Scary Shadow Fakeout
When normal objects are arranged in a manner that resembles a monster. A character (usually a child) has heard a Ghost Story and is frightened that the monster described in said story will come for them. Later (always at night), during a thunderstorm, that character will see what is undoubtedly the shadow of the monster!... only it turns out to be several normal objects arranged so that it vaguely resembles the monster. How they got that way, we'll never know. This often pops up in kids' shows, and usually involves tree branches with no leaves (even if it's in a setting where It's Always Spring). Truth in Television to some extent. Impossible Shadow Puppets are often involved. See also Big Shadow, Little Creature. Contrast Shadow Discretion Shot. Compare Coincidental Accidental Disguise. May be used for a Pseudo Crisis Cliffhanger.
- Featured several times in Gaston Lagaffe, when the eponymous character's car, instrument or other materials create a frightening illusion in a low visibility area.
- In Attack Of The Teacher Creature, Hobbes mistakes Calvin's hair behind a boiler to be the Teacher Creature.
- In children's book Bedtime for Frances, Frances thinks her rumpled robe or coat on an armchair is a rubbery-mouthed monster.
- Curious George in the Dark: George becomes scared of the dark until The Man with the Yellow Hat tells him that the monsters are just the same objects as they are in the light and gives him a nightlight.
- In this Get Fuzzy strip, Bucky Kat, having been warned by a horoscope to "Beware of the Grim Reaper", ends up frightened by Rob in a loose-fitting jacket holding a football flag.
- Invoked in The Longest Journey: you must assemble a pile of things to make a shadow that resembles one of a man pointing a gun, so that a guy sees it and gets scared.
- Pokémon Snap has a shadow of a Pinsir that is formed by assorted junk in the power plant level that is visible if the Zapdos egg is hatched.
- In the Tanker level of Metal Gear Solid 2, Snake sees the silhouette of Vulcan Raven (who died in the last game), only for it to be caused by a model robot and some other junk someone left in front of a flashlight.
- Subverted AND played straight in the Jimmy Two-Shoes episode "Jimmy, Dont Be A Hero", when Lucius thinks he sees Jimmy in his room at night, it turns out to be a coat rack, but later in the episode, the same thing happens, and this time it really IS Jimmy, creepily watching Lucius while he sleeps.
- Subverted in one of the Randy Beaman stories on Animaniacs:
"One time Randy Beaman was alone in his bed, and he was in the dark, and he saw some shadows and thought it was Dracula, but his mom said it was the coat hanging on the rack, and he turned on the light and it really was Dracula."
- In The Magic School Bus "Gets Lost In Space", Ralphie and Keesha see the shadow of an alien advancing through a cloud of dust towards them. It turns out to be Arnold, in a spacesuit, carrying a load of stuff for Janet.
- In the animated movie Brave, Merida's little brothers use a plucked chicken to make a shadow which looks like a bear to help lead the adults on a wild goose chase looking for the bear supposedly in the castle.
- Of course, many Real Life people have experienced this at some point or another.
- In Real Life, this is an example of pareidolia, seeing or hearing patterns or significance in what amounts to the random noise of the world. The most famous example would be the face on Mars, which combines coincidental shadows (the eyes) and a square of missing data (the nose) to construct a human face. Later, better photographs eliminated the illusion completely.