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Mundane Ghost Story

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A mundane ghost story is a scary story involving rational worries rather than implausible phobias.

Someone tells a Ghost Story in classic fashion, probably around a campfire or with a flashlight aimed up under the face, only the ghost story is about something that is not really scary in the traditional nightmare sense: being stuck in a loveless marriage, living an unfulfilling life, sexual inadequacy, and so on. This is usually played for laughs, avoiding anything involving physical pain or death, dealing with something sillier like having to wear a stupid outfit to school, having a bad haircut, or eating something that tastes terrible.

This type of scary story usually bypasses fantastic and/or supernatural horrors found in the common ghost story, for something that tends to actually happen in real life to sane people.


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  • One of the Charmin ads with the bears involves the father bear telling his children a scary story, which involved him having been stranded without any toilet paper.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh
    Osaka: Sometime last night, I was all alone in my room. When suddenly, from out of nowhere... the smell of a fart that wasn't mine wafted into my nose.
  • In the Ghost Story episode of the Sgt. Frog anime, Dororo's story involves an incident in his childhood when, after he refused to let Keroro play with an expensive toy, someone mysteriously made a long-distance phone call to another planet. "The phone bill we got was certainly terrifying."

    Comic Books 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin has hiccups and asks Hobbes to scare him to cure him.
    Hobbes: OK, our oceans are filled with garbage, we've created a hole in the ozone that's frying the planet, nuclear waste is piling up without any safe way to get rid of it...
    Calvin: I meant surprise me.
    Hobbes: That doesn't? Boy, you're cynical.
  • There was a particularly disturbing (by its standards) The Family Circus Sunday strip with Jeffy asking his dad about monsters, the dad assuring him there were none, and the final frame showing the dad walking out of Jeffy's room with Not Me ghosts marked "taxes", "recession" and "war" floating around him.
  • Jason does to this Paige in FoxTrot. After his conventional ghost stories fail to scare her, he tells her one that ends with "...and when she opened the closet, all the clothes were polyester!".
  • An editorial cartoon had a father telling his kids a campfire story that ended with "...and we sat on the runway for hours with only peanuts to eat!" (dramatic hand gesture)

    Fan Works 

  • Addams Family Values: Wednesday's ghost story at the Summer Camp.
    Wednesday: And so, the next night, the ghost returned to the haunted cabin, and he said to the campers "None of you really believe in me, so I'll have to prove my power." And the next morning, when the campers woke up... all of their old noses had grown back. [cue screams of terror and a smirking Wednesday]
  • Cheaper by the Dozen 2 did this. The rich kids were reading about a family that was worrying about how to pay their car payment that month, and then they all shuddered in fear and disgust at the thought of not being super-rich.
  • Role Models included a scene where Paul Rudd's character told the "true scary story" about the facts of child slavery and abduction around the world.
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives: one camp counselor scares the others with the story of Jason Voorhees, and then follows up with, "I can only think of one thing even more terrifying." That thing is a bus load of rowdy, bratty kids. "I think I'd rather deal with ol' Jason," replies another camp counselor.
  • Troop Beverly Hills, with a story about a trip to the salon.
    [hysterical screams]

    Live-Action TV 
  • iCarly's bra. He seems to be scared of things like washing machines, and Spanish as a primary language, as seen here - Scary Videos.
  • In the Kenan & Kel Halloween special "Two Heads Are Better Than None," Kel mishears "ghost stories" as "toast stories." Cue his attempt at a scary campfire story:
    Kel: When the bread popped out of the toaster, no one knew what to put on it. Jelly? Margarine? Cinnamon sugar? I suggested butter. Crumbs were everywhere!
  • On Parks and Recreation, the Twist Ending of Ron's ghost story is a mandatory government inspection of private property. As a libertarian, this is truly horrifying to him.
  • Seinfeld had the similar scenario of Frank Costanza's war story: He was the cook for his unit, but the shipment of food he received was expired. In his hubris, he thought he could compensate for this with just the right seasoning, but he "over seasoned" and made the food too spicy, causing the troops to get sick. He was so scarred by this that he vowed never to cook again.
    Frank: I sent sixteen of my own men to the latrines that night! They were just boys...
    • It Runs in the Family. His son George's life is so tragic that a short list of things that had happened to him on the show was able to get him more pity than the survivor of a famous shipwreck.
  • Done in The Big Bang Theory, where at the ending of "The Adhesive Duck Deficiency" Raj was finishing up what seems to be your standard campsite ghost story (complete with flashlights to the face), only for the twist ending to be "He slept with his cousin!" (a Call-Back to Howard admitting that he'd unknowingly done just that during his youth), and proceeded to laugh hysterically, with a humiliated Howard telling them that it wasn't funny to begin with.
  • In Monk, Randy Disher attempts to give a ghost story to a group of campers as part of a camping trip, but Monk basically spoils the story by pointing out inaccuracies in it.
  • Saturday Night Live had a skit where Stuart Smalley tells a "scary story" that starts out like the urban legend about the babysitter getting calls from inside the house. Instead of vague threats the person on the phone just incoherently rambles for a few minutes, and as it turns out it's the girl's drunk father. Stuart says they stage an intervention for him.
  • In "Camp Cutthroat: If It Bleeds, We Can Skillet" from Cutthroat Kitchen, one of the sabotages was to force another of the chefs to stop cooking and sit and listen to host Alton Brown telling a lengthy one of these.
    Alton: They say you can hear him, scouring his non-stick pan.


    Video Games 
  • The Yuletide ghost stories in Kingdom of Loathing usually do involve ghosts, but most of them have incredibly mundane endings, like an Indian Burial Ground being dealt with by lawyers, but cursing all burgers cooked on the site to be raw on the inside but burnt on the outside.
  • Portal 2: While exploring an unlit part of Aperture with Chell, Wheatley relates a story about how a crew of robots were dismembered by an insane robot and in certain parts of the facility you can still hear the screams... of their replacements. He lampshades this with his next comment that it's not really supernatural at all. (Though still creepy.)
  • Lorelai certainly has some supernatural elements (like coming back to life and exploring the world after death), but the true horror comes from the mundane situation of a horrific, abusive man that laughs at his wife's suicide, and kills three people, including a baby.
  • In the Night in the Woods graveyard hangout with Bea, Mae challenges her to come up with a ghost story. Bea's horror story involves a landlord coming to evict her. Mae is unimpressed and compromises with a zombie landlord.

    Web Comics 
  • In Unwinder's Tall Comics, Unwinder seeks to exploit his friend Barbecue Sauce's greatest fear. Turns out Sauce's greatest fear is Dying Alone; so Unwinder tells him a campfire story about the dreaded Dying Alone Snakes.
    Unwinder: Never heard of them before? They wait to strike until you're all by yourself... Then as you lay on the ground, dying slowly from the deadly venom... they abandon you.
  • Penny Arcade:
    • Gabe recounts every gamer's worst fear: a pre-sale ticket being invalid!
    • They also did another one where someone had been playing FFVII for 20+ hours nonstop before suddenly realizing he had no room left on his memory card.

    Web Original 
  • The YouTube video called Bus Disney Horror, about overcrowding at Disney World during Christmas.
  • Some Creepypastas deal with this. Sometimes, they're played for laughs. Other times...not so much...
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. Yugi's attempt at a horror story.
    Yugi: Once upon a time, there was a duelist. And he was challenged to a card game by another duelist. The game went on for hours, and the duelist was about to win with only three turns left, but then his opponent activated Swords of Revealing Light, which prevented him from attacking for three turns...!
    Tea: That was a stupid story that would only scare idiots like Tristan!
    Tristan: I am an idiot like Tristan and I'm scared of that story!
  • One Tumblr post is a creepypasta that simply consists of the words "carpeted kitchen".

    Western Animation 
  • Freakazoid!: The scariest thing in the world would be if Sinbad got another TV show! (the comedian, not the adventurer).
    • Or is you went to touch something, and it wasn't there...because it turned to WOOD!
  • The Simpsons:
    • The season eight episode "The Springfield Files" (the Bizarro Episode-cum-crossover episode with The X-Files that had Leonard Nimoy narrating it for the first two acts) had Homer and Bart out in the woods in search of the alien. Bart asks Homer if he can have some beer, with Homer telling him that beer is only for "...daddies and kids with fake IDs note " then Homer suggests that they tell ghost stories to pass the time. This was Bart's:
      Bart: ...and that is how much college will cost for Maggie.
      Homer: No! NO! NOOOOOO!!!!!
    • There is an alternate scene on the season eight DVD set in which the original mundane horror story was about the contents of an Oscar Meyer wiener, with Homer reacting the same way.
    • A carnival "house of horrors" ride presents an old woman in a rocking chair who says, "Behold! The ravages of age!"
  • Arthur was the carnival barker at a "house of horrors" that featured the most embarrassing moments of his friends, such as the Brain wearing pajamas to school.
  • Futurama, "Where the Buggalo Roam":
    Bender: ...and even though the computer was off and unplugged, an image remained on the screen. It was... the Windows logo!
    Fry: Pfft! That's not scary.
    Bender: It is if you're a laser printer.
  • The Daria episode "The Teachings of Don Jake" had Jake tell a story about a boy who hears weird splashing noises in his sleep and wakes to find his father gone.
    Jake: Then, lying there in the darkness, the boy heard a tiny splashing sound. Psh! Psh! Like waves on a faraway shore. Except...the nearest ocean was a hundred miles away. The boy reached out for his sleeping father...but he was gone. Shaking with fear, the boy stumbled out of the rickety lean-to, and that's when he saw it: his father, sitting alone at the campfire. ALONE!...with a whole case of beer! Psh! Psh! [pantomimes drinking] The selfish old bastard was WASTED AGAIN!
    • And then there's Quinn's ghost story:
      Quinn: So, Cinderella said, "I can't go to the ball in these rags." So her fairy godmother waved her magic wand and behold! She was wearing a gown of silver and gold — big, clunky silver and gold sequins that you wouldn't wear to one of those '70s nostalgia proms, much less a formal party at a palace! And when she went to look in the mirror — the one that made her look thin — instead she looked BLOATED!
      Helen: Quinn, honey, is this really a scary story?
      Quinn: Wait! I haven't gotten to the shoes yet!
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Look Before You Sleep," Twilight Sparkle is throwing a slumber party by the book, running down a checklist of activities that includes ghost stories. Applejack and Rarity, however, are not feeling charitable toward each other, and have been using each activity to snipe at each other, and this is no exception:
    Applejack: I'd like to tell y'all the terrifying tale of the prissy ghost, who drove everypony crazy with her unnecessary neatness! OooOOOooo! I'm sure y'all are familiar with that one.
    Rarity: Never heard of it. But I have a much better one. It's the horrifying story of the messy, inconsiderate ghost, who irritated everypony within a hundred miles! OooOOOooo!
    Applejack: That's not a real story! You made it up.
    Rarity: It is a ghost story. They're all made up.
  • Quagmire in Family Guy tells the bone-chilling horror story of a man waking up in bed to find his lover is still there.
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy travels to the past and tells his dad scary stories from the future.
    Timmy: In the future there will be 500 TV channels!
    Dad: Cool!
    Timmy: ...but nothing to watch!
    Dad: Noooooooooo!!!!
  • An episode of Johnny Bravo had Johnny try to tell a traditional campfire a bunch of computer-geeks, who of course aren't scared because the monster is "impossible." Then Carl tells a story about a kid who discovers his hard-drive has crashed and all content on his computer is deleted, which gets a much better reaction.
    Camper: B-Boy, that sure was scary, right Johnny? [everyone notices Johnny is missing] Johnny?"
    [cut to Johnny hiding in a tree, trembling]
    Johnny: [addressing the audience] I don't know what he said... but it was the way he told it.
  • In "Meteor Shower" from Pete the Cat, everyone is having trouble staying awake. Callie says that she has trouble sleeping when she's scared. She thinks a scary story will keep them awake, so she tells a "scary story."
    Callie: Once there was a cat who kept her room organized. One day, she came home and her room was messy. She spent all afternoon cleaning it, but when she finished, she turned around and... [gasps] the room was messy again! [shining her flashlight on her face] Dun dun dun! [turns around, sees everyone but Pete is asleep]
  • Pinky and the Brain has Brain telling a group of campers a 'horrifying' story about a mathematician accidentally calculating the largest known prime number, which ends up putting the kids to sleep. (In fact, such a thing would be legitimately frightening, as it would allow hackers to easily bypass most data encryption methods. But it's not clear if the writers of the episode were aware of that at the time.)
  • In "Sweet Dreams" from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Dog is scared to sleep after having a bad dream. His friends try to help him out and also relate their own bad dreams. These include Pig's dream about a being forced to sign way too many autographs after a ballet performance until she becomes exhausted, and Moose's dreams about being unable to find matching color antler mittens and not having enough honey for his blueberry corn muffin.
  • In "Franklin's Campout" from Franklin and Friends, Mr. Turtle tells Franklin a story, of which we only hear the ending: "And that is why you always have to brush your teeth before you to go to bed!" Franklin complains that it wasn't scary, nor even a ghost story. He says he'll save himself for next time. Notably, the series itself is inconsistent on whether or not turtles, anthropomorphic ones anyway, even have teeth.

  • A joke:
    Person 1: You know, I hear if you put in a Windows disk in your drive upside-down, it plays a Satanic message.
    Person 2: That's nothing. If you put it in right-side up, it installs Windows!


Video Example(s):


The Room Was Messy Again

In "Meteor Shower" from "Pete the Cat," Pete and his friends are trying to stay up to enjoy a meteor shower but keep falling asleep. Callie thinks that a good fright will help keep them all awake. Unfortunately, her idea of a "scary story" is one in which the main character cleans up her room, only to turn around and find that it's messy again.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

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Main / MundaneGhostStory

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