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"June 28th, 1821: It is the anniversary of the night I unleashed a horror. A horror which I tonight shall remove from this world. May God forgive me."—Last entry in Sir Roderick Defoe's diary, 5 Days a Stranger
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. Almost always the person reading it will say some variation of the trope title.
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.
Unlike Apocalyptic Log, does not necessarily reveal any details of what happened, and always requires that something seriously bad happened to the writer.
- Parodied in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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...
- 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!"
- An unusual example in Jingo, where instead of a diary it's the magical equivalent of an electronic personal organiser reading off appointments:
"Things to do today today today...die..."
- 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 season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, early the only info the Scoobies have about the prophesied "ascension" is a journal entry saying "Tomorrow is the ascension, may God help us." It was the last time the town was ever heard of.
- 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…
- Dungeons and 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 indicates that he succeeded all too well.
- Module I12 Egg of the Phoenix
- The last entry in Endrew Mac Kurian'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.
- 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.
- Chzo Mythos: Both Roderick and Matthew Defoe's diaries. Also the diary in Trilby's Notes, which ends with the Arc Words it hurts.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- The Diary of a Young Girl
- 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 am dead."