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"If you're running from something, you get to a car, and a corpse falls out of it, the car probably still works. Shove the body aside and start driving."

The heroine has just escaped from the Serial Killer or the gruesome corporeal manifestation of the Cosmic Horror and is running through the Haunted House, desperately trying to find a means of escape. She's managed to avoid tripping over her own feet and falling like an idiot, and if she can just make it through this next upcoming door, she may just be able to make it to the outside world and sweet, sweet freedom!

She opens the door... only to find herself standing nose to nose with a decayed, maggoty, slack-jawed corpse...

Cue Scare Chord. Cue also a huge scream from the heroine and from any traumatized 8-year olds who may have the misfortune to be watching this show.

Yes. Once again, the Peek-a-Boo Corpse — the bane of squeamish horror movie watchers everywhere — has made an appearance, rearing its ugly, eyeless, wormy head and worming its way into the nightmares of kids and adults alike.

If you're a naive moviewatcher (e.g., a child), there is no defense from the Peek-a-Boo Corpse, for there is no way to see it coming. Even if you've had some experience watching horror movies (and you can pretty much tell if a desperate Damsel in Distress is going to run into trouble), there are still times and places when the Peek-a-Boo Corpse will pop out unexpectedly, scaring the bejeezus out of even the most hardened of horror fans, especially if it's a particularly hideous one. Most Peek-a-Boo Corpses like to hang around haunted houses and cemeteries, but occasionally they'll turn up in clean and innocuous environments where you'd least expect them (and where they'll have maximum shock value). A common way to find out if an ordinary, non-suspicious character is actually a villain is to have the heroine stumble upon a Peek-a-Boo Corpse hidden in their closet or basement. (Unfortunately, for the heroine, the villain is usually close by, watching this development, if they're not actively chasing her already.)

You can expect the identity of the Peek-a-Boo Corpse to be:

In order for a body to qualify as a Peek-a-Boo Corpse , its appearance must somehow jolt the viewer and the person finding it should either be (a) actively engaged in a search for something else or (b) running to escape some real or perceived danger. Note: In the event that the half-destroyed corpse-like body of the villain should pop out and scare the heroes after they had mistakenly thought that they had laid it to rest, it technically doesn't qualify as a Peek-a-Boo Corpse moment (the main reason being that... well... the villain isn't entirely a corpse yet...)

Compare Cat Scare and Spring-Loaded Corpse. If the corpse playing peek-a-boo was hidden in an extremely odd location, that's Body in a Breadbox. If they were found on the ceiling, that's Ceiling Corpse.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Go and check out the promotional website for the remake of Prom Night. There's a pretty underwhelming version of the trope if you click for long enough.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Castle of the Undersea Devil have Doraemon and gang exploring a Derelict Graveyard in the Bermuda Triangle. Gian and Suneo unintentionally gets themselves scared stiff by a uniformed skeleton, belonging to the captain of a Spanish war galleon which sank in the 16th Century.
  • In One Piece, Usopp receives a face full of it when the Going Merry is rained on (and quite nearly destroyed) by the remains of a ship that fell from Skypiea. Needless to say, the Straw Hat Crew is shook up by the abuse of both logic and gravity. Usopp attempts to calm himself by closing his eyes and meditating himself into believing the whole ordeal is a dream. He slowly opens his eyes and the first thing he sees is... The skeletal remains of one of the ships crew. Poor bastard.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series: Not quite corpses, but the episode Pokemon Shipwreck, when Misty's Goldeen finds Team Rocket drowning, it rescues them. The first thing that appears where Ash, Misty, and Brock are waiting is James, who is unconscious and blue. It freaks them out. The Japanese version emphasizes it by adding a Scare Chord.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Bob's Burgers Movie: While in the sinkhole, Louise accidentally uncovers a buried skeleton that springs on top of her, and some of the teeth fall off and into her mouth. This turns out to be the corpse of Cotton Candy Dan, a carnie killed six years ago, and one of the teeth that Louise keeps provides a clue as to who the murderer is.
  • In The Incredibles, while Mr. Incredible is on Nomanisan island he discovers the skeletal remains of a previous superhero called Gazerbeam in a cavern. The sight of the bones makes Mr. Incredible recoil in horror, before he discovers that Gazerbeam carved into the walls the password for Syndrome's database.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Accepted, when the lead characters begin cleaning up the mental hospital, a corpse falls from the ceiling with a hilarious result.
  • Aftermath (2021): Kevin comes home and finds a note from Natalie saying she's in the bath. He goes up and sees that it's empty because Natalie was being held captive in Otto's secret room. He sees a lump in their bed and assumes it's Natalie, so he climbs into the bed. He feels her, and pulls back to find blood on his hand. He pulls back the covers, and sees Dani's corpse.
  • There's a great scene in American Psycho when Christie is attempting to escape the lethally insane Patrick Bateman and she runs into several corpses all over his apartment.
  • Amusement: When Tabitha tries to hide in the shed, she opens a cupboard and the babysitter's body falls on top of her.
  • In the 1959 version of The Bat, Dale finds Mark Fleming's body stuffed into the secret closet behind the grandfather clock; his throat slashed.
  • Max Shreck's final appearance (as a black-charred skeleton after taking a direct tazer shot to the lips) in Batman Returns may partially qualify, as it is something of a "Gotcha!" moment. (Full credit denied since Batman was technically looking for him/his remains during the preceding moments.)
  • Subverted in Beetlejuice, where the ghosts of the main characters attempt to pull Peek-A-Boo Corpses on the new tenants of their house. Since the living can't see them, they are totally ignored while the obnoxious new people complain about the size of the closets. They get the hang of it once Beetlejuice teaches them how to do it, though.
  • Blade (1998) has a variant — we know the "corpse" (a burned but still alive vampire) is there, but it attacks all of a sudden.
  • Body Bags: In "The Gas Station", Anne is startled when she runs into the bathroom, yanks open one of the lockers, and dead Bill's corpse falls out.
  • The Burning: When what's left of the raft is discovered, and when Todd stumbles onto Karen's body in the mine.
  • In The Case of the Bloody Iris, Marilyn arrives back at the apartment and finds a blood-soaked iris on the floor before opening a closet and discovering Adam, who's been stabbed to death.
  • In The Catcher, Terry and Karl are startled when they discover Billy's corpse hanging from the ceiling in the tunnels under the ballpark.
  • Cemetery Gates: Having fallen into the tunnels underneath the cemetery, Matt freaks out when one of the corpses drops out of its coffin and lands on top of him.
  • Cherry Falls: Timmy's corpse in the locker, which falls on top of Jody when she opens it.
  • Early in City Warriors, the rotting, waterlogged carcass of a Disposable Sex Worker is discovered in a bay hidden in a sack, which the police rips open without a single thought before suddenly seeing her maggot-infested skull looking back.
  • Count Yorga: While Micheal is making his way through the lower regions of Yorga's manor, something catches his leg and causes him to trip. When he rights himself, he finds its the body of his friend Paul who had went missing earlier. A look at his body shows he was mutilated for his blood and left for dead.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman impostor, Brian, is killed by the Joker, and his corpse is mercilessly hung outside the mayor of Gotham's office. What with the sudden appearance of his body slamming into the window, accompanied by creepy, startling music, it tends to make people jump.
  • Done a couple of times in Disturbia first when Kale's friend Ronnie plays back a video he shot of the inside of his creepy neighbor's house and discovers a dead woman inside the vent, later when said neighbor pushes Kale into an underground pool he discovers several dead women inside.
  • Dracula Has Risen from the Grave has two instances:
    • At the beginning, an alter boy is getting ready to clean the local church and ring the bell when he notices blood dripping from above when he pulls the rope. The local priest soon arrives just in time to hear the alter boy screaming and fleeing down the stairs, unable to tell him what he saw. The priest goes to investigate and finds blood dripping out a section of the bell. Looking further, he's startled when a shoe suddenly drops from the bell, causing him to stumble into next to the bell's rope and pull on it. Causing the body of a woman to suddenly hang down from it, with two noticeable fresh bite marks on her neck.
    • Another one the same priest, now under Dracula spell, find Dracula resting in his coffin. He goes to put the lid on it, only for the body of a local barmaid, Zena, to roll over, partially vamped but dead.
  • Evil Dead 2: Ever get attacked by the Peek-A-Boo Corpse?
  • Faceless: After the nurse discovers Barbara locked up in the hidden cell, she attempts to flee but then stumbles across Melissa's decaying and maggot-infested head inside the cupboard in Gordon's workroom.
  • Friday the 13th:
    • Most movies climax with multiple Peek-A-Boo Corpses, in the form of previous victims, all popping up at once to terrorize the Final Girl.
    • Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning goes through the extra effort by having a corpse thrown through a window just scare the next intended victim.
  • From Russia with Love: Grant parks a car outside the Soviet embassy and drives off in another waiting car. Puzzled, the embassy doorman goes to look at the abandoned car, opens the passenger door and the corpse of a Bound and Gagged Soviet agent falls out. It's meant as a deliberate provocation to get KGB and British intelligence fighting each other.
  • In Ghost Ship, Maureen opens a closet door to find the hanged, desiccated corpse of Katie, the young ghost girl. Mind, Katie was revealing what had happened on the ship (mass murder in a variety of gruesome and cruel ways).
  • In The Goonies, Chunk finds a freezer full of ice cream in the basement of the Fratellis' hideout. Gradually the others notice something behind him, or rather someone who happens to be dead and promptly falls on the heroes. "It's a stiff!"
  • There is one in Gravity when Ryan investigates the abandoned shuttlewreck.
  • Grindhouse: The trailer Thanksgiving parodies this trope, with two kills in a row resulting from a sudden beheading that's suddenly revealed when a character looks up.
  • Halloween:
    • Halloween (1978) of course does this multiple times where Laurie is exploring a house. She finds one body, then walks into something which prompts another Peek-a-Boo Corpse to pop out.
    • Done in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers when the nine-year old main character finds the body of her adopted sister Rachel.
    • In Halloween: Resurrection, a reality TV show is held inside the Myers house, and the TV crew have set up a number of fake Peek-a-Boo Corpses to scare the contestants. Then real Peek-a-Boo Corpses start turning up, to the disbelief of everybody.
  • In Jaws, the hapless Richard Dreyfuss happens upon a particularly nasty example in an underwater wreck. (This one Spielberg reshot specifically to be as much of a Jump Scare).
  • Jurassic Park:
    • In Jurassic Park (1993), Ellie Sattler has just escaped the raptors when she feels Ray Arnold's arm on her shoulder. Nope, just his arm.
    • In Jurassic Park III, Amanda Kirby gets hit with the skeletal corpse of Ben Hildebrand, her boyfriend, still attached to the parachute he was parasailing with.
  • In the "Black Hair" segment of Kwaidan, the samurai makes an unfortunate discovery after a passionate night with the wife he had abandoned.
  • Killer Workout: Jaimy gets a Jump Scare from a fake arm someone has hidden in her locker as a gag. Just as she is recovering from the this, the locker next to hers falls open and Rachael's corpse tumbles out.
  • In Madhouse (1974), Faye is startled and shrieks in horror when she opens Paul's closet and two bodies fall out.
  • The Man Who Turned to Stone: While breaking into the house through the basement, Dr. Rogers bumps into Cooper's petrified corpse which has been propped in a corner. He is startled and watches in horror as the corpse slowly topples over.
  • The Mummy (1999):
    • In the beginning of the movie, Jonathan Carnahan pulled this trick on his sister, Evelyn.
    • Played with when Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan finally open up the sarcophagus, cue the explosion of dust, momentary scare chord, and the corpse snapping out at the trio. Evelyn screams for a second, before sighing, "Oh, I hate it when they do that!"
  • Invoked in-universe in National Lampoon's Class Reunion, where the killer sets a Peek-A Boo Corpse on a rope swinging across the auditorium's stage like a pendulum, thus freaking out the attendees en masse.
  • Next of Kin (1982): After Barney is killed, his body is sent tumbling out of a wheelchair and into Linda's arms.
  • The Orphanage gives us plenty of warning that Benigna is going to look pretty messed-up after being hit by a bus, so why is this revelation so disturbing?
  • Poltergeist featured, among other things, the mother of the family being assaulted by corpses in the unfinished backyard pool. Later on, the entire family had to escape from a house where corpses in coffins were literally popping themselves up out of the floor and blocking their way. One even tossed itself onto the windshield of their departing car for good measure. And those skeletons were real.
  • One of the victims in Prom Night gets killed after hiding from the killer in a storage closet and running into one of these.
  • Happens twice to Detective Winn in Prom Night (2008). First when Michael's corpse falls out of the closet while he searching the suite, and later when he finds the bellhop's corpse in the air vent.
  • Norman Bates's, ah, mummy in Psycho.
  • A Quiet Place Part II. Regan enters a train carriage full of desiccated corpses and forces open the door to the driver's compartment to get a first aid box. The door won't open completely as there is something jammed behind it, so Regan stretches out her hand and grabs the box...and screams as a corpse that was presumably blocking the door falls out onto her hand. Unfortunately, her scream draws a real monster to her.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark features a scene at the beginning where Indiana Jones, rushing to escape a Collapsing Lair, runs straight into his traitorous — and now karmically impaled — former guide, Satipo, who forgot about the trap they discovered moments earlier. Another scene later when Marion attempts to escape from a crumbling Egyptian tomb only to find herself with mummies with snakes coming out of their faces.
  • The Ring has plenty. If the one in the closet doesn't get you, the one in the chair will.
  • The bug-eyed corpse with the music box in hand, which topples out of the semi in the beginning of The Road Warrior.
  • The Sadist: When Doris is hiding in a shed, she stumbles across the bodies of Charlie's first two victims and screams; giving away her location.
  • Screamers. When trying to sneak into a base that's been overrun by Screamers, someone pulls down an overhead grating as a ladder to the next level, only to have a decaying corpse that was lying on it fall down as well. There aren't any other bodies however as the Screamers salvage them for Human Resources.
  • This happens with a plague victim in The Seventh Seal.
  • In Shrooms, Lisa and Holly have a Catfight that results in the two of them rolling down a hill. Lisa lands in a ditch at the bottom. Looking up, she sees a hand dangling over the edge of the ditch. Thinking it is Holly, she grabs the hand to yank Holly into the ditch with her. Instead, she pulls Bluto's mutilated corpse down on top of her.
  • In Sorority Row, Jessica and Cassie are startled when the discover Megan's corpse hanging in the shower as they attempt to escape through the closed off wing of the house.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: McCoy's making his way through the Regula I station when he bumps into a Rat Scare. Relieved after the initial shock, he turns around - slap-bang into a corpse, hung upside down.
  • In Sudden Death, Darren opens a closet door to find the corpse of a woman hanging on the door, with a bullet in her brain.
  • The second victim of the giant octopus in Tentacoli is discovered when it pops out of the water and scares a guy trying pick up the fishing rod he dropped.
  • The opening sequence of The Terror shows the Baron descending into the crypts, and being startled by a bloody corpse that falls out when he opens a door. The scene is never explained or even referenced again in the movie.
  • That hideously mutated corpse from The Thing (1982) gives us the slow-motion version of this trope when the camera finally focuses on it.
  • Tower of London (1962): When Lady Margaret reaches the coach waiting to take her to Scotland, she opens the door only for the body of her driver to topple out; causing her to squeal.
  • Tyranno's Claw have the main characters hiding in a cave from some hostile tribespeople, assuming they're safe... until they see a maggot-infested, rotting corpse in a corner. And more bodies in the same area. Turns out they're inside the lair of a gigantic prehistoric rodent.
  • Valentine
    • The Cupid killer props Shelley's cadaver in a closet while he takes the cadaver's place on the table to freak her out.
    • While running from the killer, Ruthie finds Campbell's corpse in a sauna at Dorothy's house.
    • During the climax, Kate finds Paige's corpse in a hot tub and Ruthie's in a shower room, exactly where the killer left them.
  • In Wait Until Dark, when the baddies are first searching the apartment, Roat tells Talman to check the closet. He opens it and is startled to find the corpse of the sexy woman who was carrying the doll, in a plastic bag hanging from a hook.
  • In What a Carve Up!, Ernie opens the cocktail cabinet only to have Guy's body topple out.
  • One of these very briefly (ahem) pops up in The Wicker Man (1973) when Sgt. Howie is searching the mortuary. Then again, what do you expect to find in a coffin? Of far more interest is the fact that it's only got one hand.

    Literature 
  • Older Than Steam: This happens memorably to Bluebeard's wife in the 1697 Fairy Tale. Well, he did tell her not to look....
  • Uniquely employed in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which a ghost is shocked to discover its OWN corpse in a cupboard. At the sight, the ghost faints.
  • This mostly seems to happen to the Bursar in Discworld, who has found unexpected corpses in his wardrobe (in Hogfather) and lying in his bed wearing a nightcap (implied in The Discworld Companion). Granted, the latter incident was a student prank rather than a crime scene (and the corpse itself was long-dead, embalmed and a well-known feature of the university—possibly a parody of Jeremy Benthem, whose preserved corpse really is on public display—as per his own will—at University College, London).
    • Subverted in Maskerade, when a suspicious-looking double bass case is anxiously opened by the opera house's manager, and found to contain the mutilated, broken-necked remains of ... a double bass.
  • Used in Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. novel Sweet Silver Blues, when a dried-up corpse falls out of a catacomb niche and spooks the heroes. Subverted in that it fell out because a vampire-spawn was hiding behind the corpse, and had pushed it aside in order to attack!
  • Ann Radcliffe's Gothic romance The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), when Emily, our innocent heroine, opens the wrong door and AAARRRGGGH! Actually, it's a waxwork, thereby subverting the trope. It's still an extremely creepy waxwork, though.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Many crime drama shows, including Law & Order, SVU, and Elementary, use this trope to open episodes. Characters will be going about their day, or doing some kind of mundane chore, only to discover a body (either freshly killed or possibly decades old). SVU has even done a Bait-and-Switch variant at least once: one episode opened with a young man staring at a girl from the shadows as she waited for an elevator. He then emerged and moved toward her...and greeted her as a friend, as they live in the same building! As they share a laugh about the situation, the elevator doors open—and surprise, there's a corpse inside.
    • The overuse of this trope was parodied in a Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Jake Gyllenhaal. In one sketch, Jake plays an actor who's at the "Law and Order School of Acting"; the end goal is to win the role of the person (including an obnoxious jogger or loudmouthed fisherman) who discovers the body in each show.

  • Bones: The opening to nearly every single episode. A corpse in the mail, in a garbage truck, scattered amongst the tree branches... Take your pick.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the first episode, a schoolgirl opens her locker and two extreme dead guys fall out.
    • In the episode "Ted", Xander opens a closet to find...skeletons in the closet. The audience doesn't see the bodies, though.
    • Lampshaded in "Bad Eggs" when Xander and Cordelia, looking for a place to make out, pretend they're going to check out the closets to see if there are any dead bodies in them.
    • Played with in "Dead Things", where Buffy (thanks to a spell) doesn't realize that Katrina is a Peek-A-Boo Corpse and thinks she's killed her.
  • Castle:
    • Often how the dead body is found. You're just going about your day, minding your own business, opening your safe or dumping your old pizza boxes down the garbage chute and bang.
    • It happens to the leads during the Halloween episode in a closet in an attic. It's Played for Laughs.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Serves as an episode cliffhanger in "The Ark in Space", when the Doctor's companion opens a door and an alien Wirrn appears to lunge out at our heroes. The next week, the audience finds that its a desiccated corpse.
    • "Aliens of London": Rose, searching the Cabinet room with Harriet Jones, MP Flydale North, opens a cupboard and the Prime Minister's corpse falls out. This one was rendered less surprising than intended due to Trailers Always Spoil.
    • "School Reunion": Parodied when the Doctor and his friends split up to search a school for evidence of the villains' evil plot. One character opens a door, we hear a high, terrified scream... and (eventually) see that he has discovered a closet full of vacuum-packed rats. Quoth the Doctor: "You decided to scream? Like a little girl? Nine, maybe ten years old. I'm seeing pigtails, frilly skirt..."
  • An episode of The Greatest American Hero pulls a PG-rated version of this on the viewer, having a murder victim literally spring back to "life" as a white-faced zombie.
  • Heroes, twice in the second episode. First, the frozen corpse of Molly's partially decapitated father is sitting at the dinner table. Then again, Hiro finds the partially decapitated corpse of Isaac Mendez. This is the first hint that Hiro isn't in the present, since we just saw Isaac Mendez, and he was perfectly fine.
  • Jonathan Creek had a few of these. Maddie opens a new wardrobe, that she checked inside before it was brought up to her flat and was with all the way upstairs... and the body of a woman she met the day before almost falls on her. She also nearly steps on a dead body in the dark in Mother Redcap.
  • The Last of Us. While in a derelict and half-flooded hotel, Ellie jokingly rings the front desk bell and pretends to call for service, then starts to push a luggage cart through the water. Her joking stops when the skeleton of a hotel bellhop falls out from behind the cart, startling everyone until they confirm that it really is dead.
  • In Love/Hate, Fran planned to dig up Noelie Hughes' mother's corpse (three months dead) and put her sitting in Noelie's home, waiting for him when he came out of prison. Thankfully, the smell from the coffin puts them off and they abandon this plan.
  • Misfits:
    • This happens a few times, firstly when the group find Gary's hacked-up corpse in a locker. It also happens when Sally finds her fiance's body in her car boot, although Curtis ultimately manages to avert this with his time-turning ability. Plus, in episode 6, even though the audience already knows that Sally is dead, it still comes as a bit of a shock to see that Simon has propped her up in a giant freezer and is nonchalantly eating his lunch while gazing at her mangled corpse.
    • This happens again in season 2, but the scene quickly takes a comedic turn when Nathan starts frantically screaming at the corpse: "Help! What should I do?"
  • A fairly common way to open an episode in NCIS. One prime example is the opening scene of episode 10 of season 4, "Smoked". Workmen at the Quantico Marine Military Base are replacing a furnace when the well-preserved (smoked) body of a dead man falls out of the chimney, which scares the bejeebus out of them.
  • An episode of the detective series Simon & Simon featured a scene where the Girl of the Week opened a closet in a nice, clean, unassuming house to find herself staring at a decaying, socket-eyed female corpse. Since the stench of decomposition would probably have been fairly noticeable, one might wonder why the woman wasn't more cautious about opening the door.
  • In the Supernatural episode "What Is and What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20), Dean opens his bedroom closet door to find the decaying bodies of two women hanging by their wrists.

    Manhua 

    Music 
  • A comedic variation in "Sitting up with the Dead" by Ray Stevens: Family and friends are at a wake for a dead uncle (in the middle of a dark and stormy night, of course), when the uncle's severe arthritis overcomes the restraints that were holding him down in the casket, to the great surprise of everyone present.
    That lightning flashed and that thunder clapped, and that chain 'round old Uncle Fred went "snap", rattled and fell to the floor with a thump, and Uncle Fred just sat right up! *Ahh!*

    Theatre 
  • The one-act Black Comedy Busy Bodies by Pat Wood is centered around this trope. A couple hire a hitman to kill their wealthy aunt, but he's killed in an accident just before she arrives so they have to hide the corpse in various places, which she keeps discovering (and promptly fainting, giving them an opportunity to move the corpse again).
  • The Ur-Example is probably the corpse of lawyer Robert Crosby found in a secret passage in The Cat and the Canary (play, later film).
  • In Oh Dad Poor Dad Mammas Hung You In The Closet And Im Feelin So Sad, the closet door opens by itself and Albert Edward Robinson Rosepettle III tumbles out in full rigor mortis at the most embarrassing time for Jonathan and Rosalie.

    Video Games 
  • 6 AM at The Chum Bucket: After being chased by and narrowly escaping Karen, Squidward rushes to tell Plankton his wife has gone crazy, only to find Plankton smashed dead on his desk in the office.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a player searching through desk cabinets for a quest item may instead have a small stockpile of human skulls spill out.
  • ANNO: Mutationem: While around her apartment at Skopp City, Ann overhears an odd noise from a nearby room and looks through the door-hole. A Scare Chord occurs as a dead body hung swings by, leading into a SideQuest to find the perpetrator.
  • In Clock Tower, Jennifer can find Laura's corpse either in a shower (complete with Scissorman) or in a suit of armor. She can also find a corpse in a cupboard, which can come to life and attack her in the PSX version.
  • Dead Space 2 is full of walking dead but Isaac still freaks out when a body falls out of a vent..and lands on him.
  • Doom³ enjoyed this heavily, having bodies fall out of vents or fly across rooms with no warning, often designed to spook the player and make them waste ammo on a non-threatening body. The most prominent is towards the beginning where after grabbing a PDA, a body on a rope swings from the ceiling in front of the player. In addition to falling out of closets and vent shafts, they are occasionally seen being levitated or otherwise manipulated by the demonic forces.
  • Eternal Darkness: Examining the bathtub while you're Alex is a prime example.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon LOVES to do this. And it's one of the lesser kind of the many scares in the game.
  • Half-Life 2 occasionally pulls this trope, but in one particularly harsh instance while indulging in some equipment-seeking vandalism, smashing a particular wooden beam to get at the health behind it will cause FOUR dead poison headcrabs to drop on you from above, totally unexpectedly.
    • The very first thing you see in the Ravenholm segment is a faraway corpse hanging from what looks like a gallows. As you get closer to the body, you gradually realize that it's only the lower half of the corpse; a bloody, jean-clad pelvis and pair of legs hanging from a hook, with the upper body nowhere to be seen.
    • It's also occasionally subverted, particularly with Headcrab Zombie "corpses" that get up and attack you the moment you approach them. Valve really wanted to get as much mileage out of this trope as they could.
  • Halo: Combat Evolved: One example occurs on the level 343 Guilty Spark during the cutscene before you first encounter the Flood, complete with a Scare Chord in the music.
  • Haunting Starring Polterguy: Poltergeist Polterguy can summon a lot of them in various spots (e.g. the shower), they come with a surprising level of blood.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did this with the skeleton of the knight in the Venice catacombs, complete with crappy Adlib Scare Chord.
  • Kuon loves this trope. Bits of half-eaten corpses (or whole zombies if you're lucky) seem to appear everywhere, round corners, in boxes and closets, or sometimes falling out of the air to land right on top of you.
  • Mad Father: When Aya learns the Awful Truth in the True Ending, she backs into a tank covered in a sheet, and accidentally pulls the sheet off, to reveal her mother's corpse. She already knew her mother was dead, but she sees this literally moments after learning that her father murdered her, rather than passing away from a fit of illness. Pretty much all of the Jump Scare moments not involving a certain chainsaw-wielding father are this.
  • Happens twice in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, though the first is optional. During the Tanker chapter, opening one of the lockers later on reveals the corpse of a dead crew member which promptly falls in front of Snake. The second time happens during the flooded Shell 2 Core section when Raiden opens the second-to-last door and the corpse of Peter Stillman floats past him, as a nice little Call-Back to his death at the hands of Fatman.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, at one point Samus opens a door on the wrecked and abandoned GFS Valhalla, at which point a the corpse of a deceased soldier is standing on the opposite side to greet her, then immediately crumbles to dust.
  • The disturbing suffocation-based end sequence of Nancy Drew: Secret of the Scarlet Hand employs this trope to frightening effect. It's not the discovery of the corpse, which is somewhat expected, so much as the fact that Nancy is quite unexpectedly immediately shoved into it.
  • Police Quest 4: Open Season has one of these right at the start. While you're checking out the crime scene, you open a not-too-special looking dumpster and bam, you get a Scare Chord and a corpse closeup thrown in your face. Near the end of the game, there's a severed head in the Big Bad's refrigerator.
  • Propagation: Paradise Hotel contains more than one instance of this trope in the zombie-infested hotel. One of the more notable moments have you entering an Air-Vent Passageway, where it's totally dark in there. So you turn on your torchlight... and look into the face of a rotting skinless human corpse stuck to the ceiling, two feet away.
  • Road 96: During a sequence where the hitcher is in Jarod's motel room, they need to hide in a wardrobe when a cop knocks on the door. Once in the wardrobe they look to the left and come face-to-face with the corpse of a cop which promptly falls on top of them.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Silent Hill has a corpse fall out of a locker moments after a subverted Cat Scare.
    • Silent Hill 3, meanwhile, has a peek-a-boo corpse as part of a haunted house attraction that Heather finds herself getting stuck in. And despite the fact that you are bracing for some kind of scare, when "Danny" makes his appearance it's still Nightmare Fuel.
    • Silent Hill: Homecoming springs one on you early in the game moments after you've passed through what you thought was a perfectly safe hallway.
  • Parodied in Undertale. The shadowy figure that follows you as you walk through The Lost Woods outside the Ruins is suddenly revealed as a skeleton when you turn around. However, this particular skeleton is immediately established as a Friendly Skeleton with a fondness for practical jokes.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • 4chan board /x/ plays this for laughs. A common way to criticize the predictability or otherwise show contempt for a story is to simply post "and then a skeleton popped out."
  • The infamous Cooper Family Falling Body photomanipulation. One variation of the story is that after a family moved into the old house, the body of one of the house's previous owners crashed out of the ceiling.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog has one episode where Sonic and Tails open a door to find a skeleton inside. Understandably, the two start screaming.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Joyride", the Jokerz conduct an initiation that involves taking the new member to a mineshaft containing a skeleton... which is dressed in the remnants of a purple suit and boutonniere, suggesting that it is the corpse of the original Jokernote 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hot Cross Bunny" has Bugs attempting to hide from his pursuer inside a closet. Unfortunately, he opens the door and backs into it without seeing there's literally a skeleton in that closet. Seconds later, Bugs emerges, white from head to toe, and spouting insane gibberish (an entirely reasonable reaction to have, under the circumstances).
    • Robert McKimson reused the gag in "The Prize Pest", with Bugs replaced by Porky Pig.
    • In The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, "Duck Twacy" (Daffy) sprays gunfire through the door of a closet containing a mob of Dick Tracy-esque villains, causing their bullet-riddled corpses to come tumbling out one after the other.
    • Subverted when Daffy is Sherlock Holmes. He opens the door to 221B Baker Street only for a body to fall at his feet, which he immediately diagnoses as being assassinated by curare poisoning. The 'corpse' then complains that he tripped over the step.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Happens twice in "King Of The Hill":
      • When Homer turns on his lamp in the cave on Mount Murderhorn, he screams upon seeing the frozen corpse of C.W. McCallister, Grampa Simpson's old climbing partner.
      • Also for Lisa while examining Homer's snow covered "sled" she screams mid-sentence when she realizes it's McAllister's corpse.
    • "The Blunder Years" revolves around Homer having a repressed memory of discovering the corpse of Waylon Smithers' father when he was a teenager.
  • In The Transformers, Daniel Witwicky experiences this in the Autobot crypt when he's running away from an undead Optimus Prime.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Neighbors", while looking around Warren and Faye's trailer, the bears find a bear skeleton inside a closet. It's later explained as actually fake and a reference for Warren and Faye's bear sculptures.
  • Tex Avery's MGM short Who Killed Who? has the detective open a random door, only to see the bound and gagged body of a butler fall out...and then another...and then another...and then another...the cascading domino of bodies only stops for a moment for one of the corpses to stop and remark on how many of them there are, and the bodies just keep on falling. Another random door in the house contains a genuine ghost, which terrifies the detective so much he physically shrinks. This actually gets a shoutout in an episode of Bounty Hamster, with robots in place of corpses.
    Random Corpse: Ah yes! Quite a bunch of us, isn't it?

    Real Life 
  • Reported on the BBC website July 5, 2007: A Belgian man has been arrested after a dinner guest helping to clear up after the meal opened a freezer and found the bodies of the host's wife and stepson. The 42-year-old host had invited guests for dinner at his home in the city of Verviers, 125km (78 miles) east of Brussels, prosecutors said. Ms Wilwerth said: "It was a lady who at the end of the meal at a friend's house, and after washing the dishes... decided to take the leftovers of the meal down to the basement to store in the deep freeze. "Once she opened the deep freeze, she discovered the bodies." Guests then alerted police but refrained from telling the host.
  • In 1976, while preparing a funhouse in Nu-Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach California for an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, a worker was moving a "hanged man" prop when its arm came off—revealing that it was an actual human corpse—that of 19th century criminal Elmer McCurdy, to be exact. Nobody claimed his body when he died in 1911, and through a convoluted series of events, his embalmed corpse became a prop for various attractions for decades, to the point where people eventually forgot about the body's origins. When McCurdy was finally buried in 1977, cement was poured on the grave to keep the body from being stolen.
  • Police learned that two girls had been murdered shortly after their mother had taken in a troubled boy to help him get back on his feet. Police initially suspected this young man, and when they found that the basement door was jammed, they figured he was in there. Upon forcing the door open, they found him all right—as Victim #3. His body was holding the door closed.
  • In a case which reverses the above, a grandmother in Pennsylvania investigated a strange sudden thump in her home in 2016, only to find a mummified body in her attic which had fallen against the door. It turned out to be the body of her grandson who had disappeared two years before. Although police are still investigating, and both she and the rest of the family do not believe it, the current prevailing theory based on his Facebook posts before he disappeared is that troubles in his life had led him to suicide, and that after the search of the house, he had returned secretly some time later (the body was wearing different clothes than he'd last been seen in) and hanged himself in the attic. What exactly caused the body to fall (the rafter breaking, the rope he used to hang himself wearing through and breaking) is unknown.


 
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A room full of corpses

Marion explores the other chamber that Indy uncovered only to discover that the room is filled with screaming rotting corpses.

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Main / PeekABooCorpse

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