People die, for whatever reason. Some die a natural death, some get killed, some kill themselves, but still dead is dead is dead. People die when they are killed. A natural occurrence is after all is said and done, is that someone tries to retrieve the body of the dead person. However, biology does not stop at death. Muscles control the retention of wastes in the bladder and the rectum, and these muscles relax soon after death. If the rectum or bladder happens to be occupied at the moment of death, the result in Real Life is the people who find the body wishing the dead person had worn brown trousers (and wishing they had brought a gas mask).
In fiction, this practically never occurs. Therefore, we have a case of No Dead Body Poops, where the death scene is almost always much much much less nasty than it could be in real life. This is not surprising, given that most people are not aware someone dying can be a crapshoot. It is also somewhat undignified - it really wouldn't do for The Lancer's Heroic Sacrifice to end with a fart noise and a bad smell, would it?
Even rarer than the post-mortem evacuation in fiction is recognizing the fact that serious abdominal injuries - gut shootings/stabbings and the like - can often let out what's supposed to stay in.
For examples of living people whose biological functions of this type aren't shown, see the supertropeNobody Poops.
No examples of this trope being played entirely straight are listed below. We're not interested in having a huge list of every character dying without soiling themselves.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
In Yoshiyuki Tomino's Mobile Suit Gundam novels, one character is described as losing control of their bowels while suffering a particularily violent death. Interestingly, she also seems to suffer a psychic version of this effect & begins uncontrollably broadcasting her worst memories into Amuro's mind in her death throes.
Referenced in the Rurouni Kenshin manga when Jin-e tries to kill Kaoru and talks about how the corpse will get rid of saliva and waste.
There's a Fallout 2 fanfic where Lara (the chick from the Den) goes up to fight against Lo Pan, hand to hand. When it becomes clear that Lo Pan is losing, he pulls out a gun he hid under the fighting mat earlier (which is canon, by the way) and blows half her face away. As she lays dying, she involuntarily lets loose her bowels. Both of them.
Subtly referenced in the NCIS fanfiction Determined by Sergeant Conley.
There lay the still bleeding body of Stan Merdetzky, surrounded by the stink of death and its unpleasant releases.
Tiberium Wars doesn't shy away from this (War Is Hell being a central theme) with several scenes mentioning the stench of "corpse-shit" from the bodies littering the urban battlefields.
Mentioned in Team Four Star's Dragon Ball Abridged Bardock Father of Goku special. Dodoria blasts Bardock and his dead teammates, the latter ending up in a pile on top of Bardock, and he remarks "Oh God, you really do soil yourself when you die."
Also referenced in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Abridged, when Dio considers removing Jotaro's pants to see if he's really dead because "After all, they say after you die, you do sh*t yourself."
This trope is referenced when Saori dies in the Girls und Panzer fic One-Shot, as she gets to watch "as her corpse released its bowels, further stinking up the inside" of the tank she died in. Be warned; the inclusion of this trope is possibly one of the less disturbing things that happens in this fic.
In Rising Phoenix Marge's bulldog Ripper both pooped and peed when he suddenly kicked the bucket.
Steve Martin plays an asshole action movie director in the Kasdan movie Grand Canyon. In an early scene, he berates a flunky for cutting out a scene where a criminal is shot in the head because there was "too much blood splatter." Later, after he himself is shot by a mugger, he lies on the street bleeding, and the camera reveals he'd also urinated on himself.
The Golgothan Shit Demon from the movie Dogma is a demon created from this exact excrement. Golgotha was the place where Christ was crucified so obviously it's made from the build up of hundreds of crucified criminals in a cursed place but on the other hand it was where Christ was crucified too so, while never stated, it might quite literally be "Holy Shit".
A related example is from the film Point Of No Return, the American Remake of La Femme Nikita, where Maggie urinates after being given a lethal injection.
In Repo! The Genetic Opera, after finishing disemboweling his latest victim, the victim's waste is emptied onto Nathan Wallace's shoes, as far as we can tell from his expression and the subtle sound effect.
At the start of Black Belt Jones, a pair of Mafia thugs kill a man, then hide his body in a wine cask. Their boss then orders, "Mark this one down to five dollars a bottle - he shit his pants when he died."
In Phantasm, after a man is killed by the silver sphere, a pool of pale urine slowly spreads across the floor from the corpse's legs.
In The Human Centipede, which is already teeming with Body Horror, this occurs upon the death of one of the victims. Too bad that victim's anus is sewn to another's mouth.
In Se7en, the guy who ate until he burst (guilty of the sin of Gluttony, obviously) is reported to be "sitting in a pile of his own piss and shit"- an easy way for the police to tell that he was dead without having to check his vital signs.
In the little known New Zealand film Carry Me Back the lads take their dead father back home, on several occasions the corpse farts prodigously.
In Monsters Ball, when a condemned criminal is to be executed he is shown with adult diapers.
A dying character shits himself at least twice in Cannibal.
There's a strangely brutal scene in which Bundy is shown getting cotton jammed up his ass before his execution in Ted Bundy.
Monster Clown butler Mr. Mascaro comments on this phenomenon while killing a security guard in Blood Dolls.
Mr. Mascaro: Two kinds of people I know about, little man - The kind that piss their pants when you kill them, and the kind that don't. Now, which kind do you think you are? [guard dies, Mascaro looks down at the body] Mr. Mascaro: Pisser.
In The Master of Disguise, the villain has irritable bowel syndrome and occasionally farts while in the middle of something important. When he is flung into a pool, the protagonists wonder whether he is dead, citing this trope. Sure enough, the villain responds with a massive underwater fart.
Pacific Rim, after the second Kaiju attack on Manila, a news report shows a hill sized mound of kaiju excrement.
The 1988 Polish film A Short Film About Killing directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski shows its protagonist Jacek Łazar quickly and efficiently executed by hanging; the body shown defecating immediately afterwards.
In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday, the heroine explains to her friends in graphic detail exactly why they do not want to drag a dead cop to their secret hiding place (which is accessible only through the hot tub), at least unless they clean up the corpse first.
In Salman Rushdie's short story Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship, one of the dirty jobs Isabella gives Columbus is cleaning up the bodies of dead soldiers for burial, and the fact that they're wearing (usually full) diapers under their uniforms is mentioned.
Also mentioned in Squire, where Kel knows she's fatally wounded a centaur because of the stink that alerts her to damaged (human) intestines. She ends up having to perform a Mercy Kill because no healer can cure a "belly wound".
The Godfather includes a scene where one traitor to the Corleones is garroted in a car and craps himself. The killer then rolls down the window to let out the stink.
Also the description of the garroting of Luca Brazzi.
In The Bible's Book of Judges, chapter 3, King Eglon is stabbed in the gut by the left-handed Ehud, causing "the dirt" to come out. The fact that "dirt" is excrement is made even clearer when Eglon's personal guard delay going in to check on him because they believe him to be relieving himself- they can smell it.
Most of the deaths in the Honor Harrington series involve people being blown up in space, but one in particular notes this as occurring. An undercover agent, realizing he's been made, judo flips over and snaps the neck of the man who's caught him, and notes in narration the smell of the voided bowels, presumably while his victim is still upside down.
David Weber also makes reference to this in Safehold, when "the stink of voided bowels" follows a character being killed.
This is referenced in Mission Earth series by L. Ron Hubbard. It is one of the alien invaders who are attempting to turn the world's population homosexual uses it to argue that this means the sphincter is central to life.
In Bryce Courtenay's book Tommo And Hawk this is used to confirm a character is dead.
In The Witcher novel, when Ciri's team gets slaughtered by a Psycho for Hire, he makes her take a look at the bodies "See, that's how people die. In their own piss."
Justified in Enderby, by Anthony Burgess: The title character, about to commit suicide, is very careful to empty his bowels first.
The trope is noted several times in The Acts of Caine books. Within the first few pages of the first book, in fact.
When Lestat, the main character of The Vampire Lestat of Anne Rice, is transformed into a vampire and has to "die" for this, it is described in great detail how his bowels empty while he isn't able to move and the rats come to eat the excrement. Yeah.
When Junior in Under the Dome cozies up to the two girls he killed, he notes the fact that they've defecated in their death.
Has been referred to indirectly in Discworld. In A Hat Full of Sky Granny Weatherwax depicts the chores done by a witch on a regular basis, which includes sitting with an old man during his last moments and helping the widow clean the body and change the bedsheets, which is no chore for the faint of heart.
In Making Money Moist von Lipwig has just, for intents and purposes, inherited the Royal Bank after its president passed away. He's trying out the bed in the suite provided, noticing that it feels all warm and squishy, then immediately shoots up and asks where his predecessor died. He's informed she died at her desk, sitting in her chair (which has since been replaced).
In one of the Hitman novels, Agent 47 kills a clone brother, who makes a long "farting" sound as he's strangled to death. Realistic much?
In John Varley's Steel Beach we learn that low gravity + explosive decompression + no space suits/clothing (clothing optional moon colony) + bowel gas = the 'Brown Rocket' effect.
Conan the Barbarian at one point justifies putting a man out of his misery with a list of what he would have had to endure before dying anyway. The stink of his own gutsnote from the abdominal injuries variant is on the list.
In the Liveship Traders trilogy, Davad Restart returns to his carriage to find a dead pig hanging out of the window and the word "traitor" written on the vehicle in blood. It is also noticed that the pig's bowels had losened in death and as a result the coach was smeared with the pig's shit as well.
The Ender’s Game companion, Ender's Shadow, averts this, as Achilles talks about how Poke voided her bladder and bowels as she died.
The Gentleman Bastard Sequence features a scene where young Locke and the twins end up buying a corpse from the day's hanging (long story) and Locke is annoyed that he had to be downwind of the corpse because ... well.
Referenced in a David Sedaris essay. His Greek grandmother came to live with the family when David was a kid, and his father was telling him and his sisters about how the grandmother found her brother dead in the streets, slain by mercenaries. David and his sisters pester the grandmother with questions like "When he died, did he crap his pants?"
Somewhat averted in BattleTech's Blood of Kerensky trilogy, where Dr. Lear at one point goes into some detail on just what treating a soldier with abdominal injuries means for both the patient and the medics. No, she's not a fan of war at all.
Averted in the Outlander series, as it is often described that the deceased 'lose their bowels' shortly after death, except in the case of Roger, who lost his bowels when he was NEARLY hung to death.
Referenced in Dead Lines by John Skipp and Craig Spector. The antagonist tries to avoid soiling himself after committing suicide by fasting and emptying his bowels and bladder as much as he can beforehand, because he doesn't want his body to be found covered in effluvia. It is not stated whether the plan worked or not.
In The Book of the New Sun, Severian, while having the last talk with a prisoner he is to execute the next day, advises him to eat only a light breakfast to avoid this.
In Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers. Divine is described as voiding herself quite graphically after her miserable death from tuberculosis. The author doesn't shy away from the subjects of various bodily functions (even when one might want him to) and it's not a terribly romantic scene.
In The Dark Sleep, Escott first realized that his acting-troupe colleagues ... all 12 of them had been murdered when he catches the scent of blood, urine and excrement at the crime scene. He recognizes the significance of this, because he'd smelled the same thing during his WWI military service.
In Chris Ryan's Strikeback, the Hezbollah mention that the reason they're starving their captive is so this doesn't happen when she's executed.
Averted in the Michael Crichton book Prey, when in the beginning a person in a hospital is dying next to the bed of a small boy. The curtain's are drawn during the dramatic death, but the boy can still smell the bowels being emptied.
In The Dressmaker Stuart Pettyman does this after running head-first into a wall and breaking his neck.
Averted in The Riftwar Cycle; the stink of the bowels being voided is often mentioned when someone dies.
Not quite dealing with post-mortem defecation, but corpses in The Things They Carried are mentioned as belching as they are loaded onto carts.
Averted in Spider Robinson's Callahan's Legacy, when a character talks about a knife fight he had when he was younger. He specifically mentions that he knew, intellectually, what was going on, but becomes shocked and physically ill when he gets feces on his hand after stabbing someone in the abdomen.
Implied aversion in the Xeelee Sequence story Raft. One character sees "a shape hanging from rope" and "a pool of something brown and thick" beneath it.
One of the CSI: Miami tie-in novels averts it, the corpse is found in a car trunk and a 'number 3' is referred to, then it's explained.
In The Afterlife by Gary Soto, Chuy is stabbed to death in the bathroom while on a date. When he looks at his body (as a ghost), he thinks that his father will be ashamed of him because he peed himself.
In Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, Mimi tells the story of how, when she was a little girl, her aunt and sole caretaker died. Mimi tried to clean up the body before going to get anyone, which is how she found out that her aunt had wings too, just like her.
There was a stain forming under Auntie, piss and shit and death-juice, and as I looked at her, I had a firm sense that it wouldn't be right to bring people up to her apartment with her like this. I'd seen dead people on TV. They were propped up on pillows, in clean hospital nighties, with rouged cheeks.
There's an aversion played for horror in Donald Goines's novel Dopefiend. When Terry's pregnant friend commits suicide by hanging, Terry discovers the body and suffers a Freak Out after accidentally touching the feces that has slipped to the floor. Then the narrative mentions that the fetus's head is protruding from the dead woman's vulva.
Hollywood Squares: The process of rigor mortis has been the subject of several questions (and related jokes/bluffs), but usually the question will be phrased something like, "Can you suffer from an illness called rigor mortis?" (The answer is no, of course, because it has to do with a process started after the person's death.)
The League of Gentlemen does this with a bunch of people who died when the air supply to their bondage suits was cut off. When the suits are opened... eugh!
Actually played for humor in Supernatural, believe it or not. Sam is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop where Dean dies (in various, hilarious ways) every day. Sam is aware of the repeating days; Dean is not. Sam tries to explain that in another version of that day, Dean got hit by a car and killed:
Dean: And? Sam: And what? Dean: Did it look cool like in the movies? Sam: You peed yourself. Dean (defensively): Of course I peed myself. Man gets hit by a car, you think he has full control over his bladder? Come on!
In Misfits, one of Nathan's first lines after coming back from the grave is "I appear to have shit myself". He later says that he learns how to control this with his subsequent deaths. However, it's mostly played straight with all of the deaths in this show. No one seems to notice any shit.
Obliquely referenced in a CSI: New York involving a man who was buried alive, dug his way out, then died. One of the clues that he'd previously been interred is that he's found wearing an adult diaper: a standard precaution in the funeral industry.
One episode of Twin Peaks had Agent Cooper mention this fact, but never actually depicted it.
Before his scheduled execution in Prison Break, Lincoln is presented with a diaper to put on beforehand for precisely this purpose.
Happens in Six Feet Under when a character is transporting a corpse back to the morgue and has to clean it up later.
One of the characters in The Sopranos urinates himself immediately after he hung himself in the basement.
In the House episode "97 Seconds", a clinic patient (and later, House himself) poops after deliberately electrocuting himself in order to have a Near Death Experience.
Mentioned in Oz, when a Catholic priest in the prison who had begun trying to reform RyanO'Reilly and became his cellmate died suddenly in his sleep. Ryan gets to deal with the bowel failure, and in an unusually thoughtful and morose moment afterward, muses on the symbolism of the fact that everyone shits as they die.
On NCIS, the presence of urine on a carpet provided the first confirmation of an eyewitness's claim she'd seen a murder through her window. McGee explains this trope to account for it.
In an episode of Action, director Titus Scroad drowns face down in his pool. When Peter and Uncle Lonny go to investigate, Lonny muses on the possibility that he might not be dead, because "people usually shit their pants when they die". Then he sees "the turd in question".
Discussed in an episode of Game of Thrones: King Robert mentions how "they don't put that in the songs" during a conversation with Ser Barristan. Robert himself is nearly disemboweled a few episodes later and while lying on his deathbed mentions how it "stinks like death". Also lampshaded in Season 2
Dolorous Ed: If the gods wanted us to have dignity they wouldn't make us fart when we died.
Mentioned in the pilot episode of Tales from the Crypt. A prison executioner (William Sadler) muses on the impending end of a death-row inmate's life and decides that the man will probably soil himself when he dies in the electric chair.
Not involving death, but still extremely egregious. In one episode of The Job, Mike is suffering a severe Potty Emergency when a criminal body-checks him into the bathroom wall, knocking him on his ass and unconscious. By all reasonable logic, this should have caused him to shit his pants.
In the Columbo episode "Agenda for Murder" (1990), Patrick McGoohan's character refers to the "digestive spasm" that often precedes rigor mortis.
In Eleventh Hour, it's determined that a chimpanzee was killed elsewhere and then moved to the location it was found because there's no poop in the vicinity. Human victims still play it straight, though, so apparently while animals may lose control of their functions, humans remained civilized even in death.
Referenced (sort of) in Waiting for Godot, except it's about the penile sphincter rather than the anal one.
Vladimir: What do we do now? Estragon: Wait. Vladimir: Yes, but while waiting. Estragon: What about hanging ourselves? Vladimir: Hmm. It'd give us an erection. Estragon: (highly excited). An erection! Vladimir: With all that follows. Where it falls mandrakes grow. That's why they shriek when you pull them up. Did you not know that? Estragon: Let's hang ourselves immediately!
Postmortem erections, by the way, are known as "angel lust," and occur when a body dies in an upright position. Gravity causes the person's blood to pool in his lower extremities, which causes the feet and legs to swell along with... the obvious.
Frank Wedekind (the guy who wrote the original Spring Awakening) references this in the play Lulu. After her elderly husband dies and she thinks he is just unconscious, Lulu notes "He's shit himself and doesn't even know!"
Forgemaster Garfrost yells: Garfrost hope giant underpants clean. Save boss great shame. For later.
In DikuMUD, one of the possible item drops from killing a monster is "steaming turds of [monster name]".
In the online flash game Don't Shit Your Pants, the goal is to... well... In an interesting nod to realism, killing yourself will lead to a game over as you lose control of your bowels.
When investigating a murder victim in L.A. Noire the coroner will refer to the usual evacuation smell.
Some of the shown deaths in Kara no Shoujo, particularly those of Tsuzuriko and Orihime, avert this (though only for the latter if Reiji dies alongside her).
The patient in Trauma Center doesn't die, but one of them has a hole in her intestines that is, essentially, leaking shit into her blood and poisoning her to death; you have to remove some of it from the liver and then patch the hole.
It's mentioned in Laura Bow and the Dagger of Amon Ra that several victims have "additional wet marks", which Laura declines to touch.
When Marissa's friend Chris dies, Krouse notes that his bowels had released, and even corrects Luke when he assumes that the smell outside was from a broken septic pipe and not all the dead bodies created by the Simurgh.
In a fit of boredom, Jack Slash offers a deal to one of his soon-to-be victims:
Jack Slash:I'll even let you relieve yourself in the bathroom beforehand so you don't shit yourself so badly when you drop dead. You'd have to be quick, unless you want to be on the toilet when she comes in, but it's a chance few get.
In another episode, specifically as a Call Back to the above, it was an indication that a major character, Chef, had been Killed Off for Real. Cartman says "The last thing you do before you die is crap your.."- cue poop. Also see, Crosses the Line Twice.
To the point where it's now become a running gag to show a dead body unceremoniously letting out loud fart sounds to purposely ruin the drama going on.
In the Futurama episode "The Sting" the priest at Fry's funeral grosses out the audience by drawing attention to this having occurred.
Refered to in one episode of Family Guy. When Quagmire is playing dead to be rid of a woman, Peter attempts to confirm it by shouting "You know what'll prove it? When people die, they void their bowels. I said, when people die they void their bowels!" Quagmire sells it. Peter then makes fun of him for it.
In the season 3 episode, "Death Lives", Death told Peter he soiled himself when lightning struck him.
Also, when Peter takes first aid, he runs to assist someone (who's perfectly fine), freaking them out when he insists he has to check if they've soiled themselves.
Brian comments that Bertram voided his bowels upon being killed by Stewie.
In the Adventure Time episode "Who Would Win", after a character is beaten to a bloody pulp and passes out, he farts. Finn's initial horrified reaction is, "Did you just die?"
Semi-averted in a Robot Chicken sketch about G.I. Joe. After Seal Team 6 shoots Cobra in the head, Cobra's body farts for a couple seconds.
Some Samurai would fast before a battle so that "their bodies would not pass dirt upon death" in order to avert this trope.
Any mother who ever used the Stock Phrase "Always wear clean underwear, because it'll be shameful if you get run over by a car and are found to have been wearing dirty undies when you died". Er, hate to break this to you Mom, but, as Bill Cosby said in reference to mothers insisting that their children wear clean underwear in case they get in a car accident: "First you say it, then you do it." He did come up with a workaround in that most mothers say "Have a clean pair of undies" when invoking this phrase, all he needs is to have them stored in the glove compartment.
The classic joke where the condemned orders fiber muffins for their last meal. Think about it...
Not death, but one of the (several) reasons patients scheduled to undergo surgery are often instructed to fast beforehand is if their operation requires the administration of a muscle-relaxant that will affect the anal sphincter. This is also cause to pity obstetricians, since the baby's head emerging from the birth canal compresses the lower intestine, like a tube of toothpaste (squeezed from the bottom, no less.) (In fact, a logical sister trope to this one would be No Newborn Has Crap On Him At Arrival. They're rarely covered, and what with all the blood and mucus as well you can miss it, but sometimes it's hard to miss entirely.)
More likely reasons are to avoid regurgitation/inhalation of vomit, and to have the operating zone reasonably clean in cases of intestinal surgery.
Though for procedures on the intestines themselves, an enema would usually be administered- the only way to reliably avert this. In the 20th century, it was quite common practice for hospitals to routinely give an enema to women in labour (as well as always shaving their genitals, for reasons harder to explain). Both have since been rejected by most authorities as unnecessarily invasive things to put the patient through at a time like that.
Some places in the United States where capital punishment is still practiced place the condemned in an adult diaper.
When the killers were about to be hanged for the Clutter family murders in Truman Capote's non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, one of them kept asking to use the bathroom because they wanted to avoid this. They had to be told no matter how much you get out before you die, it will still happen.
When a programmer says that their computer, program, or operating system "shit the bed," they mean that the computer/program/operating system crashed horribly. The phrase comes from this trope.
In a variation, in Britain after one particularly awful incident, women condemned to hang were given knickers made from a similar material to those worn for PE, in order to prevent, at the least, evacuation of gender-specific abdominal fluids, and at worst, prolapse (the ejection and turning inside-out-of) of the entire vagina, womb and ovaries.
This actually only applied to the last few women who were hanged (the woman in question died in the early 50s- she bled heavily from her vagina during death, causing rumours to spread that- contrary to the law- she had been hanged while pregnant, though it was very unlikely.)
Care workers in old peoples' homes are inevitably confronted with the need to wash and lay out a body for decent inspection by the deceased's relatives and/or collection by the undertakers' "private ambulance". This invariably involves cleaning up the terminal bowel movement.
Not just in modern care homes. Virtually every funerary tradition known to anthropology includes washing the deceased's body, for this reason (less well known is that undertakers or, before that, midwives, would also plug the orificaes of the body to prevent leakage during the mourning rites- which in some Christian traditions could go on for days). Of course it's not hard to find a religious significance in a final 'cleansing' before the funeral (consider in the Christian faith, where it echos baptism, or the significance of washing in the Jewish and Islamic traditions, which have very rich symbolism around hygiene.)
An undertakers' practice in Britain once collected from a mortuary the corpse of a man who had succumbed to over-exertion during sex. Getting him onto the slab for preparation, they were consternated that the corpse still had an erection. This should be impossible, as the engorged blood vessels that supply an erection will drain back into the body on death. Thinking at first it was a medical students' prank, they looked closely at the corpse. it turned out that in life, the dead man had used a vacuum pump to artificially draw blood into his penis and to conserve the resultant erection, he had slipped an elastic band around the base of the shaft to prevent it subsiding. The police, the doctor certifying death, and the hospital staff, had either completely missed it or had left the band in place so the funeral directors could have a laugh too...