Evil ghosts and spirits are terrifying and murderous. They can't be reasoned with, as they have a single-minded goal of getting to you. As well, they're unstoppable. No weapon you use on them shows any effect, as bullets and knives pass harmlessly through their vaporous bodies. No barrier or door you set up can keep them away, as they can pass through them. You're doomed to face their menacing threats.
And then you pull out your secret weapon. The one thing in your arsenal that can stop an evil spirit.
Is it a magical glowing sword, imbued with the power of angels?
A powerful, ancient talisman from an Egyptian tomb that can shine holy light?
No, indeed, it isn't remotely magical at all, and in fact can be found in at least one closet of most modern homes: The dreaded vacuum cleaner.
Apparently, ghosts, wraiths, genies, and other specters are simply floating lumps of conscious gas, and quite easily dispelled by vacuuming them up. Of course, with ghosts being intangible, how exactly they are unable to escape the vacuum again afterwards is often left unexplained.
The trope name is a play on the physics quote "nature abhors a vacuum" by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. He believed that nature contains no vacuums note because the denser surrounding material continuum would immediately fill the rarity of an incipient void. Vacuum cleaners are so named because they operate on this principle - the body uses a motor to expel air from vents, and the inlet side (tube, vacuum head, etc) pulls in whatever is at its opening to fill the space.
Subtrope of Weapons That Suck. Compare Vicious Vac (which the vacuum certainly looks like from a ghost's perspective). Often seen as the weapon of choice for The Real Spoofbusters even though the Awesome Backpack and the vacuuming containment unit were separate tools in the original Ghostbusters.
- Ayakashi Triangle:
- In an unusual variant, Matsuri's pinwheel can suck evil spirits possessing humans out of their mouth through its base, and then expel them from its blades as a gust of wind. Even more bizarrely, without the pinwheel, Matsuri can suck out the spirits using his own mouth. If he uses the technique on a (solid) ayakashi, which needn't be through their mouth, it will suck away their power, weakening them.
- Reo is introduced sucking up an ikon into a tube, not with a vacuum cleaner, but a hand-pumped air cylinder. This only works on amorphous ayakashi, whereas Shirogane simply got his tail caught in the nozzle. Paper talismans wrapped around the tube keep the ayakashi inside—until it breaks out because it's more powerful than Reo expected.
- M78 Love and Peace: One of the short gags of this OVA spin-off of the Ultra Series has Ultraman working as a janitor in the Monster Graveyard, where he proceeds to suck up a whole ton of ghosts using a vacuum cleaner. He then noticed one last lonely ghost still around, which he quickly sucked up, only to result in said vacuum overloading and exploding, where all the ghosts in the vacuum merges into a giant-sized super-ghost and proceeds to chase Ultraman off-screen.
- Yo-kai Watch: Whisper has been sucked into a vacuum by accident in at least two episodes: once in "The Sleepover," and again in "Yo-Kai Peppillon."
- The Dandy: Subverted. In one issue Brain Dwayne, feeling smug at people getting scared by a haunted house builds a modified vacuum and goes around it sucking up the ghosts. It's only after he gets home and boasts about it to his mother, that she asks what exactly stops the intangible ghosts from simply leaving the vacuum and he realises he didn't think of that. Cut the reveal all the annoyed spirits are now haunting his house.
- Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges' spirits exist in gaseous forms that can be temporarily trapped inside a vacuum. The rest of the time they're contained inside a Crystal Prison.
- Suske en Wiske:
- In "De Sprietatoom", after Savantas dies and comes back as a ghost, Wiske disposes of him by vacuuming him up.
- In "De spokenjagers" (the ghost hunters), Jerom captures the final two ghosts with a vacuum cleaner.
- Casper: James Harvey gets into a fight with the Ghostly Trio. The ghosts initially have the upper hand, until James gets his hands on a vacuum cleaner (which the ghosts have never seen before), and vacuums them all up (though it takes some effort on his part to completely suck up Fatso). They can be heard bickering with one another inside the vacuum as the scene ends. The next morning, Kat uses a dust buster for protection as she wanders the mansion.
- Ultimately subverted the next morning, as they're right back to terrorizing James and Kat. They later show that there are few things they won't touch when going for a scare or gag (including pretending to summon James' deceased wife); the vacuum was an opportunity to demonstrate that they aren't going anywhere. They even pull a Weakened by the Light gag in front of James and Kat to hammer their position home.
- One of the earlier Alice, Girl from the Future stories has Alice claiming she met a ghost. When her father sees it and runs toward it, it seems to disappear, and the girl says it must be approached slowly so that it won't be blown away by the wind. In the end, the "ghost" turned out to be a Professor Guinea Pig whose body was all but completely dispersed when a fuse was blown during a teleportation experiment.
- In The Stinger of the Good Luck Charlie episode, "Scary Had a Little Lamb", the ghost of Ezekiel Fitchhorn comes to the Duncan house to return the favor to Amy for visiting his grave the night before. When he asks Amy to go on a date with him, she turns him down due to him being 90 years older than her and dead. She then sucks him up in her vacuum cleaner.
Ezekiel: Next time, a simple "No, thank you." will suffice.
- Five Nights With Mr. Hugs (& Friends): To get rid of Dust Bonnie, a weird ghostly rabbit animatronic made of dust, the player has to use the vacuum cleaner until he (temporarily) disappears. Failing to do so before he reaches the right corner of the screen would result in the Jumpscare and Game Over.
- Gal*Gun 2: One of your weapons to defeat the mini-demons attacking the school is a vacuum weapon that sucks them in... and also sucks the clothes off of any girls that are in the vicinity. Yeah, it's that kind of game.
- Activision's 1984 Ghostbusters game. The title characters have a "ghost vacuum" on their vehicle, the Ecto-1. It sucks down ghosts that are wandering the streets, which reduces the rate of increase of PK Energy in the city.
- In the type-in BASIC adventure game Haunted House (from Write Your Own Adventure Programs for Your Microcomputer) the vacuum cleaner is used to defeat paralysing ghosts.
WHIZZ- VACUUMED THE GHOSTS UP!
- The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap: The Gust Jar is your go-to for defeating any ghost-like enemies, like ghinies and that one wraith thing possessing the old man from the Wind Tribe.
- Luigi's Mansion: Luigi's weapon of choice is the Poltergust, a modified vacuum invented by Professor E. Gadd for the express purpose of catching ghosts. It also works pretty great as an ordinary vacuum.
- Midnight Ghost Hunt: One of the items the ghost hunters can equip themselves with is a vacuum. The vacuum is used to suck up the shattered remains of a ghost so it can't be revived by the other ones.
- One of the mini-games in the PC adaptation of Monopoly Jr. takes place in the Haunted House, where the goal is to suck up ghosts with a vacuum cleaner.
- Bruno the Bandit used a vacuum cleaner in place of an enchanted box to trap the Dread Lord Numbth'kul off-camera between this comic and this comic.
- Grim Tales from Down Below: In the fight between Mina Harper and Mimi, after Mina uses her vampire powers to turn into a ghostly form to avoid getting crushed by a house Mimi threw at her, Mimi uses a vacuum to trap her.
- In Danny Phantom, one of the ghost-catching devices built by Danny's parents is a vacuum-like device called the Fenton Ghost Weasel. It turns out to work quite effectively. The ghost-sucking device that is used most often in the series is the Fenton Thermos.
- In the DuckTales (2017) promo "Meet Mrs. Beakley!" Mrs. Beakley is vacuuming while the kids flee from a ghost. She calmly flips a switch on the vacuum from "dirt" to "ghost", vacuums up the ghost, then returns to her cleaning.
- Fairly OddParents:
- Genies can be sucked by either magical lamps or vacuum cleaners with bags made of smoof.
- In "Poltergeeks," Timmy's parents become ghost hunters and capture ghosts (or rather, Timmy's fairies pretending to be ghosts) using a vacuum-like device as a Shout-Out to Ghostbusters. However, a problem arises when they borrow a vacuum device from Crocker that can actually capture fairies.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Of a sort in the episode "Bloooo." Wilt, Eduardo, and Coco mistake Bloo (who is sick and very pale) for the ghost from the scary movie they had just watched. They remember that an "Atomic Suckulator" was used to defeat the ghost and end up arming themselves with a vacuum cleaner from an egg Coco lays.
- On one episode of The Smurfs (1981), Brainy and Clumsy become "Ghostsmurfers", hunting for ghosts in a haunted castle. Handy equips them with ghost-catching devices, which suck the ghosts into a jar using bellows.
- In the The Simpsons episode, "Loan-a-Lisa", in the Itchy and Scratchy episode that parodies the beginning of Up, Itchy kills Scratchy and his girlfriend, and when their souls try to float up to heaven, Itchy sucks them up in a vacuum cleaner. Then he takes out the vacuum bag (which the souls are struggling to get out of) and lights it on fire.
- Super Friends: Superman once imprisoned an evil genie by inhaling him and then blowing him back into his lamp.
- Teen Titans Go!: In "Laundry Day," Cyborg dies from smelling Beast Boy's dirty clothes. Before his spirit can go to the great beyond, Beast Boy sucks it up with a vacuum and puts it back into Cyborg's body, which revives him.
- The 1942 Tom and Jerry cartoon "Fraidy Cat" has Jerry Mouse drape a nightgown over an upright vacuum cleaner, then switch it on/off in succession to mimic an angry ghost. Tom falls for the ruse to the point where his "lives" desert his body, neatly numbered 1 through 9. Lives 1 to 8 seem horrified as they're being drawn by the suction toward the closet; number 9, however, grins like an idiot, enjoying the ride.
- In an episode of Kidd Video the band finds themselves in a city full of ghosts. Whiz saves the day by inventing a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks them all up.