Scarecrow Solution

When the heroes cannot directly challenge the villain or his mooks they disguise themselves as monsters or build something that's basically a tank with a threatening exterior. Usually relies on intimidation more than any actual weapons. When villains resort to this tactic, it's a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.

Compare and contrast Monster Facade, which is a similarly terrifying act put on by a Gentle Giant or a Reluctant Monster, who would have the strength to actually harm their opponent but prefers not to.


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     Comic Books  

  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck from Don Rosa - the first chapter when Scrooge scares the Whiskerville away by making a fake ghost. They were so scared that, years later, all the Whiskervilles have white hair (their first appearance showed them black and brown haired, so it wasn't a family trait before that).
    • A repeatedly used plot element in lesser Donald Duck comics - a variant involves making some idol worshiped by primitive people appear to speak and tell them to stop roasting the heroes or whatever.
  • One Sam & Max story ("Monkeys Violating the Heavenly Temple") has Max about to be used as a sacrifice for a volcano cult. Sam tries this trope, covering himself in mud to ape the volcano god the cult worships. Not only are the cultists not fooled, they beat the stuffing out of Sam.
  • Fables uses a psychological Anti-Hero version when a reporter discovers the Fables' (fairytale characters who are actually real) society, though with the belief that they're vampires. Ultimately they kidnap him and trick him into believing they are indeed vampires who have tasted his blood and will control him into committing suicide along with publishing pictures painting him as a child molester (staged with the help of a 300-year-old Pinnochio) should he ever release his discovery. The reporter gets scared out of his mind and complies, but is ultimately killed a few days later by one of the more evil fables acting on his own.
  • One of the few books Red Sonja ever experienced in-universe was The Tales of Gravaha the Clever, where the heroine dresses a field of cornstalks as an army to intimidate a foe with terrible eyesight.


  • An American Tail, the Giant Mouse of Minsk.
  • The Land Before Time, the original, four of the dinosaur children cover themselves in tar and pile on top of each other to save Cera from a group of aggressive Pachycephalosaurus.
  • A Bug's Life, the fake bird. The solution part is subverted because the villains see the trick, but it is for the better because the ants finally find the courage to rebel against the grasshoppers and send them packing for good as a more permanent solution. Also the scarecrow was still vital to this turn of events, because it helped them consider the possibility in the first place, that the grasshoppers are not unbeatable. And then it's subverted again when Hopper comes face-to-face with what looks like another fake bird, only to discover that it's quite real—and hungry.

     Film—Live Action  

  • "The Dread Pirate Roberts" rig — a holocaust cloak that is set on fire — that Fezzik wore in The Princess Bride.
  • In Star Wars, Obi-Wan first appears by scaring away some Sand People who were about to kill Luke. He does this by dressing up in his old Jedi robes and making some weird-sounding monster noises, causing them to flee in terror. According to the associated materials, the sound he's making is that of the Krayt Dragon.


  • Kehaar in Watership Down, albeit only halfway intentionally - great coincidental timing on his, Bigwig's, and the weather's part make it appear to the Efrafans that the bird was summoned out of lightning by Bigwig.
  • The original short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a very early example of this one, especially if you subscribe to the interpretation that Ichabod Crane is a meddling jerk rather than a protagonist.
  • Another early example features in Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, when the protagonist dresses up as a dead sailor's ghost to scare mutineers into abandoning ship.
  • Doctor Syn ("The Scarecrow") is a vicar with a Secret Identity. Dressing as a scarecrow definitely has the secondary benefit of being a bit scary.
  • Galaxy of Fear has a book where a Jedi ghost repeatedly terrifies Tash to try and spook her away from a threat, because until near the book's end she is only vaguely aware of him and can't understand what he says. He can't actually do anything to her, but it seems like it for a while.
  • The Little Golden Book The Lively Little Rabbit has the rabbits and an owl build a long dragon costume out of tree bark and leaves, with all of the rabbits underneath it and the owl's wings protruding. It's a surprisingly awesome-looking dragon. It succeeds in scaring away the mean old fox.
  • The Cordwainer Smith story "Golden the Ship Was— Oh! Oh! Oh!".
  • In "Imprint of Chaos", the first story in The Traveller in Black by John Brunner, the protagonists build a giant scarecrow-puppet-thing to scare off a god. (It wasn't a very smart god.)
  • In one of the Babar books, Babar defeats the rhinoceros army by disguising the elephants as monsters, painting giant eyes on their backsides and putting bushy wigs on their backs.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In an episode of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, a pair of kids use a Bedsheet Ghost to scare away a claim jumper.
  • When Bo and Luke were mistakenly declared to have drowned on The Dukes of Hazzard they faked a haunting by coating the General Lee with glow-in-the-dark paint and having Cooter rig it to run by remote control, using it to intimidate Boss Hogg to prevent him from blaming them for a theft. Subverted in that Boss Hogg isn't fooled for more than a few moments, and immediately suspects Cooter's involvement.
  • Serenity herself was used in such a fashion in a Firefly teaser.
    Wash: Every man go back inside, or we will blow a new crater in this little moon.
    Jayne (later): Damn yokels, can't even tell a transport ship ain't got no guns on it.
  • On McHale's Navy, the crew of the PT-73 fake their deaths and come back dressed as ghosts to scare Binghamton into tearing up the orders that were going to get them all transferred.
  • Used occasionally by the IMF in Mission: Impossible. "Banshee" features perhaps the fullest embodiment of the trope as the plan hinges entirely on convincing the villain that he is being stalked by the souls of those he has killed.
  • In the The Adventures of Superman episode "Great Caesar's Ghost!", Perry White starts seeing Caesar's ghost. This turns out to be a trick by a gang of crooks to ruin his credibility as a witness in an upcoming trial. Superman turns the trick around on the gangsters, disguising himself as another criminal who had been killed by the gang, causing them to give up in terror when their bullets apparently just go right through the "ghost".
  • In Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Died" part one of the plan to defeat the Mire involves altering what they see through their video interface, so that a ship's figurehead becomes a terrifying sea serpent and so on. Part two involves taking a video of their proud warrior race cowering in fear from obvious puppets, and threatening to effectively upload it to Space Youtube to ruin their reputation.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Night of the Tarantula", Jessica fakes a murder victim rising as a zombie in order to spook to killer into revealing that he knew the location of a secret passage: something only the killer could have known.

     Newspaper Comics  


     Western Animation  

  • In Scooby-Doo, though it's often the villain who does this to scare away the Damsel in Distress from a Real Estate claim, etc., the heroes often use this technique as well.
  • The Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Painted Lady". After the Gaang accidentally makes things worse, they decide to use this solution to correct their mistake and scare a corrupt Fire Nation army out of the small village they were persecuting: Toph, Sokka and Appa create fog and an overall ominous and creepy atmosphere, while Katara dresses up as the Painted Lady herself, with help from Aang regarding her powers.
  • The Venture Bros. episode "Escape To The House of Mummies Part II". Dr. Venture, sitting on Brock's shoulders and dressed in a green blanket waves a flashlight at cultists to save Hank and Dean. It doesn't work:
    "That's just a flashlight. Kill them!"
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: had in a Glo Friends segment, a plan of the heroes, orchestrated by the long-suffering henchcrow Rook, to get back at their enemies the Moligans, by making them think that there was a giant Glo monster who would get them, if they kept threatening them and they had to serve them a whike.

     Real Life  

  • Operation Fortitude, used by the Allies to conceal their true intentions of where they were invading France in World War II, included the use of dummy inflatable "tanks" that deceived German intelligence into thinking the Allies had a couple of extra armored divisions in reserve.
  • The American Civil War included the ''Quaker Guns", dummy cannons that were really just painted logs, employed by both sides occasionally and used successfully by the Confederacy a few times.