Soulless Shell

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The great love of the hero's life has died, and the hero simply cannot take the grief. Desperate to have his significant other returned to him, the character delves into things better left unlearned and discovers a way to bring the loved one back.

Unfortunately, something goes horribly awry, causing her to come back wrong.

The loved one's body is restored. She looks like herself. She breathes and moves. But there's nothing inside. She is just a puppet. Her eyes are frighteningly empty. Whatever magic or technology used to bring her back couldn't quite finish the job and couldn't restore the essence of what she was to the body. She is no longer the woman the hero loved. Now, she is just a thing masquerading as a human being. She's not likely to hurt anyone directly, but the hero is probably going to have a serious—and quite possibly suicidal-- breakdown.

Many clones are depicted like this, empty without the original soul, because Science Is Bad and can't truly Create Life." These resurrectees are likely to become an Emotionless Girl, Extreme Doormat, or an extremely unmotivated Stoic or everything may go well (If they don't get possessed by something, that is). If they are tossed away, very likely they will become independent personalities and seek revenge on their creator/humanity.

There's also P-Zombies. If it talks like a person and it acts like a person, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a person... Contrast Empty Shell and The Soulless.

If you were looking for the Fanfic of the same name, it's here.

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

Examples of Soulless Shell include:

Anime And Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Chrono Crusade: Aion needed the power possessed by a family, but--oops!--he just happened to kill them off while trying to recruit them to his side. How does he solve this? He gets his Evil Genius, Shader, to revive one of the children of the family. And thus, Fiore, the mysterious Meido "doll" is created.
    • There's another example in the manga, where Azmaria's foster father is attempting to use her healing powers to restore the soul to the soulless body of his dead wife.
    • The Empty Shell subtype is played straight in the anime, where it's heavily implied that Fiore really isn't Satella's sister, she's only built in her likeness; the notion that there was something left of her in Fiore was only wishful thinking on Satella's part. In the manga, though, Fiore doth protest too much. She tells Satella that she isn't her sister, that she's just a soul made to inhabit the body... but this is after she cooked "my sister's favorite foods" for Azmaria, because "you remind me of her."
  • In the first real Arc of Slayers Next, the heroes are fighting against a wizard who is conducting forbidden research into immortality. His goal, as it turns out, is to resurrect his dead girlfriend, who died when one of his experiments went awry. At the end, he actually succeeds, but she only comes back as an Empty Shell, possessing barely enough of a mind to beg him to kill her. He sets off a magical explosion that levels his mansion and kills them both, to finally bring them Together in Death. This is notably different from the original light novels, where Copy Rubia survives, though she is not the "same person" as the Rubia who died. She reappears in the final novel, where she is living happily and owns a greenhouse. Unusual in that the anime is generally Lighter and Softer than the novels.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni, when Battler tries to bring Beatrice back from the dead.
  • In the first anime of Fullmetal Alchemist, Shou Tucker, now nothing more than a wrongly crafted chimera, goes to great length to attempt to resurrect his dead daughter Nina. He creates a chimera likeness of Nina and flip-flops between different sides to get his hands on a Philosopher's Stone to re-bind her soul to the created body. When he finally obtains one, he successfully makes Nina's new body 'live', but there is no soul to inhabit it and it is a Soulless Shell without a consciousness. Tucker, who is at this point irredeemably mad, doesn't even realize he's failed and is last seen playing with the living doll.
  • Rei Ayanami from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Gendo had her cloned from a combination of the remains of his beloved wife, Yui, and Lilith, the second angel. The clones that resulted from this was soulless Empty Shells, which ended up being a part of the Dummy Plug system. The clone that serves as the "real" Rei Ayanami has however, as a part of Gendo's plan to be with Yui again, been fused with the soul of Lilith. It shall be noted that this doesn't stop her from giving off Emotionless Girl vibes. And the emotions/feelings that had been built up throughout the series get somewhat reset when she dies and is replaced. Though the several-dozen Rei clones kept floating in LCL in the reserve tank all wear perpetual smiles of mindless, vapid bliss, which makes them that much creepier to behold.
  • Might have been the case with Gentle Chapman from G Gundam, as after his death, he's revived as a soul-less zombie whose body is infested with DG Cells and usually just laughs maniacally; the only word he seems to speak is "Die!"
    • Subverted by Schwarz Bruder, though, as he was revived similarly (dead body infused with a BIG dose of DG cells), yet he counts more as Dead Person Impersonation since Kyouji Kasshu (the Brainwashed and Crazy Seitai Unit of the Devil Gundam) used his last bits of sanity to imprint his original personality and looks in Schwarz.
  • Urasue's resurrection of Kikyou in Inuyasha initially created little more than an animate doll because Kikyou's soul had already been reincarnated into Kagome, preventing any of her original personality from inhabiting the body Urasue had created. Inuyasha's unwitting interference, however, allowed part of the soul to transfer back to Kikyou, upgrading her to Damaged Soul.
  • In Mirai Nikki, it is revealed that a God can bring back a person to life, but only the body. The mind and soul cannot be brought back to life. As a result, all you have is an empty shell.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • One-Eye in Elf Quest. Specifically, Leetah could restore his body to working order but not return his spirit (despite both ending up in the Palace of the High Ones eventually), leaving the Empty Shell breathing but comatose.
  • The resurrection of Green Arrow required this wrinkle to be ironed out; when Hal Jordan (as Parallax) revived him, the soul chose to remain in Heaven, right up until the moment an occultist was about to transfer his own soul to the body, allowing the poor bastard and his friends to repeatedly attacked by various demonspawn.
    • The body lacked a soul but, thanks to Parallax, possessed Ollie's memories and personality at a time before he was stuck in the downward spiral that eventually culminated in his death. Oddly enough it's the Soulless Shell who convinces Green Arrow to merge with it and come back to life for real.
  • Used to explain the reason for time traveler |Trevor Fitzroy's villainy. He was a good man who died and was brought back without a soul. This apparently happens to everything Layla Miller brings back to life too.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Dan Simon's short story The River Styx Runs Upstream takes place in a world with widely available technological resurrection of this type.
  • Khal Drogo gets resurrected as a brain dead husk in the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, as part of a revenge ploy by an old priestess whose people he had conquered. Shortly thereafter, his wife smothers him to death with a pillow, then burns the priestess alive in Drogo's funeral pyre.
  • The Inferi in Harry Potter are comparable to this, as they are indeed reanimated corpses, but lack wills of their own and are mere puppets of the Dark Wizards conjuring them.
  • In Larry Niven's short story What Good Is A Glass Dagger?, it is revealed that in the world of fading mana, Necromantic magic cannot actually bring a person back to life; all it can do is produce Empty Shells.
  • Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary features an ancient burial ground. Animals that are buried here mostly come back as Soulless Shells, or sometimes, aggressive. Humans came back as horrifying monsters.
  • Once upon a time Anita Blake, Animator, actually raised zombies. And Hamilton crafted a startlingly logical world wherein the dead could be animated for a brief period of time by sacrificing a life (usually a chicken or goat). To use an automotive simile: the corpse is a dead car, the hapless chicken is a battery, and Anita is the jumper cable.
    • All of Hamilton's zombies begin as Empty Shells and slowly degrade to Inhuman Humans. Because though a powerful animator (like Anita) can make a zombie look damn near perfect, eventually the magic jump-start supplied by the animator's power wears off and the living corpse begins to rot. While still self-aware. These zombies are perfectly obedient, answer questions truthfully and literally, but rarely have more than the slightest remnant of their personality, because their soul has gone on to its reward, and cannot be restored (not even by Anita). (Except when it can.) Except some fall into Monster Beyond The Veil. The zombies of the murdered or abused come back with vengeance in their milky white eyes, and cannot be controlled. Unknowingly raising a murder victim results in Anita getting hurt on at least one occasion.
  • In Mortal Engines, cyborg soldiers called "Stalkers" can be made by combining a human dead body with a robotic life support system and brain. Most of them come back as Soulless Shells, with only basic robot senses and no remnants of their former personality, but some don't. By the end of the series, they are in wide use by the Green Storm and form about half their army. Casualties are high in the living parts of the aforesaid army.
  • Most of the undead raised in The Death Gate Cycle end up like this- technically, their souls are still there, but have mostly seperated from their bodies, with the result that they remember their lives but have only a limited ability to respond to the world around them, being able to do so only if they have a memory of a similar situation (and then, they'll usually stick to that exactly, even if the current situation no longer matches up- for example, in a battle between zombie armies, the warriors will ignore actual attacks in order to block or dodge ones they remember from battles they fought while alive- years or decades ago). Attempting to converse or make use of them is... frustrating, to say the least. However, if the reanimation spell is performed wrong, the soul only partially separates, and the result is a lazar, which is more like an insane Monster From Beyond the Veil.
  • The Lifeless from Warbreaker are like this- they're zombie-like undead who possess the brains, but not souls, they had in life, meaning they can still use learned skills but lack free will or volition and will slavishly obey anyone with the authority to command them. Word of God is that there is more of the original person in their than most people think, but generally only shows itself in extreme circumstances.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Jamie in the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" would fit here, though with a bit of Body Horror as well—resurrected by nanogenes that don't have a very good idea of human biology, he's creepily vacant, obsessed with finding his "mummy", and spreads said nanogenes to other people which slaves them to his will. His slaves are actually something of a better fit, considering that they literally have no self-motivation unless Jamie is controlling them.
    • Ironically, this episode arguably applies the concept to life itself, as the Doctor dismisses the extraordinary nature of Jamie's resurrection by saying "Life's easy, just nature's way of keeping meat fresh."
  • So Weird: "James Garr" features a sciency form of this: the titular character had been cryonically frozen because of an incurable illness. When he's thawed out a decade later and cured, James Garr is left a soulless automaton, because his body "seemed" dead, so his soul had moved on to the afterlife.
  • Stargate Atlantis gives us a moment in which a swarm of nanites bring a patient back from the dead. She's perfectly fine for a bit, but then the nanites stop her heart for an extended period to effect further repairs. They also repair the brain damage she suffered when her heart stopped, erasing all her memories and reducing her to an unresponsive vegetable.
  • Professor Walsh from season 4 of Buffy, thanks to Adam. This is spectacularly creepy. This is what vampires are described as in the Buffyverse. As she herself put it, "You're dead, and a demon that thinks it's you sets up shop where your soul used to be".
  • Sayid on Lost returns from the dead "infected"-so now he can feel no emotions and kills without a second thought. He got better.
  • Supernatural: Sam, in Season 6. Whether or not he technically died is debatable, but when he was pulled from hell, Castiel accidentally left his soul behind.
  • Fringe: A man tried to bring back a girl he was in love with by stealing her transplanted organs from their recipients. Although he succeeded (briefly), he told the FBI agents that he looked at her eyes and could tell it wasn't her, that he had created a soulless monstrosity.
  • The X Files episode "Golem" dealt with the titular monster, raised from the grave via Ashkenazi magic. The golem was made of mud, but made to resemble a grieving woman's dead fiancée. Eventually, she realized the golem was a soulless killer and undid the spell, reducing it to clay again.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has Orson betraying the heroes in exchange for bringing back his wife. All it can say is "darling..." He's too insane at this point to notice though. Furthermore, if you read the Subtext right, he may have even done the deed with her It seems to be implied that the body of the "wife" has continued to rot, or other such thing. They never show Monica up close, but when the heroes find her they are repulsed.

"He thought that thing... was his wife?"

  • Valygar's father in Baldur's Gate II after his mother tried to bring him back with necromancy. He was eventually forced to put both of them down after she joined him in undeath.
  • Any victims of Duminuss' resurrection stitch will fit in this, because while the victims are brought back as an Soulles Shell, it is on purpose, so Duminuss can manipulate and brainwash them to do its bidding. Unfortunately, it lives in the Super Robot Wars universe which runs on the optimism scale, so this gets a combined effect with Monster Beyond The Veil: A part of the victim's soul will still exist just so the heroes have the chance to make them Come Back Right. And they do.
  • In Wild ARMs 3, Malik, a biologist-turned-villain is trying to resurrect his mother by creating clones, but knows that his creations (of which there are quite a few) are nothing without the memories of the original. However, once a tricky devil late in the story grants his wish of giving one of the clones his mother's memories, things get worse.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the Dead Thrall spell does this: permanently reanimates any NPC as a personality-less zombie with little or no dialogue.
  • The Masked Man, Claus of Mother 3 is more or less a soulless puppet after being brought back from death or near-death through cybernetics. The other reconstructions may be seen as this, or a form of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Errant Story, Ian - recently endowed with the powers of a god - attempts to resurrect his Dead Big Sister. She was an Ill Girl when he left on his quest to get his hands on magic capable of saving her, but by the time he actually gets it and returns, she's already died in a fire. Despite having been burned to death and spending months in the grave, Ian successfully raises her as a Empty Shell, but instantly realizes that even though he can restore her body, 'she' isn't in it. Then he annihilates her and flies off to pick a fight with a different religion's god.
    • The first undead created in DMFA were soulless shells before something happened and they gained their souls. Even after that ressurected creatures and beings can come back with damaged souls.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In Justice League Unlimited, black magic gone horribly awry brings Solomon Grundy back from the dead (although he used to be, and still is, a zombie)...but with no human intelligence at all, just animalistic rage and vastly greater strength than he had before.
  • Subverted in WALL-E. He gets better.