Puppeteer Parasite

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    A form of Body Horror common in alien-invasion plots. Aliens, rather than invading in their own form, insert themselves into (usually) unwilling humans, whereupon they completely take over the host's body, suppress their will, and generally make them not themselves. They generally do this because their natural form is some kind of grub or other not-very-formidable state.

    They may have limited or total access to the host's memory, but can generally fool casual observers. A possessed host typically gains increased strength, and sometimes additional wacky powers. They may also be able to affect a Voice of Evil or glowing eyes, to let the audience know what's up.

    This will fool everyone until the critical moment, even though a possessed host usually starts exhibiting really strange symptoms such as a lack of emotion, a surplus of emotion, violent rampages, festering sores, a flue gill, or a penchant for ketchup.

    Sometimes, the possession process actually kills the host, turning them into an animated cadaver. If the host is left alive then they may or may not remain aware while possessed. No matter what the case is, it generally takes a Deus Ex Machina to remove the parasite without killing the host.

    The method by which the parasite enters the host body varies; it might be injected, it may latch on to the host's back, or it may enter as some kind of Energy Being. Crawling in through the mouth or ears is also very popular. This trope may also be used as a Anvilicious metaphor for venereal disease. A controlling alien that doesn't invade the body is The Hypnotoad.

    Also, for some reason, possessed bodies often melt when killed.

    Very popular in films during the Cold War era, as it made such a handy parallel for communism. One of the most recent (and most self-aware) film examples is The Faculty.

    While the notion is rooted in myths of Demonic Possession as old as mankind, the Sci Fi version is named for the Robert A. Heinlein novella The Puppet Masters, which pretty much every instance of this trope is reusing.

    Contrast They Look Like Us Now, where the Masquerade is limited to posing as human without being able to replace/control specific individuals. Compare Living Doll Collector. Can overlap with And I Must Scream.

    Sub-Trope of Body Snatcher.

    Examples of Puppeteer Parasite include:

    Anime and Manga

    • Radam in Tekkaman Blade are tiny arachnids that inhabit and subvert the will of human hosts, who have also been upgraded with the ability to manifest super-armor and summon giant beams and dual-headed spears - the eponymous Tekkamen. The title character in particular has been upgraded to a Tekkaman but escaped before being infected with a Radam parasite. Too bad the rest of his family and friends have been infected, a fact which powers the angst of the latter half of the show.
    • One of these showed up in Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.
    • Bardiel, the 13th Angel in Neon Genesis Evangelion. It takes the form of a thundercloud and possesses Evangelion Unit 03, Body Horror-fashion.
    • Baby in Dragon Ball GT is an alien cyborg...thing who took control of several beings throughout the galaxy, while inside a being he would either (a. plant mind-control eggs (b. leech off their life force and use it to fuel himself or (c. make it a permanent home for himself. The only person the latter happened to was Goku's pal, Vegeta.
    • Many of the byouma in Hokenshitsu no Shinigami
    • The aliens in the seinen manga Parasyte
    • The Dark Axis' control horns in SD Gundam Force.
    • One of the latter theories presented in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, is that Hinamizawa Syndrome is caused by parasites who live inside humans. Hifumi Takano said that the parasites will control a person's thoughts, leading them to become paranoid and developing a persecution complex. In Tsumihoroboshi, Rena's theory that she got later on in the arc from Miyo Takano's scrapbooks fits this Trope to a T.
    • In Toriko Bogie Woods has this ablity, although he achieves it by replacing his host's skeleton.

    Comic Books

    • Mister Mind.
    • In the She Hulk graphic novel (this was before she turned to surreal meta-comedy) the Cockroach Horde gets around by infesting human bodies.
    • The Vaylen in the Iron Empires graphic novels and Burning Empires RPG are worm-like creatures that take over the brains of sapient beings, including humans. They have a variety of methods for introducing the worm, all of which are as painful and Squicky as you'd expect.
      • Some parasites have the decency to crawl in through a cranial orifice, but for a Vaylen to infest a human, a new one has to be made. That's right, an infected doctor will drill a hole in your skull to slip a worm into your brain. And as if that weren't bad enough, once you've been infected, you can never control your own body again. You're an immobile meat-puppet forever.
    • The Savage Dragon villain Horde.
    • The Daemonites of Wild CATS.
    • The Rifters of the comic and animated series Delta State.
    • A Spider-Man villain called the Thousand worked out that the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker was the source of Spidey's powers, and ate it. He became a conscious infestation of spiders that could take over other people's bodies, eventually devouring them from within.
      • The Symbiotes are shown to be these.
    • Invincible has a variant in the Sequids. One or more Sequids attach to a host, which then comes under the control of the Sequid hive mind; however, the Sequids themselves have nothing other than the basic instinct to attach themselves to other creatures unless they have a host to boost their intelligence and unite the hive mind.


    • The Strangers in Dark City were squid-like aliens driving around human corpses. "You've seen what we are. We use your dead as vessels."
    • The Bugs where able to do this in the second Starship Troopers movie.
      • In the first one too, but off panel.
    • Another classic movie example, and perhaps the source of the overall Body Snatcher trope's title, is the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Also the source of the common slang term "pod people" and a definite case of The Stoic writ large. It also is a significant source of remakes, both in name and in spirit.
    • His true body blown up in the first ten minutes, Jason does this in Jason Goes to Hell. The host bodies die after Jason leaves them (oddly enough, NOT from the damage they take while he possesses them).
    • The creature in Proteus absorbs bodies throughout the movie and is able to assume their form from then on. The minds of the victims continue to exist within it and are able to surface when it naps after a meal.
    • In The Kiss, a worm-like voodoo parasite jumps from the body of a young girl's aunt into her via a kiss. Years later, the parasite strives to take over the body of its current host's niece. The possession allows the host body to grow up, but eventually causes it to rot rapidly, leaving behind a particularly gruesome shell after it leaves.
    • Done in two different forms in Slither. Grant Grant gets infected by a queen bee alien that retains his memories, and it's implied that the two of them are merging personalities, although the alien is clearly dominant. Although he is physically mutating, he is able to convince his wife that it is just a bee sting at first. The rest of the aliens infect people and retain their memories, but the people are completely under their control. They talk and move jerkily and don't even try being stealthy, so it's only natural they don't fool anyone for long.
    • Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan has a non-sentient alien parasite that invades via the ear; as a side effect of the damage it inflicts slowly crushing the brain, the victim becomes highly susceptible to suggestion. This is not a pure example of the trope, as the eel itself does not control the host, but the victims display many of the same symptoms.
    • The antagonist in The Hidden was an icky alien resembling a mosquito larva, which forced its way down people's throats and did the Body Surf routine.
    • The parasites in David Cronenberg's Shivers are a toned-down version of this. While they don't fully take over your free will, they greatly increase your sex drive, causing you to infect more and more people. It's not as hot as it sounds.
    • The Stuff looks like marshmallow cream, tastes good and compels the infectees to consume more and more of it, to the delight of the Corrupt Corporate Executives who discover it and start to market it. As the amount of The Stuff in the victim increases, it compels the victim to (forcibly) recommend The Stuff to others while it's slowly dissolving the victim from inside out. Eventually, the mass exits the victim, leaving behind little more than skin.
    • The Faculty is a post-modern take on this.
    • Mr. Potato Head from Toy Story, oddly enough. Toy Story 3 shows that Potato Head's "consciousness" is actually in his body parts, rather than his actual body. In the film after his body is locked up by the bad guys, his parts escape and end up getting around by attaching onto a tortilla, and later a cucumber.


    • The novel by Robert A. Heinlein, right down to the physically weak "true form" of The Puppet Masters, a grapefruit-sized globule reminiscent of Metroid's eponymous creatures.
      • By the time it was made into a movie, it was considered a rehash of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In a case of Executive Meddling, the story was compressed and simplified, and they were given a trendier "reptilian" form.
    • The book and TV series Animorphs had the dreaded Yeerks, giant brain-controlling slugs. In a partial subversion, one pretty easy way (at least, to clever opponents, let's just say those Animorphs) to remove a Yeerk from its host. They're also a bit more sympathetic, due to not being evolved on a Planet of Hats—As it turns out, most of them simply don't know any better. They are also stuck in a blind slug-type body unless they take over the body of another (both described by a friendly Yeerk and experienced by Cassie when she morphs into one).
      • Also subverted in that another species, the Iskoort, discovered to be a symbiotic (consisting of vaguely birdlike Isk and the suspiciously Yeerk-like Yoort) are stated to have been engineered so that neither survives without the other (this is implied to be why they've become of such interest to the Ellimist and Crayak).
    • In the sci-fi book Radiant, the lead character Youn Suu is inhabited by a non-communicative, red, moss-like alien called the Balrog, and is given evidence on both angles to whether it is malevolent or benign.
    • The Yithians are revealed to do this to the protagonist in H.P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow out of Time," a story that combines this trope with Mind Rape.
    • The German space epic series Perry Rhodan featured a race of alien beings, the "Element of War", in a story arc during the mid-1980s. The aliens, who looked like silvery crabs, telepathically controlled people while sitting on their shoulders (although they could technically cling anywhere to the person's body). They were infamous for increasing the host's aggressions and xenophobia and brainwashing him with their constant telepathic whispers until he shared their warlike Social Darwinist ideology. Interestingly, the Element of War was itself an artificially created slave race that served an ascended cosmic entity called the Master of the Elements as part of his army, the Decalog of Elements. It multiplied by fissure.
    • The Souls in Stephenie Meyer's novel The Host are a mostly kind, benevolent race of silvery centipedes who thoroughly believe that Humans Are the Real Monsters. They infest through the neck and take over the host's mind and body, rendering the host unaware of its surroundings in most cases. On the bright side they cure cancer and keep on making potato chips. Besides their overpowering niceness, the lack of crime and the downfall of good TV acting, the only thing giving the Souls away is a faint neck wound and silver reflective eyes, only visible when bright light is shone at the host's face.
      • Mind you, given that, with the exception of the protagonist, the Souls have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about invading planets and destroying the consciousnesses of every single sentient being on these planets, it's hard for a human reader not to suspect My Species Doth Protest Too Much, even if the protagonist doesn't seem to think so.
    • The entity Tak in Desperation does this as well - but the process of riding along changes the body and causes it to decay if the host's mind isn't strong enough.
    • Wild Cards has Ti Malice, a parasitic Joker named after a Voudun Loa.* His whole body is like an atrophied, withered fetus and he latches on to a host, leech-like, to feed on their bodily fluids and emotions. Not only does he control his hosts while he's attached, they become addicted to the sensation, so that even after he releases them they long for his return.
    • The handlingers of Perdido Street Station, who are given host bodies of convicted criminals by the government of New Crobuzon in return for doing their dirty work.
    • Stephen King's book, The Tommyknockers, later made into a television movie. The effect appears to be from radiation at first, and at first it also appears to be beneficial, at least physically. It's not a straight example, however, since the aliens aren't actually in control—the humans just start to think like, act like, and eventually become alien.
    • Hivers in A Hat Full of Sky, which are strange beings akin to bodiless minds incapable of thought. They target powerful beings whose minds it can take over, slowly filling up every space until there is none of the original left.
    • Vord Takers from the Codex Alera are a particularly nast form of this- once they've taken over, your original personality is gone beyond recall, and the process is compared to a living death. Mercifully, though, the Takers (like all non-Queen Vord) are dumb as posts and while they can force their stolen bodies to reproduce learned skills, they cannot access memories or impersonate the original person with any accuracy.
      • For better or for worse, it's not living death, it's just plain death. Some taken are described as being rotten and decrepifying.
      • It actually seems to vary. Some Taken are essentially zombies, but when Doroga describes the process, he only refers to death of the mind, rather than of the body. Since Takers can control corpses, presumably the Vord just don't look after their Taken's health, leading them to die naturally of thirst or starvation anyway.
    • Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains explains zombies this way—a parasite attaches itself to a corpse and reanimates it.
    • Dean Ing's novel Anasazi, concerning parasite aliens who have been living in the American Southwest for centuries
    • In Stuck on Earth, Ketchvar III, a slug/snail-like alien, shoves himself up Tom Filber's nose and takes control of his brain.
    • A more benevolent, and yet sad, example occurs in short shoty Gastarbeiter (guest worker) by Leonid Kogan. In it people get contacted by some incorporeal entities that, in their natural dwelling, cannot perceive anything, but can possess people and live through them. Any experience, even the most tedious or unpleasant from human POV, is a blessing to them, so they offer people to supplant their minds for such occasions. At first it seems mutually beneficial: entities promise to take care of their host's body, act naturally and avoid making any crucial decisions, postponing them until the host "returns", and the host kind of sleeps through the whole time, but retains all the memories afterwards. The sad part is that people get addicted to skipping larger and larger parts of their lives, some of them even "committing suicide" by forfeiting their bodies to symbionts permanently.

    Live Action TV

    • The whole premise of the War of the Worlds television show in its first season.
    • Occasional MO of the Gua in First Wave (though they more frequently used artificial hosts).
    • Dark Skies was built on this (and Paranoia Fuel, of course.)
    • Perpetual MO of the Goa'uld in Stargate SG-1.
      • They're a bit unusual in that they generally operate overtly. They use human hosts for infiltration on occasion, but mostly just to make up for being tiny helpless slugs snake-fish thingies.
      • Also unusually, there's a faction of them (the Tok'Ra) which takes only willing hosts (they naturally give their host a powerful Healing Factor and extend the host's lifetime by at least a century or two, so there is an incentive) and time-share instead of taking over entirely
      • Inverted in Cure, where the citizens of a planet harvest the Goa'uld for their health-boosting abilities. Unfortunately, they weren't Goa'uld, but Tok'Ra. And not just any Tok'ra, but the original Tok'ra Queen Egeria--which given the eusociality of the Goa'uld species makes the Tok'ra a more or less doomed race.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series used this trope twice. In "Operation: Annihilate!", parasitic creatures that resemble flying pancakes attack planetary colonists—and eventually Spock. In "Wolf in the Fold", the Enterprise crew encounter "Redjac", a noncorporeal parasite responsible for numerous serial killings throughout the centuries. One of the humans it possessed was Jack the Ripper.
      • In later incarnations of the Trek Verse, the Trill might be an intentional subversion, as they only join with consenting hosts, with the goal of merging their respective consciousnesses.
        • In fact there seems to be competition among the humanoid population of the Trill planet to become hosts; Ezri Tigan (later Ezri Dax) is considered slightly odd for not wanting to be joined.
          • However, the Trill in TNG - unlike those seen later in Deep Space Nine - do take over their hosts entirely instead of there being a merging... despite this, it's still portrayed as a desirable thing.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Conspiracy" also had the Federation nearly conquered by Goa'uld-like creatures who possessed the top Starfleet brass. For that matter, there were a lot of possessing aliens in the Trek Verse.
      • And, if we want to get down to the molecular level, Borg nanoprobes are a form of this.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise. The Xindi Reptilians infect Hoshi Sato with brain-bugs to make her decrypt the weapons codes of the Xindi superweapon, though she is able to resist for a time.
    • Lexx did this at least twice. In one instance, the preferred method of insertion was rectally.
    • Babylon 5 had the Drakh Keepers, spawned by the aforementioned Drakh to control other creatures. They only had two weaknesses: alcohol - which put them to sleep - and to kill the Drakh who spawned the Keeper.
      • Another Babylon 5 example: "Exogenesis", which subverts the trope. The Vindrizi symbiotes are assumed to be evil, until it's revealed that they're actually benevolent "recorders" who use their willing hosts to witness history, hoping to prevent that knowledge from being lost in "the next dark age" they anticipate.
    • Doctor Who featured such creatures in "Planet of the Spiders", "The Invisible Enemy", "The Unquiet Dead", the two-parter "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood", and elsewhere. Doctor Who frequently has the "possession kills" version; even if you're sure you can see some of your friend/spouse/etc. in there under the evil alien whatever, if the Doctor says "s/he's already dead," not believing him will relegate you to Red Shirt status. (Perhaps this is why The Virus was used in the Everybody Lives story: The Virus is never reversible... except just this once.)
      • The Master becomes a goo snake that does this in the movie.
    • Torchwood used this in "Day One" and "Greeks Bearing Gifts."
    • The original Outer Limits did two vaguely similar alien parasite episodes.
      • In "Corpus Earthling", a race of sentient alien rocks are quietly taking over humans—until they're accidentally discovered by the main character, who has a metal plate in his head that allows him to overhear their telepathic conversations. (Yes, the creatures apparently think in English.) Things get interesting when the aliens respond by possessing the hero's wife and best friend...
      • "The Invisibles" combines this premise with Spy Fiction. An agent of the "General Intelligence Agency" (a Fictional Counterpart of the CIA) investigates alien parasites who have infiltrated humanity by joining with willing, power-hungry humans at both extremes of society: some of the Invisibles are homeless misfits, while others are political leaders, industrialists and military brass.
      • "Dead Man's Switch", an episode of the new Outer Limits, had a very brief scene of literal Puppet Masters. The protagonist is down in a secure bunker, where he must push a button every hour to prevent Earth's last-ditch Doomsday Device from going off. The protagonist's commanding officer is talking to him via video from Washington DC, assuring him that the alien genocide it was meant to avenge is over and they'll relieve him soon, he just has to keep pushing the button until his bunker can be reached. In the episode's final shot, it's seen that the General is a corpse amidst the buring ruins of DC, and spindly sea-spider-like aliens have their limbs stuck into him through a gash in his back, working him like a ventriloquist's dummy.
      • "The Second Soul", another episode of the Revival, features a benevolent, mostly-benign version. The aliens are refugees, energy beings who need a body, and asks humanity to give them their dead. There is strain on both sides, with the aliens dying because they can't get a host in time, and some humans being Driven to Suicide by the stress of knowing that their loved ones are dead, yet also seemingly alive when inhabited by an alien.
        • The end of the episode reveals that the children of the aliens possessing human bodies are 100% human, which makes sens, considering they don't alter the bodies' DNA.
      • "Caught in the Act" has an alien parasite possess young women and seduce men in order to absorb them for food/energy. This has happened at least several times throughout history. The parasite can only be defeated with the Power of Love.
      • "From Within" has prehistoric worms take over a mining town but are defeated by a mentally-retarded kid who figures out that they like salt and hate sunlight. They also cause the host to lose all inhibitions.
    • Apparently the premise behind ABC's short-lived series Invasion. The show was canceled before it could be made clear, but it appeared to be more a case of "replacement" than "control".
    • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Bad Eggs" featured the Bezoar, a prehistoric parasite whose offspring attached themselves to other creatures and controlled their motor functions.
    • The second episode of Angel featured a burrower demon, who possessed human bodies and took over their mind, however it had to go from body to body on a regular basis, because once it's been in a body for too long, the body started to deteriorate...sensibly enough, as the initial immolation action would logically kill the victim, with the possessed body then being little more than a still-warm corpse. The third season also had the "sluks", transparent crustacean-like demons who entered their hosts through their mouths, the downside being that these creatures required lots of water to survive, causing their hosts to dry down and die.
    • Primeval had an episode featuring dodos who were infected by some parasite. It spread to some dude, who's personality changed a lot. He also knew he was infected.
    • Quatermass 2. Aliens from a nearby asteroid reach Earth via hollow meteorites and start infiltrating the upper echelons of society.
    • The Farscape episode "A Bug's Life" features an "intellant virus"—a highly infectious virus that takes over the mind and body of the infected.
    • The Black Oil, dubbed "the oiliens" by fans, in The X-Files.
      • Also, the arctic worms in the first season episode "Ice."
    • In the sixth season of Supernatural, the "Mother of All" uses a parasitic worm--vomited into the ear, no less!--to control her victims.


    • Bob Drake's "The Persecuting Engine" deals with a protagonist that falls victim to "The Thing" which uses the aforementioned Engine "which, from afar / can influence your actions as we wish, distort your perceptions into indecipherable alien ones, [and] replace your will with ours" on him.
    • A noteworthy example of this is Creature Feature's song "Look to the Skies" which is about aliens that have come to Earth for some sinister reason. The refrain?

    We Better Face The Facts,
    The Plan's Been Hatched,
    Duplicate The Perfect Match,
    Then Body Snatch


    New Media

    • The Nawra in Vigor Mortis. Funnily enough, one of them, Penta, has "oppression" in her dislikes on her character profile.

    Tabletop Games

    • In Dungeons & Dragons:
      • The supplement "Lords of Madness" details a race called the tsochari, aka "the wearers of flesh," a tentacled alien that replaces its victim's brain and masquerades in its corpse. Or, if they want to, they can also just ride in a living host, tell him what to do, and hurt him if he doesn't do it.
      • Another D&D creature (from core sources this time) is the hellwasp swarm. It can inhabit dead bodies or possess living but helpless (such as from its own poison) creatures, although in the latter case it kills its victim in a few hours.
      • Bog Hags in the Oriental Adventures supplement steal the skin of their victims and use it and their limited shapeshifting abilities to impersonate mortals.
      • Puppeteers from the Expanded Psionics Handbook take over the body of anyone that they are in contact with.
      • Mind Flayers are another monster that reproduce in this fashion. A mind flayer tadpole is inserted into the ear of an unwilling (usually) host, and through the process of ceremorphosis (eating out and replacing the brain), the host eventually turns into another mind flayer.
      • Mystara got Hivebrood. A humanoid infected with a hivebrood larva turns into sort of half-bug social insect.
    • Roach Thralls from the Urban Arcana supplement for the d20 Modern game. The species reproduces by laying eggs inside a living human body, and their larval forms consume said human's brain and internal organs while leaving a sufficiently human-looking carcass to disguise their (somewhat compressed) cockroach form. After 6 months to 2 years, the creature still looks human but can produce and implant eggs of their own into human hosts. The Roach Thrall can shed their human skin if necessary, but this one-way process also renders them unable to reproduce, even with other unmasked Roach Thralls. In the wrong game master's hands, this creature could scare players off of sex for life.
    • The Kyriotates from In Nomine are a benevolent version of this. They're angels who can control bodies (multiple bodies at once no less!) but they usually only borrow the bodies of willing hosts or non-sapient ones, and do so in the name of good, taking care not to leave the host's body in an injured condition or do things with the borrowed bodies that would cause the host problems. Their evil counterparts, the Shedim also posses their hosts, but are limited to a single body at a time and are driven to make their hosts commit increasingly evil acts. The insidious part is that the host's consciousness is still there and thinks it's still in the driver's seat. Once the host reaches the Moral Event Horizon, the Shedite leaves and the host is left teetering on the brink.
    • The Old World of Darkness sourcebook Blood-Dimmed Tides introduced malevolent octopus things that wrap invisibly around the victim and drill a tentacle into the base of their neck. Three guesses what happens next.
    • In New World of Darkness:
      • The Hosts from Werewolf: The Forsaken sometimes get around the mortal world in this manner.
      • The strix from Vampire: The Requiem are also a variant of this. Normally disembodied spirits that take the form of owls, they can possess humans (usually killing the host) or vampires who are torpored or currently out of their body. They don't gain any access to the host's memories, though, and their motivations typically run from "wreck vampires for the lulz" to "experience everything I can, now that I have these strange things called nerve endings."
      • The "Wicked Dead" sourcebook brings other examples, such as cymothoa sanguinaria, which takes over a human body, overriding the consciousness and eventually replacing the tongue in its search for blood, and the Ragged Man, a parasitic virus that only activates in vampiric blood, drawing Vitae from them until it matures, at which point the vampire in question pukes it up into a source of water and continues the transmission.
    • In Ravenloft, sea spawn adults ("masters") use their larvae ("minions") to procure victims from coastal villages. The larvae burrow into human hosts' spines and usurp control of their nervous systems. Each host spends a few days luring or forcing innocent victims into the surf, where the hungry sea spawn master awaits, then feeds itself to the master once it's too ravaged by the minion's brain-nibbling to last much longer.
    • GURPS Black Ops has the Brainsuckers. As the name suggests, they don't just control the host, they also eat his brain to feed their offspring.
    • The Vrakylaks in Eon are a species of semi-sentient, crawling organs that embed themselves in the neck of their victims, manipulating them ether through promises of release or threat of violence (they're attached to their nervous system after all) to kidnap more people and bring them to a nest. When the time is right, all the little Vrakylak's newly hatched spawn crawl up to the secured victims, and the cycle begins anew. Oh, and victims progressively go blind from the symbiosis.
    • As of their latest codex, Warhammer 40,000's Necrons have these in the form of Mindshackle Scarabs, which are occasionally used to subvert and conquer worlds.
    • Rifts has at about a half dozen types of these. Some are monsters, at least two are available as Player Characters.


    • The Krana in Bionicle are a rare external, visible example, combining this trope with Face Hugger.
      • In another LEGO example, LEGO Alien Conquest line features "clinger" accessories which attach to a mini-figure's head. Because modern mini-figures have two facial expressions (the unusued one is hidden by a hairpiece or hat), the face can be turned around to show terror... or bland submission. They're also a visual Shout-Out to the brain slugs from Futurama.

    Video Games

    • The original Zerg, from StarCraft did this, according to the background. In the game, they can still "infest" people, though the victim's appearance changes drastically, except in one occasion in the Brood War extension. (Possibly explained by the possibility that the character wasn't really human, since he broke off from Zerg control when his own goals were completed.)
      • Not to mention the fact that said character claimed to have been around since the Xel'Naga fell, which means that he's had an awful lot of time to practice adjusting his appearance... not to mention the fact that everyone needs a hobby.
        • It's implied that Duran is himself a Xel'Naga.
        • Or one of their creations engineered to resemble a Zerg. At the very least, not originally human.
      • In StarCraft II the infester takes this role with the "neural parasite" ability. This one isn't very subtle either, as the unit under it's control still has a 20 foot tenticle jutting from the back of their head, creating a direct link to the infester and its host. Furthermore, the control is only temporary. That's not to say it isn't useful, as more advanced players can take control of a worker of their enemy and construct a base that's the same type as the enemy you're fighting, effectivly giving you control of both the zerg and whatever race you're fighting.
        • The neural parasite is not limited to biological units either. Battlecruisers, Carriers, Colossi, and all other manner of mechanical units are fair game.
    • The Throne of Tides dungeon in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm expansion features a boss, Erunak Stonespeaker, who is being mind controlled by a creature that attached itself to his head. It will also mind control random players during the encounter.
      • The Merciless One species is also encountered earlier in Vashj'ir. Ozumat appears to be a very big version.
    • Resident Evil 4 introduces Las Plagas, parasites which turn their infectees into brainwashed slaves for control plagas. Ganados from 4 and Majini from 5 are infected with Plagas.
    • In both Half-Life games, the iconic headcrabs kill people by jumping at them and then latching onto their heads to turn them into much stronger zombies. In the second game, the villains even use missiles filled with headcrabs as weapons. Which when you think about it might not be always be a smart idea when you consider the headcrabs aren't actually on their side either; places like Ravenholm ended up literally crawling with zombies as a result of excessive headcrab-bombing.
      • It's worth mentioning that players discovered a particularly horrifying fact about headcrab zombies: Playing the audio of their voices in reverse reveals that their human hosts are actually still conscious and screaming bloody murder from under their fleshy puppetmaster of a hat.
      • This can be seen when you forcibly remove a headcrab from a person's head: the host's face is contorted it bitter agony, although it is missing most of its skin and eyes.
    • In Mass Effect a colony is taken over by the Thorian; a giant plant controls unsuspecting victims with spores and forces them to do as they wish or suffer extreme pain. This gives the Thorian so much power over its subjects that they will fight to the death rather than disobey - except for the colony's leader, Fai Dan, who resists it's order to kill Shepard long enough to commit suicide. Nice work.
    • The bonethieves from Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem are a particularly nasty example. First they burrow into their victims' chest, then guide them around like puppets. Then, when the host body takes enough damage, the bonethief burst through in a shadow of gore, which isn't exactly healthy to your sanity, and tries to burrow into your chest.
    • This is the overlying threat you're trying to defend against in X-COM: Apocalypse, as the aliens use aptly-named creatures called Brainsuckers to give people a Face Full of Alien Wingwong and put them under alien control. If a Brainsucker converts one of your soldiers in this manner, they're dead as far as the game is concerned.
    • The Oktigi of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath are a race of Octopi-like creatures that function like the Brainsuckers above. It is revealed that Sekto is of this species, who after defeat leaves the body of the Olden Steef and escapes into the river.
    • The Necromorphs in Dead Space are a subversion of this. The Marker causes those nearby to go crazy and start killing people, and then takes over the dead bodies.
      • Also, a rather disturbing death animation a certain necromorph also qualifies. After taking enough damage, the necromorph will fall to pieces, which will still attack Isaac. If the piece that was the monster's head kills Isaac, it will decapitate him, root itself on his neck, and take over his body.
    • In Destroy All Humans!, body-snatching becomes Crypto's primary way to disguise himself amongst humans by the second game.
    • The Nomads/Slomon K'Haara in Freelancer are this, with aspects of The Virus: it is strongly implied that Nomad-infested humans can infest other humans as well.
    • The Morphoids in Nicktoons: Globs of Doom can pull this; while they can fight on their own, the bosses (except for Big Bad Globulous Maximus and two of the bosses in the DS game) are all infected characters with a head full of Morphoid goo.
    • Even Pokémon has a case in the form of Paras and Parasect. Paras is a simple bug being slowly eaten alive by the mushrooms on its back, the bug making the best of its situation by using them for self-defense. Parasect is this same bug, virtually dead and covered with the mushroom, which has overridden the insect's nervous system.
    • The Flood in Halo does this too. They use fleshy pods to evolve into small, bulbous creatures full of tentacles. Once they find a suitable host, the Infection Forms attach and paralyze the victim before ripping open the chest cavity and nestling inside, taking over the host's nervous system and beginning rapid mutation, culminating in a real ugly abomination known as a Combat Form. Though the host is technically dead, the controller retains enough of the host's experience that Combat Forms are decent marksmen (!). In some cases however, a Combat Form victim is still alive and conscious, occasionally able to regain partial control for a while. The Infection Form is still visible from the outside and destroying it will kill the host too; Infection Forms can voluntarily abandon the host if it sustains heavy damage though if it is killed or removed forcibly, other Infection Forms can take its place and reanimate the Combat Form. Simply dismembering the CFs arms won't stop it. Large concentrations of Flood biomass releases spores that can also cause an infection; because of this, the only sure-fire way to eliminate a nest is to burn it with plasma or destroy the biomass via activating the Halo rings.
    • The Many in System Shock 2 take over nearly the entire crews of the Von Braun and Rickenbocker. They started out as strange eggs on an alien planet that infect the landing party, then become controlled human hybrids that still have enough awareness to apologize and beg to be killed before they attack, before taking on even more bizarre forms. Throughout the game, they seek to telepathically convince the protagonist to join them them against the evil artificial intelligence that created them.
      • They're not quite Alien copies. They exhibit a number of psychic powers which make humans want to care for and nurture the worms, show them the benefits of being part of a Hive Mind and ultimately join the Many. You read the diaries of several crewmembers who embraced their change.
    • The Jockeys from Left 4 Dead 2 take a more physical approach to this trope: They simply grab on to the survivor and push them in the desired direction until someone else comes up and knocks him off your head.
    • Skies of Arcadia has a fairly horrifying example: the giant roaches living under the Valuan empire occasionally hijack unfortunates who wander into their territory, from what you can see in game this involves climbing onto the victim's back, jamming limbs into each of the victim's limbs, and then puppeteering them around while using them as a mobile snack. Whether the victims are killed before they get used as meat puppets is not made clear.
    • From the original Silent Hill we have the slug-like parasites controlling the puppet nurses and doctors. The Book of Forgotten Memories indicates said monsters are not product of Alessa's tortured mind but the actual Alchemilla staff turned into mindless drones by her hatred of hospitals.
    • Pikmin has them, as does its sequel but they're different. In the first, there are muchroom enemies that can take control of your pikmin (complete with milky white Parasect eyes) and they'll attack you and your swarm. In the second game, there's a species of pikmin that is parasitic that infects bulborbs. After killing the leader of this troupe, you can whistle at the babies and contorl them like any other pikmin. They're immune to all obstacles and have average speed and strength making them very useful. If you can ignore the Fridge Horror of exactly what that cute little pikmin did to that adorable bulborb baby.
    • Glowworms in Limbo.
    • Pisacas in Shin Megami Tensei.
    • In Death Spank, the Mind Barnacles that he helps spread are clearly examples of this trope but the main character helps them spread due to them offering him a quest. Plus they would bring World Peace by infecting all living things with Mind Barnacles!
    • Inverted in Alpha Centauri. The planet hosts mindworms who can do nasty things to humans (they are the equivalent to barbarian units in CIV games), but can be captured and utilized as military units under the right circumstances. Rather ironic to have a huge mass of alien worms being controlled by a human colonist.
    • Team Fortress 2 gives a Shout-Out to the brain slugs of Futurama by having one as a wearable hat for the Pyro. It's a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo, so it looks a little different. According to the description, it doesn't control Pyro so much as agree with him wholeheartedly that everything should burn.

    Web Comics

    • The Hat, an ugly parasitic hat from Stickman and Cube. It eats people's heads, too.
    • In Girl Genius, the slaver wasps are themselves tools of a malevolent Spark known as the Other. Also notable in that no Deus Ex Machina has surfaced; death is still the only cure for the slaver-infected.
      • Well, probably. Agatha's locket is suppressing her psychic possession by The Other; it might work against the Slaver Wasps, as well. Of course, since there's only one of it...
      • The improved versions leave the hosts normal people who go on about their lives, but can be commanded by the right voice at any time. Klaus Wulfenbach seems to be okay after being infected. Shambling zombies ended up as a mere distraction from the far more insidious threat. Also, sometimes "shamblers" who can't pass for intact people anyway are given some physical augmentations.
      • One in-universe story suggested that the Heterodyne boys made a device that could extract slaver wasps. No-one really believes that it could have worked though.
      • Prevention is ostensibly trivial, and respirators are used this way, but hive engines don't appear by themselves, they are carried by minions of The Other (her "priestesses" and already made revenants often suffice, though the old hive engines supplemented enslavers with a swarm of tough warrior constructs), who use either force or stealth to make sure enslavers are not wasted.
      • More recently, Tarvek has developed a formula which he thinks will render the imbiber immune to being wasped. It has some funny side effects, but proved effective even against a new type of enslavers.
    • The slugs in Jump Leads. They are killable by contact with silks. A real irony for working class soldier that join the army to not wear silk clothes, which is a best mean of defense.
    • El Goonish Shive has Sirleck (this thing), a former human who achieved immortality by jumping from host to host.
    • Prior to the start of Intragalactic, Piper's brain was eaten by a Brainworm. However, the worm inherited her memories and personalities and has essentially continued her life for her, making her corpse walk and talk for it. In fact the only apparent changes death has brought about in Piper are a deathly pallor and a guilt complex (from killing the original Piper).
    • Gunnerkrigg Court has Whitelegs.
    • In General Protection Fault, it is revealed that Fred and other slime molds have the ability to control people's movements and speech. It is heavily implied that the enemy aliens from the Nega-Verse are also slime Molds, since they controlled Nega-Dwayne and Nega-Butch to weaken the humans through infighting.
      • And now they're invading in the main universe, having taken over Agent #18 and - it appears - Nega-Nick...
    • The Fixits in The Mansion of E are hat-shaped critters who are able to control their "wearer".

    Web Original

    Western Animation

    • Parodied on Futurama, wherein the efforts of the "brain slugs" to acquire new hosts are always blatantly transparent, as in one episode where a controlled Hermes Conrad informs the crew that their next delivery is to the Brain Slug Homeworld, where their orders are to "just stand around not wearing a helmet". The Brain Slugs themselves are pretty obvious too, being weirdly cute green blobs with big eyes attached to the head of the controlled individual.
      • It is implied that the brain slugs not only control but slowly digest the host's brain too, or at least feed on the host's brain waves. One of the brain slugs tried to infest Fry's brain, but died of starvation. Though this is mainly because Fry is immune to mind-related shenanigans.
    • An interesting case is in Invader Zim, where Word of God states that Zim's (and every Invader/Irken, actually) body is just a meat puppet. Their true minds are in their PAKs (the backpack thingies that occasionally sport spider-legs) and separation from the body is lethal. One supposes that this is what inevitably happens after they have completely overrun your world.
      • Or when Cybernetics Eat Your Soul encompasses an entire culture. The PAKs aren't organic in nature, raising the question of who created them and why.
      • Also calls their government of rule by the "Tallest" into even more question since those tall bodies are just meat puppets. It was implied they lead BECAUSE they are tall, but maybe the leaders just get to use the tallest meat puppets?
        • The Irkens are the result of massive overdependence on technology, not any external threats. The Tallest are just figureheads; the real leaders are the Control Brains: artificial intelligences that consist of the collected memories of all dead Irkens and who ruthlessly enforce conformity and efficiency. The "Irken Machine" is essentially a weird cross between House Ordos, the Combine, and Brave New World.
    • The Brainteasers from Darkwing Duck qualify, and since they look like hats, they go undetected for quite some time.
    • The Racing Bugs from Jimmy Two-Shoes replace their hosts Ghost in the Machine and use the vessals to race. They're mainly harmless, and actually give their hosts super speed. The only reason they're frowned upon is that they're fleas inside your head.

    Truth in Television

    • That Other Wiki has an entire category of Puppeteer Parasites. Examples follow.
    • Toxoplasmosis gondii is a very real parasitic infection which can affect humans (and the reason pregnant women are advised not to clean cat litter). While nothing on the scale of the science fiction trope, it is now believed that infestation with the parasite may change the personality of infected humans, making men more aggressive and less fearful, while making women kinder and more promiscuous. It also doubles or triples the chances of getting into a car accident. It is suspected that between 30 and 60 percent of the population of the world is infected, albeit asymptomatic. Think about that.
      • The same parasite typically infects rodents and alters their brain chemistry significantly-incidentally, this is why it changes human personalities. The alterations it makes are actually necessary to reproduce: it can only infect rats and mice, but it needs cats innards to breed, so it changes the brain chemistry around to that it's host is attracted to the scent of cat, rather than repelled as normal. Then it gets eaten and the whole process starts again when the cats defecates.
      • Oh, and there's even some evidence linking Toxoplasmosis infection to schizophrenia.
        • And Crazy Cat Ladies. The above evidence linking it to schizophrenia is the discovery that anti-malaria drugs have been found to cure some cases of it. This should be emphasized. Carriers are attracted to cats. In rodents, it makes them easier for cats to eat. In humans, it makes us think cats are adorable. Umm... "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight... Damn it... I, for one, welcome our feline overlords.
        • "The study suggests that male carriers have shorter attention spans, a greater likelihood of breaking rules and taking risks, and are more independent, anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose. It also suggests that these men are deemed less attractive to women. Women carriers are suggested to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls. The results are shown to be true when tested on mice, though it is still inconclusive. A few scientists have suggested that, if these effects are genuine, prevalence of toxoplasmosis could be a major determinant of cultural difference." Feel free to quake in terror.
        • Notice how one of the personality changes is that it make you feel more suspicious. As in paranoid. Now ask yourself, how do you feel after reading about this infection? Oh Crap
    • While there is little out there that controls humans, parasites that control other species are fairly common. Examples include:
      • Horsehair worms which infect grasshoppers while young, then influence their host to go to the water when they are ready to rip through his chest and begin their free-living existence. This is a cricket, but same difference.
      • A species of fluke (if it survives, it's a fluke!) extends its eggsack into the antenna of its snail host, then forces the snail to position itself so that its antenna where a bird can easily see it. The bird then eats the infested antenna (swollen to look like a worm) and becomes infected. See it here!
      • One species of parasite causes ants to crawl up to the top of a plant, bite the edge of a leaf, and just sit there. This greatly increases the chance they will be eaten, allowing the parasite to spread.
      • There are 400 documented species of fungus within the genus Cordyceps — each specific to one species of insect — which infest the hosts and then force them to chill out somewhere where they can catch the breeze and never move again for the rest of their lives, so that the fungus can grow out of their heads and spread more spores to start all over again. Another one infects flies and makes them grip a blade of grass and flap their wings until they die of exhaustion, taking a slightly more active role in spore-spreading.
        • Cordyceps unilateralis targets ants, forcing its ant host to climb to a position that overlooks their own hive, so that the entire hive will be infected when the ant dies and starts scattering spores. However, the ants themselves have evolved a mechanism in response to this, so that any time an ant starts showing symptoms of infection the rest of the hive will carry it a long way away so it can die without threatening the hive. This must be the plot for at least five sci-fi horror movies.
    • Fungi residing in the human digestive tract can make their hosts feel very uncomfortable unless they eat enough sweets to satisfy the fungi. And you can get infected by simply eating infested bread...

    Alice: "BOB!!! wtf did you eat that cake for!? And six 12-packs of cola! Are you trying to make yourself sick?
    Bob: "Sugarrrrrrrrrrrrr..."

    • There's a species of barnacle of the genus Sacculina that infects female crabs and grows tentacles into its brain. it then lays eggs in the crabs egg sac, which swells up with baby zombie-making barnacles to infect other crabs with.
    • Xenos vesparum is a parasite that lives in wasps. It enters a young wasps as a larvae and grows while the wasp stays small and becomes infertile. When Xenos mating season comes, it forces its host to fly to a special place, where the Xenos in this area meet. Now the males kill and leave their hosts and mate with the females. The female now forces its host into hibernation and in the spring flies it to a wasp colony where the parasite larvae can find their own hosts. Then the female kills its host. And nobody knows how they do it.
    1. Actually she said she or that the character was "the host" of the limelight. Although given the detrimental effect it had, it's easier to see it being a parasite rather than a mutual or commensal symbiont. So while not out right stated, it's heavily implied.