When a demon
, or other body stealing
/ possessing force
takes control of a body, it causes the body to rapidly decay and get the wear and tear of a lifetime over a few days or months. Removing the being isn't a guarantee of undoing the damage
, and staying for too long in the same body will likely kill it before long.
This is different from (but may happen in conjunction with) Transformation Of The Possessed
, which is where a body is changed to resemble (or become) the possessing entities' original body, and tends to be stable. It's more akin to Power Degeneration
, and in fact use of superpowers
can hasten the decay. This trope applies to both living, dead, and un
dead bodies; usually living bodies last longer and dead ones decay at a much faster rate, the tradeoff being that corpses don't put up a struggle.
Some stories may play with the trope and have undead beings like zombies or vampires, or inanimate objects suffering little or no decay, but having dulled senses/finesse.
Anime and Manga
- In Blue Exorcist Satan is so powerful that there's no body in the regular world can contain him for more than a moment without destroying itself.
- Dante from the 2003 anime of Fullmetal Alchemist, that's the main reason she needs the philosopher's stone since she needs it everytime she transfers to a new body, also it's stated that each body last less than the previous one, also since Hohenheim also has swaped bodies at least once, it also happens to him, this is the main reason of why he abbandoned his family.
- The X-Men villain Proteus "burns out" any body he possesses; by the end stages, his victims look like walking corpses.
- In Final Crisis, Darkseid's minions are frantically bioengineering new bodies for the New Gods of Apokolips because they destroy the human bodies they possess fairly quickly.
- The Bug Alien From the first Men in Black movie. By the end of the movie he had grey skin, could barely talk or walk. In this case, it had more to do with the bug wearing an "Edgar Suit" made of flayed skin, so it was natural decomposition.
- H.I.V.E. In the Later books, this is what happens to bodies that Overlord possess' via the animus fluid.
- In Harry Potter Voldermort goes through several host bodies before he can performa ressurection ritual that gives him a stable new form. He has to resort to things like drinking unicorn blood to keep his hosts alive.
- In the YA Urban Fantasy Book Series beginning with The Demons Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, the heads of The Masquerade keep Mezentius House, a hospital/prison for bodies possessed by demons, which basically keeps the demons under control (chained up) until the body decays and dies. However, in the third book, a magician makes a deal with a demon who wants to possess her to share the body alternating days and nights, hoping to stave off this trope.
- In Alan Garner's The Moon of Gomrath, an ancient Celtic demonic entity, the Brollochan, is released form its prison cell by human interference. The Brollochan is an entity that lives vicariously through the senses of people and animals it serially possesses - but no host can contain it for long without burning from the inside and crumbling to death.
- Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel A Hat Full of Sky introduces an entity called the Hiver, which is so alike in description, purpose and occupation to Garner's Brollochan that you might assume Pratchett had read Garner's book in his youth and "borrowed" the idea. (Although Garner says his conception is not originsl - he has updated it from Celtic mythology. Pratchett may have read the same root sources.)
- This happens to everyone who's possessed by the ancient evil Tak in the Stephen King novel Desperation.
- In Walter Jon Williams' Metropolitan and City On Fire, there's a type of disembodied spirit called an "iceman", formerly human. It possesses people so it can experience physical sensation again, but because it doesn't belong, everything feels "muted", so it wears its hosts out with physical excess. Sucks to be the host, sucks even more to be the iceman.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Palpatine's spirit possessing clone bodies made them degenerate really fast, which provided a limit on his resurrections.
- The demon in the Angel ep Lonely Hearts. It had to keep body jumping because the bodies wore out and died.
- Also Illyria, the initial infestation and death of Fred might count, but then there's also the aftermath-she was wearing out the body and the team had to zap her with a Frickin' Laser Beam to drain some of her power away.
- Invoked in the Doctor Who episode "The Doctor's Wife", wherein the 'soul' of the TARDIS is forcibly transferred to a human body -- which is reported by its new occupant to be fast falling apart due to its inability to long hold the energy of the TARDIS.
- Happens in Stargate SG-1 when Anubis possesses a host. The host develops sores and various ailments, eventually dying, forcing him to look for a new host.
- Occurs in Supernatural: Satan has to go through a few different host bodies, since they degenerate from his sheer power. He believes Sam's body has enough power on its own to stand the possession.