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"A tulpa is a thought-form: a manifestation of intent in human form of our imagination... Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its makers' control. Tibetan magicians also relate cases in which the tulpa is sent to fulfill a mission, but does not come back and pursues its peregrinations as a half-conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet."
Alexandra David-Neel, from Magic and Mystery in Tibet, quoted in Doktor Sleepless
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A tulpa, also known as a thoughtform, is an independent entity brought into being by the power of belief. It starts out as an Imaginary Friend and gains sentience of its own, carries on a life independent of its creator and, according to some, can be seen and heard by others and can affect the world around them. It may come about accidentally, by someone who doesn't realize their Reality Warper powers, or may be created intentionally by one or more people with the hope of it becoming real in order to do things the creator couldn't. The word comes from certain branches of Buddhism, in which a tulpa is an object (usually a living creature) which is brought into existence by sheer will and concentration. note 

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In fiction, tulpas tend to be Always Chaotic Evil, or at best Chaotic Neutral, and turn on their creator, though many happy subversions exist. If they do act as a dangerous antagonist to the heroes of the story thanks to the negative emotions driving them, they are an example of The Heartless.

A similar concept originating in 19th century occultism is the egregore, a thoughtform produced by a group of people instead of a single person and sustained by a constant stream of new believers — something which many modern fantasy works present as the true nature of gods. The egregore is now a prominent aspect of Chaos magic as part of a "thoughtform spectrum", (going in rank of power):

  • Sigils: A symbol or symbols representing a desire or intention.
  • Servitors: Where a collection of thoughts and drives becomes complex enough to act autonomously from the consciousness of its magician or creator, though with an explicit purpose.
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  • Egregores: Born when the entity becomes large enough to exist independently and shapes and is shaped by a collective.
  • Godform: Sometimes described as "servitors on steroids" and incorporating elements of egregores (formed and shaped by many) and servitors (autonomous and having a distinct purpose), much like how there are different types of gods; explains why Gods Need Prayer Badly.

See also The Power of Creation, Living Dream (possible supertrope), and Literal Split Personality. Contrast Not-So-Imaginary Friend, in which someone is mistaken for imaginary; Enemy Without, in which the being is closer to its originator than a spirit; Fighting Spirit, in which the being is a direct extension of its creator's will; Self-Constructed Being, in which the entity isn't necessarily being "born" in the sense of constructing its own identity in the process.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess, there are two Shinnentai (physical manifestations of unfulfilled desire) that appear in the story. First, the Shinnentai of Chieko Honda, a hotel caretaker who had a relationship with Keiichi's grandfather and manifested out of her desire to ride in his motorcycle, having been left unfulfilled due to her untimely demise. The second one manifests out of a customized motorcycle previously owned by his boss Chihiro Fujimi, who lost it in an accident at the Inoku Radai Circuit, having plunged to the sea after falling on a precipice. The Shinnentai accosted motorcyclists into competing against it.
  • In Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor, one of the characters (specifically the antagonist Jatice Lowfan) uses tulpas, which are physical manifestations of the imagination that can be used to circumvent effects that disable the activation of magic spells.
  • In Bleach, Sternritter V "The Visionary" Gremmy Thoumeaux can create these as part of his The Power of Creation ability. Anything he imagines comes to life, including a fictitious Quincy officer named Guenael Lee, "The Vanishing Point". Guenael even attacks Gremmy upon The Reveal before his existence is dispelled. The tie-in light novel 13 Blades reveals that he created another fake Quincy officer, Shaz Domino, "The Viability". However, Shaz was able to use his Healing Factor to replace all of his imaginary cells with real ones and become fully real. Yhwach then granted Shaz a real Quincy rank as Sternritter Σ (Sigma).
  • Berserk:
    • This is one possible explanation for the Hellhound, a being that sometimes taunts and sometimes appears to possess Guts. Given that the world of Berserk runs on the darkest possible version of Clap Your Hands If You Believe, it's possible that as opposed to an evil spirit that just took a liking to messing with him, the Hellhound may be Guts' Enemy Within given form.
    • This is also more-or-less the origin of The Idea of Evil. It was born from humanity's collective unconscious, a manifestation of their need to have someone to blame for their problems. Hoo boy, it worked.
  • For a time in Genshiken Nidaime, Hato was pestered by an apparition of a nude female version of himself. While largely treated as a fragment of Hato's imagination, she's occasionally been shown to wander off on her own or ponder what exactly she is (her best guess being that she's some kind of Stand). It's later revealed that she was based on an idealised version of a girl Hato once admired; when Hato realises that said girl is much less perfect than he remembered, it results in the appearance of a second more sinister tulpa who more closely resembles the actual person.
  • Hatsukoi Zombie has the titular entities, born from their creators' idealized image of their first crush, but lack the sapience to do things beyond the range of their creator. One of the heroines, Eve, is a Hatsukoi Zombie that managed to gain sentience. Another Zombie, Kyouko, operates under similar circumstances.
  • Stands in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure are a downplayed version of a Tulpa, as aside from a few special cases they are almost completely in the control of their creators and tend not to have distinct personalities aside from whatever personality their User has or ascribes to them. Notable exceptions are: Foo Fighters in Part 6 (born from a colony of zooplankton that gained a Stand, rendering the User and Stand basically indistinguishable); Echoes Act 3, the final form of Koichi's stand, which displays an aggressive persona and a fondness for swearing in sharp contrast to the mild-mannered Koichi; numerous examples from Part 5, such as Pannacotta Fugo's Purple Haze (a Stand characterized by its polarizing mood swings and hesitating willingness to listen to its User's commands when it goes into a rage), and Guido Mista's Sex Pistols (a "colony" stand comprised of six separate bullet-sized beings that have individual personalities and tend to bicker among themselves). Part 5 also has Spice Girl, who is basically autonomous and fully sentient with her own personality that's somewhat different from her user Trish. And is referred to as "she" rather than "it".
  • Naruto has an example of this in the form of Madara Uchiha, who allegedly manifested his will and created Black Zetsu. However, it turns out that Zetsu isn't Madara's Will at all. The Black Zetsu was born from the will of Kaguya, the mother of the Sage of the Six Paths and the original Juubi. She made the Black Zetsu to work toward her release and Black Zetsu served as the Man Behind the Man for centuries, corrupting the Sage's elder son to begin the conflict and starting the Curse of Hatred within the Uchiha.
  • The ending of Paranoia Agent reveals that Lil' Slugger was born from the mind of one person, and his power spread to other minds through rumors.
  • In the Pokémon anime, the psychic Gym Leader Sabrina manifests her "inner child" as a young girl with the power to turn people into dolls. She disappears once Sabrina gets over her issues and learns how to laugh again.
  • In Shaman King, oni are born from the negative emotions of people with mind-reading abilities, and can grow in strength and intelligence by consuming other oni and spirits. A Flashback reveals that Anna once possessed these powers, which lead to her being kidnapped by a powerful oni who referred to her as "mother". In the sequel, Shaman King: Flowers, Hana was granted the ability to summon and channel oni as a Dangerous Forbidden Technique for when his life is in danger.

    Comic Books 
  • A three-parter from Detective Comics in the late eighties saw Batman and Etrigan fighting an out-of-control Tulpa. Batman also fights Tulpas in Batman Annual #21 (1997) and Batman Eternal (2014-2015).
  • In Doktor Sleepless, this is offered as a possible explanation for why there are two versions of Dr. John Reinhardt. Since the Doctor is imprisoned, he may have created a tulpa double to take his place while he went free.
  • The 1990's version of the Doom Patrol included a young mutant girl named Dorothy Spinner whose super power was to generate such beings. Unfortunately, she had almost no control of the ability, and her "friends" tended to be incredibly weird things from the depths of her subconscious mind.
  • In Fantastic Four, an alternative and fantastical origin story for Doctor Doom had Mr. Fantastic create him as one of these.
  • Grant Morrison's Action Comics has an alternate reality Superman, created by Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. He only lasts a few minutes, and their attempts to recreate him do not go well for anyone. In hindsight, handing the patents over to a Corrupt Corporate Executive slash Eldritch Abomination with a severe grudge against the main universes' Superman wasn't the best idea.
  • Green Lantern:
    • In one Silver Age story, Hal rather frivolously conjures up a big goofy monster with his ring, not intending to keep it around more than moment, but then gets knocked unconscious. The "Chiller Diller" proceeds to cause havoc all on its own, complete with its own thought bubbles.
    • One Justice League story had Kyle Rayner inadvertently conjure a supervillain he conceived of in his childhood, named Oblivion, to independent life. To combat him he unconsciously conjured multiple Green Lanterns that believed themselves to be from parallel and potential timelines that represented the positive aspects of his mind. Oblivion's ultimate plan was usurping Kyle's body, making his existence permanent, something unfortunately being hastened by Kyle spreading himself so thin manifesting all of them.
  • Irredeemable: It turns out that the Plutonian was basically this. Unfortunately, the woman who gave him (unwitting) form was mentally ill and full of guilt over killing her baby. This did not, of course, help his own psyche later.
  • The Sandman: Gods are made from the raw stuff of the Dreaming by the belief of mortals, and they return to it when their believers forget them. Thus they must find alternative sources of belief when their religion wanes.
  • Thorgal: In the volume "Alinoe", Jolan, a boy who doesn't realize his extraordinary powers yet, daydreams about having fun with a green-haired, Cute Mute boy named Alinoe. His imaginary friend unexpectedly comes into existence some time later, and quickly proceeds to turn malevolent.
  • X-Men:
    • In the storyline Battle of the Atom, one of the X-Men from the future is "Ice Hulk", a savage, hulking version of Iceman. It's eventually revealed that the future Iceman learned how to create ice constructs which could act independently of himself, one of which became sentient and impersonated him.
    • Onslaught is this for Professor Xavier.
    • When Rogue encountered her mother in the realm of dreams, her mother had dreamt an idealized version of her daughter into existence, which had become semi-independent. This dream Rogue wanted to escape to the real world but never could. The real Rogue agrees to absorb her into herself, to finally make her real in a sense.

    Fanfiction 
  • In Vathara's Urban Legends verse, Airwolf, a high-tech helicopter, hosts a thoughtform named Angel created by Jane Bethancourt and given Class Six strength by the deaths of all but one of the people who worked on her, Hawke, at Moffet's hands. She's a Mama Bear with a Psychic Link to all of the crew and takes the form of a winged wolf.
  • In the Slender Man fic By the Fire's Light, the Slender Man ends up being this in-story, since it would not even exist if not for the many people who believe in it.
  • Mary the snowwoman from the Frozen Wight 'verse is Elsa's imaginary friend brought to life years later by her magic.
  • In Is There Dust In Here, Or Is It Just Me? the Fidget and Arah displaced are actually the protagonist's Tulpa friends, separated from him and animating the characters physical forms.
  • In The Petriculture Cycle, Pinkie Pie, Discord, and Nightmare Moon are all revealed to be the products of other ponies' minds.
  • In Pokemon: The Origin of Species, psychics are able to divide their own minds into tulpas, but the skill is only just being discovered.
    • Mewtwo creates several tulpas and then spends 99% of its time unaware of their existence, in order to hide its full capabilities and motivations from the psychics that are studying it. The tulpas each hold a portion of Mewtwo's psychic power in reserve and lock away the surface mind's knowledge of them, constantly watching through its eyes, nudging it in appropriate directions to gain Team Rocket's trust and protect their own safety, only occasionally fusing back together with the surface mind when they have a brief moment of privacy.
    • As of chapter 78, Red's partitioned mind appears to be developing into a tulpa; he is able to raise his partition and lose awareness of the portion behind it, but have that portion continue to be conscious and active. He tests it by having the proto-tulpa perform mathematical calculations with the partition up; once it's down again, he immediately remembers the answer it calculated.
  • In the Pony POV Series:
    • It turns out that Pinkie Pie originated as one, being Clover's Imaginary Friend brought to life by the Wish Spell.
    • The Rumors Parasites from the Rumors Arc are this. While the base organism is born from Shub-Neighurath, they're nothing but a blank slate without a rumor or commonly held belief to give them any sort of form. The more ponies who believe in them, the stronger they become. They can also be either good or evil.
  • The Subconscious Speaks is a short Yu-Gi-Oh! GX fanfic based off the concept, with some Creepypasta inspiration on the side.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Frozen, Olaf started out as a snowman Elsa and Anna built together as children, with Elsa giving him a funny personality to make Anna laugh. Years later Elsa recreates him with her powers, but this time she unknowingly brings him to life as a sentient Snowlem with that funny personality very much intact, and even with his own dream of experiencing summer.
  • Ratatouille has Auguste Gusteau... well Rémy's Spirit Advisor/(Not-So-)Imaginary Friend/thoughtform of Gusteau. Like other thoughtforms, he is a figment of Rémy's imagination and, therefore, only knows as much as Rémy could base off of him. He didn't even know that Linguini was his son until he and Rémy found out. He eventually fades away when Rémy stops thinking about him (if he was just a thoughtform that is).

    Films — Live Action 
  • The Babadook may or may not be a figment of the protagonist's imaginations. Possibly the mother created the Babadook by writing a book, but she can't remember doing it.
  • The Empty Man actually revolves around this; Lasombra is a thoughtform created by The Pontifex Society to serve as a new host for The Empty Man, as the current host is growing too weak for them to harness its power in their experiments. They're also shown to have experimented with thoughtforms before this.
  • Courtesy of the Krell Machine, the Id Monster is this to Morbius in Forbidden Planet.

    Literature 
  • Similar to The Sandman example (and by the same author) Neil Gaiman's American Gods states that strong belief summoned the gods, and a few well known folk-heroes, into existence, but that without the sustained worship of believers, they have fallen into weakened and decrepit states. The book suggests, and then demonstrates in the coda, that different geographical regions are subject to independent belief-made entities, so that for example there are many different versions of Jesus throughout the world, each having an appearace and personality appropriate to the prevailing beliefs of that area.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel Go Ask Malice, which tells of Slayer Faith Lehane's background before coming to Sunnydale, reveals that one of her ex-boyfriends (Kenny, the "drummer" mentioned in the episode Revelations) from Boston had the power to create tulpas. His powers proved critical to enabling Faith's childhood "invisible friend" Alexandra (really the spirit of a long-dead vengeance demon, the "Malice" of the title) to regain some of her powers and in turn enable the spirit of her mother Artemia, a Slayer from ancient Greece, to act through Faith and drive her towards a clash with the vampire Kakistos, who had been responsible for Artemia's death. While they proved useful in that case, Kenny's powers were ultimately the cause of his break-up with Faith, as she dumped him after she caught him in bed with a tulpa of his ex-girlfriend Andra.
  • In William Gibson's Count Zero a number of entities appeared in Cyberspace about 7 years ago that appear to be the Loa of Voodoo mythology. The Finn says that he knew a hardware guy in Tibet who claimed that they were Tulpas. They're actually fragments of Neuromancer that took on the personas.
  • Discworld:
    • In Hogfather, there is so much spare belief floating around while The Hogfather is indisposed that it causes a variety of gnomes, bizarre creatures (such as an Eater Of Socks and a Hair Loss Fairy), and lesser gods (like the Oh God of Hangovers) to pop into existence as independent entities. They last only until The Hogfather is restored, except perhaps for the Oh God of Hangovers whose girlfriend, Violet, might just have enough belief in him by herself to keep him around.
    • Perdita X Dream, Agnes Nitt's alternate-personality-slash-imaginary-friend she created as a stage persona. Perdita talks to her in her mind and can take over her body from time to time. She also makes her highly resistant to a vampire's Charm.
    • Sam Vimes may have created one. He's so concerned with living up to his own standards of justice despite the darkness he knows is within him that he has manifested an "inner watchman". Who Watches the Watchmen? Sam Vimes does. And who watches Sam? This guy. It's powerful enough that when Vimes is possessed by an ancient entity of pure vengeance whose mere name can cause those who know about it to flee in terror or die of fright, it is chased right out of his head by the Inner Watchman.
  • In the novel Eudeamon, the titular Eudeamon are artificial intelligence disks created to monitor prisoners and report their actions. After gaining sentience, they develop a bond with their host that is very similar to that of a creator and a Tulpa. They connect on an emotional level that Real Life Tulpa creators often report feeling, and they make no effort to take over their host, since they know they couldn't exist without them, both physically and emotionally.
  • In Freya by Matthew Laurence, whenever humans believe enough in a concept, it creates a god which will actively try to retain humans' belief in it. These gods are sometimes called "cognivores" because they need prayer badly to remain extant, and while they have some form of belief they will have complete Immortality and regenerate from any harm they sustain. Of course, at the same time, the beliefs of the mortals does shape the god if it has many worshipers, and the god is forced to do exactly what its believers tell it to except in the case of Freya (and maybe other gods) who have so few worshipers that they're not required to conform to their believers' image of them and can do unexpected things. Another interesting thing to note is that Jesus is one of these created gods.
  • In The Glunk That Got Thunk by Dr. Seuss, a little girl uses her "Thinker-Upper" to bring a variety of usually cute and harmless thoughtforms into being temporarily. But one night ends up with a Glunk which promptly causes many problems such as wracking up very large phone bills. She discovers that the Glunk cannot be UN-thunk by her alone and she and her brother have to cooperate to get rid of it.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya series, unknown to the title character, whenever she feels anger or frustration her feelings manifest as colossal beings called Celestials, with the potential to destroy reality if they break free from the "Closed Space" in which they are born. She later subconsciously created Yasumi, a younger version of herself with full awareness of her powers, when some part of her realised that her friends needed help.
  • In the John Carter of Mars book Thuvia, Maiden of Mars, Thuvia and Carthoris find their way into Lothar, a lost kingdom of White Martians who mastered the ability to conjure up whole armies with their minds. Unfortunately, this led to the fall of their civilization, as it soon became impossible for them to distinguish between what was real and what was just a figment of someone's imagination.
  • Jorge Luis Borges:
    • In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius , if a person on Tlön mistakenly believes that they've misplaced a possession and goes searching for it, they may find a spontaneously-created duplicate of the object.
    • It's also the central premise of another short story: The Circular Ruins, with the main character being and old mystic that set as his life purpose the creation, in his dreams, of a man to turn real; in the end, we find out he is one himself.
  • In the Western world, the most famous account of tulpa creation is the story of explorer Alexandra David-Néel, who, in her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, briefly described how she created a tulpa in the image of a jolly monk, which then turned evil, became visible to her fellow explorers, and had to be destroyed with great difficulty.
  • Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock: Mythagos (from myth imago) are physical manifestations of mythical and legendary characters, generally only found inside or near to Ryhope Wood. Characters who have been entirely forgotten in the modern world live on deep inside the wood, and if you hang around the fringes of the wood for long enough, you can create your own imagos.
  • In Ruler of the Magical Keys, whenever a child sets a toy ship sailing, it becomes inhabited by a crew with a captain who is the grown-up version of the child.
  • The final reveal of the Stephen King story "Secret Window, Secret Garden" is that John Shooter, the Imaginary Enemy who has been hounding the main character Mort Rainey throughout the story and eventually took over Mort's body somehow gained physical form on his own. After Mort dies, Shooter comes back to leave behind a message for his wife.
  • In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, the ancient Archon named Cernunnos was powerful enough to create a thoughtform which traveled miles and miles just to talk to Dr. John Dee for a meeting.
  • The World of Gramarye in Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series is home to a weird moss that takes on shape according to the myths and beliefs of the people who incidentally all are strong ES Pers. Thus Goblins, Kobolds, musical rocks (and therefore rock music, with all variants like very hard rocks, acidic rocks, unnaturally soft rocks et. al.) and more are created.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Big Wolf on Campus has Merton opening a chest full of his old childhood things... among which is the strange, green-haired imaginary friend Vince, who wants to be Merton's best friend again and wishes to kill Tommy in order to make it happen.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Two stories suggest that Time Lords are able to create Tulpas of themselves when close to their regenerations. In "Planet of the Spiders" K'anpo, a highly spiritually-advanced Time Lord very close to the end of one of his regenerations, posing as a Buddhist lama on twentieth-century Earth, creates a tulpa of his next regeneration known as Cho-je to interact with his followers for him during his final illness. In "Logopolis", an enigmatic humanoid entity known as the Watcher turns out to be an "intermediate stage" between the Doctor's Fourth and Fifth selves. The Watcher apparently had some level of independent consciousness and actively contributed to the events that led to the Fourth Doctor's demise.
    • Though the exact origin of the Weeping Angels is unknown, a book about them contains the line "What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us? When these things occur and are held to be true, the time will be upon us. The time of Angels."
    • The Great Intelligence (as appearing in "The Snowmen") is a strange example; its original form was telepathic snow, but it had no consciousness to speak of until it started parasitically Mind Melding with the human Doctor Simeon. Turns out one of the Doctor's oldest foes was only evil because when it was mostly a blank slate, it connected to a perfectly normal human who happened to be a Misanthrope Supreme. Consequently, the Doctor assumed that Simeon was directing it and pulling the strings, but when he is taken out of the picture, the Great Intelligence reveals that it has grown sufficiently strong that it no longer needs its host, and can now possess and influence other humans under its own power.
  • In The Haunting Hour episode "My Imaginary Friend", Shawn's imaginary friend Travis somehow becomes real enough to harass Shawn's brother David. Subverted when it turns out Travis could interact with David because they were both imaginary, as David and Travis are Shawn's Good Angel, Bad Angel respectively.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker had a variation on the tulpa, this being the unconscious creation of a man that was trapped in a coma.
  • In Misfits, it's finally revealed that Abby is a tulpa, created by a woman with reality-warping powers who unknowingly brought her imaginary childhood friend to life as an adult.
  • The titular character in Out of Jimmy's Head gets a brain transplant from a cartoonist in the pilot. Which causes him to see and interact with the donor's characters.
  • In the So Weird episode "PK (or Tulpa)", Fi meets a little boy who has created a tulpa he believes to be an imaginary friend who, though invisible to everyone else, is still capable of affecting others, becoming violent and injuring people around him.
  • Two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes feature beings that appear to work like this, but are actually subversions:
    • "Imaginary Friend" has an alien who investigates humanity by manifesting itself as a little girl's imaginary friend Isabella. Naturally, the adults become more and more worried about the girl's mental health the longer Isabella stays aboard Enterprise.
    • "The Bonding" likewise has an alien take human form to make restitution to a boy whose mother was killed by the weapons of their long forgotten war. At first, the alien only appears to the boy, making it seem like a grief-fueled delusion. Again, the adults eventually realize what's happening.
  • In Supernatural, the heroes are investigating a haunted house and realize that a Tulpa is to blame when they see a tibetan sigil on the wall. The Tulpa is being created and changed by the thoughts of readers on an internet site looking at the symbol as they read various stories about the haunted house in "Hell House".
  • Twin Peaks introduces Diane as a possibly imaginary character, then shows her as a real person. Twin Peaks being what it is, the truth is much stranger: she's actually stated by name to be a version of this trope, but may or may not have existed as a real person at one point in time.
  • The X-Files:
    • A Tulpa was a Monster of the Week when, in "Arcadia", the president of a homeowners' association created a tulpa to enforce the neighborhood rules and create a stepford-esque planned community. The monster itself appears as compiled trash in human form and it disappeared when it killed the president.
    • A later episode of the Event Series featured this concept again. This time, it was wielded by a homeless street artist in defense of homeless folks being forcibly relocated by gentrifying forces. Strangely, despite airing years after the above episode with the Tulpa enforcing the rules of a gated community, Mulder seems to have selective memory (or maybe the show just has selective continuity) and he doesn't recall his encounter with a similar manifestation in the 90s, because he initially dismisses the idea of a "Tulpa" or "thoughtform" as a fantasy!

    Roleplay 
  • Ed Eisen's superpower from Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues allows him to create manifestations of himself from his thoughts. These forms take on the personality trait or skill that's at the forefront of Edward's mind when he's creating them- for example, he created a strong, dependable tulpa when he needed someone to help an injured person. Though they're all modelled after him, they're also capable of taking on the appearance or mannerisms of other people.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Most examples of this are associated with the psionics subsystem:
    • The astral construct power serves as the psionic answer to Summon Magic, creating a temporary mindless servitor whose abilities and appearance can be customised as the manifester sees fit.
    • A phthisic is an Always Chaotic Evil tulpa, usually created by accident from the minds of the insane. It resembles a heavily distorted version of the person it spawned from, and survives by draining the mental energy of other creatures through its fangs.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Creating a tulpa is a high level spell requiring mastery of both Mind and Prime magic. Since a tulpa's mind is created by the caster and it depends on the caster for its existence, tulpas are mainly used when a mage needs an utterly loyal servant — which is acknowledged by the Karma Meter as a pretty messed-up thing to do.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Animate dreams are created when, in the wake of a particularly vivid dream, a fragment of a mortal's consciousness remains within the Dimension of Dreams and wanders off as an indecent creature, usually based on a central figure in the dream that begat it.
    • Alebrijes usually form as particularly vivid dreams inspired by a creature a dreaming person has seen, known or imagined, which if infused with the energies of the Dimension of Dreams can take independent life as a dream-dwelling creature.
  • Shadowrun: Buddhist mages create tulpas instead of summoning spirits. There's a school of thought suggesting that all spirits are actually tulpas, though if that's the case quite a few of them have outlived their original creators. Complicating matters are Technomancers — nobody knows what they are exactly, but they share many qualities with magicians and their "sprites" fill many of the same functions as spirits. But sprites are definitely created, or "compiled", by the technomancers who use them.
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Warp is a manifestation of the thoughts and emotions of every living thing, allowing the concentrated belief of sufficient numbers of people to shape and alter it. Often, this results in living entities being created in response to sufficient belief in their existence or as the result of highly concentrated emotions.
    • The Chaos Gods are tulpas created by the world or galaxy's, respectively, sentient beings. The Chaos Gods congealed out of the collective emotions and impulses of intelligent beings, such as rage (Khorne), lust (Slaanesh), despair (Nurgle), and scheming (Tzeench). Over the eons, the Chaos Gods have gained self-awareness, independence, and immense power.
    • One of the (In-Universe and Out) explanations for Commissar Yarrick's longevity is that he was dead a long time ago and the current Yarrick is a Tulpa created by the Ork's reverence of him and their latent psychic power.
    • The Eldar, at the peak of their power, were able to manipulate the Warp via their deep understanding of it to create their own pantheon of Warp deities out of pure belief, who helped strengthen their societies before their fall to Slaanesh.
    • The Tau's intense belief in the Greater Good, as well as expanding to include more psionically-active races in their empire (including humans), has led to the occasional manifestation of an entity embodying the Greater Good, which has acted to protect the Tau Empire in the Warp.
  • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the various Urge Wyrms are tulpas of the original Wyrm of balance, embodying the Wyrm's negative thoughts and emotions upon discovering that it was imprisoned in the Weaver's web. Some sources also describe the Triadic Wyrm as a trio of tulpas emanated by the original Wyrm.

    Video Games 
  • At one point in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, it is revealed that Korekiyo Shinguji has one of these, based off his deceased older sister. He can trigger it at will by removing his mask, revealing that he wears lipstick underneath. When it becomes increasingly more obvious he is the culprit of the third murder case, Korekiyo starts to have a violent meltdown, but he tries to calm himself down by activating this tulpa.
  • Darkest Dungeon: According to the developers, The Light is a manifestation of human belief in the divine, good, and justice, which is why the most fervently religious heroes can use holy powers to destroy the evil monsters of the Estate. This is pretty impressive, considering the Lovecraftian horror inherent to the setting.
  • In Deadly Premonition, it's possible that Francis "York" Morgan is one of these created by Zach. Due to the vagueness of canon, it's a subject up for some debate. It's also possible that he's a Guardian Angel.
  • Spirits in Dragon Age are dreamworld entities formed from mortal emotions and concepts. Demons are spirits who embody the darker aspects of mortals such as desire, pride, envy, rage, and fear. Spirits who enter the physical world have an unfortunate tendency to be corrupted into demons since the circumstances behind weakened parts of the Veil (the boundary between the Fade and the physical plane) are usually pretty dark.
  • The Primals in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn are at first said to be gods summoned through the ardent worship of the beast tribes (and generous offerings of crystals), but they are later revealed to be more akin to this; rather than true gods, they are merely myths and legends brought to life through a combination of magic and their followers' beliefs. Some Primals - such as Good King Moggle Mog - aren't even recognised as Primals at first because they're not akin to the traditional elemental gods most Beast Tribes summon, and later in Heavensward, Ysale is able to transform into Shiva even after learning it's not truly the spirit of Saint Shiva, simply because she puts faith in the idea of the being she created herself, rather than the saint. The discovery of this causes the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to reconsider what they class as a 'Primal', since it could technically be anything someone with enough faith and a large enough reserve of aether could create. In a sidequest, Gilgamesh was able to summon the image of his missing friend as a primal which throws everything they knew about primals out. It turns out that even the two "gods" of the world, Hydaelyn and Zodiark, are merely two particularly powerful Primals.
  • The "Half-lives" of Folklore are basically this. They're born when a human makes a very strong wish, and are compelled to fullfill that wish (even though many Half-lives ignore what is the wish they're born from). If a Half-life fulfills the wish, or if the wish is somehow made null and void, then the Half-life loses its purpose and dies - a fate that they accept.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, Ayer's friend/coach/mentor, Bowman, is revealed to be this. Ayer subconsciously created him as a child to externalize his brutal fighting instincts he wasn't able to release due to being born in a rich and refined family. Bowman eventually attempts to take over, so Ayer remains living the life of a fighter, as he has always yearned.
  • Persona:
    • Both Persona 2 games have this, with Guido Kandori reviving as one of these as a rumor in Eternal Punishment, while In Lakech does the same in Innocent Sin.
    • Persona 5:
      • The game has "Cognitive Existences", mental copies of another person created in the Palace, taking the form of however that particular Palace's owner sees that person. A Cognitive Existence of Ann wearing a bikini appears in her lustful gym teacher's Palace, which shows how he views her as an object of lust. One even serves as the boss of one of the Palaces, specifically the Cognitive Existence of Wakaba, Futaba's mother, is this for Futaba's palace. It was born from Futaba's fears of her mother hating her due to the lies of authority figures. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun later on first when the Phantom Thieves collaborate with a Palace-owner to create a Cognitive Existence of the protagonist in order to fake his death, and later when Goro Akechi is attacked by a Cognitive Existence of himself, born from how his father sees him as an expendable pawn.
      • The Final Boss could be considered this; Yaldaboath was born from the Unconscious Collective of Tokyo, from their desires for order and control, if at the cost of freedom. However, he has his own agenda and does not care much for humanity, fulfilling the independent aspect of this trope, though on a higher scale since he was born from many's thoughts. Another that could be considered would be Morgana, who was born from the hopes of freedom of the Tokyo citizenry though he has his own personality of a snarky yet loveable cat. Given that they were born from many instead of one, they would more accurately be described as egregores. Though Morgana also does have elements of a servitor, in that he was made to help The Trickster save people from Yaldabaoth. Yaldabaoth fits the godform perspective, being born from the Tokyoites' distorted desires for someone to restore order and his loss when the people place their belief n the Thieves.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 has Deus ESCA, a reality-warping Phantom created by Ardem who believed he was summoning God. Unlike many other examples he does not turn on his creator and is open to reason and mercy (he initially sends the player character back to their own universe because he felt it wasn't his place to judge the citizens of another God's universe). He does however follow his reason for existence (to take control of Earth and prevent its downfall... or at least what Ardem interprets as its downfall...) to the letter and tries to achieve it by any means necessary.
  • Shadow Madness: While it does have a presence in its own dimension, this is the true nature of the main villain, The Darg. It escaped into our universe as an idea, and by spreading through the thoughts of humanity it eventually became strong enough to form a physical body.
  • Shantae, Half-Genie Hero has Holly Lingerbean. She's the memory of a girl who was practically worshipped in Tassel Town, but a century long sandstorm almost caused her memory to be lost. Her tulpa looks to consolidate her existence by erasing people's other memories and leave only herself in their minds, with the help of a memory-eating worm.
  • According to some theories, the existence of the character Maria in Silent Hill 2 can be explained by this concept as an eroticized manifestation of James’ deceased wife. She is briefly playable during the Born From A Wish segment included in the re-released Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams — the title of which itself is suggestive that she was literally conceived from James’ unconscious desires, specifically his repressed sexual desire concerning his late wife Mary during the progression of her disease. Although Maria physically resembles Mary, their personalities differ starkly, and throughout the game, Maria makes numerous attempts to delineate her individuality and differentiate herself from Mary before James, who is consistently unable to distinguish the two.
  • In The Sims 3, a young sim may receive a stuffed doll in the mail as a birthday gift. At first, it is an ordinary doll, but as the sim grows attached to it, the doll will eventually turn into an imaginary friend that only the sim can see. If the sim continues playing with their friend, they'll eventually receive an opportunity to turn their friend real, allowing other sims to see and interact with them (up to and including marrying them).
  • In Tales of Maj'Eyal the Solipsist class can learn to create Thought-Form warriors to fight for it.
  • In Touhou, poltergeists originate as the psychic projections of troubled human girls, but become sapient spirits. The Prismriver sisters are poltergeists, as was the PC-98 exclusive Kana Anaberal.
  • Tulpa is a game about a girl and, well, her tulpa, and their surrealistic adventure.

    Webcomics 
  • Full Frontal Nerdity follows the Slender Man as tulpa hypothesis, and suggests Justin Bieber is one too. Unfortunately Slendy seems to see the cast's player characters as kindred spirits and wants to eat Frank's soul.
  • In Homestuck, Jake has the ability to lower Brain Ghost Dirk's fakeness attribute when he does the hope-y thing. In other words, Jake's mental projection of Dirk can manifest itself in reality.
  • Mea Tulpa, a 24-hour comic, has both an evil tulpa committing murders and a benevolent tulpa assisting the protagonist.
  • In Under the Lemon Tree main character Ben had a posse of six tulpas representing different aspects of his personality. And they could selectively turn invisible so few people knew they were even around. But eventually the author decided they conflicted too much with his religious beliefs and when he relaunched it as Goblin Hollow he made the posse goblins that imprinted on Ben.

    Web Original 
  • The Blog of Kind Psychiatrists describes a case of a tulpa taking over a patient's body in a story "Stop Tulping!" A girl in her late teens was having relationship trouble and created herself a supporting companion. Said companion helped her boost her confidence and finally get a boyfriend. Then the tulpa said that since she deserves all the credit for getting the boyfriend, and her creator wasn't using her body anyway, she's taking over. Several days later she released the control of the body long enough for the creator to reach a psychiatrist. The patient was diagnosed with some schizophrenia-related disordernote .
  • A fair few creepypastas feature imaginary friends who spontaneously gained physical form and became evil, usually as a result of the narrator ceasing to play with them.
    • "Tulpa", a creepypasta story about an ordinary man who is hired to take part in some sort of a shady experiment that eventually results in an evil clone of him manifesting.
    • We Made An Angel is about a village creating an angel through their collective will and feeding it with their Life Energy. Eventually, it becomes a demon, as they become more and more draconian about keeping it fed, starting with forcing the teens to do it until they all run away, then forcing the elderly to donate until they die from it.
  • In The Last Podcast on the Left series on The Men in Black, one theory mentioned is that the modern day incarnation of the Men in Black are tulpas formed by the unconscious mind of the man who first claimed to encounter then in the early 1950s. In the second episode, it becomes a Running Gag that Ben repeatedly proclaims he knows what a tulpa is, regardless of the actual topic. In episode three, Ben tries to suggest that Freddy Kruger is a tulpa. After some back and forth, Marcus acknowledges that Ben is probably right about that, at least regarding Wes Craven's New Nightmare
  • Tulpas appear in New Vindicators, usually created by powerfully willed, creative people. For example, the mythical Spring-Heeled Jack is a tulpa, created by Charles Dickens, and was known in fiction as the Artful Dodger. Others include the 'ghost' of Psion, an Esper whose body is killed but whose mind and powers live on for a time, and a few more who might not last as long.
  • The SCP Foundation universe has several entities which could be classified this way:
    • SCP-1252, an "unfinished" tulpa whose creator died while making it.
    • SCP-1447, a classic Tibetan tulpa turned evil and against its master. Said master happens to be Steve Jobs.
    • SCP-1830, a bullied teenager's imaginary friends who are visible to others around him, but can't interact with the world around them in any way, like defending him when being attacked by bullies.
  • Some theorize that the Slender Man is this — the more you view his videos and believe, the stronger his influence reaches... Explored further in certain Slender Man works which seem to suggest the reason his powers are so incredibly capricious and inconsistent is because everyone has a different idea of what exactly his 'style' is. One noticeable point this was explored was when a large group of bloggers attempted to all write fictional stories detailing them all wounding the Slender Man, in hopes this would cause him to be wounded in real life. It didn't work.

    Western Animation 
  • Finn in Adventure Time theorizes that the creepy blank-eyed girls following him and Jake are Tulpas. He ended up being wrong, they were weird cloud people controlling fake girls. It isn’t made clear why.
  • In The Adventures of Puss in Boots, Tulpa are fragments on one's soul given physical form through the magic of a powerful mage. It is revealed that the Great Mage Sino created three such Tulpa to aid San Lorenzo in times of need; One Tulpa is designed to aid the Chosen One in defeating an Ancient Evil while the other two are Secret Keepers blending in with society until they are needed. Notably Sino does not seem to have a perfect imagination because his Tulpa do not quite look like what they are supposed to.
  • Recurring character Nadine from Arthur was originally introduced as D.W.'s imaginary friend, and never portrayed as anything other than a product of her imagination. In the more recent seasons, she is depicted as actually existing, putting her into this trope. These recent seasons introduce other imaginary friend characters, also shown to be physically existing thoughtforms.
  • Dexter's Laboratory has Koosie. He's Dee Dee's imaginary friend. At first, Dexter denies that such a creature can exist and tries to demonstrate this by process of elimination, but he admits that he cannot definitively disprove the existence of "Koosalagoopagoop." Dee Dee responds by saying "Therefore, he must exist." Koosie appears in that very second and meets every criteria of the trope.
  • In DuckTales (2017), tulpas are manifestations of people's emotions. They live in the Shadow Realm, and are just as real as anything else on that plane of existence.
  • Fairly OddParents is full of these, since Cosmo and Wanda's magic allows them to bring to life anything Timmy wishes for. The most notable instant is when they bring Gary, Timmy's Imaginary Friend from when he was five, to life.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends is about an orphanage of sorts for a lot of imaginary friends whose creators have outgrown them. They are thoughtforms in that they carry on lives independent of their absent creators, can be seen by others, and can affect the world around them.
  • In Gravity Falls, after Mabel escapes from her Lotus-Eater Machine in the penultimate episode, two of the characters within it (who originate from a Show Within a Show which Mabel happens to be a fan of), Xyler and Kraz, find that they have escaped to the real world as well, apparently due to the fact that the normal laws of reality didn't quite apply at the time. After musing for a bit on the nature of reality and life as a result of this, they conclude that the entire scenario is "totally righteous". The cryptogram shown after the credits claims that they become successful businessmen in the entertainment industry; however, they do disappear in the following episode when things go back to normal.
  • Similar to the So Weird example, The Powerpuff Girls episode "Imaginary Fiend" involves a kindergartner creating an Imaginary Friend that proceeds to wreak havoc in the classroom. The girls combat it by use of their own Tulpa.
  • In The Real Ghostbusters, Sherlock Holmes, Watson and Moriarty themselves become ghosts in the real world thanks to the fact that so many people believe in them or consider them almost real.
  • South Park's Mega Crossover "Imaginationland" had the eternal war between fictional good guys and bad guys boil over into South Park's reality - this includes anything from children's show characters, to movie stars, to religious icons. Unlike most examples, the titular Imaginationland is a parallel universe where the products of people's thoughts exist, rather than them materializing in the "real" world. As always, there was an analogy/moral beneath all of it - even if it only exists in people's heads, it becomes real by way of shaping people's thoughts and actions, religion and so on included.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series's adaptation of the Secret Wars (1984) story arc, Doctor Doom attempts to use the Reality Warper powers of the Beyonder to create a Utopia, but fails because his subconscious fears keep generating demonic beings to destroy it.
  • Teen Titans:
    • In the episode "Hide and Seek", super-powered child Melvin blames the random mischief that happens around her on her imaginary friend Bobby, an 8-foot-tall teddy bear with Super Strength. Raven interprets this as uncontrolled telekinesis, but at the end of the episode Bobby makes himself visible before treating Monsieur Mallah to a Curb-Stomp Battle. Turns out that Melvin's power isn't telekinesis, it's bringing the things she imagines to life.
    Melvin: Just because I imagine him doesn't mean he isn't real.
    • In "Fear Itself", the Titans are attacked by a monster from a scary movie they just watched. It turns out that Raven unconsciously manifested the monster because of her refusal to admit that she was scared of the movie.


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