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->'''Lance:''' Hey Captain, what's that?\\
'''Willard:''' Death cards.\\
'''Lance:''' What?\\
'''Willard:''' Death cards. Lets Charlie know who did this.
-->-- ''Film/ApocalypseNow''

A Calling Card is a piece of evidence or item deliberately left at the scene of a crime to serve as perpetrator's "signature". Sometimes it's a literal playing card or gamepiece left near the scene of the crime, or perhaps the victims are arranged in strange poses.

Actual calling cards are rare in RealLife, because it would make it very easy for the cops to track you down; but in fiction, it seems like ''every'' villain has to have one for stamping their achievements with.

Particularly cocky crooks may even send their calling card ''before'' committing the crime, warning their target about what's going to happen. This may be for practical reasons, such as turning the increased security against the target or distracting them by focusing the police's attention elsewhere, or simply as a BadassBoast: if the criminal can pull off their crime even when the target is on highest alert, surely they must be incredibly skilled.

Occasionally, a smart character may even use another villain's calling card to frame them. If the villain is well known, and their calling card shows up before they're introduced in the current continuity, (or if said Villain has been missing or dead for some time), then it's a nice SequelHook, or simply a hint of what's to come.

Sometimes, the calling card may be a result of the villain's M.O. ([[{{Pun}} not necessarily]] a CardCarryingVillain) or distinctive WeaponOfChoice. One obvious example: [[OurVampiresAreDifferent vampires]] always leave their characteristic two-holed neck bite. For people who literally use this trope as a weapon, see DeathDealer.

See also CriminalMindGames, {{Idiosyncrazy}}, PoeticSerialKiller.

This has become a DeadHorseTrope in ComicBooks, where it was once a staple. A hero may also have a calling card, especially one who typically disappears after stopping the criminals rather than hanging around to discuss things with the police.

For actual calling cards (which a criminal may also leave, although it's a bit obvious), see MyCard.



[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'': After the Bellamy Pirates rob the Saruyama Alliance, they paint their Jolly Roger on a nearby tree. This proves to be an incredible ''bad'' decision; Luffy would quickly track down Bellamy and hammer his head into the street for attacking his friends.
* Spoofed when Manga/{{Kinnikuman}} goes CharlieBrownFromOuttaTown to disrupt the World Superman Council; part of his disguise is a pair of sunglasses, which he drops after roughing up each of the [=WSC=]'s district champions. This wasn't drama, however- Kin was just clumsy fleeing the scene. Eventually, he runs out of normal shades and is reduced to using novelty glasses.
* In ''Manga/DragonBall'' when Tambourine is sent by his father Piccolo Daimao to murder martial artists to prevent them from sealing him away, at the site of each murder he would leave a piece of paper with the Japanese symbol for demon near the body.
* Phantom Thief X from ''Manga/MajinTanteiNougamiNeuro'', who leaves a "red box" at the crime scenes (actually a clear glass box filled with the liquefied remains of his victims).
* The titular character from ''Manga/{{Mouse}}'' leaves his card, ''before'' the theft like several other [[PhantomThief Phantom Thieves]].
* The ''Manga/DeathNote'' allows its user to not only kill remotely but also control victims' behavior shortly before they die. Light Yagami uses this ability to send a taunting message to L.
** He also uses the "default method" of killing with a spontaneous heart attack as a sort of calling card. So that people would know someone was responsible for all the dead criminals.
* Speaking of Holden Caulfield, in ''Anime/GhostInTheShellStandAloneComplex'', The Laughing Man had a smiley-face surrounded with a quote from ''Catcher in the Rye''. As it turns out, [[spoiler:all the crimes that were marked just by the smiley-face were performed by copycats, but following the J.D. Salinger quote eventually led Section 9 to the real Laughing Man]].
* In one early episode of ''Anime/SonicX'', [[ClassyCatBurglar Rouge the Bat]] steals a very large diamond... and replaces it with a card with a stylized picture of her on it, along with the words "thank you".
* The titular thief of ''Franchise/LupinIII'' often sends calling cards ''before'' he pulls off his heists. It seems rather foolish, but often his targets' attempts to increase or alter their security end up playing right into one of his {{Batman Gambit}}s and allow him to accomplish the theft. Also a reference to Literature/ArseneLupin, his grandfather.
** Lupin uses two calling cards in ''Anime/LupinIIIDeadOrAlive''. One is in the form of a video where he is a {{Parody Name|s}} of Creator/TwentyFirstCenturyFox, announcing that he would steal the treasure of Drifting Island. In the other, he uses an advertising balloon to announce his theft of Headhunter's Daughter.
** In ''Anime/LupinIIIIslandOfAssassins'', Tarantula forges one of Lupin's to get him involved in [[ThePlan their plans]].
* This is done by Kaitou KID in ''Manga/MagicKaito'' and ''Manga/DetectiveConan'' to announce where, when and what he is going to steal, sometimes in riddle form. That also allows him to know when someone is trying to frame or impersonate him and take steps to stop them.
* ''Manga/CatsEye'' has two different calling cards. The titular girls leave a business card with a stylized cat and the words "Cat's Eye" on it, while the thief Masato Kamiya (nicknamed "The Rat" by the police) leaves a coin mounted on a pendant. Like many GentlemanThief characters, the girls sometimes send calling cards before the heists: the police squad assigned to capture them has two members with the bad habit of confiding to them their strategies to capture Cat's Eye (and, in one memorable occasion, [[WhatAnIdiot discussed the strategy]] ''[[WhatAnIdiot in their coffee house]]''), and live near their police station enough to use binoculars and lip-read the rare plans the officers won't discuss with the girls.
** While Kamiya does it for fun, the girls [[JustifiedTrope have a good reason for it]]: [[spoiler: their assumed name as Cat's Eye and them stealing only Michael Heintz's paintings are part of a complicated and desperate attempt to contact their father, Heintz himself, or at least find out if he's still alive, without tipping off the men who tried to kill him and stole his paintings in the first place]].
* Eroica in ''Manga/FromEroicaWithLove'' leaves a card with the series title on it.
* ''Manga/KaitouSaintTail'' examples:
** The title character has the habit of sending them ''before'' the heist, in rather crazy and even spectacular ways (she has written her message on Asuka Jr's face while he slept or [[CovertPervert on his towel while he showered]], on balloons, and even on an ''advertisement blimp''). {{Justified}} as she's in love with [[SympatheticInspectorAntagonist Asuka Jr.]] but in her everyday's persona [[CannotSpitItOut she's too shy to confess it]], so she sends those [[LoveLetterLunacy in place of love letters]]. [[ObliviousToLove Asuka Jr. missed their actual meaning until one of the villains of the last chapters told him and called him an idiot for not noticing sooner]].
*** In two occasions the warnings were fake, one being an attempt at framing her and the other an advertisement stunt that went awry when she actually showed up.
** Before falling in love and retiring, Saint Tail's mother was a PhantomThief, and would sometimes send calling cards just as spectacular as her daughter's (who actually got the idea of the blimp from a news article showing her mother doing the same). Differently from her, she did it only for love of the challenge... And to show up and piss off her rival Rosemary.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* From UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks through UsefulNotes/TheBronzeAgeOfComicBooks, most of Franchise/{{Batman}}'s RoguesGallery left {{Calling Card}}s, either explicitly (ComicBook/TheJoker's playing cards and the Riddler's conundrums), or in the form of Signature Crimes: Two-Face's crime sprees always revolved around the number two, for instance. This was often [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]]; even in UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks, the Riddler's compulsion was flat-out stated to be his downfall. In the current comics, however, it's a DeadHorseTrope.
** The serial killer from ''ComicBook/TheLongHalloween'' would kill on a holiday and leave behind some knickknack related to the date--the press dubs them The Holiday Killer. And in the sequel ''ComicBook/DarkVictory'', the next serial killer leaves behind incomplete Hangman games.
** The Joker is famous also for victims with a hideous grin on their faces due to Joker Venom (or in [[Film/TheDarkKnight one case]], carved [[GlasgowGrin Glasgow smiles]]).
** Hero example: Batman himself sometimes leaves a card with a bat-symbol next to unconscious thugs.
* In ''Comicbook/{{Watchmen}}'', Rorschach's calling card is a piece of paper with a mirrored lowercase letter R written on it.
* In ''ComicBook/SpiderMan'' early in Carnage's killing sprees he would write "Carnage Rules!" in his victim's blood near the body.
** Spider-Man himself would occasionally leave a note to the police tacked onto a felon he had left webbed and hanging from a streetlamp, signed, "Courtesy of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man".
* Lobster Johnson, of ''ComicBook/{{Hellboy}}'' fame, would burn his symbol, a stylised lobster claw, into his victims' foreheads using the palm of his hand. He also had [[MyCard actual calling cards]] that he would leave for the police.
* In ''ComicBook/VForVendetta'', V is fond of graffiting walls with a stylised V, which is meant to look similar to the symbol for anarchy.
* ''ComicBook/CaptainAmerica'': The ComicBook/RedSkull used to have two calling cards: his Dust of Death, a poison that made the victim's face turn red and skull-like, and a leitmotif of Chopin's "Death March" which he would arrange to have played when he struck, sometimes in very clever ways. He hasn't used either of these in years, having gone to more subtle evil schemes.
* ComicStrip/ThePhantom has two calling cards, both in the form of rings. He wears a ring with a skull emblem on his right hand, which leaves a permanent skull-imprint on the faces of his enemies when he punches them hard enough, forever branding them as the Phantom's enemies. On his left hand, he wears a ring with a symbol of four 'P's in a circle. By pressing the dye-emitting ring into the hand of an ally, he leaves the four-P emblem as a permanent mark on their skin, a sign to the world that they are protected by the Phantom.
** Parenthetically, the Phantom's skull ring was the subject of a ''Series/{{Mythbusters}}'' episode, as the Build Team attempted to determine if a strong enough punch could leave a permanent indentation in someone's skull. For the record, it was busted; any punch hard enough to leave such a mark would also crack said skull like an egg. Perhaps the skull ring also had permanent dye like the four-P ring, and the Phantom just punched his enemy because he deserved to be punched. (''Mythbusters'' also didn't consider making the edges of the ring ''sharper'' and seeing what happened.)
* One of the many {{serial killer}}s in ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'' was nicknamed Lefty due to his habit of always leaving his victims' left hands near the scene of the crime. Turns out there was a grisly [[JustifiedTrope justification]] for this: [[spoiler:he was attempting to set a record for the number of people killed in a single night, and leaving behind the left hands ensured that all the kills would be credited to him.]]
* The Clock, from ''Centaur Publications'' and later ''Quality'', leaves as his calling card an image of a clock-face over a domino mask along with a message.
* Mister Midnite, from ''Silver Streak Comics'', leaves a watch dial with the hands set at midnight as his calling card.
* Black Diamond, from ''Black Diamond Western'', has a playing card with the suit of diamond as his calling card.
* ComicBook/DisneyMouseAndDuckComics
** The Phantom Blot's calling card is an ink blot. He'll usually leave a message with it, but sometimes not -- one time Mickey finds himself framed by the Blot, and then notices there is an actual ink blot on his jacket.
** Fantomius, being a GentlemanThief, leaves a ''literal'' calling card on the site of his heists. He had been planning to leave them since before he became a thief, as when he crossed the line and committed his first heist on the same day he already had a calling card ready.
* The GoldenAge [[ComicBook/SandmanMysteryTheatre Sandman]] and [[NewOldWest Vigilante]], both from Creator/DCComics, left poems.
** Sandman:
-->There is no land beyond the law
-->Where tyrants rule with unshakable power!
-->'Tis but a dream from which the evil wake
-->To face their fate, their terrifying hour!"
** Vigilante:
-->Some play games for sky-high stakes,
-->And some play penny-ante.
-->But those that gamble with the law,
-->Must pay the Vigilante!
* In ''ComicBook/{{Tomahawk}}'', Lord Shilling's trademark (and hence his code name) was leaving a single shilling with a hole in the middle after a successful mission.
* The MAX version of the Foolkiller elaborately stages the bodies of those he kills and leaves a "Fool" tarot card at the scene, often with a message.
* In Creator/MarvelComics, Leslie Anne Shappe became a serial killer with the code name "Infinity", and would carve the infinity symbol on her victims. However, an ignorant cop mistook it for "some kind of crazy eight". From then on, she became known to the press as "Crazy Eight".
* The Penny Murderer, the main villain of ''ComicBook/BrodysGhost'', leaves, of course, a penny on his victims' foreheads. Brody questions why a murderer would leave such a silly calling card, although it's later revealed to have symbolic importance.
* GentlemanThief 'The Rogue' in ''ComicBook/TheMazeAgency''. His Calling Card is a note informing his victims that their stolen paintings have been selected for his 'Rogue's Gallery' and 'signed' with a cartoon figure (a'la Literature/TheSaint's haloed stick figure).

[[folder:Fan Fics]]
* Pinhead's mark in FanFic/TheDarkAngel:an intricate diamond design that he burns onto sinners to mark them for later, and which goes through and burns onto structures as well.
* Phantom Thief Fox in the Fanfic/ANewWorldANewWay series (specifically A New World, A New Stage), leaves a calling card with one side depicting a black Zoroark head symbol, while the other side is blank and used to write her notices.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/{{Rango}}'' fanfic ''Fanfic/OldWest'', there exists a desert iguana thief named Reth, who's called "the Carpenter". He's known for his habit of leaving a little wooden figure for every thing he steals. Rattlesnake Jake regards him stupid for that.
** A [[CatsAreMean bobcat]] outlaw named Delilah Rangler, more commonly known as "the [[NamesToRunAwayFrom/{{Colors}} Scarlet]] Kiss", leaves a bright [[MakeUpIsEvil red lipstick-kiss]] on the cheeks of her every murder victim.

* Film/AceVenturaPetDetective leaves one at the beginning of the film when he rescues a dog from a dognapper.
* The Jigsaw Killer from ''Franchise/{{Saw}}'' cut Jigsaw pieces out of his victims' flesh.
* In ''Film/ThePinkPanther1963'', "The Phantom" would leave behind a monogrammed glove at every robbery.
* In ''Film/HomeAlone'', the "Wet Bandits" (well, actually just Marv) would leave the water running (after clogging the sink) in the homes they robbed. Harry thinks it's stupid and berates him for it. The trope is {{deconstructed}} near the end of the movie when they both get caught. The arresting officer mentions that [[NiceJobFixingItVillain they know which houses were the ones they robbed due to the running sinks.]]
-->'''Harry''': You left the water on again? That's sick.\\
'''Marv''': All the great ones leave their mark. We're the "Wet Bandits." *awkward pause*
* In ''Film/AustinPowersInternationalManOfMystery'', the Irish killer has his little charm bracelet from which he leaves little trinkets at the scene of each crime. Cue joke: Scotland Yard is "always tryin' to get me Lucky Charms!"
* The vigilante protagonists of ''Film/TheBoondockSaints'' left pennies on the eyes of their victims, as well as executing their chosen targets, the ones they save for last, with simultaneous gunshots to the back of the head while [[HolyHitman reciting the family prayer]].
* In ''Film/OceansTwelve'', Vincent Cassel's GentlemanThief character, Francois Toulour, leaves a small onyx statue representing a fox as his calling card to let his "victims" know they were robbed by the "Night Fox".
* In ''Film/NateAndHayes'' the film's villain has framed the latter half of the duo for years by leaving Hayes' sign on the scenes of his crimes.
* Film/{{Fantomas}} sometimes left behind his cards (at least in the French movie adaptations).
* The titular character in ''Film/TheCrow'' leaves a crow symbol by the bodies of his victims, usually in blood, but on one occasion in fire.
* The killer in ''Film/TheProwler'' leaves roses behind on his victims.
* ''Film/MrBrooks'' leaves a thumbprint from each of his victims, marked with their own blood, on an object near their body after murdering them. He's come to be known as the "Thumbprint Killer".
* Less of a 'I was here' card and more of a 'I'm about to be here' sign, the ninjas in ''Film/NinjaAssassin'' leave an envelope filled with black sand for their victims to find, right before they, literally, come from the shadows and kill them.
* Title villain of ''Film/TheStranglerOfBlackmoorCastle'' carves the letter "M" on his victims' foreheads.
* In ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'', The Joker would sometimes leave playing cards (Jokers). In ''Film/BatmanBegins'', this was used as a SequelHook[[note]] In an evidence bag indicating that it was found by Officer J. Kerr, implying that he not only left the card, but impersonated an officer to collect it and make sure it got into evidence.[[/note]] In ''Film/TheDarkKnight'', he also made a habit of marking his victims with a GlasgowSmile. [[MonsterClown Charming fellow.]]
* In ''Film/ApocalypseNow'', ColonelKilgore throws "Death cards" with the emblem of his Air Cavalry Regiment around corpses to let Charlie know who killed them.
* Frank Castle in ''Film/ThePunisher1989'' kills some criminals with knives with skulls on them to let others know that he's responsible.
* In ''Film/BeverlyHillsCopII'', the so-called Alphabet Bandit leaves behind cryptic clues that leave the cops scrambling to decode them. In fact, the code was there to confuse the cops while the culprits were busy doing something else.
* In ''Film/{{Colombiana}}'', Catalya leaves a Catalya flower on her victims. Her uncle thought it was stupid and berated her for it.
* Uncle Eddie of the eponymous murders in ''Film/{{Anamorph}}'' leaves the word "DEAD" on each of his victims. The fact that this doesn't appear in the later murders suggests that it's a copycat killer at work.
* In ''Film/{{ROTOR}}'', the [[CrushKillDestroy killer robot]]'s AssholeVictim somehow manages to grab its nametag off the robot ''after'' being shot in the head, making the investigators' job much easier.
* Discussed in the hacker movie ''Film/WhoAmI'':
--> '''Ben:''' Most of the hackers just crack the threshold, look around the system and don't change a thing. Others leave a note. And many, take a souvenir.
* ''Film/OneHundredTears'': The Teardrop Killer gets his nickname because he paints teardrops [[CouldntFindAPen in blood]] on the walls of every crime scene.
* In ''Film/BatmanVSupermanDawnOfJustice'', Franchise/{{Batman}} has a habit of leaving a batarang at places he's been, such as the hideout of a human trafficker.
* In ''Film/TheSnowman2017'', the killer leaves behind a snowman at the scenes of his crimes.

* "Kissin" Kate Barlow from ''Literature/{{Holes}}'' was famous for giving her victims The KissOfDeath, leaving a lipstick mark.
* ''Literature/AngelsAndDemons'': Invoked by The Hassassin who engages in theme killing. He also brands each of his victims with the name of the element he killed them with. [[spoiler:He does the killings this way frame an AncientConspiracy, that is already extinct.]]
* In ''Literature/TheStainlessSteelRat'' series, there's The Bishop, who leaves behind drawings of the chess piece in question. The titular character [[spoiler:robs a bank, and leaves The Bishop's Calling Card in order to meet him]].
* In the Literature/HerculePoirot novel ''Literature/TheABCMurders,'' the killer always leaves an "ABC Alphabetical Railway Guide" near the victim, [[spoiler:as he's ''framing'' some other guy as a serial killer]].
* ''Literature/TheExecutioner''. Elite sniper turned {{vigilante}} Mack Bolan leaves a miltary marksman's medal at the scene of his killings. Sometimes he has one delivered to a future target as psychological warfare. His enemies have been known to leave such medals at murder scenes, either to frame Bolan or cover up for their own internal disputes (one Mafia ''capo'' who cut the throat of a rival might have gotten away with it, if Bolan hadn't chosen that moment to attack in a completely different area). The latter tactic was used so often that one underling reporting a Bolan hit got beaten up "for pulling that stunt", until Bolan (who'd let him live so he could follow the man to his superiors) walked through the door and started shooting.
* ''Literature/NancyDrew'': The pirates in story would pierce the right earlobes of all the men on any ship they stole.
* Franchise/{{Zorro}} and his [[ZorroMark carved 'Z']].
* Literature/TheSpider marks his victims with a spider brand on the forehead; not all of them are dead first.
* Leslie Charteris's ''Literature/TheSaint'' stories. Simon Templar used a [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0a/SaintLogo.png hand-drawn picture of a stick-figure with a halo]] as his signature/Calling Card.
* Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters would leave a Dark Mark whenever someone had been killed in ''Literature/HarryPotter''.
* ''Literature/{{Discworld}}''
** Weirdly used in ''[[Literature/{{Discworld}} Thud!]]'', in which the Summoning Dark ''is'' its own calling card: [[spoiler: wherever the Dark-inhabited Vimes goes, objects tend to fall in such a way as to form the eye-with-a-tail symbol]].
** Technically, the fact [[ThievesGuild Thieves]] and [[MurderInc Assassins]] always leave a receipt could be considered a calling card. This is how you know you were visited by a licenced professional, and not a common criminal.
* The suspense novel ''The Caper of the Golden Bulls'' is about a retired thief coerced into a new caper; he laments that he can't get the aid of another master thief known as the "Ace of Diamonds." The Ace had a bizarrely elaborate signature: the ace of diamonds playing card, with a gryphon's head drawn on it, and then a stiletto driven through the card. It's eventually revealed that the gryphon's head referred to the thief being a lovely young woman named Grace -- "gr" from "gryphon" plus "ace" -- so she was ''telling the authorities her name'' every time she pulled a theft. And she turned out to be [[ContrivedCoincidence the hero's girlfriend]], so the Ace of Diamonds ''was'' available to help.
* In Paul Doherty's novel ''The Mysterium'', the Mysterium is an assassin in 14th century England whose victims are found with an M on their forehead, standing for "''Mysterium Rei''"; "[[GratuitousLatin the mystery of the thing]]".
* The SerialKiller Karkas, in ''Literature/GalaxyOfFear'', cut a "K" into the forehead of anyone he murdered.
* ''Literature/CHERUBSeries'' agent Bruce Norris once joked that he wanted to make business cards to leave in the mouths of the people he knocked out.
* ''Literature/JamesBond''
** In ''Literature/NeverSendFlowers'', a rare hybrid rose is delivered to the funerals of the high-profile assassinations, accompanied with the written message "This is the way it must end. Goodbye."
** The Number Killer in ''Literature/TheFactsOfDeath'' always leaves numbers (which are counting to ten) and a statue of a Greek god to the scenes of the crime.
** The Union from Raymond Benson's ''Bond'' novels has its killers leave their victims with [[SlashedThroat deeply cut throats]] as their signature, even when they killed them through other means.
* The Literature/DominoLady leaves behind a literal one: a black card with white writing reading "Compliments of the Domino Lady".
* In ''LightNovel/AnotherNote'', Beyond Birthday leaves behind a number of ''wara ningyo'' dolls nailed into the wall. [[spoiler: [[CriminalMindGames They function as a countdown of how many victims are left.]]]]
* ''Literature/JoePickett'': In ''Blood Trail'', the killer leaves a red poker chip on the body of each of their victims.
* The second ''Literature/AlexRider'' novel opens with someone being killed by "The Gentleman," who lives up to his moniker by anonymously sending a dozen black roses to the houses of the families of his victims after he's completed a job.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/TheMentalist'' has the serial killer "Red John", who always leaves a smiley face drawn in the victim's own blood.
** In a later episode, a child was abducted (a child belonging to a woman that Patrick Jane previously scammed as a fake psychic), with a balloon animal left behind, which was the mark of a serial child abductor/killer known as the "balloon killer" who had previously abducted and killed two boys, and within eight hours murdered them. However, upon raiding the balloon killer's house and shooting him in a fierce firefight, the balloon killer implies that [[NotMeThisTime he was not responsible for the boy's disappearance this time around]], which was shortly thereafter confirmed by Patrick Jane via both a phone call and a note in one of his partner's pocket that he somehow planted in there.
* One of the early killers ''Series/{{Dexter}}'' goes after makes the victime's bodies themselves his signature--a frozen, chopped-up, bloodless body. The killer also [[spoiler: left increasingly personalized clues for Dexter himself]].
** Season 3's B-plot serial killer had a rather disturbing calling card: [[spoiler: partially skinning his victims; one victim died ''from'' the skinning]].
* ''Series/TheMightyBoosh'' does it with Old Gregg - a sea monster who kidnaps Howard and leaves a card saying "I'm Old Gregg"
* In ''Series/FunkySquad'', the GentlemanThief called "The Cat" left a calling card with a paw print on it at the scene of his crimes.
* Parodied in ''Series/ThatMitchellAndWebbLook'' with the "Identity Killer", whose calling card is that he leaves documents pertaining to his identity -- such as an actual calling card, his driver's license, his passport and, on one occasion, himself -- at the scene of the crime. The [[PoliceAreUseless police still are baffled as to who he could be]].
--> '''Sgt''': He's always ''one step ahead'' of us!
* ''Series/TheMeetingPlaceCannotBeChanged'': the Black Cat gang (specialty: burglary with a side dish of murder) leave a cat drawing or an actual cat at the scene of the crime.
* Subverted in the Turkish crime-drama ''Yılan Hikayesi''. Investigating an elusive crime boss called "The King", the protagonists occasionally find a single rose flower was left in the places that the King was believed to have been. The subversion comes from the fact that they were not meant for the cops. They were meant as a message for his ex-wife whom he could not meet face-to-face for fear of retaliation by his enemies but still loved dearly. The locations where the roses were found were the places his ex-wife had gone as part of her own investigation on her husband's disappearance.
* In ''Series/QueenOfSwords'', the Queen sometimes leaves behind a Queen of Swords tarot card to taunt the authorities.
* Episode 2.01 of ''Series/WhiteCollar'' featured a bank robber who left actual calling cards at his crime scenes.
* Inverted in the ''Series/{{Monk}}'' episode "Mr. Monk's 100th Case." The serial killer has photographs of various models that he takes, and then adds lipstick to each of those killed, but he keeps them at the studio as a checklist, not leaving them at the crime scene.
* In the short-lived NBC series, ''SwordOfJustice'', protagonist Jack Cole would use playing cards, the three of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades as his calling cards. The three of clubs was left with the target of each episode, as a warning that he was going down. The three of diamonds would be used to pass information to the police. The three of hearts would be used to pass information to the person (usually female) that he was helping, and the three of spades for the final "I got you" message to the target.
* ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'' loves this trope.
** One episode featured the VictimOfTheWeek being tied up in a particular way, and there was also the BlondeBrunetteRedhead pattern.
** Another featured a serial killer who considered his killings TrueArt, "critiquing" the work of a copycat, who turned out to be [[spoiler: his PsychoExGirlfriend]].
** Another episode featured ''literal'' cards--prayer cards, to be specific, left with dead prostitutes.
* In "Child Predator" of ''Series/{{Elementary}}'', the Balloon Man would leave behind balloons saying things such as "thank you" and "congratulations" after abducting a child.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'':
** When a still-burning [[BlandNameProduct Morley cigarette]] is left on the ground or in an office ashtray, that's a sign that the [[BigBad Cigarette-Smoking Man]] has been there recently. Since he's TheChessmaster who's anything but careless, it's very likely these are left deliberately.
** In the episode "The End", a guard in the prison where the Conspiracy's failed hired assassin is held (pending questioning) hands the prisoner a threatening note ("You're a dead man") written on the cut-out side of a Morley cigarette carton--indicating that it was a message from the Cigarette-Smoking Man. A second time, the prisoner receives another cut-out carton side, which has nothing written on it, right before the guard shoots him.
* ''Series/{{Babylon 5}}'':
** The assassin hired to kill G'Kar in the episode "Parliament of Dreams" leaves on G'Kar's pillow a black flower, known as a "death blossom", which is the elite Thenta Makur assasins' guild's calling card which they leave as a warning before they strike.
*** The "death blossom" is less a calling card and more a warning to get one's affairs in order. Which is, as far as hired killers go, remarkably considerate.
** In "Passing Through Gethsemane", it is revealed that [[spoiler: a monk in Brother Theo's order, Brother Edward, was once a serial killer before being sentenced to mindwipe]]. He was known as "the Black Rose Killer" because he left a black rose at the scenes of his murders.
* The [[Series/TheTwoRonnies Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town]] leaves a calling card featuring a raspberry. There is no name, because "modesty forbids", and no address, because he is "never at home".
* An episode of ''Series/TheSentinel'' has Jim tangle with a Russian sniper named Yuri who always leaves behind some Russian coins as his calling card. Yuri uses technology to achieve the same levels of awareness as Jim's natural hypersenses, and the climax involves a cat-and-mouse game between the two.
* ''{{Series/CSI}}'' loves this.
** Paul Millander left his victims in bathtubs in staged suicides.
** The Miniature Killer left detailed miniature replicas of the scene at each scene.
** Another killer left his victims frozen in various poses, even standing up.
* ''{{Series/CSINY}}'':
** The Compass Killer who left compasses at his scenes.
** Shane Casey uses t-shirts and staged scenes for secret messages.
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' demons will often leave behind sulfur and angels will burn out the eyes of their victims.
* In the BBC tv-movie "Arrivaderci Millwall", a gang of English soccer hooligans leave behind calling cards on the bodies of their victims saying, "Greetings! You have just met Millwall!"
* On ''Series/{{Imposters}}'', Ezra is rocked to find his accounts have been emptied out and his credit cards are no good. Coming home, he finds a video from his love Ava, who reveals she's actually Maddie, a con artist who just took him for everything. She's a bit apologetic for it but also issues a warning: If Ezra goes to the cops or tries to find her, she will reveal a dark secret he has that will not only ruin him but his entire family.
** Ezra soon meets Richard and Jules (a woman) who also married Maddie and found the exact same video waiting for them with the indication they're only three of many Maddie has done this to.

[[folder:Newspaper Comics]]
* ''ComicStrip/ModestyBlaise'': In "The Grim Joker", the murderous trio leave the words "Ho Ho Ho" on all of their victims.

* ''Radio/TheLoneRanger'' had his silver bullets. He would often leave one with those his rescued as a reminder.

[[folder:Role Playing Games]]
* [[AxCrazy Blood Boy]] in ''Roleplay/SurvivalOfTheFittest'' does this at one point: carving a smiley face into one of his victims. (Blood Boy wore a smiley face mask).

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'' calls this disadvantage "Trademark,". The more they increase the character's risk of getting caught (by narrowing the list of suspects or requiring the character to spend extra time at the crime scene), the more points they're worth.
** Examples of the most elaborate Trademarks include dousing captured thugs in a certain colonge, painting an entire crime scene pink, and writing a long poem to the police.
** Fourth Edition ''Dark Champions'' had this as a disadvantage as well. It's not specifically noted in 5th edition, but several [=NPCs=] have one anyway.
* ''TabletopGame/HunterTheVigil'' allows the characters to modify their [[KarmaMeter Karma Meters]] to allow different breaking points in pursuit of the Vigil; to make up for it, though, they need to take certain "Triggers" that risk being activated in times of stress. One of them is "Calling Card"; you ''have'' to leave a sign at the scene of a kill. Needless to say, this Trigger carries over well if the hunter becomes a [[SlasherMovie Slasher]].
* Infernal TabletopGame/{{Exalted}} don't ''have'' to leave these at the scene of whatever horrible mess they just made, exactly, but if they do, it lets them reduce the Yozis' disapproval of them because that's just kind of how Szoreny rolls.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ProfessionalKiller Shelly de Killer in ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyJusticeForAll'' leaves a card with a seashell symbol on it near the bodies of his victims so his clients know for sure that De Killer successfully carried out his task.
** He actually states that he leaves the card to save the police the trouble of investigating, [[spoiler: and to deflect suspicion from the one who hired him. Naturally it backfires.]]
** [=Mask=]☆[=DeMasque=] from ''Trials And Tribulations'' takes this UpToEleven; he plants the card ''long before'' robbing the place.
** The Yatagarasu from ''Ace Attorney Investigations'' doesn't leave a card at the scene, but rather gives it to the media along with the item stolen, with the intent of exposing corrupt dealings.
** In the second case of ''[[VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies Dual Destinies]]'', Phineas Filch's grandfather left statues of himself in the place of the things he stole.
* Franchise/SlyCooper always leaves a raccoon-head-shaped card in place of the valuables he steals.
* ''VideoGame/CondemnedCriminalOrigins'' more or less makes a game out of this. As the protagonist is an FBI investigator looking for serial killers, these come up quite often - a prominent one from the tutorial is the "Match Maker", who kills women and then sets their corpses up in scenes with male department-store mannequins who have been given a unique marking on their cheek. Once the protagonist starts finding victims who don't match their respective killer's usual targets (to go from the above example, a male victim with a scar like the above marking matched with a female mannequin), it becomes apparent that the BigBad who framed him at the start of the game is a SerialKillerKiller who [[KarmicDeath employs his victims' own methods against them]]. Other such victims of his include "The Torturer", who [[DrivenToSuicide drives his victims to off themselves]], and an unseen "Bone Cutter", who would dissect his victims, remove their internal organs and individually label them for the police investigating the murder.
* ''VideoGame/HeavyRain'': The Origami Killer, so called because s/he leaves an origami figure next to their victims.
* In ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'', the ClassyCatBurglar, Kasumi Goto, will tell Shepard that she left a rose in place of what she stole earlier in her career. She later says that her partner made her realize that continuing to do so wasn't a very smart thing to do.
* Mr. Valentine in ''VideoGame/GuiltyParty'' always leaves rhyming Valentine's cards for his victims.
* From ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty'', Fatman's calling card is placing cologne on his C4 explosives, which his mentor/rival Peter Stillman is able to take advantage of to create a sensor that can detect the bombs. [[spoiler:He soon catches on to this and tricks Stillman with bombs that ''don't'' have that trace of cologne on them.]]
* [[SerialKiller Genocider Syo]]/Genocide Jack of ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' has two: writing "BLOODSTAIN FEVER" on the wall in the victim's blood (written as "BLOODLUST" in the [=NISA=] translation), and leaving them crucified. A detail about the second-- [[spoiler: that said crucifixion is carried out with specially-made ornamental scissors]]-- is kept secret from the press, which proves instrumental in determining if a certain murder was Syo's work or that of a copycat.
* ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2'' has several item sets, such as the Tank Buster and Gas Jockey's Gear, which leave a gravestone on the site where the victim was killed.
* One of the many categories of collectibles in ''VideoGame/FarCry4'' are the "Masks of Yalung", demonic masks left by a SerialKiller calling himself "The Goat" at the scenes of their grisly murders, which the player is tasked to destroy or otherwise remove. Radio DJ Rabi-Ray-Rana [[LampshadeHanging wonders on-air]] what his Calling Card would be if ''he'' were a serial killer: Playing cards are too overdone, masks are taken... so maybe he would just [[ToiletHumour take a shit on his victims]].
* [[AllThereInTheManual According to the artbook]] of ''Videogame/{{Lisa}}'', Geese Thompson, one of the recruitable characters, was a serial killer who left rhymes about his identity near his crime scenes. However, due to the fact that he's really bad at writing, none of the rhymes made any sense, meaning that they absolutely failed as clues.
* A gameplay mechanic in ''VideoGame/Persona5'', seeing as it's all about thieves, while also acting as a PointOfNoReturn. Upon completing a dungeon by searching for the "Treasure Room", the player is given the option of sending a calling card to the person whom the Dungeon, called a Palace, belongs to. Sending the calling card forces the player into fighting the Palace's Boss the next day thereby completing the main event for that month. Although luckily the player, should they find the boss to be too strong, can go back a week before the boss fight and continue grinding. As a nod to ''Franchise/LupinIII'', the calling cards are all sent before the heist is initiated.
* The Thief of Many Faces, the antagonist of the ''Hildibrand'' sidequests in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIV'', sends the titular inspector a red and black playing card with the details of his next heist every chapter. The card's usually [[DeathDealer tossed into someone's head]] for good measure (and slapstick).
* In ''VideoGame/Fallout4'''s "The Silver Shroud" questline, you get to dress up like the titular vigilante hero from pre-War radio dramas and gun down some of the worst lowlifes in post-apocalyptic Boston, then leave patented Silver Shroud calling cards on their corpses.
* ''VideoGame/LoveNikkiDressUpQueen'' has Sapphires the PhantomThief from the Pigeon Kingdom, whose outfit can be purchased with Association Coins. He is described as an "elegant and handsome" SharpDressedMan who "is in fact, a thief!" The outfit comes complete with his Warning Letter.

* In ''Webcomic/BloodAndSmoke'', the serial killer called The Heart Ripper [[Main/CaptainObvious rips out hearts]].
* In ''Webcomic/TheLastDaysofFoxhound'', Fatman runs off immediately after getting rescued from an enemy base.
-->'''Fatman:''' Just wanted to leave my calling card.\\
'''Raven:''' What's that?\\
'''Fatman:''' A pile of smoking rubble.\\
'''Enemy Base:''' KABLOOEY

* In "Ayla and the Grinch" of the Literature/WhateleyUniverse, a serial killer is loose in Los Angeles, leaving the heads of the victims behind as an identifier. Heads that are apparently burned off the still-living bodies.
* Being a group of sociopathic "[[MadArtist Anartists]]",[[note]]Anomalous Artists; any similarity to the word "Anarchists" is purely coincidental but rather fitting[[/note]] Are We Cool Yet? of The Wiki/SCPFoundation's Groups of Interest probably meant to use their group name as both this ''and'' a signiature for their deadly "pieces". It doesn't just limit itself to the phrase; if you see or hear "Cool" in any way, shape, or form on a work or even see the acronym [=AWCY=], you're about to be part of a new exhibit.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* The Joker's Calling Card was parodied on ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', with "The Prankmaster", whose calling card was a Joker with the word "PRANK-MASTER" written over it.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''
** Parodied in "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase", during the Chief Wiggum sketch. After Ralph is kidnapped they find a skull lying on his bed:
-->'''Skinner''': Big Daddy's calling card... it's right behind that skull.
** In "Homer the Vigilante" the mystery thief leaves a card behind at each crime scene: "You have just been robbed by the Springfield Cat Burglar."
* In ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' one episode dealt with a serial killer named Michael Deats who would remove the left hand of his victim after he killed them and he would also visit the sites in a blood soaked raincoat. With nothing but a yellow bikini underneath! At a certain point, the police almost arrest him, but realize that, since the hands have been flipped over, [[InsaneTrollLogic they're all right hands, so he's not the killer.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/PinkyAndTheBrain'': Brain tries to TakeOverTheWorld by becoming a superhero, modeling himself after Franchise/{{Batman}} parody The Caped Opossum, and calling himself the Cranial Crusader. When Brain leaves his calling card at the scene of the crime, an explosion causes ink to hit the card, making police think Caped Opossum did it.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheNewAdventuresOfWinnieThePooh'' had the Pack Rats, who steal things and leave behind walnuts in their place.
* Lotus Blossom in the 1987 ''WesternAnimation/{{Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|1987}}'' always leaves a lotus flower whatever crime she strikes.
* On ''WesternAnimation/JimmyTwoShoes'', the mysterious Hooded Chicken is said to leave a feather on its victims door before it strikes.
* ''Series/TheLooneyTunesShow'': When Lola starts acting like a jewel thief in "The Black Widow", she leaves a calling card with a black widow on it (borrowed from her favourite movie).
* ''WesternAnimation/KingLeonardoAndHisShortSubjects'': The Hunter. "Have Nose, Will Hunt."


[[folder:Real Life]]
* The Washington DC Beltway Snipers left Tarot Cards with messages on them for cops to find.
* The Zodiac Killer wrote cryptograms for police, signing them with a sun cross.
* The ace of spades was left on dead Vietnamese soldiers by American troops in the UsefulNotes/VietnamWar, under the belief that the Vietnamese held the symbol to mean death and ill-fortune. This was inaccurate, but the gesture helped American morale.
** The US Playing Card Company went so far as to manufacture all-ace-of-spades card decks for the troops. See [[http://www.psywarrior.com/DeathCardsAce.html here.]]
** Before that, there was the First Special Service Force of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, who would leave cards printed with the unit insignia and "Das dicke Ende kommt noch" ("[[ParanoiaFuel The worst is yet to come]]") on the bodies of German soldiers they killed.
** If anything, they should have left [[FourIsDeath fours]], though that particular superstition isn't as strong in Vietnam as it is in China.
* In one murder case the perpetrator did actually leave his calling card at the scene of the crime, by dropping a case of them not far away. Unsurprisingly, he was the primary suspect from the beginning to the end of the case, and the prosecutor had an IAlwaysWantedToSayThat moment when he came to trial.
* Spain has [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfredo_Galán Alfredo Galán]],nicknamed by the media "The Playing Card/Deck of Cards Killer", as he left a playing card in the crime scene.