A character finds an abandoned diary, journal or captain's log and reads through it. The contents might be interesting, but the most important part is that after a while it just ... stops. Abruptly.
The obvious conclusion is that the person writing it died suddenly, without having the opportunity to write further entries. Possibly, the last entry describes what the author was going to do next, or has a hint on what killed him. In many cases, one character reads the increasingly horrifying entries aloud to another character... at a dramatic halt, the listener asks, "What happened next?" Only to receive the ominous answer, "That was the last entry".
This is typically used to create an aura of mystery around what exactly happened to the writer, and to Foreshadow whatever danger will await the reader of the journal. Extra points if the rest of the journal is completely innocuous. It may also be an Apocalyptic Log if it goes into detail about what happened.
Works with their own entries:
- In a 1990s Peanuts arc, Snoopy and Woodstock find a tiny book inside a dented cage. The book is a diary that supposedly belonged to Woodstock's grandfather.
Snoopy: [reading diary] "Once a week, they put my cage outside in the sun. Sooner or later they're going to leave that little door open. Anyway, this is a stupid life sitting here alone, waiting for that to ..." [turning to Woodstock] And that's it! The diary ends right there! [Your grandfather] probably got out, and is sitting on a telephone wire right now looking down at us...
- 13 Ghosts: Dr. Zorba's notes on the ghosts he's managed to bind to the house end with the curious "ghost thirteen" entry. This foreshadowed not the dangerous existence of the thirteenth ghost, but the necessary creation of a thirteenth ghost.
Van Allen: The rest of the page is blank.
- In Lantana, Valerie left a number of messages on John's answering machine the night she disappeared, after her car broke down not far from a phone booth. The last of these stated that she could see a car coming and was going to try to hitch a lift home.
- The dwarven log in the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.: "They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums... drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out... they are coming." It's written neatly in dwarven runes except for the last three words, scribbled hastily in Elvish cursive.
- Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the group encounters a stone wall on which a victim of a monster attack has been carving entries onto. It ends, "He who is valiant, and might of spirit, may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of Arrrgh". The knights argue whether the castle is actually named Arrrgh or if the author died while writing it and wrote down his death rattle while doing so. Someone suggests he was dictating it. It's the first one.
- Done in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; when the group finally gets to Totenkopf's office, they find his papers and discover that "the last entry in his journal was made on October 11, 1918", 20 years before the setting of the film. Shortly thereafter, they find his mummified body.
- One of H. P. Lovecraft's favorite tropes; many of his stories read as last entries, either literally or figuratively.
- In The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril finds a diary belonging to a man who practiced death magic (which, if it works, inevitably leads to the death of the caster as well as the victim). When he finds himself wanting to practice death magic, he realizes that he only actually has to read the very end of the diary to figure out what worked...
- Discworld: An unusual example in Jingo, where instead of a diary it's the magical equivalent of an electronic personal organiser reading off appointments/reading off events of an alternate timeline.:
"Things to do today today today...die..."
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Horror of the Heights" details the adventures of an intrepid aviator who flies above 40,000 feet and encounters an "air jungle" - an entire ecosystem of atmospheric beasts. He barely escapes from a predatory creature on his first flight, and records his intentions to go back up later and explore more thoroughly. The framing story reveals that the aviator's plane was found crashed and the aviator himself missing. All that was found in the plane was a torn, blood-stained journal. The last words are hastily scrawled: "Forty-three thousand feet. I shall never see earth again. They are beneath me, three of them. God help me; it is a dreadful death to die!"
- In House of Leaves, the last entry in the colonists' diary reads: "ſtaires! We have found ſtaires!"
- Dracula features this during the first half of the book. A ship arrives in the town Mina Murray is visiting, with the only remaining crewmember being the dead captain, who tied himself to the wheel with a crucifix. In his hands was the final entry logbook which describes how the crew started disappearing, the first mate threw himself overboard after seeing something, and the captain has been seeing glimpses of a tall, dark figure.
- The Book of Mazarbul in The Lord of the Rings (admittedly not a one-person journal, but the record of the entire Dwarf expedition to Moria): "They are coming."
- The fifth book of Septimus Heap, Syren, has Syrah Syara's journal as she slowly becomes possessed by the Syren. Syrah's informal handwriting is gradually replaced by elegant cursive script to indicate Syrah being possessed while writing, with Syrah's final entry only comprising of the beginning of sentences before being taken over. Even more disturbingly, after the possession is complete, the Syren goes out of its way to cross out Syrah's name in the normal entries to affirm the takeover and Syrah's loss of agency.
"I am Syren I am ageless. I come from the Island. I am the Island. I am Syren. I am Syren. When I call, you will come to me."
- A disgusting diary of the protagonist (stranded on an uninhabited island with nothing to eat) of "Survivor Type" by Stephen King: "lady fingers they taste just like lady fingers."
- Blackadder Goes Forth, Goodbyeeee: After Cpt. Kevin Darling has been sent to the frontline from his desk job, with orders to advance towards the enemy at dawn⋯
Cpt. Darling: Made a note in my diary on the way here. Simply says: "bugger!"
- In season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, early on the only info the Scoobies have about the prophesied "ascension" is a journal entry from the site of a previous ascension, saying "Tomorrow is the ascension, may God help us." It was the last time the town was ever heard of.
- Doctor Who: In "Blink", thanks to some Timey Wimey stuff, Sally ends up watching a recording of the Doctor in which he's reading from a transcript of the events that are unfolding in the present, a transcript that is being written at that very moment. And then the transcript ends:
The Doctor: And that's it, I'm afraid. There's no more from you on the transcript, that's the last I've got. I don't know what stopped you talking but I can guess. They're coming. The Angels are coming for you...
- In Due South, Fraser reads his late father's journals occasionally throughout the series, and in "Easy Money" he tells a friend, "There's a short entry in one of my father's journals that reads 'My adversaries appear ready to listen. I'm nearing victory.' And that entry was written the day before he was shot."
- In Kessler (the spin-off of Secret Army), an Intrepid Reporter digging into Kessler's wartime past is murdered shortly after he was dictating into his tape recorder as he was driving away from Kessler's house. The final comment on the tape is, "I think I'm being followed."
- In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Earthquake", Stottlemeyer and Disher figure out where a gas company worker found stabbed dead and tossed in a dumpster actually was killed by noting the location of the last gas line he inspected, which happens to be right outside Sharona's apartment.
- In Red Dwarf, the crew come across a long-abandoned research facility at the bottom of the sea on an ocean moon which was doing experiments in genetic experimentation. The last entry in the log is just a matter-of-fact record about how they spent the day cataloguing new lifeforms before abruptly stopping. Turns out one of the new lifeforms ended up killing them — and then the Dwarfers meet it...
- In the seaQuest DSV Halloween episode Knight of Shadows, the Seaquest crew exploring the sunken liner George find the Captain's Log, with the final entry "I am going to the engine room now." They had earlier discovered the captain's mummified body in the engine room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
- Supernatural. In "Remember the Titans", the Winchesters find a spell by an ancient Greek warrior on how to trap Zeus. It's pointed out that's where his notes stop, so they've no idea if the spell actually worked (the lack of further entries implying it didn't). Having no further information, our heroes have to proceed regardless.
- David Bowie uses an audio communication version in "Space Oddity":
Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles,
I'm feeling very still,
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go.
Tell my wife I love her very much.
Ground Control to Major Tom,
Your circuit's dead, there's something wrong!
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Module CM1 Test of the Warlords, Encounter 1 "The Ruins of Alinor". When the PCs explore an underground cave system they find the remains of a royal palace and the diary of the palace's ruler, a mighty magician. The last entry in the diary says that the ruler was planning to raise a mountain range using magic. The location and condition of the palace indicate that he succeeded all too well.
- Module I12 Egg of the Phoenix
- The last entry in Endrew MacKurian's journal tells of the visit of an old friend (whose name he is unable to record because of a Geas spell) who has turned traitor. He mentions that he fears that he shall not see the morning. He disappears during the night and later turns up dead.
- During the mission to retrieve the sword Chrysomer, the PCs find the diary of a paladin who undertook the quest earlier. The last entry says that he plans to try to escape by distracting the enemies who have him trapped, and ends "Must try... hear noise. Giants coming. Hope this works..." The PCs find the diary on his body.
- Ravenloft adventure Adam's Wrath. The PCs find the diary of a team of botanists. The last entry says that they have found a new plant and are about to go on an expedition to find more. The PCs find their bodies nearby: the plant they found was a yellow musk creeper, which kills its victims and turns them into zombies.
- Dungeon magazine
- Issue #21 adventure "Jammin'". A spelljammer ship picks up a magical stone coffin floating in wildspace. When one of the crew dies, the captain has the body placed in the coffin. Shortly thereafter the coffin creates a spectre (powerful undead monster) which proceeds to drain the crew of their Life Energy. The captain's last log entry breaks off in the middle of a sentence: "We are fighting it with everything we have, but it keeps taking crew members one by one. I don't know wh..."
- Issue #49 adventure "The Dark Place". Just before he performs the fiend-summoning ritual that kills him, the villain Tyranthius writes in his journal "After so many years and so many experiments, tonight I shall at last be successful...Those other wizards shall mock me no more...How I shall enjoy their screams as they are dragged into the Abyss."
- Polyhedron magazine #78 adventure "A Fluffy Wonderland". The Player Characters find a village with all of its inhabitants frozen solid by the eruption of an ice volcano. They discover a journal that was being written in by one of the villagers when the disaster occurred. It says that the writer feared that the volcano would erupt and that he tried to warn the other villagers, but they wouldn't listen. It ends with "Uh oh!! What's that noise? Ooooops! Too late!"
- Silent Hill RPG. On the roof of Brookhaven Hospital a PC will find the diary of a patient. It ends with a statement that the patient was about to be released, and ends with a slash across the page with the pen as if the patient's arm had been grabbed while he was writing. Since everyone else in Silent Hill was killed (or worse) by monsters, it's a safe bet that the patient was too.
- Call of Cthulhu
- Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "The Warren". The PCs take almost an hour to remove enough rubble to enter one room. When they do, they find the skeleton of a man sitting at a table and a piece of paper which is an Apocalyptic Log of what happened to him - he was trapped inside the room when a disaster occurred. It ends "I am sitting now waiting for rescue. It has been eight hours."
- Mansions of Madness, adventure "The Crack'd and Crook'd Manse''. Arthur Cornthwaite was trying to stop a monster that had infested his house. He was writing a note to explain the monster's vulnerability: it ends in mid sentence when the monster used its coils to snatch him into the fireplace and eat him.
- Terror from the Stars, adventure "The Temple of the Moon". Professor Dermot's day books end with an entry saying that he plans to enter the Temple at night after the strange phenomena end. The PCs can find his body later: he was captured and sacrificed by the Cthulhu Mythos cultists who worship at the Temple.
- The Asylum and Other Tales adventure "Black Devil Mountain". A PC receives an unfinished letter that was found among the effects of his deceased brother. The last part of the letter talks about the horrible discovery the brother had made. His body was found a few days later, dismembered and with the brain and heart missing.
- Dreamlands adventure "The Land of Lost Dreams". The PCs find the diary of Neil Bruford in his room. It tells the story of how he planned to journey to the land of Xura to find his heart's desire. The last entry says that he would reach Xura in his dreams that night. The next morning his landlady found him in a coma.
- White Dwarf magazine issue #56 adventure "The Last Log". An interstellar expedition to the planet Pozalt 7 is wiped out by a Star Vampire. The mission commander Captain Spalding kept his personal log in a notebook. The last few entries say that the group has been under attack for three hours, that he assumes that the rest of the crew is dead and that he has no weapons. The final entry is an unreadable scrawl. When the Player Characters find his body, his head has been ripped off and can't be found.
- Rolemaster Shadow World supplement Star Crown Empire, adventure "Terror at Fang Rock''. A lighthouse keeper is murdered by smugglers. The last entry in his log book says that he hears noises outside (the smugglers digging a tunnel) and that he's going to investigate.
- Chivalry & Sorcery 3rd Edition adventure Stormwatch. The PCs can find the log of an old expedition that was destroyed by a disease. The last entry is a prayer to God that someone will find their bodies and properly lay them to rest.
- BattleTech magazine BattleTechnology #21 article "What Now, Mechwarrior?", scenario "King of the Hill". The diary of a Pathfinder (scout for mecha forces) ends with "I sure will be glad when this mission is over and I can get off this dustball. At least the Sarge says he doesn't expect the enemy to..." It was found after a hard-fought battle.
- The Old World of Darkness crossover game Midnight Circus. Having introduced the sordid history of the eponymous circus via Scrapbook Story, the first chapter concludes with a letter by one Professor Brusaw of the Sons of the Ether, explaining the circus's true nature to his colleague, Dr Sarpedon. However, just as Brusaw finishes explaining the Unholy Trinity, the text abruptly ends mid-sentence, replaced with a note explaining that the author was found strangled at his desk.
- Vampire: The Masquerade, Clanbook Nosferatu (1st edition). One of the many articles that crop up within the book include a treatise on the Nosferatu written by Claudius Maximus of the Tremere; over the course of his work, Claudius does his very best to insult and belittle the Nosferatu at any given opportunity, portraying them as graceless brutes only permitted to survive by the grace of the Camarilla. For good measure, he even goes so far as to dismiss the clan's near-legendary ability to sniff out information as instinctual and gathered without any real comprehension - whereupon the treatise ends mid-sentence. According to the accompanying note, Claudius was found disemboweled on his own dissecting table; to date, the assailant has not been found.
- Magic: The Gathering has the quote for the reverse side of Delver of Secrets, which shows he has transformed into an Insectile Aberration:
"Unfortunately, all my test animals have died or escaped, so I shall be the final subject. I feel no fear. This is a momentous night."
—Laboratory notes, final entry
- Gabriel Knight: Gunter's journal. It's pretty obvious he committed suicide when he writes stuff like "These final words" and "I pray [...] that my punishment in Hell will be long and bitter."
- The Secret of Monkey Island: The Captain's log found in the Sea Monkey. It ends when the two characters described in the log leave the ship to investigate the eponymous Monkey Island.
- Mass Effect 2 has a few, but prominent is Nef's journal in Samara's loyalty mission. The last entry notes that she is about to go meet Morinth.
- The entire Mass Effect series is filled with this, mostly in the form of PDAs or video diaries left behind after a battle/massacre. This increases as the series goes on.
- In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the player can find a sort of last will and testament of a character named Wilhelm, who was locked in a wine cellar with several other men and tricked into drinking poisoned wine (presumably transforming them into the monsters present in the game). The log is an attempt by Wilhelm to confess his sins as well as name the man responsible for them, and ends with an altogether chilling passage: "Blood has begun to pour from my eyes, and I can no longer—"
- A few of the audiotapes found in the BioShock games, particularly Diane celebrating New Year's alone, only for the bar to be attacked by Atlas' Splicers and Dr. Suchong documenting his evidently unsuccessful work to get the Little Sisters to bond with the Big Daddies, culminating him in smacking one of the former and getting killed by the latter.
- The game Parasite Eve 2 has an interesting twist on this. At one point, you find the journal of a researcher who was assigned to watch a mutant in a cage. She felt the mutant was looking pathetic and lonely, so she decided to let him out for a little while. The journal abruptly ends as she describes how tall the mutant now is. Then the journal switches over to another researcher, who calmly reports the death of the previous writer, which ends the journal entries.
- You run into this a couple of times in both Borderlands and Borderlands 2. There's an interesting variation in the second game; you're collecting the ECHO diaries of TK Baha, an NPC who was killed by bandits in the first game, meaning you know what's coming well before reaching the final entry.
- In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, this is used twice. The first time, it's subverted, as you find a diary in the victim's house, only for it to have never been used and be completely blank. The second time is played straight, with a minor twist: Magnifi Gramarye's diary seemingly ends with an entry that seems to imply that it may or may not have been meant to be the last, but it's the last thing written in the diary. There is a page torn out of it though, but the page you have that appears to be the missing page (which has the "real" last entry) is revealed to be a forgery. What was really written on the missing page was a document passing the rights of Magnifi's magic to his student, Zak.
- One of the most famous examples is the "Keeper's Diary" from Resident Evil, written by an unnamed employee of the Spencer Mansion as he was unknowingly succumbing to The Virus. It keeps getting creepier until it abruptly ends like this:
May 19, 1998
Fever gone but itchy. Hungry and eat doggy food. Itchy Itchy Scott came. Ugly face so killed him. Tasty.
4. Itchy. Tasty.
- In Bravely Default, you can read the entirety of D's Journal as soon as Ringabel joins the party if you like. It proceeds to paint Agnés and her journey in a very unsettling light (including the goal of summoning the Holy Pillar) and ends with a desperate declaration by "D" that he will not let his enemy win. The next page is a drawing of a huge monster, and final entry is an ominous splatter on the page.
- The Fallout series has plenty of these. Often times in the ruins of ordinary businesses or homes you'll find computer terminals with records of routine activities or peoples' thoughts, only to see that they ended shortly before the bombs fell.
- In Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Nate and Elena go through the shipping manifests of the island. Tellingly, the entry for the El Dorado statue is the last one, foreshadowing the zombie curse that annihilated the island's population.
- In Dear Devere the visual novel's letter correspondence leads to this ominous narration:
These letters were found inside a jewelled casket and a locked cupboard, within a furnished cave in Ardmore Forest.
They were discovered and collected by the Bureau of Anti-War Operations, along with several documents related to the missing persons case of Angela Bard and Cailin Calwood.
The Bureau has no official papers for a Mr Devere.
- In Slightly Damned, Darius' journal ends like this, as he goes to his certain death to distract Cerberus. The last entry is just "I love you, my children". Subverted. He is still alive, but his children believe he died.
- But that wasn't really the last entry. His journal continues with an entry written by Sakido, where she described the apparent end of Darius, then lamented her and Iratu abandoning Buwaro.
- Ted's Caving Page. After being tormented by visions and paranoia, Ted and the others decide to return to the cave, with Ted promising vehemently to solve the mystery and give the readers every detail when he gets back. This was also the final entry, making it clear that they never did.
- Jonny Quest episode "The Sea Haunt". Dr. Benton Quest is reading from an Apocalyptic Log left by a ship's captain, describing how he and his crew were threatened by a monster.
Dr. Quest: (reading) "...The men are taking to the lifeboats. In a moment I will..."
Jonny: "I will" what? What does he say?
Dr. Quest: That's it. It ends right there.
Jonny: That monster must have come in here and killed the captain while he was writing!
Dr. Quest: I hope not, but it certainly seems that way.
- Steven Universe: Subverted in "Buddy's Book"; Steven and Connie read through the eponymous journal, in which Buddy describes his voyage across the world in search of undiscovered wonders. He ultimately winds up lost in the middle of a desert for several days, where he finally succumbs to thirst and exhaustion... but survives, later completing his journal and becoming a prolific author.
"This is it, then. The end of my adventure. I've just followed a map to my own end. And this will be the last thing I ever see as I expire? An angel and her... one, two, three... several lions, here for my soul."
Connie: Is this the end?
Steven: I guess so... (turns page) Oh, wait. There's a bunch more.
- In Ken Burns' The Civil War, a journal entry read by David McCullough that was written at Cold Harbor gives the date and place, then says simply: "I died."
- Robert Falcon Scott's journal of his polar expedition (which ended with the death of all involved - in vain, as they were beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen) ends with "For God's sake look after our people".
- Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl cuts off shortly before the fugitives were discovered and captured.
- Alex Sullivan's last tweet was about how seeing The Dark Knight Rises was going to make that day the best birthday ever. That doesn't seem so ominous until you remember the mass shooting that happened shortly afterward...
- Avicii's final tweet was him thanking Billboard for nominating him in the Billboard Music Awards. Three days later he killed himself in his hotel room in Oman after years of stress and mental health issues.
- Cirque du Soleil veteran Yann Arnaud, just hours before suffering a fatal fall during his aerial straps number in VOLTA, made a final Instagram post proclaiming: "It's time to go for it".
And that was the last entry.