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You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost

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Random Guy: What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost!
Random Guy #2: (points to Martha) I just did! Look!

A Sub-Trope of Literal Metaphor. When characters enter screaming and running from a ghost (or any supernatural creature that would frighten your average Muggle), it is customary for a Genre Blind character to say in complete jest, "What's wrong with you? You look like you've seen a ghost." Alternatively, the line may be said mockingly by the 'ghost'—whether they're literally a ghost, some other kind of undead, or merely wrongly believed to be dead—themselves.

Parodied and subverted like crazy these days, but the mystery abounds as to why this isn't a Dead Horse Trope yet. A Sub-Trope of I Was Just Joking.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ryo uses this exact wording in the FAKE manga when Dee and Bikky race into his room after seeing a young girl's ghost in the mansion they're staying in. When Dee and Bikky insist that they did, Ryo's hidden Deadpan Snarker tendencies come out and he says coolly, "There are no such thing as ghosts."
  • With the main characters appearing as spirits and investigating paranormal events in Ghost Hound, the characters and spirits around them often get this reaction.
  • Line used by the immortal Luck Gandor in Baccano! when speaking to a man involved in his "ventilation".
  • One of Tetsuo's lackeys asks a different corrupt follower what's wrong and makes this remark when he first sees Tetsuo's horrifically mutated arm in the AKIRA manga.

    Asian Animation 
  • Motu Patlu: In "Angry Clouds", when Motu crashes into a building while riding a bike and trying to escape from the Rain God, Chaiwala asks why he's so scared and wonders if he saw a ghost.

    Fan Works 
  • This line accompanies The Reveal of the villain's identity in Chapter 12 of The Mad Scientist Wars.
  • In Together, Laurel takes Not a Morning Person to new levels and forgets she was dead yesterday. She is greatly confused when she answers her door and Felicity can only stare at her in shock and alarm:
    "She gaped at her like she was seeing a ghost — oh. Oops. “I’m not dead.”

    Comic Books 
  • In All-New, All-Different Avengers, Vision begins seeing flashbacks to past events due to issues with his memory processing. At one point he is speaking to Scarlet Witch and begins seeing five of her, from different points in the timeline. The real Scarlet Witch says this to Vision, and two of the "ghosts" echo it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Loveless says this in Wild Wild West after he gets out of the Abe Lincoln Cake.
  • Used by Lady Van Tassel in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow (1999). Shortly after said character had faked her own death.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, Doc says this to Marty after Marty finds Doc's grave. "You're not far off, Doc."
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier has Kirk say this to Spock when he sees his long-lost half-brother.
  • Tombstone: "Why, Johnny Ringo, you looked like somebody just walked over your grave."
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze has Raph saying "I thought I just saw a ghost!" as he's infiltrating the Foot Clan's new headquarters with Keno, and with good reason—he's just caught a glimpse of the Shredder, who he thought was dead following the last movie.
  • Averted in Outpost. "You look like I've just fucked your sister."
  • In Scream (1996), Billy says this to Sidney when he reveals himself as the killer. Or rather, one of them.
  • Goosebumps (2015) has a more literal version of the trope. Hannah says the line after finding Stine and Zach. Thing is, they just finished discussing how Hannah being a ghost affected Stine's life.
  • Darby and the Dead: Capri says to Darby, "You look like you've just seen a ghost." This is juxtaposed with a glass shattering, Darby reacting in fright, and Capri— established to be a ghost— raising an eyebrow.
  • In What Lies Beneath, Mrs. Templeton says this to Claire when discussing an incident at the DuPont party the year before. It's later revealed that Claire had this reaction because despite the car accident she was in some time before rendering her unable to remember, she saw Madison, the student her husband Norman had an affair with, staring at her at the party and subconsciously recognized her.
    Mrs. Templeton: You went completely pale. You couldn't catch your breath. It was as if you had seen a ghost.

  • Ghost Twins: Spoofed in book 4, The Missing Moose Mystery, when one of the titular twins returns from an encounter with another, yet more mysterious, ghost and her brother asks if she saw a ghost, to which she gives him an odd look and says, "I'm looking at one." Moments later, she confirms his suspicions.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, after a miraculous cure, the cured Ghost tells the doctor checking him that she should sit down, she looks like she's seen a ghost. She sits and laughs very hard.
    • Rather more obvious as the Tanith First-and-Only are called the Ghosts due to their preturnatural ability to simply disappear, especially the scouts. Eszrah even calls Mkoll sidthe, which means... ghost.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The ghost of Herald-Mage Vanyel says this very cheerfully in Winds of Fury after interfering with a Cool Gate (which was supposedly impossible) to bring the main characters to the Forest of Sorrows instead of where they wanted to go. Vanyel has been dead for about 600 years at this point.
  • Played with in Arthur C. Clarke's story "Breaking Strain", in describing one astronaut's reaction to discovering that a meteor has punctured their reserve tank, leaving insufficient oxygen to reach their destination:
    McNeil was just standing in the doorway, looking as if he had seen a ghost. The trite metaphor flashed into Grant's mind instantly. He did not know for a moment how near the truth it was. In a sense McNeil had seen a ghost—the most terrifying of all ghosts—his own.
  • In Going Postal, the face of a dead postmaster is described as looking like he'd seen a ghost. What really happened was that the post office's accumulation of letters gave it something like a soul so Postmaster Ignavia saw its past. Unfortunately, as he passed through a spectral image of a former postman he saw the inside of the man's head, and was so shocked he died of fright.
  • Played with a bit in Old Man's War: John Perry is rescued from near-death on the battlefield by a soldier who is identical to his long-deceased wife. His friends later try to convince him he was just hallucinating but stop suddenly... then they inform him that said woman was not only not a hallucination, but she is in line to buy a hamburger right behind him.
  • In Devon Monk's Magic in the Blood, after Allie's father starts to haunt her.
  • Averted in The Tamuli. What the character has actually seen is an angry god, which is naturally much worse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? has actually used this multiple times:
    • In "The Tale of Old Man Corcoran", the new boys in the neighborhood realize that the kids who have been telling them ghost stories about the old gravedigger are actually the real ghosts.
      Old Man Corcoran: What's the matter with you two? You look like you've seen a ghost.
    • In "The Tale of the Room For Rent", the two girls see their archetypal-creepy-old-woman-psychic-inclined next door neighbor summon a ghost that descends from the ceiling and walks by them right through the wall. They run screaming into the one girl's grandfather's house.
      Grandpa: What's the matter with you two? You look like you've seen a ghost...
      Friend: Bingo!
      Granddaughter: We did!
  • Blackadder: In "The Foretelling" in the first series, the Queen says this to Edmund, just after he has indeed seen the ghost of Richard III.
  • Played straight in the next to last episode of The Omega Factor after Tom seems to see apparitions of his dead wife.
  • A usual pun of Doubting Dave's on Mystery Hunters.
  • On Covert Affairs, Jai says this to Annie when she realizes that Jai was Ben's contact in Sri Lanka.
  • Supernatural
    • The Winchester brothers say this to Bela Talbot, after she sees a ghost ship captained by an angry ghost who's going to come back a few hours later and kill her.
    • Used again in "A Little Slice of Kevin" at the start.
      Sam: You look like you've... well, I was going to say you look like you've seen a ghost, but you'd probably be stoked.
  • Used more than once in several ways on JAG, first when Harm meets a Vietnamese woman who reminds him of someone he saw die years before in "Déjà Vu", again when he meets Major Sarah MacKenzie, who is a dead ringer for Lt. Diane Schonke, a murdered Naval officer Harm used to know ("We The People"), and finally when Mac confronts the officer who murdered Schonke, who is so startled by what appears to be the ghost of their murder victim that they stumble backwards off a pier and are crushed to death by the ship moored there, in "Death Watch".
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "Who Mourns for Morn", Jadzia walks into Quark's bar and reacts with shock when sees a hologram of Morn in his usual seat. Quark quotes the trope phrase, and Sisko explains that they'd just received word that Morn had been killed in a spacecraft accident.
  • On Medium, Alison learns something particularly shocking and Joe says this to her. Then he remembers who he's talking to adds "For someone who doesn't see them on a normal basis."
  • The Mandalorian: In "The Tragedy", the Mandalorian is confronted by a mysterious stranger and discovers that Fennec Shand, who he thought had been killed back in "The Gunslinger", is working with him. She drops the line.
    Fennec: You look like you've just seen a ghost.
    Mando: You were dead.
    Stranger: She was left for dead on the sands of Tatooine, as was I. But fate sometimes steps in to rescue the wretched.
    Fennec: In my case... (opens her chest to reveal cybernetic parts) Boba Fett was that fate, and I am now in his service.
  • The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: Mrs. Muir says this to Martha verbatim while Martha's recovering from the shock of seeing the ghost of Captain Gregg. Unusually for the trope, Mrs. Muir has known about the ghost all along, and is only surprised that Gregg has finally chosen to reveal himself to Martha.
    Mrs. Muir: Martha, I don't know how to tell you this, but if you think you've seen a ghost... you've seen a ghost.
  • Midsomer Murders: Said jokingly by an old lady to a man who's just dropped a tray of glasses. As well he should, because he expected her to be dead at that moment, and she knows he ordered the hit.

  • One of the lyrics from "Sometime Around Midnight" by the Airborne Toxic Event, said by the singer's friends to him after he encounters his ex in a bar.

  • In The Grand Duke, when Lisa sees Ernest upon his re-appearance in the act two, she flees in horror, prompting Ernest to say, "One would think she saw a ghost!" Because Ernest is Legally Dead due to the events of act one, technically she did see a ghost.
  • Played with in Les Misérables. The young woman Marius saw, Cosette, is very much flesh and blood.
    Enjolras: Marius, you're late.
    Joly: What's wrong today? You look as if you've seen a ghost.
    Grantaire: Some wine and say what's going on!
    Marius: A ghost, you say? A ghost, maybe. She was just like a ghost to me. One minute there, and she was gone!
    • Grantaire then teases Marius by mentioning Don Juan, which does have a ghost appear to menace the title character.

    Video Games 
  • Lampshaded in World of Warcraft. Upon turning in a quest dealing with the ghost/spirit/essence of the Big Bad's innocence, Thassarian says to the player "What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost... Not that that would be all that unusual in these parts now that I think about it..." Also worth pointing out Thassarian himself is among the undead, albeit a Death Knight, not a ghost.
  • This is among the final lines of Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull, when two Muggle NPCs find the Master Detective lying on her back in the Louisiana swamp. She's just watched a Ghost Pirate drown the people who were going to murder her.
  • Spoken verbatim by resident Lady in Red Femme Fatale Ada Wong in Resident Evil 6 when protagonist Leon Kennedy first meets her in an underground catacomb. Considering the circumstances under which they last saw each other and what happened in the previous game, his reaction is actually rather understandable.
  • Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days - Axel tells Roxas that he looks like he saw a ghost when Roxas is startled upon seeing him returning from Castle Oblivion. Roxas had been led to believe that everyone from Organization XIII sent to Castle Oblivion was eliminated and this is in fact true for all of them except Axel, who did some of said eliminating himself.

    Web Animation 
  • In gen:LOCK, these are the first words out of the Not Quite Dead Julian Chase's mouth when he reveals himself and his current situation to the Vanguard. He remarks that he was just trying to lighten the mood, seeing as he had been presumed dead for four years after his Heroic Sacrifice in the Battle of New York and had to keep silent about his partnership with the ESU for the gen:LOCK program the whole time.

    Web Original 
  • In Episode 1 of The Dr. Steel Show, Doctor Steel sees a ghostly vision of a magical transforming toy ("Winky") hovering about his lab, but it disappears into an air duct before he can get a Polaroid snapshot of it. Slightly inverted as he was more awed by it than scared.

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in an episode of Danny Phantom:
    Danny: [to Tucker and Sam] Guys, what's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost, or... something really scary that we don't see every single day.
  • Happens all the time in Scooby-Doo. Usually followed by the second person opening the door or what not, not seeing anything, then Scooby or Shaggy opening the door again, and seeing the ghost... and then everyone else seeing it the third time... cue Chase Scene.
  • In Transformers: Animated, Starscream says this to Megatron after coming Back from the Dead. "Well, maybe you HAVE!" May also be a Shout-Out to the ghost Starscream episodes of some past series. This time, Starscream's not a ghost, just immortal thanks to jewel shards, uh, I mean Allspark fragments.
  • In Ben 10 "Ghostfreaked Out", Ghostfreak has just gotten loose from the Omnitrix. Ben's grandfather, not knowing this, goes up to Ben and says the phrase.
  • In Bah, Humduck!: A Looney Tunes Christmas, Bugs says this to Daffy (who has just received a Jacob Marley Warning).
  • The Beatles debut episode "A Hard Day's Night" has the boys in a Transylvanian castle rehearsing and getting chased around by the castle's monstrous denizens. They seek refuge in a bedroom as John tells Ringo to lie down as "You look white as a sheet." The bed sheet rises presenting itself as a ghost ("Did someone call me?") and the chase resumes.
  • TaleSpin: In "Bygones", Baloo takes Rick Sky, a pilot lost for 20 years, to where he and his men were together last, and they see them and their planes trapped inside an iceberg.
    Baloo: Did you get a load of that?
    Rick: What? I say, you look like you've just seen a ghost.
    Baloo: I may have.
  • BoJack Horseman: Parodied in "Ancient History", when Hollyhock enters BoJack's house for the first time since she overdosed on the weight loss pills that Beatrice was slipping her.
    BoJack: You okay? You look like you've just seen a Ghost in the Shell screening and you're Scarlett Johansson's publicist.
  • Ricochet Rabbit and Droop-a-Long Coyote: In "Mostly Ghostly", Ricochet Rabbit investigates a stagecoach that's being robbed by Ghost Town Gus, and he tells the passengers they look like they've seen a ghost... right before the ghostly outlaw blasts him with his pistol.
    Ricochet: There's nothin' worse than a gun-slinging ghost.
  • The Owl House: In "Understanding Willow", when Amity panics upon seeing mental photographs of herself and Willow playing together when were little, something she doesn't want her Girl Posse to see.
    Boscha: Why do you look like you've seen a ghost? Is there a ghost in photo class? Are they cute?
    Amity: (nervously) Yep, just a super cute ghost. But they're all mine! (runs in and shuts the door)
    Boscha: Ask of they have any friends!