Created By: Earnest on October 3, 2012 Last Edited By: Earnest on October 9, 2012
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Demonic Possession Burnout

Demonic Possession destroys the host body.

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Trope
When a demon, ghost, 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 undead 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.


Examples:

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.

ComicBooks
  • 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.

Film
  • 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.

Literature
  • 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 Demon's 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.

Live-Action TV
  • 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.

Tabletop RPG

Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • October 3, 2012
    aschwartz07901
    Few Possibilities

    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.

    Literature: H.I.V.E In the Later books, this is what happens to bodies that Overlord possess' via the animus fluid
  • October 3, 2012
    CobraPrime
    • 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.
  • October 3, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    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.
  • October 3, 2012
    Damr1990
    • 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
  • October 3, 2012
    Bisected8
    In Warhammer 40 K, this happens to daemonhosts, along with (and partly because of) the Transformation Of The Possessed.
  • October 3, 2012
    MicoolTNT
    Haven't seen far enough to be sure, but I'm pretty sure it's hinted that Orochimaru gets this?
  • October 3, 2012
    captainpat
    • 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.
  • October 4, 2012
    tardigrade
    Maybe applies to Event Horizon, although there it is less decay and more wilful self-mutilation. "We don't need eyes where we're going..."
  • October 4, 2012
    listenheed
    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.
  • October 4, 2012
    listenheed
    I'm kind of new to editing so I had to correct my last response, sorry.
  • October 4, 2012
    perrynator
    Nightmare from Soul Calibur.
  • October 4, 2012
    Quatic
    Invoked in the Doctor Who episode The Doctors 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.
  • October 5, 2012
    Earnest
    After thinking about it, I decided not to include the Event Horizon example since there it's not so much that people are possessed but, as you point out, being driven insane and becoming evil flesh/ghosts.
  • October 5, 2012
    Duncan
    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.
  • October 5, 2012
    AgProv
    Literature: 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.)

  • October 5, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    This happens to everyone who's possessed by the ancient evil Tak in the Stephen King novel Desperation.
  • October 5, 2012
    DracMonster
  • October 5, 2012
    Earnest
    ^ While I like the symmery (and it makes me wonder if a demon possessing the body of a cyborg wouldn't result in the demon being used as soul-fuel) there's been a ban of snowclones. So it'd probably be better to tweak that a bit to something like Demonic Possession Causes Physical Decomposition, or Demonic Possession Burnout.
  • October 5, 2012
    captainpat
    The Naruto and Soul Series need to be removed or elaborated on.
  • October 5, 2012
    DracMonster
    I think Demonic Possession Burnout encapsulates it nicely.

    EDIT: Or Supernatural Possession Burnout for more general use.
  • October 5, 2012
    OmarKarindu
    Comic Books
    • 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.

  • October 5, 2012
    elwoz
    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.
  • October 5, 2012
    chicagomel
    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.

    Does the host have to be alive to count?
  • October 5, 2012
    aurora369
    In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Palpatine's spirit possessing clone bodies made them degenerate really fast, which provided a limit on his resurrections.
  • October 5, 2012
    aurora369
    2Earnest: Yes, in Deadlands: Hell on Earth cyborgs are robotized dead bodies possessed by demons and using them as soul fuel.
  • October 6, 2012
    Earnest
    ^ That... huh. If I find a gaming group nearby I may have to play that. :)
  • October 6, 2012
    electronshock
    Bachilus in Birdy The Mighty is a parasite that requires a new body to inhabit every so often, due to this possession burnout. We see one of his bodies go to its limit and fall apart, after which he gets a new one, by consuming Geega, his (until then) boss.
  • October 6, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    Tabletop RPG:

    • Dungeons And Dragons, Monster Manual III, introduces the Effigy, a fiery undead spirit that literally immolates its host.
  • October 7, 2012
    Khantalas
    Not sure if an example, but:

    • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Renard's possession power is imperfect. While Coyote can jump from body to body without any damage, Renard is incapable of leaving the host alive after he leaves.

    Also:

    • In Fate Stay Night, this is why Matou Zouken wants the Holy Grail. His method of prolonging life is by possessing and molding other bodies by filling them with worms, but each body lasts less than the previous one, and by the time the game starts, he can only remain in a body for a few months at most.
  • October 7, 2012
    TBeholder
    Possession Fatigue?

    ^ Renard's possession simply kills the host - no variants, no other side effects. Closer here is Whitelegs possession, which was very taxing for Jack Hyland, though he gradually recovered.

    • Forgotten Realms has deities very strongly involved in the world's affairs. They are known to possess people sometimes, but can't keep the body in a good shape for long even in the perfect circumstances - it's simply Too Much For Man To Handle.
      • Elue Silverhand voluntarily got possessed by Mystra in order to give birth to the innately semi divine Seven Sisters. Her husband noticed that something very unhealthy goes on, and with an expert's help managed to determine that a very powerful entity rides her, but not who - because, naturally, if the goddess of magic tries to keep a little secret, everyone else is down to guess-work. Since nothing else helped, Dornal decapitated his wife to "free" from the possession. From this point it all got really awkward for everyone involved, of course.
  • October 7, 2012
    Omeganian
    In Jedi Academy, the Light Side ending has an ancient spirit possessing the villain with the help of an ancient artifact. Once the artifact is destroyed and the spirit leaves... there is nothing left.

    In an episode of Lois And Clark, a man switches bodies with Clark. Soon after, the Krypronian's body starts becoming vulnerable.
  • October 7, 2012
    Earnest
    ^^ I know you mean fatigue in terms of "metal fatigue" or "damage over time", but odds are that would get misunderstood for "being possessed leaves you really tired." That said, shortening the title to Possession Burnout may be as clear as Demonic Possession Burnout.
  • October 8, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Not sure if it counts, but in FEAR 3, when you're controlling Fettel, you can only possess a body for a while before it explodes and you're expelled. You also destroy the body if you willingly leave it.
  • October 9, 2012
    Arivne
    Seconding Possession Burnout.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=fdb2rkn582hi84x0i5drj1a5&trope=PossessionBurnout