Heather: How should I know? Why don't you ask the leeches?
Subtrope of Clingy Aquatic Life. Whenever a character accidentally falls into a body of water, especially a stagnant one such as a swamp or pond, expect them to come up and discover a leech - or more - attached to them somewhere. This is usually followed by an ear-splitting scream. Often Played for Laughs, but can be used to induce Squick in the viewer or show the harsh reality of the work's setting, particularly as a subversion of Cool, Clear Water or Skinny Dipping.
Incidentally, should you ever act out this trope and discover a leech attached to you, do not rip it off, squeeze it, salt it, burn it, or otherwise disrupt it like these characters may do — it will vomit harmful bacteria into your open wound if you do. Instead, gently but quickly peel it off with a sharp object or your fingernail directly where its sucker is attached to you (or just let it drink its fill and drop off harmlessly). For future reference.
- In The Princess and the Frog, after Tiana and Naveen have both been transformed into frogs and landed in the Louisiana swamp, Naveen explains why he has no money, even though he is a prince.
Naveen: My family is rich, but they cut me off for being a (sees leech attached to his elbow) LEECH!
- In The Road to El Dorado, Tulio decides to save time by walking through a pond. Cut to Miguel pulling leeches off his back.
- In Stand by Me, a brawl between two characters sends them both tumbling into a pond. Later in the same scene, the brawl comes to a screeching halt when the one character spots a leech on the neck of the other. Cue panicking, screaming, stripping off of clothes, ripping off of leeches... and Gordie finding a leech in the worst possible place. His reaction is understandable.
- In The African Queen, Charlie gets several leeches on him when he underwater repairing the ship. The movie subverts the typical trend of just tearing them off by having him be smart enough to force them to let go with salt.
- Note that salting a leech is a bad idea with disgusting and harmful consequences. See above.
- In The Amazing Panda Adventure, the male and female leads both end up covered in leeches after tumbling into water, leading them to start stripping off their clothes hastily. A moment passes, then they both realize the other one is getting naked too...
- Happens to James Bond in Octopussy, among several other animal encounters. He uses a cigarette lighter to make it let go.
- Congo. With the leech attached to his groin.
- The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Steve: Swamp leeches! Everybody, Check for Swamp leeches and pull them off! (Beat) Nobody else got hit, I'm the only one? What's the deal?
- After Earth: Kitai manages to be bitten by a mutant leech as he rushes across a river. Said leech is also heavily poisonous.
- Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid: While the crew are wading through the marshes of the Indonesian jungle, the captain notices a leech on the neck of the black comic relief character and uses a lighter to kill it. When they lift up his shirt they find that his entire back is covered with dozens of leeches, so they spent the next hour or so removing them one by one.
- On The Banks of Plum Creek, book three in the Little House on the Prairie books. The local river has leeches in its calmer, muddier areas that will start nomming on you if you stay in there too long. At a party she's hosting, Laura gets even with her City Mouse rival Nellie by luring her and her friends into the river. The other girls are pleasantly grossed out by the leeches, but Nellie freaks out.
- There are leeches in the rivers that run through Nyissa, in David Eddings The Belgariad. Not only are they fast, but their bite is venomous — once a person's been bitten, they're doomed even if they are pulled out of the water before the leeches have drained them.
- In the final novel of the Aubrey-Maturin series, Blue at the Mizzen, Stephen Maturin and Christine Wood fall into brackish West African mud. Afterward, each is covered with "astonishingly numerous and avid leeches." They use salt (brought by Christine for this purpose) to remove the leeches (while again this is something you should not do, their application of salt is justified on account of the state of medical knowledge in the early 19th century—they wouldn't have known any better).
- Much like in the below-mentioned film adaptation, this also happens in the Stephen King novella "The Body." The only major difference here is that the boys willingly chose to swim in the dammed-up pond, so they stripped naked beforehand. This means that we get to find out exactly where that last leech attached itself to Gordie, and how long it had been there.
- Jurassic Park: Ed Regis ends up with leeches on him when he falls into the moat at the Tyrannosaur paddock. Before he tears them all off, the reader is treated to him remembering that the maintenance staff said that they liked damp, warm places and "liked to crawl right up your-", at which point Regis snaps out of his shock, rips the leeches off, and legs it.
- Up to Eleven in A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the leeches of Lake Lachrymose are carnivorous and will hunt down anyone who goes swimming less than an hour after eating.
- In a short story in Dragon magazine #123 illustrating the magazine's topic of swamp environmental hazards, a man hires a guide through the swamp and notes oddities about the guide from eating raw onions and rubbing them on his arms to the series of triangular scars along his arms. When he attempts to kill the guide, he finds himself suddenly weak whereupon the guide explains the ecology of leeches and how to ward them off, such as by rubbing one's skin with onions.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, pretty much any time you enter water, leeches attach themselves to you. The sound of them attaching themselves to you can be hard to hear, so you might not notice until they start quickly draining your stamina. Luckily, using Snake's cigar to burn them off is easy and effective.
- In the oceans of Half-Life 2, alien piranha-leeches will jump at you in swarms if you go out too far. Be thankful; the original creature that had to job of stopping players from going out to sea was going to be an Ichthyosaur ...
- Present in Un Epic in underground reservoir levels, as a life-sucking items that stack up in your inventory until you kill them manually. The game doesn't mention them, apart from constantly visually decreasing HP, leading to some characters' deaths. Later replaced with vampire bats.
- Subverted in The Sims Medieval. The Physician is supposed to catch leeches to aid in healing, and sticks his hand into the water to do this. It's possible to fail to catch them. And if a Sim actually falls into water (the outcome of failing miserably at fishing) the leeches don't get them.
- Freefall: When washing in a jury-rigged outdoor shower, Florence finds out she's missing a step in the process. "The correct order is 'lather, rinse, remove leeches, repeat.'"
- Carry On: In keeping with the arc's The African Queen reference, one page features sandy hopping out of the swamp / river, covered in the little bloodsuckers.
- In the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Swamp," all the heroes fall into a swamp. As they get up, Katara comments to Sokka that he has "an elbow leech." Cue expression of disgust when Sokka discovers the enormous slimy parasite on his elbow.
- In an episode of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, Sam and Max are forced to wade through a stream in the middle of an overgrown Central Park. When Max exits, he's covered in leeches...which promptly scream in pain and jump right back off.
Sam: I think it's time we changed your diet.
- Pinky and the Brain had this. They both fall into an African river and when they start talking, Pinky compliments Brain on his new hat...
- In an episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Bloo gets stung by bees and unwittingly rubs himself with poison ivy. He drowns out the itching by splashing water from a nearby lake on his face, but ends up with leeches on his face, which he doesn't notice.
- One episode of Camp Lazlo has Lazlo going for a swim and coming out with a leech/sea lamprey attached to his head. He decides to call it Lamar and keep it as a pet, even though it was slowly sucking his blood dry.
- In The Simpsons episode "Simpson Safari", when the family gets stuck on a river, Homer gets leeches on his arm and even a giant one latches onto his other hand!