Surreal Symbolic Heads YKTTW Discussion

Surreal Symbolic Heads
Figures in dreams or surreal settings that are human, but with the head of something else.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-04-16 12:01:15 sponsor: Noaqiyeum (last reply: 2013-05-04 11:23:13)

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A recurring motif in Surreal Horror, Surreal Humour, and, really, surreality in general, is an apparently human being whose head is something else entirely. In some cases, it's simply been replaced with the head of some species of animal; in others, it's actually an inanimate object walking about on an human body.

In any case, the effect ranges from unusual to sinister; they appear mainly in dreams, visions, hallucinations, and if they appear physically it's a good sign that Reality Is Out to Lunch. As a result, they are frequently subjects of the Rule of Symbolism.

Compare Malevolent Masked Men, which plays on much of the same imagery in a way compatible with a more mundane setting or situation. Compare and contrast Anthropomorphic Personification and Physical God - many take the form of a person with the head of something else, but unless they are used for surreality and metaphor they are not this trope. Also, not to be unnecessarily confused with TV Head Robot or Petting Zoo People.


  • Doom Patrol
    • Several of Dorothy Spinner's imaginary friends and enemies take this form. Damn All has a newspaper with multiple eyes and a broad smile, his 'wife' Darling-Come-Home's face is a portrait of a light bulb, and their ghost baby Flying Robert has the head of a balloon.
    • Many agents of the Cult of the Unwritten Book have such appearances as well. The Weeping Blades are flayed, beheaded corpses with the heads of blades. The assassin group Fear the Sky all have the heads of celestial objects.


  • Part of the mythos in The Stormlight Archive revolves around visions of strange creatures who are humanoid in shape, but have strange symbols for heads. Their presence and origin is as of yet unexplained.
  • In A Night in the Lonesome October, when a mass occult ritual starts to distort reality, the participants' heads all seem to shift places while their consciousness remains in place. As many of the participants are Familiar animals, this leaves many of the humans with animal heads.

Tabletop Games
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "Thoth's Dagger". One of the Investigators who touches the title magic item will fall under its curse. He sees visions of ancient Egypt that include a guard with the head of a baboon and a priest with the head of an ibis.
    • Supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Sands of Time". While the Investigators are trapped in an underground area they have a vision of two men with the heads of crocodiles.

Video Games
  • All the characters in Mondo Medicals have televisions for faces - with a blank screen, simple faces, or a gnashing mouth. Mondo Agency uses the same idea, only now the screens are four-sided and spin!
  • In Hotline Miami, the protagonist is visited by three strangers in animal masks, in dreamlike settings. (It was produced by cactus, who also made the aforementioned Mondo games.)
  • In Yume Nikki, the Medamaude effect allows Madotsuki to dream that her head has taken the form of a large hand with an eye in the palm. ('Blinking' allows her to return to the hub of her Dream World.)
    • Another effect replaces her head with a functioning street lamp (useful for illuminating dark areas, naturally).
    • There are also the Toriningen, the 'enemies' of the game, who resemble tall girls with eerily silly bird-like heads.
    • In the fan sequel Yume 2kki, Urotsuki can dream her head into a telephone, a box of tissues, or a bomb in the shape of an eyeball.
  • One of the first-person areas in Batman: Arkham Asylum contains a mannequin of the Joker, with a television head that plays a message. Actually, it's the Joker himself.
  • In Turgor, the brother called Whaler has his head replaced with a kind of ornate metal spire. (The head itself is strapped onto his back...)

Web Original
  • One of the unexplained screens in the NES Godzilla Creepypasta shows a figure in a pinstriped business suit, whose head is a dripping faucet.

  • Subverted in this Pepsi Max advert; towards the end, the boss sees one of the office workers with a horse's head and assumes that he's hallucinating. But that's just what the workers want him to think; the horse's head is fake and the workers are looking for an excuse to goof off.

Indices: Absurdity Ascendant, Dream Tropes
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