The premise behind Death Note, the popular anime and manga franchise that’s on its way to Netflix in a new American film adaptation, is simple and seductive: high school student named Light stumbles upon a cursed notebook from the demon world that gives him the power to kill anybody. All he has to do is write their name down in that notebook.
In the series, Light uses the Death Note to exact justice on criminals. But in real life, people around the world, most often young kids in school, have “used” their own Death Notes to write the names of fellow classmates and teachers, fantasizing that it will bring them death. It helps that re-creations of the notebooks are very easy to obtain, be it through Amazon or at anime conventions.
Here are ten places that have seen children, teens, and in a very scary case in Belgium, actual killers, dramatically try to replicate Light’s dark alter ego, Kira, and his dark power.
1) Nashua, New Hampshire
In 2015, “appropriate action” was taken when authorities discovered a 15-year-old girl’s Death Note, complete with the names of 17 of her classmates, as well as the specific dates and circumstances of their deaths. Naturally, the students were shaken, though the authorities acted rationally here.
“We did not find any evidence that the student had intended to harm students or that there were any plans beyond simply placing the students’ names on the list,” Superintendent Mark Conrad told a local news outlet.
Still, paranoia sweeped the school during the incident. One of the parents to a “victim” told local news station WMUR9: “I pray with every ounce of my being that it’s never something that would turn into a tragedy … But how do you know it wouldn’t? How do you know this isn’t the beginning of a tragic situation?”
2) Collierville, Tennessee
In 2014, in Sycamore Elementary in Tennessee, a “hit list” belonging to a student was discovered by a fellow classmate. At the time, the owner had just finished serving their third suspension. Although it wasn’t a full-fledged notebook, it did have “Death Note” written at the top. Also, come on, this was an elementary school.
“My daughter’s name was on the note and she is absolutely frightened and I don’t blame her. I’m frightened for her,” a parent told a local news outlet.
3) Richmond, Virginia
Way back in 2007, a high school senior at Franklin Military Academy was suspended when he was spotted “reading a list of his classmates’s names” in his own personal Death Note. Of minor interest is the fact that the student referred them to a fan-site that replicated writing in the Death Note. That it was based off a popular anime franchise was, understandably, the least of their concerns.
4) Hebron, Ohio
In 2016, a student at Lakewood Middle School was questioned and suspended for owning a replica Death Note, which she used to do some accounting for a fundraiser. After she lost it at school, it was found and read, and whoever found it brought it to school officials. Eventually, though, officials agreed that a threat was “not intended.”
Amusingly, the NBC affiliate that reported on the incident calls Death Note “a Cartoon Network show,” which is a heinous offense to anime fans.
5) Birmingham, Alabama
In 2008, two sixth-grade boys were actually arrested when their shared Death Note, which contained names of school faculty and classmates, was found and deemed by authorities to be “terrorist threats.” The boys cited the anime Death Note as inspiration for the “joke.”
In a statement, Sheriff Todd Entrekin said: “No matter what age the students are, in light of what has happened recently in Georgia and other incidents around the country, we consider all threats to be a very serious matter.” Entrekin then added that it was important parents monitored what their kids watch on TV.
6) Griswold, Connecticut
Just days before Griswold Middle School closed its doors for the summer, in 2015, a Death Note belonging to a seventh grader with “individual names” written was found, prompting a State Police investigation.
“It is pretty frightening. You never know what goes on in a kid’s mind, at that point,” said a parent. “When people hear something like that they wonder why or maybe something is going on at home.”
The student did not attend school for the rest of the year.
7) Florence, Arizona
A middle school student carrying both the first two volumes of the manga as well as their own Death Note was caught in 2014. The ABC affiliate acknowledges that the student had “no way” of carrying out the deaths, but it was still “disturbing.” Unfortunately, the student appeared to be in distress; he once threatened his own suicide in a text message to classmates. In the report, charges were “unlikely” to be filed, as it was deemed “help was needed most.”
8) Louisville, Kentucky
In January 2015, a middle school in Kentucky had a Death Note scare when a parent found a note with the name of their son and some of his fellow students, as well as one faculty member. Superintended James Neihof took “immediate action.”
Like the other incidents on this list, it was a serious issue, but fans may chuckle at Neihof’s analysis of what Death Note is, which he told WLKY 32: “We found out its the style from what is … Japanese graphic novel turned into a YouTube sort of phenomenon called a ‘Death Note.’” Points for trying, I guess.
9) Yekaterinburg, Russia
In a very tragic case from 2013, a Russian teenager committed suicide when she leapt off her apartment building from the 13th floor. What linked the teenager’s parents to Death Note was that her suicide note, which read “I don’t want to live anymore,” was left on top of her volumes of Russian-translated Death Note mangas.
After the incident, parents tried to get a national ban on Death Note, even pleading to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. No ban was ever placed.
10) Forest, Brussels, Belgium
While previous entries in this list mostly involved panic over what could happen, in 2007, Belgian police had real reason to act when an incident dubbed the “Manga Murder” went down.
A dismembered corpse was found in a park by two pedestrians. Near the corpse was a note that roughly translated to “I am Kira,” a very clear reference to Light’s alter ego in Death Note. The case went unsolved until 2010, when Belgian police arrested four men suspected of the crime. Two of them eventually confessed, and are now serving a 20-year sentence.
But why the reference to Kira? In short, the suspects simply said they were fans.
Death Note will premiere on Netflix on August 25.