Some viral videos feature animals. Some feature elaborately choreographed wedding proposals. And some feature people scaring the bejeezus out of each other for the entertainment of millions watching on their computers. In honor of Halloween and all associated acts of mischief, we’re saluting these creatively warped individuals and their efforts to terrify others.
A heads up about the below videos: Some feature some NSFW language. Swearing, after all, is how a lot of people seem to react to being frightened. Also, most of these videos feature a lot of screaming, so maybe listen on your headphones so your officemates don’t wonder what’s going down in your cubicle.
1. Devil Baby Attack
If someone mentioned the film title The Devil’s Due, would you know to think of the 2014 supernatural horror film with Zach Gilford and Allison Miller? The film did well enough at the box office, but perhaps not quite as well as this demonic baby prank did online. As of this week, it’s been viewed 52 million times. And no wonder: That’s one freaky baby.
2. Silly Scarecrow Prank
Not all viral pranks have the backing of a movie studio, however. This one is just a guy dressed up as a silly scarecrow – with some gruesome zombie makeup beneath. No big special effects here. Also? Nice Wizard of Oz reference!
3. Test Drive
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Scares also don’t have to be rooted in startling people or freaking them out with the macabre. In this Pepsi-sponsored spot, NASCAR racer Jeff Gordon poses as a would-be car buyer who takes a Camaro (and the car salesman) on one terrifying test drive. Gordon made a sequel video the following year.
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4. Corpse Elevator Prank
You’re in an elevator. Suddenly two priests wheel in a large box that turns out to be a coffin. And before they can return, the door slides shut, trapping you in with the dearly deceased. What would you do? Probably scream, if this video is any indication. The cartoon sound effects do little to diminish how scary this would be.
5. Spooky Car Wash
Another place where you’re essentially trapped in case anyone wants to mess with you? The car wash. This Ford-sponsored bit probably scared more than a few victims into keeping their cars dirty.
6. Hungry Bear Loose in NYC
Greek yogurt brand Chobani sponsored the creation of an animatronic bear suit – you know, to promote yogurt. It remains to be seen if this fairly realistic-looking bear turned many people on to Chobani or any other variety of Greek yogurt, but at least it managed to startle some New Yorkers.
Don’t drink and drive. That’s the message that one ad agency attempted to deliver to patrons of an England bar in an especially jarring way. The guys themselves seem more traumatized than anything, but in the context of the ad itself, the message is clear.
8. Beauty Shop Surprise
These poor women – they were just going to the salon to get their hair done, and instead they were tormented by a spooky two-way mirror and a girl doing the reverse-spider walk from The Exorcist. You have to hope they got their treatments comped that day, right?
9. Japanese Mirror Prank
But that beauty shop prank is really just an updated version of one originally performed on a Japanese TV show. It had folks innocently checking themselves out in a makeup mirror only to be stalked by the girl from The Ring – or Ringu, in this case. The big difference? She bursts out of the wall, rather than just lurching around the corner, and she really chases her victims down.
10. Drive-Thru Robot Driver Prank
When it comes to prank videos, the people who work fast food drive-thru windows bear more than their share of the burden. They’re a captive audience, after all, and they’ve been subjected to some mean-spirited pranks. This one, however, we’re okay with. While a few of the victims are genuinely terrified of the apparent robot driver – and who wouldn’t be? – it’s in no way punishing these people just for working at the drive-thru. At the very least, we hope it gave them a good story to take home at the end of the day.
11. Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise
In an instance of viral promotion for the 2013 remake of Carrie, coffee shop patrons were fooled into thinking they were watching a real-life Carrie unleash some psychic powers. The actual film only did so-so, but this video has racked up 64 million views. Well done, pranksters.
12. Ouija Psychic Terror
To promote the 2014 horror film Ouija, this viral video employed the talents of professional eye-popper Jalisa Thompson and one very scary corpse living beneath the floorboards. This prank, the coffee shop one and the devil baby one were all perpetrated by the viral marketing agency Thinkmodo, and you can hear the brains behind the scares discuss their work here.
13. The Ring-Style Wake Up Prank
All the other pranks on this list were unleashed on strangers. However this prank, which incorporated a fairly well-done puppet of the girl from The Ring mounted to a fake TV screen, was played on the prankster’s girlfriend. That either makes it better or worse, depending on your take on pranks. The official YouTube description notes, “I wanted to see how my girlfriend would react to a ghost coming out the TV trying to grab hold of her.” Dude, how did you think she’d react?