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I Never Said It Was Poison

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Anastasia Spencer: ...Busting into the welfare office, stealing the car, and framing me.
Percy Spencer: Welfare office? Car? Shitting on a desk? Why, I don't know what you're talking about!
Anastasia: Then how'd you know about taking a dump on the desk?
Kevin Spencer, "A Day in School"

The usual response to a perp Saying Too Much. The perp, while maintaining their innocence, reveals information they could not have possibly known if they were innocent, usually the specific details of a murder. It can take the form of a Suspiciously Specific Denial. Also happens for full dramatic effect, when the interrogator does not immediately point out this discrepancy, but continues the interview, often saving the kicker to the very end, as a sort of And Another Thing... epilogue. Even more dramatically, the interrogator may insist it wasn't poison and then probe the perp's reaction to this lie.

This trope must be handled carefully. When sloppily done, it's likely to turn what should be a dramatic moment into a case of Fridge Logic, if the information is something an innocent person could have found out anyway, or was a reasonable assumption from what they'd been told.

One of The Oldest Tricks in the Book, and something the police do, in fact, do in real questioning. Real police detectives usually hold back specific details of a crime and/or crime scene when making public statements. This has the dual benefits of possibly identifying a suspect and helping separate valid witnesses from useless leads. Knowing these details may not automatically make someone the guilty party, but it's a big clue that they were at least present for the crime. This is one of the reasons civil rights advocates warn that you should never talk to the police without an attorney present. Even an innocent person can make assumptions about a case, and you'll look guilty if they turn out to be right. For example, you might say, "I don't even own a gun" when you were told the victim was murdered but were never told the victim had been shot. It's even possible for the police to forget (or "forget") while testifying that they actually did tell you the victim was shot before the interview/interrogation began. Then you're screwed.

This trope can be invoked in works during a character's confession. Innocent characters attempting to take the fall for a crime they did not commit will probably guess facts about the crime that may not be true. If the facts are incorrect, they will be most likely be called out on it immediately or in an And Another Thing... manner. If the character is guilty, they could willingly give information only the perpetrator would know. This could be played to induce Squick.

In science fiction and supernatural stories, if the slipped information reveals the true nature of the story's setting, or helps the good character(s) discover something wrong or suspicious about it, it can lead to A Glitch in the Matrix.

See also: Conviction by Contradiction, Bluffing the Murderer, and I Never Told You My Name. Photo Identification Denial is a variant of this.


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    Asian Animation 
  • In Episode 30 of Healthy Growth of Huoxingwa, after waking up from a stomachache, Little Monkey pleads to the doctor that he didn't steal any peaches, prompting Huoxingwa to say that there was no mention of any peaches being stolen.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: In Cortex Fire, the Sixth Doctor realises that the Cortex — a vast local computer network on the planet Fessin — is aware that a nearby star has gone supernova two days ago when a linked robotic investigator asks him how he knows that rather than why he believes it will happen, allowing the Doctor to realise that the Cortex has advance knowledge but has concealed that fact from the general populace for some reason.

    Comic Books 
  • In All-Ghouls School, Elle gets a perfect score on the history test by answering a bonus question that wasn't covered in class. Their teacher explains she only put the question on the test as a lark and doesn't normally expect anyone to answer it. This causes the girls to ask how Elle knew the answer to a question that was never covered in class or alluded to beforehand, making them realize she cheated.
  • A humorous example from Archie Comics: Archie, Betty, Veronica and Reggie are outside of Riverdale High during lunch when a paper blows out of a classroom window and lands nearby. Upon looking at the paper, they realize that it is an answer key to a pop quiz that Ms. Grundy announced earlier in the day. Archie and Betty refuse to look, but Veronica and Reggie justify peeking at the answers by saying that they couldn't know the importance of the paper if they didn't look, and that it wasn't their fault if they just happened to remember what they saw. When they return to class, Ms. Grundy is obligated to tell the class that the answer key has vanished, so she'll have to try to recall the quiz format as best she can. As she muses aloud that she thinks the original quiz had "13 true/false questions and three essays", Reggie and Veronica promptly forget themselves and blurt out that it was "11 multiple choice questions and two essays." They're rewarded for their helpfulness by being forced to take the quiz while the rest of their classmates get a bye.
  • In a backup strip in Detective Comics #447, some valuable documents are stolen from the campus library, and Robin's prime suspect has an alibi; he was under a pile of bricks at the time. Robin accuses him of faking being trapped under the bricks, and the guy retorts that he didn't have anything to do with the robbery. Robin: "Who said anything about a robbery?"
  • In The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #2, Indy tells Edith Dunne that she made two mistakes that gave her away as The Mole. One of them was when she mentioned that her brother had been murdered in Indy's office. Indy had never told her where her brother was killed.
  • In Hellboy: Conqueror Worm, local guide Laura Karnstein is leading Hellboy and Roger to an abandoned castle. While making conversation, Laura casually mentions that she read Hellboy's file and was impressed by his past exploits. As they reach the castle, Laura goes on ahead, but Hellboy stops Roger to warn him that Laura couldn't have read his file. Sure enough, Laura is not who she claims to be.
  • Identity Crisis: Used when Jean Loring mentions the note at Jack Drake's crime scene to Ray Palmer, despite Batman removing the note from the scene before the press found out. Oops.
  • Marvels: In issue four, Phil Sheldon interviews Doctor Octopus in prison with the motive of retrieving information that might clear Spider-Man of suspicion of George Stacy's murder. When Sheldon relates eyewitness testimony asserting that Octavius somehow lost control of his robotic appendages, Doc Ock is quick to refute that notion, stating that "Spider-Man doesn't have the brains to interfere with the workings of my amazing arms!" Sheldon quickly points out that he never even mentioned Spider-Man at that point, strongly suggesting that that is indeed what happened, to Octavius' extreme consternation.
  • Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen: In one early story, Jimmy is being held captive and forced to give crooks trying to win a million-dollar game show answers about Superman. While explaining a headline about him saving the Man of Steel, Jimmy includes a detail about the rescue not included in the news story and hence something only he and Superman knew. Superman can see that the contestant isn't Jimmy and has in fact recognized him as a criminal. All this tells him his friend is in trouble, and he flies to the rescue.
  • Transmetropolitan:
    • A journalist accuses the presidential candidate of killing his aide, to which the response is along the lines of "Of course we wouldn't kill her, she was a friend and a vital part of the campaign". See there how they admit that murdering some people would be okay in their book?
    • Later, The Smiler's campaign manager refers to the assassin as "he". Spider asks how he can be sure the killer was a man if he or she was disintegrated immediately after taking the shot.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In one of the Rosalyn storylines, the story starts with Calvin hiding his mom's shoes so his parents can't leave. When Calvin tries to send Rosalyn away, his dad asks what he's doing, causing Calvin to ask how his parents are going anywhere when Mom can't find her shoes. The only problem: Calvin's parents hadn't mentioned to him that her shoes were missing.
  • In Get Fuzzy, Rob asks who took his package. Bucky says he never saw that sweater, leading Rob to ask "How did you know it was a sweater?" Grounding ensues.
  • Sherman's Lagoon: When Sherman gets a job as a telemarketer, he accidentally gives himself away as the one pestering his wife on the phone when he inadvertently mentions the product the telemarketer was trying to sell, which Megan hadn't told him.
    Megan: This is the fourth time he called today!
    Sherman: Why won't you buy his ginsu knives, Megan?
    Megan: How did you know he was selling Ginsu Knives? Was that you on the phone?!
    Sherman: I need to make my quota!
  • Zits: Such a situation happens when Jeremy gets suspicious because a note in his room has changed positions while he was gone. When he asks his mother Connie about it, she denies any involvement, asking why she would be interested in "some silly note from a girl." Cue Jeremy asking, "How did you know it was from a girl?"

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, Princess Jasmine uses this to ferret out Prince Ali's true identity as Aladdin. While watching a fireworks display in China, Jasmine says that "it's a shame Abu had to miss this," referencing Aladdin's Non-Human Sidekick. Instead of asking who Abu is, Ali/Aladdin says "Nah, he hates fireworks," which instantly blows Aladdin's cover and reveals him to be the same boy from the marketplace that Jasmine met earlier. Jasmine then asks Aladdin who he really is, but instead of being honest, Aladdin compounds his initial lie with another lie by saying that he's a prince who dresses as a commoner to escape the palace life.
  • Bibi und Tina 2 begins with a burglary that steals Falko von Falkenstein's prized monocle collection, among other things. Later, when Tarik is complaining about how stuck up he is, he says "Seriously, who has a castle and a monocle collection?". The only problem is that this was never reported in the newspapers.
  • The Lion King (1994) features an odd example of this, when Scar tells Simba to "work on that little roar of yours." This is referring to an incident earlier in the film where Simba attempted to scare off a group of attacking hyenas by roaring with no success—an incident Scar shouldn't have been present for. However, Simba fails to catch on to the clue. From the context, it's pretty clear that Scar is deliberately dropping incriminating information into the conversation because he knows Simba trusts him completely and is too naive to catch on.
  • Averted in Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. A girl who works for the villain approaches Beast Boy and calls him "otaku". Beast Boy takes it to mean that she thinks he's cute when it actually means "comic book geek", which is something only someone who had been watching him could have known about.
  • Zootopia: This is what reveals the villain. After discovering why predators are going savage, Nick and Judy rush to the police to pass off the evidence, shake off the mooks that were pursuing them and cut through the Natural History Museum. As they're passing through, the now Acting Mayor Dawn Bellwether is waiting and praises them for their work... just as Judy is about to hand over the evidence, she suddenly wonders how they knew where to find them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 1408: Used lightly when Mike Enslin calls a hotel for a reservation in the eponymous room, which the staff says is unavailable, despite not knowing when he'll be visiting, since they don't want anybody staying in the room ever. Actually could be a rare example of Inverted Trope, since it is not ruled out that they were consciously performing a Reverse Psychology trick to get Mike in.
  • In Alone With Her, the tip-off that the protagonist has planted surveillance cameras in the house of the girl he's courting is when she rejects him and he starts ranting: "...I did everything for you, but you want to go back? To what? Huh? To being alone? To this empty room? To that brush?" Earlier in the movie, he'd caught a live feed of her masturbating with the hairbrush.
  • A deleted scene in Austin Powers involves Austin asking about "Mr" Evil (as well as Mr Pepper). Naturally, the Femme Fatale he's questioning replies with "Dr Evil" and "Dr Pepper" respectively.
  • Bad Genius: When Pat describes Bank, he lets slip that Bank was beaten up and found in a landfill. The problem? Bank never told anyone he was found in a landfill — only someone involved with beating him up would. He quickly deduces that Pat was responsible for it.
  • In Basic, this is subverted when Hardy is chatting with Styles about the death of Kendal. Styles says something about Kendal being poisoned, and Hardy immediately starts asking him how Styles would know that. Styles points out that one minute Kendal was fine and the next he was coughing up blood before dying for no apparent reason, so poison is a reasonable guess under the circumstances. Double Subverted mere moments later, when Hardy keeps acting suspicious of Styles and trying to poke holes in his story. Styles continues trying to bluff his way out for a minute or two before he gives up and tries to bribe Hardy (who had a reputation for being a Dirty Cop), into silence.
  • Basic Instinct: The cops try to invoke this when they go to question Catherine Tramell and her girlfriend Roxy about her boyfriend's murder, asking "How did you know he was murdered?", but it fails miserably, as both women point out that the men have identified themselves as homicide detectives and that it's the most natural conclusion to come to.
  • In Becky, Dominick is interrogating Becky about his missing property over the walkie-talkie:
    Becky: I don't have your stupid key!
    Dominick: I never said it was a key.
  • In Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Tom and Susan are giddy with relief after Tom has been cleared of the murder of Patty Gray, hours before he was scheduled to be executed. Tom offhandedly wonders who killed "Emma". The fact that Patty Gray's real name was Emma Blucher is still a secret. Susan, who knows that secret, realizes that Tom is guilty after all.
  • In The Big Clock, George Stroud was already suspicious of Steve Hagen, but he becomes convinced that Hagen is involved with the coverup of Pauline's murder when he mentions that Pauline was killed at 12:30 a.m. while providing an alibi for Earl Janoth. Not only should Hagen not have known the time of the murder at all, but Stroud knows that Pauline was still alive at 1:00 a.m., and only someone involved in changing the clocks in Pauline's apartment would claim she was murdered at 12:30.
  • Cheetah: A brother and sister visiting their parents in Kenya adopt an orphaned cheetah cub whom they call Duma. When they have to return to the U.S., they plan to train her to hunt and release her back into the wild, but she disappears the night before they were going to leave. As their parents are driving them to the airport the next morning, they stop at the local general store where the owner says that it must be a sad day for the kids: leaving Kenya, losing their pet... the brother immediately jumps on this, asking why he thinks Duma is "lost". The store owner insists that by "lose", all he means is "releasing back into the wild where you will probably never see her again", but the brother is convinced that the owner wouldn't have used the word "lose" unless he knew about Duma's disappearance, and the only way he could know about the disappearance is if he was involved. He's right.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Mercedes realizes that the mysterious Count really is Edmond when he tells her that "Edmond Dantes is dead." She had told him that her lover Edmond was dead, but not his last name.
  • Dave: Ellen Mitchell finds out Dave is impersonating her husband after mentioning something Bill Mitchell did in the state legislature (which he wasn't part of) and Dave confirms.
  • The Da Vinci Code: Played with in the film adaptation. In an early scene, when Fache still suspects Langdon of murdering Jacques Sauniere (but hasn't yet told Langdon that he's a suspect), Langdon's extensive knowledge of art gets him into trouble when he says that Sauniere was murdered in the Louvre's Grand Gallery before Fache actually tells him where the body was found. Langdon actually knew because he recognized the Grand Gallery's distinctive parquet floor in a crime scene photo, but Fache has a hard time buying that excuse.
  • In The Departed, Billy Costigan narrowly escapes being ambushed by the rest of the gang during a meeting with his handler and pretends to have arrived late after they have killed Queenan. After a shootout with police staking out the building, Delahunt, mortally wounded in the gunfight, and who may be an undercover cop himself, privately tells Costigan that even though he accidentally gave the wrong address for where the informant was going to be, Costigan was at the right one.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: When America Chavez is attacked by a creature they determine to be born of witchcraft, Doctor Strange visits Wanda for help and at first they seem to be on board with working together. However, Wanda offers to "keep America safe" and Strange immediately pauses because he never said her name was America, which she also realizes and mentally kicks herself for. It all goes downhill from there.
    Wanda: (realizes her mistake) You never told me her name, did you?
    Strange: No. I didn't.
  • The Fabelmans: When Sammy Fabelman reveals to Claudia Denning that her boyfriend Logan Hall—his bully—cheated on her with Renee—though Sammy doesn't know her name and that it wasn't the first time, Logan threatens Sammy to force him into retracting it and saying he lied. Sammy ends up doing just that to Claudia with both her and her best friend Monica Sherwood—Sammy's future Love Interest—grilling him about it. Claudia then however reveals she actually is sure Sammy was telling the truth before by following it up with the inquiry as to how Sammy knew Renee had red hair to begin with.
  • In The Fugitive, a hospital worker Dr. Kimble spoke to slips up with Suspiciously Specific Denial, claiming he hadn't seen Kimble before the Marshal even asks.
  • In The Godfather Part II, Michael realizes that Fredo betrayed him when they were in a sleazy Cuban nightclub, and Fredo says "Watch this part of the act, it's really something", even though earlier Fredo had told Michael that he had never been to Cuba before. Fredo also mentions how "old man Roth" would "never come here", but that Johnny Ola showed him the place, despite an earlier claim of never having met either Roth or Ola before, and both Fredo and Ola acting as if they were being introduced for the first time to one another just previously. Actually kind of a double Inversion since Michael never tries to trip him up, but not being very bright, Fredo just blurts it out. The look of betrayal on Michael's face is classic and a definite example of Foreshadowing.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets movie, Dobby the house-elf repeatedly does this, accidentally admitting to having intercepted letters from Harry's friends, sealing the entrance to Platform 9¾, and bewitching a Bludger to attack Harry, although the last two may have been intentional.
    • In the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie, a disguised Death Eater blows his cover by mentioning the graveyard Harry was sent to before Harry does. The Death Eater in question may not have cared at that point, though.
    • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them , one of the first hints that Graves isn’t who he says he is is when Newt gets arrested for having an Obscurius parasite, he says that the parasite is useless without its host, prompting Newt to respond that it killed an innocent little girl and what would it be used for?
  • Highlander: Subverted. Lieutenant Moran, the lead detective investigating the beheading of Iman Fasil, tries to get Connor MacLeod to implicate himself using this sort of technique twice in the same conversation, but it doesn't work either time.
    Moran: Okay. What's that? [indicates the plastic-wrapped Toledo Salamanca on his desk]
    Connor MacLeod: [who knows exactly what it is] A sword?
    Moran: It's a Toledo-Salamanca broadsword worth about a million bucks.
    MacLeod: So?
    Moran: So you want to hear a theory? You went down that garage to buy this sword from that guy — what's his name?
    MacLeod: [who also knows who Iman Fasil was] I don't know. You tell me.
  • In High School Hellcats, a girl dies in a (seemingly accidental) fall down a staircase at an illicit party, and the teenage partygoers try to cover up the fact that they were involved. When the girl, Connie, has been missing for several days, a detective comes in to question her classmates individually. Everyone claims they haven't seen her and don't know where she is. The detective happens to ask one of them if the missing girl had any enemies, and receives the response that "No, everyone liked Connie. She was a regular guy." The detective immediately seizes on the use of the past tense. (It doesn't help that the girl being interviewed explodes into a sudden screaming fit when confronted by this. She later gloats about pushing Connie down the stairs to a third girl she's trying to kill to cover it up, even though as far as anyone knew, she was only guilty of the same comparatively minor crimes as the other kids.)
  • I Spit on Your Grave: In the third film, Ron at first denies ever having raped his stepdaughter Cassie after Jennifer kidnaps him. She notes he'd yet to hear Cassie's name from her, revealing his guilt.
  • Jack Reacher: Inverted when a former sniper is accused of going on a killing spree. He's badly beaten in prison and experiences amnesia about the last several days, not remembering the incident. The titular character has already determined that the sniper was set up, since no professional sniper would pick that parking garage and would, instead, shoot from a van on the nearby bridge. When the accused finally regains consciousness and freaks out because he believes himself guilty (he previously did go on a killing spree while in Afghanistan but got off because the men he killed turned out to be rapists). The DA shows him pictures of the area and asks him how he would have done it. He gives the same reply as Reacher, confirming to the DA that he didn't do it.
  • The Jinx: When Robert Durst is asked what divers would be looking for in the lake behind his former house, Durst blithely replies "body parts", rather than "a body". The specific detail of the former statement seems to foreshadow later events or could have been how he would have said it anyway.
  • Knight Moves: Subverted. The protagonist knows the latest word in the serial killer's message without being told directly because the killer namedropped a chess master and the word is that master's watchword.
  • L.A. Confidential: Ed Exley likes doing a variant of this in his interrogations. In particular, he tends to say something about the person he's interviewing being guilty as if it were a fact, and note that the person doesn't react the way an innocent person would. For example, in his first interrogation, he tells the perp "It's a shame you didn't pull this a few years ago when you were a minor, you being an adult makes it a gas chamber offense." Later, after he's done and is leaving the room, he stops to say, "You know Ray, I'm here talking about you getting the gas chamber, and you never asked me what this is about. You've got a big guilty sign around your neck." The kicker in particular case is that the guys he's interrogating are guilty of something heinous but not of the crime he's investigating. A different interview gives us this exchange.
    Exley: What do they have on you, Loew? Pictures of you and Matt Reynolds with your pants down?
    D.A. Ellis Loew: [hesitates] Do you have any proof?
    Exley: The proof had his throat slit. And so far, you're not denying it.
  • Lethal Weapon 3:
    Mook: Like I told you before, asshole, I don't know no Jack Travis!
    Riggs: Hey, I didn't say his name was "Jack" — you'd better start telling me more than Jack Shit.
  • The 1971 giallo film A Lizard In A Womans Skin has an example. A free and libertine woman named Julia is brutally murdered in her apartment; the suspicion falls on her neighbor, Carol, a wife of Frank, a promising lawyer whose father is a prominent politician and a lawyer himself. The evidence points to Carol, who is promptly arrested, yet the police inspector, unable to find any clear motive, suspects a more complex possibility. Carol had some personal troubles and was seeing a psychoanalyst, who asked her to keep a diary of her vivid dreams; some dreams included a passionate love affair with Julia and one recent dream described Carol brutally slaying her. The inspector thinks that someone read the diary and modelled the crime on her dreams while planting the evidence. In the climax, the inspector meets Carol, telling her the evidence suggests her father killed Julia when she started blackmailing him with the evidence of Frank's infidelity, threatening to expose the evidence and ruin the reputation of a law firm Frank and his father ran together, then committed suicide to save Carol when she was committed to an asylum. Carol says she knew that because Julia phoned her father with a blackmail offer. The inspector asks how did she know that, since the man never talked about the blackmail to anyone but Frank in private after Carol was already committed. Suddenly, he realizes the simplest solution was right all along: Carol did have a passionate affair with Julia and murdered her when threatened with exposure - Julia made her call just before being slain and only the killer could have known what the call was all about.
  • In Machete Kills, Miss San Antonio accidentally reveals they are a double agent when they mention the missile being in Texas. Machete then asks how they knew the missile had been moved from Mexico.
  • Masked Avengers: The Mole is revealed when he mentions one of his victims being killed with a spear, even though the protagonist said nothing about that, and just said the victim was attacked.
  • In Matilda, Miss Honey makes a visit to Matilda's parents, to express how bright she is. When her parents laugh this off, making several jabs at educated people, Miss Honey tries to describe how an educated person would treat them in a hospital, or, say, defend them in court if they were accused of selling a faulty car. Mr. Wormwood, who does partake in such a shady business, replies "What car? Sued by who? Who you been talking to?"
  • Minority Report has the villain realize the protagonists are onto him when he's caught in one of these. Anderton's wife asks about Anne Lively's death, and Burgess pretends not to know about it but says he'll see if "anyone drowned a woman by the name of—what did you say her name was?". "Anne Lively... but I never said she drowned."
  • In Murder Is My Beat, Patrick questions the suspect Eden's roommate Patsy, telling her only that he's investigating a homicide. When Patsy correctly guesses that Frank Dean was the victim, Patrick says, "Who said Dean was the victim?" Patsy replies, "You. You were the one who was talking about him all evening." Patrick is still suspicious and says, "Jumped to a quick conclusion, didn't you?" Sure enough, Patsy turns out to have been involved in the blackmail operation that led to the man's death, although she didn't kill him.
  • My Bloody Valentine 3D: Tom when he says that the message written in blood above Megan's body was the same one she had written in her Valentines card to Axel. Sarah then asks how he knew that Megan was dead, or what was written above her body.
  • In New Town Killers, the protagonist Sean is offered a large sum of money by two businessmen for them to hunt him throughout the city until either they kill him or he survives the night. At one point he goes to hide out at his friend Sam's house and tells him there are guys trying to kill him. Sam later mentions the two guys. "I never said there were two of them."
  • In Olympus Has Fallen, Mike Banning is a Secret Service agent who is apparently the only free survivor of an attack on the White House by Korean terrorists. He then comes across another survivor and fellow Secret Service agent who claims to have been hiding during the whole attack, but during their conversation mentions "This Kang guy is insane" referring to the leader of the attack. Banning then realizes that there's no way he could've known Kang's name if he was indeed hiding out in the White House the whole time and correctly deduces that he is a traitor working with the terrorists.
  • Patriot Games: A version of this is used after Jack Ryan's IRA informant gives him pictures of the people who had attempted to kill Ryan (and in a separate attack, his wife and daughter). Jack's superior dismisses the information, believing that mole is trying to mislead Jack. "All he has to do is show you a few pictures of a girl..." Jack realizes he never told the man he was looking for a female assassin and realizes the information must be legitimate.
  • The Police Are Blundering In The Dark: When the photographer realizes who must be responsible for the disappearance of the girls who modeled for him, he immediately confronts the culprit. The culprit in turn claims to believe that it’s the photographer who was driven by twisted psychology to murder the women. However, only the killer knows where the bodies went…
  • Primal Fear: Played with. Aaron is a suspect charged with murdering a Catholic Cardinal. The played with part comes in when Aaron appears to have multiple-personality disorder and doesn't remember what his other personality, named Roy, does. It helps him beat the first-degree murder charges for an insanity verdict. During the trial, Aaron turns into Roy and he attacks the prosecutor while he's on the stand. This causes a mistrial and the judge to find him insane. After the trial, arrogant defense attorney Martin Vail, who begins to feel sorry and care for Aaron, feels proud of himself, only for Aaron to let a detail slip (possibly intentionally) that only Roy would know: Roy attacking the prosecutor. It's at this point that Aaron confesses that he never had multiple-personality disorder and faked his Aaron personality to con everybody.
  • In Primary Colors, Jack Stanton is accused of fathering a child with a 17-year-old girl. His wife explains to him that she doesn't think he's the father; however, the fact he tried to find out suggests he had a relationship with her.
  • In The Prowler (1951), Susan is pretty much convinced that Webb murdered her husband John, but is in denial about it. However, when Webb slips and mentions the exact amount of John's life insurance policy, she can can no longer lie to herself and has to acknowledge that Webb's act was premeditated.
  • Red Eye: Although the protagonist never realizes it and the film never makes a point of it later on, early in Jack ends up letting slip the name of the protagonist's father, which at that point she had never told him.
  • Rehearsal for Murder: The murderer gives themselves away by revealing that they knew Monica had a flashlight in her dresser drawer: something only someone who was in her bedroom on the night she died could have known.
  • In Reindeer Games, when everything's seemingly over and Rudy, Ashley, and Gabe — the survivors of the casino robbery — have gathered, Ashley mentions Rudy's cellmate Nick was stabbed with a shiv... but Rudy only told her his cellmate was killed; he never told her how. A few moments later, a now-doubting Gabe gets offed by Ashley, and Nick turns out to have been hiding...
  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when Brad asks if he can use the phone, Frank smirks into the camera and comments on Brad and Janet getting a flat tyre, even though Brad never mentioned it. Though Brad doesn't pick up on this. Theatre productions vary on how meaningful this detail is, as any of the motorcyclists passing by on their way to the castle could have mentioned the unoccupied car. Some directors do try to establish there was a car-trap on the road, either to get random passersby for fresh body parts if necessary, Brad and Janet specifically for their connection to Dr. Scott, although this colours his own arrival, and in one instance the original trap was replaced by a tyre-puncturer by one of the guests in an attempt to somehow incriminate Riff-Raff and Magenta after the play's normal ending. The movie leaves it unclear if Frank is just amused at this.
  • In Ruby Herring Mysteries: Her Last Breath, when Ruby confronts the killer with her suspicions, her theory is further confirmed when the killer names the specific poison used on the victim when that information hasn't been revealed to the public.
  • In the third Rush Hour film, Carter and Lee deliver Genevieve to Minister Reynard. He orders her to take off her wig and show him the Shy Shen list tattooed on her head. Lee whispers to Carter that they never told him she was the list, revealing that Reynard is working for the Triad.
  • Scream:
    • In Scream 3, when John Milton tries to play down his connection to Rena Reynolds a.k.a., Sidney Prescott's Mom.
    Milton: Do you know how many actors I've worked with? Hundreds, thousands.
    Gail: Dewey didn't say she was an actor...
    • Scream 4: Jill's master plan falls apart once she comments about having a similar wound to Gail, a fact only the latter's attacker could know.
  • In Self/Less, after undergoing shedding and waking up in the new body, Damien starts experiencing hallucinations of a woman and a child. Albright explains that the hallucinations are probably just a combination of Damien getting used to the new body and having past memories getting jumbled. The Latino woman he's seen is probably a woman he used to date and forgot. Damien points out that he never said the woman was Latino.
  • Sleuth: Subverted; Wyke mocks Inspector Doppler for trying this tactic on him, pointing out that he hasn't said anything that wasn't an obvious inference from what Doppler had said.
  • The inverted form occurs in Some Guy Who Kills People. Sheriff Fuller is convinced Ben is making a False Confession, and talks to him about the notes the killer sent: saying he found the one reading "I am a monster" particularly chilling. Ben says "Thank you", and Fuller then tells him that there never was a note reading that. The "I am a monster" note was from the 'Son of Sam' case.
  • In Sudden Death, one of the villains gives himself away by mentioning Darren's daughter by name when Darren had only told him he has a daughter and that she's being held hostage. He immediately Lampshades his mistake.
    Damn it. I always do things like that. You never said her name, did you?
  • Mario and Luigi are already suspicious of Koopa in Super Mario Bros. (1993) when he tries to play a lawyer, but it only intensifies when he asks about the meteorite piece they got from Daisy, which he'd have no reason to know about.
  • In The Terror of Tiny Town, Bat Haines tells Nancy that Tex has been murdered before anyone except the murderer could have known that he was dead.
  • In Tomorrow Never Dies, MI6 becomes suspicious of corrupt media mogul Elliot Carver's involvement in a diplomatic incident between the UK and China when his newspaper, Tomorrow, reports certain details of the incident (such as the British corpses being machine-gunned with the same type of ammo issued to the Chinese air force) before British Intelligence was able to confirm them.
  • In Wild Child, when Poppy is before the Honour Court for setting fire to the school, head girl Harriet accidentally reveals that she was actually the one who started the fire by talking about the very specific lighter that Poppy supposedly used, when no one has mentioned anything about a lighter.
  • In Wishmaster, Alex becomes suspicious that the Djinn is impersonating Professor Derleth when the professor mentions Alex's boss, only for Alex to point out that she had never told the professor where she worked.
  • The Woman in the Window: Played straight so often that it stops being suspenseful and becomes hilarious; the guilt-ridden professor lets slip every possible detail, including knowing the man was murdered (when the body hadn't turned up yet), knowing where the body was placed, that it happened at night, etc. His friends are so dense that they wave off every comment and never suspect him, but you would think he'd just learn to keep his mouth shut, especially when having casual conversations with the district attorney.
  • Woman on the Run: Only the killer, the detective, and Eleanor know that the murderer shot at Frank but missed because he was aiming at his shadow. Danny inadvertently gives this slight information away, tipping Eleanor off right away that he's the murderer.

  • At the end of the A to Z Mysteries book The Lucky Lottery, the three main kids confront their prime suspect over a stolen lottery ticket.
    Ruth Rose: And your fingerprints are on the mantel where you stole the Christmas card!
    Dot Calm: You're crazy, kid. I was wearing glov...
  • In one of the minor adventures the protagonists have while traveling from place to place in The Balanced Sword, they're asked to investigate a murder, and the murderer gives himself away by mentioning a detail he shouldn't have known.
  • Ben Snow:
    • In "Frontier Street", the murderer gives himself away when he says how many times the victim had been struck over the head: something he would not have been able to tell just from looking at the body.
    • In "The Man in the Alley", Ben realises that the mastermind behind the assassination William McKinley is Arthur Plenty because his editorial mentions the exact price Leon Czolgosz paid for the gun he used before Czolgosz had confessed all the details. Ben knew the price because he had been tailing Czolgosz when he bought it, but Plenty could only have known if he was the person who provided the cash.
    • In "Brothers on the Beach", the killer slips up when they mention that they didn't have someone holding the wingtip steady during the first attempted flight of the Wright Brothers Flyer, which was when the murder occurred. However, the killer had gone some trouble to establish an alibi of not being present at the first attempt, and shouldn't have known what Orville and Wilbur did or didn't do.
  • Brotherband: Hal and his band ensnare Zavac by telling the Korpaljo, the leader of the town they're in, that Zavac is hiding their share of plundered emeralds in his hold, from the mines in Limmat. When the Korpaljo interrogates Zavac:
    Zavac: "That's not true! I was never anywhere near Limmat!"
    Korpaljo: "Who said anything about Limmat?"
  • Brother Cadfael: The inversion happens in the third book, Monk's Hood. The prime suspect (the victim's stepson) thinks the murder was a stabbing when it was actually a poisoning.
  • John Dickson Carr:
    • John Dickson Carr made one of the greatest examples of this trope in his novel The Emperor's Snuff-Box, in which the killer's guilt is revealed by a small piece of information which obviously showed they had information they could only have known were they the killer, but which is accepted without question. At the beginning of the book, protagonist Eve Neill is suddenly visited by her ex-husband Ned Atwood in the middle of the night. While they are arguing, Ned looks out of Eve's bedroom window (which has a curtain drawn over it) and claims to see her future father-in-law, Sir Maurice Lawes, handling a "snuff-box thing" when somebody walks into Lawes' study. Later, they both see Sir Maurice with his head bashed in, the snuff-box smashed to bits, and a gloved hand turning off a light. Atwood later falls down a flight of stairs into a coma, causing Eve's testimony to become unsupported. We later learn Sir Maurice had bought the snuff-box earlier that day, showing it off to his family. The snuff-box had the facade of a pocket-watch, and Lawes had written about it in a journal on his study desk. At the book's end, it is revealed that Atwood, from the distance he "saw" Sir Maurice with the snuff-box, could not have known it was a snuff-box due to its watch-facade, and that the only way he could have known it was that he had killed Sir Maurice himself, smashed the snuff-box without ever seeing what it looked like, and discerning its nature from seeing the words "snuff-box" written in Sir Maurice's journal. Since Atwood had convinced Neill she had seen Sir Maurice alive herself, she had repeated this testimony and convinced the police for awhile that she had lied and killed him.
    • The Emperor's Snuff-Box also has another version of this trope, in which another suspect is found to be lying about seeing the light through the closed door of Sir Maurice's study when the carpeted floor would not allow light through, in order to hide the fact that they were trying to steal one of Sir Maurice's antiques when they found Sir Maurice already murdered.
  • In one of Agatha Christie's short stories, a man is killed by a blow on the head with a bronze statue. Two of the suspects—his wife and her lover—both confess to the crime: she says that she shot him, and he—that he stabbed him with a small dagger. On further interrogation, both tell that they assumed the other one was guilty and so lied to protect each other. But actually this trope is invoked: they are both guilty. They have planned the murder together and made the false confessions to make the police believe them to be innocent.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: When Khat, Sagai, and Elen question the academia scholar about the Black Market relics they think he bought, they know his denials are false when he says he never had anything to do with a "fourth tier" dealer—they hadn't mentioned the dealer's social standing.
  • Reversed in Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, when the FBI is investigating the mistreatment of prisoners on a Coast Guard ship. He says that one of the prisoners was executed (he wasn't, but they staged an execution by hanging to get a second prisoner to confess everything) to which the captain replies "We captured two prisoners, we gave you two prisoners alive, so who did we shoot?"
  • The Crowner John Mysteries: In The Sanctuary Seeker, a suspect gives himself away when he says he has never heard of the victim Aelfgar of Totnes. John had said the victim was named Aelfgar, but not that he came from Totnes.
  • In the short story "Death of the King" by Theodore Mathieson, Alexander the Great is dying, not of sickness as the historical records will claim, but of poison. He and his physician are trying to find out Whodunnit to Me?, until the physician offers Alexander a cushion "for the great pain in your back", and the emperor realises he knows more about how this poison works than he admitted.
  • In Katherine Kurtz's The Quest for Saint Camber, a member of the secretive Camberian Council is found dead in a secret passageway of the king's palace. In a conversation with Nigel (King Kelson's uncle/regent/heir presumptive), his eldest son Conall says the victim's entire name, which the younger man is not supposed to know. Nigel realizes Conall had been secretly working with the dead man (to obtain arcane powers reserved for the monarch) and killed him in that stairwell; Conall attacks his father with those powers and leaves him in a coma.
  • Desert Star: Subverted. Detective Renee Ballard zeroes in on Nelson Hastings as the killer because Hastings said he didn't remember any black people volunteering for the Pearlman campaign, when Renee never told him that murder victim Laura Wilson was black. However, when Renee confronts Hastings with this gotcha, he says he looked up "Laura Wilson murder Los Angeles" on the internet and found a news story with Wilson's picture. And as it turns out, Hastings didn't do it.
  • Discworld:
    • In Guards! Guards!, Lupine Wonse's immediate response to Vimes reporting the destruction of the Elucidated Brethren's headquarters was a suspiciously specific "Any of them get out?" Because Vimes was distracted, he doesn't pick up on this until a "Eureka!" Moment later on.
    • Feet of Clay:
      • Inverted when Carrot becomes sure that Dorfl didn't kill Dr. Hopkins when he agrees to Carrot's statement that Dorfl beat him to death with an iron bar, when in fact he was killed with a loaf of dwarf bread.
      • Played straight later in the book, when Vimes figures out how the Patrician was being poisoned, with arsenic in candles. He confronts the vampire he suspects being behind it, as well as many other suspicious events, and knows he is guilty when he implies the vampire got A Taste Of His Own Medicine and sees him glance at the candles in the room, despite having no way of knowing how Lord Vetinari was being poisoned.
    • Played with in Night Watch. After an antagonist officer tells Vimes of a break-in, Vimes asked what had been stolen. The other officer tries to invoke this trope, replying "Did I say they stole anything, sir?" and Vimes shuts him down with "Well, no, you didn't. That was me jumping to what we call a conclusion. Did they steal anything, then, or did they break in to deliver a box of chocolates and a small complimentary basket of fruit?" (Although to be fair to the officer, Discworld is home to anti-crimes such as 'breaking and decorating'.)
    • Crispin Horsefry in Going Postal has habit of protesting his innocence even when not directly accused of anything. When Vetinari has a meeting with him and the other "investors" in the Grand Trunk clacks system, Horsefry insists everything they have done is perfectly legal, and even drops this glaring clanger:
    Vetinari: And, indeed, some rumours about the death of young Mr. Dearheart last month.
    Horsefry: There is no proof that we had anything to do with the boy's murder!
    Vetinari: Ah, so you too have heard people saying he was murdered? These rumours just fly around, don't they...
    • Vimes uses it in Thud! when talking to the Troll crime boss Chrysoprase. Chrysoprase lets slip that his knowledge of a crime scene is greater than what the public would know. When Vimes calls him out, Chrysoprase dismisses the accusation as gossip that he heard from the Dwarfs. Or well, had Dwarfs beaten up or threatened until they told him. He did, in fact, have no connection to it.
    • Making Money uses this in a rather meta way. Moist is being interrogated by Carrot, all while under the guise of being an upstanding pillar-of-the-community businessman. When he tries to shut Carrot down due to him, Moist, being aware of this trope...
      Moist: Look, I know how this sort of thing goes. You just sit here and ask questions and eventually, I slip up and reveal something incriminating, right?
      Carrot: Thank you, sir.
      Moist: For what?
      Carrot: For telling me that you know how this sort of thing goes, sir.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow:
    • Achilles slips up and tells the other orphans that Poke had been stabbed in the eye, when he couldn't possibly know that. Nice show, Achilles, nice show.
    • Colonel Graff does a slip up on the phone to Bean's caretaker (a very intelligent nun) when he says the name Bean told him about, Achilles (pronounced uh-kill-eez). The nun points out that since Bean is from the French section of Rotterdam he would have pronounced it ah-sheel and correctly calls him out for spying on Bean's journal.
  • In the Father Brown short story "The Green Man", the victim is an Admiral who is found dead in a pond close to his home, on the evening when he was expected to return home from a longer sea voyage. Upon being told that the Admiral is drowned, the murderer asks: "Where was he found?" which tips off Father Brown. Note that Father Brown is older than radio. If the Admiral had drowned at any time during the voyage, his family would probably not have found out until his ship came back to England. Unless you know that he drowned in the pond, the reasonable thing would have been to assume that the body was lost at sea. Father Brown bites his tongue at the actual tip-off, but this trope comes into play in the big reveal at the end.
  • Felse Investigates: Played with in Death and The Joyful Woman by Ellis Peters. Kitty confides in Dominic that she intends to confess to the murder; seeking to dissuade her, he tells her exactly why she couldn't have done it, because her story fits the vague description of the murder the police have made public, but not the reserved details he knows of through his father, the chief investigator. Too late, he realises he'd have done better to keep quiet: if she'd tried to confess, the police would have known she was innocent by the same reasoning, but now she actually knows details the police haven't made public, she's in danger of making the police think she's guilty. Which is exactly what happens.
  • In one of the Fire Thief trilogy, the Avenger almost pulls this off and discovers the boy he is talking to is helping Prometheus when the boy mentions the shopkeeper looking for a spade (to dig up some buried treasure). But the boy quickly says he was running down the street shouting "half a million dollars for a spade."
  • In Han Solo at Star's End, Han finds that one of the three rebels he's transporting has murdered their leader, who just managed to scrawl the name of the destination planet, Mytus VII, in the table in front of him before he died. Han figures out who the traitor is by telling each one separately that he suspects another, and then telling them they're going to Mytus VIII, IX or X. He gets them all together, supposedly to research the target, and makes them show their datapads; the traitor is the one who mentally corrected it to the planet he already knew was the real destination.
  • The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray: Used near the beginning — the hero finds a young woman in the part of London infested by gribbly things, and asks the governor of a local mental asylum if he's lost any patients- he mentions her being found in the Old Quarter, despite not being told. In this case, it could be a reasonable assumption but the hero decides to be careful and gives a false description- a good idea, since said governor is part of the cult that had captured the girl...
  • This trope comes into play at the climax of Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. Amateur detective Joe Biden (just roll with it) has retrieved a cache of drugs, and is on a train back to Delaware to hand it over to the authorities, when his Friend on the Force intercepts him and sits down to compare notes. He mentions how fentanyl's potency makes it extremely valuable, gram for gram—enough that a fortune's worth could be hidden in an energy-drink can. It's plausible enough that he knows the drug being smuggled is fentanyl. The problem is, he has no legitimate way of knowing that Biden is carrying just such a can in his duffel bag...
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries:
    • Jaine clues in that Pam is the killer in The PMS Murder after stating Rochelle talked to a building inspector on the day of the murder, despite Jaine never mentioning a building inspector. This is because Pam was that building inspector.
    • Sam Weinstock mentions that Jaine fixed the terrible hairdo Gustavo Mendez gave her in Death by Pantyhose. Jaine notices she never mentioned where she got the crappy haircut, and Sam then reveals she set it up to drive Andrew Ferguson away from Jaine.
    • In Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge, Scotty's ex-wife Elise describes the murder weapon (a frozen chocolate yule log), even down to the writing on it note , which had not been mentioned in the media. Elise explains that she learned it from talking to Scotty's current wife, Missy, which Detective Muntner confirms.
  • The Maze Runner: In The Scorch Trials, while Thomas never mentions to Brenda that his group calls themselves Gladers, she ends up mentioning it in casual conversation. This foreshadows the fact that she and Jorge had actually been working for WICKED all along; she most likely knows the term because she heard them call themselves that while she monitored the Maze.
  • Multiple Choice, by Janet Tashjian, has the main character fall victim to this. Monica chooses to write something nasty about her best friend on the upstairs school bathroom's stalls. When confronted about it, she denies vehemently and convinces her friend that she wasn't the one who wrote it. As they walk away, she lets slip that "I'm never even up there"—despite her friend never saying which bathroom it was. A fight ensues.
  • Nero Wolfe: In Too Many Cooks, Raymond Liggett casually mentions the name of the sauce used in the taste-testing contest the chefs engaged in, despite supposedly being out of the state at the time and having no possible way of learning the information.
  • Nick Velvet:
    • In "The Theft of the Lopsided Cobweb", the killer gives themself away when they say Nick should be more careful when being shot at. As no one else was present, only the killer could know Nick was shot at.
    • In "The Theft of the Picture Postcards", Nick deduces the identity of a blackmailer when they mention the amount of money demanded, despite the victim never mentioning it.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Ares falls victim to this in The Lightning Thief; when Percy deduces that he's been taking orders from the thing in the pit, Ares angrily replies, "I'm the god of war! I take orders from no one! I don't have dreams!" when Percy didn't bring up dreams at all during his rundown.
  • The Radix: Hunting for Wurm, an escaped asylum patient, Adriana Borjia interrogates Cori. After Cori says "I didn't see him", Adrianna smiles and says: "I never said the patient was a man". It isn't considered "him" is often the default, or that it wouldn't be a bad guess to assume that someone able-bodied enough to escape an asylum would be a man...
  • In The Robots of Dawn, Elijah discusses the matter of Jander's deactivation with Amadiro, and suddenly Amadiro states that the woman at whose house the Ridiculously Human Robot was had a very unusual definition of husband. While it might have made sense for him that the robot was her lover (it's a Free-Love Future), there is no way he could have figured out the husband part; for Aurorans, marriage is a union with a potential for kids, so a Robotic Spouse in totally ridiculous. As such, he manages to prove Amadiro was attempting a Grand Theft Prototype (he desperately needed such robots, and their designer refused to cooperate) by thoroughly questioning Jander, so the guy is forced to fold before the investigation destroys his career completely.
  • A case of the villain inadvertently using this against the protagonist occurs in Scorpia, when Julia Rothman tells Alex that Scorpia intends to activate a bioweapon that will kill a significant portion of the population. Alex, knowing that the weapon is designed to specifically target schoolchildren, blurts out that they can't murder children, causing Rothman to realise that Alex is a triple agent for MI6 and that MI6 have figured out how the weapon operates.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch: In "The Addleton Tragedy", one academic gives away their involvement in Dr. Addleton's death when they remark "I do not want my head bashed in, like Dr. Addleton"; not realising that, at the time, everyone believed Addleton had burned to death.
  • Simon Ark: In "The Avenger from Outer Space", the killer gives himself away when he mentions that the victim started to reach into the water with both hands. As the victim only had a burn mark on one hand, and the one witness did to the event not recall that detail, only someone else present at the scene could have known that detail.
  • Small Change: In Farthing, the murder victim appears to have been stabbed. The police forensic techs figure out that he actually died of carbon monoxide poisoning, but don't reveal this to the press. A bit later, one character reveals that they know that the victim was gassed.
  • Donald Sobol:
    • Encyclopedia Brown: This happens quite a bit. Not generally for murders, but it happens.
      • One story had Encyclopedia figuring out which member of a gang robbed a grocery store, his only piece of evidence being a knife left stuck into a watermelon. When confronting the gang, one of the members says the blade of his knife is a half-inch longer... despite the knife never having been taken out of the melon, and the watermelon specifically having been described as "huge" so that even the longer knife blade would still be completely hidden. True to form, the member in question turns out to have been the robber.
      • Another Encyclopedia Brown story has someone getting shot in the foot by a BB gun. One of Bugs' friends shows up, and Encyclopedia tells him to run to the kid's house and get his shoe. The kid grabs the correct shoe, and Encyclopedia points out that unless he was the one who shot him, he couldn't have known which shoe to get. An innocent person would have had a 50 percent chance of guessing right, but would probably have asked 'Which shoe?'
      • Another story had a pair of rollerskates stolen from Encyclopedia while the latter was at the dentist. He asks his main suspect (a kid who had a doctor's appointment in the same building) if he was in Dr. Vivian Wilson's office. The kid claims "I never heard of him until you mentioned his name" and that he didn't go near Wilson's office because he "had a sprained wrist, not a toothache". In other words, despite supposedly never having heard of him, the kid not only knew that Dr. Wilson was a dentist but that he was a man despite his first name being "Vivian".
    • Also common in Two-Minute Mysteries, by the same author—things like "Dr. Smith was murdered, where were you at the time?" "I haven't been to a dentist in years."
  • Spenser gets one of several hints the Stapleton family in Small Vices is lying about their son and his alleged non-involvement in the case Spenser has been hired to investigate when they specifically refer to it as a sex crime, since the fact that the victim was also murdered was far more likely to be of note to people who had supposedly only heard of it in passing. Their referring to it only a sex crime makes sense when, at the end of the book, it's revealed it wasn't actually a murder—the victim and their son were playing a sex game involving Erotic Asphyxiation and she accidentally died during it.
  • In Star Trek: Millennium, Vash knows exactly what neurotoxin she was attacked with without being told, alerting Bashir that she's pulling a Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy: The last book, The Last Command, features Niles Ferrier attempting to accuse Talon Karrde of hiring an imperial assault team to attack a group of smugglers as an example of the threat the Empire posed. He slips up when he mentions the name of the lieutenant leading the assault team before it's brought up by the person reading the planted evidence, proving Karrde's innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. He nearly slipped up before that by mentioning that incriminating evidence was on the datacard before anyone announced it had been found, only for Ellor to immediately confirm it had been found.
  • The Three Investigators:
    • The Mystery of the Kidnapped Whale had a case involving a whale where a suspect accidentally blurted out its species. The person could not have known this at the time.
    • On another occasion, someone asks what the "???" on their business card means. This is a Once an Episode thing which wouldn't normally be significant, but one of the group notices that they didn't actually read the card, and must have seen it before.
  • In the Thursday Next book First Among Sequels, Thursday and Spike accuse a plumber of stealing money from a pensioner. His boss joins in with the accusation, saying "A thousand pounds, from a defenceless pensioner? How could you?" Thursday and Spike had never mentioned the amount.
  • This is how George Smiley discovers The Mole in the Secret Intelligence Service in John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: the man in question turned up at the Circus with not enough information about the unfolding Operation Testify crisis for him to have got it from the radio report, but too much to have overheard it from a phone conversation.
  • In Ruth Frances Long's The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Jack tells Jenny that after seven long years, her brother was gone. But she only told him she was after her brother, not how long ago he had vanished.
  • In "True Lies", a short mystery story starring Lieutenant Johnson and Sgt. Bolton, the genius detective sergeant has narrowed down the possible murderers to two, but doesn't know which one. Since he thinks his lieutenant partner (who is the Narrator, and who would be Too Dumb to Live if he didn't know how to hide it from his fellow cops) is the genius detective, and so is dependent on him for his own genius, he asks the lieutenant for the solution. Our narrator doesn't know and is eating dry granola, so he chokes and says (as an excuse) "Tense!" This gives the sergeant the solution; the murderer was the one who referred to the victim in the past tense before it was generally known that she was dead.
  • Two Kinds of Truth: Terence Spencer tries to avoid a subpoena by telling the person delivering it he doesn't know a "Terry Spencer" but she points out she only called him "Mr. Spencer".
  • In the Waco series by J.T. Edson, Waco uses this trick a few times to trip up a killer.
  • Two Little Girls in Blue: When the FBI interview Norman Bond about the Frawley twins' kidnapping, they bring up his currently missing ex-wife, to which he snaps he had nothing to do with his "late" wife's disappearance. The feds take note of this, pointedly asking how he knows she's dead. While someone missing for seventeen years without a trace probably is dead in all likelihood, it makes Norman nervous. It's later revealed he was responsible for his ex-wife's disappearance.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In Graham McNeill's Horus Heresy novel False Gods, Loken knows that Erebus is lying to him because he pointed out that the interex had accused them of stealing a kinebrach's sword—and in fact, the interex had only accused them of stealing a weapon.
  • A Widow For A Year: Inverted when the policeman deliberately gives the press false information about a murdered prostitute, saying she was killed WITH a struggle when there was no struggle. This enabled him to dismiss the two men who confessed as they were covered in bruises and scratches.
  • In Wings of Fire, Tsunami and Starlight figure out that Blister killed Kestrel when Blister tells Tsunami that she would have wanted to slash her mother's throat like what happened to Kestrel, even though she was only told that Kestrel was stabbed by a SandWing's tail.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Cranes of Ibycus is a classic example of this trope, making it Older Than Feudalism. According to a legend first recorded in the 2nd century BCE, the ancient Greek poet Ibycus was murdered by bandits on his way to Isthmian Games. Only the cranes flying above witnessed the murder. Later the criminals gave themselves away by pointing out "The Cranes of Ibycus" to one another in public.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The following storyline has been done several times in Professional Wrestling: A babyface wrestler is late to the building, possibly even showing up after the match he's advertised in has already started without him. He explains to the crowd that he's late because of a flat tire. His adversary gets on the mic and says the babyface is simply a coward who made up some story about four flat tires, which exposes that the adversary slashed the tires of the babyface.
  • In All Out 2021, with his originally scheduled opponent Pac unable to attend due to travel issues (which had plagued Pac and the Lucha Bros. beforehand, all of which were implied to have been caused by Andrade), Andrade and Chavo Guerrero Jr. were interviewed backstage. After having been asked point blank if they were the cause of Pac's travel issues, Chavo quickly interjected that he didn't even know the number for American Airlines, and then quickly backtracked and said "if that's the flight he was using."

  • Parodied in Season 3, Episode 1 of Bleak Expectations:
    Pip Bin: The body was covered in hundreds of tiny wounds?
    Inspector Whackwallop: Aha! I never said the body was covered in hundreds of tiny wounds!
    Ripley: Actually, you did.
    Whackwallop: Did I? Damn, that normally works. Aha! I never said he was an apprentice blacksmith!
    Pip Bin: And nor did I.
    Whackwallop: Damn.
  • A "Five Minute Mystery" titled The Return of Mr. Lawrence plays it by the book: a murdered woman's maid accuses the woman's former husband of poisoning her. The police never said it was poison.
  • In NPR's radio adaptation of Star Wars, Leia's rebel allies inform her of the Death Star's existence, which at this point in time is still top secret. Knowing that a high-ranking Imperial officer is infatuated with Leia, she and her father invite them to pay him a visit, hoping that he might start bragging if he thinks he can impress Leia, allowing them to potentially glean some valuable details. He does, and everything is going according to plan until Leia accidentally refers to the station as the "Death Star" even though the officer hadn't mentioned the name. Things get ugly from there.

  • Nan Quest: This is how Henry gives himself away as the Pilgrim- making a reference to Nan's previous encounter with the Pilgrim, which he shouldn't have known about.
    Henry: I'm not too worried about you, though. If anyone's gonna make it through this, it's you. You're a survivor. Besides, worst case scenario, if he comes for you, you can just go out the window again.
    Nan: Henry. [Beat] How did you know that?
    Henry: What?
    Nan: I never told you that I escaped out the window. You weren't there.
    Henry: [Beat] Oops. [attacks Nan]

  • In David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, this is how the culprit of the office robbery reveals himself. Levene calls Williamson out on lying about cashing Lingk's check. But the previous night was the one night in Williamson's entire life that he forgot to cash the firm's checks at the bank. That means the only time Levene could have possibly seen Lingk's check was last night when the robbery occurred, thus implicating Levene as the thief.
  • From RENT:note 
    Angel: Have compassion, Benny just lost his cat.
    Benny: My dog, but I appreciate that.
    Angel: My cat had a fall, and I went through Hell.
    Benny: It's like losing a—how did you know she fell?
    Collins: CHAMPAGNE!?

    Visual Novels 
  • The Ace Attorney games use this a lot.
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
      • In the second case, Redd White describes a glass light stand falling over in his testimony. This immediately blows a hole in his account, as while there was indeed a glass light stand in the room and it did indeed fall over, White claims to have witnessed the whole thing from a nearby hotel window, which was at exactly the wrong angle to see the light stand. The only thing visible from the window was a pile of glass shards that could have been anything (and weren't particularly easy to make out, for that matter). Hence, Phoenix argues that the only way he could have recognized it was a light stand was if he'd actually been inside the office when he witnessed the crime... that is to say, he's the murderer. Edgeworth then has White confess to placing a wiretap in the victim's office a week prior (when it was actually White's secretary, April May), during which he would have seen the light stand, but Phoenix presents the stand's receipt, which shows that it had been bought the very day before the murder.
      • Redd White's secretary April May accidentally revealed that she knew that the small 'The Thinker' statue in Mia's office was a clock. The clock had been made by Phoenix's friend Larry and given to Mia as a gift; the only other clock he made was in police custody after being used as a murder weapon. It doesn't look like a clock and doesn't visually tell time (you tilt the statue's head and it announces the time verbally), so the only way she could know is if she'd eavesdropped on a conversation Mia had over the phone where she stated it was a clock.
    • Trials and Tribulations:
      • In the second case, "The Stolen Turnabout", Luke Atmey claims the lack of fingerprints on the alarm button on the victim's office is proof that Ron DeLite is the culprit since Ron was wearing the Mask☆DeMasque costume at the time, which included gloves. The issue is, the fact that Ron was wearing the costume at the time was only revealed while Luke was on trial for a different crime in a different courtroom, so the only way he could have possibly known about it is if he was in the victim's office at the time of the murder.
      • In Case 3, "Recipe for a Turnabout", this is done by saying it was poison. Specifically, Phoenix lies and says that a completely useless green plastic bottle that has the witness's fingerprints on it contained the poison used to kill the victim. The witness laughs and calls Phoenix an idiot, since he should already know that the poison was in the brown glass bottle, not that one, so his evidence doesn't prove anything. And yes, Phoenix did already know that, and so did everyone watching the trial. But this witness hadn't been watching the trial, so the only way he could have known what the poison bottle looked like is if he had used it himself.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: The villain of the first case has a really bad habit of running his mouth, and does this no less than three times in the first case.
      • The first time, he mentions that the victim, Shadi Smith, was bald- Shadi had been wearing a hat up until he died and was a vagrant who no one really knew, so the only way the villain could've known was if he'd knocked the hat off while killing Shadi. This causes Phoenix to suspect his involvement.
      • The second time, he states that the cards used in the poker game Phoenix and Shadi were playing had blue backs. They were actually red-backed due to an anti-cheating safeguard, and everyone who was at the crime scene legitimately knew this... but the murderer had taken an incriminating card and replaced it with a blue card, so the murderer, and only the murderer, would have thought the cards were blue.
      • The third time is played with, as the decisive evidence puts him in a bit of a Morton's Fork; either he calls it out as a forgery and gets caught because there's no way he would've known that if he wasn't the one to destroy the real evidence, or says nothing and gets caught because of the hole the evidence poked in his argument. However, he also immediately jumps to calling the evidence forged instead of merely expressing doubts, making it obvious that he knew for a fact the evidence was forged.
      • In the third case, a witness who's trying to convince the court that she didn't see the crime slips up and mentions that the victim was shot. The crime was put on a "gag order", so no one apart from those investigating it, or someone who saw the crime happen, should know those types of details. It turns out she didn't see the crime. She's secretly blind, and only heard the shot.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
      • In the first case, Shelly de Killer refers to the victim by his full name during a cross-examination, while up until then Edgeworth had only ever referred to him by surname (and, in fact, didn't even know his first name until that point). It doesn't mean what you think it means, but it does reveal him as more connected to the case than he claims.
      • In Case 2, Frank Sahwit comments that he swears he didn't hear the scream of the person who discovered the body. Edgeworth points out that, normally, if someone is told a scream rang out during a murder, that'd they'd assume it belonged to the victim, not a witness, and that he never mentioned who they believe the scream belonged to. Frank admits at this point that he was the one who found the body.
      • Sawhit mentions a ring on the body of Case 2's victim. Since the body was positioned such that a sheet covered his hands, Frank couldn't have known it was there if he had only observed from outside the room, as he claims. It turns out he'd managed to enter the room and look at the body up close.
      • During a Logic Chess segment in Case 2, a witness refers to Edgeworth as "Prosecutor Edgeworth". Edgeworth points out that he never once told them his profession leading Edgeworth to conclude that the witness was eavesdropping on his earlier conversations (particularly since he was pretending to be a defense attorney's assistant at the time).
      • It turns up often in Logic Chess segments. Chances are that if you see a witness mention something you haven't heard of before, or that they couldn't possibly have known, you need to jump on it.
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice:
      • The final witness of case 3 knows a handful of things that only the killer would know. For example, that Zeh'lot died between 2 and 3 PM, and that the stone slab fell onto him, even though he shouldn't reach that conclusion from the rebel hideout's photo alone. However, he's not the killer; his wife did it, and she told him how the crime happened.
      • In "Turnabout Time Traveler", Larry says that there were two pegabulls at the reception hall in the night of the crime... yet that's something only someone who was in the cargo hold that night would know because the court didn't tell him. And he wasn't supposed to wander through the zeppelin.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • This is how you discover who the culprit of Chapter 2's murder is. Celeste, who met with the victim before the murder, noted that said victim was carrying a sports bag with a tracksuit in it (which the victim then stuffed fully into the bag, so no one who hypothetically met them afterward could have seen it). When she recounts the incident to Makoto, she states that the tracksuit is blue, but when she testifies at the trial, she leaves out the tracksuit's color. While everyone is puzzling over how this could be useful, Ishimaru posits that the victim and the killer wore matching tracksuits. He has no logical reason for this, but Mondo buys it and states that the killer couldn't be him, because Chihiro's tracksuit was blue and his was black... except, how'd he know the tracksuit's color unless he'd seen Chihiro in it in the changing room where he was murdered?
      • Also in Chapter 2, this is part of how it's discovered that Byakuya tampered with the crime scene: immediately after the body discovery announcement was made, he headed straight to the room where the body was, even though the location wasn't part of the announcement and he couldn't have known exactly where it was unless he had already been there. Moreover the body is found inside the girls' locker room, which none of the boys can normally enter (the same is true in reverse for the girls).
      • In Chapter 3 Celeste, ironically enough given what happened in the second trial, is nailed by this. In the case, she had engineered the circumstances in such a way that the students split into two groups; one group found the body of Ishimaru, while the other found the "body" of Hifumi at the same time (so Monokuma would broadcast a 'Body Discovery' announcement, tricking the people who discovered Hifumi into thinking the announcement was for him). Shortly after, Celeste (who was part of the group that discovered Hifumi) glumly remarks that everyone is going to die "just like those guys died", despite having no way of knowing at that point that Ishimaru was also murdered.
      • Then in Chapter 4, Yasuhiro trips over this, though he isn't the culprit. He points out the message written in blood naming Toko as the killer... only, among other things, the magazine was hidden in the rack at the time the body was found, and Hina had kicked him out of the crime scene before he could take more than a look, so how did he know about it? However, he wasn't the murderer in this case. He ''thought'' he might have killed Sakura by hitting her on the head with a bottle and so tried to frame Toko for it, but Sakura was too tough for that to kill her and was merely knocked unconscious for a bit.
    • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair:
      • Chapter 3's culprit is uncovered like this. Mikan, who's accused of being the killer, is confronted with how she apparently impersonated Ibuki in the latter's "suicide video." Mikan keeps insisting that Ibuki was the one in the video and thus she did kill herself, and, that among other things, the camera angle should contain no proof that it was her and not Ibuki in that video. Hajime, the only one who saw the "suicide video", tells her that there's no way she could know about the camera angle, which he never mentioned at any point during the trial, unless she herself saw the crime. Mikan also makes a smaller mistake later on when she says that the tote bag used to cover Ibuki's head would have to be two places at once, and casually shrugs off inadvertently revealing another detail she shouldn't know.
      • A variation happens in Chapter 5, which leads to Chiaki being confirmed as The Mole. While investigating Nagito's death, they find a diary that Monomi claims to be hers in order to protect Chiaki's cover as the Future Foundation's spy. One of the entries revolves around Hajime nearly risking his life by entering the Final Dead Room in the Funhouse during a short-lived Sanity Slippage in the previous chapter. However, aside from the fact that Monokuma states that Monomi doesn't know how to write, not only could she not have learned about the incident on her own (as she was trapped in a different part of that chapter's Closed Circle until the following morning), but only one student other than Hajime knew about it— Chiaki, due to her being the one to talk him down from doing it, meaning that the diary is either hers to begin with, or she's the one working with Monomi, either of which proves that she's the spy. This evidence ends up being the smoking gun that finally convinces the other students to believe that she's telling the truth about being the spy despite how badly they don't want to believe it, and makes them realize that she's the student who the supernaturally lucky Nagito arranged to accidentally kill him in a way that he hoped the other students couldn't solve as part of a convoluted plan to use his death to allow the spy, whose identity he did not know to "graduate" while killing off everyone else via the "graduation" rules.
  • Eroge! Sex and Games Make Sexy Games: In Kisara's Bad Ending, after Tomoya cheats on Kisara with Tomoko, later on, Tomoko asks Kisara if she used Tomoya's penis as a reference for her (Kisara's) drawing, prompting Kisara to ask "Why do you know about his cock?" Disappearing ensues.
  • A kidnapping suspect in Kara no Shoujo admits that he has some relation to the person witnessed actually taking the person away before the name of the person is revealed. Woops.
  • Souma Miou is outed as the one who had been bullying Rizu in A Profile because when confronted with a little evidence blurted out the location the evidence had been found in.
  • Raging Loop: Yasunaga manages to out Chikamochi as a wolf in the Wit route when the latter mentions how Kaori had been stabbed to death, when Yasunaga never specified how they died.
  • Virtue's Last Reward:
    • This is how Sigma gets Dio to reveal they were the one who planted the bombs in some of the routes. Sigma reveals, from information he gathered from time jumps, that this person knows about the Myrmidons, and about Brother. Dio insists they don't know anything about who the Myrmidons are, and they don't know anything about some old fart like Brother. Well, Sigma never actually mentioned the Myrmidons were people or that Brother, their leader, was an old man, so how would Dio know that... unless the Myrmidons sent them?
    • Subverted at another point of time when the players discover Alice's body. When Dio says that the victim was stabbed with a knife Phi asks how did he know it was a knife when all they can see is a handle. Dio, however, points out that anyone would assume it was a knife if they saw someone with a weapon protruding from a stab wound. Although this makes sense, Phi was still right to be suspicious, since he knew about the knife because it was his knife. But he's not the killer.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Dragon Ball Z Abridged movie BROLY, Goku is trying to find out who is responsible for destroying South Galaxy. His first mention of his mission with Paragus present makes use of this trope without it leading anywhere, because A) none of the other heroes present know the context of what Goku is talking about, and B) Goku's an idiot.
    Goku: I'm actually looking for the person who blew up a galaxy.
    Paragus: But who would blow up South Galaxy?
  • Etra-chan saw it!: When Azami finds the missing key to the safe, Tokusa reveals he had the key, so no one could have really found it without making a copy. When everyone asks her about this, she denies making a copy and stealing money from the safe. Tokusa then mentions he never told anyone about the stolen money, exposing her as the culprit.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • Parodied in Episode 9. Note that this exchange entirely takes place in the bathroom stalls of the girls' room.
      Trisha: Apparently, the Van Buren family poisoned our pre-pep rally Pineapple juice.
      Deandra: Oh yeah, I already knew about that.
      Mackenzie, Trisha, and Brittnay: WHAT?
      Deandra: I mean... I-already—did—notknew—about that.
    • Played straight in Episode 21:
      Mackenzie: I wanted to ask you about the Atchison High Cheer Squad.
      Deandra: What? I don't know anything about them. Never heard of 'em.
      Brittnay: I find that hard to believe.
      Mackenzie: You did go to Atchison right?
      Deandra: Yes. Maybe. I don't know. All I know is I don't know them and they sure as fuck don't know me. Why? Did you talk to them? What did they say? Because they're liars. They're all fucking liars.
      Mackenzie: I thought you said you didn't know them.
      Deandra: I don't.
      Mackenzie: Well, then how do you know they're all liars?
      Brittnay: Yeah, Deandra, what are you hiding?
      Deandra: Nothing, I'm an open book. Ask me anything.
      Mackenzie: Alright, tell me about the Atchison Cheer Squad.
      Deandra: Not that. Anything else.
  • This is inverted with Mario in Episode 11 of Smash King. His claim that he’s a friend of Bowser’s trying to help him fight off Ganondorf seems pretty substantiated for the most part, fooling both Wario and Meta Knight for a few minutes. However, Meta Knight's blue side quickly realizes something’s amiss when he takes into account that all of Bowser’s friends know where he lives, so the fact that Mario needs to be directed to his place of residence is nothing short of suspicious.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers: In "If Mario was AMONG US", Mario realizes Brown is the Impostor when he mentions that Mario and Green were in a room with an open vent... a room he shouldn't have been in.

  • In Aim for the Stars, Kate's boss Grumpy the Martian tries to get in touch with his uncle, who happens to be the president of the colony ship Heart. When the President scolds Grumpy for getting involved with "commoners" such as Venusians, Grumpy hangs up and declares that they're on their own... because he never mentioned that Dr. Frank, the Mad Scientist they're trying to protect, was a Venusian.
  • In chapter 48 of Drowtales Waes'soloth Val'Beldrobbaen catches the culprit behind the spread of a parasitic flower poison into their home using this, as the girl's family had closed the gates to their tower before any of Waes' messengers were formally able to contact them. And since Waes had only just learned of the poison when a messenger finally managed to get inside, the only way the family could already know about it was for one of their members to have been at the gathering where it was distributed.
  • Madame Outlaw: In the tenth chapter, the magistrate accuses Estelle of illicit activities such as stealing staff from another estate. In an attempt to defend herself, she claims that the warden is ill of character. The magistrate replies that he had never even mentioned the warden, so why is she saying she encountered him?
  • Parodied in the Monster of the Week strip based on "Fresh Bones":
    Mulder: We're here to investigate a string of suicides at your military base.
    Colonel Wharton: I don't know about any voodoo revenge murders.
  • In Namir Deiter, Ferdinand is drinking away his sorrows after a run in with Joy. Isaac, Joy's most recent ex, talks to him when Blue tells him about Ferdinand and Joy. Isaac slips out Joy's name, and Ferdinand wonders how Isaac knows about Joy. Isaac tells him that he saw Ferdinand and Joy earlier, guessing that he was upset about her.
  • In Weak Hero, this is how Wolf susses out that his subordinate Jared was the one responsible for stealing his bag, not a student from Eunjang. After the battle against Eunjang, Jared makes mention of "additional companies" while talking about Donald Na. Said companies were only ever mentioned in the documents that Wolf kept in his bag.

    Web Original 
  • Chakona Space: Chapter 3 of Doove's Flight of the Phoenix series features a pair of "Ambassadors" who kill their servant and dump her body at the base of a stairwell. Captain Yote announces the death of said servant (without including details) to them and one of them snarks about making sure the stairwells are properly safe, instantly implicating "him"self in said death.
  • In one chapter of New York Magician, Michel confronts a suspect in a girl's disappearance. Every word out of the man's mouth somehow gets him into more trouble.
  • In one Shadow Unit episode, the gamma, whose manifestation involves causing real bullet wounds with a broken, unloaded gun, gives herself away by being the only person to have heard a gunshot at the death of her latest victim.
  • Not Always Right:
    • "Sir... when did I ever say the missing item was a camera?" The thief is an adult male, the owner of the camera is a minor female, and there are several pictures of her on the camera. The punchline?
      "Sir, I can either charge you with stealing, or I can charge you with stalking and pedophilia since this lady is obviously a minor. Which one is it going to be?"
    • "The cake wasn't chocolate! It was strawberry!"
    • This example fits here as well, although it's a very different situation. Someone throws a spitball at the submitter. When the submitter starts to tell the teacher, the thrower starts to rant about how it's a bit of eraser, thank you very much.

    Web Videos 
  • Although no one was able to pick up on it, Ryan nearly gave himself away with this when Achievement Hunter was playing some Trouble in Terrorist Town. Ryan was the traitor and had taken out Michael, who was the detective. A short while later, Ryan asked: "Who's the detective this round?" He's told the answer, then replied, "Michael was?" The only person who caught this slip was Michael himself, who couldn't warn the others on account of his character being dead. After the round was over, Michael immediately chewed out the others for not picking up on Ryan's slip of the tongue.
  • 7-Second Riddles: A lot of riddle culprits end up being caught because they referenced details they shouldn't have known about- such as the contents of a stolen purse, or the fact that the victim's house was empty.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In "Tails' New Home", Tails accidentally gets injured by Scratch and Grounder, so Sonic leaves Tails with his parents due to being concerned about Tails' well-being. Later, Sonic remembers that Tails' father said "Tails belongs with his own kind", giving Sonic a "Eureka!" Moment that the people he saw had to be fakes. If the two elderly foxes were the real parents of Tails, they would've called him "Miles", since Tails is a nickname; his real name is Miles Prower. Sonic races back, and sure enough, the two elder foxes are Robotnik's minions.
  • Spoofed twice in American Dad!:
    • In "Black Mystery Month", a detective quizzes Steve at the scene of a murder and is instantly suspicious when Steve mentions details that are clearly visible at the scene.
      Detective: I'm afraid the curator has been murdered.
      Steve: Oh my God, someone killed him?!
      Detective: Funny, I never said he was murdered.
      Steve: Yes... yes, you did. God, he's wedged into the mouth of a giant bust of George Washington Carver!
      Detective: That's classified, how do you know that?
      Steve: Uh, I can see it from here.
      [the detective takes half a minute confirming that the body is visible from where Steve is standing]
      Detective: Okay, that checks out.
    • In "My Purity Ball and Chain", some characters build a water slide in the backyard so high that it kills a man named Kyle when he rides it. They get rid of Kyle's body, but forget about the slide. Then a detective appears.
      Detective: Dick Turlington, waterpark detective. Got a report of a man missing after riding a waterslide.
      Klaus: Well, not ours! This is a slide town, guy! Swing a dead Kyle, and you'll hit one.
      Detective: I, uh, never mentioned the name Kyle.
      Roger: These board shorts are mine!
      Detective: [pulls out Kyle's photo, wearing the same shorts] ...Great.
  • Batman Beyond: Terry visits Willy Watt in Juvie hall, whom he suspects is the "ghost" terrorizing his high school with telekinetic pranks. During their conversation, Willy brings up the school incidents, even though he's had no visitors or callers since having been locked up (and presumably the incidents never made the news).
  • Beavis and Butt-Head went on trial for throwing eggs at Mr. Anderson's house. They were almost set to be pronounced not guilty when the plaintiff's lawyer noted that Butt-Head had called them "rotten eggs" instead of just "eggs". How did they know they were rotten? They could only stammer, and within a minute the jury pronounced them guilty. (Can you blame the jurors?) Ironically enough, this was the result of Butt-Head gaining a short burst of intelligence, apparently by an imaginary version of someone they saw on TV at the beginning of the episode.
  • Bratz: In "Not So Hot For Teacher", the Tweevils frame the Bratz girls by putting up an embarrassing picture of Burdine all over school. When Kirstee and Kaycee pretend to call out the Bratz for doing such a thing the next morning, Burdine questions the twins of when they saw the pictures, revealing that she took them all down last night. Runaways ensue.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door: Whodunit episode "Operation C.L.U.E.S." features one of these in the ending. Numbuh Two's family has Numbuh Three and her family over for dinner, but when Mrs. Gilligan brings out what's supposed to be a turkey, the group discovers a stabbed Rainbow Monkey doll in its place. After Numbuh Two solves who stabbed it, Mrs. Sanban suggests that he try to figure out what happened to the turkey. Hoagie claims that figuring out "who ate a lemon-basted turkey with cranberry stuffing" will be a daunting task... only for Mrs. Sanban to smugly point out that no one ever mentioned what kind of stuffing Mrs. Gilligan used for the bird. Cue an Oh, Crap! expression from Hoagie.
  • In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Jungle Duck", Scrooge and his nephews discover the eponymous Nature Hero, and then find that he's the missing Prince Greydrake and have to return him home before his Evil Uncle is crowned king. Leading to this confrontation:
    Uncle: That's impossible! Prince Greydrake's plane went down in the densest part of the African jungle!
    Jungle Duck: Ungh, how you know where crash?
    Uncle: [nervously] Uh... Lucky guess?
  • Family Guy: In "And Then There Were Fewer", Tom Tucker is arrested for allegedly murdering several people at James Woods' mansion when Lois speaks to his partner Diane Simmons about the matter. Diane then shows off a blouse that her mother bought her for her first solo newscast, causing Lois to wonder how could she have known prior to the murders happening the night before.
  • Fillmore! is discussing a case with an old friend who's one of the witnesses, and he mentions that 4000 counterfeit baseball cards are still missing. She tells him not to worry, because "it's not like four thousand Cal Ripken cards are gonna just disappear." Fillmore realizes that she must have the cards because he never told her what player was on them.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Bloo gives himself away by saying too much once Jackie Khones finds Madame Foster's favorite doily in "Penny Saved".
    Bloo: I wonder how that got shoved under the squeaky top stair?
    Jackie: Hey! How did you know it was under the squeaky top stair?
    Bloo: Lucky guess?
  • In the Miraculous Ladybug episode "Darkblade", Chloé orders her lackey Sabrina to steal Marinette's diary so they can use it to make her look bad; however, Sabrina ends up with her hand trapped in a box thanks to the security measures Marinette applied to said diary. When she appears in front of the rest of the class with the box, they immediately figure out that Chloé told her to steal it. Chloé tries to deny that she was involved in stealing Marinette's diary, only for Marinette to tell her that no one actually said what was in the box, meaning she wouldn't have known unless she was planning on stealing it.
  • Rugrats had Angelica on the receiving end of this more than once.
    • "The Trial": Someone has broken Tommy's clown lamp, so the babies set up a fake court to find out who did it. Angelica serves as the attorney, confirming the other babies' stories about what they were doing when the lamp broke. Near the end, Tommy says that Angelica couldn't have done it since she was asleep, taking a nap... at which point everyone realizes Angelica couldn't have known what they were doing when the lamp broke unless she wasn't asleep. Angelica then gives a gloating confession to breaking the lamp and tries to pull a Karma Houdini by pointing out that they can't get her in trouble because the adults can't understand the babies. Unfortunately for Angelica, while the adults can't understand the babies, they can understand her; and this gloating confession is loud enough that Didi and Betty overhear her and promptly punish her.
    • "Ransom of Cynthia": Angelica tries to get a new Cynthia doll, along with the other babies' stash of candy, by faking Cynthia's kidnapping, complete with a ransom note and a phone call with the "kidnapper". However, the babies realize something's up when they figure out that the ransom note is a page torn out of Angelica's coloring book. Soon after, Angelica is found with chocolate smeared all over her face, and tells the other babies that the kidnapper demanded more candy... even though she wasn't there during the phone call where this happened. The babies immediately call her out on this, and Angelica's plan is exposed.
  • In the Sally Bollywood episode "The Party", Sally and Doowee are investigating who gatecrashed a party. Whilst interrogating a known-gatecrasher, the gatecrasher points that it couldn't have been him and his buddies, since they don't wear masks when they gatecrash. It's then pointed out that no one had mentioned that the gatecrashers were wearing masks, and a Chase Scene ensues.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • One of the villains in Big Top Scooby-Doo! gives himself away by referring to the black diamond, despite supposedly having been kidnapped when the gang learned that carbonado referred to a black diamond.
    • This was done often on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, usually cutting to Velma making a note of what was just said.
    • In Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Scooby finds the Headless Horseman's horse is automated and ends up running the Sheriff into the pond. Just before he's sent into the drink, Sheriff Buzby yells to Scooby, "Push the button!" and that gets Shaggy wondering — how did the Sheriff know the horse was mechanical? And for that matter, even if Buzby did know the horse was mechanical, how did he know how to stop it? It's a clue that the Sheriff is not what he seems.
  • The Simpsons (as always) spoofed it:
    • In "The Great Money Caper":
      Lawyer: Will you tell the court your whereabouts at the time of the carjacking?
      Willie: I was alone in me Unabomber-style shack; I had nothing to do with that carjacking.
      Lawyer: Carjacking?! Who said anything about a carjacking?
      [galley and jury murmurs]
      Willie: But, didn't you just say—?
      Lawyer: I'll ask the questions here, Carjacker Willie!
    • Another instance in the adaptation of Hamlet from "Tales From The Public Domain". Prince Hamlet (Bart) is trying to get his uncle Claudius (Moe) to confess that he killed King Hamlet (Homer):
      Krusty: [as a jester] Now we would like to warn you, our performances tend to make audience members blurt out hidden secrets.
      Moe/Claudius: [nervous] Oh, boy...
      Krusty: Okay, we're going to up open it up with a little improv. Somebody shout out a location.
      Bart/Hamlet: This castle!
      Krusty: Okay, how about an occupation?
      Bart/Hamlet: Usurper of the throne!
      Moe/Claudius: [tugs at his collar nervously]
      Krusty: I think I heard usurper of the throne. Now, finally, I need an object.
      Bart/Hamlet: Ear poison!
      Moe/Claudius: [nervously to Gertrude/Marge] Do you have diarrhea? I have diarrhea... [tries to leave]
      Gertrude/Marge: [annoyed] Sit down.
      [Sideshow Mel, Krusty and the Monkey begin acting out a situation in which Mel starts pouring ear poison down Krusty's ear]
      Moe/Claudius: Wait a minute, I didn't use that much poison!
      [everyone gasps]
      Moe/Claudius: I mean, I didn't use that much poi, son, at the royal luau. Heh heh...
    • Used in a "Treehouse of Horror VI" segment "Nightmare On Evergreen Terrace", parodying A Nightmare on Elm Street.
      Lisa: Mom! Dad! Martin died at school today!
      Marge: Mmm! I don't see what that has to do with Groundskeeper Willie.
      Bart: Umm... we didn't mention Groundskeeper Willie, Mom.
  • Squidbillies: In "Beware the Butt-Cutter", when Early mentions the bloody sweater Sheriff shows to Granny and assumes it belongs to the campers who had their butts cut off, Danny immediately wonders how Early knew that if the news of the murders haven't been made public yet. Early's reply is calling it an educated guess.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "The Hidden Enemy", one of the clones betrays his brothers. Captain Rex and Commander Cody discover a listening device planted in their command center and begin to question a squad of suspected clones about it. During the interrogation, the turncoat — who wasn't one of the suspects — gives himself away by mentioning something only Rex and Cody should've known about.
    Chopper: No! Sir! I'm telling you, I did not–
    Slick: It's okay, we'll get you a proper investigation. You don't have to say anything 'til the Jedi come back and talk to you.
    [A few seconds later...]
    Cody: Sergeant, What did you mean "'til the Jedi come back"? How did you know the Jedi were gone?
    Slick: I really wish you hadn't noticed that, sir...
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Lois Lane is able to deduce the identity of the man who tried to assassinate her at her acceptance ceremony for a journalistic award when her informant, Edward Lytener, congratulates her on winning the award. He'd said that he'd spent the night alone in his lab, which has no TV or radio because they'd be distracting. So, how'd he know she won it?
  • SWAT Kats: In "Razor's Edge", Razor believes he injured two innocent elderly civilians in a chase and it negatively effects his skills to the point where he chooses to retire from being a vigilante. He sneaks his way into the hospital an attempt at forgiveness from the two. While choosing to give up, the old man says he wouldn't be able to defeat Dark Kat. That caught Razor's attention, since nobody knew that it was Dark Kat who was responsible for the recent attacks. The elderly couple are then revealed to be two much younger criminals Dark Kat hired to pose as victims to mess with the Swat Kats and Razor takes them down.
  • Total Drama: After Mal leaves Cameron hanging from a ledge, Alejandro later comes up and offers to rescue him, but Cameron declines. When Alejandro and Mal reunite (alongside others), Alejandro explains Cameron's absence, where Mal then accuses Alejandro of "leaving [Cameron] hanging there." However, as Alejandro points out in his Confession Cam, he never said Cameron was hanging.
  • Trese: When Alexandra Trese confronts the Mayor about his implication with the aswang, she just mentions Ibwa by name and says that he "runs a bad crew". It's the mayor who answers about "fairytales of aswang and mermaids".
    Alexandra: I never said anything about aswang Mr. Mayor.
  • On X-Men: The Animated Series, the Beast is the only X-Man to escape when the alien Phalanx attack the mansion. He gets away with renegade member Warlock to contact President Kelly about a huge threat. After getting their location, Kelly tells Beast that a helicopter is coming to "pick you both up at once."
    Warlock: Self-friend Hank, you did not tell the President about Self.
    Beast: We can explain that in person...
    Warlock: Query: Then why did the President refer to "both" of us?
    [cue Oh, Crap! look from the Beast]

    Real Life 
  • As noted, police actually do rely on this as part of real life interrogation techniques. However, over-reliance on this technique has led to a significant number of false confessions and erroneous arrests. Police will either feed the suspect information he didn't know before and he'll repeat it back, and they'll use that to browbeat a confession out of him, or the suspect will make inferences that make it seem like he knows more about the crime than he really does (it's very easy to assume that the victim was shot in a murder case, for example - and if a suspect says many different things, the police can report only the inferences that were correct, making them sound incriminating out of context). This has caused police in some countries to abandon the technique entirely. There's also the issue that police can accidentally reveal their hand while doing so. If, for example, a detective tries to coerce a confession by saying that they found the suspect's fingerprints and the suspect wore gloves while committing the crime, they will know the police are bluffing and don't actually have any solid evidence.
  • Suspicion that Wallace Souza had ordered or coordinated Brazilian gangland murders for his TV show Canal Livre grew when he approached a still-smoldering body in a forest, saying "It smells like a barbecue," he says. "It is a man. It has the smell of burning meat. The impression is that it was in the early hours... it was an execution," even though the police had never given a time of death. Also, he tended to arrive a little too quickly at the scene of the crime. He died before he could be prosecuted.
  • As seen on the Saying Too Much page, where a woman was arrested as a suspect in the murder of a man that had won the jackpot and had disappeared, then turned up dead several days later. She was also under suspicion of embezzling it, and after being released from a round of questioning tearfully professed that she had been falsely accused of shooting another human being. Police had yet to release exactly how the man had died.
  • Paul Warner Powell killed a teenage girl and raped and attempted to stab her sister, and was sentenced to death. There was insufficient evidence that Powell had attempted to rape Stacie Reed before killing her, so he could not be convicted of Capital Murder and the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed his death sentence. So Paul believed he no longer faced a death sentence because of Double Jeopardy, and he sent the prosecutor a taunting letter where he confessed, in detail, to attempting to rape Stacie before killing her. The letter was used by the Commonwealth to send him back to the electric chairnote . He was named an At-Risk Survivor by the Darwin Awards.
  • Macedonian crime reporter Vlado Taneski became a suspect of being the Serial Killer that stalked Taneski's own hometown and he often wrote about, when he included copious details about the crimes that had not been disclosed to the public, such as the type of phone cord used to strangle the victims, or the fact that it had also been used to tie them.
  • Infamously happened in a Judge Judy case about a stolen wallet (contrary to the video's title, the segment was actually the same length of a normal case). After the plaintiff was finished listing the items that were in the stolen wallet, one of the defendants piped up that there was no earpiece in the wallet... but he had to have stolen the wallet to know that.
  • During the well-publicized trial of Aaron Hernandez for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified that Hernandez had professed his innocence to him, claiming he was at a nightclub when Lloyd was killed. Even now, no one knows exactly what time the murder took place. Jurors specifically cited this testimony as part of their reasoning for finding Hernandez guilty.
  • This was how WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen managed to trap three officials at Southern Methodist University into admitting they were still paying players on their football team. Hansen had gotten an envelope from a former SMU player who had alleged that he'd been paid by the program and that the envelope had money in it. Hansen then showed the envelope to the officials, and at first, administrator Henry Lee Parker admitted that he'd sent the envelope, but then immediately backtracked, as did the other two officials. At this point, Hansen knew the allegations were true because he'd never mentioned to Parker what had allegedly been in the envelope. Until then, all he had was the word of the former player (David Stanley). If the officials hadn't sent money, they wouldn't have backtracked from their original admission. This eventually led to SMU's football program being given the NCAA's "Death Penalty", resulting in the cancellation of their next two seasons and severe restrictions on their program like limits on coaching hires which so devastated the previously-successful program it took them over twenty years to play in another postseason bowl.
  • In 1995, the Spanish murderer Serafín Cervilla raped and killed his girlfriend due to her intention to leave him, then played the afflicted boyfriend on TV to cast suspicion off himself. However, the police had him as their main suspect from the beginning, and he only put himself in more trouble when, at the end of a massive demonstration clamoring for justice, he deposited a bouquet of flowers in the exact spot where the woman had been murdered... which wasn't the same place where the body was found, and nobody had told Serafín about.
  • Seen in the police interview with Texas serial killer Steven Hobbs on the episode "Predator" of The First 48. During interrogation, he asks what he's being arrested for. The detective replies that some prostitutes had accused him of getting rough during tricks (which they had, and how he'd been identified as a suspect in the murders).
    Hobbs: I never killed nobody.
    Detective: I never said you killed anybody.
  • This (along with Hoist by His Own Petard) is how Stephen McDaniel was arrested and eventually convicted of killing a fellow college student, Lauren Giddings. During a local news report about Lauren Giddings being missing, Stephen was interviewed as one of the witnesses who last saw her. During the interview, he was trying to act shocked and confused about her disappearance, but was saying things that were a little too detailed for someone who didn't know anything. The reporter caught on to this and revealed that a body was found, but she is not sure if it was Giddings. The facial expression from McDaniel gives him away, along with his panicking during the rest of the interview where he gives more details about things he shouldn't know.
  • One of the things that initially led to O. J. Simpson coming under suspicion for the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman was that when informed that Nicole had died he asked "Who killed her?".
  • In Victorian Britain, seven members of the Marshall family were brutally murdered in their home in the village of Denham and the investigation lead to a man named John Owen. When an officer found and arrested him, he immediately declared "I have murdered neither man, women nor child" despite the officer having not had a chance to tell him what he was being arrested for and his having been out of town preventing him from having heard that he was a suspect.
  • An exaggerated version with New Zealand baby farmer John Makin. While awaiting trial, he had told his cellmate that the police could not prove he had poisoned any of the infants under his care. He was right. However, this was because the bodies were too decayed for a cause of death to be established, meaning that nobody other than Makin had ever suggested he had poisoned them.


Recipe for Turnabout


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Main / INeverSaidItWasPoison

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