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Dead All Along

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And that this caption was here all along!
"Cool — you're a ghost, and you don't know it."

You probably thought these characters were alive.

NOPE! They're not. They're dead.

A character is dead; really dead. However, because the Powers That Be wanted him back, he is. He walks, he talks, he breathes just like everyone and neither the characters (sometimes, not even himself) nor the audience suspects anything fishy until The Reveal, at which point he usually dies for good or otherwise disappears because Undeath Always Ends. Severe Death Amnesia is mandatory if the character was previously unaware of their condition. Sometimes a character only realizes this upon finding their own corpse.

There are variants. Maybe the heroes have been fighting the forces of someone who they later learn has been dead for years; The Dragon may or may not have taken over and not told anyone that the Big Bad is dead. Maybe they go to find or rescue or recruit someone, only to find that they're very, very late. Maybe someone was fooling them with a Dead Person Impersonation or a really good Of Corpse He's Alive. The character may have been killed and replaced, with the reveal making them an Impersonation-Exclusive Character. While someone might have suspected that this character is dead, none of the others really consider it.


This can also be an explanation for a character going through something that no one could survive and yet coming back apparently unharmed. They were already dead, and what is dead may never die.

Often results in Fridge Horror or Tear Jerker — or both.

This trope is Tomato Surprise meets Dead to Begin With. Not to be confused with Posthumous Character, Dead Star Walking, or You Are Already Dead. Compare Dying Dream, Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy, and Tomato in the Mirror; contrast An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost, Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated.


As a Death Trope, plus an Ending Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the film version of AKIRA, the eponymous psychokineticist has been dead for a long time, his organs kept in cryopreservation.
  • Appears in the hentai manga Alice in Sexland, of all places. The comic opens with Alice running away from her life of forced prostitution and falling into a hole, as per the original story. Near the end, however, the Queen of Hearts reveals that Alice broke her neck in the fall and that Wonderland is simply Purgatory - and that it's only big enough for one real person, who fills the role of the Queen of Hearts, meaning that the current Queen went through the situation herself and now has to move on to make room for Alice.
  • The curse of Class 3-3 in Another causes a dead person to be added to the class roster each school year. Because the "extra" is not aware they are dead and everyone else's memories are altered to accept their presence, it's nearly impossible to tell who in the class is the "extra" until they vanish following graduation. In the meantime, the members of the class suffer any number of Cruel and Unusual Deaths as reality attempts to correct itself. This has been going on for two and a half decades - in 1998, the year the story takes place, the "extra" is assistant homeroom teacher Ms. Mikami, aka Kouichi's aunt Reiko.
  • In Arata: The Legend, Akachi has been dead since long before we meet him for the first time. He's only alive because he made a deal with the Hayagami Okoro (as he was dying) that he would only stay alive for as long as he keeps winning in fights. He dies for real after losing his fight with Kannagi.
  • In Attack on Titan, Eren Jaeger spends five years wondering about his Disappeared Dad, who vanished after leaving him with cryptic instructions to retrieve something from their basement. Grisha Yeager's disappearance remained a major mystery in-series and for the fans, up until Eren learns the truth. His father didn't disappear... he played a Thanatos Gambit by letting himself be Eaten Alive by an Eren who had just been turned into a Titan, in order to pass the McGuffin and his knowledge on to him.
  • Kumoshichi from Ayakashi Ayashi was revealed to have died a long time ago with Atl causing Yukiatsu to realize that he's been talking to a ghost that only the two of them can actually see.
  • Schwarzwald in The Big O. Even after it's revealed that he's actually dead, he appears again, even killing a major villain, Alan Gabriel, though how alive Gabriel really was is a point of debate...
  • In the final episode of Blue Submarine No. 6, Minosoko:
    Zorndyke: The day this uprising began, I have been dead ever since that day.
  • In Chie Shinohara: The Best Collection's Someone In the Dark..., Masami's mother and younger brother were dead all along. They were killed by the robbers Masami encountered on her way home, but their spirits appeared, in order to keep Masami safe.
  • Suo from Darker Than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini is revealed to have been dead for about eight years, in the same incident that vaporized Mao's original body. The one in the series proper is a sort of Opposite-Sex Clone made by her brother Shion, whose Contractor power is something a sort of duplication.
  • Death Parade: Every One-Shot Character who winds up at Quindecim turns out to be this, their memories are erased and slowly return as a Test of Character to determine if they are sent to Heaven or Hell based on their actions during a chosen event.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, when Tanjiro is training under Urokodaki for the Final Selection, he meets a mysterious boy and girl named Sabito and Makomo who help him with his training. It's later revealed that Sabito and Makomo are actually the ghosts of two of Urokodaki's former students, having been killed during the Final Selection themselves several years ago. When Tanjiro casually mentions them to Urokodaki, he's quite surprised that Tanjiro would know the names of his dead students.
  • Digimon Tamers:
    • Alice is thought to be a ghost. She was incredibly pale and literally disappeared after she did all that she could to help the Tamers. It is also hinted by several characters that she was already dead. Word of God neither confirms nor denies this.
    • Shibumi was going to be one of these, with his body dead and his mind uploaded to the digital world. This is openly foreshadowed quite a bit, but in the end, the writers liked him so much that they didn't want to shelve him for the entire (earth-centric) finale. He turned out to just be in a coma, and eventually woke up.
    • Digimon Frontier, the following series, has Koichi. His backstory has him falling down a long staircase after chasing after Koji, and notably skips over how he got from there to being in the Digital World. More than once, when everyone gets injured and the barcode effect that represents their data is revealed, Koichi alone doesn't have any. One of the villains taunts by breaking it to him that it's because he's only a spirit. Similar to Shibumi, it turns out he's only in a coma and connected to the Digital World via his hospital equipment and he awakens in the finale.
  • In Dr. Ramune: Mysterious Disease Specialist, the "Gyoza Ears" plotline happens because Yu, the patient's older son, is actually dead, and the patient is hallucinating him. Her ears turn into gyoza because she is in deep denial over the fact, and the gyoza absorbs any sound that pokes holes into her fabricated narrative.
  • In Dragon Ball, Uranai Baba's fifth fighter was revealed to have been dead all along when his true identity was revealed as Son Gohan, Goku's adoptive grandfather, who had already had his Death by Origin Story.
  • In Excel Saga Tenmangu Shiouj's wife Miwa is revealed to be a Ropponmatsu unit, explaining her drastic personality shift following his disappearance. It is inferred that the real Miwa died thereabouts or possibly ascended to a higher plane of existence.
    • Inverted with Iwata - After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Iwata's sudden death lead to Shiouji building a robot with his brain inside... except that during the closing chapters it was revealed he had been cured in hospital and was piloting the unit remotely. Much to Matsuya's delight.
  • Fairy Tail: In the prequel Fairy Tail Zero, Mavis' friend Zera actually died during Blue Skull's attack on the island, likely from smoke inhalation around the smoldering wreckage she was trapped in when Mavis came to rescue her. Right then, Mavis' powers activated and created an illusion of Zera so as to keep herself from being alone. It's not until the end that she realizes the Zera who's been with her all this time was just an illusion.
  • Forever Honey is a short manga about a single dad and his daughter. Near the end, we learn that Honey had been killed in a car accident. She was a ghost that only her dad could see.
  • Enjou in the fifth The Garden of Sinners movie was revealed to have been effectively dead all along, killed and resurrected in an artificial body by Araya so that he'd bring Shiki to him. Soon after The Reveal, in which Enjou comes across his own preserved brain in the basement of the building, Araya kills him for good.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex had an episode where Section 9 had to prevent the assassination of a rich recluse. They succeeded, then found out that he had been dead for several months. He'd had computer programs automatically manage his finances for him, that combined with him being quite a recluse, is why nobody realized he was dead.
  • Oo no Suefumi in Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Maihitoyo. Unfortunately, he isn't quite aware of his true identity either, and by the time the characters discover who this mysterious Bishōnen was, he is already promoted to being the lead girl's love interest. Yep, Love Hurts.
  • Late into Goodnight Punpun we learn that Shimizu's mom has been dead since long before the manga started. She was hit by a car on his first day of kindergarten. Shimizu is an immature, imaginative, and somewhat delusional boy who acts like she's still alive even into his 20s. We only ever saw his mom's hand, never her body.
  • Yuzuki in Hell Girl: The Cauldron of Three. Apparently she died as a young child soon after her parents, because Social Services Does Not Exist, but continued her un-life in an illusion of normalcy.
  • Hunter × Hunter: The Chimera Ant Nerferpitou has Kite's head in their hands after their fight, but nevertheless, Gon convinces Killua and perhaps the entire audience that he was still alive. Even after witnessing Kite in a zombified state, he believes that the Ant still can restore him. However, Pitou reveals that he was just a moving doll, unable to ever come back to life, leading Gon to forget any value for both his life and Pitou's.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, this happened to Bruno Bucciarati. He really died after his first confrontation with King Crimson. It's only Gold Experience and his own resolve that keep him going up to the end.
  • Inverted in Kagen No Tsuki, where it's assumed that Mizuki is dead, due to her ghost being one of the main characters. About halfway through the story, the main characters (and the reader) discover that she's really in a coma.
  • Since his first appearance in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, Tsutomu Tanaka has appeared to be a Henpecked Husband-slash-Badass on a quest to avenge his master. We learn, however, that his wife and unborn child died at the same time and the wife he was always on the phone with was just an automated line he was calling.
  • In King of Thorn, one of the major characters, Kasumi, died before the manga began. The one who appears in the story is a Replacement Goldfish who was created using a Lovecraftian Superpower. The character doesn't realize it until The Reveal in the final volume.
  • Kiri no Mori Hotel:
    • Yui Aizawa, who was going to choose between her two lovers, but was killed by one of them before she could tell them her decision.
    • Riyako Hidaka, Mariko's abusive mother. She has actually been dead for years and it was merely her spirit that was in the hotel, so that Mariko, now an adult, could come to terms with her past.
  • Kobato herself in Kobato., though the manga and anime provide different explanations for how she died. She always wears one of her Nice Hats, and not having her hat ever removed is Serious Business, though the fact that she wears several different ones means she can take them off. Turns out the reason for them is to hide a spiritual crown that signals her as being dead.
  • The second episode of Layton Mystery Detective Agency concerns a man who claims that his wife has been possessed by a "Devil Dress" and is trying to kill him. It turns out his wife is dead, and the dress contains a hallucinogen that caused him to believe she was still alive - the fact she was trying to kill him was a manifestation of his own guilt.
  • Carrossea Doon in Madlax. He only stays around because of both his love for Margaret and the fact that he doesn't even remember he's dead. When he realizes that he fits in here, he actually fades away.
  • Mune-Mune in Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. She passed away before Sasshi was born. Sasshi's reaction to finding out that throughout the whole series, he was flirting with his grandmother is priceless.
  • Near the end of the short Magnetic Rose, Heintz's daughter Emily is revealed to have died years ago. Not even his co-workers know she's deceased. As a little kid, Emily wanted to be an astronaut like her father so she climbed onto the house's roof to play, but she ended up falling off the roof. Coming to terms with her death is a major part of Heintz's arc and what sets him apart from Eva.
  • Maken-ki! used it as both a major reveal and as its Wham Line, regarding Himegami at the end of chapter 49. Which was delivered by Ouken Yamato in an attempt to demoralize Takeru:
    Ouken: [at Takeru] I don't understand — Why are you helping that girl? She isn't even a human. She's nothing but a doll. That body is made of what's left of the real Kodama Himegami.
  • In My Monster Secret it's eventually revealed that Principal Shirayuki is actually a ghost, who is finally able to pass on after Akane proves that humans and supernatural beings are capable of coexisting peacefully.
  • In Naruto, Uchiha Madara is revealed to be dead when Kabuto resurrects him. The Big Bad claiming to be Madara is in fact the person Madara chose to complete the plan. However, Madara had lived well beyond his supposed death in battle and ultimately died of old age long after his natural lifespan ended.
  • Several of Hiruko's clients in Nightmare Inspector are revealed near the end of their chapter to be dead. Then the end of the series reveals that Chitose, current host to Hiruko the baku, died in the aftermath of the earthquake long ago and that the one we've seen for the whole series is Azusa's delusion.
  • Most of the main cast turn out to be this in Occultic;Nine.
  • Three suicidal people in Paranoia Agent decided to meet up after chatting online about how they wanted to end it all. They decided to form a suicide pact, meet up in real life, and discussed how they wanted to end it all. One of them didn't want to die through painfully violent means, like in a car crash or jumping off a building. One of them didn't want to kill himself directly, such as slitting his throat, and the last one wanted to make sure that their bodies would be discovered, so the world would know they existed at all. They soon went through numerous botched attempts, such as hiding in a condemned building while it was being torn down, and carbon monoxide poisoning by running a car inside a closed garage. Finally, they thought it would be great to get Little Slugger to kill them, after all the media attention this character was getting through the numerous deaths related to him. Hilarity Ensues as Little Slugger ends up running away from them. By the end of the episode, the three become dejected and weigh their options again, while watching the sun set. In an especially ironic twist on this trope, the eldest of the three noticed that none of them had a shadow and slowly pieced it all together. For the audience watching, the point when they lose their shadows was just after the "failed" attempt at carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • In Pluto, the real Doctor Abullah died in the war between Persia and Thracia. The "Abullah" that is acting as the Big Bad is actually Goji, the android with the most advanced artificial intelligence ever built. Doctor Tenma used a memory drive with Abullah's last thoughts to stabilize Goji. Unfortunately, since Abullah's last thoughts were full of hatred and a desire for revenge, this turned Goji into a doppelganger of Abullah wholly dedicated to destroying everyone involved in Persia's downfall. Goji/Abullah has a breakdown when Tenma reveals the truth, reverting to his blank nondescript appearance.
  • Popotan provides two versions:
    • The little girl in episode 4 is a ghost. Not surprising, considering her general creepiness.
    • The fact that Konami's dead is the ending twist of episode 9. Very surprising, given that the series had been moderately upbeat previously.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena:
    • Souji Mikage, the Arc Villain of the Black Rose Duelist arc, is commonly interpreted as some kind of ghost that hung around Ohtori Academy long after dying.
    • In Adolescence of Utena, Kiryuu Touga was a boy that Utena, Juri, and Shiori knew in their childhood that tried to rescue Juri from drowning, but ended up dying himself. He shows up at Ohtori Academy, looking as he would were he alive, and those three are the only ones who can see him.
    • The Sega Saturn game adds Sanjouin Chigusa, sort of a Distaff Counterpart to Mikage. (The latter is, somewhat remarkably, still in the game.)
  • Rosario + Vampire: The anime adaptation of Ruby's introductory arc changes it so that Ruby's master had died long ago; Ruby, having become delusional over the years, believed her master to still be alive until Tsukune came across said master's corpse and informed her as such.
  • In its final chapter, Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei turned its own continuity on its head big time. Super-optimist Kafuka Fuura died long before the series began, and her organs were transplanted into all of Nozomu's students, which gave them her optimistic genes and ability to see her, as sort of a psychological experiment on Nozomu. She can manifest through any of them and will look and sound like herself no matter who she's possessing, with a sort of Perception Filter effect making others not question it. Try watching/reading this series again, with that in mind.note 
  • Megu-nee, the only adult and the cute Sensei-chan, from School-Live!. She became a zombie before the series began and what we see as Megu-nee are really just Yuki's hallucinations.
  • Suzu Edogawa from Tactics befriends Nene, a young girl waiting for her father by the tramline. Said father turns out to have been one of many casualties in a dreadful accident, all unable to move on in death; by the end of the episode Kantarou sets them all free, reuniting Nene with her father's ghost for what we think is the last time. But then Nene smiles happily at Suzu and disappears with her father.
  • The Big Bad of Tentacle And Witches went through the trouble of resurrecting his dead master. However, the male protagonist says he never was a disciple to begin with and was just a twisted incarnation of them set on reviving himself. It was up to the main character to seal him up for good.
  • In Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Yuki died sometime during episode 8, as a result of either a concussion or cerebral hemorrhage after being struck on the head by falling rubble in episode 6 and then walking across the city during a summer heatwave. This does not become obvious until the end of episode 10, since Mirai and the viewer had been seeing him as a ghost/hallucination, and Mirai had convinced herself that his death in the hospital was All Just a Dream.
  • Aiko's parents in Vampire Princess Miyu turn out to be this. They were mortally injured in a car accident and, before kicking it, they donated their blood to their daughter so she would survive; when Aiko fell into despair and made a Deal with the Devil with a Shinma, said Shinma recreated Aiko's old life... parents included. This worked so "well" that they were the ones who hired Himiko to "exorcise" the demon that supposedly has possessed Aiko, thus bringing her into the story...
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, Allen Schezar's father Leon was believed to have disappeared and abandoned his family, which Allen can't forgive him for. It turns out he had been murdered years ago by the Zaibach Empire, because he was about to unlock the truth behind their plans. The one Allen gets to confront and call out is actually Leon's spirit, and he manages to explain what had truly happened.
  • Yuuko Ichihara in Xxx HO Li C and Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, who is not "dead" as such, but has simply had a Reality Warper tell reality to ignore the fact that she died for several hundred years. When she moves on, things reset and it is as if she had died when she, er, died. Yeah, descriptive words get kinda difficult here. However, her death couldn't completely set right the multiverse. The consequences had twisted reality beyond repair. There was also an earlier story about a girl who thought there was a ghost in her house and wanted it removed. Yuuko tricks her into wording it as "for my house to not be scary anymore". As it turns out, that girl is the ghost.
  • In Your Name, it is revealed halfway through that Mitsuha had already died three years in Taki's past when a part of the plot-vital comet split off and became a meteorite that hit her hometown. Later subverted when Chekhov's Gun enables them to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Zig-Zagging Trope as part of a Twist Ending in the Zekkyou Gakkyuu story "The Ocean is Calling." It foreshadows that the main character drowned before the events of the story, and everyone is acting nice to try to keep her from remembering and passing on, while her love interest is being deliberately cold to her to try to get her to. Except that it turns out it's the exact opposite situation — she's the only survivor of an accident where her class' bus fell into the ocean. The others wanted to keep her from waking from a coma so she could join them forever, while the love interest was saving her life, making her question the situation so she'd wake up.
  • Shito and Shiba in Zombie Loan, and in the former case he was actually born dead. Don't try to think about that one too much...

    Audio Plays 
  • C'est La Vie Theatre's Bestiary is a compilation of three stories, all of which end with the narrator's death. The first one — the story of Jonah, from the whale's perspective — treats it as this type of twist when it turns out that the whale is now a ghost, while the second story is the Hartlepool Monkey's Apocalyptic Log, and the third is Laika the dog telling her story just as she runs out of oxygen in space.
  • In StrikerS Sound Stage X, apparent Arc Villain Toredia Graze is eventually revealed to have died a long time ago, with the true instigator of the incident being a loyal Dragon Ascendant that decided to continue his cause.
  • In the Torchwood: The Lost Files radio play "The House of the Dead", Ianto is revealed as having been dead the whole time. The original setup made it seem as if the events were taking place after the deaths of Tosh and Owen but before Ianto's death. The ending reveals that it actually took place after the 4-5-6 incident.

    Comic Books 
  • In Amulet, it's revealed that the Elf King has been dead for years, despite the fact that he rules his kingdom and seems alive. His corpse is actually being used as a puppet by the spirit of the Amulet. And again, in The Last Council, it's revealed that Ronin, Pierce, and all the other Academy students bar Max and Emily are dead, having been nothing more than reanimated statues that took on the appearances of people who died.
  • In Batman RIP, an amnesiac Bruce Wayne is helped out by a strange homeless man, Honour Jackson. It's not until Jackson and Bruce part ways that Bruce discovers Jackson died some time before Bruce met him.
  • In the Beasts of Burden story "The View from the Hill", the gang encounters a herd of sheep and their sheepdog, who are soon revealed to be ghosts.
  • Cherry Poptart in a story in Cherry #9 ("The Phantom Hitchhiker"). This being a Cherry story, she has sex with the truck driver before disappearing.
  • Creepy #24:
    • In "Black Magic" a necromancer tries to raise a century-dead corpse only to end up with a mindless zombie. On casting the spell to turn it back into a lifeless corpse he discovers that he himself is an ex-corpse which had been raised and trained by the mentor he scorned and despised.
    • In "You Do Something to Me" the main character destroys a black magic amulet he believes his wife is trying to kill him with, only to discover that it had actually been keeping him "alive" since his accidental death three years ago.
  • This is the twist at the end of Death of X: Cyclops died very early on, and the "Cyclops" we've been following throughout most of the story is merely a psychic illusion created by Emma Frost.
  • DIE: It's revealed in Issue #18 that Sol was actually killed and turned into a Fallen by the Grandmaster 25 years ago when the rest of the party escaped back to Earth. His apparent death and subsequent transformation by Ash's hand in Glass Town in Issue #5 was actually just her breaking the illusion that the Grandmaster placed on him after that original death (along with wiping his memory of it all) as part of Die's larger plan.
  • This may turn out to be the case with Empowered; it was certainly implied very strongly in volume 6, wherein it is revealed that capes who got their powers through mysterious bargains come back, and that Empowered may have gotten her powers through such a bargain, and that she may have actually died on her first mission without actually realizing it. It makes sense (sort of) in context.
  • In Hellboy, certain ghosts look and act just like living people, and even seem to fool characters who know that they died years ago. This includes the Lobster in "Conqueror Worm", a group of sailors that shares a drink with Hellboy in "The Island", and Harry Middleton in "Darkness Calls".
  • The Joker War: The Designer, who appeared to be the mastermind behind everything happening, was actually killed by Joker years ago. Joker has just been hijacking the schemes he developed as part of his new master plan.
  • In Nightwing one of the heavy hitters in Bludhaven's illegal drug trade, Freddy Minh, whom Nightwing can't find and the police have no leads on was killed by his wife years before the start of the story, which she kept secret so she could continue to run the business.
  • In Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja , it is ultimately revealed that the protagonist is an imperfect copy created by a psychopathic Reality Warper after the original was killed in an accident. This imperfection is why the present-day character is willing to kill as a ninja assassin, despite being an incorruptible pacifist in his youth.
  • Original Sin reveals that "Dum Dum" Dugan actually died in the 60s, and the "Dum Dum" we've seen since then is a Life Model Decoy.
  • For most of the first volume of Rachel Rising, the main character Rachel is in denial about having died, despite the fact that she started the book by climbing out of a shallow grave after being attacked. (She rationalizes this by thinking that the person who attacked and strangled her thought she was dead when she was only unconscious, and she came to in time to dig her way out of the grave) Later in the first volume, she gets knocked off a five-story building and wakes up several hours later in the morgue, but is still trying to say that she's fine and nothing is wrong with her. It's only after her Aunt Johnny points out all the many, many, medical signs that something is really off that Rachel begins to accept that she's something like a Revenant Zombie.
    Johnny: [After performing some basic physical checks on Rachel's condition] Tonight you fell five stories onto a car, Rachel. They had to pry you out of the roof you crushed. The EMTs at the scene found no signs of life and declared you legally dead. But here you are two hours later standing and talking to us, so either Jet and I are sharing a grief-induced illusion or you're not dead. At least, not medically. But the state you're in is not conducive to life either. Your pulse is down somewhere around six beats a minute, your skin is cool to the touch, your breathing is almost undetectable... you're deathly pale but still pink, indicating some, if minimal, circulation. The acute petechial hemorrhaging in your eyes is caused by the blood vessels bursting during the trauma of asphyxiation. The marks on your neck are from strangulation. Rachel, you should not be alive. By all known medical reason, your next breath should be your last.
  • In Savage Dragon, there is a Doctor Doom Expy named Dreadnaught. He is an armored villain that is ruling over an entire country. After his initial fight, it is revealed that he has been dead for years and his armor was running without him.
  • In The Supergirl Saga from John Byrne's run on the Superman titles in 1988, Supergirl first appears unto Superman in the form of Lana Lang and was originally mentioned to be the Pocket Universe version of Lana Lang who was given superpowers by her universe's version of Lex Luthor. As it turned out, though, Pocket Universe Lana Lang was already dead, and Supergirl was an Artificial Human given her memories and likeness so she could gain Superman's trust.
  • In Alan Moore's version, this happens to Alec Holland in Swamp Thing - Swamp Thing was actually a totally non-human plant elemental which had arisen from Holland's dying body and possessed his memories.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mirage continuity: In the Rat King's first appearance, he was revealed to apparently still be alive after his battle with the turtles in an abandoned factory. Later on, when an injured Splinter is trapped in the same factory, The Rat King appears periodically before him and acts as the rat's spiritual guide. Two months later, after Splinter heals enough to leave, he finds The Rat King's rag-covered skeleton.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Vance Trotter. His twin brother Globe kept his death a secret as part of a plan to get their uncle's fortune.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • In reality, it's a shame to read Concept Road while keeping something like this in mind from the start, since the inevitable reveal is more shocking otherwise. Or perhaps many subtle things will make more sense, thus creating a more unique experience. Either way, this story offers a great example of this trope in the end.
  • In Gensokyo 20XXV, Reimu asks this as a question in relation to An, who hasn't been seen since chapter 77, which would mean what memories they have her were actually ones born of grief. At the same time, she also touched upon the alternative in that they could have seen her but didn't recognize her as An and probably thought she was someone else. It turns out she was right, as it was later confirmed in chapter 96 that An did pass away but their love for her and grief and denial of her death is what called her back. A folktale, The Yurei Child, was alluded to in the author's note.
    Reimu: Is it possible that she was dead all along and died a long time ago or is it possible you did see her but couldn't recognize her?
  • Kill la Kill fanfics:
    • The fanfic titled Rest, when it implies that Ryuuko had passed away of an unknown cause] and the one that was sleeping by Satsuki was the aforementioned's ghost.
    • Another fic, titled One Day by the same author is done the same way. At first it seems like Mako is spending the day and reminiscing with Ryuuko but, when Satsuki comes over to visit, it's revealed that Ryuuko had passed away some years prior.
    • As seen at the end of Paper Cranes by Amoridere, Ryuuko was writing her letters to a passed-on Satsuki as a way of remembering and dealing with her grief.
  • A New World: Yukari's Batman Gambit hinges entirely on the Lunarians being too stubborn to admit she's dead.
  • There and Back Again: In the first chapter, The Stranger tells Jon Snow that the Bran Stark seen in the last 2 1/2 seasons of Game of Thrones was not actually Bran, but Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers, wearing Bran's body as a sort of meat suit. The real Bran died when Bloodraven either switched bodies with him or assimilated his personality while the Night King attacked his cave.
  • This Bites!: Throughout the Sabaody Revolution arc, we see the Human Auction House’s owner Disco acting uncharacteristically confident and bellicose. This seems to be because he has reinforcements from his boss, and strictly speaking, it is. To be precise, what we think is Disco is actually one of Doflamingo’s Black Knights; the real Disco, having outlived his usefulness just as he did in canon, is strung up in his office.
  • In this memetically infamous The Owl House comic, Belos reveals to Luz that the Boiling Isles is hell — she was killed by a car after an argument with her mother — and he is the devil.

    Films — Animation 
  • The part of Allegro non Troppo (known as the "Italian answer to Fantasia" and not to be confused with "Ma Allegro non Troppo") called "Valse Triste" follows a scrawny cat/kitten wandering through the ruined shell of a city house, showing its memories of how it was once the pet of the family who lived there. Then, just before we hear the crane with the wrecking ball approaching the house to knock it down, the cat suddenly vanishes, accompanied by a purple outline glow - it was already dead. Watch it here (the film is presented as a comedy-drama and the clip starts with a few seconds of comedy).
  • This is implied to be the case with Champion's grandmother Madame Souza and their dog Bruno, at the end of The Triplets of Belleville, depending on whether or not you see the movie until that point as a flashback or the ending as a Gainax Ending.
  • Waking Life: Played with — the audience is never told if The Dreamer is actually dead, though he strongly suspects he is, and the film keeps hinting at it. It's all up to interpretation.
  • The titular Marnie from When Marnie Was There is Anna's grandmother as a child, and she died quite a bit prior to the film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Adrift: As the film progresses, we learn that Richard did not survive the hurricane and that Tami was only talking to a vision of Richard from her own delirium.
  • There is a film called Alice where the heroine seeks refuge in a castle after a car crash and becomes trapped there. It turns out she died in said crash.
  • Played with in Almost An Angel. The hero gets hit in a traffic accident, and when he wakes up, he's convinced (thanks to overhearing a TV about, curiously, the same thing, and taking it for real) that he's been sent back to Earth to help others. His delusions are helped several times by happenstance (he's shot at point-blank range by a robber with no injury, but shortly after another robber reveals that he put blanks in his partner's bullets because the guy was so twitchy he might accidentally gun down a bystander) and he carries on his 'heaven-sent' mission. Near the end, a truck drives right into him - and passes through him. He cheerfully tells his friend, "I told you I'm immortal," and wanders off into the ending.
  • Several Amicus Productions anthologies use framing stories in which a group of characters are given premonitions of their gruesome deaths, only to find in the end that they've already died (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors).
  • Back Of Beyond: Tom McGregor is revealed at the end to have been a ghost inhabiting the petrol station after he died in a motorcycle accident.
  • Beetlejuice: Adam and Barbara Maitland don't know they're dead until they find the handbook, and the plot doesn't kick into gear until after they figure it out. Several "recently deceased" football players take a while to figure out they didn't survive when their team bus crashed. (Their coach did survive, which only adds to their confusion.)
  • The wraparound segment of Body Bags concludes with this kind of twist, revealing that the Coroner (who, prior to the reveal, appeared to be just an eccentric and creepy coroner) is actually one of the corpses at the morgue when the real coroners show up and he hastily removes his scrubs and props himself onto a gurney before zipping up his body bag, showing a nasty wound on his side and a toe tag while doing so.
  • Bunny and the Bull: The Main character's best friend was viciously gored to death in front of Stephen, causing what is strongly implied to be a mental breakdown. A clever viewer can pick up subtle hints starting from about halfway through, but it's still a massive shock.
  • The Twist Ending of Campfire Tales is that the characters telling the stories to each other were actually killed in the car crash that stranded them.
  • Several times in Captain America: Civil War, Zemo calls his wife and child on his phone. Near the end, we learn that he's been listening to a recording and that his wife and child had died in Sokovia.
  • The main character in classic horror film Carnival of Souls.
  • Luke, in Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror, was positioned as the leader of the cult for the outside appearance since he is the only adult on its premises. When the charade is over, he burns away, killing the sheriff who tried to arrest him too.
  • Coming Soon: The film's main characters, Chen and Som, are told that the actress who plays Shomba, the Big Bad in the film within a film "Evil Spirit", is still alive. However, this is proven otherwise when Chen finds a behind-the-scenes featurette showing the production of the scene in "Evil Spirit" where the village folk hang Shomba - the safety rope holding up Shomba's actress broke.
  • Randi James in Dead Heat.
  • Throughout the entirety of Dead Man's Shoes, we are led to believe that the main protagonist's brother, who was bullied by a gang of thugs before the events of the movie, is alive and well. Near the ending, however, it turns out that the gang of thugs ended up driving him to suicide; all the times we see him before the twist, he is actually inside the protagonist's head, driving him insane with revenge.
  • The girl who thinks she's the Final Girl in The Devils Ground.
  • Inverted in Ghost Dad. The main character spends most of the movie believing that he died in a car crash and came back as a ghost. He's actually in a coma and using astral projection, an ability that apparently runs in his family.
  • At the end of Ghost Rock, it is revealed that Savannah has been dead all along when Johnny visits her grave before leaving town.
  • In Goodnight Mommy, Lukas died in an accident before the film started (or possibly in the very first scene with the cave).
  • Hell House LLC:
    • Sara Havel is introduced as the only staff member from Hell House who survived the disaster that happened on the tragic opening night that killed fifteen people and the rest of the staff. She provides the documentary crew with footage of what happened in Hell House during the setup and encourages them to investigate the place themselves after finishing her interview. It's only after the rest of the documentary team goes to check the place out they find out she was killed with the rest of the staff where she's waiting for Diane and Jonathan, much worse for wear, right before they're attacked by the same faceless beings that killed Alex and Mac.
    • Several more of the guests, with journalist Jessica Fox added to the list at the end of the film, turn out to be this in the sequel Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, with some of them leaving the hotel to lure in more victims.
  • High Plains Drifter suggests, but never confirms that The Drifter who teachers the cowardly townsfolk to fight is in fact the spirit of the dead town marshal, who was beaten to death by the outlaws threatening the town and is now out for revenge on them. Unfortunately for the townspeople, since they betrayed him to them and then stood back and watched them beat him to death, he's not very happy at them either...
  • The I Inside turns out to take place in what is half a Dying Dream, half a self-created hell.
  • Jack the Reaper: All of the teens (except Jessie) actually died in the bus crash. The adults survived, which is why they are not on the bus when the teens wake up. Railroad Jack is actually the Grim Reaper coming to reap their souls.
  • In John Dies at the End, Arnie Blondestone is revealed to have been murdered before he even met David.
  • In Jacob's Ladder, the main character never made it out of Vietnam, and the entire film is his Dying Dream.
  • In Jojo Rabbit, Elsa reveals that her fiancé Nathan died of tuberculosis when Jojo reads her one of the fake letters from him.
  • Subverted in Just Like Heaven, as David and Elizabeth think this is what happened to Elizabeth. She's actually Not Quite Dead but has been in a coma.
  • Tom, Kate's love interest in Last Christmas, is revealed to have been struck by a car and killed the year before — he's her heart donor. It's never made clear if he's a literal ghost, or if he's a figment of her imagination while she tries to cope with her trauma.
  • The Locals: Grant and Paul eventually realise that the locals are everyone who has ever died in the valley. They can interact with each other, but are also doomed to live out their last moments over and over again. And each day at sunrise, the cycle resets. And then Grant discovers that Paul has actually died and is now one of them.
  • Miss Meadows: The title character’s mother is really dead; she's been speaking to a hallucination.
  • A New York Christmas Wedding: Gabby in the prime timeline. She was Driven to Suicide after losing her baby. The split in the timeline was that, instead of killing herself, Gabby sought refuge with Jenni and her father.
  • Everyone shown until The Reveal in The Others (2001): Grace finds Spooky Photographs that clue her in that her household servants were dead all along, whereupon they tell her that she and her children are also ghosts. Also contains an inversion: the ghostly apparitions and poltergeist activity in her house are actually its new living residents.
  • Pale Rider, which has Clint Eastwood revisiting the concept of "the dead coming back for justice".
  • Anne Hathaway and the 'plane crash survivors', who actually were all passengers in Passengers. The reason the passengers were disappearing one by one from the protagonist's group therapy sessions was not because of a conspiracy, but because they accepted their deaths and were able to cross over. This is averted with David Morse's character: He was the pilot of the plane and knows he's dead, but can't move on because of his guilt over thinking (incorrectly) that he caused the crash. In a rather poignant turn, he adopts the persona of a Corrupt Corporate Executive that insists that the cause of the crash was pilot error and not mechanical failure. This is because he blames himself for not being at his post and being distracted when the engine caught fire.
  • Large Marge, the truck driver, picks up Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-wee's Big Adventure and relates the story of a truck driver who was killed making one final run. When she drops him off at a roadside diner, she tells him, "Be sure and tell ‘em 'Large Marge sent you!'" When he does so, the whole diner gasps and one of the drivers starts retelling the same tale, pointing to a picture of Large Marge hanging on the wall.
  • In the 1945 James Mason picture A Place Of Ones Own, Annette is possessed by Elizabeth, her home's previous resident, who may have been poisoned. Annette becomes very weak and ill. Elizabeth, through Annette, asks for Dr. Marsham, her fiancé. Annette's guardian asks the local constabulary to find Marsham, so when he shows up at the door late that night nobody is surprised. The next morning, Elizabeth is gone, Annette is fine, and the police report that Marsham was already en route to Annette's house when he died — an hour before he arrived.
  • Jennie Appleton in Portrait of Jennie.
  • The protagonist of A Pure Formality is dead after committing suicide, but he only realizes this by the end of the movie.
  • The three main characters in Salvage are all dead with Duke reliving Claire's brutal murder at his hands over and over again.
  • Frankie's son Joey in A Score to Settle. Joey actually died years ago while Frankie was in prison, and the Joey that meets Frankie when he gets out is a hallucination caused by Frankie's terminal illness. The truth is revealed when Frankie visits his wife Lorraine's grave and Joey's grave is next to it. In hindsight, there were multiple clues to Joey's nonexistence: he walks rather than drives to the prison; he never eats; nobody besides Frankie ever interacts with him; and his number isn't recorded on Frankie's phone despite him having called it.
  • The Sixth Sense is a popular example with Bruce Willis's character being a ghost after being shot at the end of the opening scene.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Mad Scientist Dr. Totenkopf has been dead for over twenty years, leaving his army of robots to complete his scheme to destroy the Earth and begin life again on another world. As a Casting Gag, he's portrayed (via archival footage) by Lord Laurence Olivier, who passed away 15 years earlier.
  • Halfway through Source Code, we find out that this is what's happening to our protagonist. Kinda.
  • The 2012 film Static reveals that the young couple who are being terrorized have been dead all along. The wife had shot and killed her husband and herself after their son drowned. The mysterious intruders terrorizing them are actually ghost hunters called in to help them pass on to the afterlife. The young woman that the supposed intruders were after is actually a spirit medium working with the ghost hunters.
  • The two title characters, in Suzannes Diary For Nicholas. Near the end of the movie we learn that instead of being alive as the protagonist thought, they actually died in a car crash before the movie began.
  • Tales from the Hood: The three drug dealers in the Framing Device learn that they're dead when Simms shows them their corpses in caskets and reveals to them that they were murdered by Crazy K's associates in retaliation to killing Crazy K.
  • The Uninvited (2009) has Anna's sister Alex revealed to be dead by her father at the end. Anna looks down and realizes that she's the one holding the knife that has just killed her stepmother, not Alex, who's now gone. Alex died in the same explosion that killed their mother, which was also Anna's fault.
  • In Voice from the Stone, it's revealed that Lillia, the housekeeper, committed suicide the day of Malvina's death.
  • The horror film Walking The Dead focuses around a village full of dead people. The only people who seem to be alive are the American reporter, a drunk ex-cop, an axe murderer, a woman looking for her daughter, and said daughter. Turns out the only people who were really alive were the American reporter, a drunk ex-cop, and the daughter.
  • Franklin and Celia in We Need to Talk About Kevin. It seems at first that Franklin divorced Eva (in a flashback he told Eva he wants a divorce) and got custody of Celia after the massacre at the school (Kevin was imprisoned, so neither parent would get custody of him), and hasn't spoken to Eva in a long time. However, the truth is, as the nonlinear timeline shows, Kevin actually killed Franklin and Celia BEFORE the massacre at the school. That's why Franklin never answered Eva's calls as Eva was out witnessing the aftermath at the school.

  • A WWII Flying Fortress is hit over Europe. The young co-pilot manages to get her home, saving all aboard, thanks to the advice and moral support of his highly experienced but critically wounded captain. As soon as they land the kid runs to drag a medic onboard for his CO. The man examines the apparently unconscious officer and shakes his head. "Sorry, son," he says. "He's gone, must have died instantly."
  • The vanishing hitchhiker Urban Legend.
    • The story usually goes like this: Bob is driving home when he picks up Alice, a teenage hitchhiker. He drives her home and she goes into the house. He then realizes that she forgot her jacket (or scarf, some other accessory, etc) and goes up to the house to give it back to her. Her parents answer the door. They tell him that Alice died ten years ago on the very road where he picked her up, but confirm that it is her jacket.
    • Subject of Bringing Mary Home by The Country Gentlemen. The jacket being replaced with a monologue by the mother of the girl thanking him , you can watch it played live here.
    • Strange things happen in this world!
    • Other versions of the story have the hitchhiker vanishing after warning the driver about an upcoming turn ("What about that turn?" "I died there"), or insisting to be left by a dark side of the road, sometimes in the pouring rain, for no apparent reason. The driver accedes but gives the hitchhiker his jacket to cover herself. He then watches her get in a cemetery and finds his jacket hanging on a tombstone. In other versions, the driver doesn't see the cemetery but returns to the same place during the day, finding the cemetery and then his jacket on a tomb.
  • Yet another similar story has a driver picking an elderly male hitchhiker. The man has been driving for a long time and is tired. At one point he is about to fall asleep, but the old hitchhiker wakes him up, just in time to avoid a coming truck. The hitchhiker has however disappeared, and the man ponders if he has just dreamed the whole encounter. When he arrives at his destination (usually a hotel or a home for the elderly) he is told that one of the guests died the day before, and you guessed it, it was the old hitchhiker.
  • There is a story in Japanese folklore, called The Yurei Child, which involves a man named Kenhei and his wife. He was due to marry her but he fell ill before he could bring her back to Edo, leaving her to think she was betrayed, thus dying of a broken heart. She returned to him as a ghost and, after explaining what had happened, he married her, had a child with her, and lived like that for three years. After three years, she disappeared and, unaware, he went to her mother's house, where the old woman informed him that she had died.

  • According to 1066 and All That, Queen Anne was dead for her entire reign, which ended when people finally noticed.
  • In Washington Irving's "The Adventure of the German Student" a beautiful woman the title character sleeps with turns out to have been beheaded the day before.
  • In Black Legion, it turns out that Nefertari died years before the story began, but Khayon kept them alive through his sheer force of will and psychic powers. He also erased their memories of the death, for fear that if they remembered, they'd die.
  • Book of the New Sun: It’s heavily implied that the narrator Severian dies several times over the course of the series ... including drowning in the very first chapter of Book I, with the main character really being a clone fashioned by the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that's had all his memories uploaded into it in order to ensure the prophecy comes true. "Severian" later returns to that river and finds the decomposed skull of the earlier Severian, but completely fails to put two and two together, still unable to realize that he’s an Unwitting Pawn for the aliens.
  • In Mark Twain's short story, "The Californian's Tale", a traveler meets a man who proudly shows him a picture of his beautiful wife and insists that the traveler stay long enough to meet her when she comes back from visiting her relatives. As the time of her return draws nearer, however, the man grows increasingly agitated until his friends serve him a drugged drink that knocks him out and they explain to the traveler that his wife has been dead for nineteen years and he went so mad from grief that they have to play along with his delusions that she's still alive and then drug him to sleep on this day every year to prevent him from going wild.
  • In "Christmas Meeting" by Rosemary Timperley, a woman alone at Christmas is startled when a young man comes into her room, mistaking it for his (he was lodging in the same house.) She discovers that he is a writer, and when he vanishes suddenly, she reads the book of his own work that he left behind him. It contains a note from the publisher, stating that the man mysteriously died of a heart attack hours after seeing the ghost of a woman (from the description, obviously her) in his room.
  • All seven protagonists in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle are revealed to be dead and in Heaven.
  • Dr. Munoz from H. P. Lovecraft's short story "Cool Air" has been dead, keeping himself alive via an air conditioner and lots of chemicals.
  • Danganronpa Zero has Isshiki Madarai, who somehow survives and escapes numerous lethal encounters, including having his neck broken. Then it's revealed that "he" is actually a collection of eight identical octuplets, all of whom possess superhuman synchronization skills. Not only are the ones who died actually dead, but the real Isshiki was killed in the student council massacre that sets off the plot and his brothers have been out for revenge ever since.
  • Discworld: Men at Arms begins with the story of Edward d'Earth, a young man with some ideas about improving Ankh-Morpork who resorts to criminality to achieve them. Very early on in the story, he acquires a mysterious artifact, at which point the narration states that he is essentially dead from that point on. It's only at the climax we learn whatever was left of Edward as a being was murdered partway through.
  • In Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne, Donald and Helga Donovan, Vera's son and daughter have been dead since The '60s, and this fact is unknown to Dolores until after Vera's death.
  • Constantin, the brother of the eponymous Doruntine, rose from the grave to keep the besa that he made to his mother. This phenomenon was investigated for a long time by the narrator, who couldn't accept this nonsense, and who reached the conclusion that he might have risen from the grave.
  • Julia Jason Andelius, from Maria Gripe's The dung-beetle flies at dusk. She somehow found out about the mysteries behind an old house she owned in the Swedish countryside, but died before she could reveal them to the public... so, via mysterious phone calls, her ghost started dropping hints to the teenagers who spent a whole summer taking care of said home. It's not until the whole mystery is solved by the kids that we find out about Julia's passing.
  • In Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, we find out in the second-to-last chapter of the book that Mummy, who Eleanor has kept up her phone calls with despite her horribly abusive nature, in fact died in the same house fire she set to kill her own daughters. All of their conversations have been in Eleanor's head.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: Ludivine has known Rielle and Audric since infancy, and they're all very close to one another. However, the Ludivine that they know died three years before: the being inhabiting her body is actually an angel who happens to be sympathetic to humanity.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, by the time the children escape from the attic, their grandfather has been dead for over a year.
  • Forest Kingdom: In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 4 (Wolf in the Fold), the last chapter reveals that one of the guests at Tower MacNeil was secretly the MacNeil Family Guardian, whose spirit has been residing in his own painting for hundreds of years and only emerging when he was needed. He's also the "freak"'s father, and his position as Guardian is his penance for the things he'd done to his son.
  • "The Ghost of Philinnion": A young man, Machates, is visited by Philinnion, a girl who has fallen in love with him, and spends two nights with her before her mother tells him that Phillinion has died months ago. Even then he cannot believe his visitor is a ghost, and prefers to believe that some other girl is impersonating the dead Philinnion.
  • In R. Chetwynd-Hayes's short story "The Ghost Who Limped", a family is haunted by said ghost. Of course it turns out that the family is dead and the "ghost" is the one who's alive.
  • The Twist Ending to The Good Girls by Sara Shepard (sequel to The Perfectionists) is that Parker Duvall is actually a Split Personality of Julie Redding. The real Parker Duvall was killed by her abusive father some time before the first novel.
  • Goosebumps gave us The Ghost Next Door, where the narrator is actually the ghost, along with the grandparents in Ghost Beach.
  • Harry Potter
  • Journey to Chaos: Kasile's father died pre-series. An enforcer was possessing his body and moving it as if it were alive. After Tasio evicts it and takes it away, the king's body quickly decays.
  • Liar (2009): When he was introduced, Jordan was just an ordinary Annoying Younger Sibling to Micah. Then, Micah tells the reader that she had been lying and Jordan never existed. Then she tells us that he actually did exist, and he died in an accident when he was eight.
  • Davian in The Licanius Trilogy. At some point earlier in his life (in utero, as it turns out) he died and his body ceased to generate Essence. However, before his soul could pass on his Augur powers kicked in, allowing him to instinctively keep his body functional by leaching Essence from his surroundings. This makes him the only person able to safely traverse the Deilanis rift since the pure kan of the rift would destroy any source of Essence that entered it.
  • About halfway through Geoph Essex's Lovely Assistant, we finally find out that we haven't seen one single scene where main protagonist Jenny Ng was alive: the first paragraph of the first scene that introduces her is the exact moment of her death. Everything's okay, though, and her technically-deceased status does come in handy when she has to save the world.
  • It's actually at the beginning, but in The Lovely Bones, the protagonist thinks she's escaped and only realizes she's dead (and falls into a limbo-like area) when she notices her corpse.
  • Madgie, what did you do?: This happens a couple of times with Toki. In Madgie, what did you do? LIV: Radioactive Rain, it is implied Toki may have committed suicide, if not died of radiation sickness, not too long before Bunny arrives back to the Bad Future and, in Madgie, what did you do? XXVI: Requiem II, where it is implied that she may have died a little while before then and that they weren't aware that she's died, with life continuing as somewhat usual. The latter is more evident in that Toki is bleeding from the mouth and said bleeding should have killed her or should have stopped.
  • More Than This: Owen never came back from the kidnapping in reality. The version Seth remembered was just a simulated program.
  • Ambrose Bierce's 1890 short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", which tells of a Civil War soldier who's hung from the titular bridge by the opposing side. The rope breaks, allowing him to escape, and he sets off on a journey to reunite with his love. Just when he's about to reach her, the truth is revealed. The rope didn't break and he dreamed the whole story.
  • "Old Christmas Morning," a poem by Roy Helton. Sally Anne's husband, Taulbe, shot and killed Lomey's husband some time ago. Just before sunrise on Old Christmas morning, while Taulbe is out hunting, Sally Anne is surprised to see Lomey at her door. Lomey says she has been visiting her husband's grave. Further conversation reveals that she encountered Taulbe as he was hunting, and shot him in retaliation for killing her husband. Sally Anne replies that she heard two shots. This is because Taulbe fired one off before he hit the ground, also killing Lomey, whose ghost is now informing Sally Anne that she will find both bodies lying side by side when daylight comes.
  • A character is revealed to be such midway through Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls. There are multiple hints both subtle and otherwise that something odd is going on, but the formal reveal awaits Ista accepting her status as Cosmic Plaything once more.
    "You have no fever. You don't even sweat. Your skin is the same temperature as the air, and if it weren't so beastly hot in this climate more people would have noticed by now!"
  • Harry Harrison's short story "The Pliable Animal" deals with the murder of a prince visiting another planet. The prince rode a car from the planet's royal palace home when he suddenly shouted at the driver to stop, ran into a dark alley, and was found dead there. It turns out toward the end that a Secret Underground Passage led to that alley from the palace. An imposter entered the car, shouted for the driver to stop, and ran for the agreed-upon spot where they placed the prince's corpse.
  • In the first book of The Raven Cycle we find out towards the end that Noah is a ghost. Considering one of the first things he says in the series is "I've been dead for seven years" one might think this would come as less of a surprise. His friends don't take him seriously until they find his bones.
  • In The Raven Tower, The Silent Forest is revealed to have died a century prior to the main plot when she was backstabbed and killed by her ally The Raven. The Raven himself is also revealed to be already dead by the end of the book — the exact time of death is ambiguous, though when Eolo finds the godstone in the basement (which is revealed to be a God in its own right) it tells him in no uncertain terms that there is only one God in the tower.
  • Tekla, Ida's mentor in Shaman of the Undead, skirted this whole "dying" part of being a mentor by dying two years before meeting her student. She hangs around as a ghost, although Ida only learns about it when she sees Tekla pass through a solid wall.
  • At the end of Michael Reaves' The Shattered World, the servants at Darkhaven who worked for Pandrogas and maintained the castle are revealed to have been this trope: revivified by the Necromancer and tasked to keep his former home ready for some other sorcerer to occupy and rediscover his craft.
  • In Frederick Forsyth's The Shepherd, a young airplane pilot gets into trouble when his instruments fail, he gets lost in the English fog and is low on fuel. When he thinks everything's lost, a Mosquito plane (World War II plane, already out of date in 1957 when the story is set) shepherds him to an old dispersal field, and he survives. There he finds hints that the man who saved him apparently was WW 2 pilot Johnny Kavanagh (the other plane had "JK" written on it), who shepherded many planes during the war. But then he learns that Johnny actually died fourteen years ago...
  • The Shockers series by British author John Peel has Dead End, where a young man buys a 1967 Mustang just like the one his deceased parents had. He never got to know them and in the hopes of learning more about them, he sets off on a road trip in his new car. Many surreal things begin happening, culminating in his arrival at a Woodstock-like music festival which he finds out is a part of heaven where deceased musicians and hippies go... because he's dead. He was unknowingly killed in an accident during his journey and now is where his parents have gone. But the problem is, unlike them, he hates '60s music so this is torture to him. The moral is Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • In Starchild, Boysie Gann is mysteriously transported to a remote part of the reefs of space, where he meets a settler named Harry Hickson, who gives him food and water and sends a message to a nearby town. When Gann arrives at the town, though, people are extremely skeptical of his story, and, to explain why, take him to see Hickson's grave. Hickson had died three years previously.
  • Brona, The Warlock Lord in The Sword of Shannara is revealed to be a mobile corpse, motivated only by his own conviction that he cannot die. Touching him with the titular Sword, which reveals the complete truth about any object it touches, reduces him to dust.
  • Tales from the Haunted Mansion:
    • In "The Fearsome Foursome", each of Amicus Arcane's stories end in the grisly death of a kid in the titular group and as much as they try and dismiss their quality, they start remembering events from them and become increasingly uncomfortable, before finally accepting the truth and taking on ghostly forms reflecting how they died and joining the Happy Haunts.
    • The fourth book, "Memento Mori", is framed with horror author Prudence Pock telling tales of the Mansion to skeptical psychologist Dr. Ackerman before retelling the story of her own murder at his hands, revealing that Ackerman has become an inmate at his own insane asylum as a result of daily hauntings that will continue for the rest of his life.
  • The short story "The Thing in Auntie Alma's Pond" by Bruce Coville is about a girl running away from home to her aunt's house and being terrified of the pond there. The girl later swims to the bottom of the pond and realizes she had actually drowned at the bottom of the pond when her leg got caught, after finding her swollen, decayed body at the bottom.
  • After much confusion, this is revealed (to the reader) to be the fate of the main character in Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.
  • Parl Dro the ghost hunter, in Tanith Lee's To Kill the Dead.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Lucia is implied since Kazebar possesses him from the start.
  • Various characters in Philip K. Dick's Ubik.
  • In a poem titled Watching, the female character is implied to be a ghost, as she is wearing white, thus not being dressed for mourning, nor is she getting wet from the rain and, likewise, the funeral that she is watching is probably hers.
  • The protagonists in Stephen King's short story Willa from Just After Sunset.
  • The short story "Yukitodoita seikatsu" (roughly "Well-Kept Life") by Shinichi Hoshi describes how the main character's automatic house does everything in his morning routine for him, and then sends him to work. When he arrives, it's revealed that he has been dead for hours.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The British sitcom 2point4 Children implied this with the mysterious man on the motorcycle who showed up randomly when Bill needed help. Considering the nature of that show, it wasn't actually that odd.
  • In the eighth season of 24, Jack is rushing to save the life of President Omar Hassan, whose mock trial and execution at the hands of his country's revolutionists is being broadcast on a live televised video feed and will finish being carried out at the end of the hour. Jack eventually discovers where they're hiding out and successfully manages to kill most of them while wounding their leader — only to discover Hassan's lifeless body nearby, his throat slit, even as the feed of him alive continues playing. It was actually a recording, and Hassan had already been killed some time prior to his arrival.
  • Parodied at the end of the Adam Ruins Everything episode "Adam Ruins Halloween": Adam lectures a kid named Stuart about hoaxes related to Halloween and the supernatural, but when Stuart tells his parents about it, his father informs him that the show has been canceled for 50 years.
  • Multiple characters on American Horror Story: Murder House are revealed to have been dead for years and their ghosts have become trapped in the house. Other characters die during the show itself, but it isn't known by themselves, other characters, or us for several episodes.
  • Cordelia in the Angel episode "You're Welcome". Having been in a coma since the birth of Jasmine, she miraculously awakens and breaks Angel out of his growing crisis of conscience. At the end of the day, it's revealed she had never actually woken up but had instead cashed in a favor with the Powers-That-Be to manifest a body for one day. At the end of the day, her physical body dies and she disappears.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
  • In Arrow "A Matter of Trust", Diggle becomes cellmates with Floyd "Deadshot" Lawton two seasons after Lawton's death. Lawton says it's a classic case of Never Found the Body, and viewers are aware of a recent Cosmic Retcon that could have brought him back, but it turns out Diggle's just hallucinating.
  • It's revealed in the finale of Ashes to Ashes (2008), that the series and its predecessor Life On Mars take place in a type of limboland for police officers, most of whom died in the line of duty. Meaning that all the characters involved are dead already (but don't realise it), except the protagonists - Sam was in a coma (his body kept alive while his mind/soul were mostly dead) in Life On Mars and Alex has just been shot at the beginning of Ashes to Ashes. It's implied that Alex dies for real at the end of Season 2 of Ashes to Ashes as she stops hearing/feeling things from the 'real world', and focus shifts off her fight to get back to her daughter, implying that she may be beginning to either forget her old life or accept death in Season 3. In the Series Finale, Alex is stated to be dead.
  • In the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, it's revealed that Starbuck really did die when her Viper exploded. The "returned" Kara Thrace is an "angel", just like Head Six and Head Baltar, the only difference being that everybody can see Starbuck.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Subverted with Giles in the last season. Fans speculated that he was another aspect of The First Evil, who was intangible because he didn't touch anything. Which would have meant that he was dead because the First only impersonates those who have died. Oddly enough, this particular epileptic tree was deliberately planted by Joss Whedon throughout the first half of the season. Anthony Stewart Head later told an interviewer that, given all the retakes and effort involved, he didn't think the payoff was worth the trouble.
    • Played straight with the potential slayer Eve, in "Bring on the Night", who was revealed to have been the First Evil in disguise when the real Eve was found dead in a motel room.
  • In several episodes of Criminal Minds, characters who initially appear to be associating with the unsub turn out to be this, as they were either the culprit's hallucinations or alter-egos, or corpses they'd kept around as if they were still alive.
  • One of the twists late in season 6 of Dexter is finding out that Professor Gellar, the Big Bad of the season, was dead the whole time, and Travis, his accomplice and murderer, was imagining him and committing the murders he thought Gellar performed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Unquiet Dead", the Doctor feels Gwyneth's pulse and realizes she's cold and has been dead for some time, even though she's still moving and talking.
    • "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead": One of the archaeologists follows the Doctor around for quite some time before he points out that she no longer has two shadows and has had the flesh eaten off her bones. (He'd realized some time before, but didn't want to distract the others from following his plan.)
    • In "The Time of Angels", the Doctor is talking to Sacred Bob on the comm device, who tells him he's coming to them. Bob then reveals he's dead, the Angels are using his voice, and by him coming to them, he means the Angels coming to get them...
    • In "Asylum of the Daleks", Amy and the Doctor meet a young man outside the Dalek Asylum who is surprised to find that his shipmates are all long dead since he swears he spoke to them a few hours before. He then remembers that he died outside the ship nearly a year ago so the cold preserved his body (unlike the desiccated skeletons of his comrades.) He then says "I forgot about dying" the way one might say you forgot to pick up milk at the store. The same thing happens in "The Time of the Doctor", when the Doctor visits the Papal Mainframe again. Tasha Lem is furious with the Doctor and lets it slip that the Daleks attacked the Church and killed everyone. When the Doctor is incredulous with Tasha for letting it happen, she angrily shouts "I died for you!" Then she realizes what she said, and a Dalek eyestalk starts coming out of her forehead. Fortunately, the Doctor convinces her to fight for control of her body, and she ends up helping them.
  • Late in Part 1 of Dracula (2020), it is revealed Jonathan Harker did not survive his stay in Castle Dracula and is now an undead himself.
  • Episode "New Year's Eve" of the anthology series Fear Itself is about a Zombie Apocalypse and turns out that the protagonist was a zombie all the time.
  • The Flash (2014) episode "Tricksters" reveals that the real Harrison Wells was murdered more than a decade earlier by Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse-Flash, so that Thawne could take on Wells' appearance and identity as part of his plan.
  • In the Friends episode "The One with Joey's Big Break", Joey's character's Love Interest having been Dead All Along is the Twist Ending of the Movie Within A Show Shutterspeed, which up until The Reveal is scripted as a love story. Joey's friends find the idea of such a movie laughably ridiculous, which became Hilarious in Hindsight three months later when The Sixth Sense premiered.
  • In Fringe:
    • The universe's "real" Peter Bishop died as a young boy; his father Walter kidnapped Peter's Alternate Universe counterpart and raised him as his own.
    • In the second season premiere, Charlie Francis chases after a shapeshifter that attempted to kill Olivia and is able to fight him off. Then at the very end of the episode, it turns out the shapeshifter killed Charlie and was impersonating him for the remainder of the episode.
  • Melinda's best friend/business partner, Andrea, in the season 1 finale of Ghost Whisperer. This is hinted by the fact that no one visibly interacts with or even acknowledges her after the plane crash. Like many ghosts, she doesn't grasp what's happening or why Melinda is the only person who reacts with horror at her.
    • A realtor is haunted by her husband, who believes (wrongly) that she poisoned him. Melinda finds her in her office which she just smashed up. The husband's spirit arrives with the two arguing...until it hits the wife she can see and hear him. Melinda sighs "I was figuring out how to tell you" and nods to the woman's corpse as during her rampage, she accidentally electrocuted herself.
  • Wilson was originally going to be revealed as this in the final episode of Home Improvement.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • One episode plays with this and the show's gimmick of Ted narrating to his future children. The show has Robin talking to her future children about how she got with their father Barney despite not wanting children. We find out she's unable to conceive, and she's alone on a park bench apologizing to her imaginary future children that they will never exist. Major Mood Whiplash.
    • The Series Finale revealed that The Mother had died six years before Ted began telling the story.
  • In the Inside No. 9 episode "Bernie Clifton's Dressing Room", Tommy, an internet millionaire who was half of a comedy team in another life, reluctantly reunites with his partner Len for a limited engagement show. During rehearsals more of their issues surface. At the end, Len's daughter enters and it's revealed that Tommy was musing to himself while preparing to deliver Len's eulogy.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In Kamen Rider Ryuki, the female lead Yui died long ago when her Abusive Parents ignored her illness. She's actually merged with her alternate self. However, if you're from one side of the mirror you can only exist on the other for so long. The merging lets her exist longer, but, as she warned her brother Shiro, she will cease to exist around the time of the season finale. Her brother went on to become the Big Bad as he tries to save her by any means necessary, no matter how horrible. In the end, she accepts her death rather than let others pay for her survival. In fact, she convinces her brother to stop as the remaining Riders are busy with an unending swarm of monsters. Post-Reset Button, everyone who died during the series is back except for her; she stayed dead when she was a child, and the heroes, meeting each other again in an alternate version of the first episode, will never know that the little girl in one picture on the wall of the Local Hangout was one of their best friends, and saved them and quite likely the world.
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto had Tsurugi Kamishiro, also known as Kamen Rider Sasword. He had been killed by a Scorpio Worm that then decided to mimic his appearance, but Tsurugi's ego was so strong that it actually made the Worm believe it was Tsurugi. He didn't take it well when the truth came out.
    • In Kamen Rider Double's movie, the main antagonists are a group of mercenaries-slash-terrorists called NEVER. It eventually turns out that they're the results of a failed Super Soldier project which revived dead people with superhuman strength and speed (NEVER is a contraction of Necro-Over). The Big Bad reveals that the project was inspired by Philip, one of the deuterotagonists, and keeps trying to pull "Not So Different" Remark moments, only for Philip to keep responding by telling him to shut up.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard pulled this one with Koyomi, the show's female lead, by revealing that she died of an unspecified illness some time before the show began. Her father, Sou Fueki the White Wizard, enacted the original Sabbat in an attempt to revive her, but the ritual wasn't powerful enough and just brought her back as a "doll" which required constant infusions of mana to survive. Eventually it's revealed that all the mana is crystallizing into a Philosopher's Stone, which Fueki wants to use to revive Koyomi for real. A major part of the final story arc is The Hero Haruto coming to terms with the fact that there isn't a way to save Koyomi without becoming just as bad as Fueki, and thus the right thing to do is to let her die a final death so her spirit can be at peace. Koyomi herself is at first shocked, but much like Yui from Ryuki, would rather die if the price of saving her is untold loss of innocent life. (As for Sou, unlike Shiro, he couldn't accept that, even at Koyomi's request.)
    • Kamen Rider Revice: Yujiro Wakabayashi, commander of Fenix, was revealed to have been murdered by the Chameleon Deadman in the first episode of the series. The Monster of the Week went on to impersonate him until his cover was blown in episode 14. The real Yujiro's only appearance is also his death scene.
  • Lost:
    • In the sixth season and the final scene of the fifth, all of the characters in the flash-sideways are often considered to be dead as they have moved beyond their original early-season lives and into their next and even then they are gathering, one by one, in preparation on moving yet again into their next (and inferred higher) level of existence in the Grand Finale.
    • ABC's decision to show footage of the wreckage over the credits for the finale led some viewers to believe that the characters had in fact died in the crash. Viewers who didn't find the lack of bodies puzzling and ignored in and out of universe indications that the island was not any form of purgatory.
    • John Locke dies in the events of seasons 4-5 and is revived midway through the fifth season. Then it turns out that Locke actually was never brought back and is still dead; the person that's appeared to be Locke walking around for the remainder of the series has actually been The Man in Black assuming his form.
    • This interview with the creators reveals that this trope was actually subverted—the island was not purgatory after all, but a real island and the characters were very much alive there. (The scene with everyone gathering at the church, though—that's where the characters are dead.)
  • In the fifth season of Money Heist, much of the narration is handled by Tokyo. Among the things she talks about are her feelings when she killed the bank's chief of security - which she does by blowing herself up with grenades when he is standing right above her.
  • The NCIS episode "Swan Song" starts out with a body bag being loaded into the van in a thunderstorm, hinting that someone important has been Killed Off for Real. The episode continues through flashbacks interspersed with Gibbs standing by the body in the autopsy room, while Mike Franks is standing behind him. It is foreshadowed a few times (notably when Gibbs sees Franks sitting on his couch before he actually arrives, or when Franks enigmatically tells him that he hears ghosts), but the big reveal comes near the end: The dead guy, of course, is Franks.
  • The horror anthology Night Visions had two episodes like this. In "The Passenger List", a TSA official investigating a plane crash ultimately learns that he was one of the victims. In "My So-Called Life And Death", the protagonist suspects that the reason the guy she has a crush on can't see or hear her is because he's a ghost, but the real reason is that she and her family are ghosts.
  • Once Upon a Time has Lancelot in "Lady of the Lake". Turns out that, for the entire present-day storyline, Cora has been posing as Lancelot, having actually killed him sometime before the events of the episode. Later, in Season 5, it is revealed that Lancelot really is still alive, and was in hiding, trying to stop King Arthur from reuniting The Dark One's Dagger with Excalibur.
  • The One Foot in the Grave 2001 Comic Relief skit. Obviously it's set before the Tear Jerker finale of the series. And Margaret isn't reacting to anything Victor says because she quite often ignores him when he's on one of his rants. Right?
  • In an early season two episode of Person of Interest, Reese, having successfully blackmailed The Machine into giving him a lead to finding the kidnapped Finch, investigates the life of Hannah Frey, a girl who went missing more than twenty years before and who Reese believes grew up to be Root, the kidnapper. After he and Carter investigate for a while, they end up finding Hannah's body buried in the backyard of a person who Root had murdered years before - Root was actually Hannah's best friend, who lost faith in humanity when nobody listened to her when she reported Hannah's kidnapping (which ultimately led to her murder).
  • In the first episode of Pretty Little Liars, the girls receive text messages signed "A" that refer to secrets that only the four of them and their missing friend Alison knew. They assume the messages are from Alison until her body is discovered buried behind her old house.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Stoke Me a Clipper", Ace Rimmer (what a guy!) reveals after being fatally wounded that he's actually a hologram, the original Ace having died after his encounter with the crew.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Screw Up", Dr. Cox spends the second half of the episode being absolutely furious with JD after one of his patients died. It's revealed at the end that the patient who died was not the elderly man JD was seen treating earlier, it was Dr. Cox's brother-in-law and best friend Ben. Several hints are dropped during the second half of the episode, such as Dr. Cox being the only one who interacts with Ben and Ben not carrying around his camera (earlier in the episode he said he would carry it around till the day he died).
    • In season six Laverne is in an accident and declared brain dead. While the other characters come to say their goodbyes, Carla refuses to do so and is followed around by a "ghost" Laverne until she finally accepts the loss. Carla then asks Dr. Cox if he's ever seen ghosts of dead patients. In true Coxian fashion, he tells her "No, but then again, I'm not a crazy person." The writers wanted Ben to show up again then, but Ben's actor was busy doing something else, forcing them to do a much worse joke.
  • In the Smallville episode "Visage", Lana's old flame Whitney returns from a tour in the Marines but is acting suspicious and aggressive. It turns out he died in combat, and the new Whitney is a shape-shifting Stalker with a Crush.
  • There was an episode of So Weird where somebody kept writing the message "YOU'RE DEAD" for an old woman to find. It turned out that it wasn't an enemy threatening her, it was the ghost of her husband trying to tell her that she was, literally, dead.
  • In the Stargate Universe episode "Visitation", Dr. Caine is shocked to learn that he and his companions have died on the planet they called Eden and then been temporarily reanimated by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Subverted in Star Trek: Voyager where Janeway seems to be this in one episode - but really isn't.
    • A variation in another episode. The crew finds a wormhole that allows them to communicate with a Romulan captain back in their home quadrant. While the wormhole is too small to allow a ship to pass through, they are able to teleport people through it. The Romulan captain beams over, only for them to find out that the wormhole connects to the past. They decide that sending everyone through would be a mistake, as they would risk altering the timeline. The Romulan agrees to take messages to Starfleet and their loved ones with him to deliver after the Voyager's disappearance. Unfortunately, after he leaves, Tuvok reveals that, historically, the Romulan died long before the Voyager launched. Their only hope is that he entrusted the messages to someone before death.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had an episode wherein the Defiant stumbles upon a distress signal from a Starfleet captain and is eventually able to communicate with her. They become friends and eventually discover that she's running out of supplies, but if they push their engines to the limit they should be able to get there in time—until it's discovered that some of her supplies are tainted, moving the deadline up significantly. Taking a big risk, they push the engines to the limit and found the planet—only to discover that the captain had been dead for three years. An unusual energy field had been playing havoc with time; she was dead before they started.
  • Supernatural:
    • In "Road Kill" Sam and Dean pick up an accident victim by the side of the road. Turns out she is a ghost and was killed in an accident 15 years ago.
    • In "Jump the Shark" Sam and Dean meet their half-brother Adam. Late in the episode, it's revealed that "Adam" is in fact the ghoul that killed their half-brother.
    • In "Holy Terror," it turns out that Ezikiel, the angel that Dean thought was possessing Sam, is dead. Instead, the far less honorable Gadreel is possessing Sam.
  • Titus: The episode "The Visit" has Titus, Dave, Tommy, and Ken (Papa Titus) trying to capture Juanita (Titus's homicidal, manic-depressive schizophrenic mom) whom they think escaped from the mental hospital again and is out to ruin Titus and Erin's chance at adopting Amy note . Titus, Dave, Tommy, and Ken have her cornered in the closet — until Erin comes in and tells Titus that she got a phone call from the Missouri police department with news that Juanita killed herself four hours ago. To drive the point home, Titus opens the closet and finds no one there and the episode ends with a heartbreaking message about how hard it is to be a parent and how Titus forgives his mom -- even though everyone now thinks he's crazy.
  • Truth Seekers:
    • Astrid died in the house fire in 1997, but her mother (the burnt ghost) managed to send her back to the living world through the connection provided by Elton's conduit powers. The situation is so complicated even the expert doesn't have a name for it.
    • Subverted in 'The Watcher On The Water' as Byron the caretaker is set up as this with only Elton encountering him and the owner's initially puzzled reaction when he is mentioned.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • The episode "The Hunt" is about an old man who goes out hunting at night with his dog and comes home to find that he died on the trip and is now a ghost.
    • The episode "The Hitchhiker" opens with a woman who's nearly lost her life in a car crash. Soon after, she starts seeing a mysterious hitchhiker who appears to her and only her, and she starts to think that Death is coming for her. It's only when she stops to call her mother that she realizes that she didn't survive that car crash.
    • Everyone in "The Passersby".
    • In "Death's Head Revisited'', a former concentration camp commander pays a visit to his old camp, only to be confronted by one of his former inmates. It's only at the end that he remembers he killed the prisoner in question.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In an extremely disturbing way, "Kentucky Rye" ends on this note. After managing to walk away from a car crash, Bob Spindler (drunk at the time) wanders into a bar and, after befriending the patrons and the owner, winds up buying it (after getting a little help from a somber-looking man). The next morning, Bob wakes up in the bar... which is dusty and abandoned. The somber man is with him. And as they look outside, they see police and ambulance workers clean up a car crash outside the "Kentucky Rye". The victims? The somber man... and Bob (who hit him, then crashed).
    • In "Nightsong", Andrea Fields is visited by her ex-boyfriend Simon Locke, whom she has not seen for five years. She later discovers that he is a ghost when he shows her his skeletal remains and crashed motorcycle at the bottom of a cliff. Simon tells her that he has returned in order to convince her to let go of her feelings for him and get on with her life.
    • Implied in "Love is Blind". Jack Haines wonders how the Blind Musician could have survived getting shot in the head, which should have been fatal. However, the musician refuses to answer.
  • Ultraman Nexus: Komon's girlfriend Riko was killed along with her family by Mizorogi/Dark Mephisto and the Space Beast Nosferu a year before the series began, and then revived by Nosferu's necromantic powers to become a host for Dark Faust. However, she's not aware of this herself, but when she does, the results are horrifying.
  • Many episodes in Without a Trace have the team discover that the victims were killed after they went missing, or that they went missing because they were murdered and their killers hid the body. Just like in many missing person cases in Real Life.
  • On The X-Files, the entire reason Mulder lives and breathes the X-Files can be tied back to the abduction of his younger sister when they were children; he blames himself for not protecting her. His ultimate goal, as he tells Scully in the pilot, is to find her. Over the course of the series, we are led (as is Mulder) to believe she's alive. At various points, we even see her as an adult. They all turn out to be clones, but they and various others involved in the conspiracy, continue to give Mulder hope by implying that his sister is alive. Even the episode that wraps up her story-arc is hopeful; after she was abducted, she lived with CMS Spender and his son Jeffrey, and was forced to undergo painful tests. She was taken to an emergency room some six years later, but the nurse is unable to tell Mulder anything more than that she just disappeared. It isn't until Mulder and Scully are involved in a seance at the gravesite of many dead children, that Mulder finds out the truth. One child spirit takes his hand and leads him to a field where many children's ghostly forms run and play. One of the spirits runs up to him and envelopes him in a tight hug. As she pulls away, Mulder can see that the child is Samantha. Since before the start of the series, she has been dead, unbeknownst to her heartbroken brother.

  • In Godley & Creme's "Under Your Thumb" a woman in the same train car as the narrator screams out the window that she's through being under some unknown person's thumb. The narrator picks up an old newspaper in an attempt to ignore her and finds an article stating that she threw herself off a speeding train.
  • Jin's Kagerou Project has an entire cast of dead characters, as that is how one obtains the eye powers everyone is known to have in the first place.
  • The Lonely Island's "Jizz in My Pants": One of the many things that caused the singer to jizz in his pants was The Reveal at the end of The Sixth Sense.
  • Manbou-P's A Clingy Boy Sticking For 15 Years, alternatively, Pursuing a Cute Boy For 15 Years. In each of the songs, the singer is singing to a love interest who never responds to their love poems. Near the end of the song, the said love interest is revealed to have "died 15 years ago". Surprise.
  • Brian McKnight's character in the "Back at One" video.
  • The New Order song "Love Vigilantes", which is from the point of view of a soldier returning home from war only to find that his wife has committed suicide after being sent a telegram saying that he was killed in action. It's a little hard to catch thanks to the Lyrical Dissonance and the lead singer's lack of coherency. It's more explicit in the Iron and Wine version.
  • The music video to "Someday" by Nickelback seems to be about a breakup, as it begins with a man trying to talk to his distraught girlfriend while she ignores him; the end reveals that he's a ghost who died in a car accident (a fact hinted earlier, as he walked through some spilled milk but left no footprints). The video has two endings; in one, the girlfriend gets in an accident herself so that the two are Together in Death.
  • The titular character in Stan Ridgeway's "Camouflage". The song's narrator, a marine in the Vietnam War, gets caught in enemy territory, with a jammed weapon. He thinks he's going to get killed, but a "big marine named Camouflage" comes to the rescue and helps him to get back to camp. The marine notices that there's something weird about Camouflage, who can stop bullets with his bare hands and uproots a tree and uses it as a weapon against some Vietnamese soldiers, but it's not until he tells his superiors what happened that he learns that he encountered the ghost of a marine who died the previous night from injuries sustained several days earlier. Camouflage's last wish was "to save a young marine caught in a barrage."
  • The protagonist in the Marty Robbins ballad "El Paso", revealed to have died in his lover's arms after being shot in a gunfight.
  • Red Sovine's "Phantom 309" about Semi Driver 'Big Joe' picking up a hitchhiker, the narrator... no doubt the inspiration for "Peewees Big Adventure" as the passenger learns of it upon citing the trucker at a local Diner where Large Marge/Big Joe are well known as heroes in death, as well as the afterlife.
  • The boyfriend in the video for Armin van Buuren & Adam Young's "Youtopia".
  • The last verse of "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Melanie" reveals that the latest of the increasingly bizarre things the singer/stalker has done in his obsessive efforts to get Melanie's attention was to jump to his death from the apartment window above hers.
  • The penultimate verse of the novelty song "The Thing" has the narrator reveal that he died after his years of being stuck with the box and that his attempt to enter Heaven resulted in St. Peter forcing him to take the box with him to Hell.

  • Unwell Podcast: Wes is revealed to be dead at the end of season one.

  • The main character in Lucille Fletcher's "The Hitch-Hiker", originally performed as an episode of The Orson Welles Show in 1941 and rebroadcast for decades thereafter.
  • Parodied repeatedly in one John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme Storyteller sketch, in which, asked for a ghost story, the Storyteller tells a story in which he repeatedly thinks other people in the house have been revealed to be Dead All Along, and turns out to be wrong. At the end, he says the listener is probably wondering where the ghost was since it wasn't any of the guests "and the only other person in the story ... was me." After a Beat he adds "And obviously, it wasn't me. Actually, I don't think there is a ghost in this story after all."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Deadlands, there is a "Veteran o'the Weird West" Edge that lets you start with a higher experience level, but confers on you a random negative effect such as being alcoholic, wanted, or insane. And the most severe of these effects is the player character being a Harrowed (a revenant type undead) without realizing it!

  • I and You: One of the main twists in the play is that Anthony is a ghost, having died earlier that day during his basketball game. The other main character, Caroline, is alseep, and he's visiting her in her dreams.
  • In Like Dying Things Do it is revealed at the end of the show that Adam has committed suicide and is narrating the story from beyond the grave.
  • One of J.M. Barrie's many revisions of Peter Pan was written for an actress who, Invoked, interpreted Peter in this way. Specifically, he refuses to let anyone touch him, the implication being that he can't be touched. He himself has no idea that he's dead.
  • Proof opens with a conversation between Cathy and Robert in which the latter reassures the former that she isn't crazy. Except that she's talking with her dead father, which may punch a hole in that theory.
  • Discussed by Domin in R.U.R..
  • Gabe in Next to Normal. On second viewings there are multiple hints that he's just a recurring hallucination.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere, Abyssal Dision is revealed to have been dead since before the game began. He was killed in a terrorist attack to eliminate Yoko Martha Inoue, due to her involvement in the Night Raven project. The Dision that had been flying with Nemo is a Brain Upload version of him, who wants to avenge Yoko’s death.
  • In Agarest Senki 2, the Weiss that Aina finds in the middle of nowhere that you see throughout the game is not really Weiss but is actually Chaos forming as Weiss. The real Weiss died during the part where you think Weiss stabbed Chaos in the beginning.
  • In Age of Wonders, Merlin realizes that he can master the death sphere of magic without Gabriel's guidance because he had drowned before Gabriel "rescued" him at the beginning of the campaign.
  • AI: The Somnium Files:
    • Played straight with Takero Matsushita, Ota's father and Mayumi's husband. He's eventually revealed to have died of a heart attack years before the events of the game, but Mayumi's dementia was leading her to act as if he was still alive.
    • The amount of Body Surfing that takes place leads to a lot of examples and inversions of this trope. To wit:
      • Shoko Nadami is a Posthumous Character to begin with, but it turns out she actually died well before the events of the game. She had her body forcibly switched with Rohan Kumakura's, and when she came to and realized what happened, she committed suicide, taking Rohan's body with her. This means that Rohan is actually still alive despite Moma and everyone else believing him to have died; he's inhabiting Kaname Date's original body, known as Prisoner #89.
      • Renju Okiura is a similar example, as he had his body switched with Shoko's (which now was hosting Saito Sejima) prior to him being killed. His body survives nearly to the end of the game on the true ending, but it turns out to have become a host for Saito, who then switches Rohan into that body and kills him; though, given the car accident he got into previously, he likely wouldn't have lasted much longer, anyway.
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine has multiple examples, but none of them are revealed until the New Game+ bonus:
    • Bertrum Piedmont, once a big-shot amusement park engineer, had been merged with one of his rides found in Chapter 4's Bendy Land. Replaying Chapter 2 once Henry has the seeing tool allows his name to be found on one of the coffins there.
    • Norman Polk, a former projectionist at Joey Drew Studios has been wandering around his old workplace as an inky humanoid with a speaker in his chest and a projector in his head. His name is also on a coffin in Chapter 2.
    • Susie Campbell, one of Alice Angel's former voice actresses, terrorizes the studio as a twisted form of her beloved role. In Chapter 3, there's a coffin in the ink-flooded morgue where most of the clones Susie vivisected are displayed, and her name is on the coffin.
    • This trope is implied for several other characters who appear as ink creatures, such as Sammy Lawrence and Jack Fain. However, there aren't enough coffins for all the ink beings, nor are all the coffins identified as having someone's remains.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops:
    • It turns out that Reznov apparently died during the escape in the second level, and all subsequent appearances - save for the flashback mission where you play as him - are hallucinations caused by Mason's psychosis. "Apparently" being the operative word, and they Never Found the Body. Part of the fandom is quite vocal that Reznov is, in fact, still alive, not helped by various hints the game gives.
    • He appears again in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to rescue Mason and Woods, but it's left unclear if it's just another hallucination or the real deal. Woods lampshades the absurdity of rescuing his old friend and then disappearing again without explaining where he's been all this time, but from what David said of it, Alex really did believe it was Reznov, and either way it is heartwarming to think that Alex still thinks of Reznov as his friend after all those years.
  • Despite apparently committing suicide by jumping off the roof of the hospital, it turns out that Liz, the chatty Welsh nurse from The Cat Lady, is already dead by the time we "meet" her, having been murdered by the first Parasite, Doctor X.
  • In Chelsea, Daniel turns out to be this.
  • Alex in Code 7 is revealed to be this. The reason why nobody notices for most of the game is that thanks to Brain Uploading, not even Alex themselves know about their death.
  • Confess My Love: The final ending reveals that everything Willie goes through is a result of his being dead and reliving his past failures. Julie, by extension, is a demon waiting to take his soul to hell.
  • Dante in Dante's Inferno didn't actually survive being stabbed in the neck at the beginning of the game. He is in fact just another one of the many damned souls in Hell, albeit one given a little more freedom as part of Lucifer's scheme to free himself.
  • The first letter from each chapter of Dead Space spell out "NICOLEISDEAD". Which she is. The person Isaac sees on the Ishimura is apparently a mental projection originating from the Marker.
  • In the game Deadlight, your character Randall spends the game going all through a zombie-infested Seattle trying to find his wife and daughter. It's only at the end when he and Stella are trapped with her begging to be killed that he remembers that he killed his wife and daughter during the outbreak in his town.
  • The female protagonist of Death end re;Quest, Shina Ninomiya, was shot dead by Aphesis six months prior to the game; in fact, Iris's fury upon finding out and the subsequent assault on Iris are the reasons why unfinished MMO World's Odyssey is a glitchy mess to begin with. The Shina that players follow is a digital copy created by the Ludens, one that very nearly gets deleted after she clears the game.
  • In Detention, Ray is caught in a purgatory-esque place due to her spirit not being able to rest for her guilt of causing the deaths of multiple innocents over her teacher crush.
  • Gorden Amherst, the man who created the Dollar Flu/Green Poison in The Division is found to have been dead from the beginning, killed by his own disease. Nonetheless, he got what he wanted, as civilization had all but collapsed from his man-made plague at the beginning of the game.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Wynne turns out to be this in Dragon Age: Origins. This is actually foreshadowed immediately after you meet her in the Mage's Tower, where a fellow mage expresses her concerns, saying that for a moment it looked like Wynne had died defending her from a particularly strong demon. You probably forget about it the moment you enter the next room, as Wynne is obviously alive. Much later, it turns out the mage was right. Before Wynne could fully pass away, however, she was possessed by a friendly Fade spirit that helps her stay in the material world a little longer. Wynne isn't exactly sure why, nor does she know how long she has left, but she intends to make the most of the extra time the (gradually weakening) spirit granted her.
    • If Leliana is killed in Origins, the epilogue of the Trespasser DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition reveals that the Leliana that's shown up in this game and the last with barely any acknowledgement of her fate is actually a Fade Spirit that has been impersonating the original, who is very much dead.
  • In Dragon Quest Builders, the Builder is revealed in the final chapter to actually be a citizen of Alefgard who had died when the Dragonlord's reign of terror began. The Noob Cave you awoke in? That was your tomb! It is through the goddess Rubiss's magic that you are brought back to life to restore the realm.
  • In EarthBound Beginnings, the ruler of Magicant, Queen Mary, is suffering from amnesia, and cannot remember an important song. The protagonists slowly piece together the song throughout the game, and when Mary hears the complete song she regains her memory and is revealed to be a remnant of the protagonist Ninten's long-dead grandmother Maria, who was abducted by aliens 80 years before the beginning of the game, and Magicant itself is revealed to be a Mental World created by Maria's lingering consciousness. With the song remembered, she can rest at last, and both she and Magicant disappear.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Tribunal expansion, Physical God Sotha Sil is built up to be the Big Bad who has gone insane following the loss of his godhood. After an attack by his semi-organic Mecha-Mooks on Morrowind's capital city, home of fellow former Physical God Almalexia, she sends you to Sotha Sil's Clockwork City to kill him. After navigating his many death traps, you reach the command center of his city where you find him... already dead by the hand of Almalexia. It turns out that she is the one who has gone insane and plans to kill you and the other former Dunmeri deities so that only she remains to be worshiped by the Dunmer people.
  • Escape Lala: In the second game, everyone is dead (except the protagonist... possibly, and the army trying to break into the castle.) Most notably, the princess and the wizard, who you are led to think you will meet in a standard Damsel in Distress plot, are both dead, and a big part of the game involves helping them move on to the afterlife.
  • Fatal Frame
    • Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly has Itsuki Tachibana, the imprisoned boy that served as a guide to Mio. It's not as shocking as most other examples, as Minakami Village is a ghost town, but it is presented as a shock to Mio and the player to finally enter the storehouse that is his prison and seeing his hung corpse in a flashback.
    • Fatal Frame IV: Mask Of The Lunar Eclipse has Choushiro Kirishima, one of the player characters. His story begins awakening on the ground of the hospital and trying to find and bring down Yuu Haibara. His final chapter involves trapping Haibara on a roof and throwing himself off of it with him and the playable Kirishima is shown observing his corpse. He seems to take it rather calmly.
    Kirishima: So... that's how it is, huh?
  • Both the protagonist and Alice are virtual ghosts re-created by the Se.Ra.Ph in Fate/EXTRA.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • In Final Fantasy X, there is a class of these people called Unsent, who stay around due to strong emotional attachment or other unfinished business. Some are dead for years before the plot gets to them.
      • Maester Yo Mika, head of the Corrupt Church of Yevon. As he was an incredibly old man when he died, no one who wasn't in on it noticed that he wasn't getting any older lately...
      • Maester Seymour, who you have to kill three times after his initial death, follows in Mika's footsteps.
      • Auron, the heroes' mentor, who finally reveals that he is an Unsent near the end of the game.
      • The summoner Belgemine, who tests Yuna's progress throughout the game, later reveals that she is an Unsent during a sidequest.
    • Final Fantasy X-2: Maechen, the age-old historian and former trope namer for Exposition Break, is revealed to be dead in a movie sphere that can be collected on a bonus mission.
    • One of the clan hunts in Final Fantasy XII involves a boy named Miclio who tells you of Diabolos, a demon in the Lhusu Mines who preys on children. He explains that every region has one: a tale parents tell their children of a demon that will come to get them if they're bad. Diabolos, however, is very real, and has killed a couple of his friends. After you defeat Diabolos and return to him, he tells you that he had been posting his bill for years, but that nobody had responded. A couple of his friends appear and they all thank you, then run inside the tunnel that he was standing in front of, fading away as they do, revealing that they were all ghosts.
    • Velis in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings.
    • In an interesting variation of the trope, it is revealed towards the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2 that Lightning fell in battle against Caius Ballad long before Serah and Noel encountered her for the first time, but due to the plot-centered Timey-Wimey Ball, she was able to support, assist and meet with them after her inevitable demise in her upcoming battle with Caius. She wasn't dead, just crystallized.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones: For about half of the game we're lead to believe that Emperor Vigarde of Grado was the one who started the war. When Ephraim reaches the imperial capital and seemingly slays him, his corpse crumbles into dust. Only then he learns from the shaman Knoll that Vigarde had been dead for over a year, and that his son, Prince Lyon, tried to resurrect him using Grado's Sacred Stone, with the result that he just came back as an Empty Shell, with the populace still kept in the dark about his death.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
  • Folklore has a slight twist on this. Keats turns out to be a Halflife, which is similar to a ghost except created from the powers of Messengers and the fears and wishes of humans. He was created in the image of Ellen's dead childhood friend Herve, and the player quickly finds out the "office" they saw at the beginning of the game was in fact another part of the Netherworld.
  • The character Heracles (the party member who actively goes by that name, not the nameless hero or "General Heracles") in Glory of Heracles DS is actually Heracles's nephew, Iphicles. When Heracles agreed to help Daedalus in his experiments to revive his son, Iphicles gets hit by the blast, gains immortality, and believes himself to be Heracles. When the real Heracles is found and Iphicles regains his memories, he explains that he was already dead and simply fades from existence. Luckily, the real Heracles regains his memory and his strength and thus takes the same role in the party.
  • Grand Theft Auto V begins with a failed bank robbery by Michael, Trevor, Brad, and an unnamed driver (who dies during the getaway). What appears to happen is that Michael dies and is buried, and Brad is arrested. Trevor, the other participant in the robbery, got off scot-free and writes letters to Brad from time to time. However, Michael had struck a deal with FIB agent Dave Norton to ensure that he and his family would be safe, meaning that Michael had spent all the time after that Faking the Dead and that it was actually Brad who died and was buried; and Dave had been responding to Trevor's letters as Brad.
  • Headless Prisoner reveals in the True Ending that Kenji, the man who joined Erina shortly after the beginning, was one of the people to have died in the prison some unknown time ago.
  • In the Kongregate game Innkeeper, the initial viewpoint character Manuel actually died years ago. His mother Nanay developed a split personality to avoid facing the reality of his death. Building the inn was Manuel's dream before he died, so Nanay works herself to exhaustion trying to fulfill it. It's only after the inn becomes a success that she is finally able to accept Manuel's death. The game is really about helping a grieving mother move past the loss of a child.
  • Emperor Sun Hai from Jade Empire is both this and Evil All Along. He led the attack on Dirge and murdered all your fellow Spirit Monks in order to steal the power of the Water Dragon. During the battle, he was betrayed and killed by his brothers, but thanks to the fact that he just disabled the Water Dragon, Hai simply got back up as a ghost and defeated them. He now rules while hidden away in his palace, glamoured to conceal the fact that he's dead and using his youngest brother (bound to a suit of armor and dubbed Death's Hand) as a Mouth of Sauron to carry out all his commands.
  • Everybody in the Smith Syndicate in Killer7, in fact, according to the supplementary material Dan, Con, Mask, Kaede, Coyote, and Kevin have each died THREE TIMES and Garcian has died at least once, possibly twice depending on who wins the Third World War and if you consider Loss of Identity to be an actual death.
  • The old man in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, who is actually the last King of Hyrule. You don't find out until after the tutorial, which raises...questions.
  • Life Is Strange has a large focus on Rachel Amber, a girl who disappeared several months before the story begins. Episode 4 reveals that she was killed and put into a shallow grave.
  • An inverted variation occurs in Mad Father. A curse has re-animated dozens if not hundreds of the victims of a mad scientist; most of them are out to get the protagonist, while others are neutral or in need of her help, but one, a boy with half of his face seemingly melted, tries to help and protect the main character. At least, given his disfigurement, even without several comments he makes about how he'll fade when the curse disappears, it's pretty natural to assume he's another reanimated corpse. But a secret scene added in version 2.0, only viewable after earning the true ending, reveals that *gasp* he was alive all along! It's not entirely clear why he pretended to be dead, but it's certainly interesting for being an ordinary human to be the big plot twist.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid, Master Miller (who was part of the Mission Control in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake) was killed at his home before the game started. All conversations with him are actually with Liquid Snake with an accent, sunglasses, and ponytail.
    • In the epilogue of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Snake and Otacon obtain a list of the personal data for the Patriots' high council, only to discover that all twelve members have been dead for 100 years.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake (Future Big Boss) frequently sees a mysterious man who only appears while it's raining. At one point in the game Snake drowns, and in this state of "almost death" meets that man in a dream, at which point he introduces himself as The Sorrow. It's only after the "battle" with him that Snake learns the truth: The Sorrow was the lover of The Boss - Snake's mentor and mother figure - and was also killed by her willingly so when their respective missions forced them to clash.
    • In the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, it's revealed that Liquid has been dead since the first game and did not come back as a spirit to possess Ocelot. Instead, Ocelot brainwashed himself into thinking that he was the real Liquid as part of a massive Gambit Roulette to bring down the Patriots.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has Paz Ortega, who apparently has amnesia and talks to Snake about the events of Peace Walker when Snake brings her pictures held by former members of MSF. Once every single picture is shown to her, it is revealed that Paz died at the end of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and in fact, Snake has been seeing an illusion brought on by his own grief and guilt at failing to save her.
  • In Muramasa: The Demon Blade, most of the central cast are undead: Momohime doesn't really count, although she was presumed dead after Jinkuro cut her; Kisuke was mortally wounded by his brethren after betraying the clan for love, and returned to life through fusing with an angry ghostly swordmaster; Torahime was assassinated by the Shogun, and is sent back by Amitabha for a limited time to exact vengeance and save the world from the Inugami alongside her army of ghosts.
  • If you've played NieR, it shouldn't surprise you to find out that humanity is extinct by the time of NieR: Automata. What will be a surprise is finding out that the creators of the machine lifeforms the androids are at war with, the aliens, are also long dead. Then you learn the circumstances behind everything...
  • Played with in Ōkami as the opening scene shows that Shiranui (A.K.A Amaterasu), dies at the end of her battle with Orochi. It just took a while for the Goddess to develop a new physical body.
  • In the short, free game P.R.I.C.E, Ivry is this, as Iva killed him and had his soul put into a puppet before the game. Iva may be this as well since we see flashes of her beheaded body, and the mysterious man implies that the skull at the end is hers.
  • Edge in Panzer Dragoon Saga. He's killed by Mustava right in the opening cutscene, restored to life by the Divine Visitor to serve as the newest dragon's rider, and once they succeed at merging the Heresy Program into Sestren, Edge is promptly killed once again, for good.
  • Rei, or rather, Niko, from Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. She was an Ill Girl who died in 1999 due to The Disease That Shall Not Be Named, and in the afterlife started to grow resentful when she felt that she was alone and died for no meaning. Chronos, one of the aspects of Death, took an interest in her and tried to get her to speak to him by replicating the school she was supposed to go to (Yasogami High), but that only made things worse as it reminded poor Rei what she missed out on because she died so early. In an attempt to cheer her up, Chronos took away her memories and turned the entire replicated school into a festival to make her happy, while sealing any possibilities of her memory returning within the labyrinths of the game, and just to delay the inevitable a little longer, took away his own memories and called himself Zen. Once the player gets through all the labyrinths, Zen's memories return to him, he gives Rei her memories back, and things get sour from there.
  • In Persona 5 Royal you get a clue from Sojiro that a 15-year old girl died from a lethal traffic accident a month prior to your arrival during the second day of the game. This is a dialogue that does not appear in the Vanilla Persona 5 and the main heroine, Kasumi Yoshizawa is 15 years old. A few months into the game, Kasumi will tell you that she had a sister that she wanted to go to gymnast internationals with as a duo, but she died because of the traffic accident, which makes you think that Kasumi didn't die...Until the 2nd of January of the next year where Takuto Maruki displays you the truth...Kasumi was indeed the girl who died in the traffic accident, and this Kasumi is actually Sumire, Kasumi's suicidally depressed sister who was Always Second Best from her, and this resulted in an inferiority complex towards her that tipped to the point where she had a fit and ran away from Kasumi, only to not notice incoming traffic. Sumire only survived because Kasumi took her place to become roadkill. This obviously worsens her suicidal depression and the only way Sumire could cope with it was by Maruki making her think she's Kasumi.
  • In the bonus chapter of Phantasmat 3: The Endless Night the main character is revealed to have died in the car crash which occurs during the introduction. The twist is that her daughter, who wasn't supposed to have made it either, is somehow saved by her actions during the main game, despite the fact that none of them actually happened in reality.
  • Pinstripe: Towards the end, it's revealed that Ted and Bo died in a drunk driving accident that's heavily implied to have been Ted's fault.
  • Planescape: Torment completely zigzags this the trope. For starters, the main character died multiple times – yet he cannot die the ultimate death, which is the game's goal. The first party companion Morte also died and became a floating skull. And during the game, a small group called Dead Nations consisting of undead skeletons and zombies is encountered, governed by the Silent King. Who is actually “dead” all along and thus doesn't govern anything.
  • Pokémon
    • The quest-giver of the Seven School Mysteries quest in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, a little girl with a Drifloon always by her side. As soon as you finish the quest, the custodian appears and admonishes you for being in school so late at night, and you take your eyes off of the girl. As soon as the player character turns back, the girl is gone, and the officer says that they only spotted that the player was alone, that no one was with them the whole time..
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield also features a little girl NPC who asked you to bring a letter to her friend in Ballonlea Town. Her friend turns out to be an old guy who explained he has a sickly girl as friend in the past. Then, when you return to where the little girl was, she's nowhere to be found, but you found a Reaper's Cloth, an item used to evolve certain Ghost-type Pokemon, and a thank-you voice out of nowhere.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], it is revealed towards the end of the game that Alex Mercer did die at Penn Station and that the character we play is not Alex Mercer. It is The Virus that Mercer released before being killed. The Virus absorbed Mercer's DNA and adopted his memories and came to believe he is Mercer; though the viral monster is actually less of a dick than the original Mercer.
  • Both Stocke and Heiss in Radiant Historia. Both of them died and were brought back from the dead as sacrifices for the ritual that holds off the destruction of the continent for a few more years. The only reason Stocke doesn't remember being someone else is that Heiss wiped his memories. Similarly, the Prophet Noah died sometime after withdrawing from public life five years before the start of the game (Possibly murdered, though natural causes is also possible given his age). Since General Hugo was the only member of the high command who knew this, he just pretended that the prophet was alive and started making his own declarations in the prophet's name.
  • In Resident Evil Village, it's revealed by Eveline that the protagonist, Ethan Winters has actually died during Jack Baker's infamous 'Welcome to the Family' speech, but not even Jack or Ethan knew about it then. It explains how Ethan became so resilient in the 2 games, as he was rebuilt by the Mold after he died.
  • In the short, free game Serena, there's strong evidence that the protagonist is this.
  • Jyoji Hijiri of Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. Hijiri died during the Conception and was reborn as a Mannikin since he's cursed with an endless cycle of death and rebirth as punishment for committing the Ultimate Sin.
  • Silent Hill:
  • The worst ending of Silent Hill shows Harry, either dead or dying, still in his crashed car at the beginning with the implication being the entire game was his spirit stuck in limbo or even just a dying hallucination.
  • In the 're-imagining', Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Harry died in a car crash years ago, and his journey through Silent Hill is a psychotic delusion created by his daughter Cheryl's grief, which was possibly manifested by the town into an actual entity.
  • Although Mary's death is established at the beginning of Silent Hill 2, the letter from Mary creates doubt in James' (and the player's) mind. That is, until Mary's death is confirmed at the end of the game. The twist is that she died less than a year ago and James killed her, not the illness.
  • Silent Hill 4 has Walter Sullivan.
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming has Joshua Shepherd.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim total conversion mod Enderal, you learn at the end that the real "you" has been dead all along (at least since the end of the prologue). Your character, and several others, are copies of dead originals, created by the High Ones in order to further their schemes. While these copies still apparently have free will, the dying wishes of their original become the primary driving motivators of the copies, which allow the High Ones to more easily manipulate them.
  • In Solatorobo, there is the quest giver Galvan, who merely wanted Red to give his son his log and, hence, his last wishes.
  • SoulCalibur V indirectly reveals that Raphael is the host body that Nightmare uses as "Graf Dumas". The playable Raphael is actually his lost soul, tethered to this world by sheer willpower alone and his love for Amy.
  • Colonel John Konrad in Spec Ops: The Line. Konrad spends the second half of the game giving you a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. When you get his stronghold, it turns out that Konrad actually killed himself long before the game started, and the Konrad that you've been talking to was a figment of Captain Walker's imagination, created by Walker after the White Phosphorus incident to justify the horrific actions he himself has perpetrated in trying to be a hero.
  • Snowe in Star Stealing Prince was killed in the Hopeless Boss Fight. The only reason he's still around is that the demon didn't want him to die, partly because if Snowe dies the demon dies, and partly for Snowe's own sake.
  • In Strife, attacking the Oracle reveals that under its robe is a human skull on a non-human body. Oh, and its Spectre then attacks you.
  • Super Mario Galaxy: "I want to go home! I want to go back to my house by the hill! I want to see my mother!" The girl was shouting now, her face wet with tears. "But I know she's not there! I knew all along that she wasn't out there in the sky! Because... because... She's sleeping under the tree on the hill!"
  • Excellen from Super Robot Wars Compact 2 was killed during a space shuttle accident before Compact 2 or Original Generation takes place, but was reanimated by a monster as part of the set-up for its evil schemes. Interestingly, she suffers the same fate in the Mirror Universe, but in that version, her Mad Scientist parents make a cyborg Super Soldier out of her corpse instead and she changed her name to Lemon Browning.
  • System Shock: "The Polito form is dead, insect. Are you afraid?"
    • Context: For half of the game the player character has been directed by Polito, apparently the only survivor to have a Voice with an Internet Connection, and although she's often insulting and cold, she's the only human contact that doesn't come through Apocalyptic Logs scattered around. A couple of those logs actually were recorded by Polito, who apparently used to be a little warmer, and who found an AI artifact that spoke English, or something like. Then the player is guided to where Polito's body is, and SHODAN, the Big Bad of the first System Shock, tells you that she allowed you to believe otherwise to "establish trust".
    • You're actually given subtle clues that the woman on the other line isn't Polito; for instance, you pick up Polito's audio logs where not only does she discover SHODAN's mainframe, but she's actually friendly and emotional, as opposed to the cold, heartless bitch who's guiding you. Xerxes outright tells you if you pay careful attention to him when he's taunting you.
  • In Terranigma a young ingenue hides away in a desert village which is actually a half-collapsed ruin filled with zombies (who don't quite realize that they're dead). This sets up a revelation at the end that Crysta is just a reflection of the mortal world all along, and now that the real world is restored it is coming undone. Even Ark, the PC, is revealed to be an echo of a dead hero from long ago.
  • Tokyo Xanadu:
    • Shiori was killed by falling rubble during the Tokyo Disaster, 10 years prior to the game's events. However, she lived on thanks to the will of a very powerful Grim Greed; defeating it causes her to fade away from the memories of everybody who isn't able to see the Eclipse.
    • Gorou's (at the time) girlfriend, Futaba, also was killed by a Greed during the Tokyo Disaster. Gorou tells Kou that they are in a long-distance relationship, but a little bit of digging on Yuuki's part reveals that he's lying.
  • Zig-zagged and discussed in Torment: Tides of Numenera. Towards the end, it’s revealed that the Changing God actually didn’t escape your body at the start of the game; his soul was destroyed there, and the spectre you’ve tracked down is an Artificial Intelligence based on a backup of his memories. This leads to a debate as to whether a direct continuity of consciousness is necessary for one to be considered a continuation of another, identical one. Either the Changing God is Dead All Along, or the spectre’s existence means that he’s still alive in some measure. The game never answers for certain and by the end even the Big Bad remarks that the issue will probably never have a clear right or wrong answer.
  • In Wick the secret ending reveals this of you.
  • In Wild ARMs 3, it turns out Werner Maxwell, Virginia's father, died in the Yggdrasil incident and the man who's been helping you is simply composed of people's memories of him, courtesy of the Hyades library.
  • In Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, everyone qualifies. The Flash in the backstory actually killed everyone in the kingdom. All of the characters in the game, including yourself, are ghosts. As you fulfill requests throughout the game, the tavern gradually becomes empty since the people you aid move on to the afterlife after you help them accomplish their Ghostly Goals.
  • Most major characters in The World Ends with You except Joshua.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles series:

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • President Di-Jun Huang in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2. The Huang seen during the game is actually his body double, who plotted his murder and took his place 12 years prior to the game's events.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, this turns out to be what happens to Bobby Fulbright — the Phantom murdered him before the game even began and was masquerading as him the entire time.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice:
      • Played straight with Dhurke Sahdmadhi. He was dead before the events of "Turnabout Revolution" even began, yet he goes investigating with Apollo and is accused of murdering Inga because he was being channeled. By two different people at different times.
      • Inverted with Queen Amara. You are told in Case 3 that she was murdered 23 years ago in a fire — but it turns out that was just a staged incident only made to frame Dhurke and usurp Amara's throne. She's been alive all this time, disguised as Princess Rayfa's attendant Nayna.
      • Played straight with Puhray Zeh'lot. He was dead before the high priest was murdered in Case 3. The game even dares to place Zeh'lot's corpse right there in the praying venue, Hidden in Plain Sight, inducing everyone into thinking he was just praying.
  • Crescendo (JP): Miyu never got better, she is dying in the hospital during her whole storyline.
  • Chiaki in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair was revealed to have died before the events of the game in the real world, and the one met in the game is an AI with her personality.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, near the end of Nageki's route it's revealed that he's been a ghost the entire time, trapped in the library, and that you're the first person to see him (except in the audio drama and the Bad Boys' Love/Hurtful Boyfriend route, where Ryouta can, and the manga, where both Ryouta and Oko San can... and maybe Anghel). His love for you finally frees him, causing him to depart for the afterlife.
  • This is actually reversed in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Kind of. June, Junpei's childhood friend, actually died in the last Nonary Game, and she's trapped in a weird loop to try to get Junpei to contact her past self and give her the answer to the last puzzle of the game to save her life. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • At the end of D-Man's quest in Spirit Hunter: NG, it's revealed that D-Man was killed before the quest even began; the person who's been sending texts to Akira is his surprisingly eloquent spirit.
  • Itsuki in Suika actually died years ago, beaten to death by her and Sayo's father (the crazy Shinto priest) after she threw Sayo down a flight of stairs during a fight.
  • In the fourth episode of Umineko: When They Cry, Beatrice declares that Kinzo Ushiromiya, Battler's grandfather and the reason the entire mess started, is in fact dead at the beginning of not just the game in question, but all the other games in the series. The two main factors that made him seem as though he was alive and involved in the plot were Beatrice's unreliable narration and Krauss and Natsuhi maintaining the illusion that he had shut himself in his study and refused to come out nearly two years after he died of natural causes.
  • A rather haunting example occurs in a volume of Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi walks past a house in which he hears someone telling a story and is invited in. The speaker is Inazuma, an acquaintance of his and she appears to be telling her backstory to a large group of comfortably seated Samurai. Usagi listens until she finishes her tale and takes her leave. He nudges one of the Samurai and asks if he thought the tale was tragic but receives no response. He repeats the gesture and the samurai falls over, knocking down all the rest of them as well and revealing that they had been dead the whole time. What's even stranger is that it's clear that Inazuma didn't kill them with her blade. There is no blood and some of the characters are even holding eating utensils as if they were just going on about their business and stopped to listen to the story.

    Web Animation 
  • In the fifth episode of Camp Camp, "Journey to Spooky Island", the main trio meet a mysterious kid named Jasper, who's on the island for unexplained reasons and talks like he's from the '90s. He's revealed to be a ghost at the end of the episode, but not until after the trio have already left and we are not given any information on Jasper's origins until season two, and the characters do not learn that he was a ghost nor is audience given his full story until season three.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Subverted in Reconstruction when it turns out that Church (who had been a ghost ever since about halfway through season one) was not dead all along, but was actually an AI program who only believed that he had been a real person due to the memories of the person he was based on.
    • Then played somewhat straight when it's revealed Tex is really just an AI created from the Director's memories of his dead love.
    • In Season 10, it's revealed that Agent Connecticut was already long dead; the one we see in Season 7 is just her boyfriend masquerading as her.
    • In Season 15 the Blood Gulch Crew go searching for Church after they believed he sacrificed himself for them in Season 13, after they receive a garbled transmission seemingly sent by him. Near the end of the season, it's revealed that the Blues and Reds deliberately edited a transmission sent by Church during his time in Blood Gulch to drag the Reds and Blues out into the open and that their friend really is dead for good.
  • Starters: Almost all of the inhabitants of Lavender Town turn out to have been dead the whole time.

    Web Comics 
  • Zeno of Charby the Vampirate discovers that he died of his injuries after escaping the lab and was brought back as a zombie by the two "elves" that had taken him in prior to meeting Charby and Menulis.
  • Tomo Wakeman in The Dragon Doctors.
  • In Girl Genius we meet Anevka, who interacts with the world via a clank body due to serious injuries from an accident of her father's. The clank is connected to her actual body, which is preserved in a pod. It's later revealed that the real Anevka passed away years ago in the pod and the robotic double had taken on such a strong imprint of her personality that it simply never noticed. Anevka's brother Tarvek, who built the clank, admits that he only didn't turn her off sooner because it comforted his father and him to still have his sister around in some way and that finally deactivating her was hard for him. This later bites him and the rest of the protagonists in the ass when the clank is reactivated with a different personality that pretends to be his sister since, as far as anyone outside of Tarvek knows, that clank really is Anevka's mind in a clank body.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: In Chapter 16: 'Ghost Story', Antimony meets the ghost of a boy who doesn't realize he's dead. Initially, Annie doesn't realize he's dead either, having misunderstood the warning from the psychopomps.
  • Homestuck:
    • Much is said of the exploits and greatness of Jade's Grandpa, only to find out he's been dead for some time and his corpse is stuffed and placed in front of a fireplace. Creepier still, Jade still refers to Grandpa as if he were alive and complains of his various elderly tendencies.
    • Aradia is downright stated to have been "dead all along".
  • In L's Empire, this is revealed to be the case with Dimentio, although he was aware of this the entire time (though he didn't know how he died). Since he's a master of dimensional magic, it's more of a technicality than being any real hindrance.
  • Aylee in one arc of Sluggy Freelance. She Got Better.

    Web Original 
  • The season one finale of Camp Here & There reveals that Sydney died a few years before the events of the series, but Jedediah brought him back somehow.
  • One of The Journal Entries has this turn out to be the reason a certain girl warns one of Ken's children away from the place her ship is. (Doubles as a Shout-Out to Lost in Space, right down to the ship being a Jupiter Mark II, with four people aboard, including an adolescent girl and a younger boy. Things just ended badly for them.)
  • In Kowabana, the story "If you're going to kill yourself, sleep with me first," features a young man trying to talk a woman out of suicide. He is revealed to be a ghost who had previously killed himself, and he's trying to stop the woman from sharing his fate.
  • In Questden adventure Moot Point, no one at the opera house noticed the old stagehand Cliff had died for over a year... Least of all Cliff himself, who never missed a day of work.

    Web Videos 
  • CollegeHumor: Shyamalan parodies the decline of M. Night Shyamalan's career by casting M. Night As Himself in a Shyamalan-esque supernatural thriller. At the end the mysterious man who haunts Shyamalan reveals the truth:
    M Night: My career is dying.
    Pale Man: Your career has been dead this whole time.
  • The Cry of Mann: It's implied that Frank was drowned by Gergiev and is controlled via some form of necromancy.
  • The twist ending of movie critic/indie filmmaker Brad Jones' (a.k.a. The Cinema Snob) suspense thriller Paranoia.
  • Smosh: Partway through "Real Ghostbusters," Anthony is killed when Ian accidentally throws the scissors at him, stabbing his head. Later, they are told that only ghosts can see other ghosts...and IAN WAS ALREADY DEAD. When he picked up the scissors, Anthony saw them floating by themselves, and screamed, startling Ian into throwing the scissors at Anthony and killing him... yeah.
  • In There Will Be Brawl, it turns out that Princess Peach had been killed immediately after she was kidnapped.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Billy turns out to have been killed by The Lich some time between his first and second appearance.
  • Anna & Bella has a Framing Device in which two elderly sisters flip through their photo album and laugh, with the story of their lives being told in a series of flashbacks. At the end, a servant enters to call the ladies to dinner—then turns around and flies away with the wings sticking out of her back. Anna and Bella then follow her, flapping their wings. They are both angels in heaven.
  • Parodied in the Clone High episode "Sleep of Faith: La Ru D'Awakening", in which Gandhi is mentored by a sagacious truck driver who turns out to be the ghost of the deceased Doug Prepcourse (the creator of the S.A.T tests in-universe). A Once More, with Clarity! montage shows Gandhi conversing with no one, pouring coffee which splashes on the ground because the cup and the man holding it aren't real, and pumping fuel onto the ground and floating through the air above the highway at 60 mph because the semi-truck he was riding in doesn't exist.
  • The Goober and the Ghost Chasers episode "Aloha Ghost". The beautiful, mysterious girl Michael Gray was trying to hit on turns out to be a ghost; the wife of King Manamoa Clue was seen when the whistle that is supposed to be painful for ghosts affected her as she quickly leaves with her hands over her ears. She shows her identity at the end of the episode.
  • The Hollow: Discussed A recurring gag through the series is Kai's theory being that they're already dead.
  • In the Columbia short "The Jaywalker" (1956), a man, after giving the viewer advice on how to successfully jaywalk, turns to reveal a pair of angel wings on his back—suggesting that he was struck and killed while crossing the street illegally.
  • Justice League: In the episode "Legends", it turns out all the members of the Justice Guild of America died decades ago saving the world from a nuclear holocaust. The heroes they'd been interacting with were sentient mental constructs created by their Kid Sidekick Ray, who had been horribly mutated by the radioactive fallout into an incredibly powerful psychic and recreated his idealized fantasy rather than face the true reality. Once Ray is killed, the Justice Guild accept their fate and die for a second time, and the entire world fades back to the post-apocalyptic wasteland it really was. All the townspeople were real though, and are very grateful to be freed from an unending, unchanging nightmare as living props.
  • Inverted in Legend Quest with Teodora: She's initially assumed to be a ghost and has the abilities of one, but it later turns out that she's an astral projection sent back in time to the 19th century while she's in a coma 200 years later.
  • In The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack episode "I'm a Believer", the people of Stormalong repeatedly do things and say it "Must've been a ghost." After eating the entire birthday cake and getting a stern look from all the partygoers, Jayde says the line and smiles creepily as he fades away leaving an empty chair. It doesn't help that they play really eerie music as this happens.
  • Over the Garden Wall:
    • In the second episode, the protagonists wind up in Pottsfield, a town full of weird people who wear pumpkins and vines over their whole bodies. At the end of the episode, Wirt discovers that they're all skeletons underneath. The exception seems to be their leader, Enoch, who is a cat.
    • A common theory is that everyone in the Unknown qualifies since the Whole Episode Flashback reveals that Wirt and Greg are actually drowning back in the normal world during their adventure. Right before this, they were in the town cemetery, and you can specifically see a headstone with Quincy Endicott's name.
  • Parodied in the Regular Show episode "Terror Tales of the Park IV" (in the segment "Unfinished Business"). In a story told by Benson, he chases around the ghosts of Mordecai and Rigby, but it turns out that Benson was actually the undead spirit the whole time. Benson's friends criticize him for using such a cliched twist ending.
  • Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends: General Rinaker turns out to have been dead for more than 50 years. The man everyone thinks is Rinaker is actually a Shadoen infiltrator.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Rise of the Old Masters", the Ghost crew sees a broadcast from the Voice of the Resistance claiming that Jedi Master Luminara Unduli is still alive and being held in an Imperial prison in the Stygeon system. When they arrive, Kanan can sense Luminara but says there's something "clouded" about her presence. When Kanan and Ezra enter her cell, they discover her preserved corpse in a coffin, which the Empire had been using to entrap Jedi.
  • TaleSpin:
    • The episode "The Old Man and the Sea Duck" featured Baloo suffering Identity Amnesia and having to be trained from scratch by the old pilot who rescued him. Upon regaining his memories and leaving, Baloo returns to find the old man's place in shambles and learns the old man has been dead and gone for quite some time. Despite this, Baloo finds a photo of the two of them together in the ruins of his old office...
      Kit: Who's that, Baloo? A friend of yours?
      Baloo: More than a friend kid. More like... a guardian angel...
    • In "Her Chance to Dream", Rebecca meets her perfect man... who happened to be the ghostly captain of a sunken ship. It was a while before she discovered she'd fallen for a dead guy.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) parallels the Mirage comics by having the Rat King be knocked into a pit by Splinter in "Of Rats and Men". About two seasons later, in "Darkest Plight", Splinter falls into the same pit and encounters the Rat King, who attempts to assert control over Splinter. After Splinter escapes him, he discovers the Rat King's decayed corpse, causing him to write off what he had previously seen as a hallucination.
  • In ThunderCats (2011), the Tiger Clan was stricken with plague around the time Tygra was born. The more prideful members of the clan rejected Tygra's father Javan's suggestion to seek help from Thundera and convinced him to make a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil. The Spirits agreed to save the clan but demanded that Javan sacrifice Tygra in exchange since Tygra was destined to become their enemy. Javan couldn't go through with it and sent Tygra away in a hot air balloon to Thundera. The Spirits punished the clan by sending the plague back to the village, killing them all. The Spirits then cursed them with undeath and nightly transformations into mindless horrors.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: Season 6 reveals that Shiro has been a disembodied spirit since the season 2 finale, with the Shiro that joined the team in season 3 being a clone made by Haggar. However, the Black Lion preserved his spirit, which allows Allura to transfer it into the clone's body.


Video Example(s):


Dante Aligheri

Satan reveals to Dante that he has been dead the whole game.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeadAllAlong

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