Drowning Pit

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Dr. Drakken: First, you will be sealed inside a reinforced, titanium box. Next, you will be dropped into this bottomless chasm. Then, the chasm will be filled with water. Then, man-eating sharks and a giant squid will then be released into the water!
Shego: Huh? Wait -- if the chasm is "bottomless," how can you fill it with water?

Dr. Drakken: It's very, very deep, all right?!

Slightly less perilous than a Lava Pit or Shark Pool but menacing none the less, the victim is Locked in a Room that is slowly filling with water. Could be accidental—like being sealed in a room with a busted water pipe—or an insane individual with a penchant for drama could have locked them there as cheap entertainment. Either way, the Big Damn Heroes better bash the glass wall or shut off the water before it's too late.

Another variant involves the villain placing the hero inside some kind of non-buoyant container, a steel drum, vehicle, etc, and then tossing that into a large body of water. When drowned in a car, characters might take a breath of canned air from the tires to stay under water and be Left for Dead.

Compare to other death traps, and Cement Shoes.

Not to be confused with the band Drowning Pool.

Examples of Drowning Pit include:


  • The BMW short film "Hostage" is about a race to find a woman trapped in a car trunk that has been parked at water's edge before the tide rolls in.

Anime and Manga

  • Lampshaded in Flame of Recca when Fuko and Domon are dropped into a vast empty pit. Domon jokingly says that there's no way it's going to fill up with water, and that the mystery button on the wall obviously will let them out. Of course, he pushes the button and it fills up with water.
  • Pokémon: A nice inversion: when Ash is trapped in an airtight van, he uses Squirtle to flood it until the water pressure rips the doors off. How is Squirtle holding that much water? Don't ask.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX
  • Saori and Gemini Kanon from Saint Seiya were locked in pits like these. Saori was in hers by Poseidon after rejecting his We Can Rule Together offer, Kanon was locked in his' by Saga after a huge disagreement. And it was through the pit that Kanon reached for Poseidon's realm, summoned him and then became Man Behind the Man. Nice job breaking it, Saga!
  • A bounty hunter in Makai Senki Disgaea anime traps Laharl and his vassal Etna in a drowning pit. This is somewhat a variation of the point of a drowning pit, for Laharl and Etna are demons and can breathe and talk underwater. The danger was supposed to be from a sea creature in the water.
  • Done by a murderer in one episode of Detective Conan. In this case, sitting the Asshole Victim in a very deep bathtub, then leaving the facet slowly running till the water reaches a point where the victim ended up drowning due to being Bound and Gagged. And done in such a way that filling the tub will take hours. Aaaaaaaaargh!
    • Another one was used in the past. More exactly, the jealous magician Motoyasu Tsukumo killed his own disciple Yashiro Kinoshita via transforming the water tank he was performing in into one of these, then leaving Yashiro to drown in public. Everyone thught it was an unfortunate accident since the trick was already very dangerous... but Yashiro's sister Mako didn't. And 20 years later, she killed Tsukumo himself.
  • In Goku Midnight Eye, the title character turns in this situation into a Crowning Moment of Awesome when he is trapped in a hallway section that has been sealed off and is being filled with water. Using his cybernetic eye, he doesn't just open a door to either escape or drain the area, but he waits for a sufficient amount of water fills while closing and opening certain other doors on the floor while the villains in the control room wonder what he is doing. Suddenly, Goku opens one door of his section and the water is rushed out towards the control room. The villains realize to their horror that he is directing the water and in effect turning the death trap into a weapon heading right for them!
  • Lunlun from Hana no Ko Lunlun finds herself in a standard one in Germany after blowing the cover of a gang that falsifies famous paintings, and later in an airtight bank vault in Sicilia when trying to both stop a robbery and retrieve a Tragic Keepsake.
  • In episode 25 of Tantei Gakuen Q, Sakurako Yukihira finds herself tied and cleave gagged in a cardboard box with a cinderblock. The one who confined her in the box put a box on a raft, punctured a hole in it and shoved it away from land in the middle of a lake. Inside the box, water slowly fills up with Sakurako confined inside and nearly drowns.

Comic Books

  • Done to Storm of the X-Men, with the added cruelty of the victim being severely claustrophobic. This would normally have been a stroke of twisted genius, but considering it was Arcade who did it it was more likely just dumb luck.
  • Proteus tied The Creeper to the grating of a storm drain that would soon be completely filled with water.


  • The Cell: This is the modus operandi of the serial killer.
  • The Shadow: The Shadow tracks Farley Claymore down in a pressure testing tank at Mari-Tech labs, only to discover that he's thrown his lot in with Shiwan. Farley then starts filling the tank with water, shoots the Shadow, and locks him in the tank.
  • The third Saw movie had a really disgusting version of this trope involving liquified rotting pig corpses. It's also done in the fifth movie as well, a character having a locked, watertight box placed on his head that would fill with water and eventually drown him. He only escapes by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy with a ball-point pen
  • In Francis the Talking Mule, several people are chained to the walls of a dungeon that is being filled with water.
  • The Drowning Pool staring Paul Newman builds up to this. The hero tries find a way for him and a woman who is trapped in a locked room (actually a large swimming pool) to escape, by clogging the drain at the bottom, then setting off the sprinklers so they can reach the windows at the top of the room, only to discover as they rise to the ceiling, that the windows are sealed shut, and he can't get the rag out of the drain. The villains come to investigate the captives who have been locked up all night, open the door, and are basically swept away by thousands of gallons of water.
  • Resident Evil: One of the many ways in which the insane AI kills off the Umbrella employees.
  • Big Trouble in Little China. Jack Burton and Wang Chi are trapped in an elevator that starts rapidly filling up with water. They escape when the bottom of the elevator opens up.
  • Titanic
  • Davy Crockett and the River Pirates.
  • Bullshot. The hero and the Damsel in Distress have their feet sealed in giant concrete eggcups, then not only water but also a giant octopus are sent in to finish them off.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown
  • Apocalypto has a natural one in which the hero's wife and their son are trapped in a cave that is filling with rainwater.
  • Dr. No. Dr. No decides to execute Honey Rider by cuffing her to the inclined side of a pool with water pouring in from a large pipe. James Bond finds her and releases her.
  • Subverted in Delicatessen. The heroes are trapped in a bathroom which is slowly filling up with water, but they use it to wipe out the villains who are chasing them.


  • The Lemony Narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events alludes to being trapped in an Italian restaurant that is slowly filling up with water.
  • The short story "Charlie Rabbit" by Garth Nix finds two little boys in a war zone trapped in a bomb shelter with a broken water main.
  • In Vision of the Future, Luke and Mara end up in the secret cavern beneath the fortress called the Hand of Thrawn. There's an underground lake a mere wall away. While the two of them stare at the cavern's secret, floating asleep or not yet alive in a Spaarti cylinder, the cavern's droid defenders open fire. It quickly becomes obvious that the only way out of this is to nick the wall separating the cavern from the underground lake, which they do, but the water comes in at such a high pressure that the way they came in from gets blocked, and the air gets harder to breathe as the water takes up more and more space. Luke asks Mara to marry him.
  • In Kingdom Keepers, Maleficent enchants the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride in an attempt to drown Willia and Charlene.
  • In Seven Deadly Wonders, there was a Booby Trap version of this involving a cage. Turns out, you have to go into the cage to get past the trap.
  • In Bridge of Birds one of the Emperor's deathtraps is a complex maze filled with water by the rising tide. It's your choice whether you're dashed to pieces against the rock walls or drowned; it's all in how you stand.
  • In The Culture novel Consider Phlebas, Horza starts out in one of these, except it's connected to the building's toilet system and thus slowly filling with substances rather less pleasant than water (the locals being really unhappy with him). Being the novel's protagonist, he's rescued just before he drowns.
  • In one of the later books in the Darren Shane Saga, Darren is called to do a series of tests for the leaders of the vampire world. One of these challenges is to find his way out of a maze that is slowly filling with water. While he has a boulder tied to him.
  • Erik turns his Death Trap for Raoul and the Persian into this in the climax of The Phantom of the Opera. Christine saves them by taking his Scarpia Ultimatum.
  • Fablehaven: One of the obstacles in the Dreamstone is a room that fills with water. After the gate to the next room is unlocked, then the water rapidly recedes. Here's the catch: as the water goes down, it freezes—if you're not in a boat, you get trapped as a Human Popsicle.

Live Action TV

  • Cold Case had a flashback of a serial killer's childhood. He passed by a well a woman had fallen into, and instead of getting help, he watched happily as she got tired and drowned.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger The Villain buries a bus full of kids as part of a ransom plot, but a freak storm causes it to start filling with mud.
  • Due South: In the second-season episode "Vault", Ray and Fraser are locked in a bank vault which is slowly filling with water from its broken sprinkler system. In a twist, Fraser broke the sprinkler—he knows the bank robbers are drilling through the door, and he figures the water will distract them once they manage to get into the vault. Of course, that means they have to worry about drowning if the robbers don't break in fast enough...
  • Get Smart
    • Smart and another person find themselves trapped in such a situation, but escape when Smart actually finds the room's plug (which is literally a regular size bathtub plug) and manages to drain the room.
    • He and Agent 99 find themselves in a flooding phone booth deathtrap—as they're posing as a married couple, 99 uses her diamond ring to cut the glass open. The booth ended up recycled in a later episode in the underground lair of Dr. Yes, Smart in it again.
  • Ace finds herself in such a predicament during the cliffhanger ending of one episode in the Doctor Who serial Battlefield.
  • Happened on Perfect Strangers in the basement of the apartment building. The danger in this case was not drowning, but the water getting deep enough to hit the fuse box and electrocute everyone.
  • In Alias, Vaughn is trapped in a room rapidly filling with water that occured as a side effect of something Sydney did earlier in the episode. He eventually escapes by swimming to the ceiling of the room and unscrewing a hatch in the ceiling with a screwdriver he just happened to have. This same trope is then subverted with the same miniplot as it turns out that though Vaughn didn't drown, he did get poisoned by the nuclear quality of the water.
  • Charlie on Lost is killed this way in season three. As are Sun and Jin in season six.
  • In Charmed, there's a Warlock who kills people by making them face their worst fear. Since Prue is terrified of drowning, she gets locked into her shower with the water level rising.
  • Bones: One of many perils that the Gravedigger inflicts on Booth.
  • One of the characters on K-Ville was an ex-con who had this happen to him in his cell during Hurricane Katrina.
  • Virtually every Submarine movie ever. Well, except for Yellow Submarine.
  • An episode of Jonathan Creek features a bathtub that tips downward, dropping its unfortunate occupants into a water tank beneath before tipping back up to seal off their escape.
  • Underbelly has a storyline where a criminal lawyer is placed on trial, then loses his job despite being acquitted. His entire world crumbles, falling out with George Freeman and Bob Trimbole, his wife leaves him, and he sees no choice but to go to the police involved in the corruption for help, knowing they will probably kill him. His wife won't even let him talk to his kids when he is awaiting his fate, he's taken out on a rented boat, then the officers reveal a stove, beat him despite his pleas to be shot instead, tied to the stove, then thrown overboard, the police laughing all the while especially at him praying for forgiveness.
  • In one episode of The X-Files, Mulder and the Victim of the Week are trapped in bathroom that is swiftly filled up with water.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Death Defying Feats", Phryne is performing the 'The Miraculous Mermaid": a version of Houdini's water trap escape. The killer sabotages the act leaving Phryne trapped in a glass tank filled with water.

Video Games

  • One of the treasures in Wario Land: The Shake Dimension says this (a message in a bottle) about a bottle factory filling up with water.
  • Yoshi's Island DS does this with lava.
  • Marathon: This is used sometimes. Water is used to make you lose air, usually this trap will be in a level where oxygen is limited. When it's not, and sometimes when it is, you get lava. Oh, and you run out of air in lava, too. Can't breath lava.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong's Quest has this trope in the final but not very final area of the game, just before the final but not really final boss, in a level called "Toxic Tower", in which the Kongs get transformed into a bouncy snake in order to bounce away from the ever rising toxic waste going all the way up till the finish. Nice.
  • Trauma Center: New Blood has the surgeons trapped in this. The way to escape? Solve a toy lock. Seriously.
  • In the flash game, Fancy Pants, you find an orb that grants you a wall clinging power-up... if you can make it to the top of a pit before rising black goop does.
  • The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker does it after Link eventually rescues Aryll.
  • Onimusha has at least one example of this kind of trap. In a Sengoku-era castle, about 400 years prior to indoor plumbing. On the third floor. Don't think about it too hard.
  • Uninvited: One of the bathrooms contains a surprisingly deadly sink. Namely, it won't turn off once you turn it on, and won't drain, eventually causing the room to fill up with water. This turns out to be the only way to get to the final room in the game. The door is on the ceiling, and you need to swim up there to open it.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Behind the Dwarven Atom Smasher, a Drowning Pit is probably the second most common trap players start designing. Can be combined with Lava Pit for further obsidian-producing lulz. The advantage of drowning your enemies is intact loot; the disadvantage is that drainage can be tricky, as water flow often pushes objects or creatures into the grates (or equivalents), and then through. It is also possible, by capturing and relocating dangerous aquatic creatures, to turn a Drowning Pit into a Shark Pool, possibly with Lethal Legendary Carp if the player so desires. However, actually getting that done is a challenge in its own while not substantially increasing the lethality of the trap, making it something of a Difficult But Awesome Yet Impractical option. Drowning does not work against amphibious critters, but those are susceptible to normal traps, except were-creatures and procedurally generated ones, who require more tailored approach anyway.
  • Heavy Rain: Favored method of the Origami Killer, who leaves his victims to drown in rainwater (hence the title). It connects to something in his past.
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force combines this with the Lava Pit in the form of a room trap early in the game. As you try to cross the room, a fuse shorts out, blows open a tank of biowaste then proceeds to disintegrate the floor bit-by-bit. After you climb up to the catwalk, you notice G-Man staring at you from the control room... the electrified waste is still rising... it's almost to your feet... then he opens the nearby maintenance door at the last second. The base game also had a loooong swim with great ease of getting lost and running out of air. With leeches (underwater Goddamned Bats) everywhere.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Labyrinth Zone Act 3 boss.
  • Tomb Raider: Legend: Happens during a flashback.
  • Leisure Suit Larry: Don't flush the toilet, or it will flood the room and drown you.
  • Final Fight 2's continue screen depicts your bound character trapped in one of these.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors begins in a early 20th Century 3rd class cabin. The window is ruptured and water floods in. You have to find a way to escape.
  • You have to invoke this in the old computer game The Crimson Crown. After the Vampyr has you and your companion Sabrina thrown into a pit to rot, you whistle to summon an owl you had befriended earlier, who leaves a tree branch and a beehive with you. Inside of the pit with you is a constantly draining water source; you use the beehive to plug the hole, causing the pit to fill up with water, and then hold onto the tree branch to eventually climb your way to the top of the pit and escape.
  • Hector: Badge of Carnage episode 3 starts with Hector and Lambert trapped in a septic tank that is rapidly filling up with sewage. Hector can stop the sewage and drain the tank as long as he is running on a threadmill. Being Hector he considers drowning in sewage the lesser evil.

Western Animation

  • Kim Possible as noted above. Almost crossing over into There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers: Disney's direct-to-video animated film has a variant in which the room, a dungeon in Mont-Saint-Michel, is naturally filled with water by the rising tide.
  • Doubly subverted in the Tarzan animated series when a group of humans and apes are trapped in an uncovered pit. Jane's father comments that they can simply float up to the top. Jane corrects him by saying it would work for the humans, but the apes are not buoyant and would still drown.
  • The Simpsons: This happens to Bart and Groundskeeper Willie, and it's made even worse by the fact that there are fans (or something with spinning blades) overhead that could chop them up.
    • Parodied in "Simpson Tide".

Barney: "It's filling up with a clear, non-alcoholic liquid!"
Homer: "You mean water?"
Barney: "Yeah, that's the stuff."

  • Family Guy: The Griffins lock themselves in a panic room then accidentally fire off a flare. Which activates the sprinklers and slowing fills the room with water.
  • The Rescuers: Madam Medusa forces Penny into an underground cavern, which fills with water as the tide comes in. Apparently Madam Medusa couldn't be bothered to figure out when low tide is, or figures it'll act as a motivator or something.
  • One episode of Code Lyoko had Ulrich ( with a broken/very badly hurt arm) and Sissi sealed in an elevator filling with water, thanks to XANA. Luckily, the others are able to win the day and hit the reset button just as the two fall unconscious.
    • And then used again when XANA traps Odd in a more typical drowning pit- with a grate on top- so that a fake ODD can get to lyoko and kill the others. Yumi is able to save him at the last second.

Real Life

  • The Money Pit of Oak Island. Regardless of whether there is actually treasure in it somewhere, someone spent a whole lot of time several centuries ago to make it a Death Trap.