Harmful to Touch

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A substance or material which causes pain, injury or death to anyone who makes skin contact with it. There are several reasons this may happen: the object is cursed or possessed by a malicious will; the object is protected by some kind of defense system designed to keep away unauthorised users; or, the object is just really hot, very sharp, radioactive, or otherwise naturally dangerous, in which case it probably doesn't need to be mentioned here (unless it has some property of being supernaturally hot or sharp).

Typically there is some way to bypass this threat, especially for the defense system type, in which case you might see certain characters handling the item without any undue consequences. In other cases, just wearing gloves might protect you. Or you might require specialised Phlebotinum Handling Equipment.

If the object in question is possessable and always fatal, it's also an Artifact of Death. If it's harmful but only to certain species or individuals, it falls under either Weaksauce Weakness or Kryptonite Factor. An Empathic Weapon may have this as a defense feature to avoid being used by someone it doesn't want. Anything Made of Evil will have this effect.

Poisonous Person is this in person form. Related to Touch of Death. See also Agony Beam, Curse, Demonic Possession and Soul Jar.

Examples of Harmful to Touch include:

Comic Books

  • In the Star Comics version of Masters of the Universe only He-Man/Prince Adam could touch the Power Sword it would deliver a painful magical blast to any other living being -including He-Man's fellow heroes. Inorganic beings such as the Horde Troopers were unaffected though. It should be noted, however, that this along with pretty much all of the Star Comics falls under Canon Discontinuity.


  • In Time Bandits Kevin warns his parents not to touch a piece of Evil that the dwarves didn't dispose of. They (as usual) don't listen to him. Boom.
  • The MacGuffin from the 1985 Red Sonja movie is lethal to any male who touches it.
  • The Phlebotinum in Mystery Team.
  • Blade's sword has a rather nasty security feature on it, just in case Blade's prey get any ideas about using his weapon against him.


  • In the Dresden Files, Mordite is a kind of corporealised mortality. Just getting near it can be lethal.
  • The Sword of the King of the Enchanted Forest feels uncomfortably hot to anyone not in the King's family line.
  • The Agiels in The Sword of Truth series automatically cause pain to whoever touches them, including the wielder. The degree of pain, and whether they cause physical injury, can be adjusted.
  • In The Black Company, a man tries to pick up Sealed Evil in a Can by hand and the sheer evil of it gives him a 3rd degree burn that won't heal.
  • Silmarils will burn anyone who takes them that is not good enough to hold them.
  • In the original version of Aladdin (the story, not the Disney movie), Aladdin is warned to not touch anything in the place where the lamp is being held. He is warned that if his clothes so much as brush the walls, he'll be killed.
  • In Theodore L. Thomas' The Clone, the eponymous life form is a giant blob of organic matter that inhabits the sewage system and dissolves any organics it touches into water and food for itself. The worst part of it? It doesn't hurt at all, so you won't even notice it until half your leg is gone.

Live Action TV

  • In Babylon 5 a researcher who touched the surface of a Shadow vessel was described as having died instantly as if the life had just been sucked out of him.
  • The forcelances in Andromeda are equipped with DNA-recognition keys. They're 'supposed' to deliver an electric shock large enough to make an unauthorized user let go, but Harper likes to tinker with the charge.


  • The Ark of the Covenant is said in The Bible to smite anyone who touches it without specific ecclesiastical consent. This apparently applies also to anyone looking inside.

Tabletop Games

  • Some magical items in Dungeons and Dragons will automatically inflict damage on anyone of the wrong alignment who picks them up. A few are safe to handle initially, but trying to invoke their power if you're the wrong alignment/class/whatever will cause damage to hp, xp, or abilities.

Video Games

  • In La-Mulana, the Crystal Skull will hurt you if you touch it without having the Talisman of La-Mulana.
  • In Ghostbusters the Video Game, Shandor's black slime. As Winston points out, "the stains don't ever come out."
  • Ink in De Blob. It's harmful even to the Inkies, and they're made of it!

Western Animation

  • In one episode of South Park, Cartman claims his super-high-tech Trapper Keeper will impale any hand whose fingerprints don't match his. Kyle doesn't believe this, but decides not to touch it when Cartman gives him a chance to debunk the claim. The show being what it is, we later see that Cartman was telling the truth.


  • In Harry Potter and the Unspeakable, the wand which Harry obtained from Ollivander's, made of meteorite and dubbed the "Celestial Wayfarer," was said to be harmful to any evil person who touched it. A particular character was later revealed to be Snape's evil stepfather on Polyjuice when he was forced to pick up the wand while in court and it burned his hand.