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It Won't Turn Off

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James: I turned you off!
Mr. Bucket: But you turn me on!

The presence of otherworldly elements around technology isn't always enough to stop it working. Occasionally a stubborn ghost or haunting creature will keep a machine doing what it wants past the point that physics finds it possible.

For example a character may be watching TV when the channel mysteriously changes to something ominous or relevant. They flip the channel back, and either it shows the same picture or waits, then turns back to the scene. They turn the TV off, and it turns back on, with the same scene possibly several times. They rip the power cord out of the socket, and if they're lucky, get a brief pause before the TV turns itself on anyway and continues showing the scene. If they're really wound tight they might smash the machine to smithereens only to find it just keeps running regardless or reconstructs itself when they're not looking.

There are many reasons why this is inherently scary. Firstly, it taps into the primal fear of losing control. We made these machines, we have control over them at the touch of a button. When that control is removed, it creates a feeling of powerlessness. Secondly, it's a situation that we know can't happen. It's literally impossible for a TV to continue to work after being unplugged. So if it's working anyway, then all bets are off, and none of what we know about how the world works applies to the situation. Lastly, anyone that's even remotely Genre Savvy knows that a machine that refuses to turn off is NEVER good news.

Common other variations include phones ringing (which might be dead people calling), radios playing music (eerie or appropriate), and in the modern age, computers telling you that you have e-mail or showing an image or scene or uploading or downloading or installing a program. It's also a common symptom of any Haunted Technology.

There's also the comedic version where the inability to shut the device off is neither supernatural nor dangerous, but no less insufferable. May involve a Broken Lever of Doom.

Compare Sorcerer's Apprentice Plot. See also A.I. Is a Crapshoot for a sci-fi equivalent, and if it's a character struggling to shut off a superpower they may have, then that's Power Incontinence. A common element of Digital Horror. Has nothing to do with I Didn't Mean to Turn You On.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon Adventure: (2020): In Tokyo, devices that are able to connect to the internet stay on despite a lack of electricity. The authorities have no idea what's going on, but use it to their advantage to keep as much of the city working and as many people informed as possible.

    Audio Plays 
  • Played for laughs in one skit on A Prairie Home Companion where a self-help tape voiced by Mr. Rogers starts hitting on a woman and the woman tries hitting the power button.
    Mr. Rogers after a brief silence — "You thought you turned me off, didn't you? But you didn't. You turned me on."
  • The Evil Phone version happens in the Torchwood audio play The Dead Line - phones ring despite not being plugged in. Anyone that answers them goes into a coma. note 

  • Played for Laughs in the Tim Hawkins sketch "Stupid Questions". While remembering how TV used to be, he mentions how Telemundo, the one channel in Spanish (and implicitly the least interesting due to the language barrier), always came in absolutely clear. It could get a signal even if the set wasn't plugged in.

    Comic Books 
  • In The House That Haunted Batman, a classic Neal Adams story from the comics, there is a phonograph playing a recording of a scream. It continues screaming even after Batman lifts the needle off the record.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in the Popeye short "Me Musical Nephews", where Popeye gets kept awake by loud music and believes it to be coming from a radio, unaware that it's really his nephews playing their instruments. He tries turning off the radio, but when it still "plays", he smashes the radio to pieces and then tries to stomp on the bulbs.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Sweet Porridge, a girl is given a pot that can only be stopped from making porridge by saying the words "Stop, little pot, stop!" When the girl's mother uses the pot but does not know the words to stop it, the whole town becomes submerged in porridge.
  • A similar plot is used in the tale Why The Sea Is Salt, in which a sea captain commands a magic hand mill to grind salt, but nobody knows how to stop it.
    "It went on grinding with never a halt,
    and that is the reason why the sea is salt."

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, during the scene where Mr. Krabs is trying to tell King Neptune he didn't steal his crown, he receives a message from someone who claims he sold the crown to him and that he in-turn sold it to someone in Shell City, Mr. Krabs desperately trying to turn off the answering machine, even pulling it out of the wire, only for the call to keep going until the guy hangs up himself.
  • Done by Woody in Toy Story, when he's teaching Sid a lesson at the end. If a toy is spouting one-liners without its drawstring being pulled, you would probably come to the conclusion that it's busted too. But what really makes Sid freak out is when Woody then starts addressing him directly by his full name.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The horror film 1408 had a hotel alarm clock/radio that went off even after it was unplugged.
  • In the Apocalypse film series movie Revelation, One Nation Earth converts Willy Spino and Cindy Bolton try to stop the anti-Day Of Wonders virus program from uploading onto the computers by pulling out the disk and destroying it, and even trying to destroy the computer it was uploading on itself, all to no avail. And it's all being done to "Amazing Grace" being sung in the background.
  • In Big, the fortune-teller machine works despite not being plugged in. At the end of the movie, the protagonist is trying to reverse his sudden adulthood, and at first only gets normal fortunes out of the machine - until he realizes that it's actually plugged in, and swiftly pulls out the plug to set it back in "magic mode".
  • In Big Driver, Tess is hallucinating that her GPS is giving her advice about hunting her rapist. Freaking out, she unplugs it, only for the now black screen to apologize.
  • In Bruce Almighty, Bruce gets a call on his pager from the same number, even after ripping out the battery, hurling it out of the window, and watching it get run over. Justified as the calls are from God.
  • In Duck Soup, Pinky turns a dial on a radio, thinking it was the safe he was there to crack, which plays a very loud and energetic rendition of "Stars And Stripes Forever". He tries to muffle the radio with pillows, to no effect. He then throws it on the floor and smashes it to pieces; again, the radio continues to play. Pinky has to settle for throwing what's left of the radio out the window.
  • Possibly the creepiest moment in Child's Play occurs when the mother of the family realizes there are no batteries in the Chucky doll... and yet it's been walking and talking as advertised since they bought it.
  • In Ghost from the Machine, Cody learns that his ghost-conjuring machine is working because his radio turns itself back on and tunes back to the station it was on.
  • A variation ("It won't disconnect!") in Goldeneye, the infiltration to Boris' server continues, despite him desperately ripping hardware out of it.
  • In the American remake of The Grudge, this happens to one of Kayako's victims, Susan. Right after finding no one there outside her apartment after her initial relief at seeing her (now late) brother through the peephole of her door (especially considering the scare she went through when she was leaving her office building being pursued by Kayako's vengeful spirit), the signature death rattle suddenly emanates loudly from the phone she was holding. In terror, she drops and breaks the phone, yet the rattle can still be heard. Of course, it got worse from there.
  • Played for laughs in Mel Brooks's Alfred Hitchcock pastiche High Anxiety, where the luckless Doctor Wentworth is tortured to ear-bleeding death by the blaring, repetitive rock music from a car stereo that resists all his attempts to turn it off.
  • In It (2017), a slide projector does this when Pennywise manifests through the images it's projecting.
  • Maximum Overdrive has a few scenes that fall under this trope, notably the electric carving knife that turns on and attacks a waitress.
  • In The Mothman Prophecies, protagonist John Klein has been promised a call from his long-deceased wife. When the phone rings at the appointed time, he decides he doesn't want to answer it, and he unplugs and smashes the phone. Moments later, it rings again.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street:
  • The Ωmega Man. A sign of the protagonist's Sanity Slippage due to being The Aloner. He hears a cacophony of ringing phones in a Ghost City, causing him to cover his ears and scream "THERE IS NO PHONE RINGING!" until it stops.
  • In Outpost, McKay manages to get the original bunker radio equipment working, initially producing eerily scream-like static before suddenly switching to classical music. Despite unplugging the radio, McKay is unable to get it to stop functioning before it suddenly shuts itself off in a small explosion.
  • In Pizza, Kunal keeps getting calls on the house phone, despite it being unplugged.
  • An amusing subversion in the original Poltergeist: the family's television keeps changing channels on its own, only to have them discover that the neighbor's TV remote uses the same signal. They are essentially having a remote-of-war.
  • In The Ring, at the start, one of the characters has this problem with a screen showing static. Then it gets worse.
    • In the American remake, when Rachel and Noah climb down beneath the cabin to find the well, Samara's Psychic Powers turn on the TV, then unscrew the floorboards so that it slides down and crashes into Rachel, sending her down the well. For a split-second, the TV (which isn't even plugged in) has an image of a silhouette peering down into the well.
    • One of the DVD special features combines this with The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You. It is possible to access a recording of The Tape that, once started, cannot be stopped by any means (presumably, short of unplugging the player, manually turning off your TV, or hard-resetting your computer). And to make things worse, this version is even longer than the actual tape that was shown in the film, with more disturbing content to go with it.
    • The short film Rings (which bridges between the two American Ring films) takes this up a notch: the protagonist Jake Pierce sees Samara trying to come out of his TV, and when unplugging it doesn't work, he grabs a small lamp and tries smashing it against the TV screen. Even that fails, and he instead picks up his video camera and tries to film her, but Samara then attempts to grab Jake face-first through the camera's screen. Fortunately, it was only a dream.
    • A variation, "It won't delete," from the Japanese sequel Ring 2. Asakawa's former assistant, now investigating the urban legend himself, records footage of a Cursed Video victim and promises to watch the tape so she can be spared. He doesn't. When he reviews the footage, he tries to delete the interview... but it's still there. Even after repeated attempts. Then the mechanism gets stuck, showing a still frame of the victim looking just like Sadako... and it gets REALLY WORSE for him afterwards.
  • RoboCop (1987): When OCP’s president showcases ED-209 to a room full of executives, he has one of them help him demonstrate an “arrest procedure”. ED-209 proceeds to malfunction, and the operators are unable to turn it off, allowing the robot to turn the executive into mincemeat. Someone has to Cut the Juice to make ED-209 finally shut down.
  • Scarecrows: In an odd inversion of the way the trope usually works, Bert steals a truck and drives off in it. When the truck stalls, Bert thinks it has flooded and pops the bonnet. When he looks inside, he discovers that the truck doesn't have an engine.
  • Shaun of the Dead has a scene that centers around this trope. As the title character and his team of family/friends are hiding in a bar from zombies, the jukebox automatically turns on due to being on random. Oh, and the kicker: The movie is set in England, and the song that plays - Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." It takes an axe or something to stop Freddie Mercury.
    Probably everybody: God, kill the Queen!
  • Siren (2010): When Marco is searching the yacht, he finds a tape deck in one of the cabins, playing a cassette of Silka singing. Marco removes the tape and the song stops for s few seconds. Then in starts again, despite there being no tape in the player.
  • In the climax of Stargate, Jack decides to deactivate the nuke he brought in secret on the other side of the gate just in case. The timer doesn't stop. He takes out the arming device... and the clock is still ticking down. Ra, tempering prior with the nuke to send it back to Earth, rigged in such a way it can't be disarmed, or at least not within the 6 minutes they have left. The bomb is ultimately send via the ring teleporter to Ra's ship, as he's flying away from Abydos.
  • In Stay Alive (2006), a film in which players of a video game die if their game-avatars do, one character uses a portable game console to send his avatar into the game's analog of a real haunted house. He pauses the game to fetch something from the real house, leaving the console inside his van. Not only does the game un-pause itself, leaving his avatar standing inert while its enemies close in, but the van's power locks and windows seal themselves so he can't get to the controls.
  • While a child is watching a kids' program in Stir of Echoes, the television keeps changing channels to show the original Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Played strictly for laughs in The Three Stooges short "Men in Black" (no relation). The three play doctors and are constantly being paged, "Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard!" They get frustrated and destroy the paging system but it continues to page them, even as they're shooting it, until it says, "Oh, they got me!"
  • Weird Science features a computer that goes wild. Turning it off doesn't work. Unplugging it doesn't work. Hitting it with a metal baseball bat causes the bat to shatter.

  • In the horrifying dystopia that is Nineteen Eighty-Four, one of the most iconic objects were the telescreens, which could never be switched off or silenced; and were also used by the government for keeping watch on people everywhere, including in their homes. Only members of the elite Inner Party get this luxury, and even then, having them off for more than a few minutes will arouse suspicion.
  • In Tom Clancy's Debt Of Honor, a Japanese businessman's TV abruptly switches channels - every attempt to return it to the original station is met with insouciance on the part of the TV until the guy turns it off and sees an incoming missile guided by an infrared laser that just happens to be the same frequency as the TV remote.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The witch Rodrick gets in Double Down cackles at the slightest movement, even after Frank removes the batteries.
  • From Discworld's Moving Pictures has the protagonist trying to stop a "click" reel projector because it's hypnotizing the audience and allowing Things from the Dungeon Dimensions into the world. No one's operating it, but it keeps working anyway. He tries grabbing the handle (it snaps off), and then pulling out the salamanders that are its light source, but somehow the picture keeps being projected. Finally he grabs the film itself and rips it out of the projector, which does work.
  • A radio that changes stations and volume by itself and cannot be turned off is used by Melanie via telekinesis to warn other characters of danger in The Door To December, by Dean Koontz.
  • In Alan Garner's Elidor, the magical artifacts the children bring back to the mundane world cause all the appliances in their house to start running, even when not plugged in.
  • In one Homer Price story, a donut machine is incorrectly assembled and won't turn off until it's used up all the batter in it. Too bad they made an extra-large batter recipe and now have hundreds of donuts they can't sell (until they come up with a marketing gimmick).
  • John Dies at the End: David is tormented by songs on the radio that are altered to racist screeds and personal insults that only he can hear. When he tries to turn the radio off, he finds that it was off all along.
  • One of God's angels takes over the airwaves in the Left Behind book Desecration to deliver a message from Revelation 14:9-13 to those who have taken the Mark of the Beast and worshiped Carpathia's image.
  • In Needful Things, Ace Merrill gets a hint that something is really wrong with his new employer Mr. Gaunt, when he sees that the tape player, that had played a message from Gaunt, is unplugged (the tape also reacts to his actions, and there was no way Gaunt could've recorded it in the first place).
  • In the first Three Investigators novel, the main characters are told about a cursed electric organ that played both when nobody was near it, and when it was unplugged. (The guy who owned it did experiments to be sure.) They later investigate the organ, but it turns out to be just a trick, like everything else in the haunted house.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bones, Booth goes to a sperm donation facility, where the television shows Stewie Griffin from Family Guy speaking to him and the tv won't turn off no matter what Booth does. Later, it is revealed that Booth was having a hallucination due to a brain tumor.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Conversations with Dead People", Dawn is home alone and watching a movie when she starts hearing strange noises around the house. She mutes the TV, except the sound comes back on, even after she unplugs it. When everything from the living room stereo to the microwave starts doing the same thing, she goes for the axe.
  • Cheers: In the tenth season episode "Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement", Gary pranks the Cheers gang by rigging the jukebox to play Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash"note  at full volume the next time someone chooses a record (leading to Phil complaining, "Hey, that's not 'Funkytown'!"). Carla and Phil try turning down the volume, but to no avail; Sam stomps over and unplugs the jukebox, but the music continues playing. Finally, Sam smashes the glass of the jukebox and pulls the record out. He stomps back over to the phone to call Gary and give him a piece of his mind... only for "Monster Mash" to come out of the receiver.
  • As in real life, this happened with Reactor #4 in Chernobyl. Episode 5 shows the process leading up to the explosion, in which a worker frantically presses the AZ-5 button (Soviet name for the SCRAM), only for the entire diagram of the control rods to light up, indicating a problem with every single one of them, followed by the reactor blowing up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Victory of the Daleks": The Daleks fire an energy beam at London, turning on every light in the city just before a German air-raid. Attempts to turn the lights off prove futile.
    • "The Time of Angels": Creeped out after believing she saw a captive Weeping Angel on a looped 4-second recording change its position while her back was turned, Amy tries using the remote to switch off the monitor, to no avail. As it turns out, the Angels can project themselves through any image of them, something Amy learns as her attacker projects itself out of the monitor to get her. She can still pause it, however, and does so just as the loop repeats and the screen turns to static, "destroying" the image.
  • The Electric Company (1971) had a sketch in which a disgruntled TV owner returns his TV to a dealer, complaining that it turns on by itself. They go into an argument where the dealer scoffs at the complaint with "It didn't!" and the customer responds, "It did!" repeatedly, until the TV turns on by itself just as the customer described and Morgan Freeman is on the screen saying, "It did!"
  • In Friends, Phoebe is woken up one night by her smoke alarm. She tries to turn it off, but it keeps beeping, even after she pulls the battery out. Finally, she resorts to smashing it with a hammer, causing it to let out a single, long piercing tone.
  • Get Smart: In a parody of This Page Will Self-Destruct trope, the Self-Destruct Mechanism destroys everything except the tape. After various unsuccessful attempts to destroy it, Max tucks the bulky tape player under his coat and walks off.
  • The Goodies: A Rule of Funny version happens in "Lighthouse Loonies", with a foghorn which won't stop blaring even after Tim and Graeme have switched it off, pulled the plug, jumped up and down on it and swallowed the pieces.
  • In Heroes, the characters discovered that Matt Parkman's son had an ability this way. They tried to turn off the TV, but Baby Matt Parkman made it turn back on every time. They even unplugged it. Made no difference.
  • In Person of Interest, this is one of the first real indications that the Machine is sentient. As the series goes on, it shows that the Machine really dislikes being shut down and will go to extremes to avoid it. Harold programmed it to perform a memory wipe on itself at midnight every night in the hopes of avoiding a full-blown AI, but since that routine conflicted with its main drive to understand human nature, it just forced the Machine to come up with new ways to preserve its memories, becoming more intelligent and aware as it did so. A flashback to the Machine's first days show that this was a problem from the start, with earlier beta versions of the Machine trying to sneak around Harold's programming, eventually becoming so determined to avoid shutdown that it hacked into the server room's fire suppression system and tried to murder Harold - cue a Machine POV shot of Harold smashing the hard drives with a hammer while flames billow in the background.
  • The Prisoner (1967):
    • In the premiere, Number 6 gets sick of listening to his Village-supplied radio (which has an internal power supply and no off switch), throws it on the floor and literally kicks it to pieces, all while the saccharine Muzak refuses to go away.
      Number Six: [speaking loudly to be heard over the music] How do you stop this thing?!
      Maid: We can't.
      Number Six: Why not?
      Maid: It's automatic.
      Number Six: Who controls it?
      Maid: I have no—
      Number Six: Who runs this place?!
      Maid: I don't know! I really don't know.
    • In the episode "Dance of the Dead", Number 6 encounters a teletype machine that turns back on after he tears out its innards.
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: The Original Series, when the crew attempt to Cut the Juice to M5, "The Ultimate Computer" of the episode title, it creates its own connection to draw power directly from the engines... and through one unfortunate Red Shirt engineer, who is instantly vaporized. Dr. Daystrom tries to excuse this as merely negligent homicide, claiming the man "just got in the way" of the power beam. Kirk wants to know what will happen when they all just "get in the way?"
    • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Memorial", Tom Paris realizes something is wrong when he starts seeing a war taking place on his TV set and he can't change the channels. It eventually turns out to be a memorial on a planet transmitting images of a war that took place there into people's minds so that they would remember the event.
    • This is also generally the case for every Holodeck Malfunction episode in the franchise, as otherwise they could be solved by simply shutting the thing off.
  • Used in several Supernatural episodes.
    • In "Houses of the Holy", a fundamentalist Bible show appears on a character's TV, and will not leave how often they change the channel.
    • At various points in "Roadkill", the song "House of the Rising Sun" gets played on the radio, including spontaneously turning on in Dean's car, and playing at one point on a jukebox which is not plugged in.
    • In "Long-Distance Call", a phone keeps calling despite being hung up on and then being ripped out of the wall. Later on, a girl gets chat messages that continue to show on her screen, even after turning it off.
  • The Torchwood episode "From Out of the Rain" has the group attend a cinema where silent film footage of what Cardiff looked like in the past is being shown. However, some footage of the Villains of the Week ends up being edited into the footage (somehow). The man operating the telecine machine attempts to stop it but finds that he can't stop the machine.
  • This happens in the first episode of the kids' TV series, Turn On to T-Bag, when T-Shirt tries to switch off the TV after T-Bag makes her presence inside it.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "A Thing About Machines", an Asshole Victim discovers that the clock ringing is the one that he destroyed the innards of yesterday.

    Music Videos 
  • The video for the Barenaked Ladies' "Falling For the First Time" involves a night watchman's security monitor starting to play a Performance Video of the band, and his attempts to stop it (he tries switching the feed back, pounds on it to try and get it working again, then pulls the plug). It still keeps showing the band, so he eventually pries the monitor out with a broom handle and throws it into a dumpster. At the end of the video, we see the actual band members stealing valuables in the background (with the watchman oblivious), while the "haunted" monitor in the dumpster shows Ed giving a wink to the camera before it finally shuts off, implying it was all a ruse to distract the watchman.
  • The video for Billy Idol's "Cradle Of Love", where the man who lets the girl next door play her song and goes crazy in his apartment tries to turn off the music, even by pulling the plug on the stereo.

  • In The Magnus Archives, the characters use tape recorders to record statements and any supernatural events they encounter. Then, in the third season, they find that they can't turn the tape recorders off. Then the recorders start turning themselves on. Then they start appearing out of thin air. All because a particularly spidery Eldritch Abomination is very interested in what's going on.

    Video Games 
  • In Doom³, there's an audio log that mentions a technician getting his hand torn off by a machine which had somehow activated despite being disconnected from the power grid. The log also states that the machine is still running and they're unable to turn it off. Presumably the work of the demons, who were already messing with the Martian colonists before they invaded.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach: One of the messages you can receive on the Fazwatch concerns an arcade game called Chica Feeding Frenzy that keeps running even when it's unplugged. The person filing the report notes that there's no way it has enough residual charge for that to happen.
  • In Half-Life 2, there's a blink-and-you-miss-it secret in the "Anticitizen One" chapter: a TV set briefly shows an image of the G-man, despite not being plugged in.
  • Imscared takes this trope to the logical extreme; there are moments where it seems like the game has ended or crashed, until you find that it is downloading text files onto your computer telling you to keep playing. Even after you complete the game, the last text file greatly implies that White Face is still haunting your computer.
  • One recurring bit of creepy in Harbour Cottage, from The Lost Crown, is how the cottage's vintage landline telephone keeps playing snippets of Walter de la Mare's poem "The Listeners" after dark, despite the wiring having been chewed to bits by rats years ago.
  • In Nanashi no Game, the cursed, nameless game switches on your TS on its own whenever it decides it's time for you to play it some more. Early on, your hero gets so freaked out they smash their system against the ground... and a new TS appears, with all their personal information already entered and the game loaded up and ready to go.
  • Penumbra Overture subverts this in the scene where Philip turns on the incinerator that Red is inside. Nothing paranormal is involved, but it's still frightening.
    Philip: It must be running the last set sequence. It won't turn off!
  • Variant: In Silent Hill, phones with the cord cut off can still ring and make calls in or out.
  • After visiting the Miroku Mansion in Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira is haunted by the Screaming Author. It keeps calling him via his mobile, and then via his home phone, the latter even after he's unplugged it. It's not until he smashes it to pieces that he's finally relieved from the calling.
  • In the intro of Xenogears, one of the first things the Eldridge crew attempts to stop Deus' takeover of the ship is to cut its power cables using a circuit breaker rigged with explosives. The breaker seems to work, but it doesn't stop Deus as the electricity simply arcs across the gap.

    Web Original 
  • JonTron: In his review of Foodfight! Jon tries to turn off the movie by pulling the plug. Then it turns itself on again after the plug flies back into the socket, resulting in a Big "NO!" from Jon.
  • In Chapter Two of Antlers, Colorado, the antagonist is an evil entity bound to a lake that often uses TV, radio, and books (via rearranging the text) to get its messages across. It's confirmed by the characters who have been dealing with it that the only way to get the medium that's being hijacked back to normal is to follow the entity's instructions.
  • Bogleech mocks this trope with a human ghost that was never plugged in.
  • A staple of video game and Lost Episode creepypastas is for the protagonist to find to their horror that they can't turn their game console or television (or other device capable of playing games/displaying footage) off once the haunted media starts revealing its unnerving nature, and that this somehow justifies them seeing it through to its end, even when other, more logical methods would work just as well.
  • The Nostalgia Critic's Halloween special had him criticizing an old Teddy Ruxpin doll... and then later that night it starts threatening him. The Critic declares it's time he removed the batteries, only to discover they've been out the whole time.
  • Salad Fingers has a radio and a telephone that emit noises despite clearly being nonfunctional. At least, Salad Fingers hears noises coming from them...
  • SCP Foundation has a few examples. SCP-261 is a vending machine that dispenses strange snacks. If it's unplugged, it dispenses stranger snacks. SCP-158 can be used to remove someone's soul. After someone accidentally spilled a soul onto a laptop, it started running without power and behaving erratically.
  • To Boldly Flee has a scene where the Critic tries to pull the power cord out of the wall to stop the flashing scenes on his computer. For a while, he can't pull the cord out, but even when he finally does, the scenes don't stop playing. And then the computer explodes.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • In "Interfection", Frylock's first attempt at disconnecting the internet to get rid of the Annoying Pop Up Ads only ends up making more of them.
    • In "Get Lit Upon a Situpon", Carl's leprechaun exercise machine continues to annoy him even after being unplugged.
    Carl: Why won't you shut up?! I unplugged you!
  • Camp Lazlo: In "Movie Night", Edward sneaks into the camp's projection room to watch a scary movie he's not old enough to see to prove he's not afraid. When he actually gets scared by the movie, he fruitlessly tries to turn the projector off.
  • In the Defenders of the Earth episode "The Mind Warriors", Ming hacks into the Defenders' Battle Simulation computer and hijacks the haunted house simulation which Kshin has created. Having lost control of the simulation, Kshin goes to warn Flash, Mandrake, the Phantom and Lothar (the Defenders inside the simulation) only to become trapped himself. Eventually, finding that the computer won't shut off, Rick, LJ and Jedda are forced to wreck it in order to save their fellow Defenders. For once, this actually works.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents! ends with a publicly broadcasted song decrying Babysitter from Hell Vicky. Annoyed with the song, Vicky tries to turn her TV off, and later smashes it, to no avail.
  • In an episode of Gravity Falls, "Soos and the Real Girl", Soos gets addicted to playing a dating sim with a clingy Yandere protagonist. It becomes apparent almost immediately that she's intelligent and can see Soos in the real world. And then it's revealed his computer was unplugged the whole time.
  • League of Super Evil: The episode "Ice Creamed" has Voltar getting Frogg to build a mind control device to hypnotize kids into buying Tofu Pops from an ice cream truck instead of the popular and always sold out Fudgy Yummy Fudge Bars. When the machine works too well and the victims become violently obsessed with getting Tofu Pops, Voltar orders the machine turned off, only for Frogg to tell him that he "forgot" to put one in and that the only settings are "on" and "more on", the latter of which ends up hypnotizing the entire town, including L.O.S.E. themselves.
  • In the final episode of The Legend of Korra, Kuvira attempts to shut down the spirit cannon after it goes out of control, but since it's drawing on power from the spirit vines all around it, it doesn't shut off and keeps firing, eventually overloading.
  • In one episode of Muppet Babies (1984), Scooter gets a toy robot, which unfortunately goes out of control and begins causing havoc throughout the nursery. Even worse, despite his best attempts, he can't turn it off. Finally, in desperation, he pushes all the buttons on the controls. This causes the robot to explode.
  • The Abomitons in The Owl House are machines programmed to destroy threats as indicated; once locked onto a specific threat, they won't stop until it is completely destroyed. In the case of humans, the only way for Abomitons to stop is if that human is killed.
  • Played with in The Pink Panther. When some appliance has enraged/attacked him, he would pound it until is totally destroyed and walk away, just for the appliance to leave a last "breath" and the panther hitting it one last time.
  • In an episode of Rick and Morty, Beth questions Jerry on why their phone bill has dozens of charges from "Taddy Mason, LLC." Just then, the TV plays a commercial for Taddy, who explains in detail that he will talk to lonely men and pretend to be their friend as Jerry desperately tries to turn it off.
  • Inverted (Inverted? Played with? Lampshaded? Definitely parodied.) in The Simpsons, when Homer's bemoaning the crisis of the week, and a convenient TV advert that'll hopefully solve his problem plays. Once it's done, he tells Lisa that it was a good thing she turned on the TV:
    Lisa: I didn't turn it on. I thought you turned it on.
    Homer: No. Well, it doesn't matter. Turn it off.
    Lisa: [Creeped out] ... It is off. [Close-up on the switched-off TV with creepy music].
  • The Moonstone Incantation from Tangled: The Series, which is the destructive counterpart to the Sundrop's Healing Incantation. Once Rapunzel begins chanting it and activating said power, she cannot stop chanting until someone else brings her to her senses.
  • There's an episode of Transformers: Armada in which Sideways hacks the Autobots' computer. When Alexis discovers that it won't respond, she tries to reboot. It doesn't work. She tries to unplug it. It doesn't work. Carlos tries smashing it with a pipe. That just makes things go haywire.

    Real Life 
  • Furby. They have been known to store power, and, though this is extremely rare, talk and blink even without batteries.
  • Ever dreamed you can't turn your alarm or clock radio off? That's because it was really on, but you only dreamed you were turning it off.
  • Instant Cooldown doesn't actually apply to nuclear reactors, so several accidents involving nuclear reactors, nuclear research, and fuel processing essentially became this as faulty or unknown designs, system failures, or negligence resulted in runaway chain reactions even after shutdown was initiated, which is what happened to Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi. In Chernobyl, pushing the button actually made the problem worse due to the flawed Soviet control rod design, which meant that an AZ-5 would instead heat up the core. When used on a reactor already undergoing a runaway reaction, it tipped it over the edge into an actual explosion.
  • Any exothermic chemical processes are liable to this. The only way to stop a runaway exothermic reaction is to cut the feed immediately. Nitration is an especially dangerous exothermic chemical reaction, as it is both exothermic and used to prepare explosives. In case this sounds illogical
  • Diesel engines don't require electricity or spark plugs. Once started, a diesel engine will run until it either runs out of fuel or is mechanically stopped (usually by cutting off the fuel supply).
    • Same applies to hot-spot engines, such as glow plug engines and hot bulb engines. They will run until they run out of fuel or are stopped.
    • Older or poorly maintained diesel engines can sometimes experience what is called a "runaway," where, through malfunction or damage, the engine begins burning its own lubricant instead of fuel (this can also happen to even a brand-new diesel engine if a flammable gas gets into its air supply, such as in the case of the Texas City Refinery Explosion). When this happens, turning off the ignition or even cutting the fuel flow won't help, and, if not remedied quickly, the engine will literally tear itself apart. Oftentimes the only way to stop the engine is to block the air intake and suffocate the engine of its air supply.
    • Gasoline engines can occasionally continue to run (though usually badly and only briefly) when the ignition is turned off. This is called "dieseling".
  • In real life dreams, machines (in addition to otherwise functioning oddly) often will keep functioning even when unplugged or otherwise disconnected from a power source. These dreams are often caused by an alarm clock going off in the real world.
  • Scuba equipment is designed so that, if it fails, it will fail in the "on" rather than "off" position, leading to potential situations like a buoyancy control device that continually inflates unless it's physically held back or a regulator that keeps pumping air. This is, of course, designed that way because a regulator that continually pumps air is still preferable to a regulator that doesn't pump air at all.
  • Some disaster warning messages work this way. There's a video online of a man waking up at 6 in the morning in Japan to get a notification that North Korea was testing a missile. Despite his attempts to shut it off, the warning plays on every channel, on his phone, and even makes his television turn back on when he turned it off. This is because Japan's emergency broadcast system, J-Alert, has a nifty feature where the broadcasts contain encoded systems that will turn televisions on and tune them to the correct channel as long as they're connected to mains power. Downplayed, however in that while the normal means to turn them off won't work, unplugging them and/or removing any batteries will turn them off.
  • Zinsco circuit breakers were notorious for electrical faults that either welded the breaker into the "on position" or welded the entire breaker in place which meant that the breaker will never trip, even if there's a short circuit or an overload.
  • Solid-state relays are essentially big transistors that perform the function of relays without any moving parts. This provides an advantage in equipment that is frequently turned on and off, like flashing lights or precision heaters, but they have a particular downside: They can fail in the 'closed' position, conducting current even when the control signal is absent.
  • Some electronic devices that use a LED to show they're on will keep it turned on for some seconds after they have been unplugged, thanks to both LEDs consuming little energy and the one stored on the device's capacitors being enough to keep them shining for a brief time.
  • The Carrington Event, a geomagnetic storm in 1859 caused by a large amount of charged particles from the Sun hitting the Earth's magnetic field, spread enough residual electrical energy all over the Earth for telegraphs to keep working for hours without any direct power source. Some of these telegraphs gathered so much energy, they caught on fire.


Video Example(s):



To protect Scrooge's Money Bin, Gyro Gearloose converts an ordinary van into a security robot. Unfortunately, because Gyro followed through with Scrooge's instructions for it not to let ANYONE near the bin, it even shoots at him and Scrooge! Even worse, since Gyro let it blow up the remote control, there's no way to shut it off.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TransformingMecha

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