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Scary Jack-in-the-Box

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A Jack-in-the-box is often a staple of childhood playtime and entertainment. Most times, it can be a fun toy for children to play with, but occasionally, it can also be a form of Nightmare Fuel for some. Either way, you can expect to see Jack-in-the-boxes pop up in media.

May overlap with: Jump Scare, Surprise Jump, Monster Clown


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  • Double subverted with the Farmers' Insurance commercial featuring a giant jack-in-the-box that fills the entire front of a classroom. The professor demonstrates how accidents could be "a little scary" by turning the crank, with the onlooking agents presumably thinking a giant clown will pop out and destroy the room. However, on the "POP" note nothing happens... until about five seconds later when a space capsule falls through the ceiling and crushes the jack-in-the-box.

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Maximillion Pegasus summons his Bickuribox, a cackling, vaguely clownlike/Grim Reaper-ish monster jack-in-the-box, to deliver the deathblow to Seto Kaiba's Saggi the Dark Clown. Oh, did I mention that Bickuribox stores a big scythe in his mouth?
  • Done in Uzumaki as a part of its spiral motif. A Stalker with a Crush for the protagonist is likened to one because he keeps jumping out at her. He is later taunted by a sinister hallucination of his jack-in-the-box and attempts to prove his love by trying to stop a car with his body. When they check his grave his corpse comes to life and jumps after before its rotted legs break off and he starts bouncing with a suspension spring that had wedged into his midsection.

    Comic Books 
  • Used frequently by The Joker in all of his incarnations, particularly during the Silver Age of Comic Books.

    Comic Strips 
  • Cul de Sac had a school jack-in-the-box which, when opened, shot a clown into the ceiling. The class then spent the rest of the day hiding from it under a table.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry Potter's first encounter with a Boggart. Subverted in the fact that it wasn't supposed to be creepy. It was supposed to be the humorous thought to keep the boggart at bay. Why Pavarti found it funny is beyond most of the audience— that thing was creepy!
  • In Elf, Buddy is the jack-in-the-box tester and every time one "pops", it freaks him out. Later in the film, he has a nightmare about the cackling jack-in-a-box.
  • A scary jack-in-the-box appeared in Poltergeist.
  • Muffy was handed a deliberately scary one in April Fools' Day when she was a child.
  • Deliver Us from Evil features a scary jack-in-the-box (and the accompanying tune, "Pop Goes the Weasel") multiple times.
  • One of the most terrifying sequences in the 2015 comedy-horror film Krampus involves a Jack-in-the-Box monster called Der Klown, a massive snake like figure with an unhinged, split jaw, which enables him to swallow people whole.
  • In MouseHunt, the shadow of one is the cause of a Cat Scare in the attic shortly before the mouse is first discovered.
  • Clue: When the house is plunged into darkness, Mrs White is searching the nursery. As she is fumbling around in the dark, she triggers a giant jack-in-the-box which springs out; making her scream.

  • The jack-in-the-box in Neil Gaiman's horror story Don't Ask Jack (which was apparently inspired by an actual jack-in-the-box someone gave him).
  • The group of evil toys in Dean Koontz's Oddkins includes a jack-in-the-box.
  • In Jack Yeovil's Drachenfels, one character is murdered and set like this — his bones are removed and the rest of the body is folded in a box with a spring, then sent to a famous spoiled actress.
  • The goblin living in a snuffbox in The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen is often depicted (and sometimes explicitly translated) as a jack-in-the-box.
    • In the Disney Fantasia 2000 animated adaptation, he becomes an outright villain, and in the end falls in the fireplace instead of the soldier and the ballerina.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Wizardry 8 "Jack in the Box" is a buildable gadget that acts like a weak fear spell. Or you can put in the same box a demon doll instead and make insanity-inducing variant.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • The short game Jack in the Dark (a promotional game for Alone in the Dark 2) is set in a toy shop and has an evil jack-in-the-box (who has the appearance of the main game's Big Bad) for a villain. The jack-in-the-box turns the toys evil, using them to kidnap Santa.
  • Mad Jack of Donkey Kong 64 is an enormous jack-in-the-box that tries to squash Tiny Kong flat.
  • In American McGee's Alice, one of the weapons is a jack-in-the-box that breathes fire.
  • In King's Quest VII, this is one of the ways Rosella can die. In the tree house in Ooga Booga land, there's a jack-in-the-box that will kill you if you open it.
  • The Joker is the most prominent villain in Batman: Vengeance, so obviously he has these in his arsenal. Unique in that they follow you if you get too close, and they seem to breathe fire. You can take them down with either two regular Batarangs, or one Electric Batarang. You can also get them to follow you into the ugly green water which flows through the Gasworks.
  • There's a Spider-In-The-Box version in Legend of the Crystal Skull, although it's not all that frightening.
  • A creepy eel-like face pops out of a wind-up box in one of the Last Half of Darkness games.
  • Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon has them, and it's made worse by this theme/laugh that plays when you activate them.
  • A combination of this, Perverse Puppet, Creepy Doll and Demonic Dummy makes up the thing that is Five Nights at Freddy's 2's Marionette. Suffice to say, if you start hearing "Pop! Goes the Weasel" in your office, prepare for impact.
  • Shaco in League of Legends can put these on the map as traps. They even cause the Fear Status Effect when sprung!
  • Played for laughs in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (as well as Trilogy), where some of the ninjas' Friendships consist of cranking up jacks-in-the-box for their opponent, which gets scared and runs off. Each jack-in-the-box is appropriate to whichever ninja you use; as such, Reptile's is a snake, and Scorpion's is a skull.
  • Sometimes while crafting toys, a Sim from The Sims 2 will build a black version of a Jack-in-a-box which, unlike the normal ones, is rather sinister looking. It will scare most of the Sims that play with it, leaving them with a bad memory.
  • Jacques from Spyro the Dragon (1998) is the penultimate boss of the game and the main boss of Dream Weavers. His appearance is very much like a Monster Clown Jack-in-the-box.
  • Dungeon Keeper 2: The Jack-in-the-Box is a Booby Trap that scares enemy Worker Units to death when activated, then scurries over to the enemy Dungeon Heart and explodes.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, in the Claptastic Voyage DLC, there's a side quest involving Claptrap's fears as represented by a Jack-in-the-box with it's head being a scarred Handsome Jack.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Averted with Charlie-In-The-Box from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  • Averted in the special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town with the song "First Toymaker to the King."
    ''"The jack-in-boxes will always pop at every regal command."
  • In one episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Joker freaks out Guy Gardner during a forced death-race using a jack-in-the-box (with his own face, naturally), causing Gardner to lose his concentration and de-materialize his energy-car.
  • Darkwing Duck features the ghost clown Paddywhack who lives inside a jack-in-the-box.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Killer Queen", Stewie is terrified of the cover to the Queen album "News of the World", a fact that Brian exploits for his own amusement. At one point, Stewie finds a jack-in-the-box in his room, and very cautiously turns the crank, expecting the worst-only to have a regular little jester pop out. Stevie is relieved- until he turns around, and sees the entire wall has been painted to look like the album.

    Real Life 
  • Walgreen's has intentionally-scary ones in its stores during Halloween. Turn the crank, and "Pop! Goes The Weasel" plays, only for a Monster Clown to pop out and gives an electronically-rendered Evil Laugh.