There is something creepy about people in jars. Jarring
So just like most everything else people find creepy for various reasons, writers like putting people in jars. Experimentation, containment, study, incubation
, medical reasons or just plain old sucking out their Life Force
. Some writers just love putting people in jars, and especially love comparing them to insects or pickled specimens.
The people themselves are almost always alive, but unconscious.
If these are being used to make better soldiers
, it's often easy to tell when they're at full power, as it's quite common for the specimen to break out and start killing everyone
Oh, call them pods, tanks, containment units or chambers all you like. These are people in jars.
If the goal is specifically to extract some resource from the people, it's a form of Human Resources
Compare Brain in a Jar
, Soul Jar
, Crystal Prison
and Girl in a Box
, a gender-specific form of this trope. See Uncanny Valley
for the audience's reaction.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- B't X: Metal Face was in one after his big fight with Teppei.
- Chrono Crusade: In a flashback, Rosette tries to scare her brother Joshua away from joining the order by warning him that they'll conduct experiments on him, and he's "gonna end up pickled in formaldehyde!" The anime shows a scene in her imagination of Joshua floating naked in a jar while a Mad Scientist looks on with a creepy grin. There was also the other five Apostles that the Sinners kept in jars, and the clone of Azmaria's foster father's wife.
- Dragon Ball Z: Any Saiyan that ends up hurt gets put in one to heal much faster than they normally would.
- Anyone under Frieza's command gets put into a healing tank to recover; even Frieza himself gets this treatment.
- Durarara!!!!...sort of. Celty's head is kept in a little people jar.
- Elementalors: Asami is put in a tank as a form of being Brainwashed.
- Ergo Proxy: It turns out that the humans who survived the ecological collapse were modified humans left behind and grown from the cells of "proxies," creatures at the heart of each city, meaning everyone probably started this way. The proxies themselves, or at least the one from Romdeau, were kept in people jars as well.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: The anime has the chimera clone of Tucker's dead daughter Nina.
- G Gundam: In the Shinjuku arc, after snapping from some odd Mind Control Rain finds herself in a lair containing several people in jars like this, who happen to be the crewmates of other Gundam Fighters (Chibidee's Four Girl Ensemble, Argo's jailer Natasha, Sai Saici's tutors Keiun and Zuisen, and George's Battle Butler Raymond). She has to free them from their collective Convenient Coma before they're forcefully infected with the DG Cells.
- Later, an injured Allenby Beardsley is briefly kept in a "jar" before she's Brainwashed into fighting Domon and Rain in the Rantao Island Battle Royale
- Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny: Several characters were grown in jars. They all have issues.
- Guyver: Plenty of unfinished Zoanoids hanging out in jars... and one of the few instances where you actually see someone leaving one of the jars without someone having to smash said jar first.
- Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite: In Episode 11 Taro finds Mariel stored in a jar of liquid in an underground room.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn! has Mukuro chained in a jar after certain plot points.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: The dead body of Fate Testarossa's older sister Alicia or better said, the girl Fate was cloned from is kept in a jar. Also, in StrikerS, there are scores of said girls in Scaglietti's lair, which are revealed to be his illegally-created minions, and some broken People Jars in his abandoned labs; this has something to do with the forbidden research of the first season, as well as its presumed-dead Big Bad.
- Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch: Noel and Coco are imprisoned in underwater fish tanks. Gackto also wants to trap the girls in this.
- Naruto: Orochimaru's bases often have people in jars in them as experiments. A more recent one is Suigetsu, who is released by Sasuke to join him.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: With mindless clones of Rei grown as substitute Eva pilots, first encountered in one of the most Squick-inducing scenes in the entire series.
- It's implied that there is a similar tank full of Kaworu clones, as Units 05-13 use Kaworu-powered dummy plugs.
- "Implied"? In the manga, we see the original in a jar.
- Outlaw Star: Spaceship Girl Melfina, climbed into a tank naked to provide special navigation.
- Scrapped Princess: Lord Renard planned to used followers from the Browning Church to power a Wave Motion Gun to annihilate the city of St. Grendel, home to the Church of Mauser. He himself is actually a Mauser inquisitor, and promptly leaves them all for dead when he finds out that Pacifica and her party are in the area.
- Tales of Symphonia OVA: The Asgard ranch had these.
- Tenchi Muyo! OAV: Ryoko ends up put in one of these via Big Bad Kagato. Washu had been in hers for quite a while, too.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Former Big Bad Lordgenome is revived as a "biological computer" after the Time Skip, which means he's now living life as a Futurama-style head in a jar. This was also his Heel-Face Turn, as he started relaying truth and Techno Babble about the Anti-Spirals and the series' backstory. In the very end, he does get his body back, and goes out in a blaze of glory.
- To Aru Majutsu no Index: Aleister Crowley floats upside-down in one, having his entire body save his consciousness rely entirely on machinery. In Volume 22 of the novels, however, it's revealed that he may be capable of omnipresence, appearing before Fiamma of the Right to defeat him while simultaneously still being in his People Jar.
- ∀ Gundam: Several Moonrace people are kept in jars and in suspended animation. IIRC, two of them are Queen Dianna and Teteth Halleh's mother Linda.
- Wolf's Rain: Cheza was in a jar being studied by Cher Degre before she got busted out by Darcia. In this case, she's not being imprisoned — just studied and kept alive. The second time she gets put in a jar, it follows the trope much more closely because 1) she's been forcibly taken, 2) her most zealous bodyguard Kiba has also been locked in a nearby jar and is having his blood drained out, and 3) Jagara and her guests are drinking WOLF BLOOD in front of her, which may or may not be Kiba's. Did I mention that spilled wolf's blood in general triggers Cheza's scream reflex?
- Yu-Gi-Oh! R: Subverted. The lab in Kaiba Corp's basement is meant for testing holographic projectors, so none of the monsters floating inside the glass tubes are real. There is an actual person in one of the tubes, but he put himself in there as a practical joke and can easily let himself back out.
- YuYu Hakusho: After being cut in half, Hiei is put in a tank to heal.
- ''Noein' (Mou hitori no kimi e): The people from the possible future tried to put Haruka in a people jar.
- Trigun: In the manga version of the SEE Ds flashback, after the crew studied Tessla so extensively that they gave her cancer and she died, they dissected her corpse and left it floating in a giant jar. Where Vash and Knives found it, some years later, prompting cute little Knives' Face-Heel Turn and determination to Kill All Humans.
- Plus all the normal plants live in big glass bulbs and produce goods and energy. They're not human, but they are people.
- Manga Knives recovers in one. Comes out naked. Does not seem to care.
- The all-too-brief "Stealing Thunder" arc of Justice Society of America had the entire metahuman community put in jars, with a few exceptions—mostly escapees and specific heroes that he needed for his own purposes. This was achieved by taking over the mind of Johnny Thunder and recalling the Thunderbolt genie from Jakeem Thunder.
- The Far Side had quite a few of the "humans are bugs" variety. One involved an alien lab tech getting scolded by his mentor for putting "two incompatible species in the Earth Terrarium", panning to a tiny human in a terrarium getting mauled by a tiny bear. Another one has one giant alien reminding the other to poke holes in the jar.
- Then there was the incidents with the Hatfields and McCoys being put in the same jar, and On The Sixth Day, when God was adding Humans to his recipe for Earth, Jerks in a spice jar.
- And the one where a boy liberates a genie and uses his first two wishes to put his parents in jars. The third wish is just the icing on the cake.
- In Hellboy: The Conqueror Worm, the hollow mountain under Hunte Castle is full of grotesque homunculi in jars, left behind by Those Wacky Nazis and their experiments.
- Abe Sapien's origin story was that he was found by workers underneath a hospital in Washington DC, floating in a suspended animation tank with a note that had the date of Abraham Lincoln's assassination and the word icthyos sapien.
- In Scott Pilgrim, Ramona's 7th evil ex, Gideon has some sort of big spaceship thing, in which he keeps his OWN 7 evil exes frozen in tubes, awaiting the day they will go out with him.
- Young Clark Kent from the Elseworlds Superman: Secret Identities after being captured by the American Government wakes up floating in one and surrounded by dozens of similar jars containing the murdered victims of others from infants to adults that the government had captured and experimented on.
- Tamers Forever Series: In the Apex, the core of the four Quadrants. There's the first five failed Takato bodies, a spot for the sixth one: Takato Matsuki, the seventh one: Gabrielle/Takako, and a spot for the eighth one: Takato Tachikawa
- Rise of the Galeforces, naturally, showcases cloned Supers from the Golden Era in these, particularly in the first two parts.
- Thunderstorm of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series plays with this - there are several people in one jar.
- In Human Curiosity, it turns out that the HCS was "killing" nations by shutting off their healing abilities, shooting them up with deadly poison, and freezing them into stasis in a pod. It's revealed later that the only reason they bothered preserving them instead of killing the nations outright is that they were afraid doing so would somehow hurt the people living in the nations.
- The Empire Strikes Back: In a less squicky moment, Luke Skywalker recovers from ice monster injuries and near hypothermia in a bacta tank.
- The Expanded Universe and prequels had clones in jars. On Kamino, the cloned fetuses are grown in pods filled with nutrients. Pretty creepy, but even worse is the part about the clones' training: "If clones showed any signs of abnormality, they often mysteriously disappeared in the late hours of night. This was the case of a batch of young clones whose vision was not 100% perfect."
- Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite could be seen as a variation of the trope.
- The Film of the Book Starship Troopers puts the protagonist into a jar while a surgical robot fixes a large gash in his leg.
- The Fifth Element reconstructed the rest of Leeloo around her hand. Later, the heroes are shown recuperating in the said jar.
- The X-Men Origins: Wolverine had this. Colonel Stryker collected mutants in glass tanks, where they stayed naked in suspended animation and covered in white powder. Stryker's own son was one of these.
- Alien: Resurrection: Various Ripley clones, in jars. Since the Ripleys in question are the least successful of a batch of alien hybrids, this is stretching the definition of "people" quite a bit.
- Used beneficially in Hellboy, where Abe is placed in a water-filled glass tube to recuperate after being injured by Samael. Due to his fishy nature it was probably more comfortable and useful than putting him on a hospital bed—although it's not clear how he was supposed to get out again.
- The Matrix: Humans are kept in jars and used as batteries for the machines.
- Blade Trinity featured a warehouse, one of many, where brain dead people were kept in storage within what at best described as giant, airtight ziplock bag for backup food supply.
- This actually was already in Cut Content of the first movie in the series.
- The Spacing Guild navigators in Dune were essentially mutated ex-humans in jars.
- Spoilerific movie example: The Prestige ends with the revelation that the main character has been cloning himself with Tesla's machine each night, before arranging for the original to die in the water-tanks stored below the stage.
- In the 1976 book and 1978 movie Coma, Robin Cook managed to come up with something even creepier than people in jars: rooms full of people in artificially-induced comas, suspended from the ceiling by wires to keep them from developing bedsores, used as raw material for organ transplants.
- In Parts The Clonus Horror, clones are stuffed into giant plastic bags before being shipped to America.
- Not jars precisely, but those convicted of "future murders" in Minority Report are kept in an artificially induced coma in a warehouse-like facility.
- The precogs themselves, who float/are submerged in a pool of pale liquid...
- The Perfume movie shows Jean-Baptiste Grenouille dipping a woman in a vat full of molten grease in a failed effort to extract her scent.
- The pickled fetuses with the eponymous deformity in The Devil's Backbone. Oddly, the doctor who keeps these curiosities is a good guy.
- There's a bizarrely funny scene in Bride of Frankenstein where Dr. Praetorius shows off his work in creating life— little people (and a mermaid— "an experiment with seaweed"— in jars. In an FX shot that's damned impressive for 1935, when one of them climbs out of his jar Praetorius picks him up with tweezers and puts him back where he belongs.
- In Unrest, a large tank of formaldehyde is used to hold an autopsy lab's cadavers between med students' dissection exercises. This being a horror movie, some living people get dunked, too.
- Messing with Dead People Jars started the whole brain-eating incident in Return of the Living Dead, when two employees of a medical-supply company carelessly rupture a zombie's containment tank.
- A version of this◊ is used to store the humans being harvested for blood in Daybreakers.
- Combined with Brain in a Jar in The Whisperer in Darkness (2011). The bodies are stored separately in a cave which the protagonist later enters, horrified to find the headless corpse plugged into tubes and twitching as if still alive.
- Batman & Robin. Mr. Freeze's wife suffers from a fatal disease called Mac Gregor's Syndrome. He keeps her in suspended animation in a liquid-filled tube while he works on a cure.
- They Saved Hitlers Brain - actually, his entire live, sentient head. Clearly an influence on Futurama.
- In The City of Gold and Lead (The Tripods novels by John Christopher), the narrator wonders why no women are seen in the Tripod city. Then his Master takes him to a place were human females are kept preserved like butterflies.
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. While investigating the crashed Pass Christian saucer, the heroes discover giant tanks containing living human beings in suspended animation (but not frozen).
- Anne McCaffrey, in The Ship Who Sang and related books has "shell people", who are placed in containers as infants and essentially become cyborgs, many becoming spaceships (one book has a shell person as a sentient city). In fairness, this is only done with infants with severe birth defects and does give a much better quality of life than said birth defects would normally allow the child to have.
- There is one -one- case of a girl about the age of ten (If I remember correctly) going through the process of her own free will. She does fine and eventually buys a company and makes them build her a robotic body she can use, but only within her ship. And it sounds like they're working on giving her more range.
- Even in this case, she only signs up after being rendered quadriplegic by some alien disease.
- Some related stories have adult soldiers being converted into cyborg ships, again only after being severely injured in the line of duty. In general the world seems to consider it better than being extensively paralyzed, and it's treated as an extensive prosthetic option.
- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World had the human race conditioning each member of the species by birthing them in jars. Some jars were induced with alcohol and others violently shaken so as to cause the embryo to experience arrested development — so as to make the individual more suitable to the mundane task to which it had been predestined.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, human clones were grown in "Spaarti cylinders", which were more or less People Jars. It was generally accepted that it took three to five years or a year at the very most to grow a trained, battle-ready clone whose life sucked immeasurably; any less than than a year and the clone tended to be unstable and develop Clone Madness, though if a ysalamiri was nearby the process could be shortened to under thirty days. In the Hand of Thrawn duology Luke and Mara find a clone of Thrawn floating in a cylinder under a base. After Attack of the Clones came out, things were retconned a little - the Republic and the early Empire used Kaminoan-style clones which needed about ten years of raising, and as time wore on they were replaced by quicker-growing Spaarti clones and, eventually, normal recruits.
- Galaxy of Fear: Ghost of the Jedi features a morgue full of bodies in cryogenic tanks. Turns out they're alive in stasis. Their Life Energy has been siphoned away for study, but it can be put back.
- In Glenn Kleier's The Last Day, the Negev laboratory keeps its augmented human prototype (and the control copy) suspended in a clear glass tube, while innumerable tubes and cables enter from above to attach to her skull (to feed her information) and abdomen (to feed her.) The control copy is only attached to feeding tube, with no augmentations. Neither unit had ever existed outside the tube until the meteor hit...
- Sylvia Plath used this trope metaphorically in The Bell Jar to describe alienation.
- Used and subverted in Frank Herbert's Dune universe, in which genetic clones (and other creatures) are grown in 'Axolotl tanks'. The tanks are revealed to be 'people' as well.
- Used twice in the latest Matthew Reilly book "The Five Greatest Warriors". The first appearance is when the team's Israeli defector is handed over to Mossad. He is suspended upside down in a tank, kept alive in order to spend the rest of his life as a living trophy alongside terrorists and Nazis (at least until his friends break him out). The second use is from a Russian general who created the method, only he doesn't limit his "trophies" to just terrorists.
- The immortal emperor of the Hawkwind books by Michael Moorcock keeps himself in such a device. Even holding rare audiences from his tank.
- In the third story from the Memoirs of a Space Traveller: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy by Stanislaw Lem, there's a creepy scientist, who keeps speciments obtained by cloning experiments in such a jars. For the most part they aren't humans, but in one large tank there's a body of the scientist himself, whose clone the curent host of the laboratory turns out to be.
- In Pyramids, the embalmers of Djelibeybi preserve the dead by pickling their remains. At one point, the late king's spirit looks in on the process, and sees his own body lying rather sadly in a vat of fluid "like the last gerkin in the jar".
- In the Spatterjay series by Neal Asher, some of the mostly immortal villains are trapped in large jar prisons. These are normally filled with a non-breathable gas, but for celebrations they will be filled with oxygen and the villains will be given food.
- In Robert Westall's Break of Dark short story Sergeant Nice, aliens are seen to have some of these. Specifically, they have a set of what are described as "huge glass bottles, like in the biology lab at school"; in which are the various organs and parts of the cats and dogs and the one little girl they've vivisected. The heads of the unfortunates are still alive, set on top of each bottle.
- In the Gor novels, this is how Earth women are transported to Gor to become Gorean slavegirls. In particular, Assassin of Gor has a scene where women in jars are delivered from a transport ship, and then removed from the jars and tied up for transport by more mundane (for Gor) means to the slave kennels.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who had infected patients in tanks.
- And don't forget the Face of Boe.
- Dark Angel: Max spent some time in a jar.
- Tank people have shown up in Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Voyager. In the first, Data found a cryogenic pod containing three frozen American humans from the early 21st century; in the latter, the ship found pods containing people kidnapped from Earth in 1937. One was Amelia Earhart.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Empath", Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find the bodies of two missing researchers encased in jars. Ominiously, they then discover three empty jars labelled with their names.
- "Space Seed" shows Khan and his followers in cryogenic storage.
- Borg Maturation Chambers are seen to be this, at least for a certain stage in the humanoid growth cycle. Children (as young as newborns) are placed in People Jars until they've grown into adulthood. While inside, the assimilation process makes them more cybernetic than if they were assimilated as an adult, and feeds them more Borg programming.
- At the end of Power Rangers Dino Thunder's team-up with the Ninja Rangers, Mesogog, the current Big Bad, somehow reduces Lothor (the previous model) to a miniature figure in a jar, which he describes as "Highly collectible", referencing the show's Merchandise-Driven nature.
- Lindsey's Heel-Face Turn in Angel is caused by the discovery of people in jars for organ harvesting.
- The Visitor ships in V store thousands of encased humans in suspended animation so they can shipped to the aliens' home planet as food.
- Space: Above and Beyond featured a number of scenes (mostly flashbacks) of InVitros in the tanks they were "bred" and developed to physical maturity in.
- On Babylon 5, Lyta Alexander revealed that the Vorlons kidnapped humans, genetically engineered telepathic humans, and then grew them in jars.
- Kyle XY spends the first 16 years of his life in one of these, powering some clandestine organization's supercomputer. He hijacked their computer system after realizing that they were using his brain for war purposes and wiped out all their data. He was supposed to be disposed of, but a defector turned him loose instead. That's about where the series starts up.
- iCarly: Comedic version used for Stu Stimbler's kid in iStakeOut. "Watch me spank your daddy!"
- In the Stargate Universe episode "Space", two crew members are rescued from these.
- In the reboot of Battlestar Galactica humanoid Cylons who show signs of personality abberations are 'boxed' to quarantine them from infecting the rest of the Cylons with their abberations/ideas
- Given how experiments on humans, aliens and hybrids are common in The X-Files, this happens every now and then.
- The Frank Zappa song "Sleeping In A Jar": "It's the middle of the night and your mommy and your daddy are sleeping (...) in a jar/ the jar is under the bed."
- Battletech's Clans prize members known as Trueborn who are artificially conceived, gestated and born in growth cylinders. Conversely, Clansmen conceived and born the natural way are termed Freeborn (or Freebirths if a Trueborn is feeling particularly contemptuous) and are generally held in contempt by Clan society.
- Are we really to believe that there is a squicky trope that Warhammer 40,000 hasn't turned up to eleven at some point? No: New Space Marine Chapters are created by force-culturing gene-seed in cloned humans in jars, each of whom has to go through the agonising process of having the auxiliary organs implanted so they (the organs, not the clones) can go through their natural life-cycle and produce two Progenoids for each set implanted, doubling and testing each "generation" until there's 1000 "pure" gene-seed sets ready for implantation into the real soldiers. Naturally, this only works on pubescent children because it keys off their natural hormonal changes.
- There's also the Dark Eldar. Most of them are grown artificially, whereas having normally conceived children, the "trueborn" as they're called, is a privilege only afforded to the higher-ranking Dark Eldar nobles. This explains why the Dark Eldar are actually thriving while their good-er Craftworld cousins are a Dying Race.
- Magic: The Gathering features Ashnod's Transmogrant, which makes your creature slightly stronger...And turns them into an artifact, a.k.a. a machine.
- GURPS Bio-Tech has stats for this item.
- Paranoia. In early editions clones were created inside liquid-filled tubes, and stayed in the tubes until they grew to baby size. They were then decanted and allowed to grow up normally. In the most recent edition (Paranoia XP), clones are kept in tubes until their previous active member is killed, and are then decanted, have their previous active member's memories implanted in them and become the new active member.
- Transformers: Kiss Play: EDC Kiss Players who have failed are apparently stuffed into tubes somewhere below the base. Probably all of them were stripped naked first; Kiss Player Xiao Xiao, after being replaced by the robot-resenting shut-in and generally pathetic Atari Hitotonari, woke in one such tube. When she looked around, the surrounding tubes contained partially eaten remains of other young women. Partially eaten, you ask? Yes, by the phallic-tongued evil robots called Legion. One such was in Xiao Xiao's tube and ready to chow down. That's right — the "good guys" discarded their unwanted to the basement to be eaten alive. No wonder she jumped ship. (She and many fans.)
- Aquapets. Google it. How this toy made it into production in its original form is anyone's guess, but when someone finally asked "Does This Remind You of Anything?" a redesign was hastily commissioned.
- In Bionic Heart, we learn that Richard, the Corrupt Corporate Executive the main character works for, has captured and preserved some of the greatest minds from the last 50 years into People Jars so that he can place their brains into android Prototypes and use them for personal gain.
- From Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "your funeral", Strong Bad proposes keeping his own body preserved in a jar, "fetal-pig-style", so there will be something to resurrect during the Zombie Apocalypse.
- The end of Dead Fantasy 3 has a number of humanoid "replicants" stored in liquid-filled tubes, and it's implied that the fighting girls came from the jars.
- In the Girl Genius Steam Punk/Gaslamp Fantasy comics, Dr. Beetle, the ruler of Beetleburg, had criminals (even common thieves) sentenced to death and punished by putting them into giant glass jars. They were put up in the town square for all to see while the people inside slowly perished (presumably from heatstroke or lack of food/water and air). On the whole, the town population approved of his methods.
- In Guilded Age, the five main characters are kept in this, as the world they live in is actually a Maxtrix style video game.
- This page of Inhuman is a great illustration of People Jars.
- Narbonic: The final arc has a group of hamsters plotting to capture the world's geniuses and most creative minds and trap them in jars to power a device intended to wipe out the rest of humanity. Well, actually the rest of all sentient life on Earth. They haven't yet figured out how to fix that problem.
- In Terinu the Ferin were placed in "Power Cells" up to ten at a time to act as living fusion reactors for the Dominion. they seem to have regarded it as pleasurable though Teri would disagree.
- Happens somewhat frequently in Schlock Mercenary, though these people jars are used for medical purposes (typically regrowth - i.e. from just their head) more often than not.
- Homestuck has this.
- The Girls in Space adventure "The Pickled Past" has alien people in jars.
- In the story "The Op" of the Whateley Universe, the heroes launch a scout mission into the destroyed city, to find rooms full of horribly organic people pods. Full of women impregnated by the alien horror that has devastated the city. Things go downhill from there.
- Stillborn human fetuses, like many other types of biological specimen, have been preserved in jars, generally for the purpose of medical education and research.
- Aborted human fetuses were kept in jars by late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell. They were not used for medical research purposes. The police raided his office on a tip that suspected Gosnell of illegal distribution of prescription painkillers, when the jars were found. The Pennsylvania District Attorney said that the jars were lined on the walls like trophies.