The pattern has repeated itself more times than you can fathom. Organic civilizations rise, evolve, advance, and at the apex of their glory they are extinguished.
A killer is on the loose. Sometimes the killer is a person, but more often it's some sort of supernatural monster. Many people... dozens sometimes, and sometimes even hundreds... of people have fallen to this fiend. No one's noticed because the killer only comes out to play every few years, or every few decades, or even every few centuries
. Regardless of the time involved, no one has connected this long string of victims.
At least, no one has put two-and-two together until now. Our intrepid
hero is the only one clever or lucky enough to connect the dots. Now if he can only convince someone
that the same killer who murdered those prostitutes a hundred years ago is the same killer murdering prostitutes today without being accused of being the killer and left unprotected in a jail cell.
A specific type of Vicious Cycle
. May overlap with Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday
. If the killer is a supernatural being, it is often a case of As Long as There Is Evil
And this is a Death Trope
, so expect UNMARKED SPOILERS!!!
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Anime and Manga
- In the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, Hohenheim and Dante kill people every so often to use as surrogate bodies for their souls. Dante is attempting to start a new and more destructive cycle by devastating countries with knowledge of Philosopher's Stones so they will create one she can steal.
- In Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, the curse of Oyashiro-sama kills 2 people every year. And it's always right around the town's big cotton-drifting festival, and only 1 body is found, and it's always someone related to the dam project.
- The vampires in Peter Watts's novel Blindsight were like this until humans invented architecture, which killed them off. It Makes Sense in Context.
- Stephen King's IT does this, with Pennywise only killing every twenty-seven years.
- In American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Shadow discovers that the disappearance of teenagers over the course of several years in a small town are actually sacrifices to an ancient tribal god that resides in the town. Not even the people in the town know about the dark secret.
- Appears in a fairly benign fashion in Carpe Jugulum . Every few years the old Count de Magpyr would arise from the grave, probably kidnap some young woman who looked good in a nightdress, then be killed. This went on for long enough and was generally harmless enough that no one really minded.
- It's implied that "kidnap" may have been a bit of face saving on the part of the "kidnapee". The Old Count was, by most accounts, rather charming when he wanted to be.
- In The Wheel of Time, Ishamael briefly escapes his prison once every thousand years. The first time resulted in the Trolloc Wars, and the second time resulted in the collapse of Artur Hawkwing's empire.
- David Weber's Empire From The Ashes series has a similar premise to Mass Effect below. Every 50-100,000 odd years, a huge fleet sweeps th galaxy, exterminating every sapient species it finds. The last interstellar human empire, of which the population of Earth is an offshoot, was aware of this fact, and built an enormous fleet to stop them. Unfortunately for Earth, we're on the closest edge of human space to the fleet, they're coming again, and the Imperium is nowhere to be seen.
- In the Dragonlance series, the gods agree that there must always be a balance between good and evil, and therefore Takhisis MUST be released at some point in history to allow the balance to reassert itself or there could be another cataclysm like the Kingpriest of Istar brought about.
- In Forgotten Realms, it is much the same as Dragonlance. The Overgod Ao exists to preserve the balance only, not to take sides against good and evil. That is why in the Avatar Trilogy he chooses an insane human to be the god of various evil things and a good mage to be the goddess of magic. That bites him in the ass in the end, because magic is meant to be part of the balance, and therefore neutral for EVERYONE, so the goddess is forced to change. The insane god of murder eventually gets his comeuppance too. He murders so many gods that even the Overgod can't say he's 'just doing his job' anymore. He upset the balance so badly that the only solution was imprisonment in his own pocket plane for one thousand years. Yep, being alone with his own mind for one thousand years will DEFINITELY help his sanity.
- Supernatural has this happen whenever they investigate a murder, to the point that it's now standard operating procedure for the Winchesters to look for such patterns.
- Eugene Victor Tooms from The X-Files episodes "Squeeze" and "Tooms" comes out of hibernation every 30 years to feed on human livers, a process which has made him functionally immortal.
- In the Star Trek: TOS episode "The Wolf in the Fold", an alien energy being called "Redjac" frames Scotty for murder. Turns out the immortal killer has been going from planet to planet, killing people, for centuries. At one point it was Jack the Ripper.
- Penn, the serial-killing Puritan vampire sired by Angel, went on murder sprees every ten years or so.
- Also from Angel, the Mayincatec demon from "The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco" returns to eat the heart of heroes every fifty years.
- Angel himself did this when he was evil. While Angelus cheerfully tortured and killed people all year round, apparently he thought Valentine's Day was special and every February 14th made sure he did something really evil and petty to mark the occasion.
- The second Kolchak: The Night Stalker movie The Night Strangler (1973). Once every 21 years for the last century, an alchemist strangles several women and extracts their spinal fluid to use in an elixir of immortality.
- The Torchwood episode "Countrycide" has a group of villagers deliberately kidnap the sort of people who would go missing in the countryside every ten years for a harvest.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Hansel and Gretel were really a demon that appeared every so often as a pair of murdered children to provoke witch hunts.
- In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Sweet Jane," a serial-killing dentist (played with chilling effect by the great Ned Beatty)started killing when he was in his late teens, and only gets "the urge" every ten years or so. He doesn't get caught until he's in his seventies. The length of time between murders is one reason it took so long for the police to catch him.
- In Dexter, Special Agent Lundy becomes convinced that a pattern of murders repeated across the country is one person. The rampage has been going on every few months for over 30 years. The entire fourth season is centered around this mystery.
- In the Criminal Minds episode Bloodline a family (which later turns out to only be one branch of a whole network of families) follows a tradition of selecting a random family that has a daughter. Then they break into the selected family's house, kill the parents and abduct the girl, in order to raise her as a wife for their son. By traveling all over the country and presumably only killing once per family per generation, they've managed to remain undetected for at least a hundred years.
- In Ravenloft, committing six murders over six days with the fang of the nosferatu grants the wielder Nigh Invulnerability and no aging for thirteen years. The darklord of Zherisia has been using it regularly for over a century as of the adventure Hour of the Knife.
- In Final Fantasy X, the giant monster Sin always returns to wreak destruction on the planet Spira a few years after it's 'destroyed'. But in this case, the people of the world know of it (a giant killer space whale is sorta hard to miss, after all), and its cycle of rebirth is well known. What they don't know, is the very act of 'killing' it is what causes it to be reborn, as whichever Final Aeon is used becomes Sin in its place.
- Dracula naturally returns every 100 years, As Long as There Is Evil in the hearts of man. This assumes no one tries to resurrect him in an evil ritual, or there isn't a massive surge of evil at the time.
- The "surge of evil" (the second world war) only summoned Dracula's castle. It took extraordinary effort on the part of Death to actually awaken Dracula.
- The "hundred year cycle" is broken by the time of Aria of Sorrow, instead replaced with a cycle of solar eclipses.
- The Reapers from Mass Effect return roughly every 50,000 years or so to wipe out all advanced life in the galaxy before returning to dark space as they have for at least 37 million years. Nobody puts two and two together because they go out of their way to make sure no definitive proof of their existence is left after their centuries-long genocides. Luckily for the galaxy, the last guys to get the treatment left a little something special for the future civilizations...
- In Star Control 3, it is revealed that the Orz are scouts for a being/race from another dimension that comes to devour all sentient life in our galaxy every time it reaches critical mass. Naturally the most intelligent guys from the last cycle left clues (then devolved themselves just below sentience).
- In Okami, the dread serpent Orochi demands a human sacrifice (Virgin Sacrifice is implied but not stated) every year at Kamiki Village's Full Moon Festival. Unlike other examples, everyone knows exactly when it will happen and where the poor maidens go to be killed, but no one dares stand up to Orochi.
- The same thing we do every night! Try to take over the world!
- In Hercules, a group of centaurs would attack a nearby village every sunday. The villagers got used to the raids to the point of treating them as an Unusually Uninteresting Sight. Then the centaurs' leadership was taken over by a warlord who suggested that they break out of the pattern.
- Not evil as such, but some locusts and other species of insects do this, remaining dormant for a regularly scheduled period of years (always a prime number) and then emerging in huge numbers to mate, lay eggs, and die. If you're really unlucky, they'll be eating while they do this.
- According to The Other Wiki, the Rocky Mountain locust caused terrible devestation to farming efforts in the American midwest in the later half of the 19th century, until the species mysteriously went extinct. It is theorized that humans broke the cycle by inadvertently destroying all the locust's eggs during one of their (the locusts) dormant periods when they (humans) plowed up the ground where the locusts nested in order to plant crops.