“My name is Jak Lagans and I never believed in ghosts until I came face to face with one in a Whacka-Mart parking lot.”
A dramatic reenactment plays parallel to the narration. The viewers see a startled anthropomorphic bird exiting a store with a bag of groceries. Someone wearing a cheap ghost costume is posed before a sign that says ‘Scary Good Prices'.
“So I set off on a journey to capture what I once saw on camera. I’m accompanied by my friends Vick and Barron—”
A pink Toad and haggard looking Lakitu appear on screen respectively.
“—as we explore haunted sites and respectfully contact the residing spirits.”
The scene rapidly shifts between instances of exaggerated screaming and blatant taunts directed at inanimate objects.
“Join us as we uncover proof of the paranormal on today’s episode of Ghost Exploits!”
A wavering font drips down the screen, over-played stock screams and thunder claps echoing in the background. The title card fades to black as the video ends. Only when the replay button becomes visible does Jak lower the phone and store it away in his pocket. The Toad and Lakitu blink slowly, blearily, at the space the phone once occupied before turning their gaze on the avian.
“…Do we really have to watch that every time we go out filming?” the Lakitu drones.
Jak rolls his eyes, running a hand along his carefully styled plumage.
“Uh, yeah, we do. How else are we gonna get pumped up for the show?” He flexes his arms for emphasis, straining his too-tight t-shirt to its limits.
“…by hunting ghosts?” Vick offers.
Jak clicks his beak with annoyance.
“Whatever. Come on, let’s do a few more establishing shots in the foyer. I thought of a killer monologue we could use.”
The emerald green avian struts forward, leading his exasperated team into the next room. In an adjacent hallway a Boo and several other spectral entities listen on with bored and mildly irritated expressions. The Boo sighs and floats over to an antique phone. It takes a little while to dial the number (darn stubby paws), but the other end picks up after only a few rings.
“Hey Luigi? It’s me, Yikes.” He listens to the former's reply. “Yeah…they’re back. Hmm? Which show? Uh…” The Boo looks to his companions for an answer, only to receive bemused shrugging. “I dunno, there’s a bird guy with frat boy hair. His name is…Hack, or something.”
Yikes is quiet while the plumber responds. He subconsciously nods along.
“Uh-huh. Yeah. Gotcha. Thanks man! Just let yourself in when you get here, Stars knows they did.”
“Tonight, we’re investigating the allegedly haunted Moseley Manor. The once bustling mansion has been abandoned now for over fifty years…or so people thought.”
The small crew of ghost hunters is standing in the middle of the dusty foyer. Jak poses before a grand, sweeping staircase, casting the camera a conspiratorial look. Barron trains the lens on the bird’s every movement while Vick carefully guides a boom mic overhead.
“Local eye witnesses have claimed to see spirits standing in the windows and roaming the surrounding property. It is even said that if you get close enough to the building, you can hear voices coming from inside.” Lagans waggles his fingers at the camera. “My crew and I will be searching each and every room before sun rise in the hopes that we’ll have encounters of our own.”
“…and…cut!” Barron calls. “Nicely done.”
“Of course it was,” Jak preens, turning to move down an adjacent hallway. “This way, you two! Let’s check the east wing first.”
Vick and Barron share a sigh and follow without further comment.
The walk is a relatively short one. Jak peers through a few doorways as they go but chooses not to enter any of the rooms until they arrive at the dining area. A large table framed by several dozen chairs stands neatly covered by an ornate cloth. Expensive looking dishware and cutlery rest at their appropriate stations—an elaborately folded napkin placed in the center of each plate. Candelabras are evenly spaced along the table top, their lit wicks casting the room in a warm glow.
The three ghost hunters stand in silent awe for several beats.
“…Uh…I don’t think this place is abandoned,” Vick whispers loudly.
“This is perfect!” Lagans exclaims, snapping out of his stupor. “Barron go stand over there and get a good shot of me and the table. Vick, make sure my lapel mic is working properly.”
The Toad and Lakitu do as they’re told. Once everyone is in position, Barron counts Jak down.
“We’ve only just begun our search of the manor and have already found what could possibly be our first sign of the paranormal.” The bird sweeps an arm out toward the spread behind him. “This place is supposed to be abandoned, and yet the dining room table is set like someone, or something, is planning to host a feast—”
“That’s probably because they are.”
Jak and his friends leap back with a shriek. They simultaneously round on the source of the voice, expecting a spirit, but are instead faced with a tired looking plumber.
“Hey! You're not a ghost! What do you think you're doing here, punk?” Jak spits, indignant.
The green-clad plumber slowly blinks at the trio.
“I…never said I was?” He raises a brow. “My name is Luigi. The spirits that own this mansion called me here.”
Barron and Vick exchange wary looks. Lagans doesn’t seem impressed with the answer.
“Pff—yeah right. Look, Linguini, we were here first so go take your lame psychic act somewhere else.”
Luigi exhales heavily. It was gonna be one of those nights.
“It’s Luigi, and I’m not psychic. I was literally called here by the residents. On a phone.”
“Is that so?” the bird scoffs. “And why would the ghosts ask a squirt like you to come here?”
“To make you leave.”
Jak snaps his bill shut. Then, without warning, he bursts into rancorous laughter.
“You? Make me leave? That’s rich! Isn’t it fellas?”
The camera crew chuckle nervously at the bird’s prompting, but clearly aren’t as amused. Luigi rolls his eyes and takes a few steps forward.
“Look, I’m asking you nicely—”
Jak abruptly leaps up onto the table, knocking over a few glasses and dirtying the fine cloth with his muddy boots.
“Whatever dude! I’m not going anywhere. If these ghosts really want me to leave, then they’ll have to knock me off this table first!”
Luigi (and even the camera crew to a lesser extent) gape at the bird in disbelief. When nothing immediately happens, Jak grins triumphantly.
“See? If they wanted me out, they would have done something.”
The plumber drags a hand down his face in exasperation.
“They didn’t do anything because they don’t want to be on your dumb show!”
Jak's eyes narrow dangerously.
“Dumb show? Ghost Exploits is the most popular ghost hunting show on TV!”
“Doesn’t mean it’s not dumb. Why are you even looking for evidence of paranormal entities? Everyone already knows they’re real!”
“Because no one has ever gotten one on film. That’s why.”
Luigi’s bottom eyelid twitches.
“A spirit won a go-karting tournament literally last season. It was broadcasted live .”
The self-proclaimed ghost hunter waves a hand dismissively in the plumber's direction.
“Whatever. People mostly watch for the drama anyway and I give them exactly what they want. I’m an adventurer!”
“Okay, that’s it!” Lagans stomps his foot impudently. “This is your last chance Louise! Beat it or I’m gonna bring out the big guns.”
The avian flexes his arms obnoxiously, perhaps trying to be intimidating. Luigi stares blankly into the middle distance.
“You know what? Fine,” Luigi sighs. “You want to see a spirit so bad? I’ll let you meet one.”
The trio flinches when the plumber suddenly lets out an ear piercing whistle. A strange, ethereal bark sounds off hardly a second later. The yapping echoes about the walls and high ceiling, making it nearly impossible to pinpoint its origin.
“Pepper!” Luigi calls. “Say hello to the birdie!”
Jak looks back to the plumber, brows furrowed in confusion.
The name is barely out of his mouth before a white blur is tackling him to the floor. Lagans lands with an undignified yelp, sputtering and flailing his limbs in a blind panic.
“There. A spirit knocked you off the table. Will you go now?”
Jak raises his arms to block the onslaught of the Polterpup's tongue. He blinks past the ectoplasm gumming up his plumage with wide eyes.
“W-what is that thing?!”
“He is a dog. His name is Pepper, and as you can see, he’s very friendly.”
Pepper happily barks as if to emphasize this. Lagans cringes with a quiet whimper.
“He also loves to play games,” Luigi continues. “His favorite? Is Keep Away.”
The Polterpup snaps up at the casually dropped title. He begins to bark excitedly at the plumber, ethereal tail wagging behind him in a ghostly blur.
“What’s that boy? You want to play?”
Pepper yaps an affirmative.
“Okay then. Pepper?” Luigi languidly points at the Lakitu's camera. “Fetch.”
The ghostly canine doesn’t waste a second. Before the trio can even begin to grasp the situation, Pepper leaps off Jak’s drool soaked chest and charges his target. Barron cries out in surprise as their top-of-the-line camera is suddenly snatched up in the jaws of the overly enthusiastic pup and brought back to his master like an expensive, high-tech stick.
“Good boy!” Luigi praises, gently patting the spirit's head. “Now…” He meets Jak’s eyes. “Keep Away.”
Pepper somehow manages a gargled yap around the ectoplasm-soaked recording device and takes off like a shot. He’s out of the room in seconds, leaving only speckles of saliva and glowing paw prints in his wake. The camera crew finally snaps out of their shock.
“My camera!” Barron screeches. “Get back here you crazy mutt!”
The Lakitu frantically bolts after the fleeing canine, Vick hot on his heels. Jak gawks after them for a moment before turning a furious glare on the snickering plumber.
“You! ” he hisses, scrambling to his feet. “You’re going to pay for that!”
“Uh...Literally or metaphorically?”
Lagans charges forward with a snarl and takes a wild swing at Luigi’s face. The plumber just manages to step out of the way, extending a leg and tripping the brash bird. Jak tumbles to the ground with a startled squawk. He awkwardly recovers his footing and whirls back around, shaking with rage.
“You’re dead Green Bean!”
“I s t h a t s o ? W o u l d y o u l i k e t o j o i n h i m , T u r k e y N e c k ?”
The avian freezes, suddenly feeling a rush of cold air tickle the feathers at the base of his skull. Slowly, almost painfully so, Jak turns to the source of the voice. A Boo stares back at him, dark eyes glinting with mischief and fangs bared in a malevolent grin.
Jak Lagans plows through the spirit with an impossibly loud shriek. He disappears out the doorway, footsteps thundering down the hall in a horrid cacophony until they finally peter out with growing distance.
“Eww! He touched me!” Yikes howls, slapping at his round little body. “I feel violated!”
A few spirits come to the Boo’s aid and coo their sympathies and concerns. One even goes so far as to drape a thermal blanket along his back.
“Of all the ghost hunters to come here, why did it have to be him? ” a man in period clothing groans.
“Why couldn’t it have been the Ghost Siblings?” the shivering Boo whines. “I actually like those guys.”
“We all do, Yikes,” a Greenie concurs, “We all do.”
Luigi shakes his head good-naturedly at the spirit’s antics. He then looks over to the muddy spot on the table cloth, a frown on his face. The material is slightly wrinkled from the earlier disturbance and a few glasses are knocked over. Thankfully, nothing had been broken.
“I’m sorry about the table cloth,” he sighs, turning back to the spirits. “If I’d known he was gonna do that, I would have acted sooner.”
“Don’t worry about it dear,” a woman in maids attire soothes. “I have an old family recipe that will scrub that mess right out, no trouble.”
Yikes bobs in place, his equivalent of a nod, as he dramatically tosses the thermal blanket away.
“Yeah, it’s not your fault dude. That guy was a lunatic .”
Luigi rubs the back of his neck, looking sheepish.
“Even so, I feel like I could have done better.”
“Are you kidding? You were great!” Yikes zips in circle around the plumber. “That bit with Pepper? Genius. I just about lost it and revealed myself too early.”
“Pepper was due for a walk. I figured this solved both problems."
“Do you mean to say…” Yikes drawls, “You killed two birds with one stone?”
“…why are you like this?”
Yikes cackles, several other Boos joining in. The plumber feigns an unimpressed glare.
“Oh lighten up, pun hater.” Yikes bumps Luigi’s shoulder, making the latter stumble. “Hey, why don’t you stick around and have something to eat? It’s the least we could do after you came all this way.”
Luigi glances around at the spirits and ghosts slowly filtering into the room from their hiding places. Some are already taking their seats while others haul in food on large silver platters.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to impose…”
“Absolutely!” Yikes abruptly draws closer, lowering his voice in a conspiratorial manner. “Honestly you’d being doing us a favor. The chef always makes too much food and she gets really mad if we have too many left overs.”
Luigi makes a show of mulling it over, hand at his chin and brows knitted in deep contemplation.
“Well…it has been a while since I last ate,” he relents.
“That’s the spirit! ”