Follow TV Tropes


High-Voltage Death

Go To
"His death came as a great shock to all of us..."
"An absolutely electrifying experience."

There are many ways to kill off a character, but ever since Thomas Edison invented the electric chair, creators have learned that a particularly flashy way to do it has been to run a high voltage current through them. The circumstances may vary, the character may take a nasty fall into some high voltage equipment, grab an electric fence, or wires, or their death may be something more mundane like dropping a toaster into the tub. The fact is a lot of characters get a nasty shock, and they die, and there's a million ways to do that.

There are a couple of different reasons a character might die by electrocution. The main reason is it's a very "clean" way for creators to kill a character off without having to resort to Bloodless Carnage or Symbolic Blood. Thus a High Voltage Death is often used when creators want to get around the censors in a more realistic way; especially in kids shows. The other reason is it's also very easy to write a High Voltage Death as an accident, which makes for a great Karmic Death. One reason to accidentally die by electrocution is for it be an Accidental Murder where the "killer" only intended to rough them up a bit, but one thing leads to another, and the "victim" ends up turning on the power and unintentionally killing themselves. Or the electrified character ends up being oblivious to the fact that electricity was running through the thing that ends up killing them. Despite all this, dying by electrocution can often be a more painful and horrifying way to die than more graphic ways.

Strangely, it's pretty rare for a High Voltage Death to be caused by Elemental Powers, since there are so many other ways to die by electricity. Killing someone intentionally with electric powers is usually a privilege reserved for the most evil of villains, because of how horrifying it looks, and how painful killing someone with high voltage can be. You could say it's a twist saved for when you really want to shock the audience.

The polar opposite to Harmless Electrocution. Related to Accidental Murder, Bolt of Divine Retribution, Karmic Death, and Make It Look Like an Accident. Electrified Bathtub is a subtrope. In more comical instances can lead to X-Ray Sparks. For cases where electricity is not harmless, but doesn't cause death either, see Electric Torture.

Of course, this can unfortunately be Truth in Television for anyone who messes around with electricity without knowing what they're doing — or for that matter anyone who gets sentenced to death by electric chair — so please don't do that!

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ushio and Tora, Shock and Awe is one of Tora's Elemental Powers and he's not afraid to use it. Among his victims we have two of the Gamin-Sama and the serpent Youkai Tayura, which are shocked to the point that they are reduced to ashes with No Body Left Behind.
  • Zombie Land Saga: This is exactly how Ai Mizuno is killed. During her last performance in Iron Frill, which was done during a thunderstorm, Ai was struck by a bolt of lightning. This results in her becoming afraid of lightning as a zombie until she and her band are struck by lightning during a performance in a concert, and live due to being zombies this time.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Code Prime: During the R2 chapter Tunnel Vision, Springload is killed in the Paris subways when Sayoko stabs his tongue into the third rail with a pipe, the electricity subsequently surging into the rest of his body.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: In the Luana Gaiden sidestory, the first victim of One Eye and his Crash when they rampage on the Kumquat Island beach, is a lifeguard who gets electrocuted to death by Electabuzz.
  • Narrowly averted in the Star Trek: The Original Series fanfic Insontis II. Kirk is nearly electrocuted by a faulty circuit, but Spock breaks the current Just in Time.

    Films — Animation 
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker: After The Joker kidnaps Tim Drake (Robin), and brainwashes him into being insane like himself. The Joker tries to get Tim to to kill the Batman and prove Tim is like him. In the censored version of the scene Tim pushes The Joker into a glass container full of water, breaking it, which causes him to get tangled in electrical wires attached to the container. The Joker slips on the water and accidentally pulls an electrical switch, and the wires electrocute him to death. Many years after the Joker's "biological" death, Terry destroyed the microchip that was planted in Tim Drake's neck that allow the Joker to return to life with the Joker's own joy-buzzer, putting an end to the Joker's reign of terror forever.
  • A Bug's Life: Implied between the bug called Harry after his encounter with the bug zapper as Flik arrives at the city.
  • Rat in Fantastic Mr. Fox is flung into some exposed wires during his battle with Mr. Fox in the sewers.
  • Oliver & Company: When Sykes's dobermans, Roscoe and Desoto, are knocked off a speeding car onto some subway tracks, Roscoe dies of electrocution when he lands on an electrified subway rail.
  • Titan A.E.: This Don Bluth movie has a Heroic Sacrifice variant. Captain Korso repays Cale Tucker for saving his life by making a Heroic Sacrifice, using himself as a shunt in a huge circuit breaker so that Cale can power up the Titan spacecraft. He is seen momentarily roaring in pain from the massive current flowing between the contact points.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T
    • Threatened; when warning Bart not to try and escape, the talking bust of Dr. Terwilliker says that the barbed wire on the fences is electrified.
    • Furthermore, the cut verse from the elevator song mentions that the third floor dungeon has electric chairs.
  • Accident. The pawnbroker is electrocuted when the crew of professional killers drape a wet kite string over a tram cable and on to his wheelchair during a rainstorm. His death is so horrific that his son—who hired the hitmen—is Driven to Suicide after witnessing it.
  • In Accident Man, Mike kills heavy metal band Satanic Mechanics by creating an 'accident' where the stage they are performing on is electrified.
  • Addams Family Values
    • This is the fate of the film's villain, Debbie Jellinsky. When she attempts to murder the Addams via electric chairs, Pubert accidentally re-routes the wiring of the electric chairs and redirects the electricity back to the switch Debbie was holding onto, killing her instead.
    • She tried this on Fester earlier by dropping a stereo into the tub with him. The lights all blow away and he seems to be agonizing (much to her delight)...But in true Fester fashion, he's seen sitting there cheerily and unaffected with a lit bulb in his teeth.
  • In the 1979 British thriller Agatha, a reporter suspects that crime novelist Agatha Christie is planning to murder her husband's mistress by turning a Bergonic Chair (an early form of electro-shock treatment) into an electric chair.
  • Manon in The Alligator People dies when he is caught in wiring attached to the radioactivity dispersing equipment, which electrocutes him.
  • The Bad Seed: And adaptations: In the original book, and play versions, the story's Enfant Terrible Rhoda, survives an attempted murder by her mother and it's implied Rhoda goes on to killing her next victim. In the film version due to Hay's code being in effect at the time, and Executive Meddling they couldn't allow a criminal to get away with their crimes, so they tacked on a scene at the end where Rhoda is killed by a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
  • Batman Film Series:
    • Seen in Batman (1989) via the Joker's amped-up Electric Joybuzzer which basically cooks the guy he's holding.
    • Max Shreck dies this way in Batman Returns, courtesy of Catwoman overloading the power generator at Penguin's Arctic World, and frying him with one of the wires while giving him one hell of a Kiss of Death.
  • In Blackenstein, Eddie kills Dr. Stein by pushing him on to one of the sparking pieces of electrical equipment in the Mad Scientist Laboratory.
  • in Black Rat, the Black Rat kills Kanako is a jury-rigged electric chair.
  • In The Brain Eaters, all the alien parasites are done in when the spacecraft that they came to earth with is hooked up to an overhead powerline.
  • Carrie (1976): Mr.Fromm gets electrocuted during the Black Prom when a fire house sprays the microphone he's speaking into.
  • Clown Kill: Charlie Boy kills George with a joy buzzer he plugged into a wall.
  • Darby and the Dead: Capri died from a curling iron based accidental electrocution in the girls' locker room at her school.
  • In the movie Dick Tracy's Dilemma, the villain, The Claw, dies when his Hook Hand snags on some high voltage wires while he is trying to kill Tracy.
  • In Don't Open Till Christmas, Sgt. Powell is murdered when the killer hooks up a car body to the mains, and Powell opens the door while searching for the killer.
  • The climax of Double Impact has Alex taking on the triad's Giant Mook brute, Moon. With Alex winning by kicking Moon into a fusebox.
  • In The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, a member of the title group scales a utility pole outside the office window of their mob boss, Antonio "Baccala" Vestrummo, as part of an assassination attempt. He raises a throwing knife... straight into high-voltage wires, fatally electrocuting himself. The lights in Baccala's office flicker briefly, but he remains otherwise oblivious to the failed attempt on his life.
  • Ghost in the Machine: While babysitting at Frazer's place and watching TV alone in the kitchen, Carol gets one when the killer makes the dishwasher spill behind her onto a loaded extension cord sitting on the floor, and she gets off her stool to step in it.
  • In Godzilla vs. Hedorah, this is how the smog monster is defeated. After discovering that electricity can dry out Hedorah's sludge-comprised body the quickest, two electrodes are setup in order to trap Hedorah in between and electrocute the monster to death. Shenanigans ensue, and Godzilla manages to dry out (and thus kill) Hedorah by using his atomic breath to power the electrodes and bathe Hedorah in electricity.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch has Billy killing off the Gremlin horde by getting them wet (normally a bad idea) but then unleashing the gremlin that had Shock and Awe Elemental Powers on them.'s not clear what happened to the electric Gremlin. Maybe being grounded absorbed him into the ground?
  • Halloween
  • Double Subverted in Hellboy (2004) when the title character is battling Sammael the first time. Hellboy grabs the third rail of a subway. He just gets a little jolted, but Sammael gets barbecued. Hellboy then lights a cigar off a flaming bit of Sammael stuck to his stone hand.
  • Horrors of the Black Museum: When Dr. Ballan gets too close to figuring out Bancroft's secret, Bancroft murders him by tricking him into standing between the two ends of an electrical arc, and then activating the arc.
  • The Immortals: In the tunnel between the nightclub and the hotel, Deke kills one of Dominic's goons by shooting a high-voltage electrical cable so it falls on him.
  • James Bond:
  • In Jaws 2, the killer shark is goaded into biting an undersea power cable, which electrocutes it.
  • In Killdozer!, Kelly and Dennis destroy the dozer by luring it onto a metal grid which they then electrify.
  • In Killer Party, Professor Zito is murdered when the killer jams a live electric cable into his neck while he is investigating the guillotine in the basement.
  • Last Action Hero. Jack Slater dispatches the Ripper using this method; While on a rainy rooftop The Ripper throws an axe at him, Jack takes the axe and uses it to chop open a nearby powerbox. He climbs onto the side of the building and pushes the cut power lines into the puddles Ripper is standing in, electrocuting Ripper to death.
  • In the theatrical cut of Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour electrocutes Audrey II with a broken cable until the plant explodes.
  • In The Man They Could Not Hang, Judge Bowman dies when he grasps the electrified grille Savaard has used to seal off the dining room.
  • In Massacre at Central High, David cuts a cord on Bruce's hang glider, causing him to crash onto high wires.
  • In Midnight Movie, Mario is electrocuted when the killer grabs hold of him, and the jams his blade into a socket; sending electricity coursing through him into Mario.
  • In the 1998 remake of Mighty Joe Young, this is how the film's Big Bad Strasser meets his end. Just as he's about to shoot Jill, Joe stops him by flinging him into some wires over a transformer. Strasser, having lost some of his fingers to Joe many years ago, loses his grip and falls into the transformer, electrocuting him to death.
  • No Holds Barred: Happens to Mr. Brell, the movie's main villain, in the climatic scene. Rip (Hulk Hogan) has just defeated Brell's muscle, Zeus, to Brell's disbelief. With all of his stooges and his main thug now having been defeated, Brell realizes he is in deep trouble and tries to flee ... only as he is attempting to run from Rip, he backpedals into an electrical panel ... and he suffers an extremely large-voltage electrical shock that kills him, presumably instantly.
  • Play Safe: One segment (also broadcast as a standalone public information film) shows a boy named Jimmy being electrocuted to death after going into an electrical substation to retrieve a Frisbee.
  • Powerful Stuff: This public information film shows two brothers, Darren and Tom, getting electrocuted to death when the former goes into a substation to get a footballnote  and the latter goes to try to help him despite their friend Andy's protests.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes has Landon, the son of the owner of the ape sanctuary. After Caesar has enough of his abuse and speaks, he turns the kid's hose on him, and since Landon is still holding his activated cattle prod...well, guess. Combined with a bit of Hoist by His Own Petard, it seems.
  • In Silent Night (2012), Deputy Jordan is electrocuted in a homemade electric chair that incorporates Christmas lights.
  • Happens to an unfortunate family in Sinister 2; they're all tied up in a flooded kitchen, then a severed electrical cable is dropped into the water...
  • Sisters of Death: Joe dies when the Angry Guard Dog chases him into the high-voltage electric fence.
  • In Slaughter High, Stella and Frank are murdered when the jester electrifies the metal frame of the bed while they are having sex.
  • Special Female Force has one of the titular heroines facing the villain's Dark Action Girl enforcer. The henchwoman tries skewering the heroine with a long, pointed steel pole, but the heroine pulls a Deadly Dodging and makes her opppnent skewer a nearby fusebox instead.
  • Splatter: If Dr. Bellows tries to use the phone booth, he'll be electrocuted to death.
  • Star Wars: Quite a few Sith lords have used Force Lightning to kill their opponents or have had similar attempts made on their life. It's such a common technique among the dark side that it's controversial in the Star Wars universe for someone working on the light side of the force to use it.
  • The lead feral cat in Strays (1991) is killed with electricity when it is tricked to bite down on a broken-off electrical cord of a microwave.
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three: The movie's mastermind chooses to commit suicide rather than be captured by the police, because if convicted he was likely to face life in prison, and he preferred dying to that. He fries himself by stepping on the live third rail in the subway.
  • Talon Falls: When Lyndsey and Ryder return to the electric chair room, they discover Lance is in the chair now. Ryder tries to free him, but one of the park employees flips the switch, electrocuting her and presumably Lance to death.
  • Terror Birds: Subverted; one of the villain's henchmen hits an electric fence, and is just stunned enough for a terror bird to kill him.
  • In Theatre of Blood, Miss Moon is electrocuted underneath a hairdryer by Lionheart posing as a hairdresser.
  • In Titanic (1997), right before the ship breaks apart we see the Chief Engineer Joseph Bell and his entire staff desperately trying to keep the circuit breakers in. One of them gets hit by a jet of water just as he grabs a breaker, electrocuting him and shorting out the ship's power for good.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Dylan Gould, a Deception agent suffering this fate when fighting with Sam over the Control Pillar for the Space Bridge to help the Decepticons complete their plannote . As he's boasting that he saved Cybertron and continues talking-down to him, Sam knocks him into the Pillar, electrocuting Dylan to death.
  • In The Walking Dead (1936), the last two villains, Nolan and Loder, die when their car skids off the road and knocks over a power pole; causing the power lines to fall on their car. This is a Karmic Death as it was their Frame-Up that sent John Ellman to the electric chair.

  • In the Boojumverse, the story "The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward" reveals the powerful Living Ships called Boojums can only be killed in two manners: chopping them into tiny pieces, or with a powerful electric shock to the central nervous system. Since the first method is highly impractical, Cynthia and Hester use electricity to slay the reanimated Charles Dexter Ward, dispatching the villainous Dr. Fiorenzo in the same manner in the process.
  • In Stephen King's Carrie (and in its 2002 and 2013 adaptations), this is how the title character kills most of her classmates at the senior prom: by flooding the floor of the gymnasium, and then dropping live wires into the water. Miss Desjardin barely manages an Air Vent Escape, her feet dangling just inches from the electrified water as she climbs into the air duct.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
  • Caroline suffered this in the backstory of A Cry in the Night. While feeding animals in the barn, Caroline tripped on the damp floor and fell into a stock tank. She instinctively grabbed at a lamp to stop herself falling (not realizing it was plugged in) inadvertently pulled the wire into tank with her and was fatally electrocuted. Or at least, that's what everyone thought happened. It's eventually revealed her then-ten-years-old son Erich pushed her in and threw the lamp in after her.
  • The Dark: During a rainy football match, an ethereal concentration of evil-infused darkness inspires footballer "Animal" to rip out the junction box's cables, sending the current through the soaked stadium.
  • Zimnik's "Geschichten vom Lektro". As his Affectionate Nickname already suggests, he has studied electro engineering, and his only invention (a light switch to step on, so you don't have to fumble in the dark) shortcircuits due to rain and a woodworm. (Probably not deadly in Real Life, but so there.)
  • Another Stephen King example is The Green Mile, which is about the Guards who man the electric chair at Cold Mountain Penitentary. A few characters, including Delacroix and John Coffey get the chair during the story.
  • James Bond:
    • In a scene from Thunderball (also adapted for the film version), Blofeld electrocutes one of his SPECTRE underlings in his chair.
    • Bond manages to kill several bad guys in Death Is Forever by turning back on the electricity of a railtrack while they are all standing on it. The resulting stench from their crispy bodies makes him sick and and he starts vomiting.
    • As Bond and the evil special effects man Fripp fight on the catwalks in the Cannes Film Festival in Never Dream of Dying, they topple over and end up dangling from wires. Fripp grabs a broken one, and is electrocuted to death.
  • H. G. Wells's short story "The Lord of the Dynamos" is set in a power plant and features two such deaths. The first looks like an accident, and the second, not surprisingly, is the murderer's.
  • All of the victims in the Simon Ark short story "The Avenger from Outer Space" are electrocuted, with the killer attempting to make it appear they were struck by lightning.
  • There is a SF/F story where a witch summons a demon and binds earth, water, fire and wind with a spell so he can't hurt her with these. Unfortunately, the demon kept up with the times and technology. Bzzzzzt!
  • In the Warrior Cats novella Tree's Roots, Tree's best friend as a kit, Stream, is struck by lightning just feet away from him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die had this happen multiple times, including to a man who zapped his penis off peeing on an electric fence. (An event which was debunked on Mythbusters, for the record.)
  • The 4400: In the fantasy world created by P.J. in "No Exit", Meghan is killed when she receives a massive electrical shock after hotwiring the NTAC armory room's keypad. However, she is alive and uninjured in the real world.
  • Happened to at least two villains in Adam Adamant Lives!: Melville in "Sing a Song of Danger" is killed when he spears a high voltage cable with his Sword Cane, and Dr. Mort collides with a generator while attempting to wrestle Adam in "The Doomsday Plan".
  • In The Adventures of Superman episode "Double Trouble", the villains of the week sequester Jimmy in a room which can become electrified if they throw a switch. They try it, but Superman is too fast for them.
  • Andor: When the prisoners in Level 2 discovered that Narkina 5 prisoners don't ever get released, only moved to another prison when they're said to be released, so they were all electrocuted and replaced with a new imprisoned workforce to prevent the news from spreading.
  • Breaking Bad: Peter Schuler commits suicide, by using the wires of an automatic defibrillator to stop his heart, after his longtime associate Gus Fring is found to been the head of a massive drug empire. Realizing that he will probably lose his company, have his reputation ruined, and serve a lengthy jail sentence for his role in Gus's rise to power, he decided to skip all that hassle by killing himself just as the police arrive at his office to question him.
  • In one episode of Byker Grove, Jemma is accidentally electrocuted while trying to adjust an elderly woman's faulty television.
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: This is the Achilles' Heel of the otherwise indestructible titular Captain. Naturally there would be an episode forcing him to face that weak spot.
  • Chucky: In the first episode, when Luke goes down into the basement to check out the fuse box after the power goes out, there's Chucky, spitting up the whiskey he'd stolen from him upon the floor where the ripped-out wires are sitting. The electricity conducts through Luke's feet and arcs out of his eye.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Face of Evil": One of the Tesh acolytes is killed when he falls against an electrified mesh Xoanon intended to kill the Doctor.
    • "Horror of Fang Rock": Rutans are capable of generating and discharging massive amounts of electricity from their bodies. When one gets stuck in a lighthouse on Earth, it slowly picks off the people there by frying the living daylights out of them.
    • "Dalek": The Dalek turns on a sprinkler system and blasts an overhead catwalk and the floor to kill a large number of opponents in only three shots, one of which was to turn on the sprinklers.
    • "Planet of the Dead": Christina narrowly avoids this when rappelling down a shaft, as the Doctor stops her before she can hit the security grid. Then, when she's coming back up in a hurry while being chased by a hungry alien stingray, she turns the grid back on as she passes it, which apparently kills it.
  • Endeavour: The second Victim of the Week in "Rocket" is electrocuted when he walks through a puddle that the killer has run a live wire through. Intended to look like an accident, the killer's mistake was killing him as he was leaving the building, rather than arriving.
  • Played with then played straight in Forever (2014) when a man appears to have been killed by suffocation, but it turns out a low but steady electrical current was used to make his diaphragm seize up, preventing him from breathing. Later the same killer kidnaps Henry and tortures him with painful high voltages, but when he tries to finish him off, Henry is able to shift his hand enough to grab hold of the killer, causing the current to run through him as well, disabling him.
  • Both versions of Ghosts have a ghost who died from a lightning strike.
    • Rogh (aka Robin) from the British version was a caveman who was hiding from a bear under a tree when it was struck by lightning.
    • Thorfinn from the American version was a Viking who was exploring what is present-day New York when he was struck by lightning while out in the open. The metal helmet that he was wearing probably didn't help.
  • Gotham: Jack Gruber kills a man, who was answering the door, at an electronics store by running an electric current through the doorknob, and frying him.
  • Attempted but averted in an episode of The Incredible Hulk (1977), where a KISS-like heavy metal singer (played by Mackenzie Phillips) plans to do this and make it look like an accident during a concert in order to teach her fans a lesson about... something or other. But when she sees David Hulk Out and the fans are still screaming for more, she realizes that her death will make no difference to them.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In the episode "The Ripper", Kolchak manages to destroy the spirit of Jack the Ripper by electrocuting him.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "The Dagger Club", the first two victims are electrocuted by booby-trapped roulette wheels.
    • In "With Baited Breath", the first Victim of the Week is killed when an obstacle on an endurance trail that is set to give a mild electric shock is cranked to maximum while he is contact with it.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries:
    • In "Murder Under the Mistletoe", the first victim is electrocuted by Christmas lights that have been tampered with.
    • In "Death & Hysteria", the Victim of the Week is electrocuted when the killer tampers with her electric vibrator.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Murder in Tempo", the Victim of the Week is the lead singer of a band who is electrocuted when someone tampers with his guitar.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • In "Power", Toronto City Council are entertaining the idea of abandoning direct current electricity for the city in favour of the new alternating current. Two murders are committed connected to the current wars, and both of them involve electrocution.
    • In the aptly-titled "High Voltage", the Victim of the Week is a salesman found dead in his product: a chair with electrodes designed to send a small amount of current through the body of the person sitting in it. The man was in fact electrocuted, and once Murdoch determines the device was tampered with, he sets out to find out who did the tampering and why.
  • My Life Is Murder: In "All That Glitters", the Victim of the Week is a Drag Queen is dies in a seeming accident after faulty stage lights electrify the stage. However, Detective Harry Henare is not convinced and asks Alexa to investigate.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Revelations of Becka Paulson", the title character rigs the television so that it will electrocute her unfaithful husband Joe when he touches the knob. When the electrocution process begins, 'Becka realizes that what she has done is wrong but is electrocuted herself in her failed attempt to save Joe.
  • Sister Boniface Mysteries: In "Lights, Camera, Murder!", producer Dick Lansky is found dead in a chair, electrocuted; mimicking a torture scene found in the script.
  • In the Six Feet Under episode "An Open Book", a porn star is killed by her cat pushing her electric curlers into the bathtub.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Dagger of the Mind", Kirk sends Dr. Helen Noel through the ventilation ducts of the Tantalus Penal Colony to find the power shutoff. He warns her that "megavoltage" is involved, and that touching the wrong line would be fatal. Sure enough, it is — to the guard who tries to stop her.
  • Played for comedy of all things in the Supernatural episode "Mystery Spot", in which Dean dies multiple deaths while Sam is trapped in a Ground Hog Day Loop. One of the ways he dies is by plugging an electric shaver into a faulty outlet — and yes, we do see X-Ray Sparks.
  • Tales from the Crypt: In "The Man Who Was Death", Niles Talbot, an executioner put out of work when the state outlaws the death penalty, becomes a Vigilante Man who electrocutes people he believes have gotten away with murder. He is eventually arrested and given the chair himself after the state reinstates the death penalty.
  • Whodunnit? (UK):
    • In "A Deadly Tan", a dictator is murdered when the killer electrifies the towel rail in his solarium.
    • In "Pop Goes the Weasel", the killer rewires the microphone and the electric guitar of a pop singer so that when he holds the guitar in one hand and grabs the mic with the other, he completes a circuit and electrocutes himself.
  • The Wild Wild West featured such a death in the season 2 episode "The Night of the Tottering Tontine". One of the members of said tontine, mystery writer Edward Baring, found a book in his room titled The Death of Edward Baring. He opened it and was immediately electrocuted.
  • Wiseguy. Sonny Steelgrave kills himself this way rather than face a certain conviction for murder.


    Puppet Shows 
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons:
    • In "Operation Time", Captain Blue pursues the Mysteronised Doctor Magnus (who has just had his Mysteron identity exposed by an X-Ray) into Cloudbase's generator room; Magnus, ranting and raving, backs into a bank of relays and dies screaming in a "Red Screen of Death"; this incident proved that (a) Mysterons could be detected by X-rays, and (b) they could (only) be definitely killed by high voltage electricity.
    • In a later episode, "Noose Of Ice", Captain Scarlet improvises and swings an active power cable into a set of metal stairs a Mysteron was descending, electrocuting him (to the point of combustion!).
    • Captain Blue also states to Captain Scarlet, "High voltage is the one thing that can kill you."

  • In one episode of Dragnet, Friday and Smith are investigating a burglar who's trying to tunnel into a bank. The burglar miscalculates where to dig, and just as Friday and Smith move to apprehend him he hits a high-voltage power cable by accident.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Asylum". Doctor Freygan's laboratory has a tub into which victims are placed in order to turn them into proto-shoggoths. If a living person is in the tub when the apparatus is activated, electrical bolts slam into their body and instantly (and horribly) kill them by electrocution.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Over the years many characters have been killed by the various electricity-related spells such as Shocking Grasp, Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning and others.
    • 1st Edition module S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. In Level II (Service Deck 5) there are areas that contain electrical equipment such as generators and transformers. If a PC decides to touch these devices with metal objects (e.g. weapons), there's a 10% chance that the character will be electrocuted and killed.
  • Rocket Age has had an adventure end in a fight on top of a device that sparks lethal lightning bolts that are as dangerous to the heroes as the mooks they are fighting. Also one adventure features a fire in Tesla's secret lab and although fire might be the main danger electricity is still a grave risk.

    Theme Parks 
  • In the JAWS ride at Universal Studios, the shark ends up getting fried to bits when it accidentally bites an electrical cord.

    Trading Cards 

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: Dahlia Hawthorne kills Doug Swallow this way by pushing him onto live wires, then attempts to frame Phoenix for the crime.
  • Avencast: Rise of the Mage: One popular Solve the Soup Cans puzzle is a tiled highway that needs to be crossed in a specific pattern. The Antepieces in Avencast only deliver a painful shock on a misstep, but the ones in the Kyranian Outpost cause instant death by lightning if you fail.
  • Batman: Vengeance: Electricity can kill Batman with three hits. And it can kill a disguised Bruce Wayne with one hit.
  • In the BioShock series, any mooks hit by electricity in water are instantly killed. This is also a GREAT way to spend your electric shotgun shells — ON A BIG DADDY.
    • You could even beat the final level (or at least most of it) by spamming flamethrowers with electrical mods to shoot streams of electricity.
    • They took electric shotgun shells and flamethrowers out of the sequel... and added CONSECUTIVE LIGHTNING STREAMS instead. This was usually Awesome, but Impractical though. A better application would be the new Tazer Bots in the Minerva's Den DLC.
  • Occurs in the Borderlands games when you kill an enemy with a weapon that deals electrical damage. In the first game, doing so to most human enemies would result in the flesh being fried off of their skull, which would then shatter after their lifeless body falls to the ground; in Borderlands 2 enemies simply vaporize in a spectacular lightshow of flares and sparks.
  • Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back: This is one of the many ways Crash can die in the levels, whether from electric fences/barriers, electrified sewer water (by Psycho Electric Eels), or being grabbed by cyborg Lab Assistants' hands.
  • Cyberlasso is a Puzzlescript game where you use selfsame lasso to move around blocks in a Sokoban-oid fashion. Some blocks are under voltage. Better break the circuit before touching, or this trope. And a hint for the end: Take down the reactor at all costs...
  • In the American Laser Games game Crime Patrol, in one level in the "Rookie" segment, the female cop almost touches an electric fence and then turns to you and says that electric fences can shock you. Then, a few seconds and two shot bad guys later, a bad guy comes out from behind a box, and you must shoot the bad guy to send him flying into said electric fence. The bad guy is then shocked to death afterwards.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has electrified water as an occasional hazard. It does gradual damage but it can still kill you if you're not paying attention. Although you can get an augmentation that renders you immune.
  • Everything or Nothing: Bond can inflict what should be one of these against Jaws at the end of "An Old Friend." What makes this not an example of Harmless Electrocution is that it is visibly harmful, but it's just not enough to do much more than slow him down.
  • Evil Genius allows you to build traps to electrocute heroes infiltrating your lair.
  • When the final blow is dealt on the final boss of Final Fight 3, it sends him flying into a fuse box nearby which doesn't just electrocute him, it somehow destroys the entire skyscraper where the fight takes place.
  • Hail The Fallen Third: Caitlyn will die if she tries to walk through an electrified metal gate without turning off the generator.
  • In Hitman (2016), you can electrocute someone to death by having them stand over a puddle of water exposed to an open wire. It also counts as an accidental death, making your kill unnoticable. Killing people by luring them into electrified puddles was a rather a easy-to-repeat, cheesy kill method, so the sequels greatly reduced the amount of electrocutable puddles... Though Hitman 2 added the ICA Electrocution Phone, which was such a Game-Breaker it was removed in the third game.
  • inFAMOUS: courtesy of Cole's electric powers every enemy suffers this (as does Cole if you fall into water).
  • In The Journeyman Project, one of the ways to defeat the Killer Robot at the World Science Center is to electrify the maintenance catwalk he is perched on with a wire from the nearby fuse box.
  • Jumper games feature very common electric currents which are an instant death for Ogmo (like anything else) if he comes into contact with their yellow sections.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!: Larry can try to climb a fence, blatantly ignoring the "High Voltage" signs on it, but that results in a game over.
  • In LittleBigPlanet, if Sackboy touches an electrified material, his seams burst and he has to restart from the previous checkpoint.
  • In The Long Dark, when the auroras are up, the entire power grid lights up. Loose wires in particular become a hazard: if you touch one, you'll be electrocuted for a whole heap of damage and suffer a nasty burn on top of it.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Fusion has electrified water as a hazard that damages you over time in the third zone you visit, where you get the Speed Boost. The player can accidentally kill themselves falling into it if they have low health.
    • Super Metroid: The secret way to defeat Draygon is to use the Grapple Beam to grab the electrical current of one of the destroyed turrets while Draygon is carrying Samus around in her claws. Both of them get electrified, and Samus lasts much longer than Draygon does.
  • Nancy Drew:
    • In The Final Scene, Nancy has to disarm an electrified gate. Nancy will die if she attempts to do so without rubber gloves.
    • In Secret of the Scarlet Hand, Nancy has to extract a tube from a HAM radio. If she touches the spot where the tube once was, she will get electrocuted.
  • Newgrounds' Pico vs. Bear: In the kitchen, shoot the faucets and the microwave, and the bomb-strapped Bear will splatter from the electrocution.
  • This trope is used to justify Chell's Super Drowning Skills in the Portal series; falling into water causes the portal gun to short out and (presumably) give her a fatal dose of electricity.
  • The Punisher (THQ): In the Ryker's Island level, Frank comes across a inmate strapped into an electric chair. After interrogating him the player can then choose whether or not to fry him.
  • Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary: In her and Rei's scenario, Yu offers to kill different characters she meets, attempting to turn them into ghosts so that they can enjoy the good things about being a ghost, completely unaware that it's death. She intends to do this to Maguro by bringing him to a high-voltage line, but thankfully that never happens.
  • What happens in Quake if you fire the Lightning Gun into the same body of water you're standing in.
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis after collecting an item from the power station needed to advance in the game, The player will then see a cutscene of a group of zombies trying to break in via the front gate.The player is then given two options, either escape through the back door or redirect power to the gate electrocuting the zombies and killing them.
  • Silent Hill 4: Walter kills Richard Braintree by strapping him to an electric chair.
  • This is one way your sims can die in The Sims, by trying to repair electrical appliances with poor mechanical/handiness skills, or (in the Seasons expansions for the second two games) being struck by lightning. Comes complete with X-Ray Sparks.
  • In Soldier of Fortune II, the only way to defeat Domingo Sanchez, who is inexplicably Immune to Bullets, is to blow up the electrical box behind him with a grenade, which discharges into the puddle of water he stands in, electrocuting him.
  • In Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers, Roger can die this way by either tampering with the arcade change machine at the Galaxy Galleria, or walking into or licking the force field surrounding Ulence Flats.
  • Spider: The Video Game have you playing as a spider who gained sentience. Touching exposed bug-zappers will subject you to this trope.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989): One of the most notoriously annoying levels in the game is an underwater level where you have to swim through obstacles that can zap the turtles with electricity if you don't time your movements right. There are many of them, they're hard to avoid, and they will kill you over time if you're not extremely careful with timing your movements.
  • In Tomb Raider III, Sophia, who is rendered Immune to Bullets by the artifact in her possession, must instead be defeated by shorting an electrical junction box into the catwalk she stands on.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: One particular of a Mad Doctor vampire's Malevolent Architecture is a room full of electrical arcs and switches that need to be deactivated in a specific order, with failure spelling instant Game Over.
  • Lee Everett from The Walking Dead can do this to Andrew St.John by kicking him into the electric fence, after giving him a beating for tricking everyone into thinking they were being helpful when they really wanted to eat them.
  • The Works of Mercy: An electrician tied up in the basement can be electrocuted with the push of a button, portrayed as murder. This is subverted. The electrician was already dead before the button was even pressed.
  • The eventual fate of Garrosh Hellscream in World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor when Thrall calls forth Draenor's elements to ensnare him in a stone fist from the ground, then strike him down with lightning.
  • One of the possible ways to kill a person Yandere Simulator is to cause a water fountain to leak to create a puddle of water, sabotage a nearby electric socket to electrify the puddle and giving a person salty snacks to cause them to run to the fountain to drink, thus leading to them to be electrocuted to death. Hilariously, Yan-chan can also electrocute herself if she's not careful about where she steps. In 1980s mode this is implied to be the 'canon' elimination method for getting rid of Ai Doruyashi, via sabotaging her microphone.

    Web Animation 

  • 8-Bit Theater. Black Mage electrocutes a group of old men to death in an old folks home with a Bolt 2 spell just for the sake of killing them. Well he also wanted to find an old man that took their gold, but he makes it pretty clear prior to that that he's mostly going there to cause mayhem, and only asks someone about the gold after he kills them.
    Black Mage: Eat electric death old man!!!
  • Girl Genius: In the Death Montage of the traitor Beausoleil's bodies one is depicted as getting fatally zapped with electricity.
  • In the Lycosa storyline of Nature of Nature's Art, an antagonistic Scytodes thoracica is fried when she accidentally bridges two points of a car battery with her venom-soaked webbing. On the next page, the protagonistic Lycosa gulosa is talking to herself about how much she likes barbecue.
  • Unsounded: Duane is given bulbs of electric charge to use on the battlefield as a wright. He uses it to kill a couple Foi-Hellick Rebels, before it comes in handy for a more unusual use later.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender subverts this. Azula uses lightning bending and strikes Aang in the back as he is entering into the Avatar state, threatening to end the avatar cycle for good. Dialogue in Book 3 makes it clear that this killed Aang, but Katara brings him back with the water from the Spirit Oasis she was given at the start of the season.
  • In the Happy Tree Friends episode "In A Jam", Russel is electrocuted and reduced to ashes by a shorted amplifier at the beginning. Notable for being one of the most cartoony and least gory deaths in the series.
  • Inspector Gadget has this attempted on him in at least two episodes; with a faulty guitar amplifier and an electrified harp in "A Star is Lost", and an electrified chicken in "Gadget and Old Lace"; the latter case including X-Ray Sparks.
  • The Legend of Korra:The waterbending Red Lotus member Ming-Hua fights using water tendrils that are connected to her body. However, this gives her a crippling weakness to electricity, because Mako's lightning traveled up her make-shift water limbs and electrocuted her to death immediately.
  • Metalocalypse:
    • One of Dethklok's songs, "Bloodrocuted" is about an electrician who uses a pool of his own blood and an electrical outlet to fry some mercenaries who are after him.
    • This is how journalist Nick Ibsen died, thanks to Stella Murderface a) knocking over a lamp that injured Nick's neck, and b) severing electrical cables that fell into the pool of blood Nick stood in. This is actually what inspired Nathan to write 'Bloodrocuted'.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played with in "Hurricane Neddy"; a criminal on death row is about to be executed in the electric chair during Hurricane Barbara. Seconds before the warden pulls the switch, the roof is blown off the death chamber in a huge gust of wind, which also causes the straps to come off. The criminal is blown into the air, and he snarls at the prison staff, "So long, suckers!" However, his freedom is very short-lived, as he is blown into high-voltage wires and killed anyway.
    • At the end of the episode “Homer's EnemyFrank Grimes is outraged at how Homer is constantly rewarded for his laziness and stupidity, goes insane, and starts mockingly mimicking stupid and risky things Homer would do and saying he's "Homer Simpson". While doing this he grabs a high voltage cable without safety gloves in Homer's office and unintentionally electrocutes himself to death.
    Frank: What's this? "Extremely high voltage". Well, I don't need safety gloves, because I'm Homer Simp-
    • Subverted in "Lisa the Tree Hugger"; when Lisa visits Jesse in prison for a second time, he reveals that he convinced the cops to install a solar-powered electric chair. Cut to Snake sitting in said chair, which is barely tingling him.
      Snake: Dude, we've been here all morning! Could you at least remoisten my head sponge?
    • Just barely averted in "This Little Wiggy", where Mayor Quimby straps himself to an old electric chair at the abandoned prison in an attempt to act out what will happen to criminals if they commit crimes in the city. Unfortunately for him, Bart and Ralph turned the power to the chair back on, so he was being electrocuted for real. Had Lisa not intervened, he would have been killed.
  • Defied in the first episode of Defenders of the Earth. Ming tries to kill Flash, Mandrake, the Phantom and Lothar by electrocuting them using the discarded equipment at an abandoned prison. However, Rick and LJ (who have been captured as bait) escape from their cell and sabotage the prison generator.

    Real Life 
  • Thomas Edison invented the electric chair when he was asked to come up with a new humane execution method to replace executions by hanging. As Edison battled with Nikola Tesla, he insisted that the first execution by electric chair be carried out with the Alternating Current Tesla promoted to show people how lethal Alternating Current was. The first attempt failed however when the electrocution caused the convict to become unconscious but failed to stop his heart and breathing, and his blood vessels underneath ruptured and bled causing unnecessary suffering. They had to charge electricity and try again making the whole execution take 8 minutes to kill the convict. The public seeing this instead associated ALL electricity as being bad and lethal to people, not just Alternating Current. This set back electricity's reputation for a while — as evidenced in the fact that outside of the United States, only the Philippines adopted the chair as a method of execution, and this likely only because it was a U.S. colony in 1924, when the chair was first introduced into Filipino prisons. (And unlike the U.S., the Philippine government has since discontinued its use — the chair itself fell out of use there in 1976, and the subsequent abolition of the death penalty in 2006 ensured it was gone for good, at least for the time being.)
    • The electric chair is still on the books as a possible method of execution in a few U.S. states, but only as a secondary method if the inmate chooses it instead of lethal injection. It has mostly fallen out of favor due to several infamous cases where it went horribly wrong, leading to objections that electrocution violates the Constitution's ban on Cruel And Unusual Punishment. The Other Wiki has the gory details. To date, the last use was in 2013.
  • It is to be noted that, despite the fact that electricity is known to be dangerous, especially at high voltages, there are still some people that manage to get into high voltage areas (often marked with a nice black and yellow lightning sign) and end up dead or severely injured as a result. So to all people reading this, a high enough voltage (generally more than a thousand) will not need to make contact to kill. Electricity can, and will, jump across empty air to strike a potential target if one is close enough (it has been measured to go up to six meters from one side to an other). For an example of the distance electricity can go across, see this video (this shows a regular cut of a power line).
  • Further away from the power line and transformer,electrocution is more likely to be fatal where the mains voltage is 220V — the power output for a given impedance, e.g., that of an human body, goes as the voltage squared, meaning 4 times the power at that voltage as at North America's 110V.
  • In 1903, an elephant named Topsy was electrocuted at the then still under construction Luna Park on Coney Island, where she had lived since being sold by the circus with which she had spent most of her life. Having been involved in three fatalities, Topsy had a reputation for being a "bad elephant" and, when Luna Park's owners tried to sell her after they fired her drunken handler, who was the only person capable of controlling her, there were no zoos or circuses willing to take her on. Left with no option but to kill her, the Park's owners planned a public hanging and, when this was vetoed for being "needlessly cruel", the decision was taken to electrocute her. To make sure she wouldn't survive, she was fed poisoned carrots shortly before the current was applied and ropes were tightened around her neck (using a steam-powered winch) after she fell. The killing was captured on film by the Edison Manufacturing Company, leading to claims that it was a publicity stunt by Thomas Edison to prove the dangers of Alternating Current. In fact, Edison had no direct involvement note  and the "War of the Currents" had ended several years earlier.
  • Around mid-2022, there was a social media trend of "fractal wood burning", in which you take apart a microwave to get its transformer, put two nails in opposite sides of a wooden plank, then affix the transformer to the nails by way of clamps and turn it on. With the massive amounts of electrical current passing through the transformernote  and the fact that this won't trigger the circuit breakers because the input of the transformer doesn't change, a single accidental brush against any part of this contraption can lead to death. As of July 2022, this had already caused 34 reported deaths in the US and 30 in the UK.


Video Example(s):


Leisure Suit Larry 6: Shape Up or Slip Out!

Larry can attempt to climb a fence, blatantly ignoring the high-voltage signs on it, but that results in a game over.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / HighVoltageDeath

Media sources: