I See Dead People

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In some stories with paranormal elements, there are certain characters who can see and/or speak to ghosts. Usually, the ghost will manifest itself as whatever it looked like at the time of death, and will sound exactly the same. These characters are often the only ones who can see the ghost. Anyone else who walks into the room will see the spirit medium talking to themselves. This can be bestowed upon a character as a gift, or it can simply be something the character "just knows".

Curiously, it often seems that those who start seeing ghosts often don't know they are ghosts, mistaking them for living people. A character who sees dead people may become a Magnetic Medium. Related to I See Them, Too and You Can See Me?.

The line is a Stock Parody, originally used by Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.

Examples of I See Dead People include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ichigo's initial power in Bleach. It turns out other people can catch this ability from him.
    • TV spirit medium Don Kanonji can do this, too, but he has a different method of getting rid of them.
  • It also was Kuwabara's initial power in Yu Yu Hakusho'.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura's brother Touya.
  • CLAMP is fond of this one. Watanuki of ×××HOLiC spent most of the series trying to lose this ability via a deal with Yuuko the Dimension Witch.
  • Shaman King.
  • The main point of the anime and manga Natsume Yuujinchou. The main character and his grandmother were able to see spirits to a great extent.
  • Mana of Mahou Sensei Negima has the "demon eye" ability, which apparently allows her to see ghosts. Of course, the only ghost around is Sayo, so the demon eye doesn't see a lot of use.
    • In the English dub of the second anime, Negi actually says the trope name after he successfully performs a spell that allows him to see all the ghosts in Mahora Academy. It's more than likely a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer.
  • Kyouko from Honey Crush has this ability. This allows her to see and bond with the ghostly main character.
  • While visiting an amusement park, Choco from Chocotto Sister meets the ghosts of Yasuoka's wife and daughter who died while they were on their way to the same park. Choco's abilities may be explained her own supernatural origin.
  • This is a very dangerous ability to have in the Hell Teacher Nube world, as being able to see and hear ghosts means that you're Supernaturally Delicious and Nutritious - ones with Ghostly Goals won't stop bothering you until you help them, and the ones that are dangerous will come after you first.
  • Ghost Talker's Daydream
  • The main character Mitsuo Shiozu from Eerie Queerie! has this power, they can also possess his body and talk to love ones. Throughout the series other people either gain this gift/curse or join the party always having it.
    • Eventually it gets to the point that the only character, Ichi Shirai, feels left out for not having the ability.
  • The protagonist of Shizuru Seino's Heaven!! can see ghosts, but it's mostly used as a plot device for Rinne to meet and interact with her love interests.
  • In Tsukuyomi Moon Phase Kouhei's spiritual powers were so great that they became a danger to him, so his family had to seal them away when he was a child. They later kept the facade that he is so spiritually unaware that ghosts and spiritual barriers that are strong enough to affect ordinary people with minimal spiritual awareness have no effect on him. However, all the photos he takes end up having ghosts present in them, and once his powers begin to manifest again, he goes to the mountains to train.

Comic Books

  • Jon Webb (a.k.a. Skeleton Man, The Worst Superhero Ever) from Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose discovered he could communicate with the dead in the same manner as Frank from The Frighteners: he survived a car crash that killed his significant other.
  • Saarek of the Green Lantern Corps... not that anybody believes him, even though he's proven his abilities several times over.
  • The Incredible Hulk and his ilk. Seriously.
  • The protagonist of Major Bummer.
  • Brody, the protagonist of Brody's Ghost, can do this (as well as other stuff) as part of his ghostseer schtick.
  • Nains Issue #8 had the protagonist (Sriza of the Temple) talking to a bunch of ghosts (they were kids killed by the possessed, and stuck around waiting to be avenged). The exorcist who recruited him into the order also had this ability, so this may be a prerequisite for membership.


  • The trope title comes from a line in M. Night Shyamalan's film The Sixth Sense, where Haley Joel Osment's character could speak with the dead. That's why he can see the main character. He's dead, too.
  • Jonah Hex (the movie version) can bring dead people to life for as long as he's in contact with them. This leads to an interesting scene when he's getting beaten up by a furious man who turns back into a mummified corpse whenever Hex gets clear. Surprisingly enough, this power isn't Nightmare Fuel (although the way he acquired it definitely is).
  • Frank and Lucy in The Frighteners.
  • Lydia in Beetlejuice, until the end of the movie.
  • The horror flick Gothika has Halle Berry as a woman dragged into a ghost's plot to gain revenge on her killers. Then, at the end, it turns out she's one of these, as another ghost appears before her. Subverted in that she says, "To hell with this," and just walks away -- slightly justified, as her involvement with the first ghost involved her being committed to an insane asylum and the murder of her husband.
  • Annie, sort of, in The Invisible. Nick is actually Only Mostly Dead, but the effect is the same.
  • The eye, a women starts seeing dead people and death omens, with the added complication that she was formally blind and has no visual memory.
  • The protagonist of The Alphabet Killer is a police detective who begins to see the spirits of the victims murdered by the killer she's tracking. It is never fully explained if these spirits are real, or just a byproduct of her mental condition.
  • Scary Movie parodied the line as used in The Sixth Sense. Shortie says "I See Dead People" to his buddies. They all laugh and agree with each other that they scored some really good weed.
  • The eponymous character of Charlie St Cloud is able to see the spirits of dead people after his brother's death.
  • Pincus of Ghost Townwas an ordinary dentist until a near-death experience during a colonoscopy leaves him able to see ghosts.
  • The Lion King 1 1/2: "I see carnivores..."
  • Oda Mae from Ghost, which she initially faked, at first. Once she gets the power, Hilarity Ensues.


  • Every magically aware person or entity in The Dresden Files, even the ones that aren't human but still look the part.
    • Well, kind of. When Dresden's in the graveyard in Grave Peril, he is uncomfortably aware of the fact that there are hundreds of spirits around him, but he's never shown any proficiency at sensing or dealing with spirits. Mortimer Lindquist, on the other hand, is highly skilled at sensing, seeing, and communicating with all sorts of shades, specters, and ghosts.
    • Mortimer names this trope live on telly, being, like Dresden, a Pop-Cultured Badass (the badass part comes 8 books later, but still).
  • A big part of the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol, wherein Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, representing past, present, and future "yet to come".
  • A character in the Darksword trilogy gains the ability to speak to the dead, but at a pretty nasty price: undergoing a Mind Rape which causes her to lose the ability to communicate with the living.
  • Unusually, Bridge of Birds has this as a learned skill. Master Li has it among his many skills, and teaches it to Number Ten Ox.
  • Lisa Hardman of The Shapeshifter book series has to spend a couple of hours a day writing out 'spirit communication slips' for dead peoples relatives.
  • In the children's book series, Golden&Grey, Tom Golden can see and speak to ghosts (oddly enough, it turns out that ghosts aren't actually dead people).
  • Bod Owens, the boy raised by ghosts in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, can see ghosts because he has the "favor of the graveyard," given him when he was adopted.
  • Not too surprisingly, the witches and wizards of Discworld, who can see Death himself, can also see ghosts. So can cats, and sometimes relatives of the deceased.
  • Johnny Maxwell, in Johnny And The Dead, is the first (and for a long time the only) person who can see the titular Dead. He doesn't know why; it's just the sort of thing that happens to him.
  • Kalinda, Si Cwan's younger sister, in the Star Trek: New Frontier series. She's used her necromantic abilities to help solve a murder, and was actually possessed by her deceased brother when his newborn son was in danger.
  • In Bones of Faerie Liza has the ability to talk to the dead and can call back the recently deceased.
  • * In Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, Odd can see and feel the spirits of the dead. However, he can't hear them. "The dead don't talk. I don't know why." They can find ways to communicate with him in other ways, which sometimes proves useful in resolving whatever problem keeps them here. He even quotes the line "I see dead people," and adds "but then, by god, I do something about it."
  • Mercy Thompson, a rare Native American "walker" (= coyote shape shifter), can see and talk to ghosts. It's because walkers can communicate with ghosts that they're rare, as vampires have exterminated most of Mercy's kind, for fear the walkers would track down their daytime hideouts by consulting their deceased victims.
  • Harry Keogh, the titular Necroscope, is the most powerful medium ever to live: his mere presence wakes the souls of the dead from their previously eternal sleep and allows them to communicate not merely with him but with each other, enabling a worldwide post-life society. Don't threaten him—the dead won't appreciate it, and they far outnumber the living.
  • Chloe of the Darkest Powers series is a necromancer, and quite thoroughly Blessed with Suck. She can certainly see ghosts, and they can see her... but there is nothing to alert her to the fact that they're ghosts. Absolutely nothing. She couldn't tell a ghost apart from a human if they were standing right next to each other, unless they walk through something, are dressed in period clothing, vanish, or actually tell her that they're dead. Or, alternatively, if she starts talking to them and people around her stare at her like she's crazy—which is exactly the reason that she ended up in a group home for troubled kids and was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. Even more unfortunately? Ghosts can tell that she's a necromancer, because, to them, she has a glow around her—and hers is so strong that she's the equivalent of a bonfire in the middle of a pitch-dark prairie. Her very presence in a graveyard is enough to bring dozens of ghosts out of the afterlife, all of them demanding things of her.
    • As another wonderful perk of her powers, Chloe can raise and control the dead. However, being as powerful as she is and depending on what she's dreaming about, she can accidentally raise the dead in her sleep. And it's not just reanimating a corpse. Raising the dead involves shoving a soul back into its rotting corpse. Hence why she tends to be paranoid about falling asleep in an unknown area, lest there be a corpse around and she raises it without realizing, and then it's trapped that way. Even worse, if she even just concentrates too much on trying to summon a ghost—not to raise a corpse, just to talk to a ghost—the slight increase in her power output is strong enough to raise the dead anyway... or even tear open the earth in order to reach the corpses within, who have just had their souls shoved back inside of them.
    • And yet another bonus: When a full demon from the Hell Dimension came through to our dimension, she attracted his attention -- he was very interested in her greatly-enhanced powers. Before he vanishes, he gently tilts her head up toward him and tells her, "Grow up strong, little one. Strong and powerful." Understandably, she is concerned by the possible implications of this.
      • Hopefully, he won't come back to check up on her in a few years. Or ever. It's also unclear whether demons are interested in necromancers in general, or if he was interested in Chloe because he could tell that something or someone had severely messed with her powers.
    • There is a good reason why most necromancers eventually go insane. And the more powerful they are, the faster it happens. Considering Chloe is the most powerful necromancer in existence at the moment, or even possibly the most powerful to ever exist, this is very unfortunate.
  • Meg Cabot's Mediator series is based around this ability. About 4 characters can talk to/touch ghosts, including the heroine.
  • Beka Cooper in Tamora Pierce's Terrier can hear ghosts that ride on the backs of pigeons. Or possibly snatches of thought (from dead people) that are somehow attached to the pigeons.
  • In the Jennifer Lynn Barnes novel Platinum, Lilah has the power of "retronition" or the ability to see the past. Part of what this entails is the ability to see ghosts, as ghosts are essentially fragments of the past trapped in the present.
  • Claude Sylvanshine in The Pale King has Random Fact Intuition, which makes him the only one who can glean any information about the ghosts that haunt Post 047.
  • "Percy Jackson and The Olympians" Nico di Angelo can talk to ghosts.
  • In Vampire Academy, Rose can see ghosts and, if the ghosts are determined enough, they can speak to her, like Mason warning her about the impending Strigoi attack.
  • Sisterhood series by Fern Michaels: Barbara Rutledge comes back as a ghost after her unfortunate death in Weekend Warriors. Her sister Nikki Quinn, her mother Myra Rutledge, and her father Charles Martin can see her and talk to her. Later, Countess Anne "Annie" Ryland de Silva finds herself able to see and talk to her dead family members. Interestingly enough, the author herself claims that there's a ghost in her house!

Live Action TV

  • This is the basis for the TV shows Ghost Whisperer and Medium.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Sub Rosa, Dr. Crusher meets up with a ghost known only to the women in her family, except that it turns out that it's really a Sufficiently Advanced Alien who must possess women with a specific gene to survive.
  • Happens to Klinger in an episode of M*A*S*H: he holds conversations with the ghost of a dead soldier while he's delirious with fever.
  • The title character on The Famous Jett Jackson, demonstrates this ability on two different occasions, despite this not being a supernaturally-themed show.
  • Miles on Lost has the ability to sense dead bodies and draw "impressions" from them. He apparently managed to use this to find the bodies of Karl and The French woman. "Some Like It Hoth" goes into detail about his ability: he just receives "impressions" from their last thoughts and he can't communicate with someone who was cremated. There needs to be a intact body-though he wasn't near a body when he first used it.
    • Ever since leaving the island, Hurley has begun to see dead friends and have conversations with them. What's more, other people can sometimes see the dead people when they come to Hurley. The guy at the asylum saw Charlie, but for some reason Sayid couldn't see Eko... In season 6, Jacob abuses this so he can continue to give Hurley guidance and carry out his plans despite being dead.
    • In one instance, leads to a funny scene in which the two of them argue about whose dead-people power is better.
  • In the Babylon 5 failed Spin-Off Pilot Movie Legend of the Rangers, the Minbari Ranger was a psychic sensitive and the ship they were assigned to was haunted by the ghosts of the previous crew.
  • In Being Human (UK), normal people can only see Cute Ghost Girl Annie sometimes (the rules aren't clear, but it seems to have something to do with her emotional state, especially her self-confidence). Fellow supernatural entities—werewolves, vampires, other ghosts—can always see ghosts.
  • Stark from Farscape
  • Star Trek: Voyager. Chakotay uses the "vision quest" to communicate with his dead father. Neelix uses the same technique after his Back from the Dead experience—it doesn't end well.
  • The cast of Dead Last can see ghosts due to the power of a magical amulet they found.
  • The Reapers from Dead Like Me, as it would render the entire premise unworkable if they couldn't. In a slight variation, they only see ghosts once that person's soul has been let out of its body, and the ghost looks as its body did when it left- resulting in some rather nasty disfigurement if the Reapers don't get to it before death.
  • In Cold Case, at the end of the episode when the cases had been solved, the officers and the victim(s)'s loved ones would see the ghost of said victim(s). More than once, the ghost would be smiling, letting the one watching them know that they are now at peace.
  • In an episode of Bones, the ghost of one of Booth's old army buddies helps him survive. Bones herself thinks that there's a perfectly scientific explanation for this; naturally, she sees the ghost herself at the end of the episode, without realizing he is, in fact, a ghost. Of course, fastforward to the end of the season, and Booth has a brain tumour that's apparently been causing him to hallucinate said ghost, and also Stewie. No, it doesn't really make sense in context. At any rate, what that all means, I have no idea.
  • In Misfits, this is said exactly word-for-word by Nathan.
  • Grandpa Jerry from Teen Angel can see angels (some of which are dead people) because of a near-death experience.
  • In Charmed, witches (and other magical individuals) can see ghosts, but normal humans cannot.
  • Haley Joel Osment's own sister reportedly debated with the producers of Hannah Montana not to use the line in an episode. Evidently, the producers got their way.
  • Dr. Michael Holt, the main character of A Gifted Man can see the ghost of his dead ex-wife, but it's not clear if he can see others.
  • In The Fades roughly half the cast is dead (the Fades of the title), and a fair chunk who aren't have the power to see them.
  • In The Vampire Diaries Jeremy gains the ability to see at least some dead people after being resurrected. Specifically, the ghosts of his dead vampire girlfriends Anna and Vicki. Later Matt dies and is resuscitated, and starts to see his sister Vicki. And then the ghost (presumably) of Mason shows up and smacks Damon for killing him.

Tabletop Games

  • Geist: the Sin-Eaters has "death sight" as one of the innate abilities of the titular Sin-Eaters. The ability comes as part of the whole package that comes with almost dying, ending up at the gates of the Underworld, and being led back by a geist.

Video Games

  • The Sorrow in Metal Gear Solid and The Cobra Days.
    • In the fanfic Stray, the Sorrow's son Ocelot has this ability as well.
      • Not entirely un-canon. Although Ocelot may not see ghosts, per say, it's implied that Liquid's possession of him was due in part to inheriting the Sorrow's power. More a case of "talking to and getting taken over by" Dead People.
  • In at least the book of the game Fatal Frame, Miku and her brother Mafuyu are sensitive to spirits and received warnings from their relatives not to act on these spiritual intuitions.
    • This is true in the game too. Miku 'sees things that other people don't', as does Mafuyu, and it's the reason they're so close; Mafuyu's the only one she can talk to about the visions she sees.
  • Ashley from Trace Memory can converse with a ghost known only as "D". She's the first person to visit Blood Edward Island in over half a century who can see or talk to him.
  • Marona from Phantom Brave, which causes her great amounts of grief from almost everyone.
  • Dawn Star from Jade Empire. Considering the dead do not rest easily across the Empire, because the Water Dragon, keeper of the gates to the Underworld, has been imprisoned and all but one of her worshipers slaughtered, it is a massive case of Blessed with Suck for her.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, the infamous "pigeon dating sim", the heroine sees dead birds. Love Interest Fujishiro Nageki, the mourning dove freshman who can only be found in the library, is a suicide victim with Ghost Amnesia. Being befriended and romanced by the heroine fulfills his Ghostly Goals, and he has to leave for the afterlife once he remembers himself.
  • In the endgame of the second Mega Man Battle Network, a NPC who can somehow see the ghosts of V3 bosses you've beaten appears in ACDC Town.
  • World of Warcraft has a few different levels. Most ghosts are visible to anyone, usually if they're trying to eat you. But some ghosts are invisible to players until you undergo some task or drink some potion to reveal them: the Ancient Orc spirits of Nagrand, or the ghosts of Auchenai, fall into this third category. Ramdor the Mad is the only one who can see them... until you read from the Book of the Dead, after which you can see them too.
    • While we're on the topic of Warcraft: a cheat in Warcraft III is named directly after this trope ("iseedeadpeople"), but the result is not what you'd expect from the name - it only removes the 'Fog of War' from the map.


  • Antimony Carver from Gunnerkrigg Court. While some ghosts (like Mort) are visible to anyone, it seems to be implied that other ghosts (like the boy in the hospital) can only interact with Mediums like Annie.
  • Satori Deacon of PS238 can do this; she really wishes she couldn't, because once the ghosts notice this they never leave her alone.
  • In Planes of Eldlor, riftwalker dragons are able to see spirits as they depart from their bodies.
  • Aradia Megido from Homestuck has a rather narrow version; she can only hear the dead and she can't control when they decide to talk to her. One of her friends, Sollux Captor, has a related ability in that he can hear the thoughts of those who are near death.

Web Original

  • Jimmy Trauger at Whateley Academy can see, hear, and talk to the dead as easily as to the living, and appears to have no trouble telling the two apart. It's a bit unclear where this power comes from, as he's supposed to be a "psychic null" (that is, immune to psychic powers but not possessing any of his own either) and it's not obviously related to his being otherwise a powerful shape shifter with some control issues. In any case, from his description it seems that any ghosts hanging out around the school are still pretty much normal people not overly given to angsting about their state or obsessing about 'moving on'.

Western Animation

  • Everybody in Danny Phantom too, with the following arguables:
    • They only ever mention a ghost as having been a dead person twice in the entire series - The Dairy King and Sidney Poindexter. And at least one of the ghosts, Boxed Lunch, was explicitly described as the child of two ghosts rather than a dead person.
      • Desiree, the genie ghost was also described as having died, and I think that the girl with the dragon pendant did too.
      • A background character from Walker's prison in "Public Enemies" implies that all ghosts are the spirits of dead people.

Prisoner: You'll never take me alive, coppers!
Bullet: You're a ghost.
Prisoner: Well...you'll still never take me!