Created By: CobraPrime on August 8, 2012 Last Edited By: CaveCat on January 23, 2013
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Paranormal Episode

A TV show set in a mostly Real Life - like setting has one episode featuring something paranormal.

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Say you have this show who has been airing for a while. The show may take some liberties with the rules of reality, but for the most part it takes place in the "real" world at the present day.

Then you spontanously get one episode that deals with the Paranormal. Maybe you get a Psychic who shows up and makes creepily accurate predictions, only to vanish and have the writers make you wonder if he was the real deal or a fraud? Maybe an opponent shows supernatural powers. Whatever it is, expect this to last the rest of the episode and never be mentioned again once the episode is over.

Almost inevitably, the viewer will be left to wonder if it was Real After All, or an elaborate scam played on the main characters. Expect the main cast to be divided on the issue, with some believing it is true, while others insisting there must be a rational explanation.

A variation can be a show with no scifi elements suddenly dealing with the appearance of aliens, time travel or interstellar travel.

Supertrope to Cryptid Episode.

Examples:

Anime And Manga
  • Patlabor is, at its heart, a Slice of Life, Cop Show/Police Procedural, with Humongous Mecha. But, during the 27th episode of the TV series, the SVU2 encounter ghosts, while holding indoor training execrcises in an abandoned building. It turns out that the ghosts were the spirits of earthquake victims, who once lived there. Their spirits couldn't rest because of an undiscovered burial site, which contained the remains of slain samurai, directly beneath the building SVU2 was training in. The spirits were lain to rest, once it was discovered, and rites were performed on the site.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has no fantasy aspects at all, except for the 2nd Gig episode "Kusanagi's Labyrinth - AFFECTION". Major Kusunagi finds herself cut off from outside contact and seemingly alone in an empty city. She finds The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: a store that somehow has stored memories and cyberbodies from her own past. The owner who tells her a story very similar to what happened to her when she was a child.

Film
  • Even James Bond had a run of this in Live and Let Die where he faces off with a henchmen claimed to be Baron Samedi. He's seemingly killed, but shown alive at the end of the film, hinting he may have been the genuine article.

Live-Action Television
  • CSI had an episode with a psychic helping the CSIs. He died before we could find out if he was a fraud, though all his predictions did come true.
    • CSI also had 'Toe Tags', which had the stories told from the corpses' perspective, like they were ghosts.
  • NUMB3RS also had an episode with a psychic helping the FBI, much to Charlie's annoyance, who got rather jealous of the psychic's performance.
  • Magnum, P.I.
    • The episode "Rapture". Magnum ses the ghost of a young boy, leading him to investigate the boy's death.
    • Another had Thomas in an extended Near-Death Experience after he got shot and seriously wounded. This almost was the Series Finale until the series got renewed at the last minute.
  • Friends had an episode where Phoebe says she has been possessed by the ghost of an old woman, who will only leave her body after she has seen "everything". The ghost apparently leaves her body after Phoebe goes to Carol and Susan's lesbian wedding.
  • In an episode of Night Court Harry used his magic hobby to convince another character that he was exorcising some evil spirits, at one point using a book gimmicked to shoot flames when you open it. After it's all over, Art (the janitor) comes in saying "sorry I'm late" and gives Harry the prop burning book. So...what was up with that other book?
  • CSI NY Mac going into the Afterlife Antechamber in Near Death and seeing his late wife.
  • Bones had one, The Gravedigger trapped Booth in an old submarine and he saw his late friend, Parker. Brennan seemed to see him too at one point.
  • Castle dives into this from time to time. One episode had them investigate the death of a ghost hunter in a supposed haunted house. Another episode presented the possibility of aliens, including what might have been an abduction. Castle is the Mulder while Beckett is the Scully, and usually all of the elements are explained by the end. However, one element will be left hanging with the hint that it just might have been Real After All.
  • An episode of Rookie Blue had a man claiming to be a psychic help the cops find a kidnapped witness. In the end the cops conclude that it was just a clever scheme to provide them with evidence against a mob boss. Since the cops are not gonna call the 'psychic' as a witness in court, the mob boss will not find out where the evidence really came from. However, the man made quite a few predictions that come true including one that is fulfilled a couple episodes later in a very unexpected and tragic way. A wedding is called off not because the bride has cold feet but because the groom is killed.
  • Quantum Leap episode "The Boogieman". The episode apparently has Sam going up against the Devil himself. However, it might have been All Just a Dream.
  • The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Man-Eating House". Jim and Artie must deal with a haunted house. Again, the end makes it possible that it was All Just a Dream...Or Was It?
  • Green Acres:
    • The episode "The Ballad Of Molly Turgiss" dealt with Oliver trying to get the denizens of Hooterville to tell him about the legend of the eponymous ghost woman. Every time Molly's name was mentioned, strange things happened, such as things getting thrown through the air, pickle barrels falling apart, Mr. Haney's truck starting up on its own, etc. In the end, Molly promises not to do those things anymore after Lisa had a talk with her and made her beautiful, though she does manage to break the promise for a few seconds by smashing Oliver's guitar over his head, because she did not like the song that he wrote about her.
    • Another episode "The Saucer Season" involved Eb apparently having interacted with some aliens, which led to him becoming a celebrity about it, much to Oliver's chagrin. However, when an airforce lieutenant tried interviewing Eb about his encounter, Eb's attempts to tell the lieutenant about what he saw are censored by having him say "Bleep" repeatedly, to keep the facts in the dark.
  • Of all shows, The Waltons had an episode about one of the kids being haunted by a poltergeist. It was the seventies, after all.
  • Mad About You had an incident like this where the place the couple met, had burned down. As the episode goes on, the pair start to forget about each other for an unexplained reason.
  • On Perfect Strangers there was an episode where Larry and Balki discover a ghost in their new house. There was also an episode where Balki turned out to be an alien, but in that case it was All Just a Dream.
  • Inverted in The X-Files episode "Irresistible". In a show where every other episode revolves around paranormal weirdness, this is the gritty realistic one with zero fantastic elements--and one of the creepiest episodes overall.

Western Animation
  • Arthur: Francine & Muffy plan to scare Arthur, Buster, Binky and the Brain at a "Scare-Your-Pants-Off" themed party. Arthur et al. plan to do the same to Francine & Muffy. But both groups get scared by what is apparently a real ghost.
  • The alien invasion variation is apparently the plot point of the Mr. Bogus episode "The Bogus Invasion".
  • The My Little Pony Tales episode "Up, Up, and Away", notable for being the only episode featuring unicorn ponies - who were otherwise absent from the show as this iteration had removed most fantastic elements.
  • The Flintstones had a handful of such episodes, such as the time they traveled to the present day on the world's first Time Machine, or when aliens cloned Fred as part of an invasion plot. Then in the sixth season they introduced the Great Gazoo, and every episode became this.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • August 8, 2012
    Duncan
    Some of the TV examples from Real After All would overlap with this.
  • August 8, 2012
    chicagomel
    CSI also had 'Toe Tags', which had the stories told from the corpses' perspective, like they were ghosts.

    CSI NY Mac going into the Afterlife Antechamber in Near Death and seeing his late wife.

    Bones had one, I can't recall the name though. The Gravedigger trapped Booth in an old submarine and he saw his late friend, Parker. Brennan seemed to see him too at one point.
  • August 8, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • In an episode of Night Court Harry used his magic hobby to convince another character that he was exorcising some evil spirits, at one point using a book gimmicked to shoot flames when you open it. After it's all over, Art (the janitor) comes in saying "sorry I'm late" and gives Harry the prop burning book. So...what was up with that other book?
    • Arthur: Francine & Muffy plan to scare Arthur, Buster, Binky and the Brain at a "Scare-Your-Pants-Off" themed party. Arthur et al. plan to do the same to Francine & Muffy. But both groups get scared by what is apparently a real ghost.
  • August 9, 2012
    Koveras
    Cryptid Episode is a subtrope?
  • August 9, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Friends had an episode where Phoebe says she has been possessed by the ghost of and old woman, who will only leave her body after she has seen "everything". The ghost apparently leaves her body after Phoebe goes to Carol and Susan's lesbian wedding.
  • August 9, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Magnum PI episode "Rapture". Magnum ses the ghost of a young boy, leading him to investigate the boy's death.
  • August 9, 2012
    CaveCat
    Would an Alien Invasion count as part of this trope or not?
  • August 9, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

    • Patlabor is, at its heart, a Slice Of Life, Cop Show/Police Procedural, with Humongous Mecha. But, during the 27th episode of the TV series, the SVU2 encounter ghosts, while holding indoor training execrcises in an abandoned building. It turns out that the ghosts were the spirits of earthquake victims, who once lived there. Their spirits couldn't rest because of an undiscovered burial site, which contained the remains of slain samurai, directly beneath the building SVU2 was training in. The spirits were lain to rest, once it was discovered, and rites were performed on the site.
  • August 9, 2012
    CobraPrime
    ^^ Only if the show had no mention or even inkling that Aliens existed (and no real scifi content to speak of) and never brought up their existence again after the episode, then yes.

    ^ On the fence with this example, included it for now, but the moment you include Humongous Mecha, one clearly doesn't operate in the real world.
  • August 9, 2012
    MiinU
    ^@CobraPrime - Patlabor treats its mecha with a refreshing amount of realism.

    As mentioned on the related work page, the Labors are treated more like glorified forklifts, than miracle machines, and have clear limitations. They need constant maintainance and upkeep, which is costly, and the SVU2 doesn't have Hero Insurance. So any damages they incur, comes out of their division's funding which, in turn, comes out of their paychecks.

    The series itself is set Twenty Minutes Into The Future, but still resembles modern day (20th-21st century) Tokyo. It's as realistic as a show with Humongous Mecha can get.
  • August 9, 2012
    Rognik
    I sort of wonder if it's necessary to include "One Shot" in the title of this trope. "Paranormal Episode" should be fine all by itself since the series does not have supernatural elements in it normally.

    • Castle dives into this from time to time. One episode had them investigate the death of a ghost hunter in a supposed haunted house. Another episode presented the possibility of aliens, including what might have been an abduction. Castle is the Mulder while Beckett is the Scully, and usually all of the elements are explained by the end. However, one element will be left hanging with the hint that it just might have been real.
  • August 9, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    Agree with above than just Paranormal Episode is better; more concise and the One Shot is already implied (by episode). Also, I think there shouldn't be scare quotes around the word rational. :) (Or extended to include the whole phrase after the word insisting, if the whole thing is a quote.)
  • August 9, 2012
    CobraPrime
    Alright, done the modifications
  • August 9, 2012
    CaveCat
    Cobra Prime: That's what I thought, because I have some examples too:

    • The Green Acres episode "The Ballad Of Molly Turgiss" dealt with Oliver trying to get the denizens of Hooterville to tell him about the legend of the eponymous ghost woman. Every time Molly's name was mentioned, strange things happened, such as things getting thrown through the air, pickle barrels falling apart, Mr. Haney's truck starting up on its own, etc. In the end, Molly promises not to do those things anymore after Lisa had a talk with her and made her beautiful, though she does manage to break the promise for a few seconds by smashing Oliver's guitar over his head, because she did not like the song that he wrote about her.
      • Another episode "The Saucer Season" involved Eb apparently having interacted with some aliens, which led to him becoming a celebrity about it, much to Oliver's chagrin. However, when an airforce lieutenant tried interviewing Eb about his encounter, Eb's attempts to tell the lieutenant about what he saw are censored by having him say "Bleep" repeatedly, to keep the facts in the dark.
    • The alien invasion variation is apparently the plot point of the Mr Bogus episode "The Bogus Invasion".
  • August 9, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Soap was normally not supernatural but had a couple of supernatural Story Arcs: in one, Corinne's baby was posessed by the devil, and in another Burt was abducted by aliens and replaced with a duplicate Burt.
  • August 10, 2012
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
  • August 10, 2012
    nielas
    • An episode of Rookie Blue had a man claiming to be a psychic help the cops find a kidnapped witness. In the end the cops conclude that it was just a clever scheme to provide them with evidence against a mob boss. Since the cops are not gonna call the 'psychic' as a witness in court, the mob boss will not find out where the evidence really came from. However, the man made quite a few predictions that come true including one that is fulfilled a couple episodes later in a very unexpected and tragic way. A wedding is called off not because the bride has cold feet but because the groom is killed.
  • August 12, 2012
    NESBoy
    • The My Little Pony Tales episode "Up, Up, and Away", notable for being the only episode featuring unicorn ponies.
  • August 12, 2012
    Arivne
    Anime and Manga
    • Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex has no fantasy aspects at all, except for the 2nd Gig episode "Kusanagi's Labyrinth - AFFECTION". Major Kusunagi finds herself cut off from outside contact and seemingly alone in an empty city. She finds The Little Shop That Wasnt There Yesterday: a store that somehow has stored memories and cyberbodies from her own past. The owner who tells her a story very similar to what happened to her when she was a child.
  • August 13, 2012
    zerombr
    Television - Mad About You had an incident like this where the place the couple met, had burned down. As the episode goes on, the pair start to forget about each other for an unexplained reason.
  • August 13, 2012
    Lavalyte
    Of all shows, The Waltons had an episode about one of the kids being haunted by a poltergeist. It was the seventies, after all.
  • August 13, 2012
    Quatic
    From Chess With Death:
    • A Halloween-themed episode of Benson involved Benson challenging Death to a game of Trivial Pursuit, wagering his life against that of the person Death actually came to collect. He wins because Death just hasn't been keeping up with popular film..."Charles Bronson?!" This would seem to count, Benson not generally involving supernatural occurrences.

  • August 14, 2012
    jate88
    You'd think Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane would be linked to somewhere in the description. How do shows that make use of Mundane Fantastic or Fantastic Comedy such as Family Guy or Family Matters related to this trope?
  • August 15, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Quantum Leap actually had several of these in the last season. They weren't fan favourites.
  • August 15, 2012
    Ghilz
    ^^ They don't qualify. At least according to the way it is currently written.
  • August 15, 2012
    arromdee
    Isn't this Skepticism Failure?
  • August 15, 2012
    CobraPrime
    @arromdee Not even close. Skepticism Failure is when a skeptic in a work, paranormal or not, gets innevitably proven wrong or is stuck with one detail they can't ever explain away.
  • September 4, 2012
    Koveras
    • Inverted in The X Files episode "Irresistible". In a show where every other episode revolves around paranormal weirdness, this is the gritty realistic one with zero fantastic elements--and one of the creepiest episodes overall.
  • September 4, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Since more than one example is now allowed, Magnum PI had Thomas in an extended Near Death Experience after he got shot and seriously wounded. This almost was the Series Finale until the series got renewed at the last minute.
  • September 4, 2012
    TonyG
    • The Flintstones had a handful of such episodes, such as the time they traveled to the present day on the world's first Time Machine, or when aliens cloned Fred as part of an invasion plot. Then in the sixth season they introduced the Great Gazoo, and every episode became this.
    • On Perfect Strangers there was an episode where Larry and Balki discover a ghost in their new house. There was also an episode where Balki turned out to be an alien, but in that case it was All Just A Dream.

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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4nfkkpqhsqyosbwk0qj9xty3&trope=ParanormalEpisode