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Imagine realizing that woman wasn't crazy, that you've kept an innocent woman drugged and detained for 10 years, that the machines that woman was terrified of are real, and that the post-apocalypse is REAL and probably inevitable.... all in the same 2 minute period of time.
Talk about a mind fuck.
Pinned comment on this video of the Pescadero Hospital Escape from Terminator 2: Judgment Day

If an episode revolves around a haunting/alien visitation/lake monster sighting/whatever that turns out to be a hoax, the episode will end with a shot of a real ghost/alien visitor/lake monster/whatever.


A variation is for the episode to end with the investigators remarking on one detail of the hoax they found particularly impressive, only for the hoaxer to say, "But... that wasn't me." Or, in haunting cases, for the investigators to remark how helpful Bob was, only for one of the locals to say, "Bob? But he's been dead for five years." Sometimes, the characters won't be around to see it, especially if a real sighting would bring an end to a long-running mystery. Many times, a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax about a lake monster will end with the real one coming out of the water to watch the heroes leave.

A niche variant: Christmas Episodes of children's series often feature the adults setting up the various elements of the Santa Claus pretense, and then end with a shot of the real Santa flying away in his sleigh (often while the children open wonderful presents that none of the adults could obtain, afford, or remember buying). If the budget doesn't allow for it, they may just play a sound of jingling sleighbells as a hearty "HO HO HO!" echoes in the distance. See Santa's Existence Clause.


Tends to happen in series where hauntings (or alien visitations) (or whatever) are not only uncommon, but usually unconsidered, like Sitcoms or Action-Adventure series making viewers and at times characters to muse about How Unscientific! it is. Usually avoided in series that are about investigating and debunking hauntings (or alien visitations) (or whatever).

A variant of Skepticism Failure. Compare Or Was It a Dream?. Frequently overlaps with Accidental Truth. Sometimes a case of And You Thought It Was a Game. Occasionally, the characters do see the creature, but it's Mistaken for an Imposter. Often occurs at the end of a Cryptid Episode. When a creature thought to be fictional is discovered in Real Life, that's Accidentally Correct Zoology. Similar to Not-So-Imaginary Friend when it's someone that a person claims exists but nobody ever sees except him.


Contrast Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane where it remains up in the air to the very end. Sometimes, technically, that trope and this one combine when it is established that the hoaxer could not have done one thing, but it is never established that no other mundane cause could have done it.

May result in a character being Horror Struck. A subversion could be a Shock-and-Switch Ending if the creature is evil.


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  • Played for Laughs in one of M&M's Christmas commercials where Red and Yellow are leaving cookies and milk out for Santa, and run smack-dab into him:
    Red: He does exist! (Faints)
    Santa: They do exist! (Also faints)
    Yellow: Uhhh... Santa...?

    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Batman manga story "The Monster of Gore Bay", a gang of criminals use a mechanical fake sea monster to cause chaos so that they can commit crimes, only for their machine to finally be attacked by a real sea monster.
  • In Battle Girls: Time Paradox, everybody gets trapped by samurai ghosts. After managing to appease them, the ghosts tell Nobunaga that she is the one destined to rule the land before departing. Later, Ieyasu meets her minion Hanzo and thanks her for the great special effects and using the fake samurai ghosts to stoke Nobunaga's ego so she will fall into her plan. Hanzo replies that she just arrived and didn't have time to set up the fake samurai ghosts. Though a little unnerved, Ieyasu shrugs it off, since the real ghosts helped her manipulate Nobunaga anyway.
  • One episode of Dinosaur King features the Loch Ness Monster, sightings of which are initially thought to be the work of the Alpha Gang's submarine. The Alpha Gang themselves are only there because they believe that Nessie is really one of the dinosaurs that escaped from its card. Sure enough, the characters do face a dinosaur on the loch... but in the very last scene, after the dinosaur has been safely captured and returned to its card, the shadow of the real Nessie appears menacingly in the mist.
  • The Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu episode "The Patient of Darkness" uses the "hoaxer goes 'but that wasn't me'" version—subverted when it turns out that the last "ghost" really was a living person the hoaxers just didn't know about.
  • This is part of the big reveal concerning the world of Eldora in Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE. When the heroes were first brought in, everyone thought it was a mission within GBN. As the game went on, things just didn't add up, ultimately leading to the heroes failing to stop a Kill Sat from nuking a city out of existence and they're not dragged out of the mission. After speaking to other people, one of the heroes, May, comes to the conclusion that they were never in a mission - they were actually transported to an alien world, and all this time had been fighting real battles in real Mobile Suits. The revelation leaves the whole team shaken, but they decide to see the mission through, though now cognizant of the stakes around them.
  • Kagewani has each episode ending with the revelation that the claims of a cryptid attack were actually real.
  • In Kiss Him, Not Me, the group gets stranded and separated on an island, and experience supernatural phenomenon. Among them, Serinuma and Mutsumi get attacked by a vengeful samurai's ghost, but manage to fend him off and then banish him using talismans they had bought earlier. When the group is rescued, they are informed that they had mistakenly eaten hallucinogenic mushrooms earlier. Everyone dismisses their experiences due to this, but Mutsumi reaches into his pocket and finds his talisman has the same damage it took from blocking the samurai's sword strikes.
  • The Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid spin-off manga Kanna's Daily Life has a chapter where Kanna and her friends visit their school during the evening to investigate various occult tales that are usually associated with The Seven Mysteries. While investigating the final story, Kanna notices that Saikawa has disappeared, and, concered about her location, she and her friends call her. As Saikawa answers the phone, it is then revealed that she has been sick all this time and had never left her home, causing Kanna and her friends to realize that the "Saikawa" that was with them that night was really a spirit haunting the school.
  • The Florian Triangle in One Piece is a place where nearly a hundred ships go missing every year. In the course of the Thriller Bark arc, we learn that the arc's Big Bad Gecko Moria has been assaulting ships that pass through and stealing their crews' shadows to give rise to an army of zombies. At the arc's very end however, a huge shadow watches the crew leave and the narration reveals that something has been destroying ships long before Gecko Moria ever set up shop.
  • Oni Ai has an episode that begins with Arisa spotting green lights from inside forest. This leads the student council dorm members to look around the surrounding forest before returning to the dorm. When these 'green lights' appear in front of them, they conclude that those were just fireflies.. before they realize these are Will-o'-the-Wisp. The light novel or anime never explain what their true nature is.
  • Pokémon: The Series: The 20th episode of the first season, The Ghost of Maiden's Peak, concerned a hoax haunting. The spirit of a young bride-to-be who died waiting for her deceased fiancee's return supposedly caused trouble for the protagonists, until the troubles were revealed to be caused by the spirit-like Pokemon Gastly. At the end of the episode, however, it is revealed that Gastly is actually a friend of the real ghostly maiden, who Gastly merely posed as in order to keep her legend alive.
  • Samurai Pizza Cats, "Unidentified Flying Oddballs": Princess Vi is abducted by a UFO, but it turns out to be a hoax/kidnapping by the' usual bad guys. At the end of the episode, as the narrator comments that aliens don't really exist, its shown that the events are being watched by some real aliens in a real flying saucer.
  • Squid Girl:
    • Goro spends most of chapter 232 freaking out over a ghost story Eiko told him, involving a girl who disappeared while looking for her red sandal. After Eiko tells him the story was made up, he finally starts to calm down, but then we see a suspicious lone red sandal drifting ashore.
    • In one chapter, the gang freaks out over a supposed ghost picture, which turns out to just be Takeru's hand as he waved to try and be in the picture in time before it was taken. But the end shows that there's also a suspicious, disembodied grinning face in there too...
  • Two episodes in Sword Art Online deal with an apparently impossible murder in a safe zone, and players believe that it was committed by Griselda's ghost. The murders turn out to be a hoax, but at the end, the ghost briefly makes an appearance.
  • In To Love Ru, everyone goes to investigate the old school building, which is rumored to be haunted by a ghost. It's eventually revealed that it's actually just a group of stray aliens who played up the ghost rumors in order to squat on the property. However, in the end, it's revealed that there actually is a ghost haunting the place. Said ghost, Oshizu, ends up eventually becoming part of the main cast.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Princess Rose uses a Frog deck because she is completely obsessed with the story The Frog Prince and believes her Frog monsters have Duel Spirits in the form of handsome princes. Nobody believes her, so she duels Judai Yuki, believing that since he can see Duel Spirits that he will see the princes as well. However, Judai gets confused because he only sees them as giant frogs. Jun Manjoume and others dismiss her as delusional. When Judai wins, Rose angrily walks off, but Judai suddenly sees the spirit of an actual frog prince (as in a tiny humanoid frog resembling Kermit wearing a prince costume) watching over her. He admits her prince was real, but she ironically cannot see the spirit.

    Asian Animation 
  • In episode 28 of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, Wolffy uses the fake friendship peace negotiation in attempt to eat the goats. note  However, several years later in real life, when Mighty Little Defenders season were aired, the peace between the goat tribe and wolf tribe were coming real but subverted this when it happened without Wolffy's old favor or there's still a few wolf characters who didn't get this note.

    Comic Books 
  • And Then Emily Was Gone is about a Private Investigator names Greg Hellinger investigating a missing girl in a town in the Orkneys of Scotland, which the girl's friend, Greg's client, says may have been taken by Bonnie Shaw, a local Bogeyman who's known for making deals with people in times of need, and asking to have their children in exchange. Near the end, it's revealed that Bonnie Shaw is indeed real, and that if he gives Emily back, the universe will collapse.
  • In an Archie Comics comic, Archie and the gang are in a living room on Christmas Eve discussing how Santa Claus is an outdated concept, that it's wrong to teach children you can get something for nothing, and so forth. Suddenly they hear jingling bells out the window. When they go outside to check, they find several gift-wrapped packages with their names on them. The contents were items they all needed yet they hadn't told anyone as much. Further investigation revealed hoof-prints and an inexplicable sled-runner trail in the snow.
  • There's a Donald Duck story where Donald and Daisy have to seek shelter at a spooky castle whose owner turns out to be a vampire. This is revealed to be part of an elaborate commercial that was being shot at the castle, but when Donald asks him how he managed all those crazy "tricks" for the camera like floating in mid-air, the count states that they weren't tricks. Donald takes this to be a joke, but the last panel shows that he really wasn't kidding.
  • In House of Mystery #190, a man who wants to join a dueling fraternity accepts their challenge to spend the night in a haunted house but loses his mind when they reveal to him that he spent the night in the wrong house and all the supernatural experiences that he had were not tricks but real.
  • In an issue of Grant Morrison's Justice League of America run, Plastic Man tells his sidekick's nephew a story about the Justice League saving Christmas and fighting alongside Santa (who has heat vision in Plastic Man's telling), and after he's done with the story, his sidekick's nephew expresses disbelief—only to look out the window and see Santa flying by on his sleigh, blasting "Merry Christmas" into the snow in the yard. But then it turns out to be Martian Manhunter playing along. After Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter fly away, we see the real Santa scoffing at the heat vision idea.
  • In Supergirl (1972), the heroine thinks the villain Orgox pretends to be a demon-sorcerer in order to deceive a bunch of superstitious, insular villagers, but it turns out that Orgox is really a demonic sorcerer.
  • With the Scarlet Witch, Powers That Be have forever been going back and forth on whether she's a literal witch or not. It's mutant probability-altering power! It's "Chaos Magic!" It's both! No, it's not! And on and on and on.
  • In The Ultimates, the Ultimate Marvel version of Thor is presented as a lunatic who believes himself a god. Eventually it's revealed that Loki has used his Reality Warper powers to rewrite the world and trap Thor on Earth.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts, the Great Pumpkin is usually portrayed as Linus simply confusing Christmas with Halloween; however, some strips show that the Great Pumpkin is apparently real, or at least believed by other people across the country.
  • A Christmas installment of Stone Soup shows pre-teen sisters Holly and Alix in bed, listening to a voice crying "Ho! Ho! Ho!" outside the window, and remarking that they know perfectly well it's their stepfather and uncle "messing with us". Meanwhile, outside the other window, Santa's sleigh flies past unnoticed.
  • One Christmas strip in Garfield has Garfield scoffing at Jon writing a letter to Santa. He then steps outside only for something to fall from the sky and hit him on the head. When he picks it up, he realizes it's a sleigh bell. He rushes back inside to have Jon add a few items for him in the letter.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Hobbit fanfiction Heart of Fire, the protagonist Kathryn has a vision of the War of the Last Alliance, and the vision's version of Sauron seems to be aware of her presence. Smaug is able to convince her that it wasn't real. Unfortunately, it's revealed sixty years later that Sauron himself was summoned to this vision, even though he was bound by its rules. It was through this incident that he became aware of Kathryn's existence and her status as a Seer.
  • One of the plots of the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic "Hearth Warming Chaos" involves Discord accidentally telling Pinkie Pie's daughter Raspberry there's no such thing as Santa Hooves and he makes it up to her by building a version of the sleigh she and her sisters wanted. Much to his surprise, Hearth's Warming morning, among the presents is a flying reindeer and the toy Discord lost when he was a young draconequus.
  • A Kim Possible fanfic parodying The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has Eric (taking the place of Brom Bones) telling Ron (filling the role of Ichabod Crane) about the legend of the Headless Horseman. One expects the story to continue as usual: Ron encounters a figure that could either be the Headless Horseman or Eric in disguise and is never seen again instead, it's Eric who encounters the figure, and at first he thinks it is one of the pranksters from the village...until he accidentally pulls its arm out of its socket and then it magically reattaches itself.
  • In Parents of Ponyville, Scootaloo's version of what happened at the parent teacher conference seems like nonsensical blatant wish fulfillment, including stuff like her flying through space on her scooter, going on quests around the galaxy, defeating an enemy alien armada, fighting a space T.Rex, etc. Then one of the sequels implies that it was all true.
  • The Sixth Doctor in a Doctor Who/Real Ghostbusters crossover, "Who Ya Gonna Call?," firmly refuses to believe ghosts are at work as he and Peri land in Arkham, Massachusetts and the populace are haunted. When the Doctor encounters Revolutionary War ghosts and their master Miles Standoff, he chalks it up to advanced technology. Likewise, he questions the professional integrity of the Ghostbusters.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • All Hail the King, an epilogue to Iron Man 3, shows that the Mandarin really does exist and wasn't just an invention by Aldrich Killian. What's more, he's pretty peeved at his name being disgraced. This gets followed up on in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
  • After the Ghost Shaman in Bodycount is revealed to be one of the characters in a mask, the ending shows another character getting the axe from the real Ghost Shaman.
  • Curse of the Headless Horseman: After the Headless Horseman has been exposed as a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, the real Horseman appears on the top of the ridge laughing manically (despite lacking a head).
  • After Holly's doppelgänger is revealed to be a combination of her Split Personality and Big Bad using disguises to frame her in the climax of Doppelganger, she, under a great deal of stress, manifests an actual doppelgänger.
  • In the "indie short film" Eagles Are Turning People Into Horses: The Movie, a man named Lyle sets up an elaborate hoax about how eagles are turning people into horses as his way of ending the relationship with his girlfriend, Hannah, without hurting her feelings. After he promises to his friends that he'll change his ways and stop ending his relationships like this, we learn that Hannah was working for the eagles all along as part of a plan to turn Lyle into a horse.
  • The original Friday the 13th (1980) film ends with Jason's decomposing body going after Alice, but this later appears to just be a Dream Sequence. Friday the 13th Part 2 opens with Alice really being killed by Jason. Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning also features a guy impersonating Jason making it seem like he came back from the dead. In Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, he really does come back. It's an Ambiguous Situation whether or not he was undead by the time of the first movie.
  • Grave Encounters is about the crew of a staged Paranormal Investigation Reality TV show finally encountering real ghosts. The first act revolves around showcasing all the tricks and Manipulative Editing that go into the show's production, with the host Lance Preston, who actually does believe in ghosts (unlike the Phony Psychic Houston Gray), expressing disappointment that they've had to resort to this to create an interesting show. When the ghosts at the Abandoned Hospital they're shooting the latest episode at turn out to be real, Lance is initially overjoyed, at least before it turns out that the ghosts want to kill them.
  • In Griff the Invisible, at least one of Melody's crazy theories turns out to be true. Maybe.
  • An interesting case in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Luna Lovegood mentions Nargles, which Hermione and Harry consider to be a fictional creature, even in the wizarding world...until we see the Daily Prophet mentioning it.
  • In Hellraiser: Hellworld, the bad guy uses drugs and hypnotic suggestions to make people think they are being stalked and tortured by Pinhead and the Cenobites. At the end, as he gloats over his victory, the real Pinhead shows up and gives him his Karmic Death.
  • The Invincible Dragon has the protagonist encountering a nine-headed dragon as a child, which inspires him to become a fighter and martial artist with a tattoo depicting the beast on his chest. While most other characters scoff at his claims or assume it's just him mistaking a childhood dream for reality, at the end of the movie the dragon turns out to be real, where it devours the Big Bad of the film.
  • Labyrinth has Sarah returning from Jareth's castle and reappearing in her own room, and finding everything just as she left it before she wished for Toby to be taken away—and then her friends (and several former enemies!) from the Goblin City appear in her bedroom. (There is some speculation on whether that means it really happened or if she's just lost her mind, however.)
  • Lake of the Dead: This Norwegian thriller revolves around a group of friends trying to solve an ancient mystery that involves an immortal crow leaving its feathers as calling cards. In the end a natural explanation has been found, but there is some disagreement about its feasibility. The protagonist insists that the solution is acceptable and nothing supernatural is involved, and to punctuate his words he picks up something from the table and waves it around...
    Bernhard: Hey, where did this come from? It''s a crow's feather...
  • Live and Let Die, in what's probably the only appearance of the occult in the James Bond series, ends with Baron Samedi appearing at the front of the train Bond is in, laughing as usual, even though he was subjected to a coffin full of (presumably) venomous snakes earlier in the film.
  • A subplot in Look Who's Talking Now involves 7-year-old Mikey losing his belief in Santa after his mother gets a job as Mall Santa's elf. The end of the film has a guy hearing Santa... on a CB radio.
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947) revolves around the question of whether a Mall Santa is actually the real thing, with most of the main characters not believing that Santa is real at all. It has the scene at the end where the little girl gets exactly the present she wanted, but notably avoids an explicit sleigh shot.
  • In the film Nightmare Man, there is a major twist: a husband aims to have his wife killed by a man dressed up as the evil monster haunting her dreams and she believes to be inside of her. The plan involves her going crazy by not taking her pills to go along with it. Except that the monster is real and seems to have a problem combating the pills' effects, meaning when she's off her medication the monster is able to kill people for real, including the hitman dressed up as him too.
  • The Rapture: At first it seems like Sharon's beliefs are destructive and misplaced, causing a terrible tragedy. Then they get confirmed at the end of the film.
  • In Ready or Not (2019), the Le Domas family believes that their ancestor made a Deal with the Devil for their fortune and tabletop gaming empire, and that they must conduct a Human Sacrifice every so often to appease Mr. Le Bail or else he will come to claim all of their souls. The younger members of the family are skeptical, but go along with it anyway because they don't want to take any chances, while the protagonist Grace thinks they're insane. When Grace survives to daybreak, Mr. Le Bail reveals that he is indeed very real by exploding the entire Le Domas family in Ludicrous Gibs, then briefly revealing himself to Grace, nodding his head seemingly in approval of how she managed to beat them. Grace can't help but laugh.
  • In The Screaming Skull, a man attempts to gaslight his second wife into killing herself by faking the haunting of their house by his first wife's ghost. It turns out that her ghost really is haunting the place, apparently seeking revenge for her own murder.
  • The supernatural and bizarre events that occurred throughout the Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters by The Reveal that the protagonist was insane, but then the real stepmother is later attacked by the ghost that was earlier dismissed as a delusion.
  • Tales of Halloween: In "The Weak and the Wicked", Alice and her gang of bullies discover too late that the Demon of All Hallows Eve the stranger claimed to have summoned is actually real.
  • This is Played for Laughs during The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. Unable to find the real creature to photograph, some journalists make and photograph a fake...with the real one watching the whole thing curiously.

  • Accidental Detectives: In ‘’’Creature of the Mists’’, the hunt for the Ogopogo seems to be a dud (and was conducted in the first place merely as a trap to find out which member of the science team was stealing important equipment) but then at the end of the book there's a mysterious wake in a picture that Joel took at a time when there where no boats in the area that could have made it.
  • The Brothers Lionheart: Let's count the myths initially presented skeptically in the book:
    • Nangijala is presented as a myth but turns out to be true. Even stranger was how it was combined with a song their mother used to sing, and the myth was still true.
    • Long after Katla's introduction, we were informed that Katla was a myth herself. The myth also told about the serpent Karm. And by the end of the book Karm was a myth made true too.
    • Nangilima, the life after death in Nangijala, is proven true by Word of God. However Astrid Lindgren also once said that most of the book is Skorpan's escapist fantasies from his sickbed, until he dies in the real world when they go to Nangilima (and then she said, "But if any of you ever tell this to your children, I will kill you.").
  • William Hope Hodgson's "Carnacki the Ghost-Finder" is an Occult Detective whose stories sometimes feature real supernatural events and sometimes hoaxes. In the story "The Horse of the Invisible" a murderous ghost turns out to be a hoax by a human would-be killer. Until... "It's not me! My God! It's not me! My God! It's not me."
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Last Battle, the villains attempt to exploit the legend of Tash, the God of Evil, for their own benefit, only to be shocked and horrified when he actually shows up.
  • Detective Joe Sandilands: In Ragtime in Simla, Sandilands visits a medium as part of his investigation, assuming that she's a scam artist. She claims she meant it as one initially, but found that she really can speak to the dead. He's unconvinced, until during the séance she speaks to him in the voice of a dead comrade from WWI.
  • Don Quixote. Sancho Panza is fooled by the Duke to assume a governorship (really a complicated series of scams just to prank Sancho). When Sancho patrols his Insula, he is the victim of various pranksters, except for the last one, a Sweet Polly Oliver that no one knows, who is a girl that has escaped his Gilded Cage, to all the pranksters confusion.
  • In Fortunately, the Milk, a man pops out to the shops to buy a carton of milk for his children's breakfasts, and returns after an exceptionally long absence with the milk and a wild tale about having been abducted by aliens and going on a time-traveling adventure accompanied by a talking dinosaur. The text of the book ends with the children dismissing their father's story as an obvious fiction — then there's one final illustration in which they discover that it might not be entirely fabricated.
  • In the Goosebumps book Phantom of the Auditorium, the threatening messages left behind by the "phantom" turn out to be the work of a homeless person who didn't want them to find his secret living quarters beneath the school. However, the real phantom eventually does show up and even leaves behind evidence of his real identity for the two protagonists to find.
  • How to Lead a Life of Crime: Protagonist Flick occasionally sees the ghost of his dead younger brother, which he assumes is just his imagination and/or a hallucination. At the end of the book, he and his girlfriend go see his mother in the care home she's in, and she says she's just spoken to his dad, who had killed himself by walking into the path of a fire truck recently. Flick and his girlfriend had come to inform his mom of his dad's death. Oh, and the girlfriend is implied to be a witch.
  • In the Judge Dee novel The Chinese Gold Murders the ghost of Dee's murdered predecessor as district magistrate is supposed to be haunting the tribunal but it turns out to be the dead man's twin brother looking for clues. All explained rationally. Until the judge asks how the 'ghost' managed to look transparent when Dee saw him at the temple - only to find the faux ghost was never at the temple.
  • In The Vampire Affair, a Man From U.N.C.L.E. novel by David McDaniel, Solo and Kuryakin spend most of the book in an Eastern European country battling what seems to be a vampire. At the end it all turns out to have been a hoax by a THRUSH agent ... except for the coffin, which he denies using. And then when Solo and Kuryakin go back to the car, they find a message written in the snow on the windshield— "Thank you. I return to my rest."
  • The Convenient Monster, a Leslie Charteris short story featuring The Saint involves a villain faking attacks by the Loch Ness Monster. The villain is then eaten by the Loch Ness Monster. Really. This was also done in the TV series episode of the same name.
  • In the Stephen King story Secret Window, Secret Garden (collected in Four Past Midnight) after Mort dies and Amy digs through his belongings, she finds Shooter's hat. When she returns there's a note inside from Shooter telling her that he's gone back to Mississippi. She wonders whether Shooter came to life in some form.
  • In the Tairen Soul series' last book, Lillis is trapped in an elaborate Lotus-Eater Machine, where all her loved ones are safe and happy. She talks with many of them, finding that they're all a little bit off...except her dead mother, who asks her to give a message to Ellysetta as "it will mean more [from you]". She also tells Lillis about Bess (something she would never have done while alive) and subtly encourages her to return to reality.
    Lillis: [to Bess] Hello. Mama loved you very much, and so will I. I'm so glad you've come.
    Ellysetta:...How did you know that?
    Lillis: Mama told me.
  • The Invisible Dog brings The Three Investigators to an old church rumored to be haunted by a "phantom priest" who carries a candle. No sooner are they in the church when they encounter a ghostly figure walking forward menacingly, holding a candle. The boys book it out of there, but come on, this is The Three Investigators! It will turn out to be some old man faking it, right? Nope; come the end of the book, the only part of the mystery left unsolved is...who is the phantom priest? After bringing up and discarding every possibility they can think of, they finally conclude that there very well may be a phantom priest!
  • "Prologue to an Analogue" by Leigh Richmond has a beloved TV newscaster reporting on a biological warfare attack in Egypt. Cut to a commercial for Witch Soap, featuring Hot Witches who sing "Witches of the world, unite — to make it clean, clean, clean, Witch clean NOW!" By morning it's as if the biological attack never happened. The Witch Soap company contributes $$ to "clean up" a slum as a publicity stunt, and the tenements instantly remodel themselves after the commercial. Various stunts are tried to prove it's all just coincidence, but after a disabled girl walks before her surgery, an unmanned moon shot succeeds when it should have misfired, and some drug addicts are instantly cured, the newscaster realizes something is real. He never finds out exactly how it works, it's only clear that it works — and anyone can do it. note  Discontinuing the ad doesn't stop him — he starts reciting the incantation himself, live on the air, after the next horrific disaster. And it works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Basil Brush Show had a Christmas episode where Santa gets food poisoning from the cafe and the gang is forced to make and deliver presents in one night. The next morning when Santa comes round, everyone finds out that he is a department store Santa. After everyone leaves they find the flat full of presents and hear a loud "ho-ho-ho!". It transpires the department store Santa was the real Santa after all.
  • In the Baywatch episode "Strangers Among Us", a group of half-crazy UFO believers cause problems for the lifeguards as they misinterpret water phenomena on the beach as signs of aliens and almost drown and so on. They are led by the more sensible Dr. Faye Taylor, who has a more scientific view on UFOs. All seems to be normal until the very last minutes of the episode, where she disappears without a trace during something resembling a strange weather phenomenon.
  • One episode of Benson involved a supposed UFO sighting. At the end, Benson and the Governor are out in a field and get flashed from overhead by a series of strange lights.
  • Bones:
    • In one episode, a person is found dead in the middle of nowhere by a ufologist. At the end of the episode, Brennan and Booth manage to find the real killer. They are lying on the hood of a car in a field, stargazing and talking about whether or not aliens are real. Just then, all the crickets and other natural sounds disappear, leaving both of them a little freaked out in complete silence.
    • In another, a murderer uses a myth about a witch in the woods (an intentional parody of The Blair Witch Project) to cover up the unintentional killing of his filmmaker brother. At the end though, Angela and Hodgins see what appears to be a real ghost on footage of the murder. They promptly decide to never mention it again.
    • Booth is kidnapped and imprisoned on a derelict ship by the Grave Digger and interacts with a soldier who died by Booth's side in combat. This is initially presented as a hallucination but to escape the ship requires physical strength beyond that of a single person. The next day Brennan interacts with the same apparent ghost.
  • The Brittas Empire: Colin spends the the duration of the episode “Body Language” believing that aliens not only exist but are about to invade the centre due to a series of misunderstandings. At the end of the episode however, it is revealed that two plants bought in were actually aliens. They conclude that there is No Intelligent Life Here and warp out in front of a shocked Colin.
  • Castle has quite a number of episodes that pit Castle's child-like belief in the supernatural against Beckett's rational skepticism, but most of them usually go for the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane ending. However, there are two notable exceptions:
    • In the 6th season episode "Time Will Tell", an episode about (gasp) time travel, Beckett spills her coffee on a letter that had been a key piece of evidence in the case after the case is over. The murderer had been using a stained copy of that letter to try to track down an intended victim but the cops had used the pristine original to find him first. The stain Beckett made that afternoon matched the one on the murderer's copy even though his copy predated the spill of the coffee. The incident is not really "in your face" proof, but it is chilling because the only possible explanations are "time travel" or "1 in a million coincidence".
    • But the 7th season episode "Clear and Present Danger" takes the cake for playing this trope straight as an arrow when it turns out that the victim really was killed by "the invisible man". (Well, an invisible woman). A scientist working for a shadowy government agency made a breakthrough and had created a functional invisibility suit which was then, in an ironic twist, used to murder him. Beckett adjusted reasonably quickly to the reality of invisible people walking about and Castle's paranoia and creation of an "invisible man trap" suddenly seemed unusually reasonable.
  • British medical soap/drama Casualty pulls this one once. In one episode Colin Baker plays a patient who claims hes an alien; the nurse treating him believes he's delusional until a power cut knocks out the lights and he's shocked at the sight of the patient's glowing green eyes.
  • Day Break (2006): Well, the loop itself is definitely not in Hopper's head, but he also comes across a man named Jared who appears to be experiencing the same loop, until Hopper discovers that Jared is just a paranoid schizophrenic with psychotic delusions and gets him the psychiatric help he needs. Or it seems so, until Jared mentions an event that only occurred in a previous loop. The last seconds of the series implies that he may even be responsible for the loop, actually being some sort of Guardian Angel for Brett who gave him an opportunity to put his life back together.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Abominable Snowmen": An explorer looking for yeti in the Himalayas runs afoul of some yeti that are actually robots controlled by an Eldritch Abomination. At the end, as the explorer is saying farewell to the Doctor, a real yeti appears.
    • When the Doctor is told by River Song in "Flesh and Stone" that he'll next see her when "the Pandorica opens", he dismisses the Pandorica as a fairy tale. When he comes face-to-face with the legendary can of Sealed Evil in the episode by that title, he's forced to admit it isn't a fairy tale. The Pandorica is actually a trap set for the Doctor by a Legion of Doom, effectively making the myth true.
    • In "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", an entity claiming to be the literal Satan (or at least, the inspiration for him) appears, and claims to be older than time itself — something the Doctor says to be impossible. At the end of the episode, the Doctor all but admits that he doesn't have an explanation and can't dismiss the entity's claims quite so easily as he normally would.
    • "Robot of Sherwood": Clara has the Doctor take her to the time where Robin Hood existed, despite the Doctor saying that Robin Hood is merely a legend. Deciding to prove it, the Doctor takes her there... and comes face to face with Robin Hood. Throughout the remainder of the episode, the Doctor tries to find proof that Robin isn't real. Upon learning of the presence of robots, the Doctor becomes convinced that they used the legend of Robin Hood to create a Hope Bringer for the peasants as part of their ruse... until the Sheriff points out the impracticality of creating an enemy that could ruin their plans. Upon learning that the future will believe he was only a myth, Robin's okay with that.
    • "The Haunting of Villa Diodati": Most of the weirdness going on in the titular house is eventually revealed to be because of a powerful AI called the Cyberium defending itself. However, the two figures of a woman dressed as a maid and a young girl, who bring Graham food at one point, are implied by the end to be real ghosts.
  • In one episode of Don't Eat the Neighbours, Lucy ends up depressed after she learns that Old Father Bunny has not delivered the bicycle she wanted. So that night, the other adult male characters in the show get up onto the roof, each claiming to Lucy that they are Old Father Bunny and they have brought her the bike she wanted. The next morning Lucy has 7 bikes, but there were only 6 men up on the roof last night. She then finds a note attached to it from Old Father Bunny apologizing that it is a day late, but he and his elves were busy painting it into a multicolour one.
  • Eerie, Indiana:
    • In "Marshall's Theory of Believability", Professor Nigel Zirchon has his assistant Claude plant a fake "space thing" in Eerie in order to fool the town's government into spending a fortune to buy it from him. However, it turns out that Claude never had the opportunity to plant the fake as he was frightened by a female Bigfoot. The "space thing" that the Tellers, Simon and Professor Zirchon found was genuine. This is demonstrated when it lights up, levitates and returns to space. Simon manages to get a blurry photo of it before it disappears.
    • In "The Hole in the Head Gang", Dash X convinces Marshall and Simon that Hitchcock Mill is haunted by the ghost of the bank robber Grungy Bill using a "flying" chair attached to a wire and pulley, projecting his voice through a pipe to give it an echo effect and wearing a monster mask. When Marshall and Simon return to investigate further, they meet Dash and discover the truth. Dash then finds an old gun under the floorboards and accidentally releases Grungy Bill's ghost, which had been trapped in the gun for over 100 years.
  • Family Matters did the Santa version in "Miracle on Elm Street", with Carl getting a space helmet he had wished for as a kid.
  • Played with on Fantasy Island as a guest will assume they're in an elaborate role-playing adventure only to realize they've truly gone back in time or chased by real spies. At the end, when returned to the present, they'll ask if it was real and Mr. Roarke will simply smile "What do you believe?"
  • In an episode of Gilligan's Island, on the first Christmas Eve they're stuck on the island, the Skipper shows up dressed as Santa Claus. He happily tells the castaways that they should be thankful that they are on an island with food and water, that they all get along with each other, etc. "Santa" then leaves into the jungle. An instant later, the Skipper, dressed normally, emerges — from the opposite direction — out the jungle, carrying the firewood that he went to get a moment ago. Even the professor was puzzled by this one.
  • The Golden Girls liked this trope.
    • In one episode, Rose thinks she sees a UFO overhead, and even Dorothy is convinced when the U.S. Air Force confirms it. At the end of the episode, Sophia reveals that the "spaceship" was just an experimental aircraft that the military didn't want anyone knowing about. When Dorothy goes out to break the news to Rose, the two sit for a while on the lanai, and Dorothy drops off to sleep...just in time to miss the sky suddenly flood with light and sound. Rose sits back in her chair and smiles, convinced that she's seen the real thing.
    • In a non-supernatural example, Sophia, who's been struggling with memory issues, clings to the fact that her late husband carved a big heart that read "SAL LOVES SOPHIA" on the pantry door in their apartment in Brooklyn. When Dorothy and Sophia visit, they find the Petrillo family height chart instead, which deeply upsets her. However, at the end of the episode—and after a visit from a ghostly version of Sal himself—Sophia discovers the heart in question on the door of the bedroom closet.
    • Both Blanche and Sophia have ghostly visitations in a Season 7 episode. Blanche insists that she hears the voice of her dead grandmother in her old room at the family plantation, which is set to be torn down; at the end of the episode, a set of wind chimes Blanche took from the room swings in the breeze, suggesting that Blanche is right. Meanwhile, Sophia has a near-death experience and talks with Sal in Heaven, only to be revived. When Dorothy tries to explain this away as a hallucination brought on by lack of oxygen, Sophia teasingly calls her "Spumoni Face," a nickname which Sal told her about while she was temporarily deceased. Dorothy's shocked—she had never told her mother about that nickname...
  • The Greatest American Hero, "The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea": The missing boats aren't due to the legendary sea monster "Carrie", but to pirates. The real sea monster appears at the end of the episode.
  • On Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, Vanessa is romanced by a man (Don Cheadle) claiming to be an African prince. The gang are dubious, thinking it's a con and confront him on how there's no record of his nation (the man says it's because they want to keep a low profile) and he's staying at a crummy hotel (he says he wants to be humble). The kicker is when they show his "diamond" is a fake with the man claiming he couldn't get a real diamond over in time. Vanessa doesn't believe him and kicks him out of the house. The next day, the gang are joking about the guy's bad act when they flip on the news and see a story revealing he really is a prince, boarding his private jet and talking of how sorry he is to have lost the love of his life. Cue a frantic futile dash to the airport.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries:
    • "Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula": In the episode, the Hardy Boys suspect a man of being Dracula, but this is apparently dis-proven. At the end, the villain is in handcuffs and standing in front of a mirror, and Joe Hardy notices that the villain has no reflection, while the other characters conveniently not look at the mirror. The villain is taken away by the cops before Joe can get anyone else to notice.
    • "House on Possessed Hill": The Hardy Boys have supposedly dis-proven a haunted house. Final scene is the brothers driving by the house in their van; Frank is giving logical common-sense explanations for all the haunted phenomena. Cue Joe looking towards the house just as they drive away, in time to see a ghostly figure walk out of the house...which disappears when Frank stops the van to look.
  • In one subplot of the Henry Danger/Game Shakers crossover, Piper asks her dad for a thousand dollars as she just got an e-mail from a prince saying whoever gives him that money can earn a million dollars. Jake naturally assumes this is a 419 Scam and refuses to give her the money, telling her if she wanted the money, she'd have to earn it herself. Piper begins doing various jobs and schemes while Jake continues to believe she's wasting her time. Later on, a news story reveals that the prince is real and the only person who was willing to send the money was Piper's archrival Jana, who's not only a millionaire now but is also dating the prince. Piper and Kris give Jake an ugly look as he answers with an "Oops?" expression.
  • Subverted in Heidi, bienvenida a casa. Mr. Sesemann leaves a cake out every year on his (dead) grandfather's birthday to be eaten by his ghost. At the end of the episode, Clara reveals that there is no ghost and she was eating the cake the whole time to make her father feel better. Then the birthday balloons all suddenly pop for no apparent reason, implying the ghost was real after all. However, the following episode reveals that it was just Diego, who was somehow popping them from offscreen.
  • Home Improvement:
    • Played for laughs in an episode, complete with The X-Files-parodying dream sequence. The episode starts out with Tim mocking Wilson for believing he'd been visited by aliens. The end implies that Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and several other NBA players are, in fact, aliens—with "bluish-gray" immigrant cards.
    • Wilson visited Mark as Santa Claus when he was told that Santa does not exist—or at least this was what Tim and Jill thought, as the REAL Wilson was revealed to be in his garden the whole time Santa was visiting.
  • In a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids episode, a leprechaun appears and starts doing several tricks, which Wayne explains off as things easily done with some chemicals and sleight of hand, much to Nick's regret because he really believed it was a leprechaun. Then a bunch of leprechauns appear for real. And these cannot be explained.
  • An episode of Hustle has the con artists tricking a corrupt tabloid publisher into believing that the Queen Mother was killed in World War II and an actress was hired to keep up public morale. It works and the team laughs at how the publisher could believe such a crazy story. However, the final shot of the episode shows what is quite clearly Queen Elizabeth II placing flowers on the grave of that "actress."
  • ICarly:
    • Sam's twin sister Melanie at the very end of "iTwins". Interestingly, it isn't until than that we finally see the two together onscreen, and she shows up right after a still disbelieving Freddie leaves after he forces Sam to admit she's not real. In a subversion, the audience knows Sam is telling the truth, but Freddie doesn't.
    • The beevecoon in "iBelieve in Bigfoot". Too bad nobody noticed it...
      • The ending implies Bigfoot might be real as well.
  • I Love Lucy: The four adults each separately decide to dress up as Santa to amuse Little Ricky. But when they gather together in the kitchen afterward, who is the FIFTH Santa? The one who vanishes into thin air?
  • JAG: In an episode, a father kidnaps his son while he has him for weekend visitation because he is convinced the boy is the reincarnation of his old war buddy and has to take him to their cabin one last time. The episode consists of Harm trying to find him and convince him to turn himself in while authorities are also chasing them. The episode ends with Harm sitting on the porch step with the father and son, and the boy turns to them with a smile and thumbs up while flashing briefly into the form of the father's friend. Both of them see it, though the kid doesn't seem to be aware.
  • An episode of Jonas revolved around the ghost of a volunteer fire fighter who swore he would return from the grave so that he could once again "volunteerily [sic] fight fires." He also loved chili and plaid socks. After the episode, we see Joe sitting in a chair narrating, like Kevin had been doing for most of the episode. The two start arguing about which has a better evil laugh, when they suddenly hear another evil laugh, and run. Turns out it was Nick, who was using a voice changer. He tells us there's no such thing as ghost, winks at us then leaves....and we hear the laugh again, and see a nearby bowl of chili get emptied after a voice says "oh, chili".
  • On Just Roll With It, Blair is convinced the new neighbors are actually aliens due to weird behavior. She puts them through some humiliating "tests" that drive them off as she accepts she was letting her imagination get away from her. Owen goes to apologize, only for the "Daughter" to speak in a weird voice that they had come to warn Earth of a coming threat but "you're all such jerks" and they vanish in a flash of light. Owen simply blinks and remarks that the heatwave must be getting to him.
  • C.J. Lamb on L.A. Law was representing a home owner who claimed his house was haunted. She got her assistant to make the lights in the house go out and on, freaking out the jury when they visited the house. When C.J. and her assistant are outside, the lights in the house start going on and off on their own, causing the two to run away themselves.
  • Lois & Clark: A Christmas episode sees Superman pull a Santa-suited Perry White around in a sleigh to distribute presents to children on Christmas Eve. Later, as Lois and Clark leave the Daily Planet, they hear sleigh bells and a jolly "Ho Ho Ho!" from high above, and Lois exasperatedly comments that Superman must still be dragging Perry around in the sleigh—unaware, of course, that Superman is actually standing right beside her...
  • The Lucky Luke Live-Action Adaptation had an episode about a fake ghost train that used the "helpful person was dead all along" variant.
  • MacGyver:
    • In "Ghost Ship", MacGyver reveals that the monster is just a man in a suit and a prerecorded monstrous roar. At the end, MacGyver and Pete hear the exact same roar from somewhere out in the wilderness while they're looking at the stereo that isn't currently playing the tape.
    • "The Visitor": After Mac exposes a couple of con artists claiming to be aliens to exploit a cancer patient and her husband, the oddball vacuum cleaner salesman that helped him suddenly disappears. He and the sheriff then see a UFO taking off...
  • In the Martin Halloween episode "The Night He Came Home," Martin's friends set up an elaborate haunting hoax based around a ghost story involving the former tenant of his apartment. Naturally, after the joke is played and he kicks them out, he begins to relax with Gina. The two become so wrapped up in each other, they just miss the real ghost lumbering across the room and shutting off the lights on his way out.
  • Matt Houston had the titular detective abducted by real aliens in an episode where he's investigating a (fake) claim of abduction covering up a murder. Of course, he doesn't remember, no one else sees it, and the abduction has no relevance to the rest of the plot at all.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In one episode, the villains organize a series of 'ghostly' appearances in order to try and drive their victim insane. Right at the end, after the hoax is revealed and all the characters have left the room, we see an empty rocking chair creaking back and forth...
    • "Talking to the Dead" ends with the body of Cyrus LeVanu (a purported psychic that may or may not be genuine) being discovered in the supposedly haunted Monks Barton woods. The medical examiner determines that the cause of death was parasympathetic rebound; which is a scientific way of saying someone literally died of fright.
    • Another starts off when Barnaby's wife thinks she ran over someone crossing a road next to an old asylum, but can't find the body. At the end of the episode, Barnaby himself does the same, but where the previous one was explained by the presence of a door near the road, the door here had been walled off...
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Monk where Sharona doesn't believe resident Butt-Monkey Randy has a model for a girlfriend, and that he only made it up. The clues are there: she thought it was a Line-of-Sight Name, her picture on Randy's wallet is actually an advert for the wallet, and when Captain Stottlemeyer once asked to meet her in person, Randy said that she was busy. The end of the episode reveals the girl to be very real, but none of the characters would still believe Randy. (since by the time Randy "introduces" them to her, she was already in a taxi leaving so it was a missed opportunity, too.)
  • Mrs. Brown's Boys has an episode where the parents of her grandson Bono want to know what Bono wished for when he wrote his letter to Santa, but Bono refuses to tell anyone, saying to Mrs Brown it is to prove whether Santa is real or not. Buster, in a rare moment of brilliance, suggests that they get someone to dress up as Santa and Bono can tell "Santa" what he wished for, and "Santa" can then tell everyone else. So two days before Christmas, while Bono is staying with Mrs Brown, they go downstairs to the living room and find Santa waiting for Bono, who says that something has happened to Bono's letter, which means he can't read it and so needs Bono to tell him what he wished for. Mrs Brown goes into the kitchen while Bono is talking to Santa, only for Buster to arrive with another man who is supposed to be playing Santa. Mrs Brown then walks back to the living room, where Bono is now looking out the window up at the sky, sleighbells can be heard ringing and Santa yells "Ho Ho Ho" offscreen.
  • The Munsters, "If a Martian Answers, Hang Up": while on his new HAM radio, Herman thinks he's contacted Martians. After getting Grandpa involved, finding what they think is a UFO, and being threatened by what he think is the Martian leader with the destruction of Earth, Herman learns what he heard was actually just a couple of kids playing spacemen, with the clencher being the Flying Saucer he photographed being marked "Made In Japan". At the end of the episode, when Herman hears someone else claiming to be a Martian, he tells them to lay off it. The audience then sees that this time, it was an actual Martian (With the alien costume having been originally seen in The Outer Limits).
    Martian: My, those Earth people are getting rude.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • In "The Curse Of Beaton Manor" Murdoch scolds George that voodoo is not real. It is revealed that Timothy Beaton used pufferfish poison (from Haitian voodoo) to induce a near-death state and thus 'come back' from the dead. At the end of the episode the final Beaton suffers a fatal heart-attack from being pierced by a Voodoo Doll.
    • The Holy Grail in "Murdoch and the Temple of Death" is strongly implied to be the real thing. The killer jumps off a 60-foot cliff thinking it will save him, despite Murdoch telling the man to stop, and as Murdoch looks down on the man's corpse, a thunderclap sounds (seemingly in daylight) and Murdoch reacts to it. Later, Dr. Iris Bajali steals it from the station house and flees with Murdoch in pursuit; he tells her it belongs to God, and when she shouts back, "There is no God," she is struck by lightning and dies. Later still, a museum staffer accidentally knocks it over and disposes of the clay outer layer, leaving a metal chalice standing on the shelf that appears bathed in a (heavenly?) shaft of light.
    • In "Murdoch and the Cursed Caves", after Murdoch has proved that the deaths were not caused by a native monster called a Headpiercer, the last scene features the actual Headpiercer.
  • My Hero: George is dismayed by the increasing discontent at Janet's Christmas Day party, so he asks all the guests what they'd like. Dr. Crispin is dismissive, but the others answer honestly. He flies out, bringing in a man in a Santa costume (who complains about being very tired)... but just as the guests mock his charade, the man gives them all exactly what they asked for. At the end, Janet wonders how the man got the requested items, and George answers, "I'm glad he decided to help. Normally he sleeps all day today."
  • Naomi (2022): In "Don't Believe Everything You Think" everyone in Port Oswego apparently thinks Superman is just a fictional comic book character. When he actually shows up in town, they think it was some sort of publicity stunt.
  • In the Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn episode "Quadbusters", Tom appears dressed as Sylvia the ghost to scare Jade, Zeus and Elijah. After this, the Quads and Tom were frightened by Anne, Mae and Miles, who get their revenge for the Quads blowing them off. Finally, the real ghost of Sylvia appears, causing the trio to run away in fear.
  • Night Court:
    • In the first season Christmas Episode "Santa Goes Downtown", a man that Harry Stone takes for a street corner Santa turns out to be the real thing.
    • Another Christmas Episode has Buddy handing out presents that were picked out by "his friend Nick". At the end he gives a present to the episode's antagonist, a man he'd never met before, and it turns out to be a specific yo-yo he had asked for as a child but never gotten. The cast is quick to be freaked out by it and wonder if "Nick" is Saint Nicolas a.k.a. Santa.
    • Played with in a Clip Show when an auditor from the state board comes to ask about the huge costs of rebuilding and various other expenses the court has racked up over the years. After hearing their tales (mass food poisoning, a hurricane, women giving birth, a clown taking people hostage), the auditor snaps that there is no way in hell he can believe that one courthouse is home to so many bizarre occurances and this is obvious fraud by the entire staff. At which point, a huge crash is heard and everyone runs in to find an elephant standing in the courtroom (which is on the eighth floor). Harry looks to the auditor, who holds up his hands and backs up, announcing "I believe everything you say."
    • In one episode, Bull gets a nasty electric shock which causes a Near-Death Experience (and a bad underwear rash). When he's revived, he claims he had a vision of God telling him to give all his possessions to the poor, and promptly does so before anyone can talk him out of it. But shortly thereafter, it's revealed through a series of convoluted events that what Bull actually heard wasn't God, but Art the handyman shouting to him. Distraught, Bull has a mild Rage Against the Heavens wondering why, if there was a God, he would play such a trick on him. Just then an insurance agent comes in and offers Bull a hefty check in return for signing a waiver preventing him from suing the city, which Bull happily accepts, then yells "Thank you!" at the sky. A few minutes later, Mac enters the now-empty courtroom, looks at his computer and sees the words "You're welcome and sorry about the underwear" typed on the screen.
  • On Nip/Tuck, Sean and Christian are met by an elderly man who wants them to remove a device from his body that he claims is alien technology so he can bring it for study. Before the surgery takes place, a pretty young blonde woman comes by, saying the man is her mentally addled father and the device is just a medical scanner. The man protests he doesn't know her ("my daughter is dark-haired and fat!") and the "doctors" with her are government agents. He's still screaming when he's led away. At the end of the night, the two talk on how sad it is to see someone losing their mind like that. At which point, an overweight brunette woman enters to ask if her father's surgery is done yet...
  • On Person of Interest, Shaw is put through a series of very realistic virtual simulations with Greer pushing her on to cut loose. Greer takes her out of the Samaritan base with Shaw sardonically noting how real this virtual version of New York is. Greer shows her a scientist in a lab, saying that this woman will create a drug that can mutate into a virus. By now sick of these games, Shaw enters the lab and simply shoots the scientist dead. Back at the base, Shaw hears a doctor note how her wounds aren't healing as a report on the news plays of the scientist's death. To her horror, Shaw realizes that was no simulation and she murdered an innocent woman.
  • In Psych episode "Dead Air", Shawn and Gus investigate the murder of a DJ. During their investigation, they are lead to a girl named Laurie, one of the DJ's frequent callers. Laurie then mentions she has a Stalker with a Crush named Bob who might've killed the DJ out of jealousy. Shawn begins to doubt the existence of Bob when the artist depiction shows he looks like a comic book villain. Also, when tracing Bob's call, they discover it's coming from Laurie's house, but Jules doesn't get a chance to see him before he sneaks up behind her and knocks her out. Then, when Shawn discovers that Laurie's on medication, he becomes convinced that "Bob" is actually a Split Personality that Laurie has, despite Laurie's claims that he's real. It's only at the climax when he is attacked by him does Gus find out that Bob really does exist.
  • Quantum Leap:
    • "A Portrait for Troian". Sam finds himself helping a young woman who seems to be haunted by the ghost of her late husband. The haunting turns out to be a hoax staged by her brother to drive her to suicide, but at least one member of the episode's supporting cast turns out to be an actual ghost.
    • Another was about a mummy's curse being faked. It ended with the mummy strangling the hoaxer.
    • Yet another episode involved a creepy castle with several characters, including the one Sam leaps into, believing themselves to be vampires. One of them gets zapped by lightning, after which Sam triumphantly takes off the dead guy's fake vampire teeth. Just before leaping, he looks into a metallic tray and doesn't see his own reflection. The previous episode ended with Dr. Ruth being replaced in the waiting room by a man with vampire fangs. It doesn't seem likely that fake teeth would be transported there.
    • There's also an episode where a Yeti helps rescue someone, they only see it at the very end.
    • In "It's a Wonderful Leap", Sam leaps into a cab driver named Max in 1958 who's due to be murdered. Sam is thrown by the arrival of Angelita, who claims to be an angel. Sam and Al naturally assume she 's a nutcase, especially given how she can see and hear Al (as mentally addled people can). In the end, Sam saves Max's life with Angelita telling him she has to leave and once she does, everyone in this time will forget she was ever here. She stuns him and Al by calling "Max" Sam and "who do you think I was sent here to help?" She goes as Al asks if Sam is going to follow her. "Follow who?" Sam asks and a stunned Al realizes Sam has absolutely no idea who Angelita is.
  • Raven's Home has the episode "The Baxtercism of Levi Grayson" where Levi dresses up as the ghost girl to scare off a classmate into believing that the apartment is haunted, turns out it was all just a prank. But when they leave, the ghost girl appears.
  • This was always the ultimate joke in the "Penelope" sketches on Saturday Night Live. Kristen Wiig plays the titular character, a passive-aggressive young woman who constantly one-ups everyone around her: if someone is going through a divorce, then she just divorced her husband in the hallway; if someone claims to be the inspiration for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, then she's actually aging in reverse right now. The sketches would end with Penelope making a truly outlandish claim, such as an ability to shrink or being best friends with Liza Minnelli and a tomato, and everyone getting so angry that they storm away. After they left, that final claim would come true (Penelope shrinking down as she took a phone call, or Liza herself—carrying the tomato—bursting through the door and declaring that she wanted to have a girls' night out). It's unclear if all of Penelope's crazy stories were real, though.
  • This trope occasionally appeared on Seinfeld.
    • The plot of "The Library" centers on a copy of Tropic of Cancer that Jerry apparently never returned in high school; in a subplot, George discovers that an unstable homeless man on the New York Public Library steps is his and Jerry's old gym teacher Mr. Hayman. George and Jerry are never able to find the missing Tropic of Cancer, but as the episode ends, we cut to Mr. Hayman muttering to himself in an alley, with the weather-beaten book at his side.
    • The subplot of "The Bizarro Jerry" focuses on George gaining access to an exclusive secret club for models and other wealthy, attractive people by using a picture of Jerry's current girlfriend. When the picture burns up, he tries to use a generic photo from a magazine as his entry pass—but the model from the photo is a member and immediately exposes him as a fraud. As he's kicked out, he drops the photo. When George brings Jerry to the club's location, they find a meatpacking plant instead, with absolutely no trace that the business ever existed...but as they leave, the camera pans down to the sawdust-covered floor, with the magazine picture still sitting there.
  • In the Smallville episode "Lexmas", Clark uses his Super Speed to deliver presents to the children of Metropolis. Along the way, he meets a drunk man in a Santa suit and saves him when he falls off a roof. After a talk where Clark reveals he sacrificed his original plans for the day to deliver the presents, the man decides that the Christmas spirit isn't dead after all and departs. Later, the man comes to Chloe, who's looking after the last of the gifts until Clark gets to them, and says he will deliver them to pay Clark back for saving him. After Chloe gives him the last children's addresses, the man pulls a Stealth Hi/Bye, taking the huge pile of gifts (big enough to fill the room and reach the ceiling) with him.
  • At the end of the fifth season of Stargate SG-1, a "malfunction in the ventilation systems" is implied to be Daniel Jackson looking after his old team.
  • Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye:
    • The gang's quirky informant Howie shows up in Sue's home, claiming someone is trying to kill him. Given Howie's...eccentric...attitude, they think this is one of his wild games until they realize he really did witness a mob hit.
    • In "The Girl Who Signed Wolf," a young deaf girl claims she saw a kidnapping but her mother insists she has a very active imagination. At first thinking that, Sue still presses and realizes the girl did see a real kidnapping.
    • The same episode has Myles told an author is coming to interview him for a book on the FBI. Myles assumes this is one of the team's practical jokes so, when the interviewer comes around, amps up his usual arrogant persona to insult and berate her as a fool ("I am Einstein with a gun!") and celebrates not falling for the "joke." It takes being hauled before his very angry supervisor for Myles to realize his huge mistake.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody revolved around a haunted hotel room. They decide to spend the night in it, and weird stuff, including everyone but Zack disappearing, starts happening. Turns out it was all a prank to get back at Zack for the pranks he pulls. Later Zack and Cody go back to get Cody's blanket, and a woman (whose portrait is in the room) walks up to them and hands them the blanket. After they thank her, she walks into the portrait. The episode ends with Zack and Cody running and screaming. Interestingly, the portrait did come to life and speak to Zack while the prank was going on (she even said "they're out to get you", in retrospect a warning that it was a prank by his friends), but Zack never brings this up while they're explaining the hoax to him.
  • In an episode of Taggart the team are investigating a series of murders centering round an alleged medium. The medium claims to DCI Jardine that he is receiving messages for him from the late Jim Taggart and backs this claim up with a number of facts only someone who knew Taggart could know. Later on Jardine discovers that Taggart actually investigated a crime involving the medium. When confronted with this, the medium agrees but says that in fact he never met Taggart himself.
  • In Tales from the Darkside episode "Seasons of Belief," parents at a snowy cottage tell their kids of "the Grither," a twisted monster who comes closer whenever anyone says their name. They even sing a song about it with the kids, of course, playing along with what they assume is a joke. They get a scare from their dad dressed in the costume and laugh it off. Cue a pair of monstrous hands bursting through the windows to snap the necks of the mother and grandfather before the children's eyes and then vanish into the night.
    Father: What the hell was that?!
    Daughter: It was the—-
    Son: No, don't say his name!
  • On the Tales of the Gold Monkey episode "Legends Are Forever,' Jake meets his old friend Grandy Dancer, an Adventurer Archaeologist who has a bad case of Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality. He truly believes James Hilton visited Shangri-Li and that H. Rider Haggard really did find King Solomon's Mines. He pulls Jake into an adventure to find the vast treasure he's convinced is kept by the humble Watusi tribe. The pair get into a wild fight with Gandy poisoned and moaning he's wasted his life and abandoned his daughter for a futile quest for treasure. Having tracked the clues to find an empty cavern, Jake tells the dying Gandy he saw a vast chamber of riches so his friend can die happy. Back in civilization, Jake tells friend Corky that he feels bad accepting a small bag from the Watusi for Gandy's daughter as those people can barely afford anything...and then opens it to show a pile of uncut diamonds worth a fortune.
    Corky: don't think...
    (Jake just gives a slow shake of wonder)
  • A non-supernatural example from That's So Raven. Raven has a vision that the high school's new janitor is "undercover", and guesses that he's actually a scout from Undercover Superstar, a Show Within a Show that uses spies to discover talented teens. This leads to all of the main characters performing elaborate production numbers for the janitor...who turns out to be "undercover" in the sense that he's secretly searching the school for insects. After the truth comes out, another janitor approaches Raven and asks if anyone in the school is interested in music. Raven, who's sick of the whole idea by now, leaves... and misses the janitor removing "his" disguise and revealing herself to be Paula Abdul, who's working for "Undercover Superstar".
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • In "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street", a town goes into a panic when they come to believe that aliens have landed nearby and that someone on their street might be helping them. It turns out to be mass hysteria— induced by the actual aliens, who want to turn the humans against each other by having them chase imaginary aliens. Tricky.
    • In "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet", a man who spent six months in an asylum is on a flight back home when he sees a strange creature on the wing of the plane. He becomes especially distressed when it begins tearing at the plane's engines, but every time he tries to tell someone, the creature disappears. After he steals a police officer's gun and opens the emergency exit to kill it, it gets him sent back to the asylum. However, as he's being carted off, the camera pans to reveal the damage the creature did to the wing.
    • In "Mr. Garrity and the Graves," the titular Garrity is a traveling medicine man in the Old West who claims to be able to resurrect the dead. He is a charlatan who counts on everyone deciding they'd rather let the dead stay buried and paying him a premium to do it. Naturally, his phony rituals and incantations end up being more effective than he thought...
  • One episode of Two and a Half Men has Charlie experimenting with marijuana. He ends up having hallucinations of his ex-girlfriends (and ZZ Top). After he makes a date with Rose, it's revealed she is the only one who's real.
  • Most of the season 3 premiere of Under the Dome takes place in an artificial reality. Christine and Eva appear to be manifestations of that reality, but it turns out that although everything else about them is a lie, they are in fact real.
  • In Veronica Mars it is clear that our titular heroine's dreams and conversations with her dead friend Lilly are happening in her head, and after Lilly's murder is solved they stop. However the second season episode 'Normal is the Watchword' has Lilly briefly appear and save Veronica's live by distracting her at a key moment—the implication being that her (Lilly's) ghost intervened directly.
  • Victorious: Cat's date Tug in "Prom Wrecker", though it isn't until a disbelieving Robbie bails on her that he actually shows up.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger season 3 episode "Case Closed" was about an alleged government cover-up of an UFO several decades ago. A few unreliable accounts and an unfruitful search lead to nothing more than an empty chamber where it seemed the government had created a living environment for this so-called alien, which is empty. The episode then rolls into the average fight scene at the climax of the story like all others, and has a fairly mellow ending... until an old tape is found that was supposed to be destroyed by the government, and it shows evidence of a real alien being discovered, though only a hand to maintain some realism and avoid dipping into science fiction.
  • There's a non-supernatural variation in Weeds. Shane claims he saw a mountain lion and shot it with a BB gun, but when Nancy finds out the neighbor's cat has disappeared, she finds the timing suspicious and thinks Shane's imagination has got the better of him. Shane insists he knows the difference between a mountain lion and a cat, but Nancy is unconvinced. Then at the end of the episode, she steps outside and finds herself face to face with a very real mountain lion.
  • A Halloween Episode of Wishbone had an appropriately mild example. Joe is scared of a Haunted House because when he was a kid, he saw a pair of glowing eyes that left him scared since. Those same eyes are glimpsed stalking the main characters throughout the episode. At the end, they turned out to belong to a stray cat, leading Joe to believe that it was just a cat he saw all those years ago, ending his fear. However, after the kids leave, another pair of eyes appeared, just for us. Still cat-sized, though. (Oh my God, another cat).
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: In "Altared States", Xena and Gabrielle go to a monotheistic kingdom and find that King Anteus has ordered his son Ikus to be sacrificed because God told him to. Xena and Gabrielle find the idea of the One God silly because they know and have met the Olympian Gods, but protect Ikus and investigate. They find out Anteus' other son, Mael, jealous of his brother, drugged his father and used a megaphone to fake God's voice and order the sacrifice. As Anteus captures Ikus and steels himself to do the sacrifice, Xena battles Mael while Gabrielle tries to reach the megaphone to imitate God and call it off. Just in time, God's voice tells Anteus not to kill his son and his faith is enough. As Xena defeats Mael, she congratulates Gabrielle on imitating the voice, but she says she was still trying to retrieve the megaphone. The two become scared and look up.
  • The X-Files, "Quagmire". Mulder and Scully investigate a lake where a Nessie-like monster is rumored to exist. After narrowly surviving an encounter with and killing the "monster", they discover that it was a giant alligator all along. Moments after they leave to report a false lead to Skinner, the real monster mockingly pops up from the lake.

  • Kids Praise: The series' only villain is a con-artist called Risky Rat. He first appears in a dream where he offers Charity Churchmouse a contract allegedly to make her a star, but that actually makes her a slave, but then later he appears as a real character outside of anyone's dream. No one really comments on the fact that he first appeared in a dream, though.

  • In the Hamish and Dougal episode "The Monster in the Loch", everyone in the Glen knows that the titular monster is just a log that brings in gullible tourists. When Hamish and Dougal accidentally burn the log, the Laird replaces it with another one, only to see his log get eaten by a loch monster. He's so angry, he shoots it.
  • Spoofed in I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, when Tim has been telling the others a ghost story, and towards the end exaggerates it severely to give them a fright. After they've all left, fed up, Tim finishes the story, chuckling slightly...only for the lights to turn off as he's confronted with an ethereal voice. After he's run off, this exchange occurs:
    Bill: Hah-hah! Ah, you certainly frightened him off with that spooky voice, David.
    David: It wasn't me, it was Graeme.
    Graeme: I thought it was Bill.
    Bill: ...No, it wasn't me.
    Jo: Or me.
    David: ...Well, if it wasn't any of must have been... [dramatic music] ...somebody else!

  • This happens in some versions of Ruby Moon. Two actors play all the characters throughout, then it's gradually revealed they are doing this in-universe, and are (at least partially) aware of it; the script implies their missing daughter never existed in the first place, and the dolls of her simply made them convince themselves she was real. Lights down, curtain... and then she is heard singing her ditty one last time.
  • The play The Woman in Black plays with this. The premise of the play is that two men are acting out the events, aware that they are doing so (but unaware of the audience). In fact, there are three actors, one of whom plays the Woman in Black herself. Both 'actors' believe the other to have hired her as a surprise for the other, until the end. The pretense extends as far as not crediting the Woman in Black in the programme.

    Video Games 
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, there's the Stillwater Giant. One main quest involving you tracking this thing down to get it to a person who can mark your next destination. It's normally hide in form of a blue rabbit, but when you captured one that's marked and sent for examination, it turns out to be a fake, but the guy still gives you the location to Qintarra. After finishing the quest and leaving the town, you will be pulled into an encounter with...a blue rabbit. Attacking it and it turns into the Stillwater Giant. It looks very much like the fake Stillwater Giant skin that the player can steal or purchase from a museum display.
  • In Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, Morgane, on learning that Dinsdale thinks he's seen a ghost, successfully tricks him and his brother with a fake Bedsheet Ghost. However, she then finds out that Dinsdale's original ghost wasn't his imagination.
  • Mobile game Chimera Recollect sets up a Bonus Dungeon called "Dream World" right at the beginning of the game you can visit for extra items, a grim world that mirrors reality but is devoid of NPCs and filled with powerful enemies. It's later revealed that the world you've been exploring the whole game is an alternative reality wished into existence by a dying mother for her daughter, and the game ends with said daughter being returned to the real world... which then takes a hard turn for the worse at the postgame as trying to visit the "Dream World" changes the usual prompt of "Enter the Dream World?" to "Do you want to wake up?".
  • Deadly Premonition does it twice.
    • At first, it's unclear whether York/Zach is just a split personality who hallucinates the otherworld while using more mundane investigation methods. However, one quest has York find clues in the real world ( a basket of evidence thrown in a river that he fishes out by going to a precise spot) with zero mundane evidence.
    • Then, in the second game, Zach's fairy opens his handcuffs, and in the climax York manifests as a physical, separate being from Zach, able to interact with Patricia and seemingly-magically cure Zach's cancer.
  • A Wings of The Goddess quest in Final Fantasy XI has you investigate a soldier's father and whereabouts. In the end, you find out someone you meet in the quest wasn't really alive. Turns out to be that Galka who helped you relay that message to the soldier about his father. At the end, though, it all seems to be a hoax, but then again, who, or what was talking to one of the soldiers in on it at the end?
  • Five Nights at Freddy's 3: The Phantom Animatronics are the player's hallucinations from the terrible and oft-malfunctioning ventilation, with the real animatronics being long gone (Springtrap is quite real, but he's another story). There's only two inconsistencies: Phantom Mangle, who unlike the others does not crash the ventilation, and the Puppet. You trigger the Phantom Puppet by viewing this image on Cam #08. Look closely at the floor tiles and ask yourself the following: Since when do hallucinations have reflections?
  • The whole plot of Odin Sphere: essentially, all events in the game are a collection of overarching storybooks read by a girl named Alice in the attic of her house. If players manage to unlock the path leading to the best ending of the game, Alice states how tragic the story ended until she notices one of the book's cover ornament resembling a Valentine coin. She takes it off and prays that the Pooka will find the coin, but reminds herself that it's just a story. Upon leaving the attic, a portal opens up and two Pooka come out to retrieve the coin, implied to be the last Valentine coin they are looking for that will undo the curse of the Pooka transformation, and leave a final book in its place. This indicates the current world is actually The Future set sometime after the events of Armageddon, which the last book details.
  • In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, time travel turns out to be real. "Celeste" is actually a time-displaced Claire, who was sent forward in time moments before the accident that claimed her life. The nature of the time travel means she gets forced back to the time and place she was sent from at some point.
  • In the horror adventure game Scratches: Was everything that happened to James Blackwood the product of a curse? Or was it simply a misfortune that Blackwood in madness blamed to a cursed mask? If the curse was not real, then how to explain the first dream? The coda on the alternate ending describes a rational explanation for everything, however it mentions at the end that there is still something that doesn't fit while panning to the cursed mask.
  • Yakuza 0: Majima finds some Bathroom Stall Graffiti that appears to have been written by a lonely young woman, and writes a reply. The two have a conversation through their graffiti until the woman asks to meet him in person, signing her name as Rina and saying she'll be wearing a rose in her lapel so that Majima can recognize her. Majima arrives at the appointed location only to be jumped by a gang of thugs who mock him for falling for such an obvious trick and try to rob him. After he beats the crap out of them, Majima berates himself for being stupid enough to believe a woman named Rina actually wrote the graffiti he found in the men's bathroom. The thugs ask him what the hell he's talking about, since they didn't write any bathroom graffiti, they were using the bulletin board at the train station and used the name Mayuri. Either way, Majima is fed up with the whole ordeal and storms off... right past a young woman wearing a rose in her lapel who soon after decides that her mystery man isn't going to show up.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • Mass Effect. In the first game, the Reapers were considered Saren's fiction by the Council; In the second part they look more like a fringe conspiracy theory (like UFO conspiracy theories in real life). Then, in the beginning of Mass Effect 3 the Reapers literally fall around everyone's head. Also the Leviathans. They appeared in ME1 as characters of a small spy story, that can be read on info screen of a distant planet, but in ME3 they appear to be real and moreover - they created the Reapers aeons ago.
  • Mass Effect 2 specifically. During Samara recruitment mission in ME2 you can encounter a young Asari mercenary named Elnora actually, she committed the murder, that started all the trouble around, but Shepard doesn't know it yet. She tells nothing useful, but shares her horror: the Ardat-Yakshi, who were used to scare her in her childhood, DO really exist. She saw Morinth while taking part in sending her offworld from Illium.
  • Disco Elysium has Morrell the Cryptozoologist looking for the Insulindian Phasmid, a rare insect, that his wife saw as a child. Due to his poor health, he asks the Detective and Liutenant Kim to check and adjust the traps he scattered around the area multiple times. Practically, all this does is give the player more chances to attempt the "We've searched everywhere" skill check for finding their missing suspect, and unlock a substory about Morrel's wife, Lena, not being sure she didn't invent the whole encounter to appeal to him. However, using the stinky pheromone that Morrell provides will make the Phasmid appear days later by the ruined army base, and show it was far too large to fit inside Morrell's traps. Kim even takes a photograph if you can pass the check to avoid scaring it off.
  • Played for Laughs in Metal Gear Solid if you hide under the cardboard box and then contact Meryl. She'll be left in sheer disbelief as she assumed her uncle was joking when he talked about covert agents using cardboard boxes to slip past guards... and promptly hang up on you.
    Meryl: A cardboard box? I heard stories from my uncle, but I always though he was pulling my leg...I...I've got no comment.

  • Fate/type Redline: Kanata Akagi reads a light novel that claims the explosion that devastated his hometown 75 years ago was caused by a series of battles between supernatural beings. Akagi somewhat appreciates the story, but dismisses it as just a story. Akagi then somehow gets sent 75 years into the past and is shocked to find events reflecting the light novel happening when he gets caught up in a Holy Grail War.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: A storyline in the "Steve and Terry" theme had Steve discovering that the monster in Loch Ness was actually Lovecraft's Cthulhu; after they leave, the story ends with a shot of a reptilian head emerging from the loch (and a Lampshade Hanging narration). A parody example, since the "it's not really a plesiosaur" explanation is actually considerably weirder than the standard Nessie.
  • At the end of the "Big Haunted Battleship" storyline of Schlock Mercenary, it's pointed out by several characters that the "rational" explanation of the ghostly voices on the PDCL is so contrived that it's more rational just to accept it was haunted. This isn't a throwaway gag, either; Petey's inability either to accept or to deny the existence of ghosts is responsible for both his introduction and the PDCL's eventual destruction.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: The story "Bees" seems like paranoid ramblings of a man being driven insane by a diary, but the end reveals the whole thing was real and is recorded by the Foundation.
  • This happens every now and then in stories from the Slender Man Mythos. Usually in the middle of it, as demonstrated in Seeking Truth/The Mystic.
    • The three guys behind Everyman HYBRID thought they'd get in on the Slender Man craze and make a series of their own. They did a really bad job of it. So bad, in fact, that the real one felt the need to drop by and show them how it's done.
  • A video by Smosh titled "Bigfoot Is Gay" has the two main characters looking for Bigfoot after they are shown a video on the news showing footage of him. They are captured by someone who has captured Bigfoot but it turns out to be someone in a costume and it is stated they made up the video shown on the news. Shortly after that, a real Bigfoot comes by.

    Western Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series:
    • In the episode "Goose Pimples", Lt. Pug scares the pups with a story about a monster named Lockjaw. Throughout the episode, some characters believe that Lockjaw may be in the woods, while others think there's a rational explanation. In the end, what they thought was Lockjaw was just Captain the horse going around the woods trying to give the pups a hay ride. Although in the very last scene, it turns out that Lockjaw was real, and Cadpig is seen trying to mediate a conflict between him and Pug. Apparently Lockjaw didn't like all the mean stories Pug was spreading about him.
    • In the episode "Invasion of the Doggy Snatchers", Spot believes that her friends have been replaced by aliens. Though that turns out to not be the case, one of the chickens that Spot befriends in the episode does turn out to be an alien.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: One episode had the ¡Three Amigos! trapped in a severely haunted house, the rub being that while monsters exist, ghosts do not (this is repeatedly stated by Hermione Oblina). It turned out that the house was the bunker/battle ground for a soldier monster who caused all of the strange happenings—except one. All four monsters quickly leave, and the house resumes all of its disturbing behavior.
  • The Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Animated Adaptation, episode about "G.C." used the "helpful person was dead all along" variant.
  • The Addams Family (1992) had an episode called "Puttergeist", which revolved around the legend of a golfer ghost with a giant golf ball for a head appearing every Halloween. It initially turns out that the Puttergeist is nothing more than a publicity stunt performed by the Normanmeyer family for generations, but the very end of the episode shows that the Puttergeist actually exists.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius:
    • Subverted multiple times before being played straight in "Phantom of Retroville": The tale of a ghost at an amusement park is told, and Jimmy, being Jimmy, decides to disprove it. The first phantom encountered throughout the episode turns out to be Nick in a costume. Then another phantom shows up, but is quickly revealed to be Cindy and Libby, also in costume. Then another phantom shows up, this one having a sinister glow, and succeeds in scaring the kids into running away, but turns out to be Judy Neutron in a more elaborate costume, with the goal of scaring the kids for sneaking out at night in mind. Then, while she and Hugh have an argument about pie, a fourth phantom rises out of the ground, this one translucent and glowing purple, scaring the two away.
    • Being a person of logic and science, Jimmy Neutron didn't believe in Santa Claus (it didn't help that he didn't get the present he wanted two years prior), but soon learns that there are some things that can't be proven with facts (except how the present he wanted needed five years before it was finally ready, and he feels silly for not realizing the process).
  • Adventure Time:
    • In the episode "The Creeps", all the characters are seemingly killed one by one by an evil ghost. It is finally revealed that the whole thing was a practical joke organised by Jake that all the others helped with... and then Jake denies being responsible for the ghost sighting and poltergeist activity experienced by Finn after he thought that he was the sole survivor. A later episode returns to this and explains the nature and origins of the real ghost in detail.
    • The episode "Fionna and Cake and Fionna" double-subverts this. Ice King's Gender-Bent Alternate Universe character Fionna apparently turns out to be real when she arrives to visit him and has a video tape of one of her adventures as "proof". However, it turns out she was actually a rabbit woman who learned about Fionna and Cake when she caught some radio waves transmitting one of their adventures on her television, and she was scamming Ice King to try and find more "tapes" of Fionna and Cake, whom she believes must be from some old tv show. But then when Ice King goes to sleep that night, a strange red light starts beaming Fionna and Cake's adventures into his head, implying both his brain and the rabbit woman's television actually caught inter-dimensional images of the real Fionna and Cake's adventures.
  • In the The Amazing World of Gumball episode "Christmas", Richard accidentally runs over a homeless man who he (and the children) believe to be Santa, who turns out to be the real thing.
  • In the American Dad! episode "The Two Hundred", the eponymous Two Hundred was revealed midway through the episode to be just Roger, who admits he made them up and pretended to be the Two Hundred to scare people and collect the things they dropped, having amassed a large spoon collection by doing this. Towards the end of the episode, however, as the reunited Smith family are pitted against a mob of survivors, they are all suddenly attacked by the real Two Hundred, who turn out to be a large group of Roger's many personas. Roger himself initially doesn't believe this until he remembers he walked into a hadron collider demonstration, creating the Two Hundred and thus being responsible for The End of the World as We Know It.
  • One episode of Angela Anaconda has the entire class teasing Angela about being in love with "Bob": a fictional kid on a flash card after she created the sentence "I love Bob and hot chocolate" with them. The episode ends with a kid who looks and dresses identically being transferred into the class, who is actually named Bob. He even becomes a background character from then on and even dons the "Bob" t-shirt from the flash card!
  • In The Angry Beavers episode "Omega Beaver", Daggett becomes convinced of the existence of the Howler Leeches from a conspiracy comic book, eventually being attacked by a group. After it's revealed that the leeches were actually Norbert and their friends playing a trick on Daggett (following him siccing a vicious leech-killing dog on them), it's revealed to the viewers that the leeches are real. Thankfully, they appear to be rather benign and instead leave with the frozen dog (who then proceeds to maul them in their spaceship as they leave Earth).
  • Arthur:
    • In "D.W.'s Snow Mystery", it's revealed that aliens really did take the snowball D.W. was hiding in the freezer.
    • In "The Fright Stuff", the girl in a ghost costume who played a prank on Binky and George turns out to be a real ghost.
    • In a variant, Arthur and Buster have become convinced that there are dangerous exotic animals loose all over their town and a conspiracy is covering this up, partly by news stories about missing dogs, and a "tiger hunter" they see with a trap in a park. It turns out the whole thing was a social experiment by Brain - except that he had nothing to do with the "tiger hunter", who was a crazy person abducting people's dogs. At the end of the episode, he's arrested and the dogs are returned to their owners.
  • In the Season 3 episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender titled 'The Painted Lady', the heroes encounter a small fishing village that is dying out because of pollution caused by the Fire Nation. Shenanigans occur while Katara masquerades as the Painted Lady, the patron spirit of the river and the village, and saves the day despite her ploy coming to light. Valuable lessons are learned regarding honesty and hard work, and it appears that the Painted Lady exists only in the hearts and imaginations of the village. The end! Oh, except for the part where after all this, right before they leave, the REAL Painted Lady appears to Katara to thank her for all that she's done.
  • In "The Wisdom Toad" from Babar and the Adventures of Badou, there's supposedly a toad called the Wisdom Toad that supposedly knows the right answer to everything. However, it turns out that says "Yep" every time a question is posed of it. When Crocodylus tries to use it to trick the crocodiles into making him leader, Badou discovers a whole pond of these toads and finds that some of them say "Yep" and some "Nope." He therefore pulls a swap, swapping the supposed "Wisdom Toad" for one of the ones that says "Nope," so that when Crocodylus asks it if he should be leader, this is what it says. Afterwards, he shows the pond of frogs to the true crocodile leader and everyone present agrees that it was never a good idea to let a toad choose the leader. Everyone clears out except for Badou and Babar, and Badou asks Babar if he thinks it's possible that there could be a real Wisdom Toad. A voice calls out from the pond: "Maybe."
  • In the episode "Grundy's Night" of The Batman, after Solomon Grundy is revealed to be Clayface in disguise, a real zombie hand reaches out of the swamp. Ooooh...
  • Captain Pugwash once came up with the brilliant idea of using a fake sea serpent to scare the crews of other ships into running for the lifeboats so that he and his crew could rob them blind. (The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, the crew of the Black Pig most assuredly were not!) Just after the grand scheme had gone hilariously pear-shaped in a way that Tom the cabin-boy couldn't get his boss out of, a real sea monster showed up and succeeded where the fake had failed.
  • Code Lyoko has "Is Anybody Out There?" After the "ghost" is revealed to be a monster created by XANA, the episode ends with Sissi trying to summon the ghost after a Return to the Past. Sissi and her friends are scared off by a spooky voice, but it turns out to be Odd and Ulric playing a joke. But then they leave and we see the boiler door shut and hear a ghostly moan...
  • Celebrity Deathmatch has "The Prophecy". Stacy finds what she believes is a prophecy foretelling that one of the Deathmatch staff dies tonight. Throughout the episode it looks at several points like one of them will bite it (Nick gets shocked by a faulty microphone, Stone Cold gets run over by a moose, Mills Lane almost spontaneously combusts, and finally a plane crashes into Johnny), but they all survive. At the end, Stacy admits that she made a mistake. Then she explodes, killing her.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Courage Under the Volcano", Courage has to save Muriel from being sacrificed by the natives to a volcano god. For most of the episode, we are given the impression that the volcano god isn't real and that the natives are just being superstitious. After the natives' leader Chief Wiki Wiki points out that Courage proved there is no volcano god, the volcano god proves that he actually does exist and in the process reveals to the natives that a man named Otto is trying to force them off the island in order to turn the place into a ski resort.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "Quackpack!", Donald Duck accidentally traps the main cast in a stereotypical 90s sitcom set after making a wish for a "normal family" that was overheard by a genie that had been trapped in the lamp since 1990. Donald at first refuses to wish everything back to normal until Goofy, who had suddenly appeared as a result of his wish, has a heart-to-heart with Donald, convincing him to undo the wish and poofing everyone back where they started. To everyone's surprise, Goofy is still there with them, as the genie didn't create him, but instead teleported him to their location because (in his own words), "magic has nothing over the power of a big-name guest star".
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: After ten long years of flirting with the idea that Plank may be more than just an ordinary piece of wood, Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show wraps up the mystery by confirming that Plank is indeed sapient and capable of moving around and interacting with his environment independently of Jonny (Plank ends up driving a bus around town).
  • The Emperor's New School: Yzma used fake aliens in a failed attempt to become Empress and she constantly told Kronk aliens didn't exist. In the end, Kronk met real aliens but didn't believe it.
  • Family Guy episode "The Fat Guy Strangler" featured a particularly crude version of this. Lois discovers that she has a younger brother named Patrick who's been in an asylum for decades. She brings him home and he seems fairly well-adjusted...except for the fact that he has an Imaginary Wife. Brian and Stewie have a field day with this, taking a cucumber and placing it on the couch (supposedly where the "wife" is sitting), joking that they're putting it inside "her" vagina to pickle. Later in the episode, Lois is looking for Patrick when she notices something and calls out "Who left this pickle on the couch?" Stewie and Brian hear her and express utter delight.
  • In Fairly OddParents episode "Crocker of Gold", Cosmo kept spouting about a being called the Great Potato. Towards the climax of the episode where Timmy and the fairies were in danger of being boiled by angry leprechauns, Cosmo claimed that the Great Potato would save them, to which Wanda snapped at him and told him there was no such thing as the Great Potato. At that moment, the Great Potato shows up to save them, much to Wanda and Timmy's shock.
  • When Barney Rubble sees a sea serpent in the The Flintstones, his response is to tell Fred "I was reading this article where this scientist says there's absolutely no proof for the existence of sea monsters". Fred says so what and Barney delivers a punch line of "So I wonder if that sea monster believes in scientists".
  • At the end of Fun and Fancy Free, Mortimer Snerd is crying over Willie the Giant's Disney Villain Death. Edgar Bergen assures him that Willie didn't die because Willie wasn't real to begin with, that he was just a figment of Snerd's imagination. Then Willie lifts the roof of the house to peek in! Bergen faints dead away.
    Willie: What got into him?
    Mortimer: Oh, uh, just a fig-a-ma-tation of his imagination.
    Willie: No!
  • The Funky Phantom:
    • At the end of the episode the "ghost" was usually shown to be a fake a la Scooby-Doo, but in a couple of episodes one of the guest characters turned out to be a real ghost.
    • An episode had a real Bigfoot running around in addition to the fraud.
  • In one episode of Futurama, while searching for Nibbler in the sewers, the Planet Express crew discovers a tribe of mutants defending themselves from "El Chupanibre", a creature that has been stealing their crocodiles. Knowing that Nibbler likes to eat crocodiles, the crew thinks that he's the one the mutants are referring to and offer to help catch him. Upon finding Nibbler, Bender presents the mutants their "El Chupanibre"...only for the mutants to tell him that El Chupanibre is actually the giant monster standing right behind him.
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • In "Unidentified Flying Orson", Roy pranks Orson with a fake alien invasion. Real aliens show up at the end.
    • "Barn of Fear" had the gang frightened in a barn by "ghosts" that turn out to be Orson's brothers trying to scare them off so they can steal the harvest. Then the brothers are attacked and driven out of the barn by floating objects. Orson dismisses the event as an earthquake, but after they all leave it is shown to be the spirits of departed farmers haunting the barn.
    • In "Heatwave Holiday," Garfield, Jon, and Odie deal with the titular heatwave by setting up a Christmas display in the middle of July. Soon, everyone in town follows suit, and the group even exchanges presents—right before a news announcement reminds everyone that it's still, you know, July. That night, as Garfield sleeps, we hear sleigh bells; the fat cat wakes up and goes into the next room, where he speaks to someone just offscreen: "Oh, it's, it's not Christmas. Sorry." Garfield goes back to bed and comments "You'd think of all people, he would know better"—and a loud "HO HO HO!" is heard outside the house.
  • The Garfield Show:
    • The special "Long Lost Lyman" revealed that the reason Jon's friend Lyman hasn't been seen in years was because he went missing searching for a cryptid known as the Zabadu. When Jon eventually reunites with his old friend, it at first appears that the Zabadu isn't real and was only a disguise used by Lyman and his predecessor to defend endangered wildlife by scaring away poachers. At the end of the special, the Zabadu turns out to actually exist when the creature shows up to scare off the special's villain Dirk Dinkum.
    • The episode "The Very, Very Long Night" has Garfield, Odie, Drusilla and Minerva scared from watching a horror film about a monster known as the Creature with Tentacles. After they and Jon go to bed, the episode ends with the monster turning out to be real.
  • Goober and the Ghost Chasers often featured the real ghost helping the gang against the fake ghost (sometimes the fake ghost is also pretending to be the real ghost).
  • In Gravity Falls, this trope would appear a lot since it's a show about kids who look for supernatural weird stuff in a creepy town, but they usually find out it's real in the middle of the episode. The only exception is in the episode "The Legend of the Gobblewonker", where the titular sea serpent was revealed to be an automaton made by Old Man McGucket. But at the end, the last disposable camera Dipper got to photograph the monster sinks to the bottom of the lake, passing a large sea serpent swimming around, making whale noises... Later in "Society of the Blind Eye", a recording shows McGucket freaking out about a monster he saw in the lake, implying he saw the real Gobblewonker and designed his robot after it.
  • Growing Up Creepie, despite its short run pulled this often:
    • In one episode, a "haunted" theater is revealed to have just had a termite infestation—except for the part where the termites are eventually revealed to actually be ghosts.
    • In another episode, after Creepie and friends fail to find Bugfoot, the camera zooms out to show that the wilderness they're in is actually located on said giant arthropod's back.
    • "Legend of the Locker" has Creepie hearing from Josh about the legend of a girl named Gina Red-Shoes, who was locked in the equipment room just for losing a game of baseball. Creepie goes to investigate it, only to find Josh behind it. To get revenge, she got a bunch of fireflies to go into the red shoes to scare him away, while a cicada make ghostly sounds. Creepie then goes about her business, only for Gina's ghost to spawn as soon as she leaves the scene.
    • "Children of the Pumpkin Patch" has Creepie and friends going to a pumpkin patch, worried about the scarecrow nearby that reminds them of an antagonist from a horror flick. The scarecrow indeed appears to be haunted, only for it to be revealed to be some guy trying to scare away potential customers. At the end of the episode, the gang leave the pumpkin patch, only to see Chris-Alice's mom sitting in the back with them instead of behind the wheel. Cue the haunted scarecrow.
  • Hey Arnold! was also very fond of this trope, having several horror-based episodes with this sort of ending. Heck, the fact that there are more examples listed below than anything else on this page in a Slice of Life show than an actual show that's supernatural or science fiction in nature is really insane.
    • "Haunted Train" was an episode where Arnold, Helga, and Gerald heard the story of a train that takes you straight to a "fiery underworld" with the ghost of the conductor who'd supposedly driven the original off the tracks and down into the underworld. The kids go check it out and sure enough a train shows up and takes them through a hellish scene, just like in the story. It turns out it was just an average train that passed through a steelworks. At the end the train races past with the ghost conductor sitting on the front, playing accordion and singing the urban legend.
    • "Wheezin' Ed" tells the story of the gangster Wheezin' Ed and his treasure, located out on Elk Island and hidden in one of the caves. Intrigued by the promise of treasure, Arnold, Gerald, and several of the supporting characters head out to the caves where instead of a ghost they come across two counterfeiters. They end up saved and the counterfeiters arrested while the scene ends with the sound of Wheezin' Ed's laughter echoing through the cave.
    • "Ghost Bride" finds Gerald telling the story of a woman who, left on her wedding day by a groom in love with her sister, puts on her wedding dress, grabs an ax and kills both her ex-fiancee and sister before jumping out the window to her own death. Every year on the same day, the ghost of the bride returns to the cemetery looking for fresh victims, humming the wedding march the whole time. Of course the children decide to meet up that night at the cemetery. The boys are then chased through the graveyard by Helga dressed up as the bride, and later by Curly. After agreeing that there's no ghost bride, the group minus Curly leave...and then he hears humming.
    • "Headless Cabbie" has the boys at the sleepover, telling scary stories. Arnold tells of a cabbie who finds himself approached by a woman, mourning the loss of her little dog. She asks for a ride through the park and gets into the carriage, offering the cabbie her scarf because it's such a cold night. When she hears barking she becomes mad, encouraging him to go dangerously fast, until a man with a golden hook for an arm causes him to swerve off the road, the scarf getting caught in the tree and taking his head off. When the boys go through the same park for ice cream later...they believe they're being chased by the cabbie who is eventually revealed to be Ernie, driving a carriage to earn more money. It ends with him being approached by the same woman, mourning the loss of her dog and offering him her scarf.
    • In "Four-Eyed Jack", Grandpa tells Arnold and Gerald a story about a Mad Scientist who lived in the boarding house and was killed by an exploding bean experiment. Afterwards, weird things start to happen that fit the tale. After the events are revealed to be coincidental to Grandpa and his secret bathroom, the boys go to bed and Gerald (who had been dismissing it the entire time) wakes up to Four-Eyed Jack who had come back for his glasses and halfheartedly scares him.
    • In "Sid The Vampire Slayer", Sid thinks Stinky is a vampire, but is seemingly proven wrong when he notices Stinky has a reflection. At the very end when Stinky is alone with a bat, he grows fangs, meaning he is a vampire. This is weird even by the standards of the other episodes, as those at least involved urban legends and not a significant character.
  • Used as a Double Subversion in Jackie Chan Adventures, "The Chan Who Knew Too Much": Jackie tries to stop a villainous group of modern-day druids who believe Stonehenge is an ancient magical Weapon of Mass Destruction and intend to activate it; he dismisses their claim as a crackpot theory, along the same lines as people who think it's a landing beacon for UFOs. At the climax, they succeed... but nothing happens. Later, after the disappointed druids are arrested by Interpol, a UFO appears, drawn by the signal of the activation.
  • In Inspector Gadget episode "Luck of the Irish", Gadget encounters a pair of MAD agents that short and dressed in green, in the disguise of leprechauns. Later on, when Penny is stuck in a hole without her backpack to help her escape, when it mysteriously falls down to her. After the MAD agents are captured and Dr. Claw's plan is foiled, Penny is still left wondering how her backpack was knocked down to her. The audience is then shown a trio of real leprechauns hiding nearby.
  • Jem, "Mardi Gras": Jem and the group are invited to stay at a haunted hotel where there are strange things happening. People assume it's the ghost of a pirate that loved Lily Rose. Jem is able to use a hologram of him to scare a boy band hired by the Misfits to screw up Jem's group. It turns out the stolen stuff was stolen by a descendant of the pirate's pet, a monkey named Francis. At the end, the ghosts of the pirate and Lily Rose appear.
  • Jonny Quest TOS:
    • In the episode "Monster in the Monastery", a group of Communists dress up as yeti to scare a group of monks. They're eventually discovered dead, ripped to pieces by an unknown force. At the end of the episode, a real yeti, the one that killed them, is seen walking into the mountains.
    • In another episode, a con-man kidnapped half the protagonists and tried to convince the other half they'd vanished magically in the Bermuda Triangle, in an attempt to get at a sunken treasure. He does get it, and makes his escape. By boat. Through the Bermuda Triangle. Guess how that turned out.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures:
    • In "AMOK", the main characters encounter a peaceful tribe in Borneo, living in hiding, who protect their village's secrecy via having someone dress as a local legendary monster, the titular Amok (which looks like a hybrid of a gorilla, baboon and sloth) to scare away outsiders. Later, everybody is captured by drug smugglers, who plan to execute the villagers for interfering in their business. Jonny escapes and together with, as he assumes, the guy in the Amok costume, manages to free everybody and capture the smugglers, except for their leader, James Compton, who escapes into the jungle. When Jonny thanks the guy in the costume for his help, he claims to have been captured alongside everybody else and was with them the whole time. As the episode ends, the characters suddenly hear Compton's terrified screams, as he begs for something to stay back, followed by a monstrous roar, coming from the jungle.
    • In "The Spectre of the Pine Barrens", The Jersey Devil appears to be just a descendant of the Minutemen in a costume. In the ending, the real Devil appears and passes Team Quest a container with the original Declaration of Independence.
  • In an episode of Kim Possible, Kim and Ron find out they had identical ancestors living in the 1800s. The episode turns out to be All Just a Dream. Word of God said that it really did happen. Even ignoring this, it's still an example as afterwards, Kim and Ron find out they did have identical ancestors, albeit living in Ancient Rome.
  • The Little Critter cartoon "Just Me and My Dad" has a creature called Bigpaw, which is believed to be an urban legend. At the end of the cartoon, the creature is shown happily eating a bag of nuts.
  • In The Mask animated series, a crime wave perpetrated by criminals dressed as Santa Claus prompts the mayor to decree wearing a Santa costume ground for immediate arrest. This causes the real Santa to be thrown in jail.
  • In the Goofy and Max segment of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, Max's faith in Santa is shaken. The real Santa shows up at the end.
  • Moville Mysteries: The local Conspiracy Theorist drags Mo into investigating the Mystery Meat in the school cafeteria, since it's really good (and cafeteria food that tastes good is unnatural) and it glows in the dark. He is convinced it's alien in origin, and all the evidence Mo finds seems to confirm this. The two of them confront the lunch lady while she is in a meeting with two guys from the mystery meat company. She reveals the heinous secret behind mystery meat: it's not made by aliens, it's made of tofu. All of the kids are immediately disgusted that they've been eating something that's healthy and renounce mystery meat for good, causing the distributors to cancel their contract with the school. After they leave, Mo asks the lunch lady why the mystery meat glowed in the dark. She says she didn't know it glowed in the dark. Cue a shot of the meat guys driving down the road, and their cars turning into UFOs and flying away.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    • One episode revolves around a ruined castle supposedly haunted by the Pony of Shadows, but all the odd things in the castle turn out to have a mundane explanation. The Stinger reveals that the Pony of Shadows (or at least something strange, as the real Pony of Shadows was actually Sealed Evil in a Can) is real after all.
    • The next episode revolves around the Mane 6 going off to meet the creator of their favorite fictional character, Daring Do. The shocker for them comes once they discover that the author and Daring Do are one and the same! And those villains she fights in her stories? They're real too!
    • In the in-universe story in "A Hearth's Warming Tail", Snowfall Frost is of the opinion that the Windigos are nothing but a myth. Turns out they're very much real.
    • Season 7 has Twilight telling sick foals in a hospital a story about a monster named Grogar and how Gusty the Great defeated him. Season 9 reveals that not only were Grogar and Gusty the Great real, Grogar himself is now the Arc Villain. Even with the later reveal "this" Grogar was just Discord in disguise, the existence of Grogar's magic bell sealed behind a powerful barrier created by Gusty is proof both of them did in fact exist.
  • In the My Little Pony Tales episode "Slumber Party", Patch tells a ghost story that scares the others and makes them check the attic for signs of the ghost, but find nothing but a cat. In the last scene, Patch is surprised when the ghost appears to her and thanks her for helping keep his legend alive.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Ghost of Castle Kilbane", two brothers stage a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax and pretend to be ghosts in order to drive Jimmy and Lois away from the castle. In doing so, they accidentally summon up a real ghost.
  • In Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "The Ghost Hunter", Oggy kills the roaches after watching a horror movie. The ending is scarier as the monsters from the movie emerge from the floor!
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • "That's the Spirit" Lampshades and then subverts it. After discovering the haunted house was just a Halloween hoax, Phineas says "Isn't this the moment in one of these things when someone really turns into a ghost?". Spooky music plays, the camera focuses on the family behind the hoax for a moment before Russell just says "Dude that's it", and they wander off.
    • In the original airing, this episode was followed by "The Curse of Candace", where Candace spends most of the episode thinking she's a vampire due to some of Phineas's and Ferb's preset experiments. At the very end, they clear up the misunderstanding, she takes off her cloak... and then she crumples into ashen dust. So in a way, this is a double subverted Brick Joke.
  • In Pinky and the Brain episode "Beach Blanket Brain", during a trip to the beach for Brain's latest plan to Take Over the World, Pinky goes on about wanting to meet sea chimps, which he read about in comics, much to Brain's consertation. At the end of the episode, when the pair is leaving, Pinky, who didn't see any sea chimps, figures that Brain was right. Brain then hesitantly tells him that when he went underwater while surfing, something helped him get back to shore.
    Pinky: Egad! Was it a sea chimp?
    (Cut to a shot of a trio of giggling sea chimps on rocks below Pinky and Brain's car)
    Brain: Either that, or I've spent too much time in the sun.
  • In Pound Puppies (2010), it is a common twist whenever a supernatural/out of the ordinary element is involved that the supernatural element is actually real.
    • The titular character in "Zoltron" initially appears to just be a dog who believes he's an alien, but after he's reunited with the family who owns him, the car they drive in starts flying into the sky.
    • In the Christmas Episode "I Heard the Barks on Christmas Eve", Chris Jingles (the canine equivalent of Santa Claus) is revealed to be real in spite of Patches and Cupcakes' disbelief in him.
    • The episode "No More S'mores" has Strudel inspired by one of the campers' stories to build a fake swamp monster disguise and use it to make Millard face his fears and rescue his perfect person Jennifer. While things don't go as planned, Millard does end up adopted by Jennifer and the Pound Puppies state how glad they are that swamp monsters aren't real. The very end of the episode shows an actual swamp monster, who isn't amused by the idea that his kind eats people.
  • Recess: In "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave", Mikey has a crisis of faith about Santa, but rallies after an inspiring conversation with an old man who turns out at the end to be Santa himself.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • In one episode, a bunch of wacky new characters ("Ghost in a Jar," "Reverse Giraffe," etc.) are introduced in Remember the New Guy? fashion. Eventually, the Smiths discover that they are actually all alien parasites who can implant false memories, and start shooting them all to make them reveal their true forms. However, one new character ("Mr. Poopybutthole") doesn't turn back, showing that he actually was a close friend of the family.
    • In the Season 3 premier, Rick shows his Galactic Federation interrogator a set of Fake Memories about the day he invented the Portal Gun in order to hack the Brainalyzer from the inside and escape the Lotus-Eater Machine, where supposedly an alternate version of himself killed his version of Beth and Diane. The season 5 finale reveals the backstory to be completely real: an alternate version of him did kill his world's Beth and Diane, causing Rick to fall into a downward spiral, and the only fabricated part of the memory is that Rick invented the Portal Gun instantly after the incident, when it actually happened years later when he decided to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • In the season 5 premiere, Rick uses a portal to a universe running on Narnia Time to age wine for a dinner party, periodically sending Morty through the portal to collect it. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, the inhabitants of the dimension see Morty as a demonic child who periodically appears in their world to wreak havoc. Due to the nature of time in the other dimension, decades pass between Morty's visits, leading to a coup against the royal family out of belief they're squandering resources pursuing a legend...only for Morty to emerge from the portal seconds after the rebels have won, prompting the rebels to freak out at the realisation the legend of the devil child was true after all before Morty kills them all.
    Rebel leader: I was born in the pits that made these stones. I lost my years building a temple to a lie. So I made lies my power. And what is power but a lie we... [the portal reopens and an extremely annoyed and heavily armed Morty emerges] Oh shit, he's real! He's real! I was wrong, so wrong! God is real-! [Morty shoots him]
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life Halloween Episode, after Rocko and Heffer chase after a crazed Filbert to the cemetery, they encounter the legendary Hopping Hessian. Afterwards a one year Time Skip shows that he's actually a nice guy when he's not on the clock, with him, Gordon the Foot, Rocko and Heffer looking at slides from the previous year. The twist then comes when the group is leaving and a nervous Filbert asks where those slides came from, specifically the last one which shows all five of them.
    Filburt: Who took those pictures?
    The rest of the characters: [Jaw Drop]
  • Rugrats, "The Santa Experience". Drew hires someone to play Santa at the lodge where the Pickles are celebrating Christmas, but the guy flakes out on him. Then Drew does a double-take when he realizes this is after a guy dressed like Santa Claus came in and gave gifts to all the kids.
  • The Scooby-Doo franchise itself has done this in some of its shows. And some of the DTV movies.
    • In "A Night of Fright is No Delight", the will said the house is haunted yet for most of the episode it's a hoax, until a bone comes floating out of nowhere at the end. This is one scare that doesn't bother Scooby, though.
    • In "Scooby's Roots", Grandad Scooby says a ghost haunts Scooby Manor, and it's a Bedsheet Ghost. Until they unmask the fake ghost as the real ghost of Great Grandpa Scooby!
    • Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers: With all the ghosts being revealed as a hoax, Scooby impersonates the ghost of Shaggy's Uncle. Then when driving away Shaggy sees him standing on the road and tells Scooby to knock it off, who then reveals himself to be in the back of the truck this time.
    • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: In an episode where the gang goes trick or treating they find an evil ghost pirate haunting the house. It's a hoax, but the rumors about the house being haunted are true; the real ghost is actually nice and hires the Scooby Doo Detective Agency.
    • The Alien Invaders is a unique case, where the gang ends up needing to save the real aliens (who had been tagging along with the gang for most of the movie disguised as unremarkable characters) from the humans who had been pretending to be aliens!
    • The film Camp Scare has the gang being menaced by a trio of monsters. While it turns out the first two were the same guy in disguise, the post-credits scene reveals that the third wasn't a disguise: it was a real ghost!
    • Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery played with this trope. It's implied that there may be two Crimson Witches: the real one wanted to use the the 'rock of Kisstera' as a tool for unleashing the Destroyer, the fake one wanted to sell it as a priceless diamond.
    • In What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "Reef Grief!" a coral monster was believed to be pulling people under the beach, but it was actually a hippie digging a tunnel to New Zealand using hypnotized slaves. The monster was real, but had nothing to do with the hippie's plot and was actually benevolent, saving Scooby from drowning. The only reason it appeared at all is because it was pissed off by all the loud digging preventing it from getting some sleep. Once the digging stops, it goes back home without a fuss.
    • In Scooby-Doo! and the Loch Ness Monster, the plot advances like what you would expect from Scooby-Doo, with it turning out that the two Loch Ness Monsters appearing throughout were homemade submarines/robots made by the same person with the intent of using them to convince a colleague that the monster is real (her cohorts just wanted to do it as a prank). After the villain (unaffiliated to the hoaxers) is arrested, the gang sees pictures taken by a previously lost underwater camera taken at a much greater depth than the submarines could have operated at, which show flippers and other body parts of a completely different entity. As the gang drives off in the Mystery Machine, the real Loch Ness Monster briefly comes to the surface in the foreground before diving underwater again, unnoticed by everyone expect Scooby.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Treehouse of Horror XI" combines this with a parody of The Brady Bunch. Lisa and Bart, playing Hansel and Gretel, are captured by a witch, who claims she needs to get ready before her boyfriend comes over. She says that his name is "George Cauldron," a deliberate reference to Jan Brady saying she had a boyfriend named "George Glass" after seeing a drinking glass on her nightstand. After Homer saves the children from the witch by pushing her into the oven, a man arrives—his name is George Cauldron, and he's looking for the witch so they can go to a concert.
    • In "Don't Fear the Roofer", Homer makes friends with a roofer called Ray Magini, but when asked to prove the man's existence, he can't - because he fails to appear whenever Homer is sure he will. The fact that "Ray Magini" is an anagram of "imaginary" definitely does not help his case. Homer is sent for psychological treatment (electroshock)... and right after the treatment is done, Ray appears in front of everyone, proving Homer was right.
    • In "Yokel Chords", Bart makes up a story about a cook named Dark Stanley who cannibalized school children in the past in order to steal his schoolmates' lunches. Later in the episode, while Bart's counselor is discussing with her own psychiatrist, it turns out that Dark Stanley was in fact real.
    • In "Sky Police", after Reverend Lovejoy calls Apu a heathen, Apu says that's offensive to the Hindu god Hanuman, who mistook the Sun for a mango, only to then admit he was right. At the episode's end, Homer says he still believes in God, and Hanuman himself appears.
  • South Park:
    • Parodied in "Crack Baby Athletic Association", which does this with Slash.
    • "My Future Self 'N Me" features a number of kids' future selves landing in the present, and all of them just so happen to be drug-addicted losers. It turns out that they were actually actors hired by the kids' parents to scare them away from doing drugs. At the end of the episode Cartman declares that he actually learned a lesson from this and promises to clean up his life, lose weight, and become nicer. A man in a nice suit then walks up congratulating him on this decision, and introduces himself as the future Cartman, who considers this to be the defining moment of his life and assures the present Cartman that if he continues on this path, he'll grow up to own a time travel business and be very rich. Present Cartman assumes he's just another actor trying to trick him and says he's now going to live his life even worse than before out of spite. After he walks away, the future Cartman turns into a fat mechanic.
    • In "Manbearpig", Al Gore is depicted as being an idiot for believing in the title monster. In the later "Imaginationland" episodes, Manbearpig is depicted as an evil resident, showing that he is imaginary. In "Time To Get Cereal", he finally appears in the real world causing havoc.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the very first episode, "Help Wanted", SpongeBob wants to become a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, which Mr. Krabs considers him unfit for due to his clumsiness and naivete. With Squidward's help, Krabs sends him on a Snipe Hunt to find a seemingly nonexistent "hydrodynamic spatula with port and starboard attachments" ("And don't forget the turbo drive!"). It turns out said spatula actually does exist, and SpongeBob found the last one in stock at the Barg'N Mart, much to the shock of both Squidward and Mr. Krabs. It was also helpful because they had to attend to a sea of hungry anchovies that moment.
    • In "Christmas Who?", after Squidward dresses as Santa and gives away all his stuff as gifts to the entire town, the real Santa comes and thanks him.
    • In "Blackened Sponge", the character "Jack M. Crazyfish", who SpongeBob dreams about, and uses as a cover for his black eye, turns out actually exist.
    • In "Yeti Krabs", Mr. Krabs tries to scare Squidward and SpongeBob into working harder by making up a story about a Yeti Krab who tracks down and eats lazy workers, along with anyone in the vicinity. When a real Yeti Krab coincidentally shows up after Mr. Krabs leaves, SpongeBob is terrified and runs around doing busywork to placate it, while Squidward, who never believed Mr. Krabs' story in the first place, simply assumes it's him in a costume. The Yeti Krab, who's merely hungry and was attracted to the Krusty Krab by the smell of food, eventually does try to eat all three of them out of desperation, but SpongeBob figures out the problem and wins it over with some fresh Krabby Patties.
    • In "One Krab's Trash", Mr. Krabs makes up a story about how the soda drink hat he sold to SpongeBob is cursed to scare it off of him as he found out it's worth a lot of money. He claims it belonged to someone named Smitty WarbenJagerManJensen. It turns out the story he made up on the spot is true.
    • In "Bubble Buddy", SpongeBob creates the title character and the episode treats him as a Companion Cube. In the end however, he turns out to really be animate.
    • In "Scaredy Pants", it's implied the townsfolk believed the Flying Dutchman to be just a myth until he personally lays siege to the Krusty Krab.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, the residents of Mewni celebrate "Stump Day" (their equivalent of Christmas). Little kids know that if they're bad, The Stump will come and carry them off. Older kids know that The Stump is just a fable used to make little kids behave. Guess who's right?
  • In one episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), a monster hunter comes to look for the "green man in the woods" after the turtles are spotted and videotaped; about halfway through the turtles discover that the green man is real and have to keep both it and themselves out of her reach.
  • ThunderCats Roar:
    • In "The Legend of Boggy Ben", Cheetara and Tygra make up a monster called Boggy Ben and Lion-O goes on a quest to face it. The Boggy Ben he faces turns out to be Tygra in a costume, as they were trying to teach Lion-O a lesson. Just as they explain this, the real Boggy Ben shows up and attacks them.
    • In "The Horror of Hook Mountain", Snowman rants about a monster called the Sparklemaw, but Tygra thinks he's making it up. It shows up at the end.
  • Subverted in an episode of The Tick: The villain of the episode is a robbing Santa impersonator who has managed to clone himself. This confuses the Tick, who refuses to fight even when his fellow superheroes are viciously attacked by a dozen guys in Santa costumes: "Odds are it wasn't the real Santa, but how can you ever be sure?" Santa later appears, with an Elf Secret Service team, compulsively hands out gifts such as pencil sets, and tells the Tick to get a grip.
  • Time Squad: At the end of "White House Weirdness", Time Squad has just exposed a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax perpetrated by William Howard Taft and his staff to make people belive that the White House was haunted by the ghosts of former Presidents to scare away any competition for the Presidential election. However, just as Taft is led away by the police, a ghostly moan echoes through the air...
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy:
    • The episode "Hide and Ghost Seek" has Mayor Teddy Bear hire T.U.F.F. to rid a mansion of the ghost of Dr. Hyden Vonseek. Keswick repeatedly brings up that ghosts do not exist, and it eventually turns out that the Chameleon was impersonating both Mayor Bear and the ghost of Hyden Vonseek as part of a ruse to trick Dudley, Keswick and the Chief into staying in a building that's scheduled to be demolished, but Keswick gets the shock of his life when he finds out that the Ghost of Dr. Hyden Vonseek is actually for real.
    • "Great Scott" has the Loch Ness Monster initially turn out to be a disguised Chameleon, but the creature in question turns out to exist after all at the end of the episode.
  • The Wild Thornberrys:
    • The episode "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yeti" takes place in the Himalayas, with Eliza searching for the Yeti who supposedly lived there. She eventually discovers that the "Yeti" is actually her father's old colleague Dr. McWhirter, who dresses up like a monster to protect the region's endangered snow leopards. At the climax of the episode, a Yeti approaches and helps Eliza fight off some greedy land developers. Later, Eliza thanks McWhirter, but he explains that he wasn't wearing his suit at the time, as he was instead tending to the snow leopards in their cave. Eliza ponders what this means, and a loud roar sounds from the mountains...
    • Another episode, "Spirited Away," takes place in Mexico and has Eliza running into a friendly old woman who helps her solve her problem of the week. The episode's ending reveals that the woman has been dead for years. Fitting, as the episode was centered on the Day of the Dead. In fact, the woman had been helping Eliza because Eliza had kindly decorated her gravestone with flowers, which no one had done in ages (these offerings of flowers are essential parts of the holiday and are said to encourage spirits to return to the world of the living for visits).
  • Winnie-the-Pooh: In the original books and all Disney iterations until the late '80s, Heffalumps and Woozles were just figments of Pooh and the gang's imaginations. Even their very names were implied to be just Tigger's malapropism of "elephants" and "weasels." But starting with The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and continuing with Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Heffalumps and Woozles are portrayed as very real, usually as bumbling antagonists but sometimes as unexpectedly friendly.

    Real Life 
  • On the streets of Liverpool there was told a legend of a man called "Purple Aki", this man would be described as an incredibly tall muscle bound black man who would appear from seemingly nowhere or perhaps from around objects that are impossible to hide behind before demanding to squeeze your muscles, or getting you to squat lift him. The stories were so ridiculously over the top and strange that the majority of people simply once thought he was some kind of urban legend used to scare children, key word being once.


Video Example(s):


There Really Is A Bart?!

After Homer is institutionalized due to a misunderstanding, the diagnosing doctor is shocked to hear from Marge that 'Bart' isn't a figment of Homer's imagination, but rather their son.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / RealAfterAll

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