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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- 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!".
- 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.
Films — Animated
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Live Action TV
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Visit: The Hero does a lot of them on the prison walls, floor and toilet if he goes there.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Shaggy: Like, it's almost Christmas, Scoob.
- 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.
- 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.