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Well he recognized a vampire from his school
He did something that was most uncool
He said "Hey everybody! See the fool in the cape?
His name is Bernie Weinstein and he's in the 8th grade!"
Voltaire, "The Vampire Club"

Supernatural creatures are cool. Vampires are sexy, werewolves are powerful, demons are rebels... It's no surprise that the supernatural and paranormal capture the imaginations of many, as proven by the abundance of fiction that focuses on them. Some people, however, take this fascination a little farther than most, and outright aspire to become these creatures of legend.

In this case, a character pretends to be some kind of supernatural being such as a vampire, a werewolf, demon, cryptid, or wizard. Whether or not these creatures exist within the universe the story takes place in is irrelevant, though if they do, expect plenty of second-hand embarrassment on the parts of whatever creatures are being emulated, especially if they view their own condition as more of a curse.

More rarely, a supernatural creature pretends to be a different sort of supernatural creature. This still counts, as long as the work draws a meaningful distinction between what the creature really is and what it is pretending to be.

Supertrope to:

  • False Prophet, someone who claims to have supernatural foreknowledge but is making it all up or otherwise deluded. Prone to becoming the leader of a cult or Scam Religion.
  • Fake Faith Healer, where the person pretends to have healing powers from God, often to scam people.
  • Fake Wizardry, where someone uses illusions to fake having magical powers that are known to exist within the setting.
  • God Guise, where someone pretends to be a god or similarly powerful being.
  • Phony Psychic, where the person isn't pretending to be another species but is pretending to have supernatural powers.
  • Pretend We're Dead, when people pretend to be zombies in order to stop actual zombies from attacking them.
  • Scarecrow Solution, when pretenders are doing it to try and to scare off an enemy.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax, which is where the pretenders are doing so in order to divert attention away from a crime.
  • Vampire Vannabe, where someone is working to actually become a vampire, not just pretend, and often helps real vampires in hopes of being turned.

This sometimes overlaps with a type of Chuunibyou, some of whom pretend (and believe themselves) to have supernatural powers such as a Magical Eye or Evil Hand.

Compare Actually Not a Vampire and Mistaken for Undead, where someone is thought to be a vampire or zombie in-universe but may not have been deliberately pretending to be one. Also compare Bedsheet Ghost, a common way for living characters to pretend to be ghosts... though in some works ghosts really do look like that. Compare and contrast with This Is My Boomstick, where a time-traveler uses their technology to impress/intimidate the locals, but doesn't necessarily pretend that it's magic.

Contrast Monster Protection Racket, when there actually is no monster but a self-proclaimed "slayer" and their confederates make it look like there is one. Also contrast Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, where it's implied the character may be a supernatural being but no solid conclusion is reached.

I Just Want to Be Special is a common cause of this trope- after all, who would want to be a boring old human? Fantastic Racism is another common cause in works with supernatural elements, as humans are often looked down upon by fantasy creatures.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Baccano!: The Rail Tracer is a monstrous urban legend that chases after trains on moonless nights and can take on other forms, even including that of another train. One can only know when the train has been caught by the Rail Tracer after it begins to attack, as passengers will start to disappear until the entire train vanishes. The only way to survive is to believe in it or hide. Jacuzzi is terrified, and things only get worse when the conductors of the train the characters are riding turn up dead one by one. In reality, the story was circulated by Claire Stanfield, an assassin working as a conductor, and the other conductors were imposters he killed for murdering his friend and intending to kill the passengers themselves. Covered in their blood, Claire declares himself the Rail Tracer and makes off to kill the malicious groups that boarded the train. Jacuzzi later mistakes him for the monster while seeing the blood-covered man from a distance.
  • The Boy and the Beast: Ichirohiko, a human adopted by a family of anthropomorphic boars, constantly wears a hat that disguises his head to look like that of a Beast Man in order to fit in better in the Beast Kingdom.
  • Durarara!!: Played with. The serial killer, Hollywood, is well-known for dressing as monsters while out killing, though everyone is well aware Hollywood is just wearing costumes. However, Ruri, the true identity of the killer, is really a quarter vampire, making Hollywood a monster posing as a human posing as other monsters.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Tsukune, a completely normal human, is accidentally enrolled in a school for monsters, and must spend the rest of the series pretending to everyone but his close friends to be one of them, as the punishment for 'human spies' discovered by the Public Safety Commission is execution.
  • Tokimeki ★ Mononoke Jogakkou: Arare is an ordinary girl who accidentally ends up in an all-youkai boarding school in another dimension. As youkai eat humans, she has to pretend to be one of them while trying to find her way back home.
  • Tweeny Witches: When Atelia arranges for Arusu to live among the witches, the sage tells the girl and her housemates to hide her human origins.
  • Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun: After being adopted by a demon and sent to an all-demon school, ordinary human Iruma has to pretend to be a demon so that he doesn't get eaten by his classmates.

    Comic Books 
  • JSA Classified: Dr. Mid-Nite is trying to track down a serial killer who seems to be a vampire and goes to a nightclub which caters to people playing at being vampires. He does actually find the killer there and the killer turns out to be a sick metahuman who'd convinced himself he was a vampire.
  • My Little Pony Micro Series: In issue 6, the Apple family work together to try to capture the "Sass Squash", a mythical monster that steals crops and replaces them with squashes. At the end, it's revealed to have been Granny Smith in a costume, having wanted to bring the family together and get Applejack to stop trying to take responsibility for running the entire farm. But at the very end, Applejack finds an old photo of Granny Smith with a monster that looks just like her costume, and we see Granny Smith outside giving the real Sass Squash an apple pie.
  • Twi Lit: Raver Moonwolf aka "Wolfie" imagines himself as a female werewolf and goes around in a werewolf costume.

    Fan Works 
  • Stupor Heroics: Haiku, the superhero Midnight Bliss, has cultivated the image of being an ageless elegant vampire, complete with sharp front teeth. However, those sharp teeth are just regular meat-tearing canines rather than blood-drinking fangs as her powers came from not a bite from a sire, but an unknowing infusion of wolf DNA. She is very sensitive about her superhero origin and the true nature of her powers since she's been a fan of vampires since a young age and vampires actually do exist in this meta world.

    Films - Animated 
  • In An All Dogs Christmas Carol, Itchy, Sasha, and Charlie all pose as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future respectively in an attempt to persuade Carface into stopping Belladonna from ruining Christmas for dogs and their owners.
  • Hotel Transylvania: The titular hotel is for monsters only, giving them a vacation getaway from the humans who fear them. When Jonathan, a regular human, inadvertently wanders inside and ends up staying there, he has to disguise himself as Frankenstein's cousin "Johnnystein" in order to not upset the other guests.

    Films - Live Action 
  • Back to the Future: Marty uses his radiation suit and Walkman stereo to dress up as "Darth Vader" from "the Planet Vulcan". He frightens George and threatens to melt his brain if he doesn't take Lorraine to the school dance.
  • Transylvania 6-5000: Odette turns out to be a once-ugly woman who began dressing like a vampire to get attention, and continued to do so even after plastic surgery made her gorgeous.

  • In the Polish novel Agent Do?u, the main character (the heir to Satan's throne) inspects a school for Hell's agents, ran by the devil Belphegor. The students all seemingly have inhuman powers, and include a faceless shapeshifter, a Superman Expy, an anthropomorphic cat man, an Egyptian mummy, and a semi-humanoid half-worm half-octopus. However, the main character discovers that they are all mundane humans wearing realistic costumes (including Belphegor himself), putting a long con on Satan. None of them realized the others were also human.
  • Discworld:
    • Doreen Winkings, a minor character from Reaper Man and Thud!, was an ordinary housewife until her fruit-and-veg-merchant husband inherited a title (Count Notfaroutoe), and vampirism, from a distant relative. Although the couple are at a time of life when Kiss of the Vampire is just not happening, the still-mortal Doreen considers it her duty to act like a vampire, partly for the elevated social status but mostly to show support for her spouse's hobbies.
    • Carpe Jugulum: Inverted; Teenage vampires going through the equivalent of a goth phase do things like dressing in mundane clothes, insisting on being called "Susan" instead of "Lacrimosa", and drinking blood in bottles but claiming it's wine.
  • In one book of The Dresden Files a centaur casts an illusion to appear as an unicorn.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Harry at one point pretends to be the Bloody Baron, a fearsome ghost, in order to get Peeves to leave them alone. Somehow it works, despite Peeves being an actual ghost.
    • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Draco Malfoy and his buddies pretend to be Dementors in order to scare Harry (who's extremely afraid of them) during a Quidditch match. They have no idea that Professor Lupin has been teaching Harry how to cast a Patronus (which repels Dementors), and he blasts them with a powerful one that leaves them in a crumpled mess on the ground.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon the Ninth: It comes out late in the story that Coronabeth Tridentarius isn't actually a Necromancer — her identical twin sister has been secretly doing double duty for them both, so much so that they have become joint Heir to the Third House. This has left Coronabeth a bit unmoored and Ianthe a very powerful necromancer.
  • Goosebumps:
    • Are You Terrified Yet?:
      • The corpse that comes to life to attack Craig while trying to prove his bravery in the funeral home to his friends is really just Travis, who wanted to prove he was lying about his lack of fear.
      • Subverted at the end: the corpses again come to life and attack Craig and his friends are just Brad's older brother and his friends- Brad felt bad at how hard of a time he and his friends had given Craig throughout the book, and put the scheme together to give Craig the opportunity to scare them... until Brad's brother shows up and apologizes for him and his friends not having been able to make it, causing Brad to flee in terror. But then Double Subverted, since Brad's brother was just screwing with him and the zombies really were fake.
    • Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns: The jack-o-lantern people who take the group hostage aren't actually malicious spirits, they're people in costume, as part of an elaborate plan to help the main characters get vengeance on Tabitha and Lee. How they pulled off the more overtly supernatural feats like levitation and shooting fire from their eyes is explained at the end by the fact that they're actually aliens.
    • Goosebumps Triple Header Book Two: In "Ghoul School", Liam, an ordinary boy, is sent to the titular All-Ghouls School because it's the closest school to his house. He's quickly almost found out as a human until another student covers for him and says that he's a werewolf.
    • The Headless Ghost: While exploring Hill House, which is rumored to be haunted by the titular ghost, the main characters meet a mysterious boy named Seth. After guiding them through the house, he reveals himself to be the headless ghost, and that he plans on borrowing their heads... Until the actual headless ghost shows up, and Seth is revealed to just be the prankster nephew of Otto, the man who runs tours of the place. But subverted in the end- Seth possibly is a ghost, just not the one he was pretending to be.
    • Scream School:
      • Jake's father gathering a crowd of people to pretend to be bloodthirsty zombies at his surprise party terrified Jake and ruined his birthday, and is one of the few stunts Jake's father actually feels guilty about.
      • Jake and his friend Mindy get a bunch of her friends together at the end of the book to pretend to be ghosts haunting the school his father is filming in (as it was built over an old cemetery. Subverted when his father checks the footage afterwards... and Mindy and her friends don't show up on it. Double Subverted by the fact that Jake knew his father would check, and planted footage of an empty classroom in the camera to give his dad one last scare.
    • You Can't Scare Me!: The main character convinces his older brother and his friends to dress up as the Mud Monsters, a local Urban Legend in their town, in order to scare his classmate Courtney.
  • Liar (2009): Played with. Micah is a pathological liar. She lies about being intersex, so is she also lying about being a werewolf? Most of what she says could be explained by being from a very dysfunctional family and being a liar who can't accept that she killed Zach.
  • In the children's book More Naughty Stories for Good Boys and Girls, Kevin pretends to be a ghost by wailing, so that his sister's visiting friends will run away and climb into bed with her. Then, he pours water on her sheets to make it seem as though she wet the bed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Castle: As the show focused on a number of strange subcultures, this came up a couple of times:
    • In "Vampire Weekend", Beckett and Castle must solve the murder of a young man found in a graveyard with fangs, stabbed through the heart. The fangs are quickly revealed to be veneers, but the episode centers around a subculture of people who take on vampiric and werewolf identities and lifestyles. This is treated with a mix of skepticism and open-mindedness, while the killer turns out to have framed the vampire community for the victim's death.
    • In "Undead Again", the victim appears to have been bitten by a human, grasping the remains of a hundred-year-old shirt. The only witness says it was a zombie attack. It turns out there is an entire subculture of people who do "zombie walks", dressing up and pretending to be zombies. Castle even gets in on the act for a bit.
  • iCarly: In "iBelieve in Bigfoot", the Bigfoot sightings turn out to be scientist Dr. Sydney Van Gurbin dressing up as Bigfoot so he can generate public interest in his book "Bigfoot: True or Real?" He continues doing this even after he's been caught once, admitting he's "a sick person".
  • Los Espookys: Los Espookys plan fake exorcisms, haunted houses, sea monsters, or whatever other phony supernatural occurrences their clients need.
  • Quantum Leap: A Halloween episode sees Sam leap into the body of a man clearly modeled after Count Dracula. He lives in a big mansion with no mirrors, lots of old portraiture, and several macabre artifacts. Al even points out that a portrait of the dude's ancestor supposedly deceased several hundred years ago is a dead ringer for the guy Sam's turned into. To make matters worse, the guy's friends are all equally creepy and holding a ritualistic party with a woman Al identifies as having gone missing around this time as the special guest. Sam is able to figure out that the group are simply vampire wannabes who have rigged the house to make themselves appear supernatural, but they are planning to kill and drink their guest's blood. Fortunately Sam is able to beat up the guy leading the ritual and get the police involved. The punch line comes right before Sam leaps out, where he picks up a polished plate to see what he looks like... and panics as he realizes he doesn't have a reflection at all.
  • Supernatural
    • Played for laughs in "Live Free or Twihard", in a nod to the then-current Romantic Vampire Boy craze. Sam and Dean investigate a string of kidnappings of young women suspected to be vampire activity. The first target they go after turns out to be a regular teenage boy who dresses up as a vampire to pick up girls. (In Sam and Dean's defense, this turns out to be the actual vampires' M.O. as well.)
    • In "Monster Movie", the Monster of the Week is a shapeshifter who pretends to be different monsters from movies and seems to have a flair for the dramatic. It shifts into a stereotypical movie Dracula (complete with gaudy clothes and calling Dean and a barmaid Jonathan and Mina Harker respectively), a werewolf that looks nothing like the ones Sam and Dean actually come across in their hunts, and a Mummy using a bucket of dry ice as its own special effects.
  • Whitechapel: At one point the investigation into a series of murders leads the team to a night club, where someone is seemingly finding victims. Tracking a suspicious man dressed in gothic Victorian clothing they stumble onto him seemingly revealing himself to be a vampire and about to bite into a woman's neck, only for it to turn out its simply a costume and a form of elaborate roleplaying designed to persuade women to sleep with him leaving Inspector Chandler in utter disbelief.

  • the Mountain Goats: "Werewolf Gimmick" is sung from the perspective of a professional wrestler whose persona's gimmick is that he's a werewolf. As the song goes on though, it becomes clear that the wrestler has become increasingly unable to distinguish between his real life and his persona, and actually believes that he's a werewolf.
  • SiIvaGunner: Takane Shijou is always depicted in her vampire get-up, and she sings about being one.
  • Voltaire: "The Vampire Club" is about a nightclub where everyone dresses up a vampire, all of them crafting elaborate alter-egos and getting into drama over their costumes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition module Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, the Undertakers are a group of down-on-their-luck human actors who live on the first floor of the Undermountain and pretend to be vampires in order to scare new adventurers into paying them a small fee to pass through their territory.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Razmir, the God-Emperor of Razmiran, is an ordinary, though very powerful wizard who uses a God Guise to run a Scam Religion. Razmiran "priests" therefore have no actual divinely granted powers nor levels in the cleric class: the game implements them as a sorcerer archetype and a Prestige Class that use various ritualistic tricks to imitate the class features of a cleric.
    • The Hidden Priest archetype works the other direction, allowing a cleric to pass their powers off as arcane or alchemical magic. Hidden Priests typically serve banned religions, for example the traditional Good-aligned churches in devil-worshiping Cheliax, or Rahadoum where all practice of religion is banned outright.

  • Transformers: Generation One:
    • The Pretender Bomb-Burst sells himself as a terrifying, vampiric hunter who stalks the night, helped by his monstrous Pretender shell (a form of bio-technological body armour that hides a Transformer in a biological shell). In fact, his Pretender shell is actually quite energy inefficient, so he has to hunt down and prey on unsuspecting Autobots. On the other hand, he is a genuinely stealthy, cunning and powerful hunter (his Pretender shell even gets stronger the more Energon it drains from a victim).
    • The Decepticon Headmaster Mindwipe likewise sells himself as a terrible creature of the night, helped by his bat alternate mode. He claims to be a master of dark mystic arts, trying to get in touch with ancient spirits but unaware he's actually picking up reruns of old sitcoms. He's genuinely dangerous, as his special power is to hypnotise an enemy simply by making eye contact. Luckily, he's also a bit of a Dirty Coward.

    Video Games 
  • Fate/Grand Order: During the Camelot Singularity, Bedivere spends the entire time pretending that he is a Servant — a ghost of an ancient hero summoned back to earth to defend humanity — while in reality he is a living human being much like anyone else. It was not his idea; he was just told early on that if the truth came out those he opposed would definitely come for his head. Eventually, Bedivere does become a Servant.
  • Manhunt: One member of the Pervs pretends to be a vampire, calling to the dark forces around him, making supernatural threats and has a desire to drink the blood of the dead people around him. In actuality he's just some ordinary guy who laments on how much of a loser he was in high school, and how proud he is to be a moderator on an online snuff forum.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Duenkhy: The main character, Jun, wears a skull-shaped mask to hide the fact that they're a human while living among the duenkhy (magical non-human creatures), as they don't want to stand out.

  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: "The Last Unicorns" features a donkey poorly disguising himself as a unicorn to try and seduce a tribe of female unicorns.

    Western Animation 
  • Conan the Adventurer: An episode sees Conan arrive at a village in time to watch an evil wizard abduct a young woman before cackling evilly and commanding him to leave. The villagers lament that the woman is most likely doomed and Conan should leave before he brings the wrath of the wizard down on himself. Ever the hero, Conan invades the villain's dark tower only to discover the whole thing is a sham using stage magic and the entire village is in on it. The victim seen earlier is even the daughter of the man playing the wizard (and quite alive to boot). It was their way of discouraging actual evil magic users from attacking the village and enslaving them.
  • Detention: In "The Blame Game", Emmitt gets ordered to to clean out the school's boiler room, which is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Christopher Crandall, a kid who got assigned the same job long ago and disappeared. Gug decides to take advantage of Emmitt's paranoia by pretending to be that ghost and scare him as a prank.
  • The Loud House: "The Whole Picture" reveals that the gothic Loud sister Lucy once dressed up as a vampire for Halloween.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has quite a few examples:
    • In one episode, Mr. Krabs uses a crudely drawn ghost in an attempt to scare a hat worth a million dollars off of SpongeBob.
    • In the Halloween Episode, "Scaredy Pants", SpongeBob attempts to scare a party of Bikini Bottomites by impersonating the Flying Dutchman, which fails so spectacularly that it even draws the real Flying Dutchman's ire.
    • In "Pranks a Lot", SpongeBob and Patrick take advantage of a can of invisible spray and scare the entire town. Then they get the idea to "haunt" Mr. Krabs. They end up regretting it after trying to burn a dollar right in front of the greedy crustacean.
    • In "Squidward the Unfriendly Ghost", SpongeBob and Patrick mistake Squidward for a ghost after thinking that they'd accidentally killed him (in reality, they'd destroyed his wax sculpture of himself). Rather than correcting them, Squidward leans into it and spends the episode threatening them with his 'ghostly anger' unless they act as his servants.