When a character who is alive is mistakenly believed to be dead. Quite often includes the character being shown his own death certificate. Often includes being declared Legally Dead, but isn't necessarily restricted to that. May result in a case of Attending Your Own Funeral and hearing a Premature Eulogy. Compare Faking the Dead, where the character deliberately misleads people into believing that he's dead, and No One Could Survive That!, where the character incidentally creates this impression by surviving something that by all rights should have killed him.
- Disney Death: The audience witnesses an apparent death, but the character is still alive. Often overlaps with
- No One Could Survive That!: Other characters in-universe witness an apparent death, but the character is still alive.
- No Longer with Us: The character merely went somewhere else, but this was misunderstood as an apparent euphemism for death.
- Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying over You: The character announces their own survival, but gets a Not Now, Kiddo response from the mourners.
- Not Too Dead to Save the Day: The survival allows the character to make a Deus ex Machina (though this one has a variant where the character stays dead).
A favorite tactic of supernatural killers, who return in the sequels after thought to be destroyed in the previous film.
See also First Law of Resurrection, where character was meant to be Killed Off for Real, but was brought back from the dead in sequels. A form of Dramatic Irony if the audience is aware he's alive while the characters aren't. Often goes hand in hand with Our Hero Is Dead.
Note: As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
- Madara Uchiha/Tobi, in Naruto, since everyone in the story thought that he/they died a long time ago. Turns out to be averted in the case of Madara, who was brought Back from the Dead, but Tobi is Obito, who was crushed "to death" in Kakashi's Gaiden. He was saved (half of him, anyway) by Madara. Who was still alive for a long period of time after he was believed to be dead anyway.
- Kakine Teitoku, aka "Dark Matter", from A Certain Magical Index, is brutally beaten up by a berserk Accelerator, after he stabs one of the few people Accelerator actually cares about right as she's trying to reason with him to spare Teitoku's life. After being buried waist deep in the pavement and having his face quite literally sheared off, the #2 Level 5 is presumed deceased... until he resurfaces in the New Testaments, as bat shit as ever and completely white now as a result of his Dark Matter fueled regeneration. Unfortunately for him, Takitsubo's AIM Stalker causes one of his Beetle Army members to go rogue, kill him and take over his identity, memories and power, but with a kind and well-meaning personality.
- Goku from Dragon Ball seems to be written off as dead by his friends for most of the King Piccolo saga, even though there's no indication of him actually dying. He just went after the mutant that killed Krillin and Bulma already declares him killed in action, not even considering the possibility that he might still be alive. King Piccolo thought the same thing after their first battle where he seemingly killed him; he was quite surprised when Goku arrived to save Tien.
- Fairy Tail:
- Lyon throws himself off a cliff with Racer of the Oracion Seis to protect Gray and Sherry from being killed by Racer's attempted explosive suicide attack, leaving them both to think he's dead after the bomb goes off and causing Sherry (thanks to the dark magic activating to switch people's moral alignments) to briefly go crazy-evil. Turns out, Lyon managed to cut the bomb off Racer and then shielded them both with a hastily-crafted ice wall, though the effort briefly knocked him out, and he returns with Racer as Gray is preventing Sherry from trying to murder Natsu and Lucy. He nearly invokes this word for word.
- Up until the Sirius Island arc, most of the world believed the Black Wizard Zeref had been dead for centuries with various dark guilds and cults using his left-behind dark magics to cause havoc or resurrect him. As it turns out, Zeref is very much alive into the present...though he certainly wishes otherwise.
- One Piece:
- This happens to Luffy a few times where after receiving a vicious Curb-Stomp Battle, his enemy thinks he's dead...until he returns to challenge them again. This happened with Crocodile...twice!
- During the Time Skip, where everyone thought the entire Straw Hat crew was dead because they had been gone for two years, not know they were actually training in secret. This gave a bunch of impostors the opportunity to take advantage of their MIA status and impersonate them, though not very well. After Sentomaru exposed the frauds, the pirates they had recruited truly thought Luffy was dead...until Sentomaru revealed that the guy the fake Luffy was threatening was the real deal, indicating that the Straw Hats were alive after all.
- The pirate Jack was reported dead after he picked a fight with Issho, Sengoku, and Tsuru. However, the Mink Tribe, which was recently attacked by Jack, giving a sample of just how freakishly strong he is, worry that he might be alive because they Never Found the Body; And he is, injured, but alive and more than furious that the newspapers wrote him off.
- The Big Mom Pirates make this assumption of the Sanji Retrieval Team during a meeting, due to a combination of unaware facts and Opera lying about Jimbei freeing Luffy and Nami to avoid punishment. Because of this, the Straw Hats were able to be successful Wedding Smashers.
- Heihachi Mishima from Tekken: Blood Vengeance is not as dead as most people think. He shows up for the three-way brawl between himself, his son and grandson.
Heihachi: It feels good to be back. Hiding in the shadows after faking your own death is a bore. In fact it's downright tedious.Kazuya: I thought I've thrown you into the depths of Hell.Heihachi: Ha! If you thought that was enough to kill me, you are gravely mistaken.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure:
- In part 2, Stroheim is believed dead by Joseph, only to show up later as a cyborg.
- At the end of part 2, it's Joseph's turn to be believed dead. He shows up to his own funeral with his newly wed wife, Suzi Q. They were actually going to inform the rest of the cast that the was alive, but the latter forgot to telegram them.
- In part 3, Avdol is presumed dead after a fight with other stand users. He is later revealed to have been simply recovering from his wounds, which was known by all the main characters excluding Polnareff, whom they assumed would not be able to keep the secret and would thus endanger their recovering friend.
- In the finale of Durarara!!, after finally attempting to kill Shizuo, Izaya fails and is hit into another building by his nemesis where he suffers from internal bleeding, leading to a Trail of Blood. He then is forced to run from several airborne vending machines as he attempts to get away. Izaya finally then engages Shizuo in a fight in a last-ditch attempt at a Xanatos Gambit. He gets both his arms broken, and is shot by Vorona with a ballistic knife. Izaya is able to escape in the end, but his odds of survival are only fifty-fifty, and he is last seen saying he does not want to die anywhere near Shizuo. It's confirmed that he did survive, though none of the characters know of his whereabouts as he never returned to Ikebukuro and thus never told anyone he was alive. At least, until he decided to troll Namie by E-mailing her.
- Lupin III:
- Lupin is apparently shot by a sniper and falls from the getaway chopper in Lupin III: Missed by a Dollar, only to reappear alive and well later on and play a Big Damn Hero to the rest of his cornered gang.
- Lupin III: Voyage to Danger has both Jigen and Goemon apparently killed. The former appeared to die in an massive explosion; he escaped via a hidden tunnel. The latter was stabbed by a thrown knife and fell from a cliff into the sea; his Absurdly Sharp Blade deflected the knife just enough to miss his heart, and he was later rescued by a local fisherman.
- In the DuckTales one-shot "Double Indemnity", Magica's clone of Launchpad forces the boys and Scrooge out of the plane into a sandstorm, and then Magica starts a camel stampede to get them trampled. They survive (of course) and Scrooge quickly gets back to declare that the assassination attempts failed.
- In V for Vendetta, V says this almost word-for-word at the end before blowing up Downing Street. It's actually Evey wearing one of V's costumes, but the idea of V has to be kept alive to keep anarchy alive.
- In Marvel 100th Anniversary Special, Vance Astro (actually Peter Quill a.k.a Starlord), mentions the trope by name after unmasking himself.
- In Superman: The Doomsday Wars, a suddenly speaking Doomsday gloats that "The rumors of my stupidity were greatly exaggerated". In a way, this is this trope as both Doomsday and the person actually riding him, Brainiac, were thought dead by this point (Doomsday was presumed dead at the end of Hunter/Prey and Brainiac was seemingly killed at the start of Doomsday Wars.)
- When Robin (Tim) detached his cape fleeing from a mass of Arkham escapees it was found wrapped around skeletal remains and he was presumed dead. His death was reported to all the Bats, only for Tim to almost instantaneously arrive at Oracle's tower and let her and Blue Beetle know he'd survived. Unfortunately they were unable to tell Nightwing until after The Joker had gloated about killing two of his little brothers and Dick had beat him to death for it. Batman resuscitated him though.
- The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Steve Trevor has been turned into a media pony by the military after his return from what was thought to have been his death at sea. He's not very fond of all the attention, or the fact that he's basically grounded for the duration of the media circus he's being put through.
- In All You Need Is Love L isn't dead but the computer thinks he is.
- In The Miracle at Palaven, Patrus Castellus goes to Captain Ixius' family to inform them that, after 3 years of being MIA, she was officially being designated as KIA. To his immense surprise, he found her at home with her husband and children.
- In Lost and Found this goes double when a serial killer abducts John and shoots Roy. Roy survives, but John's captor tells John he died, and Roy and the others can only fear the worst for John.
- Everyone but Roy thinks John is dead in "A Season for Miracles''
- "Missing Family" has a similar thing where Roy's plane crashes and everyone but John are sure he's dead.
- Sojourn Into Silence has everyone thinking Roy died in a helicopter crash—until he's found alive 18 days later in a ravine.
- In Fairies of the Shattered Moon, General Ironwood nearly says this word-for-word when he shows up at the Atlesian Council after the Schnee Manor exploded, which killed Jacques, Willow, and Klein, and put him in critical condition, claiming that he used the event in question to briefly fake his own death to throw off the enemy. As it turns out though, he actually did die from his injuries, but Watts revived him with his Necromancy Curse and used him to launch a coup on the Council with the Ace Ops and Specialists to discredit the military. The moment his use is done, Watts cuts off his control and lets Ironwood drop like a sack of bricks dead.
- In Origin Story, when the Black Panther tells Alex that he thought she had died, she actually quotes the trope's title at him and cites Mark Twain. In response, he relates to her the truth that Twain never actually said it.
- In Sam & Mickey's videos, Barbie's mother, Margaret, has a tendency to announce that Barbie's Aunt Millicent passed away, only for Millicent to appear alive and well afterwards.
Aunt Millicent: I'm not dead, Margaret!
Margaret: You're dead to me!
- Walk On The Moon Rei was gone for two weeks when she performed the reverse summoning jutsu. Jounin who are gone for a few days are written off as dead, and Rei was only an academy student at the time. Considering how devastated her family was and the fact that her disappearance coincided with the Uchiha massacre, it is a very serious matter.
- In The Lion King, after going into self exile over thinking he was responsible for Mufasa's death, everyone in the Pride Lands thought Simba was dead. Even Scar assumed that, as the hyenas didn't tell him he got away from them. When he returned to take back the Pride Lands, everyone (barring Nala who had already found out he was alive) at first thought he was Mufasa's ghost.
- In Megamind, Metro Man goes so far as to fake his death before retiring to live alone. He makes a return for the finale in a spiritual sense, as it's actually Megamind using a hologram disguise, and quotes the trope name almost word-for-word:
Metro Man: My death was... greatly exaggerated.
- In An American Tail, this is what Fievel's family believes after he falls off the boat to America. With the exception of his sister, Tania, they don't even want to entertain the idea that he might be alive. Even worse, they keep missing each other due to random chances.
- In Aladdin, when the Cave of Wonders collapsed when Aladdin was inside it, Jafar was under the impression he was either dead or trapped forever. It wasn't until the final act that he learned that Prince Ali, who was being a thorn in his side, was Aladdin. Much to Jafar's delight, he also had the lamp, which he had believed was lost forever when the cave collapsed.
- In Avengers: Endgame, Scott Lang (a.k.a. Ant-Man) is falsely assumed to have been one of the many victims of Thanos's Snap. However, in reality he was in the Quantum Realm, and the only three people who knew he was there and knew how to get him out were actual victims of the Snap, and seen in the mid-credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp. He finally escapes from the Quantum Realm in Endgame, but five years have passed in the real world while only five hours passed from his perspective. This leads to an emotional scene where he reunited with his now-teenaged daughter Cassie, who assumed he had died. Later, he and the remaining Avengers exploit the Timey-Wimey Ball rules of the quantum realm to go back and time and steal Infinity Stones to create a new gauntlet to bring everyone back.
- In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne goes on a multi-year incognito journey to find himself, and when he gets back Alfred tells him he's been thought dead. It's mostly played as a throwaway joke, though, and is sorted out between scenes with no lasting complications. Alfred mentions that there have been moves to have him declared legally dead, and Bruce says it's a good thing he left everything to Alfred then.
- In Beat the Devil, Peterson and Dannreuther are pushing a broken-down car along a mountain road when it gets away from them and careens off a cliff into the sea. They are reported as dead, which surprises them when they return. Besides being funny, this is plot-relevant: Harry finds out about the uranium scheme when Rovello, believing his partner to be dead, approaches Harry and tries to get him to join.
- John Wayne's character in Big Jake hears everyone he meets tell him that they thought he had died. Eventually, Big Jake gets so annoyed, he promises to kill the next person to say it to him - who, of course, turns out to be the Big Bad...
- A Bridge Too Far. Urquhart's paratroopers are quite astonished when the General turns up alive, having been holded up in a Dutch house for several days. Unfortunately things have gotten even worse since he was away.
- In Cast Away, Chuck Noland is declared dead after being stranded on a deserted island for years. They even held a funeral for him.
Chuck Noland: "You had a coffin? What was in it?"
- Everybody in Escape from New York, when meeting Snake Plissken, will say something along the lines of "I thought you were dead!".
- Plissken mutters to the Girl in the coffee store, "I am dead.
- Exploited by the hero in Fury (1936). Joe is presumed dead but actually escaped the fire and explosion at the jail house which was brought on by an angry mob. He then stays in hiding to watch the townspeople get sentenced to death for his murder.
- In The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story, Shere Khan is shot and presumed dead early in the film. When he returns later, he reveals that he was merely Shot in the Ass.
- Word for word, this trope is the tagline for the Kingsman: The Secret Service sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, confirming that Harry Hart is somehow still alive.
- In My Favorite Wife, Ellen Arden returns after being shipwrecked on a Deserted Island for seven years. When she returns, her children (who do not recognize her) tell about how her their mother was drowned and mention that they put flowers on her grave every Easter. Her mother also tells her that her funeral was "Lovely—Dr. Blake preached a wonderful sermon."
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jack Sparrow relates the (Real Life) myth of how the body of Blackbeard swam three times around a navy vessel after it'd been decapitated. As he relates this story to Blackbeard, who's alive and intact, this trope presumably applies within the PotC Verse.
- 7th Heaven: Chico comes home from World War I just as his wife Diane is being told he was killed. As they embrace, he says that they said he was dead, but he'll never die.
- Played with in Star Trek: First Contact. "Reports of my assimilation are greatly exaggerated."
- In the Starship Troopers movie, Johnny Rico's friends bring him a copy of his own death certificate, while he's still in the hospital recovering from his wounds. They all have a big laugh over it, except for Rico's Love Interest, who doesn't know the report was incorrect.
- In Sullivan's Travels, famous director Sullivan is believed to have been run over by a train and killed. It was actually a bum wearing Sullivan's shoes. He's actually in jail, but no one knows he's not dead until he finds a way to escape and make his existence public.
- In Too Many Husbands, Bill Cardew was declared Legally Dead after a boating accident, but he was actually stuck on a Deserted Island for a year. Meanwhile, his wife marries his business partner and best friend, leading to some awkwardness when Bill returns.
- In Vanilla Sky, following the car crash, Tom Cruise's character at one point mildly jokes that "The rumors of my death have been mildly exaggerated."
- The Comedy of Terrors, having suffered from catalepsy all of his life, Trumbull and Gillie would frequently believe Lord Black to be dead, only for him to wake-up much later, usually telegraphed to the audience by his nose twitching and asking "what place is this?"
- Gallagher opened the morning newspaper and was dumbfounded to read in the obituary column that he had died. He quickly phoned his best friend, Finney. 'Did you see the paper?' asked Gallagher. 'They say I died!!' 'Yes, I saw it!' replied Finney. 'Where are ye callin' from?'
- In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom and Huck are mistakenly thought dead until they show up at their own funeral.
- Possibly as a Shout-Out to Mark Twain, one book in Animorphs sees a new alien race that according to Ax was killed off millennia ago. "Reports of their extinction may have been exaggerated" indeed, they're trying to kill us right now.
- In John Steakley's Armor, the protagonist is the only survivor of a military unit that gets wiped out. The confusion of circumstances results in parts of the computerized record-keeping system thinking he's also dead, while other parts are aware he's alive; this, to put it mildly, does not make his life any easier.
- Ben and Me: Ben accidentally convinces some locals that he's drowned when he runs off chasing a dog that had stolen his cap, leaving his clothes on the banks.
- Doc Daneeka from Catch-22 is listed as dead because he was on the flight roster for a bomber that flew into a mountain. The fact that he was standing there in person, telling them he wasn't dead, failed to convince the army bureaucracy.
- The Cat Who Lived High: While vacationing, Qwill's car is stolen and the driver turns up dead. The local law enforcement where the car is found, who don't know Qwill, assume the dead man is the owner of the car and issue an incorrect report. While most of Moose County is thrown into deep mourning, Arch goes to where Qwill is staying to get the cats and almost has a heart attack when he finds Qwill sitting there.
- Near the end of The Conformist, Marcello discovers that Lino, the man he shot as a child after he attempted to molest Marcello, is still alive, and that the obituary he read in the paper shortly after the event was erroneous.
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: Christopher's father told him his mother died. Then Christopher finds all the letters she's been writing to him since she left his father.
- In Enoch Arden, the title character returns after being shipwrecked for more than ten years to find his wife has married another man.
- Harry Bosch is surprised in Two Kinds of Truth when his appeal for help in the 15-year-old Esme Tavares missing person case results in Esme Tavares contacting him. It seems that Tavares, who was presumed dead by everyone after she disappeared from her home while her infant daughter slept in a crib, had simply skipped out on a bad marriage and changed her name.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, when Bilbo Baggins finally returns to his house, he finds a huge crowd gathered for his estate auction. Since he had left without telling anyone, and not returned for a year, everyone in the Shire had assumed he was dead. His heirs, the Sackville-Bagginses, were rather disappointed when he turned up.
- Honor Harrington:
- Honor herself says a variation on the line when she returns to Manticore in Ashes of Victory. In this case, not only has she been gone for the better part of two years, but the People's Republic of Haven actually faked footage of her execution and broadcast it throughout the galaxy. This causes a lot of complications, not least of which that her estate has been divided up according to her will. Honor is less bothered by this than by certain twenty-foot-tall memorials to her. Even the Peeps thought she had died in a failed attempt to escape. But no one was going to believe that, so they claimed to have formally executed her, to put a badass face on the debacle.note
- Roughly half a decade later, Honor's best friend Michelle Henke is seemingly killed at the Battle of Solon. Turns out she actually made it off the ship and was tucked safely away in a Havenite POW camp. When the two meet again, Michelle remarks that "now we're even for that jaunt to Cerberus you took."
- Nicoma Cosca in the Joe Abercrombie novels has this happen many times over the course of his life, and declares it "wishful thinking on the part of my enemies."
- The first third or so of The Martian is driven by astronaut turned reluctant Martian colonist Mark Watney's urgent need to contact Mission Control before reports of his death cease to be greatly exaggerated.
- Drizzt thought Jarlaxle dead since the end of Gauntlgrym, the first book of The Neverwinter Saga, but he is rescued by the drow mercenary in The Last Threshold. Drizzt even runs up to hug him, while he banters about his supposed death.
- In The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie, Saladin Chamcha has trouble with red tape and getting his career back in order after being presumed dead in the plane crash.
- In A Series of Unfortunate Events, we have Lemony Snicket.
This obituary is filled with errors. Most importantly, I AM NOT DEAD.
- This was used by Arthur Conan Doyle to implement Sherlock Holmes' infamous First Law of Resurrection example. Conveniently, in the story which was originally planned to kill Holmes off for real, Watson never actually saw Holmes die, but instead found supposedly incontrovertible evidence after the fact. So his lack of observational skills was used to explain away the originally-described-as-sheer rock face as actually being climbable by Holmes, with much of the other evidence of Holmes and Moriarty's fight at the waterfall having ended in a Mutual Kill being Holmes deliberately Faking the Dead to evade and track Moriarty's second in command.
- Star Wars Legends: Corran Horn has been reported dead and turned up alive again so often (3 times in the five X-Wing novels he features in alone) that it has been joked that when he really dies, nobody will believe it and will assume he's just in hiding and will turn up again sooner or later.
- The Stormlight Archive: In Words of Radiance, Shallan is witness to Jasnah being assassinated by the Ghostbloods, and the ship they're traveling on sinks (by Shallan, trying to escape from the Ghostbloods). Shallan carries this information back to Jasnah's family, unaware that Jasnah used her Elsecalling powers to escape into Shadesmar, and her Stormlight to recover from her wounds. It took her until Oathbringer to actually get back though.
- In Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno, the Vice-Warden arranges for a false report of his brother's death.
"Is the Warden supposed to be dead?"
"Well, it's supposed so: but, mind you, I don't believe it! The evidence is very weakmere hear-say. A wandering Jester, with a Dancing-Bear (they found their way into the Palace, one day) has been telling people he comes from Fairyland, and that the Warden died there. I wanted the Vice-Warden to question him, but, most unluckily, he and my Lady were always out walking when the Jester came round. Yes, the Warden's supposed to be dead!" And more tears trickled down the old man's cheeks.
- Teddy London: All Things Under the Moon'': Referenced. The day before the London Detective Agency goes to face a werewolf, they get into a discussion that involves quotes on death; Paul Morcey says he prefers Mark Twain's famous quote on death, and hopes to be around to say it in a few days.
- Temeraire: In Victory of Eagles, Laurence is thought dead by Temeraire after the ship he was imprisoned on is sunk by the French (a stray cannonball opened his cell, and he tried to help the crew before making it to the lifeboats with the survivors).
- Serge, the Tim Dorsey novels' usual protagonist, is on a quest to find out the truth about his grandfather, Sergio's, death after a fiasco with rare stolen diamonds. He believes his namesake is still alive, and is actually quite right. The "dead man" in question even explains that no one bothered to check how deep the water was, he was actually standing up to his chest and watching the chaos unfold on the docks.
- Unofficial History by Sir William Slim. During WW2, Brigadier Slim encounters some British troops under his command fleeing an attack by Italian bombers. They earnestly inform him they are the sole survivors after their unit was wiped out, one of them adding that the brigadier is dead as well. Slim assures them that he's very much alive, then orders them back to their unit (which is still intact, just demoralized having never been in combat before).
- Warhammer 40,000: A footnote in one of the Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! books reveals that Cain was listed as "killed in action" and then showed up alive (and typically saving the day) so many times that the Munitorum finally gave up trying to keep track and kept him on the payroll regardless — even long past his confirmed death ... and burial with full military honors.
- Often a component of the Back from the Dead storylines that are frequently seen on soap operas. Sometimes the person resurfacing is as much a shock to the viewer as it is to the characters, but ocasionally, the audience is fully aware that the person is alive:
- All My Children's Tad Martin was blown from a bridge. The viewer saw that he survived, but wandered off with amnesia while his loved ones mourned and didn't return until two years later, still with no memory of his past.
- Reporter/novelist Edmund Grey was believed killed when an adversary blew up his car. Grey walked into the middle of his own funeral service on his family grounds at the Wildwind estate to the shock of everyone present.
- One Life to Live's Todd Manning was shot multiple times and thrown over a cliff. The last viewers saw of him until the following year was him lying on a beach with his eyes slowly opening, while his wife was left to mourn.
- Examples where the character remained onscreen:
- As the World Turns's Jack was presumed dead in a car accident and woke up in a hospital with no memory of his past life. However, he didn't disappear—viewers actually saw scenes of him being nursed back to health interspersed with scenes of his wife and children mourning him that lasted for several months until the two ran into each other and he snapped out of it.
- A nearly identical situation when General Hospital's Luke was presumed dead in an avalanche.
- And when The Young and the Restless' Victor also supposedly died in a car accident, but was rescued by a blind woman who cared for him on her farm and even educated him about who he'd been before. In another instance, he was actually being held prisoner after a plane crash.
- Deliberate Soap Opera examples:
- The Young and the Restless' Victor again, who was so fed up with his bickering family that he allowed them to believe he was dead.
- General Hospital's Luke and Laura faked her death in an explosion in order to flee the evil Cassadines who had recently returned to town. And Damian Smith did the same thing to frame his ex-girlfriend for his supposed murder.
- Archie Bunker was misreported as dead by the Veterans Administration for one episode of All in the Family.
- Babylon 5:
- John Sheridan was thought to be dead. "I was. I got better." He spends a long time cleaning up the consequences of this.
- Earlier in the series, Sheridan exploits the fact that Mr. Morden is officially deceased to hold him prisoner without legal justification (Garibaldi calls him on it) and interrogate him about what happened to the expedition where Sheridan's wife disappeared.
- Blake's 7. Lampshaded at the end of "Rumors of Death", in which Avon discovers his Lost Lenore wasn't tortured to death as he believed, but was actually a Double Agent for the Secret Police.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Doppelgangland", in which meeting Vamp Willow causes Angel to report that Willow is dead. He then say hi to human Willow who is standing right behind him.
- In Coronation Street Jerry's father put his own obituary in the newspaper. He had a questionable past, and doing so was a way to make it easier for his granddaughter to join the police.
- Happens on more than one occasion in Doctor Who:
- The Series 2 two-part finale "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday" begins with a voiceover from Rose telling the viewer "this is the story of how I died." At the conclusion, it's revealed that she's actually alive and stuck in a parallel universe, but she's been declared legally dead in our universe.
- In the Series 5 finale "The Big Bang", the Doctor, Amy and Rory meet a mortally wounded version of the Doctor from 12 minutes into the future, and watch him die. Turns out he was only faking it to allow the trio to create a diversion for 12 minutes, allowing the future-Doctor to use those 12 minutes to wire up the Pandorica.
- Jonathan Doors is shot by a sniper in the pilot of Earth: Final Conflict, protecting the Taelon ambassador Da'an. Turns out, it was all a setup. The sniper was working for Doors and was shooting blanks, as was the doctor who confirmed his death. The goal was to set up La Résistance to figure out the real reason the Taelons came to Earth. A few episodes later, Doors publicly outs himself, using a similar line to this trope.
- In Engine Sentai Go-onger's 10 Years Grand Prix movie, Hiroto gets propelled to Junk World in an explosion (caused by BearRV crash-landing to earth) and then can't get back, due to the new Prime Minister Noizumi putting up an "isolation barrier" which prevents access to earth from other dimensions. Everyone else thinks Hiroto was killed in a suicide-bombing attempt to assassinate Noizumi, and when the other Go-ongers end up on Junk World and reunite with him, they initially think he's a ghost.
- Fries With That?: Ben Shaw files himself as dead to get out of being beaten up. His friends quickly take advantage of this by pointing out that they don't pay dead people.
- Game of Thrones.
- There's an episode of The Golden Girls in which Blanche's spurned boyfriend, an obituary editor, runs her obituary to get back at her. Blanche is more upset that he claimed she was 68 than being listed as dead.
- Happy!: After the Final Battle of Season 1, Nick's various injuries and a heart attack cause him to be rendered clinically dead for eight minutes before being resuscitated. This leads to rumors on the street that he actually died permanently.
- Highlander had an episode involving an Immortal who did a lot of charity work, who was shot in a mugging and died on Anne's operating table. As Anne broke the news to his followers, he came walking down the hall.
- In one Horrible Histories sketch, as per history, a distinctly premature obituary is Alfred Nobel's inspiration for establishing his eponymous prizes (as it revealed that otherwise he would be remembered solely as the 'Merchant of Death', i.e. the inventor of dynamite). "And I will call them... Prize-amite!"
- In iCarly, Spencer is thought to be dead in an episode due to a misleading newspaper article which never explains why they presumed that. It results in Spencer's artwork being worth a lot more money, which causes him to continue the illusion.
- Not quite a running gag, but it happens a few times on Kaamelott.
- In one of the pilot episodes, "Les Funérailles d'Ulfin", Arthur is attending the funeral of an elderly noble... only to have the "dead guy" waking up (just as the pyre is being lighted) and asking what's going on. When he makes an unfortunate comment, Arthur is very tempted to put him back in the grave.
- In Livre I, "La Mort le Roy Artu", Father Blaise endeavors to have tourists visiting Kaamelott to bring some money to the coffers. The visit of the castle ends up with... the tomb of King Arthur. Because it's solemn. Arthur is rather bothered by this; Blaise thus changes it to... visiting the tomb of Queen Guenièvre.
Lancelot: Perceval, what are you doing here?
Perceval: I'm taking the tour.
Arthur: What tour? You live here, you complete moron!
Perceval: Yeah, but they take you places I've never seen! Apparently we can visit your tomb, that's got to be worth looking at.
- Episode "Always" of Livre II is all about the characters reacting (and getting all philosophical) over the report of Perceval's death. Turns out he just has been very sick, and shows up at the end.
Arthur: But you're not dead, you bastard?!
- A bard once announces the funeral of King Loth. As it happens, you shouldn't listen to everything bards sing.
- Léodagan and Séli are once believed to be dead by their kingdom of Carmélide, And There Was Much Rejoicing. When Léodagan learns that it was caused by Yvain's latest poor choice of a moniker (he was going for "the Elephant of Cameliard", but got it mixed up with "Orphan"), he is not amused.
- Lancelot makes his reappearance in a rather sinister fashion:
Guenièvre: I thought you were dead?
Lancelot: Not yet, not quite.
- One episode of Lateline has Raji really upset as the news program goes to air. He then reveals that he had just heard Buddy Hackett had died. They agree to make a quick mention on the air. When the guests respond to the quick mention by discussing their memories of Hackett, they end up turning the episode into an hour long dedication. The next episode of the news program starts with the revelation that Hackett is still alive an apology for the mistake. (The episode of the sitcom aired in 1998, five years before Buddy Hackett died for real.)
- In the Mash episode "The Late Captain Pierce", the U.S. Army mistakenly declares Hawkeye dead.
- My Family: Ben Harper gets listed in the obituary by accident.
- One My Two Dads episode has a typo in an obituary causing everyone to think Joey was dead. He goes along with it for a while to sell art, because Dead Artists Are Better.
- Rome. Lucius Vorenus returns to Rome after eight years campaigning in Gaul to find that due to an error, his pay had ceased being sent to his wife Niobe, so she assumed he'd been killed in battle. Unfortunately she then had a child with another man, which she has to keep secret because Vorenus can legally kill both her and the child under Roman law.
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Death of the Doctor"... well, you can guess.
The Doctor: Have you been telling people I'm dead?
- Subverted in this Saturday Night Live segment from 2001 in which Lou Reed appeared on "Weekend Update" to confront rumors that he was dead. Reed confirmed that yes, he really was dead.
- In the 40th anniversary special, many jokes were made at the expense of Jon Lovitz that listed him as a beloved cast member that was no longer with us, only to cut to him, sitting in the Live Studio Audience, reacting as if this was news to him. Culminated with him being listed in the end of a montage of all the deceased cast and crew, with the slow motion of his WTH expression from earlier and somber music.
- Inverted with Generalissimo Fransisco Franco, who has been correctly reported as still dead... but Weekend Update still maintains reporters on the scene in the event that his condition changes. note
- Sleepy Hollow gives us a subversion with Brooks, who actually was dead, but was resurrected by the Big Bad to continue doing his dirty work:
Brooks: Reports of my death were... pretty much true.
- In Smallville, Earth-2 Lionel says the trope name almost word-for-word in season 10 but it is a bit of a subversion as it isn't the "old" Lionel.
- The eventually-oft-killed Daniel Jackson had this happen to him in an early episode of Stargate SG-1- they hold a eulogy for him and start going through his stuff before they realize they've just been tricked into thinking he's dead. And at the beginning of season 7, he reclaims a good many items which Jonas Quinn was using... "You weren't using them" was Jonas' (understandable) explanation. He differs from most of these examples in that most of the time he actually was dead. Later on, though, his teammates get wise about it, and O'Neill outright refuses to hold a memorial service one of the latter times he gets killed, noting that he'll probably be back any time now.
- The episode "Amok Time" from Star Trek: The Original Series has this when Kirk and Spock are forced to fight to the death in some kind of Vulcan mating ritual. Spock seemingly kills Kirk (which snaps him out of a mating frenzy, don't know what that says about their relationship) and returns to the Enterprise devastated and ready to resign from Starfleet. Cue Kirk coming up behind him and asking "Don't you think you had better check with me first?". Cue Spock grabbing him and spinning him around with the biggest, goofiest smile on his face. Turns out McCoy had injected Kirk with something during a time-out that he said was to help the human Kirk compensate for Vulcan's climate, but was really to make it look like Kirk had died so Spock would win.
- In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Duet", the Cardassian war criminal Gul Darhe'el gets apprehended by the crew. But when Gul Dukat informs them that the real Darhe'el has been dead for several years, Darhe'el tries to rebut this to Major Kira, saying "I am alive! I will always be alive!!!", before breaking down and admitting he's really Marritza, one of Darhe'el's former assistants, who's impersonating him in attempt to force Cardassia into owning up to the atrocities they inflicted upon the Bajorans.
- Supernatural: Dean's "demise was exaggerated" after a shapeshifter who assumed his form was killed.
- Occurs a couple of times in We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
- In the alternate timeline, a flashback implies Cyrus had the mind controlled Dialga kill DS, and she is reported dead to the other Trainers. Only when she arrives for the finale is revealed that Dialga resisted Cyrus's command long enough to imprison DS along with the other Legendaries instead.
- Later, when DS and the Lake Trio finally find Palkia, who is the only one who can help them escape from the other dimension, they discover that Palkia has been petrified, presumably having been that way since the arc began.
- Escape from Monkey Island:
- The game starts with Elaine discovering that because she spent so much time out of the government of her islands, she was declared dead and had to get re-elected.
Elaine Marley: I'm going down to city hall to see about getting declared un-dead.
Guybrush Threepwood: Won't that make you a flesh-eating zombie?
- In the same game:
Meathook: Guybrush! I'd heard you were killed by a giant clam!
Guybrush: Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Meathook: Not to mention celebrated.
- The game starts with Elaine discovering that because she spent so much time out of the government of her islands, she was declared dead and had to get re-elected.
- In Mass Effect 2, Shepard actually was dead for two years, which leads to trouble when they return to the Citadel and is picked up by the security scanners as being dead. Fortunately, a friendly C-Sec officer changes the records without making Shepard jump through all the hoops they would normally have to go through. It is mentioned that folks fake their own death fairly often as a tax dodge — possibly a Shout-Out to a gag in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy where Hotblack Dessiato is apparently spending a year dead for tax reasons. You can also have them keep you out of the system, so to security you don't exist. Several characters will, naturally enough, comment on this when you meet them again. Wrex (assuming he survived the first game) gets a good one:
Wrex: What brings you here? How's the Normandy?
Shepard: Destroyed in a Collector surprise attack. I ended up spaced.
Wrex: Well, you look good. Ah, the benefits of a redundant nervous system!
Shepard: Yeah, Humans don't have that.
Wrex: Oh. It must have been painful, then.
- In the first chapter of Disgaea 2 Dark Hero Axel is reported as dead (Adell and Rozalin just knocked him out), and he spends several chapters trying to convince people he's not. His own mother goes into mourning and then chews him out when he calls to reassure her, because she thinks he's an unusually cruel prankster; even after he MCs the Coliseum battle to jumpstart his career, the newscast "lose" the footage and claims that he's an escaped asylum inmate who thinks he's Axel. Much later his producer is revealed to have been behind it all to cover up his embezzlement.
Isabel: "James Cutter, Captain of the Spirit of Fire. You're supposed to be lost with all hands."James Cutter: "Not so lost, it seems."
- Doctor Halsey quotes this trope in Halo: Reach. The casualty reports had listed her as K.I.A., or so Noble Team thought.
- Near the beginning of the level "Uprising" in Halo 2, the Arbiter runs into some friendly Elite forces. He's greeted with "The Arbiter! I thought he was dead!"
- A variation of this happens in Halo Wars 2 when Isabel first meets Captain James Cutter aboard the Spirit of Fire. note
- In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, Spyro goes through a portal and ends up in a faraway land where dragons were thought to be extinct. He replies with "Rumors of our extinction were greatly exaggerated."
- The Fallout: New Vegas add-on, Lonesome Road adds a perk, "Thought You Died", which is basically this.
- In the main game, you can meet up with the people that were responsible for you getting shot in the head. Most of them react in shock that you're alive.
- In the backstory, this has happened to Joshua Graham five times. 1st Recon, NCR's elite sniper squad has reported five confirmed kills on him, only for him to show up alive each time. This has led to him becoming The Dreaded and when you meet him in the Honest Hearts DLC, Graham is indeed inhumanly durable and difficult to kill.
- Albert Wesker and later, Jill Valentine both fall under this trope; Wesker in Resident Evil Code: Veronica and Jill in Resident Evil 5.
- In the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy, Irene Lew is thought to have been killed in the opening of the third game. She shows up later on and she is not very happy with her former boss trying to kill her.
Irene: Did you think that I would die that easily?
- In Spec Ops: The Line, Col. John Konrad gives an interesting inversion of this trope. As it turns out, the real Col. Konrad had taken up residence in one of Dubai's towers, and eventually, out of depression over the failure of the evacuation of Dubai's people, committed suicide. The Konrad who has been speaking to Cpt. Martin Walker was just a figment of his imagination, and the moment Walker finds Konrad's corpse, the imaginary Konrad walks up to the body and gives it a genuinely amused look, before stating with a smirk:
"Konrad": It seems that reports of my... survival... have been greatly exaggerated."
- Team Fortress 2: Whenever Scout is revived in a Mann vs. Machine map using the Re-Animator, he has this to say:
Scout: Reports of my death were BULLCRAP!!
- In "Zombies, Run!", Runner 3, Simon Lauchlan uses this phrase exactly when Runner 5 leads Runner 4, Jody Marsh, to the believed dead runner to avoid capture by the ministry.
- In the Nod campaign of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, Kane is believed dead before resurfacing a few mission later. As he himself lampshades, his enemies have a bad habit of reporting his death prematurely.
Kane: Once again, the world is quick to bury me.
- Heroes of the Storm:
Despite wild speculation, Falstad has never been dead and anyone who claims such is a liar.
- Falstad Wildhammer gets to name-drop the trope for one of his Stop Poking Me! quotes as a reference to an incident where Blizzard fudged their own lore for World of Warcraft, making this an unusual meta example. There's also this gem from his bio:
Medivh: Reports of my death were greatly exaggerated. I mean, yes, I died, but people love to embellish.
- Medivh has a Stop Poking Me! line that differs a bit:
- Overwatch employs this trope for no less than five of its playable Heroes:
- Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes were last seen caught in an explosion that destroyed Overwatch headquarters, resulting in the two being declared dead. They survive to this day as Soldier: 76 and Reaper, respectively.
- Tracer was thought to be gone after the prototype fighter jet she was flying had its teleportation capabilities malfunction and cause the craft and her to vanish, until Winston saved her with technology that prevents her from jumping about the space-time continuum.
- Hanzo was forced by his organized crime clan to kill his younger brother Genji, and Genji was thought to be dead as a result. In reality, Overwatch saved his life, giving him a new cyborg body. The revelation that Genji is alive leaves some rather deep-seated issues within Hanzo, who had been paying respects to the presumed-dead Genji every year until Genji in his new body showed up.
- Ana was counter-sniped in the eye by Widowmaker during a crucial rescue mission and was presumed to be killed. Declaring this her greatest failure due to the personal circumstances of her mistake, she decided it would be better if the world thought she died, keeping her survival and recovery a secret.
- In the same comic, Ana is surprised to see Widowmaker at all, as she had been presumed dead after her disappearance following her (Widowmaker's) husband's death. Ana quickly deduces that Widowmaker must have killed her husband and disappeared, before being interrupted by the aforementioned shot.
- Subverted in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Link and Zelda have been presumed dead... for about a hundred years. Link was, very nearly, killed in battle, and spent that century in a healing sleep that kept him from aging; Zelda spent it trapped in the Malice of Calamity Ganon. Consequently, assuming the Hylian Champion survived his killing doesn't stop people from thinking he's dead.
- At the end of the first season of The Walking Dead, Lee watched as Kenny is surrounded by a group of walkers and is presumed to have perished. In the next season, Clementine is surprised to meet him again as she was told about his fate.
- Invoked in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and its sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of War: because they were created as soldiers by Sauron, orcs are actually very hard to kill unless straight-up decapitated. As a result, it's a game mechanic that orcs who have been promoted to Nemeses can heal up from presumed-fatal blows you dealt them in your last encounter and return to fight you again. In Shadow of War, your own Branded Orcs can likewise potentially shrug off killing blows and return to service.
- The trope arguably also applies to the main character, who is dead, but keeps getting back up to seek revenge anyway.
- BattleTech: You're shown the apparent death of Lady Kamea Arano during a Military Coup at the end of the Justified Tutorial. However, she narrates the Framing Device. Turns out the footage you saw of her DropShip being shot down on launch was faked by the coup plotters: she got offworld fine and spent the next three years dodging assassins.
- In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the overworld narration informs the player that Dimitri is dead on two story routes. In one, he shows up as an enemy commander and survives that, until he's actually Killed Offscreen. For real this time. On Azure Moon, the Player Character is reunited with him almost immediately and doesn't have time to dwell on it, though he's undergone Sanity Slippage in the meantime. Also in Azure Moon, Dedue can suffer Big Guy Fatality Syndrome if you didn't successfully complete a sidequest earlier in the game. If you did, he's this trope.
- Girl Genius:
- Madam Oglavia Spudna has this response to a horrified captured librarian who has just realized who the well-known Torture Technician is as she was thought to be dead.
- When Maxim challenges Old Man Death to a fight for his hat the old man mentions that some of the cavalry that they once rode with was through a few years ago and had said Maxim was dead. Maxim was reported dead since he was "detached" and didn't align himself with Wulfenbach like the rest of the Jägers.
- In The Order of the Stick, after Roy defeats Xykon in the Redmountains, he thought he finally fulfilled his mission, unaware that Redcloak had a Soul Jar that would enable Xykon to regenerate his body. It wasn't until the Azure City saga where Roy learned from his father that Xykon was still alive.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Emil and Lalli try to escape a giant via a frozen body of water, but the fact that it can't hold Emil results in Lalli killing the giant via a burst of magic that shatters both the giant and the ice. They manage to escape on an ice floe and get ashore somewhere far away from the rest of the crew. When Sigrun backtracks the next morning looking for them, all she finds is the giant's exploded corpse right next to the part of the body of water that got its ice blown to bits by the magic burst. She comes to the conclusion anyone would, and tells the rest of crew upon returning.
- In All Hail King Julien, several characters assumed to have been eaten by fossa have turned up in the kingdom, including Julien's own parents. Presumably death by fossa is so common, anyone who suddenly vanishes is assumed to have been eaten.
- This was Aang's status for half of the third season of Avatar: The Last Airbender following the second season finale, where Azula killed Aang only for Katara to bring him back. While Sokka was excited to have such a stealthy advantage, Aang was initially upset that the world thought their only hope to end the war was gone forever, but eventually decided it was best that the world not know the Avatar was alive for now. Unfortunately, Azula, being the Magnificent Bitch she is, had a feeling that Aang was alive and not only had a plan to defend against the Gaang's invasion, but also make them waste their stealthy advantage.
- In the revival of Beavis And Butthead, Beavis is convinced that Daria Morgendorffer committed suicide. Butthead corrects him that she just moved away.
- Dilbert had all of his benefits cut at work after spending a short period of time dead.
- On Family Guy this happened three times. The first time with Peter, who got out of a hospital bill by writing that he was dead. The rest of the episode involved him making a deal with the Grim Reaper. The second time was when they got Quagmire out of a marriage with a psycho woman. Since her last name was also Quagmire by marriage, and she grabbed the Grim Reaper's hand (killing herself in the process), it all worked out nicely.
- The third time also involved the Grim Reaper, but he was just there, he didn't harvest. Peter, Cleveland, Joe and Quagmire all get stranded on a deserted island for quite some time, and are declared dead. Peter has to save his marriage since Brian married Lois during that time.
- In Futurama, Cubert was able to take over Planet Express because the Professor had been declared dead as a tax dodge.
Farnsworth: Tax dodge nothing! You take one nap in a ditch in the park and they start declaring you this and that!
- In Gravity Falls, for half the second season, Dipper was under the assumption that Agents Powers and Trigger were eaten by the zombie hoard in "Scary-Oke". In "Not What He Seems", he learns otherwise.
- In one episode of Hey Arnold!, Dino Spumoni faked his death, counting on it boosting his popularity. Then he realized he couldn't get paid if he was dead.
- In the 90s Iron Man cartoon, Tony fakes Iron Man's death (this was back when he still had a secret identity in the comics) after he goes off the rails in "Armor Wars". When he gets back in the saddle, he drops the line, attributing it to Mark Twain. "Iron Man lives."
- Occurs almost verbatim early in the second season of Jackie Chan Adventures, upon discovering that Shendu has returned (as a ghost) and in possession of the Dark Hand's boss, Valmont:
Shendu: Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated, Chan.
- Korgoth of Barbaria: The dark wizard Specules is annoyed when he finds a bunch of thieves in his castle looting the place on the assumption that he was dead. Turns out, he was just taking a cruise holiday.
- Mickey's April Fools has Mickey Mouse pretending to die in front of Mortimer as an April Fools prank. Mickey then gets a letter declaring he's inherited a million dollars, but he can't get it because he's supposed to be dead.
- In the first episode of Ruby Gloom, a rumor gets around that Ruby is dying. By the end, everyone thinks she's dead and is mourning her, while she tries to correct them. All Played for Laughs.
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has this as the reason why Entrapta pulls a (downplayed) FaceHeel Turn. During a rescue mission to save some of the other Rebellion members from the Horde, the rest of the group see her get trapped in an incinerator that turns on just seconds later. However, Entrapta managed to use a Robot Buddy to shield herself from the flames, before proceeding to hide within the vents of the enemy base for the next two days awaiting rescue. She's found by two of the villains, Catra and another person, who deduce from her story that she was purposefully left behind due to being seen as a nuisance. This plus the Horde's willingness to support her more dangerous research leads to her joining, while her former friends are completely convinced she's dead.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer Simpson did it to escape a day of work. It eventually led to him discovering his long-lost mother, whose own death had been greatly exaggerated decades previously by Homer's father. She then fakes her death AGAIN at the end of the episode.
- Lisa was also presumed dead at one point, owing the fact that she was supposed to be camping an ancient redwood when it got hit by lightning (which, as it turns out, was caused by the bucket she had in the tree). She refused to come clean because her "death" was inspiring the people, but finally did when it was twisted by the rich Texan guy (whose name is actually Rich Texan) into publicity for his new amusement park.
- And Bart also once had Milhouse help him fake his death on some cliff.
- In 'Simpsons Tall Tales' episode where Bart and Nelson take the roles of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the two boys can be seen lying on a rafter grinning down at the townspeople who are attending the boys' funeral. Subverted that it turns out that they really are dead; their bodies, which ended up with those looks on them, are lowered to their caskets.
- Lampshaded in the soap "Reach for the Sun" that Marge and Lisa are watching:
Marguarita: Father McGrath! I thought you were dead!
Father McGrath: I was!
- During "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", Marge and Lisa work on an egg painting kit endorsed by Vincent Price. After discovering they're missing a set of decorative feet that's supposed to come with the kit, Marge calls the company and is shocked when Price himself answers even though he'd died several years before the episode aired. Price declares "You should know the grave could never claim me" before giving Marge instructions on how to get the feet. He then caps off by saying "I must now return to the sweet embrace of the crypt." Lisa's not sure if Price is supposed to be alive or dead by that point. Things get even more complicated when he appears at the end of the episode, driving a bus.
- An episode of South Park featured a guy being frozen for almost three years. He comes back to his wife who says that she assumed he was dead and married someone else and now had two kids, aged 8 and 13. After awhile, the guy says, "8 and 13!?"
- In one episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man, after the titular hero was seemingly crushed to death in a battle with Shocker, Marko and O'hirn take advantage of it by robbing a store. When Spidey shows up to foil them, he tries to quote the trope name but fails and just tells them to tell Shocker he wants a rematch.
- Spider-Man Unlimited: the Green Goblin quotes this almost word for word when he shows up in the final episode to assist Spidey and the other heroes against the High Evolutionary and his forces.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003):
- After "The Shredder Strikes Back Part 2", the Foot believed that the Turtles and their allies were killed in the fire at April's antique store. This was due to Baxter Stockman faking proof in order to steal an Utrom exoskeleton from Shredder. The Turtles would take advantage of this by launching their own sneak attack in "Return to New York".
- This has happened to the Shredder multiple times. First, the Turtles thought he was killed by the collapsing water tower at the end of "The Shredder Strikes Part 2". Then, when Leonardo seemingly decapitated him in "Return to New York Part 3". Finally, he appeared to have been killed by the destruction of TCRI in "Secret Origins Part 3", only to show up alive at the end of the "City At War" arc.
- Shockwave paraphrases this trope in his first appearance in the third season of Transformers: Prime.
"Reports of my demise were greatly...premature."
- The Trope Namer is Samuel "Mark Twain" Clemens, who gave the trope title as a statement in response to hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal. The Journal had mistakenly reported the illness of his cousin James Ross Clemens (who wasn't actually dead, either) as Twain's own death. The original quote was:
James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, [...] is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness; the report of my death was an exaggeration.
- During the 1864 Siege of Petersburg in the The American Civil War, Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin, famous for leading a heroic stand at Gettysburg, was severely wounded when a bullet passed through both hips and tore through his groin. Doctors predicted his wound was fatal, and he was "posthumously" promoted to Brigadier General. Newspapers in his home state of Maine ran obituaries about his supposed death. The doctor's diagnosis turned out to be accurate, but the predicted timing was not. Chamberlin did die from his wound, but not for another 50 years, in 1914. He was the last recorded civil war veteran to die from battle wounds.
- Rudyard Kipling was also once declared dead by a magazine, to which he wrote a letter saying "I've just read that I am dead. Don't forget to delete me from your list of subscribers."
- Happens sporadically to non-notable individuals; usually, this results from poor communication between a family and the funeral home (i.e., a family member incorrectly reporting that someone had died, when in fact that person is still alive although death is likely imminent). On these rare occasions, the funeral home will submit for publication to local newspapers an obituary that had been pre-written.
- Every major news outfit will have pre-written (or, for broadcast media, pre-edited) obituary notices ready to go for notable figures, particularly those considered at high risk of non-natural death and those old enough that natural death could happen any day now. As can be seen from several of the following examples, it's an unfortunately short step from "ready to go" to "gone out the door without proper verification, better call the Legal department". In addition, Obit packages for very notable figures can sometimes be put up for sale (Pope John Paul II's obituary was released on DVD, for example). The logistics of getting product to the shops in a timely fashion pretty much ensures that copies of it are floating around, open to misinterpretation, before the subject has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
- On August 27, 2008, Bloomberg accidentally published a 17 page obituary regarding Steve Jobs' death. In a subsequent public appearance Jobs joked about the accident by displaying on screen, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Jobs actually died about three years later.
- A newspaper mistakenly published an obituary for Alfred Nobel, instead of his deceased brother. Nobel was shocked to see a newspaper crowing that "the merchant of death is dead" due to his invention of dynamite and gun propellants, and was inspired to start the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for something else. It worked.
- Britney Spears went through this at least twice:
- Her Myspace page was once hacked (or so they claim) with a fake death announcement.
- In 2001, Spears was the victim of a prank news report on radio station KEGL in Fort Worth, Texas, where the disc jockeys claimed that the then 19-year-old pop princess was killed in a car accident, and that her then-boyfriend, Justin Timberlake was also either killed or that his death was expected shortly. Outrage quickly followed, major news media quickly debunked the report and the disc jockeys responsible for the report were fired.
- Prior to his real death in 2008, Doctor Who regular Kevin Stoney (who played Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn, and Tyrum) was reported dead in 1985 according to Dreamwatch. However, he appeared at a convention in 1987 to prove he was still alive, which shocked many fans.
- In India, it's popular to bribe an official to declare a relative dead so that you can inherit his property. It has all the advantages of murder without the unpleasant messiness. Lal Bihari had this happen to him and it took him years to literally get his life back. He was awarded an Ignobel Prize for his foundation of the Association of Dead People. One tactic of Association members is to get arrested at protests, leaving the authorities to explain how dead people can be arrested.
- On June 25th, 2009, Jeff Goldblum was reported dead of a fall on a movie set in New Zealand. On June 30th, 2009, Jeff Goldblum went on The Colbert Report (on which he had made several recent appearances) to deny the reports of his death. He then subsequently caved to the evidence, (news program clips reporting his death) confirmed his own death, and gave his own "eulogy."
- In the aftermath of the demonstration on 17th November 1989 that launched the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, a rumor has spread that a student named Martin míd was killed during the event. This turned to be a misinformation; a student of that name was at the demonstration, but left before the police attack began. He was interviewed on television, presumably to dispel the rumor...and the transmission started at just the wrong moment when he was saying, referring to the events of the day: "Death touched me." (In case this figure of speech doesn't translate well to English, he meant: "I was horrified.")
- Some accidental premature publishing on cnn.com revealed that CNN at least has outlines and some graphics prepared for obituaries of famous people who have yet to die, like Dick Cheney and Queen Elizabeth, in anticipation of eventually having to get one up on short notice. Notably, the Cheney one was clearly not ready, as it called him "England's favorite grandmother" - a line from Elizabeth's premature obit.
- In 1964, news bulletins widely broadcast a report that Nikita Khrushchev had died of "hecaphylphocatirosisus". Apparently, this went out when someone did not notice the notation "Can you confirm this?"
- For a complete list of premature obituaries, check out The Other Wiki.
- Although he was never officially declared to be dead, a very popular meme in the late 1960s suggested that Paul McCartney had died in a car accident around the mid 1960s and was replaced by a lookalike, which really took off in the underground media. The fact that the 'evidence' for this theory largely seemed to stem from a number of obscure and oblique 'references' on Beatles album covers and in song lyrics suggested that large quantities of drugs being ingested probably had something to do with it, but the rumours bedeviled McCartney for years no matter how many times he denied them, including a variation on the Mark Twain 'quote' above: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. If I were dead I'd be the last to know."
"I wasn't really dead." (Paul to Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live)
- A few years ago, there were a number of rumors that actress Natasha Lyonne was at death's door, due to various drug addictions. According to IMDb and the entire run of Orange Is the New Black (in which she is a part of the main ensemble), she's still alive.
- A popular rumor in the 70's and 80's was that Jerry Mathers (of Leave It to Beaver fame) had been killed in Vietnam. Not only is he quite alive and still acting, he never even served in Vietnam.
- At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, a rumour suddenly swept through William The Conqueror's army that Duke William had been killed. The Duke heard of this and took his helmet off so that his army could recognise his red hair. He proceeded to win the battle (in which his opponent King Harold really was killed) and complete the Norman Conquest.
- When Queen Victoria was in her final years, it was frequently reported that she had died and implied that they were just pretending she was still alive to keep her son off the throne.
- In 2008, an internet troll began circulating reports that voice actor Jerry Jewell had died in a car accident. Jewell remarks on it in the DVD commentary for Baccano! episode 9, which was being dubbed around that time: "Yes, I died in a car accident. But I had to record. That's what I'm willing to go through to get the job done." Ironic considering the anime in question, and the fact that such things happen to the characters in it regularly.
- LulzSec once placed a false story on The Sun's website claiming that Rupert Murdoch had died from a drug overdose. It was quickly removed, but still managed to be reprinted by The Times and a number of other news sites.
- Steve Burns from Blue's Clues was surprised to hear he had died and been replaced with a lookalike (his character actually left the show to go to college and his brother Joe took over). No matter how many times he said he was still alive, some people still believed he was dead.
- In describing the assessments of his medical condition once given to him by various doctors, composer Frederic Chopin commented "I have been sick as a dog during these past two weeks. Three doctors have visited me. The first said I was going to die; the second said I was breathing my last; and the third said I was already dead."
- Abe Vigoda, known for his acting roles in The Godfather and Barney Miller, was wrongly reported as dead in 1982 by People magazine. Vigoda found this amusing, and had a photo published in Variety of himself sitting up in a coffin reading the mistaken issue of People. In 1987, it happened again after a reporter from Secaucus, New Jersey, mistakenly called him "the late Abe Vigoda", which once again prompted much amusement and what spawned the Running Gag about Vigoda's "dead or alive" status. Today, abevigoda.com provides real-time updates on the status of Abe Vigoda (current status: Abe Vigoda is dead as of 26th January, 2016.) When he died, many news reports had to state that this wasn't a hoax.
- IMDb once mistakenly reported that Mara Wilson (of Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire fame) was dead. Her joking response was that they were half right.
- Tom Kenny discussed on Marc Maron's podcast how he was once reported dead, and how he thinks that something like that is more likely to happen to someone like him, who's relatively well known but not super well known like someone like George Clooney, so it takes longer to debunk. Same thing happened to Rodger Bumpass, although he himself has claimed this to be untrue. The Author Existence Failure of Eberhard Prueter, Squidward's German voice, might cause some confusion for a while.
- Jaroslav Haek, author of The Good Soldier vejk, summed up various accounts depicting his alleged death during his World War I captivity in Russia (and short stint as a Bolshevik commissar):
"After I returned to my home country I learnt I had been hanged three times, two times shot, and once even drawn and quartered by wild Kirgiz insurgents, near the Kale-Ishela lake. Finally, I was stabbed during a brawl by drunken sailors in an Odessa pub. The last account I deemed the most likely."
- Bob Hope was twice a victim of death rumors - once in 1998, when he was still in good health, and again in 2003, just three months prior to his actual passing with a pre-written obituary of the entertainer accidentally published on a news web site. In the 1998 case, where his "death" was actually published on the Associated Press' web site, Hope's death was announced in the U.S. House of Representatives, broadcast live on C-SPAN (with camera shots of visibly upset legislators being shown). The 2003 obituary was published on CNN's website.
- Country music pioneer Ray Price was also a victim of the premature obituary, as many national news outlets (from Rolling Stone to the USA Today) had reported the singer's purported passing on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, from cancer - only for Price's wife, Janie, to reveal that although he was near death, he was still alive. See this link for more details. Incidentally, Price did die - approximately a day after the premature obituaries were announced online, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies ever in country music.
- In 1976, ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus appeared on German television to counter a rumour that he and his bandmates had died in a plane crash in what was then West Berlin. Needless to say, ABBA were never actually involved in a plane crash (though they did have a near miss in 1979) and all four are currently still alive.
- In some versions of this rumour, Anni-Frid Lyngstad (AKA Frida) was said to have survived, but with such severe injuries that her singing career was effectively over.
- On March 16, 2014, US Magazine reported that Wayne Knight had been killed in an auto accident. Upon hearing this, Wayne tweeted "Some of you will be glad to hear this, others strangely disappointed, but...I am alive and well!", later adding "Does someone have to DIE to trend? Geez!"
- In 2010 Tawnee Stone, a web softcore porn personality from the mid-1990s, was reported to have died in a car accident; but it was the character Tawnee Stone, not the actress who had done the scenes (and who hadn't made any new material in a long time). The producer spread the rumor to revive interest.
- In the Christmas charity livestreams for the Yogscast in 2013, Simon Lane put a photo of fellow member Alex "Parv" Parvis (also the guitarist for the band Area 11) onscreen, claimed he'd died and said that the photo was a mini-memorial. It very promptly became a meme in the form of "RIP PARV", in no small part thanks to people who believed it was true, and he came back from a gig with the band that very evening to find out he was "dead". Even after he cleared the situation up, there were people who still didn't believe he was still alive nearly seven months later.
- Similarly, Simon Lane was a victim of this himself, after some people tried to pretend he had died in order to scam money, under pretences that it would go towards a revival of Shadow of Israphel. Subsequently, his and Lewis Brindley's joint channel turned off comments for around two months, since this was the last straw (other comments had been self-promotion of small channels, spamming for reports of SOI, Moral Guardians complaining unnecessarily and so on).
- In 2009 actress Nancy Allen was reported to have died of cancer, she later came out and told the public this was untrue.
- For the longest time, the English voice of Mewtwo in Pokémon: The First Movie (credited as "Philip Bartlett") was believed to have died in 2001. However, in 2014, the actor himself came out to put an end to all the confusion, revealing that he was still alive and that his real name was Jay Goede.
- Judi Dench was the object of a cruel Internet hoax in October 2015. Stories were circulated on the Internet falsely stating she had died. Most credible news reporters checked and refrained from publishing, but the story still circulated virally. Ms Dench herself has since put out an official statement to the effect that she is still, here and hopes to be present in the world for some time yet.
- Robert Anton Wilson. Who in the very early Internet days of 1994 was perplexed when people began phoning and writing to his "widow" to express condolences over her sad loss. Wilson had no idea how the rumour started, but when writing about the metaphysics of being "dead" whilst still being alive, said he really appreciated some of the nicer obituaries that were being printed. Apparently an Internet bulletin board had put it out as a joke to see who was taken in.
- In The '90s, four major Australian broadcasting stations announced the death of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Within an hour they realised it would have been better to have confirmed the story, as they were told in no uncertain terms the 93-year old Queen Mum was still alive. it turns out an Australian working for Sky News in London had walked in on a test screening of the QM's obituary, got the wrong end of the stick entirely, and rang home to Brisbane with the scoop. The local radio station put it out, and... quite a few Australians no longer work in broadcast news.
- Sometime in 2008, Miley Cyrus' website was hacked with a message saying that she was killed by a drunk driver. Presumably, she wasn't impressed. (As of 2017, she's still alive and still doing music.)
- One of the more famous examples of this trope was the rumor that John Gilchrist, who played the kid from the famous Life Cereal commercial, died from overexposure from carbon monoxide after eating Pop Rocks with Coke. The rumor was debunked and Gilchrist is still with us as of 2012, working as a director of media sales for MSG Network.
- In a similar case, Sven Ruygrok appeared in an infamous commercial for Frosties cereal in the UK, leading to a cyberbullying campaign against him and many rumors on the internet that he had committed suicide because of the bullying. Ruygrok has publicly spoken to confirm he is still alive and give his side of the story.
- "I was never killed by Holmes or anyone else." Businesswoman Kate Durkee on learning that she was being counted among H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle victims, 1896.
- Durkee was one of four people to come up against claims that Holmes had killed them, by the way.
- In the midst of a celebrity death epidemic in January 2016 that claimed David Bowie and Alan Rickman among others, someone made a deeply ridiculous article stating that The Muppets' Animal (a fictional character) had died. While the Muppet team has yet to respond to this, Snopes was quick to debunk the rumor.
- See also the fake obituary for the Pillsbury Doughboy, which was more of an excuse to write a Hurricane of Puns.
- This trope happened to Jackie Chan sometime in 2013, but it didn't take long for it to be confirmed as a hoax.
- When Sir George Martin, the longtime producer of The Beatles, died in March 2016, people confused him with George R. R. Martin, who dispelled rumors of his own death on his LiveJournal account.
- When college basketball star Lauren Hill died from cancer in April 2015, a lot of people thought that The Fugees frontwoman Lauryn Hill had passed away. She didnt.
- A clickbait article titled "These celebrities died without anyone knowing" was highlighted with a picture of Jennifer Coolidge. When someone pointed this out to her on Twitter, she responded "Yes, I am dead, and it's great!"
- The main article page for a while depicted actor Chandler Riggs responding via Twitter to a similar scenario, where a photo of him was captioned with a link to "actors who died quietly this year." His response: "I wish LOL".
- Played for Laughs with the final Let's Play Minecraft with Ray Narvaez Jr. as part of Achievement Hunter as the team keeps treating Ray's last day as if he's going to die and Ray responding that he's not dying. The fandom tends to play along with this joke.
- In a truly tragic and bizarre turn, when popular fan fiction writer "becuzitswrong" (whose collective stories have over half a million subscribers on fanfiction.net) started suffering serious delays in updating because of chronic health problems, a rumor made the rounds that the writer had died. Eventually, he posted an update to several fan fiction archives saying that, no, he was still alive and would be returning to regular updates soon. He even went so far as to quote the line "reports of my death were greatly exaggerated" and said that "things have finally calmed down and I am starting to write again. It is a wonderful feeling." Unfortunately, he died for real less than a week after this announcement was posted.
- Following the 2011 Japanese earthquake, rumours of Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri dying as a result spread on the internet. These were proven false within days.
- The Daily Telegraph mistakenly reported the death of folk violinist Dave Swarbrick of the band Fairport Convention in 1999, saying that he had died at home in Coventry. Swarbrick later said "It isn't the first time I've died in Coventry." Swarbrick died for real in 2016.
- During Julia Louis-Dreyfus' acceptance speech at the 2016 Emmy Awards, she paid tribute to her father Gérard, who'd passed away two days earlier. However, many Twitter users started mistakenly paying tribute to Richard Dreyfuss, which somewhat amused him.
- deadoraliveinfo.com is a good site to disprove this trope - new names have only been added infrequently since about 2008, and as of 2017 there's very few people in the database born after 1958.note Not to mention that it still lists certain dead people, such as Ruby Mohammed, Joan Fontaine, Maureen O'Hara, Stan Freberg, and the previously-mentioned Ray Price as still being alive. That said, the siterunners will still update someone's life status to accommodate their death (and occasionally the cause) if they really need to. Nowadays the Celebrity Death Beeper is your best bet.
- Ugandan anti-death penalty activist Edward Edmary Mpagi spent 18 years in death row for the murder of a businessman named George William Wandyaka. In reality, Wandyaka had been injured during a home robbery, but survived. However, the civil war in Uganda cut communications between Masaka (where the attack took place) and the capital Kampala (where Mpagi was arrested), preventing the correction of the error.
- After the Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill, was released, rumours started to circulate that Mike D had died from a drug overdose. In response, "Shake Your Rump" from Paul's Boutique included the following lyrics:
Well, I'm Mike D, and I'm back from the dead
Chillin' at the beach, down at Club Med
- Mambo musician Pérez Prado (born as Dámaso Pérez Prado) was mistakenly reported dead by newspapers in 1983. In reality, it was his brother Pantaleón Pérez Prado (also a musician, and who also had gone by just Pérez Prado years before) who had passed away.
- Said word for word by Olivia Newton-John, battling cancer but denying rumors that her time is drawing near.
- Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was mistakenly reported dead during an illness in 175 AD; hearing the news, the troops of Syrian-Roman General Avidius Cassius acclaimed him as new emperor in the Middle East, only to murder him three months later when they learned that Marcus Aurelius was very much alive and preparing military action against them. Some suggest Marcus Aurelius's wife, Faustina the Younger, deliberately misled Avidius Cassius as part of a convoluted way to secure the succession of her teenage son, Commodus, and that Marcus Aurelius was aware of this and it was the reason why he ordered Avidius Cassius's correspondence to be destroyed.
- Model and pin-up legend Bettie Page disappeared at the height of her popularity in The '60s and was widely believed to have died. Considering her rather wild and self-destructive lifestyle, this was not an unreasonable assumption. In The '90s, an investigation into her fate was launched, only to uncover that she was in fact still alive and living in Los Angeles, poor and completely unaware of her iconic status. A horde of fans and admirers (Hugh Hefner not least among them) worked to ensure that she received royalties for reproductions of her work, allowing her to live in relative comfort until her death in 2008. She never returned to the public eye, however, preferring to let her fans remember her as the sex symbol she had been.
- During the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 three workers were sent into the tunnel beneath the reactor to open a set of sluice gates and drain water tanks that were in danger of exploding and worsening the damage. Given the amount of radiation they would be exposed to it was considered a Suicide Mission and initial reports suggested that all three of them had died of Accute Radiation Sickness afterwards. Whether this was part of the official attempts to cover up the extent of the disaster or simply a result of bureaucratic miscommunication is unknown, but the story that they had died persisted for many years. Eventually it was discovered that all three men had actually survived their trip beneath the reactor. As of 2019 two of them, Alexei Ananenko and Valeri Bezpalov, are still alive while the third, Boris Baranov, died of a heart attack in 2005.
- In 1855, a human body found under a bridge in Milwaukee was identified positively by ten witnesses as belonging to a gentleman called John Dwire. During the inquest, Mr Dwire, who had been living 16 miles away at Kemper's Pier, declared on oath, "Lest anyone here should still think I'm dead, I have come in person to assure him that I am not the corpse found in the river last Saturday morning". The true identity of the corpse was never discovered.
- In 1989, during the making of the Nine Inch Nails music video for "Down In It", a weather balloon holding up a camera being used for filming ended up floating away and the crewmembers were unable to recover it. The balloon traveled 200 miles, where it landed in a field in Michigan and found by a farmer. After the camera was handed over to the police, they saw footage of what they believed to be the decayed corpse of an unknown man surrounded by two men in what they thought was a gang killing. The footage was then sent to the FBI, where after a year of investigation the truth was discovered: the 'decayed corpse' was actually NIN frontman Trent Reznor covered in cornstarch to appear dead and decayed for the purpose of the music video, and the other two men were then-members Chris Vrenna and Richard Patrick. Reznor, who as of 2020 is still alive, found the whole ordeal amusing.