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Dem Bones
aka: Our Skeletons Are Different

"A walking skeleton, the basic frame of the human body, can inspire more fear in the common man than an excessively armed soldier or knight."
Jacob Deegan, Dominic Deegan

Animate beings constructed from ossific material in their entirety are a very common form of The Undead in video games, but much rarer in other media, to the point where, as an object of fear, it has become slightly camp. They're a cousin to the Zombie in spirit, but remain explicitly separated in the public consciousness by the lack of muscles and other juicy bits. A likely explanation for their ability to see and hear and indeed their status as Perpetual Motion Monsters is a necromancer used Functional Magic to raise and operate them. Thus, this creature is firmly an inhabitant of Fantasy works. You might know them as skeletons. We call 'em "Dem Bones".

There are human, non-human, and weirder variants, and in 99% of their appearances, they're enemy Mooks. Their prevalence in RPGs is owed to Dungeons & Dragons, which established them as the slaves of necromancers. When they aren't Mooks, they're usually liches, which are much nastier, because they tend to be powerful mages.

Often enough, Dem Bones are reused in the same game à la Underground Monkey. Expect, in the spirit of a Zombie Minotaur, to find double-category monsters, like a skeletal mammoth or dragon. Many games have even tougher skeletons that are colored red. This could be because the red ones are a little more skilled and covered in the blood of hapless adventurers who couldn't best them.

A prominent variation is a being composed of just a skull without a body. In this case, their ability to attack may be a simple bite, or through magic spells. They may or may not also have the power to defy gravity to compensate for the lack of legs. As trope examples indicate, there are a noticeably greater number of friendly talking skulls compared to the rare friendly skeleton.

In video games, skeletal foes will often attack by throwing bones. One cannot help but wonder where they get dem bones from. Some versions are difficult to harm with ordinary swords or arrows, but can be dealt with using blunt weapons or magic. But be warned: many have the ability to pull themselves back together after you knock them apart.

In Mexico, Dem Bones are called calacas and are associated with the Day of the Dead holiday much the same way bunnies are associated with Easter, making them less common as stock spooky elements (they tend to be more comedic). It helps that said calacas are made of sugar and chocolate.

See also Stripped to the Bone. May or may not be prone to dancing. A unique example is The Grim Reaper, so ubiquitous it's its own trope.

Not to be confused with Bones McCoy, who has his own trope too. Also not to be confused with the Alice in Chains song "Them Bones", the rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the Batman: Arkham Asylum Gamestop Preorder map or Bones -the series or its eponymously nicknamed protagonist.See also Bad with the Bone if bones are used as Improvised Weapons, and Ballistic Bone if they're used as Abnormal Ammo.

If the skeleton is really a robot, see Skele Bot 9000.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 
  • Used by a Faust VII in Shaman King, quite drastically - in his fight against the main character, he insisted it be held on a Western (Christian) graveyard, where the dead were not cremated, so he could use their skeletons to launch a mass attack at our protagonist. On top of it, he carried his deceased wife's skeleton under his clothes and used it as a secret weapon.
  • One Piece: In the Thriller Bark arc, the Straw Hats meet Brook, who's eaten a Devil Fruit that lets him come back to life once. But due to the fog in the area he was in, he got lost on his way back to his mortal body. By the time he found it, it was nothing but bones. Although initially freaked out by his own appearance, he eventually adapted and grew a habit of making puns about it. Constantly.
  • Dokuro Skull of The World God Only Knows is this after having cast away her flesh to create New Hell.
  • Morborgran of Mahou Sensei Negima!, the massive, Multi-Armed and Dangerous, skeletal demon member of the Canis Niger bounty hunters in the Magic World. He's actually a pretty friendly guy, though with a bit of a complex about his appearance.
  • Bleach: Barragan Luisenbarn turns into a skeleton dressed in a crown and robes upon releasing his zanpakuto. This is to symbolize his power over old age and decay, which lets him rot other people into skeletons. The dead kind.
  • Shiro from Shakugan no Shana. His true form, though, is a bishonen.
  • These show up in the second manga story of Berserk, and are the remains of soldiers who died in battle against each other. They're animated by evil spirits that want Guts because of the Brand of Sacrifice that he bearsb
  • Horrorman and Horako from Anpanman. Horrorman's a pretty nice guy (at least, when he's on the heroes' side) and Horako's a sweet little girl...even though her imagination has a tendency to go over the top and she's actually a sea princess.
  • Admiral Perry, the Big Bad of Space Dandy. He first appears as a flaming skull with a body composed of stars, though later episodes show that he has bony arms as well.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Duke Devlin used a few skeletal monsters in his Dungeon Dice Monsters game, including The 13th Grave and Dark Assailant. (Unfortunately, the card game equivalents of these cards are pretty bad.)

    Card Games 

    Comicbooks 
  • In one crossover, Savage Dragon and Hellboy fought the undead skeletons of pirates while inside of a giant sea monster.
  • Mr. Bones, a man whose body is invisible except for his skeleton, has been a recurring Infinity, Inc. villain, before his Heel-Face Turn, at which time he briefly joined Infinity Inc. Currently he's the morally grey Director of the Department of Extranormal Operations.
  • In DC's Blackest Night event, black power rings re-animate dead characters, typically making them look like slightly-decayed versions of their former selves. The body of Boston Brand, aka Deadman, however, had been dead so long that his Black Lantern version is little more than a skeleton with a black version of his costume stretched over it.
    • In some stories (most notably, Kingdom Come), Deadman's ghostly form also appears significantly more skeletal than usual.
  • In Pretty Deadly, the entire story is being narrated by Bones Bunny, a skeletal bunny. In addition, Death is a skeleton (not with a human skull, but rather an animal one).
  • Fairly common in pre-Comics Code horror, to the point where David Hajdu's The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read! contains an entire essay on their usage and associated tropes. Hajdu's observation is that they typically appear to avenge their own deaths with as much poetic justice as possible.
    Unlike the zombie, skeletons are neither "natural" (staggering like a living person) nor "unnatural" (staggering despite mortal wounds), but are abstractions from a body. They are, in fact, traditional allegorical images - from the medieval memento mori. They are symbols sprung to life and strangely able to manipulate the material world. The uncanniness of the skeleton in this regard is not to be underestimated.
  • Pierre Tombal: In this Black Comedy comic strip about a gravedigger at his local cemetery all dead bodies are living skeletons who spent their afterlife on the cemetery and are treated as residents. Usually they spent their activities underground.

    Fan Works 

    Film 
  • Extraordinarily common in early cinema. Sprightly, dancing and otherwise animated skeletons appear with great regularity in the trick films of Georges Méliès and his contemporaries.
  • In a memorable film example, Ray Harryhausen's animated skeletons make up half of a Chroma Key battle scene in Jason and the Argonauts, after they sprout from the earth where hydra teeth are sown. This depiction is likely to yet further simplify the original story by letting Jason kill apparently mindless Mooks, since in the original myths, the dragon's teeth grow into the perfectly sentient warriors called spartoi, none of whom Jason left alive.
    • Another Ray Harryhausen movie example: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The Skeleton was later re-used in the aforementioned film.
    • There (used to be) a most amusing video online of Phil Tippett, Harryhausen's Spiritual Successor of a sort, singing "Happy Birthday To Ray" - accompanied by the Skeletons.
  • The film The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra has this. Of course, since it's an Affectionate Parody of cheesy movies from The Fifties, there's probably a number of straight examples from that era that no one really remembers.
  • Most of the "Deadite" army in Army of Darkness.
  • The skeleton warriors from Spy Kids II, a deliberate homage to the Harryhausen example above.
  • Return of the Living Dead features a brief but memorable (and inexplicable) scene where a reanimated skeleton rises from a grave. It's never seen again after that. There is also Tarman, a prominently-featured zombie so decayed he's a skeleton held together with rotting tissue; unlike the skeleton, Tarman shows up in movie after movie.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the crew of the Black Pearl are revealed as being skeletons when exposed to moonlight, primarily to provide the most contrast from their normal appearance as ordinary (but immortal) people.
  • Night at the Museum features a skeletal T-rex.
  • Such a skeleton appears at the climax of House on Haunted Hill (1959). It's less elaborate than the above examples though, which is ultimately justified because it's a Scooby-Doo Hoax, operated by Vincent Price's character. In theaters, it was originally set up to have a plastic skeleton on wires fly over the audience, but it posed a tempting target to kids with slingshots and other projectiles.
  • Parodied in Scary Movie 2, when Cindy is being chased by a skeleton, only to be reprimanded by Brenda for being afraid of a skeleton. To illustrate her point, Brenda pulls the skeleton apart and reassembles him badly.
  • Many of the zombies in The Haunted Mansion
  • The ghostly skeletal army in Peter Jackson's The Return Of The King.
  • An army of skeletons appears at the end of big budget porno film Pirates XXX.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy's bones come to life when the characters try to give him a proper burial.
  • At the beginning of The Phantom, one of the bad guys gets killed by a skeleton that comes to life and chokes him.

    Fine Art 
  • Medieval and early Renaissance artwork often featured images of skeletons dancing with the living, known as a danse macabre or "the triumph of death". Belgian painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted a landscape with an army of skeletons attacking a country village.
  • José Guadalupe Posadas is the man who started the "calavera" trend in Mexico. What is often confused by people as Dia de los Muertos symbolism is actually a harsh social critique against the higher social classes that seem to not realize that they're going to die. Eventually this art form evolved and merged with Dia de los Muertos itself, portraying more than just rich skulls but also every Mexican out there.

    Literature 
  • The Osteomechs from Dark World Detective. They use advanced computers stored in their skulls and micro tractor/pressor beams as muscles. Strong as hell, but very light.
  • There's a "very old zombie" in Terry Pratchett's Discworld book The Last Hero who is basically a skeleton. Additionally, Death uses a living horse because he hates having to keep wiring the skeletal one together.
    • Not to mention, Death (and by extension, the Death of Rats) is a skeleton. Thankfully, he's a pretty nice chap.
    • And now there's Charlie, the Department of Necr- Post-Mortem Communications' resident skeleton, who's been there "forever".
  • The Andre Norton novel Quag Keep, which was based on Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The eponymous character of Bruce Coville's "Young Adult" novel The Skull of Truth (part of the Magic Shop series) is completely immobile, but telepathic. He's also Yorick from Hamlet. For real, yo.
  • The Dresden Files is borderline - there's Bob the Skull, a spirit who lives inside a skull, but it is merely a casing, and Bob leaves it when he needs mobility. When a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton was reanimated in book 7 "Dead Beat"; the higher quality a reanimated being, the more life-like they appear. (broadly)
  • The titular character of the Skulduggery Pleasant books is a centuries old living skeleton. The secondary protagonist, when being introduced to the supernatural for the first time, actually points out that he has no muscles to move with or lungs to speak with and asks how he works. He is rather disgruntled and gives the simple answer "it's magic". Later on, she wonders if he can whistle without lungs (he can).
  • There are living skeletons in Xanth. Some are the spirits of people who starved to death while their minds were trapped in the Gourd Realm. Others are their descendants. All of them need to acquire a part of a soul to spend much time in Xanth proper.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Killing Ground, Togandais has an animated skull — with glowing eyes — bringing him books in the library.
  • A number of animated skeletons, including a skeletal dragon, appear in Pillars of Pentagarn, the first D Choose Your Own Adventure book.
  • In the first Kingdom Keepers book, one of Maleficent's tricks is bringing the fake T-Rex fossil at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to life in an attempt to do away with Finn and Philby.
  • The Boneys in Warm Bodies are zombie skeletons.
  • Inverted in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories: "Lankhmar Ghouls" are perfectly normal, living, breathing humanoids who just happen to have invisible body tissues—except for their bones.
  • The Bible had the story of Ezekiel and the 'dry bones' that came to life and inspired the 'Dry Bones'/'Dem Bonessong.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy has Honorius, a powerful and murderously insane Afrit. Instead of manifesting himself in a physical form like most magical creatures, Honorius' essence is instead infused into the skeleton of the long-dead magician president Gladstone. He basically acts as a "living" security system against people trying to pilfer the mage's tomb, who open it up only to see the skeleton spring up and brutally obliterate them.
  • The Rifter: The walls at the convent of Umbhra’ibaye are strung with bones who are issusha’im: women who’ve been stripped of their flesh but kept alive, with charms carved on the bones. This somehow gives them the power to see through time, seeing multiple possible futures as well as (maddeningly) the lives that they might have lived if they hadn’t been turned into issusha’im. The Payshmura use the issusha’im’s soothsaying to avert future events that they don’t want. It’s a Fate Worse than Death, but at least it’s possible for them to take on flesh again, which is a considerable improvement, if they escape Umbhra’ibaye. Ji, a talking dog, is an issusha who took the body of a dog and is now a leader of the Fai’daum. She’s centuries old and has very powerful magic as well as soothsaying abilities. Laurie was taken partway through the issusha-making process and they used the blood of her own baby to create the enchantment. She’s now part-flesh, part-walking skeleton. Understandably mentally unstable, she’s been using those enchantments herself, but only managing to create "hungry bones", monstrosities patched together from human and animal bones which thirst for blood.
  • The Magic Realism mystery novel A Skeleton In The Family by Leigh Perry focused on Dr. Georgia Thackery, an adjunct college professor and single mother whose best friend is a talking skeleton named Sid. Georgia met Sid in a carnival haunted house when she was six years old, where he'd been used as a decoration. Sid fully came back to life when he saved Georgia from getting molested during a blackout, after which he showed up at her parents' home two weeks later and had been living with them ever since. The novel kicks off with Georgia taking her teenage daughter to a local anime convention, and sneaks Sid in wearing a costume. Sid, however, is shocked when he somehow recognizes a woman at the convention, so he and Georgia set out to discover more about the person Sid saw and her connection to who Sid was before he was killed.
  • A Mage's Power: There are many skeletons in the sewer's beneath Roalt and they are animated by a combination of ambient mana and lingering spiritual power. Dengel suggests that they are the remains of past adventurers, and stupid people on dares. Eric has to blow them up to stop them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Goodies. In one episode the Goodies are operating their own hospital. Graham gets a patient to step behind an X-Ray screen, which naturally displays his skeleton. The skeleton then walks out from the other side of the screen, causing Graham to flee in terror (this scene is included in Title Sequence).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Tabula Rasa". A spell causes the Scooby Gang to lose their memories. Anya begins to try various spells in the hopes of reversing it, at one point conjuring up a skeletal swordsman which Giles fences with, all while shouting at Anya to 'try another book'.
    • In "Gone" after Buffy reveals to her friends that she's been turned invisible, she picks up a skull and works the jaw to mimic what she's saying.
  • In the fourth season finale of Game of Thrones, The Children, the Wights that attack Bran & his party beyond the Wall have only their bones left.
  • In the Merlin episode "The Tears of Uther Pendragon", Morgana raises skeleton warriors to fight Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, who are already in battle against (human) invading forces.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Season 1 gives us Bones, Season 3 gives us Rita Repulsa's halfwit brother Rito Revolto. Who's based on Gasha Dokuro from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, who's based on an actual folklore creature of a gigantic skeleton.
  • Erm....does Geoff Peterson count?
  • Pierce hallucinates these during a Mushroom Samba in the Community episode "Introduction to Statistics".
    Pierce: "Those floating Mexican skeletons are right! My life is over!"
    Jeff: "Well, when we go to floating skeletons with our problems, we get what we pay for, don't we?"
  • Bonapart the skeleton from Owl/TV.
  • Zelda from the original Svengoolie and Zalman T. Tombstone in Son of Svengoolie. Both are floating skulls. Zelda had '80s Hair (despite being from the early 1970s).
  • For Halloween in 2006, Late Night with Conan O'Brien broadcast an already-aired episode in 'skelevision', with Conan, the band, the guests and the audience all appearing as skeletons operated by puppeteers.
  • In Living Color!. Jim Carrey riffs how the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series are getting too old for the movies. Captain Kirk calls for Bones to come to the bridge, only to find he really lives up to his name this time.
    Skeleton in a wheelchair: Dammit Jim, I'm a corpse not a doctor!
  • In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, the monster for the horror movie being filmed is a skeleton in a suit holding a fraternity panel surrounded by a chainsaw blade.
  • All That had Dead Spice in the "Spice Boys" skits. He was literally just a skeleton in clothing that never did or said anything, although he does move his arms a few times and it's implied he really is alive. At one point the fans are happy when they manage to steal one of his arms.

    Music 
  • Megadeth's mascot Vic Rattlehead is a skeleton who sees no evil (blindfolded), hears no evil (ears are closed with metal caps) and speaks no evil (mouth clamped shut).
  • The Trope Namer is the spiritual song "Dem Bones."
  • Chiodos' Bone Palace Ballet (and the subsequent re-release The Grand Coda) features two of these on the cover.
  • Camille Saint Saens' well-known Danse Macabre (1874), a symphonic poem describing skeletons rising from their tomb to dance. Notable for having introduced the xylophone in European Music, to imitate the rattling of the bones.
  • The song "Spooky Scary Skeletons" by Andrew Gold, best known for its association with the "2spooky" meme, is about how the eponymous skeletons will torment you. The song is a very good example of the erosion of the skeleton as a source of horror.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The Gashadokuro from Japanese Mythology is a super sized version of this. This monster is created from collecting the skeletons of people who have died of starvation. It is known to bite the heads off humans it encounters and to be forwarned by a ringing in the ears. They often grow up to 15 times larger than a man.
  • The trope-naming song is based on a Biblical incident involving Ezekiel, who sees God create an army of these things. The Bible is surprisingly metal, in places.

    Operas and Musicals 
  • In The Black Parade, the eponymous parade contains some of these among their number.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Game 
  • Rattle Me Bones, a game where you must remove accessories from a pirate's skeleton in a way that doesn't move its limbs too much, otherwise he'll RATTLE AND SHAKE!

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Skeletons are a kind of mindless undead animated by appropriately evil magic users. Usually. Of course, there are also liches and their variants (archlich, baelnorn, banelich, master lich).
    • Taken Up to Eleven is the dracolich, an undead evil dragon that has combines the powers of a dragon and a lich. While their description does not specifically say they have to be skeletal, most are depicted as such.
    • While most Dungeons & Dragons settings are full of undead, Forgotten Realms are especially fond of this theme and has the remarkable collection of unusual bones. For example, there lived—until she tried to raid a big temple of the god of wizardry, that is—Tashara of the Seven Skulls who seduced and tricked into becoming spellcasting flying skulls (under her control) 7 archmages, one after another. There's even one city openly ruled by floating skulls (no, not Tashara's seven). Realms also are the origin of both baelnorn and banelich.
    • The Eberron setting's "evil, schmevil" attitude (the setting subverts the Always Chaotic Evil trope hard) means that a nation like Karrnath can have a significant portion of their army composed entirely of skeletons, and nobody thinks any differently about them because of it.
    • Apart from the lich, D&D featured many other skeletal sentient undead, like the Death Knight (skeletal warrior), the Huecuva (skeletal divine spellcaster), or skeletal Ancient Dead (variant of the Mummy from the Ravenloft setting).
    • Should also be noted that, in 3rd edition anyway, just about anything with bones that isn't already dead can be turned into Dem Bones through application of the Skeleton template. This includes everything from normal humanoids, to dragons, to bizarre aberrations with bone structures such have never been seen by mortal eyes.
    • The Planescape setting has "mimirs"; recording devices shaped like metallic skulls. The inspiration for Morte, below.
    • The original Ravenloft products had a number of variants of this trope, such as archer skeletons whose ammo turns into more skeletons, or giant skeletons (enlarged human bones) that toss fireballs from the green flames ablaze inside their ribcages. Arthaus's Van Richten's Guide to the Walking Dead has guidelines for customizing the Obedient Dead with all sorts of creepy abilities.
  • Skeletons are the basic grunt troops of the undead armies in the wargame/Tabletop RPG Warhammer; serving the factions of Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings.
    • To specify. The Vampire Counts use Dem Bones as expendable meat(bone?)shields, and that would be about it. The Tomb Kings are an army of nothing but skeletons, with some mummies, animated statues and ancient, immortal priests to taste.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Floating servo-skulls — although they're robotic rather than undead.
    • Not to mention the Necrons. No really, don't mention them, they aren't this trope. They are robots shaped like skeletons that function as Soul Jars for an ancient alien race.
  • In Dragon Dice, skeletons are one of the basic undead troop types - they move faster than zombies, but do less damage and are less capable of absorbing damage.
  • The Jason and the Argonauts type skeletons serve as mooks in Mazes And Minotaurs.
  • Mage: The Awakening has these as a variation on the standard Animate Dead spell. The corpse's connective tissue and some of its flesh is transmuted into razor-edged metal plated around the bones (giving it damage resistance and a better attack) and it rips its way out of the rest of the flesh. It was invented by a member of a Black Metal band whose bandmates promptly declared the spell to be metal as hell.

    Theme Parks 
  • These are seen in several of these at attractions in Disney Theme Parks, including in Phantom Manor, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Great Movie Ride. More cheerful versions are in the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT.
    • The skeletons in the original Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland were real (arguably adding to their creepiness if you knew this), as replica skeletons at the time were not advanced enough to look realistic and old. They were obtained from a medical center and later received burials, with replicas taking their place in the ride.

    Video Games 
  • Morte, your first ally in Planescape: Torment, is a wise-cracking, floating skull. Inexplicably, he has unrotted eyes in his sockets, no doubt preserved through his sheer will to roll them at every opportunity.
    • Being based on a Dungeons & Dragons setting with a heavy emphasis on death and unlife, the standard Dem Bones from the source material also exist in the game. As the necromantic Dustmen repair the bodies of decaying zombie slaves, eventually they are reduced to Dem Bones, held together with iron and leather.
  • In Chrono Cross, one of the early Loads and Loads of Characters you can meet is the disembodied skull of a clown looking for the rest of his body parts. Naturally, he asks you to help him find them all. He appears to have been getting around until then by hopping with his jaw. Later, you get to meet his family, who has been wondering what happened to him.
  • The Legend of Zelda series has both the floating skulls - Bubbles - and skeleton swordsmen - Stalfos - as common monsters. The dungeon boss Stallord from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a gigantic, non-human example.
  • The Castlevania series is an obligatory mention here - there are dozens of varieties in each game, including a lot of simple Underground Monkey recolors. The red ones keep getting back up.
    • Don't forget the laser-firing skeletons, the armor-wearing blade Masters, and the amusing skeletons called Yoricks in Aria of Sorrow that kick their skulls at you. There's even a medal-wearing champion runner Skeleton in Circle of the Moon, the Skeleton Bartender who tosses drinks at you in Protrait of Ruin, the Farmer Skeleton, the Waiter Skeleton, the Rider Kicking Skeleton, and the Ape skeleton introduced in Rondo of Blood that throws barrels at you.
    • Castlevania 64 has Biker Skeletons (in 1800).
      • And there's also giant skeleton as a boss.
    • The multiplayer mode in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair has a feature that activates when a player character's HP goes to zero: they turn into a standard bone-flinging skeleton, and they must be given a specific item for them to be able to turn back to normal. A death as a skeleton causes penalties on the level's time limit.
  • Diablo II, of course, with both enemy and summonable skeletons.
    • The original and sequel both have skellies as foes, but you couldn't summon any in the original.
      • The summonables are quite strange, in that you can assemble a (human) Skeleton from the corpse of any monster, up to and including giant spiders, pygmies, ghosts, small rat-like creatures, swarms of locusts and other skeletons. If you were wondering where the Ludicrous Gibs come from...
    • The Diablo III information states that the undead are not from a single corpse.]] Instead, they essentially turn a corpse into bone powder and reconfigure it into a skeleton. When you raise any skeleton, it's really like you're raising a thousand tenths of a percent of a thousand different skeletons and sticking them together.
  • Doom has the Lost Souls, which are floating flaming skulls.
    • Doom II adds the Revenants, which are giant skeletons wearing metal chest armor and shoulder-mounted missile launchers, and the Arch-Viles, which clearly have a layer of skin but are otherwise very reminiscent of a walking skeleton.
    • The Doom 3 Expansion Pack Resurrection of Evil has the Forgotten Ones, which are floating flaming skulls similar to the aforementioned Lost Souls.
  • The Super Mario Bros.. series has multiple skeletal enemies.
    • Dry Bones from Super Mario Bros.. are skeletal Koopa Troopas. Using the Goomba Stomp on them makes them collapse for a few seconds, and then they reassemble. Usually, you have to either make the head roll into lava or a pit, smash them some other way or make sure all of the enemies on screen are dead to beat them, depending on the game/series in question. Variations of this enemy included Dull Bones and Red Bones (both not as strong as regular Dry Bones) and Dark Bones (which are stronger than Dry Bones). They are also named for a line from the trope-naming song.
    • Bony Beetles are to Buzzy Beetles what Dry Bones are to Koopa Troopas. They can reassemble after being stomped, and can also collapse their skeleton exposing their sharp rib bones to defend against being stomped.
    • Fishbones are skeletal fishes and immune to everything except invincibility.
    • And there's a part where Bowser gets Stripped to the Bone and reanimated as a Skeleton. Mario Kart Wii calls this "Dry Bowser".
    • There's also Kingfin in Super Mario Galaxy, a skeletal shark (Yeah, we know) with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath. That apparently summons robotic piranha fish.
  • Devil May Cry has floating skulls as enemies.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island had the fearsome Murray, the demonic animated skeleton with plans to conquer the world, who would have been significantly more fearsome if he wasn't just a skull and unable to move around by himself. Still, with lines like this, it's no wonder "Murray the Mighty Demonic Skull" is so popular:
    Murray: I'm a powerful demonic force! I'm the harbinger of your doom! And the forces of darkness will applaud me as I stride through the gates of hell carrying your head on a pike!
    Guybrush: Stride?
    Murray: All right then, roll! Roll through the gates of hell. Must you take the fun out of everything?
  • Floating skulls are also in some of the Might and Magic games.
  • Baldur's Gate had enemy skeletons, but you could also summon your own with the proper spell, much like the aforementioned Diablo II.
    • The sequel, Baldur's Gate II, especially with Throne of Bhaal, features several floating skulls, which are infinitely more nasty than their full-bodied counterparts.
    • Even in the original, common skeletons cease to be a serious threat after level 3 or so. But near the end, the game starts throwing the much nastier skeleton warriors at you, and one of the bonus bosses in the expansion is a death knight.
  • Some of the Bonus content in God of War talked about how they wanted to put Dem Bones in the first game, in direct homage to Ray Harryhausen. Naturally, they appeared in the sequel, and first show up when you catch up to Jason and the Argonauts.
  • Like Dry Bones, skeletons in Prince of Persia don't tend to stay down for the count.
  • In keeping with its El Día de los Muertos theme, nearly all of the characters in Grim Fandango are skeletons. The rest are demons native to the Land of the Dead.
    • Technically they're calacas (see above), which accounts for their stylization.
    • The question of motor skills is lampshaded in Manny's conversation with a short-tempered clown:
      Manny: Some festival, huh?
      Balloon Guy: Yeah, my carpal tunnel syndrome's really acting up...
      Manny: But you don't have any tendons!
      Balloon Guy: Well you don't have a tongue, but that doesn't seem to shut you up, now does it?
  • Skeletons show up throughout the Heroes of Might and Magic series as the standard melee grunt for The Undead faction.
    • While their top tier unit is usually a skeleton dragon. Like most undeads, they tend to be weaker than their live version but come in greater numbers.
  • Gruntilda in Banjo-Tooie, due to spending two years trapped under a rock after the end of the first game.
    • The Limbos in Banjo-Kazooie. Like Dry Bones, they'll get right back up after a few seconds. The only way to kill them for good is with Wonderwing.
  • Magic Rampage: Skeletons makes an appearance. Later in the game, they wield magic.
  • In the 1990s PC fantasy kingdom sim Majesty, your Priestesses of the Death Goddess Krypta had the ability to re-animate skeletons for use as partners in combat; walking skeletons were sometimes also used as enemy monsters.
  • There's one skeleton enemy type in NetHack, but while the game is swarming with low level zombies and mummies, the skeleton is a high level enemy encountered near the end who steals speed from the player.
    • There are also Liches, of increasingly lethal varieties; an Arch-Lich is one of the most dangerous monsters in the game.
  • La-Mulana is littered with the skeletons of many an Adventurer Archaeologist who failed to solve the puzzle of the ruins. Some hold helpful notes and items. Others get up and beat the crap out of you.
  • Non-human: Cave Story has hopping sandcroc skulls, sandcroc skulls with feet, sandcroc skulls carried by birds, and full sandcroc skeletons.
  • Warcraft 3 has several variants: a melee skeleton, an archer, a mage (without any spells, just a magic attack) and an orcish version (used in the campaign only). Frostwyrms are also basically skeleton dragons, and ghouls are half-way between skeleton and zombie. The Lich hero is also a skeleton, albeit much more powerful and with a free will (the above examples are mindless undead slaves). Death knights also use skeletal horses.
    • Obviously, these types (minus the orc version) made it into World of Warcraft as common monsters, as well as NPC necromancers which can summon them. No such class skill exists, although the first Hero Class, the Deathknight, comes close with summoning Ghouls. Unlike the RTS, these can only be raised from humanoid corpses or using Corpse Dust which can be bought from vendors. Better not to think about that one too much.
    • World of Warcraft actually has a surprising amount and diversity of Dem Bones, from typical meleeing mooks, to spellcasting mooks (often referred to as Bonecasters), to more elaborate skeleton mooks such as Bone Golems with their scythe hands, as well as many unique skeletons (including one rare mob who can return from the dead if not killed fast enough and is therefore rather hard to kill), and some Skeleton bosses, as well as Liches of course. The newly introduced Lord Marrowgar tops most of them, being a 10 to 25-man boss in the hardest raid so far (though an early one), and is basically a floating mass of bones with 4 heads armed with a massive bone axe.
    • Similar to the Diablo example above, a Necromancer using the Raise Dead skill creates two humanoid skeletons from any sort of corpse. Even something like a Crypt Fiend (half-spider) or a wolf. In the Frozen Throne expansion, the Scourge shop sells staves that allow any Hero Unit to raise skeletons aswell.
    • World of Warcraft also features some Dem Bones noncombat pets. To wit, the collector's edition pet Frosty, a baby Frostwyrm, and the Ghostly Skull.
    • With some Noggenfogger Elixir and a bit of luck, you can become one too! note 
  • The second and eighth Fire Emblem games are unusual among their franchise in that they have monsters for enemies, including weapon-wielding skeletons.
  • Two of the major Undead faction unit types in Battle for Wesnoth are skeletons, one with an axe and the other with a bow. They have very high resists to Pierce, Cold, and Blade damage types, but are very vulnerable to Impact, Fire, and Arcane damage. They can also move through and hide in deep water, and being Undead, are immune to poison and plague attacks. Combat with the Undead typically requires a lopsided unit selection to combat these. They usually serve as basic troops and as bodyguards to Glass Cannon Dark Adepts in multiplayer, and are typically spammed by the AI in campaigns. Also, the high-level Lich unit, one of the levelled-up forms of the aforementioned Dark Adept, is skeletal and loses its old human characteristics in exchange for skeleton characteristics.
  • Also a nice supplemental unit in Dungeon Keeper II, acquired by letting your POWs rot in jail. The cutscenes featuring skeletons reveal them to have retained their ligments so as not to fall apart, as well as a single eye. They also tend to have dreadlocks.
    • Found in the first Dungeon Keeper too, acquired in the same way. No eyes or ligaments were visible on those skeletons, but then again, the graphics of the nineties didn't allow for such levels of detail.
  • A great example is the Mysterious Lady from the MacVenture game Uninvited. In the first floor hallway, if you try a door a mysterious woman appears with her back to you, "dressed like Scarlett O'Hara," and she seems completely harmless - if you're playing the NES version there's even a chipper "hey, a cute lady!" tune in the background. But if you do something to get her attention (trying the door again, hitting her, trying to open her) she turns around and reveals her face: A bleached white skull, "devoid of any flesh"! The only way to get rid of her is to find a bottle labelled "no-ghost" in the upstairs closet, and even then you have to make sure to have the bottle open before even meeting her. Otherwise, nothing happens and she kills you. With this, and the fact that she's the first thing that can kill you in the game (unless you lingered too long in the wrecked car) and thus, your first death, she's pretty much become the game's mascot, even appearing on the NES version's cover art.
  • In Breath of Death VII, the main character is a skeleton named Dem.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has skeletons as common low-level enemies in pretty much every game. They can use weapons, probably as an homage to Harryhausen. Plenty of variants exist:
    • Morrowind has Bonelords, which use magic and are resistant to everything but fire. Bloodmoon has Bonewolves, though they still have a bit of meat on their bones.
    • Besides the leveled Skeleton variants, Oblivion also has Dark Guardians, which serve the Dark Brotherhood. They're tougher than normal skeletons, but their main distinguishing feature is the hoods they wear. Shivering Isles has Shambles, which are made of the bones of a bunch of different creatures held together by leather straps.
    • Skyrim's skeletons appear in various necromancer hideouts and Draugr crypts, though they're pretty pathetic overall. A skeletal dragon appears as an encounter during the College of Winterhold questline.
      • Dawnguard has a few tougher skeleton variants, such as ones dressed in Ancient Nordic armor or others that resemble the Dark Guardians from Oblivion. The main quest of the expansion also involves a trip to the Soul Cairn, home of the Bonemen, Mistmen and Wrathmen. You can learn to summon all three if you find the spell tomes lying around.
  • One species of goo in World of Goo confuses the Sign Painter as to whether they're "alive... or dead. Probably polite to pretend we don't notice." These skull-shaped goo are the only species invulnerable to the ubiquitous Spikes of Doom.
  • Divine Divinity: while there are several kinds of skeletons around, the trope is lampshaded early in the game: two philosophic skeletons are having a debate about their existence. They notice that they think without a brain, move without muscles... and that they don't have any joints to keep them together. Then they fall apart.
  • The Lich class in Nexus War can raise skeletons as pets, or combine five skeletons into a fossil monster (essentially a bone golem). The Necrotic Tower, which was the home of the first Lich, is built entirely out of bone.
  • Skeleton enemies appear sometimes in the Wario Land series, with the skeletal ghosts in Wario Land 4 and the aptly named Recapitators in Wario Land: Shake It. The former shoot some kind of ectoplasm that turns Wario into a zombie, the latter actually use their head as a boomerang, and reassemble if destroyed with the head intact.
  • Skylanders Giants features the Undead elf called Rider and his skeletal ostrich Fright. Together they're known as Fright Rider.
  • Wario World's Horror Manor has enemies that are skeletal versions of the enemies from the first two levels.
  • In Light Crusader, the only way you can kill this type of enemy is the "Turn Undead" spell or kill the wizard controlling them.
  • In RuneScape, in addition to the Mooks, there is a skull postman.
  • One of the fighters in Killer Instinct was a skele-warrior ala Jason & The Argonauts named Spinal.
  • Fernando from the Source Engine mod Elevator: Source who stands at the back of the elevator until he gets dragged off by a giant hand and later returns as an Asian man.
  • Monster Rancher 2. Dragon + Joker = Death Dragon.
  • The Final Fantasy Legend/SaGa games feature families of skeletal monsters, which all dress as pirates for some reason. They mostly appear as enemies, but can also be recruited into your party, or existing monsters in your party can transform into them.
  • The Bonefish and Skelterwild dream eaters in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] are skeletal variants of the Fin Fatale and Tyrant Rex dream eaters. The latter can be very troublesome to deal with due to the fact that its head detaches after it receives a solid hit and start attacking independently of its body.
  • Trine features skeletons as the primary enemies.
  • Mabinogi features no less than 39 variants of the humanoid variety throughout Rabbie, Rundal, and Albey Dungeons, with 6 varieties of Skeleton Wolves for good measure.
  • Dem Bones appear as mooks in Dungeon Siege.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum, of all games, features these during bouts with Scarecrow while under the influence of his fear toxin, though they're actually regular Mooks. There's also a Challenge Map named this, featuring exclusively this type of enemy.
  • Mr Bones: Another skeleton protagonist is the aptly-named title character in this Sega Saturn game.
  • Will Rock: Living skeletons from both roman legionnaires and centaurs are met.
  • In Threads of Fate, one of Rue's monster forms that he can transform to is a skeleton warrior. It has a standard slashing attack while its special attack, is to... break down into a pile of bones (of course, pressing Triangle again makes Rue reattach himself). It does form a useful function in solving puzzles where he encounters it, as well as defense; the broken form is invincible against certain enemies.
  • In the arcade game Warzaid the objective is to stop these from taking over the world.
  • The Fiend tribe of demons in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, including the Four Horsemen (Red, Black, White, and Pale Riders,) Mother Harlot, Matador, David the Violinist, and the Trumpeter of the Apocalypse. They're usually among the most difficult foes you will ever encounter in each game. Shin Megami Tensei being what it is, you can also enlist them as allies against greater foes.
  • In EverQuest they are everywhere - crawling out of the woodwork, wandering around in the woods, hanging out under the water waiting to grab your ankles as you swim by. Necromancers can even have them as pets. Heck, there's even a skeletal band in Paineel.
  • In Skate 3 Dem Bones is the name of a playable character model in free-skate mode. He is unlocked after completing half of the Hall Of Meat challenges in the career.
  • Skeletal undead are seen in both the original Guild Wars campaign and the third campaign, Nightfall. However, they are still garbed in the armor or clothes they wore in life, which can add or subtract from their horror.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has them as enemy mooks. Like other undead in the game, they are corpses possessed by minor demons that largely operate independently as a master; most just attack anything they see, as the demons inhabiting them are driven insane. They exhibit certain special abilities based on the demon possessing them and they swing swords and shoot bows.
  • Fable II features hollow men, which are spirit-possessed skeletons. Most are simply mindless creatures that explode with a satisfying crunch when destroyed, while some are tougher and can use magic. In the third game, some hollow men can use guns.
  • ADOM's Necromancy skill lets you raise humanoid corpses as skeletons. Only Necromancers will have high enough skill/stats to make the more powerful skeleton kings. Skeletons are common mooks.
  • Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation features skeletons armed with swords. Many weapons are completely ineffective against them. A shotgun blast will knock them over temporarily, but, if you want to permanently destroy them, you'd better have the grenade launcher or the explosive arrows at the ready, or make them drop from a cliff. They can also follow Lara almost anywhere and have a tendency of sneaking up on her from the sides or behind, making for some great Jump Scares.
  • Nitemare 3D had the skeletons that throw, um... flaming bones? ...at you. Which somehow hit their target instantaneously, unlike the blasts from your plasma gun.
  • One of the most common enemies in Serious Sam series is a kleer skeleton. II also has bone snakes.
  • Raskulls.
  • NieR includes No. 6 and No. 7, the former of which is a rather distressing boss battle and the latter of which becomes a party member. Or more accurately, a party member becomes the latter...
  • Puyo Puyo features two playable characters, Oshare Bones and Skeleton T, who happen to be animated skeletons. Neither of them are terribly threatening.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has pet skeletons, misspelled skleletons, Spooky Pirate Skeletons, Misshapen Animal Skeletons... The list goes on. The introduction of the Angry Jung Man familiar and his psychoanalytic jars introduced a whole tower full of procedurally-generated skeletons which apparently exists in the mind of KoL creator Jick.
  • Freeware game Master of the Wind has skeletons wandering around the setting due to necromancers. Unusually some of these skeletons are sapient and just want to live in peace, something made rather difficult by overzealous clerics trying to grant them eternal rest. Shroud's partner Stoic is one of these.
  • Most undead in AdventureQuest, AdventureQuest Worlds and Dragon Fable are of this kind.
  • The DLC "Old World Blues" of Fallout: New Vegas provides us with the Trauma Override Harness automated suits, which were designed to evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield by taking over their motor functions; however due to several malfunctions, they end up wrecking havoc and killing anything on sight while still carrying inside the long-dead skeletons of their previous users, which were trapped in them.
  • The skeletons in Minecraft can fire arrows, and ride giant spiders!
  • Many, many skeletal enemies are featured in Terraria.
  • Skeletons are a common foe in the Ultima series, but only gained the ability to revive continuously in Ultima VIII if the player did not kill them with the Grant Peace spell. Taken to ridiculous heights in the horribly broken Ultima IX, where a defeated skeleton would break into its component parts and could reform again if there were enough parts for a whole skeleton. Cue frantic body-part looting mid-battle in a game where inventory space was already at a premium, and the skeletons kept respawning whenever you returned to the area.
  • Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain: Animated skeletons are encountered. Some of them walk in a fixed route and explode on contact with you. Others can pull themselves together and need to be destroyed more thoroughly.
  • Montezuma's Revenge had rolling skulls as enemies.
  • The skeletons in Dark Souls aren't that tough. However, nearby necromancers (which fortunately don't respawn if you rest at a bonfire) will revive them if they aren't slain with a Divine weapon. The giant skeletons are much tougher but fortunately don't revive immediately like their weaker cousins. And then there's the Bonewheel skeletons that love to run you over and stun-lock you to death if you're wearing light armor.
  • The original Golden Axe has an army of skeleton swordsmen. The first one appears as the boss of the second stage and the rest are elite mooks. Golden Axe II also had skeleton warriors, while Golden Axe III has the Dead Frames, which are the reanimated skeletons of reptilian humanoids.
  • The Free-to-Play TCG/tactics game Pox Nora features skeletons as one of the main race types in the Forsaken Wastes faction. Fully skeleton-themed decks are viable and typically play as a horde of expendable lesser skeletons backed by powerful mages, tomb lords and the occasional skeletal ice dragon.
  • One of the varieties of Fryhtans in the Seven Kingdoms series are skeletal warriors called "Deezboans".
  • In Killer Instinct, a animated skeleton named Spinal who has a quirk: to perform certain moves, he must gather energy—represented by tokens shaped like skulls under his life bar (SNES version) or skulls floating around him (arcade and gold versions)—by absorbing opponents' projectile-energy attacks (with his shield in absorbing position) or performing combo breakers. Despite requiring these tokens, his special moves are no stronger than normal special attacks. Spinal can store up to five skull tokens, overloading if he tries to absorb energy for the sixth time. On the sixth attempt he will not block the projectile, and it will cause normal damage and knockdown; he will then be left with one remaining skull. Spinal has two No Mercy moves: one where he repeatedly stabs the enemy with a spike on his shield and another where he summons ghostly, skeletal hands to drag his opponent underground (in the SNES version, the latter became his summoning a bolt of lightning to strike his opponent).
    • Spinal was originally notable for being perhaps the only animate skeleton in fiction that is the product of science, not magic. However, it seems that the creators later figured out that movement without muscles is scientifically ridiculous and retconned his backstory to involve magic.
  • MediEvil gives us Sir Daniel Fortesque. A cowardly knight who died in the first hail of arrows, he's now been reanimated to take on Zarok. And he's the good guy! Although he got hit in the eye and killed, and is effectively a cyclops and has had his jaw decompose so he can't communicate without subtitles, he's still one tough cookie.
  • Hiante from Star Stealing Prince is a more friendly example than most; a skeletal soldier formerly of the Original King's army raised from the dead to protect Astra.
  • The Tales Series has it's fair share of your standard skeleton mooks, but also has a recurring Bonus Boss in the form of the Sword Dancer, a large, often Multi-Armed and Dangerous skeletal swordsman who lives to fight strong opponents.
  • Cataclysm features skeletons as mildly strong enemies. Cutting weapons do little damage and ranged weapons will miss most of the time, but blunt weapons are very effective against them.
  • RuneScape has the expected basic human skeletons as enemies, as well as giant ones, a skeletal hellhound, skeletal wyverns (dragon-creatures), disembodied giant skeletal hands and an eldritch skeletal horror made of the bones of multiple creatures.
  • Evil Islands: The skeletons from the Dead City.
  • In Dota 2, before reviving as the Wraith King due to pressing ceremonial reasons, Ostarion (previously Leoric) was once the Skeleton King, the manliest hero in the game who does not have testicles, and a hard-to kill hero with a penchant for dreadful puns. There's also Clinkz the Bone Fletcher, a master archer who was accidentally cursed to become a perpetually burning (and thus perpetually in pain) skeleton, and Pugna, a psychopathic skeletal mage who preys on other mages.
  • A rare heroic example: the Guitar Guy from The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures is just a skeleton, a nod to his death in the original series.
  • Sword-wielding skeletons are all over the place in Astyanax. One even shows up as a mini-boss to end a level.
  • Clash Of Clans has a few skeletal troopers.
    • Wall Breakers are bomb-toting skeletons that blow up walls (and themselves) to make an opening for troops. They have low health, so it's best to lay down sturdier troops to cover them.
    • Balloons are bomb-toting skeletons in hot air balloons that drop bombs on defenses. They're slow at attacking, but only anti-air defenses can hit them.
    • Witches can create an army of skeleton warriors to raid forts.
  • King's Quest: Mask of Eternity: The skeleton guards in the Dimension of Death.
  • Both A Nightmare on Elm Street (PC) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES) feature living skeletons as minor enemies.
  • Exit Fate has Derek, a 200-year old skeleton knight who joins your army after you've aided a (friendly) necromancer in raising him. He's pretty jovial about it. He's also australian for some reason.
  • The cave complex in Spelunky often has piles of bones scattered around; some of them can re-animate as skeletons.
  • A somewhat famous game of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 had a top hatted skeleton as the mascot of "Mr. Bones' Wild Ride", a Video Game Cruelty Potential-driven roller coaster so long it became a thing of horror. Naturally, it has become associated with the "Spooky Scary Skeletons" song and the "2spooky" meme.
  • Team Fortress 2's love of adding more thematic holiday content to the game, especially on Halloween, means that the presence of NPC skeletons was probably inevitable. While they are internally called zombies (due to previously using the various zombie skins of playable classes), they're really nothing but (surprisingly realistically depicted) bones. They usually appear with a Sickly Green Glow, but occasionally skeleton swarms can be summoned by using magic spells, and will have a team-colored glow in that case.
  • In The Adventures of Lomax, haunted ship levels have skeletons as enemies.
  • Gothic has skeleton enemies wielding various weapons. Unlike many other games, these skeletons aren't pushovers—they're really dangerous swordfighters. There are also legless, floating skeleton mages. Gothic 2 adds weak goblin skeletons (who are nevertheless more dangerous than living goblins), skeleton shadowbeasts (the ordinary shadowbeast is already a very dangerous predator; these necromantic versions are even more threatening) and armor-wearing shadow warriors, who are pretty much mini-bosses.

    Webcomics 
  • Spoofed in this Princess Planet strip.
  • Codename Montezuma's Skeleton from Shortpacked!.
  • The Big Bad of The Order of the Stick is a lich, Xykon. At one point, decoys of him are created by making three other Dem Bones forms of undead and sticking them in his clothes. None of them are mooks though, being intelligent and quite powerful.
  • Part of the cast of Carnies.
  • In Looking for Group, Richard summons up some skeletons to aid in battle. What makes this really stand out is that the skeletons were ''borrowed'' from a few enemy soldiers, while they were still alive.
  • In Web ComicEndstone, Grave Robbing rouses one.
  • In Beyond the Canopy, skeletons are The Baron's standard mooks. They're intelligent, and seem to have individual personalities.
  • Lore Sjoberg's "Talk with Monsters" comic, based on D&D, features a hero that scoffs at having to fight skeletons, maintaining that skeletons are not dangerous—they're what you get when you take a normal guy and remove things. In the dungeon, however, he sees the error of his ways: "Gaah! Super-pointy elbows!"
  • Nedroid has a skeleton whose name is unpronounceable by above worlders, but you can call him Ethan. (His ex does.)
  • A very rare protagonist example would be Duane Adelier of Unsounded, a Ssaelit rector and family man cursed via currently unknown means to an undead existence. Due to a number of factors including both the unusual retention of his intellect and his particularly potent affinity for magic, however, he manages to continue on significantly past the points the more typical zombies in-story crumble, masking the fact he is an animated skeleton with glamours, bandages, and cloaks.
  • Another protagonist example would be P from Kay And P.
  • Helvetica's entire cast.
  • Skeletons! The name kind of implies this.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Skeletons were a common sight in old cartoons, usually dancing and living it up like undead party animals. Disney's Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance (1929) is the most obvious example, but Disney also made The Haunted House (also 1929) and The Mad Doctor (1933) with the same dancing skeleton characters.
    • Fleischer had skeleton characters in numerous Betty Boop and Bimbo shorts...
    • And Van Beuren had them in Tom and Jerry's Wot a Night (1931) and Plane Dumb (1932) among others.
    • The early Merrie Melodie Hittin' the Trail to Hallelujah Land (1931) features dancing skeletons too.
    • Columbia Cartoons had the Ub Iwerks-directed remake of The Skeleton Dance, called "Skeleton Frolic" (1937).
    • Two skeletons appear in Who Killed Who?, one regular and another with red bones (a Shout-Out to Red Skelton). There's also a skeletal cuckoo in a clock.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): The ever-cheesy, ever-ineffectual Big Bad Skeletor — although he had a human body with a skull head. Wherever there's actual muscles under his suit or just a Paper-Thin Disguise (a la Earthworm Jim) is never addressed.
    • In the reboot, his face was dissolved by acid in the first episode; later it was revealed via Flashback that his life was saved by an evil spell cast by his mentor, Hordak, resulting in his head becoming a floating skull, hovering over his torso. (Given his maniacal laugh after it happened, this may have caused his sanity to degenerate further.)
  • SWAT Kats had a recurring villain, Past Master. One of his shticks was reanimating skeletons, as he demonstrated in his first appearance. It wasn't very effective, as a patrolling police helicopter sees them, asks them to stand down, and then delivers a parody on the Miranda Rights right before shredding them to bits with the on-board Gatling:
    "You have the right to rest in pieces!"
  • Skeleton Warriors. In this one, the "curse" of becoming a skeleton could be reversed by removing a ruby in their chest, as they were immortal otherwise.
  • Grim is like this under his robes in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy (which leads to a lot of humorous situations). More than once, the other two protagonists have been known to take him apart in order to carry him in a backpack or other small container.
  • Jack Skellington, of The Nightmare Before Christmas is, well, a skeleton. He's the hero, so that's OK.
  • A recurring character in Beetlejuice is Jacque, a skeleton with a French accent who wears a beret.
  • Also, Corpse Bride. The inhabitants of the Underworld are either zombie-like or skeletal. Not that that makes them any less fun to hang around.
  • The Cauldron Born in The Black Cauldron. In the book, they were more like zombie bodybuilders.
  • Filmation's Ghostbusters villain Scared Stiff is an odd robotic version of this.
  • Skull Boy of Ruby Gloom
  • One of Youngblood's minions in the Danny Phantom episode "Pirate Radio". Also, one of the ghosts Vlad sent after Danny in "Kindred Spirits" looked like a Bedsheet Ghost?8364; in reality, the bedsheet was covering one of these, albeit with black bones. Not to mention Pariah Dark's army which is composed of skeleton warriors.
  • In Family Guy, The Grim Reaper is this underneath his robes. In one episode we see him in normal person clothes.
  • One of the baddies in SuperTed is a skeleton accidentally awakened by Texas Pete who comes along for the ride.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons animated series, when the children confront Venger in the Dragons' Graveyard, he summons draconian skeletons to attack them.
    • There's also Dekion, the skeletal Celestial Knight Cursed due to his cowardice.
  • El Tigre: The Big Bad, Sartana of the Dead and her undead army. Her ethnicity makes her a genuine calaca.
  • The Last Unicorn: A talking, wise-cracking skeleton appears.
  • Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil: Becky, Satan's administrative assistant.
  • One episode of Disney's Aladdin TV show featured a big bad with skeleton minions. Aladdin and crew pulled off the standard "knock the minions together" knockout, only for the skeletons to pull themselves back together into new shapes. Two got smashed together to form a centaur with four arms and two heads.
  • In the G.I. Joe episode "The Phantom Brigade" a skeleton rises up from the floor to threaten Cobra Commander into giving up control of three spirits. The Commander is reasonably freaked out and even the Joes who walk in on the scene can't believe what they're seeing.
  • In Animaniacs there was Mr. Skullhead; usually he appeared in the "Good Idea, Bad Idea" segments, but sometimes appeared in others, including a musical skit which was a Homage to the song that's the Trope Namer.
    • Before that he was born doing skits for Tiny Toons, the skull is inspired by Elmyra's skull on her headband.
  • The Venture Bros. - Dean is aware of the trope - when he investigates a plane crash and sees the charred skeletal remains of the crew he cries out "Brock! I think I figured out why the plane crashed - there were SKELETONS driving it!"
  • Lord Hater of Wander over Yonder is skeletal being, though he may just be alien rather than undead.

     Multiple Media  


AND THEN A SKELETON POPPED OUT!


Crystal SkullSkeletal TropesDesert Skull
Boy Meets GhoulUndead IndexSkeletal Musician
Our Zombies Are DifferentIndex of Gothic Horror TropesHorny Devils
    Our Tropes Are DifferentOur Better Is Different
All Trolls Are DifferentOur Monsters Are DifferentOur Angels Are Different
The UndeadIndex of Fictional CreaturesFrankenstein's Monster
Deliver Us from EvilThis Index Is Not an ExampleDied in Your Arms Tonight

alternative title(s): Skeletons; Our Skeletons Are Different
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