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Sleeping Dummy
Busted!

A character wants to sneak somewhere at night without being caught, so he or she stuffs the bed with rolled up sheets or pillowcases or something to make it look as though he or she is still in bed, maybe with a fake papier-maché head sticking out from the sheets. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Bonus points if they use a tape recorder to add breathing/snoring.

One of the oldest tricks in the book.

See also Bedsheet Ladder, Ninja Log.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Hanaukyō Maid Tai La Verite episode 9. Taro does this to trick his personal care maids into thinking he's still in his bed.
  • Happens in Baccano! when Szilard starts eating other alchemists onboard of Advena Avis. He leaves a sleeping dummy on his bed to cover up his doings. It is found when Maiza attempts eat him himself.
  • As shown in a flashback in the 95th episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Rishid makes one of Marik out of a pillow while he and Ishizu spend an hour outside, which they were not allowed to do since they belong to a family of tombkeepers. Marik and Ishizu's father wasn't fooled and beats Rishid within an inch of his life, until Marik's imaginary friend/dark side intervenes.
  • Episode 2 of Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai begins with Miyako sneaking into Yamato's futon in the middle of the night hoping to have her way with him, but instead she finds this, much to her chargin.
  • Irresponsible Captain Tylor. While supposedly a prisoner on the Soyokaze, Empress Azalyn leaves a stuffed kid's toy in her bunk so she can sneak off to Captain Tylor's room.
    Yuriko: The Empress turned into a...tanuki?
  • In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Kuroko makes dummies for herself and Mikoto at one point so they can sneak out of their dorm past curfew. To Mikoto's annoyance, Kuroko puts the dummies in the same bed, making it look like they were sleeping together.
  • In Lupin III: Dead or Alive, Fujiko sets up a dummy of Emerah, along with a voice recorder, to fool General Headhunter and allow Emerah to escape.
  • In the anime of Golgo 13, Duke Togo does this in bedroom which is under video surveillance at the time, pulling the pillows under the sheet with him, then slipping off the bed on the opposite side from the CCTV camera.

    Comicbooks 
  • In Cigars of the Pharaoh Tintin helps the Maharaja of Gaipajama put a dummy in his bed to take a poisoned dart for him.
  • The Invisible Man does this in volume two of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in order to covertly meet with Martian invaders and betray humanity.
  • Surprisingly, played utterly straight in the ultra-gritty Batman story "Troika: Dark Rider": Two Ukrainian gangsters open fire on what they believe to be the body of the Dark Rider (who has defected from his underworld allies to become a Dirty Commie). They instead discover that they have just machine-gunned a stack of pillows covered by a bedspread, and are still standing in shock when the real Dark Rider appears from around a corner and shoots them both in the head.
  • This is a favourite tactic of Jonah Hex, and has saved his life on countless occasions.
  • In Runaways, when Alex's parents discover the Sleeping Dummy he set up, his mom's first response is to ask, "What is our son doing with a male mannequin head in his room?" In retrospect, this may have been a hint he'd been planning this for a lot longer than the others...
  • Superman does this in the Silver Age comic "Jimmy Olsen, Clark Kent's Pal" to keep Jimmy Olsen, who is temporarily rooming with his alter ego, from discovering his Secret Identity. He took it a step further by using super-ventriloquism to make it talk.

    Film 
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is possibly the Trope Codifier, if not Trope Maker or Ur Example.
  • Escape from Alcatraz is both a major film example and Truth in Television. The Guards Must Be Crazy!
    • Also subverted in the same film, when a guard reaches through the bars to rouse the figure in the bed and it turns out to be the real prisoner, not his plaster dummy-head.
  • In Ferris Buellers Day Off, this is elaborate to the point of being kinda silly; it includes a soundtrack of him snoring and a pulley system to make the dummy appear to react when the bedroom door is opened.
  • Hogarth, in The Iron Giant, escapes an amoral government agent by doing this.
  • In the movie version of Dr. No, James Bond uses this to trick an assassin into emptying his gun into the bed, leaving him defenseless.
  • Truman Burbank improbably pulls this off in The Truman Show, even though he doesn't know exactly where the hidden camera is which he's trying to fool.
  • In Chocolat, Luc pads his bed (with crumpled drawing paper) so he can sneak out to his grandmother's birthday party.
  • Aragorn helps the Hobbits with this in Bree, which saves their lives when the Nazgul come calling.
  • Airplane II: The Sequel. Ted Stryker leaves one behind when he escapes from the insane asylum.
  • Used for comedy in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, where the dummies of Rocko and Slasher are so obviously fake that only a bunch of idiots would fall for the trick (which, of course, they do).
    • To be more precise, they aren't sleeping dummies. They're dressed and posed like department store mannequins.
  • In Superman II Lex Luthor goes one better and creates holograms of himself and his henchman to fool the guard.
  • In Raw Deal, the hero does the 'fake snoring' version while Monique is talking to Max Keller on the phone about the (fake) ID she's found in his wallet.
  • In Law Abiding Citizen, the protagonist uses a simple pillows under the sheet trick to hide the fact that he's not in his cell. Justified as the cell is dark and in solitary, so no-one goes in to check.
  • Used by the hero in Steamboat Bill Jr to escape from his father and meet his girlfriend.
  • Used in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1982 in one of the Pimpernel's aristocrat rescues to delay discovery of the escape.
  • Timothy Cavendish in Cloud Atlas prepares one to trap the warden in his room and enable him to escape from the retirement home.
  • In silent film Sky High, this is how Tom Mix sneaks out of the bad guy camp he's infiltrated, so he can alert the authorities.

    Literature 
  • The Famous Five.
  • The Bible: 1 Samuel 19:11-16, making this Older Than Feudalism.
  • Used in Lord of the Rings by the Hobbits.
  • Done many, many times by the Animorphs. It helps that (with the exception of Tobias and Ax) their parents actually trusted them.
  • In A. A. Milne's The Red House Mystery, Anthony and Bill do this before going off to tail a suspect at night, so that the suspect (who is staying in the same house as they are) won't realize they're onto him. Bill is pretty proud of his sleeping dummy, but Anthony's is so convincing that it even fools Bill.
  • In one of the Doubled Edge novels, Rhoslyn needs to go Underhill while seeming to stay in the mortal world. She arranges a couple pillows under her blanket ... and then casts an illusion of her sleeping mortal disguise on the pillows.
  • In Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Tally puts a portable heater under her covers to convince the heat-sensitive room that she's still in bed.
  • Late in Aunt Dimity: Snowbound: Having convinced the caretaker that she and Wendy are ill in bed, Lori arranges one of these with pillows so she can slip out and help the other hikers search the house. Wendy compliments her on the ruse, and Lori is pleased to have out-thought the rocket scientist for once.
  • Cloud Atlas. Cavendish uses this trick during the escape from the nursing home, in order to lure the fearsome Nurse Noakes into his room so he can lock the door behind her.
  • In the original book version of The Spy Who Loved Me, James Bond does this to fool the mob hitmen hired to burn the motel down.
  • In Old Tin Sorrows, Garrett leaves a blanket-covered suit of armor in his bed while he sneaks around the Stantnor mansion at night. When he returns, there's an ax buried in its chest.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Heroes episode "Company Man", Claire uses this to escape from Ted.
  • Malcolm in the Middle.
  • Lampshaded in Charmed (The One With the attempt to frame Prue at the auction house).
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Parodied when Philip's elderly mother and Will were sneaking out. Philip's mother suggested stuffing the bed, but Will explained that these days we do things electronically, and played a recording of snoring.
    • Played straight, since Will does use sneakers, pillows and a bust of King Tut to stuff his bed. The snoring tape was just the icing on the cake.
  • Dexter. In this case, it was used to lure the Ice Truck Killer into Dexter's clutches, when said ITK came after Deb.
  • Subverted in a prime time spy show that aired on FOX around ten years ago. (name, anyone?) The spy and his girl-of-the-week were in a hotel room that the bad guys were closing in on. The baddies break in, and see two big lumps on the bed. The leader scoffs at the use of such an old ploy, and shoots up the closet. The baddies leave...and the protagonists throw off the blankets and get up from the bed. They were counting on the enemy to assume they were just pillows.
  • Mr. Bean did this once so he was at the front of the line for the big New Year's sale.
  • Arrested Development. Buster, not wanting to disturb his mother with his snoring, puts a bunch of pillows in his bed and covers them with his sheets. He also puts a very loud recording of his snoring in with them. His mother, agitated with the loud snoring, starts beating the fake-Buster with a broomstick, eventually realizing that it's a fake. Riding on her luckiness, she decides to go out to try to find any family member in the car. Halfway to her destination, Buster starts snoring from the back seat.
    • George Sr. claims that making papier mache copies of his own head is just a hobby to avoid boredom during house arrest. Nobody falls for it.
  • Mary Ann from The Babysitters Club tries this at camp, using a cantaloupe as the head. It doesn't fool the counselors whatsoever, though she does impress the other counselors-in-training, which was was what she was trying to do in the first place.
  • Used in Supernatural by Sam and Dean. With blow up dolls.
    • Played straight in "Swap Meat". Dean thinks Sam is Not Himself. Sure enough 'Sam' sneaks into his room at night and tries to shoot the sheet-covered figure on the bed. Dean then appears out of the darkness and punches him.
  • In The Rockford Files, Jim Rockford used a variation of this to escape from jail. First he repeatedly told the officer guarding the jail that he would escape and do it easily. Next he invoked this trope. After the officer realized that it was only a dummy in the bed, he ran off to look for Jim. At that point, Jim got out from under the bed and walked away.
    • Hannibal did the same thing on The A-Team in the episode where BA got shot.
  • Used in one of the prime-time soaps (Falconcrest?) a decade or two ago. A man tried to murder his boss, firing several shots into the lump on the bed. Then the "victim" walked into the room, accompanied by guards, and before the guards dragged the would-be killer away, the boss mocked him by "praising" his shooting: "That cushion's a goner."
  • Done in the second season premiere of Covert Affairs when Ben and Annie narrowly escape some assassins in a hospital.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor and Jo pull this off to help them escape from imprisonment by The Master in Frontier in Space. The Master is only fooled for a little while, but long enough for The Doctor to royally muck up his plot.
  • Rex does this to convince the others his mother is in the console in the Pixelface episode "Mrs Dynamo's Son".
  • Becky does this to sneak out of the house when she is supposed to be down with the flu the Sick Episode of ROY.
  • On Hogan's Heroes, Newkirk was captured during a mission. To keep the prisoner count the same, they put a dummy wearing his hat in Col. Hogan's bed, claiming he's sick and is in Hogan's bedroom because it's warmer in there.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes does this, with a broom to mimic Calvin's hair.
  • Appears in The Far Side, where gecko assassins trying to kill another gecko in his sleep, only to find that it was just his tail in the bed. "Idiots! You fell for the oldest trick in the book!"

    Videogames 
  • Sherlock Holmes uses this gimmick to sneak around the asylum in The Awakened, leaving his hat and coat, a rolled-up blanket, and a water jug arranged like a sleeping figure in his cell.
  • Played with Assassin's Creed III by the bad guys. Connor is in a prison with Hickey, and plans to murder him in his cell. When he tries strangling, but it's neither Hickey nor a dummy, but the already-dead prison warden, and both Hickey and Charles are behind him, ready to pin the death on him, plus an assassination attempt against George Washington.

    Visual Novels 
  • Gian and the team do this in Lucky Dog 1 when they break out of prison as a precaution but it never comes into play.

    Web Originals 

    Webcomics 
  • They do this all the time in A Modest Destiny, and it isn't even to stand in for sleeping people! [1]
  • The cast of 8-Bit Theater does this to escape an assassination attempt... only instead of pillows they sneak over to a camping site, kill several campers and stick their corpses in the beds. On the other hand, pillows don't bleed when cut.
    • To be fair, neither do corpses.
  • Max of Paranatural uses one involving a football and his baseball cap.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Katara stuffs her sleeping bag with grass in order to sneak away from the group and engage in a little secret factory sabotage.
  • In the The Batman episode "Cash for Toys", Bruce does this to throw off the detective who's been assigned to protect him.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa puts a miniature Statue of Liberty head in her bed to fool Marge.
    • Homer has also done this on multiple occasions. In an odd form, he does this at work, but at the same time he's normally asleep at work anyway.
    • Also, the dummies are normally blatantly obvious (A mop with a painted bucket with a recorded message), yet seem to actually work.
      • This latter characteristic was subverted in an episode when we see a perfect duplicate of Bart sitting still reading in class despite also being talking to Lisa in the hallway. "It's a shop class project. It's made of latex"
  • Played straight and subverted in a King of the Hill episode: Bobby sneaks out of the house, leaving behind a sleeping dummy that Hank finds. Hank runs into Luanne's room, assumes the lump in her bed to be another dummy, and pulls the covers back to reveal... Luanne and her boyfriend.
  • Jimmy Neutron does it on occasion, but being a boy genius with seemingly unlimited resources, he has a full holographic representation of himself in bed. And it doesn't work.
  • An episode of Family Guy has Peter doing this to sneak out from under the nose of his wife, Lois. When she goes to check on him, the dummy speaks to her, courtesy of a tape recording Peter made of himself responding to the comments he predicts Lois will make. The ruse works surprisingly well at first, but after a few exchanges, his "answers" no longer sync up, prompting Lois to pull back the bedsheet and reveal the dummy. Of course, at that moment Peter's stupidity ruins the charade anyway: "Lois, if you still haven't discovered I'm gone, please flip the tape over to side B."
  • In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, "Adventures in Squirrelsitting", Tammy stuffed her bed to forestall, if only for a few moments, Chip's discovery that she wasn't there, and had gone off to Fat Cat's Casino to retrieve the Maltese Mouse, figuring she could prove something if she did it herself.
  • Jenny does this in an episode of My Life as a Teenage Robot. And as a robot, naturally she stuffs the sheets with a toaster.
  • In The Penguins of Madagascar short "Christmas Caper", Private uses a bowling pin as a dummy. When Skipper discovers it, he slaps and interrogates it.
  • In the Donald Duck Wartime Cartoon "The Old Army Game", Donald and a few of his fellow soldiers use dummies to fool Sargeant Pete while they go AWOL.

    Real Life 
  • This has been done for more than one jailbreak. The three convicts who escaped from Alcatraz in 1962 went whole hog and made the papier-mache head. Ted Bundy did this in his second escape, and it worked so well that the guards didn't check until noon, by which time he'd already made it to the Denver airport and flown to Chicago.
  • Suspected CIA agents in the Soviet Union would find themselves under intensive overt surveillance by the KGB. To enable an agent to slip away and empty a dead drop or meet an asset, two agents would be in a car and as it turned a corner, one agent would jump out and a dummy on a spring contraption would pop up in the car seat. The trick relied on split-second timing and a KGB follow team made complacent by months of following the agents who'd make a point of never doing anything to shake them. Ironically the same trick was later used by a CIA agent who defected to the Soviet Union; he improvised a rig involving a blow-up sex doll.


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