghosts when they find a chest containing the personal weapons of Captain Blackbeard... and use them to kill each other.

  • Destroy the Godmodder had ghost space pirates that deserve a mention for surviving being the only things for the godmodder to target multiple turns in a row. They also had a massive ship that came back to life with them, and they even made a bunker when THAT got shot down.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Black Freighter of 7th Sea draws its undead crew from those who died at sea.
  • Magic: The Gathering can dabble with that concept, as pretty much every creature with "pirate" subtype can be reanimated as a zombie (you can also go the opposite way and use cards like Captain's Hook to turn said zombie into a (posthumous) pirate.) There's also Departed Deckhand — a pirate spirit and March of the Drowned which seem to be picturing those emerging from the sea.
  • Pathfinder has two examples:
    • In the Golarion setting, there is the Naiegoul, a black galleon crewed by the undead and captained by a lich named Raugsmauda.
    • The Villain Codex contains a number of ready made villainous organizations. One of these organizations is a fleet of pirates who include a ghost captain and his undead crew among their ranks. Since the characters are designed to be easily slotted into any game, he is simply referred to as the Ghost Captain.
  • The Pirates Constructible Strategy Game always had some references to supernatural and ghostly pirates (most prominently El Fantasma from the original "Spanish Main" set), but it wasn't until Set 6 ("Curse of Davy Jones") that they got their own faction, aptly named the Cursed. Besides ghosts, they also had a plethora of zombies, native cannibals, Fish People, and other dark magic loving folk ruled over by Davy Jones himself, who was represented as a full on God of Evil and the closest the game had to a Big Bad.
  • Rattle me Bones, a game where you must carefully remove items from a pirate's skeleton. If you lack dexterity, the skeleton will RATTLE AND SHAKE!
  • The Bone Devil crew in Rum And Bones are scurvy skeletons. It gets worse for them; thanks to the nature of the setting the clashing pirate crews can never truly die. The other crews come back from death alive and hearty. The Bone Devils just rise as skeletons once more.
  • Spelljammer gives us Vampirates, making them not only vampire pirates, but vampire Space Pirates as well.
  • The Warhammer verse has the Vampire Coast, a petty undead kingdom led by Luthor Harkon, a mad Vampire Count whose coffin washed up on Lustria, from which he leads an army of zombie pirates. Total War: Warhammer expanded the Vampire Pirates to a full-blown playable race, with Harkon being one of three undead pirate kings who lead factions of zombified and ghostly pirates and monstrous sealife to pillage the living.
    • The standalone Games Workshop game Dreadfleet (set within the Warhammer world) has one of these- Vangheist, captain of the Shadewraith. And if you take the broader "any undead pirate" definition, the entire Dreadfleet is crewed and captained by them! Count Noctilus is a vampire pirate, King Amanhotep is a mummy pirate, Skretch Half-Dead is a zombie Skaven pirate and Tordrek Hackhart is a cyborg Chaos Dwarf pirate who is no longer truly alive.
  • War Machine has an entire fleet of pirates led by a liche cyborg and a monster girl, so also has pirates in various states of undeath, mostly liches and zombies, with actual ghosts appearing aboard the "cinder ship", the Atramentous, which was the first ship of the pirate lords to attack Lord Toruk head-on, and set ablaze forever; the ghosts were of the crew clustered at the bow and most enthusiastic about taking on the dragon, and therefore most completely destroyed.
  • Reaper Miniatures' Bones series of soft plastic minis now has packs of ghost pirates in coloured transparent plastic, labelled as the crew of the Drowned Nymph.
  • While Pieter van Riese in Ravenloft was an explorer who murdered his crew rather than turn back, his replacement Pietra in the fifth edition sourcebook was a pirate who became a Darklord and one of The Undead after she and her crew were hunted down and killed.


    Video Games 
  • Alone in the Dark 2: The main antagonists are a band of zombified pirates kept "alive" through voodoo.
  • Arcanum:
    • At one point, you need to get a ship. There are three ways to do this, and one is by laying your hands on a Ghost Ship belonging to a cursed undead pirate, either by killing him or helping him atone for his misdeeds.
    • One shipwreck north of Ashbury features skeletons that spawn at night.
  • The second Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator game has a Ghost Ship which is still haunted by its captain, determined to protect his treasure.
  • Chrono Cross has the player's party board a Ghost Ship full of pirates. They're actually just putting on an act, and aren't ghosts at all. Later, though, the ship is attacked by a real Ghost Ship.
  • One of the major bosses in Darkest Dungeon are the Drowned Crew: a group of pirates cursed to drown forever by your Ancestor after deciding that their usefulness was no longer needed as they demand for more pay. A miniboss, the Squiffy Ghast, is suffering from the same fate.
  • The Black Cove in Divinity: Original Sin is populated by undead pirates, including an undead pirate captain.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest:
    • Kloaks are ghostly pirate waistcoats who cackle as they toss basic objects at Diddy and Dixie.
    • In "Haunted Hall", Diddy and Dixie ride a roller coaster through a giant library inhabited by Kackle, a ghostly crocodile pirate who chases them down. As Kackle chases them, a time limit appears at the top of the screen. If time runs out, then Kackle catches Diddy and Dixie, costing them a life, and cackling as he does so. Collecting green + barrels adds more time to the time limit, but collecting red - barrels takes time away.
    • Kreepy Krow is the boss of Gloomy Gulch, and the ghost of the first boss you fought. Being a ghost doesn't change anything, as he's still just as vulnerable to attacks as he was when he was alive.
  • In Dota 2, Kunkka's backstory hints that he might have been killed in the crash that destroyed his ship. His appearance is perfectly human though.
  • DragonFable, the "Water Orb Saga" features The Locker, a section of ocean haunted by undead skeleton pirates, including Captain Davey.
  • There are a couple levels in the first world of Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter which involve ghost pirates, though they're only Baki which can float and cannot be punched. The boss of the world, however, is just a normal, old pirate captain... until one hit kills him and he turns into a giant ghost pirate.
  • Dubloon features both friendly ghost pirates and unfriendly zombie-pirates.
  • In Fable II one of the side quests in Bloodstone involves you fighting a fearsome pirate ghost in order to take control of his fully automated ship to reach his treasure.
  • There are skeleton pirates in Final Fantasy V's Derelict Graveyard dungeon.
  • Foxy is this in Five Nights at Freddy's regarding that he's one of the shells for a dead child. Mangle picks up Foxy's paste in the prequel looking freaky as hell.
  • Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island has a main cast of not one, but two ghost pirates, and a ghost witch-doctor.
  • MediEvil: The "Ghost Ship" level of the original game has you fighting your way through skeleton pirates to take over their ship. In Resurrection, the Updated Re-release for PSP, the level is preceded with a harbour filled with acrobatic skeleton pirates.
  • Monkey Island:
    • LeChuck, the recurring antagonist of the series, is one of these. At least it explains why he keeps coming back in each game. He's even a different type in each: Ghost Pirate, Zombie Pirate, Demon Pirate...
    • Late in Tales of Monkey Island, Guybrush becomes a ghost pirate himself after being slain by LeChuck, but later finds a way to repossess his own body, and he's returned to normal at the end of the final chapter.
  • The Ghost Pirates of Moshi Monsters are simply referred to as such, when not talking specifically about the Marooned Five. They still wear a wardrobe that doesn't really fit their ghostly state. The Captain keeps his skeleton in his closet.
  • In Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull, the player character is summoned to the Louisiana bayou by a woman whose husband has gone missing. Their young daughter maintains that a ghost pirate was responsible for his abduction.
  • In New World, the first enemies you encounter are the Lost, crazed undead sailors who are still able to wield weapons, including flintlocks.
  • In Path of Exile, ghostly pirates and simply sailors comprise the bulk of the enemies encountered in the ship graveyard towards the end of Act I. One even serves as a treacherous Quest Giver!
  • Peter Pan; Adventurers In Neverland, has the Bomb Ghost in Skull Rock. A Ghost pirate with a bomb attached to a chain it wears. He follows after Peter and Tinkerbell trying to use his bomb on them. He Instead ends up using it on Mr. Smee.
  • Persona 5: Party member Ryuji Sakamoto's eponymous Persona Fighting Spirit is a skeletal pirate standing atop a floating Ghost Ship.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Online:
    • The ghosts on Raven's Cove are all either the souls of pirates who once crewed with the infamous El Patron or the former citizens of the island who were caught in their rampage.
    • The "Dark Curse" Break Attack and "Ghost Form" Weapon Skill allow the player to temporarily transform themselves into a ghost, halving melee and ranged damage for a period of time.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time features a world called Pirate Seas, which is obviously infested with Pirate Zombies trying to board the player's ship and plunder their brains.
  • Pokémon Uranium: Swabone, Skelerogue and Navighast are skeletal ghosts based on nautical themes, complete with hook hands, peg legs, bandanas and a skull-and-crossbones motif in their anatomy.
  • Ratchet & Clank:
  • The antagonists of Sonic Rush Adventure are called the "Ghost Pirates", though they're actually not ghosts at all... more like robots. Fitting, seeing as Eggman and Eggman Nega built 'em.
  • Cervantes from the Soul Calibur series is a zombie/ghost pirate thanks to the power of the evil sword Soul Edge.
  • Skies of Arcadia: One of Vyse's specials involves summoning a pirate ghost to up the party's defense.
  • Skyward Sword: Captain Scervo serves as the Sandship's miniboss, a robotic undead skeleton who's fought on a long plank and must be shoved off to continue.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • In Thief II: The Metal Age, Garrett can possibly encounter one while exploring the wreck of his ship. Stealing the pirate's loot causes him to appear as a Haunt, and Garrett then has to sneak by him in order to get away and keep the treasure.
  • In Total War: Warhammer II, the Vampire Coast is a group of undead pirates and aquatic beasts lead by a group of vampire pirate lords, under the leadership of the insane elder vampire Luthor Harkon.
  • In Uncharted 4's (non-canon) Survival multiplayer mode, there are occasional boss battles against "Warlord" enemies, who are demonic undead skeletons with supernatural powers. As befitting the game's 17th century piracy theme, two of the Warlord bosses are based on real-life pirate captains Adam Baldridge and Henry Avery. Note that Avery and Baldridge are both prominently mentioned in the historical backstory of the game's Story mode, however canonically they are not undead, but just plain dead.
  • Vega Strike flavour text on Neural Computer (cargo) says that one of their functions is maintaining a viable imitation while the pilot's brain is blacked out in a maneuver... which, since the computer doesn't always die with the pilot, "explain the reports of zombie mercenaries".
  • The Wario Land series has about one per game, with one unnamed boss in the third game, Captain Coin in the fourth game and the boss Captain Skull in Wario World being ghost pirates. Or pirate ghosts. Or both.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • There's more than one quest chain involving undead pirates.
    • The Forsaken navy, the largest in the Horde, has this as its main aesthetic. You can even play one yourself as an undead Outlaw rogue.
  • Barboros' old crew appear as these in Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure. They're insta-kill as they scare you to death if you get to close.

  • The Heavy of Archipelago, captain Snow, is a ruthless, dreaded pirate who died a couple of years before The Big Bad resurrected him to do his foul bidding.
  • There's a pirate ghost in the webcomic Eerie Cuties who's the gym teacher.
  • In El Goonish Shive, a ghost pirate haunts the school library until Tiffany gives him some orange juice for his scurvy.
  • Girl Genius: While trying to escape an undersea dome, the team is beset by ghostly Submarine Pirates ("Yeah, they get those down here"), but luckily Maxim knows that any ghostly submarine pirate will let you pass if you give them the Pearl of Skibazz. Maxim uses it to buy their way past... and they're gone before the pirate realizes it was fake. Maxim is keeping the real one for an emergency.
  • In Homestuck, both the alive and dead versions of Vriska Serket became pirates while both existed... it's complicated.
  • Jackie Rose: The villain of the second season, is a female pirate captain/witch that can use magic named Blackburn. Heck even her crew are nothing but ghouls she controls.
  • The Repository of Dangerous Things got Pirate Girl ghost Wanderin' Laurie.
  • Sequential Art has a zombie pirate, Ezekiel Pretz.

    Web Original 
  • Less is Morgue has the ghost of Blackbeard, who also happens to be a brilliant financial expert.
  • Pirates SMP: A handful of undead pirates haunt the Isles and will summon Zombie or Drowned crew to attack on their behalf; when they reach sufficiently low health, they summon a piece of TNT to self-detonate in an attempt to take the player down with them. These undead pirates are sometimes the targets for "A Terrible Beast" quests because of the danger they pose.

    Western Animation 
  • Tasha as Captain Redboots in The Backyardigans episode "Pirate Camp".
  • Camp Lakebottom: Captain Spitbeard, along with the ghost cabin boy Swabby, in "Pirates of Ickygloomy".
  • Castlevania (2017) features a variation of this trope with Godbrand, a Vampire Viking who is shown to have his own ship and crew of fellow vampire pirates, traveling through the seas to find humans to prey on.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door has an episode featuring ghost pirates, who were skeletons made of licorice, as a direct shout out to Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Cyberchase had the ghost of the pirate Ivanka in two or three episodes.
  • Danny Phantom has Youngblood and his crew.
  • The plot of the Defenders of the Earth episode "Kshin and the Ghost Ship" revolves around Kshin encountering a bunch of ghost pirates and helping them to find the compass they need to free themselves from the curse which forces them to wander the ocean for all eternity.
  • In the pilot episode of DuckTales (2017), one of the ghosts accidentally released by the nephews is a pirate captain named Peghook.
  • An episode of The Fairly OddParents! had Timmy wish up a ghost pirate to tell scary stories. The ghost decided to tell the story of when he and his undead horde laid waste to Dimmsdale.
  • The Garfield's Halloween animated special has Garfield and Odie dressed as pirates and eventually encountering some real ghost pirates who come looking for their treasure.
  • Goober and the Ghost Chasers met two on a ship named Dink and Dunk.
  • Growing Up Creepie pulls its Real After All running gag, which the programme uses incessantly, in an episode set at a beach where the characters decide to have a surf competition despite legends saying the area is haunted by the ghost of pirates who went down with their ship in the area. The stories turn out to be caused by small hermit crabs whose help Creepie keeps trying to avoid. At the end, they swim down towards a shipwreck and turn back into pirate ghosts.
  • In Hilda they're called Draugen and they are the spirits of sailors who died out at sea and became pirates in the afterlife.
  • The ghost pirate crew in the Kim Possible episode "Capt'n Drakken".
  • Played with in "The Darkest Fathoms", the first episode of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures. There's a pirate and his crew who dress like their counterparts from the age of sails, but it's also heavily implied that the ghost pirates they pretend to be are real as well.
  • A group of ghost pirates appeared in one episode of The Pirates of Dark Water. They tried to capture Ioz and turn him into one of them. Since the only thing that could harm a ghost was another ghost, Ren had to have Tula use her powers to separate his spirit from his body so he could go fight the ghost pirates and save Ioz.
  • A send up to this trope happens in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Mizzen In Action" where some pirates end up temporally displaced into modern Townsville and, mistaking chest of Chemical X for treasure, consume some and end up glowing green with superpowers like flight and enough strength to contend with the girls. Fortunately it was only temporary as apparently Chemical X needs a catalyst to grant permanent superpowers.
  • The Real Ghostbusters had to deal with a crew of these who invaded New York to retrieve their buried treasure after it was uncovered and put on display in a local museum.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • There are some episodes of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! which have (fake) Ghost Pirates. And in one episode, Ghost Vikings as well.
    • Played with in an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, as a man impersonates the ghost said to haunt a house. His disguise is clearly pirate-themed. But the real ghost ends up not even being pirate-related at all.
    • In Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, many (though not all) of the titular zombies are members of an undead pirate crew led by Captain Morgan Moonscar, who terrorized the island centuries ago. However, the pirates are no longer villainous; the people who killed them are the actual main antagonists of the movie.
    • Scooby Doo! Pirates Ahoy! has some, although they turn out to not be real ghost pirates. What a shock! Hilariously subverted, because of the guy who really believes himself to be the descendant of the pirate that his co-conspirator just made up!
  • South Park: "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery". There is a discussion over whether they're "ghost pirates" or "pirate ghosts". The ghost pirates ultimately turn out to just be a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • The Flying Dutchman from SpongeBob SquarePants is a classic Ghost Pirate who possesses many supernatural powers. He also acts as an underwater Grim Reaper, who takes the souls of dead sea creatures to Davy Jones' Locker (which is a literal gym locker filled with dirty laundry, and as revealed in a later episode, is owned by the musician Davy Jones).
    • In the episode "Shanghaied", the Flying Dutchman forces SpongeBob and Patrick to become crew members on his Ghost Ship, serving him as "ghostly ghost pirates" (though they're still alive). They're... not up to par. After losing patience with their incompetence, the Dutchman resolves to just eat SpongeBob and Patrick.
  • Subverted by The Venture Bros., in which the pirates were actually pulling a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
    Dean: Hey, it's that ghost pirate!
    Hank: Who isn't a ghost.... Or a pirate even, really.
  • The Zombie Pirates from World of Winx can change from humans to undead.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Zombie Pirate, Undead Pirate


Undead Pirate Crew

Elizabeth best start believing in ghost stories. She's in one.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / GhostPirate

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