Mummies at the Dinner Table
"I'm sorry now I killed you
For our love was something fine
Until they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine"
So your precious child or Significant Other has tragically passed on to the next world. Well... so what? That doesn't mean you can't still enjoy their company in this
one. Of course, people might think you're a bit strange
if you dress your beloved's corpse in formal attire, tape a spaghetti fork to their hands and try to have a nice, one-sided conversation with them every evening over dinner, but they just wouldn't understand, not having suffered such a crushing loss themselves. Decomposition? What decomposition? Your loved one looks just as good as they did the day they... stopped moving for themselves and became less talkative. But they're still alive! Yes, they are.
Anyone who tells you anything different is obviously
confused, or jealous of your relationship. Yes... that's it... they're jealous, and they must be destroyed as soon as possible... before they're able to spread any...nasty
rumors about you...
As you can probably see, the people at the center of this (the living ones, not the dead ones) are usually not "firing on all cylinders" — assuming, of course, that they still have any
cylinders left to fire. This is usually because they just can't accept the loss of someone who was close to them, and would rather live in an alternate self-created reality where that person is still alive.
This loss, of course, can be even more
crushing if they themselves
were responsible for their beloved's death in some way.
The lover or "protector" of the corpse will frequently speak to them and imagine them speaking back, although this is not to be confused with a Dead Person Conversation
, which is a conversation that may actually be taking place
between a character and a spirit from the next world. Or even Talking to the Dead
, where a character expects no answer but has to vent. No. In order for a situation to qualify as Mummies at the Dinner Table
, one of the participants must be stone cold dead
and the other must be stone cold crazy
. Needless to say, the living one will often come across as a bit creepy to other people, even those who know nothing about their cosy little private life. Sometimes, however, the obsessed mourner will appear to be absolutely normal and personable — up until the Peek-A-Boo Corpse
moment when the heroine accidentally walks into the room where their "beloved" is sitting. Then the mourner will go Ax-Crazy
, and a classic horror chase will follow which may or may not end in the death of the hapless discoverer.
A lighter variation of this trope has the mourner obsessing over a beloved pet which he had stuffed and keeps around him, petting it and talking to it as though it's still alive. This is often played for comedy in the shows where this kind of thing is apt to appear
There is also an evil variant, with a mortal foe instead of a friend or lover. Note that these cases only fit the trope if the keeper treats the corpse as if it were a live captive; more commonly, the villain knows perfectly well that the victim is deceased and is keeping the body around
as a memento, a trophy, and/or a warning to others
Compare with I Love the Dead
, A Love to Dismember
. If the character can't believe or accept that someone has just died, it's Please Wake Up
(if the denial grows into systematic self-deception, that trope can evolve into this one). If the character deceives other
people while knowing the truth himself, it's Of Corpse He's Alive
. If the target is not dead but merely pining for the fjords
, it's Dude, She's Like in a Coma
This trope also does not apply to a person who is fully aware that the loved one is dead, and treats the corpse as simply a(n often disturbing) form of memento. Such behaviour usually indicates mental problems, but of entirely different sorts.
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Anime and Manga
- Hell Girl has an episode where a woman in a fishing village, fearing her sister will move away and leave her, kills her and keeps her corpse tied up in a shed. The woman then forms an equally creepy obsession with the murdered woman's daughter, who barely manages to avoid being killed and preserved in the same way.
- Fushigi Yuugi, briefly: After Soi takes a sword for Nakago, he rides around with her body for the next while. The example might be too subtle for the trope if this treatment weren't considerably better than anyone living had ever received from him.
- The manga Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service uses this in its first chapter: After a pop star fulfills a suicide pact with her boyfriend, her father (who had prevented them from being together and triggered their suicides) steals her corpse and keeps it in his home. It soon transpires he was so obsessive with her that she likely would have killed herself without the pact.
- Hundred Stories has an example with guilt and denial.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles book there is a bonus manga (and Brotherhood OVA) where an alchemist returned a girl to life, losing his eyeballs in the process. In reality, the girl...may have come back in a way, but the girl Ed and Al meet is someone the family picked up from the orphanage who looked like their daughter. The real girl was brought back as a wizened husk, which can still...sort of move, or at least breathe, meaning this may also fit nicely in And I Must Scream. The family refuses to get rid of their corpse daughter and refuse to let the blind alchemist know he failed.
- Instead of a love interest or stalkee, in the first Scrapped Princess book, it's the beloved daughter of an early villain, whom he thinks is still clinging to life.
- Precia Testarossa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha kept the body of her dead daughter Alicia in a jar with the intent to resurrect her, and created Fate as a stand-in. She eventually starts talking to the corpse as if it were alive once everything starts to crumble.
- In Mirai Nikki, Yuno keeps her parent's dead bodies in a cage (that they kept her in to punish her), and frequently talks with them about the stuff that happens to her during school. Girl has...issues.
- In Deadman Wonderland, Hibana is shown talking with her dead mother (who is shown to be a skeleton hanging) at home, apparently "taking orders" from her.
- YuYu Hakusho. Itsuki and Sensui's last scene ever has both of them inside an alternate dimension, with the still living Itsuki gently speaking to Sensui's dead body as if he still was alive. Snifff...
- A borderline example occurs in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. The corpse of Fai's dead brother Yuui (or rather, Yuui's dead brother Fai) is kept preserved in the hopes of possible resurrection. This also involved the creation of an Artificial Human in the image of the twins' mother, whose purpose was to look after and take care of the corpse, though the extent to which she did so was never elaborated on.
- In the Alternate Continuity Magic Knight Rayearth OAV, Zagato sacrificed himself in a ritual to try and prevent the downfall of Cephiro. He failed. Now his perfectly-preserved corpse sits upon his throne at the very heart of Emeraude's castle, and the Princess herself fawns over him, but she's too far gone to realize he's dead.
- Faust VIII of Shaman King embodies this trope quite well. After his wife Eliza is shot and killed in a break in he spends all of his time trying to find a way to resurrect her but in the mean time he still carries around her whole skeleton around with him. He refers to her as his 'Dear Eliza' and even holds hands with her reanimated skeleton on occasion...Suggesting to him that she's dead forever is...Not a good idea to say the least.
- In Canaan, Hakko refuses to leave the body of Santana, since she can now tell him she loves him without hurting him with her deadly voice.
- In the short Waita Uziga manga You After The Rain, a man keeps his zombified girlfriend chained up in his apartment after a zombie apocalypse and feeds her raw meat from the nearby grocery store. When he realizes that he's running out of meat to feed her, he unchains her and lets her eat his body...while he has sex with her.
- Godchild's "Crooked Little House" arc is all about this trope.
- Ludwig Revolution: Julius has no problems with talking to Ludwig's (supposedly) dead body or with making out with it. Also Ludwig's "hobby" at the beginning of the story...
- Black Butler: Queen Victoria couldn't handle Prince Albert's death, so the resident crazy angel stitched his bits onto her. Yeah. That's right.
- A variant where the corpse wasn't actually present, but in all other respects, the students and teachers in the backstory to Another fit this trope perfectly, pretending their dead classmate is still alive and even making sure that there is a place at graduation for him.
- Ragdoll, member of the Anti-Hero group the Secret Six, keeps the corpse of his ex-teammate Parademon stuffed and mounted in his room and has extended conversations with it. The fact that Parademon died in an explosion and that a number of pieces could apparently not be recovered for the taxidermist in no way improves the situation.
- In 52: Elongated Man's brief infatuation with Straw Sue Dibny.
- In an Ex Machina special, where we saw the origins of Jack Pherson, in his cave we see he kept the decaying corpse of his girlfriend, talking to it like she was still alive.
- A rather Squick-filled scene in Batman: War Games Act II. Acquista, holding and caressing his daughter's naked corpse, telling her how she won't be cut up or fed to worms.
- In Batgirl #9, when the Calculator appears, he's kept the body of his son Marvin, and tells it how he plans to reclaim Marvin's sister Wendy and murder Oracle.
- While not a case involving a loved one per se, in Transformers Spotlight:Kup, the title character, while hallucinating due to alien crystals, keeps the corpse of his partner, Outback, around to talk to (and to donate its arm as a blunt weapon).
- Another Transformers example: in issue #67 of the original Marvel Comics series, an alternate-universe Galvatron has conquered North America and keeps the corpse of Rodimus Prime chained up between the remains of the World Trade Center. He rants at it in frustration over the continued survival of the Autobot/Human resistance.
- In "One Good Turn..." in The Vault of Horror #31 the main character treated her once-bedridden husband just as if he were still alive, including sleeping with him. As she put it to the horrified investigative officers, "I made him happy four months ago when I put cyanide in his hot chocolate!"
- In one alternate future miniseries, an elderly Spiderman keeps Mary Jane around like this, unable to accept that she died because of his radioactive spider blood.
- Hivefled: in his youth the Grand Highblood killed his flushcrush the Handmaid out of jealousy, then spent days in his room painting a portrait of her in her own blood.
- Subverted in the earlier versions of "Snow White". The prince fell in love with Snow White even though he thought she was dead and then carried a coffin around until a bump dislodged the apple from Snow White and she woke up.
- In The Revenger's Tradegy, written in 1609, Vindice carries the skull of his murdered wife, conversing with her regularly. He has been doing this for nine years, so long that when his mother and sister appear they treat his behavior and the presence of the skull as completely unremarkable.
- Used in the first Artemis Fowl book, where the mother refuses to leave her bedroom, and clumsily dresses a mannequin in her 'lost-at-sea' husband's groom outfit. She didn't have his body, though; eventually, he's discovered to be alive.
- Nancy Etchemendy's Cat in Glass is a collection of short stories that range from inventive and appealing to downright macabre. In Lunch at Etienne's, a woman gets her toddler ready to go (he's mad and won't speak to her, and she has to carry him), gets annoyed by the quantities of dust on the coats in her wardrobe, can't get out the blocked front door (why hasn't the landlord fixed it yet?), walks down the street (are her neighbors still not speaking to her? and what's all this white stuff on the ground, it's too early for snow), enters her favorite restaurant, and meets her best friend for lunch (speechless). She catches a glimpse of the mirror, which reflects an old woman in rags sitting next to two corpses in the broken rubble of what used to be a restaurant. Stunned with horror, she shakes it off and goes back to talking with her best friend about how the service at this place is always horrible.
- Used for a twist ending in William Faulkner 's A Rose for Emily.
- A story in John Varley's Blue Champagne collection includes a woman who's kept technically alive by medical machinery. Her daughter, marooned with only an AI for company, visits the breathing corpse regularly to talk about her day. It's really not as creepy as you might think.
- In Jane Yolen's The One Armed Queen, a prince has his brother assassinated for political-intrigue reasons, and shortly afterwards goes completely mad and starts carting the corpse around and acting as though it's still alive.
- In Wuthering Heights Heathcliff digs up and 'holds' Catherine after she has been buried for over twenty years. The part where she hasn't decayed at all is similarly disturbing.
- In a R.L. Stine novel, Halloween Night 2, the heroine is afraid that her (previously psychotic) friend is still assaulting her. Meanwhile her new friend on the block is getting REALLY into Halloween, including these two really realistic-looking skeletons for decoration. Needless to say, it turns out that the previously psychotic friend is harmless, her NEW friend is psychotic, and the skeletons are her dead parents. The girl alters between sly lies ("They're just Halloween decorations my parents put up") and complete obliviousness as to her parent's real state of physical health (not to mention decomposition).
- Edgar Allan Poe was famous for this, but the best example comes from Annabel Lee.
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.''
- The humorous short story Happy Valley by John Cleese and Connie Booth centres around an incredibly naive princess, who understands nothing of the world. This includes death - when she enters her (deceased) pet dog in a race, the king has to cancel the race so that the dog won't lose.
- George R. R. Martin's short story Meathouse Man features a special kind of brothel designed for meat handlers (people who had been trained to manipulate braindead semi-corpses to do dangerous work) where the handler basically subconsciously controlled the body of the girl he was with. The protagonist, after spending years looking for real love, finally settles on having his own personal mostly-dead-girl that he pretends is his true lady love, though given his disillusionment at the end, he doesn't actually think she has conscious thought. He just doesn't care.
- In Year of Wonders, a woman whose child dies carries the girl's corpse around with her, even as it begins to rot. This ends when the body's head falls off by accident, causing the mother to go berserk.
- One of the kids in John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire totes the stuffed body of the family dog everywhere. The dog even surfaces in the water after a plane crash that kills both the boy and his mother.
- Following the "Achilles and Penthesilea" myth, in Dan Simmons' Olympos Penthesilea wears a super-pheremone to distract Achilles during their battle. Unfortunately, Achilles only smells it after he's killed her, causing him to fall in love with her corpse.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: one of the title artifacts is a ring that brings back people as a ghost. People went crazy believing the person was alive...
- The Robert Browning poem "Porphyria's Lover", which has (if you take it at face value) the protagonist strangling the woman he loves so as to preserve the moment when she loved him completely and sitting by the fire with her corpse in his arms all night. The last two lines are Nightmare Fuel for sure.
- One of Simon R. Green's Hawk And Fisher stories shows the titular police captains having to talk down a sorcerer who killed his girlfriend, then turned the body into a magical puppet which moved around at his command, thus feeding his delusion that the girl wasn't really dead.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road, Star mentions that it is normal on her planet to use Magitek to preserve the dead and then later send them off to another dimension. She found the idea of burying someone as rather strange. She did complain about an Aunt who kept all of her dead husbands in her drawing room, saying it was rather too much for guests and they needed dusting.
- At the end of The Prairie, Natty Bumppo, now an old old man, sits in state in the Native American village, petting his dog, Hector, and remarking that Hector is awful quiet nowadays... not realizing that Hector is dead and that the villagers, out of respect for him, have had Hector stuffed without telling him.
- Isabel Allende's Eva Luna has main character Eva dolling up the corpse of her boss's wife, Zulema after the latter commits suicide, as a way to say goodbye. She's mistaken as the murderer and almost thrown into jail, though, therefore she has to leave the small town.
- In the Clark Ashton Smith short story Necromancy in Naat, the hero spends a lot of time talking sweet nothings to his zombified girlfriend who had been turned into an undead servant of the necromancers. The girlfriend actually talks back, to a very limited degree.
- In the Roald Dahl short story The Landlady, the main character discovers that the titular landlady's pet dog is actually stuffed, and she explains that "I stuff 'all' my little pets when they die." She also stuffs all the guests at her bed-and-breakfast after she kills them with poisoned tea, and continues to visit them in their rooms.
- One short story tells the tale of a lonely funeral home director who has taken opportunities to steal bodies and create a family for himself. One day, the corpse of a young kidnap victim is mistakenly delivered to his door, and even though he knows it's risky, a little girl is the last body he needs, and he adds her to his family. Sure enough, the police are suspicious and promise to come back with a warrant. After the police leave, he calmly opens his gas valves, goes back into his "family room," sits down with his family, tells them he loves them and lights a match.
- This was made into a Night Gallery episode, "Death in the Family."
- The Serial Killer in Still Waters by Nigel McCrery places her victims around her dining table and leaves them there for years.
- In the first Secret Histories book Mr. Stab has a secret chamber filled with his victims arranged for a tea party.
- Shutter Island: Dolores, Teddy/Andrew's wife suggests doing exactly this with their three children, whom she has drowned. He disagrees, and ends up shooting her. Also mentioned in the film.
- Kala carries her dead baby in Tarzan of the Apes. Burroughs may have heard of real ape mothers doing this. She leaves the body in the shack when she adopts John.
- Garrison Keillor has a brief story about this in Lake Wobegon Days... a nice man who kept to himself, caring for his elderly mother. When she died he visited her grave often. Then the town police noticed the area next to her grave had been freshly dug. He said he'd been trying to uproot some stubborn weeds...
- The speaker of Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "The Leper" finally manages to gain the woman of his dreams after she develops leprosy. He isn't about to let her go now that she's dead, either.
- Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker features a particularly squicky example. The mercenary Jewels was once in love with her teammate Arsteel, but then he was killed by Vasher. Jewels was able to reanimate him as a Lifeless (a sort of semi-intelligent, non-decaying zombie) called "Clod", but was left slightly unhinged by the experience. The squick comes in when Word of God reveals that she still regularly has sex with Clod.
- Tales from the Crypt often featured stories with people loving and being obsessed with corpses (and sometimes, parts of corpses).
- When the crew of the Red Dwarf first meet the android Kryten, he's still caring for and conversing with his own ship's long-dead crew. Played for comedy, helped along by the fact that they're all rotted away to skeletons instead of still corpsified and gross. (Did I mention skeletons with wigs on?)... It's a whole hell of a lot more disturbing in the book version, where the android is directly responsible for the crew's death through obsessive cleanliness (he gave a thorough washing to all the computer systems), and they're cold-mummified corpses, not skeletons... plus, the android doesn't seem to be entirely aware they're dead.
- It's made more clear in the book, but Kryten is basically in denial that they are dead so that he can continue to perform his programming and serve them, as he has no idea what to do once he can't do that anymore.
: Terrific! Our first contact with intelligent life, and it's the android equivalent of Norman Bates
- In the Homicide: Life on the Street episode "The Documentary", a mortuary worker 'borrows' corpses, dresses them up and has dinner parties with them because he's so lonely. It's not made clear whether he has sex with them, however.
- On another episode, an elderly woman died in her living room and her husband went a little...off, and convinced himself she was still alive. Again, no intimation of any sex involved.
- J.D., from Scrubs, does-slash-subverts this with his dead, stuffed dog, Rowdy. The other characters just think J.D. has a hard time letting go of a beloved childhood pet — until Turk reveals that they got him from a garage sale when they were roommates in college. After that, pretty much every character spends some time playing with Rowdy, with Carla both thanking him for "finding" Turk's bandana and informing him he'll leave after she and Turk move in, at different occasions.
- At the end of a Jonathan Creek episode, "The Seer of the Sands", it's discovered that the dead body which had disappeared had been stolen and taken home by a girl who was secretly in love with him. Surprisingly, it turns out she didn't murder him. He had however gone to some trouble to conceal the fact that he was seeing someone else, which led Jonathan up a blind alley.
- In an earlier episode, the same happened to the victim's head. This one didn't murder her either, and in fact the "victim" might not have been all that upset to be so immemorialised.
- Subverted on 30 Rock as a parody of Psycho, where Kenneth appears to be talking to his mother's corpse, but it is revealed that he is actually talking to his mother on speakerphone and has the Halloween decorations out.
- Just Shoot Me!: when Nina's friend Binnie dies, she goes around carrying the urn with her ashes, talking to her and acting as if she were still alive, even accessorising it with a scarf.
- Parodied on an episode of Coupling, when Jeff impulsively tells a girl that his girlfriend (who is out of town) is actually dead, in order to stop her flirting with him. The girl still ends up coming home with him, and finds the girlfriend (who had come back early due to illness) asleep on his bed. Naturally, she assumes the worst.
- When he was alive, the Monster of the Week from the Supernatural episode "Ghostfacers" brought home corpses as guests for his birthday party.
- In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the detectives investigated the death of a college student who appeared to have been raped prior to her murder. It turned out that her death had been a total accident and witnessed by the professor who was obsessed with her. He immediately proceeded to have sex with her corpse because it was his last chance.
- A parent/child version occurs in the first episode of Carnivāle, with a woman holding and rocking her dead baby.
- On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Gul Dukat goes just a little bit off the deep end after his daughter is killed in the episode "Sacrifice of Angels", and is seen cradling her dead body and talking to it. He seems to have been persuaded to bury her decently at some point, but if anything he's gone even more bugfuck nuts by his next appearance.
- In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "House of Hoarders", the youngest daughter of a hoarder couldn't bare to let go of several male teens (the brother worked with runaways) she had relationships with and after poisoning them, kept their bodies hidden in the yard.
- In another episode, a man who knows he's dying is meeting his friends for one last party, but dies before he can make it there. His friends then steal his body from the morgue and throw the party anyway, with the body as the guest of honor. In the morning, they leave the body sitting outside on a park bench, with a party hat and a cigar. Interestingly, what they did is not implied to be sick or wrong, but instead as a rather touching, if perhaps a bit unwise, attempt at honoring the last wishes if their dead friend.
- In the 3rd Season of True Blood, Russell Edgington's partner, Talbot, is staked by Eric. Russell then goes mad, stuffs his remains in a glass urn and starts taking it with him everywhere he goes. Until Sookie flushes its contents down the garbage disposal...
- Criminal Minds
- In the episode "Reflections of Desire", the serial killer is abducting beautiful blondes with the apparent approval of his mother, who was a faded film noir actress obsessed with her single starring role. When the killer and his mother are finally cornered, they prepare to stride out into the arms of the waiting police like movie stars on the red carpet, under the delusion that the cops and their flashing lights are paparazzi with cameras. However, it turns out that the killer murdered his emotionally abusive, overbearing mother years ago and has been keeping her decaying body in the house. Both the police and the BAU team are understandably stunned when the delusional killer walks out cradling his mother's mummified corpse in his arms.
- The killer in the episode "Machismo" also kept his dead mother in a chair in front of a television playing soap operas.
- In Babylon 5, Emperor Cartagia conversed with the severed heads of his enemies. This was only one of many signs that he was batshit insane. It was not remotely the worst.
- In the 3rd season of Desperate Housewives, Karen McCluskey has the dead body of her husband, Gilbert, stored in a chest freezer in her basement.
- An interesting case occurs in The Tale of Happy Valley sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The princess isn't living in denial, she is completely ignorant of the concept of death. As a result, she believes that her pet rabbit Herman is still alive and fusses over him constantly, even dragging him on a leash for walks.
- Played hilariously in Boy Meets World when Eric moves into a great apartment with a nice, though eccentric guy who doesn't seem to care if Eric pays rent (there's also a hot girl next door who routinely locks herself out of her apartment while wearing a towel.) Eric is somewhat disturbed when he finds that the guy treats his (dead) stuffed parrot like a live pet; he finally bolts when the guy starts talking about bringing out his mom. We never see her, but it's heavily implied that she's dead, too.
- One of the murders in Midsomer Murders has her beloved brother's mummified body upstairs in the house. Early on another character mentions the woman keeps the house unusually cold and won't host community events even though she has a large house.
- This was the Twist Ending to "Death in the Family", an episode of Night Gallery.
- Horrible Histories had a sketch in which an unlucky couple must face the awkwardness of dining with the Raleighs and having to make conversation with Sir Walter's severed head.
- The music video for Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" tells the story of a mortician who takes home the corpse of a Young Woman (Played by Kim Basinger), and has a relatively lovely romantic evening with her. The song's chorus features the line, "Last dance with Mary Jane."
- Casket Casey's album Coffin' Up Bones focuses on a female necrophiliac named Casey, with songs like "Cold Flesh and Blood", and such cheery lyrics as:
Have you met my groom?
Long, fair and kind of pale
I got him stacked in my room
Come by and say "hi" some day
Have you seen my son?
He's quiet and calm
I found him the other day
Why don't you come over and play?
- A classic example in the Alice Cooper song "Cold Ethyl", where the titular Ethyl is a corpse kept in a large refrigerator, and involves "Making love by the refrigerator light".
- As quoted above, the Tom Lehrer song "I Hold Your Hand In Mine" is basically about this. (It's used for comedic, not dramatic, effect.)
- A note from the composer:
Tom Lehrer: You know, of all the songs I sing, that is the one I have had the most requests not to.
- In Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Baby Back", which parodies "teen tragedy songs", that were popular in the '60s, the narrator digs up his girlfriend's grave, (who died in an accident) crawls into her coffin, and closes the lid. Complete with sound effects.
- "Heirate mich" and "Klavier" by Rammstein.
- Avenged Sevenfold's "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a very disturbing example of this, in which a man kills his girlfriend for refusing his proposal, then has 'fun' with her corpse, before she becomes a zombie and kills him in return. They make up in hell, however, and come back to get married and engage in mass murder.
- The music video to Disturbed's "Inside The Fire" involves the character (lead singer David Draiman) doing this with his then-recently Driven to Suicide girlfriend. It was disturbing.
- Cat Stevens' "My Lady D'Arbanville" veers perilously close.
- Evanescence has a few of these. "Like You", "Haunted", and "Even in Death" are the most notable. "Even in Death"'s opening verse:
Give me a reason to believe that you're gone.
I see your shadow so I know they're all wrong.
Moonlight on the soft brown earth,
It leads me to where you lay.
They took you away from me, but now I'm taking you home.
- The song "Walking Dead" by Chester Bennington and DJ Z-Trip has lyrics about a recently reanimated undead digging up the body of a fellow deceased loved one and wanting to bring them back to life:
Digging in the dirt,
I can feel you getting closer,
Steadying my hands through the blistering pain.
Anxiously awaiting for the earth to reveal you,
Wondering if I will ever see you again.
- The official video for "Blue" by A Perfect Circle features a woman hanging out, eating dinner, and ultimately rounding the bases with the recently-exhumed corpse of a loved one.
- "Her Clockwork Heart" by Vernian Process is about an inventor who creates a clockwork heart for his dying lover. She lives on...sort of.
- The Tiger Lillies have (among other things) the song "Larder", about a dead girl in a larder:
HE GOT A BOOK ON EMBALMING. AND HE FOUND IT SIMPLY QUITE CHARMING. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. PRESERVED FOR ALL TIME FOR HIS ARDOUR. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER. SHE IS THERE SHE IS THERE IN THE LARDER.
- Creature Feature's song A Corpse In My Bed is about a man saving the corpse of his old girlfriend.
Her Skin Is Dry And Body Full Of Dust
One Day I'm Afraid She Just Might Combust
I Could Never Think Of Leaving Her Side
Even Though It's Been Years Since She Died
- Insane Clown Posse built a career out of this trope. "Cemetery Girl" and "Dead Body Man" being prime examples. "What kinda SICK FUCK WOULD STEAL FOUR DEAD BODIES ANYWAY? Details at Eleven."
- Melodic Death Metal band The Black Dahlia Murder has at least two songs of this, both prone to be Tear Jerkers, A Vulgar Picture and Deathmask Divine.
- Gnarls Barkley's "Necromancer" is about not only keeping the body, but being the killer as well, although some lyrics mention the idea of suicide. Includes the lines "Did you hear what I said?/With this ring, I thee wed/A body in my bed/She was cool when I met her, but I think I like her better dead." Although it cloud also interpreted that the girlfriend is heavily addicted to drugs, to the point where she is metaphorically dead, i.e. her personality has been consumed by the addiction, and that the singer, instead of helping to her to quit the drugs, keeps feeding them to her, because it makes her docile.
- Played for laughs by country artist Joe Diffie in "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox," when he requests that the audience do this for him when he's dead. He even asks for a stiff drink and a suitable date: a blonde mannequin. In the music video, a pair of friends do exactly this for their deceased buddy, breaking into the funeral home and carrying his body out between them. They make the corpse nod to the waitress, wave at a blonde a the bar, and clap to the music, while passing off his tendency to fall over as ordinary drunkeness, before finally leaving the corpse propped against the bar's jukebox at closing time.
Well I ain't afraid of dying, it's the thought of being dead.
I want to go on being me once my eulogy's been read.
Don't spread my ashes out to sea, don't lay me down to rest.
You can put my mind at ease if you fulfill my last request.
- There's an old spanish folk song about a man having a romantic night with his newlywed wife, who just happens to have deceased several years ago. The last lines are more or less translated to:
He took the skeleton to the valley
whispered sweet nothings to her under the stars
and then fell asleep forever
holding his beloved's rigid skeleton.
- The Kisschasey song 'Black Dress' somehow manages to be a fairly sweet song about this. It opens:
I dug you up this morning and took you home,
To have you here beside me cold but close.
I made my mind up last night
That heaven just can't have you.
- There's a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song called Dead Man In My Bed, where a woman is complaining to a singer about the titular dead man. (He's smelly, inconsiderate and doesn't want to do anything.)
- Mirel Wagner's "No Death", in which she takes the part of a man making love to his lover after she has died.
I move my hips
In her I am home
I'll keep on loving
Till the marrow dries from her bones
- Possibly happens towards the end of "The Doctor's Wife'' by The Steampunk Quartet; by this point the narrator's patient is legally dead, her organs kept viable by a bunch of machines, the rest of her body "destroyed", and he still hears her pleading for him not to let her go.
- The less squicky form, since it's the willful retaining of a dead body, not the delusion that they're still alive and kicking: In The Iliad after Patroclus dies, Achilles spends an awful lot of mourning time with his arms wrapped around his best friend's corpse. To lessen the squick a bit, Thetis later embalms the corpse so it won't spoil before Achilles gets a chance to avenge his death.
- Older Than Dirt: In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the titular hero refuses to allow his beloved friend Enkidu to be buried, embracing his corpse, weeping over him, having one sided conversations with him, pleading with him to wake up, "veiling his face like a bride's." He finally allows Enkidu to be buried after seven days, when a maggot falls out of Enkidu's nose. Eww... But at least he acknowledges the decomposition.
- The Egyptian goddess Isis collected, reassembled, and mummified her murdered husband Osiris's remains (had to get him new privates to finish the process, although in this case her attempt to restore him to life was actually successful rather than just play-acting.
- In a strip by Quino, we see a man and a smiling woman sitting in a living room seemingly having an animated conversation, during all this time the woman never flinches or even blinks; then the man looks at the clock, stands up and kisses the woman good night who remains with her same frozen expression, the man then goes to his bedroom in the back of the house revealing that he is taxidermist.
- The vampire Brauner in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin turned Eric Lecarde's daughters into vampires because he was under the delusional belief that they were the reincarnations of his own daughters (whom he had lost in World War One). Upon being told that they've been cured, he simply says he'll "make those two [his] daughters once again".
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has Orson, who betrays his kingdom so he can be (alive) with his wife, Monica. Since she was a recently deceased Ill Girl, the Big Bad promises to resurrect her, but can only bring people back as mindless zombies. Orson is so crazy at this rate that he doesn't notice this. We only ever see her map sprite (a standard female civilian), but from Erika, Ephraim and Seth's horrified reactions, that's probably for the best. Ephraim himself puts her out of her "misery".
- Ah, but we do HEAR her. Poor Monica just keeps repeating the word "darling" over and over again. Meanwhile, in the scene before he dies Orson is seen having a lengthy one sided conversation with her about her birthday before he's interrupted by news of your arrival.
- After his real family died, the mad priest Bassilus in the game Baldur's Gate managed to form a fair-sized surrogate family... by killing people and raising them as zombies and skeletons. Then he spots you and decides you would make a good parent...
- James has creepy conversation with the corpse of his wife ( whom he is intending to resurrect) in the "Rebirth" ending of Silent Hill 2.
- She wasn't driven nuts by the death, but by another factor, but Presea of Tales of Symphonia continues almost-robotically caring for her father long after his death. After the heroes help cancel out the factor warping her mind, reality sets in, and she doesn't take it well at first.
- Something like this happens in Dragon Quest VII in one of the areas. An inventor in the past reprograms one of the Mecha-Mooks threatening the kingdom, and in the present day you find it in his home trying to take care of him (apparently unable to realize he's long-dead). It's played mostly for pity, though.
- In Iji, if you don't manage to keep Dan from getting electrocuted, Iji will talk to him and say that she was afraid he was killed, then leave him behind to recover. The horror sets in when you realize that you never heard him reply . . .
- And just to be clear, it's confirmed in the scene after the final boss. Who catches on and immediately decides that he doesn't have the heart to break it to her.
- Part of the "Dark Brotherhood" arc of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features you tracking down a traitor in the Brotherhood's ranks. When you happen to stumble upon said traitor's hideout, you discover (via a diary) that his mother was originally a victim of the brotherhood. He has kept her decaying head (and talked to it) ever since. Bringing the head with you when the Dark Brotherhood's remaining members execute Lucian Lachance in the mistaken belief that he is the traitor will understandably freak out the real traitor and spoil his identity.
- Final Fantasy VII and the prequel Crisis Core shows the extent of Sephiroth's mental breakdown by having him serenely explain his plans to the dead, sealed-in-a-test-tube Jenova and telling her not to cry as if he truly expects her respond.
- In his defence though, Jenova is functionally immortal on the cellular level, so while it's unlikely she comprehended what he said she was still alive.
- Final Fantasy VI has Rachel, who died when her home was attacked by the Empire and was subsequently put into 'suspended animation' by a herbal mixture (yeah, don't ask) concocted by some weird old minor NPC. Since then her boyfriend has been spending his time roaming the world looking for a magic item that can bring her back from the dead (a task that would appear to be futile given that the game's world hasn't seen magic for a thousand years), visiting her corpse, and projecting her onto every woman he meets. His persistence does pay off without him having shown any signs of insanity, so... that's okay then?
- She is able to return, briefly, late in the game, long enough to ask him to move on, and forgive himself for her death, before passing on again.
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a commercial on the radio for "Pet Stuffers," which taxedermies dead pets for owners who "just can't let go". Funny until you realize this is Truth in Television (see further down on the page). More disturbing, however, is the first clip of the "owner": "Rex, you didn't eat your food again. That's the second week in a row!" Depending on how you interpret it, either the poor dog is dying of something that has given him a complete loss of appetite, or he's already been dead for two weeks and the owner is in severe denial.
- In Red Dead Redemption, one of the "stranger tasks" involves collecting flowers for an old man wanting to surprise his wife for their anniversary. After painstakingly traveling half across the state looking for all the specific varieties of flower he wants and returning, you're casually introduced to the desiccated corpse of the man's wife, seated on a chair inside the couple's cabin.
- A variation is used in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, in which a serial killer takes parts of his victims and sews them together to make a pair of Bunraku Puppets.
- In Infinite Space, if you don't recruit Katida (which results in her Face-Heel Turn), she will order her fleet to focus fire on Roth's ship, killing Nele, which turns Roth into this before he fires high-stream blaster, destroying the ship. It's one part this and one part Talking to the Dead since it's implied that he knew that she was dead but needed to say what he was saying before his Heroic Sacrifice.
- Non-romantic example: Gary Golden from Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has the skeletons of his former co-stars, cast and crew of a production he was in forty years ago exhumed and dressed up as dinner guests when you come in to check on him. He possibly does this to freak you out. Or because he's crazy. Or because he felt like doing it on a whim. Or maybe he really is sentimental about his pre-undead (and pre-Nosferatu) life. With Gary, you really can't tell.
- For an example with a literal mummy, there's Dead Cousin Ted, the permanently-deceased-and-mummified member of the Edison family, from Maniac Mansion and Day Of The Tentacle, who the Edison family love to hang around various places in the house, repurposing him as a bird bath, a receptionist and a dress-up mascot. Laverne even remarks that he's her favourite out of the Edisons.
- One instance of censorship done in the NES port of Maniac Mansion actually enhances this. A puzzle involves making an "obscene phone call" to Nurse Edna. The porting team changed this to Edna assuming that Ted is the one calling, with the explanation that only he has her number and that she never knew of or never accepted his death. Read about it here.
- The first killer in Kara no Shoujo is collecting body parts and putting them together to make a new body for his sister and is absolutely convinced that she's not dead. He also has sex with the composite corpse when it's fully assembled.
- In one of Diablo III's weirder moments, a random event in the Fields of Misery involves a farm besieged by Leapers. Once all the leapers have been killed, a man comes out of the farm cellar, telling you that him and his wife have been trapped down there by the leapers for hours, and that his wife would love to thank you for rescuing them. He leads you into the cellar, and introduces you to his wife...a skeleton sitting in a rocking chair. He says that she's been unwell of late, but his love will see her through!
- In one of the endings of Ib, Garry and Ib are both driven insane by the gallery, and Mary loves Ib too much to abandon her so she gives up her dreams of going to the human world and stays with them. That's awful sweet of her...but in the next scene we realize that while they were clearly alive in the previous scene and Mary's talking a lot about how they're all going to be best friends forever, now neither of them are talking...or moving...or reacting to anything at all...
- In the final Episode of The Walking Dead Season 1 you get into a discussion with The owner of a station wagon that your group stole goods out of at the end of Episode 2. For most of the conversation he seems normal, if a little odd. However, once he starts talking to his wife you realize it's her severed head in a paper bag that he's been carrying around since she was turned into a "Walker.
- A sketch on Robot Chicken that combined The Smurfs with the movie Se7en ends with Papa Smurf waltzing with Smurfette's beheaded corpse. Yeah, it's a weird show.
- In Stickin' Around the character Polly, despite being spectacularly well informed and articulate for her young age, cannot accept that her pet dog Pepperoni is dead.
- Played with in Season 4 of The Venture Bros., when Number 21 is shown to have one-sided conversations with the skull of the deceased Number 24. We later see it from Number 21's perspective, and he is apparently talking to a ghost only he can see. In a subversion, 21 Took a Level in Badass, and we're shown that 24's ghost has been feeding 21 information (i.e. warning him if people nearby are carrying concealed weapons) to improve his reputation. This leads to a bit of a Mind Screw when 24's ghost suggests he himself may be an imaginary Magic Feather, and that 21 really is awesome but hallucinates 24 due to an inferiority complex.
- The season finale seems to confirm that he's just a delusion of 21's. Not only did one of the fellow "ghosts" 24 introduced him to never exist, but Dr. Orpheus (a professional necromancer) couldn't see 24, and he communicates with the dead all the time.
- Played for laughs in Family Guy, when Brian goes to visit his mother and discovers that she's passed away; her owners had her stuffed and made into a table. Brian's horrified, while Stewie thinks it's hilarious.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Irwin's father does this. However, Irwin's mother is a literal mummy, with bandages, shuffling walk, pained groaning and all. And yes, she does occasionally sit at the dinner table.
- Girl Genius features a rather complicated variant of this, involving an a puppet, a life-support tank, and a gynoid, in one story arc.
- Homestuck: Jade's Grandpa. He was much easier to deal with when he was alive.
- And then in the post-Scratch universe. Jane's Poppop (ie post-scratch John). It's mentioned that this request came at the end of his will, after a long string of joke stupulations, but Dad Crocker knew it was a real stipulation, because that's what this family does.
- Gamzee kept the corpses of his dead co-players around for multiple years, and it's heavily implied he kissed Tavros' severed head on at least one occasion.
- In Sexy Losers, one of the recurring characters has a crush on a suicidal girl. While she was alive he was trying to convince her to commit suicide, just so he could do this afterwards. His incredibly Squicky descriptions of what he planned to do were enough to convince her not to kill herself on several occasions. In fact, her eventual suicide is accidental. She bought a gun to kill him so he couldn't convince her not to go through with it through his creepiness next time, and she ends up grabbing it instead of her hair drier. He decides to dig her corpse up and carry her around, still having a smiling expression her face. As for sex, he is not below doing it in the neck. Later, it is found out even his father is doing it to his wife.
- Butch of Chopping Block, being partially based on Bates. Except he still tries to off her from time to time.
- This has cropped up on Survival of the Fittest at least three times.
- In version 3, after the death of Guy Rapide, Alice Jones keeps his severed head in a bag and talks to it as if it were still alive.
- Liam Brooks in v4 probably qualifies as the Ax-Crazy variant, where he tends to stick next to Tiffany Baker's dead body and killing all who approach them for his "garden".
- And then in Evolution Iris Landon engages in this after the Mutual Kill of Johnny Marsh and Holly Chapman. They're just sleeping after fighting that long, honest!
- Over on her in-character facebook, The Nostalgia Chick wondered if Todd in the Shadows was dying and said she would accept having sex with his dead body if there was no hope when he was alive.
- In Mason, the narrator does this.
- In Ben Drowned, in a secret newspaper clipping which was sent out at some point, it's heavily implied that Duskworld23 had this done to him by his insane mother after his ascension.
- On some holidays and customs built around remembering the dead, such as the Mexican Day of the Dead, celebrants will keep vigil all night at the graves of friends and family, sometimes even presenting offerings of food and song. On a more macabre note, certain older traditions around the world involved literally bringing mummies or skulls home for dinner.
- A serial killer example would be Dennis Nilsen, who simply didn't want his "dates" to leave him (there was a bit of this in Dahmer's mental dysfunction as well).
- Perhaps the squickiest real-life example: Carl Tanzler, a radiologist in 1930s Key West, Florida, who developed a morbid obsession for one of his young female patients. After she died, he built a mausoleum for her, but apparently that wasn't enough, so he carted away her body, hid it in his house, preserved it as best he could, and lived with her "as man and wife" for many years, until her family discovered the body. Tanzler was arrested for graverobbing, but was ultimately released, because the statue of limitations on the crime had expired. (Which shows you just how long the "relationship" went on...)
- A similar case took place in Japan in 1959. Dr. Karsuaburo Miyamoto was unable to accept his wife's death, so he embalmed the body and kept her in their conjugal bed for ten years before he was caught. Source.
- The Peavey family of New Hampshire had a mummified stillborn infant as a sort of heirloom for 90 years, until a child let the secret slip and the state ordered that the body be buried. Though the family engaged in some playful acts with the body, like giving it cards on holidays and a dried fish for a pet, they never fully enacted this trope. (Someone in the past might have, however, considering the body was left unburied so long).
- Someone dug out the grave of that unfortunate corpse
- Ed Gein, the inspiration behind Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb.
- Then there was Queen Juana of Castile, queen regnant in the early 16th century, who was said to have kept her husband's body around for years after his death, and definitely did so for several months until the church stopped her. Otherwise known as Joanna the Mad. Her husband was known as Philip the Handsome though. So the defining attributes of either could be at fault for her actions.
- Similar to Queen Juana, it is reported that Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh carried her husband Sir Walter's embalmed head around with her until her death.
- Perpetual Pet is a company that will freeze-dry and mount your pets if you can't bear to let them go.
- Gustav II Adolf's wife kept his embalmed corpse around for far longer than was considered proper. When he was buried she had apparently removed his heart and kept it in a box. Eventually the royal council had to step in, take the heart away and send her daughter off to be raised by someone a bit more sane.
- Gustav was well aware of his wife's mental state: Before leaving for Germany to be made into this trope, he made it clear to his royal council that under no circumstances was his wife to have any say in the regency. Before chalking this down to simple 17th century misogyny, recall that this was the father of Sweden's Queen Christina who had arranged for her to succeed with absolute power.
- Animals occasionally do this with their dead infants. It's slightly less squicky than when humans do it, for some reason.
- Maybe because the other animals' reaction is much more squicky as they eat the corpses of their infants.
- There is a tale (probably apocryphal) about a drearily melodramatic stage play that ended the first act with the male lead cradling the corpse of his beloved and asking the rhetorical question "What should I do?". The second night, a wag in the audience shouted back "Fuck her while she's still warm!". On subsequent nights, many members of the audience repeated the riff. According to the legend, the play closed after a week.
- Jeremy Bentham, father of utilitarianism, was dissected after he died, and his skeleton was outfitted with a wax head and stuffed into his clothes filled out with hay. The 'body' is kept in public display at the University College London. It has been brought out to meetings of the College Council on at least two occasions, where Bentham was listed as being "present, but not voting."
- Former Senator Rick Santorum's wife gave birth prematurely and their son died two hours after his birth. Santorum decided to take the corpse home with him for a day and introduced it to his living children as their brother (he returned the body the next day). Santorum still speaks of his late son in the present tense. Article here.
- The Capuchin catacombs of Palermo : Originally the catacombs were intended only for dead Capuchin friars. However, in the following centuries it became a status symbol for locals to be entombed into the capuchin catacombs. Some of the bodies were embalmed and others enclosed in sealed glass cabinets. Monks were preserved with their everyday clothing and sometimes with ropes they had worn as a penance. Relatives (including children) would visit to pray for the deceased and also to maintain the body in presentable condition. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in certain clothes, or even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals.
- One of the most touching residents of the catacombs, and definitely the cutest, is Rosalie Lombardo.
- King Herod of Judea (a.k.a. the one that tried to kill Jesus as a baby in the Bible) grew so paranoid later in his life that he had his beloved wife, Miriam, executed for treason. He deeply regretted this and supposedly had her corpse preserved with honey.