The Tall Man is a fictional character from the Phantasm series of films. Created by Don Coscarelli, and portrayed every film by Angus Scrimm. The character is the villain of the series, a supernatural undertaker who turns the dead into zombies.

The Tall Man's henchmen include flying spheres, also called Sentinels that contain a lethal pair of spiked blades and a drill that excavates the victim's brain, lurkers (dwarves in robes who are made from corpses), gravers (zombies dressed in nuclear suits armed with chainsaws), and the reanimated dead.

He is on the hunt for Mike Pearson and Reggie and their friends for reasons that are only hinted at in later installments in the series. The Tall Man has appeared in all Phantasm films and is still alive, despite "dying" a multitude of times and being regenerated or replaced by clones.

Fictional character biographyEdit

Relatively little is known about him. Once upon a time the Tall Man was a kind-hearted soul named Jebediah Morningside, and he was experimenting with inter-dimensional travel. After perfecting the device that would allow him to travel between worlds, he stepped through the gateway. Upon his return he was no longer Jebediah, but the cold and evil being known to Mike and Reggie as the Tall Man. It can only be speculated that while in a different dimension Jebediah's body was possessed by another intelligence, or that his physical likeness has been assumed by some otherworldly, evil entity while killing off the original man. It might also be that his experiences changed him radically.

The Tall Man's purpose is to become the Lord of the Dead. He moves from town to town, first becoming the undertaker of that town and secretly removing the corpses from the graveyards and mortuaries. However, he is not content to just steal the already dead, but will soon kill the town's living population to add their numbers to his collection. The dwarf-like creatures he creates from the bodies of the dead serve him in our world, and he also transports them back to his own dimension. It is possible that he uses them as slave labor for his own world. The dwarfs were revealed to be byproducts of the process by which the Tall Man creates the Sentinel Spheres, which involves compacting the body and placing the brain into a metal casing. The Sentinels are used in in his assaults against the living. So far he has not revealed any grand schemes for world conquest, and he tends to plunder only small, out-of-the-way towns; he is never shown invading large cities. And the towns he does plunder always seem to have an explanation for why the town's population is missing, such as a toxic waste spill.


The Tall Man has a personality that could best be described as calculating. He is calm, patient, and does not let his emotions get the better of him. When compared with other horror villains such as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger he does not come across as particularly bloodthirsty, as he seems to prefer to do his work in quiet. But when his anger is aroused he will become a most formidable adversary.

One of the most curious aspects of the Tall Man's behavior is his bizarre fascination with Mike, and the last two installments of the series have hinted at a connection between the two of them. While imprisoned in one of the Tall Man's mortuaries Mike asked him what he wanted, to which the Tall Man replied, "Use your brain, boy." Later in the same film the Tall Man took Mike prisoner again and told him, "You have lived within this flesh construct long enough. It is time for you to come back to me." The Tall Man also seems to have a great deal of respect for Reggie, who has managed to briefly defeat him on several occasions. At the beginning of part IV the Tall Man has Reggie cornered and could easily have killed him, but instead spares his life, telling him that their final game is about to begin and that he should play this round wisely. Because of this, it would appear that the Tall Man admires Reggie's tenacity and courage and views him as a worthy opponent.

Powers and abilitiesEdit

The Tall Man possesses considerable psychic powers. On numerous occasions he has shown the ability to levitate objects and people without physically touching them, merely by twitching an eyebrow. He is able to invade the minds of his victims, and also to cause them to see images and hallucinations. He seems to be able to control the actions of the Sentinels, though in Phantasm II Mike was able to use one of the deadly spheres to attack him (which had no effect on him). The Tall Man also has tremendous physical strength. In the original film he lifted an entire casket by himself, and the effort seemed to cause him no strain. In the second film he flung Liz across a room after holding her by the throat.

In addition to the abilities listed above, the Tall Man is also seemingly immortal. Though it is possible to temporarily "kill" him, he is able to return in only a matter of moments. Throughout the series the Tall Man has been blown up in a car, embalmed with acid and consequently - because of the following circumstances - burned, frozen, and dropped down a mine shaft, and has always easily recovered. It should be noted, however, that when one of his physical bodies is destroyed another exact duplicate enters our world through his dimensional gateway. Whether this is the same being or another separate entity is unknown.

Added to his powers of resurrection is the ability to regenerate, as he has been shown to regrow lost body parts. And those body parts that are severed soon transform into their own separate monsters of diminutive size. In the first film, one of his severed fingers became a hideous, fly-like creature. In one of the following films, his hands were actually "scissored" off when he attempted entry back into the Earth dimension in pursuit of Reggie and Mike, and the dimensional space-gate's "tuning forks" were deactivated by Reggie. The disembodied hands then proceeded to launch their own attack, but were destroyed thus demonstrating the horrific persistence of their master, The Tall Man. He also has some sort of clawed worm or parasite inside his head, which was shown in Phantasm II.

Though it has thus far been impossible to permanently kill him he can be hurt, as it has been established that he feels physical pain. The Tall Man has shown a great aversion to cold (it has been revealed that the dimension he comes from is very warm), and this was used against him in part III. He also has a weakness to certain pitches of sound. In part IV Mike was able to temporarily paralyze him using a guitar tuning fork.

Sentinel sphere Edit

The sentinel sphere is a deadly weapon used by Tall Man. It was created by Willard Green, who died shortly after production, before the original movie was released. The device is a lustrous alloy ball approximately four inches in diameter (the gold spheres are larger). This sphere is equipped with a number of weapons. The basic design features twin retractable blades with a cranial drill bit and a micro pump. Later models are equipped with rotating three-prong blades and lasers, and a few are seen with nothing but a smaller version of a rotary saw.

A large portion of the shell houses cerebral brain-matter responsible for the basic functions of the unit. In attack mode, the brain activates a number of fine mechanical components that extend the arsenal contained within. The sentinel sphere's mobility is achieved through levitation, most likely by telekinesis. Silver spheres are capable of seeing in only red and black (as shown by the "silver sphere view" in Phantasm), while gold spheres see distorted colors (or possibly infrared, in the "gold sphere view" that is shown in Phantasm II).

In Phantasm III, the Jody-Sphere displays a number of feats, including the creation of interdimensional gates, telepathy, and the like. No other sphere has been shown possessing such a repertoire of abilities. The Tall Man implies that upon becoming a sphere, a person is no longer bound to time or space. It is also in the film, that the Tall Man is revealed to have a golden sentinel sphere within him that is immensely more powerful than the silver spheres that he controls. The silver spheres have two blades and can drill a person's brain out, while the golden sphere has three serated blades, twin powered circular saws and is powerful enough to blast directly through a person's head, leaving a smooth walled tunnel.

It is also in Phantasm III, that Tall Man is revealed to have thousands at his disposal.

Other mediaEdit

  • The Tall Man is also featured in the NECA "Cult classics" toyline.
  • The Tall Man is mentioned in the song "Dead in Hollywood" by the Murderdolls. The song contains the line: "Hey Tall Man, just take my hand, and lead me to your red planet."
  • In the animated series Gravedale High, the school bus driver, Mr. Boneyard, bears a striking resemblance to the Tall Man.Template:Fact
  • The video game Blood II: The Chosen features a weapon known simply as "The Orb" identical in function to the Tall Man's Sentinels, and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil features a similar weapon called the "Cerebral Bore" which not only drills into the brain but also self-destructs, destroying an enemy's head entirely.
  • The PC game Fallout Tactics also contained a weapon that bore resemblance to the Sentinel Spheres. It was classified as a thrown weapon, and was referred to in-game as the Fantasy Ball. Its in-game icon looked exactly like the Sentinels.
  • The Sentinel spheres are similar in appearance and mechanics to the Toclafane from Doctor Who. In the 2007 episode, The Sound of Drums, the Master ordered the Toclofane to kill the suspicious Vivien Rook, they did so by producing numerous retractable blades from their metal spheres, perhaps decapitating her.
  • The sentinel spheres are mentioned in Stephen King's science-fiction-fantasy novel The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla.
  • The band Three Sixes has a song dedicated to The Tall Man titled "Lord of the Dead." Actor Reggie Bannister guest sang on two of the verses. They've listed a page to read the lyrics.

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