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Empty Piles of Clothing

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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, Baleful Polymorph, 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.

Notice: As a DEATH TROPE (sometimes), there can be SPOILERS here. Beware!


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  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Lily C.A.T., a flesh-absorbing virus leaves only clothing behind after it assimilates crew members on board the ship.
  • 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. As pictured above, 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).
  • In the series finale of Dragon Ball GT, Goku's uniform is left behind when he vanishes with Shenron for a hundred years.
  • Darker Than Black:
    • Kirihara followed an agent she saw at the scene where she didn't expect him, and found his clothes. The next thing she saw was a chair with another set of clothes "sitting" on it, with sleeves on armpads. It was a case of perve-portation, but she didn't know this at the time.
    • Also, 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.
  • 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 his little experiment has truly Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Bleach:
    • In "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 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.
  • Combined with No Body Left Behind in Ranma ½: when Saffron is absorbing 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 had only been magically dehydrated into the size of a doll, and was still inside those clothes, but pretty much everyone had a Heroic BSoD until they found out they could still save her.
  • In Rise Of The Shield Hero Naofumi and Raphthalia 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 stick 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 Raphthalia 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 SHUFFLE! Memories ep 12, 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.
  • A horrible example in 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 Cross Ange, the main character Ange is teleported away by Embryo, the bad guy, out of her ship and her clothes.
  • This is what happens whenever someone dies of Troy in Double Arts. First the seizures, then the victims become transparent and disappear.
  • 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 the empty clothes are now hanging off the tentacles that stabbed the Wolkenritter until they're blown off by the high-altitude winds.
  • In Strike the Blood, when Reina returns to her own time, she vanished in a burst of lightning, and her borrowed clothes fall to the ground.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, this is basically 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Chick Tract "Last Generation," this happens to the people who ascend in the Rapture.
  • X-Men: The Hidden Years #1 "Once More the Savage Land": Marvel Girl is said to have passed onto the land of the dead, showing only her empty costume lying across a table.
  • The cover of DC Comics' Legends issue 5 has Captain Marvel standing amidst a pile of empty superhero clothes.
  • In one of the stories of Superman that took place during the Millennium (1988) crossover, Green Lantern Hal Jordan found empty piles of clothing left behind by the Guardians Of The Universe and the Zamarons when they were using their power to hide from the Manhunter Highmaster.
  • The new 52 Supergirl #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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • An extremely dark version in Ultimate X-Men Vol 1 41. A young man known only as "J"’s mutant power manifests one morning, which is to involuntarily vaporise 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 two hundred and sixty five 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". Wolverine is shown leaving the cave alone the next morning, implying that he made in off panel Mercy Kill of J and buried the body in the cave.

    Film — Animation 
  • Tangled: 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.
  • 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, and reveals the truth about that to the heroes.
  • 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 vaporised by the stone. One of the shoulder pads falls back to earth.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: 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.
  • Another variant 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 the film Vanishing on 7th Street, during a brief power failure, just about everyone in the city vanishes, leaving only their clothes.
  • In the film The H Man, there is a radioactive blob going around absorbing people until only their clothes are left.
  • 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 the movie 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 close but you can see her clothes laying in the puddle of green slime before the goblins come to eat her.
  • 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, uber-nerd Marvin even worries that he's been vaporized. Turns out he just doesn't want to be Flash anymore. He wants to be Tony.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In O Brother, Where Art Thou?, one of the trio's completely missing except for his neatly-arranged clothing (and a toad), leading the other two to believe he's been turned into one.
  • In the movie Rapture-Palooza, at the beginning, people are at the bowling alley but the rapture took place. During the opening credits, clothes are falling at slow motion because the people are raptured. Only a few remain in the bowling alley, but piles of clothes are in the place where people once stood.
  • In Star Wars: 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. And then in The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker follows suit when he becomes one with the Force.
  • This happens to the main character, Lucy, in the film Lucy.
  • These are all that's left of the victims of the sentient (and hungry) reel film in the 1975 short film Recorded Live.
  • Presumably one of the magic effects in Now You See Me: the Second Act
  • 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.
  • The tripod's weapon in War of the Worlds disintegrates any humans it hits, leaving only their clothing behind. The scene where Tom Cruise's character 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 Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this is all that's left of the real culprit after he gets dissolved into nothingness.
  • Avengers: Infinity War: Averted. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 trigger one, leaving it surrounded by empty uniforms. Played for comedy.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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. Turns out, that's just what happened.
  • In the book Blood Music by Greg Bear, a strange infection ravages North America that totally and complete destroys the human (in most cases almost instantly), leaving only their clothes.
  • In one of Ellis Peters's Brother Cadfael murder mysteries, 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 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.
  • Used in H. P. Lovecraft's short story "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.
  • In the Stephen King book series The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger — 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.
  • Averted somewhat weirdly in Stephen King's The Langoliers, where most of the passangers 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."
  • 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.
  • In one of The Great Merlini short stories, breaking into the 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 was an alibi. It was pretty easy to prove the now-revived nude man wasn't smuggling a gun out of the room.
  • Used in The Time Traveler's Wife, when the title time traveler... time travels.
  • In the William Essex novel Slime, 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 by Harry Adam Knight concerns a mutated great white shark which absorbs the minds and bodies of its victims (similar to Phantoms) leaving behind just their slime-drenched empty clothing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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."
  • At the end of Michael Reaves' 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.
  • 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.

    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: In the episode "How to Make a Quilt Out of Americans", 3 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.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Utopia": A crewman is vaporised by stet radiation, leaving only his clothes behind.
    • "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.
    • "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 vanished, leaving only his suit.
    • In the 2014 series, Eliza Harmon aka Trajectory injects herself with Velocity-9 to give herself Super Speed, but runs so fast 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.
  • Parodied 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 amount of times throughout the show's run.
  • The Mandalorian: The title character's disruptor rifle disintegrates people and send their empty clothes flying. As demonstrated by these Jawas.
  • Implied on 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:
    • When they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, people in the series leave their clothes behind.
    • This is also what is left after an attack with the Dakara Superweapon set to destroy living matter, in season 10 episode "Counterstrike".
  • Star Trek: "The Omega Glory" is a subversion as the crew's uniforms weren't empty: they still had crystals (the remains of the crew's bodies) inside of them.
  • 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: Voyager. In the episode "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 turn 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 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.

  • In The Bible itself, 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.

  • 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.

  • In The Chimera Program, an arc from Cool Kids Table 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: A Fumble in the Dark: One case 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.
  • In the arcade game Riot, the Evil Sorceror main villain, upon defeat in the final stage, firstly 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 kids go through in the story, arguably making it feel a lot worse than if they just said and showed things straight up.
  • In the game 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.
  • Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy: invoked in one of the mysteries of the game. 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.
  • In this text-based game 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...
  • In the PC game Legend of Kyrandia 2 Hand of Fate, one of the many ways Zanthia, the main character dies is when she touches an electrified wheel that generates electricity is electrocuted. The shock vaporizes her until nothing is left but her clothes.
  • When a city is pulled into the Nexus in Nexus Clash 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.
  • In Final Fantasy XV, empty clothes littering the ground are a surefire indicator that whoever used to wear them has turned into a daemon.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's 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.
  • Generation Zero: Empty piles of clothing are a common sight in the wake of the Robot Rebellion.
  • 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.

  • Trope Namer: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
      • "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.
    • SCP-2454 ("Negation"). SCP-2454 is a ship filled with empty clothing (and other equipment). It's the remains of hundreds of Foundation personnel who entered it and were destroyed by the unknown entity inside it.
  • The creature from the Creepypasta 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.

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! Christmas episode "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.
    • Also occurred in "Rapture's Delight", where all who were raptured left their clothes behind.
  • 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.
  • Twice in 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.
  • Discussed in Cyberchase. An early episode had the Cybersquad go to a cybersite where everything was scaled ten times bigger than them. At first they believe they had shrunk, but Inez says this trope would have happened if they really shrank.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: 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 set up by his parents.
  • In the final episode of Samurai Jack, Ashi suffers a Ret-Gone, and all that is left of her is her bridal kimono.

    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.