Follow TV Tropes


Coffin Contraband

Go To
At least you'll have one coffin for someone afterwards.
Coffins make handy places to store items other than corpses. After all, most people are a trifle squeamish about opening something that might contain a dead body. This trope is a when a coffin, sarcophagus or other container intended for human remains is used to conceal something else.

A Sister Trope to Cramming the Coffin, which is when a coffin is used to dispose of an extra body. If a coffin is used to smuggle a living body, that's Bodybag Trick.

Not to Be Confused with hiding the corpse's own belongings with him/her.

Compare Senseless Violins and Treasure Chest Cavity.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In Bat Lash #2, an undertaker is secretly selling rifles to the local Indians and smuggling them in coffins.
  • The Ventriloquist's original debut in Batman had an especially gruesome case: drugs are smuggled through customs a coffin... inside the corpse of a henchman who'd failed him one time too many.
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #28, smuggler Peter Wade uses a coffin that is supposed to contain a Chinese mummy destined to Dr. Jones' museum to smuggle in what he believes to be a shipment of arms bound for the IRA.
  • In Jonah Hex # 21 (original series), Jonah's pa hides a bag of stolen gold inside a coffin in the local undertaker's. By the time he manages to get back to it, the coffin is placed inside a mine and buried with dynamite: the deceased's last wishes being to entombed in the mine he had devoted his life to working.
  • In the second-ever Plastic Man story, Eel O'Brian infiltrates a gang who are using coffins to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the US.
  • Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh has coffins are used for smuggling what in most cases is presumably opium. Three coffins are used to transport Tintin, Snowy and Dr. Sarcophagus instead, but the smugglers don't realize until after the coffins have already been thrown overboard at the sign of approaching coastguards.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: After Cinn murders George Ozone, she disposes of the murder weapon by hiding it in a stranger's coffin.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Played with in American Gangster. Frank Lucas and his smuggling ring used coffins carrying dead US soldiers back to the United States to smuggle heroin from South East Asia, though the drugs were hidden in the pallets used to carry them rather than the coffins.
  • Drugs are being smuggled inside dead bodies in Bad Boys II, leading to a Black Comedy scene where the two cops have to search various bodies in the morgue, including a well-endowed female corpse.
    Mike Lowery:: What? I ain't doin' nothin'. What am I gonna do with these big-ass fake dead titties?
  • In Breakheart Pass, Deakin discovers the coffins in the baggage car are filled with rifles.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever:
    • James Bond impersonates a diamond smuggler he has killed and smuggles the diamonds inside the corpse inside a coffin.
      Felix Leiter: I give up. I know the diamonds are in the body, but where?
      Bond: Alimentary, Dr. Leiter...
    • When Bond is trapped in a coffin and about to be cremated alive the coffin he's trapped in is supposed to have the $50,000 he was to be paid for smuggling, which is how they lured him into the coffin in the first place.
  • The eponymous gunslinger in Django drags a coffin with a machine gun hidden inside behind him wherever he goes.
  • The Fastest Gun Alive: After faking George's death, the townsfolk place his gun inside the coffin full of stones they bury in his grave.
  • In Brazilian erotic Western spoof A Gunman Named Papaco, the titular gunman drags a coffin containing some precious merchandise that he intends to sell, and his enemies repeatedly try to steal. It's ultimately revealed to be a bunch of dildos.
  • In the shootout in Hero (1997), Brother Tam's coffin actually contains Brother Tam, who isn't dead at all, and at least twenty different guns. Allowing him to leap out of the coffin and start firing away at mooks left and right.
  • HHhH (a.k.a. The Man with the Iron Heart). The assassins who killed Reinhard Heydrich plan to evade the subsequent dragnet by getting smuggled out of Prague in coffins from the church crypt they are hiding in. Unfortunately, the German authorities track them down first.
  • Highway61: Bangs uses the dead body to hide drugs. They travel with the coffin strapped to the roof of the car.
  • In Johnny English, henchmen smuggle away the Crown Jewels in a coffin, and drive off in a hearse to complete the illusion. Of course, Johnny gives chase but gets lost and ends up following a real hearse, leading to him tactlessly interrupting a funeral to investigate the coffin.
  • In the original Ocean's 11, Danny Ocean and his crew plan on smuggling back the money stolen from the Vegas casinos in a coffin. Their plan is thwarted when the widow opts for cremation.
  • In the Film Serial Secret Service in Darkest Africa (1943). After being given permission to bury their dead in Allied territory, the evil Nazis callously dispose of the bodies and fill the coffins with explosives for their secret agents to pick up later.
  • At the start of Some Like It Hot, bootleggers dressed as undertakers are driving a hearse containing a coffin filled with bottles of bootleg booze.
  • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the cemetery fight scene is justified by Sarah Connor choosing to be secretly cremated so her coffin could be used to hide a weapons cache.
  • The gangsters in the 1947 film They Made Me a Fugitive use coffins for smuggling drugs.
  • In the French film The Trip Across Paris (La traversée de Paris) (1956), a coffin is used to smuggle a black market pig past the checkpoints in Nazi-occupied Paris.
  • Millard's plan is to kill Evel Knievel in Mexico and smuggle cocaine in the van carrying Knievel's body back into the United States in Viva Knievel!.

  • There is a well-circulated joke in Spanish-speaking circles about a Cuban exiled sending the corpse of a deceased relative to be buried on the island... and along with the body, a big lot of stuff asked for the island relatives, either worn by the corpse or hidden in the coffin.

  • In one of the Don Camillo stories, partisan leader Peppone and village priest Don Camillo collude to hide a lot of incriminating weapons this way, once from the German occupiers and once from their British liberators, who are keen for the partisans to disarm and disband.
  • One of The Executioner novels (likely also inspired by the Frank Lucas affair) has heroin being smuggled in coffins marked Remains Non-Viewable (used for mutilated corpses who couldn't be given an open casket funeral) to dissuade anyone from opening them.
  • In The Golden Rendezvous by Alistair Maclean, the ship is searched for a stolen nuclear mini-missile. Later the protagonist looks in the one place they didn't search, the coffins they're conveying to the occupants home country for burial. Later the scientist who invented the missile gets smuggled in the coffins in its place — he's not happy about it.
  • Dumbledore in Harry Potter has the Elder Wand buried with him in a sarcophagus, figuring that barely anyone in the Wizarding world would recognize the artifact's significance even if they found it, much less think to check this particular coffin for this particular item. It doesn't work.
  • Liquidate Paris, by Sven Hassel. Two Section do this to smuggle a black-market pig across a guarded bridge in German-occupied Paris, in a scene that appears to have been plagiarized from The Trip Across Paris.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel The Thousand Coffins Affair. THRUSH hides large amounts of a lethal drug in coffins buried in a cemetery.
  • In Men at Arms, Carrot gets rid of the gonne by putting it in Constable Cuddy's coffin, thereby also giving Cuddy's spirit a really mighty burial weapon.
  • Number the Stars has a case of this when a coffin loaded with essential supplies for Danish-born Jewish refugees is used in order to avoid being seized by Nazi soldiers. There was a close encounter with one until the soldier was "advised" that the coffin bore the dead victim of a typhus.
  • Orient Cycle: In "The Realm of the Silver Lion', some coffins in the "Death Caravan" do not contain rotting corpses...
  • Insofar as Puckoon can be said to have a plot, one of its major points involves the smuggling of explosives into Northern Ireland in coffins.
  • Stephanie Plum has this in Two For The Dough. US military coffins are used to smuggle weapons.
  • In Without Remorse by Tom Clancy, set during the Vietnam conflict, heroin is being smuggled from Asia back to the US in the bodies of dead soldiers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Fury hid the data from Project T.A.H.I.T.I. in Phil Coulson's unoccupied grave.
  • Airwolf: In "Half-Pint", an American running a mercy operation to repatriate the bodies of American soldiers from Vietnam is actually using the coffins to smuggle cocaine.
  • Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: In "Last Rites", Oz develops a sideline in selling pornographic videos. When his mate Headly Irwin dies, Oz tries to smuggle the videotapes back to Britain in Headly's coffin.
  • Boardwalk Empire: In the season 2 episode "Battle of the Century", Nucky Thompson and Owen Sleater travel to Ireland, ostensibly to bury Nucky's recently deceased father in the land of his birth. In actuality, Nucky's father is being buried in Atlantic City, and the coffin is actually carrying a batch of Thompson submachine guns that Nucky plans to trade to the IRA in exchange for Irish whiskey that he can sell in Atlantic City.
  • In the Castle episode "Kill the Messenger", Perlmutter had a coffin of a woman who died years ago exhumed to determine cause of death, but the coffin contained nothing but sandbags. Castle started to leave, commenting that it seemed like a waste of a high-end casket, then turned around and suggested that some high-end caskets have a small drawer in the lid. Perlmutter found the drawer, which contained a photo of the victim with a prominent senatorial candidate from the '70s. This led to Beckett and Castle uncovering a scandal which led to the woman's murder and helped them finally get justice for the victim.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: In "Maid Man", the ultimate goal of the killer is a cache of mob money hidden inside a burial niche in a mausoleum.
  • Apparently a local custom in Death in Paradise, as mentioned early on in "A Personal Murder". Specifically, people put the deceased's cell phone in his/her coffin, taking into account the possibility of the deceased sending a message from the grave. After Cedrik's death, Dwayne gets a text message from him declaring "I was murdered" as his dead body was being burned.
    DI Goodman: ...Isn't that a bit dangerous? Don't the batteries explode?
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Golden Years", the killer attempts to dispose of an incriminating watch by placing it in the coffin of the Victim of the Week.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Remembrance of the Daleks", the Doctor hides the Hand of Omega in a coffin and arranges to have it buried in the local graveyard.
    • In "Silver Nemesis", the Cybermen hide the Nemesis statue inside Lady Peinforte's casket.
  • A first-season episode of The Dukes of Hazzard had Boss Hogg hiding stolen money in a coffin. It's revealed in that episode the he regularly has moonshine smuggled in them as well.
  • The Equalizer episode "Joyride". A coffin in a hearse is filled with crack cocaine. Two boys take the hearse for the title joyride.
  • One episode of Firefly has the crew picking up the body of one of Mal's war buddies, only for the Feds to accuse them of moving contraband. They know this trope is in play, but can't tell what the contraband is because they're actually specially-synthesized organs intended for transplant; and the corpse isn't actually dead.
  • Happy Days. Fonzie is thought to be dead and some gangsters hide stolen loot in a false bottom of his casket.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Love on Ice", the killer disposes of the murder weapon by placing it in the coffin of the Victim of the Week.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: A victim's fraternity brother places the fraternity paddle that he used to sexually assault an initiate in the coffin of his murdered friend. Luckily for the detectives, the coffin is ceremonial only as the victim is cremated, and the personal items from the coffin are removed and stored until the next-of-kin instructs the funeral home on what to do with them, giving Benson and Stabler time to find the item before it can be destroyed.
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Played with in "Miss Me Kiss Me Love Me". The MacGuffin is actually hidden in the grave marker.
  • In the first season of Malcolm in the Middle, Reese planned on disposing of Dewey's broken birthday present by hiding it in his great aunt's coffin.
  • Miami Vice: During the Vietnam War, Colonel William Maynard (played by G. Gordon Liddy) smuggled heroin out of Vietnam by hiding it inside corpses. Unfortunately, the wood alcohol used to preserve the corpses turned the heroin toxic, killing many people.
  • In one episode of Mission: Impossible, the team convinces a Syndicate smuggler that the best way to get his employer's dirty money out of the country and into a bank in Switzerland is to declare that his beautiful young Mail-Order Bride (Casey), who had just died from a drug overdose, is to be buried in Europe, and conceal the money in the coffin. The coffin is 'accidentally' dropped while being loaded onto the plane, breaking it open to reveal that the body in the coffin is fake and the money is gone (stolen by the team at the funeral parlor). When the smuggler's bosses return to his place and see Casey still alive, they assume that he had been planning on stealing their money and running off with his pretty young wife, and have the smuggler killed.
  • Monk: The motive for the murder in "Mr. Monk vs. The Cobra". In 1998, career thief Chris Downey robbed a courier of some very expensive diamonds, and assaulted an off-duty cop during the getaway. He went to the cemetery where he worked and hid the jewels in the casket of recently deceased martial arts star Sonny Chow, who was scheduled to be buried the next day. In the absence of the jewels, the police couldn't link Downey to the robbery, and he only got convicted of the assault. When he made parole six years later, he went back to the cemetery with the intention of digging Chow's coffin up to get the diamonds back, only to find that while he was in prison, a fan club had erected a monument there that he couldn't move by himself. So Downey proceeded to kill an author who wrote a tell-all book about Chow, and planted evidence to implicate Chow in the murder so that the police would get a court order to have Chow's coffin exhumed.
  • Motive: In "Fallen Angel", a cache of stolen diamonds is buried in an old grave in a no longer active cemetery. However, the thief was arrested and sent to prison so the diamonds stayed there for 20 years.
  • On Murdoch Mysteries a large amount of gold was stolen from the Canadian government during the American Civil War. However, the conspirators all had their own agendas and in the resulting Gambit Pileup the gold was presumed lost when the ship carrying it sunk. More than three decades later, the police discover that the mastermind behind the theft was smart enough to switch out the gold before the sea voyage and hid it in a coffin. The coffin was then buried in a cemetery but the mastermind died before he could dig it up.
  • My Life Is Murder: In "Remains to be Seen", the killer needs to dispose of the Victim of the Week's personal belongings to make it look like he skipped town, so they pack them into the oversized casket of someone due to be cremated the next day.
  • NCIS: In the episode "Silver War," looters dig up a Civil-War-era coffin and find it full of guns, hidden against the day when the South might rise again. On the modern collector's market, the cache of vintage guns could bring a couple of million dollars.
  • New Tricks: In "Life Expectancy", the murder weapon — a marble bust — was buried in a grave underneath a coffin.
  • Once Upon a Time: When seeking a way to restore Henry's memories in "Is This Henry Mills?", Roni summons Lucy to the cemetery... because she's concluded the only way to do so is with the original storybook. Lucy points out she hasn't seen the book since Victoria used it to break her belief and restore Anastasia, to which Roni explains that just as she kept her vault in Storybrooke in a cemetery so that no-one would dare disturb it, Victoria "would never let it out of her cold, dead heads." One scene break later and there's the book, still with a bit of dirt clinging to it.
  • In Peaky Blinders, Danny Owen's fake grave is where Tommy's stashed the guns from the BSA robbery.
  • Shameless (UK): In episode 8x14, a coffin is carried through the estate, supposedly with Paddy inside, but it turns out this was Paddy's way of smuggling guns to the rest of the Maguires.
  • Vera: In "Home", the police search the house of woman acting as a middleman in a scheme to smuggle drugs into prison. Vera finds the drugs hidden in a funerary urn the woman claimed contained the ashes of her late husband.
  • In Whoops Apocalypse, this is one of the ways Lacrobat smuggles the Quark bomb to the Middle East (with the bodies of two circus dwarfs and himself in a ringmaster's outfit to complete the disguise). Unfortunately, he loses track of the coffin, and it ends up being taken to a crematorium. Kaboom.
  • On Witches of East End Joanne is an immortal witch who needs to switch identities every few decades so people do not notice that she does not age. She fakes the death of her old identity and then moves to a new city to start fresh. When she moves back to a town where she used to live a century earlier, she digs up the empty grave and stores an emergency stash of money in the coffin. Later on she also uses the grave to store a cursed painting.
  • Yancy Derringer: In "Loot from Richmond", Yancy learns of the (supposed) sudden death of General Stafford. However, the General is actually still alive, and his coffin instead contains a horde of $500,000 worth of silver and gold bullion, sent from Richmond.

  • The Magnus Archives: The narrator of "Do Not Open" is asked by a strange man to look after a 'package' which the narrator initially assumes is drugs. The package turns out to be a coffin, chained shut. He goes to great lengths to avoid finding out what was inside, which scratched at the lid when something was placed on top, and moaned in a sing-song manner when it rains.
  • Wooden Overcoats: In "She Stoops to Conquer," it's revealed that Seymour wants to do business with Funn Funerals so he can hide money in a coffin as part of a tax scam (and sleep with Antigone). Antigone is disgusted and tells him where he can stick it, but Rudyard doesn't see the problem.
    Rudyard: Antigone. The rich man wanted to give us a coffin full of money... and you said no?

    Tabletop Games 
  • One Paranoia mission suggests this as a way to smuggle the MacGuffin: throw it in a bag, cover it in goop, and make it look like what's left of a corpse. (Bonus points for including actual dead body parts. You didn't actually need all those teammates, did you?)

    Video Games 
  • Discussed in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Cicero is trying to transport a coffin containing the remains of his "mother" to a new crypt, but the wagon loses a wheel outside Loreius' farm. Loreius refuses to help Cicero repair the wagon, citing as one of the reasons that he thinks Cicero could be using the coffin to smuggle weapons and skooma. The coffin does indeed contain his "mother" — namely, the Night Mother of the Dark Brotherhood, for whom he is her Keeper.
  • In one Fallen London storylet, the player can assist the Gracious Widow and her ring of smugglers in sneaking contraband out of the city in coffins. You're not told what exactly you're smuggling, but if you choose to peek in one of the coffins, you find out it's Clay Men—in other words, a Bodybag Trick disguised as Coffin Contraband.
  • Grand Theft Auto Online: one of Lamar's lowrider missions involves four players being tasked with attacking a Vagos funeral in Blaine County to steal a package of cocaine hidden in the coffin.
  • Due to the supernatural properties of the coffin he carries around, Goldlewis Dickinson of Guilty Gear -STRIVE- uses it as a Bag of Holding, stashing extra weapons like drones and a minigun in there, which he can pull out during fights. The mysterious life form that inhabits the coffin doesn't seem to mind Goldlewis doing this, though it does occasionally troll him, doing things like handing him a rubber chicken as a "secret weapon".
  • Beyond the Grave (formerly Brandon Heat) of Gungrave totes around a very fancy coffin chained to his back. At first it looks like it's just part of his zombie aesthetic, being a Deadman and all. However, it actually hides an obscene number of heavy machine guns and rocket launchers, and he can use these to perform "Demolition Shots." Though having no attachment to it at first, Grave later decides to name it the 'Death Hauler.'
  • In Exiled Dead, one of the chapters of Murder in the Alps, smugglers are revealed to do this once per month in Porto Ceso as part of an elaborate "Scooby-Doo" Hoax. They take several recently buried corpses out of their graves, disperse them across the town to frighten the superstitious people, and place in the empty craves crates and coffins containing heroin before refilling the graves. The next night, they collect the goods and transport them on boat out of Porto Ceso.
  • In Those Nights at Rachel's, the coffin in the room next to the Office hides a Puppet lookalike called the Thing.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has a recently-discovered sarcophagus as its main MacGuffin. No one really knows what (or who) is in it, but the going theory is that it's an ancient slumbering vampire, which certain power-hungry modern vampires might want to use to increase their own power. It was actually just a plain old mummy, which one character replaced with a large amount of explosives rigged to blow when the lid is opened.

    Web Animation 
  • In Lackadaisy, the booze runners of Lackadaisy Speakeasy are on a late-night mission to the outskirts of a cemetery to dig up a coffin full of Canadian whiskey. (Their funeral home supplier posted an obituary in Cypher Language as a map to its location)

    Web Comics 
  • In Lackadaisy, one of their former suppliers was an undertaker who smuggled booze in coffins. Possibly a reference to something that happened in real life.

    Western Animation 
  • Jonny Quest episode "The Sea Haunt". A deserted freighter has a cargo hold full of coffins, each of which contains gold bars.
  • The Scooby-Doo Show: Dr. Coffin's smuggling scheme in "The Harum-Scarum Sanitarium" lacks coffins per se, but is done much in the same vein, as he's disguising gold as corpses under sheets, complete with wigs on top, on gurneys which is close enough.

    Real Life 
  • At least one undertaker near the US-Canada border took advantage of this during Prohibition. You can pack a lot of bootleg booze inside a coffin .... (He was eventually caught when a border guard noticed the sudden upswing in "deaths".)
  • Real Life had the "Coffin Connection", heroin was smuggled in coffins using false bottoms. The man was Frank Lucas and his crimes inspired both the film American Gangster and a Stephanie Plum novel.
  • A PBS Documentary on Prohibition also touched on this, with an allegory from the son of a bootlegger... Whose uncle happened to be an undertaker. When a raid was going to happen on their house they'd get a tip the day before, have his uncle drive up with a hearse, and load all their booze-making supplies into the back. His uncle would then drive the hearse into Arlington cemetery until the raid was over.
    "Who's gonna say anything? There's a hearse going into Arlington cemetery? They gonna stop a soldier from being buried?"