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Phoning the Phantom

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Jackman: How can you be phoning me?
Hyde: Jesus! I'm not phoning you, I'm in your head! ...Keep the phone at your ear! People will think we're schizo!

In stories with ghosts or fairies or other things that only certain people can see or hear, an extremely common source of comedy is how absolutely ridiculous and awkward this looks to everyone else. There have been far too many protagonists who forget who they're talking to and make hilariously out-of-context outbursts seemingly out of nowhere while surrounded by strangers.

A handful of characters, however, have discovered an interesting solution. Because there's already a perfectly understandable situation where humans talk to people no one else can see or hear: when they're on the phone.

The plan is simple: grab a phone or stick a Bluetooth headset in your ear, and then just talk to your inaudible friend while pretending they're the person on the other end of the call. Presto! Suddenly you don't look like a total weirdo who's talking to an imaginary friend.

Not to be confused with Phone Call from the Dead. See also Phoney Call, a bluff where you lie about who (if anyone) you're on the phone with.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens almost literally in Dusk Maiden of Amnesia. Because one member of the club cannot see and hear their ghostly president, Teiichi has to pretend to speak with "the president" over the phone, as though she's just chronically absent from meetings and needs to be contacted.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Diavolo and Doppio are Split Personalities sharing the same body. When Doppio is in control of the body, Diavolo communicates with him by "calling" him on a conveniently nearby phone. Diavolo's extreme paranoia and efforts to hide his identity suggest this method is to look less suspicious, though it's never directly said. In a twist, however, Doppio appears to believe that these are actual phone calls; he uses obviously broken phones, toy phones, random objects, and (at one point) a live frog, always treating them as if they are actual, functional phones.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Many Worlds Interpretation, Wizard Ponder Stibbons and Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes leave the Discworld and spend time with academics as maladjusted as any at Unseen University, in Pasadena, California. A Magitek version of this trope applies when HEX, Unseen University's thinking engine, suggests Ponder and Johanna get hold of cellphones so that they can both stay in contact with Mission Control (HEX), wherever they are. HEX points out to Johanna that from a Discworld point of view, California is full of apparently insane people walking down the street apparently speaking into thin air and having one-sided conversations, so nobody will think it strange at all.
  • Once Pharos is persuaded to come out and talk to Minato during the day in Fairly English Story, Minato takes out his phone. Pharos says it's a good idea, as long as the phone doesn't ring (it doesn't).
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Rika, in order to talk to her Not-So-Imaginary Friend without being labeled as crazy, wears an earpiece to make people believe she's having a phone conversation.
  • The second person who can see the ghost of Leon Belmont in A Game of Cat and Cat puts a broken phone to his ear when they meet.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Georgia uses this on several occasions to talk to sentient skeleton Sid when she's carting him (or portions of him) around in public in Family Skeleton Mysteries. They consider this more discreet than her simply talking to whatever bag he's in at the time.
  • Dave is surprised to get a phone call from John after John has (temporarily) died in the middle of John Dies at the End. Exasperated, John points out that the phone call isn't real, the Soy Sauce they took the day before is allowing them to communicate. He illustrates this by switching his voice from the cell phone to a hot dog that Dave is holding, but then he forgets how to switch back, so Dave spends the afternoon walking around holding a hotdog to his head.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of Being Human (US), Josh, a werewolf, is sitting on his front steps with Sally, a ghost who only other supernatural creatures can see. When she starts trying to talk to him, he pulls a headset out and puts it in his ear before he starts replying, explaining that it's so nobody thinks he's insane.
  • In House season 5, episode 22, "A House Divided", Dr. House has started consulting his hallucination of deceased former fellowship applicant Amber Volakis for assistance in his diagnoses — he reasons that the hallucination is a manifestation of his subconscious and has access to information he's consciously forgotten. In order to not draw attention to himself, he clips on a Bluetooth headset so he can freely talk with the hallucination.
  • In episode 2 of Jekyll, Hyde figures out how to telepathically talk to Dr. Jackman even while Jackman is in control. He first does this by manipulating Jackman's senses to think that Katherine is calling him before revealing it's all in his head, but when Jackman tries to put the phone down, Hyde yells at him to keep it to his ear because the entire point of that ruse was so they could talk without anyone thinking Jackman was crazy.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • In season 2 episode 4, "What Price, Gloria?", while Sam is on a double date, he uses a public phone near the restrooms to explain why he's talking to the Hologram, Al. He's interrupted partway through the conversation and pretends he was talking to his mother. Al can usually only be seen by Sam.
      Al: Calling somebody we know?
      Sam: You. So we can talk and I won't look like a lunatic.
    • Also done at the very beginning of an episode, when Sam leaps into a bounty hunter (still handcuffed to his mark) who's already making a phone call in a cabin. Sam pretends to make another call and asks for Al to brief him on this case.
    • "A tale of Two Sweeties" has Sam dealing with two gamblers who want their money. He calls Big Al on the phone to get betting hints, but his companion is unable to provide any information. As such, Sam makes a guess on the winner, Lead Balloon.
  • In Ghosts (UK), the ghost Kitty tries to engage the living Alison in conversation during a party. Alison tries to tell Kitty that she can't talk to her by talking into her phone, but Kitty doesn't realize she's talking to her until Alison explains the next morning.

    Web Comics 
  • The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred has the haunted sword Grace, whose spirit can only be seen and heard by its owner. At one point Grace insists that the owner look at the sword and not the spirit because it makes him look like less of a nutcase.
  • Toby, the resident medium of Spare Keys for Strange Doors uses his mobile for chatting to ghosts in public spaces.
    Toby: I tell you, these things are great. Suddenly, I'm not talking to myself like a lunatic - I'm on the phone!