"On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!..."A character has been called to a small town to investigate some supernatural phenomenon. Our intrepid hero subscribes more to logic than superstition, though, and he is confident that the disturbance will prove to have mundane origins. The locals tell him tales of this horrible monster, and he laughs them off as the products of an overactive imagination. With this knowledge under his belt, he bravely sets out to catch the miscreant. This ends when he actually SEES the monster — and finds that it is just as advertized, and worse. He sees the eerie, glowing intelligence in its eyes, smells the rotten meat on its breath, gets smacked around a bit, but survives, running back to safety to hide under the bed and refusing to come out because it's real it's real OH MY GOD IT'S REAL... even though that's what everyone's been telling him up till now. Inspired by the protagonist of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and in particular Ichabod Crane's portrayal in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, this state is what results when mundane presuppositions come crashing against the supernatural reality, and the character in question just can't handle it. Differs from Heroic BSOD in that this is not necessarily a result of emotional trauma. Related: Going Native, Apocalyptic Log, Supernatural-Proof Father
— The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
open/close all folders
- Sleepy Hollow, natch. Not so much in the original legend, since in that version 1. Ichabod believes the story, and 2. it was (probably) a hoax.
- The Blair Witch Project: The three leads are pursuing what they initially think to be just a local legend that happens to make a really neat ghost story, but as the Worst Camping Trip Ever progresses, they come to realize that a) the Blair Witch is in the woods with them, and b) she intends them to never leave. This causes breakdowns both mental and relationship-wise once their intended fate becomes clear.
- In The Mothman Prophecies, John Klein, a journalist, investigates a mothlike creature roaming in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. The usual glowing eyes, mauled livestock, scratched tree bark reported from townsfolk and cops...So those phone calls and dreamlike predictions coming from this so called Mothman? They're real. I know what's in that drawer. Chapstick.
- The Brothers Grimm. Since the brothers are skilled at faking monster attacks for their protection racket, naturally they think the events on this small town are caused by another hoaxster like themselves.
- In My Name Is Bruce, Bruce Campbell follows this trope to the letter. His frenzied flight includes shooting at the men who came to help him slay the beast, stealing a bike from a little kid,and carjacking an old lady before he finally makes his cowardly escape from the town.
- Grave Encounters features the crew of a Ghost Hunters-style reality show, who are filming overnight in a mental hospital but express skepticism that any of the ghost stories about it are true. Of course, once they are in lockdown, shit gets real...
- In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence is initially skeptical to being a werewolf and towards werewolves in general, until, you know, he actually become one. Played a little more straight with Aberline, upon realizing he's been bitten.
- The Stephen King short story and subsequent movie 1408 has several of these - moreso the movie, because there the protagonist has just about given up on the idea of genuine hauntings.
- Just about every HP Lovecraft story.
- Interestingly played with in Pyramids; the people of Djellibeybi believe deeply that the sun is pushed by a scarab beetle, the stars are painted on the body of the Goddess of the Night and so on. But you're not supposed to be able to actually see them, and when they do, the idea that all the things they've sincerely believed are actually true freaks them out.
Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more.
- Horatio, faced with the ghost of old Hamlet.