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Lights Off, Somebody Dies
This trope describes the basic situation where a story's characters are attending a Masquerade Ball, a dinner party, or any event with a sizeable amount of people in it, and the lights go out. Usually this is accompanied by screams, chaos and people trying to feel their way through the dark, but, more importantly, as soon as the lights come on someone is found to have been murdered in all of the commotion.

The general reason for this trope is often to establish a mystery where, in the dark, anyone could have done it.

In Real Life, this kind of murder would be very difficult to actually pull off. The murderer would have to be able to see in the dark, in order to avoid tripping over things or bumping into people. Then they would have to correctly identify the person they want to kill without seeing their face. (This sometimes leads to a plot twist where it turns out that somebody else in the room was actually the murderer's intended victim.) They'd also need to work out how to discreetly get the lights off in the first place - everyone is going to suspect that shady-looking fellow who was hanging around the light switch. Best not to think about it too hard.

Compare Darkness Equals Death, where the lights are already off.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Quite a few murders in Detective Conan rely on this trope, including one subversion where it turns out the act of turning the power back on is what actually kills the victim. ( Poor Hikaru Yasumoto, killing her boss without even knowing it!)
  • In Tantei Gakuen Q, there's a murder while a Phony Psychic has the lights turned off as part of a ritual. She was strangled by the sons of the family since they thought she was an accomplice of their Evil Aunt who wanted to go the Financial Abuse on the heiress and their little sister. She turned out to be their mom under a disguise.

    Fan Fic 
  • A rather ambiguous example from Calvin & Hobbes: The Series: the climax of the final story (which involves Slender Man) has the lights going off when he shows up. Twice, after they come back on one of the story's antagonists is gone, with absolutely no explanation as to what happened. The second time, said antagonist's screams heavily imply he was really dying, however.
  • The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "A Haunted Christmas" plays around with this, as after Smurfette tells her story of the first Christmas she spent with the Smurfs, the lights go off at the Christmas dinner, and Smurfette inexplicably disappears without a sound. The story ends leaving Smurfette's fate ambiguous.

    Film 
  • Mr. Boddy's murder in Clue. Mr. Boddy's actually the one who turns off the lights, expecting everyone in the room to attempt to murder someone else. It Makes Sense in Context.
    • And he was actually faking his death because he realized someone was trying to kill him instead. Said guest succeeds later, but not in the dark.
    • Also, later in the movie when the power in the mansion is shut off, three more murders take place.
    • Subverted when Wadsworth is illustrating how the murders took place. He shuts off the lights, Peacock screams, lights come on, Wadsworth drops forward rigidly...then catches himself and continues his energetic summation.
  • In Devil, nearly every time the lights go out, someone gets murdered.
  • The Three Stooges often parodied this trope, when during brawls someone would turn out the lights, and when they were turned on again the fighting parties would be in a funny position, or the Stooges would be accidentally beating each other up.
  • Used to the point of a Running Gag in Dark and Stormy Night. At one point, during the brief blackout, Jack Tugdon is killed, his head taxidermied, and mounted on a wall. Towards the end of the film, the characters aren't even surprised anymore.

    Literature 
  • In the Miss Marple novel A Murder Is Announced, a personal ad appears in the town newspaper, announcing that a murder will take place in a certain house at a certain time, and inviting everyone to come over. The Genre Blind locals assume the ad is inviting them to a party game (sort of "Murder in the Dark" for adults) and attend. Naturally, the owner of the house claims to know nothing about the ad, and then at the right time the lights go off...
    • Something of a subversion considering the person who is found dead is the person who was waving the gun around.
  • In Baynard Kendrick's novel The Last Express a killer stabs a man to death in a night club and no one notices because the room was bathed in red light for a performance and you can't see red blood under red light.
  • The Anno Dracula novella "Vampire Romance". Deals with some of the usual objections: All the suspects, being vampires, have (or at least may have) supernatural speed and the an ability to see in the dark; and the lights go out due to an existing intermittent wiring fault.
  • Happens during a game of Murder in the Dark in the Ellery Queen short story "The Dead Cat" in Calendar of Crime. The facr that the murderer was able to commit the crime in a pitch black room is what clues Ellery in to the solution.

    Live Action TV 
  • Doctor Who has the Weeping Angels, lifeforms that actually function by this trope. They exist as statues when being observed, and only when no one is looking can they move. When the lights go out, they can move almost instantly from place to place.
    • This also happened in the episode "The Unicorn and the Wasp."
  • Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Wolf in the Fold". While a seance is going on to find out who the murderer is, the flame that's the only light in the room goes out. The medium running the seance screams, and when the light comes up again, she's dead: stabbed in the back.
    Morla: The lights were out. Anyone would've had time to kill the lady.
  • One episode of The X-Files had an enemy that would only attack in the dark.
  • The Foyle's War episode "The White Feather"
  • An episode of Family Matters has an imaginary parody of detective works with Urkel as the detective. Every time Urkel would accuse someone of the murders, thunder would make the lights go off briefly and that person would be found dead.
  • Parodied in Monty Python's Flying Circus. In one sketch the lights go off and a police inspector is killed. Another police inspector enters and decides to reconstruct the crime by having the lights turned off. While they're off, he is killed as well. The scenario repeats until there's a large pile of dead police officers in the room.
  • Used in the slasher-themed episode of Boy Meets World.
  • Used in Tracker. One of the fugitive aliens cut the lights in the Watchfire, then killed someone while the lights were off.
  • Happened once on Dallas. When the murderer was confessing to their crime, they said this was actually a coincidence. The victim had had a poison inside them long before the lights went off. This example also subverts Perfect Poison.
  • Parodied in a Wayne and Shuster sketch. Sherlock Holmes and Watson are holding a Summation Gathering in a stately country home. Every time that Holmes dramatically announces who the murderer is, the lights go out. When they come back on, the suspect he has just named is dead. After all of the suspects have been killed, Holmes deduces that he must be in the wrong house.

    Music 
  • The song Dangerous Dan McGrew. Barbershop quartets sometimes sing a variation, part of which goes:
    And then suddenly there, all the lights went out, and a voice cried "Die you must!"
    And a shot rang out and a woman screamed. Somebody bit the dust!
    Then the lights flashed on and the Northwest Mounted Police came a crashing through
    And they drew their guns, and they said "Which one is Dangerous Dan McGrew?"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Very common in Pro wrestling, the most notable examples including The Undertaker. Lights go off, gong sounds, lights come on, and either 'Taker mysteriously appears in the middle of the ring or someone who was already in it is incapacitated by 'Taker.

    Tabletop Games 
  • If this isn't happening at least once per mission in Paranoia, you're not playing it right.

    Video Games 
  • Inverted in Calm Time, an Indie horror game about Six Little Murder Victims in a party in a countryside house. First, the first victim is stabbed and killed when the lights are still on, then the killer kills the power in the house, switching all lights off.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in-universe by Bart Simpson. After telling his class mates a ghost story, he reassures them that Dark Stanley would never dare attack a crowded, well-lit -- The lights go out, then back on, and Bart is "dead" on the ground with exposed brains.
  • In the first "Tales of Interest" episode of Futurama, Leela's last three victims are all killed this way.
  • The South Park episode "Cartman's Mom Is Still A Dirty Slut" begins with Dr. Mephesto being shot in the chest. It becomes the focus of the entire episode.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "C.L.U.E.S.", Numbuh Three's Posh Party Rainbow Monkey is stabbed in the back this way.
  • In the episode "Mystery Train" of Adventure Time, it's exaggerated and subverted. A lot of candy people die on the train one by one as the lights go off, leaving nothing but skeletons. Finn tries to solve the mystery, while it turns out that no one actually died; it was a birthday surprise set up by Jake, all the skeletons are fake, and the prime suspect, the Conductor, was Jake in disguise.
  • In the Family Guy episode "And Then There were Fewer", when everyone accuses James Woods of being the murderer, the lights go off and then back on to see that Woods has been stabbed.
    • At the end of "Twelve and a Half Angry Men", Stewie notes there's still a maniac on the loose cutting peoples' power and killing them. When the lights go off, Stewie flatly says "We're dead".

    Other 
  • The children's game "Murder in the Dark" is based on this trope.


Let Off by the DetectiveMystery TropesLocked Room Mystery
Lie Back and Think of EnglandDead Horse TropeLook Behind You
Lightning RevealDarkness And Shadows TropesLiving Shadow
Life Will Kill YouDeath TropesLike You Were Dying
Leave No WitnessesMurder TropesMake It Look Like an Accident

alternative title(s): Blackout Murder
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