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Red Herring

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"The chief difference between the exceptionally knotty problem facing the detective of fiction and that facing the real detective is that in the former there is usually a paucity of clues, and in the latter altogether too many."

A clue that leads in the wrong direction.

A red herring is a good red herring when it interweaves itself into the story's events. For example, the murder victim may have been a philanderer. His wife has no alibi. Aha! It was the wife!

The wife's lack of an alibi is a red herring. It turns out the wife was shtupping somebody else at the time and didn't want to provide that information. However, the deceased husband's philandering is what got him killed, as it turns out, by his girlfriend's jealous husband. Philandering as a motive is introduced for good cause, not just to set up suspicions about the wife's lack of an alibi.

The supertrope to Red Herring Shirt, Red Herring Mole and Red Herring Twist.

This trope is often coupled with Never the Obvious Suspect, where the obvious suspect is used as a red herring, and the real culprit turns out to be someone unexpected.


Compare and contrast with:

  • And You Thought It Was Real, when an object that is fictional is mistaken for being real (e.g., the Red Herring suspect was carrying a prop knife for a play).
  • Dead Star Walking, where a major star is used to sucker the audience rather than the actual characters. (Or at least an aversion of Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize.)
  • Fauxshadow, where a development is repeatedly hinted at but never gets a payoff at all.
  • Mistaken for Evidence, where the same result is caused by a mix-up instead of intentional misdirection.
  • The Un-Twist, when a plot twist is confused for a Red Herring because it's too obvious, but turns out to have been genuine all along.

Subject to being Spoiled by the Format: if they've just found a plausible suspect, but there's 180 more pages to go, well...


Has nothing to do With This Herring.

Warning: Due to the nature of this trope, unmarked spoilers ahead!

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the first volume of Accel World, Kuroyukihime reveals that a Burst Linker known as Cyan Pile is trying to hunt her down to collect the point bounty on her, and she knows very little about the person controlling this duel avatar except for the fact that this person goes to her school (based on the fact that Cyan Pile can challenge her while she's logged into the school intranet). Kuroyukihime initially assumes that it's Haru's Childhood Friend Chiyu, given the hostility between them in their first meeting (although Kuroyukihime intentionally eggs Chiyu on to gauge her reactions) and that Chiyu is one of a handful of possible Burst Linkers besides Kuroyukihime and Haru. Haru refuses to believe it, since the Chiyu he knows is no good at video games or keeping secrets, and insists on convincing Kuroyukihime. It turns out that Chiyu's Neurolinker was infected with a backdoor program, enabling the true culprit, her boyfriend Taku, to challenge Kuroyukihime remotely (even though he doesn't even go to her school).
  • In the "Turnabout Showtime" case of the Ace Attorney manga, the defendant, Julie Henson, is suspected of killing her ex-boyfriend Flip Chambers because he left her for another girl. She's innocent, and this piece of information is never brought up again.
  • In Baccano! (particularly in the light novel), a nameless woman in fatigues secretly making her way across the train is heavily implied to either be the Rail Tracer, expert assassin Claire Stanfield, or both. Turns out both of those roles were taken by the supposedly murdered redheaded conductor.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • During the Marley arc, the soldier who lures Galliard and Pieck into a trapdoor has their face obscured by the camera angles, this made the readers to speculate that they were someone known, like a member of the Survey Corps in disguise, Pieck even mentions that their face is familiar. Then it turned out that it was an entirely new character.
    • The pregnancy of Historia Reiss ends up being this as it's revealed that the father of the child really was her unnamed Farmer consort/husband. After multiple chapters of her interacting with Eren in secret and even seeing a quick flash of her giving birth during one of the Rumbling chapters, many a fan theorized that the child belonged to Eren and he had some kind of plan to utilize their royal blood. But in the end the baby was born after the climax and nothing happened.
  • BioMeat: the first chapter shows your typical split-screen shot of the main characters, which seems to set up a Five-Man Band. The first one of the five that we see is even given a name, but when the time comes, he decides not to join up with the other four. In fact, he almost gets them killed by cutting the rope one of the heroes is going down. He gets his Karmic Death soon enough.
  • Bleach:
    • Ulquiorra appears from the start to be Aizen's right-hand man among the Espada, and the ultimate target everyone needs to reach to save Orihime. When Ulquiorra realises Ichigo thinks he's the top Espada, he reveals he's only the fourth Espada. That said, during his final battle with Ichigo, he reveals a second Resurrecion form that he claims Aizen does not know about, suggesting that his ranking was inaccurate.
    • Barragan takes command in Aizen's absence, making it seem to characters that he's the top Espada until it's revealed that he's only the second Espada. It's an unsuccessful example as Kyouraku admits to his opponent (the real number one) he'd suspected all along that Barragan was number two, but had been hoping otherwise.
    • When the different types of Menos are explained to Ichigo, it's said that Vasto Lordes are more powerful than even Shinigami Captains, and that if Aizen brought 10 Vasto Lordes to his side and made them into arrancar, Soul Society would be doomed. The scene immediately cuts to Aizen awakening his newest arrancar, Wonderweiss, and telling him to meet his 20 brothers and sisters. The audience is clearly intended to think that Aizen's army far exceeds even what Soul Society thinks is the worst-case scenario. In the end, this comes to nothing and it's never specified how many Vasto Lordes are in Aizen's army (it's strongly implied that the top 4 Espada are Vasto Lordes, while numbers 5-9 are explicitly not, and Wonderweiss is the only non-Espada who might be a Vasto Lorde). And when the actual war begins, it's turns out to not be Aizen's army that overpowers Soul Society. It's Aizen by himself.
  • Blue Flag: Early chapters point to Touma being in love with his sister-in-law and former teacher Akiko. Chapter 5 however, reveals that this was a lie that he created to hide the fact he is in love with his childhood friend Taichi.
  • Red Herrings are a staple of Case Closed, but a big one happens in the recurring Black Organization meta-arc when Vermouth finally shows herself and it's not who you think it is at all. She's been impersonating Dr. Araide. The suspicious-looking foreign English teacher? She's the FBI agent on Vermouth's trail.
  • In Code Geass, Cornelia and Schneizel are set up as two possible suspects for killing Lelouch's mother Marianne, since Clovis, while forced to tell the truth, suggested that they might know something about it. Neither one of them did it; V.V. tried to kill her, but she managed to transfer her soul into Anya's body before she died. Then again, given the significant changes that the plot of season 2 allegedly went through due to the time slot change, it's possible that this could be less of a Red Herring and more of an Aborted Arc. It was, however, made clear at the end of season 1 that Cornelia had nothing to do with Marianne's death, contrary to earlier implications.
  • Dancougar Nova: Head of the Dancougar team, Commander Tanaka acts friendly enough most of the time, but has a few moments where he gets Scary Shiny Glasses and it looks like he knows more than he lets on, having a few vaguely sinister conversations with his employer, Fog Sweeper. It later turns out to have been a red herring.
  • In Death Note, the writer Ohba hadn't decided who the third Kira was when he began writing the Yotsuba arc, and so needed all eight members of the Yotsuba Group to have the potential to be Kira. Therefore he pushed this trope to its absolute limits to place suspicion on every member at one point or another. Namikawa is the biggest example of this, as he's the immediate suspect but also the second to be confirmed innocent after Hatori's death. Other notable red herrings are Takahashi and Mido: Takihashi only seems to exist to serve as a red herring and nothing else is ever done with his character, and many subtle clues point to Mido as the story continues (so many, in fact, that most of them are probably examples of Hilarious in Hindsight).
  • During the doppelganger business in Delicious in Dungeon, one of the Marcille's states that has mostly gotten over her issue with eating monsters, after having eaten all sorts of things like merfolk eggs. Laios realizes she is the doppelganger Marcille not due to that but due to her casually pouring out boiling water, an action that earlier in the story nearly got her killed by an angry Undine. Marcille assumes that the merfolk eggs are what tipped Laios off, but is horrified to learn that that part was true, Chilchuck just made Laios keep quiet about that.
  • Durarara!!:
    • Up until vol. 9, it's heavily implied that "that thing back in middle school" was that Izaya stabbed and nearly killed Shinra. This is exactly what Izaya wants people to think.
    • Since Mika Harima has the same face as Celty Sturluson and has a scar that goes all around her neck, everyone is led to believe that Mika is a corpse that has had Celty's missing head grafted on to it to give it life. It later turns out that Namie manipulated Mika into undergoing plastic surgery that would make her resemble Celty, and subsequently gave her memory-altering drugs to hide the truth.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • During the Grand Magic Games arc, it at first seems that only one person had come back from the future to give warnings about what will soon happen, but that that person had given Princess Hisui and Captain Arcadios conflicting information for some reason. During the two's conversation late in the arc, Arcadios calls this informant a woman, causing Hisui to tell him that her informant was a man. It turns out that Future!Lucy wasn't the only one who came back through the Eclipse Gate... Rogue's Ax-Crazy future counterpart had also managed to find his way to the past, but for a much more sinister purpose.
    • Invoked with Silver, Gray's father, as well. Silver pretends to actually be the spirit of Deliora, the demon responsible for Gray's childhood trauma, inhabiting the corpse of his father. In actuality, Silver was brought back to life as his own self by the necromancer Keyes, and was a good person who wanted Gray to put him out of his misery.
    • A slightly more minor example in the form of Weisslogia and Skiadrum not being dead despite Sting and Rogue remembering having killed them. Apparently dragons can alter the memories of humans somehow. (They then both proceed to die a few minutes later, making everything a bit of a moot point.)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • The manga drops a bunch of hints that Ed and Al's father Van Hohenheim and the Big Bad and leader of the Homunculi, Father, are one and the same. Nope. While they do have an important connection, they're definitely separate people. When Alphonse reunites with Hohenheim, he explains the situation to his father. Hohenheim then asks him if he's sure he wants to tell him, given that the leader of the Homunculi looks just like him. Alphonse is silent for a moment, refusing to back down, and Hohenheim says he's relieved that his son trusts him.
    • When Edward is about to go fight Gluttony, Riza Hawkeye gives him a pistol, telling him it may just end up saving his life. Much later, when his alchemy is switched off by villainous Anti-Magic, he realizes he still has the gun and pulls it out, but is never able to shoot anyone with it.
    • When they first meet, Barry the Chopper drops a potential bombshell that Al may have never really existed as a human; that Ed created all of his memories and personality and stuck them onto a suit of armor. It's eventually revealed that this was just Barry screwing with Al's head.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode "LOST HERITAGE", the members of Section 9 try to stop an assassin named Yu from killing a Chinese politician. After discovering that Yu has carefully imported a sniper rifle from overseas, they spend the bulk of the episode under the assumption that he plans to shoot the politician from a distance. Then, just before the killing is scheduled to occur, Togusa finds a teenage boy Bound and Gagged in a bathroom stall, with his school uniform having been stolen. It turns out that the sniper rifle was a clever misdirect, and Yu's real plan was to disguise himself as a high school student so that he could get close enough to the politician to stab him to death.
  • Early on in Gosick, a government official is murdered, and Victorique is able to deduce that the killer is a blonde girl with an injured hand. Around this time, Kazuya becomes friends with Avril, a blond-haired New Transfer Student from England. He soon notices that Avril's right hand is bandaged, and she becomes very tense when questioned about it. This is actually Foreshadowing for a completely different crime. It turns out that "Avril" is actually a Phantom Thief named Kuiaran the Second, who kidnapped the real Avril and assumed her identity so she could infiltrate the school. Kuiaran's hand wound came from being bitten by the real Avril while she was tying her up.
  • Gravion: Early in Zwei, Eiji encounters a picture where Raven is shown to be together with Ayaka, so they must be two different entities. Raven is Ayaka, however, because the Raven mask will make anyone take on the Raven identity, and Ayaka is his latest host, the one who wielded it when the portrait was taken was most likely Luna's father.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • In the beginning of "Remote Island Syndrome Part 1" in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, we see an adult woman ripping apart papers and letting them fly from the balcony. Does this have anything to do with the following plot? No. In fact, the "murder mystery" that follows is one great big red herring; it's just a game set up to prevent Haruhi from getting bored, which could have inadvertently caused a real murder mystery to take place.
    • The "Where Did The Cat Go?" mystery from the novels centers on a red herring: the cat's location seems to rule out certain suspects, until the brigade-eers realize there are two cats....
  • The iDOLM@STER: The first episode was misleading people into thinking the adaptation of the game would be a literal adaptation, since the Producer's lines weren't voiced, only subtitled, as in the game.
  • At one point in Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Joseph uses his stand powers to divine that Kakyoin is The Mole. Turns out it's actually the next enemy stand user, Rubber Soul, using his stand powers to masquerade as Kakyokin.
  • Similarly, The Kindaichi Case Files, as a fellow mystery manga, makes use of the red herring. Perhaps two of the best were in "No Noose is Good Noose," indicating two different innocent suspects as the killer. The fact that Utako Mori's name is an anagram for "komori uta," the killer's trademark phrase? The presence of Takashi Senke in the background of one of the photos of suicided students, indicating a possible motive? Both mere coincidence, with no purpose other than to draw smug readers away from the real clues. Although the second served a doubly sneaky purpose. Those who remember that red herring may be more inclined to dismiss Senke as a suspect in "The Forest of Cerberus," only this time, he is the killer!
  • Early in the second Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions novel, a random punk tries to hit on Rikka while Yuuta is getting something, and manages to get her name and school before Yuuta steps in. Near the end, Rikka gets kidnapped outside of the school and the kidnapper contacts Yuuta by phone and talks about taking Rikka for himself if Yuuta can't find her in time, with the voice distorted to the point that Yuuta wasn't able to recognize it at all. It turns out to be Satone, however, who actually wanted to break them up so that she could take Yuuta for herself.
  • In the first episode of Lupin III Part 4, Inspector Zenigata accuses a civilian of being Lupin in disguise after the man volunteers to return the priceless crown that Lupin is targeting to its storage location. This is disproven when the real Lupin shows up to swipe the crown, only for it to turn out that Zenigata was half right after all. A cutaway shows the real civilian Bound and Gagged in an unused room somewhere, while the seemingly innocent man Zenigata had earlier suspected is actually revealed to be Fujiko Mine Disguised in Drag.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono's deceased father is brought up a few times. Meanwhile, a mysterious masked person whose hair color happens to match Chrono's appears to occasionally help out the villains. Turns out that there's actually two of them, and they're the Cat Girl familiars of Chrono's mentor, sent to make sure the villains succeeded in their plan, then absorb them so that the Book of Darkness can be sealed away along with Hayate.
    • Deliberately planted by the antagonist in StrikerS Sound Stage X. After spending a good portion of the plot hunting down the instigator of the latest incident, the Time-Space Administration Bureau officers eventually learn from Jail Scaglietti that Toredia Graze, their prime suspect, has been dead for four years. The real culprit, TSAB Enforcer Runessa Magnus, impersonated Toredia while contacting his associates.
  • In Macross Frontier, Sheryl Nome is well... Sheryl Nome. Publicity for the series included judicious use of her full name, with the surname shared by Mao and Sara from Macross Zero, Mayan High Priestesses with a unique blood type that gave them some fairly unique powers bordering on ESP if taken at face value (though how much of that was actually done by the Bird-Human is anyone's guess). Many fans assumed that this was a big hint for the plot of the show and that Sheryl would turn out to be something like Mao's granddaughter. The latter part turned out to be true, but did this really affect the plot at all? Not one bit. It truly never comes up, and becomes simply another Shout-Out to one of the previous shows (Frontier was laced with these).
  • Metal Armor Dragonar: Judging by the 1st Opening, we were told Light would hook up with Diane. Nope, she hooks up with Ben, and in the ending, she marries him.
  • When ghosts escape from prison because of the door wards failing — in the Arcanum arc of Muhyo and Roji — Biko, an artificer who makes wards, is implied to be the culprit after an envelope with Enchu's seal turns up in her house. The real culprit is her teacher Rio.
  • My Hero Academia: Chapter 335 ends with the confirmation that, indeed, All For One had an inside agent infiltrated in the UA. The last panel of the chapter shows a still image of Tooru Hagakure, seemingly to hint that it's her. There were a few past situations where she was involved that may have made her suspicious- most notably, she was unconscious in the hospital after the attack on the training camp, and so couldn't have warned All For One about her classmates trying to rescue Bakugo- until Chapter 336 revealed that she was actually following Aoyama, noticing he was acting strangely. Turns out, Aoyama was The Mole all along, as All For One is blackmailing him and his parents.
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold: During the second season, someone who looks like Zares is seen snooping around Ambrosius's airship. Later on the season, that same person captures Mendoza and steals an artifact from Ambrosius thanks to Mendoza's aid, leading fans to think Mendoza is a traitor. Eventually it is revealed that person isn't Zares, but the Traveling Prophet. He just happens to wear similar clothes to Zares', and he needs that artifact to cure his radiation poisoning.
  • Naruto:
    • Itachi at one point claims that he let Sasuke live so that he could take his eyes as an adult. It is later revealed he was lying and let Sasuke live because he could not bring himself to kill him. Not just that. Everything the reader was ever told about Itachi is a lie or a coverup. The truth about him has only started coming out in the chapters following his death. It's so dramatic that for most of the series he appeared to be the unquestionable Big Bad of Sasuke's storyline, when in fact he's apparently the Big Good. And who turned out to be Sasuke's personal Big Bad? Loveable, goofy Tobi.
    • Tobi himself. He claimed to be Uchiha Madara, but during the Fourth Great Shinobi World War it was revealed, via the Edo Tensei, that the actual Uchiha Madara was Dead All Along. Then it turns out that the real Madara is the mastermind behind the entire plot, as he used Tobi to act out his plans, and is arguably the real Big Bad. Tobi, was later on revealed to be who fans speculated him to be all along: Obito. And then Obito hijacked Madara's master plan, promoting himself to the role of Big Bad. But after the defeat Obito, Madara right back resumed being the Big Bad.
    • Masashi Kishimoto explains in this 2017 Jump Festa interview that he already decided that Naruto/Hinata would be the main Official Couple since the early stages of the manga, but he "did throw in some nuggets" specifically to troll the Naruto/Sakura shippers. According to the voice actors of Team 7, Sakura marrying Sasuke had been planned since the start of the anime because Kishimoto told them.
  • Occult Academy: The principal of the school, Chihiro, is set up to be the main threat as throughout the series she spies on Maya and disapproves of her snooping around. Then the Wham Episode hits and it turns out that a seemingly sweet and innocent girl named Mikaze, that Fumiaki was dating, was the true villain all along. What's more Chihiro is actually an ally that was looking after Maya at the behest of her father.
  • One Piece:
    • One Piece uses a Red Herring to take advantage of a recent reveal while hiding another one. When Garp visits Ace in prison and expresses his desire that he had wanted Ace and Luffy to grow up to be Marines, Ace response by reminding Garp this is impossible because "Luffy and I both have the blood of an international criminal mastermind running in our veins." At first glance, this appears to follow the revelation by Garp that Luffy's father is Dragon the Revolutionary. In fact, it does so while simultaneously hiding the later reveal that Ace's father is the Pirate King Gold Roger.
    • Once upon a time, it was widely believed that Shanks was Luffy's long-lost father, and for good reason. There were too many seemingly genuine clues to this for it not to be intentional on Oda's part, which makes The Reveal of Luffy's father more shocking. This was certainly helped by the fact that the earlier art style made Luffy and Shanks look a good deal more alike than they do now. Don't lie: you would've laughed at anyone who would have theorized this, if only because Shanks seemed like the more rational choice. Oda probably loves this trope considering how unpredictable One Piece is.
    • The identities of future crew members have sometimes been hidden this way. Vivi, a character who'd been introduced in the Reverse Mountain arc, traveled with the Straw Hats since Whiskey Peak, becoming fairly close with the rest of the crew. At the end of the arc, Vivi is formally invited to join the crew, and even ditches her speech in order to meet up with the Straw Hats... and say she can't come. Shortly thereafter, Nico Robin, a former enemy who'd been introduced not long after Vivi, appears on the Going Merry and invites herself into the crew.
    • Water 7 started with the crew looking for a shipwright and finding a company of six, several of whom getting along fairly well with the crew, while clashing with Franky, a gang leader. Then Kaku and Lucci turn out to be undercover CP9 agents and Franky is revealed as a shipwright with his own tragic backstory, who also opposes CP9. Franky fights alongside the Straw Hats on the sea train and at Enies Lobby, and at the end of the arc, he joins the crew.
    • Duval's identity was done like this. He started out having a personal beef with the Straw Hat Pirates, but especially Sanji, leading to some speculation that he might be Don Krieg, or at least a customer Sanji beat up in the past. The real answer was far more hilarious: He'd never actually met the Straw Hats before, but he looked exactly like Sanji's poorly-drawn wanted poster. Part of the misdirect is Duval acting as though this problem has followed him for years... But after the reveal the whole situation turns absurd, as at this point in time Sanji had only had his wanted poster for, at MOST, a couple weeks.
  • In the Outlaw Star episode "Final Countdown", a terrorist group uses a red herring to its fullest extent. They set up an elaborate plan to crash an advertising ship rigged with a bomb into Heifong with its independence as the ransom. As it turns out, this was just a plan to evacuate the city so that the "terrorist group" (which is more like a group of petty, if clever, thieves) can loot the empty city without fear of being caught. Unfortunately for them, the main characters catch on to this ruse and show them what for.
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: The farm skit in "Bitch Girls" is intended to fool certain viewers into believing a larger Time Skip has occurred. Granny, who shows up with the same dress color and facial features as Panty's, is suggested to be Panty having grown old as a result of her mortality, while the real Panty is implied to be Panty Sr.'s relation or a child who happens to bear an uncanny semblance to Panty Sr. This illusion is promptly broken after Brief is shown not to have aged one bit and the whole scene is revealed to be a mere act planned out by Garterbelt to motivate Panty to rescue Brief.
  • Certain series of Pretty Cure have characters who are red herrings for the identity of the Sixth Ranger Cure.
    • Fresh Pretty Cure! started the trend with the Cure's dancing mentor Miyuki; even the characters speculated she could be the fourth Pretty Cure of the series. (She wasn't, of course).
    • Suite Pretty Cure ♪ had the heroes' classmates Waon and Seika — and the production staff even created fake artwork that implied they would become Cures.
    • DokiDoki! Pretty Cure topped the others with Dark Magical Girl Regina, who shockingly did not join the heroes as a Cure — in fact, the series' Sixth Ranger was a character that had never appeared before.
  • Pretty Sammy: In Magical Project S, when Romio is talking about how she has selected a third magical girl, she shows a picture featuring Konoha prominently in the foreground and Eimi just casually strolling by in the background. Take a wild guess who the third magical girl is. (It's Eimi).
  • In early episodes of Princess Tutu, it's quite easy to think of Fakir as the human incarnation of the Raven - his hairstyle looks like black tail feathers and his less than friendly personality. His hair is actually green, and he's a Jerkass Woobie.
  • Played with early on in The Promised Neverland. The main protagonists - Emma, Ray, and Norman - have let Gilda and Don in on their plan to escape their orphanage (as it's really a plant that raises kids so they can be fed to demons), but information is soon leaked to the plant's leader, "Mom", meaning that one of the two is a mole. Norman quickly devises a plan: he'll tell Gilda and Don about separate hidden ropes, and the rope that vanishes will prove which of them is the mole. Many shots of Gilda strongly imply that something sinister is going on with her, meaning this trope is played straight when Norman and Ray don't find a rope in the hiding place they told Don about. However, Norman then reveals that this particular hiding place wasn't the one he told Don about, but rather the one he told Ray that he told Don about, meaning that Ray is the traitor. Naturally, this blindsided almost the entire fanbase.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica has two major examples: The witch in the prologue has some marked design similarities to Sayaka's Magical Girl outfit. Turns out that Sayaka's actual witch form has considerably fewer design similarities. In a more meta example, concept art shows Madoka and Homura both with bows, leading to speculation about Homura being future Madoka. And then Homura is revealed not only to be her own person, but to have a completely different weapon. (As it turns out, the art's still meaningful - Homura can use Madoka's bow, and in the timeline where the latter ascended ends up inheriting it, wielding it in favor of her own weapon to signify a "lighter" aspect of magical girl-ness.)
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei introduces the perpetually-injured and covered in bandages Abiru by having Nozomu investigate a possible domestic abuse situation. After following Abiru's father around as he goes shopping (his paranoia making him think that every single thing he tries to buy is going to be used to abuse his daughter,) he eventually finds out that Abiru's injuries actually come from her obsession with pulling animal tails.
  • In Soul Eater, Kid tries to check out an old manuscript of The Book of Eibon in the DWMA's secure library but finds it was checked out and never returned. The name it was checked out under was simply "M", and Kid notices that the date is the same day Medusa abandoned her cover as the school's nurse. Turns out Maka checked it out by borrowing her father's security ID.
  • To cite a very early example, the English dub Speed Racer had a one-off character named Red Herring for completely no reason.
  • A somewhat complicated example occurs during the "Phantom Bullet Arc" of Sword Art Online. At the beginning of the Bullet of Bullets Tournament there are three suspects in the tournament who might be the murderous "Death Gun": Pale Rider, Jushi X, and Sterben. All Kirito and Sinon know about them is their names, so that's all they have in the way of clues. (In the anime, the audience has an extra clue if they were paying attention to Kyoji during the opening.) The problem is that each of the three separate suspects' names can be read as a reference to death in English, Japanese, and German respectively. In-universe, this means that given a choice between going after "Sterben" or "Jushi X", the two Japanese teenagers opt for "Jushi X" because that can be read as the Japanese for "Death Gun" backwards, with the X representing a cross. It is only once "Sterben" is confirmed as "Death Gun" via process of elimination that the Japanese nurse reveals (to the non-German speaking members of the audience) that "sterben" is German for "to die" and is a loanword particularly used in Japanese hospitals. However at the outset, Anglophone members of the audience would tend to be more suspicious about the English name "Pale Rider" since that is a Biblical reference to Death as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Members of the Japanese audience would also have good reason to suspect him, because using Christian iconography for Faux Symbolism is fairly common in anime.
  • In episode 4 of Tamako Market, it appeared that Anko had a crush on a hyperactive classmate, but in the end it turned out it was on the sweet boy he was walking with.
  • In The Three Musketeers, Athos suspect that Manson and Iron Mask are working together. However, news come that Manson has been robbed by Iron Mask, so the musketeers abandon this lead. The robbery was a part of the Iron Mask's plan as he and Manson really are working together.
  • Tokyo Mew Mew sets up some Red Herrings to hide the true identity of the local Mysterious Protector. (That it doesn't fully work in the anime version because of his voice is another story...) The Mysterious Protector has blond hair and blue eyes, and there's another character in the cast possessing these traits (Ryou Shirogane). The manga, in addition to pointing out those similarities, briefly uses another character (Keiichiro) to make a red herring via a subversion of the Revealing Injury trope. The real identity of the Mysterious Protector looks nothing like his transformed form, but the abovementioned voice link in the anime version, coupled with healthy amount of Genre Savviness from the audience, renders the whole point moot. His surname "Aoyama" contains the word for "Blue" in Japanese, which gives some hint as to his identity.
  • In Umi Monogatari, the Elder Turtle is often wary of Kanon and is convinced she will fall into darkness if not watched. He's wrong. Marin does.
  • Xabungle: The Blue Stones that are so important to everyone? That are the equivalent of Gold during a goldrush? Worthless and mundane, and different materials are used as actual money.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In the Duelist Kingdom arc, Tristan/Honda gets suspicious of Pegasus and suspects that he doesn't really have the power to read minds. Upon inspecting the arena, he, Tea/Anzu, and Bakura find a hole in the wall, and a tower outside. Tristan theorizes that a mook hides in the tower and uses a telescope to look through the hole and spy on players' cards, then relay the info to Pegasus via a receiver. The hole is just a coincidence, and Pegasus really does read minds.
    • Funnily enough, in the Battle City arc, the Phony Psychic Esper Roba uses exactly this trick with the help of his younger siblings.
    • It first happened with Pegasus in his duel by videotape with Yugi in the manga version. Yugi accuses Pegasus of not really using magic powers to predict his moves, instead claiming that Pegasus used subliminal messages to get Yugi to build his deck and play the cards that he wanted. While Pegasus did use subliminal messages, Pegasus proceeds to actually use magic from that point on.
  • In The Zashiki Warashi of Intellectual Village a flashback to Shinobu's youth shows him being the victim of a supernatural child organ harvesting ring using a controversial diet drink as a vector. At the end of the novel it's revealed that the history of this event had been rewritten, obscuring what actually happened. When Shinobu travels back in time the diet drink is mentioned in a broadcast but it plays absolutely no role in the actual events; when history was rewritten, the organ harvesting ring was created as an alternate crisis to be resolved.

    Audio Plays 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story "Jubilee", we discover that the humans are keeping a Dalek locked up in a tower and are torturing it, but also that it pales in horror compared to the other prisoner. The other characters gossip about the other prisoner being horrible, completely mad, in a wheelchair, and that he created the Daleks - all of which would cue the listener into thinking the prisoner is Davros. He turns out to be this timeline's version of the Doctor, who has been imprisoned solitary in a tower for a hundred years and has gone mad.
  • Invoked/Parodied in The Further Adventures of Nick Danger: when Rocky Roccoco is pulling items out of his brown paper bag and showing them to Nick, one of them is "nothing but a tin of red herrings in heavy oil!"

    Card Games 
  • Part of the setup for Shadows over Innistrad block in Magic: The Gathering was a two-part mystery: why is everything mutating, and why has Avacyn declared war on humanity? The official Magic story articles and the card reveal schedule were aimed at creating this gradually unfolding mystery, and naturally, they put in a couple of fake-outs. There are references to a fourth angel sister, sibling to Gisela, Sigarda, and Bruna, who Avacyn killed a long time previously, but she's left as a background detail and the story has nothing to do with hernote . A corrupted angel drops the phrase "the Great Work", which is associated with the Phyrexians, but they turn out to be uninvolved. The actual culprit is eventually revealed to be Emrakul. Unfortunately, the attempt was Spoiled by the Format, specifically the Standard Format; the previous block had been about Eldrazi and there was no way they weren't adding the third Titan before the other two (and all the attendant support cards) rotated out. Pretty much everyone called it before the false leads could even be introduced.

    Comic Books 
  • The Avengers:
    • Issue #54 introduced a new version of the Masters of Evil, who were assembled by a mysterious villain called the Crimson Cowl. The issue ended with the supposed revelation that the Crimson Cowl was really Jarvis, the Avengers' longtime butler, and that he had developed a robotic henchman to pose as the Cowl to throw off suspicion. The following issue then revealed that Jarvis had actually been brainwashed, and that the seemingly docile robotic "lackey" was the true mastermind, one who would soon cement his position as one of the team's deadliest and most dreaded enemies for decades to come: Ultron.
    • In issue 263, the Enclave, the scientists who created Adam Warlock, crash a plane into Jamaica Bay while trying to flee the police. The Avengers get called in after a strange cocoon emanating powerful psychic energy is discovered in the bay, with the readers led to believe it contains another of the Enclave's Artificial Humans, as Warlock had previously made his first appearance inside a similar cocoon. It is eventually discovered that the cocoon has nothing to do with the Enclave and actually contains the unconscious body of Jean Grey, who had been replaced and impersonated by the Phoenix some time before the events of The Dark Phoenix Saga.
    • The first issue of Kurt Busiek's Avengers saw former members of the group being attacked by various mythological creatures, as well as Thor telling his teammates that someone had stolen Surtur's Twilight Sword. Everyone assumed this to be the work of Loki, only for the real masterminds to turn out to be Morgan le Fay and Mordred.
    • An early New Avengers arc introduces a mysterious masked vigilante called Ronin. A sequence of Ronin beating up Yakuza goons in Japan is intercut with flashbacks of Captain America asking Daredevil to join the team, with the latter declining due to recently having been outed to the public as Matt Murdock in his own series. Cap then brings up the period where he briefly adopted the superheroic alias of Nomad, suggesting that Matt could similarly take on a new costumed identity to join the Avengers without arousing suspicion. This, coupled with Ronin’s penchant for using nunchaku (similar to Daredevil’s trademark billy clubs), is clearly meant to fool the reader into thinking Ronin is indeed Matt Murdock, but Matt instead tells Cap that he has a friend who might be able to do the job. Subsequent issues continue the mystery, with Spider-Man guessing that it might be Daredevil’s old allies Iron Fist or Shang-Chi under the mask, only for it to ultimately be revealed that Ronin is actually Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo.
    • During the initial lead-up to Secret Invasion, an issue of New Avengers ended with a dramatic close-up of Dani Cage, the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, whose eyes were shown glowing. This was obviously meant to imply that she (and by extension, one of her parents) might be a Skrull, but was really just an indication that she'd inherited superpowers from her parents.
    • During the time when The Wasp was believed dead, a zombified cyborg version of the Wasp appeared as a member of the Descendants in Secret Avengers. Hawkeye seemed to believe that she was the reanimated corpse of the original Wasp, but it instead turned out that she was actually from a Bad Future where the world's heroes had been killed and rebuilt into Deathloks.
    • Avengers Standoff's prologue follows a blonde man known only as Jim, who awakens in the mysterious town of Pleasant Hill with no memory of his true name or past life. Throughout the issue, he begins to remember brief glimpses of Captain America and Bucky, and eventually makes contact with Phil, a dark-haired Gadgeteer Genius who sports a distinctive goatee. Despite the strong implication that the two men are Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, the end of the issue reveals that they’re really Baron Zemo and the Fixer, with Pleasant Hill actually being a prison for mindwiped supervillains.
  • Batman:
    • The story from Detective Comics #40, the very first appearance of the Batman villain Clayface, has three separate characters dramatically declare their hatred for the actress who is subsequently murdered. None of them is the killer. The true murderer turns out to be Basil Karlo, the jolly old actor who popped up to say hi to the actress at the beginning.
    • Robin (1993): When Bruce decides to test Tim on his sixteenth birthday Tim first thinks his recurring villain Jaeger may be the culprit of the apparent technologically advanced attack, which from everything on panel initially looks probable to the reader as well.
    • In 2014, DC launched a Bat Family Crossover called Robin Rises, which was rumored to end with Batman taking on a new Robin. Around this time, Batman began palling around with several young people who each seemed to be a possible candidate: A highly intelligent young student named Duke Thomas, who was formerly part of We Are Robin, an orphaned daredevil named Annie Aguila, and Carrie Kelly, a Canon Immigrant best known for being Robin in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. In the end, this all turned out to be an elaborate misdirect, and the Robin who "rose" was a resurrected Damian Wayne (the previous Robin).
    • Adding to that, Duke appeared in The New 52: Futures End as the new Robin. While Duke did eventually join the Batfamily and became one of Bruce's partners, he was never an official Robin.
  • There were various hints (including the title) that the Big Bad of Beyond! was the Beyonder from Secret Wars (1984). In the end, it actually turned out that the Stranger was the mastermind behind the events of the series.
  • The initial Black Orchid stories were notable for never revealing anything about the titular heroine's backstory or identity, but they would sometimes tease possible explanations, only to debunk them. For instance, one story ends with the strong implication that Black Orchid is secretly a female race car driver named Ronne Kuhn, only for the next storyline to have Ronne get rescued by the real Black Orchid after being Bound and Gagged and left to die by her supposed teammates.
  • Captain Marvel #28 shows a mysterious, hulking villain with alien technology taking out The Avengers one by one. The reader is initially led to believe this is Thanos, but the assailant actually turns out to be the Controller, an old enemy of Iron Man.
  • One of the stories in Deadpool #900 has a running red herring gag involving a chicken in a murder investigation.
    "You're still paying attention to the chicken, aren't you? Look at ME!"
  • All of the promotional material for "The Secret Origin of Tony Stark" seemed to be indicating that Marvel was retconning Iron Man's origin so that rather than simply being a genius with a suit of Powered Armor, he was actually some sort of cosmic space messiah who was genetically engineered (with help from some aliens) to save the world. The fans took the bait and many were outraged, but the end of the story revealed that the child in question was actually Tony's older brother, not him. The actual Reveal was that Tony was adopted by the Stark family.
  • In JLA: Year One there's a subplot regarding the identity of the backer who's secretly funding the League's headquarters and equipment. The offer is made shortly after Batman observes the new League in action and decides he doesn't want them operating in Gotham, and reference is made to the financier being 'a bit of a crusader'. The mystery backer turns out to be Bruce Wayne's fellow millionaire-turned-crimefighter, Oliver Queen AKA Green Arrow.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • In the original Sun-Eater storyline, the Pre-Crisis version of Ferro-Lad performed a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the titular menace. When the Sun-Eater reappeared as the main antagonist of the Final Night crossover, it seemed like history would repeat itself, and that the Post-Crisis Ferro-Lad (now known as Ferro) would once again die to save the Earth. However, at the last minute, Hal Jordan (still Parallax at the time) intercepted Ferro's ship and sent him back to Earth, before going on to sacrifice his own life to stop the Sun-Eater.
    • A reboot Legion of Super-Heroes storyline involves Element Lad trying to deduce who is behind a series of thefts of ancient Earth objet d'art. Early on, he describes the thief as a "vandal", while we see a shadowy figure in old-fashioned Earth clothes gloating. It is eventually revealed that the mastermind is ... some random alien businessman. Not Vandal Savage at all.
  • Through The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Tarn, the masked and code-named leader of the Decepticon Justice Division, was strongly hinted to have previously been Roller, an old friend of Optimus Prime who was mysteriously absent in the present day. The clues ranged from Roller having a similar build as Tarn, to his "addictive personality" lining up with Tarn's transformation addiction, to Roller's final appearance having him introduced to Megatron's writings (Tarn was notably obsessed with Megatron's literature), getting part of his face damaged (Tarn had scars in the exact same place), and then being forgotten by all his friends via phlebotinum after being injured (a reason for him to fall in with the Decepticons). Then Tarn's true identity was revealed to be Glitch, a minor character who neither looked anything like him in the past (being robots, this isn't a big deal) nor received any particular focus from the story. This reveal was also foreshadowed, but by much subtler means which were overshadowed by the red herring; most notably, Glitch's power to technopathically deactivate machinery, which was noted to have the potential to grow stronger, was, in retrospect, a weaker version of Tarn's power to kill other Transformers with his voice, which Tarn himself commented was "slow to manifest". This power was something Roller showed no indication of ever possessing or developing. (Roller's lack of such powers gave him an inferiority complex, and Tarn was known to have undergone a Super Soldier upgrade — another piece of faux-shadowing.)
  • Kyle Baker's run on Plastic Man featured a villain named Red Herring deliberately complicating Plastic Man's attempts at investigation.
  • When the Red Hulk originally made his debut, there was a mystery as to who this character really was. Some video footage was discovered that apparently showed him killing Thunderbolt Ross, but it was eventually revealed that it was staged and he was Ross all along.
  • In Volume 2 of Scott Pilgrim, Wallace shows Scott that Mobile taught him some psychic skills, making Scott think he could learn them as well to help him against Todd. Turns out he never does. Instead the vegan police show up to strip Todd of his powers.
  • Secret Empire #4 ends with the revelation that HYDRA has a Mole inside Sam Wilson's resistance group. The following issue strongly suggests that the traitor is Mockingbird, only for issue #6 to reveal that it's really Ant-Man.
  • Snotgirl #5 ends with Caroline pushing Charlene off a rooftop. Issue #6 then opens with Lottie and her friends at a funeral, which the reader is led to believe is for Charlene. However, it later turns out that Charlene survived the fall and is currently hospitalized, while the funeral is actually for Misty's dog.
  • Spider-Man:
    • A crimefighter calling herself Jackpot was introduced concurrently with One More Day providing a case where a character turned out to be Red Herring. She wore a mask but bore a strong resemblance to Mary Jane Watson, like her she liked to call people "Tiger", and her code-name echoed MJ's line at her first meeting with Peter Parker, "Face it, Tiger, you just hit the Jackpot!" The aim apparently was to encourage MJ-friendly readers to keep reading the series after Mephisto erased the Parker marriage by leading them to suspect that she had now become a superheroine (because otherwise she was absent from Amazing Spider-Man to make way for new romantic entanglements for Peter). Later it was revealed that it was just one incredible coincidence after another, Jackpot actually was a fan of Mary Jane's soap-opera acting who just so happened to bear a strong facial resemblance and put on a red wig. Plus they added a Retcon that Mary Jane had used the "Face it, Tiger" line in her soap opera role and made it popular enough to make someone call herself "Jackpot" (in the previous decades it had been treated as a private thing between her and Peter). To make matters even more complicated, it also turned out there were actually two women who fought crime as Jackpot; the one who appeared in the early Brand New Day issues and who, to make the resemblance to Mary Jane even greater, was shown to have a crush on Spider-Man, eventually got herself killed, transforming from a Red Herring to a Dead one.
    • In the lead up to Superior Spider-Man, Marvel kept the character's identity tightly under wraps. However, a "leaked" script excerpt mentioned Miguel O'Hara, leading many to believe that he was the new Spider-Man (which was supported by the fact that like Miguel, the new Spidey had razor sharp talons). While Miguel did eventually appear in the series, the Superior Spider-Man turned out to be Otto Octavius.
    • The Clone Saga: Poor Anthony Serba. Despite being drawn with a combover, a name hailing from Shiftystan, and a mug which wouldn't look out of place in Dick Tracy, he's not the culprit here. Far from stealing Warren's tissue samples for his own nefarious use, he tried to dispose of them right before Warren snapped and suffocated him to death.
  • Superman:
    • In the Elseworlds story The Nail, Lex Luthor is the Big Bad... or is he? The question is, who is the one manipulating Luthor? The JLA heroes believe at first that it's Starro, but it turns out that Starro is just a mutated Krypto, and the real Big Bad is... Jimmy Olsen. Yes, THAT Jimmy Olsen.
    • In Post-Crisis storyline Who is Superwoman?, Supergirl suspects that her old friend Thara Ak-Var is the evil Superwoman who aided and abetted her father's murderer because Thara was Kandor's security head. It turned out that Superwoman is Lucy Lane, the younger sister of Lois Lane. Thara would later turn out to be the new Flamebird, with Chris Kent as Nightwing; this story also had a red herring, since Thara's mystic fire powers and Chris's recently-developed tactile telekenesis led readers to think they might be Linda Danvers and Kon-El.
    • Superman: Earth One Volume 2 at first seemingly sees Lex Luthor made into a Decomposite Character between Alexander "Lex" Luthor and his wife, Alexandra. However, volume 3 ends with Alexander dead and it turns out that Lex is more of a Gender Flip as Alexandra takes up being called "Lex".
    • The very first issue of Superwoman delivered this to readers. The promo material and the solicitations seemed to hint that the heroine of the series was The New 52 version of Lois Lane, seeing as she gained powers from the events of The Final Days of Superman. Turns out, there was a second Superwoman — Lana Lang — and Lois ends up dying at the end of the first issue.
    • Legends of the Dead Earth:
      • The second part of Supergirl Annual #1 is about a group of female space pirates who find one of their comrades is dead. She tried scratching a symbol on the floor as a way to tell who killed her, and the pirates believe she was trying to say "Supergirl." After nearly everyone is killed, driven by the paranoid belief one of them is Supergirl in disguise, we learn the symbol was really the biohazard symbol on the canisters the first pirate was found under. The canisters contained chemicals that cause aggression and paranoia.
      • In Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #5, Corin is jealous of Kaleb's relationship with Lang and it seems as though he plans to betray him to the Empire. He instead prevents Kaleb from being killed by Luthor the 60th, sacrificing his own life in the process.
    • Starfire's Revenge: Shortly after Starfire falls into a moat, a still hand is seen floating in the water, apparently hinting readers the villain has truly drowned. Nonetheless, Starfire reappears several weeks later, and the identity of the drowned person would remain unknown.
  • When the new, female Thor first showed up, her identity was kept secret. There were hints that she might be Roz Solomon, a female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that had been featured in Jason Aaron's previous Thor run, but it actually turned out that the new Thor was Jane Foster.
  • Tintin: The main plot of "The Castafiore Emerald" is that the eponymous emerald is missing and presumed stolen. Mr. Wagner was acting suspicious — he had mud on his shoes despite allegedly having been inside all morning and he stammers when Tintin confronts him. However, it turns out that he didn't steal it, he just secretly gambles.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk introduced the Ultimate Marvel version of She-Hulk in a Cliffhanger after having earlier introduced Jen Walters (She-Hulk's alter ego in the mainstream Marvel Universe) in a brief supporting role. This turned out to be as misdirect, as the Ultimate She-Hulk was later revealed to be Betty Ross (who later became the Red She-Hulk in the main universe).
    • Early on in The Ultimates 3, there's an ominous close-up of Hawkeye while he's talking about how something needs to be done about Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch before the media can find out about their incestuous relationship. This was obviously meant to imply that Scarlet Witch's killer was Hawkeye instead of Ultron.
    • Ultimate FF: The discussion between Coulson and Machine Man, about the man to send to help the team. If you thought they were talking about Reed Richards, you were wrong: they were talking about Victor Van Damme, A.K.A Doctor Doom.
  • Usagi Yojimbo: In the "Sparrows" storyline, there is a subplot about a temple of monks that was the temple where Jei's first host lived. Run now by Hama, an at the time junior monk who was wounded and nearly killed by Jei all those years ago, it hosts the wandering monk Sanshobo and his fellow monk Senzo. Senzo was recently attacked by Jei and is having frequent nightmares of becoming Jei. When another ill guest at the temple is murdered in the night, everyone at the temple assumes Senzo must have gone crazy and done it. Senzo himself isn't even sure he didn't do it with all the nightmares of Jei he has been having. It turns out it was Hama, who has had the seed of Jei inside him all those years since he was nearly killed by the entity. And since Jei's current host has been mortally wounded and is slowly bleeding out, he has been switching between her and Hama as she fades in and out of consciousness before completely possessing Hama and killing Senzo.
  • An odd example in Watchmen: During the book's opening scene, all we get to see of the Comedian's attacker are his arms. It's probably not the first thing you'd notice, but he's wearing a brown woolen sweater. Much later on in the comic, Hollis Mason is shown between scenes preparing Halloween candy and talking to his dog (the dog being the only clue that it's Hollis talking at all), and all we see are his arms - wearing that exact same brown sweater. If the reader notices this at all, the most likely moment of recognition comes just before a small number of flashback scenes which portray Hollis from a somewhat more negative perspective than most of the rest of the comic does. In short, all these things put together make this particular character extremely suspicious until the real killer is revealed... but only an extremely small number of readers would even notice it on the first read, essentially making it an Easter Egg Red Herring.
  • At the start of X-Force, false hints were dropped that Cable and his arch-enemy Stryfe might be the same person (they use a bunch of the same catchphrases, and Stryfe removes his helmet for the first time showing readers that he has the same face as Cable), playing X-Force and the Mutant Liberation Front against each other for some reason. It's later shown that there's a completely different reason for their similarities.
  • Gambit's role in the X-traitor subplot running in the X-Men comics of the '90s amounted to nothing. A major part of Bishop's backstory was finding a garbled tape of Jean Grey talking about a traitor in the X-Men's ranks who'd killed them all and a man called the Witness, an older version of Remy, being the Sole Survivor, leading Bishop to suspect Gambit when he came to the past.note  Onslaught, itself an example of Writing by the Seat of Your Pantsnote , opened by showing the whole tape Jean made, revealing the titular villain, a split personality of Professor X, was the traitor.note 

    Fan Works 
  • In Arc-Ved Protagonists you can be forgiven for thinking that Necro Gardna is going to be a Chekhov's Gun in Jaden's duel against BB in “Dark Fusion” once it is discarded to the Graveyard, as it's effect can be used there to negate an attack. It is never used, the actual "gun" here is the Elemental HERO Burstinatrix discard at the same time.
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series employs this in "RIP Calvin". When the protagonists meet their future selves, Calvin's is nowhere to be seen, and the other future selves awkwardly refuse to discuss him. This, plus the very title of the episode, imply that he had died in the meantime - until it's found that he is alive, albeit as a Brain in a Jar.
  • The Empty Turnabout, a fan-made Ace Attorney case:
    • Athena Cykes is questioned in Chapter 2, and in a twist, Apollo tells her that he only summoned her to the stand to make her think this trial was about her and that Apollo was desperate enough to accuse an innocent person just to get his revenge on her. She's shocked.
    • Mary Adair is accused in Chapter 3, and we get to read her inner thoughts about destroying Apollo's theory, but Apollo doesn't manage to produce enough evidence to prove she killed Arts. She didn't have access to a gun, so she's ruled out and the trial is over with a guilty verdict for the defendant.
  • In Game Theory, Alhazred. Somewhere between chapters 6 and 11, Precia decides to abandon her attempt to go to Alhazred and instead researches how to use a Jewel Seed to revive Alicia. The Promethean Metabolic Auxillary Mechanism, seemingly created to allow Alicia to survive her trip into Imaginary Space, was actually created to revive Alicia fully. What made the latter revelation particularly effective is that before the Promethean mechanism was created, Precia was testing the effect of anti-magilink fields (based on the natural properties of Imaginary Space) on the Jewel Seeds - the reader was fooled into thinking Precia was telling the truth about the mechanism.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Mr. Black's hostile actions towards Mega Man were meant to make readers think Mega was a target. In reality it was Wily.
  • My Ridonculous Race: Early on in the Japanese leg teams are tasked with getting their travel tip by finding a dog whose name tag has the same symbols as the Hachiko statue. There are several other dogs who have tips that will lead teams to a joke challenge, which is only discovered after they complete it.
  • Mystery of the Self-Loathing Loud, a Dark Fic based on The Loud House, has hints that nearly all of the sisters were the one who wrote the suicide note, when in actuality, it was Lori, who wasn't even a suspect since she never entered the kitchen where the note was.:
    • Leni had been acting nervous around the time the note was dropped, cried in her sleep and then slapped Lori the next morning (and she and Lola gave conflicting reasons for the slap), continued to cry and act nervous throughout the day, didn't put her make-up on, and during the meeting, she kicked Luna and even appeared to be in shock at one point. However, this just turned out to be because she knew who the real note-writer was and was shaken up by it.
    • Luna seemed nervous initially and was acting a lot more quiet and reserved than usual, at one point playing her ukulele, which she usually only does when sad. Later, she snaps at Lincoln, and at one point, it's revealed that she wrote a song about wrist-slitting once. As it turns out, she was sad, but only due to being dumped, and she just wrote the song because it was trendy.
    • Luan had had a bad time at school and was thus very gloomy, at one point asking Lisa for a lethal injection (though she claimed it was a joke). She also gave Mr. Coconuts to Lincoln (claiming that it was so she could concenrate on her homework) and got very angry when the twins found her joke book, in which she'd written a joke about suicide.
    • Lynn was quick to point the finger and the first one to leave the meeting, and at one point made a joke about killing herself.
    • Lucy behaves in a macabre way in general, and the possibility was raised that she had just meant she wanted to be a vampire when she said she didn't want to be alive.
    • Lisa was writing with a green pen early on in the story, and the note was also written in green.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In the sequel, Picking Up the Pieces, Wind Breaker travels to the Griffish Isles, where he helps deal with the proprietors of a crooked orphanage, and learns from their files about a griffon who might be his mom. It turns out she isn't.
  • Pound and Pumpkin Cake's Adventures (and Misadventures) in Potty Training: In "To Snatch a Potty", Mr. Cake becomes oddly nervy when the possibility of Pumpkin's potty having been stolen crops up, hinting that he stole it. Actually, it was Pound who'd stolen it.
  • In Risk It All, There are multiple hints that Ren's mysterious uncle is a member of the Triads, given how unusually wealthy he is to easily pay for Ren's six-month stay in intensive care, the Triads' unusual cooperativeness toward him, and his parents' unwillingness to talk about him. This is all window dressing for the real reveal that Ren's father descends from a line of superhuman Qi cultivators. Any theories of Triad connections go kaput.
  • Ruin Value is set After the End, and describes Celestia searching the ruins of a post-modern city for supplies. The story describes many details about the city, but the whole story intentionally leaves the reader with the sense that the story is set well after the end of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The story is actually a Stealth Prequel to the series, set in Humanity's Wake.
  • During the third season of Total Drama Everything, Vicky is set up to be a bad egg from the start, with many commenters guessing she would be the villain of the season. She is rude to the other contestants, makes it very clear she intents to dominate the game and sabotages Webby during the first challenge. However, unlike the villains from the past seasons, this gets her voted out first.

    Films — Animation 
  • A beautiful one in Appleseed Ex Machina, which works only on viewers aware of John Woo's love for Disturbed Doves. If you haven't seen any Woo movie, you can guess that the birds are bombs. But if you have, you will only say "Oh my god, Doves again !".
  • Batman:
    • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Jordan Pryce is obviously supposed to make the viewer think he's the Joker in disguise. He has similar features and the same voice actor.
    • In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the audience is led to believe that the Phantasm is Carl Beaumont. In-story, many characters initially believe the killer to be Batman. The best part is that Andrea Beaumont went out of her way to make everyone think this in-story. She stole into Gotham as the Phantasm in order to kill her first victim, then left and returned a few days later as Andrea (this time on an airplane) before resuming her killing spree. She hoped that this would allow her to plausibly shift the blame for the murders to her dead father, but the Joker (and Batman) eventually caught on. Also in-story, the Joker theorizes that Arthur Reeves hired the Phantasm to kill the mob bosses (and Joker himself) to hide his past deals with them. He confronts Arthur about it and they are interrupted by a call from Andrea which clues the Joker in to the real identity of the Phantasm.
  • Big Hero 6: The villain, Yokai, uses microbots developed by Hiro, despite them apparently being all destroyed in the fire that killed his brother Tadashi and his teacher Professor Callaghan. The heroes come to the conclusion that Yokai is the local Corrupt Corporate Executive Alistair Krei, who Callaghan told them not to trust and was interested in the microbots. Nope. Yokai is actually Callaghan, who started the fire so he could steal the microbots and take revenge on Krei for a portal accident that killed Callaghan's daughter. Krei may not even be corrupt, as all the things he does that hint at it could just be honest mistakes and Callaghan is the only one who says he's bad. It also turns out that Callaghan's daughter is still alive, just trapped inside the portal.
  • In Brave, the Witch tells Merida that she must "mend the bond, torn by pride", to undo the spell she accidentally put on her mother. Merida naturally assumes this refers to her mother's tapestry — which she tore apart during an earlier argument. However, the "bond" actually refers to the relationship between Merida and Elinor, and the latter only reverts back to normal after Merida apologizes for her behavior and admits that this whole mess is indeed her fault (as opposed to the Witch's).
  • Disney's Frozen:
    • There's a red herring inside a red herring! Elsa accidentally hits her sister Anna in the heart with her ice magic, cursing Anna to slowly freeze from the inside out until she is nothing but an ice statue. Only "an act of true love" can thaw out her heart and reverse the curse. Well, Hans is Anna's true love, right? So all we need is a kiss from him and she'll be alright. Or so you would think. In fact, Hans never loved Anna in the first place, only using her status as Princess to get into the Arendelle royal family so he could kill both sisters and usurp the throne, just so he could get some respect from his family. Anna realizes that it's Kristoff who is her true love, so Anna tries to find him for his kiss. But then once she finds that Hans is about to kill her sister, she abandons the chance and ended up intercepting Hans's blow to Elsa where her curse freezes her solid just as he is about to do so which saves Elsa from Hans' sword. This counts as "an act of true love", thus reversing the curse. Hey, nobody ever said it had to be a romantic act of true love!
    • The revelation of Hans as the villain also makes the Duke of Weselton a red herring as well. While his decisions and attitude regarding Queen Elsa and her ice powers are certainly reprehensible, he's far more open with his intentions and desires. While he does nearly succeed in his goal of killing the queen, he at least believes what he's doing is necessary and in everyone's best interests, and he makes that clear after Hans lies that Anna is dead. All of this means that, while he is devious, he certainly isn't anywhere near as evil as Hans. For all his paranoia, he doesn't question Hans' story, and falls for his "grieving widower" act just like all the other diplomats do. Hans, on the other hand, is a master manipulator, can alter his plans on the fly, and is perfectly capable of taking full advantage of a crisis to benefit himself, and does all of this while coming off like a saint. The only reason he failed was because Olaf found Anna and kept her alive long enough for her to perform her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Forgotten Friendship, Sunset Shimmer refuses to add a "Greatest and Most Powerful-est" label next to Trixie's picture in the yearbook, so Trixie gets angry and swears revenge. Later, all of Sunset's friends and classmates lose their memories of Sunset as a hero and shun her because they only remember her as the jerk and bully she used to be. Trixie gloats when she sees Sunset so miserable, so naturally, Sunset thinks she is responsible for this. Trixie had actually lost her memories of Sunset being a hero as well, and after being convinced of Sunset's story, helps her find the real culprit.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Street Fighter's M. Bison is the first character to ask Ralph if he's "going Turbo". One may think that M. Bison is making a reference to the "Turbo" update of Street Fighter II, where he was playable for the first time, but he's referring to a game character who abandoned his game, and who later turns out to be the main villain.
  • In Zootopia, while investigating the missing mammals, Judy and the audience are led to believe that Mr. Otterton's ranting about "Night Howlers" refers to the wolf mercenaries that abduct the predators that go savage. The truth isn't revealed until much later, when Gideon casually mentions that Night Howler is a common name for a plant that will make anything go savage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 12 Monkeys has the titular twelve monkeys, and Brad Pitt's squiffy-eyed loon and seeming cause of it all as mother of all Red Herrings.
  • Lampshaded in 22 Jump Street, where a jock suspected of being the dealer due to possessing a tattoo of a bazooka reveals that his tattoo is actually of his old high school mascot: the Plainview Red Herring.
  • Amsterdamned: The most prominent one being Martin, who's implied to be the killer when Laura investigates his mansion and finds scuba gear hidden away somewhere. He's not, though, the real killer was actually one of Martin's patients.
  • In the Movie Anamorph (2007) Blair then takes Stan to an art gallery which is filled with model depictions of the recent murders, including Stan's stolen chair. The curator informs them that the artist is Gerri Harden. Searching the art pieces, Stan finds a clay model of the raven, with hundreds of fingerprints still present on the clay. This leads them to a warehouse with a dummy model wearing a Gerri Harden name badge, and several paintings, when Stan realizes the name is an anagram from a red herring.
  • At the beginning of Batman, we see a couple of crooks mugging a couple and their child. We're led to think this is the young Bruce Wayne and his parents Thomas and Martha, and we're about to see the murder of his parents, but suddenly, Batman swoops in and beats up the crooks.
  • The movie Bloody Murder had a moment where it looks like one girl is the murderer in the camp. It then cuts to showing her at the dock, with an evil grimace, as she picks up an oar and beats one of the characters causing him to fall into the lake. It turns out she isn't actually the killer, and they make no attempt to explain why she turned evil for a split second.
  • In the horror anthology film Body Bags, every customer at the gas station in the first segment is implied to have nefarious designs on the heroine, but they all turn out to be unrelated to the real killer.
  • The creepy stalker guy in The Bodyguard was just that. The real killer was a hitman hired by Rachel's sister.
  • In Big Game, the pep talk Moore gives Oskari about having to act tough when one can't be tough looks like a set-up for an epic scene later, but ultimately, it amounts to nothing.
  • At one point in the middle of Brick the main character is attacked by a thug seeming to disrupt him. The origin of this is not revealed and it's implied it'll provide a greater wrinkle to the plot. The explanation isn't revealed until the end, and it turns out he was just hired by another character the protagonist humiliated earlier in the film for revenge.
  • Circle: The characters delve into their pasts at different points, hoping that there might be some clue to explain what is happening or how to escape from the game, but none of it really means anything. They were just picked at random during the Alien Invasion.
  • The mystery/comedy film Clue was shot with three alternate endings, and in all three of them someone says "Communism was just a red herring." Which is true, since despite the movie taking place during the height of the Red Scare and all the suspects having a connection to the US government, the murders that take place have nothing to do with the Cold War.
  • Crooked House has several. The most obvious ones include Brenda being the one who gave Leonides the fatal dose of eserine, her affair with Laurence and the fact she stood to inherit the estate. Charles himself almost dismisses this entirely as being far too convenient. Another is a new will turning up naming Sophia as the benefactor; it's also thrown around that she specifically hired Charles to investigate because he would be unlikely to suspect her, due to their previous romantic relationship. As it turns out neither Brenda, Laurence or Sophia was the killer.
  • The 2013 film Crush opens with a young girl killing a boy out of jealousy before focusing on high school student Bess, an awkward and quiet loner obsessed with star athlete Scott. When bad things start happening to people around Scott, Bess is implied to be the culprit and the girl from the beginning. The actual culprit and girl from the beginning is Bess' co-worker Andie.
  • In Die Hard with a Vengeance the main villain, Simon Gruber, is presented as a mad bomber with a personal grudge against John McClane for killing his brother Hans Gruber, who was the Big Bad of the first film. Turns out that was all a distraction to keep John and his unwitting civilian partner Zeus Carver busy finding bombs, while Simon and his crew of professional mercenaries rob the NY Federal Reserve Bank of its gold. It's later revealed that Simon didn't even like his brother, and John dying from one of the bombs going off was just a bonus while doing the robbery, not a personal priority.
  • Ex Machina:
    • There are scenes that hint at Caleb possibly being the real AI, and Ava being used to test his humanity. Lampshaded when Caleb, himself, starts to wonder if he's real, after the reveal that Kyoko is an AI. He checks to see if his own skin is fake and even cuts himself.
    • In the end, the Episode Title Card "Ava Session 7" appears on screen even though Caleb isn't administering the Turing test and Nathan is already dead. This may suggest that Ava was testing the two of them the entire time.
  • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Obscurials are wizards who tried to repress their own magic (usually due to childhood abuse), turning it into a destructive parasitical force known as an Obscurus, one of which is loose in New York during the movie. All known Obscurials are under the age of 10, since their Obscurus quickly kills them (Newt has an Obscurus for study whose host, a Sudanese girl, died at age 8. Ariana Dumbledore, an unconfirmed one, made it to 14). So surely Modesty Barebone, an around-ten-year-old Creepy Child who suffered abuse at the hands of her violently anti-magical mother, is a prime candidate for Obscurial-hood. Well, everyone might think so, but the Obscurial is actually her older brother, Credence. He managed to survive as long as he did because his magic was so insanely powerful that it kept him alive despite his Obscurus.
  • The Fast and the Furious does this twice in rapid succession:
    • While undercover cop Brian is working his cover job at the auto parts shop, Hector and his crew come in to buy parts for their cars. When Brian discovers that the cars he's buying parts for are the same make and model as the cars used in a series of truck heists, he becomes suspicious. He sneaks into Hector's garage that night and looks over their cars. Hector's then exonerated when Brian discovers the cars aren't finished being modified and the tires don't match the tread marks found at the scene.
    • As Brian's leaving Hector's garage, he's ambushed by Dominic and Vince and tries to explain that he's only checking out the competition because he can't afford to lose again. He's able to convince Dominic he's not a cop and they decide to check out more competition: Johnny Tran. While the three of them are looking around Johnny's garage, Brian finds a load of DVD players like the ones stolen from the truck. He reports this to his superiors and they perform a raid on Johnny and his crew. However, it turns out that the DVD players were purchased legally and they were forced to release him.
  • In Field of Dreams, Ray assumes that the voice instructing him to build a baseball field on his cropland is instructing him to help other people. He thinks "If you build it, he will come" refers to Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Ease his pain" refers to Terrance Mann, and "Go the distance" refers to Moonlight Graham. It turns out the voice was talking about Ray making amends with his own deceased father all along.
  • The Final Destination film series generally uses Disaster Dominoes to set up its incredibly bizarre deaths. The lead-up to Candice's death in Final Destination 5 includes a pipe leaking onto an exposed wire and a nail landing on her gymnastics beam. She finishes her routine without even noticing the nail, and never steps on the wire. Then she moves onto the horizontal bar, which looks dangerously loose... At which point, the next girl to use the beam steps on the nail and falls off, setting off a much shorter chain of events.
  • Flightplan: With his history of playing villains, Sean Bean's casting as the pilot was this. He seems to be gaslighting the protagonist by repeteadly denying her claims about her missing daughter, but he just does it because like near everyone else, he sincerely doesn't believe her. And once the protagonist does find her kid, he's the among the first to acknowledge it.
  • The Fugitive:
    • After his dive off the dam, we see Dr. Richard Kimble get a ride from a woman, and we cut to the marshals saying "they've got him - shacked up with some babe over in Whiting" who "left work tonight and took him home". When Gerard and his men raid the house, surprise - it's Copeland, the other convict who survived the train wreck and escaped, and is shot dead by Gerard after resisting arrest and taking one of his deputies hostage.
    • Dr. Alec Lentz is set up to be the Big Bad of the movie and orchestrator of Kimble's downfall. However, we learn halfway through the film that Lentz was killed in a car crash soon after Kimble's incarceration, and that the real villain was Dr. Charles Nichols.
  • Every trailer for Godzilla made Godzilla out to be the primary threat, but in fact the MUTOs are the real bad guys.
  • In Get Out , when arriving at the Armitage estate for a weekend at his girlfriend's, Rose, parents house, the first thing that makes Chris suspect that something is wrong are Georgina and Walter, the African American housekeeper and groundskeeper acting in a way that seems "old fashioned." Mixed with the fact that Rose's mother, Missy, is a trained hypnotist, and Rod's, Chris' friend, insistence that she will turn him into a Sex Slave, the audience makes the assumption that Missy took a kidnapped young African American couple and brainwashed them into docile servitude. It turns out that the Armitage family kidnaps young African Americans, hypnotizes their minds into "the Sunken Place" cuts out their brain, leaving behind only the stem, so that a feeble old white person' brain/mind can control their new body, while the original owner's mind has no way to contact the outside world, and sees their body used for anything, including sexual intercourse.
  • The hero of Headhunters is an art burglar. At a party he is introduced to the top detective in the country, who has recently switched from murder to art burglary investigation. It appears this is a matchup of worthy opponents who will spend the rest of the movie in dogged competition. Actually the detective never investigates Roger for art burglary, only getting involved with the film's murders. He also notices the discrepancies in evidence that Roger has left behind, but protects his own reputation as the best cop in the country by ignoring them for a quick, clean solve.
  • James Bond
    • In A View to a Kill, Max Zorin's genetically modified racehorses have nothing to do with the plot and serve only as an excuse to get Bond involved in Zorin's business.
    • In GoldenEye Q waxes lyrical about the features of the new Bondmobile, none of which are used in the film.
    • Bond's Aston Martin in Skyfall serves as a Bait-and-Switch Continuity Nod. The scene soon after we're introduced to the car, Bond alludes to its passenger-side Ejection Seat but he doesn't use it. In fact, the ejector seat never gets used; the purpose of this scene is to establish that this is the vintage Goldfinger car. Thanks to this, the audience has no reason to question the machine guns behind the headlights.
  • One film critic joked that Robert Downey Jr.'s character in Gothika should have just been named Red Herring, it was so obvious that's what he was.
  • A small one in Gummo in which the narrator talks about two brothers, and saying 'They seemed to have wonderful lives. I don't know what went wrong.'. We then see the two brothers fighting, and it's expected that it something drastic will happen between the two. However they're fight soon comes to and end, then one of them calmly asks the other what's for dinner
  • In The Hobbit, the Dwarven windlance in Lake-town. The Desolation of Smaug makes dedicated focus to this lone weapon on the tower, with Balin stating that it's the only thing that can make the Black Arrows pierce Smaug's hide. Bard, when he heard the rumblings from the mountain, decides to take the last remaining Black Arrow to the windlance, but he is stopped by the Lake-town authorities and thrown in a jail cell while Bain hides the Black Arrow in a boat. Ultimately, the Black Arrow never makes it to the windlance when Smaug lays waste on the town, and Bard has to fire the Black Arrow with a makeshift long-bow on top of the bell tower.
  • In Hot Fuzz the Red Herrings don't so much lead to the wrong killer, as to the wrong motives behind the murders. Nicholas comes up with a very complicated plan that involved money, cheating, jealousy and a very lucrative land deal. Turns out there were no connections between the victims; they were all killed because of some minor character flaws (which Nicholas and Danny actually namechecked as they were compiling their first theory) that were seen as hurting Sandford's status as an idyllic, perfect village, something the real killers take very seriously.
  • Hot Shots! has a character named 'Red' Herring.
  • The racially-charged environment of In the Heat of the Night had nothing to do with the murder. It was just a mugging gone wrong.
  • In The Intruders, most of the characters around the protagonist simply exist to be the audience's "suspects". The actual antagonist lives deep inside the house.
  • In Kindergarten Cop, when John Kimble starts posing as a kindergarten teacher, he finds that one of the boys in his class is perpetually sullen and morose, frequently having bruises which he claims come from falling down. He suspects that he is Cullen Crisp's son, but it turns out he's not; he simply has an abusive father, whom Kimble beats the crap out of.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Mark Strong has a reputation for playing villains note , and the comic book equivalent of his character is revealed as The Mole. It turns out that in the film, it's the organization's leader who is the mole instead.
  • The Loft: The business about Anne being the sister of one of Chris's patients who committed suicide turns out to be completely unrelated to death of the woman in the loft. Given it is later revealed that her first meeting with chris with staged by Vincent, it is possible the story about her sister might not even be true.
  • The Machinist at one point shows blood prominently flowing from a refrigerator, implying that the main character has killed someone and placed the body in there. The source is just some fish due to the electricity going out and the fridge failing. It has no real bearing on the plot.
  • Prince Phillip becomes this in Maleficent, wherein the fairies believe that his Love at First Sight for Aurora will break her curse. It doesn't, because a love that deep cannot exist between two people after just one meeting, and in the film it is rather forced by the fairies, leaving little room for any "true love". This works because it did break her curse in the original film.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Promotional material for Iron Man 3 (2013) smokescreens the fact that The Mandarin is just an actor paid to take the blame for the real Big Bad.
    • Everything advertised about Captain America: The Winter Soldier from the trailers to the posters to the title itself is designed as a distraction from the true plot of the film. It's an Antagonist Title, but a minor one: the Winter Soldier is just on the payroll of the still-alive HYDRA, which turns out to have been hidden within S.H.I.E.L.D. since the organization's creation after World War 2.
    • Avengers: Endgame has Ant-Man's van with the Quantum Tunnel. While it is the reason that Lang reappears after five years, afterwards it fails to be useful to travel back in time as Stark invents a better design. In the final battle, Thanos destroys the van before they can use it to send the glove with the Infinity Stones back in time and out of his grasp for good.
  • Mindhunters: By the time the cast is whittled down to about five people, it's revealed that Jake Harris, the supervisor, is the real killer when he begins to taunt them through the loudspeakers set up on the island. They find him inside his lair, only to discover that the speakers were playing a pre-recorded tape and Harris himself had been tortured to death.
  • A few in Mystery Team. Parodied with Old Man McGinty, played straight with the union strike.
  • No Way Out has the antagonists start a Witch Hunt for a Soviet mole suspected of killing the Defense Secretary's mistress as a red herring to divert attention from the real murderer.
  • Played straight repeatedly in A Perfect Getaway, where the protagonists try to find out which romantic couple is a pair of killers. Just for good measure, two characters are introduced all shadowy-The Faceless-like to drive the audience crazy. Even better, another possible suspect invokes "red snappers" in his second scene. And as it turns out, they're both red herrings, as the real killers are the protagonist couple themselves, and the whole movie hasn't been about finding the killers, but about finding their next victims.
  • In Point Break, undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah encounters a gang of tough and violent surfers at a beach and suspects that they are the "Ex-Presidents", a gang of bank robbers suspected to be surfers. He soon participates in an FBI raid on the surfer gang's home — where he finds that while they are drug smugglers and heavily-armed, they are not the Ex-Presidents. Even worse, the raid ruins another undercover operation by the DEA. Oops!
  • The 2013 film Prisoners is about two little girls being kidnapped by a serial killer, and the main characters' borderline-Knight Templar efforts to find the girls. A man named Bob Taylor is finally set up to be "the culprit". There's lots of evidence: he buys small childrens' clothes despite not having kids, he has a creepy, suspicious personality, he behaves evasively when Detective Loki shows up to question him, there's even a climactic "resisting arrest" scene before Taylor is subdued, and just to drive it home how psychotic Taylor is, he keeps friggin' snakes in the same trunks as the bloody children's clothes, those clothes also being a clue. The problem is, this is all a Red Herring; Taylor was actually a previous kidnapping victim who simply went bonkers and started imitating the true culprit. Also, Alex Jones could count as one, but since Mr. Keller goes Knight Templar trying to torture information about the girls out of Jones, the audience was already pretty sure Jones was going to turn out to be innocent.
  • In Prom Night, there are several suspects for the killer's identity, all pertaining to whoever found Robin Hammond's dead body after she was killed by her classmates: Leonard Murch, a Serial Rapist who was framed for her murder and recently escaped from a hospital meaning he'd want to take revenge on whoever framed him; Mr. Sykes, the school's Crusty Caretaker who stares at the girls creepily, and Robin's father Mr. Hammond, who would likewise have a strong motive for the crime and conveniently disappears when the killings begin to pile up.
  • In Red Riding Hood, the Wolf had certain dialogue that made it sound like it could be Peter and also there was also Valerie's grandmother who was creepy and unnatural at times.
  • In Rising Sun, Eddie Sakamura is shown from the beginning of the film as a Jerkass, rich corporate son who is used to getting his way, disrespects his girlfriend and has sex with lots of other women. He is also played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who is known to play villain roles throughout his career. So naturally when the girlfriend turns up dead at a corporate business party, he is the first one the police suspect, except Connor the veteran detective that knows Japanese culture. Conner is right, as Eddie was part of a setup along with a US Senator. Eddie is made to be the fall guy for the police, while the Senator, who was having an affair with Eddie's girlfriend, gets black mailed to agree on a certain bill in congress. The real killer is revealed to be the one corporate employee nobody takes seriously and thinks is a pathetic ass kisser.
  • Saw:
    • Zepp the hospital orderly is clearly set up to be the Jigsaw killer throughout Saw, however it is revealed in a twist ending that Zepp was merely a useful pawn of the real Jigsaw killer, a patient of his and Dr. Gordon's named John Kramer, who has been posing as a corpse on the floor of the bathroom where the victims were shackled.
    • There's usually one of these about once a movie, whether it be a character or just sequences in there to distract from the main plot twist, usually with plenty of foreshadowing.
  • Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed has two of them, in regards to the main villain behind the monster attacks. Both also hint at who the main villain actually is.
    • Firstly, there's Jeremiah Wickles. He was the cellmate of Jonathan Jacobo, who'd been investigating methods to create real monsters prior to his death, and he'd also been the Black Knight Ghost, one of the costumes stolen in the museum robbery. The gang investigate him and find a monster-making manual in his library, along with a bunch of Applied Phlebotinum used in monster-making. Turns out that not only is he trying to go straight, but he and Jacobo hated each other and would never have partnered up. This comes into play when Jacobo is revealed to have been the villain all along, having been Not Quite Dead; he'd been intentionally trying to frame Wickles.
    • Secondly, there's Patrick, the owner of the museum. While undercover at the Bad-Guy Bar, Shaggy and Scooby run into him grilling a man in an uncharacteristically aggressive manner. Later in the film, Velma infers that Patrick is the villain, and towards the climax she encounters a Stalker Shrine to Jacobo that Patrick seemingly set up. This comes into play when it provides Velma with a crucial piece of evidence: a photo of Jacobo outside the unfinished museum, when he'd supposedly died before construction ever began, proving that he's still alive.
  • Scream
    • In the first Scream:
      • Sheriff Burke gets a close-up shot, which shows that he wears the same kind of shoes as the killer. And then he barely appears for the rest of the film.
      • Played with very cleverly; Sidney's boyfriend Billy is very obviously set up as the killer, and given the savvy nature of the film and its characters, the audience will assume that this is a Red Herring. It's not. Billy actually is the killer; the true twist was that Stu was his partner in crime. Bonus points for faking his death too.
    • Derek and Cotton (and his bloody hands) in Scream 2, detective Kincaid and John Milton in Scream 3, Deputy Judy and Trevor in Scream 4. They love this trope.
  • Sky High pays a lot of attention to a Predecessor Villain named Baron Battle, the father of one of the important characters and a major player in the backstory, setting it up that he may be the mysterious cloaked person watching the heroes. It's actually none other than the main character's girlfriend.However, Word of God says Baron Battle WAS planned to show up in one of the intended 3 sequels, so it's not entirely this trope.
  • Towards the beginning of Sonic the Hedgehog, a scene with Maddie's sister Rachel (who hates Tom and constantly tries to convince Maddie to divorce him) and a meaningful-looking shot of Robotnik's drone riddling a photo of Maddie and Tom with bullets suggests that the shenanigans of the movie might put a strain on Maddie and Tom's relationship. This never happens, Maddie is amazingly patient with the shenanigans Tom's apparently gotten up to even before she sees the wounded humanoid hedgehog he's been protecting, and in fact Rachel spends the entire second half of the movie tied to a chair where nobody, not even her own daughter, will listen to her.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Attack of the Clones, when Anakin is trying to fight against the Geonosians inside of the Droid factory, he at one point gets his arm trapped within a piece of molded armor, and is drawing closer and closer to a crushing machine/cutting machine, causing the audience to think he'll lose his arm as a result of the battle. Turns out he actually loses it during the battle with Count Dooku towards the end (but it does cut his lightsaber, making the next one be the one be the "family heirloom" Obi-Wan passes to Luke later).
    • A meta example with The Force Awakens. All the marketing materials, from the trailer, to the movie's poster show Finn holding Anakin's blue lightsaber, lead people to speculate that he would be the subject of the titular "awakening" in the Force. However, it turns out that it's Rey who's Force sensitive and who eventually uses said lightsaber to defeat villain Kylo Ren.
    • Rogue One: K2 mentions that if they can't get through the orbital shield, they'll all disintegrate in the cold void of space... except him. He's the first to die in the tower, shot by stormtroopers. Everyone dies on-planet.
  • In Sunset Boulevard, Max, Norma's butler seems to have motive and opportunity for the murder of Joe Gillis: he was Norma's discoverer and first husband, and is still slavishly loyal to her, trying to comfort her even as Joe wants to leave her, and he was outside with hi. However, it turns out that Max is actually polite and docile, and Norma shoots Joe herself.
  • It was initially believed that Eric Sacks was going to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)'s incarnation of the Shredder. He's actually The Dragon to the real Shredder. Also a case of Executive Meddling as Eric Sacks really was intended to be the hidden alias of Shredder; focus testing told producers that some considered it to be a case of 'whitewashing'. They played it safe and rewrote the plot
  • All of the discussion about the mysterious disappearance of Davras' father in Theatre of Death. The father turns out to have nothing to do with the case.
  • Tower of Death introduces a crazed, almost feral martial artist named Lewis, who keeps lions as pets, savagely beats challengers to death with his bare hands, and enjoys feasting on bloody steak in order to make himself - in his own words - more savage. The film pretty much builds him to be the villain, until Lewis gets unceremoniously killed by his own valet, a traitor working for the real Big Bad. Who is the hero's supposedly deceased friend that actually faked his own death earlier in the movie.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Shockwave was advertised as the film's Big Bad. He was even the Final Boss for the movie's video game adaptation. In the film itself, he's just an Advertised Extra, the actual Big Bad is Sentinel Prime.
  • Finn Youngblood, the escaped mental patient, turns out to have nothing to do with the murders in Varsity Blood. However, The End... Or Is It? ending to the film reminds us that he is still out there as a possible Sequel Hook.
  • In Victim, there's a lengthy subplot involving an older blind man and his partner which implies they're involved in the blackmail ring. Turns out they're just minor swindlers operating their own, separate racket.
  • In the film version of the nuclear farce Whoops Apocalypse, a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Princess Diana is kidnapped, drugged, and placed on display in Madame Tussaud's London wax museum. The obvious assumption is that she's disguised as the waxwork of herself, but it turns out that she's actually disguised as Sleeping Beauty.
  • In Wonder Woman, it is heavily implied that General Erich Ludendorff is Ares in human disguise. Ares turns out to be a totally different character.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • X-Men: Magneto looks at Wolverine's dogtags before asking Sabretooth, "Where is the mutant now?" This is to mislead the audience into the same line of thinking as the heroes, that Magneto is after Wolverine, instead of his true target Rogue.
    • The Wolverine: Will Yun Lee (Harada) was promoted to have rigorous sword training, but most of his action scenes involved archery. If you're familiar with the comics character, one might be surprised that in this film, Harada is NOT the Silver Samurai.
    • X-Men: First Class: There are two incidents which fooled some audience members into believing that this would be the moment where Xavier would become crippled: the first was when the Blackbird crashed, and the other was when Charles experienced the trauma of Shaw's death telepathically. Afterwards, these viewers then assumed that Xavier's disability will be dealt with in a sequel, but then he is accidentally wounded by Magneto.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: The Blackbird, along with all the various equipment that is kept underground at the school, seem to foreshadow their use later on in the film. Their only purpose is to cause the explosion that destroys the entire school and kills Havok.
    • Logan has Charles imply Wolverine is responsible for the X-Men's death, when really it was his own uncontrolled psychic powers.

  • Maze: Solve the World's Most Challenging Puzzle: Don't bother trusting anything you see in the Maze, as only about 20% of the book's bizarre clues and images are actually helpful. The rest is just there to confuse you. There's even an actual red herring over the entrance to the house on the book's cover.
  • You Be the Jury: Usually, one or two of the illustrated evidence exhibits helped to reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty. In most cases, the third piece of evidence is completely useless.

  • 2666: The crazy man who goes around desecrating religious icons is not the killer.
  • In And Then There Were None they mention a "red herring" right in the poem. For good reason, because the killer Judge Wargrave fakes his death and then drowns his assistant, Dr. Armstrong, leaving the remaining characters Vera, Philip, and William to suspect each other of being the killer. And when Dr. Armstrong disappears, murdered by drowning by the real killer, the other recall the poem saying "red herring" and try to be genre savvy and believe that the former was faking this death.
  • In Meg Cabot's Avalon High, Ellie is supposed to fall in love with Lance and isn't supposed to affect the plot because her namesake Elaine of Shalott fell in love with Lancelot and committed suicide when he didn't return her affections. Ellie decides to Screw Destiny and rescue Will anyways. Turns out that her namesake was just the red herring, as she isn't the Lady of Shalott but the Lady of the Lake.
  • Page-quote supplier Dashiell Hammett naturally employs this trope in a lot of his stories. Possibly the most prominent is The Continental Op short "The Tenth Clew", where a dead man's car contains nine conspicious clues that lead the Op to the tenth and only useful one: that those nine were all planted, and he should be looking at someone who has nothing to do with any of them.
  • Dan Brown uses this Once per Book: near the beginning of each book, we are introduced to a character who is a rather unpleasant and/or sneaky fellow and has more or less the same mindset of the people orchestrating the current crisis. Naturally, they end up being completely innocent. The specific examples in each book are:
  • Happens rather annoyingly in Chatroom Trap. All those creeps who wanted to see the girls naked online? Have nothing to do with the crime. The culprit is the man who runs a fake model agency.
  • Several Agatha Christie novels use this. The owner of a boarding house has a closet she refuses to open, even when told to by the police? Holds a remarkable supply of gin bottles. A woman refuses to see her husband, who thinks she's been kidnapped? Turns out she gained a lot of weight, and her husband is the opposite of a Chubby Chaser. And so on.
    • One in Lord Edgware Dies is really outstanding though, as it's a rare case of an inverted Red Herring. Into just about a third of the book, Hastings mentions in passing that it was the last time he saw Jane Wilkinson, which hints at either her impending murder or low plot relevance of her character after all. In fact, she is the murderer, and Hastings just had to leave Britain before her trial.
    • In Murder on the Orient Express, multiple clues turn out to be red herrings planted to confuse Poirot. He even specifically refers to the sighting of an unidentified woman in a scarlet kimono as one in The Summation.
  • Common in Golden Age detective fiction. Dorothy L. Sayers' Clouds of Witness has a setup not unlike the one in the intro (and the book has several others!) and a later book, with six suspects, is entitled The Five Red Herrings.
  • The The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids story Genesis of the Cupids, advertised as revealing the identity of the Clockwork Cherubs’ mysterious Creator at long last, sees various villains travelling back in Time to a Clock Punk-themed Planet of Hats intent on erasing the Cupids from history by killing the Creator before her time. While this is going on, it spends a lot of time on a new POV character, a young woman native to the clock-punk world, called Evangeline Forger, who is shown to have discovered the mysterious ability to give clockwork robots human-like personalities and free will. However, by the story's end, it turns out Evangeline is not the Creator — the Creator was instead the mysterious "special guest" of the Workshops, Professor Hartnell, whom Evangeline was trying to reach. When the two finally meet in the Epilogue, however, Evangeline does pass on the secret of robotic sentience to Hartnell, meaning Evangeline's discovery was still involved in the Cupids' creation even if she isn't the Creator.
  • In The Culture novel Look to Windward, there's a story told between chapters about a Culture citizen who happens to be visiting the habitat where the Chel are plotting their attack on an Orbital. He learns about the attack from a dying Special Circumstances operative and desperately tries to get a message back to the Culture. After the attack is foiled, the reader learns that he never made it; he was killed by the Chel and only restored long after the events. His story seems to be there mainly to have a potential explanation for the Culture learning about the plot other than the real one; that one of the Chel involved was actually working for the Culture all along.
  • In Detectives in Togas, the slave Udo tells the boys he was at a certain place where he heard sounds of swords clashing and someone shouting constantly "Ave imperator, morituri te salutant!" The boys look for one gladiator school and don't find it. And then they stumble upon a blacksmith forging swords with a parrot constantly shouting that phrase and know: Udo was here.
  • Two of the Dinoverse books have this in the form of the amber key. The characters know that an amber key and preventing a disaster are essential to getting home. They find a key-shaped fragment of amber that sets off happy feelings in anyone who touches it and spends a lot of effort on the thing, but it turns out that the key is a dinosaur with amber markings who needs to survive a difficult event. The actual key is only useful in distracting other dinosaurs when a character fucks up, and is given no further thought or explanation.
  • Discworld:
    • In Feet of Clay several characters, including Vimes himself, note the horrible green wallpaper in Vetinari's bedroom while trying to work out how he's being poisoned with arsenic. In Real Life, Napoleon was poisoned by arsenic fumes from green wallpaper, and several murder mysteries have used this as a resolution. It turns out the arsenic is in the candles; Terry Pratchett treasures letters he received saying "We were SURE it was the wallpaper, you bastard!"
    • Vimes is cynical about clues as they're too convenient, and considers any half-competent criminal can invent half a dozen to leave at the scene of the crime, while any underexperienced investigator will pick up another half-dozen.
  • The second section of The Dragon Waiting is a murder mystery, and is packed with red herrings. Even the identities of the protagonists are subject to crimson ichthyology: as of the beginning of the section, all the protagonists are using assumed identities which are unknown to the reader, who is left trying to guess not only which of the inn's guests is the murderer, but also which are the three protagonists in disguise. The chances are good that the reader will be proven wrong about at least one guess, possibly by having an apparent protagonist become the next victim, before the truth is revealed.
  • Graeme Base's book The Eleventh Hour is a lavishly-illustrated children's book filled with hidden clues and secrets in almost all the illustrations — including a few figurative and literal red herrings.
  • Fate/strange fake: Haruri Borzak attempts to summon a Servant using a Mazda light bulb as a catalyst. The Servant that appears, True Berserker, has lion motifs and immediately goes berserk and injures her. Haruri assumes he did this because he was summoned in a factory that uses Nikola Tesla's alternating current. All the signs point to True Berserker being Thomas Edison, since in Fate/Grand Order, Edison has a lion motif and hates any mention of Tesla or his inventions, and the light bulb is heavily associated with him. It is eventually revealed that True Berserker is actually Humbaba, a monster that Gilgamesh and Enkidu had fought. His rampage had nothing to do with Tesla's inventions.
  • In Father, Forgive Them, Red Herrings abound. None of them are the true killer, but this example is unusual in that all the suspects insist they wish they had killed the victim, and were present at the time of death, and had the means to do so.
  • Galaxy of Fear: Ghost of the Jedi is crowded with these. People are dying of unknown causes as they find a Spooky Silent Library. Dannik Jerriko, a highly suspicious and surly character who soon proves to be an Anzati and able to kill without leaving marks, but he was actually hired to take out another assassin and promptly leaves the book. Then a curse or an angry Jedi ghost is made to look at fault.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Rawne is kidnapped and tortured by Heldane. Later, Heldane thinks about how to create a "pawn" — painfully — and manipulates "the pawn" by Gaunt. Rawne reacts to Heldane and acts suspiciously about Gaunt. In the end, he is merely sensitive to Heldane, and in fact kills the actual pawn, because his sensitivity alerts him to something happening before it actually does.
  • Harry Potter has at least one such distraction per book. After readers started catching on that the first suspect was never the guilty party, Rowling started upping the ante with hints pointing to a second suspect... who wasn't it either. Then in the sixth book, suddenly, all the people up to something are exactly the ones Harry suspects from the start. J. K. Rowling even indulges in some Lampshade Hanging in book six, with various characters pointing out that Snape and Malfoy had been accused in the last five books. Snape is really the ultimate red herring of the books because he acts suspiciously throughout the books and is the suspect in at least two books, but he is revealed to have been acting on the good guys' side in the final book.
    • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are positive that Snape is trying to steal the above-mentioned stone. He's certainly nasty enough to be the villain. Harry doesn't find out the truth until the very end though when it turns out poor, shy, stuttering Professor Quirrell had been behind everything that happened all along, and Snape had been trying to protect Harry (while simultaneously disliking him for petty reasons).
    • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets The trio once more suspects one of the obvious antagonists, Draco Malfoy, believing he has opened the Chamber of Secrets and is attacking the muggle-born students in the school. After some amateur sleuthing they are able to debunk that though and come to suspect Red Herring #2, Hagrid. Just to keep the cleverer audience members on their toes, Percy begins acting shifty and ambitious and fits the facts of the case strangely well. Plus, Harry himself is revealed to be a Parselmouth, an ability associated with Slytherin, and keeps hearing strange, murderous voices that nobody else can hear shortly before each attack, which might lead one to the conclusion that he is somehow unwittingly responsible and he is indeed suspected by a large proportion of the student body. By the end of the book, it turns out that Tom Riddle, possessing Ron's sister Ginny through his old diary, has been behind the events of the book.
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
      • Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and is out to kill Harry. First reading it, and not knowing Rowling's formula, you wouldn't suspect anything. He betrayed Harry's parents, he's one of Voldemort's loyal Death Eaters and now is out to get the protagonist in order to avenge his fallen master. Despite a few counter-clues, the majority of the book is geared toward making the reader believe this. Turns out Sirius is completely innocent and was falsely accused, and the person that betrayed Harry's parents was Ron's pet rat, who turns out to be an animagus (shape shifter), and is really Peter Pettigrew, an old friend of his parents who was believed to be one of Sirius' victims. Even if you were onto the fact Sirius wasn't the antagonist, you wouldn't have seen that coming.
      • One of the most brilliant red herrings involving Snape happens here too. When he discovers the trio with Sirius and Remus, Snape flat out attempts to murder Sirius, saying "Give me a reason. Give me a reason to do it and I swear I will", which seems downright evil considering we've just found out that Sirius is entirely innocent. The kids put him down, though, and it's all good. Once again, Snape's evil nature is further revealed. Then it turns out that Snape's desire to put Sirius down had nothing to do with the werewolf attacks or the fact that he was a Death Eater, but because he still honestly believed that Sirius had caused the death of the only woman he'd ever loved, and the very plot point that saves him from being a villain.
      • After the book introduces the concept of Animagi (Wizards who can willfully turn themselves into animals at will), it seems to strongly suggest that Hermione's newly-introduced cat, Crookshanks, is actually a disguised Animagus. Ron is consistently suspicious of Crookshanks for most of the book, as he seems to be fixated on catching and killing Scabbers the rat, and several characters note that he seems oddly intelligent for a common housecat. Not to mention that the books had previously introduced Professor McGonagall as a cat Animagus, and Hermione's insistence on defending Crookshanks seems to be a set-up for a Devil in Plain Sight plot. After The Reveal, though, it turns out that Scabbers is a disguised Animagus; Crookshanks attacked him because he could see through the disguise.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is in more of a whodunnit style, with a variety of suspects who could be working to kill Harry, because the popularity of the series had soared after the third book, a large online community had sprung up, and people had caught onto Rowling's style, meaning she had to adapt. Was it the Obviously Evil headmaster of the Academy of Evil, the Obstructive Bureaucrat who appears to be suffering Sanity Slippage, or the possibly Affably Evil guest judge who has a vested interest in Harry's success in the tournament? It turns out to be none of these suspects, but instead the gruff-yet-lovable new professor, Mad-Eye Moody, who has been supposedly helping Harry the whole time. Though, truthfully, it was a Death Eater disguised as Mad-Eye Moody, through the use of Polyjuice Potion.
    • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the red herring is less pronounced. There are two concurrent plots occurring: the Ministry of Magic's takeover of Hogwarts, and Voldemort's search for a weapon that can win him the war. There's a possibility though that the two plots aren't so separate when the Ministry-appointed Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Dolores Umbridge makes Harry's scar burn (which only happens when Voldemort is feeling a particularly strong emotion... or is close by). Voldemort has possessed people before, and out of the last four DADA Professors, half have been directly working for the Big Bad, Umbridge serves the role of the book's main villain and every other villain has been connected to Voldemort. This theoretical connection doesn't pan out, however. It was either a coincidence Harry's scar burned when Umbridge touched him, or Umbridge's own aura of evil is just that strong. There's a reason there was a trope named after her.
    • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry suspects his two favorite nemeses, who he has falsely accused before – Snape and Malfoy – of being up to something. No one believes him, however, and there is Lampshade Hanging when various characters point out Snape and Malfoy have been falsely accused before by Harry. You are almost inclined to believe they are innocent as the obsessiveness of Harry's stalking them becomes annoying to the reader. It is obvious from his point of view that they are up to something. Everyone else gets a big slap in the face when it turns out he was right, and Malfoy lets Death Eaters into the castle and Snape kills Dumbledore. Though it turns out that Snape was acting under Dumbledore's orders. Notably, Dumbledore never explicitly tells Harry that he's wrong, only that he has it under control. Which is technically true.
      • There's a great deal of effort put into making it look like Tonks is under the Imperius curse but turns out it was Rosmerta instead and that Tonks's odd and depressive behavior is simply a result of her relationship problems with Remus.
    • In a somewhat more obscure case, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them featured a red herring, of sorts: in addition to cataloging the creatures previously mentioned, a number of (at the time) new creatures were featured to help round out the scope of the setting. One of these was the Lethifold - a shadow creature, thick as a membrane, which could slide anywhere and killed people by smothering them and digesting them in their beds. It could only be defeated with a Patronus, which was, at the time, a sort of secondary Signature Move for Harry. As a result, a lot of people expected one to show up in the final books of the franchise, probably as a weapon used by Voldemort, but it never featured until a decade later in the movie of the same name (see above).
  • Chaff and Seeder in the second book of The Hunger Games initially seem like they would be important characters. They are from the same distinct as Rue and Thresh and at different points, Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch all consider/advocate for them to team up. Plus Chaff being close friends with Haymitch and Seeder deliberately seeking out Katniss to thank her for looking after Rue and Thresh's families. Instead, they are both killed in the Quarter Quell without making an appearance despite both being aware of the rebel's plan.
  • Illegal Aliens features a literal red herring. An alien reporter who resembles a red, anthropomorphic fish.
  • Johannes Cabal the Necromancer:
    • Johannes Cabal makes his Deal with the Devil, much fuss is made about how he has a finite amount of Satan's blood to use in his adventures. That all comes to nothing. It's mentioned a few times in the middle of the book, but by the end it's fallen out of the plot entirely. He never runs out of blood, and it's never a plot point.
    • There's another red herring at the climax when Johannes tricks the devil into demanding the box of contracts rather than all of the contracts. Thus, Johannes saves the souls of the innocents he coerced into signing.
  • The Kane Chronicles: In The Red Pyramid, Carter hears Set speak French in a vision, leading him to assume that Set is being hosted by the French-speaking Desjardins. He's wrong.
  • Land of Oz: In In Search of Dorothy, the Witch of the East's crystal ball shows the Witch of the West about to attack Glinda, but it turns out to be an illusion —- her real target is the Emerald City where the heroes are currently based.
  • In Last Sacrifice, Adrian's mother was believed to be the Queen's murderer, turns out it was Tasha.
  • In the beginning of Loyal Enemies the mayor of Displacing is hinted to have something suspicious in mind and it's suggested he might be a werewolf. Then the heroes leave Displacing, their adventure takes them dozens of miles from the city and the man is never mentioned again.
  • Magic For Liars has a few:
    • Mr. Toff is a stereotype of a sexual predator surrounded by rumors and sleaze...but has nothing to do with the events of the story.
    • Alexandria undergoes a sudden transformation over a break and comes back with a new name, new appearance, and new willpower...but she's just a teenage girl reinventing herself.
    • Tabitha deliberately fingers Alexandria as a suspect due to the latter's previous disproportionate retribution...but that's just to take focus off Tabitha herself.
  • The Mummy Monster Game: Literally, in book 2; some of the riddles that must be solved in "The Mummy Tomb Hunt" game turn out to be red herrings towards the final game location, which is represented by a red fish appearing on the screen and blowing bubbles after the clue is solved. They can still provide extra clues for solving them though.
  • A minor one in Needful Things by Stephen King: it's mentioned several times that Seaton 'Seat' Thomas has a heart condition, and during the book's climax, he's near-constantly stated to be clutching his chest. The obvious conclusion is that his heart is going to give out and he's going to be one of the book's many fatalities, but he ends up one of its few survivors.
  • Nina Tanleven: In The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed, during Nine’s first visit to Phoebe Watson’s house, she sees one ghost and hears signs of another, whom she confirms the identity of in her second visit. She also hears singing coming from the cellar, and suspects there might be a third ghost. The climax reveals that no, it’s a local street person whom Phoebe lets stay there when it’s too cold or wet outside (she’d offered him a regular room, but he refused).
  • In the book Of Mice and Mooshaber, there are several plot points that appear important, but lead nowhere. For example, Mrs. Mooshaber, an employer of the ominous state agency Care of Mother and Child was assigned to take care of a boy named Linpeck who is troublesome and roams. She buys him a cake and the details imply that she's going to poison him. However, he appears in the next chapter and is all right. Mrs Mooshaber's job at the agency is another Red Herring: she is one of the good people in the story and a caring old woman. She's in fact Widowed Duchess Augusta, the rightful ruler of the country.
  • Throughout the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and up to The Heroes of Olympus, the reader is lead to believe that Nico di Angelo has a crush on Annabeth. In House of Hades, it's finally revealed that he's really had feelings for Percy the whole time.
  • In the Ravenor trilogy, Ravenor learns that one of his associates will cause the manifestation of a powerful daemon before the year is out. The daemon is known as Slyte or Sleet, so when Frauka learns that the maiden name of Zael’s mother was Sleet, both Frauka and Ravenor assume that Zael—who has latent but growing psychic abilities—will be the daemon’s vessel. In reality, the daemon ends up possessing Carl Thonius.
  • In the Mary Higgins Clark novel Remember Me, a couple goes away for the summer to recuperate from the death of their young son. However, the woman is relentlessly plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, and hallucinations about the accident in which he was killed (and she was driving the car, leaving her with considerable Survivor Guilt as well). Her husband hovers over her constantly and insists that she needs to be confined to a mental hospital. However, it turns out that his concern, while overbearing, was genuine. It turns out that the culprit is his ex-girlfriend, who's trying to drive her insane to the point of killing herself so that she can get him back—the nightmares have been induced by piping the sound of an accident and a crying child through their vacation home.
  • Lampshaded in A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the protagonists believe their friends (previously captured by the Big Bad) are hidden inside a box of Very Fancy Doilies; in reality, they're hidden inside a statue of a large red fish - the red herring. A patient in the Heimlich Hospital has a name that is an anagram of red herring.
  • Shatterbelt spends a lot of time on Mr. Bailey's decision to open the mine he discovered as a tourist site and the conflict this causes with the locals. The protagonist Tracy is led to believe that some of those protesting the decision may be willing to bomb the mine to get their way, and she connects this with her prophetic visions when she realises that what she's been seeing is a cave-in. She also concludes that the hall at St Bernard's Park, where a model of the mine is on display, has been targeted for the same reasons. In reality, what she was seeing was a particularly destructive earthquake, which would have gotten a lot more people killed at the mine and at the Park if she hadn't acted on her visions.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles is up to the brim (do Deerstalkers have brims?note ) with Red Herrings. They imply that The Butler Did It. He waits until everyone is in bed, and stalks about the mansion. He is also the only character that has a beard that matches the man glanced shadowing Sir Henry. Then there's the escaped convict, Selden, who has been lurking upon the moor, and the other mysterious man upon the moor, who wants to stay hidden. Most film adaptations, notably the Basil Rathbone film, like to make Dr. Mortimer seem extremely suspicious, but the book does not. There's also the looming idea that the threat might be supernatural, but none of these are the final solution.
  • With regards to Blue's identity in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, one of the hints Simon is given is that he shares his first name with a US president. Simon initially thinks that it's Cal (as in Coolidge) or possibly Martin (as in van Bueren). In reality, it's Bram, which is a shortened version of Abraham.
  • In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, it's almost a given that characters will lie to achieve their own ends, so there is a lot of misinformation going around. The reader is given a slight advantage as the point-of-view switches around constantly.
    • For example, much of the main plot in the first book is driven by the murder of Jon Arryn, the previous Hand of the King (essentially, the second most powerful man in Westeros after the King). The book leads readers to believe that Cersei and Jaime Lannister are involved in the poisoning. Cersei confirms as much, as she obviously has the most to gain from his death. Jon Arryn had discovered that all three of Cersei's children were fathered by Jaime and not King Robert, and were all illegitimate heirs to the throne. The real answer is a little more complex. The third book clears things up. Jon Arryn was poisoned by his wife, Lysa, having been encouraged by Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish. Lysa then sends a letter to her sister Catelyn at Winterfell that the Lannisters had poisoned Jon Arryn.
    • The first book also has the attempted murder of Bran. This plot is not completely resolved until the third book, as well. Catelyn believes that Tyrion Lannister sent the assassin and arrests him, leading to a long chain of events. The first book never quite makes it clear who sent the assassin. The dagger was believed to have been Tyrion's, who won it from a bet from Littlefinger. Littlefinger lies to Catelyn, telling her the dagger belongs to him. The third book disproves this, as the dagger had belonged to Robert Baratheon. Joffrey had overheard the king saying that it would be more merciful to kill Bran, rather than live as a cripple. Joffrey sent the footpad, armed with the king's dagger, eager for his father's attention.
  • In Spinneret, the Rooshrike attack on the Celeritas makes them most likely to be the antagonists to the human colonists. They turn out to be great allies.
  • The Stormlight Archive, second book Words of Radiance:
    • During Dalinar's visions, numbers start appearing on the wall, a countdown toward a day when something terrible happens. Dalinar assumes he did it himself and doesn't worry about it too much (the cause of it, that is—he worries plenty about the warning itself). It was actually Renarin, too scared to admit openly that he had bonded with a spren and was receiving visions of the future.
    • Shallan's Shardblade. It's implied that she got it from her father after she killed him, or perhaps somehow got a hold of it beforehand and killed him with it. Neither is true; the Blade is Pattern, her spren, and is one of the only living Blades left. She killed her mother with him when she was a child, but strangled her father with her necklace after poisoning him.
      • And then in a later book, it turns out that this was a red herring, and Shallan's then-Shardblade was a completely different spren, Testament.
  • Most of Fred Vargas' novels have Red Herrings, in regards to the murderer's identity: they are generally sympathetic characters who only seem to be marginal characters. A particularly memorable example is in This Night's Foul Work, where all the Brigade is put on the track of a very plausible culprit by the real killer, Docteur Ariane Lagarde, and it takes Retancourt's attempted murder for Adamsberg to finally discover the truth.
  • Thursday Next: In One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, one of the suspects in a political conspiracy is actually named Red Herring. Since the characters know they're in a work of metafiction, this leads to some strange deductions.
    "What about Red Herring, ma'am?"
    "I'm not sure. Is Red Herring a red herring? Or is it the fact that we're supposed to think Red Herring is a red herring that is actually the red herring?"
    "Or perhaps the fact that you're supposed to think Red Herring isn't a red herring makes Red Herring a red herring after all."
    "We're talking serious meta-herrings here."
  • The first few chapters of Tyrannosaur Canyon set up a Last Request to deliver a dead man's treasure map to his estranged daughter. Instead, the deliveryman spends the whole story tracking down the treasure himself and trying to keep the map out of the wrong hands. The estranged daughter is addressed in the final few pages, outside the plot entirely.
  • The ending of the Warrior Cats book Long Shadows implies that Squirrelflight killed Ashfur, due to her showing up late with fur covered in mud (his body was found in a stream). It turns out she was just being clumsy, and by doing so she distracted the reader from the true killer, Hollyleaf.
  • Welcome To Wonderland
    • In "Home Sweet Motel", P.T. and Gloria read Stanley's and Sidney's postcards from Gloria to search for clues. Part of Stanley's reads "Stanley-you think you're such a big, big man. Always smiling! Ha! If you ask me, you're all empty inside." Sidney has a part that says "if you're not afraid of hurting the big, empty-headed man.". They deduce from those lines that Sheila hid the diamonds in the Smilin' Sam statue. So, one night, they go over to it and drill some holes in one of its feet in hopes of finding the diamonds. They don't find any, and get caught by P.T.'s mom.
    • In "Beach Party Surf Monkey", P.T. and Gloria deduce that Aiden Tyler kidnapped Kevin the Monkey to get him out of the movie, and is keeping him in his suite. This deduction is backed up by Aiden ordering a lot of bunches of bananas. It turns out, however, that he ordered all those bananas because some nutrition guru told his girlfriend that she should be on a banana-only diet.
  • In The Westing Game, the fact that the clues invoke the song "America the Beautiful" leads the reader (and a couple of characters) to suspect Otis Amber (i.e. Amber waves of grain). Turns out, that was just a coincidence. In fact, all the "America the Beautiful"-related clues were one giant red herring designed to mislead the characters about what the true goal of Sam Westing's game is.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • The sixth novel The Lord of Chaos introduces two new characters. One is a Forsaken named Demandred, who is a powerful channeler, can hide his identity, and betrayed the main hero's previous incarnation out of spite. Demandred is given a secret mission by The Dark One in the opening of the book. The other new character is Mazrim Taim, who is a powerful channeler with a shifty background, appears out of nowhere to offer his services to the hero, and shows no sign of the madness that male channelers who aren't aligned to Darkness suffer. When Taim first appears, the aforementioned previous incarnation goes mad in the hero's head and starts screaming about killing the Forsaken right now. Despite all this, Robert Jordan said in an interview that Taim is not Demandred in disguise, and indeed seemed somewhat surprised at the prevalence of the theory. Some fans believe this was Jossed, because there were just so many clues. The last book confirms that while Demandred recruited Taim for the Shadow, they're not and never were the same person.
    • Also, the character of Padan Fain, Ax-Crazy Humanoid Abomination of frightening powers with a grudge against both sides of the good vs. evil conflict, was generally assumed to be key to how the Last Battle would play out. In the last book he only appears briefly and, though his ultimate plan was pretty horrifying, was killed off before really accomplishing anything. Word of God indicates that this was entirely deliberate and that Fain had always been intended as a character whose role in the conclusion was minimal but that readers would be drawn heavily to speculate about.
  • In the second book of the Xenogenesis trilogy, it's mentioned prominently that plastics are one of the only things that the Oankali can't biodegrade, and are in fact poisonous to them. One suspects on first reading that this will somehow prove important to the humans' resistance to the aliens, but it never comes up again.
  • In the third book in the Zodiac Series, Black Moon, almost all twelve Guardians (sans Rho and the comatose Moira) are under suspicion of being an Original Guardian, The Man Behind the Man who betrayed Ophiuchus for immortality and has been manipulating most of the villains behind the scenes. Rho also suspects Supreme Advisor Untara of House Aquarius, due to her putting Ambassador Crompton in prison for one of his predictions. So who is it? Crompton himself, who is really the guardian Aquarius.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: In Murder on the Rockport Limited, the victim has been beheaded and be-handed in a locked train car on a train where all passengers are required to surrender their weapons upon boarding. Jess, a powerful warrior with no alibi and a super-sharp, summonable soulbound ax that can't be separated from her would seem to be a prime suspect. There was also Graham the Juicy Wizard, who was found at the scene of the crime and had a possible motivation, with Jenkins haven taken the job Graham tried out for. In the end, it turns out the decapitation was accomplished by Portal Cut by another character.
  • The intro to season 8 part 2 of Acquisitions Incorporated hints at a possible return of Aeofel. However, it's Viari who re-joins the party to save the day.
  • In In Strange Woods, Howl's shady past and the ambiguity of whether he let Jacob die or not seems like foreshadowing that he'll be up to something during the Final, or perhaps is training Peregrine for a sinister purpose. Ultimately, his actions are sincere and nature itself is the only obstacle to making it back.

  • The original Trope Namer is probably this Mother Goose rhyme.
    The man in the wilderness
    Asked me,
    How many strawberries
    Grew in the sea?
    I answered him
    As I thought good,
    As many as red herrings
    Grew in the wood.

  • Nan Quest has tons of these involving the identity of the Pilgrim, a mysterious and powerful adversary. When Nan uses Time Travel to visit the past, she meets a Lorenzo, a self-described pilgrim who seems intimately involved with mysterious happenings. To really hammer it in, the Pilgrim is a skeleton with a horse skull, and Lorenzo is a horse. So obviously he's the Pilgrim, right? Nope! Turns out it's someone else entirely. Furthermore, midway through the story there is a shot of a cloaked figure in the shadows that looks very much like the Pilgrim. It isn't, but the character who is is in the same scene, so to any reader who assumed the shadow was the Pilgrim will think that character has an airtight alibi.
  • We Are Our Adventuring Avatars: During the Second Marvel Universe arc, Dr. Octopus was assumed to be the cause of the cracks in the Marvel universe that lead to the DC universe. This was not the case, as the Octobot observed on the plane entering from the DC universe was hacked by a unknown villain.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: The mystery in Base Instruments has how Elena Zakharova seems to have a motive for the murder, been perfectly positioned to commit it, and telling lies to conceal her actions.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney has a lot of these, with several deliberately playing on the expectations gained from earlier cases.
    • In Justice for All Adrian Andrews seems like the killer due to both motive and placement, but it turns out that she merely framed your client Matt Engarde with the already-dead corpse. The real killer? Matt himself, by proxy of an assassin.
    • Investigations gives us the ridiculously innocent, fluffy, naive Colias Palaeno. The twist is that he's actually innocent of everything despite being so obviously non-evil that he looks guilty. From the same game, Zinc Lablanc II, an irritable Funny Foreigner who's obsessed with being on time and is so obnoxious that he's bound to be your initial suspect.
    • From the same game, we get the intro to case I-5. It's probably unintentional, but due to the way Edgeworth's dialogue is worded, you'd think Kay commited arson and got away with it. While she does get in a few troubles at the beginning, she's not guilty of anything and the plot point regarding her arrest is dropped in about 10 minutes.
    • Apollo Justice's the first case has Olga Orly, who's not only the first witness other than your client but has a suspiciously timid and innocent demeanor. But she's not the murderer—her only part in the crime was helping the victim cheat in his card game and getting knocked out when it didn't work. Olga Orly even becomes a double Red Herring, as it turns out she did not witness the crime at all.
    • Dual Destinies:
      • Herman Crab, from the DLC case "Turnabout Reclaimed". He behaves suspiciously throughout the case and treats Phoenix Wright with distaste. On top of this, he's the only character in the case who didn't testify during the first day of court - a big red flag for the savvy player. It turns out he is hiding something (a secret with 5 Psyche-locks, which typically are given to plot-critical secrets), but he's not the one who killed Jack Shipley. Instead, what Crab is hiding is that he and Jack Shipley didn't actually put the first orca down like they said they would, but instead moved her somewhere else. That and Crab keeps tabs on the marine life using the TORPEDO system, the problem being that the system is illegal.
      • During the third case, an incriminating piece of evidence against the defendant, Juniper Woods, is a recording of a woman shouting "You're a goner!", presumably to the victim. At one point, Athena notices that due to the poor quality of the recording, the voice could actually be saying "Hugh O'Conner", the name of a character in the case. Turns out the tape actually was saying "You're a goner!"
      • The beginning of the second case makes it so painfully obvious that the victim, Rex Kyubinote , was secretly the masked wrestler the Amazing Nine-Tails (who, like Kyubi himself, was fighting against the merger) that you'll probably get frustrated waiting for someone to put two-and-two together already. Eventually, the connection is made... and turns out to be completely wrong.
    • Spirit of Justice has two of the most effective red herrings in the series:
      • Inga Karkhuul Khura'in looks like the main antagonist at first given he is the queen's husband and is shown to be a cruel individual who is in charge of Khura'in's twisted justice system. He even turns out to be behind Case 5's first trial; then he shows up as the victim of the second half of the case.
      • Amara Sigatar Khura'in is even better. All throughout her cross examination, she starts to display everything associated with an Ace Attorney Big Bad: having a major transformation sequence, her sprite when you start to break her argument is borderline terrifying implying she is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, she is in a position of power, was beneath suspicion and she has an unsettling theme. You even prove she could have committed the crime and it looks like she is the only person who could have done it... but she has no motive to have done it.
      • In the DLC case, there's Sorin Sprocket, the fiancé of the defendant, Ellen Wyatt. He has a plausible motive for wanting to kill the victim, Dumas Gloomsbury, whether to protect Ellen from Gloomsbury's attempt on her life, or to take revenge for Gloomsbury being responsible for the accident in which Sorin's sister Selena was killed (although Sorin later admits that he himself was responsible). Sorin has no memory of what happened, and a page of his diary has him admit to killing Gloomsbury. As a result, Phoenix and Maya go into the second trial day convinced that Sorin is the most likely culprit, only to realize that this is not the case.
    • In-universe example: From the police's point of view, the defendants are always Red Herrings, with something making them seem suspicious enough to arrest. Whether it be because they were found at the crime scene, were framed by the real killer, had confessed, or otherwise had "decisive" evidence implicating them.
  • Plenty of evidence in Aviary Attorney doesn't wind up very important. Most notable is the literal red herring, labelled "This is a red herring" in the inventory.
    Falcon: Yes. I wish to closely examine and question the piece of evidence that is overtly labeled as a red herring.
  • Danganronpa, being a murder mystery series, naturally has quite a lot of these:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • The Justice Hammers. More specifically, the numbering of the Justice Hammers, from smallest to biggest. Everyone thinks that they were used from one to four, but it's eventually discovered that the culprit used them out of order to throw everyone off.
      • After Kyoko says Makoto is the least likely among the group to be the mastermind and he agrees, the screen flashes back to his mysterious daydream where he tells himself that his goal is to stay in the academy. Given that Makoto is the player character, this turns out to have been a red herring.
      • To assist with murders, the boys are all given a toolkit while the girls receive a sewing kit. While the toolkit is relevant in the first trial, the sewing kit never sees use.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • The fake Byakuya Togami. He just turns out to be the nameless Ultimate Imposter, who has no real identity of his own. Monokuma explicitly states that the mystery didn't turn out to be important.
      • Nagito Komaeda — though perhaps unintentionally. He looks like and has the same voice actor as Makoto, and his name is (accidentally) a Significant Anagram which suggests that Nagito is Makoto. It's all just a coincidence.
      • The countdown timer. Junko admits it was just there to provide atmosphere and to be a Self-Imposed Challenge on herself.
      • In Chapter 1, before the murder even happens, Peko is left to guard the circuit breaker so that nobody can cause a blackout and commit a murder in the dark. A blackout indeed happens (with a subsequent murder), and it's later revealed that Peko left her post to go to the bathroom. It's implied that the killer had slipped her laxatives and/or tampered with the circuit breaker in the room. Both of these are false trails; Peko's stomach problems were just a coincidence, and the killer never touched the circuit breaker (although the circuit breaker was involved, but not in the way the characters believe.)
      • In Chapter 2, a significant chunk of the Daily Life is dedicated to talking about the mysterious serial killer Sparkling Justice and then Sparkling Justice's calling card is found at the murder scene, clearly trying to invoke the Genocide Jack reveal from the first game. This turns out to be a classic fakeout; none of the students have any connection to Sparkling Justice, and after Chapter 2 Sparkling Justice is never mentioned in this game again and has no relevance to the plot whatsoever. Although, at the end of the second trial the killer (Peko) briefly pretends to be Sparkling Justice to throw the other students off the trail.
      • This can happen to overly paranoid players in Case 3. Fuyuhiko shares some very similar proportions with Ibuki, Akane explicitly states that the hospital gowns are unisex when she brings up the idea of taking Nagito's and you're unable to personally account for where he was when the murders supposedly took place. If accused, he'll threaten to cut his stomach open again to prove his innocence, and later on in the case he himself brings up the body proportions argument, which turns out to be perfectly meaningless and yet causes a slip of the tongue that leads to the real killer.
      • Also in Case 3, Monokuma's movie, despite Hajime seeing it during the investigation and suspecting the murderer was imitating it, turns out to have had nothing to do with the murder.
      • In chapter 4 there's mention of how some of the murders have been very similar to the events of the previous game, there's a statue of Sakura in the building and the person who died, Nekomaru, was a figure who cared about the others. From this and some of the oddities of his death the player can easily be led to think that his death was a mirror of Sakura's, where he killed himself to help the group. Though helping the group was part of the motivation behind it, it wasn't a suicide at all.
      • The Sonia/Kazuichi/Gundham relationship appears to be setting up to some kind of conflict, perhaps by creating conflict when one of the three is murdered. Instead, Gundham murders someone else.
    • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony:
      • When exploring the cold sleep room, it's revealed that Kaede has a younger twin sister, suggesting that maybe she could be the mastermind and the two are trying to emulate Junko and Mukuro. This turns out not to have a bearing on anything, and said sister may not even be real, especially since it was Tsumugi who suggested it.
      • In the first case, it's suggested that the victim could be killed with a shot put ball thrown from a room directly opposite, and Gonta (who was in that room at that time) is implied as a possible culprit since he had the strength to kill with a thrown ball. In the end, this turns out to be irrelevant.
      • In Chapter 4 the characters enter a virtual-reality world, using high-tech VR headsets. Miu speculates that if someone connected their VR headset wrong, they might "body swap with someone". After a murder happens in the virtual world, this throwaway line seems to hint that body-swap shenanigans are in play, e.g. the murderer body-swapping with the victim or something like that. Nothing like this happens, however (although the solution does involve one of the characters connecting the VR headset wrong and having their mind messed up as a result).
  • The Devil on G-String does this with the main character himself. Throughout the game, Azai Kyosuke suffers from recurring headaches, which transition over to scenes featuring the scheming Big Bad known as Maou. Maou's and Kyosuke's interests align frequently, Kyosuke's stepfather suspects him of being Maou right out of the gate, and the easiest way to stop Maou from escalating his plans is to get Kyosuke an early happy ending with one of his love interests. However, playing all the way to the true ending reveals that Maou is not Kyosuke, but his presumed-to-be-dead older brother, who's existence was hinted at in an easy-to-miss family photograph early on in the story.
  • Ever17:
    • The Kid having amnesia and having strange glimpses of future events and knowing things about people that he can't possibly have known. Sounds a lot like Tsugumi's amnesiac friend from the research lab who could see the future, right? Even the ages seem to match up. But it's not him, obviously.
    • Furthermore, Coco and Sara seeming to have some obvious plot-related connection due to playing similar character roles in their respective routes and knowing the same lullaby. The Kid even has a flashback/vision on Sara's path about a man scolding a crying little girl about her having everything she's wanted thanks to the loss of another girl's life, which seems to strongly imply that the reason Coco only shows up as an apparent ghost on the routes where Sara is part of the cast has something to do with Sara's past and powers. But it turns out that they're one of the few pairs of characters in this game that don't have any meaningful relation with each other.
  • Fleuret Blanc has an in-universe example that led a certain character astray: Kant assumed the judges were gunning for him because he hacked their computer, when in actuality they never figured this out. In an inversion, they were actually motivated by his theft of the placards, something he thought was irrelevant.
  • Ghost Trick gleefully has the characters and the player misinterpret almost everything that happens in the plot. Pretty much nothing is as it seems. For example the main character is shown to be killed by a major side character. Then it turns out there's someone who can control human bodies... then it turns out the main character wasn't even the guy who the side character killed... and then it turns out the guy who was killed didn't stay dead. Sometimes this leads to an odd case of Right for the Wrong Reasons; it turns out the main character was killed by the side character in an accident.

  • Jisei:
    • In this Murder Mystery Visual Novel, one of the suspects realizes that the best way to draw attention from themselves is to accuse someone else of the murder.
    • There's also a "meta-example": in one of the bad endings the player can get, Chance poisons the protagonist to death. So if the player got this ending before getting the good ending, then the player might naturally assume that this means Chance is the killer. She's not; the killer is someone else. Chance did poison the player in a bad ending because he was getting too close to the truth, but the truth in Chance's case is not that Chance is the killer, but that Chance was hatching her own, completely unrelated plan to steal the valuable data that sparked the murder plot, and the murder actually screwed that plan up.
  • In Nameless, there's a Secret Character that's hinted in certain scenes on other characters' routes to be a doll the female protagonist forgot about from her childhood. Given these hints, you might come to the conclusion that Zion, a waiter at the cafe Banjul, is that secret romanceable character due to the protagonist commenting on how doll-like his features are when she first meets him. But nope; the secret character turns out to be someone whose face is never seen in any other character's route.
  • Nasuverse:
    • A common trope in the franchise. Often, an explanation for an unusual event is given, but later proven false and the true cause is revealed, allowing the player to piece by piece set together with the whole picture of what happened in the past or is happening now during the multiple routes.
    • In Tsukihime, the identity of the real vampire serial killer is masked in all routes and is not the first major antagonist that Tohno Shiki is forced to confront. In the Near Side routes, Nrvnqsr Chaos serves as the Red Herring. In the Far Side routes, a turned Yumizuka Satsuki serves as one. In Kohaku's route, the plot contrives an extra layer of Red Herring.
  • The Zero Escape series tries to convince the player that multiple innocent characters are Zero, the mastermind of the Nonary Game.
    • In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors:
      • The initially most suspicious one is Seven. He is an apparent amnesiac, who could easily be lying, and comes off as brash and violent, picking fights with almost every other character. It turns out he is genuinely an amnesiac and is actually a kind and selfless detective who rescued the children of the first nonary game.
      • Midgame, the suspicion is cast on Snake. He disappears abruptly, and the characters bring up the idea that Zero must be one of them. The narration suggests that Snake could be watching over the other players after a staged disappearance. The suspicion subsides after the characters find his 'dead body', and by the time it's found he is still alive, there's a new suspect...
      • Santa. He becomes the most suspicious in the Safe and True paths (especially if the player achieves the Coffin end, an unfinished True end). In the last part of the Safe end, Snake, Ace, Clover, and Akane are all dead, Lotus and Seven are mourning and Junpei is with Akane and Santa is the only character unaccounted for. So it becomes clear who is speaking when Zero directly responds to Junpei over the loudspeaker. In the true end, Santa abruptly holds a gun to Akane's head and takes her hostage. If you accidentally get the Coffin end, you'll never learn that this is a ruse and Santa is just an assistant to Akane, the true Zero.
      • Santa also becomes suspicious along with Seven after Snake's apparent death, as Clover deduces that they were the only ones that could've opened the number 3 door to kill Snake (if not convinced that Snake is still alive, she'll even lead them away and kill them along with June in the Axe Ending.) In reality, Ace was the sole murderer, as he'd stolen the Ninth Man's bracelet.
      • The game's characters also bring up the legend of a preserved Egyptian mummy called "All-Ice" on the Titanic enough times that you'll probably come to think that she must be important to the plot somehow. The fact that you need to learn about her and Ice-9 to access the True Ending adds further credence to this. A-nope; The Stinger does show a mysterious woman in Egyptian garb greeting the characters, but she has no importance to or impact on the main plot. This red herring even spreads into the sequel, where she turns out to not be All-Ice at all.
    • Virtue's Last Reward:
      • When Sigma is cut on the hand and bleeds white blood, the player is led into believing he's a robot. He was also present in the GAULEM room when a robot began to talk about how a robot could probably pass for a human... He's not, he just has cybernetic arms. Luna is, though, and this is foreshadowed by her also being present in the GAULEM room.
      • Phi's superhuman-seeming jumping abilities make her seem non-human, which brings suspicion on her as the robot as well. Again, she's not. Her jumping abilities are explained eventually and have nothing to do with Phi herself.
      • Dio is presented as so blatantly evil that the player either decides he's the mastermind at first or concludes it's ridiculous to think that he's anything more than a red herring. Both of these expectations are wrong- Dio is indeed villainous, but he is not Zero nor does he have any idea how vast Brother's plans are.
      • Throughout the game Quark, a little kid, is constantly passed off by Sigma as being a ridiculous candidate for any of the murders or bombings, or the real identity of Zero Sr. Dio also accuses him multiple times of being a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing who made the choice of betraying various characters, which is always seen by other characters as Dio making excuses. Turns out Quark really is just an innocent little kid, and did absolutely nothing wrong throughout the entire game.
      • In Luna's route, you deduce that, contrary to what was first thought, Luna killed the old woman because her AB Room and K's AB room (where the woman's body was found) had been swapped, so the room where the body was found in was actually hers. However, this turns out to not be true. She only hid the dead body in her room.
      • Also in Luna's route, you deduce that Clover was probably Luna's killer. This deduction was built on a false premise; Luna didn't even die.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, there are a few suspects that seem like the culprit.
    • Hiro. He had an argument with Momoko shortly before her death, something that was apparently an all-too-common occurrence in their relationship. He was also the one who borrowed the keys from Rie to go to the bathroom, enabling him to open up the guest room where Momoko died. The latter piece of evidence means that he's the right choice of the four suspects (him, Runa, Kamen and Mika) Raiko comes up with after the questioning period... but then he winds up dead himself. While it's possible to accuse him of Momoko's murder, Raiko will conclude that if that happened, Kamen would have killed him for revenge, leading to a bad ending.
    • Runa. She had once been in love with Hiro, and occasionally clashed with Momoko because of the latter's Clingy Jealous Girl personality. Like Hiro, she also had an opportunity to kill Momoko. However, she had no reason to kill/try to kill Kotoba, so while she can be accused of the murder, and leads to you being required to answer several questions and present evidence to prove her "guilt," doing so leads to a bad ending.
    • Kamen. While she's best friends with Momoko, she can't stand Hiro. She is supposedly seen stabbing Hiro with a knife, as well as being missing for much of the night, so Taiko becomes convinced she's the culprit, and almost everyone else agrees with him. Like with the other two, it's possible to agree with Taiko, in which case Kamen is arrested for a murder she didn't commit. It turns out that she was part of what she was convinced was a prank, along with Momoko, Kotoba and Hiro, not realizing that Momoko planned on killing Hiro, Kotoba and herself in order to frame Kamen.
  • Spirit Hunter series:
    • Death Mark strongly hinted since Chapter 3 that the cause of the protagonist's mark is the grudge of the Buddha statues that were stolen from the H Shrine, only for Chapter 5 to reveal it's false and Mary is the actual cause of everyone's misfortune.
    • Spirit Hunter: NG:
      • Each chapter gives the player multiple items that can potentially be used in the confrontation with the chapter boss. Some of them have no effect at all and will lead to a Game Over if Akira tries to use them.
      • Kaoru gives Akira a talisman bracelet to protect himself against the Urashima Woman. However, if he actually tries using it, then it has no effect and the Urashima Woman will kill him anyway.
      • At the beginning of the Kubitarou case, it's explained that the spirit is likely the ghost of a notorious Serial Killer. However, it's eventually revealed that the rumour was mistaken, and the actual Kubitarou is a young woman who's not acting out malevolence (though she is still responsible for the decapitation of various innocent animals and people).
      • In the Kubitarou case, all routes but one note  will lead to Akira being in possession of Seiji's modified handgun, which he stows away in his apartment. It never becomes important again, even though his apartment is investigated by forensic police, and at the end of the game he passes it back to Seiji without any fanfare.
  • When They Cry:
    • Higurashi: When They Cry has two of them: 1. The Sonozakis' Yakuza connections. More specifically Oryou being the mastermind of all the murders. 2. Oyashiro's Curse. Both of these are actually quite obvious to those familiar with Knox's Decalogue. Since Oryou was not introduced into the overall story until the fourth arc (of eight), Knox's 1st rules her out from being guilty in the chain of murders. Knox's second rules out Oyashiro/Hanyuu. Either way, VERY nastily deconstructed since the pursuit of these red herrings is half of the cause of the cycles of madness and death.
    • Umineko: When They Cry:
      • The epitaph is a riddle that initially seems as though it describes a grisly ceremony that will revive Beatrice the Golden Witch if no one solves it, but it really has nothing to do with any kind of ceremony at all and it's not actually why the murders are happening. The killer deliberately arranged the murders to resemble the epitaph in order to mislead and terrorize their victims.
      • Kinzo Ushiromiya, the person who supposedly started said ceremony, turns out to have been dead for almost two years and only an Unreliable Narrator was making it seem as though he was still alive.
      • Everything about Kanon and Shannon as presented in the earlier games is a herring so strong that it almost caused a Broken Base. Specifically, their specific mysteries were important to the overall murder mystery; but, the fervor in the fan community around those personal mysteries created a sinkhole into which all analysis of the murder sank.
      • Episode 5 has the scene where a number of people are gathered in the dining hall, and there's nobody outside in the hallway. Yet suddenly, a knock on the door is heard, and when the door is opened there's a letter outside. Earlier, the narration talked at length about one of the people present fiddling with a tape player, so it's natural to suspect shenanigans involving playing back a knock from a tape. Erika (the detective) assumes exactly that. However, it turns out to be false.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Pucca special "Chefnapped", the chefs (while being held hostage) see a bunch of T.N.T. Barrels with a timer about to explode... until they realize that the timer isn't attached to anything. After that a man in a red fish costume comes out.
    Ho: Red Herring! I hate that guy!
  • RWBY: Over a decade ago, the then-new Spring Maiden couldn't handle the responsibilities her mythical power carried with it and ran away from both the Big Good and the Big Bad, disappearing off everyone's radar. Qrow eventually discovers that his estranged sister, Raven, has been hiding the Spring Maiden in her Bandit Clan out in the wilderness for years. A mole on the protagonists' side means the villains obtain Qrow's information at the same time the heroes are informed, and Volume 5 becomes a race to see who can gain control of the Spring Maiden and the Relic of Knowledge that only she has the power to uncover. The villains, led by Cinder, reach them first and, once satisfied that Vernal is indeed the Spring Maiden, force her and Raven to work with them. Raven, who has long prepared for this day, sets off a plan to pit the protagonists and villains against each other while she and Vernal steal the Relic for themselves then vanish back into the wilderness. It's only during the volume finale when Cinder betrays everyone, even her own master, to steal the Spring Maiden's power for herself, does she learn just how extensive Raven's planning has been: Vernal was just a decoy. Raven was the real Spring Maiden all along. She killed the young Spring Maiden many years ago after deciding that the child would never be able to handle the consequences of the power, which transmitted the power to her. She then molded Vernal into a decoy who could take the fall for her should anyone ever come looking.

  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • The infamous 434th episode foreshadowed a future conversation between an evil'd up Black Mage and another character. This single strip grew nearly six years worth of thick Epileptic Tree forests. After the conversation actually appeared, the major deaths that happened right before it were reverted, and the creator admitted that it was just made to distract people from actual important mysteries.
    • Arguably, everything involving Dr. Swordopolis and Darko, as well as the latter "unlocking the Nexus" within Black Mage. A lot of build-up, a lot of foreshadowing, and then absolutely nothing comes of it. The fact that such things are common in the story was lampshaded by Black Mage himself.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • A literal red herring is used to lampshade an Aborted Arc. Elliot needed to return some beers to the fridge for Ellen because Grace brought them up mistaking them for soda. He put the beers "behind the red herring" as a way of saying "this isn't actually important anymore."
    • Later on, a character was introduced who the author has nicknamed "Eric the Red Herring." He was set up to look like the person who had been summoning a fire monster, but if it had been him, then he wouldn't be on this page.
  • In Book 6 of Fans!, Di is seeing a man who looks suspiciously like Keith Feddyg, and sure enough, Feddyg is not only one of the villains, but makes himself the Big Bad over the course of the story. However, Feddyg even comments on the resemblance, in a way that makes it clear there's no connection between them.
  • In General Protection Fault, the arcs after "Surreptitious Machinations" reveals that Trudy has a long-lost younger sister, whom their mother gave up for adoption. Agent #12 of the U.G.A. is suggested to be that sister, since she mentions in passing that she is adopted, but it turns out to be Sharon, who is also adopted. The comic took advantage of this when having Nega-Trudy introduce Trudy to her younger sister while both Sharon and Agent #12 were present, resulting in the two other women being confused as to which one was the sister (Sharon had just arrived).
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Emphasis is placed on an old photo of six characters from the earlier generation of students, only one of whom we have never met. Her identity is later revealed rather offhand and unspectacularly, and though she may turn out to be important, being a Valkyrie, she doesn't seem to be that relevant to the mysteries about the characters' parents.
    • This was also done unintentionally in the second chapter. There's a single page focusing on a group of glowing photos showing footprints in the sand. Word of God has said that he intended these pictures to be important later on, but later dropped the idea.
  • Homestuck:
    • The Trolls often made reference to an "invincible demon" that ran rampant through their session and ruined everything. Since the nebulous Big Bad, Lord English, had been described as "invincible" before, many readers assumed that he was responsible. Then a later flash revealed that Bec Noir was the "demon" in question, and Lord English had nothing to do with it. Hussie later admitted that this misdirection was deliberate on his part.
    • In Act 6 Act 2, uu makes an offhand comment about his game skills. Later, it is revealed that uu is not a troll at all, making his red blood a literal Red Herring.
    • This has led to the fans outsmarting themselves at times. Comments like "The story's hinting so heavily at the reveal being X that I know it cannot possibly be X" are rather common, and then it turns out it really was X all along.
  • Kevin & Kell:
    • Kevin's father is suspected to be the assassin Rabbit's Revenge sent to kill Sid at Herd Thinners because the victim's blood was found on his jacket. When Kell confronts her father-in-law, he claims Rabbit's Revenge was trying to kill him as a scapegoat and that Angelique wrote the message on the wall. It turns out that they framed each other and the real culprit is technically Danielle; she couldn't bring herself to kill the victim, and he accidentally shot himself with her stake gun.
    • Also connected to Kevin & Kell is its 2004 crossover with General Protection Fault, "A Tail of Two Species". One would suggest that their dimensions are intertwined from the storyline's progression. However, The Gamester, an omniscient being that protects/oversees the GPF dimension, suggests the connection isn't supposed to exist: Nick combining the MuTeX with Project Velociraptor caused some weird issues with space-time that The Gamester needed to fix as a result.note 
  • In Misfile, the universe is controlled by a celestial filing system... and someone is going around killing everyone with the keys to access it. And wow, Ramael sure looks guilty, doesn't he? Turns out that was by his own design; if he was arrested as the killer then the lock-down would end... meaning the keyholders wouldn't be in set, isolated locations where Xaphrael could easily pick them off. He just didn't anticipate Xaphrael managing to grab and imprison him in complete secrecy, effectively nullifying his gambit.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • At one Halloween party, one girl comes dressed as a superheroine, and Torg notes how "odd" it is that they've never seen this girl and Zoë together. The girl isn't Zoë — she's Sasha, who we've never seen before.
    • In the chapter "Aylee", Torg and Aylee end up in a dimension overrun by something called "ghouls", though nobody knows what they actually are. Aylee starts to be haunted in her dreams by a figure in white robes adorned with jewels, who's otherwise shown leading the ghouls. In the meantime, some minor characters are doing research into what Aylee's gigantic dragon-like form may have been, and one of the suggestions they come up with is Rithuly, ruler of the demonic Rayths, who appears as both a gigantic dragonish thing and a jewel-wearing man, and is supposed to always be looking for the perfect mate. Torg and Aylee even meet an alternative version of Kesandru, who in their dimension had made a Deal with the Devil with Rithuly. And then the real answer to what the ghouls are comes right out of nowhere and makes perfect sense.
    • Also, in the "Paradise" arc, the Evil Overlord is called "His Masterness," and posters show a face suspiciously similar to the Minion Master. Nope.
  • Sam & Fuzzy: For the first year or so of the Noosehead arc, Sam, who went on the run from the Ninja Mafia at the end of the last arc, is nowhere to be seen. When Mafia Ninjas show up, roadie and seemingly new character Aaron, who resembles Sam with a goatee and new haircut, panics and confides his fear of being caught in Fuzzy. Eventually Mr. Black confronts Aaron, accuses him of being Sam, and swings his sword... Only for Aaron to block it with his bionic hand. Yup, it's fellow refugee Jackson. Meanwhile, Crash, another roadie, shaves off his beard and removes his hat, revealing a familiar hairstyle...
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: In the prologue, Saku Hotakainen is a perfect candidate for that guy in outbreak stories who turns out to have been sick all along. He's heavily implied to have some form of deadly condition oriented Hypochondria and appears in the segment confirming that the disease from the story is deadly, while previous ones had it officially non-lethal and only conspiracy nuts thinking it was possibly deadly. One of the symptoms is supposed to be vomiting, and Saku spends the segment being seasick on his brother-in-law's jacht while the brother-in-law in question is telling his sisters all about the quarantine room he installed on the boat, but hoping he won't have to use it because it isn't quite finished. Then we get Saku's young nephew, who just found out about the disease's deadliness on the news, telling Saku about it and Saku replying that he hopes he has it. A photo of the family from two weeks later, the maximum incubation time of the disease, shows Saku huddled in a big bed with the rest of the family, hinting nothing happened disease-wise. The vomiting being actual seasickness is confirmed via Saku's great-grandson Lalli, who's one of The Immune, being prone to seasickness.
  • The creator of Von Slayer had an accidental red herring. She asked fans to look for clues to figure out the name of a main character who's name at that point was yet to be announced. Seeing the character run away with (among other things) Tea Party plans and the period it took place, people linked it to the Boston Tea Party. They were wrong.
  • Walkyverse: After Dina from It's Walky! was killed, there were numerous hints, including a strip of Walky flat-out asking Joe, that she may have returned (in the past) as The Wanderer. Nope. (He was on the right track in two ways, though: first, The Wanderer is the spirit of a murdered love interest — namely, Linda's David, and second, Dina does return, in an afterlife sequence.)

    Web Original 
  • In None Too Holy, Hardestadt Delac is led to believe that a witch is the one who murdered his friend Anthony, and is the one terrorizing the orphanage. As it turns out, the witch is nothing more than a kind lady who lives in the woods alone. The real villain is a Pijavica disguised as a nun.
  • In the early Whateley Universe stories, Phase follows the clues and deduces that the person out to get him is really Deputy Headmistress Amelia Hartford, who has a grudge against his family. Wrong. Word of God has said that the current suspect is the right one, but we are still waiting to find out for sure.

    Web Videos 
  • The clone that the Atop the Fourth Wall arc "The Clone Saga" was named after was ultimately this. While it was first seems the copy of Linkara walking around is a clone, it's ultimately revealed that he isn't: he's really a Came Back Wrong Mechakara and Mirrorkara used him for his plans (and stole and killed the real clone).
  • The Autobiography of Jane Eyre: Episode 8 was a Mr Rochester tease. Most viewers who follow the web series read the book, and knew that Jane met Mr Rochester when she was walking to the post office. When Jane announced she had a weekend off and planned to take a walk, the audience got hopeful. However, she really went just to take a long walk and take some photographs. She later talked about her late friend Helen, revealing something of her back-story.
  • An episode of Board James has James being stalked by an unknown killer talking to him via the Dream Phone, who at one point says "And I know you've got the balls", which causes James to suddenly freeze up, the music to shift from fast-paced to a slower rising violin, and for the camera to focus on the sink where James drowned Mr. Bucket. He slowly walks over with the knife brandished to find... Mr. Bucket still lying in the sink, with the voice saying "You'll have to do better than that".
  • In Critters: A New Binge, it initially seems like the pet Uncle Murray has hidden away that he occasionally feeds is the missing Crite that the other Crites have come to Earth to find. It turns out in the fourth episode that Uncle Murray's pet is really an owl.
  • A couple in Noob:
    • The plot of Season 2 was set off by Tenshirock deciding to give Noobs powerful items. In early Season 3, he demonstrates his ability to make avatars say what he wants with voices that sound just like their players. He never gets to do anything relevant with that due to the true plot Season 3 revolving around someone else revealing a secret Tenshirock meant to keep under wraps, turning his attention to finding the culpirt.
    • In Season 4, the main guild's leader gets a girlfriend who likes the same stuff as him, but happens to be in the same in-game faction as the previous season's villain, who's suddenly nowhere to be seen and happens to know him quite well. Season 4 finale revealed there was no link between the two facts.
  • Rooster Teeth:
    • Ten Little Roosters had a set of murder weapons which to be chosen by viewers as to who would die and by how. The ones never used, seen, mentioned or even alluded to were a bathroom scale, the power of math, Ruby Rose's Crescent Rose Scythe and an actual red herring. Word of God later revealed that Miles Luna was a red herring for just about every possible victim until the end.
    • Eleven Little Roosters has a mysterious figure in a black hoodie who appears at the scene of several assassinations. The viewers, and Agent Moose, are left to assume that this is the Saboteur in disguise, surveying their handiwork, but by the end of the series the two are revealed to be unrelated and the person in the hoodie's identity is never explained. And, just like in Nan Quest below, their presence in one scene misleads the audience to assume that the real Saboteur has an alibi.
  • During his video on Polybius, Ahoy calls out "Steven Roach", a "Welshman" who "worked as a programmer in 1980s Czechoslovakia", as this, due to the many inaccuracies in the latter's claim about having created Polybius, such as "being consulted by a South American company", "moving to Communist Czechia to do business" and having based his claims entirely on the established Polybius myth, not to mention sharing the name with an American ex-policeman who ran a scandalous troubled-youth camp in that country around the same time.
    "Let there be no doubt: Stephen Roach is a red herring - and his story? Entirely fabricated."

    Western Animation 
  • All Grown Up!: The episode "Thief Encounter" revolves around someone stealing stuff from gardens, and Tommy repeatedly blames Dil for it. It's revealed in the end the thief was actually Tommy himself due to sleepwalking under stress.
  • Batman:
  • When Doomie was stolen, Beetlejuice and Lydia find a skeleton leg at the scene. Later, when Jaques shows up without his leg, Beetlejuice immediately begins to blame him before Jaques cuts him off to explain how he lost his leg. A literal red herring flops across the screen while the three stare at it in confusion.
  • Big City Greens: The episode "Chipocalypse Now" has Cricket discover Chip Whistler issued a petition which the residents of Big City seemingly signed signifying they want the Greens out of the city, making Cricket think everyone hates them. When he goes to confront Remy, one of the suspects, he claims he never betrayed Cricket once and didn't sign any petition; it is that moment Cricket comes to the conclusion Chip lied and the petition is a fraud.
  • Duckman: In “Days of Whine and Neuroses”, Duckman spends the episode trying to capture the man who he falsely believes is the culprit, who is literally named Cyrus Redherring (from the Macguffin agency, no less). Lampshaded by Cornfed, who captures the real culprit.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In the first episode, Dipper thought Mabel's boyfriend Norman was a zombie but he was in fact a stack of gnomes.
    • In the episode "Headhunters", Dipper and Mabel believe that the gossip writer is the killer of wax Stan, when the crime was perpetrated by the vengeful wax statues the real Stan had locked away for years.
    • After having the main characters and audience believe for the entire episode that Old Man McGucket was the author of the journals, it's revealed that he was only an assistant that underwent Sanity Slippage.
    • Across the entire series is the "Zodiac Wheel", a collection of ten symbols on a wheel with Bill Cipher depicted in the center that flashes at the end of the intro for every episode, and that Bill himself displays during his first appearance. It's revealed in the final episode that bringing the people associated with those symbols together is the key to defeating the demon, but due to Stan and Ford arguing over the former's grammar, they aren't able to accomplish the needed ritual before Bill arrives and destroys the circle and turns everyone who isn't a member of the Pines family into a tapestry. Bill is destroyed by another method, and creator Alex Hirsch would elaborate in a DVD commentary that the wheel was originally just intended as a cool image; it was only included in the finale's plot once the writers realized fans had inflated its importance and were expecting some kind of payoff.
  • I ♥ Arlo: Near the end of the first season, Arlo gets a distress call from his adoptive mother Edmée from the swamp saying she's in danger; the follow-up package includes a note from his former rivals Ruff and Stucky, saying Edmée is being held hostage and demand ransom within 24 hours for her release. Once Arlo and co. get to the swamp, they find it under a thorny curse and Edmée not at home, and the hunters reveal the note was just a set-up by the wicked Bog Lady as part of her plan to lure Arlo to her.
  • In the two-part Justice League episode "Injustice For All," it's revealed that there's a traitor within Lex Luthor's group. Cheetah was previously shown flirting with Batman, strongly implying she was the turncoat. However, at the very end of the episode, it turns out that the traitor was Ultra-Humanite, who switched sides after Batman bribed him with a large amount of money that he could use to fund his favorite opera company.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In one episode, Pinkie has been entrusted with guarding a delicious cake that the Cake family is planning to enter in a contest. Early in the episode, Applejack tries to take a bite of the cake but is stopped. Later on, the cake has some bites taken out of it, which Pinkie takes to mean a deliberate act of sabotage by the other competitors. Predictably, given Pinkie's wild accusations, the other competitors turn out to be a red herring. However, Applejack is also a red herring: she tried to take a bite of the cake at the beginning of the episode, but learned her lesson at that point and is not the culprit.
    • In the Season 4 opener "Princess Twilight Sparkle", a potion of Zecora's causes Twilight to see what she thought was Luna transforming into Nightmare Moon a second time; she finds out later that she's actually seeing a flashback to 1000 years ago to when Luna's jealousy turns her into Nightmare Moon, and Celestia used the Elements of Harmony to banish her.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Lampshaded in an episode where the boys go to look for "the Lake Nose Monster". Upon seeing a literal red-herring, Phineas cheerfully exclaims "Let's go follow it!"
    • The song "Perry's Hat" features this wonderful line: "Is this herring red, or a plot point?" Turns out that yes, its a red-herring.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The final riddle in "Him Diddle Riddle" ends with the girls finishing at the Rite On Time Diner, but the Professor is not there. Turns out, he was at the Otto Time Diner across the street, and the girls lose.
  • The Ready Jet Go! episode "Detective Mindy" has Mrs. Peterson's sunglasses go missing, and Mitchell, being a detective, naturally tries to find out where his mother's sunglasses went. Mindy, Sean, Sydney, Sunspot, and Jet all get involved in this mystery, too, one by one. Mr. Peterson said the kitchen counter, where Mrs. Peterson lost her sunglasses, was like a black hole, which causes all the kids to believe that the kitchen counter really is a black hole, and they waste their time trying to find an actual black hole. In the end, it is revealed that Mr. Peterson was just using an expression.
  • Subtly parodied in the Robot Chicken sketch "12 Angry Little People". One of the Little People disagrees with the other 11 about the murderer's identity, suspecting the victim's mistress instead of his employee. A flashback to her testimonial shows her clad in red, and one of the reporters actually refers to her as, "Ms. Herring".
  • At the end of the Rollbots episode Teacher's Pet, Ms. Appie acts incredibly suspicious, but it turns out that she had no evil intentions and that she was referring to Spin's secret.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "Nowhere to Hyde" the villain pulling the "Scooby-Doo" Hoax (calling himself "the Ghost of Hyde") intentionally left a lot of Red Herrings to make the gang suspect his maid was behind it. When Shaggy found a real clue - a pair of suction cups used for climbing — the villain grabbed him. (The maid wouldn't have needed those to climb the way the villain did; she had training in acrobatics from having worked as a circus performer.)
    • Parodied on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which featured a bully who was actually named Red Herring. Although Fred accused him Once per Episode of being behind whatever mischief was going on, Red was only guilty in the one episode where Fred had promised to stop accusing him for a day. And in that case, the crime was stealing his Aunt's motorcycle... which he borrowed in order to fix it up as a surprise birthday present. As for every other episode, Fred provided no motivation for the accused Red Herring other than he's a jerkass bully.
    • The What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "Roller Ghoster", about a green-skinned creature attacking a theme park, prominently featured a young boy who was constantly getting turned away from the park's rides for being too short. He got more irate about it as the episode progressed and eventually began making ominous threats. It's not him; in fact, Velma specifically points out during The Summation that he's too short to fit in the costume.
    • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island bases its entire plot around this, as the gang are brought onto Moonscar Island, and particularly a pepper plantantion ran by two women to solve a ghost mystery that turns out to have real ghosts and zombies. While the long-deceased pirate Morgan Moonscar is the central figure for this, there's a couple other characters the cast suspect, like Beau the gardener, secretly an undercover officer, and the Jerkass Scruggs. By the end, however, the Mystery Gang learn the hard way that the entire plot was a Red Herring; the plantation owners had brought them on-board to waste their time with the mystery so they could be set up as the newest sacrifices to their god for eternal life. The zombies and even Morgan himself were the good guys trying to warn the heroes.
  • In Sonic Boom's episode "Inn Sanity", Eggman finds out that a secret reviewer is going to show up to review his hotel. In a prime example of Lampshade Hanging, a red heron shows up to the desk and introduces himself as "Red Herring", with Eggman assuming he's the secret reviewer. He's not. (It's Amy).
  • In South Park, the episode "Lice Capades" has one built into the structure of the episode: it's A Day in the Limelight for Clyde, which helps hide the fact that everyone had lice and believed that they were the only one.
  • In the Spider-Man: The Animated Series episode "Goblin War", Peter's Spider-Sense goes off just as he's about to shake hands with Jason, Felicia's fiancé. He initially thinks it's because Wilson Fisk is in the room, but it later turns out that it went off because Jason is really the Hobgoblin.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • In the climax of "The Secret Box", at first the "secret" of Patrick's secret box is revealed to be nothing but just a string ("a SECRET string!"), but once SpongeBob has left, Patrick reveals pulling the string reveals the real secret: an embarrassing picture of SpongeBob from a Christmas party.
    • In "The Pink Purloiner", SpongeBob cannot find his special jellyfishing net and continously accuses Patrick of stealing it. It turns out near the end Patrick didn't take the net at all; he just left it on the bus.
  • Star Wars Rebels: in the two-part episode "Ghosts of Geonosis", Ezra, Kanan, Chopper, and Rex go to Geonosis — whose people are implied to have been wiped out by the Empire — and find what appears to be the very last Geonosian, who killed every other member of Saw Guerrera's team (who had gone there to investigate earlier) with repaired Separatist droids. The trailers even bring up exactly what the implication of this is: the Geonosian draws a circle within a circle in the dirt to try to explain why it's there and why Saw's men had to be killed, and those familiar with the second film in the Prequel Trilogy will remember that the Geonosians had a hand in creating the Death Star. Except it's not about the Death Star, it's an egg, possibly the last one of the entire Geonosian race, and he was just trying to protect it.
  • Steven Universe
    • We are lead to believe due to the Crystal Gems' own speculation that Peridot arrived on Earth so she could reactivate one of the "Kindergartens" and start Gem production again, which would suck the life from the Earth and doom all living things. Of course, this ignores the fact that, despite constantly interacting and collecting data from the location, she never once tried repairing the deactivated machines that would do just that. The episode "When It Rains" would have her finally explain herself, revealing that her true mission was to monitor the Cluster, a massive artificial Gem superweapon incubating beneath the Earth, which was made from the shards of fallen Gems.
    • The death of Pink Diamond. At the end of season three, we're told by several characters that Steven's mother Rose Quartz killed Pink Diamond near the end of the Great Gem War. When Steven gives himself up to Homeworld and goes on trial for his mother's crime at the start of season five, his lawyer realizes that it makes no sense for her to be so easily killed with no witnesses. Steven also later recalls that his mother's sword isn't capable of actually killing Gems, which leads him to the conclusion that it was Pearl who committed the deed, with Rose taking credit for it. This turns out to only be half-right, as "A Single Pale Rose" reveals that while Pearl did do it, Pink Diamond never actually died; Rose Quartz was the war hero alias of the monarch and the "murder" was an excuse to remain in the former role permanently and potentially remove the other Diamonds' desire to continue the war. Which worked, from a certain point of view.
  • Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters: When the Flex Fighters attempt to figure out Blindstrike's true identity, they choose as their suspects some male classmates and faculty, who demonstrate remarkable physicality, scientific knowledge, and/or meanness. Instead, Blindstrike becomes revealed as Riya Dashti, the reclusive, Stretch-hating girl, on whom Stretch harbors a crush.
  • In one episode of Vampirina, Vee gets a visit from the Great Esmeralda, a fortune teller who is never wrong. When she predicts Vee is going to "lose a friend", Vee assumes she and Poppy won't be friends anymore and spends the episode trying to impress her. As it turns out near the end, the friend Vee really lost was her dog Wolfie, who escaped into Poppy's backyard after forgetting to bathe him.
  • The W.I.T.C.H. animated series does this with the identity of Phobos' long-lost sister, with some signs pointing to protagonist Will being his sister: her parents are divorced with her father going unmentioned, she's biracial with the same shade of Ambiguously Brown, and she's in the correct age range. We learn halfway through the season that his sister is actually Elyon, a supporting character introduced in the third episode as one of Cornelia's friends. Averted in the comics, however.
  • Near the beginning of Young Justice Season 2, the writers began heavily foreshadowing the death of Barry Allen, who as comic fans know, famously died while pulling a Heroic Sacrifice during Crisis on Infinite Earths. The Series Fauxnale presents a similar situation, but when it comes time for said sacrifice, it's actually Wally West, Barry's former sidekick, who ends up dying.

    Real Life 
  • In debating, there is a related trick/fallacy called "Pivoting", where one person will ask a question that can either be answered with one word (such as "no" or "15") or a sentence or two of explanation, such as "because we ran out of money", and instead of answering the other person will go off topic (often rambling at length) to try to get out of answering and in some cases to drag on long enough the other person (and the audience) just forget what the original question was. Unfortunately, most novice debaters aren't adept enough to recognize this trick and say something like "you're not answering my question, did X happen or didn't it?"
  • In terms of actual mysteries, The Phantom of Heilbronn was an epic one. From 1993 to 2009, crime scene investigators found DNA samples of the same woman at 40 crime scenes in Germany, Austria, and France. Searches for this mystery killer came up short. Then, someone noticed that all the cotton swabs used for the DNA testing at the crime scenes came from the same shipping. The DNA was then traced to the factory that made the cotton swabs and a worker who accidentally contaminated them.

Alternative Title(s): Chekhovs Blank, Red Herring Suspect


Red Herring

Fred accuses Red Herring, a bully named after this trope, of stealing Shaggy's bike.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedHerring

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