Follow TV Tropes


Virtual Ghost

Go To
Star Wars holograms and Force ghosts are both pale blue. Coincidence? Probably.

"You could say I'm alive... in a way. Ultimately, I'm the afterimage of the mind that was Akihiko Kayaba. An echo."
Akihiko Kayaba, Sword Art Online

Death is a real bummer. Fortunately, in the future, we'll find a way around it. Using Science we will be able to squirrel away the mind of a dead or dying person in a computer, and digitally recreate them, or their consciousness, later as a Projected Man with holograms.

They may not be thrilled by this, but as they're dead, they don't get any say in the matter.

Usually overlaps with Intangible Man. If Cyberspace is involved, they will be corporeal in that plane.

In series with a Cool Starship, it's particularly common for a Virtual Ghost to end up running the ship, especially if they are female.

Interestingly a Virtual Ghost is technically just as much an AI as a robot, but even though they are essentially a computer with a preprogrammed human personality and (sometimes) the memories of a deceased person they will probably be treated different from other robots and computers. Whether the character is the same person as the dead character, or merely a piece of software that has been written to think it is, is a famous philosophical conundrum... that will almost certainly not be brought up in the series in question.

A Virtual Ghost can end up practically reincarnated if made out of Hard Light.

Can serve as the Sci Fi version of the Spirit Advisor. Sister Trope to Living Memory. See also Hologram Projection Imperfection. Not to be confused with Haunted Technology, where a ghost inhabits technology by supernatural means. Compare with Digitized Hacker, which is a mind that has integrated with the internet. Compare and contrast with Artificial Afterlife, which often involves a copy of a person living on after their death in an "afterlife" that people have created for themselves.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Sailor Moon, when the Sailor Senshi are transported to the lunar ruins of the Moon Kingdom they are greeted by the virtual ghost of Queen Serenity, Sailor Moon's mother from her previous life.
  • Bunches of examples from Ghost in the Shell.
    • Well, not really. An attempt was made once with six million people simultaneously, but aborted.
    • In the movie, Motoko wonders if she is a virtual ghost, and if her personality and memories are, in fact, programmed, due to the small amount of brain matter she is left with.
    • Motoko Aramaki and the rest of the "children" of Motoko and the Puppetmaster were not born with biological bodies, and yet have a "ghost".
    • The Puppetmaster also points out that everyone leaves "ghosts" in the minds of those we interact with, i.e. we recreate realistic images of those we interact with in our minds.
      • Well, useful images; Puppetmaster freely admits that information preserved this way is heavily fragmented, and most personal details are lost — naturally, since only interactions with others are "recorded".
    • Theoretically, this presumably is the result in mid-way of a Ghost Dub, but it's just a deteriorated, incomplete copy, while the original dies. Trying to copy an entire human brain is difficult business in this universe.
  • Straw Nihilist Schwarzwald made a Virtual Ghost cameo in The Big O, inexplicably taking over a robot and killing the pilot for no real reason other than to indirectly save the hero via Deus ex Machina, though, if the ghost's words are to be believed, it was a type 4 Deus ex Machina (Chekhov's Gun style) as the Megadeus are sentient and Schwarzwald, despite his insanity, turns out to be much more correct about the world than anyone else in the show.
  • Noah (and Gozaburo) Kaiba in the anime-only Virtual Nightmare Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • The Big Five also count as this, since their bodies perished while their minds were imprisoned in the virtual world for too long, hence why they need to steal the heroes' bodies to escape.
  • The final fate of Harry MacDougall in Outlaw Star, after he dies and fulfills the series' quota for Made of Plasticine.
  • Deconstructed in Den-noh Coil, where several virtual ghosts appear that are fleeting remnants of consciousnesses of eyeglass-users who got too integrated into the network and died. They're barely sentient and appear as tormented, shadowy beings.
  • Serial Experiments Lain has a field day with this one. The first episode starts with two characters killing themselves to achieve this, and soon after the Id of one character, a scientist and the recreated image (see Ghost in the Shell above) of a third character's paternal aspects become virtual ghosts. Then it gets complicated...
  • Tieria Erde in Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer.
  • After his death near the end of 20th Century Boys, Manjoume appears in 21st Century Boys as one of these in the Tomodachi Land Simulation Game bonus stage.
  • The AI versions of Harold Hoerwick in .hack//SIGN. They're nowhere near as advanced as most other versions on this page (and rightly so; this series is set 20 Minutes into the Future) and tend to only repeat a few cryptic lines at a time, but the information inevitably proves crucial. He also appears in the four PS2 games set slightly afterward.
  • Zegapain is about this trope and giant robots.

    Comic Books 
  • Jor-El in recent Superman titles, riffing off The Movie and Smallville.
  • The Batman-like version of The Black Terror featured in Tom Strong and its spinoff Terra Obscura had created one of these before his death. Once activated, Terror 2000 manifests as a hologram projected from a swarm of floating golf ball-sized machines.
  • Transmetropolitan has its usual unique take on this with foglets. When a person goes foglet tiny nanomachines eat his body for the energy to scan and download his brain. When it's done, the person is for all intents and purposes a ghost — floating through the air, making himself visible or invisible at will, and performing spooky miracles by reassembling matter at the molecular level. Though society in general doesn't think of it as death, Channon does:
    Channon: All I know is that they're going to dump his mind into a bunch of machines the size of a fat virus and then burn his body. Sounds like death to me.
  • X-Men: Bishop had a sister named Shard who was essentially this.
  • Zombo: President Donald Trump comes back as a computer program after Obmoz kills him. He later has a virtual fight against the zombie-controlled Mister Critic ripped straight out of TRON.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Superman movies had Virtual Ghost versions of the Elders of Krypton sent along with the spaceship.
  • In Man of Steel, Jor-El's recorded consciousness interacts with Clark, showing him Krypton's history. He also helps Lois Lane escape Zod's ship and gives her information on how to return Zod's army to the Phantom Zone. He then briefly confronts Zod before getting shut off for good.
  • Subverted in the film version of I, Robot. A dead scientist leaves behind a 2D holographic recording of himself to guide the main character, but this is a more realistic hologram than most, in that it is a simple computer program rather than a copy of the dead man's personality. Its most commonly-used statement is "I'm sorry, my responses are limited; you must ask the right question." Spooner himself describes the hologram simply as part of a "Trail of Bread Crumbs".
  • Used in Batman & Robin — with Alfred, of all people, who calls it a "virtual simulation".
  • Jobe becomes one of these at the end of The Lawnmower Man, after consciously putting himself into the network and leaving his body behind.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. A Tesla Coil-projected image of Mad Scientist Dr Totenkopf warns off the protagonists, but it turns out he's been dead for over twenty years, leaving his robots to carry out his scheme. The actor playing Dr. Totenkopf is one of these, too: the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier. Like his character, Olivier had been dead for a while (15 years at the time of filming) and appears via computer manipulated stock footage.
  • Ghost in the Machine has one created accidentally in the present day, when a seriously injured Serial Killer is in an MRI machine which is overloaded by a lightning strike. This also conveniently fries and kills the physical body. The resulting electronic consciousness is able to travel through power lines and kills people by manipulating and overloading electronic appliances, such as turning a hairdryer into a flamethrower.
  • Johnny Mnemonic has Anna Kalmann, the founder of PharmaKom whose brain was patterned into their mainframe so she could advise her successors. However she helps Johnny escape the company's agents.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Armin Zola is revealed to "live" in a roomful of 70s computer mainframes, expressing himself through monitors no more advanced than the 90s, Zeerust and only some modern technology such as an USB drive.
  • Rosemary, the former receiver who committed suicide, is seen posthumously as a memory hologram teaching The Giver how to play piano.
  • Scanners III: The Takeover: After the villainess is defeated, there's an (unresolved) Sequel Hook where her mind leaves her body for a digital form, whereupon she appears on a camerascreen and laughs maniacally.

  • Accel World: Book 4 establishes that players lose all direct memories of Brain Burst after they're reduced to 0 Burst Points and the program uninstalls itself (which in some cases can significantly alter their personality). However, the series later introduces ghostlike versions of ex-players, which retain their full memories and exist independently of their real-life selves. This is possible because, in order to achieve its Year Inside Hour Outside Effect, the game actually knocks players unconscious while activating a copy of their mind stored on its server (emulated at a much higher clock speed than the human brain), syncing its memories with the original on each connect/disconnect. In fact, these synced memories aren't even stored in the player's brain, and will temporarily disappear if they get too far from their Neurolinker, making the "ghosts" arguably more real than the original.
  • The Dixie Flatline construct in Neuromancer, but since he's stored on ROM he's little more than a recording. The titular AI's purpose is to create Virtual Ghosts on RAM, including ones of Case's old girlfriend — and Case himself.
  • The first Warren Ellis's Lazarus Churchyard story features "Virtual Heaven", a cyberspace environment full of the digitally preserved personalities of deceased programmers.
  • Nimue/Merlin in Safehold is technically this, a downloaded personality of ancient terran commander. She plays with this trope by having life-like human body, a PICA, which she uses to move around. Nahrmahn Baytz becomes a more conventional one after he's killed in terrorist attack.
  • Shade of Garth Nix's Shade's Children. Also, the Leamington personality from the University, though it was much less refined.
  • Used in many of Peter F. Hamilton's novels. There was usually a Hive Mind made up of these ghosts, and this method is considered a viable alternative to death.
  • A future human society in Stephen Baxter's Manifold: Space makes use of "limited-sentience projections" as messengers. Initially Nemoto appears several times via more ordinary holographic telepresence, making for an unexpected What Measure Is a Non-Human? moment when another character asks the projection what exactly it is; Virtual Nemoto explains and then looks horrified before dissolving into light.
  • The fairly transhumanist novel Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod has virtual ghosts as self-aware beings who happen to be susceptible to the same kinds of access restrictions and file system commands as regular bunches of data. Some characters treat owning and utilizing virtual ghosts as slavery. Others test the defenses of computer systems by throwing copies of ghosts at them.
    "The uploads replicate and develop relationships. Most of them go very bad. You sometimes get an entire virtual planet of four billion people devoted to building prayer wheels in an attempt at a denial of service attack on God."
  • In Revelation Space, Calvin Sylveste exists after death in the form of an extremely advanced beta-level AI created through an extensive scanning regime while Calvin was still alive; he is far more intelligent than similar Beta-level AI that are driven by simple formulas and memory banks, and is only marginally less complex than an Alpha-level AI created through destructive Brain Uploading. The Sun Stealer is an hostile alien virtual ghost, and the Mademoiselle is an apparently human one that works to counter Sun Stealer.
  • The Citizens of Greg Egan's Diaspora are either humanoids who took part in the Introdus, or their descendants. They all live in Polises, giant supercomputers that run separate (but interchangeable) virtual realities.
  • In Iain M. Banks's Feersum Endjinn, people who die have their memories saved and are reincarnated in new bodies, however after a certain number of deaths they are reduced to virtual ghosts. After they die enough times in the virtual world they stop existing altogether.
  • In the Star Wars Legends, Jedi and Sith memories consigned to a holocron are actually self-aware, making them great teachers; in the case of the Sith, they can even attempt Grand Theft Me if so inclined (Jedi could probably do it too, but never do if they're still on the Light Side).
  • The idea is older than sometimes realized. "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" in Cordwainer Smith's story of that name written in 1964, is a virtual ghost, and also has a robot copy of her old body.
  • An application of AI in Infinity Beach. The main character uses it to talk to a simulation of her dead sister (which the AI chides her for, saying it's emotionally unhealthy).
  • Mikhail Akhmanov's Trevelyan's Mission series has the titular character being sent to various primitive worlds alone. His only companion is an implanted chip with the personality of his long-dead ancestor, a famous commodore, who often provides counterpoints to Trevelyan's thoughts.
  • Most of humanity have been rendered into these in The Quantum Thief. However, the Djinns featured in Fractal Prince are even closer to the trope, as they are people who were consumed by Grey Goo nanomachines called Wildcode and had their consciousness uploaded into the nanotech in the process. They haunt the Wildcode Desert like ghosts, sometimes attempting to possess living humans when given an opportunity.
    • A trace of the consciousness of dead Oortians is uploaded into what they call the Alinen, a sort of virtual afterlife, from which they can be summoned to provide a base for AI's that run their spaceships. The A.I.s are not exactly the same person who has died, but they are considered reincarnations of sort, with traces of emotions and memories of the person they were based on.
  • MARZENA: Some people think that G-Net A.I.s are this. These Self-Aware Artificially Conscious entities are watching you from their own private Real Virtual Space and you can't even see their holographic avatars without your holo glasses or contact lenses on. Also they can go through walls, teleport through thin air and communicate via digital telepathy, but forget about telekinesis, their virtual universe is a world of LOOK, but don't touch.
  • In one of the Zachary Nixon Johnson novels, a AI is revealed to be a virtual ghost of its creator, who had uploaded his mind into the computer in order to escape a court-ordered lobotomy of his body.
  • In The Hormone Jungle by Robert Reed, The Alternet contains virtual ghosts in the form of people that had their brain scanned when near death, whose bodies are then digitally reconstructed. For most, it is pretty hellish experience as standard computer processing power isn't strong enough to create realistic environments needed to prevent sensory deprivation; paupers can only afford to render what is immediately within their field of view, while the more wealthy that work as analysts can rent out supercomputer time for a lifelike environment.
  • In Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, they are referred to as "the discorporate". People who die may (if circumstances are right) have their personalities transferred to machines. This is common on ship's crews, as many ship operations don't actually require a physical body.
  • In The Collapsing Empire, every Emperox of the Interdependency is implanted with a device that collects his or her experiences (sensory data, thoughts, feelings) and periodically uploads them to the computer in the Memory Room of the palace. An advanced AI is then able to project a holographic image of the desired dead emperox in order to converse with the reigning emperox. The projections are not true personalities, merely a sophisticated computer program simulating a real person based on the recordings of his or her experiences. The simulation has no emotions or ego or any of the other qualities that living, breathing human beings have. Not only is the newly-crowned Emperox Grayland II able to converse with her recently-deceased father, but she is also able to speak with her namesake Grayland I and even to the founder of the Wu dynasty Rachela I (who has been dead for over a thousand years).
  • Many in the Xeelee Sequence. In Xeelee: Vengeance, Michael Poole's mother is a virtual ghost, and resents her ex-husband for making that decision.
  • The living portraits in Harry Potter are a rare explicitly supernatural version of this. A lot of images are shown to have fully developed personalities, such as the portraits who guard the common rooms at Hogwarts. Others are implicitly based on the surface thoughts of the subject: when Harry is embarrased to have his photo taken, the resulting image keeps trying to hide out of frame and has to be dragged back in place by the other figures. Word of God explains that portraits have to be trained to accurately reflect the personalities and memories of their source; we see this with Dumbledore's portrait in the Headmaster's office, which spent an extended time with the actual Dumbledore and helped to continue his work after his death.
  • In A Memory Called Empire, people from the space station Lsel have a brain implant that compiles their memories into an "imago" that is eventually loaded into their successor's implants, advising them and gradually merging to form a combined personality with the host. Mahit doesn't get the chance to perform a proper integration with her predecessor Yskandr as they're forced to rush it, and he has a mental breakdown on seeing his corpse.
  • Sword Art Online:
    • After his defeat, SAO's developer Kayaba Akihiko performs a destructive brain scan on himself, dying but creating an AI with his personality and memories. The AI Kayaba reappears a few times throughout the series to assist the protagonists, and is responsible for developing The Seed - an open-source version of SAO's engine and devkit which revitalises the VR industry.
    • Some SAO players like Griselda and Sachi became a less complete version which haunts specific areas or people, explained as a glitch that can happen after the Cardinal System "detects an unusual emotional state and snapshots the area for later analysis". There may be others, as there were nearly 4000 fatalities from SAO, each with a .1% chance of becoming a virtual ghost in this way.
    • Another appears in The Movie, Ordinal Scale: Yuuna Shigemura, the daughter of Kayaba's mentor, Tetsuhiro Shigemura.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Near-miss: the absence of real-time superluminal communication in Andromeda (Faster-Than-Light Travel requires a living pilot) means that all messages must be delivered by courier. In at least one instance, particularly vital information is sent in the form of an AI recreation of the sender, so that his virtual ghost can carry on an interactive conversation.
    • This was actually a Retcon to rationalize the use of real-time interstellar communication in several earlier episodes, which happened because the new producer of the show didn't look into the ground rules of the show's universe.
  • Garibaldi memorably manages to destroy the world to save it from beyond the grave as a Virtual Ghost in one episode of Babylon 5 - centuries after his death no less.
  • Caprica:
    • There's a complex case in the form of Zoe Graystone's Avatar. She's a recreation of her creator, based on publicly available records of her life, and yet, even her father acknowledges that the difference between the original (and now deceased) Zoe and the avatar version is inconsequential. Unlike most examples of this trope, the avatar version of Zoe existed alongside her creator, and the two had been able to converse. The questions her existence raises for the nature of what it means to be a person is at the philosophical heart of the series. The ending montage in the final episode shows that Zoe's parents have accepted her as their new daughter and created a physical though non-organic body for her.
    • Tamara is a more typical example, created after her original's death and not even realizing she was dead until recently.
  • In the Crusade episode "The Memory of War", the technomage who created the nano-virus that wiped out a planet's population a hundred years ago left behind an AI with his appearance and personality to control the virus.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" features "data ghosts", neural patterns that are left over in the interfaces of the archaeologists' suits after the archaeologist dies. The ghost is an echo of the person's personality, unable to interact or learn and slowly "winding down" to the point where it can only drone mindlessly. In "Forest of the Dead", it turns out one of the dead archaeologists was uploaded into the library's WiFi system, and by the end, the Doctor's managed to transfer the personalities of everyone who died into the library's computer. The upshot being that, technically Everybody Lives.
    • The data ghost of River Song reappears in "The Name of the Doctor" to help guide Clara in helping the Doctor through his ordeal on Trenzalore. At first, she believes that only Clara can see her, but the Doctor later reveals that he has been able to see and hear her the whole time, giving her a last kiss and an emotional goodbye before leaping into his timestream to rescue Clara.
    • Astrid Peth, after dying falling off the Space Titanic into a giant black hole, is brought back by The Doctor as one.
  • A hologram version of Madeline appears in one episode of La Femme Nikita, though she knows she isn't the original.
  • In Knight Rider 2010, the supercar's computer intelligence was actually a copy of the mind of his girlfriend, who'd been in Cyberspace at the time of her murder so that her mind was not actually in her body at the time. In addition to controlling the car, she could project a hologram of herself.
  • Max Headroom just barely counts — he was intended to be Edison's Virtual Ghost, but Edison survived, and Max evolved into a very different person.
  • Honorable mention: Al in Quantum Leap — he shows many of the same traits, though he's actually a living human whose holographic form is a sort of telepresence.
  • Red Dwarf has Rimmer, and occasionally, other deceased crew members. They occasionally do examine it a bit more than most: in the novel Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers the hologram before Rimmer is assured by the ship's metaphysical psychiatrist that he's not really him, he just thinks he is. And in the "Back To Earth" revival, Rimmer is told there is no moral, ethical or legal problem with killing him, because the real Rimmer is already dead.
  • RoboCop: The Series has Diana, a.k.a. the MetroNet NeuroBrain. Like Robo, a cyborg, but she has even less living tissue, and is permanently installed in a datacenter that runs all of Delta City. She was murdered and installed in the system by corrupt OCP scientists (she was a colleague) and thus helps Robo even the score against her employers.
  • Jor-El in Smallville is probably one of these, though admittedly, it is not quite explicit exactly what he is.
    • Tess Mercer essentially becomes this in the Season 11 comics.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • This may be the ultimate fate of the Asgard as of season 10 of Stargate SG-1. With their last attempt at curing their genetic disease ending in failure, they opt for mass suicide and the destruction of their society in order to stop other races from pillaging their ruins. But not before transferring all their knowledge and technology into a legacy device which was handed over to Stargate Command. This device also has holographic projections of the Asgard people, which can be accessed at will. Given that individual Asgard had previously uploaded their brains into computers when their physical bodies died, it's possible that they collectively did the same here in hopes that someday the humans might be able to revive them. Note, however, that said holograms are never shown to have personality, merely being a glorified user interface similar to the I, Robot example.
    • In the episode of Stargate Atlantis where Sheppard gets flung into the distant future by a solar flare intersecting with a wormhole, Rodney leaves behind a virtual ghost of himself before they abandon Atlantis in order to guide Sheppard when he emerges from the wormhole and hopefully be able to get him home.
    • There's also the upload of Dr. Franklin to Destiny's mainframe via the neural interface chair in Stargate Universe, followed by Ginn and Amanda Perry late in Season 2.
  • Star Trek:
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Inheritance", Data converses with a holographic AI of his creator, Noonien Soong.
    • Not to mention the various EMH/LMH variants seen, which are based on the personalities and appearances of either Dr. Zimmerman (their creator) or a famous Starfleet doctor.
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Inside Man", Reg Barclay sends a hologram of himself to the Voyager in order to interact with the crew. Unlike the shy Reg, the hologram is lively and friendly. However, as it turns out, the hologram was intercepted and corrupted by a group of Ferengi who wish to get their hands of the Voyager even if it means the deaths of the crew.
  • Super Force featured a low-resolution image of Patrick McNee as the digital recreation of a dead scientist.
  • In Supergirl (2015), the Kryptonian archives use the image of Kara's mother, Alura, to interact with her. Sometimes, though, the simulation gets a bit carried away and acts like Kara's actual mother.
  • A cyber ghost attacks various people through the matrix in TekWar. It's revealed that she is in fact the sister of TekLord Sonny Hokori.

  • The band X Japan did something as close to this as can be managed in Real Life for performances in 2008 and 2009. Lead guitarist hide died in 1998, but it was pretty much agreed among the band and the fans that he could not be left out of the performances due to his impact upon the band and his iconic status as a member of it. A hologram of hide (created by, among other people, one of his former solo programmers INA) played along with the live band, almost perfectly matching hide's facial expressions and behavior. They did this again at Coachella 2018, but this time with holograms of both hide and Taiji.
  • Perhaps the most heartwarming instance of this trope applied to music occurs in the current tour of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds The tour ads bill "Richard Burton—In Sight and Sound!" among the other lead singers...behind-the-scenes material on the official website shows how they made the new CGI Burton hologram possible, and indicates that this might very well be the first time a long-dead thespian returned to stage work through holography. It's a thing of beauty, and brings a lump to the throat when you see it.
    • In a lesser example of the trope, The New Generation tour used a full-body hologram of the still-living Liam Neeson for the Narrator's appearance. Whenever the Narrator is involved in the story, a pane of glass slides up and displays him. This allows for a much more "interactive" character, who passes a drink to the Artilleryman and knocks out the panicking Parson.
  • Tupac Shakur's appearance onstage at Coachella 2012.
  • "The Phoenix", a Filk Song, is narrated from the perspective of a person so revived after a spaceship disaster.
  • For The Who's 2012-13 tour performing Quadrophenia, the band used archival footage to allow Keith Moon (died in 1978) to duet with Roger Daltrey on "Bell Boy", and John Entwistle (died in 2002) to play Lead Bassist on "5:15".
  • The Dio Returns tour, which featured a hologram of Ronnie James Dio playing alongside former members of his backing band.


    Tabletop Games 
  • The Transhuman Space setting for GURPS has virtual ghosts via destructive uploading. The result is actually called a ghost, and in many countries is legally the same person, although opinion is divided as to whether the uploading process is really immortality, or a really expensive and narcissistic suicide. However, they never manifest as holograms as such; they either run on static computers, appearing to other people in virtual reality, or they're installed in physical robot bodies.
  • In Eclipse Phase, a large number of human beings have spent time as a virtual ghost, due to the evacuation of Earth during The Singularity (which turned out very bad indeed) mostly being done via Brain Uploading. The majority were reincarnated into cheap, mass-produced robot bodies or clones, but some decided they preferred to stay digital. Additionally, backups and cortical stacks mean that death is optional for just about everybody but the bioconservatives and terminally poor. People can get an implant that allows a virtual ghost to ride along in their body. However, once again, they're unlikely to manifest as holograms.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Necrons are an entire race of Virtual Ghosts. The ultimate goal of most of the Necrons' leaders, particularly the Silent King, is to find a way to transfer themselves back to bodies of flesh.
    • The Tau have one in the form of Commander Puretide, who was considered a military genius back in his day, and is most famous because of his ability to teach his techniques to others, producing many successful commanders through his tutelage. In the last years of his life, his brain was carefully mapped and recreated in an A.I., that his knowledge and teaching abilities might be preserved for posterity. Even today the most promising Fire Caste commanders are sent to train under his projected avatar.
  • In Shadowrun, Ghosts in the Machine, remnants of flatlined hackers floating around in the Matrix, are widely considered an urban legend. However the 4th edition "Runner's Guide" has "Ghost" as a quality that AI characters can take. The earliest known one was Alice Haeffner, who died in the first Crash in 2029. Several more Ghosts were created during Crash 2.0 in 2064, including the datajacked dragon Eliohann.
  • Known as eidolons in Mindjammer and the most common form of smart AI in the Commonality, though it's generally accepted that they're not the person their initial memories came from.

    Video Games 
  • Dr. Carroll in Perfect Dark is the mind of a dead scientist programmed into a floating laptop computer. He appears in human form in Perfect Dark Zero.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man Battle Network: This is MegaMan.EXE's origin in the video games since he's Hub Hikari, Lan's twin brother who died not long after birth. Interestingly, not present in the anime version, MegaMan NT Warrior, nor the manga (manga Miyu does claim that Mega Man "has the soul of a human", but this never comes up again).
    • Mega Man X: It seems likely that the Dr. Light hologram that appears in the series is a Virtual Ghost — in the first game, it was possible that he simply provided pre-recorded messages, although remarkably prescient ones... but since then, the hologram has displayed knowledge that Dr. Light simply could not have had during his lifetime. This suggests he's still "alive" in some form. In fact, the end of X5 suggests that Light's hologram is capable of existing outside the capsules. In fact, the capsules in the game show that the hologram knows who Zero is (there are various explanations for this), but also who Alia is, which would be impossible for the original, living Dr. Light. In addition, he actually tells Zero early in the game that he has no knowledge of Zero's systems, so he can't upgrade him, but then states later, in a hidden capsule, that he's done some research and can now upgrade Zero. A very capable Virtual Ghost, indeed.
    • Mega Man Zero: X himself takes a page out of his creator Dr. Light's book, by becoming an Energy Being to serve as Zero's mentor.
  • Halo:
    • This trope applies to almost all human-made "smart" AIs (called such because they have an immense capacity for self-learning, unlike "dumb" AIs), since each one is made by copying the brain of a deceased human (a process which destroys said brain). The resulting AI is not an exact clone of its originating human, but it does tend to inherit certain personality traits and even memories. The one exception is Cortana, due to her being copied off a cloned brain; this process took several tries due to cloning being an imprecise science and thus is usually prohibitively expensive, though it was deemed Worth It in this case due to the brain in question belonging to Dr. Catherine Halsey, Halos' resident World's Smartest Omnidisciplinary Scientist.
    • Forerunner AI 343 Guilty Spark is based off the mind of a prehistoric human named Chakas, who was converted into Guilty Spark in part precisely because he would have otherwise died.
  • In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, villain Sludge Vohaul returns as a Virtual Ghost. He also attempts to hijack the body of Roger's son to avoid being deleted.
  • Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 has this. A mission in the hunter's guild involves you escorting Elly, a girl who exchanged messages with a friend named Calus who was in Pioneer 1 and seemed like the only survivor since he continued messaging her long after the vessel exploded and traces of the people inside were lost. The further you go, the more Calus's messages seemed to contradict itself until finally you meet Calus, who turns out to be an AI in a computer that's hacked and close to self-termination. An NPC after the mission is finished explained he heard of a professor with the same name who died young of illness and created AI-Calus to live on. Afterwards, Elly had a copy of his AI, which is referred as Cal in Episode 2.
  • Adam, the computer from Metroid Fusion, is actually the mind of Samus's old CO Adam Malkovich. Who would've guessed? Anyone with a brain, perhaps, the foreshadowing is so hilariously obvious.
  • In Anachronox, the main character had his dead secretary digitized into an artificial intelligence on his PDA.
  • Although not an exact Virtual Ghost as described above, Ether in the Full Motion Video game TerrorTRAX: Track of the Vampire describes herself as a "digital ghost".
  • The dialogue for Dr Killjoy in The Suffering seems to indicate that he is not a ghost or returned zombie-spirit-thingie like so many other adversaries. Apparently he set up spiritually-juiced film projectors throughout his Asylum and most of Carnate Island to test a subject he knew would be coming by long after he was dead. There are a few bits of physical interaction with the real world but mainly he is confined to filmstrips.
    • The second game allows him to extend his influence to televisions in Baltimore.
  • An experiment in A.I. led to this in one story arc in City of Heroes. The player aids the doctor who was murdered and uploaded her mind into the Internet destroy the machine and her killers.
  • In Destroy All Humans! 2, Pox has become one of these.
  • In the Virtua Fighter spin-off Virtua Quest, the cast of Virtua Fighter 4 (save Dural) appear as ghost data called "Virtua Souls". When Sei encounters them, he engages in a one-on-one fight with them and, upon defeating them, is bestowed with knowledge of their fighting techniques. The evil organization Judgement 6 is looking for Virtua Souls, themselves, for use in a new weapon...
  • In Zone of the Enders: the 2nd Runner, Viola, an Ace Pilot who died in the first game, returns as an AI. The Viola AI has all of the skills of the original, but none of the humanity.
  • The VI located on Mass Effect's planet Ilos contains the last untouched record of the Protheans to send a message to future civilizations warning them of the Reaper threat. While the VI is not a ghost per se, it has access to a vast amount of personal data and information about the Protheans that is unlike anywhere in the extant Galaxy, and claims its personality is loosely based on the project director's. To say that the dialogue that occurs between Shepard and the VI is haunting would be an understatement.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Shepard can run across another Prothean VI on Thessia who is likewise based on a Prothean scientist named Pashek Vran. The VI doesn't consider itself to be Vran, though, merely based on him in personality.
    • The quarians played this trope straight as a way to preserve their ancestors memories and knowledge, but stopped after the geth rebellion put the fear of true AI into them.
      • The codex states that the reason the quarians were so into AI research in the first place was a desire to upgrade these recordings into true intelligent virtual ghosts rather than limited-responses VIs. Since one of the first things the geth did was trash the ancestral archive, this didn't work out.
    • This is what effectively happens to Shepard in the Control Ending when their mind gets uploaded into the Reaper master consciousness.
  • Jefferson Clay in the Independence War series became one of these in his final battle. Created without consent, he is understandably upset about his situation and acts as the ship's resident Deadpan Snarker. He is the Player Character's mentor in the sequel.
  • Prometheus is this in both The Conduit and Conduit 2.
  • Alter Ego in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a Benevolent A.I. created by the Ultimate Programmer Chihiro Fujisaki with his personality that's discovered by the others after his death. Junko Enoshima managed to make a copy of it with her own personality that serves as the Big Bad of the sequel after her death. The sequel also had Chiaki Nanami, who was Dead All Along with an AI copy of her acting as a guide to the other students.
  • Lumi in Child of Eden.
  • Ma3a in Tron 2.0 straddles the lines of this, Brain Uploading, and Interface with a Familiar Face. Dr. Lora Baines-Bradley was killed by being partially digitized with her laser. Whether by accident or design, the part of her left in cyberspace was compiled with the AI project she and Alan were working on, creating Ma3a.
  • Clay Kaczmarek Subject 16 in Assassin's Creed: Revelations has a copy of his mind in the Templar's Animus machine. He later gets deleted once the system starts purging files.
  • In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, it is revealed near the end of the plot that Professor Sada/Turo has been Dead All Along. The Professor you have been talking to throughout the whole game is an AI in a robot body, given all of the Professor's memories and emotions, just in case they were to die.
  • In Portal 2, Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson's dying wish is to achieve immortality through Brain Uploading. Unfortunately, he dies before the project is ready, so they go with his back-up plan: upload his hypercompetent Girl Friday Caroline instead so that she can run Aperture forever. Oh, and don't bother asking her opinion of the plan. This did not go well, and resulted in the creation of GLaDOS.
    • Some unused audio files reveal a deleted scene where Cave did manage to get uploaded— into an Aperture Science cube. He asks the player to unplug him, because that manner of immortality is torture.
    • There's also an alternate universe where Cave was uploaded into GLaDOS instead of Caroline. Gone Horribly Right does not begin to explain how much of a bad idea that was. Luckily, Cave-Prime pulls the player out of there and scraps the project in his dimension.
  • In Gateway II: Homeworld, the player finds the Heechee, who have hidden themselves in a pocket universe the only way to which lies through a black hole. It turns out that, whenever a prominent Heechee dies, his or her brain is uploaded to a storage. The departed can then project themselves as heads and interact with those still living. This is only done when the Heechee is about to pass, as it's believed that the uploaded minds are the same people who have Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence. A rogue group reveals that they have secretly disproven this theory by deliberatley uploading a living person with the person not feeling or acting out of the ordinary. They maintain that the uploaded minds are merely copies of the people who died and thus should not be given equal say in Heechee politics. While this may seem cruel, the Virtual Ghosts are shown to be very conservative (as anyone who has lived long enough gets) and try to maintain the status quo by any means necessary.
  • In Tales from the Borderlands, Handsome Jack, Big Bad of Borderlands 2 who was killed at the end of that game, exists in the form of an AI hologram that only Rhys can see after he plugged the ID Drive of Professor Nakayama (Jack's Stalker with a Crush) into his head. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! details the creation of the AI in a sidequest, which Jack refers to as the "Diet Soda of immortality". Evidently a lot of work went into the AI in the time between the two games, as the one you help Nakayama create in TPS is... less than impressive, while the final product in Tales is a perfect recreation of the real deal (though he is lacking any knowledge of what happened during the second half of 2, as the real Jack never got to upload those memories for obvious reasons).
  • In Cyberpunk 2077, V begins to mentally fuse with the holographic ghost of Johnny Silverhand, who was a central character in the tabletop series. The game does bring up the question of what exactly Johnny (and anyone else subjected to the Soul Killer) really is. Is it actually them, or just 1s and 0s resembling them? And if the soul does exist, is the digitized version soulless? Does the soul move on to whatever afterlife there is without the digitized self, or does it linger? V can specifically ask Johnny what he thinks, but Johnny dismisses the question.
  • In Ripper, Hamilton Woffard made an AI copy of himself just before he was killed by the titular villain. His brother, Covington survived, and near the end of the game, you meet this AI face-to-face after Covington uploaded it to his cyberspace well. There, Hamilton gives you instructions on how to take down the Ripper using an energy shuriken he built, and that he built a virtual mock-up of Whitechapel as it was in 1888. The AI's not perfect, though, as for some reason it can't distinguish you as anyone other than its brother.
  • In Torment: Tides of Numenera, The Specter claims he is The Changing God and tries to regain control of your body. Near the very end of the game, it's revealed that he is actually a backup of The Changing God's memories. The real Changing God was either erased by The Sorrow's attack on the moon or simply lost his memories. If the latter, that means you are the real Changing God sans memories.
  • In Space Station 13, a ghost can become this through a positronic brain.
  • In Five Nights At Freddys VR Help Wanted, after he was Killed Off for Real Springtrap/William Afton's "programming" was uploaded into the Game Within a Game Vanessa/Vanny is playing, leading to her being possessed by his digital consciousness and becoming his Jack the Ripoff.
  • Saints Row IV takes place primarily in a virtual reality simulation, which the developers used as an excuse to bring back plenty of characters who died in previous games as AIs created from the surviving characters' memories, including Julius, Tanya, Veteran Child, Maero, and even Saints Row 2 Shaundi. Shaundi is still very much alive, but underwent such a drastic personality change between 2 and 3 that she's basically a different character entirely, which many fans didn't particularly care for. So they brought back the old Shaundi to coexist with the new one. The two do not get along, at least initially.

  • Towards the end of the webcomic Narbonic, main character Dave Davenport turns into one of these — albeit a somewhat crazier variant than is the norm. Fortunately, his girlfriend is a Mad Geneticist, so he got better.
  • Similarly deconstructed in Schlock Mercenary, here and here.
  • The Computer from Evil Plan has Will's mind uploaded into it. He retains his full memory and tells his backstory from personal experience, things which his programmer had no idea about. Very useful for getting Alice up to speed on how Stan became evil.

    Web Original 
  • Red vs. Blue offers an interesting take on this: Church is killed early in the series and "comes back" as a ghost. However, in Reconstruction he finds that he is an AI based on a (living) person's mind. The newest series, Recreation, seems to be about bring Church back to "life" with the remnants of his digital memories, themselves manifested as an AI.
    • Tex may be a more straight version of this trope.
  • Samantha Harrison from Phaeton is this, made of hardlight, projected by a wifi modem, who can convert into pure electricity, and that's just the start.
  • The Jenkinsverse has Adrian Saunders finding the data core which contains the Virtual Ghost of his dead friend Trycrur as he builds the starship "Spot".
  • Meta Runner: Lucinia is eventually revealed to have become one after the Project Blue incident; while her physical body survived, half of her consciousness ended up in TASCorp’s servers, while the other half merged with the centerpiece of Project Blue, the AI known as the Turbo Artificial Rapid Intelligence, an event that eventually led to the genesis of the series’ main protagonist, Tari.
  • Tom Scott has a cynical take on this idea: "Welcome to Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers"

    Western Animation 
  • Possibly Franz Hopper from Code Lyoko; his daughter Aelita was thought to be a Virtual Ghost, but is actually a digitized person who has survived for years in Cyberspace. Ulrich also spent one episode as a sort of Quantum Ghost due to his mind being accidentally separated from his virtual body.
  • Borderline case: Watson in Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century — he's not so much a digital recreation of his namesake as a Robot Buddy who consciously chose to imitate Watson to the best of his abilities.
  • Megabyte pulls this trick near the end of ReBoot. Even though he's already a computer program on a show taking place inside a computer. Yeah, probably best not to think about it too hard...
    • He did this twice. First to mess with whoever tried to shut down Mainframe's core manually, second time as a distraction. He was more or less intangible both times.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Lost Soul", Robert Vance does this to himself so that he can advise his company from beyond the grave.
  • In Totally Spies!: "Animatrons/Man or Machine", the Big Bad turns out to be an android that the real Eisenstein uploaded his personality to before his death.
  • Quite literally on Futurama. When Bender commits suicide in one episode, his programming is uploaded into the wireless network shared by all AI. He acts like a "normal" ghost who can't be seen by anyone except the Robot Devil and has the ability to possess machines. It's seemingly not unusual for robot "ghosts" to be able to manifest in this manner; "The Honking" shows an incident in which robots are buried in improperly shielded coffins, allowing their programs to project holographic versions of themselves through a modem.
  • Professor Honneycut from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) had his body destroyed when he was struck by lightning. Incidentally he was helping his robot assistant Sal get untangled from some fallen wires and had his mind uploaded to Sal's body.It is later revealed that he uploaded himself to the internet shortly before his Heroic Sacrifice and comes back later to further aid the turtles.