Kilroy Was Here
So you're somewhere—on vacation, at war, time traveling, teleporter accident, whatever—and you want something that'll stick around longer than just a Fun T-Shirt. That's easy, just vandalize a handy surfacenote ! This trope is pretty much as old as humanity itself (it's posited that there are hand-prints at Lascaux for this very reason, among other theories), but the Trope Namer is a bit of Memetic Mutation from World War II whose origin has many stories (see Real Life section below). Do not confuse with the Styx album.
- In the famous medieval painting "The Arnolfini Portrait", the painter draw the legend Johannes de eyck fuit hic 1434◊ ("Jan van Eyck was here 1434")"
- City Hunter: Ryo, who enjoys mocking his adversaries and pulling pranks on them, is quite fond of playing this trope when he infiltrates into his enemies' lairs. Before leaving, he vandalizes pictures, writes insults on the walls -or comments about their enemies' penis size-, paints drawings of them... He makes this because an angry enemy is prone to commit mistakes... but mostly because he gets a good laugh out of pissing them off.
- Pokémon: The memetically infamous "Gary was here! Ash is a loser!"
- Cartoon History of the Universe shows a Greek mercenary leaving his name on some Egyptian architecture.
- In one Footrot Flats strip, Wal makes a moving speech about how insignificant it makes one feel knowing that an ancient tree will still be standing centuries after he's dead. He then carves "Wal Footrot Was Here" into the trunk.
- In Cast Away, Chuck Noland does this before sailing away from the island he was marooned on, presumably to leave a record in case he dies at sea.
- The Killing Room (2009). Several people are locked in a room and forced to take part in a lethal Mind Control experiment. One of them finds HELP ME and a list of names has been scratched into the wall. They find the names are all scratched over the walls. The anonymous researcher secretly watching the experiment then brags, "It used to take six to eight hours to reach this point, but leaving those names really sped up the process."
- The Shawshank Redemption: BROOKS WAS HERE
- Journey to the West: Sun Wukong makes a bet with the Buddha that he can leap out of Buddah's grasp. He goes an extreme distance away and finds a set of pillars. Thinking that he'd won, he leaves the words "Son Wukong Was Here" on the middle pillar and urinates on it for good measure. Turns out the "pillars" were Buddha's fingers. Oops!
- In The NeverEnding Story, there is a mountain that is only conquered for the first time - that is, you are always "the first person to ever climb it"; it is impossible to get on the top as long as there is any memory of anyone doing it before. So leaving a tag at the top blocks everyone else from it until the tag is worn out by the elements.
- In The Shawshank Redemption, inmate Brooks, unable to fit into society after so many years in prison, carves "Brooks was here" into a ceiling beam from which he then hangs himself. At the end of the film, Red carves "So was Red" before leaving to join Andy in Mexico.
- Isaac Asimov's short story The Message is about a time traveler from the 30th century to WWII North Africa who, forbidden to interfere (he can only observe) resorts to writing a message on the wall of the hut he was in. His name is George Kilroy.
- The Yiddish Policemens Union. Detective Landsman is thrown into a cell by the villains, and chillingly finds a snarky comment written by his dead sister carved on the wall, written after the date she supposedly died in a plane crash.
- In My Name Is Earl, Randy had made several graffiti like this, and after the episode where he goes back to school, he sets Earl to correct them since he [Randy] has realised that those graffiti had bad spelling.
- Two Kilroy faces appear in the opening credits of Community, with the noses forming the l's in "Joel McHale".
- In the Doctor Who serial "Warrior's Gate", "Kilroy Was Here" is seen spraypainted onto a wall inside a spaceship.
- The cover of Iron Maiden's Powerslave album. The wall of the Egyptain tomb has "Indiana Jones Was Here" written on it. It's easier to see on the vinyl release.
- In the radio program The Black Museum (based on real cases of Scotland Yard and real objects in their 'Black Museum'), episode 'The Notes', police find notes actually saying 'Kilroy Was Here." The police eventually realize the killer is actually telling them his name is Kilroy!
- The OGL d20 Modern setting "Weird Wars" uses "Kilroy" as a kind of spirit that has allied itself with the Allies. It possesses random soldiers and leads them to perform suicidally effective charges against Axis positions. When its host is killed, it discorporates, always leaving the graffiti "Kilroy woz 'ere" imprinted on a nearby surface.
- As mentioned above, "Kilroy was here". However it originated (The Other Wiki has a few theories), American soldiers began leaving Kilroy everywhere.
- Graffiti tags. There's even a "language" associated with specific artists and gangs depending on what elements are present in a tag.
- Places like Names Hill, Register Cliff, and Independence Rock in Wyoming; according to Wikipedia, people on the Oregon Trail and the like carved or had carved their names in them. Names Hill also has Native American pictographs.
- One Viking trader scratched "Halfdan was here" in his native language into the wall of the Hagia Sophia when he visited Istanbul. Similar tags have been found in several places in the Mediterranian, as well as in the complex at Skara Brae in Orkney.
- During the Potsdam Conference Harry Truman allegedly had some fun at Joseph Stalin's expense by sneaking into his private bathroom and writing this on the wall. Stalin, in characteristic fashion, had the KGB on high alert looking for this mysterious "Kilroy".
- In general, any video game that lets you leave behind some kind of message (text or graphical) can result in this trope.
- This, and bragging rights, is the whole point of high score lists.
- Left 4 Dead has graffiti in every safe house as a form of pseudo-communication between groups of survivors. Among them is Chicago Ted, whose statistics for zombie killing become something of a legend.
- In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, outside Lilycove City's Pokémon Fan Club building, it is noted that a number of Trainers have scribbled their names all over its sign. There is also a small island in the waters by Seaside Cycling Road that Team Aqua (or Magma) have tagged ("Team Aqua Was Here!").
- In EarthBound, checking a certain sign in Summers shows a message from Porky insulting Ness.
- There is a gag in The Order of the Stick when Elan shows that his rapier is actually useful by carving "The Order of the Stick was here!" into the dungeon wall.
- Homestar Runner: "Rad, rad Robotank!"
- In the Looney Tunes short "Haredevil Hare", Bugs Bunny lands on the moon (in 1948) and mentions that he's the first living creature to do so. He then passes a rock with "Kilroy was here" written on it.
- The Simpsons: In earlier seasons, "El Barto" graffiti tags can be seen all over town. Unsurprisingly, the cops never suspect Bart as the culprit.
- In The Boondocks, Riley graffio-tags his name in big bold letters, then wonders how he got caught.
- In the Flintstones episode "Adobe Dick", Fred and Barney are swallowed by a whale. Inside, they spot a graffito that reads "Jonah was here".
- At the end of the Fairly OddParents TV Movie Channel Chasers, Vicky's sister Tootie gives Timmy's Parents pictures of all the damage Vicky has caused over her time as babysitter. One such picture displays just this.
Timmy's Dad: Vicky was key-scratching "Vicky Was Here" on my car! I punished Timmy for key-scratching "Vicky Was Here" on my car!