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WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

"'I'm Yul Brynner and I'm dead now.'... I'm sitting there, thinking, what the fuck is he selling?"


This is a message from a dead character, either left in the knowledge of their death, or left in such a way that it won't be seen unless they die. Often it contains useful secrets, the reason why he's dead, the actual information that got him killed in the first place, and an apology for dying and getting the reader involved.

Somehow, the message can end up in the hands of its intended recipient even under circumstances that can border on a post-mortem Gambit Roulette. The subversion where it winds up in the hands of the villain instead is also common, and often happens because the dead person has the Idiot Ball. In yet a third possibility, it sometimes does get to the intended recipient—who turns out to be in league with the villain.

Quite often, Will Foresight is subverted when the person who made the will adds, after "I'm dead", "unless..." and adds a humorous (if unlikely) hypothetical meant to lighten the mood.

In present-day and future settings, a video- or holo-recording will often be used instead of a written letter.

The message will always begin with a sentence along the lines of, "If you're seeing this, it means I'm already dead." Often it comes in an envelope labeled "To be opened in the event of my untimely death."

Most suicide notes fall into this category.

Compare Apocalyptic Log, Video Wills, Note to Self:. Also compare Couldn't Find a Pen, which is more "Dying Man Writing" (as the person is in the process of dying and not already dead)

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.

Examples of Dead Man Writing include:


  • In a famous commercial, Yul Brynner said "Now that I'm gone I tell you, whatever you do, just don't smoke." Watch it here.

Anime and Manga

  • Used in Bleach, during the Soul Society arc, with a letter from Captain Aizen to Momo Hinamori. Then again, he isn't exactly dead yet.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh!! anime has one in the Doma filler saga, where Pegasus speaks to the gang as a projection after he has his soul stolen. Even if it wasn't filler, it wouldn't have been possible because Pegasus died in the manga.
    • That's the thing though, he didn't die in the anime, the anime and manga are separate continuities. Pegasus even shows up in the GX anime, alive and well.
  • Appeared in Vampire Princess Miyu, in the episode "Woman Priest", in the classic "The letter ends up in the hands of its designated recipient against all probability" fashion. And, of course, it opened with "If you are reading this, it means that I have been devoured by the Shinma..."
  • In the end of the first season of Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Setsuna sends a letter like that to Marina, after he is supposedly killed in the final episode.
  • In the final episode of Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket Bernie leaves a video message to Al telling him not to hate the Federation after he carries out what he knows to be a suicide mission to stop a nuclear attack on the colony. To make matters more depressing Al learned that the Zeon ship carrying the missles was captured by the Federation and Bernie's suicide mission was unnecessary.
  • This is the entire premise of Shigofumi.
  • In Higurashi, Keiichi leaves such a note at the end of the first arc.
    • As does Maria in Umineko.
      • Although the note is signed as her, it's implied to have been written by someone else. Whether or not that person was a victim has not been stated yet.
  • Subverted rather gruesomely in Loveless.
  • In the Ranma ½ manga, Nabiki tries to find some way to frame Ranma in retaliation for him destroying her concert ticket. She makes it look like he killed her and wrote the words "Ranma did it" on the floor.
  • Linith's diary in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Movie 1st The Comics, which Linith wrote with the expectation that Fate will find it after she's dead.

Linith: To my beloved Fate-chan: When you read this diary, both Precia and I would probably no longer be by your side.

  • The Big O. In episode 24 Roger Smith receives a letter from Michael Seebach (Schwartzwald), which was to be delivered after his death.
  • A character in the Death Note anime plants two of these at once. The first and more detailed is presumably there to cover for the brusque, low-byte-count second.
  • In Summer Wars, Grandma Sakae leaves a note to the family with her wishes on how they should carry on after her death: welcome the prodigal son Wabisuke back into their home and stay strong together as a family.

Comic Books

  • In Runaways, the main characters are snooping around Gert's house and accidentally activate her parents' holographic will when they guess the secret chamber's (easy) access code.
  • In the Tintin comic book "Explorers on the Moon", Wolfe leaves a letter stating he has "left the rocket" to conserve oxygen. In the BBC's radio adaptation, this becomes a message on the logging machine (which didn't exist in the comic) stating " the time you listen to this, you will be listening to the voice of a dead man."
  • Blake and Mortimer: Mortimer receives a letter from his deceased nemesis Miloch, entrusting him with a functional time machine as a post-mortem conciliatory gesture. In fact, the time machine has been sabotaged.
  • Watchmen. Rorschach's last journal entry: "If reading this now, whether I am alive or dead, you will know truth. Whatever precise nature of this conspiracy, Adrian Veidt responsible. Have done best to make this legible. Believe it paints disturbing picture. Appreciate your recent support and hope world survives long enough for this to reach you, but tanks are in East Berlin, and writing is on wall."
  • Anarky wrote such a letter for his parents, which they discovered in his room; conveniently, he appeared to have died around the time they read the letter.
  • After Civil War, it is revealed that Captain America wrote one to Iron Man, saying Bucky should be the new Cap.
  • The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man viewed a holographic message from the Human Torch after his recent death. Along with various farewells, the Torch asked Spider-Man to take his spot on the team.

Fan Works

  • "Ill Met by Starlight." Ranma ½ Dark Fic. Nabiki to Akane.
    • And by the same circle of authors, a hilarious use of the same trope is found in "Pastpresent", a fanfic about Ranma reading Genma's memoirs after he passes away from disease.

If you're reading this, boy, either I'm dead or you're more like me than I thought. If it's the latter, turn around very slowly and pray Kasumi goes easy on you.
Since you're still reading, it looks like I'm dead. Damn.



  • I Am Dina.

Lorch: Dear Dina, by the time you read this letter, I will be dead.

  • Taxi Driver (1976): A note written by Travis includes "By the time you read this I will be dead."
  • The Man With Two Brains has the line "By the time you read this I will be dead."
  • Serial Killer: women kidnapped by a serial killer are forced to say "By the time you see this I will be dead." while being videotaped.
  • The 2007 movie P.S. I Love You revolves entirely around this trope.
  • The Caine Mutiny has this, with the main character's father.
  • There's a complicated example in the interactive hologram from the movie I Robot.
  • In The Pelican Brief, finding one of these videos is how the protagonists figure out exactly what's going on.
  • In Saw IV, Jigsaw goes to an insane length to be sure nobody can find one of his messages until after he's dead: he coats a tape with wax and swallows it. It's only discovered when his body's being autopsied.
  • In Scream 3, Randy has made a video for Sidney to watch after he dies, warning her about what happens in the last part of a trilogy.
  • Parodied in Beetlejuice; Lydia tries (and fails) to write one of these.
  • In Iron Eagle, Cool Old Guy Chappy records a Rousing Speech for Doug specifically in case he goes down during their mission. "If anything happens to me, get as high as you can, and play this cassette."
  • In Milk, the narration consists of the title character recording cassette tapes that should be listened to in the event of his assassination.
  • Cthulhu (2007). The protagonist is told his dead mother left a video tape for him hidden in her house. He instead finds it in plain sight on top of the TV/VCR. On the tape his mother starts to warn him that his life is in danger from the mysterious cult run by his father; she then hears a noise and quickly turns the camera off. The camera is then turned on again by his father, who implores the protagonist to take his rightful place as the leader of his cult. The protagonist is shocked to see his father has blood on his face and hands, implying that he murdered his mother moments before.
  • Serenity
    • The Operative runs Mr. Universe through with a sword, but makes the mistake of leaving him alone before he actually dies. Mr. Universe takes the chance to record a message for Mal, telling him where he can find a secret back-up broadcast system. Unfortunately, the Operative comes back after Mal has triggered the message, and hears it too...
    • There's also Dr. Caron, who spends her final moments recording a holographic message revealing the truth about what happened on Miranda; the message ends abruptly (although the recording doesn't) when she's attacked and cannibalised by one of the Reavers she helped create. Getting this particular example of Dead Man Writing out to the wider world becomes the driving goal of the film.
  • Blue Thunder: Frank Murphy's sidekick, Lymangood, gets tortured and eventually killed by the bad guys who want from him the tape containing evidence of their conspiracy. Later, Murphy finds a message left by Lymangood on the flight recorder of the titular Black Helicopter, revealing the location of the tape.
  • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when King Arthur and his knights read a message regarding Castle Aaaaaaagh. "Maybe he was dictating?"


  • Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series recorded a series of messages to be played each time the Foundation hit one of the mathematically predicted "Seldon Crises". Even the first one was revealed decades after his death.
    • Due to that formula, they consist of stunningly accurate predictions of the future, leading up to one of the classic Oh Crap Moments in sci-fi literature, Seldon listing off events that aren't occurring. Don't worry, though, there is a Second Foundation....
  • At the end of Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, Harry discovers a taunting note like this written for Voldemort by someone with the initials R.A.B.
  • A straight example occurs in the second book in the Looking Glass Wars series, where Hatter comes across a message which his former lover, Weaver, left him in case she died before they could meet again (which she obviously did... or did she?).
  • This appeared in I, Jedi, a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel featuring Corran Horn, whose father, secretly the son of a Jedi, had died years before, and left a holographic message for him. It started with the "My hope is that we're watching this together..." variant, and the thought that they'd be laughing at how young he looked.
    • Corran gets to subvert this in the X Wing Series—he and Tycho psyche Wedge out with a fake 'last message' before revealing that they're both fine. Later in the series it's played straight with the message Phanan wrote while dying and gave to Face.
    • Also in the EU, Lorn Pavan recorded a message for his son Jax. Jax had been taken and raised by the Jedi, and one of the last things Lorn did was tell the recording droid to find his son.
  • In Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce, the person sent the letter to a friend, thinking trouble was likely. If he survived, she was to burn the letter; if he didn't, she was to pass it on to Alanna.
  • The original novel The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has two. The first is written briefly before Hyde takes over Jekyll forever. Hyde is dead by the time the second letter is read, so that moves it out of "technically".
  • This is subverted in the book The Time Traveler's Wife, where Henry suggests that it's a bit presumptuous to start such a letter in such a certain way, and suggests that the letter might be read before he has really died.
  • In Animorphs #34, this is done with not a note, but the stored memories and persona of Aldrea. Which puts Cassie in the rather unique position of inverting this by saying, "Yes, Aldrea, you are dead."
  • Occurs in the short story "Death of a Bachelor" by Arthur Schnitzler. After the man dies, his housekeeper rounds up three men who knew him but have no seeming connection to each other. (It was supposed to be five, but two couldn't make it.) They are given the letter. It begins with "About a quarter of an hour ago I breathed my last", and proceeds to describe in gratuitous detail the affairs that he had with each of their wives.
  • Played with in The Name of the Wind. Kvothe leaves one of these messages for Bast, but survives his mission, to return home to find that Bast found the note earlier than he was supposed to and is pissed off.
  • Subverted in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? with the smug murderer. When he knows the police are close to catching him, he plans to take poison and writes a gloating note to the police and Lord Peter to be found near his body. Unfortunately for him, the police burst in mid-sentence, and he's presumably tried and hanged as a common criminal.
  • Played with in the climax of Lords and Ladies. Granny Weatherwax's letter to Nanny Ogg, only to be opened in the event of her death, says "I Ate'nt Dead". She's merely possessing a swarm of bees, an act thought to be impossible - but then, this is Granny Weatherwax we're talking here.
  • In Garth Nix's Shade's Children the escaped children routinely make these, very much aware that any mission could be their last.
  • Neverwhere: Door's dying father records a message for her. But Croup and Vandemar alter the message before she sees it.
  • Used in the Forgotten Realms short story "The Rose Window." The narrator writes down his findings before confronting the evil behind the window, intending to destroy his message afterward if he's successful. The outcome is hinted at by the story's existence.
  • Moiraine from The Wheel of Time gave Rand one of these, with the knowledge she'd be gone by the time he read it. She also left another letter that said she wasn't dead.
  • Name a solve-it-yourself mystery featuring a kidnapping or murder where the victim DOESN'T manage to leave one of these, somehow revealing the identity of the perpetrator in a secret manner. (In one case, not actually a secret, just the murderer's name written in a position that was upside-down to the detectives but right-side-up to the victim.)
  • The third book of the Inheritance Cycle reveals that Brom has left one for Eragon. Instead of leaving a note, he tells it to Sapphira, who shares the memory via their mental link. This one is unusual in that she is forced via magic to not be allowed to share it with him unless the contents become vital to his safety.
  • In David Eddings' Malloreon, Belgarath and Belgarion find a message written by the Big Bad of The Belgariad, Torak, that is addressed to Belgarion. It (not entirely typically) starts "If you are reading this, we have already met in battle and you have killed me..." and goes onto explain a few rather important points of the Prophecies that they both serve. It ends with the instruction that Belgarion must be ready to do anything, even kill his own son, rather than allow the Dark Prophecy to be fulfilled. Pretty ominous, considering the Dark Prophecy is the one Torak was serving.
  • In Mockingjay, the last book in The Hunger Games series, Katniss gets one from Cinna. His sketchbook contains designs for a suit of armor for her to wear into battle and the message "I'm still betting on you."
  • In Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles records several of these—to his parents, his brother and cousin, and his unborn children—when he thinks he's likely to die of exposure to a Cetagandan bioweapon. When he's cured, his wife refuses to erase them, saying that the next time he's in mortal danger, he might not have time to record them again.
  • This is the entire plot of Thirteen Reasons Why.
  • In Agatha Christie novels:
    • Subverted twice in Death On The Nile: The initial written by the murder victim in her own blood is quickly discovered to actually have been written by the murderer (the victim died instantly, leaving no time to write a message), seemingly to throw suspicion on a third party. It later turns out the third party was actively involved in the planning of the murder and the message served to direct suspicion away from her.
    • But played straight in And Then There Were None; the murderer writes a message in a bottle revealing their identity and explaining in detail how and why they murdered everyone and stating how they hoped it was unsolved up until their point of reveal.
  • Shortly into Walter Jon Williams' Voice of the Whirlwind, main character Steward gets one of these. Although it isn't spelled out at first, this is also a Note to Self:, because Steward is a clone (missing 15 years of memories, since the original never got around to updating his brain scan). The deceased original Steward reveals that he was murdered....

Live-Action TV

  • Star Trek:
    • Kirk's taped message from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Tholian Web" is revealed even though he doesn't actually die.
    • Tasha's holo-message is revealed in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Skin of Evil"... and she did.
    • In the Deep Space Nine episode "Civil Defense", a message like this from Gul Dukat to his Cardassian underlings is revealed, as part of a long-buried computer subroutine that's assuming the Cardassians still control the station and there's a slave revolt in progress. Dukat is not only still alive, but vastly amused by the whole thing—at least until another facet of the subroutine locks him out as well.
    • In the Deep Space Nine episode "Visionary", Chief O'Brien, before taking on a dangerous time-travel mission, informed Dr. Bashir that he had left a message for his wife Keiko in the event of his death.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the episode "The Parting Of The Ways":

The Ninth Doctor: If this message is activated, then it can only mean one thing. We must be in danger, and I mean fatal. I'm dead, or about to die any second with no chance of escape.

    • It happens again in the finale to new series 3: a reporter has a video message set to be automatically sent to Torchwood in case she dies confronting Mr. Saxon.
  • A sort-of roundabout example in Baywatch: Down Under: When his former lover dies, Cody travels all the way to Australia (her home) and finds a "goodbye" note left amongst her possessions.
  • Babylon 5 has a few examples:
    • Sheridan leaves a message for Delenn in the episode "Z'ha'dum", though he doesn't actually end up dead (at least, not permanently).
    • Babylon 5 also has an actually-dead example: in "The Parliament of Dreams", G'Kar receives a message from an old enemy: "By the time you get this recording, I will already be dead... Ah, but then, very shortly, so will you."
  • "This Saturday Night Live short. "Dear sister, by the time you read this I'll be dead. Here's how I think it's going to happen: first Dave will shoot me, then I'll shoot Dave..."
  • In the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is used in Mayor Wilkins' video will to Faith. The mayor notes that it's either her watching it, or a bunch of kids at a museum celebrating his glory--"In which case: hi, kids!"
  • You could say it was inverted in the Firefly episode "The Message", where the guy arrives in a coffin, with a tape recorder, asking them to bury him. Later on, he wakes up, having faked the whole thing to escape with the organic goods he was hiding in his chest. But the audio message still ends up being relevant, and ends up acting like the trope played straight when it plays at the end of the episode, after he's Killed Off for Real.
  • In Heroes season 3 episode 1, Hiro finds one of these left to him by his father. "Whatever you do don't open the safe." Hiro opens the safe to find another DVD, plays it: "I told you not to open the safe!"
  • The Middleman has the Code 47, which is a posthumous note that Middlemen are supposed to record for every mission.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily write notes to each other to be opened only when the other died. Hilarity Ensues when Marshall opens Lily's note beforehand.
  • In Torchwood:
    • Tosh makes a Video Will in case of her death. The remaining team members find it after she (and Owen) die. It's quite the Tear Jerker.
    • Owen in "Dead Man Walking": "...I died and was brought back to life...And they think I'm fine."
  • One Dollhouse client uses Echo's body to write a note after her death and passes it off as one of these, making herself seem incredibly prescient by identifying her murderer and the method used to kill her, and leaving messages for loved ones informed by what she's learned of them while attending her own funeral.
  • Denholm's video will in The IT Crowd uses this trope and mixes in The Tape Knew You Would Say That.
  • On Fringe, a dying scientist working with ZFT leaves the team a videotape revealing that Walter's old partner William Bell is the group's backer.
  • In Prison Break, the final scene of the series is Michael Scofield's posthumous message to his brother, his wife and his unborn child.
  • Murder, She Wrote, episode "Truck Stop": An fatally injured man records a message describing how he came to kill two people. He's partly covering for someone else.
    • In the episode "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee", the murder victim left a video tape claiming that a friend of Jessica's was out to kill him. He actually committed suicide, arranging his death to implicate Jessica's friend, a man whom he blamed for making his life miserable.
  • Monk, on the series finale, it's revealed that Trudy left Monk a tape as a Christmas gift before she died. While the entire tape wasn't shown yet, she does reveal that she knew she was in danger.
  • One episode of Law & Order had a twist on the trope, in which a video message was left by the murder victim. As it turned out, he was not a murder victim at all—he knew he was dying of cancer, so had hired a hit man to kill him and frame both his cheating wife and her lover. The video was given to his best friend, with instructions that he was to show it to the district attorney if anyone ever tried to pin the murder on him.
  • The letter Bart leaves for Chuck on Gossip Girl (which oddly enough mentions that he's left Chuck Bass Industries, but fails to mention the morality clause).
  • In Being Human (UK), Tully leaves a warning for George in this manner. Annie attempts to do this with an answering machine message, but it gets listened to before she's gone anywhere. (Both in the same episode, too!)
  • In Murder Most Horrid, an episode begins with a woman recording her suicide note that begins "Dear Mum, by the time you read this, I will be dead.", but she ends up embroiled in an assassination attempt of sorts. By the time it's over, she's decided not to kill herself, and also decides to phone her mother to tell her all about it. Unfortunately, she dies anyway and the last words she says to her mum before the tape begins playing are 'I've got so much to say I could explode!'. Guess how she dies.
  • On Rubicon, Katherine's husband is Driven to Suicide under mysterious circumstances, and ends up leaving her a cryptic note reminding her to celebrate their anniversary, as per usual, which includes watching Meet Me in St. Louis — but the DVD in the case is actually a message from him explaining The Conspiracy that caused his and others' deaths. Too bad it doesn't save her from getting killed a few days later.
  • In Supernatural, before Gabriel faces his brother Lucifer and is ultimately killed by him, he leaves a video for Sam and Dean containing some important information. In the form of a porno. Him as the leading man, of course, 'stache and all. He halts the action for a moment to deliver the info. After admitting that Dean was right, Gabriel had been too much of a coward to face his family, he ends with this little gem:

Gabriel: This is me standing up. And this... is me lying down.

The porno then resumes.
  • Parodied to death in the Saturday Night Live sketch "Dear Sister."
  • On one episode of Numb3rs, a body washes up on the beach with Chinese numbers tattooed on its feet. The numbers turn out to be a phone number, and the message machine that picks up says, "Hi, if you're listening to this, then I guess I'm dead." The victim was an investigative journalist going undercover, who got the tattoos so she could be identified if she died.


  • "By The Time You Read This I Will Be Dead" by Suicide Watch.
  • The video for the Decemberist's song 'O Valencia' includes one of these. You can see the long version here.
  • At the end of the second The Protomen album, when Dr. Light has lost all hope and is waiting for Wily's robot army to arrest him, he finally reads his murdered love's last letter - which (somewhat presciently) tells him not to give up hope and continue fighting.
  • "If you're Reading This (I'm Already Home)" by Tim Mc Graw - a letter left by a fallen soldier for his wife.
  • "Riding With Private Malone" written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, and recorded by American country music artist David Ball. The letter is left in the glove box of a '66 Corvette by a soldier heading off to Viet Nam.

Newspaper Comics

  • Lisa Moore in Funky Winkerbean, who died leaving a four-year-old daughter, left a number of tapes for the daughter to watch as she grew up. After the time jump Summer is seen watching at least two of them, one of which reminds her to tell her father to get his prostate checked.

Recorded and Stand Up Comedy

  • Parodied by the Upright Citizens Brigade, where a CEO asks permission to speak posthumously, hands over a note and then shoots himself.
  • Peter Cook's character E. L. Wisty once delivered a comic monologue which he claimed would air after his death, giving his posthumous address as somewhere in South Heaven.

Tabletop RPG

  • Occurs repeatedly in Shadowrun products, including The Universal Brotherhood, Awakenings, Threats, Threats 2, Dragons of the Sixth World (twice!) and Emergence. Always involves someone trying to publicize information about a dangerous conspiracy, with the conspiracy trying to kill the person to prevent this.
  • The prologue of Deadlands: Hell on Earth is a Apocalyptic Log written by a Templar named Jo about the state of the world and events that led to it meant to bring players up to speed on the lore. She is on her death bed, and is most likely dead by the time the player would realistically read it.
  • Silent Hill RPG.
    • In the sewer system under the amusemrnt park the PCs can find the diary of W. Irving. It says that two of his friends have been killed by a monster in the sewer water and that he's going to try to kill it.

If you find this note, consider it my will.

    • In the Indian Runner delivery office there's a journal of an undercover officer working for a drug gang. The last entry says:

As I write this I am already dead. I have committed the worst crime of all! I talked. My tongue slipped and that was my death sentence. They came.


Video Games

  • Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos has one such last will in Lucrecia's Base, stating that the base's vacancy and lack of activity boils down to her being dead, and that the finder of the base gets to keep it. It ends up in the hands of her grandson Cal Johnston, albeit with guidance from mentor Jefferson Clay, who even in AI construct form was old enough to have known Lucrecia.
  • In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, where Bian Souldark leaves a holo-recording for his daughter, Lune, hidden in her Valsione - along with comprehensive data on secret DC bases, since he apparently predicted that she'd join up with the heroes after they'd killed him, and figured that they might need a hand taking down the remnants of DC. Nice of him, huh?
  • One of these letters also appeared near the beginning of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, as a letter to the main character from her dead grandfather.
    • She finds several more letters from him throughout the game, including one that, when selected in the pause menu, is accompanied by a recording of him reading it.
  • Used straight, from your former commanding officer, at the start of the Humongous Mecha game MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.
    • And then Mechwarrior 4 Vengeance starts with the protagonist receiving a message from his late father.
  • One of Mario's quests in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is to deliver such a letter to Admiral Bobbery, thus releasing him from the mental torment that keeps him from sailing the seas.
    • Earlier in the game, Koops finds such a message in a pile of bones that he believes to be his father's. As it turns out, that wasn't his father's skeleton after all.
  • The NES game The Guardian Legend has one of these after you complete the introductory space shooter level, when you first enter the labyrinth.
  • Mary's letter in Silent Hill 2, though we don't get to read it all until James lets himself read it all. The very first thing James says in the game is that it can't be possible he got a letter from Mary, since she's been dead for years now. But near the end, we find out that she's only been dead about a week.
  • Your foster father Gorion in Baldur's Gate leaves one of these kinds of letters for you to pick up late in the game. (He also apparently lies--Fanon is divided on whether the two stories of your mother can be reconciled—but then he is The Obi-Wan.)
    • The whole thing smells of Retcon. Probably done in order to be able to say that Sarevok and the PC could have exchanged places but for the smallest accident of chance.
  • Near the very end of System Shock 2, as SHODAN starts warping reality, the player finds another of the Apocalyptic Logs left by Delacroix, although earlier in the game the player found her body and final log. This one, floating in the air all on its own, starts, "Re: some small assistance. If you are receiving this, I am already dead. When I realized SHODAN had betrayed me, I integrated these comments into her primary data loop." Her messages then guide the player.
  • George Crabtree's journal in Dark Fall: The Journal
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • During Tali's loyalty mission, she and Shepard find a holovid on the corpse of Tali's father.
    • Kasumi's partner leaves a holo-message as well.
  • The Papas/Pankraz's letter Dragon Quest V. When you obtain the Zenithian Sword, he wants you to fulfill his objective to find the legendary hero and your mother.
  • As a rule, every NCR soldier in Fallout: New Vegas must carry a letter to their loved ones, to be read only in the event of their deaths.
  • John's letter to Ada in Resident Evil 1.
  • Armored Core 4's Maximilian Thermidor leaves the player this type of message in the ORCA path, stating that, as the sole remaining member of ORCA, It's Up to You to complete the Closed Plan. If you're playing hard mode, you find out that Thermidor has both lied and inexplicably decided to kill you as you attempt to complete the mission he assigned you.

Western Animation

  • Appears twice in The Simpsons played straight (in "Homer's Odyssey" and "I Married Marge", although the second one is not a death, but instead him trying to run away) and once parodied ("Marge, if you're watching this, it means I worked out how to operate the video camera" in "Half-Decent Proposal").
    • Again, during the episode where Mona dies.

Mona: Homer, if you're watching this, either I'm dead, or you've gone through my stuff. If I'm dead, this is my video will; if not, please keep away from my stuff.

  • Professor Farnsworth leaves a holographic message to his crew after he is taken to the Near Death Star in the Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own". He even anticipates a smart remark by Bender and reveals that he recorded over Bender's soap operas.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Tony's father does one of these for Tony.
  • In Rugrats, Chuckie's late mother Melinda left a poem for her son to read when he got older. Unlike most examples, it is a huge Tear Jerker.
  • Up: "Thanks for the adventure - now go have a new one! Love, Ellie"
  • Happens in The Venture Brothers when Brock conveniently finds a video from the late Dr. Venture with explicit directions for Rusty that had to be carried out within the next day.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: Subverted. When Zack and Ivy attempt to close the titular character's file following her death, they receive a video of one of these. Then at the end of the episode, Carmen is revealed to not be dead after all, and to have in fact staged both the video and the avalanche that supposedly killed her specifically in order to determine who was "worthy" to be the successor(s) to her crime organization in the event that anything should actually happen to her.

Real Life

  • In a bizarre case of Truth in Television, controversial Australian politician Pauline Hanson made a video that began "If you are watching this, I have been murdered...", apparently believing she was in danger of being assassinated by foreigners. It was naturally leaked to the media (which may have been her intention all along). The general reaction from the public, however, moved her perception from that of merely being an unpleasant redneck xenophobe to being an absolute raving looney (or an easily manipulated stooge).
  • There's also the infamous, impossibly sad Sullivan Ballou [dead link] letter.

Dear Sarah. The indications are very strong that we will move soon...

  • Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg. It's understandable how it ended up in the right hands: he made it for the entire country and was uploaded to YouTube. This could be counted as a subversion; the following UN investigation ultimately concluded that Mr. Rosenberg had arranged for his own murder.
  • Robert Scott. "For God's sake look after our people."
  • Press play, and cry