Say you have this show who has been airing for a while. The show may take some liberties
with the rules of reality, but for the most part it takes place in the "real" world at the present day.
Then you spontanously get one episode that deals with the Paranormal. Maybe you get a Psychic who shows up and makes creepily accurate predictions, only to vanish and have the writers make you wonder if he was the real deal or a fraud? Maybe an opponent shows supernatural powers. Whatever it is, expect this to last the rest of the episode and never be mentioned again once the episode is over.
Almost inevitably, the viewer will be left to wonder
if it was Real After All
, or an elaborate scam played on the main characters. Expect the main cast to be divided on the issue, with some believing it is true
, while others insisting there must be a rational explanation
A variation can be a show with no scifi elements suddenly dealing with the appearance of aliens, time travel or interstellar travel.
Supertrope to Cryptid Episode
Anime And Manga
- Patlabor is, at its heart, a Slice of Life, Cop Show/Police Procedural, with Humongous Mecha. But, during the 27th episode of the TV series, the SVU2 encounter ghosts, while holding indoor training execrcises in an abandoned building. It turns out that the ghosts were the spirits of earthquake victims, who once lived there. Their spirits couldn't rest because of an undiscovered burial site, which contained the remains of slain samurai, directly beneath the building SVU2 was training in. The spirits were lain to rest, once it was discovered, and rites were performed on the site.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has no fantasy aspects at all, except for the 2nd Gig episode "Kusanagi's Labyrinth - AFFECTION". Major Kusunagi finds herself cut off from outside contact and seemingly alone in an empty city. She finds The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: a store that somehow has stored memories and cyberbodies from her own past. The owner who tells her a story very similar to what happened to her when she was a child. Subverted thoroughly - the shop is perfectly normal, and the cyborg bodies are those she and Kuze had as children.
- Even James Bond had a run of this in Live and Let Die where he faces off with a henchmen claimed to be Baron Samedi. He's seemingly killed, but shown alive at the end of the film, hinting he may have been the genuine article.
- Dogma is the only movie in The View Askewniverse to feature fallen angels, God, etc.
- Our Miss Brooks: "Music Box Revue" sees Miss Brooks purchase a magic music box that can only be heard by people in the proper Christmas spirit.
- Diagnosis: Murder: "The Bela Lugosi Blues" has a real female vampire as the murderess behind a string of killings. She's in cahoots with a mortal villain. He gets the money from her crimes. She gets the blood, and help getting a new ID papers (her last passport expired in 1938).
- Had an episode with a psychic helping the CSIs. He died before we could find out if he was a fraud, though all his predictions did come true.
- "Toe Tags", which had the stories told from the corpses' perspective, like they were ghosts.
- CSI NY Mac going into the Afterlife Antechamber in Near Death and seeing his late wife.
- NUMB3RS also had an episode with a psychic helping the FBI, much to Charlie's annoyance, who got rather jealous of the psychic's performance.
- Magnum, P.I.:
- The episode "Rapture". Magnum sees the ghost of a young boy, leading him to investigate the boy's death.
- Another had Thomas in an extended Near-Death Experience after he got shot and seriously wounded. This almost was the Series Finale until the series got renewed at the last minute.
- Friends had an episode where Phoebe says she has been possessed by the ghost of an old woman, who will only leave her body after she has seen "everything". The ghost apparently leaves her body after Phoebe goes to Carol and Susan's lesbian wedding.
- In an episode of Night Court Harry used his magic hobby to convince another character that he was exorcising some evil spirits, at one point using a book gimmicked to shoot flames when you open it. After it's all over, Art (the janitor) comes in saying "sorry I'm late" and gives Harry the prop burning book. So...what was up with that other book?
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody had a "ghost" episode involving a supposedly haunted room. Zack ends up trapped in the room after his friends are all "taken" by the ghost. He backs up against a picture of a woman, which suddenly comes to life. Of course, it's a trick, pulled off with some Rube Goldberg-like gadgets. Curiously, no one mentions the picture when explaining how they did it all. At the conclusion of the episode, a woman who looks just like the one in the picture speaks to Zack...then walks back into the frame and disappears.
- Bones had one, The Gravedigger trapped Booth in an old submarine and he saw his late friend, Parker. Booth was later revealed to have been suffering brain-tumor caused hallucinations during that time, but Brennan seemed to see him too at one point.
- In one of the strangest examples of all time, Body of Proof introduced us to one of those stridently religious families that only exist in screenwriters' imaginations. Two of the girls evidently were demon possessed. One died of self-inflicted wounds while another began experiencing the same symptoms, including the use of similar special effects as those used in demon-possession movies, like impossible, inhuman facial and neck movements. Each one was given a BS "scientific" explanation, except one. In one scene, while in the throes of "possession", the second girl, who has never met medical examiner Megan Hunt and is significantly younger than she, looks at her and says something her father used to say when Hunt was a child. Near the end of the episode, after supposedly being cured, the same girl says another of Hunt's father's phrases in a deeper voice.
- Castle dives into this from time to time. One episode had them investigate the death of a ghost hunter in a supposed haunted house. Another episode presented the possibility of aliens, including what might have been an abduction. Castle is the Mulder while Beckett is the Scully, and usually all of the elements are explained by the end. However, one element will be left hanging with the hint that it just might have been Real After All.
- Another episode featured a guy claiming to be a time traveler who was heavily implied to be real. Yet another one had Castle go to an Alternate Universe where he never met Beckett.
- An episode of Rookie Blue had a man claiming to be a psychic help the cops find a kidnapped witness. In the end the cops conclude that it was just a clever scheme to provide them with evidence against a mob boss. Since the cops are not gonna call the 'psychic' as a witness in court, the mob boss will not find out where the evidence really came from. However, the man made quite a few predictions that come true including one that is fulfilled a couple episodes later in a very unexpected and tragic way. A wedding is called off not because the bride has cold feet but because the groom is killed.
- Quantum Leap episode "The Boogieman". The episode apparently has Sam going up against the Devil himself. However, it might have been All Just a Dream.
- In "Ghost Ship", Harm and Mac are saved from a fire by a real ghost.
- "Psychic Warrior" deals with psychic phenomena.
- The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Man-Eating House". Jim and Artie must deal with a haunted house. Again, the end makes it possible that it was All Just a Dream... or was it?
- Green Acres:
- The episode "The Ballad Of Molly Turgiss" dealt with Oliver trying to get the denizens of Hooterville to tell him about the legend of the eponymous ghost woman. Every time Molly's name was mentioned, strange things happened, such as things getting thrown through the air, pickle barrels falling apart, Mr. Haney's truck starting up on its own, etc. In the end, Molly promises not to do those things anymore after Lisa had a talk with her and made her beautiful, though she does manage to break the promise for a few seconds by smashing Oliver's guitar over his head, because she did not like the song that he wrote about her.
- Another episode "The Saucer Season" involved Eb apparently having interacted with some aliens, which led to him becoming a celebrity about it, much to Oliver's chagrin. However, when an airforce lieutenant tried interviewing Eb about his encounter, Eb's attempts to tell the lieutenant about what he saw are censored by having him say "Bleep" repeatedly, to keep the facts in the dark.
- Of all shows, The Waltons had an episode about one of the kids being haunted by a poltergeist. It was the seventies, after all.
- Mad About You had an incident like this where the place the couple met, had burned down. As the episode goes on, the pair start to forget about each other for an unexplained reason.
- Mork & Mindy was pretty wild to begin with, but there was the episode where Mork declares Mindy's death mother's house is haunted. Near the middle of the episode, it begins to look like it's just their burnt-out hippie friend Exedor, hiding in the house and making weird noises. After Mork and Mindy sigh with relief...the house comes to life and horrible voices scream at them.
- On Perfect Strangers there was an episode where Larry and Balki discover a ghost in their new house. There was also an episode where Balki turned out to be an alien, but in that case it was All Just a Dream.
- Inverted in The X-Files episode "Irresistible". In a show where every other episode revolves around paranormal weirdness, this is the gritty realistic one with zero fantastic elements—and one of the creepiest episodes overall.
- On Murdoch Mysteries these come up from time to time:
- In "Elementary, My Dear Murdoch", Arthur Conan Doyle is in Toronto to give a talk on spiritualism and invites Murdoch to meet a psychic Doyle finds compelling. Some of the psychic's information has a mundane explanation, but Murdoch is troubled to think she knows intimate personal details about his dead fiancée.
- The psychic returns in "Bad Medicine" and goes undercover at a hospital-cum-institute that studies people with unusual brain conditions. There's another seance to attempt contact with a young woman patient who died some years previously, and the psychic is troubled by a vision of Murdoch's impending death.
- "The Curse of Beaton Manor" revolves around a wealthy family with a history of early deaths. Some of the servants report hearing ghostly sounds and seeing an apparition of a deceased illegitimate half-brother.
- In "The Ghost of Queen's Park", a local politician falls to his death at the provincial parliament building, and the night watchman swears a ghost is responsible. Other workers in the building also report seeing a ghost, and Crabtree is keen to follow the ghostly line of inquiry.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids had a number of them. This was around the same time that shows centering on the supernatural were popular, so it's likely that Executive Meddling was involved.
- Even The Guiding Light had one of these, with a character getting superpowers from a freak accident involving Halloween decorations.
- Zoey 101 has the episode 'The Curse of PCA' in which Zoey and her friends end up disturbing the spirit of a former PCA student due to Logan stealing a necklace that used to belong to said student. It should be noted that there's no Scooby-Doo Hoax for this example, noteworthy considering the show is set firmly in reality.
- Arthur: Francine & Muffy plan to scare Arthur, Buster, Binky and the Brain at a "Scare-Your-Pants-Off" themed party. Arthur et al. plan to do the same to Francine & Muffy. But both groups get scared by what is apparently a real ghost.
- The alien invasion variation is apparently the plot point of the Mr. Bogus episode "The Bogus Invasion".
- The My Little Pony Tales episode "Up, Up, and Away", notable for being the only episode featuring unicorn ponies - who were otherwise absent from the show as this iteration had removed most fantastic elements.
- The Flintstones had a handful of such episodes, such as the time they traveled to the present day on the world's first Time Machine, or when aliens cloned Fred as part of an invasion plot. Then in the sixth season they introduced the Great Gazoo, and every episode became this.
- This happens a few times in The Boondocks:
- "Stinkmeaner Strikes Back" featured the ghost of Colonel Stinkmeaner rising out of Hell, and then possessing Tom Dubois.
- "I Dream of Siri" is about the Siri app on Robert's iPhone going rogue.
- "Stinkmeaner: Begun the Clone War Has" involves the clone of Stinkmeaner harassing Robert Freeman.
- Hey Arnold! had several of these, often ending with the ghost legend turning out to be Real After All.
- Even ignoring the Treehouse Of Horror episodes, The Simpsons had some episodes about them traveling to the future. Many other episodes feature supernatural stuff, but usually only quickly as a joke. Lampshaded in "The Man Who Came To Be Dinner", a regular episode featuring Kang and Kodos. Upon seeing them, Homer protests by saying, "Hey! It's not Halloween!".
- Daria, despite mostly being a satirical take on the 90s, had a Bizarro Episode where the title character met "holiday spirits" who came to town through an interdimensional wormhole. Bonus points go to "A Tree Grows in Lawndale" and "Legends of the Mall," both of which have an ending shot hinting at supernatural occurrences.
- Dexter's Laboratory, while not grounded in actual science or realism by any stretch, had one episode dedicated to the unhappy ghost of a deceased goldfish exacting revenge on his former owners. The episode becomes a Ghostbusters parody as the characters combat the ghost's efforts to abduct their souls into the great beyond. This is the sole instance of ghosts, souls, or the afterlife being addressed in the show, though supernatural elements such as kaiju and other modern fantasy elements are common.
- PAW Patrol: Aside from the main characters being talking dogs most of the show is pretty mundane: a rescue team solving problems in a small seaside town. If the show wants to deal with a more fantastical plot they tend to take the All Just a Dream approach but the episode "Pups Save A Mer-Pup" involved mermaid/dog hybrids.