Named after the play/movie Gaslight, gaslighting is deliberately trying to drive someone mad by altering their environment without their knowledge, then denying it, or in a more general sense, by denying someone's perceptions of reality causing confusion, anguish, and paranoia. You move their things, transmit noises into their room when no one else is there, change little details about your dress behind their back and so on. Or you start acting drastically differently than you usually do. When they confront you about it, you claim to have no idea what theyre talking about and feign concern for their memory and mental health. Soon they are convinced that they are hearing voices, seeing dead people, hallucinating or whatever. The victim can become so convinced that they are going insane that they actually do go crazy.
In real life, this is a common tactic employed by the abuser in abusive relationships. The goal for the abuser is to trick the victim into doubting their own sound judgement and perception at every turn, which usually serves a two-folded purpose. Firstly to make the victim susceptible to the idea that if the abuser commits a violent or other criminal/transgressional act on them, it didn't actually happen, just like the other things the abuser denied happened. Secondly, if the victim can be persuaded that they are not of sound mind and only the abuser is capable of seeing the truth, they can be fooled into depending on the abuser to tell them what's real and what's not.
A form of Psychological Torture and subtrope of Driven to Madness. Some of the same tactics can be used in a Paranoia Gambit. In Real Life this term also refers to just persuading someone that they didn't see what they thought they saw, obviously they are mistaken in what happened and why. See also Blatant Lies, Why Did You Make Me Hit You?, and 2 + Torture = 5. In some cases, it's a kind of Gambit Roulette, relying upon implausible chances. See also It Was There I Swear. Not to be confused with Farts on Fire, Fartillery or lighting gasoline.
- In this Tide-To-Go commercial, a Drill Sergeant Nasty chews out a soldier for having a stain on his outfit. When the sergeant turns around to address the other troops, the private with the stained shirt quickly cleans it using the Tide-To-Go. When the sergeant turns back to the private, the private asks what stain the sergeant is talking about.
- A Canadian Tire TV spot in, where else, Canada, had the current "bumbling chubby oaf" mascot guy hide in a woman's wall pretending to be the wall itself asking her to buy Canadian Tire brand paint to paint it with. The ad comes off REALLY creepy.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
- In Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro pulls this on Daniel D'Arby during their poker game, using Star Platinum's faster-than-the-eye speed to change things around himself. He's not trying to drive D'Arby insane, however; he's just demonstrating his speed, which makes D'Arby fear that Jotaro may have looked at their cards (Jotaro had earlier put his own cards facedown without checking them) and possibly switched them. Losing control of the game this way causes his sanity to crumble, and his defeat is inevitable.
- Dio Brando later pulls a similar stunt on Polnareff by standing at the top of a staircase and challenging Polnareff to come up and fight him — only to stop time whenever he gets close to the top, set him back at the bottom of the staircase, and taunt him for his apparent cowardice once time starts moving again.
- Blood-C: This is actually done by the Big Bad Fumito Nanahara where he hires actors to play as Saya's friends and lets them pretend that they were killed by the Elder Bairns just to provoke an emotional response from Saya whether she could retain her new personality or not. He also drugged Saya with coffee and marshmallows whenever her old memories resurfaced. But the whole gaslighting stops after the some of the actors got fed up for waiting for Fumito give them their rewards and decided to finish the job themselves by forcing Saya to drink her own blood and revealing to her that it's all a set-up.
- Archie Comics: In an older Archie story, perhaps dating to near the Gaslight film's original release, Archie and Jughead, shortly after seeing the film, start gaslighting Veronica — because Archie forgot his date with her and he wanted to avoid her temper. In the course of a single scene, he has her doubting herself—but the tricky nature of doing it to a person in real life unravels the plot quite quickly, with a single line of dialogue from someone outside the plot. Jughead vamooses, and Archie is left alone with Veronica, wearing an evil grin, saying, "Have you ever heard of a movie called Gaslight?"
- Master illusionist Doctor Tzin-Tzin tries to do this to Batman in the classic story "The House That Haunted Batman." He fails.
- The organization of wealthy gamblers The Black Glove led by Simon Hurt try to drive Batman to his mental breaking point in Batman R.I.P.. They actually succeed, leaving them at the mercy of Batman's Crazy Awesome backup personality The Batman of Zur En Arrh.
- The Joker tries this on James Gordon during the events of Batman Endgame by doctoring himself into several photos, such as an old newspaper about a fire in a hospital, and another where he can be seen in the background of a photo taken after the birth of Barbara and James Jr. Bonus stories at the end of each issue show that he also attempted this on (already unhinged) Arkham patients...and succeeded. He is going out of his way to make himself appear as a bogeyman, taking the "monster" part of Monster Clown quite seriously.
- In Mysterio's second appearance in the Spider-Man comics, he poses as a psychologist and nearly convinces Peter Parker that the strain of a secret identity is driving him crazy and that revealing this identity to the friendly psychologist would cure it all... the changes were not terribly subtle though. More things like Peter walking in to the office to find the room was upside down, including the psychologist.
- The Batman story Dark Victory (sequel to The Long Halloween) had Alberto Falcone get out of Arkham, only to become convinced that his home is haunted by the ghost of his father when he keeps hearing voices, and even receives a gun like the kind the Holiday Killer used. When he reports this to his siblings they think he's nuts, but it's actually the Calendar Man who has been talking to him through hidden speakers throughout the house in an attempt to drive him to kill.
- In The Beano, in a Roger the Dodger strip, Roger wants a day at the beach but his parents won't agree to it, so he gaslights them by putting washing back in the washing machine and bringing back books that his father already returned to the library so they think they're getting stressed and agree to it. When his dad realises what Roger's been doing by checking the date the book was checked out on (that day, rather than whenever he'd originally checked it out), they turn the tables and gaslight Roger by going full circle around a roundabout on their way to the beach, telling him they've already been and are just coming back.
- In an early Peter Milligan comic for Vertigo, Enigma, there's a supervillain team called the Interior League whose modus operandi is gaslighting. Specifically, they break into your house while you're out/sleeping, and rearrange the furniture into the exact right positions to turn you into a homicidal maniac.
- The Spot started gaslighting Daredevil as payback for Daredevil foiling one of his crimes and humiliating him in the process. He kept this up for months. His powers allowed him to do things like plant the remains of Murdock's father on Matt's desk and teleport his institutionalized ex-wife to his bedroom and back to the asylum before anyone noticed she was gone. It didn't help that Matt's friends already thought he was going nuts because he was trying very hard to act happy in the face of all of the tragedy in his life.
- In Transformers: More than Meets the Eye, the motormouth Autobot Swerve brags about doing this to his roommate, the paranoid security chief Red Alert, just to make him freak out. He then says he's going to wheel Red Alert into a different room while he's offline recharging. Given that Red Alert is known for being paranoid and violent, this just serves to cement Swerve's Too Dumb to Live status.
- An EC Comics story subverted this with a story in which a woman believes she is losing her mind after the death of her young son. It's actually a ploy by her husband to get her committed to an asylum, which is successful — until the reveal that he's going to the asylum, and she played along with the doctors to lure him there. She had found out what he was doing and that he, not her, is the one who's mentally ill.
- The Italian Mickey Mouse story Mickey and the visionary syndrome (1997) features a particularly elaborate one. The story opens with Mickey, in detective mode, trying to capture a duo of industrial spies. He falls from a considerable height and suffers a concussion. For a while, he is delirious. The spies are apprehended by the police and Mickey is to be the key witness in their trial. When Mickey is released from the hospital, he is still in poor health and unable to fully care for himself. Conveniently, a previously unknown Country Mouse cousin drops by for a visit and offers to move in with him for a while. The cousin takes over all the housework and even volunteers to do repairs in neglected areas of Mickey's household. A few weeks later, Mickey feels fine enough to go out for a walk with the cousin. The cousin soon seems to vanish into thin air, and with him, all the improvements he made to Mickey's house. Mickey's family denies the existence of this mysterious cousin and no associate of Mickey remembers meeting him, only hearing Mickey mention him in phone conversations. Everyone concludes that Mickey has not recovered from his concussion and suffers from hallucinations. His allies in the police lose all faith in him, he is discredited as a trial witness, and Mickey genuinely starts doubting his own sanity. Then he notices an overlooked detail in his house and starts figuring out what happened. The overlooked detail was a rope knot performed by the cousin which failed to vanish with the other improvements. He soon figures out that "the cousin" was a con-artist connected to the industrial spies. The entire gaslighting operation was intended to have the case against them collapse before the beginning of their trial. During his stay, the cousin claimed shyness to avoid meeting any of Mickey's associates. He orchestrated his own disappearance, while his accomplices were working hard to undo the improvements and repairs in Mickey's residence.
- Johnny the Homicidal Maniac:
- The house and its residents use this method, along with More Than Mind Control, to drive the titular character (even more) insane.
Johnny: I don't remember you guys ever moving around like that.
Mr. Fuck: Yes, well, the rabbit provoked us.
- A few moments later:
Johnny: Um... how come you're not moving around anymore?
Mr. Fuck: We can't move around. We're made of styrofoam.
- The house and its residents use this method, along with More Than Mind Control, to drive the titular character (even more) insane.
- In one Cartoon Network comic featuring The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Hooded Claw tries this, having decided that if he can't kill Penelope and get her fortune, he'll drive her mad, and in her weakened mental state, she'll sign over her fortune to his secret identity Sylvester Sneekly. It almost works, but before Penelope can have a breakdown, the Ant Hill Mob show her the Hooded Claw's carelessly discarded costume and she calms down upon realizing that the strange things happening to her were probably the Claw's doing. This in turn drives Sneakly mad, as the stress of having his plans go up in smoke again after much effort gets to him.
- Catwoman and her partners make a plan to do this to Roulette, who had thought she'd done it successfully to Catwoman.
- "Dead Again" had Brainiac, who was thought to still be lobotomized after the events of "Panic in the Sky!", pull this off by making it appear that Superman's body was still in his grave, making everyone, even Superman, think that he wasn't the real deal and that he was truly dead.
- In Krypton No More, Supergirl is coaxed into making her cousin believe Krypton never existed for his peace of mind (long story). She pulls this off by going through Clark's home and the Fortress of Solitude, switching the Bottle City of Kandor, the Phantom Zone projector, and anything that could prove the existence of Krypton with dummies, and then telling her cousin Krypton was a delusion of his.
- In a 1966 Action Comics story arc, Lex Luthor plots to destroy Superman psychologically by saving his life multiple times, and manipulating people's perception of him. After weeks of demoralization, Superman eventually figures out what's going on and pretends to have a mental breakdown to make Luthor think he finally won.
- In the Runaways story "It's Not Lupus", Nico accidentally (and literally) curses Molly after losing her temper. When Molly suddenly turns deathly ill, she convinces Klara that it was her fault, that she infected Molly with a disease from the 1900s. Of course, then Chase starts acting strangely, despite Klara and Molly having been quarantined, and Nico is forced to concede that she's behind these incidents.
- A Project Superpowers story has the Black Terror getting stalked by the ghost of a girl who died in a robbery he broke up, who tries to convince him that all he does is create more problems for people, and thus he should just kill himself. The ghost turns out to be Mystico, an old ally of the Black Terror's who is now being blackmailed into trying to steal his soul.
- During the "One Year Later" arc of Teen Titans, the titular titans visit the Doom Patrol in order to get medical help for Kid Devil. While there, Robin discovers that the Chief regularly gaslights the other Patrolmen, convincing them that they're mentally ill or have impaired judgment in order to discourage them from questioning his orders.
- In one issue of The Flash during Barry Allen's tenure as the titular speedster, the villain Abra Kadabra sought to pull this on Barry by putting him in a situation where he'd be tricked into thinking that the iconic lightning-chemical bath, instead of giving him his powers, actually left him with horrible skin-burns. Kadabra even set up illusions of Barry's friends coming in to try and convince him that he'd never been a superhero, but rather that he'd been in a coma following his hospitalization. Near the end, though, Barry managed to defeat Kadabra after noticing a key detail that the villain had overlooked. Kadabra had brought in an illusion of Professor Zoom to taunt Barry, something which, if the supposed reality was true, should be impossible, as Zoom's origin was inspired by the Flash—basically, if the Flash never existed, then logically Zoom shouldn't exist either.
- Advice and Trust: Asuka comes up with a Zany Scheme involving Strip Chess and role-reversal to bewilder Misato so thoroughly that she doesn't have the mental fortitude to make a big deal of the fact her two wards are sleeping together. It ultimately backfires rather badly.
- In Maleficent fanfic Your Servant Mistress, Stefan is mentioned to be doing this to his wife as a part of his abuse. It helps him get sole custody for their daughter once his wife sues for divorce.
- In Worm fanfic Queen of the Swarm, Aisha occasionally used her "Forget about me" powers and her trickster disposition during a gang war to do this to enemy gangs' members:
"Back during the war, we found out one of the households was hardcore ABB. Not actual gang members, but the kind who would and did make attempts to smuggle gangers into the neighborhood, where they figured they'd be safe under E88's radar. Now, these were civilians, so we couldn't just beat the shit out of them. We might've officially been villains, but even back then we didn't hurt people like that. So instead, the evil genius here has an idea. I let the information sink in for a moment while Imp preened, before continuing. She camps out in their house for a week. Brings a pillow and a sleeping bag, sets up in a closet. Every day, she rearranges their furniture. Sometimes it's just little things, like an ottoman being across the room or a glass on the other side of the table. Other times, she spends the whole day to shove the couch into the dining room. By the end of the week, they're freaking out. Of course, when she starts to write satanic messages on their mirrors, that's when they decide it's the last straw. They left the territory and we moved refugees into the house the same day. Now, I addressed them directly, imagine her and Regent on patrol together. Street vendors would end up painted like clowns and gangers would have their pants set on fire."
- In The Very Secret Diary, one of Tom's preferred tactics of abusing and manipulating Ginny is to tell her she "must be imagining things," deny she wrote to him when she did, outright lie about where she was at certain points, and, most disgustingly, passive-aggressively convince her that she is the Heir of Slytherin, and then turn around and make her feel like she's crazy when she begins to believe it, saying of course she can't be the Heir.
- Like A Redheaded Stepchild features a more benign example: during Harry's first year, the Weasley boys all write home and talk about him as though he really was their brother, to the point where a harried Mrs. Weasley soon forgets that he isn't. (Ron even reminds her to make him a Christmas jumper, since she "forgot" last year.)
- The short Invader Zim fanfic One Night features this happening to Gaz. In the middle of the night, she witnesses a mysterious creature kill Dib and then drag his body out of the house. She calls the police, but by the time they show up, the blood has all disappeared, as has Dib's room, and every picture of him in the house. The police then reassure her that she just had a nightmare and leave, leaving Gaz to start questioning her sanity. Then the creature attacks her, only for her to suddenly wake up in her room, with a very much alive Dib also telling her she was having a nightmare... except not really, as it turns out he and Zim faked the whole thing to mess with Gaz as a cruel prank.
- In Last Call, Jasper's abusive ex-girlfriend Lapis tries to gaslight the abuse as being exaggerated. Throughout their relationship Lapis used to gaslight Jasper.
- Gaslight is the Trope Namer and probably the modern Trope Maker. In that film, a man marries a woman so he can get into the loft her aunt willed her and get at her treasure. To get her out of the loft, he starts a plan to make her think she's gone insane so that he can commit her to an asylum. The name comes from the part where he makes the gaslights in the house flicker and then denies it's happening.
- Max Keeble's Big Move: The titular character is the king of the gaslighters. Especially with Troy McGinty.
- Amélie does this to the grocer as a punishment of sorts for berating and belittling her friend. At first, they're just little things — for example, she replaces his slippers with identical ones that are a size too small, swaps his lightbulbs with much dimmer ones, and exchanges his toothpaste with a cream intended for his feet. Eventually, her tricks get more and more elaborate until he really begins to question his sanity... but the real kicker is when she replaces the speed-dial number for his mother to that of a mental hospital.
- Stanley Kubrick does it to the viewer in A Clockwork Orange. He made continuity errors on purpose during the scene where Alex has dinner with the author. The dishes on the table move around and the level of wine in the glasses change between shots.
- Sgt Angel in Hot Fuzz starts to think that he's going insane after everyone in the village ignores the increasing amount of evidence that there is a murderer on the loose in the village.
- In The Shining, the hotel sets are deliberately constructed to be geometrically and architecturally impossible. It's too subtle to notice unless you are really paying attention to the sets, but rather cleverly inflicts unease in the audience.
- Shutter Island uses continuity errors to suggest insanity. For instance, while one of the patients is being questioned early on she asks for a glass of water. She's brought a full glass in one shot, in the next shot she drinks it, but there's no glass in her hand, and in the next shot she sets down an empty glass. All these shots are so short (about a couple seconds each) that it becomes harder to notice, heightening the unsettlement the audience feels for reasons they can't really explain.
- Furthermore, such tricks seem to be used against the protagonist by the staff of the hospital. By the end, he doesn't know if everyone in the hospital is conspiring against him or if he has slipped into paranoid insanity.
- The Screaming Skull has a Bluebeard who killed his first wife for her money and then attempted to gaslight his second wife, already mentally shaky, into suicide so he could get her inheritance. As it turns out, his first wife's spirit wants revenge from beyond the grave...
- Mentioned in The Darjeeling Limited. When Jack discovers his ex-girlfriend's perfume in his luggage, Peter suggests she might be trying to gaslight him.
- A large part of how the conspiracy is maintained (most namely with the therapist and, for instance, his disappearing drink) in The Forgotten (2004).
- Referenced in Bordello of Blood, although in that case it was less about driving anyone mad and more about concealing criminal activities.
- A variation of this idea forms the plot of the 1969 film The Big Cube. In it, spoiled rich teenager Lisa tries to con her stepmother Adriana out of the money her recently-deceased father left her by driving Adriana insane. She and her drug-dealer boyfriend try to accomplish this through a combination of LSD and a hidden tape-recorder. The boyfriend takes things too far, however, when he adds an extra message to the tape urging Adriana to jump out the window to her death...
- Psycho II. Norman Bates came home cured. Marion's sister decides to unravel that.
- In the The Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera, the brothers do this to a police inspector. He checks Groucho's apartment for Chico, Harpo, and Ricardo, and the brothers try to conceal the fact that they are staying there by hiding the fact that there are four beds. The beds get repeatedly shuffled between rooms until the cop is convinced he is nuts.
- In Les Diaboliques, a man's mistress and his wife conspire to kill him. But after they drown him, signs turn up to make it unclear whether he's really dead or not. The mistress and the husband are actually conspiring to frighten the wife, who has a weak heart, to death.
- In the 1940s film The Dark Mirror, the evil twin, Terry, attempts this on the good twin, Ruth. She uses such tricks as turning the lights on quickly in the middle of the night and telling her now-awake sister she must be hallucinating, and hiding a music box in the house and leaving it on.
- The Tenant, Roman Polanski's self-starring conclusion to his "Apartment Trilogy" (with Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby), has the protagonist moving into a new apartment whose former tenant (a woman named Simone Chule) had committed suicide. Over time, he becomes convinced his neighbors are conspiring to turn him into Simone's likeness. It is probably more likely that he is going mad on his own, but the film does leave room for interpretation.
- A favorite plot device of William Castle, who was influenced by the aforementioned Les Diaboliques. Visible in Macabre (on a male victim, fairly unusually), House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Tingler, and The Night Walker at the very least.
- Featured extensively in Rosemary's Baby, where the plot turns out to revolve around a satanic cult that wants to impregnate Rosemary and make her give birth to The Antichrist. This is accomplished by drugging her, insisting that she looks healthy when in reality the Fetus Terrible causes her to look pale and malnourished and just generally acting like nothing is wrong. Later they dismiss her ravings about witches and cults as stress from the pregnancy and use similar tactics to convince her that the baby died. The reason this works so well at first is due to the sheer amount of people involved, with Rosemarys husband, doctor and every tenant in her apartment building being in on it.
- Lifetime Movie of the Week In The Dark has this being done to a woman who has recently been blinded in an accident, the culprit being her volunteer aid, who is also her Stalker with a Crush. The purpose is to make her feel helpless and thus more dependent on him — thus he'll do things like move an end table just enough that she'll trip over it the next time she enters a room, or take a vase from her house and hide it in plain sight, then buy her flowers and "find" the vase for her, pretending it was there the whole time and she missed it while feeling around the shelf.
- The 1961 film The Pit and the Pendulum has a man believe he accidentally buried his late wife alive. It turns out his wife was never dead and is conspiring with the man's best friend, who was also the doctor who declared her dead, to drive the man insane so they can continue an affair they are having. They succeed, but soon find they have driven him too insane, and are quickly on the receiving end of Laser-Guided Karma.
- Both Vabank and its sequel base their delightful mind-screwyness on Kwinto's crew gaslighting Kramer (in the first movie, to give him a "perfect" alibi: in the second, to drive him right into the hands of Przygoda) in very elaborate ways.
- A major plot point in Changeling, as the Los Angeles Police try to convince Christine Collins that the boy they found is really her missing son (despite being obviously different) and she must be crazy to think otherwise. Frighteningly enough, this is Based on a True Story.
- In Bunny Lake is Missing, the heroine's young daughter disappears, along with nearly all evidence of her existence.
- The Truman Show is pretty much all about this, but especially when Truman starts to suspect what is going on — and Meryl and Marlon start dismissing them as him having a mentally unbalanced episode.
- In the Anthology film Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear, a variant of this trope occurs in "The Trouble With Dad". An elderly man living in a nice isolated house appears to be suffering from Alzheimer's, as his daughter and son-in-law keep having to remind him of events he can't recall. In fact, these events never happened; they're just trying to convince him that his mind is failing so he'll be Driven to Suicide and they can inherit his house. He discovers the truth when he finds the freshly-dead carcass of his dog, which they'd secretly killed and claimed had been "put down" months ago.
- Mean Girls: Regina does this to Aaron when she gets back together with him just to prevent him from asking out Cady, flat out denying that she broke up with him.
Aaron: What are you doing? YOU broke up with ME?
Regina: That's crazy, why would I break up with you? You're so HOT.
- Matilda does this to Sadistic Teacher Trunchbull via telekinetic powers, at first in very little adjustments, but finally by outright having two paintings levitate around the room. Since Trunchbull is highly superstitious, she instantly assumes that her brother-in-law, Magnus, whom she had murdered is haunting her. She catches up on the situation though when she finds Matilda's red hairband.
- The Terror: Katrina is attempting to drive the Baron to suicide by making him think that he is haunted by the ghost of late wife. However, unusually for this trope, she uses supernatural means to do so.
- The House That Dripped Blood: In "Method for Murders", Charles' sightings of Dominick turn out to be part of a plan by his wife Alice to have him declared insane so she can run off with her lover.
- Trading Places: The Duke Brothers do this to Louis Winthorpe as part of their bet. When Louis returns home with Ophelia, he finds that somebody changed the locks on his door, and when he knocks on the door, his butler Coleman pretends he doesn't know him.
- Used on the main character as a worthiness test in Neverwhere.
- In Time and Again, one of the criteria used in choosing a time-traveller was to see how he reacted to apparently reason-defying events: he responded rationally and soon figured out how the testers had tricked him.
- Whether it was his intent or not, Dracula did this to Jonathan Harker while he had Harker imprisoned in his castle. Harker was convinced he'd hallucinated the whole thing for a long time afterward. By the end of his stay, not only is Jonathan a psychological wreck, but he's practically become nocturnal to match the Count's own sleeping habits.
- Agatha Christie:
- Third Girl has Norma, the titular girl, believing herself to have murdered someone after having vivid memories of appearing at the crime scene. It turns out that the murderer (the man pretending to be her father) and his accomplice (Normas roommate) have been feeding her drugs and taking her to the crime scene to make her come to this conclusion. They do it again in the climax, this time placing her by the body with a knife in her hand. The imposter even has a portrait painted of himself in the same style as one of Normas mother to make the impersonation more convincing to everyone else, no matter how much Norma insists that the man is not her father.
- In one of her short stories that were part of the Labors of Hercules cycle, the Cretan Bull, Hercule Poirot investigates the apparent mental breakdown of the almost-wedded son of a navy officer. Turns out that the officer, whose madness runs in the family, was trying to drive the young man insane (helped by an interesting use of a drug — probably thanks to Christie's background as a pharmacist — spiking his shaving lotion with belladonna eyedrops, which soothe the eyes but are poisonous and psychoactive if ingested), in order to get revenge on the family friend who had an affair with his wife and is in fact the guy's real father. He wants to convince him that he's Axe-Crazy and murderous, to drive him to suicide. Since he isn't the Admiral's son, he doesn't have his madness, and everything ends all right. (Though interestingly, the officer himself doesn't survive all of this.)
- In A Caribbean Mystery the murderer is revealed to have poisoned his wifes cosmetics to make her hallucinate and appear insane to others and herself. This is so that itll look more convincing when he kills her and makes it look like a suicide.
- According to the Tom Clancy novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin, this is a technique sometimes used by the KGB to break down prisoners. Particularly messing with their perception of time, by putting them in a windowless cell and moving their mealtimes around so they feel like they're suffering from time-dilation or compression, but also sometimes more... unusual methods are taken into use. Like having somebody dress up like the prisoner's long-dead war-buddy and pop up in the middle of an interview, with the interviewer not 'seeing' him...
- And this is their soft torture. When they capture a Western spy who is young enough for them to properly torture, they place her in a sensory-deprivation tank for hours. She ends up thinking she's died and gone to Hell.
- Roald Dahl's The Twits was all about this — the titular dysfunctional couple do it to each other to begin with (for example, adding a small segment to the bottom of a walking stick every day to make the wife think she's shrinking), and have it spectacularly turned on them at the end (they're tricked into gluing themselves to the floor, and end up shrinking down into nothing in their efforts to get themselves unstuck).
- In Captain Underpants, George and Harold do this to their science teacher, Mr. Fyde, by making animal noises very quietly and then denying that they heard anything.
- A The Vinyl Cafe short story recounts how a Chinese restaurant owner using this managed to get a bigoted regular customer to slowly feel more and more subconsciously uncomfortable and to stop coming there on his own. Over the course of a year, he slowly increased the portions that the customer received a spoonful at a time, shortened his chair with a file, and changed a painting that he liked to look at while he ate a brushstroke at a time (it used to be a summer scene, and it was turned to a winter scene by the end).
- In the V. C. Andrews standalone, My Sweet Audrina, Audrina's whole family engages in gaslighting (particularly to fake the passage of time), leading her to believe she is someone else after her rape.
- Discworld examples:
- In The Fifth Elephant, Acting Captain Colon becomes convinced that the rest of the Watch is doing this to him — specifically, stealing the sugar lumps — to try to drive him mad. They're not. Colon's really bad at counting, and it doesn't help that he starts eating them while he's trying to count them.
- In Going Postal, this is the point of Lord Vetinari sending Clerk Brian, something of a Highly Visible Ninja, to spy on a banker. Rather than get actual information, Vetinari wants to make the banker nervous. He (Brian, not Vetinari) rearranges some of the banker's stuff.
- A much more minor and almost inadvertent example: in Night Watch, a group of disgruntled watchmen steal the elderly Captain Tilden's silver inkpot, a memento that Tilden's old cavalry unit gave him when he retired from the service, and attempt to frame Vimes by planting it in his locker. Vimes anticipates this, and initially plans to simply plant it in the locker of one of the conspirators, but is forced by circumstances to instead put it in Tilden's safe and convince the old man that his memory is going and that Tilden forgot about putting it back in the safe. Poor Tilden is embarrassed and half convinced that he's going senile, and Vimes feels terrible about the whole thing because Tilden is a good man who doesn't deserve to have his mind screwed with in such a way.
- In James Thurber's The Great Quillow, the title character uses this to drive away Hunder the giant.
- Caroline B. Cooney's Losing Christina trilogy deals with a seemingly charming husband and wife duo who enjoy doing this to young women For the Evulz. The main plot of the series involves one of their latest targets, Christina, figuring out what they've been doing and trying to convince people of their real nature, all the while holding onto her own sanity.
- This is part of a sub-plot in The Fear Index where the computer program VIXAL-4 has been using his bank accounts to buy things, using his e-mail to contact people, even hacking into his doctor's notes and using little bits of that to get a guy to break into his house and murder him.
- In the children's book The Night It Rained Pancakes (adapted from a Russian folktale), a Russian peasant does this to his impressionable brother not to make his brother question his sanity, but to make their feudal lord question the brother's sanity so he won't believe the brother's claims that gold was discovered on their land.
- In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom insists they do this as part of his infamous and unnecessarily convoluted scheme to rescue Jim the "proper" way. He and Huck hide spoons while Aunt Sally counts them, and then replace them when she tries to re-count, as well as sending mysterious threatening messages.
- A textbook example occurs in a YA novel by Steven Oftinoski that reads in some ways like an homage to The Screaming Skull, right down to its name — The Shrieking Skull. A reclusive widow is being tormented with visions of a skull and recorded screams to make her think she's being haunted by the ghost of her long-dead decapitated lover. This is so that she can be declared insane and put in a mental hospital, thus paving the way for the sale of her old mansion to a greedy developer, a sale that will make the gaslighter rich. It's her seemingly kindly doctor. The plot is only exposed when the Kid Detective starts investigating and the gaslighter, afraid they will be discovered, tries to scare him away with the skull, thus proving it isn't all in her head.
- Forms a major part of the plot in the Phryne Fisher mystery Ruddy Gore.
- In Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, Chaz Perrone is driven insane in many small ways by his wife Joey, whom he thought he had killed.
- Molly Sterling's ex-husband Rodney in Catherine Anderson's Sweet Nothings was a pro at this, convincing not only those around him but Molly herself that she was unstable and belonged in a mental ward, just so he could get his hands on her family's money.
- Used as a roundabout method of murder in I, Claudius, where Claudius' superstitious brother Germanicus is tormented to death by a variety of inexplicable occurrences. The culprit? His young son, Caligula, who got in touch with his inner psycho very early on.
- A profoundly important aspect of Nineteen Eighty-Four, it is taken to the absolute extreme, with every aspect of the past being constantly altered and treated as if it had never been altered, with dissent to this process punishable by the Ministry of Love.
- Hush, Hush:
- In the first book, Patch does this to Nora, using his angelic powers to trick her into hearing his voice in her head and making her hallucinate certain things. He also makes it so that Nora is the only person who can see or hear him, so she looks like she's crazy when she talks to him.
- The parody book An Aliens's Guide to the X-Files suggested this strategy for aliens so that their abductees would not be believed, Mulder would constantly be distracted, and Scully would be driven insane. The suggested plan for Scully was to secretly sneak into her home at night, raise the countertops and shelves, replace her furniture with something just slightly larger, and take in the seams on her clothes to convince her she was shrinking and gaining weight.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Roose Bolton doesn't let not knowing what a gaslight is stop him from using this trope. What he does to Jaime and Brienne over a dinner/ meeting/ condescending debriefing in Harrenhal has very strong shades of it, for all it was just over one meal. The selection of an ill-fitting, horrible dress for Brienne (who is well aware that she's not considered attractive), the hard-to-cut food, the top-heavy goblet, and the cutlery provided for Jaime (who recently lost his dominant hand)? Not an accident. And, all tailored to hit both of their egos in some very tender places, make them uneasy... and just to amuse him, while he puts forward his version of events with no spin and no underlying threats or power-plays whatsoever. The thought of staying with him for a month when he's got no particular reason to be good to you should, rightly, make your skin crawl.
- Tywin Lannister has spent pretty much all of Tyrion's life trying to convey how much of a useless disappointment he (and society at large) finds his son to be. And, Tyrion has internalized a lot of the less-than-subtle digs (from assigning him to dangerous, demeaning or both positions to the very horrible "prank" pulled on both Tyrion and his actual daughter-in-law, Tysha), being utterly convinced that people will only ever follow him for money.
- In Wraith Squadron, Grinder finds himself the victim of a prank of this nature, orchestrated by Face, Phanan, and Kell. It was intentionally vicious (though ultimately harmless), because the other squad members were tired of the pranks he was pulling on them, and pulled the prank as revenge and as a warning for him to stop.
- In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, after Alex sees several people in a place where they shouldn't be, and then nothing is there, he fears he's going mad. Turns out that one of his foes is a shapeshifter.
- In R.L. Stine's The Best Friend, one of Honey's main tactics in driving Becka up the wall is stealing her stuff and saying Becka let her keep them.
- The way Christian treats Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey has strong shades of this.
- Joe Pickett: The bad guys in Out of Range uses drugs and psychological trickery to turn game warden Will Jensen's depression into paranoia, which ultimately drives him to suicide. They attempt to do the same thing to Joe when he takes over the post.
- In Mr. Mercedes, Brady, while ostensibly "fixing" the victim's computer, uses this to drive Olivia to suicide. The offender had stolen the victim's car to drive it into a crowd of people, then rigged the victim's computer to play voices masquerading as those who died in this attack.
- In Worm, Imp uses her ability to terrify people by misplacing or stealing their things, moving their furniture, giving them small cuts that they don't remember getting, and so on.
- In the Mary Higgins Clark novel Remember Me, a couple goes away for the summer to recuperate from the death of their young son. However, the woman is relentlessly plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, and hallucinations about the accident in which he was killed (and she was driving the car, leaving her with considerable Survivor Guilt as well). Her husband insists that she needs to be confined to a mental hospital, but he turns out to be a Red Herring. His concern, while overbearing, was genuine. It turns out that the culprit is his ex-girlfriend, who's trying to drive her insane to the point of killing herself so that she can get him back. The nightmares have been induced by the sounds of the accident and a child's crying being piped into the house—the reader might recall at some point that the ex is a real estate agent and that it was she who "kindly" found the house for them.
- In The Amy Virus, Cyan's parents do this to make her conform to their rules. Cyan's friend Renate even refers to the trope namer when she points it out to her.
- In the novel Kind Of Cruel, in keeping with one of the major themes concerning the difference between memories and stories, Jo frequently gaslights Amber, her sister-in-law by being chummy with her one moment, viciously lashing out at her the next, then snapping back to normal and acting like nothing unpleasant transpired at all. Amber herself even notes Jo tends to do this when nobody else is around, making it even harder for Amber to be sure if Jo's behaviour was real or imagined.
- In Great Black Kanba by Constance & Gwyneth Little, the heroine suspects this is being done to wealthy "Uncle Joe" as all of the incidents that make him look like his sanity is slipping could also be the result of deliberate action. Uncle Joe also realizes this, but having committed murder for reasons unrelated to the gaslighting, exploits the incidents as part of an Insanity Defense. The book ends before we learn if this was successful.
- Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "The Adventure of the Madman", Moriarty sprinkles powdered Devil Foot Root on the wood Dr. Seward is burning to heat his asylum: hoping to send the doctor mad so no one will ever believe there was a patient called 'M'.
- Game of Thrones: This is one of the things the Master Torturer does to Theon, disorienting both him and the show's viewers.
- Jessica Jones shows gaslighting extensively (and very realistically, despite the setting — real-world victims of the technique have commented on how truthfully gaslighting is depicted by the show). This is not surprising, for a show that uses a villain with mind-controlling powers as an explicit metaphor for domestic abuse. At various times, first season villain (and Jessica's former abuser) Kilgrave attempts to confuse and distort Jessica's reality not with his actual mind-control powers, but simply by retelling the story of their relationship from a delusional perspective, that he insists on in the face of Jessica's own memories. Similarly, we see other characters such as Trish deal with this tactic from her mother. Interestingly, Jessica Jones doesn't simply demonstrate realistic gaslighting and its psychological effects alone, but shows its characters combating the technique by re-asserting their own stories. A recurring theme has Jessica reciting the names of streets she knew from the neighbourhood she once lived in, part of a psychological technique sometimes used by victims of abuse to have something concrete to hold onto that is outside of the warped reality insisted on by their Kilgrave.
- Used on Remington Steele as Steele and Laurel pull a scheme to force a murderer to confess. Keeping to a running theme of the series, Steele openly cites the movie as the inspiration.
- In Happy Endings, the episode "The Kerkovich Way" reveals the eponymous way involves lying to someone, flooding them with specific details until they question their own perception of reality. Alex protests and says it's wrong, while Jane (who does it so often to her husband he's one MRI away from a free MRI) uses it very often, to crazy extremes in this episode.
- One episode of Corner Gas had the entire cast, mostly Brent and Emma, do this in order to make Oscar think his memory was failing him in his old age. He even starts suspecting it, but they just laugh and tell him he's being ridiculous. At the end of the episode, Emma starts feeling guilty and makes Brent tell Oscar the truth. Oscar has forgotten everything and doesn't know what the hell Brent's talking about.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In "Gone", an accidentally invisible Buffy does this to a social worker (moving her coffee mug and whispering, "kill, kill...") who was probably about to have Dawn taken away. Kind of mean, since the social worker wasn't being unreasonable, she just happened to visit the Summers' house on a really bad day... which is probably every day around there...
- Season 6 also played this for drama at one point, with Spike convincing the already severely depressive Buffy that she Came Back Wrong, and is thus inherently evil. Buffy ends up telling Tara (who was also gaslighted into thinking she was inherently evil for a long time) about this, and she convinced Buffy that it's false. Interestingly, this is a plot point Joss Whedon avoided answering. Considering the franchise still lives in comic form, currently on Season 10, it's quite likely this was intentional.
- Angel did a variant of this with "Dear Boy", with Wolfram & Hart using the recently resurrected Darla to tease Angel, making his friends think he's lost it.
Wesley: Vampires don't come back from the dead.
Angel: I did. And I saw her. I'm not crazy!
Angel: Right between the clown and the big, talking hot dog.
- In the episode of The Avengers "The House that Jack Built", Emma is trapped in a house that is an elaborate psychological maze, built by a now-dead businessman who had too much free time, too much money, and one hell of a grudge against her. A recorded message he leaves flat-out states that the intention is to drive her insane, and eventually to suicide.
- In Monk, apparently convincing someone and her friends that she is insane and hallucinating will ensure that you can murder someone using a method she devised and not get caught. After all, if an insane woman says she knows how a murder was carried out, there's no reason to even test the theory.
- Inverted only to be played straight in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum", where Dr. Lancaster dresses as Santa Claus to gain entry to a chimney in a mental institution to retrieve the gun he used a few years ago to shoot and kill a rival doctor at the institution, because he knows the patient in the room overlooking his route is obsessed with Santa Claus and won't be believed. Unfortunately, Dr. Lancaster's plan backfired when he was forced to abandon the search because one of the patients was throwing a fit, and he apparently didn't anticipate that the patient in question would actually photograph him or that Monk would start investigating. As an emergency fix, he makes things seem as though Monk and the patient in question were becoming insane (or in the case of the patient, more insane than he already was), such as stealing the camera as well as rags from his Santa suit that Monk discovered, stealing a fellow inmate's necklace and somehow planting it on Monk to make it seem as though he stole it, and replacing pictures he drew with more disturbing pictures.
- This seems to be happening to Sharona in "Mr Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf", providing the first example.
- In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist", there is an episode-length use of this trope: Randy is undergoing a dental operation at Dr. Bloom's to remove an infected tooth. During the operation, a bald man barges in and furiously demands that Dr. Bloom tell him what he's done with Barry Bonds, who is worth $13 million. A fight breaks out, with Dr. Bloom and his assistant Terri ultimately killing the intruder. When Randy comes around after his operation is over, he looks around and sees no signs that a fight ever happened, because Dr. Bloom and Terri had dumped the body in the woods and also replaced broken equipment. Everyone, Stottlemeyer included, dismisses Randy's claim as an affect of being under anasthetics at the time. When the victim's body does turn up, Randy identifies him as the man Dr. Bloom killed, but is laughed at by the other cops and quits in anger (Stottlemeyer theorizes to Randy that according to him, the intruder confronted Dr. Bloom because he thought Dr. Bloom kidnapped Barry Bonds and they were arguing about the ransom money). Randy only realizes that he wasn't hallucinating when he notices an article about the armored car robbery that the dead man, Denny Jardeen, had been involved in: in that robbery, armed men with pistols and rifles had hijacked an armored car, unloaded it at a warehouse, shot and killed both guards, and made off with $13 million in bearer bonds. Randy realizes that one of the guards punched Jardeen in the face before he was shot, Jardeen had gone to Dr. Bloom's to get a broken tooth fixed, and divulged the location of the bonds to him and Terri while under anasthesia. The good doctors went to his house, found the money in a toolshed, but instead of turning the money in to the police, they kept it. When Jardeen figured out what happened to the bonds, he confronted Bloom about it, forcing Bloom and Terri to kill him. Randy misinterpreted "bearer" as "Barry", explaining the Barry Bonds discrepancy.
- Another case happens to Monk in "Mr. Monk Is Up All Night": Suffering from insomnia, Monk is wandering through the streets, and happens to pass by a diner kitchen where he hears an argument going on. He peeks through a window and sees a drug deal going bad, with the dealer and customer debating if a third man at the deal, an Asian, is actually a cop or not. Suddenly, the Asian pulls a badge and gun and declares the other two men under arrest. Monk looks away as the drug dealer attacks the undercover cop, only to hear a gunshot. He looks and sees the drug dealer has shot and killed the cop (and blood has splattered everywhere). The dealer hustles the customer into a waiting car that speeds away. But when the police arrive, however, the kitchen (which was destroyed in the fight) is spotless and immaculate, and there is no evidence that a murder happened, not even a body to prove a thing, and no cops have been reported missing. Monk later finds the supposed "undercover cop" at a train station, but he denies ever having been to the diner. He also locates the customer, a coin dealer, who denies ever having been there. The apparent murder was an elaborate con by the Asian and "drug dealer" to steal the coin dealer's merchandise, tricking him into thinking he had witnessed a murder and was paying them hush money. The reason why the kitchen was spotless is because a waitress at the restaurant helped the Asian clean up the kitchen before the cops arrived.
- The Janitor convinces Kelso that he's suffering memory loss like this. Largely by yanking Ted around with a crane, but whatever works for comedy. Kelso does figure it out though, and gets back at the Janitor. And then done to the Janitor in the last season, where they actually convince him all the weird stuff he did (building a giant sand castle in the parking lot, etc.) was just in his mind. He believes it. Or does he?
- J.D. also mentions that he's attempting to do this to Turk when he asks Melody to keep a tiny bottle of ketchup so that he can replace everything in his apartment with tiny versions and convince Turk that he's grown extraordinarily tall.
- In the episode "My Buddy's Booty", the Janitor reveals to Dr Cox that he stole the keys to J.D.'s apartment, so he can go in, switch off his alarm and move stuff around. He then pushes it beyond deniability by taking J.D.'s bed to the hospital while he's asleep, and leaving it in front of an ambulance.
- In an episode of Medium, a man tries to get his wife committed to an insane asylum by drugging her candy with hallucinogens. It gets out of control when the priest accidentally takes some, too, and the man who was drugging his wife hits him on the head, causing him to fall down the stairs (he feared that the priest would be suspicious once he became lucid again).
- In the Arrested Development episode "My Mother The Car," Lucille crashes her car with Michael riding shotgun, giving him a head injury. She spends the rest of the episode trying to convince him the crash was his fault, giving him a Tap on the Head whenever he starts to remember the truth, all while being an extremely eerie Stepford Smiler "caring mom" to her injured son.
- Midsomer Murders:
- Done in the episode "Beyond the Grave" where a woman's brother-in-law and her therapist conspire to make her think she's going insane, seeing her dead husband's ghost.
- A later episode has a woman made to believe she's committed several murders via voices being transmitted while she's sleeping and hearing creaking stairs. It turns out the murders were committed by a man who's installed several transmitters in her house to get her to blame herself. Jones himself listens to the sounds from the bedroom while fully conscious and claims he'd go for his bat.
- Farscape: "Won't Get Fooled Again", where Crichton recognizes it beforehand. "Somebody is gaslighting me!" This was actually the second or third time it had been done to him (depending on if you count Maldis who made it completely blatant), although the first where riving him nuts was the actual intent.
- An EastEnders plot had Nick doing this to his mum.
- Done in an episode of Australian drama series The Flying Doctors. For an extra twist, a medicine with the known side effect of making people dizzy and confused is mixed into the victim's food, in addition to basic gaslighting.
- Used in retrospect in Burn Notice. The original plan was just to convince their target (an abusive and politically connected ex-husband) that people were trying to kill him, to get him to leave town. Unfortunately, his mobster brother wouldn't let him run, so they did some quick stepping to make it look like the whole thing was a series of paranoid hallucinations, presumably getting him committed in the end. Features an awesome performance by Michael as a Catholic priest. Conversation between Michael and Sam suggests this technique is a standard spy technique, particularly for targets with a history of substance abuse.
- Occasionally used on Leverage.
- "The Order-23 Job" has the team use a faked outbreak to freak out a germophobic Corrupt Corporate Executive who's about to go away to Club Fed. They get him to escape the custody of the Federal Marshals in order to lead him to his hidden stolen money.
- "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" has the team target a tabloid TV reporter and make her think she's stumbled upon a conspiracy theory involving terrorists and when that isn't enough, ups the ante without much effort. The episode gets extra points when the team convinces the reporter that there's a chemical in the water supply, and give her pills to counteract it — pills that turn out to be anti-psychotic meds. Guess what happens when she interrupts a broadcast for "breaking news" and her producers tackle her...
- "The Morning After Job" may take the prize. The team convinced a protected federal witness that he had killed his one-night stand, played by Parker, to convince him to give them evidence against Big Bad Moreau. The plan goes awry, so they end up bringing Parker into the courtroom when he's about to give his testimony and escape all consequences for his actions. Needless to say, he flips out and ends up being tazed after leaping off the stand screaming "WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?" at Parker and a bewildered FBI agent (who believed that Parker was also FBI).
- In Vengeance Unlimited, Mr. Chapel uses a police officer's ID and his own computer savvy to drive his mark crazy. It's almost undone by his mark's biggest fan, a computer genius herself... Until he gets the mark to confess within her earshot.
- That show loved this trope. There's another point in that episode where he pays off an entire restaurant to use Monopoly money instead of cash, much to the horrified confusion of the victim. Then, to drive the nail home, he has them switch back to real money when the victim is in the bathroom, then back again when he goes to pick up the check. It works beautifully.
- In Cold Case, when the team is investigating an alleged suicide, it was played straight, in that the nanny did this to the victim in order to get to her husband, and subverted, in that it was the husband that killed his wife to hide his plagiarism and just made it look like a suicide, taking advantage of her previous apparently insane behavior.
- In The Prisoner (1967), Number Six does this to a particularly nasty Number Two in "Hammer Into Anvil". He's long since learned that his fellow citizens will immediately tattle on every action of his. But if he does random things for no reason, the other Villagers have nothing to report. But Two can't accept that. They must all be in cahoots with Six!
- Variations on the technique are used against Number Six in several episodes, most notably in "The Schizoid Man", where Number Six is brainwashed to believe that he's a Village agent brought in to impersonate the "real" Number Six (who actually is a Village agent impersonating him) in order to break him.
- Used in Malcolm in the Middle by Dewey to punish Lois for not getting him an ingredient he needs for a science experiment.
- He also did this to Hal for refusing to buy him a piano. Mostly by making things go missing. Then it was revealed that the many things he stole throughout the episode were for an organ he was constructing in the garage.
- Hal did this to Lois once. Lois gets into a car accident which appears to be her fault, but which she insists is not, even when shown a video that seemingly proves her guilt. When Hal finds a video shot from another angle that proves she was right all along, he decides to never let her see it. He was so desperate to hear her admit that she was wrong about something that he didn't care that she was actually right.
- The Adventures of Superman:
- In one episode this was apparently being done to Jimmy Olsen. Items were moved around in his house and the painting in the living room kept changing. Ultimately, the gaslighting was unintentional, the result of burglars using his house to stash stolen goods while he wasn't there.
- In another episode, Perry White starts seeing Julius Caesar's ghost (a play on his Catchphrase "Great Caesar's Ghost!"). It turns out to be a ploy to undermine his credibility as a witness in an upcoming gangster trial. Superman saves the day by gaslighting the gangster into believing the ghost of a crook he betrayed had come back to haunt him.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In "Remember Me" Beverly Crusher finds herself the victim of gaslighting by a Negative Space Wedgie which alters reality so that everyone she had known begin to vanish, with only her aware of the disappearances, but the crew not being aware of the disappearances. Eventually, her medical team vanishes. Then her son. The last to vanish is Captain Picard, by which point Beverly was being told that she and Picard were the only crewmembers on the Enterprise.
- Also happens to Riker in "Frame of Mind", as his alien captors try to brainwash him by making him think he's in a Cuckoo Nest.
- Famously, in "Chain of Command": "There are four lights!" The Cardassians psychologically torture a captured Picard by showing him a set of four lights and asking him how many there are, punishing him each time he says four and stating that there are actually five. Despite his defiant proclamation after being released, Picard admits that, towards the end, he really started to think that there were five lights.
- Dax (with Quark's help, evidently) moved Odo's furniture while he was regenerating "four times in the past year" preceding the fourth-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Homefront". Of course, she's only moving his stuff two or three centimeters each time, but it still drives him crazy enough to confront Quark about it.
- Crops up in Jonathan Creek in "The Judas Tree". Jonathan also mentions Gaslight at one point during the episode.
- Elle Robinson did this to Max Hoyland in revenge for his role in her brother's death (a case of mistaken identity, due to said brother having an evil triplet. This was his exit storyline, as his marriage never recovered even after regaining his sanity.
- Years before that, Michael Martin gaslighted his stepmother Julie Martin; he always blamed her for breaking up his mum and dad's marriage, driving his mum to alcoholism and later death in a car crash. Michael proceeded to gaslight Julie by moving objects around the home (or hiding them), pretending he hadn't talked to her about things (or alternately, pretending to have talked to her when he hadn't), and altering her dosage of tranquilisers. By the end, he had her convinced she was insane, including leaving the house and running around the back to make it appear that there was more than one of him, and was only caught out because he got too cocky.
- Used and namechecked in a 2015 story arc which again involved a (former) Hoyland and a Robinson. When Stephanie Scully returned after two years in a mental hospital, she quickly befriended Paul's daughter Amy and grandson Jimmy. Paul, concerned for Jimmy's safety (and possibly still carrying a grudge over Steph's involvement in the death of Ringo Brown), attempted to make her doubt her sanity again and force her to return to the hospital, using information he learned from Steph's psychiatric nurse/ex-girlfriend Belinda. However, he was soon exposed for it after blackmailing Aaron into helping him, and Stephanie managed to trick him into a confession by pretending that it had worked.
- The Victim of the Week in an early episode of NCIS was subjected to this treatment via a radio hidden in her house's ventilation to make her hear voices.
- Criminal Minds the episode "Lessons Learned" has the good guys doing this to an Islamist terrorist who has information about a bomb attack; by reducing the time between his prayer sessions bit by bit each day so they could eventually say it was too late, and thus the guy would give away some important thing during his Evil Gloating. Which he does, of course. The lead interrogator realizes during his first conversation with the man this would be the only method to get any information out of the man.
- In Psychoville we have a character do this to themselves, creating a false borderline schizophrenic hallucination in order to remain committed, only to eventually go genuinely insane.
- In the Quantum Leap episode "A Portrait for Troian", Sam jumps into the body of a parapsychologist working with a young widow who insists the ghost of her late husband is haunting. It turns out to be a plot by her brother to gaslight her.
- In 7th Heaven, Annie Camden was becoming emotionally distressed that the twins would not call her "mommy", yet repeatedly called Ruthie "mommy". Turns out, Ruthie managed to somehow teach them how to call Ruthie their mommy (in a manner similar to how a Sea World trainer teaches aquatic animals tricks) as a prank for Annie.
- An episode of T And T had a spoiled brother and sister do it to their (grand?)mother so she can't disinherit them and give everything to her parrot. To complicate matters, the butler is trying to murder her and the parrot.
- Shows up in the season 1 episode "The Ringbanger" — Leslie Nielsen plays a visiting colonel with an astonishingly high casualty rate, and the doctors gives him "a karate chop to his mental well-being" in order to prevent him reassuming his command by moving the location of his tent (and the camp loudspeaker next to it) repeatedly, giving him a glass of milk that he had apparently been insistent about getting all morning and convincing him that Major Burns is really a homosexual crossdresser lusting after him.
- In the episode "The Winchester Tapes", BJ switches Charles' uniforms with those of heavier/thinner men to make him think he's losing/gaining weight. Hawkeye asks BJ what's next. The answer: "He gets taller."
- In the White Collar episode "Vital Signs", Neal comes up with a plan to do this to a crooked doctor. They convince him that his kidney failed while he was on a flight to India looking for an illegal transplant, that he's currently in India hooked up to a dialysis machine, and that Neal (posing as a doctor) can get him the transplant he needs if he gives up the number of the account where he keeps his ill-gotten money.
- Invoked by name in one episode of Reno 911!. Junior is gaslighting Trudy, and that's how he discovers her video will. The others give him suggestions.
- Parodied in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when Pearl makes the bots hallucinate. While it fails to have any effect on Tom Servo (who sees everyone as an Eldritch Abomination, just like normal), Crow's hallucinations bring him to the brink of despair when he sees that Mike's Snickers bar is suddenly a Milky Way.
- Inverted in an episode of Full House. After accidentally damaging the wall in Danny's room, the girls move everything over by about 3 inches to hide the damage and maintain the symmetry of the room. This allows us to see how set in his ways Danny is when he starts dropping things on the floor because he had memorized exactly where everything had been.
- Brody does this to Carrie to some extent in season one of Homeland. She's completely right about him, but he manages to convince her that it's all in her head. It helps that she really is bipolar. It also helps that he does nothing overtly that would make him appear guilty, even backing down completely during his chance to use a suicide vest. Though he only did this after Carrie convinced his daughter to call him.
- A really disturbing example of this was used in Murder In Mind. A middle-aged doctor 'confesses' how he helped his wife commit suicide after she developed a degenerative brain disorder. What he doesn't tell is that he wanted her out of the way and she was perfectly healthy- he created her problems with a poisonous metalloid combined with this trope.
- Namechecked by Roz in an episode of Frasier where he seems to be getting more forgetful and she pranks him into thinking he'd made an appointment with his hairdresser.
- In an episode of The Drew Carey Show, Oswald and Lewis play pranks like this on Drew. They change the settings on his scale so he thinks he's lost a bunch of weight, they then giddily explain to someone that they plan on exchanging his bed for a smaller one while he sleeps so he'll think he's gotten huge.
- In the episode "The Ian Cam" from the BBC series Clone, Victor gaslights Rose in order to convince her that she has Alzheimer's disease so that she will have a brain scan.
- In American Horror Story: Murder House, malevolent ghosts do this to Vivien, in order to get custody of her about-to-be-born baby taken from her and given to her husband, so they can more easily steal the baby. The ghosts are real, but intentionally either appear only to Vivien, or convince the other characters to lie when asked about seeing them.
- Cole does it to Paige in an episode of Charmed, along with having a demon possess her with insanity. He uses demon powers around her, and erases the evidence, so she can't be sure she's seen anything.
- Namechecked in the Made in Canada episode "Alan's Brother", in which the executives at Pyramid Productions do this to erstwhile CEO Alan's older brother (and legal owner of Pyramid) Frank after he is released from a mental hospital, takes over as CEO, and proves even more inept than Alan. They start by replacing the coffee mug on his desk with other mugs while he is out of the room and then accusing him of stealing them, while placing his mug in strange but highly visible places. This escalates to putting all of the office's coffee mugs in his desk drawer, at which point production adviser Veronica dresses as Frank's abusive mother to confront him over the "theft". He proceeds to re-commit himself and hand the reins of Pyramid back to Alan.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Passing Through Gethsamane", a group of people do this to Brother Edward, who is actually a former serial killer subjected to death of personality for his crimes, and doesn't know it. They use a bloody message on a wall (made with the future equivalent of disappearing ink), speakers carefully hidden in walls, and a Centauri telepath to "trigger" a fake memory.
- A later episode, "Intersections in Real Time," has Captain Sheridan being subjected to this by an interrogator who wants to convince Sheridan that he's guilty of conspiracy and treason to undermine Earth for the aliens. Techniques include arbitrarily declaring that it is different times of day during the same conversation and subjecting Sheridan to a variety of Ambiguous Situations, some or all of which may have been faked for his benefit.
- Being Human has Nina being forced to do this to a social worker, to cover for the fact that they don't really have the official documents to let them look after "Uncle Billy" (an amnesiac Herrick). To get rid of the social worker, Nina yells at her and pretends that the worker was negligent and irresponsible and basically tricks her into thinking leaving the house in peace was a favor. To be fair it was really important that "Uncle Billy" stay with them since they were the only ones who knew he was a murderous vampire and everyone felt really bad about driving the social worker to tears. (Annie even teleports into her car to leave her some tissues.)
- Hannibal uses this several times, with the title character employing it to keep his crimes hidden.
- In "Entrée", Dr. Frederick Chilton is accused of having accidentally done this to one of his psychiatric patients, former surgeon Dr. Abel Gideon who was institutionalized after killing his relatives. Chilton planted the idea in Gideon's head that he is actually the Chesapeake Ripper, a serial killer whose murders stopped around the time Gideon was locked up. It's so effective that even when Gideon discovers he's been gaslit, he still isn't entirely sure he's not the Ripper. When Alana Bloom calls Chilton out on this it's implied that he realized what was going on but decided to play along to keep the renown from being the psychiatrist to someone as famous as The Ripper.
- Also throughout season 1 Hannibal turns out to have been doing this to Will Graham, with his ultimate goal being to convince Will he's a serial killer and mold him into an apprentice. He pulled this off with a combination of hypnosis and taking advantage of Will's undiscovered encephalitis.
- The rest of the study group all insist to Pierce that they celebrated his birthday, blaming the painkillers he's taking for why he doesn't remember. It turns out this particular example doesn't work; in a later episode, after Pierce has played all sorts of convoluted mind-games on the study group under the pretext that he's dying, they angrily demand to know why he did so. Pierce yells back that he's sick of them all treating him like some kind of joke, citing their pathetic attempt at this and expecting him to buy it as one of the examples. They look suitably shamed (although they also point out that Pierce's treatment of them in turn kind of justifies their treatment of him).
- Dr. Heidi tries to do this and convince the study group that Greendale Community College isn't real and they were all inmates at "Greendale Asylum". They initially buy it, but swiftly realize this claim makes no sense, and as he tried it out of desperation with no time to set anything up they have copious physical evidence to prove him wrong.
Annie: I'm literally carrying a Greendale backpack!
- After the midterm dances bear-themed decorations ("Bear Down for Midterms!") are deemed to be in poor taste after a recent bear attack, the study group quickly change them into dogs and changes the motto to Fat Dog For Midterms. They then try to convince a very confused Annie that this phrase has always existed, criticize her for not knowing it, and even create a wikipedia page for it. It works once they start to accuse her of being racist.
- Parodied in another episode where Annie's idea of a devious prank is to move everything on the dean's desk except the stapler slightly to one side, so that he'll think someone had moved his stapler slightly to the other side.
- Doctor Who:
- In the Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who story "The Power of the Daleks", Lesterson manages to get gaslighted by a Dalek. The main Dalek in the story had been acting subservient to the humans ("I am your SERRRR-vant") and Lesterson had been trying to sell it to the other members of the colony as a miracle find that would help in the mines. After Lesterson works out that the Daleks are up to something after seeing their factory, his Dalek is constantly seen performing actions (such as laying cables) and insisting, when Lesterson asks him what he's doing, that he had ordered him to do it - "I. Am. Your. SERRRR-VANT." Lesterson soon becomes confused as to whether he actually did witness the Dalek factory, and the other colonists all decide that he's insane, refusing to take anything he says seriously.
- In "The Android Invasion", it's revealed Styggron convinced Crayford that he only has one eye. Near the end of the story, the Doctor tells Crayford to take his eyepatch off, and he discovers the eye under there.
- "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" features a scrap crew where one member is convinced he is a robot. He isn't - his brothers gaslighted him into thinking he was to psychologically torture him out of pure boredom.
- Extant: Come episode five What On Earth is Wrong? the ISEA have attempted this to make sure everybody else thinks she's crazy. Molly lets them think they've convinced her as well in order to dig deeper.
- About half the pranks Jim plays on Dwight in the American version of The Office fall under this category. Of note is the time he and Pam got an actor friend to make Dwight think Jim had retroactively turned Asian-American.
- Another time, Dwight is convinced that Jim and Pam are blinking in Morse Code in order to talk about him behind his back. When he calls them out on this, Jim responds by pointing out that they are working parents of a newborn baby and asking if Dwight honestly thought they would pay money to hire a babysitter so they could learn an outdated skill just to torment Dwight.
Jim: (cut) Yep! That's exactly what we did.
- Another time, Dwight is convinced that Jim and Pam are blinking in Morse Code in order to talk about him behind his back. When he calls them out on this, Jim responds by pointing out that they are working parents of a newborn baby and asking if Dwight honestly thought they would pay money to hire a babysitter so they could learn an outdated skill just to torment Dwight.
- In Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Dahak did this to Nebula by using Iolaus' body to appear in front of her as "hallucinations". Nebula and her courtier Agenor only realize the truth when Hercules engages "Iolaus" in a physical fight. Agenor apologizes to Nebula for believing she was crazy. Given the circumstances, Nebula admits that she kind of wishes she was.
- In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Amaro's father, mother, and sister all engage in this regarding the abuse his father put him and his mother through.
- In an episode of Diagnosis: Murder, a hypno therapist framed one of his patients and convinced her she was a murderer by killing his wife himself, putting the patient in a trance and commanding her to come to his house and pick up the murder weapon (since it's impossible to hypnotise someone into committing murder) and making her wake up standing next to the body with the weapon in her hand.
- 3-2-1 Contact had a "Bloodhound Gang" story called "The Case of the Cackling Ghost" where an old woman, despite not believing in the supernatural, was experiencing strange and frightening goings-on with a strange cackling ghostly sound coming out of her radio and apparent appearances of a ghost on her estate that seem linked to a necklace in her possession with a purported curse that says the owner would go mad . The Gang investigates and expose the events as this trope, coupled with a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, perpetrated by her villainous nephew to get the necklace for himself.
- Mission: Impossible uses this as one of the many ways to frighten their con into submission, often with the help of high-tech gadgetry and Latex Perfection.
- F/X: The Series also used this trope albeit sparingly- the protagonist being the head of a special effects studio who's often roped in by the local law enforcement and detectives to get a confession out of a suspect.
- In Apocalypse, a Channel 4 special by Derren Brown, the crew uses this on their unsuspecting volunteer, Steven, to make him think that a meteor strike is imminent.
- On the Guilt Trip episode of Derren Brown's Experiments, Derren Brown used this technique as part of his experiment to see if he could get an ordinary person to think he might have committed murder. He had him unknowingly invited to a "conference" for a weekend that was populated entirely by actors, and they would start by switching ties or jackets when he wasn't looking, and at dinner they distracted him so that they could switch his plate and glass a few times, and at one point even moving and replacing the furniture outside the conference room and planting a "stolen" necklace in the mark's hotel room just to mess with the mark. They also used other psychological tricks to induce feelings of guilt whenever he heard a bell, and carried his bed outside one night to the location where the "corpse" of someone who had been rude to him was found, so that he had hazy memories of being there. The combination worked so well that when somebody who had been obnoxious to him was apparently discovered dead, he went to the nearby "police station" to turn himself in.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Angel of Death", a playwright friend of Jessica's is being gaslighted to convince him that he is being haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. (Especially appropriate as Angela Lansbury was in the 1944 film version of Gaslight.)
- Walker, Texas Ranger: In "Mind Games", after a pair of adulterer's kill the wife's husband (whose mother happens to be C.D.'s friend), Make It Look Like an Accident, and inherit half of the trust, they decide to get the mother's half this way. Their tactics involve spiking her tea with small amounts of ecstasy, moving her things around when she isn't looking, and having some one dressed as her dead son ride down on a boat, calling to her.
- The Department S episode "The Ghost of Mary Burnham" has an unassuming economist being driven insane to prevent him from being appointed as head of the International Monetary Fund.
- In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Rebecca's isn't trying to drive Josh crazy, but she uses every trick she can to convince him they should be together, sometimes straying into this. The most obvious attempt is when at the end of the first season they get together and she confesses she moved to West Covina for him and "our love story can finally begin" - then at the beginning of the second she realizes this creeps him out, feigns confusion, denies she ever said it, claims he's the one who did, and pretends his fixation on her is weird until he apologizes and she graciously forgives him.
- On The Red Green Show, one segment of the Possum Lodge Word Game (a Password-esque game where Red tries to get a Lodge member to guess a certain word by giving hints) features Red trying to get Dalton to say "Paranoid".
Red: You have two slippers. That makes a...
Red: If someone bugs you, you get...
Red: Put 'em together! Put 'em together!
Dalton: Are you saying that someone is stealing my slippers to annoy me? Y'know, it's probably my neighbour. He's trying to get me. He thinks I sneak into his house at night and rearrange his furniture.
Red: Okay, and he thinks that because he's...
Dalton: Caught me doing it!
- The Handmaid's Tale: Janine may be delusional, but her delusions were undoubtedly fed by Warren. In a moment of clarity, she publicly calls him out on it.
Janine: You said we would be a family!
Warren: She's not well.
Janine: I was well enough to suck your cock! I did every fucked-up thing you wanted. All the freaky shit she'd never do, because you promised me we would run off and we would be a family!
- All My Children. Janet Green hires an actor who looks exactly like Dixie Martin's dead brother Will (who Janet murdered) to terrorize her. It works until another character runs into Will and mentions it to Dixie, who realizes that she isn't going crazy.
- The Bold and the Beautiful: Crazed murderer Sheila Carter swaps Stephanie Forrester's calcium tablets for mercury pills, then manages to break into her home and either shift things around or steal them and later return them. Stephanie's resulting erratic behavior has herself and her loved ones wondering if she's becoming senile or outright cracking up.
- Sheila herself was a victim of this. Enraged when her husband James dumps her for Sheila, Maggie begins piping recordings into Sheila's home of her many victims.
- Felicia Jones and Mac Scorpio pull the same stunt on General Hospital's Ryan Chamberlain, trying to get him to confess to being a Serial Killer—they break into his apartment and spray paint it with messages from his victims—"WHY?!", "You will pay", etc.
- The Opposition with Jordan Klepper frequently uses an actual gaslight in a Visual Pun as part of a Running Gag.
- After Mac and Dennis move to the suburbs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis denies being able to hear the the low-battery warning chirp of their new house's smoke detector, until Dennis reveals he only pretended not to just to screw with Mac's head.
Dennis: Newsflash, asshole! I've been hearing it the entire goddamn time!
Mac: Then why wouldn't you say something?!
Dennis: BECAUSE I HAAAATE YOU!!!
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- In "The Awakening", Beth Carter suffers from alexithymia which prevents her from feeling emotions. However, she receives a revolutionary brain implant developed by Dr. Steven Molstad which allows her to access the full range of emotions for the first time. Beth moves in with Molstad's colleague Joan Garrison so she can slowly adjust to the outside world and learn how to process her emotions in the normal way. While staying in Joan's apartment, she begins to have strange experiences such as Hearing Voices, seeing Joan's cat Mulligan butchered (only for him to turn up alive and well later on) and being abducted and experimented upon by aliens. Dr. Molstad tells Beth that it may be necessary to remove the implant but she steadfastly refuses. It turns out that Joan secretly works for a rival company which is developing a brain implant similar to Molstad's and that she and her boyfriend Kevin Flynn (who pretended to be attracted to Beth) were attempting to drive Beth insane in the hope of discrediting Molstad's implant. They were assisted in their plan by Mike and Dolly Kellerman, two other residents of Joan's apartment building.
- In "Nightmare", the crew of the United World Forces spaceship Archipelago believe that they have been captured by the Ebonites and are psychologically tortured but it turns out to be an elaborate simulation to gauge their reactions.
- In "Mindreacher", Judith Wilder has been Hearing Voices for quite some time. It is ruining her life to the point that she is not going to school and she has distanced herself from her friends since she does not want any of them to witness one of her attacks. It turns out that Judith's nanny Alice has been secretly giving her a drug for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, formerly used by Judith's late mother, to deliberately induce auditory hallucinations. Alice is madly in love with Judith's father Chancellor Duncan Wilder and feared that he would no longer need her services as Judith was getting older.
- The Poirot adaptation of Third Girl has this as part of the solution, but takes it a step further than the original novel. Instead of feeding Norma drugs to make her believe she is going crazy, the murderers go for classics like planting a knife in her room and then removing it after the murder. They also deliberately kill the victim similarly to how Normas mother committed suicide, and even attempt to deliberately trigger painful memories of that incident in seemingly innocent conversations.
- Knots Landing: In Season Nine, Jill tries to convince Valene that she is going insane. The first part of her plan involves hiring the forger Mrs. Bailey to write Valene letters in Ben's handwriting in order to convince her that Ben is returning home after almost a year in South America without a word from him. This essentially serves as a prelude to the gaslighting to make Valene more susceptible to it. Jill then obtains tape recordings of Ben's voice from his time as a TV journalist at PWC and edits them to form messages to Valene which she leaves on her answering machine. The first of them has Ben say that he is returning home soon. Valene excitedly tells Gary, Karen and Mack the good news but she is unable to locate the tape with the message on it so they all begin to suspect that it may have been just her imagination. What she doesn't realise is that Jill broke into her house and stole the tape to discredit her and make her doubt herself.
- Stranger Things:
- After breaking into the Hawkins Laboratory and seeing the portal to the Upside Down, Chief Hopper is drugged by agents of the conspiracy and deposited back home, with loads of pill bottles scattered around him to make him think upon regaining consciousness that he's simply had a drug bender and hallucinated the entire thing. He doesn't buy it, and instead tears his house apart until he discovers the bug that he's convinced they would have planted in his house to further monitor him.
- Joyce is a victim of a not-quite-intentional version of this trope when her estranged husband Lonnie returns home for the funeral of their son Will. Joyce is convinced that her son is still alive and has even witnessed him trapped in another dimension, but after only a few hours Lonnie has her doubting her own sanity and starting to believe that she's actually just having a psychotic breakdown out of stress, exhaustion and grief. She's not, and she eventually snaps out of it and realises she's not insane at all, but it turns out Lonnie actually was planning to gaslight her into suing the company everyone believes is responsible for their son's death so he can collect a massive cash payout and then abandon her again. He just genuinely had no idea that there actually were the kind of sanity-doubting unusual things going on at the same time. As Lonnie is an abusive deadbeat, it's implied that Joyce has fallen victim to these kinds of manipulations before.
- The trigger of The Who's rock opera Tommy. As a child, the title character witnesses his mother and father kill the mother's lover (or vice versa, depending on version) and is told "You didn't see it, didn't hear it / You won't say nothing, no not a word of it". The only way the boy can reconcile reality with parental directive is to become deaf, dumb and blind.
- And let's not forget Steely Dan's "Gaslighting Abbie" from their Two Against Nature album. Invoking the movie which is the Trope Namer, the narrator and partner engage in all sorts of tomfoolery against the aforementioned Abbie: dimmer lightbulbs, doppleganger tactics, and even "a fright night with blood and everything". In true Steely Dan form, this malicious mischief is delivered in their signature smooth tunefulness.
- In this Dilbert, the title character says that he goes down to marketing every week to move an employee's cubicle wall in by a quarter inch. When asked why, he comments that he's been at it so long (Given that the cubicle is now about six inches wide, he's apparently been doing this for roughly eight years without the owner of the cubicle noticing) he forgot what the original point was.
- In Welcome to Night Vale, the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your House does things like this.
- Gaslighting is a gameplay mechanic in the Ravenloft campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons. Basically, this is altering circumstances to force another character to take a Madness check. Naturally, this is an evil act, and doing this to anyone for any reason always attracts the attentions of the Dark Powers.
- Vampires infected with Malkavia, and the Malkovian Bloodline from Vampire: The Requiem can do this with illusions via the Dementation power called, what else, Gaslighting. It IS possible to use this for non destructive and benign purposes, but keep in mind you're dealing with insane walking corpses fueled by magic blood in the World of Darkness.
- Unknown Armies role-playing game Big Bad, the Mystery Man, has this as his actual superpower.
- Arguably, any time you Slipshank (reach under, behind or into a convenient object and grab something that shouldn't be there) something in Continuum, this happens, only instead of you thinking you are insane, until you go back in time and put it there to begin with, you acquire a small amount of Frag (your memories and the universe disagree, therefore you start fading out).
- This trope is frequently recommended for DMs trying to run a Mind Screw type of horror game, via Painting the Medium. Specific examples are generally along the lines of describing a room with something, e.g. a girl, mentioned in a Breathless Non Sequitur.
Players: Describe the girl.
DM: [looks confused] What girl?
- In The Dark Eye, one long term experiment at the School Of Pains involved putting drugs into the subjects dinner and letting undead bodyparts wander into his room at night, while at day convincing him that all experiences were hallucinations and nightmares, offering joyful companionship and walks in the park. Goal was to find out, if the troubled mind would decide for one of the realities while negating the other or ultimately break apart.
"Despite heavy fear attacks, general mental instability and explicit suicidal tendencies, the experiment will continue as planned."
- The Dungeons & Dragons specific magazine, Dragon, once published a Monster Ecology article about the Kenku (humanoid crows whose hat is being thieves) that mentions this trope as a possible use of their vocal mimicry. Just tie up someone with information, blind fold them, make a bunch of horrific noises (sharpening blades, snarling monsters, screams of agony, etc.), and let their minds fill the blanks...
- Pathfinder has the Mesmerist archetype called the Gaslighter. Its favored trick is making people perceive their own reflection as somehow corrupted, and can cause fear, hallucinations, and sanity damage. Unlike most effects of this nature, for which the culprit tends to be fairly obvious once the effect has expired (it was that guy who was pointing at me saying magic words right before), due to the nature of their hypnotic stare and psychic magic, they can do this without the victim being aware they're doing any of it. You have to be evil to take it.
- The Demon: The Descent sourcebook "Night Horrors: Enemy Action" features a demon with an increasingly fractured mentality who not only gaslights the people around her, fragments of her personality may have started gaslighting other fragments. Just to drive the point home, she even has an Interlock actually called Gaslight, which allows her to edit people's memories.
- Mean Girls: The original movie hinted that Regina did this to Aaron in order to convince him to take her back, and the musical expands on it. In the number "Someone Gets Hurt," Regina rewrites the story of their breakup as Aaron only seeing her for her social status and cruelly dumping her as soon as the excitement wore off, when in reality the inverse is true. She then tried to frame his desire to ask out Cady as simply moving on to a new popular girl and leaving her in the dust without caring about her feelings. Of course, none of this is true, and in reality Regina doesn't care about Aaron and only wants him back because she doesn't want Cady dating her "property."
- In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Toby, Maria, Fabian, and Feste decide to humble Malvolio, who has been dismissed by Olivia for following the instructions in the forged letter which he believes is from Olivia, much to her displeasure; Feste puts on a fake beard and gown, disguising himself as a curate priest.
Sir Toby: Come, we'll have him in a dark room, and bound. My niece is already in the belief that he's mad; we may carry it thus, for our pleasure and his penance, till our very pastime, tired out of breath, prompt us to have mercy on him: at which time we will bring the device to the bar, and crown thee for a finder of madmen.
- In Edward Taylor's Murder By Misadventure, Harry Kent is increasingly spooked by several small things being misplaced about his apartment — a book, a bottle of pills, a bottle of whisky, even a set of golf clubs. It takes a bit of deft sleight-of-hand, and a few secret doors and hatchways on the set, to make them appear and disappear in the stage production.
- In Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the turning point comes when Kate submits to Petruchio and agrees with his insistence that it's 7 am and time to go out, when it's really no later than 2 am. Shortly thereafter she agrees with his insistence that the sun is really the moon and that an old man passing them on the road is really a young maid. Kate gives Petruchio no trouble thereafter.
- Albedo attempts this on Junior in Xenosaga.
- Zouken Matou tries this on Sakura in Fate/stay night. He thinks he succeeded. He's wrong, it was a coincidence.
- Arguably, it still works, just a little too well for his own good.
- The developers of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem do this to the player when the player character's Sanity Meter slips low enough.
- The Endermen in Minecraft invoke this, as they actively pick up and move blocks around for no reason.
- Fallout: New Vegas features a Vault where this was the entire experiment, with the vault segregated into two sections and discord and paranoia sown between the two groups (not helped by the colony of lizards that moved into the sulphur caverns underneath the vault who made scratching noises in the ventilation). The medical terminal notes that an awful lot of residents are developing paranoia and other mental illnesses. By the time you find the powder gangers residing here they've begun to undergo the same process, albeit the lizards are now fire breathing geckos
- In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow does this repeatedly to Batman, and by extension to the players themselves.
- The nastiest example is the later Scarecrow vision that starts with a burst of digital static and then begins replaying the game's introduction; the player soon sees that Batman and the Joker have swapped places, but before that, a reasonable assumption is that the game has crashed and restarted.
- This is a favorite tactic of certain culprits in the Nancy Drew PC game series, with examples even appearing one after the other at times.
- One of the weirder things about Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle Of Flesh is that there's definitely gaslighting going on—by a supernatural being. (Short version: some evil creature from another dimension is trying to break Curtis's mind to take over his body.)
- In Metal Gear Ac!d, Alice (almost) manages to give Snake an entire Jekyll & Hyde split personality through secretly dosing him with hallucinogens through the remote-controlled drug injector in his suit (to put him in a compromised psychological state), setting up clues on the base itself (such as hacking the security system so it appears to know Snake's retinal patterns), having people Snake has never met pretend to know him as the other person, and having a character dress as Snake and claim to be his Doppelgänger to give him an Enemy Without encounter, amongst other things.
- In one late-game in Sleeping Dogs, Wei and an ally break into the mansion of a deeply superstitious and emotionally unstable Triad boss and start trashing the place, moving his furniture around, stealing his Good Luck Charm and leaving a few references to the number four around to ruin his feng shui and scare him into thinking he's being haunted by vengeful spirits to relapse on his heroin addiction. After finishing, Wei's ally comments that the boss might not buy the "ghost" story, but figures that believing people are breaking into his mansion to mess with him will also have the desired effect on his psyche.
- It was done unintentionally in one arc of Higurashi: When They Cry, when Houjou Teppei's body, recently done in by Keiichi, was moved by Mion, trying to prevent a repeat of the aftermath of 1982's murders, and he couldn't be sure if he'd ever killed him making him even more paranoid. This is not helped at all by the fact that Satoko genuinely has lost her sanity, and insists Teppei is still alive, making it even more complicated.
- Part of a Secret Test of Character in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. The Star Gate gaslights Luigi by giving him three options to answer a question, calling them all wrong, declaring the answer an unavailable fourth option, and accusing Luigi of lying when he points out that said fourth option did not exist for him to pick. The test was to see if Mario would defend his brother.
- In the tie-in manga to Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, it's shown that Kristoph did this to his little brother, Klavier.
- Blue tries doing this to Dave in her first appearance in College Roomies from Hell!!! It works pretty well until she nearly falls to her death while shimmying across the balcony.
- Dave's Bro from Homestuck uses his ventriloquist's dummy, Lil' Cal in combination with some slick Flash Stepping to make Dave (and the audience) think that the doll is alive. Even
worsebetter is that he also somehow manages to use this as a fighting technique.
- Bro isn't the only one gaslighting everyone; there is a memorable instance, described in the Homestuck page, when the author gaslighted the audience. We discover that many of the kids have disturbing graffiti on their walls, but are effectively blind to it until it's explicitly pointed out to them. One character took rather normal-seeming pictures of John's room and posted them online. After the reveal, the author modified the pictures to contain the graffiti, changing the URLs by one letter. Before◊ and after.◊
- Homestuck did this to the audience from the very beginning: "John: Quickly retrieve arms from drawers." After the audience spends several pages helping the poor protagonist with no arms move stuff off his magic chest so he can get his arms, John cheerfully opens the chest to fetch his fake prop arms, using the arms attached to his torso that had been stylistically omitted from visual portrayal until now. This very neatly introduces us to the comic itself: take nothing for granted.
- Earlier MS Paint Adventures also gaslight the audience, but more blatantly. Best exemplified with the famous "What pumpkin?" joke: if the audience ever try to get the characters to interact with a pumpkin, the pumpkin inexplicably vanishes and the narration acts confused as to why anyone would think there was ever a pumpkin present.
- Gamzee does this to Terezi during Muderstuck, using her blindness to his advantage, by changing her surrounding environment with his super-fast flash step.
- Hussie has gaslighted the audience again; when John stuck his hand through the Homestuck icon, his arm appeared in many random panels throughout the comic to date. Shortly after, John himself disappeared, popping up in many other panels as a blue-and-white silhouette.
- And once again, John's newfound power has caused clues to appear on previous pages. This time, in order to gain full control of his narrative jumping, he was drowned in oil. This oil was then teleported through space and time, to appear as ink splotches on pages that were previously unmarked. How many more retcons do you have, Hussie?!?!
- Bro isn't the only one gaslighting everyone; there is a memorable instance, described in the Homestuck page, when the author gaslighted the audience. We discover that many of the kids have disturbing graffiti on their walls, but are effectively blind to it until it's explicitly pointed out to them. One character took rather normal-seeming pictures of John's room and posted them online. After the reveal, the author modified the pictures to contain the graffiti, changing the URLs by one letter. Before◊ and after.◊
- XKCD: As seen in the page image, Black Hat Guy made a set of silent carpentry tools specifically to carry out this sort of thing.
- This strip of Crazy Sunshine.
- Rayne Summers of Least I Could Do once got his best friends to play a prank on their friend Mick where they tried to convince Mick that Rayne had been dead for years. See it for yourself.
- The "Paranoia" arc of Cosmic Dash has someone from Dash's past spreading "souvenirs" from a traumatic event, before attacking him while he's isolated and restrained in the medbay.
- Alice accuses the Cheshire Cat of trying to gaslight her in this Hark! A Vagrant strip.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal suggests "pranking" someone by gradually altering the whistle on their kettle or teapot until it sounds like it's screaming their name, then deny that it sounds wrong whenever they ask. The really creepy part is how it requires you to install a tiny mouth.
- When Linkara begins seeing and hearing people who aren't there during his review of Silent Hill: Dead/Alive, he tells himself that someone must be trying to pull this trope on him. It doesn't seem to be helping much. It turns out he's right.
- A blog piece titled A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy strips the elements of intentionality and mental illness from the term to use it to refer to subtle emotional abuse.
- Frogdad◊: The Ultimate in Parental Trolling.
- The premise of youtube series Henry Tumbleweed involves a trio of con artists breaking into the main character's house dressed as monsters in order to convince him that he is insane, and needs the help of an expensive psychiatrist, who is actually one of the con artists in disguise.
- The guys at Rooster Teeth have been prone to do this to each other for kicks. Two known instances were when Burnie, Gavin and Jordan replied to Gus' IMs with quotation marks around their replies, driving Gus nuts as he was wondering how that was happening, and when Ryan rigged a buzzer inside Gavin's desk (under the computer monitor).
- In Ten Little Roosters, Barbara, the killer, reveals that she planted dolls of Michael and Gavin, the first two victims, in Ryan's room, making him think that he was suffering from a split personality and making him the killer.
- Clickhole: "I Keep My Grandfathers Mind Active By Calling Him Every Day And Telling Him World War II Never Happened" is a bizarre inversion, where the mind games are meant to keep the victim sane.
- Tried on Bruce Wayne in the Batman Beyond episode "Shriek". It didn't work because the "voices" called him Bruce, and his identity as the original Batman was so ingrained that he didn't even think of himself as Bruce Wayne anymore. (Although it did work in that it got him committed for a while, until the transmitter that was creating the "voices" was discovered.)
- In Batman: The Animated Series, a pair of mooks try to drive the recuperating Ventriloquist insane so Scarface will emerge again. When Scarface finally surfaces, he starts a job and betrays them, telling them he was laying low and they forced him out early.
- In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers a Chinese emperor unknowingly suffers this thanks to his scheming sister. So what do the Rangers do? They gaslight her back.
- In an early episode of Sealab 2021, Sparks had the orphans pee in Captain Murphy's bed every night to make him think he was wetting himself, as part of a larger plot to drive him insane.
- The Looney Tunes short "Mouse Wreckers" has mice Hubie and Bertie driving Claude Cat up the wall and out of the house in this fashion. It got remade 10 years later as "Gopher Broke", featuring the Goofy Gophers Mac 'n' Tosh gaslighting D'Brer Dog.
- Done by Rallo in The Cleveland Show, along with the help of Cleveland Jr., to get back at his senior friend's Gold Digger newlywed wife. It eventually culminates with them placing several cats around her home and having her being wheeled away to a mental hospital.
- The Tom and Jerry short "Year of the Mouse" revolves around Jerry and a mouse friend trying to make Tom think he was attempting to kill himself while he slept, then laughing at his increasingly frantic reactions. The plot was pretty much a remake of the Hubie and Bertie short, but it ends with Tom catching the mice in the act.
- In the Pink Panther "Pink Campaign" cartoon, the Pink Panther, whose house has just been crushed by a lumberjack that chopped a tree, decides to disassemble the Little Man's house piece by piece, taking the front door, the back porch steps, couch, TV set, chimney and fireplace, the outside walls, bathroom sink and medicine chest, and the roof, with only the foundation remaining, with the doctor sending for an ambulance to take him to the psychiatric hospital after his Sanity Slippage, with the man unsuccessfully escaping the ambulance after seeing his house in the woods, which Pink re-assembled, only for Pink to walk away after it crumbles to debris.
- In Family Guy, Brian replaces Peter's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter with real butter, driving him insane.
Lois Griffin: I don't know, doctor. Looking back, I think it might have been real butter.
Doctor: Your husband murdered three children.
- In The Simpsons, Lionel Hutz uses this as a dirty tactic against Apu while defending Marge against shoplifting charges. Hutz asks Apu what kind of tie he's wearing and Apu describes it and even how he's wearing it. Hutz then turns his back to Apu, removes his tie and claims he was never wearing one. No one is any the wiser and Apu starts to wonder if he can trust his eyes. It was all for naught, as Marge was declared guilty.
- Two episode of The Scooby-Doo Show has this as the villain's plot:
- "Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats" has Uncle Leon/Gramps the Vamp trying to convince Lisa that she is going to turn into a vampire.
- "Make A Beeline From The Feline" has Dr. Bell/The Cat Creature making Daphne's aunt believe she is turning into the cat creature.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "One Coarse Meal" has Mr. Krabs pretend to be Pearl in order to frighten Plankton, who is terrified of whales, and eventually drives him to attempt suicide. When Plankton learns Mr. Krabs was behind it all and is about to take his revenge, SpongeBob joins in on the gaslighting to scare Plankton away. This is a rare case where the ones doing the gaslighting are portrayed as the heroes.
- In one Top Cat episode, Top Cat faked an illness so he could be waited on by a Hospital Hottie, but once she went away to get married and he was left with a much less pleasant nurse he got out of her care by making her think the Christmas decorations around his room (in Summer) are only in her head.
- The Dan Vs. episode "The Telemarketer" has Dan's Identical Stranger from an earlier episode trying to drive him insane in retaliation for Dan getting him arrested for something the former did.
- An unintentional version happens in Jem: when a wealthy Jem fan puts out a notice saying he is willing to pay large sums of money for Jem's secret identity, Pizzazz and the other Misfits approach him and hatch a plan to bring Jem into a copy of her mansion and have her interact with actors playing her friends and family so she'll reveal her secret. Not knowing she's really Jerrica, they fabricate pictures and movies of Jem as a little girl, and the impostors pretend to have known her as Jem since childhood. The ridiculousness of seeing an alternate past that her friends and family seem to believe is what really happened leads Jem to a mental breakdown.
- One King of the Hill episode has Hank noticing that someone is subtly rearranging furniture and drinking his grapefruit juice while he's gone. Bobby and Peggy initially think he's going crazy, until Cotton and Dale discover that Kahn and Minh have been breaking into their house to have sex.
- "Balooest of Blues" has a variation; Baloo inherited a gigantic mansion, including a butler and cook. He stays the night with his friends, only to constantly feel like statues suddenly turned his way, images looking the other way and sometimes signs of assassination attempts such as axes or arrows being dangerously close to his head once he turns around. He switches rooms with the others multiple times to ensure he is just imagining things which doesn't help. Nobody believes him until he actually ends up injured. The butler and cook try to murder him since he is the last inheritor before the mansion goes to them.
- "The Idol Rich" plays it straighter. Baloo and Kit find a rare idol worth millions. However, it is soon stolen from them by Colonel Spigot and the Vembrians. Unable to overwhelm Spigot's goons, Baloo and Kit trick him into thinking the idol is driving him crazy with evergrowing absurd pranks, resulting in Spigot throwing it out of his plane and allowing the pair to reclaim it.
- Rick and Morty: How Rick Sanchez keeps exerting control over his family, and especially Morty. He undermines their self-esteem and confidence in their selves and abilities, while never fully being honest to them about how much he needs them. "Morty's Mind Blowers" makes this clear when it's revealed that he chooses to delete the memories of Morty, as well as Jerry, as and when he sees fit. Notably, the memory vials that are red in colour, are memories where Morty pointed out Rick's mistakes, which he chooses to delete solely to maintain his authority over him. This finally bites him in the ass in the Season 3 finale where his gaslighting leads to Beth doubting whether or not she's a clone and ends up going back to Jerry and talking things out, leading to their remarriage.
- DuckTales (2017) has this in the episode "The 87 Cent Solution!", with Scrooge as the victim. The perpetrator, Glomgold was using a time stopping watch to remove the titular 87 cents, stretch Scrooge's clothes out, steal his spats, and lick all of his possessions, among other things to drive Scrooge mad and drive everyone away from him. It very nearly worked.
- In an interview on C-SPAN in 2004, Jon Stewart actually referenced the idea, saying that the Bush administration's spinning in the face of what Stewart, at least, believed was overwhelming evidence made it "feel like they're trying to Gaslight me".
- A British mental health organisation managed to do this by accident when they ran a series of banner ads on various websites (including YouTube) in order to increase awareness about various mental health issues. One of the banner ads was about paranoia, and it involved playing constant, quiet whispers over the speakers/headphones that were alternatingly insulting and indistinct, until the user rolled their mouse cursor over the advert. Some people, however, did not notice the advert and were genuinely disturbed by the effect, thinking they really were hearing voices.
- One of hobbies of the Manson Family was to break into people's houses and rearrange all of their furniture, most likely used as a terror tactic to start their global race war.
- The Stasi (secret police of East Germany) loved this. If someone was suspected of being a dissenter, they'd sneak into the person's house and move things around, switch out types of tea, and do other things to distress them without them knowing what is going on. Needless to say, the Stasi were quite effective.
- It has been alleged that this tactic is still used to discredit people who get too vocal about causes and irritate agents of the grouping or nation thay are active against. Of course people alleging this can then be dismissed, without hard proof, as paranoid, flaky or mentally deranged - which also discredits the cause they are campaigning for, by association. The Asghar Bukhari case is interesting.
- In the mid 90s, a paraplegic Australian athlete told an anecdote about getting drunk with a blind friend of his. His friend thought it would be funny to slash the tires of his wheelchair; he retaliated by rearranging the man's furniture.
- Gaslighting is a tactic often used by crafty domestic abusers to tie partners down to their relationship; by re-arranging things, getting items "lost", and saying events happened differently than remembered, they create the sense that the victim has no idea how to handle their own life and needs to depend on the abuser to help them survive because they doubt that they could survive on their own.
- A mild humorous example. Critic Alexander Woollcott had a portrait of himself he was very fond of. A couple fellow Algonquin Round Table members had a series of near-duplicates made with details just a tiny bit askew. For months they would periodically swap in a new duplicate and query, "Alex, whatever is happening to that painting?"
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