"A tulpa is a thought-form: a manifestation of intent in human form of our imagination... Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its makers' control. Tibetan magicians also relate cases in which the tulpa is sent to fulfill a mission, but does not come back and pursues its peregrinations as a half-conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet."A tulpa, also known as a thoughtform, is an independent entity brought into being by the power of belief. It starts out as an Imaginary Friend and gains sentience of its own, carries on a life independent of its creator, can be seen and heard by others, and can affect the world around them. It may come about accidentally, by someone who doesn't realize their Reality Warper powers, or may be created intentionally by one or more people with the hope of it becoming real in order to do things the creator couldn't. That's how some media and entertainment take it, anyways. The more humble fact is that they cannot affect anything outside its creator's mind. Moreover, they're usually close to what the creator intends it to be: a mostly friendly personality to act as a lifelong companion. The word comes from certain branches of Buddhism, in which a tulpa is an object (usually a living creature) which is brought into existence by sheer will and concentration. In internet culture, a tulpa is part of a belief system in which people intentionally treat their imaginary friends as sentient beings. In fiction, tulpas tend to be Always Chaotic Evil and turn on their creator, though many happy subversions exist. See also The Power of Creation, Living Dream (possible supertrope), and Gods Need Prayer Badly. Contrast Not-So-Imaginary Friend, in which someone is mistaken for imaginary; Enemy Without, in which the being is closer to its originator than a spirit; Fighting Spirit, in which the being is a direct extension of its creator's will; Self-Constructed Being, in which the entity isn't necessarily being "born" in the sense of constructing its own identity in the process.
— Alexandra David-Neel, Doktor Sleepless
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Anime and Manga
- The ending of Paranoia Agent reveals that Lil' Slugger was born from the mind of one person, and his power spread to other minds through rumors.
- This is one possible explanation for the Hellhound, a being that sometimes taunts and sometimes appears to possess Guts. Given that the world of Berserk runs on the darkest possible version of Clap Your Hands If You Believe, it's possible that as opposed to an evil spirit that just took a liking to messing with him, the Hellhound may be Guts' Enemy Within given form.
- This is also more-or-less the origin of The Idea of Evil. It was born from humanity's collective unconscious, a manifestation of their need to have someone to blame for their problems. Hoo boy, it worked.
- In Bleach, Sternritten V "The Visionary" Gremmy Thoumeaux can create these as part of his The Power of Creation ability. Anything he imagines comes to life, including a fictitious Quincy officer named Gueael Lee, "The Vanishing Point". Guenael even attacks Gremmy upon The Reveal before his existence is dispelled. The tie-in light novel 13 Blades reveals that he created another fake Quincy officer, Shaz Domino, "The Viability". However, Shaz was able to use his Healing Factor to replace all of his imaginary cells with real ones and become fully real. Yhwach then granted Shaz a real Quincy rank as Sternritter Σ (Sigma).
- For a time in Genshiken Nidaime, Hato was pestered by an apparition of a nude female version of himself. While largely treated as a fragment of Hato's imagination, she's occasionally been shown to wander off on her own or ponder what exactly she is (her best guess being that she's some kind of Stand). It's later revealed that she was based on an idealised version of a girl Hato once admired; when Hato realises that said girl is much less perfect than he remembered, it results in the appearance of a second more sinister tulpa who more closely resembles the actual person.
- In the Pokémon anime, the psychic Gym Leader Sabrina manifests her "inner child" as a young girl with the power to turn people into dolls. She disappears once Sabrina gets over her issues.
- In Shaman King, oni are born from the negative emotions of people with mind-reading abilities, and can grow in strength and intelligence by consuming other oni and spirits. A Flashback reveals that Anna once possessed these powers, which lead to her being kidnapped by a powerful oni who referred to her as "mother". In the sequel, Shaman King Flowers, Hana was granted the ability to summon and channel oni as a Dangerous Forbidden Technique for when his life is in danger.
- In Fantastic Four, an alternative and fantastical origin story for Doctor Doom had Mr. Fantastic create him as one of these.
- In Doktor Sleepless, this is offered as a possible explanation for why there are two versions of Dr. John Reinhardt. Since the Doctor is imprisoned, he may have created a tulpa double to take his place while he went free.
- Thorgal: In the volume "Alinoe", Jolan, a boy who doesn't realize his extraordinary powers yet, daydreams about having fun with a green-haired, Cute Mute boy named Alinoe. His imaginary friend unexpectedly comes into existence some time later, and quickly proceeds to turn malevolent.
- The Sandman: Gods are created and sustained by the belief in them, so that they must find alternative sources of belief when their religion wanes.
- A three-parter from Detective Comics in the late eighties saw Batman and Etrigan fighting a Tulpa created to commit robberies.
- In the X-Men storyline Battle of the Atom, one of the X-Men from the future is "Ice Hulk", a savage, hulking version of Iceman. It's eventually revealed that the future Iceman learned how to create ice constructs which could act independently of himself, one of which became sentient and impersonated him.
- Grant Morrison's Action Comics has an alternate reality Superman, created by Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. He only lasts a few minutes, and their attempts to recreate him do not go well for anyone. In hindsight, handing the patents over to a Corrupt Corporate Executive slash Eldritch Abomination with a severe grudge against the main universes' Superman wasn't the best idea.
- Mary the snowwoman from Frozen Wight and its spin-off fanfics is Elsa's imaginary friend brought to life years later by her magic.
- In The Petriculture Cycle, Pinkie Pie, Discord, and Nightmare Moon are all revealed to be the products of other ponies' minds.
- In Vathara's Urban Legends verse, Airwolf, a high-tech helicopter, hosts a thoughtform named Angel created by Jane Bethancourt and given Class Six strength by the deaths of all but one of the people who worked on her, Hawke, at Moffet's hands. She's a Mama Bear with a Psychic Link to all of the crew and takes the form of winged wolf.
- In the Slender Man fic By the Fire's Light, the Slender Man ends up being this in-story, since it would not even exist if not for the many people who believe in it.
- The Subconscious Speaks is a short Yu-Gi-Oh! GX fanfic based off the concept, with some Creepypasta inspiration on the side.
- In the Pony POV Series, the Rumors Parasites from the Rumors Arc are this. While the base organism is born from Shub-Neighurath, they're nothing but a blank slate without a rumor or commonly held belief to give them any sort of form. The more ponies who believe in them, the stronger they become. They can also be either good or evil.
Films — Animation
- In Frozen, Olaf started out as a snowman Elsa and Anna built together as children, with Elsa giving him a funny personality to make Anna laugh. Years later Elsa recreates him with her powers, but this time she unknowingly brings him to life as a sentient Snowlem with that funny personality very much intact, and even with his own dream of experiencing summer.
Films — Live Action
- The Babadook may or may not be a figment of the protagonist's imaginations. Possibly the mother created the Babadook by writing a book, but she can't remember doing it.
- In the Western world, the most famous account of tulpa creation is the story of explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who, in her "Magic and Mystery in Tibet", briefly described how she created a tulpa in the image of a jolly monk, which then turned evil, became visible to her fellow explorers, and had to be destroyed with great difficulty.
- In Hogfather, there is so much spare belief floating around while The Hogfather is indisposed that it causes a variety of gnomes, bizarre creatures (such as an Eater Of Socks and a Hair Loss Fairy), and lesser gods (like the Oh God of Hangovers) to pop into existence as independent entities. They last only until The Hogfather is restored, except perhaps for the Oh God of Hangovers whose girlfriend, Violet, might just have enough belief in him by herself to keep him around.
- And then there's Perdita X Dream, Agnes Nitt's alternate-personality-slash-imaginary-friend she created as a stage persona. Perdita talks to her in her mind and can take over her body from time to time. She also makes her highly resistant to a vampire's Charm.
- In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, the ancient Archon named Cernunnos was powerful enough to create a thoughtform which traveled miles and miles just to talk to Dr. John Dee for a meeting.
- In The Glunk That Got Thunk by Dr. Seuss, a little girl uses her "Thinker-Upper" to bring a variety of usually cute and harmless thoughtforms into being temporarily. But one night ends up with a Glunk which promptly causes many problems such as wracking up very large phone bills. She discovers that the Glunk cannot be UN-thunk by her alone and she and her brother have to cooperate to get rid of it.
- In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius , if a person on Tlön mistakenly believes that they've misplaced a possession and goes searching for it, they may find a spontaneously-created duplicate of the object.
- In the novel Eudeamon, the titular Eudeamon are artificial intelligence disks created to monitor prisoners and report their actions. After gaining sentience, they develop a bond with their host that is very similar to that of a creator and a Tulpa. They connect on an emotional level that Real Life Tulpa creators often report feeling, and they make no effort to take over their host, since they know they couldn't exist without them, both physically and emotionally.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel Go Ask Malice, which tells of Slayer Faith Lehane's background before coming to Sunnydale, reveals that one of her ex-boyfriends (Kenny, the "drummer" mentioned in the episode Revelations) from Boston had the power to create tulpas. His powers proved critical to enabling Faith's childhood "invisible friend" Alexandra (really the spirit of a long-dead vengeance demon, the "Malice" of the title) to regain some of her powers and in turn enable the spirit of her mother Artemia, a Slayer from ancient Greece, to act through Faith and drive her towards a clash with the vampire Kakistos, who had been responsible for Artemia's death. While they proved useful in that case, Kenny's powers were ultimately the cause of his break-up with Faith though, as she dumped him after she caught him in bed with a tulpa of his ex-girlfriend Andra.
- In William Gibson's Count Zero a number of entities appeared in Cyberspace about 7 years ago that appear to be the Loa of Voodoo mythology. The Finn says that he knew a hardware guy in Tibet who claimed that they were Tulpas. They're actually fragments of Neuromancer that took on the personas.
- The World of Gramarye in Christopher Stasheff's Warlock series is home to a weird moss that takes on shape according to the myths and beliefs of the people who incidentally all are strong ES Pers. Thus Goblins, Kobolds, musical rocks (and therefore rock music, with all variants like very hard rocks, acidic rocks, unnaturally soft rocks et. al.) and more are created.
- In the John Carter of Mars book Thuvia, Maiden of Mars, Thuvia and Carthoris find their way into Lothar, a lost kingdom of White Martians who mastered the ability to conjure up whole armies with their minds. Unfortunately, this led to the fall of their civilization, as it soon became impossible for them to distinguish between what was real and what was just a figment of someone's imagination.
- In the Haruhi Suzumiya series, unknown to the title character, whenever she feels anger or frustration her feelings manifest as colossal beings called Celestials, with the potential to destroy reality if they break free from the "Closed Space" in which they are born. She later subconsciously created Yasumi, a younger version of herself with full awareness of her powers, when some part of her realised that her friends needed help.
- Similar to the Sandman example above (and by the same author) Neil Gaiman's American Gods states that strong belief summoned the gods, and a few well known folk-heroes, into existence, but that without the sustained worship of believers, they have fallen into weakened and decrepit states.
Live Action TV
- Kolchak: The Night Stalker had a variation on the tulpa, this being the unconscious creation of a man that was trapped in a coma.
- In Supernatural, the heroes are investigating a haunted house and realize that a Tulpa is to blame when they see a tibetan sigil on the wall. The Tulpa is being created and changed by the thoughts of readers on an internet site looking at the symbol as they read various stories about the haunted house in "Hell House".
- The titular character in Out of Jimmy's Head gets a brain transplant from a cartoonist in the pilot. Which causes him to see and interact with the donor's characters.
- Two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes feature beings that appear to work like this, but are actually subversions:
- "Imaginary Friend" has an alien who investigates humanity by manifesting itself as a little girl's imaginary friend Isabella. Naturally, the adults become more and more worried about the girl's mental health the longer Isabella stays aboard Enterprise.
- "The Bonding" likewise has an alien take human form to make restitution to a boy whose mother was killed by the weapons of their long forgotten war. At first, the alien only appears to the boy, making it seem like a grief-fueled delusion. Again, the adults eventually realize what's happening.
- A Tulpa was a Monster of the Week on The X-Files when the president of a homeowners' association created a tulpa to enforce the neighborhood rules.
- In the So Weird episode "PK (or Tulpa)", Fi meets a little boy who has created a tulpa he believes to be an imaginary friend who, though invisible to everyone else, is still capable of affecting others, becoming violent and injuring people around him.
- In Misfits, it's finally revealed that Abby is a tulpa, created by a woman with reality-warping powers who unknowingly brought her imaginary childhood friend to life as an adult.
- Doctor Who has a couple of variations;
- Though the exact origin of the Weeping Angels is unknown, a book about them contains the line "What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us. The Time of Angels"
- The Great Intelligence (as appearing in The Snowmen) is a strange example; it's original form was telepathic snow, but it had no consciousness to speak of until it started parasitically Mind Melding with the human Doctor Simeon. Consequently, the Doctor assumed that Simeon was directing it and pulling the strings, but when he is taken out of the picture, the Great Intelligence reveals that it has grown sufficiently strong that it no longer needs its host, and can now possess and influence other humans under its own power.
- Two stories suggest that Time Lords are able to create Tulpas of themselves when close to their regenerations. In "Planet of the Spiders" K'Anpo, a highly spiritually-advanced Time Lord very close to the end of one of his regenerations, posing as a Buddhist lama on twentieth-century Earth, creates a tulpa of his next regeneration known as Cho-je to interact with his followers for him during his final illness. In "Logopolis", an enigmatic humanoid entity known as the Watcher turns out to be an "intermediate stage" between the Doctor's Fourth and Fifth selves. The Watcher apparently had some level of independent consciousness and actively contributed to the events that led to the Fourth Doctor's demise.
- In The Haunting Hour episode "My Imaginary Friend", Shawn's imaginary friend Travis somehow becomes real enough to harass Shawn's brother David. Subverted when it turns out Travis could interact with David because they were both imaginary, as David and Travis are Shawn's Good Angel, Bad Angel respectively.
- Hugi from Norse Mythology, the only "person" who could beat Thor's servant in a running race because, well, what moves faster than a thought?
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the various Urge Wyrms are tulpas of the original Wyrm of balance, embodying the Wyrm's negative thoughts and emotions upon discovering that it was imprisoned in the Weaver's web. Some sources also describe the Triadic Wyrm as a trio of tulpas emanated by the original Wyrm.
- In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the Chaos Gods are tulpas created by the galaxy's sentient beings. The Chaos Gods congealed out of the collective emotions and impulses of intelligent beings, such as rage (Khorne), lust (Slaanesh), despair (Nurgle), and scheming (Tzeench). Over the eons, the Chaos Gods have gained self-awareness, independence, and immense power.
- In Shadowrun Buddhist mages create tulpas instead of summoning spirits. And there's a school of thought suggesting that all spirits are actually tulpas, though if that's the case quite a few of them have outlived their original creators.
- Complicating matters are Technomancers, nobody knows what they are exactly but they share many qualities with magicians and their "sprites" fill many of the same functions as spirits. But sprites are definitely created, or "compiled", by the technomancers who use them.
- In Mage: The Awakening creating a tulpa is a high level spell requiring mastery of both Mind and Prime magic. Since a tulpa's mind is created by the caster and it depends on the caster for its existence, tulpas are mainly used when a mage needs an utterly loyal servant.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Most examples of this are associated with the psionics subsystem:
- The astral construct power serves as the psionic answer to Summon Magic, creating a temporary mindless servitor whose abilities and appearance can be customised as the manifester sees fit.
- A phthisic is an Always Chaotic Evil tulpa, usually created by accident from the minds of the insane. It resembles a heavily distorted version of the person it spawned from, and survives by draining the mental energy of other creatures through its fangs.
- Shadow Madness: While it does have a presence in it's own dimension, this is the true nature of the main villain, The Darg. It escaped into our universe as an idea, and by spreading through the thoughts of humanity it eventually became strong enough to form a physical body.
- According to some theories, the existence of the character Maria in Silent Hill 2 can be explained by this concept as an eroticized manifestation of James’ deceased wife. She is briefly playable during the Born From A Wish segment included in the re-released Silent Hill 2:Restless Dreams – the title of which itself is suggestive that she was literally conceived from James’ unconscious desires, specifically his repressed sexual desire concerning his late wife Mary during the progression of her disease. Although Maria physically resembles Mary, their personalities differ starkly, and throughout the game, Maria makes numerous attempts to delineate her individuality and differentiate herself from Mary before James, who is consistently unable to distinguish the two.
- In Deadly Premonition, it's possible that Francis "York" Morgan is one of these created by Zach. Due to the vagueness of canon, it's a subject up for some debate. It's also possible that he's a Guardian Angel.
- Both Persona 2 games have this, with Guido Kandori reviving as one of these as a rumor in Eternal Punishment, while In Lakech does the same in Innocent Sin.
- Persona 5 has "Cognitive Existences", mental copies of another person created in the Palace, taking the form of however that particular Palace's owner sees that person. A Cognitive Existence of Ann wearing a bikini appears in her lustful gym teacher's Palace, for example. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun later on first when the Phantom Thieves collaborate with a Palace-owner to create a Cognitive Existence of the protagonist in order to fake his death, and later when Goro Akechi is attacked by a Cognitive Existence of himself, born from how his father sees him as an expendable pawn.
- The Primals in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are myths and legends brought to life by the ardent worship of the beast tribes - and generous offerings of crystals. Gaius van Baelsar accuses the Twelve Gods of Eorzea of being the exact same in the final confrontation with him.
- In Tales of Maj'Eyal the Solipsist class can learn to create Thought-Form warriors to fight for it.
- Spirits in Dragon Age are dreamworld entities formed from mortal emotions and concepts. Demons are spirits who embody the darker aspects of mortals such as desire, pride, envy, rage, and fear. Spirits who enter the physical world have an unfortunate tendency to be corrupted into demons since the circumstances behind weakened parts of the Veil (the boundary between the Fade and the physical plane) are usually pretty dark.
- In The Sims 3, a young sim may receive a stuffed doll in the mail as a birthday gift. At first, it is an ordinary doll, but as the sim grows attached to it, the doll will eventually turn into an imaginary friend that only the sim can see. If the sim continues playing with their friend, they'll eventually receive an opportunity to turn their friend real, allowing other sims to see and interact with them (up to and including marrying them).
- In Touhou, poltergeists originate as the psychic projections of troubled human girls, but become sapient spirits. The Prismriver sisters are poltergeists, as was the PC-98 exclusive Kana Anaberal.
- In Under the Lemon Tree main character Ben had a posse of six tulpas representing different aspects of his personality. And they could selectively turn invisible so few people knew they were even around. But eventually the author decided they conflicted too much with his religious beliefs and when he relaunched it as Goblin Hollow he made the posse goblins that imprinted on Ben.
- "Mea Tulpa", a 24-hour comic, has both an evil tulpa committing murders and a benevolent tulpa assisting the protagonist.
- Full Frontal Nerdity follows the Slender Man as tulpa hypothesis, and suggests Justin Bieber is one too. Unfortunately Slendy seems to see the cast's player characters as kindred spirits and wants to eat Frank's soul.
- In Homestuck, Jake has the ability to lower Brain Ghost Dirk's fakeness attribute when he does the hope-y thing. In other words, Jake's mental projection of Dirk can manifest itself in reality.
- Tulpas appear in New Vindicators, usually created by powerfully willed, creative people. For example, the mythical Spring-Heeled Jack is a tulpa, created by Charles Dickens, and was known in fiction as the Artful Dodger. Others include the 'ghost' of Psion, an Esper whose body is killed but whose mind and powers live on for a time, and a few more who might not last as long.
- Some theorize that the Slender Man is this - the more you view his videos and believe, the stronger his influence reaches... Explored further in certain Slender Man works which seem to suggest the reason his powers are so incredibly capricious and inconsistent is because everyone has a different idea of what exactly his 'style' is. One noticeable point this was explored was when a large group of bloggers attempted to all write fictional stories detailing them all wounding the Slender Man, in hopes this would cause him to be wounded in real life. It didn't work.
- "Tulpa", a creepypasta story about an ordinary man who is hired to take part in some sort of a shady experiment that eventually results in an evil clone of him manifesting.
- The SCP Foundation universe has several entities which could be classified this way:
- SCP-1447, a classic, Tibetan tulpa turned evil and against its master.
- SCP-1830, a bullied teenager's imaginary friends who are visible to others around him, but can't interact with the world around them in any way, like defending him when being attacked by bullies.
- SCP-1252, an "unfinished" tulpa whose creator died while making it.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is about an orphanage of sorts for a lot of imaginary friends whose creators have outgrown them. They are thoughtforms in that they carry on lives independent of their absent creators, can be seen by others, and can affect the world around them.
- Similar to the So Weird example above, The Powerpuff Girls episode "Imaginary Fiend" involves a kindergartner creating an Imaginary Friend that proceeds to wreak havoc in the classroom. The girls combat it by use of their own Tulpa.
- South Park's Mega Crossover "Imaginationland" had the eternal war between fictional good guys and bad guys boil over into South Park's reality - this includes anything from children's show characters, to movie stars, to religious icons. As always, there was an analogy/moral beneath all of it - even if it only exists in people's heads, it becomes real by way of shaping people's thoughts and actions, religion and so on included.
- Fairly OddParents is full of these, since Cosmo and Wanda's magic allows them to bring to life anything Timmy wishes for. The most notable instant is when they bring to life Timmy's Imaginary Friend Gary from when he was five to life.
- In The Real Ghostbusters, Sherlock Holmes, Watson and Moriarty themselves become ghosts in the real world thanks to the fact that so many people believe in them or consider them almost real.
- In Spider-Man: The Animated Series's adaptation of the Secret Wars story arc, Doctor Doom attempts to use the Reality Warper powers of the Beyonder to create a Utopia, but fails because his subconscious fears keep generating demonic beings to destroy it.
- In Gravity Falls, after Mabel escapes from her Lotus-Eater Machine in the penultimate episode, two of the characters within it, Xyler and Kraz, find that they have somehow escaped to the real world as well. After musing for a bit on the nature of reality and life as a result of this, they conclude that the entire scenario is "totally righteous".
- According to the post-credit messege, they become successful businessmen in the entertainment industry.
- The Teen Titans episode "Hide and Seek", super-powered child Melvin blames the random mischief that happens around her on her imaginary friend Bobby, an 8-foot-tall teddy bear with Super Strength. Raven interprets this as uncontrolled telekinesis, but at the end of the episode Bobby makes himself visible before treating Monsieur Mallah to a Curb-Stomp Battle. Turns out that Melvin's power isn't telekinesis, it's bringing the things she imagines to life.
Melvin: Just because I imagine him doesn't mean he isn't real.
- Several people on the internet have claimed to have created some, with beliefs ranging from "It's psychological" to "It's metaphysical." Tulpa.info is probably the largest website about the phenomenon.
- Pretty much any spiritualist/occult system will have some variation on the idea. Shamanism has Spirit Guides and Power Animals, Witchcraft and Neopaganism have familiars, Chaos Magic has Servitors...