Investigation Discovery channel. Anyone, including your neighbors, loved ones, or friends, could end up killing you. Living in a small town will not help you.
Two by two... hands of blue... That's River's Madness Mantra in Firefly. It refers to two men who are out to find her, who can monitor communications to find where she's been and will track her anywhere. In one episode, it's revealed that they have no problem using a harmless-looking device to kill anyone who's had any contact whatsoever with her. They just pull out what looks like a pen, and a minute later the man they were talking civilly to has bled to death through every orifice. And it's every bit as painful as it sounds.
Watch House too much and you'll turn into a hypochondriac every time you so much as sneeze.
True-life Mystery Diagnosis! At least for House's victims the symptoms just suddenly "appeared" - imagine living with mysterious, disfiguring, incredibly painful and seemingly incurable symptoms that all your doctors dismiss for decades because the diseases that cause them are so rare that most doctors never even know they exist. Even worse, many of the diseases are autoimmune diseases-a kind of illness where the immune system, which protects the body from disease, gets its programming scrambled and mistakes body parts and organ tissue for foreign pathogens, causing it to attack those parts and tissues to horrifying effect. The thought that the system that protects you from disease could suddenly go haywire and start destroying your body in so many ways ought to keep you up for many nights.
A flavor of medical paranoia: Go watch Monsters Inside Me to meet amoebas that eat your brains and worms that live in your eyes. Orifice Invasion is horrific.
Doctor Who is well known for having ostensibly started off as a somewhat educational sci-fi series that would be fun for the whole family... but instead provides prime examples of every kind of terror there is.
In "Terror of the Autons", plastic-based objects came to life, including killer plastic daffodils, a plastic chair suffocating a man, a plastic-coated telephone line strangling the Doctor and, of course, the truly infamous "troll doll" that, when it got warm, would come to life and kill people.
The terror of the Autons is amplified in Series 5: In "The Pandorica Opens", they have been so perfected that no-one, not even yourself, can tell if you are an Auton until the Legion of Doom decrees that it is time for your Auton programming to act, by which time it is too late...
"Blink" has statues that move behind your back. To quote the Doctor, "Your life could depend on this — don't blink. Don't even blink. Blink and you're dead. They are fast, faster than you could believe. DON'T turn your back, DON'T look away, and DON'T BLINK. Good luck." The episode ends with a montage strongly suggesting that the Monster of the Week is everywhere, and that the viewer isn't safe either. What makes it worse is that the episode establishes that the angels cannot move when someone is watching them. Watch the episode again, and notice the various times where an angel is stationary even though none of the characters are looking at it. Why is it not moving? YOU are watching it!
In Series 5, we learn that anything that bears the image of a Weeping Angel becomes a Weeping Angel in and of itself. So, if you're watching a Weeping Angel through another medium, like, say, your television set, then eventually it's going to crawl out and come after you... And looking into its eyes will burn it into your mind and start to Mind Rape you. And since it's an image burned into your vision receptors, it will come out of your eyes!
The Vashta Nerada. Turns out, there's a reason all sentient species have an instinctive fear of the dark. They're not in every shadow, but they could be in any shadow.
Even once you can get the Vashta Nerada out of your head, the Library double episode also uses another reliable source of Paranoia Fuel: a particularly terrifying variant of the Lotus-Eater Machine. Donna is "saved" by the planet's computer, and her mind is placed in an artificial world. The frightening thing is how well Steven Moffat captures the idea of a "dream-world": Donna notices that she is at any destination as soon as she expresses a desire to go there, only for false memories of the journey to implant a moment later, just as happens in dreams, making the feeling very relatable. It gets worse when we are treated to her "waking up." Sounds like a good thing, right? But just because she knows about her situation doesn't mean she can escape - and now the children she thinks she's been raising for years disappear right in front of her because she can no longer retain the belief required to keep them in existence in her dream-world.
The Silents. They look as creepy as hell, may kill you for the lulz, and you forget about them the moment you stop looking at them. Not helped in "the Day of the Moon," in scenes which seem to run continuously... and then you realise something has happened off-camera between frames. The camera hasn't shown everything... Or has it? Are you sure you haven't just forgotten? To make matters worse, the Silence are not all that memorable looking. Ever watch footage of the moon landing? How many Silents have you killed?
Just the fact that someone as psychotic as the Master could show up and run for office in your country while hypnotizing you with your phone should scare you more than just a little bit.
From "The Eleventh Hour", we are given the "wonder" that is Prisoner Zero. It could be right behind you, or hiding in your house for years, and you'd never notice.
Have a look at the walls in your bedroom. Or anywhere in your house. See that little crack? Yeah. Sweet dreams.
"Vincent and the Doctor" has a monster that only one person can see? For a delightfully dark alternative interpretation, consider this; you are an unsuccessful and unstable artist. You are convinced a monster is stalking you. Then a man shows up who tells you there really is an invisible monster — oh, and after you've killed it, he takes you in a time machine to a museum in the future to see your paintings on the wall and have the curator tell you that you're the greatest artist in the history of ever. Then he dumps you back where you were and disappears, and you never see him again. You find yourself back among people who are certain you're mad, and who think your art is dreadful. How long do you think it would take before you began wondering if any of it had actually happened? About a year, say?
How about the little girl in the mirror. Every mirror.
"The Waters of Mars". Water that will turn you into a martian zombie-thing. With one drop. Anyone thirsty?
Torchwood managed to pull this off with The Fair Folk in "Small Worlds." They exist outside of time, so they can never truly be tracked down. They can kill invisibly. They control the weather, and can possibly drown the world if they're ever angry enough. And every so often, they get attached to a human, and will do anything to get her to "play" with them. By the way, shouldn't your kid be back from school by now? How would you feel if you found out that your elected government is perfectly willing to let 10% of its children be forcibly taken from their parents and handed over to aliens to be kept in an And I Must Scream state, so their bodies can be pumped for substances that get said aliens high? Also, how do you know that any person around you isn't affiliated with the Families?
Just one of the tie-in books is paranoia-inducing. Specifically, the "weird new neighbours" variety. It ends with the entire town but the protagonist being turned into vampires, and she only being able to save them by the lead vampire not being able to tell time. It's a PG-version of 'Salem's Lot.
"The Tale Of The Silver Sight." Up until that story, The Midnight Society has always been considered the real world; as it was just kids telling scary stories with no hints whatsoever on anything supernatural or suspenseful on their part. Then one day said society gets caught up in a scary story of their own. This could happen to you.
Any show along the lines of Mystery Diagnosis or Diagnosis: Unknown, which feature true stories of bizarre (and often fatal) diseases people get, often living for years without knowing they're inflicted. Imagine sitting for a nice, relaxing evening of watching television, only to hear something along the lines of "John Doe collapsed a month after developing a mild cough, which turned out to be an incurable disease which horribly kills the sufferer over the course of five years."
This also happens when you get sick and try to research your own symptoms on medical websites. Oh sure, the mild headache you're having could just be caused by eyestrain, or it could be some hideous tumor trying to explode its way out of your skull! These sites are doubly traumatic if you happen to be a natural hypochondriac. Perhaps fittingly, it's now a medical condition.
The X-Files. A good 80% of all The X-Files episodes involved Paranoia Fuel of some sort.
Watching the episode "Wetwired" at two o'clock in the morning may cause general paranoia.
"F. Emasculata" and "Brand X" for your corporate conspiracies, for example.
The man who starts turning into a Chupacabra in the El Mundo Gira episode. Everything you touch starts turning to mold, including people, and you don't know what's happening or why your sweat is suddenly turning yellow.
One of the show's taglines was "Trust No One." There was a reason for that.
In-Universe Example: For Scully, big-time. Scully had spent a good part of the series denying the existence of paranormal phenomenon and a goverment conspiracy, for that matter. She knew she was rendered infertile from her abduction in season two. Season eight rolls around, only to find her pregnant. The question then becomes: how? And why? And what is she carrying? Is it a human child, or an experiment to create an alien/human hybrid? Cases like "Per Manum" and "Essence" don't help, and she becomes almost Mulder-like at times with her paranoia.
"Pusher": Not a grotesque monster but a totally ordinary looking man who can talk people into killing themselves, or their loved ones, or do just about anything he wants them to do. Not helped because it's only a few steps up from what some illusionists (like Derren Brown for example) can really do to suggestible or vulnerable people.
Millennium. There is a secret organization devoted to stopping some vague, never specified threat. All we know about it is that it will be very, very bad.
There was an episode called "Killed by Death," featuring a demon that a.) could only be seen by sick little kids and b.) kills them by sucking out their life through its eyes.
The episode "Normal Again" from season Six. Buffy couldn't tell whether the world where she was in a mental institution or the world where she's the Slayer was the real one. The episode ends it ambiguously.
That person you've met online may be a demon that will kill you by offering love...
Unsolved Mysteries, which most certainly could make you suspicious of EVERYONE in your neighborhood.
Star Trek: The Next Generation gives us the episode "Schisms", in which crew members are abducted by aliens from another universe in their sleep and subjected to bizarre experiments. This is even more terrifying than it sounds because a) episodes are usually shown late at night right before bedtime, and b) some unknown thing manages to escape into our universe before the rift is closed. This cliffhanger was never resolved, so that thing could still be out there!
Original flavor Law & Order usually deals with murders, which while horrible are usually over quickly. Now, watch Law & Order: SVU while you're a woman alone in the house and you'll be sleeping with a knife under your pillow just in case someone breaks into your house to torture and rape you.
The Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Confrontation" ensures that you will never sleep soundly again. It opens with a rapist leaving the apartment of his most recent victim. When she calls one of the SVU detectives, we find out that this is not the first time this woman was raped by that man. She follows the guy down an alley where he looms suddenly out of the shadows and they fight. Then Detective Stabler shows up to a crime scene and finds her dead body. ...Did I mention this is only the pre-credits teaser?
It's also bad if you have, or take care of, any kind of child.
You think that's bad? In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Perverted" Olivia Benson is framed for murder. How? By replacing the DNA in a blood sample with hers using a standard laboratory centrifuge! The only way the culprit is discovered is because of his poorly-timed Hannibal Lecter speech. But, to quote the lab technician responsible, "Any biology undergrad can do it. It's a whole new world. Guess your free ride is over." Or so you would think. The very next episode Olivia Benson proceeds to threaten a suspect (unsuccessfully) with ... DNA evidence.
The Sarah Connor Chronicles. There might just be a time-traveling, implacable killing machine hiding inside the walls, floors, or ceiling of your house, right now, with a weapon, waiting to burst out and kill you. Or, if not in your house, in someone else's. Or inside any other building. Waiting. Waiting...
In a more general sense, anyone from the future can send someone or something back to kill you or enslave you because of things you didn't do yet. You can be your own grandpa. Your future self may be ruthless bastard, either good or evil, and send your father to make you, then get killed, or your future self may be sent by the bad army to do things that will frame you and land you in prison.
If you live in the specific Terminator world, if you happen to see John or company do things that would alert future machines on their space-time whereabouts, they are forced to kill you. If they spare you by some miracle, you will still be visited by a Terminator in a few hours, milked for all you know through Cold-Blooded Torture, might hold and give information that will endanger the future of mankind, and then killed anyway.
As The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon pointed out, if Skynet were real, an excellent strategy would be for it to send Terminators to pose as actors that have played Terminators. Such as the Governor of California, for instance. The one who is frequently rumoured to be taking a shot at the White House sometime soon.
From Criminal Minds - aside from the "anyone can be a serial killer" thing, there's also the CDC's virus vault. Imagine the warehouse from Indiana Jones, only instead of mysterious artifacts it's filled with bio-engineered viruses that can kill you quickly and/or horribly.
Also, if you leave your door open at night for only as long as it takes to check the water valve, an arsonist can get into your house. Oh! And you know your webcam? If you've ever called customer service, someone could be watching you through it right now.
Are you currently connected to the internet? Do you use social networking sites? Yeah, not only are you being stalked and filmed right now, the killer's using your wireless signal to do it. You're also going to be murdered.
A lot of webcams have a handy little light that tells you the camera is on, specifically because of stuff like this. In fact, it's how the team realizes what's going on. Riddle me this; if they know who you are, where you live, and what type of computer you have, what's to stop them from sneaking into your house and physically disabling that little light? Oh, and remember that the computer's microphone doesn't tell you when its operating.
You would be extra careful in letting in a suspicious person into your house, whether they look nice, or offer special service; you'll never know that they turn out to be psycho who wants to kill you, or is installing hidden cameras around your house to spy on you and kill you in your sleep.
If you have kids you would never take your eyes off them, because you never know that in a split second, someone would snatch them in a flash, the moment you look away.
You see that quiet guy siting over the other side of the room you're in. You'll never know he turns out to be a paranoid psychopath waiting to attack in order to fulfill his delusions.
Whatever you do, don't lick any envelopes, the paranoid psychopath might have put poison in the seal.
This example has been spoilered for Squick and horrific reasons: Remember kids, when at a volunteer event where food is served, don't eat any chili because it might have been made from a murder victim!
Remember that nondescript stranger you briefly talked to once and then never saw again? No? Well, he remembers you and he's absolutely convinced that you are the love of his life. The fact that you have no recollection of ever meeting him and that you are terrified and moved across the country to get away from him, (and that you also already have a significant other) is irrelevant. This guy is not going to stop stalking you until you realize that the two of you are made for each other.
The UNSUB from the episode "Normal" is made for this: Remember that guy you nearly got in a fender bender with on the freeway? He might be planning to gun you down later in order to compensate for his own lack of self-esteem. Pleasant dreams.
Tales from the Darkside, especially the opening: "Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit... a darkside."
More specifically, how about the Grither? It will hunt you down and kill you for "taking its name in vain", as it hates to be talked about. The only way to stop it is for someone to tell its story and finish before it arrives... and it already killed seemingly the only people who know the story — although they thought they had made it up — before they could finish. Just never, ever say "Grither" and you should be safe.
Farscape used Harvey the neural clone to generate a deep chilling sense of paranoia in the second season: long story short, Crichton has a copy of the main villain inside his brain, and it can take control of his body at any moment- even switch off his vital functions if it feels like it. And it doesn't get any better when Crichton actually finds out, because Harvey simply erases all memory of the encounter and vanishes into the shadows.
Harvey: I won't trouble you again... until I need to. There's an exit to your left which will no doubt take you back to the surface of this commerce planet. I leave you to your shipmates, John. But rest assured, I'll be with you always. Keeping you safe.
In season two, it's revealed that the Nebari infect their rebels and dissidents with an extremely communicable sexually transmitted disease before sending them out into the galaxy. It has no effects on its victims... until the Nebari Establishment are ready to invade en mass. Chiana claims to have been purged of it, but that doesn't stop anyone from shitting bricks when she showed up on Earth in the eighties and, well... It's implied that the Nebari don't need the STD to soften up its targets. They're a Higher-Tech Species with the power to rival the Peacekeeprs and the Scarrans. It's demonstrated when one of the most powerful ships in the Peacekeeper navy is destroyed by a run-of-the-mill Nebari transport. They don't have dedicated warships because they don't need them. But don't worry, you won't mind them in control of you, as they have perfected More Than Mind Control techniques that will make you serve them in blissful ignorance.
Chuck. No joke. Not only does the government have a massive database of everything, but it can be stored in a human brain. That guy on the subway who just looked at you funny? Better hope your parking tickets have all been paid. And this database can be put in your head through the simple act of opening an email from an old friend.
This database will most likely kill a muggle like you.
Dollhouse: Your entire life - everything you've done, everything you've experienced, everyone you know, have spoken to, or loved, cared about, or hated, all of your lifetime experiences and ambitions and beliefs and goals - in short, everything that makes you who you are - could be a complete fabrication, and you would not be able to tell.
And then we get to the other capabilities of the Dollhouse technology. For example, the very next phone call you receive could be a weaponized signal that reprograms everyone who hears it into a psychotic killing machine. Or the next burst of sound from a speaker could erase your personality and replace it with someone else's, or simply erase it period and leave you a barely functional doll. Or even worse, you could suddenly end up in anyone's body without warning.
Supernatural: You or someone you love could become possessed by a demon, who will use your body and let your mind be unconscious (if they're feeling generous), or alternatively, keep you awake to watch the horrible things they do while you're unable to move your body. And don't hope for help from the Council of Angels and/or the Celestial Bureaucracy—they couldn't care less about you.
Try looking in a mirror and not expecting to see Bloody Mary standing behind you.
On Battlestar Galactica, anyone you know could be a Cylon android infiltrator. You could even be a Cylon and not know it. Unless you can confirm the existence of human parents (memories, photos, and data files are not enough), because they don't copy people. Just themselves. A lot. While you're snuggling up to your hubby, thousands of his duplicates could be working to destroy you.
For that matter, the existence of the Head Six and Head Baltar entities. They could be watching you right now, and making snide comments.
There's one episode which uses High Octane levels of this. A woman has credit card debts and is warned by a representative of the company in a Creepy Monotone to pay her debts... or else. She ignores it, and soon, things around the house begin disappearing, without other people noticing. Then the family pet. Then their children! Then her husband. Then her.
Played for laughs on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live in a fake insurance company commercial called "Thomas Peepers Insurance".
The season 2 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Stalker". If you are nice to the guy fixing your cable TV, he might decide that you're his best friend, move into your attic, watch you and videotape you through the ceiling, and ultimately try to kill you.
Kamen Rider Kabuto has this. The Worm can become an almost perfect copy of anyone, are stronger than you, can spit goo on you to kill you, can slow down time and can only be detected by smell or by Tendou being Tendou. So, if you know Tendou, stay close to him as much as possible; he might turn you into a rider as a bonus.
Kamen Rider Wizard is actually worse. The Phantoms are born when someone nears the Despair Event Horizon and proceeds to tear them apart from the inside out, bursting out of them and killing them. That's not the paranoia inducing part. That part is Phantoms can perfectly imitate the person they killed. Your trusted partner who you'd trust with your life? Your family member who you love and trust? Your best friend? Your boss? They could've been killed and replaced by a monster now seeking to drive you over the Despair Event Horizon and kill you to make another one.
Kamen Rider Ryuki also has this way before the above two. Their version are monsters who exist in a parallel universe which can interact with ANY REFLECTIVE SURFACE, and will hunt you down until your're dead. No escape unless you have a advent deck, but even that has its side effects, or be the sister of the main big bad.
Kamen Rider Gaim manages to pull off the trope as well, but in a different manner than it's predecessors; people are being infected with a mutating disease unlike any currently known, going comatose while slowly being wrapped in vines emerging from previously contracted wounds. There is very little information on the nature of this condition, making it nearly impossible to create a cure without first gaining some insight into its origins, which you've personally discovered. Too bad the local Mega Corp. solely responsible for the economic boom of the city doesn't want the knowledge to go public, has already used you as a scapegoat to turn the the citizens against you, and is completely willing to either kill you or endanger your family to keep you subservient.
V: This trope looks to be the remake's bread and butter. Not only do the humans have to worry about anyone being a Visitor, but the Visitors have to worry about anyone being part of the Resistance, even other Vs. It gets even worse in "It's Only The Beginning". You know that swine flu cure that everyone's been so desperate to get? There might be V chemicals in there that will eventually turn you into a mummified, dessicated corpse. And there's no way to tell if the chemicals are present or not.
Legends of the Hidden Temple: Those nightmarish Temple Guards could be hiding virtually anywhere in the temple. More than one kid screamed in terror during the show's run.
The third episode of Unnatural History gave us the idea of Soviet/Russian sleeper agents in America. It doesn't seem like Paranoia Fuel at first, until news of actual Russian spies in the US came shortly after.
Dexter: Not only could Your dull as Dishwater Friend be a monstrous Serial killer, but almost everyone around You is a Killer in one form or another. And the Police are so inept that the aforementioned friend is probably the only thing standing between You and a Hideous Death.
I'd correct the capitalization of this entry, but I'm too busy trying to figure out the hidden message. And who put it there. And what they want to do to me.
1000 Ways to Die: If there's anything that that show has taught us, it's that anything can kill you. Death is waiting for you around every corner, and it's nothing short of a miracle that you've managed to avoid him for this long.
Steven Moffat strikes again with the BBC series Sherlock. Anybody want to watch "A Study in Pink" while waiting for a cab? And that's just the beginning.
And "The Reichenbach Fall"... What if everything you read in newspapers and watch on television and accept as accurate is as far from the truth as you can get?How many people watching the episode were horrified at themselves for starting to doubt who Sherlock really was? I know I was.
The Outer Limits is teaming with this. "O.B.I.T" features machines that can track down and monitor anyone, and has this chilling line:
Lomax: The machines are everywhere! Oh you'll find them all, you're a zealous people. And you'll make a great show of smashing a few of them. But for every one you destroy, hundreds of others will be built. And they will demoralize you, break your spirits, create such rifts and tensions in your society that no one will be able to repair them! Oh, you're a savage, despairing planet, and when we come here to live, you friendless, demoralized flotsam will fall without even a single shot being fired. Senator, enjoy the few years left you. There is no answer. You're all of the same dark persuasion! You demand, insist, on knowing every private thought and hunger of everyone: Your families, your neighbors, everyone, but yourselves.
Elaine's (and by extension Kramer and Uncle Leo's) subplot in the Seinfeld episode "The Package" can count, especially the ending. Think of it this way: you get a rash that goes from mildly irritating to incredibly painful, and the doctors refuse to help you, no matter which office you go to. The phone call Elaine got in the middle of the night didn't help either. Plus the doctors' motivation for refusing them treatment seems to be nothing more than petty revenge. Doesn't that go against the Hippocratic Oath?
The Elementary episode "The Red Team", where a group of civilians figured out a way for terrorists to strike the US so hard that it would be a disaster for the whole nation (way worse than 9/11). Oh, and someone is possibly trying to get them to sell that knowledge. And it takes Sherlock mere seconds to figure out what it is, and he's not exactly the most stable individual. What about someone who's as smart as Sherlock but without any moral qualms? Say, Moriarty? The scariest part is they never mention exactly what sort of damage the country would sustain.
Air Crash Investigation: Rationally we know that air travel is the safest form of mass transportation. And yet there are just so many things that can go wrong. And it doesn't help that these things happen even despite some of the strictest safety regulations and training in any industry.
24, outside of the main characters that survive for more than one season, nearly anybody can turn out to be The Mole, or be aiding the terrorist plot, even people in CTU or politicians in the White House.
Kamen Rider Ryuki, Mirror Monsters can show up from any reflective surface, and when they target you, they never stop and will pursue you until you're dead or they're dead. People that know about them go so crazy they won't go outside and cover every mirror and window in their house to keep them away.
Person of Interest, You are being watched. There is a government surveillance system that sees everything. Every security camera, cell phone, webcam, and everything you do on the internet are all being monitored. If you ever find out anything about they try and kill you. Just try and walk anywhere around security cameras without thinking about this.
House of Anubis, If your best friend is randomly called down to the principles office, they are not coming back. They are getting kidnapped by all the teachers in the school, her existence erased, because she is the Chosen One.
Does your Grandmother have a headache? An evil ghost is cursing her, and will kill her if you fail to fulfill your mission given by the ghost.
Alphas: Is your cell-phone ringing in your pocket right now? The guy on the other end is waiting to brainwash you. See that autistic guy gesturing with his hands? He's secretly reading your texts, e-mails, and social media postings. The beautiful woman chatting you up on the bus? She's hypnotizing you right now and you don't even know it.