GTA Online's Halloween event makes a fan rumour real and gives one of its protagonists a last goodbye

The Ghostbusters-style car in GTA Online.
(Image credit: Rockstar)

I'll make no bones about it: I preferred Grand Theft Auto 4 to GTA 5. The latter is great and all but I never got over the more grounded and gritty take of GTA 4 and in particular its tragic central cast, defined and trapped by their lives in the criminal underworld. GTA 4 had two great expansions, The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and the Damned, both introducing their own protagonists and side stories. One of them was the biker Johnny Klebitz, who, unlike many of Rockstar's leads, ends his GTA 4 arc in a better place.

An early twist in GTA 5 upset the apple cart: One of that game's three protagonists, the psychopathic Trevor, finds a drug-addled Johnny and beats him to death. This has always been an unpopular twist, which perhaps indicates narratively it was a good one (boo!), because as well as the character's death the state he's found in suggests things all went wrong for Johnny after The Lost and the Damned's ending. Players didn't like the fact he was killed, but they especially didn't like the fact he was such a shell of the character we knew.

Ever since this happened Johnny's afterlife became an urban legend among the GTA community, with players claiming that the character's ghost could be found at the Sandy Shores trailer park (where he was killed). People said you could hear his voice sometimes, or, if you went at the right time of night, you could catch a glimpse of his apparition. It was all nonsense.

Until now. GTA Online's Halloween update, just to rub it in for the Red Dead fans, is a four week blowout of new and returning content, including themed events and modes like Alien Survival (last Halloween saw a UFO invasion). One of the major new additions is the organisation Ghosts Exposed, which tasks players with a ghost hunt across Los Santos. There are ten in total that appear at night, and capturing a photograph of each nets you a cash and RP reward.

You can probably guess where this is going. Nine of the ghosts will spawn at night and in the early hours of the morning, with the tenth only appearing once they've all been snapped and thus "exposed".

The nine are all generic GTA NPCs (or at least I don't recognise them). The tenth is Johnny Klebitz, whose spirit is found haunting the exact spot in Sandy Shores where he was brutally murdered.

RIP, dear Johnny. The Almighty forgives. The Lost don't. from r/GTA

Rockstar actually makes this a pretty haunting moment in its own right. When the ghost appears a slowed-down version of The Lost and the Damned's theme plays, and you can hear Johnny's voice lines from the GTA 5 scene: he shouts Trevor's name and "you been with my girl again?" Trevor was sleeping with Johnny's girlfriend Ashley, another story beat fans disliked, and the ghost has the same final line as the character: "I still love her."

Ah man. Johnny was great and Trevor is an asshole. Once you’ve photographed Johnny's ghost the Ghosts Exposed mission completes and, as well as the cash and RP, players get a new skin for the Albany Brigham car. The final Halloween flourish is that this is a tribute to the Ghostbusters' Ecto-1, with the livery directly inspired by Ecto 1a (the variant of the car seen in Ghostbusters 2).

One thing Rockstar is great at is leaning into community legends and rumours, which often pass around for years before, in ways big and small, being incorporated into new content. The UFOs are one example and the eventual appearance of Bigfoot another. This time it poured a glass out for a real one. It's been years since I've played GTA Online but the impressive treadmill of content keeps bringing up reasons to go back, even if it feels a tiny bit like Rockstar's just rubbing it in for the Red Dead fans.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."