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The stereotypical Near-Death Experience includes seeing a bright light, experiencing love coming from it, and sensing somehow that if you were really dead - not Only Mostly Dead - then you should go into it. Death is just the beginning, after all, and you probably had a very similar experience when you were being born.

Now, a sparkly light after death is seen as the functional means by which ghosts move on, as well as the difference between Near-Death Experience and Deader Than Dead. Entire plots have been built around convincing ghosts to Go Into the Light. "Psychopomp" style versions of The Grim Reaper and Shinigami help guide you there with varying degrees of force

Part of The Lowest Cosmic Denominator. See also Disappears Into Light.

Examples of Go Into the Light include:


Anime and Manga

  • The series finale of Yu-Gi-Oh!! ends with the Pharaoh's spirit walking through a heavenly doorway...which collapses moments later.
  • Parodied in Clannad by Nagisa's very theatrical parents. The father steps on a knife, falls over, and gives a last speech while his head rests in his crying wife's lap. Music plays and a bright light shines down from the ceiling as he slumps in 'death'...both of which abruptly cut off when Nagisa announces that she's going to school.
  • Parodied in Excel Saga. Excel gets hit by a car (in the very first episode) and wakes to a field of stars...but it's actually the Great Will of the Macrocosm, hovering over her to make sure that Excel, the nominal protagonist, doesn't die so early in the series.
  • Parodied in Azumanga Daioh: as Chiyo-Chan has flashbacks of riding in Yukari's car, Kaorin yells "Chiyo-Chan! Don't go into the light!"


Comic Books

  • Subverted in a Far Side comic, where a group of surgeons use a flashlight to make a woman on the table think this is happening as a practical joke.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons Comics when Mr Burns has a near-death experience. After he's given CPR, we get to see that it was actually a spotlight being shone by...

 Satan: Double darn, Uday, Qusay, and Ben Affleck's agent!

  • Dogbert dreams that he's dying once, but it turns out that Dilbert's just shining a flashlight at his face.

 Dogbert: I'm coming toward the light... The light...it's so pure...so perfect...it could only be the light of God Himself!

Dilber: No. Just new batteries.

Dogbert: God has a sense of humor? Of course! It explains everything.

Scott Adams Comment from Seven Years of Highly Defective People: It would explain everything.


Film

  • Plays a large part in the film The Frighteners. The protagonist has the ability to see ghosts, and when people die, their spirits are immediately pulled to the afterlife by a bright blue light. However, the spirits can actually refuse to go to the light and exist on earth as ghosts. They only way they can ascend to the afterlife then is to either wait for a certain period of time for the light to return, or be "killed" by another ghost. The light plays a large role in defeating the malevolent spirit of a serial killer.
  • In Poltergeist, the medium's explanation for events was that one spirit was using the light of the little girl to trick other spirits into sticking around.
  • Ghost.
  • At the end of The Sixth Sense, the screen fades to white around Bruce Willis's character after he realizes that he is dead.
  • Subverted in Constantine, in which Satan pulls the titular character from the light, cures his lung cancer and extends his lifetime in the hopes that he'll screw up again and be sent down the next time. Can't say he wasn't asking for it, though. I mean, who gives someone (albeit the Devil himself) the finger while they're going into the light?
    • That was actually a homage to an arc in the Hellblazer comic the movie was (nominally) based on. Constantine manipulated Satan into curing his cancer.
    • Of course, in the comic John sold his soul to multiple buyers, rather than saving the world by committing suicide. The theology is also a lot less rigid...forces of good still dicks, though.
  • Toyed with in the first Casper film: Ghosts cross over as soon as they've completed their "unfinished business." However, the title character's unfinished business is resurrecting himself; he'll never cross over unless he succeeds, then dies again. The Big Bad, however, makes the mistake of declaring her unfinished business to be just obtaining the resurrection formula, not using it, so she goes into the light as soon as she gets the bottle, leaving it behind.
  • In the first Shrek film, Donkey thinks Shrek is dying from an arrow. As he goes off to get some plants that are supposed to help him, he says, "And if you see a long tunnel, stay away from the light!"
  • In The Fountain, all three lives / versions of Tom experience looking upward into a tunnel of bright light: Tommy the doctor looks up into a skylight filled with snow right before the lights go out, whereupon it cuts to Tom the astronaut looking up into the exploding nebula, whereupon it cuts to Tomas the conquistador looking up into the literal tunnel of light after ingesting the sap of the Tree of Life, whereupon he dies and becomes one with the tree. What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic?


Literature

  • Is given a major overhaul in Bill Meyers' novel, Soul Tracker. Turns out that the departed are traveling through the tunnel fast enough to blur out all the things living on the walls. And then the story gets weird.
  • At the end of Changes, Harry has been shot, and he sees a light...and hears a train.
  • Merrick from The Vampire Chronicles gets a bridge dropped on her after she decides to end her life in order to help a spirit "Go Into the Light".
  • In Arrow's Fall when Herald Kris dies, his last words are "So bright!" When Herald Talia attempts suicide, however, her last thought before losing consciousness is to wonder why she sees only darkness. (She gets better.)
  • There was a Christopher Pike book (the title escapes me just at the moment) where a ghost is told to go into the light. When the ghost asks why, she's told that it says so in the National Enquirer.


Live Action TV

  • The premise of the series Ghost Whisperer is Once an Episode, Jennifer Love Hewitt helps a ghost get over its issues so that it can Go Into the Light.
  • Spoofed in the episode of Dinosaurs where Ethyl has a Near-Death Experience: the Light turns out to be a desk lamp on the Afterlife's reception desk, and the receptionist apologizes for letting it shine in her eyes.
  • Subverted and toyed with in the TV show Dead Like Me where the dead each get their own special send-off to the afterlife, different for each person. It (whether it's a place, a ledge, a person beckoning) looks to the audience and reapers as being made up of lights. Once the dead person enters/joins the lights, the form they took flashes out and the lights scatter and speed off (usually UP).
  • At one point in Angel, Cordelia tells a ghost annoying her "You see a light? Head towards it."
  • An episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has Bashir and O'Brien trapped in Sloane's Mental World. At one point, thinking they're dying, they see The Light.
  • Mentioned by David Liebe Hart's aliens on an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!.
  • When the protagonists of Supernatural dispatch hostile ghosts (usually with fire) the spirits appear to be in pain before they disappear; however, in the episode "Road Kill," a woman who didn't realize she was dead decides to move on once she is told the truth and performs a classic fade into the light.
    • Then in the season finale, their father, having dragged himself out of hell to save his sons also gets a Go Into the Light moment.
  • Subverted, of all places, by Touched By an Angel. A man has a near death experience...except the light keeps getting further and further away from him. Just before he's revived he turns around to see something so awful behind him that, once he's recovered, he dedicates himself to doing good deeds in an attempt to turn his life around.
  • In Ashes to Ashes all the characters do this sort of when they step into the brightly shining Railway Arms, there proceeds to be a flash of white light and you can no longer see their silhouettes from outside. The pub is strongly implied to be the entrance to heaven.
  • Subverted in Lindsey's backstory in Freaks and Geeks. She asks her dying grandmother if she sees a light, to which her grandmother replies, "No." This event is the catalyst for Lindsey becoming an atheist and a rebel against society.
  • Played completely straight on One Life to Live when Luna died, and during Lucy's Near Death experience on General Hospital.
  • In "Twin Peaks", the character Leland has this moment after he realized that he killed Laura Palmer. The character is actually told to go into the light to find peace before death.


Music

  • Bruce Cockburn's song "Closer To The Light," written after the death of songwriter Mark Heard, includes the words, "Gone from mystery into mystery, gone from daylight into night, another step deeper into darkness, closer to the light."


Musical Theatre

  • In RENT, Mimi describes her Near-Death Experience as seeing "a warm, bright light/ and I swear, Angel was there".


New Media

  • Parodied in the video podcast Tiki Bar TV, during the Missionary episode.

 Dr. Tiki: That's good, go towards the light!

Preacher: Go towards the light?

Johnny Johnny: You'll want to take a left at the light.

Dr. Tiki: At the first light, take a left.

Lala: No, it's your first right.

Dr. Tiki: At this time of day? It'll take forever.


Video Games

  • Cruelly subverted in Mass Effect 1. The last words of Matriarch Benezia are:

  No light? They always said there would be a -- Ah...

  • Parodied/Subverted in Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door; a ghost is surrounded by a column of light after you solve the business binding him to this plane, but then he decides to stick around for a while.
  • After you beat Twinrova in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, the sisters get halos over their heads and float up into a column of light.
  • At the end of Sonic Adventure, Tikal and Chaos rise from the ground disappear into a light. Exactly what this means is never made explicit, and confused more than a few gamers, but there's a good chance that that light was meant to be the Light.
    • Of course, Chaos still exists in the normal world, as seen in Sonic Battle. He just only appears during times of crisis, apparently.
  • This trope is invoked in Silent Hill 4, where Henry has to crawl a long tunnel (and we do mean long) towards the light to escape his apartment...except the "light" leads to the Dark World. When he enters the hole to return to the (relative) safety of his apartment, you see the tunnel-crawling sequence in reverse.
  • Both invoked and averted (as becomes clear in Modern Warfare 2) in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, with the death of Paul Jackson (one of the player characters). His death is shown while the screen whites out.
    • And invoked again with Roach's death in MW 2.
  • Invoked in Borderlands with General Knoxx-trap's second death in the final Borderlands DLC, where he says "I've heard your entire life flashes before your eyes when you die…that’s a load of crap…no wait…okay, there it goes." to be followed up and averted, sadly with "No, that's just the sun. Shit."
  • In The Curse of Monkey Island, after you've successfully been entombed by Faking the Dead (the first time), you'll spy another coffin with a live occupant. One of your dialogue options is "Go into the light!"
  • In The Blackwell Series, Rosangela often says this line to the ghosts who are ready to move on the next plane of existence. Some ghosts can't help but snark a bit at the fact she actually tells them this.
  • Parodied in Jak and Daxter when you lose all your health.

  Daxter: Don't step into the light, Jak, DON'T STEP INTO THE LIGHT!


Web Comics

  • In Breakfast of the Gods, The Quaker Oats mascot is cast in the role of God welcoming Cap'n Crunch to the afterlife.
  • In Elf Only Inn, the light is the place dead characters go for a rez. Imagine the embarrassment of poor Megan when she misunderstood Duke's comment.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, dying people are normally guided into light by different spirits. Some people need help to resolve their problems before they can move on. Nobody came for Antimony's mom and she had to do it herself, which makes her resent them slightly.


Western Animation

  • Parodied in a Family Guy episode, where when Chris is near death Peter idiotically tells him to head straight for the light while Lois quickly tells him to do the opposite.
  • Spoofed in God, the Devil and Bob when Bob asks God to bring back his deceased father by not telling him to go into the light. God then rants about how he's sick of the "light thing" since it was his porch light. "You leave it on once and suddenly it's part of the whole death ritual!"
  • Played with in a Halloween episode of The Simpsons, the one where Homer ends up in the 3D space. Lovejoy tells him to go into the light, and we hear the sound of Homer being electrocuted.
    • In an earlier episode, the Simpson's dog "Santa's Little Helper" is injured and hears a far off voice. It get's...slightly silly after a bit.

 Voice: Come, my child. Come into the light. Come on. Come on now! That's a good boy! Come on!


Real Life

  • People having experienced near-death experiences have actually reported seeing a bright light, which is sometimes perceived as a being of some sort.
    • Scientists used to think that this was caused by either lack of oxygen, excess carbon dioxide, drugs, or temporal lobe seizures in the dying brain, but these hypotheses have been rendered doubtful by more recent research.
      • The fact that scientific research has not definitively explained it, does not mean that it isn't a neurological phenomenon, and one should rush to conclude it is an indication of an afterlife, or "the light" is a real thing.
      • The controversial case of Pam Reynolds is an interesting take on this topic.
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