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Surreal Symbolic Heads

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A recurring motif in Surreal Horror, Surreal Humour, and, really, surreality in general, is an apparently human being whose head is something else entirely. In some cases, it's simply been replaced with the head of some species of animal; in others, it's actually an inanimate object walking about on a human body; in still others, it's neither a human with a strange head nor an object piloting a human body, but rather some other entity that looks mostly human. Whatever the reason, the result is often referred to as an "object head".

In any case, the effect ranges from unusual to sinister; they appear mainly in dreams, visions, hallucinations, and if they appear physically it's a good sign that Reality Is Out to Lunch. As a result, they are frequently subjects of the Rule of Symbolism.

Compare Malevolent Masked Men, which plays on much of the same imagery in a way compatible with a more mundane setting or situation. Compare and contrast Anthropomorphic Personification and Physical God - many take the form of a person with the head of something else, but unless they are used for surreality and metaphor they are not this trope; instead, they are Non-Human Head, its supertrope. Not to be unnecessarily confused with TV Head Robot.



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  • Subverted in this Pepsi Max advert. Towards the end, the boss sees one of the office workers with a horse's head and assumes that he's hallucinating. But that's just what the workers want him to think; the horse's head is fake and the workers are looking for an excuse to goof off.


  • Several pieces by renowned surrealist painter Salvador Dali show people who have things other than human heads. These include "Printemps Necrophilique", "Three Women With Heads of Flowers Finding the Skin of a Grand Piano on the Beach", "Female Figure With Head of Flowers", and "Woman With a Head of Roses".
  • "The Pleasure Principle" by René Magritte is a portrait of a business man with a glowing ball of light in place of his head.


  • Doom Patrol
    • Several of Dorothy Spinner's imaginary friends and enemies take this form. Damn All has a newspaper with multiple eyes and a broad smile, his 'wife' Darling-Come-Home's face is a portrait of a light bulb, and their ghost baby Flying Robert has the head of a balloon.
    • Many agents of the Cult of the Unwritten Book have similar appearances. The Weeping Blades are flayed, beheaded corpses with blades for heads. The assassin group Fear the Sky all have celestial objects as heads.
  • Marvel Comics have a group of villains called The Headmen who have interchangeable heads and odd bodies. They're mostly joke characters but are every bit as surreal.
  • Prez:
    • In the original series, Prez Rickard, teen president of the United States, had a few run-ins with Boss Smiley, the physical embodiment of political corruption, whose head was a bald sphere with Black Bead Eyes, a tiny nose, a broad smiling mouth — basically, a flesh-toned version of the classic yellow smiley face emblem.
    • Boss Smiley makes another appearance as his slimy eerie self in The Sandman.
    • In the 21st-century reboot, the character is given a disturbing twist where — due to corporations achieving full personhood under the law — all CEOs have become de facto mascots, disguising their true faces behind holographic "masks" and being referred to by their company names; Smiley, befitting his origins, has established himself as the most powerful simply because, by getting everything to the consumer as quickly and cheaply as possible, he sells the most valuable commodity of all: time.




  • Part of the mythos in The Stormlight Archive revolves around visions of strange creatures who are humanoid in shape, but have strange symbols for heads. It is revealed in Words of Radiance that these are the Cryptics, essentially the idea of lying given sentience. Despite being creepy, they aren't evil, just strange.
  • In the First Book of MARZENA, while in Dr. Sam's Virtual Dream World, Kristen gets attacked by a plumber wielding a circular saw and who has a Model House instead of a head. The monster appears to be linked to some tragedy that happened in Dr. Sam's house.

     Live Action TV  


  • The cover of Minor Threat's Bottled Violence single depicts a man with the top of a beer bottle for a head, who is clad in a leather jacket and Sex Pistols shirt, and is also holding a beer in one hand and making a raised fist with the other. It Makes Sense In Context because the title song is an Ode to Sobriety dealing with those who get drunk as an excuse to pick fights.
  • The video for Surfing on a Rocket by Air has several of the people riding the rocket being this, including people with smoke-spewing chimneys for heads, a man with a shark's head, a person who's head is a TV with tentacles coming out of it, and a man with a nuclear explosion for a head.
    • Another music video by Air, How Does It Make You Feel, has a woman being assembled piece by piece. She appears to be put together normally for most of the video, but at the end she is given a fish head.
  • The video for 'Cause I'm a Man by Tame Impala features an invisible man in a suit. Throughout the video, various objects appear in place of his head.
  • The PV for the Vocaloid song Echo features a schoolgirl with multiple limbs and a TV for a head as symbolism.
  • The persona of the music producer Faythexx is a man with a TV for a head named Alfa Y. Thexx.

     Tabletop Games  

  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Supplement Curse of the Chthonians, adventure "Thoth's Dagger". One of the Investigators who touches the title magic item will fall under its curse. He sees visions of ancient Egypt that include a guard with the head of a baboon and a priest with the head of an ibis.
    • Supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Sands of Time". While the Investigators are trapped in an underground area they have a vision of two men with the heads of crocodiles.
  • Chaosium's supplement All the Worlds' Monsters. The wind witch monster has a human body but the head of a crocodile.
  • In Lamentations of the Flame Princess one possible consequence of resurrecting a character with the Electric Grave spell is that the resurrectee's head is replaced by "some cosmically appropriate object". Some of the art in the sourcebook the spell comes from features a character whose head has been replaced by a large ornate clock.

     Video Games  

  • The infamous Pyramid Head from Silent Hill 2 has the body of a man with, well, a large pyramid for a head. Looking closely reveals that it really is his head and not just headgear, as the underside shows flesh reaching all the way to the "helmet's" edges.
  • All the characters in Mondo Medicals have televisions for faces - with a blank screen, simple faces, or a gnashing mouth. Mondo Agency uses the same idea, only now the screens are four-sided and spin!
  • In Hotline Miami, the protagonist is visited by three strangers in animal masks, in dreamlike settings. (It was produced by cactus, who also made the aforementioned Mondo games.)
  • In Yume Nikki, the Medamaude effect allows Madotsuki to dream that her head has taken the form of a large hand with an eye in the palm. ('Blinking' allows her to return to the hub of her Dream World.)
    • Another effect replaces her head with a functioning street lamp (useful for illuminating dark areas, naturally).
    • There are also the Toriningen, the 'enemies' of the game, who resemble tall girls with eerily silly bird-like heads.
    • In the fan sequel Yume 2kki, Urotsuki can dream her head into a telephone, a box of tissues, or a bomb in the shape of an eyeball.
  • One of the first-person areas in Batman: Arkham Asylum contains a mannequin of the Joker, with a television head that plays a message. Actually, it's the Joker himself.
  • In Turgor, the brother called Whaler has his head replaced with a kind of ornate metal spire. (The head itself is strapped onto his back...)
  • Tele-evangelists in Civilization: Call to Power are shown as a business suit topped by a television.
  • The Evil Within:
    • The Keeper has a safe wrapped in barbed wire for a head. Not only that, it can regenerate itself from other safes scattered throughout the game.
    • The DLC missions The Assignment and The Consequence have Shade/Spotlight, a monster that's just a lumpy torso mounted on a pair of human legs with a searchlight for a head.
  • DARQ features a number of bizarre creatures of this kind, unsurprisingly considering its nightmare setting. These include gun-toting humanoids with lampshades for heads, who periodically turn the lightbulbs inside them on and off and shoot you if you step into the pool of light they cast, and a wheelchair-bound creature with what appears to be a tuba for a head which propels itself around backwards by the sheer force of its off-key notes.


  • The syringe-headed Dr. Phleboto Mizer in Awful Hospital.
  • RGB from The Property of Hate has a TV displaying a dripping test bar for a head. The test bar curves to represent the line of his mouth, and each color represents an emotion, although it's uncertain what color represents what; the more a color drips, the more prominent the emotion is. His antennae also quirk and shift as he emotes. He can also change the color and pattern of his clothes at will, as well as activate a stealth mode.
  • Human characters with various objects for heads is a recurring setup in The Perry Bible Fellowship. Here's one example.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper has an example in a flashback, narrated by Ana. her parents' heads are replaced by a megaphone and a stapler respectively, and her ex-husband's face is permanently covered by a paper bag. He's referred to as "Paper Bag" as well.
  • Flint the Box Head Boy from The Dreamwalker Chronicles who can open up his box head to pull out flashlights and other useful items, when he eventually loses the box his true face is identical to Kyle's revealing that he is the spirit of Kyle's dead twin. Interestingly, the Box Head Boy in its entirety was the borrowed disguise as the character continues to exist separately and creeps out the human characters when eating bad dreams.

     Web Original  

     Real Life 

  • One morning in August 2019, a neighborhood in suburban Virginia woke to find that at least 50 houses in the area had had old CRT televisions mysteriously deposited on their porches overnight. A check of doorbell-cams showed a man wearing a TV for a head calmly walking up to each house, setting down a TV, and then walking away again.


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