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Tally Marks on the Prison Wall

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It's been so long...
Someone imprisoned somewhere, like a jail cell, keeps track of the time spent imprisoned by drawing or scratching lines on the wall of their room. Sometimes used humorously when the time spent imprisoned is actually short, and the lines the prisoner drew represent minutes instead of days, or something similar. Sometimes stories will depict just the room after the prisoner is gone, and the person looking at the room just sees all of the lines and can tell someone was stuck in there a long time.

Compare Room Full of Crazy for when other things are scribbled on the walls.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Great Adventure in the South Seas: Nobita was inevitably separated from Doraemon and gang and stranded on a deserted island, meeting the new character, Jack the pirate boy. Originally Nobita thought Jack lives on said island, until seeing Jack carving lines on an oar and realizing Jack's caught in the same predicament as he is.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Albert makes a series of these while imprisoned for three years in The Tower.
  • The Promised Neverland: In Yugo's flashback after his escape from a farm and the loss of his comrades, reaching the shelter they discovered drew marks on the time passing by waiting for other survivors to come.

    Asian Animation 
  • Lamput:
    • In the Season 1 episode "Bank Robbery", Fat Doc is thrown into a prison cell whose back wall has tally marks scrawled onto it.
    • Two episodes later in "Prison Cell", the cell Lamput is put in has various writings from him on the wall, including tally marks indicating his number of near-escapes.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, while Asterix and Obelix are in the Palace dungeon, various forms of graffiti are seen on the walls, including a stone filled with tally marks.
  • Batman: Black and White: Played with in "The Bet". Harley Quinn makes a set of tally marks on the wall of her cell to track the progress of her bet with Poison Ivy. Near the end of the story Batman notices them while returning the Joker to his cell and remarks that he hadn't thought she'd been in that long.
  • G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers: Black Horizon shows Joe Colton to have carved tallies into the walls of his cell to keep track of the decades he's spent as Cobra-La's prisoner.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side had two prisoners in a cell, both with a respectable tally count but one noticeably smaller, its owner yelling "And another thing! I've had it with you calling me "new guy" all the time!".
  • Frequently seen when Snuffy Smith is in the county jail. One strip shows him making premature tally marks in order to trick the sheriff into releasing him early.
  • The Wizard of Id plays around with this. One strip has the prisoner tallying his days in prison, while his cellmate uses a math equation. Another strip has the prisoner run out of wall space as the walls are filled with tally marks.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dudley Dursley Saves the World, Harry considers marking the days until he can go to the Burrow on his bedroom wall, but he figures that Aunt Petunia would get mad at him.
  • At the start of Innocent, the guards think that Sirius Black is tallying the number of days he's been in prison, but they're a few days off. He's actually counting the days of separation from Lily and James.

    Films — Animated 
  • Chicken Run: During the opening montage of Ginger's failed escape attempts from the farm she's shown making tally marks on the walls of the dumpster Mr. Tweedy uses as "solitary confinement" for escaping chickens.
  • Luca: Alberto has tally marks hidden behind the Vespa poster in his island hideout, counting how many days it's been since his father left him, hoping he'd return one day. Eventually, he just stopped counting.
  • In Moana, the title character arrives at the island where Maui is stranded, and finds a rock covered in tally marks, forming the silhouette of a fish hook.
  • Shrek Forever After: In the alternate reality, Shrek goes into the tower where Fiona was held and discovers tally marks hidden behind a tapestry, which she made to mark the time she spent there before escaping by herself.
  • Shaun the Sheep: The Movie has a tortoise doing this as part of a Pounds Are Animal Prisons montage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Camila: Camila is doing this after her confinement stretches for weeks. (She's in prison for her love affair with a priest.)
  • A Man Escaped: Francois does this in his jail cell, but he's also busy plotting his elaborate escape.
  • The Martian: Played with. Mark Watney tracks the time he spends stranded on Mars by numbering the hab's wall.
  • O Lucky Man!: Mick spends five years doing this, covering a whole wall of his cell with tally marks.
  • Top Secret!. After Nick Rivers is captured by the East German government he's shown in a cell, where he's making the twentieth mark on the wall (implying that he's been incarcerated for twenty days). Then his manager arrives, and he says he's been waiting for twenty minutes.
  • In The Force Awakens, Rey is keeping tally marks on the wall of her home, tracking the days/weeks/months since her parents left.
  • Garfield in his live-action movie Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties does this after Lord Dargis locks him up.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo does this in his jail cell, but gives up after a while. The first thing he does after his escape is find out how long he was in there (14 years), and sees them again when he revisits the now-unused cells at the end of the book.
  • In The Last Continent, Rincewind is put in a cell overnight and told he'll be hanged in the morning. He notices that there are a number of separate counts in his cell, and none of them go up to two. The Ecksians are firm believers in hanging prisoners in the morning.

    Live Action TV 
  • When Fitz is arrested and sent to a military prison in season five of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., he tallies the days by drawing monkeys on the walls of his cell.
  • Bassie & Adriaan: In "Het geheim van de schatkaart" , when Vlugge Japie is imprisoned in the same cell as B2 (who has been in prison since the end of "De Diamand"), he notices B2 has been marking his days this way. The wall is so full with tally marks already that Japie remarks B2 should get some new wallpaper soon.
  • The Flash (2014): In the Season 4 episode "The Elongated Knight Rises", Barry, who has been sentenced to life in prison the episode before, can be seen marking his days in prison this way.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Saul Tigh creates a set of tally marks using his thumbnail while being held prisoner by the Cylons during the Time Skip between seasons two and three. The Number One acting as his jailer tells him they know what he's doing and that they change the marks when he's asleep. It's unclear if he's telling the truth or just screwing with Tigh.
  • Doctor Who. In "Revolution of the Daleks", the Doctor spends a couple of decades in a Judoon space prison before Jack Harkness busts her out, so her cell is covered in hash marks. It's not quite a Room Full of Crazy but she implies that she didn't take her incarceration well.
  • Lost: One wall of the Swan bunker is covered with tally marks, which Locke sees when he first enters it. According to the production designer, there were 9,000 marks on there.
  • Monsters: In "Habitat", a woman named Jamie Neal volunteers to be locked in a room for nine months in exchange for money and makes tally marks with lipstick. On day 64, she becomes depressed when she realizes that since she has no way of accurately telling time (the room has no clocks and no windows so she can't see the sun), and she just made a new mark whenever she wakes up, she can't actually be sure her tally is accurate.
  • When the MythBusters tested the "salsa escape" (using salsa to erode the bars on a cell window), the test obviously had to run for a while. This trope was used to indicate time passage, as Adam chiseled tally marks into their test wall.
  • In Season VIII of Red Dwarf, the season number is scrawled on the title card in tally marks. The season arc involves the Dwarfers being sentenced to the ship's previously unmentioned prison levels.
  • In Season 4 of Search Party, Dory is held in solitary confinement by Chip in a recreation of her apartment, and fed once a day with a meal of chicken nuggets and an apple. Because she has no natural light, she loses track of the time of day, and can only determine it by when she gets meals, so she starts removing the sticker from each apple and sticking it on the front door. Cue Time Skip, and there are now nearly 100 on the door.
  • When Sam and Dean are arrested in season 12 of Supernatural for attempting to assassinate the president, they are thrown into solitary confinement at a military blacksite prison. Dean keeps track of how long they've been there by how many meals they've received and tally marks. In the end, he has six weeks worth of tallies.

  • In the "I Think I Got You Beat" song from Shrek: The Musical, Fiona mentions having done this while being locked away in the tower.
    Fiona: On the walls the days were added / Luckily those walls were padded!

    Video Games 
  • The first thing you’ll see with the seeing tool in the New Game Plus of Bendy and the Ink Machine is 414 tallies on the walls by the entrance. Presumably they were left by Henry, numbering not days, but each loop he goes through.
  • Clock Tower (1995): Jennifer can check the wall in the room Walter Simpson was locked in to see marks left on it, seemingly to count days he spent there, even though he died from suffocation on the third day.
  • SPY Fox in Dry Cereal ends with William the Kid getting put in prison. Initially, he angrily swears revenge against Spy Fox and SPY Corp, but then he gets gloomy and makes a tally mark on the wall of his cell.
  • The Visit: The Hero does a lot of them on the prison walls, floor and toilet if he goes there.
  • In Zero Time Dilemma, one of D Team's ending; Diana and Sigma are left behind and forced to wait for a probable rescue, Sigma kept track of how long they've been stuck by marking the wall.
  • Everhood: While it's not (intended to be) a prison, you can find that Green Mage has been tallying each year that's passed in the corridor underneath their home. And then they ran out of space and had to extend the corridor until it takes two hours to reach the end. The denizens of Everhood have been alive for a very, very, very long time.

  • Princess Peach in the Brawl in the Family strip titled "The Captive Princess" uses one of her earrings to scratch day marks on the wall of her cell while imprisoned by Bowser.
  • As seen in Act 6 Act 4 of Homestuck, the B2 Universe version of Jack Noir spends his time in a Prospitian jail cell tallying the days since his imprisonment. Unlike most examples of this trope, Jack's tally marks are in sets of sevens (i.e. six lines, capped with a seventh line slashing through them) instead of in fives. This matches the Arc Number of Act 6 as a whole, 11 11 11.
  • New School Kids: In strip 92, Frank is in prison and the wall behind him is covered in tally marks.

    Web Original 

    Web Video 
  • In the short film Thresher, these can briefly be seen in one shot. It appears the protagonist has been there a few weeks.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes: In "Porky Pig's Feat", Porky and Daffy try to escape a hotel without paying, but the manager foils their every attempt. The final scene shows them being held prisoner (complete with ball-and-chain) in their room, with Porky marking tallies on the wall.
  • In one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures where Buster is taken in by Elmyra, the rest of her "pets" have increasing long tally marks to show how long she'd been holding them.
    Fifi: Weeks.
    Michigan J. Frog: Months.
    Furrball: Years! (Faints)
  • Scarab in Mummies Alive! is an Ancient Egyptian Evil Sorcerer who became immortal after killing Pharoah's son and was entombed alive as punishment. A modern day archaeologist finds the tomb several thousand years later and, shortly before he unwittingly releases Scarab from his prison, notes that the tomb walls are covered in claw marks arranged in tallies, as if someone was alive and counting something down there.
  • Understated example in Rugrats: When Tommy is put in a playpen for a time out at day care in the episode "The Big House", he slides toy beads across a bar for each of the five minutes that pass. To be fair, five minutes is an eternity to a baby.
  • The Inspector: In "Le Cop on Le Rocks", this is how the Inspector takes note of his "years to go".
  • Darkwing Duck: In "Adopt-a-Con", Darkwing is shown making tallies on his cell wall before says he's been in there for five minutes.
  • Cow and Chicken: In "Alive!", Cow and Cousin Boneless get stranded on the roof, and Cow marks tallies on the chimney while lamenting "The days are starting to turn into weeks". It turns out they were up there for half an hour.
  • Family Guy: In "German Guy", Peter and Chris are being held prisoner in an old Nazi's basement, and Peter marks 25 tallies on the wall. He then tells Chris that's how high he can count and that they've been trapped for 3 hours.
  • In She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, Shadow Weaver began drawing tallies in her cell after getting imprisoned by Catra, though this is part of her plan to make Catra feel sympathy for her so she can use the opportunity to escape the Fright Zone.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • A Pup Named Scooby-Doo featured this in the episode "Now Museum, Now You Don't", where Shaggy and Scooby are falsely accused of stealing the samurai swords and have an Imagine Spot of spending the rest of their lives rotting in jail. The scene depicts them with long gray beards and having marked a large number of tallies on the walls of their cells.
    Shaggy: Like, it's almost Christmas, Scoob.
    • When Mystery, Inc. get arrested in the What's New, Scooby-Doo? episode "A Scooby-Doo Valentine", Fred is shown using a knife to carve five tally marks into the wall and stating that they've been locked up for five hours.
  • In the first part of the two-part season nine premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, "The Beginning of the End", Lord Tirek is shown carving tally marks on the floor of his cage to keep track of how long it's been since he was last sent back to Tartarus.
  • The Mickey MouseWorks short "Goofy's Big Kitty" begins with Louie the Mountain Lion clawing tally marks in his cage before deciding to escape the circus.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Biddy Sitting", SpongeBob makes tally marks inside a play jail, only to check his watch and immediately break out.
  • We Bare Bears: At the end of "Pigeons", Brenda draws tallies in her prison cage after being arrested, only labeled "Hours" instead of "Days".
  • Parodied in the Freakazoid! episode Mission: Freakazoid, where while being held captive in a prison in the brutish police state of Vuka Nova, Dexter's dad keeps trying to do this but can never get the number of hash marks right. The epilogue showed the Douglas family back at home and Dad was still trying to get it right.


Video Example(s):


Alphonses' Money and Letter

After Arius and Iris makes their way to an abandoned island, they find a wall decorated with tallymarks arranged in sets of sevens rather than the normal fives, along with a letter left behind by Alphonse Flugel meant for anyone who gets shipwrecked not to lose hope and a bag of money so they could get a nice meal from Restaurant Nekoya every Saturday.

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Example of:

Main / VoiceoverLetter

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