Coffin Contraband

Coffins make handy places to store items other than corpses. After all, most people are a trifle squeamish about opening something that might contain a dead body. This trope is a when a coffin, sarcophagus or other container intended for human remains is used to conceal something else.

A Sister Trope to Cramming the Coffin, which is when a coffin is used to dispose of an extra body. If a coffin is used to smuggle a living body, that's Bodybag Trick.

Not to be confused with hiding the corpse's own belongings with him/her.

Compare Senseless Violins and Treasure Chest Cavity.


Comic Books
  • Cigars of the Pharaoh has coffins are used for smuggling what in most cases is presumably opium. Three coffins are used to transport Tintin, Snowy and Dr. Sarcophagus instead, but the smugglers don't realize until after the coffins have already been thrown overboard at the sign of approaching coastguards.
  • In the second ever Plastic Man story, Eel O'Brian infiltrates a gang who are using coffins to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US.
  • In Jonah Hex # 21 (original series), Jonah's pa hides a bag of stolen gold inside a coffin in the local undertaker's. By the time he manages to get back to it, the coffin is placed inside a mine and buried with dynamite: the deceased's last wishes being to entombed in the mine he had devoted his life to working.

  • American Gangster is about Frank Lucas and his smuggling ring that may have used coffins to bring heroin into the US.
  • In Bad Boys 2, the villain is smuggling money and Ecstasy in coffins. The money is stuffed in the lining, while the drugs are stuffed in the corpses, which have had their organs removed to make space.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever:
    • James Bond impersonates a diamond smuggler he has killed and smuggles the diamonds inside the corpse inside a coffin.
      Felix Leiter: I give up. I know the diamonds are in the body, but where?
      Bond: Alimentary, Dr. Leiter...
    • When Bond is trapped in a coffin and about to be cremated alive the coffin he's trapped in is supposed to have the $50,000 he was to be paid for smuggling, which is how they lured him into the coffin in the first place.
  • The eponymous gunslinger in Django drags a coffin with a machine gun hidden inside behind him wherever he goes.
  • In Johnny English, henchmen smuggle away the Crown Jewels in a coffin, and drive off in a hearse to complete the illusion. Of course, Johnny gives chase but gets lost and ends up following a real hearse, leading to him tactlessly interrupting a funeral to investigate the coffin.
  • In the original Oceans11, Danny Ocean and his crew plan on smuggling back the money stolen from the Vegas casinos in a coffin. Their plan is thwarted when the widow opts for cremation.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the cemetery fight scene is justified by Sarah Connor choosing to be secretly cremated so her coffin could be used to hide a weapons cache.
  • The gangsters in the 1947 film They Made Me A Fugitive use coffins for smuggling drugs.
  • Millard's plan is to kill Knievel in Mexico and smuggle cocaine in the van carrying Knievel's body back into the United States in Viva Knievel.
  • In the French film La traversée de Paris (1956), a coffin is used to smuggle a black market pig past the checkpoints in Nazi-occupied Paris.
  • Highway61: Bangs uses the dead body to hide drugs. They travel with the coffin strapped to the roof of the car.
  • In the Film Serial Secret Service in Darkest Africa (1943). After being given permission to bury their dead in Allied territory, the evil Nazis callously dispose of the bodies and fill the coffins with explosives for their secret agents to pick up later.

  • There is a well-circulated joke in Spanish-speaking circles about a Cuban exiled sending the corpse of a deceased relative to be buried on the island... and along with the body, a big lot of stuff asked for the island relatives, either worn by the corpse or hidden in the coffin.

  • In Men at Arms, Carrot gets rid of the gonne by putting it in Constable Cuddy's coffin, thereby also giving Cuddy's spirit a really mighty burial weapon.
  • In one of the Don Camillo stories, partisan leader Peppone and village priest Don Camillo collude to hide a lot of incriminating weapons this way, once from the German occupiers and once from their British liberators, who are keen for the partisans to disarm and disband.
  • Number the Stars has a case of this when a coffin loaded with essential supplies for Danish-born Jewish refugees is used in order to avoid being seized by Nazi soldiers. There was a close encounter with one until the soldier was "advised" that the coffin bore the dead victim of a typhus.
  • The Man From Uncle novel The Thousand Coffins Affair. THRUSH hides large amounts of a lethal drug in coffins buried in a cemetery.
  • In Without Remorse by Tom Clancy, set during the Vietnam conflict, heroin is being smuggled from Asia back to the US in the bodies of dead soldiers.
  • Stephanie Plum has this in Two For The Dough. US military coffins are used to smuggle weapons.

Live-Action TV
  • Airwolf: In "Half-Pint", an American running a mercy operation to repatriate the bodies of American soldiers from Vietnam is actually using the coffins to smuggle cocaine.
  • Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: In "Last Rites", Oz develops a sideline in selling pornographic videos. When his mate Headly Irwin dies, Oz tries to smuggle the video tapes back to Britain in Headly's coffin.
  • CSI Crime Scene Investigation: In "Maid Man", the ultimate goal of the killer is a cache of mob money hidden inside a burial niche in a mausoleum.
  • Doctor Who: In "Resurrection of the Daleks", the Doctor hides the Hand of Omega in a coffin and arranges to have it buried in the local graveyard.
  • A first-season episode of The Dukes of Hazzard had Boss Hogg hiding stolen money in a coffin. It's revealed in that episode the he regularly has moonshine smuggled in them as well.
  • The Equalizer episode "Joyride". A coffin in a hearse is filled with crack cocaine. Two boys take the hearse for the title joyride.
  • Happy Days. Fonzie is thought to be dead and some gangsters hide stolen loot in a false bottom of his casket.
  • On Murdoch Mysteries a large amount of gold was stolen from the Canadian government during the American Civil War. However, the conspirators all had their own agendas and in the resulting Gambit Pileup the gold was presumed lost when the ship carrying it sunk. More than three decades later, the police discover that the mastermind behind the theft was Genre Savvy enough to switch out the gold before the sea voyage and hid it in a coffin. The coffin was then buried in a cemetery but the mastermind died before he could dig it up.
  • Shameless: In episode #8.14, a coffin is carried through the estate, supposedly with Paddy inside, but it turns out this was Paddy's way of smuggling guns to the rest of the Maguires.
  • On Witches of East End Joanne is an immortal witch who needs to switch identities every few decades so people do not notice that she does not age. She fakes the death of her old identity and then moves to a new city to start fresh. When she moves back to a town where she used to live a century earlier, she digs up the empty grave and stores an emergency stash of money in the coffin. Later on she also uses the grave to store a cursed painting.
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Fury hid the data from Project T.A.H.I.T.I. in Phil Coulson's unoccupied grave.
  • In the first season of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese planned on disposing of Dewey's broken birthday present by hiding it in his great aunt's coffin.
  • In the Castle episode "Kill the Messenger", Perlmutter had a coffin of a woman who died years ago exhumed to determine cause of death, but the coffin contained nothing but sandbags. Castle started to leave, commenting that it seemed like a waste of a high-end casket, then turned around and suggested that some high-end caskets have a small drawer in the lid. Perlmutter found the drawer, which contained a photo of the victim with a prominent senatorial candidate from the '70s. This led to Beckett and Castle uncovering a scandal which led to the woman's murder and helped them finally get justice for the victim.
  • In one episode of Mission: Impossible, the team convinces a Syndicate smuggler that the best way to get his employer's dirty money out of the country and into a bank in Switzerland is to declare that his beautiful young Mail-Order Bride (Casey), who had just died from a drug overdose, is to be buried in Europe, and conceal the money in the coffin. The coffin is 'accidentally' dropped while being loaded in the plane, breaking it open to reveal that the body in the coffin is fake and the money is gone (stolen by the team at the funeral parlor). When the smuggler's bosses return to his place and see Casey still alive, they assume that he had been planning on stealing their money and running off with his pretty young wife, and have the smuggler killed.

Newspaper Comics
  • Dick Tracy: After Cinn murders George Ozone, she disposes of the murder weapon by hiding it in a stranger's coffin.

Video Games
  • Discussed in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Cicero is trying to transport a coffin containing the remains of 'his mother' to a new crypt, but the wagon loses a wheel outside Loreius' farm. Loreius refuses to help Cicero repair the wagon, citing as one of the reasons that he thinks Cicero could be using the coffin to smuggle weapons and skooma.
  • In one Fallen London storylet, the player can assist the Gracious Widow and her ring of smugglers in sneaking contraband out of the city in coffins. You're not told what exactly you're smuggling, but if you choose to peek in one of the coffins, you find out it's Clay Men—in other words, a Bodybag Trick disguised as Coffin Contraband.

Web Comics
  • In Lackadaisy, one of their former suppliers was an undertaker who smuggled booze in coffins. Possibly a reference to something that happened in real life.

Western Animation
  • Jonny Quest episode "The Sea Haunt". A deserted freighter has a cargo hold full of coffins, each of which contains gold bars.
  • In The Scooby-Doo Show episode "The Harum-Scarum Sanitarium" there is a subversion, Doctor Coffin is smuggling gold as fake dead bodies with wigs and sheets with gold acting as making the body shape.

Real Life
  • At least one undertaker near the US-Canada border took advantage of this during Prohibition. You can pack a lot of bootleg booze inside a coffin .... (He was eventually caught when a border guard noticed the sudden upswing in "deaths".)
  • Real Life had the "Coffin Connection", heroin was smuggled in coffins using false bottoms. The man was Frank Lucas and his crimes inspired both the film American Gangster and a Stephanie Plum novel.