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A Strange Hobby Indeed - Pretending To Be Dead

Updated on January 1, 2013

Pranking People By Playing Dead May Not Be Funny To Everyone - Be Prepared For The Consequences

Apparent death, also known as playing dead, is a phenomenon seen in several animal species as a way of avoiding unwelcome attention. This attention could come in the form of an attacking predator, an unwelcome mate or a variety of other reasons. The hope, however, is the same in any case - by pretending to be dead the interested party will become uninterested.

While this behavior is seen quite often in nature, humans don't have much need for it anymore (thank goodness). There are some people, though, that practice the art of playing possum, either in the form of practical jokes, as an unusual hobby or just as a way to pass the time. Oh, and let's not forget make-up artists and people who act; they also like to play dead or make people look like they're dead.

If you're a practical joker who loves to scare and shock others in a fun way, just be prepared that some will not be too happy about your little trick. For those of you who like taking pictures and keeping records of your strange hobby, I would suggest to be selective about who you share it with. And for those who have had to feign death to keep from being killed, my sympathies - I hope you never have to go through that again. Let me end this introduction by saying that this lens will be about the lighter side of playing dead - no serious stuff allowed. Enjoy.

Above photo by Amy Messere / flickr.

For Informational Purposes Only

Playing Dead Game VS Lying Down Game - Know your meme.


The Origins Of The Playing Dead Game

There was a Japanese manga back in the 1990's called Crayon Shin-chan. The main character often played pranks on his mother by pretending to be dead on her return home. Though that theme was not in every episode, it was part of what made it such a great hit.

As the show gained in popularity, pictures of South Korean students playing dead began showing up on the web in 2003. It wasn't long after those appearances on the web that the phenomenon exploded into a full fledged internet meme.

Though not as popular as it used to be, the art of pretending to be dead is still alive and well and has enough followers to last for many years to come. You can find groups on many established art, photo and social sites, flickr and deviantART being two of the most well-known.

Dead People Pictures - Pictures of dead people who aren't really dead.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Film Noir Death Scene (Photo by Leah / flickr.)Acting Dead / Fallen Down The Stairs (Photo by Morgan / flickr.)Body Covered With Sheet (Photo by Daniel Oines / flickr.)Pretending To Be Dead (Photo by Samuele D'Angelo / flickr.)Jacob Plays Dead (Photo by Daniel Penny / flickr.)
Film Noir Death Scene (Photo by Leah / flickr.)
Film Noir Death Scene (Photo by Leah / flickr.)
Acting Dead / Fallen Down The Stairs (Photo by Morgan / flickr.)
Acting Dead / Fallen Down The Stairs (Photo by Morgan / flickr.)
Body Covered With Sheet (Photo by Daniel Oines / flickr.)
Body Covered With Sheet (Photo by Daniel Oines / flickr.)
Pretending To Be Dead (Photo by Samuele D'Angelo / flickr.)
Pretending To Be Dead (Photo by Samuele D'Angelo / flickr.)
Jacob Plays Dead (Photo by Daniel Penny / flickr.)
Jacob Plays Dead (Photo by Daniel Penny / flickr.)

The Gashlycrumb Tinies By Edward Gorey - The cutest little book about death you're ever going to read.

This is perhaps Edward Gorey's best known abecedarian book (alphabet book). It's makes an extremely wonderful gift for people who have a dark sense of humor. The morbid humor within shows just how dangerous childhood can be as each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by a beautiful illustration and a witty saying. Below is a sample of what you'll find inside, just so you'll know what you're getting into.

A is for Amy who fell down the stairs.

I is for Ida who drowned in a lake.

J is for James who took lye by mistake.

The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Gashlycrumb Tinies

This is a short, fun book that is definitely not for children. It's an alphabet book for adults. It may not be long, but you'll find yourself looking at it often. Trust me.


What's your opinion on playing dead?

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Halloween and April Fool's Day are perfect times to pull this prank on somebody.

Sittin' Up With The Dead - By Ray Stevens

Tips And Tricks On How To Play Dead

Whether you're doing it as a group or a single person, keep in mind that the main goal of playing dead is to convince others that you are no longer living. Whatever position you place your body in should be as natural as possible. Think about what would happen if you just fell all at once - total loss of muscle control. That's what you should aim for.

  • Thinking about what you are doing when you die will help you come up with interesting ways to position the body.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. You may want to clear it of stuff that may hurt you.
  • If one dies while awake, the eyes usually stay open. If a person dies while sleeping, then they stay closed.
  • Keep still. Take small, slow breaths that others won't be able to see. If you decide to keep your eyes open, be careful about blinking or following movement.
  • Be prepared for people to touch you. This may or may not happen. They may even begin to drag you around. You will have to decide how far to take your deception. If, of course, you're only doing it for a picture, then you won't have to worry about this.
  • Using fake blood is an option, but not necessary. It may even get you in trouble with the law if causing too big of a disturbance.
  • If doing this in public, it's best to have people stand watch to let others in on the joke in case things start to go too far (dialing 911, etc.).
  • Playing dead in bad weather may not give you the effect your looking for. Fewer people will want to go out into it to inspect the body.

Still One Of The Best Practical Jokes You Can Play On Someone - If you're a fan of dark humor, that is.

The old fake snake gag is priceless. When I was younger I got my granny good by holding a fake one and acting like it was dead in my hands. All of a sudden, I acted like it was alive and threw it towards her. She screamed like crazy. It took a little while, but she eventually laughed about the prank.

Safari Ltd Incredible Creatures Chain Kingsnake Toy Figurine
Safari Ltd Incredible Creatures Chain Kingsnake Toy Figurine

This snake looks pretty real, but you may want to expose it to your victim in low light. Maybe towards dusk or in a darkened room. My favorite is to just lay the snake down in a room and let people discover whether it's real or not on their own.


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Any Fans Of The Playing Dead Game That Would Like To Chime In? - Or about the lens or the act in itself?

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    • chairmann3 profile image

      chairmann3 5 years ago

      Even though I should be beyond pranks, I still get a kick out of faking a heart attack and death with my wife.

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      I never thought of this. I'm too normal, I guess.

    • sockii profile image

      Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Fascinating stuff! I'd never be into it myself but it's neat to know more about the hobby and phenomenon. Oh, I might throw a link in to the fabulous book "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?" on this lens - great photos by Kyle Cassidy and others, and text by Neil Gaiman. Seems to fit in perfectly with the weirdness :)

    • Kathryn Beach profile image

      Kathryn Wallace 5 years ago from Greenbank, WA, USA

      You forgot - or maybe it was before your time? :) - Harold in the movie "Harold & Maude". One of my favorite movies. Harold's obsessed with suicide. The opening scene is of him faking his death by hanging. This Squidoo lens includes a picture of his masterful bloody "death" in the bathtub. His mother, psychotic in her own way, learned to cope. :)

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 5 years ago from Guatemala

      I don't think I would want to scare people with my fake death, though I used to when I was a child, heh. Interesting hobby. There is now a Faces of Death forum which is horribly disturbing, yet fascinating in that you learn a lot about the human body.

    • youthministry profile image

      Paul Turner 5 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

      Funny stuff. I used to do this with my mom when I was a kid.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      So okay, I thought I try this. And nine years someone came over to ask me if I was kidding. By then I'd lost a lot of weight.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Definitely a bit weird as hobbies go! ... but now I come to think of it, my siblings and I used to put Gregorian chants on the ol' turntable, drape ourselves in the slipcover off the couch, and play "human sacrifice"... erhm.

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 5 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      Might be a fun April 1st trick....

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Might be fun for taking pictures, if you are into that sort of thing, but I think scaring people with it goes too far.

    • profile image

      dannystaple 5 years ago

      Hmm, interesting but a bit creepy. I think my wife would probably murder me if I scared her this way...

    • EEWorkouts profile image

      EEWorkouts 5 years ago

      Great lens! I love the off the wall topics.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      One Halloween, my brother put on one of my dad's suits, stuffed straw in it with some sticking out, put on makeup, and laid down dead next to the front door. When people trick or treated, he moved his foot when the parent was looking away. The kid' would say "Dad, Dad!! It's alive." Dad said, "Oh no, son, it's just a dummy!" It was such a fun prank!