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Lurid Tales of Doom

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There's no way this is real. That's an iguana, not a dinosaur.

You think that publications like The Sun make everything up. I used to think that, too, before I checked into a story the Sun published a few months ago headlined "GIANT FLYING CAT TERRIFIES STATES." Remember? The article that featured the actual artist's depiction of an enormous cat? Flying? With wings? Well, I did some checking, and you will be interested to learn that every single word in the headline is true except for "GIANT," "FLYING," "TERRIFIES," and "STATES."
Dave Barry, "Mutant Fleas Terrorize Midwest"

Sometimes newspapers of a more questionable level of veracity publish news that is clearly bunk, in the case of Alien Abductions, yetis being found and women giving birth to animals. Other times they'll print that which might be true but seems to be kinda loopy and of questionable newsworthiness—toast burned in the likeness of historical figures for example. These stories are of course either complete fabrications in the former case or are just questionable coincidences.

The news industry calls this type of "news" 'Man Bites Dog', a name that seems rather more mundane than some of these stories actually tend to be. This sort of publication shows up in fiction from time to time too, especially ones which heavily feature either journalists or well known people (within their universe) frequently or where weird happenings really do occur and these stories are true—or sometimes these stories are bizarre even for the setting.

Not necessarily related to Doomy Dooms of Doom, although it might overlap with If It Bleeds, It Leads or Media Scaremongering. A Clickbait Gag is sometimes a comedic depiction of online examples.


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    Comic Books 
  • Dylan Dog: The National Inside Eye, a tabloid which publishes gems such as an interview with a man who was kidnapped by a Venusian vampire. Geraldine Rowling, a friend and on-and-off lover of Dylan, works there and always tries to interview him, to his great chagrin.
  • In Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, the main character reads one of these in his hotel room. The front cover reads: "What Elvis looks like now!", with a photograph of a sad old man attached.
  • National Whisper in Superman comics is the Metropolis counterpart to the National Enquirer.
  • In The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016) Perry White makes a cameo as a young journalist trying to maintain his journalistic integrity while working at that world's version of the National Whisper. It doesn't help that mixed in with the fantastical unsubstantiated stories the paper publishes about aliens and such Perry is publishing stories about a magic user creating Nazi Zombies which are entirely factual but don't seem any different from the made up tales.
  • The DC version of Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt featured Anne-Marie Brogan, who worked for a British tabloid called the Daily Globe. Like most British tabloids they offered a mix of genuine, if sensationalist, reporting (her stories) and trash (most of the rest of it).
  • One issue of The Batman Adventures (the tie-in comic to Batman: The Animated Series) had a local Gotham tabloid reporting that Batman fired Robin. Batman initially thinks it'll blow over in a week, but Hilarity Ensues when dozens of overeager teenagers start "auditioning" to be the next Robin.
  • The Goon is heavily influenced by these in its story titles and a few metatextual gags.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin occasionally poses as a reporter of sensationalistic stories based on shameless fabrications or ludicrous exaggerations. He introduces one show-and-tell presentation: "UFOs! Are they real?? Have they landed in our towns and neighborhoods?" In another strip, he wants to create a newspaper to report on household events such as his mom preparing a fish dinner: "KNIFE WIELDING MOTHER HACKS ICHTHYOID!"
    • Calvin selects one of these stories for an assignment where he's supposed to read and explain a newspaper article in class.
      Hobbes: "Space alien weds two-headed Elvis clone."
      Calvin: Actually, there's not much to explain.

    Fan Works 

  • In Airplane!, there's a scene of several spinning papers with headlines reporting the doomed flight. Then there's the National Inquirer, whose headline reads "BOY TRAPPED IN REFRIGERATOR EATS OWN FOOT".
  • In Men in Black, Agent K says this sort of news is actually very trustworthy when it comes to tracking aliens.
    Agent J: These are the hot sheets?
    Agent K: Best investigative reporting on the planet. But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want, they get lucky sometimes.
  • So I Married an Axe Murderer: the entire premise of the film is triggered by a sensational story in the Weekly World News, which turns out to be true.
  • Older Than Television: The 1931 WB film Five Star Final, where an editor (Edward G. Robinson) is forced to rehash a 20-year-old scandal to increase sales.
  • The Night Flier: Richard Dees works for a tabloid magazine that specializes in things like UFO sightings and satanic rituals to draw in readers.
  • Sex and the Single Girl is about a reporter (Tony Curtis) working for a magazine the boss of which is proud to have turned it from respectable publication to filthy tabloid (which boosted its sales as a result). Their most recent target of slander is a female psychologist (Natalie Wood) who wrote a book about the emancipation of single women.
  • The lead characters of Transylvania 6-5000, Jack and Gil, write for one of these publications. The former notably wants to write real journalism but as he complains to his editor in the opening scene any attempts of his to do so are inevitably twisted into this trope. The plot gets going when they are sent to Transylvania to investigate claims of a sighting of the Frankenstein Monster.

  • In the Harry Potter novels, The Quibbler is a parody of this sort of newspaper, featuring stories about, among other things, Cornelius Fudge baking goblins into pies and Sirius Black being a wizard pop star in disguise. Also, the Muggle newspaper accounts of the flying Ford Anglia would have been written off as this by most. In a subversion, Harry and his friends use The Quibbler to report You-Know-Who's return, because no mainstream paper will report it.
  • The competing paper in the Discworld novel The Truth, The Ankh-Morpork Inquirer, publishes these sort of articles, most notably "Woman Gives Birth To Cobra." The Ankh Morpork Times, on the other hand, eventually manages to print an article with the headline, "Dog Bites Man".
  • Andrew Looney's novel The Empty City features an elderly couple who are avid watchers of television and readers of the Weekly World News; when one of the latter's stories is that the Russians have developed a weapon that cranks up radiation levels from television to kill its watchers, they have to decide whether to abandon television or the Weekly World News.
  • The Midwestern Arcane in The Dresden Files. However, it turns out that much of the stuff they report is actually true.
  • The "National World Weekly" in Good Omens where Scarlet works briefly as a war reporter. Apart from her reports, which are factually correct, but (from the paper's perspective) dull, and only notable because she's always the first one on the scene, their output mostly consists of Elvis sightings and Jesus's face being found on things. One of their stories turns out to be true.
  • Red Dragon has a slimy tabloid journalist named Freddy Lounds, who runs a paper called The Tattler, reporting on the FBI investigation of the Serial Killer dubbed "The Tooth Fairy". He becomes a serious obstacle in the investigation before the agents eventually realize that the killer reads The Tattler, and they feed Lounds a false story to try to lure the killer into making a mistake. It doesn't work, but it does end up getting Lounds killed.
  • The Stranger Times is dedicated to publishing news about all kinds of weird phenomena, ranging from demonically possessed rockstars to a random woman trying to marry the M62. One of their reporters specializes in alien stories.

    Live-Action TV 


  • There's a round on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue called Historical Headlines, about how a newspaper headline might look after a certain historical event. It usually draws on the perspectives of different English newspapers for comedy, and there's usually at least one joke about The Sport (see Real Life section). Such as a headline after the completion of Stonehenge: "The Sport — "Giant set of alien false teeth ate my virgin"."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Enjoy the Forgotten Realms tabloid. Titles like "Bane vs. Cyric — Winner Take All!!!!" and "Dire Pandas From Kara-Tur Invade the Unapproachable East!" — and much worse.
    • In the early days of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, the front covers of Dungeon magazine advertised its pre-written adventures this way. "Mad Ranger Goes Wild for Funky Fungus!" "Reclusive Giants Raise Evil Chickens!" "I'm Carrying Tharizdun's Love Child!"
  • The back cover of GURPS Illuminati is in the style of one of these, and the text makes frequent reference to the idea that 'everything you read in the tabloids is true'.
  • Pandemonium: Adventures in Tabloid World takes place in a world where all of the strange stories in this type of tabloid are true. PCs work as reporters for one of these papers, the Weekly Weird News, investigating things like werewolf secret societies and alien espionage.
  • TSR's Amazing Engine setting Tabloid!
  • Lurid Tales of Doom! for West End Games' Ghostbusters role-playing game is the Trope Namer. As part of a publicity stunt for their parent corporation, the players' Ghostbusters are hired as consultants for a reporting crew from the titular trashy tabloid, to verify if a number of bizarre stories sent to it are genuinely supernatural.
  • There's a Fate Core module book called Weird World News, a pastiche of the groovy mystery-solving cartoons of The '70s (like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, Jabberjaw, and Fangface), with the main characters a gang of journalists for such a publication, and a pretty high chance of the supernatural stuff turning out to be fake.


    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: One of the various Shop Fodder is the Media Monthly: Awareness and the Future, a magazine officially banned in Skopp City for being notorious in publishing misinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news.
  • Sam & Max Save the World: Sybil opens a tabloid called Alien Love Triangle Times in episode 2, "Situation: Comedy". Sam and Max just happen to need proof of being involved in a juicy scandal to get onto Myra Stump's talk show as guests, so they get Hugh Bliss to show off his powers of "Prismatology" by turning green, then take a photo with him and give it to Sybil as "proof" they're flirting with Little Green Men from space.
  • Rock Star Ate My Hamster parodies The Sun (which actually held a contest involving the game) with The Stun, a sleazy tabloid which serves up shocking and frequently implausible headlines, several of which follow the formula "ROCK STAR ATE MY (noun)!" The game's manual is packaged as an issue of The Stun, and includes the "exclusive" story "ALIENS STOLE MY VOLVO!", a story which is illustrated by a Flying Saucer crudely composited onto a car photo and transparently based on the alibi of a Drunk Driver.

    Web Comics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, neighboring cities treat Moperville's newspaper as though it was a tabloid of this style. However, its strange stories of goo monsters attacking local schools and the like are all completely true. It's just that no one believes them.
  • Scandal Sheet! is set at one of these, with the twist that some of the stories in the paper are real. "The best place to hide a needle isn't a haystack but a big pile of other needles."

    Western Animation 
  • On Daria, the title character is a frequent viewer of Sick Sad World, which features everything from the trashy (a severely disabled man supposedly sleeping with three members of the royal family) to the absurd (an orca who's a lawyer) to the outright supernatural (zombies). One of the tie-in books features "Stringer Guidelines" from the show, which basically reveal that they'll take anything.
  • Invader Zim has Mysterious Mysteries of Strange Mysteries, Dib's favorite show. However, over the course of the series it has been shown to report on supernatural phenomena both fake (Chickenfoot) and real (spell drives).
  • On A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Freddy is a fan of a ridiculous tabloid called the National Exaggerator.
  • Time Squad: In "Where The Buffalo Bill Roams", Bill's homemade tabloid magazine, The Daily Informer, contains his own self-centered theories, which he keeps to himself.

    Real Life 
  • The National Enquirer is the most known example: During the war it supported Those Wacky Nazis. Then it was owned by the mafia and became a crime-obsessed rag focusing on particularly hideous crimes. Now it is more known for making up celebrity gossip.
  • Weekly World News was a satirical newspaper that published this sort of story until it folded. Some people genuinely believed them (sometimes,) even though they often recycled stories; one standby every Presidential election year was "Space Alien Endorses [candidate for President]!" (complete with a photo of the alien and the candidate) and there were new doomsday predictions roughly every two weeks, often contradictory.
    • They occasionally printed stories from local area newspapers, things that had really happened but fit their sensationalistic bent.
  • The Daily Sport in the UK is made up of mostly pictures of topless ladies and this sort of "News", such as World War II bombers being found on the moon.
    • And when an astronomer protested that he couldn't see it: "WORLD WAR II BOMBER FOUND ON MOON VANISHES!"
  • While The Sun is not the most erudite of newspapers in Britain it tends not to focus much on this sort of journalism, however one stand-out incident came from a March 1986 issue with the headline "FREDDIE STAR ATE MY HAMSTER!". This "story" has followed Freddie Star around since.
    • Wanna know why even now, 23 years after the day, Liverpool area newsstands still refuse to carry The Sun? Because in an exemplarily distasteful combination of this trope and Dude, Not Funny!, it not only blamed the Hillsborough Disaster on Liverpool fans, but also invented from the whole cloth the lurid stories of them attacking and abusing the victims and rescue workers. True, the fans in question never were the particularly peaceful bunch, and 1989 was the year when the football hooliganism in the UK was at its peak, but this time the fans weren't the ones to blame. And to add insult to injury Kelvin MacKenzie, the editor responsible for the story, never apologized. Well, he did, but only under pressure from Rupert Murdoch, and retracted the apology after he left the paper. Kelvin MacKenzie made an extremely sordid "career" out of this trope in general.
  • The Daily Mail has never been shy about getting in on this act. Their best moment was an online report on "the sinister cult of emo" that combined this with The New Rock & Roll in a masterful display of ignorance. It came complete with fabricated "satanic religious beliefs" of emos ripped from song lyrics ("the 'black parade' is a place where all emos believe they will go when they die") and the assertion that wrist-slitting was an initiation ritual into the cult. Like the National Enquirer, they were also strident and enthusiastic supporters of Fascism in the 1930s, and various side-by-side comparisons of their coverage of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS and German Jews fleeing the Nazis suggest that their editorial line hasn't really changed much. The Mail Online is even worse, largely based on the peculiar beliefs of the proprieter's wife, to the extent that the hard-copy Mail has denied they're the same publication.
  • American Newspapers in general were known for this during The Roaring '20s, most of them featuring huge "scare" headlines (IN FULL CAPS! AND WITH EXCLAMATION SIGNS!). But The New York Evening Graphic, which ran between 1924 and 1932, was unique among them for its emphasis on sex-related stories, and was also known for making up stories (such as the one with Valentino meeting Caruso at Heavennote ).
    • One of the Graphic's most infamous practices was to have actors making a scene for the camera, their faces being replaced with those from people on the news, most notably during a notorious divorce case in 1927.
  • Decades earlier (1880s-1890s), William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer engaged in a battle to see which paper was the most sensationalistic one: While they did publish some fake stories, their papers also exposed the ills of the American society of the late 19th century. And contrary to popular belief, they did not motivate William McKinley to declare war on Spain, but they did bolster its popularity.
  • The week after Princess Diana was killed in a car accident, you could see on newsstands papers like this with the headline "PRINCESS DI FOUND ALIVE!" next to other papers with the headline "PRINCESS DI WAS MURDERED!"

Alternative Title(s): National Exaggerator, The National Exaggerator