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Unexpectedly Abandoned

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"Hello? Anybody?"

A character comes to a building, town, ship, or some setting expecting people to be there—but there aren't any people.

This can take place in two ways:

  1. The person expects people s/he recognizes to be there, but no one they know is there. If a meeting was arranged, this is Stood Up.
  2. The person expects someone, anyone to be there, but there's no people at the location, and it is a time and day when there are normally people there.

This trope is not about the setting being abandoned—and sometimes the setting isn't (especially type one). This is about the person's reaction, and the reaction can range from annoyance or anger to full-blown horror, for example if you wake up in a big hospital, but there's no people or staff in the building.

See also The Aloner, Late to the Party and Slept Through the Apocalypse. Bonus point if you hear Chirping Crickets.

Definitely overlaps with Ghost Ship, Ghost Town, Ghost City, and even Ghost Planet, but this trope is the "ghost" part coming as a surprise.


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    Comic Books 
  • In a cartoon Moral Alternative to The Far Side (most likely Reverend Fun), a group of students are shown playing a prank on their Sunday School teacher by hiding in the closet of a classroom, after writing "Rapture" on the chalkboard with the end of the word trailing up off the top of the chalkboard.
  • And The Far Side itself did a strip captioned "The Last of the Mohicans" which has the eponymous individual wandering around his suddenly empty village asking where everyone is.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Alone in the Dark (2005) film has the final scene, in which Carnby and Aline wander into a city and find it abandoned. A helpful subtitle informs the viewer that the city was magically evacuated in a single night, Carnby's final narration contradicts that and declares humanity is being wiped out just like the Precursors.
  • At the start of 28 Days Later, Jim awakens in a hospital and is bewildered to find the hospital—and later all of London—almost completely abandoned. Aside from the rage zombies.
  • Used briefly but effectively in The Devil's Advocate, when Kevin is invited to pay his father a visit. Just to give more weight to that invitation, the entire 57th Street is rendered (or at least appears) completely empty for Kevin to walk along towards his destiny.
  • In AM1200 Sam Larson expects the radio station to have its normally complement of personnel. When he enters the station, he finds only one employee.
  • Jill from Blood Harvest comes home from college to find her parents gone and their home vandalized.

  • In The Pearls of Lutra, Emperor Ublaz comes aboard the Waveworm, which had been sent to retrieve the titular pearls. His confusion turns to horror when he finds no-one aboard, but blood everywhere. The pirate crew and the moniters have killed each other and the kidnapped Abbot Durral, who was locked in his room and thus the last living person aboard the ship, had buried everyone at sea.
  • Dean Koontz's novel Phantoms. Two sisters return to their home town and find it almost completely empty of people. All that's left are the bodies of a few murdered victims.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • In Dawn, Brambleclaw and Squirrelpaw finally return home from their journey, but the camp is entirely deserted, and they have no idea where the Clan is; there's no sign of a fight or anything. Their medicine cat, Cinderpelt, happens to come back to retrieve some herbs from her den, and she explains that the Clan has relocated to Sunningrocks because the humans' deforestation activities had come too close to the camp.
    • Similarly, in the graphic novel trilogy featuring Graystripe, he finally escapes from the humans and finds ThunderClan's territory and camp again, but is shocked to find that all the Clans seem to be gone, as they left for new territory without him.
  • There's a Goosebumps story called Be Careful What You Wish For, where a girl gets three wishes from an old woman in exchange for helping her. Her second wish is for her rival to disappear. The next morning she wakes up and finds that everyone has vanished apart from her (and the old woman).
  • There was a story about a young boy during the Russian Revolution where he comes to his uncle's house, only to discover that strangers are living there. It turns out his uncle was taken away by the Bolsheviks.
  • The Langoliers revolve around a group of people who awake on a night-time flight, only to discover that everyone else onboard have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind clothes, jewelry and even fillings and pacemakers, and the world outside turns out to be just as abandoned when they manage to land at an airport. On top of that, the world outside the plane seems to be oddly dulled, with food and drink tasting flat and stale, and the colors look washed out. It turns out the plane flew through a Negative Space Wedgie and became "unstuck" in time, trapping it between the past moment and the present, which is being erased by the titular Langoliers.
  • Shtum: As a child, Georg comes home from wandering the streets of Budapest to an empty house. His parents have been taken by the Nazis.
  • In The Wild Way Home, Charlie and Hartboy finally find the camp where Hartboy lived with his family, only to find it deserted, with meat still cooking over the fire. His ma suffered Death by Childbirth, and his pa is out looking for him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) did this a few times.
    • The first episode, appropriately titled "Where is Everybody?": A man finds himself walking along a road. He comes across a diner and later a town: both are completely empty of people. The Twist Ending is that he's taking part in an experiment that has caused him to hallucinate.
    • In "The Arrival", an airliner lands at an airfield. When the airfield personnel go to unload it, the plane is completely empty of people: no pilots, no passengers.
  • In a flashback to 2000 on My Name Is Earl, Earl, Randy, Joy and Donny think that everyone in the world except for them has been somehow destroyed by Y2K, but they're just at a New Year's Day parade.
  • The Prisoner (1967): In the episode "Many Happy Returns", one morning, Number Six wakes up and finds the entire Village deserted except for a cat.
  • In the Ripping Yarns episode "Escape from Stalag Luft 112B", Major Phipps works on elaborate plans of escape, while all the other prisoners try to talk him out of it. Then one day he wakes up and discovers himself alone. All the other prisoners have escaped. The German soldiers all guard him. and then, one morning the German Drill Sergeant Nasty breaks into Phipps' barracks and demands to know what Phipps did with all the guards. They "escaped", too. And the commandant. Now Phipps can finally work on his escape plan in peace! He becomes the only man to ever fail to escape Stalag Luft 112B.
  • Supernatural: After receiving a distress call from Rufus in the episode "Good God, Y'All", Sam and Dean arrive at the location looking for the people in danger, only to find a town with signs of recent activity (an overturned car still playing music, blood spatters, signs of a struggle, etc.), but where the streets are strangely empty.
  • Babylon 5: In "And the Sky, Full of Stars", Commander Sinclair wakes and finds himself the only person left on the station. It proves to be a virtual reality simulation.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me", Dr. Crusher finds herself being gradually abandoned by the crew of the Enterprise, as the result of being trapped in a Negative Space Wedgie. Each disappearance only heightens her horror as nobody else on the ship remembers the missing crewmen. When she eventually finds herself alone on the Enterprise, the computer tells her that she is and always has been the only crewmember of a ship that shouldn't be possible to run without a crew in the triple digits. Then entire planets start disappearing...
  • Stargate SG-1 had an episode where the team visits a settlement on a Death World which is protected by an energy field, allowing for a normal society inside. However, after spending the night, the team discover that several people mysteriously disappeared overnight, and none of the settlers remember them ever existing. Turns out the energy shield is slowly losing power and shrinking, and the computer regulating it has been killing people and erasing all memory of them from the remaining population to maintain a sustainable population.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Bronwyn is shocked to find Hordern, her place of birth, completely destroyed with both humans and animals completely missing simply because of what looks to be a ground sake. Turns our Hordern was attacked by Orcs.

  • The two types are combined in The Mighty Mighty Boss Tones' song "Where Did You Go?". A guy comes home and finds that the person to whom he's singing isn't home—and, apparently, isn't going to come home. The lyrics describe him waiting, wondering "Where did you go?" and finally leaving.

    Video Games 
  • Detention: Set in Taiwan in the 1960's (specifically during the "White Terror" martial law period), the game begins with a high school student named Wei drifting off to sleep during history class, only to wake up to find the classroom, and the entire school empty. The words "Typhoon Warning" have been scribbled on the blackboard, and sure enough, there is a storm brewing outside, despite it not being typhoon season.
  • In Firewatch, when Henry breaks into Wapiti Station, he is surprised and confused to discover it has been abandoned.
  • At the beginning of Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, you wake up on an abandoned mining facility. Save for an old woman whom you find in the morgue and a man in a prison cell, the station is devoid of life. You must piece together what happened as you explore the station.
  • In BlazBlue, the NOL branch office is usually mysteriously empty when characters show up there in story mode.
  • Remorse: The List have your character, a private investigator, coming across the fictional Hungarian Town of Hidegpuszta only to find out it's completely devoid of life as result of a curse. And then the zombies and demons arrive.
  • A frequent trope in the Silent Hill series. Silent Hill is a resort town with scenic woods, a beautiful lake, and an amusement park. Its victims find themselves wandering alone through constant fog and frequent snow/ash fall.
  • The premise of The Stanley Parable is that Stanley suddenly notices all co-workers are gone from the office and he tries to find out why.
  • Taut has Judith's town be suddenly devoid of all life, except for her, apparently. Nobody is around, except for one other little girl in the park who is implied to be a ghost.
  • In Shade: Wrath of Angels you arrive in Eastern Europe at the behest of your brother, an explorer, via train where you're expected to meet him, only to realize the station you arrive is deserted. So is the entire town, including the hotel, with nary a single person on sight. Then night falls and you're suddenly attacked by zombies, before you escape to a church and meets the Angel of Faith, who explains everyone was abducted by an Ancient Evil called the Dark Angel. Depending on your progress you may or may not save everyone, in the Golden Ending you realize you're back on the train, but now the station is crowded and your brother is waiting.
  • Song of Horror: Most of the episodes take place in ordinary places where you'd expect to find people even late at night, such as an apartment complex or a university, and the playable characters remark on this. It's heavily implied that the other people were all spirited away by the Presence after the music box was played in those places.

    Western Animation 
  • Beavis and Butt-Head: In one episode of the 2011 revival, a chemical spill forces an evacuation in the duo's neighborhood. Due to stupidly ignoring the repeated warnings on TV and sirens outside, they emerge to discover the whole town seemingly empty, and Butt-Head assumes the end of the world happened, leaving only the two of them alive. They take the opportunity to loot the Maxi-Mart and trash Stewart's house.
  • Family Guy did an episode where Peter, Joe, Quagmire and Brian experience a strange light on the way home from the Clam, and wake up in a hospital with total amnesia, not even remembering each other or their own names. They soon discover that both the hospital and the town have been mysteriously abandoned, and try to piece together what happened and who they are. They're actually in a simulation created by Stewie who wanted to see if Peter and Brian would naturally form a friendship with no previous history. They would.
    • Parodied in one episode where Cleveland is trying to come up with a plot for a horror movie, and tells a story similar to the pilot for The Walking Dead, where he wakes up in an abandoned hospital, but gets sidetracked by trying to change one of the flickering fluorescent lights.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes: After getting knocked unconscious during some shenanigans with Beezy, Jimmy wakes up to find all of Miseryville deserted, with the exception of his dog Cerbee. It's eventually revealed that all inhabitans of Miseryville go into hibernation once a year, leaving Jimmy to spend the rest of the episode desperatly searching for companionship once he gets tired of messing around with no rules.
  • On the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Gone", SpongeBob wakes up and finds all of Bikini Bottom deserted. Turns out there's an annual "Get Away from SpongeBob" day, but they got carried away and made it a week.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, episode "Bridle Gossip", Twilight and Spike head into town, but find it deserted. Eventually they figure out that everyone is hiding because their newest neighbor, Zecora, scares them.

    Real Life 
  • Many a ghost ship has been found with no sign of what happened to the crew.
    • The Mary Celeste was found off the Azores in seaworthy condition and only its lifeboat and crew missing. What happened to these is still a mystery (though the story has been embelished over the years).
  • In 1587 John White set sail for England to get help for the colony of Roanoke. When he finally returned in 1590, the entire colony had vanished, including the buildings having been dismantled and no signs of any struggle, with only the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree trunk. Unfortunately, this could not be investigated, and nobody knows what happened to the colony of Roanoke. While no concrete evidence have ever been found, the most accepted theory is that the colonists dismantled the colony when it seemed no help was coming, and integrated with the local indian tribes to survive.
  • The famous case of the Flannan Isle Lighthouse in Scotland, whose entire three-man crew mysteriously vanished. The logbook's last entry gave a precise date for whatever happened but no explanation as to what it might have been: Two sets of waterproof clothing were missing but a third was found hanging by the door, the dining table was laid ready for a meal and a single chair was lying on its side as if it had been knocked over by someone running for the door in a panic. The most popular theory is that the island was struck by a rogue wave, and that two of the lighthouse keepers were down at the jetty on some errand or other while a third remained behind because it was his turn to cook, and must have seen the approaching wave and run down the cliff to warn his colleagues only to be swept away as well.


Video Example(s):


Breaking Into Wapiti Station

In Jacksepticeye's playthrough of Firewatch, at this point in the story, Henry breaks into Wapiti Station to investigate who attacked him by the lake and has been listening to him and Delilah's Radio Communications only to find it abandoned.

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