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"Either something horrific happened, or there's a naked dwarf running around somewhere..."
The Dwarves, Deep Rock Galactic

Stumbling across a discarded pile of empty clothing is a bad thing in Fiction.

After all, those clothes used to belong to somebody, and people don't just... decide to take off and leave their clothes behind on a regular basis. (Sure, Naked People Are Funny, but let's be serious here.) Therefore, discovering a pile of uninhabited clothing is a definite clue that something... unnatural happened to its owner. The cause may be anything (disintegration, a Shrink Ray, Forced Transformation, Caught Up in the Rapture, an Out-of-Clothes Experience, overdosing on a Fountain of Youth, etc.) but for this trope to play, an onscreen character, the audience — or both — must be less than certain about the how. The Foreshadowing goes double if the clothing is ripped, torn, or otherwise provides forensic clues about what might have happened to them.

This can be considered a combination of No Body Left Behind and the inversion of Magic Pants: For example, if a character was subjected to a transformation into some kind of monster (say, a werewolf), they may have had to rip and shred their own clothing off during the process (unless the process did this all by itself). If the owner's companions should stumble across this monster standing near an empty pile of their friend's shredded clothing, they might mistakenly assume that the monster killed the person (unaware that said monster is person).

Compare Skeleton Crew or Smoldering Shoes, which are similar visual hints that something ominous has happened to a character.

In the event that the owner was merely teleported somewhere else and is otherwise fine (sans clothing, that is), see Naked on Arrival. If the audience and characters onscreen see exactly what happens to cause a set of empty clothes, see Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing.

If clothes are left behind because that's how an endangered person got away safely, that's Giving Them the Strip. If it's Played for Laughs and the character is otherwise fine, it's Right Out of My Clothes.

As this can sometimes be a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In a 2008 Alltel Commercial, a group of nerds summon a wizard to deal with a rival. When he arrives the wizard accidentally disintegrates one of the summoners: The nerds body disappears in a puff of smoke and his clothes fall to the ground in a pile. Another nerd then takes his wallet.
  • Happens in a Koff Beer commercial called "Cinderella", where a man walks up to the bar looking confused and carrying a single shoe. He sees a beautiful woman across the bar. She runs out and he chases her. She runs down an alley about half way. For some odd reason that isn't explained, she disappears in a flash of light. Her dress falls to the pavement covering one of her shoes. He picks up the exposed one and finds himself walking up to the bar looking confused and carrying a single shoe. It's a loop!
  • Featured in the trailer/commercial for 2015 Star Wars Battlefront: Become more powerful, in which several people vanish ala Obi-wan Kenobi style in order to be transferred into the game. Anna Kendrick also makes an appearance.
  • In a trailer for Axe Anti-Dandruff Shampoo titled "Don't Lose Girls to Dandruff", a young man tries flirting with several women at a party, the gym, and the library. Unfortunately, each time, the large amount of dandruff in his hair vaporizes them, leaving behind just their clothing and apparel.
  • An old British advert for Batchelor's Super Noodles consists of a lazy boyfriend demanding his girlfriend make some food. By the time she returns, he's laid his clothes flat across the sofa, with his head popping up over the armrest to give the impression he's "wasted away" in the meantime.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Blast of Tempest: When Hakaze Kusaribe time-travels to the past, she vanishes in a flash of light, but her clothes fall to the floor, and she arrives naked.
  • Bleach:
    • In the "Turn Back the Pendulum" arc, the ninth division knows that something terrible befell the ten Soul Reapers sent to investigate a string of disappearances when they find ten loose uniforms that were removed without being untied.
    • After Kenpachi defeats Gremmy Thoumeaux, he turns to Yachiru only to find her empty uniform.
  • In Cross Ange, the main character Ange is teleported away by Embryo, the bad guy, out of her ship and her clothes.
  • Darker than Black:
    • Kirihara follows an agent she sees at a scene where she doesn't expect him and finds his clothes. The next thing she sees is a chair with another set of clothes "sitting" on it, with sleeves on the arm pads. It's a case of perve-portation, but she doesn't know this at the time.
    • Amber's remuneration for her power is getting younger. After she sacrifices herself to help Hei, she ends up disappearing altogether, with her empty clothes being all that's left of her.
  • Double Arts: This is what happens whenever someone dies of Troy — after the seizures, the victims become transparent and disappear.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In Dragon Ball Z, one of the ways Cell can absorb people is by plunging his stinger tail into them, then sucking up their body as he would liquid through a straw, only leaving their clothes behind. A whole city full of empty clothes is a sure sign that Cell has been feeding (though his victims fortunately end up being revived later).
    • Dragon Ball GT: In the final episode, Goku's uniform is left behind when he vanishes with Shenron for a hundred years.
  • At one point in Fairy Tail, this happens to Wendy, leaving everyone to assume she has been disintegrated. It soon turns out Horologium saved her in the nick of time - but he was only able to move her body, leaving her clothes behind. She gets new clothes shortly thereafter.
  • Used in Fullmetal Alchemist when Alphonse Elric's body is destroyed when he and his brother Edward attempt human transmutation. When Edward sees Al's clothes on the floor, empty, he knows that his little experiment has truly Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • In Lily C.A.T., a flesh-absorbing virus leaves only clothing behind after it assimilates crew members on board the ship.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, after Signum and Shamal are absorbed into the Book of Darkness, only their winter coats remain on the ground. This is repeated in The Movie remake, except that the empty clothes are now hanging off the tentacles that stabbed the Wolkenritter until they're blown off by the high-altitude winds.
  • My Hero Academia: Eri's Quirk allows her to "rewind" living beings to a previous state, including a point when they did not exist at all. She accidentally used it on her father, leaving only his clothes behind and a spilled cup of coffee on the floor.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: This is the end result of Third Impact. The elimination of a human's A.T. Field results in the human completely losing their physical form, transforming them into LCL. The only thing that's left of the person is their clothes and whatever inorganic components that were on them.
  • One Piece uses this trope to signify how a very young Charlotte "Big Mom" Linlin accidentally ate her Parental Substitute Mother Carmel and the children of the Sheep's House alive.
  • Combined with No Body Left Behind in Ranma ˝. When Saffron absorbs everything in range during his metamorphosis, Akane tries to shut off the magical water he needs by closing the Phoenix Tap. Unfortunately, the heat-based Kinjakan, a weapon used to open the device, instantly disintegrates anything that touches it while water is running through the tap. So Akane manages to shut the tap off, Ranma screams at her to run and — after a flash of light, Akane's empty clothes flutter to the ground. It turns out that she's only been magically dehydrated into the size of a doll, still inside those clothes, but pretty much everyone has a Heroic BSoD until they find out that they can still save her.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero: Naofumi and Raphtalia both get worried when they wake up to find the clothing of Princess Melty but no Princess Melty. Then they remember that Filo, a giant bird, had expressed a desire to eat members of her own species and start wondering if that lack of scruples might extend to humans as well. Just as they start reproaching Filo over this the matter is settled when a sleepy Melty sticks her head out of Filo's feathers and wants to know what is going on. It turns out that she had found that sleeping in Filo's down was comfortable and warm but was definitely too warm for clothing. When Raphtalia experimentally sticks her arm in the down she finds it comfortable too and immediately falls asleep. Naofumi mutters something and goes back to bed as well.
  • In Scryed, Scheris Adjani attempts to save her love interest by using her powers, which drains her life force. It happens off screen, but when he wakes up, all he finds are her clothes.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: We see Hendricksen ready to melt Dreyfus with his acid powers. When Meliodas arrives, the only thing left is Dreyfus's empty armor. Subverted, however, as Dreyfus survived, but only because Fraudrin, the demon that was possessing Dreyfus, staged the whole thing and used Dreyfus's "death" as a means of escape to continue on with his plan unhindered.
  • In episode 12 of SHUFFLE! Memories, practically the whole group is shrunk one by one while on a cruise ship, leaving behind their swimsuits. This happens offscreen and the characters and audience are both left in the dark as to what has happened. The characters' version of "something ominous having happened" seems to amount to one disappeared character having sex with another.
  • In Strike the Blood, when Reina returns to her own time, she vanishes in a burst of lightning, and her borrowed clothes fall to the ground.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the vampire Camula loses her duel to Judai and forfeits her soul as a result. Her body crumbles to dust and her clothing and jewelry fall to the ground.

    Comic Books 
  • The Condemned Legionnaires: When Satan Girl's body vanishes, only her outfit is left behind as the only evidence that Supergirl's evil duplicate ever existed.
  • In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen's form disintegrates as he pushes himself further and further into the Speed Force to destroy the anti-matter cannon, leaving just his superhero costume and his Flash ring behind.
  • Legends (DC Comics): The cover of issue 5 has Captain Marvel standing amidst a pile of empty superhero clothes.
  • In one of the stories that took place during the Millennium (1988) crossover, Green Lantern Hal Jordan finds empty piles of clothing left behind by the Guardians of the Universe and the Zamarons when they used their power to hide from the Manhunter Highmaster.
  • Supergirl (2011) #23 has Supergirl infected with Kryptonite poisoning. Cyborg Superman plans to use her flesh as a building block to rebuild himself. He uses a machine that totally disintegrates Supergirl's body, 1) to scrub the poison in her system, 2) to analyze her form so he can remake his. The process leaves her empty costume crumpled in a heap on the floor.
  • Ultimate X-Men: In issue #41, a young man known only as "J"'s mutant power manifests one morning, which is to involuntarily vaporize all organic matter within a certain radius of himself after a short time of it being exposed to him. He wakes up on a normal day to find the house deserted and his mother’s clothes lying on the floor and all the organic food in the kitchen vanished. He heads off to school, passing an empty dog collar on the ground, then spots some people nearby, but doesn’t notice them disintegrating as he turns away. When he arrives at school students start disintegrating around him shortly after he arrives, leaving their clothing behind, including his girlfriend who identifies him as the source of the phenomenon as she burns away. The story cuts to Wolverine (who's immune to J's power thanks to his Healing Factor) entering a cave where J is hiding, having been sent by Professor X who explains what's happened, that at least 265 people were killed by his power. After explaining that the situation will be covered up by a story saying a corrosive chemical leak will be blamed, Wolverine has to tell J that the story can never get out, as if it becomes public a mutant was responsible it would lead to a worldwide pogrom against mutants. J, already distraught that his power is to be an uncontrolled Walking Wasteland, understands the implication and tells Wolverine to "just do it".
  • Wasp (2023): If anyone looks at the Creature from Kosmos, all that's left behind is their clothes. Actually it's because they've been transported into a pocket universe the Creature creates. When they escape, they're teleported right back.
  • In "Once More the Savage Land", the first issue of X-Men: The Hidden Years, Marvel Girl is said to have passed onto the land of the dead, showing only her empty costume lying across a table.
  • In Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, Wally West's physical form discorporates when he runs at full speed straight toward the entropy rift in order to collapse it, leaving his superhero costume behind.

    Film — Animation 
  • Brave: After the spell takes effect, Elinor's torn robes are left on the floor of her room. When Fergus eventually discovers this, he goes ballistic.
  • In Quest for Camelot, only Ruber's armor (shoulder pads and chest and back plates) appears to be blown off his cleavage right before Ruber is vaporized by the stone. One of the shoulder pads falls back to earth.
  • Subverted in Shrek 2: After King Harold shields Fiona from one of the Fairy Godmother's spells, his suit of armor seems to be the only thing left of him... until he comes out of the armor, in his original frog form, which he reveals the truth about to the heroes.
  • Tangled: This happens to Mother Gothel at the end, as a result of Flynn finally cutting Rapunzel's hair and depriving her of her Fountain of Youth, which kills her.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the first movie in the Apocalypse film series, when the Rapture takes place, believers in Christ leave behind empty piles of neatly folded clothing.
  • Averted in Avengers: Infinity War. The people who crumble into dust as a result of Thanos' Badass Fingersnap take their clothes with them. Even Bucky's mechanical arm crumbles. The only confirmed things left behind are Bucky's gun and Fury's pager.
  • Cube Zero: One of the prisoners looks in a room of the booby-trapped Cube and sees piles of blood-soaked clothing and declares he's not going in there. He gets shoved in there anyway by a fellow prisoner (because he's been infected with a contagion and they want to get rid of him), whereupon sound emitters deploy from the walls and emit a Brown Note that causes Your Body Asplode.
  • In Daddy Day Care, the guys panic when they find Tony's empty Flash costume. In homage to this trope's prevalence in science fiction, über-nerd Marvin even worries that he's been vaporized. It turns out that he just doesn't want to be Flash anymore; he wants to be Tony.
  • In the film The H Man, a radioactive Blob Monster goes around absorbing people until only their clothes are left.
  • When the cult leader in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is killed, his body disappears, leaving only his clothes behind. This makes the main character question if he truly is dead.
  • At the end of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, when Fridge is transported out of the game, Mouse's backpack is left behind. When Spencer picks it up, it's completely empty, presumably because it's only Mouse (the designated "Weapons Valet") who can retrieve items from it.
  • In the movie Kids Vs Monsters, a bratty rich girl is disintegrated by an evil coffee-dispensing robot while the other kids in her group watch on. They are horrified as her empty hipster outfit falls to the floor at the robot's feet.
  • In Lucy, the eponymous character leaves only her clothing behind when she reaches 100% and literally becomes everything in the universe.
  • Mom and Dad Save the World: The effect of the light grenade is "Pff! Grenade remains, person disappears". At one point, a patrol of soldiers triggers one, leaving it surrounded by empty uniforms.
  • In the film called The Moment After, the beginning scenes show signs of the recent "rapture" event, showing piles of empty clothes littering the street and homes.
  • In Night of the Comet, after almost everyone on Earth goes outside to look at a comet, their bodies are reduced to a red dust, leaving their clothes scattered on the ground with the dust spilling out of them.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, one of the trio is completely missing except for his neatly arranged clothing (and a toad), leading the other two to believe he's been turned into one.
  • The Old Guard: The protagonists are hired to rescue some Sudanese schoolgirls kidnapped by a warlord. After infiltrating his base, they find a pile of childrens' shoes outside a building, so they charge inside only to find the building empty except for the squad of mercenaries waiting in ambush. Afterwards, they agree that the shoes were a particularly good touch from the man who set them up.
  • During the opening credits of Rapture-Palooza, clothes fall in slow motion while the Rapture occurs. Only a few people remain in a bowling alley, but piles of clothes lay in place of where people once stood.
  • These are all that's left of the victims of the sentient (and hungry) reel film in Recorded Live.
  • Star Wars: This seems to happen to dying Jedi who are sufficiently attuned to the Force, allowing them to become Force ghosts. In A New Hope, Ben Kenobi's cloak is left behind when he is struck down by Vader and becomes a Force ghost. In Return of the Jedi, the same happens to Yoda when he dies of old age. In The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker follows suit when he becomes one with the Force.
  • The Decepticon invaders in Transformers: Dark of the Moon have this effect on the hapless citizens of Chicago, since weapons that are designed to kill 30-foot tall machines of living metal will of course have more drastic effects on small, fleshy humans, though it isn't explained why the humans bodies are vaporized but their clothes are left intact, since one would assume both would be obliterated, but it is played up for dramatic effect later, with several soldiers passing areas covered with abandoned clothing, to give a sense of scale to the massacre committed by the Decepticons.
  • In Troll 2, a girl drinks a potion from a woman pretending to help. It turns out that the woman is in league with the goblins and the potion given to the girl slowly melts her into slime. You have to look closely, but you can see her clothes laying in the puddle of green slime before the goblins come to eat her.
  • The tripod's weapon in War of the Worlds (2005) disintegrates any humans it hits, leaving only their clothing behind. The scene when Ray pauses for breath after barely escaping the initial attack with his life, only to see dozens of discarded items of clothing slowly floating down a river, is one of the most chilling moments in the film.
  • In Vanishing on 7th Street, during a brief power failure, just about everyone in the city vanishes, leaving only their clothes.
  • In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Edmund and Caspian find Eustace's smoldering clothes and assume something terrible has happened to him. It has, though not what they expect.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this is all that's left of the real culprit after he gets dissolved into nothingness. Justified, since it is revealed he was actually a Toon wearing a human disguise, and the fluid that dissolved him, called "Dip", is known to only be effective at harming Toons, but is relatively harmless against anything in the human world.
  • In The Witches (1990), a pile of clothes is left when a child turns into a mouse; unlike in the book, where the clothes disappear.

    Literature 
  • In Blood Music, a strange infection ravages North America that totally and complete destroys the human (in most cases almost instantly), leaving only their clothes.
  • In one Brother Cadfael story, a monk who was standing an all-night vigil is found in the morning to have vanished, leaving only his clothes behind, and many of his fellow monks assume that he's been bodily assumed into Heaven. The truth is rather more mundane.
  • Cape: When the Stretcher grabs an escaping villain, he just vanishes, leaving only his costume behind. The girls each take part of it and use it to become superheroes.
  • The Clone has an interesting variation. The titular Blob Monster is an Extreme Omnivore that absorbs both living and nonliving matter, but there are certain types of fabrics it won't eat. Nylon, for example, will get incorporated into the "clone" mass, but cotton will be rejected. Regardless, there's always some kind of empty clothes left after it gets done with someone.
  • The Dark Tower: In the novella Little Sisters of Eluria, one of the sisters betrays the others to help Roland, the Lone Gunslinger. After they have gotten away and believe they are safe, they rest in a cave. But during the sleep, Roland hears tiny bells and awakes to find only the empty clothes of the woman who helped him. She was turned into a bunch of tiny bugs by the sound of the bell.
  • In "From Beyond", the servants of the crazed experimenter are given instructions to leave the electricity off while his Resonator is operating. One forgets and turns on a light. The experimenter hears screams — and then finds their clothing dropped where they stood.
  • Eppon the weapon in Galaxy of Fear: Army of Terror kills by turning peoples' bodies to gel and absorbing them, leaving their clothes and weapons to fall empty. Full armor and no exposed skin seems to help, but that's not its only attack.
  • The Great Merlini: In one short story, breaking into a locked room reveals no gun, one shot corpse, and one unconscious nude man — all his clothing, including underwear, is laying on the ground as if he'd phased through it. The deceased was a UFO believer, but it wasn't aliens, it's an alibi. It's pretty easy to prove that the now-revived nude man wasn't smuggling a gun out of the room.
  • In The Indian in the Cupboard, trying to summon someone who's died since the last time they were summoned typically produces just their folded clothes. (Unusually, returning those piles of clothes produces the original plastic figure, rather than a plastic pile of clothes.)
  • Averted somewhat weirdly in The Langoliers, in which most of the passengers disappear from a plane when it crosses a time rip, and they leave behind watches, glasses, jewels, even surgical pins — but not clothes. One character lampshades this, saying: "What was taken and what was left behind [...] doesn't seem to have a lot of rhyme or reason to it."
  • Used in Left Behind and other "Rapture" stories to indicate that the person in question has been taken by the Lord. Depending on the skill of the writer, this can still be pretty terrifying.
  • In Frank Bonham's The Missing Persons League, the villains go out this way after taking the protagonists hostage and trying to force their way into a silo. Everyone is trapped in an anteroom with a light that turns flesh translucent, then begins to dissolve the rest of the body over a minute or so, leaving only their clothes behind. The protagonists are protected by gaudy rings previously given to them by the underground movement controlling the silos, who led them there.
  • Invoked in Mistborn: Secret History. The ghost Kelsier is generally solid but can pass through certain objects with effort, such as the ground. When trying to steal a certain object from a squadron in a thick forest, he first isolates the leader (who is carrying his quarry) by making her horse bolt. He discourages her companions from searching for her by stealing her hooded cloak, wearing it, and waiting for them to catch sight of him from the back before sinking into the ground, leaving the cloak on the surface. From their point of view, their leader was disintegrated, so they panic and run.
  • In Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, one of the first things that clue the Embryon in on that something is seriously wrong at the Vanguards base is when they find no one around other than scattered piles of weapons and clothing.
  • Subverted in The Rapture of Canaan. In a religious community, everyone believes that the narrator's illegitimate son is the second coming of Christ and thus figure that the Rapture is on the way. One morning, they find the leader of the community's pile of clothes lying around, leading the more extreme members to assume that the Rapture happened, and that they weren't taken because they'd sinned. Most of the other members assumed that their leader (who had recently had a stroke) just went crazy and ran off with no clothes on. It turns out that this is exactly what happened.
  • At the end of The Shattered World, upon ascending out of the Labyrinth into upper Darkhaven, Amber and Pandrogas find piles of clothing and dust: all that's left of Undya and the other servants, who had been Dead All Along and went to their final rest after the Necromancer's revival.
  • In Slime (1988), the living, flesh-eating toxic waste dissolves and consumes its victims, leaving nothing but their empty clothes behind, without any blood or even any residue of itself.
  • Slimer concerns a mutated great white shark which absorbs the minds and bodies of its victims, leaving behind just their slime-drenched empty clothing.
  • Used in The Time Traveler's Wife when the titular time traveler... time-travels.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: On Deathwater Island, the characters find some discarded armour, next to a pool containing a golden statue. When they discover that the pool turns things to gold, they realise that the statue was in fact a person who dived in, and the armour was theirs, the clothes having rotted away long ago.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In "The Tale of the Hatching", when the Taylors (who were alien creatures disguised as humans who ran a boarding school), the mother creature, and their eggs are blown apart by loud music from a PA speaker wired to a Walkman, all that remains of the Taylors are their clothes laying in the slimy mess.
  • Charmed (1998): In the episode "How to Make a Quilt Out of Americans", three elderly ladies want to regain their youth, but their spell backfires and instead of restoring their youth, the villain turns them into dust, resulting in this trope.
  • Chernobyl shows the genesis of one of the creepiest artifacts of the disaster: the pile of discarded firemen's uniforms in the hospital basement. Dr. Zinchenko orders that the firemen be stripped of their gear and has it dumped in the basement because she immediately recognizes that they're still carrying a huge dose of radioactivity. The camera lingers on the pile of jackets, boots, and gloves, transformed from protective gear to a deadly danger. That heap of gear is still there to this day and remains extremely dangerous, remitting 600 roentgens per hour, more than enough to kill a human after several hours' exposure.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Utopia", a crewman is vaporized by stet radiation, leaving only his clothes behind.
    • In "Partners in Crime", little creatures called Adipose are born from the fat of those who have been taking the enzyme used to create them. In a pinch, however, the Adipose can convert all types of cell tissue, resulting in this trope.
    • In "Amy's Choice", the first sign that something is wrong in the Leadworth reality are these, coupled with piles of dust.
  • In an episode of The Flash (1990), the Flash's Mirror Twin Pollux sacrifices himself to save Barry Allen from being shot by the scientist who created Pollux, and in dying vanishes, leaving only his suit.
  • In The Flash (2014), Eliza Harmon a.k.a. Trajectory injects herself with Velocity-9 to give herself Super-Speed but runs so fast that she ends up disintegrating, leaving only her suit behind.
  • Friday the 13th: The Series: In "The Electrocutioner", a man wrongly sentenced to the electric chair uses one disguised as a dentist's chair to electrocute people until nothing is left but a pile of clothes.
  • Played for Laughs in Glee when Kitty punishes Dottie Kazatori. She has her Left Behind Club leave piles of clothing all over the meeting room right after Dottie leaves, and when she returns, she thinks the rapture has occurred.
  • In the Filipino soap opera Kokak, a girl is cursed at birth by a witch so that whenever her feet get wet, she turns into a small frog, then hops out of the pile of clothes she was wearing. This happens a surprising number of times throughout the show's run.
  • Leverage: Eliot invokes this to freak out the mark in "The First Contact Job" by leaving behind only the shoes of three of the man's security team whom he'd knocked out and tied up elsewhere, thus making the mark believe the men had been abducted by aliens.
  • The Mandalorian: The title character's disruptor rifle disintegrates people and send their empty clothes flying, as demonstrated by these Jawas.
  • Invoked in Night Court, but only to another character. (The audience is fully apprised.) After receiving information on their latest crisis, the group heads off to handle it and Harry leaves his robe on the couch in his chambers. Meanwhile, Al has been trying to fix the court's electrical system and makes another attempt after they leave, resulting in an electrical discharge in the chambers. He goes in to check on everyone, sees Harry's robe, and assumes the worst.
  • Stargate SG-1:
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Best of Both Worlds", after Picard is captured by the Borg, the search party looking for him on the Borg cube initially find only his uniform in a locker. They shortly thereafter find out he's been turned into a Borg himself.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Downplayed in "The Omega Glory", as the crew's uniforms aren't empty: they still have crystals (the remains of the crew's bodies) inside of them.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Innocence", Tuvok meets a group of alien children on a planet who start disappearing off-screen only leaving behind their clothes. As it turns out, the children's species age in reverse, turning into children toward the end of their life and then turning into energy when they die of old age.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "Long Live Walter Jameson", the more than 2,000-year-old title character is shot by Laurette Bowen, one of the many wives that he has abandoned over the centuries. He rapidly ages and turns to dust. Professor Samuel Kittridge and his daughter Susanna find nothing but an empty pile of clothes on the floor of Walter's study.
    • In "Queen of the Nile", Jordan Herrick quickly turns to dust, leaving only his clothes, after Pamela Morris steals his Life Energy using a scarab beetle in order to maintain her eternal youth and beauty.
  • The X-Files: The episode "Agua Mala" has wet piles of clothes left behind as the only trace of victims of a water-born parasite. This is because the parasite converts the human body to water in order to further its reproductive cycle.

    Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Gospels, a sign of Jesus' resurrection from the dead is that the grave clothes He was wrapped in lay empty in the tomb, with the face cloth folded up and put in its own place.
  • The whole concept of The Rapture (in which True Believers will be bodily taken unto Heaven just before the Apocalypse hits, leaving only discarded piles of clothing behind).

    Roleplay 
  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • Amy's superpower transforms her body into a data consciousness that shacks up in her phone. All that's left of her in the real world is a pile of clothes and said phone, with the other students freaking out when they come across the scene.
    • A frequent problem with Jenna, as she's a mass of sentient insects that will disperse if she requires them to or is otherwise spooked. This then leaves a pile of empty human clothes in her wake for others to come across and ponder over.

    Podcasts 
  • In the Cool Kids Table arc "The Chimera Program", Void destroys any organic material they come in contact with. After walking through a squad of soldiers, only their gear remains.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, mysteriously abandoned armor is often the only warning you'll get that the room it's in is filled with a nigh-invisible, flesh-dissolving gelatinous cube.

    Video Games 
  • The Darkside Detective: One case in A Fumble in the Dark involves people disappearing into thin air, leaving behind a pile of empty clothes. It turns out they've been shanghaied into another dimension to become contestants in a Deadly Game.
  • Deep Rock Galactic lets you encounter the emptied-out armor and clothing of your former colleagues every now and then, still surrounded by the scattered minerals they once carried. While there's no indication of what happened, knowing Hoxxes IV, they were probably eaten by wildlife.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: In the Tribunal expansion, you visit a Dwemer ruin beneath the city of Mournhold which has been untouched since the day the entire Dwemer race simultaneously disappeared from the face of Nirn. Included are piles of ash next to empty suits of Dwemer armor and weapons dropped onto the floor.
  • In Final Fantasy XV: Empty clothes littering the ground are a surefire indicator that whoever used to wear them has turned into a daemon.
  • The Forgotten Nightmare: There are piles of empty clothing in various places in the game. The disappeared people seem to be in various stages of activity. The mystery is even more creepy because there are many people still present and walking around. It becomes apparent that the people have been taken in the Rapture. The Protagonist was left behind, and events from the book of Revelation seem to be happening.
  • Generation Zero: Empty piles of clothing are a common sight in the wake of the Robot War.
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo is set in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, and they're everywhere, since Shibuya was incredibly crowded before everyone had their physical body forcibly turned spiritual. One of your main objectives is finding out how and why the emptying happened.
  • Legend Of Kyrandia 2 Hand Of Fate: One of the many ways that the Player Character Zanthia can die is by touching an electrified wheel. The shock vaporizes her until nothing is left but her clothes.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The humanoid Poes in the Arbiter's Grounds leave behind their robes when defeated, allowing Wolf Link to catch their scent and track down the rest.
  • Missing on Lost Island: You and your girlfriend are attacked by goons. During the fight your girlfriend is shot by a strange ray gun and vanishes leaving only her clothes. Soon after, you are also shot with the same gun.
  • Nexus Clash: When a city is pulled into the Nexus, nearly everyone in it spontaneously disappears, which means this trope is the most likely explanation for why there are loads of spare clothes lying around for player fashionistas to try on. At least, we hope that's why the beaches are littered with discarded swimsuits.
  • Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy: This is one of the mysteries. In the village of Hoogland, young girls are regularly "wed", or rather sacrificed, to a wind deity so as to calm its wrath down and ease the winds and tornadoes that plague the village. The girls are said to transform into a breeze upon their sacrifice, as evidenced by their empty clothes being left in the sacrificial chapel. It's actually a hoax pulled off by the women of the village: by going through a secret passage, they are able to save the girls before they are actually sacrificed. They left behind their clothes to fool the men into thinking the deity accepted the sacrifice.
  • Riot: Upon the Evil Sorceror main villain's defeat in the final stage, he first gets Stripped to the Bone. Then his bone turns to dust, leaving him a set of robes in his throne.
  • Rule of Rose: Empty piles of clothes are shown in the background during the Stray Dog bossfight. It's not really explained, but the prevalent fan theory is that Jennifer is mentally censoring out the corpses that should be inhabiting them. It's a justification for the practical reason that showing dead children in a video game, a console game at any rate, is a big no-no. The game pretty masterfully avoids showing almost any of the horrible things that kids go through in the story, arguably making it feel a lot worse than if they just said and showed things straight up.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Consuls O and P set Ethel and Cammuravi (the former under the threat of the annihilation of the recently liberated Colony 4) against the Ouroboros, aboard specially made Ferronises. However, after Cammuravi gouged out his own Iris to prevent the Consuls from controlling him, he and Ethel decided to forego their orders and engage in one last joyous duel against each other. Their life force was drained as they both struck the other with a killing blow, and their bodies faded into motes of light, leaving their clothes behind in the Ferronis cockpits.

    Webcomics 
  • Bob the Angry Flower: In the strip "Spofford, Texas", two variations for the price of one: first, the people of the town have been replaced with piles of sand, not vanished entirely, and two, their clothes are gone as well — except for their hats.
  • In one strip of The Dragon Doctors, an explorer investigating a science station exclaims, "Empty piles of discarded clothing! That's bad. That's always a bad sign!" He wonders if they've been disintegrated or mutated into monsters; turns out most of them overdosed on a Fountain of Youth.
  • Ghost Kiss: The Ghost Shark is able to harmlessly pass through inanimate objects as it swims through the air. However when it overlaps with a person they disappear, leaving behind a pile of clothing. Ghost Kiss was able to find it's point of origin in part thanks to all the clothing left in it's wake.
  • Girl Genius: The Corbettite abbot recounts to Agatha how the monks found various nasty inventions, including one that turns people into glowing cubes leaving their clothes behind.
  • The Good Witch: The only thing left behind after a Sinister Minister sucks people up into himself to consume their life force.
  • El Goonish Shive has Sensei Greg running to help Grace who he thought was in danger and finding clothes on the floor. And then he met Jeremy.
  • Unsounded: Those who are killed by being Core Leeched have their bodies pulled apart and into the khert, leaving nothing behind but what they were wearing. This is the fate of poor Elan Aled.

    Web Original 
  • The creature from The Horror from the Vault assimilates all animal bio-matter into itself, including blood. When it breaks into a house in its larval "ghoul" form, it leaves behind a set of empty and perfectly laundered clothes.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-093 ("Red Sea Object"):
    • During the "Green" test, the explorer finds a set of children's clothing laid out on the ground as if they were being worn.
    • During the "Violet" test, an explorer is attacked by one of the weird half-giants and his body is absorbed, leaving only his clothes and equipment.
    • In the "SCP-093-Recovered Materials" file, Herverf Jakulsiv's diary says that a Blessed man stopped by his home one day and then left. When Jakulsiv's daughter Lisstieria went to look for him she found his clothes and gear, but not him.
  • Whateley Universe: As said in I Looked into the Abyss, and it Winked (Part 1), it's what's left of Doctor Crawford Tillinghast's housekeeping staff, lost to Cthulhu Mythos entities:
    "Did he really kill his entire housekeeping staff?"
    "Your guess is as good as mine," answered the man in the sharp black suit. "All we found were piles of clothes."

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!:
    • In "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls", the Smiths dig up Santa's corpse to find that Santa's body has vanished, leaving the iconic Santa outfit behind. Turns out he was magically transported to the North Pole to regenerate.
    • In "Rapture's Delight", all who are raptured leave their clothes behind.
  • In the Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Frog Day Afternoon," 3 very confused Planeteers find Linka's and Wheeler's empty clothes lying on the ground in the middle of the night... because the poisoned darts they were hit with earlier caused them to shrink down super tiny in their sleep, but their clothes didn't shrink along with them.
  • Discussed in Cyberchase. An early episode has the Cybersquad go to a cybersite where everything is scaled ten times bigger than them. At first, they believe that they've been shrunk, but Inez says that this trope would have happened if they had really shrunk.
  • Cybersix: When a Techno or a Fixed Idea is killed, they evaporate, leaving behind their clothes and their vial of sustenance.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "The High Five of Doom", after learning the truth about Filburt and why he was doing the weird things they witnessed, Rocko and Heffer come to the conclusion that Filburt isn't an alien after all — that is until he slaps both of them a high five at once, thus vaporizing the two, leaving Rocko and Heffer's clothes falling to the ground as Filburt and his crew circle around the spot where Rocko's house used to be. In the end, it turns out that everything that happened in the entire episode was all a story that Rocko and Heffer read from Filburt's journal.
  • In the final episode of Samurai Jack, Ashi suffers a Ret-Gone, and all that is left of her is her bridal kimono.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: This happens to the clothes of the other members of the gang when Fred appears to have ended up in a Bad Future. It's part of the fake movie set that has been set up by his parents.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In "Prehibernation Week", SpongeBob ends up leaving his clothes behind on a plant when hiding and Sandy thinks that he's gone missing ("SpongeBob always folds his clothes before running around... in the nude!").
    • In "The Incredible Shrinking Sponge", SpongeBob winds up shrinking out of his clothes after an urchin sets the grill's heat to maximum.

    Real Life 
  • When Harold Camping declared that the Rapture would happen on the 21 of May 2011, a project on 4chan encouraged posters to get up early and lay out empty piles of clothes (and/or Smoldering Shoes) to freak people out.
  • The failed British banker and politician John Stonehouse left his clothes on a beach in Miami in 1974 in an attempt to make it look as if he had committed suicide, before absconding to Australia with several million embezzled dollars; his scheme failed when he was arrested by Aussie cops who mistook him for the fugitive Lord Lucan!
  • There's a pile of firefighters' uniforms in the Creepy Basement of the Pripyat hospital near Chernobyl. Of course, we do know what happened to the people wearing the gear- they died of radiation poisoning, being the first responders after the accident. Those uniforms are still bad news, because they absorbed some of the radiation the firefighters were exposed to. Even decades later, they're radioactive enough to increase your cancer risk if you get too close. Seen in 2014 in this video.
  • Submarine footage of the wreck of the Titanic has revealed ghostly reminders of the people who died with the ship. While the corpses have long since gone - decomposed or eaten by marine life - their footwear and some recognisable clothing items remain where their bodies came to rest.


 
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Cell Appears

As Piccolo searches the empty city of Gingertown for the creature responsible for its population disappearing, said being is slowly moving through the shadows, until at last, Piccolo comes face to face with Cell, the monster from the future.

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