Oh the ghost is here, It's a crook in a suit. The ghost is here
, He's protecting some loot. The ghost is here, Oh, give him the boot - He's fake!
The characters investigate a site with reported paranormal activity. By the end of the episode, they discover that the supposed supernatural activity is nothing but an elaborate hoax taking advantage of local lore
to frighten off the curious from discovering and interfering with their main criminal activity.
In the old days, this apparently really worked. Smugglers could scare away intruders by dressing as ghosts. Nowadays, however, this would be a really stupid ploy, as many alleged real life haunted houses and areas of "paranormal activity" are tourist attractions. The criminals wouldn't be able to move for New Agers, UFOlogists, people from shows like MythBusters
, James Randi fans, and other rubberneckers (Not to mention meddling kids
, as well as local authorities for that matter.)
This trope crops up a lot in works aimed at children, especially ones from the mid 20th Century. It allows the creator to play with some mild horror tropes in children's entertainment without irritating the Moral Guardians
or introducing the supernatural to a real life setting. Sometimes the Hoax revolves around the application of one scientific fact or theatrical technique, for a valuable educational lesson.
The most common subversion is for all — or some — of it to prove Real After All
or at least of uncertain origin
. Indeed, the investigators may discover the truth and haul the instigators off to jail, and the audience alone gets to see the unambiguous and real apparition. Just as often, at the climax of the story the criminal will be unmasked and attack the heroes just in time to be eaten by the real
This can be a real source of frustration to fans of Speculative Fiction
, who tend to be drawn to certain works specifically because
of the paranormal elements.
One of the major exceptions to Skepticism Failure
. See also Monster Protection Racket
, where the monsters are real but they're being set up. The Inversion of a Scooby-Doo Hoax
is Mistaken for an Imposter
. For the good counterpart, see Scarecrow Solution
Because the existence of a Scooby Doo Hoax tends to remain secret from the audience until the ending and belie earlier assumptions, mere presence on this list can be considered a spoiler
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Anime and Manga
- Kirby of the Stars:
- When this trope is played out, the real surprise was that in the end, in addition to the kids playing pranks, there was an actual ghost. It was a mostly harmless one, though.
- Another episode features a different variation. An irreverent chef comes to judge Chef Kawasaki's cooking skills, but it turns out he was in a costume and working for N.M.E. What's under the costume was worse.
- Mazinger Z: In one anime episode, the heroes got reports of a huge, aquatic monster living on a chain of lakes near from Mount Fuji. When Kouji went to investigate to the site, a witch appeared all of sudden and warned him the lake monster would curse him if he did not leave. That woman had been scaring away whoever came to investigate the monster sightings. It did not take long for Kouji to discover that witch was Baron Ashura -Big Bad The Dragon- in disguise and the monster was a Mechanical Beast. Baron Ashura was using the curse hoax to hide their activities (mining the lakebed for uranium to fabricate nuclear bombs).
- In one manga chapter, Kouji and his friends go to a hot springs resort. However, the area is apparently being haunted by ghosts. Boss is terrified but Kouji does not believe one word of it, so he and Sayaka set to investigate what is happening. Quickly they discover the ghosts in reality are androids commanded by Count Brocken, one of the Co-Dragons of Dr. Hell.
- At least one episode of Detective Conan / Case Closed did this. The protagonists receive a letter from a dead man and investigate a series of murders framed on his ghost. In the end, it turned out to be his son who was supposedly killed along with him, posing as a woman, seeking revenge for the death of his father.
- A number of other episodes of Conan did it, too. Since the series is set in a strictly rational world, any invocation of the supernatural can be assumed to be a Scooby Doo Hoax. (That doesn't stop normally-stalwart Action Girl Ran from cowering whenever she suspects she may be up against ghosts, however.)
- Taken in a more dark direction in The Kindaichi Case Files. Most of Kindachi's cases involve murderers who disguise themselves as a feared monster from local folklore, and kill their victims in ways relating to the legends surrounding that figure (eg, a killer disguised as a legendary headless samurai ghost decapitates all his victims.) Kindaichi gathers clues leading up to a dramatic unmasking of the "monster" at the end of the story. Different from your standard Scooby hoax in that most characters understand from the get-go that this isn't a real monster, just a psycho in a disguise. Inverted in that this arguably makes it more scary...
- There's always one character who really believes that the killer is actually the legendary monster in question. That person almost always ends up dead, and his/her death leaves everyone else with eerie, lingering doubts about the killer's humanity.
- Except in one story where the person who believed in the monster was actually the killer.
- Tantei Gakuen Q does this repeatedly, most notably in Kamikakushi Village. The arc with the seances takes a rather unusual angle on the trope.
- During the Thriller Bark arc of One Piece, the supernatural things like cerberii, ghosts and zombies are later revealed to be the work of Gekko Moria and his crew, all of them Devil Fruit users. A single panel at the end hints that there might have been something spooky haunting the place before Moria showed up, but it's left ambiguous.
- Rather confusingly subverted in an episode of Pokémon. The heroes and Team Rocket encounter a festival at which the ghost of a heartbroken maiden is believed to possess young men. After James and Brock are affected, they discover that the true culprit is a Gastly (a Ghost Pokemon, which apparently doesn't count). However, towards the end of the episode it is revealed to the viewers that there is indeed a true ghost of the maiden, and the Gastly is keeping the legend alive out of respect for her (and to make a few bucks).
- James Bond
- In Dr. No, Bond is told that the titular villain manages to keep his private island "private" by the presence of a dangerous fire-breathing dragon that kills any locals who trespass on his property. It turns out to be a tank painted to look like a dragon, and armed with a flamethrower. Partly justified in that the tank doesn't show up until it gets dark, so it's harder to figure out its true nature.
- In Live and Let Die, as in the novel, the villain uses Voodoo, as his mistress/servant Solitaire, who has "the power of the Obeah" (which supposedly lets her see the future), to maintain an iron grip over his island nation and drug empire. He even has someone pretending to be Baron Samedi on his side, plus a host of traps and tricks. Subverted in that Solitaire seems like she really does have the power to see the future, and the ending has Samedi (who was apparently killed by snakebite earlier) riding the front of a train, laughing, implying he was Real After All. Most of the other stuff really is just an elaborate hoax, like scarecrows promising death to anyone who trespasses on the poppy fields (and hidden cameras and guns in case you don't take the hint).
- The movie Volver: The whole population of a superstitious village is convinced that the spirit of a woman who died in a fire has come back to take care of her sister in her old age. When the sister dies, the ghost moves in with her daughter. It turns out that she never died in the first place; she burned the house where her husband and his lover were sleeping to the ground, and the lover's charred body was thought to be hers. She pretended to be a ghost to escape a murder investigation.
- Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning is a semi example. The killer turns out not to really be Jason, but a copycat. Although it is one serial killer imitating another, he is pretending to have come back from the dead, even though the genuine Jason wasn't supernatural by this point and was in fact genuinely deceased (he would become the indestructible zombie we all know in the next film).
- Captain Clegg is about a circle of rumrunners, led by Peter Cushing, who use this to try to scare away or distract the law.
- Trick 'r Treat: As part of a Deadly Prank, a group of kids pretend to be undead children. Then the real undead kids come and kill them. There's also the vampire, who isn't really a vampire at all, but just a regular Serial Killer.
- The 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie uses this, with apparent Big Bad Lord Blackwood deliberately cultivating a reputation as a fearsome Evil Sorcerer, culminating in rising from his grave following a hanging, all as part of his Evil Plan to seize control of England. He's really "just" a Magnificent Bastard with good connections and an eye for the theatrical, and Holmes figures this out and explains it at the climax before exposing Blackwood for a fraud. Holmes does mention, though, that Blackwood performed all his spells and rituals perfectly and therefore he'd better hope it was all fake, or else Satan's due a soul...
- Famously subverted in the Sleepy Hollow movie. In the original story by Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman was an elaborate prank to scare an aloof schoolteacher. In the film, it really exists. In a nod to the original story though, the first run-in Ichabod has with the Horseman is a fraud - a jealous Brom Bones was disguised as the being as a prank. He also initially believes the Horseman really is a fraud, and sets out to "expose" him.
- Played with in the French supernatural thriller Vidocq: powerful men die one after another from a lightning strike, bursting into flames in the process. It turns out that they were narcissistic perverts with a desire for young virgins. A sophisticated lightning rod mechanism along with a piece of gold in each of the men's hats, and gunpowder dust on their coats resolves that somebody simply wants to make a demonstration of divine retribution on these horrible people. Then it turns out that the killer was a supernatural creature all along, and used this method to hide his true nature, and the true motivation for the murders.
- The Bollywood film Joker has an isolated village fake the landing of aliens to attract attention to their Dying Town. At the end, a genuine alien appears.
- In The Village, the creatures lurking in the forest were originally a Scooby-Doo Hoax concocted by the Elders to prevent the younger residents from venturing outside and learning that they're not actually living in pioneer times. One of the young villagers co-opts this Hoax to cover up his own psychopathic misdeeds.
- House on Haunted Hill (1959): To be fair, the house very well could still be haunted, but the elaborate scary tricks (piano playing on its own, a ghost appearing out of nowhere, hands grabbing people), were a part of an elaborate hoax to kill the host, played by Vincent Price, by his wife and her lover. Price has other plans though, and his wife's encounter with a skeleton (supposed to be his) that forces her to fall into a vat of acid, was also a hoax. Price was controlling a life-sized skeleton puppet.
- Washington Irving's 1819 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow strongly implies that Brom Bones eliminates Ichabod Crane as a rival for his lover's hand by dressing up as the Headless Horseman and scaring him out of town. Probably the Trope Maker.
- In the 1838 penny dreadful Hugues, the Wer-Wolf, a poor villager whose parents had starved to death, unjustly ostracized by their uncharitable neighbors, dresses up as a werewolf to intimidate those same neighbors into paying off the "monster" with food. lest it eat them instead.
- Most of the Leaphorn/Chee mysteries by Tony Hillerman, with the supernatural elements in this case coming from the myths of the Navajo or other Native American tribes of the American Southwest.
- The Phantom of the Opera. The entire book is about the investigation of the "ghost" who forces the opera house management to bow to his whims; eventually, it is discovered that he is in fact a deformed genius hiding out in an elaborate lair beneath the building.
- Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, being a parody of The Phantom of the Opera, had one member of Ankh-Morpork's Opera House dressing as "The Ghost", terrorizing and even killing members of the cast in order to hide his embezzlement. At the same time, there was an actual "Ghost" roaming the opera house who gave nighttime lessons to promising singers and left rose stems scented with rose oil to reward exceptional performances.
- Who also was a member of the opera house.
- Note that the Opera Ghost almost never pretends to be actually a ghost. He's perfectly happy to be a guy in a mask...
- Although those scented rose stems actually do bloom into ghostly roses when in darkness. At the end, Agnes laments that she'll probably never know how the "Ghost" managed that. But Discworld runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe, so it might have been enough that people thought the Ghost was supernatural.
- Also in Discworld, in A Hat Full of Sky, Jeannie tells the Feegles about how another clan of pictsies drove off a rival clan's raiding party by climbing inside a scarecrow and moving it around, fooling their enemies into thinking it was a human ('bigjob') by whom they didn't want to be seen.
- The Hound Of The Baskervilles, a 1901 Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, includes a similar plot twist.
- Le Château des Carpathes, an obscure Jules Verne novel, is another early example.
- In the James Bond novel Live and Let Die, Mr. Big cultivates an air of voodoo around himself to deter investigation into his operations. Take a look at the entry in Films.
- Virtually every single installment in the Austrian Knickerbockerbande youth crime fiction series, to the point where the reader would know from the start that the supposed haunting was fake, and the main interest was in finding out how the hoax worked.
- A common occurrence in the Doc Savage novels.
- In Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater, the Wozzle is an invisible monster employed by the Nafsulian bandits Manny, Moe and Jack to terrorize the citizens of Waka-Waka. It turns out to be no more than the three villains themselves.
- In Bitter Gold Hearts, Garrett recalls investigating one of these cases, in which a murder was rigged to look like a werewolf attack.
- In a non-criminal variant, before Garrett moved in, the Dead Man used his powers to make people think the house on Macunado street was haunted, purely so everyone in the neighborhood would leave him alone.
- These plots happen to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys all the time in their books, and have spilled over into the former's video game franchise.
- Very common also in Enid Blyton's various mystery series.
- This appears regularly in The Three Investigators, who generally deal with spooky cases. The Coughing Dragon has a sea-living dragon that is actually an antique submarine, used to rob a bank; The Dancing Devil has an ancient Mongolian spirit which literally is a guy in a suit trying to stop an old artifact being returned to Mongolia from a rich American collector.
- Carnacki the Ghost-Finder has at least one case like this, with smugglers faking a haunting so they can use an abandoned building.
- In The Saint short story "The Convenient Monster", a murderer tries to make his killing look like the work of the Loch Ness Monster.
- In the The Mad Scientists' Club book, it is played straight in The Voice in the Chimney, but subverted - perhaps - in The Secret of the Cannon.
- The first Calendar Mysteries book revolves around an alien hoax that the big kids pull on their younger siblings out of revenge.
- In the Penny Parker book Hoofbeats on the Turnpike, Joe Quigley dresses up as the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow to spite Matilda Burmaster.
- In Larry Niven's "Night on Mispec Moor", a mercenary assumes the zombie-like creatures chasing him must be this trope. They're The Virus instead.
- Conversational Troping in The Woman Who Died A Lot, which reveals that the origin of the trope is The Ghost of Pharos by Aeschylus. At least in Thursday's world.
- A gang of bootleggers do this this keep people away from their hideout in You're a Texas Ranger, Alvin Fog by J.T. Edson.
- Fairly common in works of Agatha Christie. The usual plot is that one or more mysterious deaths occur, and people suspect supernatural activity behind it. At the end it turns out that the whole thing is just a cover made by the killer to confuse the cops.
- In Village Of The Vampire Cat, a gang covers up their activities by making the village they are robbing think there is a demon on the loose. This includes a ninja using a grappling hook (painted black to make it almost invisible at night) to tear people's throats out at a distance. They also sell people odorless charcoal. The people pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning (since they don't smell smoke and don't think to ventilate the room) and think the demon is draining their lifeforce.
- An example of a series that used this as a standard device even before the trope namer was born: The Simon Ark mysteries involve a wanna-be Occult Detective who claims to be the Wandering Jew, and whose goal is to fight Satan—but the evil he uncovers invariably turns out to have a mundane explanation.
- Frequently in the Point Horror series. As a general observation, many of the stories where murders/injuries are believed to be the work of a ghost or other paranormal entity turn out to be caused by jealous/crazy living people.
- Actually used successfully by the heroes to see off the villain in Matilda. She uses her telekinesis to convince Trunchbull that the vengeful ghost of her brother is haunting the Big Fancy House she usurped from his daughter, and he tells her to run away and never come back. Miss Honey has the place to herself at last.
- In The Face of the Abbot, Helen Sherwood is left a fortune On One Condition: that she live in the haunted castle where her father died. She, her uncle, and the first-person narrator take up residence in the building, and are Genre Savvy enough to make sure that the old caretaker isn't responsible by sending him to stay with friends. The night after they move in, the spectre begins to appear at the windows. This doesn't last long, because on its second appearance Helen determines that it's a person rather than a ghost by shooting it.
- An inversion in the Temps short story "Leaks" by David Langford, in which the main character is a low-level paranorm investigating an "entropy ray" aimed at government vehicles. Firstly he realises this is a hoax, it's just someone swapping out engine parts for profit. Secondly, he realises that the reason for the hoax (when otherwise no-one would have noticed) is because someone wanted the DPR to send a low-level paranorm to investigate, for sinister reasons of their own.
Live Action TV
- In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Evil Three", the villains tell Perry and Jimmy that their hotel is haunted to scare them off.
- Many episodes of Banacek featured apparently supernatural events, debunked by the title character in the climax.
- Ditto, in the short-lived series, Blackest Magic.
- Ditto, in the also short-lived Probe.
- Usually reversed in The X-Files, where it's almost always really a supernatural occurrence, but it also had criminals playing dress-up to distract people from their actual crimes. And sometimes they did both.
- For example, Mulder is on the trail of murderers whose killings look like vampire attacks. The "vampire" angle is so obvious and unhidden that Mulder assumes that it's actually an example of this and that there are no vampires involved. Then he finds the killers, who seem pretty much human. Then he finds out that they actually are vampires, but that they play up the movie vampire act when they kill, so that anyone who arrests them will be laughed out of court.
- Some episodes of Monk had variants of this trope:
- The novel Mr. Monk on Patrol has Monk and Natalie initially bunked at a hotel that is supposedly haunted. And during their first night in Summit, New Jersey, the ghost tries to attack Natalie, but Natalie fights back and the person playing the ghost manages to escape, then is caught by police. It turns out Monk had found some details while unpacking in his room that he thought were suspicious, and this led him to more clues that told him how the "ghost" story was fabricated.
- "Mr. Monk and the UFO" had a variant: Monk and Natalie are driving in the country when their car breaks down in a small Nevada town. While Monk is trying to get a cell phone signal, he sees a small UFO fly overhead. It hovers for a few seconds over them, then flies away. The next day, Monk files a report with the sheriff. The next night, Monk, Natalie and a hotel manager see the UFO.
- "Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse" is probably one of the top examples. Two random people are killed in freak accidents (a elderly power walker who gets hit by a baseball knocked over a fence, and a guy killed by lightning while golfing in a thunderstorm), and when people go to their apartments to pack their stuff up, they find voodoo dolls that are dated a few days before the recipient's death. Monk is brought in to investigate, due to the case being considered weird right away by Stottlemeyer and Disher, but even he is baffled by the circumstances. Shortly after he takes the case, a third doll victim occurs - the wealthy founder of an electronics company - and it is the first one to have a body; who died of an apparent heart attack. Then Natalie, who is afraid of voodoo, receives a doll in the mail that warns her she will be decapitated. Monk eventually finds that Angeline Dilworth, a paramedic and niece of the third victim, was responible for sending the dolls and was trying to cover up the death of her uncle, the only one of the three victims to actually be a murder. The other two victims were the freak accidents they were supposed to be, and Angeline had been the EMT who responded to both calls. She had stolen each accident victim's house key and used that to break into the respective victim's house to plant a customized voodoo doll.
- Either Inverted of Subverted trope in an episode of Psych. The monster is attempting to attract people to his "haunted" camp.
- The titular investigation team of the show fits the trope, in that Shawn feigns Psychic Powers to solve crimes.
- There's also an episode where Shawn and Gus are investigating a supposedly haunted house and the perpetrator of the Scooby Doo Hoax turns out to be Shawn himself.
- There was yet another episode when a local legend about a suicidal sorority girl was played with for revenge.
- And now yet another where Shawn and Gus are looking into a UFO sighting, becoming more and more convinced it's real, until they find out it was all a cover-up for an actually real corporate conspiracy and are almost Killed to Uphold the Masquerade. Not an exact fit because they were trying to attract attention to the person who thought he saw the UFO rather than get rid of attention to a place or thing. Could be an inversion of sorts? Or just playing with it.
- This show obviously loves this trope since the 2010 Halloween episode involved murders of amusement park employees that first appeared to have been committed by the ghost of a boy who died in a Ferris Wheel accident a decade earlier. It turned out to be the dead guy's girlfriend dressing as him in order to get revenge.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Rescue", the 'alien monster' terrorizing the shipwrecked colonists turns out to be one of the colonists in disguise.
- In "Colony in Space", the 'alien monster' terrorizing the colony of the title is being faked by a mining company that wants the colonists off the land so it can stake a claim.
- And in "The Monster of Peladon", a hologram monster is employed by Federation renegades to scare off the Peladonese miners so they can smuggle out the mine's mineral wealth.
- A slightly different version of this is used in "Invasion of the Dinosaurs". In an interesting subversion, the eponymous monsters are indeed real, brought forward in time from their own prehistoric period, but they are merely there to scare people away in order for the real evil plan to be enacted.
- Inverted in "Curse of the Black Spot". The "siren" isn't a siren, or a ghost, or a green singing shark in an evening gown, but neither was she pretending to be. This was merely the terrified assumptions of the crew of a pirate ship who had no way of comprehending that she was an emergency medical hologram trying to heal their injuries. Her scarier moments are merely because she's a bit overprotective when it concerns her patients.
- Inverted in much of the New Who - see School Reunion and episodes with the Slitheen, as well as many others. See this comic◊, which directly addresses this trope.
- The Pushing Daisies episode "Girth" does this rather more violently, with people being killed, apparently by a ghost. It turns out to be someone who is very much alive.
- Played with in the sense that the murderer is disguising herself as someone who isn't really dead either.
- In one episode of Friends, Joey does not want Monica and Chandler to buy a new house. He meets a young girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and suggests that she tell Chandler a ghost lives in the house so that they will be scared away. Fanning replies, "What are you, like, eight?"
- When Joey confesses his plan to them, Chandler and Monica turn it around and tell him that the only little girl who lived in the house died twenty years ago. This scares Joey until they tell him that they're just messing with his head. Joey replies, "That's not funny! You know I'm afraid of little girl ghosts!"
- Done early on in the original Dark Shadows, before genuine supernatural elements were introduced to the program.
- The Monkees episode "Monkee See, Monkee Die" with a faked haunted mansion.
- Happened in at least one episode of Far Out Space Nuts which involved a holographic disguise belt.
- An episode of iCarly has the group searching for Bigfoot and seemingly trapping him, only to discover it's a fake and that it's the Bigfoot expert they had on their webshow earlier in the episode creating hype for his new book. Freddie lampshades this by stating this is a "Scooby Doo Moment".
- Subverted, in that something (which is strongly implied to be the real Bigfoot) steals their RV at the end of the episode.
- The Invisible Man had the heroes pulling off one of these: The Agency is ordered by government higher-ups to have Fawkes pose as a ghost in order to convince the superstitious dictator of a Banana Republic to get rid of a biological missile system that could potentially be used against American targets. However, it turns out that Chrysalis is also running a hoax of their own to convince the guy to keep the missiles. Hilarity Ensues.
- In The Outer Limits episode "The Awakening", a rival company uses fake alien abductions to traumatize clients of a company and discredit their brain implants.
- The Bloodhound Gang solved a few of these on the science-edutainment show 3-2-1 Contact.
- One episode of Gilligan's Island had a "ghost" who was haunting the island. He was actually a man trying to either scare them off the island or kill them because he and his cohorts were trying to secure "off-shore oil rights." When he thought the castaways were dead and came back as ghosts to haunt him, he fled the island. Incidentally, the "ghost" was played by Richard Kiel, who played "Jaws" in the James Bond movies The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
- On The Wild Wild West, in the episode "The Night of the Colonel's Ghost," a series of murders in Gibsonville, supposedly the work of the eponymous ghostly colonel, are actually the work of the colonel himself, who faked his own death and is now trying to drive everyone else out of town so he can search for his father's fabled treasure.
- One of the stories in the Halloween episode of The Latest Buzz has Mr Shepard staging one so he can eat his lunch in peace.
- A variation appeared in a Babylon 5 episode, where a crook managed to obtain a Na'ka'leen Feeder (a semi-sentient monster that feeds on memories) and, to scare into submission other crooks and the security, dressed it like Kosh to appear under Vorlon protection. Sadly for his scheme, the Security identified the Feeder even before seeing it and a run-in with a witness made them realize the 'Vorlon' was a hoax.
- 1000 Ways to Die:
- A grumpy man living in the woods dresses up as Bigfoot to scare hikers away from his territory. This backfires when a park ranger sees him and, thinking he really is Bigfoot, shoots him with a tranquilizer dart meant for bears or moose. He is poisoned to death.
- Two perverts try to sneak into an old building that used to be a brothel, only for the building's owner to dress up as a monster and scare them away. In their panic to escape, one of them falls and gets run over by a car.
- Downplayed in an episode of CSI, "Check In And Check Out", where a series of unconnected deaths all in the same motel room toss up the concept of the room being haunted only to find that the murders were fueled by a powerful hallucinogen, set up by the motel owner and the man living in the next room.
- In the Father Ted episode "Chirpy Burpy Cheap Sheep", a man comes to the parochial house with the sheep he'd planned to enter in Craggy Island's sheep contest, distraught that his sheep has been scared by the mysterious sheep-eating beast, and will therefore be unable to win. Turns out that the "beast" is a BBC sound effects record being played from a stereo in a tree, which was put there by the owner of the sheep in an effort to drive up its odds in the contest.
- Midsomer Murders: In "Talking to the Dead", a dealer in stolen goods takes advantage of the reputation of the local woods for being haunted by playing eerie noises to keep the locals away on the nights when his deals go down.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation presented a variation of this trope in "Devil's Due", in which a woman named Ardra claimed to be an alien civilization's version of the Devil in order to scare the populace into submission. Picard refused to believe her, observing that all of her "demonstrations of power" could be performed with readily available 24th century technology.
- Inverted to solve a crime on The Dukes of Hazzard in "The Ghost of General Lee": when Bo and Luke are mistakenly believed to have drowned, Boss Hogg blames them for stealing his gold watch so he can fraudulently collect the insurance. The Duke boys and Cooter repaint the General Lee with phosphorescent paint, and use it to "haunt" Boss Hogg until he confesses that the watch was never stolen.
- Done by the bad guys in the Modesty Blaise storyline "The Vampire of Malvescu".
- Sometimes this would show up in The Phantom - the eponymous hero would stumble upon a mystery, get the native's crude and inaccurate view of the situation (e.g. a mighty bird dropping food), and eventually figure out it was just criminals using modern technology (the bird turns out to be a plane dropping supplies). Usually he'd follow this up with a Scarecrow Solution, convincing the criminals he's a ghost.
- Adventures in Odyssey: "Blackbeard's Treasure", a reclusive old man dresses up as a pirate ghost to scare the local kids off his land. There was hidden pirate gold on his land, but in a slight twist, the old man didn't know about the gold and didn't care about who got to keep it, he just wanted to be left alone.
- In the White Wolf RPG Changeling: The Lost, there is an odd case of this. The genuinely supernatural Changelings of the Scarecrow Ministry have a tendency to create elaborate Scooby Doo Hoaxes to keep people away from truly dangerous beings such as True Fae, werewolves and Spirits (either through fear of the hoax or through being attracted to it rather than the real monsters). Of course, sometimes they go a bit too far, and become the sort of danger they're trying to keep people safe from.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- 1st Edition module U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. A group of smugglers tries to make the house they're operating out of appear to be haunted to keep the townsfolk of Saltmarsh from investigating. Complicating matters is the fact that in D&D, undead really do exist and it could quite plausibly actually be haunted. For this reason, the module works best as an introductory adventure for players new to the game, since it's hard to convince savvy PCs (who know that any undead besides the very lowest tiers ... skeletons and maybe zombies, neither of whom could easily be mistaken for ghosts ... would make mincemeat of a party at the suggested levels for the adventure) to go anywhere near the place.
- Another band of smugglers from Dungeon magazine got their hands on a magical boat that could travel underwater, so used seaweed and ghoul costumes to perpetuate an "undead sailors from the deep" Scooby-Doo Hoax.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "Westchester House". The Investigator PCs will hear stories of several unnatural events that indicate that the house is haunted, but they're all fake, mostly done by people trying to make it appear that way to cover up their own schemes.
- In The Cat and the Canary (and its subsequent film adaptations), the "Cat", a crazy maniac running loose in the Old Dark House, ended up being one of the heirs, whose purpose was to drive the girl given the fortune insane so that he (the next heir in line) could inherit it.
- The Neverwinter Nights 2 mod The Maimed God's Saga looks like it is setting up as one of these, then the actual nature of the villain's plot is revealed (a Malarite experiment to breed invincible werewolves, as a matter of fact).
- The Captive Curse is a full-on Deconstruction of this trope, in which the monster sightings are variously suggested to be a Scooby-Doo Hoax, a reverse Scooby-Doo Hoax intended to draw in tourists, a kid's prank, or a genuine supernatural event. Eventually, it turns out to be a hoax OF a reverse Scooby-Doo Hoax, intended to discredit the castle's owner by making him look like he got Nancy killed with an insane publicity stunt.
- Double Switch: Roughly around the middle of the game, an Egyptian mummy runs around trying to trap and/or kill people. It's Eddie in disguise, and he dressed up like one so that he could get an Egyptian statue without anyone figuring out it was him.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, on your pilgrimage to visit the Greybeards (part of the main quest), you can talk to an innkeeper about a haunted barrow near the town. Turns out that it's just a guy who's invented a potion to make him look like a ghost to scare everyone away while he works out how to plunder the tomb... although he's apparently gone crazy and actually thinks he's the tomb's guardian now. Then it turns out the deeper parts of the tomb really are infested with the undead.
- Played With in the second case of Phoenix Wright Justice For All where it appears that the killer is a ghost that possessed the defendant - said defendant IS a legitimate spirit medium and both the player and Phoenix know that the supernatural explanation is totally plausible (and perhaps even likely), even if the court is a little skeptical. However, the ghost is, in fact, a fake; the events or orchestrated by another spirit medium to ruin the defendant's reputation.
- The Professor Layton games use this a lot. Most of the seemingly paranormal things Layton and Luke encounter turn out to be incredibly elaborate hoaxes. For examples, all of the tricks performed by the Masked Gentleman were fake, done with the help of various accomplices and techniques. It is implied Descole helped him in doing that, as there is no way the Masked Gentleman himself could perform such large scale hoaxes alone.
- Kate Beaton's comics have, in a couple of recent strips, featured "Mystery Solving Teens", which parody the entire genre. Having been enlightened to a mystery in the area, the teens go off and smoke for a while, then Ass Pull a name or group who was pulling the Scooby-Doo Hoax for the benefit of the person begging their help.
- In Impure Blood, Dara checks, but the circus's Ancients are fakes.
- Bloody Urban Zig-Zags this trope rather confusingly by having one type of monster dressing up as another type of monster. Specifically, Shaun (a Vegetarian Vampire who feeds on livestock) dresses up as a Chupacabra in order to get free food and not get caught.
- In El Goonish Shive Ellen and Nanase decide to investigate a jewelry store theft at the mall and end up chasing "The Mall Goblin" who appears to be perpetrating this type of hoax. Since then, their Noodle Incident exploits as a mystery-solving team has become a Running Gag.
- Not a plot within the comic itself, but an early Dork Tower, Carson the Muskrat points out, with increasing agitation, the inverse relationship between Scooby Doo and The X-Files mentioned in their own sections.
- According to Parisian legend, during the thirteenth century, there was a derelict castle south of the city at a place called Vauvert, near the modern Luxembourg Gardens, which was said to be haunted by sinister lights and sounds. King Louis IX offered the property to a group of Carthusian monks if they were willing to exorcise it. When the monks moved in to the castle, however, they discovered evidence that it had been used as a hideout by a gang of criminals, who had faked the haunting to scare people away. (The king let them keep it anyway.)
"All right, let's see who this article REALLY is!"
"*gasp!* Old Man Jenkins!"