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Instant Leech: Just Fall in Water!

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Gwen: Where'd all this water come from?
Heather: How should I know? Why don't you ask the leeches?
Total Drama, "Camp Castaways"

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, like when removing a suction cup.


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    Comic Strip 

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Good Dinosaur, Arlo and Spot take a dip in a pond. When they come out, Arlo is covered in leeches, causing him to freak out and shake them off.
  • 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.
    Tiana: You said you were fabulously wealthy!
    Naveen: No, my parents are fabulously wealthy, 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The African Queen, Charlie gets several leeches on him when he's towing the boat through a shallow marsh. Instead of tearing them off, Rose salts them, which isn't recommended either.
  • After Earth: Kitai manages to be bitten by a mutant leech as he rushes across a river. Said leech is also heavily poisonous.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • The Lost City: After falling into a river while fleeing from some of Fairfax's Mooks, Alan (played by Channing Tatum) finds that he has leaches on his back... and on his ass.
  • Happens to James Bond in Octopussy, among several other animal encounters. He uses a cigarette lighter to make it let go.
  • In Stand by Me: When attempting to take a shortcut through the woods, the four protagonists end up falling into a pond. At first, they have a good laugh about it but then discover the pond is filled with leeches. 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.

  • Island of the Lizard King have you wading through a monster-infested swamp, and you will pick up some leeches along the way regardless which path you chose. The leeches will drain 1 die roll's worth from your Stamina, and you'll also waste a meal due to requiring salt to remove them.
  • Sorcery! have you crossing the Vischlani Swamp, where you might have a few leeches attached to your skin. If you have a tinder-box however, you can burn them away instantly and suffer no health loss.

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Much like in the above-mentioned film adaptation Stand by Me, 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.
  • 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.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: The leeches of Lake Lachrymose are carnivorous and will hunt down anyone who goes swimming less than an hour after eating.
  • In Warrior Cats, part of the medicine cats' standard examination of a cat who has fallen into a stream/river is to check for leeches.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Leeches are common in swamps in ARK: Survival Evolved, and if you get close enough for them to notice you they will swim en masse towards you and your dinos to latch on, continually draining Food and Health and blocking your view until they are removed or kill the victim. There's also a Palette Swap version called the diseased leech, which carries deadly swamp fever. The Aberration map has lampreys that function the same way, but can take radiation damage for you in a pinch. It's best to kill them before they attach, especially if you want leech blood to make medicine.
  • 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 ...
  • 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.
  • Pink Panther's Passport to Peril: When in China, Pink needs to help a woman retrieve the clothes she lost while doing the laundry in a river, but leeches prevent Pink from simply swimming to them. If the player makes Pink dive into the water anyway, it leads to a scene where Pink gets completely covered in Leeches and runs offscreen to get rid of them. Afterwards, he refuses to go into the water again when ordered by the player. The solution is to turn a conical straw hat given to Pink by a boy into an improvised boat.
  • Rain World: Leeches are gregarious creatures that will immediately swarm over any living creature that falls into the water they inhabit, attempting to weigh them down and drown them. Jungle Leeches can even latch onto Slugcats and survive out of the water, constantly draining their food pips unless shaken off.
  • 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.
  • Sunset Overdrive: The king of a group of medieval fantasy LARPers has a cold and you are tasked with curing him. Problem is, these guys are very much Lost in Character and won't accept any of that "modern medicine" devilry. The Only Sane Man among them proposes a solution: You strip down to your underwear and splash around in the water to get yourself covered in leeches, then chug an entire bottle of cough syrup so that the leeches can suck it out of your blood, allowing you to give it to the king in a more period-appropriate form. This affects you exactly how you would expect. Also, you get the leeches from a fountain in the middle of a city park somehow.
  • In Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, leeches are enemies that latch onto TY and slowly drain his health, which you have to jiggle the control stick to shake them off. Biting them or blowing them up with a special rang defeats them.
  • Present in Un Epic in underground reservoir levels, as a life-sucking item that stacks 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.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • Korra herself ends up experiencing this trope when she encounters and spars with Toph in the same swamp in the sequel.
  • 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 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.
  • Pinky and the Brain has this. They both fall into an African river and when they start talking, Pinky compliments Brain on his new hat...
  • 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.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the 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!
    • In "Hungry, Hungry Homer", Homer falls into "Blocko" (LEGO) water, and emerges moments later covered in Blocko leeches, i.e. black bricks.

Alternative Title(s): Leech Laughs