The great love of the hero's life has died, and the hero simply cannot take the grief. Desperate to have his significant other returned to him, the character delves into things better left unlearned and discovers a way to bring the loved one back. Unfortunately, something goes horribly awry, causing them to come back wrong. The loved one's body is restored. They look like themselves. They breathe and move. But there's nothing inside. They are just a puppet. Their eyes are frighteningly empty. Whatever magic or technology used to bring them back couldn't quite finish the job and couldn't restore the essence of what they were to the body. They are no longer the woman the hero loved. Now, they are just a thing masquerading as a human being. They're not likely to hurt anyone directly, but the hero is probably going to have a serious—and quite possibly suicidal—breakdown. Many clones are depicted like this, empty without the original soul, because Science Is Bad and can't truly ''Create Life." These resurrectees are likely to become an Emotionless Girl, Extreme Doormat, or an extremely unmotivated Stoic or everything may go well (if they don't get possessed by something, that is). If they are tossed away, very likely they will become independent personalities and seek revenge on their creator/humanity. There's also P-Zombies. If it talks like a person and it acts like a person, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a person... Contrast Empty Shell and The Soulless. This is a sub-trope of Came Back Wrong. If you were looking for the Fan Fic of the same name, it's here. As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime And Manga
- Chrono Crusade:
- Aion needed the power possessed by a family, but—oops!—he just happened to kill them off while trying to recruit them to his side. How does he solve this? He gets his Evil Genius, Shader, to revive one of the children of the family. And thus, Fiore, the mysterious meido "doll" is created.
- There's another example in the manga, where Azmaria's foster father is attempting to use her healing powers to restore the soul to the soulless body of his dead wife.
- The Empty Shell subtype is played straight in the anime, where it's heavily implied that Fiore really isn't Satella's sister, she's only built in her likeness; the notion that there was something left of her in Fiore was only wishful thinking on Satella's part. In the manga, though, Fiore doth protest too much. She tells Satella that she isn't her sister, that she's just a soul made to inhabit the body... but this is after she cooked "my sister's favorite foods" for Azmaria, because "you remind me of her."
- In the first real Arc of Slayers Next, the heroes are fighting against a wizard who is conducting forbidden research into immortality. His goal, as it turns out, is to resurrect his dead girlfriend, who died when one of his experiments went awry. At the end, he actually succeeds, but she only comes back as an Empty Shell, possessing barely enough of a mind to beg him to kill her. He sets off a magical explosion that levels his mansion and kills them both, to finally bring them Together in Death. This is notably different from the original light novels, where Copy Rubia survives, though she is not the "same person" as the Rubia who died. She reappears in the final novel, where she is living happily and owns a greenhouse. Unusual in that the anime is generally Lighter and Softer than the novels.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Shou Tucker, now nothing more than a wrongly crafted chimera, goes to great length to attempt to resurrect his dead daughter Nina. He creates a chimera likeness of Nina and flip-flops between different sides to get his hands on a Philosopher's Stone to re-bind her soul to the created body. When he finally obtains one, he successfully makes Nina's new body 'live', but there is no soul to inhabit it and it is a Soulless Shell without a consciousness. Tucker, who is at this point irredeemably mad, doesn't even realize he's failed and is last seen playing with the living doll.
- There's also an early episode where an alchemist whose true-love died when he was a young man has been trying desperately to resurrect her ever since. Eventually he's able to create a new body for her, but it's really just a puppet. He doesn't understand why he can't bring her soul back. Because she isn't dead, she survived the accident but lost her beauty and was too ashamed to return to him. Tragically, the old woman tries to tell him the truth when she learns he's been trying to bring her back to life all these years, but he refuses to believe her; his true love was a beautiful young woman, not some ugly old lady.
- Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Gendo had her cloned from a combination of the remains of his beloved wife, Yui, and Lilith, the second angel. The clones that resulted from this was soulless Empty Shells, which ended up being a part of the Dummy Plug system. The clone that serves as the "real" Rei Ayanami has however, as a part of Gendo's plan to be with Yui again, been fused with the soul of Lilith. It shall be noted that this doesn't stop her from giving off Emotionless Girl vibes. And the emotions/feelings that had been built up throughout the series get somewhat reset when she dies and is replaced. Though the several-dozen Rei clones kept floating in LCL in the reserve tank all wear perpetual smiles of mindless, vapid bliss, which makes them that much creepier to behold.
- Might have been the case with Gentle Chapman from Mobile Fighter G Gundam, as after his death, he's revived as a soul-less zombie whose body is infested with DG Cells and usually just laughs maniacally; the only word he seems to speak is "Die!"
- Subverted by Schwarz Bruder, though, as he was revived similarly (dead body infused with a BIG dose of DG cells), yet he counts more as Dead Person Impersonation since Kyouji Kasshu (the Brainwashed and Crazy Seitai Unit of the Devil Gundam) used his last bits of sanity to imprint his original personality and looks in Schwarz.
- Urasue's resurrection of Kikyou in InuYasha initially created little more than an animate doll because Kikyou's soul had already been reincarnated into Kagome, preventing any of her original personality from inhabiting the body Urasue had created. Inuyasha's unwitting interference, however, allowed part of the soul to transfer back to Kikyou, upgrading her to Damaged Soul.
- In Mirai Nikki, it is revealed that a God can bring back a person to life, but only the body. The mind and soul cannot be brought back to life. As a result, all you have is an empty shell.
- After being killed by Neferpitou early in the Chimera Ant arc of Hunter × Hunter, Kite has his body is reanimated by her to use as a Training Dummy for the other ants, which would've easily been a Fate Worse Than Death if he still had his own consciousness.
- One-Eye in ElfQuest. Specifically, Leetah could restore his body to working order but not return his spirit (despite both ending up in the Palace of the High Ones eventually), leaving the Empty Shell breathing but comatose.
- The resurrection of Green Arrow required this wrinkle to be ironed out; when Hal Jordan (as Parallax) revived him, the soul chose to remain in Heaven, right up until the moment an occultist was about to transfer his own soul to the body, allowing the poor bastard and his friends to be repeatedly attacked by various demonspawn. While the body lacked a soul, thanks to Parallax, possessed Ollie's memories and personality at a time before he was stuck in the downward spiral that eventually culminated in his death. Oddly enough it's the Soulless Shell who convinces Green Arrow to merge with it and come back to life for real.
- Used to explain the reason for time traveler Trevor Fitzroy's villainy. He was a good man who died and was brought back without a soul. This apparently happens to everything Layla Miller brings back to life too.
- In [[CaptainMarVell #29 the mysterious being Eon during his mentoring of Mar-vell's change from warrior to Protector of the Universe granted the captain’s wish for the resurrection of his long deceased love interest, Una. However, she Came Back Wrong and attacked Mar-vel. Eno gives him a Be Careful What You Wish For speech. He got exactly what he wanted, his beloved returned to life. It left her without a soul.
- Eon left Una on the asteroid she was revived on. An action which came back to bite Mar-vell in the ass in issue #40 of his book
Films — Live-Action
- The film Deadly Friend has a character (BB/Samantha) that starts as an Empty Shell, but eventually morphs into a Damaged Soul, a mild quasi Monster from Beyond the Veil variant and arguably an Inhuman Human. Throw in Split Personality and you got one fucked up cookie.
- In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein it seems that's what happened to Elisabeth at first, though moments later she regains at least part of her consciousness and kills herself.
- Dan Simon's short story "The River Styx Runs Upstream" takes place in a world with widely available technological resurrection of this type.
- Khal Drogo gets resurrected as a brain-dead husk in the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, as part of a revenge ploy by an old priestess whose people he had conquered. Making this especially tragic, Daenerys was tricked into sacrificing her unborn child to pay the blood price for this; she thought she was agreeing to sacrifice Drogo's horse. Shortly thereafter, she smothers him to death with a pillow, then burns the priestess alive on Drogo's funeral pyre.
- The Inferi in Harry Potter are comparable to this, as they are indeed reanimated corpses, but lack wills of their own and are mere puppets of the Dark Wizards conjuring them.
- In Larry Niven's short story "What Good Is A Glass Dagger?", it is revealed that in the world of fading mana, Necromantic magic cannot actually bring a person back to life; all it can do is produce Empty Shells.
- Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary features an ancient burial ground. Animals that are buried here mostly come back as Soulless Shells, or sometimes, aggressive. Humans came back as horrifying monsters.
- Once upon a time Anita Blake, Animator, actually raised zombies. And Hamilton crafted a startlingly logical world wherein the dead could be animated for a brief period of time by sacrificing a life (usually a chicken or goat). To use an automotive simile: the corpse is a dead car, the hapless chicken is a battery, and Anita is the jumper cable.
- In Mortal Engines, cyborg soldiers called "Stalkers" can be made by combining a human dead body with a robotic life support system and brain. Most of them come back as Soulless Shells, with only basic robot senses and no remnants of their former personality, but some don't. By the end of the series, they are in wide use by the Green Storm and form about half their army. Casualties are high in the living parts of the aforesaid army.
- Most of the undead raised in The Death Gate Cycle end up like this- technically, their souls are still there, but have mostly separated from their bodies, with the result that they remember their lives but have only a limited ability to respond to the world around them, being able to do so only if they have a memory of a similar situation (and then, they'll usually stick to that exactly, even if the current situation no longer matches up- for example, in a battle between zombie armies, the warriors will ignore actual attacks in order to block or dodge ones they remember from battles they fought while alive- years or decades ago). Attempting to converse or make use of them is... frustrating, to say the least. However, if the reanimation spell is performed wrong, the soul only partially separates, and the result is a lazar, which is more like an insane Monster from Beyond the Veil.
- The Lifeless from Warbreaker are like this- they're zombie-like undead who possess the brains, but not souls, they had in life, meaning they can still use learned skills but lack free will or volition and will slavishly obey anyone with the authority to command them. Word Of God is that there is more of the original person in there than most people think, but generally only shows itself in extreme circumstances.
- Dracula somewhat implies this after the death of Lucy and the undead being she becomes.
- In the Jacob's Ladder Trilogy, Exalts have nanotech that can eventually repair their bodies from nearly any injury, even biological death. However, when the damage is extremely severe, the person's mind might not be recoverable. Those resurrected by their nanomachines without their minds are nothing but empty shells, and are used as Body Backup Drives by those in the opposite situation — minds preserved but bodies destroyed beyond repair. This is a recipe for angst for their living relatives; Tristen Conn, for instance, is forced to interact with the antagonist Dorcas while Dorcas is inhabiting the former body of his mind-dead daughter Sparrow.
- Jamie in the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" would fit here, though with a bit of Body Horror as well — resurrected by nanogenes that don't have a very good idea of human biology, he's creepily vacant, obsessed with finding his "mummy", and spreads said nanogenes to other people, which enslaves them to his will. His slaves are actually something of a better fit, considering that they literally have no self-motivation unless Jamie is controlling them.
- So Weird: "James Garr" features a science-y form of this: the eponymous character had been cryonically frozen because of an incurable illness. When he's thawed out a decade later and cured, James Garr is left a soulless automaton, because his body "seemed" dead, so his soul had moved on to the afterlife.
- Stargate Atlantis gives us a moment in which a swarm of nanites bring a patient back from the dead. She's perfectly fine for a bit, but then the nanites stop her heart for an extended period to effect further repairs. They also repair the brain damage she suffered when her heart stopped, erasing all her memories and reducing her to an unresponsive vegetable.
- Professor Walsh from season 4, thanks to Adam. This is spectacularly creepy. This is what vampires are described as in the Buffyverse. As she put it, "You're dead, and a demon that thinks it's you sets up shop where your soul used to be".
- This is part of the reason Angel (a vampire cursed with a soul so he can feel remorse and be tormented by his actions) doesn't go by his human name. He doesn't consider himself that person, not really. He's a demon with a soul, not a human trapped in a vampire body.
- Sayid on Lost returns from the dead "infected"-so now he can feel no emotions and kills without a second thought. His good heart eventually won out and he sacrified himself to save his friends.
- Supernatural: Sam in Season Six. Whether or not he technically died is debatable, but when he was pulled from Hell, his soul was accidentally left behind. His lack of a soul turns him into a complete sociopath, callously sacrificing people to kill more monsters, and he eventually tries to murder his surrogate father to remain that way forever.
- Fringe: A man tried to bring back a girl he was in love with by stealing her transplanted organs from their recipients. Although he succeeded (briefly), he told the FBI agents that he looked at her eyes and could tell it wasn't her, that he had created a soulless monstrosity.
- The X-Files episode "Golem" dealt with the eponymous monster, raised from the grave via Ashkenazi magic. The golem was made of mud, but made to resemble a grieving woman's dead fiancée. Eventually, she realized the golem was a soulless killer and undid the spell, reducing it to clay again.
- Invoked in the Talesfromthe Crypt episode "Doctor of Horror," where a Mad Scientist is attempting to isolate and extract an intact human soul. One of his test subjects comes back as an evil zombie, where he was a kind and conscientious man before.
- This is what happened to Sara Lance in Arrow when Laurel and Thea put her in the Lazarus Pit after she'd been dead for some time. John Constantine later performed a ritual that let them bring her soul back.
- In the Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft setting, Resurrection spells (which work flawlessly in the normal D&D settings) often result in soulless shells... if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, you get a horrible undead or demonic creature who immediately tries to kill and eat you. Either way, the resurrector gets Negative Karma points regardless of how it turned out.
- In Ars Magica, this is the closest you can come to bringing back the dead via Hermatic magic.
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
"He thought that thing... was his wife?"
- The game has Orson betraying the heroes in exchange for bringing back his wife. All it can say is "darling..." He's too insane at this point to notice though. Furthermore, if you read the Sub Text right, he may have even done the deed with her It seems to be implied that the body of the "wife" has continued to rot, or other such thing. They never show Monica up close, but when the heroes find her they are repulsed.
- Also, Emperor Vigarde. After his sudden death, his son Lyon attempts to bring him back using forbidden magic...which backfires. There's a reason he's referred to as "The Silent Emperor".
- Valygar's father in Baldur's Gate II after his mother tried to bring him back with necromancy. He was eventually forced to put both of them down after she joined him in undeath.
- Any victims of Duminuss' resurrection stitch will fit in this, because while the victims are brought back as an Soulless Shell, it is on purpose, so Duminuss can manipulate and brainwash them to do its bidding. Unfortunately, it lives in the Super Robot Wars universe which runs on the optimism scale, so this gets a combined effect with Monster from Beyond the Veil: A part of the victim's soul will still exist just so the heroes have the chance to make them Come Back Right. And they do.
- In Wild ARMS 3, Malik, a biologist-turned-villain is trying to resurrect his mother by creating clones, but knows that his creations (of which there are quite a few) are nothing without the memories of the original. However, once a tricky devil late in the story grants his wish of giving one of the clones his mother's memories, things get worse.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the various Reanimate Dead spells do this, reviving a target as a personality-less zombie with little to no dialogue. The master-level spell, Dead Thrall, is permanent and can be used multiple times on the same corpse; the lower-level spells turn the body to ash when the spell runs out or they're killed again.
- The Masked Man, Claus of Mother 3 is more or less a soulless puppet after being brought back from death or near-death through cybernetics. The other reconstructions may be seen as this, or a form of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.
- Strong in Mega Man Star Force 3, after his right-the-hell-out-of-nowhere death at the hands of Joker. He eventually goes back to normal, though.
- In Koudelka, all the trouble at the monastery started when Patrick Heyworth attempted to resurrect his murdered wife Elaine using a mix of the Emigre Manuscript and the Cauldron described in the Mabinogion. Her body is restored but not her soul, and it seems some kind of demonic spirit took her place. At the end of the game you fight her soulless body, and everything about it is appropriately horrifying (and then some).
- The sequel, Shadow Hearts, has Jack, who acquires the Emigre Manuscript and uses the flesh and blood of orphaned children in an attempt to resurrect his mother. It goes even worse than it did for Patrick; the thing that comes out of the vat kills him on the spot.
- Undertale shows that humans and monsters bear souls and their souls vanishes once they die, but having enough determination (read: will power) can let the person linger around a little longer. What happens if something is given determination but lacks a soul? The result is Flowey, a flower given sentience with Asriel's ashes and allowed him to be reborn. Flowey has a personality, but without a soul, he can't feel any positive emotions. He eventually becomes insane from the revelation and believes the only way to live is to kill others before they kill you. Even when Flowey absorbs the souls of monsters and humans and transforms into the true form of Asriel on the true ending path, he's still a nihilistic nut job that aims to erase the timeline. However, Frisk manages to save Asriel's sense of self and calms him down, revealing that Asriel was afraid of being alone again after Frisk came along because he reminded him a lot of his first friend before they died.
- In Errant Story, Ian - recently endowed with the powers of a god - attempts to resurrect his Dead Big Sister. She was an Ill Girl when he left on his quest to get his hands on magic capable of saving her, but by the time he actually gets it and returns, she's already died in a fire. Despite having been burned to death and spending months in the grave, Ian successfully raises her as a Empty Shell, but instantly realizes that even though he can restore her body, 'she' isn't in it. Then he annihilates her and flies off to pick a fight with a different religion's god.
- The first undead created in Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures were soulless shells before something happened and they gained their souls. Even after that resurrected creatures and beings can come back with damaged souls.
- In Justice League Unlimited, black magic gone horribly awry brings Solomon Grundy back from the dead (although he used to be, and still is, a zombie)... but with no human intelligence at all, just animalistic rage and vastly greater strength than he had before. One of the heroes (having bonded with Grundy previously during an Enemy Mine scenario that ended with his Heroic Sacrifice) does not take kindly to this development.
- Futurama: Bender is left in a state like this when his personality-disk is temporarily removed. He does what he's told but just keeps monotoning his factory-default phrase "I am Bender. Please insert girder".