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File:Pet Sematary 3194.jpg

Ten points!

[W]hen you get past the age where you’re capable of believing there’s something carnivorous and hairy under the bed, you don't then lose your capacity for fear. The monsters go, and in their place, lucky you, you get to start imagining real calamities: losing your parents in a car wreck, becoming destitute, having someone you love turn on you, or doing something so shocking that the community ostracizes you.

After one has seen a thousand horror movies, most scary things loses some of their effect. Even Primal Fears get less scary the more exposure you receive. And let's face it: You have to be a little bit crazy to worry about evil clowns, Body Horror, or plain old snakes while you're not watching the film.

Adult Fears are about the things every mature, well-adjusted adult should be concerned about: the safety of their children, is where you live safe to live in, or being able to pay your bills. Rule of Scary is needed to get from concern to real fear, but Willing Suspension of Disbelief must be maintained for effect. To an adult, kids being preyed upon by pedophiles is scarier than kids being preyed upon by velociraptors.

Can have political purposes as well as entertaining ones.

The audience reaction is still to be scared, but Adult Fear is one trope used to get the reaction.

Examples of Adult Fear include:

Anime and Manga

  • Here's one courtesy of Death Note: what if a new serial killer arose, more prolific than any killer before him... and that killer turned out to be your son?
  • Full Metal Panic: Played with in an episode of Fumoffu where Sōsuke is shown to be fearless, as he grew up in a war zone so simple things like haunted hospitals, ghosts, horrific screams, and spooky children with hammers don't faze him, yet he is afraid when he thinks that Kaname died falling through the floor.
  • Grave of the Fireflies: with both Seita and Setsuko starving to death slowly after both of their parents die and their aunt shows that they are clearly not welcome in her household.
  • Bitter Virgin: features the rarely brought up topic of miscarriage. It also features the life of a girl whose stepfather raped her while her mother simply ignored it, until the girl got pregnant for the second time.
  • One Piece: Brook. In a rare case of a main character who was middle-aged in his flashback, instead of the usual childhood traumas we got the story of a parent/authority figure losing friends and loved ones to tragedy and bad decisions, finally ending up old and alone.
    • Shanks, possibly the most easygoing character in the series, outright panics when Luffy is stolen out of his sight by a lowlife.
    • Don't forget what happened to Boa Hancock and her sisters in their past. They were the youngest members of a Kuja ship's crew, and once their older shipmates and caretakers simply took their eyes off the three little girls for mere minutes... they were kidnapped and then sold into slavery. And it took them years to come back home.
    • Sanji's backstory. Seeing a little kid stranded in the middle of nowhere while starving to death to the point that he is barely more than skin and bones...
  • Monster: Johan will rape your mind, drive you to suicide, and smile through it all. It's even worse that he has no compunctions about doing this to children.
    • Worse yet, Tenma has to not only live with the fact that Johan lives because of his own hand, but he is wanted by the police, as nobody except Johan's sister believes or knows Johan exists, meaning Tenma is suspect number one for the murders.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni: Done in the fifth arc, with all of the Ushiromiya children except for Battler being killed off on the First Twilight. And then Battler in the sixth arc. Poor Rudolf.
  • Game X Rush: it takes some time before you realize just how deep the backstories sink into this. Abandonment of a child, severe and prolonged physical abuse by foster parents, near-insane idolization of a psychotic "mother" who uses said child as an excuse to kill... And that's just one of the main characters. (The other involves severe and prolonged domestic abuse, accidental arson, murder of one parent in front of the child's eyes.)
  • Franken Fran Chapter 29. Terrible, terrible Body Horror things happening to people, sometimes for no good reason: creepy. Terrible, horrible things happening to babies.
  • Bokurano can be boiled down to this — Your child is going to die and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS' finale began with the simple yet real fear of losing your child because you were away when they needed you most.
  • In Soul Eater, Medusa's method of resurrection. After Stein kills her, she morphs her soul into the form of a snake, and then proceeds to possess five-year-old Rachel Boyd with it. There's a full chapter about her and her family, and how poor Rachel's parents, who are completely powerless to stop her, react to the way she vanishes. Specially her mother, who's Forced to Watch as Medusa talks to her through Rachel and then disappears.
  • The H-manga Defiled Virgin takes the fear of being sexually assaulted by bums and milks it for all it's worth.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: Satoko's Evil Uncle Teppei. Made worse in Tatarogoroshi-hen by Satoko having Hinamizawa Syndrome.
    • The older children are victim to this too. For example, imaginine your once happy child becoming withdrawn and paranoid—even violent—while you watch unable to do anything.. Then they probably die.
  • The otherwise incredibly lighthearted Minami-ke does one in the last episode when they find what appears to be Kana's suicide note
  • Invoked in Tiger and Bunny, since Kotetsu/Wild Tiger is a Hot Dad in canon and therefore he really hates the mere idea of children being in any kind of danger. Worse still, in the second episode his daughter Kaede ends up in danger, and Tiger is not quite quick enough to rescue her. Fortunately, Barnaby saves her life in the nick of time.
    • Episode 15 brings a new Adult Fear for Kotetsu. Namely, the possibility of having a rare, progressive condition that will force him to give up what he loves most.
    • Ivan is a teenager, but he still has to face the fear of not having been able to help his friend when he needed him the most. Now said friend, Edward, is a supervillain.
    • And later, Barnaby has to face a huge adult fear: his parents' real murderer was... Maverick, his former Parental Substitute. So basically, during a good part of his life, he has been raised by the guy who killed his mom and dad, and a good part of his whole identity is based on lies.
    • There is also the moment where Maverik pats Kaede's head. The simple idea of what he could do to her gave the fanbase itself a major freak out.
  • Wolf Guy Wolfen Crest is insanely good at this. Stalkers, rape, violence, school shootings...
  • Recently used in Bleach. One of Ichigo's biggest triggers is to see his friends and family in danger... And in one arc, his sisters and friends are trapped under the effects of Tsukishima's Mind Control. So he has to face a powerful and manipulative Magnificent Bastard who has inserted himself in his own life, his physical powers completely useless, and wounded where it hurts him the most. Understandably, Ichigo almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon, and it takes a massive intervention from the Shinigami to save him.
    • Said fear was already shown in the first episode, when a Hollow broke into the Kurosaki household, injured his father Isshin who had lost his own Shinigami powers decades ago and almost killed his sisters Yuzu and Karin, alongside harming his newfound friend Rukia. Just look at Ichigo's horrified face when that Hollow holds the already injured Yuzu hostage. And don't forget how he almost LOST it in the fourth movie, when Yuzu was killed and then dragged to Hell itself by Kokuto, and later Orihime cannot use her powers to heal her.
    • Also, while Byakuya Kuchiki didn't look like having one of these as he fought Ichigo, the Soul Society arc turned out to be quite laced with this for him. He has to give up his only living relative, his sister-in-law Rukia, so she can be executed, as a way to uphold the law and the very high honor of the Kuchiki clan. And as he does so, however, Byakuya is breaking the promise he gave to his dead wife aka Rukia's dead sister, Hisana, who in her deathbed had made him swear to take care of Rukia. If he intevenes to save Rukia, his clan is dishonored forever; if he doesn't, he loses the last person close to him. Truly a "damned if I don't and damned if I do" situation.
    • Imagine being unable to talk, smell, touch, or hear, and not having to rest. Then imagine yourself as the only life you find in an empty desert with eternal night and no stars. Doesn't help you can't remember who or what you were. Ulquiorra's first memories are this.
  • In Project ARMS, even though the ARMS teens are all actually raised by foster parents, they still are treated like the parents' own children. These parents then get to watch their children be attacked, nearly killed, and then get told "Hey, we have to leave for awhile and may not live, but we love you!"
  • In Fairy Tail, it's revealed that Ur had been told by some researchers that her Ill Girl daughter Ultear had died, when in reality, they kidnapped and experimented on the girl because of her magical power. Now Ultear is one of the villains, and for worse, she hates her mother Ur because she believes she abandoned her.
    • Makarov, guildmaster of Fairy Tail, was forced to exile both his son, Ivan, and his grandson, Laxus, from his guild. Later on, he finds out that Ivan is planning to lure Laxus to his own guild so he can steal the dragon lachryma in his body, and it's heavily implied that doing so might kill Laxus. Seeing as how Ivan is a Complete Monster who only wants the lachryma for money and doesn't care what removing it will do to his son, it's not hard to see why Makarov looked so horrified upon finding out about this plan.
    • Jude Heartfilia may count as well. Literally a few weeks after he reconciles with his estranged daughter, Lucy, and manages to get over the sudden death of his wife, who Lucy is the spitting image of, she and her friends are attacked by a monster and seemingly killed.
      • Even worse when Lucy returns and finds out that he's been sending her birthday presents every year since her disappearance and then died a month before her return.
  • In Ashita no Nadja, Colette Preminger experiences exactly the same fear when she wakes up from an illness-induced coma, only to be told by her retainers that her baby daughter Nadja had died of the same sickness that almost killed Colette herself. (Complete with a heartbreaking scene where Colette rushes to Nadja's wooden crib and finds it empty, collapsing in tears). In reality, Nadja had been sent away to an English orphanage to trick Colette into coming back home to her clan. And both mother and daughter only learn of the whole deal thirteen years later.
  • The climax of My Neighbor Totoro has little Mei run away from home and get lost. The panic of her older sister Satsuki and the villagers is completely identifiable to any audience, especially when they find a little girl's sandal in the pond and believe that she's drowned.
  • Vampire Princess Miyu has Miyu's mother, the Guardian, fearing the day when her child will be old enough to take her place. Specially considering that the ones who'll demand such a thing are the Shinma... who are mercilesss Eldritch Abominations.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin: Ishin Shishi e no Requiem, Yahiko runs away to join the rebels that were trying to overthrow the Meiji government, since his father was an ex-samurai who died in a similar rebellion years ago.. Kaoru, having no idea where Yahiko had disappeared to, is frantic. When Yahiko is ultimately left behind by the rebels and comes back to the dojo, poor Kaoru greets him with a slap to the face and then proceeds to sob into him. Not to mention, Kenshin immediately tells Yahiko that, had Kaoru not slapped him, he would've done that himself.
    • Don't forget the Jinchuu arc, which is an horrifyingly well-done attempt by Enishi to use this on Kenshin. So Kenshin wasn't able to protect his first wife Tomoe and the mere possibility of losing his girlfriend Kaoru terrifies him? Now Tomoe's vengeful brother deliberately exploits this fear to make Kenshin believe Kaoru has been bloodily murdered by him, thus making him revive these horrible memories. And Kenshin almost crosses the Despair Event Horizon after that.
  • Chapter 501 of Naruto has Tobi threatening a newly born Naruto as an ultimatum to Minato and Kushina.
  • In Zombie Loan, minor character Sougiya is a single father trying to pay off his contract to the Z-Loan. He knows that if he isn't able to keep his end of the contract, he will die and then no one will be left to take care of his young daughter.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica. One girl gone missing, another girl found dead, and their friend is very troubled by all that but refuses any help. The mother of the latter is seen in the 11th episode, and doesn't cry because she tries to assure herself that the girl can probably handle the stress given enough time. But just imagine how powerless and desperate the mother must've felt, seeing her daughter grow distant and detached.
    • Say, has your (insert: daughter, sister, niece, cousin, student, neighbor, etc.) been acting distant or evasive? Coming and going at all hours? Well, you'll never know it, but your precious little girl has made a Faustian pact and now has to fight Eldritch Abominations. And the day she never comes home, when you call police but her body is never found? She was either horribly killed by said creatures or she's become one of them herself.
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, if Sakura loses to Yue at the Final Judgment, everyone will lose their memories and the relationships they've built. It almost happens, too. Luckily, Kaho Mizuki comes to the rescue with her Shrine Bell, giving Sakura a second chance.
    • In the anime, there's the episode in which, while catching a Clow Card, Sakura accidentally destroys her dad's laptop in which he had stored all the research he had being working for days without sleep. The whole scene is played in an actual heartbreaking way, as she realizes this is something she can't fix with magic.
    • Sakura and Shaoran also get faced with this when the Clow Card search involves the safety and maybe the lives of their relatives and school friends. In example: Rika is Brainwashed and Crazy when The Sword takes control of her, Meiling finds The Shot thinking it's a love spell and releases it by mistake, Touya is seriously injured while interacting with The Mirror, Tomoyo has her voice stolen by The Sound and later is captured by The Shadow...
      • And in the Grand Finale, Eriol invokes this deliberately when he puts a sleeping spell over the whole Tomoeda ward, and if Sakura and her guardians lose to him, everyone in their surroundings may be rendered into an eternal sleep forever.
  • In Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni, Marie is sexually abused and blackmailed by her teacher, who tells her that no one would believe her if she told. And then said teacher murders her when she finally threatens to tell someone.
  • Invoked in a flashback in Fruits Basket. Tohru's mother Kyouko comes from an abusive household where her parents heavily neglected her and kicked her out of home right before her then-counselor and later-husband Katsuya came to ask them for marriage approval, so once she finds out she's carrying a baby, she has a Heroic BSOD due to being terrified that her relationship with Tohru would go the way of hers with her own mother.
    • For a double-hitter, while Kyoko is a good mother to Tohru, she dies not long before the series starts. Her last thoughts, as she lies bleeding to death in the road, are complete panic at the idea that her daughter will be left all alone and uncared for. This carries over to Hanajima and Uotani (who are Tohru's friends, but also act as surrogate parents at times), who are shocked to learn that while they thought Tohru was living with relatives, she'd spent a week living in a tent.
    • There's also the massive amounts of child abuse in general, both physical and psychological. Most of the characters are able to escape or overcome it by the end of the series, but it's still horrifying, especially considering how well most of it is covered up.
  • Lots of the episodes in Ghost Hunt qualify for this trope, but the one that most frightened this troper was "The Doll House" File. It turns out that the ghost haunting the house was a distraught mother who committed suicide after her daughter was abducted, and continues to search for her in death, causing the deaths of other children living in the home. It is implied that the abductor may have killed the child, but it is never actually confirmed. Also, the little girl currently living in the home is feared to have drowned, but luckily nothing bad ever happened.
  • Even though Berserk is littered with this, one particular case pops up: that your closest friends and loved ones will backstab you for their own goals and dreams (and it's even worse when it's done on the Cosmic Horror Story level, which would be the Eclipse ceremony that marks the birth of a new Godhand). The backstabbing is pretty much enforced, since the person chosen to become a new demon has to sacrifice somebody that they love or care about. And you know what? It's all up to them. Remember that even though the Godhand are card-carrying gods of evil, they explicitly said at the beginning of the Eclipse where Griffith was chosen to become the new Godhand that they weren't going to force those chosen into making their Face Heel Turn: they had to decide in the end of course, in Griffith's case, there was a bit of "persuasion" on Ubik's part. That tells you something when you're playing the devil's advocate for a group of devils!
  • Detective Conan has several things involving Conan or other children being in danger. Conan has been held at gunpoint or knifepoint by a murderer or taken hostage several times, and more than once said murderer would have no problem silencing Conan or another child for being witnesses.
    • The Non-Serial Movie Phantom of Baker Street has the computer Noah's Ark taking fifty children participating in a virtual game system as hostages (where at least one child out of the fifty needs to Win to Exit or else, all of them die in real life) while forcing parents to watch as the capsule containing their child turns grey, signalling a "game over" for that child.
    • The 15th movie has Conan being Buried Alive under an avalanche and everyone rushing to find him before he runs out of air.
    • Also there's the fourth movie, Captured In Her Eyes, where Ran, the one who always takes care of Conan and Kogoro, is struck with Trauma-Induced Amnesia and can barely handle herself. Seeing someone who has always been there for you need help desperately, but you can barely do anything for them... ack.
    • Not to mention there's the Murdered Stage Magician case. The victim's six-year-old daughter, whom the killer sort-of used to make the victim surrender to him so they could kill him? The little girl has disappeared. And the murderer is the one who has her. It's a BIG relief when said killer brings her back unharmed.
  • Fantastic Children: imagine your 5-year-old child just one day disappeared without a trace and 6 years later his/her corpse was found amongst other children's. There have been many parents who had to experience this throughout history since the 15th century. In one of the recent cases of missing children the police refuse to pursue the case further and conclude that the child left on his own, using his then 3-year-old sister's words for their convenience.
  • Now and Then Here and There showed us the dangers of a child left alone in a foreign land.
  • Not touched upon often, in-series at least, but Wandering Son has a few examples. Imagine your 9 — 12 year old being out late, lying to you about where they've been, and being friends with adult strangers who you know little about. There's also the notion of your children being depressed and uncomfortable with their body but you knowing nothing of what to do.
    • Another manga by the same mangaka had one scene where a guy who was obviously a pedophile is implied to have almost molested a 5 year old girl. Alas a teenager was in the area and the girl said a bit too loudly "Is just lifting up my shirt okay?", so he ran away.
  • Pokémon occasionally relies on Adult Fear. Pokémon Special and Phantom Thief Pokémon 7 in particular prey on the "What if your young child is kidnapped and they can't be found?" fear.
  • Pokemon Sun and Moon:
  • While you're on the phone, your egotistical jackass of a subordinate summons the alien you're researching, only for it to attack and traumatize you beloved child you've unknowingly neglected, leaving her unable to touch the very creatures you love and want to protect. And you don't even learn this until your son tells you years later, when said jackass subordinate is trying to mind wipe your daughter who's only recently begun to get over her trauma
  • Spirited Away has one scene where Yubaba frantically searches her son's room while believing he's been kidnapped.
    • What about the humans? A ten-year-old girl gets trapped in a strange world, has her parents get turned into pigs and therefore be unable to help her, and then willingly sells herself into slavery for the chance to rescue them. Perhaps it's a good thing her parents never found out what really happened...
  • Ryuunosuke and Caster in Fate/Zero are this trope incarnate. They're basically serial child murderers who like to give their victims a Hope Spot before brutally killing them. In one episode, you even see a memorial service for one of the victims, who happens to be one of the young Rin's classmates. It's just a single photo frame, and you hear someone mention that they coundn't do a proper burial because the body was too mangled. It gets so bad that, in-universe, a reward is offered to whoever can kill Caster first, and the entire Holy Grail War is put on hold until then. Cue nearly everyone doing an Enemy Mine to take these two down.
  • In Kodomo no Jikan, despite all Reiji's faults, when Rin is in any danger, real or imaginary, he really freaks out. On the other hand, Reiji himself is no small cause of nightmares, with his disturbing and unhealthy interest in Rin.
  • While it's generally Played for Laughs, it's heavily implied in Axis Powers Hetalia that the nations have no choice but to obey their bosses, meaning that the characters all live in a world where their best friends or even family members could turn on them in an instant. When the series was in its webcomic format, it was played very seriously in the story of China and Japan. China raises Japan and considers him a little brother, only for Japan to show up in the middle of the night and attack China with a katana. China has no idea at all this is coming, and is inviting Japan inside for some food when the blade is drawn.
  • The core of Ayashi no Ceres is this. There's an Action Girlfriend who at first has a kind and endearing human husband. After receiving some of her powers on his own request so he can help her when in trouble, however, said powers turn out to be too much to handle. The formerly sweet Understanding Boyfriend becomes so obsessed with her that he starts restricting her behavior, like locking her in the house to prevent her from talking to men who aren't him, to beating her, forcing sex on her, and even going so far as to killing one of their kids out of fear that she would take her (Ceres) away from him (Mikage). Basically, this manga is a story of Domestic Abuse.


  • The Amory Wars: Coheed and Cambria are forced to kill three of their four children early on, with the youngest (the twins, Matthew and Maria) getting poisoned and the oldest (Josephine, who had recently gotten engaged, and shortly after, gang raped while her fiancé is beaten) getting beaten to death with a hammer. The second oldest, Claudio, was out with his girlfriend when it happened, and when he gets home he finds Josie dead on the kitchen floor.
  • Fifty Two: The Question is suffering from terminal lung cancer exacerbated by years of smoking as his body and mind gradually waste away. Despite his history of fighting alien menaces and international conspiracies there is nothing he can do to stop his cancer from metastasizing.
  • The kids from Runaways fight vampires, aliens, and evil robots, but the only reason they have to deal with these things in the first place is that their own parents turn out to be evil. For most of them, this comes as a shock; for Chase, not so much. Then they all start living in underground hideaways and putting themselves in danger to keep LA safe from the power vacuum created by their parents, resulting in even more physical and emotional trauma and, in Gertrude aka Gert's case, death.
    • In one of the earlier chapters, Frank Dean attacks other members of the Pride and completely freaks out when Karolina disappears.
    • When the kids accidentally travel to the past and run into the Yorks (before they died), the Yorks are quite panicked and ask straight away if their daughter is with them. When they learn that Gertrude is dead, they immediately plan to return to her and make sure she's safe. Then they bring over a futuristic bomb to get revenge on the kids for letting Gert die in any timeline.
  • Hey, remember those "terrorist organizations" that used to show up in Saturday morning cartoons? Wearing identical uniforms and commanded by hamfisted martinettes with delusions of grandeur? Well, then take a look at the JSA vs Kobra minseries, in which a chess-playing former analyst takes control of one such organization, and proceeds to turn it into, well, a terrorist organization — members who could be anyone, improvised explosive devices — but with all the reach and potential resources of a Fantasy Kitchen Sink universe. Ever wondered what a terrorist organization would do mind control magic and bargain basement enhancile tech?
  • The Marvel Comics event Fear Itself is ultimately driven by Odin's fear of losing his son Thor and the desperate, insane measures he takes to prevent it from coming to pass. He fails.
  • Ma and Pa Kent experienced this as they watched helplessly as their adopted son was beaten to a bloody pulp by a rampaging, deranged monster and then died on national television. To make matters worse, they weren't even allowed to attend his funeral.


  • A Lord of the Rings fic Elladan's Trials For Estel deals with a young Aragorn (who was adopted and raised by Elrond) being kidnapped from Elrond's bedroom and Buried Alive. One chapter writes from the perspective of the kidnapper and it turns out the kidnapper worked and lived in Rivendell. It didn't help when the kidnapper mentioned there were some nights where he would stand over a sleeping Aragorn, thinking how easy it would be to kill the boy while no one would know.
    • Delw Yomenie Deadly Encounter has Elrond and his warriors going to rescue the kidnapped Aragorn and during the ambush Elrond released an arrow to kill just as the kidnapper shoved Aragorn to the frontline. That split second when he realized his hand would kill his adopted son, Elrond was torn between denial and horror. Fortunately the arrow hit a non-lethal area.
  • In Final Section, a Supernatural fic, five-year-old Sam Winchester was taken by a man who preys upon children in a school's playground when John happened to be preoccupied, despite attentively watching Sam. The detail that the assailant had already kidnapped several other children by luring them away from their watchful parents (and being gleeful about his successes) was disturbing.
    • Crossing the Line has John Winchester killing a human being for the first time because it was heavily implied that that person had molested/sexually assaulted a ten year old Sam.
    • In Harvester Of Eyes, John Winchester is pitted against The Corinthian. The fact that he's hunting a possibly-human monster who preys on young boys, while having to keep track of his two young sons on the road, aside... Sam and Dean get lost in the Dreaming on their own. Dean obviously knows enough about pedophiles, creeps and "stranger danger" to be on high alert regarding anyone who might hurt Sam, he can't get it across to him that sometimes the really dangerous people can look perfectly normal. Even cool and fun to hang out with.
  • Past Sins has one marking the point where everything goes down the tubes...namely, a child being forcibly taken away from their guardian, who can do nothing to stop it. And then said child believing their guardian wanted to give them away.
  • In Progress, Sundance and every other pregnant mare in Equestria are worried for their unborn foals after the Discord incident.
  • In Detective Conan fic When Pandora's Box Is Opened, when Conan was kidnapped by Vermouth and everyone panics. Those who know the kidnapper have even more reason to fear because the Black Organization has no problem indoctrinating young children into complete loyalty to the organization. Jodie has a brief vision of an older, ruthless Conan preparing to kill a victim and is appropriately horrified.
  • In Hunting the Unicorn, Blaine is Cerebus Retconned into a Lonely Rich Kid—with the twist that his father's used work as an excuse to avoid him ever since he came out. Not only does Blaine put up with it, the fear kicks in when David tells a counselor that Blaine has a stalker and no clue about it. The worst part is that Blaine's absurd obliviousness to love makes it perfectly in-character. The fear really kicks in when said stalker kidnaps him, Wes, and David, and Blaine gets a concussion. Being semi-coherent and prone to confusion, what's the first thing Blaine does when he's lucid again? Call his dad. But the readers know he's actually called his Parental Substitute Greg, who's been waiting by the phone ever since he found out what happened and is now heading out to look for him.
  • There is a scene during The Tamers Forever Series where the pregnant Mimi Tachigawa is kidnapped and taken to a laboratory where her unborn child is forcibly extracted from her. She is then left to wander the wilderness as her grief slowly drives her insane.
  • In Streets of Rage Saga, based on the Streets of Rage beat-em-up game series, two incidents are related in the back-story some twenty years before the story's modern-day timeline, both of them involving children: an infant was snatched when his parents looked away for just a moment and he was later murdered, and some time after that a girl wandered away from her parents along a beach and was attacked by the same perpetrator moments later. What makes it even more horrifying is the common nature of both incidents--both were committed by a feral child.
  • The Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic Power Shift has this example: Imagine being in Tino or Berwald's place, or even Francis'. Your child has seemingly disappeared into thin air. You feel as though something bad can and will happen to him. And in Tino and Berwald's case, it turns out you're right.
  • In the Sherlockian Deliver Us from Evil Series, Inspector Lestrade fears for the safety of the young Baker Street Irregulars. Considering that he's friends with at least one, has another among his constables, and has a nephew in their ranks, he's very close to them and has every right to feel a parental horror at the boys putting themselves In Harm's Way.
    • Later on, Dr. Watson disbands the Irregulars when one of the very young ones is nearly killed.

Film — Animation

  • The Secret of Kells' third act. Because the young protagonist Brendan has once disobeyed his uncle's (the abbot of Kells) strict curfews, he locks him and another monk who helped Brendan in the scriptorium, i.e. to keep them out of reach of the invading northmen. In the ensuing slaughter, the abbot has a very sudden and positive character change when he is horrified to see all his schemes and preventive measures against an invasion going up in smoke. He himself is wounded repeatedly and badly, and passes out. The scriptorium is set on fire. Unbeknownst to him, Brendan and the other monk managed to escape beforehand. They, in return, see the abbot lying in the snow and leave him for dead. Now, just to clarify, Brendan believes the abbot, the only parent and relative he had ever known, is dead, while the abbot thinks that Brendan, his only surviving relative whose own life he risked to save him as a baby, has burned to death because he himself had locked him there in the first place. The movie ends very much with a very dark Bittersweet Ending as this misunderstanding is cleared up decades later. But still, the fears of an adult authority to fail in really really trying to protect his community and his nephew's life are fully and conveniently exploited in this film.
  • The Lion King has this exchange between Mufasa and Simba after Mufasa's Papa Wolf moment with the hyenas:

 Mufasa: Simba, being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble.

Simba: But you're not scared of anything.

Mufasa: I was today. I thought I might lose you.

  • Despicable Me: seeing your children, whether adopted or not, being kidnapped. It's also just as bad to see them returning back to the orphanage after bonding with them.
  • Tangled: the baby Rapunzel was kidnapped from her parents' room where she should have been the safest. And she's routinely emotionally abused by the woman she was raised to think of as her mother, to the point at which setting foot outside of the tower once makes her briefly angst about how she's a terrible daughter.
    • The scene where Gothel returns to the tower and finds that Rapunzel is missing is eerily similar to how any parent would freak out if their child disappeared without their knowledge and they don't know where their kid was, even though we knew that Gothel is the Big Bad.
    • This is sadly not only a fear for adults, but "Mother Knows Best" is horrifically dark for an otherwise fairly cheerful, encouraging movie, if you consider that Gothel doesn't use magic to keep Rapunzel locked up. She preys on her innocence, affection and vulnerability, like a real-life abusive parent.

 Abi Sutherland: Plenty of Disney films have wicked stepmothers; they’re quite ordinary villains in the genre. They do things like banish the heroine to the kitchen or send her out into the forest to be murdered. There may be rags and neglect involved. But Tangled’s Mother Gothel is much worse than that. She uses love like a poisoned apple or a witch’s curse, as a tool to achieve her own ends. And she’s clearly written by someone who knows, bone deep, how that works.

  • Pinocchio where young boys were turned into donkeys, shipped off and forced into labor, the parents not knowing what happened to their sons and even if they did find them, they wouldn't have recognized their own kid, seeing how they are now stuck as donkeys.
    • And a subtler example from the same includes the moment when Gepetto puts on his coat to go out in the pouring rain to look for Pinocchio who never returned home from school. Hearing the agony in his voice as he paces around his kitchen is enough to make parents whose children like to play hide-and-go-seek in department store racks flashback a little.

 Gepetto: What could have happened to him? Where could he be at this hour? I better go out again and look for him...

  • In The Little Mermaid, King Triton had to deal with the aftermath of his youngest daughter Ariel running away after having a huge and violent argument with her. His words "What have I done?" certainly brings the trope home.
  • Mulan's parents found out their daughter ran away to join the army. Imagine not being able to save your child from the horrors of war and possible gruesome death, since any attempt would reveal her gender and sentence her to execution.
    • Not to mention that the reason why Mulan ran away in the first place was save her father's life; he was too infirm to go to war and survive. Their fear would have been compounded with the most extreme guilt imaginable.
  • The Incredibles: The scene where Elastigirl realizes that the missiles are going to hit the plane and she frantically yells into the radio "Abort! Abort! There are children aboard!" Then she runs back into the back of the plane last minute, fully prepared to die with her kids, like any mother would.
    • Not to mention Mr. Incredible, who is lead to believe both his wife and children were actually killed during that same scene, not realizing they got out safely. His horrified expression, and the revenge he almost takes, say it all.
    • Having children in danger is actually such a powerful trigger, that Mirage's own horror at Syndrome's actions is the first hint that she may be a villain, but still isn't as evil as her boss. Later, she has a Heel Face Turn.
    • A deleted scene from the original version of the movie also would fit. Syndrome (a minor villain and not the Big Bad) breaks into the Incredibles' home at the beginning and freezes them with a freeze ray. In the middle of taunting them, he hears young Violet crying down the hall. He proceeds to drag the two with him as he goes after their daughter.
    • Near the end of the movie, when Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible hear the babysitter's voicemail thanking them for calling a replacement sitter for Jack-Jack, Elastigirl frantically exclaims that she never called a replacement. It's a short moment, but no less terrifying for the parents in the audience.
    • Lets just wrap this up and say the entire freakin' movie was full to the brim with Adult Fear.
  • Similar with the above Tangled example, in Hercules, Zeus and Hera awake from their room to find that their infant son was kidnapped. When they did find him, he was mortal and couldn't return to Olympus with them. So they could only watch as their son is raised by another couple — though Alcmene and Amphitrion were Good Parents (if they weren't, Zeus would have just killed them), thus Herc ended up being Happily Adopted.
  • Lilo and Stitch: The threat of Lilo being taken away from her older sister and caretaker Nani's side by social services casts a long shadow over the entire film. The moment when it actually happens is utterly horrific
    • And not long after, she watches a giant alien kidnapping Lilo. When she asks the other aliens to help her get Lilo back, they're forced to tell her that there's pretty much no way that can happen. (Fortunately, Stitch convinces them otherwise)
  • Astro Boy (2009). Toby's death, leads to manic-depressive behavior by his father.
  • An American Tail is full of this, particularly after Fievel sneaks onto the deck of a ship in a raging storm and his father watches helplessly as he's washed overboard.
  • In the The Secret of NIMH, it's scary enough for the single mother Mrs. Brisby having to deal with her terminally ill son, but during the climax when her children are stuck in their cement block house and it's sinking into the mud the fear is amped up ten-fold.
  • The kidnapping of the puppies in One Hundred and One Dalmatians was this for Pongo and Perdita, as well as their human masters Roger and Anita, who react as if their own children had been taken.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, Maurice has to watch as Belle arranges to be kept prisoner in his stead, all while he cries for her to just escape and leave him to his fate. He spends the rest of the movie trying to rescue her.
    • And once Belle and Maurice are reunited? Belle faces the fear of having her father taken away from her, as Gaston blackmails her into either becoming his puppet-wife or getting him thrown in the local asylum. She takes a third option and proves her father is telling the truth... but they're imprisoned and the townspeople go Storming the Castle.
  • Tarzan plays on the same parental fear of losing a child as many of the other Disney movies listed here. A little before they find baby Tarzan, Kala and Kerchak lose track of their infant gorilla son in the jungle while the deadly Sabor is on the prowl. Unlike other Disney movies, the parents and child are never reunited since Sabor kills and eats the baby gorilla.
    • With the added "bonus" of knowing Sabor was also able to get into the house Tarzan's parents made and kill them, then stuck around, probably intending to go after the child while he was alone. And even if Sabor had left, if Kala had not adopted him, Tarzan would almost certainly have starved to death in his crib.
  • How to Train Your Dragon has Stoick believing his son was dead after the fight with the Green Death. And this was due to Stoick's own misguided actions that led to the above event. His "I did this" was downright heartbreaking.
    • The sequel gets even worse because Hiccup fails to listen to Stoick's warning about that Drago Bludvist cannot be reasoned with and Hiccup goes off to find Drago himself and the horrors Stoick fears of what will happen if his son finds Drago. In the end Hiccup's failure to listen to Stoick ends up with Stoick taking a plasma shot that was meant for Hiccup from a mind controlled Toothless at the cost of Stoick's life
    • Then you've got Drago Bludvist's unknown parents who we never get to see and have been dead long before the second movie's plot. From what we can make out from Drago's words about living in fear it can be assumed his village suffered attacks from dragons like what was once happening to Berk only they were presumingly far more brutal. This alone would make Drago's parents have to live with the daily constant fear of their son being killed by dragons so they presumingly did everything they could to keep him safe and protect him. Then there's also the fear of nobody being there to look after Drago should they end up getting killed. The latter fear ends up coming true as Drago's parents are killed by dragons, Drago survives but with a now ripped off arm and the whole village was burned with no other survivors leaving Drago all on his own. Drago then sadly grows up without any source of possible positive guidence from others into the man we know in the movie. If the afterlife is a thing in this movie's universe then Drago's parents also have to sadly watch their son grow up into a madman something they probably didn't want him to become and there's nothing they can do about it. 
  • Imagine you were babysitting your niece and nephew for the evening, with your son there as well, and accidentally fall asleep. When you wake up you find a darkened house, with all three kids gone. When the parents return, you all go down to the beach to search, and find one of the skates used by the kids with no sign of them... This is the parental fear scenario presented in Help! I'm a Fish.
  • In Finding Nemo, Marlin's happy future together with his beloved wife is all torn apart one day, when he can't protect them from a barracuda. Only Nemo survives, with a disability, just in case Marlin was going to be anything less than terribly protective. Terrified that Nemo will be hurt, Marlin almost smothers his son, which drives Nemo to rebel, telling his dad "I hate you" and then swimming out into open water—where a giant, horrible thing beyond comprehension takes Nemo away as Marlin watches.
  • The original Ice Age film is certainly more serious than the sequels. Manny's Troubled Backstory Flashback reveals that his family were killed by human hunters with him unable to protect them. The tigers attacked the human settlement in the beginning with the sole purpose of kidnapping and eating a baby. The baby's father tries to protect his family and fails and is seen throughout the movie desperately trying to find them.
  • In Toy Story 3, Andy growing up and dumping his toys at the day care centre is totally different from your children growing up and dumping you at a care home. So don't think about that.

Film — Live Action

  • Eraserhead: If giving birth to a creature so horrible that no sentient being would want to touch it with a 10-foot pole isn't every soon-to-be parent's worst nightmare, then the fact that it makes your spouse leave you and force you to raise it by yourself certainly is. Loathing one's own baby to the point that stabbing it through the lung (if you can even define it as a 'lung') with scissors becomes a viable option is something no adult wishes to experience. Oh, and the fact that just about everything else in this movie is filled to the brim with the regular kinds of fears doesn't exactly help.
  • Batman Returns: The Penguin is made on this. His masterplan consists of taking Gotham's children into the sewers and killing them. He gleefully gloats about it, claiming that it's the parents' fault for having left them unprotected at home in order to attend to Max Schrek's ball.
  • The Dark Knight: Two-Face and the Joker were frightening enough on their own, but the climax...
  • Your close ally has gone insane because of your mistake, blaming you for the death of the woman he loved, and now he's taken your family hostage and is deciding their fate with a coin flip. You desperately try to appeal to whatever sanity he has left, but he's too far gone at this point to care- he just wants you to feel his pain..
  • The Omen III: Damien Thorn, when he found out about the birth of the Christ child, resorted to Kill'Em All.
    • And it's not just him acting alone but an entire congregation of his followers. A priest drowns a baby at baptism. A nurse murders the infants under her care. Even a couple of children deliberately throw a ball so that it pushes a stroller into the path of traffic.
  • M: Mrs. Beckmann's increasingly desperate cries as she calls for her daughter, who was kidnapped and murdered while walking home from school, is enough to strike terror into the heart of any parent. And that's just how the film starts.
  • A Clockwork Orange: The "Singing in the Rain" scene is designed to send chills down the spine of any adult. The themes of absolute evil and of a manipulative government attempting to rob people of free will and using the cover of mental health to silence dissidents are pretty chilling on a more subtle level as well, and were surely even more so during the Cold War era in which the film (and novel) were made.
  • Taken features this as a driving point in the plot, where two teenaged girls are kidnapped and sold into an underground prostitution ring. Unfortunately for the criminals, the father of one of these girls is an ex-CIA Papa Wolf, who has a very special set of skills. Though he manages to rescue only one of them, his daughter. Her best friend dies.
  • The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas: Bruno's poor mother seems to experience all sorts of terrible fears parents might have. Living next to a concentration camp and knowing there is nothing she can do to stop the horrors going on in there, seeing her eldest daughter being brainwashed into a hate spewing little monster by Those Wacky Nazis, and finding out that her son snuck into the camp and was killed in the gas chamber.
  • Law Abiding Citizen. Having your home being invaded is bad, and crippling you is worse, but the ultimate nightmare is when he rapes and murders your wife and daughter in front of you. Then, a killer gets off with a light sentence just to make sure that the justice department can get the other guy.
  • Inception. Imagine being forced to flee your country, leaving your very young children behind, possibly forever. There's also the horrific situation of watching your spouse succumb to mental illness and suicide.
  • Sophies Choice. Having to choose which of your children to send to an inevitable death.
  • An American Crime is basically the worst fear of every parent who has had to leave their child with another person, especially if that person is just an acquaintance. It really doesn't help that the story really happened.
  • Changeling is all about a woman leaving for work, coming home to find that her child is gone, and then receiving no help at all from the authorities about it. And then comes Act 2, and we find out that there's been a serial killer kidnapping children, and that Christine's son isn't the first cover-up the police have done. Also, her son is never found.
  • The premise for El Orfanato (The Orphanage) went along the lines of "You remember Peter Pan and Never Never Land? How it was such fun for the kids? Now think of how their parents had to feel in that situation!"
  • In The Ring, the protagonist is fairly collected at first in the face of imminent death. It's the imminent death of her son that panics her, and ultimately drives her to desperate measures. This theme is inverted in the Japanese sequel Rasen: Andou has already lost his son, and he ends up making an extreme moral compromise because Sadako can bring him back.
  • Similarly to the Firefly example below, the Minority Report gives us the three precogs, who spend all of their time being heavily sedated and floating in a pool, getting endless future visions of murders. And then we find out that the precogs were all just the children of drug addicts, taken from their families. Oh, and there used to be more, but all but those three died. And then we find out that when one of the mothers kicked her drug habit and demanded her daughter back, she was murdered because the precog system couldn't work without her. The entire plot is driven by Agatha's desire for her mother's death to be avenged.
  • The Untouchables opens up with a couple of Al Capone's bootleggers trying to persuade a guy to sell their booze at his store. He refuses because it's terrible booze. They seem to accept his answer and "accidentally" drop a bag when they leave the store. A little girl who was in the store at the time picks it up and tries to return it to them. Said bag is a bomb which promptly explodes. Later in the movie, the mother of the dead girl visits Elliot Ness and reassures him that he is doing the right thing in opposing people like her daughter's killers.
  • For all the city-destruction and visible skeletons in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the scariest bit comes when Laserbeak transforms into a pink, kid-sized version of Bumblebee to trick a little girl into letting him in so that he can kill her father. Up to that point, Laserbeak had been an extremely efficient killer, able to hide as a number of innocuous objects, but that's pure psychological torture, and if he let the girl live, imagine her guilt...
  • The Duchess: Your husband can take your children away from you, and there's nothing you can do about it because you're a woman and he has law on his side. The same fear is brought about by Iron Jawed Angels.
    • Also Dear Zachary. Your children could be taken away from you and given to their abuser by the court, which finds it OK because she's their mother.
    • Also, in Seduction in a Small Town: some Manipulative Bitch can perfectly convince others that both you and your husband are horrible child abusers and not only have your kids taken away, but send you guys to jail for that. Twice.
  • Paranormal Activity 2: An invisible supernatural force is trying to kidnap your one-year-old son because one of your ancestors made a pact with a demon. An in the end, it succeeds.
  • The Shining: A supernatural force exploits your previous vices and drives you to murder your beloved wife and son. This is scary enough, but it goes deeper: to what extent would this have happened anyway? The supernatural forces may have given it a kick-start, but the darkness was already present. The fear becomes the more realistic fear of being unable to overcome one's own secret darkness.
  • X Men First Class: The Holocaust. The death of a parent, and the medicalized torture of an innocent child. All within the first 20 minutes. A bit of a foregone conclusion, but Charles and Erik's "beach divorce", even though it's only a metaphorical divorce, (metaphorical) children having to decide which parent they're siding with in said metaphorical divorce, having a loved one be permanently disabled because of something you did, the fear that no one will love you as you really are...
  • Where The Heart Is has Ashley Judd as a single mom who comes early home from work and finds her current boyfriend molesting two of her children.
  • The Blob: In the 1988 remake, the cheerleader Meg Penny learns from her parents that her brother Kevin and his friend are missing while the town is under quarantine, thinking they snuck out to see a slasher movie. What makes this terrifying was the fact that Meg's little brother is now in danger of being eaten by the titular monster now getting bigger by eating anyone that gets too close. She arrives to find the theatre is in a state of panic with Kevin and his friend desperately trying to use the emergency exit and while she does save them, they wind up having to evade the Blob in the sewer. The Blob follows them down there and Kevin's friend then gets pulled underwater. Meg tries to save him only to later see him rise up from the water half-eaten; imagine dying by drowning and being eaten alive at the same time. What makes this all the more horrifying was the fact Kevin's friend has an older brother that let them both into the movie and we saw his mother hoping he was going to come home safe. At least Meg and her brother survived...
    • Just imagine the guilt the kid's older brother is going to feel for the rest of his life knowing that his little brother would still be alive if he hadn't helped him sneak into the movie.
  • Eye for An Eye: This 1996 drama starts with Karen Mc Cann talking with her home alone teenage daughter over the phone when the slime bucket Robert Doob breaks into the house and all Karen can do is listen as Doob (non-graphically) rapes her daughter before killing her. Oh yeah, and a minor technicality prevents him from being prosecuted.
  • The Monster Squad has one utterly chilling scene for adults, when Sean's father sees Dracula and realizes the supernatural things his son has been so scared of all day are real. And then Dracula tells him "I will have your son" before turning into a bat and leaving.
  • The very premise of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a nightmare to any parent—the possibility of your own child being horribly assaulted and murdered by a psychopath in a manner that you have absolutely no way of protecting them from. And worse, this psychopath is supposed to be dead, because you and other parents took the law into your own hands after his string of child murders went unpunished due to a technicality.
    • Wes Craven's New Nightmare may even have more adult fear to it than the other entries, as a major focus is Heather trying to protect her son Dylan, who is significantly younger than Freddy's usual teenage victims.
  • In Hook not only does Captain Hook kidnap Peter's children and threaten to do the same to his descendants, he tries to brainwash them into loving him instead. It almost works with Jack (who was already distressed), but utterly fails with Maggie.
    • It's not much better when he kills a 15-year-old boy, Rufio, in front of Peter and all of the new Lost Boys.
  • Kill Bill: The scene in which the Bride fights Vernita Green and Vernita's little daughter Nikki steps in perfectly shows the terror that a mother can feel when she realizes that not only her Dark and Troubled Past has caught up with her, but that her child is about to be utterly traumatised.
    • And that's before we learn that the Bride almost has second thoughts in regards to the end of her revenge when she sees that Bill, for his horrifying actions, has taken good care of their child, BB. Even more so when we see that she learns about it when she sneaks into Bill's home to kill him... and the first person who comes into her sight is BB, who does it with a happy smile.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The beginning of Return of the King has Smeagol kill Deagol over The Ring. Well what if the friend you trusted most easily turned on you over one little trinket?
  • Star Wars: Anakin falls to the Dark Side because of the fear of losing Padme after already witnessing his mother die
  • The French film L'Argent de Poche gives us a comedic, though not tasteless example when the mother of the infant Grégory leaves him alone in the apartment on one of the higher floor with the windows open while she searches for her wallet. Grégory inevitably ends up hanging from the sill above a crowd of terrified onlookers before falling and landing in a hedge, unharmed. Suffice to say, the mother, upon seeing her child in the hedge, promptly passes out. As this film is more or less a social commentary about the world children inhabit that adults often fail to see, the Adult Fear is played completely straight.
  • The Pursuit of Happyness depicts a father trying really, really hard to provide for his kid, and failing. There's no zombie apocalypse, no external mustache-twirling villain, just the inexorable facts of the matter and a string of bad luck. He ends up with his son in a subway-station closet, hiding from the elements and hoping they'll be able to stay there overnight. If you've ever been responsible for providing for another human being, this is terrifying.
  • Megan Is Missing manage to turn the fear many parents of teens with an internet connection have about sexual predators online Up to Eleven.
  • Bubba Ho-Tep: growing old and weak and finding yourself left to die in a care home, with your children "too busy" to come and see you.
  • Orphan: having your children in danger, your spouse turn against you, and being thought insane when in reality you are the only one who knows what is really happening. Then the terror of having it be even worse than you already thought.
  • Discussed in [Film/Parenthood Parenthood]. Kevin suffers severe anxiety issues as a gradeschooler, in part, because he "was first" and his parents frantically over-protected him as a child.
  • The film Utoya, 22 Juli shows exactly what your children can suffer if they are caught in a shooting. In particular it shows that no matter how clever and levelheaded they are, they can still die, and in a horrible way.


  • Nineteen Eighty-Four, which became even scarier with the passing of the Patriot Act, not to mention the fact that just about every store these days is full of security cameras, or the kinds of private information available to the people who run social networking sites, or that employers have figured out how to access said information.
    • And what about children spying on their own parents and reporting to government?
  • In the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Leia is pregnant. She spends some time brooding about whether the twins will turn out like her father, and whether evil skips a generation. More explicitly, Thrawn's Nohgri commandos pursue her all over the galaxy, seeking to capture her without the use of Stun Guns. Stun guns would make these things simpler, but they can induce miscarriage. Meaning that they want to catch her and her unborn children. No matter where she goes, the Nohgri find her, and her escapes get narrower each time. At one point she realizes that Chewbacca and her other defenders would probably be killed, but not her. She'd be taken before Grand Admiral Thrawn, who would smile, and speak politely, and take her children away.
    • When Leia has her third child, the reborn Emperor Palpatine chases after her and the baby so he can replace its soul and take over the infant's body. He doesn't want to kill the baby—he wants to replace it.
  • New Testament. Herod ordering the murder of all the newborn babies.
    • The resurrection/healing of the little girl in Mark 5. Obviously her resurrection is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" but a poor little girl is dead.
    • Old Testamente. Jewish male babies being abandoned or killed via Pharaoh orders. 'Nuff said.
      • And earlier, Joseph's Secret Test of Character for his brothers... which involves the youngest of all of them, Benjamin.
  • This makes Coraline arguably more frightening for adults than it is for children. For children, it has fairly standard Aesops about being careful what you wish for and being wary of strangers. For adults, it's about how failing to pay attention to a child can result in the child's kidnapping and death. Word of God states that this was intentional, and indeed, was Gaiman's primary reason for authoring the story—namely, scaring the pants off parents while leaving kids merely a little creeped out.
    • In the movie, it becomes a sobering moment for children (even teenagers) when Coraline can't find her parents. The first time staying alone in your house can be a scary thing. In Coraline's case, she doesn't know where her parents are, if they're even coming back, or what will happen to her. The scene with the pillows in the bed is both heartbreaking and oddly terrifying.
  • Occurs in, of all places, Goosebumps. Specifically the Night of the Living Dummy series. As several people, along with the blogger himself, pointed out on the snarky Goosebumps blog, the Night of the Living Dummy series may be creepy as a child, but as an adult, a completely different layer of creepy reveals itself. The living dummy in question is obsessed with making preteen girls (and it's always girls, never boys in these books) into his slaves. When they refuse, he punches and slaps them — a rare act of physical violence for this series — and even knocks one girl unconscious. In Bride of the Living Dummy, he goes further, demanding a 12 year old girl as his bride (instead of the female dummy), and even calling his violence against her a "love tap". From adult eyes, it takes on a whole new meaning that flew over our heads when we were kids, with some really disturbing subtext...
    • In the TV adaptation of Night of the Living Dummy III, it is shown that Slappy has demonically possessed or at least is using his powers on a young pre-teen boy. The effect is no less creepy than it was with the girls.
    • Arguably most of the series could count. The books center around preteen children who are stalked by monsters, cursed, subjected to Body Horror, kidnapped, and all sorts of other horrible things, and very rarely have parents or adults in general who can help them. It gets to the point where the above-mentioned blog has a "Questionable Parenting" section.
  • Stephen King draws on this a lot. The Shining, for example, deals with Jack Torrance's fear of hurting his wife and son, of failing as a writer, of becoming crazy and/or an alcoholic, etc.
    • The image for this page comes from The Film of the Book of King's Pet Sematary which is, as heart, a prolonged riff on the very adult fear of the death of a child.
  • A Clockwork Orange: In addition to the aforementioned elements shared by the movie, the book features, among other things, a chapter in which Alex rapes a pair of young girls, and graphic descriptions of the World War II footage he is forced to watch as part of his "treatment".
  • Two Weeks With the Queen is told from the perspective of the young Colin, who takes a long time to understand what's going on. However, the focus on the book is still a very adult fear: living knowing you are going to lose your brother (Colin), your child (his parents), or your life partner (Ted).
  • The Harry Potter series, despite being aimed at children, has plenty of moments that scare the parents more than the kids, and a lot of them have to do with child abuse, Parental Abandonment, and not being able to protect or take care of your own children. Most of this probably came from Rowling's own fears as a mother (and especially as a single mother, having broken off an abusive marriage.).
    • In the very beginning of Harry Potter Part One, when Hermione has to erase all of her parents' memories of herself so Voldemort can't torture them for information. It gives a parent a sense of failure to protect their child, that they're weak and powerless.
    • It's very easy to see why Molly Weasley goes full Mama Bear during the Battle of Hogwarts. Not my daughter, you BITCH, indeed. After all, we saw her boggart in the fifth bookher family dead. Not to mention, she lost her two brothers in the last war, one of the Weasley twins has just died, and the daughter she so desperately wanted after having several sons is apparently the next one...
    • Fenrir Greyback. In the book he just manages to edge out Bellatrix in the bone-deep creepiness category. In the movie he's downright disturbing, especially with Hermione. This was entirely intentional on Rowling's part.
      • In the first part of the final film installment, Fenrir's part is downplayed... but they play up the character of Scabior, one of the snatchers. To children in the audience, Scabior is frightening because he's feral-looking, gross, cruel, and hunting down the main trio. To slightly older viewers, particularly women, he is... a lot more frightening because he's threatening to rape Hermione.
    • The flashbacks to the night Lily and James were killed, full stop. The two died in total fear, but doing their best to protect their infant son. In the end, they weren't able to hold back the guy who broke into their house at all. If it weren't for The Power of Love and Lily's Mama Bear Dying Moment of Awesome, they would have had no way to protect baby Harry at all.
    • When you're a kid, the scene in the first novel with Harry seeing his family in the mirror is interesting and sort of sad. When you're older it kind of makes you want to cry.
    • Xenophilius Lovegood is a whole lot more tragic in Deathly Hallows because of this. "They took my Luna, and I don't know if I'll get her back!" The poor guy nearly blows up his house trying to catch the trio, but not out of ill will towards them... but only so he can save his poor daughter from being imprisoned by Death Eaters.
    • Narcissa Malfoy's most prominent and sympathetic role in the story comes from her attempts to save Draco from the power of Voldemort. So much that she managed to lie to the face of Voldemort so Draco would live.
    • In the fourth book, Harry is trapped in a room with someone he thought he could trust, a teacher no less. Only for said person to try to murder him.
    • Order of the Phoenix, full stop: there's a catastrophe looming in the horizon but the government is too scared/incompetent to do anything about so it just decides to pretend it doesn't exist, manipulate the media into discrediting those trying to warn people about it, send bureaucrats to force institutions to leave people less prepared for the catastrophe and finally just start arresting people who keep insisting.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Hogfather the entire reason the Boogeyman, the living embodiment of the "monster under the bed" type scare, became the Tooth Fairy was to protect children from real monsters like Teatime.
  • Many of Bentley Little's novels deal with these sort of themes, including the nullification of personal identity (The Ignored) and the destructive power of consumerism (The Store).
  • The premise of The Lovely Bones is based on the worst possible outcome of the "Oh, shit. My kid was supposed to be home hours ago; what if they're dead?" fear.
  • The Anita Blake series has an example of this in the first book, Guilty Pleasures. Anita is hopping through, having a genuine Worthy Opponent moment with Jean-Claude, who can actually roll her, if briefly. Then she meets Nikolaos. Nikolaos doesn't try to convince Anita that she's seeing something she isn't. She tries to convince Anita that she is someone she isn't. And Anita is conscious enough to realize what's happening, but not quite enough to stop it on her own. It's a boogeyman doing bad things,'s also someone putting you in a position where even someone who was as calm as Anita was incapable of fighting back, and has no reason to expect help. Oh, and Nikolaos looks like a child, and was springing between innocent and B-Movie villain before that.
  • Battle Royale (and by extension, Survival of the Fittest and any other works based off of it). The plot revolves around a highschool class being sent on a deserted island and forced to kill each other. And there's nothing you could really do about it, as well; two of the adult characters protested against it in the book and manga, resulting in one getting brutally killed and the other getting raped to silence her. Yikes.
  • Thomas Ligotti's short story "The Frolic" plays into both this and existential terror with the walking, talking slab of undiluted Paranoia Fuel that is "John Doe". Think of the worst thing that someone could possibly do to a child. Now, think of someone who does this. Often. Someone that does this without even knowing that it's even slightly wrong. Someone (or rather something) that may not even be human. His capture, he says, is merely time for him to rest. Now, imagine that, for what ever reason, he just knows that you have a daughter...
  • A Little Princess is about a young girl named Sarah who is forced into a life of servitude after her father dies and leaves her apparently penniless and with no other living relatives. And his closest and most trusted friend and business partner believes it's his fault that he supposedly lost the fortune and drove his friend to die. He wants to find his friend's daughter (Sarah) and take care of her because he feels he owes her father that much, and is worried for her safety. But he has no idea where she even is, or even if she's within the country! His search for her lasts years. Arguably it's even worse in Cuaron's movie version, where her father is alive and living next store, but due to his injuries and trauma he's suffering from memory loss. When Sarah is running from the police and hides in the house, she recognizes him and starts crying and trying to get him to remember her as she's dragged away to be arrested. He remembers her at the last minute, but still!
  • Although Joffrey Baratheon in A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the most hated characters in the series, his death in the books is uncomfortable for many parents because of the very realistic desperation and grief of his Smug Snake of a mother, Cersei, neatly triggering the fear of one's children dying and illiciting sympathy for both.
    • Don't forget how Catelyn sees her eldest son Robb being horrifyingly killed in front of her. And then she also gets killed off. And ends up coming back wrong.
  • Bridge to Terabithia, period. The idea that a cheerful, friendly, imaginative and full of life child suddenly dies in a freak, senseless accident ( best swimmer in a class drowning in creek shallow enough to walk through) is utterly terrifying to parents, especially since said child did nothing to deserve death. "Bonus" points for this being the only child.
    • Another terrifying point is that the whole is Based on a True Story. It was a lightning in reality making it even more tragic. One minute that little girl is happily playing on a beach, the next there is a corpse...
  • In The Stones of Green Knowe, the protagonist, Roger, at one point sees what he thinks is his own village being massacred, with his family slaughtered. Despite the fact that Roger is only a child in the story, this would have been a very realistic fear for anyone at the time the novel takes place (the twelfth century), as well as in parts of the world today.
  • Die Wolke ("The Cloud") by Gudrun Pausewang describes what would happen to a country if a nuclear plant would go fully caboom.
    • Pausewang is very fond of this trope. Compare also: Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn (The Last Children of Schewenborn), which describes the aftermath of an implied nuclear war with all its horrors (the protagonist's family save his father dies one after another while suicides, murders, radiation sickness and starvation deaths happen all around him), and Der Schlund (The Abyss), which is set in a Germany that falls pray to another fascist regime a la Third Reich. The protagonist here loses her entire family to the regime and essentially commits suicide-by-proxy at the end.
  • The Hunger Games centres around Katniss who takes on a motherly role for her young sister prematurely due to her father dying in a mining accident and her mother's ensuing depression. To feed the family she breaks the law and increases her odds of being picked for the deadly games. But because this is a Crapsack World, the sister is picked for the Games anyway, so Katniss volunteers as sacrifice, knowing she'll never win and her family will be left without a provider. Harrowing enough but then her younger sister dies in the revolution Katniss starts — likely at the hands of the man Katniss loved.
    • Just the thought of it being your kid chosen for the Deadly Game...
  • Three Days by Donna Jo Napoli focuses on an eleven-year-old girl visiting in Italy with her father. All is well until he suffers a heart attack while driving and passes out...and then the girl ends up being kidnapped. So now in addition to watching her father get a heart attack and probably die while they were driving and she was right next to him, she's trapped in a stranger's home, surrounded by people who don't speak any English, in a strange country that she doesn't even know her way around.
  • What about never being able to see someone you love — ever?
  • The Knight and Rogue Series has a woman who collects mentally handicapped children to experiment on, since the law is more likely to miss perfectly normal kids or adults.
  • Warrior Cats deals with this a couple times. The forest is dangerous, so it's always frightening to the characters when a young cat disappears... one mother has to deal with the fact that her daughter's hindlegs are paralyzed so she'll never live a normal life and might die early... another mother's kits go missing, and she's forced to realize that her mate may have kidnapped them to live with him.
  • Those That Wake had everyone forgetting about teenage Laura, even her parents. And at the end of the book, they still don't remember.
  • School Crossing, by Francis King, is about a child-hating headmaster bitter after being sacked from the school where he worked. Whenever he drives anywhere near the school, he begins seeing the ghosts of children on the crossing outside. After being told by a doctor that he is hallucinating and should drive at the ghosts to prove they're not real, he does — only to run over and kill several children. The "ghosts" were a premonition. This is a fear instantly understandable to anyone with kids or who drives anywhere near places where children gather. The author has stated that he began having nightmares about it after acquiring a large, powerful car that he found difficult to handle.
  • House of Leaves has many scary things going on, most noticably the Nothing Is Scarier aspects. But perhaps the most insidious facet of the book's creepiness is the fact that these terrible things are all going on in a family home. And then the children start changing. And also the claustrophobia, and the steadily escalating insanity that's probably the only thing of these that's actually happening.
  • Fay Woolf's short stories "Slowly" (about a child being trapped beneath a fairground ride — engineers try to free him but then discover the machine sliced him into a pile of body parts, which rain down upon the rescuers) and "Sideshow" (about a boy suffocating to death during a party game at a school fair.) The events of both stories are described in such a way as to hold off the full horror until the end, and they are reasonably unlikely to happen — but still perfectly plausible and possible. Not fun for any parents reading.
  • Someone Elses War examines the life and world of a child soldier from the inside out. It's a harrowing read in its own right, but if you have children of your own, you will find yourself unconsciously putting them in Matteo's place. Or Asher's. Or Otto's. Or Ruth's. And weeping with terror. And then you remember that there are really children going through this.

Live Action TV

  • Supernatural: A moment that could fill any parent with terror was in the first season, when a toddler is tempted into climbing inside a fridge which then closes. Cue mother looking for child, and taking a looong time to find that child. (The child survives, but still...)
    • Later seasons get less and less quick to enforce Infant Immortality, and children are more often either possessed, hurt, used, or more than one of the above. Several episodes have dealt with what happens when the child itself is a danger, such as with the need to kill or scar one's soul for life. Why? Because the universe doesn't care about age.
    • Of course, the entire series is built on this from the first episode. Imagine walking into your infant's room late at night and seeing a man standing over his crib. You assume it's your significant other, only to walk away and realise that your husband is downstairs and you have no idea who is in the room behind you or what they're doing with your baby. If that wasn't bad enough, when you run back into your child's room you are pinned to the ceiling and forced to watch as this unknown assailant corrupts your child before slowly killing you and burning you alive...all as you can't help but stare straight down at the baby you were unable to protect.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Turn Left", Western civilization devolves into a police state and things get increasingly bleak with war and economic depression. It turns out it was a parallel universe, a nightmare realm, and Donna manages to return history to its old, proper course. But still.
    • It's made all the worse by the obvious Holocaust parallels at one point. The government sends foreigners away to "labour camps" as they're unable to simply deport them. Donna, while agitated, clearly doesn't grasp the situation in full. Her grandfather, Wilfred, lived through WWII and cries as he watches history repeat itself.
      • Not just the holocaust — there was a very disturbing 9/11 parallel as well, with the mushroom cloud rising above London, while people look to the distance and can't quite believe what is happening.
    • Plot holes aside, "Gridlock" becomes very disturbing, in a peculiar fashion, if you start thinking about being stuck in an inescapable traffic jam that will never, ever end (maybe you have to drive into to work to appreciate it).
    • In the episode "The Eleventh Hour", the then-seven-years-old Amelia Pond is clearly frightened of a crack in her bedroom wall, which she can hear voices out of. When the Doctor meets her, he even notes that she's quite brave and that the crack must be extraordinarily strange to scare her so much. It's also shown that Amelia's aunt — her only guardian — not only doesn't believe there's anything wrong with the crack, but is often not home to care for her. It turns out that the "crack" is an opening to a parallel dimension, which an alien prisoner escaped from. Because the Doctor jumps through time 12 years instead of 5 minutes, Amelia unknowingly spends most of her life living with an alien criminal hiding in her house, creating a mental link with her to steal her form. While this obviously plays off of a child's fear of things like the bogeyman and seemingly mundane details, there's also the parental fear of danger coming to a child because of not taking their worries seriously.
      • It gets worse at the end of the season. Remember how the crack erases people from existence? Yeah, it got Amelia's parents. Imagine being removed from reality itself. Your own daughter won't remember that you ever existed.
    • "A Good Man Goes To War" has an even worse one for Amy and Rory. Not only does their baby get kidnapped, when it seems like they've saved her it turns out that the bad guys swapped her with a flesh copy that literally dissolves in Amy's arms And it gets worse; Amy & Rory don't see their child again until she is already an adult; an adult deliberately raised to be a sociopath.
    • "The God Complex" also has a bit of this; alongside the Demonic Dummies and Monster Clown, the rooms also show such fears as social anxiety and disappointing your parents.
    • The Doctor The Widow and the Wardrobe pretty much invokes this — your children are lost in the wilderness, with a very strange man you don't trust, and now people are telling you that the whole area is about to become horrifically dangerous and anyone within is doomed. When Madge pulls a gun on them, the workers don't believe for a second that she'd use it. Until she says the words "I'm looking for my children". Then they know she is very serious.
  • The Torchwood five-part story Children of Earth features the kidnap of children to send to the 456, at the approval of the government. At the conclusion, one child is sacrificed horribly to avert this.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures, as a kids' show with an adult protagonist, runs on this. Not quite so surprising when you consider its parent show.
  • Firefly posits the very, very real fear that your children could be targeted by a variety of threats, including rapist pirates and the government — which also brings up hefty fears of government repression and regulation.
    • There's also the fact that the Tam siblings are forced to basically become outlaws because their own parents would turn them back to the Alliance, despite the clear evidence that the Academy was doing horrible things to River. This plays off of the fear of child abuse and children being unable to rely on their parents for sufficient protection.
      • Not to mention the fact that River had been recruited by a prestigious school because she was gifted. Imagine the possibility that your child won a scholarship to an Ivy League university specifically so they could abuse and torture them without you ever suspecting a thing.
  • Possibly the three scariest words on American television: the Emergency Broadcast System, complete with one of the most un-nerving sounds on American television (and, thanks to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, one of the scariest ones in American video games).
  • There was this episode in CSI where two boys went missing and the main suspect is a pedophile. It didn't help when the team had to enlist his help to try to find the boys and he began to describe in detail to Grissom how he would lure a child to him by gaining their trust. Another suspect was one of the boys' abusive grandfather. Imagine you were the father of that man, forced to leave your son with him because the grandfather was the only one available to look after your son. And failed.
  • Space Sheriff Shaider. Be careful of your children. A cult might brainwash them into committing unspeakable acts.
  • The 1988 TV movie God Bless the Child provides a very depressing scenario: a woman is deserted by her husband, and evicted from her apartment. She and her daughter are homeless and have to go on welfare. She is unable to get a job because she is homeless, and has limited experience, having been a homemaker. Although the state agency finds her some low-income housing, it is infected with rats; when she complains to the health department, the landlord evicts her in retaliation. Eventually, her daughter gets an infection, and, while she recovers, her mother sees no other option but to turn her over to foster care.
  • Jam relied heavily on this. The "Plumber Baby" sketch is possibly the best-known example, with other sketches focusing on paedophilia, child murder, sexual assault, Out with a Bang ("Gush") and more.
  • Ghostwriter has a story arc where people, including one of the team, are getting sick seemingly randomly; the culprit turns out to be toxic waste dumped in the community garden. It's horrible enough for kids, but even worse from an older perspective; imagine being a parent of one of those kids, finding out that the community garden you thought could only be a good thing is actually poisoning your children.
  • Being Human uses this in one episode, when Annie sees her mother for the first time after dying. There are two points that stand out in particular. The first is when Annie is too shocked to say anything, and the medium who is speaking on her behalf has to tell Mrs. Sawyer that there isn't anything he's being told. Mrs. Sawyer says that she hopes he's lying, because she can't stand the thought that her daughter could communicate through him freely, but can't speak to her own mother. The other is when Mrs. Sawyer breaks down and confesses that she feels she failed her daughter and that if she was a better mother, she would have known that her child was unhappy and alone.
  • There are far too many things in Criminal Minds that appeal to parents watching it. Such as child abduction, pedophiles, child porn and children seeing things they shouldn't. Not to mention the episodes that subvert Infant Immortality.
  • The Twilight Zone was full of this in addition to more supernatural threats. The episode "In Praise of Pip" shows a bookie receiving news that his son Pip has been seriously wounded in The Vietnam War and is possibly dying. The rest of the episode revolves around the man hallucinating(?) that Pip is a ten year old boy again while he is dying of a gunshot wound. In what is a massive Tear Jerker of a scene, he begs his son not to die and apologizes for not being a better father and role model to him while promising to do better even though he realizes it may be too late for both of them.
  • Rescue 911, full stop. Usually about Once an Episode they'd feature a true story about a kid getting wounded in some horrible way or another.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit pretty much takes this trope and serves it on a silver platter, because it centers on Ripped from the Headlines plots, doesn't hesitate to whip out the truly alarming statistics on domestic abuse, sexual assault, incest, and child molestation. In one particularly upsetting-for-grownups episode, a little boy goes missing at a birthday party and is found dead shortly afterward. The security tape from the party shows him holding a balloon as he walks out of the camera's viewpoint—only for the balloon to roll by it without the boy only seconds later. The big kicker? He was killed by another child. An adult might have a healthy suspicion of other adults around their kids, but who would ever question another kid at a birthday party?
  • The first season finale of Lost has Michael's son Walt stolen right out of his hands and abducted by the Others for unknown purposes, before they torch the raft to ensure they can't be followed.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall's reaction to his father's sudden heart attack was sob-inducing because it was sudden and unexpected and it happens.
  • Combined with a Wham! Episode in Glee when Dave Karofsky's dad comes home to see that Dave tried to hang himself.

Newspaper Comics

  • One arc of Calvin and Hobbes has the family return from a trip only to find that their house has been broken into. Calvin is pacified immediately after finding Hobbes, whom they had accidentally left behind when they went on the trip. His parents, however, are notably shaken, and the realization that they aren't as safe as they thought they were lingers with them for the rest of the arc. Calvin's dad in particular has to come to terms with the fact that being a parent doesn't automatically equip you to deal with any problem, contrary to what he thought after idolizing his father when he was younger. Parents are people too, and what makes them seem invincible is the fact that they put on a brave face for the sake of their children, which he learns to do.
    • There's also the story arc in which Calvin finds the dying raccoon. He brings his mother to help him save it, telling Hobbes: "You don't get to be Mom if you can't fix everything just right.". His mom admits though that there really is very little they can do to save the raccoon and it inevitably dies. This brings up the fact that parents can't always save the day and aren't always going to be able to protect their children from experiencing loss and death.
    • Adult fears are also treated humorously with Calvin using them as ideas for his Halloween costumes: a barrel of toxic waste, and nothing (just a child; think of what he and his generation receiving questionable influences will have grown up into when the adults he's trick-or-treating are old and weak).
  • Several times in FoxTrot. One arc had Roger coming home from work to find Andy and Jason gone. Paige tells him they're at the hospital, and that Jason was hit by a car. Of course, she meant to say it was a toy car (Jason had gotten hit on the chin with one and needed stitches), but Roger doesn't know that and promptly tears outta there to see Jason at the hospital. Then there's the arc where Peter goads Jason into going onto the roof, Jason loses footing and falls off, hitting his head and having to go to the hospital for supervision; Paige and Jason finding a needle at the beach (they throw it out, which freaks Andy out because she fears they accidentally pricked themselves when they did); Paige going to the dance with a lecherous date who clearly wants to have his way with her...
  • Charlie Brown dealt with quite a lot of adult fears for an eight-year-old—one arc in particular had him lying, alone, in a hospital bed worrying that he was going to die and that the doctors weren't even going to tell him.
  • The cartoonist Quino, uses it in several strips, like this one. For those who don't understand Spanish: It's about a teenager who rebels against having to study Greek Mythology by saying that "he has nothing to do with it", and instead asks for permission to drive his father's car to a party, his father reluctantly agrees and when he leaves... his father starts reading the studies book and the story of Phaëton. The man's face in the third-to-last panel says it all.

Video Games

  • Cyberswine: The game is loaded with this. First, a mother loses her son to an Ebola-type plague before she dies of it shortly after. Cyberswine notices his partner Lieutenant Sarah Lee behaving oddly and she ends up betraying him. A teenage boy is murdered by killer robots calling themselves NetCops and then they extract his brain. A group of street people are trying to get into a locked hospital because some on them were wounded by the NetCops. A teenage boy named Zak is being targeted by a man who wants to extract the boy's brain for his own purposes. The list seems to go on.
  • In Heavy Rain, the very beginning of the game gives you the pleasure of playing as a parent who loses his child in a car crash. (JAAAAAAAAAAYSUN!)
    • To add to that, the entire game focuses around catching a serial killer who drowns children in rainwater, and the worst part is nobody really has a clue who he or she is.
  • In the first Silent Hill, you get to play a parent who is desperately searching a dangerous city for his missing child. You get to spend a lot of time in the dark where monsters are lurking.
    • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, the (very liberal) remake of the original game, takes this even further, as the game actually focuses on a veritable cornucopia of Adult Fears — loss of family, social alienation, substance addiction, deterioration of love, sexual insecurities, death, the works — even more than monsters, and the occult theme is axed entirely from the plot.
    • Silent Hill 2 is about a man who has been deeply changed by his wife's early death. The fact that James killed her is another Adult Fear: the fear of failing a loved one and of selfishness. James's guilt is overwhelming, hence his punishment. Due to his wife's long sickness James is also sexually frustrated, and angry and guilty enough about it that the town creates a physical manifestation of his dark impulses toward sexual violence.
    • Silent Hill: Downpour deals with Murphy Pendelton and the guilt he has over not being able to save his son from their neighbor, Napier, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered poor little Charlie.
  • Live a Live: One spoilered word: Oersted. By the end of the relevant chapter, everyone in the kingdom believes him to be an evil monster after he's manipulated into murdering his king, the only people who believed in him are dead, he's killed his own childhood friend after finding out that said friend had masterminded the above manipulation, simply out of sheer jealousy of Oersted's fame and success. To cap it all off, the woman he loved had just declared her love for said dead friend and given Oersted a rather misplaced bitching out for, basically, not being a better friend to the poor unappreciated guy, and then offs herself. After such an emotional roller coaster, he snaps, so very spectacularly. The Adult Fear sets in when you sympathize with him through the whole thing, and then realize that, if you went through the experience of having everyone you care about either die for your sake, or viciously turn against you and declare you to be a murderous monster like that, you could very well end up in the same boat.
    • His last words say it all: "With hatred, anyone can become a demon."
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty's final act, if you get past the True Art Is Incomprehensible part. The US is pretty much controlled by AI programs and the entire point of the plot is revealed: They figured out they can make anyone into what they want, given the right set of circumstances. Oh and the main character's love interest? Set up by them. It even makes you question whether she actually exists. Let's see: Fear of loved ones having ulterior motives? Check. Fear of not knowing what's actually real? Check. Fear of having no control in your life? Big check.
    • Likewise, Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots. First: Snake facing his declining health and dealing with a terminal illness. Part of Otacon's emotional arc is about coping with the long-term illness of his close friend and partner. There is also the question of children growing up—and possibly outgrowing you. ("It's okay if you want to live outside now.") Hideo Kojima said in interviews prior to the game's release that he hoped the story and emotions would resonate with older players, ones who had been following the series for some time, and did they ever.
  • The adventure horror game Sanitarium has a strong theme running throughout it of child endangerment. One of the first chapters takes place in an abandoned town where all of the adults have disappeared and left the children alone, who are slowly being turned into deformed abominations. That same chapter features the story of a young girl who was killed by her abusive father while the townspeople turned a blind eye. Another chapter has you play as a young girl in a Circus of Fear, and other chapters feature things like alien babies being thrown into a furnace. As the game progresses and you learn more about the main character, you find out that he and his wife had been searching for a cure for their unborn child, who is suffering from a fatal disease. This is compounded by the fact that the protagonist was severely traumatized by the death of his little sister when he was a boy.
  • Killer 7, already a pretty disturbing game, has this scene (warning: NSFW), basically the sum of all Adult Fears wrapped up into just under two pants-crappingly horrific minutes.
    • For those of you that can't watch it: Curtis Blackburn confronts his former partner Pedro (who has turned against him) and reveals that he killed (and probably raped) Pedro's wife — in front of his son — before killing his son as well. At the same time he mocks them, commenting on his wife's "unique" mole and calling his son a "sissy" for not trying to save his mother. When Pedro babbles his daughter's name, Curtis tosses him his daughter's head. Curtis then kills Pedro, but by that point the man probably welcomed it.
    • Not to mention it's later shown that Curtis kidnaps and rapes young girls. And then makes hauntingly creepy taxidermy dolls out of them.
    • And Susie, who seemed to have had a decent life but killed her own mother just because she wanted her to go to school. A reminder than no matter how good a parent you are, sometimes your kid can turn into a Complete Monster.
  • The introduction scene to Bioshock 2. Super effective against anyone immersing themselves in the perspective. Double that for male parents.
  • For those who are lonely and/or prone to depression, there's probably nothing scarier than the ending of Yume Nikki. In a nutshell, Madotsuki finally kills herself, and the only ones who mourn her are the monsters from her dreams.
  • Modern Warfare 2's mission "Of Their Own Accord" opens with an automated public service broadcast as the Ultranationalists invade the United States. That single PSA broadcast is enough to scare the piss out of anyone viewing it, because it indicates just how far along the "To Shit" meter everything has gone.
    • "No Russian"
    • Also, Modern Warfare had a wonderful Fridge Horror scene that qualifies as Adult Fear: "Death From Above". You play as an AC-130 gunner, and it becomes terrifying as you begin to feel the detachment from killing that such a one-sided conflict presents.
  • Planescape: Torment runs on nearly every dark trope ever, and this one is no exception. Listing every character that plays on an adult fear would take a page of its own, so sticking to party members:
    • In a very long fantasy metaphor for abusive personalities, the Nameless One destroys everything he touches and hurts everyone he cares about. No matter how much some of his incarnations might want to, he will never be able to stop. He finally does committing suicide.
    • Dak'kon has sworn a vow of absolute obedience to someone who is frequently a complete monster, resulting in plentiful on-screen psychological abuse if the player has the stomach for it. And that's not even touching on lost faith or having lived through a genocide. Ignus and Vhailor have lost their basic humanity to traumatic experiences and zealotry. Annah's relationship with her father figure isn't exactly a healthy one, and she promptly finds herself drawn towards an equally unhealthy relationship with a much (much, much) older man. Fall-From-Grace was sold into slavery by her mother. Morte was physically abused but stuck around out of the conviction that it was somehow his fault and he deserved it, and Nordom is the very picture of childlike innocence lost.
      • Deionarra is a literal Love Martyr, but what sends this into Adult Fear territory is that her relationship isn't some Fantastic Aesop—she's simply so enthralled with romance she doesn't realize her lover's true nature until it's too late... rather like many real world people in abusive relationships.
  • A recent trailer for the upcoming game Dead Island, has a man desperately trying to save his wife and young daughter from the zombies. None of them survive. Watch it here.
  • Persona 4: The last victim of the kidnapper is your little cousin Nanako. Needless to say, her father Ryotaro Dojima goes through absolute hell, alongside you.
    • You know how in Real Life, serial killers tend to be people the victims know, right? Well, the guy pulling the strings here is none other than Tooru Adachi, Dojima's partner. He's visited the Dojima residence on at least two occasions as a seemingly-trustworthy guy, and knows Nanako very well...
      • Adult, nothing. That bit is meant to set up Adult Fears in the gamer playing a high-school student — and it does. Nanako is set up brilliantly as a constant, pleasant, cheerful part of the game. Not hearing her voice when you get home from school is first scary (when she's lost) and then extremely sad (when she's laid up in the hospital). No teenager should have to deal with that — and it would be a cold-hearted person (or one not paying that much attention to the story) that didn't feel some of the fear and loss in those scenes.
    • Even more so: if you want to give in and punish her kidnapper? You will get the Bad Ending and Nanako will die. It's a really easy option and one that many newbies are likely to take, and then BAM. Kid is 100% dead, and you'll lose the chance to get her "fixed".
    • What, just the Protagonist? It may be less spectacular, but the interaction with Mrs. Hisako Kuroda touches pretty close on how awful it is to watch your spouse die before you, as well as the pain of old age and having a loved one suffer from memory loss. Yeah, Mr. Kuroda had Alzheimers, thank you. (Even if it's not treated by name).
  • Rule of Rose arguably does a reversal of this trope, showing how serious and poignant child's fears can be: abandonment, loss of parents, rejection, bullying, betrayal...Notably the game only implies, but refuses to show the genuine adult fears, like child abuse and murder.
  • Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All, Case 4. So I heard you like defending a client who is clearly a Complete Monster and having your dear partner's life depend on his acquittal.
    • Just ask real attorneys, who will most likely find themselves defending a guy like Matt. The scary and sad part comes when the miracle most likely won't ever happen for them.
    • The first game has Dee Vasquez, who has ties to The Mafia. Towards the end of the last investigation day, when Phoenix and Maya uncover some critical evidence, Vasquez summons her Mafia goons and orders them "erased"--a cruel reminder of how terrifying organized crime can be. Only a Big Damn Heroes moment by Gumshoe prevents a premature end to Phoenix's and Maya's lives.
      • The third game has Furio Tigre who is also a gangster and also, almost erased Phoenix (again saved only by an opportunistic entrance of Gumshoe).
  • Apollo Justice has Kristoph Gavin trying to kill a 12-year-old girl, Vera. The method? So utterly sneaky and "innocent": since the girl has the bad habit of biting on her nails, he'll just put poison in her nail polish bottles, so she'll ingest it while seeking solace for her Shrinking Violet nature. Not only it's sneaky, but like a punch in the gut since it involves attacking a shy little girl when she's at her most vulnerable — and not exactly easy to discover.
  • The Ace Attorney games also can raise fears about, "what if the person you either love or are starting to love is actually a much worse person than you think they are?" It obviously gets taken to ridiculous extremes in a series of murder mysteries.
    • In Justice for All, Celeste Inpax gets burned by two different people because of this, and Juan would have found out that Adrian was just using him if he hadn't gotten killed (though plenty would argue that he was worse than her). It's sort of averted when you find out that Regina getting Bat "killed" was an accident.
    • In Trials and Tribulations, Doug, Phoenix, and Terry all suffer when they fail to spot the major Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Viola is far from a saint, but she also has to go through the pain of realizing that all the bad things done to help {{[spoiler| Furio Tigre}} were for a very sincere, yet fully unrequited love. Video Games has to find out that Video Games. Family members of Video Games also have to go through this for a different sort of love, with the biggest example being Video Games.
    • In Apollo Justice, Video Games
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations, Video Games
  • Mother 3. Imagine your spouse being killed by a creature acting against its own will. Frightening enough. Now imagine your child, only about 7–9 years old, going to avenge their parent's death, and going missing. Imagine never finding him. It Gets Worse — imagine Video Games
    • They don't call it "heartrending" for nothing.
  • The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask does this intentionally, since it's a deconstructed coming-of-age story made to contrast with The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Link takes the role of a young adult who deals with adult problems, yet is still given the perspective of a child. It's mixed in with more fantastic problems too, but most of the problems have to do with adult relationships.
    • Lots of the NPCs are dealing with very adult issues, and Link gets to see both sides of these things from different NPCs. A father is grieving for the loss of a son who is missing and presumed dead, while a toddler is raging because of the death of his father. A newlywed is about to die and laments that he will never be able to see the his children born, while a child is about to lose her father to a illness. One man can't show his face to his fiancee because he broke a promise, while another has been imprisoned because his lover's family thinks he is responsible for her disappearance. A woman about to be wed fears that her fiancee left because he no longer loves her, while a wife can't work and can barely function because of her husband's disappearance and the deteriorating health of her children (and there is nothing she can do about it.) Guards are torn between doing their job and fleeing for their lives, while soldiers obey orders for a war that has already ended.
      • Link himself is searching for a childhood friend that he may never see again.
    • Wind Waker and Twilight Princess have this too. In the former, Ganondorf has various young girls kidnapped because they share a couple physical similarities to Princess Zelda, among these is Link's child sister. The parents of these lost kids are appropriately freaked out. In the latter, the children of Link's hometown are stolen by Bulblins and much of the first half of the game is about Link tracking down and rescuing all of them.
  • Nie R is all about a father desperately trying to save his terminally ill daughter while facing impossible odds.
  • An old one for video games, but has to be said. King's Quest III has Graham paralyzed by grief. His son was kidnapped from his cradle and enslaved by his enemies somewhere, his kingdom has been burnt to cinders by a dragon that his best efforts cannot defeat with innocents suffering and dying on his watch...and then his only remaining child offers herself up as a Human Sacrifice. The canonical game doesn't play it up, but the Fan Remake games and Fan Sequel The Silver Lining don't make an attempt to downplay it.
  • Fire Emblem Akaneia has a main villain, Lang, who not only massacres whole villages if one person rebels, but kills boys and rapes girls. You can imagine how well that was taken by Marth and his group. It's also invoked in the backstory of Lena's pupil Maillesia (which involved her going into hiding and having to pretend she's much younger than she truly is to avoid him or his troops) and in Yubello and Yumina's (as the fallen heirs of Ludvick, Lang and others kill their guardian and then use them as pawns)
    • There's also Princess Maria, whose own brother Michalis uses as a hostage to force their sister Minerva to fight for him. As a result, Maria spends a long part of her life as a hostage, and Minerva can't do anything but fight on the evil Michalis's orders to ensure she won't die.
  • The Fire Emblem Jugdral games bring up the Video Games An horrifying project in which boys and girls from all the Jugdral continent are Video Games The parents are more often than not killed when they try to oppose to this. The heroes, several of them being very young teenagers not much older than these kids, have to fight themselves to save these poor kids (and in Thracia, more than one chara who joins the troupe actually does so specifically either to thanks them for saving the children, or to make up for having been in the side of the Empire); meanwhile, more than one villain in the game is troubled by the existence of such deals, and those who aren't are pretty much Complete Monsters.
  • Pokémon Black and White gives us Video Games. To rub salt in that, Video Games.
    • Preceded in Pokemon Platinum by a post-game encounter with an elderly man who laments that he knew his grandson was living in an emotionally unhealthy home (whether it was abusive or just that severely neglectful is left to speculation), but didn't do anything to help until it was already too late to save him. It's heavily implied that his grandson is Cyrus, the Big Bad of the game. Imagine living with the guilt of knowing you could have prevented that and didn't.
  • In Deus Ex the player has the option to read the emails of a cyborg government agent. In one email he expresses fears about new innovation's in cybernetics that will render him obsolete and useless thus forcing the government to fire him and leaving him without specialist care he requires to function.
  • Trying to protect your son by training him only to find out he's run away because you pushed him too hard.
  • From the romance horror that is Catherine:
    • On day 3, Vincent unexpectedly finding out that Video Games. This sort of revelation hits him like a truck, and it would with any other couple if they weren't Video Games.
    • Picture this: You've been going out with your girlfriend for the past five years, and she's been talking about getting married and making things permanent. It hasn't been the most exciting of relationships, but for the most part you're content with it. One day, you hit up the local bar, and the next thing you remember, aside from a nightmare that you barely even remember, is that you've woken up next to a random beautiful woman, and it's implied that the two of you did...things the night before. Still not freaking out? Not only does this woman not know you already have a girlfriend, but she threatens to kill you if she finds out you're seeing someone else. It certainly doesn't help that this Yandere girl does have everything you could ever want in a girlfriend, which now throws you into deciding between your longtime lover and this new girl. And just when you're contemplating how to get yourself out of this mess, you find yourself in several situations where these two women nearly find out about each other. Welcome to the life of Vincent Brooks!
  • The entire premise of the Max Payne series, which not only has his wife and baby daughter killed, but later leads to him being framed for getting too close to the truth, leaving him all alone in a Crapsack World with no-one to trust. Despite seemingly tying up all loose ends in the first game, It Gets Worse (hence the sequel).
  • For all the Narm you might expect in a JRPG, Final Fantasy XIII does explore the feelings of a single father whose only son is taken away from him by The Government, as well as those of a woman who loses her younger sister and of a man who loses his fiancee (same person) to a fate even worse.
  • Katawa Shoujo. Think about this... how horrifying would it be if you can hear one of your friends in distress... but you can't see them, have no way of finding them, and don't know how serious the problem is? Congratulations, you now know Video Games feels when Video Games And it happens in Video Games's own route, so it takes place Video Games
  • Kingdom Hearts. Imagine this: It's stormy outside — really stormy. Your child has been in his room all evening. You go upstairs to call him in for dinner... the window's open, he's gone, and so are his two friends and their boats. He doesn't come back for years — during which you have no idea where he is, or if he's safe, or if he can ever come back. (Of course, the parents of the main characters never get more than a shadow in a doorway...) On the other hand, Word of God states that a world remains frozen in time once it is swallowed by the darkness. Also, due to events of Chain of Memories, the parents forget about their son until Namine restored Sora's memories, which means that they only started worrying at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II.
  • Very little of World of Warcraft is particularly scary for most people, because it's not that kind of game, but amidst all the Money Spiders and Eldritch Abomination Loot Pinatas, there's at least one storyline where one questgiver is the ghost of a little girl who doesn't understand that she's dead and her hometown is in ruins. You wind up helping her find her doll, among other things, because she's lonely.
  • Super Street Fighter IV: Crimson Viper's win quote against Oni,
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. The real kicker? What's the point of fighting a god (or a being of pure evil) trying to kill you? Yet, your chances of survival are uncertain given that you are also a mother raising a daughter...

"Lauren... Don't worry, I'll be home to tuck you in tonight."


  • in Tales of the Questor, we have the arc "Hunter of Shadows." Imagine that your child has been suffering from inexplicable night terrors—unable to sleep for fear of monstrous creatures creeping out of the shadows at night to get him. Then one stormy night you come running to his room to find out that his terrors are REAL-- and are crawling up onto his bed after him....
  • This is heavily implied to be why Tiger became a superhero and Spinnerette's mentor. His wife demanded he give up crime-fighting out of fear of him dying. He complies... until a gunman opens fire at his daughters' school. His daughters were fine, but the news traveled slowly.
  • The Korean webtoon Trace is unique among other X-man-esque spin-offs in the fact that it follows the journey of a middle aged business man as he develops mutant powers, rather than the usual gang of high school teenagers. Of course, since this a Crapsack World he lives in, his wife and daughter are taken away by the government under the pretense of normal screening and testing, when really
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  Talk about preying on a typical father's worst feelings of helplessness.
  • In the "Just Today" story arc of Something Positive, Davan's father Fred has to deal with being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He asks his wife Faye to take the day off from work to spend time with him so he can tell her. In the end, he can't bring himself to tell her and they just spend a peaceful day together. As they go to bed for the night, she thanks him for spending the day with her and they share a goodnight kiss (the caption for this strip is "Sometimes it's about life...". The next morning,
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  • Homestuck: Poor Jane's dad. It's hard enough that their have been attempts on his teenage daughter's life, but then he had to watch her
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Web Original

  • Snopes has an entire collection of Urban Legends with this trope in mind under the Parental Nightmares section.
  • This Bash quote.
  • The Nostalgia Critic's kindergarten drawing of his parents as monsters bloodily tearing him apart has a tendency to affect real life parents more than the teenagers of his fanbase.
  • Potter Puppet Pals parodies the whole concept of Adult Fear in "Harry's Nightmares", where, nestled in among the bizarre and occasionally juvenile ("In one dream, I was middle aged! Yuck!") traumas that haunt his noggin, was the dream he had where he gave birth to Ron, and raised him from infancy, but one day, he misplaced him, and that terrified him, because it meant he had failed as a parent.
  • In Silver, of the Elcenia series, Ehail and Gyre start adopting shren children—essentially, these children have a disability which is very much looked down upon, which is why the children's parents left them.
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  Ehail and Gyre end up losing their children
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Western Animation

  • Madeline may have Tasted Like Diabetes at times, but the movie Madeline: Lost in Paris made great use of this when Madeline is supposedly adopted by a man claiming to be her uncle, only for it to turn out that he's a serial kidnapper, has kidnapped multiple girls this same way, and now all of them are forced to do hard labor in a lace factory—and one is horribly ill. Child labor is/was extremely common, and the idea of someone claiming to be family taking away one's child never to be seen again hit waaaay too close to home for many parents.
  • The Simpsons episode "Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily", where due to several misunderstandings, child welfare accused Homer and Marge of negligence and their children are taken away from them. It was particularly heartbreaking when Homer and Marge wander in their house to each of their kids' empty bedrooms. And when Marge and Homer heard Bart's signature ring, they rushed down to the front door, faces joyful, only to see nobody was there.
    • Speaking of the Simpsons, there was the episode where Homer's mother Mona dies. Homer has been reunited with his mother for the first time in a while, after being abandoned by her again, and he's genuinely angry at that. So he tells her that he doesn't want to forgive her, and goes away... only to find, later that night when he comes down to apologize to her, that poor Mona died in her sleep. For many adults, the realization that they are highly likely to see their parents die, and the idea of a parent (or any loved one really) dying after an argument is... sobering.
    • The episode where Lisa finds a beached whale and tries desperately to save it hits us with the "not every life can be saved and parents can't solve everything" message, made even more painful by Lisa's Hope Spot dream where Bumbling Dad Homer of all people rescues the whale by organizing a ton of different people for the sole purpose of making Lisa happy
    • In "5000 Keys", Maggie is locked alone in the car.
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    • Parodied when Lisa tricks Homer into letting her go downtown by herself on the bus. He casually tells Lenny and Carl this, and they're horrified. Cue Homer making up a story about how Lisa is so smart she overloaded a computer, which Lenny and Carl don't fall for, and Homer finally running off to save Lisa.
    • "Alone Again, Natura-Diddly"—Ned and Maude Flanders go to a racetrack and Maude, naturally offended by Homer's inevitable antics, gets up to go get her family some hot dogs. They look away, and Maude dies in a freak accident moments later.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Operation: W.H.I.T.E.H.O.U.S.E.. A young idealistic rebel wakes up one day and discovers that he has grown old and respectable and abandoned his ideals. His old comrades have become corrupt supporters of The Man, he is married to a shrew who used to be his girlfriend, his son despises him, his best friend has been driven insane by his betrayal and
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  • In DuckTales episode "Nothing to Fear", Magica DeSpell used real-life images of Uncle Scrooge & co.'s worst fears to descend upon them. For Uncle Scrooge, this took the form of being told by Huey, Dewey and Louie that they secretly couldn't stand him and they only wanted his money, for HD&L it was that unca Scrooge never loved them.
  • In Lilo and Stitch: The Series, the Halloween episode featured an experiment that could transform into a person's worst fear. For Nani it turned into Social Services Agent Cobra Bubbles telling her that he had to take Lilo away because she was an unsuitable guardian, a very notable event from the original movie.
  • In the two-part pilot of Young Justice, the Justice League are angry that Robin, Aqualad and Kid Flash ran off on their own to investigate Cadmus without telling them. But when we find out that
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  Then in the season 1 finale we find out
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    • The Young Justice episode "Misplaced" explores the terror of parents being separated from their children on both sides. Sportsmaster deliberately invokes this by inciting a mob to lay siege to STAR labs on adult world accusing them of making their children vanish as a distraction
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  On kid world, there are a quite a few scenes of children being endangered by the sudden disappearance of their parents. Near the very end,
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  is bad enough, but
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  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
    • An episode where Rarity has to spend a week with her much younger sister Sweetie Belle, with her essentially taking a parent role for in every scene they have together. They get on each other's nerves until they declare that they don't want to be sisters anymore, and Sweetie Belle runs away. Rarity soon has a My God, What Have I Done? moment and heads out to find her, and while the next scene has her doing just that, the fact that her epiphany happened in the daytime and the next scene is at night indicates that she's spent quite a long time desperately searching everywhere in town, worried about what might have happened to her baby sister.
    • Then there's season one episode "The Stare Master". The Cutie Mark Crusaders venture into the Everfree Forest, in the middle of the night, to find a missing chicken. Fluttershy, who was entrusted with their care, goes after them and bumps into a petrified Twilight Sparkle; she then realizes that a Cockatrice, a very dangerous chicken-shaped monster, is near...
    • "The Secret of My Excess" is so far the largest example from the series. Twilight gets to watch as her surrogate child, Spike, goes through an unknown health problem before maturing into a monster and becoming a threat to everyone and everything around him. Spike finds out that growing up will involve destroying everything around him and abandoning or hurting everyone he holds dear.
    • The "Baby Cakes" episode featured a scene that's every parent's and babysitter's nightmare. Pinkie turns her back on the babies she's taking care of, and when she checks on them again, the babies have disappeared. To emphasize the Adult Fear, the following tense minutes where she's looking for them are even shot like something straight out of a horror movie.
    • "Dragon Quest" has Spike falling in with the wrong crowd.
  • In the Darkwing Duck pilot episode, Darkwing gets captured by cops while Taurus Bulba kidnaps Gosalyn for the arming code he thinks she has. Seeing Darkwing helplessly screaming out her name is pretty chilling for a children's afternoon cartoon show.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender features all sorts of adult fear: the danger of having your family die, the inescapable life of a refugee, inability to keep your loved ones safe....
  • Adventure Time has a major adult fear as
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  backstory: slowly and against your will going violently insane, driving loved ones away in fear and hate, aware the entire time of the slow degradation.
    • And there's Season 4 in general. While the show in general becomes darker as it progresses, Season 4 deals with Finn's changing perspective and feelings. There's something horrifying about watching him unable to process how he feels, as well as his rejections from various girls. It takes this troper back to when I was 13...Not a fun time. Watching him so realistically deal with these issues just makes me feel 13 again. Special mention goes to the episode "Hug Wolves", which is either about rape or sex; either way, it's about being unable to have a proper outlet for your pent up emotions and how it affects your relationships with those around you.
  • One episode of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon featured monsters from The Realm kidnapping children on Earth by dragging them through portals under their beds. The episode opens up with a boy being taken while his father desperately and futilely tries to save him.
    • In another, Hank (who is 15 year old) is kidnapped alongside Bobby (as much 8). Then Venger blackmails Hank into betraying his friends (including Sheila, Bobby's older sister) under the threat of torturing or killing Bobby. Considering that Hank is the Team Dad and often responsible for the team's safety, and that Sheila is a borderline mother figure to Bobby ever since being spirited away...
    • And then we have Last Illusion. Varla's parents love her unconditionally even when she's the local Master of Illusion, but since Venger wants her and their neighbors fear her to death, they cannot do anything to save their poor 12-year-old daughter from him. For worse, Varla's powers are such a strain on her that they're apparently killing her.
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