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Mummies at the Dinner Table

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That awkward moment when dinner conversation goes dead quiet.

"I'm sorry now I killed you
For our love was something fine
Until they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine"
Tom Lehrer, "I Hold Your Hand in Mine", Songs by Tom Lehrer

So your precious child or Significant Other has tragically passed on to the next world. Well... so what? There's no reason why you can't still enjoy their company in this one. Granted, people might think you're a bit, well, strange if you dress your beloved's corpse in formal attire, tape a spaghetti fork to their hands, and engage in a nice (albeit one-sided) conversation with them every evening over dinner. But they just wouldn't understand, not having suffered such a crushing loss themselves. Decomposition? What decomposition? Your loved one looks just as good as they did the day they... stopped moving for themselves and became less talkative. But they're still alive! Yes, they are. Anyone who tells you anything different is obviously confused, or jealous of your relationship. Yes...that's it...they're jealous, and they must be destroyed as soon as possible...before they're able to spread any...nasty rumors about you...

As you can probably see, the (living) people at the center of this are usually not "firing on all cylinders" — assuming, of course, that they still have any cylinders left to fire. This is usually because they just can't accept the loss of someone who was close to them and would rather live in an alternate self-created reality where that person is still alive. This loss, of course, can be even more crushing if they themselves were responsible for their beloved's death in some way.

The lover or "protector" of the corpse will frequently speak to them and imagine them speaking back, although this is not to be confused with a Dead Person Conversation, which is a conversation that may actually be taking place between a character and a spirit from the next world. Or even Talking to the Dead, where a character expects no answer but has to vent. No. In order for a situation to qualify as Mummies At The Dinner Table, one of the participants must be stone-cold dead and the other must be stone-cold crazy. Needless to say, the living one will often come across as a bit creepy to other people, even those who know nothing about their cosy little private life. Sometimes, however, the obsessed mourner will appear to be absolutely normal and personable — up until the Peek-a-Boo Corpse moment when the heroine accidentally walks into the room where their "beloved" is sitting. Then the mourner will go Ax-Crazy, and a classic horror chase will follow which may or may not end in the death of the hapless discoverer.

A lighter variation of this trope has the mourner obsessing over a beloved pet that he had stuffed and keeps around him, petting it and talking to it as though it's still alive. This is often played for comedy in the shows where this kind of thing is apt to appear.

There is also an evil variant, with a mortal foe instead of a friend or lover. Note that these cases only fit the trope if the keeper treats the corpse as if it were a live captive; more commonly, the villain knows perfectly well that the victim is deceased and is keeping the body around as a memento, a trophy, and/or a warning to others.

A Sub-Trope of Mundane Horror. Compare with I Love the Dead, Necromantic, A Love to Dismember. If the character can't believe or accept that someone has just died, it's Please Wake Up (if the denial grows into systematic self-deception, that trope can evolve into this one). If the character deceives other people while knowing the truth himself, it's Of Corpse He's Alive. If the target is not dead but merely pining for the fjords, it's Dude, She's Like in a Coma.

This trope also does not apply to a person who is fully aware that the loved one is dead and treats the corpse as simply a(n often disturbing) form of memento. Such behaviour usually indicates mental problems but of entirely different sorts.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 7 Seeds
    • During the Team Winter arc, Fubuki dies and Mitsuru commits suicide by snow shortly after him, leading Aramaki to delude himself into thinking that a dog that had been following him was actually Fubuki. He realizes it after finding one of the Fuji shelters.
    • Ango was too distraught over Shingo's death, leading to him sleepwalking and looking for him, due to Survivor's Guilt. He gets better when he meets Natsu, who is similar to Shigeru in many traits, and sees her as a replacement for Shigeru. After Ango comes to terms with Shigeru's death not being his fault, he gets better and sees Natsu for herself.
  • A variant where the corpse wasn't actually present, but in all other respects, the students and teachers in the backstory to Another fit this trope perfectly, pretending their dead classmate is still alive and even making sure that there is a place at graduation for him.
  • Black Butler: In the anime, Queen Victoria couldn't handle Prince Albert's death, so the resident crazy angel stitched his bits onto her. Yeah. That's right.
  • In Canaan, Hakko refuses to leave the body of Santana since she can now tell him she loves him without hurting him with her deadly voice.
  • Count Cain's "Crooked Little House" arc is all about this trope.
  • In Deadman Wonderland, Hibana is shown talking with her dead mother (who is shown to be a skeleton hanging) at home, apparently "taking orders" from her.
  • Dusk Maiden of Amnesia: Soon after Yuuko's death, her little sister Yukariko — who had chosen Yuuko as a human sacrifice in an attempt to stop a plague — reopens the shrine and goes down to see her sister in the hope that she might still be alive. She ends up crying and resting with her head in the dead Yuuko's lap. She's promptly attacked by her sister's vengeful ghost.
  • In the Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles book there is a bonus manga (and Brotherhood OVA) where an alchemist returned a girl to life, losing his eyeballs in the process. In reality, the girl...may have come back in a way, but the girl Ed and Al meet is someone the family picked up from the orphanage who looked like their daughter. The real girl was brought back as a wizened husk, which can still...sort of move or at least breathe, meaning this may also fit nicely in And I Must Scream. The family refuses to get rid of their corpse daughter and refuse to let the blind alchemist know he failed.
  • Fushigi Yuugi, briefly: After Soi takes a sword for Nakago, he rides around with her body for the next while. The example might be too subtle for the trope if this treatment weren't considerably better than anyone living had ever received from him.
  • In Future Diary, Yuno keeps her parent's dead bodies in a cage (that they kept her in to punish her), and frequently talks with them about the stuff that happens to her during school. Girl has...issues.
  • Golden Kamuy: Yasaku Edogai, a taxidermist based on Ed Gein, stuffed multiple members of his family and arranged them around a dining room table where he holds regular mental conversations with them. Lt. Tsurumi convinces him to "shoot" his mother's taxidermied corpse, which makes the voices go away.
  • Hell Girl has an episode where a woman in a fishing village, fearing her sister will move away and leave her, kills her and keeps her corpse tied up in a shed. The woman then forms an equally creepy obsession with the murdered woman's daughter, who barely manages to avoid being killed and preserved in the same way.
  • In Diamond is Unbreakable, the fourth arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the Big Bad, Yoshikage Kira, is obsessed with women's hands, so he usually murders some hapless victim, cuts off her hand and gets rid of the rest of the body. While the hand stays fresh, he takes it around with him, calling it his "girlfriend" and using it to touch things, pick up stuff and even wipe himself. When the hand starts decaying he starts looking for a new "girlfriend".
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service uses this in its first chapter: After a pop star fulfills a suicide pact with her boyfriend, her father (who had prevented them from being together and triggered their suicides) steals her corpse and keeps it in his home. It soon transpires he was so obsessive with her that she likely would have killed herself without the pact.
  • Ludwig Revolution: Julius has no problems with talking to Ludwig's (supposedly) dead body or with making out with it. Also Ludwig's "hobby" at the beginning of the story...
  • Precia Testarossa of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha kept the body of her dead daughter Alicia in a jar with the intent to resurrect her, and created Fate as a stand-in. She eventually starts talking to the corpse as if it were alive once everything starts to crumble.
  • In the Alternate Continuity Rayearth OVA, Zagato sacrificed himself in a ritual to try and prevent the downfall of Cephiro. He failed. Now his perfectly-preserved corpse sits upon his throne at the very heart of Emeraude's castle, and the Princess herself fawns over him, but she's too far gone to realize he's dead.
  • Requiem from the Darkness has an example with guilt and denial.
  • Instead of a love interest or stalkee, in the first Scrapped Princess book, it's the beloved daughter of an early villain, whom he thinks is still clinging to life.
  • Faust VIII of Shaman King embodies this trope quite well. After his wife Eliza is shot and killed in a break-in, he spends all of his time trying to find a way to resurrect her but in the meantime, he still carries her whole skeleton around with him. He refers to her as his 'Dear Eliza' and even holds hands with her reanimated skeleton on occasion...Suggesting to him that she's dead forever is...Not a good idea to say the least. After his Heel–Face Turn (or rather as part of the negotiations leading to it), Anna summons up Eliza's spirit and binds it to the skeleton; she becomes Faust's spirit ally, and he becomes marginally less insane.
  • A borderline example occurs in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. The corpse of Fai's dead brother Yuui (or rather, Yuui's dead brother Fai) is kept preserved in the hopes of possible resurrection. This also involved the creation of an Artificial Human in the image of the twins' mother, whose purpose was to look after and take care of the corpse, though the extent to which she did so was never elaborated on.
  • In the short Waita Uziga manga You After The Rain, a man keeps his zombified girlfriend chained up in his apartment after a zombie apocalypse and feeds her raw meat from the nearby grocery store. When he realizes that he's running out of meat to feed her, he unchains her and lets her eat his body...while he has sex with her.
  • YuYu Hakusho. Itsuki and Sensui's last scene ever has both of them inside an alternate dimension, with the still-living Itsuki gently speaking to Sensui's dead body as if he still was alive. Sniff...

    Comic Books 
  • 52: Elongated Man's brief infatuation with Straw Sue Dibny.
  • Batgirl (2009): In issue #9, when the Calculator appears, he's kept the body of his son Marvin, and tells it how he plans to reclaim Marvin's sister Wendy and murder Barbara Gordon.
  • A rather Squick-filled scene in Batman: War Games Act II has Aquista holding and caressing his daughter's naked corpse, telling her how she won't be cut up or fed to worms.
  • Contest of Champions (2015): An alternate version of Venom keeps the remains of his Spider-Man's uniform tied around his neck as a makeshift cape, and frequently has conversations with "Pete", regardless of other people trying to point out the obvious.
  • Emperor Joker: The Joker is seen playing a game of poker with the corpses of the various Robins that he murdered.
  • In an Ex Machina special, where we saw the origins of Jack Pherson, in his cave we see he kept the decaying corpse of his girlfriend, talking to it like she was still alive.
  • Good Girls, by Carol Lay, features a number of ongoing series. One of them involves a pair of twins who are two heads on one body. When one of the heads gets chopped off, the remaining twin can't handle it and tapes the dead head back on to the neck stump, then carries on with the explanation that his brother simply isn't feeling well at the moment.
  • The page image is Black Hand, a rather unstable Green Lantern villain who killed his family and then himself before becoming, essentially, the avatar of Nekron. Post-Blackest Night, he spends most of his time hanging around chatting with his dead family (the fact that he can animate and control the dead is rather convenient for this). He's also prone to raising a cemetery full of completely unrelated people to hang out with- including, at one point, Hal Jordan's father.
  • Judge Dredd: In a prequel story, Judge Death is seen playing chess with his father's corpse, whom he personally executed years before when he was inducted into the Academy of Law.
  • A platonic, Played for Laughs version is the National Lampoon comic strip "Ray and Joe: The Story of a Man and His Dead Friend." It's just what it sounds like.
  • Ragdoll, member of the Anti-Hero group the Secret Six, keeps the corpse of his ex-teammate Parademon stuffed and mounted in his room and has extended conversations with it. The fact that Parademon died in an explosion and that a number of pieces could apparently not be recovered for the taxidermist in no way improves the situation.
  • EC Comics:
    • The "mortal foe" variation appears in "Just Desserts!" from Shock SuspenStories. A man holds a dinner party and berates his silent guests one by one for having wronged him. He chides them all for not using their heads in doing so since he found them all out. The last panel reveal shows that he's been talking to their decapitated corpses.
      "People who don't use their heads... don't need them..."
    • In "One Good Turn..." from The Vault of Horror #31, the main character treats her once-bedridden husband just as if he were still alive, including sleeping with him. As she puts it to the horrified investigative officers, "I made him happy four months ago when I put cyanide in his hot chocolate!"
  • Thanos Rising: According to Death, Thanos frequently has sex with female aliens in his quarters before murdering them, but then continues talking to their corpses as if they were alive. His crew members think he's quite mad.
  • While not a case involving a loved one per se, in Transformers Spotlight: Kup, the title character, while hallucinating due to alien crystals, keeps the corpse of his partner, Outback, around to talk to (and to donate its arm as a blunt weapon).
  • The Transformers (Marvel): In issue #67, an alternate-universe Galvatron has conquered North America and keeps the corpse of Rodimus Prime chained up between the remains of the World Trade Center. He rants at it in frustration over the continued survival of the Autobot/Human resistance.

    Fan Works 
  • Captain Dragon: After Cinder died, Emerald stole her body from the grave. She dressed it up and talks to it like Cinder is still alive, having gone so crazy as to actually believe she is.
  • Equestria Divided: The Cult of Laughter is ruled by a council, two of the members include Pinkie Pies preserved corpse and her ghost, The Laughing Mare. No one really knows how that affects the voting but apparently it works.
  • Hivefled: in his youth, the Grand Highblood killed his flushcrush the Handmaid out of jealousy, then spent days in his room painting a portrait of her in her own blood.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Andrew Lang's "The Five Wise Words of the Guru", the protagonist encounters a giant who asks him what he thinks of his beautiful wife. The protagonist's life is spared, and he wins a favor from the giant because he is the first hapless traveler not to try to point out that the wife is a skeleton.
  • Subverted in the earlier versions of "Snow White". The prince fell in love with Snow White even though he thought she was dead and then carried a coffin around until a bump dislodged the apple from Snow White and she woke up.

    Films — Animated 
  • Ms. Spink and Ms. Forcible from Coraline have an unnerving habit of taxidermizing their dogs when they die and putting them in angel outfits.
  • The Jim Henson homage Overtime is probably as endearing as this trope can be.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Apartment Zero an Ambiguously Gay play on the Psycho story featured Colin Firth serving breakfast to Hart Brochner's corpse in the end.
  • Body Bags: The coroner props up a mutilated corpse to give him psychological advice. Of course, he's a lost cause.
  • The deeply disturbing made-for-TV movie Cabin by the Lake is a perfect example of this trope. The serial killer in the movie kidnaps teenage girls, puts them in a soundproof room, puts them in an elegant gown or dress, and THEN duct tapes their feet to a concrete block, afterwards he proceeds to take them out into the middle of the lake, and then drop them to the bottom to sink. He also likes to scuba dive out to his "garden" and clean away any detritus accumulating around them and makes sure to straighten up their clothes. The conditions of the bodies range from skeletal, to decomp, to recently dead.
  • Clown Kill: Charlie Boy killed much of Jenny's coworkers, and sat them in chairs around some tables in the building.
  • The movie Dead Silence has this too when you find out what Mary Shaw did with the missing boy's corpse in her hidden room at the theater.
  • In the movie Deadtime Stories, psychic serial killer Goldie Lox keeps the bodies of her victims around her house in various poses. At one point, she cuddles up with a rotting corpse to watch TV.
  • Deranged has its serial killer protagonist Ezra Cobb kidnapping a barmaid and then introducing her to the various corpses (including his mother's) that he's unearthed and mutilated, so they can all have dinner together before he "marries" her.
  • In the B-Movie, Eegah!!, the titular caveman keeps the mummified bodies of his long-dead family in his cave because he can't accept they are dead (or perhaps is semi-oblivious, like Norman Bates in 'Psycho'. Same concept). He talks to them and even introduces them (in caveman grunt-talk, 'Ugh! Schtemlo! OOgh! Eshtablio!' etc.) to the heroine, Roxy (for whom Eegah has the major hots) and her dad, both whom he has captive.
  • The Eternal Darkness fan film contest winner "Unloved" centers around this, using a device that allows a man to manipulate his dead love's muscles with his hand, simulating an actual dance.
    Man: Now she has stopped speaking to me altogether...the worst part is she remains totally compliant physically, which I find all the more sickening...I am growing tired of her games.
  • After the killer is revealed at the end of Girls Nite Out, she insists that her dead brother is still alive, and then proceeds to open a freezer where his corpse sits on a wheelchair while laughing madly.
  • A particularly heartbreaking example in the short film Going Home, part of the Korean anthology Three; the husband believes that his wife isn't dead and that she'll wake up after he takes care of her.
  • In the finale of Graduation Day, the Final Girl finds her sister's remains in the killer's bedroom, and he acts as if she was still alive. In fact, he plans to marry her.
  • Displayed in the ending of Happy Birthday to Me for the eponymous party.
  • In Hell Night, the bodies of the killers parents are in a living room hidden in the basement.
  • The main character of The Hills Run Red finds himself bound and gagged in a movie theatre where the rest of the audience is made from corpses, and he is forced to watch the eponymous lost horror movie.
  • A sketch in The Kentucky Fried Movie features Henry Gibson as the spokesperson for the United Appeal for the Dead, a charity that helps families keep their dead relatives around. Scenes include a dead son floating in the pool and falling face-first into dinner.
  • In Mars Attacks!, the senile old Granny never seemed to realize that her cat Muffy was no longer alive.
  • In Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the good doctor performs his diabolical procedure to bring his murdered lover back to life, then proceeds to dance with her, music distorting eerily. When he finally catches her horrific reflection in a mirror, she commits suicide by setting herself on fire.
  • In May, the title character sews together the parts of various people.
  • Mortuary (1983): Paul brings the corpses of Mr. and Mrs. Parsons, Josh, and his own parents to his wedding to Christie. He places them all in chairs so they can act as witnesses.
  • There's a 1988 film called Mortuary Academy in which a guy takes a rotting corpse on a sea cruise.
  • Played for laughs in Muppet Treasure Island with Dead Tom, which is a skeleton. Everybody knows he's dead, except for one character named Mudwell, who apparently never realized why he was called "Dead Tom".
  • My Little Sister: The Little Sister keeps his father's dead body in his house, having it watch home movies, and wheeling it to the kitchen table to try and feed it with each new face he puts on it.
  • In Paranoiac, madman Simon Ashby (Oliver Reed) thinks this is more a case of Madwoman in the Attic, because he forgot to feed his captive brother Tony, and hasn't realized that Tony is very dead.
  • In the 2003 film Perfect Strangers, Rachel Blake's character keeps her kidnapper's corpse and talks to it in a freezer after having accidentally killed and fallen in love with him.
  • Pearl has during its ending the title character seating her parents’ corpses at the dinner table.
  • Psycho films:
    • Probably the most famous movie example comes from the end-of-story twist of the original Psycho: Norman Bates' mother is long dead, but he's still taking care of her mummified body and still taking orders from "her".
    • There's another use of the trope in Psycho III: Norman has turned his real mother, who revealed herself to him at the end of Psycho II, into another mummy whom Norman pretends to be talking to him.
  • In the first Puppet Master movie, psychic Dana Hadley's beloved dog Leroy is her closest confidante. He's also very dead until Megan Gallagher uses the Rite of Immortality on him.
  • An example of this trope comes from Repo! The Genetic Opera: Nathan Wallace keeps the body of his wife, Marni, in an airtight chamber with a window designed to look like a picture frame. Compared with the other examples, this one seems relatively tame - the corpse only serves as a source of guilt over him accidentally killing her and his work as a Repo Man.
  • The short film Scent Of Roses features a lesbian version.
  • In Simon Says, the eponymous Simon keeps his dearly departed mom and dad sitting at a picnic table in the woods, right where he (or possibly his twin brother) killed them. Considering they've been outdoors for a good 20 years or so, they're in rather good condition.
  • In Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Angela hides the bodies of her victims in a cabin and talks to them. It's not clear if she actually believes them to be alive at times, or if she's just messing with the still-living victims though.
  • A funny "dead animal" example of this trope appears in the movie Start the Revolution Without Me. One of the Corsican Brothers, Phillippe de Sisis (played by Gene Wilder), has a psychotic attraction to his stuffed falcon. He keeps it stuck on his arm all the time, and he loves it more than his wife. When said wife tries to point out that the bird is dead, Phillippe looks like he's about to go Axe-Crazy, and his wife has to quickly backpedal and talk him down.
  • Tales of Terror: In "Morella", after his wife died, Locke dug her up and placed her in his bed, where she remains for 25 years. (This also has overtones of I Love the Dead.)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
    • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, where the family treats the corpse of one dead family member as if it's still alive; they even turned the body into something akin to a puppet so it can be carried around.
    • Subverted in the original - Grandpa's still alive. And it saves Sally's life because they insist he kills her. He's only barely alive.
  • The Terry Gilliam film Tideland features Dell, a crazy woman who helps an orphaned girl perform taxidermy on her dead father, so they can dress it up and have it sit at the dinner table with them.
  • Wacko, the 1982 film that parodies horror films, has a scene where one of the leads brings a skeleton to the dinner table (in reference to Psycho) and makes them sing "The Yankee Doodle Boy".
  • Aunt Roo from Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? keeps her daughter Katherine's skeleton in a coffin in her old nursery. Every night, she takes her out of the coffin, tucks her into bed, and sings her to sleep.

  • Edgar Allan Poe was famous for this, but the best example comes from Annabel Lee.
    And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
    Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
    In the sepulcher there by the sea,
    In her tomb by the sounding sea.''
  • Used in the first Artemis Fowl book, where the mother refuses to leave her bedroom, and clumsily dresses a mannequin in her 'lost-at-sea' husband's groom outfit. She didn't have his body, though; eventually, he's discovered to be alive.
  • A story in John Varley's Blue Champagne collection includes a woman who's kept technically alive by medical machinery. Her daughter, marooned with only an AI for company, visits the breathing corpse regularly to talk about her day. It's really not as creepy as you might think.
  • Nancy Etchemendy's Cat in Glass is a collection of short stories that range from inventive and appealing to downright macabre. In Lunch at Etienne's, a woman gets her toddler ready to go (he's mad and won't speak to her, and she has to carry him), gets annoyed by the quantities of dust on the coats in her wardrobe, can't get out the blocked front door (why hasn't the landlord fixed it yet?), walks down the street (are her neighbors still not speaking to her? and what's all this white stuff on the ground, it's too early for snow), enters her favorite restaurant, and meets her best friend for lunch (speechless). She catches a glimpse of the mirror, which reflects an old woman in rags sitting next to two corpses in the broken rubble of what used to be a restaurant. Stunned with horror, she shakes it off and goes back to talking with her best friend about how the service at this place is always horrible.
  • In The Darksword Trilogy, the king of Merolyn is so distraught over his wife's (possibly suicidal) death that he demands his court druids to enchant the corpse so that retains the semblance of life. Sadly, while they can keep her moving and give her some protection, by the time the series focuses on the problems with Merolyn, the dead Queen has become quite fragrant and partially decomposed. To make matters worse, the King has gotten over his wife's death, but cannot end the charade due to political reasons that would plunge his city into chaos or see a despot on the throne. The fact that it was originally punishable by death to mention the Queen's "condition" means that everyone else has to go along with the horrific charade. It's actually a relief to the King when Joram's anti-magic darksword destroys the enchantment, "killing" the Queen.
  • Miriam Allen deFord's "A Death in the Family" tells the tale of a lonely funeral home director who has taken opportunities to steal bodies and create a family for himself. One day, the corpse of a young kidnap victim is mistakenly delivered to his door, and even though he knows it's risky, a little girl is the last body he needs, and he adds her to his family. Sure enough, the police are suspicious and promise to come back with a warrant. After the police leave, he calmly opens his gas valves, goes back into his "family room," sits down with his family, tells them he loves them, and lights a match.
    • This was loosely adapted into a Night Gallery episode, "Death in the Family."
  • Isabel Allende's Eva Luna has main character Eva dolling up the corpse of her boss's wife, Zulema after the latter commits suicide, as a way to say goodbye. She's mistaken as the murderer and almost thrown into jail, though, therefore she has to leave the small town.
  • Forest Kingdom: The Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 6 (The Bones of Haven) shows the titular police captains having to talk down a sorcerer who killed his girlfriend, then turned the body into a magical puppet which moved around at his command, thus feeding his delusion that the girl wasn't really dead. Hawk ends the confrontation by burying his axe in the dead girl's head so that the sorcerer can no longer maintain the belief that she's alive.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road, Star mentions that it is normal on her planet to use Magitek to preserve the dead and then later send them off to another dimension. She found the idea of burying someone rather strange. She did complain about an Aunt who kept all of her dead husbands in her drawing room, saying it was rather too much for guests and they needed dusting.
  • In an R. L. Stine novel, Halloween Night 2, the heroine is afraid that her (previously psychotic) friend is still assaulting her. Meanwhile, her new friend on the block is getting really into Halloween, including these two really realistic-looking skeletons for decoration. Needless to say, it turns out that the previously psychotic friend is harmless, her new friend is psychotic, and the skeletons are her dead parents. The girl alters between sly lies ("They're just Halloween decorations my parents put up") and complete obliviousness as to her parent's real state of physical health (not to mention decomposition).
  • The humorous short story "Happy Valley" by John Cleese and Connie Booth centres around an incredibly naive princess who understands nothing of the world. This includes death — when she enters her (deceased) pet dog in a race, the king has to cancel the race so that the dog won't lose.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: One of the title artifacts is a ring that brings back people as a ghost. People went crazy believing the person was alive...
  • Garrison Keillor has a brief story about this in Lake Wobegon Days... a nice man who kept to himself, caring for his elderly mother. When she died he visited her grave often. Then the town police noticed the area next to her grave had been freshly dug. He said he'd been trying to uproot some stubborn weeds...
  • In the Roald Dahl short story "The Landlady", the main character discovers that the titular landlady's pet dog is actually stuffed, and she explains that "I stuff 'all' my little pets when they die." She also stuffs all the guests at her bed-and-breakfast after she kills them with poisoned tea, and continues to visit them in their rooms.
  • The speaker of Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "The Leper" finally manages to gain the woman of his dreams after she develops leprosy. He isn't about to let her go now that she's dead, either.
  • George R. R. Martin's short story "Meathouse Man" features a special kind of brothel designed for meat handlers (people who had been trained to manipulate braindead semi-corpses to do dangerous work) where the handler basically subconsciously controlled the body of the girl he was with. The protagonist, after spending years looking for real love, finally settles on having his own personal mostly-dead girl that he pretends is his true lady love, though given his disillusionment at the end, he doesn't actually think she has conscious thought. He just doesn't care.
  • In the Clark Ashton Smith short story "Necromancy in Naat", the hero spends a lot of time talking sweet nothings to his zombified girlfriend who had been turned into an undead servant of the necromancers. The girlfriend actually talks back, to a very limited degree.
  • Following the "Achilles and Penthesilea" myth, in Dan Simmons' Olympos Penthesilea wears a super-pheromone to distract Achilles during their battle. Unfortunately, Achilles only smells it after he's killed her, causing him to fall in love with her corpse.
  • In Jane Yolen's The One Armed Queen, a prince has his brother assassinated for political-intrigue reasons, and shortly afterwards goes completely mad and starts carting the corpse around and acting as though it's still alive.
  • The Robert Browning poem "Porphyria's Lover", which has (if you take it at face value) the protagonist strangling the woman he loves so as to preserve the moment when she loved him completely and sitting by the fire with her corpse in his arms all night. The last two lines are Nightmare Fuel for sure.
  • At the end of The Prairie, Natty Bumppo, now an old old man, sits in state in the Native American village, petting his dog, Hector, and remarking that Hector is awful quiet nowadays... not realizing that Hector is dead and that the villagers, out of respect for him, have had Hector stuffed without telling him.
  • The Redwall installment Legend of Luke features Folgrim the otter conversing with the rat he just killed while preparing dinner. To make matters worse, the rat IS dinner.
  • Used for a twist ending in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily.
  • A consequence of the takeover in 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King. Sandy McDougall, upon finding her baby dead, frantically spoons food into its mouth — and attempts to keep it in there — as though the baby is still alive.
  • In The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong, after Shen Qingqiu self-detonates, Luo Binghe spends five years spooning Shen Qingqiu's preserved corpse like the world's creepiest dakimakura.
  • In the first Secret Histories book Mr. Stab has a secret chamber filled with his victims arranged for a tea party.
  • Shutter Island: Dolores, Teddy/Andrew's wife suggests doing exactly this with their three children, whom she has drowned. He disagrees, and ends up shooting her. Also mentioned in the film.
  • The Serial Killer in Still Waters by Nigel McCrery places her victims around her dining table and leaves them there for years.
  • Kala carries her dead baby in Tarzan of the Apes. Burroughs may have heard of real ape mothers doing this. She leaves the body in the shack when she adopts John.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker features a particularly squicky example. The mercenary Jewels was once in love with her teammate Arsteel, but then he was killed by Vasher. Jewels was able to reanimate him as a Lifeless (a sort of semi-intelligent, non-decaying zombie) called "Clod", but was left slightly unhinged by the experience. The squick comes in when Word of God reveals that she still regularly has sex with Clod.
  • In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff has a gravedigger open Catherine's coffin and let him look at her eighteen years after her death. He claims that she hasn't decomposed at all, though whether this is true or just his delusion is never revealed – either way, it's disturbing.
  • In Year of Wonders, a woman whose child dies carries the girl's corpse around with her, even as it begins to rot. This ends when the body's head falls off by accident, causing the mother to go berserk.
  • One of the kids in John Irving's The Hotel New Hampshire totes the stuffed body of the family dog everywhere. The dog even surfaces in the water after a plane crash that kills both the boy and his mother.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Subverted on 30 Rock as a parody of Psycho, where Kenneth appears to be talking to his mother's corpse, but it is revealed that he is actually talking to his mother on speakerphone and has the Halloween decorations out.
  • In Babylon 5, Emperor Cartagia conversed with the severed heads of his enemies. This was only one of many signs that he was batshit insane. It was not remotely the worst.
  • Bates Motel: After Norma dies by Norman's hand, he digs up her body, glues her eyes open, and talks to her.
  • Played hilariously in Boy Meets World when Eric moves into a great apartment with a nice though eccentric guy who doesn't seem to care if Eric pays rent (there's also a hot girl next door who routinely locks herself out of her apartment while wearing a towel). Eric is somewhat disturbed when he finds that the guy treats his (dead) stuffed parrot like a live pet; he finally bolts when the guy starts talking about bringing out his mom. We never see her, but it's heavily implied that she's dead, too.
  • A parent/child version occurs in the first episode of Carnivàle, with a woman holding and rocking her dead baby.
  • Copper: In "Home Sweet Home", Buzzy Burke eats a meal at the table of the couple he has just killed, with them still tied to their chairs. He even tries to get them to engage in a sing-along.
  • Parodied on an episode of Coupling, when Jeff impulsively tells a girl that his girlfriend (who is out of town) is actually dead, in order to stop her flirting with him. The girl still ends up coming home with him and finds the girlfriend (who had come back early due to illness) asleep on his bed. Naturally, she assumes the worst.
  • Criminal Minds
    • In the episode "Reflections of Desire", the serial killer is abducting beautiful blondes with the apparent approval of his mother, who was a faded film noir actress obsessed with her single starring role. When the killer and his mother are finally cornered, they prepare to stride out into the arms of the waiting police like movie stars on the red carpet, under the delusion that the cops and their flashing lights are paparazzi with cameras. However, it turns out that the killer murdered his emotionally abusive, overbearing mother years ago and has been keeping her decaying body in the house. Both the police and the BAU team are understandably stunned when the delusional killer walks out cradling his mother's mummified corpse in his arms.
    • The killer in the episode "Machismo" also kept his dead mother in a chair in front of a television playing soap operas.
  • CSI:
    • In the episode "House of Hoarders", the youngest daughter of a hoarder couldn't bear to let go of several male teens (the brother worked with runaways) she had relationships with and after poisoning them, kept their bodies hidden in the yard.
    • In another episode, a man who knows he's dying is meeting his friends for one last party, but dies before he can make it there. His friends then steal his body from the morgue and throw the party anyway, with the body as the guest of honor. In the morning, they leave the body sitting outside on a park bench, with a party hat and a cigar. Interestingly, what they did is not implied to be sick or wrong, but instead a touching, if perhaps a bit unwise, attempt at honoring the last wishes of their dead friend.
  • CSI: Cyber: "Going Viral" opens with a man making a cup of tea while he listens to the chaos being caused by the hacked 911 calls. He then puts the cup down in front of the man he has just garrotted, who is still sitting at the breakfast table.
  • Daredevil (2015): In the final episode of Season 3, Agent Poindexter completely snaps when he discovers his crush Julie was killed by Wilson Fisk. When he drives to the hotel to get his revenge, he has Julie's body in the passenger seat and talks to it with an unnerving grin on his face the whole time.
  • In the 3rd season of Desperate Housewives, Karen McCluskey has the dead body of her husband, Gilbert, stored in a chest freezer in her basement in order to keep getting his pension checks (since after he died she discovered that he had never updated his will and thus all his assets would go to his first wife whom he was only married to for a very short time, leaving Karen destitute).
  • Dexter: New Blood: Implied Trope. In the penultimate episode, Dexter and Harrison discover Kurt's trophy room, which was already glimpsed in earlier episodes. After killing his victims by shooting them in the chest, Kurt embalms and preserves the corpses as best he can, then displays them in a windowed coffin wearing a white dress and looking quite angelic. He's done this dozens of times, all to preserve their "innocence". He gets very unhinged when one of his murders goes sideways and destroys the girl's face in the process. He proceeds to pummel the body as "punishment".
  • Doctor Who. In "The Power of the Doctor", the Doctor and Yaz encounter the Master giving a lecture to a seismology conference. His audience are revealed to be shrunken to tiny size by his Tissue Compression Eliminator.
  • In season 3 of Doom Patrol (2019), after the team (minus Larry) are (temporarily) assassinated by Samuelson, he ships their bodies back to the manor in a box. Larry does not handle it well — he dresses his teammates' corpses up in bandages and arranges them around the dinner table. They call him out on "being weird" when they come back to life.
  • A storyline in Hollyoaks involved popular character David "Bombhead" Burke being unable to accept his mother's death and keeping her corpse in the house for months, talking to her and cooking for her as if she is still alive. He is only found out when friends break into his house and find the body.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • In the episode "The Documentary", a mortuary worker 'borrows' corpses, dresses them up, and has dinner parties with them because he's so lonely. It's not made clear whether he has sex with them, however.
    • On another episode, an elderly woman died in her living room and her husband went a, and convinced himself she was still alive. Again, no intimation of any sex involved.
  • Horrible Histories had a sketch in which an unlucky couple must face the awkwardness of dining with the Raleighs and having to make conversation with Sir Walter's severed head.
  • Jonathan Creek:
    • At the end of the episode "The Seer of the Sands", it's discovered that the dead body which had disappeared had been stolen and taken home by a girl who was secretly in love with him. Surprisingly, it turns out she didn't murder him. He had however gone to some trouble to conceal the fact that he was seeing someone else, which led Jonathan up a blind alley.
    • In an earlier episode, the same happened to the victim's head. This one didn't murder her either, and in fact, the "victim" might not have been all that upset to be so immemorialised.
  • Just Shoot Me!: when Nina's friend Binnie dies, she goes around carrying the urn with her ashes, talking to her and acting as if she were still alive, even accessorizing it with a scarf.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the detectives investigated the death of a college student who appeared to have been raped prior to her murder. It turned out that her death had been a total accident and witnessed by the professor who was obsessed with her. He immediately proceeded to have sex with her corpse because it was his last chance.
  • Major Crimes: In "Penalty Phase", Tao and Sanchez investigate the home of the suspected killer. They find the body of his mother, who has been dead for several months, propped up in bed watching the television.
  • The Masters of Horror episode "Family" has a variation of this trope, whereby George Wendt's character kills random people, melts off their flesh, and uses their skeletons as mannequins to create his vision of the perfect family. This counts as an example due to the repeated conversations and arguments he holds with them, including when he "murders" his "wife".
  • One of the murders in Midsomer Murders has her beloved brother's mummified body upstairs in the house. Early on another character mentions the woman keeps the house unusually cold and won't host community events even though she has a large house.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies", the police enter the home of a man who is killing people named Julie Teeger around San Francisco, as his own mother's name is Julia and he has a record of violence defending her. When they arrive, they find Julia's corpse, having been taxidermied after dying of a heart aneurysm. The suspect, Matthew, refused to accept her death, and thus did this to always have her around. Even Monk finds this kind of grief creepy, as he admits to his psychiatrist that you wouldn't seem him having his wife Trudy's corpse around the house, and Trudy's death had broken Monk bad at first.
  • An interesting case occurs in The Tale of Happy Valley sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus. The princess isn't living in denial, she is completely ignorant of the concept of death. As a result, she believes that her pet rabbit Herman is still alive and fusses over him constantly, even dragging him on a leash for walks.
  • This was the Twist Ending to "Death in the Family", an episode of Night Gallery.
  • When the crew of the Red Dwarf first meet the android Kryten in his self-named episode, he's still caring for and conversing with his own ship's long-dead crew. Played for Laughs, helped along by the fact that they're all rotted away to skeletons (with wigs on) instead of still being corpsified and gross. It's a whole hell of a lot more disturbing in the book version, in which the android is directly responsible for the crew's death through obsessive cleanliness (he gave a thorough washing to all the computer systems), and they're cold-mummified corpses, not skeletons... plus, the android doesn't seem to be entirely aware they're dead. When he's directly informed of this, his reaction is "My God! I was only away for two minutes!" It's made more clear in the book, but Kryten is basically in denial that they are dead so that he can continue to perform his programming and serve them, as he has no idea what to do once he can't do that anymore. In fact, he shuts himself off, disassembling his brain in the process when he's forced to realize they're dead in that version (Lister puts him back together).
    Rimmer: Terrific! Our first contact with intelligent life in 3 million years, and it's the android equivalent of Norman Bates!
  • In Riverdale, Cheryl keeps the corpse of her murdered brother Jason in her house and talks to it as if he was alive.
  • Scrubs:
    • J.D. does-slash-subverts this with his dead, stuffed dog Rowdy. The other characters just think J.D. has a hard time letting go of a beloved childhood pet — until Turk reveals that they got him from a garage sale when they were roommates in college. After that, pretty much every character spends some time playing with Rowdy, with Carla both thanking him for "finding" Turk's bandana and informing him he'll leave after she and Turk move in, at different occasions.
    • Another episode self-parodies this, with JD telling Turk and a patient what he wants to be done with his remains...
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Gul Dukat goes just a little bit off the deep end after his daughter is killed in the episode "Sacrifice of Angels", and is seen cradling her dead body and talking to it. He seems to have been persuaded to bury her decently at some point, but if anything, he's gone even more bugfuck nuts by his next appearance.
  • When he was alive, the Monster of the Week from the Supernatural episode "Ghostfacers" brought home corpses as guests for his birthday party. Then the guy died and his ghost kept up the tradition.
  • Tales from the Crypt often featured stories with people loving and being obsessed with corpses (and sometimes, parts of corpses).
  • In the 3rd Season of True Blood, Russell Edgington's partner, Talbot, is staked by Eric. Russell then goes mad, stuffs his remains in a glass urn, and starts taking it with him everywhere he goes. Until Sookie flushes its contents down the garbage disposal...
  • Voice 2: Episode 4 reveals that the Arc Villain is keeping his mother's desiccated corpse in the apartment, and chatting with her, Psycho-style.
  • Yellowjackets: Shauna spends a lot of time with Jackie's dead body, both talking to her and imagining that she is talking back.


  • Avenged Sevenfold's "A Little Piece of Heaven" is a very disturbing example of this, in which a man kills his girlfriend for refusing his proposal, then has 'fun' with her corpse, before she becomes a zombie and kills him in return. They reconcile in hell, however, and come back to get married and engage in mass murder.
  • Gnarls Barkley's "Necromancer" is about not only keeping the body but being the killer as well, although some lyrics mention the idea of suicide. Includes the lines "Did you hear what I said?/With this ring, I thee wed/A body in my bed/She was cool when I met her, but I think I like her better dead." Although the lyrics make it clear that the dead person in question is only metaphorically dead, having been consumed by an addiction to drugs.
  • The song "Walking Dead" by Chester Bennington and DJ Z-Trip has lyrics about a recently reanimated undead digging up the body of a fellow deceased loved one and wanting to bring them back to life:
    Digging in the dirt,
    I can feel you getting closer,
    Steadying my hands through the blistering pain.
    Anxiously awaiting for the earth to reveal you,
    Wondering if I will ever see you again.
  • Melodic Death Metal band The Black Dahlia Murder has at least two songs of this, both prone to be Tear Jerkers, A Vulgar Picture and Deathmask Divine.
  • Casket Casey's album Coffin' Up Bones focuses on a female necrophiliac named Casey, with songs like "Cold Flesh and Blood", and such cheery lyrics as:
    Have you met my groom?
    Long, fair and kind of pale
    I got him stacked in my room
    Come by and say "hi" someday

    Have you seen my son?
    He's quiet and calm
    I found him the other day
    Why don't you come over and play?
  • There's a Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song called Dead Man In My Bed, where a woman is complaining to a singer about the titular dead man. (He's smelly, inconsiderate, and doesn't want to do anything.)
  • A classic example in the Alice Cooper song "Cold Ethyl", where the titular Ethyl is a corpse kept in a large refrigerator, and involves "Making love by the refrigerator light".
  • Creature Feature's song A Corpse In My Bed is about a man saving the corpse of his old girlfriend.
    Her Skin Is Dry And Body Full Of Dust
    One Day I'm Afraid She Just Might Combust
    I Could Never Think Of Leaving Her Side
    Even Though It's Been Years Since She Died
  • In Jimmy Cross' "I Want My Baby Back", which parodies "teen tragedy songs", that were popular in the '60s, the narrator digs up his girlfriend's grave, (who died in an accident) crawls into her coffin, and closes the lid. Complete with sound effects.
  • Played for laughs by country artist Joe Diffie in "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox," when he requests that the audience do this for him when he's dead. He even asks for a stiff drink and a suitable date: a blonde mannequin. In the music video, a pair of friends do exactly this for their deceased buddy, breaking into the funeral home and carrying his body out between them. They make the corpse nod to the waitress, wave at a blonde a the bar, and clap to the music, while passing off his tendency to fall over as ordinary drunkenness, before finally leaving the corpse propped against the bar's jukebox at closing time.
    Well I ain't afraid of dying, it's the thought of being dead.
    I want to go on being me once my eulogy's been read.
    Don't spread my ashes out to sea, don't lay me down to rest.
    You can put my mind at ease if you fulfill my last request.
  • The music video to Disturbed's "Inside The Fire" involves the character (lead singer David Draiman) doing this with his then-recently Driven to Suicide girlfriend. It was disturbing.
  • Evanescence has a few of these. "Like You", "Haunted", and "Even in Death" are the most notable. "Even in Death"'s opening verse:
    Give me a reason to believe that you're gone.
    I see your shadow so I know they're all wrong.
    Moonlight on the soft brown earth,
    It leads me to where you lay.
    They took you away from me, but now I'm taking you home.
  • Insane Clown Posse built a career out of this trope. "Cemetery Girl" and "Dead Body Man" being prime examples. "What kinda SICK FUCK WOULD STEAL FOUR DEAD BODIES ANYWAY? Details at Eleven."
  • The Kisschasey song 'Black Dress' somehow manages to be a fairly sweet song about this. It opens:
    I dug you up this morning and took you home,
    To have you here beside me cold but close.
    I made my mind up last night
    That heaven just can't have you.
  • The official video for "Blue" by A Perfect Circle features a woman hanging out, eating dinner, and ultimately rounding the bases with the recently-exhumed corpse of a loved one.
  • The music video for Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance" tells the story of a mortician who takes home the corpse of a Young Woman (played by Kim Basinger), and has a relatively lovely romantic evening with her. The song's chorus features the line, "Last dance with Mary Jane."
  • "Heirate mich" and "Klavier" by Rammstein.
  • Possibly happens towards the end of "The Doctor's Wife'' by The Steampunk Quartet; by this point, the narrator's patient is legally dead, her organs kept viable by a bunch of machines, the rest of her body "destroyed", and he still hears her pleading for him not to let her go.
  • Cat Stevens' "My Lady D'Arbanville" veers perilously close.
  • The Tiger Lillies have (among other things) the song "Larder", about a dead girl in a larder:
  • "Her Clockwork Heart" by Vernian Process is about an inventor who creates a clockwork heart for his dying lover. She lives on...sort of.
  • Mirel Wagner's "No Death", in which she takes the part of a man making love to his lover after she has died.
    I move my hips
    In her I am home
    I'll keep on loving
    Till the marrow dries from her bones
  • There's an old Spanish folk song about a man having a romantic night with his newlywed wife, who just happens to have deceased several years ago. The last lines are more or less translated to:
    He took the skeleton to the valley
    whispered sweet nothings to her under the stars
    and then fell asleep forever
    holding his beloved's rigid skeleton.
  • The music group Mili's song "RTRT" has the narrator doing this in the song's final verse, heartbroken by the murder of her demon friend. She rebuilds him bit by bit, but even with her skills as a scientist is unable to revive him, so she pretends that maybe with the food and love that they shared he'll eventually come back. The song's image even shows her eating dinner with what's heavily implied to be his stuffed corpse.
    I'll stitch you back up
    Don't need to show me how
    Since I'm the mad scientist, proclaimed by myself
    I'll give you plastic eyes
    And give you nylon hair
    And I'll make sure I get your talisman repaired
    Shark fin soup or Dim sum
    Dumpling or Peking duck
    Nothing I make is gonna bring that charm inside you back
    But you're still my retort
    But you're still my retort
    I'm seeking for retort
    I'm seeking for retort

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • The less squicky form, since it's the willful retaining of a dead body, not the delusion that they're still alive and kicking: In The Iliad after Patroclus dies, Achilles spends an awful lot of mourning time with his arms wrapped around his best friend's corpse. To lessen the squick a bit, Thetis later embalms the corpse so it won't spoil before Achilles gets a chance to avenge his death. Patroclus's spirit finally needs to appear to Achilles in a dream and beg him to cremate his body so he can enter the Underworld.
  • Older Than Dirt: In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the titular hero refuses to allow his beloved friend Enkidu to be buried, embracing his corpse, weeping over him, having one-sided conversations with him, pleading with him to wake up, "veiling his face like a bride's." He finally allows Enkidu to be buried after seven days when a maggot falls out of Enkidu's nose. Eww... But at least he acknowledges the decomposition.
  • The Egyptian goddess Isis collected, reassembled, and mummified her murdered husband Osiris's remains (had to get him new privates to finish the process, although in this case her attempt to restore him to life was actually successful rather than just play-acting.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In a strip by Quino, we see a man and a smiling woman sitting in a living room seemingly having an animated conversation, during all this time the woman never flinches or even blinks; then the man looks at the clock, stands up and kisses the woman good night who remains with her same frozen expression, the man then goes to his bedroom in the back of the house revealing that he is a taxidermist.

  • Bleak Expectations: Protagonist Pip Bin keeps his first wife Flora Diesearly untouched after she dies, in the very bed she died in, and goes to ask her if it's okay to marry another woman. He decides to take her dead silence as a yes.
  • In a shopkeeper sketch on John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, a woman wants her budgie (killed by the cat) and the cat (killed by choking on the budgie) taxidermied into a tableau of the cat on trial with a jury of mice. When the taxidermist suggests this might unsettle visitors, she says probably not once they've been through the Hall of Ex-Husbands...

    Tabletop Games 
  • A third-party supplement book for Dungeons & Dragons third edition, The Slayer's Guide to Undead, had a short story of a queen looking for a cure for her (dead) husband, and executing every healer and cleric who tried to tell her the king was dead and could not be saved. A necromancer fulfilled her wishes by casting a simple animate dead to turn her husband into a mindless zombie that follows the queen's orders. She continues to insist that all messengers and petitioners to the throne address the maggot-infested animated corpse of the king, and even shares a bed with it.
  • Done in a short story accompanying the fat pack for Magic: The Gathering's Coldsnap expansion. The story is presented as the set's villain speaking to his beloved who he has just frozen to death and shattered because she didn't agree with his latest deluded scheme.
  • Warhammer: Malekith of the Dark Elves keeps an entire council table in his chamber, with each seat occupied by the corpse of an advisor that failed him. Some are dry and brittle skeletons. Others are fresh and rotting. Even the chairs they sit upon are made of blackened bones and flayed skin.

  • In The Revenger's Tragedy, written in 1609, Vindice carries the skull of his murdered wife, conversing with her regularly. He has been doing this for nine years, so long that when his mother and sister appear they treat his behavior and the presence of the skull as completely unremarkable.

    Video Games 
  • After his real family died, the mad priest Bassilus in the game Baldur's Gate managed to form a fair-sized surrogate family... by killing people and raising them as zombies and skeletons. Then he spots you and decides you would make a good parent...
  • In one of Diablo III's weirder moments, a random event in the Fields of Misery involves a farm besieged by Leapers. Once all the leapers have been killed, a man comes out of the farm cellar, telling you that he and his wife have been trapped down there by the leapers for hours and that his wife would love to thank you for rescuing them. He leads you into the cellar, and introduces you to his wife...a skeleton sitting in a rocking chair. He says that she's been unwell of late, but his love will see her through!
    • Talking to him afterward leads to him saying such a Hurricane of Puns relating her being a dead skeleton whose head has fallen off, one could even interpret the whole thing as the man messing with you.
  • In Dragon Quest VII, an inventor in the past reprograms one of the Mecha-Mooks threatening the kingdom. In the present day, you find it in his home trying to take care of him (apparently unable to realize he's long dead). It's played mostly for pity, though.
  • Part of the "Dark Brotherhood" arc of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features you tracking down a traitor in the Brotherhood's ranks. When you happen to stumble upon said traitor's hideout, you discover (via a diary) that his mother was originally a victim of the brotherhood. He has kept her decaying head (and talked to it) ever since. Bringing the head with you when the Dark Brotherhood's remaining members execute Lucian Lachance in the mistaken belief that he is the traitor will understandably freak out the real traitor and spoil his identity.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI has Rachel, who died when her home was attacked by the Empire and was subsequently put into 'suspended animation' by a herbal mixture (yeah, don't ask) concocted by some weird old minor NPC. Since then her boyfriend has been spending his time roaming the world looking for a magic item that can bring her back from the dead (a task that would appear to be futile given that the game's world hasn't seen magic for a thousand years), visiting her corpse, and projecting her onto every woman he meets. His persistence does pay off without him having shown any signs of insanity, so... that's okay then? She is able to return, briefly, late in the game, long enough to ask him to move on and forgive himself for her death, before passing on again.
    • Final Fantasy VII and the prequel Crisis Core shows the extent of Sephiroth's mental breakdown by having him serenely explain his plans to the dead, sealed-in-a-test-tube Jenova and telling her not to cry as if he truly expects her to respond. Granted, Jenova is functionally immortal on the cellular level, so while it's unlikely she comprehended what he said she was still alive.
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has Orson, who betrays his kingdom so he can be with his wife, Monica. She's recently deceased, and he took her death quite hard. So much so, that the Big Bad got him to turn traitor in exchange for his wife back. Unfortunately, he could only reanimate her corpse as a zombie, but Orson is so crazy that he simply doesn't notice. He talks to her frequently as if nothing was wrong, and even remarks on how he'd never forgotten her birthday, and promises a special surprise for her. You only ever see her map sprite, (A standard female civilian) and hear her speak, barely, ("Darling... Darling... Darling...") after killing Orson, but the shocked reactions of the main characters to her tell us that's probably for the best.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City has a commercial on the radio for "Pet Stuffers," which taxidermies dead pets for owners who "just can't let go". Funny until you realize this is Truth in Television (see further down on the page). More disturbing, however, is the first clip of the "owner": "Rex, you didn't eat your food again. That's the second week in a row!" Depending on how you interpret it, either the poor dog is dying of something that has given him a complete loss of appetite, or he's already been dead for two weeks and the owner is in severe denial.
  • In one of the endings of Ib, Garry and Ib are both driven insane by the gallery, and Mary loves Ib too much to abandon her so she gives up her dreams of going to the human world and stays with them. That's awful sweet of her...but in the next scene, we realize that while they were clearly alive in the previous scene and Mary's talking a lot about how they're all going to be best friends forever, now neither of them are talking...or moving...or reacting to anything at all...
  • In Iji, if you don't manage to save Dan from Asha, Iji will talk to him and say that she was afraid he was killed, then leave him behind to recover. The horror sets in when you realize that you never heard him reply. It's confirmed in the scene after the final boss. Who catches on and immediately decides that he doesn't have the heart to break it to her.
  • In Immortal Defense, the player character continues to defend his homeworld long after it was reduced to a barren rock, refusing to acknowledge that everything and everyone he knew and loved is gone.
  • Borderlands 2: In "Captain Scarlet and Her Pirate's Booty", the town of Oasis only has one living resident, a lonely and pathetically unhinged man named Shade. Everyone else is a desiccated corpse, rigged with rope and pulleys and pre-recorded messages in a pathetic attempt by Shade to convince others (and himself) that they're still alive.
  • In Infinite Space, if you don't recruit Katida (which results in her Face–Heel Turn), she will order her fleet to focus fire on Roth's ship, killing Nele, which turns Roth into this before he fires a high-stream blaster, destroying the ship. It's one part this and one part Talking to the Dead since it's implied that he knew that she was dead but needed to say what he was saying before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • For an example with a literal mummy, there's Dead Cousin Ted, the permanently-deceased-and-mummified member of the Edison family, from Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle, who the Edison family love to hang around various places in the house, repurposing him as a birdbath, a receptionist and a dress-up mascot. Laverne even remarks that he's her favorite out of the Edisons.
    • One instance of censorship done in the NES port of Maniac Mansion actually enhances this. A puzzle involves making an "obscene phone call" to Nurse Edna. The porting team changed this to Edna assuming that Ted is the one calling, with the explanation that only he has her number and that she never knew of or never accepted his death. Read about it here.
  • A variation is used in Metal Gear: Ghost Babel, in which a serial killer takes parts of his victims and sews them together to make a pair of Bunraku Puppets.
  • Night in the Woods: Minor character Mrs. Miranda apparently mummified her husband after he died and kept him in her house.
    Bea: Wait for it...
    Mrs. Miranda: You can't take a woman's husband just because he's dead!
    Bea: There it is.
    Mae: Holy God.
  • In Red Dead Redemption, one of the "stranger tasks" involves collecting flowers for an old man wanting to surprise his wife for their anniversary. After painstakingly traveling halfway across the state looking for all the specific varieties of flower he wants and returning, you're casually introduced to the desiccated corpse of the man's wife, seated on a chair inside the couple's cabin.
  • James has a creepy conversation with the corpse of his wife ( whom he is intending to resurrect) in the "Rebirth" ending of Silent Hill 2.
  • She wasn't driven nuts by the death, but by another factor, but Presea of Tales of Symphonia continues almost-robotically caring for her father long after his death. After the heroes help cancel out the factor warping her mind, reality sets in, and she doesn't take it well at first.
  • ThanksKilling Day: When the boy returns to his home, which is on fire by that point, he finds his family at the table, including the corpses of his grandparents.
  • Non-romantic example: Gary Golden from Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has the skeletons of his fellow cast and crew of The Misfits (which he apparently starred in) exhumed and dressed up as dinner guests when you come in to check on him. He possibly does this to freak you out. Or because he's crazy. Or because he felt like doing it on a whim. Or maybe he really is sentimental about his pre-undead (and pre-Nosferatu) life. With Gary, you really can't tell.
  • In the final episode of The Walking Dead Season 1 you get into a discussion with the owner of a station wagon that your group stole goods out of at the end of Episode 2. For most of the conversation, he seems normal if a little odd. However, once he starts talking to his wife you realize it's her severed head in a bowling ball bag that he's been carrying around since she was turned into a Walker.

    Visual Novels 
  • The first killer in Kara no Shoujo is collecting body parts and putting them together to make a new body for his sister and is absolutely convinced that she's not dead. He also has sex with the composite corpse when it's fully assembled.
  • Glissade in Steam Prison vehemently insists that his "daughter" Priscilla is only sleeping, while he works to rebuild her body from parts harvested from residents of the sanctuary district. Adage resorts to setting her on fire to destroy her past salvaging and break Glissade's delusion, and even then it doesn't really work - in the ending "Flickering, Fading," he manages to put out the fire and simply starts over, while in the "Sacrificing Myself" ending he burns to death trying to rescue her.

  • Butch of Chopping Block, being partially based on Bates. Except he still tries to off her from time to time.
  • Girl Genius features a rather complicated variant of this, involving a puppet, a life-support tank, and a gynoid, in one story arc.
  • Everything is Fine: Winston, Sam and Maggie's dog, has been dead for some time, but neither of them seems to notice. They still call for him, give him food and only occasionally remark on how quiet he's been lately. Sam even asks Maggie to bring him to the vet. Subverted, as there is a heavy implication that they actually know Winston died, but for some reason have to pretend that he's still alive.
  • Homestuck: Jade's Grandpa. He was much easier to deal with when he was alive.
    • And then in the post-Scratch universe. Jane's Poppop (ie post-scratch John). It's mentioned that this request came at the end of his will, after a long string of joke stipulations, but Dad Crocker knew it was a real stipulation because that's what this family does.
    • Gamzee kept the corpses of his dead co-players around for multiple years, and it's heavily implied he kissed Tavros' severed head on at least one occasion.
  • The Order of the Stick When the Order finally gets to the Draketooth clan the majority of the mummified corpses are discovered in the dining hall where they died midmeal from Varsuvius' familicide spell.
  • In Sexy Losers, one of the recurring characters has a crush on a suicidal girl. While she was alive he was trying to convince her to commit suicide, just so he could do this afterwards. His incredibly Squicky descriptions of what he planned to do were enough to convince her not to kill herself on several occasions. In fact, her eventual suicide is accidental. She bought a gun to kill him so he couldn't convince her not to go through with it through his creepiness next time, and she ends up grabbing it instead of her hair drier. He decides to dig her corpse up and carry her around, still having a smiling expression her face. As for sex, he is not below doing it in the neck. Later, it is found out even his father is doing it to his wife.

    Web Original 
  • In Ben Drowned, in a secret newspaper clipping that was sent out at some point, it's heavily implied that Duskworld 23 had this done to him by his insane mother after his ascension.
  • In Mason, the narrator does this.
  • Over on her in-character facebook, The Nostalgia Chick wondered if Todd in the Shadows was dying and said she would accept having sex with his dead body if there was no hope when he was alive.
  • In episode seven of Salad Fingers, the titular character finds a bisected, rotting corpse. He claims it's his brother Kenneth on shore leave from the Great War and has dinner with him. Given that the whole series is a big Mind Screw and Salad Fingers has a rather skewed sense of reality, we never find out if the corpse really is his brother or just some random dead person.
  • This has cropped up on Survival of the Fittest at least three times.
    • In version 3, after the death of Guy Rapide, Alice Jones keeps his severed head in a bag and talks to it as if it were still alive.
    • Liam Brooks in v4 probably qualifies as the Ax-Crazy variant, where he tends to stick next to Tiffany Baker's dead body and killing all who approach them for his "garden".
    • And then in Evolution Iris Landon engages in this after the Mutual Kill of Johnny Marsh and Holly Chapman. They're just sleeping after fighting that long, honest!

    Western Animation 
  • Played for laughs in Family Guy, when Brian goes to visit his mother and discovers that she's passed away; her owners had her stuffed and made into a table. Brian's horrified, while Stewie thinks it's hilarious.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: Irwin's father does this. However, Irwin's mother is a literal mummy, with bandages, shuffling walk, pained groaning, and all. And yes, she does occasionally sit at the dinner table.
  • Mrs. Driscoll, the science teacher in Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja, carries around her dead husband's skeleton wherever she goes, and is still very... affectionate with him.
  • A Robot Chicken sketch that combines The Smurfs with Se7en ends with Papa Smurf waltzing with Smurfette's beheaded corpse. Yeah, it's a weird show.
  • In Stickin' Around the character Polly, despite being spectacularly well informed and articulate for her young age, cannot accept that her pet dog Pepperoni is dead.
  • Played with in Season 4 of The Venture Bros., when Number 21 is shown to have one-sided conversations with the skull of the deceased Number 24. We later see it from Number 21's perspective, and he is apparently talking to a ghost only he can see. In a subversion, 21 Took a Level in Badass, and we're shown that 24's ghost has been feeding 21 information (i.e. warning him if people nearby are carrying concealed weapons) to improve his reputation. This leads to a bit of a Mind Screw when 24's ghost suggests he himself may be an imaginary Magic Feather, and that 21 really is awesome but hallucinates 24 due to an inferiority complex. The season finale seems to confirm that he's just a delusion of 21's. Not only did one of the fellow "ghosts" 24 introduced him to never exist, but Dr. Orpheus (a professional necromancer) couldn't see 24, and he communicates with the dead all the time.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: The Crypt-Keeper brings to life a lot of horrific tales about "Toons from the Crypt" and one of them is naturally about Elmyra who has a dream about her deceased pets who rise from the grave as rotting corpses to exact their revenge on her. It turns out that it has been a pleasant dream, enough to make her want to see them again and proceed to then unbury them so that they can participate in her tea party.
  • Implied in Treehouse of Horror XXXI in the segment "Toy Gory". The segment ends with Bart's vengeful toys killing him and fashioning his corpse into a pullstring toy, which his family promptly find. They rush him to the doctor, and Hibbert informs them of what has become of their son, resulting in Homer and Marge weeping over his unresponsive body. However, the montage that follows reveals that they took him home after this, with some images showing him lying in bed or sitting at the dinner table while his toys mess with him further.

    Real Life 
  • On some holidays and customs built around remembering the dead, such as the Mexican Day of the Dead, celebrants will keep vigil all night at the graves of friends and family, sometimes even presenting offerings of food and song. On a more macabre note, certain older traditions around the world involved literally bringing mummies or skulls home for dinner.
  • A serial killer example would be Dennis Nilsen, who simply didn't want his "dates" to leave him (there was a bit of this in Dahmer's mental dysfunction as well).
  • Perhaps the squickiest real-life example: Carl Tanzler, a radiologist in 1930s Key West, Florida, who developed a morbid obsession with one of his young female patients. After she died, he built a mausoleum for her, but apparently, that wasn't enough, so he carted away her body, hid it in his house, preserved it as best he could, and lived with her "as man and wife" for many years until her family discovered the body. Tanzler was arrested for graverobbing but was ultimately released because the statute of limitations on the crime had expired. (Which shows you just how long the "relationship" went on...)
    • A similar case took place in Japan in 1959. Dr. Karsuaburo Miyamoto was unable to accept his wife's death, so he embalmed the body and kept her in their conjugal bed for ten years before he was caught. Source.
  • The Peavey family of New Hampshire had a mummified stillborn infant as a sort of heirloom for 90 years until a child let the secret slip and the state ordered that the body be buried. Though the family engaged in some playful acts with the body, like giving it cards on holidays and a dried fish for a pet, they never fully enacted this trope. (Someone in the past might have, however, considering the body was left unburied so long).
    • Someone eventually dug out the grave of that unfortunate corpse.
  • Ed Gein, the inspiration behind Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb.
  • Then there was Queen Juana of Castile, queen regent in the early 16th century, who was said to have kept her husband's body around for years after his death, and definitely did so for several months until the church stopped her. Otherwise known as Joanna the Mad. Her husband was known as Philip the Handsome though. So the defining attributes of either could be at fault for her actions.
  • Similar to Queen Juana, it is reported that Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh carried her husband Sir Walter's embalmed head around with her until her death.
  • Perpetual Pet is a company that will freeze-dry and mount your pets if you can't bear to let them go.
  • Gustav II Adolf's wife kept his embalmed corpse around for far longer than was considered proper. When he was buried she had apparently removed his heart and kept it in a box. Eventually, the royal council had to step in, take the heart away and send her daughter off to be raised by someone a bit saner.
    • Gustav was well aware of his wife's mental state: Before leaving for Germany to be made into this trope, he made it clear to his royal council that under no circumstances was his wife to have any say in the Regency. Before chalking this down to simple 17th-century misogyny, recall that this was the father of Sweden's Queen Christina who had arranged for her to succeed with absolute power.
  • Animals occasionally do this with their dead infants. It's slightly less squicky than when humans do it, for some reason.
    • Maybe because the other animals' reaction is much more squicky as they eat the corpses of their infants.
  • Jeremy Bentham, the father of utilitarianism, was dissected after he died, and his skeleton was outfitted with a wax head and stuffed into his clothes filled out with hay. The 'body' is kept in public display at the University College London. It has been brought out to meetings of the College Council on at least two occasions, where Bentham was listed as being "present, but not voting."
  • Former Senator Rick Santorum's wife gave birth prematurely and their son died two hours after his birth. Santorum decided to take the corpse home with him for a day and introduced it to his living children as their brother (he returned the body the next day). Santorum still speaks of his late son in the present tense. Article here.
  • The Capuchin catacombs of Palermo: Originally the catacombs were intended only for dead Capuchin friars. However, in the following centuries, it became a status symbol for locals to be entombed into the Capuchin catacombs. Some of the bodies were embalmed and others enclosed in sealed glass cabinets. Monks were preserved with their everyday clothing and sometimes with ropes they had worn as a penance. Relatives (including children) would visit to pray for the deceased and also to maintain the body in presentable condition. In their wills, local luminaries would ask to be preserved in certain clothes or even to have their clothes changed at regular intervals.
    • One of the most touching residents of the catacombs, and definitely the cutest, is Rosalie Lombardo.
  • King Herod of Judea (a.k.a. the one that tried to kill Jesus as a baby in the Bible) grew so paranoid later in his life that he had his beloved wife, Miriam, executed for treason. He deeply regretted this and supposedly had her corpse preserved with honey.
  • In the earliest days of photography, exposure times were so long that taking clear pictures of young children was virtually impossible, as they just couldn't sit still long enough. One morbid sideline for early photographers was taking pictures of dead children, dressed up and posed as if alive so that bereaved families could have a photograph to remember their lost child by.
  • Those Wacky Nazis actually take it one step further - when Franz Kutschera was killed a week before his wedding, they didn't bother with a funeral and simply put his corpse at the altar nonetheless. Since it was all about the "perfect race" and the bride getting pregnant beforehand, no one saw any problem with that.
  • Legend has it that King Peter I of Portugal, whose lover Inês de Castro was murdered by nobles due to some court intrigue, grew so mad with grief that he exhumed her corpse, had her dressed like a queen and seated in the throne forcing the nobles to kiss her hand (likely to humiliate them) and the clergy to marry them so that she could become queen posthumously. No wonder he was also known as "Peter the Cruel"...
  • The extremely macabre story of Anatoly Moskvin: as a deep believer in Celtic druid practices of "talking to the dead", he would sometimes sleep on the grave of recently deceased children and whenever a spirit "mentioned it wants to live", he would dig the body out, dry it with salt and baking soda, then carry it home. There he would wrap them in cloth, put wax masks colored with nail polish on them, and thus create "dolls" with which he would eat, sleep and play, celebrate their birthdays, read stories and sing songs as well as watch cartoons. He did this for about twenty years, finally getting caught with 26 "dolls".

Alternative Title(s): Last Dance With Mary Jane, Norma Bates