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Paranoia Gambit

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Jason's finest 12 hours.

"The more employees you have, the more you have to worry about them. Deliver some vague threats and a few hundred bucks to a security guard. If he's honest he'll tell his boss, who then wonders who wasn't so honest. For the cost of a nice dinner, you can get a whole security team canned."
Burn Notice, "Wanted Man"

Alice tells Bob that she will "get him". Bob freaks out and goes to great lengths to avoid falling victim to her plans. In the end, it turns out that Alice wasn't going to do anything to him and that her whole plan was to just sit back and let his paranoia make him do stupid things to himself. A variation commonly occurs where the gambit is not intentional, and Alice admits that she actually was going to do something to him, but everything Bob did to himself was much better than what she had planned.

This is usually a case of Restrained Revenge, although it can also be a practical joke with no prior provocation. It may overlap with Self-Fulfilling Prophecy when paranoia of a specific event (even if it's unlikely) causes said event to occur. The nastier versions may overlap with Fright Deathtrap.


Since it relies on the mark's paranoia, it resembles a Batman Gambit. Compare Confound Them with Kindness, where Alice acts nicely towards Bob after the fact to confuse him. Often this relies on making something innocent look like Shmuck Bait. Also compare Kansas City Shuffle, where the target's attempts to outmaneuver a con set him up for the real con. Also #20 of The Thirty-Six Stratagems. Contrast Properly Paranoid.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass' first season has Lelouch pull off one against Jeremiah. "Also, Orange". Specifically, he spoke what appeared to be a codeword to an enemy combatant on live TV, and then used Mind Control to make him release him; it doesn't mean anything but the Britannians don't know that and, since they don't know about the mind control, devote precious counter-intelligence resources to finding it out. The fact that Jeremiah got demoted for unwillingly helping Lelouch escape due to the latter's Compelling Voice (again, the Britannians don't know about that so they thought it was from blackmail related to the "codeword") was just a nice bonus.
  • This is L's tactic in Death Note, to apply the pressure of Paranoia Fuel and watch for a Revealing Cover-Up. It does work, but not as successfully as he'd hoped; he counts the small victories until he has to concede defeat.
  • Guu in Haré+Guu regularly uses this tactic to torment Haré; having established how far she is willing to go, including distorting reality, to mess with him, she can often get the same result by doing absolutely nothing, allowing Haré to drive himself crazy wondering what she might do.
  • Jotaro defeats Daniel D'Arby in poker in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure in this way: By remaining absolutely calm and looking supremely confident without even so much as looking at which cards are in his hand, Jotaro was able to freak D'Arby out so much that D'Arby conceded, his hair turning white in the process, despite D'Arby having four kings in his hand. When Avdol requests to see Jotaro's hand, Avdol is horrified to see that it's completely useless. Jotaro admits that he probably would've been a lot less calm had he actually bothered to look.
    • To compound D'Arby's paranoia, Jotaro uses his Stand to fetch things for him too fast for D'Arby to notice, bluffing him into thinking that he'd switched the cards when he wasn't looking. Jotaro then had the gall to raise by betting the souls (it was that kind of game) of their ally Kakyoin and his own mother, the latter of whom they had set out on the journey to save. Jotaro reminds D'Arby that he has to match his bet, and demands that D'Arby must tell them what the power of DIO's Stand is. And the cost of betraying DIO is instant death.
  • Liar Game: Akiyama kept 24 hour surveillance on Nao's opponent to mess up his judgements. He did absolutely nothing else to the man until an hour before collection time...

    Comic Books 
  • In Archie Comics, Jughead does this at least once to Reggie. One of these gambits culminated in Reggie pieing himself in the face just so that he'd stop freaking out over every little thing Jughead did being a potential set-up for a revenge prank.
    • World of Archie Digest #1, Betty does this to Veronica.
  • Minor example in Atomic Robo: NASA hired Robo to accompany the Viking probe to Mars, but then didn't pack him anything to read, because one of his enemies had snuck a note into his file describing a fictitious "power save state" that would get him through the trip with no need for entertainment. When the year-long trip is over and the billion-dollar probe is all set up...
    Robo: Now, as it'll take this message four minutes to reach you, and another four minutes for your reply to reach me, that gives me about eight minutes to destroy this piece of junk. He got fightin' mad, this Robo lad... NASA packed no books as he flew to Mars where the only law was he could break all their stuff! (sits back to wait for the screams)
  • Subverted in a Batman story, in which a criminal becomes convinced that his new next-door neighbor is a disguised Batman trying to pull one of these on him. Eventually, the guy snaps and attacks his neighbor... whereupon the real Batman shows up.
    • The Grendel series used a similar subversion, following a criminal and snitch's descent into paranoid madness, for fear that the original Grendel is stalking him. Grendel does show up at the end, but only because something completely unrelated reminded him of the (very petty) snitch.
  • In Batman: The Dark Knight Annual #1, Batman ensures a peaceful Halloween by inviting the Penguin, the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter to the abandoned Arkham Home for Youth. Each has received a note, seemingly from the others, inviting him to meet at Arkham for a some sort of lucrative business. Immediately, they suspect Batman is setting up an ambush, and thus become paranoid. Through the course of the story, the three villains manage to freak out, agitate, gas, and in the end scare the daylights out of one another. The comic ends with the discovery that Bruce Wayne sent the notes, knowing that the three villains would play to each others’ worst fears and stay occupied throughout the night, thus guaranteeing Bruce, and Batman, a restful Halloween.
  • Often done by Diabolik against someone who really pissed him off, usually by making clear he's going to kill them when he's in the mood and then leaving, resulting in them ruining their lives in utter terror of what he'll do when he comes back. Considering his well-earned reputation as a murderer and King of Terror it works every time, even if he never spares a thought about them once he made sure it worked.
    • In one particular occasion Diabolik did this to murder the director of a newspaper that had called him a fool that the police presented as a super thief to cover their own incompetence: after kidnapping him and poisoning the journalist who had written the article he told him he'd die in five days and released him. The poor director, terrified, hired bodyguards that would check anyone for Latex Perfection, would only eat food prepared by his personal cook and after it had been checked for poison, and lived those days in fear of Diabolik still killing him... Not knowing that, before releasing him, Diabolik had put a cyanide capsule in one of his dentures and terrified him so he would continuously clatter his teeth until the capsule broke, killing him on the fourth day. No newspaper dared to publish such an article again.
  • In Marv Wolfman's DuckTales comic story "Scrooge's Quest", after Flintheart Glomgold buys out all of Scrooge's businesses and takes over Duckburg, Scrooge pulls this on Glomgold in the final chapter, "All That Glitters is Not Glomgold". By the end of the story, Glomgold is driven so far up the wall thinking Scrooge is out to sabotage him, that he decides victory isn't all it's cracked up to be and willingly tears up his ownership contract of the city.
  • In Jon Sable, Freelance #21, Jon vows to make sure a woman named Carla who attempted to murder her husband (an old friend of Jon's) and left him him a coma spends the rest of her life in jail. Jon turns up wherever Carla goes, always making a point of being seen by her. At shops, restaurants, the ballet and even parking garages. Carla has grown anxious. Jon catches up with her again at Paul's stables and says hello to Widowmaker, the horse Paul rode in the Olympics. Jon says he is surprised that she is still there and she is confident and cocky that her lawyers can press the technicality of evidence obtained illegally and have the case thrown out. She takes Widowmaker for a ride, but keeps looking back. Eventually, she comes to a parked car, but finds the key gone and Jon sitting nearby, with it dangling from his hand.
  • The first issue of the Roger Rabbit comic book had him becoming paranoid about his new weasel neighbor. Naturally, the weasel is harmless and just wants to be left alone.
  • One Heavy Metal story involved the protagonists tricking the villain into giving up critical information by placing him in a realistic simulation where he thought he'd won. When they reveal this to him, he's informed he'll be left trapped in a hyper-realistic simulation for the rest of his life. As they leave, one of the protagonists reveals to the other that all she did was tell him he was trapped in a simulation.

    Comic Strips 
  • Baby Blues: In one Sunday strip, Zoe goes to take a shower and warns Hammie not to try and scare her. In fact, just to make sure, she announces that she intends to lock the door. Hammie says, "Good," which convinces Zoe he must have rigged the doorknob somehow. She announces she won't touch it to prevent his trick from working, but then realizes that means he can come in and scare her like always.
    Hammie: Don't you think it's cool when I can drive Zoe crazy by not doing anything at all?
    Darryl: (sigh)
    • That being said, Zoe is also capable of doing this towards Hammie. On more than one occasion, she's told Hammie stories with the intention to either scare him or mess with him.
  • Beetle Bailey: "The trick was, there was no trick."
  • An early Dilbert comic has Dogbert chuckling around Dilbert. Dilbert immediately figures out that Dogbert is only doing this so Dilbert will think Dogbert has played some kind of prank, so Dogbert upgrades to maniacal laughter. Dilbert does the same, and the strip ends with both of them sitting back to back, maniacally laughing, as Ratbert enters.
  • FoxTrot:
    • When Peter accidentally destroyed Jason's rocket, the latter proclaimed that he will have his vengeance in the next 12 hours. This led to Peter, among other things, jumping out of his room window after hearing a knock on the door, hiding all the knives in the house inside the toilet tank, destroying his mom's rose bush by hiding in it, hiding under the couch dirtying the house (all of the aforementioned actions causing him to be grounded), eating leaves for dinner and lying on dog poop for several hours. Just as Jason planned.
    • Another strip had Paige getting ready to eat a sandwich only to find Peter staring at her with an evil grin. She proceeds to bombard Peter with questions about why he's smiling and if he did something to her sandwich (specifically spitting on it) only for him to constantly shoot her down. Paige then dares him to eat the sandwich...
      Peter: [Thinking while eating the sandwich] Works every time.
      Jason: [Grinning] Don't you want to eat my sandwich?
    • All three Fox siblings have fallen for this at some point. Another strip has Jason hiding in the garbage after playing some prank on Paige. Peter and Paige then talk about how they love it when their little brother punishes himself.
  • This Garfield comic, where all Garfield needs to induce paranoia in Jon is a big smile.

    Fan Works 
  • In Cat-Ra, Adora's scheme at the Princess Prom puts even Catra's from canon to shame, a Paranoia Gambit involving a snow globe that to Catra's advanced hearing seems to be a bomb, letting her quick temper do all the work in making her look like the villain to Frosta
  • In Darth Vader: Hero of Naboo, the Sith in general operate against each other by making them overly paranoid about what other Sith are up to. Vader and Plagueis in particular weaponize Sidious's paranoia against him, Vader by simply being a complete unknown and Plagueis by using his status as a Master of Illusion to make Sidious question whether their entire battle had even happened. The former causes Sidious to betray Plagueis prematurely, while the latter makes it easier for Plagueis to kill his treasonous apprentice.
  • One of Naruto's more ingenious traps in A Drop of Poison is a step that makes a slight click sound when stepped on. It does nothing but anyone who hears it reflexively jumps away from it, right into an actual trap.
  • Harry Potter and the Natural 20: Milo is recovering from an acromantula bite, so Snape gives him the antidote in an Obviously Evil flask — and uses Legilimency on him so that he knows Milo's plan to figure out whether the potion is safe and can immediately make up a reason why it wouldn't work. All of this is for nothing more than Snape's amusement at seeing Milo squirm.
  • The Karma of Lies: Ladybug uses this against Lila. Knowing that she's highly unlikely to listen to her advice that she should change her ways, something both freely admit during their final chat, she simply states matter-of-factly that if she continues down this path, she's inevitably going to wind up dying in a cell at the hands of one of her victims. She also drops hints that she may have used the Rabbit Miraculous to actually see what fate befalls her, something that only dawns upon Lila right after Ladybug leaves. And she went into an unnerving amount of detail...
    • This gets deconstructed in the Recursive Fanfiction Karmic Overbalance. Lila, out of terror for what Marinette will do for her, heads back to Paris to seek some way of blackmailing her. The only reason that Marinette was spared was because Lila told Adrien who, after being broken by his Humuliation Conga in the previous story, kills Lila so he'd be arrested and end his suffering.
  • Harry and Ginny in The Meaning of One recruit Mr Weasley to help them get one over on the Twins. He sends the Twins a Howler on March 31st to wish them a happy birthday, explaining that he and Mrs Weasley came across their birth certificates and realised that they were actually born slightly before midnight, not on April 1 as they'd always thought. The Twins are aghast at the revelation that they weren't really born on April Fool's Day, and mope through the whole day without the heart to pull a single prank, as it would "be like we're pranking ourselves as much as anyone else." The evening of April 1, though, they get a second Howler to tell them that they really were born shortly after midnight.
    Arthur: You've just gone all day on April Fools' without causing any trouble. Congratulations! You've been had!
  • This tends to be one of Discord's go-tos in The MLP Loops with certain variants of Celestia: upon his escape, she'll put the whole palace under lockdown, rally the guard, and cause all manner of chaos on her own, without his slightest intervention. In one of his earliest loops, he even took the time to make the entire legal structure more efficient, thus throwing both Celestia and Luna into a tizzy as they tried to decipher his plans.
  • The "Curse of Calamity", as described in Castlevania fanfic Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse), is the oldest and most powerful hex known to man, which will bring the victim many misfortunes for the rest of their life. Or, more precisely, it does nothing, but the paranoia that comes with defying a witch convinces the victim that anything bad that ever happens to them must have been because of the curse.
  • In Oh God Not Again!, Sirius mentions his plans to do this. "It's going to take every ounce of my considerable self-control, but I want to wait until [Snape's] so paranoid he can't sleep before I start in on him."
  • In A Prank Too Many, a Transformers fic, Sideswipe spends a week playing various pranks on Tracks. Tracks retaliates with two words "My turn" and this trope.
  • Harriett Potter pulls this on the Weasley Twins very effectively in The Rigel Black Chronicles; they know that she'll want revenge for their Valentine's Day prank, and she has caught them before with an elaborate combination of enchanted glitter and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, so naturally they're deeply suspicious of her gift of fudge and candy, and spend ages in their dorm room testing it exhaustively. It's clean, though; her revenge comes later in a different form.
  • In This Bites!, after Robin joins the crew, despite Cross' friendliness towards her, she remembers that after their first meeting, he promised that they'd meet again, and he'd pay her back. Cross informs her that he doesn't plan on getting her back anytime soon, because he needs to think a long time about what to do. And meanwhile...she can worry about it. Eventually he gets back at Robin by giving her a noogie live on the SBS.
  • In Total Drama Legacy: How Drew gets Serena eliminated in "The Word on the Street". After winning invincibility in the challenge (ensuring no one can vote for him), he beats up Serena and says that it's only a taste of what he's going to do to her the next day, which he says will result in her having to be medically evacuated. He then says that the only way for her to avoid this fate is if she was voted off, which convinces Serena's friends to all vote her off and Serena to vote for herself out of concern for her own safety.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Non-Stop: The bad guy frames Marks as the hijacker and counts on him unwittingly acting like he is hijacking the plane because he wants to expose the incompetence of the air marshals and American security in general. It works better than expected when the passengers turn on him.
  • In The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe, the head of the French secret service pulls one of these on his Starscream number two, by convincing him that a completely random stranger, the titular blond, is in fact a top agent who will 'deal with him'. This causes the number two to get increasingly paranoid, and eventually results in him dying.
    • The same plot device is the basis of the American remake The Man with One Red Shoe, between the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and his ambitious, backstabbing subordinate.

  • From Terry Pratchett's Discworld series:
    • Wyrd Sisters:
      Only once, in the entire history of witchery on the Ramtops, had a thief broken into a witch's cottage. The witch concerned visited the most terrible punishment on him.
      She did nothing, although sometimes when she saw him in the village she'd smile in a faint, puzzled way. After three weeks of this the suspense was too much for him and he took his own life; in fact he took it all the way across the continent, where he became a reformed character and never went home again.
    • The short story The Sea and Little Fishes. Granny Weatherwax does this to the entire Witch community merely by smiling and kindly offering to help with the Witch Trials, when she had been horribly insulted the night before by one of the contest's organizers. Seeing one of the most successful Crones out there acting like a kindly old lady makes everyone think she's planning something terrifying, and ruins the whole thing through sheer paranoia.
    • Both Angua and Carrot are fond of saying that you can get quite a lot done with a friendly smile. Her smile has lots of pointy teeth; his tends to imply teeth. Neither tend to follow through with these potential threats, as that would be Police Brutality, but that doesn't mean people won't draw their own conclusions. As Sergeant Colon puts it, it's commonplace to see someone bluff with a bad hand, but it's rare to see someone bluff (and win) with no cards.
    • Two in Going Postal; one on Crispin Horsefry at the beginning, where Vetinari sends a clerk to very visibly spy on him, rearrange his things and otherwise make it look like Vetinari is onto him. And another on Reacher Gilt at the end, done by Moist; among other things, he makes it look like he has a secret plan to win by using a Flying Broomstick, when his plan is entirely different.
    • Interesting Times has Rincewind pull a massive one of these that involves him spreading the rumor of the "Great Wizard" summoning 2,300,009 invisible vampire ghosts that do not exist and are not heading this way. And "Nor has the Great Wizard made them twice as big as usual." He then tells the people he has told this "fact" to to set the minds of others at ease by shutting down this rumor - which involves telling them about the rumor.
  • This is how Dora defeats Albin in book four of Dora Wilk Series: she changes their kill charm formula by adding runes "mirror reflection" and "powering up" (thus making the charm they make return to the caster stronger) and then suggests that she added charm elixir to their drink. She didn't, but being a vampire, they think she did, so if they ever tries throwing this charm again, it will kill them instead.
  • In Super Minion, Tofu at one point finds out that police are staking out a clothing store that he visited. On orders from Viper, his response is to later walk past the store wearing the face of one of the officers. This instantly ruins any evidence they were hoping to gather against patrons of the shop since any or all of them could have just been Tofu, and also forces them to institute burdensome protective measures against infiltration.
  • In the introduction of the Raymond Smullyan logic puzzle book What Is The Name Of This Book?, the author talks about an incident in his childhood when his sister promised him she would "get him good" one April Fools Day. After a paranoia-filled day Smullyan proudly announced that April 1st was over and she hadn't got him once. She retorted that fooling him into fearing a non-existent prank was the prank.
  • One of the characters in Diana Wynne Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm performs one of these on himself, though not intentionally. He just knows that his sister, Shona, is mad at him for letting their mother put a spell on her, and he remembers very clearly the way she waited patiently for days to take revenge on one of their siblings when she was younger. He never stops to think that maybe she's matured since then, and all this distracts him from fulfilling his mission, which was tough enough already.
  • In Isaac Asimov:
    • Black Widowers' "The Acquisitive Chuckle": A rich collector's business partnership goes bad, and as the partner leaves, he snaps his suitcase shut in a suspicious manner and chuckles "acquisitively". The collector freaks out and his life goes downhill as he frantically searches through everything he owns to try to find out what valuable item his partner stole from him. Years later, his lawyer confronts the thief and asks him what he took. His answer? "Only his peace of mind, sir."
    • "Let's Get Together": Lynn guesses that the claim that ten Deceptively Human Robots have infiltrated America and her allies might be nothing more than a story designed to make them act in a paranoid fashion, causing small social disruptions and distracting from scientific research. He's overruled because if he's wrong, then when the average person found out about the threat, the leadership would be driven out of office.
  • In a rather more serious example, a woman in an Agatha Christie short story discovers her husband intends to murder her once she signs an important document - a will or insurance thing or some such. She makes coffee, and insists on telling him something before she signs this document. She then tells him a completely invented story about two previous husbands that she poisoned in their coffee. He assumes she has poisoned him, freaks out, and dies of a heart attack; but there was nothing in his coffee.
    • A related short story (can't remember the title just now), has a book critic happen upon a woman whose book he criticized, but is unaware of that fact. She makes him a mushroom omelet, and while he is eating she mentions that she is an amateur mushroom hunter, and that she'd picked those herself. He panics, goes to the emergency room, and has his stomach pumped, only to find that they were perfectly ordinary mushrooms, and she has never picked them at all. The kicker: he had criticized her book for its inability to make the story seem real.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Doctor Trap. There's a lot of I Know You Know I Know about the titular trap the Doctor has supposedly set for the villain, but what it boils down to is that as long as the villain believes there's a Doctor Trap, the Doctor has the upper hand.
  • In Tangled Webs a drow said that they have a proverb "Revenge is Best Served Cold"... and the second meaning is that knowing there's a scheming vengeful bastard out to get you usually has the target sweating long before the actual revenge is done..
  • Zhuge Liang's Empty Fortress Strategy in Romance of the Three Kingdoms was one of these mixed with Refuge in Audacity. In a bad position with a massively superior army headed his way, Zhuge Liang sent most of his troops away and had the rest disguise themselves, leaving the fort almost completely defenseless. Then he proceeded to go up on the wall and calmly play the zither, ignoring the approaching army. Upon seeing this, Zhuge Liang's arch-rival Sima Yi immediately expected a trap, since he knew Zhuge Liang to be a man who took very few risks and was prone to feigning weakness to bait an ambush. Ignoring the advice of his son, Sima Yi abandoned direct assault to try and get around the obvious trap before him...and wound up marching his army into Zhuge Liang's actual trap.
  • Holes: After Stanley has learned to no longer expect water from the vengeful Mr. Sir, Mr. Sir surprises him by refilling his canteen that day. But then he takes it to his car and gives it back a minute later, still full. Then he waits for Stanley to drink from it. When he's so thirsty he can no longer bear it, Stanley pours out the entire contents of the canteen, refusing to drink from it thanks to his suspicion.
  • In Plato's Apology of Socrates, Socrates' friend Chaerephon asks the Oracle of Delphi if there is any man wiser than Socrates. The Oracle is famous for her convoluted and ambiguous replies, but that time she answers a straight "No." Socrates, being who he is, is convinced it is some kind of sophisticated twist and spends much time and energy trying to understand it.
  • Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. CIA chief Elliot has protected himself from Saul's vengeance by taking up residence in a Truce Zone for retired spies. Saul can't harm him there, but works to create enough disruption that they'll both be thrown out and he can continue his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. At one point Saul plants wires in Elliot's greenhouse so he'll tear up his beloved roses looking for the fertilizer bomb he's convinced Saul has planted there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., SHIELD fooled one of the top leaders of HYDRA into killing the other three top leaders by making it look like these leaders planned to kill the rest off. HYDRA's paranoia made it vulnerable to this tactic, especially since several of the leaders were competing to replace the recently vacated top spot. Then SHIELD killed the remaining leader off.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Sinclair pulls one on G'kar, after the latter's actions result in a threat to the station's safety.
      Garibaldi: Think they'll ever find that transmitter you slipped G'kar?
      Sinclair: No... because there isn't one. I figured if there was a transmitter sooner or later they'd find it and remove it. But if I just told him there was, they'd keep looking. Indefinitely.
      Garibaldi: Commander, do you have any idea of the tests they'll put him through, the things they'll do to him, tryin' to find a transmitter that's not there?
      Sinclair: Yes. Come on.
      Garibaldi: There are some days I love this job.
    • Played with later, between Ambassador Londo Molari and Lord Refa. It is never made clear whether Londo was telling the truth or not, though given Centauri politics, it is entirely likely he was not lying.
      Lord Refa: Why should I do as you say?
      Londo Mollari: Because I have asked you; because your sense of duty to our people should override any personal ambition; and because I have poisoned your drink.
      • To elaborate: the poison Londo claims to have used is one-half of a binary poison, which remains latent in the body. That means that he has Lord Refa on a leash indefinitely, for fear of being dosed with the second component of the poison if he ever defies Londo in the future.note  The final irony is that Londo eventually does have Refa murdered, but not by poisoning.
    • Sheridan wants the Non-Aligned Worlds to allow him to use the White Star fleet to patrol their borders, so he has Ivanova publicly announce that nothing happened in a sector. This appears to be a coverup to the ambassadors, prompting them to request the White Stars to patrol their borders with the idea that because they were constructed from Minbari and Vorlon technology (respectively centuries and millenia ahead of most other races), they could detect enemies their less advanced ships could not.
  • As mentioned in the page quote, this is used in Burn Notice. The context here is that Michael and company are going up against a hotel owner who stole his own distinctive diamond brooch. After Michael unsuccessfully attempted to get him to move the brooch by posing as a potential buyer, they resort to this trope.
    • Interestingly, one of the flaws of this strategy is pointed out here. When people are sufficiently paranoid they often become desperate, which makes them less predictable. It nearly gets Michael in serious trouble.
  • In one Cheers episode, Diane tricks the bar folk, then becomes increasingly paranoid that they're plotting revenge. When she's asked to read her poetry for a TV show, she thinks it's a ruse, and humiliates herself by clucking like a chicken on television. Turns out all the gang intended to do was dump a bucket of water on her.
    • In another episode, the Cheers gang pulls a prank on rival bar Gary's, and the paranoia becomes so intense they shave their own heads on the idea that this will prevent retribution. Turns out Gary was out of town and didn't even know about the prank.
  • The Trope Codifier in TV may be the episode "The Impractical Joke" of The Dick Van Dyke Show. After Buddy gets a friend to play a practical joke on Rob, Rob decides that the best revenge is to make Buddy increasingly paranoid about what Rob's revenge will be. The aforementioned friend takes advantage of this to pull another prank on Buddy in the end.
  • Megan does this in an episode of Drake & Josh. It works hilariously. At the end of the episode, she does something to Drake and Josh anyway. That's just her doing things to them for the hell of it again, just like she always does. It's that type of behavior that made the gambit work in the first place (she actually told them she wasn't going to do anything and let her past actions speak for themselves.) Drake and Josh even lampshade the fact.
    Drake: She got us... by not getting us
    Josh: ...Genius.
  • Mr. Wick tries this once on The Drew Carey Show, but fails miserably. After Drew punches Mr. Wick in the face, they agree that Wick should be allowed to punch Drew as well. Wick tries playing up the paranoia angle, saying Drew will never know where or when the punch is coming, but Drew just ignores the taunts and goes on with his life. When Mr. Wick finally does punch him, Drew is barely even fazed, while Wick's fist is severely hurt.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • Played for all it's worth in the episode "Slapsgiving". In a previous episode ("Slap Bet"), Marshall has been allotted five slaps that he can give to Barney. He has chosen to give the third slap at Thanksgiving, going so far as to post a countdown online. Barney claims that Marshall ruined the Paranoia Gambit by announcing the exact moment of the slap and thus removing the uncertainty, but eventually the anticipation (and Marshall's psych-out tactics) starts destroying Barney. Tired of the whole thing, Lily (as "slap bet commissioner") calls it off so that they could have a pleasant Thanksgiving dinner. But Barney's gloating as the countdown approaches get to her, and at the last moment she lets Marshall slap him just to shut him up.
    • Turned Up to Eleven in "Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap". In honor of Thanksgiving, Marshall gives his fourth slap to Ted and Robin, who spend most of the episode arguing about who gets it. It ends with the rights to the slap being passed all around the room, (with each preparing to take the slap before passing it off to someone else, much to Barney's increased torture) until Marshall, saying that the togetherness it's caused is what he wanted, calls the slap off. Then he slaps Barney anyway.
      • The existence of this trope is why Barney was urged by Ted to choose "10 slaps right now" rather than "5 slaps at any random time in the future".
  • Jessie: Unintentionally happens in the episode "A Close Shave". Bertram accidentally shaves the middle of Luke's head after being startled by Zuri. Both Bertram and Zuri fear that Luke will get revenge on them even after Luke forgave them. They even destroy the presents he gave them thinking it was a prank.
    Luke: Wow! I didn't have to do anything. Just sit back and let your paranoia destroy you.
  • Ben uses this to wonderfully creepy effect in the Lost episode "The Whole Truth".
    Ben: Wow, you guys have some real trust issues, don't you? Guess it makes sense she didn't tell you, what with you two fighting all the time. Of course, if I was one of them - these people you seem to think are your enemies - what would I do? Well, there'd be no balloon, so I'd draw a map to a real secluded place like a cave or some underbrush - good place for a trap - an ambush. And when your friends got there, a bunch of my people would be waiting for them. Then they'd use them to trade for me. I guess it's a good thing I'm not one of them, huh? You guys got any milk?
  • Played with and eventually subverted during a April Fools episode of Married... with Children. In the middle of a prank war with Jefferson, Al Bundy one day finds a beautiful woman in his house making him dinner. Assuming this is another one of Jefferson's practical jokes, Al goes along with it, not wanting to concede defeat. Unfortunately for Al, Jefferson had nothing to do with this woman: She was an old rival of Peg's (who was off searching the world for her missing father) who's trying to get revenge for her stealing one of her old boyfriends by stealing Al. In the ultimate bid to get her to leave, Al proposes to her. To his shock, she accepts. At the wedding, Al's paranoia is at an all-time high, because he's just waiting for Jefferson to pop in and say "Gotcha!" Jefferson does come in, but tells Al that he had nothing to do with the woman there. He then reveals his true prank: He made sure Peg came home just in time to see what was going on.
  • M*A*S*H Season 11 episode "The Joker Is Wild". BJ Hunnicutt bets Hawkeye he can play a practical joke on each of the main characters. As the other characters fall victim to pranks one at a time, Hawkeye becomes increasingly worried about when he is going to get his, ending up camping outside in his bed, surrounded by barbed wire. At the end Hawkeye learns that BJ didn't actually play any practical jokes on the others, they were all faked. Making Hawkeye paranoid was the practical joke, the bet only being a tool and losing it part of the plan.
  • Mission: Impossible: The Impossible Missions Force had this in their usual bag of tricks in order to screw with the minds of their targets, typically by using a False Flag Operation to convince the mark that someone else on their side was out to get them, and then exploiting the paranoia to get on with what they were really up to.
  • NCIS
    • Discussed in a the first season episode, "Dead Man Talking". Tony and McGee are on a stakeout, with Tony wondering what kind of practical jokes he can play on Kate. McGee is reluctant, but mentions that they could invoke this trope on Kate without risk of pranking Gibbs in the process.
    • In Season Five's "Stakeout", an escalating prank war started by Ziva leads to her increasing paranoia over what Tony will do for revenge;
      Jardine: Ziva, I don't know if I should say anything, but I saw Tony putting something under your car...
      Ziva: What?! When?
      Jardine: What, I don't know; when, this morning.
      Ziva: Ha! I told you, I told you he could not be trusted! (rushes out)
      McGee: Was Tony really messing with her car?
      Jardine: No, Tony just told me to tell Ziva that when I saw her.
      • The payoff comes when Tony does get her just before the credits by rigging her desk chair to collapse.
    • A much darker example in Season Seven's "Masquerade", when a Latin American terrorist group threatens to detonate a dirty bomb in the D.C. area; lampshaded by Vance, who mentions that the potential loss of life from exposure to radioactivity is relatively low, and greatly overshadowed by the threat of mass panic;
      Vance: That's why they call dirty bombs "weapons of mass disruption."
  • The New Avengers: In "Forward Base", Purdey and Gambit spook a Russian agent into revealing the location of the base by calling him to tell him his cover is blown, and then doing absolutely nothing. They reason that the fact that he cannot find them will absolutely convince him that they are on to him.
  • Dawn delivers a nice gambit in the Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn episode, "Diary of an Angry Quad". After realizing her brothers read her diary, she decided to get them back by writing a false entry saying that two of the boys are conspiring to do something to the third. This leads the boys to distrust each other and be nice to Dawn to get information from her.
  • In an episode of Night Court, Harry got into a competition with a younger judge who seemed to be just as much a prankster as he was, betting who could pull the best practical joke on the other. The younger judge warned that he'd pull his joke before Harry's session ended, and everyone was paranoid, and it seemed like this was the Trope. When Harry made his ruling on the last case of the night, and still nothing from the guy, he figured he was safe, and rapped his gavel to adjourn the court - causing his bench to fall apart. It seemed the other guy had won, and Harry conceded defeat... But unbeknownst to anyone, Harry was actually playing a real Batman Gambit which took everyone, especially his rival, by shock when he pulled one of the most spectacular pranks ever five minutes later.
    Harry: Cleaver, you may be younger. You may be faster. You may even be even smarter. But you will never be crazier...THAN ME.
  • In The Office, Dwight ambushes Jim by hiding inside a snowman. Later that day, when Jim is walking to his car, he finds himself surrounded by snowmen. As Jim snaps and starts destroying every one of them, Dwight watches from the roof. "In the end, the greatest snowball isn't a snowball at all. It's fear. Merry Christmas."
  • In The Prisoner, Number Six does this to a cruel Number Two in the episode "Hammer Into Anvil". Specifically, Six acts as if he was planted by Two's superiors and is sending them cryptic messages questioning his loyalty; Two not only tears his hair out trying to follow the trail, but pushes away one colleague after another as untrustworthy. At the end, when Six points out that a loyal man would have left it alone:
    Two: Don't tell them. Don't report me.
    Six: I don't intend to. [Beat] You are going to report yourself.
    Two: * taking the phone* I have to report a breakdown in control. Number Two needs to be replaced. [beat] Yes, this is Number Two reporting.
  • The Janitor has done this to JD once or twice in Scrubs.
    • He also comes up with a nasty inversion for "Sunny" Dey; while trapping the rest of the interns in the elevator, he tells her that she's "too weak" for him to take revenge on. She spends the entire day trying to get him to do something nasty to her, until she finally confronts him and says she isn't weak. He replies that she isn't; that's why he came up with a special torture for her.
  • Done to Jerry on Seinfeld by a pissed-off girlfriend who, in response to his accidentally knocking her toothbrush in the toilet and not telling her for several days, proceeded to lock him out of his apartment, then let him back in a few seconds later, declaring that she put something of his in the toilet as revenge. Jerry, an extreme Neat Freak, proceeds to go insane trying to determine what it is, throwing out anything he suspects it might be. Eventually he accuses her of pulling a Paranoia Gambit and not actually putting anything in the toilet to begin with, but she maintains that she did put something in there. Jerry then has a breakdown and begs her to tell him what it is. It was the toilet brush.
    Jerry: [relieved] All right... I can replace that.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: This is basically what Garak did to a man he interrogated when he was in the Obsidian Order. He just say and stared at the subject for four hours. The poor guy broke completely, no doubt imagining all the horrible things Garak was going to do to him.
    • Quark and Ziyal pull one of these on a Cardassian guard at one point by delivering a soufflé to some Federation prisoners. The guard, knowing Quark is friendly with the Federation, proceeds to carefully deconstruct the soufflé looking for whatever Quark hid in it to help the prisoners escape. Ziyal simply knocks the guard out with a hypospray while he's distracted.
    • A much darker example comes in a two parter midway through the series. Sisko returns home to an earth that has been placed under martial law because of the threat of changeling infiltrators, with people being subjected to random scans and blood tests. One of said changelings, (mockingly assuming the form of Chief O'Brien) saunters up to Sisko and asks him to guess how many changelings are actually on earth. The answer?
      Changeling: What if I were to tell you that there are only four on this entire planet? Not counting constable Odo, of course. Think of it. Just four of us...and look at the havoc we've wrought. Four is more than enough. We're smarter than solids. We're better than you. And most importantly, we do not fear you the way you fear us. In the end, it's your fear that will destroy you.
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street", a quiet suburban street is plagued by mildly weird, unexplained sights, sounds, and technological malfunctions. This gradually leads to the residents becoming so paranoid that they begin attacking each other. It ends with a pair of space aliens marveling about how easy it was to defeat Earthlings by just making a few weird things happen to them and waiting for the social order to break down.

  • In Cricket, since one of the first things batsmen are taught is "know exactly where every fielder is at all times", some bowlers and captains will occasionally direct fielders to move by small amounts, not because the movement puts them in a more effective position, but simply to create doubt in the batsman's mind and make him think the bowler has some cunning plan.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Paranoia: Friend Gamemaster is encouraged to occasionally roll dice for no particular reason and smirk, or pass a note to a PC that just says "Act like this note says something important". (Or better yet, "Roll _____ and tell me the result", because then they're in the dark too.)

    Video Games 
  • Early in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it will give you the helpful hint of how to hide from monsters. There are no monsters for quite a while. Not that you'd know that. The game in general does this so well, minor sounds can get you to scream just because the tension is that high and you're that paranoid.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, one of the myths surrounding Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, has a wizard come to him asking for power. Sheogorath says he can have it, if Sheogorath fails to drive the wizard insane within three days. The fear drives said wizard completely bonkers even though Sheogorath hadn't actually bothered doing anything.
  • You Don't Know Jack, starting in volume 3, has a category known as Impossible Questions, mind-bendingly difficult questions which are worth a game-breaking $20,000 to whoever can get one right (or a game-breaking loss of $20,000 for whoever gets one wrong.) One of the Impossible Questions is from a category called "It's a Dog!" The question is "What has four legs, barks, and is a common household pet?" Awkward silence from the contestants. (The answer really is "a dog.")
  • VGA Planets: If you're controlling a faction that has cloaking technology, having your ships pop into view in an enemy's territory can cause them to panic and waste time and resources, even if you don't actually have the ships do anything.

    Web Comics 
  • In Freefall, Sam Starfall's reputation for pulling these off is so well-known that it works even when he doesn't actually have a plan.
    Helix: What sort of devious master plan do you have, Sam?
    Sam: None at all. But don't worry, Helix, they'll think of something.
  • Pintsize tries to do this once in Questionable Content, but the rest of the cast don't fall for it.
  • Miho does this to Largo in Megatokyo, just to mess with him. She tells him she left a present for him in his apartment, which he naturally assumes could be anything up to and including a bomb. She later admits to Piro that she didn't really get a present for Largo, but she hopes he enjoyed it nevertheless.
    • Interestingly, Miho may have done him a favor, since Largo's heightened paranoia allowed him to intercept one of Erika's crazier fanboys before he could reach her. Whether Miho planned this or even realized it after the fact is never explained.
  • In The Last Days of FOXHOUND, Psycho Mantis and Revolver Ocelot tend to pull this ploy on each other with various degrees of success. Perhaps the best example is a case where Ocelot implies that he has tampered with Mantis' coffee, (Mantis has a coffee obsession that is extremely Serious Business, as he has his personal supply of coffee that is custom-made and is so expensive he has to rob banks to help finance it) and while it's implied that Ocelot hasn't actually done anything to the coffee, his recently acquired telepathy blocking technology keeps Mantis from being able to tell for sure. In the end, Mantis becomes too paranoid to drink his beloved coffee.
    Ocelot: You know, back when I was with the KGB, my area of specialty wasn't assassination, it was torture. ... Sure, I was pissed off yesterday, but then it hit me. Even if I can't kill you, I can still make your life miserable. Take that cup of coffee, for instance. Maybe this morning when you weren't looking, I poured in a jar of my own urine while it was brewing. Or maybe I didn't. Anyone else, you could read their mind and find out, but with me you'll never really know. So I think I'll have a very nice day, in fact. Enjoy your coffee.
    Mantis: (after several beat panels of staring at his coffee) Goddamnit.
  • xkcd does this with Rickrolling.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Bun-Bun pulls one of these on Riff, though he later gets revenge in a more direct way.
  • Sequential Art: Scarlet and her sisters in the "Think Tank" used it when playing a wargame to beat Pip in an embarrassingly simple way.
  • Doubly subverted in the series beginning from this Absurd Notions strip.
  • In this Subnormality strip, a harassed and undertipped waitress psyches two businessmen into thinking she messed with their free coffee.
  • In Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic the Drow Queen poisoned a Grey Elf representative on a meeting and chose to send Arachne instead of herself to the next one. Knowing this, Arachne decides to give some wine as a "peace offering" from her Queen to the replacement Grey Elf rep. One strip later, Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Enjuhneer, Kali pulls one of these on Myra, quipping "Laziest April Fools' ever."
  • In Misfile, Ash's plan for Heather to beat a rival driver is to act like s/he just gave her a plan.
  • In Homestuck one of the stages of the Condesce's plan to take over the Earth involved pulling one on the entire planet. She announced herself as an alien who will conquer the world and let the nations of Earth start preparing for an invasion that never came. This not only created mass hysteria, ideal for fracturing a society and preventing it from maintaining or defending itself, but also allowed her pick of the weapons built to confront her.
  • Dr. Helen Narbon (senior) is a master of this technique in Narbonic. Roughly 90% of her evil schemes consist of simply saying "Heh heh heh" in answer to any question.
    Dr. Narbon: Heh heh heh.
    Helen: This is how she used to get me to eat cream corn.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, Tuuri pulls a minor one on her employer's three children: after one of them pushes the wrong button by calling her fat, she tells them that she heard their parents say one of them was adopted and that they loved that child less than the other two.
  • In Rusty and Co., Dirk, playing "Gnomish Rules Baseball" (a surprisingly violent sport that combines aspects of a number of other sports), has been getting through with tricks, smoke bombs, and misdirection. With Gelatinous Cube in a position to score, Dirk manages to distract the goalie by asking him where Kris is hiding, suggesting that Kris is about to join in another trick. That, itself, was the trick: Kris isn't even on the field, but the goalie goes nuts looking for him, leaving the goal wide open.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: In the Mildly Military future, the Commander is awarded one free pass to sucker-punch his Admiral in retribution for the Admiral's misconduct. He decides to sit on the privilege indefinitely and leave the Admiral to stew.
    Commander: It ain't about me hittin' him, it's about him knowin' they're gonna let me.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Angry Beavers does this: Norbert spends the majority of the episode telling Daggett "gonna get ya" while Daggett undergoes ever more extreme self-inflicted punishment, either trying to avoid pranks or getting so carried away that he ends up playing them out and inflicting them on himself (mixing and drinking an entire batch of lemonade combined with vinegar as a demonstration of what he thinks Norb is up to, for example). And then Norb subverts it at the end by punishing him anyway.
  • On American Dad!, Klaus swears revenge on Steve and Roger after they pull a prank on him, and they spend most of the episode going insane from anticipation. Subverted when Klaus forgets all about it, but now that they reminded him, he gets set to exact his revenge. Steve and Roger stop him by blocking his fishbowl.
  • In Family Guy, this happens between Stewie and Brian following the "Where's my money?" gag. Stewie lets Brian have a free shot at him, but he won't know when, and Stewie goes mad with anticipation. Subverted in the last second of the episode, where Brian kicks Stewie in front of a bus.
  • Garfield and Friends: After Roy plays a practical joke on Orson in the U.S. Acres short "Rooster Revenge", Orson gets even by doing "the worst thing possible: absolutely nothing". Lanolin actually does play a joke on him using a disguise that makes her look like Orson in a Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, Superman's suspicions about Lex Luthor and his growing public approval rating left him open for Luthor to trap him with this. Luthor had a self-sustaining city built for the homeless, and Superman detected a device with a timer underground. Ignoring Captain Marvel's pleas to resolve the issue peacefully, he charged straight down to destroy it. As it turned out, the device was a generator, which, though powered by kryptonite, was legit. Superman had levelled the city by this point, however, and had publicly fought Captain Marvel over the incident. This left his own reputation in tatters, and resulted in Captain Marvel resigning from the Justice League in disillusionment. Had Supes left well enough alone, all Luthor would have gained was the extra PR from his charity. In fact, Luthor only expected Superman to destroy the generator; he never expected Supes and Captain Marvel to get into a televised slap-fight that destroyed the city. Luthor was then able to publicly "be the bigger man" by paying for the damages himself and refusing reimbursement by the League.
    • Another more minor example occurs between Hawkgirl and Vixen, both rivals for Green Lantern John Stewart's affections (though Vixen was his girlfriend at the time, while Hawkgirl was his ex). Hawkgirl laments the fact that she cannot resolve this rivalry as she could have done back home on planet Thanagar, like by, for instance, poisoning Vixen's water. A little later on, Hawkgirl throws Vixen a bottle of water as the latter leaves the room, who, recalling what the former had said, warily bins the bottle.
  • A variant in The Spectacular Spider-Man: Eddie Brock returns to town without telling anyone, and messes with Peter's head by following him around and letting Peter get occasional glimpses of him, eventually even making a suit that makes him look like Venom at a distance. The purpose is to get Peter to check on where he left the Venom symbiote, leading Eddie to it in the process.
  • Candace of Phineas and Ferb pulls this on herself in "The Best Lazy Day Ever", when her brothers decide to spend the day relaxing in the sunshine. Without one of their insanely ambitious schemes to expose to their mother she doesn't know what to do, working herself up to encouraging them to take on a project and finally doing it herself. Phineas and Ferb remain idle under their tree the whole time.
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Despite this being 2/3 of Batman's M.O., the Riddler's origin episode "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" features the Riddler pulling an epic one... sort of. He seeks revenge on his former employer Mockridge, who had contemptuously fired him when he asked for a share in the profits of a game he'd created. Batman and Robin manage to save Mockridge, but the Riddler gets away and implies he will eventually return to finish the job. The episode ends with a terrified Mockridge in his mansion, locking every door and window in the place, checking every shadow, and getting into bed with a loaded shotgun at his side while Bruce muses on the situation:
      Bruce: Mockridge may have his money, but he won't be sleeping well. "How much is a good night's sleep worth?" Now THERE'S a riddle for you.
    • In the episode "Joker's Millions", Joker inherits a fortune and uses it to buy his freedom, then spends a montage living it up as a rich man. When asked by Penguin what his scheme is, Joker remarks that he has none; The knowledge that the Bat-family can't touch him and that it's upsetting Batman is good enough.
    • In the episode "Read My Lips", Batman, stuck in a Death Trap, says that he found Scarface because the Ventriloquist tipped him off. Enraged, Scarface orders his mooks to kill the Ventriloquist. Since Scarface is actually a dummy operated by the Ventriloquist, they hesitate to carry out the order. Scarface then loses it and accuses the whole gang of disloyalty, giving Batman an opening to escape and defeat the villains.
  • In Batman Beyond, Terry has to resort to this in two stories to Paxton Powers and Deanna Clay respectively when they screwed over their parents, profited from it and Batman can't bring them to justice. Namely, he visits them and suggests most heavily to each that their supervillain parents would possibly come after them for revenge and may strike at any time. While Paxton isn't fazed, considering he could afford increasing his security detail, Deanna is unsettled.
  • Twilight Sparkle accidentally does this to herself in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "It's About Time": At the start of the episode, she's visited by her future self, who appears to be wounded and tries to warn her of an impending disaster, but the time travel spell ends before she can say what the disaster is. Twilight Sparkle spends most of the episode trying to prevent the disaster from happening, but she gets the same injuries as future Twilight, proving she didn't change the future. At the end, it is revealed that there was nothing to worry about, so Twilight sneaks into Canterlot castle to steal a time travel spell and tell her past self to not worry, but she is interrupted before she can, creating a Stable Time Loop.
  • Slappy Squirrel in the Animaniacs episode "I Got Your Can" pulls one off on Candie Chipmunk, after having subjected her to some well-deserved revenge. And then it stopped. Cue the Paranoia Gambit.

    Real Life 
  • Bomb threats in general do this. Some terrorist groups sometimes report the bombs they planted - in vague terms. Evacuation of a large public place and related panic (especially if the threat turned out to be real) causes plenty of terror, even without killing civilians or even using any bombs. Killing civilians is bad PR. Disrupting business and operations by forcing them to evacuate is still quite effective. If you are a right bastard, you can do this enough times with fake threats to invoke Crying Wolf, and then hit them with a real bomb. See also: The University of Pittsburgh Bomb Threat Saga of Spring 2012. Nearly 150 bomb threats over the course of about a month. It cost the university thousands and thousands of dollars for each evacuation, and the bomber was never even on the same continent.
  • The concept of the "Panopticon" prison is founded on this. A clever circular design allows direct, line-of-sight observation of any prisoner cell from a central observation tower without the inmates being able to tell which cell the guards might be looking at. Without being able to tell which cells are currently under observation, or even how many guards are doing the observing, inmates must assume they are under observation and behave themselves. The effect still works even if the observation tower is unoccupied, so long as the inmates believe that it is. Of course, this only works if the prisoners actually care that somebody's watching them; as soon as it gets a prisoner who's willing to do stuff For the Evulz whether somebody's watching them or not, the whole system falls apart.
  • George Clooney (who has a reputation for pulling pranks on his co-stars) once did this to Brad Pitt. During the filming of Ocean's Twelve, a production staff member managed to get a key to Pitt's house and offered it to Clooney; this was after he had pranked Pitt several times during Ocean's Eleven. Clooney told the staff member to just tell Pitt that he had given the key to him. Pitt spent hours every night going through his house to see if Clooney had snuck in and done something.
  • Fascist Italy's OVRA may have been this trope, enacted by Benito Mussolini drawing on his experience as a journalist. As far as anyone knew back in the day it was a scaringly efficient Secret Police and anyone could have been a member-but there's no evidence it actually existed beyond a name that sounds suspiciously like "piovra" (meaning "octopus" in Italian) and served as anything more than this and a distraction for the regular police to do the actual job, and it never officially existed.
  • This story about a guy who got his revenge on his ex-girlfriend, two years later and during her wedding day, no less. The woman not only cheated on and stole a bunch of money from him, but after she got caught and dumped, she trashed his White Chevy Monte Carlo (four flat tires, a smashed windshield, and a can of red paint had been poured over it). So, as the wedding day approached, he sent her a letter with a cryptic message: a photo of a Monte Carlo, a wedding dress, and a packet of ketchup, along with a sheet of paper with three words: "Red on White", as if threatening to get her dress stained in red, and reinforced her paranoia by sending her some red items anonymously. As it turned out, all he wanted was for her to become a Bridezilla during her wedding, paranoid over the imminent ambush (that never came), and getting her exposed as how she really was in front of everyone.


Video Example(s):


A Good Nights Sleep Worth?

Mockridge managed to survive his encounter with Edward Nygma; the genius computer programmer that helped his company earn so much money that Mockridge fired. And since his debut as The Riddler, Mockridge now lives in eternal fear of his former employee coming back to continue his revenge.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / ParanoiaGambit

Media sources: