Say you're trapped somewhere with no possible means of escape. All you have to do to get out is make it ''look'' as if an escape has already happened. Then your guards' attention will turn to figuring out how it happened, re-establishing a perimeter further out to contain it, and that sort of thing, and you can make your escape for real.

In one common version of this, a prisoner in a cell hides somewhere (behind the door, using a CeilingCling, or the like). The [[TheGuardsMustBeCrazy one inept guard]] thinks they escaped and opens the cell, and the prisoner either knocks them out or locks them in.

Compare DecoyHidingPlace.
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!!Examples:
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[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* In ''DragonballZ'', Vegeta is imprisoned inside a healing tank on Frieza's ship. When he breaks out of the healing tank, it alerts the guards. So he blasts a hole through the wall to make them think he has escaped the ship; while Frieza's henchmen are searching for him outside the ship, he takes the opportunity to go steal some dragon balls and then escape.
* In ''{{Durarara}}'', Shingen fakes Celty out by sending the elevator to the bottom floor while he hides. He then tries to make a dramatic exit using the ''same'' elevator, and the scene cuts while he's still waiting for it to come back up.

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[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* There's a sequence in ''Comicbook/FantasticFour #2'' where Sue turns invisible when government officials come to check on her, then runs out the doorway during their confusion. This act is repeated in the ''UltimateMarvel'' version as well as the movie ''[[Film/FantasticFour Rise of the Silver Surfer]]''.
* This appears in the ''ComicBook/SuperMarioAdventures'' comic book. Princess Toadstool fools the Koopalings into coming into her cell with a CeilingCling, then beats them up and locks them in.
* In ''ComicBook/UsagiYojimbo'', Tomoe finds herself in trapped in a room in the villain's castle with the guards bound to enter soon. Her solution to pry up some floor boards to make it look like she escaped underneath, and then hide in a nearby trunk until the fooled guards leave the room to continue the search.

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[[folder: Film -- Live Action ]]

* In the PeterSellers movie ''AfterTheFox'', the titular escape artist and thief pretends to escape, and then succeeds in escaping, by dressing up as the prison doctor, pretending he had been tied up by The Fox, and that the real doctor, who was already out of the building, was in fact The Fox. The Fox is escorted out with much sympathy, and the jailors go chasing after the unfortunate doctor.
** Then, at movies' end, The Fox is back behind bars, and the same situation is played out - but this time the guards 'aren't falling for that again' and leave the doctor tied up in the cell. Outside, The Fox pulls on his disguise beard...and it doesn't come off. He exclaims [[GainaxEnding "My God - the wrong man escaped!"]]
* In the Film/JamesBond movies:
** ''Film/{{Goldfinger}}'' does this quite well, with Bond tricking the guard into thinking he's escaped, clinging on to the ceiling, and then dropping down behind him once the guard opens the door.
** In ''Film/GoldenEye'', Natalya has supposedly crawled into an air vent to escape. After Onatopp shoots out the ceiling and leaves the room, we see that she has instead hidden herself in a cabinet.
* In ''SilenceOfTheLambs'', Hannibal Lecter gets bonus points for not even escaping himself, but letting the guards load him into an ambulance, thinking he is their mutilated colleague.
* In ''Film/{{Yojimbo}}'', Sanjūrō's escape from Ushitora's house starts by crawling inside a large wooden chest, to make everyone think he's already escaped.
* ''Welcome to the Punch'' (2013). An Icelandic police special response team raid the house where London criminal Jacob Sternwood is hiding. They find a 4WD vehicle with its lights on and engine running. Sternwood suddenly appears, knocks out the men guarding the 4WD, which careens off across the plain chased by a couple of tactical vehicles. When they catch up with it, the police find it's been rigged to drive itself. They radio back a warning, but the police back at the house have their own problems as a BoobyTrap blows the place up as they enter. Then we see Sternwood escaping through the forest on foot.

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* In ''Two-Bit Heroes'' by Doris Egan, the heroine's love interest is going to be displayed in a cage. The outlaw band that she temporarily joined manages to rescue him in this way. They build a hidden compartment into the cage beforehand and then cause a distraction while he's on display that makes it look like he's been sorcerously removed, letting him slip into the compartment and get retrieved later.
* In ''The Extraordinary Adventures of Literature/ArseneLupin, [[GentlemanThief Gentleman Burglar]]'', Lupin swears he will escape from jail, and he does, briefly, but gets back in. But when he comes up for trial, [[SympatheticInspectorAntagonist Inspector Ganimard]] suddenly stands up in court and swears that the man in the dock is not Lupin--he has used the fake escape attempt to substitute a flunky in his place. The court has no choice but to let the man go. Of course, the man really ''was'' Lupin, and Ganimard fell for it not only because Lupin is a MasterOfDisguise, but also because [[BatmanGambit he genuinely expected Lupin to fulfill his promise of escaping]].
* In the ''Literature/VorkosiganSaga'' novel ''Brothers in Arms'', Miles gets kidnapped and replaced by a clone. When the clone comes to question him, he considers trying to escape via this trope -- claiming that he is the clone and that the real Miles somehow got free and tied him up -- but quickly realizes that he has several days' worth of stubble and the clone doesn't, so it's not practical.
* In the ''{{Illuminatus}}'' trilogy, [[HistoricalDomainCharacter John Dillinger]] is actually a set of [[ArtisticLicenseBiology identical]] [[ArcNumber quintuplets]]. This is used to explain how good "he" was at breaking out of prison: if one of "him" was imprisoned, another one could make himself conspicuously visible outside, convincing the guards that he'd escaped and giving the one on the inside more leeway to get out.
* This happens in the novel ''Girl, Stolen'' when Cheyenne first attempts to escape. [[spoiler:It doesn't work.]]

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* In the ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' episode "The Jailhouse Job", part of the team's baroque plan to slip Nate out of prison involves using Hardison as a BodyDouble for another wrongfully-imprisoned prisoner to make it look as though he somehow managed to escape. (Bit of a CastingGag there--the prisoner was played by Aldis Hodge's RealLife brother.)
* In the ''Series/StargateAtlantis'' episode "Aurora", Sheppard finds himself inside a virtual-reality environment simulating a Lantean ship whose inhabitants don't know they're not in the real world. He can enter and exit it at will, but every time he re-enters, he finds himself in the same place he was when he exited. At one point, he escapes from the ship's brig by leaving the environment briefly, waiting for the guard to open the cell to figure out what's going on, and then re-entering it, jumping the guard, and walking out.
* In an episode of the french series ''Series/LesIntrepides'' (a detective-style show aimed at children), one of the two child protagonists is being held captive in a cabin on a ship. He fashions a makeshift rope out of bedsheets, ties it someplace and tosses it out the window, but it's still too high for him to jump -- so he hides. His captors eventually enter the room, see the rope and surmise that he must have jumped anyway. They then leave the door unlocked, allowing him to escape for real.
* In ''Series/TheATeam'', Hannibal effects an escape by hiding under his bunk and deceiving his captors into believing he has escaped; they leave the cell door open, and he makes a break for it.
* In the "Flight of the War Witch" two part episode of ''Series/BuckRogersInTheTwentyFifthCentury'', Buck, Princess Ardala and a Pendaran captive use this to get out of their cell. Buck and the captive use a CeilingCling to hide, while Princess Ardala simply hides under the bed.
* Attempted unsuccessfully in an episode of ''{{Sliders}}'', where the titular group slides into a world still stuck in the Old West mode. Quinn and Rembrandt are framed for murder and jailed by the local crime boss and a corrupt sheriff, to be hanged the next day. They realize they could use their knowledge of westerns to trick the guards and escape. Quinn does a CeilingCling, while Rembrandt calls for help. Unfortunately for them, the person who walks in is the above-mentioned crime boss, who is also a dimentional traveler (and a Kromagg). He simply walks up to the cell doors without opening them and immediately looks up at Quinn, mentioning that [[GenreSavvy Kromaggs have their own westerns]].
* In the ''MissionImpossible'' episode "The Crane", the IMF spring a prisoner that is being transported and hide literally metres away from where the escape took place: knowing that the authorities will throw up a cordon blocks away and gradually work their way inwards.
* This is the resolution of one episode of prison comedy ''{{Porridge}}'', where boss-prisoner Grouty is strong-armed by contacts outside the prison into organising an escape tunnel for a stupid but well-connected inmate. The tunnel progresses and the noise is masked by a choir singing Christmas carols. Grouty is pessimistic about pulling it off, while crafty convict Fletch frets that if a prisoner escapes so close to Christmas, privileges will be withdrawn to everyone and Dec 25th will become just another grim, grey, day inside. Fletch eventually comes up with a face-saving solution allowing Grouty to keep his cred with the London gangs who are pressuring him; allow the warders to discover the tunnel. They will be so pleased at finding it that they will not be looking for the escapee being smuggled out by other means, ie hidden in a garbage truck.

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[[folder: Video Games ]]

* In the third episode of ''CovertFront'', Kara pulls this trope off by leaving her coat on the ground and hiding in a high corner of her jail cell, out of sight. The warden passes by and notices the "empty" cell, and when he goes inside and picks up Kara's coat, she gets the jump on him.
* In a way, this is an advanced evasion strategy for the Spy class in ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2''. Since your cloak takes a half-second to fully activate, and is briefly disrupted when you get shot or touch an enemy, great spies will make it LOOK like you escaped and ran away, in order to get to safety. THEN you ''actually'' run away, or attack again. Depending on the situation, pulling this off is the sign of a heavily-experienced spy that you should not take lightly.
* One of the ways Snake can escape jail cells he ends up in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' games is simply hiding under the bed while the guard is gone.
* In ''VideoGame/BeneathASteelSky'', right at the beginning, you escape a guard by prying your way through a door. However, this alerts the guard to your location, and only leads to a balcony (with something like a mile high drop to the ground). The PC slams the door and then hangs onto it when the guard opens it. The guard assumes you jumped and fell, and practically calls off the search for you, allowing free roam of the world.

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[[folder: Webcomic ]]

* Webcomic/CaptainSNES: Using [[spoiler: his]] RealityWarper powers to make [[spoiler: his]] jail cell appear empty is how [[spoiler: the title character]] escapes imprisonment.

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[[folder: Web Original ]]

* As you might expect, the EvilOverlordList has something to say about this.
-->"I will instruct my guards when checking a cell that appears empty to look for the chamber pot. If the chamber pot is still there, then the prisoner has escaped and they may enter and search for clues. If the chamber pot is not there, then either the prisoner is perched above the lintel waiting to strike them with it or else he decided to take it as a souvenir (in which case he is obviously deeply disturbed and poses no threat). Either way, there's no point in entering."

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[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* Done by ComicBook/JonahHex in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''. There, he is locked in a cell with an earth floor - so he digs a hole, gets into it, and covers himself with his bed. It is unclear what he did with the soil dug out.

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[[folder: Real Life ]]

* During WW2, the hardened escapers of the special PoW camp at Colditz hit on this idea. The prisoners were scrupulously counted two or three times a day to ensure they were all present and correct. Any shortfall in the numbers present alerted the German guards to the fact an escape had happened. It occured to the escape comittee that if between four and six prisoners were to be hidden within the camp, the German authorities would not only waste time and resources searching Germany for prisoners on the run. The prisoners hidden and sustained by friends in hiding places inside Colditz could then safely be allowed to escape up to two months later, when the Germans would have given up searching for them, and the escapees would have a relatively clear run to freedom.


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