|Quotes • Headscratchers • Playing With • Useful Notes • Analysis • Image Links • Haiku • Laconic|
Larry Wilson: Lomax told whoever he was talking to not to kill us while he's around.
It's always a sad affair when someone dies... unless you're in a comedy, of course. In comedies, there may be all sorts of unlikely reasons why it's really not convenient for someone to be dead. So rather than face reality in a mature, responsible fashion, why not launch a Zany Scheme where you pretend the corpse is still alive, or at least make sure nobody can check?
Cue all sorts of wacky hijinks: the corpse is dragged around, impersonated (either bodily or through Ventriloquism), made to move by strings, and stored away in the most unlikely places. This goes on until such time as it's convenient to reveal that the victim is really dead (and that they died in circumstances that absolutely did not involve the protagonist in any way), or when the corpse is accidentally discovered.
A common variation involves a man who is unconscious or under a deep sleep rather than dead. Usually used when either the "corpse" is an already established character or in a show that refuses to acknowledge death.
A serious version of this is the El Cid Ploy. See also The Fun in Funeral. Compare Mummies At the Dinner Table and Dead Pet Sketch. The opposite situation, usually played seriously, is Faking the Dead. Dead Person Impersonation is when a living person assumes the dead one's ID and doesn't bother with the body.
- An office legend immortalized in a television commercial involves a recently deceased white-collar worker who was positioned at his desk with sunglasses on so that his wife could continue to draw his pension. Co-workers would come in and drop off work, and others would pick it up to work on. In most versions nobody even notices that he isn't actually doing anything.
Anime & Manga
- In Bowling King a man dies of old age during the opening of a restaurant. The workers go to great efforts to hide his body so that they don't get bad press.
- Detective Conan have a serious version of this (of course, being about murder and all that). A guy just murdered his brother and the Junior Detective League found his body. Next day, the brother tried to use the body manipulation to make it seems like that the dead guy is alive, trying to fool the League and the police.
- Also used by the title character (though they aren't dead) in each episode, since no one would believe the kid solved the crime, he darts his intended target then uses the unconscious body to finger the murderer. Considering how many cases he's solved, it seems everyone around him is just lugging crates of Idiot Balls behind them the whole way.
- A very non-comedic version in Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Kinzo has been Dead All Along, in fact for most of a year. His eldest son Krauss and Krauss's wife Natsuhi burned his body and are pretending he's locked himself in his room upstairs.
- Although Natsuhi completely lost it after Kinzo's death and is hallucinating that he is still alive.
- "Caretakers" (My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic): Lyra and Bon-Bon do this with Granny Smith when they presume her to be dead, with Lyra moving the corpse with her telekinesis and Bon-Bon providing the voice.
- The trope was made famous by Weekend at Bernies, where a pair of losers find that their deceased boss has ordered a hit on them, to be carried out once he ditches them. Out of sheer audacity, they start hauling the corpse around to convince everyone he's still alive. Except the hitman actually killed their boss, and all they're doing is drawing attention to themselves, and freaking the hitman out...
- No discussion would be complete without mentioning the sequel. Yes. They made a sequel. With Hollywood Voodoo and a Treasure Hunt. The series maintain a fanbase to this day (The Smirk is iconic) simply because it's So Bad It's Good.
- Saturday Night Live parodied this movie in the Digital Short Party at Mr. Bernard's, only everyone immediately realizes that Mr. Bernard is dead and the two guys are put on trial for fooling around with a dead body — until they find Mr. Bernard's video will which stipulates that when he dies, he wants his assistants to carry him around and fool people into thinking he's alive.
- Another borderline example: Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry has a group of townspeople discovering a body out in the woods and attempting to hide it from the authorities. Some of the hiders did it because they thought they had accidentally killed the man, and others did it to protect a person whom they thought had killed the man. The corpse gets buried and dug up three times each. It turns out no one killed the man: his death was from natural causes.
- This is an adaptation of an old story which can be found, among other places, in The Arabian Nights. There the person in question is a hunchback who choked on a bone.
- A serious, dramatic example appears in the movie El Cid. The title character dies before he can win the battle, so they just put his body in armor, put him on a horse, and set the horse running so he can inspire the troops to victory... and he still ends up mowing down several enemies. This is based on a legend about the real medieval Spanish leader, Rodrigo DÃaz de Vivar, El Cid. See "Real Life" for more details.
- In Beau Geste, as the soldiers manning the walls of a besieged fortress are killed, the insane commander sets the corpses of fallen defenders back up on the walls with rifles in hand to act as decoys.
- In the Clue movie, the characters attempt to hide about three dead people from a cop using this method.
- A dramatic example in Force 10 From Navarone. The heroes use the corpse of the commanding officer to trick the guards into letting them out of a Nazi controlled camp. The body is propped upright in a car and a hidden person raises its arm in the Nazi salute.
- In Waking Ned Devine, an elderly Irish man dies of shock when he wins the lottery and his friends have to do this in order to claim the jackpot to share between themselves.
- In Fierce Creatures, the boss is shot through the head by accident and a scheme is quickly set in place to make it look like a suicide in front of some of his colleagues involving the dead man's son impersonating him. This worked particularly well as the father and son were both played by the same actor, Kevin Kline to be exact.
- Played with in Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues. After the new governor is assassinated by Sheung Hung (Cherrie Chung), the soldiers outside storm in. Trying to hide the death, Pat Neil (Sally Yeh) moves his body around, half covered by sheets, to make it look like the soldiers interrupted the two during intercourse.
- Shane Valdés did a short called "A Weekend at Pete Rose's" starring friends Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith of Panic! at the Disco and their friend and label boss Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy.
- Example of sorts: Don't Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead, in which an elderly babysitter arrives to look after a large family of kids while their parents are away for the summer. She promptly drops dead and the kids, who don't want their parents to come home and ruin their fun, agree to pretend that she is still alive. Problem being that all the money their parents left them is in the box they used to drag the old lady to an undertaker, so the eldest sister pretends to be 30 years old in order to get a full time job for the summer. Hilarity Ensues.
- The many, many deaths in The Happiness of the Katakuris.
- Played with in Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear is alive and well, but utterly depressed and unresponsive; Woody needs to prove Buzz is alive and with him for the rest of the toys back home to save them. One of Buzz's toy arms happens to be detached at the moment, and Woody pantomimes with it pretending to be Buzz. When it's revealed he's just holding an arm, the rest of the toys assume it's this trope and abandon him.
- Rover Dangerfield plays this for laughs, unfortunately, with a turkey.
- In Waterworld, the Smokers make the residents of a small trading post, whom they've recently killed, appear to be waving to the Mariner as the latter approaches, intending to draw him into a deadly trap. Unfortunately for them, the Mariner isn't fooled by the charade.
- In Ratatouille, Remy finds Linguini passed out in the kitchen, so he puppeteers him to clean up. Colette comes in and engages him in conversation, but interprets Linguini's silence as rudeness and slaps him awake.
- The nurse and doctor do this with the body of a patient they had recently killed (and buried, so they had to dig him up) in Death Nurse, when his case worker comes by to visit. Luckily for them, he was so sick he couldn't speak, so his silence goes unquestioned.
- In one story from Arabian Nights the jester of a ruler dies from a fishbone in his throat; no less than three people try to shift the blame by getting rid of his body. When an innocent man is condemned to death for the alleged murder, all of them (in reverse order) confess what they did. At the end, it turns out that he wasn't really dead, just unconscious.
- In a different version of the story, he's really dead, but the sultan is so amused by everyone claiming to have killed him that he pardons all responsible, saying that this was the jester's last joke.
- Referenced in the Discworld novel Maskerade, where the philosophy of "the show must go on" is taken to truly ridiculous lengths; several characters allude to an incident some time ago in which a lead singer died in the Intermission but was made to finish out the show anyway.
- A serious example in Violet Eyes by Nicole Luiken, at the end, when the heroes try and convince a group of 'buyers' that their captor is alive and they are dead.
- A semi-serious variation happens in Wraith Squadron. When the Wraiths captured an enemy corvette, they managed to do so before the corvette could get a message off, meaning that the enemy was completely unaware that it had been seized. They decided to try The Infiltration, passing as the crew of the corvette to get close to the enemy. The captain - "a petty guy who reached his ultimate level of usefulness driving a minelaying barge for a warlord and then had to be scraped off the floor", according to Face - was killed and his body made unrecognizable, but he had such a massive ego that he kept a full-holo Captain's Log. The Wraiths proceeded to use it to impersonate him, with original flamboyance intact, over holographic communications.
Face (After a session where he deflects the suspicions of the petty captain's superior): "Thank you, thank you. Performances every hour, on the hour. Imperial madmen a specialty."
- A similar version is done in the Honor Harrington series, when Honor, having been captured and sent to a hellish prison, has the inmates take over. The Warden, a Complete Monster like pretty much everyone who worked there, was naturally brutally murdered by the inmates that he'd been abusing the whole time, so Honor's crew use his holographic logs as a stand-in when they get visitors, including a messenger boat. This ends up getting turned on them, when the receiver of the message notes that the 'Warden' didn't send his play-by-post chess move, and moves in to investigate. Unfortunately for them, Honor has commandeered a small fleet of her own by then.
- Serious example: The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan, in which a family of children attempt to hide their mother's death so they will not be taken away by Social Services. The title describes their manner of achieving this aim.
- In one of the Dawn books by VC Andrews, an elderly guest dies at the hotel run by the heroine. In accordance with past hotel policy she agrees to have him taken away by an ambulance crew, with an oxygen mask on to make it look like he is alive so that the hotel won't lose guests. She struggles with her conscience over this as it is what her hated grandmother, the previous owner of the hotel, liked to do whenever a guest died on the premises.
- In one of the Stephanie Plum novels, when one of the titular character's busts goes awry, her boss Vinnie suggests she do this in order to recover the bond money.
- Ogier the Dane used the "dead men on the walls" version, when he found himself the last living defender of a besieged castle.
- Used in Tim Powers The Drawing Of The Dark, after an assault by the defenders of Vienna against a position of Turks that had got too close to the main city wall. One of the armored knights died from wounds taken in the charge. The commander had originally brought out some explosives to take down the small wall there, but instead jury-rigged them to the knight's corpse so he could trick the Turks into thinking he had left defenders behind and catch them in the explosion. It worked too, naturally.
- Powers uses a more extreme version in On Stranger Tides, in which one of the occult conspirators dies on shipboard, before he can give the signal to delay a ritual that will erase the mind of the captive Love Interest. The hero, a puppetteer by trade, has no choice but to convert the dead man's corpse into a marionette and make it nod and wave to the accomplice, who is watching via spyglass from shore.
- In The Darksword Trilogy, the unstable political situation in Merilon causes the royal court to keep up the pretense that the Queen is still alive for over a year after her death in order to prevent her brother from taking the throne. They royal wizards use their magic to prevent her body from decomposing, and even to make it move and appear to hold court as usual — but anyone looking into its dead eyes can see the truth.
- The Three Musketeers: Used by the musketeers during the siege of La Rochelle to escape from a (previously damaged and deserted) minor fort in which they had gathered to eat, drink and plot: they and their valets set the corpses around the fort, so as to be visible to the advancing enemy party; while their enemies were shooting, they slink away at leisurely pace. In the scene, Athos is particularly Badass.
Live Action TV
- Happy Days: The fifth-season, two-part episode "Fonzie's Funeral" had the Cunninghams stage a fake funeral for Fonzie to put him into protection. (Fonzie had gone to the police to turn in $100 bills found in a hearse he was repairing, but local crime lord The Candyman — wanted for counterfeiting, extortion, money laundering and robbery — finds out and sends his henchmen after him.) Fonzie is then declared "dead" to put him into hiding and allow the Cunninghams time to devise a plan to defeat the Candyman. Prior to the climatic scene, there is the "hilarious visitation" featuring the series' regulars and memorable guests saying their "farewells," and "Fonzie's mother" (Fonzie in drag) comforting the survivors.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: The Coy-and-Vance era episode "Ding Dong, the Boss is Dead," where Boss agrees to "die" to ensure that he will not be stalked by his old moonshining rival, "Big" Floyd Calloway (who was sent to prison on Boss' testimony for extortion). But matters are complicated when Calloway wants to pay his "respects" to Boss in person.
- Little House On the Prairie: The first-season episode, "If I Should Wake Before I Die" is played as a straight drama, and sees Charles help an elderly woman, who had been virtually left for dead by her long-absent children, stage her own funeral to lure the fortune-seeking kids back to Walnut Grove for that coveted visit.
- Played almost straight in an episode of Monk, where Monk was always one step behind a group of murderers who had hidden away the victim's body in a hotel, constantly moving it around. They nearly got away with it.
- Borderline example: the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse". While nobody actually attempts to puppet the corpse itself, the entire episode is devoted to attempting to conceal the fact of the man's death from the other guests in the hotel.
- In an episode of Perfect Strangers, the king of Mypos pays a visit to Balki in America... and dies, falling on Larry. So, Larry is to become king, in accordance with Myposian succession law. Larry wants no part in this (though he considers it when Balki says he'll get his face on the money). Instead they try to engineer it so that the king looks alive, and will instead fall dead on the Speaker of the Hut, his traditional second-in-command. Hilarity Ensues.
- Deep Space Nine's "The Magnificent Ferengi" has a sci-fi version of this where Gaila accidently kills their bargaining chip, Keevan. Nog then tries to control Keevan's body via remote, but ends up running him into a bulkhead. They still get away with it.
- Played straight in an episode of CSI, when a corpse was stolen from the morgue in order to posthumously attend a party with some friends. When the arresting officers point out the person responsible committed a crime and has to be taken into custody, he calmly replies "He would have done it for me."
- CSI: Miami had a pit crew member be burned to death during a race. The track doctor had an ambulance take the dead man to a hospital so he would be pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The race track then would be able to maintain their claim that no one officially ever died on the race track. Horatio is not amused by this since they contaminated the crime scene and the body for such an absurd reason.
- An episode of the new Flash Gordon series had a scene where the characters had to find a way to bring an alien soldier's corpse to the dimensional rift he had come from in order to properly dispose of the body. In order to fool a realtor that was in their way, they pretended that the corpse was their wheelchair-bound friend, appropriately named "Bernie".
- Torchwood has a corpse used in such a manner in one episode, though only briefly. They use the corpse of an assassin who has died after they captured him to get into the facility he was working for by sitting him in the front of his van, duct taping his hands to the steering wheel, and hiding in the back with some sort of spiffy alien universal remote control.
- The main characters of Pushing Daisies did this once to flush out a murderer. Of course, they had the the advantage of being able to temporarily reanimate the corpse...
- In a memorable episode of NCIS, the team had to somehow convince a criminal that not only was his dead brother alive, but that he was driving a car.
- The improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? sometimes did a skit using this trope, where the actors were playing... actors in a play; all but one of them then keel over dead, and the "survivor" has to move the bodies around, playing all the parts at once.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus famously does it, not with a human being, but with a Norwegian Blue Parrot.
- A variation occurs in Drake and Josh, where the protagonists accidentally render a child actress unconscious and have to drag her around, answer questions for her, and generally fool people into thinking she's awake. Basically the child-friendly version of Weekend at Bernies.
- Occurs in one episode of Frasier, where an elderly guest at one of the Cranes' dinner parties dies of natural causes during a murder-mystery game. As this would disrupt their party (and thus damage their social standing), the brothers plot to smuggle the body out of the party without anyone noticing. They succeed.
- Another occasion had us told about the debacle of Frasier's greedy and scheming agent Bebe's attempt to marry an elderly tycoon:
Frasier: ... suddenly he clutched at his heart, and his head slumped against Bebe's shoulder. Of course we were all concerned at first, but then suddenly it seemed like he was all right, because they kept moving on down the aisle. But if you looked carefully, you could see Bebe's little bicep bulging through her wedding gown, and I swear I noticed daylight between Big Willy's dress boots and the carpet.
- Happens in an episode of The Drew Carey Show. Drew has to pretend that the deceased person is still alive to get a promotion.
- In one episode of Father Ted, Father Jack takes an extra large (and accidental) dose of Dreamy Sleepy Nighty Snoozy Snooze (a bran-based chocolate-flavoured sleeping aid banned in most European countries), preventing him from playing as the star player in the Annual All-Priests Over-75 Football Challenge Match (Against Rugged Island). In response to this completely ludicrous situation, Ted concocts a plan involving a remote-controlled wheelchair and a pair of fake arms.
- A variant of the posed-dead-soldiers is used in the Sci Fi Channel's miniseries adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Unusually, the White Knight who sets them up is a Cloudcuckoolander who talks to his skeletal "allies", and praises their courage when they stand fast in the face of the enemy bombardment.
- Kamen Rider Double does this on occasion, since to become the eponymous superhero, Phillip's consciousness leaves his body and enters Shotaro's (unless they use FangJoker Form, in which case the dynamic is reversed). One memorable instance had Phillip "dropping out" while riding a bus with Akiko, who had to pretend her "sweetheart" was taking a nap.
- In the Leverage episode "The 10 Li'l Grifters Job", The Mark is killed during his own murder mystery-themed dinner party. Nate, realizing that he would be the prime suspect, tries to pretend that the really obvious corpse on the ground is a lifelike dummy, and that the whole thing is actually all part of the game, while figuring out who actually did it.
- In the Bones episode "The Double Death of the Dearly Departed", Bones and Booth load a corpse upright into the back seat of a car. When Bones expresses concerns about how exposed the corpse is, Booth reassures her that he'll just look like he's drunk. This scene also features dialogue-driven Product Placement.
- In Tour Of Duty, some of the characters are forced to do this when one of the new guys gets drunk in town and jumps to his death. They initially plant the body in the jungles with the intention of shooting him in order to make it look like the VC killed him. The platoon sergeant however, finds out, but not before the base is attacked by the enemy. The new guy's corpse startles a VC sapper who fires at the body before being killed. The dead soldier is honored for fighting bravely in the base's defense.
- There's always the music video of Joe Diffie's Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox If I Die
- Fall Out Boy's "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on A Bad Bet." is basically the very definition of this trope. Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith (Panic At The Disco) find a very dead Pete Wentz, and decide to go to a themepark with his corpse, take photos and then steal his jacket. Just watch it for yourself.
- Aiii Shot the DJ by Scooter, featuring a dead Helge Schneider.
- Cage The Elephant's video for Around My Head. A man digs up his dead girlfriend. It's actually very funny, especially the ending:
(singer brings out dead girl in a shopping cart)
Bandmate: What the fuck is wrong with you?
Singer: Fine, I'll put her back.
- Foster the People's video for "Houdini" has the band killed when a rig lands on them, so their producers bring in a wealthy gentleman and his minions to stage a whole gig using men in black outfits to move the band's bodies like they were alive, and put robotics in the bodies to move their expressions. It works.
- In the play Lucky Stiff, a man leaves a fortune to his nephew, Harry — on the condition that Harry takes his corpse on a vacation to Monte Carlo under the pretense that he's not dead, just an invalid.
- In Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi Buoso Donati has died. His relatives find his will, and discover that he has disinherited them. They bring in Gianni Schicchi to impersonate Buoso so that the will gets changed. Gianni gives each relative the property that they desired, but then he takes the best part of Buoso's estate for himself! And Buoso's relatives can't do anything about it, because they would have to admit they were part of the conspiracy as well!
- This strip of Concerned: The half-life and death of Gordon Frohman.
- See the first panel of this VG Cats strip.
- A variation of this occurs in Homestuck that's (so far) without any playing with the corpse. John doesn't know that Vriska is dead, and several characters have avoided telling him this. The fandom then took the logical next step.
- Done in comedic manner in Magical Girl Hunters, puppeting the dead body of a Magical Girl to get the eponymous Hunters into a complex. Includes a Shout-Out to Star Wars when they bluff their way past a set of guards, using ventriloquism to have the magical girl say they're prisoners being transported to cell block 1138.
- In one Halloween episode of The Simpsons, after running down Ned Flanders during a foggy night, Homer "puppeteers" him just long enough to convince Maude that he's 1) alive and 2) having a heart attack.
- Used again in The Simpsons, in the episode "Weekend at Burnsie's". When Mr. Burns dies in the tub, Homer and Smithers operate him like a marionette for an investor's meeting. Eventually, his heart turns back on during a musical number.
- Hans Moleman has been mistaken for a corpse more than once.
- When Homer becomes Mayor Quimby's bodyguard and accidentally knocks him out the window, he quickly tells himself he'll "stage an elaborate farce a la Weekend at Bernies." Fortunately, the mayor is still hanging on to the window ledge.
- A skit on Robot Chicken played with it in mocking Hannah Montana, when Miley gets shot by a Loony Fan and yet her friends insisted on dragging her corpse around to keep up the charade. It didn't go well.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Nasty Patty", where Mr. Krabs and Spongebob think they accidentally kill a health inspector, who they thought was a fraud. They try to hide his corpse from the police, but rather poorly with constant nervousness and False Reassurances.
- In Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy is left the only one awake in Miseryville. After going mad, he resorts to controlling the sleeping citizens like string puppets in order to give himself company.
- A dramatic example occurs in the short film Overtime. What makes this situation so tragic is that the puppets aren't trying to convince a third party that their recently deceased puppeteer is alive — they're trying to convince themselves.
- The Dan Vs. episode "The Animal Shelter" uses the "unconscious" variation. Dan is so intent on having Chris help him pull off his revenge (or, more to the point, having him use his credit card to buy the dynamite needed) that he steals his friend from the hospital and wheels him around on a handcart, even taking him out for a milkshake when they're done.
- One episode of Drawn Together had Wooldoor accidentally shoot a truck driver (long story) so he "did what any good-hearted Christian would do"- that is, skin the corpse and pretend to be him so his wife and kids have closure.
- In the first episode of Slacker Cats a family has a reward for the return of their cat - who got run over so Buckley and Eddie have Dooper live inside the corpse and pretend to be the cat so they can have the money. Except the only way to rescue Dooper was to have him pretend to be dead which leads to The Fun in Funeral.
- In an episode of Family Guy, Meg and Chris are fighting and knock Stewie down the stairs, and he suffers a pretty bad head injury, rendering him unconscious for the remainder of the episode. They panic and try to hide it through use of this trope and increasingly ridiculous headgear.
- Stewie had to "animate" a corpse to fool a cop, before Lois had a chance to chuck it into the river.
- Not exactly, he posed as its head and moved the rest of the body. As a result, he managed to have an entire conversation with the cop, even convincing him that he was colleagues with his brother.
- Stewie had to "animate" a corpse to fool a cop, before Lois had a chance to chuck it into the river.
- Stoked!: In "A Prank Too Far", Bummer pretends to be dead in order to teach the groms a lesson. The groms then lug Bummer's 'corpse' around to convince an investor that he is still 'alive'.
- In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Family Appreciation Day", Applebloom is worried about Granny Smith embarrassing her in front of her classmates at an upcoming presentation, and her fellow Cutie Mark Crusaders try to get her out of it. One of the efforts involves puppeteering a napping Granny Smith in order to convince the teacher, Cherilee, that she can't make it.
- Regular Show has an episode referencing the most famous example of this trope, titled "Weekend at Benson's."
- This is an example of Truth in Television. The death of Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang was kept secret for two months by his prime minister. The Emperor died on a journey in the middle of a blazing summer, so the minister hid the stench of the fast decomposing body by surrounding the imperial carriage with carts full of rotting fish. It was an indication of how feared the Emperor and his prime minister were that not one person questioned the driving arrangements.
- Or they most likely didn't care. China was (and probably still is) weird that way.
- As mentioned above, the Spanish leader El Cid Campaedor was killed by a Moorish crossbow, but legend has it his wife got the idea to strap on his sword Tizona and put him on his horse Babieca to keep morale from falling.
- Another example of a general pulling this would be Zhuge Liang, who crafted a plan which required every other general to follow posthumous orders to the letter, along with a couple alternatives in case things weren't going as planned, as he was growing too sick and knew he would not last the entire engagement. Rumours circulating about his death were quashed when his units began to move in a formation he commonly used, and namedropping him numerous times when orders had to be shifted. The intended gambit was that Sima Yi believe the rumours are false and that he is still in control, even from his deathbed. Sima Yi bought it and retreated.
- The infamous Cadaver Synod, which took place in 897. A year after his death, Pope Formosus was put on trial by his successor, Stephen VI, for breaking a minor bylaw of the church. The trial consisted of digging up his body, dressing him in his papal clothes, accusing him of the crime, convicting him of the crime, stripping him of his papal clothes, and throwing him in a river.
- They also cut off the fingers used for blessing, a permanent way of stripping someone of their priesthood.
- Persons who were posthumously found guilty of heresy by the Spanish Inquisition were likewise dug up, dressed in robes, and burned at the stake.
- That didn't work out well for Stephen VI, incidentally. It turns out that while blaming your predecessor is standard political policy, desecrating his corpse crosses some kind of line. Stephen VI ended up deposed, imprisoned and killed for it.
- Novelist/philosopher E. Douglas Fawcett's wife died while they were doing a driving tour of Italy. He was afraid that the Italian authorities wouldn't let him take the body back to their home in Switzerland, so he dressed her in her normal clothes and drove her home. He took a picture of his wife "dressed as in life" in their car.
- Two women tried to sneak a corpse onto a plane in Britain in April 2010.
- A couple of guys wheeled a corpse into a bank to cash his Social Security check. They got arrested for fraud.
- In Soviet Russia, it was common for the dead leader to suffer 'ill health' until a successor was chosen.
- Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders
- Comedian Lewis Black proposed that the United States re-elect Ronald Reagan as president. His thinking is that when America's enemies see them swearing in a corpse as president they would declare them too crazy to mess with.
- He further suggested that Reagan once again be sworn in by also-deceased Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
- In the early days of photography, when exposures took so long that few living people could sit still long enough for a portrait photo, it wasn't unusual for corpses to be posed in lifelike positions and photographed to give the mourners something to remember a person by.
- This article goes so far as to name drop Weekend at Bernies in the title. Which makes sense, as it's about two men that loaded their friend's corpse into an SUV and used his credit card for a night on the town.