"Tax dodge nothing! You take one nap in a ditch in the park and they start declaring you this and that!"When a character who is alive is mistakenly believed to be dead. Quite often includes the character being shown his own death certificate. Often includes being declared Legally Dead, but isn't necessarily restricted to that. May result in a case of Attending Your Own Funeral and hearing a Premature Eulogy. Compare Faking the Dead, where the character deliberately misleads people into believing that he's dead, and No One Could Survive That, where the character incidentally creates this impression by doing something that by all rights should have killed him. Named after a statement that Mark Twain didn't actually say — but should have. Has subtropes:
— Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Futurama, addressing claims he declared himself legally dead as a tax dodge
- Disney Death: The audience witnesses an apparent death, but the character is still alive.
- No Longer with Us: The character merely went somewhere else, but this was misunderstood as an apparent euphemism for death.
- Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You: The character announces their own survival, but gets a Not Now, Kiddo response from the mourners.
- Not Too Dead to Save the Day: The survival allows the character to make a Deus ex Machina (though this one has a variant where the character stays dead).
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Anime & Manga
- Madara Uchiha/Tobi, in Naruto, since everyone in the story thought that he/they died a long time ago. Turns out to be averted in the case of Madara, who was brought Back from the Dead, but Tobi is Obito, who was crushed "to death" in Kakashi's Gaiden. He was saved (half of him, anyway) by Madara. Who was still alive for a long period of time after he was believed to be dead anyway.
- Goku seems to be written off as dead by his friends for most of the King Piccolo saga, even though there's no indication of him actually dying. He just went after the mutant that killed Krillin and Bulma already declares him killed in action, not even considering the possibility that he might still be alive.
- For that matter, King Piccolo thought the same thing after their first battle where he seemingly killed him. He was quite surprised when Goku arrived to save Tien.
- Lyon in Fairy Tail. After his supposed demise, he returns to the group very nearly invoking this trope by name.
- This happens to Luffy a few times in One Piece where after receiving a vicious Curb-Stomp Battle, his enemy thinks he's dead...until he returns to challenge them again. This happened with Crocodile...twice!
- Another instant was during Time Skip, where everyone thought the entire Straw Hat crew was dead because they had been gone for two years, not know they were actually training in secret. This gave a bunch of impostors the opportunity to take advantage of their MIA status and impersonate them, though not very well. After Sentomaru exposed the frauds, the pirates they had recruited truly thought Luffy was dead...until Sentomaru revealed that the guy the fake Luffy was threatening was the real deal, indicating that the Straw Hats were alive after all.
- Heihachi Mishima is not as dead as most people think. He shows up for the three-way brawl between himself, his son and grandson.
Heihachi: It feels good to be back. Hiding in the shadows after faking your own death is a bore. In fact it's downright tedious.Kazuya: I thought I've thrown you into the depths of Hell.Heihachi: Ha! If you thought that was enough to kill me, you are gravely mistaken.
- In V for Vendetta, V says this almost word-for-word at the end before blowing up Downing Street. It's actually Evey wearing one of V's costumes, but the idea of V has to be kept alive to keep anarchy alive.
- In Marvel 100th Anniversary Special, Vance Astro (actually Peter Quill a.k.a Starlord), mentions the trope by name after unmasking himself.
- In All You Need Is Love L isn't dead but the computer thinks he is.
- In The Miracle at Palaven, Patrus Castellus goes to Captain Ixius' family to inform them that, after 3 years of being MIA, she was officially being designated as KIA. To his immense surprise, he found her at home with her husband and children.
- In Lost and Found this goes double when a serial killer abducts John and shoots Roy. Roy survives, but John's captor tells John he died, and Roy and the others can only fear the worst for John.
- Everyone but Roy thinks John is dead in "A Season for Miracles''
- "Missing Family" has a similar thing where Roy's plane crashes and everyone but John are sure he's dead.
- Sojourn Into Silence has everyone thinking Roy died in a helicopter crash-until he's found alive 18 days later in a ravine.
- In the Starship Troopers movie, Johnny Rico's friends bring him a copy of his own death certificate, while he's still in the hospital recovering from his wounds. They all have a big laugh over it, except for Rico's Love Interest, who doesn't know the report was incorrect.
- In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne goes on a multi-year incognito journey to find himself, and when he gets back Alfred tells him he's been thought dead. It's mostly played as a throwaway joke, though, and is sorted out between scenes with no lasting complications. Alfred mentions that there have been moves to have him declared legally dead, and Bruce says it's a good thing he left everything to Alfred then.
- Everybody in Escape from New York, when meeting Snake Plissken, will say something along the lines of "I thought you were dead!".
- Plissken mutters to the Girl in the coffee store, "I am dead."
- In Sullivan's Travels, famous director Sullivan is believed to have been run over by a train and killed. It was actually a bum wearing Sullivan's shoes. He's actually in jail, but no one knows he's not dead until he finds a way to escape and make his existence public.
- The same thing was done previously to John Wayne's character in Big Jake. Eventually, Big Jake gets so annoyed, he promises to kill the next person to say it to him—who, of course, turns out to be the Big Bad...
- In Cast Away, Chuck Noland is declared dead after being stranded on a deserted island for years. They even held a funeral for him.
Chuck Noland: "You had a coffin? What was in it?"
- In My Favorite Wife, Ellen Arden returns after being shipwrecked on a Deserted Island for seven years. When she returns, her children (who do not recognize her) tell about how her their mother was drowned and mention that they put flowers on her grave every Easter. Her mother also tells her that her funeral was "Lovely—Dr. Blake preached a wonderful sermon."
- In Too Many Husbands, Bill Cardew was declared Legally Dead after a boating accident, but he was actually stuck on a Deserted Island for a year. Meanwhile, his wife marries his business partner and best friend, leading to some awkwardness when Bill returns.
- Played with in Star Trek: First Contact. "Reports of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated."
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jack Sparrow relates the (Real Life) myth of how the body of Blackbeard swam three times around a navy vessel after it'd been decapitated. As he relates this story to Blackbeard, who's alive and intact, this trope presumably applies within the PotC Verse.
- In The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, Shere Khan is shot and presumed dead early in the film. When he returns later, he reveals that he was merely Shot in the Ass.
- 7th Heaven: Chico comes home from World War I just as his wife Diane is being told he was killed. As they embrace, he says that they said he was dead, but he'll never die. It's a heartwarming moment.
- Exploited by the hero in Fury (1936). Joe is presumed dead but actually escaped the fire and explosion at the jail house which was brought on by an angry mob. He then stays in hiding to watch the townspeople get sentenced to death for his murder.
- A Bridge Too Far. Urquhart's paratroopers are quite astonished when the General turns up alive, having been holded up in a Dutch house for several days. Unfortunately things have gotten even worse since he was away.
- In Beat The Devil, Peterson and Dannreuther are pushing a broken-down car along a mountain road when it gets away from them and careens off a cliff into the sea. They are reported as dead, which surprises them when they return. Besides being funny, this is plot-relevant: Harry finds out about the uranium scheme when Rovello, believing his partner to be dead, approaches Harry and tries to get him to join.
- Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend, Finney. 'Did you see the paper?' asked Gallagher. 'They say I died!!' 'Yes, I saw it!' replied Finney. 'Where are ye callin' from?'
- In Enoch Arden, the title character returns after being shipwrecked for more than ten years to find his wife has married another man.
- In The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, Saladin Chamcha has trouble with red tape and getting his career back in order after being presumed dead in the plane crash.
- Doc Daneeka from Catch-22 is listed as dead because he was on the flight roster for a bomber that flew into a mountain. The fact that he was standing there in person, telling them he wasn't dead, failed to convince the army bureaucracy.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, when Bilbo Baggins finally returns to his house, he finds a huge crowd gathered for his estate auction. Since he had left without telling anyone, and not returned for a year, everyone in the Shire had assumed he was dead. His heirs, the Sackville-Bagginses, were rather disappointed when he turned up.
- Nicoma Cosca in the Joe Abercrombie novels has this happen many times over the course of his life, and declares it "wishful thinking on the part of my enemies."
- In John Steakley's Armor, the protagonist is the only survivor of a military unit that gets wiped out. The confusion of circumstances results in parts of the computerized record-keeping system thinking he's also dead, while other parts are aware he's alive; this, to put it mildly, does not make his life any easier.
- Honor Harrington says a variation on the line when she returns to Manticore in Ashes Of Victory. In this case, not only has she been gone for the better part of two years, but the People's Republic of Haven actually faked footage of her execution and broadcast it throughout the galaxy. This causes a lot of complications, not least of which that her estate has been divided up according to her will. Honor is less bothered by this than by certain twenty-foot-tall memorials to her. Even the Peeps thought she had died in a failed attempt to escape. But no one was going to believe that, so they claimed to have formally executed her, to put a badass face on the debacle.note
- Roughly half a decade later, Honor's best friend Michelle Henke is seemingly killed at the Battle of Solon. Turns out she actually made it off the ship and was tucked safely away in a Havenite POW camp. When the two meet again, Michelle remarks that "now we're even for that jaunt to Cerberus you took."
- In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, the Vice-Warden arranges for a false report of his brother's death.
"Is the Warden supposed to be dead?"
"Well, it's supposed so: but, mind you, I don't believe it! The evidence is very weak—mere hear-say. A wandering Jester, with a Dancing-Bear (they found their way into the Palace, one day) has been telling people he comes from Fairyland, and that the Warden died there. I wanted the Vice-Warden to question him, but, most unluckily, he and my Lady were always out walking when the Jester came round. Yes, the Warden's supposed to be dead!" And more tears trickled down the old man's cheeks.
- A footnote in one of the Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! books reveals that Cain was listed as "killed in action" and then showed up alive (and typically saving the day) so many times that the Munitorum finally gave up trying to keep track and kept him on the payroll regardless — even long past his confirmed death ... and burial with full military honors.
- Possibly as a Shout-Out to Mark Twain, one book in Animorphs sees a new alien race that according to Ax was killed off millennia ago. "Reports of their extinction may have been exaggerated" indeed, they're trying to kill us right now.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Corran Horn has been reported dead and turned up alive again so often (3 times in the five X-Wing novels he features in alone) that it has been joked that when he really dies, nobody will believe it and will assume he's just in hiding and will turn up again sooner or later.
- The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime: Christopher's father told him his mother died. Then Christopher finds all the letters she's been writing to him since she left his father.
- In Victory of Eagles, Laurence is thought dead by Temeraire after the ship he was imprisoned on is sunk by the French (a stray cannonball opened his cell, and he tried to help the crew before making it to the lifeboats with the survivors).
- Near the end of The Conformist, Marcello discovers that Lino, the man he shot as a child after he attempted to molest Marcello, is still alive, and that the obituary he read in the paper shortly after the event was erroneous.
- In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck are mistakenly thought dead until they show up at their own funeral.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, we have Lemony Snicket.
This obituary is filled with errors. Most importantly, I AM NOT DEAD.
- The Cat Who Lived High: While vacationing, Qwill's car is stolen and the driver turns up dead. The local law enforcement where the car is found, who don't know Qwill, assume the dead man is the owner of the car and issue an incorrect report. While most of Moose County is thrown into deep mourning, Arch goes to where Qwill is staying to get the cats and almost has a heart attack when he finds Qwill sitting there.
- All Things Under the Moon: Referenced. The day before the London Detective Agency goes to face a werewolf, they get into a discussion that involves quotes on death; Paul Morcey says he prefers Mark Twain's famous quote on death, and hopes to be around to say it in a few days.
- Serge, the Tim Dorsey novels' usual protagonist, is on a quest to find out the truth about his grandfather, Sergio's, death after a fiasco with rare stolen diamonds. He believes his namesake is still alive, and is actually quite right. The "dead man" in question even explains that no one bothered to check how deep the water was, he was actually standing up to his chest and watching the chaos unfold on the docks.
- This was used by Arthur Conan Doyle to implement Sherlock Holmes' infamous First Law of Resurrection example. Conveniently, in the story which was originally planned to kill Holmes off for real, Watson never actually saw Holmes die, but instead found supposedly incontrovertible evidence after the fact. So his lack of observational skills was used to explain away the originally-described-as-sheer rock face as actually being climbable by Holmes, with much of the other evidence of Holmes and Moriarty's fight at the waterfall having ended in a Mutual Kill being Holmes deliberately Faking the Dead to evade and track Moriarty's second in command.
Live Action TV
- Subverted in this Saturday Night Live segment from 2001 in which Lou Reed appeared on "Weekend Update" to confront rumors that he was dead. Reed confirmed that yes, he really was dead.
- In Smallville, Earth-2 Lionel says the trope name almost word-for-word in season 10 but it is a bit of a subversion as it isn't the "old" Lionel.
- My Family: Ben Harper gets listed in the obituary by accident.
- Fries With That?: Ben Shaw files himself as dead to get out of being beaten up. His friends quickly take advantage of this by pointing out that they don't pay dead people.
- There's an episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche's spurned boyfriend, an obituary editor, runs her obituary to get back at her. Blanche is more upset that he claimed she was 68 than being listed as dead.
- One My Two Dads episode has a typo in an obituary causing everyone to think Joey was dead. He goes along with it for a while to sell art, because Dead Artists Are Better.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Doppelgangland," in which meeting Vamp Willow causes Angel to report that Willow is dead. He then say hi to human Willow who is standing right behind him.
- In the Mash episode "The Late Captain Pierce", the U.S. Army mistakenly declares Hawkeye dead.
- In Coronation Street Jerry's father put his own obituary in the newspaper.
- The eventually-oft-killed Daniel Jackson had this happen to him in an early episode of Stargate SG-1- they hold a eulogy for him and start going through his stuff before they realize they've just been tricked into thinking he's dead. And at the beginning of season 7, he reclaims a good many items which Jonas Quinn was using... "You weren't using them" was Jonas' (understandable) explanation. He differs from most of these examples in that most of the time he actually was dead. Later on, though, his teammates get wise about it, and O'Neill outright refuses to hold a memorial service one of the latter times he gets killed, noting that he'll probably be back any time now.
- Archie Bunker was misreported as dead by the Veterans Administration for one episode of All in the Family.
- Babylon 5:
- John Sheridan was thought to be dead. "I was. I got better." He spends a long time cleaning up the consequences of this.
- Earlier in the series, Sheridan exploits the fact that Mr. Morden is officially deceased to hold him prisoner without legal justification (Garibaldi calls him on it) and interrogate him about what happened to the expedition where Sheridan's wife disappeared.
- In I Carly, Spencer is thought to be dead in an episode due to a misleading newspaper article which never explains why they presumed that. It results in Spencer's artwork being worth a lot more money, which causes him to continue the illusion.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Death of the Doctor"...well, you can guess.
The Doctor: Have you been telling people I'm dead?
- Game of Thrones.
- Happens on more than one occasion in Doctor Who:
- The Series 2 two-part finale "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" begins with a voiceover from Rose telling the viewer "this is the story of how I died." At the conclusion, it's revealed that she's actually alive and stuck in a parallel universe, but she's been declared legally dead in our universe.
- In the Series 5 finale "The Big Bang", the Doctor, Amy and Rory meet a mortally wounded version of the Doctor from 12 minutes into the future, and watch him die. Turns out he was only faking it to allow the trio to create a diversion for 12 minutes, allowing the future-Doctor to use those 12 minutes to wire up the Pandorica.
- Jonathan Doors is shot by a sniper in the pilot of Earth: Final Conflict, protecting the Taelon ambassador Da'an. Turns out, it was all a setup. The sniper was working for Doors and was shooting blanks, as was the doctor who confirmed his death. The goal was to set up La Résistance to figure out the real reason the Taelons came to Earth. A few episodes later, Doors publicly outs himself, using a similar line to this trope.
- Highlander had an episode involving an Immortal who did a lot of charity work, who was shot in a mugging and died on Anne's operating table. As Anne broke the news to his followers, he came walking down the hall.
- In one Horrible Histories sketch, as per history, a distinctly premature obituary is Alfred Nobel's inspiration for establishing his eponymous prizes (as it revealed that otherwise he would be remembered solely as the 'Merchant of Death', i.e. the inventor of dynamite). "And I will call them... Prize-amite!"
- Supernatural: Dean's "demise was exaggerated" after a shapeshifter who assumed his form was killed.
- Sleepy Hollow gives us a subversion with Brooks, who actually was dead, but was resurrected by the Big Bad to continue doing his dirty work:
Brooks: Reports of my death were...pretty much true.
- The episode "Amok Time" from Star Trek: The Original Series has this when Kirk and Spock are forced to fight to the death in some kind of Vulcan mating ritual. Spock seemingly kills Kirk (which snaps him out of a mating frenzy, don't know what that says about their relationship) and returns to the Enterprise devastated and ready to resign from Starfleet. Cue Kirk coming up behind him and asking "Don't you think you had better check with me first?". Cue Spock grabbing him and spinning him around with the biggest, goofiest smile on his face. Turns out McCoy had injected Kirk with something during a time-out that he said was to help the human Kirk compensate for Vulcan's climate, but was really to make it look like Kirk had died so Spock would win.
- One episode of Lateline has Raji really upset as the news program goes to air. He then reveals that he had just heard Buddy Hackett had died. They agree to make a quick mention on the air. When the guests respond to the quick mention by discussing their memories of Hackett, they end up turning the episode into an hour long dedication. The next episode of the news program starts with the revelation that Hackett is still alive an apology for the mistake. (The episode of the sitcom aired in 1998, five years before Buddy Hackett died for real.)
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Duet", the Cardassian war criminal Gul Darhe'el gets apprehended by the crew. But when Gul Dukat informs them that the real Darhe'el has been dead for several years, Darhe'el tries to rebut this to Major Kira, saying "I am alive! I will always be alive!!!", before breaking down and admitting he's really Marritza, one of Darhe'el's former assistants, who's impersonating him in attempt to force Cardassia into owning up to the atrocities they inflicted upon the Bajorans.
- Escape from Monkey Island starts with Elaine discovering that because she spent so much time out of the government of her islands, she was declared dead and had to get re-elected.
Elaine Marley: I'm going down to city hall to see about getting declared un-dead.Guybrush Threepwood: Won't that make you a flesh-eating zombie?
Meathook: Guybrush! I'd heard you were killed by a giant clam!Guybrush: Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.Meathook: Not to mention celebrated.Guybrush: What?Meathook: Nothing.
- In the same game:
- In Mass Effect 2, Shepard actually was dead for two years, which leads to trouble when they return to the Citadel and is picked up by the security scanners as being dead. Fortunately, a friendly C-Sec officer changes the records without making Shepard jump through all the hoops they would normally have to go through. It is mentioned that folks fake their own death fairly often as a tax dodge.
- You can also have them keep you out of the system, so to security you don't exist.
- In the first chapter of Disgaea 2 Dark Hero Axel is reported as dead (Adell and Rozalin just knocked him out), and he spends several chapters trying to convince people he's not. His own mother goes into mourning and then chews him out when he calls to reassure her, because she thinks he's an unusually cruel prankster; even after he M Cs the Coliseum battle to jumpstart his career, the newscast "lose" the footage and claims that he's an escaped asylum inmate who thinks he's Axel. Much later his producer is revealed to have been behind it all to cover up his embezzlement.
- Doctor Halsey quotes this trope in Halo: Reach. The casualty reports had listed her as K.I.A., or so Noble Team thought.
- Near the beginning of the level "Uprising" in Halo 2, the Arbiter runs into some friendly Elite forces. He's greeted with "The Arbiter! I thought he was dead!"
- In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, Spyro goes through a portal and ends up in a faraway land where dragons were thought to be extinct. He replies with "Rumors of our extinction were greatly exaggerated."
- The Fallout: New Vegas add-on, Lonesome Road adds a perk, "Thought You Died", which is basically this.
- In the main game, you can meet up with the people that were responsible for you getting shot in the head. Most of them react in shock that you're alive.
- In the backstory, this has happened to Joshua Graham five times. 1st Recon, NCR's elite sniper squad has reported five confirmed kills on him, only for him to show up alive each time. This has led to him becoming The Dreaded and when you meet him in the Honest Hearts DLC, Graham is indeed inhumanly durable and difficult to kill.
- Albert Wesker and later, Jill Valentine both fall under this trope; Wesker in Resident Evil: Code: Veronica and Jill in Resident Evil 5.
- In the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy, Irene Lew is thought to have been killed in the opening of the third game. She shows up later on and she is not very happy with her former boss trying to kill her.
Irene: Did you think that I would die that easily?
- In Spec Ops: The Line, Col. John Konrad gives an interesting inversion of this trope. As it turns out, the real Col. Konrad had taken up residence in one of Dubai's towers, and eventually, out of depression over the failure of the evacuation of Dubai's people, committed suicide. The Konrad who has been speaking to Cpt. Martin Walker was just a figment of his imagination, and the moment Walker finds Konrad's corpse, the imaginary Konrad walks up to the body and gives it a genuinely amused look, before stating with a smirk:
"Konrad": It seems that reports of my... survival... have been greatly exaggerated."
- Team Fortress 2: Whenever Scout is revived in a Mann vs. Machine map using the Re-Animator, he has this to say:
Scout: Reports of my death were BULLCRAP!!
- In "Zombies, Run!", Runner 3, Simon Lauchlan uses this phrase exactly when Runner 5 leads Runner 4, Jody Marsh, to the believed dead runner to avoid capture by the ministry.
- In the Nod campaign of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, Kane is believed dead before resurfacing a few mission later. As he himself lampshades, his enemies have a bad habit of reporting his death prematurely.
Kane: Once again, the world is quick to bury me.
- Occurs a couple of times in We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
- In the alternate timeline, a flashback implies Cyrus had the mind controlled Dialga kill DS, and she is reported dead to the other Trainers. Only when she arrives for the finale is revealed that Dialga resisted Cyrus's command long enough to imprison DS along with the other Legendaries instead.
- Later, when DS and the Lake Trio finally find Palkia, who is the only one who can help them escape from the other dimension, they discover that Palkia has been petrified, presumably having been that way since the arc began.
- Mickey's April Fools, has Mickey Mouse pretending to die in front of Mortimer as an April Fools prank. Mickey then gets a letter declaring he's inherited a million dollars, but he can't get it because he's supposed to be dead.
- In one episode of Hey Arnold!, Dino Spumoni faked his death and had this problem when he realized he couldn't get paid if he was dead.
- Homer Simpson did it to escape a day of work. It eventually led to him discovering his long-lost mother, whose own death had been greatly exaggerated decades previously by Homer's father. She then fakes her death AGAIN at the end of the episode.
- Lisa was also presumed dead at one point, owing the fact that she was supposed to be camping an ancient redwood when it got hit by lightning (which, as it turns out, was caused by the bucket she had in the tree). She refused to come clean because her "death" was inspiring the people, but finally did when it was twisted by the rich Texan guy (whose name is actually Rich Texan) into publicity for his new amusement park.
- And Bart also once had Milhouse help him fake his death on some cliff.
- In 'Simpsons Tall Tales' episode where Bart and Nelson take the roles of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the two boys can be seen lying on a rafter grinning down at the townspeople who are attending the boys' funeral. Subverted that it turns out that they really are dead; their bodies, which ended up with those looks on them, are lowered to their caskets.
- On Family Guy this happened three times. The first time with Peter, who got out of a hospital bill by writing that he was dead. The rest of the episode involved him making a deal with the Grim Reaper. The second time was when they got Quagmire out of a marriage with a psycho woman. Since her last name was also Quagmire by marriage, and she grabbed the Grim Reaper's hand (killing herself in the process), it all worked out nicely.
- The third time also involved the Grim Reaper, but he was just there, he didn't harvest. Peter, Cleveland, Joe and Quagmire all get stranded on a deserted island for quite some time, and are declared dead. Peter has to save his marriage since Brian married Lois during that time.
- In Futurama, Cubert was able to take over Planet Express because the Professor had been declared dead as a tax dodge.
Farnsworth: Tax dodge nothing! You take one nap in a ditch in the park and they start declaring you this and that!
- Dilbert had all of his benefits cut at work after spending a short period of time dead.
- An episode of South Park featured a guy being frozen for almost three years. He comes back to his wife who says that she assumed he was dead and married someone else and now had two kids, aged 8 and 15. After awhile, the guy says, "Wait, 8 and 15?".
- In Megamind, Metro Man goes so far as to fake his death before retiring to live alone. He makes a return for the finale in a spiritual sense, as it's actually Megamind using a hologram disguise, and quotes the trope name word-for-word.
- Occurs almost verbatim early in the second season of Jackie Chan Adventures, upon discovering that Shendu is very much alive and in possession of the Dark Hand's boss, Valmont:
Shendu: Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, Chan.
- Shockwave name-drops this trope in his first appearance in the third season of Transformers Prime.
- In one episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, after the titular hero was seemingly crushed in a battle with Shocker, Marko and O'hirn take advantage of it by robbing a store. When Spidey shows up to foil them, he tries to quote the trope name but fails and just tells them to tell Shocker he wants a rematch.
- This was Aang's status for half of the third season of Avatar The Last Airbender following the second season finale, where Azula killed Aang only for Katara to bring him back. While Sokka was excited to have such a stealthy advantage, Aang was initially upset that the world thought their only hope to end the war was gone forever, but eventually decided it was best that the world not know the Avatar was alive for now. Unfortunately, Azula, being the Dangerously Genre Savvy Magnificent Bastard she is, had a feeling that Aang was alive and not only had a plan to defend against the Gaang's invasion, but also make them waste their stealthy advantage.
- In An American Tail, this is what Fievel's family believes after he falls off the boat to America. With the exception of his sister, Tania, they don't even want to entertain the idea that he might be alive. Even worse, they keep missing each other due to random chances.
- The Trope Namer is Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens, who gave the trope title as a statement in response to hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal. The Journal had mistakenly reported the illness of his cousin James Ross Clemens (who wasn't actually dead, either) as Twain's own death. The original quote was:
James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, [...] is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.
- Happens sporadically to non-notable individuals; usually, this results from poor communication between a family and the funeral home (i.e., a family member incorrectly reporting that someone had died, when in fact that person is still alive although death is likely imminent). On these rare occasions, the funeral home will submit for publication to local newspapers an obituary that had been pre-written.
- On August 27, 2008, Bloomberg accidentally published a 17 page obituary regarding Steve Jobs' death. In a subsequent public appearance Jobs joked about the accident by displaying on screen, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Jobs actually died about three years later.
- A newspaper mistakenly published an obituary for Alfred Nobel, instead of his deceased brother. Nobel was shocked to see a newspaper crowing that "the merchant of death is dead" due to his invention of dynamite, and was inspired to start the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for something else. It worked.
- Britney Spears went through this at least twice:
- Her Myspace page was once hacked (or so they claim) with a fake death announcement.
- In 2001, Spears was the victim of a prank news report on radio station KEGL in Fort Worth, Texas, where the disc jockeys claimed that the then 19-year-old pop princess was killed in a car accident, and that her then-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake was also either killed or that his death was expected shortly. Outrage quickly followed, major news media quickly debunked the report and the disc jockeys responsible for the report were fired.
- In India, it's popular to bribe an official to declare a relative dead so that you can inherit his property. It has all the advantages of murder without the unpleasant messiness. Lal Bihari had this happen to him and it took him years to literally get his life back. He was awarded an Ignobel Prize for his foundation of the Association of Dead People. One tactic of Association members is to get arrested at protests, leaving the authorities to explain how dead people can be arrested.
- On June 25th, 2009, Jeff Goldblum was reported dead of a fall on a movie set in New Zealand. On June 30th, 2009, Jeff Goldblum went on The Colbert Report (on which he had made several recent appearances) to deny the (fake) reports of his death. He then subsequently caved to the evidence, (news program clips reporting his death) confirmed his own death, and gave his own "eulogy."
- In the aftermath of the demonstration on 17th November 1989 that launched the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, a rumor has spread that a student named Martin Šmíd was killed during the event. This turned to be a misinformation; a student of that name was at the demonstration, but left before the police attack began. He was interviewed on television, presumably to dispel the rumor...and the transmission started at just the wrong moment when he was saying, referring to the events of the day: "Death touched me." (In case this figure of speech doesn't translate well to English, he meant: "I was horrified.")
- Some accidental premature publishing on cnn.com revealed that CNN at least has outlines and some graphics prepared for obituaries of famous people who have yet to die, like Dick Cheney and Queen Elizabeth, in anticipation of eventually having to get one up on short notice. Notably, the Cheney one was clearly not ready, as it called him "England's favorite grandmother" - a line from Elizabeth's premature obit.
- In 1964, news bulletins widely broadcast a report that Nikita Khrushchev had died of "hecaphylphocatirosisus". Apparently, this went out when someone did not notice the notation "Can you confirm this?"
- For a complete list of premature obituaries, check out The Other Wiki.
- Although he was never officially declared to be dead, a very popular meme in the late 1960s suggested that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident around the mid 1960s and was replaced by a lookalike, which really took off in the underground media. The fact that the 'evidence' for this theory largely seemed to stem from a number of obscure and oblique 'references' on Beatles album covers and in song lyrics suggested that large quantities of drugs being ingested probably had something to do with it, but the rumours bedeviled McCartney for years no matter how many times he denied them, including a variation on the Mark Twain 'quote' above: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. If I were dead I'd be the last to know."
"I wasn't really dead." (Paul to Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live)
- A few years ago, there were a number of rumors that actress Natasha Lyonne was at death's door, due to various drug addictions. According to IMDb, she's still alive.
- A popular rumor in the 70's and 80's was that Jerry Mathers (of Leave It to Beaver fame) had been killed in Vietnam. Not only is he quite alive and still acting, he never even served in Vietnam.
- At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a rumour suddenly swept through William The Conqueror's army that Duke William had been killed. The Duke heard of this and took his helmet off so that his army could recognise his red hair. He proceeded to win the battle (in which his opponent King Harold really was killed) and complete the Norman Conquest.
- When Queen Victoria was in her final years, it was frequently reported that she had died and implied that they were just pretending she was still alive to keep her son off the throne.
- In 2008, an internet troll began circulating reports that voice actor Jerry Jewell had died in a car accident. Jewell remarks on it in the DVD commentary for Baccano! episode 9, which was being dubbed around that time: "Yes, I died in a car accident. But I had to record. That's what I'm willing to go through to get the job done." Ironic considering the anime in question, and the fact that such things happen to the characters in it regularly.
- LulzSec once placed a false story on The Sun's website claiming that Rupert Murdoch had died from a drug overdose. It was quickly removed, but still managed to be reprinted by The Times and a number of other news sites.
- Steve from Blue's Clues was surprised to hear he had died and been replaced with a lookalike. No matter how many times he said he was still alive, some people still believed he was dead.
- In describing the assessments of his medical condition once given to him by various doctors, composer Frederic Chopin commented "I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead."
- Abe Vigoda, known for his acting roles in The Godfather and Barney Miller, was wrongly reported as dead in 1982 by People magazine. Vigoda found this amusing, and had a photo published in Variety of himself sitting up in a coffin reading the mistaken issue of People. In 1987, it happened again after a reporter from Secaucus, New Jersey, mistakenly called him "the late Abe Vigoda", which once again prompted much amusement and what spawned the Running Gag about Vigoda's "dead or alive" status. Today, abevigoda.com provides real-time updates on the status of Abe Vigoda (current status: Abe Vigoda is dead as of 26th January, 2016.) When he died, many news reports had to state that this wasn't a hoax.
- IMDb once mistakenly reported that Mara Wilson (of Matilda fame) was dead. Her joking response was that they were half right.
- Tom Kenny discussed on Marc Maron's podcast how he was once reported dead, and how he thinks that something like that is more likely to happen to someone like him, who's relatively well known but not super well known like someone like George Clooney, so it takes longer to debunk. Same thing happened to Rodger Bumpass, although he himself has claimed this to be untrue. The Author Existence Failure of Eberhard Prueter, Squidward's German voice, might cause some confusion for a while.
- Jaroslav Hašek, author of The Good Soldier Švejk, summed up various accounts depicting his alleged death during his World War I captivity in Russia (and short stint as a Bolshevik commissar):
"After I returned to my home country I learnt I had been hanged three times, two times shot, and once even drawn and quartered by wild Kirgiz insurgents, near the Kale-Ishela lake. Finally, I was stabbed during a brawl by drunken sailors in an Odessa pub. The last account I deemed the most likely."
- Bob Hope was twice a victim of death rumors – once in 1998, when he was still in good health, and again in 2003, just three months prior to his actual passing – with a pre-written obituary of the entertainer accidentally published on a news web site. In the 1998 case, where his "death" was actually published on the Associated Press' web site, Hope's death was announced in the U.S. House of Representatives, broadcast live on C-SPAN (with camera shots of visibly upset legislators being shown). The 2003 obituary was published on CNN's website.
- Country music pioneer Ray Price was also a victim of the premature obituary, as many national news outlets (from Rolling Stone to the USA Today) had reported the singer's purported passing on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, from cancer … only for Price's wife, Janie, to reveal that although he was near death, he was still alive. See this link for more details. Incidentally, Price did die … approximately a day after the premature obituaries were announced online, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies ever in country music.
- In 1976, ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus appeared on German television to counter a rumour that he and his bandmates had died in a plane crash in what was then West Berlin. Needless to say, ABBA were never actually involved in a plane crash (though they did have a near miss in 1979) and all four are currently still alive.
- In some versions of this rumour, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (AKA Frida) was said to have survived, but with such severe injuries that her singing career was effectively over.
- On March 16, 2014, US Magazine reported that Wayne Knight had been killed in an auto accident. Upon hearing this, Wayne tweeted "Some of you will be glad to hear this, others strangely disappointed, but….I am alive and well!", later adding "Does someone have to DIE to trend? Geez!"
- In 2010 Tawnee Stone, a web softcore porn personality from the mid-1990s, was reported to have died in a car accident; but it was the character Tawnee Stone, not the actress who had done the scenes (and who hadn't made any new material in a long time). The producer spread the rumor to revive interest.
- In the Christmas charity livestreams for the Yogscast in 2013, Simon Lane put a photo of fellow member Alex "Parv" Parvis (also the guitarist for the band Area 11) onscreen, claimed he'd died and said that the photo was a mini-memorial. It very promptly became a meme in the form of "RIP PARV", in no small part thanks to people who believed it was true, and he came back from a gig with the band that very evening to find out he was "dead". Even after he cleared the situation up, there were people who still didn't believe he was still alive nearly seven months later.
- Similarly, Simon Lane was a victim of this himself, after some people tried to pretend he had died in order to scam money, under pretences that it would go towards a revival of Shadow of Israphel. Subsequently, his and Lewis Brindley's joint channel turned off comments for around two months, since this was the last straw (other comments had been self-promotion of small channels, spamming for reports of SOI, Moral Guardians complaining unnecessarily and so on).
- In 2009 actress Nancy Allen was reported to have died of cancer, she later came out and told the public this was untrue.
- For the longest time, the English voice of Mewtwo in Pokemon The First Movie was believed to have died in 2001. However, in 2014, the actor himself came out to put an end to all the confusion, revealing that he was still alive and that he wasn't even credited under his real name.
- Judi Dench was the object of a cruel Internet hoax in October 2015. Stories were circulated on the Internet falsely stating she had died. Most credible news reporters checked and refrained from publishing, but the story still circulated virally. Ms Dench herself has since put out an official statement to the effect that she is still, here and hopes to be present in the world for some time yet.
- Robert Anton Wilson. Who in the very early Internet days of 1994 was perplexed when people began phoning and writing to his "widow" to express condolences over her sad loss. Wilson had no idea how the rumour started, but when writing about the metaphysics of being "dead" whilst still being alive, said he really appreciated some of the nicer obituaries that were being printed. Apparently an Internet bulletin board had put it out as a joke to see who was taken in.
- In The '90s, four major Australian broadcasting stations announced the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Within an hour they realised it would have been better to have confirmed the story, as they were told in no uncertain terms the 93-year old Queen Mum was still alive. it turns out an Australian working for SKY-TV in London had walked in on a test screening of the QM's obituary, got the wrong end of the stick entirely, and rang home to Brisbane with the scoop. The local radio station put it out, and... quite a few Australians no longer work in broadcast news.
- Sometime in 2008, Miley Cyrus' website was hacked with a message saying that she was killed by a drunk driver. Presumably, she wasn't impressed. (As of 2016, she's still alive and still doing music.)
- One of the more famous examples of this trope was the rumor that John Gilchrist, who played the kid from the famous Life Cereal commercial, died from overexposure from carbon monoxide after eating Pop Rocks with Coke. The rumor was debunked and Gilchrist is still with us as of 2012, working as a director of media sales for MSG Network.
- "I was never killed by Holmes or anyone else." — Businesswoman Kate Durkee on learning that she was being counted among H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle victims, 1896.
- In the midst of a celebrity death epidemic in January 2016 that claimed David Bowie and Alan Rickman among others, someone made a deeply ridiculous article stating that The Muppets' Animal (a fictional character) had died. While the Muppet team has yet to respond to this, Snopes was quick to debunk the rumor.
- See also the fake obituary for the Pillsbury Doughboy, which was more of an excuse to write a Hurricane of Puns.
- This trope happened to Jackie Chan sometime in 2013, but it didn't take long for it to be confirmed as a hoax.