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I began removing toys from the home while Beef sleeps. I want him to think that maybe the kid was never there to begin with, which seems like an inadequate mind game now that ghosts are forcing him to pee on himself.

Gaslighting is a recognized literary and psychological term for deliberately trying to drive someone mad by altering their environment without their knowledge and denying it. You move their things, transmit noises into their room when no one else is there, change little details about your dress behind their back and so on. Soon they are convinced that they are hearing voices, seeing dead people, hallucinating or whatever. The victim can become so convinced that they are going insane that they do go crazy.

A form of Psychological Torture and subtrope of Driven to Madness. Some of the same tactics can be used in a Paranoia Gambit.

In some cases, it's a kind of Xanatos Roulette, relying upon implausible chances. See also It Was There I Swear. Not to be confused with Farts on Fire or Fartillery.

Examples of Gaslighting include:


Anime & Manga

  • Jotaro pulls this on Daniel D'Arby during their poker game in Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, using Star Platinum's faster-than-the-eye speed to change things around himself. He's not trying to drive D'Arby insane however; he's just demonstrating his speed, which makes D'Arby fear that Jotaro may have looked at their cards (Jotaro had earlier put his own cards facedown without checking them) and possibly switched them. Losing control of the game this way causes his sanity to crumble and his defeat is inevitable.
  • It was done unintentionaly in one arc of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, when Houjou Teppei's body, recently done in by Keiichi, was moved, and he couldn't be sure if he'd ever killed him making him even more paranoid.

Comic Books

  • In an older Archie story, perhaps dating to near the Gaslight film's original release, Archie and Jughead, shortly after seeing the film, start gaslighting Veronica -- because Archie forgot his date with her and he wanted to avoid her temper. In the course of a single scene, he has her doubting herself--but the tricky nature of doing such to a person in real life unravels the plot quite quickly: with a single line of dialogue from someone outside the plot. Jughead vamooses, and Archie is left alone with Veronica, wearing an evil grin, saying, "Have you ever heard of a movie called Gaslight?"
  • Master illusionist Doctor Tzin-Tzin tries to do this to Batman in the classic story "The House That Haunted Batman." He fails.
  • In Mysterio's second appearance in the Spider-Man comics, he poses as a psychologist and nearly convinces Peter Parker that the strain of a secret identity is driving him crazy and that revealing this identity to the friendly psychologist would cure it all... the changes were not terribly subtle though. More things like Peter walking in to the office to find the room was upside down, including the psychologist.
  • The Batman story Dark Victory (sequel to The Long Halloween) had Alberto Falcone get out of Arkham, only to become convinced that his home is haunted by the ghost of his father when he keeps hearing voices, and even receives a gun like the kind the Holiday Killer used. When he reports this to his siblings they think he's nuts, but it's actually the Calendar Man who has been talking to him through hidden speakers throughout the house in an attempt to drive him to kill.
  • In The Beano, in a Roger the Dodger strip, Roger wants a day at the beach but his parents won't agree to it, so he gaslights them by putting washing back in the washing machine and bringing back books that his father already returned to the library so they think they're getting stressed and agree to it. When his dad realises what Roger's been doing by checking the date the book was checked out on (that day, rather than whenever he'd originally checked it out), they turn the tables and gaslight Roger by going full circle around a roundabout on their way to the beach, telling him they've already been and are just coming back.
  • In an early Peter Milligan comic for Vertigo, The Enigma, there's a supervillain team called the Interior League whose modus operandi is gaslighting. Specifically, they break into your house while you're out/sleeping, and rearrange the furniture into the exact right positions to turn you into a homicidal maniac.

Film

  • Gaslight is probably the modern Trope Maker and is certainly the Trope Namer. In that film, a man marries a woman so he can get into the loft her aunt willed her and get at her treasure. To get her out of the loft, he starts a plan to make her think she's gone insane so that he can commit her to an asylum.
  • Max Keeble is the king of the gaslighters. Especially with Troy McGinty
  • Amélie (original film title: Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) does this to the grocer as a punishment of sorts for berating and belittling her friend. At first, they're just little things -- for example, she replaces his slippers with identical ones that are a size too small, swaps his lightbulbs with much dimmer ones, and exchanges his toothpaste with a cream intended for his feet. Eventually, her tricks get more and more elaborate until he really begins to question his sanity... but the real kicker is when she replaces the speed-dial number for his mother to that of a mental hospital.
  • Stanley Kubrick does it to the viewer in A Clockwork Orange. He made continuity errors on purpose during the scene where Alex has dinner with the author. The dishes on the table move around and the level of wine in the glasses change between shots.
    • He pulls a similar subliminal trick several times in "The Shining", with the hotel sets deliberately constructed to be geometrically and architecturally impossible. It's too subtle to notice unless you are REALLY paying attention to the sets, but rather cleverly inflicts unease in the audience.
    • Martin Scorsese uses the same technique in the film version of Shutter Island. For instance, while one of the patients is being questioned early on she asks for a glass of water. She's brought a full glass in one shot, in the next shot she drinks it, but there's no glass in her hand, and in the next shot she sets down an empty glass. All these shots are so short (about a couple seconds each) that it becomes harder to notice, heightening the unsettlement the audience feels for reasons they can't really explain.
  • The Screaming Skull has a Black Widower who killed his first wife for her money and then attempted to gaslight his second wife, already mentally shaky, into suicide so he could get her inheritance. As it turns out, his first wife's spirit wants revenge from beyond the grave...
  • Mentioned in The Darjeeling Limited. When Jack discovers his ex-girlfriend's perfume in his luggage, Peter suggests she might be trying to gaslight him.
  • A large part of how the conspiracy is maintained (most namely with the therapist and, for instance, his disappearing drink) in The Forgotten (2004).
  • Referenced in Bordello of Blood, although in that case it was less about driving anyone mad and more about concealing criminal activities.
  • A variation of this idea forms the plot of the 1969 film The Big Cube. In it, spoiled rich teenager Lisa tries to con her stepmother Adriana out of the money her recently-deceased father left her by driving Adriana insane. She and her drug-dealer boyfriend try to accomplish this through a combination of LSD and a hidden tape-recorder. The boyfriend takes things too far, however, when he adds an extra message to the tape urging Adriana to jump out the window to her death...
  • Psycho II. Norman Bates came home cured. Marion's sister decides to unravel that.
  • In the Marx Brothers film A Night at the Opera, the brothers do this to a police inspector. He checks Groucho's apartment for Chico, Harpo, and Ricardo, and the brothers try to conceal the fact that they are staying there by hiding the fact that there are four beds. The beds get repeatedly shuffled between rooms until the cop is convinced he is nuts.
  • In Les Diaboliques, a man's mistress and his wife conspire to kill him. But after they drown him, signs turn up to make it unclear whether he's really dead or not. The mistress and the husband are actually conspiring to frighten the wife, who has a weak heart, to death.
  • In the 1940s film The Dark Mirror, the evil twin, Terry, attempts this on the good twin, Ruth. She uses such tricks as turning the lights on quickly in the middle of the night and telling her now-awake sister she must be hallucinating, and hiding a music box in the house and leaving it on.
  • The Night Gallery film.
  • The Tenant, Roman Polanski's self-starring conclusion to his "Apartment Trilogy" (with Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby), has the protagonist moving into a new apartment whose former tenant (a woman named Simone Chule) had committed suicide. Over time, he becomes convinced his neighbors are conspiring to turn him into Simone's likeness. It is probably more likely that he is going mad on his own, but the film does leave room for interpretation.
  • A favourite plot device of William Castle, who was influenced by the aforementioned Les Diaboliques. Visible in Macabre (on a male victim, fairly unusually), House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts, and The Night Walker at the very least.
  • Used in Freddy vs Jason and A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) to make people forget about Freddy. It never works.

Literature

  • Used on the main character as a worthiness test in Neverwhere.
  • In Time and Again, one of the criteria used in choosing a time-traveller was to see how he reacted to apparently reason-defying events: he responded rationally and soon figured out how the testers had tricked him.
  • Whether it was his intent or not, Dracula did this to Jonathan Harker while he had Harker imprisoned in his castle. Harker was convinced he'd hallucinated the whole thing for a long time afterward. By the end of his stay, not only is Jonathan a psychological wreck, but he's practically become nocturnal to match the Count's own sleeping habits.
  • The Agatha Christie novel Third Girl has the man pretending to be Norma's birth father attempt to paint her as emotionally unstable and on drugs in order to frame her for murder twice.
    • Also, in one of her short stories part of the Labors of Hercules cycle, the Cretan Bull, Hercule Poirot investigates the apparent mental breakdown of the almost-wedded son of a navy officer. Turns out that the officer, whose madness runs in the family, was trying to drive the young man insane, in order to get revenge on the family friend who had an affair with his wife and is in fact the guy's real father. Since he isn't the Admiral's son, he doesn't have his madness, and everything ends all right. (Though interestingly, the officer himself doesn't survive all of this.)
  • According to the Tom Clancy novel Cardinal of the Kremlin, this is a technique sometimes used by the KGB to break down prisoners. Particularly messing with their perception of time, by putting them in a windowless cell and moving their mealtimes around so feel like they're suffering from time-dilation or compression, but also sometimes more... unusual methods are taken into use. Like having somebody dress up like the prisoner's long-dead war-buddy and pop up in the middle of an interview, with the interviewer not 'seeing' him...
  • Roald Dahl's The Twits was all about this - the eponymous dysfunctional couple do it to each other to begin with (for example, adding a small segment to the bottom of a walking stick every day to make the wife think she's shrinking), and have it spectacularly turned on them at the end (they're tricked into gluing themselves to the floor, and end up shrinking down into nothing in their efforts to get themselves unstuck).
  • In Captain Underpants, George and Harold do this to their science teacher, Mr. Fyde, by making animal noises very quietly and then denying that they heard anything.
  • A Vinyl Cafe short story recounts how a Chinese restaurant owner using this managed to get a bigoted regular customer to slowly feel more and more subconsciously uncomfortable and to stop coming there on his own. Over the course of a year, he slowly increased the portions that the customer received a spoonful at a time, shortened his chair with a file, and changed a painting that he liked to look at while he ate a brushstroke at a time (it used to be a summer scene, and it was turned to a winter scene by the end).
  • In the V. C. Andrews standalone, My Sweet Audrina, Audrina's whole family engages in gaslighting (particularly to fake the passage of time), which leads her to believe she is someone else after her sexual assault.
  • In The Fifth Elephant, Acting Captain Colon becomes convinced the rest of the Watch is doing this to him -- specifically, stealing the sugar lumps -- to try to drive him mad. They're not. Colon's really bad at counting, and it doesn't help that he starts eating them while he's trying to count them.
  • In James Thurber's "The Great Quillow", the title character uses this to drive away Hunder the giant.
  • Caroline B. Cooney's Losing Christina trilogy deals with a seemingly charming husband and wife duo who enjoy doing this to young women For the Evulz. The main plot of the series involves one of their latest targets, Christina, figuring out what they've been doing and trying to convince people of their real nature, all the while holding onto her own sanity.

Live Action TV

  • One episode of Corner Gas had the entire cast, mostly Brent and Emma, do this in order to make Oscar think his memory was slipping.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Gone": An accidentally invisible Buffy does this to a social worker (moving her coffee mug and whispering, "kill, kill...") who was probably about to have Dawn taken away. Kind of mean, since the social worker wasn't being unreasonable, she just happened to visit the Summers' house on a really bad day... which is probably every day around there...
  • Angel did a variant of this with "Dear Boy", with Wolfram & Hart using the recently resurrected Darla to tease Angel, making his friends think he's lost it.

 Wesley: Vampires don't come back from the dead.

Angel: I did. And I saw her. I'm not crazy!

Wesley: Where?

Angel: Right between the clown and the big, talking hot dog.

  • In Monk, apparently convincing someone and her friends that she is insane and hallucinating will ensure that you can murder someone using a method she devised and not get caught. After all, if an insane woman says she knows how a murder was carried out, there's no reason to even test the theory.
    • Inverted only to be played straight in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum", where Dr. Lancaster dresses as Santa Claus to gain entry to a chimney in a mental institution to retrieve the gun he used a few years ago to shoot and kill a rival doctor at the institution, because he knows the patient in the room overlooking his route is obsessed with Santa Claus and won't be believed. Unfortunately, Dr. Lancaster's plan backfired when he was forced to abandon the search because one of the patients was throwing a fit, and he apparently didn't anticipate that the patient in question would actually photograph him or that Monk would start investigating. As an emergency fix, he makes things seem as though Monk and the patient in question were becoming insane (or in the case of the patient, more insane than he already was), such as stealing the camera as well as rags from his Santa suit that Monk discovered, stealing a fellow inmate's necklace and somehow planting it on Monk to make it seem as though he stole it, and replacing pictures he drew with more disturbing pictures.
    • This seems to be happening to Sharona in "Mr Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf", providing the first example.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist", there is an episode-length use of this trope: Randy is undergoing a dental operation at Dr. Bloom's to remove an infected tooth. During the operation, a bald man barges in and furiously demands that Dr. Bloom tell him what he's done with Barry Bonds, who is worth $13 million. A fight breaks out, with Dr. Bloom and his assistant Terri ultimately killing the intruder. When Randy comes around after his operation is over, he looks around and sees no signs that a fight ever happened, because Dr. Bloom and Terri had dumped the body in the woods and also replaced broken equipment. Everyone, Stottlemeyer included, dismisses Randy's claim as an affect of being under anasthetics at the time. When the victim's body does turn up, Randy identifies him as the man Dr. Bloom killed, but is laughed at by the other cops and quits in anger (Stottlemeyer theorizes to Randy that according to him, the intruder confronted Dr. Bloom because he thought Dr. Bloom kidnapped Barry Bonds and they were arguing about the ransom money). Randy only realizes that he wasn't hallucinating when he notices an article about the armored car robbery that the dead man, Denny Jardeen, had been involved in: in that robbery, armed men with pistols and rifles had hijacked an armored car, unloaded it at a warehouse, shot and killed both guards, and made off with $13 million in bearer bonds. Randy realizes that one of the guards punched Jardeen in the face before he was shot, Jardeen had gone to Dr. Bloom's to get a broken tooth fixed, and divulged the location of the bonds to him and Terri while under anasthesia. The good doctors went to his house, found the money in a toolshed, but instead of turning the money into the police, they kept it. When Jardeen figured out what happened to the bonds, he confronted Bloom about it, forcing Bloom and Terri to kill him. Randy misinterpreted "bearer" as "Barry", explaining the Barry Bonds discrepancy.
    • Another case happens to Monk in "Mr. Monk Is Up All Night": Suffering from insomnia, Monk is wandering through the streets, and happens to pass by a diner kitchen where he heres an argument going on. He peeks through a window and sees a drug deal going bad, with the dealer and customer debating if a third man at the deal, an Asian, is actually a cop or not. Suddenly, the Asian pulls a badge and gun and declares the other two men under arrest. Monk looks away as the drug dealer attacks the undercover cop, only to hear a gunshot. He looks and sees the drug dealer has shot and killed the cop (and blood has splattered everywhere). The dealer hustles the customer into a waiting car that speeds away. But when the police arrive, however, the kitchen (which was destroyed in the fight) is spotless and immaculate, and there is no evidence that a murder happened, not even a body to prove a thing, and no cops have been reported missing. Monk later finds the supposed "undercover cop" at a train station, but he denies ever having been to the diner. He also locates the customer, a coin dealer, who denies ever having been there. The apparent murder was an elaborate con by the Asian and "drug dealer" to steal the coin dealer's merchandise, tricking him into thinking he had witnessed a murder and was paying them hush money. The reason why the kitchen was spotless is because a waitress at the restaurant helped the Asian clean up the kitchen before the cops arrived.
  • Something similar happens in Scrubs. The Janitor convinces Kelso that he's suffering memory loss like this. Largely by yanking Ted around with a crane, but whatever works for comedy. Kelso does figure it out though, and gets back at the Janitor. And then done to the Janitor in the last season, where they actually convince him all the weird stuff he did (building a giant sand castle in the parking lot, etc.) was just in his mind. He believes it. Or does he?
    • J.D. also mentions that he's attempting to do this to Turk when he asks Elliot to keep a tiny bottle of ketchup so that he can replace everything in his apartment with tiny versions and convince Turk that he's grown extraordinarily tall.
  • In an episode of Medium, a man tries to get his wife committed to an insane asylum by drugging her candy with hallucinogens. It gets out of control when the priest accidentally takes some, too, and the man who was drugging his wife hits him on the head, causing him to fall down the stairs (he feared that the priest would be suspicious once he became lucid again).
  • Done in the Midsomer Murders episode "Beyond the Grave".
  • Farscape: "Won't Be Fooled Again", where Crichton recognizes it beforehand. "Somebody is gaslighting me!"
  • An Eastenders plot had Nick doing this to his mum.
  • Done in an episode of Australian drama series The Flying Doctors. For an extra twist, a medicine with the known side effect of making people dizzy and confused is mixed into the victim's food, in addition to basic gaslighting.
  • Used in retrospect in Burn Notice. While the original plan was just to freak out their target enough to make him run, their last-ditch effort involved making him appear to be crazy (which was aided by what they'd already done). Features an awesome performance by Michael as a Catholic priest.
  • Occasionally used on Leverage. "The Order-23 Job" has the team use a faked outbreak to freak out a germophobic Corrupt Corporate Executive who's about to go away to Club Fed, and "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" has the team target a tabloid TV reporter and make her think she's stumbled upon a conspiracy theory. "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" gets extra points when the team convinces the reporter that there's a chemical in the water supply, and give her pills to counteract it -- pills that turn out to be anti-psychotic meds. Guess what happens when she interrupts a broadcast for "breaking news" and her producers tackle her...
    • "The Morning After Job" may take the prize. The team convinced a protected federal witness that he had killed his one-night stand, played by Parker, to convince him to give them evidence against Big Bad Moreau. The plan goes awry, so they end up bringing Parker into the courtroom when he's about to give his testimony and escape all consequences for his actions. Needless to say, he flips out and ends up being tazed after leaping off the stand screaming "WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?" at Parker and a bewildered FBI agent.
  • In Vengeance Unlimited, Mr. Chapel uses a police officer's ID and his own computer savvy to drive his mark crazy. It's almost undone by his mark's biggest fan, a computer genius herself... Until he gets the mark to confess within her earshot.
    • That show loved this trope. There's another point in that episode where he pays off an entire restaurant to use Monopoly money instead of cash, much to the horrified confusion of the victim. Then, to drive the nail home, he has them switch back to real money when the victim is in the bathroom, then back again when he goes to pick up the check. It works beautifully.
  • In Cold Case, when the team is investigating an alleged suicide, it was played straight, in that the nanny did this to the victim in order to get to her husband, and subverted, in that it was the husband that killed his wife to hide his plagiarism and just made it look like a suicide, taking advantage of her previous apparently insane behavior.
  • In The Prisoner, Number Six does this to a particularly nasty Number Two in the episode "Hammer Into Anvil." He's long since learned that his fellow citizens will immediately tattle on every action of his. But if he does random things for no reason, the other Villagers have nothing to report. But Two can't accept that. They must all be in cahoots with Six!
  • Used in Malcolm in the Middle by Dewey to punish Lois for not getting him an ingredient he needs for a science experiment.
    • He also did this to Hal for refusing to buy him a piano. It would eventually reveal that the many things he stole were for an organ.
  • The Adventures of Superman had an episode where this was apparently being done to Jimmy Olsen. Items were moved around in his house and the painting in the living room kept changing. Ultimately, the gaslighting was unintentional, the result of burglars using his house to stash stolen goods while he wasn't there.
    • In another episode, Perry White starts seeing Julius Caesar's ghost (a play on his Catch Phrase "Great Caesar's Ghost!"). It turns out to be a ploy to undermine his credibility as a witness in an upcoming gangster trial.
  • Dax (with Quark's help, evidently) moved Odo's furniture while he was regenerating "four times in the past year" preceding the fourth-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Homefront". Of course, she's only moving his stuff two or three centimeters each time, but it still drives him crazy enough to confront Quark about it.
  • Crops up in Jonathan Creek in "The Judas Tree". Jonathan also mentions Gaslight at one point during the episode.
  • One of the standard tactics of the IMF in Mission Impossible.
  • On Neighbours, Elle Robinson did this to Max Hoyland in revenge for his role in her brother's death (a case of mistaken identity, due to said brother having an evil triplet. This was his exit storyline, as his marriage never recovered even after regaining his sanity.
  • The Victim of the Week in an early episode of NCIS was subjected to this treatment via a radio hidden in her house's ventilation to make her hear voices.
  • One Criminal Minds episode had the good guys doing this to an Islamist terrorist who had information about a bomb attack; by reducing the time between his prayer sessions bit by bit each day so they could eventually say it was too late, and thus the guy would give away some important thing during his Evil Gloating. Which he does, of course.
  • In Psychoville we have a character do this to themselves, creating a false borderline schizophrenic hallucination in order to remain committed, only to eventually go genuinely insane.
  • In the Quantum Leap episode "A Portrait for Troian", Sam jumps into the body of a parapsychologist working with a young widow who insists the ghost of her late husband is haunting. It turns out to be a plot by her brother to gaslight her.
  • In Seventh Heaven, Annie Camden was becoming emotionally distressed that the twins were unable to say her name, yet for some reason were able to say Ruthie's name. Turns out, Ruthie managed to somehow teach them how to say Ruthie's name in a manner similar to how a seaworld person teaches aquatic animals tricks as a prank for Annie.
  • An episode of T And T had a spoiled brother and sister do it to their (grand?)mother so she can't disinherit them and give everything to her parrot. To complicate matters, the butler is trying to murder her and the parrot.
  • Mash did this in the season 1 episode "The Ringbanger" -- Leslie Nielsen played a visiting colonel with an unusually high casualty rate, and the doctors gaslit him in order to prevent him reassuming his command.
  • In the White Collar episode "Vital Signs", Neal comes up with a plan to do this to a crooked doctor. They convince him that his kidney failed while he was on a flight to India looking for an illegal transplant, that he's currently in India hooked up to a dialysis machine, and that Neal (posing as a doctor) can get him the transplant he needs if he gives up the number of the account where he keeps his ill-gotten money.
  • Invoked by name in one episode of Reno 911. Junior is gaslighting Trudy, and that's how he discovers her video will. The others give him suggestions.
  • Parodied in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when Pearl makes the bots hallucinate. While it fails to have any effect on Tom Servo (who sees everyone as an Eldritch Abomination, just like normal), Crow's hallucinations bring him to the brink of despair when he sees that Mike's Snickers bar is suddenly a Milky Way.
  • Inverted in an episode of Full House. After accidentally damaging the wall in Danny's room, the girls move everything over by about 3 inches to hide the damagee and maintain the symmetry of the room. This allows us to see how set in his ways Danny is when he starts dropping things on the floor because he had memorized exactly where everything had been.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Dilbert, the title character says that he goes down to marketing every week to move an employee's cubicle wall in by a half inch. When asked why, he comments that he's been at it so long he forgot what the original point was, while in the background there's the marketing employee seen trying to squeeze into a cubicle with 3 inches of open space.

Tabletop Games

  • Gaslighting is a gameplay mechanic in the Ravenloft campaign setting of Dungeons and Dragons. Basically, this is altering circumstances to force another character to take a Madness check. Naturally, this is an evil act, and doing this to anyone for any reason always attracts the attentions of the Dark Powers.
  • Unknown Armies' role-playing game Big Bad, the Mystery Man, has this as his actual superpower.
  • Arguably, any time you Slipshank (reach under, behind or into a convenient object and grab something that shouldn't be there) something in Continuum, this happens, only instead of you thinking you are insane, until you go back in time and put it there to begin with, you acquire a small amount of Frag (your memories and the universe disagree, therefore you start fading out).
  • This trope is frequently recommended for DMs trying to run a Mind Screw type of horror game, via Painting the Fourth Wall. Specific examples are generally along the lines of describing a room with something, e.g. a girl, mentioned in a Breathless Non-Sequitur.

 Players: Describe the girl.

DM: (looks confused) What girl?

Video Games

  • Part of the mystery of Andrew Plotkin's Shade is finding out why your potted plant keeps turning into other types of plants. And why little bits of sand keep appearing in your apartment. It eventually comes to light that the player is dying of thirst in the Death Valley desert, and is hallucinating the entire thing in the first place.
  • Albedo attempts this on Junior in Xenosaga.
  • Zouken Matou tries this on Sakura in Fate/stay night. He thinks he succeeded. He's wrong, it was a coincidence.
  • The developers of Eternal Darkness Sanity's Requiem do this to the player when the player character's Sanity Meter slips low enough.
  • The Endermen in Minecraft invoke this, as they actively pick up and move blocks around for no reason.
  • Fallout: New Vegas features a Vault where half of the population is genuinely crazy, while the other half is full of sane people who are subjected to this. Given that this Vault in particular is thought to be the home of the drug-crazed Fiends clan of raiders, the experiment did not end all that well.
    • This is justified since the Vaults were never meant to save anybody.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow does this repeatedly to Batman, and by extension to the players themselves.
    • The nastiest example is the later Scarecrow vision that starts with a burst of digital static and then begins replaying the game's introduction; the player soon sees that Batman and the Joker have swapped places, but before that, a reasonable assumption is that the game has crashed and restarted.
  • This is a favorite tactic of certain culprits in the Nancy Drew PC game series, with examples even appearing one after the other at times.

Web Comics

  • Blue tries doing this to Dave in her first appearance in College Roomies from Hell
  • Happened in Fans, leading to Shanna's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Dave's Bro from Homestuck uses his ventriloquist's dummy, Lil' Cal in combination with some slick Flash Stepping to make Dave (and the audience) think that the doll is alive. Even worse better is that he also somehow manages to use this as a fighting technique.
    • Bro isn't the only one gaslighting everyone; there is a memorable instance, described in the Homestuck page, when the author gaslighted the audience. We discover that many of the kids have disturbing grafiti in their rooms' walls, but we only first learn of this when a character who wasn't in the then current viewpoint explicitly showed it to him. Worse: the characters can't see the graffiti in their own walls, but after the audience is clued of its existence, it keeps being visible.
    • Earlier MS Paint Adventures also gaslight the audience, but more blatantly. What pumpkin?
  • This Xkcd comic.

Web Original

  • When Linkara begins seeing and hearing people who aren't there during his review of Silent Hill: Dead/Alive, he tells himself that someone must be trying to pull this trope on him. It doesn't seem to be helping much. It turns out he's right.
  • A blog piece titled A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not “Crazy” strips the elements of intentionality and mental illness from the term to use it to refer to subtle emotional abuse.
  • Frogdad: The Ultimate in Parental Trolling.

Western Animation

  • Tried on Bruce Wayne in one episode of Batman Beyond. It didn't work because the "voices" called him Bruce, and his identity as the original Batman was so ingrained that he didn't even think of himself as Bruce Wayne anymore. (Although it did work in that it got him committed for a while, until the transmitter that was creating the "voices" was discovered.)
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, a pair of mooks try to drive the recuperating Ventriloquist insane so Scarface will emerge again. When Scarface finally surfaces, he starts a job and betrays them, telling them he was laying low and they forced him out early.
  • In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers a Chinese emperor unknowingly suffers this thanks to his scheming sister. So what do the Rangers do? They gaslight her back.
  • In an early episode of Sealab 2021, Sparks had the orphans pee in Captain Murphy's bed every night to make him think he was wetting himself, as part of a larger plot to drive him insane.
  • An old Looney Tunes short has mice Hubie and Bertie driving Claude Cat up the wall and out of the house in this fashion.
  • Recently done by Rallo in The Cleveland Show, along with the help of Cleveland Jr, to get back at his senior friend's Gold Digger newlywed wife. It eventually culminates with them placing several cats around her home and having her being wheeled away to a mental hospital.
  • The Tom and Jerry short "Year of the Mouse" revolves around Jerry and a mouse friend trying to make Tom think he was attempting to kill himself while he slept, then laughing at his increasingly frantic reactions.

Real Life

  • In an interview on C-Span in 2004, Jon Stewart actually referenced the idea, saying that the Bush administration's spinning in the face of what Stewart, at least, believed was overwhelming evidence made it "feel like they're trying to Gaslight me".
  • Interestingly enough, due to change blindness, it's been proven that you can make huge changes in an environment without the viewer even noticing, so some forms of gaslighting may not actually work in real life. Hence, the method of choice is to make a large number of small changes, like which drawer a pen is in or which jacket pocket their wallet is in. Most will be ignored or missed but a few will get noticed and sub-consciously the victim will get uneasy, possibly without knowing why. From there, once the person already has doubts, you escalate to the larger stuff.
  • With Holosonic technology, you can use a hidden transmitter to make someone hear voices directly inside their skull. That no one else can hear. Isn't science grand?
  • A couple of years ago, a British mental health organisation ran a series of banner ads on various websites (including youtube) in order to increase awareness about various mental health issues. One of the banner ads was about paranoia, and it involved playing constant, quiet whispers over the speakers/headphones that were alternatingly insulting and indistinct, until the user rolled their mouse cursor over the advert. Some people, however, did not notice the advert and were genuinely disturbed by the effect, thinking they really were hearing voices.
  • One of hobbies of the Manson Family was to break into people's houses and rearrange all of their furniture, most likely used as a terror tactic to start their global race war.
  • This is, unfortunately, one of the favored techniques of domestic abusers: they'll make the changes to make their victim unsure of themselves in order to get them to depend on the abuser ("They'll look after me, I can't even keep where I keep my keys straight...") and go from there.

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