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Zombify the Living

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Welp, he's boned.

"The plague was never meant to simply kill my people. It was meant to turn them... into the undead! Defend yourselves!"
Arthas Menethil, Warcraft III

Animating dead bodies and summoning skeletons is a pretty useful power. So how can it be improved? Why, by getting rid of the pesky "dead bodies" limitation! Using necromancy on victims who are still alive is a good way to show just how powerful this guy is. In a way it also shows him as extremely depraved, given that they sentence their victims to a state of death worse than real death. After all, corpses typically aren't able to feel themselves rotting away from the inside.

Some versions of vampirism fall into this category as well: vampires are traditionally considered The Undead, and some settings have the victim transformed while still alive. Liches may result from the caster doing this to himself.

Compare Animate Dead. Not to be confused with Technically-Living Zombie, which is where a zombie-esque creature results from (for instance) infecting a living person with a disease (a zombie that was made by transforming a living human into a humanoid which is, for all intents and purposes, a zombie), while this is a spell or other form of Applied Phlebotinum which kills the target and turns them into an actual zombie in one go. Also not to be confused with Spawn Broodling, which creates a minion from the body's mass, not use the body itself to attack.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sankarea touches on this trope. Although Chihiro's experiments with zombification started when he wanted to reanimate his pet cat after it was hit by a car, Rea steals some of the zombie potion and then drinks it herself. It doesn't seem to have any effect, but when she later dies accidentally, she pretty quickly comes back as a zombie. Because she already had the potion in her system before dying, Rea is able to hold on to her humanity for much longer than "normal" zombies (something which helps The Power of Love pull through time and time again).

    Comic Books 
  • Dungeon: The Early Years has the wizards Horus and Alcibiade trapped in a prison. Horus' plan is to cast a Necromancy by Anticipation spell, starve to death, be buried outside the prison, and then rise from the grave (and devouring an entire herd of cows to get back to true life). It works.
  • In The Goon, the Zombie Priest accidentally created his nemesis Buzzard (who's technically a sort of "anti-zombie" who feeds on the dead, but otherwise counts); by using the zombie creating magic on him when he was alive.
  • In Blackest Night, Nekron zombifies those who have come Back from the Dead (e.g. Superman). Green Lantern and The Flash avoid this by being Just One Second Out of Sync.
  • In Nova, Abyss can transform living creatures into undead "meat puppets" which carry out his will.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The German film Night of the Living Dorks has the protagonists hit with an improperly cast resurrection spell, which upon their death later that night in a car accident resurrects them as zombies. Thankfully, they were still pretty normal and managed to get truly revived before going full zombie.
  • Psychomania has members of a biker gang perform a ritual that immediately resurrects them as members of the undead after they perform suicidal stunts.
  • the John Carpenter movie Prince of Darkness has this when people get directly possessed by the green substance inside an ancient casister that is actually Satan in liquid form. While there is some semblance of consciousness left in the possessed, they are dead and when the movie's Big Bad is beaten, they truly die like marionettes without strings.
  • The villainous mummies in The Mummy franchise tend to have been mummified alive.
  • The 2,4,5-Trioxin chemical from the Return of the Living Dead series is perfectly capable of reanimating the dead. In addition to that, the chemical is also capable of simultaneously killing and reanimating any living people who have been exposed to it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has The Beckoning Death, a high-level Necromancy spell that can turn a large group of living humanoids into undead. It was used in the film's backstory by Szass Tam to turn the nation of Thay into The Necrocracy, and his pupil Sofina plans to use it on the citizens of Neverwinter that attend the Highsun Games.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022) features the vampirism variety where the transition from living to undead occurs while the person is on the threshold of death, and is therefore technically still alive (albeit barely). The show's Louis de Pointe du Lac doesn't lose consciousness after he consumes Lestat de Lioncourt's vampire blood, unlike in the 1994 movie where that incarnation of Louis actually dies and temporarily becomes an inert corpse before waking up as a vampire. Louis details in "...After the Phantoms of Your Former Self" how it felt for his human body to adapt to vampirism:
    Louis: (in 2022 narrating to Daniel Molloy) Bliss was merely a stage in my transformation. Pain followed, a seizing and unrelenting pain, through which I would pass before my apprenticeship began.
    Louis: (in 1910 while struggling to walk) What's happening?!
    Lestat: Your body is confused. Your lungs feel like water, your heart, fire. You feel as if you're dying, because you are.
    (Louis vomits)
    Lestat: And then there's the retching.
  • Kamen Rider Double pulls a science-based version in The Movie: The main antagonists, including Big Bad Kamen Rider Eternal, are "Necro-Overs" — Super Soldiers made from reanimated corpses. Eternal's master plan is to construct a massive machine that, when activated, will unleash a wave of energy that will turn everyone in Fuuto into "undead monsters" like himself. Naturally, Double saves the day and prevents the machine from being used.
  • Kingdom (2019): Faced with losing her grasp on power, the Queen attempts a 'scorched earth' policy to deny the Crown Prince his throne. Her attendants free their caged zombies, infecting the entire palace staff.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition:
      • Fiend Folio. The undead Son of Kyuss is an animated corpse that has fat green worms crawling in and out of its skull orifices. Once per round a worm will jump onto an opponent in melee combat with the Son and try to infect the victim. If it succeeds, the target will immediately become a Son of Kyuss.
      • Adventure WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. The slow shadow inflicts cold damage by touch. Any creatures killed by one is changed into a slow shadow.
      • Module D1 ''Descent into the Depths of the Earth". The treasure of the lich Asberdies includes a crown, sceptre and orb which bear a curse. Anyone who takes possession of them will sicken, die, and immediately turn into a wight (an undead monster that drains Life Energy).
      • Dungeon Master's Guide. In the "Artifacts and Relics Powers/Effects Tables", one of the Major Malevolent Effects is the user aging 3-30 years each time they use a primary power. If they do this often enough, they will change into a "deathless withered zombie".
      • The spell Energy Drain drains the Life Energy (Character Levels) of victims. Any human or humanoid drained to zero levels or less becomes an undead. When the spell was first written out in Module G1-3 Against The Giants (1981), it turned its victims into standard zombies.
      • Ju-ju zombies were officially added to the game in the Monster Manual II (1983) supplement. They were defined as the zombies that were created by the Energy Drain spell. When the Unearthed Arcana (1985) supplement came out, it changed Energy Drain's description so it created ju-ju zombies.
      • 1st edition Advanced D&D Monster Manual
      • Spectres, wights and wraiths are undead that drain Character Levels from their victims by touch. If a victim drops to level zero, they immediately become a half-strength undead of the same type as the one that killed them.
      • The shadow is an undead that drains points of a victim's Strength by touching them. If the target's Strength drops to zero, they become a shadow.
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition:
      • Book of Artifacts. In the random artifact powers tables, one entry in Table 30: Necromancy turns the user into an unspecified undead creature.
      • Monstrous Compendium Annual:
      • The undead known as a spectral wizard is created by casting the Create Spectral Wizard spell on a human or elf wizard. The wizard is immediately changed into a spectral wizard.
      • A high level psionic becomes a psionic lich by putting all of their psionic powers into a phylactery. When the last psionic power is placed in the phylactery, the psionic's life force is completely drained and they are transformed into a psionic lich.
      • Dark Sun campaign setting Monstrous Compendium Appendix II: Terrors Beyond Tyr. A creature drained of all Life Energy by a racked spirit immediately becomes a lesser spirit. A lesser spirit is the same as a racked spirit except that it doesn't have psionic powers.
      • Forgotten Realms:
      • Supplement Prayers from the Faithful. The spell Create Undead Minion can change a living sentient being directly into an undead monster. The higher the Character Level of the caster, the more powerful an undead they can create. For example, an 18th or higher level caster can turn a being into a ghoul, ghast, ju-ju zombie, wight, wraith, spectre or vampire.
      • Supplement Cult of the Dragon and Spellbound boxed set "Campaign Guide". The Red Wizard spell Unlife can change a person directly into an undead creature. The type of undead created is based on the Character Level of the victim: 1st-3rd level = skeleton or zombie, 4th-6th level = ghoul, 7th-8th level = wight, 9th level or higher = wraith.
      • Ruins of Zhentil Keep boxed set Monstrous Compendium Appendix. Worshippers of the deity Bane who voluntarily take part in a religious ceremony are changed directly into the undead known as Banedead.
    • Dungeon magazine #76 adventure "The House on the Edge of Midnight." The attacks of the undead monster known as the cannibal zombie inject a poison that causes the victim to become a cannibal zombie.
    • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition:
      • Lost Empires of Faerûn: The curst is created by casting bestow curse on a dying subject, followed by create undead or create greater undead.
      • Sandstorm has an Artifact of Doom called the Dead Throne that not only brought the desert warlord Ten-Ap back from the dead but also gave him the ability to convert the living into mummies.
      • The Awesome, but Impractical "Fell Animate" metamagic feat from Libris Mortis allows a caster to modify their damage-dealing spells so that any creature slain by them rises 1 round later as a zombie under the caster's control.
    • One of the nastiest powers of the zombie lord, a monster unique to Ravenloft, is its ability to cause the instant death and re-animation of living opponents.
    • White Dwarf magazine #34 article "Fiend Factory". When a person is killed by a wraith-warrior's poison, 1 minute later the victim will be transformed into a wraith-warrior.
    • The 5th Edition "Finger of Death" Necromancy spell deals hefty damage and, if it kills a humanoid target, instantaneously reanimates their body as a zombie.
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • Skeletonize burns away a creature's flesh and (assuming three damage will kill it) leaves behind an undead skeleton under your command.
    • Skeletal Grimace does this by implication, though it doesn't officially change the creature's type.
    Jadar: And then I realized we all have skeletons on the inside. Why wait until the bodies are dead to control them?
  • Chaosium
    • Supplement All the Worlds' Monsters. If a creature is touched by a Coachman of Death, it must make a saving throw vs. magic or be turned into a zombie.
    • RuneQuest, Dragon magazine #172 article "Into the Spirit of Things". The spell Transform to Undead will change the caster into a zombie, ghoul, vampire or mummy.

    Video Games 
  • Warcraft:
    • As alluded to in the page quote, the undead plague sent ahead of the demonic invasion turns humans into zombies after putting them into a magical sleep.
    • During the invasion of Quel'Thalas, Arthas transforms Sylvanas Windrunner into a banshee while she's still alive. This was retconned in the World of Warcraft novel Arthas: The Rise of the Lich King, however.
    • There's also Arthas himself. By the time he returns to Lordaeron from Northrend he's officially considered undead, but there has been no point in the canon showing him actually dying to become as such. He simply picks up Frostmourne, and its influence strips away his humanity.
    • In gameplay the Dark Ranger's Black Arrow transforms those hit by it into giant skeletons on death.
  • In the Heroes of Might and Magic series, the Necropolis faction typically has access to an undead transformer that can convert living troops into undead.
    • In Might and Magic VIII, the mentioned Skeleton Transformer is a plot element — the local necromantic faction and the local chapter of the Church of the Sun are locked in a surprisingly grey struggle. You need to tip the balance to one side for them to join your alliance, and the way to do so for the Church of the Sun is to infiltrate the necromancers' holdfast and sabotage their skeleton transformer, severely cutting down on the necromancers' ability to produce reinforcements for the war (while individual necromancers can raise the dead, it lacks the industrial efficiency of the transformer and means they can't spend their time doing other war-helpful activities).
  • Final Fantasy:
    • The Zombie status makes sufferers vulnerable to Revive Kills Zombie without affecting their allegiance.
    • Final Fantasy XIII and its direct sequel: the mindless monsters Cie'th are considered undead, even though to become one, a human must not so much die as fail a Focus given to them by a fal'Cie. When a fal'Cie feels threatened, however, it can give humans an Unwinnable "null" Focus, which turns them into Cie'th on the spot, rapidly spawning a veritable zombie army around the fal'Cie.
  • In Eternal Darkness anyone killed by the miniboss of Edward's level instantly becomes a hostile zombie (although apart from the very first victim, you can drive it off and save Edward's servants if you're quick enough). This is also what happens to Anthony, in the form of a Slow Transformation progressing at various points through his level.
  • In Clive Barker's Undying, you can use the Revive spell on some living enemies, which makes them Driven to Suicide.
  • The Sims 3 expansion pack Supernatural introduced zombies to the game, where on a full moon, random Sims from the neighbourhood will turn into zombies for the night (dancing to a boom box, eating your plants, and attacking other sims), and then transform back into humans the next morning. You can also use the aptly named "Zombification Elixir" created by the alchemy station to turn a Sim into a zombie for two game days, or the "Potent Zombification Elixir" to turn them into a zombie permanently.
  • The Web Game Takeover has you fighting the undead Evil Empire, whose special power instantly converts some of your squads into the undead equivalents under the empire's control. It's easily the best power, which explains why you can't play them.
  • The Episode 2 boss of Wolfenstein 3-D is Dr. Schabbs, a Deadly Doctor who flings syringes full of a "corpsokinetic animation serum". If B.J. Blazkowicz loses all of his health to a syringe, his HUD portrait turns an ashen color as he becomes an undead mutant like those fought throughout the level.
  • The Worm Thralls from The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - people who were turned into zombies without being dead first thanks to the use of a powerful necromantic ritual. To give you an idea of how powerful, this sort of thing is only known to the guy who pretty much invented becoming a lich and is more or less the god of necromancy.
  • The demons of the Doom series have had a bit of fun with this trope.
    • In the classic games, the "zombiemen" are occasionally called "former humans", and are described in the manual as "flesh-eating mutants".
    • In Doom 3, intangible skull-demon-thingies can turn living humans into zombies instantly on "contact", though player characters seem to be immune.
  • The Field Scientists from Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City have a special ability that has them shooting a dart full of the T-Virus that can turn human characters into red zombies.
  • Contact with certain enemies or environmental hazards in the Wario Land series can temporarily transform Wario into Zombie Wario. In this form, he falls through certain kinds of platform when landing on them from a height, so it can be as much of a help as a hindrance depending on the circumstance. He's usually able to revert back to normal by coming into contact with rays of light.
  • Inverted in Singularity: Using handheld time-travel, you can turn enemy soldiers into adult-sized five-month fetuses. Played straight for all its horror, and no, you can't make zombies by using the TMD in reverse; that just dusts them. To death. With explosions. Multiple explosions.
  • In Diablo III's Reaper of Souls expansion, the Reapers attack the city of Westmarch with an army of Revenants; undead created by ripping the souls out of still-living humans.
  • The Metal Slug series has the zombie enemies found in the third and fourth games. If an injured civilian or even the player character gets hit by their Zombie Puke Attack, they collapse, get zapped by lightning, then rise up as a zombie, all in the span of less than 5 seconds. This also applies to the mummies from the second game.
  • In Runescape, the Barrows Brothers are a set of six legendary warriors raised from the dead under their master, Sliske. Sliske adds two other "brothers" to the barrows by using a spell to spontaneously transform living adventurers into wights. The fact that he targets the Player Character with this, and that his dungeon is filled with other wights in common, high-level adventuring gear, implies this is his preferred tactic.
  • Implied in Bravely Default 2: The undead wizard Vigintio states that creating an undead usually requires waiting for an individual to die or killing them, but he's found a way to speed up the process as part of his plan to turn the citizens of Wiswald into an undead army. Fortunately, the heroes defeat him before he can put his plan into action.
  • XCOM2: The Gatekeeper's main attack power is an energy blast that deals heavy damage to everyone in the area of effect, turning those it kills into psi zombies.

  • Richard of Looking for Group demonstrates this ability by forcing his enemies' skeletons to obey him... while they're still inside. More generally, Richard himself seems to have been a case of this, and can apparently change back if he goes too long without senseless slaughter.
  • Orrick in Undead Friend sort of goes through this being a human one second then a fully aware zombie the next after downloading a mysterious app.
  • Girl Genius: Andronicus Valois a.k.a. the Storm King (himself already undead) uses his mace, the Platonic Solid, to fire a blast of energy at a group of knights, ripping the flesh off their bodies. Next page, the now skeletal knights are taking orders from him.

    Web Original 
  • The Shortest Story: Animate Life is about a necromantic ritual gone very, very wrong:
    The grimoire said the spell would animate the closest skeleton.
    It didn't say what would happen if the skeleton was inside somebody.

    Western Animation 
  • The Fanboy and Chum Chum episode "The Book Report of the Dead" has Mr. Mufflin become a zombie without being dead first when he reads Fanboy's book report, which Fanboy wrote by copying passages from Kyle's Necronomicon.
  • In Inhumanoids, the main power of D'Compose was that he was able to turn human beings into huge zombies. He did use his powers on the remains of Dr. Herman Manglar to turn him into the villain Nightcrawler, but for the most part he was only shown zombifying people who were still alive.
  • In Skeleton Warriors and it's tie in comic Big Bad Baron Dark can convert people directly from human to mobile skeleton skipping the whole "having to die and rot" bit, he then adds them to his army. Some people go willingly and seem to retain some of their former selves, but your average unwilling convertee just seems to become overwhelmed by Baron Dark's psychic link.

    Real Life 
  • The Cordyceps fungus is known for infecting live insects like ants, manipulating the movements of its host before the fungus ultimately consumes the host's organs and spread its spores, ideally from a high location which it would direct the host to pre-death.


Video Example(s):


The Beckoning Death

Szass Tam unleashed the Beckoning Death onto the living population of Thay, turning its citizens into his undead army.

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Example of:

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