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Ghostly Gape

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Ghosts (and some other forms of supernatural creature) are often depicted with their eyes or mouth as deep black hollows, often accompanied by the mouth gaping wide, either slack or screaming. Eyes so depicted might be missing pupils, sclera or even eyelids, while mouths may lack teeth or lips. In extreme cases the shapes of the mouth or eyes may be unnaturally rounded or distended.

In some cases the presence may imply a loss (or lack) of humanity, and be reversed should that humanity be regained (or gained in the first place).

One way or another, the effect can be unsettling; perhaps it's the lack of the emotional cues that those features provide, or the aforementioned loss of humanity.

The Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl may have eyes like this, and they're commonly (and often the only) facial features of the Bedsheet Ghost. Compare Glowing Eyelights of Undeath, with which this may be paired to create eyes like gaping pits surrounding pinpricks of light.

A subtrope of Nightmare Face. Overlaps with Black Eyes of Evil; see also Looks Like Cesare and Hidden Eyes. Compare/Contrast Excessive Evil Eyeshadow, and compare Scary Flash Light Face, which can produce an appearance much like this.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • YuYu Hakusho's Shishiwakamaru can summon ghosts with this kind of face in addition to his sword getting this kind of face via opening it's hilt to reveal that it contains strange, muscular tissue with said face.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, during the nightmare sequence in which Gowther Mind Rapes Dreyfus with his powers, the still impaled and bleeding corpse of Zaratras, Dreyfus' brother whom he murdered, appears. As Dreyfus cowers in guilt at this apparition, its eyes and mouth become dark empty abysses which spew out blood all over Dreyfus.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Both of the Grave Encounters movies feature ghosts that can have their faces transform into this when viewed through a video camera lens. Most notable is The Girl and Dr Friedkin in the first movie, and the Crawling Man in the sequel.
  • Salvage/Gruesome: Near the end, the (presumed) spirits of the two teenage victims have this appearance; bonus points for standing uncannily still, their faces tilted up.
  • The Grudge Toshio's mouth is deeply black within.
  • In Scream, Ghostface's mask has these.
  • Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz. Having escaped from his cell before the Nazis can use him for their experiments, Russian commando Dolokhov hides in another cell when he hears patrolling guards, but realises he's not alone in there. A bald-headed man is standing in the shadows, giving a Quizzical Tilt. Dolokhov peeks back outside, then suddenly realises the man is crouched right next to him. The man's eyes morph into Black Eyes of Evil and his jaw drops to an impossible depth — Dolokhov gets the hell out of there.
  • The possessed from the horror movie Dead Birds have gaping, dark eyeholes and wide open, pitch black mouths, though they posses sharp, needlelike teeth as well.
  • The Mummy (1999) has a variant with the titular villain Imhotep occasionally distending his jaw to an unnatural degree. The maw isn't pitch-black in this case, but Imhotep makes up for it with the desiccated-looking flesh that appears around his mouth when he does this, even after he rejuvenates his mummified body and starts looking fully alive most of the time.
  • The eponymous antagonist of Jennifer's Body does this at one point. In this case, the undead monster is Jennifer Check, an Alpha Bitch (played by Megan Fox) who becomes possessed upon coming back wrong. This trope specifically occurs right before she's about to feed.
  • In Dark Night of the Scarecrow, a scarecrow is possessed by the ghost of a murdered man so it can take revenge on his killers. The scarecrow's face is an burlap sack with three crude holes cut in it, opening onto utter darkness.

  • In most versions of A Christmas Carol (including the original book) Marley's ghost wears a bandage around his head to keep his jaw from hanging down, and at one point takes it off in order to frighten Scrooge even more. This is Truth in Television as the dead were sometimes buried with their jaws tied together to prevent the "screaming corpse" effect once decay set in, when the ligaments in the jaw detaches and causes the illusion that the dead person is screaming.
  • The wraithlike Dementors in Harry Potter are Made of Evil creatures with a large, gaping hole where the mouth should've been that they use for Soul Eating and empty eye sockets covered with decaying skin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The "Witch in the Well" in the Doctor Who episode "Hide" has this appearance by default, though it turns out she isn't a ghost but a living woman trapped in a bizarre parallel universe.
  • The Experiment, which is ambiguously the Greater-Scope Villain of Twin Peaks: The Return, combines this with Eyeless Face.

  • The Vocaloid song "In A Rainy Town, Balloons Dance With Devils" ends with Miku's unborn child, who has soulless black scribbles for eyes and an eerie black crescent of a grin, turning towards the camera and smiling at the viewer while blood pours out of its cracked skull.

  • The "Ghostface" mask (as seen in Scream) might be seen as a "classic" Ghostly Gape.
  • Several of artist Francis Bacon's works depict figures with semitransparent faces and screaming mouths, invoking this trope.

  • In Gottlieb's Haunted House, many of the ghosts — and even some of the objects in the house — have jagged black eyes and mouths.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • The Ao Oni has this when preparing to eat somebody.
  • Hello? Hell...o?. The ghosts of Akari and Kazuki have black, nearly round eyes and mouths.
  • One of the ghosts encountered in The Lost Crown.
  • At least one apparition in DreadOut has this appearance (albeit with white eyes above a black mouth).
  • The infamous Uboa of Yume Nikki, who resembles the Scream mask a lot.
  • In the first Animal Crossing game, forgetting to save while in another save file's town will render the character without their possessions... including their face. The poor villager will be stuck with holes where their eyes and mouth used to be until the game is started up again. This is to say nothing of the Gyroids and the NPC rabbit named Coco, who all permanently have this expression in all games.
  • These show up with the hostile ghosts as enemies in the game Nanashi no Game.
  • The ghost from Black Rose now has one of these in the revamped version.
  • Ambush from Doors Is a floating head that has this as one of it's defining characteristics, the other being a glitchy green haze.
  • Golden Freddy, resident Easter Egg/Legacy Boss Battle of Five Nights at Freddy's and its sequel, has no eyes and a slack jaw, in addition to having his head tilted to the left. Understandably, he's the most dangerous of all the animatronics; in the first game, he can crash your entire game, while in 2, modifying his AI only changes how often he appears; he's always really, really fast and capable of killing you from the hallway, before he's even in the room.note 
  • The iconic creepers from Minecraft are not any sort of ghostly being (probably) but they are decidedly unnatural and otherworldly — they spawn alongside zombies and undead skeletons, after all — and unlike anything players had ever seen before. They walk around with what appear to be empty eye sockets and a gaping mouth that sags at the corners.
  • The Ghost from the Spelunky games and the Ghosts in 2 fittingly sport this look by default. Subverted when you use the Camera on it, but only very briefly, and when it splits into smaller ghosts in the second game, some of them are depicted as if they're smiling.
  • The first and most plentiful type of monster in Amnesia: The Dark Descent resembles nothing so much as a burlap sack that's been sliced open near the top and given a face. If you were able to get a good look at it — which you shouldn't be — you would see teeth jutting out of its nonexistent lower jaw.
  • Chara from Undertale is depicted either like this, or with Red Eyes, Take Warning.
  • Played with and explained, in Lisa from P.T.: only her right eye is missing, and the player must gouge it out of her living self's picture to advance. Aside from the purgatorial implications of the player reliving memories of the murder as (or instead of) the husband, the eye was probably gouged out by said husband after he shot her in her pregnant womb.
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game: This seems to be a running motif for the Cult of Shandor. Not only do the unmasked Cultists sport the look, but it also appears as decorations on gates, bookshelves, machine parts, doors, and many, many other things.
  • All the enemies in D'LIRIUM have these.
  • In the 8-bit computer game Ghouls, one enemy is a ghost with this expression, which switches to a big smile whenever the Player Character dies.
  • Fable: The wraithlike Screamers have inhumanly distended jaws and deal Life Drain with their shrieks.
  • Monster Hunter (PC) has ghosts as recurring enemies, all of them whose faces are constantly moaning with gaping holes for eyes and mouths.
  • Gym Leader Allister in Pokémon Sword and Shield wears a mask that is meant to invoke this. It's because his real face is too cute to take seriously for a Ghost-type trainer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: You can get a special scene if you compose poems that appeal to Natsuki for the first two days of Act Two. When she shows you her poem, it's all in garbled code (which someone actually found out was in base64 and managed to translate) Translation  She then proceeds to ask you why you flaked on her, and that it was the only thing she had left to look forward to. The screen turns a dim red as she tells you Yuri is a "sick freak" and you shouldn't associate with her. As she continues to ramble, her eyes and mouth become blacked out, blood begins pouring down her face, and the music grows distorted. Eventually, she dons a huge Slasher Smile, screaming "PLAY WITH ME!!!" as her neck snaps like The Crooked Man. Her sprite then lunges toward the screen and you get the "END" card backwards. The game then goes back to normal as if nothing happened.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens in the episode "Halloween" of The Amazing World of Gumball where Darwin and Gumball take a drop of potion to become ghostly in order to join in a ghost party.
  • The Phantom Shadows from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "A Night of Fright is No Delight" have orange spots for eyes and a gaping orange mouth.
    • The "Ice Cream Ghosts" from "Ghost Of the Bad Humor Man" have this as well.