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Blood-Stained Letter

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This is when you have a letter or note that for some reason has gotten blood on it. Letters and notes tell much about the person who wrote them, but when there's one that has splotches or splatters of blood, you know there's another story being told as well. Since most paper is white, the presence of blood stands out on it, and people, when they see blood in unusual places, have a tendency to start assuming the worst.

In Mystery Fiction settings, these often become clues, sometimes a Dying Clue, for the Great Detective who finds them. Journals and books can also count, as well as newspapers and documents. In some cases, the blood makes it difficult or impossible to make out what the letter actually says. In tales centering on espionage, captured documents being stained with blood presents the audience with a grisly clue as to how the documents were acquired.

Compare Couldn't Find a Pen for situations when a message is actually written in blood, which may overlap with this, as well as Apocalyptic Log and That Was the Last Entry.


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    Comic Books 
  • The entirety of the narration of X-23: Innocence Lost is in the form of a letter from Sarah Kinney wrote to her daughter and creation, X-23, in the event she was unable to tell her about her origins herself. Unfortunately, that's exactly what ended up happening. Even worse, because the letter was so badly fouled by Sarah's blood, Laura was never able to read it herself until she was given the copy Sarah had the foresight to also send to Wolverine just in case.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Avengers (2012): After Coulson is killed, Nick Fury presents his beloved collection of Captain America collector's cards to the team, still wet with his blood. After the team has gone to face Loki, Agent Hill says the cards were in his locker, at which point Fury admits he needed something to motivate them.
  • Variation in In the Cut: Cornelius, one of Frannie’s students, turns in a paper on John Wayne Gacy that has blood stains on it.
  • The Monuments Men: Stoltz looking at the blood-splattered letter Jeffries is narrating in voiceover cues the audience to his death just before we see it happen.
  • Saving Private Ryan: Caparzo tries to give Fish a letter to his father after he's shot, but he wants it recopied so his family won't see the bloodstains on the original.

  • Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story called "The Horror of the Heights" about an aviator who discovered fantastic creatures living high in the atmosphere but who later crashed, and all that was recovered from the wreckage was a torn and bloody journal telling of something that had been following him.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The account of the failed attempt to recolonise Khazad-Dum, discovered by Gandalf and the Fellowship when navigating through Moria, is explicitly described as hacked, chopped, partially burnt, and smeared with long-spilt dried blood. Especially on the final page, carrying only the scrawled runes They Are Coming!
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In A Civil Campaign, Ekaterin notices that the seal of Miles' letter of apology to her was marked with the most old-fashioned and traditional smear of red-brown. The color of blood. Then she realizes that it is his blood.
    • In Cryoburn, Miles seals his letter of instruction to the Barrayaran Consulate with a thumbprint in his own blood, knowing that the Consulate will test it and so confirm that the letter really is from him.
  • In the second book of the Ology Series, Emily Sands has just discovered the tomb of Osiris when she is approached by a priestess of Isis who warns her not to enter the tomb. She does not heed the priestess' warning, and this is the last entry in Egyptology written by Sands. The publisher's note at the end states that the remaining pages were covered in weird stains.

    Live-Action TV 
  • FBI: Most Wanted: In "Caesar", the team recovers a murdered stool pigeon's phone. The last photo he took shows a hand drawn map. On seeing the map is bloodstained, Jesse realises that this map was on the table when the gang was massacred and was taken when by the killer when they left: creating the void on the table.
  • The Stargate SG-1 episode "2010" has an Ominous Message from the Future appear through the gate, written in Jack O'Neill's handwriting, and stained with blood, warning them not to go to a certain planet. They're smart enough to do as it says, especially after they tested the blood and determined it was O'Neill's, thus proving the letter to be a Note to Self.

  • Bring Me the Horizon's "It Was Written in Blood", namely a suicide note.
  • Randy Travis' song "Three Wooden Crosses" has a blood-stained bible that was given to a hooker by a preacher who was dying from an accident, and which she read to her son, who also became a preacher.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations. A directive card has a bloodstain on it, showing that the order was carried out.
    • Gyakuten Kenji 2. Case 4 features a bloody letter due to it being on the body when it was impaled.
  • In the lower levels of Bastion Keep in Diablo III you can find the body of a soldier with a bloody letter from his wife telling about their son growing up and how she's praying for his safety.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • A letter smeared with blood is found near the corpse of a woman whose family was captured and killed by Falmer, and who chose to die by her own hand rather than be taken by them.
    • Another one is found in the Dragonborn add-on near the body of a man who was killed in his lover's house.
  • There is one that drops from mobs in the Dead Hills in EverQuest which urges you to leave the country and never come back.
  • Exoptable Money: You receive one after Madame Sinclaire kills your cat.
  • Overwatch: The Hanamura map has in its shrine a wall scroll with a sword slice in one corner with specks of blood around it, left over from the brothers' confrontation.
  • This trope is warped in ways not thought possible in Paper Mario: Color Splash. Apparently someone came up with the very macabre idea to mail a colorless Toad to Princess Peach, which she proceeds to show Mario. For those of you who don't get it, the "letter" is the folded-up, colorless paper Toad, who is essentially treated as dead. And Mario reacts to the letter the same way the regular person would react to a mailed corpse.
  • Presentable Liberty: As you sit in a jail cell reading letters from various people, a woman named Charlotte starts sending some telling a grim tale of what's happening beyond those walls, her final one a splotched with blood, with only the words, "I'm sorry".
  • In Red Dead Redemption, a side quest involves a man telling you to get a deed to a house in the middle of nowhere from another guy. If you kill the guy and get the deed, the first guy will notice the blood on the deed, gets angry because he didn't want that guy dead, and pays you only $5 (as opposed to $200 if you paid the man).
  • Several of the files you find in the Resident Evil series are described as being spattered in blood, but one in Resident Evil 0 is so blood-stained you can only make out some words and a few stray letters of the first half. Even though what you can get out of it sounds important you never get a clean version, much to many a player's frustration.
  • Rune Factory 4: In Obsidian Manor there's a blood-stained diary that simply says, "It hurts", over and over again.
  • One of the Team Fortress 2 hidden pages shows a blood-stained newspaper article about Mann Co. inventing 'Ro-Bots'. In standard in-universe Australian behaviour, the 'Ro-Bots' are designed for violent purposes only, implying the origin of the bloodstain.
  • World of Warcraft. In one of the questlines around Darkshire, pre-Cataclsym, you find a torn journal page that is described as being barely legible through thick blood. The updated version yields a book called "The Legend of Stalvan", noting the final blood-stained page has been added.

  • Unsounded: When Elka writes the capitol for reinforcements the message responding to her gets cut off with a splatter, when the woman responding gets killed. Then her killer claims it was an ink spill and tells Elka to retreat.

    Western Animation 
  • In Gravity Falls, the page in a mystical journal on how to summon the demon Bill Cipher is covered in blood, with the words "Do not summon at all costs" written directly in blood.

    Real Life 
  • In the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna you can take a look at Wallenstein's order to General Gottfried Heinrich zu Pappenheim to return to the main army with his cavalry for the Battle of Lützen in 1632. Pappenheim stuck the order under his cuirass and when he was mortally wounded in the course of the battle it was "framed" in his blood.
  • Shortly before Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, kicking off World War I, his attaché was injured in another assassination attempt. The attache was carrying the only copy of Ferdinand's speech to the Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, so when it came time to deliver it Ferdinand had to wipe the blood off the paper to read it.
  • This happened all the time in WWII; This article describes intelligence personnel perusing blood-splattered documents taken from dead German soldiers for clues as to what their plans were.
  • This note was written by a man in the World Trade Center on September 11th, and eventually made it to his family ten years later. DNA testing of the blood on it was able to confirm the identity of the writer.
  • An analysis of letters written by Vlad the Impaler shows that it's possible that he cried Tears of Blood.