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Anime & Manga
- In the Inuyasha episode "Battle Against the Dried-Up Demons at the Cultural Festival", Kagome wonders if the ground shaking is an earthquake, but it's actually a demon catfish flopping around on top of the school. (Note that in Japanese Mythology, a giant catfish is the cause of earthquakes.)
- Dragon Ball Z:
- During the Namek Saga, Bulma tries to rationalize the ruckus being created by Vegeta and Frieza as "only an earthquake."
- In the Saiyaman Saga, Gohan tries to get out of class to go superhero-ing, but his teachers have caught on to his habit of "going to the toilet" and then not returning, so they make him stay. In irritation, he begins tapping his foot... which causes enough shaking that the class panics and hides under their desks due to the "earthquake". Smiling, Gohan leaves in the confusion.
- It is announced that the preliminary round of the Dark Tournament in YuYu Hakusho will take place on the ferry to the island. When the ship's deck opens to reveal the fighting ring:
Kuwabara: Aaaah! Earthquake!
Hiei: Fool, there can't be earthquakes on the water!
- In Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-, when Sakura triggers the trap in Clow's ruins, the characters think an earthquake has begun. Yukito, the high priest, knows better.
- 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 the comic Marvel Premiere #28 Los Angeles is disrupted by what people think is an earthquake that causes the pavement to split, buildings to fall down and freeways to topple. When it's subsided it turns out it was caused by an alien making a mountain erupt at Sunset Boulevard.
Films — Animation
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree: While Rarity is on the climbing wall, a tremor shakes the earth and everybody wonder if it's a quake. It is later revealed it was in fact Gloriosa Daisy using the magic of the crystal to demolish a natural dam and free a torrent for fishing, the resulting avalanche of boulders causing the tremor.
Films — Live-Action
- 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, where their senile grandfather mistakes his grandson shaking the table for 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.
- At the beginning of Howard the Duck, Howard's room shakes violently before he's whisked away out of his dimension. As it happens, Howard shouts "Oh no, it's a quake"!.
- In Independence Day when the alien ships arrive at Earth:
Steven: Is it an earthquake?
Jasmine: Not even a four-pointer, go back to sleep.
- Inverted in L.A. 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.
- When the aliens attack in Skyline some of the character assume it's a minor earthquake.
- When the ground shakes in a Cthulhu Mythos tale, you can bet it's either a Cthonian hive nearby or something worse.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In "Battlefield", Warmsly and Shou Yuing both ask if the time/space distortion caused by Morgaine's arrival is an earthquake.
- In both "Smith and Jones" and "The Stolen Earth", Martha Jones wonders if shaking caused by a mass teleportation (the Royal Hope Hospital in the former, the entire Earth in the latter) is an earthquake.
- In "The Angels Take Manhattan", Grayle wonders "Is it an earthquake?", but it's actually the TARDIS breaking through a temporal barrier to land in his foyer.
- Dragnet had one. Friday and Gannon stay in a hotel posing as orange growers to infiltrate a high-stakes gambling game and the room is right next to the elevator shaft. Friday mistakes the rumbling and shaking for an earthquake the first time it happens.
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
- Will gets a car with a sound system loud enough to shake the Banks' kitchen.
Phillip: Oh lord, this must be the big one.
Geoffrey: Not unless it's down with OPP.
- In another episode, Phil is playing with baby Nicky and starts dancing with a rattle, pretending it's a maraca. Will runs down the stairs screaming "EARTHQUAAAAAAAAAAKE!" and Phil is not amused.
- Will gets a car with a sound system loud enough to shake the Banks' kitchen.
- On Married... with Children Peggy's unseen mother is so fat...(how fat is she?)...She's so fat that the earth quakes when she walks, making others think an earthquake is happening.
- 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.
- Earlier when one of the Baron's Deep 6 Model Worm Chasers is tunneling its way into the courtyard at the hospital two Wulfenbach officers briefly mistake if for an earthquake.
- 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!
Sock: [comes up while Zach and Plato are laughing] Did somebody say scared? I don't know the meaning of the word. Nothing, I repeat, nothing scares me.
[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]
- In "Courage":
- 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.