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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 and don't move their legs. 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.
  • Dracula:
  • 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.

  • Carmilla: The first night that Carmilla enters Laura's bedroom at night, Laura wakes up and sees "a female figure" standing at the foot of her bed. Though the figure stands perfectly still, she seems nevertheless to change its place and move out by the door.
  • In Harry Potter, this is one trait of the emotion-draining, Soul Eating, black-cloaked Humanoid Abomination Dementors. Becomes a plot point in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when a court witness claims to have seen Dementors running towards a crime scene, which gives away that her testimony is false.
  • Infinite Dendrogram: "Hareshark Nullstep", the main power of Kashimiya's Embryo Inaba, allows Kashimiya to move by sliding around rather than walking. This is in order to synergise with his class ability "Godlike Unsheathing", which gives him 100 times his normal speed but only while drawing a sword - put together, they effectively allow him to Flash Step.

    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. To make it as unsettling as possible, this was accomplished by Practical Effects (mimes lifted by sky cranes).
  • Carnivŕle: 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 3rd Edition:
    • The Expanded Psionics Handbook has the Elocater 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.
    • Dragon Magazine #359 introduces the "Footsteps of the Mage" feat, permitting an arcane caster to glide without actually taking steps. This confers greater balance and even allows to move with bound feet.
  • 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 

    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 Elocater Prestige Class.
  • El Goonish Shive: Nanase isn't the best at being subtle about having magic powers. Sometimes she just kind of floats around... and this has not been ignored by other students.

    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?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / GhostlyGlide

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