"And oft she saw the closet door,
and longed to look inside.
At last she could no more refrain,
and turned the little key,
And looked within, and fainted straight
the horrid sight to see;
For there upon the floor was blood,
and on the walls were wives,
For Bluebeard first had married them,
then cut their throats with knives."The Spear Counterpart of the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is a man who appears charming but hides a nefarious secret: he keeps marrying women and then murdering them. Unlike the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is rarely motivated by greed, though in Real Life, historically that was a fairly common motivation. Often, he just does it for kicks or as the epitome of Domestic Abuse. If he has a pattern of cheating on his current wife with the woman who will become his next wife, it's Remarried to the Mistress. Named after the famous fairy tale. Not to be confused with Red Right Hand, although the Trope Namer's beard fell under that category. Not to be confused with the character from Felidae either. Nor with Captain Colorbeard; Bluebeards usually aren't pirates. A subtrope of Murder in the Family.
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Anime and Manga
- A Lupin III episode dealt with this: a rich man married 99 women, murdered them, and encased their bodies in wax so he could preserve them. He planned to add Fujiko to his collection, but Lupin and the gang put a stop to that.
- In Shinigami Hime No Saikon, Lord Kashburn's father was one of these. Originally, he lured noblewomen with the promise of wealth, then murdered them; when the money ran out, he moved onto the servants and farmers' daughters. In the end, Kashburn killed him.
- Conwellians have this as their hat in Level E, as their Bizarre Alien Reproduction entails devouring their females and digesting them in order to fertilise their eggs. Even if they genuinely loved their mate. They destroyed their planet over a battle between a faction who were dedicated to genetically altering their species to remove this trait and a faction who thought that this was an intolerable heresy.
- Zanoba from *Mushoku Tensei ripped off his wife's head because she looked like a doll.
- Bluebeard appears in the comic book Fables, although his wife-killing days are supposedly behind him. Of course, given how Genre Savvy the characters have become over the centuries, this might be as much because no one is willing to marry him as because he's genuinely reformed.
- In the Grimm Fairy Tales version, the wife who opens the room finds what she feared: His previous wives' bodies, lots of blood, and all that. On his return, he flies into a rage, and she manages to stab him. Only then does she learn the truth. The room was enchanted, and had shown her what she feared to see. He was only looking for a wife who could trust him.
- The Haunt of Fear (one of the original 1950s comics on which Tales from the Crypt is based) had a one-off story about a woman who discovers her new husband is Bluebeard's great-great-grandson and has indeed killed off all his previous wives. Predictably, he kills her as well so she can't tell anyone.
- Emily Carroll's "A Lady's Hands are Cold," in the collection Through the Woods, draws on this legend. After an Arranged Marriage, Wife #2 finds pieces of Wife #1 hidden all over the house, then reassembles her. Wife #1 is not as grateful as one might expect.
- He-She, a one-shot Crimebuster villain, married a landlady and swindled her out of her money, all the while keeping their right, female half obscured. Once she found out, He-She killed her and stuffed her in a wall. Crimebuster even calls them a Bluebeard once he finds the body.
- The Bluebeard from the 1697 fairy tale kept murdering his wives, reasoning that they had fallen to their curiosity by opening the door he had strictly forbidden for them to open. Traditionally, the room behind the forbidden door contains the bodies of his previous wives. Earlier versions use this as a moral for women not to disobey their husbands or get too curious. In a few versions, the story itself gets inverted to serve this message: specifically, the wife successfully resists the temptation to look, and this somehow grants her power over her husband to make him do whatever she says when he returns from his trip and finds himself deprived of his excuse to kill her.
- A variation of this tale appears in many versions of "The Robber Bridegroom" by the Grimm Brothers and others. In this story, the murderer is a member of a gang of cannibalistic bandits. After he invites the potential fiancée to his house, she gets some help from the bandits' servant, an old woman who hides her behind a cask. The would-be bride then witnesses another woman being murdered and devoured, and later, the old woman helps her escape on the condition that she brings her along (presumably because the bride knows the way and the old woman doesn't). The bride brings along a ring from the victim of the murder she witnessed, and on the day of the wedding, exposes her fiancé with the evidence. The story ends with the Bridegroom and the other bandits executed.
- Fitcher's Bird is another variation — the main difference is that the bride rescues herself.
- The bride in the Child Ballad The Outlandish Knight manages to save her life. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee."
- There is a version that completely subverts the story with a Perspective Flip. Bluebeard strictly forbids his wife from entering a particular room, but when she does, she finds that the room is perfectly normal and empty. It turns out that Bluebeard simply uses the room as a private place to rest when he doesn't want to be disturbed. He's understandably pissed when he finds out that his wife entered the room when he asked her not to, and ends up divorcing her and kicking her out of the house for her lack of trust.
- Mr Fox is another version of this story, where the woman discovers the dead women and witnesses the mutilation of one of them. She presents the evidence to Fox, who flees, but then is either torn apart by villagers and their dogs or arrested, convicted in a court of law, and executed. Unusually for the trope, the title character is explicitly indicated to be at least partially motivated by greed, as he takes special interest in one victim's diamond ring.
- There is an Italian version called "Il Naso D'argento" ("The Silver Nose"). The "stranger" has a silver nose, and he is actually the Devil. The Forbidden Room is Hell, where he threw the first two disobedient wives. The wife's little sister, however, manages to save them. The "silver nose" was typically a prosthetic nose used by men who suffered from severe syphilis, which could cause one's nose to rot off. Thus, it would have been an early warning that the stranger was not very trustworthy.
Films — Animated
- Corpse Bride: Emily's fiancé Lord Barkis. He killed Emily before their wedding and took her money and family jewelry, and she became known in the underworld as the "Corpse Bride", waiting for her true love she could marry. The villain wants to do the same with one more girl, and perhaps there were more unfortunate ladies.
Films — Live-Action
- The villain in Souls for Sale marries women, takes out insurance policies on them, and kills them.
- The title character of the Charlie Chaplin film Monsieur Verdoux.
- Legendary screen cad George Sanders essays a modern-day (as in circa 1960) version of the role in Bluebeard's Ten Honeymoons.
- Played fairly straight in the early-'60s French film Landru, based upon the story of Henri Landru (see the Real Life entry below).
- There is Catherine Breillat's film version of the legend.
- The bad Richard Burton film Bluebeard (1972) ups the ante by making Bluebeard a No Swastikas Nazi Nobleman, and, for additional Squick, throwing in a dash of I Love the Dead.
- The title character of the horror movie The Stepfather marries women with children, only to slaughter them when they fall short of his expectations. He has ridiculously high standards, and so he goes through families fairly quickly.
- Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter. The film's main plot is him chasing after the children of his latest victim.
- In the original House on Haunted Hill (1959), eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is currently on his fourth wife. The first one disappeared, and the second two died of heart attacks, despite being in their 20s. At the end of the film, he frightens his fourth wife to death, but only because she was plotting to kill him for his money. It's implied that her predecessors may have been similarly interested in becoming rich young widows.
- Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door (1948), starring Michael Redgrave and Joan Bennett, combines the Bluebeard motif with a hefty helping of Hollywood Psych.
- Implied to be the case with Blue in Sucker Punch.
- Spoofed in the old Italian comedy Le Sei Mogli di Barbablu, starring the great Toto (Antonio De Curtis). Bluebeard's previous wives in this one, including a young Sophia Loren in one of her first roles, haven't actually been killed, but are being held in suspended animation, and are revived by Toto.
- A variant occurs in the 1942 grade-Z horror movie The Corpse Vanishes, starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi's character is running a scheme where high-society brides are being put into a near-death state in the midst of their weddings, then abducted, having their blood drawn to provide the raw material for a formula which is intended to keep Lugosi's wife in a state of eternal youth, and then killed. The Intrepid Reporter who investigates the case finds the bodies of several of the victims in morgue drawers when she goes poking through the villain's lair.
- The 1934 movie The Black Cat. This time, Bela Lugosi plays an ex-prisoner of war whose wife and daughter were married, then murdered by his evil rival (played by Boris Karloff.) Karloff's character was a Satanist who preserved his murdered wives and displayed them in his creepy house.
- Invoked in Batman Forever. Dick Grayson asks what's behind a door (it contains the hidden entrance to the Batcave), and Alfred replies, "Master Wayne's dead wives."
- Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt is one, although his motivation has more to do with being a misogynistic Serial Killer than it does with greed.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter has a book titled Bluebeard on the shelf by his computer, perhaps as a hint to Peter falling in love with and eventually (accidentally) killing Gwen.
- In Ex Machina, Nathan is a pioneer in designing and building lifelike A.I that can pass the Turing test and fool real humans. He uses this technology to build robotic women that he uses for his own pleasure before eventually torturing and destroying them. He even has a secret closet with wrecked prototypes in it.
- In Crimson Peak, Thomas has been married three times already and none of his wives lasted that long, although Lucille's the one who actually poisoned them. Unlike most Bluebeard stories, Thomas actually falls for his latest wife..
- The Sultan in the framing device of the Arabian Nights stories is an extreme version, except that he makes no secret about it and has his wives executed. He kills off all his wives after one night to prevent their becoming unfaithful. The stories are told by his latest wife, Scheherezade, who uses a series of Cliffhangers to keep him interested enough to delay her execution. By the time she runs out of stories, it's been years and she has birthed the Sultan several children, and he realizes he is madly in love with her.
- Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber has a "Bluebeard" retelling.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "Bluebeard".
- There's a short story called "Captain Murderer", in which the titular character keeps marrying women and, a month after the wedding, asks them to make him a pie... and when they're done making the pastry, he kills them and uses their flesh as the pie filling. He gets done in when a girl whose sister was killed by him catches on to the plot, marries him, and, just before he kills her, poisons herself. He eats her and dies from the poison.
- In The Shining, Danny recalls Bluebeard as he opens the door to a certain hotel room.
- In Which Witch?, the ghost haunting Arriman's home murdered a ridiculously long line of wives and spends his death hitting his head in grief. This is Played for Laughs when he is brought back to life and does absolutely nothing but prattle on about his wives and how he killed them for the most petty reasons (having a small, yappy dog, smelling bad, eating too much, etc). The protagonists eventually are rid of him by hooking him up with Madame Olympia, who was infamous for murdering her husbands. After the two run off, there's speculation as to which will off the other first.
- Lord Laphroig of Terry Brooks' A Princess of Landover. Like Henry VIII, it was in order to produce a male heir. (And then he killed the heir and his mother when he found a better match in the daughter of the king.)
- In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, the stepfather murdered his stepdaughter after her mother had left her all the money; it turned out he had murdered the mother as well, and a fair number of earlier brides.
- A Song of Ice and Fire gives us many reasons to ask questions before marriage:
- Not that King Maegor "the Cruel" Targaryen allowed his six brides many questions back in the day. Of those six, however, "only" three wound up dying, one possibly not by his hand. However, the spirit of the trope was very much alive and well.
- The trope is downplayed by House Bolton, which goes through wives (and other... sources of entertainment) at a very alarming rate. Ramsay has killed only one and severely domestically abused the other — although it's pretty plain he'd probably increase the number of horribly dead wives, given the chance. He's hardly secretive about it, either. However, his father has gone through two wives under mysterious circumstances, as well. House Bolton has, from time to time, had this reputation for centuries. Increasingly while reading, you suspect it's not been without cause. And, probably, played rather straighter for some than others.
- Gregor Clegane doesn't have any known offspring, legitimate or otherwise. That's because his wives (and other partners) tend to die before they have a chance to either conceive or give birth thanks to horrific Domestic Abuse and his general For the Evulz tendencies. It is known that he's been married a few times (certainly twice). The problem is, none of his wives ever gets given a name. Nor is anybody, even in-universe, quite sure how many times he has actually been married. Even his brother doesn't know: not that Sandor would have bothered to keep track, anyway. He knows what his brother is like... all too well.
- Cregan Karstark has, like Gregor and Roose above, had two wives for (presumably) political reasons. Both are also rather suspiciously dead without any children having had the chance to occur. He was planning on a third wife (his cousin)... except she made a break for it and put a spanner in that plan of his and his father's. Even describing this trope as one of her major reasons why she's wild about the idea of Taking A Third Option, as she quite honestly assumes that she'd also wind up "accidentally" dying. With the caveat on it being most likely contingent on her having produced at least one male heir for Karhold to solidify his hold on her claim to the title and place.
- The Reynard Cycle: Gaspard, the reputably insane Count of Lorn has married, and suspiciously lost, three wives. This trope is one possible explanation for this. (The other is that the wives are being assassinated by the Count's younger brother, who wishes to inherit the family title.)
- The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is a retelling of a Bluebeard-type story. Rhea, a miller's daughter, is claimed by a local lord and sent to live at his house, where he sets her deceptive tasks with a fearful penalty for failing them. In this version, he is a sorcerer, and what he did to his previous six wives wasn't anything as simple as murder.
- Ul Vas in Swords of Mars is the evil ruler of Ombra who changes consorts very frequently. He has his men scour their world in search of the most beautiful women to be his newest wife and, once he finds one, he disposes of the previous one to make room for her replacement. His current wife Ozara begs John Carter to help escape her fate.
- According to Dave Barry Slept Here, Henry VIII "could barely get through a day without beheading a wife," sometimes during the wedding ceremony itself.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's episode "Ted", Ted is an android who kills his spouses — and is Buffy's mother's newest boyfriend. Perhaps he just stuck them in the closet and left them, since his goal was to bring his creator's wife back.
- A Fractured Fairytale show put a twist on this trope — the Bluebeard sold his wives' souls to the devil, to represent the Seven Deadly Sins. In the end, his seventh wife catches him in his own trap.
- Game of Thrones: Ramsay has a penchant for killing lovers who bore him, as Myranda is pleased to explain and enumerate for Sansa.
- Naturally, shows up on Tales from the Crypt, with the expected comeuppance: his now-dead wives lure him to their graveyard, declaring they can't live... or die... without him.
- Domestic Abuser Michael Dobson, played by Larry Miller on Law & Order, had his wives killed by hitmen on two separate occasions for the insurance money.
- In one episode of The Closer they encounter a man who is in the habit of marrying Japanese women and killing them. When he's discovered he's already killed two wives (plus his four-year-old daughter from the second marriage) and has a new girlfriend, who claims he saved her and her son from her abusive husband back in Japan.
- One of the killers whose statue is displayed in The Twilight Zone episode "The New Exhibit."
- Played for laughs with the character Dr. Mickhead from the series Scrubs. He's suspected of murdering his wife, and it's an Open Secret amongst the Sacred Heart staff, and several scenes has him attempting to hide evidence(including giving a hammer to JD's then-girlfriend for safekeeping) before getting carted off in handcuffs.
- An episode of Grimm was based on this story, although he wasn't killing them, but keeping them for breeding.
- Joanna Newsom's "Go Long" is a version of "Bluebeard".
- Lady Ga Ga's boyfriend in the video for "Paparazzi" is implied to be one.
- The traditional ballad "False Sir John" is about one wife-killer.
- The seventh track of Sound Horizon's album Märchen, "Aoki Hakushaku no Shiro" (meaning "the blue earl's castle"), deals with this story.
- Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle is a Freudian re-examination of the story. His castle is his subconscious, and Judith (wife #4) is casting light on his past by opening up every door with him, hand in hand. It doesn't end well...
- Offenbach also wrote an opera on this story.
- Modesty Blaise fought one of these in The Bluebeard Affair.
- On a singles cruise, a woman meets a handsome older man. She talks to him, and they're hitting it off, when the man mentions he's a widower.
Woman: Oh, you are?Man: Yes, I've had three wives, and they all died.Woman: Oh, what happened?Man: Well, the first one... she ate poisoned mushrooms.Woman: Really?Man: Yes, and the second one... really tragic, she also ate poisoned mushrooms.Woman: My goodness! What about the third one?Man: Well, she was strangled to death.Woman: Strangled! What happened?Man: She wouldn't eat the mushrooms.
- A limerick by Ogden Nash:
An elderly bride of Port Jervis
Was quite understandably nervous
Since her apple-cheeked groom
With three wives in the tomb
Kept insuring her during the service!
- The folkloric Bluebeard rules one of the realms in the Ravenloft campaign setting.
- There is also the nosferatu darklord of Valachan, who frequently marries young beautiful women; however, no matter his original intentions, his tailor-made curse invariably makes him more and more mistrustful of his current bride each day, until he snaps and kills them in a paranoid rage. None of his brides survived to see their first anniversary so far.
- Nikolai Belinski, the Russian soldier in Nazi Zombies, has murdered at least five of his wives. Some of his weapon pickup quotes have him remarking on how it's the same one he shot one of them with. It is intentionally Played for Laughs. However, Gorod Krovi reveals that he had only one wife, and her loss in an aird raid pained him so much that he began drinking to try and forget her.
- Zoltan Carnovasch from the first Phantasmagoria was made for this trope, with Don almost following in his footsteps.
- The freeware Doom-engine game Judith, in which a series of flashbacks of a wife finding a secret room in her husband's castle with a torture victim inside and the subsequent mercy-killing of the victim leads to the wife encountering a particularly haunting version of this trope.
- A popular strategy in Crusader Kings II is "Bluebearding" - marrying women for their dowries and high birth, assassinating them, and repeating the process. Despite the otherwise good AI, the Villain Protagonist will suffer no repercussions for his actions, unlike most of the evil strategies in the game.
- This is often removed by GameMods, however, on the grounds of historical accuracy.
- The actual Bluebeard - the one from the fairy tale - appears in the bonus chapter of the eighth installment of the Dark Parables. His reason for killing his wives is a little different this time.
- In The Premature Burial, the third game in the Dark Tales series, the villain is this. It's known that his current wife died very recently and very suddenly, and those who love her are suspicious because his previous wife died in similar circumstances. And in the bonus chapter, the player learns that he had another wife who died that way as well. All three of them were buried alive!
- Bruno the Bandit tries this as one of his many schemes in Old Money. Too bad his new "beloved" turns out to be not just an old rich woman, but also the Black Widow.
- The Order of the Stick:
- General Tarquin has had nine wives: while we know that he simply divorced the first one (Elan and Nale's mother), the ninth recently died 'of mysterious circumstances'. It also turns out that some of his former wives were convinced to marry him through brutal torture. It's also distinctly possible that when he said he was going out of the way to keep from having children (he didn't want an heir), he meant he was killing his wives for getting pregnant.
- Subverted in the case of Tarquin's ninth wife, who really did die due to mysterious circumstances. She was distantly related to a certain black dragon whose family line Vaarsuvius cast the infamous Familicide spell upon.
- In Code Monkeys, Gameavision head honcho Larrity has had seven wives, all of which have died under mysterious circumstances. Added to the creepiness factor is that he has several of them stuffed and on display in either his office or his vault.
- In The Venture Bros., Baron Ünderbheit has the heads of his seven ex-wives mounted on his dining room wall.
- Sideshow Bob briefly became one in The Simpsons episode "Black Widower", planning to kill Selma after he married her for her money (which she had gained from buying stock in a mace company). He might have succeeded if not for Bart...
- Also, one of the unnamed men in "Regarding Margie".
- "Bluebeard" is the official FBI designation for this type of Serial Killer.
- Some believe that the fairy tale has its origins in Conomor the Cursed, known for murdering his wives as soon as they got pregnant.
- Henri Landru is an infamous Truth in Television example who was motivated by greed.
- Henry VIII, who had six wives, is often considered to be a Bluebeard though "only" two of said wives (second wife Anne Boleyn and fifth wife Catherine Howard) got the axe, both convicted of adultery.* Two of the others (first wife Catherine of Aragon and fourth wife Anne of Cleves) were divorced, the third (Jane Seymour) died of natural causes after producing a male heir, and the last one (Catherine Parr) survived him. His reputation in this area is augmented by how he had so many other people executed over the political and religious complications involved in his High Turnover Rate of wives. In that time period Catherine of Aragon's death was attributed to him as well, with rumors of him or Anne Boleyn poisoning her, or his imprisoning her in a decrepit castle undermining her health, or even that she died of a broken heart. (Modern historians attribute her death to heart cancer.)
- Drew Peterson, a former cop from Illinois who had been married four times — to increasingly younger women, to the point that his 4th wife, whom he began dating when she was 17, was 30 years his junior — physically abused all of his wives, cheated on the 2nd wife with the woman who would become his 3rd, and cheated on her with the girl who would become his 4th. He was recently convicted of the murder of his 3rd wife and is the sole suspect in the disappearance and likely murder of his 4th. Ironically, had his 4th wife not vanished, cops would probably have never taken a second look at his 3rd wife's death, which had heretofore been believed to be an accidental drowning.
- Robert Weeks. In 1968, his wife Patricia disappeared after a dinner date in which they were to hash out the terms of their divorce. Her car was later found abandoned at a local shopping mall. In 1980, his girlfriend Cynthia Jabour disappeared after a dinner date in which she intended to break off the relationship. Her car was found abandoned in a casino parking lot. Three guesses what happened to his next girlfriend, Carol Ann Riley. In April 1988, Weeks was convicted of murdering Patricia and Cynthia, even though no trace of them, Carol Ann, or his male business partner (who had apparently discovered his unscrupulous business dealings) was ever found.
- John David Smith's first and second wives disappeared without a trace. Each had complained that he was abusive and controlling and each was planning to file for divorce. While his first wife's remains were eventually found and he was convicted of her murder, his second wife's whereabouts are still unknown.
- So called "dowry deaths" are still pretty common in certain parts of India, although dowry has officially been prohibited since 1961.
- H.H. Holmes, born Henry Muddgett was one of America's first known and prolific serial killers and was even called "The Modern Bluebeard" by the press of the day. Curiously, however, Holmes was actually an inversion of the trope because despite being in the exact situations as his victims, he never murdered any of the three women he properly married. Instead he would kill his secretaries, female lodgers and random wealthy-seeming women he would lure back to his massive Chicago home (which had been specifically engineered as a massive death trap/torture dungeon/mad science lab.