A common gag used to demonstrate waiting time in a place can be rather long. Common example: Bob arrives in a building (like a hospital or government building), and is told at the reception desk that he has to wait his turn. As he sits down in the waiting room, he notices a skeleton sitting in the chair next to him and realizes he might be here for a very long time. The same gag is also usable to demonstrate that a place is not visited very often, and/or that somebody has been trapped or locked in there till he died. Compare Dem Bones for when the skeleton in question is still alive.
Examples:Anime and Manga
- The Castle of Cagliostro: When Lupin and Zenigata are dropped into the oubliette, they discover hundreds of skeletons who were trapped inside. One was a Japanese spy that been waiting for centuries, leaving behind a uniformed skeleton.
- Garfield used this trope at least 3 times.
- Dave Barry once riffed that Customer Service must be filled with corpses since nobody's ever been able to get through to a live person. Therefore the obvious solution is to transfer the guys over from Telemarketing (who everyone hates anyway) and make them answer the Customer Service phones instead.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: As the Queen is leaving the castle to kill Snow White, she walks past a prison cell containing a skeleton on the ground, reaching for a jug just out of its grasp. When the Queen sees it, she laughs and says "Thirsty? Have a drink!" before kicking the jug over so that it hits the skeleton and shatters it.
- Airplane II: The Sequel: This film continues its predecessor's Running Gag of Ted's boring stories making people kill themselves with this gag; after Ted tells an old woman a story, we see that she's now a skeleton.
- The Benny Hill Show: One episode, after fleeing from a room, Benny finds himself on a ledge outside a window, with no way to go back since a woman locks the window behind him. He then notices a skeleton standing on the same ledge and tears up at the thought of being stranded here forever.
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch, in the episode "Quiz Show", Zelda recalls how she was a teacher once, but got so fed up by the students constantly asking questions that she fled the classroom, leaving them behind. She wonders what became of them. The scene then cuts to said classroom, where only 2 (now very old) students are still alive and waiting while the others have turned into skeletons and are covered in cobwebs.
- Referenced in an episode of Top Gear; when recalling their biggest blunders of the past season, Jeremy recalls how after test driving a new car he left it in the care of 4 crew members who were supposed to bring the car back, only to realize much later that he forgot to give them the keys. He proceeds to tell the audience that if they want the car, it's probably still on the hill where he left it, guarded by 4 skeletons.
- In Bloodborne, the entrance to the Forbidden Woods is guarded by an apprentice of Provost Wilhelm, who is waiting for someone who knows the password to let them through. When you finally obtain the password, and the doors open, you find the apprentice's skeletal remains behind them—apparently, he died while waiting to fulfill Provost Wilhelm's last orders, and you have been (apparently) talking to his ghost.
- Lucky Tower: In Lucky Tower II, Von Wanst ends up as one of these if he falls into a deep pit that he cannot climb out of.
- One story arc in Nodwick features a time traveller from the past (the "present" in the comic being After the End for him). He eventually finds himself in an ancient waiting room, where the skeletons of his peers have been left (along with an Apocalyptic Log lamenting the idiot who caused The End of the World as We Know It by travelling through time), watched over by an undead receptionist who doesn't realise they've become the dead dead sort of skeleton while waiting for her.
- This joke is used in JonTron's Starcade Episode 3, when Jon has to play through the incredibly slow Star Wars Chess game.
- In the Super Mario Logan episode, "Joseph's House!", Joseph invites Bowser Junior and Cody into his run-down house when Bowser has his apartment fumigated for termites. Joseph's Mom is revealed to have died on October 31, 2015, and he has left his Mom's corpse in the place she died, which has decomposed into a skeleton when he introduces Junior and Cody to her.
- The Waiting Skeleton is a popular Memetic Mutation.
- In his "A Date With Markiplier" Choose Your Own Adventure series of videos, Markiplier encounters one of these in the cell he and his date can find themselves imprisoned in.
- Family Guy:
Peter: Oh...Oh God, that's right. Ponies...P-Ponies like food, don't they?.
- In "The Story on Page One", Peter tries to give Meg the pony she wished for when she was six. However, they end up discovering a horse skeleton in the closet,
- In "PTV", after Lois decides she's had enough of the FCC and tells Peter that he was right all along, he presses a button that launches a "Peter's Right" party, which he claims he's been saving for 15 years, and wonders what happened to the clown. A few moments later, a skeleton with a rainbow wig falls from the ceiling.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In "The House of No Tomorrow", the gang waits on a very long line at an amusement park, and a skeleton (not Grim) is seen as one of the people on line.
- The Simpsons:
Lisa: Let's face it. They're not great parents.
- In "Brother from the Same Planet", Homer forgets to pick up Bart from soccer practice and leaves him waiting for several hours. While taking a bath, Homer has a dream in which he goes to pick up Bart, only to discover he's too late and Bart has decayed into a skeleton while waiting. This dream finally causes Homer to remember he forgot about Bart.
- In the "Scary Tales Can Come True" segment of "Treehouse of Horror XI", Homer abandons Bart and Lisa in the woods and tells them to "Say hi to your other brother and sister". Bart and Lisa then notice a pair of skeletons resembling themselves.
- In "Hungry, Hungry Homer", as Homer prepares to go on a hunger strike to protest the Isotopes' planned move to Albuquerque, he sees the skeleton of previous striker holding a sign reading "CLEAN THE LADIES ROOM".
- Spongebob Squarepants: "Squid on Strike" ends with Spongebob destroying the Krusty Krab, and so Mr. Krabs orders Spongebob and Squidward to work for him forever. A time card announces a skip to "one eternity later", where they have been reduced to nothing but skeletons, yet they're still working. A bit of Artistic License – Biology going on, considering that sponges and octopuses are both invertebrates.
- Chowder features this trope. Chowder goes "mad with power" and turns on every light he can find until he causes a blackout. He team up with Gorgonzola to fix the problem. To do so, they must go to a tall tower, but Chowder being...well Chowder, presses all the buttons on the elevator. We cut to a pair of skeletons sitting on the floor of the elevator. Chowder asks if they should bring them along. Gorgonzola replies "No. They were just for a gag."
- Uncle Grandpa Zigzags this trope. The titular character lost what everyone assumes to be a person while playing hide and seek many years ago. It turns out the character was a skeleton, but he isn't a person that died from waiting, he was always one. That's not to say it made waiting all that time any easier. In fact, he was kinda mad about it..
- Courage the Cowardly Dog Features this in the episode entitled "Stormy Weather". While courage searches for Duncan, The Storm Goddess keeps Muriel up in the sky. She is tethered to what remains of her house by a nothing more than a rope around her boot. Courage envisions what might happen to her if she stays that way for too long (awaiting his return). In the thought, she is nothing but a skeleton, floating around in the sky.