Phone Call From the Dead
And top psychics all agreeThat lets you talk to the dead!
That the telephone company
Will have a brand new service
—"Weird Al" Yankovic, "Midnight Star"
A character gets a message from someone in the form of a letter, phone call, what have you, usually a loved one such as a spouse or a child. Except that the person in question is dead and likely has been for quite some time. This isn't a Dead Man Writing, in which someone writes a message in anticipation of or just before their death, because the person in question is already known to be dead when they leave the message. Often the character who gets it will take it to mean that the dead person is somehow still alive, or is trying to contact them from beyond the grave.
The person who receives the message will often not recognize it for the very bad thing it is, because these types of things usually do not end well, and are a staple of the Horror genre.
- Shigofumi is all about letters sent by the dead to the living.
- In the first episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Lain and her classmates receive an email from a girl who committed suicide in the first few moments of the episode, assuring them that she wasn't really dead but had instead moved into the Wired, the show's strange version of the Internet.
- Funky Winkerbean. Les Moore's deceased wife Lisa calls him in the airport to warn him not to take a flight that's destined to crash. He takes the flight anyway, but she saves him by arranging for the plane's mechanical problem to be discovered.
- In The Mothman Prophecies, the main character gets a phone call from what appears to be his wife.
- The movie White Noise is about a man who receives messages from his dead wife through the static on television sets and radios. It's implied that it wasn't his wife but a more sinister ghostly entity.
- The plot of Frequency involves the main character being able to communicate through time with his long-dead father, albiet through a ham radio rather than a telephone.
- In Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency a guy makes a car phone call and starts talking into the answering machine, then gets killed. Just later his ghost tries to communicate by talking through the phone, which is recorded on the answering machine as well.
- October Daye gets her Call to Adventure in Rosemary and Rue by receiving a phone call from the murder victim, who happens to be a fae, and who geases Toby into solving the case.
- Amber: Oberon sends a (prerecorded) magical message to his offspring after he dies trying to repair the Pattern.
- In a Myth Arc episode of the The X-Files, Scully gets a phone call from her dead sister. This ends up leading her to a girl who is her biological daughter, created using the ovum extracted from her body.
- The Twilight Zone:
- In "Night Call" an invalid starts receiving mysterious phone calls. The calls are eventually traced to a cemetery, where a fallen phone line is in contact with the grave of her deceased husband.
- "Long Distance Call" has a grandmother calling from beyond the grave and urging her beloved grandchild toward acts of suicide so they can be together again.
- In the Supernatural episode "Long Distance Call" several people, including Dean, seem to get this kind of call from deceased loved ones.
- As seen in the page quote, the trope was invoked in "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Midnight Star". And he got it from a real story in the National Enquirer -- see Real Life, below.
- Silent Hill 2 begins with one of these from the protagonist's dead wife, although it turns out to be a Dead Man Writing, he just thought it was this because he had repressed the memory of her death.
- Trauma Team has Naomi Kimishima, the forensic investigator. When she gets in contact with a deceased's body (or its remains) she can perceive their final words through a call to her cellphone. It isn't made clear if this is either a power of hers or of the cellphone.
- The page quote references an actual story which appeared in the National Enquirer in the middle 1980s. Sadly, technical issues apparently prevented the final roll-out of this service, to the disappointment of both millions of customers (on both sides of the Veil of Death) and AT&T's billing department.
- Automatic writing is the alleged psychic ability to allow the spirit of a dead person to take over one's hand/arm to write a letter to the living.