" 'I'm Yul Brynner and I'm dead now.'... I'm sitting there, thinking, what the fuck is
This is a message from a dead character, either left in the knowledge of their death, or left in such a way that it won't be seen unless they die. Often it contains useful secrets, the reason why he's dead, the actual information that got him killed in the first place, and an apology for dying and getting the reader involved.
Somehow, the message can end up in the hands of its intended recipient even under circumstances that can border on a post-mortem Gambit Roulette
. The subversion where it winds up in the hands of the villain instead is also common, and often happens because the dead person has the Idiot Ball
. In yet a third possibility, it sometimes does get to the intended recipient—who turns out to be in league with the villain.
Another possible twist is that the supposedly dead character turns up alive after all
, which may lead to personal drama or embarrassment if the message discussed matters he wanted kept secret until he no longer had to deal with the consequences.
Quite often, the trope is subverted when the person who made the will adds, after "I'm dead", "unless..." and adds a humorous (if unlikely) hypothetical meant to lighten the mood. This may or may not lead into the "he's not really dead" situation described above.
In present-day and future settings, a video- or holo-recording will often be used instead of a written letter.
The message will usually begin with a sentence along the lines of, "If you're seeing this, it means I'm already dead." Often it comes in an envelope labeled "To be opened in the event of my untimely death." Alternatively, the message will conclude with the writer promising to come back to it and destroy it or add to it if he survives, leaving readers with the implication that he didn't because That Was the Last Entry
Most suicide notes fall into this category.
Compare Apocalyptic Log
, Video Wills
, Note to Self
. Also compare Couldn't Find a Pen
, which is more "Dying Man Writing" (as the person is in the process of dying and not already dead)
Not related to Undead Author
, which is when an Urban Legend
or something similar is said to leave no survivors, raising the question of how the story reached anyone in the first place.
As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime and Manga
- Parodied by the Upright Citizens Brigade, where a CEO asks permission to speak posthumously, hands over a note and then shoots himself.
- Peter Cook's character E. L. Wisty once delivered a comic monologue which he claimed would air after his death, giving his posthumous address as somewhere in South Heaven.
- In Runaways, the main characters are snooping around Gert's house and accidentally activate her parents' holographic will when they guess the secret chamber's (easy) access code.
- In the Tintin comic book Explorers on the Moon, Wolfe leaves a letter stating he has "left the rocket" to conserve oxygen. In the BBC's radio adaptation, this becomes a message on the logging machine (which didn't exist in the comic) stating "...by the time you listen to this, you will be listening to the voice of a dead man."
- Blake and Mortimer: Mortimer receives a letter from his deceased nemesis Miloch, entrusting him with a functional time machine as a post-mortem conciliatory gesture. In fact, the time machine has been sabotaged.
- Watchmen. Rorschach's last journal entry: "If reading this now, whether I am alive or dead, you will know truth. Whatever precise nature of this conspiracy, Adrian Veidt responsible. Have done best to make this legible. Believe it paints disturbing picture. Appreciate your recent support and hope world survives long enough for this to reach you, but tanks are in East Berlin, and writing is on wall."
- Anarky wrote such a letter for his parents, which they discovered in his room; conveniently, he appeared to have died around the time they read the letter.
- After Civil War, it is revealed that Captain America wrote one to Iron Man, saying Bucky should be the new Cap.
- The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man viewed a holographic message from the Human Torch after his recent death. Along with various farewells, the Torch asked Spider-Man to take his spot on the team.
- In a famous commercial, Yul Brynner said "Now that I'm gone I tell you, whatever you do, just don't smoke." Watch it here.
- "Ill Met by Starlight." Ranma 1/2 Dark Fic. Nabiki to Akane.
- And by the same circle of authors, a hilarious use of the same trope is found in "Pastpresent", a fanfic about Ranma reading Genma's memoirs after he passes away from disease.
If you're reading this, boy, either I'm dead or you're more like me than I thought. If it's the latter, turn around very slowly and pray Kasumi goes easy on you.
Since you're still reading, it looks like I'm dead. Damn.
- "Dear Tohsaka" by tobias, which you can also find on Fate/Stay Night's fanfic recommendation page. Just prepare some tissues if you want to read it.
- "My Little Mages: The Nightmare's Return": Celestia has a message prepared to be sent to Twilight along with the box containing the Elements of Harmony and instructions on how to use them should she fail to defeat Nightmare Moon herself.
- Taken Up to Eleven in "Death Note Equestria" When Pinky's sense warns her that she is going to die, she writes letters to everypony she ever met.
- In "Hivefled"verse, scratched signatures and advice is all that's left of the many, many innocent young trolls the Grand Highblood and the Condesce kept in their personal torture chamber.
- In the Spider-Man fanfic A Letter to My Niece Peter Parker reads a letter his from his for lack of a better term brother Ben Riley addressed to Peter's daughter to be opened in the event she were ever to become Spider-Girl. Unfortunately, the fic is set in the 616 comics rather than Marvel Comics 2, which means that the intended recipient was stillborn. Ben died the same day. Cue Tear Jerker as Peter finishes reading the letter and has to wrestle with the painful memories.
- Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series recorded a series of messages to be played each time the Foundation hit one of the mathematically predicted "Seldon Crises". Even the first one was revealed decades after his death.
- Due to that formula, they consist of stunningly accurate predictions of the future, leading up to one of the classic Oh Crap Moments in sci-fi literature, Seldon listing off events that aren't occurring. Don't worry, though, there is a Second Foundation....
- At the end of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry discovers a taunting note like this written for Voldemort by someone with the initials R.A.B.
- A String Of Pearls the original book about Sweeney Todd, features an example written by someone who discovered that the pies were made from people. Unfortunately, he spent so much time writing about how horrible the secret he'd discovered was, he ran out of pencil before he could reveal what the it.
- A straight example occurs in the second book in the The Looking-Glass Wars series, where Hatter comes across a message which his former lover, Weaver, left him in case she died before they could meet again (which she obviously did... or did she?).
- This appeared in I, Jedi, a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel featuring Corran Horn, whose father, secretly the son of a Jedi, had died years before, and left a holographic message for him. It started with the "My hope is that we're watching this together..." variant, and the thought that they'd be laughing at how young he looked.
- Corran gets to subvert this in the X-Wing Series— he and Tycho psyche Wedge out with a fake 'last message' before revealing that they're both fine. Later in the series it's played straight with the message Phanan wrote while dying and gave to Face.
- Also in the EU, Lorn Pavan recorded a message for his son Jax. Jax had been taken and raised by the Jedi, and one of the last things Lorn did was tell the recording droid to find his son.
- Happens a couple of times in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe
- In Lioness Rampant, Liam sent the letter to a friend, thinking trouble was likely. If he survived, she was to burn the letter; if he didn't, she was to pass it on to Alanna.
- Before her Ordeal in Protector of the Small, Kel tries writing one to her sweetheart Cleon, which consists of one sentence—she loves him and will miss him. She knows the chances she'll need it are low (and she's fine, of course), but the Chamber of the Ordeal had killed Joren the year before.
- The original novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has two. The first is written briefly before Hyde takes over Jekyll forever. Hyde is dead by the time the second letter is read, so that moves it out of "technically".
- This is subverted in the book The Time Traveler's Wife, where Henry suggests that it's a bit presumptuous to start such a letter in such a certain way, and suggests that the letter might be read before he has really died.
- In Animorphs #34, this is done with not a note, but the stored memories and persona of Aldrea. Which puts Cassie in the rather unique position of inverting this by saying, "Yes, Aldrea, you are dead."
- Occurs in the short story "Death of a Bachelor" by Arthur Schnitzler. After the man dies, his housekeeper rounds up three men who knew him but have no seeming connection to each other. (It was supposed to be five, but two couldn't make it.) They are given the letter. It begins with "About a quarter of an hour ago I breathed my last", and proceeds to describe in gratuitous detail the affairs that he had with each of their wives.
- Played with in The Name of the Wind. Kvothe leaves one of these messages for Bast, but survives his mission, to return home to find that Bast found the note earlier than he was supposed to and is pissed off.
- Subverted in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel Whose Body? with the smug murderer. When he knows the police are close to catching him, he plans to take poison and writes a gloating note to the police and Lord Peter to be found near his body. Unfortunately for him, the police burst in mid-sentence, and he's presumably tried and hanged as a common criminal.
- Played with in the climax of Lords and Ladies. Granny Weatherwax's letter to Nanny Ogg, only to be opened in the event of her death, says "I Ate'nt Dead". She's merely possessing a swarm of bees, an act thought to be impossible - but then, this is Granny Weatherwax we're talking here.
- In Garth Nix's Shade's Children the escaped children routinely make these, very much aware that any mission could be their last.
- Neverwhere: Door's dying father records a message for her. But Croup and Vandemar alter the message before she sees it.
- Used in the Forgotten Realms short story "The Rose Window." The narrator writes down his findings before confronting the evil behind the window, intending to destroy his message afterward if he's successful. The outcome is hinted at by the story's existence.
- Moiraine from The Wheel of Time gave Rand one of these, with the knowledge she'd be gone by the time he read it. She also left another letter that said she wasn't dead.
- Name a solve-it-yourself mystery featuring a kidnapping or murder where the victim DOESN'T manage to leave one of these, somehow revealing the identity of the perpetrator in a secret manner. (In one case, not actually a secret, just the murderer's name written in a position that was upside-down to the detectives but right-side-up to the victim.)
- The third book of the Inheritance Cycle reveals that Brom has left one for Eragon. Instead of leaving a note, he tells it to Sapphira, who shares the memory via their mental link. This one is unusual in that she is forced via magic to not be allowed to share it with him unless the contents become vital to his safety.
- In David Eddings' Malloreon, Belgarath and Belgarion find a message written by the Big Bad of The Belgariad, Torak, that is addressed to Belgarion. It (not entirely typically) starts "If you are reading this, we have already met in battle and you have killed me..." and goes onto explain a few rather important points of the Prophecies that they both serve. It ends with the instruction that Belgarion must be ready to do anything, even kill his own son, rather than allow the Dark Prophecy to be fulfilled. Pretty ominous, considering the Dark Prophecy is the one Torak was serving.
- In Mockingjay, the last book in The Hunger Games series, Katniss gets one from Cinna. His sketchbook contains designs for a suit of armor for her to wear into battle and the message "I'm still betting on you."
- In Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles records several of these — to his parents, his brother and cousin, and his unborn children — when he thinks he's likely to die of exposure to a Cetagandan bioweapon. When he's cured, his wife refuses to erase them, saying that the next time he's in mortal danger, he might not have time to record them again.
- This is the entire plot of Thirteen Reasons Why.
- In Agatha Christie novels:
- Subverted twice in Death on the Nile: The initial written by the murder victim in her own blood is quickly discovered to actually have been written by the murderer (the victim died instantly, leaving no time to write a message), seemingly to throw suspicion on a third party. It later turns out the third party was actively involved in the planning of the murder and the message served to direct suspicion away from her.
- But played straight in And Then There Were None; the murderer writes a message in a bottle revealing their identity and explaining in detail how and why they murdered everyone and stating how they hoped it was unsolved up until their point of reveal.
- In Aunt Dimity's Death, after Willis Sr. is sure of Lori's identity, he gives Lori two letters, one from Aunt Dimity and one from her mother. Dimity's provides some background on the terms of her will and the reasoning behind it, while Beth's sets Lori a second task to carry out.
- In Shadow of the Hegemon, the second of the Ender's Shadow books which follow on from Ender’s Game, Bean receives two copies of an email following Sister Carlotta's death. Each had to be stopped being sent each day, this method was meant to ensure that Carlotta's death could not prevent Bean learning important information about himself that she already knew, but wasn't yet ready to tell him.
- In Feed, Buffy (just got bitten by a zombie and is about to herself become one, which she fully knows) tells Georgia, Shaun, and Rick to look in a particular directory on the file server. They find a video of her confessing to being part of the conspiracy that led to two nasty zombie outbreaks and will eventually get Georgia killed.
- Later in the same book, Georgia says early in her final blog entry "I legally died eleven minutes ago", after her blood test showed she was going into viral amplification (about to become a zombie). She keeps up her narration as long as her mental capacity and motor coordination allow.
- In the second book of the Isaac Asimov's Caliban series, the planetary governor is assassinated. Sheriff Kresh, who's investigating the murder, is shocked to be told he was recently made the governor's successor — and to receive an "in case I'm assassinated" letter from him giving him advice on the political situation and wishing him luck.
- Star Trek
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- Kirk's taped message from the episode "The Tholian Web" is revealed even though he doesn't actually die.
- "That Which Survives". In Losira's Apocalyptic Log about the death of her colony she says "...we who have guarded the outpost for you will be dead by the time you take possession of this planet."
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Tasha Yar's farewell holo-message is played at the end of the episode "Skin of Evil".
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
- In the episode "Civil Defense", a message like this from Gul Dukat to his Cardassian underlings is revealed, as part of a long-buried computer subroutine that's assuming the Cardassians still control the station and there's a slave revolt in progress. Dukat is not only still alive, but vastly amused by the whole thing — at least until another facet of the subroutine locks him out as well. Apparently one of his own superiors had added a few things without bothering to tell Dukat.
- In the episode "Visionary", Chief O'Brien, before taking on a dangerous time-travel mission, informed Dr. Bashir that he had left a message for his wife Keiko in the event of his death.
- Doctor Who:
- In the episode "The Parting Of The Ways":
The Ninth Doctor: If this message is activated, then it can only mean one thing. We must be in danger, and I mean fatal. I'm dead, or about to die any second with no chance of escape.
- It happens again in the finale to series 3: a reporter has a video message set to be automatically sent to Torchwood in case she dies confronting Mr. Saxon.
- A sort-of roundabout example in Baywatch: Down Under: When his former lover dies, Cody travels all the way to Australia (her home) and finds a "goodbye" note left amongst her possessions.
- Babylon 5 has a few examples:
- In "The Parliament of Dreams", G'Kar receives a message from an old enemy: "By the time you get this recording, I will already be dead... Ah, but then, very shortly, so will you."
- In the episode "Z'ha'dum", one such message is left by Sheridan for Delenn. This death ends up non-permanent, but the accompanying Love Confession is still heartbreaking.
- As seen in the prequel movie In The Beginning, Dukhat leaves such a message for Delenn so she can take up his role as liaison with the Vorlons in the event of his death. This message is also apparently what causes her series-long quest to become closer to the Humans.
- As seen in the penultimate episode, at least one message was recorded by Sheridan for his unborn child, as he knows his years are numbered.
- "This Saturday Night Live short. "Dear sister, by the time you read this I'll be dead. Here's how I think it's going to happen: first Dave will shoot me, then I'll shoot Dave..."
- In the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is used in Mayor Wilkins' video will to Faith. The mayor notes that it's either her watching it, or a bunch of kids at a museum celebrating his glory—"In which case: hi, kids!"
- You could say it was inverted in the Firefly episode "The Message", where the guy arrives in a coffin, with a tape recorder, asking them to bury him. Later on, he wakes up, having faked the whole thing to escape with the organic goods he was hiding in his chest. But the audio message still ends up being relevant, and ends up acting like the trope played straight when it plays at the end of the episode, after he's Killed Off for Real.
- In Heroes season 3 episode 1, Hiro finds one of these left to him by his father. "Whatever you do don't open the safe." Hiro opens the safe to find another DVD, plays it: "I told you not to open the safe!"
- The Middleman has the Code 47, which is a posthumous note that Middlemen are supposed to record for every mission.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Lily write notes to each other to be opened only when the other died. Hilarity Ensues when Marshall opens Lily's note beforehand.
- In Torchwood:
- Tosh makes a Video Will in case of her death. The remaining team members find it after she (and Owen) die. It's quite the Tear Jerker.
- Owen in "Dead Man Walking": "...I died and was brought back to life... And they think I'm fine."
- One Dollhouse client uses Echo's body to write a note after her death and passes it off as one of these, making herself seem incredibly prescient by identifying her murderer and the method used to kill her, and leaving messages for loved ones informed by what she's learned of them while attending her own funeral.
- Denholm's video will in The IT Crowd uses this trope and mixes in The Tape Knew You Would Say That.
- On Fringe, a dying scientist working with ZFT leaves the team a videotape revealing that Walter's old partner William Bell is the group's backer.
- In Prison Break, the final scene of the series is Michael Scofield's posthumous message to his brother, his wife and his unborn child.
- Murder, She Wrote, episode "Truck Stop": An fatally injured man records a message describing how he came to kill two people. He's partly covering for someone else.
- In the episode "To the Last Will I Grapple With Thee", the murder victim left a video tape claiming that a friend of Jessica's was out to kill him. He actually committed suicide, arranging his death to implicate Jessica's friend, a man whom he blamed for making his life miserable.
- Monk, on the series finale, it's revealed that Trudy left Monk a tape as a Christmas gift before she died. While the entire tape wasn't shown yet, she does reveal that she knew she was in danger.
- One episode of Law & Order had a twist on the trope, in which a video message was left by the murder victim. As it turned out, he was not a murder victim at all — he knew he was dying of cancer, so had hired a hit man to kill him and frame both his cheating wife and her lover. The video was given to his best friend, with instructions that he was to show it to the district attorney if anyone ever tried to pin the murder on him.
- The letter Bart leaves for Chuck on Gossip Girl (which oddly enough mentions that he's left Chuck Bass Industries, but fails to mention the morality clause).
- In Being Human, Tully leaves a warning for George in this manner. Annie attempts to do this with an answering machine message, but it gets listened to before she's gone anywhere. (Both in the same episode, too!)
- In Murder Most Horrid, an episode begins with a woman recording her suicide note that begins "Dear Mum, by the time you read this, I will be dead.", but she ends up embroiled in an assassination attempt of sorts. By the time it's over, she's decided not to kill herself, and also decides to phone her mother to tell her all about it. Unfortunately, she dies anyway and the last words she says to her mum before the tape begins playing are 'I've got so much to say I could explode!'. Guess how she dies.
- On Rubicon, Katherine's husband is Driven to Suicide under mysterious circumstances, and ends up leaving her a cryptic note reminding her to celebrate their anniversary, as per usual, which includes watching Meet Me in St. Louis—but the DVD in the case is actually a message from him explaining The Conspiracy that caused his and others' deaths. Too bad it doesn't save her from getting killed a few days later.
- In Supernatural, before Gabriel faces his brother Lucifer and is ultimately killed by him, he leaves a video for Sam and Dean containing some important information. In the form of a porno. Him as the leading man, of course, 'stache and all. He halts the action for a moment to deliver the info. After admitting that Dean was right, Gabriel had been too much of a coward to face his family, he ends with this little gem:
Gabriel: This is me standing up. And this... is me lying down.
- The porno then resumes.
- Parodied to death in the Saturday Night Live sketch "Dear Sister."
- On one episode of NUMB3RS, a body washes up on the beach with Chinese numbers tattooed on its feet. The numbers turn out to be a phone number, and the message machine that picks up says, "Hi, if you're listening to this, then I guess I'm dead." The victim was an investigative journalist going undercover, who got the tattoos so she could be identified if she died.
- On The X-Files, Scully begins writing a diary to Mulder, for him to read after her death from terminal cancer.
- Ellery Queen: "The Adventure of Veronica's Veils" opens with a group of people being attending a funeral and then being shown a film in which the dead man says that if they are watching this then he has been murdered and that one of them is the killer.
- In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring The Atomic Brain, when the companion of villainess Mrs. March reads the letter that'll be used to give Nina Mrs. March's fortune, Mike quips "By the time I read this, you'll be dead." Ironically, it's the man who's killed instead.
- In Once Upon a Time, Snow White asks the huntsman to deliver a letter to her Evil Stepmother Regina after he kills her. He looks at the letter and is inspired not to kill her by how selfless the letter is. It essentially says that Snow White hopes that with her out of the way, Regina can devote her energies to ruling the kingdom as well as Snow's father would have wanted. Regina is nowhere near as impressed by the letter as the huntsman is.
- Castle; In the episode "In The Belly Of The Beast", Beckett is trapped in a deep cover assignment gone wrong. Preparing for the worst, she writes a letter to Castle, hiding it in an air vent and planting drops of her own blood to lead a CSU team to discover the letter if necessary.
I hope you never have to read this... that I can tell you all of these things in person, but if something happens and I don't make it, I need you to know that our partnership, our relationship is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. You're an amazing man, and I love you with all of my heart. Always.
- "By The Time You Read This I Will Be Dead" by Suicide Watch.
- The video for the Decemberist's song "O Valencia" includes one of these. You can see the long version here.
- At the end of the second The Protomen album, when Dr. Light has lost all hope and is waiting for Wily's robot army to arrest him, he finally reads his murdered love's last letter - which (somewhat presciently) tells him not to give up hope and continue fighting.
- "If you're Reading This" by Tim McGraw - a letter left by a fallen soldier for his wife.
- "Riding With Private Malone" written by Wood Newton and Thom Shepherd, and recorded by American country music artist David Ball. The letter is left in the glove box of a '66 Corvette by a soldier heading off to Viet Nam.
- Lisa Moore in Funky Winkerbean, who died leaving a four-year-old daughter, left a number of tapes for the daughter to watch as she grew up. After the time jump Summer is seen watching at least two of them, one of which reminds her to tell her father to get his prostate checked.
- Occurs repeatedly in Shadowrun products, including The Universal Brotherhood, Awakenings, Threats, Threats 2, Dragons of the Sixth World (twice!) and Emergence. Always involves someone trying to publicize information about a dangerous conspiracy, with the conspiracy trying to kill the person to prevent this.
- The prologue of Deadlands: Hell on Earth is a Apocalyptic Log written by a Templar named Jo about the state of the world and events that led to it meant to bring players up to speed on the lore. She is on her death bed, and is most likely dead by the time the player would realistically read it.
- Silent Hill RPG.
- In the sewer system under the amusement park the PCs can find the diary of W. Irving. It says that two of his friends have been killed by a monster in the sewer water and that he's going to try to kill it.
If you find this note, consider it my will.
- In the Indian Runner delivery office there's a journal of an undercover officer working for a drug gang. The last entry says:
As I write this I am already dead. I have committed the worst crime of all! I talked. My tongue slipped and that was my death sentence. They came.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement Dark Designs, adventure "The Eyes of the Blind''. The note Elias Cartwright sends to Jeremiah Ordacre starts "By the time you read this I fear that I shall be dead". Shortly thereafter Elias is killed by being pushed under the wheels of a carriage.
- Traveller The New Era supplement Survival Margin. The New Era takes place after the collapse of a galactic empire called the Third Imperium. The description of a Bootstraps Campaign has a man leaving a message for his descendants.
Hello. I am your grandfather. By the time you see this I will have been dead for many years, but on this tape I will show you how to repair a radio...
- Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Mysteries of the Hollow Earth. The journal of Professor Alexander Trader details his exploration of the Hollow Earth. The journal was found abandoned: Professor Trader's fate is unknown. Near the end of the journal it says:
If you are reading this, then all is lost for me, and I most certainly have already shuffled off this mortal coil. My life will not have been in vain, however, if this journal makes it to those who can appreciate my discoveries.
- Independence War 2: Edge of Chaos has one such last will in Lucrecia's Base, stating that the base's vacancy and lack of activity boils down to her being dead, and that the finder of the base gets to keep it. It ends up in the hands of her grandson Cal Johnston, albeit with guidance from mentor Jefferson Clay, who even in AI construct form was old enough to have known Lucrecia.
- In Super Robot Wars: Original Generation, where Bian Souldark leaves a holo-recording for his daughter, Lune, hidden in her Valsione - along with comprehensive data on secret DC bases, since he apparently predicted that she'd join up with the heroes after they'd killed him, and figured that they might need a hand taking down the remnants of DC. Nice of him, huh?
- One of these letters also appeared near the beginning of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, as a letter to the main character from her dead grandfather.
- She finds several more letters from him throughout the game, including one that, when selected in the pause menu, is accompanied by a recording of him reading it.
- Used straight, from your former commanding officer, at the start of the Humongous Mecha game MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries.
- And then Mechwarrior 4 Vengeance starts with the protagonist receiving a message from his late father.
- One of Mario's quests in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is to deliver such a letter to Admiral Bobbery, thus releasing him from the mental torment that keeps him from sailing the seas.
- Earlier in the game, Koops finds such a message in a pile of bones that he believes to be his father's. As it turns out, that wasn't his father's skeleton after all.
- The NES game The Guardian Legend has one of these after you complete the introductory space shooter level, when you first enter the labyrinth.
- Mary's letter in Silent Hill 2, though we don't get to read it all until James lets himself read it all. The very first thing James says in the game is that it can't be possible he got a letter from Mary, since she's been dead for years now. But near the end, we find out that she's only been dead about a week.
- Your foster father Gorion in Baldur's Gate leaves one of these kinds of letters for you to pick up late in the game. (He also apparently lies—Fanon is divided on whether the two stories of your mother can be reconciled—but then he is The Obi-Wan.)
- The whole thing smells of Retcon. Probably done in order to be able to say that Sarevok and the PC could have exchanged places but for the smallest accident of chance.
- Near the very end of System Shock 2, as SHODAN starts warping reality, the player finds another of the Apocalyptic Logs left by Delacroix, although earlier in the game the player found her body and final log. This one, floating in the air all on its own, starts, "Re: some small assistance. If you are receiving this, I am already dead. When I realized SHODAN had betrayed me, I integrated these comments into her primary data loop." Her messages then guide the player.
- George Crabtree's journal in Dark Fall: The Journal.
- Mass Effect 2:
- During Tali's loyalty mission, she and Shepard find a holovid on the corpse of Tali's father.
- Kasumi's partner leaves a holo-message as well.
- If you romance him, Thane writes a message to be delivered in the event of his death (he has an incurable disease, and expects to die within a year). In the third game, he dies fighting Kai Leng and the message is indeed delivered to Shepard's email.
- The Papas/Pankraz's letter Dragon Quest V. When you obtain the Zenithian Sword, he wants you to fulfill his objective to find the legendary hero and your mother.
- As a rule, every NCR soldier in Fallout: New Vegas must carry a letter to their loved ones, to be read only in the event of their deaths.
- Fallout 3 has a number of these, such as the note from Sidney's late father found in the Statesman Hotel.
- In Honest Hearts, you find a trail of holotapes left by a survivalist named Randall Clark in the years after the bombs fell, leading up to the day of his death.
- John's letter to Ada in Resident Evil.
- Armored Core 4's Maximilian Thermidor leaves the player this type of message in the ORCA path, stating that, as the sole remaining member of ORCA, It's Up to You to complete the Closed Plan. If you're playing hard mode, you find out that Thermidor has both lied and inexplicably decided to kill you as you attempt to complete the mission he assigned you.
- Penumbra's Framing Story involves one of these from the protagonist. To kick off the game's plot, he gets a letter from his dead father, as well.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Bladewolf plays Jetstream Sam's final message to Raiden to him during the final battle.
- The Star Trek Online mission "A Fistful of Gorn". Your contact on Nimbus III, an old Romulan lawman named Law, sends you a note saying he's going after a Gorn pirate gunning for your head. Cue cutscene of the two of them squaring off in an Old West-style pistol duel, which cuts away just as the shots ring out. Next scene has Law walk up to you and shrug, then says it looks kinda stupid for him to leave a death note for you and then survive.
- The original Ninja Gaiden for the Nintendo opens with Ryu's father in a life and death duel. As might be expected, his father is killed in the duel, leaving only a message for Ryu to find containing instructions to go to America and a final condolence from his father.
- Appears twice in The Simpsons played straight (in "Homer's Odyssey" and "I Married Marge", although the second one is not a death, but instead him trying to run away) and once parodied ("Marge, if you're watching this, it means I worked out how to operate the video camera" in "Half-Decent Proposal").
- Again, during the episode where Mona dies.
Mona: Homer, if you're watching this, either I'm dead, or you've gone through my stuff. If I'm dead, this is my video will; if not, please keep away from my stuff.
- Professor Farnsworth leaves a holographic message to his crew after he is taken to the Near Death Star in the Futurama episode "A Clone of My Own". He even anticipates a smart remark by Bender and reveals that he recorded over Bender's soap operas.
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures: Tony's father does one of these for Tony.
- In Rugrats, Chuckie's late mother Melinda left a poem for her son to read when he got older. Unlike most examples, it is a huge Tear Jerker.
- Up: "Thanks for the adventure - now go have a new one! Love, Ellie"
- Happens in The Venture Bros. when Brock conveniently finds a video from the late Dr. Venture with explicit directions for Rusty that had to be carried out within the next day.
- Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: Subverted. When Zack and Ivy attempt to close the titular character's file following her death, they receive a video of one of these. Then at the end of the episode, Carmen is revealed to not be dead after all, and to have in fact staged both the video and the avalanche that supposedly killed her specifically in order to determine who was "worthy" to be the successor(s) to her crime organization in the event that anything should actually happen to her.
- In a bizarre case of Truth in Television, controversial Australian politician Pauline Hanson made a video that began "If you are watching this, I have been murdered...", apparently believing she was in danger of being assassinated by foreigners. It was naturally leaked to the media (which may have been her intention all along). The general reaction from the public, however, moved her perception from that of merely being an unpleasant redneck xenophobe to being an absolute raving looney (or an easily manipulated stooge).
- There's also the famous, impossibly sad Sullivan Ballou letter.
Dear Sarah. The indications are very strong that we will move soon...
- Guatemalan attorney Rodrigo Rosenberg. It's understandable how it ended up in the right hands: he made it for the entire country and was uploaded to YouTube. This could be counted as a subversion; the following UN investigation ultimately concluded that Mr. Rosenberg had arranged for his own murder.
- Robert Scott. "For God's sake look after our people."
- Press play, and cry
- Thomas Paine wrote "The Age of Reason" while imprisoned during The French Revolution (he'd gone to France to help with their struggle for liberty, and been arrested by the revolutionaries after their regime became tyrannical). He felt free to write down his highly controversial criticisms of Christianity, because he thought he'd be dead before they were published. It didn't work out that way.
- Jack Layton, a Canadian politician who was Leader of the Opposition, dictated a letter as he was in the final stages of terminal cancer, addressed not only to members of his party but also to the public at large (even going so far as to tell other people with cancer to not take his death as a reason to give up hope).
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.