We typically picture ghosts as people who have died young, often in some tragic accident. However, everyone dies (it’s a fact – look it up!), so it makes sense that there would be some elderly un-dead floating around. Today, we’re taking a look at some of the most gleeful geezer ghosts this side of the Old Country Buffet. Turn that music down – these are some of our favorite supernatural senior citizens.
10. Gramps – House 2
One of the silliest entries on the list (and that’s saying quite a bit but, c’mon, the tagline is “Frightening Strikes Twice!”), House 2 is a pretty impressive bit of horror comedy. Gramps features some impressive makeup work, as his zombified gunslinger clashes with his old enemy and helps his great-great-grandson break a curse.
Gramps gets to go to a Halloween party – where he blends in perfectly, despite being dead for quite some time – meet a cut-from-the-same-cloth family member, exact revenge, and finally claim his peace. On top of it all, he gets to hand his legacy down to Jesse, who admires Gramps so much that he decides to stay in the Old West and carry on the family name there. Not a bad way to spend your afterlife.
9. The Judge – The Frighteners
OK, so maybe we have a thing for undead cowboys. We promise it isn’t the whole list.
The Frighteners is an underrated gem, and The Judge is an absolutely ridiculous character. Just an old man ghost, firing his guns up into the air like Yosemite Sam, having sex with mummies… He’s absurd. On top of all that, he’s played by John Astin, Sean Astin’s adoptive father.
The Frighteners is basically a who’s who of great character acting, wrapped up in the insanity of Peter Jackson’s early work, and The Judge is one of its most memorable characters. But – we swear – that’s the last undead cowboy.
8. Bill Wilkins – Conjuring 2
See? No cowboys here! Not every senior citizen on our list has to be on the side of the good guys – Bill Wilkins is a complete asshole throughout The Conjuring 2. Yes, he’s being controlled by the “big bad,” but that doesn’t make him seem any less gleeful to torment the Hodgsons throughout the film’s runtime.
Bill is just a grumpy old man who hates having to deal with the young whippersnappers invading his home. He cackles with sadistic glee in torturing them, and hurls grumpy insults with reckless abandon. And, when it’s all said and done, Bill actually winds up saving the day by helping reveal the truth about Valak, the overarching villain of the entire franchise. Bill Wilkins is basically a grumpy great-uncle who had to host a Thanksgiving gathering – he doesn’t really want anyone there but, in the end, he turns out to be alright.
7. The Librarian – Ghostbusters
She doesn’t get to do much, but think about her afterlife. She gets to spend her days hanging out in one of the most well-stocked libraries in the United States, existing at all hours and enjoying whatever they have on the shelves. We can assume that she was a library worker when she died, as she clearly wants the Ghostbusters to hush when they encounter her. It also seems unlikely that a woman of her age that worked in a library would not have a love for reading. An avid reader, living out eternity surrounded by books? That sounds like perfection.
It kind of makes her story a little sad, if you think about it. She shows no real aggression until some clueless dolts stumble across her and shout “Get her!” while she’s trying to mind her own business. We can think of many people who have an ideal image of the afterlife just being “Books, and all the time in the world to read them.” It isn’t hard to see why she’s so upset with our “heroes.”
6. Sylvia Ganush – Drag Me to Hell
Hot take – Drag Me To Hell is Sam Raimi’s best work as a director. It’s beautifully paced and shot, it balances its humor and horrors, and it’s legitimately scary. And a huge aspect of that comes from this little old lady.
Hollywood often depicts the elderly as harmless, sweet, and helpful. Sylvia seems to be these things when she first appears, but as soon as Christine gets on her bad side, Sylvia reveals her true nature. It isn’t long before an ancient curse (and also a spot-on metaphor for eating disorders) hits Christine with all its force, and Sylvia delights in every second of it. Then she goes and dies, leaving the curse to do its work and the Ganush family to continue taunting our protagonist.
It’s this fact that makes Sylvia such a powerful force – even in death, she continues to get the last laugh.
5. The Crypt-Keeper – Tales from the Crypt
“Eeee-hee-hee-hee!” Whether we’re talking the version from the old horror comics, or the more well-known version from the HBO series, there are very few characters in horror who seem so happy to do their job as The Crypt Keeper. They even made a Saturday morning cartoon out of him – which is really bizarre when you realize how NSFW this character and his stories were.
Honestly, there may be no more perfect time capsule for late ’80s and early ’90s horror than this cackling, pun-spewing TV host. The Crypt Keeper was an absolute icon during his heydey. No wonder he liked his job so much. In fact, you might even say that he… dug it. Eeeeeee-hee-hee-hee-hee!
4. Mary Shaw – Dead Silence
Beware the stare of Mary Shaw
She had no children, only dolls.
And if you see her in your dreams
Be sure you never, ever scream
Or she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.
Another villain who absolutely delights in their job, Mary Shaw is a total nightmare. To answer your questions: “Does she keep a room full of creepy ventriloquist dolls?” Of course. “Are those dolls alive?” Why wouldn’t they be? “Does she force you to scream so she can rip your tongue out and make you part of her weird-ass collection of human/dummy hybrids?” You already know the answer to that.
3. Juno – Beetlejuice
“Never trust the living!” One of the most memorable characters from a movie full of them, Sylvia Sydney brings her A-game (and gravely voice) to Juno in Beetlejuice, trying to help the clueless Maitlands haunt their old house and scare out the new people.
Juno seems perpetually annoyed, but that’s a huge part of her charm. She does really seem to want to help everyone who comes to her office, whether it is bumbling Adam and Barbara or an entire football team that died in a plane crash.
Overall, people like Juno would be essential in the afterlife – since everybody dies, it makes sense that there’s a complex bureaucracy at work and massive amounts of organization. She’s perfect for the job, and she seems to relish it.
2. Henrietta – Evil Dead 2
We aren’t sure exactly how old Henrietta is supposed to be in Evil Dead 2 – everyone is aged up so much in this movie, it’s tough to tell. Bruce Campbell was nearly 30, and he was supposed to be a college student? But, considering the way she’s portrayed in the film, she looks like she should count as a senior citizen.
Henrietta fits back into the “gleeful antagonist” role, who absolutely relishes in tormenting these poor young people who have invaded her turf. Granted, it isn’t her fault – Kandarian demon possession does strange things to a person – but watching her stalk Ash through the fruit cellar before transforming into a complete monster is a glorious bit of cinema. Dead by dawn indeed.
1. The Hatbox Ghost – The Haunted Mansion
A bit of an obscure one here, but we had to include the best ride at Walt Disney World for this. It’s rare that a character from a theme park ride would garner such a cult following, but The Hatbox Ghost from the Haunted Mansion attraction did just that.
Disney has always been an expert at marketing their products, so they picked up that ball and ran with it.
The Hatbox Ghost has developed a personality over time, and there is plenty of speculation on how the old man actually met his fate. He has appeared in all manner of Disney promotional material, and even got a revamp in 2015 at the attraction.
What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorite undead seniors? Let us know on our Twitter, the official NOFS subreddit, and Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club. Stay tuned for more spooky features!