"You need subjects for your Servant project, and I can provide them. Beggars, prostitutes, street scum - those who will not be missed by anyone of consequence...
— Sheriff Truart
, Thief 2: The Metal Age
Vagrants, the homeless, drifters, runaways, society's castoffs; there's many, many
names for them, none of them nice. Most people look away
and pretend not to hear them when they ask for change, if not outright disdain and mistreat them for the crime of having been left behind by society— or having left society behind. With so many moving around, who would even care enough to notice the bum who is usually in the street corner of Trope and Tan
every morning has gone missing?
And that is precisely what the Serial Killer
, Mad Scientist
, hungry monster
, and The Mafia
are counting on. These exceedingly vulnerable Innocent Bystanders
are frequently killed and abducted for fun, spare parts, to sate hunger
, or for a spare dead body. They can be sure the police won't push the investigation too hard; at least not until
a rich, beautiful (and preferably female and White)
character is kidnapped or killed.
If anyone does
notice, it'll be The Hero
, the King of the Homeless
, an aid worker, or beat cop who notices familiar faces disappearing. Usually, though, quite a few will die
before the culprit is ever caught.
Compare Disposable Sex Worker
, for a profession at risk of violent crimes, and Kill the Poor
, for more high-profile slaughter of the impoverished on a much wider scale. Contrast Missing White Woman Syndrome
. See also Joggers Find Death
, the health-conscious analog.
Sadly Truth in Television
Anime and Manga
Books on Trope
- In Durarara!!, Yagiri Pharmaceuticals hires kidnappers to abduct drifters and illegal aliens who won't be missed to be used in their medical experiments.
- From Things I will do when I become Evil Empress, Tips for Evil Geniuses and Scientists:
Experiments requiring a human test subject shall be performed on kidnapped anti-social bums who live alone in large cities, not someone who people will notice the disappearance of, like a female student at the local high school.
- One issue of The Flash has him team up with the Pied Piper to stop a Serial Killer with a virulent hatred for the homeless.
- The short-lived Marvel Universe comic series The Order had "zobos", down-and-outs turned into zombified cyborgs by the Big Bad.
- Runaways. It seems that The Pride preferred to use female teen runaways for their annual Human Sacrifice.
- Morbius' first victim (after his best friend and the crew of a ship he came to America in) is one of these.
- It is revealed in a flashback in Transformers: More than Meets the Eye that the Institute was kidnapping homeless people to do brainwashing experiments on.
- In Shaman's Tears, Joshua Brand and Jon Sable team-up to hunt down a pack of monsters living in the sewers that has been preying on the homeless of New York.
- One Punisher story has a King of the Homeless live inside a massive pile of corpses he uses as a larder (being severely scarred from the time his morbidly obese mother had a heart attack and fell on him. He had to eat his way out).
- In Hard Target, the Big Bad is the head of a hunting business which allows rich men to hunt homeless or down-on-their-luck war veterans. Homeless or down-on-their-luck so no one cares, war veterans to make it interesting.
- In Surviving The Game, the Big Bad is the head of a hunting business which allows rich men to hunt homeless or down-on-their-luck war veterans. Homeless or down-on-their-luck so no one cares, war veterans to make it interesting. No, this is not a redundant entry.
- Classic 1980s B-movie C.H.U.D. plays this straight and also inverts it. Several homeless people start turning up missing, but only two workers at a soup kitchen seem to notice or care about this. Later, it's revealed that they're the victims of other homeless people who have been mutated into killer monsters due to exposure to illegally dumped toxic waste and have begun to munch on people who aren't deemed disposable by the powers that be. Along with being a horror movie, the film also functions as a Take That against Reagan-era policies toward the homeless and mentally ill.
- In The Devil-Doll, Lachna, Malita's servant girl, is "a peasant half-wit" from "a Berlin slum". Marcel and Malita are Mad Scientists who use her as a test subject. She is rendered an eight-inch-tall zombie.
- In Rat Race, when a heart meant for an emergency transplantation gets damaged, the character responsible for delivering it suggests looking for a 'drifter', killing him, and cutting his heart out as a replacement. At which point the driver starts asking questions about the character's background.
- In Die Another Day, a doctor provides Magic Plastic Surgery for his patients by re-writing their DNA. This process requires DNA from other people; the doctor mentions that most of this is harvested from vagrants and other people who won't be missed.
- A Stephen King novella called Apt Pupil about a teenager and a Nazi war criminal hiding in a small American town who both kill homeless people.
- Galax-Arena: The children kidnapped and whisked away to the planet Vexak are mostly street children from slums in third world countries. They're targeted because nobody important will miss them.
- The villains of the novel Rainbow Six use homeless people as test subjects for their plan. The book spends quite some time following them as they have no clue what's going on.
- In the sci-fi book Parable of the Talents, the Christian America cult started out with putting vagrants in their concentration camps because nobody would notice or care.
- C. S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet opens with mad scientist Dr. Weston debating whether to kidnap a homeless retarded boy or his best friend from college for his rocket expedition.
- Michael Stackpole's Wolf & Raven short story "Fair Game", set in the world of the Shadowrun Tabletop Game. The Pacific Northwest Hunting Club is made up of wealthy people who hunt humans once per month. They choose their prey from among the SINless of Seattle, who are not part of the system and whose deaths are not even investigated.
- Whitley Strieber's novel Wolfen. The title monsters have the New York ghettos as their hunting grounds. They kill and eat the abandoned of humanity (homeless, drug abusers, outcasts), those that will not be missed.
- In Final Watch, when a renegade vampire needs to murder and drain five dozen people to ascend into a High Vampire, he goes after migrant workers, knowing that, since they are mostly not registered, nobody is going to miss them.
- Subverted by Sherlock Holmes. His network of homeless people sees basically everything that goes on in London, and all he has to do to get information is to provide a hot meal.
- The ending of Mark Twain's The Carnival of Crime in Connecticut reveals (after the narrator has vigorously beaten his conscience to death) that he has a large stock of homeless people in his basement for sale.
In conclusion, I wish to state, by way of advertisement, that medical colleges desiring assorted tramps for scientific purposes, either by the gross, by cord measurement, or per ton, will do well to examine the lot in my cellar before purchasing elsewhere, as these were all selected and prepared by myself, and can be had at a low rate, because I wish to clear out my stock and get ready for the spring trade.
- The Extinction Parade. Vampires hunt humans for their blood. They normally drink the blood of poor people, expecting society to chalk up their deaths to street crime.
- Grimm featured an episode with this part of the villain's plans. Teenage runaways are kidnapped for Organ Theft, as human organs are being sold on the black market for wesen who use them to make drugs.
- On an episode of Barney Miller, a homeless man comes to the station to report that several other homeless people have mysteriously disappeared. Harris goes undercover as a homeless person and discovers they had all been kidnapped and forced to work as slave labor on a farm in North Carolina.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Anne", the Monster of the Week takes street kids into a hell dimension and works them for many many years, which is equivalent to only a few days on Earth. He spits them back to Earth just before they die of old age.
- Doctor Who, Old and New, uses this a lot, as a vagrant is usually the first person to discover the Monster of the Week. Sometimes the vagrant knows the Monster of the Week.
- In the old series, The War Machines featured a vagrant who had slept in an empty building the villains had taken over. They kill him.
- The most notorious Doctor Who example is the incomprehensible Pigbin Josh from "The Claws of Axos".
- Resurrection of the Daleks begins with a homeless guy witnessing some escaping test subjects being gunned down by the Daleks' human minions, before he himself is shot as well.
- Cybus Industries spent months rounding up the homeless to become the first alternate-reality Cybermen; thanks to Cybus' control of the media, this went almost completely unnoticed.
- Later subverted in the final scene of "Day of the Moon," when a Creepy Child approaches a homeless man and says, "I'm dying. But I can fix that. It's easy, really... see?" She holds out her hands, and we wait for her to suck his life out in some gruesome fashion... but instead she begins to glow, and then erupts with the golden energy of a Time Lord regenerating.
- In Fringe, a WWII Nazi tests out his ultimate weapon near a homeless person to see if he dies.
- In the pilot episode of RoboCop: The Series the bad guys were harvesting homeless people for their brains.
- At least one murderer on Law & Order: Criminal Intent was hoping that the police wouldn't look too hard at a bunch of dead homeless people turning up. Big mistake.
- In The Cape, several lived in the train yard where Vince "died." They're being arrested on trumped up charges rather than killed though.
- In The Invisible Man, the Doctor who helps Hobbes has been harvesting brain cells from the homeless.
- Jimmy McNulty from The Wire both exploits and inverts this trope when he fabricates a fraudulent serial-killer case around the corpses of vagrants, in order to attract media and political attention and divert funds to real police work. Exploited, because he only gets away with it by doctoring files on deaths nobody otherwise cares about, and inverted because "drawing attention to the vulnerability of the homeless" is the reason given for openly courting the media (although he's fully aware that what really gets it into the headlines is the juicy "serial killer" angle). He even "abducts" one live vagrant (putting him up in an out-of-the-way dosshouse) to add a sense of urgency to the case.
- A Mad Scientist in Lois and Clark states she always uses people who won't be missed for her experiments... and is very distressed to learn the latest subject was undercover.
- One episode of The Pretender featured a research doctor who was testing his resuscitation drugs on the homeless — which meant stopping their hearts.
- In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Mournin' Mess", a secret society of ghouls start a funeral service for homeless people (that they kill) so they can eat the corpses without the risk of being caught gravedigging. Slightly subverted since it's implied that the ghouls have to bribe city officials to keep the police from investigating the violent murders too closely. Some of the city officials were members of the (G)rateful (H)omeless (O)utcast & (U)nwanted (L)ayaway (S)ociety.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
- In one episode Dee and Charlie think they've become addicted to eating human flesh. Since they can't bring themselves to eat people who are already dead, despite finding a morgue attendant willing to let them bring a hot plate into the morgue, they convince a homeless kid to come up to their apartment and start rubbing him with spices. He manages to get away before they can bring themselves to go through with it.
- The Gang will often call on the same homeless man, Rickety Cricket, time and time again for various unspeakable jobs; selling drugs, wrestling a psychopath, kneecapping a dancer. Once he was even hunted.
- The UnSub in the Criminal Minds episode Legacy kidnaps homeless people, prostitutes, drug users etc. and kills them. He's only caught because a detective whose OCD forces him to catalogue everyone he comes into contact with on the streets notices that 63 of them have disappeared without a trace.
- In The X-Files episode "731", one member of The Syndicate informs Scully that Japanese Deadly Doctors and Evilutionary Biologists were performing horrible experiments on lepers, homeless, and insane people in the USA. However, they usually have no scruples about abducting anybody, not excluding their own family members or fairly high profile FBI agents.
- SCP Foundation
- SCP-647 ("Hungry Box"). SCP-647 is a cardboard box that prefers urban environments. It can expand itself to be large enough for anyone to enter it, and shows a preference for people of disheveled appearance. It makes itself desirable to homeless people by appearing to have blankets, food, and liquor inside of it. Once someone enters it traps them and digests them.
- SCP-1948 ("Weather Bird"). The people of the town where SCP-1948 lived decided to perform Human Sacrifices to it so it would keep the weather pleasant. The people performing the sacrifices chose the victims from townspeople who wouldn't be missed, such as vagabonds.
- Call of Cthulhu
- Cthulhu Companion adventure "The Rescue". A group of werewolves deliberately targets derelicts; by victimizing those without friends or money, they ensure that the police are not unduly concerned.
- Glozel Est Authentique! by T.O.M.E. The Shub-Niggurath cultists in Glozel perform Human Sacrifices using drifters and other strangers not likely to be missed.
- Shadows of Yog-Sothoth adventure "The Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight". Carl Stanford has an enchanted cane that drains the Power from those it touches and stores them as Magic Points in the cane. He has his minions bring derelicts to him so he can drain them until they die.
- The Asylum and Other Tales adventure "The Asylum". The worship of the Great Old One called Arwassa requires a human sacrifice each month. The cultist worshippers sometimes send out kidnappers into neighboring counties to capture derelicts and vagrants for this purpose.
- Masks of Nyarlathotep
- Chapter 3 "Egypt". After Nitocris is resurrected, she creates an international organization to infiltrate countries around the world. Its task is to create a racial, religious, or economic underclass in each country that can provide Human Sacrifice victims for Cthulhu Mythos cult activities.
- Chapter 4 "Kenya". The Cthulhu Mythos cultist Tandoor Singh occasionally lures in a street child or prostitute to sacrifice to the Small Crawler, an aspect of the deity Nyarlathotep.
- Chapter 5 "Shanghai". The Order of the Bloated Woman chooses its victims from among those who are poor and have no friends.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- In the supplement Volo's Guide to Waterdeep, a mimic monster took the shape of a statue in a city square, killing and eating drunks on dark nights for two years before an investigation was launched and it was discovered. A nearby sewer was found to be filled to a depth of 60 feet with human bones.
- Supplement RR3 Van Richten's Guide to Vampires says that vampires often kill poor people whose loss won't be noticed.
- Module A Darkness Gathering. A Thieves Guild leader (who is under illithid control) orders her underlings to kidnap vagabonds, beggars, and visitors to the city. She has their heads cut off and given to the illithids so they can eat the victims' brains.
- Module A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords. The lacedons (aquatic ghouls) who live offshore from the city of Suderham sometimes sneak into the Scumslum section and grab a derelict for dinner, who likely will never be missed.
- The Horde boxed set. The monks of the monastery of Punakha Dzong are evil and murderous. Any visitors who are unimportant or unlikely to be missed are captured and held for dark purposes.
- Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix II
- The night hag Styrix needs human beings so she can feed herself and power her Rift Spanner device with their Life Energy. In order to avoid attention over the high mortality rate, she obtains her victims from the population of transients in the town of Martira Bay.
- The thrax Palik consumes water that he drains from other creatures. He keeps his presence secret by choosing his victims from among adventurers, escaped slaves and lone travelers.
- 1st Edition supplement Sprawl Sites. In one of the adventure seeds a Banshee (elf vampire) settles into one of the poorest neighborhoods and preys on local vagrants and squatters.
- The Universal Brotherhood was a cover organization organized by insect spirits and insect shamans. Many UB facilities were set up in run down areas and ostensibly tried to help the homeless, while actually luring them in to be possessed by insect spirits.
- In the supplement Double Exposure, an unholy alliance between the Renraku Mega Corp. and insect spirits exploits homeless people in Seattle, testing experimental medical products on them and changing them into monsters.
- Underworld Sourcebook mentions that the SINless (those without a System Identification Number, usually homeless vagrants) are the preferred target of organleggers because they'll never be missed.
- In Vampire: The Requiem, a vampire PC can have a trait that gives a him or her a safe feeding ground. The first example of such a trait is by feeding from the homeless mass in the slum. Considering that vampires can go crazy while feeding and drain the victim to death, it's one of the better traits, correctness aside.
- KULT supplement Rumours. The Caregiver archetype says that monsters of the KULT world feed off of vagrants.
- Cubicle 7's Victoriana game:
- Supplement Faces in the Smoke Volume One: The Secret Masters. The Ancient and Holy Order of Sulis Minerva performs Human Sacrifices using members of the lowest classes of society because they're unlikely to be missed.
- Supplement Faces in the Smoke Volume Two: Shadows and Steel. The Fellowship of the Red Pharaoh performs necromantic experiments on the corpses of the teeming, anonymous masses of the poor of London.
- Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
- "Mealworms". A man has been infested and taken over by parasitic worms that have driven him crazy and given him a lust to consume meat. He kills and consumes human beings that won't be missed, such as the homeless.
- "The Blood Fairy". After a woman becomes a vampire, her husband starts stealing blood from homeless people to feed her.
- "A Perfect Childhood". A mother and father make a deal with a demon to perform sacrifices in return for success in their children's lives. For important successes they perform a Human Sacrifice of people such as winos.
- "The Dying Tree". A sapient evil tree demands Human Sacrifices or it will cause misfortune in a nearby town. The townspeople sacrifice drifters to the tree to placate it.
- "House for Sale, Some Work Needed". The servitor of an ancient evil is sacrificing homeless people to it to increase its personal power and allow it to control people nearby.
- Bloodrayne 2 had homeless people (and sex workers) being kidnapped to be turned into a blood fog (the shroud) that protected vampires from sunlight.
- The Thief video game series uses this in the second and third games.
- The villain of Thief II : The Metal Age uses the homeless to create his army of Steampunk cyborgs. It is explicitly stated that the nobles don't notice or care, and the victims are being arrested by the Watch, shipped, and converted in small groups so that it goes unreported.
- The villain of Thief III: Deadly Shadows kills the homeless and absorbs their life force to extend her lifespan. Sometimes she flays them alive to use their skins as a disguise.
- Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
- One of the Plaguebearers in a sidequest used the homeless to spread his infection. The other one used prostitutes.
- Andrei the Tzimice used, among others, homeless people as raw material for his experiments...and his home improvement projects.
- The Player Character can take advantage of this trope by feeding on homeless men. This still provokes a police response if anyone else sees you, but the homeless tend to lurk in alleys out of sight of the main roads, so this is unlikely. It's still a Humanity violation if you kill them, though.
- In Portal 2, the recorded messages of Aperture Science founder Cave Johnson depict the gradual decline of his company in both finances and prestige. One symptom of this is that, while the first batch of Mad Science tests were carried out using the 'best and brightest', such as "astronauts, Olympians, and war heroes", the second batch of tests (after the 1968 Senate hearings on missing astronauts) were conducted on street bums. They were offered 60 bucks to leave their park benches, sit in "much more comfortable" waiting rooms, and die horribly testing the company's lethal products. They could earn a $60 bonus if they allowed themselves to be disassembled, have "science stuff" installed, and then put back together, "good as new". In the third set of recordings, he'd apparently discarded even this idea and moved on to testing on his own employees, including himself.
- In Assassin's Creed I, the "patients" of Garnier's hospital are mostly beggars, prostitutes, madmen, and other homeless taken from Jerusalem by Talal's slave ring. Garnier's plan was to use his drugs to cure their addictions and insanities, followed by training and conditioning them as soldiers, to turn them into loyal warriors in the service of the Templars.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Desperado is kidnapping vagrant kids to turn into cyborg Child Soldiers.
- Roger Wilco, lowly Janitor Second Class of Space Quest 6, was selected by Dr. Hayden Beleaux and Sharpei to be the test subject of Project: Immortality, simply because, "We thought no one would miss you. Go Figure." Stellar Santiago unwillingly takes his place after saving him.]
- Zero Punctuation implies Yahtzee keeps one of these in his basement to play co-op games with.
- Reginald of American Dad! was little more than an unwanted, unloved homeless man before volunteering for a CIA experiment that switched his mind with that of a koala bear. The procedure was a success and he was hired by the CIA as an operative due to the distracting nature of his new form.
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Both series had episodes about homeless people being abducted for use as slave labor. To them, no one seems to care, but obviously Batman is on the case.
- A villain-of-the-week uses homeless children to carry out a series of thefts in the city. Batman is not happy about it, to say the least.
- In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a super villain called the "Garbageman" abducts homeless people turning them into slaves, referring to them as "human garbage". The police haven't noticed the abductions or perhaps don't even care.
- In Disney's Gargoyles, Dr. Sevarius uses Maggie, a homeless woman, in his mutation experiments because nobody will notice she's gone. All of the mutates but Talon (Derek Maza) have no known families.
- The Simpsons
- In one Halloween episode Lisa's teacher invites a homeless man into the class on the pretense of offering him a hot meal so the students can see Homer, the new Grim Reaper, reap someone.
- In another Halloween episode Mayor Quimby starts feeding the homeless to Homer, who has become a giant Blob Monster.
- SWAT Kats
- One episode begins with a homeless guy getting eaten offscreen by one of Dr. Viper's monsters.
- Likewise, an earlier episode has Morbulus. He's an interesting case in that he starts out as a villain in his own right, but becomes this trope following his humiliating defeat by the SWAT Kats. After Faking the Dead, he's reduced to hiding out in the sewer where he's found by Dr. Viper, who turns him into the Monster of the Week instead of helping him.
- In G.I. Joe: Renegades, James McCullen kidnaps homeless veterans off the street and forces them to test his new combat mechs in order to find the perfect human brainwaves on which to base machine's the A.I. Tunnel Rat and Roadblock wind up in his clutches, with Roadblock providing the ideal brainwave pattern.