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Festering Fungus

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In The Cursed Earth, shrooms are on YOU.

"Mushrooms grow on dead things"

The Festering Fungus is a fictional lifeform usually based on a mold or a lichen, known for its rapid growth rate and destructive tendencies.

The effects of the fungus will vary. The Lighter and Softer versions will usually just cause structural damage to buildings, cars and trees, while the nastier versions start growing on people, resulting in all sorts of Body Horror. Ingesting the spores of this lifeform is to be avoided at all cost.

This type of lifeform tends to make for a good Monster of the Week. After all, it's usually nonsentient, so you can finish it off for good without feeling guilty about it. The protagonists will usually find a way to stop it by the end of the episode, often with the aid of some fantastical fungicide or by dropping the temperature so that it can't grow.

In a comedy series, expect it to have crawled out of someone's refrigerator. See also: Alien Kudzu, Fungus Humongous, The Virus. Mold-based variants may overlap with Blob Monster, Muck Monster, or Meat Moss. People infected with one of these may become Poisonous People and/or Mushroom Men. Often a Puppeteer Parasite.



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     Anime & Manga 
  • In the episode "The Sound of Rust" of Mushishi, A fungus-like rust infects a girl's vocal cords, and whenever she speaks, rust spreads like lichen across her village, and even on the skin of the other villagers. The girl becomes a pariah to her people due to her connection with the plague.
  • Episode 229 of Naruto Shippuden titled, "Eat or Die! Mushrooms from Hell!" had multicolored mushrooms called "Moulding Mushrooms" overtake the ship on which the team is sailing. Upon being eaten, the mushrooms sprout from the eater's skin and influence their actions.
    • This is probably yet another "The Voice in the Night"/Matango Homage.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind prominently features "The Sea of Corruption", a toxic jungle of giant, mutant plants and fungi that exude clouds of noxious spores that infest and kill any normal plants, animals and people they come into contact with. In the manga version it's actually inverted towards the end as it's revealed that the Sea of Corruption was genetically engineered to clean up the radioactive fallout and other pollutants left behind by the apocalyptic war known as the Seven Days of Fire and restore Earth's environment. The reason it's dangerous to "humans" is because they've also been genetically modified to be slightly radiotrophic in order to survive in the irradiated, post-apocalyptic wasteland. In truth, the fungus isn't trying to "infest" people, it's trying to "purify" them. It's simply an unfortunate oversight that it does this by tearing them apart on a cellular level in order to get at all those nasty radionuclides their bodies are saturated with.
  • In Toriko, Aimaru can use a special Gourmet Mold fungus to track down certain delicious ingredients by following the trail of said mushroom. It also acts as a Foreshadow for Joie's real powers, which allows him to brainwash people by using a special fungus to alter them, as well as using said fungus to rot his opponents to death.
  • In the story "Mold" from the Junji Ito Kyoufu Manga Collection, the protagonist finds his house becoming rapidly overrun by a strange fungus after letting his old science teacher's family rent it. As it turns out, said science teacher had a passion for mycology, and created a super-fungus that eventually consumed him and his family some time before the protagonist returned home. Shortly after finding their bodies in a room that was sealed by mold-induced warping before the door rotted off, the protagonist succumbs to the mold as well.

     Comic Books 
  • Spirou and Fantasio: The Count of Champignac is a mycologist who uses a very fast-growing mutated mold as a bio-weapon. In one instance, said mold destroyed a city-sized secret base in just a few minutes.
  • Morrigan Lugus from Supergod is a superhuman entity made up of three unlucky astronauts fused together with alien fungus to form a sentient mycological supercomputer. The facility it's kept in has to be cleaned over with bleach almost constantly to prevent mushrooms from growing everywhere, and before the science team started taking anti-fungal medications, several of them died and during the autopsy it was discovered that their lungs were filled with fungal growths that looked like deformed human faces.
  • In the first Hellboy miniseries, one of the Ogdru Hem (which mutates humans into frog monsters) is defeated and killed with fire, or so the heroes think. In the B.P.R.D. spinoff, this monster grows back and is revealed to be a fungus. It's ability to mutate humans turns out to be an effect of its spores.
  • Tom Strong had a story in which an obnoxious dotcom billionaire who decided to play-act as a pirate got killed by a group of real pirates who had become infected and preserved by a "Voice in the Night"-style mould.
  • Judge Dredd: In a 1980s story, Judge Dredd encountered an alien fungus in the Cursed Earth which infected people with its spores, causing their bodies to be consumed by the creature so it could make more of itself.
  • Vampirella: A story from Warren times, "Fungus". (Slightly special - it was a photocomic. An Archie Goodwin classic.)

  • The king in Super Mario Bros. the movie became this due to the de-evolution machine. It's worth noting despite that his horrifying transformation he managed to keep his sapience and good nature and that he subtly helps the Mario brothers through the film in order to defeat Koopa.
  • Matango, a 1963 Japanese horror film based loosely on "The Voice in the Night" (see below).

  • The Ur-Example may be the 1907 short story "The Voice in the Night" by William Hope Hodgson.
    • A similar story by Hodgson was "The Derelict," in which a flesh-eating fungus has taken over an abandoned ship discovered by the protagonists.
  • The 1923 story "Fungus Isle" by Philip M. Fisher.
  • The often-mentioned, never fully-explained "mold demons" from The Dresden Files that ate all the organic matter in Harry's car. Including the seat cushions. But hey, at least the floorboards are really clean now.
  • Expedition Venus by Hugh Walters has Earth threatened by a fast-growing mould brought back to Earth by an unmanned space probe. Includes some disturbing descriptions of what happens when it grows on people. (As the trope description says, it's a Monster of the Week — this is the fifth novel in a series — and the heroes sort it out by the end of the novel.)
  • The title city of Ambergris is prone to this, and positively swimming in it by the time of Finch. Related to rule by the Graycaps, who live in constant symbiosis with fungus and allow themselves to be infected with various kinds that have beneficial effects to their physiology. They can communicate telepathically by blowing spores over each other and their flesh is so riddled with fast-growing fungus that small wounds close almost instantly, making them difficult to kill.
  • Robert Westall's Urn Burial has harka, a fungal mould created by the Attock which primarily infects the females of species and kills young developing in the womb. In adults it just eats away their flesh and strips them down to the bone. The only way of killing it is to teleport the infected into stars.
  • Byrus from Stephen King's Dreamcatcher looks like a red mold and grows across any surface it's exposed to, whether inanimate or living. Internal exposure can result in the growth of a fatal parasite called a byrum (or more colloquially a "shit weasel"), but most never reach that level, and many of the infected have a good chance of survival.
  • Dean Koontz's The Taking has bizarre self-repairing mushrooms in the tavern restroom. They also grow out of the eye sockets of several reanimated corpses in the local church. There are also tumorous-looking pale fungi attached to various surfaces in buildings and walking around town on insect legs. These ones eat souls.
  • The Fungus by Harry Adam Knight (author of Carnosaur and Slimer). The book concerns the takeover of the world by genetically engineered fungi. The cover for the original Star paperback features a man enduring something similar to the page image up above, with various fungi growing out of his nose and mouth.
  • Old Man's War by John Scalzi features an evidently sentient slime mold which wipes out an entire human colony off-screen. When the Colonial Defense Forces arrive to investigate, several of the soldiers are killed when the mold suddenly leaps off of the walls into their mouths before releasing a corrosive substance inside of them.. Notably, they are not only not the villains of the story, but in fact only show up in one chapter, as part of a montage of scenes explaining the wide variety of life in the galaxy and how dangerous settling the galaxy or serving in the CDF can be.
  • InCryptid features Corn Blight. The spores of this fungus are carnivorous and consume the victims which get close to it. The corn blight then gains half the intelligence of its victim allowing it sentience. It spreads by killing its victims and then converting its victims bodies into extensions of itself to allow it to move. They become fungus-wrapped, corn-swaddled zombie like monsters which have decaying flesh and hunt for more victims. The more victims it consumes, the more intelligent it becomes.
  • The vampires in the Necroscope series are created by an alien fungus infecting a human body.
  • The Medusoid Mycelium from A Series of Unfortunate Events, a fungal bioweapon which kills its victims by growing inside of them until their breathing passages are blocked off. Thankfully it does have a pretty simple "antidote" in the form of horseradish.
  • Like in The Last of Us, the "hungries" in The Girl With All the Gifts are caused not by a virus but by the fungus Ophiocordyceps, which strips them of all but the most basic instincts like hunger and sex. The protagonist of the novel is a child who is infected with the fungus and partially immune to it, due to being the child of a hungry and thus having a symbiotic relationship with the fungus. In the end, she ensures that the fungus is spread throughout the entire world, so that the partially-immune hungry children will inherit the Earth.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Worlds (2020): Eden is home to a species of fungi that have a complex parasitic relationship with the animals living there. The forest's primary grazers feed on the fungus, but during autumn this releases clouds of spores that infect the grazers and removes their fear responses. This allows local predators to easily catch and eat them, but the spores still in the grazers' bodies quickly poison and kill them. After the predators die, the next crop of fungi grows from their bodies and the cycle begins again.
  • The Future Is Wild: The last segment, set in Earth 200 million years in the future, showcases the slithersucker, a slime mold that can adopt the shape and color of a fruit so that it will be eaten by a passing megasquid, a terrestrial squid the size of an elephant (squids fill the niche of mammals by that time). The slithersucker escapes digestion and divides in two group of cells: one moves to the "noses" of the Megasquid, the other to its brain. The one in the brain takes control of the Megasquid's actions, moves it around to a suitable location and then makes it "sneeze" to facilitate the dispersion of the cells in the respiratory system of the Megasquid, while the cells in the brain are ultimately eliminated by the Megasquid's inmune system once dispersion has been completed. This is inspired by modern day fungi that infect snails and arthropods, as detailed in the Real Life section. However, in spite of their name, slime molds are not a fungus — nor are they even a monophyletic group, and their natural behaviour is not parasitic in the slightest, unlike fungus'.
  • Hannibal: Invoked by an insane pharmacist who put victims into a diabetic coma, buried them alive with attached life-support tubing, and grew mushrooms in their living flesh.
  • Primeval features these in the third season. They take over the victim and turn them into a rather creepy monster that requires freezing or heating to kill. (Heating the fungus causes it to explosively scatter spores everywhere, which will start growing again if you Just Add Water.)
  • The X-Files: These things are in the spotlight of "El Mundo Gira". The guy who is infected is spreading the fast-growing deadly fungus to everything he touches.


  • Avernus from Embers In The Dusk has the Life Eater Fungus, the greatest danger in the Everglades region and a weaker analogue of the Life Eater Virus used in the Imperium's Exterminatus weaponry. It can rapidly transform organic matter into a volatile mass before exploding.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: All kinds of dangerous molds and fungi are common.
    • In 5e, Druids have a Spore Circle subclass. This gives Druids fungal abilities, including the ability to infest a recently killed creature with spores to animate it.
    • Elders of the fungoid subterranean race of Myconids can emit spores that reanimate dead bodies as zombies under their control.
    • Gas spores reproduce by spreading clouds of aggressively parasitic spores, which infest living beings, rapidly turn them into piles of mush, and grow a new clutch of gas spores from their remains.
    • Planescape: Egarus is a fungus from Abyss that was accidentally introduced on a Prime world when an adventurer brough back a little bit on the tip of his shoe. The fungus quickly covered the shoe, and the adventurer's house, and his village — and then the wind started carrying it farther out. Ater discovering that they couldn't kill it — egarus doesn't burn, it can't be poisoned, and magic does little to it — the natives begged the gods for help. The gods open gates to the Quasiplane of Vacuum, where nothing can survive, and the locals shoveled every last bit in before closing the gates behind it... and it survives there. The fungus learned to feed on nonexistence itself, and reacts to the presence of matter or energy in its environment by rapidly disintegrating them.
  • Magic: The Gathering has the Thallids, a group of sentient fungus created by elves as a food source. Unfortunately for the elves, the Thallids spread faster than the elves could kill them and eventually overran their creators.
    • The lands claimed by the Golgari Swarm on Ravnica tend to be full of this, as the Guild practices a unique combination of nature magic and necromancy which makes them more adept at sculpting and manipulating fungus than normal plants. Fungus-based monsters, such as saprolings or zombies animated by a coating of fungus, are a big part of their defensive line-up.
    • There's also the extremely old card Mold Demon from the Legends set, only notable for being a serious contender for one of the most worthless cards in the entire game.note 
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Orks are actually part fungus, which explains their green color and limited Healing Factor (they're able to survive decapitation if the head is quickly reattached to another ork). In addition, they release spores when they die which grow into various fungi, before producing animalistic squigs, goblin-like grots and eventually new orks. As all these species generate the same spores, allowing a new horde to regenerate almost from nothing, orks are effectively impossible to get rid of once they land on a planet.

     Video Games 
  • The Pokémon Parasect is a tragic victim of one of these. Its pre-evolution, Paras, has a symbiotic relationship with the Cordyceps-like fungus growing on its back, but when it evolves, the fungus takes over its body completely, leaving it a blank-eyed zombie bug.
  • In Sunless Sea, cutting and harvesting mushrooms all day in the fungus-infested Demeaux Island leads to spores getting into the workers' clothes, hair, lungs... until eventually, there's less person left than there is fungus.
  • Invasive mushrooms eerily referred to as "children" coming from the fungus-heavy Hybras (the "children"'s "Mother") are responsible for the wrecking of the Parzifal in Sunless Skies, spreading through the ship, killing almost all of the crew and putting the locomotive out of commission near Traitor's Woods.
  • NetHack has a number of mold mobs, palette-swapped by how they hurt you.
  • Phazon, from Metroid Prime, is most often encountered in the form of a highly radioactive, rapidly growing, seemingly sentient fungus that either kills or corrupts anyone or anything that has contact with it for too long.
  • Fallout: New Vegas had creatures called "Spore Carriers" and ""Spore Plants" as the result of experimenting with genetically altered spores. They're found in Vault 22 and in the DLC, Zion Valley and Big MT, where they were originally created. Worst of all is how you can find "Runts" in Vault 22 as well as baby carriages covered in spores. Terminal entries in Vault 22 states that the spores technically kill the host and reanimates the body to spread more spores but relies heavily on the reservoir hosts to be social animals for maximum dispersal.
    • This species is actually a throw-back to Fallout 2 in which, in the starting village, two spore plants can be found growing in gardens that suggest they're being cultivated deliberately (or more likely grew there as very belligerent weeds). Whether these also originated from the Big MT research facility, or evolved separately and just LOOK like the Mojave Wasteland version, is unclear. The Fallout Wiki likes to believe that the Spores Plants were spread through winds blowing the spores from Big MT and Vault 22 into New California if not mutated naturally via radiation.
  • The Last of Us has a mutant strain of Cordyceps that infects humans and turns them into aggressive, zombie-like beings (eventually replacing their heads and most of their bodies with fungal growths) as the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse setting.
  • The Minecraft mod Thaumcraft features Taint, which covers the ground in toxic slime, melts trees into goo and turns any mobs that die from the poison into Tainted versions of themselves that either spread the Tainted Land biome or just attack untainted mobs. Tainted Land also features its own unique monsters, like swarms of stinging bugs or large tentacles that grow from the ground.
  • The two types of Cephad Spore in Waking Mars can wipe out any other Zoa you might plant, including each other.
  • In Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, rather than the traditional viruses, the pathogen responsible for all the chaos is a "vicariant evolution fungus", referred to in one file as Mutamycete, which the Big Bad is symbiotically partnered with and can produce from their body. As a result, many locations are covered in thick sheets of grotesque black mold.
  • Pikmin has the Puffstool, a walking fungus with tiny little legs. The Puffstool is liable to trip on them and tumble upside down, giving Olimar a quick chance to wail on it. But when it rights itself up it belches a cloud of spores turning Olimar's pikmin into Mushroom Pikmin that attack any Pikmin going for the Puffstool. Strangely it only ever shows up in the first game.
  • In The Secret World, the Filth is already some incredibly nasty stuff, but its fungal form, created when terrestrial fungi were infected, takes it to the next level. This stuff has started evolving rapidly, producing bug-like crawlers, blob monsters, and even hulking humanoid forms that all spread the fungus, as well as infecting apes and turning them into monsters. You first encounter it in Transylvania, where it has overrun a good portion of the Shadowy Forest, and again in Tokyo, where a cargo ship from the Congo carrying the stuff wound up causing a second Filth outbreak in the city on top of the one created by the subway bombing.
  • The Fungal Waste area from Hollow Knight is overrun by mushrooms. This includes not only sapient mushrooms, but Plague zombies with mushrooms growing on them. They explode into orange gas instead of attacking directly. It's implied, however, they became spore carriers after they died and zombified.
  • Although it seems to be algal, not fungal, the progressive and disfiguring condition that besets Miku from Submerged as she explores the Sunken City otherwise conforms to this trope.
  • The Weald area in Darkest Dungeon has several enemies that appear to be once-normal humans now infected with a fungus.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the corrupted Giant Spider Mora is afflicted by a Cordyceps-style fungus with a Sickly Green Glow.
  • In Bug Fables, Zombiants are zombified ants infested with Cordyceps fungus. In Upper Snakemouth, there are also different kinds of Cordyceps-infested zombies, including bees and beetles, who were all created by a duo of Mad Scientists who wanted to find immortality. The strongest of the zombies, Zommoth, barely even resembles a moth anymore, having a lower half being replaced with a slug-like tail and the face with a stalk, and it ends up being the one who kills the scientists. It also has a failed prototype that ends up being thrown out and possessing Leif's corpse, eventually starting to believe itself to be him.


     Web Original 
  • Aegeroth: A Checkered History: Zambor has mycelium growing out of her face, with one strand splitting her nose.
  • One episode of Game Theory presents the theory that the Mushroom Kingdom is largely populated by people infected with these (hence the mushroom heads), with the implication that Princess Peach is actually responsible for the outbreak, leading to her imprisonment by Bowser.
  • When the housemates of the eponymous Sex House realize they're unable to throw away their moldy food, they end up storing it in one of the unused bedrooms. The mold eventually takes over the room, and in episode 8, the repairman the cast takes hostage and chains up in there dies from it.
  • In The Sick Land, a researcher brings a mushroom with teeth growing inside it back from the emponymous Forbidden Zone. After he commits suicide, his zombified corpse implants it into his hand, and every time he's encountered (he's a pretty Nice Guy for an undead abomination and only shows himself to the protagonist, Alex), it's progressed a little further until it's devoured his whole arm, much of his face, and the wall nearby.
  • The Creepypasta series Runners. The original, Slough, has a villiage infected with fungal spores that cause nymphomania and tissue necrosis. When the fungal infection reaches a certain point, anyone who didn't screw themselves to death runs around with their bodies rotting away; and everywhere a gobbet of infested flesh lands, a mushroom grows... The Expanded Universe stories including a tourist couple, a pharmecutical company, and an anorexic jogger.
    • Unrelated to the Runners stories is an untitled series about mushrooms with a Metamorphosis Monster life cycle: Its spores come out as flies, who immediately rot into blood-like sludge, and anyone who is soaked by the blood or eats a mature fungus has them start growing on them. However, they start with damaged tissues, usually burns and the like.
    • Zombie Fungus starts with a guy's brother coming back from Brazil with a green rash and acting weird. He'd been infected by a strain of Cordrycepts evolved to affect humans.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-129 ("Progressive Fungal Infection"). Stages One through Four of SCP-129 infection mimic other diseases. Stage Five causes death in bizarre ways, such as causing the victim to blow up like a balloon and explode (spraying fungus all over the place) or being turned into a lump of fungus.
    • SCP-679 ("Eyerot"). SCP-679 is a fungus that infects victims, blinds them and replaces their eyes with the fungus. Afterwards, threads of the fungus move around on the victim's face in random patterns.
    • SCP-1294 ("The Laughing Fox"). SCP-1294 is a type of anomalous fungus that takes the form of a male fennec fox. It reproduces by mating with real female fennec foxes.

     Western Animation 
  • A trademark of Dr. Viper from SWAT Kats.
  • Transformers Animated: the space barnacles mutated by the AllSpark, despite their name, spread and grow rather like super-fast fungus. They are also a Puppeteer Parasite to both Mechanical Lifeforms and non-living machines which are best removed with extreme heat.
  • Bionic Six has an episode where Dr. Scarab attacks with a mutant fungus as the Monster of the Week. When his accomplice Madame O complains that she hates fungus, he says, "You'll come to love it! It grows on you!"
  • On As Told by Ginger, a plumber discovers a rapidly-spreading mold growing behind the tiles when he removes a tile in Mrs. Foutley's bathroom. The house has to be fumigated in order to get rid of it, and the Foutleys have to temporarily vacate the house, only being allowed to take one treasured possession. Ginger chooses her diary. Mrs. Bishop's already fairly low opinion of the Foutleys gets even lower, although Mrs. Foutley is told that the mold was likely there when they moved in (so it doesn't have anything to do with her housekeeping skills/lack thereof.)
  • An alien plant/fungus has this effect on people after infecting their blood stream as explained by Elle in an episode of Men in Black. The alien spores are also of the Puppeteer Parasite variety.

     Real Life 
  • Cordyceps are a genus of fungi that infect living creatures (mostly insects and other arthropods). They grow inside the infected bug until they kill it, at which point the fungus' fruiting body bursts out of the host's exoskeleton, spreading its spores. Even creepier is that some species of cordyceps actually affect the host's behavior. For instance, one species infects ants. The infected ants gain a compulsion to climb upward as far as they can before they die, which allows the Cordyceps to spread its spores further.
    • The really fun part is that it is commonly eaten by humans, and is even used in many medications such as the anti-rejection drug Neoral. Which makes sense: the fungus, itself, needs to suppress immune responses on the part of its host if it's to propagate.
    • Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is even worse: it doesn't take control of the ant's brain. According to this article published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the fungus surrounds not the brain but the muscles of the ant and changes the very genes of the insect, turning the host's body into an extension of the fungus itself.
  • Aspergillus niger and various species of genus Stachybotrys are molds that infest houses. Their spores (especially those of Stachybotrys) are harmful to humans and produce symptoms of respiratory diseases. Serious infestations in wooden houses are particularly hard to get rid of and require chemicals; in less enlightened times infested houses were burned.
  • Athlete's Foot is just one of a wide variety of fungal infections that can affect humans, being the main reason that people are discouraged from going barefoot in public showers and gyms.
  • It's perfectly normal to have living fungi (mostly Candida and Dipodascaceae yeasts) in your ileum and large intestine. Luckily they are harmless, even beneficial, so long as they stay there: it's your poop they digest, not your tissue.


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