Released to Elsewhere

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The Villain with Good Publicity has declared that a character (often sick) needs to be Put on a Bus to some place where they'll be cared for. They might subsequently bring news of the character's happy existence at his new home, and finally a tear-jerking report of a Bus Crash that killed the character despite best efforts to prevent it.

The audience will be shown that it's all a horrible lie, even if it keeps the protagonists fooled. Not only is the character dead, but his execution was planned from the start, right down to how they would dispose of his corpse. No wonder he never returns.

Features a lot in Dystopian settings, particularly those that pretend to be a Utopia, and the revelation of the truth does not often happen until late in the story, meaning that most of the examples listed here will be spoilers. When the revelation of the Awful Truth actually happens, it's usually the moment the government of the setting Kicks the Dog or crosses the Moral Event Horizon and its true evil is revealed.

The other form of this trope has parents using this excuse to cover up the impending or actual death of a beloved family pet. The traditional form of this is to say that the animal was given to a family with a lovely farm. (Sadly, as farm owners will attest, this trope is sometimes invoked by people wanting to get rid of unwanted pets, as owners dump animals off near the property in hopes Fluffy will have a soft life eating mice and drinking milk).

Compare Never Say "Die" and Deadly Euphemism. See also Win Your Freedom.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Released to Elsewhere include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The government in Witch Hunter Robin claims that captured witches (including innocents and children who've never used their powers for evil and are only rounded up because they happen to have powers) are taken to special holding facilities where they will be no harm to themselves or others. In reality, the government kills them and boils them down into Anti-Magic soup.
  • A variation in Fullmetal Alchemist: the people that Father Cornello resurrects are only ever seen behind a veil, and immediately leave town once they're fully regenerated. They were never actually resurrected, Cornello just uses a chimera made of parrots to mimic their voice.
    • The pet version? Well Mustang did that with Ed and Al when talking about Hughes.
  • An underground city in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has little food and and water and are unable to reliably care for more then 50 people. Every time the population reaches more than 50 people, they draw straws to see who gets "the blessing of the gods" meaning they get sent up to the surface, which is crawling with Humongous Mecha that are charged to kill anyone on the surface. Tragedy ensues when a pregnant woman gives birth to triplets, bringing the population to 52. The family with triplets doesn't "win," but two Heartwarming Orphans do.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Fables, the title group consists mainly of people gathered in two locations- the community in New York City for those who can pass for human or don't mind staying hidden, and the Farm upstate, where the strange-looking (or, on occasion, misbehaved) ones live to hide from prying eyes. The one guy who ever notices that the NYC group is a little weird and decides to look closer overhears discussions of people being "sent to the Farm" and assumes this trope. He is, naturally, wrong.
  • In a Mad Magazine parody of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, Harry is told that Sirius was sent to a farm where he can run around with all the other godfathers.
  • In V for Vendetta, senior citizens are relocated to "retirement communities" when they reach a certain age. Those in the government (and it may even be common knowledge) know that they're actually gas chambers... and even the "gas" part is another euphemism. It's actually just a couple of guys with lead pipes.

Film[edit | hide]

  • "Going to America" in Parts: The Clonus Horror.
    • Possibly a reference to Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, wherein Svidrigaylov commits suicide using the same euphemism.
    • The director claimed it was due to "post-'60s fuck you-ism".
  • The titular island in The Island. In reality, there is no "lottery" and the clones are "chosen" when their originals need spare parts.
  • "Leave The Bronx. Sign up for a new house in enchanting New Mexico." Escape 2000 (a.k.a. Bronx Warriors 2 a.k.a. Escape from the Bronx).
    • That one was real, it was the people who didn't go that were secretly killed.
  • Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders: "I very quickly sold Sparkle to a farm where he'll be happy."
  • In the movie version of The Running Man, done with the incarcerated rather than the sick: The skeletons of three of "last year's winners" are found by the love interest in the middle of the movie.

Amber: They're running men. Last season's winners.
Fireball: No. Last season's losers.

  • In the film Goya's Ghosts, Goya appeals for help from the disgraced priest turned Napoleonic dictator to find the daughter of a girl released from The Spanish Inquisition. When the dictator finds out he is the father of the child in prison (when he was still a priest), he escorts the girl quietly out the door (we don't hear what is said because Goya is deaf) and announces: "poor girl, she has been through so much... she will be well taken care of." We later find out he sent her to a mental institution where she went crazy. In a twist, the dictator is executed and she remains loyal to him even in death.
  • The main character in Moon has a three-year contract at a mining station on the moon. When it's time to go home, he is shown a short video thanking him for his service and instructing him to enter a stasis pod for the trip to Earth. In reality, he is a clone, the pod instantly incinerates him, and a new clone is awoken to begin another three-year tour.
  • Played with in Corky Romano: While Corky, a veterinary assistant, is on leave posing as an FBI agent to help his Family, a wiseguy fills in for him at the vet clinic. A boy comes in with a stone-dead white mouse and says, "Mister, something's wrong with Sniffles!" The wiseguy takes the dead mouse into the back, throws it in a wastebasket, picks a live white mouse out of a cage full of them, goes back to the waiting room and says, "Here you are, kid, he's fine, he just needed a new liver."
  • In the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Beckett has Governor Swann killed, and tells everyone that he was sent back to England. Mainly because he was seen in the afterlife, the core cast doesn't believe this for a second.
  • Just Ray Harris fled Boston according to his son in Mystic River, but knows Harris is still alive because he sends $500 every month without fail. Later it is revealed what really happened to Just Ray and the true source of the money.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The trope name is drawn from Lois Lowry's story The Giver. No one other than the higher-ups know what it means. Anywhere outside the Community is known as "Elsewhere". The citizens think that when one gets too old, too sick, or too uppity (or in one case, born an identical twin, because they don't want any confusion on which is which and in another as enforcement of the strict Population Control), one is sent to a doctor to be examined, and then sent through a door in the Releasing Room beyond which, children are told, someone welcomes them to "Elsewhere." Jonas, as he is training to be the Receiver of Memory from the title character, learns that "release" is actually the Community's euphemism for "mandatory euthanasia," carried out by lethal injection by the doctor in question. In this case, that happened to be his father. What's perhaps most disturbing is that, due to the nature of this Dystopia, even those who carry out the "release" can't grasp the full connotations of what they're doing.
  • Ambiguously used in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World when Bernard and Helmholtz take John to Mustapha Mond,after John talks to Mond, Bernard and Helmholtz also talk to Mond about dissatisfied they are being outcasts in London. Mond tells them that they are a threat and must be sent to an island where other free thinkers are. However we never hear about these free thinkers, and John isn't allowed to go with them despite his pleas. It's entirely possible Bernard and Helmholtz were killed instead.
  • The subject of a George R. R. Martin story titled The Hero. The titular character is a decorated war hero who wants to retire to Earth, so his commanders kill him. The author sent it in with an application for being an objector to Vietnam and, as such, wasn't sent.
  • In George Orwell's Animal Farm, Boxer is taken away in a knacker's truck after being injured and no longer being able to work, but the other animals are told that the vet bought the truck just the other day and hasn't had time to paint over the logo. True to form, this is the event that launches Napoleon over the Moral Event Horizon, as Old Major named having animals slaughtered when their usefulness was at an end as one of the very worst of Man's evils.
  • In Robert Harris' Fatherland the Reich's big secret, covered up for twenty years, is that the undesirables weren't "rehoused" in far-away places. Which is exactly what people were told in real life Nazi Germany.
  • Zigzagged in Unwind, where the Unwinds are sent away to be cut into pieces as a sort of organ transplant, yet everyone knows exactly that that is what happens. But then, the fact that they don't actually die is the reason it's allowed, and everybody knows that, as well.
  • In the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao receives the surrender of Liu Cong, which gives him control of most of Jing province. Cao thinks Liu might make trouble later, so he promotes Liu Cong to a position that would require him to serve from the capital. While he and his mother are on their way there, Cao has them assassinated by Yu Jin. Note that this is one of the parts of the novel that isn't historically accurate: the real fate of Liu Cong is unknown.
  • Invoked and then subverted hard in Eoin Colfer's book Airman. It is repeatedly stressed that being 'released' from the prison island means executed, so when the protagonist is told that his cellmate has been released he assumes this is what happened. Turns out he actually was just released.
  • A variant: Richard Adams' Watership Down features a rabbit warren that is farmed by humans. Rabbits are routinely captured and killed by the humans. The rabbits of the warren are in deep, deep denial about this, so it is a great taboo to ask where another rabbit is or speculate that someone has gone missing. To talk openly of the wires is everybunny's Berserk Button.
  • Inverted in Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb. After Fitz's psychic bond with a puppy (considered a perversion and a use of evil magic) is discovered by Burrich, the puppy is taken away and Fitz is convinced through all of his childhood and into his adult life that the puppy was killed. It wasn't; Fitz meets with the dog later on in a different kingdom, where he had been given to the royal family as breeding stock for their hunting dogs.
  • In After, students who don't follow the new school rules are sent to some kind of a 'correctional boot camp.' A while later, the students are informed of his/her unfortunate and accidental death.
  • The short story "Kittens" by Dean Koontz is about a girl who lives with her religious family and owns a cat. The last time the cat had kittens, they disappeared and the parents told her that "God took them". When the cat had a new litter of kittens, the girl hid and saw her parents drowning them, one at a time, in a bucket of water. The girl later asked her parents if the new litter was taken by God as well and when they said yes she drowns her baby twin brothers in the bathtub for revenge!
  • A French science-fiction story (possibly by Rosny Ainé) occurs Twenty Minutes Into the Future, after teleportation gates have been invented that allow people to visit other planets just by stepping through. This causes a huge wave of emigration encouraged by all the governments and tourism boards, complete with appealing photos and enthusiastic letters home from the colonists... Except the protagonist soon finds out that the teleportation gates are actually disintegrator gates, and the whole thing is a genocide in progress.
  • In "The Marching Morons" by Cyril M. Kornbluth, the government of Earth solves an overpopulation problem by a massive PR campaign to convince people to emigrate to Venus.
  • Use of Weapons features a blatantly Nazi-esque tyrant who rounds up ethnic minorities and puts them on trains—supposedly to resettle them elsewhere, but they're actually immediately killed. The Heroic Sociopath protagonist gives an Ironic Echo when he comes for the guy—at first telling him he'll be humanely imprisoned in The Culture, he compares this to being resettled, and then starts talking about the actual fate of the guy's subjects. He reassures him that The Culture is not nearly so harsh. Then he tells him he is no longer affiliated with The Culture, and kills the tyrant.
  • In Smart Rats, young people who are chosen for "a new life on the next continent" are herded into maritime shipping containers for their voyage, the contents of which are dumped overboard as soon as they're out to sea. A branch of the totalitarian bureaucracy is responsible for mailing computer-generated letters to their families, reporting how nice a time they're having.
  • In In Your Dreams, the second book of Tom Holt's J.W. Wells trilogy, Paul Carpenter doesn't spend the whole book trying to rescue his girlfriend Sophie because he genuinely believes she's been reassigned to an office in Los Angelos, left without saying goodbye, and broke up with him via a letter. Not quite this trope because he does manage to rescue her before she actually dies.
  • In the eighth book of the Sword of Truth series, Naked Empire, the eponymous land has only two punishments for criminals: 1) Give them another chance and encourage them to change their ways, or 2) banish them beyond "the boundary." It turns out the boundary, a magical barrier where The Underworld and the land of the living overlap, bends outward creating a narrow corridor that leads into an uninhabitable desert.
  • In The Underland Chronicles, the rats are "relocating" all the mice in the Underland. Turns out that they're actually leading the mice to their doom without them suspecting anything. Not surprising, considering that the story is based on the Holocaust.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, the protagonist glimpses a TV news story about the "Children of Ham" being "resettled" in North Dakota and the "Children of Judah" being repatriated to Israel, making one wonder if it's an example of this trope.
  • Inverted in Invitation To The Game (not that one). Groups of young adults who make enough progress in The Game are shipped off to colonize new planets, and reported dead back home. Played with even further in that this leads to skewed average life expectancies.
  • Zig Zagged in the Green-Sky Trilogy: Too-curious orchard workers and intellectuals who get suspicious have a habit of "disappearing," ostensibly "taken by the Pash-shan" (underground monsters who presumably kill them horribly). It turns out they're being drugged and put underground by a secret government cabal. The exiles are living as refugees among the underground people, who are actually kind and sympathetic (and entirely human).
  • The Robot QT-1 in Isaac Asimov's short story Reason becomes convinced that only the space station he exists in is truly real - which leads to the conclusion that when humans speak of returning to Earth and the like, this trope is in effect (it isn't).
  • The deaths of Charity Burbage and Rufus Scrimgeour are covered up in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by saying they resigned from their posts (Muggle Studies Professor at Hogwarts and Minister for Magic, respectively).

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In the Doctor Who episode "Turn Left", with London nuked, the country full of homeless refugees, France's borders closed and the USA's financial aid canceled due to another disaster, the British government starts rounding up immigrants and putting them in "work camps". Wilfred, a World War II veteran immediately realizes what's really going on

Wilfred: (horrified) "Work camps"... that's what they said last time!
And as the truck drives away the Cybermen theme plays...

  • In Torchwood: Miracle Day the plot is that everyone stops dying. They don’t get eternal youth or a Healing Factor- they just stop dying. In light of this, governments and drug companies come up with the Categories of Life. Category 1 are people who should be dead- unconscious or with something completely incurable, like decapitated or crushed to death. They were all sent to Over Flow camps to start a “new age of health care”. Said health care secretly meaning being shut away and burned alive so they wouldn’t take up food or resources.
  • Friends plays with the pet version of the trope: when a conversation turns to dying pets, and how parents will often lie to their children and say it was sent to live on a farm, Ross goes "Funny story, we had a dog and you know our parents actually did send him to a farm..." and everyone looks at him pityingly until it dawns on him...

Ross: Oh no ! Chi Chi !

    • Phoebe's Grandma song:

Now Grandma's a person who everyone likes
She bought you a train and a bright shiny bike
But lately she hasn't been coming to dinner
And last time you saw her she looked so much thinner
Now your mom and your dad said she moved to Peru
But the truth is she died and some day you will, too!

  • In the first episode of the third season of Chuck, after Emmett is killed by the villain of the week, Casey tells everyone that he left to take a management job far away.
  • Tony Soprano is no more savvy than Ross Geller. Though it's subverted in that his father actually does send the dog to live with a nice family.

Tony: Father told me he took him to live on a farm.
Bobby: That's what they always say. That same farm must have 17 billion dogs on it. Dogshit up to the rafters.

  • One episode of Star Trek: Voyager had B'Elanna get implanted with the memories of a woman who participated in the genocide of people who refused to adopt to the culture. The explanation for their death, they were so violent and barbaric they had to be deported and simply killed themselves.
  • The Red Green Show gives us an example in one of their segments called "The Experts". In it, a viewer writes in to talk about how his car is great, except it has such limited rear visibility that a St. Bernard could fall asleep behind it and the driver wouldn't notice until after pulling away. The viewer's question is thus, "How do you tell a child their pet is dead?" Red's advice is to lie by saying the dog has run off, joined the circus, and will be back in a couple of years. This is also what he told Harold when his hamster died, and Harold still believes him.
  • In the seventh season of Twenty Four, after Allison Taylor, gets taken hostage, she asks her captor to release the hostages before she reads his statement. He decides to "release" one of the hostages "as a show of good faith," then has one of his men shoot the hostage in the head.

General Juma: Do you want me to release any more hostages, President Taylor?

New Media[edit | hide]

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • According to a "day in the life" story in the Eberron sourcebook Secrets of Sarlona, anyone in Riedra who discovers the truth about the Inspired is said to be under the influence of evil spirits and taken away to be "helped"—and even though people know that such unfortunates will never be seen again, they never question this. Talk about thoroughly Brainwashed.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, if someone ever says that a certain person never arrived and uses the phrase "the Warp can be quite treacherous at times," you can safely assume that said person really did show up and was murdered upon their arrival.
    • Though if they don't use said Unusual Euphemism, the Warp probably really did eat them. It's like that.
    • Imperial Guardsmen suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are sent to a medical facility for recovery. The system where the facility is located is also the largest manufacturer of combat servitors. You do the maths.

Theater[edit | hide]

  • In the musical Urinetown, those that try to cheat the law and not pay to use a public toilet are sent to Urinetown, and not even the daughter of the villain knows what or where it is. It turns out it's at the bottom of being thrown off a building.
    • This is played with early on (well before the official Reveal) when a character admits that if they just yelled "THERE IS NO URINETOWN! WE JUST KILL PEOPLE!", there'd be no dramatic tension.
  • This is the whole point behind The Lottery.
    • Subverted in that they weren't trying to shield any of the characters from knowing what was going to happen, they were all very well aware. It was just unknown to the audience until the very end.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Final Fantasy XIII, the population of an entire city is supposedly exiled, though they are really just executed en masse.
  • In Opoona it's said that those who complete their lifetime quota are allowed to live in an all expense-paid paradise for the rest of their lives. Unlike most examples, it's actually true. For most people; but the most choice candidates are instead taken as Human Resources for an Artifact of Doom.
  • Team Plasma made it known in the public eye that their goal was to liberate Pokemon from trainers on the grounds that any human contact was bad for Pokemon and was equivalent to enslavement. Said "liberated" Pokemon invariably wound up being exploited to further their (actually nefarious) ambitions, though some of them start getting second thoughts. Ghetsis, you double-tongued abomination...

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Subverted in Sluggy Freelance, where the "judgment chute," implied to be a meat grinder, is actually a dimensional portal. They are being released to elsewhere.

Web Originals[edit | hide]

  • In the finale of The Salvation War just as the human army is getting ready to storm the capital of Heaven - the Eternal City (or just Nuke It) a word gets around that "Yahweh has gone into seclusion for a long period of meditation and contemplation, leaving the throne to his trusted general Michael". The Genre Savvy Thai General immediately remarks: "Ah, so Michael killed him." She's right, of course.
  • Not Always Right had a story with one family's old car moved to "a nice farm where there will be lots of space for it to drive around with other cars and play all day".

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In Exo Squad, the Neo-Sapians regularly round up subjugated humans on Earth to work as slaves on Venus. Some of the protagonists get themselves captured to catch a trip to Venus to rendezvous with La Résistance there. Turns out prisoners "sent to Venus" are actually ejected into the sun, as the genetically engineered Neo-Sapians have no use for human labour. Our heroes barely escape with their lives.

Real Life[edit | hide]

Vicky (sobbing): ...my mom said my pet turtle ran away. But he didn't run away. TURTLES CAN'T RUN!!!

  • Real Life example, as related in Art Spiegelman's Maus: Most of the sick and elderly of the Reich's ghettos were sent off to Theresienstadt—the infamous Terezin concentration camp. They were told it was a hospice.
    • Theresienstadt was actually one of the (comparatively) nicer concentration camps. It was intended to be Nazi Germany's 'show camp' which they could use to demonstrate how nice they were treating the Jews. For example, the Red Cross was allowed to record a football match of Jewish prisoners.
    • In other camps, such as Auschwitz, the victims were informed they were going to be run though a delousing process, which actually meant that they were going to be gassed to death.
      • Apparently this has caused problems as Holocaust survivors age. If you're going senile but still remember the camps, having a chirpy 20-something nurse announce that it's time for you to have a shower is Not Good.
    • Not to mention the lies about Jews being "resettled in the East."
      • That might actually have not been a lie in the beginning - during Hitler's first few years in power, he reasoned that if he could get Jews out of Germany, that would be just as good for Germany as killing said Jews. However, after he begin his push for lebensraum, and realized that he wanted most of Eastern Europe to be German, and an aide came up with his "Final Solution"... well, then he decided to get serious.
        • He was helped by other countries' refusal to accept Jews for just about any reason. Some ships that had fled Germany went to nearly every port in the world, got rejected everywhere, and ended up going back. And once Hitler realized that nobody (or, at least, nobody in charge) cared...
        • Except perhaps The Pope, but Vatican City is far too small a country to hold all those people, though he gets bonus points for trying...
    • Initially, the Nazis considered relocating all the Jews in Germany to the French colony of Madagascar. After Madagascar was seized by the Free French in the latter stages of the war, this idea was abandoned in favour of the Final Solution.
  • As if one example wasn't enough, the Nazis also ran Action T4, a policy under which children, and later adults, with special care requirements (mental illnesses, physical deformities, Judaism...) would be relocated to facilities with "better resources" for treating them. They would then mysteriously catch pneumonia and die after a couple of weeks. Interestingly, this actually began as an official state-sponsored euthanasia program, but quickly changed to the covert version when it turned out most parents weren't actually inclined to consent to that.
  • Don't know if this fits precisely, but the in Soviet Union a common sentence was "10 years of corrective labor camps without the right of correspondence". At least, that's what the family was told. In reality, the person was shot right away, and the government had ten years to think of a good natural cause as the official excuse.
    • Though being sentenced to hard labor in Siberia was tantamount to a death sentence anyway ...
      • Specifically, genocide expert R. J. Rummell calculated that approximately ten percent of the inmates in Soviet gulags died every year. Of course, that doesn't mean you were guaranteed to die within ten years, but the odds of your survival were not at all good.
        • Assuming the odds of surviving a given year were random, 10% fatalities each year gives an inmate an approximately 35% chance of surviving a ten year sentence. Not good odds, but not insurmountable, either. (Realistically, the odds would be better at first, and get progressively worse as the prisoner's health deteriorated under the strain, so this is only a rough estimate.)
  • Dave Barry once wrote about how his daughter Sophie took in a bug from the porch which she named "Melvin". Melvin of course quickly died and he and his wife, instead of explaining this to her, kept replacing it with a new "Melvin" from the porch (there were a lot of those kinds of bugs apparently). The same column detailed his attempts to buy a pet fish for Sophie which he said had to "look like other fish in case - God forbid - we have to Melvinize it".
  • One of the official excuses of the military junta that ruled Argentina from 1976-1983 concerning the fate of the hundreds (and eventually thousands) of people who were 'disappeared' by the Armed Forces was that they had simply gone into exile abroad.