Talking to the Dead

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Hey John
I could use your advice
Put my troubled mind at ease
But your dust don't speak
To me anymore

Starflyer 59, "Majic"

The mundane equivalent to Dead Person Conversation, a Sub-Trope of Surrogate Soliloquy. A character addresses a dead person, not expecting a response, not getting one -- at least, not an unequivocal one. Can be spoken to the corpse, the coffin, the grave—or to thin air. (If the body is present, often Peaceful in Death is in play.)

Ubiquitous in Japanese media; it is believed in Japan that unless the living keep the memories of their near and dear ones alive by talking to them, their spirits will disappear into oblivion. Thus a manga or anime character chatting about everyday things with a picture of their dead parents or sibling is not a sign of losing it.

Libation for the Dead may involve this. For some reason, I Gave My Word is actually particularly binding in this situation (generally for Best Served Cold).

Does not, of course, preclude the dead person's not actually being dead, but does require that the character believe the person to be dead. (Please Wake Up does not fall under this.)

Symbolic or ambiguous apparent messages from the dead start to edge this into Dead Person Conversation.

Compare Converse with the Unconscious. Motives may be similar.

Examples of Talking to the Dead include:

Anime and Manga

  • Tsume to Toboe's body in Wolf's Rain. A total Tear Jerker moment.
  • Tohru of Fruits Basket does this with her mother.
  • Code Geass: "...right, Lelouch?"
    • C.C. also talked to Marianne, who was alive (in a sense).
  • Being the Necromantic that she is, Precia naturally does this with Alicia's floating corpse in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. "We won't be separated this time..."
  • Takamichi of Mahou Sensei Negima during his date with Asuna: "Master... even though I can't tell her everything, I would at least like to tell Asuna-kun about you..."
  • Light from Death Note does this to L, in the deleted anime scenes of his funeral, complete with loads of Trash Talk and Evil Gloating.
  • Dr. Reichwein, from Monster (manga) talks to Richard, and promises to finish what the dead person was working on.
  • In the final episode of Baccano!!, a character asks his long-dead brother, in the "thin air" variety, whether it's alright that the executives of the Martillo crime family are now immortal.
  • Ranma ½: Ranma Saotome has one of these moments with Akane Tendo, when he thinks she has died. However, after his declaration of love, it turns out she was only severely stunned, and able to hear everything even if she couldn't move.
  • In the original Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Ryou Bakura is shown writing a letter to his sister Amane. Word of God says she died in a car crash before hand, showing that her death either had a rather traumatizing effect or very little effect on his actions. And in a series full of significant sibling relationships and characters motivated by protecting/rescuing/avenging their loved ones, it's a little jarring.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, Spike is ambushed in a convenience store shortly after its owner bleeds to death. Before the action starts, he says to the dead owner "Sorry, gonna make a bit of a scene."
  • In Kyou Kara Maou, after Wolfram dies, Yuuri has a conversation with his preserved body, promising to save him. The imaginary ghost of the deceased does most of the talking.
    • It's more halfway between Talking to the Dead and Converse with the Unconscious. While Wolfram is technically dead, the preservative apparatus and Yuuri's determination that Wolfram will get better make it feel more like Wolfram's comatose or unconscious.
  • After discovering and accepting the truth of his father's Heroic Sacrifice and defiance of his indelible curse, Neji from Naruto smiles at the sky, having put his rage at same indelible curse behind him:

Neji: Father... There are so many birds in the sky today... Flying free.

    • Sasuke also starts talking to Itachi after he killed him. It's just another reminder of his Sanity Slippage.
  • Vulcan from Fire Force has a grave of his father and grandfather on his property that he talks to. He's also given them offerings like their favorite drink.

Comic Books


  • When Tuco catches up with Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he finds Blondie running the same bounty racket with another bandit. Blondie is forced to watch his new partner die, to which he mutters "Sorry, Shorty."
  • The main character of Balls of Fury went to talk to his dead father - and got splashed by the water ride that the cemetery sold the airspace to.
  • Maverick in Top Gun says "Talk to me, Goose" (referencing his deceased former backseater) during the final air battle
  • Hinted at in the first Leave It to Beaver Made for TV Movie, when Barbara Billingsly is seen in front of a gravestone uttering her famous line, "Ward, I'm worried about the Beaver."
  • In the first Tim Burton Batman movie, The Joker has a conversation with a mob boss he just killed with an electrified joy buzzer named Antoine Rotellei. It is during this conversation that The Joker decides to kill the whole lot of the mob summit immediately, allegedly under Rotellei's "suggestion."
  • In a particularly heartwrenching version, the movie Grace is Gone features John Cusack repeatedly calling his (dead) wife's answering machine to ask her advice on how to relate to their two daughters.
  • Carl in the movie Up does this occasionally.
    • To his house, but meaning his wife, Ellie. Russell thinks his house is named Ellie.
  • Mikey in The Goonies has a heart-to-ribcage chat with the skeletal remains of One-Eyed Willie.
  • Lampooned in the disaster movie parody The Big Bus with so many people talking in the graveyard the protagonist has to shout in order to be heard above the din.
  • This is the start of Corpse Bride. The main character, a groom, practices his proposal in a graveyard, basically talking to the dead, and puts the ring on a skeleton finger. To his extreme surprise, the corpse it's attached to gets up to say, "I do." (Forgive this troper if she has messed this up. She doesn't remember completely...)
    • That's more the start of the folktale the movie was based on. Victor thinks the bride's hand is a conveniently-shaped branch.
  • Johnny in Red Roses and Petrol has an emotional goodbye by speaking to his dead father's video diary.
  • Dolly Levi, as played both by Shirley Booth in The Matchmaker and Barbra Streisand in Hello, Dolly!!, sometimes talks to her dead husband Ephraim Levi.
  • In The Sixth Sense, Anna talks to Malcolm, not knowing he can hear her.
  • John Preston (Christian Bale) tearfully apologises to Sean Bean's Corpse in Equilibrium. Preston was the one who executed him for feeling emotions, a crime punishable by death. Preston was now committing that same crime.
  • In Nell, the titular character talks to (and plays with) the memory of her dead sister. It's a lot less creepy than it sounds.
  • In 'Sleepless in Seattle, Sam (Tom Hanks) talks to his wife about stuff that is happening in his life.


Live-Action TV

  • Ducky does this all the time on NCIS.
  • Alexx on CSI: Miami not only talks to corpses, but also calls them "baby".
  • Star Trek: Voyager: Used when Future Janeway had a talk with Dead Chakotay about her plans to illegally time travel to save him and Voyager.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sisko talks to Jadzia's coffin at the end of Season 6.
  • Providence - the main character talks to her dead mother at least Once an Episode.
  • Early Smallville, where Lana would go to the cemetery to talk with her dead parents.
  • In Supernatural, Dean does this twice: over his father's grave in What is and what should never be and over Sam's corpse in All Hell Breaks Loose II.
    • The entirety of Castiel's monologue on his park bench in "The Man Who Would Be King" could be taken as this, though he's attempting to talk to God, who isn't exactly dead. No-one knows this, however.
  • Monk also frequently visits his late wife's grave, often to ponder whether or not she would approve of his actions (usually, such actions involve giving up something of hers in order to help someone else, or anything he thinks might cause him to drift away from her memory).
  • In Heroes Ted Sprague visits his wife's grave before he goes to Nuke Mr. Muggles. And the rest of the Bennetts.
  • Several instances on Lost, the most tearjerking of which may have been Hurley talking to Libby's grave. (This was before the dead people started answering him.)
  • Booth encourages Bones to talk to her mother's grave, though Bones is skeptical of its value.
  • A character on Jericho does this to his dead, deaf sister. Interestingly, he signs the conversation over her body instead of speaking out loud to her, even after she is dead, because that was the way he communicated with her his entire life.
  • This scene from Guiding Light. (Warning: the Tear Jerker dial is turned all the way up).
  • Xena of Xena: Warrior Princess does this at her brother's grave in the pilot episode.
  • One episode of Scrubs had Carla (uncomfortably) speaking to her mother's grave while she and Turk were having marital problems.
    • Turk also had to ask Carla's dead mother for forgiveness: 'I asked her if she was still mad at me and the sprinklers came on'.
  • Jack frequently talks to his dead wife, Mary, in New Tricks.
  • Battlestar Galactica: Adama does this to Laura Roslin at the end of the finale.
  • This happens a fair bit in The Tudors - Charles Brandon talking to his dead wife in the first season is a notable example.
  • In the episode of Misfits, when Nathan finds Ruth dead he tearfully apologizes for the way he treated her. And calls her a "tart".
  • The Doctor Who series finale The Big Bang has Rory doing this to Amy.

Rory: So the Universe ended. You missed that. In 102 AD. Suppose this means you and I never get born at all. Twice, in my case. You would've laughed at that. [pause] Please laugh.

  • David from Six Feet Under does this a lot as a way of resolving his real-world frustrations, particularly in the first series. Most notably, he argues with his dead father, a dead gang member teaches him to act tough and resolves a good portion of his Gayngst due to his discussions with a young man who was beaten to death for his homosexuality.


  • In The Protomen's Act II, Dr. Light talks to Emily after she's dead. In the last song he talks to Joe this way, too.
  • The entirety of "Majic" by Starflyer 59 is addressed to Jason Martin's then-recently-deceased father.
  • This is a recurring Trope in Country Music, to the point that a Genre Savvy listener can see most attempts at such a Twist Ending coming well in advance. Prominent modern examples include Leann Rimes' "Probably Wouldn't Be this Way" and Miranda Lambert's "Over You"—both of which at least attempt to invoke a One-Woman Wail.

Newspaper Comics

  • Played for bleak laughs in Candorville. Lemont's lawyer spends several strips shackled to a wall next to a skeleton, which turns out to be one of his process servers who'd gone missing. He blames himself for the process server's death, and asks him "Can you forgive me? Then, since he's a lawyer, he takes the skeleton's silence to mean "yes."


  • In Oscar Wilde's play Salome (and its operatic adaptation by Richard Strauss), Salome talks erotically to the severed head of John the Baptist.
  • In The Most Happy Fella, Tony talks (and sings) to his sainted mother up in heaven.

Video Games

  • In Fire Emblem, after Leila is killed, Matthew occasionally talks to her. He even goes so far as to imagine that Leila told him to give up on trying to enact revenge on Jaffar, who was responsible, because he wasn't really in control of himself at the time, and Matthew obediently lets him go and backs down.
  • In the beginning of Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd talks to Anna's grave at Dirk's house. He does it again at the end, asking her if it's OK that he let his dad go.
  • Towards the end of Iji, when (barring an Easter Egg) Dan gets killed by Assassin Asha, Iji has a Heroic BSOD and continues to act like he's her Mission Control, even tucking him into bed so he can 'rest'.

Web Animation

  • Ruby Rose from RWBY talked to her missing-presumed-dead mom, Summer Rose, at a Summer's cenotaph in V3E1, "Round One".

Web Comics

Western Animation

Joker: Boys?
Chucko and Ghoul: We're with you!
Joker: Dee Dee?
Dee Dee: We're with you!
Joker: Bonk?
cut to Bonk's grinning, twitching corpse
Joker (smiles at screen): Oh, right. Dead.

Real Life

  • Serial Killer Dennis Neilsen used to do this; in fact it was his main motivation (well, that and sex). He didn't like being lonely, so he killed his boyfriends after sleeping with them so they wouldn't leave him.
  • Anytime somebody writes a letter to the dead and leaves it on the grave could be considered this. The practice goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt.
    • And the ancestor shrines of Asian religions.
  • Richard Nixon has been laughed at for talking to the picture of Lincoln in the White House, but it's reasonable to assume most presidents might seek insight this way. Like, "Vietnam's a mess. What would you do, Abe?"