Powers via Possession

A Stock Superpowers trope. The character gets superpowers by allowing themselves to be possessed or by channeling spirits (usually ghosts) through them, by which they can access the skills and abilities the ghosts had in life or new powers that the ghost possesses by dint of, well, being a ghost such as unearthly wailing, freezing touch, moving things around like a poltergeist.

Of course, this requires the ability to see and talk to the ghosts in the first place.

May end up with the character possessing such powers referred to as being a medium, channeler, shaman, or witch doctor.

See Also: Demonic Possession, Powers as Programs, Our Ghosts Are Different, Willing Channeler and Possession Burnout.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The core premise of Shaman King—although the protagonists are only possessed by their spirit partners at the beginning. Once the tournament actually starts, it becomes clear that every shaman worth fighting merges their spirit with one of their weapons.
  • At one point in One Piece, Luffy is force fed the shadows of 100 fallen pirates—giving him all of their skills and strengths for ten minutes. Other than now being skilled with a sword, mostly this just causes Luffy to be much bigger and stronger than usual.
    • This is also the theory held to how Devil Fruits work: they are believed to contain demons that transfer from the fruit to the eater's body giving them their power. However, if the same person eats another fruit, the two demons will fight each other and cause the eater's body to explode.
  • Kurau and other people possessed by Rynax in Kurau Phantom Memory gain numerous Rynax powers such as flight, intangibility, and the ability to disintegrate things.
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service:
    • Yata claims to be channeling the mind of an alien into an old sock puppet he wears.
    • Much of Kuro's itako powers comes from being possessed by a ghost. The ghost never interacts with him directly—it takes several issues before he even becomes aware of her existence.
  • A member of the Phantom Troupe in Hunter × Hunter can control people if he sticks them with a cell phone antenna. If he uses this on himself, he becomes faster, stronger, and more resistant to pain, because his self-possession disconnects his mind from the sensations his body feels, allowing him to surpass his body's physical limits. He doesn't like using it, though, because he will feel all the pain his body went through once the possession ends.
  • Several characters on Tokkô have "phantoms" living inside them, granting them powers such has enhanced strength and speed, Healing factors, and in some cases, Sword Beam attacks.
  • Devilman kicks off with the main character Akira becoming possessed by Amon, the most powerful and evil demon in Hell. Amon's power allows Akira to become Devilman. As long as Akira can hold onto his ability to think rationally, Amon cannot take control of him, though Akira does become stronger and more aggressive after his possession. When Akira loses his reason after his girlfriend is violently killed by an angry mob, Amon takes control of him and this becomes straight up Demonic Possession.
  • In Fairy Tail, Mirajane, Elfman, and Lisanna specialize in the use Take Over magic, which works this way but with monster souls. Elfman uses Beast Soul, Lisanna uses Animal Soul, and Mirajane uses Satan (demon) Soul.
  • An odd example from Durarara!!: Sonohara Anri is the current host of Saika, a demonic sword capable of possessing anyone it cuts, which can somehow exist "within" its current wielder. Saika grants its host a number of abilities, such as making them a Hive Queen to everyone who has been cut/possessed, as well as an Instant Expert in swordsmanship (specifically iaido, though this part is arguable; as Saika can communicate mentally with its host and said host specifically says the sword "taught" her how to fight, it's very possible it actually trained her itself). Given that there doesn't seem to be any reason the host couldn't just toss the sword into the ocean, she's keeping it of her own free will.
  • The Jinchuriki in Naruto gain an Animal Battle Aura by drawing on their Tailed Beast's power, although said beasts can attempt a Grand Theft Me on them.
  • This is how the Visored's Mask of Power functions in Bleach. The Visored have all been Hollowified (meaning that they have had a Hollow's soul inserted into their own, or an Inner Hollow has formed within them). By donning the Hollow's mask, they gain access to that Hollow's powers.
  • Occurs twice in Dragon Ball, both times to the always-getting-outmatched Vegeta. In Z, he allowed himself to be possessed by the wizard Babidi, allowing him to transform prematurely into a Super Saiyan 2. In GT, he gets possessed by the machine mutant Baby, taking him to a far higher, twisted level of power... unwillingly this time.
  • In Bleach: It turns out that this is how the entire Quincy race works. They are possessed by pieces of the original Quincy's soul, which his can distribute at will and then reabsorb at will (or after their deaths) to gain all of their skills, memories, etc.
  • In Saikin Imouto No Yousu Ga Chotto Okashiinda Ga, Mitsuki Kanzaki has no sports experience, runs really slow, and tires easily. When the ghost Hiyori Kotobuki, who was apparently an athlete in life, possesses her, she becomes an incredible athlete.
  • In a sense, the titular parasite of Baoh grants this as it transforms it's host into an armored bio-weapon with varying abilities when it's in danger.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Joey combines with a Red-Eyes Black Dragon, causing corruption, possession and powerful abilities.

    Comics 
  • In the comic Haunt, The main character is possessed by the spirit of his dead brother, and gains super powers.
  • In PS238, one of the children is a medium who can see ghosts and allow them to possess her to gain their knowledge. If the person had superpowers in life, she can get access to those as well.
  • Marvel Comics' Captain Universe is all about this trope.
  • This is Deadman's stock in trade in The DCU. Except he does the possessing.
  • In the versions of the story that make Jason Blood and Etrigan separate entities, the only "benefit" that Jason Blood gets from being Etrigan's host is sharing the demon's immortality. Any powers that he possesses as Jason are separate from Etrigan's and are the result of having centuries to improve his magical abilities.
  • The Entities in The DCU grant their hosts massive power related to the emotions they embody. Granted, with the more Obviously Evil Entities like Parallax, it's more akin to Demonic Possession since the host usually has little choice in the matter and the Entity is in the driver's seat. The only straight example of this seen so far is Ion the Willpower Entity—being respectful of the free will of others, it does not influence its hosts' thoughts or actions in any way.
    • It's unclear how much control some of the others have. It's been suggested that the Predator's (Love Entity) status as Stalking Is Love is because it's attracted to "broken" hosts (since the Sapphires see their role as being to "fix" love), but then accepts the host's own severely flawed interpretation of what love is. Nicole Morrison, the host of the Hope Entity Adara, became calm, wise, and all-forgiving, but still seemed to be Nicole Morrison.
  • In the Onslaught Reborn storyline, the Human Torch was briefly possessed by Onslaught. During this time, he spontaneously developed "flame vision".

     Fan Works 

    Film 
  • This is the premise of how the young girls become witches in The Craft. They already have some magical ability, but then try to amp things up by invoking some guy called "Manon" to possess them. The god in Wicca is not called Manon and this was made up for the film. In fact almost the whole film was made up, to the great annoyance of Wiccans in the real world.

    Literature 
  • Mortimer Lindquist reveals in The Dresden Files Book 13, Ghost Story that he has the ability to borrow the skillsets and abilities of ghosts near him and use them for his own means. Including Harry's basic magical abilities, when he calls up a simple defensive spell.
    • Harry does the same for Molly when she's surrounded by Fomor henchmen. Works especially well because Molly had been fighting them using illusions, but Harry fights with fire. After general badassery and crispy henchmen ensue, it turns sad: Molly has always crushed on Harry, and she observes that it's the closest she'll come to getting with him.
  • Kalinda in Star Trek: New Frontier has the ability to talk to and channel ghosts. In Treason, her dead brother Si Cwan possesses her, aiding in the Excalibur's search for his and Robin's newborn son. While possessed, she gains all of his fighting prowess and intellect, while Squicking Robin out (and Kalinda's other lover, Xyon). About the only person Cwan!Kally doesn't squick out is Tania Tobias, who's a little touched herself...and strikes up a relationship with Kalinda that lasts after the possession ends, to Xyon's utter dismay.
  • This is how all sorcerers and saints gain their powers in Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion novels; possession by a demon makes one a sorcerer, while possession by a god makes one a saint. Unfortunately, both will make you Blessed with Suck, since demonic possession usually leads to a Split Personality Takeover, whereas possession by a god makes you a Cosmic Plaything.
  • After being briefly possessed by F'ryan (A swordmaster) to fight off a Weapon, Karigan retains some of his skills. Later volumes in the Green Rider series have her build on that base with more conventional training.
  • Daichi has to rely on Crimson's powers in the Ro.Te.O spinoff Crimson. However, he eventually gains some powers of his own.
  • This is how Surgebinding works in The Stormlight Archive. The spren half of the pair piggybacks off the human's mind to retain sentience in the Physical Realm (spren are native to the Cognitive), and the human gets access to two of the ten Surges.
    • The listeners use a similar mechanism, bonding various spren to assume different forms in their Hive Caste System.

    Live Action TV 
  • Angel has Illyria, an ancient god in a human body.
    • In season 4, Cordelia is granted magics powerful enough to make her stand against Willow Rosenberg in a magical duel, due to her mystical possession by and pregnancy with Jasmine.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O makes a lot of use of this, as protagonist Ryotaro was originally a Non-Action Guy and originally could only manifest Den-O's most basic form. Being possessed by his Imagin partners gives him access to Den-O's multiple forms as well as their combat skills, but it often leaves him at the mercy of their capricious nature (especially with the childish Ryutaros, but the others have all had their moments).
    • It's shown later that this is all a matter of willpower; Second Rider Yuto Sakurai/Zeronos and all the movie villain Riders have sufficiently strong will that they can transform into combat-worthy forms without needing an Imagin's help. Later in the series, after Ryotaro has taken a level in badass, he has the will to manifest his own Super Mode, Liner Form.
  • Kamen Rider Ghost has a version of this, with the Riders using Eyecons, items that house the souls of legendary figures, which grants them skills or powers related to the hero they're channeling. For example, Miyamoto Musashi grants Dual Wielding skills, Robin Hood grants archery skills, and Thomas Edison grants Shock and Awe powers.
  • Power Rangers Lost Galaxy has a variation of the trope with the Magna Defender. At the end of the first season, it turns out that the Magna Defender was actually possessing Mike. The Defender sacrifices himself and saves Mike and the rest of the colony in the end, but in the second season his spirit appears to Mike and reveals that he still has the powers of the Magna Defender as a result.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), Sam is healed by having an angel possess him.
  • In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Little Problems", Xena's soul becomes trapped in a little girl's body, meaning they are both in control of it. When Xena takes over, she somehow retains her strength, speed, and agility, allowing the child to effortlessly kick the crap out of full-grown thugs while leaping 20 feet through the air.
  • Smallville:
    • When the ghosts of the evil witches Isobel, Madelyn, and Brianna possess people, they are able to use their powers.
    • The wraith prisoners of the Phantom Zone were able to use their powers when possessing people. Their host bodies seemed to gain Required Secondary Powers (Baern's human host did not suffer from radiation poisoning when Baern was removed from him). The one exception was General Zod. He required a host who already had Kryptonian powers.

    Religion 
  • Voodoo (Vaudon) magic is supposed to work this way, as the faithful are "ridden" by the loa they summon.
  • In both traditional and modern Spiritualism, voluntary possession (partial or full trance mediumship) allows spirits to continue doing things in the present world. Healer mediums invite doctors and traditional healers in. In the early days of modern Spiritualism, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others used to give abolitionist speeches this way.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The main premise of Geist: The Sin-Eaters, though honestly, it's a little more complicated than that.
  • In Hunter: The Vigil, there's an entire Conspiracy of hunters who are Willing Channelers called Les Mysteres. This gives them magical powers, but means they are typically little more than dupes of the spirits—this means they have a huge vendetta against werewolves because they don't understand that managing and controlling the spirits is necessary to avoid them turning the mortal world into one giant Dark World.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Tome of Magic introduced Binders, practitioners of "Pact Magic". These characters, though not spellcasters themselves, would conjure up entities called Vestiges and let a fragment of the things' consciousness "tag along" in exchange for supernatural abilities. Binders usually manifest tell-tale mutations or certain behavioral compulsions afterwards, which vary depending on which Vestige is involved.
    • Fourth Edition, in addition to having a variation of Binder, also applies this to Barbarians, whose main gimmick is using nature spirits to go into raging trances.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, some Chaos Space Marines voluntarily undergo Demonic Possession in exchange for power, while some of the more radical Inquisitors create Daemonhosts by binding a daemon inside a poor sap's body.
    • For the Eldar, as if losing all their personality to an aspect warrior persona (artificially created personality filled only with rage and hatred) wasn't bad enough, to protect the Craftworld infinity circuit from corruption, exarchs don armour with incorporated autonomous infinity circuit of its own. This armor hosts personalities of every exarch that wore this armor before making his body being effectively possessed by this hive mind. Even more so more ancient Phoenix Lords armor that are similar in design but also host the souls of ancient eldar heroes. Being more powerful by the order of magnitudes than an ordinary exarch they effectively take full control of the body, download all his memories and use his soul as an extra psychic power battery. Baring some monstrous psykers, exarchs and Phoenix Lords are the strongest fighters Eldar can field.
  • Fomori, from the Old World of Darkness, get powers from the fact that there is a spirit attached to their soul. Of course, that spirit is evil and tries to get you to behave accordingly, tends to warp its host physically, and, oh yeah, doesn't usually possess people with consent.
    • Rarer by far than the already less-than-common Fomori, if you don't want to be possessed by an evil spirit, there are also Kami (possessed by an uncorrupted nature spirit), Gorgons (possessed by a spirit of primal chaos), or Drones (possessed by a servant of the universal manifestation of order). All have their downsides, but they have significantly less than Fomori. Oh, and they also don't usually bother checking with prospective hosts beforehand either.
  • In Pathfinder, this is the basis of one archetypenote  for the Oracle. It's called the Possessed Oracle, and its powers are flavored as being due to the Oracle allowing spirits to cohabit their body.

    Video Games 
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is a great example. Talion is Cursed with Awesome and has his soul bound to Earth, giving him the ability to return from death. However, his soul is also bound to an Elven Wraith, Celebrimbor, who has several amazing powers he can use- but only through Talion, who is given Celebrimbor's powers to use in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Used to assist courtroom cases in the Ace Attorney series.
  • In City of Heroes', Peacebringers and Warshades get their powers from Kheldians (an alien energy-being) inhabiting their body—though this is more like a Symbiotic Posession or Merger of Souls, because the possession results in a fused personality and identity between the host and Kheldian.
  • Zappa from the Guilty Gear games probably wouldn't be anything close to a match for the other fighters if it wasn't for the fact that he's possessed by a very angry ghost. Or ghosts, depending on your interpretation.
  • Riku in Kingdom Hearts. First time you fight him (which is optional), he's Badass Normal and is mostly hard because he keeps jumping around and when you knock him down, flings back at you and it hurts. The second time you fight him (which is not optional), he is using the powers of darkness and puts up a fight before going down but isn't a hard opponent...partly because it's 3v1 in your favour. The third time you fight him, however, he becomes That One Boss because he is possessed by Xehanort's heartless. And it's not just because it's a Duel Boss...
    • Averted in the later games; however—he later learns to use these powers without being controlled.
  • The Collector General actually (just the channel for) a Reaper, Harbinger in Mass Effect 2 will often take control of one of his flunkies, transforming it from a mild inconvenience into a burning, supercharged biotic monster who will constantly advance to blast you in the face. Worst of all, it doesn't seem to take much out of him. Kill one avatar and he'll possess any surviving Collector in short order. ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL.
    • Also happens earlier, in Mass Effect 1: You kill Saren, either by making him shoot himself in the head, or shooting him to a pulp yourself. That should stop Sovereign/Nazara from using him any longer, right? Wrong. Bastard gets right back up, the cybernetics in him taking over the body (which might not have been quite entirely dead, judging by the screaming) and gives you another round of hell.
  • Variation in Phantom Brave: you get the ghosts to posses objects to access their skills, but the premise is close enough.
  • The main character of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters gains powers from being 'possessed' by Gig. Fortunately for everyone involved, Gig has no real control over the protagonist (which in return limits the amount of power the protagonist gains from the deal) and can, at worst, only be sarcastic at everybody.
  • Shrine Maidens like Reimu from the Touhou series are said to be able to do this, though it's only been seen in Silent Sinner in Blue, and with gods rather than spirits
  • This happens to Pietro's father in Popolocrois, making him into the Dark Lion King.
  • In the Dragon Age series, at least two characters gain power by allowing possession by (benevolent) spirits: Wynne in Origins was possessed by a Spirit of Faith while near death, saving her life, while Anders allows (Spirit of) Justice to possess him between Awakening and Dragon Age II. Other possessed mages you meet are mostly horribly-deformed abominations, since most possessions involve malevolent spirits, a.k.a. demons.
  • The Ashen Cult in Mage Gauntlet runs on this, using tattoos, willpower, and alignment with Uamuleth to avoid total loss of control... usually.note 
    • They return in the Gaiden Game, Wayward Souls, but you can also play as one member—Svala, the Cultist—who manages to control her demon (for the most part) without actively serving Uamuleth. Granted, she's still an Anti-Hero at best, but the other cultists (and demons) do not take kindly to her independence.
  • Professor Heisen in Die Reise Ins All gains some powers from a ghost hidden inside of a martian artifact. Very useful, as long as he is on your side, very hard, when he turns evil.
  • This is why Momohime has any ability in Muramasa: The Demon Blade - she spends most of the game possessed by a master swordsman.

    Web Comics 
  • Used in The Order of the Stick story arc where Vaarsuvius makes a Deal with the Devil to get "ultimate arcane power". This is accomplished by splicing the souls of three deceased epic wizards to his own, giving him access to their full selection of spells for as long as he can maintain the necessary concentration.
  • The Cobra Days comic (about Metal Gear Solid 3's Cobra unit) expanded Sorrow's medium power into this: getting a Ninja to possess him to take out an enemy unit.
  • Joel in Concession has spiritual powers greater than most who have them due to his sister's spirit, though which one is more in control is debatable.
    • The same now for Artie, who is channeling the spirit of his dead girlfriend.
  • Nodwick once was overrun by three intelligent weapons at once. Great carnage ensues.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court had Jack Hyland, a student good enough at things like bypassing security measures. Possession by an imaginary spider quickly made him a Mad Scientist with understanding of "ethereal sciences" on par with adult specialists in this area. And gave him stock powers growing from ethereal vision to flight. On the down side, he acted as if on heavy psychostimulants—excitable, nasty mood whiplashes, no sleep—and thus barely survived a few months of this "fun". Once he got rid of the spider, "great ideas" are gone. However, he's still rather brilliant on his own and this misadventure seems to either give or awaken at least some magical talent.
  • The protagonist of Fusion gained superpowers related to atomic fusion after becoming the host of a rather snarky alien entity. She calls him "Bob".
  • This is how mediums in Paranatural get powers.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, any character possessed by a god or other supernatural entity can use powers they normally can't. For example, this happens when Axikasha Keiran is possessed by Hephaestus, the God of Smithing, who heals her from near death and gives her the strength to fight against Nergal, the God of War, who is possessing Jacob Seneron.
  • Ghostkeeper, a Canadian hero active in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe gains the accumulated strengths and skills of his ancestors by letting their spirits possess him. Maahes and Minhit are a pair of Egyptian supervillains who both get their power from an ancient lion-spirit of bloodshed.
    • Uncle Sam, from the same setting, is the incarnated Spirit of America.
  • Seen in the Whateley Universe; the mutant "avatar" trait is all about being able to host a spirit in the mutant's body and derive power from that union. It's not even all that uncommon—the school has quite a few examples, and one of the world's premier heroes is the host of the so-called "Champion Force", an amalgamation of multiple spirits collected by a predecessor.
  • The Nostalgia Chick's best friend Nella gets these when she's taken over by a quasi-demonic, intergalactic force of evil and becomes Dark Nella.
  • This seems to be the case with Tim in Marble Hornets. When in the form of Masky, there is the implication of Offscreen Teleportation at times, along with causing audio and video distortions on film. The Masky persona also seems to induce Laser-Guided Amnesia, as he has no memory of anything that happens while acting as Masky.
  • In Obscurus Lupa and Phelous' review of Witchcraft IX, the ghost of a warlock possesses a Hooker with a Heart of Gold when she's being beaten up by her pimp. This doesn't give her magic or anything, yet allows her to beat the pimp up...somehow.
    "Being possessed by a ghost makes her stronger...I guess?"
  • In Prolecto, this is a big thing that happens to anyone possessed by Azazel. If combined with a Succubus transformation, they get even MORE powerful. The main host pretty much gets the Super Power Lottery.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Avatar joining with the Avatar Spirit gives them all the knowledge and experience of their previous incarnations, including mastery of elements they have not yet learned to use. While the Avatar will eventually learn to enter the Avatar state intentionally, until they do the Spirit may take involuntary possession of them during time of high emotion or danger.
    • Avatar Spirit also joined with the Ocean Spirit at one point, forming a watercrafted behemoth with Aang at the core.
    • In The Legend of Korra, a Lion Turtle in the backstory explains to Wan (the first Avatar) that humans cannot bend multiple elements unless they are joined with spirits like Raava. When Wan needs to wield more than one element, Raava has to merge with him to handle the extra energy. The temporary possession is too taxing on Wan's body and he risks death if he and Raava are merged for an extended period of time. During the battle with Vaatu, Wan and Raava are merged forever when Wan touches the Harmonic Convergence. This is how the Avatar Cycle began.
  • In the episode "Possession" during the first season of Beast Wars, Generation One Decepticon alumnus Starscream makes an appearance. His immortal spark, hurdling through space and time, lands smack-dab into the Predacon base during a violent storm, which Starscream shortly follows up by possessing Beast Wars' very own Butt Monkey: Waspinator. In one scene, Starscream takes Waspinator's (who is already a quick fellow to begin with) body for a spin, showing remarkable speed and agility exceeding Waspinator's normal parameters.

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