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Mistaken for Undead

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A character thought to be dead is accused of being undead despite not being so.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
LavonPapillon1 on Jan 7th 2019 at 8:48:01 AM
Last Edited By:
LavonPapillon1 on Jan 16th 2019 at 9:16:25 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

When a character is Faking the Dead (or is believed to be dead for one reason or another) only to reveal themselves to be alive and well, this goes in one of three ways. Either they are relieved that they are not dead, angry that they had to mourn them over nothing or (in a world of idiots or crazy people) everyone takes the Arkham's Razor approach and assume that they came back from the dead and intend to crack open their skulls and partake the gooey contents within. Vengeful Ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves (if they looked like they were mauled half to death), Stringy-Haired Ghost Girls, any supernatural affliction to the body is acceptable.

It is especially bad when a Zombie Apocalypse is going around and the only way to survive is to Pretend We're Dead, so convincing your fellow survivors that you just Just Woke Up That Way without getting a bean-sized hunk of lead through your kidneys specially delivered from one of your fellow survivors is much harder to sell.

Often occurs when Attending Your Own Funeral and preceded by Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You.

Compare to Actually Not a Vampire, Mistaken for Aliens, Mistaken for Dying and Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated. Contrast with Technically Living Zombie and Not a Zombie. An inversion of Mistaken for Afterlife. See also Mistaken for Murderer, Mistaken for Own Murderer, Not Using the "Z" Word and Totally Not a Werewolf.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Pokémon, the episode "Pokemon Shipwreck" had Ash's gang and Team Rocket working together to escape the sunken ship. Ash's friends all use water Pokemon to escape, while Team Rocket uses James' useless Magikarp and nearly drown. When Team Rocket wash up unconscious, Ash and co. believe they have drowned and are about to give them a water burial. However Team Rocket awakens and are angry at almost being pushed in the water, while Ash and friends scream out "ZOMBIES!"
  • In My Hero Academia, the OVA, a Zombie Gas quirk is released that makes most of the class into zombies. All Might was rushing over there, only to run out of time and return to his emaciated form. The girls that hadn't been turned yet confuse him for a zombified civilian and runaway from him, and when the zombies pass by...one pats him on his shoulder reassuringly, having confused him for one of them as well.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens a lot in Alpha Girl: in a world where the only zombified humans are womennote , male characters usually ask if a woman was a zombie or not... or straightly are killed or captured without confirmation. The Protagonist Judith suffers a lot of this, being asked if she's a zombie or not or being captured as she was one, getting in danger various times.
  • In The Walking Dead comics (as well in the TV adaptation), the survivor protagonists had to disguise as walkers (getting clothes and even covered with blood and skins from them) to get unnoticed by them. This later goes Up to Eleven with the "Whisperers", a nomad group of survivors disguised all the time as walkers that even served as antagonists for the protagonists.

    Fan Works 
  • When Astrid walks in the great hall in Prodigal Son after everyone believed her to be dead via shipwreck, Snotlout is quick to point to her and call her a draugr.
    Astrid: Snotlout, you are an idiot every day of the week. Why can't you take just one day off?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Zombieland, it is revealed that Bill Murray has survived the Zombie Apocalypse rather nicely by his skills at acting and make-up to make himself look like a zombie, allowing himself to thrive in Hollywood unmolested by Flesh-Eating Zombies. Unfortunately it works a little too well, getting heavily bruised by Tallahassee and Wichita when he walks in on them and then later fatally shot by Columbus.

    Literature 
  • In Desperaux, the titular mouse is thought to be dead by his parents, so when he comes back, his mother points to him and shouts, "A ghost!".
  • Subverted in the Just book "Just Tricking" in the story "Playing Dead". Andy plays dead to get out of going to school and doing a test he didn't study for, and his parents act like they're going to bury him. When he reveals that he's alive, his mother acts like she thinks he's a zombie, but it's revealed that she's only kidding and both of them knew all along that he was alive.

    Video Games 
  • Plants vs. Zombies: The almanac entry for Zomboni mentions that he isn't really a zombie, but some kind of a space-ogre.

    Web Animation 
  • The Spanish-spoken channel Patico De Hule has the Halloween series, children tales about three friends who goes to ask candies disguised as monsters, but they found real monsters (usually being their imagination, but sometimes they're real). One of the tales is "The Attack of the Zombie", in which the three kids get a short cut for the graveyard after getting full of candy. Then they divise a silhouette and they thought it was a zombie after them (in the end it was the graveyard keeper who helps them when one of them get trapped in a hole).

    Western Animation 
  • In the Chowder episode "Chowder's Babysitter", a series of events leads to Gazpacho (who was babysitting Chowder at the time) to think that Chowder accidentally landed in Mung Dal's extra-large meat-grinder and that the Chowder that walks and talks perfectly fine before him then and there is actually his restless spirit. They decide that the only way that he could pass on is for him to be flushed down the toilet like a goldfish, Endive's super toilet the only toilet big enough for him to be flushed into.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", Spongebob and Patrick believe that they had killed Squidward (when really it was just a wax model of himself that he had made), so when he emerges from his bath - robed, covered in talcum powder in a bath of steam - they think that he is his own ghost. While at first annoyed, he goes along with it when they agree to be his servants to appease him.
  • In the Treehouse of Horror episode "I Know What You Diddly-Did", Marge runs over her neighbor Ned and everyone thinks that he died, but later, he comes back. They ask if he's a zombie and he replies that he isn't. Unfortunately, he's a werewolf. Luckily, the Treehouse of Horror episodes are non-canon.
  • Played with in one comic based on Futurama: Professor Farnsworth meets his old crew who he thought died in a vortex but really they survived. He thinks they're zombies but they confirm they are not. However, it turns out that three of them (Sheila, Sly, and Dr. Zoidberg the Second) were killed afterwards and replaced by holograms. Mender the robot, however, is real, in fact he's the one who killed them.
  • Family Guy: In "Boy (Dog) Meets Girl (Dog)", Peter and Lois lead Chris into believing he witnessed the "death" of Arthur Valentine (an imaginary figure they made up for him when he was little), but when it sends Chris into a state of emotional catatonia, Peter tries to convince him that Arthur came back to life by dressing up as him. It works... but now Chris thinks "Arthur" is a zombie and tries to kill him.
    Chris: I've seen The Walking Dead! I have to kill your brain and then talk about it for the next hour!


Feedback: 16 replies

Jan 7th 2019 at 8:55:57 AM

That is a long laconic. How about "A character thought to be dead is accused of being undead despite not being so."

Jan 7th 2019 at 2:16:35 PM

  • In Desperaux, the titular mouse is thought to be dead by his parents, so when he comes back, his mother points to him and shouts, "A ghost!".
  • Subverted in the Just book "Just Tricking" in the story "Playing Dead". Andy plays dead to get out of going to school and doing a test he didn't study for, and his parents act like they're going to bury him. When he reveals that he's alive, his mother acts like she thinks he's a zombie, but it's revealed that she's only kidding and both of them knew all along that he was alive.
  • In the Treehouse Of Horror episode "I Know What You Diddly-Did", Marge runs over her neighbor Ned and everyone thinks that he died, but later, he comes back. They ask if he's a zombie and he replies that he isn't. Unfortunately, he's a werewolf. Luckily, the Treehouse of Horror episodes are non-canon.
  • Played with in one comic based on Futurama: Professor Farnsworth meets his old crew who he thought died in a vortex but really they survived. He thinks they're zombies but they confirm they are not. However, it turns out that three of them (Sheila, Sly, and Dr. Zoidberg the Second) were killed afterwards and replaced by holograms. Mender the robot, however, is real, in fact he's the one who killed them.

Jan 7th 2019 at 2:25:55 PM

Jan 8th 2019 at 5:36:43 AM

  • Inverted in One Piece: in Thriller Bark arc, the titular island is horror-themed and full of zombies. When the Straw Hat Pirates first comes across one, Luffy yells "Ah! A wounded old man!" and his crew loudly corrects him: "It's a zombie!!"

Jan 9th 2019 at 4:54:49 PM

Adding to tell's example

  • Later played straight when they run into an old man. After Luffy calls him such, everybody else tells Luffy the guy is a zombie only for the old man to tell them that Luffy is actually right.

Jan 8th 2019 at 4:36:54 AM

Comic Books:

  • Happens a lot in Alpha Girl: in a world where the only zombified humans are womennote , male characters usually ask if a woman was a zombie or not... or straightly are killed or captured without confirmation. The Protagonist Judith suffers a lot of this, being asked if she's a zombie or not or being captured as she was one, getting in danger various times.

Jan 9th 2019 at 3:13:30 PM

Played for laughs in The Simpsons episode "Mayored to the Mob", when Homer becomes convinced he's killed Mayor Quimby after sending him flying out of a skyscraper window. When he hears screaming from outside, he looks down and sees the mayor clinging to a windowsill, and exclaims "His corpse is climbing the building!"

Jan 10th 2019 at 8:56:23 PM

In an episode of Spaced, Tim takes some cheap speed he was offered by some overly-friendly Scottish drug dealers and then plays Resident Evil 2 all night on his Play Station; as a result, he later hallucinates that all the guests at a party he goes to are zombies.

Jan 10th 2019 at 9:03:44 PM

If this is going to cover someone being mistaken for any kind of undead creature, it shouldn't use the term "zombie", as that would mislead the person reading the title.

Mistaken For Undead?

Jan 11th 2019 at 1:16:50 AM

^ You mean, like Mistaken for Vampire or Mistaken for Ghost?

By the way, I just realized that inverted examples go to Not A Zombie, and One Piece example is there too, so please delete it from this draft.

Jan 11th 2019 at 4:58:22 AM

  • In Pokemon, the episode "Pokemon Shipwreck" had Ash's gang and Team Rocket working together to escape the sunken ship. Ash's friends all use water Pokemon to escape, while Team Rocket uses James' useless Magikarp and nearly drown. When Team Rocket wash up unconscious, Ash and co. believe they have drowned and are about to give them a water burial. However Team Rocket awakens and are angry at almost being pushed in the water, while Ash and friends scream out "ZOMBIES!"

Jan 11th 2019 at 5:42:56 AM

In My Hero Academia, the OVA, a Zombie Gas quirk is released that makes most of the class into zombies. All Might was rushing over there, only to run out of time and return to his emaciated form. The girls that hadn't been turned yet confuse him for a zombified civilian and runaway from him, and when the zombies pass by...one pats him on his shoulder reassuringly, having confused him for one of them as well.

Jan 11th 2019 at 8:25:17 AM

If being mistaken for a ghost counts as well, then please change the title to Mistaken for Undead.

Jan 14th 2019 at 11:00:53 AM

Web Animation:

  • The Spanish-spoken channel Patico De Hule has the Halloween series, children tales about three friends who goes to ask candies disguised as monsters, but they found real monsters (usually being their imagination, but sometimes they're real). One of the tales is "The Attack of the Zombie", in which the three kids get a short cut for the graveyard after getting full of candy. Then they divise a silhouette and they thought it was a zombie after them (in the end it was the graveyard keeper who helps them when one of them get trapped in a hole).

Comic Books:

  • In The Walking Dead comics (as well in the TV adaptation), the survivor protagonists had to disguise as walkers (getting clothes and even covered with blood and skins from them) to get unnoticed by them. This later goes Up For Eleven with the "Whisperers", a nomad group of survivors disguised all the time as walkers that even served as antagonists for the protagonists.

Jan 15th 2019 at 2:22:39 AM

  • Plants Vs Zombies: The almanac entry for Zomboni mentions that he isn't really a zombie, but some kind of a space-ogre.

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