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Some schmuck just won The Maze Game.

"Each new technology is usually followed by the invention of a new practical joke. For example, soon after the match was invented, some joker came up with the hot foot. After the invention of the door, someone invented the bucket of water over the door. So, of course, it makes sense that after the invention of e-mail, someone came up with this."
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A Screamer Prank (usually referred to as a "Screamer") is a type of Jump Scare that's combined with Surprise Creepy. Originating on the Internet, it pretends at first to be a game, a test, a still image, a video that is not meant to be scary, etc. (more often than not, you will be instructed to look very closely at the image or turn your volume up). Then a scary image (usually a Nightmare Face) pops up with either a scream or a Scare Chord, which is when you realize — after you've pried yourself off the ceiling, of course — that you've been pranked.

All screamers are supposed to startle the viewer, though some go Up to Eleven with the Nightmare Fuel and others are so comical or ineptly done that they end up being Nightmare Retardant.

These are known for utilizing Schmuck Bait to a shameless degree and one of the many reasons why one should be wary of clicking on certain links on the internet. Also see Shock Site (horrifying imagery without the Jump Scare) and Last Note Nightmare, the latter being when a song has a creepy ending.

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Examples

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    Advertising 
  • "K-Fee" is a coffee beverage sold by a German company with a similar name. They have made nine different television commercials that imitate the screamers found online (they were actually shown on TV in Germany). The most popular one is the one featuring a car driving through a scenic country road, but after the car disappeared, a green zombie jumps up with a loud monstrous scream, following with their slogan; You'll never feel more awake. The reason why it is more popular than the other commercials is because it was passed around the internet and was said to be a commercial that was never aired on TV because a ghostly mist would appear next to the car about halfway through the commercial. In all, there wound up being nine K-Fee screamer commercials:
    • "K-Fee Car" - the first, infamous car commercial that started it all.
    • "K-Fee Beach" - Shows a couple on the beach looking at each other, then when they are about to kiss, a white demon pops up with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Boardwalk" - Shows a boardwalk panning to the right before the white demon comes from the top of the screen upside down with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Buddah" - Shows a young girl meditating, then then white demon pops up with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Golf" - Shows a golfer man preparing his golf shot, then the white demon comes from the top of the screen upside down with the scream right when the golfer hits the ball.
    • "K-Fee Fish" - Shows a man fishing in the water, then the zombie comes out of the water with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Meadow" - Shows a meadow with yellow flowers, a bike, and a tree, then the zombie pops up with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Surfing" - Shows a man running out to the beach to surf, but before he reaches the beach, the zombie pops up with the scream.
    • "K-Fee Yoga" - Shows a person doing Yoga on top of a cliff from a far view during a sunset, then the zombie pops up with the scream, this time shaded from the dark. This is widely considered to be the scariest of all of the adverts.
    • In 2006, there were three parody commercials released on German television to advertise a new variant of K-Fee coffee with less caffeine.
      • "K-Fee Car Lite Parody" - Shows a car driving by and a girly man pops up where the zombie would pop up in the normal version. The music is also higher pitched in this parody.
      • "K-Fee Beach Lite Parody" - Shows a couple on the beach looking at each other, then when they are about to kiss, a man in a bear costume pops up and makes a funny noise. The music is also higher pitched in this parody.
      • "K-Fee Golf Lite Parody" - Shows a golfer man preparing his golf shot, then a right-side up man wearing a gorilla costume with antennas pops up and says "Ooga Booga" (you can actually see the antennas before he jumps up) when the golfer hits the ball. There are also many more birds chirping in this parody than in the original.
    • Video featuring all of the K-Fee Commercials (including the parodies)
    • Just for fun, all 9 K-Fee commercials playing at the same time in windows
  • Busch Gardens' 2011 Howl-O-Scream TV ad is scary in and of itself, what with the creepy imagery and dark Nursery Rhyme being played in the background, but the kicker comes at the end, when the song ends ("Come play in my garden...") and a female zombie tears through the "O" and lets out a very loud scream. If you're that curious, here's the ad.
  • Universal's Halloween Horror Nights did this for the event's commercial in 2008, which had the theme of Bloody Mary. Considering the famous legend, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out when the screamer comes up.
  • In 2012, Liberty University put out two advertisements for its yearly Scaremare event. The first one is 30 seconds long and contains no screamer. The longer version is twice as long, and as soon as you think it's about to end, a cloaked man with a scary-looking red and white striped mask abruptly comes from the side with a loud shriek and tries to hit you with an axe.
  • In The New Russia, during the nineties, many TV programs were preceded by the vanity plate of the TV company ВИД (VID, pronounced "veed"). It is a strange image of moving lines and circles with jackhammer or film projector noise in the background, and then, after a few sparks and loud Scare Chord, a mean-looking scary mask appears. Many thought it was Yeltsin's, but in fact, it was a computer-generated image of a statue of Guo Xiang, edited to look mean. Word of God is that they picked this because it appeases their sentiment of uncertainty and fear among Russians due to the collapse of the USSR. Nowadays, this video is a hugely popular meme on the Russian segment of internet, because many of the modern Russian Internet users were kids during The '90s, and they were shit-scared by this video.
  • This was done for one particularly infamous ad for the short-lived [adult swim] series Saul Of The Mole Men which, itself, was known for mood-whiplashing gore in an otherwise Sid & Marty Kroft-style show.
  • This Japanese tire commercial features two Japanese men driving out in the snow before stopping at a female ghostly figure. At the 17 second mark, the figure immediately appears right on the windshield with a loud sound. There is a warning at the beginning that it is not for the faint of heart.
  • A PSA from the '70s showed a wind-up toy monkey while a childlike voice said, "They say that people on heroin have a monkey on their back. Isn't that cute?" Then the camera zooms in on the monkey's face while a loud primate scream plays. Here's a link to the PSA in question.note 
  • A 18-rated British PSA from 1987 called Scavengers (watch at your own risk) takes this to the next level with animal flesh infested with maggots and flies coming out of a fur coat at 1:13 with multiple loud synth chords. The only time this advertisement was publicly shown was during the previews before horror movies in British movie theaters.
  • This ad for the 2016 Six Flags Fright Fest starts as a normal ad, with people enjoying the park, and a woman voiceover saying "There's something for everyone at Six Flags". Cue a Monster Clown jumping onto the screen a la the K-Fee car ad and screaming.
  • An ad for horror film The Nun drew ire for not only utilizing this trope in an ad played before YouTube videos, but also for imitating an iOS volume bar being lowered on the screen before showing the movie's monster appearing suddenly with a loud scream. This resulted in some people getting panic attacks and dropping their phones, even breaking them. The backlash resulted in the ad getting taken down after attention was brought to it, and the site took action against the ad for violating its shocking content policy for ads. This ad would often play when someone was trying to watch completely innocuous videos unrelated to horror or the film.
  • With The Last Exorcism coming to DVD and Blu-ray on December 27, 2010, a Christmas themed screamer was made to promote it with a woman wearing a Santa dress taking off her coat and gloves and stepping off the screen before coming back as a screaming scary woman.

    Anime 

    Comic Strips 
  • In-Universe example in this The Argyle Sweater comic.
  • An off-computer variant in Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin performs an "Emergency Broadcast test" to his mother - it's just him screaming very loudly.
    Calvin: Had this been a real emergency, the scream you just heard would have been followed by lots more like it...
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    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dick & Dom in da Bungalow essentially made this a game, in the form of Bogies. Dick and Dom (plus occasional guests and celebrities) would go to public places and gradually increase the volume when saying the word "Bogies". Eventually, they'd get so loud that the word would practically have to be screamed, and the camera crew made sure to capture startled reactions of people nearby.
  • In-Universe in The Good Wife episode "Parallel Construction, Bitches". A couple of NSA techs acting as Those Two Guys are goofing off while on the clock and one of them shoots the other a video. The second one says it'd better not be one of those videos where a guy suddenly jumps up in front of the camera to scare you. The first one says it's a cat video. It's a guy-jumps-up-in-front-of-camera video.
  • In the drama Cyberbully, the anonymous troll lets Casey know he has full control of her computer by employing one of these.
  • On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon pulls this on The Roots by convincing some of them to watch the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer and give their reactions...not knowing that Jimmy snuck a screamer into it.
  • In the Modern Family episode "Undeck the Halls", Jay Pritchett watches Miracle on 34th Street which has had a screamer edited into it by Manny as a prank.

    Softwares 
  • NightMare is probably the precursor of all screamer pranks on computers. It was developed in 1990 by Patrick Evans for Commodore Amiga computers and distributed via Fish Disks. All it does is staying idle in the background then, every five minutes, a skull with a bleeding crack appears all of a sudden for less than a second accompanied by a loud shriek. It is credited as first scareware of its kind.

    Video Games 
  • Upgrade Complete 2 offers one through the Heartrate upgrade. Upgrade Complete 3 has a three-level Heartrate upgrade. First level is a cartoonish, Stylistic Suck little bedsheet ghost that pops up immediately, second level is a slightly scarier one that still lacks the surprise element, and third level is of high quality and delivers the actual scare far later and very suddenly, often during the actual gameplay.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 has the Krypt Monster, a little fucker that can pop up every now and then when the player is in the Krypt.
    • Speaking of MK, one of Kabal's fatalities counts as this: he tears his mask off, revealing a Nightmare Face and screams at his opponent, which scares them so badly that their spirits exit their bodies & run away!
  • In the Call of Duty: Black Ops II "Mob of the Dead" campaign, if you zoom in on a fireworks display on the roof, a distorted picture of what appears to be Russman's face will appear for a split second, accompanied by a high-pitched scream.
  • Abused to no small extent in the Arise series of Flash games, to the point that it's more tedious than actually frightening.
  • League of Legends champion Fiddlesticks's Crowstorm tends to be used to this effect. He'll jump out of the brush with no prior warning, and then you're getting eaten alive by a murder of crows.
  • A now-long-defunct location in the Second Life virtual world featured a "haunted" maze where visitors could wander the halls to find free money. Occasionally, however, the visitor will trigger a screaming face that appears on screen for a few moments.
  • Eternal Damnation, a fan-made re-imagining of the second Postal game (and included with Postal 2 in the Fudge Pack box set) has a few scare faces thrown at the player during the first mission.
  • Epic Battle Fantasy 3 has Matt's aptly-titled Screamer spell, which flashes this on the screen. It also does Dark-elemental damage to the enemies.
  • Soul, on Xbox Live Indie Games, does this. On one of the early levels, the shadowy figure of a girl can be seen standing on the course. When the player passes over the figure, the image of a monstrous screaming woman fills the screen, with appropriate sound effect. The same thing also sometimes happens randomly when you die.
  • Which Way Adventure, a flash game, features these as a running gag, and in fact the most common way to lose the game. Sometimes you can see it coming, but other times, particularly when you're doing something with a female character that is inteded to be sexy, it will appear and kill you with a loud scream for no apparent reason. Hitting the play button again will lead you back to the start area, but clicking anything from there will lead to the same screamer. Persevering past that will lead to the manticore that's been killing you sitting in the playground you start in this time, and the same result. From the fourth go on, you can continue to play the game normally.
  • The Creeper from the Doom Game Mod The Ghoul's Forest 3 and Ghouls vs. Humans has this as its attack - it's usually almost invisible and creeping across the ground, and attacks by suddenly jumping up in front of its victim's face with a scream, killing them.
    • The Ghoul's Forest 3 and some custom versions of Ghouls Vs. Humans also have Yurei, a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl who has the ability to subject the player to a screamer prank, as a disturbing photo suddenly fills the screen. In the latter games, it's possible for players to turn off the screamers so that they can participate in matches without the fear of being suddenly subject to dead babies out of nowhere.
    • Many of the infamous "Terry" wads lead the player into a trap room where they are endlessly bombarded with ear damagingly loud screams or other noises, walls of Nightmare Faces, and Epileptic Flashing Lights.
  • How most of the animatronics attack the player in Five Nights at Freddy's qualify.
    • A straighter example of this occurs in some of the games after a game over. Rarely, instead of being taken to the front menu, the player gets to enjoy a few seconds inside an 8-bit minigame where they can wander around. While they are kind of interesting in that some of them portray a little bit of background of the game's setting, they have a tendency to suddenly end with one of the animatronics from the actual game lunging out of the screen.
  • Killer Escape 1 is a legitimate horror game that uses a severe jump scare at one point. You play as the latest victim of a sadistic pyromaniac murderer making your way out of his building/cells using a bunch of items and machinery, but at one point you must inspect some lockers, and whilst three of them are empty, a scary mutilated/burned woman's corpse will fly out in your face before collapsing on the floor when looking in one of the four. The sudden unexpected appearance of the killer at the end when he says "What the hell?!" is also slightly alarming.
  • M.U.G.E.N has a few characters that do this.
    • Giygas, a boss character, randomly after being either defeated or winning a round, will randomly show a video clip in which, for example, the creator of this character (The_None), appears wearing a Jeff the Killer mask, admitting that the character is not scary, before a disfigured woman pops out of a book he opens with a loud scream.
    • Dark Donald, a cheap character, is capable of doing this before a round starts, in which he randomly gets replaced with another character for a moment, before a scary picture pops up with a loud scream, and after this, Dark Donald appears normally.
    • F-Sanae, a VERY, VERY cheap character has a move in which the screen darkens and turns to static, before the static shatters, revealing the eyeless face from What's Wrong With This Picture, but red with a loud roar.
  • A fairly popular web browser game nowadays is Agar.io, and considering the tens of thousands of people that can be on a server at one time, it's pretty brilliantly cruel that someone would make a screamer based about it. If you try to type in "agor.io" instead of "agar.io", you'll be greeted by none other than Jeff the Killer, whose face will be flashing repeatedly between regular and negative (epilepsy warning, of course) while an extremely loud droning scream is heard in the background.
  • Cooking Breakfast 2, a Game Maker "game", claims to be an "all time family classic" which is supposed to "learn [you] in seven steps to create your very own breakfast". The true nature of the "game" is something a bit different; it shows a poorly-drawn MS Paint picture of an odd-looking face spinning, accompanied by Epileptic Flashing Lights and a gratingly high-pitched tone. And it has no exit feature; you have to turn it off via the task manager. If we are to believe the reviews, some people got seizures from this, and it's suspected that this game is actually the author's revenge against people who gave his previous games bad reviews. Footage is available for the morbidly curious.
  • The PlayStation licensed game based on The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea has Ursula popping up on the screen with a somewhat loud, evil laugh the very moment Ariel's health reaches zero.
  • The Japanese Namco arcade game Yokai Dochuki has the optional false goddess in Stage 4. While the game's real goddess was in Stage 2, Stage 4 has what looks like a goddess facing away from the player's character. But when approached, she will turn around and reveal her actually hideous self while this ten second frightening tune plays.
  • Escape From Lavender Town: It seems at first to be a simple top-down Town Escape Game, until you press the ESC key.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has an enemy that does this, but you have to deliberately find it during the train ride (after killing the boss in a timed sequence, that is) by sitting on a chair in the first passenger carriage. Miriam will start to blink and slowly nod off when the train passes by the lake before being greeted by it. Good thing is that you can kill it, but trying to fight it right away without preparation will get you cursed and killed in short order.
  • Game Boy Camera had the infamous error screens which could also be triggered by clicking the "Run" button. When activated, the screen would suddenly show disturbing "vandalized" faces of Nintendo employees, accompanied by ominous music and the messages "Who are you running from?" or "Don't be so silly!".

    Visual Novels 
  • Grisaia no Meikyuu: On Michiru's after story, Yumiko falls pray to one such video when surfing the net.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! uses this at the end of the first act with Sayori hanging herself suddenly appearing on the screen with a Scare Chord.
    • Another one happens near the end of the game if the game detects you’re recording/streaming, with Monika taking notice and greeting the viewers, before she offers to show them a trick. The camera then slowly zooms into her face, before she says she’s just messing with the player. Seconds later, in the middle of talking, the camera rapidly zooms into her face, which becomes distorted and now sports a Slasher Smile, with a loud static noise. Monika then quickly lampshades this, asking the audience “Did I scare you?”

    Web Comics 
  • The Bongcheon-Dong Ghost is a Korean webcomic which depicts a young woman's encounter with the titular entity; it's most infamous for a Jump Scare wherein the page hijacks your scroll bar to create the illusion of movement in order to show you the ghost's horribly scarred face (alongside a weird clicking sound). (It won't work properly if you have NoScript active on your browser, though.)

    Western Animation 
  • The scene in the Adventure Time episode "Guardians of Sunshine" where Finn and Jake creep up on Sleepy Sam.
  • The Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City" fits this trope. He walks into an old abandoned building and starts opening doors, seeing things like King Ghidorah (from Godzilla) and Jaws. He finally opens up the third door and sees a realistic girl playing a violin from behind which Courage likes at first, but the girl turns around and scares him with a giant red CGI face and a scream. It is the page image for Nightmare Fuel Western Animation.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "Summerween", Stan repeatedly tries to scare two jaded trick-or-treaters. When he asks them what they find scary, they show him a video of a cute kitten that suddenly jumps to a screaming, monstrous face.
    • An interstitial short about Mabel watching Gravity Falls' public access channel featured a Kitschy Local Commercial for the Mystery Shack, which inexplicably ended with a sudden, brief close-up of Stan's face while he let out a maniacal laugh.
  • In a Rabbids Invasion video called "Find The Rabbid," the viewer is asked to find the Rabbid, but there is no Rabbid... just a peaceful pond. A few seconds later, a Rabbid jumps out and screams, and then three Rabbids laugh, indicating that it was a Screamer Prank made up by the Rabbids.
  • As if the Wander over Yonder episode "The Pet" wasn't creepy enough, The Stinger animatic at the end of the episode shows Captain Tim sleeping near Lord Hater's bed. After more than a few seconds, Captain Tim suddenly lunges at the camera, screams, and licks it in his mouth.

    Real Life 
  • Before the rise of digital videos on the internet, Japan already had live pranksters known as "random screamers" who would set themselves up somewhere they could find suitable random victims, such as on a street corner or by the doors of an elevator, and then SCREAM VERY LOUDLY at them at some opportune moment. Usually, this was done with a hidden camera somewhere nearby so they could send footage of the victims' flustered reactions to local TV comedy shows.
  • This woman caught up in a publicity stunt by British lotto company GeoLotto decided to approach the two hosts in a rather unusual way when offered a five pound note.
  • The Halloween prop known as "Peek A Boo Penny" is essentially a real-life execution of a screamer prank. It appears to be a static life-sized figure of a girl holding her hands in front of her face, but suddenly, her skull-like head pops up from behind her hands with a loud scream. Most of the people who watched the official video of the prop commented about how it startled them.
  • The real life game Hide and Seek can be played in which the hider jumps out and scares the seeker.

    Parodies of this Trope 
  • "Not Scary" shows a picture of a room, then it shows a picture of a face drawn on MS Paint with a guy going "Boogity boogity boogity boo". Then it switches between the room and the MS Paint face for a while until the guy's face says "Alright, I'm done. You can go away now". Then he says one last "Boogity boogity boogity!" with the face.
  • Played for Laughs in The Angry Video Game Nerd's review of Nintendo Power. We first see a long, quiet shot of the Nerd's room with a few magazines piled up on the floor before the Nerd suddenly jumps into the screen and yells "ASS!"
  • Chuggaaconroy's Let's Play of The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has one with a picture of a RED RUPEE of all things after explaining that you only get the Giant's Wallet after completing the Oceanside Spider House on the 1st day.
    Chuggaaconroy: Just ask some of the other LPers what they think of that! '''''AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!''''']
  • In an episode of Gravity Falls, Grunkle Stan tries in vain to scare a couple of trick-or-treaters. When he asks what scares kids nowadays, they show him a clip of a cute kitten on one of their cell phones. Suddenly a scary face appears on the screen, scaring the bejeesus out of Stan and the kids.
  • In the Mario fangame Psycho Waluigi, in Static Void Kingdom, the whole level is surreal compared to the rest of the game, and there's one part of the level where the face from "What's Wrong with this Picture?" pops up for a second but with no scream.
  • In the Smosh episode Super Powers! Anthony is standing far away holding several objects. He is far enough not to be able to hear him at all. That is until Ian suddenly pops up close to the camera and screams really loud.
    Anthony: Hey, so, the funny thing about this is if you actually look really closely, you can see-
    Ian: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
  • Once again, videos of the parodies of the K-Fee commercials mentioned in the Advertising section: Auto Lite, Beach Lite, and Golf Lite.
  • Parodied several times in The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • "The Internet" centered on Gumball watching what is implied to be the K-Fee car commercial and his reaction becoming an Instant Web Hit.
    • Carrie the ghost makes one in-universe in an online short that was later included in the episode "The Tape": she claims the video will let you see in 3D without glasses and instructs you to get closer, then makes a creepy face while yelling and laughs afterward.
    • Part of Anton's Death Montage in "The Recipe" includes a Hollywood Heart Attack in reaction to something on a computer desktop that involves sudden screaming.
    • When Anais tries to get Gumball to take her to a scary movie in "The Spoiler", he inexplicably pulls a Screamer Prank on both Anais and the audience by making the screen cut to a piranha on a black background. Cut back to Anais white with shock and Gumball wearing a smug grin.
  • In Iron Twilight, the haunted house area includes a chest. But when you open it, it shows a little popup of you opening the chest. When it's half open, the screen turns static and you see a close up of Qem saying hello in Michael Rosen's voice. After the popup disappears, Qem appears on the overworld, talking to you. Turns out this was a setup before he teleports you into a small room where you fight him in a 1 on 1 tennis match. Thankfully, the fight is optional.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH! Good thing you brought your brown pants, huh?
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