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Your Worst Nightmare

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Someone or something is tormenting our heroes in their sleep, be it one of their regular menaces or something new. At best, the recurring nightmares are causing them sleepless nights and impairing their performance in the real world. At worst, they find that any injuries in the dream world carry over to the real world and their lives are in serious danger. Either way, the protagonists must find out how to stop their night-time tormentors.


A Sub-Trope of Talking in Your Dreams. May be mistaken for Past Experience Nightmare, Anxiety Dreams, Dreaming of Things to Come, Dream Spying, or Dreaming of Times Gone By. Indeed, those tropes can be used by the attackers.

See also Primal Fear, Nightmare Dreams, and Nightmare Weaver. Not to be mistaken for Your Favorite, unless you are a Nightmare Fetishist.

Not to be confused with I'm Your Worst Nightmare (which is just the phrase) or I Know What You Fear (the power to discover other people's fears; may involve bringing them to life).



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    Anime & Manga 
  • This is the ability of the Death 13 Stand in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, made worse by the fact that they forget the experience upon waking up. Your Mind Makes It Real is in effect, which Kakyoin exploits by using a pocketknife to carve the Stand user's identity (the baby that's traveling with them) into his arm with a pocketknife, which transfers to his arm in the real world.
  • In part of Nightmare Inspector, Tsukishiro, Hiruko's rival baku, alters people's dreams to make them more terrifying, and tastier to eat. Mind you, most of them were already having nightmares already, but Tsukishiro made them much worse.
  • In a side comic to Space Battleship Yamato, Desslok's exiled wife and daughter have the power to psychically torment people, which they usually do when their victims are asleep. Their usual modus operandi is to make them hallucinate family members begging for help and warning the Star Force of danger, though Nova saw three-fingered hands grabbing her.

    Comic Books 
  • Ashley gets up to a lot of this in his first appearance in Hack/Slash. Unfortunately for him, he isn't tough enough to survive Cassie's mental landscape.
  • Batman villain Scarecrow has used every possible variation of this trope in his lengthy career. Sometimes his involvement is left as a surprise, and his motives vary from revenge to simply studying the effects of fear.
  • The Monkey King, a demonic entity from Saga Of The Swamp Thing, fed off the terror of children by assuming the form of their deepest fears.
  • Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps members are initiated by experiencing their worst fears so that their rings can absorb their fear energies. After this, they have the ability to weaponize the fears of others.
  • The second story arc of IDW's My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic comic sees the Mane Six being tormented by evil spirits with nightmares revolving around their worst fears, like Twilight's fear of disappointing her mentor Princess Celestia, or Applejack being afraid of letting down her family.
  • In Avengers: The Initiative, Terrance "Trauma" Ward's powers enable him to transform into the object of someone else's deepest fears. He hates this ability and has very little control over it. He has this power because he is the son of the Dream Demon Nightmare.
  • In Project Superpowers, Mr. Face gains the ability to manifest everyone else's greatest fears. After coming back from the Urn, he tries to avoid being around other people.
  • Warlord of Mars had a one-shot comic where John Carter suffered a vision where he is back on Earth and placed into a nuthouse, believing that all his adventures in Mars were all mad delusions, spending years trying to find a way back, losing some of his limbs in the process and nearly going insane. The whole thing was a nightmare caused by a rare Martian monster known as "balor", that puts its victims through their worst fears.
  • Paperinik New Adventures:
    • Paperinik's Extransformer Shield is equipped with a holographic psycho-captor, a device that reads an enemy's worst fear and then projects a hologram of it. For whatever reason, Paperinik never uses it.
    • Evronian Super Soldier Trauma has psychic powers that make you relive your worst fears and nightmares until you are about to break... At which point, being an Emotion Eater like all the Evronians but far more powerful, Trauma drains all the fear and turns the victim into a Coolflame. The only thing capable of opposing this power is genuine courage, as in overcoming fear, that will short out his powers.
      • In the relaunch story "Might And Power" the Evronians fielded a whole army of mutants with a weaker version of this ability, using them as slave drivers for prisoners they needed not Coolflamized yet.
    • Korinna Ducklair has a very similar ability to Trauma, only far more powerful. She uses it both to defend herself and effectively brainwash people or implanting psychic suggestions.
  • Lucy Dreaming is about a 13-year-old girl who keeps falling asleep and entering dreams where she possesses a different random badass action hero who is in imminent danger. If she takes damage in the dream, she takes damage in the real world.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Deimos' flashiest trick, which he inflicts on Diana's four mortal comrades. Three of them are largely throwaway obstacles, but Julia's fear of drowning serves as a bit of Foreshadowing for later revelations about her background.
  • Happens in Scare Tactics #2, when the band find themselves in the Vanishing Village of Beaumont, which brings their worst nightmares to life. Screamqueen sees her family being executed for her crimes; Fang finds himself face-to-face with the bride he jilted at the altar, who killed herself and is now a zombie; and Slither relives being tortured by his father in the name of science.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Ghidorah has been tormenting Viv and San's (particularly Vivienne's) sleeping hours as well as their waking ones via the Psychic Link to them.
  • Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams has a rather gruesome variant with Psyko, whose madness beams force anyone affected by them to constantly relive their worst nightmares over and over again. What makes this stand out is that Psyko not only commits Mind Rape on his victims, but he can also use their bodies as People Puppets in making them do his bidding even while they're hallucinating. Oh, and he can also do all this when you're wide awake.
  • Deadlock does this to Spyro and Cynder in The Legend of Spyro: A New Dawn during the "Restless Night" chapter. She makes them both experience rather frightening nightmares, Cynder reliving killing her mother as Dark Cynder and Spyro dreaming he turned into Malefor. Cynder's is worse because she sees the blood of the dragons she killed as Dark Cynder dripping from her claws.
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves: Checker Monarch repeatedly does this to Trixie and her friends throughout the story as a form of Mind Rape. Following her Engineered Public Confession, she snaps completely and casts a spell to force them all asleep so she can do this again and break them completely. Thanks to a Lucid Dreaming trick Trixie taught them all earlier in the story, they're all not only able to fight back, but they kick Checker's ass.
  • Jewel of Darkness: There's one chapter during the Jump City Arc where Mumbo releases an Eldritch Abomination that attacks the Titans by attaching to them in their sleep and making them live out their worst fears — Jinx relieves her Dark and Troubled Past and near-suicide (with the strong implication of making her go through with it), Beast Boy becomes a horrible monster and kills his friends, Cyborg is turned into a full machine and is used as a weapon, Starfire relives her own Dark and Troubled Past, and Robin's is not shown (but makes him nearly strangle Jinx when he wakes up).
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfic Moonlight, this is what every pony affected by the mysterious being that is putting ponies to sleep has happen to them, from things that are affecting them recently to nightmares in their past.
  • In the RWBY fic Various Vytal Ventures chapter "Hide and Seek", a demonic being called Nightmare attacks several characters in their dreams. Ruby is forced to watch everyone else's nightmares, unable to help them. Weiss is trapped in a Hall of Mirrors that repair themselves when smashed, and her reflections come to life, saying she's a failure and will always be alone. Blake turns into a sort of werecat and attacks her friends, while she's still conscious but unable to control her body. Yang suffers a broken leg and loses her powers, leaving her helpless when she's attacked by a swarm of rapier wasps. Jaune turns into a helpless baby and his friends cruelly abandon him. Pyrrha is attacked by a swarm of snakes and bitten several times, paralyzing her just as a Taijitu Grimm arrives and prepares to eat her. Ren is attacked by his own mother, who calls him a disappointment and tries to kill him. Nora becomes invisible, inaudible, and intangible, and nobody seems to remember her. Velvet is beaten up by Team CRDL, who then prepare to gang-rape her. Sun is forced to wear a clown outfit and perform in a circus, where the audience jeers and subjects him to Produce Pelting. Penny is strapped to a chair and a Mad Scientist starts to disassemble her robotic body. Fortunately, Ruby finds the strength to reject her fear of being unable to help her friends, which pulls everyone out of their nightmares and into her dreamworld. Everybody then kicks Nightmare's ass.
  • The fanfic Time Fixers: Nicktoons of the Future has Darry getting possessed by Nightmare Juju, who has the ability to make people live out their worst fear, and can absorb dreams from those who are asleep, turning them into nightmares.
  • The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan starts with Nova Shine and Twilight agreeing to investigate the source of a bunch of nightmares pertaining to a shadowy entity in a temple in the Everfree Forest that keeps causing them some lost sleep. They think it's the source of the nightmares, though it turns out future!Nova is the one doing it to warn them about the shadow.
  • In the Invader Zim oneshot House of Horror and Doom, an Eldritch Abomination disguises itself as a haunted house attraction and abducts visitors in order to trap them in Lotus Eater Machines and feed on their fears. Over the course of the story, we see it do this to Gaz (who finds herself once again inflicted with the pig-mouth curse, locked up, and with everyone laughing at her), Zim (who finds himself exposed as an alien, captured, and about to be dissected), and Dib (who finds himself in a post-Alien Invasion world where Zim rules). Then it tries to entrap GIR as well, and his insanity overwhelms and destroys it, freeing the others.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Meaning of Harmony the nightmares Sunset and Twilight have make them afraid to sleep, as well as causing them to suffer from Power Incontinence, forcing them to sleep in a shield spell to prevent themselves from blowing up their campsite, like they did to the inn they stayed at when their journey just began.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: All six of the characters are said to have had unsettling dreams during their night in the inn, though they don’t remember the details. This is a clue towards the identity of their Big Bad.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: Late in chapter 6 of the second sequel, Diplomacy Through Schooling, it's noted that Starlight has been having these about Cutie Marks and her old village, which only stopped after she gave herself up to Twilight and her friends. Twilight suspects Luna and Pharynx were responsible. The next chapter confirms it.
  • Code Prime: Megatron's Dark Geass of Absolute Terror allows him to trap people in hallucinations of their worst fears, so intense that they eventually kill the victim.
  • There Was Once an Avenger from Krypton: At the end of Chapter 3 of She Stole My Heart (and most of my valuables), Luz meets a dying Gremoblin's gaze, and thus starts Chapter 4 in a fear vision. It first starts at her old school, where she experiences everything bad that happened there mashed together. Then it shifts to the Boiling Isles, where Amity starts mocking her for having no inherent magic. Finally, she's told that Eda's been arrested and her mother has come to take her home, with it ending as her mother starts chewing her out.

  • The A Nightmare on Elm Street movies are probably the best example of this trope, with hapless teenagers being tormented and slaughtered by the dream-walking, One-Liner-spouting psycho-killer Freddy Krueger.
  • In Dreamscape (1984), psychic Tommy Ray Glatman can kill people by inserting himself into their dreams and scaring them to death. Eventually the Hero learns how to do it too and kills Glatman and his boss the same way.
  • In Embrace of the Vampire, the vampire visits a college freshman in her dreams as a way to seduce her.
  • Final Girl: What William's drug causes people to hallucinate, their worst fear.
    • For Veronica, it's being murdered by William himself, who is basically a father figure to her.
    • For Danny, it's being hounded by giant pandas wearing suits.
    • For Nelson, it's being attacked by a group of ninjas.
    • For Shane, it's his girlfriend finding out about his "hobby" and being forced to kill her.
    • For Jameson, it's all of his victims coming back for revenge on him.
  • In It (2017) Whatever Pennywise is, it turns into the worst nightmare of the children it wants to scare and feeds on their fear.
  • In Ultraman Ginga S The Movie: Showdown! The 10 Ultra Warriors!, the Big Damn Movie for Ultraman Ginga, this is how the Big Bad Etelgar attempt to prevent the alliance of Ultramen of various dimensions from invading his fortress hideout; by summoning Eteldummies, mindless copies of their worst fears that Etelgar controls, where each Ultramen are forced to stay back and fight in order to proceed. Here are the greatest fears of the various Ultras featured, as depicted in the Final Battle:

  • In Animorphs book 6, Jake had an unexplained vision of a thing with a Big Red Eye. In the much-anticipated book 26, it was revealed that since then, he'd been having nightmares that replicated the experience perfectly, except that at the end, the BRE said "Soon." And then, the BRE was finally identified as being that universe's closest analogue to Satan.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader included an area of ocean known as the Dark Island "where dreams come true". In this case, "dreams" meant dreams; not "wishes" or "daydreams". And "dreams" includes "nightmares".
    • It was so awful that the lord who had spent several years there begged King Caspian to swear that he would never permit anybody to ask him about his experiences.
    • That was retconned in recent editions claiming to restore the "original text" intended by C.S. Lewis. That lord now asks to never be returned to the island (the point being that in this text, unlike the other, it's clear that the island still exists).
      • In the movie, the Dark Island terrorizes the people of the ocean and is apparently pure evil. It tempts and creates the fears of those who want to destroy it.
  • In the Discworld novel Hogfather, a band of intruders in the home of the Tooth Fairy are menaced (and in many cases, killed) by a number of scary things from their childhood. One is literally swallowed up by darkness, another is devoured by a wardrobe with a creepy face in the woodwork, a third is chased off (and presumably killed) by a "Scissor Man" (read: a man made of scissors who threatens children that suck their thumbs), a fourth is attacked by an exaggerated version of a bully they knew in school, and one dies of a heart attack after being menaced by a giant version of his domineering, abusive mother.
  • In Grave Peril, book three of the Dresden Files, a ghost torments (and occasionally drives insane) its victims in their sleep. It eats Harry alive.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 3 (Down Among the Dead Men), this is one of the Beast's powers, causing nightmares in the people around it.
  • Harry Potter: This is the power of the boggart species. The fears seen range from mundane (Hermione being told off by a phantom teacher for failing a test, while Ron's six-foot-tall spider causes quite a few screams) to poignant (Molly Weasley seeing a vision of her dead children, plus Harry). Harry's worst nightmare, interestingly, is the Dementor - a creature that spreads fear by its very presence, meaning his worst fear is fear itself (when Lupin thought it'd be Voldemort, whose boggart is apparently his own corpse, so terrified is he of death). Notably, however, boggarts are not considered very threatening, as there's a simple spell for dealing with them and they're fairly simple to defeat: Boggarts are defeated by laughter. Boggart Snape ends up dressed like Neville's grandmother, while Seamus' banshee loses her voice. They also can't handle multiple people, as they try to scare everyone at once by mixing everyone's nightmares into one thing that's more bizarre than anything.
  • H. P. Lovecraft set a whole series of stories (tied to the Cthulhu Mythos) in the Dreamlands or some such name. It's no surprise he used this trope, in one story where a tale is transmitted — somehow — to the narrator concerning a man who cannot wake up and is chased through his dreams by Eldritch Abominations. The narrator concludes by stating that he is afraid of what he might find if he visits the address mentioned in the story.
  • In Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise, the heroes were magically attacked with dreams of their respective worst fears. After several failed attempts to defend themselves, the only successful method was to "yield to it," make the nightmares worse, and then (with the help of their telepathic team-member) hurl them back at the sender.
  • In the Wheel of Time series, this is the effect of dreams that touch Tel'aran'rhiod. Just brushing against it while dreaming of a dangerous experience can result in bruises or scrapes; actually being inside it when you dream of dying will kill you. Fortunately, few people are ever fully inside without a special power, but sometimes you can be sucked in by someone who has the ability to do so. One poor fellow is made to simply fade away into nothing.
  • Occurs in the original Dragonlance Chronicles series when the Heroes of the Lance penetrate the Nightmare of Silvanesti. Most of the heroes perish in ways that would arguably reflect their worst fears—Sturm dies a coward, Flint dies when his old age catches up to him, Tika dies after her own ineptitude gets her killed, Goldmoon dies when Mishakal seems to desert her after she loses her faith, and so on. They get better after Raistlin defeats Cyan Bloodbane, the dragon who was causing the Nightmare.
  • There is a short story which deals with a young boy being brought to see a psychiatrist for some sleep-related problem. During a hypnotism session, the boy explains that there are some sort of aliens that commit Mind Rape on him while he sleeps and leave him a horrible wreck afraid to fall asleep. The psychiatrist gives him the drive to order them away and the next morning, he's able to sleep peacefully. Then we find out that the aliens have moved on to feeding on the psychiatrist. While he prepares to get rid of them, the story ends with the implication that they'll just move on to someone else.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Black Colossus", Yasmela denies this trope, knowing that her lady in waiting will assume it's true; she really was awake when the apparition—an Eldritch Abomination Stalker with a Crush—menaced her.
  • In Shadows of the Apt, Ucteberi does this to the Bee-Queen.
  • In Jasper Fforde's ''Well of Lost Plots'', Thursday Next is tormented by dreams of wartime in the Crimea that are being inflicted by Aornis, a "mindworm" that is acting through Thursday's memories of the physical person. She didn't think that maybe Thursday had worse nightmares.
  • Cas from Anna Dressed in Blood unknowingly has these. He initially thinks that they're from the stress of being a ghosthunter, but then he realizes that the ghost that killed his father has been causing them.
  • Subverted in the Coldfire Trilogy. Damien Vryce willingly asks for Gerald Tarrant to cause these so that the vampiric Emotion Eater can feed off the fear. Of course, it makes for poor feeding since Vryce wisens up to the artificial nightmares easily enough.
  • Hester is terrified of Palimpsest and takes a number of pills to keep from seeing it.
  • The Seventh Tower: The aptly named Hall of Nightmares, the Castle's torture chamber. Spiritshadows are used to invade a subject's mind, draw out their worst fears, and attack them with them. Tal mentions that he knew someone who was sent to the Hall, and he was never the same again. Tal is worried when Milla is taken to the Hall; as an Icecarl, Milla is especially terrified of Spiritshadows, and she'll have no idea what to expect, so he assumes he'll find her terrified into catatonia. It turns out she barely even notices. All Icecarl children are taught to "call the Crones" in their dreams, who appear and protect them from their nightmares (the Crones are magical, but this particular effect might just be lucid dreaming). When Tal is later sent to the Hall himself, he is able to replicate the effect and also escapes unscathed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Batwoman (2019). In "Off With Her Head", Alice is forced to take Scarecrow's fear toxin and this is when the audience discovers her childhood abuse at the hands of the Queen of Hearts. She also sees her sister Kate turning up to rescue her as Batwoman, only to be persuaded by her father Jacob that Alice is an irredeemable villain and should be abandoned to her fate. In "Through the Looking Glass", Alice tells Kate that it was the second nightmare that was actually the worst. And she sees it come true by the end of the episode when Kate and Jacob leave Alice locked in a cell in Arkham Asylum.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Restless" all of the Scoobies are almost killed in dream sequences by the First Slayer. Buffy defeats her by ignoring her.
  • Charmed:
  • In Season 2 of Heroes, Molly Walker is tormented by what she calls "the nightmare man," but she refuses to talk to anyone about it. The nightmare man is later revealed to be Matt Parkman's father, who locks her down until Matt beats him in a mental battle.
  • In Kamen Rider Double, the Nightmare Dopant torments people in their dreams, putting them into comas. In order to battle him, the protagonists transform into Double and then go to sleep, since the transformation places one person's consciousness in another's body. This creates an interesting fake-out moment, as a dream version of the character appears in addition to the real one, something the Dopant didn't anticipate.
  • In Lost Girl, a dark fae Mare who is a Dream Weaver infects people and fae with these in order to feed off their fear. Bo, the protagonist, has nightmares revolving around being abandoned and alone which is not a surprise given her background.
  • The Eyesac monster in Power Rangers Ninja Storm has the ability to put collars around peoples' necks that forces them to experience their greatest fear.
  • In one episode of the Puppet Show Rimini Riddle, Aunt Vera is turned into the thing she hates the most: a child.
  • In the Stargate Atlantis episode "Doppelganger", an entity jumps from an alien crystal to Sheppard, then from him through various cast members, causing vivid nightmares starring a sociopathic Sheppard. The entity only scares people at first, until killing the psychiatrist Dr. Heightmeyer in a falling dream where she hit the bottom. The sociopathic Sheppard which only acted on everyone else's worst fears (Heightmeyer's fear of heights, Keller's fear of Alien, etc.) eventually re-entered his own consciousness and its revealed his worst fear is himself which proceeds to taunt him about his failures, self-loathing and beat him to a pulp.
    • In a similar episode Sheppard hallucinates his arch-enemy Kolya kidnapping and torturing him for hours. Again it turns out his worst nightmare isn't Kolya but his own inadequacies and that he believes he deserves to suffer. There's a reason Sheppard is the Broken Ace.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series pilot episode "The Cage" (later recalled by Spock in "The Menagerie"), the illusion-casting Talosians attempts to bring the captured Capt. Pike to heel by momentarily creating the agonizing illusion that he is in Hell. Furthermore, they warn him that he if doesn't behave, then they'll dig deeper into his mind for the really nasty stuff!
  • In Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad episode "To Sleep, Perchance to Scream," a series of Dream Within a Dream situations is eventually revealed to be the Monster of the Week tormenting him via his alarm clock (talk about Everything Is Online!) once we get down to reality. Then, it turns out the whole thing was All Just a Dream. Or Was It a Dream?.
  • The Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode "Fear Strikes up a Conversation" played with this trope. Sabrina, nervous about giving a speech in front of all of Westbridge High, uses a spell to remove her fear — only for it to become a living shadow that followed her everywhere. While she was immune to its effects, it caused everyone around her to become overly paranoid: Libby, terrified of never winning another beauty pageant, constantly applied makeup; Harvey, worried about being injured, clung to walls rather than walking normally. To defeat her fear, Sabrina's Quizmaster leads her on a kind of Journey to the Center of the Mind, where she encounters her worst hidden fears, including being taken advantage of for being too nice, not getting into a good college, and being outed as a witch. She conquers them all and goes through a door to discover her deepest fear...delivering her speech. She does so successfully and overcomes her fear — who turns out to be Steve Allen. And once having overcome her fear, she then transforms herself into her Quizmaster's worst fear a clown to torment him in a bit of well-earned payback.
  • In an episode of The Troop, "Wrath of the Wraith", the team hunts a wraith in an abandoned hospital, and learn the hard way that wraiths can create paralyzing visions of their victims' worst fears. Felix's is an evil clown, Hayley is shown thousands of unfinished, overdue assignments, and Jake sees his friends in mortal peril and him not being able to save them.

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Friendship", Miss Brooks suffers from a referring dream where she's being attacked with a knife.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons universe, there is an epic monster known as a dream larva, a major threat usually sealed away in some other dimension. It is either a literal child of a god of dreams or a god's nightmare that has been so powerful that it absorbed a spark of his power and become sentient. In either case, it's essentially Freddy Krueger on steroids, capable of messing up dreams of entire worlds at once. It also has a reality-warping power to assume the shape of everyone's worst nightmares simultaneously, so most mortals get heart attacks just seeing it.
    • Guess what? The only spell that can summon this abomination is an Epic spell, thus (almost) on par with spells that can, say, rain an apocalypse from the heavens to an area as large as a city. Yeah, this creature is this trope, Exaggerated.
    • In 3.5's Monster Manual II we get the Nightmare Beast which, surprise, can induce horrific nightmares to any intelligent creature from a distance. Add its immense size, the ability to trample smaller creatures, and some pretty frightening spells, and you have a monster made for inducing nightmares regardless of whether you are awake or asleep.
    • In several game editions, the spell Phantasmal Killer creates a mental illusion of its target's worst fear, which has the potential to strike them dead with terror. Weird is a high-level variant that affects multiple targets.
    • More simply and literally, there's also the Nightmare spell (in some editions the reversed version of Dream), which lets its caster play this trope straight against a sleeping target at a distance.
  • A known symptom of latent psychic abilities in Warhammer 40,000. If it doesn't result in an unbelievably horrible death from the creatures of the Warp, it usually results in an unbelievably horrible death at the hands of the Inquisition.

    Video Games 
  • This is the main source of action in Catherine. The hero, Vincent, as well as a number of other men in his town are plagued by nightmares where they have to navigate up massive, constantly-disintegrating block towers while being chased by enormous monsters which are tailored to their own psychological traumas. And if you fail, you die in real life. Matters are further complicated by the fact that none of the men can remember their dreams when they wake up.
  • In Pokémon, Darkrai can trap its victims in a neverending nightmare. Whether or not there is malicious intent depends on the game.
    • There's also the move Nightmare, which inflicts significant damage on sleeping opponents. Darkrai's ability, Bad Dreams, is simply a less powerful version that automatically activates.
  • Happens in Star Stealing Prince. At first, the protagonist Snowe brushes it off as merely normal nightmares... until the the Demon increases how often it happens, as well as making each nightmare more and more horrific until Snowe's companions even take note of just how badly his eyes have gotten unnaturally baggy. The only way to truly halt this endless stream of nightmares (and secure the Good Ending) is by having Erio enter Snowe's mind so that him, Snowe and Dream Astra (the final of which has been forced to die again and again via being burned alive. Only after defeating the Demon causing said nightmares will they cease, and after they return from the Dream Land, Snowe and Erio fall asleep after conversing with Astra about what Erio and Snowe were doing inside the tent, concluding with Snowe finally freed from those dreadful nightmares.
  • In several routes of Tsukihime the protagonist has dreams of himself attacking and killing people, only to see the victims being reported in the news the next day. He actually ends up going temporarily insane from it, as he is convinced that he is the killer, although it's actually the Big Bad's doing, as the protagonist's consciousness is only drawn into his mind when sleeping due to the connection that runs between them.
    • The exception to this is Kohaku's route, in which it isn't a dream — nor was the pavement discussion you had with Roa/SHIKI that led to them leaving town.
    • In the side-story/sequel, Kagetsu Tohya, the protagonist is actually stuck in a recurring dream of repeating days in which he periodically has run-ins with his worst nightmare (his amoral sociopathic killer split personality) and later his interpretation of Death (a hybrid demon from his traumatic early childhood).
  • World of Warcraft has Potions of Nightmares, which "puts the imbiber into a slumber where they face and defeat their darkest fears." Doing so regenerates the character's HP and mana.
    • In the Vanessa Vancleef encounter, Vancleef poisons you with the Nightmare Elixir, causing you to experience the worst nightmares of the instance's previous bosses; Glubtok and Fire, Helix Gearbreaker and spiders, Foe Reaper 5000 and electrical shocks and Admiral Ripsnarl's memories of when the worgen curse made him kill his family.
  • Gauntlet: Dark Legacy has this as a name of a level in the Jester's realm.
  • The Eater-of-Chains from Fallen London does this. If it bites you in the real world, it will attack you in your dreams from then on. Although you can actually beat the Eater-Of-Chains. With your bare hands no less.
    • The Eater-of-Chains can actually be a noticeable aversion: It's possible to breed an Eater-of-Chains to act as a companion to your character. From then onward, as long as you have one (not necessarily equipped, just in your inventory) there is a small chance of drawing a card that has the Eater-of-Chains stand guard while you sleep, which ensures a restful night.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, Vaermina is the Daedric Prince of Nightmares. Given the nature of the series' divine beings, she is the very embodiment of nightmares. She exists to give mortals nightmares and steal their dreams, which she may in some way draw power from. Vaermina's Daedric realm is Quagmire, a realm of horrors, where reality shifts upon itself in seemingly impossible ways. Every few minutes, lightning flashes and the realm morphs into a terrifying scene, each one more frightening than the last. It is the realm most commonly visited by mortals, who often slip into it unintentionally while they sleep.
  • Guilty Gear Xrd: Bedman is a psychic so powerful that he has to permanently sleep, or his mind would overload his body and kill him. However, this doesn't stop him from reaching into people's minds and playing on their perceptions, leading to very Confusion Fu based playstyle. His Instant Kill ability, Theatre of Pain, traps his enemy in a psychic prison of witnessing some repressed horror or what they fear most. Although the player never sees them, each victim even has their own unique set of responses to what they see.
    Faust: This- this can`t be happening! The patient was just stable!/I`m sorry! I`m sorry! I`m sorry! Please, forgive me!
    Slayer: Sharon, calm down! Sh-She's only a friend!...
    I-No: Who... who the hell am I?!
    Leo Whitefang: Don't you die on me! That's an order!/He's surpassed me?! No! I refuse to believe it!
    Raven: No one... No one can recognize me!
    Millia: Sh-Should I... destroy myself instead?
    Elphelt: No Mother, please! Stop! I... I can't!...
    Kum Haehyun: If only I had used all my strength!...
    Answer: How can one provide for their family without a little stealing?!
    Bedman: N-No...! I can be certain of NOTHING in this world... too many variables to solve the equations! This must be... HELL!
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, Catie spends much of the game being haunted by three unknown women, who appear in nightmares and beg her to “let them in.” A Hopeless Boss Fight occurs each time they show up. In the end, they turn out to be the three missing parts of her soul, and Catie wins not by fighting them, but by opening her heart and literally letting them back in.
  • In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! in the Claptastic Voyage DLC, an entity in Claptrap's mind as portrayed as a Jack-In-The-Box with a scarred Handsome Jack as a head, tries to dig into Claptrap's worst fears. It shows stairs and himself, until it's revealed that Claptrap's biggest fear is other people's loneliness.


    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe example: Bladedancer, the Handmaid of the Tao, was attacked through her dreams by mages of The Black Tong (who are on another continent and are performing dark necromantic rituals to power this attack). Too bad for them that Whateley Academy has its own patrol for the astral realms.
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-959 has this as his main effect. He's actually a nice guy.
  • Fen Quest: Fen is subjected to this in thread 5 by an enemy mage calling herself "Momo, conjurer of nightmares". If falls hilariously flat because the nightmare isn't directly harmful (quite the contrary in fact) and its actual scary part doesn't come up until after Momo boasts that she gave Fen's worst nightmare flesh... and only in response to her saying so in the first place!

    Western Animation 
  • American Dragon: Jake Long had this as an episode, the nightmare was only released because Jake tried to cheat on a test.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • In "Power-Noia", HIM visits the titular girls in their sleep and torments them with nightmares based on their respective fears.
    • In "Dream Scheme", the girls inversely do this to the Sandman when he gets fed up with constantly having to put people to sleep and get no sleep for himself, thus leaving him to decide to just force everyone to sleep at once. The girls find out that they have the power to communicate through dreams, and use this to give the Sandman so many nightmares that he never wants to sleep again. Yeah...
  • Batman: The Animated Series:
    • Zigzagged in "Perchance to Dream". The Mad Hatter's dream machine traps Batman in an inescapable Dream, but it's actually what he would consider a perfect life. His parents are alive, he's engaged to Selina Kyle - who isn't Catwoman - and someone else is Batman. However, when he realizes that it's all a farce, he refuses to live a lie, and leaps off a building, causing himself to wake up, as his mind cannot perceive a scenario where he is killed. When he confronts the Hatter and demands to know why, the villain breaks down in tears and admits that he wanted to give Batman his own dream life just so that he never appears in his own life ever again.
    • Played straight in "Over the Edge"; after being doused with the Scarecrow's toxin in a fight, Batgirl fell into a deep slumber, and in her dreams, believed her own death occurred in the battle, and then was forced to watch her greatest fear played before her eyes, a war between Batman and her father as a result of it, all because she had kept her heroic identity secret from him until that point.
  • In the Justice League episode "Only A Dream", the Justice League faces John Dee, AKA Doctor Destiny, a criminal accidentally given Psychic Powers by an experiment, who uses his new abilities to torture and kill his ex-wife in her dreams, then goes on to torment our heroes. He bites off a bit more than he can chew, though, when he taunts Batman, who's powering through with willpower and coffee.
    Doctor Destiny: Coming here was the mistake of your life. See, the closer I am to someone, the stronger I get. I'll be able to enter your brain, even if you're wide awake.
    Batman: My brain's not a nice place to be.
    • Doctor Destiny also existed in the comics, with much the same MO—however, here, it's notable that he gained his powers from a device which was retconned to be powered by a special ruby... that originally belonged to Dream of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, before it was officially split off from the main DCU.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series:
    • One of the experiments (Experiment 300/Spooky) could turn into the thing a person feared the most. It even got to Nani by disguising itself as Scary Black Man social worker Cobra Bubbles and threatening to take Lilo away from her.
    • A later episode has an experiment (Experiment 276/Remmy) that can invade dreams and turn them into nothing but nightmares. It nearly does this to Lilo, but Stitch, Pleakley and Jumba intervened.
  • In the Captain N: The Game Master episode "Nightmare on Mother Brain's Street" Lana eats a poison apple and gets sent to a "Nightmare Warp". Kevin and the others must follow, and arrive in a place where their worst fears come to life. Lana is ugly, looking a lot like Mother Brain. Vain Simon is also made to look ugly, as his hair and teeth fall out, and his muscles turn to flab. Mega Man got frozen by Ice Man and Kid Icarus' bow came to life and shot him. And Kevin? Turns out his worst fear is having to clean his room.
  • The DuckTales (1987) episode "Nothing to Fear" saw Magica DeSpell threatening Scrooge and company with a magic raincloud that caused a person's worst fears to manifest. At first, the trope was Played for Laughs; thus, goofy neighbor kid Doofus was threatened by a school bully, the nephews had to deal with a video game villain and their overbearing math teacher, while Scrooge was threatened by bill collectors who wanted to take away everything he had, including Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Then, the story became Darker and Edgier, as the characters experienced more serious fears of rejection and abandonment.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The only way to claim Horror's Hand is to face its conjuration of your very worst fears, fight through it, and grab it. Billy and Irwin get wildly attacked by their monstrous fears (a spider clown mailman, and a grizzly bear comedy patron) and don't even come close. Followed by a subversion of what usually happens in the show when Mandy tries as nonchalantly as usual, and her biggest fear (growing up to be a well-adjusted, cheerful adult married to Irwin and with children) sends her away crying. Grim himself just walks up to it and grabs it utterly casually; he faces his very worst nightmare, being basically enslaved by a bunch of children to be their friend, every single day, so the Hand couldn't achieve anything.
  • Phineas and Ferb: The b-plot of "Cheers for Fears" revolves around Doof building the Worst-Fear-inator, which makes the worst fear of whoever is zapped by it come to life. When it hits Perry, he is not affected due to being fearless; but when Doofenshmirtz is hit by it, he is attacked by an army of vending machines. The inator also hits Candace, whose worst fear is the big idea her brothers built to be a surprise for Jeremy's birthday will fly away before he arrives. It does just that.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: A whole episode was devoted to this. SpongeBob travels into other main characters' dreams and cluelessly messes them up, getting on everybody's nerves, and making some of their dreams into nightmares.
  • In The Tick, Mr. Mental controls Tick by submitting him to his worst nightmare: having a dayjob in an office.
  • An episode of Hercules: The Animated Series had Phantasos using a shroud similar to his brother Morpheus to give people bad dreams.
  • In the G.I. Joe episode "Nightmare Assault", Dr. Mindbender tortures the Joes with these. His scheme is foiled by Low-Light, who has had nightmares about his abusive father all his life and is pretty used to it by now.
  • Gravity Falls: The Gremloblin from "Boss Mable" has the ability to show the worst fear of whoever makes eye contact with it.
  • In the Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "Thoughtscape," Jeremiah Surd tries to stop Jonny and Benton from saving Jessie by trapping them in their own worst fears: Jonny's is being a disappointment to his father, and Benton's is his family dying because of him.
  • Extreme Ghostbusters had "Fear Itself", an episode devoted to a ghost that did this. Turned out it was a defense mechanism - the ghost was very small and very scared of everything. The crew don't bother to bust it, since they realize that it was only trying to defend itself, and could literally do nothing else to hurt anyone that could overcome its fear-constructs.
  • In an episode of Superfriends, a demon called Sleep does this to Superman and Batman. Superman was placed in a world where everything was made of kryptonite, and he collapses in agony. Batman was falling from a building into a monster's mouth, and every time he tried to grab something to break his fall, it would crumble to dust and he would continue falling. Wonder Woman enters the dream and saves them.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the Season 3 premiere, King Sombra turns out to have set a trap like this to prevent anypony else from getting to the Crystal Heart. Twilight Sparkle falls into it and sees a vision where Princess Celestia angrily tells her she failed her test and she should just give up on her magical studies. Spike manages to free Twilight, only to fall into it himself and be treated to a vision where Twilight tells him he's not needed anymore as her assistant and tries to send him away.
    • The Tantabus, which appears halfway through Season 5, is a creature of dark magic that travels from dream to dream, turning each dream it invades into a nightmare and growing in power as it does. The true source of its strength is the guilt of its creator.
  • The Simpsons parodied the A Nightmare on Elm Street series in a Halloween special episode in which the children of Springfield were terrorized in their nightmares by the deceased Groundskeeper Willie. After Bart, Lisa and (mainly) Maggie defeat him in a dream, they wake up and are confronted by a very much alive Willie, who makes scary faces for a few seconds, until he's forced to turn around and chase the bus he just arrived in, shouting "Wait! Wait! I left my gun on the seat!"
  • Xiaolin Showdown had the Shadow of Fear. While the Wu initially was limited to dream invasion and hallucinations, it ultimately had the ability to give the fears physical form. While controlled by Jack Spicer, he brought the Dragon's worst fears to life: a Killer Doll for Kimiko, a jellyfish monster for Rai, Clay's Granny Lilly, and a giant, monstrous squirrel for Omi. At the end of the episode, Omi pays Spicer back by making him face his biggest fear: Getting trapped inside the toilet as a toddler.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man featured an episode in which Spider-Man helps Dr. Strange and Iron Fist stop the demonic Nightmare, who has cast a sleep spell over the world and is feeding on everyone's worst fears. White Tiger's is failure, Luke Cage's is being unable to protect his friends, Nova's is bunnies, the Doctor's is his spells being useless, and Iron Fist's is being unworthy of his power. Nightmare thought that Spider-Man's was what happened to Uncle Ben, but failed to realize that, unlike Batman, Spidey is defined, rather than haunted, by his past.
  • As shown in the Trollhunters episode "Where Is My Mind?", with the Pixies responsible for making the ordeal akin to a Mushroom Samba.
  • Villainous takes this in a weird direction when the main characters are all Card Carrying Villains and Nightmare Fetishists. The "Evil Ray" makes the most evil thing someone can imagine manifest where Black Hat's is another copy of himself (and he doesn't mind), Dr. Flug makes a sandwich with too much mayonnaise, the harmless not-actually-evil creature 5.0.5 creates a huge, monstrous Black Hat, that Black Hat makes a small, drooling, half-formed Black Hat that all concerned find a disturbing sight, and Demencia creates a giant, sexy Black Hat. Which thinks the most evil thing is to leave them all wanting more of him.