An unlikely excuse used to explain away a suspicious wound or injury.
For example, when the police question a murder suspect, they find that he has some cuts or scratches on his face, consistent with the type of wounds that the perpetrator would incur in that sort of crime (perhaps because someone with a knife fought back). When asked where he got them, nine times out of ten he will say he Cut Himself Shaving. Likewise, a guy who beat someone up will often say that the victim "fell down some stairs" or "ran into a door" whenever being questioned by the cops.
A subversion is the character who really did walk into a door, but everyone assumes they're covering.
In anime and manga, this trope is usually just explained by all characters as "I fell," and keeping it unspecific. This leads to wondering by the characters, as by the reader, "Fell on what?"
Also frequently employed by a Super Hero when he must preserve his Secret Identity by explaining away wounds sustained in battle. It may also be used by someone attempting to cover-up Self Harm or someone being abusedat home (in which case "I fell down the stairs" is a common phrase).
Another variant, found in military fiction and military science fiction, has two men - often an officer and an NCO - engage in a brawl in a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way spot to settle some point of honor, with the unspoken agreement being that each will cover for the other's injuries (frequently by claiming to have been practicing hand-to-hand combat techniques.) This is because in many of these settings, striking a superior officer, regardless of the reason, is an offense worthy of court-martial and with very heavy penalties.
For the lethal version, see The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much. If he really did cut himself shaving, There Will Be Toilet Paper. Not to be confused with Dangerously Close Shave, which is about the barber cutting other people.
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Anime and Manga
In Bleach, the character Uryu Ishida once explains his injuries from a fight with hollows to a classroom by this. To hang a lampshade on this, the class believes he's lying.
In Blue Exorcist, Rin uses 'fell down the stairs' as his excuse for bruises he received in a fight. It gets funny when he attempts to explain his nosebleed.
Rin: I landed on an insanely hot babe.
In Monster, when Dr. Tenma finds Dieter on the floor screaming in pain, his legal guardian claims that he fell while standing on a chair. This excuse works for all but thirty seconds before Tenma lifts the boy's shirt and discovers that he is covered with scars.
And it takes less than ten seconds for Tenma to call bullshit on the guardian's "the ambulance is coming, you can leave now" spiel.
Ga-Rei Zero-: Kagura explains a large cut on her thigh (inflicted by a spirit armed with her katana) as her "walking through some glass".
Subverted/parodied in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Everyone assumes Kobushi Abiru is a victim of domestic violence, and her name is even read as "a flurry of punches," used in the context of said abuse. However, her injuries actually stem from her being attacked by animals after pulling their tails.
Parodied in the Hilarious Outtakes of Texhnolyze. In a "child-safe" redub of a gang fight, mooks exclaim things like "Ow, bee sting!" and "cut myself shaving" as they get shot.
The titular character of Loveless uses the "fell down stairs" excuse to cover for one of the many times his mother attempted to murder him.
In Change 123 a student fights with a kunoichi whose weapon of choice is a bunch of sharpened keys on a wire (sort of a disguised rope dart). These keys leave a serious wound on the student's leg, but in the school infirmary she tells the nurse that she accidentally cut herself with her own keys. The nurse doesn't buy this story (knowing that normal keys don't leave wounds like this), but pretends to accept it as she is also a kunoichi, from the same clan as the perpetrator, and has recognized her colleague's modus operandi.
Ryouhei from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! tells his sister that he is participating in a boxing tournament whenever she sees him and his friends fighting when it is glaringly obvious that both sides of the fight have every intention to kill and all kinds of dangerous weapons.
In Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka notices a suspicious cut on Yui's wrist and asks her about it. Yui casually explains it (at first) as a minor injury she sustained upon entering the book. Later, it's revealed that she did that deliberately because she had been attacked and believed she had been raped.
Medabots: Henry used that excuse to justify an injury he got as the Phantom Renegade. It worked despite the injury being on his forehead.
Since the day she transferred Umino, from Satou Kashi no Dangan wa Uchinukenai, had been saying she was a mermaid. Nagisa does not believe her nonsense but one day questions her on the bruises on her body. In true Umino fashion she states that they're due to the pollution in the sea. It's really due to her dads beatings
Batman is quite fond of this. For example, in the comics, Bruce Wayne was once in the hospital and the doctor notes that for a supposed lazy Millionaire Playboy, he has considerable scarring (which is from his work as Batman, Batman, and Batman). Wayne responded with:
Wayne: I fell from a tree. Doctor: A tree? Wayne: Yes, it was a very tall tree.
One episode of The Batman had him joking that he Cut Himself Shaving to explain a bandage on his arm (it was actually from a weird chemical Joker injected into him that made him start to act like Joker).
This was taken to extremes in the 90s comic book arc Knightfall. In it, then new villain Bane deduces Batman's identity, breaks into the Batcave, battles Batman and breaks his back. In order to explain why Gotham's wealthiest playboy is now paralyzed, they claim that Bruce Wayne was in a car accident, complete with the Batclan going out and totaling one of Bruce Wayne's vehicles. Now that's dedication.
In an odd turn, an actual shaving cut saved Batman on one occasion in the early comics. As Bruce Wayne, he met and briefly romanced a woman who, unbeknownst to him, was one of the Joker's henchwomen. Later, as Batman, he's about to be shot by the Joker, but she recognizes the shaving cut and takes the bullet for him.
Batman Begins toys with this trope in the dialog between Bruce and both Alfred and Lucius—the former suggests he take up polo to explain his bruises, the latter receives a very flimsy handwave for why Bruce had been drugged with a weaponized hallucinogen.
In more recent stories, part of Bruce Wayne's public persona includes a fondness for extreme sports. That would plausibly explain some of the scarring.
There is also the scene from The Long Halloween where (while Batman) Bruce gets a scratch on his face from Catwoman. When they meet up later for a date (as Bruce and Selina) and Selina asks how he got the scratch, he tells her exactly this.
Marv from Sin City uses the "cut myself shaving" excuse with his blind mom after the fight at the apartment complex against the dirty cops sent to take him in when he was framed for killing Goldie.
In Jonah Hex the title character sarcastically gives all sorts of unlikely explanations to his massive facial scarring when asked about it, from the traditional "cut myself shaving" to "my toothpick slipped."
* Hex shoots the gunslinger in the face without looking away from his drink*
Hex: Cut myself shaving. What happened to yours?
In an old, '50s-era Archie strip, Archie has a black eye. Everyone assumes he got into a fight and lost, despite his vociferous protests. Even his mother doesn't understand how someone could walk into a door. He demonstrates...and blacks his other eye, prompting him to decide not to leave the house for a week, as no one will believe he walked into two doors.
Another Archie universe story inverted this trope with Alex Cabot, one of the managers of Josie and the Pussycats. When Alex gets a black eye, he claims that he got it in a fistfight, while everyone else thinks that he walked into a door. Alex continually denies it, but when he gets up to leave he gets nailed in the other eye by a door. The last panel shows a dazed Alex sitting on the floor with two black eyes, mumbling that it was the same door that got him the first time.
Yet another Archie comic strip had a surprisingly dark example, when you think about it. Archie is forced by his friends to date Betty because they feel bad for her since Archie always snubs her for Veronica. She's in such a flip to get ready that she slams her cheek AND her forehead and bruises them, but just covers it with makeup. Then her and Archie have to jog through the rain which washes off her makeup, and all the guys at the dance assume he roughed her up on the way. It ends with the guys taking Archie out back and beating him up.
In The Question, it's a running gag for Victor Sage to have a snappy response when someone notes he has no face (the desired look of his special mask) such as "Dang those safety razors, you really have to watch them."
In ThisDonald Duck story, Donald and Gladstone get into a fistfight against Daisy's wishes. Gladstone excuses his black eye by saying he walked into a door, while Donald says he walked into the same door trying to save Gladstone. Daisy is less than convinced.
An arc of Spider-Man had a Running Gag/subplot of Peter Parker attempting to explain to his boss his injuries from battling super villains the night before. His excuses included a pot exploding in the microwave, to falling into the gorilla cage at the zoo.
Sleeping With The Enemy. Battered wife Laura tells her swimming class classmates that she also takes gymnastics lessons in order to explain "all those terrible bruises".
In The Marriage of the Slave King, Second passes off Sombra's injuries after his torture as the result of falling down several flights of stairs. Repeatedly. Bizarrely, this actually works.
In Fire Emblem Awakening fanfic Pretender Robin explains his strange voice, which is because he attempted to hang himself and his throat was injured, as having Plegian sand stuck in his throat.
Chinatown- when asked about his cut nose, the lead character gives a reply that would fit into the Chasing Amy scar comparison scene:
Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick.
Yelburton: My goodness, what happened to your nose?
Jake Gittes: I cut myself shaving.
In To Live and Die in L.A., Secret Service agents are posing as businessmen to bust a famous counterfeiter. One of the agents gets a black eye during a prolonged chase and, when asked by the counterfeiter where the shiner came from, he replies: "I got hit by a tennis ball."
In the TV movie No One Would Tell Candace Cameron's character tries to explain all her bruises this way to her best friend Nikki, and other people, when in reality her abusive boyfriend Bobby has been hitting her.
In Philadelphia, Tom Hanks's character, attempting to hide his AIDS, explains a cancerous skin marking as being a bruise that he sustained from being hit by a tennis ball.
The narrator of Fight Club, is asked to explain his fighting injuries to a doctor. His friend and alternate personality suggests that he "fell down some stairs." The narrator agrees. The repetition makes a lot more sense when you learn that "Tyler" is an alternate personality as the doctor wouldn't have heard him speaking as he isn't really there
Safranek from the '80s animated cult movie Cat City must do this all the time as his boss brutally injures him for every mistake he makes, and pretends not to know about it subsequently.
Top Cat: Not another accident? Oh dear. What happened to you this time, Safranek?
Safranek: *gulps* I cut myself shaving, sir.
Top Cat: But, your hand!
Safranek: That's what I was shaving with, sir.
In One Night At McCool's, Liv Tyler's character received a black eye in an accident. A police officer later sees her at her boyfriend's house; he immediately assumes that the boyfriend had beat her and kicks him out of his own house. The boyfriend keeps imploring her to tell the officer the truth, but she says absolutely nothing the entire time because she's a Manipulative Bitch.
Spider-Man has Spidey getting a nasty cut from one of Green Goblin's little toys (which is, admittedly, not nearly as outlandish as other examples on this page). When Aunt May and Norman Osborn question Peter about it later at Thanksgiving dinner, Peter claims to have been knocked down by a bike messenger.
Invoked in Doctor Strangelove. When Mandrake tells Colonel Guano that General Ripper shot himself in the bathroom, Guano skeptically asks if it was "while he was shaving?"
Also in The Dirty Dozen, repeated shenanigans are explained by a character saying "he slipped on a bar of soap." At one point, the chief MP complains that "Everybody's slipping on soap."
In The Elephant Man, Anthony Hopkins (a doctor) is called to examine the badly-wounded titular sideshow performer. The circus manager, Bytes, answers that "He fell. He's a clumsy soul. Never looks where he's going, but that's alright. He has me to take care of him." And all the while he's saying this, his sidekick is giving some very meaningful glances at Bytes' walking stick.
Parodied in Superhero Movie in one of its few genuinely funny moments. Dragonfly and the Big Bad get into a fight right before Thanksgiving dinner (in a scenario lifted directly from Spider-Man, just like most of the movie). Whenever somebody points out one of their cuts, they both come up with increasingly-bizarre excuses.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny features a dour waitress played by Amy Poehler who, when asked how she received her black eye, she hesitates and mumbles, "Burned myself with a curling iron." In the deleted scenes, she gives various other lame excuses.
In the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Vicky tells her husband that she is going to lunch with her professor, when she is actually going to see a man who she is sexually attracted to. While she is at the man's house, his ex-wife shows up with a gun and ends up shooting Vicky in the hand. She tells her husband that her "professor" was showing her the gun when it accidentally went off.
Hilarious: How'd you get that scar? Eatin' pineapple?
In Under Siege, Commander Krill says he cut himself shaving as an explanation for Ryeback slashing his face.
Played straight in Some Like It Hot with the gangster Spats and the federal agent investigating a murder that Spats is a suspect in.
Federal Agent: You shave with your spats on?
Spats: I sleep with my spats on!
Thunderball begins with James Bond fighting it out with a bad guy in widow drag wielding a fireplace poker. Later, when a physical therapist (a hot one) is examining him, she comments on a scar on his back:
Bond: Got it from a widow.
Therapist: Really - I thought you'd be just the type for a widow.
Bond: No, he didn't care for me at all.
In Mildred Pierce, Wally says this is where he got the cut on his hand when he was framed for murder.
Space Cowboys has "slipped in the shower" as the explanation of bruises from a fight. (One of the participants even goes :"How did you know?" when asked if this is what happened.)
The Waterboy: Bobby tells his Mama a fake story of an escaped gorilla that punched in him eye to cover up his black eye from playing football which Mama forbids.
In Stalag 17, the Geneva representative asks Sefton who beat him. Sefton's reply: "Nobody beat me. We were playing pinochle. It's a rough game."
In the 2010 The Karate Kid film, Dre excuses his black eye to Mr. Han as tripping and hitting a pole. Mr. Han responds that it's an "Interesting" pole.
In The Santa Clause, Scott (at his first stage of his body turning into Santa) explains the executives his sudden weight gain is from a bee sting. When the execs are ordering lunch, most of the others order things like fish or salads; Scott orders a large hot-fudge sundae, with big, chocolate cookies on the side.
Executive: Bee sting, huh?
Scott: A big bee.
In Yellowbeard, a bar fight with Blind Pew leaves the entire tavern littered with corpse.
Clement: What happened? Betty: Plague! Clement: Plague? Betty: All sudden like! Lucky I was out. Clement: That man's got a sword in him! Betty: He fell on it.
In Kill Bill Volume 1, The Bride and Vernita Green are having a knock-down-drag-out slugfest when Vernita's daughter Nikki comes home from school and they have to call off the fight.
Nikki: Mommy, what happened to you and the TV room?
Vernita: Oh... That good-for-nothing dog of yours got his little ass in the living room and acted a damn fool. That's what happened, baby.
Nikki (understandably skeptical): Barney did this?
Although Sean Connery's character at least has the foresight to actually spill some tea, giving his story some plausibility.
In 100 Feet, Famke Janssen's character didn't cover for her abusive husband back when he was alive, but when she's under house arrest and getting beaten up by his ghost, she has to resort to these sorts of excuses, since the truth wouldn't be plausible.
Discussed in Batman Begins. When Bruce Wayne comes home bruised after his first night as Batman, Alfred suggests he should take up a suitably injury-prone hobby as cover against future mishaps - polo.
Rather than admit to being beaten up by the female Dragon in Rush Hour 2, Carter tells Lee, "I slipped and I fell."
Played with in The Devils Brigade, where actual hand-to-hand combat training serves as cover for characters to settle scores with each other.
Commented upon by several trainee Spartans in the Halo: The Fall of Reach. One Spartan was captured by the OPFOR of a training capture the flag game, and was badly injured. The Marines claimed he tripped down a flight of stairs; in a one story building.
In Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff, the Dudley Do Right character meets a badly bruised woman who claims she walked into a door. In a subversion, this is, in fact, true and she is pathetically clumsy.
Heavily parodied in the book How To Be A Superhero, in which a sidekick explains away rope burns from a supervillain hostage situation to his teacher as him and his adopted father "getting into some really rough stuff." Naturally, this doesn't help the situation.
Standard excuse of brawling pages in the Tortall Universe because it's dishonorable to tattle.
"Alan" uses it in Song of the Lioness, claiming she "fell down" after Ralon beat her up—a servant confirms that Alan did fall down... another squire helped him fall, several times, with his fists.
Keladry in Protector of the Small gives the same excuse to Lord Wyldon after her many fights as a Bully Hunter even though he keeps trying to get her to tell on them, when he accepts the same excuse from the boys. She teaches Owen, a younger page, to do te same.
Later subverted in Kel's squiring years. Kel takes a soak in the shared bathrooms after a hard day's training. The women there see her bruises and immediately come to her defense, thinking a man beat her. It takes a while for Kel to convince them that she really DID get those injuries from falling... off her horse, repeatedly, while learning how to Tilt.
Like the pages' standard excuse of "I fell down" to explain injuries from fighting, the standard excuse given for an argument settled in a jousting match is that the participants had an irresolvable difference of opinions in a philosophical debate.
While Commander Vimes in the Discworld novels would come down heavily on any actual police brutality in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, he has occasionally referenced the trope as a veiled threat, muttering that certain prisoners might fall down the stairs on the way to the cells... even though there aren't any. They can find some. Coppers are resourceful like that.
In Monstrous Regiment, there's an inversion: the good Lieutenant Blouse managed to, somehow, slice open his hand while doing sword drills on his own. His sword hand. When William de Worde asks about the injury, Sergeant Jackrum hurriedly whispers, "You should have seen the other five men!"
Douglas Adams' The Meaning of Liff defines "Sluggan" as a facial bruise caused by walking into a door, but which everyone else assumes is the result of a fight with your partner. There's no point trying to tell them what really happened.
In The Great Brain at the Academy, Tom challenges his rival Rory to a fight. Since they could get expelled for fighting, he says they can go to the dormitory bathroom, no one will see, and Rory can explain his black eye by saying he fell down the stairs.
Also, after Harry's first detention with Umbridge, he heads back to the Gryffindor dormitory and on his way, Ron intercepts him and asks him how it went. Harry tries to cover up his hand with the words "I must not tell lies" cut into his hand but Ron notices, and doesn't believe Harry when he tells him that "it's nothing".
In Dead Air by Iain Banks, the main character is beaten up by the mob, when his friends question him at work the next day he says that he fell down the stairs and then had the shit beaten out of him.
Inverted in the novel Neverwhere. No one will believe that Richard broke his finger while being tortured, and they just attribute it to his own clumsiness.
"What happened, were you in a fight? Actually, you probably just slammed it in a door or something."
Richard: "Actually, it was in a...a door."
Older Than Radio: In the 1886 novel Heart by Edmondo D'Amici, Enrico's friend and classmate Pietro Precossi says similar stuff when people ask him about his bruises. Turns out he's being abused by his alcoholic father. Who, to be fair, later swears off the booze.
In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Adam Trask's wife Cathy walks out and leaves him the parting gift of a bullet in the shoulder. When the sheriff questions him, he says that the gun went off while he was cleaning it. Since Adam is a cavalry officer and a really bad liar, this doesn't really fly.
In Sandy Mitchell's Warhammer 40,000 novel Scourge The Heretic, in face of a corpse that had been torn to shreds, Kyrlock guesses that he didn't cut himself shaving. (Drake appreciates it; he had been on the verge of vomiting.)
In The English Patient, the title character acquires a number of scars during his affair with Katharine Clifton (ranging from punches to a stabbing with a fork). He explains them away as accidents; the rest of the group seem to believe him, and decide he's incredibly clumsy.
The poem "In Detention" by South African poet Christopher van Wyck is made up of excuses like this made by prison officials regarding prisoners who died in their custody.
Subverted in Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King. Although Joe does have a history of beating her, she stopped him from doing so months before. She really, honestly did simply injure herself by accident. But the checkout lady refuses to believe her. However, both her and Joe do use the large bruise to let him save face by pretending that he gave it to her. It's complicated.
In the Swedish novel Ondskan (The Evil), the main character goes to a Boarding School of Horrors where the students are punished by the student body through sadistic means, one of them being beaten up. Sometimes, a few get bruised so badly they have to be taken to a nearby hospital, where everyone gives the Fell Down The Stairs explanation. The doctor doesn't buy for a moment and asks what is going on but not before lampshading that it "must be one hell of a long staircase."
Subverted in Airframe. In one scene, the main character is pushed out of an airplane under inspection in a hangar and lands on some safety netting around it, getting bruised in the process. Later on, when someone else asks her how she got those bruises, she says truthfully (though vaguely) that she fell. The woman who asked the question doesn't believe her and gives her a card to a shelter for battered women.
Roddy Doyle wrote a novel about a battered wife entitled The Woman Who Walked Into Doors.
In This Can't Be Happening At Mac Donald Hall! by Gordon Korman, Bruno and Boots kidnap the rival hockey team's mascot (a large domestic cat) before the first game of the season, and it scratches Boots' face. The coach later asks what happened to his face and Boots says he cut himself shaving. The coach says he knows darn well that Boots is too young to be shaving, and that if the scratch came from a cat, he doesn't want to know about it.
In Twilight, when Bella is in the hospital after being attacked by a vampire, the Cullens tell her to explain her wounds this way: "You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window. You have to admit, it could happen."
In The Dresden Files short story "The Warrior", Harry saves a girl from being hit by a hybrid car (its near-silent engine meant she didn't hear it coming), and when her mother comes to see what happened, Harry spots a bruise on the girl and asks if he gave it to her when he pulled her out of the car's path. The girl says no, she was bruised when she fell off her bike. Harry then asks how that happened without her scraping her hands. The mother's eyes go wide with realization and she marches the girl promptly back home. Later in the story, Harry learns that the father had been hitting her, and Harry mentioning it meant that the mother was finally going to leave him with her daughter, and that one act saved the girl from a childhood of continued abuse.
In Cursor's Fury of the Codex Alera, Crassus attacks Tavi trying to get his mother's purse back, only for Tavi to beat him. Crassus thinks he's going to get cashiered out of the Legion for it, until Tavi realizes why he really did it—to protect Tavi from his mother's wrath—and says they don't kick you out of the Legion for falling down the stairs. Crassus then asks what happens if he 'remembers' that Tavi stole his mother's purse, and Tavi responds in that case he'll remember that there are no stairs anywhere near where they are.
In The Wasp Factory, Frank mentions a relative who moved to South Africa and died when he walked past a police station and was crushed under a black suspect who had fallen out the window and somehow managed to yank all his fingernails out on the way.
In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou chronicles how, when she was eight years old, her mother's boyfriend molested her, though at that time she just understood it as him holding her and making her feel good. After molesting her, the bed got wet and he poured a glass of water over the wet spot, telling her that she wet the bed. She got confused because she knew that she didn't wet the bed, and yet she didn't say anything to contradict him. He manages to ensure that this situation of her sleeping with him continues and no one suspects him to be the pedophile that he is until he rapes her and her mother finds her bloody underwear that she hid.
In Stanley Yelnats's Guide to Surviving Camp Green Lake, the default answer to how one got an injury, if ever asked, is: "I slammed the tent door on it." No other answers. This point is further emphasized when a quiz is held asking the reader how you got a black eye. Was it from a fight? Stepping on a shovel? Not bathing? The right answer is still "The tent door slammed in your face."
Near the end of the Vatta's War arc of books, a person who suddenly landed in Rafe Dunbarger's bad books (and by assumed extension, Kylara's), is found later with suspicious injuries. He insists that he just fell down a ladder.
In the Dick Francis novel "Nerve", Rob the protagonist won't tell a doctor how he'd gotten injuries from being tied and hung up by the wrists in a barn, and the doctor distastefully concludes he'd been involved in some kinky orgy.
In the SPQR novel ''A Point of Law", Fulvia's late husband Clodius used to come home gravely wounded due to his position as a gangster and tell her he cut himself shaving. This comes up because her new fiancé Curio comes home with a wound he informs her is minor and she has to be talked out of going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Unfortunately for Curio, one of the concessions the authorities make to avert the rampage is launching a thorough investigation, exposing his Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
In Polgara the Sorceress, Polgara (While living in a town that has precisely one two story building in it), mentions to some of the friends of her recently deceased 'nephew' how insulting she thought an offer a man had made for the family cooperage while the family was still in mourning. The next day Polgara had to set the businessman's broken bones after he fell down the stairs about half a dozen times.
Squire Roland, in Magician: Apprentice, has a more believable explanation than most. Sergeant of the Guard Gardan still doesn't buy it:
Roland: Ah...I was giving Pug a fist-boxing lesson.
Gardan: Roland, remind me never to ask you to instruct my men in swordplay — we couldn't withstand the casualty rate.
Sara in Relativity manages to hide being a superhero by using stories like this to explain her various injuries. It works for the most part, because most people don't hang around with her enough to see how many injuries she sustains. For people she sees all the time, it doesn't work as well.
Greg: There’s only so many times you can fall off a ladder changing a lightbulb.
Live Action TV
The Brady Bunch: With Greg in Season 5's "Out of This World," who had a bandage on his chin and Alice makes it a point to ask him to explain. In Barry Williams' autobiography "Growing Up Brady," he explains that he had been involved in a car accident around the time this episode was filmed in November 1973 – the driver of another car was talking to her dog(!) – and that Sherwood Schwartz suggested the "cut himself shaving" explanation.
An episode of The Middle found Frankie and the family quickly gathering up garbage for the once every two week garbage pick up. Frankie tossed an empty bottle to Sue which accidentally hit Brick in the head. Later at school when asked about the injury, Brick innocently said "My Mom hit me with a beer bottle", not intending it to sound the way it did.
Happens quite frequently on Law & Order (such as in the episode "Family Friend") and its spinoffs.
Defense Lawyer: And how did he get hurt between his home and the station house?
Alex Cabot: I don't know, how did he? (looks at Tutuola and Stabler)
Odafin Tutuola: He fell.
Defense Lawyer: Bull.
Alex Cabot: The only injuries I see are Mr. Gardner's torn knuckles from punching Detective Benson in the face, so unless you want to add the assault of a police officer to the list of charges, I suggest you move on.
Deconstructed on The Closer. Raydor suspects one of her officers is being abused by her husband, and the officer offers up these sorts of excuses. Turns out her shitty excuses tip off Raydor and Brenda that the woman's faking the abuse. Raydor notes that most actual victims of abuse are actually, sadly, quite good at hiding it.
Full House, episode "Silent is Not Golden" has the abused child version.
Lampshade Hanging: In the Foyle's War episode "Bleak Midwinter," the detective's offsider is framed for a murder. When he's informed that a search of his house turned up a shirt with blood spattered on the cuff, his response is: "Is this the bit where I'm supposed to say I cut myself shaving?"
B.J. Hunnicutt uses the exact phrase in the episode "The Abduction of Margaret Houlihan", to explain away a suspicious leg wound. However, he says this to annoy Col.Flagg, and does not particularly care if he is believed or not. (Actually, he'd been accidentally shot in the leg by Frank Burns.)
In the episode "House Arrest", Hawkeye punches Frank and gives him a black eye, but when Frank tries to get corroboration for a court-martial, Trapper John insists he really "slipped on a bar of soap".
In the Blackadder episode "Dish and Dishonesty," he fixes the result of an election by taking the place of the only eligible voter (who "accidentally brutally cut his head off while combing his hair"), and also replacing the returning officer, who "accidentally brutally stabbed himself in the stomach while shaving."
In a episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, Baltar uses this "excuse" to explain the rather grisly injury he gets when he is attacked in a bathroom and gets this throat cut. With the razor he was using to shave his Beard of Sorrow.
In House, a gangster's head injury is explained by "A tire iron fell on him".
"He was changing a tire, and it... slipped."
Played with - In the cold open of a Season 6 episode, a couple are arguing, and it disturbs their neighbour. When the man answers the door, the Woman (Patient of the Week)'s face comes out all bruised. Neighbour assumes the obvious, but it's just a symptom
Another episode has the Patient claiming that the abrasions on his knees are from playing flag football. They are in fact, rug burns, from the carpet of the motel where he was shagging his mistress.
On the Angel episode "Destiny", Spike and Angel have a massive brawl. Upon returning, when Angel shows up bloody and bruised, Fred asks, "What happened?!", and his response is, "I fell down some stairs. Big stairs." When Spike shows up later looking very similar, Fred's response is, "Stairs, huh?"
Del Boy:"I fell into a door" Rodney:"A door done all that damage?" Del Boy:"Well it was one of those revolving doors."
In Season 4 of The Sopranos after Chris' "intervention" for his drug addiction (where he gets the crap beaten out of him) he is taken to the ER. Tony explains to the nurse that he sustained his injuries "slipping off the kitchen counter while spraying for ants". Off her skeptical look, Tony elaborates, "Well, he was wearing socks".
The Middleman attempts to use this excuse on Lacey. Since he was bitten by a vampire puppet, it doesn't go over too well.
It always does. Vampire puppets, trout zombies, a boy-band bent on returning to their home galaxy through a portal powered by tweens' screams, and Sensei Ping's feud with los luchadores. It all makes sense in context. The context may not make sense.
"Is this the point where I say I cut myself shaving?"
Subverted later when it turns out he actually did, or something to that effect; the blood is his.
The West Wing: Josh's hand (supposedly) cut up by a broken drink glass in the episode "Noel", when in fact he smashed his hand through a window during a particularly intense reaction to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
On LOST, Ana Lucia sarcastically says she cut herself shaving when asked about the cut on her forehead that "Henry" gave her when he tried to kill her.
In an episode of Friends, Monica, Chandler, and Ross manage to get backstage at a Hootie and the Blowfish concert, without Joey, Phoebe, and Rachel knowing, during which Monica receives a hickey on her neck from one of the members. When Rachel asks Monica about, she laughs it off nervously with: "Oh... I fell." Rachel cynically asks: "On someone's lips?"
One episode of Scrubs features a throwaway scene where J.D. observes two parents checking their (very badly bruised) daughter into Sacred Heart. Explaining, the father says in a disconcertingly offhand fashion: "She fell again."
In another episode, there's a scene where several men people come in to the hospital with bizarre things stuck up their asses, and (nearly) all of them say "I fell on it." (The last guy said "I was bored." At least one of them was honest.)
In a rarely-aired episode of I Love Lucy, Lucy gets a black eye accidentally. She jokingly tells Fred and Ethel "Ricky slugged me!" But they believe her. And not her later protestations.
This episode had some of the creeeepiest dialogue in the history of the show. "Well, Fred, nobody's going to believe this story. You're probably the only person in history who *actually* got a black eye from walking into a door." Oh, the Fifties - you so crazy!
The Leverage episode "The Order 23 Job" has an abused kid whose parents repeatedly check him into the hospital with this kind of excuse. Fortunately for the kid Eliot takes offense.
On an episode of Dexter called "Waiting To Exhale", a gangster named "Little Chino" (see former pic) walks into the police station with a scar from when Dexter tried to murder him the previous night and failed. When questioned about it, he paraphrased this tropes title.
In a season three episode, Dexter explains away a broken hand that he got while escaping from the Skinner by saying that he fell down some stairs.
An episode of Burn Notice used this after a thief falls trying to scale a wall:
Gilroy:"Unfortunately, our dear Claude didn't survive his injuries." Michael:"He broke his ankle." Gilroy:"There were... complications."
An episode of Reba has Brock showing up with a suspicious injury around his right ear, which he claimed to be a shaving wound, when his wife's dog is missing. He's soon forced to confess that the injury occurred because the dog bit him while he tried to befriend the dog, but insists he never hurt the dog, and is soon cleared of the accusation.
Malcolm in the Middle had an interesting case; Reese had a black eye after Malcolm punched him. Being the tough guy he is, when asked by a lady in the store he made up a bad excuse about how he raised his leg during his sleep, hitting his arm and punching himself. However, after seeing the boy's mother, the lady assumes that she's abusing him.
In the first Horatio Hornblower TV movie, Hornblower is held down and beaten by another midshipman on his ship (a habitual bully and abuser of the other midshipmen). One of the officers sees his injuries, and he claims that he missed his footing and fell down a causeway (he fell down the stairs). When he continues to deny that anybody else was involved, the Genre Savvy officer orders him to stay up in the rigging (exposed to the rather nasty English Channel weather) so that he might "learn to watch his footing".
An episode of Degrassi Junior High subverts this: Joey's injured (from his bike) and keeps talking about child abuse (because he catches Rick being abused), so naturally the Children's Aid people assume his parents beat him.
In Degrassi, when Paige walks in while Ellie is cutting herself in the school bathroom, Ellie says she "hit her arm, on the... thing." Given how weak her excuse is, it doesn't work.
In the Doctor Who episode "Boom Town", This trope is used for the ludicrous deaths of anyone who might find out the Cardiff reactor is rigged to explode, culminating in:
Cathy Salt: And then just recently Mr. Cleaver, the government's nuclear advisor?
Margaret Blaine: Slipped on an icy patch.
Cathy Salt: He was decapitated!
Margaret Blaine: It was a very icy patch.
Part of a deception that wasn't recognized as such in Being Human's resident ghost. She believes she actually fell down the stairs in an accident which results in her death, and the reveal sends her into BSOD-mode.
A particularly impressive example (played for laughs) appears in Castle when a knifeman for a local drug cartel blithely insists to Castle and Beckett that his severe injuries — otherwise consistent with a very bad beating — were sustained during a fall. And that his horrifically swollen and near-useless black eye was injured when it connected with a door during the fall. And his mangled hand is the result of him putting his hand out to stop his fall, only for it to get caught in a grate. What makes this a particularly impressive example, however, is that Castle and Beckett actually walked in on him being very badly beaten by a rather pissed off rival member of the local Irish mob.
In another episode, Castle and Beckett are abducted by government members and questioned about data the government believes them to possess. They are injected in the neck and returned to their car. (It is set up to appear like an alien abduction, as this is what their current case looks like.)
Esposito: Abducted by government agents, huh? Come on, what were you two really doing?
Beckett: It's not a hickey, Esposito.
Later... Ryan: Hey. Those hickeys?
Castle: I wish.
Subverted in the Danish series "Langt Fra Las Vegas". Casper thinks his father-in-law is abusing his wife, but at the end of the episode, he finds the stone she said she had tripped over.
Lark Rise To Candleford uses the euphemism "chopping firewood" when Susan Braby is involved in a domestic quarrel with her husband Sam. The trope is subverted though - Susan makes no such excuses for the black eye she has and insists on calling the constable to deal with her assailant. The expression is specific to the time and place, and Flora Thompson's original book explains the origin, which is not elucidated in the TV episode.
Sherlock did this in reverse for laughs. Sherlock finds his landlady beaten up and overpowers the person responsible. He calls the police and requests an ambulance, rattling off all the injuries the man suffered before ending with "He fell out of a window". Then he throws him out of a window.
Lestrade: Exactly how many times did he fall out of the window?
Sherlock: It's all a bit of a blur, Detective Inspector. I lost count.
On an episode of ER, a policeman's wife comes in badly hurt by her husband. Some of his coworkers are witnesses, but won't speak against him because of cop code. Benton shows the abuser's lieutenant her medical records, showing that he's been beating her up for years. While the other cops still don't give him up, they do beat the shit out of him with the cover story that he fell while chasing a suspect.
The What's Happening!! episode "One Strike and You're Out". A strike at his workplace begins the day the main character Raj goes home to find out his mother is unable to work due to ill health and was actually counting on his income. He goes to work to break the strike and comes home with his shirt torn and staggering. When asked what happened he says "I fell down" to which his younger sister asks "Where, down an elevator shaft?". He then admits he was beaten up and lies about who did it because he was embarrassed that it was elderly mother of his boss. She hit him on the back of the head with her protest sign when Raj started yelling at her son and then beat him up while he was down.
An episode of Dick & Dom in da Bungalow featured Geordie copper Harry Batt in his usual weekly appearance being wheeled in on a wheelchair, covered in bandages and casts and neck brace. His answer? He cut himself shaving.
Xander: Maybe she cut herself shaving and then died naturally of embarrassment.
Or maybe, tripped and fell on a barbecue fork?
An episode of Strong Medicine had one of the doctor's talking to a colleague's wife when she noticed several large bruises. The woman offers a hasty, vague explanation of having bumped into the coffee table, which the doctor clearly does not believe. Several days later, the woman is rushed to the hospital after having "fallen down the stairs". The doctor angrily confronts her colleague, who continues to protest his innocence. She still does not believe him until tests reveal that the woman is suffering from multiple sclerosis and that the explanations for her injuries were true, as well as a symptom of her illness. Her demeanor was not fear of her husband, but fear of finding out what was wrong.
An episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman had newcomer Dorothy being examined by Mike, who noticed her many bruises and didn't buy her excuses for any of them. Sure enough, Dorothy eventually admits to being beaten by her husband. A sympathetic Mike reveals that even working with her father in a posh Boston neighborhood, she frequently saw women who had "fallen down the stairs".
In The Borgias, Cesare has just murdered his former brother-in-law, Giovanni Sforza by stabbing him through the hand, through the neck and then about ten more times in the torso, and Rodrigo tries to explain that Giovanni had an "accident" where "He fell...on a knife...which... Cesare happened to be holding". His voice trails off as he realises just how completely ridiculous this sounds.
Averted on Chuck with the bruises, cuts, scratches and scrapes the team—Sarah in particular—receive in the course of their spy work. Not because they're honest with people about where they come from, but because the injuries are never even discussed. Especially glaring in "Chuck Versus the Best Friend," when Sarah's face is covered with butterfly bandages for injuries she took during a particularly brutal fist-fight against the episode's Big Bad. While standing in the middle of the Buy More.
In a Very Special Episode of A Different World, Gina's popular boyfriend repeatedly beats her up; she makes excuses like "I got into a fight with this girl" and "I bumped into my desk." When she contradicts herself with one of her excuses, her friends start to get suspicious. Once the news gets out all over school, someone calls the cops when they see him dragging her outside for a "private talk". At the end of the episode, Gina says she's going to file a complaint and he is arrested.
An episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show had the main character toss a book to his wife, Laura, giving her a shiner. The humor of the episode is derived from everyone believing the main character "slugged" his wife rather than believing the more mundane explanation. The episode ends with Laura tossing a book to Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and giving 'him' a black eye. He is mocked relentlessly.
Subverted in the pilot episode of Z Cars. A policeman's wife is making some excuse about her black eye to her husband's partner, who is unconvinced and rather annoyed. (This was The Sixties, so all he does is grumble instead of sic Professional Standards on him.) Turns out she was beaten up, but not by her husband; they live on one of the less salubrious Council Estates in the area and the neighbours aren't fond of policemen, or policemen's wives.
When Jack Crawford checks in on Mason Verger on Hannibal, Verger assures him that his injuries are only due to slipping and falling while feeding his pigs. This is after the title character has drugged him and convinced him to cut off his own face and eat it.
Suzanne Vega's "Luka," a song very obviously about child abuse, runs with the "walked into the door again" approach in amidst claims of being clumsy and recommendations not to ask.
Complete with Lyrical Dissonance, since the song is very upbeat and happy sounding until you hear the lyrics.
Some Crash Test Dummies fans suspect the song "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" is really about child abuse. In this interpretation, the girl with "birthmarks all over her body" is actually badly bruised, and claims the injuries are birthmarks in order to shield her abuser.
Never Again by Nickelback: "Just tell the nurse, you slipped and fell."
"The Sanctuary Hum" by Project 86: "My sweet one/You tell no lies/The greatest reason to be despised/But we must pretend/Your broken wrist/Just happened when you fell off your bike".
"Once and Never Again" by The Long Blondes. One of the verses indicates that the girl to whom the song is being sung is cutting herself- 'look what he's made you do to your arm again'; which makes the line in the chorus 'you said you cut yourself whilst washing up the knives' an example of this trope.
In an April Fool's issue of the D&D magazine Dragon, they showed off the Wandering Damage Tables (since the whole purpose of wandering monsters is to inflict damage points on player characters anyway, why not just eliminate the middleman!). One entry read: "You cut yourself shaving. Roll on the Limb Loss subtable."
Older Than Radio: In Büchner's play Woyzeck (1837), Woyzeck goes to the tavern after stabbing Marie to death. When blood is spotted on his hand, he claims to have cut himself there. Then how did it get on his elbow? He lamely tries to explain, but the crowd has caught on.
In Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour's excuse for having Band-Aids on all ten of his fingers (which he is cutting to feed Audrey Two): "Seems like every time I pick up a pruning shears, I slip."
The prologue of Baldur's Gate features tutors of the character coming up to the character shortly after assassination attempts. The player can choose to be frightened and honest, or dismissive and evasive.
"It's nothing, Parda. A—cat didn't like me petting it, is all."
In Indigo Prophecy, the main protagonist cuts a number of deep wounds into his wrist while in a trance near the beginning of the game. When asked by a police officer why there was screaming heard from his apartment the previous night how he incurred these wounds, he claimed that he fell on some broken glass and "freaked out".
Cop: Boy, when you cut yourself, you sure go all the way, huh?
In Fate/stay night, Sakura apparently often tries to explain her suspicious bruises (courtesy of her brother) this way.
Shirou, at least once, beat the ever-loving crap out of Shinji for it. He's not stupid. He's seriously pondering doing it again.
Although the incident where Shirou asks Sakura about her bruises early in the game is used to help establish Shinji's character, it is also a Cassandra Truth: These specific bruises weren't inflicted by Shinji. They're Sakura's still-forming Command Seals, which look like a formless red mark all up and down the arm until a Servant is actually summoned.
Well, to be fair, Revan told him that was how he got such a clean shave...At which point he swore to kill his master.
In Tropico 3, whenever you mark a citizen to be "dealt with", Juanito the radio announcer says that they "slipped and fell out of a 3rd floor window, landed on the street and got run over by both an ambulance and a hearse". Not a single drop in approval rating.
Ace Attorney: Detective Gumshoe always has a bandage on his jaw, possibly a shaving cut.
In the adventure Black Mirror 2, the protagonist notices a waitress with bruises on her face. When he asks her about it she says "she fell down the stairs". Darren being who he is responds with "And your husband was waiting at the end of the staircase with a baseball bat?"
In Jade Empire, Kang the Mad wants to escape his employer Gao the Greater and suggests that you arrange for Gao to "fall down a flight of punches".
Parodied in this strip of Looking for Group. Richard lights a pirate on fire. When the captain asks him what happened, he (and the pirate) swear that the third-degree burns came from a fall down the stairs.
In Bob and George, this is used after a plot device revives dead characters in the Rockman Universe. Bob tells Rock and Dr. Light that they fell down. Rock then questions if Roll fell up, as she's tied to the ceiling. Bob responses that he put her up there to prevent her from falling down.
Sprained wrist. It's a good thing my powers aren't based on some kind of heart moon wand or something, but it does make it hard to write on school quizzes. Getting my clothes on in the morning also poses some problems, since I can't completely close my hand without shooting pain up my arm. I've taken to taping it tightly, and that helps a bit. I told mom it was a fashionable thing at school now to tape your left hand. She bought it. It's for the best that she bought it.
In the KateModern episode "Honeymoon Blues," Julia claims that the large bruise on her face was caused by a falling coconut. In reality, her husband hit her. With a coconut.
More than one act of violence against Dr. Clef of the SCP Foundation has been written off in a manner similar to this. For instance, claiming that he slammed his head into the table nine times during an interview, or that there was an experimental attempt to terminate SCP-682 using him.
Clef: You'll never un-think it, Konny! It'll always be back there in the back of your head, nagging, nagging, tickling you, spinning around in an unending spiral…
Kondraki: [Inarticulate scream of rage.]
[It is determined that this is the point where Dr. Clef accidentally fell out of his chair and struck his head nine times against the corner of the desk, fracturing his skull and snapping his neck between the second and third vertebrae.]
From the decomission of 809:
11:16 Ukelele:: I need suggestions for a Decom. 809 is turning into a serious security risk and needs to die.
In the zombie parody Dusk Of The Dead, a survivor has a conversation with a bitten person that goes something like this:
"That's a pretty nasty cut." "I fell" "But it has puncture wounds" "I fell on a barbecue fork" "But it has lots of puncture wounds" "I fell on...several barbecue forks?"
In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku, arriving to fight what's left of the Ginyu Force, one-shots the guy who almost killed Vegeta and then asks Vegeta how he got all beat up. Vegeta (with Ghost Nappa's prompting) says he fell down some stairs. Krillin interjects, but stops when Vegeta threatens to throw him down a flight.
In The Joker Blogs, Batman is wounded by Harleen's shotgun blast. He escapes and the next day, it's mentioned on the news that Bruce Wayne was in a nasty hunting accident.
On American Dragon Jake Long, Rose claimed to have sprained her ankle at the family reunion she had supposedly been at that weekend. In reality, she was injured while fighting Jake in her alter ego as Huntsgirl. (You'd think Jake would have noticed the coincidence...)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): In the episode "I Think His Name is Baxter Stockman", the Turtles return home after being beaten up by Baxter Stockman's upgraded Powered Armor. Splinter catches them in the act and asks about their injuries, and after a dew minutes of them stammering and trying to come up with an excuse, Mikey claims they were hit by a bus. Splinter doesn't buy it for a second.
In the episode "Wasted Talent," Stewie tries to watch television, but is distracted by the poor piano playing of one of Lois's students. When Lois leaves the room briefly, Stewie sweeps in and beats up the student. When Lois returns and sees all of the injuries of the piano student, he tells her, at Stewie's prompting, that "I fell?"
Then there's the episode where Stewie beats up Brian twice for not paying him some bet money on time. Later Brian comes limping into the living room, covered in bandages, and someone asks him what happened. Stewie makes a threatening gesture and Brian hastily replies that he "fell down the stairs'', prompting Stewie to say "Ooh, you should be more careful!"
Yet another Stewie example — he, Chris, and Brian are in a car, and Chris was claiming not to be responsible for getting caught with some alcohol at school (it really was a friends). Stewie orders the car pulled over. Cut to him relentlessly spanking a sobbing Chris and demanding, "What do you say if your teachers ask about your bruises?" "I got hit with a baaase-baaall."
In Robot Chicken, one comedic short involves a couple at a family abuse help-clinic. The man asks what they could do about their situation, and the clinic official asks: "Well, have you tried Nerf doors?" The couple look at each other for a moment and the man replies: "What about stairs; we're going to need some Nerf stairs too," followed by a nod from the woman.
American Dad! turns this one on its head with thorough use of Not What It Looks Like. A stressed Roger gives Francine a black eye, which she tells the neighbors came from running into a door. Later on, she trips over the mop and bruises the other eye on a door for real, explaining it by innocently remarking "It was my fault for leaving the mop out". Naturally, they assume Stan is beating Francine and call the cops on him. None of this is helped by the fact that Stan, under house arrest, is lazing about in a bathrobe and asking questions like "How did you get hurt?" (in complete honesty), making him look like the stereotypical wife-beating scumbag.
In one episode Snake comes into Dr Nick's surgery with a bleeding stomach. His reasoning: "I like, fell onto a bullet, and it like, drove itself into my gut..." Not missing a beat, the receptionist casually ticks off "liquor store robbery" on her clipboard. Dr. Nick tells him to save the stories for the courts and leads him back to the office.
In another episode, Homer is seen to be choking Bart on TV... with Doctor Hibbert watching. Hibbert remarks something like "So that's how he got all those bruises on his trachea! Tight bowtie, my ass..."
In "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind", Marge says her black eye is due to walking into a door. Wiggum voices his skepticism and then walks into a door himself.
In "I'Doh!-bot" Homer can't build a good robot for Bart to compete in Robot Rumble so he does the fighting. When Lisa asks about his injuries, he explains they are various bug bites and wounds.
When Homer hires the Mafia to help Marge's pretzel business, she delivers some to Skinner who answers his door with a bandaged wrist. She asks what happens and a hidden goon behind him whispers "*mumble mumble* boating accident". Skinner repeats robotically "I believe it was a boaking accident."note This isn't a typo, Skinner blurts out boaking
The first episode had the subversion. Bobby and Peggy end up with bruises thanks to the non-athletic Bobby throwing around a baseball. A social worker assumes that Hank is physically abusive and tries to get Bobby taken away. However, his supervisor calls him out on the fact that he was jumping to conclusions and didn't bother doing any of the actual investigative work involved in abuse cases, which gets the social worker Reassigned to Antarctica.
In "Leanne's Saga" Bill begins dating Luanne's mother. When she falls off the wagon, she resorts to her abusive ways and Bill takes the brunt, leading to him showing up in the alley with a black eye. When asked about it, he explains:
Bill: That's an interesting story. You know what? I was walking... I was walking. And I walked into a door.
Dale:(suspiciously) Wait a minute. How was that interesting?
In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, Spongebob walks into the Krusty Krab with a black eye and the others question how he got it. In response, he makes up a bunch of ridiculous stories about fighting this guy from his dream. Eventually he is forced to tell the truth when the guy does show up. The truth: he slipped on a tube of toothpaste and he hit himself in the eye with a wrench.
Dr. Rockzo the Rock n' Roll Clown (he does cocaine): What's that, judge? Why's my nose bleedin'? Well, you see, uh... I fell dooowwwwwn.
Subverted in a Mr. Peabody and Sherman short. When Mr. Peabody asks Sherman where he got a black eye, he says he ran into a door. Sherman really meant Eddie Door from across the street.
Real-life Example: Italian painter Caravaggio made many enemies in his short and tempestuous life. Once when laid up in bed with slash wounds on his throat and left ear, he told a clerk of the Roman courts that he had wounded himself with his own sword while falling down the stairs, rather than name his attacker(s) and face further retribution.
Dr. Richard Feynman - top theoretical physicist, safe cracker and bongo player - loved to frequent nightclubs in the rougher end of town. One night, he had an altercation with a drunk in the toilets at one such club, and gained a black eye in the encounter. The next day his colleagues asked how he got it. "I had a fight in a nightclub washroom," he replied, to which they laughed and said "Oh Feynman, you're such a kidder..." (Apparently he started his first lecture by glaring up one-eyed at the students, and snarling "Any questions...?")
People who like BDSM (or just rough sex) run into difficulties with this; it's hard to explain away ("say, these look like whip marks"), and the truth can be very embarrassing. Families and friends can end up conflicted as well.
Many professional tops advertise their ability to leave marks or not, as the customer prefers, for just this reason.
Supposedly, legendary manager Casey Stengel, when running one of the horrid New York Mets teams from the early 1960s, saw one of his pitchers in spring training with a bandage on his thumb. When he asked the pitcher what happened, the player responded that he had cut himself shaving. Stengel released the player from the team, because he couldn't figure out why on earth he'd be shaving his thumb.
NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who seriously injured his hand when he slipped on a McDonald's bag and put his hand through a glass TV stand while wrestling with his family. Due to his checkered legal history, many commentators were skeptical of this story, but it ultimately turned out to be true.
Infielder Clint Barmes broke his collarbone during his rookie year with the Colorado Rockies carrying a package of deer meat (it was a gift from teammate Todd Helton) up the stairs to his apartment. In order to avoid embarrassing Helton, Bames claimed he fell while "carrying groceries".
Black Metal musician Varg Vikernes, after he murdered his bandmate Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, claimed that he stabbed Aarseth in self defense and Aarseth's TWENTY-THREE stab wounds were from Aarseth falling on broken glass during the struggle.
It's more plausible when you know that Aarseth was only wearing underwear at the time.
In a subversion / possible straight example, Soccer player David Seaman apparently broke a bone reaching for a remote.
Although today best known for the line of hair products bearing his name, hairstylist Vidal Sassoon was, in fact a total Badass Normal who fought with a Jewish resistance group called the 43 Group. In post-World War II London, there were a fairly large number of fascist and anti-Semitic groups who would heckle and harass Jews and vandalize Jewish-owned shops and businesses; the 43 Group fought back, often with violent brawls resulting. One day, after a particularly bad fight, Vidal showed up to work with a badly bruised face. A client said "My God, Vidal, you look terrible! What happened?" Sassoon replied "I tripped on a hairpin."
American Comedian Louis CK had a bit about how his daughter got a black eye due to walking into a door, and he coincidentally took her out for ice cream afterward. The other people in the ice cream place gave him dirty looks, assuming he abused his daughter. He exclaimed how offended he was that they thought a black eye was all she would have if he had hit her.
According to his book Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams sustained a nasty facial cut in a car accident during the later seasons of The Brady Bunch. When he reported to the set the next day, the producer slapped a Band-Aid on the cut and decided that Greg Brady had "cut himself shaving." Barry thought, "What does Greg shave with, a lawn mower?"
In NASCAR, Carl Edwards once managed to break/damage something (either his leg, arm, or hand) while playing Frisbee. His friends asked him why in the world he'd be honest about the origin of his injury, pointing out he could have claimed he was rock-climbing or, y'know, almost anything other than playing a game children are able to participate in without receiving a scratch.
"Riding a motorcycle in the shower" and "fell off his tennis racquet" have become popular euphemisms in Formula One racing to explain why a driver has missed a race due to injuries outside of racing, especially so after a mysterious extra-curricular injury sidelined Juan Pablo Montoya a few years ago.
Self-harmers often use similar excuses - scratches from their cat or dog seem to be a popular excuse.
People in the Society for Creative Anachronism engage in sport fights; they wear armor and use sticks rather than metal weapons, but it's quite possible to get bruises and broken bones. So: if you're a female SCA fighter and your doctor asks where you got the marks, do not offhandedly say, "Oh, my husband and I were fighting..."
Even sport fencers get this sort of thing all the time. Foil and epeé leave strange little round bruises, saber cuts can look like whip marks, and sometimes it's possible to draw blood despite the protective equipment.
Falling from your bike (either in dirt cycling, mountain biking, BM Xing or even when riding on rough ground in some parts of town) can give weird injuries despite protective equipment, like a stab wound in the thigh from falling over a dead tree branch or bruises on the torso (which look like bruises from a beating) from falling over a rock or stump.
Sufferers of CIPA injure themselves in all sorts of ways, especially when they're too young to know better, because the disease prevents them from feeling pain. Early on, it leads to false accusations of abuse. Later, shaving is one of many activities in which they have to take extreme care.
Children with osteogenesis imperfecta have been wrongly believed to be abuse victims due to their frequent broken bones.
Martial artists, due to the very nature of their sport, are quite likely to get injuries during sparring even if they wear protective clothing. Younger martial artists who haven't learned proper control yet are especially likely to walk away from a training session with bruises from their peers, and it can look like they got a serious beating from an abuser.
Some martial arts with focuses on holds and escaping from holds can result in bruises to the wrists or, in some cases, bruises around the throat. These can look rather nasty.
Some chronic eye conditions result in the patient's vision being narrowing progressively. They cannot see objects placed even slightly to their left or right. So, yes, they do run into doors all the time.
When San Francisco Giants second baseman Jeff Kent broke his wrist during spring training in 2002, he claimed he landed on it badly when he fell off his truck while washing it. It turned out he hurt it performing wheelies and other tricks on his motorcycle (in direct violation of his contract); this probably contributed to his leaving the team at the end of the season even after making it to the World Series.
This is a fairly common trope among professional athletes who injure themselves doing something forbidden by their contract (generally skiing or motorcycle riding). Notable examples include a stab wound to the stomach while opening a DVD case and a cut hand requiring 40 stitches received while cleaning bagpipes.
A woman wrote to Dear Prudence citing her coworkers concern over the bruises that she often had on her arms and legs. They were clearly not believing her vague excuses and thinking that her boyfriend was beating her, when in truth, they were engaging in consensual S&M play.
In surprising frequency doctors are confronted with a patient, of either gender, who in act of self-pleasuring or some rather kinky consensual sex have managed to jam something in one of their orifices. The excuses for how that particular object got there range, the most common being, "I tripped and fell on it" (naked for some reason...) to ridiculously elaborate stories worthy of a teen comedy film. In fact the excuses are often more amusing that the injury itself. The kicker is that whilst a doctor will indeed write the patient's account of events, they will also note what they believe actually happened. The general advice to anyone in that unfortunate situation is basically: Just come clean and promise you'll not do it again. They've seen it all before.
One of the notorious West German terrorists, the Baader-Meinhoff Group, was found dead in his cell. The official explanation was that a gun had been smuggled in and he had committed suicide. The difficult evidence - that he had managed to shoot himself more than once in the back of the head with bullets fired from a standard issue police pistol - somehow got over looked.
Shortly before maverick star Eric Cantona was transferred from Leeds United to Manchester United for an absurdly and suspiciously minimal fee, there were reports of an all-out fistfight in training between Cantona and Leeds team-mate Lee Chapman. These were put down to the two players going for the ball at the same time and, alas, colliding heavily. There were also rumours thar one of the two had been having an affair with the other one's wife; Chapman had certainly been exonerated on suspicion of beating his actress wife, who put her bruises down to over-energetic sex...
This newspaper clipping, where a man who tried to steal a laptop, then stabbed a marine who was at a Toys for Tots collection, was taken to the hospital later for a dozen severe injuries sustained, according to the police report, when he tripped on the curb.