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Snowball Lie

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"Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!"
Sir Walter Scott

A lie or deception that takes on a life of its own, spiraling out of the control of the ones who started it and often mutating in the process. What distinguishes a Snowball Lie from a "Fawlty Towers" Plot lie is that it attracts other characters to keep it alive and expand it, either by explicitly furthering the deception for their own purposes or by sincerely buying into it and carrying it on in the honest belief that it is real — or to avoid being embarrassed by their "ignorance" or "inexperience".

Usually a Snowball Lie will eventually grow to a point where it will collapse, either under the weight of its internal contradictions or after some insightful person Pulls The Thread on it. Sometimes, though, a perfect Snowball Lie will show no signs of ever stopping, and its creators will find themselves forced to kill it — with varying degrees of success, and varying degrees of repercussions to themselves. In particularly ironic situations, the Snowball Lie can become an unstoppable juggernaut that displaces the truth and becomes a new "truth" in its own right.

An Invented Individual is a Snowball Lie based around a fictional person. Can lead to an Honesty Aesop.

Compare Gossip Evolution and Seamless Spontaneous Lie.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cromartie High School: When Hokuto arrives at Cromartie and finds out his dad doesn't actually run the place, he claims that said dad is in fact the shadow emperor of Japan. So what's Hokuto doing here? Um... his goal is to fight that evil emperor, of course. So he's planning to fight his own father? Um... yes! The lie snowballs at incredible speed, mostly because Kamiyama and Hayashida believe everything they're told.
  • Death Note: The entire series is based on Light Yagami's elaborate, psychopathic plots to deceive police and detective forces that he is not a serial killer... until it all blows up in his face, his cover is blown, and he dies.
  • Paranoia Agent: The whole plotline was set into motion by a lie told about what happened to Tsukiko's childhood puppy, Maromi. The one who told it was trying to escape being held responsible, and this lie effectively comes to life when other people began using it for the same purpose. As Ikari observes in "The Final Episode":
    Ikari: The whole world's gonna end, and all because of a goddamn puppy.
  • In Ranma ˝, Ukyō finally unseals the Special Sauce she made ten years ago and has been aging since... and is promptly knocked unconscious by it. She doesn't know (but Ranma does, and remembers) that Ranma accidentally spilled it just after she first made it, and replaced it with a foul concoction of everything he could find at the time. Instead of telling the truth, he keeps eating whatever she slathers the "sauce" with, refuses to acknowledge it's bad, and claims to Akane that there's nothing wrong. Then Ukyō thinks that he's saying this because, back then, he promised to take care of her for the rest of her life if it tasted good, so this must mean he loves her!
  • Real Mo Tamani Wa Uso Wo Tsuku: Kaoru and Nanami become friends online, and Nanami talks about Kaoru enough that her cousin and later her parents insist on meeting the person who has helped her come out of her shell. Problem is, online Kaoru plays as a girl named Kaori, and so Nanami convinces him to crossdress to meet her cousin and whenever he visits her house. Unfortunately, at one point one of Kaoru's classmates sees "Kaori" and develops a crush on "her". Worse, when he talks about it with Kaoru he notices a lot of similarities between his dream girl and Kaoru himself... before asking if Kaoru has a sister. He does... now.
  • Sarazanmai: Kazuki pretends to be the idol Sara Azuma via texts with his brother Haruka in order to connect with him, and takes selfies where he crossdresses as her. His friends find out, and it becomes harder and harder to keep the secret from Haruka. When Sara comes to his neighborhood to do a fan visit, Kazuki enlists his friends in an elaborate scheme to maintain the lie that involves kidnapping the real Sara and impersonating her in front of a large crowd. It fails, and his secret is revealed in front of everyone.
  • The ninth episode of Smile PreCure! had Yayoi attempt to pull an April Fool's prank by saying that she was transferring to a new school. However, she ended up telling this to Miyuki, who promptly panicked and began telling the other girls, with Yayoi being unable to get an word in edgeways, mostly because they kept assuming she was going to talk about them separating.
  • Talentless Nana: Nana is a Talentless infiltrating an academy of supernatural Talented, so she fakes having telepathic powers. She initially gets away with it by being good at analyzing people and figuring out their though process, but this method has limits, so she tries to cover up her mistakes by claiming that she can only sense strong thoughts or that she has Power Incontinence. Eventually, some students start catching on that she's faking her Talent.

    Asian Animation 
  • In the Simple Samosa episode "Cultural Programme", Vada intends to play a song on the violin for the upcoming Cultural Programme. However, he's awful at playing the instrument and doesn't realize how awful the music sounds. The rest of Samosa's gang, not wanting to hurt Vada's feelings, try to keep Vada from attending the event, to no avail. In the end, it turns out that the audience actually prefers Vada's awful violin music over the much better-sounding classical music Dhokla "plays" as a diversion from the actual performance.

    Comic Books 
  • In Noob, Master Zen framing Gaea for having done something that greatly hurt the Empire (her own faction) and gave an advantage to the Coalition became this. The event in question caused the foundation of the Guild of Gaea Admirers, who are convinced Gaea is a Double Agent, in the Coalition. While not a Double Agent, Gaea is a Manipulative Bitch and went Sure, Let's Go with That on the story because it gave her nice set of minions. The minions in question end up protecting Gaea from being hurt by the character who framed her in the first place. Master Zen, having figured out what happened, tried to tell the minions that Gaea had lied to them and he was the one who actually committed the act for which they praise her, only to get a Cassandra Truth moment.

    Fan Works 
  • Undocumented Features: Cthia is a Vulcan band known for playing enormously pretentious rock on traditional Vulcan instruments while maintaining perfectly blank, emotionless faces. However, the group started as a gag - they're actually a much more relaxed band calling themselves The Illogics, who created Cthia as a way of mocking the Surakites' overly controlled and emotionless behavior. When Cthia unexpectedly rocketed to fame, they found themselves trapped in the roles.
  • Bringing Out the Blue explores a world where Zuko joins the Gaang as the Blue Spirit, hiding his true identity from them while increasingly Becoming the Mask.
  • Black Sky: Because of Sirius using Exact Words under Veritaserum, the Wizarding Britain is left under the impression the Potters never had a child, meaning that Dumbledore's declaration of Rose Potter as the Girl-Who-Lived and future Light icon comes to bite him in the buttocks.
  • In The Darkness Series, Harry's lies are not always consistent, but he always has another lie for why he lied in the first place.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discusses this in the chapter appropriately titled "Contagious Lies".
  • A Minor Miscalculation: During "The Aftermath", Nui attempts to reveal to Ryuko and Mako the various secrets that Isshin has been hiding from them, forcing him to add extra layers to his lies.
  • Frigid Winds and Burning Hearts:
    • For the past thousand years, Celestia has been rewriting history and establishing lines of nobility by creating false bloodlines. Naturally, with so much time to build up momentum and so many ponies eager to keep the deception going for their own personal benefit, things have gotten rather out of hand.
    • While trying to protect Apple Bloom from the Awful Truth of what her family and friends have gotten caught up in, Luna lies to her... and Twilight overhears, thinking that the princess has been lying to her as well.
  • Princess Celestia Hates Tea: Celestia lied to Luna that she enjoyed the Tea Brewer she gifted her with, in order to spare her feelings. The problem? That was a few thousand years ago, and as an immortal Physical God, Celestia has had millennia to continue drinking all the tea her loving subjects have been giving her, even though she still can't stand the stuff. It's safe to say it causes an avalanche instead of a snowball when she reveals she does not, in fact, enjoy tea.
  • I See What You Do Behind Closed Doors: Adrien attempts this when Marinette confronts him about continuing to flirt with Ladybug despite already dating her. Specifically, he claims that he was only offering to take his partner to dinner because he knew she'd been struggling in her civilian life. The plan falls flat since he's unaware that Marinette IS Ladybug, and is understandably unhappy about him brazenly lying to her face.
  • Smart Adversaries AU:
    • Roger Over and Out: In order to protect Plagg from being exposed to the world, Adrien claims that he stole Chloé's bracelet as a 'prank'. His father then forces him to pull more pranks to maintain his new "bad boy" image, starting with victimizing Marinette. Gabriel does this primarily so he can exploit the situation as Hawkmoth, effectively making his son prime others for akumatization.
    • In Weird Dad, Marinette's attempt to hide her Secret Identity by falsely claiming to have a crush on Chat Noir rapidly spirals out of control, thanks to Adrien learning it anyway and incorrectly assuming she'd confessed so that they could get together. Her parents are also horrified by the prospect of her dating a superhero, given how easily that could put her in harm's way.
  • The Wolves in the Woods:
    • Unlike most incarnations, this Lila never actually intended to turn the whole class against Marinette, incorrectly assuming that they were close-knit enough that things would blow over after a little drama. Unfortunately, thanks to her claims about personally knowing various celebrities, many of their classmates believe it'd benefit them to get in good with Lila. So they start bullying and tormenting Marinette in hopes of earning Lila's thanks, expecting her to repay them by using her connections to hook them up with huge rewards.
    • Eventually, it comes out that Alya actually knew that Lila was fibbing the whole time. However, they took advantage of her lies to turn the whole class against Marinette. Why? Because they were jealous of her recent successes and wanted to 'take her down a few pegs'. When this comes out, they claim that they were afraid Marinette would wind up leaving her friends behind, something that only came to pass because of how they spearheaded the bullying campaign against her.
  • The Sticks and Stones verse revolves around the failure of one of these. After Principal Nedzu informs Aizawa that he won't be allowed to freely expel students anymore, Aizawa attempts to circumvent his boss by getting Izuku Convicted by Public Opinion. This plan hinges on lying about how Tenya got injured during a training exercise, pinning the blame on Izuku rather than Katsuki. Aizawa anticipates that his Malicious Slander will spread swiftly out of control, forcing U.A. to boot Izuku out rather than reveal the truth. Instead, the truth is swiftly revealed, getting him and Tensei into serious trouble, with others repeatedly questioning why he thought it would work in the first place.
  • An Arc for every season has one of the bonus chapters, "Worst Girl Wins" serve as an exaggerated version of this. Instead of just claiming she and Jaune are dating like she does in the main story, Blake escalates the lie and tells her parents that they are engaged. In an attempt to force Blake to admit to her parents that their relationship is fake, Jaune immediately claims she is pregnant. Blake, being unwilling to break the news, ends up sleeping with Jaune and actually getting pregnant. They keep escalating from there in hopes of forcing the other one to be the one to admit it, eventually getting married, having even more children and entering old age together. Of course, by that point, they've long since realized that they fell in love for real, with their final years consisting of one trying to goad the other into confessing their undying love first. It's Jaune, moments before they both die, which Blake smugly gloats about after they (and their friends) end up reincarnating.
  • Professor Arc begins with Jaune lying about his qualifications in order to get into Beacon, only to wind up being hired as a teacher instead of a student. The consequences of this continue to build up, much to his horror, as he realizes that the truth coming out would wind up hurting a lot of good, innocent people.

    Film - Animated 

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In the obscure 2005 Robin Williams film The Big White, he plays a man in Alaska with a mentally ill wife and they're on the brink of bankruptcy. He finds a corpse in a dumpster and passes it off as his long-lost brother to get an insurance claim. But he's hounded by an investigator who knows something's up, and he has to pile on lie upon lie. And just when he thinks he's gotten away with it, the two men who dumped the corpse want it back, and the real long-lost brother shows up.
  • Citizen Kane: Susan knows that, while she's not completely untalented, she's nowhere near good enough to carry an opera all on her own. It's only Kane using all his wealth and influence to push her into the spotlight against her wishes.
  • In Easy A, Olive lies to her best friend that she has a date to get out of spending the weekend with the latter's nudist parents. The friend immediately assumes sex was involved, and the conversation is overheard by an uber-Christian girl who makes it her mission to turn everyone in school righteous. Instead of stopping the rumors, Olive chooses to perpetuate them, as it makes her insanely popular in school... at first.
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, the lie starts when Ferris fakes an illness to get out of school. Some of his friends call to check on him and he uses sound recordings to continue the deception. From there, it spreads through the school, mutating into Ferris having a life-threatening condition, followed by numerous get well gifts delivered to his home, a fund raising campaign to pay for life-saving surgery, and having "Save Ferris" painted on the side of a water tower. Ferris's sister Jeannie and Principal Rooney aren't fooled, but the former thwarts the latter's attempt to Pull the Thread after pulling a Heel–Face Turn at the end of the movie.
  • In Ghostbusters (1984), Walter Peck accuses the Ghostbusters of using hazardous wastes, and later on claims them to be snowball artists. Ironically he himself is a snowball liar even blaming them for the explosion he caused at their headquarters.
  • Rather a nasty example in Gossip, a guy sees a girl pass out at party when alone with her boyfriend. The boyfriend leaves her to sleep. But the guy suggests to his friends that they should spread the rumor that the boyfriend had sex with her while she was unconscious, to see how far the rumor goes. The rumor goes far enough that she has the boyfriend arrested for rape. Viewers might wonder if the girl couldn't tell the difference, turns out she could, and the guy starting the rumor was in fact covering up his rape. She was also extremely sensitive to the whole plan because she had been date-raped before, by the guy who started the rumor and raped her again.
  • The entire plot of the Danish movie The Hunt (2012) revolves around this. A preschool teacher inadvertently hurts the feelings of one of the kids, and in a moment of rage the child unwittingly implies to one of his colleagues that he sexually abused her. As the rumor spreads, the child is quick to deny it, but is ironically not believed by the adults. The lie takes on a life of its own, and shit goes down. Even after the lie is proven wrong both in court and by the girl's parents, the preschool teacher is still being harassed years later and can never truly be safe.
  • The TV film A Love to Remember (2021) opens with Tenley planning to meet her online crush, Jared, only for him to get into a traffic accident on the way to their planned breakfast. When Tenley calls Jared’s phone and talks with his doctor, she is distracted at one point and doesn’t realise that she basically told the doctor she is Jared’s wife until after she has signed the consent forms to a particular treatment plan. As a result, she gets caught in an escalating web of lies as she has to help save Jared’s business (her background makes her qualified to take Jared’s place in upcoming negotiations that could make or break the company) and she doesn’t want to be accused of insurance fraud.
  • The mystery product "Vip" in Lover Come Back. Advertisements for it were so successful that the product had to actually be invented.
  • From the film Midnight: Eve Peabody (Claudette Colbert), claims the title Baroness to cover the fact that she's an impostor at a swanky party—only intending to hide out there for the night— but it snowballs as soon as Georges finds her out: not only does Eve have to keep up the ruse, but Tibor (Don Ameche) shows up, pretending to be her husband, trying to get Eve to leave by pretending they have a sick daughter, and then having to get a divorce for a marriage that doesn't exist. Oh, and Eve makes everyone believe Tibor is utterly insane.
  • In Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest, the main character runs into trouble when enemies of the US mistake him for the fake person created by the CIA to throw their attention off the trail of the real CIA agents.
  • In Shall We Dance? (1937), Jeffrey tries to keep Stalker with a Crush Denise from harrassing Peter by telling her that Peter is already secretly married. Skeptical Denise leaks the information in an attempt to Pull the Thread. Peter, meanwhile, is pursuing Linda, leading to rampant speculation that she is his secret wife—which causes problems for Linda's plan to marry Upper-Class Twit Jim. Eventually, the only way out Linda can see is to ask Peter to marry her just so they can then have a public divorce and quell the rumors once and for all.
  • The Sisterhood of Night: Once Emily makes her accusations, some friends do too, until it blows up into twenty three supposed victims coming forward.

  • George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four runs on this trope. Most of recorded history has been replaced by a vast and intricate institutionalized network of Snowball Lies, and there's no way to tell which parts of the record are true and which are entirely made up. What's more, the government changes the records at will to whatever suits their current purposes. And of course, everybody just goes along with it except for the protagonist.
    • Orwell used it again in Animal Farm, where the ruling class of the titular farm were pigs. One, Napoleon, had his followers turn on his rival. He then proceeded to sell blatantly false and ever-expanding stories of his rival's duplicity and treachery in order to secure more and more power for himself and his cronies. His rival? Snowball. Any similarities to real persons in certain socialist revolutions is entirely intentional.
  • The Georgette Heyer novel Arabella is centred around one of these. The eponymous Arabella claims to be a rich heiress (she's actually the daughter of a vicar, who while not poor is certainly not wealthy) to a pair of men who were making fun of her. Unfortunately, one of them spreads it around London and Arabella is forced to keep up the pretence in order to save her reputation. Luckily, her love interest is rich enough to cover up the fact that she isn't.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain claims that his entire career as a HERO OF THE IMPERIUM! is based on one of these. On one early assignment he figured out the world he was stationed on was being attacked by Tyranids, tried to ditch his unit and flee, ran into the swarm's vanguard, and in the process of running away from that, happened to save his adjutant and inadvertently lead the Tyranids into a spot they could be blown apart by the soldiers he'd been willing to abandon. Since that encounter, Cain has been given assignment after assignment where his attempts to find credible excuses to stay out of the worst of the fighting have led him to accidentally save the day and increase his heroic reputation even further. An alternative reading is that Cain has such Heroic Self-Deprecation that he is incapable of giving himself credit for his genuinely heroic deeds, even if he was terrified while committing them.
  • The entire premise behind the Robert A. Heinlein book Double Star. An actor is hired to impersonate a very well-known political figure who has been kidnapped. The reason for this is that the man is about to partake in a very important Martian adoption ritual. Due to Blue-and-Orange Morality, the Martians wouldn't accept anything short of the man's death as being a valid excuse for not appearing on time, and the repercussions for non-attendance could escalate into outright war. In each chapter, the lies pile up, forcing the actor, the politician's staff, and eventually even the politician himself to help maintain the lie. Unlike other examples, in this case the lie is never revealed, despite the actor almost getting caught out once in public, and actually being caught out by the Emperor himself. The book ends with the actor talking about how he's been playing the part for twenty years now, and has now essentially become the politician. He even remembers the politician's youth more vividly than his own.
  • In Dread Empire's Fall, a cell of 4 terrorists is trying to look like an entire underground army, so they attribute each of their actions to a different fake unit. Soon enough they see in the news about new attacks by these units — copycats have started to make up the units involved. After months of this, they actually do have an army.
  • At the beginning of one story, Ephraim Kishon and his wife just want to escape from a boring party. But the host of the party is very helpful and offers to escort them to the place where Kishon supposedly has Serious Business to do. At the end, he ends up owning 30% of a new factory for washing machines. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Kill time or die trying has the main character fail to correct a cute girl about which student club he is president of. As the distinction becomes more and more important, he is driven to greater and greater lengths to impersonate the president of the War-Games club, just because it has a similar name to his own club.
  • The Lie by T.C. Boyle starts with a guy who just wants a day off work. By the end, he's told everyone that his baby daughter is dead (not even remotely true) and the fallout from that leads to him abandoning his family and his job.
  • Nothing But the Truth by Avi is a YA novel consisting entirely of this trope (although part of the point is that the whole thing originates from truth-stretching and self-serving bias, not an outright lie).
  • In The Paladin by C. J. Cherryh, Master Swordsman Shoka allows some villagers to believe that his student and lover Taizu is a demon; the story quickly spreads and takes on a life of its own.
  • The final trilogy in The Sword of Truth series is centered around a spell created to maintain a single lie - that a certain person never existed. The problem is; the number of lies sustaining each other will sooner or later lead to not just these lies crashing, but the entire reality along with them.
  • In the Evelyn Waugh novel Vile Bodies a gossip columnist writes about the exploits of a socialite named Imogen Quest. Soon, all the most fashionable people in London claim to be her closest friend. The trouble is that she is actually a figment of the columnist's imagination.
  • In The Warrior's Apprentice, to help a pilot with some financial troubles Miles Vorkosigan starts a Snowball Lie by pretending to be his benefactor. A few months later, Miles is several dozen light-years away, the pilot's spaceship is damaged beyond repair, Miles is an admiral commanding nineteen starships and three thousand space mercenaries, and his government has issued him an arrest warrant for high treason. This happens fairly often with the plans Miles comes up with.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 100 Things to Do Before High School: In "Always Tell the Truth (But Not Always) Thing!". CJ tells a lie about her grandmother in order to get into drama class and play Juliet to her crush's Romeo. This lie spirals completely out of control until they are doing a special production of the play solely for CJ's grandmother.
  • In an episode of The Addams Family, Morticia takes up sculpting, and is terrible at it beyond even her own family's topsy-turvy aesthetics. Feeling sorry for her, Gomez buys her statue anonymously, then sells it to a quarry. This encourages her further, and Gomez ends up buying her terrible art for higher and higher prices until even his extraordinary resources are tapped out.
  • The Andy Griffith Show: The good folks of Mayberry try to get town drunk Otis to stop drinking by giving him a hobby: painting. Everyone praises Otis' work despite its lack of quality for fear that he'll be back to the bottle. The painting makes it all the way to the auction block before Otis realizes everyone hates it. Not discouraged, he paints a second picture, and it's a masterpiece, because he did it while drunk.
  • Better Off Ted: Linda sees a commercial about Veridian's goal to become more environmentally friendly, and she asks Ted to put her on the committee working on that project. Ted knows there's no such project, but he moves some money around to let her work on the rooftop garden she wants to make. When Veronica wants to know where the money went, Ted tells her it's for the "Jabberwocky project". One thing leads to another, and suddenly everyone in the company is desperate to get on the Jabberwocky project. This culminates in Ted and Veronica making a big, flashy, presentation that makes Jabberwocky sound like the next big thing without ever mentioning what it actually is.
    • In another episode Ted tells a woman he loves her on their first date, then tries to cover it by saying he loves Utah. This spirals into him saying that he is part Native American and inventing a fictional language for his "tribe".
  • An episode of The Big Bang Theory did this. A later episode subverts it. Sheldon, hiding from his girl/friend, asks Leonard to lie about where he is, with increasing specifications for the amount of detail needed to make the lie convincing. Leonard circumvents the entire plot with, "Sheldon isn't here", which was all the detail needed.
    • Any time Sheldon is involved in a lie; not because maintaining the lie actually requires this, but because Sheldon becomes neurotic and thinks it does. On one memorable occasion, he even brought in someone to stay in their apartment acting as Leonard's Invented Individual junkie cousin because he thought his original plot — that they were trying to get him into rehab — was implausible.
  • In a story from The Book of Pooh called "The Rumor Millstone," Rabbit tried to stop Tigger bouncing his vegetables by telling him that he was growing a squash that could sap his bouncing powers. The lie snowballed until several of the characters in the Hundred Acre Wood, including Rabbit, believe that a scary monster is after them.
  • An essential part of Breaking Bad is how Walter must lie to his family, and then to himself. The lies Walt tells grow so large and tangled even Walt has trouble keeping track of them.
  • A convicted child molester on Breakout Kings is revealed to be a victim of this. Only one victim was actually assaulted, and the guilty party was her own father. She was forced into blaming her teacher. The other "victims" were kids caught up in the hysteria.
  • In Coronation Street, this happened with John Stape. A former teacher, John had an unshakeable desire to teach, but he had a criminal record which prevented him from doing so. He found out that one of his colleagues, Colin Fishwick, was leaving the profession and moving to Canada. John ended up stealing Colin's identity and began to teach again. However, things quickly started spinning out of control. John was discovered by his colleague, Charlotte Hoyle. She agreed to keep his secret and soon began to get off on the lies, deceit, and danger of it, as well as develop a crush on John, who was married to Fiz. Things escalated when Colin returned months later and confronted John before dying from a brain hemorrhage in front of him and Charlotte. In a panic, John buried the body in a nearby construction site and had to further compound the lie when Colin's mother got involved. All this resulted in the accidental death of Colin's mother and the murder of Charlotte, when the latter attacked John with a hammer and threatened to tell Fiz everything after John rebuffed her one too many times. That was on the night of the tram crash in December 2010, so John claimed that she had been killed by the falling tram, and he had to lie further about everything that had happened.
  • Jeff from Coupling is prone to Digging Yourself Deeper at the best of times, so any hastily-blurted lie or innocent misunderstanding is doomed to turn into this. Then there's when he told a woman he fancied that his apparent fixation on her legs was due to him having a wooden leg. Thus destroying his chances to ever actually sleep with her, despite her being deeply sympathetic and, ultimately, literally handing him the key to her flat.
    Jeff: I've got the keys to paradise... but I've got too many legs!
  • Faking It: One of the main themes throughout the series, though it's mainly one lie the effects of which snowball into a chaotic disaster that hurts everyone who came in contact with it.
  • In the Fraggle Rock episode "Boober's Quiet Day", Boober hopes to have a nice quiet day. When his friend Tosh asks him for a favor that would ruin his quiet day, he lies that he is going on a trip. Then he has to actually go on that trip when Mokey asks him to bring something back for her... The lie keeps growing and growing until eventually Boober is forced to pretend to be an Old Gypsy Lady. When the web of lies finally collapses, and the other Fraggles ask Boober why he lied so much, he says "BECAUSE I WANTED TO HAVE A NICE QUIET DAY!" To which Gobo replies... "Why didn't you just ask?"
  • Frasier:
    • In the fourth season episode "The Two Mrs. Cranes", Daphne lies to an old boyfriend who wants to get back with her by pretending to be married to Niles. Things spiral from there, so Frasier ends up being divorced from 'Maris', whom Roz takes the role of when she happens to stop by the apartment. And then Daphne decides that the old boyfriend isn't so bad after all, but Niles isn't keen to give up playing the doting husband, and Roz has also taken a shine to him, which means that the two women spend most of the evening making up ever more ludicrously horrible stories about each other to put the boyfriend off, until Roz ends up being an alcoholic anorexic and Daphne is pregnant. And then to really complicate things, Martin gets involved and to really piss everyone off starts spinning yarns about how he used to be an astronaut. And the boyfriend believes every single word they tell him, no matter how ludicrous, and ends up shooting down Roz and Daphne because he believes them to be utterly horrible women who are stupid enough to shamelessly flirt with him in front of their 'husbands'. And then it's capped with the perfect line from Frasier:
      Daphne: Really, we're not the awful people you think we are!
      Frasier: No, the truth is we've been lying to you all night!
    • One other classic moment occurs at the height of this Snowball Lie: when Martin's dog comes into the room and the boyfriend asks what the dog's name is, the characters all look at each other nervously for a few seconds before realizing there's no reason to lie about his name, and say "Eddie" in unison.
    • There's an episode where Martin wants to get out of a date with the mother of a woman that Frasier met when they were at the opera together, and tells the mother that he's gay. She tells her daughter, and the daughter sets Martin up with her gay uncle, also at the opera that night. It takes Martin a long time to realize it, but when he does he goes to great lengths to get out of dating the other man, including introducing Niles as his boyfriend. One of the best moments happens when Niles gets fed up with being forced into the lie and stages a break-up so over-the-top and hilarious that it seems implausible even compared to one of Frasier's typical break-ups.
  • Downplayed by The Golden Girls, in that Rose starts the lie unknowingly. She invites Dorothy and Blanche on TV after suggesting to her TV producer boss that they do a show about "women who live together". It's not until they get on the show that they realize he thought she meant they were lesbians.
  • Herman's Head: Louise (Yeardley Smith, best known as Lisa Simpson) plans to sing at a club, much to the dismay of her co-workers who hear her shrill, nasal speaking voice every day, but none of them can bring themselves to say anything. Finally they race the club to try to stop her, but are too late. As anyone who owned The Simpsons Sing the Blues at the time saw coming, they arrived in mid song to find that she could really, really sing.
  • In the 1980s TV Show Its Your Move, Matt, a junior-high school student, is supposed to arrange for a band for his school, only his not-too-bright friend Ely not only loses the ATM card with the money, he posts the PIN on a bulletin board asking for anyone to return the card. Since the money they would have had to pay the band is gone, and the kids at school would tear the two of them apart if no band was present, him and his friend set up a fake punk-rock band called The Dregs of Humanity consisting of a bunch of skeletons on wires on a darkened stage and a recording he created. This works, a reporter gets an interview with the group (not knowing that he's actually talking to a kid doing the voices of skeletons manipulated by wires) that he sells to a magazine, and it ends up that other groups want to book the now famous band into multiple locations, and pay them huge booking fees. This sounds great until various groups threaten suit, claiming that The Dregs of Humanity had committed various acts of mopery and dopery including plagiarizing songs, trashing hotel rooms around the country, and getting a girl pregnant.
  • The Jeffersons: Everyone except Florence told Louise they like her paintings even though they were awful. She got a show, and then George finally confessed that they were just encouraging her. She didn't believe it and sold a painting for $500, proving them wrong - until the purchaser revealed he only wanted it for the frame and threw the painting in the trash.
  • Kamen Rider Double has a variant with a plot based around a Dopant that causes people to unquestioningly believe specific lies that makes the judges on a Talent Show believe the lie "Jimmy's music is good". Jimmy's success on the show, combined with praise from his girlfriend (who was lying to him to make him like her), makes him delusional about what people think of his music when everyone actually hates it with a violent passion.
  • Liv and Maddie: When Maddie and Joey fly to L.A. to catch Diggie before he goes to Australia, Liv tries to pretend that Maddie is hiding upstairs, but Parker says that she's in the kitchen, so Liv is forced to go along with that lie.
  • Married... with Children had Al forced into this when his initial lie about going ice fishing is disproven by his friends showing up in increasingly outlandish attire to cover their true goal of going to the TV station to protest the cancellation of "Psycho Dad". Jefferson is kitted as a hunter, Griff as a skier, Ike as a camper, Bob Rooney as a Scuba Diver, and Officer Dan as a Native American.
    Al: So you see, Peg, after Jefferson gets the deer bait, Griff has to ski it down to the lake where Ike has set up camp. And Bob Rooney scuba dives it into the lake to see which fish are the hungriest, telling Officer Dan so he in turn can smoke signal the information back to me so I can ice fish with utmost confidence.
    • And then Peg calmly calls Marcy to let her know the boys have gone off to protest the cancellation.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Bombshells", Hawkeye and Winchester start a lie which soon has the entire army thinking Marilyn Monroe is paying the 4077th a visit.
    • Also, Tuttle.
    • Played with in the Season 5 premiere. Radar gets word that they're bugging out for practice, and despite his cautioning Klinger not to say anything, a dozen embellishments are added and the whole camp believes it. Potter eventually calls a general who's a friend of his, confirms that they're not bugging out, and just as he's trying to dispel the rumor, he gets the official order to bug out. It's not for practice, though — the Chinese are actually coming.
  • In the Off Centre episode "Can You Spare A Ski Trip?" Euan wants to take Mike along on a ski trip to Canada but Mike can't afford it and he doesn't want Euan to pay for it. So Euan lies that his company is looking for someone to write press releases for them part time while they look for a replacement full time PR rep so he can "pay" Mike to go with him without the latter knowing. However, Mike later announces that he quit his former job so he can get the "full time position". Euan then further lies that Mike was "fired" which causes Mike to get completely drunk, break up with Liz and assault Euan's boss with a broken bottle. Subverted immediately after the latter when it's revealed Mike figured it out almost right away and decided to act out the rest with the help of Euan's boss and coworkers as a prank.
  • That's So Raven: Corey's band holds auditions for a singer, and a Hollywood Tone-Deaf girl shows up. Corey falls in Love at First Sight and as a result is unable to hear how bad she sounds so he chooses her. His other bandmates had to record her singing and play it back for him to get him to realize what she really sounded like.
  • Schitt's Creek: Although all the Roses do it now and again, Alexis often lies to spare herself or others embarrassment. She usually means well, but it often escalates into far worse embarrassment. She lies about a “client” at the vets office having lice and about having kept mementos from her relationship with Ted, among many other times.
  • This is a regular feature of As Time Goes By, particularly in any episode where Jean is trying to avoid becoming the target of her officious and patronising sister-in-law's pity (or intervene in Judith, Sandy and/or Alistair's love lives...). Lionel invariably protests and tries to avoid participation, but if it's a Penny (sister-in-law) Lies Snowball, he will never quite manage to get free of it.
  • In one Three's Company episode, Teri doesn't want to have an important man over for dinner, believing that he's sexually interested in her. Jack suggests that she tell him the "little white lie" that she's married. But when that doesn't deter the guy, the "white lie" quickly expands, leading to Jack having to pose as her husband with a broken leg and Janet and Larry pretending to be French people who don't understand a word of English. And then Jack's Girl of the Week shows up and he explains it to the man's wife by claiming that his marriage with Teri is on the rocks.
  • Velvet: What started as an impulsive lie to make Rita jealous escalated to a full blown engagement between Pedro and Rosa Maria.
  • The Wire in its final season featured one of these, specifically, the lie about the homeless killer became so big and involved so many people that any evidence therein needed to be covered up, ruining several careers, and escalating a few others.

  • Adventures in Odyssey: Julie tells Dwayne that she thinks he's funny. He begins playing the role of a comedian, telling a string of really corny jokes. Julie does nothing to stop him and soon Dwayne signs up for the school talent show. In the end Dwayne does a magic act, because his Dad told him offscreen how bad his jokes were.
  • In the John Finnemore's Double Acts episode "The Wroxton Box", Alec praises Percy's terrible poems, although this is less out of politeness, and more because he finds them So Bad, It's Good and wants Percy to keep reciting them. When he learns that Percy has performed them at a retirement party, and been invited to perform at Oxford University by two young men, he's forced to come clean before Percy makes a fool of himself in a larger arena. It turns out the folk at the retirement party left Percy under no illusions regarding his poems, and he made up the young men from Oxford to see how far Alec would take this.

  • The plot of Dear Evan Hansen revolves around the titular character becoming entangled in a web of lies as he convinces everyone that he was best friends with Connor Murphy, who commited suicide near the beginning of the show. Shortly after Connor’s suicide, the Murphys find the note Connor had with him, which was Evan’s letter he wrote to himself for therapy, and assume Evan and Connor were friends. Evan, too nervous to refute, agrees, and soon, he teams up with Jared to create fake emails to “prove” that they were friends. As the story progresses, Evan starts The Connor Project, which is devoted to honoring Connor’s memory; forms a close bond with the Murphys; and gets close to his crush, Zoe (who was Connor’s little sister). As Evan falls deeper and deeper into his lie, he feels trapped, and eventually confesses that he was lying all along in the heart-wrenching number "Words Fail".
  • The plot of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is essentially centered around one of Pseudolus the slave's schemes, which gets bigger and more convoluted as the show goes on. First, in order to get Philia (A courtesan) from Marcus Lycus for his master Hero, Pseudolus claims that Philia is a plague carrier, tricking Lycus into fobbing her off onto Pseudolus and Hero. Then, to keep Hero's father Senex from finding out, Pseudolus claims Philia is a maid, and convinces Senex to take a bath in the house of Erronius; to keep Erronius away, Pseudolus pretends to be a soothsayer and has the befuddled old man run around Rome to rid himself of a curse. Then Miles Gloriosus, the conquerer who actually bought Philia, arrives and things just get more outrageous from there.
  • Neil Simon's Rumors features a lie that gets confused and destroyed not once, not twice, but three times, first when the main couple are letting the other couples in and need to explain what Charlie and Myra are doing, second when the police officers first show up, and third, in a dramatic monologue about what allegedly really happened it actually did to get the cops off their back for the last time.
  • The Norwegian comedy Rett i Lomma (Right in The Pocket, referring to easily obtained money) is built on this trope. It is about a man who lost his job, and the money he gets from renting out apartments on the side in his house isn't enough to keep it going. The very same day, however, he gets a welfare check from the bank to "Mr. Thomason", who had recently moved to Canada. He decided to use it for himself instead of forwarding it. Then he finds out that by inventing a few fake occupants with various family and illnesses, the government would keep sending him money to support them. Cue the actual start of the play, where he decides that it has gone on for long enough and that he will have to "kill them off". Unfortunately, this only makes things worse because of the payout for funeral, etc. And then, an inspector knocks on the door and wants to look through all his paperwork for the last two years. It ends up with him having to not only play the part of Thomason, but also having to drag in his only real occupant as he walks in on a conversation and starts asking questions. Then an agent from the funeral service and his assistant arrives, as well as his uncle, his friend's girlfriend and his own wife. The network of different lies and explanations soon expand and start conflicting, and the two friends also have to make up lies while separate from each other. Therefore you get such situations as the apparently deaf Normann answering the phone, the wife having to be "accidentally" locked into their bedroom because she became too annoying, and the inspector being served tea and wine until he's drunk. It finally collapses upon them as the inspector's much more level-headed boss arrives, and the main character is given a new job as inspector because he "knows every trick in the book". While hard to follow, at least the convoluted thing was damned funny and had a happy ending.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Quest XI, Prince Faris of Gallopolis has been pretending to be heroic his whole life and it spirals increasingly out-of-control when he first has the hero race for him and then gets the party to defeat the Slayer of the Sands for him. He is finally forced to show real courage when his own stupid gambit to bring the bound up Slayer of the Sands home blows up in his face when it escapes its bonds, and finally the truth comes out.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII, Vanille cannot bear to tell the truth to Fang about their Focus, fearing the latter's reaction to becoming Ragnarok. Because of this, the two of them end up attacking the Bodhum Fal'Cie in an effort to trigger their memories, which leads to Serah and Dajh becoming l'Cie.

    Web Comics 
  • This Episode of Amazing Super Powers certainly qualifies.
  • I Fell in Love, so I Tried Livestreaming: When Souta crossdresses in an attempt to set a Honey Trap for Yuu, Vina suggests that Sora and Yuu act as a fake couple to ward him off. This backfires because of the dorm's no romance rule and because of Sora's double life as a net idol. Vina then tries to cover this up with another lie by claiming that he confessed to Sora, thus necessitating that she forms a fake relationship with Yuu, but Yuu senses that this lie will get out of hand and properly explains the situation to the whole dorm.
  • In Scarlet Lady's version of the "Volpina"/"The Collector" arc, Marinette still finds and returns the stolen book safely to Adrien. However, Adrien gives the book to Master Fu, then lies to his father, claiming that it was lost. Marinette knows that something is up, and informs her classmates of what happened... but Chloé refuses to listen, and intends to hunt Lila down and punish her for Adrien's grounding, with the consequences of his lie spiraling out even further from there.

    Web Original 
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged:
    • This is how Kirito and Asuna's marriage plays out over Episode 10. To fill an awkward post-coital silence, Kirito blurts out a proposal (while his brain screams at him), and Asuna is so surprised she accepts (while her brain screams at her). Their guild commander finds out about it and sends them off on a "honeymoon" so they won't screw up a key diplomatic meeting, and doesn't notice how they're both freaking out over the idea. Then Yui shows up and is adopted by Asuna in hopes that by upping the ante Kirito will be the one to "blink" first and break off the engagement, but he realizes what she's doing and plays along. And eventually the two of them are hysterically offering to buy an orphanage and adopt all the children in it.
    • The big reveal at the end of Episode 11 is that the entire "death game" scenario is one of these too. Sword Art Online's creator accidentally created a glitch that killed players when their characters died, but was losing his mind due to sleep deprivation after rushing to finish the game, so he decided to "double, triple and quadruple down" under the logic that it would be better to appear evil and competent than lethally incompetent. He locked the players in the game to serve as hostages while he tried to find a better solution, failed, and after two thousand players died in just the first month, was forced to take action as a guild leader to try to get them through the game. But his mental state deteriorated even further when he realized just how stupid the players were, so after two years he's forced to admit that he's lost control over the situation and just wants it all to end.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
    • In the episode "Emily Swallows a Horse", Emily tells a lie because she wants to have a rubber ball D.W. found on the ground, claiming that it's actually hers and she dropped it earlier. D.W. starts asking more questions over the next few days, suspecting something is up, and Emily continues making up more lies to cover it up (the ball was a gift from her nanny, her nanny is sick so she can't see her, the nanny D.W. saw at the grocery store was her secret twin sister etc.), until Emily eventually fesses up after a Guilt-Induced Nightmare.
    • In one episode, Francine—a talented drummer—takes up singing as well, which causes her musical ability to plummet. Her friends just try to encourage her to stick with drumming without mentioning her horrible singing. They assume their plan worked, until they realize she entered the talent show only singing instead of only drumming or drumming and singing together. Turns out, she's actually a decent singer. It's trying to do both at once that throws her off.
    • Arthur and DW pretend to like Grandma Thora's food, which encourages her to contribute to the local bake sale.
  • Batman: The Animated Series, "The Man Who Killed Batman": Harmless Villain Sidney "The Squid" DeBris seems to have killed the Batman. Even when Sid claims it was an Accidental Murder, being a Extreme Doormat, he just let the Mooks treat him as their hero. Mere hours after the explosion, Sid is being described as a mastermind at jail. One day after that, The Don Rupert Thorne, with true information about Sid being a Bumbling Sidekick, believes Sid is a Magnificent Bastard.
  • In Disney's "Brave Little Tailor", Mickey's misadventures start when he brags about killing seven flies with one swipe, but the time the King hears about it, it has become "killing seven giants in one stroke". Played with in that Mickey himself didn't lie, but the way he phrased it ("I killed seven in one blow!") eventually led to everyone assuming he was referring to giants.
  • Chowder's first episode involved the titular character being asked to cook food on his own. Unfortunately, he's distracted at a critical moment and adds poison instead of the proper ingredient. His mentor, Mung Daal, can't bring himself to tell Chowder he made a mistake, so he has to try and buy-or steal-all of the food from the stand Chowder sets up.
    Mung: Oh yeah.
  • An episode of Dilbert had the usual team creating a record of a new employee for the purpose of taking the ownership of a cubicle or some such, even making a picture of his face by amalgamating their own. By the end of the episode, everyone except Catbert thought he was real.
  • Disenchantment: in "Love's Tender Rampage", Elfo lies about having a gigantess girlfriend when he's too embarrassed to admit he tried to kiss Bean when they were trapped in the plague pit. Bean believes him however and feels sorry for him, so she sends her knights to find this girlfriend and bring her to the castle. And they actually find a gigantess who matches the description Elfo gave Bean, forcing him to convince her to pose as his girlfriend in order to uphold the lie.
  • To avoid going to the school dance with Connie, Doug says that he has to take care of his fictional sick cousin Melvin. This has an immediate backfire (Connie immediately tells Doug's crush Patty about Melvin), but also turns into a Snowball Lie when the girls show up to help Doug take care of "Melvin", Doug's sister Judy is asked to play the part, and Judy suddenly arbitrarily decides that "Melvin" has a miraculous recovery, ultimately resulting in "Melvin" being Patty's date to the dance. This lasts until a cow at the dance (It Makes Sense in Context) eats Judy's wig.
  • On Family Guy, Meg, working as a diner waitress, tells a lie about Stewie being her crack-addicted child so she could get enough pity tips from customers to buy a Prada bag. All goes well until the Social Services take Stewie away and puts him in a foster home (his addictive behavior to the diner's pancakes didn't help). Meg is then forced to trade her purse to get Stewie back.
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Pretty much the entire plot of "Lying" where a pal of the gang's recently returned from Florida starts telling tales about his exploits down there that rapidly spin out of control.
    Bill Cosby: Watch out, kids. This snow job's about to become an avalanche.
  • On the Halloween episode of Kim Possible, Kim tells a lie about her going trick or treating with Ron, but really, she goes to Monique's party. She was wearing a project on her wrist and it grew every time she lied. In order to undo the damage she did, she has to tell the truth.
  • Played with in The Looney Tunes Show in that Bugs is fully aware that the lie is snowballing and makes no attempt to stop it.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "Where The Apple Lies", Applejack regales Apple Bloom with a story from when she was younger, and not the honest pony everyone knows. A series of lies she told started with Applejack trying to back out of a hastily-made deal with Filthy Rich and ended with Granny Smith nearly sawing Big Mac's leg off!
  • Oh Yeah! Cartoons: The short "Lollygaggin" is about a young girl whose habit of lying creates a monster who eats her toys and threatens to do the same to the girl's pet cat as well as the girl herself, growing larger and larger still as Lollygaggin continues fibbing. Only by coming clean and telling the truth to her parents is she able to defeat the creature.
  • The Pepper Ann episode "Crush + Burn" is all about this trope. Milo asks Pepper Ann to cover him by making up a lie so he can have an excuse to reject Gwen's romantic interest on him. Every time Gwen discovers an inconsistency in the story, Pepper Ann tries to cover it up with more and more lies until it gets out of control and everyone gets tangled up in it.
    Pepper Ann: I wanted to tell Gwen Mezzrow the truth, but you said "cover".
    Milo: I said "cover", not "create an alternative universe"!
  • The Powerpuff Girls takes this on twice.
    • In "A Very Special Blossom," our red-headed heroine steals a quite pricey set of golf clubs to give the Professor as a Father's Day gift. Not only does she lie about how she got them but she tries to frame Mojo Jojo for the theft.
    • "Lying Around The House" has the girls causing an entity to keep growing each time they tell a lie (doing their chores, eating their dinner, etc.) until it grows to an uncontrollable monster size. They are only able to defeat it by telling the truth, thus causing the monster to shrink until it disappears. The little white lie started not from the girls, but from Professor Utonium lying about being very busy when he's privately watching a game show. After the entity is gone, Mayor visits the PPG to help deal with the same entity that grew into an even bigger monster after giving out his reelection speech. (Similarly done an an earlier comic book story, issue #21's "Big Fish Story.")
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Radio Bart", Bart creates a Snowball Lie about a boy named Timmy O'Toole being stuck down a well. When things get out of hand, he tries to kill the Snowball Lie before everyone finds out he was behind it, and gets himself stuck down the well in the attempt. The public is apparently so disgusted with his deceit, they almost decide to leave him down there. Fortunately, Sting (the singer, not the wrestler) was willing to help in the effort to dig Bart out. Because Sting is just that awesome.
      Sting: Not while one of my fans needs me!
      Marge: Actually, I don't think I've ever heard Bart play any of your albums...
      Homer: Shh! Ma-arge, he's a good digger!
    • "Grade School Confidential" revolved around several students discovering Ms. Krabappel and Principal Skinner kissing in a janitor's closet. The rumors about what happened get more and more explicit, until Ralph Wiggum utters the immortal line:
      Ralph Wiggum: Principal Skinner and Mrs. Krabappel were in the closet making babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me.
    • Becomes brought up again in "Pranksta Rap", where Bart's fake kidnapping helps Wiggum become Commissioner and Milhouse's dad become popular with all the hottest women of Springfield.
    • In "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", Homer and Apu try to make Apu's mother believe he's already married, in an attempt to get out of an arranged marriage. It initially works until she shows up in Springfield to meet Apu's alleged wife, so Homer tries to talk Marge into pretending that she and Apu are happily married. That also appears to work until Apu's mother finds Homer and Marge in bed together and Apu admits the truth, leading to the arranged marriage to take place, after all (though, thankfully, Apu and his arranged wife, Manjula, turn out to be an excellent match). The entire ordeal gets lampshaded:
      Apu: Is it me or do your plans always have some horrid web of lies?
      Homer: It's you.
  • Trolls: The Beat Goes On! episode Hitting the Sky Note has Poppy try to get Sky Toronto to sing after learning he's never made the time to. When she discovers he's terrible she decides to spare his feelings, which becomes a problem when he wants to participate in the recital planned for the arrival of a creature that'll put on a show for the trolls only if they can all harmonize their singing.
  • VeggieTales has "Larryboy and the Fib From Outer Space", in which Junior Asparagus tries to tell a lie to get himself out of trouble, but the lie gets crazier when those around him press for details. Reflecting the snowballing is an Anthropomorphic Personification of the lie, the titular Fib, which gets bigger and bigger.

    Real Life 
  • The "Cottingley fairies" case.
  • The "Crop Circles" hoax was a lie that grew so big that even when its authors (two old men from England) tried to kill it, ufologists and other enthusiasts refused to believe them. Of course, they were also imitated by dozens of copycats, hence the excuse that "Well, you might have done some of them, but what about these ones?" The same goes for things like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. Just like the crop circles, when people came forward to announce that they were involved in the hoaxing, believers accused them of lying to cover up the real creatures.
  • There's also H.L. Mencken's "bathtub hoax", where his bogus history of the bathtub, "A Neglected Anniversary", was believed as truth for decades after it was published in 1917.
  • The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fraudulent anti-Semitic manifesto about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. It was first used to scapegoat Jews for the monarchists' defeat in the Russo-Japanese war and the Russian Revolution, was infamously used by Adolf Hitler according to some historians as his justification for his campaign of genocide during World War II, and is still believed to be real by many people even today.
  • You know that one person in your life who insists on topping every story brought up with something even more outlandish that happened to her? If your car just got towed, hers rolled off a cliff. If your sister just had twins, her cousin just had triplets, plus another set of triplets two years earlier. And let's not get started on the stories she comes up with when you mention that your back hurts (her various conditions include sickle-cell anemia, scoliosis, ADD, chimera-twin syndrome, and the inability to go out in full sun). Miss Manners says that when you have to deal with someone like this, the most useful thing to do is to play along, earnestly asking for details that may eventually show her story to be a hoax. Even if you don't believe her, at least now you're both entertained.
  • Perhaps one of the most tragic and best-known cases of this were the Salem witch trials in colonial America. The witch hunt was started by three girls who claimed to be possessed by demons, and who went into "fits" because of it. When they later confessed to lying about it, however, the trend was so huge and so many people were caught up in such a panicky situation that the people simply refused to believe them, choosing instead to believe that it was the demons within them who were making them "confess" their lies.
  • In a similar fashion, the so called "Gävle Boy", Johan Johansson Grijs, who was one of the most infamous children involved in the Swedish witch trials. After he had accused his own mother of witchcraft and gotten her executed in his hometown Gävle, he was sent to relatives in Stockholm, where he continued to accuse people and got other children to do the same. This went on for quite some time, until someone realised that he knew a bit too much about witchcraft for being a victim, and he himself was sentenced to death. He panicked and confessed to lying, but was executed for that instead.
  • The claim that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. Doubleday, a military hero, never claimed to have invented baseball, and there's no evidence he'd ever even visited Cooperstown. In fact, the first printed reference to baseball in America was in 1791. In 1908, 15 years after Doubleday died, a commission whose open aim was to prove that baseball was strictly American in origin announced their findings that Doubleday was the inventor. This claim was based the testimony of just one person, an elderly mentally ill man, who would have have been a young boy in 1839. The report was forgotten until the 1930s. Then Major League Baseball kicked of a massive campaign to celebrate the supposed centennial of baseball in 1939, culminating in the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
  • Various child abuse scandals, especially those with supposed Satanic cult connections and multiple alleged perpetrators, result from this: one suspicious parent, teacher, or social worker questions a child (who may or may not be an actual abuse victim) and soon worried parents are questioning their kids and the number of "victims" and "abusers" starts expanding dramatically.
  • Your typical "moral panic" starts out as a joke among teenagers on the school bus or in the locker room, an adult takes the joke as irrefutable fact, and suddenly talk shows are hosting parents crusading against kitschy fashion accessories and soda can pull tabs. Some moral panics make their way onto Forensic Dramas, like the "rainbow party" panic that leapt from The Oprah Winfrey Show to CSI. Then there's the porn industry, which is always eager to make a profit from anything scandalous and may even attempt to play up parents' fears while advertising material based on moral panics.
  • French con-man Frédéric Bourdin claims that his infamous attempt to assume the identity of Nicholas Barclay, a missing American teen, was an example. Bourdin had cobbled together a living by repeatedly passing himself off as a runaway teen and getting free room and board from government agencies around Europe. However, when he tried his con to Spain, the authorities insisted that he provide verifiable identification for who he was. Fearing he would be arrested if he did not provide an identity, Bourdin acquired Nicholas Barclay's information and claimed to be him. When the authorities began moving forward with reuniting him with his "family," Bourdin simply went along with it.
    • And to make this story even weirder, it's possible that this collided with another Snowball Lie by the part of the Barclay family: Bourdin neither looked nor acted like Nicholas (which Bourdin excused with a ludicrous explanation of being kidnapped and experimented on by a ring of child molesters) and yet the Barclays insisted that he was Nicholas even as an independent investigator figured out the truth and pointed out the inconsistencies. When he finally confessed, Bourdin claimed that based on the insistence as well as the fact that Nicholas' mother and half-brother treated him oddly and coldly, they had actually murdered Nicholas, pretended he had gone missing, and thus kept up the charade with Bourdin once he showed up. The investigator actually agrees with Bourdin but the case has gone cold after Nicholas' half brother suddenly killed himself.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Lies Snowball, Dug In Deeper


One Little Lie

A song which states that you shouldn't lie, lest you end up in a vicious circle of lies.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / HonestyAesop

Media sources: