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Framed Clue

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The main character is looking at a picture, trying to figure out a clue in it. In frustration, he throws it down, breaking the frame... and there, inside the frame, is the clue — a Treasure Map, or a letter from the person who took the picture, or something else that fit behind the picture itself.

A variation is when the frame gets broken accidentally, usually due to The Klutz knocking it over.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bizenghast, the letter that exonerates the matron ghost of her crimes and allows her to move on is painted into a portrait in Dinah's room of the matron ghost.
  • In the first episode of Ghost Stories, the kids are hiding from a ghost in the old principal's office. They notice a framed picture of a woman on the floor, who turns out to be Satsuki and Keiichiro's dead mom Kayako. The ghost finds them, and they drop the picture in fear, revealing a notebook hidden inside with information on all the ghosts and how to defeat them.

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin: Present in The Secret of the Unicorn. For some reason, bad people really want three scale models of a ship. When Snowy accidentally breaks one, Tintin later discovers that a secret scroll was hidden under the mast.

    Film — Animation 
  • Coco: When Imelda's framed picture is knocked off the ofrenda and Miguel picks up the photo inside, he notices a part of the picture that was folded away, showing Ernesto de la Cruz's guitar in his great-great-grandfather's hand. He concludes that Ernesto must be his great-great-grandfather, which boosts his desire to become a musician.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Amazing Spiderman 2, Peter is able to find Roosevelt station after he throws his dad's calculator against a wall.
  • The Goonies. After Mikey finds a framed Treasure Map in the attic, he hands it to Chunk—The Klutz—who predictably breaks the frame by dropping it.
  • In Paycheck the stamp on the envelope that held the 13 clues was in fact a clue itself. In fact one of the clues in the package's only purpose was to help him notice the stamp.
  • Saw II: In the Nerve Gas House, there's a photo taped to the back of a frame. And for extra kudos, it's marked with an "X".
  • In What Lies Beneath, Claire discovers a newspaper article relating to the ghost on the back of a photo in a frame, after said ghost knocks the frame to the floor for the second time. The ghost, Madison, is deliberately attempting to guide Claire towards the clues.

  • The mystery novel The Face of the Man from Saturn by Harry Stephen Keeler concerns a painting of a bizarre extraterrestrial. Someone breaks into the shop where this painting is stored, kills the owner, and then cuts the Saturnian's face from the canvas ... and steals this, leaving the rest of the portrait. The detective discovers that a message revealing the location of treasure is concealed beneath the portrait's face. But there were two copies of the painting, and the killer stole the wrong one.
  • The Swallows and Amazons novel Swallowdale has a message sent to the Swallows on an arrow saying only "show the parrot his feathers" and the Swallows are flummoxed. It doesn't occur to them that the Amazon's arrows are fletched with their parrot's own feathers until the parrot escapes, destroys the arrow, and reveals the main message inside.
  • In the first Mrs. Murphy and Tee Tucker novel Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown one of the citizens of Crozet discovers an important clue behind a framed poster.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A variation occurs on an episode of Bones. Hodgins is taking samples from a crime scene and when nobody is looking opens up a frame and removes a picture that showed him and the victim together before anyone noticed. In an aversion, the picture is NOT a clue related to the case, but would have revealed Hodgins' past connection to the victim (childhood friends until he stole Hodgin's fiancee) and stopped him from helping to solve his old friend's murder.
  • A variation in CSI: NY's "Grounds for Deception." Stella discovers that her mentor is involved in the theft of Greek antiquities. In anger, she goes to her office, yanks down a framed painting he'd given her when she graduated from the police academy, and discovers that it, too, was stolen...from a Greece. She goes AWOL to return it.
  • Variation in Heroes, in which Chandra Suresh's diary is hidden inside the case of his laptop, and only discovered when Mohinder throws it down in frustration.
  • Salute Your Shorts has a subversion in that the picture frame breaks, and there is indeed a treasure map inside... planted by Budnik, who was the one to break the frame in a scheme to sell copies to the fake map to fellow campers.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Who Mourns for Morn", Quark inherits all of the (supposedly) dead Morn's belongings. The problem is that Morn doesn't seem to have any belongings, just a mud bath that doubles as his bed, and a painting on the wall. Quark is so mad that he smashes the painting, only to find an isolinear chip inside. It's a claim check for a safety deposit box elsewhere in the station.

    Video Games 
  • One of the symbols to be found in Dark Fall : the Journal is hidden this way. Made more difficult to find because the only way to access the framed picture in question is to play the phonograph loudly enough to shake the photo so it falls from the wall.
  • Shows up in King's Tekken 6 ending, which shows King examining a photo of Armor King. It drops and shatters when he tries to put it back, revealing a photo of two Armor Kings standing side-by-side.

    Western Animation