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Body in a Breadbox

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"In our house at the end of The Mews,
We've had some most horrible news,
We've discovered a head,
In the box for the bread,
And we're unable to work out whose."
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Corpses can be found in the darnedest places, in fiction. While every Police Procedural or mystery series uses the routine body-dump sites of alleys, roadsides, dumpsters, harbor bottoms or vacant lots, writers often feel the need to spice up their selection of crime scenes and corpse-disposal methods. When the placement of the corpse becomes so bizarre that its strange location becomes an element of the mystery's plot — not just Whodunnit, but How/Why'ddeydoitthere — then it's a Body in a Breadbox. Or duffel bag. Or refrigerator. Or whatever.

For a body somehow stuck to the ceiling, see Ceiling Corpse. Sister trope to Dead Man's Chest, which deals with the mechanics of fitting a body into a confined space. See Stuffed into the Fridge if the killer planted the corpse there to deliberately traumatize and/or mock its discoverer. Often overlaps with Peek-a-Boo Corpse. Wax Museum Morgue is a subtrope.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Uzumaki: The first casualty of the spiral-related phenomena that befall Kurôzu-cho is Shuichi's father, who somehow ends up impossibly stretched out and contorted into a tight spiral that's stuffed inside a wooden tub. Shuichi and his mother discover the corpse when they investigate the strange tub left in their study.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the Howard Chaykin The Shadow comic book series, a body is stuffed into the bottle of an office water cooler in the first issue. How this was accomplished is never explained — or even referred to again, as the perpetrator is known, and is pursued for his master plan.
  • In an issue of The Maze Agency, a body was stuffed into a drum of liquid nitrogen.
  • Alexandra DeWitt, first girlfriend of Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, provided the Trope Namer for Stuffed into the Fridge because of her murderer, Major Force, stuffing her body into Kyle Rayner's refrigerator.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The plot of 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag involves a med student and a mafia hitman having their bags switched, with the hitman's eponymous bag carrying the severed heads of eight poor sods that he killed for his bosses.
  • In Big Tits Zombie, Darna finds a zombie head at the bottom of the chest full of cash.
  • In Breakheart Pass, Deakin finds the bodies of Capt. Oakland and Lt. Newell hidden in the woodpile of the locomotive.
  • In The 'Burbs, Corey Feldman finds a mound of bones in the Klopecks' trunk.
  • In Clue, the Cook's body is found this way. The group heads into the kitchen to find her, but she doesn't appear to be there. Then she topples out of the fridge right on top of poor Mr. Green.
  • In GoldenEye:
    Wade: The last guy who dropped in there uninvited went home air freight in very small boxes.
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, the body of Inspector Gruber is planted in a pile of coals in Czaka's basement as part of a Frame-Up.
  • In Holmes & Watson, Holmes discovers a body concealed in his giant novelty birthday cake.
  • In the original House on Haunted Hill (1959), Nora finds a (fake) severed head planted in her suitcase.
  • During the hectic finale of Killer Dream Home Jules Grant discovers her estate agent's corpse half-buried in a compost bin. Quite some distance from the murder scene, so presumably relocated either a scare tactic or part of the villainess' insane Frame-Up plot.
  • Vivia finds Virgil's severed head (and hands) stuffed into the refrigerator in Killer Party
  • In Men in Black, Bug Edgar, posing as a waiter, is asked where Little Ivan, the guy he's replaced is. Bug Edgar says he gave him a break, and the camera pans to show that he means this literally, having broken his body in half and stuffed him onto a shelf.
  • In Paradox, a body is found stuffed in a locker. The weird thing? It's a time travel movie. The guy who first complains about the smell in the locker room is the same one whose corpse is later found to be the source of the smell.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation of the play Rope is centered around this trope (a body stuffed in a chest) and two characters testing how long it'll take for it to get discovered.
  • Silent Night: While searching the abandoned house, Deputy Bradimore finds Mrs. Roach's hand in a drawer; still clutching her ringing phone. The rest of her body is found in other pieces of furniture in the room.
  • Played With in Top Secret!, with a man being crushed in a car compactor (although the man isn't dead... yet).
  • In Tremors, a man who'd been trapped by Graboids for days is found high up on a power pylon, dead of thirst. Another man's head turns up half-buried in the ground, face-up under a hat.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's black comedy The Trouble with Harry features a corpse that pops up in a series of odd places.
  • In Unknown (2006), they find the body of a police officer stashed in a locker at an Abandoned Warehouse.
  • The film The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin has an infamous scene where the doctor protagonist visiting the infamous Ugandan dictator goes to the freezer to get some ice, only to find to his horror that Amin keeps the severed heads of several of his victims in there.
    Idi Amin: Doctor! For an African, you are looking very white!
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    Literature 
  • In Donald Westlake's "The Risk Profession", a killer hides a victim by leaving it sealed inside its spacesuit, which he hangs inconspicuously in its storage closet.
  • In the Lord Peter Wimsey series:
    • In Whose Body?, the body in question is found lying, naked, in the bath of a man who had no previous connection to the living person it had been.
    • "The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag" features a carpet-bag containing a severed human head.
  • Edward Gorey used this trope in a limerick:
    From Number Nine, Penwiper Mews,
    There comes most abominable news.
    They've discovered a head,
    In the box for the bread,
    But nobody seems to know whose.
  • In the period mystery Murder in the Place of Anubis, a mortician in Ancient Egypt finds an extra, recently-murdered corpse hidden in the mound of salt under which a client's remains had been dehydrating as part of the mummification process.
  • In one Babylon 5 Expanded Universe novel, the station maintenance department calls in Garibaldi when they declog a jammed waste disposal chute and find a severed human foot in the waste backed up behind the jam. The mystery deepens when security runs a DNA scan on the foot and finds that it matches a man who was reported as having left the station several days previously.
    He left without his foot?!
  • In Kraken, a human corpse is found inside a giant specimen jar in the preservation rooms of the Natural History Museum. That's not even the weirdest thing about it: the corpse is of a man who'd been alive until recently, yet the jar shows every indication of having been sealed at least a hundred years ago. Which is an early clue that the museum's resident angel of memory is taking an active role in defending its turf.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Corpses turning up in weird places is one of the signature features of Bones, so much so that most episodes' titles refer to the body-of-the-week's location. Some of the worst offenders: inside a giant chocolate bar, glued to a (very much not dead) street artist, and inside a bowling alley pinsetter.
  • A wealthy woman's body on Castle was found squeezed into a wall safe. Many of its bones had to be broken to cram her inside.
  • Bodies in the CSI franchise have been found nailed to trees, sealed up in walls, hanging from power lines, embedded in tar, posed like statues in a park, sealed up in an arcade video-game, and sitting behind the wheel of a car that's parked on a rooftop. Body parts have been found in even weirder places, like a head (in Vegas) or arms (in NY) left in coin-operated newspaper dispensers or a human eyeball dropped into a cup of street-cafe coffee by a passing vulture.
    • Asked about the unobvious places bodies might be found, Grissom mentioned having once found a head in a bucket of paint.
    • Finn, examining a body that was hidden inside a piano, remarks that it's the first one she's found in such an instrument that had its limbs intact.
    • Invoked in NY by Mac and Co. investigating when a member of the polar bear club discovers the body of a nearly nude young man in a 2'x 2' x 2' wooden box on the beach. After Sheldon asks Mac to help unfold the guy, they discover that none of his bones are broken. Turns out he was a contortionist with a travelling circus.
    • The winner has to be an episode that opens with several bodies in various states of decay in a forest. A man ignores most of the bodies and directs Grissom to one, and Grissom asks what's so unusual about it. The man explains it's not his. After the credits, we learn that the man is a long-time friend of Grissom's and operates a "Body Farm" (a scientific facility that takes bodies donated to science and monitors what happens as they decay). The body the man identifies as not belonging to him is not one of the bodies that he was watching decay...someone put the body there, hoping that it would go unnoticed.
  • An episode of Due South dealt with a body sealed inside a wall at police headquarters.
  • Played for Laughs in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse", as Basil and co. attempt to get a dead guest out of the way without the other guests noticing. The body winds up in a wardrobe, in the kitchen, propped up in an office chair, in a laundry hamper and finally dumped in the crowded lobby while Basil flees the hotel.
  • In Fringe, the discovery of a body stuck in a bank vault wall starts one of their cases.
  • Gordon and Bullock on Gotham investigated a murder in which the victim was literally Stuffed into the Fridge.
  • In the pilot of Helix, CDC team member Dr. Alan Farragut finds that his brother Dr. Peter Farragut, a research scientist infected with The Virus, has killed a luckless security tech, stripped his clothes and squirreled his corpse away in an Air Vent at the Research, Inc. where he works.
  • Inversion: On Homicide: Life on the Street, a man's corpse was found at the site of his murder ... inside the morgue.
  • An episode of Jonathan Creek featured a body that got into a wardrobe while it was being carried up some stairs. At the bottom, the wardrobe was empty. At the top, the door was opened and the corpse fell out. The victim was breaking into Maddy Magellan's flat to retrieve an incriminating videotape she'd been accidentally given and, quite alive, got into the wardrobe to avoid being caught. However, before she left her own home, a pipe fell off some scaffolding and hit her on the head, leading to her Time-Delayed Death.
  • There was an episode of Law & Order that had a body in a cooler.
  • Monk has played with this trope:
    • In "Happy Birthday, Mr. Monk", they find a dead man torn apart in a trash compactor. Not a household one, mind you, but an industrial-size one.
    • In "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation", they first find a body stuffed into an arcade machine. Later on they find the body has been moved; this time it was stuffed into a crate as part of a display.
    • In "Mr. Monk Gets Drunk", Adrian has to find a missing body in order to prove that the killing happened in the first place; the body is found in one of the wine barrels.
    • The page image is from "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert", where a body is discovered by a maintenance worker forcing open a port-a-potty with a crowbar, coincidentally as Monk and Natalie are walking by.
    • In Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, one of the novels, the body was buried in a luau pit and uncovered when diggers come to dig up a kalua pig.
  • Murdoch Mysteries, "The Annoying Red Planet": A body is found on a tree and the position is very bizarre and seems to defy laws of physics. Constable Crabtree, resident Agent Mulder, concludes that Martians did it.
  • One mummified corpse on NCIS turned up stuffed inside a chimney. Oddly, this is something of a Truth in Television example. Real Life murder victims have turned up this way, such as this unfortunate individual. Getting stuck and asphyxiating was a major occupational hazard for 19th Century chimney sweeps, and it occasionally still happens to people, though mostly to burglars.
  • In one episode of Picket Fences, a body was stuffed into a home dishwasher.
  • In Psych, Shawn and Gus constantly run into dead bodies stuffed into closets and alcoves, usually while not even having reason to believe someone is dead. This is usually followed by one or both of them freaking out and screaming like a little girl. Lampshaded by Gus in "There Might Be Blood" after following the smell of onions to corpsey closet:
    Gus: "Why does it always have to be a dead guy?"
  • This is a Discussed Trope in the Supernatural episode "Heart" (S02, Ep17) when Sam says there may be human hearts behind the Häagen-Dazs.
  • On Warehouse 13, Pete and Myka discover the body of a lost Warehouse agent handcuffed to a pipe in the basement of a St. Louis police station.
  • On The Wire, a containerload of bodies is found at the Baltimore docks to open season 2. Initially, the deaths are ruled as accidental on the assumption that they were immigrants and their air hole was covered by another container. However, Cowboy Cop McNulty, recently reassigned to the Marine unit, manages to prove that the women were murdered in Baltimore city waters, dumping all the unsolved crimes on his old boss and kick off the plot of Season 2.
  • On Elementary, Sherlock is investigating a missing person and talking to his wife when he realises some of the pictures hanging on her wall have been recently moved. It turns out that when the murderers stashed the body inside the wall, they didn't put them all back in the right places.

    Theatre 
  • In Arsenic and Old Lace and its film adaptation, one of the running gags is hiding the body of Mr. Spenalzo, which gets shuffled around into various places, including a window seat.
  • Rope is about this trope. The main characters stuff their victim in a chest and host a party to test whether it'll get discovered.
  • Pretty much every adaptation of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has Sweeney stuffing the body of his first victim, Adolfo Pirelli, in a chest before he disposes of it in much more ghoulish fashion.

    Video Games 
  • In the flash horror game, Exmortis, you find a severed head in a microwave.
  • In the Steam bestseller Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you can find random parts all over if you look hard enough.
    • Especially in Custom Games, where people have put human torsos over keys in dresser drawers. Some levels can be beaten by actually throwing these parts at enemies so they chase them, letting you hide.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: In case two, the victim is a staid, upper-class doctor, whose dead body is found pulling a wheeled noodle stand belonging to his pauper neighbor.
  • In case 3 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, figuring out how the body was hidden is actually the way to prove the culprit's guilt. It was covered with a cloth and tied up hands behind head with a spear sticking out of its abdomen to disguise it as a bust of Phoenix Wright in his iconic "Objection!" pose.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, when Makoto and Kyoko finally check out the school's unused, abandoned principal's office, they find a skeleton in a box. Kyoko reveals the skeleton's identity: the principal, and her father, ending her quest to find him after so long.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: During the second case, finding out how the killer managed to smuggle the body into one of the water tanks for Himiko's magic show, despite the area being off limits at night and without the piranhas in the tank devouring the body before it was revealed is pivotal to naming the culprit.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror XXVI segment "Wanted: Dead, then Alive", where Bart Simpson is killed by Sideshow Bob, and his body is eventually taken to Bob's house. When Bob returns home after attending Springfield University as a professor, he opens the wall compartment... and reveals Bart's corpse, which he has stuffed in there, now standing as a trophy.

    Real Life 
  • Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer kept the body parts of his victims in various places in his apartment, including, infamously, a severed head that one of the arresting officers found in his refrigerator.
  • Part of Adolf Hitler's skull was allegedly found in Russia, in a box labelled "Blue ink for pens".
  • The corpse of Elmer McCurdy was found as a "hanging man" prop in a funhouse. Nobody realized it was actually a corpse...
  • One infamous Urban Legend claims that a couple who'd checked into a hotel room for the night complained about a bad smell in the morning, only to have the hotel staff discover a previous guest's corpse stuffed into the mattress they'd just slept and/or had sex on. A quick look through crime report archives shows that this is not just fiction either: several cases have been reported where bodies were been stashed in rooms without the knowledge of later guests.
    • Which was later dramatized in the film Four Rooms.
  • The infamous case of the Boy in the Box. In 1957, the body of a little boy who had been beaten to death was discovered inside a bassinet box that had been placed in the woods in Fox Chase, Philadelphia. Despite posters of the boy's corpse being handed out, no parent or guardian ever arrived to claim him. There were several theories as to the boy's identity, ranging from the him being sold to a family who regularly raped him, to being raised as a girl (partly to explain the rushed haircut he was found with). Ultimately, investigators found little to no clues as to the boy's identity, or to his killer. Sadly has become a cold case, as anyone who was involved with the case has long since died, and almost certainly the boy's killer.
  • In February 2013, a young woman's decomposing body was found in the rooftop water tank of Los Angeles's Cecil Hotel.
  • October 2013: a patient at San Francisco General Hospital dies in a very underutilized stairwell.
  • In 2015, the thousand-year-old body of the Buddhist master Liuquan was found inside a statue of Buddha.
  • In September of 1999, a man cleaning out his garage found a barrel stuffed well back into the crawlspace. In it were the remains of a young woman. 30 years prior, the house's previous owner had murdered the woman after she called his wife and blabbed about their affair and her pregnancy and stuffed her body in the barrel, intending to dispose of it at sea. However, it was too heavy for him to lift and so it was stashed in his garage and forgotten about for decades.
  • On July 1991, the heavily decomposed corpse of a four-year-old girl was discovered inside a navy picnic cooler that had been placed alongside Henry Hudson Parkway. Investigators, who had named the girl "Baby Hope", discovered that the child had been a victim of sexual abuse shortly before her death. It wasn't until 22 years later that police would arrest the girl's cousin for her murder.
  • Although her body was never found, police learned that this was Anne Marie Fahey's fate after her ex-lover Thomas Capano's brother confessed to helping him dispose of her. note 
  • The body of seventeen-year-old Junko Furuta, who died in January of 1989 after suffering forty-four days of horrendous torture at the hands of four teenage boys and their yakuza associates, was found in a 55-gallon drum filled with concrete.
  • Idi Amin Dada, who was infamous for his murderous regime in Uganda, was widely rumored to be a cannibal, and while no substantive evidence exists to support those claims, he did keep the heads of a number of his victims in his refrigerator, as referenced in the 1981 exploitation epic The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (see above in Film).


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