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Buried in a Pile of Corpses

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A Sub-Trope of Playing Possum where a character is either in or puts themselves in a pile of dead bodies, either on purpose to avoid being found or as a result of the carnage around them. If the person this happens to is a child it definitely falls under Harmful to Minors and can be a Freudian Excuse for a mentally ill character, since it's pretty much by definition a traumatizing experience.

If a character uses this tactic on purpose to conceal themselves so they can attack expect them to be a Combat Pragmatist at best and a Dirty Coward at worst, and if other characters see them doing this they may react with disgust since it falls under both Desecrating the Dead and Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty.

Compare Atop a Mountain of Corpses, which is usually more triumphant but may begin with a character being buried within it. Waking Up at the Morgue is thematically related. Not to be confused with Pretend We're Dead, where a living character pretends to be undead.


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     Anime and Manga  

  • Berserk: during the first chapter, while the Baron of Koka Castle is leading his men in massacring the outlying town, Guts hides under a heap of corpses in order to ambush the Baron's horsemen with his repeating crossbow.
  • This happens in the Dragon Ball Z prequel movie Bardock: The Father of Goku. When Frieza first begins The Purge of the Saiyans, he sends Dodoria to kill off Bardock and his squad. When Dodoria launches a final Ki Attack on Bardock, the force of it sweeps up the dead bodies of Bardock's squad and he winds up badly injured and buried beneath them. This actually saves his life, since Dodoria assumes Bardock is dead and flies off.
  • In One Piece, Trafalgar Law resorted to this by hiding in a cart of dead bodies leaving his hometown after they were attacked and entirely wiped out, not unlike François L'Ollonais.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the young Kenshin, then known as Shinta, was briefly in one when the girls he was being held by slavers with protected him with their bodies when a group of bandits ambushed them and started killing them. This left him with a Thousand-Yard Stare that his eventual master Hiko Seijurou took note of and made Hiko decide to take him in, since he was never going to be able to return to a normal life after experiencing that.

     Comic Books  

  • The Punisher: One cannibal King of the Homeless villain called The Man Down Below lived in a pile of corpses brought by his followers. He started down that path in childhood when his morbidly obese mother collapsed on him and died and he had to eat his way out.
  • In Ravages of Time, Xiahou Dun once rescued Liu Bei from one.
  • In The Golden Age, Hawkman struggles out from under one during the final battle.
  • Zigzagged Trope in Judge Dredd. After Necropolis, Judge Death hides among the mountain of corpses of his own victims to avoid the manhunt for him. However, he's already a zombie to begin with.

     Film - Live Action  

  • In Ravenous (1999), Lt. Boyd is a coward who plays dead at a battle with Mexico, and is loaded into a wagon full of corpses. When the wagon arrives at the Mexican HQ, he has a mysterious rush of strength and aggression (due to accidentally swallowing the blood of the others) and destroys the HQ.
  • In Taken Bryan Mills does this at one point after massacring all the bad guys in the kitchen. When their comrades run in to see the cause of the commotion Mills starts firing at them from under a corpse.


  • In Ciaphas Cain, during a stealth mission, the team's Cold Sniper uses someone's corpse to support his rifle and hide himself, to Ciaphas' distaste.
  • In The Dark Elf Trilogy, House Do'Urden lost favor with their goddess after Drizzt pulled off a similar trick with an elf child during a surface raid.
  • In Kushiel's Legacy, the Markaghir had his Start of Darkness as a boy when his family was massacred: he was dug out from under their stacked corpses with Identity Amnesia, Black Eyes of Evil, and a madness that extinguished any capacity for love or kindness.
  • This is part of Mistle's backstory in The Witcher: she was kidnapped from her hometown along with several other women by bandits, who raped, murdered, and buried all of them in a ditch. Mistle survived only because the bandits thought she had already died and threw her in with the other corpses, which is where her future True Companions found her.
  • In the pulp series Soldiers of Barrabas, while in a famine-wracked Ethiopia ex-CIA agent Karl Heiss is shot by the hero, apparently fatally, only to wake up at the end of the novel and realise to his horror that he's buried in a mass grave. He survives of course to seek his revenge.
  • In the Circle of Magic book Battle Magic Evvy, who is a child, is stripped, tortured and left for dead in a pile of corpses by the Yanjinyi when they are invading Gyongxe. They only failed to kill her because she used her magic to mentally flee her body to escape the pain making them think she'd died of the injures they'd already inflicted on her.

     Live Action Television  

  • Jon Snow is nearly trampled to death and buried beneath the fallen during a battle in the sixth season of Game of Thrones. He memorably has to desperately fight to avoid being crushed and suffocated while the battle continues to rage.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Catalina recalls having done this after the drug cartels terrorized her village. She thinks that's how you win hide-and-seek. Dodge and Earl Jr. are visibly disturbed.

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • One of the events in Diablo III is a fight with a pack of Hell Hounds in a cellar full of rotting bodies. After the hounds are defeated, a civilian will crawl out from under one of the body heaps and thank you for saving him. From the same game, Myriam hides from the Reapers in a pile of mummified corpses, knowing thanks to her psychic abilities that the player character will come along in time to save her.
  • Jason in Far Cry 3 survives being shot by Vaas at one point thanks to a lighter in his pocket. He awakens at the bottom of a mass grave and is forced to dig his way out. It's rather understandable that he starts undergoing Sanity Slippage after such an experience.
  • Homefront: The player and companions must do this to themselves at one point in order to escape notice by a North Korean patrol.
  • In Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the player wakes up inside a pile of dead bodies when they come back to life at the beginning of the game.
  • In Tales of the Abyss Guy Cecil was buried under a pile of dead women for days after his family was murdered, resulting in his present day phobia of being touched by women.
  • In Borderlands, in one of the audio-logs describing her Sanity Slippage, Patricia Tannis describes surviving a skag attack by lying beneath the body of one of her colleagues as it was being devoured.

     Visual Novels  

  • It was only a single body, but the backstory of Hanako in Katawa Shoujo had this happen to her when her mother shielded her with her own body when their house burned down. This incident left Hanako with heavy emotional and physical scarring that have left her a Fragile Flower in the present day.


     Web Original  

  • A Scotsman in Egypt: After the battle against the Timurids, King Domnall is found under the corpses of his men, who stood in the way of an elephant's charge to protect him. He survives the battle, but his injuries kill him not too long after.

     Western Animation  

  • Flippy from Happy Tree Friends had to hide inside the corpse of his dead friend and fellow soldier as the Tiger General's forces walk by. This causes him to snap and develop an Ax-Crazy Split Personality that emerges to try and murder everyone around him when something reminds Flippy of the war.
  • Mentioned on King of the Hill when Cotton is accused of setting a fire on the church bathroom, which he blames on "the man with the terrible smell" (actually Bobby, who got sick from eating too much lutefisk). He talks about how he spent two weeks buried under a pile of corpses at Iwo Jima, and says that what he smelled at the church bathroom was much worse.

     Real Life  

  • Early in his pirate days, the crew of François l'Ollonais was almost entirely wiped out by Spanish soldiers, l'Ollonais himself survived by covering himself in blood and hiding among his comrades' corpses.
  • During the earlier days of the Holocaust, several would be victims survived by pretending to be shot during mass executions and making a break for it after they were pushed into mass graves.