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Bodybag Trick

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It works better if you don't move. Or talk.

Rory: These things could really do with airholes!
Canton: Never had any complaints before.

Related to Playing Possum and Trojan Horse, this is when a character hides in a bodybag or a coffin and is wheeled into a hospital or other facility, then gets out and does his/her mission.

A Sub-Trope — and a subversion — of Zipping Up the Bodybag. If used as a means of escape, it may end with the character being Buried Alive — but not for long. See also Coffin Contraband and Saved by the Coffin.


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    Comic Books 
  • G.I. Joe (IDW): Kwinn and Lighthorse smuggle Snake-Eyes across the border by hiding him in a coffin inside a hearse and say they are returning a family member to be buried in his native land.
  • Spanish comic Mortadelo y Filemón moves this a step forward: Main characters need to infiltrate into a hospital. They see a slacker sleeping in the street. The characters impersonate nurses bringing the slacker in a pallet, claiming he needs urgent surgery for appendicitis. The slacker wakes up in the operating theater; when he leaves the hospital, he sees a peer loafing around and warns him: If the staff catches him sleeping, they'll operate him for appendicitis!
  • Cassidy from Preacher escapes a police raid by hiding in a body bag — one of the police's body bags, to be precise; he slit his own throat and pretended to be a corpse.
  • Deconstructed in Tales from the Crypt #54 (Dec. 1954-Jan. 1955) in the story "the Substitute"; a prisoner escapes from an island by hiding in the coffin of the governor he secretly murdered. Unfortunately, it's Burial at Sea for this coffin, leading to the prisoner drowning.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Batman: Assault on Arkham, Killer Frost is snuck into Arkham Asylum in a body bag with Captain Boomerang disguised as the medical transporter. It works thanks to Frost's ice powers keeping her body temperature well below that of a living person, so the asylum staff's scans are fooled into thinking her dead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Attempted in Abbot of Shaolin, when the hero, a Shaolin monk who survived the massacre of his temple under Manchurian rule, joins a local resistance and had to sneak into the capital city via a coffin, with his resistance allies disguised as mourners. Unfortunately, the guards at the city gates insists for the coffin to be emptied out.
  • In Black Book, the Big Bad, a corrupt and treacherous member of La Résistance in German-occupied Holland, is smuggled away in a coffin by some of his comrades. Unfortunately for him, they've been told about his evil deeds, and deliberately seal the coffin and leave him to suffocate.
  • Killmonger does this to escape from his own crime scene in Black Panther (2018); after poisoning the museum guide, he calls his men, disguised as paramedics, to finish the job and carry him away in a bodybag.
  • In The Corpse Vanishes, Dr. Lorenz pretends to be a corpse and lies in a coffin atop one of the brides to conceal her when the police search the hearse.
  • Joker pulls a similar trick in The Dark Knight; as a means of getting close to a man who put a bounty on his head he has some of his henchmen bring him in a garbage bag and claim to have killed him.
  • In Dead in Tombstone, Guerrero and Calathea sneak past Washington and Snake by hiding at the bottom of a pile of bodies being wheeled past on a mine cart.
  • In Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, Gruesome avoids Tracy in the morgue by lying down on a gurney and pulling a sheet over himself. Tracy walks straight past him without noticing and Gruesome is able to escape.
  • Used in The First Great Train Robbery to smuggle one of the thieves aboard the baggage car.
  • The last part of Rollie's revenge plan in F/X: Murder by Illusion depends on this as his escape plan; unfortunately, Leo sussed out his plan and was waiting for him outside the window.
  • In Hard Boiled, police officer "Tequila" Yuen Ho-yan is granted access to a morgue by disguising himself as a doctor with a surgical mask covering the lower half of his face, while wheeling in undercover cop Alan on a gurney, covered by a sheet.
  • In the Hellboy film, Karl Ruprect Kroenen really was dead, but revives himself inside BPRD headquarters.
  • In Highlander II: The Quickening, MacLeod and Ramirez get inside the headquarters of an evil Mega-Corp by driving right into a roadblock set by them and getting riddled with bullets. The employees cart them inside in bodybags, unaware of them being immortal.
  • Hobo With a Shotgun: When the Hobo kills the Dirty Cop who is attempting to rape Abby, his shots draw the attention of the mob who are hunting the homeless. Abby runs past them, looking convincingly panicked, with the cop's body in a shopping trolley. She yells to the mob that He Went That Way and they head off in pursuit. After they have gone, the Hobo emerges from the shopping trolley where he has been hidden under (and partially inside) the cop's corpse.
  • In Invisible Avenger, the Generalissimo's men attempt to smuggle Pablo Ramirez out of New Orleans in a coffin inside a hearse: knowing that the police will not stop a funeral procession.
  • The Man Who Came Back: Paxton fakes his death while suffering Unwilling Suspension in prison, so he will be loaded into a coffin and carried outside.
  • In More Dead Than Alive, members of Luke Santee's gang conceal themselves inside the coffins the Undertaker is bringing into the prison in order to collect the bodies of the executed prisoners.
  • James Bond pulls this off in Octopussy to sneak out of Kamal Khan's palace. He scares the crap out of the people carting the supposed corpse off.
  • Hilariously used in Johnny English Reborn, when the title character smuggles himself into the secret base.
  • In Judge Dredd, Rico uses this ploy to escape from Aspen prison.
  • Happens in The Mask of Zorro, as the way Zorro escapes from prison. Bonus Buried Alive!
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack Sparrow uses the ploy to escape a prison by hiding in a coffin being tossed out to sea.
  • In the first Re-Animator film, Dan Cain helps Herbert West sneak into the hospital morgue by wheeling him in shoeless on a gurney, covered with a sheet.
  • In Saw 3D, Hoffman hides inside a body bag (which was previously used to store Dan's corpse) so he can sneak into the police station where Jill is inside and catch her.
  • Guile hides in a bodybag while pretending to be dead in the Street Fighter movie.
  • In Terror By Night, the killer is smuggled on board the train concealed in the false bottom of a coffin.
  • In Valentine, Shelley attempts to hide from the killer by zipping herself up inside a bodybag in the morgue. It doesn't work.
  • In Yellowbeard, Yellowbeard escapes from prison by hiding in a coffin.

  • Inverted in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: Joseph Kavalier is smuggled out of Nazi-occupied Prague in a coffin with the Golem of Prague, which has been disguised as an unusually large corpse.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo. And (partly) averted: Dantes expects to merely be buried, at which point he can dig himself free and escape. However, he learns the hard way that the Chateau d'If buries its dead at sea - and still manages to escape, even though it's much harder going.
  • In the backstory of John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell novel The Hollow Man, this is part of the story that leads to the killer's vengeful motivation. Three brothers escaped from a prison by feigning death and allowing themselves to be Buried Alive, but the one who managed to escape from his coffin first ran away and left the other two to die. One survived and pursued him.
  • In The Crocodile Tomb, the fourth part of Gods and Warriors, Hylas is hidden in the coffin of a sacred crocodile that's taken to a tomb of embalmed animals during a festival. Once alone in the sealed tomb, he comes out and finds the hidden entrance to Userref's family tomb where he gives Userref's mummy the Spells for Coming Forth by Day and takes the dagger of Koronos from the coffin.
  • This is how Matthew Hawkwood and Lassuer are smuggled off the prison hulk in Rapscallion.
  • In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean escapes from the convent of Petit-Picpus in a coffin.
  • Used by the Exit organisation in the Phryne Fisher novel Blood and Circuses to smuggle a prisoner out of prison in a coffin.
  • In Room, Ma fakes five-year-old Jack's illness and death so he can escape when Old Nick takes him outside to bury him. This is the only way either of them will be able to get out of Room.
  • In the Star Trek novel Traitor Winds, Uhura uses this to get out of a hospital without being spotted by a conspiracy that has it in for former Enterprise crew; Christine Chapel is conveniently on hand to provide the bodybag.
  • In A Study in Murder by Robert Ryan, prisoners in WW1 German POW camp fake the deaths of an escapee through typhoid or some other cause that justifies them being hastily buried. The coffin has a hinged bottom that opens into an escape tunnel under the grave; the grave marker is moved later so the Germans don't realise they're using the same few graves. However Dr. Watson starts to suspect that that the escapees are actually being killed off for real outside of the camp.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The episode "Final Escape" subverts this when a male prisoner (female in the remake) plans an escape using this method. The prisoner is supposed to hide in the next coffin being used, then the prison undertaker is supposed to come and dig the coffin up once the coast is clear. When the prisoner feels that they've been waiting too long, they light a match to see that they're buried with ... the undertaker.
  • Alias: Sydney Bristow once snuck into an Uzbek military base this way.
  • On The A-Team, there was an episode where Face (who was posing as a priest) smuggled Murdock out of the VA hospital in a casket. They then use it for Coffin Contraband to smuggle their weapons into the foreign country where the episode takes place. That time had an unconscious BA in the casket as well.
  • Breakout Kings: In "Steaks", two convicts murder an obese inmate and then hide in his coffin in order to escape.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Initiative shoot Oz with a Tranquilizer Dart, then put him in a bodybag to smuggle him off the Sunnydale college campus. As tensions are high among the Initiative soldiers because one of their own was recently killed by a wolf-like demon, the use of a bodybag is ominous.
  • CSI: Catherine and D.B. use this trick to get themselves smuggled back into the lab when a hit team is looking for them in "Willows in the Wind".
  • Doctor Who: In "Day of the Moon", FBI agent Canton Delaware III, playing the Fake Defector, smuggles Amy and Rory into Area 51, where the Doctor is being held, this way.
    Rory: These things could really do with airholes!
    Canton: Never had a complaint before.
  • Firefly :
    • Simon and River use this technique to beat the security and get into a mega-hospital in the episode "Ariel". Bonus points for actually making their hearts stop to get in.
    • In “The Message”, a war buddy of Mal’s smuggles himself onto the ship this way. He was trying to escape a deal with organ traffickers that he was using his body to smuggle enhanced organs for.
  • Hustle: In "Lest Ye Be Judged", Mickey uses a bodybag to smuggle Emma into the morgue so she can place a false postmortem report in the files.
  • Another variation occurs in an episode of MacGyver (1985). Mac is trying to sneak out of Commie Land in a wooden coffin, but he ends up being discovered and his allies carrying the coffin throw it off the border bridge. Mac blows out the sides and it becomes a jet ski, he makes his escape and then the real plot starts after he gets back to the States.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Tale of the Goat", a voodoo chief fakes his death with tetrodotoxin so he can be smuggled into Miami in a coffin.
  • Ari does this to sneak into the morgue in NCIS.
    • A variation: in the very first episode, "Yankee White", DiNozzo hides in a body bag as a decoy, while the rest of the gang spirit the real corpse away. Hilarity and severe bruising ensues.
  • The New Avengers: In "Hostage", Purdey's kidnappers carry her out of her flat hidden in a coffin.
  • A variation occurs in Scrubs when JD attempts to escape the hospital so he can go home and have his day off. It goes alright, until he begins talking to the person who wheeled him into the elevator, who panics and hits him with a fire extinguisher.
    JD: [in bodybag] Can you press "lobby", please? [Doug starts attacking him] OW! OW! OW! [unzips] Doug! Why are you hitting me?!
    Doug: 'Cause I thought you were a dead guy coming back to life!
    JD: ...Then why were you hitting me?!
    Doug: Dead people should be dead.
  • In Z Nation the main characters must hide in a morgue from a "zunami" of zombies. Warren has to hide in a body bag as zombies swarm the morgue.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Syndicate has this as a unique kill opportunity. During the Lambeth Asylum assassination, Jacob can slip into the morgue and hide on a gurney, whereupon he's brought upstairs to his target, a Mad Doctor who's giving a medical presentation. The doctor first notices something is wrong when he sees that his "corpse" is still wearing boots...
  • One mission in Grand Theft Auto V has Michael infiltrating a city morgue in order to uncover dirt on a suspected terrorist for his FIB handler Dave Norton. He does this by getting a Tap on the Head from Dave, then sent to the morgue as a John Doe, where he gets up on the slab and scares the living daylights out of the morticians. Notably, if you tilt your head with the right analog stick, you'll get unique dialogue from the doctors about how his corpse is "reanimating", while if you wait too long to get up, the doctors will start cutting you open and kill you for real.
  • You do this with a fake death drug to get CIA agent Smith out of a clinic in Hitman: Blood Money.
  • Though no bodybag is used, the protagonist of Planescape: Torment looks ghastly enough to pass as a corpse, and can have himself smuggled into the local morgue when required.

    Web Original 
  • Dr. Griffin does this in KateModern to escape from an Order facility.

    Western Animation 
  • Used to get Killer Frost into the morgue in Batman: Assault on Arkham. Her powers help her pass as a corpse when the bag is scanned and confirmed to be cold.

    Real Life 
  • The first-century CE rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai inverted this, using a coffin to smuggle himself out of Jerusalem when it was under siege by the Romans.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Bodybag Trick



Bond pulls this off to sneak out of Kamal Khan's palace. He scares the crap out of the people carting the supposed corpse off.

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