Follow TV Tropes


Paranormal Episode

Go To

"Terrific. Trust you two to have a dyslexic ghost. It's just about your mark, isn't it? A ghost with learning difficulties!"
Dorien Green, Birds of a Feather, "Ghost"

Say you have this show which has been airing for a while. The show may take some liberties with the rules of reality, but for the most part it takes place in the "real" world at the present day.

Then you spontaneously get one episode that deals with the Paranormal. Maybe you get a Psychic who shows up and makes creepily accurate predictions, only to vanish and have the writers make you wonder if he was the real deal or a fraud? Maybe an opponent shows supernatural powers. Whatever it is, expect this to last the rest of the episode and never be mentioned again once the episode is over.

Almost inevitably, the viewer will be left to wonder if it was Real After All, or an elaborate scam played on the main characters. Expect the main cast to be divided on the issue, with some believing it is true, while others insisting there must be a rational explanation.

A variation can be a show with no scifi elements suddenly dealing with the appearance of aliens, time travel or interstellar travel.

Supertrope to Cryptid Episode. Contrast Mundanger, which is when a normally the characters in a fantasy or sci-fi series are faced with a more "realistic" threat.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Patlabor is, at its heart, a Slice of Life, Cop Show/Police Procedural, with Humongous Mecha. But, during the 27th episode of Patlabor: The TV Series, the SVU2 encounter ghosts, while holding indoor training execrcises in an abandoned building. It turns out that the ghosts were the spirits of earthquake victims, who once lived there. Their spirits couldn't rest because of an undiscovered burial site, which contained the remains of slain samurai, directly beneath the building SVU2 was training in. The spirits were lain to rest, once it was discovered, and rites were performed on the site.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has no fantasy aspects at all, except for the 2nd Gig episode "Kusanagi's Labyrinth - AFFECTION". Major Kusunagi finds herself cut off from outside contact and seemingly alone in an empty city. She finds The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: a store that somehow has stored memories and cyberbodies from her own past. The owner who tells her a story very similar to what happened to her when she was a child. Subverted thoroughly — the shop is perfectly normal, and the cyborg bodies are those she and Kuze had as children.
  • Cowboy Bebop lacks explicitly supernatural elements except for the episode "Pierrot le Fou", when Spike finds himself facing off against a Psychopathic Manchild assassin with psychic abilities including flying and a force field that makes him immune to bullets.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series is technically a fantasy series, but normally lacks any supernatural aspects other than the Pokémon themselves. However, the episode "Ghost of Maiden's Peak" features a real ghost — not a Ghost-type Pokémon, the actual spirit of a dead person. The episode "Hocus Pokémon" likewise features a real witch, as opposed to a person with powers related to Psychic Pokémon (i.e., Sabrina).

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: Or paranormal story in the series. Much of "The Spaceship" depicts Rhino's interaction with a pair of aliens who beam him aboard their Flying Saucer.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Even James Bond had a run of this in Live and Let Die where he faces off with a henchmen claimed to be Baron Samedi. He's seemingly killed, but shown alive at the end of the film, hinting he may have been the genuine article.
  • Dogma is the only movie in The View Askewniverse to feature fallen angels, God, etc.

  • Ghosts is the only 87th Precinct novel to feature supernatural, and with Det. Steve Carella seemingly being saved by a ghost. It was generally not well received by the fans.
  • The Creeping Man was the only Sherlock Holmes story to feature genuinely (not just mistaken-for) supernatural events. In the story, a man becomes young again through the use of a monkey testicle serum. However, his features are twisted beyond recognition. It's somewhat ridiculed by fans due to the supernatural aspect of the story (he turns into an ape-man? Really? That's the solution to the mystery?).

    Live Action Television 
  • Our Miss Brooks: "Music Box Revue" sees Miss Brooks purchase a magic music box that can only be heard by people in the proper Christmas spirit.
  • My Three Sons: In the episode "Coincidence." After wishing that he'd have had three girls instead of boys, Steve gives a ride to a mysterious hitchhiker visible only to himself. In a unknown neighborhood on the other side of town, Steve's car breaks down and he seeks help at a house with a widow, her mother-in-law and her three daughters - the distaff counterparts of his family, down to being the same age with similar names.
  • Mama's Family: In "My Mama, Myself", Mama is haunted by the spirit of her late mother after she considers selling a family heirloom.
  • It happens in Petticoat Junction. "The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth" sees the ghost of Chester W. Farnsworth haunt the Shady Rest. Many years before, Chester Farnsworth was a dashing young salesman, and a daring towel thief. Having stolen the towel in his room, Farnsworth left on a dark and stormy night never to be seen alive again. But his spirit has been forced to return the purloined towels before he'll be admitted into heaven. The Shady Rest Hotel is Farnsworth's last stop . . . .
  • Baywatch: In "Coronado del Soul" Summer is possessed (and perhaps more in a case of very Questionable Consent?) by a ghost at a haunted hotel, establishing the supernatural in the Baywatch universe for the first time. The spinoff series 'Baywatch Nights' would take this to a whole new level.
  • Bonanza: In "Twilight Town", Little Joe's horse is stolen and he stumbles, more dead than alive, into Martensville. At first a ghost-town, he wakes up to find it inhabited. The inhabitants are, in fact, the long cursed souls of the townspeople who stood by as the sheriff was murdered trying to stand up to a gang of outlaws using the town as their base. They're waiting for someone to arrive to take the job of sheriff, lead them in a fight against the outlaws, and break the curse . . . .
  • Wagon Train: "Little Girl Lost". Eight year old Robin Mercy Rossiter was a member of the Donner Party, and passed away on Christmas eve over twenty years previous. She is heard sobbing over several nights. Charlie Wooster and Barney West see her; Charlie tries to find a way to make her realize she has passed away so she can join her mother in heaven. Counts as a Tearjerker, but has a truly crowning moment of heartwarming at the end.
  • Matlock: "The Ghost" sees the ghost of a murder victim ask Matlock to defend his widow from murder charges and find his real killer.
  • Diagnosis: Murder: "The Bela Lugosi Blues" has a real female vampire as the murderess behind a string of killings. She's in cahoots with a mortal villain. He gets the money from her crimes. She gets the blood, and help getting a new ID papers (her last passport expired in 1938).
  • CSI:
    • Had an episode with a psychic helping the CSIs. He died before we could find out if he was a fraud, though all his predictions did come true.
    • A second episode involving a psychic had her predicting the specific place where a body had been disposed of (which spooked the murderer enough that he got rid of her to try to prevent discovery)... although in reality she had been giving off some New Age "the victim is resting in peace" advice and it turned out that the Heaven she was describing and the neighborhood had similar names. Grissom chalks it up to uncanny coincidence and collective delusion, but still laments that a woman died as a result.
    • "Toe Tags", which had the stories told from the corpses' perspective, like they were ghosts.
    • "Go To Hell": The Monster of the Week is a psychotic teenager that kills her parents... but the episode leaves it open whether or not the fact that her parents believed she was possessed by a demon was just their delusion because they couldn't confront her being so vile, or an actual thing.
  • CSI: NY
    • Mac going into the Afterlife Antechamber in "Near Death", seeing and conversing with his late wife.
    • "Time's Up" had the team dealing with the death of an apparent time traveller. It turned out that the man's "traveling device" was just a useless hodgepodge collection of computer parts and his apparent capacity to see the future was just some childhood brain injury having turned him into a game theory hyper-savant... but he was able to predict the time that his murderer would get himself killed (accidentally, by trying to use the "time machine" and fatally electrocuting himself) down to the minute, which he left behind as a Dying Clue.
  • Mystery Diners normally investigates fraud and dishonesty in the restaurant trade. There is an episodenote  where the employees are exploiting the fact their building is allegedly haunted, in order to run unofficial and profitable after-hours ghost tours (and also to take advantage of their employer being superstitious and believing it. He's too terrified to investigate properly, which allows them even more scope for taking the piss.). Inevitably, a TV show which investigates fraud and dishonesty among restaurant staff turns up more "hard evidence" for the building being haunted, than an entire series run of those haunted house shows shot in murky green light.note  They even have a far more plausible and telegenic medium on MD's own staff, which is convenient.
  • NUMB3RS gave us a couple of examples with Simon Kraft, a supposed psychic and former CIA spook who assisted the team while butting heads with everyone because how he is Creepy Good. His initial appearance had him butt heads with the skeptical Charlie and to test his skill, undergo a card test to guess the suit of cards of a playing deck. Simon gets every single one of the fifty two cards wrong... which Charlie quickly realizes that it's the same probablity of getting them all right. He initially leaves the case in frustration, but Simon's lingering words have him come back since the case is more important than their debacle. His predictions are all pretty damn correct.
    • Simon Kraft returns in a Chinatown centric episode, where he finds the Eppes family home and predicts a murder with his drawings. He teams up with the FBI after being let go. His drawings remain accurate in finding bodies and he also discovers another corpse. However, he ultimately died in filming a kidnapping (due to trying to pitch a show idea called "Simon Says") and getting run over by the vehicle belonging to the criminal.
  • Magnum, P.I.:
    • The episode "Rapture". Magnum sees the ghost of a young boy, leading him to investigate the boy's death.
    • Another had Thomas in an extended Near-Death Experience after he got shot and seriously wounded. This almost was the Series Finale until the series got renewed at the last minute.
  • Friends had an episode where Phoebe says she has been possessed by the ghost of an old woman, who will only leave her body after she has seen "everything". The ghost apparently leaves her body after Phoebe goes to Carol and Susan's lesbian wedding.
  • In an episode of Night Court Harry used his magic hobby to convince another character that he was exorcising some evil spirits, at one point using a book gimmicked to shoot flames when you open it. After it's all over, Art (the janitor) comes in saying "sorry I'm late" and gives Harry the prop burning book. So... what was up with that other book?
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody had a "ghost" episode involving a supposedly haunted room. Zack ends up trapped in the room after his friends are all "taken" by the ghost. He backs up against a picture of a woman, which suddenly comes to life. Of course, it's a trick, pulled off with some Rube Goldberg-like gadgets. Curiously, no one mentions the picture when explaining how they did it all. At the conclusion of the episode, a woman who looks just like the one in the picture speaks to Zack... then walks back into the frame and disappears.
  • Bones:
    • The Gravedigger trapped Booth in an old submarine and he saw his late friend, Parker. Booth was later revealed to have been suffering brain-tumor caused hallucinations during that time, but Brennan seemed to see him too at one point.
    • “The Ghost in the Machine” had what was implied to be a victim watching the case from inside the body’s skull. Everyone kept denying it was real but still talked to him a lot
    • “The Shot in the Dark” had Brennan seeing her dead mother and insisting she was hallucinating.
    • “The Psychic in the Soup” probably counts. Angela’s psychic friend Avalon was convinced she was communicating with Sweets. The clue of “drive thumb” was realized to be a thumb drive in his car, on which his book was stored before he died. There’s also Christine and her imaginary friend Buddy and the hints it may or may not have actually been Sweets and not so imaginary at all.
  • In one of the strangest examples of all time, Body of Proof introduced us to one of those stridently religious families that only exist in screenwriters' imaginations. Two of the girls evidently were demon possessed. One died of self-inflicted wounds while another began experiencing the same symptoms, including the use of similar special effects as those used in demon-possession movies, like impossible, inhuman facial and neck movements. Each one was given a BS "scientific" explanation, except one. In one scene, while in the throes of "possession", the second girl, who has never met medical examiner Megan Hunt and is significantly younger than she, looks at her and says something her father used to say when Hunt was a child. Near the end of the episode, after supposedly being cured, the same girl says another of Hunt's father's phrases in a deeper voice.
  • Castle dives into this from time to time.
    • One episode had them investigate the death of a ghost hunter in a supposed haunted house. Another episode presented the possibility of aliens, including what might have been an abduction. Castle is the Mulder while Beckett is the Scully, and usually all of the elements are explained by the end. However, one element will be left hanging with the hint that it just might have been Real After All.
    • Another episode featured a guy claiming to be a time traveler who was heavily implied to be real. Yet another one had Castle go to an Alternate Universe where he never met Beckett.
  • An episode of Rookie Blue had a man claiming to be a psychic help the cops find a kidnapped witness. In the end the cops conclude that it was just a clever scheme to provide them with evidence against a mob boss. Since the cops are not gonna call the 'psychic' as a witness in court, the mob boss will not find out where the evidence really came from. However, the man made quite a few predictions that come true including one that is fulfilled a couple episodes later in a very unexpected and tragic way. A wedding is called off not because the bride has cold feet but because the groom is killed.
  • Quantum Leap is generally fairly grounded once you accept the Time Travel premise. Except for when it isn't, like:
    • "The Boogieman". The episode apparently has Sam going up against the Devil himself. However, it might have been All Just a Dream.
    • "The Curse of Ptah-Hotep". The episode where a mummy rises from its grave (off camera but witnessed by Al) and murders the villain of the episode
    • "Star Light, Star Bright". The episode where the man Sam is helping goes off with Aliens in a real UFO at the end.
    • "A Portrait for Torian". Sam struggles to stop a young widow drowning herself in order to rejoin her dead husband who perished in the same lake, thinking she hears his voice calling to her. He is obstructed in his quest by her stern and enigmatic housekeeper and when the husband's body is eventually recovered from the water it is found alongside two other corpses, one of them the housekeeper whom we now see fade away as she had been Dead All Along.
  • JAG:
    • In "Ghost Ship", Harm and Mac are saved from a fire by a real ghost.
    • "Psychic Warrior" deals with psychic phenomena.
  • The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Man-Eating House". Jim and Artie must deal with a haunted house. Again, the end makes it possible that it was All Just a Dream... or was it?
  • Green Acres:
    • The episode "The Ballad Of Molly Turgiss" deals with Oliver trying to get the denizens of Hooterville to tell him about the legend of the eponymous ghost woman. Every time Molly's name is mentioned, strange things happen, such as things getting thrown through the air, pickle barrels falling apart, Mr. Haney's truck starting up on its own, etc. In the end, Molly promises not to do those things anymore after Lisa has a talk with her and makes her beautiful, though she does manage to break the promise for a few seconds by smashing Oliver's guitar over his head because she doesn’t like the song that he wrote about her.
    • Another episode, "The Saucer Season," involves Eb apparently having interacted with some aliens. He subsequently becomes a celebrity because of it, much to Oliver's chagrin. However, when an air force lieutenant tries interviewing Eb about his encounter, Eb's attempts to tell the lieutenant about what he saw are censored by having him say "Bleep" repeatedly, keeping the facts in the dark.
  • Of all shows, The Waltons had an episode about one of the kids being haunted by a poltergeist. It was the seventies, after all.
  • Mad About You had an incident like this where the place the couple met, had burned down. As the episode goes on, the pair start to forget about each other for an unexplained reason.
  • Mork & Mindy was pretty wild to begin with, but there was the episode where Mork declares Mindy's death mother's house is haunted. Near the middle of the episode, it begins to look like it's just their burnt-out hippie friend Exedor, hiding in the house and making weird noises. After Mork and Mindy sigh with relief... the house comes to life and horrible voices scream at them.
  • On Perfect Strangers there was an episode where Larry and Balki discover a ghost in their new house. There was also an episode where Balki turned out to be an alien, but in that case it was All Just a Dream.
  • The X-Files:
    • Inverted in the episode "Irresistible". In a show where every other episode revolves around paranormal weirdness, this is the gritty realistic one with zero fantastic elements — and one of the creepiest episodes overall.
    • Played with in the episode "X-Cops", in which an In-Universe episode of COPS (1989) showcases a chaotic night in the life of various LAPD officers who run into Mulder and Scully investigating an entity that kills by manifesting your mortal fears.
  • On Murdoch Mysteries these come up from time to time:
    • In "Elementary, My Dear Murdoch", Arthur Conan Doyle is in Toronto to give a talk on spiritualism and invites Murdoch to meet a psychic Doyle finds compelling. Some of the psychic's information has a mundane explanation, but Murdoch is troubled to think she knows intimate personal details about his dead fiancée.
    • The psychic returns in "Bad Medicine" and goes undercover at a hospital-cum-institute that studies people with unusual brain conditions. There's another seance to attempt contact with a young woman patient who died some years previously, and the psychic is troubled by a vision of Murdoch's impending death.
    • "The Curse of Beaton Manor" revolves around a wealthy family with a history of early deaths. Some of the servants report hearing ghostly sounds and seeing an apparition of a deceased illegitimate half-brother.
    • In "The Ghost of Queen's Park", a local politician falls to his death at the provincial parliament building, and the night watchman swears a ghost is responsible. Other workers in the building also report seeing a ghost, and Crabtree is keen to follow the ghostly line of inquiry.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids had a number of them. This was around the same time that shows centering on the supernatural were popular, so it's likely that Executive Meddling was involved.
  • Even The Guiding Light had one of these, with a character getting superpowers from a freak accident involving Halloween decorations.
  • Zoey 101 has the episode 'The Curse of PCA' in which Zoey and her friends end up disturbing the spirit of a former PCA student due to Logan stealing a necklace that used to belong to said student. It should be noted that there's no "Scooby-Doo" Hoax for this example, noteworthy considering the show is set firmly in reality.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries has two such episodes: The House On Possessed Hill dealing with a young psychic hunted by her neighbors, and Voodoo Doll, which presents stage magic as evidence of the Big Bad's real supernatural powers. A third episode, The Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew Meet Dracula, may count as well, though the supernatural aspect is met with skepticism, is suspected of being only due to the Big Bad's delusions, and when shown to be real at the very end, is only seen by Joe Hardy.
  • In the Knots Landing Season Three episode "The Three Sisters", the women of Seaview Circle visit a supposedly haunted house.
  • Full House: In "Our First Christmas Special", the only rational explanation is that Stephanie really met Santa Claus at the end.
  • Logan's Run: In "Night Visitors", Logan, Jessica and Rem discovered a house haunted by three ghosts, Gavin, Marianne and Barton, who worship Satan.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Several episodes include characters interacting with the dead while undergoing their own near-death experiences.
    • In the Season 4 episode "Cold Comfort," a psychic hired by the victim's mother appears to demonstrate genuine psychic abilities.
  • Birds of a Feather had an episode where the girls must deal with a VHS player inhabited by the spirit of an elderly woman.
  • Kaamelott is set in 5th century Europe where magic exists but not widespread. One or two episodes deal with aliens or space travel (including one time where Perceval ends up on Tatooine and takes Obi-Wan's lightsaber, but Arthur sends it back as he doesn't think it's necessary to have two Excaliburs).

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur: Francine & Muffy plan to scare Arthur, Buster, Binky and the Brain at a "Scare-Your-Pants-Off" themed party. Arthur et al. plan to do the same to Francine & Muffy. But both groups get scared by what is apparently a real ghost. Some other episodes hint that Buster's conspiracy theories about aliens are true, such as in "D.W.'s Snow Mystery", where The Stinger shows that aliens stole the snowball.
  • The alien invasion variation is apparently the plot point of the Mr. Bogus episode "The Bogus Invasion".
  • The My Little Pony Tales episode "Up, Up, and Away", notable for being the only episode featuring unicorn ponies - who were otherwise absent from the show as this iteration had removed most fantastic elements.
  • The Flintstones had a handful of such episodes, such as the time they traveled to the present day on the world's first Time Machine, or when aliens cloned Fred as part of an invasion plot. Then in the sixth season they introduced the Great Gazoo, and every episode became this.
  • This happens a few times in The Boondocks:
    • "Stinkmeaner Strikes Back" featured the ghost of Colonel Stinkmeaner rising out of Hell, and then possessing Tom Dubois.
    • "I Dream of Siri" is about the Siri app on Robert's iPhone going rogue.
    • "Stinkmeaner: Begun the Clone War Has" involves the clone of Stinkmeaner harassing Robert Freeman.
  • Hey Arnold! had several of these, often ending with the ghost legend turning out to be Real After All.
  • Even ignoring the Treehouse Of Horror episodes, The Simpsons had some episodes about them in the future. Many other episodes feature supernatural stuff, but usually only quickly as a joke. Lampshaded in "The Man Who Came To Be Dinner", a regular episode featuring Kang and Kodos. Upon seeing them, Homer protests by saying, "Hey! It's not Halloween!".
  • Daria, despite mostly being a satirical take on the 90s, had a Bizarro Episode where the title character met "holiday spirits" who came to town through an interdimensional wormhole. Bonus points go to "A Tree Grows in Lawndale" and "Legends of the Mall," both of which have an ending shot hinting at supernatural occurrences.
  • Dexter's Laboratory, while not grounded in actual science or realism by any stretch, had one episode dedicated to the unhappy ghost of a deceased goldfish exacting revenge on his former owners. The episode becomes a Ghostbusters parody as the characters combat the ghost's efforts to abduct their souls into the great beyond. This is the sole instance of ghosts, souls, or the afterlife being addressed in the show, though supernatural elements such as kaiju and other modern fantasy elements are common.
  • Similar to the above - Codename: Kids Next Door had "Operation: G.H.O.S.T.", with the deceased this time being a hamster.
  • PAW Patrol: Aside from the main characters being talking dogs, most of the show is pretty mundane: a rescue team solving problems in a small seaside town. If the show wants to deal with a more fantastical plot they tend to take the All Just a Dream approach. The episode "Pups Save A Mer-Pup", however, involved real mermaid/dog hybrids.
  • The Kaeloo episode "Let's Play Paranormal Stuff" has the main four hold a séance to contact spirits. Quack Quack winds up possessed.