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High-Voltage Death

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"What's this!? Extremely High Voltage! Well I don't need safety gloves because I'm Homer Simp-"

"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 Elemental 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.

This is a death trope so spoilers will be unmarked.

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!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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.

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 
  • 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.
  • Oliver & Company: Sykes's dobermans are knocked off a speeding car onto some subway tracks. One of them, named Roscoe, dies of electrocution when he falls onto an electrified subway rail. This is also a blatant case of Getting Crap Past the Radar since Roscoe's death is pretty graphic and painful. While Desoto, who is killed is only heard not shown, and Sykes, who dies by being crushed by a train, is only barely shown.
  • 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.
  • Rat in Fantastic Mr. Fox is flung into some exposed wires during his battle with Mr. Fox in the sewers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 5000 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.
  • In Accident, the pawnbroker is electrocuted when the crew drape a wet kite string over a tram cable and on to his wheelchair during a rainstorm.
  • Manon in The Alligator People dies when he is caught in wiring attached to the radioactivity dispersing equipment, which electrocutes him.
  • The Bad Seed: 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
    • Seen in Batman (1989) via The Joker's amped-up joybuzzer that 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 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.
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch has Billy killing off the Gremlin hoard 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
    • In The Return of Michael Myers, Michael kills a man by throwing him into an electric generator of Haddonfield's power plant, causing a blackout across the whole town.
    • The Curse of Michael Myers has Michael impaling a victim to a fuse box, which causes so much electricity surge through the guy that his head explodes.
  • Double Subverted in Hellboy 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.
  • James Bond
    • Goldfinger. Bond kills The Dragon Oddjob by applying a live electrical cable to some steel bars as Oddjob is retrieving his metal-lined hat from the bars.
    • Thunderball: In the first scene after the opening credits, Ernst Stavro Blofeld electrocutes one of the members of SPECTRE's ruling council in his chair, in the middle of a meeting, for embezzling from their drug-dealing operation in the United States.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, Deputy Jordan is electrocuted in a homemade electric chair that incorporates Christmas lights.
  • Sisters of Death: Joe dies when the Angry Guard Dog chases him into the high-voltage electric fence.
  • 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 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.
  • In Theatre of Blood, Miss Moon is electrocuted underneath a hairdryer by Lionheart posing as a hairdresser.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ciaphas Cain:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 1000 Ways to Die had this happen multiple times, including to a man who zapped his penis off peeing on an electric fence.
  • Played for comedy of all things on Supernatural, where in one episode Dean dies multiple deaths while Sam is trapped in a Ground Hog Day Loop. One of the ways he dies is by plugging a electric shaver into a faulty outlet. And yes we do see X-Ray Sparks.
  • 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".
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "A Deadly Tan", a dictator is murdered when the killer electrifies the towel rail in his solarium.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "The Dagger Club", the first two victims are electrocuted by booby-trapped roulette wheels.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wiseguy. Sonny Steelgrave kills himself this way rather than face a certain conviction for murder.
  • In the Six Feet Under episode "An Open Book", a porn star is killed by her cat pushing her electric curlers into the bathtub.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Face of Evil", one of the Tesh acolytes is killed when he falls against an electrified mesh Xoanon intended to kill the Doctor.
    • In "Dalek," the Dalek turns on a sprinkler system and blasts an overhead catwalk.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


    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.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: Phoenix is accused of killing Doug Swallow this way by pushing him onto live wires. It's not true though.
  • 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, then this effect was removed in Borderlands 2 in favor of them simply going up in a spectacular lightshow.
  • Crash Bandicoot 2: 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • inFAMOUS: courtesy of Cole's electric powers every enemy suffers this (as does Cole if you fall into water).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This is the "easy" way to defeat Draygon in Super Metroid; Samus touches the current while Draygon is touching her, and then gains Victory by Endurance while both are electrified.
  • 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: In the Rykers 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.
  • 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.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 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 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.
  • What happens in Quake if you fire the Lightning Gun into the same body of water you're standing in.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One of the possible ways to kill a rival in Yandere Simulator is to unscrew the electrical outlet in a bathroom, splash the rival with water while she's on the toilet, and then turn off the light, forcing her to turn it on before leaving the bathroom, which ends up electrocuting her.

  • 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!!!
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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: At the end of the episode “Homer's Enemy” Frank Grimes is outraged at how Homer is constantly rewarded for his stupidity, goes insane, and starts mockingly mimicking 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, ironically committing suicide.
  • 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.
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons; in the episode "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!).

    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.


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.

Example of:

Main / HighVoltageDeath