Follow TV Tropes


Cut-and-Paste Note

Go To

"Susie, if you want to see your doll again, leave $100 in this envelope by the tree out front. You cannot trace us. You cannot find us. ...Sincerely, Calvin"

The classic, instantly recognizable ransom note made from individual clippings of letters or words glued onto a piece of paper. In modern fiction, distorted phone voices have the same meaning.

The Real Life justification is, of course, that handwriting is identifiable. A largely Discredited Trope in modern fiction, given the prevalence of computers, telephones, etc. for convenience of covert communication. A modern criminal is more likely to simply type up a message and print it.note  note  The modern crook has little use for taking the time to create a note that can accumulate fingerprints and DNA evidence, not to mention result in a suspicious pile of hacked-up magazines.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Cipher Academy: Each student in class 1-A introduces themselves by filling out a blank "introduction crossword", so that its answer spells out their name. Throughout the early manga chapters, each student's crossword is shown to the reader. The crossword of one of the students, who is called "Anonymity Requested" and insists on hiding her identity, is filled not with her handwriting, but with cut-out characters.
  • In Danganronpa 3 - Despair Arc episode 4, Nagito Komaeda posts a threat letter in Hope's Peak Academy like this saying "POSTPONE THE PRACTICAL EXAM OR BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN."
  • In Great Teacher Onizuka, Miyabi makes one revealing Urumi's secret and posts it in the school. Uchiyamada does one exposing Onizuka later. It's pretty clear who wrote it in both cases.
  • In GTO: The Early Years, Eikichi gets a sketchy part-time job cutting out letters from newspapers, which are implied to be used for ransom notes.
  • In the anime adaptation of Holmes Of Kyoto, one case that Holmes takes on hinges on the differences in two of these notes. The neatness of the job in making the notes is the deciding piece of evidence that allows Holmes to conclude the case.
  • In Medaka Box, has Medaka remembering every single newspaper and their different editions.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman (1942): After Dr. Psycho's supposed death in custody, a sinister note threatening Steve Trevor's life is found "written" using cut out words that claims to be from Psycho.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • One arc involves Hobbes sending Calvin anonymous coded insults using this; Calvin's mom eventually scolds Calvin for cutting up magazines without asking permission first, and he figures it out. While he's angry at Hobbes at first, he forgives him after Hobbes gives him the idea to similar letters to Susie.
    • In another storyline, Calvin and Hobbes hold Susie's doll Binky Betsy for ransom, sending her a cut-and-paste note in this style (quote at the top of the page).
  • Grand Avenue. In the strip for March 25th 2013, Michael's grandmother sends a note in his lunchbag made with cut out letters. It says "Eat the carrots or kiss your video games goodbye". He thinks "Some kids get notes of encouragement in their lunches."

    Fan Works 
  • Top of the Line (Editor-Bug): Tak leaves one behind when she abducts GIR in The Rematch. Skoodge questions why she'd even bother making one if she was just going to sign it anyway.

    Film — Animation 
  • The social media teaser for the first trailer for The Bad Guys (2022), released the day before the trailer, was a takeover of DreamWorks' Instagram account. A ransom note, using cut out letters from the logos of other DreamWorks movies and shows, briefly replaced the content of the account.
  • In Fantastic Mr. Fox, the farmers and the animals each send the other a cut-and-paste note. Neither side understands why, because they already know each other's identities. They even sign their names.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Riddler writes some of his riddles this way in Batman Forever.
  • The Big Heat (1988) has a ransom note written in this manner early in the film.
  • In The Big Lebowski, the nihilists make a cut-and-paste ransom note about kidnapping Bunny Lebowski. Given the film's deliberate invocations of old film noir tropes, it's played fairly (the message is sent as a fax) straight, despite the film being set in the early 1990s.
  • The logos for Clerks and Clerks II look like this, the former using letters from magazine and product logos, the latter using letters from fast-food logos.
  • In Fury, when the trial doesn't seem to be going well, Joe takes active measures to get a conviction. He makes this kind of note, and encloses his ring, in an attempt to "prove" he died in the fire.
  • In A Haunting in Venice, the blackmail note received by Rowena was made up of words cut from newspapers.
  • In Inspector Gadget 2, Dr. Claw sends Gadget such a letter to lead him into a trap, signed A Concerned Citizen. Gadget concludes that the citizen must have terrible handwriting.
  • The bad guys in Live Free or Die Hard cut together clips of various U.S. presidents speeches to present their message.
    John F. Kennedy: My fellow Americans:
    Ronald Reagan: It is time to
    Harry Truman: strike
    George W. Bush: fear
    George H. W. Bush: into
    Franklin D. Roosevelt: the minds of
    George W. Bush: the citizenry.
    John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do
    George W. Bush: to avert
    Bill Clinton: this
    Jimmy Carter: crisis. The answer is
    Harry Truman: nothing whatsoever.
    George W. Bush: Our military
    Ronald Reagan: strength
    Richard Nixon: is
    Ronald Reagan: in
    Bill Clinton: this
    George W. Bush: case
    Franklin D. Roosevelt: useless!
    George H. W. Bush: Read my lips:
    Ronald Reagan: The
    George W. Bush: great
    Jimmy Carter: confident
    Richard Nixon: roar
    George W. Bush: of
    Ronald Reagan: the American
    Ronald Reagan: progress
    Lyndon B. Johnson: and
    Gerald Ford: growth
    George W. Bush: has
    Franklin D. Roosevelt: come
    Harry Truman: to
    Richard Nixon: an end!
    George W. Bush: All the
    Harry Truman: vital
    Bill Clinton: technology
    Richard Nixon: that
    George W. Bush: this
    Lyndon B. Johnson: nation
    Gerald Ford: holds
    Franklin D. Roosevelt: dear -
    John F. Kennedy: all
    Bill Clinton: communication,
    Gerald Ford: transportation,
    Bill Clinton: Internet
    Bill Clinton: connectivity,
    George W. Bush: electrical
    George W. Bush: power,
    John F. Kennedy: critical
    Bill Clinton: utilities -
    Lyndon B. Johnson: Their
    Ronald Reagan: fate
    George W. Bush: now
    Franklin D. Roosevelt: rests
    Ronald Reagan: in
    Richard Nixon: our
    George W. Bush: hands.
    George W. Bush: We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Thank you.
    Richard Nixon: And a
    George W. Bush: happy
    George W. Bush: Independence Day
    Dwight D. Eisenhower: to everyone.
    [the footage ends]
    Casper: [impressed] That was creepy!
  • In Money Movers, Mr. Darcy receives a cut-and-paste note warning him that someone is planning to rob the counting house.
  • In Séance on a Wet Afternoon, the ransom note Phony Psychic Myra Savage directs her husband Billy to put together for the parents of the young girl they have kidnapped with preliminary instructions for the Ransom Drop is pasted together from words cut out of a newspaper.
  • In Sky Riders, any communication from the kidnappers that isn't over the radio is in the form of these notes.
  • In Some Guy Who Kills People, after the killings start, the sheriff receives a cut-and-paste note reading "An [picture of an eye] 4 an [picture of an eye]". This is the first of a series of such notes from the killer.
  • The blackmail demand Justin's brother receives at the start of They Might Be Giants is composed of letters cut out of the newspaper.
  • In Things to Come endless world war causes society to break down to such an extent that a newspaper is shown with all the words printed in random fonts, implying that a complete letterpress font with all the letters in it couldn't be found. The newspaper looks incredibly creepy as a result, which very effectively portrays societal breakdown.
  • Who's Harry Crumb?: The title character is investigating in a kidnapping and the ransom note is this kind of letter.
    Harry Crumb: You gonna have your lab inspect this note as much as you want, but they may never discover what I already know.
    Detective Casey: And what is that, Mr Crumb?
    Harry Crumb: You find that crazy typewriter, and you’ll have your kidnappers.

  • Blaze: After kidnapping a baby from a rich family, Blaze spends a good part of chapter 13 putting one of these together for his ransom note since "that is how they always do it in movies". He has to start over a few times when he reconsiders the best way to word his demands.
  • The villain in Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers sends a series of anonymous poison-pen messages composed from letters cut out of newspapers, and at one point tries to throw off the investigation by arranging for one of the cut-up newspapers to be found in another person's room.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Hermione receives a threatening one from an irate and gullible subscriber to Witch Weekly who believed Rita Skeeter's Malicious Slander portraying Hermione as The Vamp.
  • Older Than Television: The original example was from the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, where it wasn't a ransom note, but a warning. Holmes was clever enough to identify the newspapers that had been chopped up, by the font, and the type of scissors used to do it. One word in the message was hand-written, because the word 'moor' is not likely to be found in the typical London newspaper, and the sender apparently didn't think of cutting out individual letters.
  • In Making Money, Moist's old partner-in-crime Cribbins is more familiar with the Ankh-Morpork Times newspaper from having made this sort of note than from actually sitting down and reading it.
  • The kids compose one of these in a Petit Nicolas story. They were trying to intimidate the resident teacher's pet who had just tattled on one of them, and they get the idea for newspaper clipping cut-and-pasting from a movie. Of course, it doesn't quite go as planned...
  • In The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, the Giant's story is a mish-mash of lines cut out and pasted from other fairy tales.
    THE END... of the evil stepmother... said "I'll huff and snuff and... give you three wishes." ...the Beast changed into... seven dwarves... happily ever after... because a spell had been cast by a wicked witch... once upon a time.
  • Troubled Blood: In 1985 the cops got a cryptic cut-and-paste note claiming to know where Dr. Margot Bamborough, who disappeared without a trace in 1974, was buried. Detective Cormoran Strike eventually deduces that the note was written by the author of a sensationalist, libelous book about the case, published that same year.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brittas Empire: In "Reviewing The Situation", Julie is revealed to have gotten a note mainly made out of newspaper clippings, mainly telling her that there is no place to run and that they are going to get her. It turns out to have come from her former boyfriend, who's asking her to marry her.
  • In the Broad City episode "Friendiversary," Ilana starts her scavenger hunt with a note made from words cut out of magazines.
  • Sarcastically suggested by Xander of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the Scoobies have captured one of the Big Bad's Mooks in a Season 7 episode: "Dear Mr. First, if you ever want to see your Bringer again..."
  • Columbo:
    • In "Candidate for Crime", Nelson Hayward sends a death threat to himself made up of words cut from the newspaper as part of his plan to convince the police that his life is under threat and that the murder he committed was actually a case of Murder by Mistake aimed at him.
    • In "Negative Reaction," Paul Galesko makes the standard ransom note with newspaper clippings in order to fake the kidnapping, then uses the cut-up newspapers as part of the frame job by leaving them in Deschler's hotel room. However, this proves to exonerate Deschler, as the maid tells the police she came through and cleaned earlier and saw no newspapers. Paul argues that the maid must have lied, but Columbo counters that that doesn't work either, because if the maid never came into the room, extra clippings from the newspaper would have to be on the floor.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Forest of the Night", the extortion notes are made from letters from common magazines, and the envelopes are addressed with cut-out letters.
  • Funky Squad:
    • In "Little Girl Lost", the ransom note for the Senator's daughter is made from letters cut from a newspaper. Ponch detects a strange odour on the paper which the lab later identifies as brewer's malt.
    • In "The Carnival is Over", a threatening cut-and-paste letter arrives for the Squad at police HQ: sent from the postcode of the most likely suspect. However, when they haul him for questioning, they receive another mechanical clown phone call, meaning he can't be the culprit.
  • In an episode of House, Wilson is seen "clipping coupons." When House's beloved guitar is "kidnapped" and the cut-and-paste note shows up demanding ransom, it's not exactly a mystery as to who did it. Not that Wilson's actually trying to hide his involvement or anything... House later comes across Wilson nonchalantly reading a newspaper with big holes cut out of it.
  • Al Bundy sent one of these to his TV hero Psycho Dad on Married... with Children. He spells "Psycho" with the words S-Y-K-O, claiming that it's impossible to find "P"s and "H"s in USA Today.
  • "A Price Above Rubies" from The Mentalist has one reading "You'll get a call in 2 hours. Take the jewels where you are told. No cops, or your aunt dies."
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Is At Your Service", Monk (while undercover as Paul Buchanan's butler) solves the murders of Paul's parents thanks to a charred letter in the fireplace. Then he flips through the magazines belonging to his predecessor Edward Stilson and he notices the gaps in the pages.
  • On My Name Is Earl, several years before making The List, Earl and the gang stole a box of silverware from the library. Said silverware was very old and (somewhat) valuable, and everyone in the group wanted it for themselves. Earl excuses himself to the bathroom and takes magazines to make one of these, saying that he has the silverware, and unless the librarian gives him ransom money at a particular time and place, he's going to kill the silverware. (Earl never was the brightest crayon in the box...)
  • An audio variation in Person of Interest, where the Machine communicates by cutting and pasting audio clips of different people saying different words or phrases.
  • Played straight in an episode of Psych, when Mr. Yang sends one to the SBPD as part of a Criminal Mind Game.
  • In "Family Day" from Resident Alien, after dognapping the dog that Sahar has been watching, Murphy, Harry leaves her one of these reading "If you ever want to see your dog again, return my alien ball. - Alien"
  • Rosemary & Thyme get one in "In a Monastery Garden" which they initially mistake for a parking ticket. It warns them to "stay away from the herb garden or you die."
    Rosemary. That's not very nice.
    Laura. And they forgot to sign it.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In "Silent Enemy", Captain Archer discovers an alien spy device on board Enterprise, and uses it to deliver a Badass Boast to the unknown aliens monitoring it. The aliens then broadcast back a demand for Enterprise's surrender, using an edited version of Archer's words.
  • Utopia: Geoff attempts to blackmail The Network with a note made from the newspaper headlines calling for him to step down. It does not fool them for a second.
    Leah: (looks at the note) Newsprint. How very traditional.
  • One of the frames in the opening sequence of the Show Within a Show in episode 7 of WandaVision shows a note reading "I know what u are doing Wanda"
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "The Rajah's Ruby", Captain Nickerson receives a note made up of words cut out of the Times newspaper warning that the eponymous ruby is going to be stolen. The note turns out to be one of the more important clues in unraveling the mystery.


    Print Media 
  • Parodied in a comic in the March 21, 2010 edition of Parade magazine. A man reads a cut-and-paste note reading "I've got your magazine. Send $1 million or I'll cut out more letters."
  • There were at least two humorous letters of this kind sent to Top Secret (and subsequently published), containing demands of ransom for the safe return of supposedly kidnapped editors.

    Video Games 
  • In Max Payne 3, after Rodrigo's wife Fabiana is kidnapped by the Comando Sombra, he receives a cut-and-paste note from them telling him to bring three million dollars to the local stadium in exchange for her. The kidnappers craft a second note demanding five million dollars after Max and Passos lose the original ransom money to the Crachá Preto, which can be found in the form of a Clue two chapters later.
  • Murder in the Alps:
    • The Heir has the blackmail letter Vincent Freeman gives to the murderer.
    • Several of the letters Anna receives from the Dada Killer in The Dada Killer are made in this fashion.
  • Persona
    • Many of Persona 5 Video Game Interface Elements use this, fitting this game's theme being about Phantom Thief.
    • Defied in Persona 4, where the protagonist does receive two threatening letters late in the game, both from the same sender. The sender was clearly aware of this trope, as it's a simple Type-and-Print letter.

    Visual Novels 
  • Appears with some justification in Magical Diary: Wolf Hall, since electronics are generally banned at the Wizarding School so printers aren't an option, and the characters had been recently cutting-and-pasting out of magazines anyway to make collages.

  • Reginald makes one claiming he has been kidnapped in this Nedroid in order to test Beartato's friendship.
  • The lads at Penny Arcade once sent Game Developers a ransom note like this.

    Web Original 
  • The Expand Dong meme more or less uses this.
  • In Farce of the Three Kingdoms, Xu Shu is fooled by one that is supposedly from his mom.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-1020, an indestructible, self-replenishing kit for making cut-and-paste notes which periodically becomes animated and makes its own ransom notes. If the person the note is addressed to opens the envelope the victims named in the note will disappear into the thin air, and will then reappear out of thin air once the ransom demands are met. The ransom demands are often strange, and don't seem to do anything to benefit the entity making the demands, with the notable exception of the time it was clearly trying to engineer an escape attempt.
  • At the end of the Strong Bad Email "cliffhangers", such a note is left by the Lappy-nappers.

    Western Animation 
  • In the first episode of 101 Dalmatians: The Series, Cruella gets a hold of some of the puppies and decides to send Roger and Anita a ransom note. We see her stitching it together on a sewing machine! Later when Roger is on the phone with the police, he says that he's certain it's Cruella because "who else sends ransom notes that are dry clean only?"
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
    • In "Beat With a Schtick", Bloo misunderstands something the newest resident says and concludes that he wants to beat him up. Consequently, Bloo tries everything he can to leave the house and settles for expulsion. He confesses everything he'd ever done including putting hot sauce into everyone's food and framing "Jolly Buttons". Mr Herriman is shocked by this and explains that they had Jolly deported. Bloo says "I know. He still sends me postcards" He then holds up a note composed with letters cut from a magazine. It reads "I Will Get You."
    • In "Crime After Crime", Coco holds Mr. Herriman's carrot stash in exchange for a written apology for falsely sending her to her room without supper. She sends one of these notes to Mr. Herriman, telling him to meet her on the roof if he wants to see his carrot stash again. This being Coco, the message says "COCO COCO COCO COCO COCO COCO COCO COCO COCO", with different Cs and Os cut out and pasted onto the paper.
  • Goof Troop played with it once: Pete ripped out half the note, "I'm going to get you", and was scared straight, until Goofy pointed out the other half, "...a new hedge clipper".
  • The episode of The Simpsons where "someone" is trying to kill Bart, and we see Marge with a big pair of scissors, cutting out something that says "DIE". She says, "Bart, I'm going to get you...! [insert gasping horror here] ...some ice cream at the store, since I'm saving so much money on diet soda!"
  • South Park played this once when a pervert starts dropping cut-and-paste notes every time he... uh... does something really nasty to the hens in town. These hints are all bleeding obvious... but since Barbrady is 100% illiterate, he just sees a bunch of signs and letters all scrambled all over the sheet. It's The Plan to get Barbrady to learn to read. And then it fails spectacularly when Barbrady reads Atlas Shrugged and decides reading sucks.
  • The Sponge Bob Square Pants episode "Blackjack" had the character the episode is named after send Spongebob notes in this style, in the form of making it sound like Blackjack was out to get Spongebob. Of course, this was all misconstrued for figurative when it was all literal, and the episode's ending just makes it all the more laughable.
  • Played almost straight on an episode of the '80s version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles manage to get their hands on the MacGuffin, a set of cuff links, but the villains capture April. They send the Turtles a Cut And paste note demanding an exchange, April for the "buff links". The last part confuses Michaelangelo before Donatello suggests that they must have run out of c's.
  • An episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998) has the Mayor sent one of these by Sedusa in a Shout-Out to the Lebowski example above.

    Real Life 
  • The FBI keeps databases of paper, glue, and newspapers to help identify notes like that. For more modern notes, they also keep information on photocopiers, computer printers, toner, and ink.
  • Some printers actively stamp their serial number on every page printed. If that doesn't make you paranoid, nothing will.
  • Even seemingly identical typefaces — Times New Roman and Nimbus Roman, for example — can be distinguished under a powerful enough magnifying glass. Back in the early days of home computing, when there were multiple competing word-processor packages for several competing system architectures, this could go a long way to narrowing down the list of people who could have printed a particular document.
  • One of the funniest real-life uses of the cut-and-paste note is probably the one made by the thief of a giant golden cookie in Germany. With a photo of them dressed as Cookie Monster. Gotta pity the people who had to read the news on this with a straight face.
  • The term "ransom note effect" is used to describe the result of using too many fonts, particularly if they clash with each other or are just plain ugly in their own right.

We don't negotiate with criminals. Looks like it's time for a new Image Pickin' thread.


Video Example(s):


"I know what you did"

A cliché threatening letter arrives just outside Pixie's office, but there's something a little off about it...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / CutAndPasteNote

Media sources: