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Cramming the Coffin

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A Sub-Trope of Disposing of a Body, this trope involves hiding a body in a coffin that is already scheduled to be buried or cremated. This can be done with the connivance of a crooked funeral director or, for the more desperate or less organized, by breaking into a funeral home the night before a funeral.

If it is done by a crooked funeral director, then the concealment may involve a false bottom in the coffin. Otherwise, the second corpse will just be shoved under the first and the lid screwed back down.

In fiction, at least, this ploy will usually be discovered when the pallbearers drop the coffin due to the extra weight, and two bodies spill out.

A variation involves burying a body in the bottom of a newly dug grave, so a coffin will be placed on top of the corpse and the grave filled in.

Contrast Together in Death, where lovers in life get buried together after they die. A sister trope is Coffin Contraband, where something other than a body is hidden in a coffin. Bodybag Trick is when a coffin is used to smuggle a living body.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise. The first episode opens with Public Security disinterring the grave of a military officer whose cyber brain they need to access. Instead, they find the coffin empty except for an android that tries to kill them. Later Motoko goes back to the gravesite and finds another coffin buried underneath the first, with the officer's body.

    Comic Books 
  • In "The Meek" in Batman #32, a Serial Killer uses his day job as a gravedigger at Potter's Field to hide the bodies of his victims by interring them in paupers' graves he is digging.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is presumed to have happen to Abigail Craven and Tully Alford at the end of the 1991 film version of The Addams Family. Portal Book-summoned hurricane-force winds blow them out of the Addams mansion, and they land in freshly-dug graves, with Wednesday and Pugsley there ready to fill the graves with dirt. If they survived the fall, they could also be Buried Alive.
    Pugsley: Are they dead?
    Wednesday: Does it matter?
  • A variation in The Assassination Bureau. After Ivan replaces the body in the coffin with himself, Sonia slips down to the funeral gondola by another route and climbs into the boat—only to end up in a deep well right underneath where the coffin is placed. This allows her to unscrew the bottom and let him fall out on top of her, where he can remain hidden until the coffin is disposed of and they can escape.
  • This is how the vampires dispose of the bodies of their victims in Bordello of Blood.
  • In Crime Doctor's Man Hunt, the hoods Natalie hired to dispose of Armstrong's body dumped it in a crematorium retort where it would be cremated the next time the retort was used. The plan failed when the retort was closed for maintenance.
  • Dark Night of the Scarecrow: After Otis and Skeeter dig up Bubba's grave and discover his body in his coffin, Otis murders Skeeter and buries the body in Bubba's grave alongside the coffin.
  • In Death at a Funeral, the deceased's diminutive gay lover gets knocked out after his attempts to blackmail the two sons goes wrong, and the sons, thinking that they'd accidentally killed him, hide him in their father's coffin. Naturally, he wakes up at the worst possible time.
  • In A Hard Day, the main character runs over a homeless man on the way to his mother's funeral. He then... well, you get the idea.
  • In Miss Nobody, Sarah Jane uses Mr. Ketchum's wake as an opportunity to hide Nether's body in his coffin.
  • Never Grow Old: After he strangles Dumb-Dumb, Undertaker Patrick hides his body in Emily Crabtree's coffin under her body.
  • Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. A mafia body is arranged to disappear this way. At the funeral we see the pallbearers stumble in surprise when they first pick up the coffin.

  • Invoked with an old joke about a politician whose gravestone reads "Here lies a lawyer and an honest man", prompting passersby to comment "I didn't know they made two-man coffins."

  • Brother Cadfael has to resort to this trick A Morbid Taste for Bones, as well as some quick talking to explain how the desiccated bones of a saint suddenly weigh as much as a mortal man.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Nightmares: Variant in The Cat Came Back — Brutus the dog comes over to dig at the grave of Bootsie the cat, whom he'd killed a day before. When Bootsie's owners find the disturbed grave, they find a dead Brutus trapped under the sod, because Bootsie had come back to life long enough to catch him and kill him in revenge.
  • In Death Toll: A Mystery by Jim Kelly, the bodies buried at a cemetery are being moved to higher ground to avoid flooding. When the grave of Nora Tilden, buried in 1982, is opened, gravediggers are shocked to find another body, a skeleton, on top of the casket. The body had to have been thrown into Nora's grave on the day she was buried.
  • In the Ellery Queen novel The Greek Coffin Mystery, the Queens search a dead man's man coffin for a missing will, and find two bodies inside instead of one.
  • The Lord Darcy case "The Muddle of the Woad", a murder victim is hidden in a coffin and is discovered when the carpenter tries to deliver the coffin to the widow of the man who it had been intended for and finds it much heavier than it was supposed to be.
  • Happens in the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery "The Nine Tailors". A man, dead under mysterious circumstances, is buried in the family plot of a local lady who has just died because nobody will notice disturbance in the freshly turned earth; unfortunately her husband dies a few months later, and the grave is reopened, revealing the body.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax", the villains are too squeamish to commit murder outright, so they chloroform Lady Frances and hide her in the coffin containing the body of her old nurse, which is due to be buried the next day. Which is still murder, only a slow and painful one by asphyxiation.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The "same grave" variant is used in an episode of Bones, though it was already occupied when the murderer hid the second body there.
  • The Brokenwood Mysteries: Rather than two corpses in one coffin, one episode's murder victim is found in someone else's coffin, with the original body nowhere to be found.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Goodbye Iowa", Initiative soldiers search Spike's crypt, reading to kill any undead person on sight. Realizing from the still-warm television that someone has been there recently, they lift the lid off a stone sarcophagus, only to find a skeleton covered by a burial shroud. After they leave, Spike appears from beneath the corpse. Buffy herself has pulled the same trick when hiding from vampires. Similarly, Giles once hid in an occupied drawer in a morgue.
  • An episode of Castle ("Anatomy of a Murder") has the Body of the Week disposed of this way, and just like the trope description above, the ruse is discovered at the funeral when the pallbearers drop the coffin open.
  • The Closer: In "Saving Face", the funeral of a former police colleague of Flynn and Provenza takes an unexpected turn when the casket is dropped, revealing not only their friend's body but that of a nude, blonde woman.
  • In one episode of Columbo, the killer — a funeral director — disposes of the body of the victim by cremating it along with one of his legitimate jobs.
  • CSI: In "For Gedda", the team investigates the murder of a man who was stuffed in an occupied coffin. The victim ends up being someone Warrick is familiar with.
  • In Season 3 of Dexter, not wanting to divulge the methods of his usual lifestyle, Dexter teaches Miguel Prado to dispose of bodies by burying them past the point of visibility within a to-be-used grave, intending them to be hidden beneath a new coffin.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In an early episode, a sleazy undertaker murders his partner and hides the body inside of a cabinet while claiming the man went out of town. After he himself dies due to a scheming employee, that employee puts his body inside the cabinet too, claiming that the undertaker had wanted to be buried inside it, thus burying both men.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Mortal Coil", a coffin is dropped at a funeral that Jean is attending, revealing the body of Jean's friend and the local junk man. The investigation later reveals this is the second body to have been disposed of in this manner.
  • The German crime show Ein Fall fur zwei had an episode where the criminal hides a body by killing a dog and burying it above the corpse (so when the scene is dug up, the cops only find the dog and think it's a waste of time). Only when the investigators have a "Eureka!" Moment and think to dig deeper does he confess.
  • Father Brown: In "The Curse of Amenhotep", the killer attempts to dispose of Father Brown by sealing him inside a sarcophagus.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self", Lestat de Lioncourt stuffs one of the two dead priests that he has killed into a sarcophagus at St. Augustine Church's cemetery.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • The 'body buried in the grave beneath a coffin' is used in "Beyond the Grave".
    • This is attempted in "Four Funerals and a Wedding", but rain washes away the dirt and exposes the body before the coffin can be placed in the grave. Also, the victim was the deacon who was supposed to be performing the funeral service.
  • Played for Laughs in Episode 11 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, where a group of undertakers have to carry the coffin to the graveyard manually after the hearse breaks down. One by one, the pallbearers collapse from exhaustion, whereupon the others put him in the coffin as well and continue the procession. Finally, the last pallbearer climbs in by himself, closes the lid, and the coffin travels the remaining distance under its own power.
  • Motive: In "Fallen Angel", a thief used a grave in an old cemetery to hide a cache of stolen diamonds. He also uses the grave to dispose of the body of his partner, whom he has just murdered.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "The Black Hand", Murdoch is investigating the shooting death of a businessman from New York City when he learns of a sudden change in the funeral arrangements for the dead man. He and Constable Crabtree visit the mortician, and Crabtree notices the body seems to be rather high in his coffin. The cops find the coffin has a false bottom concealing another dead man the fiancé of Anna Fulford, who stole counterfeit money from an organized crime outfit.
  • My Life Is Murder: In "Remains to be Seen", a husband and wife had arranged to be buried in the same grave. When the wife dies several months after the husband, the grave is reopened to allow her interment, but the gravediggers discover the Body of the Week atop the husband's coffin.
  • Rizzoli & Isles: In "Stiffed", a family is lifting the coffin containing their grandmother out of a hearse when they drop it due to the weight. Grandma's body and the body of a naked man fall out. When the team investigates, they discover the naked man was the mortician who had prepared the grandmother's body. Ultimately they discover he had been coerced by a Serial Killer into disposing of bodies for him, and the team finds two more cases of second bodies concealed in coffins, and one of a body buried underneath a coffin.
  • Variant in the Scandal episode "Run". Olivia is kidnapped, and the bad guys smuggle her out of her apartment by stuffing her Bound and Gagged inside a body bag, with her murdered neighbor placed on top of her to further the ruse.
  • Sherlock: In The Abominable Bride, Sherlock thinks that there is a second body buried beneath the coffin of Emelia Ricoletti. However, his attempt to dig it up is part of a drug-induced hallucination so the viewer never learns if he was correct or not.
  • Silent Witness: In "Hippocratic Oath", a hearse crashes and two bodies are discovered in the coffin. The team is charged with discovering the identity of the John Doe corpse.
  • Part of a plot by an undertaker to get rid of his wife in the Thriller episode "'Til Death Do Us Part".
  • Yancy Derringer: In "Duel at the Oaks", Yancy agrees to "shoot" CharlesLeBow in a fake duel in order to smoke out the man who's trying to kill LeBow for real. When, at the "funeral", the body of LeBow's partner is discovered in what should have been LeBow's empty coffin, the City Administrator doubts Yancy's tale and plans to lock him in prison as a material witness.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Played with on WWE Smackdown in 1999: In a casket match (where whoever puts his opponent into a ringside coffin first wins) which was originally scheduled to be The Undertaker vs Triple H, the Undertaker pulled out and was replaced by two of his minions, Viscera and Mideon. HHH manages to get Mideon into the coffin and seal it, but then he gets told that because it's a two-on-one match he has to lock both of his opponents into the coffin for him to win. He loses.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • A bit on Family Guy has the characters mentioning Meg's funeral. They cut away to a coffin being lowered into the ground...and then Peter runs in from offscreen, chucks Meg's body under the coffin and runs away yelling "Thanks, didn't want to pay for the hole!"
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Deception", Cad Bane, Moralo Eval and Rako Hardeen do this as a step in their plan to escape from prison.

    Real Life 
  • Allegedly this method was used by The Mafia to dispose of bodies; secretly burying the victims of mob hits along with the bodies of those who died of more natural causes, sometimes by using "double-decker" coffins. It was Joe Bonanno, the namesake boss of the Bonanno crime family from 1931 to 1968, who reportedly popularized the concept as he owned a funeral parlor.
  • Occasionally, a funeral home will be charged with burying more than one body in a plot. In this case, it's not to cover up a murder but to bilk more than one family for the same piece of ground.