16 Times A Supernatural Plot Winds Up Having A Rational Explanation

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Vote up the most surprisingly logical explanations for supernatural plots.

The supernatural sits at the heart of horror and mystery, but just because something looks like a ghost and walks like a ghost doesn't mean it's always going to say, "Boo!" One of the most fun twists filmmakers have employed since the advent of the moving picture is the last act reveal that what's been presented as a haunting has a completely rational explanation.

The horror genre doesn't have a stranglehold on the ol' supernatural switcheroo. Science fiction, fantasy, and even straightforward dramas have employed this technique to varying degrees of success over the years. Some of the rational reveals collected here not only work, but make the film even more conceptually interesting as a result. That's not to say all of these surprisingly rational supernatural movies pull off their twist perfectly.

Which of these not-so-supernatural movies work, and which of them are a little too grounded for their own good? That's up to you to decide.


  • 1
    135 VOTES

    In this very '90s film about a small-town mechanic who receives special abilities from a heavenly (or extraterrestrial) force, John Travolta plays George Malley, the aforementioned schlub who sees a giant flash of light one night and begins to exhibit genius-level abilities on top of some serious telekinesis. George stops sleeping. He reads every book he can find, and he's even tapped by the FBI to help with code breaking.

    Did he receive these powers from aliens? God? No one knows. Well, no one knows until George has a seizure and gets rushed to a hospital. When he wakes up, a doctor explains George has a brain tumor that's invigorating his faculties. That's right. There's nothing supernatural going on here, just some good ol' fashioned brain trauma.

    135 votes

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  • 2
    148 VOTES

    Shutter Island is a little bit film noir, a little bit haunted hospital movie about Teddy Daniels, a federal marshal who's investigating the disappearance of a woman at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island. Teddy runs into every kind of spooky thing one can imagine: patients who speak in riddles, disappearing women, and an ex-Third Reich doctor who may or may not be developing mind control techniques by experimenting on patients.

    While investigating this super creepy hospital, Teddy only has to follow one rule: Don't go to the lighthouse. So of course he goes to the lighthouse. He doesn't find a bunch of zombies, ghosts, or run-of-the-mill ghouls - instead, he finds Dr. John Cawley, who explains Teddy is actually a patient at the hospital who suffered a nervous breakdown after his wife burned down their apartment and drowned their children. It turns out everyone in the hospital was trying to help Teddy (who's actually named Andrew Laeddis) come to terms with his guilt over allowing his children to die.

    With an incredibly normal explanation at hand, Teddy does the one thing he can do and allows himself to be lobotomized so he'll never have to deal with this horrible information again.

    148 votes

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  • 3
    159 VOTES

    The Boy

    The Boy is a demented movie that pulls the rug out from under the audience again and again with twists and turns. Some are guessable, while others are so far out there that there's no way anyone can see them coming. The film follows Greta Evans, an American expat who becomes a nanny for the Heelshires in the UK.

    The Heelshires explain they only have a few rules for her while they're away. Most of them involve treating their porcelain doll, Brahms, as if he's a real boy. You see, they lost their son 20 years ago and they're pretty sure his spirit inhabits the doll. Oh, and he's super peeved about being a ghost. If she doesn't follow the rules, the ghost of their son who inhabits the doll will make her pay. 

    Over the course the film, Greta comes to the conclusion Brahms is genuinely a haunted doll who exacts his revenge when his rules are disregarded. There are mysterious sounds around the house, bloody messages on walls, and exploding mirrors. It's clearly a haunting. Or is it? In the last act of the film, it's revealed Brahms is just a doll and the thing causing the "paranormal" mischief is the real Brahms, who's been living in the walls of his family estate for 20 years. The rest of the film is a game of cat and mouse between Greta and the very human Brahms.

    159 votes
  • 4
    134 VOTES

    Sherlock Holmes has long been the champion of science and reason, so it shouldn't be a surprise he's able to expose magician Lord Henry Blackwood for the charlatan that he is. However, for most of this 2009 movie, it looks like Blackwood really is pulling off some serious wizardry. 

    The biggest paranormal feat pulled off by this homicidal lord is coming back to life after he's hanged in full view of the public. After returning from the grave, Blackwood takes out his enemies in a variety of violent means that seem to be tied into the Masonic design of London. One victim seemingly self-immolates while attempting to shoot Blackwood, and another mysteriously drowns as Blackwood watches. In the end, Holmes explains how Blackwood pulled off every one of his "tricks" through science and sleight-of-hand playfulness.

    134 votes

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  • Is the House on Haunted Hill actually haunted? Watson Pritchard, the house's owner, seems to think so. When eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren throws a party for his wife in this supposedly haunted house, he invites a group of people to stay the night. Anyone who makes it all the way to morning will receive $10,000. Easy, right? It would be if it weren't for the floating skeletons, ghostly women, hideous witch, and very real vat of acid in the basement.

    By the end of the film, Loren explains no ghosts are in the house, just a lot of special effects and production value. The ghostly woman? Why that's just a woman wearing a lot of white lace. How about when Loren is shot and disposed of in acid after all the lights in the house are cut? Duh, he was shot with blanks and never actually placed in the acid. And what about that floating skeleton? It's just a skeleton Loren bought and put on strings. Even though all of the haunting is a big setup, Watson leaves the film believing the ghosts are still very present.

    80 votes

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  • 6
    101 VOTES
    Housebound
    Photo: XLrator

    What's worse than being on house arrest? Being on house arrest in a haunted house. After Kylie Bucknell is detained for attempting to rob an ATM, she's stuck with an ankle monitor and locked up in her mother's house for the next eight months.

    During her time in the house, Kylie is grabbed, groped, poked, and prodded by an unseen entity, then comes to the conclusion the house is haunted. Adding gas to that fire is the fact the house was once the site of a brutal slaying, likely carried out by the neighbor's adopted son, Eugene.

    So who's haunting Kylie's mother's house? The victim of the mass murder? Or is it the ghost of Eugene? Neither. It's actually the very alive Eugene, who's been running around inside the house through a series of tunnels he constructed. Much like Lazlo Hollyfeld in Real Genius, Eugene is a good guy who just has problems with the outside world. He conducts experiments deep within the home and even helps out when an actual serial killer shows up. 

    101 votes

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