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Of Corpse He's Alive

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Homer (as Ned): Relax, I'm fine! But when I do die, I don't want any autopsies!

Larry Wilson: Lomax told whoever he was talking to not to kill us while he's around.
Richard Parker: Yes, but Bernie's dead. He's not around anymore.
Larry Wilson: Yeah. I know that. You know that. Nobody else knows that.

It's always a sad affair when someone dies... unless you're in a comedy, of course. In comedies, there may be all sorts of unlikely reasons why it's really not convenient for someone to be dead. So rather than face reality in a mature, responsible fashion, why not launch a Zany Scheme where you pretend the corpse is still alive, or at least make sure nobody can check?

Cue all sorts of wacky hijinks: the corpse is dragged around, impersonated (either bodily or through ventriloquism), made to move by strings, zombified and stored away in the most unlikely places. This goes on until such time as it's convenient to reveal that the victim is really dead and that they died in circumstances that may or may not involve the protagonist (although the protagonist is usually the killer, whether on purpose or not), or when the corpse is accidentally discovered.

A common variation involves a man who is unconscious or under a deep sleep rather than dead. Usually used when either the "corpse" is an already established character or in a show that refuses to acknowledge death. In real life, people have been mistakenly killed for real this way, such as being buried alive, or if an autopsy is mistakenly performed on a living person.

A serious version of this is the El Cid Ploy. See also The "Fun" in "Funeral". Compare Mummies at the Dinner Table (which is about someone trying to convince themselves dead people are still alive) and Dead Pet Sketch. The opposite situation — usually played seriously — is Faking the Dead. Dead Person Impersonation is when a living person assumes the dead one's ID and doesn't bother with the body. This trope is not to be confused with He's Just Hiding, where fans refuse to believe a character is dead despite all evidence that they are.

If someone has an audio recording instead of a corpse, they may employ Recorded Spliced Conversation in the same manner. This is common in mystery fiction.

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


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  • An office legend immortalized in a Conseco commercial involves a recently deceased white-collar worker who was positioned at his desk with sunglasses on so that his wife could continue to draw his salary. Co-workers would come in and drop off work, and others would pick it up to work on. In most versions, nobody even notices that he isn't actually doing anything.
  • The Chuck Testa meme stems from an advertisement where taxidermist Chuck Testa shows how lifelike his taxidermies are by moving the stuffed animals around and fooling people into thinking they're alive.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In one case in the Ace Attorney manga, the killer uses wires to suspend her victim in a standing position and make him seem as though he's still alive some time after his death.
  • Case Closed:
    • Detective Conan has a serious version of this (of course, being about murder and all that). A guy just murdered his brother and the Junior Detective League found his body. Next day, the brother tried to use the body manipulation to make it seems like the dead guy is alive, trying to fool the League and the police.
    • Also used by the title character (though they aren't dead) in each episode, since no one would believe the kid solved the crime, he darts his intended target then uses the unconscious body to finger the murderer. Considering how many cases he's solved in this fashion, it seems everyone around him is just lugging crates of Idiot Balls behind them the whole way.
  • In Goblin Slayer, when the party is infiltrating a dwarven fortress occupied by goblins, High Elf Archer arranges a few goblin corpses to make them look merely drunk to avoid the alarm being raised too soon. She even pours out some of Dwarf Shaman's booze to complete the effect, he does not let that go.
  • Played for Drama at the end of Goodnight Punpun. After Aiko kills herself, Punpun takes her body and leaves it with two kids by the road saying that she's only just sleeping.
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: One murderer rigged the body of their victim to stand in front of a steamed-up window in order to make them appear to still be alive and working, so the police would think the murder happened later than it did (when they'd have an alibi).
  • Midori Days uses the unconsciousness variation in one chapter: after Seiji gets knocked out due to drinking some tequila, Midori has to deal with household issues. This includes having to drag Seiji's body over to greet a pizza delivery man and a textbook salesman and fighting off a thief that broke into Seiji's home — not easy, considering she's where his right hand should be, with a size to match.

    Comic Books 
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: In The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut, when Theodore Roosevelt tries to negotiate with a native chief, the latter "tests" him by feeding him a strong drink that ends up rendering him unconscious. While the chief's back is turned, Scrooge sneaks behind Roosevelt's unconscious body and pretends to be him so the negotiations can continue. Hilarity ensues when Scrooge can't see what part of the map he is pointing at, shakes the chief's hand with his foot because his arms are too short to reach, and drags Roosevelt's body outside when all is said and done, all while the chief doesn't notice a thing.
  • A spoilertastic version occurs, appropriately enough, in Star Wars: Legacy. After years of searching for a specific goal, Darth Krayt finally finds a method to overcome death. The adjutant, Darth Wyyrlock, kills him, out of concern that Krayt's increasing instability would eventually lead to the downfall of the New Sith Empire. In the following weeks, Wyyrlock pretends that Krayt is injured and comatose, relying on Krayt's legacy and Wyyrlock's own reputation for loyalty to strengthen his grip on the empire to lead it to a stable future. In the end, Krayt wakes up, having survived death, and is quite unhappy with Wyyrlock's manipulations, eventually killing him in a duel.
  • Used as a gag in Sturmtruppen, where a series of strips has two privates finding themselves stranded with the corpse of their private Franz... but they decide to keep it with them and pretend he's still alive to use him for sentinel turns and to get extra rations of food, with no one suspecting a thing. This culminates in them having to show up to the Lieutenant, who not only mistakes the corpse's smell for the Sergeant's, but he also recruits them all for a high-risk scouting mission, much to the other two soldiers' dismay.

    Comic Strips 
  • In one Pearls Before Swine series, Rat orders rice on eBay but ends up with the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh. Being Rat, he finds a morbid way to cash in on it by dressing him up as a Mall Santa.
    Rat: Go ahead, kid...tell Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh what you want for next Christmas.

    Fan Works 
  • "Caretakers" (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic): Lyra and Bon-Bon do this with Granny Smith when they presume her to be dead, with Lyra moving the corpse with her telekinesis and Bon-Bon providing the voice.
  • In the Gunslinger Girl Hunters in the Dolomites series, Marisa loses her temper and throws a Padania terrorist off a cliff, forcing her and Triela to abseil down and retrieve the body when it lands on the roof of a house below. The owner is half-blind and invites them to tea, so they pretend the third member of their party is mute.

    Film — Animation 
  • Played with in Kung Fu Panda 2. When infiltrating Lord Shen's cannon factory, Po knocks out two wolf guards and carries them in front of him as a Paper-Thin Disguise. No-one notices.
    Mook Lieutenant: Wipe those stupid grins off your faces!
  • In Ratatouille, Remy finds Linguini passed out in the kitchen, so he puppeteers him to clean up. Colette comes in and engages him in conversation, but interprets Linguini's silence as rudeness and slaps him awake.
  • Rover Dangerfield plays this for laughs, unfortunately, with a turkey.
  • Played with in Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear is alive and well, but utterly depressed and unresponsive; Woody needs to prove Buzz is alive and with him for the rest of the toys back home to save them. One of Buzz's toy arms happens to be detached at the moment, and Woody pantomimes with it pretending to be Buzz. When it's revealed he's just holding an arm, the rest of the toys assume it's this trope and abandon him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Elliot, in 13 Sins, is tasked to take a man out for a coffee date. The man is dead before Elliot gets there, necessitating the trope.
  • American Gangster: A corrupt cop has killed a man in a drug deal gone bad, and his neighbors are close to rioting. The cops have paramedics bandage the corpse, open his eyes, and prop him up on a gurney. They then wheel him to the ambulance, pacifying the crowd by assuring them that he'll be fine and they're taking him to the hospital.
  • In Beau Geste, as the soldiers manning the walls of a besieged fortress are killed, the insane commander sets the corpses of fallen defenders back up on the walls with rifles in hand to act as decoys.
  • Beverly Hills Cop III: Axel has a shootout with Mooks Kimbrough, Rondy, and Cooper and kills all of them. When more of them run in, Axel props one of the dead guys, Kimbrough, up, lifts his arm so Kimbrough is "pointing," and yells "He ran up those stairs!" They all fall for it.
  • In Blue Iguana (2018), Deacon murders Dawn in the car, then drives out of the car park with her corpse in the passenger seat. When the ticket guy peers suspiciously into the car, Deacon motions towards Dawn and mimes drinking from a wine bottle.
  • Bullet Train:
    • Ladybug didn't intend to kill the Wolf and the Hornet, and to avoid arousing suspicion he positions their corpses in the alcohol car in increasingly ridiculous poses to make it look like they're passed out drunk instead of dead.
    • When the yakuza demand proof that the Son is alive and well, Tangerine gets off the train to meet with them while Lemon puppets the Son's corpse from inside the train window to wave hello. They refer to this tactic as "the old Punch and Judy".
  • In Cats & Dogs, Mr. Tinkle and his cat minions hijack his owner's Christmas Tree factory. They get in to do so by operating his motorised wheelchair, covering his mouth with a scarf, covering his eyes with sunglasses, and voicing him.
  • It is a Running Gag in a Polish comedy Ciało ("Corpse"). There, a chain of people find the titular corpse, think it was alive and that they were somehow responsible for its death due to something random happening, and engage in a series of shenanigans meant to deceive other people and make them think it is still alive (but sleeping or unconscious), only to dump the corpse on someone else the moment it becomes possible and for the whole thing to repeat. The man whose corpse it is was dead from the very beginning of the journey.
  • Clownface: After killing Jenna's dad, Clownface puts his corpse in his bed so she thinks he's asleep.
  • In the Clue movie, the characters attempt to hide about three dead people from a cop using this method.
  • In Cold Pursuit, after Kyle is murdered, his killers carry his body to an outside table, carrying on a conversation as if he is alive and drunk. They prop him up at the table, pop sunglasses on him, talk to him for a while, and then leave, saying they are going to get coffee.
  • In Commando (1985), John Matrix breaks the neck of the bad guy who's supposed to watch him on the flight to Val Verde. Afterwards, John just puts his straw hat over his face and props the body in a way that makes it seems like he's sleeping.
    John Matrix: [to a stewardess] Don't disturb my friend. He's dead tired.
  • The nurse and doctor do this with the body of a patient they had recently killed (and buried, so they had to dig him up) in Death Nurse when his caseworker comes by to visit. Luckily for them, he was so sick he couldn't speak, so his silence goes unquestioned.
  • Charlie Chaplin does the unconscious version in A Dog's Life, as seen here.
  • Example of sorts: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, in which an elderly babysitter arrives to look after a large family of kids while their mother is away for the summer. She promptly drops dead and the kids, who don't want their mother to come home and ruin their fun, agree to pretend that she is still alive. Problem being that all the money their mother left them is in the box they used to drag the old lady to the undertaker, so the eldest sister pretends to be 30 years old in order to get a full-time job for the summer. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Draw!: Not actually dead, but Wally ties the passing out drunk Sam Starret to a board and props him up at the window to persuade Holland and the townsfolk that Starret is present and in fighting condition.
  • A serious, dramatic example appears in the movie El Cid. The title character dies before he can win the battle, so they just put his body in armor, put him on a horse, and set the horse running so he can inspire the troops to victory... and he still ends up mowing down several enemies. This is based on a legend about the real medieval Spanish leader, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid. See "Real Life" for more details.
  • In Fierce Creatures, the boss is shot through the head by accident and a scheme is quickly set in place to make it look like a suicide in front of some of his colleagues involving the dead man's son impersonating him. This worked particularly well as the father and son were both played by the same actor, Kevin Kline to be exact.
  • In A Fistful of Dollars Clint Eastwood recovers the bodies of two Mexican soldiers left over from a massacre performed earlier in the film. He then puts them in the town's graveyard and tells both gangs about "survivors" from the massacre hiding in the graveyard. This results in a violent skirmish where one gang (the one responsible for their deaths) is trying to kill the already dead soldiers while the other is trying to "rescue" them in the hopes of getting information.
  • In The Flesh and the Fiends, Burke and Hare carry Jackson's dead body between them, pretending that he is too drunk to walk. They fail to notice when Jamie steals a ring off Jackson's finger, which is what ultimately brings about their downfall.
  • A dramatic example in Force 10 from Navarone. The heroes use the corpse of the commanding officer to trick the guards into letting them out of a Nazi-controlled camp. The body is propped upright in a car and a hidden person raises its arm in the Nazi salute.
  • Going Berserk: John Candy's character gets handcuffed to another guy who dies of a heart attack in his girlfriend's apartment. John manages to get them to a bar to wait for his friend to get over with a hacksaw to cut him loose - while he's waiting, a friend of the dead guy spots him propped up in a chair and starts in with a long one-sided conversation. He's still at it over the end credits.
  • Holmes & Watson: After rendering Queen Victoria unconscious, Holmes has to puppet her body in order to convince the Royal Guardsmen that she is fine.
  • Jigsaw has Logan Nelson dig up John Kramer's grave, take his body, and place Edgar Munsen's in its place, so as to keep up rumors that the original Jigsaw Killer is still alive and out there.
  • Lights of New York: Barber tries to hide a dead gangster from the police disguising him as a customer, shaving him, talking to him, and pretending he's asleep. Unfortunately, the body drops from the chair.
  • In A Man Called Sledge, Sledge knocks out one of the guards in the prison and is searching him for the keys, only to be told he doesn't have them. When another guard enters, Sledge and Ward grab the unconscious guard and haul him up against the bars of their cell so it looks like he is standing there talking to them. The ruse works briefly but then fails when the unconscious guard slips out from under him.
  • In the Action Prologue of The Mechanic (2011), the Villain Protagonist assassinates a Colombian drug lord by drowning him in his own swimming pool. A guard notices the body floating in the pool, so the hitman works his limbs so he appears to be swimming.
  • Men at Work (1990): Some time after finding Jack Berger's body, Carl, James, and Louis see Officer Mike and his partner approaching them. Not wanting to be caught with a dead body, the three put a hat over Jack's eyes and puppet him while making up a story about why he's with them, which the two cops buy.
  • The final scene of Midnight Cowboy. On the bus, Joe muses that there must be easier ways to earn a living than hustling, and tells Ratso he plans to get a regular job in Florida. When Ratso fails to respond, Joe realizes that he has died. The driver tells Joe there is nothing to do but continue to Miami and asks Joe to close Ratso's eyelids. Joe, with tears welling in his eyes, sits with his arm around his dead friend, alone.
  • Played with in Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues. After the new governor is assassinated by Sheung Hung (Cherrie Chung), the soldiers outside storm in. Trying to hide the death, Pat Neil (Sally Yeh) moves his body around, half covered by sheets, to make it look like the soldiers interrupted the two during intercourse.
  • In Power of the Press, Griff manipulates Trent's dead body to make it look like he is wounded but still alive, then photographs him and uses the photograph to produce a fake newspaper front page to trick Rankin into making an Engineered Public Confession.
  • A martial arts film titled The Sentimental Swordsman has the protagonist and his band of travelers entering a crowded tavern, and despite the number of people inside, somehow the entire place is deathly quiet, everyone simply seated at their places, staring down their food without eating. The hero quickly holds a hand up, stopping his comrades from entering - because every patron in the tavern is dead, merely propped on their seats to appear alive, and they're being Lured into a Trap.
  • James Bond disposes of a Femme Fatale this way in Thunderball. She dances with him while one of her gunmen is aiming at Bond's back. Bond suddenly twirls her around so she takes the bullet. And he uses the same line.
  • Another borderline example: Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry has a group of townspeople discovering a body out in the woods and attempting to hide it from the authorities. Some of the hiders did it because they thought they had accidentally killed the man, and others did it to protect a person whom they thought had killed the man. The corpse gets buried and dug up three times each. It turns out no one killed the man: his death was from natural causes.
    • This is an adaptation of an old story which can be found, among other places, in The Arabian Nights. There the person in question is a hunchback who choked on a bone.
  • In the movie version of The Untouchables (1987), the team are trying to interrogate a mobster to no effect. Irish cop Malone goes outside to grab the body of a gangster killed in a shoot-out and pops him up against the window in front of the suspect's sight, hiding the man's bullet wound. He then berates the corpse as if interrogating him, pushing a gun to his head and finally shooting it. Naturally, the terrified mobster agrees to tell anything he knows.
  • In Used Cars the dealership's owner's brother, the owner of a rival dealership, is purposely given a fatal heart attack during an extreme test drive. The body is disposed of by propping the dead guy up in his favorite vintage car, setting the car in drive, and having it crash while a big sale is going on at the first dealership. The dead guy is subsequently buried in his car.
  • In Waking Ned Devine, an elderly Irish man dies of shock when he wins the lottery and his friends have to do this in order to claim the jackpot to share between themselves. Somewhat downplayed, as they don't use the actual body; he gets a decent Christian burial accompanied by a Meaningful Funeral whilst another man of approximately the right age and physical description impersonates him when the man from the Lottery Commission comes to square away the administrative formalities.
  • In Waterworld, the Smokers make the residents of a small trading post, whom they've recently killed, appear to be waving to the Mariner as the latter approaches, intending to draw him into a deadly trap. Unfortunately for them, the Mariner isn't fooled by the charade.
  • The trope was made famous by Weekend at Bernie's, where a pair of losers find that their deceased boss has ordered a hit on them, to be carried out once he ditches them. Out of sheer audacity, they start hauling the corpse around to convince everyone he's still alive - not a difficult task, given how Bernie's neighbors are all shallow snobs. Except the hitman actually killed their boss and planned to leave peacefully, so all they're doing is drawing attention to themselves, and freaking the hitman out... The same basic premise is used in its sequel; another two losers re-animate Bernie (partially) so he can lead them to a buried treasure, just as the first two losers decide to haul his body to the Virgin Islands in an attempt to break into his safety deposit box.
  • There's an accident version in the opening of When Eight Bells Toll. The secret agent played by a young Anthony Hopkins boards a ship and breaks into the radio room, only to be caught red-handed by a sailor pointing a revolver at him. He then notices the revolver is propped on the desk and the man's eyes aren't moving to follow him; on further examination, the sailor has been stabbed in the back with a knife that's holding him in position.
  • XX: In "The Birthday Suit", Mary dresses her husband's corpse in a panda suit and props it up at the head of the table. The charade lasts for a remarkably long time.

  • Anna Pigeon: In Destroyer Angel, Anna and her friends do this with the dude's body to lure 'Mr. Big' into an ambush; propping it up against one wall of a building and having one of the girls manipulate his arm so he seems to gesture 'Mr. Big' to come to him, so 'Mr. Big' will leave the safety of his plane.
  • In one story from Arabian Nights the jester of a ruler dies from a fishbone in his throat; no less than three people try to shift the blame by getting rid of his body. When an innocent man is condemned to death for the alleged murder, all of them (in reverse order) confess what they did. At the end, it turns out that he wasn't really dead, just unconscious. In a different version of the story, he's really dead, but the sultan is so amused by everyone claiming to have killed him that he pardons all responsible, saying that this was the jester's last joke.
  • Bernie Rhodenbarr: In The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, Turnquist is found dead in the bathroom at Bernie's bookstore. Carolyn rents a wheelchair and she and Bernie put a hat and sunglasses on the corpse, stick it in the chair and keep pushing until they find a convenient place to deposit the deceased.
  • The Butcher Boy: At some point, Benny dies because of his alcoholism. Francie is unaware of this (due to his increasing Sanity Slippage) and thinks he's just sleeping until the police enter his home to discover the corpse has been decomposing for a while.
  • Serious example: The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, in which a family of children attempts to hide their mother's death so they will not be taken away by Social Services. The title describes their manner of achieving this aim.
  • In The Darksword Trilogy, the unstable political situation in Merilon causes the royal court to keep up the pretense that the Queen is still alive for over a year after her death in order to prevent her brother from taking the throne. The royal wizards use their magic to prevent her body from decomposing, and even to make it move and appear to hold court as usual — but anyone looking into its dead eyes can see the truth.
  • In one of the Dawn books by VC Andrews, an elderly guest dies at the hotel run by the heroine. In accordance with past hotel policy, she agrees to have him taken away by an ambulance crew, with an oxygen mask on to make it look like he is alive so that the hotel won't lose guests. She struggles with her conscience over this as it is what her hated grandmother, the previous owner of the hotel, liked to do whenever a guest died on the premises.
  • Discworld:
    • Referenced in Maskerade, where the philosophy of "the show must go on" is taken to truly ridiculous lengths; several characters allude to an incident some time ago in which a lead singer died in the Intermission but was made to finish out the show anyway.
    • Soul Music parodies the Beau Geste example when Death joins the Klatchian Foreign Legion. As they're outnumbered, they do the same thing with their dead to make it look like they've got more soldiers...but because the Grim Reaper is on their side, the dead soldiers start fighting.
    • Monstrous Regiment: The Duchess who is the figurehead ruler of the country of Borogravia, where the book is set, is officially alive and well and continuing to reign. Main character Polly is fairly certain that the Duchess must really be dead because she always looks the same age in her portraits. In the end the truth of the situation Takes a Third Option. The Duchess "is" physically dead, but is also spiritually alive, having been forced into a sort of reluctant godhood by the desperate prayers and beliefs of a population that has given up on its "actual" god ever helping them (or, in fact, being in any way sane).
  • Doc Savage: In The Annihilist, the villains attempt to convince Sidney Lorrey that his brother (whom they had killed earlier) is still alive. They do this by covering the bullet hole in his forehead with a bandage and laying the corpse on a couch with a Mook underneath it to move it occasionally and emit moaning sounds.
  • Used in Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark, after an assault by the defenders of Vienna against a position of Turks that had got too close to the main city wall. One of the armored knights died from wounds taken in the charge. The commander had originally brought out some explosives to take down the small wall there but instead jury-rigged them to the knight's corpse so he could trick the Turks into thinking he had left defenders behind and catch them in the explosion. It worked too, naturally.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon the Ninth: Hilariously, Harrow has gotten away with puppeteering her dead parents' corpses for seven years, telling people her parents have taken vows of silence and fasting, among other things. A more serious version also occurs with Protesilaus, the very boring Seventh cav who turns out to be a corpse perfectly preserved and puppeted by necromantic forces. Harrow is one of the only people to pick up on it right away, having had experience with her parents.
  • In the short story "Hel's Half-Acre" by John Hemry (under his Jack Campbell pen name), the famed general that commands the local human forces on the battlefield is ultimately revealed to have died long ago but wasn't reported due to a modified Armor Assistant that works in the Powered Armor the human troops were wearing, has been acting in the general's place the entire time, based on studying the general's previous actions.
  • Honor Harrington: In Echoes of Honor, the inmates take over the prison planet where Honor has wound up after her capture in the previous book. The Warden was naturally brutally murdered by the inmates that he'd been abusing the whole time, so Honor's crew use his holographic logs as a stand-in when they get visitors, including a messenger boat. This ends up getting turned on them when the receiver of the message notes that the "Warden" didn't send his play-by-post chess move, and moves in to investigate. Unfortunately for them, Honor has commandeered a small fleet of her own by then.
  • John Dies at the End has an example of the 'alive but unconscious' variety; John is catatonic after using the Soy Sauce, so David drives him to work, steers him to the cash register, poses him in such a way that he could plausibly be reading something very boring, and then adds sunglasses to complete the illusion.
  • In The Martian Chronicles, Hathaway, a respected former astronaut, finds himself the last living man in his town. Being an ingenious fellow and a dab hand with electronics, he rigs the entire city to look like it's still alive and vibrant from his slightly secluded home. He also creates robot duplicates of his wife and daughters, with whom he interacts just as if they were the originals.
  • Tim Powers uses a more extreme version in On Stranger Tides, in which one of the occult conspirators dies on shipboard before he can give the signal to delay a ritual that will erase the mind of the captive Love Interest. The hero, a puppeteer by trade, has no choice but to convert the dead man's corpse into a marionette and make it nod and wave to the accomplice, who is watching via spyglass from shore.
  • In Puckoon, the new border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State runs between a church and its associated graveyard, and the border guards refuse to let a funeral procession through unless everybody in it has valid passports — including the fellow in the coffin. This results in a scene where three of the villagers take the deceased off to get a passport photo taken while attempting to avoid letting on to the photographer that he's deceased.
  • Special Operations: In order to test whether their Dutch operation have been compromised, the Allies parachute a man who died of a broken neck, dressed up like a commando, into German territory, reasoning that if the Germans haven't compromised the network, then their people will report the man apparently died on impact with the ground, and if the Germans have compromised the network, they'll act as if everything is fine with him.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, during a battle in the Slaver's Bay, the generals of Astapor crudely try to use this stratagem with the dead king Cleon. They exhume the corpse, put it in its armor, strap it on his horse and have him "lead" the troops. This is a rather desperate attempt to save a hopeless situation, and it fails miserably, every man in the sortie getting killed. (Afterwards, the man who "slayed" the dead Cleon is ironically nicknamed "corpsekiller" by his allies.)
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • A semi-serious variation happens in Wraith Squadron. When the Wraiths captured an enemy corvette, they managed to do so before the corvette could get a message off, meaning that the enemy was completely unaware that it had been seized. They decided to try The Infiltration, passing as the crew of the corvette to get close to the enemy. The captain - "a petty guy who reached his ultimate level of usefulness driving a minelaying barge for a warlord and then had to be scraped off the floor", according to Face - was killed and his body made unrecognizable but he had such a massive ego that he kept a full-holo Captain's Log. The Wraiths proceeded to use it to impersonate him, with original flamboyance intact, over holographic communications.
      Face: [after a session where he deflects the suspicions of the petty captain's superior] Thank you, thank you. Performances every hour, on the hour. Imperial madmen a specialty.
    • It later happens much more seriously in one of the later books; one of the Wraiths infiltrating Iron Fist under the guise of a Stormtrooper is shot and killed while attempting to free some of Zsinj's science experiments single-handedly. Zsinj then has him rigged up in such a way as he can be marched before the other Wraiths (who are masquerading as pirates in his employ) and orders them to kill him as a test of loyalty. The ruse is given away when one of the Wraiths notes the poorly-concealed blast mark in their comrade's armor, tipping him off that he's already dead.
  • In one of the Stephanie Plum novels, when one of the titular character's busts goes awry, her boss Vinnie suggests she do this in order to recover the bond money.
  • The Three Musketeers: Used by the Musketeers during the siege of La Rochelle to escape from a (previously damaged and deserted) minor fort in which they had gathered to eat, drink, and plot: they and their valets set the corpses around the fort, so as to be visible to the advancing enemy party; while their enemies were shooting, they slink away at a leisurely pace. In the scene, Athos is particularly badass.
  • A serious example in Violet Eyes by Nicole Luiken, at the end, when the heroes try and convince a group of 'buyers' that their captor is alive and they are dead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: In "Be a Fairy Godmother Thing!", Fenwick mounts his godmother's dead cat on top of a remote-control car and zooms it around her house in an effort to persuade that he is still alive.
  • In The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley episode "The Case of the SeaWorld Adventure", the twins chase after a woman carrying around a man's body pretending it is alive. It turns out he wasn't dead at all. The woman and the body were a pair of mimes in disguise. The entire mystery was a hoax to lure the twins and their parents into going on a cruise that was set up by their boss.
  • A variant of the posed-dead-soldiers is used in the Syfy miniseries adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Unusually, the White Knight who sets them up is a Cloud Cuckoolander who talks to his skeletal "allies" and praises their courage when they stand fast in the face of the enemy bombardment.
  • A variation in an episode of Amen, when the minister to perform Thelma and Reuben's wedding ceremony takes too many sedatives and passes out. Reuben and Ernie prop him up and imitate his voice when Thelma greets him (his back is turned to her) so that she doesn't realize and get even more anxious about their wedding.
  • In the Bones episode "The Double Death of the Dearly Departed", Bones and Booth load a corpse upright into the back seat of a car. When Bones expresses concerns about how exposed the corpse is, Booth reassures her that he'll just look like he's drunk. This scene also features dialogue-driven Product Placement.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Any idiot can eat somebody. Angelus likes to make artistic statements with the bodies afterward. He infamously posed Jenny Calender like a doll in Giles' bed (staging the scene to resemble a romantic interlude), and tricked a man into thinking his slain sons were still "asleep". Right before the father himself was killed by Angelus, he wondered why would someone go to the trouble of making it look like the children were asleep.
  • Pops up in one scene of the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the First Kill". Chuck poses as his Fulcrum agent ex-girlfriend's fiancé to flush out her recruiter, a close family friend who may know where Fulcrum has taken Chuck's father. Unfortunately, family ties aren't much help and the man attempts to kill them, suffering a fatal heart attack in the process. Chuck, Jill, Sarah, and Casey briefly pretend that Bernie had too much to drink and they have to help walk him out (complete with Chuck and Casey manipulating his corpse waving goodbye). Bonus points because the character's name was Bernie.
  • CSI:
    • In one episode, a corpse is stolen from the morgue in order to posthumously attend a party with some friends. When the arresting officers point out the person responsible committed a crime and has to be taken into custody, he calmly replies "He would have done it for me."
    • Another episode has a complete maniac of a Civil War re-enactor (and quite the perfect example of an Asshole Victim otherwise) dying of an accident regarding his corset and it screwing up his organs' function and his secretary/re-enactor aide-de-camp taking the corpse and putting it on a railroad track as a train approaches. He made look like the man was naturally standing up (so the train's engineer would think it was a suicide) because he liked to tell the story of one of his ancestors dying trying to prevent a train from entering Atlanta during the war. The secretary thought re-enacting that was something the man would have seen as A Good Way to Die.
  • CSI: Miami had a pit crew member be burned to death during a race. The track doctor had an ambulance take the dead man to a hospital so he would be pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The race track then would be able to maintain their claim that no one officially ever died on the race track. Horatio is not amused by this since they contaminated the crime scene and the body for such an absurd reason.
  • In the Chinese drama Da Ming Feng Hua ('Ming Dynasty'), when the Yongle Emperor dies on campaign, the imperial grandson Zhu Zhanji had to pull a variant of this in order to prevent either of his Evil Uncles from finding out about the death and potentially launching a coup and seizing the throne on the spot. It worked and Zhanji was able to rush back to Beijing and secure his father's coronation as the Hongxi Emperor.
  • A variation occurs in Drake & Josh, where the protagonists accidentally render a child actress unconscious and have to drag her around, answer questions for her, and generally fool people into thinking she's awake. Basically the child-friendly version of Weekend at Bernie's.
  • The Drew Carey Show: In "It's Halloween, Dummy", Winfred-Louder's new owner Mr. Newsome promises Drew a promotion to store manager and implementation of all his employee plans. Unfortunately, Newsome dies during Drew's Halloween party, with no one but him and Drew being aware of the promises he made. Drew tries to salvage the situation by taking Newsome's body to work and use his ventriloquism skills to make it look like Newsome is still alive. Drew makes headway in getting his health plans passed and is able to have Mimi demoted back to being Wick's secretary but Newsome being dead is discovered before he can get himself promoted.
  • In a episode of Family Feud, the question was What to do with a dead body in one's home. On of the contestants responds by telling how he would "... prop [the body] up on a chair, dress him up, make it look like he's chillin...". The best part is watching Steve Harvey completely losing it as soon as the he hears the answer.
  • In one episode of Father Ted, Father Jack takes an extra-large (and accidental) dose of Dreamy Sleepy Nighty Snoozy Snooze (a bran-based chocolate-flavoured sleeping aid banned in most European countries), preventing him from playing as the star player in the Annual All-Priests Over-75 Football Challenge Match (Against Rugged Island). In response to this completely ludicrous situation, Ted concocts a plan involving a remote-controlled wheelchair and a pair of fake arms.
  • Borderline example: the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse". While nobody actually attempts to puppet the corpse itself, the entire episode is devoted to attempting to conceal the fact of the man's death from the other guests in the hotel.
  • An episode of Flash Gordon had a scene where the characters had to find a way to bring an alien soldier's corpse to the dimensional rift he had come from in order to properly dispose of the body. In order to fool a realtor who was in their way, they pretended that the corpse was their wheelchair-bound friend, appropriately named "Bernie".
  • Frasier:
    • Occurs in one episode where an elderly guest at one of the Cranes' dinner parties dies of natural causes during a murder-mystery game. As this would disrupt their party (and thus damage their social standing), the brothers plot to smuggle the body out of the party without anyone noticing. They succeed.
    • Another occasion had us told about the debacle of Frasier's greedy and scheming agent Bebe's attempt to marry an elderly tycoon:
      Frasier: ... suddenly he clutched at his heart, and his head slumped against Bebe's shoulder. Of course, we were all concerned at first, but then suddenly it seemed like he was all right, because they kept moving on down the aisle. But if you looked carefully, you could see Bebe's little bicep bulging through her wedding gown, and I swear I noticed daylight between Big Willy's dress boots and the carpet. Well, once they got up to the minister the jig was pretty well up, despite Bebe's valiant attempts to animate his features by twisting the loose skin at the back of his neck.
  • The episode of History Bites set during the reign of Chin Shi Huangdi ended with reports from the emperor's parade that carts of rotting fish preceded him. An interview with the emperor had his prime minister pulling a very cheap ventriloquism job with his dead body, complete with a burlap sack over the emperor's head with a face doodled on it.
  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother actually has this as his last request: in the event of his death, he wants Ted to take his body to the Hamptons and recreate Weekend at Bernie's.
    Barney: I wanna dance, I wanna have sex with a girl, and I wanna go fishing.
    • Bizarrely he also apparently featured a play Weekend at Barney's in which he pretended to be dead with Ted and Marshall pretending to carry him around when in fact he was alive the whole time. Apparently, women wanted to sleep with him for some reason while he was doing this. Robin questions the logic.
      Robin:Instead of pretending to be an alive person, pretending to be a dead person, pretending to be an alive person, why not just be an alive person?
    • When Barney is so hungover at his wedding that he can't possibly stand up straight for the pictures, Ted suggests this, that it is what he would want them to do. They end up telling him that this is what they did, but in actuality, they simply canceled the pictures and Robin's father kicked him in the balls.
  • In Jonathan Creek, in the episode 'Satan's Chimney', one of the victims is found dead outside the castle; however, multiple witnesses saw him driving out of the castle the night before. As it turns out, the man was already dead and propped up in the seat of his car. The killer was able to drive the car because it was an American car with the steering wheel on the opposite side. When the witnesses looked out of the upstairs windows (which had a very steep angle down into the castle courtyard, obscuring their view), they saw the victim in what would usually be the driver's side in a British car and assumed he was driving.
  • Kamen Rider Double does this on occasion, since to become the eponymous superhero, Phillip's consciousness leaves his body and enters Shotaro's (unless they use FangJoker Form, in which case the dynamic is reversed). One memorable instance had Phillip "dropping out" while riding a bus with Akiko, who had to pretend her "sweetheart" was taking a nap.
  • In the Leverage episode "The 10 Li'l Grifters Job", the mark is killed during his own murder mystery-themed dinner party. Nate, realizing that he would be the prime suspect, tries to pretend that the really obvious corpse on the ground is a lifelike dummy and that the whole thing is actually all part of the game while figuring out who actually did it.
  • In Life (2007), the detectives use this trick to convince a suspect that the accomplice he tried to murder is still alive by propping up the corpse in the back of their car. The guy buys it hook, line, and sinker, immediately spilling his guts in an attempt to get the cops to offer him a deal instead of the other guy.
  • M*A*S*H had General Robert "Iron Guts" Kelly, who died of a massive heart attack while getting it on with Margaret. Hilarity ensues when his aide wants to make it look like he died in battle.
  • In The Mentalist episode "Scarlet Letter" an accomplice of the killer dies during the investigation. When they bring the killer in, the corpse is propped up in a chair and they claim he's confessing in exchange for a lighter sentence. The killer confesses, at which point they reveal the accomplice is dead. The director was not amused.
  • In the Midnight Caller episode "Wait Until Midnight", a murderer puts his victim in a wheelchair, covers him with a blanket, and wheels him out to be disposed of.
  • Played almost straight in an episode of Monk, where Monk was always one step behind a group of murderers who had hidden away the victim's body in a hotel, constantly moving it around. They nearly got away with it.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus famously does it, not with a human being, but with a Norwegian Blue Parrot.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Tinker, Tailor, Liar, Thief", in attempting to cover up a murder, an MI-5 agent is forced to push the body out of a hotel window to make it look like he'd jumped.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: After Idle Rich Roger Newsome is killed by a mob assassin, Murdoch places his body in a wheelchair and (hoping to draw out the killer) claims that he was only wounded and will be staying with Murdoch until he recovers enough to testify at the trial of the assassin's boss.
  • In an episode of NCIS, the team had to somehow convince a criminal that not only was his dead brother alive but that he was driving a car. He realizes it when he gets close enough to really look at his brother, but by that point, Gibbs has him in his crosshairs.
  • In the Halloween Episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, the main trio plus Gordy and Crubbs do this with Principal Pal's "body" after they assume they accidentally killed him with their haunted house. Fortunately it turns out the principal just has a weird sense of humor and no detectable pulse.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Lion and the Unicorn", Steed has to go to extreme lengths in order to convince the Unicorn's gang that he is still alive (after being accidentally shot by one of his own men) in order to prevent a gang war and recover a hostage the Unicorn's gang is holding.
  • Odd Squad: In the episode "Odd Squad Needs You", Otis agrees to film a commercial of the same name in stead of Oscar, but soon runs into a whole host of problems stemming from his star, Oprah. At one point, as Otis figures out that he needs five more seconds of footage for the commercial, Orchid points out that Oprah has fallen asleep at her desk. Knowing that waking her up is a bad idea (since she is a Tiny Tyrannical Girl), Otis finds a workaround and decides to puppeteer her, attempting to imitate her voice. Luckily for him and Orchid, Oprah is a Heavy Sleeper and doesn't wake up.
  • In an episode of Perfect Strangers, the king of Mypos pays a visit to Balki in America... and dies, falling on Larry. So, Larry is to become king, in accordance with Myposian succession law. Larry wants no part in this (though he considers it when Balki says he'll get his face on the money). Instead, they try to engineer it so that the king looks alive, and will instead fall dead on the Speaker of the Hut, his traditional second-in-command. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The main characters of Pushing Daisies did this once to flush out a murderer. Of course, they had the advantage of being able to temporarily reanimate the corpse...
  • Saturday Night Live did a Deconstructive Parody-cum-Reconstruction of this movie in the Digital Short Party at Mr. Bernard's. It plays out very much like the original at first (two 1980s teens named Ricky and Devin [played by Bill Hader and Andy Samberg] find Mr. Bernard lifeless at his desk, Ricky freaks out and goes to call the cops, but Devin tells him that they should pretend he's alive so they won't be the laughingstock of the beach, and Ricky agrees to go along with the plan). At first, it goes to Hell when everyone immediately realizes that Mr. Bernard is dead and Ricky and Devin are put on trial for fooling around with a dead body, but then they find Mr. Bernard's video will which stipulates that when he dies, he wants his assistants to carry him around and fool people into thinking he's alive, and it ends with a party in the courtroom.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "The Magnificent Ferengi" has a sci-fi version of this where Gaila accidentally kills their bargaining chip, Keevan. Nog then tries to control Keevan's body via remote, but ends up running him into a bulkhead. They still get away with it. At the very end of the episode, we see Keevan's body repeatedly walking face-first into the bulkhead.
  • The Tonight Show: The Mighty Carson Art Players send up the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm spots which depict two people talking with one saying "Well, E.F. Hutton says..." followed by everyone else going all quiet and listening to the conversation. This spoof takes place at a funeral home visitation, and when the quote is delivered, everyone puts hand to ear — including the dead man in the coffin.
  • Torchwood has a corpse used in such a manner in one episode, though only briefly. They use the corpse of an assassin who has died after they captured him to get into the facility he was working for by sitting him in the front of his van, duct-taping his hands to the steering wheel, and hiding in the back with some sort of spiffy alien universal remote control.
  • In Tour of Duty, some of the characters are forced to do this when one of the new guys gets drunk in town and jumps to his death. They initially plant the body in the jungles with the intention of shooting him in order to make it look like the VC killed him. The platoon sergeant, however, finds out, but not before the base is attacked by the enemy. The new guy's corpse startles a VC sapper who fires at the body before being killed. The dead soldier is honored for fighting bravely in the base's defense.
  • Vera: An underplayed (and serious) version in "Natural Selection". The killer props the body of the Victim of the Week up in a seat in the observation hut, and sends a text message from her phone, so witnesses are convinced they saw her alive when they left the island.
  • The improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? sometimes did a skit using this trope, where the actors were playing... actors in a play; all but one of them then keel over dead, and the "survivor" has to move the bodies around, playing all the parts at once.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: A villain in "Blind Faith" episode forces an unaware Gabrielle to marry a dead king in order to take over his power.

  • In Bowling King, a man dies of old age during the opening of a restaurant. The workers go to great efforts to hide his body so that they don't get bad press.

  • Dr. Dre and Eminem in "What's The Difference":
    Dre: Well, if you ever kill that Kim bitch, I'll show you where the ocean is.
    Slim: Well, that's cool, and I appreciate the offer, but if I do decide to really murder my daughter's mama
    I'ma sit her up in the front seat and put sunglasses on her and cruise around with her for seven hours through California
    and have her wavin' at people, ("Hi!")
    then drop her off on the corner at the police station and drive off, honkin' the horn for her (Beep-beep!)

    Music Videos 
  • In the music video for “Shittin' Me” by A$AP Rocky, he falls unconscious and a group of fans start to hold up his body like a marionette throughout his daily life. Eventually, they grow tired of doing this and decide to make a robot out of him at the end.
  • Cage The Elephant's video for "Around My Head". A man digs up his dead girlfriend. It's actually very funny, especially the ending:
    (singer brings out dead girl in a shopping cart)
    Bandmate: What the fuck is wrong with you?
    Singer: Fine, I'll put her back.
  • There's always the music video of Joe Diffie's "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox If I Die"
  • Fall Out Boy's "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet." is basically the very definition of this trope. Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith of Panic! at the Disco find a very dead Pete Wentz on the beach. They contemplate calling 911 (and Jason Tate) and then decide to go to an amusement park with his corpse, take photos, and then steal his jacket, wallet, and phone. Just watch it for yourself.
  • Foster the People's video for "Houdini" has the band killed when a rig lands on them, so their producers bring in a wealthy gentleman and his minions to stage a whole gig using men in black outfits to move the band's bodies like they were alive, and put robotics in the bodies to move their expressions. It works.
  • "Aiii Shot the DJ" by Scooter, featuring a dead Helge Schneider.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The premise of the Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition module Last Dance at Renauld's. The titular Renauld, the eccentric, well-connected, and powerful Toreador patron of a lowly Anarch coterie (that is to say, you) has been murdered on the eve of a party he was supposed to throw, which would be bad enough, except he also hasn't paid the player characters whatever he's been promising them yet. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to conceal his death and throw the party like everything's fine, in the hopes you can wring clout, allies, and promotions out of his guests. And maybe solve the murder and/or frame one of them, while you're at it.

  • In Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, a comedy that revolves around a Dead Person Impersonation, the real Buoso Donati's corpse is usually just hidden away. But Woody Allen's 2008 Los Angeles Opera production had the characters disguise the corpse as a panhandler and seat it on the doorstep of the house instead — and as the doctor and notary came and went from the house, they both obliviously gave it money.
  • In the play Lucky Stiff, a man leaves a fortune to his nephew, Harry — on the condition that Harry takes his corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo under the pretense that he's not dead, just an invalid.
  • In The Revenger's Tragedy, Anti-Hero Vindice's in a bind: his employer Lussurioso wants him to kill Piato, but Piato is a previous alias of Vindice! Luckily, Vindice's got the corpse of Lussurioso's father the Duke whom he recently killed sitting around, so he props him up on his elbow to pretend he's found Piato drunk, so he can stab the corpse and satisfy Lussurioso.

    Urban Legends 
  • One urban legend plays this for horror rather than laughs. A woman riding a bus or subway feels disconcerted when she notices a man across from her staring at her continually. Shortly afterwards, one of her fellow riders pressures her into getting off the bus with him, which makes her even more nervous. However, the fellow rider explains he just wanted to get her to safety — the staring man had actually been murdered and the two killers were sitting on either side propping him up.

    Video Games 
  • In the Borderlands 2 DLC "Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty", the resort town of Oasis only has one surviving inhabitant, a rather sad and lonely Stepford Smiler named Shade. All the other inhabitants are preserved corpses set up rather crudely with rope and tape recorders in a pathetic attempt by Shade to convince others (mostly himself) that the townsfolk are still alive. He's gone so far as to set up his own marriage rejection for one of said corpses.
  • In the "Actually Ed the Undying" challenge path in Kingdom of Loathing you play Ed the Undying, boss of the Level 11 quest, retracing the steps of the pesky adventurer who stole the Holy MacGuffin. When you get to the fight with the Boss Bat, you instead face "Boss Bat?", who is clearly just the corpse of the Boss Bat being manipulated by his minions.
    You spot several beefy bodyguard bats hiding behind stalagmites. Some of them pull on the ropes, making the giant bat corpse jiggle menacingly toward you. Another shouts into a megaphone: "An intruder! Do not worry, brethren, I shall handle this myself, for I am completely alive and as strong as I ever was!" Good grief.
  • A particularly villainous example takes place in the Resident Evil 7: Biohazard DLC "21", in which the player character Clancy is forced by Lucas Baker to play rounds of blackjack against fellow victim Hoffman, the catch being that painful torture is dealt to the player who gets a losing hand. When Hoffman is fried to death by an electrocution apparatus, Lucas takes to remotely puppeteering Hoffman's dead body for the sake of forcing Clancy into one last round.
  • This is a plot point in Tales of Eternia. The Evil Overlord Balir has actually been dead the entire time. His wife has been pretending he's the one in charge while being the one actually running the show. When the main party finds that out, things end up taking an even darker turn than before.
  • In Blasphemous, the boss Melquíades, the Exhumed Archbishop, is, well, an exhumed skeleton, raised aloft by many hands. Given how the Grievous Miracle works in Cvstodia, it's entirely possible Melquíades's existence is now self-sustaining. He can certainly move his own arms and smack you with his staff without any assistance from the arms holding him up.
    Message on Corpse: I have witnessed the exhumation of the Archbishop. I have witnessed how they cleansed his bones in wine to then dress him in silk and gold. I saw them place the most beautiful jewels on his face and kiss his forehead. I watched as they placed rings on his fingers and kissed his hands. They lifted him up, calling his name, and swayed him to make it look as if he was walking again.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, Ryosuke Katayama loses their leg in a trap and bleeds to death. Their friend Tomohiro Ohkawa insists that they're still alive and needs to get to a hospital. Unlike most examples, however, this has less to do with deceit and more to do with the fact that Ohkawa is losing it. Kizami's attempt to help them see the truth only makes it worse.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: In the third case, Phoenix actually sees the victim's corpse before the case officially begins, but doesn't think anything of it and doesn't even learn the man is dead until partway through the trial (for someone else's related death). After Beh'leeb Inmee kills Puhray Zeh'lot in self-defense, they mask the time of death by covering the body with snow, and then pose him in a prayer position in plain sight among multiple others. The prayer it looked like he was doing required staying motionless for long periods of time and Zeh'lot was known to be devout, so no one questioned why he wasn't moving.
  • In Pumpkin Eater, following their brother's accidental death, the protagonist's mother forces her family to act like their son is alive and well through her sorrow-driven insanity, having his crushed head replaced with a jack-o-lantern and moving him around in a wheelchair.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, it's revealed in the fourth arc that Kinzo Ushiromiya has actually been dead for about two years, having died of natural causes. His eldest son Krauss and Krauss's wife Natsuhi burned his body and are pretending he's locked himself in his room upstairs. Natsuhi completely lost it after Kinzo's death and hallucinates that he is still talking to her, which initially fools the reader into thinking he's still alive.

    Web Animation 
  • The third Prostitute Mickey short had Goofy and Donald force Mickey into controlling Daffy Duck's corpse like a puppet in a scheme to get all of the money in Daffy's bank account.

  • In one strip of Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman, Gordon tries to fool a pair of Metrocops into thinking the three he accidentally killed earlier are still alive by propping one up with crates, stringing up another with rope, and hiding behind the third. Between the obvious bloodstains, the horrible work done posing the bodies, and Frohman's continued, unprompted insistence that everyone is okay, not dead, and not held up by crates or ropes or anything, the Metrocops see through it instantly and attack. In the final panel, Gordon's hiding behind three bodies instead of one, trying to pull the same trick on another passing patrol.
  • A variation of this occurs in Homestuck that's (so far) without any playing with the corpse. John doesn't know that Vriska is dead, and several characters have avoided telling him this. The fandom then took the logical next step.
  • A variant in Narbonic, combined with Fake-Out Make-Out. Technically, the body was only unconscious, but that was just because his skull was too thick to shoot through.
  • Trevor (2020): Trevor turns Terry into a Parasite Zombie to get into the safe room, by shrinking himself and latching onto Terry’s back, secretly controlling his body from the spine, fooling the medical team into thinking that Terrance is alive. Until Purdy realizes why Terry doesn’t look so good.
  • See the first panel of this VG Cats strip.
  • In Will Save World For Gold, Ardon does this with his "temporary" adventuring party, as part of a crazy scheme. He fooled his actual adventuring party for a while too.

    Web Original 
  • In Dead Little Roosters, Michael is killed by an angry platypus. His spouse Lindsay pretends that he's still alive to the remaining guests, posing his body in various positions and even recreates their anniversary with his dead body. None of the remaining guests realize that he's dead.
  • In Half in the Bag, Mike and Jay try to pull this off with Mr. Plinkett's corpse in order to get a government settlement through his lawyer. As the body had already decomposed to a skeleton, said lawyer isn't fooled for a second.
  • Done in a comedic manner in Magical Girl Hunters, puppeting the dead body of a Magical Girl to get the eponymous Hunters into a complex. Includes a Shout-Out to Star Wars when they bluff their way past a set of guards, using ventriloquism to have the magical girl say they're prisoners being transported to cell block 1138.
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's review of Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, he falls into a coma after watching said film. Brentalfloss and Uncle Yo puppeteer the Critic at a convention in order to convince people that he is still normal, but it is mostly Played for Laughs, with them not even bothering to try and hide the fact that something is up. Strangely, the Critic's fans don't question it. Subverted when we find out that he never actually fell into a coma. He was only pretending in order to get a discount for his hotel room. He then invites his puppeteers and Team Four Star to read Fifty Shades of Grey.

    Western Animation 
  • The second half of The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Ad" is the Wattersons making it look like a pair of elderly tourists they shocked into unconsciousness were still vacationing—one of them is even named Bernie. Richard and Nicole thought they were dead (and told their kids they were sleeping) and were trying to fabricate evidence to make it look like they died on the train home.
  • The Dan Vs. episode "The Animal Shelter" uses the "unconscious" variation. Dan is so intent on having Chris help him pull off his revenge (or, more to the point, having him use his credit card to buy the dynamite needed) that he steals his friend from the hospital and wheels him around on a handcart, even taking him out for a milkshake when they're done. It gets genuinely creepy when Dan makes the unconscious Chris say "I love you," and Dan reacts by being sincerely uncomfortable. Keep in mind there's no one within earshot, so he's not putting on a show for bystanders.
  • DC Super Hero Girls 2019: When Katana steals the souls of the Super Villain Girls, the titular heroines take their bodies to Barbara's house to figure out how to restore them. So that Commissioner Gordon won't get suspicious, Barbara sets up a string and pulley system to make the catatonic villain girls repeat the motions of a typical slumber party.
  • One episode of Drawn Together had Wooldoor accidentally shoot a truck driver (long story) so he "did what any good-hearted Christian would do"- that is, skin the corpse and pretend to be him so his wife and kids have closure.
  • The Fairly OddParents! episode "Formula For Disaster" has Timmy's parents drinking Poof's bottle formula and instantly falling asleep. Timmy and Cosmo paint their eyelids open and puppeteer them so they can take a permission slip they signed from Mr. Crocker that would send Timmy to military school.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "Brian Griffin's House of Payne", Meg and Chris are fighting and knock Stewie down the stairs, and he suffers a pretty bad head injury, rendering him unconscious for the remainder of the episode. They panic and try to hide it through use of this trope and increasingly ridiculous headgear.
    • In "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High", Stewie had to "animate" a corpse to fool a cop, before Lois had a chance to chuck it into the river. He posed as his head and moved the rest of the body. As a result, he managed to have an entire conversation with the cop, even convincing him that he was colleagues with his cousin.
  • Fudêncio e Seus Amigos: In the episode "Habeas Corpus", the kids find a dead man's corpse laying on the street and try to get rid of it. However, the Fat Idiot brings the corpse to the classroom, so the other kids have to pretend he's an older student that just doesn't talk much. The teacher ends up in love with him.
  • The Grojband episode "Soulin' Down the Road", Mina does friendly activities with an unconscious Trina, as her soul is trapped in her car, Pinktastic.
  • The Harvey Girls Forever! episode "Weekend at Audrey's" has Audrey doing this with the Harvey Girls' newest toy when she breaks it and has to pretend it still works when she takes it to a party.
  • A non-death example in The Legend of Korra Book 1: When Korra, Tenzin, and Lin get attacked and knocked out by Hiroshi Sato and the Equalists, Bolin and Mako come to rescue them. But they get caught while trying to sneak away with the unconscious others, and Bolin chats it up with Hiroshi, waving Tenzin's arms around as if he was still awake.
  • The sleeping variant is used in the Littlest Pet Shop (2012) episode "Sleeper," where the guest pet falls asleep and, not wanting to look bad, Sunil and Vinnie paint eyes on the guest's eyelids and proceed to simulate him being awake on a particularly active day.
  • Used in the Mickey Mouse (2013) short "Workin' Stiff", when Goofy oversleeps and Mickey and Donald have to get him through his job interview by controlling him like a puppet.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Family Appreciation Day", Apple Bloom is worried about Granny Smith embarrassing her in front of her classmates at an upcoming presentation, and her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders try to get her out of it. One of the efforts involves puppeteering a napping Granny Smith in order to convince the teacher, Cherilee, that she can't make it. Hilariously, Granny Smith seems to not notice, even after she wakes up!
  • A dramatic example occurs in the short film Overtime. What makes this situation so tragic is that the puppets aren't trying to convince a third party that their recently deceased puppeteer is alive — they're trying to convince themselves.
  • Regular Show has "Weekend at Bensons", where Rigby and Mordecai accidentally knock their boss unconscious, and in their attempts to make it look like he's still awake they get Benson pulled into a spicy-food-eating contest.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Parodied with a commercial for a film titled "Last Will and Testimeow: Weekend at Dead Cat Lady's House II" in which an old woman's rotting corpse is controlled by her cats. The cats go so far as to control her body while it's having sex with someone.
    • In the Season 4 finale, Jerry, wearing an invisibility belt, puppets a corpse to convince her friend that she's still alive. It works for a bit until Jerry slips and reveals himself.
  • A skit on Robot Chicken played with it in mocking Hannah Montana, when Miley gets shot by a Loony Fan and yet her friends insisted on dragging her corpse around to keep up the charade. It didn't go well.
  • Rocko's Modern Life paid direct homage to the Weekend at Bernie's example when Heffer accidentally kills Filbert's pet bird while he and Rocko pet-sat, and Heffer dressed Turdie in a Hawaiian shirt and briefly tried pretending nothing was wrong.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the "Treehouse of Horror X" segment "I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did", after Marge runs down Ned Flanders during a foggy night, Homer "puppeteers" him just long enough to convince Maude that he's 1) alive 2) doesn't want an autopsy and 3) having a heart attack.
    • "Weekend at Burnsie's": When Mr. Burns dies in the tub, Homer and Smithers operate him like a marionette for an investor's meeting. Eventually, his heart turns back on during a musical number.
    • "Mayored to the Mob": When Homer becomes Mayor Quimby's bodyguard and accidentally knocks him out the window, he quickly tells himself he'll "stage an elaborate farce a la Weekend at Bernie's." Fortunately, the mayor is still hanging on to the window ledge.
    • In "22 Short Films About Springfield", Dr. Nick is accused of mishandling cadavers. "I get here faster in the carpool lane," he says in his defense.
  • In the first episode of Slacker Cats a family has a reward for the return of their cat - who got run over so Buckley and Eddie have Dooper live inside the corpse and pretend to be the cat so they can have the money. Except the only way to rescue Dooper was to have him pretend to be dead, which leads to The "Fun" in "Funeral".
  • Stōked: In "A Prank Too Far", Bummer pretends to be dead in order to teach the groms a lesson. The groms then lug Bummer's 'corpse' around to convince an investor that he is still 'alive'.
  • The Tak and the Power of Juju (2007) episode "Joy Ride" has Tak and Keeko decide to take Jeera's J-Runner (given to her by the Belly Juju in gratitude for helping him when he was choking) and wind up running over a Juju. Not wanting to get in trouble, Tak and Keeko move the Juju's body around to convince the rest of the Pupununu tribe that he isn't dead. Judge Juju later arrives and explains that the Juju isn't dead and is named Roadkill Juju, his thing apparently being that he likes getting run over.

    Real Life 
  • The death of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huangdi was kept secret for two months by his prime minister, Li Si, for fear that the Emperor's death could possibly result in an uprising. The Emperor died on a journey in the middle of a blazing summer, so the minister hid the stench of the fast-decomposing body by surrounding the imperial carriage with carts full of rotting fish. It was an indication of how feared the Emperor and his prime minister were that not one person questioned the driving arrangements (or they didn't care).
  • As mentioned above, the Spanish leader El Cid Campaedor was killed by a Moorish crossbow, but legend has it his wife got the idea to strap on his sword Tizona and put him on his horse Babieca to keep morale from falling.
  • Another example of a general pulling this would be Zhuge Liang, who crafted a plan which required every other general to follow posthumous orders to the letter, along with a couple of alternatives in case things weren't going as planned, as he was growing too sick and knew he would not last the entire engagement. Rumours circulating about his death were quashed when his units began to move in a formation he commonly used and namedropping him numerous times when orders had to be shifted. The intended gambit was that Sima Yi believe the rumours are false and that he is still in control, even from his deathbed. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms rendition even includes a straw mannequin disguised as Zhuge Liang; Sima Yi was frightened off of the campaign entirely.
  • Novelist/philosopher E. Douglas Fawcett's wife died while they were doing a driving tour of Italy. He was afraid that the Italian authorities wouldn't let him take the body back to their home in Switzerland, so he dressed her in her normal clothes and drove her home. He took a picture of his wife "dressed as in life" in their car.
  • Two women allegedly tried to sneak a corpse onto a plane in Britain in April 2010. They subsequently claimed that he had passed away in his sleep without them realising, and the police couldn't find any conclusive evidence to the contrary and had to let them go.
  • A couple of guys wheeled a corpse into a bank to cash his Social Security check. They got arrested for fraud.
  • In Soviet Russia, it was common for the dead leader to suffer 'ill health' until a successor was chosen.
  • In the early days of photography, when exposures took so long that few living people could sit still long enough for a portrait photo, it wasn't unusual for corpses to be posed in lifelike positions and photographed to give the mourners something to remember a person by. This was mostly done because of how expensive photography was, and taking a shot of the recently departed would be the only picture to remember them by.
  • This article goes so far as to name drop Weekend at Bernie's in the final paragraph. Which makes sense, as it's about two men that loaded their friend's corpse into an SUV and used his credit card for a night on the town.
  • The death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a Sengoku period daimyo, was concealed by his liege until he could complete the unification of Japan.
  • In The War on Terror, it was revealed in late July 2015 that two separate Afghan militant commanders — Mullah Omar of the Taliban, and Jalaludin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network — had been dead for at least a year. The revelation about Mullah Omar was especially significant because Taliban leadership had been in the habit of issuing written communiques in his name for years.
  • Some criminals once combined this with Authentication by Newspaper to collect a kidnap ransom for a dead man, whose body was actually being preserved in a freezer. As this fraud just involved propping the body up for a photograph, it was a lot easier to get away with it.
    • Serial killer Israel Keyes used the same trick to try and extort a ransom out of a girl's family even after he killed her and left her frozen body in a shed in his backyard, with the gruesome addition that he sewed her eyes open to make her look alive.
    • Similarly, the murderer of Marion Parker wrapped up her dismembered body and wired her eyes open to show her father during the ransom handoff.
  • In Georgian Scotland, three eager medical students went Grave Robbing to obtain a subject for their anatomy lecturer. In those days, body snatching was something greatly feared by the public, and booby traps were often used to prevent the theft of their loved ones' corpses. As it happened, one of the trio accidentally set off such a device, a spring gun. He was killed instantly. Knowing they could not leave him there for fear of discovery, his two companions decided that they would carry him home. After cleaning the body up a bit, one of them tied his left ankle to the dead boy's right, while the other tied his right ankle to the dead boy's left. They propped him up between them and went on their way. Posing as a group of drunks, they aroused no suspicion. Upon arrival at the room of the dead boy, they placed him on the bed and put one of his own guns beside him. The next day when he was discovered, it was believed that he killed himself.
  • There is at least a popular theory that Francisco Franco actually died on November 19, 1975, but he was kept on life support until November 20 so his death would officially happen on the anniversary of the death of José Antonio Primo de Rivera.
  • There's at least one account of the death of the Aztec Emperor, Moctezuma II, which involved this: The Spaniards had captured Moctezuma and held him hostage in his palace, he was then forced to face the Aztec forces surrounding the palace from a balcony in order to try and appease them, however the mob turned against him and stoned him. What happened exactly is not known, but some accounts say that Moctezuma had already been killed by the Spanish and they put up his dead body while a hidden native ally addressed the crowd as if he was the emperor.
  • Two men tried to claim a dead man's pension in Ireland by bringing the corpse to the post office and acting like he was there to collect the pension.
  • After the joint suicide of Austria’s Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress Mary von Vetsera, an attempt was made to state that Vetsera had died on her way to Venice, having her uncles prop up her body with a broomstick to cover up her death in Mayerling as they left this lodge.
  • When Mao Zedong's eldest son Mao Anying was killed in an airstrike during the Korean War, his death was kept secret; it was even concealed from the elder Mao by officials in the know. This deceit lasted for two months until Mao's request to have his son transferred back to China forced his secretary Ye Zilong to reveal the truth.
  • In Brazil, a woman took her uncle on a wheelchair to the bank in order to get a loan on the bank. The man was unresponsive, and the woman tried to make it look like he was okay by talking to him and even holding his hand so he could "sign the documents". The cashier asked why his skin was yellow-ish, and she stated that it was normal. Turns out, the man was dead, and the staff only found out after the woman and the corpse have left the bank, but thankfully she was found and properly arrested.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Of Corpse He Is Alive


The turkey dies

When the turkey dies, Rover tries to pass him off as alive. It doesn't work, though.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / OfCorpseHesAlive

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