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Finger in the Mail

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A new meaning to "giving you the finger".

"This is Paul's first ear. If within ten days the family still believes that this is a joke mounted by him, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits."
Ransom Note in the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III

In the event of a kidnapping or Hostage Situation where characters are held for ransom, when the kidnapper is ready to make his demands known and/or make sure he is taken seriously by his hostage's loved ones or law enforcement authorities, the kidnapper will send severed extremities from his hostage to the family/police. Fingers are very common, but ears, teeth, toes, hair, etc. are frequently fair game, as well.

In other circumstances, the situation can involve a Serial Killer mailing more gruesome body parts (typically internal organs or severed heads) from recent victims to either taunt the police/detectives tailing him and prove to them that they are receiving correspondence from the suspect they are after or to convey the gruesome fate to a loved one of the victim.

Compare: Demanding Their Head and Bringing Back Proof when a character specifically demands a body part be brought to them for a bounty.

See Also: Fingore, Past Victim Showcase.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Battle Angel Alita: Alita shows up at Desty Nova's lab looking for her foster father, Ido. When she demands that Desty tell her where he is, he casually tosses her a head-sized metal box and tells her to take a look for herself.
  • In Black Lagoon, Balalaika has a yakuza boss who betrayed her killed and (offscreen) cut into pieces. She then sends a box containing some of the pieces back to his organization as a reminder that she's not to be trifled with.
  • In Chainsaw Man, when a yakuza boss won't tell Makima everything he knows about contracts with the Gun Devil, she counters with a paper bag full of eyeballs from the loved ones of all the gangsters present, claiming someone in Public Safety could put them back if they cooperate fully. The organization certainly has a lot of devils with strange powers like that, but we never find out if she's telling the truth.
  • Heat Guy J: A Corrupt Politician kills Ian when the latter is caught spying. The guy then cuts off Ian's hand (with his Phi Beta Kappa ring on the middle finger) and sends it to Ian's boss (and friend), who then declares war on the senator.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: When the assassination branch of the Passione mafia tries to discover their boss's identity so they can kill him and take over, the boss sends them a message to back off by killing one of them, chopping him into pieces, and mailing his entire body preserved in blocks of formalin to the rest of the squad for them to reassemble like a grisly puzzle straight out of Damien Hirst's gallery.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: A brief Fingore moment appears when Milverton leaves a finger wearing a wedding ring with a note telling one of Whiteley's bodyguards he has his wife and child.
  • MPD Psycho: A killer sends one of the detectives looking for him the armless, legless torso of the detective's girlfriend in an ice chest.
  • One Piece: An invitation to one of Big Mom's tea parties is An Offer You Can't Refuse. If you do, the severed head of one of your friends or family members will be mailed to you.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In Batman: Dark Victory, someone steals the body of previous untouchable crime lord Big Bad Carmine Falcone (who was killed by Two Face in an attempt to "do what is necessary" to take down organized crime) and later sends his daughter, who has taken over the crime family, his finger, which her aide recognizes as an "old style message," meaning that someone means to take everything from her, "piece by piece." At the end, the person who stole the body is revealed to be Two Face who, throughout the story, was acting leading nearly all of Batman's rogues gallery to take down the Falcone family and its associates.
    • The maniacal doctor Hush turns this around in one story by sending Batman the entirety of Catwoman... minus her heart.
    • In one of the final Pre-Crisis stories, the Shrunken Head of a murder victim is sent to one of her friends by a psycho ax murderer who killed her out of jealousy.
  • In the House of M tie-in issue of Black Panther, Magneto has Sabretooth teleported into Wakanda to assassinate T'Challa. T'Challa cuts Sabretooth's head off and sends it back to Magneto in a box.
  • In the Emma Frost origin comic series, Emma and her boyfriend Troy are kidnapped by loan sharks that Troy owed money to. When they find out that Emma is the daughter of a millionaire, they ship a box full of her hair and an ear to her family, along with a ransom note. The ear, it turns out, was actually Troy's, him having been killed earlier trying to save Emma.
  • Green Arrow: In one story, crooks who've captured Black Canary send a chunk of her hair to the police. The cops think it is a fake as the hair is from a wig, but Green Arrow knows Canary's blonde hair is actually a wig.
  • The Judge Dredd story arc "Origins" begins with a small box containing a ransom note and a sample of living tissue belonging to Judge Fargo, the first Chief Judge of Mega-City One and the founder of the Judge system, being delivered to the Hall of Justice.
  • In the "Five Years Later" run of Legion of Super-Heroes, the crazed killer Roxxas blows up the rock Legionnaire Blok and mails the pieces to the other Legionnaires. But he does so with a message addressed to Graym Ranzz, one of Saturn Girl and Lightning Lad's children, saying it's a play set he can put together courtesy of his "Uncle Roxxas."
  • Preacher: In an early comic, the police ask the bereaved to ID the body part. "Is this your husband's scrotum?"
  • In The Punisher MAX's "Kitchen Irish" arc, Maginty kidnaps a rival gangster, has him extensively dismembered while he's still alive, and sends each piece in a separate package to his wife. We're shown all the gritty details, including Maginty furious about how much Fed Ex charges for same-day delivery. The wife isn't really fazed.
  • In Sin City, Hartigan gets a severed finger in the mail instead of his usual letter from Nancy. Junior couldn't find her, so he tricks Hartigan into tracking her down.
  • Superman: In a story that followed The Death of Clark Kent, Clark receives a letter from Conduit (a fierce enemy of his who died in the previous arc) saying, "The Golden Gopher was mine!" that also contains a lock of Jimmy Olsen's hair. This instantly sends Clark flying off to the address indicated by the note, which was what Conduit wanted, as he had set up a Dead Man's Switch to kill Jimmy after his death (and, if possible, Superman as well).
    • In The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Superman frankly tells Batman that if he pulls a repeat of the incident, which involved deliberately allowing the Joker to threaten Metropolis to gauge his response, next time Joker is returning to Gotham in matchboxes.

    Fan Works 
  • Arrow: Rebirth: The Huntsman sends Queen Consolidated a box which Oliver immediately recognizes as stinking of rotted flesh, so he prevents the courier from leaving so the police can question him about his client. The box contains the head of Felicity, which has an apple stuffed in its mouth.
  • In Burning Day the latest Dark Lord wannabe sends Harry a package containing a finger from his youngest daughter. It turns out that it was actually a transfigured finger sent by Dolores Umbridge to trick him into going Papa Wolf and doing the Ministry's job for them.
  • In Elsewhere But Not Elsewhen Voldemort threatens to send Blaise Zabini pieces of his sister if he fails to complete his given task, starting with her toes.
  • Hostage Situation: Discussed when Mags asks Saint if he's willing to go so far as to remove fingers from Panacea in order to pressure the PRT to release Teacher. Saint seems inclined to say yes, and she chastises him for that.
  • Lamarckian features a variant when Kanna finds that the girl's locker room has been trashed, and a letter that includes a melted ring. This is the same ring that the Wendigo bit off of Native's fingers.
  • In A New World, the Lunarians send a group of messengers to bargain with Gensokyo's powers, hoping they will all fall into line and allow them a clear shot at Eientei. While all negotiations end in catastrophic failure, the Scarlet Devil Mansion takes special care in sending back an appropriate response that includes the ears of the messenger.
  • Princess Celestia Gets Mugged: The Stupid Crooks who kidnap a disguised Princess Celestia originally planned on doing this to 'Sunny Skies' with her ear, but ultimately don't have it in them to do it and decide to use her tail and mane instead.
  • In Flames and Family II: Road to Ruin—a ''Reborn! (2004) fanfiction—Mochida gives Tsuna a box that is supposedly a gift from Mochida's boss. However, it's revealed to be the finger of a little child who had been used in a deadly experiment that Mochida's boss was in charge of. To make matters worse, Mochida is revealed to have known what was really in the gift and purposefully said the wrong information in an attempt to kill Tsuna, but Ryohei gets hurt instead. Needless to say, Tsuna is not happy at all.
  • A Wolf Amongst Lions: A literal example, as Arya Stark is abducted by the Freys who send a warning to both the Starks and the Lannisters with the severed fingers of Arya and her brother. Tywin Lannister's response to his ward being taken and abused is to declare war on House Frey.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In All the Money in the World, a secretary receives J.P. Getty III's ear in the mail.
  • In The Big Lebowski, the eponymous "Big" Jeffrey Lebowski is sent one of his wife Bunny's toes after a botched money exchange. This is actually a ruse to make Lebowski think they have his wife, and it turns out that one of the conspirators had his poor girlfriend provide the toe.
  • The Blair Witch Project has a variation of this when Josh's blood-soaked hair and teeth are left outside Heather's tent, packed in sticks wrapped with scraps of his shirt.
  • Brannigan: An American member of The Mafia is kidnapped by London Gangsters who send a finger in the mail when holding him for ransom. Ironically, the mobster is in on the kidnapping, regarding the finger as an acceptable loss.
  • The Candy Snatchers: The kidnappers plan to cut off Candy's ear so they can send it to her father. Eddy talks them out of it, so instead they force her to scream so they can record it, then purchase an ear from a worker at the local hospital.
  • In Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Dragon's gang sends a finger to Rose after they abduct Gus. Rose is very confused when she realizes the finger they have sent is not Gus's.
  • In China White, one of the Triad higher-ups is brutally killed, and his head is placed in a wrapped box to be sent back to his subordinates.
  • In Clean Slate, Dana Carvey is supposed to testify against a criminal who is missing his thumb, because he was kidnapped as a child and his father refused to give in to the kidnappers' demands.
  • In Copycat, Foley plants a severed finger under Helen's mattress as a warning/message.
  • Dirty Harry: Scorpio kidnaps a 14-year-old girl, sending the police her bra, a lock of hair, and a bloody tooth "pulled out with a pair of pliers".
  • In Escape from New York, a creepy punk taunts the government troops with the kidnapped President's severed finger.
  • Gigli: Louis orders Larry and Ricki to send the DA one of his kidnapped brother's thumbs. However, they find themselves unable to go through with it, so they break into a hospital morgue and cut a thumb off a random corpse in his place. Their plan backfires when the authorities receiving the digit are able to identify the thumbprint and confirm it's not Bobby's, which infuriates Mr. Starkman.
  • In Goldeneye, Jack Wade tells Bond that Valentin Zukovsky sent the last spy who crashed his club home. In many, many boxes.
  • In The Hitcher, the protagonist stops at a roadside diner to call the cops on the serial killer who's been pursuing him. The killer slips a human finger into a plate of fries the waitress brings him.
  • In Karate a Muerte en Torremolinos, the villains send Chuk Lee's head to the mayor in a box.
  • A Life Less Ordinary: Referenced when incompetent kidnapper Robert asks his victim what he's supposed to do next. Celine tells him about the last time she was kidnapped, when she was 12.
    Robert: So what did they do next?
    Celine: They put a needle in my arm and took a pint of blood, and sent it to my father. The next week they did the same, and the same the next week till he paid up. He waited six weeks. That's what happens to the victim.
  • In Limitless, the main character is sent a box containing the severed hands of his own bodyguards to let him know that they've been taken out and he has no protection.
  • In Paid in Full, Mitch's son Sonny is taken hostage by his uncle Ice and an accomplice named Tommy. As told in a scene with Mitch explaining the event, he found an envelope in the morning containing Sonny's severed finger.
  • Pistolera: After they kidnap Rodrigo, Angel has Indio cut off Rodrigo's hand and send it to his father Raffaello as proof that they actually have his son.
  • Se7en: At the end, a package is received from the captured Serial Killer containing the head of his latest victim — Mills' wife.
  • In Seven Murders for Scotland Yard, the murderer sends Inspector Campbell the head of one of his victims (minus her eyes) in the mail.
  • Split Second (1992): A long-vanished Serial Killer returns and taunts the protagonist by sending him a metal briefcase that contains the heart of the first new victim packed in ice with a very large bite taken out of it.
  • Theatre of Blood: After cutting out Dickman's heart (and ensuring that it weighs exactly one pound), Edward Lionheart mails it to Devlin in a gift-wrapped box.
  • In Under Siege, Strannix recounts a tale of how he sent his CIA superior the fingers of two assassins who were sent to kill him.
  • The World Is Not Enough: In the Back Story, the terrorist Renard took Elektra King hostage and demanded a ransom from her wealthy father who, on the advice of M, refused to pay up. So Renard cut off her ear and sent it to him to encourage payment. Elektra was actually a willing participant in this, considering herself betrayed by her father and the British government.

  • Alex Rider: In Ark Angel, Alex swaps rooms with a friend he made in hospital to protect him from kidnappers (the friend's father is rich). When they catch Alex and decide to send one of his fingers to his "father", Alex panics and confesses. He later learns that the entire kidnapping was masterminded by the friend's dad, including this part.
  • In American Psycho, when Patrick Bateman is listing his priorities before Christmas, one of them is "saw a hardbody's head off and Federal Express it to Robin Barker – the dumb bastard – over at Salomon Brothers".
  • In Apprentice Adept, the villains kidnap Clip, one of the protagonist's unicorn allies, and send him Clip's horn as proof. Clip is rescued, and the protagonist uses his magic to reattach the horn.
  • Bernie Rhodenbarr: In The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, an envelope containing whiskers is stuffed into Carolyn's mailbox to prove that the kidnapper has her missing cat.
  • Spoofed in the non-fiction Big Dead Place. A galley manager in Antarctica has his new oven stolen and several parts returned with ransom notes threatening destruction unless he sings "I'm A Little Teapot" at the next All-Hands Meeting. He complies.
  • The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War: Khalid is taken by soldiers. Before they release him, they cut his hands off and leave them in a parcel for his family.
  • Career of Evil: The plot is kick-started when a woman's severed leg arrives in the mail to the offices of private detective Cormoran Strike.
  • Deryni: In The Bishop's Heir, Loris sends Kelson Bishop Henry Istelyn's finger (still wearing his bishop's ring) in a show of defiance. Istelyn's head later follows.
  • Erast Fandorin:
    • The Coronation includes a subversion of the ransom demand variation; the hostage was killed immediately after the finger was cut off as part of the villain's Evil Plan.
    • In The Decorator, Fandorin, who is hunting a Serial Killer, gets a severed ear in the mail. It turns out to be a prank.
  • Firekeeper: Kidnappers send Citrine's fingers to Lady Melinda. Her only reaction is to burn them.
  • In one Forgotten Realms novel, the crimelord who has the halfling Regis captive has one of his men give Drizzt and friends (out to save Regis) a package when they reach his city: a halfling's severed finger. Not only is it from Regis, the crimelord does it again as they're breaking into his lair.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: In Arrow's Fall, a villain asks sweetly, "How will your Queen react to receiving her favorite Herald... but a small piece at a time?"
  • An eponymous example in Ghislain Taschereau's French novel Inspector Spector and the Dead Finger where the Big Bad gets the inspector involved by leaving a dead severed finger on top of a mailbox for no apparent reason. Fortunately, the inspector has a secret weapon: he sold his soul to the Devil to be the world's greatest detective.
  • In Joyce Carol Oates' My Heart Laid Bare, an entire body is delivered this way, cut up into parts and then stowed in appropriate boxes (the head in a hatbox, feet in a shoebox, etc.)
  • In Myth-Inc Link, Skeeve receives a package containing a severed finger. Recognizing the ring it's wearing as one he'd foisted off on Queen Hemlock to force her to give up conquering the worldnote , he concludes that she cut it off to free herself from its magic and is once again a threat. At the end of the book, however, it's revealed that things aren't quite what they seem. The finger was Roderick's, and Hemlock sent it to Skeeve to tell him that she'd figured out the rings were just a bluff when Rod died of natural causes.
  • Pendragon: In the fifth book, St. Dane leaves Bobby a bag containing Gunny's severed hand.
  • In the Phryne Fisher novel Away With the Fairies, the Ruthless Modern Pirates who abduct Lin Chung mail his ear to Phryne.
  • In Quiller's Run, Quiller is played a wiretap recording of the villainess demanding his head. The Handler tries to make light of it. "Once you're dead, you won't care where the thing is." It's not an idle threat, as a previous agent had his head delivered in a box to his embassy. After Quiller bests a hitman who nearly takes his head off with a garotte, he's told there was a head-sized box with a plastic bag inside found in the hitman's car.
  • The Rifter: Laurie summons John into a trap to use him to open the Great Gates by sending him one of his lover Kyle's fingers. She chose the ring finger because she was furious that John got his lover back when she couldn't have her dead husband.
  • In "Rogues in the House", Murilo is given a recognizable ear as a hint. That said, he admits he doesn't know if it's a hint he should flee the city as a fugitive, or that it's just a sign his upcoming execution for his not-yet-revealed treachery against the state. Either way, he decides not to wait and find out and chooses to break out Conan from prison to kill the cruel man who now holds his life in his hands.
  • In Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf, the people who kidnapped the prize dog of a Rich Bitch mail her a box full of said dog's fur. This also doubles as a way to hide it in the kennel it was being kept at.
  • The Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" has a pair of ears placed in a box but delivered to the wrong person.
  • Sick Puppy: The protagonist, in his efforts to force a lobbyist to shut down a proposed resort development program that existed purely to funnel pork to cronies of the governor, holds the lobbyist's dog hostage and mails the man the ear and paw of a Labrador Retriever. Subverted in that the parts had been taken off another dog who had died in an accident, not the lobbyist's dog.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The Bloody Mummers cut off Jaime Lannister's sword hand, intending to send it to his father with a ransom demand.
    • Ramsay Bolton sends flayed skin from Theon Greyjoy to a number of lords. His letter mentions the enclosed "piece of prince."
  • In The Tamuli, instructions to Sparhawk from Ehlana's kidnappers include a lock of her hair as verification.
  • Inverted in one of the Andrew Vachss short stories. Vigilante Man Alex Cross handles the problem of a pedophile stalking a rich man's daughter and contacts him for the remainder of his payment. The businessman is skeptical; how does he know Cross did anything? Cross tells him to expect a package from 'Mr Green' that his secretary must bring to him unopened, and which he should open without anyone else in the room, and as for disposing what's in the package, that's his problem. The businessman quickly decides he doesn't need verification after all.
  • October Daye: In One Salt Sea, Rayseline cuts off one of Dean Lorden's fingers and sends it to his parents in a box, presumably as a threat. The act ends up backfiring on her, though, because Patrick Lorden takes it to Toby at Connor's behest, and Toby uses the finger to ride Dean's blood, which helps her to figure out where Rayseline stashed him.
  • Underground: When Lucy is kidnapped by Swanson and his men, her braided hair is cut off and left in a box for Robyn along with a note that he hopes she changes her mind.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias: Sloane receives his wife's ring finger through the mail as proof she's still alive and being held hostage. It's actually a plan set in motion by Sloane himself. His wife cut off her own finger and mailed it to him.
  • Bizarre: One skit features a man and woman waiting anxiously for correspondence from their son's kidnapper. After revealing that they'd been sent a few pieces of him already (fingers and toes), they receive a new box. When the wife asks what part of him was in it this time, the answer is, "His shit." In an alternate ending, it is instead his foot, to which the parents happily exclaim, "Now we have enough to put him back together again!"
  • Black Mirror: In "The National Anthem", the kidnapper mails the Princess' finger to the press after it is revealed that the PM is using a body double in a sex tape. However, forensic examination shows it's NOT the Princess's finger. In an appallingly extreme bluff, it's the kidnapper's.
  • Bones:
    • Especially during the Gormogon arc and with some from crime scenes involving scavenger animals, winds, or other such scattering mechanisms.
    • In a first season episode "The Woman in the Car", when the kidnapper sends one of a boy's fingers as a warning, Brennan is too upset to pursue the case, because she's not prepared for living victims whose lives are still in danger. Booth calms her down by pointing out the mistake the kidnapper made — sending evidence to the best forensics team in the country.
    • In the episode "The Heiress in the Hill," one kidnapper chops off his hostage's toe with pet-grade nail clippers, and the resulting wound gets infected. The other kidnapper genuinely wanted to save the hostage's life, and gave her penicillin to fight the infection. Unfortunately, she was highly allergic and died. Ironically, the victim herself planned the whole thing to bilk money out of her father and frame her step-mother. She's the one who cut off her toe, believing her father wouldn't pay without it.
  • Chicago P.D.: In "Care Under Fire", a group of criminals abduct a boy and send his cut off ear to his father. It's also mentioned they cut off the finger of a previous victim they kidnapped.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • The Season 1 finale features a variation on this trope; SSA Jason Gideon receives, at his cottage, a baseball card and a head in a box via courier, which sets the BAU's targets on this new case.
    • "Rock Creek Park" has the wife of an up-and-coming senator kidnapped for ransom. While it remains ambiguous for a while whether the ransomers actually have her, they eventually send her ear in the mail, which her husband identifies thanks to the earring it's wearing.
  • CSI: One episode features a man who found the cut off index finger of his mistress in her apartment. Later, they find the body and it is revealed that it was the man himself who had killed her. To avoid suspicion of the murder, he staged it as a kidnapping gone wrong.
  • CSI: Cyber: In "Python's Revenge", Avery gets sent a severed human head.
  • CSI: NY:
    • "Trapped" deals with the heir of a wealthy family whose younger brother was abducted as a child. When the family was slow with the ransom money, the brother's ear was cut off and sent to them; later, the brother was killed. The surviving man kept the ear in a jar of preservative.
    • In "Brooklyn 'Til I Die," kidnappers send a millionaire his son's finger in a ring box, with a distinctive ring still attached.
    • In "Seth and Apep," Christine's kidnappers taunt Mac with a tongue delivered to him at the precinct. It turns out not to be hers, though.
  • Deadloch: The murdered men are always found with their tongues cut out. They are all Asshole Victims guilty of mistreating a woman in their life. As a twisted, egotistical gift, the killer places each victim's tongue in the freezer of his respective female abuse victim.
  • Dexter: This is a recurring theme throughout season one, but never quite so strongly as when the Ice Truck Killer mails a jar of blood with a hotel room key in it to the homicide division. The hotel room key turns out to lead to a hotel room (duh) with walls covered with much more blood.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos", the Big Bad, who has Paltraki's crew as hostages, threatens the ship captain that he will teleport them onto Paltraki's ship, piece by piece, unless Paltraki cooperates.
  • Elementary:
    • In season one's "A Giant Gun Filled With Drugs," the daughter of Sherlock's former drug dealer is kidnapped and her finger is delivered to Sherlock's home as proof of life. Sherlock finds crumbs under the fingernail from food that's only available from a small number of take-out places in New York, information he uses to narrow down the potential locations she's being held in.
    • In season two's "Ears to You", the husband of a woman who disappeared four years earlier receives a pair of ears in the mail. It turns out that the woman still lives and still has both her ears, despite them being a genetic and optical match for her. She staged her own disappearance/abduction and her accomplice is a surgeon who grafted a cartilage ear framework onto her back and later harvested it when the skin had properly grown in, thus providing her with suitably grisly mementos to mail for another ransom demand.
  • Firefly: In "War Stories", Niska offers Zoe either Malcolm or Washburn in exchange for ransom and Zoe picks Wash. Niska then declares the money to be "too much" and gives her Malcolm's ear as a "small refund."
  • Forever: One episode begins with a detective receiving a human heart in the mail.
  • In Frasier, when Niles is taking care of a sack of flour as though it were a child, he tells Frasier about his nightmares where the sack of flour is kidnapped and he starts receiving muffins in the mail.
  • Forever Knight: The Head in a Box version occurs in "Ashes to Ashes". LaCroix's evil vampire daughter announces her presence to her father by leaving the decapitated corpse of the graverobber that unsealed her in the Raven's beer fridge. There's also a box which LaCroix warily opens...only to find his daughter's locket there. Then he removes the wrapping it's resting on and finds the head.
  • Game of Thrones: Subverted; Ramsay Bolton sends King Balon Greyjoy the severed penis of his captured son Theon. As pointed out by Ramsay's father Roose, this is rather Stupid Evil, as it means Theon is now useless as an heir and therefore no longer worth ransoming.
  • The Golden Girls: In one episode, the girls' young neighbor Daisy holds Rose's teddy bear for ransom. At one point, Blanche receives one of his ears in the mail.
  • In Grimm, after a high-level Reaper sends two assassins after Nick, he gets a note back reading, "Next time, send your best", along with the severed heads of the assassins.
  • Haven: In "Chemistry", Mara goes missing and a ransom note with her severed pinky toe arrives. It turns out Mara had never been kidnapped and had been manipulating everyone. She cut off her toe herself both to make the ransom note believable and to mock Duke, who had threatened to cut off her toe while interrogating her back in "Nowhere Man" but couldn't go through with it.
  • Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: Subverted, as it turns out the kidnapping was staged, and the body part belonged to somebody else (the "kidnapper" was working at a job that gave him access to dead bodies).
  • House: Parodied in Season 4, when Drs. Cuddy and Wilson try to force House to hire a new team. Wilson attempts blackmail by "kidnapping" House's guitar. When House still won't give in, Wilson sends him the torn off whammy bar as a threat.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "Angel Hair", a kidnapper sends a tuft of hair to the hostage's lover. (Kind of...the hair and the kidnapping itself were completely staged, in an attempt to make the hostage look as though she were faking her own kidnapping in order to extort money out of her married lover. The hair ends up being a major continuity problem for the person pulling the strings, as the woman is in a hair-pulling Cat Fight just before the actors grab her and cut her hair off, making it seem like she's grown a full head of hair back in a matter of seconds.).
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent:
    • Inverted/subverted in a season finale when Goren receives a human heart while investigating the death of his brother Frank and possible kidnapping of his nephew. Turns out it actually belongs to serial killer Nicole Wallace, who had killed Frank and was subsequently killed by Goren's unhinged mentor, who wanted to remove himself, Nicole and Frank from Goren's life in one fell swoop.
    • In "Weeping Willow", the mutilation of an online celebrity's boyfriend via cutting off his ear happens on-camera to show that the kidnappers are serious.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: A serial killer, who uses riddles to lead the team to his victims, cuts off his first victim and sends it to them, warning them that they are running out of time before he kills her.
  • Luther: Done with an added layer of Squick where the kidnappers cut out their hostage's tongue just to prove they're serious. Later, they send further body parts.
  • Millennium (1996): The serial killer variation shows up when a sinister figure known as "the Judge" has criminals committing vigilante killings and mailing body parts to the victims' victims. For instance, a builder whose shoddy workmanship killed someone has his hand cut off.
  • Mr. Show: Parodied in a sketch in which a kidnapper calls the wealthy father of the boy he's kidnapped and demands to know whether he received his son's toe in the mail to prove his serious intent. Except he forgot to mail the toe. And he appears to have accidentally removed his own toe, instead of one of the kid's. And he's already released the kid. And the police are able to track his call while he's dithering about all of this. The kidnapper ends up trying to sell the father his own toe for $50.00. Obviously, he's not a very effective kidnapper.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Kid", a kidnapper's plans start to go awry when a toddler wanders off with the severed pinkie finger meant to be left for the victim's family to find.
  • NCIS:
    • One investigation begins when a pair of eyeballs, mailed as a threat, is unwittingly sent to an address where the intended recipient wasn't even living anymore.
    • The drug lords who take Gibbs hostage give him Mike Franks' finger, clearly wanting him to think Franks is dead. In a subversion, he isn't.
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Parodied when the school bully, Loomer, takes Ned's Life Science baby care project doll and sends it back piece by piece. A horrified Cookie exclaims, "What do we do now?" to which Ned smiles and replies, "Nothing." Backfires when the day before the babies are to be inspected, the teacher suddenly moves up the deadline and they still don't have the head. They get the head back in time but still fail the inspection because of the teeth marks left on one of the arms that had been hidden in a sandwich that Cookie was eating.
  • Nya Tider, a Swedish soap opera, uses and subverts this in a 2000 episode. The series's Big Bad, Carl Gripenhielm, is sent a package containing his son Philip's index toe, as a taunt to make him send money to the kidnappers. Some scenes later it is revealed that the son cut his toe off himself, and is faking the kidnapping, together with Depraved Homosexual friend Hampus.
  • The New Avengers: In "Hostage", the kidnappers send Steed a lock of Purdey's hair with a warning that worse is to follow if Steed does not obey their instructions.
  • Oz:
    • African-American inmate Johnny Post kills Italian inmate Dino Ortolani on the orders of Homeboys leader Jefferson Keane. In retaliation, the Italians dismember Post and send Keane his penis in a box.
    • The actual fingers arriving in the mail were previously attached to Beecher's kidnapped son.
    • Jason Cramer's crime flashback shows that he was arrested after he attempted to send a package containing the decapitated head of his lover (to where he was trying to have it sent isn't clear) and the clerk noticed blood seeping from the box.
  • Police Squad!:
    • Frank Drebin and his fellow detectives tell the mother of a kidnapped young lady about a similar case they had in which the victim's ear was cut off and mailed to her parents. The story, naturally, horrifies the woman, especially as they prattle on about the possibility.
    • In another episode, mobsters have kidnapped a boxer's girlfriend to make him throw a fight. They start by showing a few of the normal items which he dismisses, then they show him her toaster! (complete with toast popping up). During the fight, he checks the crowd and the mob's man is sitting there with her clothes dryer, and he keeps displaying household items up to an entire washing machine.
  • The Professionals:
    • Lampshaded in "First Night" when criminals kidnap a foreign dignitary for ransom, and one of them flat-out tells their hostage that they're willing to cut off his fingers if needed. Later as Cowley is briefing his minister, Bodie and Doyle inform him that a package from the kidnappers has been dropped off.
      Doyle: They phoned the Express. There's something waiting for us in a phone box in Jubilee Walk.
      Minister: I don't like the sound of that "something".
      Bodie: Half an ear, perhaps?
      (The Minister gives Bodie a Disapproving Look and walks off. Doyle laughs.)
      Cowley: There are times, Bodie, when I find your ribaldry quite distasteful!
    • In "Where the Jungle Ends", Bodie tells a Corrupt Corporate Executive that Doyle is a murderous psychopath who is holding his schoolgirl daughter hostage in the car outside, and if Bodie doesn't get the information he wants, he'll bring his daughter inside a piece at a time.
      Bodie: I hold up one finger and that's what you get—one finger!
      (Gilligan Cut to Doyle sharing a chocolate bar with the girl)
  • Revenge: In "Impetus," Charlotte has been kidnapped, and after Conrad disobeys instructions from the kidnapper, he receives a package including an ear and a video of Charlotte being beaten. The viewers know, but Conrad doesn't, that Charlotte is more or less fine; the video was faked and the ear taken from a random corpse in the morgue.
  • Sam & Cat: Parodied when Nora escapes from prison and kidnaps Dice in order to get revenge on Sam. She sends Sam a letter informing her that she has kidnapped Dice when Sam looks inside the envelope, she finds a piece of Dice's hair.
  • Saturday Night Live: Parodied in the "Happy Smile Patrol" skit. When a white supremacist gang takes a church group hostage, the news reports states that, without making any demands, they've "begun sending fingers and ears to authorities."
  • Scrubs: Played for Laughs in "My White Whale". In a Cutaway Gag after Dr. Cox denies acting like a complete lunatic, doll enthusiast Dr. Norris receives a parcel containing the hand of a doll that went missing after he refused to break his schedule to look at Dr. Cox's son. Soon after, Dr. Cox reveals that the hand belongs to another doll—not the one that Dr. Norris is missing.
  • Slasher: Sarah receives a finger in the mail from the Executioner, belonging to Verna McBride, his first victim.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look: A recurring sketch involves two men who share an office, one of whom is a hostage negotiator.
    Colin: (on the phone) Yeah, I got the finger. Um, to be honest with you, Barry, I don't know why you're expecting me to be quite so shat up; the kid's not a pianist. Well, yeah, I'm sorry, but the message the parents are giving me is that if you mean business, you'll send a whole hand and only then will they call the bank. (listens) Well, I'm glad they're not my folks too, Barry, but look at it from their point of view. They do have three other sons.
  • Trust, being a dramatization of John Paul Getty III's kidnapping, has Paul's ear being cut off and delivered after his ransom is delayed again. His mother is able to confirm it's his by matching the freckles to pictures of him. When his grandfather is shown a picture of the ear he notes that a finger would have been more convincing as they could have checked the print for a match.
  • Without a Trace:
    • After a man is kidnapped and his wife tries to deliver the ransom, she comes back with his severed finger, claiming the kidnappers want more money and cut his finger off to demonstrate how serious they are. It turns out the wife engineered the whole thing and told the kidnappers to do it to make the story more plausible.
    • In another episode, the agents discover that their Victim of the Week was kidnapped by a "coyote" (someone who's paid to smuggle illegal immigrants into the country), whose trademark is to cut off the victim's ear as a warning to those who can't pay him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Arkham Horror, Jenny Barne's Personal Story revolves around her search for her sister Isabelle. Should she fail, the flavor text reveals that she's received two envelopes of this nature: one containing a finger, the other a toe. A box on her doorstep implies a third delivery that makes Jenny cry out in horror...

    Video Games 
  • Criminal Case: Grimsborough: Case #20 opens with the player character receiving a severed finger mailed to them at the police station.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: In one of the quests for the Dark Brotherhood, the player is tasked with killing a recently retired commander of the Imperial Legion, and for a fat bonus, chopping off a finger and planting it in the desk of his successor as a warning.
  • Team Fortress 2: In the "Meet the Director" comic, Soldier was mailed a head in a package, to show his head collection had been taken hostage.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: In the Blood & Wine DLC, the vampire Dettlaff van der Eretein is blackmailed into assassinating five men, and warned that "If you do not succeed, instead of the next letter you will receive a finger of your beloved."
  • In The Works of Mercy, if the first prostitute isn't killed, the psychopath sends you your daughter's finger. Later, he sends a head.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Shell: Screw up the investigation of the first murder case and a suspiciously large crate will be delivered to your office. Contents: the body of your good friend's wife, minus her right leg, uterus, and the unborn child she'd been carrying. Made even worse once you discover that she's still alive.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: Parodied at the end of the Strong Bad Email "cliffhangers", which ends on an actual cliffhanger when Strong Bad's Lappy gets stolen, and the Lappy-nappers leave a ransom note with her "little toe" (the comma key from Lappy's keyboard) attached.

    Web Comics 
  • Amazing Super Powers makes a gag out of reassembling the kidnapped victim as they receive severed appendages, but instead of a robot, detectives plan on reassembling a child.
  • Freefall:
  • In Guilded Age, the heroes come across a town seeking to fulfill quests, to build popular support for their attempt at forming an Adventurer's Guild. Expecting tough competition, they instead find, to their dismay, that no quests whatsoever have been fulfilled thanks to an ongoing war, and the bulletin is covered in unanswered behests. One involves a kidnapping, wherein the kidnapper promises to send a piece of their victim for every week their ransom remains unpaid. The bulletin in question had been up for several months by that point.
  • In The Handbook of Heroes, when Wicked Uncle is holding Aristocrat prisoner, he cuts off one of her ears and sends it to the heroes along with his villainous ultimatum.
  • In The Perry Bible Fellowship, after the Candy King discovers a chocolate spy, he sends the Chocolate Kingdom a box containing the spy's "nut".

    Web Video 
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: In a long-since-deleted video advertising the show's Kickstarter campaign, the Money Monster holding the trio hostage is shown placing the Duck's eye, the Red Guy's ear, and the Yellow Guy's finger into an envelope on which he then writes "YOU" in blood.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In "Wheels and the Legman and the Case of Grandpa's Key", Steve and Roger apparently get one of Stan's fingers in the mail. Subverted; it turned out it was a ruse by Stan and that the "finger" was really a mozzarella stick with the crumbs licked off.
  • The Daltons parodies this trope. The Daltons kidnap Rantanplan as part of their escape plan and...cut some fur from his head and send it to the director. The guards and Miss Betty scream. The director tells them that it's just fur.
  • Family Guy: The B-plot of "A Fistful of Meg" revolves around Peter using his naked body to harass and disgust Brian. One of the things he does is cut off his penis and mail it to Brian. After laughing, Peter asks to have it back, then collapses from blood loss.
  • In The Simpsons:
    • In "Rosebud", when the Simpsons find Mr. Burns's beloved teddy bear from his childhood, Lisa and Homer suggest they send Burns one of its eyes.
      Lisa: He'll pay more money if he thinks the bear's in danger.
      Homer: Yes. Send him the eye.
    • In "Days of Wine and D'ohses", Homer and Bart find that Milhouse's parents have thrown away his blanket and Homer gets the idea to sell it back to him piece by piece.
    • In "Pranksta Rap", Bart pretends to be kidnapped and makes a call to the rest of the family while posing as the kidnapper. Homer immediately demands that the kidnapper send body parts to prove that he really has Bart. Marge objects.
    • Discussed in "Homer Goes to Prep School" where Homer flatly says that he wouldn't pay a ransom for Bart in the event of his son being kidnapped and would likely feed an ear cut off Bart to the dog. Bart is fine with this, aside from telling his father that the dog wouldn't eat his ear unless it was wrapped in cheese.
      Homer: Don't tell me how to feed you to the dog!

    Real Life 
  • In the 1970s, young heir John Paul Getty III got his ear cut off and sent to his grandfather as a proof of him being kidnapped. He was rescued in the end, but ended up drug-addicted and later comatose.
  • In 1978 Belgian billionaire son Édouard Empain was kidnapped. The abductors cut off a piece of his pinky finger and send it by mail to put pressure on the family.
  • Jack the Ripper may have sent half a human kidney to the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee, George Lusk. The letter sent with it alleged that the kidney had come from the body of Catherine Eddowes (The Ripper's fourth victim); the other half, the letter alleged, he had fried and eaten.
  • Tsutomu Miyazaki, the infamous Otaku Killer who murdered several young girls (and blamed it on a side of his personality he called "the Rat Man") sent a box containing the ground-up bones of one of his victims to her parents, as well as several of her teeth.
  • In Canada, a man named Luka Magnotta murdered Jun Lin and sent parts of his limbs to the two major political parties and two schools.
  • In a self-inflicted case, the eccentric medieval knight Ulrich von Liechtenstein once did this as a romantic gesture. During an attempt to woo his lady love on the tournament circuit, he claimed that he had injured his finger in a joust for her honor. When she expressed doubt, he cut off the damaged finger and mailed it to her. Records indicate that whilst she was touched by the gift (metaphorically, not literally), she turned him down anyway, leading him to undertake a second round of tourneys, the 'Venusfahren', whilst wearing a blonde wig and an oversized woman's dress over his armor. Fortunately for the tattered remains of Ulrich's dignity, that one worked.
  • Somebody once sent Jared Leto their own ear as a gift. Leto then proceeded to wear the ear around his neck as a necklace.
  • In Lebanon in the 1980s, a terrorist group once kidnapped a Soviet diplomat, then cut off his finger, which was sent to the Soviet embassy in Beirut as proof that they had him. The Soviet response after a short KGB "investigation" was to send a box to the terrorist leader containing his beloved brother's head. The hostage was swiftly released, and Soviet diplomats were never bothered again.

Alternative Title(s): Mary Kellys Kidney, Head In A Box