Phone Call from the Dead

A character gets a message from someone in the form of a letter, phone call, what have you, usually a loved one such as a spouse or a child. Except that the person in question is dead and likely has been for quite some time. This isn't a Dead Man Writing, in which someone writes a message in anticipation of or just before their death, because the person in question is already known to be dead when they leave the message. Often the character who gets it will take it to mean that the dead person is somehow still alive, or is trying to contact them from beyond the grave.

The person who receives the message will often not recognize it for the very bad thing it is, because these types of things usually do not end well, and are a staple of the Horror genre.

May involve a Supernatural Phone. Contrast Disconnected by Death.


Anime and Manga
  • Shigofumi is all about letters sent by the dead to the living.
  • Serial Experiments Lain does this with e-mail in the very first episode, kicking off the whole plot of the series.
  • Your Name: The Reveal is that Taki and Mitsuha have been communicating across a 3-year gap, including leaving each other messages... and Mitsuha died three years ago when a meteorite struck her hometown.

Comics - Newspaper
  • Funky Winkerbean. Les Moore's deceased wife Lisa calls him in the airport to warn him not to take a flight that's destined to crash. He takes the flight anyway, but she saves him by arranging for the plane's mechanical problem to be discovered.

Comic Books
  • The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes gets a phone call from a woman who is eventually revealed to be his deceased wife, a sign of his Sanity Slippage. Although he stops taking the calls, he still brings the (disconnected) phone with him, knowing that all he has to do to hear his wife's voice is pick up the receiver.

  • In The Mothman Prophecies, the main character gets a phone call from what appears to be his wife.
  • The movie White Noise is about a man who receives messages from his dead wife through the static on television sets and radios. It's implied that it wasn't his wife but a more sinister ghostly entity.
  • The plot of Frequency involves the main character being able to communicate through time with his long-dead father, albiet through a ham radio rather than a telephone.
  • There was a French movie (shown at the Jewish Film Festival) where the (Jewish) protagonist starts receiving mocking phone calls from his dead father. Throughout the movie, he often talks to his father on various phones, but this is very, very expensive.

  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency a guy makes a car phone call and starts talking into the answering machine, then gets killed. Just later his ghost tries to communicate by talking through the phone, which is recorded on the answering machine as well.
  • October Daye gets her Call to Adventure in Rosemary and Rue by receiving a phone call from the murder victim, who happens to be a fae, and who geases Toby into solving the case.
  • This is the premise of The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates, a surprisingly upbeat short story by Stephen King, of all people. A husband who died in a plane crash was trying to call his wife just before impact; she gets the call two days later, and gets to talk to him in the afterlife (which, apparently, is a bus station). She gets to say goodbye, and he warns her about a future disaster, which she manages to avoid.
  • Fight Club : When Marla receives phone calls with no one on the line, she believes they're from the departed. It's left out of the film, except for the "Prepare to evacuate soul" phone call scene, which has a different context.

Live-Action TV
  • In a Myth Arc episode of the The X-Files, Scully gets a phone call from her dead sister. This ends up leading her to a girl who is her biological daughter, created using the ovum extracted from her body.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • In "Night Call" an invalid starts receiving mysterious phone calls. The calls are eventually traced to a cemetery, where a fallen phone line is in contact with the grave of her deceased husband.
    • "Long Distance Call" has a grandmother calling from beyond the grave and urging her beloved grandchild toward acts of suicide so they can be together again.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Long Distance Call" several people, including Dean, seem to get this kind of call from deceased loved ones. It turns out to be a nasty ruse.
  • Doctor Who: In "Deep Breath", The Eleventh Doctor phones his companion Clara Oswald from the past, asking her to accept the new Twelfth Doctor.
  • Downton Abbey: It is implied in the Christmas Special that Lavinia's spirit "talks" to Anna and Daisy through a Ouija Board and writes the words "May they be happy. With my love" in reference to Matthew and Mary.
  • Fringe: In "The Arrival", complete with lots of static, and the dispatcher confirming there have been no calls.

Video Games
  • Silent Hill 2 begins with one of these from the protagonist's dead wife, although it turns out to be a Dead Man Writing, he just thought it was this because he had repressed the memory of her death.
  • Trauma Team has Naomi Kimishima, the forensic investigator. When she gets in contact with a deceased's body (or its remains) she can perceive their final words through a call to her cellphone. It isn't made clear if this is either a power of hers or of the cellphone.
  • The plot of Another Code is set in motion when Ashley receives a birthday present from her father, who she thought was dead.
  • Shadowrun Returns begins with one of these, which is actually justified with an implanted Dead Man Switch.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: The Phone Guy ends up getting killed by the animatronics. The night after his death, you'll get another phone call; however, you'll hear a demonic voice from the other end saying something in a backwards message of sorts, rather than the optimistic voice that you're used to.
  • Phantasmagoria 2: Throughout the game Curtis will receive various post-mortem messages (phone calls, letters, e-mails) from both his dead mother and his various murdered coworkers, who call him a monster for causing their deaths. The ending reveals them all to be hallucinations send by the Hecatomb in an attempt to drive Curtis insane.
  • About halfway through Spec Ops: The Line, protagonist Capt. Walker starts getting harshly critical radio messages from Colonel Konrad, and engages him in arguments about choice and morality. At the end of the game Walker follows these messages to their source, and discovers Konrad's long-dead body - the transmissions were nothing but a product of Walker's Sanity Slippage, as he needed to invent someone to blame for the things he'd done in Dubai. Sharp-eyed players will notice that the walkie-talkie Walker picked up was broken to begin with.

Web Original
  • A creepypasta lampoons the trope thusly: So ur with ur honey and yur making out wen the phone rigns. U anser it n the vioce is “wut r u doing wit my daughter?” U tell ur girl n she say “my dad is ded”. THEN WHO WAS PHONE?
    • Often including followup jokes that it was her mom calling.

Western Animation