In the TV series of "Quantum Leap", the official line was that Sam's physical body leaped from life to life, with only an "aura" of the person he'd replaced remaining behind to "fool" the people around him. Small children, people with mental handicaps and fellow Leapers could see through the aura and see him as Sam. (In the novels, it was different - only Sam's soul travelled in time.) Having his body Leap meant that he could do things the person he'd replaced couldn't, such as see when he was supposed to be blind or walk when he'd apparently had both legs amputated.

So why, when he Leaped into someone a lot smaller than himself, was there not a massive ripping of clothes?

  • Wait, there were other leapers? :-o
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 15:26
  • 1
    Why do you think he's leaping into them physically?? My understanding was that it's the opposite. He's leaping in mentally, and we, as viewers, see him in his own body because it means they get to keep the same actor every week.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 15:51
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    It was established in the series that he was indeed Leaping physically - I can't remember which episode off hand, but it was relatively early on.
    – Wallnut
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 15:53
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    Wikipedia also states that this is a physical leap - "When Sam leaps, his body is physically present in the past, although he appears to others as the person he leaped into. In one case, after leaping into a Vietnam veteran that had lost both legs, Sam could still walk normally but appeared to others as if he was floating. "
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 16:13
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    @Catija: The show established it. Personally I wish they hadn't. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


The series itself was sometimes inconsistent on this fact (as well as other things about how leaping works), and there was no answer given in the show itself to my knowledge, so any answer is likely to be speculative at best.

Although the canonicity is not the best, it is addressed briefly in the Quantum Leap comic, issue #12, "Waiting" (in which Sam leaps into a recluse who operates a gas station in the middle of nowhere, waiting for someone to come along who's life he's affecting, and he and Al just talk).

Al: Remember what I said? Paradoxes don't matter in the real world. Here's something else for you to chew on...

Al: Why is it that whenever you leap into somebody's place, their clothes always seem to fit you? You've been petite women and even children, but you can still wear their clothes.

Sam: Gee, you know, I never thought about that...

Al: It's not something you would normally think about. You just wear the clothes and don't notice that they fit, even if they are tight or loose sometimes. Look at what you're wearing now. Lucky is a scrawny little guy, barely four and a half feet tall, but the clothes are on you and they're not torn to shreds!

Sam: So... do you have any ideas about this one, Professor Calavicci?

Al: I confess that one had me stumped. But Gooshie came up with a possible answer.

Sam: Gooshie!?

Al: Yeah, the little guy with the bad breath who--

Sam: I remember who Gooshie is, I just don't remember him ever coming up with an answer to anything before.

Al: This actually almost makes sense. Gooshie figures that the leap causes a disturbance in the molecular structure of the clothes, making them unstable, so that they can stretch or shrink to fit you.

Sam: Clothes made of unstable molecules?

Al: Maybe.

Sam: Gooshie reads too many comic books.

Al: Probably.

Sam: But, wait a minute.

Sam: I had to take off the boots right after I leaped in here because they were too tight. Why would that have happened?

Al: Uhhh... maybe they were too tight for "Lucky" before you got here, but he was just used to it. I don't know.

Al: Anyway, it just proves that there is a whole lot about your quantum leaping that we still don't understand... things we can't account for...

But that's not really an answer either. I'm unaware of any official (albeit again, possibly non-canon) attempt to answer in any other media.

Fans always come up with their own theories, of course, and, for me, the best fanwank answer I've read was that Sam's body is somehow "mapped" into the space the original person would occupy, like say, imagine a stretchy balloon with Sam's face on it could be filled with a different amount of air and shoved into a set of clothes of somebody else, but a far more complex three-dimensional balloon of his entire body.

  • Are the random bold words actually bold in the comic? Is there a reason for them?
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 18:14
  • Yes. I figured since I don't have a scanner or scanned page on hand I'd try to keep as close to the text as possible, including bolding. Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 18:16
  • I like the idea that Sam's body is "mapped" into the appropriate space, as it would also account for the fact that other people aren't talking to his chin or his chest if the person he Leaped into is shorter than him, or wondering why they're suddenly having to look up to look into the eyes of someone they know.
    – Wallnut
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 8:32
  • @Catija The bolding of words like that is a comic book staple. Sometimes it's just words that are important, or just to keep reader attention. But, in this case, it appears to primarily be words that were spoken with a slight bit of emphasis. But only slightly, to the point that normal writing wouldn't bother using italics or bold at all.
    – trlkly
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 7:17

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