Follow TV Tropes


Dead Guy on Display

Go To
"As such, justice was dealt."

Tywin Lannister: And if you get so much as a whiff of treason from any of the rest — Baelish, Varys, Pycelle…
Tyrion Lannister: [rolls eyes knowingly] Heads. Spikes. Walls.

Rather than being given a decent burial in a nice, convenient out-of-the-way location, a dead person is instead presented for all the world to see. There are a variety of possible reasons for this treatment:

  • Reverence: This person was an honored figure, and their body is being preserved as a relic/object of reverence (and perhaps also in safekeeping just in case they decide to come Back from the Dead) (one variation on this includes characters who are mortally wounded or ill being preserved in stasis in the hope that a cure for their injuries or illness can be found in the future — which in turn is based on a much older literary tradition).
  • Intimidation: This person was an enemy, criminal, or another nasty figure, and The Empire/The Government/Proud Warrior Race Guys are keeping them around to show everyone else what happens when you mess with them. Particular favorites include heads on poles and skeletons hanging from gibbets. This one's quite popular with villains, and is a very effective way to Kick the Dog, particularly if the person was special to the hero in any way. This is also a very common way to discourage tomb robbers.note 
  • Kill Confirmation: This person was the worst of the worst according to those who put them on display. This is a way of saying "Trust us, he's really dead now. For real." to the people. It is particularly worthwhile to do this if the displayed individual is reputed to be immortal.
  • For Science!: A preserved corpse may be on display as a scientific curiosity. No natural history museum is complete without its very own mummy, after all. Additionally, the development of plastination led to people actually volunteering to have their mortal remains preserved and put on display.
  • Perverse Amusement: A corpse may be used to show an ignominious fate, often as a sideshow attraction. This is often played for Black Comedy, if not straight tragedy, and is often used in fiction either as the precursor to a haunting or to show a lack of respect or knowledge of a dead person, making this another effective way to Kick the Dog.

All variants are, of course, Truth in Television. The practice of "lying in state" (publicly displaying the body of a head of state or other high dignitary) exists to convince the public that rumors of the person's death are not exaggerated and to allow friends, family, and followers to pay their last respects, while criminals, rebels, and pirates have traditionally been executed and displayed in a number of gruesome ways (hanging, crucifixion, etc.)

A Sub-Trope of Due to the Dead, although if the subject on display is being dishonored the intention is more Last Disrespects. The motives of those who come to see do not have to match those of the characters who display the body; they can throw rotten eggs at a body exposed for reasons of respect, or lay flowers at one exposed as a criminal. Overlaps with Public Execution, which is a primary method of getting the guy dead in the first place.

Human Head on the Wall is a Sub-Trope.

Contrast Come to Gawk, for the living. Compare Decapitation Presentation. See also Wax Museum Morgue, where the bodies are kept on display without anyone knowing their true nature. Opposite of Disposing of a Body, when a murderer has obvious reasons for not wanting anyone to see the corpse.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • After Chelsea of Akame ga Kill! is horrifically murdered and cut to pieces by Kurome, her head is stuck on a pole in the center of a settlement by The Empire. The rest of poor Chelsea's body is fed to Seryu's pet dog/Imperial Arm, Koro. A terrifying and undeserving end for Night Raid's newest member.
  • A quite nightmarish version happens in Basilisk: Gyoubu Kasumi is stabbed to death by Tenzen when he's merged with a wooden panel, and since his death doesn't allow for the corpse to be de-merged, the whole panel is exhibited in the nearest port as a warning to the Kougas.
  • The villainous variant happens in the Berserk manga after the Griffith rescue arc. The King sends the Black Dog Knights, a band of Midland's worst rapists and murderers and all-around scum, to kill Griffith and the Hawks. Their leader, the Apostle Wyald, establishes his monster credentials by raping and murdering a woman who helped the Hawks and the girls under her care before proceeding to carry the naked, dismembered bodies of their victims on poles into battle with the Hawks, who are all appalled by the sight.
  • This is what Sosuke Aizen was planning to do to Ichigo's human friends in Bleach, after reaching for the real Karakura city and starting to chase them around.
    • Subverted by Aizen himself before. He faked his death by making everyone believe that he had been murdered and his lifeless body had been Pinned to the Wall - but it was just an illusion.
  • In Case Closed, more than one murder case involves the victim's corpse specifically arranged to this effect. I.e., in a filler case a girl is first strangled to death, then placed on a sèance table with her arms outstretched as if she was tied/nailed to a cross.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Ballad of Fallen Angels", Vicious kills his former boss Mao Yenrai for attempting to make peace with another Crime Syndicate, then takes Mao's body to the opera Mao was going to see and has the corpse sit through the performance in Mao's private box, where he can be seen by the public. Presumably, this was both to make a statement about Mao's actions and to tempt Mao's other protege, Spike, out of hiding.
  • In the Devilman manga and at least one of the newest OAV series, Akira's girlfriend Miki Makimura is horrifyingly killed by a mob. When Akira/Devilman finally arrives late at Miki's house, he sees how her killers have dismembered her body and now display her head and limbs on pikes. After killing them all, he's later seen tearfully holding poor Miki's head in his arms.
    • And right before that, Miki finds her little brother Taro's headless body on the floor and sees in horror that one of the mob members has the poor kid's head.
  • Galaxy Express 999 has Tetsuro's mother being killed by Count Mecha, and he has her naked body displayed as a hunting trophy, with the implication that this is something he does every so often. Tetsuro responds to the display by burning the manor down - and killing Mecha in some versions.
    • Late in the TV Series a planet that only has mechanized residents threatened to turn the beautiful Maetel into a rug, another show of how while not everyone who becomes a machine turns bad, but the ones that do end up really bad
  • In Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics's rendition of the tale Blue Beard, when Bluebeard's newest and ultimately last wife Josephine steps into the forbidden cellar, she sees the corpses of his murdered wives mounted on the nearby walls like trophies.
  • Kill la Kill: As seen in the page image, a student in the intro who stole a Goku uniform was killed, stripped, and hung from the walls to warn anyone else what will happen to them if they do the same. It's rather strange in hindsight, as the student council weren't shown as being remotely as harsh in later episodes.
  • Patema Inverted: Shortly after Patema is captured by the Agian government, their leader, Izamura, shows her what'd become of the only other "of her kind" to visit the surface: Lagos' dead body, perfectly preserved in a glass stasis chamber. Which is how she finally learns why he hadn't returned, after all those years.
  • Psycho-Pass: Rikako Oryou (and Kozaburou Touma before her) specializes in this, turning her victims into works of grotesque art and leaving them in public places.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • One remarkable moment comes from Sanosuke Sagara's flashback as a child, when he was adopted by Sekihoutai leader Sagara Souzou (here given a Historical Hero Upgrade and Historical Beauty Update). After the Sekihōtai was accused of being a "false army" by the Restoration government of the Ishin Shishi (making them the fall guys for the failure of the government in service delivery), they were executed in the mountains, with Sagara's head being chopped off and displayed in public. It would be Sanosuke's excuse to sabotage any Ishin Shishi he meets and live as hired muscle codenamed "Zanza," until he meets ex-assassin Kenshin Himura and gets a "No More Holding Back" Speech that makes him realize that this isn't what Sagara would've wanted for him.
    • In the Kyoto arc, a young boy named Eiji Mishima asks Misao and Kenshin to help him avenge the death of his older brother Eiichirou, one of Saitou's informants, at the hands of the Juppongatana. They go to Eiji's village... and they find the bleeding, beaten corpses of the Mishima parents, hung at the entrance of the place. Naturally, poor Eiji has a screaming meltdown at the sight.
    • Averted in the Jinchuu arc. It looks like it has been played straight by Kaoru, whose body was found Pinned to the Wall of the Kamiya dojo with Enishi's BFS, but it turns out it was a "doll" made of corpses. The real Kaoru is still alive and a prisoner of Enishi.
  • One of the most horrifying moments in Shadow Star takes place when Takeo and Shiina's parents find a Creepy Doll... with the severed head of Takeo's murdered best friend, Norio, mounted on it. Naturally, none of them take it well at all.
  • During the funeral scene in Tower of God, it is apparent that people in the Tower receive individual water graves (coffin-sized pits filled with water or another clear liquid).
  • Vinland Saga: Canute forbids his men from having their way with civilians who are being displaced by his military campaign in England, "traditions" be damned. When a few of his soldiers defy his orders and target the civilians anyway, Canute orders that they be beheaded and their heads lined up along the road as a warning to the rest of his men.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Along with the other Faux Symbolism in Batman: Fortunate Son, the body of Not Elvis is preserved like Lenin's.
    • Jonah Hex, an outlaw of the old West. His body was stuffed, dressed in a "singing cowboy" outfit, and put on display in a wild west show. The ignominy (and the fact that he's used to representing the opposite of who he is) is palpable. In one story Jonah, having been transported to a post-apocalyptic future, finds his own preserved corpse in a museum (or storage facility or something). He takes comfort in the fact that eventually, he'll go back home. While he does go back, the body is not his, it's an impostor's.
    • The Joker often does this to intimidate the public. Probably a few other Batman foes as well.
    • In the Teen Titans relaunch, Deathstroke is possessed by his son Jericho, who murders Slade's loyal butler Wintergreen and mounts his head on a wall.
    • This was originally Victor Zsasz's modus operandi. He would kill people, mark them and himself with a stitch mark, and then put them in lifelike poses to be found. Unfortunately, most writers have forgotten this and tend to focus only on the stick marks in later appearances. Luckily the makers of the Batman: Arkham Series have given him back this little quirk.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The Sangtee Empire likes to have prominent dissenters viewable by the public following their executions. This is discussed and not seen in action unless some of the bones on Hope's End were preserved where other slaves would have to walk by them instead of thrown to the scavenger worms for this reason.
  • In G.I. Joe (Devil's Due) comic "America's Elite", Cobra Commander kills his son Billy and hangs the body from a flag pole.
  • Iron Fist (1975): Master Khan kills a minion who's failed him too many times, and leaves his corpse with a note telling Danny where to find him, killing two birds with one stone.
  • A Marvel villain takes the name Zodiac and kills every single member of a team by the same name before mounting their heads on his wall.
  • In Marvel 1602, Doctor Strange is beheaded for treason and his head is put on a pike. Luckily it's all part of a Thanatos Gambit. You see, Strange is forbidden from telling knowledge that could prevent a crisis while he is living.
  • Pinky in Pinky and Pepper Forever does this with her own body, encasing her corpse in resin as her final art piece and willing it to her art school.
  • In Preacher, the man who would become the Saint of Killers suffered this fate after a failed attempt at revenge led to his death and damnation. The outlaw Macready kept the Saint's body in the saloon, occasionally pissing on it. Macready is appropriately horrified and dumbfounded when the reborn Saint of Killers returns from Hell to complete his revenge, wondering how he could be outside killing everyone when his corpse is right next to him.
  • In Sin City, serial killer Kevin mounted the severed heads of six of the prostitutes he's murdered and eaten on plaques and hung them on the wall. This may have been inspired by the already creepy as hell "Stuffed" Girl's Heads ad.
  • In the Transformers: Generation 2 comic, Megatron puts Bludgeon's head on display after killing him.
  • In Tales of the Black Freighter, a Show Within a Show of Watchmen, the Captain sees the severed heads of his two daughters hanging by their hair, and his wife's head on a pike, calling for him to save them. However, it was just a hallucination, they're really alive and well. When he does make it home (but believing he's too late to save them), he almost beats his own wife to death (thinking she was a pirate), right in front of his daughters.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In a Deleted Scene from Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry followed Bruce when he went to the old Arkham Asylum, the site of his final confrontation with Joker. Upon seeing the terrified Bruce run out of the operating theater, Terry entered and saw Joker's grinning lifeless corpse dangling from the ceiling by wires he had apparently been strangled in that night. Even more disturbing was that the words "I Know" had been inscribed on the chest.
  • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, gangster Salvatore Valestra seeks the Joker's help in stopping Batman (supposedly) from killing off other gangsters. When the Phantasm comes to claim Valestra, the Joker has already beaten the Phantasm to it as Valestra's corpse—a smile frozen to his dead face—sits in a chair and has a camera which relays photo proof of the Phantasm to the Joker.
  • At the very beginning of Cars 2, the Lemons actually use Leland Turbo's compacted metal corpse as a warning for those who attempt to go near their oil rig.
  • In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the dwarves' decision to put Snow's seemingly lifeless body in a glass coffin would appear to be the first reason for this trope. They loved her and were unable to bring themselves to bury her, so they built the coffin. Interestingly, this seemed to mostly be for their own peace of mind. The coffin was actually kept deep in the forest, where nobody seemed to find it until the prince came by.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Act of Vengeance, Jack murders Nancy and string her naked body up in the zoo as a warning to the other women.
  • In the German horror Anatomy the victims' bodies are preserved. While they were still alive.
  • In Asian School Girls, The Syndicate leaves the body of a Disposable Sex Worker in trunk of Hannah's car as a warning to the girls to lay off their vigilante activities.
  • Gawkers take pictures of Jesse James's body on display at the climax of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
  • Asylum: In "The Weird Tailor", Smith is keeping his son's unpreserved corpse in an open coffin in an otherwise empty room.
  • In Cold Pursuit, Viking's men string Legrew's body up onto a road sign outside of Kehoe as a warning to White Bull.
  • Near the end of the Western Colorado Territory, the two back-stabbing robbers wind up dangling by their necks in front of a crowd.
  • Colossus: The Forbin Project. After an attempt to sabotage the Master Computer fails, Colossus orders (under threat of nuclear retaliation) the immediate execution of those responsible, with the bodies to remain where they fall in view of its cameras for 24 hours, then cremated, to prevent any possible subterfuge.
  • As Guerrero kills each of his former gang in Dead in Tombstone, he places their bodies in coffins outside the church.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 1: In "Valley of the Shadow", the tribesmen plant human heands on pointed sticks along the river bank as a warning to outsiders to not enter their territory.
  • The Death of Stalin: After the kangaroo trial and execution of Lavrentiy Beria, Marshal Zhukov casually invites the stunned Politburo members to take one last look at Beria's corpse as it bleeds out on the ground, essentially mixing Kill Confirmation with Perverse Amusement.
    Zhukov: Well, that's got it done. [Beat] C'mon, have a walk. Everybody happy? Proper dead?
  • The Emperor has the head of the incompetent governor "Beast" Rabban on display in front of his throne in David Lynch's Dune (1984).
  • The final shots of Elizabeth include, among other things, the prominently-displayed heads of her various enemies.
  • "D-Fens" in Falling Down kills a neo-Nazi storekeeper, and it's later reported (but not seen) that he put the guy on display in his own shop window.
  • Forty Guns: After Charlie Savage is killed, Brockie pays the undertaker to put his body on display in his window alongside a sign claiming he had been murdered by the Bonnells. All this does is make the Bonnells angry.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The severed head of Femuto, who was slain by Godzilla in the previous movie, is shown to be mounted inside Monarch's Underwater Base for research purposes. The novelization furthermore clarifies that the remains of other dead Titans including Margygr are being studied and dissected inside the base.
  • Halloween Kills: When Michael Myers is finally killed after preying on the town for forty years, his body is tied to the top of a car and driven through the streets so everyone can see that their collective nightmare is over — and watch him get pulverized in a junk grinder to Make Sure He's Dead. The police lampshade that they'd never do this for anyone else.
  • Dracula's skeleton, with a stake through where his heart would have been, was displayed in a traveling medicine show in House of Frankenstein. When the stake was removed he came back to life, including flesh, hair, mustache, and tuxedo.
  • Independence Day: The three aliens that died in the Roswell crash are displayed in Area 51 in ceiling-height tanks of clear fluid.
  • In Ivan's Childhood, the bodies of Lakhov and Moroz (two scouts that tried to infiltrate German-held territory) are put on display by the Germans as a deterrent. Kholin later cuts their bodies down and ferries them off for proper burial.
  • Jane Got a Gun: At the end, John Bishop's body is displayed upright in his coffin, as was actually done with notorious outlaws killed during the Wild West era.
  • Jojo Rabbit: Jojo and his mother Rosie find several people hanged in the town square for disloyalty to the Nazis at the beginning of the film. At the end of the second act, Jojo finds her among a new batch of them.
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, the two ventriloquists are beaten up and hanged upside down as a warning to The Chosen One.
    "We're ventriloquists but now we're upside-down. I swing a bit more. I swing a bit less. But we both can swing you know what we mean..."
  • In Last Man Standing, the coffin maker "Smiley" of Jericho displays the first guy Smith kills in the movie in his shop window dressed up as a corpse at a funeral to attract customers.
  • The Lives of a Bengal Lancer: Barrett, the officer who is sent into enemy territory disguised as a native, is sent back to the regimental camp as a corpse, tied upright to the saddle of his horse.
  • In The Lost Patrol, the patrol is stuck in the middle of the Mesopotamian desert, holed up in an oasis while surrounding Arabs pick them off one by one. Desperate for relief, the sergeant sends two men off on foot, carrying all but two of their water bottles. Sometime thereafter, the men return—dead, tied to two of the patrol's horses by rope, and apparently horribly mutilated.
  • In Mohawk, Oak removes Yancy's head and leaves it staked on a stick for Allsopp to find.
  • The main plotline of Mother (2009) starts off with a dead teenage girl on display somewhere very visible, and the officer investigating says the perpetrator did it to boast. The film actually gives a reason aside from the usual five mentioned in the trope description: the Accidental Murderer, who suffers from a peculiar version of amnesia, forgot very shortly after the act what he’d done, panicked when he saw her and put her in a very visible place so someone could help her, but it was too late, and it was the middle of the night so no-one could see her anyway.
  • In Napoleon, while Napoleon's armies invade Russia in 1812, they're harassed by teams of Cossacks who use Hit-and-Run Tactics. The Cossacks also nail dead French soldiers at trees to scare/intimidate the following ones.
  • In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond's Swiss contact attempts to climb a privatised mountain in order to check up on him, only to get caught in doing so. He is killed when Bond's cover is blown and unceremoniously hung upside down to freeze outside from a rock with mountaineering equipment right next to a thin window that Blofeld makes sure to lead Bond past while locking him up.
  • Pacific Rim: One photo shows the massive skull of one Kaiju on public display.
    • The novelization stays that after Odaiba's attack, Japan laid its corpse out on Mt. Fuji as a show of defiance and warning to any other Kaiju to come around.
  • In The Phenix City Story, the mobsters dump the dead body of the daughter of a Patterson family friend on the Pattersons' lawn as a threat.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl had a trio of pirate corpses that were hung out in the ocean as a warning towards pirates. Jack took his hat off in reverence to them as he passed by.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968): the apes stuff and display Dodge in a museum because black humans are unheard of and he's a curiosity.
  • In Predator, the squad find a bunch of men who have been flayed hanging upside down in the jungle, as a warning to outsiders. It is later found out that they were CIA men who were running an illegal surveillance mission.
  • At the start of The Road Warrior, three vehicles attempt to get past the cordon established by Humongous' gang, who run them down and return with their bodies draped over the hood of their vehicles. Two survivors are also tied to the front of the Big Bad's vehicle; after they're tortured to death, their hooded bodies are left there and get smashed up in the final chase scene.
  • Riff Raff opens a coffin-shaped grandfather clock The Rocky Horror Picture Show and there's a skeleton inside it. Prompting the audience to shout "Show us (your mother/recently dead celebrity)".
  • Scarface (1983). Alejandro Sosa tells Tony Montana that his colleague Omar Suarez is a police informant. Sosa hands Montana binoculars so he can watch Suarez being thrown from a helicopter with a rope around his neck.
  • At the beginning of Scream, Casey Becker is Gutted Like a Fish and strung up on a tree with a rope swing. Later, offscreen, Principal Himbry is similarly gutted and hung from a football goalpost to draw the non-essential characters away from Stu's party.
  • In Serenity, as with Firefly on which it was based, the Reavers all have ships decorated with dead bodies and painted with blood. When the gang needs to get to the planet Miranda, which is in the middle of Reaver territory, Mal orders them to do the same thing as a disguise to get past them without being noticed. They are, of course, hesitant, especially since the only bodies available are those of their dead allies, but they eventually comply. In this hilarious outtake, Nathan Fillion goes even further, insisting they “put Book front and center; he's our friend, we should honor him” and telling Kaylee to "find the kid who's taking the dirt nap with Baby Jesus - we need a hood ornament" until everyone breaks down laughing.
  • Shaolin Martial Arts: The fates of He Lian and Zheng Kang, two Shaolin practitioners who challenged the Wing Chun school, ends up getting defeated and killed, where their bodies are strung up and hung in a public square, together with a painted sign that reads, "This is the fate of Shaolin pigs who defies Wing Chun".
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, when Hannibal Lecter kills a police guard and badly wounds another during an escape attempt, he takes the time to disembowel the dead man and set his body up in a kind of crucifixion pose. Although this may have partly been to get the officers' attention focused elsewhere, so they wouldn't realize that the "wounded" guard was actually Lecter wearing the man's face.
  • Star Wars:
  • In the Hungarian Cult Classic Taxidermia, the grandson, who is a taxidermist, mounts his dead father and himself as art objects.
  • The villainous variant occurs in Unforgiven to Ned, William Munny's friend. While Munny was already mad at Little Bill for murdering him, to begin with, and had a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on his mind, seeing Ned's body on display at the saloon pissed Munny off even worse, to the point that his first victim was the unarmed saloon owner.
    "Little Bill" Daggett: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!
    William Munny: Well he should've armed himself, if he's gonna decorate his saloon with my friend.

  • The Discworld examples below of pubs called "The _____'s Head", with a sign that isn't just a sign, are a reference to the supposed origins of the many pubs in the UK called the Saracen's (or sometimes Turk's) Head, which were thought to have done something similar after the Crusades. While there is a Crusader connection, they got their names from the symbol on the local knight's coat of arms, not from a grisly souvenir he took home with him.

  • The Acts of Caine: In Blade of Tyshalle, the body of Caine's late rival and master swordsman Berne is kept as a tourist attraction on Earth in the Studio Curiouseum. Ultimately subverted as his body is kidnapped and reanimated so it can kill Pallas Ril.
  • In Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, after Cassim is trapped in the cave and killed by the thieves, they quarter his corpse and display the pieces at the cave's entrance as a warning to others who might enter.
  • In Aliss, the Red Queen creates art exhibits, usually family scenes, from taxidermied corpses. Charles (the Expy for the White Rabbit/Charles Dodgson) has been working for some time on a sculpture of his ideal of beauty, using parts from various corpses — the reader discovers this after he receives a Head in the Mail.
  • The Animal Farm scene with Old Major is an analogue of Lenin's Tomb (see below).
  • Animorphs:
    • Courtesy of Blue-and-Orange Morality, the Helmacrons have a corpse as the captain of their ship, ceremonially pinned to the command chair with several swords — the living are fallible, see, and only the dead can be trusted not to make any mistakes, so the captain is always executed as soon as they take the position. Marco and Cassie simply consider this too insane for words, and when the suggestion is made, they dread a similar "promotion". This isn't quite as crazy as it seems due to a quirk in Helmacron biology (a "dead" Helmacron's mind is reabsorbed into the species and is eventually reborn) ensures that no Helmacron ever truly dies.
    • The Nartec, a race of sea-dwelling mutants, do this to captured ships' crews in their city. The Animorphs eventually find that the Hork-Bajir Controllers who fell into the city with them also suffered this fate.
  • Arly Hanks: In O Little Town of Maggody, the mannequin from the "Take Your Photo With Matt Montana" display in Mrs. Jim Bob's gift shop is removed during the night and replaced with a real corpse. Once it's discovered, the body is fully visible through the shop's front window and a crowd of tourists gather to watch Arly and Sheriff Dorfer examine it.
  • At the end of Ellis Peters's A Bloody Field by Shrewsbury, Henry IV decides to do this with the corpse of his friend-turned-enemy Harry "Hotspur" Percy to quench rumors of his survival. Prince Hal, his son and Hotspur's former pupil, begs him not to do it as it will only turn against him, especially since he had given leave to bury Hotspur only the day before. The King doesn't listen, but Prince Hal is proven right when the action cements Harry Hotspur's status as a legend and haunts King Henry to his dying day.
  • In the Boojumverse story "Boojum", Captain Edwards of the Henry Ford once tried to double-cross Captain Song of the Lavinia Whateley. Captain Song now keeps Captain Edwards's head in a jar on her bridge as a warning to others.
  • In The Book of the Dun Cow, Chauntecleer confirms the death of the evil Cockatrice by ripping off its head, parading it around, and displaying the body to his animals.
  • Bryony and Roses: When the rose begins its attack, it makes a sequence of gruesome and obscene displays in the windows using the skeletal corpses of the prince's former servants.
  • Janet Philp's book Burke - Now and Then is written from the perspective of William Burke (of the real-life murderous duo Burke and Hare). Specifically, it is written from the perspective of his skeleton which hangs in the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University. He muses on the wrong decisions he made that led him to be executed and dissected.
  • In Deathlands: Encounter, Baron Zeal uses a torture pit to burn his victims to a leathery brown, then hoists their heads on his wall. This is also how he gets killed in the end.
  • Deryni:
    • In Deryni Checkmate, Rimmer is beheaded and his head is put on public display after he unintentionally kills Bronwyn and Kevin just before their wedding.
    • From High Deryni: By order of Wencit of Torenth, most of Duke Jared's army are impaled and left for Kelson's forces to find.
    • From King Kelson's Bride: After their failed coup d'etat, Mahael and Braynyg are impaled before the royal burial ground. King Liam-Lajos orders the bodies be left on display three days and nights as required by Torenthi law.
  • Though disapproved by the clergy, the practice of publicly displaying the head of a dead enemy did still occur on occasion in the Deverry novels.
  • Discworld:
    • A parody of Jeremy Bentham (see below) is former Archchancellor Hopkins of Unseen University. According to The Discworld Companion, he asked that the University complete a process he spent most of his life attempting; to be pickled in alcohol. As with Bentham, this has provided many opportunities for student humor.
    • Ankh-Morpork used to have a gibbet on which a former criminal permanently swung as a warning. Parents would take their children to see the terrible consequences of a life of crime, and the kids would say "Wow, brilliant" and use it as a swing. The weathervane on the Thieves' Guild building is also a former (unlicensed) criminal.
    • There's a pub in Ankh-Morpork called "The Klatchian's Head". The current pub sign is wooden, but it used to be a genuine war trophy. In addition, Commander Vimes has forced the removal of a trophy troll's head from the Morporkian embassy in Bonk, Uberwald, during the events of The Fifth Elephant and a goblin's head from the Goblin's Head pub in Snuff. There's also a Troll's Head in the Shades mentioned in Sourcery, with the comment "The thing on the pole isn't a sign. When they called it the Troll's Head, they didn't mess about". Presumably, in modern multicultural Ankh-Morpork, this has been rethought.
    • In Small Gods, a heretic was sentenced to be taken to all the towns in the empire so that they could see the errors in his ways, with the footnote stating that since there were so many towns, he had to be cut up quite small.
    • In the second The Science of Discworld, the darker aspects of Shakespeare-era London are summed up using several references to the "heads on spikes" phenomenon.
  • A former Nazi soldier turned mercenary has no qualms about invoking this trope in The Dogs of War.
    Kurt Semmler was forty, and it was he who, in the early days back in the enclave, had devised the skull-and-crossbones motif that the mercenaries and their African trainees wore. It was also he who had cleared a five-mile sector of Federal soldiers by marking out the front line with stakes, each bearing the head of one of the previous day's Federal casualties. For a month after that his was the quietest sector of the campaign.
  • One of the Dune prequel books has the Baron Harkonnen build a secret retreat with glass walls containing the decaying corpses of the construction crew. Evidently, the builders died with resigned expressions on their faces.
  • In Eight Cousins, Dr. Alec Campbell has an actual skeleton on display in his studio. When he catches the younger cousins playing with it, he explains the skeleton's story: it belonged to one of his patients, a man with a horrible illness (probably cancer or tuberculosis), whose last wish was to have his corpse donated to science so it would be used to help others. When the boys learn this, they leave the skeleton alone.
  • In Alice Walker's short story "Elethia", the title character who worked at a restaurant called Uncle Albert's found out that the Uncle Albert mannequin used to invite people inside to dine was actually a preserved corpse. Eventually, she and her friends broke into the restaurant and stole Uncle Albert from the display, burning his body in an incinerator, with Elethia keeping some of the ashes as a reminder that "Uncle Alberts" (people of other ethnicities used as a racist form of commercial promotion) shouldn't exist.
  • In Eva Luna, several years before the story started, a well-known lawyer who opposed the dictatorship was gunned down by the military. To say "fuck you!" to the tyrants, the family hired Dr. Jones (the boss of Eva's mother Consuelo) to embalm the corpse and then put him on his favorite seat at his studio, even with his pipe in his hand. The "Benefactor" aka the leader of the military government didn't dare to go further, so the lawyer's body was on display for decades. Until the new (and also dictatorial) government forced the family to bury him. This causes the already old Jones to have a stroke, and he never recovers.
  • In The Guns of Pluto by Allen Steele, anyone trying to escape from Cold Hell on Pluto ends up as a skeleton on display outside the prison with a sign from the native kuiperans inviting the other inmates to dinner. However it turns out while the natives do practice cannibalism to make maximum use of resources, they don't kill people for it, and these escapees actually died of exposure. They just play up their reputation to deter others from getting themselves killed.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, the ultra-religious government strings the corpses of abortion doctors, scientists, and gay people to the walls as a warning.
  • Harry Potter
  • Robert A. Heinlein does this sort of thing rather often:
    • In Citizen of the Galaxy, the heads of executed criminals are displayed on pikes in the city of Jubblepore, Capital of the Nine Worlds.
    • In Stranger in a Strange Land, Gillian shows Michael a popular religious group, the Fosterites. Foster, their founder, had died in the chair in which his body still sits, and the Fosterites' Tabernacle had been built around the body.
    • In Time Enough for Love, the head of a robber killed by a restaurant owner (in self-defense) is displayed on a spike outside the door. After a while, it is replaced by a plastic replica. This is required by custom in the society the restaurant owner lives in.
  • In a notorious set piece from Mrs. Sherwood's The History of the Fairchild Family, the paterfamilias inculcates some moral lessons by taking his young children to see a man hanging from a gibbet. The man has been hanging there a very, very long time.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy, the last Galactic Emperor was put into stasis a few seconds before his death, thus shifting power a few rungs down the ladder. No doubt this was a commentary on the (perceived) uselessness of the British Royal Family.
  • In The Iliad, Achilles kills Hector to avenge the death of Patroclus. He takes it too far by dragging Hector's corpse behind his chariot right outside the city of Troy's walls. Hector's father King Priam musters the courage to go behind enemy lines to beg Achilles to allow him to bury his son. Achilles is moved by the grieving father's pleas and returns Hector's body.
  • "I Like Monkeys": The protagonist is forced to do this for a while with most of his dead monkeys, pretending that they're just decorative stuffed toys. Unfortunately for him, decomposition soon puts a stop to it.
  • In the Midst of Winter: In an example that also falls under Desecrating the Dead, Gregorio Ortega, Evelyn's brother is found nailed to a bridge, his body covered in dried blood and feces, with a sign around his neck with the letters M.S. (for Mara Salvatrucha, the gang to which he belonged). On the back, the sign reads that traitors and their families died like that.
  • John Carter of Mars: This is the normal and respectful treatment of the dead in the Barsoomian city-state of Mantos where the honored dead are perfectly preserved and displayed in their best clothes on roof and balconies of the family home. Dead enemies are given a treatment that shrinks them into small mummies and displayed in niches in the main city gate.
  • In the Left Behind book Assassins, Nicolae Carpathia kills the two witnesses, Eli and Moishe, at the Global Gala and leaves their bodies dead and unburied for 3 1/2 days, according to The Word of God, before they are resurrected and taken to heaven. Nicolae Carpathia himself has his body put on public display during his wake in New Babylon when on the same day it would be "resurrected" by Satan indwelling him.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • This trope is first presented during flashbacks of Duiker in Deadhouse Gates when he remembers how Empress Laseen crucified the defeated Wickan warlocks to the city wall in Unta.
    • Then encountered by Kalam, also in Deadhouse Gates, before the ruins of a sacked City. Hundreds of Children have been impaled and left to die, once again hitting home how deep the hatred of the Malazans runs in the ranks of the apocalypse.
    • At the end of Deadhouse Gates, there is the horrifying crucifixion of Coltaine and the Seventh Army, much to the horror of everyone watching from Aren's city wall.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy: The Steel Inquisitors have been known to perform violent raids on the criminal underworld, be it thieves or rebels. They always have been known to never clean up the carnage left afterward, as a sign to the others of the lower class. When someone abuses Allomancy, this world's primary magic system, the Inquisitors force a hook down the abuser's throat and hang them to deter anyone from doing likewise.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: The final line of the novel is the author's plea for giving Erik's body (the titular Phantom) this treatment. Oddly enough, it seems to be a Type 1, with the person being an honored figure (despite the fact that Erik was a Psychopathic Manchild and unrepentant killer, he was a truly great Mad Artist), and his body would be preserved as a relic/object of reverence:
    And, now, what do they mean to do with that skeleton? Surely they will not bury it in the common grave! ... I say that the place of the skeleton of the Opera ghost is in the archives of the National Academy of Music. It is no ordinary skeleton.
  • In Phenomena, this happens to Ilke, a majority of the fans' favorite character...
  • In the Reconstruction Series, the first time Isaac walks into Lawrence, Kansas it's dubbed 'The Town Without a Graveyard.' The Outlaw has only been burying those he feels deserve the honor and leaving the rest out front of the town like this.
  • Revelation Space Series: In Chasm City, the crucified body of Sky Hausmann has been displayed for centuries in view of everyone using the space elevator on Sky's Edge.
  • The Ringworld Throne: It is mentioned that the body of one Harvey Mossbauer is kept on display in the House of Patriarch's Pride, the royal museum of the Kzinti. In response to having his family killed and eaten during one of the Man-Kzin wars, Mossbauer had landed on the Kzinti homeworld, fought his way into the harem of the Patriarch, and detonated a bomb there. After killing him, the Kzinti stuffed him and put him on display as an "honored foe".
  • Many of the non-Samurai criminals in the Sano Ichiro series await this fate after they are executed; their heads are displayed as a warning to other criminals who would think of offending the shogun. For reasons of honor, most samurai who are responsible for crimes are instead allowed to commit Seppuku, though a few of them have also been displayed, showing that the shogun considered them to have no honor.
  • In the Sector General novellas "Tableau" and "Accident", we discover that the Earth-humans and the Orligians, the first sentient alien species they made contact with, fought a war after their First Contact. It ended when two wounded soldiers, one from each side, trapped in wreckage with little hope of survival actually talked to each other and resolved the painfully unfortunate misunderstanding that started the whole mess in the first place. Against all probability they were rescued and put into suspended animation, then displayed together as a war memorial. When medical science had developed to the point that both their lives could be saved, they were revived.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a lot of these: the "They Lay With Lions" scene, the head of Ned Stark, and so on.
    • Tyrion lampshades the frequency of the head-on-a-stake version in A Clash of Kings during an exchange with his father when he is sent to King's Landing as surrogate Hand.
    • With Daenerys freeing slaves everywhere she goes, a city she has targeted begins crucifying their slaves all along the road... so when she conquers the city, Dany herself punishes them by ordering that a number of the city's elders equal to the number those slaves be crucified in turn.
    • While they're not exactly on display, the house Bolton is believed to have a room where they keep the skins of their enemies. Also, members of House Bolton used to wear the skins of flayed enemies as a cloak back in the day, which is definitely a means of intimidation.
    • Of the first variant: Tywin's body is put on display at his funeral. It doesn't go very well, due to the advancing decomposition of his body.
    • Subverted with Theon Greyjoy, who murders two random children and displays their heads dipped in tar to conceal the fact that the children he was trying to find got away from him.
    • In Fire & Blood, Criston Cole's army encounters corpses set up in lifelike poses to scare them as they go deeper into the Riverlands. Some of those corpses turn out to be live enemy soldiers in disguise.
  • Spellsinger: The town of Lynchbany got its name from the long-ago lynching of confidence trickster Tilo Bany, whose corpse is preserved in resin and hung up as a signpost.
  • This happens a lot in The Stand, as Randall Flagg likes to crucify people and leave them hanging on telephone poles.
  • In Stardoc, Jorenian warriors have a habit of doing type 2 to ClanKill targets. Specifically, they string them out by their innards.
  • In Sword of Truth, Richard kills one of Emperor Jagang's life-long friends and his closest advisor during the climax of one book. During the next book, he sends the head to his allies up north, magically enchanted to stay preserved. It ends up on a pike right in front of the Confessor's Palace, where Jagang gets to watch it rapidly decompose in front of him. He's a little angry about it.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium, various sides display (parts of) their dead enemies. An example is Sauron having the dead body of Celebrimbor carried before his armies as a standard during the war in Eriador.
  • The Tripods: Turns out that in addition to enslaving humanity, the Masters are also preserving particularly beautiful specimens in their museum. Will is horrified to see the body of his love interest, Eloise, on display like a butterfly.
  • In the first Ultramarines short story featuring Captain Ventris, captured heroic Space Marines are cut open and their ribs splayed before being crucified on the front of the enemy tanks, mainly as an insult to their comrades but also because that's just what they do now they're Chaos Marines.
  • Subverted in the opening scene of Valhalla when the protagonist's father is about to be crucified by the gang that killed him. As the gang hoists the dead man, his daughter uses the opportunity to kill them all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, the Grounders attack three people from the Ark and leave their bodies strung up on a tree as a warning to the other Ark survivors.
  • Andor:
    • The malcontents and undesirables hanged by the Empire on Ferrix are left hanging in the public square as a message to the locals. This happened to Cassian's father when he was still a boy.
    • After catching the very young and idealistic rebel Nemik asleep on watch, Skeen warns Nemik that if he'd been working with some of the other resistance movements that eventually would come together to create the Rebel Alliance, (such as Saw Gerrera's partisans) they would have cut off Nemik's head and put it on a spike for such a lapse.
  • Babylon 5 features all three variants:
    • Marcus Cole is Type 1. As was Shi Alyt Branmer of the Star Riders.
      • Earlier in "Legacies" the body of a Minbari war hero was being paraded all over space. Then it got to Babylon 5 and Delenn stole the body to quietly cremate it in accordance with his actual wishes.
    • Cartagia's Shadow Gallery is type 2 (with a side order of Mummies at the Dinner Table).
    • Morden is type 3, and heavily foreshadowed by this line:
      Vir: I want to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come at too high a price. I want to look up into your lifeless eyes and wave, like this.note 
  • The second episode of Blackadder II revolves around heads on spikes in Traitor's Cloister.
    • Edmund says this to Baldrick in "Potato" after he asks for permission to take the day off to see Sir Walter Raleigh's arrival:
      Blackadder: Now kindly leave before I cut your head off, scoop out the inside and give it to your mother as a vase.
  • Bones: In the episode "Judas on a Pole", the title character's estranged father, Max Keenan, butchers an FBI Deputy Director who threatens his family, and leaves the corpse prominently displayed on the roof of a hotel used to hide informants, in case anyone else has similar notions.note 
  • On The Borgias, the king of Naples has a whole roomful of Dead Guys On Display, with a banquet table still in place.
  • Charité at War: During the last hours of the war, Artur, one of the doctors, leaves the hospital to get colleagues and patients some desperately needed water. He passes a soldier hanged outside the front gate, with a sign that says "That's how deserters die."
  • CSI has an ep where people were being posed before they were killed so they died in the position they were displayed in. One was a guy with a bike, one was a guy on a bench... there was a kid next in line but they found him in time.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Space Museum", the Doctor and his companions see themselves, in permanent suspended animation, in a museum. Kind of like futuristic taxidermy. Then they find themselves earlier in time and have to prevent that future from happening.
  • In the 1966 tele-musical Evening Primrose, those who do not comply with the store people's rules are turned over to a group known as "the Dark Men" and turned into display mannequins for the store. Charles and Ella, our protagonists, end up becoming a bride-and-groom display.
  • After Rygel kills Durka on Farscape, he carries around his head on a pike.
    Rygel: He's an old enemy. I like that he doesn't talk back.
  • In Firefly, the Reavers all have ships decorated with dead bodies and painted with blood. Very fitting, considering their Always Chaotic Evil nature and Rape-Consume-And-Make-Clothing-Out-Of (not necessarily ...In That Order) tendencies.
  • The Flash (2014): Subverted in that he's not dead, but after defeating him, Zoom parades Barry Allen's barely-alive body around Central City, stopping by the local news station, the police station, and STAR Labs, in order to show to the city how easily he could defeat him. Barry is only alive because he has a handy Healing Factor, and even if he survived by normal means he'd be crippled for life from his injuries, so as far as the city can see, Zoom is doing this, at least until they see the Flash on the streets again.
  • Game of Thrones: Lots.
    • Joffrey forces Sansa to look at the heads mounted on spikes in "Fire and Blood"- her father, whom Joffrey had executed for treason, and Septa Mordane and the others who were killed during the raid on the Starks' residence in Kings' Landing.
    • When he encounters some wildlings, Robb decides to have them put on pokes and left to the crows.
    • Tyrion provides the page quote, "Heads, spikes, walls," as his father's solution if the small council troubles him.
    • Theon displays the charred bodies of his victims to proclaim the success of his hunt in "A Man Without Honor".
    • Jaime and Brienne discover several women who were hanged by Stark men because "They Lay With Lions."
    • Multiple characters such as Oberyn Martell recall that after Clegane murdered Elia and her children, Tywin Lannister laid the bloodied bodies of Prince Rhaegar's children before Robert Baratheon in the Throne Room, wrapped in Lannister banners, as tokens of fealty at the end of Robert's Rebellion. In the books, Tywin would justify this as both him playing the bad guy for Robert Baratheon, and having had to go to such extremes to prove his loyalty since the Lannisters effectively took until war's end to pick a side.
    • Robb Stark gets a particularly nasty desecration when his head is swapped with that of his direwolf in mockery of his rumored supernatural abilities, which even horrifies Sandor.
    • The Great Masters of Meereen crucify 163 slave children, one for every mile, along Daenerys' invasion route. Daenerys punishes them by ordering that a like number of the city elders be crucified in turn.
    • House Bolton's coat-of-arms displays a flayed man and legend speaks of them wearing their enemies' skins as cloaks and storing them in a room in their castle. Roose Bolton claims, on the Blu-Ray history & Lore, that there is no "secret room".
    • After defeating Obara and Nymeria Sand (and easily, at that) during a battle, Euron Greyjoy then adds insult to injury by pinning Obara to the prow by her own spear and hanging Nymeria from the end of it by her whip.
  • House of the Dragon: During The Coup of the Green faction to crown Aegon king against the will of the late King Viserys to have Rhaenyra become queen, Rhaenyra supporter Lord Caswell is hanged in the courtyard of the Red Keep and his body is left in that position for all to see.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): In "Is My Very Nature That of a Devil", after murdering Alderman Fenwick for endorsing laws that led to the closure of colored businesses in Storyville, Louis de Pointe du Lac strings up his victim's gutted corpse on the gates of St. Louis Cathedral. Lestat de Lioncourt, a Mad Artist, later compliments Louis on his work: "That garish display of his body, like some public art piece."
  • Used in Jericho (2006) to show that the USA is a very different place now.
  • On L.A. Law, Mike Kuzak handled a case where an old man with a terminal heart condition wanted to be freeze-dried and displayed in his backyard (the old man's backyard, not Mike's). Opposing him was the state, who insisted that health laws demanded that human remains had to be disposed of by either burial or cremation. Eventually, though, the judge in the case and the man's wife convinced him to accept a traditional approach, so this trope was averted.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "A Dying Art", the killer places the bodies of their victims as parts of sculptures on display in a sculpture park.
  • In an episode of Mission: Impossible, the IMF stole the body of a deceased leader while it was lying in state and replaced it with a fake as part of a plot to convince his successor that the old leader was still alive.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus presents a discussion, "Is There Life After Death," paneled by four dead people. The consensus is no.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl has to arrange a funeral for the man he and his ex-wife accidentally kidnapped. (The man died in an unfortunate Murphy's Bed incident and having been an accidental victim of Earl, is now on Earl's list.) Earl speaks to a funeral director, who simply loves arranging the deceased in what he calls a "living pastiche," showing their favorite pastime. (This is not always popular with the families of the deceased, who often wish for a more traditional funeral with an actual casket.) Earl asks him to do a traditional funeral, but that doesn't work out since the man evidently had no family or least not in Real Life. It turns out all his friends were online, and when they are informed of his death, they arrange a funeral in which he can get a proper eulogy...and he is put on display in front of a computer, just as he always loved.
  • In the first part of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a young Jedi named Nari escapes from the Inquisitors on Tatooine and encounters Obi-Wan; rather than help Nari, however, Obi-Wan tells him to go underground and stop trying to fight. A few days later, Nari's body has been strung up in the middle of Anchorhead, meaning that his escape ultimately failed.
  • One episode of Pushing Daisies had the rather gruesome reveal that the episode's villain had kept the corpse of the man he considered his best friend (who he himself had killed) on display in his office, disguised as a mannequin in a mascot costume.
  • On Rome, a soldier loyal to Julius Caesar executes Pompey when the latter tries to flee to Egypt. Rather than being pleased, Caesar is livid that a nobleman was so desecrated and orders the Egyptians to turn the man over. The soldier (not realizing this) is given a note to deliver to Caesar in Egyptian (which he cannot read), naming him as Pompey's killer. His Oh, Crap! face as he realizes the trap he walked into is creepy, and the man's body is displayed for Type 2 reasons.
    • Mark Antony and Cleopatra end up Type 2'd during the Series Finale as part of Augustus Caesar's triumphal parade.
  • Sharp Objects: Natalie Keene's body is propped up in an alley to be found by the police and citizens of Wind Gap. The police speculate that the killer wanted to show off.
  • Squid Game: After the Front Man finds out that a group of the game workers have been running an Organ Theft racket with the help of one player, who is a doctor, in exchange for information on what the next game will be, he proceeds to get all of them killed and displays their corpses in the main hall for all the other players and workers to see. This is not because of the criminal activity, but because he finds deplorable that one player was being given unfair advantage over the others.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Defector", when the Enterprise falls into a Romulan trap thanks to them tricking a Romulan defector, Commander Tomalak boasts to Picard that "after we dissect your Enterprise for every precious bit of information, I intend to display its broken hull in the centre of the Romulan capital as a symbol of our victory. It will inspire our armies for generations to come, and serve as a warning to any other traitor who would create ripples of disloyalty.".
    • Owing to their strong hunter mentality, the Hirogen in Star Trek: Voyager will take the relics of those they defeated, which were often skulls and other bones.
    • Star Trek: Picard: In the second season Q interfered in history, which led to a new timeline in which Earth led a brutal Confederation that subjugated numerous races. General Picard is one of the foremost military leaders, who has a hobby of collecting the skulls of vanquished enemies at his mansion in La Barre.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), the demon leaves Lily's body hanging from the town's windmill.
  • Survivors (1975). In "Gone Away", while obtaining food and other vital supplies from a supermarket, Abby, Greg and Jenny discover the body of a man who has seemingly been hanged on display. The body has a sign reading "Looter" stuck to it and as such is intended to serve as a warning. It turns out the person who put him up didn't actually kill him, having merely found the body down the road. He notes that it is a more effective deterrent than putting up a "Keep Out" sign.
  • Tales from the Crypt:
    • "Top Billing" (season 3): An actor realizes too late that the director of a theater company staging a production of Hamlet wants to cast him as Yorick. The director kills him and uses his bloody, freshly peeled skull in the play, throwing the face/scalp out with the trash.
    • "Beauty Rest" (season 4): After entering a beauty pageant that promotes "what you are on the inside," a model is killed and subjected to an autopsy. The MC props her corpse up onstage with her chest cut open and her internal organs on display.
    • "Showdown" (season 4): After a notorious gunslinger is Killed Off for Real in a street shootout, his body is placed in an open casket, surrounded by those who fought and killed him, while a photographer takes the picture.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles uses this as a threat: "I'm going to kill John Connor. Then I'm going to put his head on a pike for the whole world to see."
  • Underground: Tom Macon puts the hanged corpse of the lynched Sam on display under the balcony of his own house while he gives a speech about running for senator, to display his fervent support of slavery and prove he's not above punishing enslaved people who defy him.
  • The corpse of a bushranger ends up on public display in Hopetoun in one episode of Wild Boys.
  • Brandon's mutilated body in season one of The Wire was left on display, on the hood of a car, as a warning to Omar and anyone else who might care to mess with the Barksdale drug crew.
    Avon Barksdale: You know how them cracker motherfuckers do when they kill a deer? Or, like, when they go out killing animals, whatnot? Got them on the front of the truck, tied up, stretched out, so everybody could see it? You feel me? I'm serious: that's what I want. I want that motherfucker on display. I'm gonna send a message to the courtyard about this motherfucker, so people know we ain't playing.
  • Zero Zero Zero: When Manuel and his squad slaughters the Leyra brothers and seizes control of their cartel, a drug broker is already on the way to conclude the brothers' $64 million cocaine deal. Manuel forces the broker to walk through the scene of fresh carnage and sit directly between the corpses of the Leyra brothers to not-so-subtly indicate that he is in charge now.

  • The back cover photo of The Eagles album, Desperado, is of the band portrayed as recently-killed outlaws.
  • In King Geedorah's song "The Fine Print", Geedorah, an alien space monster and budding Evil Overlord/President Evil, details his usual method of dealing with people who decry him: He has their heads cut off and mounted on pikes in the middle of town, where peasants throw stones at the heads until vultures eventually eat their flesh. As he says, "Maybe then they'll know the right words to speak out loud, at home, in the world, or in the streets."
  • The country song "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox If I Die".
  • They Might Be Giants: "Exquisite Dead Guy" from Factory Showroom is a song about a man obsessed with the preserved corpse of the eponymous "exquisite dead guy".
    Exquisite dead guy
    Rotating in his display case
    Exquisite dead guy
    Swear I saw his mouth move


  • In The Bible:
    • Near the end of 1st Samuel, after King Saul and his sons were killed in battle, the Philistines take their bodies, cut off Saul's head, and hang his body on the wall at Beth Shan. The men of Jabesh Gilead, after hearing about the desecration of King Saul's body, stole the body from the wall, bury it under a tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.
    • The Law of God, as stated in the book of Deuteronomy, forbids the Israelites from leaving the bodies of deceased people who were punished for their sins hanging on trees, for "everyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed by God". This practice was carried out during the Israelites' conquering of the land of Canaan in the Book of Joshua, and even in the Gospels in regard to Jesus being put to death on a cross, fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah that "his grave was set among the wicked, with the rich, in his death."

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • Once General Kerensky and the SLDF finally had Stefan Amaris dead, questions arose as to what to do with the body. Do they dispose of it into space to never be seen again? That would engender doubts that he was dead. Do they bury it? The gravesite would become a martyr shrine to his followers and elicit defacement by his far more numerous enemies. So what does Kerensky do? On the suggestion of one of his subordinates, he donates it to science. There, Amaris's remains can suffer the indignity of being a curio of the medically inquisitive, and the evidence that Amaris is well and truly dead is locked away in a freezer to be brought out if anyone doubts. 64 years later, when the Lost Technology freezers fail, the medical school that owns the body dumps it in an unmarked grave in their cemetery, putting a final coda on the life of the most hated man in the universe.
    • Kerensky himself was interred in a crystal coffin aboard his flagship, the Mc Kenna's Pride, where he became a symbol of why Nicholas' new society was necessary and the sacrifices made to bring it about. House Wolf would later transfer his body to Terra after conquering the world and claiming the mantles of both the ilClan and the resurrected Star League.
  • In Legend of the Five Rings, after Hida Sukune lost the First Battle of Beiden Pass, his father Hida Kisada, Daimyo of the Crab Clan, had him executed and his corpse nailed to the Terrible Standard of Fu Leng. The card text of the Standard even lets you kill Sukune during a game to give the Standard a Force bonus.
  • Featured in a number of adventures in Rocket Age.
    • One time it involves Legion Martien soldiers staked out to die in the sun.
    • Another involves Nazi heads put on display by Venusians.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The body of the Ultramarines primarch Roboute Guilliman was kept in stasis on his Chapter's homeworld, awaiting a time when he can be safely revived and returned to full health. That time came shortly after Cadia was destroyed by the 13th Black Crusade, and he was revived with a combination of Mechanicus technology and Eldar magic.
    • His Brother Primarch Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists initially has his skeleton displayed, encased in Amber, before retcons changed it to only his hand being recovered as a relic, with the rest of him unrecovered.
    • The Night Lords are very fond of this, due to their emphasis on Terror tactics, with bodies and body parts being displayed on armor and vehicles. Their infamous “Winnowing” tactic involves attacking a city at night, taking one person from every household, and killing them in a suitably horrible manner, with flaying and burning being popular options. The next day, the victims’ bodies are found outside the city, and their screams are played over all radio frequencies. The next night it repeats again, with a different city.
    • Konrad Curze, Primarch of the Night Lords, is extremely fond of (and creative with) displaying his victims, sometimes even going so far as to booby-trap the bodies to kill whoever comes to take them down. He initially tamed his homeworld Nostramo by targeting the corrupt nobles and crime bosses and leaving their flayed corpses around, basically enacting Scare 'Em Straight on a planetary scale.
    • Most 40k examples are less optimistic. Even the "good guys" see the advantage of leaving traitors' corpses hanging from the gallows, while gibbets containing the charred and warped skeletons of psykers and mutants line the streets of some Imperial worlds. The Necron unit type dubbed Flayed Ones uses a disturbing variant of the trope by draping their victims' bloody skin on their metallic forms. Orks of course are fond of the "skull-on-a-stick" variant, and in one case a Warboss ordered a troublesome Mekboy nailed upside-down to the front of his new battlewagon after the Mek broke the previous vehicle down for parts. Orks, as well as Chaos forces, are also fond of impaling the skulls of their enemies on their armor's Spikes of Villainy.
    • Chaos especially are fond of using skulls, heads, corpses, skins, or any other parts of fallen enemies (or "comrades") to decorate their vehicles, buildings, and/or outfits. Sometimes the people on display aren't dead yet.
    • The Penitent Engine of the Ecclesiarchy features a (live) heretic crucified on the front - as the pilot.
    • The Dark Eldar love to string the remains of their latest "playthings" on the spiky bits of their ships, both to terrify their next victims and to stretch out the suffering of the often still living displays as much as possible.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Grail Reliquae unit, consisting of the skeletal remains of a famous knight and his horse propped up with sticks and hauled around by religious lunatics. There's some method in their madness here: the magic of the Lady of the Lake still emanates from the Grail Knight's body long after he has died, protecting the people around it and harming the foes he fought in life. That said, it's still nuts, and the magic tends to drive the devotees even crazier over time.
    • Wulfrik the Wanderer carries the skulls of enemy champions he's killed on his armor, including one guy's entire skeleton.
    • Lord Kroak of the Lizardmen died centuries ago, but his followers still carry his skeleton around as it is saturated with magical energy powerful enough to decimate entire armies.

  • Older Than Feudalism: In the play Antigone, the eponymous daughter of Oedipus is Buried Alive in a cave by Creon, for the crime of attempting to steal and bury the exposed corpse of her brother.
  • In the initial battle of Henry VI, Part 3, the Lancastrians capture Richard, cut his head off, and put it over the gates of York wearing a paper crown.
  • Macbeth ends with Malcolm displaying Macbeth's head at the former's Awesome Moment of Crowning.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: After Robb Stark dies, his killer mentions one last act of desecration done to his body done to "send the realm a message". In the story being parodied, said act wasn't exactly done in private.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed II, Ezio does this to Francesco de Pazzi's body after killing him, as a warning to the rest of the Pazzi and their supporters, particularly Francesco's uncle, Jacopo, who takes off running when he sees it. Truth in Television; after the Pazzi Conspiracy failed, not only was Francesco's (naked) body hung from the walls of the Palazzo della Signoria but so were many of the other conspirators Ezio kills in the game.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, one of the Riddler's challenges involves three dead security guards killed by Victor Zsasz (see his section under the "comics" folder). "Zsasz is counting on you finding his work."
    • Two far more appropriate examples come from the Penguin and Ra's al Ghul in Batman: Arkham City. The latter has a dozen or so trespassers strung up from the ceiling of his stronghold's entryway as a warning while the former marries actual museum display cases and a disturbingly literal application of this trope, posing the corpses of rival gang's soldiers (and Bud and Lou, Harley's pet hyenas) as trophies.
  • BioShock:
    • In BioShock, the butchered corpses of political dissidents are a common enough sight in Rapture, but the most striking examples would be the body of a smuggler, who was apparently running Bibles, pinned to a wall in a parody of the crucifix, Sander Cohen's "Statues," throughout Fort Frolic, and Andrew Ryan's "Trophy" room, where failed assassins, political adversaries, and his former friends are staked to pillars.
    • In BioShock Infinite, Lady Comstock's body is on display in the Columbia cemetery, sealed in a glass case. During the game, Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth must go to the cemetery to get Lady Comstock's hand so that they could get access to the gate to Comstock House, but Zachary Comstock knows what Elizabeth is up to and uses her powers to "resurrect" Lady Comstock by merging her dead form with her living form from another timeline, causing her to break out of her case.
  • Black & White 2 has punishment spikes and torture pits available to 'motivate' your followers if you're that kind of god.
  • In The Boogie Man, this is the antagonist's favorite way of doing things for his little game. He not only uses horrifying contraptions to potentially kill the characters, but also loves to leave the bodies on open display to not just mock and shock the others, but also because it amuses him.
  • In Chrono Trigger, the final part of the Black Omen is a hallway where the party members (or their future doppelgangers) are being held in suspended animation, much like the Doctor Who example above.
  • The Temple of Nod from Command & Conquer: Renegade has two examples: Seth (who tried to usurp Kane in the original Command & Conquer) in suspended animation (and a lot of pain) as a warning. Havoc later finds a sarcophagus which is implied to contain the remains of the biblical Abel.
  • Crusader Kings II has an event that can happen if your character's rival dies. You can send someone to dig up their skull as a trophy.
  • In Soulstorm, one of the Dark Eldar buildings can be upgraded to have cages with the tortured corpses of their victims, which demoralizes and scares enemies.
    • Warboss Gorgutz 'ead'unter... well... takes the heads of enemy commanders and fits them on his pointy bosspole so everyone can see. After all, he'd look "pretty stoopid wif sumwun's foot on me pointy stikk".
  • In Crysis's first level, Aztec's mutilated corpse is found hanging upside down from a tree after getting his parachute caught and being massacred by the as-yet-unseen Ceph.
  • In Day of the Tentacle, Dead Cousin Ted - a mummified corpse - is put on display throughout history. In 1793 he's displayed behind the lobby counter, wearing a tricorne hat. In 1993 he's placed out in the front yard, holding up a birdbath. In 2193, he can be found in a museum-like room upstairs that commemorates 1970s human culture, wearing a leisure suit.
  • In Deadly Premonition, it turns out that Anna Graham's body was displayed on the tree as a way of reverence.
  • Doom:
    • Dead guys on display are a common sight in Doom and Doom II, whether hanging from the ceiling, crucified, impaled and still twitching, or their decapitated heads mounted on pikes.
    • The demons kill a bunny and stick the poor thing's head on a spike as they invade Earth at the end of the original game. Said bunny turns out to be Doomguy's pet, Daisy.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the darkspawn frequently leave their victims hanging from tree branches or sticking their mutilated bodies on spikes.
    • One notable example is King Cailan, whose corpse has been stripped of its armor and left on magnificently crucified display by the darkspawn in the "Return to Ostagar" DLC. Even Loghain (who suggests that the body be thrown into a ditch) thinks this is too disturbing. Except for Zevran, who thinks it's an amazing form of art.
      • Meghren the usurper also favored placing the severed heads of "traitors," including Maric's own mother, on the walls of Fort Drakon in the prequel novel The Stolen Throne. When Maric slays Meghren, he returns the favour.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • You can put coffins anywhere you want. You could make part of a large hallway into some noble's tomb if you really wanted to. And you can make the coffins out of glass.
    • Adventurers who are killed in a failed attempt to kill a bandit group will often have their bodies impaled on and propped up by wooden spears on display around the camp.
  • Eat Me:
    • The fens outside the castle are filled with human corpses impaled on skewers planted in the ground. Examining them tells you:
      Enemies all, and planted for a cautionary wood. Challenge the castle: here's what will happen.
    • The fur of the defeated mouse king can be found in the chapel, adorning the altar.
      You wouldn't think a rodent would have such sumptuous fur, but this royal fur's better groomed than any mortal king's coiffure. It's found a higher purpose here than its skinned bearer could have given it.
  • Implied in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim if you join the legion and kill Rebel Leader Ulfric Stormcloak.
    • With the addition of the "Hearthfire" DLC, the player character can invoke this him/herself with a trophy room. Even though you can't make trophies of any sentient enemies, don't forget what that draugr you stuffed and mounted is. (Or would that be "Dead Undead Guy on Display"?)
    • This trope is also in full effect at the entrance to many bandit hideouts.
    • The in-game history books set during the time-skip from Oblivion to Skyrim mention that the Aldmeri Dominion kicked off the Great War with the Empire by presenting the current emperor with the heads of all Blades agents in Dominion territory.
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 takes this to an absolutely absurd extent, with corpses in various stages of dismemberment staked and strung up even inside raiders' homes. The ubiquitousness of them likely is meant to indicate rampant cruelty and sadism in the Wasteland instead of the usual uses of the trope.
    • Fallout: New Vegas does the same thing with victims of Caesar's Legion. The people they crucify, such as the Powder Gangers from the town of Nipton, aren't quite dead yet, but they may as well be. They also display the severed heads of the "lucky losers" on pikes.
    • Fallout 4 has Pickman, an artist who has his own gallery in Boston's North End, where he displays his works made out of his preferred medium: the blood and corpses of raiders. There's also the Fens Phantom, a pre-war serial killer who laid out his victims (including at least four babies) in macabre displays in his sewer lair.
  • Discussed but not ultimately carried out in Fire Emblem: Awakening, after Emmeryn leaps off the precipice in chapter nine to undo Gangrel's Sadistic Choice. Which is foreshadowing of her ultimate survival.
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: The Black Fang does this to Leila in an attempt to scare Eliwood and his companions away from the Dread Isle. The keyword is "attempt," as it just makes Eliwood and his friends more determined to stop them.
  • In GUN, corrupt mayor Hoodoo Brown's corpse is displayed in a vertical coffin in the town square after you kill him. For extra cruelty points, you can destroy the corpse with dynamite (either the normal or Trick Arrow version).
  • During a flashback, we see Ricard Raguel's body strung up on the Gates of Grief in Gungnir. Ragnus relates to Julio that just standing in front of the gates as an adult makes him flash back to seeing his adoptive father's corpse there as a child, and makes it difficult for him to stay calm.
  • In Halo 2, the Prophet of Truth states that the specific details of Thel 'Vadamee's death sentence were that he be hung by his entrails until death, and his corpse "paraded through the city". Of course, the sentence is not ultimately carried out, because the Prophet of Truth thinks it would be a waste of resources ('Vadamee is the Covenant's greatest living warrior and commander), so instead, he offers to make him the Arbiter, with both explicitly understanding that it is a suicide mission.
  • The villainous variant occurs in Heavenly Sword with Flying Fox's most despicable act, which was stuffing and mounting the body of poor Kai's mother, whom the villain had previously murdered, as a display piece.
  • In Hollow Knight, the Lord Fool overseeing the Coliseum of Fools is long dead, yet his slumped-over corpse remains seated on his throne overlooking the arena. The other spectators either don't notice or don't care, and the games carry on regardless.
  • In Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, it's revealed that Kyle Katarn's father had his head displayed on a pike by an Imperial warlord.
  • In The King of Fighters, Rugal Bernstein has a collection of metal which he created from bodies of the fighters he killed, dipped them into liquid metal and turned them into his own personal trophies as his way to find Worthy Opponents to defeat him.
  • In Lands of Lore 2, the Draracle has the corpse of the god Belial (whom he himself executed) on display in his museum. The museum guide explains that the corpse is there "not as a trophy, but as a warning."
  • At various places in Borderlands 2, you'll find dead people nailed to signs, dead people tied to broken vending machines, or dead people hanging from the ceiling. These are most assuredly not suicides since most of them show up in bandit or psycho territory. Scooter admits he sometimes does this to people who disrespect his sister.
    • After Handsome Jack kills Bloodwing, a Hyperion news report announces that her body will soon be on display in the city of Opportunity. Go there a while later, and you'll see that they were telling the truth.
  • In Mass Effect, Shepard, Kaidan, and Ash initially assume that this trope is what the geth are doing when they find some colonists on Eden Prime who've been impaled on Dragon's Teeth. They're (even more) horrified when they learn that the geth are actually creating Husks.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin is mentioned to have done this to some mercs after they tried to take control of his clinic on Omega. This disturbs people more than usual since Mordin is a medical doctor, basically the last kind of person you'd expect this from.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda:
    • At the entrance to Kadara Port, there's a kett head on a spike. It helps establish what kind of person Kadara's defacto ruler Sloan Kelley is, how far she's fallen since being exiled, and how she feels about kett.
    • One mission, if left until after the game's finished, can end with Ryder and their team finding several kett (including Ascendants) murdered and left lying out in the sun, execution-style. The Primus is cleaning house, and making it clear what will happen to any kett that doesn't fall into line.
  • The manual of Mega Man 4 has Dr. Cossack threatening to do this to Mega Man if his robot masters beat him.
  • In Mega Man X4, Frost Walrus has the partially dismembered and frozen-solid corpses of Chill Penguin from X1 and Blizzard Buffalo from X3 decorating the background of his stage. Either he doesn't like competition for the title of "best ice based Maverick" or he's one morbid SOB.
  • Noob-Smoke's bio in Mortal Kombat: Deception states that Noob Saibot found Smoke's deactivated cyborg body in Shao Kahn's trophy room, where the late emperor kept the cyborg assassin as a memento from his Earthrealm invasion.
  • It's hard to know what to make of Castle Bulugha in Mount & Blade. Anytime the player visits, a grand feast is laid out on the table, and there might be a lord also in attendance. The key word is 'also' because there is a dried-up skeleton in ragged robes sitting at the table, clutching a cup. Close inspection reveals a dagger between its shoulder blades. While a literal mummy at the dining table, it doesn't apply to that trope because no one seems to relate to it, positively or negatively. In all fairness, no one seems to even notice it, but that's more Gameplay and Story Segregation, especially considering how little story there is in Mount & Blade.
  • In One Night at Flumpty's 2, Piglet is gruesomely nailed and vivisected in the room you're in. To make matters worse, he has a habit of suddenly turning his head and smiling at you. Yeesh.
  • GLaDOS tells Chell early into Portal 2 that if/when Chell dies, they'll display her skeleton in the Enrichment Center lobby. Chell never dies during the story, so they never get to do so.
  • In Red Dead Redemption you can find this in the town of Thieves' Landing. Appropriately named this place is filled with thieves and murders and has no law enforcement so people shooting at each other (sometimes even you) and other crimes are a common sight. When you visit the saloon you see a dead body on display that has a sign on it telling any passerby that the crime he committed that warranted this fate was cheating in a card game. This shows you how without law enforcement it is anyone's game to seek whatever retribution they see fit.
  • RimWorld lets the player do this with the Ideology DLC. You can extract a skull from a corpse and put it on a spike, you can leave the corpses of dead slaves in cages to deter your other slaves from organizing a revolt against you, and some religions actually require this and give your pawns a mood bonus for doing so.
  • Guybrush Threepwood in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God. His entire corpse is standing on display wearing a party hat and holding a dartboard during a wake in Club 41 when Bugeye and W.P. Grindstump are considering burning the corpse in effigy; Guybrush eventually repossesses his own decaying corpse, though.
  • This is one of the fates of the player pilots in Warhawk if they are unable to complete the game. Their bodies are brought back and the head is mounted on a pike outside the Big Bad's lair.

    Web Animation 
  • FreedomToons: A background joke shows the mounted head of Cenk Uygur hanging on the Shapiro family's dining room wall.
  • DEATH BATTLE!: At the end of Scrooge McDuck vs Shovel Knight Scrooge decapitates Shovel Knight with his own shovel and displays the head outside his money bin with a sign reading "Thieves Beware".

  • Girl Genius: The giant glass jars of Beetleburg that Taurus Beetle stuffs law-breakers into. Doesn't that look fun? Trope only applies for part of their tenure in those jars. Gotta be Dead to be a Dead Guy On Display. If you look closely, there are mummified remains in some of the jars (during the "late for class" sequence). Given that people are inserted into these jars while living... this has just ascended to Fridge Horror.
  • In Homestuck, Dirk mounts the head of his would-be assassin on a pike in a public square in front of a crowd as a warning to the leaders of Derse that he's awake and that he's not going to let them get away with it.
    • Jade has the body of her Grandpa stuffed and on display in her house, with some later narration stating that she did it herself (there was no one else on the island besides their dog). Jane's Poppop is also displayed this way in her living room, and Jake says he wished he could have done it to his Grandma instead of cremating her. It seems to be a family tradition.
    • It doesn't stop there. Jade's Grandpa had the body of her dream self stuffed and displayed in another room. It becomes important later when Jade uses it to create her sprite.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • After taking Azure City, the goblins mount the severed heads of several soldiers on pikes and plant them on the wall. This serves both as a warning to others not to mess with the Goblins, and to raise the spirits of the Goblins inside since the Azurites were some of their most hated enemies.
    • After Haley and V help several slaves escape the Empire of Blood's palace, Tarquin has the escapees rounded up, nailed into position, and set on fire spelling ELAN. Elan's impressed at first until Tarquin explains what the lights are, which is the final straw in convincing Elan Tarquin's a bad guy.
    • Redcloak assaults the Resistance headquarters with a hit squad of summoned monsters, kills everyone there, and hangs their corpses in ranks while he waits for the rest of them to return. He destroys the place afterwards, so it's likely either an intimidation tactic or for his own amusement.
      Redcloak: ...your choice in décor forced me to summon my own interior decorators. By which I mean they will be decorating mostly with your interiors.
  • Unsounded:
    • In Alderode, political dissidents are publicly strung up to be tortured and executed, and kept in hanging cages over the punishment pits. Those executed are held up to show the public what should happen if they try to fight the Vits Council.
    • The Black Tongues dress the skeletons of their order's deceased leaders in robes and suspend them with magic over their headquarters.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Superman short "The Underground World", what Lois Lane first thinks is a statue turns out to be this, of an explorer executed with molten gold.
  • The body of The Flying Dutchman from SpongeBob SquarePants became a window display.
  • What almost happened to Kim Possible in "Graduation, Part 2".
    Warhok: Come Warmonga, we will take this one as a trophy. She will look handsome mounted beside your Thorgoggle spine.
  • Although it doesn't happen, Darkseid gloats that he will put Superman's heart on a pike in his throne room at the climax of Justice League Unlimited.
  • Stewie from Family Guy recommends doing this.
    "Nothing says 'obey me' like a bloody head on a fence post!"
    • In another episode, he remarks that Brian's taxidermied mother is an elegant solution for what to do with Lois.
  • Used as a quite morbid gag on Phineas and Ferb, "It's About Time". While visiting the museum, Phineas discovers a dog skeleton on display with the name tag "Bucky". He instantly recalls having a dog named Bucky that "got sick and had to move to Old Man Simmons's farm" and in an attempt by his step-father to turn away the attention from the dog, they turn to the display right to the side of the dog...
    Phineas: Didn't we have a dog named Bucky who got sick and went to live on kindly Old Man Simmons's farm?
    Lawrence: Oh, uh, let's move on, shall we? This exhibit is kindly Old Man Simmons— Hey! Who's up for milkshakes?
    • Should also be noted that these fossils (at least Bucky's) were dug up from the Flynn-Fletcher backyard. Make of that what you will.
  • In American Dragon: Jake Long full Huntsclan members use as helmets the skull of the first dragon they killed. Rose had to show the Huntsman the skin of her first dragon to prove she had actually done it. What she showed him was the skin Jake sheds naturally.
  • The Fly ends with the fly pinned to a display case along with other bugs that the human has killed.
  • In Trollhunters, In the Hero's Forge, the corpses of past trollhunters (who were themselves trolls and thus turned to stone in death) are reassembled and placed on pedestals as statues to honor them.
  • Discussed (and Played for Laughs) in The Simpsons episode "Homer's Triple Bypass," when Homer tells Marge she'll be lonely if he doesn't survive his heart surgery. Marge assures him she could never remarry, but it turns out he actually wants to be "stuffed and put on the couch as a constant reminder of our marital vows."
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: As part of his ultimatum and as a gift to his adoptive sister, Scarlemagne turned a trio of Mod Frogs into gold statues as an example of what happens to those that stand against him.
  • Earthworm Jim: In the episode "Bring Me the Head of Earthworm Jim", Psy-Crow and Professor Monkey-For-A-Head reminisce about defeating such heroes as "the mighty Ultra Walrus", "the heroic Captain Giraffe", and Earthworm Jim himself, all of whom they've kept as mounted heads on their wall. Naturally, Jim turns out to be a subversion, since he's just pretending to have been defeated and is biding his time until he can recover his supersuit from them.

    Real Death 
  • The embalmed body of Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin has been on public display inside a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square since 1924 (except for a brief period during World War II when the body was shipped off to somewhere in Siberia for safekeeping). Josef Stalin's body was displayed next to it for several years before Nikita Khrushchev decided that Stalin hadn't been so great after all. Moscow's most prestigious medical school has a small department dedicated to the preservation of Lenin's body.
  • Mao Zedong... possibly (visitors to the Maosoleum are whisked past the coffin at high speeds so they don't have quite enough time to figure out if the "body" is actually a waxwork).
    Homer Simpson: Oh-ho, look at him sleeping. He's like a little angel that killed 50 million people. Yes, you are! Yes, you are!
  • The body of North Korean ruler Kim Il Sung is on display in Pyongyang in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. The body of his son, Kim Jong Il, was also put on display there in December 2012, a year after his death.
  • The body of Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh is on display in Hanoi... even though he requested to be cremated.
  • Elmer McCurdy is one of the most notorious examples of Old West outlaws given this treatment. After performing an utterly fail-tastic robbery (take: $40 and a bottle of booze), he yelled "You'll never take me alive!" at the posse. They didn't bother. Since nobody was present to claim the body, he was instead turned into a display piece as "The Man Who Would Not Be Taken Alive." Over the course of 65 years, his corpse changed hands repeatedly, being used for purposes such as a popular touring exhibit and a prop used to advertise a Drugs Are Bad exploitation film, and this plus the natural mummification of his body led to people forgetting that he was an actual human being. Finally, he ended up hanging in a funhouse, wrapped up like a mummy. In 1976, the "prop" was discovered to be a real corpse during the filming of an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man at the funhouse. He is now buried in a concrete-sealed tomb.
  • Jeremy Bentham, one of the founders of University College London, willed his body to the University. They had to put his head in storage due to KCL students stealing and ransoming it, but the rest of him is on display, in the front entrance of the main building. (They used to abide by a somewhat ghoulish condition in his will that his body be present at every board meeting in exchange for willing a large portion of land to the college, which resulted in them carrying the body into faculty meetings, where it was listed on the minutes as "Present but not voting.")
  • Allegedly, the "real" John Wilkes Booth's corpse was not buried but got put up for display in a traveling medicine show. More likely, some random corpse got labeled JWB in order to drum up business.
  • Vlad "The Impaler" Dracula was famous for impaling whole villages and leaving the bodies to rot. Some historians (and Wallachian folklore) say that these gory displays were instrumental in stopping the Turkish push into Europe (allegedly, a Turkish invasion force turned back in horror when they came across one of his "forests"). And when Vlad himself was killed in battle, his head was sent back to Istanbul to assure the Turks that he was actually dead.
  • Oliver Cromwell's head moved about several locations. He's an extra-special example, as his enemies were so determined to make this trope happen that after he died of natural causes, they dug him up and killed him again.
  • At the Restoration, many prominent Roundheads, not just Cromwell, were dug up and displayed in all their rotting, cadaverous glory. Especially true if they'd had a hand in executing Charles I.
  • St. Bernadette Soubirous's body has yet to putrify since her death in 1879, and is on display in the convent of Nevers.
  • This is a surprisingly common practice among Roman Catholics. It's believed that some saints' bodies are incorruptible, meaning that they either don't decay or do so veeeeery slowly thanks to Divine Intervention; if the corpse of a Servant of God/Venerable/Blessed/Saint is believed to fit in the criteria, chances are it'll be exhibited in a shrine for everyone to see. Aside of Bernadette's case, we have Saint Pio of Petrelcina, Saint Clare of Assisi, Saint John Vianney, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Saint Joaquina Vedruna, Saint Rita of Cascia, etc.
  • Pirates often ended up dangling in places as a warning to others. Blackbeard himself ended up on a pike in Virginia (well, his head did anyway). Pirates caught by the Royal Navy were usually taken back to England, hanged at 'Execution Dock' below the high water mark on the Thames, and then left there until they had been submerged by the tide three times. Particularly notorious individuals like Captain Kidd then had their bodies cut down, embalmed, and displayed in iron cages at the mouth of the river.
  • In the final days of World War II, as the Allies closed in from the west and the Red Army stormed in from the east, the Nazis made a habit of hanging anyone found guilty of desertion and leaving their bodies up with a warning placard.
  • François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, President of Haiti 1957-71, managed to demonstrate he didn't really understand PR by stringing up one of his opponents...right next to the "Welcome to Haiti" sign outside Port-au-Prince. During a drive to bring in more tourists. This was deliberate; the dictator knew that Haiti badly needed foreign exchange, but was also wary about them bringing crime and "subversive ideas" (i.e., the ridiculous idea that Papa Doc was a murderous tyrant).
  • There were stories during The Roman Republic of this being done by enemies:
    • After Sulla's first march on Rome, forcing Marius and his supporters on the run, they pulled a counter-coup, stormed the Senate and killed Sullan partisans and cut off their heads, and put them on display in the Roman Forum. Sulla after his Second March on Rome started a bloodier purge, and according to Roman legend, Sulla was said to have displayed the corpses of his victims in the atrium of his villa which more or less became the Palace and seat of administration, during his three-year dictatorship.
    • After Caesar's assassination and the succeeding Second Triumvirate, Cicero made a series of speeches against Mark Antony, who eventually had him murdered. His head and his hands (which had penned the speeches) were cut off and displayed in the Forum Romanum and left to rot and decay, as were the victims of other proscriptions.
  • In feudal Japan, victorious warlords would display the heads of their defeated opponents on a pike as a form of humiliation. Samurai of the fallen lord would try to prevent this by taking the head away before the battle ended and giving it a respectful secret burial. The practice is referenced a few times in Usagi Yojimbo.
    • Sengoku Period warlord Takeda Shingen became notorious for a time for engaging in this during the Battle of Otaihara. As an intimidation tactic to the remaining defenders, he apparently lined up 3000 heads of fallen soldiers for them to see. A few days later, he would also wipe out these terrified defenders. This is usually cast as a major Kick the Dog moment for him.
    • The practice of displaying decapitated heads of criminals, traitors, and major felons (distinct from samurai who were allowed to commit seppuku) was subsequently normalized as the last part of capital punishment during the Tokugawa/Edo period.
    • In the immediate aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, certain "loose ends" persons of interest were subjected to this, some more justified than others:
  • Abe Lincoln was the first famous politician to have had his body preserved via modern embalming techniques (which provides a different take on the phrase "better 'living' through chemistry") and his body was carted around throughout the country for public displays for three weeks before finally being buried.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Habsburgs, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, routinely embalmed the bodies of their deceased family members and laid them out in state for viewing; for example, Emperor Franz Josef I (natural causes, 1916), Crown Prince Rudolf (suicide, 1889), and Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie (assassination, 1914). Empress Elisabeth, who was assassinated in 1898, would have been treated the same way, but her embalming was bungled so that her body had to be placed in a closed coffin.
  • Che Guevara's body was put on display for citizens to come and see for days after he was executed.
  • The bodies or skeletons of human oddities (like giants or midgets) were in great demand for private and academic museums of medicine in the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • After Benito Mussolini's Fascist government fell in April 1945, he was executed (just a few days, coincidentally, before the death of Adolf Hitler) and not just put on display, but dragged by the ankles from a moving car Achilles-style for everyone to see. He was finally left, with his mistress Clara "Claretta" Petacci and a brace of Fascist bigwigs who'd been executed at the same time, hung upside down at a gas station in downtown Milan, to be spat upon by passerby and pecked by crows. The bodies were eventually taken down and buried, but it was years before their families could safely claim either cadaver.
  • When Richard, the Duke of York, died in battle while trying to claim the English throne, Margaret of Anjou, the current king Henry VI's queen and his de facto regent, not only had his head displayed on the walls of the city of York but in an ironic twist had a paper crown placed on it.
  • There have been multiple incidents of people willing their skulls to theater companies to be used as Yorick in productions of Hamlet.
  • When he was captured and killed by the Libyan rebellion, Muammar Gaddafi's body was carried around and paraded. He was still alive for part of the humiliation. His corpse was eventually moved to an industrial freezer where members of the public were permitted to view it for a few days.
  • In contrast to the Roman Catholic practice to put the bodies of saints on display for reverence, there is the infamous Cadaver Synod, where Pope Stephen VII exhumed the body of his predecessor, Pope Formosus, and staged a posthumous trial. Formosus's corpse was found guilty, had the three fingers he used for blessings chopped off, was stripped of his vestments and thrown into the Tiber. Pope Stephen's popularity went down considerably after that, and he was strangled to death six months after the trial.
  • After Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in battle by government forces, his body was placed on public display, and video of it was broadcast on state television for all to see. The primary reason for this was to demoralize Savimbi's supporters, since, after years of leading from the front lines and several failed assassination attempts, Savimbi had gained an almost mystical reputation for cheating death, with many Angolan citizens believing he was impossible to kill. Within six months of his death, Savimbi's rebel army had signed a ceasefire and disbanded, reforming itself into a strictly political organization.
  • From the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century, many families would take photographs of their recently deceased relatives as a memento. Due to the expense of photography, taking a picture after death might be the only way to have a photograph of them, particularly if the deceased was a child. The photograph would typically be of the deceased on their own (usually in bed or a coffin) or alongside their surviving relatives. Their bodies would then be buried, although the pictures might have been displayed.
  • Julia Pastrana was a woman born with hypertrichosis terminalis, which among other things covered her body with straight black hair. She was eventually taken in (read: bought) by Theodore Lent, who took her on a worldwide tour as the "Bearded and Hairy Lady". Lent married her and got her pregnant. Sadly, the baby suffered the same condition as his mother and died three days after his birth, and Julia died of postpartum complications days later. Lent didn't let a little thing like the deaths of his own wife and son stop the tour. He simply had them mummified and put on display. He would later do the same thing with a second hairy woman. It's not too surprising that Theodore was committed to a mental institution in 1884 and spent the rest of his miserable life there. The whole sad story has a somewhat bittersweet ending: Julia's body was eventually given a respectful burial near her hometown in 2013.
  • Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, a cross of an oddball souvenir shop, a Museum of the Strange and Unusual, and a tourist trap on the waterfront has two mummified humans under glass - "Sylvester" and "Sylvia" (real names unknown). "Sylvester" died of a gunshot in Arizona back in the 1890s and "Sylvia" was likely a Spanish settler who died of tuberculosis back in the early 1800s and was mummified by the extremely cold and dry area she was laid to rest.
  • Following his death at the hands of FBI agents, John Dillinger's body was put on public display at the Cook County morgue in Chicago. An estimated 15,000 people viewed his corpse over a day and a half.
  • According to ''The Prince'' by Machiavelli, Cesare Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, did this to Remiro d'Orco, as a way to disavow any cruelty by d'Orco in carrying out Cesare's harsh policies.
  • The Sokushinbutsu are Buddhist monks who mummified themselves. If the process was successful, they would be displayed as beings to be revered.
  • In an intentional bit of poetic justice, the ultimate fate of William Burke (of Burke and Hare fame) for murdering sixteen people to sell their corpses for dissection was to end up as an anatomical specimen himself; after his hanging, his body was dissected and his skeleton remains on display in the University of Edinburgh Medical School's anatomical museum to this day.
  • Open casket funerals count as a nice version of this, as the point isn't to scare people (at least, not on purpose) but more out of respect as mentioned above, as well as to give their loved ones a chance to say a final goodbye, and possibly to create the illusion that the person is just sleeping peacefully rather than being dead.
  • After the Münster rebellion was defeated in 1536, three of the ringleaders—John of Leiden, Bernhard Krechting, and Bernhard Knipperdolling—were tortured and executed in the town square, and their remains were hung in baskets from the steeple of the church. The baskets still remain today.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dead Person On Display


King Cailan

During the quest "Return to Ostagar", the party stumbles upon the hung corpse of King Cailan long after he was slain by the darkspawn during the doomed Battle of Ostagar. And once the party clears the ruins of darkspawn, the Warden may choose to honor the late king by burning Cailan's body on a pyre.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DeadGuyOnDisplay

Media sources: