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Fictionalized Death Account

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In real life, Hitler was not killed by Frankenstein's monster. note 

"Goldstone has succumbed to a temptation felt by other authors: the temptation to construct his counterfactual scenario by finding someone to kill (or, one might add, not to kill)."
Carla Gardina Pestana (a historian discussing another historian's work)

In a work of fiction based on a true story, sometimes a Historical Domain Character is killed off in a way which departs drastically from his or her passing in real life. This may be justified if the work is a Secret History or Alternate History; otherwise, it's a rather flamboyant example of Artistic License – History. Top marks if the fictional death differs notably in terms of both cause and date.

Note that this trope doesn't cover instances where the death is altered, but is still ultimately recognisable as a fictionalization of the real death. For example, the Hammer film Rasputin the Mad Monk makes some notable changes to Rasputin's historical murder, most obviously replacing his actual assassins with fictional stand-ins and having Rasputin successfully kill some of them before going down, but the sequence is still broadly similar to the accepted account.


The inversion of this would be when a historical figure's death doesn't take place when it did in real life - either because the story depicts their historical death as being faked or otherwise misreported, or when it simply avoids the matter altogether.

Essentially this is the Based on a True Story version of Death by Adaptation (or Spared By Adaptation, for the inversion.)

Compare Real Event, Fictional Cause.

As a Death Trope, expect unmarked spoilers ahead.



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    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, Hitler was incinerated by the original Human Torch, with his dying words being to tell his aide to tell everyone he had committed suicide.
  • In The Unknown Soldier #268, the Soldier infiltrates Adolf Hitler's bunker, killing him and assuming the dictator's identity to call off the deployment of a secret weapon. He then makes Hitler's death look like a suicide so people will assume Hitler took the coward's way out.
  • The page image comes from Flashpoint, which explicitly takes place in an Alternate History.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inglourious Basterds. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels are assassinated in June 1944, long before their actual deaths by suicide in 1945. Martin Bormann and Herrmann Goering also die in the chaos instead of committing suicide while trying to escape the fall of Berlin in 1945 or to deny the executioners at Nuremberg in 1946, respectively.
  • Gladiator does this twice, first to Marcus Aurelius (shown killed by Commodus; actually died of plague) and then to Commodus (shown killed in combat by the fictional Maximus; actually murdered in his bath).
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire has Marcus Aurelius poisoned as part of a scheme by Commodus to gain the Imperial throne, while Commodus himself dies in combat against the fictional Livius.
  • The Hammer film Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde shows William Burke lynched by a mob in London in the same year as the Jack the Ripper murders. In reality, he was formally executed in Edinburgh fifty-nine years before the Ripper killings.
  • In Shadow of the Vampire a few people involved with the filming of Nosferatu are killed, while in real life they had careers that lasted a few more decades.
  • The infamous witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins probably died of consumption, although one account has him ironically tried and executed for witchcraft by an unnamed individual. The film Witchfinder General ends with him being axed by a fictional Roundhead, before another Roundhead puts him out of his misery by shooting him. (The missing link? The film is based on a novel by Roland Bassett, in which Hopkins is ironically tried and executed for witchcraft by... the fictional Roundhead.)
  • In Hellboy (2004), Adolf Hitler is mentioned to have faked his death in 1945 and still lead his own occult movement until his actual death (which only the BPRD knows) in 58.

  • The Dennis Wheatley novel The Second Seal has Dragutin Dimitrijević strangled to death by the dashing but entirely fictional Duc de Richleau in 1914. He was actually shot for treason in 1917.
  • The Spear by James Herbert portrays Himmler as having faked his death, and eventually dying some time after the war. Not that it makes much difference.
  • 20 Years After: While the death of King Charles I goes as recorded (he was beheaded after someone volunteered to do so, as the original executioner couldn't be found), the events leading up to it are fictional, with the musketeers almost managing to break the king out (by digging a tunnel and kidnapping the executioner) if it wasn't for Mordaunt disguising himself and doing the deed to avenge himself.
  • Young Sherlock Holmes: In Red Leech, John Wilkes Booth survives the burning barn. The man shot and killed is a coconspirator of Booth's whose badly burned body was mistaken. Booth manages to escape, although badly burned. At the end of the novel, he is confined to an insane asylum where he will live out the rest of his life and die in anonymity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sliders had a few instances of this, to show how whatever world they've just landed in differed from their own.
  • Blackadder loved the "secret history" version of this trope.
    • The Black Adder creatively kills off King Richard III in the first episode, implying that he was accidentally killed by his idiot nephew after winning the Battle of Bosworth Field instead of dying while losing the battle.
    • Queen Elizabeth I has her throat slit in the final episode of Blackadder II, with master of disguise Prince Ludwig the Indestructible spending the rest of her reign pretending to be her.
    • The final episode of Blackadder the Third sees the Duke of Wellington assassinate the Prince Regent (believing him to be Blackadder) in a fit of rage; Blackadder, who is pretending to be the Prince, decides to maintain the charade.
    • Blackadder Goes Forth had the Red Baron (THE Red Baron) shot with a pistol in a basement jail cell by his British counterpart, Lord Flashheart, during a monologue.
  • Psychoville inverts this trope by revealing that Tony Hancock actually faked his suicide in 1968 and became Oscar Lomax, one of the series' regular characters. It then plays the trope straight when Lomax/Hancock is murdered.

  • Because William Shakespeare frequently either didn't have the true facts at hand or used Artistic License to make a better story, his plays based on real-life people often have these (Macbeth being a prime example).
  • In Schiller's play The Maid of Orleans and Verdi's opera Giovanna d'Arco, Joan of Arc is killed on the battlefield rather than burned at the stake.
  • In Assassins, John Wilkes Booth commits suicide when the barn is surrounded and set on fire. Some productions restore the historical version by having him shot by a Federal soldier.

    Video Games 
  • Oda Nobunaga has been subjected to the villain treatment numerous times throughout Japanese Media, including the various ways he dies. The video games Sengoku Basara and Onimusha perhaps being the most notable.
  • Zig-zagged in the Assassin's Creed series. While most of the villains are genuine historical figures who indeed died around the time the story is set, the parts about them being killed by a white-robed Assassin are, of course, purely fictional. However, some of the circumstances seen are similar to real-life events: Rodrigo Borgia is poisoned by his son Cesare turning his own murder attempt against him, as is believed happened (although his death is instant rather than slow, lingering, and gruesome as it was in real life). Cesare himself is recorded in history to have died in the siege of a particular city, while in the game he is thrown off of its walls.
  • In Wolfenstein 3D, Hitler is actually assassinated by OSA agent BJ Blazkowicz, despite wearing Power Armor and wielding More Dakka.
  • Ryse: Son of Rome features three of these. The above-mentioned Commodus (here depicted as a son of Emperor Nero), fights Player Character Marius (disguised as the Revenant Zombie centurion Damocles) in the Colosseum, only to be beheaded right in front of his father. Boudica, instead of taking poisons after being captured by Rome, invades the capital with War Elephants, and after losing a one-on-one battle with Marius, has her head taken off. And Nero, the Big Bad of the game... doesn't lose his head, but he doesn't kill himself as per real life. As a Prophecy Twist on the statement that Nero can only die by his own sword, Marius tackles Nero off a ledge so that he falls and lands on the marble sword forged for a gigantic sculpture of Nero himself, so that he ends up Impaled with Extreme Prejudice. Funnily enough, Marius did give Nero a sword earlier, so that he could Face Death with Dignity... but the Dirty Coward instead ran off to alert his guards, and stabbed Marius In the Back with that sword instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hakuouki liberally employs the inversion, with the water of life as a handy plot device to explain how the various members of The Shinsengumi survive the events of their historical deaths by being transformed into furies.

    Real Life 
  • There are numerous conspiracy theories which invert this trope by alleging that various historical figures actually faked their deaths, and that Hitler escaped to Argentina or Elvis Lives.


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