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Disconnected by Death

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"Yes. Will you accept a collect call from a Mr. Aaaaaaaaaa?"
Operator, The Far Side

A specific subtrope of the Doomed Appointment, Disconnected by Death is signaling the death of a character by the abrupt end of a phone call they are making.

The basic structure of this trope is that one character has information that they must get to another character (usually The Hero, or at least, one of the Good Guys). They make a phone call. They are killed after the phone is answered on the other end, but before they can pass along the information. There may be a Big "NO!" or scream for audible over the phone if the victim sees the killer.

Within this structure, the trope has visual and aural variants: the visual versions can use an old-style free-standing phone booth, a land-line telephone not in a phone booth, or a cell phone. The aural version has dial-tone, where the killer hangs up the phone, causing the hero to hear a dial tone, and open-line, where the killer doesn't hang up, and the Hero spends some time yelling "Hello! Hello?" before concluding "Something's happened." Rarely, the killer will get on the phone and give a Bond One-Liner about the murder or to mock the listener.

For extra points, the victim has said part but not all of his message (or even gasps a few words out as he dies), allowing the heroes to get a clue that will save the day later, but only after they rack their brains to get what the victim was trying to say. Even more bonus points if the informant turns and says "it's you!" before being offed.

Compare Impeded Messenger and Death by Transceiver.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


    open/close all folders 

  • Spoofed in an advertisement for Call Waiting. Miss Marple is yakking to Hercule Poirot on the phone and so doesn't realise an important witness is trying to get through to her.
    The Narrator: ...and so nine out of the ten ate the pumpkin soup!
    Witness: The killer is... [inarticulate groans]
    Miss Marple: Is that spelled with two G's or three?

    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in Case Closed: the murderer sets up the body of his victim to call him while in full view of his friends, hoping it would give him an alibi by (falsely) invoking this trope, but Conan sees through the ruse.
  • In Count Cain, Sheila is killed by Riff while giving Clehadore some information over a phone.
  • Maes Hughes infamously meets his end in Fullmetal Alchemist while trying to reach Roy Mustang from a pay phone, since he got caught unlocking the Ancient Conspiracy.
  • At the start of Gunslinger Girl this has happened right before the audience is introduced to Triela, who is shown stalking through the corpses of the men she's just killed in a Padania safehouse, while a voice on a phone handset dangling from its cord demands to know what's happening. We then cut to the other end of the line, to the terrorist leader and his cell who are about to experience a similar demise at the hands of another fratello.
  • A variant (pictured above) happens in the first arc of the Higurashi: When They Cry anime to Keiichi Maebara, who claws out his own throat in a phone booth while under the effects of Oyashiro-sama's curse, trying to contact the police about the Town with a Dark Secret. Thanks to his paranoia, his last words to the police — and the audience — indicate that someone is coming to kill him, but all the evidence suggests suicide... leaving the existence of the killer in doubt until better answers about Oyashiro-sama come along in later chapters. The chapter's TIPS indicate that he was technically still alive when he was found, but later died in the hospital.
    • Happens twice in ep 4 of the Umineko: When They Cry anime, both times with Battler. The first time it's Jessica who was killed during her fight with Ronove but resurrected for a short while and died again talking to Battler over the phone. The second time was with Kyrie who called Battler after escaping from the goats but was shot to death shortly thereafter. From an anti-fantasy perspective, both cases were probably arranged by Yasu/Beatrice in an attempt to make Battler mad and force him towards the truth.
  • The Kindaichi Case Files: A victim is murdered while on the phone mere moments before he can give away the killer's identity.
  • Subverted in Mnemosyne, where several seconds after he gets shot by a sniper, the victim in question survives long enough to use the last of his strength to give all the needed information.
  • A very explosive example happens in the Egghead Arc of One Piece. While on the Kingdom of Lulusia, Sabo contacts the Revolutionaries to tell them he wasn't the one who assassinated Nefertari Cobra and that he had seen Imu sitting on the supposed Empty Throne. Unfortunately, before he could mention the second part, said figure obliterates Lulusia with an unknown force. It is then left ambiguous if he survives or not.
  • An episode of You're Under Arrest! has the characters telling some horror tales as they try to solve the mystery of a "ghost" lurking in the precinct. One of them is about a police officer who was stabbed, and dragged himself to a pay phone before bleeding to death. Supposedly now his spirit sometimes can be heard through the phone trying to call for help.

    Comic Books 
  • From the Ashes: Candy Southern enters Angel’s apartment to discover assailants are in the room. Unable to escape she phones Professor Xavier but the call is cut short by the assailant who throws her out the window. Fortunately Xavier telepathically contacts the nearby Nightcrawler to teleport to her rescue.
  • The Superman Adventures: In Supergirl's origin story, Kara is using an interstellar videophone to talk to her Kryptonian friend Pala (the daughter of two Science Council members) when Krypton explodes, and Argo is hit by the shockwave. Chillingly, Pala meets her fate right after she and Kara discuss Jor-El's warnings about a coming cataclysm on Krypton (with Pala revealing that some of the council members are taking Jor-El more seriously than "The Last Son of Krypton" implied) and they decide that It's Probably Nothing.
  • The "scream for mercy" version appeared in The Trigan Empire, during one of the many plots to assassinate Emperor Trigo. The victim was a secret police agent, whose bosses calmly assumed he'd "met his end" as soon as the phone went dead.

    Comic Strips 
  • Accidental variant, and also played for laughs: A The Far Side cartoon shows a man in an office falling out the window. Meanwhile, we see a telephone operator talking on the phone, saying "Will you accept a collect call from a Mr. Aaaaaaaaaa?"

    Fan Works 
  • A non-lethal variant appears in All Mixed Up!. Oprah talks to Otto and Oscar on the phone as they meet Carlos, the ruler of the Language Room, and is about to tell them what Mariana Mag's real name is when gets attacked by Mariana herself and turned into her own personalized anagrammed object. The line goes dead immediately after, causing Otto to have an Oh, Crap! reaction.
  • In Aura Less Black And White, a man posing as Agent Harrington stabs Liberty Knox in the arm before throwing him out of a fifth-story window while he's on the phone with Ash. He survived, though.
  • In Fate: Zero Sanity Sayaka's last conversation with Edgar took place over the phone, desperately telling him what had happened to her and asking whether or not Kiritsugu got his birthday present. When he tells her he did, she gratefully thanks him before being disconnected. This having been because her Soul Gem was almost fully corrupted, she didn't die... though that might have been preferable to the end result.
  • In Savior of Demons, Arcosian scientist Murai intercepts a transmission through one of the Tsufuru scouters as they're being attacked by Oozaru. It cuts off with screaming and static, and then Murai has to go tell the king about the fate of their new allies.
  • In With This Ring In Failsafe OL calls Luthor in hopes of Luthor giving the team back-up. Unfortunately, Luthor's company building is also being attacked and Luthor was making a Last Stand by keeping a protective shield to protect fleeing employees. Luthor gives OL his technological database before the call disconnects when the building is annihilated.
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Faced with a plot to Take Over the World, Captain Proton calls Admiral Nakamura in Tokyo only for the Video Phone signal to be interrupted by a Giant Foot of Stomping.
    Proton: That bloody lizard again!

    Films — Animation 
  • Invoked by the Joker in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when he launches a bomb into an apartment he called, hoping to catch the Phantasm in the blast. Batman destroys the bomb with a batarang and is spared from the worst of the explosion.
    Joker: AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! WOO HOO HOO HOO! Hello? Hello, operator? I believe my party's been disconnected! AH HA HA HA HA!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Alice in Murderland, Cheryl Glass is on the phone when she is murdered by the Jabberwocky.
  • Right in the opening of the spy-knockoff, Angel With The Iron Fists, we see Agent 006 — the previous agent investigating the Dark Angel — trying to call for his superiors in a phone booth. Before he can make the call, a dozen assassins armed with silenced pistols marches up, and blasts him with lead.
  • Invoked in The Body (2012). We see Carla on the phone talking to Álex when a car rushes on. The scene cuts to Álex as his call gets interrupted. However, we later learn Carla wasn't run over, the incident was a setup to make Álex talk.
  • In The Car, Lauren is on the phone to Wade when the Car kills her by running her over by driving through the middle of her house.
  • In the Korean action movie Carter, The Handler calls the title character—who is being held at gunpoint by CIA agent—on a mobile phone and tells him she wants to talk to one of the agents. When they take the phone and answer the mobile explodes, killing the agent and stunning everyone else. The handler then continues to talk to Carter via a device implanted in his skull, telling him to get out of the room before a second bomb goes off and kills everyone else.
  • Assumed (though in fact, the caller is not actually dead) in La Cattura (The Ravine). David McCallum plays a German soldier sent to capture a partisan female sniper in Yugoslavia. When he enters the ravine, La Résistance taunts him via loudspeakers, showing they know all about his mission. He finds a German outpost and gets on the field telephone to complain to his superior, only for the line to be cut.
    German officer: Hello? Hello? (hangs up) She's found him.
  • An unfortunate prostitute who escaped the mob tries calling for help in a booth in the crime-thriller, City Warriors, only for the mob's lead enforcer, the Transvestite sister, to catch up on her. She gets stabbed and gutted mid-call without even a chance to scream for help, and ends up being dumped in a waterfront.
  • In Clegg, Harry Clegg calls Lord Cruikshank as Cruikshank is being strangled by Suzy. Cruikshank manages to knock the handset off the cradle but all Clegg can hear is a few gurgles. He runs to the hotel but Cruikshank is dead by the time he gets there.
  • Done twice in Clue, both times with a Gory Discretion Shot. First, the motorist is killed mid-sentence by someone with a wrench, who helpfully puts the phone back onto the cradle. Later, the cop is killed: This time, someone with a lead pipe first disconnects the call by placing the lead pipe onto the cradle behind the cop's back, then deals the death blow as the cop is asking "Hello? Are you there?"
  • Played dead (pun intended) straight in The Cotton Club. A gangster, Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, captures an ally of rival gangster Owen Madden and extracts a $35,000 ransom for the hostage's release. In retaliation, Madden pretends to arrange a peace deal that Coll must finalize over the phone, at a certain phone booth - near which a man with a tommy gun is waiting.
  • In The Three Stooges short "Crime On Their Hands", a henchman calls a newspaper (the phone is answered by the Stooges, janitors with ambitions to be reporters) to snitch on his boss, who just stole a valuable diamond. Just as he gives the vital tip, he is gunned down by another henchman.
  • In Dark Was the Night, the logging foreman calls one of his crew on a walkie-talkie and gets a brief garbled response before the radio goes dead. He later finds the severed arm of the logger still holding the radio.
  • Deadtime Stories: Volume 1: In "Valley of the Shadow", the first two expedition members are to die are trying to send a send a radio message to the rest of the group when they are killed by the natives.
  • In Death Machines, George is busy talking to his boss on the phone about the eponymous trio's killings when he's run over by the white Death Machine's bulldozer.
  • In Earth vs. the Spider, the high school janitor Hugo gets killed by the titular spider while trying to phone the police at the start of the spider's rampage in town.
  • In The Empire Strikes Back, during Darth Vader's teleconference with the captains of the Star Destroyers, one man's hologram image flickers and fades from view after his spacecraft is struck by an asteroid. The anthology book From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back reveals that the ship was lost with all hands. This happened to a hapless Rebel soldier in Echo Base during the Battle of Hoth. He only manages to get out "Imperial troops have entered the base. Imperial troops have entered [static]" before he's killed. In the Legends continuity, he's none other than the son of Mon Mothma.
  • Incredible city-wide example in Fail Safe. When the hotline to Russia goes dead (or, rather, emits a high shrieking sound — the sound of the phone melting), it shows that the bomber wasn't recalled in time, and the US government has to carry out its insane plan to delay full nuclear exchange.
  • Played over the opening credits of Fury (2014). While the opening text explains that American M4 Sherman tanks are at a disadvantage against their German opponents, the viewer is treated to scratchy radio traffic from a platoon of Shermans that have been ambushed. The voices become increasingly panicked, until the last one cries, "It’s all over!" and is abruptly cut off. The battalion radio man asks for a response, but nobody answers.
  • In F/X: Murder by Illusion, while the communication had long ended by then, Rollie Tyler is almost gunned down by the guy he used the booth to contact. Fortunately, since he was no longer on the phone, he had relinquished the booth to some random guy, and now knows his employer wants him dead.
  • Subverted in The Guilty. When Asger tries to convince Iben not to jump off a bridge, she says goodbye and the line goes dead. After trying to call her back several times, he calls the dispatcher who informs him that she stepped off the ledge and is alive and well.
  • He Who Dares: Terrorists kidnap the daughter of the British prime minister for ransom. They tell a wounded bodyguard to send the radio call to let his superiors know what happened, then shoot him.
  • Subverted, along with tons of suspense film tropes, in High Anxiety, when the protagonist, Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, calls up Victoria Brisbane and "Braces" attempts to kill him in the phone booth. She mistakes his agonized gasping for an obscene phone call.
  • In Into the Grizzly Maze, Deputy Zoe is on the radio to Sheriff Sully reporting that she had found Johnny Cadillac's car when she is attacked and killed by the bear.
  • Invisible Avenger: In the midst of a telephone call to Cranston, Tony Alcade is murdered by the secret police.
  • A telegraphic variant in The Iron Horse. A guy climbs a telegraph pole to tap out a message but is shot down by the Cheyenne. His message is decoded as "Indians attacked Train No. 8 near Clay send help to—".
  • Naturally this happened in the old Republic Film Serials, and so was spoofed in the Gag Dub movie J-Men Forever.
    [An informer is making a secret call to J-Men headquarters when the Lightning Bug bursts in on him]
    The Bug: Ah-HAH! Making personal calls on MY line!
    [The Bug zaps him with his ray-pistol. On the other end of the line, smoke pours from the phone held by the Chief]
    The Chief: Hello? Operator? Listen, we were cut off in the midst of a hot tip. I want to make sure we weren't charged for that call.
  • The French movie Le Magnifique manages to combine this with Shark Pool.
  • The Matrix:
    • A variation: Trinity spends the first minutes of the movie trying to reach a phone booth, and when she finally reaches it and pick up the phone, a truck demolishes the phone booth. Fortunately, since the landline was her exit, Trinity is not injured.
    • This also happens right before Neo and Smith's subway fight, as Smith tries to shoot her before she can leave the Matrix. Once again, she manages to escape in time.
  • A variant in Midway (1976): When the last bomber in Torpedo Squadron Eight's suicidal and unsupported attack on the Japanese fleet is shot down, the film cuts to the radio room aboard Yorktown, where the crew listens to the static in horrified silence.
    [static fills the radio]
    "What happened?"
    "One of our torpedo groups attacked."
  • Other Halves features a texting conversation that ends abruptly, due to the murder of one of the character.
  • Phone Booth, but twisted as the man in the booth was talking to the potential killer. Taken to the extreme involving the police trying to save someone in such a situation.
  • The Phone Call: An atypical example. Heather and Stan's phone call ends not with Stan being murdered, but Stan slipping into unconsciousness as his deliberate drug overdose takes hold.
  • In Please Murder Me!, Craig has just telephoned Carl when Myra shoots him dead. Carl does not realise what has happened and is still saying "Hello? Hello?" when Myra replaces the receiver in the cradle.
  • The opening scene of The Quiller Memorandum has a Bureau agent shot by a sniper rifle as he tries using a phone booth. Quiller is later smart enough to walk past the booth rather than try dialing for help (on both occasions the villains are letting the agent run in an attempt to find their headquarters, but naturally had to kill the agent when he simply tried phoning in his vital information instead).
  • Rehearsal for Murder: Realising she is in terrible danger, Monica calls Alex, begging him to come over, only for the murderer to disconnect her call.
  • During the opening attack on Umbrella's Tokyo base in Resident Evil: Afterlife, the Big Bad asks a mook appearing on a holographic screen if he's seen anything unusual. The mook says all is quiet, then spews blood from his mouth whereupon the image cuts out.
  • In Revolver (1973), the guard who tails the kidnappers from the foundry is on the phone to Vito telling him their location when the kidnappers sneak up on him and pistol whip him into unconsciousness before murdering him.
  • Unfortunately, inverted by Serenity. While on Miranda, the crew finds the last recording of a woman who explains the creation of the Pax and the Reavers. She also explains that "they're trying to break in," and attempts to shoot herself before they do. Sadly, she's a little too slow, although the Reavers do tackle her out of the shot.
  • In Silent Night (2012), Sheriff Cooper is on the phone to Mayor Revey when the killer Santa garrottes the mayor with a string of Christmas lights. However, Cooper is so wrapped up in what he is saying, he fails to notice, assumes the mayor's phone has cut out and hangs up.
  • The Soldier forces his way into the US Embassy at gunpoint and has them place a phone call to the Director of the CIA, who turns on his desk lamp to take down the message. Unfortunately, a KGB agent has filled the bulb with a flammable liquid that explodes when the light is turned on, killing the Director and preventing the Soldier from verifying his identity and passing on what he's discovered.
  • In The Spy Who Loved Me, Jaws lures Kalba away from his meeting with Bond and Anya by disguising himself as a telephone linesman and placing a call to Kalba from an adjourning telephone booth. Once he takes the call, Jaws barges into Kalba's booth, intimidates Kalba into handing over the microfilm and murders him. Bond of course provides the obligatory Bond One-Liner.
    Anya: What happened to Kalba?
    Bond: He was cut off. Permanently.
  • Video phone example in the Starship Troopers movie. Rico is talking with his mother and father, who live in Buenos Aires. As they're talking, a shadow comes across the parents' ends of the line. The screen then dissolves into static and a short time later the news shows the destruction of the city.
  • Telefon: A Renegade Russian called Nikolai Dalchimsky steals a list of Manchurian Agent saboteurs in the United States and tries to start World War III. Charles Bronson plays Grigori Bortsov, the KGB agent sent to stop him. He finally corners Dalchimsky in a Texan bar, but can't kill him because there are two policemen there. Dalchimsky ducks into a phone booth, intending to activate the agents via phone. Bortsov has his colleague create a distraction by knocking over a glass case containing a rattlesnake, and amidst all the chaos bursts into the booth just as Dalchimsky is making the connection and throttles him to death with the receiver.
  • Subverted in Tremors, albeit over a radio set instead of a phone. Burt Grummer, after being told that the graboids are coming straight for his house, is last heard saying, "Jesus Chr—!" before the line goes dead as a graboid bursts through his wall. As it turned out, that graboid did indeed break into the wrong goddamned rec room.
  • In The Tripper, Mayor Hal Burton is on the phone to Frank Baker when the killer smashes the window behind him, grabs him and drags him bodily out of the building. Frank hangs up before he realises what has happened.
  • Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal: The terrorists blow up an air traffic control tower in San Diego while they were on the phone with the FBI.
  • Inverted in Unfriended: rather than being disconnected from the Skype call on account of death, disconnecting from the Skype call causes Laura to kill whoever did it.
  • Implied in We Were Soldiers. A radio operator manages to tune in on frantic radio transmissions from a group of special forces soldiers heavily engaged in combat with the enemy in Vietnam. The signal is lost abruptly, but it is unclear if it was because the special forces troops were killed, or due to more mundane reasons, given the extreme range they picked up the transmission from.

  • Happens in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novel After the Funeral, except the victim survives and eventually recovers.
  • In Alas, Babylon, with several U.S. cities getting nuked by Russia, the manager of the local bank in Fort Repose, Florida demands the telegraph operator establish a connection to the Federal Reserve branch in Jacksonville. Just after she manages to connect to Jacksonville, there's bright flash of light from the Northeast and the line goes dead.
    Florence: I'm sorry, Edgar, but Jacksonville isn't there any more.
  • The last chapter of Cheaper by the Dozen recounts the death of the authors' father, who suffered a massive heart attack while talking to their mother on a pay phone. It's called "The Party Who Called You..." as in, "I'm sorry. The party who called you has hung up."
  • A variation happens in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, where Gordon Way pauses in his rambling monologue to his sister's answering machine to check on a noise and gets shot. The answering machine records the vital information of the time of the murder (Gordon had stated the exact time earlier in the message) and Gordon's first post-death words.
  • At the start of the Doc Savage novel "Cold Death", Doc makes a phone call that is disconnected when the house at the other end blows up as soon as the phone is answered.
  • In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Gonzo fakes this to get rid of Lucy. He puts her into a room in a different hotel and phones her from the room he is sharing with Duke. While calmly telling her how he stomped Duke (supposedly his rival for Lucy's affections) he starts screaming and shouting as if the room had been invaded, moans "Don't put that thing on me," and then hangs up.
  • Flight to the Lonesome Place: Rather it was a disconnection due to a struggle, though it led to death.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's short story "The Statement Of Randolph Carter" has an early version of the "killer on the line to taunt" variant of this trope.
    You fool, Warren is dead!
  • The Thinking Machine: What Van Dusen thinks might have happened in "The Problem of the Deserted House" when someone phones him in the early hours of the morning to warn of a matter of life and death, only for there to be a gunshot and the line go dead. The caller was still alive. It was the phone that had been shot.
  • X-Wing Series: A variation happened to Tycho Celchu. He was phoning his family on his birthday when suddenly the line disconnected. At first, he thought it was just a technical fault, and his immediate reaction was that he'd have a good laugh over it with his dad, who was a high-ranking executive in a hypercomm provider. Tycho's family were from Alderaan, which was obliterated by the Empire.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: Downplayed in the episode "Deadly Manuevers". Hannibal, knowing he's in bad shape after having drunk some milk the villains tampered with, calls Tawnia and orders her to get Dr. Sullivan from Bad Rock. Midway through the call, he collapses, and Tawnia is left trying to raise him over the phone.
  • Angel: In "Habeas Corpses", the Beast turns up at Occult Law Firm Wolfram & Hart with the intention of wiping out the competition. Amoral Attorney Gavin calls the front desk on a security mook's radio. They tell him they're a bit busy right now, then start screaming as the Beast kills them. It then goes on to kill everyone else in the building.
  • Breaking Bad: At the end of "I See You", Gus receives a call from Juan Bolsa, whose mansion is surrounded by police officers (after two cartel members' attempt to murder an American DEA agent, the US government pressured the Mexican government to crack down on cartel activity). Bolsa strongly (and correctly) suspects Gus orchestrated all this somehow, and after brushing off the police activity, tells Gus that after all this blows over, he'll be coming up from Mexico to pay him a little visit. Right after saying this, the officers bust into his home and gun down Bolsa and his men. Gus hears Bolsa being cut down in a hail of bullets on his cellphone with a satisfied expression.
  • CSI: Miami: In "Match Made in Hell", a young woman is calls the Victim of the Week on his cell phone and is talking to him when he is grabbed by an alligator lured into his pool by the killer. His phone drops on the pavers next to the pool and she hears his screams as he is torn to pieces.
  • Longtime Dallas recurring character Jordan Lee was killed off in this manner, after having second thoughts during a murky oil scheme that involved kidnapping Bobby's new wife.
  • The Big "NO!" version happens in the TV version of Dick Barton Special Agent. The body is found by Dick just before some other cops come in and arrest Dick for the murder.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Day of the Daleks", the manager of the factory is on the radio to a guerilla cell when he is killed by an Ogron.
    • The victim in The Teaser of "Flatline" is on the phone to the police when he is taken by the Boneless.
  • Elementary: In "The Five Orange Pipz", the Victim of the Week receives a cryptic warning in the mail and phones his lawyer. However, his lawyer has already been murdered and Captain Gregson answers the phone. While Gregson is talking to the man, someone enters his apartment and kills him.
  • Ellery Queen: In "The Adventure of the Blunt Instrument", the Victim of the Week is on the phone to Ellery when he is murdered.
  • Get Smart: A woman who tries phoning Maxwell Smart for help is drowned in a KAOS Death Trap which floods the phone booth with water. Smart is informed by a calm recorded voice, "I'm sorry, but your party has drowned." Later, Smart and 99 are trapped in the same booth but naturally escape.
  • Played for Laughs once or twice on Hogan's Heroes, usually involving one of the German characters calling someone who happens to be in a city the Allies plan to bomb.
  • The Inspector Morse episode "The Wolvercote Tongue" had this happen.
  • The first episode of Jericho (2006) had Dale listen to a message from his mother on his answering machine. What we hear is the destruction of Atlanta by a nuclear bomb, then the line goes dead.
  • In "Adios" from Justified: City Primeval, a guy named Lonnie has been hired by "Bulldozer Burt" to recover a painting that Clement Mansell stole from him. Sweety modifies the deal so that Lonnie will kill Clement instead, but Lonnie never gets the chance because the scenario in which he's supposed to kill Clement ends up being a sting. He returns to Sweety, but Clement shows up as well. Lonnie gets a call from Burt and he takes it at Clement's urging, but then Clement shoots him in the head. On the other end, Burt comments to himself that it's time for him to go to the Bahamas.
  • Law & Order: In "Doped" Brenda's brother-in-law says that one of his daughters (who doesn't survive) was calling him out of concern about Brenda's driving and he was asking her to get Brenda to pull over when he heard a scream and a crash.
  • Midsomer Murders:
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Happens in "Death Do Us Part". Osman Efendi is on the phone to Phryne attempting to tell her the location of her father when the killer stabs him from behind.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Amsterdam Kill", the Victim of the Week is in a phone booth talking to their police contact when the killer rams a car through the booth.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • The Victim of the Week in "Big Murderer on Campus" is shot while on the phone to one of his colleagues.
    • In "Master Lovecraft", Miss Sarah Glass calls the Station House stating she knows more about the letter but the phone abruptly goes dead and her lifeless body is discovered at the Logan house
  • Infamous example from the otherwise-forgotten show Murphy's Law:
    "I'd like to report a murder..."
    "My own..."
  • A variation on One Life to Live, when a hospitalized Blair (she was in a car accident) is talking on the phone with her Aunt Dorian. Suddenly, the call ends abruptly and we get an apparent Dead-Hand Shot of Blair dropping the phone, but it turns out that she merely had a stroke.
  • The New Avengers: In "Target!", the poisoned Palmer manages to make it to a phone booth and call Steed. He gasps out some vital information, including the fact that he is already dead, before keeling over.
  • Person of Interest: At the end of "Prisoner's Dilemma", Finch is rushing to save Reese and Carter who have just been arrested by Agent Donnelly, only to have the Machine call with another potential murder victim. It turns out to be Agent Donnelly. Finch rings Donnelly to warn him, only for a garbage truck to ram them off the road. The driver gets out and puts a bullet in Donnelly's head, before 'rescuing' Reese.
  • In Revenge (2011), after Frank discovers that Emily swapped identities with the woman now going by Amanda Clarke, he calls Victoria and manages to tell her, "Emily Thorne is not who she claims to—" before taking a tire iron to the head.
  • Star Trek:
  • A sad example in the final season of Supernatural, as Sam Winchester is urgently texting with longtime love interest Eileen on their way to meet her and try and avert whatever is magically dissolving their friends. The text bubbles indicate that she's responding ... then the text is dropped. When they arrive, her phone is there but she's gone, and her fate is ambiguous in the series finale.
  • An Unsolved Mysteries story featured the murder of a long distance truck driver who stopped at a pay phone to call his wife, only to be shot in the back by a still unknown assailant before he could even make the call (there was change scattered around him, indicating that he never got the chance to put it in the slot). Another story is about the abduction and likely murder of Angela Hammond, who was chatting with her boyfriend on a pay phone (they did not have a phone at home and she felt too tired to stop at his parents' home, where he was babysitting his younger brother) when she mentioned feeling uneasy about a truck that kept circling the block, then pulled in next to the phone booth. Despite her fear, she continued to talk to her boyfriend — until the last thing he heard was her scream.



  • In the mystery story Maniac Manor, somebody gets kidnapped in mid-sentence, but not killed.

    Video Games 
  • Happens in Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts, within the British Liberation of Caen campaign - at the end of Operation Windsor, 3rd Battalion receives a radio transmission from Royal Scots Engineers on Hill 112. As per the trope, the Engineer calling stops talking, and the scene cuts to a man framed in shadow slumped over with a radio in front of him while 3rd Battalion as for him to respond.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: On the fourth night, the Phone Guy gets killed by what sounds like all of the animatronics (Foxy's knocking, Freddy's tune, Bonnie and Chica's groaning, and Golden Freddy's/Fredbear's screech) attacking him. You can hear the phone on the other end hanging loosely from the receiver as well as static. And on the fifth night, the phone rings again. This time, it's not him, though. It's apparently someone reading "Audiobiography of a Yogi".
  • One ending of Henry Stickmin: Completing the Mission has Charles trapped on a space station about to self-destruct while Henry is secured into an escape pod. Charles tries to reassure Henry via radio that they managed to complete their mission and that he's sure that he'll find another escape pod... only for the station to explode with Charles still inside.
  • This happens to some poor sap in the backstory-establishing cutscene in Killer7, courtesy of Harman Smith.
  • In Mega Man X4, Double reveals himself as a Maverick and quickly terminates the unit he's with. One Hunter attempts to contact X and warn him until Double catches up and kills him, and then gives X a false alarm.
  • In Persona 4's final Nonstandard Game Over, Naoto gets killed by Shadows (or possibly turns into one herself) in the middle of calling you.
  • Resident Evil 4 (Remake): Separate Ways reveals that Luis was on comms with Ada while Leon was fighting Krauser. While Ada asks about the Amber, Luis instead thanks her for allowing him to redeem himself and sacrifices himself to save Leon from Krauser. As soon as Luis is killed, the call disconnects, and Ada is left with no idea where the Amber is.
  • Subverted in Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall. The Dragon attempts to invoke this by shooting one of your contacts, but the contact's cellphone stays active and keeps transmitting for just long enough for you to get a vital clue before the dragon gets wise and shoots the phone too.
  • Downplayed in Spirit Hunter: NG. Natsumi realises a vital clue that can help her and Akira save the kidnapped Ami, but they're knocked comatose by Kakuya's curse before they can relay the information to Akira over the phone. They don't recover until the end of the game, after Akira has figured out the clue for himself.
  • Super Smash Bros.: This can happen if Snake gets KO'd while talking with whoever is on his codec, with the person on the other end, even Slippy, screaming his name.
  • XenoGears: In the opening cinematic, when The Eldridge controls are taken over, the captain of the ship contacts the engine room to activate an emergency mechanism but receives no response. The brief shot of the engine room along with a dangling phone certifies grim implications.

    Web Comics 
  • Unsounded: When Elka uses the chirographynote  in Ethelmik to call for backup and inform the capitol of the disaster involving a superweapon, the operator on the other end gets stabbed from behind by General Bell, who is plotting an usurpation with the superweapon. He then tries to cover up the splatter that was transmitted as an ink spill ("sorry") when he finishes off the message. Elka knows what blood-spatters look like and realizes her contact was murdered.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: The ultimate parody of this trope comes in the form of suicide booths, where people pay to have themselves killed either by being vaporised or by being gutted by five different objects.
  • Looney Tunes: Played for rather dark laughs in "The Unmentionables". A civilian tries to call the police from a phone booth during a brutal Prohibition-era gang shoot-out. As soon as he steps inside, the booth is cut cleanly in half by tommy-gun fire, prompting the operator to tell the deceased, "Sorry, you've been disconnected."
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Cloak of Darkness", two of the clone troopers fighting in the hangar die while on the comms, one killed by a super battle droid and the other by Ventress.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television for any number of Mafia hits, given the tendency of the mob to use public telephones to avoid wire-tapping. Probably most famously done to Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll during Prohibition, which may have been the Trope Maker.
  • Major League Baseball pitcher Josh Hancock was talking on his phone (and under the influence) when he plowed his car into a tow truck and died in 2007.
  • During the Columbine school massacre, a teacher called 911 from a phone in the library. The teacher then ran as the killers entered the library, without hanging up the phone. The 911 tape recorded the killers shooting all the students in the library, where most of the casualties were.
  • A new series of public service announcements is being run on American TV, each opening with silence and two or three words displayed on the screen. A voiceover then explains that these words were a text someone was trying to send just before they were killed in a driving-while-texting accident. In at least some of the ads, the person doing the voiceover is one of the accident victim's parents or friends, though there is one example of the speaker being a boy who suffered brain damage in the crash.
  • In Baltimore in 2010, a Johns Hopkins University medical student was robbed then stabbed to death by gang members while on the phone with his mom.
  • On September 11, 2001, this happened to both Betty Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 who was talking to AA Operations when her plane hit the North Tower, and Kevin Cosgrove, an executive in the South Tower who was on the phone with 911 when it collapsed. Ong was placed on hold as the operator relayed the information she provided to the AA Emergency Line. By the time the operator tried to go back to Ong, the plane had struck the World Trade Center and she said "I think we might have lost her." Cosgrove's call is especially disconcerting since you can hear the building beginning to collapse around him as the call disconnects. Trapped on a floor above the crash site with other survivors and unable to reach the destroyed staircases his final words were "we're overlooking the Financial Center. Three of us. Two broken windows.", before screaming "Oh God! Oh-" as the floor began to disintegrate.
    • Madeline Amy Sweeney was also a flight attendant on Flight 11 and made contact with AA to provide the seat number of the hijackers. She was asked to describe what she saw out the window: "I see water. I see buildings. I see buildings! We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. Oh my God we are flying way too low. Oh my God!" At that moment, the call dropped as the plane hit the North Tower.
  • The day that Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, volcanologist David A. Johnston was able to radio "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" before he was swept away by the volcano's lateral blast.
    • Similarly, ham radio operator Gerry Martin, stationed on a ridge two miles north of Johnston, was speaking to fellow operators Ty and Marianna Kearney as the mountain erupted. Martin stayed on the line, describing what was happening, until:
  • Dru Sjodin was chatting with her boyfriend as she left her job when the call abruptly ended with her frantically saying, "Okay! Okay!" Concerned, he immediately called the police. Months later, after her body was found and her assailant was arrested, he admitted that this was the moment he accosted her.
  • Similarly, the story of Angela Hammond, abducted while chatting with her boyfriend on a pay phone (they did not have a phone at home and she felt too tired to stop at his parents' home, where he was babysitting his younger brother). As they talked, she mentioned feeling uneasy about a truck that kept circling the block, then pulled in next to the phone booth. Despite her fear, she continued to talk to her boyfriend — until the last thing he heard was her scream.
  • In early 2016, a man in Finland committed murder by beating a woman he'd never met before to death. The woman happened to be on the phone with her husband at the time. During the trials, the husband shared his gut-wrenching story about how she suddenly disappeared from the line, but since the call did not disconnect, he could hear every single blow of his wife getting bludgeoned to death.
  • In 1995, Modesto, California teenager Genna Gamble was talking on the phone with her best friend when the call abruptly stopped. A few days later, her body was found in a local park, having been strangled. As it turns out, her stepfather Doug Mouser was her killer; she was grounded by her mother and was not allowed to use the phone, she did anyway, he discovered what she was doing and struck her hard enough to render the girl unconscious. He then killed her to make it look like a random act of violence because he didn't want to go to jail for assault and lose his prestigious government position. He was later convicted of her murder and received a life sentence.
  • The Penlee lifeboat disaster. The lifeboatnote  Solomon Browne was struggling to evacuate the crew of a bulk-cargo ship that had lost her engines during a particularly violent storm, and the radio operator was in the middle of delivering a status update to the local Coast Guard station when a sudden loud noise was heard, and then only silence. It's believed that this was the moment when everything went catastrophically wrong; the exact sequence of events after the loss of communications is unclear, but the freighter was found capsized on the rocks the following day. Of the lifeboat, only fragmentary wreckage was left. There were no survivors from either vessel.
  • On 8 May 1902, the telegraph in Fort-de-France (capital of Martinique) was communicating with its counterpart in Saint-Pierre (Martinique's largest city) to get news about the eruption of Mount Pelée. After sending the morning's updates, the station in Saint-Pierre handed the line over to Fort-de-France. The next second, the line went silent. The baffled operators in Fort-de-France found out why when the mushroom cloud became visible on the northern horizon: Mount Pelée had just blown up, razing Saint-Pierre to the ground and killing almost everyone there in only two minutes.
  • On March 4, 1993 in Lansing, Michigan, 67-year-old Audrey Nichols called 911 to report that a burglar had broken into her home. She was giving the operator her address when she suddenly screamed, at which point the line went dead. Police found her shot to death in her bathroom. The killer, a petty criminal named John Skinner, was eventually tracked down and sentenced to 60 to 90 years in prison.
  • May 13, 2003, Kathy Lorick was talking with her husband via cell phone in Concord, California when she suddenly gasped, after which the line went dead. She was later found severely beaten and died at the hospital. Her killer, a drifter named Robert Frazier, was sentenced to death.

Alternative Title(s): Murdered In A Phone Booth, Murdered On The Phone


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