?A few months back we took a look at the 13 greatest ghosts of geekdom with a list highlighting some of the most memorable specters from video games, comics and movies that left their mark on nerd culture. True that only 13 were honored, but we barely scratched the surface when it came to giving these etherial characters their well-deserved — and technically posthumous — due. Halloween may be a long time coming, but that’s certainly no excuse to not take a look at a few more, especially ones that might have been overlooked by accident or omitted due to sheer obscurity the first time around; but the latter is what Topless Robot is all about, isn’t it?
So which ghosts are getting a graveside memorial this time? Find out with 10 More of the Greatest Ghosts of Geekdom! And to answer your question: Yes, some of them are of the ’90s PC gaming and Muppet variety… because you demanded it.
10) Poe, Legend of Zelda Series
In the world of Nintendo, Mario and Luigi have Boo Buddies, and Link has the wraith-like Poes to be wary of during his innumerable quests to rescue Zelda. Named after American author Edgar Allen Poe — for readily apparent reasons — Poes made their very first appearance in A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. In the beginning their look was pretty simple, nothing more than a sheet ghost with glowing eyes (like a Final Fantasy Black Mage) and holding a lantern. Since then the look has evolved over time with the Poes having a more menacing appearance come Ocarina of Time… but subjected to a shamefully cutesy redesign in The Wind Waker that made them look more like ghostly Teletubbies than vengeful spirits. Nintendo did manage to get their act together when developing Twilight Princess, however. Opting to forgo both designs from OoT and TWW, Poes were given a complete overhaul and turned into impish ghost-dolls that ride atop their lanterns rather than hold them. That and they were given an actual and long overdue weapon in the form of scythes. With the addition of a weapon like that, it kind of makes the whole Teletubby blunder a bit more forgivable.
9) The Hitchhiking Ghosts, The Haunted Mansion Ride
The Haunted Mansion (whichever park-specific mansion you prefer) stands as one of the most iconic and elaborate rides that Walt Disney and his team of Imagineers created, its success owing to the unique ambiance that manages to blend humor and the macabre without one quality deluding the other. Plus, the ride pretty much makes any other haunted house attractions look like the ramshackle, glow-in-the-dark pieces of crap that they are. The ride itself is filled to the rafters with animatronic ghosts with popular ones including the ballroom organist and the jilted (and murderous) bride in the attic. But the three that have become de facto mascots of the attraction are found at the very end: the Hitchhiking Ghosts! In the conceptual stage, Imagineer Marc Davis intended to have four ghosts that looked more like monsters than actual people. Eventually, the Imagineers settled on three and simplified the ghosts as we know them today: The carpetbagger, the skeletal ghost and the gnome (a holdover from the conceptual four, albeit slightly tweaked).
For all their popularity, Disney had never gotten around to giving them individual names in an official capacity, but Disney Park employees have taken it upon themselves to do so. The carpetbagger is known as “Phineas,” the skeletal ghost is “Ezra,” and the gnome is simply named “Gus.” Oddly enough, the names stuck with park goers so much so that they now appear on officially-licensed products featuring the ghostly trio.
8) Long Arms, Fatal Frame
The thing about Fatal Frame is that every goddamn ghost that appears in it is scary, especially since they are all derivative from traditional Japanese folklore (I tell ya, Japan can spin a pretty spooky yarn). Because of this dilemma, it all came down to which ghost goes above simply being pale and having their long black hair cover their face. Essentially, a creepy quality that separates one from the rest… and that one is Long Arms. His story is a common theme found in many ghost stories around the world, that of a bereaved parent endlessly searching for a child they lost in their past life. In Long Arms’ case, he had lost his daughter as a result of her being chosen to be a Rope Shrine Maiden: A sacrificial ritual that, once completed, turned the chosen into said Rope Shrine Maiden expected to uphold the duty of protecting the area surrounding Himuro Mansion from the forces of the Hell Gate, should it ever be opened. Distraught over this loss and blinded by grief, Long Arms returned as a ghost and began spiriting away the children of Himuro Mansion during an innocent game of Demon Tag, believing them to be his own daughter. A child-napping ghost with freakishly long arms that captures you when you least expect it? Ask yourself: Is that midnight trip to the bathroom really necessary? Maybe investing in that chamber pot isn’t such a bad idea after all.
7) Vigo the Carpathian, Ghostbusters II
Ghostbusters II, while a fun movie, may not carry the nostalgia of the first film, but it goes without saying that Vigo the Carpathian is quite possibly the most evil being the team has ever contended with that unlike Gozer was an actual ghost. Once the despotic ruler of the country of Carpathia, it took Vigo’s subjugated people nearly a hundred years to realize that now would be a good a time as any to finally take action against their tyrannical overlord. Executing him in the worst way imaginable (a mob of angry, irrational peasants will do that), Vigo vowed to return to the land of the living and rule with an iron fist once again; 1989 New York City to be precise. From there, Vigo commits a plethora of sinister acts such as possessing the mind of snobbish museum curator Janosz Poha and turning him into his lackey (whom the Ghostbusters, reluctantly, saved) and wanting to take over the body of baby Oscar to use as a vessel in the physical plane. While it is highly understandable why the ghost of an evil leader/sorcerer would want a physical vessel in order to remain in this world, you can really do a whole lot better than an infant since it’s hard to take a dictator seriously when he’s crapping his pants and spitting up all the time, omnipotent or otherwise.
6) Dead Men of Dunharrow, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
If you renege on a contract or oath in the real world, the worst that can happen is that the offended party will pelt you with an onslaught of choice words and leave in a huff. But in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the people of this fictitious world have no such luxury. In fact, if you’re incredibly dumb enough to do so you’re sure as hell going to pay the price for your heinous dick move. Case in point: The Dead Men of Dunharrow. Once called the Men of the White Mountains, the warriors had promised to aid Isildur in the conflict against Sauron during the War of the Last Alliance. But remembering that they once worshipped Sauron back in the day, the Men of the White Mountains thought it would be awkward to fight against him and sat the entire battle out. Throwing a fit, Isildur cursed them all, damning them to an afterlife of no peace until they fulfill their oath to him or his heir which, if you honestly didn’t see Return of the King, was Aragorn.
The funny thing about the Dead Men of Dunharrow is that Peter Jackson himself absolutely loathed these characters and found everything about them to be implausible. But to avoid nerdy retribution (the worst kind of retribution there is) from his fanbase, Jackson kept them in the movie for the sake of the nerd community’s demand for respecting source material. You can just imagine the riots if he didn’t.
5) The Pac-Man Ghosts, Pac-Man
Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and — the one little anarchist that just had to break the whole “inky” theme — Clyde. Making their first appearance in 1980, no one back then could have possibly believed that these four 8-bit ghosts would become some of the most recognizable characters in video game history, with everyone from adults to children of yesterday and today instantly recognizing them and the game they call home. At face value the ghosts don’t look at all menacing — cute, even. But that’s exactly what the developers wanted gamers to think. In the early stages of the game they’re pretty sluggish and easy to dodge; the only reason you would run into them is either because you weren’t paying attention or a little too complacent with your Pac-Man prowess. Come later stages, however, the ghosts start picking up the pace and getting a little smarter with each new round. Soon, that’s when you notice your palms getting sweaty as you watch your extra lives disappear one by one with any chance of ever breaking the high score. In the end you walk away 25 cents poorer and leave the arcade dejected with the thought of Billy Mitchell laughing from his throne at your vain attempt to be the next Pac-Man champion. Damn ghost bastards…
4) Henry Stauf, The 7th Guest
What is it about toy makers being intrinsically creepy and evil? Nowadays, the entire concept has been run into the ground and dragged through the mud, but back then it was still somewhat of a fresh idea. Enough to build the entire plot of a PC game around. The 7th Guest was a killer app at the time of its release in April 1993 (even garnering praise from god-nerd Bill Gates). The entire game revolves around Henry Stauf — a petty, callous and twisted drifter that finds himself the toast of Harely-on-the-Hudson after selling the small town’s children the toys he crafts after envisioning them in his dreams. Mysteriously, every child in possession of a Stauf toy comes down with an incurable ailment and dies clutching the toy on their deathbed. His final vision is that of an elaborate and dreadful mansion that he is compelled to build and, upon completion, immediately sequesters himself from the rest of the town. Eventually he opens his doors to six unwitting guests, promising them that their greatest desires will be fulfilled granted that they capture and present to Stauf the uninvited seventh guest for his own means.
Throughout the entire game your character, Ego, is followed by the omnipresent spirit of Stauf, his etherial voice condescending the player as you travel deeper and deeper into his mansion or attempt to quit the game for the day (the maze in Stauf’s crypt is a particularly chilling moment between you and your phantom adversary). On top of that, you also bear witness to some of the guests caving in to their sinful desires and committing unspeakable acts to come out ahead — as intended and enjoyed thoroughly by Stauf. Going by all this you might think of Stauf as more monster than man. In fact, he is. By the game’s end, Stauf has become an acid-vomiting (really), long-tongued demon in the willing thrall of a higher evil power. Not many people would remember old man Stauf or the game he hails from, but those that do will tell you that Stauf was certainly one-of-a-kind in regards to video game villainy.
3) Bender’s Ghost, Futurama
If there’s anything worse than Bender (and I say that in the best possible way) it’s his disembodied spirit from the episode “Ghost in the Machines.” Finally committing suicide in earnest after watching Fry risk his life to save a human — but not that of a nearby robot — from disaster, Bender discovers that he’s now a disembodied spirit unable to be seen or heard by those around him. That is, of course, until he makes a deal with the Robot Devil, promising to resurrect Bender granted that he scare Fry to death in return. Always in it for himself, Bender doesn’t think twice and agrees to scare his former best friend to near-death by possessing various electronics and machinery. After Fry is sent to live on the Amish Homeworld — a world devoid of all electronic devices — to be rid of Bender’s ghost, he is actually saved by his tormentor after having a change of heart and is given his life back by Robot God for the surprising selfless deed; even though Bender had to possess and coerce his divine creator to do so. Of all the characters on Futurama, Bender leads the pack with having the greatest number of memorable and superbly written moments (with Dr. Zoidberg coming in at a very close second). And after this episode, Bender has yet another tough act for other characters to follow.
2) Captain LeChuck, Monkey Island Series
You can’t keep a good villain hellbent on conquest over his enemies down, and if you happen to be the undead pirate Captain LeChuck, well, there’s not much you can do outside of using voodoo magic to be rid of him. But for a villain as tenacious and evil as LeChuck, his origin story is somewhat tragic since he was the victim of his own reckless love for Elaine Marley — governess of M?l?e Island. In a poorly conceived effort to impress and win her affection, LeChuck died voyaging across the seas whilst searching for the legendary Monkey Island. Fueled by a thirst for vengeance, LeChuck and his crew return as ghosts and terrorize the populace and — taking a page from the Bowser playbook — vows to kidnap Marley and force her into marriage. But for an all-powerful pirate ghost with a stranglehold on the entire world of piracy, LeChuck is defeated time and again by his unlikely adversary: Guybrush Threepwood. Over the course of his colorful profession, LeChuck has gone from ghost, to zombie, to — on one occasion — human (temporarily), among other horrific iterations. Regardless of these changes, the good captain’s Achilles’ Heel has always remained the same: Voodoo magic (something that Threepwood always manages to get his hands on in spades). Even if LeChuck suffers one egregious defeat after another, you can’t take away the fact that he’s probably one of the greatest video game villains of all time. That and you simply can’t go wrong with a pirate that happens to be a ghost (always a good thing).
1) Jacob Marley and Robert Marley, A Muppet Christmas Carol
If this entire list is anything to go by, we’ve learned that the best kinds of ghosts are ones that combine spirits with other well-known fixtures of geekdom, such as pirates and robots. But whoever thought to combine legendary Muppets Statler and Waldorf with the ghost of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol should be canonized as a saint of nerd culture, especially when they could have just as easily went with one of their creepier Muppets like Uncle Deadly. In the film A Muppet Christmas Carol, the two, as previously mentioned, fill the role of Scrooge’s deceased business partner as Jacob and Robert Marley. But unlike the anguished and grim soul found within the pages of the book, these two still find the time to crack a few of their trademark (and genius) jokes and blissfully reminisce about happier times — namely evicting children from their orphanage. Statler and Waldorf were always known to be sarcastic curmudgeons, but we’ve never had them pegged as miserly dirtbags doomed to eternal damnation for their greed. Soul-crushing grouches that revel in making one rethink their acting career? Absolutely. Unfeeling money-hoarders? No. They’re not that evil, just a couple of old friends with discerning tastes in vaudeville-esque entertainment.