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Waking Up at the Morgue

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Not everyone rests in peace.

"Waking up on a slab in a morgue. The story of a character who's been processed and discarded by the bureaucratic machinery of the world..."

If you have a character that has a Healing Factor or Resurrective Immortality, a great way for them to discover the power is for them to wake up at the morgue. Can also be done if the character is drugged, Faking the Dead, or if they are presumed to be dead due to being injured, but they remain alive. Either way it can be shocking, as the last place a person wants to be is on cold slab in the morgue.

Naturally, there will be much confusion the first time it happens to someone, with or without amnesia and will usually have been completely undressed, and may have to make do without any clothing or equipment as they escape. If they are targeted by The Conspiracy, there may be attempts to kill them. Compare Rise from Your Grave and Waking Up Elsewhere. Can be a form of First-Episode Resurrection.

Believe it or not, this is an example of Truth in Television. Rare today (though there is the occasional, erm, incident...), but more common in ages past when medical science wasn't all it is now, and unconscious people were declared dead. The only thing worse than waking up in the morgue, of course, was to be actually Buried Alive, which could also happen from time to time.note  And better not think what would happen if you're slated for dissection, especially by a Creepy Mortician and a Mad Scientist...


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  • A commercial for Droid smartphones starts In Medias Res with a man escaping a morgue's body-drawer, then finding his phone's charge is almost gone. Cue a long series of flashbacks to show how he'd spent the last 48 hours since he'd charged it.
  • In 2008, Hansaplast ran a print ad for ear plugs showing a young woman waking up on a morgue slab - and looking more embarrassed than scared - with the tagline "You Have Never Slept So Deep" in the corner, implying that she slept a little too deeply thanks to the product.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Black Butler, Shinigami Grell falls asleep on the side of the road and forgets to breathe. He's mistaken for dead and taken to the local undertaker, where he wakes up after being called a fourth rate body by the undertaker.
  • The Puma Sisters wake up in the morgue in Shirow Masamune's Dominion Conflict 1: No More Noise. But they're not very surprised—after all, they went to sleep there, thinking it was awfully nice of Newport City Police to provide such nice beds for them.
  • This happens to Hyatt of Excel♡Saga as a matter of course. Her condition has her constantly dying in an exaggerated manner only to stand up again as she's incapable of staying dead.
  • Since it's about an immortal who dies a lot, Mnemosyne has this happen on more than one occasion.
  • In the first few pages of the manga series Variante, this happens.

    Comic Books 
  • All-New Ultimates: The doctor that was checking Terry calls: the corpse has simply woke up and left when nobody was watching.
  • Exploited in the first arc of All-New Wolverine. Before the raid on the Alchemax labs, Laura and Bellona (an attempt by Alchemax to clone Laura who lacks her Healing Factor) disguise themselves as each other, then "Bellona" launches a frontal attack and gets machine-gunned so badly she flatlines. After "Wolverine" and Gabby "bolt", the casualty is hauled to an unguarded lab well inside the security perimeter for autopsy/dissection... with predicable results.
  • In one issue of Astro City: Local Heroes, mention is made of the time Supersonic simply revived at the morgue despite being to all medical appearances 100% dead. A lawyer uses this as precedent to suggest that the woman his client "killed" could have been still alive before her autopsy was performed.
  • Klyde and Meriem battle in Cavewoman: Rain, apparently killing each other. In reality, the beatdown (and other damages) had been bad enough that they had been knocked into a death-like coma... from which Klyde woke up while being prepped for dissection.
  • Rocky, a member of the Challengers of the Unknown, was seemingly killed during a wrestling match where he was crushed to death by his opponent with a very strong bear hug, only to wake up when the doctors were ready to do an autopsy on his body.
  • Happens to Deadpool a lot given his Healing Factor. It only really fazes him anymore if he wakes up in a more interesting location
    Deadpool: [wakes up on a dock] Huh, usually when I wake up in a bodybag I'm in a morgue. This isn't a morgue.
  • Hellboy: After being killed by a jaguar god, Captain Daimio is seen slicing his way out of a body bag and demanding to know what the hell's going on from the terrified morgue attendant.
  • In the first issue of Immortal Hulk, after getting shot in the head by a robber, Bruce's body is sent to the morgue. He doesn't stay dead for long, as Devil Hulk forcefully makes their corpse transform and come back to life.
  • Crispus Allen during Infinite Crisis woke up in a morgue, but was actually dead and had an autopsy. Turns out he was just chosen to be the new host for The Spectre and he's neither alive nor dead now.
  • MIND MGMT: Bootleg has a particularly disturbing variant of this. Chiyo, who can't be killed thanks to her ability to subconsciously heal her own cells, was born in a morgue. Her mother died in the Zanzibar City massacre while she was pregnant, and a morgue attendant heard Chiyo's cries from within one of the morgue freezers.
  • Spider-Man: This happened to Norman Osborn in a Retcon after his climactic battle with Spider-Man in The Night Gwen Stacy Died — the first thing he did was murder a vagrant who vaguely looked like him and put the poor guy's corpse in his place, then made off for Europe to build a criminal empire once he saw that his son Harry was going to take over the Green Goblin identity.
  • In Preacher, Cassidy shoves a knife through his own throat in order to leave a serial killer's house in a bodybag during daylight hours (having been set up as the fall guy by the actual killer). Once the sun's gone down he pops out of his bag, bums a cigarette from the morgue attendant and goes on his way.
  • Robin (1993): After being injured by Tim and left in a desiccated state due to overusing his powers Johnny Warlock was presumed dead and woke up in the Kane Country Morgue. He casually strolled out the door with no-one the wiser for at least a month as his body was thought to have been misplaced.
  • In Robyn Hood: I Love NY #7, the Vapor Lord — having possessed the body of one of his previous victims — awakens at the morgue as the body is being shown to the victim's sister. He proceeds to murder The Coroner and the sister.
  • In Supergirl Post-Crisis story Death & the Family, Lana Lang apparently dies due to an unknown illness. She wakes up in the morgue, her mind taken over by Insect Queen, which was making her ill as trying to repossess her body.
  • Hannibal King wakes up in the morgue after being turned into a vampire in The Tomb of Dracula.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): After dying from injuries sustained in a battle with Neron, Wonder Woman is transformed into a goddess and wakes up after being autopsied and stuffed into a body bag.
  • The Ultimate Marvel version of "Thunderbolt" Ross ended up going through this, with Wraith "killing" him in the second arc of Ultimate X Men and waking up in the morgue during the start of Ultimate Fantastic Four.

    Fan Works 
  • In Hit List, the Sequel Hook of the epilogue has this happen to Ganondorf, since Link hadn't killed him with the Master Sword.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, a Kryptonian criminal wakes up in the morgue after getting killed off by a vampire.
    If he’d been more used to what his body could now do, even that might have had a different ending. But he’d rarely set foot on this world before, and only for a couple of short visits. So the blasted leech on his neck was able to take from him what it wanted, though he managed to ram an arm straight through the body of the one in front of him, and it left him dry.
    And he died.
    Not permanently, though.
    He’d opened his eyes in what passed for a preparatory place for the dead on Terra. It was ghoulish, seeing all the cadavers about him in various stages of dissection. But it was certainly better than what he’d been expecting.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Played with in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Max Dillon falls into a vat full of genetically engineered electric eels at his job at Oscorp that jolt him to high heaven, is pronounced dead and shipped off to the morgue. It quickly turns out that he didn't quite die though. His body was undergoing a radical transformation and he wakes up in his body bag having become an electricity-based Energy Being.
  • Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon: During the end credits, Leslie Vernon is shown being wheeled around in a morgue. While the lab technician's back is turned, Vernon sits up on the table.
  • In Blade (1998), a vampire whom Blade set on fire wakes up in the middle of his own autopsy and takes a bite out of the medical examiner. Blade noted that the vampire in question and the Big Bad were exceptionally hard to kill. Apparently, Blade had staked him before, and it didn't take. Hence the fire, and the M.E. developing the magic ammo.
  • In Cold Prey 2, the police find the mountain man's body and transport it to the morgue at the hospital, where it begins to stir while a nurse is cataloging his clothing.
  • While not quite a morgue, this becomes Mr. Black's Running Gag in The Comedy of Terrors. Black has a form of catalepsy that makes him appear dead to the outside world. Of course, crooked undertakers Trumble and Gilly have a plot to murder him and then make money off of his funeral. Every time they think he's safely dead, a cat comes by and triggers Black's allergy, waking him up. It ends up in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge with a gleefully hammy Black chasing Trumbull and Gilly with an axe while shouting out quotes from Macbeth.
  • Sean William Scott's character does this in a post-credits in Cop Out with no explanation as to how he survived.
  • Cradle of Fear: According to Inspector Neilson, this happened to the last of Kemper's victims. Blood loss from her wounds, combined with shock, dropped her into a catatonic coma where her vital signs were too faint to be detected. She woke up in a freezer drawer at the morgue and subsequently suffocated. When she was eventually found, she had broken every bone in her hands pounding on the inside of the drawer to attract attention, but no one had heard. Neilson blames himself for this because he did not check to see if she was dead before they removed her, and it is why he now insists on touching very body at a crime scene.
  • In Danger: Diabolik, the title character escapes a police dragnet by taking a pill that puts him in a death-like state. His Dark Mistress gives him the antidote just in time for him to stop his own autopsy.
  • In Death Becomes Her, Madeline fainted after finding out that she died. She ended up waking up in the morgue in a body bag.
  • In Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome, Gruesome passes out and then freezes rigid after accidentally inhaling the experimental gas. Pat delivers what he thinks is Gruesome's corpse to morgue. When the gas wears off, Gruesome wakes up on the slab and casually lights a cigarette before seeming to notice where he is.
  • Parodied in Fletch Lives. Fletch fakes being dead to sneak into a morgue. He hides in a locker to avoid getting caught and ends up scaring a janitor.
  • Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter starts Jason spontaneously reviving and escaping from the cold storage, murdering The Coroner with a hacksaw and gutting a nurse with a scalpel.
  • Ghost Lab (2021): After being thrown off a balcony and falling a story, Dr. Wee comes to on a morgue table slab. He isn't dead, though, so the ghost of Dr. Gla resumes his attack on him.
  • Halloween: Resurrection: The final scene has Michael Myers open his eyes while a coroner was examining him.
  • Highlander:
    • Connor MacLeod does this as part of the backstory in Highlander (1986). He is an immortal who can only die permanently if his head is chopped off. As a result, other methods of death just end with him standing up again as soon as his body has healed enough to stop being dead.
    • Also used in Highlander II: The Quickening by Conner and Ramirez to sneak into the shield facility. When they wake up, they snarkily compare how many bullets they took getting 'killed.'
  • In Innocent Blood, a recently-vampirized mob boss wakes up at the morgue. He is quite disgruntled to find a thermometer sticking out of his stomach and a man standing over him with a bone saw.
  • Monkeybone: After taking over the body of a deceased gymnast, Stu wakes up in a morgue having his organs currently stolen. He rushes out of the building, taping himself up along the way while being chased by the thieves.
  • In Nightbreed, Aaron Boone is shot to death by the police after his Psycho Psychologist frames him for his crimes. He awakens at the morgue as a new member of the supernatural Nightbreed and escapes to go live with them.
  • In Night of the Living Dorks, three boys are killed in a car accident while driving home after a voodoo ceremony. They wake up at the morgue as zombies.
  • In The Prophecy 3: The Ascent after being shot by a blind man Danyael wakes up locked in a body storage locker in the Morgue.
  • Rise: Blood Hunter: After being attacked and left for dead by a vampire, reporter Sadie Blake wakes up in a cold box and has to kick it open to get out. After hunting down and killing her attacker, she ends up dead again and the last shot is of her body being shelved into a cold box in the morgue. The very last shot is of her kicking open the box.
  • Scanners III: The Takeover: Alex temporarily shuts down his heart to fake death in the hospital to avoid a Sickbed Slaying. He later wakes up at the morgue. There's an initial Bait-and-Switch where it seems like the coroner is about to saw open his chest, but it turns out he was working on another body.
  • See No Evil 2: Tamara, who is fascinated by death and serial killers, leaves the party with Carter to go look at Jacob's body in the morgue. The experience of being in a room with the body of a real murderer arouses her and she and Carter begin to have sex. Jacob suddenly awakens, and kills Carter while Tamara escapes.
  • Street Fighter: An example that involves Faking the Dead as Guile wakes up in a morgue (scaring Chun-Li in the process) after apparently getting shot by Ryu and Ken during their prison break. Of course, it was all part of the plan to get Ryu and Ken on Bison and Sagat's good side so that they could take them down later.

  • At the end of a funeral service, the pallbearers carrying the casket accidentally bump into a wall. They hear a faint moan. They open the casket and find that the woman is actually alive. She lives for 10 more years and then dies. Another funeral service is held, and as the pallbearers are carrying the casket out, the husband shouts "Watch out for the wall!"

  • There is a short story by Edmond Hamilton about a man who woke up in his family crypt, after being considered dead. He walked around the city, listened to what people really thought of him — and decided to go back into his coffin.
  • Betsy the Vampire Queen: Betsy discovers that she's a vampire upon waking up in a funeral home after a truck hits her. Having died isn't important to her; what's important is the hideous pink shoes she's in.
  • In Bloodsucking Fiends, the protagonist, a vampire, wakes in a morgue after her body is discovered and her mortal boyfriend is arrested for murder. It is a rude awakening, as she is woken up by a necrophiliac mortician attempting to misuse her corpse.
  • Chrestomanci: The protagonist of The Lives of Christopher Chant learns of his regenerating power after he accidentally has his skull broken by a cricket bat and wakes up in the morgue perfectly intact.
  • The protagonist in a Dark Conspiracy novel wakes up just as they're preparing to harvest his body for organs. He manages to alert them to the fact that he's alive, only to have the doctor order the orderlies to strap him down as he prepares to continue anyway.
  • It's on an Igor's table rather than the morgue, but this happens to Nutt in the Discworld series.
    • Averted in Men at Arms, but only because the Watch didn't actually have a morgue, so Carrot left Angua's body in a bedroom to await her moonrise revival.
    • Avoiding this is the purpose of Granny Weatherwax's "I aten't ded" sign. When she 'borrows' an animal or group of animals her body goes into a deathlike state.
  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden is injured at the end of Death Masks and wakes up in the morgue with the coroner standing over him. He freaks out and starts yelling "I'm not dead! I'm not dead!" They knew, they just couldn't send him to the hospital with a bullet wound and so had their coroner friend treat him.note 
  • Stephen King's story "Autopsy Room Four" collected in Everything's Eventual is told from the point of view of a character to whom this happens after he's bitten by an exotic snake. The story is a homage to, and follows the plot of, the Louis Pollack story Breakdown, first published in Colliers (June 7, 1947), which has a character who is completely paralyzed in an auto accident and must prove that he is alive to avoid being autopsied. The female pathologist checks a scar near his lower parts which gets him kind of... excited
  • Played with in The Great Train Robbery. The crew exploits a Victorian-era fear of this by having a member fake being dead but give a false positive on the bell attached to his finger in his casket so that the police would be reluctant to search the coffin with the grieving widow right there. To really seal the deal, they make him up to look obviously putrid (and rub a dead cat on him for the stink) and have the "widow" claim he died of something nice and contagious...
  • In James P. Blaylock's Homunculus, Willis Pule is knocked unconscious during a scuffle with zombies, then hauled away with the bodies left behind when they de-animate. Pule's skin had been stained pale green in an earlier incident, so whoever collected the bodies can't be wholly blamed for mistaking him for yet another corpse.
  • Childe Cycle: In Necromancer, the protagonist transfers his consciousness to a specially prepared body in a morgue.
  • The protagonist of One Foot in the Grave wakes up in the morgue in his backstory as a result of his being partially transformed into a vampire. Unfortunately to his horror his wife and daughter are on nearby tables in full view, and have already been autopsied.
  • A man wakes up at his own funeral — his wake, actually — in The Shipping News. The main character, Quoyle, has trouble explaining this to his young daughter, who doesn't quite understand the difference between death and sleep.
  • Blaze from Silicon Wolfpack woke up in a morgue, cut his way out of a body bag, and was greeted by a reaper, who informed him that he was having a near-death experience.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat: This happens to Jim after he's ambushed by his enemy Angelina. His life is saved by luck and his bulletproof underwear, so he uses this as an opportunity to fake his death as well as play Musical Identity Tags with the other corpses as a joke.
  • In a variant, the protagonist of Strong Spirits is hauled off to the morgue while engaging in astral projection, and is unable to re-enter his inert body because of interference by a rival medium. He doesn't actually wake up there, but a friend who knows of his paranormal experiments intervenes before he has to watch his own body being autopsied.
  • The plot of Terminal World is kicked off when an angel wakes up in Dr. Quillion's morgue with a message for him.
  • Averted by Jack Fleming from The Vampire Files, who woke up on the shore of Lake Michigan instead. Invoked in-character by Escott in the same series, when he tells Gaylen that Fleming had died of food poisoning rather than reveal he'd been worked over and murdered by mobsters.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents: In the episode "Breakdown", based on a story by Louis Pollack (1955), movie producer Mr. Callew fires a long-time employee on the phone and scoffs at his crying. Callew later gets into a car accident and is completely paralyzed. He is assumed to be dead and is ignored by everyone, and only gets the mortician's attentions with his tears.
  • In an episode of Alias, Sydney gets wheeled into a morgue as part of a Faking the Dead ploy. Naturally, she wakes up and beats people up.
  • In Being Human (UK), this happens to Sasha and the other zombies. In Sasha's case, she wakes up just as they're about to dissect her and proceeds to scream pissily at the coroner for it. She doesn't seem particularly fazed by any of it but the other zombies, who are dissected while awake and thrown into furnaces, aren't quite so lucky.
  • In one episode of Bones, the Victim of the Week is presumed dead of a heart attack, but Bones knows better. It turns out that he had been poisoned — but, to add injury to injury, he hadn't quite been poisoned to death and awoke in the funeral home's embalming room. The embalmer was so surprised that he stabbed him to death.
  • This happens more than once in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (unsurprisingly).
    • The fake Anointed One in the funeral home in season 1.
    • The vampire in the hospital in "The Body".
    • The vampire Teresa in "Phases" in season 2 wakes up in her coffin in a funeral home...
    • As does some unnamed lady in "Help" in season 7.
    • Also, the robot Ted mentions the look on the coroner's face after he woke up from an apparent death.
  • In the Castle episode "Undead Again", a man who happens to be the main suspect in a murder is found dead. Since it's a zombie-themed episode, Castle expects him to rise like a zombie. Pearlmutter assures him that he won't, then jabs him in the forearm. Cue rising like a zombie. Of course, he wasn't a zombie, but had been dosed with a drug that put him in a fugue-like state and no memory of what happened during that time (in this instance, told to kill the victim of the week by a rival, the man who dosed him).
  • Piper does this in the Charmed (1998) episode "Styx Feet Under". Since the FBI agent who's been following them for the last few episodes is in the room when it happens, it's the event that finally allows him to penetrate The Masquerade.
  • Subverted in a CSI episode, when the senior coroner was walking his assistant through a routine autopsy on a (supposed) death by cardiac arrest. When David (the assistant) began the Y-incision, though, the "corpse" bled heavily and the two doctors rushed to resuscitate the man. Unfortunately, the man dies without regaining consciousness, and the coroners eventually discover that he was poisoned. Cue Grissom and Brass.
  • CSI: Miami: A body of a young woman is lying in a morgue locker when she suddenly wakes up, disoriented and in shock. Luck is on her side, since coroner Alex Woods is close by, and was the one who opened the locker. As it is later revealed, the woman was cooled by an enormous amount of cold water and survived.
  • Diagnosis: Murder: In "Blood Will Out", Amanda is preparing for an autopsy when the body on her slab wakes up and chokes her into unconsciousness before escaping.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the Made-for-TV Movie, the Seventh Doctor is shot by a street gang upon his arrival on Earth. He dies on the operating table thanks to the doctors inadvertently killing him due to his different anatomy. A few hours later, he regenerates into the Eighth Doctor and wakes up inside one of those metal box cooling units in a hospital morgue with amnesia and a few feet of camera probe sticking out of his chest (Eight did not have the most pleasant first day). He proceeds to scare the shit out of the attending orderly by kicking his way out via Barrier-Busting Blow.
    • "Death in Heaven": Danny Pink does this and finds to his horror that he's been turned into a Cyberman.
  • Father Brown: This happens to Father Brown in "The Wrath of Baron Samedi" when he is drugged with a poison that lowers his heart rate to the point where he appears to be dead.
  • In an episode of Firefly a presumed corpse wakes up when Simon begins his autopsy. Admittedly, Serenity doesn't technically have a morgue...
    • But the hospital on planet Ariel did. Which is why Simon isn't as put off by this happening as the others are, given that he and River did wake up in a morgue after faking their own death in a similar fashion, a few episodes earlier. Note that one of the first things he does after realizing this is to ask Jayne to hand him a bowl because he knows that one of the side effects of the drug used for that is vomiting.
  • In Forever Knight, the protagonist met his coroner friend when he woke up on her autopsy table.
  • Ghost Whisperer twists this trope when a corpse wakes up in the morgue in the episode "The Walk-In". Not because he wasn't dead (he was), but because another ghost took the opportunity to possess his body.
  • Harrow: In "Mens Rea" ("Guilty Mind"), Harrow is shocked when one half of a Murder-Suicide rises up of the slab and proceeds to pull the knife out of the other half and take him hostage.
  • Heroes:
    • Claire, who has a Healing Factor and was apparently killed in the previous episode, has her regeneration powers only kick in when the branch in her head is removed. She wakes up, looks down, and sees her ribs exposed for autopsy.
    • Her father, brought back with life with an infusion of her blood, not only goes through something similar, but has the same reaction.
      Bennett: ...holy sh— [episode ends]
  • Highlander has a few of these just like the films. In one, the female immortal kills the coroner before walking off. Another has a similar scene with a different immortal woman. Then there’s Richie, who was indicated to have woke up there after a motorcycle crash and had to make it to the barge in only a blanket because Mac wasn’t happy with his risk taking and wanted him to learn a lesson.
  • The House episode "Brave Heart" concerned a patient who was convinced he was going to die of a heart attack. When he had his heart attack, Foreman called House in to observe so that he could get his answer. The man began screaming seconds after Foreman started slicing him up the middle.
    House: I guess the autopsy's going to have to wait a little bit.
    • In an earlier episode, House brought Kutner and Taub down to the morgue to see the body of a young woman who Kutner diagnosed online under House's name with Taub's help. House berated them and told them their incompetence cost the woman her life. He then said he might still be able to save her, and, to Kutner and Taub's puzzlement, started doing chest compressions on the woman, who then gasped and sat bolt upright. It turned out she was a hooker House hired to teach them a lesson.
  • Largely averted in iZombie, because the Victim of the Week is dead by the time that Liv starts feeding. However, Liv was on her way to the morgue when she reanimated in the pilot (she sat up in a body bag on the beach).
  • In a season 2 episode of Lost, "?", this has happened to a girl who was believed to have drowned. It's not actually shown, but we get to hear the coroner's audio recording of the interrupted autopsy. It's later indicated that the girl was actually dead for while.
  • In an episode of The Mob Doctor, a patient comes into the emergency room and then has an apparent heart attack. The doctor is trying to explain what happened to the man's pregnant wife. She insists on seeing her husband's body. The body is still in the trauma room so they take the wife there. Then the husband wakes up and wants to know what is going on and why his wife is crying. The man apparently has a very rare condition where his heart can stop for a few minutes and then start beating again. The rest of the episode the doctors try to determined what caused the condition and how to stop it from occurring again since the next time the man might not wake up. Also they do not want to be know as the doctors who had the same patient die on them twice in a day.
  • The British sitcom Mulberry features the son of Death who is trying to get into the family business and has been ordered to kill a wealthy old woman who he winds up befriending instead (it's more lighthearted than you might think). Actually, as Death reminds Mulberry, it is not his job to 'kill' his new friend, it's his job to be on hand to take her to what comes next when she dies. In one episode, Mulberry has an accident and is taken to the morgue. His father is kind enough to take him out of the freezer and remind him that he can't die.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Hangman", Fox escapes hanging by means of an impromptu tracheotomy and the hangman deliberately shortening the drop. He wakes up at the morgue and terrifies Juia as she makes his escape.
  • NCIS:
    • In the episode "Iceman", the medical examiner Ducky is in autopsy, doing his usual "talking to the corpse" thing as he's fixing his morning tea. When the tea kettle starts whistling, the "corpse" opens his eyes and sits up. Apparently the man was found nearly frozen, and "a body isn't dead until it's warm and dead." The man, however, has severe brain damage because of a lack of oxygen when he was frozen and dies at the end anyway.
    • In the premiere of season 3, the corpse on the examining table (it's Kate, who was killed by Ari) starts speaking to Ducky. Unfortunately, the person has been Killed Off for Real and Ducky was just doing his normal Talking to the Dead. It's just that the dead was talking back. In his mind.
  • Happens in the pilot of New Amsterdam (2008). Initially it appears to be a throwaway gag and a way to explain John's "gift". It actually ends up having serious repercussions across the season, as in this day and age you can't just stroll out of the morgue without explaining yourself.
  • This happens to a college professor who had been experimenting with a mind-enhancing drug in the The Outer Limits (1963) episode "Expanding Human".
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "The Inheritors", Jacob Hardy is struck in the head by an apparent meteor fragment and dies instantly as the fragment became embedded in his brain. When his body is brought to the morgue, the pathologist Dr. Ian Michaels and his assistant Ollie Gibb begin to perform an autopsy. Ian's first step is to remove the fragment, which turns out to a metal projectile. A tentacle then emerges from the hole in Jacob's head, much to the horror of Ian and Ollie. Before they can react, Jacob opens his eyes, takes a deep breath and sits upright, having been resurrected by the alien technology.
    • In "Inner Child", Anne Marie Reynolds dies in an emergency room, having lost all of her brain functions, after being struck in the head with a lead pipe by a mugger. Approximately ten or fifteen minutes later, she wakes up in the morgue. It is later determined that she is growing a second brain on her spine, which contains the personality of her conjoined twin Marie, who was absorbed into her during her mother's pregnancy.
  • Pretty Little Liars: In "Game On, Charles", The Liars fail to escape A's dollhouse and get hit with a Knockout Gas. They wake up later in a morgue-like room and notice that they've been undressed and only have a Modesty Bedsheet draped over their naked bodies. Spencer theorizes A took photos of them like that to send to their families so that they assume they were dead and would stop looking for them.
  • Happens at least Once an Episode in Pushing Daisies, but most of the corpses don't stay alive very long.
  • In an episode of Quincy, M.E., a victim wakes up on the autopsy table causing a substitute coroner to go running out of the autopsy yelling "We've got a live one!"
  • Rizzoli & Isles: Someone is delivered to the morgue not quite dead in "This Is How A Heart Breaks". Maura realises he is alive when she feels a pulse in his penis. She saves his life by by performing an emergency tracheotomy. Unfortunately, he later turns out to be a serial killer
  • Smallville:
    • In "Reaper" Kryptonite Freak Of The Week's Tyler Randall has his powers manifest when he wakes up in the morgue. He'd been thrown out a window and woke up just in time to grab the coroner's arm and stop him from cutting him open with the bonesaw.
    • Also happened to Chloe in "Bizarro, when she Comes Back From The Dead thanks to her healing powers.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the very aptly named Season 4 episode "Night Terrors", Dr Crusher is working alone in an improvised morgue set up in one of the cargo bays containing bodies recovered from another Starfleet ship that had a fatal run-in with a Negative Space Wedgie, and turns around to see every single shrouded body sitting up on their gurneys. It turns out to be a hallucination, the cause of which is directly related to how the other starship's crew died.
  • St. Elsewhere: In "Where There's Hope, There's Crosby", Morrison is working in the morgue when he hears breathing coming from one of the shelves. He opens it to find that the supposedly dead Richard Jenkins is still alive, though only barely. Morrison and a crash team are able to resuscitate him. Elliot, who pronounced Jenkins DOA, swears that he was dead and is at a loss to explain it. Fiscus retorts that he was in fact AAKOA: alive and kicking on arrival. Jenkins is not grateful to Morrison for resuscitating him as he was trying to kill himself.
  • The Tales from the Crypt episode "Abra Cadaver" involves a medical researcher getting some morbid payback on his practical-joking brother. The researcher (whose brother had accidentally maimed him during a long-ago botched prank) has developed a serum which induces a state of total bodily paralysis. He drugs his Jerkass bro with it, then lets his helpless but conscious sibling believe he's died, yet somehow remains aware of what happens to his body. The drug wears off just as the M.E. is leaning over him with the bone saw... and then the jokester has a real heart attack, when the researcher pops into the (faked) "morgue" and the "M.E." reveals that he'd been in on the prank. Nope, the guy doesn't wake up in the for-real morgue.
  • Parodied in the Tatort episode "Satisfaktion": After pathologist Professor Boerne is knocked out by being hit on the head from behind with a sabre at an academic fraternity, he wakes up on one of his morgue's steel tables and asks: "Am I dead?" His assistant Alberich answers to the negative. It turns out he had just been brought to their place of work where she stitched up the cut and sat back to wait for him to regain consciousness.
  • In the series 1 finale of Torchwood, "End of Days", Captain Jack Harkness fights an Eldritch Abomination that feeds on life energy. Since Jack is immortal, he lets the monster have as much as he wants from him, causing Abaddon to "choke" on it and die. Jack himself is seen as completely blue and unresponsive. The team assumes that this was too much even for Jack. As they say their good-byes in the Torchwood morgue, only Gwen is left by his side. She kisses him and turns to leave, only to hear a weak "Thank you." Slightly subverted in that he's used to being killed and is not shocked.
  • The reverse of this trope was the entire premise behind Tru Calling. The protagonist discovered her powers when other people woke up in the morgue.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" has a young hillbilly wake up at his own funeral. He insists he was just in a coma; the local coroner insists he was dead. His character changes; he becomes a go-getter, when before he was a layabout. The locals believe that he's occupied by a demon. He gives an angry speech denying it, but says if he is possessed, everybody better beware. He disperses the crowd, and his girl believes him — until the end, when she sees him light a cigar without matches or a lighter.
  • The X-Files: In "Leonard Betts", the eponymous Monster of the Week walks away from the morgue — after decapitation, no less. His Healing Factor is truly impressive.

  • The music video for Incubus' Anna Molly.
  • The Irish folk song "Tim Finnegan's Wake", thanks to some whiskey (not a morgue, but close enough).
  • Played with in the Butcher Babies track "#iwokeuplikethis." However the poor subject of the song is, unfortunately, still dead.

    New Media 

  • The Third Doctor, in the radio serial The Paradise of Death. The Brigadier, who's present at the time, just remarks "Told you so."

    Tabletop Games 
  • The basis for Bound characters in Geist: The Sin-Eaters.
  • The Planescape 5E module "Turn of Fortune's Wheel" opens with the player characters waking up in the Sigil mortuary with no memories, much like in Planescape: Torment. If they experience a TPK they find themselves back there, fortunately with no further memory loss.

  • Juliet did the medieval equivalent (waking up in the burial vault) in Romeo and Juliet. The twist is that she deliberately feigned death and expected to find herself there when she woke up. Too bad Romeo didn't get the memo and had already killed himself out of grief.

    Video Games 
  • We don't get to see it, but it happens in Batman: Arkham Asylum: when you first visit the morgue, one of the bodies stored there is that of Ra's Al Ghul (which you can find out by investigating). Knowing who Ra's is, when you come back later, he's long gone from the morgue.
  • In The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush has to fake his death with a paralysing drink in order to get into a crypt by way of burial. He then has to do it again to get into another crypt.
  • Dark Souls III takes it one further - the Ashen One wakes up in their grave, starting the game in the Cemetery of Ash.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has a quest for the Dark Brotherhood (the local assassins' guild) where you have to help someone fake his own death. You have to deliver the antidote to him personally, and he thusly wakes up in the mausoleum.
  • Played for laughs in Grand Theft Auto V. Michael is knocked unconscious so that he can infiltrate the city coroner's office. As he is waking up, he hears a pathologist chat with his assistant about Michael's physical flaws, explaining how each is indicative of a different bad habit that probably contributed to his death.
  • While it's not immediately after his assumed death, in Ghost Trick Yomiel uses Sissel's body to infiltrate the police morgue and possess his own seemingly-dead body. Yomiel then gets off the table and walks out the door. The medical examiner promptly quit his job in order to devote his life to finding out what the fuck just happened.
  • In the last main level of Hitman (2016), set at a hospital, one of the available starting options is 'undercover at the morgue', with Agent 47 beginning the mission on a trolley in said morgue. Not that the morticians ever notice that he's gone.
  • It's not technically a morgue, but in Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, you wake up in a rotting pile of corpses which is where the resident Mad Scientist has been storing his failed reincarnation experiments.
  • A couple of Legacy of Kain games start this way (including the first one, after a brief intro); fitting, given the nature of the "protagonists."
  • Midnight Nowhere opens with the protagonist waking in a mortuary,
  • Nightbreed: The Interactive Movie highlights one of the problems with trying this mid-game. The player has to allow themself to be killed in order to awaken his hidden powers, which obviously isn't preferred. It doesn't help that this only works after a specific, completely un-hidden-power-related event has taken place (which involves another apparent fail condition, by the way). Then again, interactive movies are not known for their logic, self-consistency or quality...
  • Planescape: Torment opens with this scene. Mind you, the morgue is three storeys high and staffed by, variously, zombies and skeletons in various states of decay and the death-obsessed. Features amnesia, although the character has instructions carved on his back and a helpful talking, flying, smartmouthed skull willing to read them out loud to you. If The Nameless One dies anywhere in the Hive region of Sigil, they'll wake up again on the same metal slab in the Mortuary.
  • In [PROTOTYPE], the protagonist does this near the beginning of the game, much to the surprise of the two (presumed) pathologists who were about to autopsy him (while he was still fully clothed, for some reason).note 
  • In Sanitarium, the act "The Morgue" starts you out, appropriately enough, inside a locker in the morgue. Since you were just earlier a four-armed cyclopean hero from a comic book, how you ended up there in human form is not explained.
  • The Shadowrun game for the SNES opens with the Amnesiac Hero waking up in a morgue and promptly scaring the hell out of the attendants, who think that he is a zombie. This is also referenced in Shadowrun Returns when you wake up the very same Jake Armitage in the morgue - apparently he just has a bad habit of sleeping there because it's cheaper than a motel.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne: After witnessing The End of the World as We Know It and having a Creepy Child drop a demonic parasite that eats his eye and burrows into his head, the Demi-Fiend's day starts as he wakes up at Shinjuku Hygienic Hospital's morgue. It speaks volumes about the game that this is the high point of his day.
  • World of Warcraft takes this to its logical extreme. If you start a new Undead character, you literally wake up inside a graveyard.

  • The titular Sidekick Girl does this once after being captured by The Coroner, a supervillain who wants to autopsy all the world's superheros so he can figure out how their powers work. Her healing factor allowed her to recover from his ministrations. The other super he captured wasn't so lucky.
  • Tina of Wapsi Square woke up in a morgue with amnesia as part of her backstory. The catch was that the original Tina had actually died, and her demons had taken over the body.
  • Doc from The Whiteboard wakes up in a hospital room underneath his paintball shop (courtesy of DARPA; It Makes Sense in Context) covered in a sheet and with a toe tag. Why he woke up there was never explained.

    Real Life 
  • Waking up in the morgue does (rarely) happen in real life. A woman named Allison Burchell, who had a severe form of a rare condition called cataplexy, was mistaken for dead on three separate occasions. It was more common in the past, before advances in medical technology made it possible to detect very faint signs of life. This probably led to several people being Buried Alive.
  • A really creepy version of this happened with turn-of-the-century magician Walford Bodie. He was prone to severe seizures, and carried a note explaining the care that he should be given if he was found apparently dead. He revived several times after these seizures, but at one point he had a seizure, and the doctor treating him either didn't read the note, or didn't find it, and he was autopsied even though he probably wasn't actually dead.
  • Snopes has a good list of these, some of which are hilarious, others horrifying.
  • A Venezuelan dude was being examined in the morgue when the doctors noticed he was bleeding, and decided to stitch the wound without thinking there was anything odd (even if bleeding is a luxury of living beings). Then he sits up on the table, screaming.
  • In Russia, a woman by the name of Fagilyu Mukhametzyanova suffered a fatal heart attack after waking up during her own funeral and finding herself surrounded by mourners.
  • In 1786, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, later King Charles XIV John of Sweden and Norway, but then a sergeant of Louis XVI's army, suffered from a severe lung disease, was mistaken for dead and only narrowly escaped a premature burial, thanks to the meticulousness of a young surgeon.
  • You wake up at the morgue... but no, you don't have any superpowers and nothing weird happened, you were just so ridiculously drunk the paramedics actually thought you were dead.
  • In the days of sail British sailors who died at sea were sewn up in their hammocks and buried at sea. To prevent them being mistakenly tossed overboard while still alive, a stitch was passed through the victim's nose, with the reaction to the pain supposedly revealing if he was still alive.


Video Example(s):


Kreia Wakes Up

The Jedi Exile explores the Peragus Morgue, where she finds a dead elderly woman. While examining another corpse, the woman wakes up, stating she was close to death, and introduces herself as Kreia.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / WakingUpAtTheMorgue

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