Follow TV Tropes


The Bluebeard

Go To

"For there upon the floor was blood,
and on the walls were wives,
For Bluebeard first had married them,
then cut their throats with knives."
Jack Torrance, The Shining by Stephen King

The Spear Counterpart of the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is a man who appears charming but hides a nefarious secret: he keeps marrying women and then murdering them.

Unlike the Black Widow, the Bluebeard is rarely motivated by greed, though in Real Life, historically that was a fairly common motivation. Often, he just does it for kicks or as the epitome of Domestic Abuse. If he has a pattern of cheating on his current wife with the woman who will become his next wife, it's Remarried to the Mistress.

Named after the famous fairy tale. Not to be confused with the character from Felidae. Nor with Captain Colorbeard; Bluebeards usually aren't pirates.

A subtrope of Til Murder Do Us Part, Serial Killer and Murder in the Family.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Mohiro Kitoh's anthology Hallucinations from the Womb, the villain in one of the short stories is a man who clones his wife once for every year she has lived, killing the clones and preserving them in tanks of alcohol.
  • Conwellians have this as their hat in Level E, as their Bizarre Alien Reproduction entails devouring their females and digesting them in order to fertilise their eggs. Even if they genuinely loved their mate. They destroyed their planet over a battle between a faction who were dedicated to genetically altering their species to remove this trait and a faction who thought that this was an intolerable heresy.
  • A Lupin III episode dealt with this: a rich man married 99 women, murdered them, and encased their bodies in wax so he could preserve them. He planned to add Fujiko to his collection, but Lupin and the gang put a stop to that.
  • Zanoba from Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation ripped off his wife's head because she looked like a doll.
  • In Shinigami Hime No Saikon, Lord Kashburn's father was one of these. Originally, he lured noblewomen with the promise of wealth, then murdered them; when the money ran out, he moved onto the servants and farmers' daughters. In the end, Kashburn killed him.

    Comic Books 
  • He-She, a one-shot Crimebuster villain, married a landlady and swindled her out of her money, all the while keeping their right, female half obscured. Once she found out, He-She killed her and stuffed her in a wall. Crimebuster even calls them a Bluebeard once he finds the body.
  • Bluebeard appears in the comic book Fables, although his wife-killing days are supposedly behind him. Of course, given how wise the characters have become over the centuries, this might be as much because no one is willing to marry him as because he's genuinely reformed.
  • In the Grimm Fairy Tales version, the wife who opens the room finds what she feared: His previous wives' bodies, lots of blood, and all that. On his return, he flies into a rage, and she manages to stab him. Only then does she learn the truth. The room was enchanted, and had shown her what she feared to see. He was only looking for a wife who could trust him.
  • The Haunt of Fear (one of the original 1950s comics on which Tales from the Crypt is based) had a one-off story about a woman who discovers her new husband is Bluebeard's great-great-grandson and has indeed killed off all his previous wives. Predictably, he kills her as well so she can't tell anyone.
  • Before joining the Runaways, Klara was married to an older man who had convinced her mother that he was a devout, God-fearing man, but who turned out to be a lazy drunkard who abused Klara in every way imaginable.
  • Emily Carroll's "A Lady's Hands are Cold," in the collection Through the Woods, draws on this legend. After an Arranged Marriage, Wife #2 finds pieces of Wife #1 hidden all over the house, then reassembles her. Wife #1 is not as grateful as one might expect.
  • The Indian comic series Tinkle Digest had a Bowdlerized version of the tale: two sisters seek work at Bluebeard's castle because their older sibling Elsa worked there for a month and vanished. Bluebeard hires them as maids, and each cleaning girl lasts no longer than a month. They're hoping to find evidence while their older brother gets an army to arrest Bluebeard on charges of kidnapping. Instead of being murdered, all the girls who open the hidden room are turned into statues. As a result, they're all restored to life when the older brother kills Bluebeard, and Elsa's family happily reunites with her

    Comic Strips 

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Bluebeard from the 1697 fairy tale kept murdering his wives, reasoning that they had fallen to their curiosity by opening the door he had strictly forbidden for them to open. Traditionally, the room behind the forbidden door contains the bodies of his previous wives. Earlier versions use this as a moral for women not to disobey their husbands or get too curious. In a few versions, the story itself gets inverted to serve this message: specifically, the wife successfully resists the temptation to look, and this somehow grants her power over her husband to make him do whatever she says when he returns from his trip and finds himself deprived of his excuse to kill her.
  • Interestingly, it is inverted in Eastern European tales. In "The Death of Koschei the Deathless", "The Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples"... the male main character opens a locked cellar which his wife to had told to NOT look into, and frees a monster.
  • Fitcher's Bird is another variation — the main difference is that the bride rescues herself.
  • Mr. Fox is another version of this story, where the woman discovers the dead women and witnesses the mutilation of one of them. She presents the evidence to Fox, who flees, but then is either torn apart by villagers and their dogs or arrested, convicted in a court of law, and executed. Unusually for the trope, the title character is explicitly indicated to be at least partially motivated by greed, as he takes a special interest in one victim's diamond ring.
  • There is an Italian version called "Il Naso D'argento" ("The Silver Nose"). The "stranger" has a silver nose, and he is actually the Devil. The Forbidden Room is Hell, where he threw the first two disobedient wives. The wife's little sister, however, manages to save them. The "silver nose" was typically a prosthetic nose used by men who suffered from severe syphilis, which could cause one's nose to rot off. Thus, it would have been an early warning that the stranger was not very trustworthy.
  • Asbjřrnsen and Moe's "The Old Dame and her Hen" is a variant. The youngest daughter falls into the troll's lair, and as exploring the place, she finds her sisters' corpses hidden in a cellar. She runs into the troll straight afterwards, and he asks if she will be his "sweetheart". The girl realizes her sisters were murdered because they turned him down, so she pretends to accept as figures out a way to escape.
  • The bride in the Child Ballad The Outlandish Knight manages to save her life. "Six pretty maidens have you drowned here/And the seventh has drowned thee."
  • A variation of this tale appears in many versions of "The Robber Bridegroom" by The Brothers Grimm and others. In this story, the murderer is a member of a gang of cannibalistic bandits. After he invites the potential fiancée to his house, she gets some help from the bandits' servant, an old woman who hides her behind a cask. The would-be bride then witnesses another woman being murdered and devoured, and later, the old woman helps her escape on the condition that she brings her along (presumably because the bride knows the way and the old woman doesn't). The bride brings along a ring from the victim of the murder she witnessed, and on the day of the wedding, exposes her fiancé with the evidence. The story ends with the Bridegroom and the other bandits executed.
  • There is a version that completely subverts the story with a Perspective Flip. Bluebeard strictly forbids his wife from entering a particular room, but when she does, she finds that the room is perfectly normal and empty. It turns out that Bluebeard simply uses the room as a private place to rest when he doesn't want to be disturbed. He's understandably pissed when he finds out that his wife entered the room when he asked her not to, and ends up divorcing her and kicking her out of the house for her lack of trust.

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged heavily implies that Dr. Briefs kills his wife and replaces her with a clone whenever she shows the first sign of aging.
  • The seventh Halloween Unspectacular featured a parody of the trope namer, with Moe as the titular character and Tambry as his latest victim. It's implied that he also sells the corpses to the army as food, though the soldiers who end up killing him are ordered not to think about it too hard.

    Film — Animation 
  • Corpse Bride: Emily's fiancé Lord Barkis tricked her into getting ready to run away with him, then killed her before their wedding and took her money and family jewelry. She became known in the underworld as the "Corpse Bride", waiting for her true love she could marry. The villain wants to do the same with one more girl (Victor's betrothed Victoria Everglot), and perhaps there were more unfortunate ladies. Towards the end of the movie, after Emily lets go of Victor so he can return to Victoria's side, she sees Barkis and recognizes him as her killer; soon he properly dies, and Emily's undead friends happily and viciously attack him.
  • Frozen: This almost happened. Prince Hans had been planning to marry the newly-crowned Queen Elsa, then kill her and taking her throne for himself. He changes his target to her younger and naïve sister Anna, opting to dispose of both women once he's secured.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter has a book titled Bluebeard on the shelf by his computer, perhaps as a hint to Peter falling in love with and eventually (accidentally) killing Gwen.
  • Invoked in Batman Forever. Dick Grayson asks what's behind a door (it contains the hidden entrance to the Batcave), and Alfred replies, "Master Wayne's dead wives."
  • After taking Tommy's shares of the store, Mr. Grover in The Big Store intends on marrying the fabulously wealthy Martha, who also owns shares of his business, so that he becomes the sole beneficiary of her fortune after he kills her.
  • The 1934 movie The Black Cat. This time, Bela Lugosi plays an ex-prisoner of war whose wife and daughter were married, then murdered by his evil rival (played by Boris Karloff). Karloff's character was a Satanist who preserved his murdered wives and displayed them in his creepy house.
  • There is Catherine Breillat's film version of the legend.
  • The bad Richard Burton film Bluebeard (1972) ups the ante by making Bluebeard a No Swastikas Nazi Nobleman, and, for additional Squick, throwing in a dash of I Love the Dead.
  • Legendary screen cad George Sanders essays a modern-day (as in circa 1960) version of the role in Bluebeards Ten Honeymoons.
  • A variant occurs in the 1942 grade-Z horror movie The Corpse Vanishes, starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi's character is running a scheme where high-society brides are being put into a near-death state in the midst of their weddings, then abducted, having their blood drawn to provide the raw material for a formula which is intended to keep Lugosi's wife in a state of eternal youth, and then killed. The Intrepid Reporter who investigates the case finds the bodies of several of the victims in morgue drawers when she goes poking through the villain's lair.
  • In The Crime Doctor's Courage, Gordon Carson is suspected of being a Bluebeard after his first two wives died under mysterious circumstances during their honeymoons. However, no evidence is found to prove these were murders, and ultimately it turns out that the deaths were just unfortunate accidents.
  • In Crimson Peak, Sir Thomas Sharpe has been married three times already and none of his wives lasted that long, and although he was fully complicit it was his sister Lucille who actually poisoned them. Unlike most Bluebeard stories, Thomas actually falls for his latest wife..
  • In Ex Machina, Nathan is a pioneer in designing and building lifelike A.I that can pass the Turing test and fool real humans. He uses this technology to build robotic women that he uses for his own pleasure before eventually torturing and destroying them. He even has a secret closet with wrecked prototypes in it.
  • In the original House on Haunted Hill (1959), eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) is currently on his fourth wife. The first one disappeared, and the second two died of heart attacks, despite being in their 20s. At the end of the film, he frightens his fourth wife to death, but only because she was plotting to kill him for his money. It's implied that her predecessors may have been similarly interested in becoming rich young widows.
  • Played fairly straight in the early-'60s French film Landru, based upon the story of Henri Landru (see the Real Life entry below).
  • The title character of the Charlie Chaplin film Monsieur Verdoux.
  • Harry Powell from The Night of the Hunter. The film's main plot is him chasing after the children of his latest victim. And after he's caught, he's called as such.
  • It is revealed in The Princess Bride that Prince Humperdinck wants to use his fiancee Buttercup as a pretext to go to war with the neighboring kingdom of Guilder. When his original plan falls through, he decides to simply murder her himself and frame Guilder for it.
  • Fritz Lang's Secret Beyond the Door... (1948), starring Michael Redgrave and Joan Bennett, combines the Bluebeard motif with a hefty helping of Hollywood Psych.
  • Spoofed in the old Italian comedy Le Sei Mogli di Barbablu, starring the great Toto (Antonio De Curtis). Bluebeard's previous wives in this one, including a young Sophia Loren in one of her first roles, haven't actually been killed, but are being held in suspended animation, and are revived by Toto.
  • Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt is one, although his motivation has more to do with being a misogynistic Serial Killer than it does with greed.
  • The villain in Souls for Sale marries women, takes out insurance policies on them, and kills them.
  • The title character of the horror movie The Stepfather marries women with children, only to slaughter them when they fall short of his expectations. He has ridiculously high standards, and so he goes through families fairly quickly.
  • Implied to be the case with Blue in Sucker Punch.

  • On a singles cruise, a woman meets a handsome older man. She talks to him, and they're hitting it off when the man mentions he's a widower.
    Woman: Oh, you are?
    Man: Yes, I've had three wives, and they all died.
    Woman: Oh, what happened?
    Man: Well, the first one... she ate poisoned mushrooms.
    Woman: Really?
    Man: Yes, and the second one... really tragic, she also ate poisoned mushrooms.
    Woman: My goodness! What about the third one?
    Man: Well, she was strangled to death.
    Woman: Strangled! What happened?
    Man: She wouldn't eat the mushrooms.

  • The Sultan in the framing device of the Arabian Nights stories is an extreme version, except that he makes no secret about it and has his wives executed. He kills off all his wives after one night to prevent them from becoming unfaithful. The stories are told by his latest wife, Scheherezade, who uses a series of Cliffhangers to keep him interested enough to delay her execution. By the time she runs out of stories, it's been years and she has birthed the Sultan several children, and he realizes he is madly in love with her.
  • Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber has a "Bluebeard" retelling.
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay's sonnet "Bluebeard".
  • There's a short story called "Captain Murderer", in which the titular character keeps marrying women and, a month after the wedding, asks them to make him a pie... and when they're done making the pastry, he kills them and uses their flesh as the pie filling. He gets done in when a girl whose sister was killed by him catches on to the plot, marries him, and, just before he kills her, poisons herself. He eats her and dies from the poison.
  • In Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess, the stepfather murdered his stepdaughter after her mother had left her all the money; it turned out he had murdered the mother as well, and a fair number of earlier brides.
  • According to Dave Barry Slept Here, Henry VIII "could barely get through a day without beheading a wife," sometimes during the wedding ceremony itself.
  • Lord Laphroig of Terry Brooks' A Princess of Landover. Like Henry VIII, it was in order to produce a male heir. (And then he killed the heir and his mother when he found a better match in the daughter of the king.)
  • The Reynard Cycle: Gaspard, the reputably insane Count of Lorn has married, and suspiciously lost, three wives. This trope is one possible explanation for this. (The other is that the wives are being assassinated by the Count's younger brother, who wishes to inherit the family title.)
  • The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) is a retelling of a Bluebeard-type story. Rhea, a miller's daughter, is claimed by a local lord and sent to live at his house, where he sets her deceptive tasks with a fearful penalty for failing them. In this version, he is a sorcerer, and what he did to his previous six wives wasn't anything as simple as murder.
    • Vernon wrote another variation on the story, "Bluebeard's Wife." In this one, Althea, the newest wife, is relieved to get away from her overbearing family and doesn't want to do anything to jeopardize her new situation. She interprets Bluebeard's order to avoid the room as being similar to her own desire for solitude and associates it with her own father's study (where he kept his Porn Stash). She puts the key Bluebeard gives her Out of Sight, Out of Mind and lives out a quiet and largely platonic marriage with him. On his deathbed, he begs her to burn down the house when he dies, but it's her home, so she doesn't - and that's when everything finally comes out.
  • In The Shining, Danny recalls Bluebeard as he opens the door to a certain hotel room.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire gives us many reasons to ask questions before marriage:
    • Not that King Maegor "the Cruel" Targaryen allowed his six brides many questions back in the day. Of those six, however, "only" three wound up dying, one possibly not by his hand. However, the spirit of the trope was very much alive and well.
    • The trope is downplayed by House Bolton, which goes through wives (and other... sources of entertainment) at a very alarming rate. Ramsay has killed only one and severely domestically abused the other — although it's pretty plain he'd probably increase the number of horribly dead wives, given the chance. He's hardly secretive about it, either. However, his father has gone through two wives under mysterious circumstances, as well. House Bolton has, from time to time, had this reputation for centuries. Increasingly while reading, you suspect it's not been without cause. And, probably, played rather straighter for some than others.
    • Gregor Clegane doesn't have any known offspring, legitimate or otherwise. That's because his wives (and other partners) tend to die before they have a chance to either conceive or give birth thanks to horrific Domestic Abuse and his general For the Evulz tendencies. It is known that he's been married a few times (certainly twice). The problem is, none of his wives ever gets given a name. Nor is anybody, even in-universe, quite sure how many times he has actually been married — this is on top of rumours of other disappearances (male and female) around his holdings while he's there. Even his brother doesn't know exactly what Gregor has been up to relationships-wise: not that Sandor would have bothered to keep track, anyway. He knows what his brother is like, generally... all too well.
    • Cregan Karstark has, like Gregor and Roose above, had two wives for (presumably) political reasons. Both are also rather suspiciously dead without any children having had the chance to occur. He was planning on a third wife (his cousin)... except she made a break for it and put a spanner in that plan of his and his father's. Even describing this trope as one of her major reasons why she's wild about the idea of Taking A Third Option, as she quite honestly assumes that she'd also wind up "accidentally" dying. With the caveat on it being most likely contingent on her having produced at least one male heir for Karhold to solidify his hold on her claim to the title and place.
  • Ul Vas in Swords of Mars is the evil ruler of Ombra who changes consorts very frequently. He has his men scour their world in search of the most beautiful women to be his newest wife and, once he finds one, he disposes of the previous one to make room for her replacement. His current wife Ozara begs John Carter to help escape her fate, especially after her husband picked a new bride.
  • In Which Witch?, the ghost haunting Arriman's home murdered a ridiculously long line of wives and spends his death hitting his head in grief. This is Played for Laughs when he is brought back to life and does absolutely nothing but prattle on about his wives and how he killed them for the pettiest of reasons (having a small yappy dog, smelling bad, eating too much, etc). The protagonists eventually are rid of him by hooking him up with Madame Olympia, who was infamous for murdering her husbands. After the two run off, there's speculation as to which will off the other first.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer's episode "Ted", Ted is an android who kills his spouses — and is Buffy's mother's newest boyfriend. Perhaps he just stuck them in the closet and left them, since his goal was to bring his creator's wife back.
  • In one episode of The Closer they encounter a man who is in the habit of marrying Japanese women and killing them. When he's discovered he's already killed two wives (plus his four-year-old daughter from the second marriage) and has a new girlfriend, who claims he saved her and her son from her abusive husband back in Japan.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "Black Widow", the eponymous Black Widow finds herself married to a Bluebeard, and a battle of wits ensues.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Chameleon", the FBI pursues a Con Man with an M.O. of romancing wealthy widows, then murdering them, and disappearing with their wealth in cash.
  • Game of Thrones: Ramsay has a penchant for killing lovers who bore him, as Myranda is pleased to explain and enumerate for Sansa.
  • An episode of Grimm was based on this story, although he wasn't killing them but keeping them for breeding.
  • Michael Dobson, committer of Domestic Abuse, played by Larry Miller on Law & Order, had his wives killed by hitmen on two separate occasions for the insurance money.
  • Played for laughs with the character Dr. Mickhead from the series Scrubs. He's suspected of murdering his wife, and it's an Open Secret amongst the Sacred Heart staff, and several scenes have him attempting to hide evidence (including giving a hammer to JD's then-girlfriend for safekeeping) before getting carted off in handcuffs.
  • Sherlock Holmes: In "The Eligible Bachelor"note , the titular Lord Robert St. Simon is a sadistic cad who courts and marries wealthy women and then disposes of them once he has their fortune.
  • Naturally, shows up on Tales from the Crypt, with the expected comeuppance: his now-dead wives lure him to their graveyard, declaring they can't live... or die... without him.
  • In the British Thriller series, the episode "A Coffin for the Bride" revolves around a man who marries older, unattractive, but wealthy, women and kills them after the honeymoon. After falling in love with a young woman, played by Helen Mirren, he wants to go straight, but can't resist a new target, a haggard loudmouth with an annoying laugh. This time, however, his wife seems suspicious early on and mysteriously disappears before he can go through with killing her. The man ends up arrested for her murder, ironically for a crime he didn't commit. In jail, he seems to suspect that the younger girl killed the final wife and, when she visits him in prison, tries to get her to confess. The truth is a bit more complicated: She was the sister of one of the man's previous victims and wanted him brought to justice. When he points out the truth will come out when his wife's body is found, she laughs a very familiar laugh, revealing that the final wife wasn't a real person, but her in disguise all along. And, yes, Mirren plays both "characters."
  • One of the killers whose statue is displayed in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The New Exhibit."

  • The traditional ballad "False Sir John" is about one wife-killer.
  • Lady Ga Ga's boyfriend in the video for "Paparazzi" is implied to be one.
  • Joanna Newsom's "Go Long" is a version of "Bluebeard".
  • The seventh track of Sound Horizon's album Märchen, "Aoki Hakushaku no Shiro" (meaning "the blue earl's castle"), deals with this story.
  • They Might Be Giants: "Mrs. Bluebeard" is sung from the perspective of one of a wife-murderer's departed brides.
  • New Order's "1963" is sung from the perspective of a woman who was killed by her husband who "came home with another wife."

  • A limerick by Ogden Nash:
    An elderly bride of Port Jervis
    Was quite understandably nervous
    Since her apple-cheeked groom
    With three wives in the tomb
    Kept insuring her during the service!

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica: The faerie lord Marsyne marries human women, treats them with every respect, and entombs them in ice if they ever break the convoluted rules of his Court (including the classic "Never enter this room. Here is the key."). Worse, with his Blue-and-Orange Morality, he's genuinely fond of them all, including the ones who win their freedom somehow.
  • Bluebeard's Bride is this trope: The Game, told from the perspective of the bride as she discovers the truth.
  • The folkloric Bluebeard rules one of the realms in the Ravenloft campaign setting.
    • There is also the nosferatu darklord of Valachan, who frequently marries young beautiful women; however, no matter his original intentions, his tailor-made curse invariably makes him more and more mistrustful of his current bride each day, until he snaps and kills them in a paranoid rage. None of his brides survived to see their first anniversary so far.
    • Strahd von Zarovich gets portrayed like this in the Curse of Strahd setting, though instead of outright killing them he turns women into fellow Vampires and then locks them in their crypts when he gets bored with them.

  • Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle is a Freudian re-examination of the story. His castle is his subconscious, and Judith (wife #4) is casting light on his past by opening up every door with him, hand in hand. It doesn't end well...
  • Offenbach also wrote an opera on this story.

    Theme Parks 
  • Outside of The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom, there is a large tombstone where Bluebeard himself is buried (along with his dead wives). He apparently killed six wives, but the seventh managed to kill him.
    • There’s also Captain Gore, the antagonist from an early, unmade version of the ride.

    Video Games 
  • A popular strategy in Crusader Kings II is "Bluebearding" - marrying women for their dowries and high birth, assassinating them, and repeating the process. Despite the otherwise good AI, the Villain Protagonist will suffer no repercussions for his actions, unlike most of the evil strategies in the game.
    • This is often removed by Game Mods, however, on the grounds of historical accuracy.
  • The actual Bluebeard - the one from the fairy tale - appears in the bonus chapter of the eighth installment of the Dark Parables. His reason for killing his wives is a little different this time.
  • In The Premature Burial, the third game in the Dark Tales series, the villain is this. It's known that his current wife died very recently and very suddenly, and those who love her are suspicious because his previous wife died in similar circumstances. And in the bonus chapter, the player learns that he had another wife who died that way as well. All three of them were buried alive!
  • Divinity: Dragon Commander: The player can become this trope if you marry one princess and opt to sacrifice her to Corvus, the captive demon that powers your airship. It is very possible to kill all four available brides, with the crew quickly piecing together you are responsible and act appropriately disgusted with your actions. While nobody turns on you despite being a prolific wife murderer, you aren't exactly a Karma Houdini either since your mentor forbids you from marrying anyone else until the crisis is settled. In the end, it's revealed that Corvus is the true Big Bad of the game, and you have inadvertently empowered him with the sacrifices, making this a very poor decision in hindsight.
  • Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII Remake: Don Corneo is a crime boss who regularly holds auditions for girls to marry, but whenever he gets bored with them, he drops them down a Trap Door to feed a monster.
  • The freeware Doom-engine game Judith, in which a series of flashbacks of a wife finding a secret room in her husband's castle with a torture victim inside and the subsequent mercy-killing of the victim leads to the wife encountering a particularly haunting version of this trope.
  • Nikolai Belinski, the Russian soldier in Nazi Zombies, has murdered at least five of his wives. Some of his weapon pickup quotes have him remarking on how it's the same one he shot one of them with. It is intentionally Played for Laughs. However, Gorod Krovi reveals that he had only one wife, and her loss in an air raid pained him so much that he began drinking to try and forget her.
  • Zoltan Carnovasch from the first Phantasmagoria was made for this trope, with Don almost following in his footsteps.

  • Bruno the Bandit tries this as one of his many schemes in Old Money. Too bad his new "beloved" turns out to be not just an old rich woman, but also the Black Widow.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The Demiurge Hastet Om originally had only one wife, a beautiful girl from a poor world named Nadia. While he did rape her and refuse to allow her any freedom, he never threatened to kill her. However, as she got older and her beauty began to fade, he took a new wife for every gray hair on her head. He did absolutely horrific things to her, until Nadia had enough and murdered him in his sleep, stole his god-power, and buried him in the garden. Three days later, she heard him demanding more wives. He sprouted into a horrific tree that requires the blood of young maidens to survive. The tree produces fruits that de-age anyone who eats them; Nadia has been using them to live forever, even though this is an extremely inefficient form of immortality. Allison calls Nadia out for being a coward too weak to find another way and destroys the tree herself.
  • The Order of the Stick: Implied regarding General Tarquin, a Serial Spouse who isn't averse to torturing women into marrying him and whose ninth wife recently died of "mysterious circumstances". However, at least his first wife simply divorced him, the ninth wife's death was unrelated, and he's not confirmed to have killed any of them.

    Western Animation 
  • In Code Monkeys, Gameavision head honcho Larrity has had seven wives, all of which have died under mysterious circumstances. Added to the creepiness factor is that he has several of them stuffed and on display in either his office or his vault.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Sideshow Bob briefly became one in episode "Black Widower", planning to kill Selma after he married her for her money (which she had gained from buying stock in a mace company). He might have succeeded if not for Bart...
    • Also, one of the unnamed men in "Regarding Margie".
  • In The Venture Bros., Baron Ünderbheit has the heads of his seven ex-wives mounted on his dining room wall.

    Real Life 
  • "Bluebeard" is the official FBI designation for this type of Serial Killer.
  • Some believe that the fairy tale has its origins in Conomor the Cursed, known for murdering his wives as soon as they got pregnant.
  • Henri Landru is an infamous Truth in Television example who was motivated by greed.
  • Henry VIII of England, who had six wives, is often considered a Bluebeard, although he only had two of his wives executed: Anne Boleyn (#2), and Catherine Howard (#5). note  Jane Seymour (#3) died of puerperal fever after producing a male heir. Another two of his marriages were annulled without a wife being killed - to Catherine of Aragon (#1) and Anne of Cleves (#4) - and Catherine Parr (#6) outlived him by nearly two years. His bloody reputation in this area comes from how many other people he had executed over the political and religious complications involved in his High Turnover Rate of wives, as well as popular rumor attributing Catherine of Aragon's death to foul play by either him or Anne Boleyn.note 
  • Drew Peterson is a former cop from Illinois who has been married four times to increasingly younger women, to the point that his fourth wife, whom he began dating when she was 17, was 30 years his junior. He cheated on each wife with the woman who would become the next and physically abused all of them—his second wife Vicki is certain that he cut the brake lines on her car in an attempt to kill her. In 2012, he was convicted of the 2004 murder of his 3rd wife Kathleen and is the sole suspect in the 2007 disappearance and likely murder of his 4th, Stacy. Ironically, had Stacy not vanished, cops would probably have never taken a second look at Kathleen's death, which had heretofore been believed to be an accidental drowning.
  • In 1968, Robert Weeks's wife Patricia disappeared after a dinner date in which they were to hash out the terms of their divorce. Her car was later found abandoned at a local shopping mall. In 1980, his girlfriend Cynthia Jabour disappeared after a dinner date in which she intended to break off the relationship. Her car was found abandoned in a casino parking lot. Three guesses what happened to his next girlfriend Carol Ann Riley in 1986. In April 1988, Weeks was convicted of murdering Patricia and Cynthia even though no trace of them, Carol Ann, or his male business partner (who had apparently discovered his unscrupulous business dealings) was ever found.
  • John David Smith's first and second wives disappeared without a trace. Each had complained that he was abusive and controlling and each was planning to file for divorce. While his first wife's remains were eventually found and he was convicted of her murder, his second wife's whereabouts are still unknown.
  • Jack Reeves was a housepainter and Army vet with a penchant for young brides. He was forced to annul the marriage to the first (only fifteen at the time). Wife #2 was planning to leave him and ended up "committing suicide" with a shotgun. Wife #3, a Mail-Order Bride, drowned in a shallow lake and her relatives noticed scratches and bruises on her body that indicated it wasn't accidental. Wife #4, also a Mail-Order Bride, vanished without a trace after planning to leave Jack for another woman. The police couldn't find Wife #4 or her body, and Wife #3 had been cremated. So, they had another look at Wife #2 and found the story Reeves told didn't match up with the evidence on the body or the crime scene photos. When they went to arrest Jack Reeves for the murder of his wife, he looked at the arresting officer and asked: "Which one?" He was convicted of Wife #2's murder, and an additional life sentence was added when they found the remains of Wife #4 in a remote campground.
  • So-called "dowry deaths" are still pretty common in certain parts of India, although dowry has officially been prohibited since 1961.
  • H. H. Holmes, born Henry Mudgett was one of America's first known and prolific serial killers and was even called "The Modern Bluebeard" by the press of the day. Curiously, however, Holmes was actually an inversion of the trope because despite being in the exact situations as his victims, he never murdered any of the three women he properly married. Instead, he would kill his secretaries, female lodgers and random wealthy-seeming women he would lure back to his massive Chicago hotel (which had been specifically engineered as a massive death trap/torture dungeon/mad science lab).
  • Lowell Edwin Amos, who murdered his mother and three wives over a 15-year span from 1979-1994, disguising their deaths as from old age and drug overdoses, respectively. Police became suspicious at the amount of money he inherited from each death and his Incriminating Indifference — going on a spending spree two days after his 3rd wife died.
  • An Israeli man named Shimon Cooper received two cumulative life sentences for murdering two of his three wives. In 1994, Cooper murdered his first wife, Orit, and staged the scene to make it look like suicide, all so he could marry his mistress and move to a larger house. The marriage to his second wife lasted less than five years, after which he met and married a third woman, Jenny. Eventually he acquired a new mistress, an anesthesiologist, and in 2009 tricked her into giving him drugs which he used to murder Jenny, faking her death by suicide as he had done 15 years before. The case against him was initially closed for lack of evidence, but was reopened as a result of an exposé conducted by a popular investigative TV program, which led to his arrest and conviction.
  • Felix Vail, whose first wife Mary drowned in 1962, second wife Sharon disappeared in 1973, and third wife Annette vanished in 1984. He was convicted of Mary's murder in 2016, but the other two women have never been found and authorities suspect there may be even more unknown victims out there.
  • While spiders are usually associated with another trope, there is at least one species, Allocosa brasiliensis, with males that often kill and eat the females.
  • Ian Stewart's wife Diane died of an "epileptic fit" in 2010, with Stewart receiving thousands of pounds in inheritance and life insurance. Then in 2016 his fiancée Helen Bailey disappeared shortly after naming Stewart as the sole beneficiary of her £3.4 million estate. Stewart claimed she had gone out walking the dog and not returned, but both her and the dog were later found dead in Stewart's septic tank. Stewart was convicted of her murder and was later convicted of murdering Diane as well when it was proven she had not died from epilepsy.
  • This was allegedly the case with Alfred Leonard Cline, the "Buttermilk Bluebeard". He had married eight women, all of whom died soon after, allowing Cline to inherit their estates. Cline was accused of poisoning them with buttermilk laced with sedatives, hence his nickname, and also may have done the same to Reverend Ernest Jones. None of this could ever be proven because all his victims were cremated before they could be tested for poison, but he was convicted of forging their wills to get their estates and sentenced to 126 years in prison.
  • The "Bluebeard of the Bath", George Joseph Smith. A bigamist, he was married to seven women at the same time under various identities which he used to rob them blind and get away without being caught. His ridiculous nickname came from the fact that he drowned his first three wives in the bath and likely would have killed more of them had his landlord not linked him to two of the victims.
  • John Schmidt, better known by his alias "Johann Otto Hoch", was a German-American swindler and bigamist who may have married up to 55 womennote , nineteen of whom died in suspicious circumstances. He was convicted of murdering one of his wives but evidence points to him being responsible for more murders.
  • James P. Watson by his own admission was married to 22 different women during his life, often at the same time. Eventually, one of these women got suspicious and Watson fled to California. A private investigator hired to track him down uncovered evidence of his bigamy and after being arrested Watson confessed to having murdered seven of his wives.
  • Todd Winkler married Catherine Winkler in 1991, only for her to die in a suspicious car accident in 1999. Winkler claimed that his wife had been driving him to hospital after he suffered an allergic reaction from a bug bite when she lost control of the car and drove into a ravine, where the car crashed and exploded while Winkler was thrown clear. Investigators were suspicious of Winkler's claims as the car had no obvious reason to explode and Winkler refused to show them the bug bite, but the death was nonetheless ruled an accident. Then Wife #2, Rachel Winkler, was stabbed to death by Winkler, allegedly in self-defence. Winkler's claims of self-defence were soon discredited and he was convicted of Rachel's murder.