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Buried in a Pile of Corpses

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He will need lots and lots of therapy.

"I spent the night buried in that pile of corpses. Call it paranoia, but I had this feeling that they were waiting for me to show myself. So I stayed there in a state of abject terror, covered with spilled guts, brains, blood, excrement... the essence of human mortality."
Officer Rosco, Judge Dredd

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's both disrespectful to the dead and dirty fighting.

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: In the first manga episode, when 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 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 Manipulation 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 Hunter × Hunter, this is what Pokkle resorted to in order to survive in the Chimera Ant arc. Not that it helped, he was butchered and killed anyway.
  • Trafalgar Law from One Piece is the trope image provider. As the sole survivor of the Flevance genocide, he escaped the borders by hiding under the corpses of his fellow countrymen.
  • 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.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Zigzagged Trope. 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, so he describes the experience as quite pleasant.
    • In Dominion and The Torture Garden, Rosco evades the Dark Judges several times by hiding among the piles of corpses they've created. The first time, she had simply been knocked out during the slaughter and got lucky, the second time it's intentional on her part.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfed Behind: Smurfing In Heaven", after Empath thinks he has died and has been brought to the Smurfs' version of heaven (Elysium) and there is offered the mantle of godhood but rejects it out of disgust of what his fellow Smurfs have become in the afterlife, the Smurfs all turn into rotting corpses and pile on top of Empath so fast that he finds himself falling from Elyisum and down deep into the earth to the other afterlife destination, Tartarus. Empath eventually breaks through the pile of Smurf corpses he was buried under and reduces them all to dust, discovering that they were not really his fellow Smurfs at all, but magical constructs created by somebody.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Billion Dollar Brain. Harry Palmer takes part in a raid with a group of Latvian members of La Résistance, gets knocked unconscious by a Soviet soldier and wakes up in the bathroom of a Soviet army base among the Latvians whose bodies have been piled into a bathtub. It's done more as a warning than anything else, as the KGB quickly arrive to clean Harry up and take him to their boss.
  • Referenced, but not seen, in the kung-fu movie, The Bloody Escape. One of the supporting characters, an ex-bandit who turned over a new leaf, recalls his past as one of the most fearsome murderers in the martial world, until his clan ends up in a fight where by the end of the battle, he's the Sole Survivor and had to drag himself from underneath two hundred corpses.
  • In Dead in Tombstone, Guerrero and Calthea escape from the mine by concealing themselves in a mine cart underneath a pile of corpses.
  • In Enemy at the Gates, after a German patrol forces Comisar Damilov to crash the car he's driving, he rushes to a pile of bodies in a fountain, and puts a corpse on top of himself to hide himself from the patrol. A half track drives by and sprays automatic fire on the bodies, but misses Damilov, who vomits after coming out of hiding.
  • The ending of the war movie, My Way, also how the main character, Tetsuo, survive the aftermath of D-Day; by hiding underneath the pile of dead Germans as Allies storms the beach.
  • In one of the most iconic moment of The Killing Fields (set during Cambodia's Khmer Rouge massacre era), the protagonist trips and falls in a muddy paddy-field, and realize there are hundreds of corpses of massacre victims under the waters.
  • 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.
  • The Sacrament: When Sam is hiding from the cult's guards during the mass suicide, he pulls Sarah's corpse on top of him.
  • 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 The Children of Húrin, Húrin was captured at the end of the Nirnaeth Arnoediad when he was grappled by numerous Orcs and Trolls and despite cutting off their arms, he fell under their weight.
  • Circleverse: In 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 injuries they'd already inflicted on her.
  • In Coma, the heroine, a medical student, manages to trap the hitman trying to kill her in the school's anatomy lab.
  • 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.
  • In One Hundred Years of Solitude, after leading a strike which ends in the strikers being massacred, José Arcadio Segundo wakes up on a train filled with corpses and has to walk back to his hometown.
  • 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.
  • Warhammer 40,000: 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.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • In Y: The Last Man (2021), Agent 355 needs to sneak Yorick out of the most secure building in the country, the Pentagon (where the rest of the Executive Branch, president incuded, holed up), and does so by hiding him under the bodies of male victims of the Gendercide as they are removed en masse. As soon as they're clear Yorick stands up as quickly as he can, clearly disgusted.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • In Call of Duty: World at War inspired by Enemy at the Gates 's own fountain scene, you and Viktor Reznov start, hunting down the 'Architect of Stalingrad's misery'.
  • Detroit: Become Human: Kara and Alice (and Luther, if he's still alive) can potentially escape death in the Battle for Detroit - Kara Captured route by climbing into one of the trucks transporting dead androids to a landfill. Kara can also do this on her own, leaving her family behind, if she so chooses.
    • In From the Dead, Markus can try to salvage an optical unit from the head of a dead android. Choosing this particular component results in him digging the head out of a pile of scrap, only to realise that he's disturbed a crate full of broken parts, which he then has to climb out of.
  • 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. Vaas, believing him dead, leaves him at the bottom of a mass grave, and Jason is forced to dig his way out through the bodies. 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.
  • The prologue of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has a segment where Snake and Ishmael, cornered by XOF soldiers in a hallway, hide among the bodies of a dozen or so hospital patients and staff in hopes of the soldiers mistaking them for dead. It becomes apparent that this wasn't such a good idea when they start shooting the corpses as they move down the hall...
  • 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.

    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 Shrinking Violet in the present day.


    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • After the the Battle of Agincourt, the English found Charles de Valois, duc d'Orléans (first cousin of Charles VII of France and future father of Louis XII of France) alive and unhurt, but buried under a pile of corpses. He was promptly taken prisoner and spent 25 years in captivity in England.