Tailor-Made Prison

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
(Redirected from Oubliette)
"You know this plastic prison can't hold me forever, Charles."

...she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison'd thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years...

—Prospero, The Tempest

There are villains whose foulness, potential for destruction, and amorality are such that they represent a threat to society, or even existence.

Good thing the heroes put them in the slammer!

Heroes and some societies feel morally obliged not to kill even those who have done unspeakable crimes. Or perhaps they simply don't have the magic mojo to do a full-on exorcism (this is when prophecies of "Only He can slay The Dark-Eyed One" can be really inconvenient). So they construct a tailor-made Prison, to contain and imprison this captured foe. This prison is a personal Alcatraz made with special precautions to stop this one person from escaping. If he has a super power, then it likely incorporates either a Power Nullifier or mechanisms that are power-proof.

Of course, he'll break out.

To be fair to the prison's designer, the villain imprisoned usually truly can't escape on his own. He gets some help from either the Unwitting Pawn or an ill-advised upstart villain exploiting the prison's Fantastic Fragility. The purpose of the Tailor-Made Prison in a story is usually one to give a villain street cred: he must be really bad to merit it. Also, a previous Big Bad can be considered to be Commuting on a Bus when in the prison. He's being kept around with a plausible reason for him to be cooling his heels instead of raising hell and can be sprung out when dramatically convenient. Considering that any villain who merits such attention very likely has Joker Immunity in a world of Cardboard Prisons, the builders of the place may just be Genre Savvy enough to realize that this option will give them at least a few months of peace.

There are generally skeletons -- Backstory Red Shirts -- hanging about to indicate that actually, this is not a normally escapable place.

Sometimes this is the purpose of the Phantom Zone. Contrast Unwilling Suspension for a heroic counterpart. Compare Sealed Evil in a Can for those immortal villains who can't be held by a mere custom-designed prison. Compare also Shipped in Shackles, which is the mobile version of this trope. For added psychological trauma, may be paired with The Aloner. Sometimes combined with Gilded Cage. See also Crystal Prison for a common cage.

Cardboard Prisons occur when this happens way too often and way too easily.

Not to be confused with Real Life oubliettes, which work completely differently, by dumping prisoners in a pit too deep to climb out of and leaving them there. Maybe they get fed, maybe they don't. Probably they die there. Many chambers described as dungeons or oubliettes were in fact storerooms, water-cisterns or even latrines. In the Middle Ages, imprisonment was mainly reserved for those too politically important to execute or have murdered, and such a prisoner was of great value (a duke or a king) for ransom purposes, so there was an incentive to keep the prisoner alive and moderately healthy.

Examples of Tailor-Made Prison include:

Anime and Manga

  • In One Piece it seems to be standard practice to create prisons made entirely out of seastone, which is not only indestructible but also serves as the local Kryptonite Factor for Devil Fruit users.
    • Impel Down serves as an Alcatraz and an Oubliette-the World Government puts some criminals down in Level Six, and everyone is supposed to forget that they ever existed. In fact, most people don't even know that Level Six of Impel Down even exists, thinking that it stops at Level 5.
  • The Kishin Asura in Soul Eater was trapped in a bag made out of his own skin. Even then, Shinigami-sama has to use most of his power to keep him trapped, which binds him to Death City
  • Lab 5 in Fullmetal Alchemist combines this with a sort of "Area 51" kind of place. It is guarded by living suits of armor containing the souls of serial killers believed by the public to have been executed, as well as fierce chimeras. One prisoner in all versions is the Mad Bomber Zolf Kimblee who has his hands in "minature stocks" which prevent him from using his powers. In the first anime, the homonculus Greed was imprisoned there for about two centuries until a fortuitous explosion frees him. At this point, the lab takes on Cardboard Prison qualities, as he proceeds to free the other prisoners. It was custom-designed to hold alchemists, not Homunculi, after all.
  • In Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 Lelouch attempts to imprison his now immortal father, Emperor Charles to the World of C along with himself, combining this trope with the Phantom Zone. However, he only destroyed the devices that allow normal people in or out - Code holders like C.C. can still find a way in.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, the defeated and captured members of Yami (organization of villainous martial arts masters) are sent into one of the series of so-called "Big Locks" - massively built prisons designed specifically to keep the Yami members inside for good.
  • Elfen Lied had the Diclonii in underground research facilities, for lack of a better term, trapped in meters thick full body casings much like Iron Maidens, being fed through IV tubes, with a perimeter marking that no one was allowed in lest their hands get to them. The only reason that any of them got out is because either a) someone stupidly dropped a PEN inside of the circle or b) they were let out to take care of the Diclonius released in a)
  • In Gankutsuou, this is where Edmond Dantes and the title character first meet.
  • The very first Tenchi Muyo! movie featured Kain, an amorphous evil entity which broke out of his subspace prison at Galactic Police Headquarters and then escaped into the past to try and kill Tenchi's mother.
    • The initial plan to stop him was to put him into another Tailor-Made Prison (an alternate dimension), but when he grabbed Tenchi's parents along the way they had to go inside and finish the job with a galaxy-destroying cannon.
  • In Bleach, Mayuri Kurotsuchi's backstory involved him being locked up in solitary confinement for being a potential threat to Soul Society. That is, until then-Captain Kisuke Urahara decided that he'd make a good Psycho for Hire research assistant...
    • The Man Behind the Man in the Muramasa Filler Arc was imprisoned in one of these, which for some contrived reason is located inside of Karakura for no real adequately explained reason other than to give the villain the ability to threaten Ichigo's friends And Your Little Dog, Too when released. The arc's Filler Villain releases him in the arc's climax, only for both to end up the way all Filler Villains do.
    • Aizen eventually ends up in a Tailor-Made Prison with a twenty-thousand year sentence—we never get to see the actual cell, but it's unlikely he would be imprisoned in a normal cell. It's justified by his jailers wanting to kill him, but having no means to do so.
  • Mag Mel from Bakugan got this treatment, both because he's a very powerful villain and because he is the former Big Bad, the power hungry Complete Monster Emperor Barodius, who in his quest for more power than he already had attempted to perform genocide on the peaceful planet of Neathia. Code Eve imprisoned him in armor created from his own evil, sealed him in another dimension, and bound him to his own throne with magical webbing. Yeah, this guy was so evil he got an entire dimension turned into a prison and then had more levels of imprisonment put in place just for him. He eventually breaks free by absorbing energy from his Psychic Link with The Hero, which Code Eve didn't know about when she put him in there.
  • In Berserk, the Black Dog Knights, an army made of the worst criminals of Midland, where banished and imprisoned in the outskirts of the country due to the atrocious war crimes they committed during battle. They never escaped; rather the King of Midland released them in order for them to kill Griffith, who was rescued by the Band of the Hawk after the king had him imprisoned and tortured for a year.
  • Pokémon; While not truly a "prison", PokeBalls could be considered an Inversion of this Trope, because once a PokeBall captures a Pokémon, the ball becomes attuned to that Pokémon, meaning its trainer cannot "transfer" it to another PokeBall. This hilariously becomes an issue in one episode, where Snorlax's PokeBall is broken, meaning Ash and his friends have to find a way to bring Snorlax - a Pokémon who weighs over a thousand pounds and is always falling asleep - to the Pokémon Center without using its PokeBall!

Comic Books

  • The Phantom Zone in the Superman comics.
  • Almost every comic book has some sort of "super villain" prison where they set up specific cells to confine the villain depending on his abilities. The Sinister Six from various Spider-Man incarnations are usually confined in this way.
    • An especially good example is 42, a prison in the Negative Zone built by the pro-reg side during Marvel Civil War. Not only is it nearly impossible for the villains inside to escape, but even if they do, they're still in the Negative Zone with no easy way home.
    • Also of note is the way Superboy-Prime has been confined over the years. When The Flashes drew him into the Speed Force, he was kept in a place with only red sunlight until he was able to build a set of armor that converted it into yellow sunlight. When Infinite Crisis ended, the Guardians Of The Universe locked him in a special Sciencell inside a red Sun Eater, which was itself guarded at all times by fifty Green Lanterns. Then after he was rescued by the Sinestro Corp and landed in the future, he was sent back to Earth Prime. This was maybe the most hellish prison of all, since he got what he wanted and was sent home, only to find his parents knew everything he'd done and he was hated and unloved by everyone, unable to get back to the comic book world.
  • Despite being an infamous Cardboard Prison, Arkham Asylum is actually partially built on being a tailor made prison for the psychos of Gotham. For example, the crazed serial killer Zsasz is permanently restrained due to his Ax Crazy psyche. Poison Ivy is kept in a glass prison with no space for her to control plants to break herself out, and Mr. Freeze is given a modified meat locker for his cold body. Not that any of these ever stop the more unpredictable criminals like The Joker from breaking out at will more easily than the power specific villains.
  • During the Fall of the Mutants storyline, the X-Men were fighting a Cosmic Horror known as the Adversary, and the only way to defeat him was to sacrifice their lives and souls to seal away into the form of two stone tablets. Needless to say, even Roma sees this as only a temporary set-back for the villain and once the smoke clears, resurrects the X-Men so that they can get on with their lives while Adversary takes his time out.
  • In the Crimson Dawn arc of the X-Men comics, Psylocke is forced to concentrate all her telepathic power on the Shadow King (an extremely powerful and malevolent psychic entity which feeds on the hatred of humanity) in order to keep him permanently trapped in the Astral Plane.
  • Star Wars recently had a multiple-series comic arc called Vector, focusing around a Jedi named Celeste Morne who lived 4,000 years before the films. The arc ends 130 years after the films. Morne survives the first nearly-4,000 years thanks to the Tailor-Made Prison of Lord Dreypa, which works as basically an indestructible Bag-of-Holding version of this trope. How does she get out? She's released 18 years before the original trilogy. Who's the idiot who releases her? Darth Vader. Another one figures in the Knights of the Old Republic comic series (where Vector begins), but this time it's used only as suspended animation to hold an old woman for a month or so to keep her from dying. It also keeps her from stopping the Big Bad from ripping a nice schism in the Jedi Order, in a Xanatos Gambit planned out by said Big Bad. She gets released eventually and dies within thirty minutes.
  • Reed Richards once tried to end the threat of Doctor Doom for good by trapping both of them in a Tailor-Made Prison, this being the only way he could be sure Doom would never escape. The team discovered Reed's sacrificial plan in time to rescue him, but of course, Doom got out too.
  • Invincible featured the Superman-esque villain Conquest beaten into a coma, then sealed in a 400-ton block of solid steel kept in an unmanned facility seven miles below ground, with motion sensors designed to collapse the entire compound if he so much as twitched. He escaped in a single page.
  • In Captain America (comics), Bullseye, who can throw anything with deadly accuracy, (literally) was kept in a straitjacket in a cell with no furniture. He was fed a nutritional paste that was piped in a bowl that was set in the floor. He eventually escaped by slamming his head into a wall until he broke off a tooth and then feigned unconsciousness, using the tooth fragment to kill the guard who came to check on him.
  • When Captain America was captured by a Skrull who intended to impersonate him, he was held in what were described as Skrull handcuffs; an amorphous bondage device designed to neutralize the shapeshifting powers of the Skrull.
  • Empowered keeps a Cosmic Horror she defeated in an early story imprisoned in a power-draining alien bondage belt on her coffee table, where he narrates, chews the scenery and tries to manipulate Emp and her friends into embarrassing sexual situations.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the only way to imprison The Absorbing Man, a supervillain whose body becomes any form of matter he touched, at one time was to put him in a cardboard box and put it in a prison cell since he would otherwise becomes the materials of the cell like stone and steel and smash his way out. Unfortunately, there was eventually a water leak that dripped on the box, allowing to change into water, move to the cell floor, change into stone and break out.
  • One of the Justice League's recurring rogues is The Key, who in recent years can count among his powers the ability to open any door or lock. He's escaped everything from interdimensional prisons to being imprisoned within an infinitely-branching mental prison created by the Martian Manhunter. At one point, he decided to try and trick Batman into killing him so he could impress the hero by escaping from death itself. Ultimately, Batman neutralized him by claiming that the only thing that would impress him is a prison the Key couldn't escape from, prompting the villain to voluntarily enter Arkham Asylum and instructed everyone on exactly how to imprison him for good, one step at a time.
  • The Authority has a prison located in a distant prehistoric era, before mankind ever evolved.
  • If you want to make real sure a Transformer isn't going anywhere for a while, you take his spark out of his body and put it it in a box. Standard feature of a TF prison in the comics; rare in shows but has happened once or twice.
  • Icognito: The Black Death is an extremely powerful supervillain who is kept in a specially made cell that uses up massive amounts of energy and acts as a Power Nullifier.

Fan Works


  • In Judge Dredd, Rico was held on an island surrounded by a bottomless pit. On the walls surrounding the pit were guards with guns and Sentry Guns trained on the prisoner. It tries to keep the prisoner in by offering nothing in the way of tools or weapons, and possibly even binding him with chains on top of that. He got out when a Well-Intentioned Extremist judge sent him a gun to take the warden hostage with.
    • He was originally supposed to have been executed, but the same judge decided to keep him around, just in case.
  • Kung Fu Panda - Tai Lung's prison mirrored that of Rico's. Chor Ghom was built specifically to hold him and no other prisoners. Built into a mountain, it consisted of multiple levels with the bottom level holding the evil snow leopard with some sort of acupuncture needles paralyzing him and his front paws held by ropes tied to massive boulders hanging over the chasm. The upper layers included pulley elevators, ballistae, dynamite tied to huge stalactites, and 1000 rhino guards (several hundred of them archers). He got out by using a fallen feather to pick the lock on his restraints - a feather from a duck sent there specifically to make sure that Tai Lung didn't escape. He then uses everything that was used to imprison him to pull off an elaborate escape.
    • In the TV series Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness episode 'Owl Be Back', there are two; an owl-shaped cage for Fenghuang, and a panda shaped one for Po when it's feared he's turning evil. It also lampshades the above example by stating Po "obliterating" Tai Lung put the guards out of work, and one in particular really holds a grudge toward Po about it.
  • Magneto in the X-Men movies is locked in a cell made entirely of plastic. He got out thanks to Mystique giving one of his guards an "iron supplement," actually at least half a pound of the stuff, in liquid form. In real life, this would have given him iron poisoning, but he didn't survive long enough to find that out.
    • In X3, Magneto attacks a mobile prison convoy that contains several dangerous mutants. Juggernaut is manacled to the wall 24 hours a day so he cannot build up any momentum.
  • Used by the villain in the film First Knight. As described above, Maligant lowers a bridge, marches Guinevere over to a ledge, then raises the bridge, trapping her within "walls of air."
  • In the movie Runaway Train, Alaska's Maximum Security Prison has had only four escapes in its history, three of them by the protagonist of the movie. So the deputy warden has had him chained to the walls in a welded cell, at least until a judge decides this represents Cruel and Unusual Punishment and he's to be put back into the general population.
  • The Big Bad in The Mummy Trilogy gets shut into one of these after being mummified alive. Rather than being because the imprisoners believed Thou Shalt Not Kill, it was because they felt that death was too good for him.
    • Princess Ahmanet is dealt a similar fate in the backstory of the 2017 remake, the "tomb" where she is interred ("sentenced to eternal darkness", the narrator relates) being designed as her prison. Again, the jailers felt death would be too lenient. They made sure to inscribe a warning on the walls of the tomb, explaining its purpose to anyone who entered, but when someone finally did, it took too long for them to translate it...
  • The planned punishment for Louis in Interview with the Vampire is "Eternity in a box" (which, combined with the vampire fact, adds a healthy dose of And I Must Scream). He's released by the sympathetic vampire Armand in a few hours, but too late to prevent Claudia's death.
  • In Labyrinth, upon solving a Knights and Knaves style riddle, Sarah falls into a pit of hands, leading to an Oubliette.
  • In The Avengers, we are introduced to a SHIELD prison designed to hold, and if needed, kill the Hulk. The audience never gets to see if it lived up to its designs but both Loki and Thor ended up escaping it.
  • In Suicide Squad Harley Quinn's cell is a cage within a larger cage, the obvious intent to limit her reach and protect anyone outside of it; this film models Harley after the far-more insane version in the New 52.


  • Isaac Asimov published books that were a collection of short stories. One involved an alien species trying to deal with an alien murderer and considered the constrictive prison to be inhumane. They created a much larger building for that alien to reside in, with food deliveries through a Pneumatic Tube system, and no way out other than a fatal 50 foot drop. The prisoner opened its wings and flew away.
  • In Suldrun's Garden (the first book of the Lyonesse trilogy) by Jack Vance, Aillas is lowered into an oubliette ("a bell-shaped cell fourteen feet in diameter and seventy feet underground") for impregnating King Casmir's daughter, and left to die. Aillas finds a dozen skeletons sitting around the oubliette, with a note scrawled on the wall welcoming him to their "council." Just before he figures a way out, he starts to hear them talking to him. Taking months, he constructs a ladder from their bones, and escapes.
  • In The Silmarillion, where Melkor was imprisoned in a completely inescapable prison. If only those morons didn't release him for good behavior. All Sauron's lairs worked this way too. Thorin's father was imprisoned for so long he could no longer remember his own name.
  • Meg Murray's father's prison in A Wrinkle in Time.
  • Somewhat subverted in Animorphs. Visser Three (by then, promoted to Visser One) is tried and imprisoned in a special "Yeerk box," built by the Andalites that lets him hear and speak, and then he's shipped off to a special max-security prison until he dies. The subversion comes from the fact that he's a sentient slug that can barely move under its own power and is deaf and blind. The reason he's imprisoned now is that he led the Yeerks trying to take over the human race.
    • Also, David. He was trapped in rat form (by being kept in a space too small for him to resume human form, thus unable to change back before Mode Lock set in) and kept on a rocky island with not much life on it for being, well... a Jerkass to the Animorphs. (A jerkass both willing and able to destroy them and any hope for the world with a few words to the Yeerks. Or even just by screwing up. And had betrayed them and repeatedly tried to kill them.) Books later, Crayak and the Drode give him a chance at revenge at Rachel, but when Rachel ignores Crayak's offers for super strength, Crayak and the Drode leave. Rachel catches David and David pleads to be killed, as being put back on the island would be a fate worse than death. It is left unclear at the end whether Rachel killed him or sent him back to the island.
  • In Peter Hamilton's Commonwealth novels, very serious but non-capital crimes are punished by a one-way trip to the surface of a prison world, which is much the same as being cast back into the Stone Age, as there is no real civilisation or technology. No visitors, and a military blockade ensures no rescuers will get close enough to even see the world.
  • Digitised personalities run in virtual environments in Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon books are effectively immortal if their environment is not sophisticated enough to include death or the possibility of suicide. Someone running in a simple, low-power simulator could remain there for a very long time indeed, made worse by the fact that simulations run faster than normal time. Few hundred years of boredom sound like fun?
  • Doctor Impossible is in one at the beginning of Soon I Will Be Invincible.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the mountain fortress of the Eyrie has "sky cells," which are open-air booths on the side of a cliff. The floor slants very slightly toward a sheer drop of a thousand feet. Prisoners are given food each day, with the assumption that they will eventually go mad and hurl themselves off the cliff or roll off of it in their sleep. Meanwhile, the Night's Watch maintains ice cells built into what's essentially an artificial glacier, while the Lannisters take the somewhat simpler approach of building dungeon cells roughly the size and shape of a small refrigerator. If we didn't know any better, it'd be forgivable to imagine a subtle game of one-upmanship going on between the judicial authorities of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • In The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas, the titular Utopia is Powered by a Forsaken Child locked in a dark basement.
  • In Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon, Conan the Barbarian is thrown into a prison with a skeleton and taunted with the fact that only the slaves and their master know of it, and he will die there like the last one.
  • Tartarus in Percy Jackson and The Olympians.
  • Fablehaven has several examples of this. One of the most unique examples is Olloch the Glutton—he isn't trapped anywhere, he's just Taken for Granite...until someone feeds him.
  • In Myth-ing Persons, Aahz is imprisoned on Limbo in a special jail cell designed to hold vampire criminals. It's the mouth of an animated dragon's-head statue, which is mobile and aware enough to swallow a would-be escapee who tries to rip out its teeth/bars with vampiric strength, or inhale them if they turn into mist.
  • In Shattered Sky, Dillon Cole has the power to see patterns and create order from chaos. No ordinary prison could hold him—locks would spontaneously unlock themselves in his presence, guards would bow to his whim, and he could easily tap into the resonant frequency of a wall to tear it apart. The millionaire genius Elon Tessic manages to design a specialized prison that won't be affected by his powers. Naturally, Dillon, being a protagonist, manages to escape anyway.
  • The Gordon R. Dickson short story Danger - Human had the aliens construct an escape-proof cell, consisting of metal physical enclosures, an impenetrable force field, constant armed surveillance, and access only for carefully monitored brief periods to provide food and water, to study a human they'd abducted to try and find out why humans kept conquering the galaxy. Didn't work.
  • Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series has several mentions of prisons made to hold particular types of crafters. Earthcrafters are held in wooden cages off the ground to prevent contact with the earth, windcrafters are held in windowless stone cells to prevent breezes, watercrafters are held in a ring of fire that dehydrates the air around them.
  • The Sinister Six Trilogy has Electro, who's first seen in a sealed plastic box suspended in water.

Live-Action TV

  • The villainess Callisto from Xena: Warrior Princess was trapped this way several times. First, she is captured and put in a nice little restraining chair. Then, she dies and is sent to Tartarus, which is where they keep the Titans. This doesn't keep her, either: she's paroled by the Big Bad of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys to kill the titular hero, who is looking for the Apples of Immortality. After eating the apples and becoming immune to death, she's buried under a mountain. Then she's freed again to help Xena take on a rogue goddess. Naturally, she uses the opportunity to steal godhood and is tossed into lava, which then hardens. Not that this stops her, as she is let out by another Big Bad, Hope, and Xena buries her under a mountain again. Even being Killed Off for Real by a hind's-blood dagger which has the power to kill gods simply sends her to the Judeo-Christian Hell instead of oblivion. Satan himself sends her out of this one to make Caesar emperor. She fails and goes back to Hell. By this time, Xena, who became an Angel for a brief moment, decides she's had enough of this, and uses her temporary holy power to redeem Callisto, taking her place in Hell and finally breaking the cycle.
  • Building 26 in the eponymous Heroes episode has one of these for Tracy Strauss: she's chained to a chair in an extremely hot room. Which turns out to be a really bad idea, as trying to "make ice in an oven" has supercharged her powers in a weird form of Charles Atlas Superpower. Level 5 is where the Company kept all the most dangerous super powered criminals, usually keeping them drugged. Flint's cell was fireproof, Echo was gagged, and Knox was kept in a straitjacket.
  • The criminal alien Jeanio from Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger (and his Power Rangers SPD counterpart) gets this as his punishment; as he has the ability to escape into the reflection of any mirrored surface, he was eventually captured on a planet devoid of any starlight and kept in a pitch-black cell with all mirrors removed. He escaped by forcing one of the Rangers (whose family was killed by him) to cry and escaping in his tear's reflection.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Chute" Kim and Paris were falsely convicted of terrorism and thrown into a prison designed this way for any and all inmates. There were no guards because they were thrown into a dungeon with the only way out being a chute that opened only for incoming prisoners. Otherwise it was guarded by a lethal force field. Of course Kim figures a way to bypass the force field but learns that they weren't in a dungeon but on a space station, so they couldn't "make a break for it." There was literally no way to escape except being rescued.
    • Additionally, all inmates are fitted with a brain implant called the "Clamp" which increases their paranoia and aggressive tendencies to prevent them working together on escaping.
    • Their draconian justice system does not have an appeal process or any other way to overturn court decisions, even if evidence is presented later exonerating the accused. This is why there are no exits on the space station.
  • Inverted, in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Prisoners", SG-1 is sent to a prison accessible only by Stargate - with no DHD on the prison side, and thus no way to dial out. However with the SG-1 team having Stargate experts and having previously manualy dialed gates before they are the people specificly trained to break out of this prison.
  • Guest star Kaylee is trapped in an oubliette in The X-Files episode "Oubliette".
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Pandorica Opens", one of these is constructed for the Doctor by a huge number of his enemies working together, to stop him from destroying the universe. The Doctor, through timeline wonkiness, literally let himself out (as in, an Eleventh Doctor on the outside released the one on the inside, albeit by proxy).
    • The Eleventh Doctor gets stuck in another one during the opening of "Day of the Moon". It's assembled around him (while he's chained and straitjacketed) from bricks of dwarf-star matter and is completely impregnable. This time, however, it's part of his plan to get himself and his friends away from their enemies' eyes and ears - he was sitting next to the cloaked TARDIS the whole time.
    • Earlier examples from the new series are also apparent. In "The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit", The Tenth Doctor encounters a rather interesting oubliette. The entire quantum lock that the Doctor used to trap the Time Lords and Daleks in at the end of the Time War could be seen as one as well.
  • In the Torchwood miniseries Children of Earth, a government agent detains Captain Jack by chaining him in a cell and then filling the cell with concrete. It doesn't work, because Captain Jack has friends.
  • In an episode of Angel the gang is plagued by a sadistic ghost named Pavayne who feeds other dead souls to hell in exchange for not going there himself. He tries to do this to Spike (a ghost at the time) but they stop him by corporealising him. Since they cant kill him, since that would put them back to square one, Angel has him locked in a box in the basement of Wolfram & Hart. A coffin like box in which he can live "forever".
    • Connor does this to Angel and drops him in the harbor for a couple of months, too.
  • Somewhat of a subversion in Sanctuary when the Sanctuary heads all decide that Big Bertha (a giant spider with the ability to move tectonic plates) must be killed. Magnus goes against them and secretly imprisons Bertha. Of course, she gets out and all hell breaks loose.
    • She turns out to have been justified in defying orders, given Big Bertha's connection with the world.
  • The Star Trek TOS episode The Alternative Factor features a man battling his Evil Anti-Matter counterpart who wants to destroy the universe. Since the method of destroying the universe would involve contact between the man and his counterpart in the physical world, the heroes are forced to trap both men in the corridor between dimensions where they would presumably fight each other forever, since both men are immortal.
  • When the protagonists of Alphas are brought to Binghamton, they're put in custom-made cells too sturdy for Bill's Super Strength and soundproofed and signal-proof to block the abilities of Rachel and Gary.
  • Supernatural, being a show that runs on Sealed Evil in a Can, has a few of these. In all cases escape requires extensive outside intervention.
    • Lilith et.al. merely get out of the general Hell at the end of season two, and Dean goes there and is not considered a particular escape risk at the end of three, but season four revolves around keeping The Devil in his, referred to as The Cage and locked with six hundred seals. And season five winds up being about putting him back in it—this time with his brother Michael, Sam, and Sam's half brother Adam. Sam gets out half a season later, but only with the help of Death.
      • And just in case you think reusing the previously escaped prison on Lucifer is a poor idea, the first successful attempt took, in this order: getting a particular, necessarily heroic guy to sell his soul for the right reason and then break under torture, then performing sixty-four arbitrary atrocities of varyingly complex natures while fighting off the heavenly host (this is the easy part), and finally leading another (incidentally heroic) particular guy to kill a particular entity in a particular fashion in exactly the right place, after waiting millenia for the right pair of guys to be born in the first place.
      • Oh, and making sure to catch the second guy's mom ten years before he was born to give you the correct use-rights to him as a baby to give him the powers you apparently need him to use to kill the specific entity at the correct time.
    • And then in the start of season seven Purgatory, which in this setting is the holding tank for non-human souls, apparently including vampires, however that works, turns out to have originally been built to contain the Leviathan, a race of horrible unkillable shape-shifting black slime things God didn't know how to unmake and was worried would "consume the rest of creation."


  • In Norse Mythology, the god Loki can shape-shift his way out of any kind of fetters, talk his way out of any kind of incrimination, and seemingly almost by reflex think up plots to bring down the invincible. So the gods turn his sons into wolves ripping each other's guts out and tie him up with said guts, entomb him in an isolated cave beneath the world, and place a snake over his head that constantly drips venom into his eyes to keep him distracted. He still gets out of it eventually.
    • The be precise: He is sprung by his children on the eve of Ragnarok. His monstrous children that is - not his humanoid children, whose intestines bind him.
    • This is excepting Odin's horse, Sleipnir. Sleipnir presumably sides with Odin, not his...uh, mom. Did we mention Loki is weird?

Tabletop Games


  • Metroid
    • Gorea from Metriod Prime: Hunters had an interdimensional prison literally named Oubliette to lock him away and keep him from demolishing the Alimbic Cluster. His means of egress are a forged psychic message and the eight Octoliths that power the device necessary to open the Oubliette again... too bad the person responsible for opening the door just happened to be Samus.
    • The eponymous creature in Metroid Prime was trapped in the impact crater by a forcefield erected by the Chozo. In the NTSC version of the game, Space Pirates accidentally free it by digging under the forcefield and take it to be studied, although it escapes and returns to its lair. This was Ret Conned in the PAL and Trilogy versions where it never got out. Samus has to collect the artifacts needed to open a passage into the crater and kill it.
  • Baal of the Diablo universe was imprisoned in a soulstone along with his two brothers. His, however, cracked and in order to contain him it was driven into the mind of the mage Tal Rasha, who would engage in an eternal Battle of Wills with the Prime Evil. On top of that, Tal Rasha was chained both literally and magically inside a very tightly sealed tomb in the middle of a killer desert. It didn't end well. Amongst six fake oubliettes, as well! On the other hand, it was apparently the only prison of the three that wasn't subverted from within by the Prime Evils- sucks to be Tal Rasha, but it did keep Baal trapped until Diablo showed up to break him out.
  • Being based on Planescape, the Mazes naturally featured in Planescape: Torment. A major part of the game is finding your way into the Maze of Ravel Puzzlewell (who had found the exit long ago, but either no longer wants to have anything to do with the wider planes or is too muddled in the head to be able to comprehend leaving). You can also get trapped in your own Maze and attempt to find your way out. This is considered a Bonus Level of Hell for several reasons.
  • The Allied victory in Command And Conquer: Red Alert 2 - Yuri's Revenge has Yuri Prime being captured, escorted by mind-shielded guards, and put in a special capsule where he would be unable to use his powers. Nightmare Fuel for anyone who is claustrophobic. It's literally like a hyper-advanced coffin, with Dentist equipment near his head.

General Carville: He won't be able to mind-control a fly.

  • Killer Croc in Batman: Arkham Asylum is kept in the deepest, darkest depths of Arkham, where the guards occasionally drop down some food for him and try to forget he even exists. This is because physically, Croc is the most dangerous inmate, and his feeding habits make him even worse.
    • Even the standard cells in the place are tiny, barely large enough to lie straight, and the inmates seem to spend long times locked in them with no means of recreation, judging from the ways some walls have been 'decorated'.
    • Mr. Freeze similarly has a unique prison cell, but in his case it is to keep him alive without his suit and its assorted powers.
  • Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda franchise is associated with this treatment. In the Twilight Princess storyline, he had been imprisoned into an alternate dimension some time before the game begins, this alternate dimension also happens to be the home of the eponymous Princess.
    • Subversion: it was never anyone's intention to trap him in the Twilit Realm. They were trying to execute him, but when the Triforce of Power manifested and allowed him to break free and kill one of his executioners, the others threw him through the portal out of desperation.
  • Frequently appears in the Myst series. Linking Books can transport you to whatever sort of world is described on their pages, but if there's no Linking Book leading back...
    • The so-called Trap Books featured prominently in the game also might count. They work like Linking Books; however, due to a slight alteration, they link to a non-space between universes where a person can end up trapped forever, unable to move or interact with anything, their only view of the outside world being the panel they touched, and only if the book is open. A Trap Book only holds one, however, and if another person touches the panel while the book is occupied, the two switch places.
    • After the Retcon in Myst IV: Revelations, the Trap Books seen in Myst and Riven are explained to simply link to Prison Ages - worlds where, as described above, there are no Linking Books leading back.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Basch was held in one after Arcadia took Rabanastre. All it really means is that you get a guest party member during a difficult part of the beginning of the game and Fran can say a pretty word.
    • The Esper Ultima is sealed Giruvegan's Great Crystal behind a maze of force fields and teleporters for leading the Espers' rebellion against the Occuria.
  • The Primagen in Turok 2 is sealed in one, and if he escapes, the temporal shockwave will destroy the universe.
  • Dragon Quest IX has one of these for Corvus. Guess what you're forced to do? It's even called the Oubliette.
  • You can build one in your house in RuneScape, and drop people in through a trapdoor in the throne room. Unfortunately, you build a door in the cage holding the prisoner, so they can escape, usually. The oubliette's floor can be covered with spikes, a murky pool with tentacles, fire, or a weak monster.
  • In Final Fantasy V, the Interdimensional Rift acts as one; a prison for the worst demons in history, with its entrance sealed away in a space between dimensions. For example, when speaking of Omega and Shinryu, the game says that "Inside the Rift the demons were interred; so should they stay until forever's end, their names to stay unspoken evermore." Unfortunately, it turns out that the Rift is home to the power of the Void (or it may be the same thing, the game is unclear), which means that it was necessary to seal the prison itself, because it had become a weapon.
  • Adel, the tyrant sorceress and former ruler of Esthar in Final Fantasy VIII, is imprisoned in a stasis capsule suspended in orbit above the planet, and her powers are supressed by an antimagic field so powerful it makes it nearly impossible to communicate by radio on the planet's surface.
  • A secret teleporter in Pathways into Darkness traps you in one.
  • BioShock (series) 2's Peresphone prison has solitary confinement cells that appear to be literal oubliettes, and the prison itself is suspended over a deep underwater trench.
  • The Expansion Pack to Baldur's Gate 2, Throne of Bhaal, adds one of these in the form of Watcher's Keep. It's a huge, elaborate prison, full of traps, puzzles, and even dips a little into alternate planes of existence. All to keep its prisoner safely under lock and key for all eternity. Said prisoner is none other than Demogorgan, Prince of Demons!
  • Champions Online features a couple of these, for sealing demons or villains with mental powers. The best example comes in the Adventure Pack "Resistance", in which you travel to a Mirror World, and your main mission is to break two members of that world's resistance out of a couple of these prisons. As an added bonus, one of the villains you fight in this world is actually named "Oubliette". Though this could be a clue about something that's being held prisoner within her...
  • In the Burning Crusade chapter of World of Warcraft, the Warden's Cage is a jail intended to hold one specific prisoner, Illiden's arch-enemy Maiev Shadowsong. (How she was captured is not known.) Unfortunately for Illiden, Akama - the draenei he assigns as jailer - is plotting against him; when the heroes finally assault the Black Temple, Akama releases Maiev and both support the heroes in the Final Battle.


Web Originals

  • The SCP Foundation makes these, both for anomalies which are dangerous to humanity and harmless anomalies which would break the Masquerade if they got loose. The prisons can range from as extreme as keeping a regenerating Omnicidal Maniac immersed in a vat of concentrated sulfuric acid to as minor as fencing off areas where weird stuff happen.
  • Tech Infantry has the Federation (and later Imperial) Prison in the R45 system, a Death World with orbiting warships and magical fields to prevent escape or rescue, where the most dangerous supernatural criminals are sent. The more mundane version of the trope is seen when Andrea Treschi kidnaps Xavier Pollos and holds him prisoner in a deep pit to force him to carry out an assassination on Treschi's behalf.
  • The Sterveling Ket! The Sterveling Ket! What did it find in the oubliette?

Western Animation

  • The Fire Nation in Avatar: The Last Airbender used special "cooling cells" to imprison rowdy firebenders. The cells were so cold they couldn't muster up the heat to firebend. Zuko used his fire breathing to keep warm and remove the fastening bolts from the inside.
    • Water Benders were likewise kept in a special facility of Oubliettes, suspended in metal cages far from the ground and water, as well as having hot dry air pumped in. When they were given water, their arms and legs were fastened. Hama got out by learning to manipulate the blood in living beings.
    • Earth benders also received the Fire Nation Touch, their prison was an off shore metal prison. At this point metalbending hadn't been invented. They broke free by using the coal from the boiler room to earthbend. Since Toph is the only "Metalbender" in the series, she could escape these prisons easily. That is, until some Genre Savvy guards locked her up in a prison...made of wood. Thankfully, Katara was with her and she was able to sweatbend the wooden bars off their cell.
    • Even Air Benders can't escape the Fire Nation's obsession with oubliettes. When Aang was captured by General Zhao, he was bound hand and foot in taut chains to avoid him airbending. Though he could still blow with his mouth (and presumably fart equally powerfully) he was trapped so completely Zhao threatened they would keep him imprisoned until he died to avoid the hassle of searching for the next Avatar. Good thing the Blue Spirit came along!
  • Livewire in Superman: The Animated Series got an electrically insulated cell. She escaped when a ditzy janitor let her borrow his tape player.
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, Anne-Marie ends up in what amounts to a gigantic bird cage suspended over an almost bottomless pit at one point.
  • Disney's |Hercules sees the Titans released from the undersea vault Zeus imprisoned them in.
  • Doomsday from Justice League Unlimited was imprisoned in one by Project Cadmus after Justice Lord Superman lobotomised him, as he was literally impossible to kill. He escapes from it with the help of a wronged minor villain, goes right back to getting his revenge on Superman, is encased in magma from a volcanic eruption, and banished to the Phantom Zone.
  • The titular monsters from Inhumanoids were sealed up in their own personal oubliettes at the beginning of the series: Tendril, chained up in an underground cell; D'Compose, petrified in a massive hunk of amber; and Metlar, trapped in another creature's magnetic field.
  • Dr. Robotnik builds one of these for Sonic the Hedgehog in one episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic lets himself get captured in order to break a comic artist out of Robotnik's prison but his plan backfires when Robotnik's specialized prison wing is meticulously designed to counter every one of his abilities and activate upon seeing his blue fur. He still escapes in the end by duping the system's color-trigger with a poster of himself taped to Grounder's back, which causes the security system to attack Grounder and Scratch, leaving him to get away.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Nightmare Moon was imprisoned on the moon for one thousand years, only to escape with the aid of the stars. Details on the imprisonment itself are very vague (many think she was sealed ON the moon, it is more likely that she was INSIDE the moon, or even fused with the moon itself), though apparently it caused a "Mare in the Moon" effect, and it's a popular fanfic topic. Also, the one who made the Oubliette was very Genre Savvy about it, using it to start a Batman Gambit that would allow Nightmare Moon to be redeemed. (She may have gotten off easily compared to another major villain, Discord, who was sealed in a stone statue, or maybe turned to a stone statue for even longer, and states that he was conscious all that time, though knowing him, that may be a lie.)
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, it's revealed that Captain America (comics) and the Red Skull have been stuck in what is essentially one of these, "outside of time", since the ending days of WWII. When they get released, Skull gets back to his old schenanigans, and is such a hassle that Cap makes a Heroic Sacrifice by dragging him back into the machine that sent them into the pocket dimension all over again.
    • Dr Octopus was kept in a prison cell that were made to hold his tentacles.
  • American Dad: Inverted in "The Great Space Roaster," Roger is taken to a prison in Thailand where his cell consists essentially of a plexiglass box at the bottom of the ocean, surrounded by dozens of depth charges, and guarded by a scuba diver with a harpoon. As an alien who doesn't breath (or can hold his breath) and doesn't get killed by pressure changes he is uniquly suited to escaping that prison.
  • In ReBoot the heroes create a Firewall to seal off Megabyte's entire infected sector of Mainframe. It works against Megabyte, keeping him imprisoned at least until Enzo's Time Skip. Hexadecimal, on the other hand, easily overloads the Firewall and leaves Mainframe at Megabyte's mercy.
  • On The Spectacular Spider-Man, Norman Osborn's company is hired to make these for all the new supervillains (which is ironic, since he was also involved in their creation). Sandman's was designed to use air pressure to keep him from escaping, while Rhino's released tranquilizer gas if he tried. Their escape was due to Electro blowing the power to the whole prison.
  • Referenced in the Kim Possible episode "Stop Team Go", when Hego reacts to the appearance of an old enemy:
    • There were a couple episodes in the Post Script Season where other villains broke Shego out of prison (while leaving Drakken behind to rot). Presumably her cell was made tough enough that she couldn't use her powers to break out on her own.
  • Used against the heroes by the villain in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command - Green-Skinned Space Babe with phasing powers Mira Nova was put in a cell that played loud noises to keep her from concentrating, and The Big Guy Booster was stuffed into a cell with bouncy sides so he couldn't break out. Backfired hilariously, when Mira dismissed the sound as "a little annoying" and Booster considered the bouncy cell to be the funnest thing ever.
  • In the Harley Quinn cartoon, Arkham is still something of a Cardboard Prison, but the staff does seem to be trying harder. Guards appointed in the same wing as Poison Ivy are armed with flamethrowers, which they use on any plant matter that might come near her. Eventually Ivy escapes with Riddler's help; he eats an orange, swallows the seeds in the process, and gives them to her after passing them.
  • Played for laughs in the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: C.A.K.E.D.-5", Father's Evil Plan involves constructing an ice-cream cake the size of the Death Star; when he has the captured Numbah 86 and Numbuh 18th Century thrown in the detention block, they quickly find that eating their way out is impossible, because he was savvy enough to build that part of the complex with sorbet, a Stock Yuck of frozen desserts.
  • From Star Trek: Lower Decks, the Self-Aware Megalomaniacal Computer Storage area in the Daystrom Institute. It seems that the concept of A.I. Is a Crapshoot has become such a problem for Starfleet that they use this place as a prison for evil computers. Known inmates include 10111 and AGIMUS (from "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie") and Peanut Hamper (from "A Mathematically Perfect Redemption"). A later episode gives is a name - Daystrom Institute, Megalomaniacal A.I. Penitentiary - and shows it has a lot of amenities a regular prison has, including work detail, an excersize room, and group therapy sessions. Inmates are also given parole hearings.

Real Life

  • Ireland's Leap Castle had one with a spike in the floor. Prisoners were literally thrown in, and the lucky ones landed on the spike and died. The not-so-lucky ones were simply left there amongst the rotting corpses, to die of either starvation and dehydration, or infection from being around the rotting corpses, or both. And this particular oubliette got a lot of use, because of the power struggles the various castle owners were involved in. So much so that in the 1930's, three cartloads of human bones were taken out. (Also a gold pocketwatch dated to the 1840's, suggesting that someone either fell in or was pushed in at about that time.)
  • Oubliettes were a popular feature for dungeons in the heyday of castles. The best ones were truly inescapable without outside help and might have features like the above mentioned spike, or might just be really small holes in the ground.
  • Caves can be good places to find fossils from the Pleistocene, from wild animals that fell into sinkholes or got lost in winding tunnels and died there.
    • On that note, the La Brea Tar Pits. Animals (even today) would mistake them for watering holes and fall in, and become trapped and fossilized in the tar.
  • Back in the 19th century the worst prisoners spared from death penalty were boxed in into tiny alcoves that were then bricked shut save for a window through which they were fed. In practice this was a far more cruel punishment than death, as it meant slowly wasting away from infections - apparently the builders thought that Nobody Poops.