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Mayor of a Ghost Town

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Something happens to a city. It could be an evacuation or a disaster. Whoever's left over will now have the run of the city, and they can use its resources to attempt to communicate with the outside world, try to find more survivors or just have fun without anyone to stop them from breaking the rules.

Frequently found in a Cozy Catastrophe. Compare The Aloner.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Vegeta likes to remind everyone he's the prince of the Saiyans, even though all but a handful of them were wiped out when he was a young child and the two that respect his authority die fairly early in the story.
  • Kino's Journey: One of the countries that Kino encounters is the last remaining member of a "democracy" that voted by majority. Ultimately, everyone else had voted each other to death until one man and his dying wife were left.

    Comic Books 
  • Robin: When Tim starts looking into the Eldritch Abomination that completely derailed his attempt to track a gun runner he comes a town where most of the population had been slaughtered by the creature and the single remaining hold out had grabbed up what weapons and tools he could to arm himself and put defenses around his house.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • I Am Legend follows this premise.
  • The Quiet Earth: With apparently no-one else left on Earth, protagonist Zac Hobson sets a radio station to emit a message in case anyone's out there, moves to a mansion, raids shopping centres, plays with train sets in a store- and then the real trains- cracks up, starts dressing up in women's clothes and declares himself emperor of the world before an audience of cardboard cutouts. (He gets better.)
  • The French movie Seuls Twonote  is about two people waking up in a completely deserted Paris.
  • In The Ωmega Man, Charlton Heston doesn't take much advantage of this trope, since he spends his time hunting zombies. However, his love interest, Lisa, likes to go "shopping" in abandoned department stores. At least until she gets The Virus and does her Face–Heel Turn.
  • In Night of the Comet, the two protagonist teenage girls spend much of their time looting abandoned department stores for cool clothes.
  • The main cast from 28 Days Later have a Hope Spot moment raiding food from an abandoned store, and in the first scenes, Jim absconds with a bag full of soda cans from a derelict vending machine. On a darker note, since the original owners are dead, the soldiers have set up camp in an abandoned country estate, and govern from there, at one point forcing the girls to dress up in the clothing of the former lady of the house for the pleasure of the men about to rape them.
  • The protagonists of both the original Dawn of the Dead (1978) and the remake do this on a smaller scale with a shopping mall. In fact, this is largely the point (of the older movie, at least).
  • The heroes of Zombieland don't limit themselves to one town, but they raid grocery stores for food (in search of the elusive Twinkie), trash a store just for fun and crash for a while in Bill Murray's mansion (which isn't as abandoned as they thought).
  • In Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, there are no children or teens left in Springwood, yet the adults still put on a pitiful show of a town fair, complete with kiddie entertainments no kids are around to enjoy. The school and orphanage are likewise left to fall apart, each with a crackpot staff member left behind to pretend they still have kids to teach or care for.

  • The infamous Yi City of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi has Xue Yang, a Psychopathic Manchild who killed the remaining residents or poisoned them with corpse powder, turning them into living corpses. He remains in the city where he once lived happily with his nemesis-turned-object of affection for some years (by taking advantage of his enemy's newfound blindness to conceal his identity). When his identity was revealed, he emotionally tormented the object of his affections until his victim was unintentionally Driven to Suicide. The protagonist stumbles upon Xue Yang still trying to resurrect him many years later.
  • The Stand had one bomb-happy character blow up oil storage silos for the explosions, since no-one was going to stop him.
    • Hell, half of the secondary characters, especially those left in NYC, go wild with their fantasies. One guy runs into two survivors in the park and tells them he's gleeful the world is gone. Why? There's no one left to stop him from jerking off on home plate at Yankee Stadium. This is one of the few relatively benign examples.
  • Ofelia from Remnant Population stays behind after the rest of her colony is moved to another planet, and she is left as the only human on the entire world. She's not completely alone, though...
  • The protagonist of the post-pandemic London of John Christopher's novel Empty World.
  • This trope is a plot point in the zombie-apocalypse novel World War Z. When The Cavalry finally arrives in some reclaimed towns, they are never quite sure if the Mayor has all his or or her marbles.
  • Jadis, the Last Queen of Charn from The Chronicles of Narnia. In The Magician's Nephew, we find out that she single-handedly eradicated every other lifeform in her universe because her sister had raised a rebellion against her queenhood; with her sister's army at the door, she proved herself to be a sore loser. She then magically preserved herself as a statue until the heroes accidentally freed her, then hitched a ride with them to Earth and ultimately to Narnia, where she became known as the White Witch.
  • Played literally in the children's book Ghost Town Adventure. A family on a road trip comes across Ruby, a Ghost Town with exactly one resident - Mayor Abe Winters. It had been a thriving town during a gold rush but when the gold dried up everyone else in town abandoned the place. Abe figures that even though his term expired he's still the mayor until he gets voted out.
  • In A Planet for the President, the President of the United States is the only survivor of a global pandemic caused by an artificial virus deliberately spread by the American government as part of a Depopulation Bomb plot that should have not affected the American people (he only survives because his vaccine was the only one that was not faulty).
  • In the Deltora Shadowlands novel The Isle of Illusion, the heroes meet the Aurons, who have split into two factions following a schism. Those who prefer the illusion that they live in an idyllic paradise stay on the island in their Domed Hometown, while those who accept reality, or preferred the non-illusionary island, were exiled and live on a giant raft. By the time they get to the island of Auron, only one person is left alive; everyone else there is an illusion.
  • Played for laughs in "The Great Slow Kings" by Roger Zelazny, where the last survivors of their race are "ruling" the whole planet with only a single Super-Powered Robot Meter Maid as their subject.
  • Testament by David Morrell. A family on the run from Right Wing Militia Fanatics hide out in a ghost town with a single hermit. They assume he's harmless until the wife digs through the town records and finds his story doesn't match what's there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf follows this premise. A radiation leak kills the entire crew of a ship the size of a city. The only survivors were an illegal pet cat, sealed away from the radiation in the ship's cargo hold, and Dave Lister, a flunky mechanic who was in stasis as punishment for bringing the cat on board. The ship's onboard AI automatically quarantines itself from other ships, until three million years pass, long enough for the radiation to decay to safe levels, before releasing Dave out of stasis, and explaining what had happened. The rest of the main cast are rounded out by Rimmer, a hologram of Dave's dead roommate, and the Cat, a humanoid that evolved from Dave's pet cat during his time in stasis.
  • On MST3K, the robots are asked what they would do in this situation. Servo would put bricks on accelerators and drive cars off cliffs all day. Crow would put on football pads and dive through pane glass windows up and down main street.
  • My Name Is Earl had a flashback episode where the main characters think that Y2K has killed everyone else in town so they move into a supermarket and each of them claims part of the store as their own personal domain.
  • Burgess Meredith's character in the Twilight Zone episode Time Enough At Last finds himself in this position after surviving a nuclear attack by virtue of being in a bank vault at the time, much to his pleasure (at first).
  • The titular The Last Man on Earth spends the first episode having fun using the town of Tucson as his own personal playground. The second episode has other survivor Carol elect him President. After the other Phil shows, they have another election against Old Phil's will. New Phil wins.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures has an episode where Rani and Clyde find themselves alone in, as far as they can tell, the whole world.
  • Doctor Who touches on this in the episode "Hell Bent" where an immortal woman known as Me is, for a time, the last sentient being in the universe. It is implied that she spends her time watching the last of the stars die while sitting next to an empty chair and a chessboard, with no one to play with.

  • Custodians of Culture by Peter Higgins has an old man convincing a simple-minded relative that they have to take on this role for their hometown that's been abandoned after a highway bypass, when in truth he's just a bitter old hermit. After he dies the younger man decides he has a duty to stay and take on the job of custodian, rather than get on with his life.

  • BIONICLE plays with this in the description of what the Toa Of Light was flying around doing in other dimensions. The villanious/Heel–Face Turn Toa Tuyet in an alternate dimension (ignored and never mentioned outside of descriptions of said alternate dimension) specifically says (while contemplating drowning everyone in the alternate universe) that she would be ruling over an empire of corpses.

    Video Games 
  • The mayor of Shanbar in Return to Zork. The eastern half of his town has completely disappeared, the western half is empty except for himself and three other survivors, and you're the first visitor he's seen in ages.
  • Dragon Quest VII has this happen to Suifu in the Penal Colony where all the refugees/prisoners from Dharma Shrine are being held. Once the problems are solved, he finds himself alone, ruefully admitting that he'll never enjoy the sort of power and position he was able to claim for himself there.
  • Suikoden V's Tageyl stands on the verge of this: Lordlake has fallen out of favor with the queen and is slowly dying without any water.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • King Daphnes Nohansen Hyrule from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is the only person left in Hyrule after it got sealed beneath the Great Sea, using his position to guide Link and awaken Zelda. He decides to use the Triforce to drown Hyrule and himself in order to save Link and Zelda and defeat Ganon.
    • Impaz from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the last inhabitant of the Hidden Village, who turned down a chance to escape from her Bulblin-occupied village so she could give the Ancient Sky Book to the messenger of the heavens (a.k.a. Link).
    • While it's ambiguous how heavily inhabited the Great Plateau was before the Great Calamity a century ago in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (some of the structures are implied to have fallen into ruins well before that, and there's no easy path to and from the Plateau in relation to the rest of Hyrule), the Old Man is nonetheless the only friendly character there to greet and guide Link after the latter's awakening from the Shrine of Resurrection. He turns out to be the ghost of King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule, having waited that whole century for Link to recover from being Only Mostly Dead and point the hero toward his quest to defeat Calamity Ganon.
  • Shade is not the last survivor of desertified resort town Oasis in Borderlands 2. There's plenty of colorful characters who are totally alive and not mummified corpses. They have such great conversations while not slowly dying of thirst. Please stay!
  • One of the most dramatic examples is Andrew Ryan in BioShock; even as Rapture slowly began to break apart, its people going mad and slaughtering each other in its halls, he remained convinced that it would all be well and good with just a little more time...
  • Most fortresses in Dwarf Fortress will eventually suffer catastrophes and get wiped out, but if one of the inhabitants became a vampire, they're likely to survive and keep the fortress going as the sole inhabitant, as they requires no sustenance.
  • In The Last of Us, Joel and Ellie end up in the ruins of Lincoln, Massachusetts, where Joel's "friend" Bill lives. He is the only remaining resident and even refers to Lincoln as "MY town".

    Web Original 
  • Played for laughs in Homestuck. The Wayward Vagabond, a non-human wanderer of post-apocalyptic Earth, is fascinated enough by the idea of democracy that he becomes a mayor over a stash of cans.
    • It's less humorous now that fans are speculating he did this as a coping mechanism after two entire armies he was leading were slaughtered in front of him in a matter of seconds, leaving him as the only survivor.

    Western Animation 
  • Named for the The Simpsons episode in which Homer divides Springfield into two towns, Old Springfield and New Springfield. When Homer erects a wall to this effect, the citizens of New Springfield quickly realize that they suddenly have no means of obtaining supplies. All but the Simpson family climb over the border, leaving a disgruntled Homer alone, to which Bart says 'Face it Homer, you're mayor of a ghost town!'
    • Homer also has the run of Springfield for about half a Treehouse of Horror segment, after a Neutron Bomb kills all the people. And turns many others into cannibal zombies.
    • Moe became Emperor of the starved lawless en-domed Springfield by chucking grenades at anyone who challenges his authority in The Simpsons Movie.
  • Pinky and the Brain, when Brain manages to take over the world by luring all its inhabitants to the doppelganger planet Chia Earth (which is made of papier-mache). In the end, he goes so mad with the boredom of ruling an empty planet that he decides to put forward a bunch of bills, then use his presidential powers to veto them. For fun.
  • This is how an alternate-future version of Vandal Savage has lived for thirty millennia in the Justice League episode, "Hereafter."
  • In the Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Ozai appoints Azula as the new Fire Lord while he goes off to end the war (and gives himself a new title denoting supreme ruler of the world). Azula's increasing instability and paranoia means she ends up gradually banishing every member of the Royal Household (and, possibly, everyone in the Fire Nation capital) other then the few people needed to coronate her.
  • An episode of Duckman had the whole town perform an "emergency drill", only to get trapped in the shelter underground. Only Duckman (who slept through the alarm) and a deaf woman (who couldn't hear it) remain, convinced they are the last people alive. So Duckman engages in his every hedonistic desire; tooling around in a motorcycle, stealing things, blowing up buildings, and unknowingly causing hell for the people trapped below.

    Real Life 
  • Played literally for six French communes which still legally exist and thus have a mayor named by the prefect in spite of being totally destroyed during World War I.
  • Rotten boroughs: Until 1832, some British MPs had constituencies with very few voters, due to the towns having declined centuries earlier. The most notorious examples included Old Sarum, Wiltshire, which had only seven voters and no standing houses, and Dunwich, Suffolk, which was an important city in medieval times but had since been largely erased by coastal erosion to the point that, while it once had half a dozen churches, only half of one remained standing. Meanwhile, formerly unimportant little towns that had expanded to cities of twenty thousand people or more had no MPs at all. It was another seventy years before Parliament thought of creating a civil service department to periodically adjust constituency boundaries based on census data rather than waiting until the issue was threatening to cause civil unrest, but to their credit they never let it get quite that bad again.
  • The western USA has a few mostly abandoned settlements which would no longer appear on the map if not for one or two remaining residents.
    • Monowi, Nebraska is the only incorporated municipality in the United States with such a population. It's one resident is the town mayor, librarian, and bartender.
  • The smallest community in Germany to have its own mayor is Hallig Gröde, an island in the North Sea, population 7. It used to have a bit more people on it in the past. In 1825 there were 90 people. Papers love to interview the "mayor" for tourism pieces.
  • In order to be able to take the maximum amount of taxes in the State Treasury from the Federal government, who wanted to create a nuclear waste storage center, the government of Nevada created in 1987 the county of Bullfrog out of Nye County, around the completely uninhibited Yucca Mountain, where the waste had to be sent, and set the land value tax to the maximum. This county, deprived of any population and infrastructure such as roads, had its seat at Carson City, the capital, and its officials were named by the central government. In 1989 the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the fact Bullfrog County had no resident made it unable to have a representative government, making the creation of this county unconstitutional.