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A simple Practical Joke where an object is placed over a door, with the intent that it or the contents will fall on the person who fully opens the door. Most frequently this is a pail of water or more noxious liquid, but erasers and other messy objects can also be used. Often results in Covered in Gunge or Powder Gag. Occasionally used semi- seriously by filling the bucket with a deadly or dangerous substance.
This trope is subverted about as often as it works properly. Frequently, the intended victim will spot the trap, or come in by another way, or an unintended victim will be the one to enter (often the original prankster).
Anime and Manga
- At the beginning of Naruto, it was done with erasers. Kakashi fell for it.
- The eraser variant happens in Negima too. When Negi comments on how uncreative it is, he takes another step forward and immediately hits another (much more creative) trap that did include a bucket.
- Attempted in the anime Prétear by Mayune. Just after she finishes putting up the trap (with some help from Tanaka the butler), Himeno, for whom the trap was intended, comes out of the room through the wrong side of the door, leading to Mayune becoming the victim of her own joke. Himeno doesn't even notice this.
- Satoko does this to Keiichi a few times in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. In one instance, Keiichi spots the bucket and moves it out of the way. However, this makes him walk straight into another trap Satoko set up; she intentionally made the first trap obvious for that purpose.
- Done in Urusei Yatsura to the new Mr. Hanawa: he steps on a floor-waxing pad, slides across the classroom and up a tilted platform, backflips and kicks a bucket out of a student's hands, sticks his landing, only to have the bucket fall on his head. The students are so impressed with the routine, the clap and compliment him.
- A more complex form than is necessary is set up twice in a Fairy Tail omake. It never hits its intended target.
- There's actually a Yu-Gi-Oh! card called "Trap of Board Eraser" that shows a bunch of goblins doing this.
- As seen in the above picture, Jimmy Olsen once did this to Superman by rigging the bucket over a wall, correctly predicting that Superman would burst through it, à la Kool-Aid Man.
- The first Superman/Spider-Man team-up comic, made back in the 1970s, had Steve Lombard trying to pull this gag on Clark Kent. However, Clark (a.k.a. You-Know-Who) used his Super Breath to prevent the bucket from falling. When Steve checked out the gag, he got drenched.
- Superman's foe the Prankster once rigged up a lethal variant involving a water tank holding several hundred gallons of water suspended above an aircraft hangar door. If his kidnap victim, Perry White, managed to escape, opening the door would release the tank.
- Subverted in Horror of Party Beach, when the victim turned out to be a bunch of slime monsters.
- The most recent The Parent Trap remake has this gag with Lindsey Lohan.
- This was a common place gag in many of The Three Stooges shorts.
- Carrie has the titular protagonist getting a bucket of pig blood dumped on her head after she is named prom queen. It does not end well.
- This is done to Richard Pryor in his movie The Toy by the kid that buys him. Near the end of the movie he does it right back to the kid.
- Good Omens has Crowley do this with Holy Water, and uses it to kill a Duke of Hell. Notably, the bucket of Holy Water was treated like a bomb.
- Considering Crowley's a demon too, it would be pretty stupid of him not to treat it like a bomb.
- Carpe Jugulum featured a Holy Water Bucket Booby Trap as well, this time used against vampires.
- In the Discworld novel Making Money, Lord Vetinari subverts this trope, being wise enough to expect this from the Fools' Guild. A similar thing happens when the City Watch visit the Guild in Men At Arms.
- In Sourcery, a bucket of long dried-up whitewash is part of the not-exactly-a-Death Course created by a king with an odd sense of humour.
- In one of PG Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, Bertie Wooster was trying to help a friend gain confidence by seeing a bag of flour fall on the head of his boss. Jeeves came up with a much better solution, but Bertie forgot to take the bag of flour down, and wound up covered in the stuff.
- In a Star Trek novel, this happens to Worf at Starfleet Academy. The prankster got to spend some time in the infirmary.
- In Michael Jackson's autobiography, Moonwalk, he mentions that he and his brothers loved this prank and would set up buckets of water over the hotel room door all the time while on tour, trying to soak each other or anybody else who might come to see them. He says this even continued through the Jacksons' last tour, the Victory Tour in 1984, when Michael would have been twenty-six years old.
- Regularly attempted in the Billy Bunter stories, usually with the bucket containing a noxious mixture of ink, soot and gum. Rarely was the trap sprung by the intended victim: usually the form master Mr. Quelch ended up drenched, and always seemed to know who was responsible.
Live Action TV
- The quote on this page comes from Drake and Josh, where Megan and her mean celebrity friend decide to prank Drake and Josh with the bucket over the door. However, it backfires, and knocks the celebrity unconscious.
- Think of a show with a summer camp: this gag inevitably appears. It must be a rule, or something.
- An episode of Cheers had it as well.
- In the That '70s Show episode "Prank Day" Eric tries to do this to Kelso. The bucket falls on Red instead.
- Originally, the ending of the Red Dwarf episode "Dimension Jump" involved Rimmer trying to do this to Ace with a pile of kippers. The gag was to backfire, with the last shot being a freezeframe of the kippers falling over Rimmer... but then someone realized the gag made no sense, since the kippers would fall through Virtual Ghost Rimmer. The scene was cut, one of the few times Red Dwarf worked to avoid Fridge Logic.
- On Sesame Street, Harvey Kneeslapper once had a bucket of confetti triggered by a rope. A series of subversions followed.
- In a rare turning of the tables, Frank Burns does this to Hawkeye in the Mash episode "Showtime".
- In Parker Lewis Can't Lose, Parker pulls this on his principal with a box full of popcorn in one episode, only to later save her from a similar trap using Jell-O. At the end of the episode, he finds Big Guy Kubiak munching away on the Jell-O, despite already having eaten several pizzas Parker had bribed him with for a previous favor. When asked about it, Kubiak simply says: "There's always room for Jell-O!"
- This also happened to Hannah Spearritt of the group and show S Club 7, who received a bucket of green slime dumped on her head by her bandmates.
- A bucket of flour was dumped over Tsukushi's head to go along with her traditional first episode Produce Pelting in the Korean version of Boys Over Flowers
- An episode of The Suite Life On Deck had Zack attempt to do this to Woody but it ended up hitting a Hot Amazon that was captain of she ships boys wrestling team afterwich she delivered a Ass Kicks You until Zack in desperation said he wanted to go out with her
- The defunct French kids' show Les Mini-keums had the character Coco rig this while highlighting the rules for the prank actually working: There must be someone in the trapped room, the door must not be a sliding one, and you must use a bucket, not a plastic bowl. At the end of the short, he walks into the elevator... Only for a plastic bowl full of water to fall on him as he passes the sliding door.
- Referenced in an episode of Greg the Bunny, when it's mentioned that Greg had a very bad reaction to a bucket prank. Greg points out that he got trapped under the bucket for several hours and almost suffocated.
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, Kirk remembered Finnagin, the Class Clown from his academy days. (Fight me, Jimmy!) It seems one of Finnagin's favorite pranks was the bucket over the door trick. One wonders how that was supposed to work with the sliding doors seen everywhere on Star Trek.
- In the pilot episode of Moonlighting, David Addison has an empty bucket perched over his office door, apparently on general principles. When receptionist Agnes DiPesto falls victim to the prank, David remarks, "Ms. DiPesto, you're looking a little pail."
- Wanting to get the attention of the their leader Stone Cold Steve Austin alliance members Shawn Stasiak and Stacy Keibler set one of these up for Kurt Angle. Knowing that he goes to catering to have a glass of milk before each match they put a bucket of sour rancid milk over the door before his match. Unfortunately for them Angle was not the next person to come into the room, it was Austin's buxom wife Debra who received the gungy surprise shower, Stone Cold was not amused but the audience loved it
- Mel Edison in The Prisoner Of Second Avenue gets a bucket of water dumped on him twice by his upstairs neighbors.
- Monkey Island 2 Le Chucks Revenge has you do this as part of a puzzle.
- Played straight in the Spy vs. Spy video game, where you could set up a bucket of something deadly (appears to be electrified water, complete with X-Ray Sparks) for your opponent...but if you forget which entrance it is in, you'd kill yourself.
- The "Tool Use" skill in Avernum is illustrated with a picture of an unfortunate individual about to spring a trap of this nature. The bucket is labeled "acid." (Avernum does not take itself particularly seriously.)
- Dwarf Fortress - not that it had no better traps, but a closed door blocks vertical movement too, thus if floor on the level above it is channeled out and something is dumped into the hole (buckets and other containers won't spill contents, but an arbitrary number of anvils or e.g. pouring some magma works), it won't fall until the door is opened or broken.
- Catena in this strip, using a shed tarantula skin.
- Questionable Content has it subverted beautifully in this strip.
- Occurs in Homestuck.
- SpongeBob SquarePants, "Just One Patty": Squidward discovers that the Krusty Krab's security system involves a bucket full of gasoline over the front door... and a lit match... underwater, somehow... For obvious reasons, this is sometimes cut out.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: in "Squeeze the Day" Bloo and Mac are alone in the house and decide to put a bucket over the front door. Only the others would not be back for hours, and Bloo wants to see it now, so they try to do it to themselves, with disastrous results.
- Occurs in The Simpsons, Homer intends to play this prank on the dean of Springfield University, however, somebody got there first, and Homer ends up with a bucket glued to his head.
- Done fairly horrifically in Monkey Dust. Noodles, a Bugs Bunny-esque cartoon rabbit, takes revenge on the scientists who perform experiments on him by propping an anvil on a door. Needless to say, the scientist doesn't spring back into shape two seconds later.
- In an episode of U.S. Acres/Orson's Farm, Roy rigs his coop door with a bucket so that when Orson walks through the door, "the bucket will fall, and WHAMMO! Drenched porker." He also intends to follow up with super-hot tabasco-flavored gum, which will come back to bite him later, but for now, Orson opens the door, and the bucket doesn't fall, despite its precarious motion. Roy offers the gum; Orson accepts but doesn't chew it. After a discussion involving adding a link to the goody-go-round, Orson closes the door. The rule of comedic timing in full effect, the bucket falls while Roy ponders the failure of his two tricks, not soaking him until he's trying to remember what the second one was.