The ground begins to shake
. People start to panic, and someone inevitably shouts that it must be an earthquake. Which would be bad enough, except...
. It's actually being caused by an incoming fleet of Battle Mech
. Or a descending alien mothership
. Or the villain's Death Ray
rising out of the ground. Or a Sand Worm
. Or a catfish
. But most definitely not an earthquake.
In short, this trope covers any time a character explicitly wonders or exclaims that there is an earthquake, but in reality the shaking has a non-seismic cause.
Compare Bad Vibrations
, however this trope is only in effect if a character explicitly mistakes the vibrations for an earthquake. It can sometimes manifest as a case of It's Probably Nothing
, however characters will often still panic in response to it, just not quite enough
Note that this trope does NOT
apply if the tremors really are caused by an earthquake. The exception would be the Inversion
: A character mistakes the tremors as having an outside cause, but it's actually a normal earthquake.
Not to be mistaken for Quake
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Anime And Manga
- My Little Pony Micro Series: Twilight asks if an earthquake was scheduled for today. It turns out to be Pinkie Pie, who's just had 315 bottles of soda.
- In Independence Day when the alien ships arrive at Earth:
Is it an earthquake? Jasmine:
Not even a four-pointer, go back to sleep
- Inverted in LA Story's cafe scene, which has the ground begin to shake about halfway into the meal. Sara, just in from the UK, worriedly asks what's going on, and the others tell her it's just an earthquake.
- In Groundhog Day, the old ladies with the flat tire scream that it's an earthquake, when it's actually Phil jacking up their car.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:
Dori: Was that an earthquake?
Balin: That, my lad, was a dragon.
- The movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has what Ron mistakes for an earthquake actually turn out to be a remote-controlled lawn mower. As the kids are a quarter of an inch tall, this means things have gone From Bad to Worse.
- When the aliens attack in Skyline some of the character assume it's a minor earthquake.
- In 300, the approach of the Persian army makes the earth tremble, and [captain guy] thinks for a moment an earthquake is happening.
- Parodied in the Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis version of Freaky Friday (2003), where their senile grandfather mistakes his grandson shaking the table for an earthquake.
- In the Goosebumps books
- "Go Eat Worms!": Todd thinks there are earthquakes near the school, when it is actually a giant worm under the ground.
- "The Horror at Camp Jellyjam: The friequent earthquakes are actually King Jellyjam burping underground.
- In Septimus Heap: Queste, the loud shaking of the Toll-Man's hut that Jenna first thought was an earthquake turns out to be a pack of Foryx running past the hut.
- In the Soviet novel "Plutonia" a man climbs a small hill in order to take samples. Then he shouts down to his friends "A terrible earthquake!" They are confused at first, since they feel nothing... then it turns out that wasn't a hill, but rather a giant turtle.
- Referenced in The Last Unicorn: Schmendrick remarks that people who mistake a unicorn for a horse would also mistake the Midgard Serpent for an earthquake.
- When the ground shakes in a Cthulhu Mythos tale, you can bet it's either a Cthonian hive nearby or something worse.
Live Action TV
- Dungeons & Dragons module series "Desert of Desolation". While in the desert the PCs can experience an earthquake as a random encounter. In fact it's caused by the passage of a large number of Sand Worm type creatures called "thunderherders".
- Call of Cthulhu
- Fragments of Fear adventure "The Underground Menace". The inhabitants of Winnemuck, Michigan were terrified by a series of earthquakes. Little did they know that the earth tremors were actually caused by a ghoul priest trying to release a Cthulhu Mythos monster related to the Great Old One Shudde M'ell!
- Terror from the Stars adventure "The Temple of the Moon". The earthquakes at the archeological dig site are not natural: they're caused when the bottom of the pool inside the Temple slides back to reveal a long shaft downward.
- The Fungi from Yuggoth adventure "Mountains of the Moon". The earthquakes near the NWI facility in Peru are actually caused by the nearby mining activity of the Mi-go.
- In Girl Genius, when Agatha finally manages to reboot Castle Heterodyne, the invading forces think they're experiencing an earthquake until they discover that it's actually the castle fighting back, seen here.
- In the first episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) Splinter is giving the turtles a lecture when their sewer home begin to shake. Michealangelo wonder if it is an earthquake, but Donatello answers that since they are in New York it's possible but not likely. Then the cause become clear when the Mad Scientist Baxter Stockmans mouser robots breaks through the wall and attack Splinter and the turtles.
- On The Flintstones, Fred thinks there's an earthquake. Turns out it was Bamm-Bamm inexplicably destroying an addition to Fred's house.
- Adventures from the Book of Virtues: Bobcat Socrates mistaking Aristotle's digging for an earthquake twice.
- In "Courage":
Zach: (to Plato) Yeah, well, it sure found you scared!
(the ground beneath him rumbles and he jumps as the earth shoots up spiarling toward him)
Sock: AAAHHHHHH!! EARTHQUAAAAAKE!!
Ari: (Sock finally falls over, he emerges) What's going on?
Zach: (laughing with Plato) Sure, nothing scares you!
- In the second episode about moderation:
Sock: It's a miracle he gets in or out without starting an earthquake. (yelps in startlement as a crack shows up in the ground then Ari airs, dislodging several things with him)
Sock: See what I mean?
Plato: Not at the moment.
(Sock and Annie laugh at the handkerchief that landed on his face)
- BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui has Toa Vakama mistaking a rampaging herd of Kikanalo (big rhinoceros-like Rahi) for a "bio-quake."
- "I thought we were having an earthquake", but it was actually a car hitting the house.
- People visiting locations near stone quarries are prone to this when a blast takes place. The residents get used to it and know right away what it is. Of course, this could lead to this trope being inverted...
- A rule of thumb among geologists is that a magnitude-four earthquake feels like a truck backing into the building. A story was told (at a freshman orientation) about a geology convention. The participants felt something that resembled a truck backing into the building and all unanimously pronounced it a magnitude-four earthquake. After the meeting, when they went outside, they found that a truck had backed into the building.