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Ghostly Glide

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You'll never hear her coming.

"Am I goin' crazy, or are her feet not touchin' the ground?"

The simplest trick in horror is to make something natural act in a way that isn't. Ghosts can usually fly, walk through walls, disappear, and so on. But one need not invoke the whole suite of supernatural effects to achieve unsettling ends. Sometimes, a more subtle approach can achieve truly disquieting effects.

A Ghostly Glide is when a character gets around by less than ambulatory means. The trope is usually invoked in one of two ways. Sometimes, fluid movement gives a character the appearance of floating, meant to highlight the character's grace and beauty. More often, however, it creates an unsettling effect. In most cases, the floating is clearly a sign of supernatural influence.

Compare Power Floats, which is when the floating is done as a show of power, rather than to disquiet, though the two can overlap. A good rule of thumb is if it looks like the director put the character on a skateboard and then pulled the character across the screen, that's a Ghostly Glide. If a menacing character hangs in midair, that's Power Floats. Can be paired with Marionette Motion if the character in question is under the control of others. Compare Flash Step.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Slayers: Copy Rezo begins exhibiting eerie symptoms, including this trope. Later melds with Power Floats when its revealed he merged himself with Zanaffar's spirit.
  • Ulysses 31: The dead denizens of Hades's kingdom are floating above the ground. For added creepy, they also always move backward, their back facing the mortals they're chasing.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Beetlejuice:
    • A very subtle example. The Maitlands glide while wearing sheets and "pretending" to be ghosts. However, when Lydia begins taking pictures of them, they begin to show more normal signs of movement.
    • A more direct example comes at the climax when Lydia, suddenly garbed in her red wedding dress, slides effortlessly to Beetlejuice's side. Though this is not of her own accord.
  • Big Trouble in Little China: Lo Pan floats like this when he's in his ghost form.
  • The Blues Brothers. At the end of the scene with the "Penguin" (Sister Mary Stigmata) and Jake and Elwood Blues, she moves back through an open door into a room as if she were floating on air. Along with the other magical effects she demonstrates earlier in the scene, it manages to be one of the more memorably instances of Nuns Are Spooky.
  • Death Becomes Her: Creepy nuns float down the hallway leading to the morgue, past Bruce Willis's character.
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula: Dracula is shown moving in this way several times.
  • In Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Dracula's wives do this. Both lampshaded and subverted when he tells them to knock it off, and the women stomp off instead.
  • In House on Haunted Hill, the ghostly figure in the cellar later revealed to be one of the caretakers that terrified Nora moves by gliding rather than walking.
  • The Nazgul move like this in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when they invade the Prancing Pony.
  • The Martians from Mars Attacks! are seen walking, but their leader and ambassador are usually clad in a cape and seems to be gliding for added effect. Also the case with the spy disguised as a human female.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe: In Avengers: Infinity War, when first seen on the planet Vormir, the Red Skull is clad in a Black Cloak and floating above the ground, giving him a very specter-like appearance.
  • Men in Black II: The tall, conical alien Jarra moves like this, though more for extraterrestrial reasons.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Kosh (and other Vorlons in contact with younger races) wore an "encounter suit" to conceal his true form, and moved in a silent, gliding motion. He could have moved pretty much any way he wanted to in his true form (even through bulkheads), but chose to present himself in this way. He could seem to suddenly appear to a character due to this silent movement — not necessarily to scare but to make a dramatic impression.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Gentlemen in the episode "Hush" hover inches off the ground rather than walking, adding to their creepiness.
  • Carnivàle: During one of Brother Justin's visions, the ghosts of children float into, then out of, view.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Pilot", when Bill encounters the transformed Heather outside on the university campus after fleeing her flat, she walks toward Heather, who moves towards Bill like this at the same rate with every step Bill takes.
    • In "The Magician's Apprentice", Colony Sarff moves this way — not because he's a ghost, but because he's a collection of snakes.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: The bowler-wearing ghost moves in this fashion, with a cane added for extra weirdness. In the past, its feet are clearly visible above the ground. The present version also moves this way, though its feet are motionless on the ground.
  • The Janitor from Scrubs dresses up with a white sheet and roller skates around the pediatric ward to scare the kids. He does this to discourage the kids from making messes that he would have to clean up. He specifically states that he added the roller blades to make the ghost more "glide-y."
  • Happens to Lydia in the Teen Wolf episode "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" during one of her psychic fugue states.
  • Wilfred: Parodied in the episode "Respect", wherein Wilfred glides around the room as a dark messianic character, choosing which old people to die. It Makes Sense in Context.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Dustin Rhodes floated to the ring via invisible wires in his one and only appearance as "Seven" in WCW, after which he cut a Worked Shoot promo berating the gimmick. A rare "visible feet" occurrence of the trope in a live-action setting.
  • The Undertaker is said to have this power as part of his gimmick, and in at least one Wrestlemania event "floated" to the ring via a moving platform concealed under fog.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Edition 3.5 has the Elocator psionic Prestige Class. The first power gained is "Scorn Earth", the ability to float and move a foot above the ground. Used mostly for practical purposes rather than creepiness, though, but a creative player will sure find a way.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Necron Monoliths, like most other Necron vehicles, hover as a means of movement. Unlike most other vehicles, however, the Monolith's slow, ponderous approach is infinitely more eerie and menacing.

    Video Games 
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The undead witch Alice Alisceon hovers across the battlefield despite still being nailed to the broken-off cross on which she was executed. When not engaged in battle, she zips around at random, raving incoherently.
  • The Elder Scrolls: The Dragon Priests in Skyrim float just above the ground instead of walking.
  • The Wraith in Evolve combines this with Evil Slinks to slither through the air just above the ground. Fittingly, its also the most likely of the monsters to induce paranoia through its ambush tactics and illusions.
  • Haunting Starring Polterguy: This is poltergeist Polterguy's default method of moving forward.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The Death Sword hovers in the air until it crashes down on you. Then floats back up and heads slowly for you. Only when you use the wolf's senses do you see the robed ghost holding it up.
    • The Happy Mask Salesman from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask never walks anywhere. He usually "cuts" from frame-to-frame to different locations, though at one point he turns around to face the camera by slowly rotating on the spot...
  • Hellen Gravely in Luigi's Mansion 3 wears a floor-length dress, and glides smoothly around the hotel. As if the fact that she has purple skin and a name to run away from really fast weren't enough of a hint that she's a ghost!
  • No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way has Pierre, the towering Mime King who wears a trailing coat and moves with a ghostly glide. The game eventually reveals how when his coat is pulled off: He is in fact a dwarf on a unicycle.
  • Pokémon:
  • Liches and banshees in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft. Neither appear to even have legs, though as the latter are spirits and the former have their physical form generated by their phylactery, it's understandable to a degree.

    Web Animation 
  • Lewis of Mystery Skulls Animated glides along rather than walking or running, though he presumably could if he wanted to since he at one point stamps a foot down when getting ready to pummel Shiromori.

    Web Comics 
  • Anti-Heroes: Quentas the Psion is always floating above the ground and gliding around rather than walking. Since this a comic based on D&D 3.5, he probably has levels in the Elocator Prestige Class.

    Western Animation 
  • Marceline on occasion in Adventure Time, though she usually floats a majority of the time.
  • Done during a Imagine Spot in Arthur when the librarian tells the kids that the "Scare Your Pants Off" books (a expy of the then popular Goosebumps series) has been taken off the shelves. The kids understandably freak out and we cut to the librarian shushing them then the camera pulls back to reveal she has no legs and glides back into the library.
  • Steven Universe:
    • "Rose's Room": In the simulation of Beach City, the fake Lars and Sadie move around like this.
    • In "Legs From Here to Homeworld", White Diamond's Pearl glides about everywhere on the tips of her toes. In fact, the only part of her body that moves individually is her mouth. The whole effect makes her rather eerie. It eventually turns out that she used to move more normally before White Diamond turned her into a Meat Puppet.
  • Raven in Teen Titans Go! glides around everywhere, her legs usually hidden by her flowing cloak. (This doesn't prevent her from slipping on a banana peel, though). Here it's more for comedic purposes than creepiness, as an exaggeration of her flying powers in the original series. Heck, when she lands in one episode they have to teach her how to walk because she forgot! She then becomes Lady Legasus, to honestly just show that She's Got Legs.
  • The Venture Bros.: The sinister cadre known as The Silent Partners are shown not only gliding smoothly from place to place, but also have the habit of entering or leaving a room by levitating out of/ in to the floor.

    Real Life 
  • The page quote from Nuns Are Spooky:
    "They have the skirts too of course, so many skirts and veils that you could never hear or see their feet. 'Hover Nuns' we used to call them. [...] They're damn spooky."


Video Example(s):


Death Becomes Her - Morgue Scene

In the hallway leading to the morgue, some nuns eerily "walk" past Ernest.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / GhostlyGlide

Media sources:

Main / GhostlyGlide