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Possessing a Dead Body

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"Daemons, when desiring a human form for evil purposes, take to themselves the bodies of hanged men."
H. P. Lovecraft's Commonplace Book

A type of The Undead resulting from a dead body being reanimated by a spiritual or otherwise non-corporeal being such as a ghost or demon. Depending on the case, possessing a dead body may or may not be better than possessing a live one. Dead bodies are easier to possess but (logically) less powerful because of the likelihood of decay having already set in, while live bodies tend to be more powerful but harder to possess. It also depends on the possessor themselves; their powers/nature may mean that they're just fine possessing a withered corpse, or contrarily are able to bestow the body with additional supernatural abilities beyond "just" being a walking corpse. A body that happens to be brain-dead would also count for the sake of this trope. If the dead body is a recognizable person, it can be used for Dead Person Impersonation (more convincingly, at that), too.

Dispatching of this type of zombie is usually much less straightforward than other types of zombies as well, since the corpse itself is just a tool for the spiritual entity controlling it. Even if these are somehow destroyed then the spirit can often simply evacuate the body to find another one.

Compare Necromancer and Animate Dead, where the corpse is being reanimated by an outside party who doesn't inhabit the body themselves; Our Liches Are Different, a necromancer who possesses their own dead body; Dead Guy Puppet, where a corpse is literally used as a puppet through non-mystical means; and Parasite Zombie, where the corpse is controlled by a Puppeteer Parasite. See also Kill and Replace. Precautionary Corpse Disposal may be used as a preventative measure.

Sub-Trope of Our Zombies Are Different.

Not to be confused with someone who owns dead bodies; see Grave Robbing for that.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Chainsaw Man:
    • "Fiends" are the classification for devils that possess dead humans, apparently as a means to avoid dying. This "possession" lasts for the rest of the Devil's life, effectively making them an Artificial Hybrid. In rare cases, they'll retain their hosts memories, which make Violence Fiend unusually benevolent. Visually, they look like humans with some sort of alteration to their face (Horns, Extra Eyes, a partially Nonhuman Head), and are constrained by human biology (e.g. break their neck and they'll be paralyzed), but still have enhanced abilities and heal by drinking blood.
    • Denji technically becomes "possessed" by Pochita after dying, though this brings him completely back to life and control while leaving Pochita dormant.
  • Digimon Ghost Game: The Moon=Millenniumon in Episode 61 kills a young woman, then possesses her corpse to trick her fiance into bringing the seemingly resurrected body home. From that point on all it needs is to drain the first victim's life force, then claiming two more victims before it turns into the apocalyptic Zeed=Millenniumon.
  • Diotei Manual: Kamisama-tachi no Renai Daikou features a non-malevolent example where two gods possess the dead bodies of a murdered teenage couple they found in a park in order to find out about how humans work.
  • In Inuyasha, one species of demon known as Shibugarasu (or Dancing Corpse Crow), are able to bury into a victim's chest, devour their heart, and then possess the corpse to make it look like the victim is still alive.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, Foo Fighters is a colony of plankton with human-like intelligence due to being given a Stand. After being beaten and befriended by Jolyne, Foo Fighters inhabits a nearby corpse in order to pass as human.
  • The Legendary Hero Is Dead!: As the title suggests, the legendary hero Sion is killed by accidentally walking into a pitfall trap with bamboo spikes that the main character set up to prevent animals that keeps eating his crops. The hero's necromancer ally Anri transfers Touka's soul into Sion's decaying body via transmigration, and Touka no choice but to pretend to be the legendary hero thoughout the whole series. It's eventually revealed that Sion purposely walked into the trap and killed himself because three years ago, he let the seal of the hellgate a little loose to save Anri from dying because necromancers need mana and souls to live, not knowing that this would lead the world to destruction yet again, and felt that he was at fault for it.
  • One Piece: Using the powers of his Devil Fruit, Brook possesses his own skeleton. His actual self is merely a spirit that can leave for the purposes of Astral Projection.
  • Soul Eater: Though not physically dead, Arachne ends up abandoning her body to become a madness-inducing Hive Mind. Her sister Medusa ends up taking it over after having her original body destroyed and possessing a child in the interim.
  • Succubus & Hitman: Shortly before the series begins, Gamou Shouya sold his soul to the succubus Armelina in exchange for her healing his Delicate and Sickly sister Riri from a terminal illness. Armelina ate his soul, and then replaced it with the soul of an unnamed young man who had agreed to be her personal hitman in exchange for her help avenging himself and his mother and sister from his previous life. He has none of the old Shouya's memories and passed himself off to the family as having Identity Amnesia after an illness.

    Comic Books 
  • Avengers Inc.: Dave Cannon, the supervillain known as Whirlwind, is murdered in his cell and reanimates in the morgue... but not quite. Instead, for some reason, he's been replaced by someone else who can only recall their name is "Victor Shade".
  • Attempted in Blackest Night when Deadman attempts to take control of his undead corpse. Unfortunately, the black ring powering it spits Deadman out.
  • Immortal Hulk: Doc Samson and Sasquatch do this to each other when Green Door shenanigans prevent them from resurrecting in their own bodies.
  • Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges, who are really astral entities, use dead bodies to physically manifest. These have to be specially prepared with chemicals that mutate the bodies, not just any corpse will do. Near the end of "Necropolis", one of them repeatedly tried to resurrect a normal corpse in vain after his previous body was destroyed. They are capable of possessing living humans, but lack most of their powers in that state.
  • Justice League Dark: The "Blight" arc has Deadman reluctantly possessing the corpse of the Sea King, Aquaman's counterpart from the Crime Syndicate universe.
  • Simon Dark: When Simon was created the malevolent entity that entered the world with him took possession of Dall Moss, and eventually kept possessing him after getting fed up with the original occupant of the body and having him shoot himself in the head.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Skeletons and other undead, other than vampires and death priests are powered by "bound, suffering spirits of the deceased" and under the control of Crowned Death, an evil god of death.
  • The Duskyverse: In From Dusk to Midnight, Night Flurry gets possessed the spirit of an ancient warrior, Bellerophon — who turns out to be a good guy, and only takes control of Night's body if it's a life-or-death situation. The subplot is eventually resolved when Bellerophon leaves to possess the body of a slain enemy instead.
  • Chapter 29 of Infinity reveals that Enlil is actually inhabiting Alicia's corpse. It also crosses over with I Have Your Wife, since she's basically using Alicia's body as collateral to ensure Precia's loyalty.

    Films — Animated 
  • Heavy Metal: In the segment "B-17", a B-17 bomber airplane suffers heavy casualties on a raid over hostile territory, leaving only the pilot and co-pilot alive. During the return trip, a green orb called the Loc-Nar smashes its way aboard, where it reanimates the dead crewmen into shambling zombies hellbent on killing the two survivors.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dark City: The Strangers (really Octopoid Aliens with incredibly strong psychic abilities) can only occupy dead human bodies, hence their pale skin tone and sunken eyes. This is presumably because possessing a living human would cause them to experience human emotions, which are fatal to their species. They're not picky, either; one of them has taken the body of a dead child.
  • At the climax of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange dreamwalks into a dead Alternate Self who was buried in his universe so that he can battle the Big Bad from across the Multiverse. Doing this is a violation of the natural order and causes the souls of the damned to attack him, so he wrangles them and fashions them into a living cape.
  • In Frankenstein Created Woman, Baron Frankenstein transplants Hans's soul into Christina's dead body. When the body awakens, it has no memory of who it is. Eventually, Hans's memories start to resurface and compel Christina to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Hans's actions seem to awaken some of Christina's own memories, and at the end of the film, she commits suicide again.
  • The Gravedancers: After Kira is murdered, Emma's ghost possesses her body and uses it to physically attack the survivors with an axe.
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline: Two Cenobite cultists in eighteenth-century France kill a young prostitute so they can use her dead body as a host for a demon princess who then adopts the girl's name (Angelique). Note that most Cenobites don't actually require host bodies, but are rather humans whose souls were corrupted in Hell.
  • In Husk, Alex turns the bodies of his victims into Scary Scarecrows and shift his spirit between them. However, he can only animate one scarecrow at a time.
  • I, Frankenstein: The demon prince Naberius' evil plan is to stockpile human corpses, then, through a combination of his own demon magic and the research of Victor Frankenstein, summon the souls of slain demons to inhabit them and reanimate them as an army.
  • Men in Black: Shortly after landing on Earth, the villain — an alien who is essentially an intelligent giant cockroach — kills the farmer Edgar and proceeds to wear Edgar's hollowed-out skin as a disguise. The resulting impression — a sick-looking man who moves clumsily and turns increasingly rotten as the plot advances — very much resembles a walking corpse.
  • Monkeybone: Death allows Stu (who's comatose) to possess a recently deceased body in order to pass on a final message to his girlfriend. She naturally doesn't believe in who he claims to be until he manages to produce a Trust Password.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968): At the end of the 30th Anniversary Edition, the unhinged Reverend Hicks declares to a reporter that the zombies are human corpses possessed by demons from hell. However, this is clearly supposed to be a crazed rant and is never proven one way or the other.
  • Towards the end of Stardust, one of the witches controls Septimus's dead body and makes it fight Tristan. The ghost of Septimus finds the whole thing less than charming.
  • A variant occurs in Tales of Terror when M. Valdemar's soul is trapped in his own dead body. Carmichael's mesmerism captures soul Valdemar's soul at the moment of death. Hid body is dead and slowly putrefying, but his soul still resides within it, but is unable to cause it to act in any way. Eventually, Valdemar is able to summon up enough rage to be able to control the body long enough to kill Carmichael.

  • According to a legend printed in Ludwig Bechstein's Book of German Legends (1853), a student of the scholar and occultist Cornelius Agrippa (1486—1535) met his doom when he secretly read in a forbidden grimoire lying around in Agrippa's study, thereby accidentally summoning a demon who killed him. To avoid inconvenient questions about how the student died in his study, Agrippa summons another spirit and commands it to possess the dead body. The dead student walks out "like a living person" and drops dead at a random street corner, making everyone believe he died of some unknown but natural cause.

  • The first The Adept novel by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris features a crossover between this and Animate Dead. To recover critical knowledge held by the long-dead sorcerer Sir Michael Scot, an evil necromancer digs up Scot's corpse and summons his spirit back into the long-dead body. The Adept universe includes reincarnation, and Scot's spirit has a current incarnation. The effects of the summoning on that current incarnation is... not good.
  • Avatar (Théophile Gautier) ends with Balthazar Cherbonneau reversing the mind switch between the two men he'd conducted at the beginning of the story. The wannabe lover makes no effort to return to his body, leaving the doctor with a corpse. Suddenly, he gets a brilliant idea, with the news that Balthazar died but left all his belongings to a young man.
  • Beware of Chicken: After Jin meets and defeats Young Master Zang Li, the narrative reveals that Zang Li is actually dead, and a demonic cultivator named Lu Ban is hiding in his body using a technique called The Twilight Cuckoo's Triumph. He's later killed off properly when he meets Jin again.
  • In Carpe Demon Adventures Of A Demon Hunting Soccer Mom, demons constantly wander Earth in spirit form, and can only take physical form by entering the body of someone who has just died; the window is pretty short. Ever heard stories about someone who survived a horrible car wreck without a scratch, or had a heart attack and then got right back up? Well, now you know how.
  • Ciaphas Cain: The first step in creating a daemonhost appears to be providing a dead body for the daemon to move in to. In "The Beguiling", a Slaaneshi cult goes the Human Sacrifice route; in The Last Ditch a daemon possesses a servitor instead of one of the living crew members on the bridge. The Traitor's Hand strongly implies that Emeli sucked the souls out of her cultists before she could refashion their bodies into a suitable form for her.
  • The Daevabad Trilogy: When Dara wants to talk with a marid, an Elemental Embodiment of water, he kills one of the marid's human priests and throws the body in its lake. The marid animates the corpse, encrusted with lake life and detritus, to speak with him — and is horrified to be treated so.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: When she was sixteen, the real Ludivine died of a fever. An angel took over her body and has been in control of it since then. It's this angel that aids Rielle throughout the trials and traveling to various countries in search of the Saints' castings.
  • The Laundry Files features zombies (or Residual Human Resources) in a mixture of the voodoo and artificial varieties, since sufficiently advanced science is magic.
    • These zombies take the form of Demonic Possession of a corpse, usually programmed in Old Enochian not to eat brains. Great for janitorial tasks, though the RPG book notes that following employee complaints, they are no longer used for food service. (Also, Laundry employees should be noted that decking the zombies in tinsel is discouraged for the holiday season.)
    • If the spirit animating the corpse isn't bound by spells or geases, that's when zombie apocalypses happen. Instead of infecting others with their bite, the demon — a being of electricity — tries to take over the nervous system of its victim in order to devour their soul, and skin is conductive. The living, active soul of a living being is stated to be much "tastier" than the dead informational echoes in a long-dead body.
    • Even if a zombie is bound by magic, a "death patterning" can be applied to it so that skin-to-skin contact with it is instantly deadly. This makes them excellent night guards.
    • Zombies which are kept around on a permanent basis are fed brains in order to keep their bodies functioning. But it doesn't need to be human brains; the Laundry buys cow brains from slaughterhouses for that purpose. It doesn't even need to be brains, it's just that cow brains are a cheap source of the needed fatty acids. In a pinch, the zombies could be fed on McDonald's milkshakes.
  • The Licanius Trilogy has Echoes, spirits from the Darklands that possess the bodies of the Blind's victims. They have access to all the dead body's memories and can fake humanity perfectly until you let your guard down, at which point they immediately try to kill you. Notably, Gifted can use Essence freely against them, despite the First Tenet forbidding the use of Essence to harm humans.
  • The Locked Tomb: Revenants can most easily possess their own dead bodies, but can theoretically inhabit anything with enough exposure to their Life Energy or thanergy, i.e., the necromantic energy of their death.
    • Harrow the Ninth: Commander Wake's revenant jumps between a blade as a Haunted Fetter and a corpse that was once cut by that blade, after having previously clung to her own corpse for years, a feat of incredible determination.
    • Nona the Ninth: Ianthe is able to use the corpse of her former cavalier Naberius, whose soul she ate, as a necromantic Remote Body from across the galaxy. Palamedes' ghost later invades the body through a stab wound and takes control of it via a Battle in the Center of the Mind.
  • Monster Hunter International:
    • In Vendetta, Marvin Hood talks through a recently turned zombie to taunt the heroes after he uses said zombie to bite Owen, giving them his terms and setting up the final battle of the book.
    • In Siege, Asag has in fact been wearing the corpse of the dead Hunter Lococo for the entire time Owen has been with him in the Nightmare Realm, the latter completely unaware of this until he talks with the other surviving Hunters who tell him Lococo pulled a Heroic Sacrifice. Asag did this because wanted to speak with and get to know Owen on a more personal level.
  • In Old Kingdom, less powerful Dead such as Hands are created by a Dead spirit possessing and reanimating a corpse — any corpse will do, so long as it's mostly intact, though it's implied there's a stronger connection to the spirit's original body. More powerful Dead entities can do this too, but are just as likely to use artificially created construct bodies or even exist as raw spirit with no body at all.
  • Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio: In "The Monk of Changqing", a monk's ghost accidentally possesses the body of a young nobleman killed in a hunting accident. The nobleman's family think he's just lost his senses when he insists he's a monk and rejoins his old monastery.
  • In That Hideous Strength, the amoral scientists of the N.I.C.E. communicate with higher-dimensional lifeforms by specially preparing severed human heads for the "macrobes" (as the scientists call them) to possess and speak with. What the N.I.C.E. is too blind to realize is that these macrobes are literally demons from Hell.
  • It's left implicit, but it seems the Barrow-Wights from Tolkien's Legendarium are dark spirits inhabiting the bodies of the dead, rather than regular undead as their mythological inspiration.
  • In The Wandering Inn, the Selphids, a race of body-snatchers, were reduced to only possessing dead bodies, and never living ones, by a treaty after they almost destroyed the world.
  • Witch King: Demons have no physical form on Earth but can take freshly dead human bodies — older corpses don't work. The body enters a Mortality Grey Area with a Healing Factor and minimal physical needs.
    • The Saredi allied with a group of demons, granting them the bodies of dying people who agreed to the use. The demons lived among them and practiced their own form of Due to the Dead.
    • Kai escapes a trap when his captors' intended Human Sacrifice dies early, allowing him to slip in and kill the captors. He keeps the body for the rest of the book, but is frustrated that he doesn't know anything about who it used to be.
  • World of the Five Gods: Appears a couple of times.
    • Discussed in The Curse of Chalion. Several characters say that a body slain by death magic must be burned before nightfall to prevent ghosts from possessing it; one describes such a possession, seen many years ago.
      I saw a case once, when I was a young divine. The degraded spirits are shambling stupid things, but it's so very awkward to get them out again once they take possession. They must be burned... well, alive is not quite the right term. Very ugly scene, especially if the relatives don't understand, because, of course, being your body, it screams in your voice...
    • In Paladin of Souls, Royina Ista's magic Sight shows her that after being killed by a knife-thrust and then held to life by a demon's magic, Lord Arhys is essentially possessing his own dead body.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Andromeda episode "Dance of the Mayflies", the Andromeda crew discover a plague that reanimates the corpses of the people it kills as zombies. It's able to possess Trance immediately, leading Dylan to question whether she was really alive to begin with (foreshadowing the later development that Trance is just the avatar of a sun).
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: In season 3, Kelly is killed in a fight by Ruby, who then repurposes her deceased body to channel the spirit of one of her allies from the evil dimension she hails from. Ash later tries to rescue her from the netherworld, but she can't pass the dimension threshold because her body is still being occupied by someone else.
  • In the Buffyverse, vampires are created by killing a person and having an evil demon take over the body. Non-vampire demons exist, but as a separate species.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Unquiet Dead" has recently deceased corpses being inhabited by the Gelth, gaseous aliens who have lost their corporal forms. It gives the impression of ghosts possessing corpses to rise as zombies. While the Gelth initially feign victimhood to invoke sympathy in the Doctor, they're later revealed to be malicious, as they desire all living humans to be dead so they can inhabit their bodies too.
    • Downplayed in "The Waters of Mars" with the Flood in that the hosts' bodies are still alive but have a decreased heartbeat and "haywire" electrical activity in the brain. It seems that when the Flood takes over a host, it effectively kills or consumes their original mind and personality entirely, leaving only the virus' Hive Mind puppeteering their shell.
    • In "The Witchfinders", the Doctor, Yaz and Willa discover that alien mud is possessing dead bodies, including that of Willa's recently deceased grandmother. The mud is from the Morax, aliens imprisoned under Pendle Hill for a long time who were recently freed. And they're not just limited to the dead, either.
  • In the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episode "Demon in Lace", a succubus possesses the bodies of recently dead women to lure men into romantic situations and then changes the body to a horrifying appearance, scaring the man to death.
  • In the universe of Lucifer (2016), it's possible for the denizens of Hell to escape by possessing the body of someone who recently died.
  • Moon Knight (2022): Taweret can possess dead bodies in order to communicate with the living, although it seems to take a lot of concentration and she can't make them move other than making them copy her gesticulations.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "The Second Soul" has aliens who need to use the recently deceased as host bodies. Unlike the norm for the series, they're quite benevolent. The worst thing to come out of it is a man who'd had a deceased loved one used as a host having to face the reality that the body's new inhabitant is a completely different person; tragic but not evil or dangerous.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Wolf in the Fold" involves a non-corporeal alien being capable of possessing the bodies of living human beings. During the episode, Captain Kirk hits the body it's possessing and kills it, forcing the entity to flee the dead body. Later on, with no other options, the being possesses the dead body again and makes it walk around.
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Sub Rosa", the disembodied spirit who has been altering Beverly's mental state to try and get her to sleep with him decides to jump into Bev's dead grandmother's body and uses it to try and attack the crew stopping him.
  • Supernatural:
    • In season 4, the demon Ruby took to possessing a human body that was technically dead after Sam objected to her using a living person's. The woman in question was comatose and had just been removed from life support before she moved in.
    • In the final episode of season 4, it's also shown that decades earlier the demon Azazel murdered a convent of nuns so that Lucifer could use one of their dead bodies to talk to him from his prison.
    • Castiel was initially using the human Jimmy Novak as his angelic host. However, Jimmy's fate is left ambiguous after Castiel is killed off and brought Back from the Dead several times, but it's eventually confirmed that Jimmy's soul was sent to Heaven after Castiel's second death at the hands of the archangel Lucifer. This means that for most of the series, Castiel has been occupying an otherwise lifeless body.
    • In the opening of season 15, a rift torn open between Earth and Hell causes every hellbound soul to flee and grab any host they can get their hands on. This results in a localized Zombie Apocalypse when everybody in a cemetery starts rising up and attacking the Winchesters. The usual method of dispatching a ghost is to burn their bones, but since they aren't even in their original bodies, all it would really do is slow them down and they'd continue attacking in ghost form. The rift also allows demons who were otherwise trapped in Hell to escape, which allows the demon Belphegor to possess the body of Jack, who was killed by Chuck in the season 14 finale.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank", a man named Jeff Myrtlebank dies of the flu and is about to be buried two days later. He suddenly wakes up in his coffin and appears to be just fine. The local townsfolk think that his body was possessed by an evil spirit while he was dead. There's evidence that they're right — flowers die when he holds them, and he can light a match without striking it, apparently with magic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica:
    • The world operates on All Deaths Final, so at best, the ritual "The Shadow of Life Renewed" makes a corpse "live" again as a Soulless Shell. At worst, it lets a demon, faerie, or other supernatural entity take possession of the body.
    • One "vampire" variety is actually a dark faerie spirit that animates a human corpse and takes on some elements of its identity. They run the gamut from merciless predators to Non Malicious Monsters who keep showing up at their old house to do the chores.
  • Call of Cthulhu: In the White Dwarf magazine #87 article "With a Pinch of Salt", one method of creating a zombie is to summon and bond a Cthulhu Mythos monster to enter and possess a corpse. Normally only a monster that isn't tied to a physical body can be used, such as a gaseous Fire Vampire or a ghost.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Ghosts of the dead can learn a special ability to inhabit a corpse, effectively creating a temporary zombie with the ghost's intelligence. Unlike with living victims, the ghost automatically takes possession and can stay for as long as it fuels the power with Essence. If a dead body is left in The Underworld, it's fair game for any ghost, no special ability required.
    • Vampire: The Requiem: The Strix are demon-like Living Shadows with a mysterious connection to the undead. They can enter a corpse to puppet it around; worse, they can pull a Grand Theft Me on sleeping vampires and revenants.
    • Werewolf: The Forsaken: Hosts are entities somewhat like animal spirits but with their own flesh in the material world. The weaker versions are capable of hollowing out human bodies and controlling the corpses. Spider hosts enter their victim's skull through the ear or nostrils and eat their brains, for example, while rat hosts burrow into the chest and eat the heart.
  • Deadlands: Most undead are caused by evil spirits that serve the Reckoners possessing corpses. One variety, the Harrowed, are playable as they brought back the body's original soul in order to use the skills they had in life and the evil spirit has limited control, at first.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Spiritus anime are low-level incorporeal undead, who died with a grudge and now hatefully attack the living. They can animate a corpse as a zombie to "ride" in, and frequently hop from one corpse to another in combat — the catch is that they can't animate, or move too far away from, their original corpse, which acts as their Soul Jar. If they want to move to better hunting grounds, or stash their original corpse in a secure position, they typically animate another corpse to haul the first around.
    • Dybbuks are incorporeal demons that can possess and animate intact corpses, which they use to embrace whatever vices or depravities are available with a fiendish glee. A dybbuk-possessed corpse appears to be alive and healthy, but the fiend animating it can horrify onlookers by twisting the head all the way around, having a biped scuttle about on four limbs (or vice-versa), or vomit blood or maggots. The dybbuk can only be defeated in its natural form, which involves either catching it between bodies or kicking it out of a possessed corpse with sufficient physical damage or a spell like dispel evil, though if said corpse isn't beheaded or otherwise destroyed, the dybbuk can just possess it again. Notable in that this is the basically the opposite of dybbuks from classic Jewish folklore, who are incorporeal undead that possess living people.
    • In the Module Q1 adventure Queen of the Demonweb Pits, when a raise dead or resurrection spell is cast on a dead body, the body will be brought back to life and the dead person's soul will re-inhabit it. If this is tried on one of Lolth's realms in the Abyss, there's a chance that the soul of a dead Chaotic Evil person will possess the body instead.
    • Unlike that of a humanoid Lich, the Soul Jar of a Dracolich cannot recreate its owner's body from nothing, so the undead dragon's soul must instead possess any reptilian corpse that ends up near its phylactery and use it should its own body be destroyed, preferring the corpse of another dragon over all others.
    • In the Judges Guild adventure Dark Tower, if any humanoid creature is killed in either the Upper or Lower Temple of Set, there is a chance that the Lawful Evil god Set will possess the dead body and polymorph it into a 7-foot-tall muscular, scaly body with a jackal's head. He will use it to attack all living things in the Temple area, including his own worshippers.
    • The mind shadow from the White Dwarf magazine issue #56 article "The Fiend Factory" is a fiendish creature that can possess and control a corpse, including having it attack other creatures. If the corpse is reduced to zero Hit Points or is turned by a cleric, the mind shadow is forced out of the body. Otherwise, the mind shadow can maintain possession indefinitely.
    • In the AD&D 2E module Return to the Tomb of Horrors, the demilich Acererak can transfer his mind into any undead creature in his lair with No Saving Throw. The Golden Ending requires the player characters to find and destroy them all before confronting his original body and Soul Jar so he can't escape.
  • Fabula Ultima: The Cait Sith is a dead cat which has been possessed by a spirit, giving it new life and magical powers. Curiously, the game classifies it as a Monster rather than an Undead creature.
  • In Shadowrun, Shedim are spirits from a distant metaplane who attach themselves to corpses, or the bodies of astrally projecting mages sometimes.

    Video Games 
  • Beyond: Two Souls: In the chapter "The Condenser", the spiritual entities who escaped from the Infraworld reanimate an entire hallway of human corpses to menace Jodie.
  • Devil Summoner: Kyouji Kuzunoha and... "Kyouji Kuzunoha" are heroic examples. The unnamed hero and the real Kyouji Kuzunoha are almost killed early on; the hero dies and comes back in Kyouji's body, leaving Kyouji to Body Surf his way back. In the Persona 2 duology, Detective Todoroki's sudden surge in competence is implied to be because he's actually Kyouji Kuzunoha.
  • The Former Humans of the Doom series are of this variety. They were Marines killed by the demons, which then took possession of their fallen bodies. The Possessed in Doom (2016) are an exception, as they are instead created by an event known as the Argent Biowave.
  • Dragon Age explains in the codex that all The Undead are in fact corpses inhabited by spirits from the Fade ("demons" corresponding to the Seven Deadly Sins, and "good" spirits corresponding to the Seven Heavenly Virtues). Redcliff comes under attack by such demonic zombies and skeletons in Dragon Age: Origins, while in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening party member Justice is a revenant created when a spirit of justice took over the body of the Grey Warden Kristoff.
  • In DragonFable, Valtrith extracts the soul of Serenity, then uses her soul as part of a dark ritual which summons a darkness spirit known as Caitiff, who inhabits the Skullreaper of Doom. The end result of the ritual is the hilt of the Skullreaper gets impaled through the chest of Serenity's corpse, which in turn allows Caitiff to control her corpse as an extension of itself.
  • Elden Ring: This happens to Yura after he's mortally wounded at the end of his questline. You'll next meet "Yura" in the Mountaintops of the Giants as Shabriri, the Frenzied Flame's Mouth of Sauron. If you kill Shabriri at this point, he'll state that he can't be permanently killed, presumably because he can then hop to another corpse afterward. It's also implied that Hyetta is unknowingly in the same situation. She is completely identical to Irina of Morne (save that Irina wears the altered Travelling Maiden's Set, and Hyetta has it unaltered), and her quest will only begin after Irina's death.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: In one quest, cultists of the Daedric Prince Boethiah will command you to perform a human sacrifice to their master to show you are worthy of serving them. If you do so, the victim's corpse will be possessed by Boethiah, who will comment on how distasteful they find using mortal flesh as a vessel, then order the cultists to murder one another with the last one standing becoming Boethiah's champion.
  • Fate/Grand Order: This is a massive spoiler regarding the true nature of the Big Bad, "Solomon" — who is King Solomon's dead body, possessed by the real Big Bad, Goetia. The possession grants him a good portion of Solomon's powers, in addition to almost all of his Magic Rings. He also takes over his body's identity for a good part of the story, making our protagonist group fear the identity of said body.
  • Final Fantasy XIV:
    • Ascians can do this, in addition to possessing living people, as shown when Elidibus possesses Zenos after his death. In Shadowbringers, Elidibus gets forced out of Zenos’s body and moves on to possessing the long-dead body of Ardbert instead.
    • In the Dark Knight questline, it's revealed that your mentor Fray was Dead All Along. The Fray the Warrior of Light first met was a fresh corpse. Fray's dark knight soul crystal drew the Warrior's inner darkness into the body which then animated it, creating the Fray who begins your training in the art of the abyss. It's not wholly clear how often this is going on and how often the Warrior of Light is simply seeing Fray doing and saying things that in reality they are doing and saying, though.
  • Yomiel of Ghost Trick is a ghost who is able to animate his own corpse. This is thanks to a radioactive meteor, a fragment of which is lodged in his body and keeps his corpse perpetually on the edge between life and death, making him virtually indestructible (much like The Crow). By the end of the story, the main character is also like this.
  • Grim Dawn: The lowest tier of Aetherial enemies are dead bodies that got picked up by aetherial spirits. They're not true undead, but they act very much like zombies due to the uneven control the spirit has. Living bodies can be mutated much further, so they tend to be stronger, but they still do have many uses for the dead.
  • Guilty Gear:
    • Zato-One has a Living Shadow named Eddie, who is its own entity. When Zato died, Eddie reanimates his corpse; his name in the selection screen becomes "Eddie" in some games rather than "Zato-One".
    • The spinoff title Guilty Gear Judgment sees the game's main villain, Raymond, bait the player into fighting Underworld God Inus, only for Raymond to possess Inus's corpse and be reborn as the titular "Judgment". If Eddie is the one to defeat Judgment, the Living Shadow outright mocks Raymond's decision.
  • Legacy of Kain: Defiance: Raziel the wraith rebels against his former master, The Elder God, and as punishment is denied the right to use conduits between the spectral world and physical world. He gets around this by projecting his spectral form into human corpses and reshaping them into his own image.
  • Mass Effect: Saren Arterius's One-Winged Angel form consists of the Reaper Sovereign reanimating his body, already killed by Shepard (either in battle or by talking him into suicide in a cutscene), using Saren's cybernetics. This evidently involved some form of mind transfer as well, because destroying the One-Winged Angel causes Sovereign the starship's Deflector Shield to fail, letting the Alliance Fifth Fleet finish him off.
  • Metroid:
    • At the start of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a group of Ing possess dead Galactic Federation soldiers and use them to attack Samus. Unlike the powerful "Darklings" seen in most of the game (created when an Ing possesses a living creature), the soldiers' movements are stiff and zombie-like.
    • The X Parasites from Metroid Fusion don't need to possess living organisms, and can infect corpses just as easily, as shown with the BSL scientists.
  • Mortal Kombat: In Deadly Alliance, the Villain Team-Up of Shang Tsung and Quan Chi, defeated and killed a lot of the Defenders of the Earth, especially the until-then protagonist Liu Kang. But later before the Cosmic Retcon of MK9 (Deception and Armageddon), a revived and heel-turned Raiden reanimated Liu Kang's body as a zombie to fight with him against Onaga and everyone who stands in his way, no matter if they're allies or enemies.
  • In Mortal Shell, you play as a white, humanoid... thing that climbs inside corpses it finds lying around. There are four to choose from (five with DLC), each with their own stats and skill tree. Outside of a corpse, you're a One-Hit-Point Wonder, but you have a boatload of stamina to compensate. Once per life, running out of health while inside of a corpse causes you to be shot out of it with great force, giving you a Last Chance Hit Point as you scramble to climb back in before getting hit again. A very expensive upgrade in the skill tree lets you regain your last chance by killing enough enemies.
  • The zombies from Vagrant Story are of this kind. They are random corpses possessed by random souls. Once the zombie is destroyed, the soul is free but remains trapped on the physical plane until it ends up possessing another corpse. Rise and repeat. Of special note is the case of Grissom, a minor antagonist that appears early in the game. After his death at the hands of Ashley, Grissom's soul ends up possessing his own corpse by chance. He is left horrified at this "incomplete death" and is eventually driven insane by it.
  • Warcraft: Death knights (the orcs' mage unit) were made by forcing the spirits of Gul'dan's warlocks into the corpses of human knights. In Warcraft III, the original death knights are remade into liches (ranged Squishy Wizard), while the new death knights (evil version of The Paladin) are the reanimated bodies of human nobles under the Lich King's thrall.

    Web Animation 
  • In Charlie the Unicorn, the true nature of Blue and Pink is revealed as this.
    Charlie: The Other Unicorns said I needed to stop the Uhh W something.
    Ghost Nyx: They aren't unicorns. They're corpses puppeted by demons.
  • In Glitchtale, HATE pulls this on Bete Noir as a Villain Override.
  • Discussed and parodied in Red vs. Blue:
    Caboose: I have an idea. ...I HAVE AN IDEA!
    Tucker: Yeah, we heard you the first time, Caboose, we were just ignoring you.
    Caboose: Since you possessed that Red guy, and took control of him, why don't you just possess your own body?
    Church: Oh, I see, so that way I would be living inside of my own dead body.
    Caboose: Yes.
    Church: Unable to move, just, laying there, rotting in the sun for all eternity.
    Caboose: Yes.
    Church: Okay, Caboose, I'll be sure to get right on that.
    Caboose: I think you are a mean ghost.

  • In Daughter of the Lilies, demonic Drath spirits can possess almost any body after being summoned, generally causing a grotesque Transformation of the Possessed. When a dead body is used as a host, the results are even grosser.
  • Ingress Adventuring Company: Derik harvested multiple villagers to create a whole new body to possess. Whose soul is possessing the body is yet to be seen.
  • Paranormal Mystery Squad: The villain of volume 2, an evil succubus spirit, possesses the body of a recently deceased woman and takes it as her own. Supplementary material reveal that said body was the servant of another villain from the companion series Vampire Cheerleaders. After the villain was killed, the villain's sister killed the servant in response out of anger.
  • True Villains: Elia the Necromancer can transfer her spirit into any of the mindless undead under her control. Her original body could also count, since it's held together by Dark magic and stolen skins.
  • In Villain to Kill, Gangu Gwon was dead when Moros transplanted Cassian's soul into his body. Cassian is horrified to learn that Gangu was supposed to survive but died as a result of Cassian taking over his destiny.

    Western Animation 
  • Final Space has Invictus, who possesses every dead Gary from countless timelines when they end up in Final Space, as uses them as part of its army. When one of these Garys is freed from Invictus' control, it's revealed that it revives the corpses and restores their minds and personalities, and then it possesses them, just because it can.
  • In season three of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021), Skeletor, killed in season two, is able to come back to life through a ritual using the skeletal remains of King Grayskull himself to create a new physical body.
  • Belos from The Owl House, after finding himself in a body that's rapidly falling apart after possessing Hunter doesn't work out, enters his Grimwalker laboratory and possesses a dead Grimwalker that was left behind in the ground. However, considering that possessing a living Grimwalker was already almost too much for that Grimwalker's body to handle, possessing a dead one results in its body immediately liquefying and falling apart. Despite this, Belos got enough of an energy boost from consuming the Grimwalker's corpse to climb up to the Archives and possess Puppet Raine's body instead.
  • The Grand Finale movie of Transformers: Prime starts off with Unicron telling a deceased Megatron's spark that — thanks to doping himself on his blood while he was alive — he's Barred from the Afterlife and will live again... to serve him. He takes control of Megatron's corpse, resurrects it, upgrades it, and inhabits it while Megatron's spark is along for the ride as little more than a prisoner, unable to control his body's own actions. The movie ends with Unicron being extracted from Megatron's body and banished, leaving Megatron alive and in control of in his restored and upgraded body, whereupon he promptly disbands his faction and exiles himself, having undergone a Heel Realization while under Unicron's possession. It is unknown if Unicron's banishment has changed his Barred from the Afterlife status.
  • An accidental and heroic example shows up in Season 3 of Young Justice (2010). Violet Harper aka Halo is the result of a dismantled Mother Box's spirit merging with the deceased body of Gabrielle Daou. Because she possessed Gabrielle's body after death, the Mother Box's soul is the only one present — aside from some residual memories there is nothing left of Gabrielle. This is why she vehemently rejects being called Gabrielle Daou by Artemis. Even before she realized the full truth, Violet subconsciously knew she wasn't really Gabrielle.

Alternative Title(s): Spirit Possessed Zombie