Calling card (crime)

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A spider is the calling card for the criminal gang in Fritz Lang's 1919 film, The Spiders

A calling card is a particular object sometimes left behind by a criminal at a scene of a crime, often as a way of taunting police or obliquely claiming responsibility. The name is derived from the cards that people used to show they had been to visit someone's house when the resident was absent. A calling card can also be used as an individual's way of telling someone they are alive after they have run away or disappeared without revealing themself or having direct contact with that person. It is often left at a bed side table while the person is asleep.

Historical examples[edit]

Examples in fiction[edit]

  • In the 1919-1920 Fritz Lang adventure film series The Spiders a spider was the calling card for the criminal organization known as 'The Spiders'.
  • In the 1963 movie The Pink Panther, the "Phantom" would leave behind a white glove with a monogrammed P on it after every successful theft.
  • In the 1990 film Home Alone, the "Wet Bandits" rob the houses of people on vacation, and leave the water running. They return as the "Sticky Bandits" in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
  • In the highly acclaimed novel, The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner, the villainous Count Kalliovski leaves a necklace of red silk set with garnets upon each of his murder victims, making it appear as though the victim's throat has been slit.
  • In the 2000 book Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, a Hassassin uses brands representing the four classical elements as calling cards in a series of ritualistic murders related to each element (e.g. fire for one victim who had been burned to death.)
  • In DC Comics, Batman's enemies often leave calling cards. In particular, his arch-enemy, The Joker, uses two types of calling cards, one is a simple joker card from a deck of playing cards, which was used in the end of the film Batman Begins, and its sequel The Dark Knight. The other is by far more sinister - Joker Venom, which causes death while laughing madly and applies a permanent, ear-to-ear, grin.
  • Another Batman villain, The Riddler, leaves behind a riddle or other puzzle, whose solution is a clue to his overall plot.
  • In the 2003 film Pokémon Heroes, Annie and Oakley leave a rose and a black card with lipstick marks at the robbery scene at the library.
  • In the 2000 novel Holes, Kate Barlow kisses the corpses of her victims, leaving a lipstick mark at every murder.
  • In the 2004 movie Saw the killer, Jigsaw, cuts a jigsaw piece out of the flesh of the victim, symbolizing the piece that the person was missing.
  • In the 2004 movie Ocean's Twelve, the "Night Fox" leaves behind an onyx fox at every robbery.
  • In a 2007 episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent a murder victim is found with the ace of hearts left on the body. It is later revealed that the killer did this as an homage to his grandfather, a 1950s-era gangster who would leave the ace at all his crime scenes.
  • In the first couple of books in The Executioner (book series), the main character, Mack Bolan, would leave behind a marksman's medal on or near his victims.
  • In the Sucker Punch video games Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus, Sly 2: Band of Thieves, and Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, the main character, Sly Cooper, always leaves behind a blue calling card in the shape of his raccoon-head logo.
  • In an episode of the anime series The Big O the assassin R.D.(short for Red Destiny) leaves the words "Cast In The Name of God, Ye Not Guilty" written in red lipstick at the scene of every murder she commits.
  • In the video game Dishonored, The main character leaves a calling card in the form of a distorted mask.
  • In the 2007 game Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All the assassin known as Shelly De Killer leaves a card with a pink seashell design when he commits a murder