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Invented Individual

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Red: Andy, you can't just make a person up!
Andy: Sure you can, if you know how the system works, where the cracks are. It's amazing what you can accomplish by mail.

An Invented Individual is a persona or imaginary person created by the protagonists who assumes a life of his own. Mr. Invisible soon becomes respected and popular and everybody's best friend. As pressure mounts, his creators may be forced to "kill" him, to the grief of all his admirers.

See also Snowball Lie, which is a superset of this trope. Supertrope of Fake Twin Gambit. When the Invented Individual also happens to fit the name and/or description of someone who does exist, they're The Real Remington Steele. A Pen Name is a real-life type of Invented Individual. Not to be confused with Invented Invalid; an ill person made up as an excuse to visit and duck out of responsibility. See also Girlfriend in Canada. Contrast Unperson.

Supertrope to Amalgamated Individual, where actions performed by multiple people are ascribed to the same fictional person.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Several cases in The Kindaichi Case Files use this element with different purposes.
    • Scapegoat: Opera House Murder Case has the killer create a fake guest named Kagetsu for this purpose. Since the character never existed (and "Kagetsu" also stated not to enter the room), he didn't have an alibi during the first murder.
    • Hiding Identity: At least there are two known cases with different tweak; One case involves the murder of a family member with the fake character created by the killer while another one has the victim creating another identity which was used by the killer in the scheme. The second one overlaps with Secret Identity
  • Kodomo No Jikan has Rin pretend to be a young female teacher so she can court her teacher Aoki, who is understandably against going out with a fifth grader. When he asks for a picture, she sends one of her late mother. He sees the picture at her house and puts it together, but lets Rin think he just broke up with the female teacher.
  • In Skip Beat!, Kyoko's mother was in a relationship with a guy named Kazushi Misonoi for a while. When she suspects that he was a company's spy to get information on the court case she was working on and began to search for anyone named that, she found nothing. 'Kazushi Misonoi' disappeared from her life.
  • In Urusei Yatsura, Ataru's classmates decide to humiliate him in public by sending him a note from a fictional girl asking for a date. Ataru, being girl-crazy, doesn't notice that the note is signed "Kumino Otoko" which, beside being a proper Japanese female name, can also be read as "Men of the Class". Ataru gets saved from the humiliation when his beloved Lum shows up in disguise as the non-existent Miss Kumino.

    The English translation of the manga changed the name to "Shinobi Nobade" to have a pun that works in English. (Incidentally, the manga's version of this story was very different. Ataru's classmates were jealous of the amount of love letters Mendo gets, so they wrote a fake love letter from "Kumino Otoko" to Ataru which included many insults directed at Mendo. They didn't expect Mendo and Ataru to make a bet on whether or not Kumino Otoko was pretty, thus requiring someone to pretend to be Kumino Otoko.)

    Asian Animation 
  • Simple Samosa: In "Banana Fontana", Mayor Royal Falooda has scheduled the celebrity Reddichillina Roly to appear at the opening of the new Zeera clothes store, but she's held up by a bun cow in the street. When asked to find a replacement, Samosa makes up a celebrity named Banana Fontana and ends up having to pretend to be her for most of the episode after the fake popstar becomes popular with the townsfolk.

    Audio Play 
  • 36 Questions is about a husband and wife who's relationship falls apart when the husband finds out that his wife has been lying about her identity for the past two years.

    Comic Books 
  • Daredevil made up an imaginary twin brother to use as a secret identity decoy until it became inconvenient. Then he killed off poor, funloving Mike Murdock at the first inconvenience.
  • In Lori Lovecraft: The Big Comeback, studio executive Benteen is embezzling cash by putting a fake employee named 'Herbert West' on the books and then writing cheques to them.
  • The Maze Agency #16 involves a mysterious, reclusive author of a series of best-selling romance novels named Desiree Brandywine. It turns out that Desiree Brandywine is a pseudonym for a group of writers from one particular publishing house. Bored a company retreat, they took turns writing chapters in a deliberately trashy romance novel. The novel was published and became a surprise hit, so they kept writing. Then someone starts murdering members of the writing group...
  • Robin (1993): When Tim Drake turns down Bruce's offer to adopt him, which comes less than a month after Bruce's meddling and arrogance led to Tim's girlfriend Stephanie being brutally murdered and then lying to Tim about it until after Steph was already dead, he makes up a fake uncle to go live with and even hires an actor to play the part to ensure it works.

  • In Angel (1984), Molly claims to be living with her invalid mother, and uses this as an excuse not be involved in any extracurricular activities. However, her mother actually abandoned her when she 12, and there is no else besides Molly living in the apartment.
  • The Whoopi Goldberg movie The Associate is entirely based on such a ploy. When Laurel Ayres tries to get rid of her overly realistic nonexistent associate, she is promptly suspected of murder.
  • The 1994 film Blank Check involved Preston creating the identity of "Mr. Macintosh", a reclusive millionaire, so that Preston could do anything he desired with his newly acquired money.
  • Brazil: The Tuttle/Buttle confusion that kicks off the Stygian story. It is a Shout-Out to the M*A*S*H episode, of all things.
  • In Exam, the "CEO" of Bio-Org is really just a face for the press. The real CEO is Deaf.
  • The Grand Seduction: Murray lies about having a dead son who Paul reminds him of in order to bond with Paul.
  • In Irma la Douce Nestor Patou (Jack Lemmon) creates a fake British nobleman to serve as a wealthy "client" for Irma (Shirley MacLaine) so she won't have sex with anyone but him. When he grows tired of the deception he throws the costume into the Seine and is arrested for murder. And in the end it turns out that "Mr. X" DID exist after all... though this is an example of Rule of Funny rather than a genuine reveal.
  • Johnny English plays this for laughs when Johnny accidentally knocks out the head of Royal Security, and upon realizing his mistake, covers it up by pretending to confront and defeat a (non-existent) assailant. Of course, he then has to sit down with a profiler to give a description of the assailant. Using only a fruit bowl in the room as inspiration, he describes the "assailant" as a toothless, one-eyed, scarfaced clown with curly orange hair. Which becomes a Brick Joke when the invented "assailant" turns up for real in the end credits.
  • L.A. Confidential has a semi example Rollo Tomasi, the purse snatcher who killed Exley's father. The man got away, so Exley made up the name to give him character and stand in for all the crooks who think they can get away with it, as he confides to Vincennes. This comes around when Dudley murders Vincennes and Vincennes utters "Rollo Tomasi" as his last words. During the investigation the next day, Dudley tells Exley he thinks Tomasi might be one of Vincennes' associates, which immediately makes Exley realize Dudley is a Dirty Cop.
  • In Meet John Doe, Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck), who's being fired by the newspaper she works for, prints a phony letter from a "John Doe" who threatens to commit suicide as a protest. After the paper rehires her they get John Willoughby (Gary Cooper) to portray him.
  • One of the lies Ochucki spins as part of his scheme in Miś involves inventing an individual who has been conned to believe he has a twin brother. So it's this trope - squared.
  • In North By Northwest, Roger O. Thornhill stumbles into the identity of CIA Agent George Kaplan. It turns out Kaplan does not exist; he's a phony agent who attracts attention away from real operatives.
  • In the 1970s TV movie Paper Man 1970, a group of post-grad students create a fake person in the college computer to back up a mistakenly issued credit card. By the time they try to kill off the fake person, the fake person is apparently killing them off.
  • The 1934 Russian film Poruchik Kizhe (Lieutenant Kijé) is based on an old Russian anecdote about a play on words where adding two letters to the Russian word for lieutenant can be misread for what would translate to English as something like "Lieutenant Sasto".note  When the emperor publicly notes the existence of "Second Lieutenant Kijé" on a list of ensigns being promoted, whole stories are invented to avoid embarrassing him. When the emperor eventually demands to meet "General Kijé", he is sadly reported killed in battle. The film is known today for the orchestral suite of the music written by Sergei Prokofiev.
  • In the Al Pacino film S1m0ne, Pacino plays Victor, a bitter film director who creates a beautiful fictional actress through an advanced computer/holographic technology. Initially created as a digital replacement for an actress who had abruptly quit the production, Simone quickly becomes immensely popular, leaving her "discoverer" behind in the dust and forcing him to kill her off... only to become a suspect in her disappearance and presumed murder.
  • Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption creates the fake person "Randall Stevens" as a cover for his money laundering for the warden. When Andy breaks out of prison, he assumes Mr. Stevens's identity and takes all the money.
  • In Wag the Dog, to make the fake war in Albania more "real", Hollywood director Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) invents a special operations soldier trapped behind enemy lines. A series of setbacks, including the soldier dying before his staged return, forces them to explain his death, and they even mount an elaborate viral memorial "meme" by throwing tennis shoes in trees.
    • And "discover" an old Blues recording of a song that just happens to have the guy's name in it in such a way that it works perfectly as an anthem for the non-existent soldier.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: "Comrade Ogilvy" and, perhaps, Big Brother himself. Quite likely Emmanuel Goldstein as well.
  • The Alvin Fernald books did this once, when Alvin took a bet with a reporter to create an artificial person. Not an android, a person.
  • The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers has as one of its characters (or possibly more than one, depending on how you think of it) the poet William Ashbless. Ashbless was invented by Tim Powers and James Blaylock when they were at university together, and appears in several works by both authors.
  • In Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity and the Duke Duke Grayson Penford and several trusted associates create a fake rock star named Lex Rex to earn enough to pay for the restoration of Penford Hall. Once everyone involved has amassed a pretty tidy sum, they stage the death by drowning of Lex and his band.
  • Bimbos of the Death Sun: In Sharon McCrumb's fannish murder mystery, several fans created the imaginary persona of "Chip Livingstone", who became very popular. However, after a famous author was murdered, the police declared Livingstone the top suspect because of his well-documented hatred of the man. This forces the conspirators to publicly confess, not wanting to taint the investigation (they add that the hatred of the author was just a character quirk they invented and didn't reflect their individual feelings). The confession prompts one girl (who tearfully says she dumped her boyfriend for Livingstone) to cut all ties with the fandom, and a wake was promptly declared to mourn the lost Fandom VIP.
  • Bret King Mysteries: The Back Story of The Secret of Fort Pioneer involves a cavalry fort where soldiers who were too lazy for guard duty put a scarecrow that they called Sergeant Silicoe on the walls of the fort to fill their shifts. The officers found out but thought it was hilarious and allowed it to continue. An official record even noted how Sergeant Silicoe was shot through the head with an arrow but wasn't hurt and could stand guard the next day.
  • Changeover, a satirical novel written by Diana Wynne Jones before she found her niche as a fantasy writer, is set in an African colony that's about to be granted self-government. The outgoing governor misunderstands a remark by one of his aides about plans to mark the changeover, and soon rumors are spreading far and wide about Mark Changeover, a mysterious figure who is probably some kind of terrorist. In the end, to save face for the governor, the country's incoming president agrees to be Mark Changeover, and seizes control of the nation in a bloodless coup the day before it was due to be handed over to him anyway.
  • Cryptonomicon has an operation clearly inspired by Operation Mincemeat (see real life section).
  • Disgusting McGrossface: The end of the story reveals that the titular character was just made up in an elaborate lie and it was the boy who tracked the mud through his house after all.
  • In one Anatole France story, an imaginary friend blamed for childish misdeeds ends up as the scapegoat for local crime including seducing and impregnating a maid.
  • Lt. Kijé (see corresponding entry under "Film" for the film adaptation), originally an 1870 short story by Vladimir Dahl and adapted into a novella in 1927 by Yury Tynyanov, tells of a bureaucratic error which creates a fake soldier who rises through the ranks before eventually being "killed" in battle.
  • In Gordon Korman's The War with Mr. Wizzle (part of the MacDonald Hall series), Bruno, Boots and company invent a student named Gavin Gunhold, a star athlete, straight-A student, hugely popular, and all-around great guy, to mess with Mr. Wizzle's mind — everyone knows him, but he's never around. Wizzle is convinced he does, of course, because his beloved computer has a file on him - entered by the students.
    • A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag: Gavin Gunhold returns as a dead Canadian poet who only wrote one poem. The protagonists end up having to claim that Gavin's still alive and writing, but this ends up morphing into a The Real Remington Steele situation. (Gordon Korman loves to use Gavin Gunhold like this in tons of books.)
  • L. M. Montgomery's short story The Materialization of Cecil is about inventing a boyfriend and then feeling as though you've conjured up the real person who shares his name.
  • The Monk novel Mr. Monk Is Open For Business has a bald-headed financial manager named Wyatt S. Noone go on an office rampage at a furniture importing business, killing three of his coworkers and injuring the fourth, Sarabeth Willow, then apparently managing to slip out of the building undetected by the police. Monk discovers very early on that "Wyatt Noone" is a phony name ("Wyatt is no one"). Then eventually in the end, it turns out "Wyatt" isn't even a real person: the other four workers "he" shot invented him to be their nonexistent financial manager. The reason they did so was to skim a little bonus money from their boss who wasn't giving them pay raises. The one survivor of the shooting, Sarabeth, began embezzling a bigger cut to pay for her husband's cancer treatments, which the others weren't happy about. Wearing a bald wig, she shot her fellow three co-workers, and shot herself non-fatally as well, and planted evidence to frame "Wyatt" for murder.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the protagonists invent the persona of "Adam Selene" to run their revolution. "Adam" manages to turn up at all sorts of rallies, conventions, and even a few operas, and one person is even convinced that he once met him at an opera house (The characterization is so accurate too, that the only difference between the protagonist's own ideas for the character and the individual the man at the opera house describes is the hairstyle). The Lunar Authority tries to track him down — without success, naturally. He even gives a live, televised speech on one occasion. Of course, Adam Selene's true identity happens to be Mike, the sentient supercomputer who runs pretty much everything tied to the electronic grid in Luna City. He manages to be "present" in so many places by constantly monitoring the phone lines, and for his speech he created a digital avatar. In a further twist of irony, he's also the same supercomputer that the Authority's security branch relies on — because only the main characters know he's sentient, no one else suspects a thing. When the revolution turns hot and Earth launches an attack, it's considered a good time to have Selene listed among the dead.
  • In one of the Rez short stories by W.P. Kinsella, Silas and his friends invent Colin Moosefeathers as a joke by putting the name on a sign-up sheet for intramurals. They continue to sign "Colin" up for things until he's got a bona-fide student ID, at which point they start putting his name on credit card applications. Colin proves very generous to his friends, buying them many thoughtful gifts with his new credit cards, at least until investigations into his delinquent accounts necessitate his unfortunate demise. He even gets a funeral complete with gravestone.
  • In Safehold, Merlin uses his shapeshifter gifts to create a plethora of fictional seijins, the main purpose being to enable Merlin to act in places he shouldn't be seen because by Safehold's standards, he shouldn't be able to be there so quickly. There are at least five different identities he's using, and it multiplies when Owl starts to send its reports to the Charisian spymaster, varying the style and writing to create CIAs worth of seijins.
  • Poul Anderson's short story "Sam Hall" details the effects of an Invented Individual on a repressive autocratic government during a rebellion (the Invented Individual created by a rebel sympathizer within the government). At one point several high-ranking Party officials are sacked due to their personal relationships with the entirely fictional Sam Hall.
  • The Sherlock Holmes story "A Case of Identity" features one of literature's most vicious uses of an Invented Individual. A young woman pleads with Holmes to find her bridegroom, who never showed at the church on their wedding day. Holmes, examining the situation, is disgusted to find that the so-called bridegroom is actually the girl's stepfather, who disguised himself to woo his stepdaughter and extract a promise of fidelity from her. This was to keep her from marrying for real, so that he and the girl's mother — who was in on the plan — wouldn't lose their control over the money she inherited from her biological father. He made her promise to wait for the fake groom no matter how long it took, then made him "disappear". Holmes was so pissed off at the stepfather that he chased him out of the apartment with a bull-whip.
  • In the 22nd century sections of the Star Trek Novel Verse book Section 31: Control, Starfleet Command realises that Intelligence's data-monitoring-and-reporting AI is taking matters into its own hands when they find a number of suspicious orders signed by a Commander with an exemplary service record, whom nobody has ever actually met.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The X-Wing Series features a complicated example spanning the three Wraith Squadron novels. As part of an Escalating War of pranks, someone starts hiding a life-sized toy Ewok in surprising places, who is dubbed "Lieutenant Kettch" and given a little flight suit to serve as a sort of mascot. Then in another prank when the squadron disguises themselves as Space Pirates with the help of altered communications systems, someone hacks Wedge's comm to make him sound like an Ewok speaking Basic — and Warlord Zsinj's intelligence network picks up on this. When Zsinj meets the "Hawk-Bats" to discuss hiring them, he asks about this Ewok pilot of theirs, and the Wraiths improvise a story based on their squadmate Piggy, a Gamorrean who escaped from an illegal medical program that boosted his intelligence and altered his behavior. Unbeknownst to the Wraiths, Zsinj is the one behind these experiments, asks his team if there were any Ewok test subjects who escaped, and then orders his scientists to make more. So by the end of the trilogy, a Wraith escaping Zsinj's flagship nearly flips out when she meets a talking Ewok who claims to be trained as a pilot. And Wedge was forced to fly in a battle in a matte black flightsuit with a toy Ewok in his lap rigged up like a puppet, to maintain the façade.
  • An odd variant occurs with Shallan in The Stormlight Archive. Early on in the series, she uses her Lightweaver abilities to create several alternate identities to use in various situations. Later on, however, her two most commonly used identities (Veil and Brightness Radiant) start gaining their own goals, skills, and motives and become capable of overriding the original "Shallan" personality and seizing control of her mind.
  • In Elliot S! Maggin's Superman novels, Last Son of Krypton and Miracle Monday, Lex Luthor has enough personas to populate an entire imaginary country. He only has to establish their existence; after he's spread a couple of fanciful reports about his larger than life creations, people start imagining their own. Clark Kent is also treated as an Invented Individual: in Miracle Monday, when C.W. Saturn reveals Clark Kent to be Superman in disguise, the other characters mourn his death.
  • In the Sweet Valley High spinoff series Sweet Valley Twins, Elizabeth and Jessica invent a triplet, "Jennifer", to confuse a new girl at school. In the main series, chubby and unpopular Lois Waller invents a boyfriend who then mysteriously appears...
  • In Vile Bodies, this is Adam's way of producing a gossip column despite being unable to write about any real celebrities. He creates an extensive list of fake diplomats and socialites. This becomes briefly inconvenient when his editor asks for an introduction to one particular society hostess, until he publishes a column the next day describing how she has just emigrated.
  • Bebe Gunn's "brother" Ray from the Wayside School books may or may not be this. He's introduced being used as an excuse by Bebe for why she is not completing her schoolwork properly, and Mrs. Jewls calls Bebe's mother to recommend disciplinary action for Ray. Mrs. Gunn only responds by asking who she's talking about. Later, Allison is taken to Wayside's non-existent nineteenth floor and meets a real Ray Gunn, but the nineteenth story seems to be populated by made-up people, as Allison also meets a boy named Mark Miller, an alias real new student Benjamin Nushmutt had been using.
  • In L. Sprague de Camp's story "The Wheels of If", Allister Park, a New York lawyer from our world, is transported into the body of his counterpart in an Alternate History world, a bishop named Ib Scoglund. He concocts a plan to get himself home and manipulates the political opposition by disguising himself and infiltrating them... under the name "Allister Park". He finds the way to get home, but decides he's enjoying a better life in this world, so adopts the Scoglund identity permanently and holds a funeral for "Allister Park".

    Live-Action TV 
  • From Babylon 5, the noted Centauri government minister Abrahamel Lincolni, who exists only in computer records and was created out of whole cloth by Vir Cotto, and instrumental in setting up an underground railroad to ferry free Narn to safety after the Narn homeworld was conquered by the Centauri. When they find out about this scheme, all the human crewmembers on the Babylon station can't believe the Centauri actually fell for the ruse, commenting that there can't be many students of Earth History in the government. Since the Centauri have fallen for it, the Alliance decides to get all the mileage out of it that they can, shoring up Vir's inventions with some invention of their own.
  • In one episode of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon becomes so worried that an excuse Leonard made to avoid watching Penny perform will be found out that he creates a fictional drug-addict cousin and at one point brings somebody in to act as him. Ironically, Penny never becomes the slightest bit suspicious, even of the original lie.
  • On The Brady Bunch, Jan has an imaginary boyfriend named George Glass. In a different episode, Bobby invents a secret admirer for Cindy and pays a friend to play the role.
    • In the second Brady Movie, George Glass turns out to be a real person by crazy coincidence. He had even made up a fake girlfriend named Jan Brady for exactly the same reasons so things work out pretty well for both George and Jan when they actually meet up and can suddenly prove their fake significant others exist.
  • Michael does this in an episode of Burn Notice, inventing a fake hostage who has gone missing and is now supposedly sabotaging the hostage-takers' plans from the shadows, to throw said hostage-takers into a paranoid frenzy. Naturally, he has to keep constructing more and more lies about this person to distract them long enough to save the real hostages.
  • One episode of Cheers has Norm create a fake alternate persona, "Anton Kreitzer" as a business partner so that he can forcefully get his workers to actually start working without changing his own personality. This ends up involving making a fake office for him (it leads into the alley) and even staging a conversation where Kreitzer yells at him while he defends the workers. At the end, one of them reveals that soon after the shouting session, he had gone into the office and discovered it to be fake. Just as it seems like he has everything worked out, he reveals his deduction that Norm is the fake personality. And the rest of the bar goes along with it:
    Norm: I am Norm Peterson and I can prove it! (to bar) Afternoon, everybody!
    Bar Patrons: Anton!
  • In an episode of Community, Jeff gets caught out having created a class (Conspiracy Theories in US History) and a teacher (Professor Professorson). Played straight, subverted, deconstructed, and, as this is Community, ending with a convoluted nested series of ploys to teach the characters a lesson.
  • In Coupling, there are several instances of people pretending to be other people, and having it blow up. The occasion that hews closest to this trope is when one of the girls talks about how she used to pretend to be twins when she went on vacation: "And I could get away with anything when I was my crazy sister Jane!" "But... you're Jane." "It kind of stuck. Long story."
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: "The Price of Love" involves a scam where the army wives create a series of fake employees to allow them claim extra salaries. This spirals out of control when the police need to talk to one of the fake employees. When they are not able to find her, it becomes a missing person case.
  • EastEnders had a subplot in 2002 where Paul Trueman invents a fictional tenant called "Miss Webster" so he can order electrical goods in her name for him to sell on without them being traced to him. When the companies start asking to speak to Miss Webster, he has to pay off Janine to pose as her.
  • Fargo:
    • Season 2:
      • Hanzee Dent, right-hand of the Gerhardt family syndicate, figures out that Luverne butcher Ed Blumquist and his wife Peggy are the ones who killed Rye, after finding Rye's distinct belt buckle in the Blumquist house. When he returns to the Gerhardt household, Hanzee explains that Rye was run down at firstnote  then killed in another locationnote , and specifies that the perpetrator is a "butcher". When Floyd is confused that a butcher killed Rye, older son Dodd, who disapproves of Floyd taking control of the family in light of her husband's stroke (and who just undermined negotiations with Kansas City), takes the opportunity to take control of the situation and spins the story to his own ends, claiming the killer was one "Butcher of Luverne," a contract killer hired out of Kansas City. Hanzee takes Dodd's lead and feeds Floyd corroborating details, saying Kansas City took Rye as a 'bargaining chip' for negotiations between the two organizations then mistakenly killed Rye, panicked, and escalated the war and avoid having to buy the Gerhardts out. Dodd acts satisfied that he was 'right.' By laying the blame for Rye's death on their rivals, Dodd's scheme to gain back control over the family organization is furthered. His mother looks weak because she originally wanted to negotiate and come to a peaceful agreement, but has apparently been duped. Meanwhile, Dodd, who gets to say "Told you so," has twisted the story to make it look like he was right all along, furthering his claim to rightful clan leadership and to the idea that his mother, or any woman, cannot lead the family.
    • Season 3:
      • The mysterious leader of Narwhal whom VM Varga answers to, but who no one has met face to face, is a guy named Rick Ehrmantraut. However, Nikki figures out that "Rick Ehrmantraut" does not exist. It's just a fake figurehead for Narwhal made up by Varga, so that the police will think Varga is middle management and look past him to find his boss. Since Emmitt and Sy mention to Buck in the first episode that they spoke to "Rick Ehrmantraut" on the phone, it's implied that who they were really speaking to was a lower-level intermediary from Varga's gang.
      • Late in the season, Emmitt decides to turn himself in and confess to his crimes, including the death of his brother Ray. Varga can't afford such heat, so he has his henchman Meemo kill two other random people with the last name of Stussy, to make Ray's death (and the death of Ennis Stussy) look like the work of a very unusual serial killer. He even has a fall guy lined up to "confess" to being the "serial killer". This ends up nullifying Emmitt's legitimate confession.
  • Friends has a co-worker of Chandler's believe that he's called Toby. He sabotages the man's attempt to get promoted to the same floor as Chandler as then he would be unable to keep up the deception, but this leads to a "Fawlty Towers" Plot with the man discovering that "Chandler Bing" was responsible for torpedoing his career. The episode ends with Chandler walking into his office to find the man trashing it and inviting "Toby" to help get revenge on Chandler - he shrugs and joins in.
  • On Head of the Class, the class invented a student named "Randy McNally" after the map in the classroomnote .
  • Hey Dude!, "The Legend of Jed" featured a variant on this: the kids make up an imaginary employee, Jed, to keep Jake from losing his job, and try to Maintain the Lie until they can come up with a way to get rid of Jed. Mr. Ernst catches wise, however, and gets back at the kids by having a friend of his act as "Jed".
  • Just Shoot Me! had Barry Toastman, who replaced someone Finch fired just so that Finch could make him up so that he could get a Managerial parking spot. Downplayed in that he only exists to a small group of people and Elliot finds out pretty quick and starts to try and prove his non-existence. Finch then quickly kills him off.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Luke Cage himself is one, as he's actually Carl Lucas, an escaped fugitive from Georgia. Misty Knight naturally finds it suspicious when her forensics friend Mark Bailey informs her that the only evidence of a "Luke Cage" is in the form of his New York State-issued driver's license. When he owned a bar in Jessica Jones (2015) season 1, it wasn't even in his name.
  • M*A*S*H: One of the best examples seen on network television is the saga of "Captain Jonathan S. Tuttle". Tuttle was Hawkeye's imaginary friend/scapegoat from childhood, who gained a commission in the Army and a position in the 4077th when Hawkeye needed to divert some attention from himself (to help a financially strapped orphanage). After a little judicious forgery and a couple of clever tricks, the entire camp (and the Army's paymaster!) was convinced Tuttle was a real person — with many claiming to know him. Eventually Hawkeye and Trapper are forced to forge his official papers and declare that he tragically died en route to an emergency field operation, jumping out of a helicopter with all the medical equipment he would need but forgetting the parachute. Hawkeye's on-the-spot eulogy for Tuttle is particularly brilliant (Frank complained that he should have given it, claiming that he knew him the best):
    Hawkeye: We can all be comforted by the thought that he's not really gone - that there's a little Tuttle left in all of us. In fact, you might say that all of us together made up Tuttle.
    • In the stinger, Hawkeye asks Trapper where he got a set of dog tags for Tuttle. Trapper says he got them from yet another invented individual, Major Murdoch.
    • And for bonus meta points, the closing credits of the episode include the line "Captain Tuttle... As Himself".
  • Monk: In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank," Monk's bank is seemingly robbed by a Russian in a green hoodie who shoots and wounds a teller before breaking open some safety deposit boxes and then escaping. Monk's investigation quickly determines the robbery was an inside job owing to a ficus tree being moved to block the surveillance camera in the lobby on the morning of the heist. At first, it seems as if the inside man is the bank manager, until he turns up dead. When Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher swing by the bank after hours upon following a lead on the bank manager, though, the sole employee there at the time, Madge, suddenly reveals she was in on the robbery too by locking the four in the bank vault and leaving them to suffocate. While they're trapped, Monk notices some discarded toothpicks in the vault and makes the conclusion that there wasn't even a robbery; the entire bank staff schemed to fake the robbery. The mysterious Russian was played by Madge, and the teller who got shot agreed to do so for the sake of making their performance look authentic.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "The Phantom Killer", a struggling writer created a fictitious agent to represent him. This lie keeps snowballing, and ends with the agent being accused of murder, at which point the writer is exposed and arrested.
  • The Office: In order to circumvent the caps that corporate has put on their commission, Jim and Dwight reveal they have created a fictional salesman named “Lloyd Gross”, who they use to gain more clients, then keep his commission for themselves.
  • In one episode of The Red Green Show, the members of Possum Lodge invent a person, Bernie Goodyear (named after the tire fire), to try to win a “Man of the Year” award. Things get out of hand when a rival lodge starts a smear campaign against Mr. Goodyear. There is even a woman who claims to have given birth to his child. Eventually, Red tells everyone the truth, but no one believes him.
  • One episode of Remington Steele, which is itself about a fictitious detective whose identity is assumed by a conman, finds the detectives searching for a video game exec named George Kaplan (see North By Northwest example in Film.) They find that Kaplan does not exist, and was part of the company's scheme to avoid a takeover.
  • On Seinfeld, a co-worker thinks that Elaine's name is Suzie which Elaine goes along with. Eventually "Suzie" becomes her own woman and is promoted to the position Elaine was aspiring for, despite not actually existing. An annoyed Elaine follows Jerry's advice to kill Suzie off, and tells her boss that she committed suicide. At her funeral Mr. Peterman reminisces about a passionate night he had with her. "It was pret-ty good." The service is interrupted by an enemy of Jerry who accuses him of murdering the imaginary woman to which he gleefully admits. George and Kramer's recurring alter egos, "Art Vandelay" and "Dr. van Nostrand", occasionally came close to this kind of thing.
  • So Awkward: In "Everybody Loves Clementine", Lily invents a student called Clementine Mustache in an attempt to avoid getting into trouble with the Scary Librarian. After inserting the fictitious student into the school records, the lie spirals out of control (mostly due to Jas' efforts) and Clementine wins the talent show and an essay competition. The girls have to invent an unlikely death for Clementine to be rid of her.
  • On Spenser For Hire, Spenser must investigate when a fictitious person invented by Rita and some old friends seems to have turned up dead.
  • Vera: In "Protected", a property management firm is running a scam where they are renting out derelict flats to nonexistent tenants and charging the council for the rent.
  • White Collar has a forger who spent decades perfecting a set of fake identities to the point where they can survive serious government scrutiny. Years ago he registered a number of non-existent births in various cities and then over the years he carefully manufactured official records for these individuals and inserted them into government archives. These identities have school records, employment and credit histories, driver licenses and even real passports issued in their name. They even pay all their taxes on time.
  • In The Wire, Herc and Carver lose a very expensive listening device, hidden inside a tennis ball. Since the thing cost $1,500, they try to cover up the loss by crediting what information they did gain to a fictitious informant. They have Herc's cousin Bernard pose as a confidential informant named "Fuzzy Dunlop" ("Fuzzy" for the felt material on the surface of the Dunlop tennis ball). When Carver hands the informant registration to Daniels, it's pretty obvious that Daniels isn't buying it.
    Cedric Daniels: [with a "are you bullshitting me" face] "Fuzzy Dunlop"?
    Ellis Carver: This new generation, y'know, with the names...
    • Herc later uses the Fuzzy Dunlop identity in season 4 to try to cover up his misplacement of an expensive camera with the new Major Crimes Unit boss Charles Marimow.
  • One of Andy Hamilton's claims during an episode of Would I Lie to You? was that he had spent part of a year at school doing the homework for just such a fictitious classmate, as part of a prank played on a new teacher. Lee's team carried on the gag by asking him whatever had happened to "Fisher" and making references to his supposed existence. Similarly, host Rob Brydon once claimed truthfully that in the early years of his career he was too shy to haggle over pay as himself so he would call his employers pretending to be his (non-existent) agent and ask for a higher rate of pay for his "client". As with Andy Hamilton's claim, both teams treated the agent as a real person ("Did he take a cut?" "When you stopped using him, did you take him out to dinner and tell him you were letting him go?"), much to Rob's increasing annoyance.
  • Young Sheldon: In "The Grand Chancellor and a Den of Sin", President Hagemeyer made up the Grand Chancellor as her boss so Sheldon would assume that she's not the highest authority responsible for the cutting of science requirement credits and would thus leave her alone.

  • This episode of This American Life has the story of a brother and sister who, to escape their controlling mother, invented a family and pretended to have a job babysitting for them.

  • Rod's "girlfriend who lives in Canada" in Avenue Q
  • In The Good Person of Szechwan, a young woman going into business for herself is advised to claim that her business is actually owned by a fictional male cousin, who can be blamed for unpopular decisions and unpaid bills. When that's still not enough to get any respect from the people she has to deal with, she disguises herself so that the cousin can make a personal appearance and sort everything out — and then keeps doing it, as she keeps facing problems she can't deal with as herself. In a twist on the usual, it's the fictional person who gets accused of murdering the real one: her problems build up to a point where she starts living as her cousin more or less continually, and the neighbors start wondering why they never see her around any more.
  • In The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon Moncrieff pretends he has a sickly friend in the country called Bunbury in order to have an excuse to dash off at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, his best friend, Jack Worthing, has been pretending to be his own (nonexistent) rakehell younger brother Ernest (no "a," but still pronounced as "earnest"), which allows him to indulge in the fleshpots of London whenever he visits the city. As Ernest, he courts Algy's cousin Gwendolen, who claims to have always dreamt of marrying a man named "Ernest". Meanwhile, Algy also pretends to be Ernest in order to woo Jack's nubile ward Cecily, who is also enraptured with the name. Hilarity Ensues. Just to top things off, the 2002 film adaptation ended with a funeral for the late but nonexistent Mr. Bunbury under the closing credits.
  • In The Matchmaker, Dolly Levi discovers that Horace Vandergelder, who she's planning to marry, has decided to marry someone else. She hurriedly invents a woman named Ernestina Simple who is everything Horace thinks he wants in a wife and claims that she's promised Ernestina to introduce them. Horace allows her to set up a blind date, which she turns up to herself, proclaiming bitterly that Ernestina has done them both dirty by eloping that very day with another man. Having thus arranged to get Horace to herself in a romantic setting, she sets about wooing him, and the untrustworthy Ernestina is never heard from again.

    Video Games 
  • Fallen London:
    • The story goes that Mr Slowcake prefers to remain in his mansion in Hell, and do all his dealings through his unnamed Amanuensis. The reason for all this is that he doesn't actually exist — a mid-level Watchful card lets you investigate him and determine that he is in fact "the invention of a cabal of devils". As for why the Brass Embassy would do all that... that much is still unknown. Yet somehow, the seemingly-insurmountable hurdle of not actually existing didn't prevent him from running for Mayor of London in 1896.
    • During the endgame, you can construct an elaborate cabinet noir in Balmoral Castle, it was included in the deal for London) for the purpose of both intercepting and deciphering documents, and the construction, elaboration, documentation and insertion into society and history of alternate identities. You can flesh them out in depth, quirks, connections and credentials, and use secret knowledge to insert them into past events and give them imaginary influence over the flow of history above and below. And then you can use them to insert yourself into others' affairs, or sell them off with documentation and attires included to people that need to do the same; the favours, information and objects you can gain this way are invaluable, including some of the most expensive in the game.
    • Zig-Zagged with Nicator, supposed Founder of the Kingdom of the Presbyterate. The Mithridate Office has had literal centuries to make things up about him and insert fabricated artifacts that grew genuinely ancient over the course of their prolonged lifetimes. The sheer amount of archeological records on him (which you can continuously find) put him in events throughout history all the way in the present, with speculation he might still be alive, too. You never get to find out how much is true, because you never find any evidence he didn't exist, but every relic related to him states it's either evidence he did, or damning evidence he was made up.
  • Hypnospace Outlaw has Counselor Ronnie, Teentopia's Community Leader. He's a prank invented by a group of playful hackers.
  • In Level 23 of My Cafe, Kevin falls in love with his penpal Nicki, who writes the most eloquent letter, but never shows up for their scheduled dates. She is actually a false persona created by Elsa and Felicia, who were mad at him for two-timing them, and wanted to a payback.
  • Overwatch: The strange case of Cole Cassidy and Jesse McCree: Cassidy decided to become an outlaw one day, but to keep bad press away from himself came up with McCree as an alter ego. Things escalated from there to the point that nearly everybody saw him not as Cassidy, but as McCree, until he finally decided enough was enough and stopped living the lie.
  • In Planescape: Torment, you can on multiple occasions refer to your 'friend' Adahn, and sometimes pretend to be him when others ask your name. For instance, you can tell the Dustmen at the monument that Adahn is grieving over the recent death of a loved one, and they'll pray for him. Do this often enough, and Adahn will show up with the money he owes you. This is because the world is shaped by belief.

  • In The Glass Scientists, Jekyll pretends that Hyde is his lab assistant who is simply never seen with his boss. It turns out that Jekyll's fellow Society members came to believe that the two are lovers.

    Web Original 
  • Spiders Georg is the memetic creation of a Tumblr user explaining that the idea of eating spiders (usually in your sleep) with an average of three per year is a myth (which is true), and is in fact caused by including the titular cave-dwelling Spiders Georg in the calculation. This has resulted in several other specialized Georgs, such as Linguistics Georg.
    average person eats 3 spiders a year" factoid actualy (sic) just statistical error. average person eats 0 spiders per year. Spiders Georg, who lives in cave & eats over 10,000 each day, is an outlier adn (sic) should not have been counted

    Western Animation 
  • On Dilbert, "Todd" is created by the employees to get an empty cubicle for storage. But when nobody at the company can locate him ("There is no Todd!"), Dilbert is sent to jail for his murder. Eventually, Todd is promoted above everyone, becomes a millionaire, and there's a law passed saying he can become a bigamist.
  • Doug: In one episode, Doug wishes to go to a dance with Patti, but Connie asks him before he gets the chance to ask Patti. Afraid of hurting her feelings, Doug says he has to take care of his sick cousin, Melvin, who doesn't actually exist. Patti and Connie decide they're going to help him take care of Melvin as well, so Doug has to get help from Judy, who pretends to be Melvin. As usual, things don't go according to plan.
  • The whole point to Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. It's a hostel where invented individuals (the imaginary friends) are left when their child owners have outgrown them, with the hope that another child will come and "adopt" them. The imaginary friends are all tangible figures in the real world. Creator Craig McCracken and his wife Lauren Faust got the idea when they went to adopt a dog at an animal shelter and wondered what kind of life it had previously before being deserted.
  • The Simpsons episode "Bart the Lover" has Bart creating "Woodrow" in response to a personal ad from Mrs. Krabappel.

    Real Life 
  • The invention of a phantom student is a classic college prank. One physics class went so far as to have a graduate student flawlessly answer problem sets and test questions for their phantom — all while including written taunts to the professor: "This is trivial nonsense. Surely you can do better!" Inventing a glamorous freshman girl, distributing bogus photos of her, and seeing how many people try to track her down has also been done at largely male technical colleges.
  • George P. Burdell. In 1927 Georgia Tech student Ed Smith received two enrollment forms. For the next several years Smith did all schoolwork twice, altering it slightly, and attended all exams twice. Burdell received his bachelor's in 1930 and his master's some years later. During World War II his name appeared on various fronts and he was listed as a B-17 pilot, flying twelve missions from England. He's in three yearbooks, was registered for every single course in every semester when Georgia Tech computerized its registration, had his marriage announced in a paper in the 1950s, got a mention of his 50th anniversary in the 2000s, and MAD Magazine listed him on the board of directors for about twelve years.
  • In 1974, George "Punch" Imlach, general manager of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, drafted Taro Tsujimoto, supposed "star player" for the Tokyo Katanas of the JHL. While the league did exist, the team and player did not, and it was a prank to protest the NHL's drafting rules, which had been changed in response to the upstart World Hockey Association. When Imlach revealed the stunt weeks later, the league office was not amused, though aside from invalidating the pick, the team suffered no sanctions.
  • A Mr. Prawo Jazdy accumulated traffic fines all over Ireland for years, until a well-informed policeman realized that "prawo jazdy" was Polish for "driver's license".
  • Johnny Klomberg. An ice cream parlor offered free birthday ice cream to local kids who registered their name, address and DOB. Two kids made up a fake friend with their own address. A few years pass, 'Johnny' turns eighteen and a reminder to sign up for the draft arrives. And it turns out the parlor hadn't given permission for its lists to be used, either. Whoops.
  • In the introduction to the 1991 Illuminet Press Edition of the Principia Discordia, Kerry W. Thornley relates how he added the name Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst to the training rotas when he was in basic training. Apparently, it took several years before anyone figured it out, by which time Ravenhurst had his own records, bunk and accompanying pair of size six shoes.
  • Nicolas Bourbaki was the collective pen name of a group of French mathematicians who wanted to rewrite the book on mathematics—literally. They were rather successful, and Bourbaki approach to mathematics, based on set theory, had a profound effect on the study of higher math in the 20th century. Until quite recently, only a few members of the group were known by name.
  • The website of the German national legislature has a profile for the politician J. M. Mierscheid, detailing his rise from humble beginnings to his current position. In actuality, those humble beginnings actually appear to have been as a fictional person invented by politicians in the 1920s as a way of not paying restaurant bills. Over the years, various people have issued press releases and articles in his name so as to perpetuate him, to the extent that the authorities now play along.
  • Dean Andrew, the lawyer hired to defend Lee Harvey Oswald before he was murdered, described a meeting with a "Clay Bertrand" who got him the job. Despite Andrew being a notorious fibber and later admitting the story was a lie, when Jim Garrison launched his investigation of the assassination, he latched onto the idea that the name was an alias of businessman Clay Shaw, pretty much entirely because of the first name and Shaw being homosexual. Oliver Stone's JFK takes the idea and runs with it, making many assassination buffs cry.
  • When the comedian Ronnie Barker wanted to try writing for The Frost Report (the sketch show he was appearing in at the time), he decided to write under a pseudonym — he wanted his work to be judged on its own merits, not as something that got on the air simply because a cast member wrote it. The ruse worked and 'Gerald Wiley' became one of the most highly regarded writers of the show. The cast and crew speculated as to who he really was (names such as Alan Ayckbourn and Tom Stoppard were suggested). Ronnie Barker kept up the pretense, occasionally criticizing the quality of the writing and at one point when Ronnie Corbett tried to buy the rights to one sketch, telling Corbett that the price 'Wiley' was asking was far too high. Eventually, he revealed he was Wiley ... but for the rest of his career, Barker never used his real name in the writing credits of a show he was working on, using a number of different pseudonyms over the years.
  • This is the origin of the term "John Doe" (and Jane Doe and other such variants) being used as a placeholder name for unidentified persons. According to English Common Law at least two witnesses were needed for criminal proceedings, so prosecutors would occasionally put the name on the books for unimportant trials. There was also a complicated procedure in housing law that was simplified if both sides were acting for third parties; if there were no third parties, they'd claim to be acting on behalf of John Doe and Richard Roe.
  • World War II:
    • Operation Mincemeat. In 1943 a ruse was conducted to trick the Germans into believing the invasion of southern Europe would start with Greece instead of Sicily. A homeless man's corpse was given the fictional identity of a Royal Marine named Major William Martin, his body was planted with fake documents detailing the planned invasion of Greece and he was dropped off near the Spanish coast. The Germans were completely taken in and redirected vital military units from Sicily to Greece, ensuring the success of the Sicilian Invasion. The subterfuge was extremely detailed; "Major Martin's" body was planted with fake letters from his 'fiancee' (one of the department secretaries contributed a photograph of herself) and 'father', as well as facsimile concert stubs, restaurant receipts, an unpaid jeweler's invoice for an engagement ring, a overdraft notice from his bank, and other assorted pocket-clutter designed to create the illusion of a slightly forgetful and occasionally careless man. This personality was concocted in order to provide an explanation of why the official document case was handcuffed to the body - which was necessary to ensure that body and case would wash up together, but not normal practice for military couriers. The story later became a book and a movie, under the name The Man Who Never Was; more recently, a detailed investigative account was written by Ben MacIntyre, which uncovered, among other things, the fact that someone had gone to the trouble of inserting a fake entry in an inn's registration book, to make it appear that the equally fictional father of "Martin" had been staying there during the period when one of the fake personal letters was written.
    • Operation Fortitude. The idea here was to fool the Germans into thinking the Invasion of Europe (D-Day) would happen at Calais and NOT Normandy. To this end the Allies invented an entire ARMY and put actual General George S. Patton in charge of it. The ruse worked very well as the Nazis kept A LOT of equipment away from Normandy and even thought NORMANDY was a ruse to distract them from the REAL invasion yet to come at Calais.
      • From the point of view of Patton's superiors, it had the additional advantage that a man they considered to be an Ax-Crazy loose cannon wouldn't be in a position of key importance during D-Day.
    • Joan Pujol Garcia, known to the British as agent Garbo, and to the Nazis as Arabel, was a WWII spy... well, sorta. You see, he never did any 'real' espionage. With the aid of his British handler, Tomás Harris, he made up an almost entirely fictitious spy ring with 27 fake people and one real one (Joan). Joan tried to get hired by the British, 3 times in fact. This didn't work so he went to the Nazis to (supposedly) work for them and became agent Arabel. He then gave the Nazis useful but publicly available information, thereby gaining their trust, and while there were some mistakes, they weren't noticed. And then he was finally able to get hired by the British as what is known as a "walk-in" (basically someone who goes to a country, embassy or the like and asks to be a spy for them). Before he did that, they thought his information was legit (they intercepted at least some of it) and launched a spy hunt. After they hired him, he was used to feed the Nazis information, as he'd wanted from the start. Sometimes they needed to give legit information for trust reasons, which was done with care; for example, one of his imaginary spies 'sent him' useful information, but due to an 'unfortunate and entirely coincidental' mail mishap, it arrived too late for the Nazis to use it. Or, in the case of the true location for freakin' D-Day, due to finding out entirely too late. Agent Arabel even got an Iron Cross Second Class (which requires the Führer's personal authorization) for his contribution to the war effort, which would have been been bestowed upon him personally by Hitler himself if it wouldn't have blown his cover - this, coupled with being awarded the MBE for his work as a double-agent, makes him the only known person to win an award from both sides of World War II. One of his fictitious subordinates was too well placed, so they killed him and put his name in the obituary of a British newspaper. He told the Nazis of the 'tragedy', who then proceeded to send the imaginary widow flowers. Said imaginary spy was replaced by his imaginary wife. His cover lasted so long that Hitler died not knowing his favored spy Agent Arabel was a double agent, let alone disloyal from the start. You can read about this amazing tale (including some of the fake spies) in several places, one of which is here.
      • It gets better than that. All the 27 fake spies were paid a stipend by the Nazi government for their "services". All that money was actually going straight into the British Treasury.
  • A prank at Brown University several years ago played with this trope. A club dedicated to practical jokes (or something like that) picked a random freshman at the beginning of the year and began posting on school forums and message boards about how amazed and excited they were that he actually went to their school: "omg, can you believe it?", "I think I saw him in the lunchline!", "it's so cool, he goes here", etc, etc, etc. After only a month or two, practically everyone at the school knew the guy's name and face and that he was famous (though nobody was ever quite sure for what). The freshman target himself was probably the most confused by the whole thing until he finally ran into one of the perpetrators who explained what had been going on months later, but enjoyed the attention and minor acclaim for most of his time in college none-the-less.
  • Nat Tate, supposedly a famous artist who destroyed most of his work before killing himself, whose "biography" was written by William Boyd. In reality, Boyd seems to have just wanted to make fun of art critics, and was assisted by Gore Vidal and David Bowie. Only one editor at the book's launch party realized it was a hoax; he realized something was off when everyone except him claimed that yes, of course they were familiar with Tate and his work.
  • Similar to the fictional student is the fake building once created on the UBC campus in Vancouver. Students in the psychology and sociology programs inserted a non-existent building into the campus maps and records; the hoax remained undetected until the next semester when instructors assigned classrooms in the fictitious building were unable to find it, despite the alleged location of the building being in clear view of the front of the campus' primary administrative building.
  • Lennay Kekua, "dead girlfriend" of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, was invented by an acquaintance of Te'o's.
  • Kozma Prutkov, a fake XIX century Russian writer, author of satire and Ice Cream Koans. He was a collective pen name of several Russian writers, including A.K.Tolstoy and the Zhemchuzhnikov Brothers.
  • Yevgeny Sazonov, Prutkov's Soviet era Spiritual Successor of sorts. His writings, actually by a collective of satirists from Literaturnaya Gazeta, parodied many cliches used by a typical Soviet writer.
  • Allegra Coleman, the fictional actress (portrayed by Ali Larter in photographs) created by Martha Sherrill in Esquire magazine, demonstrating that the Hollywood Hype Machine didn't require an actual person behind the hype.
  • Ern Malley, the Australian poet, created by actual Australian poets James MacAuley and Harold Stewart to hoax the modernist magazine Angry Penguins. The magazine dedicated an entire issue to Malley's (deliberately bad) work, which MacAuley and Stewart claimed as evidence the modernists couldn't tell good poetry from bad.
  • Musician Lucia Cole had an album on iTunes and 64,000 Twitter followers, was interviewed in a few web publications, and was endorsed by Shaquille O'Neal. But the consensus is that her entire existence was an elaborate hoax: her supposed label, Republic Records, said no one was signed with them under that name, photographs posted to her official site turned out to be pictures of a model named Reese Cromwell, and her album consisted entirely of old, slightly re-titled Jessica Simpson recordings. Following these revelations, Cole's only album Innocence was quickly pulled from all digital platforms - it's not exactly a Lost Episode because, again, it consisted entirely of re-labeled Jessica Simpson songs. Later, a different Lucia Cole's music appeared on Tidal, apparently this time an anonymous musician who named themself in reference to the invented individual: Their album, consisting of original Instrumental Hip Hop, is significantly titled Catfish, and has a stylized, faceless portrait of Reese Cromwell as cover art.
  • Masal Bugduv, a fictional Moldovan football prodigy created to satirise uncritical press coverage of the football transfer market.
  • In the 70s, Dan Aykroyd was asked to fill out a form for Who's Who. As a joke, he made up a wife named Maureen Lewis and three children with her. Surprisingly, this information was published in the book without being verified. Aykroyd would later get married in 1982 to Donna Dixon, who does actually exist.
  • It is very likely that Homer, the Greek historian who told the tales of The Iliad and The Odyssey, was not a real person at all. The root of this theory is that the stories had their roots in oral retellings which were passed from town to town, the details changing along the way like a game of telephone. Many historians believe that Homer was invented to give the cobbled together tales a source of origin. There's three base elements to this theory: 1) Homeric epic shares many stylistic characteristics with known oral traditions; 2) Thanks to the sophistication and mnemonic power of the formulaic system in Homeric poetry, it is entirely possible for epics as large as the Iliad and Odyssey to have been created in an oral tradition, 3) many curious features that offended the ancient Alexandrians and the Analysts are most probably symptomatic of the poems' evolution through oral transmission and, within limits, poets re-inventing them in performance, and 4) various continuity errors within the work.
    • Book 24 of The Odyssey is a notable case here. It's believed by scholars that the Homer part of the poem ended with Odysseus revealing himself to Penelope, and that the last book was written by someone else. Several passages in earlier books seem to be setting up the events of Book 24, so if it were indeed a later addition, the offending editor would seem to have changed earlier text as well.
  • In 2001 Sony Pictures invented a fake movie critic, David Manning, to give rave reviews to A Knight's Tale and The Animal.
  • Trap streets are nonexistent streets or towns that are put on a map to "trap" anyone who tries to copy the map, as if caught, they'll be unable to explain the inclusion of the nonexistent street as innocent.
    • In 1936, Esso created a fake town called Agloe on their map of New York State, outside Roscoe. In the 1950s, a general store was built on that spot, and the owners, consulting the Esso map, decided to call it the Agloe General Store. Years later, Rand McNally tried to copy Esso's map, and then Esso tried to sue them. The suit was tossed because the general store meant Agloe was now a real place.
  • In 1987, the IRS started requiring the Social Security numbers for children over the age of 5 who were claimed as dependents on tax returns. The result? The number of children claimed as dependents went from 77 million to 70 million, meaning that 7 million children had been invented for the purpose of paying less taxes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Earnest, The Ernest, Hoax Person, Made Up Person, Fake Person, Importance Of Being Earnest Plot



Tilly creates a cousin alter-ego of herself to entertain Cricket when he was bored.

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