Follow TV Tropes


Crystal Skull

Go To
By the power of this skull!

In the 20th century, skulls made of crystal were showing up, with people claiming to have discovered them, and that they had Mayan or Aztec origins, and were said to have supernatural powers. Well, it's likely these were hoaxes. Not only were no skulls examined found in a documented excavation, all were dated from no earlier than the 19th century, and there are no authentic Native American or early modern colonial sources that describe anything analogous.

But fiction follows Rule of Cool, and the supernatural powers attributed to these skulls are plenty for shows.

Also, despite the skulls actually being made of crystal, works of fiction often depict them as skulls that are simply Gem-Encrusted.

A Sub-Trope of Public Domain Artifact. Compare Ring of Power, Mask of Power, Flaming Skulls, Crystal Ball, Silver Has Mystic Powers. Not to be confused with By the Power of Grayskull!.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • House II: The Second Story: The plot revolves around one of these skulls, which can (supposedly) grant immortality to its owner.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has them as the skulls of extra-dimensional aliens with whole skeletons made of crystal.
  • The Librarian: In the second film, Flynn recovers a crystal skull early on as a prelude to show the kind of things he does.
  • The Phantom revolved around gathering three mystic skulls carved entirely from precious materials, respectively silver, gold, and jade.

  • The Fifth Horseman: A Sleepy Hollow Legend (by Gregg Gonzalez): The titular Fifth Horseman is Chaos, the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, who has possessed the headless body of a Hessian horseman that periodically stalks Sleepy Hollow. The only way to defeat it is by performing a ritual with a certain crystal skull, which sucks Chaos out of its physical body and traps it within the skull.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Danger Five had one wielded by Soviet Dance Witches. It's that kind of show.
  • A crystal skull was found in a giant alien pyramid in Stargate SG-1. It matched one found in an ancient Mayan temple back on Earth. Apparently, Quetzalcoatl was actually a giant alien — no surprise there — and the skulls are a way of contacting him.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World used a crystal skull in its opening titles.
  • The Goodies. A parody of Mysterious World had the crystal skull wishing everyone "Nighty night!"
  • In an episode of Peep Show, Mark meets a woman whom he actually likes. Too bad for him she fervently believes in the magical powers of crystal skulls. This is a bit much for him.
  • In Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, Jark Matter's assassin Ikagen is at least partially based on the legend of the crystal skulls, and even has one for a face.
  • The A-Team. The episode "The Crystal Skull" involves the team stealing a skull from a couple of Australian mercenaries to give back to its original owner, who is the ruler of a country in the Middle East, even though these things supposedly came from South America. Then again, the rest of the episode involves Murdock being worshipped as a god by a tribe of headhunters because he has the skull, so it's not like cultural sensitivity was much on the writer's mind.
  • In an epic example of What Could Have Been, a planned but never filmed episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation would have featured an archaeologist studying the ruins of an ancient civilization (the "Faran Empire", of which the Ferengi homeworld was said to be a former colony). She finds a Crystal Skull that is said to have belonged to a line of ancient rulers. The Skull influences Riker's behavior and he becomes increasingly aggressive and egotistical while leading an away mission that is competing with the Ferengi to obtain the skull (it's the Ferengi equivalent of the Holy Grail) and learn the secrets of the Faran Empire. The episode would have ended with the destruction of the skull and the end of its influencing powers.
  • In another case of What Might Have Been, an episode for the (cancelled) third season of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was planned so that Indy's first meeting with René Belloq (the antagonist in Raiders of the Lost Ark) would involve a crystal skull.

  • Doctor Steel has a song called "Curse of the Crystal Skull", about greed for such an object that dooms a pirate.

  • Indiana Jones (Stern) has a gimmick for each of the four Indiana Jones films. Naturally, a crystal skull is featured in the section for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS:
    • The 3E supplement Warehouse 23 has an entry on a Crystal Skull. It's a Famously Mundane, Fictionally Magical version of a crystal skull that was found in Real Life in British Honduras in the 1920s. It allows its owner to cast the Divination spell, and it can use all Telepathic powers on its own.
    • Their rather humorous site related to said sourcebook also has a number of related artifacts submitted by fans. Such as a headless Crystal Skeleton.
  • The Mayan-themed board game Tzolkin features crystal skulls as a resource. They're used to take actions on the Chichen Itza section of the board, which scores big points and allows you to advance up one of the three temple tracks (which can net you even more points).
  • Scion: Dr. Aaron Tigrillo, Scion of Tezcatlipoca, has a Crystal Skull to act as his guide, and source of magic.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG: Chronomaly Crystal Skull is based on "Crystal skulls".
  • A sorcerer whose pursuit of immortality led to him becoming a skull encased in crystal appears in the "Freedom's Reach" (Sword and Sorcery Freedom City) setting for Mutants & Masterminds, as the equivalent of the Brain in a Jar archetype.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Crystal skulls appear in the Dragon article "Relics of Myth" as epic-level artifacts. The "Aztec" skulls (meaning the ones in the British Museum and the Smithsonian) are "just" epic-level scrying crystals. The "Mayan" skull (meaning the Mitchell-Hedges skull) is an epic-level scrying crystal and fires Eye Beams, but is also cursed, casting a symbol spell on anyone who scries with it.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Atlantis III: The New World revolves around a crystal skull that contains the secret to humanity's evolution.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has a data file about crystal skulls that you can obtain by hacking a computer at Abstergo Entertainment in the modern-day section. Later, in Edward Kenway's story, a crystal skull turns out to be the Macguffin, as in, the object that makes the Observatory so sought after by the Templars.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: A door leading to the top of Temen-ni-gru requires two of these to open; one is already in its pillar, while the other has to be found in a certain room.
  • A late-game section of Flight of the Amazon Queen takes place in a temple where you must find a crystal skull.
  • Fortune Summoners has an item called the crystal skull which increases max MP.
  • Grandia III: Evil Sorcerer La-Ilim uses a green crystal skull as a weapon. Much like with weapons of other humanoid bosses, it's classified as an enemy on its own, which effectively gives La-Ilim two separate cooldowns, albeit with different actions. The skull's actions include some magic and an ability to revive the boss's pet dragon. The skull also has its own HP, and you can break it, but it takes 0 or 1 damage from any attack, and grinding down its 64 HP may take a while. The skull will also "die" if you take out La-Ilim, so it's not necessary to destroy it as well.
  • Parodied in Kingdom of Loathing with the crystal skull, which is used to scare away monsters and turns out to consist of worthless glass.
  • In La-Mulana, the Crystal Skull is a late-game Plot Coupon that grants access to the Dimensional Corridor. Show it to Xelpud in the remake, and he'll comment that they made a terrible movie based on it.
  • The Nancy Drew video game, Legend of the Crystal Skull
  • Parasite Eve 2 has a crystal skull as an item you can collect. Putting it in a slot in your armor would boost your attack and defense while using the item itself boosts your fire elemental powers by one level.
  • Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time features the Turquoise Skull Zombie in the Lost City, who uses his Turquoise Skull to absorb sun and fire it out as a One-Hit Kill beam forward. His almanac even references that unlike crystal skulls, turquoise skulls are non-mysterious and common as dirt.
  • Persona:
    • The Crystal Skull, or rather, a series of 5 Crystal Skulls forms a core plot element in Persona 2. They are initially used by Joker to drain people of their Ideal Energy and are said to be the key to raise Xibalba, the utopia said to protect the chosen humans from the end of the world. However as it turns out, the skulls are just a huge Red Herring. They are little more than pretty trinkets. Their true purpose was just to distract and mislead the heroes from the effects the rumors surrounding them where having. And by the time they are told the truth, it's too late. The end of the world had already begun.
    • Persona 5 has Crystal Skull as one of the late-game Treasure Demons. As fusion / sacrifice material, it has all the third tier party-wide elemental attacks. It can also be turned into an accessory with Angelic Grace (high non-Almighty magic evasion) and +5 to all stats (+6 when done through Royal's Fusion Alarm).
  • A crystal skull appears in Spelunky as a treasure in jungle levels. Trying to take one automatically summons a ghost, but bringing it to the exit is worth a lot of money.
  • A crystal skull is one of the artifacts you can find in Mii Trek in StreetPass Mii Plaza. Of course, it is linked to extraterrestrial involvement in the area. Your guide Beaksley is one such alien, though he isn't aware of it until later.
  • Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death: There's a crystal skull in each level. Sydney needs to collect them and place them on the pedestal in front of the door at the end of each level to open them.
  • Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan: Crystal Skulls are scattered throughout the game. A certain number must be collected to gain access to the various temples.
  • One shows up as one of the treasures in Wario Land Shake It. Complete with an amusing description:
    " ...From a"
  • Zork has a crystal skull treasure to collect.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: Silent Nacht (Chapter 5) tells of "a large, human-sized crystal skull" being "the crystal skull of the Gravewarden, a third-tier supervillain" that can, when activated by Darcy, make "wispy ghost-like figures [appear], circling around the skull, moaning". However, when activated by Mr. Magic, "the entire room was filled with ghostly wraiths that wailed like a legion of lost souls".

    Western Animation 
  • A crystal skull is a powerful item sought in the first episode of Goldie Gold and Action Jack.
  • The second season of American Dragon: Jake Long has a continuing plot of collecting the 13 crystal skulls. When they are brought together, one wish is granted to the bearer.
  • Towards the end of Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, the deceased Skeleton King's skull takes on a crystal appearance when the outer layer breaks away. His face keeps this appearance upon being resurrected.

    Real Life 
  • All of the real crystal skulls that have been subjected to scientific examination have been determined to have been constructed using nineteenth- or early twentieth-century tools and machinery. Naturally, those who believe (or want to believe) the story of the crystal skulls find ways to explain this away, such as saying the tool marks on the skulls aren't because they're modern hoaxes, they're because the ancient Maya had power tools. Or that aliens did it, and naturally anybody who can make a spaceship would have power tools. Conveniently ignored is that the earliest-attested skulls all show signs of the exact power tools that were available in the late 19th century, rather than anything more advanced that one would expect a spacefaring alien to have access to. Also ignored is the complete lack of any authentic Mesoamerican myths or legends about crystal skulls. Instead, "legends" about the skulls only started materializing after the first attempts to pass off a crystal skull as a pre-Columbian artifact around 1860.
  • The most notorious is the Mitchell-Hedges Skull which was claimed to have been discovered in a ruined temple in Lubaantun in British Honduras (now Belize) in 1924 by Anna Mitchell-Hedges, the adopted daughter of the British adventurer and author F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. As far as can be ascertained, though, there are no records of this discovery at the time, and recent evidence has suggested that Mitchell-Hedges actually bought it from Sidney Burney, a London art dealer, in 1943. Anna, who referred to the skull as the "Skull of Doom", refused requests to have it scientifically tested and toured with it for many years; her widower, who inherited it after her death in 2007, apparently genuinely believed that it has mystical properties although when it was examined by scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in 2008, the conclusion was that it was probably made in the 1930s and was likely based on the one in the British Museum, which had been on public display since the late 1890s (see below).
  • The British Museum describes its crystal skull, which it has had since 1897, as "probably European, 19th century AD", although the rock-crystal itself may be of Brazilian origin. It is known to have originated from Eugène Boban, a French archaeologist who, after working in Mexico in the 1850s and 1860s, went into business as a Paris-based antiquities dealer and was strongly associated with the selling of fake pre-Colombian artefacts. A scientific examination of the British Museum skull found that it had been made using tools that were not invented until the nineteenth century.
  • The Musée du Quai Branly in Paris has a crystal skull which is also known to have originally been purchased from Eugène Boban. Tests carried out on the Paris skull in 2007-08 concluded that it was made in the nineteenth century.
  • The Smithsonian Institution, which received its crystal skull anonymously in the post in 1992, describes it as a "modern fake". Tests have shown that it was carved using carborundum, a modern abrasive. It's on display in the National Museum of Natural History.
  • Dan Aykroyd co-founded Crystal Head Vodka, arguably the Bunny-Ears Lawyer of spirits: a super-premium vodka ($100 for a fifth, and from the reviews worth every penny) which comes in a bottle shaped like a crystal-clear skull. He's very interested in the legend of the 13 Crystal Skulls.
  • A company has actually made and put on retail a 3-dimensional puzzle made of "crystalline" plastic that can be assembled to form a miniature skull.
  • On extremely rare occasions, bones can become gemstone rather than common stone; the process is called opalization and has been known to occur to skulls.


Video Example(s):


The Crystal Skull of Akator

Irina Spalko explains the mystical power of the crystal skulls and how she hopes to use them to help the Soviet Union win the Cold War.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrystalSkull

Media sources: