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Stock Ominous Signs

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This is an index of tropes that makes audiences think, "Uh-oh!" When one of these tropes happens, it tells the audience that something bad is either going to happen or is already happening. See Portent of Doom for the in-universe version. Also compare Trope Telegraphing.

See also This Index Will Be Important Later.

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    Words, names, and symbols 
  • Ace Of Spades: The ace card is a symbol of death or danger.
  • Creepy Crosses: Crosses used as symbols of death and/or the occult.
  • Four Is Death: In Eastern media, if the number four pops up, expect death to be around the corner.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: A place with a name that is explicitly dangerous/evil or alludes to something else that is will be a location in which all manners of death, chaos, and evil will manifest.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: A character with a name that either is explicitly dangerous/evil or alludes to something else that is will cause discord and chaos for the rest of the characters.
  • Number of the Beast: In Western media, if the number "666" appears, expect something evil or demonic to occur.
  • Skeleton Motif: Skulls (or optionally, skull and crossbones) used as a symbol for danger and/or death).
  • 13 Is Unlucky: In Western media, if the number "13" shows up, expect something bad or unlucky to follow.

  • Bad Bedroom, Bad Life: If somebody's bedroom is subpar, that means they're poor and/or abused.
  • Blood-Stained Letter: A letter or note has bloodstains on it, hinting at a dark story behind it (typically someone's death and/or injury).
  • Bring My Red Jacket: The non-character version of Red Shirt; if a character wears red, expect them to get bloodied up.
  • Cannibal Larder: A room or freezer full of body parts. Typically it'll feature bloody butchers' tools, red spatters on the walls, buzzing flies on the soundtrack, and possibly a Peek-a-Boo Corpse of someone known to the hapless victim who stumbles into the place. The finding of a Cannibal Larder is usually staged as The Reveal, although it frequently only confirms what the audience already suspected was going on.
  • Dark Is Evil: A character with a dark color scheme is cruel.
  • Dead Hat Shot: If we only see this character's hat after a disaster, it's safe to say they're doomed.
  • Dead Man's Hand: A poker hand with two black aces and two black eights symbolizes death.
  • Dying Candle: When a candle's flame is no longer burning, someone's done for.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: If a toy is lying on the ground, that means either a child died or a child's innocence was lost during an evacuation.
  • Empty Fridge, Empty Life: An empty fridge is a sign of poverty.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: All that's left of someone is just their clothes, meaning that they're gone.
  • Fatal Family Photo: If somebody shows their family photo, they will die.
  • Flatline: If someone is hooked up to an electrocardiogram, the line will go flat, which means they have no pulse and so are in serious danger or dead.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: Done by either the Big Bad or one of the main antagonists either during their death scene or afterward. They have left behind clues (or an outright note) that while they are dead, their plans have just gotten started.
  • Ominous Crack: A crack means that some type of protection isn't going to hold up for much longer.
  • Ominously Open Door: A door left mysteriously ajar means that whoever's inside the door has been killed.
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: Black, oily goo is bad news.
  • Psycho Pink: Pink clothes signify a demented villain.
  • Putting on the Reich: Need a quick and easy way to suggest a group of people or faction are evil and mean business? During The Reveal or the introduction, give them uniforms that resemble those worn by the Third Reich.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: If the color scheme consists of red and black, this character is a villain.
  • Red Is Violent: This character has red colors and it's for the best that you don't piss them off.
  • Red Shirt: If someone is wearing a red shirt, they are disposable and therefore likely to die.
  • Room Full of Crazy: When a character has written all over every surface of the room or covered them in paper with lots of ramblings. If the Room Full of Crazy is specific enough, for example, only part of a wall is covered with photos of the same subject, it may be a Stalker Shrine. A Shrine to Self may likewise double as a Room Full Of Crazy for Omnicidal Maniacs and the like.
  • Soulless Bedroom: Someone who lacks emotions has an unnaturally clean bedroom with few or no personal possessions.
  • Spit Out a Shoe: When someone is Eaten Alive and the creature that ate them spits out one of their belongings, that person has been digested.
  • Stab the Picture: If a picture of someone is seen with a knife or some other form of damage, it means that either an attempt is going to be made on their life or that they're otherwise about to die.
  • Tarot Troubles: Tarot cards are synonymous with prophetic signs of danger.
  • White and Red and Eerie All Over: A character with white and red in their color scheme to make them look extra-creepy.
  • White Shirt of Death: Wearing all white is one way to ensure you end up a bloody mess.

    Music and Sound Effects 
  • Creepy Children Singing: Singing kids in the background highlights a spooky scene.
  • Creepy Circus Music: Circus music used for scary scenes, often involving a Monster Clown or Circus of Fear.
  • Creepy Jazz Music: Jazz music plays in the background, often to make a scene scarier or to indicate that there's an evil character afoot.
  • Critical Annoyance: A sound that plays on a video game when you're either low on health or fouling up.
  • Dead Man Honking: Hearing a car's horn honking when someone crashes their car indicates that they've lurched forward and died.
  • Deathly Dies Irae: The Standard Snippet of the original Dies Irae, Dies Illa melody that signifies death and doom impending.
  • Drone of Dread: A long sustained sound that creates an unsettling, uncomfortable atmosphere.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Tolling bells indicate death or something deadly.
  • Freaky Electronic Music: Electronic music is heard to signify the appearance of a villain.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: When a heartbeat is heard during a moment of fear, danger, or impending doom.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Whenever something or someone is revealed to the audience there is a noise, leitmotif or sound. It's something odd and unnatural. When the sound is heard once, it may not be that terrifying, but as time passes, the heroes and the audience become more and more frightened. The sound gets scarier as it gains more and more relevance. Can be used by itself to indicate that there is a danger in the distance.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A nursery rhyme is heard to make a scene even more disturbing.
  • Moment of Silence: The Background Music goes silent over a death.
  • Moody Trailer Cover Song: When the trailer of a movie or tv show uses a famous song or a song from the source material but re-purposes it into something slower and moodier to indicate that work is going to be Darker and Edgier. May have added Previews Pulse to heighten the tension.
  • Ominous Knocking: Knocking from an unknown source will normally mean the one knocking is dangerous.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Latin (or dog Latin) chanting in the background signifies a suspenseful or creepy scene.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: A music box tune plays over a scary scene.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: Pipe organ music often accompanies evil things, and the music may actually be played by a villain at a pipe organ.
  • One-Woman Wail: A woman (or a boy soprano) singing a wordless wail in the Background Music signifies something serious is going on.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Sharp notes on string instruments indicate insanity and/or evil.
  • Scare Chord: A startling crescendo of music suddenly plays to complement a scene's creepiness.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": A loud crunching noise means that somebody has broken a bone.
  • Sinister Tango Music: Tango music is heard during a creepy scene.
  • Songs in the Key of Panic: Video game music that lets you know you're running out of time, nearing a (usually drastic) ending to the level, or are running low on health.
  • Theremin: A theremin plays to make a scene even creepier.
  • Tick Tock Terror: The sound of a clock chiming is heard in a creepy area, making the atmosphere even more ominous.


  • Everything Fades: In a video game, enemies often fade away when they're killed or defeated.
  • Expressive Health Bar: A sound or visual in a video game that lets you know that a stat is running low.
  • Impending Doom P.O.V.: The camera shows the perspective of something stalking or about to attack a character.
  • Menacing Hand Shot: Framing shot that dramatically shows that one character means to threaten or attack another.
  • Plummet Perspective: A character is standing or hanging at a great height. An object near them falls or is dropped by them, showing from the character's perspective just how dangerously high they are.
  • Really Dead Montage: If a montage plays after someone dies, they ain't coming back.
  • Red Filter of Doom: A red-colored filter indicates malice or danger.
  • Shaky P.O.V. Cam: The camera shows the perspective of something (usually something evil or dangerous) moving really fast, often coupled with Jitter Cam.
  • Snowy Screen of Death: The screen(s) giving visual feed go full of static, indicating that something horrible happening disabled the cameras.
  • Stalker Shot: The moment we find out a character's being watched by someone (typically someone dangerous).

    Body parts 
  • Black Eyes of Crazy: A character's sclera is black to signify that they've gone off the deep end.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: A character has black eyes to indicate that they're as scary as they appear.
  • Bloody Handprint: A handprint in thick blood is visible on a wall, floor, or some other surface, indicating that the person who left it is seriously injured and possibly dying. The fresher the blood, the stronger the terror.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: An unusually wide smile indicates that the smiler is mischievous or up to no good.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: If we only see someone's hand when they're in some kind of lethal situation, they're gone for good.
  • Eye Lights Out: A robotic or magical person's bright eyes lose their glow when they die.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: When a good looking character is shown doing horrible things or acting in a ghastly manner.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: If a character's eyes are glowing, it's a safe bet that they're dangerous.
  • Psychotic Smirk: A small, subtle smile indicates a manipulative schemer.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Red eyes on a character means that you'd better beware of them.
  • Red Right Hand: Someone has a physical quirk that cements them as a villain.
  • Slasher Smile: If someone does a large, deranged grin, they almost certainly have evil or violent intentions.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: If a character has yellow eyes, they're probably unscrupulous in some way.