"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."In many stories, there are some experiences that are so horribly mind-shattering that the usual result is stark raving madness. We're not just talking about mundane Shell Shock here, that'd be the trope called Heroic B.S.O.D.. Instead we're talking about a full-fledged Freak Out, or possibly even as bad as a Face–Heel Turn. If you Go Mad from the Revelation, you're gonna have some sort of psychotic break. This is a signature characteristic of an Eldritch Abomination and one of the central tropes of the Cosmic Horror genre, but other things can cause it as well, such as prolonged torture or learning some other Thing that Man Was Not Meant to Know. There is generally a distinction between things that happen to the mind because of experience and things that are done to the brain. This trope is the former. Thus, insanity caused by drugs, a telepathic attack, or a specific, quasi-magical effect (like a Brown Note) doesn't qualify. Contrast those things with the Shoggoths, who strain people's sanity in spite of never having that as a stated special ability — the thought of them is just that horrible. Confronting a Creature From Beyond The Stars or a Thing That Should Not Exist will lead either to psychological regression into denial, or insanity when the cognitive dissonance becomes too great. H.P. Lovecraft was fond of these; his stories abound with creatures from regions of space where the known laws of nature do not apply, and geometries that violate the laws of physics. This almost could have been Truth in Television, insofar as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a real mental illness, but a character who Goes Mad from the Revelation usually is portrayed in a more generic insanity. Sometimes, if you whack someone with the "insane stick" enough times, they'll get Bored With Insanity. The main inspiration for this trope is the work of H.P. Lovecraft, whose story The Call of Cthulhu is the Trope Namer. Occurs in most of his work and a good deal of Lovecraft-inspired work that use Mad Gods and Eldritch Abominations, indeed Cthulhu-inspired RPGs often make this a game mechanic. Will be mostly absent from stories where you can punch out Cthulhu successfully. The extreme form of a Freak Out. May take the form of a Heroic B.S.O.D. where the thing isn't going to start working again. If the whole nature of the Universe is opened to you because of your velocity, this is Ludicrous Speed. Compare with Brain Bleach (the character is afflicted by squicky mental images), Brain Fever (the character is made ill by mental stress and trauma), My God, What Have I Done? (the character is wracked with remorse), and My Skull Runneth Over (the character is overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information stuffed into his brain). See also A Form You Are Comfortable With for a way to avoid this. Often goes hand-in-hand with the Despair Event Horizon, to the point where a number of examples on this page can be found on the other as well.
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- In 20th Century Boys, approximately 2/3 of the people who complete Friend's VR, which purportedly reveals his face, are Driven to Suicide. It's not his face, it's Sadakiyo's—specifically it's his adult face on a child's body. In a simulation that is otherwise completely indistinguishable from reality, it drives people crazy simply because of how wrong it looks.
- Russia from Axis Powers Hetalia during the Bloody Sunday strip, in which he snaps and starts to mow down his own people on the grounds that "they're not really Russians if they don't love me."
- More or less every single Tipharian in Battle Angel Alita that learns "the secret of Tiphares" (Tipharians undergo a special ceremony at the age of nineteen. During this ceremony, the brain of the Tipharian is replaced with a computer chip) is driven insane. Most commit suicide.
- Alita is a citizen of Tiphares thanks to Desty Nova. Heroic B.S.O.D. time!
- The events of the Eclipse in Berserk took a horrible toll on the mind of Casca, who not only lost every one of her men, including Judeau, to things out of nightmare, but was raped by the very essence of evil itself in the form of the fifth member of the Godhand, Femto — who used to be Griffith, one of the two most important men in her life — right in front of Guts, the man she loved. The trauma of the experience rendered her mute, amnesiac and insane, and it was not helped one bit by Guts leaving her for two years to pursue vengeance against Griffith.
- The poor mother who gets put to the torture by Mozgus to "expiate her sins" during the Conviction Arc is later seen back among the refugees having gone completely insane and clutching the corpse of the baby she had gone through hell for.
- The reason Schwarzwald from The Big O goes mad and decides to destroy Paradigm City is because he figures out the show's Ontological Mystery (or at least part of it... it's a big mystery).
- In Chrono Crusade, Aion has a tenuous grasp on his sanity after he's Mind Raped by Pandaemonium and discovers the Awful Truth of his origins.
- Jeremy has one of these in A Cruel God Reigns after he finds his mother's diary detailing that she knew Greg was raping Jeremy, but did nothing. This leads to his Driven to Suicide Bungled Suicide just as he is going to confess to killing Greg to Ian.
- In Dangan Ronpa 3: Future Chapter, Kazuo's reveal of the attacker being technically everybody has this effect on Kyousuke, causing him to become singularly obsessed with ending the game by any means necessary... even if it means killing everybody.
- Digimon Adventure 02: Certainly not the only factor in his descent, but his visit to the Dark Ocean a perpetually dark realm, populated by various Lovecraftian horrors and where Love and Hope are a foreign concept, was definitely the Straw that Broke the Camel's Back for Ken Ichijoji. One look at his expression◊ in that scene is enough to convince you that this kid just went off the deep end.
- In Fantastic Children, scientist Dr. Radcliffe became obsessed with unraveling the mystery of the Children of Befort. Needless to say, the more he found out, the madder he went. He could have been saved a lot of suffering if he knew that his theory was actually as far from the truth as you could get.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, it's strongly implied, and possibly outright stated, that the experience of going through the Gate is so "awful" that even if you did manage to survive through the pain of whatever it took from you, you could wind up a vegetable.
- Issac McDougal, a.k.a. The Freezing Alchemist, from Episode 1 of Brotherhood went totally off his rocker when he uncovered the country-wide transmutation circle conspiracy, and decided to remedy the problem by attempting to reduce Central to a frozen pile of rubble.
- Towards the end of Gankutsuou Heloïse Villefort, who seems perfectly normal in her first appearances, is revealed to actually be a murderous woman who's out of touch with reality. When her husband tells her to her face that she's just a murderous Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, and reveals that he knows she's been trying to kill him and their daughter Heloise collapses to the floor, finally giving into her insanity. Her husband then has her committed to an insane asylum for the rest of her life.
- Every so often Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex uses this trope to great (chilling) effect. For example, in the episode entitled "Not Equal" an American Special Ops soldier is reduced to a gibbering, suicidal shell of a man after seeing the memories of the experiences that aged a young girl into an old womanin the span of 16 years during her time as a prisoner of a paramilitary group.
- In the Halo Legends segment Homecoming, a few of the escaped Spartans find out they've been replaced with clones, leading a few to commit suicide.
- What happens to Kurumi's friend Kaafai from Haou Airen when he's Forced to Watch as Hakuron rapes Kurumi. This is why he shoots Hakuron to death in the end.
- Occurs to one of the astronomers in Hellstar Remina when he realizes that Remina's a sentient Planet Eater...and it's headed for Earth.
- In Hunter × Hunter, the sheer intensity and strength of Neferpitou’s and Meruem’s auras can be so overwhelming for a regular Nen-user, that even a momentary exposure to it can have severe permanent psychological and physiological consequences. Knov, for instance, who was specifically picked up for the highest-threat and highest-difficulty level mission against Chimera Ants, became almost completely demoralised after seeing just the brink of Neferpitou’s aura at close range and soon after lost almost all hair on his head. Similarly, Welfin rapidly aged and his fur fell out when he felt the King’s Killing Intent focused on him.
- In Monster after Nina recovers all of her memories and realizes that the memories her evil twin brother Johan thinks are his are really hers (it's complicated), she nearly commits suicide. Thankfully Dr. Tenma intervenes just in time to avert a potentially HUGE Tear Jerker.
- On Moonphase, Kouhei experiences temporary madness after his new power lets him see Hazuki's true form, after which he temporarily becomes a trembling wreck who screams like a madman every time he sees her, he eventually gets over it though.
- Sasuke, understandably, does not react well when he finds out the truth about Itachi. Thankfully, after 200 or so chapters, he gets better (well, or so it seems).
- Likewise, Madara Uchiha went mad after reading deeply into the Uchiha Tablet and discovering that their war-torn world has always been such and that it only became worse once a princess sought to end all conflict by stealing Chakra from a God/Eldritch Abomination and becoming a goddess herself. Which was exactly what Black Zetsu intended when he rewrote the tablet. Madara was driven mad by a lie.
- Towards the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji Ikari finds out that Rei Ayanami, one of his closest confidants, has died and been replaced by a clone, and later still he deduces that there is definitely a connection between her, his dead mother, and the weird presence in Eva Unit 01, and these revelations does indeed shake his already fragile psychological stability quite a bit. It finally comes to a head in The End of Evangelion when the ritual to awaken Lilith/Rei Ayanami reduces him to a fit of shrieking omnicidal insanity. It didn't help that he had just seen Asuka's torn-apart remains only about a minute earlier.
- Suzu in Peacemaker Kurogane becomes Ax-Crazy and a Depraved Homosexual after finding his beloved master dead, and being raped by an old man.
- Perfect Blue: In the anime's denouement, Rumi is permanently delusional and institutionalized.
- Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie goes off his gourd when he's basically told that his purpose in life is just to be a science experiment and/or a weapon and nothing more to those who created him. As a result, he psychically nukes a lab and a Team Rocket base, kills the scientists who brought him into being, almost kills Giovanni, and decides to make himself judge, jury and executioner to every human and Pokémon on the planet. Ash's desperate attempt to stop the fighting between the clones and original Pokémon is enough to bring Mewtwo back to Earth and question his initial belief on humans.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Happens to Sayaka Miki, and Mami Tomoe from the third alternate timeline. Sayaka starts losing it as she realizes that not only does no good deed go unpunished, but being a Magical Girl is NOT sunshine and rainbows. She ends up becoming the witch known as Oktavia Von Seckendorff since among other things, she brought hope to others only to lose herself to despair and her wishes weren't as selfless as she believed; the third Mami goes insane with grief after the Sayaka of her continuity also becomes Oktavia (probably in similar circumstances) and is killed by Homura, since she cannot handle the Awful Truth that being a Puella Magi means she will eventually become a witch; she kills Kyouko and gets ready to kill Homura, so Madoka has to Mercy Kill her.
- In Rurouni Kenshin Soujiro goes temporarily insane when he realizes that he did regret killing people despite clinging to the words of his Evil Mentor: -> If you're strong you live. If you're weak. you die. It doesn't help that the people he regretted killing were his Abusive Parents or that he'd been a Stepford Smiler so long that every other emotion was completely suppressed until then. To top it all off it was Kenshin's words that caused this. It eventually leads to Soujiro's Villainous B.S.O.D..
- School Days' Kotonoha and Sekai. Both are dumped by a Jerk Ass Makoto Ito and have realized that he's also screwed around with their best friends. Kotonoha's eyes turn dark around the later half of the anime, especially after its implied that Makoto's friend raped her.
- Space Pirate Mito: Masatsuki Nenga goes insane when he comes to the realisation that his "Justice" is nothing more than a tool of oppression (one that has no issue shooting down a "mob" of villagers, men, women and children) used by a pretender to the throne. This leads to about two episodes worth of him screaming "I AM JUSTICE!" at the top of his lungs whilst firing his gun like the lunatic he is. This would be fine all in all, but the guy doesn't look older than 12.
- Ralph Werec of Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry went from perfect soldier to traitorous Omnicidal Maniac when he saw that his people had created the Humongous Mecha he was piloting by killing harmless little alien girls for their Psychic Powers. However, though his reaction is understandable, when one of the sort-of-survivors shows Sara the story in a vision, she keeps her own sanity. Ralph also got sucked into a dimensional rift that gave him terminal cancer directly after said vision.
- Tokyo Ghoul:
- Mutsuki breaks down into hysterical laughter and undergoes serious Sanity Slippage, after seeing Torso's mutilated body done at his hands and realizing the full scale of his past crimes that he had long tried to bury in his mind.
- Kaneki breaks down laughing after Yamori duck taped his head once he put a centipede into his ear during a long torture session in which he also repeatedly cut off his toes and fingers. He also snapped after Yamori did a Sadistic Choice in front of him where he killed two people after ordering him to choose who would live and would die. He breaks down crying and begs Yamori to kill him instead and later its the torture which led him to become a ruthless Anti-Hero.
- During Itsuki Marude's confrontation with Yoshitoki, Matsuri heard the gunshot from another part of the ship. When he went to investigate, he came across the aftermath of the battle and discovered his father's corpse. Barely maintaining his composure, he radioed Urie to report the commander's death at the hands of an "unknown assailant." He falsely reported that Marude had committed suicide, and then collapsed to the ground after ending the transmission. Weeping hysterically, he spoke in an effeminate manner and swore revenge against Marude for his father's murder. His insanity is further shown in chapter 100 where he tears his clothes off until he's naked in front of a window in his office and flamboyantly declares his love for Urie. This occurring not too long after his despair at having lost his father.
- Big Bad Millions Knives from Trigun has this as his manga origin story. (In the anime he just decided Humans Are the Real Monsters for semi-logical if not terribly extreme reasons, and then went Evil Plan on them and his brother. In the manga, he was a sweet boy who snapped after discovering the Awful Truth—that there had been an 'Independent Plant' born before him and his brother, and the crew had studied her right to death.
- Notably, if you didn't already know who was going to grow up to be the villain, it would look like Knives handled it better than Vash. They both locked themselves in and attempted to starve to death together, but after Rem broke in and saved them it was Vash who did the Creepy Laugh and Humans Are Bastards and hysteria, and Knives seemed...perfectly okay. He saved his freak-out until after he'd set up all the colony ships to crash.
- YuYu Hakusho, of all series, has this happen to Sensui in his backstory. Not from any eldritch lore, though, but from simply seeing how horrible people can be—shattering his belief in black and white morality by witnessing the torments sadistic humans inflicted on demons for fun, leaving him an omnicidal maniac. Chapter Black is also noted to be able to force people to go mad from the revelation. It's a compilation of every terrible thing humanity has ever done in loving detail. This is implied to be partly a supernatural effect.
- In Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, after Togo learns what the world is like beyond the barrier created by the Shinju-sama, and that the heroes fight against the Vertex will never end, Togo decides it would be better to end the world on the spot rather than continuing to fight an uphill battle that would inevitably end in the remaining humans of Shikoku dying anyway.
- From The Sandman: "Not knowing everything is all that makes it okay sometimes." Delirium epitomizes the trope in a little speech to Destiny in Brief Lives where she expresses a chilling moment of complete clarity:
Delirium: Do you know why I stopped being Delight, my brother? I do. There are things not in your book. There are paths outside this garden. You would do well to remember that.
- The Joker is like this at least some portrayals, more so than most Batman villains. More than one interpretation (including the 1989 movie) has shown him bursting into maniacal laughter after seeing his disfigured reflection for the first time (depending on the interpretation, it was the result of falling into a chemical vat, getting shot in the face, or both). His fellow Rogues Gallery members are listed alongside him under Freak Out.
- For instance, The Killing Joke. Averted by Commissioner Gordon's resistance to Joker's attempts to drive him crazy in the same graphic novel.
- Then we have the Joker from Flashpoint: Martha Wayne watched her son Bruce die before her and was so overcome with grief, she snapped. She snapped even worse when her husband, Thomas Wayne, revealed that, in another timeline, he'd be Batman, not Thomas.
- Inverted in Going Sane, where Batman's apparent death causes Joker to lose his insanity.
- The Comedian appears to go medium-mad when he stumbles on the secret island prior to the events of Watchmen, although his behaviour (breaking in to the home of an ex-villain whom "he knew wouldn't understand," weeping uncontrollably, and expressing remorse for all the horrible things he's done which nonetheless pale in comparison to the plot he's uncovered) may be attributable more to a massive attack of conscience and ethical sensitivity, thus arguably making him more, not less, sane. A more straightforward example from this work would be Rorschach's Despair Event Horizon, upon discovery of a little girl's butchered remains, which transforms him from a relatively rational crimefighter into a pathologically obsessed Nietzsche Wannabe intent on imposing his own brutal, uncompromising justice on what he sees as an uncaring, meaningless world.
- Dr Manhattan also deserves a mention, having been through something very like the Total Perspective Vortex and then acquired the power of God. He doesn't exactly go mad, but he certainly wasn't the same person after his experience.
- Enigma features a villain called The Truth who has the ability to look someone in the eyes and remove all the comforting lies they tell themselves. It generally results in either suicide or mass murder.
- In an issue of Fall of Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep reveals his true form to the inhabitants of a biker bar: by the time he's left, everyone in the bar is sporting Milky White Eyes and catatonic with shock, except for the bartender, who is busily setting himself on fire.
- Cy has had the dubious honour of Going Mad From The Revelation twice in the same series. The first bout of insanity occurs when Nyarlathotep whispers his true name in his ear; after spending the rest of the evening and the next morning in shock, and attempting to commit suicide, Cy finally descends into catatonia for the next year. The second time is some time after Cy's recovery, when he manages to save the world by sending Nyarlathotep back to the court of Azathoth; unfortunately, he manages to catch a glimpse of its main occupant. Cy doesn't survive this next brush with insanity.
- In Captain Britain, the precognitive Cobweb goes mad when she makes the mistake of looking into the very near future, which has just been invaded by a cybernetic nightmare from another dimension and is steadily being dominated by an insane reality-warping Prime Minister by the name of Mad Jim Jaspers. Naturally, after puking her guts out and mumbling a few garbled prophecies, she tries to swallow her tongue.
- Captain Britain himself had his own brush with this trope when he was first confronted with a supernatural occurrence he couldn't dismiss or explain away - in this case, extradimensional beings contacting him in the middle of a Trans-Atlantic flight. He promptly freaked out and jumped out of the plane. At this point in time, Brian got his powers from an amulet and scepter given to him by Merlin and Arthur. (Yes, them). This has been retconned at some point to Brian getting his brains rattled by a psychic attack and jumping to protect the plane's passengers (At this point he couldn't fly yet).
- According to Shattered Glass Optimus Prime's bio, he discovered something so shocking from Cybertron's past that it made him to go insane, and to the present day no one knows what it was he found.
- One issue of Hellblazer features a Well-Intentioned Extremist priest who gets into the habit of calling the police when teenagers start confessing their misdeeds to him- and at one point, he goes so far as to physically assault a girl who confessed to having sex with her brother. And then the Devil shows up; after letting him know how badly the teenagers have suffered, he ushers the priest back into the confessional and lets him hear his confession. Minutes later, the priest burns the church to the ground; from then on, he's straight-up Ax-Crazy, murdering people from one end of the country to the next, culminating in his attempt to rape a young John Constantine- which results in him getting a razorblade wedged in his face, being arrested, and committed to an asylum. After being released over twenty years later, he bumps into Constantine again at a local church; by now completely lucid, he explains everything, then jams a pencil in either eye and headbutts the pew in front of him.
- John himself was pretty horribly traumatized by what happened in Newcastle in '79, and had to go in and out of institutions for several years afterword.
- Prior to this, in Swamp Thing Constantine leads a mentalist to make contact with heroes and villains battling what appears to be a giant, black shelled mollusk that even defeats the Spectre, implied to be an aspect of God. Though the entire experience has been traumatic, Constantine's patsy gets a good look at the shell on the creature to snap his mind: It's not a shell, it's a fingernail. The entire battle had been fought on a scale so alien, whole armies had been assaulting just the fingertip of their foe without realizing.
- The being in question was The Great Darkness, basically the leftover primodium after God created the Universe. No wonder everyone was having such a hard time.
- After reading the last page of a Great Big Book of Everything in Final Crisis: Superman Beyond, Ultraman turns into a nihilistic follower of Mandrakk.
Ultraman: There is a God...and he hates us all.
- An issue of Marvel's "What If?" ends with Rogue (after killing Mr. Sinister) discovering the ULTIMATE TRUTH behind the Marvel Universe. The last picture of said issue has her (looking quite rattled and/or mentally shattered, take your pick) sitting down amidst a handful of Marvel comic books strewn around the ground.
- Secret Warriors ultimately reveals this to be the driving motivation of the Gorgon, a HYDRA leader and Wolverine villain who up to that point mostly seemed to be in the villainy game For the Evulz. Revealed in flashbacks to have been born with a mutant-level Improbably High I.Q., the young Tomi Shishido distinguished himself in his youth by working out and publishing an equation proving the existence of God. Unfortunately, this led to some very quick Sanity Slippage and a Rage Against the Heavens that would consume him for the rest of his life.
- Deadpool ends up doing this to Carnage in Deadpool vs. Carnage, revealing that they are all just little pawns in a writer's game that drives Carnage so out of his mind, he refuses to leave his cell. And his cell door is unlocked.
- Much of the plot of TRON: Ghost in the Machine runs on this trope. The story opens with the protagonist of the game being so paralyzed by what he saw inside the computer system that he went from being an avid programmer to being a shut-in afraid to touch electronics. From there, the whole comic spirals into a genuine Mind Screw.
- In the Tintin book The Shooting Star, scientist Philippulus goes mad from the news that an asteroid is about to destroy Earth, and starts calling himself "Philippulus the prophet" while rambling about divine punishment.
- Happens in Power Pack when the kids' parents learn that the kids have superpowers. They're ultimately saved by being led to believe that the superpowered kids were fakes switched for their real kids.
- The reaction was later revealed to be the result of a misguided attempt by an ally to help keep the kids' secret; he used his Healing Hands to alter their parents' brains in a way that would make them believe virtually any cover story they were told about their kids' activities. Their mental break was due to being confronted with a truth that their brains were biologically reconfigured to deny.
- From King City: The sight of the Demon King, even in its incomplete state, is known to have driven some people over the edge of sanity.
- During the original Galactus storyline in Fantastic Four, the Human Torch fell into a brief Heroic B.S.O.D. moment after traveling to the far reaches of space to find the Ultimate Nullifier. The Watcher assured the Fantastic Four that the state was only temporary, as his brain would soon purge itself of the memories of his travels for the sake of its own sanity.
Human Torch: I traveled through worlds so big...so big...there..there aren't words..! We're like ants..just ants..ants..!
- In All-Star Superman Lex Luthor acquires all of Superman's powers. All of them. In the end, he is stopped not by anyone, but Superman's Super Senses. Luthor sees the universe as Superman does and realizes that Superman isn't a villain - his altruism comes from his understanding of how interconnected the universe is. Luthor went sane from the revelation!
- If you think Humongous Mecha can't have an Eldritch Abomination of their own, you'd be wrong. The original Marvel run of The Transformers featured Unicron, a Planet Eater and Physical God disguised as a giant robotic planet. His appearance in that run of the comics causes Brainstorm, an otherwise quiet, sensible, and reasonable Autobot who is looked up to by the others as a paragon of forethought and planning, to utterly lose his shit and simply start babbling a Rapid-Fire "No!" while trying to shoot the planet sized monstrosity with a dinky laser pistol. It doesn't end well for him. For comparison, it's a bit like if you were suddenly attacked by Satan if he were the size of the Earth; the realization that the threat is real and the monster has a form far outside what you were ready to deal with could break even the most level headed individual.
- And then it happens to Shockwave, as well, who for the first time ever can't figure out what he's seeing, and just stands and stares at what's happening. He has to rely on Starscream for help.
- The Ultimates (2015): When Connor Sims gained his powers, he was cast into the Neutral Zone, which exists right on the edge of all existence, and attained a state of hyper-awareness that allowed him to the cage surrounding all existence, along with whatever made it. He spent the next several decades going increasingly mad, which didn't help his efforts to convince people that what he saw was true.
- Considering which settings Aeon Natum Engel uses, it's quite common. There is also a Running Gag with the readers going mad when they are figuring the Jigsaw Puzzle Plot.
- This is described as having happened to the entire arakkoa race in Travels Through Azeroth and Outland.
- In Equestria: A History Revealed, it is hinted that the science-loving King Sombra goes through this after a discovery pertaining to dark magic.
- In the setting of the Mass Effect fanfic Inglorious Boshtets, this is what happened to many people who viewed the porno magazine Fornax's "Forbidden Issue," which featured Tali's idiot crewman Prazza performing a sanity-blastingly obscene sex act that thankfully remained undescribed.
- Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic gets in on the act in The Monster Mash. They really need to erect a warning sign on that fourth wall.
- Occasionally a character in The Infinite Loops will completely freak out when they realize what's happening. This is known as Sakura Syndrome in-universe, due to Sakura being the first known case of it happening.
- In the Slender Man fic By the Fire's Light, Jared Holloway spends the most time getting Mind Raped by the Slender Man. He briefly dances on the edge of going mad but decides to take his own life instead in the end.
- In Divided Rainbow, Celestia authorizes Discord to cast what amounts to a grand Masquerade-by-way-of-brainwashing on practically the entire world, to prevent this from happening to the Swapped Element Bearers. There are still several close shaves.
- The typical fate of those who hear the voice of Dark Tails in Sonic X: Dark Chaos. Not only does it drive several individual characters like numerous Marmolins or Venus the Seedrian and Trinity to gibbering madness, it's mind-blasting enough to cause entire space fleets to go insane and destroy themselves.
- The Transformers fic Eugenesis implies this is caused Wheelie's unique speech-patterns, just by looking at Quintessonian religious texts. Ratchet dismissed this as pure coincidence, but given what we learn at the end of the fic, perhaps not.
- It's later implied to be the reason for the Liege Maximo's Start of Darkness as well.
- Pacific: World War II U.S. Navy Shipgirls. Those that survived their encounter with the first Abyssal ship eventually slipped into madness. Thanks to New Jersey however, this was soon prevented from happening again.
- Children of an Elder God: Unsurprisingly, since this is a Cthulhu Mythos/Evangelion crossover, it happens a lot. Most of people who tried to pilot an Evangelion went mad, mutated or died because they had to synch with the mind of an Eldritch Abomination. Most of people who saw "The King Of Yellow" being performed went crazy and died when Hastur was summoned. And the list goes on...
- Thousand Shinji: When people saw Reigle -a ten-kilometer-tall, smiling Eldritch Abomination who looked like a human corpse that had been left in a hot swamp for a month- for first time, they went instantly and permanently insane.
Standing up, [She] began to expand at a phenomenal rate, the same grotesque metamorphosis that had occurred before repeating itself on a scale a thousand times grander. Those that saw this happen invariably ran screaming when they did not collapse into quivering, vomiting piles of mental trauma. Those that had the misfortune for [her] ghostly flesh to pass through them were left gibbering wrecks, their sanity violently and permanently ripped from them by the horrific experience.
- There's a Transformers fanfic out there that has the Seacons slowing losing their minds as they investigate the ancient wreck of a crashed spaceship, finding dead Quintessons that are described accurately, but with the kind of disgust usually reserved for shoggoths, and the ultimate revelation that Unicron exists and being a mind-breaker for even the normally cold and under-control Snaptrap.
- The Jackie Chan Adventures/W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage has an example of this in the backstory. Long ago, a disciple of Kandrakar known forever afterwards as Althair the Mad Sage, read the scrolls containing the final prophecy of the first Oracle, N'ghala. Whatever he read horrified him so much that he burned those scrolls — and half of Kandrakar's library, in order to destroy any information on shadow magic — before leading his followers on a Great Purge across the universe, slaughtering thousands in order to try and prevent the coming of the "Incoming Darkness".
Films — Animation
- Toy Story — Buzz Lightyear ends up doing this after discovering he is indeed only a toy and not a Space Ranger as he previously believed. He snaps out of it later, though.
- In Frozen, Elsa fled her kingdom Arendelle and built her own ice palace on a distant mountain, mistakenly believing that Arendelle would be safe from her dangerous power. When Anna delivers the news that Elsa in fact unleashed an eternal winter, Elsa is sent into a flurry of panic that leads her to freeze Anna's heart.
- In Big Hero 6, Hiro discovers that Professor Callahan is alive and was Yokai the whole time, and that his brother Tadashi died for nothing, prompting him to reprogram Baymax into a killing machine to destroy him.
Films — Live-Action
- In Oldboy (2003) Oh Dae-su discovers the girl he had sex with was his daughter, madness and cutting out his tongue followed.
- In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Crystal Skull itself contains immense psychic power and knowledge, which turns Harold Oxley into a gibbering lunatic and almost Indiana Jones as well. Though he regains his sanity once the skull is returned to Akator.
- The Aliens at the climax also have incredible knowledge, which reduces the knowledge-hungry Soviet agent, Irina Spalko, to madness and then dust .
- In Dark City, detective Eddie Walenski is driven mad by the revelation that the City and everyone's identity is being mercilessly torn apart and remade by aliens, repeatedly. He compulsively draws spiral shapes on the walls of his room, refuses to acknowledge his wife's identity, and rounds off the evening by jumping in front of a train.
- During the ending of In the Mouth of Madness, after witnessing the collapse of human civilization in a rising tide of madness and mutation, John Trent cracks when he discovers that the nightmarish book that did the deed was just a novelisation of everything he did in the last few days. He finds this out by watching the film adaptation.
- The Fourth Mistress in the movie Raise the Red Lantern was pushed over the edge when she saw the dead body of the Third Mistress after her execution.
- In the Slasher Movie Terror Train, poor Kenny finds out his designated "date" for the evening sitting in the bed is actually a corpse set there by his med schooler "friends". It drives him insane, leading him to get institutionalized and returning after couple of years to exact revenge upon everyone involved.
- Parodied in National Lampoon's Class Reunion, in which the Ax-Crazy Walter got that way when he was set up for a masked tryst by his classmates, only to discover that the girl they'd recruited to hook up with him was his own twin sister.
- Bram Stoker's Dracula: Keanu Reeves' Jon Harker seems to have an episode of this when Dracula feeds his brides. He gets better.
- The entire point of the movie π is that this happens when you try to find the ratio that rationalizes pi, predicts the stock market, and is also the true name of God.
- Jack Nicholson's Joker loses his mind the instant he sees his new perma-grin in the 1989 Batman movie, stumbling into the street giggling insanely.
- Loki from the new film Thor after discovering he is a Frost Giant. While he was already a bit unstable to start with having allowed a few Frost Giants into Asgard for "a bit of fun" (and to discredit Thor), this was what truly tips him over the edge.
- When the mummified corpse of Imhotep comes back to life in original The Mummy (1932), the archeologist who saw it went insane.
"He went for a little walk! You should have seen his face! HAHAHAHA!"
- This trope, mixed with Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, is essentially the plot of Event Horizon. The test run of the titular ship's hyperdrive sent it beyond the edge of the universe where the crew experienced something that can only be described as Hell. When the rescue crew watches the video logs on the now deserted ship after it returned from the journey they see the former crew engaging in various deranged acts of graphic self-mutilation after the madness of the place took them over.
- Implied with Father Brennan in The Omen (1976). It turns out he was a former follower of Satan who freaked after witnessing Damien's birth. When Robert Thorn and Keith Jennings go to Brennan's residence, they find the walls plastered with crucifixes, pages of the Bible and other religious artifacts.
- Creepshow. After watching two people get eaten by the thing in "The Crate," Dex Stanley raves and giggles when he appears at Henry's house. He gets better.
- In The Matrix, Morpheus suggested that adults freed from the Matrix have an exceptionally hard time adjusting to the real world, why is why they normally don't free people after they reach a certain age. A character remarked "We're gonna kill him. You understand that?" and "He's gonna pop!" on two different occasions regarding Neo reeling from The Reveal.
- Dark Angel: The Ascent: One of the two detectives investigating the vigilante killer has the bad luck of finding out Veronica's true nature in a frightful vision the demon girl projects in his mind. He's a shivering wreck for the rest of the film and promptly calls off the investigation.
- In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, while Lex Luthor was already psychotic, what he learns from the Kryptonian ship sends him completely off the deep end.
- Implied to be the case in RoboCop 2, with the two Robocop II prototypes note which both graphically killed themselves during their demonstrations. The given explanation by Dr. Faxx is that Murphy's past psychological profile - Irish-Catholic work ethic, intense devotion to duty and willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of others, lets him face the nature of his existence as a cyborg without putting a bullet through his head.
- The Gone series: When she meets the Darkness in Plague, Brittany goes mad and comes to believe that it is God.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has the Total Perspective Vortex, which did this to its first subject. It's believed that this will happen to anyone; the Vortex allows someone to comprehend just how significant they are in the vastness of the universe (they become hopelessly incapable of functioning when the answer turns out to be "not at all").
- At first blush Zaphod is an aversion, since the TPV tells him that he's the most important being in the Universe. As it turns out, though, he was exposed to it in a computer generated universe created for his protection. It's understood that if he were exposed to it in the real universe he'd be reduced to the same state as anyone else.
- In an episode of the radio series, Marvin the Paranoid Android keeps a couple of minor adversaries occupied by tying them up and playing a recording of his autobiography. They start gibbering and raving.
- And getting a glimpse of the universe as it looks through Marvin's eyes is certainly never a good thing. In the first book, a ship's sentient computer responds to a direct link into Marvin's brain by committing suicide. In Life, the Universe and Everything, billions of genocidal battle robots are gradually paralyzed by despair when Marvin's forcibly linked into the defense grid. In the movie, Marvin uses the "point of view gun" to telepathically project his perspective onto an attacking army of Vogons. The weeping Vogons have to be picked up by health workers and carted off in a fleet of trucks.
- And then there's Prak, whose brief scene is a Parody of this trope. Near the end of Life, the Universe and Everything, an overdose of truth serum causes Prak to tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" about the entire universe, and drives everyone who hears it mad. However, what he has to say is much briefer than everyone expects, and apparently frogs and Arthur Dent are very important to the universe. Prak himself dies after several days of uncontrollable laughter upon meeting Arthur Dent.
- When the people of the planet Krikkit discover that there is a universe beyond their home nebula in Life, the Universe, and Everything they can't cope with the revelation and collectively decide that the universe must be destroyed.
- The Krikkiters are a special case, as the 'nebula' that surrounded their star system was actually an ancient, malevolent AI that was trying to get them to destroy the universe.
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has the Total Perspective Vortex, which did this to its first subject. It's believed that this will happen to anyone; the Vortex allows someone to comprehend just how significant they are in the vastness of the universe (they become hopelessly incapable of functioning when the answer turns out to be "not at all").
- Spider Robinson's novel Telempath involves a virus which multiplies the human sense of smell a thousandfold. It is estimated that one third of the population goes mad or commits suicide due to the olfactory overload.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Methuselah's Children, Slayton Ford goes mad when he meets the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. Interestingly, after Ford goes mad, Lazarus Long mentions he is afraid that if he met them he wouldn't go mad.
- Discussed in John Dies at the End. "Solving the following riddle will reveal the awful secret behind the universe, assuming you do not go utterly mad in the attempt."
- In Hallow Mass, this is the eventual fate of Audrey Klumm-Webner upon meeting the Dunwichers' gods up close and personal.
- Stephen King:
- Seeing the true form of the titular It tends to drive a person crazy.
- The ending of King's short story The Jaunt offers another memorable example of the trope, though it might not be a "revelation", so much as lots and lots and lots of time.
- Also, seeing the ring of stones in King's short story "N."
- The "thing with the endless piebald side" in Lisey's Story.
- In the revised first book of The Dark Tower series, a man comes Back from the Dead and claims to have knowledge of the afterlife. When he tells Roland's girlfriend what it is, she begs Roland to kill her. He does.
- Sex with recurring villain Randall Flagg in his true form in The Stand makes Nadine Cross catatonic. By comparison, the narration mentions in passing that sex with him in his human form is "only" as traumatizing to his partners as sex with a dog or horse.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has the "good" scientist, Dr. Lanyon, undergo this when he sees the Hyde-to-Jekyll transformation.
- In The Wheel of Time, the test for becoming a chief of the Aiel — a desert warrior society with elaborate honor customs — involves passing through an artifact that causes them to relive key moments across thousands of years that led to their formation. Aiel are such a prideful people that the shameful truth of their origins (being descended from those outcast from a tribe of extreme pacifists) hits hard. Rand enters at the same time as an Aiel, and by the end that man is clawing out his own eyes. Rand has a rather unfair advantage here, since he wasn't raised as an Aiel. Rand later reveals the truth to everyone, and hordes begin to defect from the old warrior lifestyle every day, either vanishing altogether, joining a rogue tribe, or taking up a pacifist slave life.
- Seen again later with the Seanchan. Their culture believes that women who can use magic are far too dangerous to go free, but also too useful to kill... so they slap collars on them which utterly enslave their wearer and make them puppets to a master, called a sul'dam. Recently, the main characters have disovered that the collars can't be used by anyone who does not have some degree of magical prowess themselves... meaning the sul'dam are essentially the same as the women they treat as objectsnote . When one sul'dam discovers this she undegroes a borderline mental breakdown, and it's speculated that if this knowledge got out publically, it would shake the very foundations of the Seanchan Empire.
- In Ishamael's backstory, he was a brilliant and world-renowned philosopher, until be became Genre Savvy to the fact that his world runs on Eternal Recurrance. This revelation set him on a downward spiral of madness and nihilism that culminated in him becoming an Omnicidal Maniac and Death Seeker.
- In Darkness Visible ordinary people can go mad when exposed to unreality. As things deteriorate this eventually happens to something like a quarter of London's population.
- In Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, Dwayne Hoover goes on a rampage after reading a solipsistic novel by Kilgore Trout which says that its reader is the only human being in the world and that everyone else is a machine.
- Although it's made clear that Hoover had already gone quite mad by this point, and it's this pre-existing mental condition that makes him believe Trout's book to be a personal message from God.
- He couldn't help it; he had bad chemicals in his brain.
- The Demu from The Demu Trilogy have their species-wide psychosis because they can't cope with their rite of passage revelation that they are descended from a species that were pets of Neglectful Precursors.
- In the second and third Firekeeper novels, the Healed One, ruler of the nation of New Kelvin, is the one person able to read a book that details the true history of their people. The secrets therein driven more than one newly ascended Healed One mad.
- In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, James Taggart goes insane, becoming permanently catatonic, when he finally recognizes his own desire to destroy for the sake of destruction. He, in turn, previously revealed to Cherryl Taggart the monstrosity of his world, beating Cherryl, and cheating on her in the same night, driving her to see what had happened to the world, and resulting in severe psychotic episode. This leads to (possibly accidental) suicide.
- In Larry Niven's Draco Tavern story "The Subject Is Closed", one of the tavern's visitors describes how one alien race claimed to have discovered the truth about the afterlife. This is the last that was heard from them, and visitors to their world discovered that they had systematically committed mass suicide. It was later decided to destroy the detailed records of what was found, because those who studied them too closely also committed suicide.
- Cthulhu Mythos:
- A protagonist protagonist who isn't transformed into something... not nice or dead at the end of the story usually suffers this trope. (In the original H.P. Lovecraft stories, outright madness wasn't as common.)
- Occurs on a global scale in Lovecraft's short story "Nyarlathotep", which tells of one man (although he's really a messenger for the god of chaos) revealing such cosmic secrets that entire cities are driven mad and civilisation collapses.
- In William Tenn's story "Firewater", humanity is being observed by aliens that appear to have god-like powers, and anyone who tries too hard to understand them goes insane. Near the end, it's revealed that the aliens have a similar problem with understanding humans.
- The Bishop Murder Case: Philo Vance posits that someone went mad from studying quantum psychics.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Chessman of Mars, this is claimed for looking on the face of the dead O-Mai, a jeddak said to have died without showing a mark, and whose body was said to lie in a haunted room.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Grey Knights, Balurian Imperial Guardsmen are driven out of their minds by seeing the tomb of Saint Evisser. Some "saw a world of glory and bounty" and ran blindly into it only to fall into pits or be attacked by cultists, some collapsed and others struck at comrades in the conviction that all around them were corrupt.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the Big Bad Storm King and his minions exist in a place "between life and death" that gives them plenty of time to contemplate Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Unprepared mortal minds that dare to touch them (or do so accidentally) are driven stark raving bonkers. Also, Du Svardenvyrd, the tome of the mad prophet Nisses, contains sufficient knowledge of the workings of the world to drive anyone who reads it past the Despair Event Horizon.
- The author and main character of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a victim of this.
- Warrior Cats: Having already developed a near-crazy obsession with the Warrior Code, the realization that her parents were in fact Leafpool and Crowfeather and her very existence was "breaking the code" pretty did away with what was left of Hollyleaf's sanity at the end of Power of Three.
- Also, in The Original Series finding out that Tigerclaw is indeed evil, just like Fireheart was trying to tell her all along, pushes Bluestar over the edge for several books.
- In The Dark Portal, Robin Jarvis's first book in the Deptford Mice trilogy, the rat Madame Akkikuyu has pledged her loyalty to Jupiter, a living god who dwells in complete blackness in the sewers. Glowing red eyes are all that anyone has ever seen of him. At the end, when he is goaded into leaving his lair for the first time, it is revealed that he is a monstrous giant cat. When Akkikuyu sees him, her mind snaps.
- Invoked a lot in Simon R. Green's Nightside novels. One book features Madman, a former theoretical physicist who'd worked out the means to observe reality as it truly exists; his name says it all. In another incident, a minor character asked the animated corpse Dead Boy what it was like being dead, and was reduced to quivering catatonia by the reply.
- In Chris Wooding's novel Poison, the titular character gives up all desire to live after discovering that not only is she a fictional character who was created by the 'hierophant' — a God-like being in the book's universe, and that her home did not exist before she came into being, but that said hierophant has been controlling her all her life, making her choose certain courses of action and make certain decisions. Luckily, she gets over it after discovering that her death would mean the death of those around her, as the story she is in is centred entirely around her.
- David Langford's short story "BLIT" uses a mind-breaking fractal image as a terrorist weapon.
- And one of the most famous examples in literature. Robert W. Chambers' short story anthology The King in Yellow concerns the eponymous and forbidden play that drives readers and viewers mad. The King in Yellow and everything related to it was later incorporated into the Cthulhu Mythos.
- Which was given a modern film remake by John Carpenter as Cigarette Burns.
- In the chapter "The Castaway" in Hermann Melville's Moby-Dick, the cabin boy Pip falls overboard and the immense emptiness of the ocean drives him mad. "By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot; such, at least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul."
- Parodied and Inverted in Don Quixote, who goes mad for trying to make sense of the purple prose that plagued the chivalry books he has read, but never was any reveal because even Aristotle could not make sense of that. Chapter I, Part I:
Over conceits of this sort the poor gentleman lost his wits, and used to lie awake striving to understand them and worm the meaning out of them; what Aristotle himself could not have made out or extracted had he come to life again for that special purpose.
- William Gibson's short story "Hinterlands" has a parade of lone astronauts drifting at a particular point in space, setting off radio flares, who are either taken by some force, or more often, not taken. Those who are taken come back with scary new science and technology, but are all batshit crazy and almost all eventually kill themselves without revealing much of what they saw. Those who are not taken are so profoundly crushed at being rejected by Space God that they all attempt suicide, and are then employed as counselors for those batshit crazy returnees.
- In Robert E. Howard's "Jewels Of Gwahlur" Yelaya warns Conan the Barbarian.
Here I have lain for so many centuries, to awaken each night at sunset and hold my court as of yore, with specters drawn from the shadows of the past. Man, if you would not view that which will blast your soul for ever, get hence quickly! I command you! Go!”
It would blast your soul to hear from what far realm I summoned them and from what doom I guard them with ensorcelled crystal and golden serpents.
- The Master boasts of this:
Their iron nerves had withstood an ordeal that might have driven weaker men mad. He knew it was with no weaklings that he conspired, but men whose courage was as profound as their lawless ambitions and capacity for evil.
- In The Hour of the Dragon, Orastes is pleased that this did not happen.
- The Oculus from the Fablehaven series has this effect.
- Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Anyone who swims in the Pool of Knowlege gets their eyes turned partly silver, and slowly turns into an Eldritch Abomination, who eats fear instead of food.
- Revelations are relative: the society depicted in Isaac Asimov's Nightfall lives on a planet with six suns, and its members are greatly unnerved by prolonged darkness. They're about to have their first full eclipse in two thousand years. Things get bad. (It's implied this has happened at least seven times before, each time leaving a few survivors who rebuild from a preindustrial technology level.)
- The actual sanity-shattering revelation is how vastly larger the universe (or even the immediate stellar neighborhood) is than they'd ever imagined, and how tiny and insignificant they and their world are by comparison.
- A similar theme appears in Douglas Adams' Life, the Universe, and Everything, although in this case instead of breaking down in despair the aliens in question decide that they will "solve" the problem by becoming Omnicidal Maniacs and destroying the rest of the universe.
- To quote the text: "Aton, somewhere, was crying, whimpering horribly like a terribly frightened child. 'Stars — all the Stars — we didn't know at all. We didn't know anything. We thought six stars in a universe is something the Stars didn't notice is Darkness forever and ever and ever and the walls are breaking in and we didn't know we couldn't know and anything —'"
- The actual sanity-shattering revelation is how vastly larger the universe (or even the immediate stellar neighborhood) is than they'd ever imagined, and how tiny and insignificant they and their world are by comparison.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull/Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night," Gonar knows things.
I know secrets that would blast even your brain, Bran, should I speak them.
- In Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence, Niccolò Machiavelli met a slave-girl who was transformed by potent hypnosis to be a "memory palace," a kind of exotic hard disk drive. Machiavelli then attempted to restore the girl to a human state, but when she did, she remembered all the perils of her life and defenestrated herself.
- In Terry Pratchett's Strata, a species of aliens takes a plunge past the Despair Event Horizon and commits collective suicide upon learning that the world they live on is in fact artificial and their entire prehistory was an elaborate forgery.
- In The Dresden Files' Turn Coat, Dresden barely manages to avoid this after looking upon the skinwalker with his wizardly Sight. When he Sees it, he blacks out, only to awaken some time later as a gibbering, incoherent mess, and in physical pain. He recites prime numbers to prevent himself from remembering it for a time. It takes locking himself in a room and assaulting his mind with the image over and over again to get his mind straight (he also gets a Psychic Nosebleed). Even then, he'll never forget what he saw.
- The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan: several instances it seems. The first is the realization that Thomas Messenger is destined to die, again and again throughout the infinite multiverse of the Vellum, sparking Jack's effort to find the one reality where the man he loves defies the rules and lives. Another has to do with the backstory that contributed to starting the whole story in the first place: one of the reasons the Unkin that joined Metatron's Covenant to fight the Sovereigns was because of the realization that there is in fact no judeo-christian God. Imagine being a believer, undergoing the event of touching the Vellum underneath reality (thus thinking you've been "chosen" or something), and finding out that in eternity dwells... nothing. Just some other humans that, like you, managed to touch the multiverse under reality. One of the biggest is the idea of the Unkin trying to build Heaven in the Vellum - trying to build a tiny, insignificant outpost of crude meta-human order amid the vast, hostile wilderness of eternity that exists beneath the multiverse.
- In Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud, one of the astronomers goes insane from The Cloud uploading its knowledge upon him.
- In The Bible, God tells Moses that this will happen if he shows his true form to Moses. Except instead of going mad, you go dead from seeing God.
- Deuteronomy 28.34, a part of the last speech of Moses, states the trope verbatim: "Thou wilt go mad from the revelation I open unto your eyes."
- One of the short stories in the Chuck Palahniuk collection Haunted 2005 has something called a "nightmare box" which does exactly this to whoever looks inside it.
- In Burying the Shadow any attempt by a soulscaper to heal an eloim's mind results in the soulscaper going stark raving mad.
- The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling: Let’s just say that Jack’s study of his student’s perpetual motion machine doesn’t make him the... most stable of individuals.
- Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, although nothing supernatural actually happens to him. Alone with a savage tribe and faced with the primordial immensity of the jungle, he goes native in the worst sort of way, sets himself up as some kind of god, and descends into acts of brutality left unnamed.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Red Wedding drives Catelyn Stark completely insane. As death approaches her, she laughs madly as she claws at her own face.
- Both lampshaded and subverted in The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan, the Apocalyptic Log of a woman who was Driven to Suicide by some kind of entity disguised as an old oak tree. She is a novelist by profession, so of course she's actually familiar with this trope.
I seem to have been afflicted with some unprecedented calm, something that settled over me while I was upstairs and which shows no signs of abating. Again, I know we're running counter to the received wisdom, in which our heroine, having glimpsed some unspeakable atrocity, parts ways with her sanity (at least for a time) and runs screaming into the night. Perhaps it's only that those sorts of books and movies are, too often, made by people who have never, themselves, stood at this threshold. Even Catherine ran screaming, that sunstroke day at Cabeza de Lobo. Couldn't I at least be as weak as poor Catherine?No.Fine. Then I'll write it down.
- Prolonged exposure to the Cruciatus Curse in the Harry Potter books has this effect.
- Also, anyone who touches a prophecy that isn't the subject of said prophecy.
- Glory in the Thunder: The implied ultimate fate of Posthumous Character Diadem Correl, and most other Gods of Truth.
- In Bird Box those who view the mysterious creatures outside are driven insane.
- In Heart of Steel, Alistair had a complete psychotic break in his backstory after rebuilding himself as a cyborg and subsequently discovering that his comatose beloved—for whom he had resolved to survive and recover—had been taken off life support a week earlier.
- In The Elenium, the daughter of Sparhawk and Ehlana, Danae, is actually an incarnation of the child goddess Aphrael. (In part because she thought Ehlana deserved a child despite being rendered barren by a poison, and in part to maintain her hold on Sparhawk.) The knowledge of this is kept from Ehlana or it would drive her insane. (No one else who's privy to this information has any trouble with it because they are already familiar with Aphrael. While Ehlana is not particularly closed-minded to any other "impossible" things Aphrael does, the thought is that this kind of revelation would hit too close; to compare, Sparhawk brushed with the trope at first in spite of knowing about Aphrael's personality and needed a while to calm down.)
- "Ararat", the first of Zenna Henderson's stories about "The People", depicts a long history of trouble keeping teachers in the remote village of Cougar Canyon. Nobody wants to teach out in the middle of nowhere, so the county superintendent keeps sending teachers who are elderly, sick, often homeless, worn out and dying — for children whose abilities include telepathy, levitation, and manipulation of solar energy. The kids would try to be discreet, but inevitably somebody would slip. Cougar Canyon teachers all end up in hospitals or insane asylums sooner or later.
- In The Stormlight Archive, Szeth-son-son-Vallano is made Truthless for the crime of claiming that the Voidbringers have returned. As Truthless, he is granted a magical weapon of astonishing power, but forced to obey the orders of whoever holds his Oathstone. Before long, he has been forced to kill thousands in the service of his master, and has started wars that will kill millions more. Then, at the climax of the second book, he learns the awful truth: he was right. The Voidbringers are returning. Szeth is not Truthless. And all those numberless deaths are absolutely his fault.
- Les Misérables has Inspector Javert Driven to Suicide after realizing his life-long ideals of the law always being right and all criminals being irredeemable were wrong when his life is saved by Jean Valjean.
- Alfred Bester's short story "5,271,009" has an artist driven insane when he catches a glimpse of an expression on the face of Solon Aquila, a collector who is actually an alien remittance man exiled on Earth, which shows his horror and anguish at being stuck here. Aquila then tries to cure him in order he can do more of the pictures that Aquila likes.
- Not really. Aquila feels responsible for what has happened to the artist, and hopes the artist will be a better person than Aquila was on his home planet.
- In the novel Innocence by Dean Koontz, almost anyone who looks at the unnamed protagonist immediately becomes homicidal and tries to kill him, for a reason that is revealed at the end of the story.
- In Smallville, The Helmet of Nabu reveals the fate of everyone to the wearer and drives them insane.
- Firefly both pokes fun at this trope and plays it straight. One theory on the Reavers is that were men who were driven insane by seeing the edge of space. Not only is this theory eventually shown to be wrong, but Jayne is immediately puzzled: he's been out there, and it just looks like more space. However, at one point the Reavers intentionally induce Reaver-like insanity in one victim by killing the rest of his shipmates while he is Forced to Watch. The Movie reveals that at least part of River's psychosis was the result of learning what happened on Miranda.
- River suffers from this as she is forcibly turned into a psychic. She has no control at first and is paraded around various people of power and influence as an example of the success of the program, all the while learning things that she has no desire to know about, Miranda being the prime example. She was learning about it subconsciously. Imagine learning about the holocaust by reading the minds of the Nazis who were there. It would drive you crazy due to the sheer horror. Once she had conscious knowledge of Miranda and was able to finally free herself of the burden she gets noticeably better. Which isn't to say it made her sane.
- Star Trek:
- Having sex with a Deltan makes one go mad. Or so we've heard. More precisely, the sex is apparently so good that Terrans, at least, have trouble coping afterwards, unless they're Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Then the sex was sorta "meh".
- The Original Series episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" revolves around Kollos, an ambassador of the Medusan race, whose physical appearance is so hideous — or maybe so beautiful — that any humanoid who looks at them directly goes insane. Kollos, in contrast with Shoggoths and Eldritch horrors, is clearly a good guy.
- Commodore Decker in "The Doomsday Weapon" is so traumatized by the fact that the titular weapon killed his crew when it attacked the planet he evacuated them to, he decides to commandeer the Enterprise on a suicide mission to stop it. What makes this bad is that everyone knows he's lost his mind, but since McCoy can't get him to stop and get him examined to relieve him of duty, the crew has no choice but to follow his lead until Kirk can drag Decker's ravaged ship back over and get Spock to shut him down.
- From "The Alternative Factor", Matter-Lazarus goes stark raving mad upon learning of the existence of his Anti-Matter double and becomes hellbent on destroying him, even if it means the destruction of both universes.
- "The Omega Glory" has this after Tracey learns all his evil deeds are All for Nothing. You can see him snap at the news and proceeds to threaten Kirk for weapons for a pointless fight on a planet they by now can leave any time, and then he literally goes Axe Crazy.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Sound Of Drums", we learn that every Time Lord is forced at the age of eight to stare at a gap in the fabric of reality. Through this gap the entire Time Vortex can be seen, containing all that is, was, or will ever be. In the words of The Doctor, "Some would be inspired, some would run away, and some would go mad." It's initially suggested that this is what happened to the Master, though it's later revealed in The End of Time that his madness was deliberately engineered by Lord President Rassilon to help pull the Time Lords out of the time locked Last Great Time War.
- Dalek Caan in "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" is arguably a case of someone who went sane from the revelation: despite exhibiting all the obvious characteristics of a Mad Oracle, having seen the whole of time itself left him utterly and completely disgusted at his own genocidal race and thus set things in motion to have the Doctor and Donna Noble defeat the Daleks.
- In the episode "The Age of Steel", the Cybermen are defeated by the Doctor stopping their emotional inhibitors from working. This causes them to remember who they really are, and what they have become, and they subsequently go insane as the shock kills them. The Doctor effectively uses the same technique to defeat Mercy Hartigan in "The Next Doctor", severing her link with the Cyber King and allowing her to see the monster she's become, destroying her mind.
- "Ghost Light" introduced Redvers Fenn-Cooper, an explorer and hunter who was unlucky enough to witness Light's sleeping form in the cellar of a Victorian mansion. The experience turned his hair white and drove him into the depths of insanity. By the time the Doctor arrives, he's disassociated his own identity so well that if he does acknowledge his own name, it's in the third person.
- "Heaven Sent" sees a tragic combination of this trope and the Heroic B.S.O.D. when the Doctor, trapped inside a personalized torture chamber for billions of years, doomed to repeat the same few days over and over, suddenly remembers all the past occasions in which he's gone though the chamber. Not only does this threaten to drive him mad, his grief over the death of his beloved companion, Clara chooses that moment to boil over. Although he recovers ( thanks to a memory of Clara encouraging him to fight and win), this is a major factor in him later nearly becoming a Woobie, Destroyer of Time.
- The Torchwood episode "Adrift" has a victim of the Rift who's permanently insane as a result of looking into the heart of a dark star. He's living in a secret Torchwood-sponsored care home in an old bunker, with at least a dozen other patients. He screams for twenty hours a day...
- In Upright Citizens Brigade, a house has a "bucket of truth" in it that shows immutable truth; most people are driven to absolute despair by the sights within. A police captain who has been wallowing in despair looks into the bucket and shouts at the heavens, "Don't you think I know that?!"
- Buffyverse:Lilah's timid about entering the White Room, mostly because of one employee who went in there and ended up in an asylum as a result.
- On Dollhouse, it's strongly implied that this is what happens to Topher. He witnesses the death of Bennett and then learns that he was responsible for creating the devices that will bring about the technological apocalypse. It's enough to drive him so far over the edge that he becomes terrified of his own intelligence, because the Rossum Corporation keeps forcing him to use it to hurt people.
- Married... with Children puts a humorous spin on this trope. In "Wabbit Season", poor Al Bundy has temporarily gone insane after an unpleasant incident at work, and when Peg brings him home, he's babbling about "selling a lot of shoes after midnight." A kiss from Peg brings him back to his senses, but what makes it even funnier is when Al explains what happened:
Al: Oh Peg, it was horrible. Sixteen straight hours of shoe-selling mayhem. The last thing I remember, I was on one knee, waiting on an overflowing glacier of a woman. The first thing they teach you when you're a rookie shoe salesman is, when you've got a fat one in the chair, never look up. I looked up, Peg! I saw underwear! It said "Saturday" on it!
Peg: So what?
Al: TODAY'S WEDNESDAY!
- In season 6, in the episode "If I Could See Me Now" we discover that Al has bad eyesight and experiences the world mostly as fuzzy blobs. The kids convince him to get glasses after driving home with Al behind the wheel. Upon finally getting his glasses Al sees the world around him, especially his house and family, as it really is. He clutches his head and screams in agony, parodying this trope. He finally destroys his glasses as he would rather cling to the world he knew rather than face the truth.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In the original series episode "Deaths-Head Revisited", a retired Nazi general returns to the death camp he worked at, only to be tortured to insanity by the ghosts of the people he murdered. Let's just say they showed him everything they went through while in his "care".
- The Twilight Zone (1985): The revival episode "Need to Know" featured William Petersen investigating an insanity epidemic in a small town. It turns out a resident has discovered the meaning of life, but to hear the secret is to go crazy.
- The Thriller episode "The Cheaters" follows a pair of magic spectacles from owner to owner. Each goes mad, as the cheaters show their wearer the truth of everything seen through them. The final owner decides to look at himself in a mirror, just as the creator of the glasses did before his death. They offer to let him off without seeing the truth, but he insists, and instantly goes mad and then kills himself.
- This happens in Being Human, when Annie (a ghost) whispers to her killer, Owen a "secret that only the dead know." He snaps almost immediately. Interestingly enough, when George asks what she said, Mitchell shakes his head slightly, indicating that Annie shouldn't say—as well as the fact that he knows it too.
- Lampshaded in Babylon 5, when G'Kar has a guest over for dinner:
Na'kal: "Breen. You've managed to import breen from homeworld. How?"
G'Kar: "It .. isn't actually breen."
Na'kal: "But the smell, the taste..."
G'Kar: "It's an Earth food. They are called Swedish meatballs. It's a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs. I suspect it's one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained or which will drive you mad if you ever learned the truth."
- One episode of Criminal Minds is about a man who goes off antipsychotic meds in an attempt to access lost childhood memories, only for them to turn out to be so traumatic that they cause him to go on a killing spree.
- In the Seinfeld episode "The Serenity Now" Jerry has become emotionally mature (as opposed to his shallow self) by letting his emotions out. At one point he asks George to "let it all out". We cut back later to see George in a similar state of emotional maturity, but Jerry is horrified beyond words. Even though Jerry doesn't go insane, the revelation burned out his emotional maturity and returned him to the shallow sitcom character he was before.
- In Mystery Science Theater 3000 Tom and Crow are given psychotropic drugs for Pearl to observe the effects. Tom's view, while creepy, is apparently normal to him. What makes Crow go mad? The Milky Way bar Mike was holding is now a Snickers!
- Another Played for Laughs in The Legend Of Dick And Dom episode "Hairwolf"; a man is driven mad by the horrors of the Hairwolf eating his hair and dances around giving cryptic warnings like "Don't go to the castle, it's dangerous!", "Don't play the bassoon in the bath, it's wrong!" and "Don't feed a white rabbit brussels sprouts, it'll turn green!"
- In season seven of Supernatural, Sam is being driven mad by memories of his time tortured by Lucifer in the Cage.
- This is reported to be common when an ordinary human sees a Wesen in Game Face on Grimm. Apparently, a tolerance can be built up, as Hank demonstrates.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003)
- Leoben Conoy - "To know the face of God is to know madness."
- The Hybrids, who control the Cylon Basestars, continually spout out apparent gibberish that some believe to actually be the words of "The One, True God."
- D'Anna Biers experienced this trope first-hand in the Temple of Five after looking upon the faces of the Final Five.
- The Stone Tape. The scientists question a man who used to play in the castle as a boy. He breaks down and reveals how a friend was accidentally trapped in the haunted room during a game of dare.
"He made out it spoke to him...and then the Others came.""Can I meet him?""What for? He don't remember. They took him up the County, you know. They put him right. They can do that. He don't care a button he just la-a-a-ughs all the time!"
- Sex with Brother Justin after he's transitioned into full-on Anti Christ mode has this effect in Carnivàle.
- At the end of Episode 11 of Season 4 of Breaking Bad, Walter is in desperate need of money for a life and death situation he's running out of time on. When he finds out his wife has had to give a huge portion of it away in a bid to keep their actions hidden, he lets out a scream of anguish ... and then starts cackling like a maniac.
- Played for Laughs on Father Ted when in "Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Roller Blading" Father Jack finally sobers up for the first time in years, which as Ted points out that to Jack must be like a maddening hallucinogenic. It gets worse when Ted and Dogual re-introduce themselves:
Jack: What do you do then?Ted: We're priests.Jack: Priests?! DON'T TELL ME I'M STILL ON THAT FECKING ISLAND!
- The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "First Anniversary", a man's gorgeous wife of one year turns out to be a rather horrid-looking alien who is suffering Glamour Failure because his mind is starting to develop an immunity. He's eventually carded off to a mental asylum and she finds herself a new husband.
- In the first season finale of Preacher (2016), this happens to pretty much the entire town of Annville. The shocking revelation that God is real but has abandoned Heaven, pushes most folks past the Despair Event Horizon, with some indulging in raging hedonism, others turning suicidal, and others becoming homicidal — Quincannon in particular seems to suffer an outright break from reality. Emily is the only person shown not to be overly affected, but it's possible she's just become a Stepford Smiler to try and cope.
- "Scared" by Three Days Grace.
- This appears to be what happens to the man in the suit and then to everyone else in the video for Radiohead's "Just". The revelation itself is kept from the audience.
- One of several possible meanings behind Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy", as suggested by several people on SongMeanings.
- The Brazilian song "Samba do Crioulo Doido" (Crazy Nigger's Samba) is about a samba writer who was forced to learn Brazilian history to fit the state law of historical Carnival themes. Then forcing him to learn current politics (when Brazil was under a dictatorship!) drove the crioulo nuts and he wrote one hell of an Anachronism Stew.
- "Roads to Madness" by Queensryche is a pretty explicit invocation of this trope.
"Black, the door was locked I opened / And now I've paid that price ten-fold over / Knowledge - was it worth such torment, oh / To see the far side of shadow"
Myths & Religion
- According to The Talmud, there were four famous rabbis who were exposed to the mysteries of Creation: Ben-‘Azai, Ben-Zoma, Elisha‘ ben-Abuya, and ‘Akiva ben-Yosef. The first died, the second went mad, the third became an apostate (due to misunderstanding what he saw), and only the fourth one remained faithful.
- The myth of the Kunekune
- In Gustav Schwab's ballad "Der Reiter und der Bodensee", a traveler lost in the snow unknowingly rides right across Lake Constance — the ice wouldn't normally be strong enough but it happens to be an exceptionally cold winter. When he arrives at a village and asks where he is, he realizes what he's done, imagines the cold abyss that was under his horse's feet, and dies of terror.
- In The Goon Show episode "Lurgi Strikes Britain" Neddie Seagoon goes bonkers after realising how Grytpype and Moriarty have duped him, and starts yelling gibberish - the main symptom of the fake eponymous disease.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The Ravenloft campaign setting had tons of things that could drive a character insane, or at least prompt a Madness Check. Like direct mind-to-mind contact with a fiend. More common are Horror Checks (which cause lasting mental trauma, but usually not insanity) and Fear Checks (which simply cause the victim to panic.)
- The Lords of Madness supplement indicates that the safest thing to do with the spellbook of an aboleth or the power stone of a mind flayer is to bury it, because trying to actually use the damn thing would do horrible things to the contents of your skull.
- The Arcanis world-setting, along with the Living Arcanis campaign, featured Larissa. She started as the goddess of Fate, Prophecy, and all that jazz but one day she looked too far into the future and, well, went mad from the revelation. Now she's the goddess of sensuality, lust, and ladies (and men) of the evening. Apparently she's convinced that the fate she saw will come to pass and that she needs to get in as much pleasure now before it all goes kablooey.
- Module Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. No mortal being can behold the true nature of Lolth's Web (an eye-torturing, blazing tangle of twisted, rope-like strands) and remain sane. If someone under the effect of a true seeing, true sight or detect illusion spell looks at the Web for more than 1 minute, they will go raving mad.
- The Black Spiral Dancers from Werewolf: The Apocalypse get their name because every last one of them walked the Black Spiral Labyrinth, an equally metaphorical and literal path that brought them face-to-face with the Wyrm (the cosmic embodiment of suffering and hatred). The Black Spiral Labyrinth is a nightmarish spiritual realm within the mind of the Wyrm, with nine circles that test and torment visitors. The experience breaks the minds of all but the most strong-willed like a twig. Many Black Spiral Dancers take their deed name after whatever pathetic growls or mewling noises come out of their mouth upon "revelation."
- Similarly, the Weaver, originally a cosmic embodiment of order and purpose, went insane and became an all-consuming force for stasis. In one version of the story, the Weaver tried to define the Wyld (a cosmic embodiment of primal chaos) and got the biggest "DOES NOT COMPUTE" in history. In another version, the Weaver experienced an existential crisis after the Wyld kept changing its creations and the Wyrm kept destroying them, driving it insane.
- The Wyrm itself was originally a general elegant destroyer to keep pattern from overwhelming order and provide fresh unordered energy for the Wyld, before the Weaver tied it up. The central Wyrm went mad from the impossibility of essentially imprisoning a fireball with string, and what few pieces escaped went crazy from realizing what had happened to the world without them.
- Over in the New World of Darkness, the Bale Hounds of Werewolf: The Forsaken are said to have completely gone off their collective nut on finding the site of Father Wolf's murder.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is the schtick of the insane seers of Clan Malkavian, and is also a popular trait amongst the utterly inhuman Tzimisce.
- Fan game Genius: The Transgression has the Genius condition being somewhat contagious- exposure to mad science can turn an ordinary human into a Beholden, or even cause a Breakthrough to becoming a full fledged Genius. This isn't generally encouraged as there's enough fighting over resources as it is.
- Mage: The Ascension. One could say that Awakening to the realization that all reality is controlled by the belief of people, that your beliefs can change it more than others, and that humanity has become an apathetic race unwilling to realize the wonderment of the world is simply the start of a long, torturous road to death or complete insanity. Some Mages make the (subconscious) decision to reject any reality but their own, wrapping themselves in a bubble of delusion, and unable to see anything outside it, eventually being ejected from the fabric of the world itself. Some Mages become brainwashed into reinforcing the frozen reality as it is (i.e. science) forming a contradiction in themselves against their dynamic nature. Then there's the Nephandi, the depths of depravity who would sell humanity out to Demons just for power. Since, by being a mage, you change reality with your beliefs just by existing, you're constantly violating general reality, you're always a little off even if you can avoid those three disastrous paths above.
- Hunter: The Reckoning
- You are a normal guy who realizes that humanity is just the playthings of vampires, werewolves, fairies, zombies, etc, and always has been since the dawn of time. The voices in your head telling you this is the truth doesn't exactly help.
- And then there are the two groups who hear the voices far more clearly than anyone else. One goes insane to stop the voices from destroying their minds outright. The other experiences all the rage and hatred behind the voices, and starts coming up with genocidal plans against the supernatural without concern for anyone who gets in the way.
- The Unspeakable, from the Magic: The Gathering Kamigawa block vignettes.
- Then there's Glimpse the Unthinkable, whose flavor text provides a good quote on the Quotes page.
- Then there's Obsessive Search, which is from the set called Torment... and has the keyword ability Madnessnote ...
- The Rise of Eldrazi set is understandably full of characters going batshit insane upon seeing the eponymous creatures.
- See Beyond does this partially, by allowing you to draw cards, but then forcing you to shuffle a card into your library (from a flavor standpoint, shuffling the card away means you didn't forget the spell, it's just lost somewhere inside your mind, and you might remember it later). The flavor text even points this out.
Ancient lore locked in a mind driven mad is just as safe as when it was locked deep underground.
- Call of Cthulhu
- This game can (appropriately enough) be basically considered the Trope Codifier at least as far as role-playing games are concerned. Practically everything even mildly disturbing to a character's worldview has a chance of nibbling away at his or her sanity score, and full exposure to the horrors of the Mythos can cause him or her to snap (temporarily or permanently) rather quickly; thus, part of the challenge of playing is puzzling out a solution to the problems and pitfalls posed by the scenario without learning too much in the bargain. One edition of the rulebook even joked about it: "The only game where the big prize for finishing an adventure is a moldy old book which, when read, causes your face to melt off."
- Cthulhu Tech, on the other hand, plays with this. Reading arcane texts, for example, can slowly drive you over the brink, as you'd expect exposure to the Necronomicon would. So does exposure to god-like aliens or their avatars or anything else that every natural law is struggling against. Realizing that the Doahanoids you vaporized with a charge cannon weren't isn't good for your grip on reality, either. However, since the Japanese Media Tropes the game adds to the Mythos call for a certain level of idealism, society at large is entirely aware of these effects, and There Are Therapists to reduce or eliminate the dementia characters gain.
- The Call of Cthulhu adventure "City Beneath the Sands" actually turns this trope against the Eldritch Abomination. If the heroes fail to prevent the bad guys from linking their sleeping god-alien's mind with the collective subconscious of human dreamers everywhere, it's the god that goes mad, overwhelmed by contact with millions of human psyches (which are just as disturbing to it as vice versa). Sleepers worldwide just mainline nightmares for a night.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000
Inquisitor Czevak: Ask not the Eldar a question for they will give you three answers, all of which are true and terrifying to know.
- Many people who encounter the daemons of Chaos, especially the daemons of Tzeentch and Nurgle. (It's the smell, really...)
- Archaon, the Everchosen of Chaos, is rumored to have once been a templar of Sigmar who read a forbidden manuscript and went batshit after learning the truth about the Gods including his own Sigmar. He is now the Big Bad among the warriors of Chaos and set to bring about the end of the world.
- The past three editions of the Eldar codex have all contained the following quote:
- And then, because Warhammer 40,000 takes everything Up to Eleven, we have Kairos Fateweaver. Kairos was a freaking daemon whose god, Tzeentch, threw him into the Well of Eternity, a pool of infinite knowledge. Kairos came back with full knowledge of the past, present, and future, as well as two heads which are both insane. At any time one of them lies and the other tells the truth. Let's be absolutely clear: the premier avatar of the Warhammer 40,000 universe's god of knowledge and fate went insane when it found out the truth about the universe, every other aspect of the god that's tried it did not survive, and the god himself is too scared to look. Crapsack universe doesn't begin to describe this place.
- This happens to nearly all of Tzeentch's followers. Tzeentch grants his more loyal followers, like sorcerers, enhanced powers over the Warp and the ability to weave vast, Machiavellian schemes, but the new-found omniscience drives them to insanity.
- Unknown Armies
- The Madness Meters have many varieties of ways to show how a multitude of stressful experiences, among them anything dealing with the supernatural, can either harden you into a sociopath or drive you insane.
The Unnatural Madness Meter is meant to represent the psychological strain of seeing something that doesn't conform to your worldview, not the inability to comprehend or accept what you've seen. One of the themes in the game is that magic and the supernatural may be weird and freaky, even to those that are clued in, but it is also part of the world and is not beyond understanding. Even Reality Warpers aren't an offense to that natural order of things, but the ones that dictate and sometimes change the natural order as needed. The Muggles also aren't as helpless as with most Masquerades and are in fact the ultimate source of magical power due to a symbolic variant of Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
- The Madness Meters have many varieties of ways to show how a multitude of stressful experiences, among them anything dealing with the supernatural, can either harden you into a sociopath or drive you insane.
- Victoriana demonologists have a spell that can expose the recipient to all the beauty of Entropy in two seconds. The recipient invariably goes mad (at least temporarily).
- Nobilis has a variant in Dementia Animus. If you are a mortal who succumbs to this as a result of witnessing miracles, you don't go mad; you go sane in such a way that you can see Mythic Reality, in which everything has a spirit and there's a guy holding up the sky. Of course, to everyone else who cannot see the spirit of your toaster, you appear totally bonkers and will usually come to a bad end. Fortunately, at least in third edition, you can receive succor, and forget what you have seen, by meeting Surolam, the dog-headed god of ordinary things.
- This is what Insight and Madness stunt dice represent in the Lovecraft Lite Fiasco playset Unausspreclichen Klutzen. When you get the Madness die, you go mad. When you get the Insight die, you go mad...but, you know, in a happy way.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Tobias Ragg goes insane upon finding out just what Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett have been getting up to in the evil basement (in particular what is actually in the pies he's been eating). By the time he gets out of the basement, his hair has gone completely white and he eventually slits the title character's throat with his own razor before proceeding to continue to turn the crank on the grinder. In the film version, the killing sequence is more of a calm Tranquil Fury than anything else.
- A Streetcar Named Desire: Stanley rapes Blanche in an attempt to invoke Rape Portrayed as Redemption, but Blanche, who's already a little nutty, has a total breakdown instead and falls into permanent insanity. It really is as heartbreaking and disturbing as it sounds.
- Hamlet: The eponymous character is sent awry by being told that his uncle had killed his father, by the ghost of his father. Hamlet himself believes he is merely pretending to be mad but it is made clear to the audience that he is no longer playing with a full deck.
"Hor." What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord... and there assume some other, horrible form which might deprive [you] of reason and draw you into madness?..."Ghost" I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, [etc., etc.]
- Not really. It's never made clear if Hamlet really is mad or just pretending to be for his own purposes. He becomes far more lucid when he's either alone or with only Horatio. In any case, people have been debating on the subject for several hundred years, and are still doing so today.
- Horatio warns Hamlet that the ghost might do this to him, and the ghost himself warns that just "telling" Hamlet about purgatory could do it:
Ophelia: Woe is me, to have seen what I´ve seen, see what I see...
- We also have the case of Ophelia, who certainly could be played this way. Consider her lines after her only on-stage confrontation with Hamlet:
- Oedipus Rex discovers that he's sleeping with his mother. He then cuts out his eyes.
- Brand: The trope may also be played out on Agnes, because she has a very clear revelation at the end of the fourth act, citing the biblical thesis that those that see God, dies from it. Agnes dies shortly after this.
- Call of Cthulhu: Shadow Of The Comet begins with the scientist Lord Boleskin going bat-shit insane after making a discovery in the Town with a Dark Secret, Illsmouth. As mentioned in the trope description though, this being a Lovecraftian tale it's all par for the course.
- In Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth Jack is subjected to a series of revelations driving him more and more insane, culminating in him committing suicide in a mental institute after discovering that his father was possessed by a Yithian when he was conceived, making him not quite human
- Maximillian Roivas from Eternal Darkness. He's committed after learning that his mansion is actually built over a monster infested city and murdering his servants due to his belief that they're all infected with Body Horrors. Most of them actually are. Since the game is directly based on Lovecraft's work, insanity due to revelations is a fairly major theme.
- Additionally, Alex's sanity meter is set to a lower point every time you finish a chapter. Most cases of lost Sanity are an inversion of the trope though, happening when you're discovered rather than from learning anything.
- Bloodborne includes this as both a story element and a game mechanic. You use madman's knowledge to prevent your mind from repressing the horrible truths of the world and figure out what murdered you for grabbing that tantalizingly dapper top hat.
- In Neopets, a Neopian called Eliv Thade was driven mad from a book of unsolvable riddles. He died, and now his ghost speaks only in anagrams. (You know, "Evil Death"?)
- Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. After finding out that he was born as part of an experiment to produce people with the power of an ancient civilization that was destroyed. That just emotionally unhinges him, though. What really sends him around the bend is that the ancestors of modern humans survived by hiding and letting them get eradicated. It probably didn't help either when he somehow learned that the "ancient" that was used to clone him was actually the alien who wiped them out, or that his own father was the one who performed the experiments on him before he was even born.
- The fates of his two closest friends in Crisis Core likely didn't help much either. After finding out about his genetic manipulation (and instability) one committed suicide by forcing Zack to slay him in combat. The other rebelled against the organization responsible for said genetic manipulation. Sephiroth was never told the entire truth - or anything at all, really - about the Jenova Project. By the time of the events in Nibelheim, Sephiroth's personality had already gotten a lot darker...
- The Old Gods' Black Speech in World of Warcraft can invoke madness on those who hear them for prolonged periods. Not just to story character, sometimes to the players as well that need a bit of Percussive Maintenance to snap them out.
- Unfortunately, this method does not work on Deathwing, formerly known as Neltharion, probably because he's been mad for 10,000 years thanks to the Old Gods, and a knock on the head won't cure that. Back then, he was already crazy enough to tear his body up so badly he needed armored plating bolted into his skin in order to survive.
- The Twilight Prophet, aka Archbishop Benedictus, leader of the Church of the Holy Light, apparently snapped and joined the Twilight's Hammer after reading a prophecy of the Old Gods' victory.
- Similarly to Benedictus, Cataclysm also gives us Fandral Staghelm. He was never exactly stable to begin with due to the death of his son and his cold war with Tyrande, but the revelation that Xavius has duped him into causing the bloodshed surrounding Teldrassil proved to be the final straw for his sanity, leading him to becoming The Dragon for Ragnaros.
Archbishop Benedictus: I looked into the eyes of the dragon... and despaired.
- Used as a game mechanic when fighting Yogg-Saron (an obvious expy for Lovecraft's Yog-Sothoth) - if you look directly at him for too long at a time while fighting, your "sanity meter" ticks down. Once you are at zero, you have Gone Mad From The Revelation and attack your teammates until they or you are dead.
- Sargeras the Burning Titan went mad when he discovered that the Void Lords could corrupt the unborn Titan world-souls within planets. His entire omnicidal campaign is an attempt to deprive the Void Lords of any possible foothold in the universe. Azeroth is a priority target because it holds the last world-soul within it.
- Prince LaCroix in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines should the PC take the Anarch or Lone Wolf paths: after spending the entire game hunting for the Ankaran Sarcophagus in the hope that there'd be a sleeping Antediluvian inside to steal ultimate power from, he finally opens it, only to find a large supply of C4 — with a timer set to detonate in ten seconds. Very slowly, LaCroix begins to chuckle, which rises to laughter, and finally to utterly hysterical cackling before the entire penthouse suite explodes.
- Albedo from Xenosaga. He was always a high-strung kid, but the cracks begin to show when he finds out that he is immortal, but his (formerly conjoined) twin brother, whom he depends on completely for emotional support is not.
- I'm practicing so that when they die, I won't cry.
- On the other hand, it's entirely possible that his worldview would make a hell of a lot of sense if we could grasp what it's like to be immortal.
- Another part is when he came into direct contact with U-DO. If Albedo didn't go nuts from the aforementioned, this sure as hell did.
- U-DO period. What happens when a a curious extra-dimensional god-thing is picking your brain for why your species is unknowingly trying to destroy the universe over and over again, and accidentally shows you what the end of all reality looks like ? This trope.
- In Neverwinter Nights, Aribeth has gone quite mad from the revelation that she never loved Fenthick, and on top of that that Tyr has abandoned her. You have the option of trying to bring her back (which proves the second 'truth' false), or pushing her further into despair if you feel like being a Jerkass.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir, you can find a mind flayer in the Underdark Black Market who read the mind of a seer who foresaw the murder of Mystra that heralded the transition to D&D 4E in the Forgotten Realms. The illithid's brain couldn't process it and he is now reduced to inane gibbering.
- Wallachia in Melty Blood went insane when he learned that nothing could avert the doom of mankind, only make it worse. To try and get around that he made a deal with a Dead Apostle to became a conceptual being for more time to find a solution. His insanity only got worse from there, eventually becoming a horrible raging unkillable monster. Crosses over with Despair Event Horizon, and it's alluded to that insanity is the eventual fate of all alchemists who try to calculate a future too far ahead.
- Interestingly enough, Dust of Osiris reached the same conclusion...but Wallachia thinks he's more justified in becoming a monster than she was because (in Wallachia's opinion) Wallachia actually tried to solve the human race's self-destructive tendencies first before concluding that it was impossible, and Dust of Osiris did not make the same effort.
- Much of the reason people watch Let's Plays of games like I Wanna Be the Guy is to watch the player go slowly insane. They often swear a lot too but as time goes on, they begin shouting increasingly random things. Here's a good example "Maybe it's about as funny as going to Texas to fish for Vampires."
- In Star Control II, if you explore the Ghost Planet of the extinct Androsynth, Science Officer Bukowski will find out the hard way that These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. It's very creepy for such a funny game.
- Fou-lu in Breath of Fire IV is a textbook example of what happens when this occurs to a literal God-Emperor. He is summoned, split in the process due to a botched summoning, wakes up 600 years later to find the very empire he founded is attempting to kill him, has said empire fire a literal Curse Nuke called the Carronade at him in an effort to destroy him, and finally discovers the ammo for aforementioned Carronade was his girlfriend who was herself tortured to insanity before being used as a Tactical Thermonuclear Peasant... because she was in love with him and the curse would go just that much deeper. To say he takes this last discovery poorly is quite an understatement.
- Part of the point and appeal of Interactive Fiction title Slouching Towards Bedlam. This means that typing "jump out of window" as your first command is a viable way to "win" the game. It Makes Sense in Context.
- In Anchorhead, an IF award winner which is one gigantic (but very good) Lovecraft pastiche, there are several opportunities to reveal and go mad, including: looking closely at William, reading too much of the Tome of Eldritch Lore. Plus the various people you'll meet who Went Mad from the Revelation before you even showed up.
- Also neatly subverted by Edward, who opens the story by murdering his wife and children for no apparent reason. It seems like he's fallen prey to this trope, but as it turns out, he had a very sane (if desperate) reason.
- Invoked in the venerable Chrono Trigger. The "Confuse" status effect causes the character to go Laughing Mad, so it's really not surprising that any monster related to the game's Big Bad, the planet parasite known as Lavos, can and will inflict this status with any of its attacks unless you've equipped items that prevent it.
- Subverted in the third season of Sam & Max: Freelance Police. Sam must travel through a dark dimension in search of a puzzle solution. He doesn't come back all there, but he gets over it in about half-a-minute.
- Also subverted when the pair meet face to face with actual Eldritch Abominations but don't really seem to react adversely. They're even on good terms with one.
- Assassin's Creed:
- In Assassin's Creed II, Altaïr notes in the Codex that many would-be Assassins could not accept the Badass Creed ("Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.") and were mentally broken for it.
- The reason why Sibrand cracked. The Reveal about the afterlife by the Piece of Eden turned Sibrand scared-shitless of death. His fears became even worse when Altair was after him. Everything that wore white and hoddy clothes would be immediatly killed by him, even if they were obviously just scholars and not assassins.
- It's up for debate which drove Subject 16 insane first - being kept in the Animus for unhealthy amounts of time, being forced to relive dozens of people's lives and not being able to keep their memories, or his own, straight, or discovering the truth behind almost every conspiracy out there.
- In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, the Genre Savvy Sage kills the Red Shirt pirates brought along on the journey to the Observatory because they would go mad if they saw what's inside; Edward, on the other hand, he believes is made of sterner stuff.
- In Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East, Archbishop Alaric goes in a total breakdown when fake Queen Isabel loses her disguise and turns into the demon Biara in front of him.
- Jump too high or go too far off course in SSX Tricky, and the music is replaced with an unhinged voice that whispers disquieting non-sequiturs ...
- According to the making-of book for Black & White, the true forms of both Good and Evil Gods cause this in the mortal beings of Eden. The player sees a hand (which becomes either godly or demonic depending on your actions), but everyone else simply sees a glowing symbol or a huge Creature doing your bidding.
- Meta-example: It's occasionally speculated that this is a likely side-effect of viewing the source code of Dwarf Fortress.
- In Knights of the Old Republic II, this is implied to be a side-effect of being in the Sith Lord Darth Nihilus' presence for any significant period of time. The entire crew of The Ravager are mindless zombies who are incapable of any form of individual thought or anything outside of their duties on board the ship. When you encounter Colonel Tobin, the Smug Snake who shot down your freighter earlier in the game, on board Nihilus' ship he is a gibbering lunatic who looks like this◊ and he begs you to end it all for him.
- Corpse Party has the characters stumble upon a smeared corpse. You find Sakutarou Morishige, who appeared normal up to that point blushing and gushing over it, taking pictures with his cell phone. Then it's revealed that the body belongs to Mayu Suzumoto, who was like a sister to him. To say he didn't take it well is an understatement.
- In Mass Effect, it has been suggested that this is the reason Manuel (the researcher's assistant on Eden Prime) is so unstable. He used the Prothean Beacon accidentally (or intentionally) before either Shepard or Saren, thus getting hit with the full effect of the Prothean's warning about the Reapers, which, according to Liara, would have "destroyed a lesser mind" than Shepard's.
- Readers of the eponymous Elder Scrolls whose knowledge doesn't go much further than what the Scrolls really are usually have their minds irreparably damaged from simply looking at one. Even those who've had training to actually read and understand a Scroll have odd personalities.
- A reader without comprehension is dazed or stunned by the twisting patterns. One who can comprehend but isn't mentally prepared is struck blind. Even those with training slowly lose their vision. Eventually all readers receive nothing from the scroll but a foretelling that if they read again, whatever they may learn, they will also go utterly blind. The monk either then resigns or prepares his mind to receive the mind-blasting knowledge of his final reading.
- Attacks by demons in the Diablo series are said to be enough to "leave one's mind in ruins," as evidenced by the Demon Hunter's sister from Diablo III and every PC except the Barbarian from Diablo II, though the latter takes a while to drive them completely bugnuts. Or not, as it's stated that Diablo II P Cs managed to keep their sanity..
- Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid, due to finding out his father hated him enough to possibly want to kill him, causing Mantis to destroy his village and, years later, going too deep into a mind of a serial killer, causing him to adopt said killer's personality. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain reveals that he was slowly being driven insane by his own powers since childhood, as Tretij Rebenok.
- The Lab Rats from Borderlands 2 have been experimented on by Hyperion, until their eyes mutated and they started seeing... something. Whatever it is, they can't stop seeing it, and it drives them all over the brink.
- Dr. Andonuts in The Halloween Hack, upon coming to the conclusion that the Chosen Four are trapped in the past. They were sent to another timeline.
- Albert Wesker of Resident Evil plays up a pretty cunning Big Bad for most of the series and pitting everyone against one another as needed but after he hears he was the only surviving Tykebomb of an experiment by Umbrella's founder, he loses all semblance of organized thought and becomes convinced that he's meant for godhood.
- Annette Birkin from Resident Evil 2 was a scientist who worked under the Umbrella corporation alongside her husband, William Birkin. She spent tons of time on research until Umbrella betrayed them both by stealing their latest creation, the G-Virus. William's resistance against Umbrella's mooks resulted in him being shot fatally and as a last act of desperate measure, he injected the virus into himself, causing him to mutate into a monster. Annette snapped as a result, which caused her to view almost everyone as spies of Umbrella and she defends her husband, despite the fact that he became a mutant.
- The retelling of the game through Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles retcons Annette to avoid the trope. While Annette is still distrusting of strangers, she doesn't view Claire as a threat, is gravely concerned for her daughter's well being, and she actually attempts to stop monster William herself, though she gets mortally wounded for her troubles.
- Police Chief Brian Irons was not exactly a nice guy, but seeing his city getting destroyed by the zombie outbreak and seeing Umbrella ditch him after all the bribes he had taken from them caused him to go insane; Irons deliberately hindered help to the police force by ordering all keys and weapons caches to be moved around in a bizarre order, hunted down the remaining surviving cops, and killed and raped the mayor's daughter while planning to stuff her body like a taxidermy trophy. When Irons meets Claire, he appears to be calm at first, but it isn't until he sees her again in his torture dungeon that he shows his true colors to her and planned to kill her as well.
- In Psychological Horror game Silent Hill 2, Unreliable Narrator protagonist James Sunderland is already slightly unhinged, but finally discovering the truth about his wife - namely, that he killed her - leaves him spiraling into even deeper depression and madness, until he makes one of several desperate decisions... Canonically, this revelation leads him to commit suicide.
- James is sort of an inversion of this trope. After killing Mary, he represses the memory and believes she's been gone for a long time - in essence, his madness is the reason he is able to act somewhat reasonably during the events of the game, and after accepting the reality, he's possibly driven to suicide.
- Shin Megami Tensei IV adds another layer of horror to this with the Black Samurai. She travels around the land, freely giving away books that eventually render all humans who read them mad, and the insanity eventually melts their minds, reducing them to demons. It wouldn't be so bad if it was only a Tome of Eldritch Lore. But, as it happens, it's just literature. The people of East Mikado have had their beliefs in social inequality so blasted into their minds, the revelation that things can be different is so alien and terrifying, they. Just. Can't. Handle. It. To keep piling the horror, the next game's DLC reveals it was the angels who introduced the Demonic Gene into Mikado citizenry, and set cultural development as one of the potential triggers.
- For a much darker variant, the White are unspeakably ancient spirits that strove to find a way to end the Forever War between Order Versus Chaos to free Humanity of both God and Lucifer. They found out not even a successful removal of God was enough to stop it, and snapped. They instead created a machine capable of creating a black hole across multiple realities to crush everything back into Nothing, but they could not activate it. So, they started affecting events so a certain champion would be eventually broken enough to join in the plan.
- The "Black Knowledge" in the Super Robot Wars Z series is the knowledge of a coming calamity that will destroy the universe. This is the reason why the Big Bad in the first game goes insane after learning about it, causing the dimensional collapse of multiple worlds and various wars resulting from it because he believes it will be really fun. In contrast, the Big Good (who's really the Alternate Universe counterpart of the previous Big Bad) in the two-part sequel refuses to pull this trope after learning of the Black Knowledge by ensuring humanity will be prepared to fight the calamity.
- Oswald Mandus of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs ended up seeing a vision of the 20th Century and the various atrocities committed in it. The thing that really makes him snap is the reveal that both of his sons would die horribly in the trenches of the Somme, which causes him to lose all faith in humanity and build a machine that would slaughter all of humanity like pigs.
- The Journeyman Project has, in the 2nd game, Agent 3, Michelle Visard. Her job was to do research with Time Travel on Earth's history. She would witness the horrors of World War II, including the atomic bomb and the Nazi death camps, which made her believe that humanity was naive if they thought they had escaped their warlike nature after only a few generations.
- Done very tragically in Undertale. Asriel, son to Toriel and Asgore, is mortally wounded by humans and dies in a bed of flowers when he returns home, spreading his remains all over them. After a flower with his ashes on it is injected with determination by Alphys, Asriel is reborn as a sentient flower called Flowey. Flowey couldn't feel anything nor could he feel any positive emotions (joy, happiness, etc) due to lacking a soul. Realizing that he could never love anyone ever again and would be alone for the rest of his life driven Flowey to madness. Even with the ability to LOAD and SAVE so that he could alter the timeline, Flowey still went insane since nothing about him could change and had adapted to the mentality "kill or be killed." When Flowey meets Frisk, he decides to manipulate them so that the child could get a bunch of souls in one place, making it easy for Flowey to absorb. Flowey's madness then boils down to "playing" with Frisk (which entails to killing them over and over) so that they would never leave him.
you can't understand how this feels. knowing that one day, without any warning... it's all going to be reset. ... to be blunt... it makes it kind of hard to give it my all.
- While much more subtle and different in execution, a nonetheless equally tragic example from the same game happened a long time ago to, of all characters, Sans the skeleton. At an unspecified point prior to the game's events, Sans' mysterious scientific exploits caused him to stumble onto the perpetual SAVE/LOAD loop that Flowey was causing. None of the characters in the game are able to remember when a LOAD or RESET occurs, and Sans is no exception, but from that point onward, he was fully aware that the world around him was constantly at risk of being brought back to square one at any given moment. This caused him to devolve from what is implied to be an adjusted and motivated scientist to an existentially-exhausted nihilist who can't be bothered to do much of anything that doesn't involve his beloved brother Papyrus in some way, and whether or not he gets any better (if he even can - Sans is not an easy person to read) depends entirely on what the player does once they inherit the ability to SAVE and LOAD from Flowey. What makes him an especially sad example of this trope is that, outwardly, he's an extremely friendly and laid-back guy with a lovably dumb sense of humor, and while his condition is foreshadowed often, it's never done in a way that would be obvious to any player except those who already know about it.
- Downplayed with Toriel. Right when you first meet her, she does all she can to protect you, guide you through the puzzles, and even has a room ready for you when you get home while also preparing your education. Trying to leave has her grow angry and she tests your determination and strength by fighting you. The reason she acts this way is due to six other children that had fallen down into the underground before the start of the game and each one tried to leave, only to die later on to Asgore's guards, Asgore himself, or just died in an accident. Toriel had to watch each child march off to their doom and she refuses to let the player character suffer the same fate because she also feels like she failed in protecting the children that died and doesn't want to see one more child die. How you end the fight determines how she feels about you and whether or not she can cast off the madness she had to suffer. If you spare her, she sees that you are strong enough without needing to fight and she lets you go. If you kill her, she uses her last breath to tell you to be good and to not let Asgore's plans come to fruition. If you had killed a lot of monsters before the battle with Toriel or you decide to get in a cheap shot when Toriel opens her heart to you, she bursts into an insane laughter over how cruel you are and that you would fit in with the rest of the monsters just fine.
- Alpyhs looks and acts like a socially awkward nerd that is desperate to have friends, but it isn't until you see her backstory that her current behavior is just tragic. Alpyhs was tasked with finding a way to inject determination into monsters without it killing them and her test subjects were several monsters that were on the brink of death. The end result was the monsters' bodies partially melting and fusing together, creating monstrosities that were barely aware or sentient. When the families of the test subjects demanded an answer on why they haven't heard back from their loved ones in the experiment, Alphys completely breaks down and is unable to tell the truth because she couldn't bear to see the reactions of the families whose lives she screwed up. She keeps the failed experiments in the basement of her laboratory and spends her nights at the garbage dump because she feels like she is garbage. One of the neutral endings implies that the grief she suffered from finally took its toll on her and she commits suicide.
- The Wraith, one of the killers in Dead By Daylight, undergoes one of these in his Start of Darkness. Namely, he finds out that his boss had been using him to unknowingly execute people they wanted dead with a trash compactor.
- The Patterson Equations in Evolve. Trying to unravel or understand them will gradually drive you to madness, but they work so people just leave them alone. This was actually intentional by their creator and discoverer, Lester Patterson. He achieved true understanding of the Cherenkov geometries used by the equations, which allowed him a glimpse into the monster's dimension and shattered his mind. In his final acts of sanity, he built his encroaching madness into the equations to prevent them from being understood or tampered with. This ensured that no one else ever furthered his knowledge and made things worse.
- In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt there are scholars who have tried to understand what Gaunter O'Dimm really is. In O'Dimm's own words, the ones who did are either dead or have gone entirely mad. The one living researcher that Geralt can find who knows the most about O'Dimm is unhinged and near-suicidal, having spent the last year hiding in a magic circle that's supposed to protect him from O'Dimm. The moment he falls out of the circle, he dies. Geralt can also ask O'Dimm what he is straight to his face, but Gaunter will not tell him, mostly because he still needs Geralt sane and useful.
- Most of the characters in the visual novel Saya no Uta are absolutely nuts by the time two of the three endings are over. Ryouko Tanbou, Fuminori's doctor, particularly suffers. After witnessing the reality of Dr. Ougai's experiments more than a year before the story, she's a classic case of paranoia who through her own intelligence has kept her paranoia carefully hidden in every day interactions.
- Bravest Warriors has Beth's Horse, who was rendered almost completely catatonic after discovering the meaning of the universe.
Horse: Paralyzed Horse's Log, July 3rd 3085... Every day, I hear and I see eternity. I am frozen in awe of my knowledge of forever...
- Played for Laughs in Project Voicebend, where Amon has the power to "mind-bend", giving minor characters awareness of their irrelevance. Bolin is also subjected to this and finds out his parents' deaths were nothing more than plot devices.
- John realizes what his father really is...
- And again when he finds out that Gushers are made by Betty Crocker. Subverted, though. THIS IS STUPID. Later Double Subverted when John turns out to be right in freaking out over Betty Crocker, as she actually is an evil alien tyrant.
- A more serious example occurs when after asking an omniscient cueball about whether the horrorterrors are good or evil, Rose goes grimdark. The scariest part is that we never get to see the answer ourselves. Again, it's shown to be subverted when she arrives on Skaia - she's still herself, (probably) sane and responds positively to meeting John, but she is far more aggressive and can only speak in incomprehensible Black Speech. After she dies and is revived on Derse, she returns to normal.
- The datasphere in 8-Bit Theater. Once Red Mage and Thief concluded that reading it would drive a normal man insane and an insane man normal, (or kill him,) they decided to try it on Black Mage. Once he was incapacitated, they called Fighter over...
- Who is fine. He even understood that the 612-dimensional sphere contained information concerning "every possible way to build any possible device to destroy every possible thing in all creation."
- While it did shut down his higher brain functions for some time, Black Mage snapped out of his condition pretty fast. For the record, Black Mage's face, currently hidden in the shadow of his hat, made Onion Kid go into a coma. He later said it felt like everything good was gone from the world...
- And lately, Red Mage got the idea of using the datasphere to learn how to destroy the monster currently inside himself, as it threatens to take over his body.
- Hilariously, the result was the death of the monster. And Red Mage was fine. If that makes sense, recall that Red Mage was the monster. Oh, and he might be catatonic.
- In Narbonic, this is how the Science-Related Memetic Disorder finally manifests itself.
- The Order of the Stick features "The mysterious Vaarsuvius, keeper of a thousand arcane secrets. And each one would drive you MAD! MAD!" V tends to boast.
- Captain SNES: The Game Masta: The entire series is about video game characters finding out their lives are simply video games, and their sorrows and such are for our amusement. They don't take it well. Except for Kefka, who, being a nihilist, feels he was vindicated
- We are all made of CORN!!!!!!!
- Checkerboard Nightmare had the minor character Shrodinger the Cat, who could see every possible reality simultaneously and was, naturally, driven insane by the information overload.
- In Sinfest, to a minor degree, this is why God does not show his face and uses the hand puppets. His showing a image of his face to two people caused a bit of a fight. Now imagine if He showed His face to a few more people...
- When Slick ate the Fruit of Knowledge and found out he was a cartoon character, he tried to kill himself by jumping off a cliff. That works out about as well as you'd think —except that the river was Lethe.
- Nodwick has a storyline about That Which Man Was Not Meant To Know, which has fallen into the hands of She Who Must Be Obeyed in the Lands That Know No Name. As it turns out, only men are not meant to know it. To women it's simply hysterically funny.
- Bloody Urban Has this happen to Murray after a visit from the IT Guy (who may or may not be Satan). It doesn't end well for him.
- Endtown: This is known as "Schism Syndrome." When a newer mutant who hasn't mentally adjusted to his new form is hit with an emotional shocknote , the mental stress can cause the mutant's mind to snap and become a danger to himself and others.
- Bogleech parodies H.P. Lovecraft's characters' habit of going insane at the sight of almost anything not native to New England.
Lovecraft: Ohmygosh!!! They're like some HORRIBLE... DIFFERENT THINGS!
- Invisible Games has this happen at least twice. In Killswitch a man acquires what may be the last surviving copy of the titular video game and promises to upload online videos of his playthrough. The only video he ever posts is of him staring at the camera and crying while the game runs on a screen in the background. Later, in The Pentintytär Arcade, after discovering the scene of a woman's suicide a young boy begins to play the set of unique video games she had constructed. The story that spans across the games haunts him for the rest of his life and drives him to relentlessly collect the games years after the set has been broken up and acquired by different collectors. He is last seen sitting naked among the game cabinets, crying and clutching a gun.
- In the Nat One Productions universe of The Last Stage, the characters have all become noticeably crazier over time. With the most obvious example of Agent PARKER, it seems most field agents are doomed to this fate. Assuming, of course, that they don't end up stomped to death by an Eldritch Abomination.
- That Guy with the Glasses:
- The Nostalgia Critic:
- The Batman & Robin episode of has the Critic going Ax-Crazy after he watches a scene where Batman pulls out a "bat-credit card", and another person had to come in and restrain him for several hours. He manages to compose himself twice, but is immediately set off again when he mentions the card.
- The Tom and Jerry movie review has him reiterating to the viewers the basics of a particular scene: "A cat and mouse are driving a ship trying to save the daughter of Indiana Jones while being chased by a purple people eater, a dog on a skateboard, a performing ship captain, his hand puppet Squawk, two Mexican wrestlers, and a doctor riding an ice cream cart. Ladies and gentlemen, WELCOME TO THE MIND FUCK." Cue footage of the chase scene interspersed with clips of the Nostalgia Critic going bananas while Flagpole Sitta plays in the background and a big red "MIND FUCK!" flashes on the screen.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie reviews, he tried to stay positive on the first and second movies, but still gives out negative responses. He tried to hope that the third movie, which even The Angry Video Game Nerd declares to be awful (he considered the first and second decent), will turn out good... then "5 minutes later"... we see him cuddling around in the bathroom, bawling incoherently, followed with much more Freak Out and inventing the word horrifuckus, after the revelation that the movie was really really... bad.
- In a scene similar to the Tom and Jerry incident, one of the last moments in the Jingle All the Way review has NC explaining that the movie simply doesn't care anymore after Arnold gets a jetpack and starts doing silly CGI stunts. He then says, "You know what they say... if you can't beat 'em... join them." Then comes the insanity, the flashing "WE DON'T CARE!", and "Playmate, Come Out and Play with Me" playing in the background.
- Atop the Fourth Wall:
- Linkara, the Critic's comic-reading counterpart, has a couple moments like these, which he once referred to as "Combine Harvester" moments, after the music that plays in the background. The first was when he read fanmail to Doom's IV that said that Rob Liefeld was a genius. The second one was when he discovers that Amazons Attack was technically a tie-in to Countdown.
- Linkara also had this in History of Power Rangers, in the Power Rangers Turbo episode when he saw the Rangers get baked into a giant pizza. He excuses himself, walks away, and then screams on top of his lungs before resuming the video.
- In the Power Rangers Megaforce episode of HoPR, Linkara, in the third case of him actually appearing on camera in HoPR (after his shocked reaction to Kendrix's death and banging his head against a wall after Dax lets Miratrix steal a scroll, then reusing that last clip to express his disdain for Alpha 6 not being voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz, Wendee Lee, or Caterina Lucciani) is his reaction to Robo Knight's Unexplained Recovery, going Laughing Mad, grabbing a gun, getting up from his chair, firing said gun until he empties the clip, and his laughing turns to outright screaming.
- The Nostalgia Chick:
- While hers are much milder than her Spear Counterpart's, she has had a few of her own; most recently in Freddy Got Fingered where she, her friend Nella and co-reviewer Oancitizen have a "going mad montage" involving screaming, sausage and mayonnaise.
- In the Lost Episode of Dune, when a navigator does its thing and she cries about just wanting to understand this ridiculously confusing movie.
- Brows Held High:
- When Allison Pregler can't work out the deeper meaning of MC Kung Fu's lyrics in City Dragon, she employs Kyle to work it out for her. After watching the film, Kyle starts spouting lines from the film out of context, gradually descending into madness.
Kyle: I can't speak the English language anymore! God help me!
- Kyle himself has had a few incidents of this in his own show. In particular, there was the "if you can't beat 'em..." segment at the end of the What is it? review, and the Psychic Nosebleed and subsequent Unstoppable Rage he had after keeping his cool through most of A Serbian Film.
- "Sean Connery is DOROTHY"!!!
- When Allison Pregler can't work out the deeper meaning of MC Kung Fu's lyrics in City Dragon, she employs Kyle to work it out for her. After watching the film, Kyle starts spouting lines from the film out of context, gradually descending into madness.
- The Nostalgia Critic:
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Episode of Bardock, though it took him a while, Bardock learned that Freeza's giant death ball attack blasted him into the past. He goes so mad from the stupid, asinine, shark-jumping bullshit, he turns Super Saiyan.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd:
- The Nerd himself gets one after hearing Zelda's Bond One-Liner in The Wand of Gamelon.
- In another James Rolfe-related video series called Shit Pickle, the monkey father from Munky Cheez 2 (yet another video series) goes mad after his kids keep saying "monkey cheese" over and over while watching the original, and those two words are all that the monkey dad can say from then on. Watch it here.
- During part 2 of Christmas 2013 episode, he finds a good Spiderman game. Then checks who made the game. It's LJN, which makes Nerd go crazy.
- Filthy Frank: A gem from the aptly named Lemon Guy: "Uh... I'm A LEMON!"
- Once of the consequences of reading a good book discussed here. If knowing the unknowable is crazy I don't want to be sane.
- In Shell, this is what happens to people when they look at the Eldritch Abomination.
- Tren Krom probing one's mind may cause this in BIONICLE, because the target gets to see his mind as well.
- Makuta Teridax wrote something called The Plan. Zaktan tried to read it, but it broke his mind completely. And Zaktan going insane from reading part of it might have been part of The Plan.
- Visions of The Presence from Nine Inch Nails' "Year Zero" ARG can cause anything from euphoria to madness.
- Happens from time to time in the Whateley Universe because it is so near Lovecraft Country. When a demon manifests a small part of itself in downtown Los Angeles, Phase is the only witness (for more than a second or so) who doesn't go insane, and he requires psychic intervention and psychiatric therapy to cope with it afterwards. The demon eats or kills the other witnesses.
- When the "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight fails to work on The Nostalgia Chick in To Boldly Flee, Todd in the Shadows resorts to this trope, showing her his face. Word of God is that his face reflects one's soul, and The Nostalgia Chick did not like what she saw. This is also why Obscurus Lupa was just dandy after looking at it.
- The SCP Foundation secures any number of artifacts that could easily qualify, ranging from memetic cognitohazards that will infest your mind just from knowing about them, locations with psychic and/or dimensional instabilities that can induce madness, outright Eldritch Abominations able to Mind Rape you simply from exposure, to [DATA EXPUNGED]. And those are just a handful of categories of items the Foundation has allowed to be catalogued without absolute redaction of all knowledge on the subject.
- This gem from his review of "Final Hallway XIII": "I thought I was playing the game Jon... But I've been using the wrong controller this whole time... The game's playing itself Jon! The game's playing itself Jon!!! THE GAME'S JUST PLAYING ITSELF JON!!!"
- He also didn't take the reveal of Conker being a useable asset in Project Spark very well if "CONKER IS TOTALLY BACK GUYS" is anything to go by...
- Josh Scorcher, a Top Ten List maker and a reviewer of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, upon witnessing Alicorn Twilight, went utterly apeshit in the same vein of The Nostalgia Critic over TMNT 3 with the music "Bãtutã Din Moldova" playing on the background... but then parodied it as he suddenly calms down, thinks a bit and says, "I'm OK with this."
- In one episode of The Lost Cat, the narrator learns of a sickly man who had his head transplanted to a new body. He believes he has become a monster and goes on a murderous rampage
- The DCAU has many villains that were driven to crime because of the horrible circumstances forced upon them (Clayface, Parasite, etc.) but only one character seems to snap purely because of the knowledge he has received: The Question. When he cracks the Project Cadmus secret files and learns of the overthrow of the government of a parallel world and the ever-increasing likelihood that our Superman will likewise kill the president and instigate a worldwide catastrophe he loses it, begins to mumble incoherently to himself, and eventually tries to kill Lex Luthor himself so that Superman will never have the chance. Things go downhill from there.
- The Simpsons:
- This is parodied in a Halloween Special based on Night Gallery, in which Bart promises that a story based on a particular painting was so terrifying that it would instantly drive people mad. "..but it was far too intense. So we just threw something together with vampires. Enjoy!"
Homer: They're dogs! And they're playing poker! AAAAAHHHH!!!
- The episode "The Blunder Years" has a magician make Homer return to his twelve year old self, only to have him go into a screaming fit throughout the night and a good chunk of the next day. It turns out it was a repressed memory of Homer finding the corpse of Smithers' father at the bottom of a quarry.
- This is basically what happens to the Frank Grimes character after spending a bit of time with Homer. Grimes snaps after seeing how a Fat Idiot like Homer can have a better job than him, get paid more, have a nice house, and have decent food while he had to endure the hardships of his parents abandoning him when he was young, making just enough money to get cheap food, and living in an apartment that is above a bowling alley and beneath another bowling alley. After he sees people praise Homer for something so mind numbingly simple, Grimes goes off the deep end before he accidentally kills himself via electrocution.
- This is parodied in a Halloween Special based on Night Gallery, in which Bart promises that a story based on a particular painting was so terrifying that it would instantly drive people mad. "..but it was far too intense. So we just threw something together with vampires. Enjoy!"
- On one episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the villain loses it when he realizes he's just been defeated by chipmunks.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold — In "Deep Cover for Batman!", Batman's only ally in this reversed dimension, Red Hood, is being questioned and tortured. We learn that he was disfigured by being thrown into a vat of chemicals by this universe's version of Batman. Sure enough, we see him look in a mirror, get a glimpse of green hair and bleached skin — and hear a truly maniacal laugh start to rise. Averted when he grabs a chair and smashes the mirror, presumably at the last minute he could retain his sanity. What made this so effective? Really, it's the voice actor — that laugh is as scary as anything Jeff Bennett ever unleashed.
- Turtles Forever — As The Shredder surveys The Multiverse, he discovers that each of its infinite worlds contains its own group of Turtles, a revelation that causes him to hatch a plan to destroy it all—even if it kills him in the process.
- The titular Ren from The Ren & Stimpy Show often went completely insane in various episodes leading to much horror. Two notable examples of this came at the end of "Svën Höek" where Ren completely lost it upon finding out what a mess Stimpy and Sven made in his house and the episode "Stimpy's Fan Club" at the end of which he contemplated strangling Stimpy in his sleep.
- This happens rather frequently with Ren:
- In "Hermit Ren," he gets so sick of Stimpy he leaves to join a hermit guild. They provide him with a cave and a boulder to lock him in forever. Completely alone. It doesn't take long for him to lose his mind. He gets kicked out for creating imaginary friends.
- His Recycled In SPACE counterpart goes insane in "Space Madness" when, confined to a spaceship on a long mission, he is deprived of all contact besides Cadet Stimpy. Interestingly Stimpy does absolutely nothing to instigate this as the only bit of mischief he causes in this episode occurs after Ren is long gone.
- Ren goes more than a little nuts at the end of "Farm Hands" when he thinks he and Stimpy are the last survivors after a devastating tornado. However, it turns out the farm's cow (a gorilla) also survive (and took a dump on them).
- Ren and Stimpy both slowly lose their sanity in "Big Flakes" while they're trapped in the cabin.
- In the episode of The Powerpuff Girls which deals with Mojo Jojo's origin, he is shocked to discover that prior to gaining his intelligence, he caused Professor Utoninum to hit the container of Chemical X that poured into his 'Perfect Little Girl Formula' resulting in the birth of the Powerpuff Girls. He is so shocked that he continuously mumbles "It was me?"
- Also to point out, since it was the blast the girls were born from that transformed Mojo and gave him his intellect, it can be pointed out that he also caused his own origin.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Jimmy finding that the horrible episode was All Just a Dream...until he realizes he just fainted and the situation is, indeed, as bad as it was. This happens several times until he's reduced to a blabbering mess.
- Averted in The Real Ghostbusters episode, "The Collect Call of Cathulhu."note The guys lay eyes on Cthulhu himself... and aren't driven to madness. Word of God reasoned that it's because the Ghostbusters encounter horrifying things on a regular basis.
- The Animaniacs short "Wally Llama" has the eponymous llama, who claimed to know the answer to every question, go crazy when he realises he doesn't know why it's 8 hot dogs to a pack but 10 hot dog buns. Admittedly, the seven minutes of harassment by the Warners prior to this probably didn't help his psychological state.
- Freakazoid!'s origin has Dexter Douglas beamed into cyberspace after typing in a very specific line of code and exposed to the entirety of the internet. One can only imagine what would happen if he were exposed to the internet of today.
- In the Evil Con Carne episode "Gridlocked and Loaded", Hector wants to steal all the gold from a boat but gets caught in traffic. When he finally makes it to the dock, he finds that somebody beat him to it. That somebody turns out to be the dorky intern he kicked out of the car moments before. This causes him and Boskov to literally go blind with rage.
Hector: That guy. That guy. THAT GUY I HATE!!!
Officer: Are you...all right, sir?
Hector: Yes, thank you. I have merely gone blind with rage. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to jump off the pier.
- In the Looney Tunes short "Cheese Chasers", the dog goes insane when he tries to process the facts that the mice want the cat to eat them because they are tired of cheese and the cat wants the dog to kill him because the mice' behavior put him off of eating mice forever. He screams "it just don't add up!" and chases after a dog catcher to turn himself into the pound.
- Played for laughs in the "Pluto Nash Day" skit from Robot Chicken, where a bunch of studio execs, upon learning that The Adventures of Pluto Nash was a Box Office Bomb, go crazy and start killing themselves and each other.
- Played for laughs in South Park. In "Tsst", a group of television nannies try to correct Cartman's bad behavior before realizing what he is and giving up. Supernanny is the last one to attempt it. Within three days she's confined to a psychiatric hospital where she spends most of her time eating her own excrement and sobbing uncontrollably while screaming "From Hell! It's from Hell!".
- Also almost happens to Cartman himself in the same episode. He considers for just a brief moment that maybe the world doesn't revolve around him. The mere thought almost breaks his mind.
- Gravity Falls:
- Fiddleford Hadron McGucket is revealed to have gone under this after working with the journals and repeatedly erasing his memory of any unusual events that occur in the town.
- It's further revealed in the episode "A Tale of Two Stans" that McGucket was college friends with the Author — who has since been revealed to be Stan's long lost twin brother, "Ford" - and agreed to help him build the universal portal. While doing a test run with a dummy, McGucket was accidentally pulled through the portal, but was pulled out by Ford. However, what McGucket witnessed while in the portal proved too much for him and he quit on the spot, only cryptically saying, "YROO XRKSVI GIRZMTOV [Bill Cipher Triangle]... When Gravity Falls and Earth become sky, fear the beast with just one eye." After that, McGucket became extremely paranoid, which propelled him to create the memory eraser, which only drove him further into madness.
- Inverted" in the King of the Hill'' episode "Dale to the Chief". Dale Gribble is a noted conspiracy freak, believing in everything from aliens to army experimentation. While reading the Warren Commmission report to Joseph, he ignored a crucial detail, and goes crazy when he concludes the Warren Commission was credible. The thought of the government being correct sends him into a daze. After encountering a genial police officer, he trades his paranoia with insufferable patriotism.