Dead Man's Chest

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

What do you do if you have a dead body on your hands and somebody snooping around that you don't want to see it? Why, stuff it the body into a convenient empty chest or trunk until that busybody goes away, of course. This is only a temporary solution and you will still have to move the body later, but what could possibly go wrong?

This trope comes in two versions: dramatic and comedic. In the dramatic version, the person hiding the body (usually the killer but not always) will suddenly realise that a body part or piece of clothing is protruding from the chest just as someone (detective, loved one of the deceased, etc.) is poking around and have to desperately conceal the fact. And there is still the matter of moving the body later. In the comedic version, expect the box with the body to go missing, get mixed up with an identical looking box or to have all kinds of people wanting to open the chest for all kinds of innocent reasons. Hilarity Ensues.

Not to be confused with the real, original Dead Man's Chest, which was the name of one of the Virgin Islands.

If you were looking for the movie, see Pirates of the Caribbean.

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

Examples of Dead Man's Chest include:

Comic Books

  • Sin City plays with this trope.
    • In The Big Fat Kill, Dwight has a dead body in his passenger seat. A cop pulls him over and he has no room to stash it. He quickly pretends that the body is his drunk friend.
    • In That Yellow Bastard, Shlubb and Klump have a conversation about what to do with the dead body they are sent to collect. Klump steals a Cool Car due to the Rule of Cool, only for Shlubb to quickly point out that there is no trunk.
  • In The Maze Agency Annual #1, a dead body turns up in one of Gabe's moving boxes when he is moving into Jennifer's apartment. Naturally this leads Gabe and Jen into investigating where the body came from.


  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Sweeney Todd does this with the body of Pirelli, his very first victim. It's both the dramatic and comedic variety—Pirelli's still-twitching hand is sticking out of the chest, but Todd is able to buy time by promising Pirelli's ten year-old ward, Toby, a bottle of gin.
  • The Alfred Hitchcock film Rope (two killers strangle a victim, hide the body in a chest and then serve a cold supper to the victim's friends and family off the lid of the chest)
  • The classic Alfred Hitchcock movie The Trouble with Harry, which involves various persons finding Harry (a corpse), and hiding him, only for others to find him and hide him, until they all get together and decide on the ideal place for the police to find him.
  • In Young Frankenstein, Frankenstein and Igor are trying to hide a body in a wagon, but the arm is still sticking out when someone comes along. Frankenstein places himself in such a way as to pretend the arm is his, and Hilarity Ensues.
  • The first scene of Keeping Mum depicts sweet, polite Rosie Jones setting out on a journey by train - while her large case in the luggage compartment seeps blood. (It turns out, though, that her case doesn't contain a body, just pieces of one!)
  • Death at a Funeral. The funeral is the father of the protagonists, and when a man shows up threatening to expose their sexual relationship to the wife if they don't pay him off, the resulting scuffle kills him. Their solution? Hide him in Dad's coffin. Which of course leads to the inevitable scene later where it turns out he's Not Quite Dead when he emerges from the coffin in the middle of the proceedings.
  • In Ginger Snaps, the protagonist sisters hide the body of a girl who, while wasn't murdered, slipped in their kitchen and died of severe blunt trauma to the head. They stuff it in the fridge (though it's not an example of Stuffed Into the Fridge).
  • In Fernandel's movie L'armoire volante, the protagonist's aunt gets frozen to death during a moving journey, so the workers put her body in a wardrobe closet among the moved furniture. This closet, however, gets lost and Hilarity Ensues as the protagonist chases and searches the closet all over the country.
  • Weekend at Bernie's: Subverted, as the protagonists must actually keep the body on display, pretending that Bernie is still alive.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace includes a window seat in which different bodies were placed for different reasons.
  • The cheesy Exploitation Film Axe shows a young woman kill an attempted rapist with a straight razor and stuff his body into a trunk.
  • In Frenzy, the killer hides a body in a sack that he dumps in the back of a lorry full of sacks of potatoes. He then realises that his tie pin is still clutched in the dead woman's hand and has to retrieve it from the back of the moving lorry. And the movie ends with the tie-strangling rapist dragging an empty trunk up the steps to dispose of his latest victim, where he meets the police inspector, who dryly observes: "Mr. Rusk, you're not wearing your tie".
  • A character's body is stuffed in a freezer in Cornered
  • In Rear Window from Alfred Hitchcock, Jeff thinks Thorwald stashed his wife's body in a chest... but he actually cut her up and disposed of her remains all over the city, and the chest actually contained her clothes.


  • In The Day of the Jackal, the Jackal leaves the body of a photographer who tried to blackmail him in a chest. In this case, though, putting the corpse there was less because of being in a hurry and more to ensure that it wasn't likely to ever be found. He even rationalises away the possibility of Revealing Coverup by noting that the photographer had done work for the underworld before and thus there would be quite the gaggle of possible suspects to run through. In fact, his isn't one of the deaths that gives the Jackal away.
  • Cornell Woolrich's The Dilemma of the Dead Lady is a fine example. A jewel thief murders his unwitting accomplice, but because she's kind of wearing the stolen jewels, he needs to take her along on his ocean voyage—and things get worse from there.
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart", the body is dismembered and hidden under the floorboards. There's no actual clue that would give the location away to the police, who are about to leave on peaceful terms when the narrator begins to hallucinate that he can hear the corpse's heart beating....
    • And The Black Cat, wherein a murder is given away by his own pride and a karmic pet he buried with his wife.
  • In Bloodsucking Fiends, a chest freezer serves this purpose, not once, but twice. Our protagonist is stuck with the problem of explaining that not only did he not kill either of the people in the freezer, one of them isn't even dead.
  • The Warlock's Hairy Heart (in JK Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard) has a warlock storing away his heart to protect himself from love.
  • In "The Muddle of the Woad" (one of Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy stories), the men who are delivering the Duke's coffin discover that there's already a body hidden in it. And before that, the corpse had been hidden inside a "preservator"—a large chest enchanted to keep foodstuffs preserved.
  • The Hercule Poirot short story "The Adventure of the Clapham Cook" by Agatha Christie, a killer gets rid of a body by stuffing it in a trunk and having the trunk set to a railway station marked 'to be collected'. He later sends to trunk on to Glasgow in an attempt to lose it. This story was later adapted for small screen as part of the Poirot television series.
  • Played with in Thud!. Sam Vimes gets threatened by two trolls from the troll equivalent of the Mafia. When Vimes meets with the boss later, he apologizes to Vimes for his underlings' disrespectful conduct and offers to install a new rock garden in Vimes' home... all the while sitting next to a very suspicious box that Vimes notes is too small to contain a whole troll...
  • In the Ellery Queen short story "The Three Rs" (in the Calendar of Crime collection), it is made to appear that the victim's body has been placed in his trunk, covered in quicklime and shipped off to his summer cabin.

Live-Action TV

  • There is an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode where a guy kills someone and uses the bathtub and some strong acid to get rid of the body; stupidly, he uses a chainsaw to dismember the body first. Needless to say, when he finally gets down to the head, company comes calling, and he has to hide the head in a bowl of ice.
    • A dismemberment wouldn't be inherently stupid—smaller pieces have a larger surface area to volume ratio and thus are more permeable by the acid.
  • The Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse" features Basil stuffing the dead body of a guest into things.
    • And some hapless guest into the things the corpse has also been shoved into.
  • In an episode of CSI, a spurned lover stuffs his ex-boyfriend's body in a trunk, which is kept in private storage. Problem is, the body won't fit, so he cuts off the head and leaves it in a car which is then stolen.
  • NCIS did pretty much exactly the same thing as the CSI example.
    • Another episode involves a bouncer stuffing an annoying homeless man inside a duffel bag, and dumping him (to his death) down a hill. The Nevada desert heat, as well as several months of decomposition, give the cadaver the consistency of chunky soup. Nevermind the stench, the bag sloshes when moved.
    • NCIS does that quite a bit too. One episode involved—eww—bodies in barrels. They sloshed, at best, and they'd been out in the sun for quite a while.
    • And yet another body was disposed of in a sealed barrel, leading to the corpse turning into soapy goo.
  • Law & Order has had at least two episodes in which corpses turn up in chest freezers.
  • Psychoville did this in an episode which parodies Hitchcock's Rope. Minutes after serial killers David and Maureen have dispatched their latest victim, a man claiming to be a police inspector shows up at the door. He's really an actor auditioning for a role in one of the "murder mystery" acts the victim ran. Hilarity Ensues as they hide the corpse in various places around the room while trying to keep the inspector off their tail (and David having to pretend to be the victim so as not to give away that the man is dead)
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, "Inca Mummy Girl", the mummy hid the body of the real Ampata in one of his trunks.
  • In one episode of Monk, a vanished murder victim is found in a trunk; in fact, said trunk was used in a public advertising display, thanks to some quicklime to suppress odor.
  • Done in a disturbingly cold-blooded fashion on Desperate Housewives.
  • Midsomer Murders: A dismembered body is placed in a wicker hamper and left in a railway station in "Echoes of the Dead".
  • Ringer: Bridget stuffs her self defense victim into a red chest.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Vampires of Venice", dessicated bodies of several victims are kept in trunks in the basement.
  • In the Soap Opera Sunset Beach, Tim gets stuffed into a chest temporarily after being murdered, before finally being buried in cement.
  • In The Mentalist epsiode "Redline", the killer stuffs the body into the trunk of a sports car when security shows up unexpectedly. The killer is unable to retrieve the body and the car ends up on the showroom floor.


  • In the video for Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone", the spy protagonist hangs up the phone, then leaves his hotel room, pausing to shove the hand that's protruding lifelessly from a footlocker down into it and out of sight.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Dick Tracy, murderous musician 88 Keyes kills his singer/accomplice and hides her body in his grand piano; planning to have the piano put into storage. As it is, Tracy caught the movers as they were just about to haul the piano away, searches it and finds the body.


  • The play (later a Frank Capra film) Arsenic and Old Lace centers on a series of dead bodies being hidden in unlikely places like basements and window seats. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues.

Video Games

  • In The Last Express one of the ways to stop anyone from finding the body is to stash it in your bed, this is only a temporary solution though. You can also just chuck it out the window, but then the police will find it and search the train at the next stop.
  • An important technique in Hitman: Blood Money... leaving bodies just lying around is asking for trouble, and unless somebody actually sees you do it, stuffing it into a handy container will ensure that it isn't discovered 'till well after you've vacated the premises.
    • The Hitman movie does this as a Shout-Out to the original games. He not only puts the bodies in a shipping crate but nails it shut as well.
  • Killer7 has the dead body of Harman Smith hidden in a safe in a Seattle elementary school, where Emir Parkreiner stuffed it after killing him.
  • (At least) two murders in two separate Ace Attorney games involves corpses being stuffed into handy containers, once a car trunk and again with a safe. Upon seeing the rope outline of the bodies in both murders, Phoenix's assistant somehow comes to the conclusion that the victims died when the doors slammed shut on them.
    • And in each of these cases, you have a different assistant.
    • In Investigations, our 'chest' is a ridiculously garish suitcase.
  • In Wizardry 7 there's a chest with someone's remnants and personal possessions. Player may also learn the cause of death... ones too careless to learn Identify spell may learn this by demonstration.
  • Though the Thief games don't encourage murder, living and dead bodies could be dragged to concealment. Unless you're going for total ghosting gameplay, the efficient way to deal with guard patrols is to knock on the backs of their heads and move them out of view of the others. In maps with meandering patrol routes, this meant running back to move a body more than once, especially if you're not familiar with those routes yet.
  • Happens to Archibald Carrington in the second Laura Bow game. He's locked in a trunk with a bunch of flesh eating beetles.
  • At the beginning of Police Quest: Open Season, you find the corpse of a 6-year old boy in a dumpster. Near the end of the game, there's a refrigerator with a severed head in it.
  • In Full Throttle, the main character is disposed of in the dumpster behind the bar he was ambushed in. Subverted in that he wasn't killed.

Web Comics

  • Fishbones: Young Ferris stumbles upon one of these, which tips him off that his father's business partners are in the mafia.

Western Animation

  • SpongeBob SquarePants, "The Nasty Patty": Spongebob and Mr. Krabs think they've killed the health inspector (actually he just fainted) and have to keep him hidden from two cops.
    • If you miss the first few minutes of that episode (as this troper did), it looks as if they've got an actual dead body on their hands.

Real Life

  • The "Unicorn Killer", Ira Einhorn, Philadelphian and co-founder of Earth Day killed his then-girlfriend Holly Maddux and stuffed her body in a trunk in his apartment. Einhorn was arrested for the murder, but denied it, saying that the FBI and CIA framed him because of his hippy political views. Defended by attorney Arlen Spector and set free on bond raised by the heir to Seagrams wine family, Einhorn skipped bail and did a Roman Polanski, eventually settling in France. He changed his name, but was tried in absentia and found guilty. Einhorn was arrested, but fought his extradition back to America for over 20 years before he was returned to Philadelphia, where he was found guilty and then sent to prison for life.
  • The Brighton trunk murders.
  • Jeffrey Curley's murderers stuffed his body in a storage bin and dumped it in the Charles River.
  • This was thought to have happened to the victim in the "Shark Arm Murder Case", but they Never Found the Body other than the arm that the shark disgorged.