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Dead Person Impersonation

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A literal example.

The ploy of taking over a dead person's identity.

This can be for any number of reasons. Perhaps the character was a drifter, with no identity of their own worth speaking of and enticed by the possibility of assuming the role of their recently deceased acquaintance. They may have promised to protect the person's loved ones, want to escape their old life, or less heroically intend to con their new "family" out of money. If anyone questions their changed appearance, accent, or other details, there's often a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story they can use to explain it away.

Usually the impostor will end up Becoming the Mask, falling in love with the life that isn't his, and be exposed. Happily, though, he will regain the trust he lost by some act of heroism, and remain among his new loved ones. Whether it's with his own or the new name varies.


More maliciously, a villain will do this after they kill the other person. This is often paired with a subsequent Peek-a-Boo Corpse, when the original person's body is discovered by someone, making them realise what has happened. A common occurrence in murder mysteries is for the killer to do this in order to throw off the time of death and give themselves an alibi. Having such an impersonation can create Dramatic Irony if the audience is aware of the ploy, or a plot twist if they are not.

Occasionally the impostor will be played sympathetically, in which case they may be forced to assume the dead person's identity to escape death themselves. Or, in a subversion, they could have been misidentified after a mass-casualty incident, and refrained from pointing out the mistake due to fear of prosecution, sympathy for the dead person's loved ones (who believe the deceased "miraculously survived!"), or even amnesia.


Related to My Sibling Will Live Through Me. Can result in an Impersonation-Exclusive Character if revealed to be the case with an already-established character. Compare The Mole, Rags to Royalty, The Real Remington Steele, Prince and Pauper.

Contrast Lost in Character, where a professional actor takes on a role and forgets their original self. If you don't just take the other person's identity, but also their appearance, it's Replicant Snatching. If it's a temporary thing, a sort of masquerade where characters pretend the dead one is alive, it's an Of Corpse He's Alive situation, or the El Cid Ploy. If you're a time traveler, and are doing this so history stays on track, it's You Will Be Beethoven. If you're literally impersonating a dead person, that's Playing Possum.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ao no Fuuin has main heroine Soko Kiryu... who is only called Soko Kiryu because she devoured the real Soko Kiryu when she (heroine Soko) was born, as Oni are very hungry upon awakening and took her place and memories. It's fine, it turns out that the real Soko Kiryu was born for this purpose.
  • In Asura Cryin', 1stWorld!Tomoharu Natsume impersonates Naotaka Natsume, his older brother who died overseas, so he can at least have legal identity documents and way to further his goals. He actually wants to kill and impersonate 2ndWorld!Tomoharu Natsume. Instead he finds 2nd!Tomo dead, so 1st!Tomo became demon because some dimension-travelling rule (he can't kill 2nd!Tomo to take over 2nd!Tomo's place), and 1st!Tomo has no choice but resurrects 2nd!Tomo to further help his goal.
  • Basilisk's Kisaragi Saemon is the reigning champion of this trope, due to being a Master of Disguise and a skilled Ninja. Of course the show being what it is, it eventually comes back to bite him in the ass... when he impersonates the Big Bad, whose power is coming Back from the Dead.
  • In the manga version of Bokurano, while planning a newscast on Zearth, the plan is to have Anko and Komo, the former being the current pilot and the latter being the only known Zearth pilot, be shown piloting Zearth. Unfortunately, by this point, Komo, like all the other pilots, is dead, so they end up having Youko dress up as her, wearing a wig to make her resemble Komo and showing her from behind. It mostly goes well, apart from a few times when Anko calls her by the wrong name.
  • Case Closed has several cases:
    • Decades before the series took place a Japanese man named Yoshifusa Yabuchi went to live in Brazil, married a black Brazilian lady and became both friends and associates with Dickson Tanaka, a half-Japanese/half-Brazilian man. When Yoshifusa and his wife died, leaving a young son named Carlos behind, Dickson found out that Yoshifusa's older brother Yoshichika (the patriarch of a very rich family) had also perished in Japan just after learning of Yoshifusa's death. Realizing that the remaining Yabuchis were a Big, Screwed-Up Family, Dickson decided to make sure that his sort-of adoptive son Carlos wouldn't be cheated out of his dad's share of the massive inheritance; knowing that Yoshichika's relatives wouldn't remember how Yoshifusa looked like since they were extremely young when they left, Dickson took up Yoshifusa's identity and made Carlos pass as his bodyguard, so he could observe the family closer and keep Carlos safe. His gambit worked, but at a very high price: Yoshichika's greedy Smug Snake of widow, Machiko, tried to kill Dickson in the bath and, being a skilled martial artist, he killed her in self-defense.
    • In an early case, a man killed his best friend to get his insurance money. Then he hid the friend's corpse and hired an actor to impersonate said friend. THEN, he hired Kogoro for the apparently easy work of following the actor around, tricking him into believing said actor was the friend... so when the body was found some days later, Kogoro became the provider of the "murderous best friend"'s alibi, much to his anger. Fortunately, Conan managed to find the mistakes within said plan (like the actor being a southpaw whereas the dead man wasn't) and reveal the tricks used.
    • Much later, an Office Lady strangled her best friend to death after a huge fight. She created an alibi for herself by putting on the dead girl's Elegant Gothic Lolita dress plus a wig, then walking around in such an ensemble while "calling" the victim to her cellphone, and then returning to the crime scene to re-dress the corpse. Conan also found out the flaws in said plan and unmasked her.
  • Code Geass has an example thanks to the Zero Requiem plan devised by Lelouch and Suzaku. Short version: Suzaku fakes his death, takes on the identity of Zero, and kills Lelouch (the original Zero) to get rid of the source of the world's anger and suffering and fill Lelouch's Thanatos Gambit. Of course, most people didn't know Lelouch was Zero, and for those who did the implication of the final episode is that they catch on but go along with it. For the world at large, Zero's all-concealing masked helmet and the fact that Suzaku is about the same height and (despite his superhuman physical abilities) has a very similar build to Lelouch means that nobody will catch on.
  • In Death Note, L takes on the aliases of criminals he's sent to prison (and often to the death penalty), and the identities of two detectives he bested in the Great Detective Wars. (Which is why he is actually the three greatest detectives in the world.) In Another Note, Mello estimates the number of L's aliases to be somewhere in the triple digits.
  • The first Devilman TV series basically does this at the beginning. Instead of having Akira Fudou willingly merge with a demon/overpower Amon's will to become Devilman, here Akira and his father are killed by three demons after they accidentally step inside their lair while mountain climbing... and Amon kills the other two and then uses Akira's corpse as a disguise to pass as a human and start kicking the Demon Army's plan of global conquest on gear. For the rest of the show, Akira is just a disguise that Amon wears, and not even Akira's girlfriend Miki (whom Amon falls for and protects) knows the secret.
  • Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi taking up his dead little sister Kourin's identity to deal with the trauma coming from such a loss, is a classic example.
  • Yuno Gasai in Future Diary. The original Yuno is the third corpse in her house, which was revealed by Akise after he DNA-tested it with her umbilical cord that her orphanage held onto. Somewhat subverted, because it actually turns out that she is Yuno. She is actually the Yuno from an Alternate Universe; as in this universe, she and her world's Yuki were the last two left in the game and decided on a Suicide Pact. Things went wrong and Yuno survived, leaving her as winner of the game and the new God of Time and Space; since she couldn't resurrect her world's Yuki, she instead used her powers to create this universe, killed this world's version of herself and took her place in the game, in order to be with Yuki once again. So Yuno has been, in a sense, impersonating herself.
  • Gift From The Princess Who Brought Sleep: About two-thirds of the way through the novel it's revealed thatHanne is Elluka in disguise, with the real Hanne having died years before. Same for Heidamarie, who is really Gumillia. In the end, the audience finds out that Margarita Blankenheim died in childbirth and the one we've seen the whole time is Eve in a small doll using magic to trick people (even herself). In the tie-in short story that purchasing the book online gets you, it's also revealed that Bruno was killed by Caspar's real father, Kaidor Blankenheim, who then took his place.
  • Serial Killer Yoshikage Kira in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable is forced to kill a man and swap faces with him after being discovered by the heroes. He is then forced to live his victim's life in order to lay low.
  • Kagerou Project has Shuuya Kano do this trope. His power can allow him to look like anyone, dead or alive. Such as when he turns into Ayano in the novels and Haruka in the anime to make Shintaro and Ene feel horrible. As a side note, the 5th novel also reveals that during the last few months of Ayano's life, Kano periodically would take her place while she went out investigating things, and was forced into pretending to be Ayano's corpse when her body couldn't be found.
  • Used in The Kindaichi Case Files. A girl who became a drug addict and murdered (in self defense) the man who got her hooked nearly commits suicide off of a cliff, only to discover that another girl jumped not long before her and left her purse behind which contained the deceased girl's identification. The former-drug addict girl used the identification and plastic surgery to start a new life as a police officer.
  • In Lupin III: Dead or Alive. Lupin is hiding his identity during much of his time in Zufu. Disguised as the dead Prince Pannish.
  • Used with quite a twist in Mobile Fighter G Gundam. One of the Gundam Fighters who faces the recently mutated Devil Gundam is the Neo German Schwarz Bruder, who loses and dies. The brainwashed pilot of the Devil Gundam, Kyouji Kasshu, uses his last bits of sanity to gather DG cells, merge them with Schwarz's corpse and create a clone of himself with them, who takes up Schwarz's identity while keeping Kyouji's memories and purposes as well as his looks (the true Schwarz is much older, but his mask helps keep the masquerade).
  • Mobile Suit Gundam:
    • Char Aznable is apparently one of these, but only in the Alternate Continuity manga Gundam: The Origin. In it, we find out that the Char we know - "Casval Daikun", in hiding as "Edward Mass" - befriended a real Char Aznable, a young man physically identical except for their eye colors. Due to a Twin Switch and an assassination attempt by the Zabis, the "late" Edward assumed the identity of the late Char, using Cool Shades and an equally Cool Mask to help avoid suspicion. He's found out quite later by his boss, Lady of War Kycilia, but she doesn't kill him on the spot and attempts to rope him in her own plans... which backfires massively when he blows her head off at the end of the series.
    • Similarly, All There in the Manual reveals that there was a real Quattro Bageena, a pilot who died during the One Year War, and again, looked somewhat similar to Char. When Char joined up with the AEUG, he bought Quattro's ID off the black market in order to hide.
    • Also used with a twist in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz. When the engineers working on the Gundam Heavyarms learned that Operation Meteor entailed a Colony Drop, they were horrified and refused to go along with it. Trowa Barton, the Jerkass son of the operation's founder and the soon-to-be-pilot of Heavyarms, threatened to turn them all in... and was suddenly shot dead by an engineer who snapped on his boss because his family was on Earth. At that point, the youngest of the remaining engineers stepped up and volunteered to take on the dead man's identity to maintain the cover-up and thwart the original genocidal Operation Meteor - that young man being the person known as Trowa Barton throughout the television series.
    • Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam: Main protagonist Tobia Arronax does this after the Battle of Zeus' Wrath. Since he was declared an enemy of Jupiter, in order to live in Jovian society afterward he took on the identity of Curtis Rothko, who had died in a battle a few months previously. He gets his appearance altered (darker skin tone, black hair) and claims to have amnesia in order to fool those who knew the real Curtis.
  • Monster's Johan likes to steal the identity of parents' dead sons.
  • "William James Moriarty" of Moriarty the Patriot is actually Albert Moriarty's biological younger brother who was murdered on his thirteenth birthday with the assistance of the protagonist of the series, who then assumed his identity and passed his body off as his own.
  • Michio of MW impersonates Miho and Mika, the daughters of his targets.
  • Played with in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!. The character that everyone refers to as Sirius Deek is actually his illegitimate half-brother Rafael Walt. After Sirius fell deathly ill as a child, his mother had a mage use dark magic to transfer his consciousness into Rafael. Due to the fact that Sirius had completely lost the will to live, Rafael merely inherited all of his memories but functionally remained as himself. He had been pretending to be Sirius for years by the time he's introduced, both to keep himself from being killed and because the the ghost of the mage who performed the ritual had been possessing him to seek revenge for his own family after Sirius' mother had him executed.
  • Naruto:
    • In Part I, Orochimaru stole the former Kazekage's identity. And skin.
    • In the Land of Birds arc the daimyo Sagi is revealed to have died some time prior. His twin sister Toki faked her own death and assumed Sagi's identity in an attempt to hunt down his killers.
    • Madara Uchiha is revealed to have been Dead All Along, meaning Tobi was impersonating him. The trope becomes somewhat tangled when it's revealed Tobi was Madara's chosen successor and is himself the assumed-dead Obito.
      • In the anime, it's implied that Obito imitated Madara's voice as part of the impersonation, as when the real Madara joins the fray (resurrected as a zombie), Tobi's voice switches back to the one he'd used earlier in the series, albeit with a much more serious tone.
  • Nectar of Dharani: After Gray dies, Kai pretends to be him in order to make use of a military company that is planning to assault the castle where Sakra is being held for unrelated reasons. He mostly gets by on luck, judicious application of dynamite, and some half-remembered sales lessons. After, the prince decides that his punishment should be that he must continue pretending to be Gray.
  • Something somewhat like this happens in Pretty Face. Masashi Rando survives a bus crash and awakens from a year-long coma to find that a talented but insane plastic surgeon reconstructed his face... based on the picture of his crush in his wallet. On fleeing the doctor's office, Rando learns that his family is gone with no forwarding info and that pretty much everyone hated him. Then he runs into his crush... who assumes he's her long-lost twin sister. He keeps up the charade because the girl really missed her sister. Said sister comes back near the end...
  • In the Read or Die manga, Paper Master Ridley Wan disguises himself as Yomiko's deceased lover Donny. He does such a good job that Yomiko doesn't realize the deception until he voluntarily unmasks himself - after she slept with him. Quite impressive, when you consider that not only had Yomiko been present when Donny died, she was the one who killed him.
  • In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Anthy impersonates the deceased Chida Mamiya to fool Mikage, who is implied to have mentally blocked out Mamiya's death (it's also suggested that Akio is using More Than Mind Control on Mamiya too).
  • A variation occurs early in Shakugan no Shana. Yukari Hirai, the girl who Shana assumes the identity of on Earth, isn't just dead; rather, she faded away from existence. And we get to see how this happens.
  • In Vagabond, a highly fictionalised telling of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, Musashi's childhood friend Matahachi finds a certificate of swordsmanship on the body of a samurai who had been kind to him earlier. He decides at first to deliver the certificate to the samurai's family, but soon finds it easier to pass himself off as the samurai instead and live off the dead samurai's reputation. Later, it turns out that the samurai was only delivering said certificate to Sasaki Kojiro, the arch-rival of Musashi. Since the real Kojiro is still out there, (and is becoming more famous by the day) and Matahachi is using his name, this eventually causes Matahachi some problems.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Following Yusei's death in an alternate future, Z-ONE underwent surgery to become Yusei all but literally, including learning Accel Synchro, in a failed attempt to rally the people against a threat. He then travels back in time and duels the real Yusei, briefly claiming to really be his future self before explaining the truth since no one buys it.


    Comic Books 
  • Batman
    • Batman himself has done this, as his "Matches Malone" persona was swiped from a real guy who got himself killed in his presence, and Bruce deciding to use the identity to spy on criminals.
    • Also from Batman is Jane Doe, a definitely villainous example. She doesn't just kill her new identity; she studies them down to the last detail, perfectly recreating his or her voice, body language, and thought patterns. It would be less creepy if she was actually a shape shifter, especially since this lack of superhuman ability makes her finishing touch of skinning her victims and wearing them as suits a necessary part of her modus operandi.
    • Batman villain Black Mask did this in the "War Games" arc, by adopting the identity of Orpheus, who he just killed in a Xanatos Speed Chess gambit to become Gotham's main crime lord.
    • Tim ended up dressed as Jason Todd when a panicking Alfred sent him to save Batman and Nightwing from a Two-Face's trap back before most of Gotham was aware the second Robin had been murdered and before Tim started considering stepping up himself as the next Robin.
  • False Face attempts to do this to Lady Blackhawk in order to infiltrate the Birds of Prey, but ends up having her ass kicked by her would-be victim by the end of the issue.
  • Quality Comics character the Black Condor adopted the identity of murdered Senator Thomas Wright. Who just happened to look ''exactly'' like him.
  • In the early Captain Marvel stories, Mar-Vell posed as Walter Lawson, a military scientist who had accidentally been killed by the treacherous Yon-Rogg. The deception was aided by the fact that the real Lawson was a recluse, meaning that few people had ever met him in person or seen his face.
  • In a flashback early in Cybersix, a boy named Adrian Seidelman dies in a car crash. Cybersix finds the wreck and notices he looks somewhat like her, so she buries him separate from the wreck and takes his identification.
  • Happens in the second volume of Dark Avengers, where the team visits a Bad Future where the world is under the control of evil versions of 616 heroes. The real Carol Danvers has been dead for months, but some of the superhero factions do not know this. Taking advantage of the situation, Dark Doctor Strange dresses Moonstone in Carol's old Captain Marvel uniform and forces her to assume the deceased heroine's identity.
  • Used against the villain in Brian Azzarello's version of El Diablo.
  • In Excalibur, evil other-dimensional dictator Sat-Yr-9 vaporized Courtney Ross, her counterpart in this reality (and incidentally a love interest of Captain Britain), and then calmly stepped into her shoes. The deception wasn't exposed for quite some time.
  • In the Firefly comics, it's revealed that Shepherd Book did this some time before joining Serenity's crew.
  • In the Postboot Legion of Super-Heroes continuity, the Corrupt Corporate Executive Leland McCauley is murdered by the immortal Batman villain Ra's al Ghul, who steals his identity and considerable fortune to further his plans.
    • Before the reboot, it was broadly hinted in one Annual that Lightning Lad had actually been dead for years and that Proty had assumed his identity. After that annual it was never mentioned and the title was retconned the following year anyway.
  • Isn't this technically what Martian Manhunter does? By happy coincidence, his name even sounds like the dead man's (J'onn J'onzz / John Jones).
  • Neil Gaiman explores this trope in The Sandman (1989), and how it can end very badly. Philip Sitz, the editor of a serial killer magazine, tried to pass himself off as the long dead Bogeyman at a convention of serial killers. It was painfully clear to anyone he spoke to that he wasn't the real Bogeyman, compounded by the Corinthian revealing the Bogeyman died three years ago. When Sitz is found out he starts claiming he came here to learn from them. So the Corinthian and two others decide to teach him. They even take turns.
  • Spider-Man:
    • The modern version of the Chameleon uses this. He studies, kidnaps and murders his victims before spending a day living that person's life. Quite a violent upgrade for a guy who used to simply leave his victims tied up and gagged in their undies so that he could steal their clothes.
    • Mr. Negative's "Martin Li" identity is a case of this: Negative was a Triad member involved in human trafficking and the real Li was one of their victims. After the real Li died, Negative stole the identity.
  • Strangers in Paradise's David Qin was born Yousaka Takahasi, the son of a prominent Yakuza family and a member of one of the numerous violent teenage gangs. He accidentally killed the Chinese-American David Qin after administering a brutal, and completely pointless, beating in the street. His influential father and his lawyers got him off on all criminal charges, but a confrontation with David's sister, combined with his already considerable guilt, led to his taking David's name and abandoning the criminal ways of his youth and family.
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye reveals that Ultra Magnus died a long time ago and that by fashioning an armour in his likeness multiple Autobots have pretended to be him as a long running El Cid Ploy to craft the image of an immortal lawman, the current holder of the title is called Minimus Ambus.
  • This was sometimes how the original version of the Unknown Soldier worked to infiltrate enemy lines.
  • At the end of the V for Vendetta graphic novel series, Evey assumes V's identity after V dies.
  • Marvel Comics Warhammer 40000: Marneus Calgar by Kieron Gillen, it turns out that Marneus Calgar, the legendary commander of the Ultramarines, is a fake. He's actually Tacitan, the servant of the actual Marneus. Tacitan was included by Marneus to be trained by the same trainer for the Space Marine initiation trials. Unfortunately, the trainer was secretly a Chaos cultist and he murders Marneus. To honor his friend, Tacitan takes up Marneus's identity and eventually becomes an Ultramarine.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In her first appearance, the Golden Age Wonder Woman, fresh from Themiscyra Paradise Island, has a chance encounter with an Army nurse named Diana Prince, who's distraught because she lacks the funds to join her fiancee in South America. They look exactly alike, and thus, Princess Diana pretty much buys Lt. Prince's identity from her so that she can afford to, well, desert.
    • Wonder Woman Vol 1: In Issue #43, Globe Trotter uses a fake beard to impersonate his deceased twin brother and use him as a cover-up to get rid of his cousins and inherit their rich uncle's estate.
    • Wonder Woman Vol 2: Pan's bones are uncovered in the cyclops cave, with the giant having eaten the god which means that the Pan who has been supporting Zeus is one of Circe's fakes, placed on Olympus to help her kick off the "War of the Gods''.
  • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: The Phantom Affair has a character modify a Ghost Jedi hologram to resemble and speak with the voice of a dead revolutionary. This makes the apparently dull-witted Wookie who owed a life-debt to the revolutionary immediately do anything the holo said.
  • In Zombies Christmas Carol Scrooge pretends to be Marley so the gentlemen asking for help will leave.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Goose Girl, this is the threat the maidservant uses to extract the promise from the princess that she will not reveal the truth of the Bride and Switch.

  • In Iron Touch, Michelle avoids detection from the government by acting as her deceased grandmother, hiding her death from the public and forging bills and other documents in her name, all to avoid placing others at risk against her Stand.
  • Avatar: Legend of the Guardian: "The Chase" reveals that Min is actually Xia, Zuko's twin sister. The next chapter, "The Princess and the Guardian," establishes that she was granted the Guardian mantle by the actual Min, and took on her identity to avoid persecution by the other nations for being the Fire Nation princess.
  • In An Iron Magic Tony Stark dies in the car crash that kills his father and Harry Potter, who witnesses the incident, decides to impersonate Tony in order to get away from the post-war wizarding world and fulfill Howard Stark's dying wishes.
  • Justice League of Equestria; it is revealed near the end of part 1 of Mare of Steel that the real Prince Blueblood died five years ago, and General Zod has been impersonating him since... sort of; Zod actually killed another impostor that had been set up by the Trottingham Mob and the corrupt Mane Enterprises board, and Blueblood had been shipped to a prison in the Griffon Kingdoms a few weeks prior.
  • In Mistaken Identity it is revealed that Ranma Saotome died in the 1995 Kobe earthquake when he was seven, and that Genma replaced him with a boy who had lost his entire family in the earthquake, with the boy's trauma causing him to unknowingly take on Ranma's identity.
  • In A Place Where I Belong Daniel Jackson dies with his parents and a jaded Harry Potter impersonates him in order to have an established background and history in that reality and hide his identity from any magic-users who might cross realities in search of him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 13 Tzameti (and the American remake 13) an impoverished manual worker takes the place of a dead man apparently lined up for a job involving a great deal of money. He finds out too late he's a contestant in a Deadly Game of Russian Roulette.
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective: Disgraced kicker Ray Finkle becomes Detective Lois Einhorn when he goes insane after missing a potential game-winning field goal kick in a Super Bowl. The real Lois Einhorn was a missing hiker whose body was never found, giving Finkle a new identity to assume for his plot of revenge against the Miami Dolphins in general and Dan Marino in particular.
  • In Allied, Marianne Beauséjou is accused of taking the real Marianne's identity to collaborate with Nazi Germany and undermine SOE and Free France operations. Turns out it's true.
  • In An American Christmas Carol, Scrooge analogue Benedict Slade assumes Latham's ghost is someone in makeup pretending to be him.
  • In Barbarosa, fugitive Karl Westover is befriended in the desert by the title outlaw, who introduces him to a Mexican clan with whom he has a tangled relationship. When one member of that family ambushes and kills Barbarosa, Westover takes over his identity to honor his legend.
  • In the horror anthology film Body Bags in "The Gas Station", Anne's co-worker Bill isn't the real Bill, as she finds out. He's actually the escaped serial killer mentioned on the radio earlier on and has been impersonating the original gas station owner.
  • In The Bridge on the River Kwai, it's revealed that "Commander Shears" was actually an enlisted man serving under Shears aboard the USS Houston. After the ship was sunk and Shears killed, the seaman (whose real name we never learn) switched uniforms with him and took his name and rank in the hope of getting better POW treatment from the Japanese.
  • Brimstone: Joanna takes on the identity of her dead best friend Elizabeth after the Reverend kills her, marrying a recent widower under that name. Since Elizabeth was mute after having her tongue ripped out, Joanna had to do the same. This leads to a Downer Ending when it's revealed that Elizabeth had murdered the brothel manager in revenge, and the new Sheriff mistakenly pins the crime on Joanna and hangs her for it, who is unable to properly dispute the charge due to her lack of speech.
  • The 1951 film Callaway Went Thataway revolves around a cowboy named Stretch that is asked to impersonate the deceased actor of old cowboy films after reruns become a hit on television. Subverted in that the actor, Smoky Callaway, isn't actually dead. He's an alcoholic womanizer living down south that turns up later to take back his role.
  • The Captive Heart tells the story of a Czech concentration camp survivor, Capt Karel Hasek, who has to assume the identity of a dead British soldier named Geoff Mitchell and join British prisoners of war to avoid execution.
  • Circus of Fear: Otto, Natasha's father, has secretly returned from South Africa, and has taken the place of his dead brother Gregor. Fortunately for the ruse, Gregor had suffered severe facial injuries that meant he wore a full face mask whenever he was in public.
  • In Dark Star, the character Sergeant Pinback reveals that he took over the identity of the real Pinback just before the the launch of the spaceship. As fuel maintenance technician Bill Freud, he witnessed the suicide of the real Pinback and was subsequently mistaken for him.
  • A variation of this forms the basic premise of Dave. Everyman Dave Kovic bears an uncanny resemblance to the sitting US President, whose handlers hire him as a body double for "security reasons" (read: to cover up the President's extramarital affairs). The President has a massive stroke which leaves him comatose, and his handlers coerce Dave into assuming the President's identity.
  • The main character in Detour hitches a ride with a man who dies soon afterward. He takes the dead man's car and identity. Of course, this being film noir, he soon encounters a dodgy dame and things go from bad to worse.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is already impersonating smuggler, Peter Franks, but Franks escapes custody. In order to preserve his cover, Bond kills Franks and plants his own ID on him giving him cred as the guy who killed James Bond. Being a Bond film, it doesn't last as the Big Bad turns out to be Bloefeld who knows who Bond is.
  • After Sightless is murdered in Dick Tracy's Dilemma, Vitamin Flintheart impersonates him and takes his place on his pitch outside The Blinking Skull to keep watch for suspicious characters.
  • In Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, Tracy poses as the deceased Melody to lure Gruesome out of hiding.
  • Die Mommie Die: The mother's confession. They were twin sisters who formed a singing duo - unfortunately only one of them could actually sing. The singer went on to be very famous but also an abusive jerkass while the non-singer became homeless and eventually wound up in jail. The singer took pity on her and brought her to her Big Fancy House as a maid/nanny. Nonsinger was horrified at her sister's treatment of her children, killed her, and took her identity. Unfortunately guilt and access to drugs and alcohol made her just as bad as her sister was, hence the title.
  • At the end of the film The Double, it's implied that Simon is going to assume his double James' identity.
  • Used by the murderers in Double Indemnity to make it appear that the victim was killed by falling from a train — a vital component of their Insurance Fraud scheme.
  • A minor character in Edge of Tomorrow is revealed to have done this, sending the his pay to his fallen friend's family.
  • Fantômas does this often, especially in Jean Marais/Louis de Funès movie adaptations. Usually, he's also the cause of death.
  • In Firestorm (1998), Shaye murders his cellmate, then dyes his hair black and fakes a distinctive tattoo on his neck so he can take his place on the convict fire crew being sent out to fight the blaze.
  • Friday the 13th Part 2 has the Final Girl attacking Jason while pretending to be his mother.
    • This scene was straight ripped off in Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill.
    • The final girl in Humongous uses a similar method to avoid the killer.
  • In Highlander, Connor McLeod concealed his immortality for years by assuming the identities of long-dead children.
  • This is the premise of Houseguest. Sinbad is on the run from the mob and finds Phil Hartman and his family waiting to pick up his childhood friend, so Sinbad impersonates the friend and goes with them. When he's caught, it fortunately turns out that the friend grew up to be a jerk.
  • After escaping the prison, Dr. Niemann in House of Frankenstein orders his new hunchback assistant to kill a travelling showman and takes his place and uses this to get near those who got him to prison.
  • In Imitation General an army general visiting an area under German siege is killed and his aide realizes that only the sight and authority of a high ranking officer can hold the trapped soldiers together. He takes the general's place even though he knows his action could save or cost lives and make or break the general's reputation. It's a comedy though so...
  • Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior). A thief is hired to impersonate a dying daimyo, and given stringent training by both the daimyo's brother and his retainers, in order to prevent the province from being destroyed by ongoing power struggles after the daimyo's death. Originally supposed to be merely a figurehead, with all power wielded by the deceased mans's retainers and family; he gradually takes on more power and responsibility, along with his personality coming to increasingly resemble that of the dead man.
  • A Knight's Tale: Sir Ector dies before the final stage of the last tournament he entered. William impersonates him during that stage and that's what inspires him into making up a nobility status so he can enter more tournaments.
  • At the end of Madhouse (1974), Paul is shown using makeup to make himself look like Herbert, with the implication that he is going to take over Herbert's life.
  • The Lighthouse: Ephraim Winslow assumed the identity of the real Ephraim Winslow, his foreman who died in an accident he purposefully neglected to stop. His real name is Thomas Howard.
  • The Majestic where the character played by Jim Carrey has amnesia following an automobile accident and is found in rural California, where he is mistaken for a local war hero thought dead. For most of the middle of the movie, he tries to fit into the mistaken identity role without really knowing who he is.
  • In The Monster Maker, Dr. Markoff is really an imposter, with the real Dr. Markoff having died in Europe and the current Dr. Markoff having stolen his identity to escape to America.
  • Moon over Parador is about an American actor hired/forced to impersonate the recently-deceased dictator of a Banana Republic.
  • Mrs. Winterbourne is a Lighter and Softer version of the Cornell Woolrich novel mentioned in the Literature section.
  • The 1947 noir drama Nora Prentiss involves a married doctor who falls for a nightclub singer but can't bear to divorce his wife, so he swaps identities with a dead patient... only to ultimately find himself convicted and executed for his own murder!
  • Pandorum: In an unintentional case, it's revealed that Captain Payton is the insane Corporal Gallo, and he was only haunted by a vision of his younger self until The Reveal. After going mad from Space Madness and playing god with his crew and some passengers, Gallo returned to hypersleep in Payton's pod, and due to the post-stasis amnesia, believed to be Payton for most of the film.
  • Phoenix (2014): Played with. The premise is a woman being approached by her former husband for a scam where she should pose as the wife to claim her inheritance. The twist is that, unknown to the con man, the "impostor" is the real person.
  • In Reindeer Games, Rudy, a car thief just out of prison, assumes the identity of his recently murdered cellmate Nick and commences a relationship with Ashley, a woman Nick had been corresponding with via letters. It's the first part of a Gambit Pile Up which culminates in the revelation that Nick faked his death as part of a master plan with Ashley, who was already his lover on the outside, thus making this a subversion.
  • In Relative Fear, Adam's therapist Clive turns out to be his biological father Gary Madison. The real Clive is found dead in a swamp.
  • In Return to Cabin by the Lake, the presumed to be dead serial killer Stanley infiltrates the film set of a movie chronicling his own life by murdering the Assistant Director JC Reddick (a nephew of one of the Executive Producers) and impersonating him for the remainder of the shoot.
  • Subverted and played straight in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010). Played straight in that when Robert Loxsley dies, Robin takes on his identity as the messenger to avoid being killed as a deserter from the army, and also to return the crown to the royal family. Subverted in when Robin takes the sword back to the late Loxley's father and doesn't pretend to be anything other than who he is. Then played straight again when Robin pretends to be Robert Loxsley so Marian can inherit the estate after Walter Loxley's death. And, of course, to help rally the people in battle.
  • The Silence of the Lambs: To escape from jail Lecter pretends to be a wounded guard and is rushed to an ambulance. When the real guard's body drops from the elevator roof, this doubles as an Oh, Crap! moment. See it here.
  • In Sommersby (a remake of The Return of Martin Guerre), a man returns from the Civil War. Previously a jerkass, he now makes the town a better place by getting bank loans for farmers and former slaves. Then the police arrest him for murder. In prison, the man confesses to his "wife" that he is actually a friend of her husband's from the army. Though the wife tries to get him confess his fraud to save himself, he responses, "And ruin this? All the loans are through me. If I tell the court I'm not your husband, the bank can recall the loans as a fraud and this town will lose everything."note  So he is hanged for the crimes of the man he impersonated.
  • The Stepfather had a sequel where the titular stepfather escapes from a mental institution and assumes the identity of a random guy he saw in the obituary section of a newspaper.
  • In A Stolen Life (1946), when a woman's twin sister is drowned, she assumes her identity in order to be close to the man she feels her sister took from her years before.
  • In Street Kings, Ludlow tracks down two drug dealers named Freemont and Coates after their DNA was found at the scene of the murder of his partner Washington. When Ludlow tracks them to their house, he finds out that the real Freemont and Coates were dead for a long while already — the men walking around as "Freemont" and "Coates" are actually undercover Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies who went rogue.
  • Taking Lives features a Serial Killer who murders people who look like him, then assumes their identities.
  • In The Terror, Stefan accidentally killed the Baron on the night when the Baron caught Eric and Ilsa together. Eric adopted the Baron's identity and locked himself away in the castle for 20 years, eventually Becoming the Mask.
  • In There Will Be Blood a man comes up to Daniel Plainview claiming to be his half-brother, with a letter as proof. Daniel believes the man until he notices some inconsistencies in his story. The man eventually confesses at gunpoint that he knew Daniel's real half-brother, having met him when he was terminally ill with tuberculosis. Upon the brother's death, the man assumed his identity. Daniel shoots the man shortly afterward.
  • In To Be or Not to Be, after The Mole Siletsky is killed by La Résistance, Jozef Tura disguises himself as him to further thwart his plans.
  • A major plot point in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.
  • In Vicki, Jill impersonates her murdered sister Vicki on the phone to spook her killer into breaking down and confessing.
  • In The Visitation, Brandon Nichols got his identity by killing the real Brandon Nichols. And that wasn't even his original identity.
  • The 1950 Film Noir, Where the Sidewalk Ends, has Mike hides an accidental murder by (temporarily) taking the identity of the victim to hide his tracks.
  • In X-Men & X2: X-Men United this is standard operating procedure for Mystique. She impersonates Senator Kelly's aide who Magneto casually mentions "has been dead for some time" then effectively becomes Senator Kelly after his artificial mutation apparently kills him.

  • Agatha Christie did it repeatedly, both in A Murder Is Announced (the dead woman was in line to inherit a fortune, which she would gladly have shared with her sister, but unfortunately she dies of an unexpected illness before the will comes into effect, so her sister decides to switch places and claim that she herself is the one who died) and A Holiday For Murder.
    • Third Girl: Andrew Restarick isn't actually Andrew Restarick. The real Andrew Restarick died in Africa after 15 years abroad, whereupon his business partner assumed his identity, returned to England, and claimed the Restarick fortune. Problems began to arise when the real Andrew's old lover tried to contact him, leading to a complicated murder/Gaslighting plot.
    • And a related plot twist was used in The Body in the Library. There were actually two murders: the main victim, Ruby, and another girl of about the same age, Pamela. The murderers killed Pamela, dressed up to resemble Ruby, at a time when Ruby was known to be alive, and then identified Pamela's body as Ruby's, giving themselves an alibi for the time of death.
    • Agatha Christie does it twice in Hercule Poirot's Christmas, when Pilar and Stephen Farr are both impostors, who opportunistically decided to take the identities of Simeon Lee's grand-daughter, and his best friend's son. They end up together!
    • Poirot figuring out that the family dog was able to see through one of these aids in his finding out the truth in Elephants Can Remember.
    • In one of the Parker Pyne stories, a maid is revealed to actually have been her employer's sister, having lost her memory in the boat accident that killed the actual maid. Her memory had been coming back in bits and pieces over several decades, which is why she killed her sister (who'd masterminded the "convince my amnesiac sister she's the maid so I can inherit" plot) and started gaslighting her niece.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers used the short-term "throw off the time of death" variant at least twice in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, in Whose Body? and The Five Red Herrings.

Individual works

  • In Addie Pray, the basis for the movie Paper Moon, young Addie impersonates the granddaughter of a New Orleans aristocrat, in order to help her nephew bilk her out of her fortune—-and when the fortune turns out to be imaginary, Addie switches sides and helps the aristo bilk her nephew.
  • In Miyuki Miyabe's All She Was Worth, detective Shunsuke Honma investigates the disappearance of his nephew's fiance Shoko Sekine, only to find that the fiance had killed and assumed the identity of the real Shoko in order to avoid loan sharks. She'd also tried once before to kill another woman and steal her identity, and after disappearing was planning on doing it again.
  • In Animorphs, David uses this after acquiring the DNA of Jake and Rachel's cousin, Saddler who was in critical care. As morphing constructs the form anew from DNA, he has no injuries and is perfectly healthy. The family was overjoyed, thinking that a miracle occurred, but Jake knew better ... Whether or not David actually killed Saddler isn't addressed, but he's definitely dead, and Rachel indicates they eventually find the body.
  • In Damon Knight's novel Beyond the Barrier there is a triple. As part of a long game plan a dangerous creature called a Zug implants himself in the human hunting it. Controlling the hunter, the Zug goes back in time and finds a crashed bomber with its crew dead. It selects the body that most resembles its host and takes all of its ID, then disposes of the body. It goes on to live that person's life, unaware of the deception, until it gets the chance to use it in the far distant future.
  • In Bioshock Rapture it's revealed that the character that players of the game know as "Frank Fontaine" actually murdered the real Frank Fontaine in order to take over his fishing business and gain access to Rapture. Though "Fontaine's" real first name is indeed "Frank" (which he lampshades), his real last name is never revealed (it's even mentioned that only a handful of people in the world know it).
  • Josephine Tey's mystery novel Brat Farrar has an interesting use of this trope, as it's about a young man who starts off as the malicious version, passing himself off as a member of a wealthy family who disappeared as a child, but then turns detective when he realizes that the boy he's pretending to be died and anyone not believing his charade is likely to be the murderer.
  • Chocoholic Mysteries: Jewel Case opens with a man coming to Lee's door and claiming to be Andy Woodyard, the father of her husband Joe. However, Lee knows full well that her father-in-law's been dead for thirty years. It's later confirmed to have been an impostor, Andy's brother-in-law Art Arkin — a member of a gang of thieves.
  • It's mentioned in A Christmas Carol that, thanks to the sign above his door, some people call Scrooge by Marley's name as well as his own. Scrooge answers to both names, as it's all the same to him.
  • The Culture
    • Use of Weapons. Book-spoiling spoiler: Cheradenine Zakalwe is actually Elethiomel, the Chairmaker. He kills Cheradenine's sister and makes a chair out of her bones. Cheradenine then commits suicide and Elethiomel assumes his life.
    • In Consider Phlebas, the shape shifting Anti-Hero does this a couple of times.
  • At least twice in the Dirk Pitt Adventures: Inca Gold and Atlantis Found.
    • The biggest is in The Mediterranean Caper. In the climax, villain Bruno Von Till, a Greek shipping magnate turned drug kingpin, has Pitt captured and arrogantly boasting of his plans. He's totally shocked when Pitt reveals he's discovered the man is really Admiral Erich Hiebert, a wanted Nazi war criminal who murdered the real von Till and took his place as a hiding spot.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star starts as Emergency Impersonation and turns into this at the end.
  • In Double Vision, by Mary Higgins Clark, it's five years after Caroline's twin Lisa was murdered, and the killer's now after the survivor. It turned out that the killer actually intended to kill Caroline, unaware that she was a twin. When he returns to do the job properly, she manages to talk him out of it by convincingly lying to him that she really is Lisa. She explains that she had been The Un-Favourite of their parents, so when he killed Caroline, she assumed the identity of her twin sister so their grief wouldn't be as profound.
  • One of the characters in Dread Empire's Fall, Lady Caroline Sula took over the identity of the real person whose name she's using, and does a lot better with it than the original would have ever done.
  • A major plot twist in John Dickson Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell book The Three Coffins/The Hollow Man involves this.
  • The plot twist of the Dr. Thorndyke novel Felo de Se.
  • In the first (chronologically speaking) Drizzt Do'Urden novel, Alton DeVir disfigures himself to assume the identity of the very recently deceased (And horrifically maimed) master wizard known as the Faceless One after his family is murdered. After twenty years under this alias, he starts to wonder if at some point some student of his will kill him and take his place, leaving an endless succession of Faceless Ones at the academy, with nobody noticing (Or, given drow tendencies, caring).
  • In The Empirium Trilogy, the angel that took over Ludivine's body has been impersonating her for three years. Not only did the angel do so well enough to fool Ludivine's closest friends, but her immediate relatives too.
  • Happens a few times in Evillious Chronicles
    • In The Lunacy Of Duke Venomania, the titular Sateriasis Venomania is actually, his older brother Cherubim, who took his identity and used the Venom Sword to alter his appearance after murdering his family. Though for most of the novel, he is suffering from magically-induced amnesia, and sincerely believes himself to be the original Duke.
    • In The Daughter of Fog, Yvette Jacobi is forced into pretending to be the ghost of Gast's dead sister, who she carries an uncanny resemblance to. She hates doing it and refers to it as "a cruel and stupid plan", but goes along out of fear of her stepfather.
    • In Gift From The Princess Who Brought Sleep, Bruno Marlon is actually Kaidor Blankenheim, who murdered the original and stole his identity in order to both be able to influence the Freezis Foundation, and to escape his own criminal past.
  • The Expendable Spy, by Jack D. Hunter, is an American agent parachuted into Bavaria in World War II. When his contact is killed by an air raid, he assumes the man's identity, but then finds the contact was a Gestapo agent sent from Berlin to help organize the "Werwolf" underground. Worse, his new "boss" gets suspicious and sends his description off to Gestapo HQ asking for confirmation that this is the hotshot they sent. Unnervingly, the response to the description is not only, "Yes, that's him," but includes a photo. Of the American agent. So he's left wondering who in Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin is on his side.
  • In the Father Brown short story "The Chief Mourner of Marne", Maurice Mair faked his death in a duel with his brother James, shot James as he was leaning over the "body", and spent the rest of his life pretending that he was James, and using the idea he was a grief-stricken recluse to avoid any of James's old friends.
  • In the Flashman novel Flash for Freedom, Flashman finds himself working on a slave ship and at one point, one of his fellow sailors, Beauchamp Comber, is killed, and as he dies, reveals he's actually a fervent abolitionist and part of a campaign to stop the slave trade. Since Comber has connections in America and had papers that Flashman could use to blackmail his father-in-law (who financed the slave ship), Flashman ends up taking on his identity in America. Flashman being what he is, ultimately ends up as a wanted criminal under the Comber identity (although this means that later on, he can return to America as Flashman, British war hero, without most people connecting him with Comber).
  • In Michael Slade's Ghoul, a woman kills another, then dresses in her clothes and a concealing scarf to move the body, tucked inside a large suitcase also belonging to the victim. As she destroys the body with a bath in Hollywood Acid, the investigators wouldn't even realize the victim had died at all, had the acid-bath not left a couple of undissolvable gallstones behind. Even then, the killer's ruse is only foiled because a witness mentions that she had large breasts, and the victim she impersonated was poorly endowed.
  • The Chameleon impersonates Norman Osborn in Goblin's Revenge in order to avenge Kraven the Hunter's suicide.
  • This is a major plot twist in Going Down For the Count by David Stukas. The eponymous count Siegfried von Schmidt is kidnapped before the story starts and later murdered, and the man who meets and romances Robert is an impostor trying to frame Robert for the murder.
  • In Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi, upon meeting the protagonist, the mass murderer and demonic cultivator Xue Yang masquerades as the pure and heroic Xiao Xingchen who he had, years ago, unintentionally Driven to Suicide. He's also impersonated him in the past to take revenge on Chang Ping, who he blamed for Xiao Xingchen's death.
  • The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim features an identical English gentleman and German spy. The mystery is whether the German killed the Englishman and is impersonating him, the Englishman is impersonating the German impersonating himself.
  • Holmes on the Range: In the first book, Perkins was murdered well before the events of the series by a man who needed to impersonate him, Clara's husband, Nathaniel.
  • In Hurricane Gold, young James Bond adopts the persona of Angel Corona, a Mexican street hoodlum killed in a hurricane, so that he and his pal Garcia can join the criminals who have taken two children hostage. Since his travels up to that point have left him very tanned and the criminals, who have never really been into Mexico and can't spot a real local from a fake one, the ruse succeeds.
  • Used in Cornell Woolrich's novel I Married A Dead Man, where a poor young woman who is pregnant and has been abandoned by her lover meets a wealthy pregnant woman on a train who looks similar to her along with her husband. When the train crashes and the couple is killed, the poor woman passes herself off to the husband's family as his wife.
  • The short story "Improbable Impostor Tom Castro" by Jorge Luis Borges revolves around the eponymous character's success as an impostor by virtue of being entirely dissimilar from the person he's impersonating.
  • Ngaio Marsh used this in Light Thickens. During a performance of Macbeth, the leading man is decapitated before his last entrance, and then the murderer impersonates him during Macbeth's final scene, in order to give the impression that he is still alive and acting at that time.
  • The version where a murderer briefly impersonates his victim is parodied in "The Macbeth Murder Mystery" by James Thurber. According to the final explanation, the true murderer of King Duncan was Lady Macbeth's father, who was ambitious for his daughter. Hearing someone coming, he hid in the bed to make whoever-it-was think Duncan was still alive. It was Lady Macbeth, who later remarks that Duncan "resembled my father as he slept".
  • In The Machineries of Empire, Cheris pretends to be Shuos Jedao to make use of the formation instinct forcing all Kel to obey their superiors.
  • In Making History, an SS doctor's wife uses this to get herself and her son to the United States. They assume the identities of a mother and son murdered at Auschwitz, and find their way to a brother-in-law of the dead woman, who had never met his real sister-in-law or nephew, so had no reason to doubt their identities. The son retains his new identity throughout his life, having no desire to be identified as a relative of a high-ranking Nazi.
  • Ten Soon from Mistborn. Played with in that the person he was impersonating was another shapeshifter.
  • In Moonraker, Sir Hugo Drax was born in Germany as Graf Hugo von der Drache. Because his mother was English, Von der Drache was educated in England until the age of 12. He served as a Skorzeny Werwolf commando in WWII. After the Ardennes offensive he stayed behind Allied lines when their forces crossed the Rhine and started operating in the Low Countries with his commando group. During a mission, he dressed as a British soldier so that he could sabotage and destroy a farmhouse holding a mixed liaison group of American and British servicemen, but he ended up at the same farm after being attacked by his own fighter because he was wearing a British uniform. While he was still conscious, he managed to destroy his motorbike and documents. Later he was found and brought to the farm, so he was caught in the explosion and nearly killed. He was then rescued by the British and nursed back to health, faking amnesia and claiming to be a "missing soldier" by the name of Hugo Drax.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • Valentine killed Michael Wayland and his infant son (using that baby to make Jocelyn believe her son Jonathan was dead) and took over Michael Wayland's identity while raising Jace (who was Stephen Herondale's son, whom he cut out of her dead mother's womb). It's complicated.
    • The real Sebastian Verlac's actually been Dead All Along, with Jonathan Christopher having taken over his identity after he murdered the former.
  • In Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy, Petra is believed to have been the victim of a serial killer. She doesn't want anyone to know she is still alive, and ends the book assuming the identity of a friend's sister, who died (overseas, so no one can check up on it) as a child.
  • The Nero Wolfe novel Some Buried Caesar features a variation as a twist: it's not a dead person who's being impersonated, but a dead bull. Namely, the titular champion bull was killed by an anthrax outbreak that almost entirely decimated his owner's entire herd, so his owner passed off a less-ranked but physically similar bull as the champion in order to sell him to a millionaire for a publicity stunt, and murdered people to cover up his fraud.
  • In the Discworld novel Night Watch, a confused Commander Vimes who has been thrown back in time uses the name of his old sergeant without thinking. Only later does he learn that the real Sergeant Keel is dead, and he's going to have to keep on being Keel to maintain history.
  • An odd version of this happens in the novel Over the Edge. Gina is on a plane that gets hijacked, and the hijackers specifically call out for one passenger, the daughter of a senator. Gina is the only one on the plane who knows the girl didn't make the flight due to lost paperwork, and she bears a resemblance to her anyway, so she claims to be Karen.
  • In The Rushers by J.T. Edson, Dusty Fog is forced to temporarily take on the identity of cavalry officer who was killed by marauding Indians in order to keep his green troops from panicking and breaking.
  • Two occurences in A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Jeyne Poole is forced to impersonate Arya Stark, who is just missing, but the people who want to marry her off can't find the real one, and think she's most likely dead by this point.
    • During the Battle of the Blackwater, Tywin Lannister has someone impersonate the highly charismatic and popular (but very much dead) Renly Baratheon (mostly by wearing his elaborate armor) in order to support her allied troops' morale and gain the smallfolk's support. Tywin being little short of a strategic genius, it works out well.
  • In Star of the Sea, one of the principal characters kills a man and takes his identity because he believes he'll die otherwise (he's a cripple with no way to support himself). However, none of the people he convinces had ever met the real man before, and he eventually gives up the pretense and disappears when the real man's mother starts wondering why he's not answering her letters.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Done in the X-Wing Series in a way that straddles this trope and Of Corpse He's Alive. The Wraiths capture a small ship and kill its captain before anyone can send a message back to the enemy fleet; hence the enemy is unaware of this. They decide to continue the ship's mission, masquerading as the original crew of the Night Caller, including her wildly egotistical captain—if he'd stopped commanding, the enemy would've noticed. He kept his Captain's Log in full holo; with so much data, they are able to mock-up a holographic overlay so that the team's actor can impersonate the captain in holo transmissions.
    • Timothy Zahn's Hand of Thrawn duology has a triumvirate of villains collectively contriving to make it look as if Grand Admiral Thrawn has returned from the dead. One member handles supply, demand, and political fallout, one member composes tactics and strategy and expands on the triad's plans, and the third pulls off a very good acting job, aided by a massive subversion of We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future. The second also contributes to the script and gives details to the actor, because secretly he was very close to Thrawn. By which it's meant that he's a human clone with part of Thrawn's mind and some of his mannerisms. Ironically, this deception indirectly causes the heroes to thwart Thrawn's own contingency plan for his death, a clone of himself that would've activated just weeks later.
    • In Star Wars: Scoundrels, also by Zahn, one member of Han's Caper Crew is an imposter who's stolen a dead person's identity and is aiding in The Caper for his own ends. It's Boba Fett; he's using the team to get close to and kill a high-ranking member of Black Sun for a bounty. His aim is to capture Han for his bounty afterward, but Han is suspicious enough to give him the slip.
  • The Sweet Valley books used this several times. One example is the Sweet Valley University book Very Bad Things. A young stalker's victim takes out a restraining order against her and transfers to Sweet Valley to escape her, so she has surgery to look like a girl from their old school (who died), assumes the dead girl's identity, and follows the guy to Sweet Valley.
  • In Synthetic Men Of Mars, protagonist Vor Daj assumes the identity of an artificially created man, Tor-dur-bar, by having Vor Daj's brain transplanted into Tor-dur-bar's body. This is done to allow Vor Daj to spy on his captors without them knowing who he is. However, this leads to trouble when the woman he loves, Janai, is unaware of Tor-dur-bar's true identity and thus does not know that he loves her, giving Vor Daj a side goal for the entire book to resume his normal identity in order to be with the woman he loves.
  • For the malicious version, in The Talented Mr. Ripley, he kills his friend and takes his identity for a while.
  • In The Three Hostages, Sandy Arbuthnot is investigating one of the villain's trusted advisors when the man dies, and Sandy (a Master Actor) takes the opportunity to impersonate him and get an in with the villain. The substitution happens offscreen and the first the audience learns of it is at the same time as the protagonist and the villain, when Sandy dramatically unmasks near the end of the novel.
  • In a twist, Giles Denison, the main character of Desmond Bagley's spy thriller The Tightrope Men, has been press-ganged (with plastic surgery and partial brainwashing) into playing the role of scientist Harry Meyrick. Meyrick is a brilliant jerk who "uses sarcasm as a weapon, but if you put him in a real fight he'd collapse. Denison is a quiet-spoken, civil man" who handles himself quite well in a tight situation. And neither he nor the British agents he's helping know who turned him into Meyrick's double or why.
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts: After Cassidy Ludnecki's death, his brother Seamus offers his identity to a white-passing black man who wants to attend medical school.
  • In Vanishing Acts, Andrew does this when he runs away with his child Delia. Their real names are Charles and Bethany, however they manage to acquire birth certificates and identification under the names Andrew and Cordelia Hopkins, who were a father and daughter that died in a car crash. However, this happens in the late 70s and early 80s.
  • Benoit Notre-Dame turns out to have done this in A Very Long Engagement, although he's only really taken the dead man's name, and still lives with his own wife. He also turns out to have set Manech up with a dead man's identity as well; although the amnesiac Manech doesn't realize the deception, he's taken in anyway by the dead man's mother, who does.
  • The Visitation has Brandon Nichols, who murdered the real Brandon to hide his true identity as Jason Cantwell.
  • In The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, Brian takes on his brother Philip's name and persona after he dies.
  • The Well of Moments: Jasmine spread a story that her bigger-league rival was still alive but keeping to the shadows after killing a client, and she kept up the ruse by doing some jobs in his name. Other competitors think she's crazy to horn in on his territory. This deception only becomes a problem when his brother comes sniffing around for answers, believing (wrongly) that Jasmine was behind the disappearance.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness", in a way. The whisperer impersonates Akeley using parts of his corpse, but Akeley is still alive as a Brain in a Jar.
  • In the Indian novel The White Tiger: Balram takes over Ashok's identity after he kills him.
  • One The Witcher short story involves a doppelgänger assuming the identity of a dead inquisitor. Nobody catches on, despite a rather radical shift in personality (they assume the man has changed due to a near-death experience and generally being old).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Season 1 of 24, Alan York, father of Kim Bauer's best friend Janet, accompanied Teri Bauer to search for Kim and Janet. When Janet ends up in the hospital, Alan goes in to see if she's up to answering questions. However when Janet wakes up, she does not recognize the man. Revealed as an impostor, he murders Janet and takes Teri to "an address Janet gave him." The corpse found in the previous episode is identified as the real Alan York, obviously murdered by the terrorists, possibly including the imposter, whose name was really Kevin Carroll. All of this reveals that Teri was to be kidnapped with Kim.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Part of season 5 of Arrow sees Laurel's Evil Counterpart from Earth-2 pulling this on her.
    • The Flash (2014) has this as part of the arc for the first season: Eobard Thawne/Reverse Flash killed the real Harrison Wells and stole his appearance using a device from the future, and has spent over a decade basically wearing his face.
    • Supergirl also has this: When Alex Danvers confronts Hank Henshaw about the death of her father, Jeremiah Danvers, he tells her the truth: He isn't Hank Henshaw. The real Hank Henshaw was hunting an alien refugee and died in a mad quest to kill him. The alien, J'onn J'onzz, swore to Jeremiah, who died protecting J'onn, to protect his daughters and started impersonating the real Henshaw.
  • This trope is the premise of Banshee.
  • The Barrier: Julia has to hide from the authorities right when her secretly widowed brother-in-law applies for a servant position that's intended for a married couple. As a result, Julia is impersonating her dead twin sister Sara for most of the series.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Recurring pilot Kat is eventually revealed to be doing this with the name she'd been using up until that point, "Louanne Katraine", belonging to a random girl who died during the fall of the colonies. She abandoned her original identity of "Sasha" as she was a known smuggler that would never have been accepted into the military. She's able to keep her secret until one of her former contacts shows up on Galactica and starts blackmailing her.
  • The fifth season finale of The Blacklist reveals that Raymond Reddington has been dead for decades and the man we've been following for the entire series is an imposter.
  • On Bones, Temperance's parents did this (or at least her father did; it's never mentioned whether her mother did this or simply changed her name) when she was a baby, in order to hide their family from the group of criminals they used to commit robberies with. In the episode this is revealed, it's even mentioned specifically that the most common way of creating a new identity is to take over the identity of a dead person who was born the same year as yourself. Temperance's father Max assumed the identity of a Matthew Brennan who died as a baby.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Inca Mummy Girl", an Inca mummy girl was brought back to life. She proceeded to kill and then take the name of and pretend to be "Ampata", the foreign exchange student that was supposed to stay with Buffy for two weeks.
  • An intriguing version on the Burke's Law episode "Who Kiled the Movie Mogul?" after loathsome movie producer Leo is killed on set. At his funeral, everyone is stunned when his identical twin brother Max shows up and it's a case of Polar Opposite Twins. But Burke notices how the near-sighted Max's glasses are merely glass, not actually corrective. "Max" is really Leo who was outraged his brother was going to push him out of the studio. He tricked Max into pulling a Twin Switch like when they were kids, then killed him and took on his identity so he could keep running the studio.
  • An interesting variation shows up in the Castle episode, "A Dance With Death": Odette, Upper-Class Twit, meets an indigent lookalike while on court mandated community service and hires her to do all her dirty work (mostly further court sentences). Nobody knows they're actually two people. Odette dies in a freak train accident. Her doppleganger takes over her life and all her cash, cause why the heck not?
    • It turns out, this was the reason for her murder: The real Odette had conspired to kill her grandfather for her inheritance with her financial manager. When he ranted on it to the lookalike, her shock made him realize she wasn't the real Odette and he killed her both to keep it quiet and his outrage that a "dirty stripper" took over the life of a woman he'd secretly lusted after.
  • Rex Buckland and Hannah Webster, the recurring villains from the first series of Charmed, were found to have killed and taken over the identities of the original Rex and Hannah in an attempt to get the Charmed Ones powers.
  • Happened in The Closer episode "Living Proof", where what seems at first to be an unsuccessful attempt at Offing the Offspring turns out to have been a result of the sisters and father of a man killed in a massacre during The Yugoslav Wars finding out that the man's identity is being used by one of the apparent killers.
  • An episode of Cold Case involved the case of a married couple initially thought to have been killed by an accidental gas leak that caused an explosion and fire in their home, only for evidence to surface revealing that it was the result of a bomb. After interviewing the friends of the couple who had visited them the weekend before, the detectives realized that one of them overheard the supposedly dead wife saying almost verbatim something that another friend had said to them. The detectives soon realized that after enticing her ex-lover to kill her husband and her friend (they wanted to confess about a crime they had all been involved in a decade earlier), the wife fled the home and assumed her now dead friend's identity—they bore a strong resemblance to each other and the woman apparently had no other friends or family who could reveal her secret.
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard: In "Death in the Dressing Room", a maid takes the place of a murdered dancer and appears in the nightclub floor show to make it look like the dancer was murdered later than she actually was and allow the killer to establish an alibi.
  • Columbo, Prescription: Murder. A psychiatrist, a wife, and a patient-turned-girlfriend.
  • A Coronation Street plot had John Stape impersonate his friend Colin Fishwick after he died.
  • Nate Haskell, the “Dick and Jane killer” in CSI is revealed to have killed the actual Nate Haskell, who was a traveling salesman who just happened to visit Haskell’s house, and took his name.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "The Imposter", a peddler finds the gun on the corpse of a deceased marshal, and takes both it and the man's identity, becoming the marshal of a small town.
  • It's a semi-common occurance in Death in Paradise of at least once a season where the killer will impersonate the victim (due to sharing similar builds, being seen from a distance or wearing something to conceal their face and voice).
    • Richard Poole's demise in the season 3 premiere was because he realized that Sasha Moore, his best friend from college, was actually her supposedly dead sister Helen Reed.
    • In "Dishing Up Murder," after temperamental celebrity chef Robert Holt was stabbed to death by his son in a heated fight, the rest of his inner circle, who all hate him, conspire to cover up the crime to protect the son. This includes having Robert's brother Gary impersonate him for the soft-opening of Robert's new restaurant on St. Marie, setting up the opening so that nobody actually needs to see Robert.
    • In "The Healer", a faith healer has being masquerading as his best friend (who he killed) for decades. The Victim of the Week knew this but had no conclusive proof, and so arranged her suicide to look like she'd been murdered at his hands so that he'd face some sort of justice.
    • In "Tour de Murder", the killer's accomplice takes the place of the Victim of the Week at the start of a cycle race (wearing full cycling gear including helmet and wraparound sunglasses, and arriving just before the start of the race to prevent anyone getting a good look at them) to make it look like the victim died later than they actually did and allowing the killer to establish an alibi.
  • Before he first appeared on Doctor Who, Captain Jack Harkness, a 51st-century ex-Time Agent, took his name and identity from a World War II RAF American volunteer captain who was shot down when he was caught off guard in a training exercise in 1941. We don't find this out until the Torchwood series 1 episode "Captain Jack Harkness," in which Jack and Tosh travel back to 1941 Cardiff and meet the actual Captain Jack, whom Jack falls for, the night before the real Jack's death.
  • Back in the 60's, this was the whole plot of The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, a short-lived sitcom starring Red Buttons as the title character. I remember it chiefly for its theme song: "A foreign spy, A Red spy, The Number U-31, On his first day out, He's done in by a hit-and-run. 'Gotta find a man who looks just like U-31'—'WHO? ME?? Henry Phyfe'...If Henry Phyfe can keep his disguise a big mystery, This could be the greatest deception in history, With a little luck, he might even fool the enemy..."
  • Probably the case for "Patrick Crawley" of Downton Abbey. He has a horribly disfigured face from being wounded in World War I and a Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story (he claims he was mistakenly believed dead after the sinking of the Titanic, was rescued but had amnesia, then lived in Canada for a while and picked up a Canadian accent because he didn't even remember he was English) but his story is contrived enough that he's probably just trying to con the Crawleys into accepting him as a member of their wealthy family and heir to the estate and only Edith believes him.
  • In Due South,Victoria Metcalfe assumes her sister's identity briefly after a car crash. She went to the morgue as her sister to ID her sister's body as hers and thus get the police off her trail.
  • Endeavour: In "Trove", a successful local businessman turns out to be a case of this. As a private during WWII, he was on long range patrol with his commanding officer when the officer was killed. Seeing a chance to escape his unhappy life at home, he stole the captain's rank and identity.
  • Father Brown: In "The Truth in the Wine", a sergeant took over the identity of a colonel with whom he shared a hospital room. Realising he was dying, the colonel asked the sergeant (who had no family) to take over his identity and return to England to fulfill his dream of turning the family estate into a vineyard. Not having been home to England in decades, he was confident no one would spot the substitution and coached the sergeant on everything he would need to know.
  • Farscape: John impersonates a dead Peacekeeper officer in a bid to infiltrate a Peacekeeper base and save Aeryn's life. It... didn't go so well.
  • As in the source books, the Battle of Blackwater on Game of Thrones features "the ghost of Renly" leading a host of forces wearing the dead would-be-king's unique armor. The reveal that the man in the armor is Loras Tyrell, Renly's lover turns it into a bit of a Grand Romantic Gesture as a fulfillment of a promise to fight for him made to Renly over a season earlier.
  • At the start of Hannibal season 3, Hannibal Lecter is living in Florence under the identity of Roman Fell, an art professor he murdered.
  • In Haven, Arla Cogan the Bolt-Gun Killer has the ability of impersonate others by wearing their skins as a Trouble. The killer uses a bolt gun in order to preserve the victims' skins to be worn later.
  • Sylar from Heroes did this after killing Zane Taylor, and a couple of other times. This common tactic is turned against him at the end of season three when after killing Nathan Petrelli and taking his form, Sylar is brainwashed by Matt Parkman into thinking he actually is Nathan Petrelli.
  • Highlander uses this like the film. Even Duncan-the baby born Duncan Macleod died at birth, and Duncan was found at the same time. The nurse believed he was a changeling, but Ian and Mary raised him anyway.
  • Hunter: The episode "Fire Man" features a pyromaniac former Vietnam War soldier who, in order to hide his arsonous activities from the cops, poses as one of his deceased buddies because they looked so similar.
  • This was the subject of an episode of The Incredible Hulk (1977), of all things; David went to work for a young woman called Renee who was apparently being "Haunted" (the name of the episode) by the ghost of her twin sister who drowned when they were little girls. It turned out that Renee was the sister who'd drowned, and she had pretended to be "Renee" all these years because everyone liked her better - but years of having to repress who she really was started to get to her...
  • Jonathan Creek has had this happen a couple of times.
  • Justified: In "Where's Waldo", we learn that the real Waldo Truth died decades before. Harold Shawn has been masquerading as Waldo for years so that he and the Truth family can collect Waldo's disability checks.
  • The Last Detective has an episode called Lofty concerning the death of a deranged beggar who is found to keep all of his World War II documentation in a cigar box, leading the police to at first think he is a particular soldier. It turns out that the soldier (who was tall and thus the original Lofty) was killed in battle and his friend, a Classy Cat-Burglar and Lovable Rogue before the war, had such serious PTSD that his mind was broken and he ended up as that beggar who everyone knew as Lofty. Just to note, the episode references the Ironic Nickname idea, in that someone nicknamed Lofty would actually be assumed to be short rather than otherwise.
  • An episode of Law & Order had a woman killing her sister and them assuming her identity to avoid the wrath of the mobsters who had killed her boyfriend because of his gambling debts and were now after her.
  • In two episodes of Law & Order: SVU:
    • One episode involved twin sisters Ava and Irina who were Romanian mail-order brides; Irina's husband was kind and the marriage was good, but Ava divorced her husband because he abused her, only to apparently have been murdered shortly thereafter. They then learn that it was actually Irina who had been killed because the murderer mistook her for Ava, and Ava assumed her identity so the murderers wouldn't learn of their mistake and because she was trying to buy freedom for another sister, who had also been put aside by her husband and then forced into prostitution. The husband is understandably disgusted when he learns that the woman he shared a bed with and helped raise his daughter for three years was an impostor, despite her claims that she did love him and hid the truth to protect him.
    • In another episode, a girl reunites with her family after being missing for several years and was thought to be dead, but the detectives discover the girl is an impostor because her tattoo doesn't match. The missing girl's older sister believes the impostor had something to do with the girl's disappearance and might know if she's alive or dead. The trope is subverted, then played straight. The impostor never met the missing girl, but saw her photo on a website, realized they looked alike and tried to gain entry to her family to escape her father, who kept her in sexual captivity after lying about her mother being dead. After her father is arrested and she's reunited with her mother, the impostor girl felt the need to go back to the missing girl's family to tell them something... that the girl she had been impersonating had been dead all along, having been murdered by her other sister the day she went missing; the guilty sister had been using this against the imposter, which is how she found out. Even worse, their mother found out a few years after it happened but never said anything because she didn't want to lose another child.
  • In an episode of Lewis, a rock'n'roll star who was thought to have committed suicide, but whose body was never found appears to have come Back from the Dead. Her old bandmates (and Lewis, who used to be a big fan) are overjoyed. As it turns out, however, the star in question really was dead all along, and the woman who showed up was actually her sister.
  • Lost:
    • In late season 1, Kate plans to take the identity of a survivor who drowned on day 6. She never got to do it, though.
    • The Smoke Monster does this with various people, most notably Locke in a very long con and probably Christian Shepherd.
  • Lost Love in Times: Qing Chen briefly impersonates Xian Wu when she speaks to Yuan Ming.
  • MacGyver (1985):
  • Mad Men: This is the defining characteristic of Don Draper, the main character. Born Dick Whitman, his mother was a prostitute who died during birth and left his upbringing to his father and stepmother. He ran away to join the army, and was with a Lt. Donald Draper in the Korean War when the latter died. Immediately upon Draper's death, Whitman switched their dog tags, and assumed Donald Draper's identity (15 years as of the series' latest season).
  • The entire premise of the '60s TV show The Man Who Never Was - an American spy in Germany on the run from the enemy meets his exact double, a wealthy man. When the double is killed, the spy assumes his identity.
  • A M*A*S*H episode concerns a soldier who picked up the dog tags of a friend who was due to be sent home but had been killed. The young man confesses his deception to Father Mulcahy but insists he's going to go through with it. Ultimately, he is persuaded to give up his charade by being reminded of his friend's family who would never know what happened to their loved one.
  • Medium:
    • Used in an episode where the impersonator has been using the dead man's secret, unpublished memoir to convince the dead man's wife that he's the dead man's spirit in a new body. It backfires when the impersonator doesn't "remember" "his" affair with his sister-in-law, which he obviously couldn't put into writing. This might be a Take That! to Ghost Whisperer's Jim/Sam arc, where the ghost of Melinda's husband Jim takes over the body of a guy named Sam and gets a nasty case of double-amnesia, with his body's medical history saying he's this person while his heart says he's another He (Jim) gets better.
    • There is one plot where a man murders his female relative, but nobody realises that she is dead because his mistress has plastic surgery to make her look exactly like the dead woman. The makers of the show liked this plot so much they used it TWICE! (s3e12 and s5e9). And, the second time, the mistress impersonates the murderer's SISTER!
  • On Midnight, Texas, Reverend Emilio Sheehan is a werewolf who also acts as the town's holy man and moral center. In season 2, after he's cured of his curse, Lumel is confused to find Rev digging a grave with his name on it. Rev admits that a decade earlier, he was a drifter who killed the real Father Sheehan under a full moon. With his dying breath, the priest forgave him and asked God to help him. The drifter took Sheehan's truck and clothes and found his way to Midnight, asking for forgiveness in a church. He was confronted by vampire Lumel who assumed he was the new priest. Realizing this town was supernatural, "Rev" took up this identity to help others and atone for his past. In the present, he says that with his curse gone, he wants to travel the world and help others. As he's about to leave, Lumel asks what his real name is and he simply smiles "Just call me Rev."
  • In the Mission: Impossible episode "The Heir Apparent," Cinnamon impersonates a long-lost princess to prevent a regent from taking over a small Baltic monarchy.
  • At least three episodes of Monk:
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Airplane", Stefan Chabrol's mistress poses as Stefan's wife Barbara on the flight after shooting the real Barbara in an airport bathroom.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas", Daniel Thorn strangles his wife Sheryl in a private elevator. Then he has his identically dressed mistress Teresa Telenko switch places with the corpse so that photographers waiting at the bottom think Sheryl strangled herself on her own scarf when getting on the elevator to go back up to the penthouse.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert", singer Kris Kedder kills Stork Murray, a roadie who had threatened to expose him for copyright infringement, stuffs his body into a port-a-potty, and makes it look like he overdosed. Except he finds a pin and realizes that Stork has been off drugs for seventeen months. Aware that nobody, especially not Stork's girlfriend Kendra Frank (who is also Stork's Narcotics Anonymous sponsor), will believe that Stork overdosed after being clean for so long, he waits until the next morning, then dons Stork's bandanna and a pair of sunglasses (to hide his eyes) and visits an acupuncturist, making sure she hears him claim he's gotten over a fear of needles and he wants to find some heroin to get high, to give the appearance that Stork relapsed. He then plants a map in the real Stork's jacket pocket so as to validate that "Stork" really went to the acupuncturist. However, the impersonation falls apart after Monk recalls the acupuncturist stating that Kedder blew up a girl's beachball after his appointment and also recalls that Kedder suffers from asthma, requiring him to use a unique mint-flavored inhaler.
    • In "Mr. Monk Is Someone Else", the FBI have Monk pose as a recently deceased hitman named Frank DePalma, who turns out to be Monk's identical doppelganger, to thwart a potential mob assassination.
  • On My Name Is Earl, after Ralph escapes from Prison in only a pair of briefs, he is taken in by an old woman (who is shown to be more than a little bit senile) when she catches him trying to steal her "Meals on Wheels". She let him pick out some of her late husband's old clothes, including his old coke-bottle glasses. When Ralph tries the glasses on, the old woman assumes he's her husband, and Ralph runs with it because now he doesn't have to worry about food or shelter. Later, when doubting karma, Earl puts on the clothes and uses the same tactic, and throws Ralph out of the house.
  • Once on NCIS: Los Angeles, Callen briefly assumes the identity of a recently-killed federal agent to distract the cartel leader who wanted him dead, allowing the rest of the team to take him out.
  • In Neighbours, Andrea Somers impersonated Dione Bliss (both played by Madeleine West), who had been missing, presumed drowned, for over thirteen years, with the intention of getting her hands on Dee's inheritance. She managed to fool Dee's husband Jarrod as well as several of her friends and neighbours, but was ultimately found out. The trope was then subverted two years later when the real Dee turned up after all.
  • New Tricks: In "The Fame Game", a celebrity impersonator conspired the wife of the celebrity to murder the celebrity (and the impersonator's wife). The impersonator then took over the celebrity's life.
  • In one episode of NUMB3RS, David thinks that Ron Allen, a supposed witness to a burglary, isn't on the up-and-up, so he runs a deep background check and finds that the real Ron Allen died in infancy. They eventually discover that he'd been pulling this scam with different identities at different schools for years, stealing things from each school as he went along.
  • From The Office (US)
    Creed Bratton: "Nobody steals from Creed Bratton. The last person that tried disappeared. His name? Creed Bratton."
  • Once Upon a Time:
    • It's revealed early in season one that Rumplestilskin made a deal to get King George his son, Prince James. When James dies unexpectedly, and the king needs James to prevent a war, Rumplestilskin reveals that the family he got James from had twins. The king quickly grabs the twin, David, and forces him to play the role of his son. Oh, and David's nickname via Snow White? Prince Charming.
    • In an episode of the second season, a plot twist reveals that the present-day Lancelot has been Cora in disguise all along. She reveals she murdered him long before the events of the episode.
    • A major twist of season four is that Zelena murdered the real Marian and has been using a charm to assume her appearance the entire season.
  • This is initially the premise of Orphan Black, aided by the fact that Sarah happens to look just like Beth, who she sees kill herself. However, things get complicated. Not only does Sarah find out that Beth was a cop, she also learns that she and Beth are clones... and there are more of them out there.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "In Another Life", the project manager Mason Stark impersonates his Alternate Universe counterpart, the Eigenphase Industries CEO Mason, after he is killed.
    • In "Skin Deep", Sid Camden impersonates Chad Warner using a Holographic Disguise after killing him.
  • On an episode of The Pretender, Jarod tries to help a man who collapsed in his room. He dies and Jarod discovers the man was a hitman. Jarod borrows his identity for a while in order to help the people he was hired to kill.
  • Person of Interest:
    • Crossing over with Impersonating an Officer, John Reese repeatedly identifies himself as Detective Stills, a Dirty Cop he killed in the pilot.
    • The episode "Proteus" featured a serial killer who assumed his victim's identity until he got bored and started looking for his next victim. He did this at least seven times before being stopped.
  • In the Argentinian Soap Opera Perla Negra, a young single mother named Eva Pacheco has been made an Unexpected Successor, which doesn't suit her Big, Screwed-Up Family (the Alvarez Toledo clan) well; she decides to confront them and present them her baby son Charlie, born from a one-night stand with a Chick Magnet named Tomás, one of the Alvarez Toledo. Eva takes her best friend and former Boarding School roommate, a girl named Perla, with her as moral support... but their car crashes, Eva dies and Perla survives. By mistake, the Alvarez Toledo think Perla is actually the real Eva; Perla, an orphan dropped off as a baby in the Boarding School, lets them think so so she can take over Eva's identity, son and life mission to protect her dear baby!Charlie, not knowing that she's going to learn about her own mysterious past as she fights the Alvarez Toledo clan for the kid's sake. Even more, Perla actually finds Tomás again... and since had already met when Eva was still alive (and he tried to seduce her but Perla didn't take the bait), Tomás already knows that Perla isn't Eva, and Perla herself hates him since she believes he heartlessly dumped the pregnant Eva and has already sworn revenge against him (in reality, Tomás never knew that she was pregnant). And this is just the start.
  • The Princess Wei Young: Xin Er pretends to be Wei Young. She's helped by the fact none of the Li family have seen Wei Young for years, but some of them still suspect she's an impostor.
  • Word of God says Jim Profit of Profit would have been revealed to be this, had the show been renewed another season.
  • Happens twice in the Pushing Daisies episode "Pigeon". First a criminal impersonates the man whose apartment he's just crashed a hijacked crop duster into. Then later, we discover that the same criminal has been part of a two-way impersonation: he promised to keep up his cellmate's letters to his sweetheart after the cellmate died, while in the meantime the sweetheart had also died, but made her daughter promise to keep up the letters.
  • One episode of the remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) took the murder mystery variant to ridiculous extremes. The detectives never actually met any of the victims, because the killer pulled off three simultaneous Dead Person Impersonations.
    • The original series had a man show up claiming to be Marty's spirit in another man's body... except since the real Marty's spirit is still hanging around haunting Jeff, Jeff knows right away he's a fake.
  • An episode of Red Cap had an army officer revealed as taking the identity of a dead childhood friend. The friend had committed suicide after being bullied by a teacher; he'd murdered the teacher in retaliation and been sentenced to juvenile court. On his release the father of the deceased helped him use his son's identity to join the British army, which as a convicted criminal he would normally be unable to join.
  • Technically the case in Revenge as Amanda Clarke goes by Emily Thorne after the real Emily died, but the two had swapped identities well before Emily's death.
  • The basic premise of Ringer, in which a woman takes the place of her dead twin. Except her twin isn't dead...
  • In Sherlock episode "His Last Vow", it's revealed that the real Mary Morstan was stillborn and buried decades ago. The woman who John married took her identity to escape her old life as a trained assassin. Leads to Becoming the Mask with forgiveness and acceptance from John.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Face of the Enemy," a group of Romulan dissidents murder the Tal Shiar Political Officer on their ship, kidnap Counsellor Troi, and disguise her to resemble the dead officer, and force her to help them send some defectors to the Enterprise.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the last season, series villain Gul Dukat assumes the identity of the dead Bajoran Anjohl Tennan in order to exploit a past connection with Kai Winn.
    • In the first season episode "Duet", a minor Cardassian clerk pretends to be the commandant of the cruelest work camp in a bid to get the Cardassians to admit to their war crimes against Bajor and appease his own conscience.
    • In "Through The Looking Glass", Sisko is taken to the Mirror Universe and made to impersonate his counterpart, who was killed by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.
    • In “Past Tense”, after finding himself in 21st Century San Francisco, Sisko impersonates martyr Gabriel Bell after he dies before leading the riots that bore his name, in order to ensure history progresses as it’s supposed to.
  • In Star Trek: Discovery, this happens when the titular ship ends up in the Mirror Universe. In order to survive and find their way back, many officers, plus the ship herself, have to pretend to be their Evil Doppelgangers. While they don't really know the fate of the ISS Discovery and her crew at the time, they eventually discover that she was destroyed by Prime!Klingons not long after the ships switched places, so the trope still applies. In the case of Lorca, his double is listed as MIA, so it's easy enough to pretend to be the same one (in a twist, he actually ends up being Mirror!Lorca all along). After the Discovery gets back to the Prime universe, Emperor Philippa Georgiou convinces Admiral Cornwell and Sarek to allow her to take the place of her deceased counterpart in order to help them take out Qo'noS, with the Admiral declaring that "Captain Georgiou" was mistakenly listed as KIA and was, in fact, captured by the enemy.
  • Supernatural has used this a few times.
    • Demons like to steal the identity of whatever body they're currently wearing. In the episode The Magnificent Seven, one of the Sins possesses the body of a hunter they just killed in order to taunt his wife. The fact that everyone knew it was an act appeared irrelevant.
    • Played straight with Adam Milligan, who dies before he's even introduced. Killed and then impersonated by a shape-shifting ghoul, the goal was to get revenge on Adam's father, John Winchester. After discovering that John's been dead for years, the ghoul decides that Sam and Dean will make worthwhile substitutes.
    • It is unclear whether the Leviathans replaced or just possessed their first human hosts, but they are shape-shifters and (just like any other shapeshifter on this show,) they need some DNA to base a new body off of. The most popular way for a Levi to get it? Eat the victim, take on their identity, continue as normal.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron assumed the identity of resistance fighter Allison Young after killing her, in an attempt to infiltrate John Connor's resistance. It is all but outright said that she failed, was captured, and reprogrammed by John. Several other terminators in the series have done the same thing, most notably the machines impersonating Greenway and Vick.
    • Not to mention Weaver.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "The Once and Future King", Gary Pitkin, an Elvis Impersonator from 1986, gets into a fight with the real Elvis Presley on July 4, 1954 as Elvis believes that he is a demon who has been sent to tempt him with evil music. In the struggle, Elvis is killed when he is accidentally impaled on the neck of his broken guitar. After burying his body, Gary assumes Elvis' identity and becomes the King of Rock & Roll.
  • The Nordic Noir drama Twin revolves around twin brothers; one of them is accidentally killed in a fight with the other, and the surviving twin reluctantly takes his place to prevent both him and his brother's widow being implicated in the death.
  • Ultraman Mebius: Mebius' human form Mirai Hibino is based on a young spaceship crewman named Hiroto Ban who sacrificed his life to save the ship from being sucked into a wormhole. Mebius had attempted to rescue him, only to have Hiroto slip out of his grasp at the last moment. So as a reminder of Hiroto's sacrifice and his own failure, Mebius made his human identity that of Hiroto.
  • The most famous example in Soap Opera is La Usurpadora (with its several versions and remakes), who combines this trope with Twin Switch, Separated at Birth, and Magical Nanny.
  • Happened in an episode of White Collar. Neal accidentally goes undercover as a hit man, and in the end it turns out that the guy who hired the hit in the first place did it to prevent people finding out that the man he's pretending to be is really the man he killed over twenty years ago.
  • In The Wild Wild West's "The Night of the Falcon," one of a group of criminals vying to control the title device is killed, and Artie takes his place. As none of the others know what the guy really looks like, Artie is (for once) never unmasked as a fake at an awkward time.
  • The second episode of the first season of Zoe Busiek: Wild Card, "The Learning Curve", focuses on Zoe investigating her first fraud assignment when the house of a community activist, Marilyn Lee, burns down and takes Marilyn's sister's life alongside many of her possessions. However, Marilyn has adapted far too well to moving into her sister's house, doesn't know the true value of what she's claiming insurance for, and has completely forgotten about her medical prescriptions, leading Zoe to deduce that the sister stole Marilyn's identity and committed arson to make Marilyn's body unrecognizable.

  • sasakure.UK's Fukashigi Monoyukasy: "Ghost Light" reveals that Sato is impersonating her dead friend.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions. In the supplement Enemies II, the supervillain Black Paladin is a warrior of an evil cult from the time of King Arthur. He was placed in an enchanted sleep and wakened by a college student in modern times. He murdered the student and assumed his identity.
  • In Exalted, we have this played out by the devious Deathlord known as Eye and Seven Despairs. Publicly, his three lieutenants seduced his concubine and they all conspired to have him destroyed (by chaining him up, putting him in a sack and throwing it into Oblivion), and now they rule together, all three lieutenants enjoying the concubine's favors. In reality, the concubine had informed Eye and Seven Despairs of his lieutenants' plan to destroy him, so he switched places with her, tricking his lieutenants into destroying her instead of him, and is now playing the three of them against one another using seduction and cruel mind games, both to make them pay and to continue controlling them. Do I need to mention he is as mad as he is cunning?
  • In Pathfinder Dr. Skule, the reclusive alchemist and knowledge broker with an obsession with researching the regenerative abilities of trolls, is actually his own former test subject, who took up the late doctor's identity after he was killed by debt collectors. As an 8-foot tall monster notorious for devouring people he didn't feel safe exposing himself, so he doubled down on the reclusive aspect and taught himself alchemy.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade has a few examples, thanks to Obfuscate and Vicissitude, but "Melinda Galbraith", Regent of the Sabbat, is a prominent example. The real Melinda Galbraith was found dead and a pile of ashes by a Tzimisce drag queen fleshcrafted to look like her for a big social gather. As he'd recently been disgraced, he knew he'd be blamed for her murder, and thus stepped into her shoes. Now he's just praying no one finds out...
    • Then there's Kemintiri, who earned her place as one of vampire society's most wanted fugitives by killing and impersonating the Ventrue Justicar for over a decade before she was found out.

  • In Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi Buoso Donati has died. His relatives find his will, and discover that he has disinherited them. They bring in Gianni Schicchi to impersonate Buoso so that the will gets changed. Gianni gives each relative the property that they desired, but then he takes the best part of Buoso's estate for himself! And Buoso's relatives can't do anything about it, because they would have to admit they were part of the conspiracy as well!
  • And of course, the musical Martin Guerre. This version makes the real Martin and his imposter friends, and the imposter truly believes Martin is dead when he unknowingly assumes his identity, including falling in love with his wife. Of course, the trouble is Martin's Not Quite Dead...
  • The plot of Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is based on the eponymous character, living under apartheid in South Africa, switching places with a murdered man in order to be allowed to stay in Port Elizabeth.
  • Downplayed in Twelfth Night: Viola doesn't literally assume the identity of her twin brother Sebastian, whom she believes to have died in the shipwreck in which they were both involved, but she does base her Sweet Polly Oliver disguise on him. Which leads to a lot of confusion when he shows up in town (as well as revealing to her that Sebastian is alive after all).

    Video Games 
  • Happens with Weiss in Agarest Senki 2. The real Weiss tried to kill Chaos, but has a doubt in the end when Chaos told him that killing him would end badly for the world. Unfortunately, Faz, who is actually Mobius in disguise has another plan, so he stabbed the two and transferred Chaos's soul inside the dead Weiss's body, and this is the Weiss you're controlling all this time.
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has Edward Kenway as a pirate who ends up killing an Assassin and taking his identity. It turns out that the Assassin was defecting to the Templars, so Edward is more than happy to play along, seeing an opportunity to get rich. Then the Templars figure out the truth, the other Assassins find him, and Edward ends up becoming the real thing. Bonus points for being able to pull it off for that long, having never previously heard of either the Assassins or the Templars.
  • Iosefka from Bloodborne is a Choir Doctor who infuses the Old Blood of the Great One onto her test subjects, she murdered the real Iosefka and turned her into a Celestial Mob shortly after you arrived Cathedral Ward. The Imposter Doctor's name is in fact unknown, not even mentioned in the credit whatsoever.
  • Countess Crey from City of Heroes is the "assume the identity of the murder victim" variation.
  • In Custom Robo Arena, it's eventually revealed that Scythe, the leader of the Greybaum Syndicate, has been impersonating Dr. Mars, who died at some point prior to the events of the game.
  • In the tenth Dark Parables game, Goldilocks and the Fallen Star, the Sun Goddess reveals to the detective that the Queen of Barsia is actually a mechanical automaton. When the late king's daughters were children, one died in a tragic accident, and he had the royal craftsman create the lifelike mechanical copy in order to ease his other daughter's grief. No one knew that one of the princesses was really just a machine except for the king, the surviving princess, and the craftsman. Because the surviving princess was out of contact at the time of her father's death, the automaton was crowned queen by the council, who had no idea.
  • Dragon Age
    • In rare cases, Spirits that are particularly impressed by a certain person are capable of taking on that person's appearance and memories after he or she dies. In most cases, the Spirit appears as an incorporeal ghost, a shadow of the person they are impersonating. In extremely rare circumstances, the person's impression on the Spirit is so strong that the Spirit can take that person's physical form and pick up where they left off. The most prominent example of this is Cole, a Spirit of Compassion who impersonates a young mage that he was unable to save. This tendency of Spirits was eventually used to explain the infamous issue of party member Leliana appearing in every game in the series even if the player killed her in the first installment: a spirit empowered by the lyrium surrounding the Urn of Sacred Ashes broke through the Veil and took Leliana's form.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, fugitive Thom Rainier had been pretending to be Warden-Constable Blackwall for almost four years by the time you meet him. Rainier was a Orlesian army captain who took a bribe to assassinate an ally of Empress Celene. When he and his showed up to do the job, Rainier told his men to leave no survivors, unaware that the target's family was there as well. Rainier abandoned his men and went into hiding, where he eventually met the real Blackwall, who recruited Rainer to the Grey Wardens. Before Rainier could perform his Joining, however, the real Blackwall died fighting darkspawn. Since Rainier had no proof (as far as he knew) that he didn't just kill Blackwall, he assumed his identity and went into hiding again.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, an early Great House Hlaalu quest has you impersonating a deceased House Redoran agent in order to pick up coded information, with the specific identity varying depending on if you're playing as a male or a female character. The impersonation is made easier as the deceased agent always wore a closed helmet, which you are provided at the start of the quest. Notably, as they cannot wear closed helmets, you will not be offered this quest if you're an Argonian or a Khajiit.
  • The background story for Fall from Heaven features the Buggane, a type of demon who's preferred hunting style is to find a married couple when one of the people is away from home. It first impersonates the missing person all day, until it's in bed with the other spouse to kill them. When the distant spouse returns it does the same thing in reverse.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Setzer of Final Fantasy VI takes on the personality and reputation of his mentor, Daryl, after she dies. There's also Cyan, who writes letters claiming to be a woman's long-distance boyfriend after her real boyfriend dies.
    • Final Fantasy VII has Cloud's backstory revolve around this. Since he was rendered mentally unstable by experimentation and trauma, and had little self-esteem before that point, he takes on the life story of his best friend, Zack. In the original, it was portrayed as Cloud finally snapping for good - in the remade scene in Crisis Core, it was portrayed as a conscious, but the decision to live in Zack's honor. Either way, Cloud ends up genuinely believing that he was in SOLDIER, and the illusion comes apart in the most painful way possible later on.
      • They also have Jenova do this trope. Example:
      • Once the creature emerged from the impact site and approached the Cetra settlement, it read their minds and adopted the forms of dead relatives to get close to them.
      • Hojo duped Sephiroth into believing this thing is his real mother. Thanks to the Jenova cells in her body, Lucrecia was unable to die, though; instead she fled, eventually winding up in the Crystal Cave where she turned herself to crystal (as a penance and, perhaps, to stop herself from mutating).
    • Final Fantasy XIV has this as a reveal near the end of the 3.5 storyline when you learn that Yda is actually Lyse, her sister, who watched her die when escaping the Ala Mhigan invasion, and took up her name and mantle as a member of the Circle of Knowing.
  • As a Mythology Gag to the Friday the 13th Part 2 example in Film, a female player in Friday the 13th: The Game can wear Pamela's sweater to fool and stun Jason momentarily, but only once. This is one of the steps towards killing him.
  • In Ghost Trick, Sissel does this by accident, assuming that the blond-haired man in the opening was him. It turns out that man is Yomiel, the game's Big Bad, and Sissel's actual body was hidden in a case behind Yomiel's the whole time.
  • At the beginning of The Last Express, the main character finds his murdered friend's body in a train carriage. Since the protagonist is already a fugitive for an earlier incident and can't be seen by the police, he assumes his friend's identity in order to track down the killer.
  • One of the victims in Laura Bow: The Dagger of Amon Ra is actually impersonating a dead professor... whom you also find as a skeleton.
  • Probably the ultimate example of this is in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, in which Link is taught a magical song that allows him to extract evil curses from the living and worldly sorrows from the dead to create magical masks. These masks allow him to shapeshift into whoever they're from, so he ends up impersonating individuals of different species - the Goron hero Darmani, Zora guitarist Mikau, and a Deku Scrub boy who is heavily implied to be the murdered son of the Deku Palace butler.
  • In Lobotomy Corporation, Nothing There uses the skin of its last victim to try and trick others into dismissing it as an ordinary person. The disguises are not quite perfect though, as their skin will deteriorate after a while and it has trouble copying speech.
  • In Martha Is Dead, Giulia pretends to be her twin sister Martha after discovering her corpse.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • If you kill Samara at the end of her loyalty mission, her daughter Morinth will take her place, pretending to be Samara to hide what you and she did. All but Kelly Chambers and Kasumi Goto don't ask any questions.
    • In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, Liara takes the place of the Shadow Broker after you kill him. Liara also deduces that the current Broker did the same to the previous... possibly he did the same as well. There's a distinct Dread Pirate Roberts retirement style going on there.
  • The original Metal Gear Solid has more than one example:
    • The most obvious is Decoy Octopus, who took on the identity of the DARPA Chief Donald Anderson after the real Anderson was murdered by Revolver Ocelot.
    • Throughout the entire mission Liquid Snake comes into contact with his brother Solid Snake under the guise of Snake's former drill instructor Master Miller. It isn't until near the end of the mission that Snake finds out that the real Miller died in his home three days prior.
    • Dr. Naomi Hunter bought the identity of another "Naomi Hunter" who disappeared in the middle east a few years prior to the events of the story.
  • In Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You, you find out in Day 4 that Abraham Goldfels, the founder of the activist group Thought, has been dead for four months already, but he apparently sent an email to Nina Maternova the day before. This was actually Juliet Kerrington using his computer to send the mail. And this is not the first time she posed as Goldfels when communicating to a fellow member of Thought; Juliet had also been in contact with Nina weeks earlier to convince her to make and place bombs across Bonton, with the added authority of the group's (deceased) leader.
  • At the start of The Outer Worlds, the adventurer you were supposed to get in contact with, Alex Hawthorne, is killed in an accident and you have to commandeer his ship as your own to progress. For the rest of the game, you are given the option to impersonate Hawthorne by simply claiming to be him when asked for identification (the ship is still registered under his name), which will backfire when you do it on the Groundbreaker, as an old friend of Alex's works there, obviously recognizes that you are not Alex Hawthorne, and will subsequently have the ship impounded out of suspicion that you stole it (which you kinda did).
  • Persona
    • Persona 2 has Nyarlathotep use this as a continued effort in Kick the Dog.
    • In Persona 5 Royal, Kasumi Yoshizawa isn't actually Kasumi at all. She's actually Sumire Yoshizawa, who after wishing she was her recently passed away sister instead of herself, requested Dr. Maruki to brainwash her so she could believe just that and didn't have to confront the fact her sister is gone as well as gaining all of her talents. It doesn't work out in her favor however since her abilities are still Sumire's, although it does give her some sort of self confidence.
  • [PROTOTYPE] does it so thoroughly that even the impersonator is convinced. Learning who the original really was subverts Becoming the Mask.
  • Marcus Cordale is the player character in Queen at Arms, and while everyone believes this is a lovely young man, she and her adoptive brother know that she's really a woman. But what her brother knows, and she does not, is that the real Marcus Cordale was murdered in the same violent coup which left the young woman an orphan. A knight rescued her and, for her own protection, disguised and raised her as his dead younger son. She's actually the missing princess.
  • In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, Sukuna-Hikona does this to General Munakata. To make it worse, to make the deception work, he keeps driving the corpse.
  • Occurs in Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, though it's not intended as a ploy and the dead person in question turns out to be alive.
  • In Rondo of Swords, a prince is killed in the first chapter, and he requests that his Body Double (the main character) assume his identity, protect his sister, and save the kingdom. Depending on the path you take, the protagonist is either exposed and gains a new identity of his own or assumes the prince's life permanently.
  • Occurs at one point in Siren. The catch is that the game never shows you the scene where the character is murdered and replaced, so for a while you continue to play believing that the character in question is the original. Another catch is that the person who murders and impersonates the deceased is his identical twin.
  • Seven Days A Skeptic: The protagonist hijacks an early victim's identity.
  • Tales of Symphonia gives us Kilia, who killed the Governor-General's daughter (or, at least, she died without Dorr noticing) and took her form to keep tabs on Palmacosta.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World a single character impersonates two entirely different dead people at the same time, but the second case is unintentional. It's convoluted like that.
  • Can happen in Team Fortress 2 occasionally, if a Spy backstabs the player in question then disguises as the same class as the person they just stabbed. By doing this they'll sometimes appear with their last victim's name, completing the ruse. With the Spy knife "Your Eternal Reward", this becomes the Spy's primary gameplay choice: The knife prevents the Spy from choosing a disguise. In return, all backstabs become silent, make the body disappear, and instantly disguise the Spy as the dead player.
  • A few examples occur in The Witcher 3. Geralt comes upon a public execution-by-burning of a doppler who had assumed the identity of a local leader of the Eternal Fire after the original died of a heart attack (apparently he was found out because he was too compassionate). In later quests, Geralt enlists the help of a doppler to impersonate the recently deceased Temple guard commander in order to rescue a friend. Later, that doppler impersonates a notorious crime boss (assuming that Geralt killed said boss earlier) and turns his criminal enterprise toward legitimate business.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Justice For All, there is a witness who got into a car crash with her sister. Her sister died and her face was mangled by the accident, and when surgically reconstructing her face, they mistakenly used her sister's driver's license photo. She assumed her sister's identity to escape from the consequences of her actions, including the fact that she was responsible for the crash.
    • Furio Tigre from Trials and Tribulations takes the cake. He not only took over the identity of the person he had just killed, he did so to stage a different crime scene in order to throw off the time of death and frame the waitress in the restaurant where the murder took place. He THEN impersonates (badly, but the less-than-perceptive cast don't realize) the title character himself, to make sure said waitress is successfully tried due to his bad representation.
    • This is inverted in the final case of Trials and Tribulations, where the ghost of Dahlia Hawthorne, being channeled by a spiritual technique where the channeler takes on the appearence of the one being channeled, pretends to be her still-living twin sister in order to frame Phoenix's sidekick Maya for murder.
    • In the second Ace Attorney Investigations game: The president of Zheng Fa was assassinated 12 years prior to the game by his own Body Double (or rather, a hitman hired by the body double) who proceeded to rule the country in the president's place without anyone being the wiser, which kinda explains how the "brave" president everybody believed in is actually a Dirty Coward.
    • This is used in Dual Destinies by the phantom, a international spy who, for the entire game, was disguised as the already dead Detective Bobby Fulbright. Yup, the guy you took as the run-off-the-mill "explain the facts for you while having a silly personality" guy is actually an international spy/terrorist, and is the person behind most of the game's events, as well as the guy who bombed Courtroom No. 4, which the trailers and even the game events lead you into thinking Ted Tonate must have done, by rule of the series. This is probably the biggest and most "twisty" Plot Twist in the entire series.
    • It is revealed in Spirit of Justice that Queen Ga'ran Sigatar Khura'in attempted to frame Dhurke Sahdmadhi, leader of the Defiant Dragons, and paint him as a murderer to kill the spirit of rebellion. However, after Dhurke had been killed by her husband Inga Kharkhuul Khura'in, and his body laid to rest in the tomb's empty sacrophagus, it only messed up her opportunity, so she had to keep up with the facade in order to ambush Inga. She stealthily opened the sarcophagus, took Dhurke's clothes and eyepatch from his own corpse, and dressed herself up in them before proceeding to literally and fatally stab Inga In the Back with a knife, thus pinning the crime on Dhurke himself... or at least his channeled spirit.
  • Shima-kun in CLANNAD After Story, who took the identity of the person he was close to so he can complete his last wish after he died.
  • This is the central problem of the fifth case in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. It quickly becomes apparent that somebody has been turned into mulch by a hydraulic press, and it also quickly becomes apparent that the killer is attending the trial while piloting a Humongous Mecha. The big question is whether Kaito Momota is dead and Kokichi Oma is impersonating him or if it's the other way around. The answer? Kokichi's the victim, and Kaito's driving the mech.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend: In the main game, "Nanaki Kazuaki" is actually Uzune Hitori, who assumed a false identity to infiltrate St. Pigeonation's. In the sequel, Hatoful Boyfriend: Holiday Star, and in other official materials, it's revealed that Nanaki Kazuaki was a real bird who Hitori manipulated into killing himself, by taking advantage of their friendship and telling him they'd kill themselves together. Hitori then began bleaching his feathers and made Kazuaki's body resemble his own, meaning Hitori himself would be legally dead and could safely assume Kazuaki's identity.
  • The plot of the otome game Shall We Date?: Ninja Shadow is kickstarted when a very girly-looking ninja chieftain is murdered. His twin younger sister, the Player Character, decides to invoke the trope and disguise herself as him because he was about to join a Vigilante Man group to get support for their village, plus she wants to get revenge against the murderer.
  • This is the modus operandi of a Snatcher.
  • In Sunrider, the real Arcadius has been dead for years. The Prototype Alice Ashada took up his name after he died, a deception made easier by the fact that Arcadius always wore a mask and used a voice changer to conceal his identity. While many other Prototypes have worn the mask of Arcadius since then, Alice considers herself the only real successor to Arcadius. Some of PACT’s higher-ups are aware of the deception and keep quiet about it, until Fontana exposes “Arcadius’s” secret to the galaxy at the end of the first game.

  • For two arcs of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Doc took the identity of a former rival of his named Dr. McLuchador, who died several years prior, in order to infiltrate King Radical's gang.
  • In Blood Bank, the protagonist is introduced as One—part of the number-name system imposed on many humans who work for the vampire overlords. It isn't until much later that the reader finds out the original One died of plague as a child, and the protagonist assumed his identity to hide from powerful forces who wanted him dead.
  • In Cheating Men Must Die, Su Lüxia manages this even as a ghost herself, to another ghost. After she becomes known to the Taoist Master Palace as a powerful malicious spirit, she disappears and returns as a sweet, meek little ghost called Xiaxia, kept by the Palace to be sacrificed at a later ceremony to maintain balance between the realms. Xiaxia did exist and was in fact Lüxia's cousin from another city, but her spirit was so weak that she used up all her meagre energy and passed on in captivity before Su Lüxia took her place.
  • In Dominic Deegan, Dominic's older brother Jacob makes his dramatic first appearance through this trope on poor Vilrath. Apparently a magic glyph tattooed on one's skin continues working even if someone else is wearing it! Thankfully it is later confirmed that Vilrath was in fact dead and the necromancer wasn't manipulating a still-living skinsuit. Squick.
  • Done accidentally in Juvenile Diversion: In The Vietnam War, after an encounter with a landmine, a soldier wakes up in a hospital with identity amnesia, the rest of his platoon dead, and his dog tags weren't found. The only name he can remember is "Brian", which is assumed to be his. Then remembers his squadmate and best friend Jack, who died in the landmine explosion. Except it was the other way around, as he learned painfully after informing Jack's girlfriend of his death (though one could say in a way, the landmine had killed both of them).
  • Torg from Sluggy Freelance, employs this in a 2010 arc in which a group of supervillains assemble on an island to buy some kind of superweapon. Crushestro kills another villain called the Time Czar in front of all of them, and later on Torg disguises himself as him. Leading to this statement:
    Torg: I er... Timetravelled from before you killed me! And I'm not looking forward to it!
    Everybody else: ...Time travel's confusing.

    Web Animation 
  • The Twins (2022): At the end of the film, Lake ends up taking Lucas' place after the latter's death. He's seen wearing Lucas' clothes and adopts his personality, mainly being smug when he tells Mrs. J that "Lake" is late as usual. The credits show a missing poster of the supposed "Lake", actually the original Lucas.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Geraden takes the identity of Oswald Flynn who died in an earlier battle. He discards the false identity after he has gathered enough followers to take over Port Dunross from the Proninist Party.
  • In Hitherby Dragons, The Cougar, The Bureau replaces people with agents meant to hunt down bad children.
    This isn’t your life. This isn't who you really are.
    You are not this Pa.
  • Variation: In Survival of the Fittest version three, a character named Ken Lawson appears. It is revealed in his profile that he was Burton Harris from v2, except he was the real Burton Harris, and the one that died in the previous game was the real Ken Lawson, his best friend. Burton hadn't wanted to go on the school trip, and convinced Ken to go in his place. Due to the fact that they looked almost identical to each other, Ken was able to successfully pass himself off as Burton, only to be abducted and die in the game. Burton then took Ken's identity and moved across the country, trying to start up anti-SOTF movements in Ken's name. He never forgave himself for the identity-swap, not even when he died by accidentally burying himself alive.
  • Jane resorts to this in the penultimate episode of The Veronica Exclusive to goad Veronica into speaking to her, by logging into a long-dead Heather Chandler's account and using it to message and call Veronica. Even she admits this is far from her classiest move.
  • In Worm, Pretender, a body snatcher, does this with Alexandria's brain-dead, invulnerable body, in order to fight against the Endbringers.

    Western Animation 
  • Zeta the robot from Batman Beyond and later The Zeta Project was programmed to be this way, but his A.I. eventually evolved into an actual personality and he decided he no longer wanted to continue killing and imitating his victims.
  • Futurama: In the episode The Luck of the Fryrish, Philip J. Fry believes that his brother stole his name and went on to live a fulfilling life. In reality, Fry's brother missed him so much that he named his son after Philip.
  • Gorillaz's Phase 3 guitarist Cyborg Noodle is a replacement for original-flavour Noodle, who vanished and was presumed dead at the end of Phase 2. Real Noodle is back. The two haven't met onscreen yet, except for the "Family Portrait" poster design which depicts them posing with Murdoc and 2D.
  • In Gravity Falls, Dipper and Mabel see a newspaper article headlined "Stan Pines Dead" and begin to suspect the man they knew as their great uncle was a fake. He is a fake, but not in the way they thought: he is Stanley Pines, the one the paper says died, and assumed the identity of his brother Stanford Pines (who was alive, but missing).
  • On King of the Hill, Dale often uses the name Rusty Shackleford as an alias, claiming it was the name of a dead kid. Turns out the real Rusty Shackleford is very much alive, and wants Dale to stop using his name.
  • The Raccoons: In order to cheat Cyril Sneer out of half of Sneer Industries, Sid Leech posed as Cyril's long-lost brother Simon.
  • Rick and Morty provides a very dark example. After accidentally spreading a virus over the world that turns everyone into a Blob Monster, Rick and Morty travel to an alternate universe where they did succeed in curing the virus but died moments after their success. Rick considers this their best option and buries their alternate selves in the backyard, leaving Morty traumatized.
  • Happens with Principal Skinner in The Simpsons, who is actually Armin Tamzarian. In the episode "The Principal and the Pauper", "Skinner" is revealed to be an old war buddy of the real Sergeant Seymour Skinner (voiced by Martin Sheen, which is funny because he was in Apocalypse Now), and assumed the sergeant's identity to keep Skinner's mother Agnes from being alone after her real son was thought to have died in the war. When the real Skinner moves in, people start missing the "old" Skinner (even his mother, who preferred the easily domineered Armin over the naturally independent Seymour), culminating in Seymour being driven out of town and a judge giving Armin Skinner's identity. And it never comes up again.
  • In the fifth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), it is revealed that Oroku Saki, the Shredder, had taken both identities from a man-turned-demon in ancient Japan.

    Real Life 
  • Reino Hayhanen, the incompetent fellow-spy of Rudolf Abel, was an ethnic Finn from the Soviet Union. A certain man had been born in the US but grown up in Finland, eventually dying. Hayhanen was smuggled into Finland (truck with a false bottom), where he lived for two years as the dead man. He applied for and got the dead man's passport—since the dead man had been born in the US, this allowed Hayhanen to enter and live in the US as a citizen.
  • A slight twist: in World War II, a counterintelligence plot was conceived by the British, to feed the Germans false information regarding the invasion of Southern Europe. It revolved on making it appear that a plane, en route from Britain to their North African Army HQ, had crashed off the coast of Spain, and a messenger carrying a bag with some highly confidential papers floated ashore, drowned. To turn the corpse they obtained to that end into a "real" person that could stand scrutiny by enemy investigators (both in Spain, and possibly agents in Britain too), the person behind the plot, Captain Montagu, took on the identity of the messenger on several occasions.
  • A man named Jeffrey Howe was murdered and his body cut into pieces so his killers could take his identity and home (after he decided to stop them being The Thing That Would Not Leave).
  • On May 15, 1591, Tsarevich Dmitri Ivanovich, son of Ivan IV and half-brother of then-Tsar Fedor, died of a mysterious knife wound. Rumor initially had it that he was killed by Boris Godunov, father-in-law of Fedor and basically the ruler of Russia (Fedor had...problems), who wanted to become tsar after the childless tsar died. Anyway, the rumors go away, Fedor dies, and Boris becomes tsar. This goes well for him until around 1600, when in the midst of famine and a lot of social tension, a man in Poland claims to be Tsarevich Dmitri, gathers an army, and invades to kill the "usurper". Civil war ensues. Eventually, "Dmitri" takes the throne, but within a year he is killed by a conspiracy of boyars under Prince Vasili Shuiskii. Yet, rumors come out that "Tsar Dmitri" survived, the civil war restarts, and then another man claims to be "Tsar Dmitri." He is killed. Then ANOTHER man claims to be the now-thrice-murdered tsar. Then he is killed, Mikhail Romanov is made tsar, and the rest is history.
    • Nor were these the only times somebody claimed the identity of a dead Tsar in an attempt to usurp the throne. After Peter III was usurped and murdered by his wife Catherine the Great, three different people claimed his identity as well. Most notably the Cossack rebel Yemelyan Pugachev claimed the identity until his rebellion was crushed and he was executed. A fourth person outside of Russia, Stephen the Small, somehow convinced the people of Montenegro that he was Peter III and made their new ruler. When the hoax was exposed...the Montenegrins decided he'd been a better leader than anybody else, so they stuck with him anyway.
  • A common past technique for creating a fake identity in the U.S. was to learn the name and birth date of a child who died in infancy fifteen years earlier, then apply for a Social Security number under that name, as if the kid were getting his or her first summer job. Not used so much nowadays, as federal and local demographic databases can more easily synch up and spot the discrepancy, and there are stricter guards on infant death certificates.note 
    • A similar trick was used in Britain to provide suitable cover identities for undercover police officers infiltrating supposed terrorist organisations, most of which turned out to be largely harmless environmental activists on closer examination when some documents were leaked to the media. The children's next-of-kin were not pleased.
  • One of the most famous real life cases is the story of Martin Guerre, which has inspired a number of fictional works. The real Guerre abandoned his family, and several years later, a man returned claiming to be him. Things went well for a while, but then that man was accused by his in-laws of being an impostor. In this case, things went wrong because the real Guerre was still alive and returned, and the fake one, actually named Arnaud du Thil, was sentenced to death.
  • The Borges Tom Castro story described under the Literature heading is a retelling of the Tichborne claimant incident. A man (real name Arthur Orton, AKA Tom Castro) claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, the disappeared heir to a wealthy and aristocratic English family.
  • Many people have been disqualified from military service over the years due to medical conditions, most of which aren't all that serious. One (quite illegal) way around this is to enlist under a false identity. The person you're trying to impersonate need not actually be dead, though if not, it certainly helps to get his assistance before attempting a stunt like that.
  • After the Russian Revolution and murder of the Romanov family, it was rumored that Grand Duchess Anastasia had somehow survived and/or escaped. For years, many people disputed this, and several claimed to be her, the most notorious impostor being Anna Anderson. After several DNA tests, the remains of all four Grand Duchesses have been confirmed found, thereby proving that none escaped.
  • One major avenue of Medicare fraud in the US (and no doubt having variants in other countries) is to steal many beneficiary identities and run them through fake procedures in scam mills. Sometimes, the identities used are of dead people.
  • A man in Brooklyn put on a ruse as his own dead mother which looks like Black Comedy material. He fared pretty well until he decided to take out a lawsuit under her name.
  • Darius the Great described this scenario to explain his overthrow of the king of Persia. Cyrus the Great had two sons: Cambyses, who succeeded him, and Bardiya (whom Herodotus calls Smerdis). After Cambyses' death, Bardiya became king, but Darius killed him and assumed the throne. But wait: That wasn't Bardiya at all, but an impostor! Cambyses had had his brother assassinated after Cyrus' death, and because the murder was kept secret, a Magian priest was able to steal Bardiya's identity. Many historians suspect the whole thing is a crock and that Darius actually did kill Bardiya, but there's no way of knowing.


Video Example(s):



A newspaper clipping shows that Stan Pines had been dead for years, and that a grifter who looks like the man we know as Stan is at large

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4.92 (12 votes)

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Main / WhamShot

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