Came Back Wrong

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Why, yes, Dr. Venture, I can see people just lining up for your resurrections!"

"Sometimes, dead is better."

Sometimes, death is not a cheap event that's easily undone, but a dramatic, soul scouring event. Even if Magic and Powers exist, most would say cheating it is flat-out impossible. However, if you really love someone, nothing's impossible, right? By technology or magic, by the power of the Gods or the grace of the Old Ones, surely there is a way...

...Well, yeah, it is possible, but you won't like the result. Seriously. It's not a pretty picture.

Basically, an attempt to resurrect someone from the dead -- usually a Love Interest, sometimes a family member, a close friend or even one's self -- will end badly. This can be due to unfortunate circumstances, external tampering, or the setting itself being constrained by an Equivalent Exchange or Fantastic Aesop that makes all such attempts Go Horribly Wrong. There are several ways this could go badly:

Often falls under Equivalent Exchange explaining why it doesn't work. Other times a Fantastic Aesop behind why those who've had Death by Origin Story can't come back. If Only Mostly Dead has also been used or the setting includes powerful White Magic, it can seem like Sour Grapes.

Sometimes this can happen even in a universe where coming Back from the Dead can be done without incident, if the resurrection's not performed competently, done without important supplies, or intentionally sabotaged.

Compare Creating Life. See also Harmful Healing, Unwanted Revival and Resurrection Sickness.

Most examples fall into one of the above-listed subtypes. Only examples that don't fit one of those should be included specifically on this page.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Came Back Wrong include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, attempts at reviving dead people with alchemy creates a badly-constructed human body made from chemical elements. This body, which has no soul or consciousness and only the most rudimentary of biological functions, inevitably expires within moments of its 'birth'.
    • In the 2003 anime version, however, attempts at reviving dead people with alchemy create homunculi. Homonculi are beings with the same chemical makeup and appearance as the human that was supposed to be resurrected, but they have no souls or conscience. As a result of having no soul they cannot perform alchemy, but instead have a single alchemy-related super power. Many of the homonculi are Beta Test Baddies who have thrown their lot in with the Big Bad for the promise of a soul.
  • The priestess Kikyo from Inuyasha is brought back in a clay body, but the body itself is soulless. Kagome's soul, being a reincarnation, was needed to complete the ritual, but it was interrupted so the only thing Kikyo was able to gain was the anger and hatred for Inuyasha. She then needs to feed on the souls of the dead in order to stay "alive."
  • Yuno of Mirai Nikki realizes this during the first time loop. She and Yukiteru, who are in a relationship, decide on a lover's suicide. However, Yuno doesn't swallow her pills purposefully, so that she can become God and resurrect Yuki. However, when she does, Deus tells her that it is impossible to resurrect a soul.
  • Spoofed in Haruhi-chan. Ryoko Asakura restores her being... but ends up as the incredibly cute and tiny Achakura. Nagato takes her home.
  • In Zegapain coming back from the dead is possible, but there's a very good chance of losing body integrity and/or missing memories , turning people into different persons. Bad thing when your loved ones don't remember you, have become emotionless or have half their head turned into a hollow blackness.
  • In Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin, Kozue is killed and reanimated as part of a Flatline Plotline, but she comes back as a boring rationalist. On the flip side, she no longer needs glasses.
  • Sankarea presents a unique case. Rea came back alright... for now. It can be said that she is sliding towards this trope.

Comic Books

  • Most Lazarus Pits in Batman stories have this as a temporary effect: coming back drives you around the bend, though some do recover.
    • The wife of Mr. Freeze was put into a Lazarus Pit and revived in the last arc of the Batgirl series. It wasn't pretty - mostly since she was in pieces at the time, and Freeze didn't wait to get everything aligned properly. The good news is, she's alive. The bad news is, she's nuts and has superpowers. Oh, and the really bad news is that the powers are heat based.
  • In The Crow, the titular character is arguably somewhere between Types 1, 2 and 4. He's not a monster, and appears to have returned from the dead relatively human, but virtually the only memories left in his head are of his and his fiance's deaths, the people who caused them, and an unstoppable desire for revenge. During the story arc, he experiences moments of Empty Shell, rage and near superhuman physical abilities, and very human moments. The movie version didn't bring this across quite as clearly possibly because further scenes of his resurrection had yet to be filmed when Brandon Lee died on-set.
  • An odd variant appears in Teen Titans: Terra was resurrected as Terra 2, and while she was physically fine, her personality was the opposite of the original - where Terra was a sociopathic villain, Terra 2 was a true hero at heart.
    • Later retconned: the first Terra was given "Dr. Wilson's "I'm Evil Now" Juice" by Deathstroke (the same stuff that he gave Cassandra Cain and Rose Wilson much later). Terra, apparently, has always been a true hero deep down.
  • Man-Thing was once Dr. Ted Sallis before a scientific accident (plus a little magic) turned him into a hulking, mindless mound of empathic sludge.
  • Malibu Comics hero Gravestone had the power to come back from being killed seemingly with ease... but in truth, his soul had to fight his way out of the underworld each and every time. One story had a girl's soul tag along (without his permission), so she revived as well... except an ancient evil also tagged along in her, causing her to turn into a monster who kills her family.
  • The Avengers:
    • Subverted magnificently in one story: the supervillain Grim Reaper turned several dead Avengers into undead beings hoping to use them against the current team... but he underestimated the power of their Heroic Willpower, and they turned on him. Reaper's brother, the hero Wonder Man, even remarked to his face how stupid his plan had been.
    • Another story had an ancient artifact called the Resurrection Stone which had to be retrieved for contrived reasons. One fragment would would animate the body, but leave it a soulless husk; the other would replace the soul in an inanimate body. The people who used the two pieces are also driven completely insane by using them.
  • People injected with Compound V in The Boys have a small chance of turning back to life... as brain-dead zombies prone to soiling themselves.

Fan Works

  • Ty-Chou/Ghost of the Dawn's series of Transformers fics. After Crystal dies in Ghost In The Machine], she's brought back... as a Transformer. She immediately punches out Prowl, the one responsible, yelling "I'm your friend! You're supposed to let me die with a little dignity!" There are currently four such fictions on Small Problems, Ghost in the Machine, The Autobot Files, and the newest[when?], The Secret Lives of Decepticons.[who?]


  • Event Horizon: Hoo boy where to start...[context?]
  • Dead Heat, a film about detectives investigating a plot revolving around a Mad Scientist selling resurrection to elite millionaires, the villain commits suicide to elude capture, is resurrected in his own machine, then resurrected again while alive, and explodes.
  • Both played straight and subverted in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, The 6th Day. The trope, subverted: There are many clones made in the movie that come back exactly the same, due to a combination of rapid aging and memory extraction. One clone, however, keeps having a little Post Traumatic Stress from however it was he died (Getting run over, neck broken, etc.).
  • More or less the premise of Practical Magic.

Gillian: That's OK! Jimmy was already dark and unnatural!

  • Ripley in Alien Resurrection. Ripley 8 is the most successful clone, though she's meaner than the original and has a disturbing affinity with xenomorphs. Ripley 1 through 7, on the other hand...
  • Subverted in Black Death. Osmund's lover Averill was injured, but still alive, and drugged into a death-like state so that when the drugs wore off she would be "resurrected" and the woman who drugged her would be worshiped as a miracle-worker. Unfortunately, when Osmund finds her the drugs have yet to wear off completely, turning her into The Ophelia and making it seem like a case of Came Back Wrong. He learns the truth only after he Mercy Kills her to set her free and send her to heaven.
  • The Necro-Overs (NEVER for short) from Kamen Rider Double: A to Z The Gaia Memories of Fate. Katsumi was previously a very good person and not all that evil, in fact he loved his mother dearly. Then she used the Necro-Over project to bring him back after his accidental death. However, when he was brought back, instead of the kind, caring son she once had, he's a Complete Monster who wants everyone to be turned into 'monsters' like he is. When he's finally destroyed, he laughs at how it feels to die. It's unknown why, but he may have just been glad to be dead again.
    • Retcon'd in his spin-off movie. Apparently, he was still normal when he was revived, as were the others. However, during a mission involving Foundation X, a girl he only knew for a day died along with a bunch of other psychics, and this apparently drove Daido to insanity and thus lead into the events of the above movie.
  • The plot of Ed And His Dead Mother. Ed pays $1,000 to have his dead mom resurrected. She seems fine at first, but then... quirks start appearing and soon it gets worse.
  • The Film of the Book for Pet Sematary retains the same premise as the book.
  • The whole plot of Re-Animator.[context?]


  • The basic premise of Pet Sematary is that what you bring back is not what first died. To disastrous degrees.[context?]
  • There is a short story by Edmond Hamilton about the last man on Earth (an immortal) who tries to bring humanity back. He tries to resurrect the dead, and succeeds - but while they're alive and even sentient, the newly reborn are devoid of any human emotion, even the children they bear. Then he tries to bring people from the past - and the travel makes them raving mad.
  • In one of H.P. Lovecraft's more famous works, "Herbert West: Re-animator", the title character becomes convinced that life is strictly chemical, and repeatedly attempts to bring the dead back to life. His first revived human attempts to claw its way back into its filled-in grave, and the others exhibit similar signs of madness when revived. Finally, the abominations that West hauled back from the great beyond find him, and silently tear him to pieces in front of the narrator, before leaving without a trace with West's remains.
  • The protagonists of the horror short story The Monkey's Paw get Three Wishes with the title artifact, only to find out you have to Be Careful What You Wish For. The first wish is for a pile of money, which they get as compensation for the horrific death of their son. The second wish is an attempt to bring their son back, which qualifies as coming back wrong due to the circumstances of his death. Just as the son is about to answer the door, the husband uses the third and final wish to undo the second one.
  • George Martin's Wild Cards feature two examples:
    • Demise. After drawing the Black Queen, Demise was treated with the experimental Trump cure. It seemed to work, as he survived, retaining his human shape, sanity, memory and personality, thus not fitting any of the five subtropes above. Demise also gained absolute regeneration, thus becoming an Ace. The only problem was apparently being conscious during death and aware of the entire process, requiring massive therapy afterwards. Now Demise can, upon locking eyes, telepathically project memories of death, which can shock, stun or kill the recipient depending on the dose.
    • Crypt Kicker. His Wild Card kicked in as he went postal, pretty much at the moment he shot himself. Crypt Kicker has kept the human shape, (debatable) sanity, personality and memory, thus not fitting any of the subtropes above, and gained the Ace ability to secrete unspecified caustics and toxins from his palms. While technically immortal, he has no regenerative abilities, gradually losing parts through the books, until someone releases him from the mortal coil.
  • George R. R. Martin has stated his liking for this trope in the past. He also uses it in A Song of Ice and Fire, with the red priests. Thoros of Myr is able to bring people back from the dead, and in A Storm of Swords we see him do this to one person repeatedly, who continually loses more and more of his original self in the process. The finest example of all, though, is Catelyn Stark. Dead for days before she was revived and murdered under circumstances that simply scream a need for vengeance, the loving mother that dies is brought back as a merciless, half-decayed killer.
  • Subverted in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Voldemort's resurrection. His revived body is distorted and disfigured, and his soul is literally damaged, but these are due to a separate bit of dark magic and it's implied he came back pretty much the same as he was before he got blown up.
    • In a fairy tale from the Potterverse, "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a guy gets a magic stone that can bring his loved ones back from the dead. He brings back his girlfriend, but she's sad and cold, and doesn't seem like she belongs. Eventually, the guy commits suicide so he can truly join her. Harry actually uses the stone, but with much better results, since he never intended it to be permanent.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, necromancy is possible with both patryn and sartan runes... but for every soul brought back untimely another dies untimely. It is implied that the sartan almost drove themselves to extinction because on one of the worlds they were bringing back everyone who died, so their brothers and sisters on the other worlds were dying in their sleep. Also, both patryn and sartan languages transfer more than just the words to each other, so the sartan who did not live on that world felt "lighter" when they spoke, and the ones who practiced necromancy made the listener feel "wrong", heavy, and sometimes cold.
  • In the Dean Koontz novel Shadow Fires, Eric, a wealthy man with an extreme fear of death, subjects himself to an expermental regeneration formula, then is killed by a truck. However, he is brought back to life by his regeneration. That's the good news (in his opinion). The bad news? His death causes his Healing Factor to go out of control and starts mutating out of control in several horrible ways.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Lady Pole is resurrected by a magician who made a deal with a faerie to give her half her life back, provided the faerie can have the other half. However, she is languid and appears ill and exhausted, demonstrating no pleasure in life or any happiness that she is alive again. She also often speaks nonsense due to a spell that prevents her from telling anyone the truth about her condition and the implications of the deal -- which means she is taken into the underworld every night and forced to attend balls and dance all night long.

Live-Action TV

  • This is the main driver in the new The Outer Limits episode "New Lease". A scientist invents a regeneration device. When he uses it on a patient, the patient comes back but dies horribly shortly afterwards. When he is shot, he uses the device on himself, and believing he will die soon, murders the robber. He finds out the device worked properly on him---and he will now go to prison for the rest of his life.
  • Battlestar Galactica has the Cylons routinely resurrect after death in new bodies, with few to no physical or mental ill effects other than the implied trauma and disorientation. One Cylon, Number 3, even found it "rejuvenating". However, a Number 1 described the process as a white hot poker being driven into his skull. Interestingly, the only "downside" to resurrection was that it made Cylons under-appreciate life, as well as allow for some severe post traumatic effects depending on the cause of death.
    • Caprica, the Prequel to Battlestar Galactica both uses and subverts this trope. After some trauma after the death of her creator, virtual Zoe becomes generally well adjusted and fine with being an AI clone of the real Zoe and trapped in Cyberspace with the emotional support of Lacy. However, Tamara's virtual copy does not fare so well, she panics at waking up in a black void and not having a heartbeat. It seems the qualifying factor here is that Zoe's technology does not cheat death, but create life. Granted, life heavily based on existing people, but the mental and emotional health of the A Is seems directly proportional to how much they are treated as separate individuals to their originals.
      • And whether they are aware they are separate individuals. Zoe-A knows that she is a virtual avatar of Zoe Graystone. Tamara-A thinks she is actually Tamara Adama.
  • The Trope Namer comes from one of the major plot points in season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the Scoobies bring Buffy back from Heaven and Spike attempts to convince her that she's lost something in her return to Earth. Buffy herself was convinced she was thrown out of Heaven, and didn't bring this up with the others when they brought her back; as far as they know, they'd brought her back from some deeper part of hell. Which makes it all the more heart-wrenching when a musical demon forces them all to tell their truth in song, and Buffy tells them all what she thought of her resurrection. Disrupting the cycle of Slayers by bringing Buffy back to life also inadvertently sets off the plot for the last TV season.
    • Subverted however when Tara informs Buffy she hasn't come back wrong. Buffy breaks down sobbing, as this means her Destructive Romance with Spike is entirely due to her own flaws.
      • More accurately, Buffy came back "wrong" only in the form of a mild physiological alteration that confused the human-harming inhibitor chip in Spike's head. Tara likened it to a suntan: a superficial change that didn't really fundamentally alter who Buffy was.
      • It can also be seen that she came back wrong in her dramatic shift in personality. Her Heroic BSOD is not just from the idea of her being inhuman physically, but how much she had become like her arch nemesis Faith.
    • In another episode, Buffy's sister Dawn, in her first venture into witchcraft, invokes a spell to bring Buffy's dead mother back to life. Buffy is furious at Dawn; amateur witchcraft can produce horrific results. Dawn is obstinate — until their mother's silhouette appears outside their window. Then Buffy rushes to the door, yearning to see her mother again. The moment Buffy opens the door, Dawn revokes the spell, and whatever was on the other side of the door disappears. We never learn whether or not Mrs. Summers came back wrong.
      • Well, considering Dawn got the spell from a guy later revealed to be a minion (possibly The Dragon) of Glory, odds are it was probably designed to make the person it was used on come back wrong.
      • The silhouette walking outside, and the slow knocks on the door looked and sounded creepy as hell, too.
      • It's Sunnydale. There's no doubt she came back wrong. If it was ever her to begin with.
    • Another, earlier Buffy episode has her trying to convince her old friend Billy Fordham that his plan to die and come back to cure his illness won't work. He's decided on vampirism and the attempt is made to convince him he will simply die and a demon will wear his body as a meat suit.
    • Considering that later examples it's interesting that when Buffy dies for the first time at the end of season one (she was only mostly dead) there aren't any major ramifications. Well, aside from the aforementioned disruption in the cycle leading to a new status of there always being two slayers from then on.
      • This isn't the case - Buffy's death in season 1 called Kendra, while her death in season 5 didn't call anyone. The death of a Slayer activates her successor, and the Slayer line continues through her. If it was that easy to generate new Slayers, the Watcher's Council would have almost certainly exploited it by now.
        • Actually, Buffy is not the 'proper' slayer anymore. When Buffy died at the end of season 1, Kendra was called as the new Slayer. When Kendra died, Faith was called. Buffy is at one point described as a rock that is forking a river, i.e. disrupting the natural flow of the Slayer lineage. It is this disruption that allows the First Evil to make its move in season 7.
  • As if Rory's death in Doctor Who wasn't bad enough, he returns as an Auton constructed from memories. While the Rory persona eventually wins out in the ensuing mental battle, it's not before he fatally shoots Amy.
    • Also, Jack. After he gets exterminated by the Daleks, Rose uses her temporary god-powers to resurrect him, but she overdoes it, bringing him back permanently. While automatic resurrection doesn't sound like the worst side effect ever, he's effectively doomed to a lifespan of thousands of years (at least), knowing for a fact that he will outlive every human that becomes his friend or lover as well as any child he has, and at one point gets buried alive and spends the next couple thousand years or so repeatedly suffocating and reviving.
    • In "Silence in the Library," Miss Evangelista is saved, in the computer sense, by the Doctor Moon and CAL. Unluckily, the saving was corrupted and she became horribly ugly yet astoundingly intelligent. By the end of "Forest of the Dead," she got better... still dead, but better.
    • During The End of Time, Lucy sabotages the Master's resurrection, leaving him bleeding energy and eating anything he can get his hands on, including people. On the upside, he gets quite a few super-powers out of the deal, even if they're part of the bleeding life-force deal.
    • While they don't really die in the process, Timelords in Doctor Who have the ability to regenerate, whereby they lose their former personality and looks, but get a new lifespan and heal any wounds, poisonings, etc. It is, strictly speaking, not coming back, but being reborn. Still, close enough for a mention.
  • This trope is the impetus for Torchwood: after being killed by Daleks in Doctor Who, Jack Came Back Wrong and subsequently took charge of Torchwood Cardiff. Also happens more than once to other characters, thanks to the resurrection gauntlet. Both Suzie Costello and Owen Harper are brought back from the dead with some interesting, but different, side effects: Suzie drains Gwen to become permanently alive and Owen comes back with Death, but he gets better... kinda.
  • Just about any dead thing brought back (or not completely dead/outliving its normal life/becoming immortal) in the Supernatural Universe: ghosts, demons, zombies... Dean even lampshades it when Bobby's wife returns from the dead apparently normal. Dean being Genre Savvy and not clouded by emotions, proves to be right.
    • Also pointed out by Yellow Eyes after Dean makes a deal to bring Sam back to life- he asks Dean if he thinks that maybe the deal sounds too good to be true and if Sam's been brought back different.
    • The second (well, technically third but the second big one) time Sam came back, however, was definitely wrong.
  • In the Fringe episode "Marionette", after trying to bring a girl back to life, the villain realizes that what came back "wasn't her anymore". It's ambiguous whether it was a matter of severe brain decay or something spiritual.
  • In Season 6 of Lost, Sayid is drowned in the sacred waters of the Temple. He miraculously lives, but he gradually becomes a Soulless Shell who doesn't care whose side he's on -- until he heroically sacrifices his life at the end.
    • It's implied that this is the case with all of those infected with The Sickness. It certainly makes sense, Claire was last seen inside an exploding house before she turned crazy.
  • In Misfits, people (and animals) revived by the resurrection power act normally at first, but soon become flesh-eating, plague-bearing zombies.
    • Not quite played straight, because they maintain their intelligence, personality, and even a sense of remorse. At one point they make it seem as simple as a change in diet, although it's implied at the end that eventually the hunger takes over and makes them evil.
  • In an X-Files episode with an honest-to-goodness Three Wishes genie, the first master wishes to be invisible and gets killed by a car when trying to cross the street. When his brother wishes for him to come back alive, he appears as a shivering necrotic corpse, unable to speak. His brother wishes for him to be able to talk in spite of the genie's warning, and he screams for minutes straight. After he's all screamed out, he attempts to light the stove to warm himself, complaining he "can't feel his blood." He fumbles the matches with the gas on full blast for many minutes, and when he finally does light one the trailer explodes, killing both brothers (we hope) permanently and ejecting the genie. Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • In Pushing Daisies (created by Bryan Fuller), the dead people that Ned brings touches come back just as they are - even if they've been, for example, rolled over by a cement mixer. The fruit that he touches seems to come back as it was freshly picked, so perhaps what matter still exists is returned, in freshness at least, to how it was as a living organism.
  • Dead Like Me (also created by Bryan Fuller) does the same thing with freshly reaped souls. If they haven't been reaped before death they keep the damage, and can feel it all. Being found and touched beforehand ensures a painless death. George found out that she couldn't run away from her job when the man she was supposed to reap remained conscious during his autopsy.


  • Avenged Sevenfold's "A Little Piece of Heaven"
  • Ancient Bards' "Soulless Child."

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

  • Osiris from the Ancient Egyptian pantheon subverts this. He has died repeatedly, only to return a short while later, and while he never came back in some monstrously horrific form, he did suffer some mild indignities in the process - most notably, he was resurrected without a penis (which was eaten by fish before it could be found and reattached). Of course, he also became the King of the Duat (the Egyptian Underworld), which is arduous to actually reach, but pleasant as heaven to actually live in.
    • It helps that there's also no place of punishment - if the judging finds you to be unacceptably evil, your soul gets destroyed, and that's that.
  • In the fairy tale "The Three Leaves Of The Snake" the hero uses the titular leaves to bring his wife back from the dead. At first it seems fine, but after being resurrected her love for him has turned into hate and she tries to murder him on a sea voyage. He is rescued by a faithful servant, and she is executed.

Tabletop Games

  • Handled a bit weird in Mortasheen. Zombies can regenerate from any injury with few lethal effects, given that they have a ridiculously powerful Healing Factor and a consciousness distributed all over their body. But, sometimes as they're regenerating, they may accidentally get the organic tissue of some other lifeform stuck in theirs, like say that of a snail or a tree. And then things go a bit awry...
  • In Ars Magica, a game where one of the hard and fast rules of Hermetic Magic is that it can't bring back the dead, there is a spell that can bring back the dead... sort of. But you have to roll on a table to see what goes wrong (not if something goes wrong—something always goes wrong.) The results can include almost any of the things named above, except that the original soul can never return—the 'best' possibility is a facsimile with the memories and personality of the original person, but without the ability to learn anything new. You're far more likely to get a totally emotionless automaton or a possessed body, though.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition spell Reincarnation had a good chance of bringing the reincarnated character back as something other than what they were before. The consequences of bringing an elf back as a dwarf (or vice versa) would be quite silly, though.
    • Earlier editions had a fair number of animals on the list. The elf might come back as a badger. The old Planescape setting actually had a group whose special abilities included having Reincarnation guaranteed to at least give you a player character race.
    • Pathfinder has the same spell, though a more player friendly version of it. This is unsurprising, as Pathfinder has the Fan Nickname of D&D 3.75, and over time each edition of D&D after AD&D has been less cruel to the player characters.
    • This has also been used to create horror, such as when the elf is reincarnated as an orc or a bugbear or something else which is simply terrifying to them.
    • Ravenloft exploits Came Back Wrong on every spell, with the recipient of the spell having a very good chance of being possessed by something suitably blasphemous.
    • Eberron, due to the orbital movements of the planes, sets the reliability of any spell that brings back the dead by the proximity of the plane of death. When Dolurrh is furthest from Eberron those spells don't work at all, at it's closest point the resurrectee has a chance of being brought back with someone else's soul or possessed by a demon, or accompanied by a horde of ghosts.
  • In a mix of 4 and 5, the Black Savants of Talislanta were once living necromancers in Khazad, before the Great Disaster. Their people chose to die temporarily to avoid the predicted catastrophe, expecting they'd be returned to life once things had calmed down. But the spells to resurrect them failed, and the majority of Khazad's souls were lost in extraplanar realms of demons and ghosts. The few who did revive, did so in mute, undead bodies. Now, these Black Savants work endlessly to locate the lost souls of their people and bring Khazad back from the dead. Oh, and creep the hell out of other Talislantans.
  • The World Of Darkness:
    • In the New World of Darkness game-lines, there are a number of different ways to bring a recently deceased person back from the dead. None of them result in a mentally- or spiritually-sound being. Here's a quick run: you can make a Revenant out of them, but that gives you a zombie with a supercharged case of OCD. You can try Embracing them, but now they're a vampire and, since you Embraced them after death, their reflection/shadow has come loose and become a separate being that hates them. Making a Promethean out of them opens the door to a laundry list of problems.[1] A Geist can haul someone back if they were the right sort and enough wiggle room exists, but it's never for free. And finally, the least harmful of all of these, a Benediction that resurrects the very-recently-slain... leaves them with a permanent mental illness.
    • In the Old World of Darkness, there was at least one method that would return the deceased, no matter how long they were dead, with no side effects. The catch? The ritual to do so requires fighting the avatar of the literal God of Death. Guess what happens if you lose. Another option was to have a soul-shard happen across the recently deceased and make a deal; this one brought them back better than before as one of the Amenti, the Reborn. No matter how often they died again, they could resurrect without a hitch (well, barring the waiting period). The OWOD was a bit kinder on this front than the NWOD.
  • In Shadowrun, when people get stuffed with too many artificial implants, they die. This can be averted by having a magician go on a journey to what may or may not be the afterlife in order to bind your soul and force it back into what's left of your body when you cross that threshold of having too much good stuff in your body. On the plus side, you get to avoid the normal limitations on having useful cybernetics, and you become a semi-magical creature to boot. Too bad that you constantly find yourself detaching from the world around you as your soul keeps on thinking that your body is dead and tries to leave. Not to mention the fact that you constantly pollute the astral space around you with the sheer wrongness that you exude, and that you quickly grow more and more depressed, insane, and tumor-ridden, leading up to your eventual death.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh: When players destroy or Tribute monsters, they either go to the Graveyard or are Banished. As such, many card effects rely on bringing back said monsters from either location. Monster Reborn and Call of the Haunted were pretty straightfroward, but later cards ended up playing every aspect of this trope. The most common types are Empty Shell and Damaged Soul, where a monster's ability to act is limited, or else becomes "dangerous" to the player. Some cards even resurrect your monsters on the opponent's side.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Urien Rakarth, the Dark Eldar Master Haemonculus, discovered the secret of resurrecting himself so long ago, and has done it so many times, that things have started to go inexplicably wrong with the process. He now tends to come back with a small physical reminder of each previous resurrection, usually additional vestigial limbs growing from his spinal sump. Being an utterly insane genius surgeon, body modifier, peerless torturer and obsessive experimenter Urien regards this condition as little more than a fascinating quirk, and certainly nothing to get all angsty about. Indeed, Urien is so jaded that he practically collects deaths, and looks forward to seeing what new and unusual ways he will come back wrong in next.

Video Games

  • People brought back by the Necris process in the Unreal series have, up until Unreal Tournament III, are bodies consisting of nearly no colors at all, and just as happy (if not moreso) to indulge in the sanctioned massacres as the next man.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, the Big Bad plans to revive his Dead Big Sister by turning people into empty shells while they're still alive, so that he can basically download her soul into them. There's also Tabatha, a living doll who's a mechanical body that looks and sounds just like his sister, but who apparently wasn't actually able to house her soul. By the end of the game, it's shown that Tabatha is capable of it after all, suggesting that Martel simply refused to enter her body the first time. In the one case where the soul transfer does work with a living body, she is shown to be horrified by her brother's efforts, and gives the body back to its original owner shortly after.
  • In Alan Wake, Thomas Zane tried to bring back his love Barbara through the Rewriting Reality powers the Dark Presence in Cauldron Lake gave writers. Unfortunately, he left a Plot Hole by not giving a reason for how she came back, leaving the Dark Presence to create its own reason...
    • Even if he did have a reason, it would have to be a reason internally consistent with the narrative—e.g. the Care Bears couldn't appear out of a cloud of butterflies and revive her with the Power of Friendship—or else the Dark Presence could come in through that Plot Hole instead. This is why Alan has to resort to a Heroic Sacrifice to save Alice and the town -- a straight Happily Ever After wouldn't be consistent with the darkly-toned horror story that led up to it.
  • Shin Megami Tensei series:
    • Strange Journey has the recurring character Alice, who was once known for deep love for all things, and came back as an unrepentant, undead sorcerous sadist. How did she die in the first place, and exactly how deep is the damage? One character has a very comprehensive answer to why... and it ain't pretty.
    • Also in Strange Journey: Commander Gore is killed shortly into the mission, but restored as an "Ubergestalt" by the "Mothers" of the Schwarzwelt. It seems like it's this trope all over, what with his mindless gaze, otherwordly presence, and obvious manipulation by the goddesses... until you break him loose from the mind control and not only does he regain his humanity, but he gains supernatural brilliance over the Schwarzwelt and mankind's future.
  • In The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, a botched resurrection will end up zombifying a Sim.
  • In Ultimate Spider-Man, Deadpool was a serious, mutant-hating mercenary who hunted mutants on live TV, and dies at the end of his story arc. He comes Back from the Dead in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions as a crazy, 4th wall-breaking mercenary who trades his hatred of mutants for a sense of humor. For fans who disliked Serious!Deadpool, this was Came Back Right.
  • In Lusternia, this was the fate of those resurrected by the Soulless elixir. Pioneered by Fain and his followers during the Elder Wars, it was intended to turn the strength of the Soulless Gods against them - namely, by eating their essence, just as they ate the Elder Gods essence. Only Orlachmar and Thax were brought back from the dead with it: Orlachmar as a death-seeking Blood Knight, Thax just plain Ax Crazy.
  • In Age of Wonders, the elven king Inioch, thanks to his son's fumbling with black magic he didn't understand. Instead of getting revenge on the humans and rebuilding the elven empire, Inioch tries to end all life.
  • In the linked game for The Legend of Zelda Oracle Games, Twinrova attempts to sacrifice Zelda to ressurect Ganon. When Link defeats her, they sacrifice themselves. Since they are impure, Ganon becomes a mindless, Ax Crazy beast rather than his usual self.
  • In The Dig, Brink is resurrected with an alien crystal, but slowly turns into an obsessed shadow of his former self. Maggie, seeing this, asks Boston not to use a life crystal on her if something were to happen.
  • Metal Gear series:
  • Death knights in World of Warcraft clearly Came Back Wrong (or rather, were deliberately brought back wrong) somehow, but seem to overlap multiple categories.
    • Cataclysm gives us the Rotbrain, which are the new villains of Deathknell. One priest sadly notes that they seem human outside, but are sick within. They eventually rally and plan to take over the town, and must be killed.

Marshal Redpath: I'm a monster, don't look at me!

  • Note that an alternate interpretation of the "Rotbrain" is that they've come back wrong in a different way: without the blind devotion to the Forsaken that undead player characters possess.
  • Some versions of Rogue allow you to resurrect as an undead character, only faintly able to derive sustenance from normal food and chowing down on dead enemies instead.
  • Resurrection doesn't ever look pretty in the Legacy of Kain series.
    • And the few vampires who did come back pretty (namely Kain and Raziel) either evolved into something monstrous or were mutilated beyond recognition (namely Kain and Raziel.)
  • A running gag in the Monkey Island series, where the villain is constantly coming back wrong.
  • A major theme in the Shadow Hearts series. All four games feature the resurrection of loved ones as a major or minor plot. Due to performing these resurrections with an evil manuscript, said loved ones usually come back wrong in a variety of ways, often as grotesque monsters from beyond the veil. Most of the first two games' monsters also qualify as this.
  • In Dungeon Siege III, Jeyne revives archons who come back as twisted, cold monsters. Then she revives a god. That doesn't work out so well either
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Raiden is a less extreme example than most, but according to Fujin, he should have been resurrected as a blank slate. Instead, he comes back Darker and Edgier.
  • The curse of the Darksign makes this inevitable in Dark Souls. The Darksign prevents its bearers from permanently dying, but each resurrection robs them of a little humanity. Eventually they become mindless Hollows. The transformation can be delayed by gathering Humanity, but it's still just a matter of time. The player character doesn't have to worry about this though. Turns out there's a reason for that beyond gameplay mechanics.
  • In Vagrant Story, Grissom is killed by Ashley. Because zombies in this game are random dead souls who get trapped in random dead bodies, he could have become just another monster... but he gets trapped into his own dead body by accident, making him fully conscious and horribly disturbed at his own undeath.
  • Most Castlevania games involve Dracula rising from the dead after being defeated in a previous game in the franchise, but occasionally, the method is flawed, meaning he’s not as powerful as he should be. In chronological order:
    • Castlevania: Curse of Darkness: Death intends for Hector to be the host for his master, and plans for Hector to succumb to his hate for Isaac and give in to the curse inside him. Hector’s will is too strong, however, forcing Death to use Isaac’s body instead - Dracula is weaker as a result, and Hector slays him.
    • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest: Dracula intends to have his cult resurrect him; Simon beats them to it, intentionally doing the ritual prematurely and rendering the villain nearly powerless.
    • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance: Dracula possesses Maxim, hoping to use him to perform a dark ritual and sacrifice Lydie. Juste interrupts the ritual, and after a fight, Maxim’s will proves too strong; he drives the villain out, and without the ritual completed Dracula only manifests as a weakened spirit, and Juste easily slays him.

Web Comics

  • In Girl Genius, science can resurrect persons if their heads (brains) are intact, but there are possible memory loss, insanity and apparently other (unnamed) complications that can make resurrection an iffy proposal. Later on, it's revealed that, if the one operating is an expert, one can be brought back from death even without an intact brain. However, the end result is just a body without a true mind, essentially, a Soulless Shell.
    • A variation occurs with Tarvek's sister Anevka, given a mechanical new body plugged into life support with what remained of her own. However, Anevka still died, albeit slower than she would have normally, but, as she weakened, the machine itself took on her personality. By the time she was dead, the machine thought she was Anevka and had no idea that anything (such as the death of the real Anekva) had happened, and everyone believed the same, except Tarvek, who knew the truth. The mechanical Anevka eventually became conniving and self serving, culminating in killing her father after his attempts to restore the Other "almost" killed her. No word yet on whether this cold-hearted behaviour was a result of being a clank or being an accurate copy of a member of the Sturmvoraus family.
  • Ian from Errant Story can restore physical life to the dead, even repairing extensive burns and decomposition, but can't restore the subject's intelligence. Since all he gets are Soulless Shell-types anyway, he's stopped putting much effort into making them look lifelike and actually calls them zombies.
  • White Mage's attempt to revive Black Belt in 8-Bit Theater. And how.
  • Rusty and Co. managed to invert this (White Knight looked better as a wight).
  • In Endstone, fear of this trope kept Pablo from reviving his wife, but now the power revived him.
  • In Sinfest, the young Baby Blue tried to raise a dove right. Satan intervened to bring it back as a diabolic thing.
  • Gamzee from Homestuck brings Vriska and Tavros back to life by prototyping Jane's sprite with both of their corpses. At the same time. It didn't last long, because Tavrisprite blew themself up, sending both of them back to the afterlife (seperately, fortunately).

Web Original

  • In The Gungan Council, Phylis Alince, though in a more benign fashion as she has no memory after being 18.

Western Animation

  • Genie in Aladdin gives Aladdin a list of three things he can't/won't do. From Genie's choice of words, it sounds like he is capable of bringing the dead back to life, but no one will like the results (as he tells Aladdin that he won't bring the dead back to life, he gets all slimy and icky and creepy, like he's showing what would happen).

It's not a pretty picture. I don't like doing it!

  • Jason Todd in Batman: Under the Red Hood. Put into a Lazarus Pit by Ra's Al Ghul. Comes back screaming, murders the first people he sees and flees off into the night.
  • Parodied as the premise of Count Duckula: The last time his butler Igor tried to ressurect him after being slain, there was a mixup in the ritual that substituted blood with tomato juice, resulting with the reincarnated count being a pacifistic vegetarian. Much to Igors horror.
  • South Park parodies this idea when Butters fakes his death and his parents want to bring him back. When he arrives home, revealing that he is not really dead, they mistakenly believe that he is a soulless demon trapped in his body and kill a woman so he can "feed."
  • In the The Venture Brothers episode Powerless in the Face of Death, Dr. Orpheus believes that his attempted resurrection of Hank and Dean resulted in the creation of soulless zombies. He didn't. They were clones that were just released from their tubes too early. Apparently they feel like Stretch Armstrongs.
    • One of Dean's clones was rejected (meaning Doc casually flushed him into the sewer) for being extremely disfigured. The clone survived, and used the skins of all of the previous dead clones (apparently Doctor Venture just dumps them in a mass-grave on the compound) to make a Dean suit for himself. When he runs out of skins, he attempts to murder the current Dean so he can finish the suit and replace him.
      • It probably goes without saying that the rejected clone was severely schizophrenic, and he believed Doctor Venture was guiding him through the process.
  • In Gargoyles, when a character attempts to force Anubis to resurrect a dead boy, he point blank refuses, insisting that death is final and must stay that way. It is never revealed whether he is unable or just unwilling to resurrect the dead. Attempts by mortals to use magic and technology to revive the dead inevitably only make them undead, and so far have only worked on those who haven't yet reached a peaceful rest.
    • It is presumed Anubis can bring them back with no ill effect since part of reversing the damage done by Jackal!Anubis was returning animals to life. I think the scene shown involved a skeletal alligator.
    • According to Word of God, Emir!Anubis very explicitly did not resurrect the various plants, animals, and people killed off by Jackal!Anubis; his declaration that "what is dead and gone cannot be restored" is an absolute. Now, whether this is an actual limitation of his powers or merely a self-imposed law to prevent abuse is left ambiguous, but either way Anubis does not appear to be open to budging on this issue.
  • In Metalocalypse, the band decides to sew their nearly-dead chef back together so he can make them more food. One of them remarks that they would probably sew him back together wrong, and they decide that would make a cool song. Which they end up making. "SEWN! Back together WRONG! Back together. SEWN!"
  • Van Kleiss from Generator Rex is able to come Back from the Dead as long as he's in contact with the nanite-rich soil of Abysus. After he's seemingly Killed Off for Real, the nanites of Abysus go berserk, and when Rex is brought in to solve the problem, he's coerced into activating a machine designed to resurrect Van Kleiss. This time, however, the resurrected Van Kleiss' Evo condition is curable, and Rex is able to strip him of his powers.
  • Solomon Grundy is brought back to life by a couple of amateur sorcerers during an episode of Justice League Unlimited. But thanks to one of them messing up the summoning circle, he comes back soulless, an empty vessel of pure rage. After fighting for almost the entire episode, his friend Shayera finally puts him out of his misery off screen.
  1. (Not the least of which is that the "resurrectee" is actually a whole different person. The previous occupant / soul is gone, the Promethean is a wholly new being)