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Earthquake Machine

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This is any device that is designed to cause some sort of seismic event. Usually, an earthquake.

Almost every Mad Scientist has at least one of these in his blueprint library, sometimes even two. Sometimes simply called the Earthquake Machine, or the Quicksand Generator, Liquefaction Array, or even Ruin Device. If it does the two things that all earthquake machines have in common, it will: 1) cause earthquakes as its primary function, 2) probably be a machine, although there are a few examples of this trope involving living creatures instead of machinery.

A modernized, although not necessarily more realistic take will probably depict such a machine as a Kill Sat or something along these lines. This is derived from conspiracy theories concerning HAARP, some of which accuse the project of producing earthquakes for whichever nefarious purpose the NWO might have for them at the moment.

Occasionally overlaps with This Is a Drill. While a Colony Drop might cause an earthquake, and might very well involve a machine, the earthquake is simply a by-product of, well, a dropping colony. Compare Weather-Control Machine, which can be used to create similar chaos in the atmosphere instead of on the ground.

The traditional depiction is verging on Forgotten Trope; the jury is out whether the reimagined version makes it a Cyclic Trope.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 has one employed in its backstory as GENOM tried to keep runaway boomer technology from getting loose, deciding to employ the device to bury the lab, and causing the city to be rebuilt. However, this didn't destroy the technology as it later got loose.
  • Lupin III:

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Robert Coleman is an architect of some note in Gotham City. His reputation is irreparably damaged when an apartment complex he designed and built does not withstand a hurricane. Feeling that he has been wrongly branded, Coleman creates the alias of the Quakemaster and uses his super-charged jackhammer to create earthquakes in Gotham City.
  • Subverted in a Marvel Universe one-shot about The Incredible Hulk and Venom versus a Mad Scientist named Dr. Bad Vibes, who claims his machine is responsible for a string of earthquakes. When they track him to his lair... Bad Vibes is just a crazy old homeless man threatening them with a cardboard box with "Earthquake Machine" written on it.
  • Mortadelo y Filemón: In Desastre, a Mad Scientist threatens cities using several types of Doomsday Device, the last one causing earthquakes and threatening the heroes' own city.
  • The absolute first appearance of Lex Luthor (then only known as Luthor) in The Golden Age of Comic Books Superman comics involved Luthor stealing one of these.
  • The Thunderbirds spin-off comics had a story called "The Earthquake Maker" in which a Mad Scientist named Parthal used one of these to destroy four Iranian cities. These turned out to be simply tests in preparation for his main plan, which was to split the country in half from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea, causing devastating floods. While monologuing about this, he explains that the government of Bereznik is paying him a fortune for it, although we never find out what their motive is.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Big Bus, the villain wants to stop the eponymous transit vehicle from being able to make a non-stop trip from New York to Denver, so when it leaves the road and ends up on a cliff, his brother wants to use the earthquake machine to knock the bus over the cliff. When he aims the earthquake at his brother's location, in his iron lung Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Conspiracy Theory, the conspiracy theorist protagonist stumbles upon a conspiracy to kill the American president through an artificially induced earthquake. The machine is not described, but it's apparently fired from aboard a space shuttle.
  • The Deep Earth Seismic Trigger Initiative, or DESTINI, superweapon from The Core.
  • In the final chapter of King Of The Rocket Men, the evil Dr. Vulcan uses his Sonic Decimator to hold New York City to ransom. Every cop in the city is called out to look for him, but he's actually on an island well outside the range of the Sonic Decimator where they won't think to search. He then turns the device on an underwater fault, creating an earthquake and tsunami that destroys New York City with Stock Footage from the 1933 film Deluge.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, the crew uses a tunnel drill to simulate an earthquake hitting Las Vegas (specifically the Bank casino) in order to get everyone out of the building (to prevent people from losing the money they just won). However, the building continues to shake even after the drill stops working. In a deleted scene, Roman Nagel suggests to Livingston Dell the possibility of the fake earthquake causing a real one.
  • In Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, Casey Ryback has to deal with the bad guys who have got their hands on the controls for just such a Kill Sat. If that wasn't silly enough in itself, the villain uses its ability to produce "earthquakes" to shoot down a jetliner and several fighter planes in mid-air.

  • Forest Kingdom: Rockbreaker, one of the three InfinityPlusOneSwords featured in book 1 (Blue Moon Rising), was one of these.
  • The Russian children's novel Journey to the Morning Star has this as a Superweapon Surprise by the peaceful Etherians, who normally use ultrasonic waves to stop planetquakes. It takes a human to point out that they could just as easily cause a localized planetquake, making it a devastating weapon against the warlike Sinots (although, only when they're actually on the ground). They use it a total of one time before the Sinot population rises up against their oppressors and offers peace to the Etherians.
  • In Macdonald Hall's The War With Mr. Wizzle, Elmer conveniently has a minor earthquake machine built, which the guys sneak into Wizzle's home and then convince him the home is built on a minor faultline.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This causes the Undertaking in Arrow. Specifically, the first season's bad guy uses one or two, actually to destroy a particularly crime-ridden section of the city.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "The Enemy of the World", the eponymous dictator Salamander's evil scheme involves causing earthquakes in territories that oppose him.
    • In "The Power of the Doctor", the Daleks have sent up giant machines inside volcanoes to destabilize the tectonic plates, causing volcanoes to erupt all over the world.
  • Eureka: Zane designed a resonance device like the one Nikola Tesla claimed to have built. It was used by the bad guys to steal an EMP gun.
  • Fraggle Rock: Creating earthquakes is a side effect of the eponymous gumbo in "The Doomsday Soup".
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! had a segment joking (among other items) about the "post-quake camouflage" bandanas found on a website selling "disaster"-themed goods, at which he questions why you'd want to blend in after an earthquake... unless you somehow "caused it" and wanted to get away. (By default, he assumes he'd want to be found.)
  • Lois & Clark: The villains of "Wall of Sound" and "Lethal Weapon" hatch plots that are essentially the same: Use a sonic device to level entire buildings as part of blackmail.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Numenera: When triggered, the rods of an earthquake carillon peal forth a sonic wave that builds in intensity the farther outward it travels such that anything near the tower merely vibrates but objects and creatures 1 km or more away are affected as if by an earthquake.
  • Space 1889. Machines that can cause earthquakes or volcanic eruptions are possible inventions in the main book.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed Rogue, one appears in the form of a piece of Eden wich causes the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
  • In Battle Zone 1998, the NSDF Grizzly Hover Tank and its CCA counterpart carry the 'Thumper', a special weapon that channels biometal ammo directly into the ground to create a massive earthquake wave that will send enemies flying helplessly into the air.
  • The Soviets in the Aftermath expansion of Command & Conquer: Red Alert have access to the M.A.D. Tank, a vehicle that uses a large piston to release a wide-reaching and highly damaging seismic shockwave. However, it has no effect on infantry and the M.A.D. Tank destroys itself in the process.
  • In Criminal Case: The Conspiracy, the earthquake that strikes and destroys a sizable portion of Grimsborough early in the story is revealed to have been provoked by DreamLife messing with the meteorite that fell in the city a year ago in an effort to harness its power.
  • Final Fantasy XIII Vanille's Limit Break counts as this, as a heroic example. Alexander also uses this as a special ability, via Ground Pound.
  • In No More Heroes, this is Letz Shake's weapon of choice: a giant, silo-like device capable of unleashing a magnitude 20 seismic blast when fully charged (bear in mind, he's supposed to be an assassin).
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: After its interrupted performance in the first game, it ends up coming back in this game in the form of the newly-rebuilt Dr. Letz Shake, adapted into a smaller, but still devastating Spider Tank version of itself. This time, he actually is fought, and while his earthquakes are much smaller, they can still sap 50% (75% in Bitter) of Travis' health if he stands in the wrong spot.
  • The PlayStation tie-in to Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue have a stage where you must destroy Quake Spikes, machines embedded into the ground by Queen Bansheera's minions, to prevent their activation which will create an earthquake near a dam.
  • Rocket Power: Beach Bandits has an Earthquake Machine in Golem's Volcano Lair on Mondo Mountain, which was used to try to make the volcano erupt, but the Rocket Power gang shuts it down, which causes a volcanic surge. The gang then fights Golem Sr., who turns out to be a robot, over a pool of lava, who then makes the volcano erupt before he explodes.
  • The conspiracy theory regarding HAARP is a plot point early on in Serious Sam 4. The heroes need a way to loosen the Octanians' grip on Rome so they can get to the Vatican library. Conspiracy Theorist Carter suggests using HAARP to erupt Mount Vesuvius and clear the airspace, which the team's scientific advisor shuts down as absurd. Except General Brand reveals that Carter was right and HAARP actually is an experimental seismic weapon under the Code Name "Project Rock'n'Roll".
  • PC mecha-sim game Starsiege had these in one mission on Mars. Known as 'Hammertanks' or 'Thumpers,' these were modified drilling platforms designed to shake HERCs right off their feet. Seeing as how HERCs are apparently destroyed the moment they fall over, these tanks were extremely useful in their single appearance.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Action Man (2000): The Quake suit of Powered Armor was designed by Japanese scientists to study tremors, but it could also produce them. It is subsequently stolen by a fat janitor who uses it to become the supervillain "Quake". In an earlier episode, Dr. X used another earthquake machine to try and destroy the Master Dome as part of his plot to trigger a war between two countries, whose leaders would have been killed in the destruction had Action Man not stopped it.
  • The Batman: Black Mask uses this to blackmail Gotham to hand him money in "The Breakout".
  • Armodrillo from Ben 10: Ultimate Alien is a robotic-like creature known as a Talpaedan who can use his drill arms to create small earthquakes or quickly create tunnels which can also generate vibrations.
  • In the pilot episode of Goof Troop, Pete plants one of those old jiggling exercise machines to the foundation of the house next door and creates mini-quakes to scare away potential buyers so he can use the land to create his own backyard paradise.
  • Kim Possible: Drakken once built a Sonic Annihilator, a machine that could create powerful sonic pulses. Shego has the idea of using it to make earthquakes, and to its credit, it could do that, but Drakken used it to perfectly mix chocolate syrup and milk instead.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Experiment 513 (named Richter) is a living example. He is designed to create earthquakes by slamming his tail at the ground.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In the Porky Pig cartoon "Porky the Rainmaker", Porky has some weather pills that make whatever weather phenomenon is written on it. One chicken eats an earthquake pill, causing it to have personal earthquakes. When it holds onto something for a brace, that ends up shaking, too.
    • In an episode of Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote makes the Road Runner eat the earthquake pills. But, of course, he forgot to Read the Fine Print on the pill bottle.
  • Dr. Wily used one in the Mega Man (Ruby-Spears) cartoon.
  • Seismo from Mixels is a living one, with giant feet that shake the earth when he stomps them. Unfortunately for those around him, he gets ultra-nervous very easy and has the tendency to tap his feet when he does...
  • In the Pac-Man short "The Great Pac-Quake", Mezmaron sends the Ghost Monsters out with a machine to distract the people of Pacland with an earthquake so the ghosts can steal the secret map from the local museum.
  • Rumble in Transformers: Generation 1 is able to use his fist as piledrivers and create small earthquakes with them.
  • The 1942 Superman Theatrical Cartoons Superman cartoon Electric Earthquake has one — created by a Native-American Mad Scientist who wants to reclaim Manhattan for his people, believing it was taken by fraud.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): The Technodrome has one built-in.

    Real Life 
  • Nikola Tesla claimed to have built one, but when it was tested on MythBusters it failed to create an earthquake, although it was able to sustain some significant vibrations.
  • Hydrogen Bombs do this, particularly when someone buries them. Though one air-detonated bomb, the Tsar Bomba, explosion was so big that it could be felt anywhere and everywhere. Strangely, though, despite the wide swath of earth that is shook by an underground blast, there is little damage that is earthquake-related.