Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere

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"I've done far worse than kill you, admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on... Hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me - as you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet. Buried Alive... Buried alive..."
Khan Noonien Singh, Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan

The least dramatic Death Trap of all, the sealed room is usually more of an opportunistic ploy - the good guys have gone into an abandoned mine or ancient crypt or isolated cave of their own volition, and the villain just takes this lucky chance to seal them in forever. Of course, forever turns into the twenty minutes or so it takes the hero to find an alternate way out, or occasionally to be rescued. Sometimes the stakes are raised by having the room slowly fill with water or gas.

The quiet solitude of this trap can be used to effect a Locked in a Freezer plot between two characters.

Sometimes the tension of this Death Trap is increased by use of a good old-fashioned slowly-sealing door, which the good guys fail to squeeze through at the last second, or using a very small and unventilated space like a bank safe where the trappee will theoretically soon run out of air.

This trope might have roots in the Greek myth of Antigone, who performed funeral rites for her dead brother - a traitor to the state - and was sentenced to death by her uncle, King Creon. The death sentence was, simply, being sealed in a cave to die of hunger/dehydration. In the play by Sophocles, Creon later had regrets, but when he tried to let her out she had already hanged herself (It is a tragedy, what did you expect?).

See also Tailor-Made Prison and Closed Circle. Compare And I Must Scream and Maximum Fun Chamber.

Examples of Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In the Bowdlerized American dub of the 1st Movie to Cardcaptor Sakura, Clow Reed sealed his student (and former girlfriend) in an alternate dimension after she started practicing dark magic. Although she is long dead, her spirit is stuck in there, waiting for him to come back and set her free. Whether or not he ever intended to do so and when is unknown. Sakura has to set her free and help her move on to the afterlife, as this (very) unfriendly ghost attacks her and her friends.
    • In the original Japanese version, however, it is not an example of this trope, but rather of a Soul Jar, as the "seal" was voluntary on the sorceress' part (since she was waiting for Reed, her rival and secret crush, to return).
  • In the Kirby anime, Kirby himself may be considered a Sealed Room In The Middle Of Nowhere. In one episode, he inhales a Dedede doll, which means he also inhaled Dedede himself due to the circumstances. At the end of the episode, Dedede and said doll are shown floating in what looks like outer space. This makes for less of a room and more of an alternate dimension of nothingness. It is never explained how Dedede escaped, but one can presume that the other characters figured out what happened and convinced Kirby to let him go.
  • In Dragonball Z, the Hyperbolic Time Chamber becomes this if one stays in it for more than two days, or if the door is destroyed, as happens during the Buu/Fusion saga.
  • In * Himitsu no Akko-chan episode 32 (the original 1969 series) Atsuko "Akko-chan" Kagami, to gain an empathic insight about her new deaf-mute friend, wishes herself deaf and mute as well. After realizing that not only she got her wish, but she got it so literal that her magic mirror took the liberty to remove her ability to vocalize as well, she runs away in distress, falling in a ravine. She then realizes that a. she can't hear, so she can't possibly know if someone is approaching the edge of the crevice and b. even if she somehow managed to know that, she'd still be unable to cry for help.


Comic Books[edit | hide]


Film[edit | hide]

  • Just for a definition of oubliette, try Labyrinth, where the heroine falls through a Trap Door and gets stuck there (for a short time).
  • The main plot arc of Saw 1, with a twist: the hostages are free to leave at any time, but they must saw off their feet to do so.
    • Adam winds up getting sealed in the room at the end anyway.
    • At the end of the final film, Hoffman is chained in the room from the first movie, by none other than Dr. Gordon.
  • As the page quote shows, a variant of this trope was employed by Khan in the second Star Trek movie.
  • Cube and its sequel Hypercube both featured mazes made of giant shifting cubes full of deathtraps in the middle of nowhere, although admittedly Hypercube does reveal that the second maze is indeed formed with non-Euclidean geometry and thus the endless cubes were all inside a single lab room all along.
  • In the Pirates of the Caribbean series, when (Captain) Jack Sparrow gets trapped in Davy Jones' Locker.
    • Also, the time he'd been marooned by the Black Pearl's mutinous crew.
  • In The Castleof Cagliostro, Lupin III is dropped down an oubliette into a dungeon filled with bones that date across centuries
  • In Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy and Marian are sealed in the Ark's chamber.
  • In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo is trapped in Mobil Avenue (Mobil probably being an anagram for Limbo), a shiny, empty underground train station literally in the middle of nowhere.
  • In Fourteen Oh Eight the protagonist becomes trapped in a posh hotel room and completely isolated from the outside world. There is even some fire evacuation literature which transforms from a normal floor layout to a display of just his room, with no entrances or exits.
  • Fiorina "Fury" 161 in Alien 3 is basically this. The prisoners spend their lives in a prison facility in the middle of nowhere, on a planet in the middle of nowhere in the universe. As the warden puts it: The prisoners are free to leave anytime they want, only the rest of the planet is a much bigger shithole than the facility itself.
  • In the 1944 film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost the Ghost is the spirit of Sir Simon de Canterville, who ran away from a Trial by Combat and hid in his room; his father refused to believe he had run away and to prove it had his room bricked shut, deaf to his son's pleas.
  • The central concept in Fermat's Room, combined with math riddles that activated deathtraps when not solved.
  • In the 2006 Korean film Oldboy, Oh Dae-su is confined to a hotel-like room for fifteen years, fed only fried dumplings and with a television as his only form of information on the outside world.
    • In the end, it turns out that the room isn't exactly "in the middle of nowhere" - Oh Dae-su later uses the taste of the dumplings to work out the location of room, and then proceeds to beat the living shit out of his captors.
  • Most of the cast of The Hole, since they don't know that one of their supposed fellow captives, Liz, is actually the one keeping them locked up.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Girl in the Box has the eponymous girl kidnapped and locked in a dark cellar for no apparent reason. The novel consists of her writing her story and pleas for help on an old typewriter in the cellar as she begins to run out of food and water. And we're not even given the benefit of a happy ending. She dies there.
  • In King Solomons Mines by H. Rider Haggard, the protagonists find themselves locked in the treasure chamber, which is complete with a slowly-sealing door they don't manage to squeeze through. (Neither does the traitor who activates the door, who tries but gets out too late and gets crushed by it; this could make a trope by itself.) Fortunately, our heroes eventually find another way out.
  • A room, literally sealed, and literally in the middle of nowhere - The narrator in Dan Simmons' books Endymion and The Rise of Endymion is writing up his story while trapped in a box which is floating in space. Oh, and there's a "Schrodinger's Cat" mechanism, set to release poison gas into the chamber at a random moment.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, it is revealed at the end of the fourth book that King Mendanbar, who no one has seen since the battle at the end of the third book and who Daystar ultimately rescues, has been stuck in the castle for 17-odd years inside a magical room of Zemenar's creation. He didn't need to eat but was most certainly conscious of time passing.
  • This is what happens if a Vacuole splits off from the Pattern in Wheel of Time - or at least, it is one of the possible outcomes.
  • The entire cast of Chuck Palahniuk's book Haunted 2005 is trapped in a particularly dangerous version. And it's stated that they're not the first to have been trapped there either...
    • Trapped yes, but the room is not all that dangerous (aside from the moldy upholstery). All the danger comes from the deranged psyches of the trapped individuals who convince themselves that when(if) they are rescued, they'll get more attention if they're in the worst possible situation. They proceed to torture themselves and destroy all of their food supplies so as to have the best story.
  • Jack Vance's Dying Earth tales includes the Spell of Forlorn Encystment "which constricts the subject in a pore some 45 miles below the surface of the earth." Those who survive are usually left irretrievably insane.
  • Lloyd from The Stand is left in his jail cell and forgotten after The Virus kills everyone who remembers that he's there. Randall Flagg waits until he is half-crazy from solitude and forced to cannibalism before rescuing him.
    • King also did this in a short story, called (appropriately) "A Very Tight Place." The room? A steel-plated, overturned, and uncleaned port-a-toilet located on a long-abandoned construction site.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." The narrator, in revenge for an insult, lures a drunken friend into the catacombs beneath his palace. With the promise of the titular cask of wine, he gets him to enter a niche in the wall, then chains him in place and bricks up the niche, completely deaf to enjoying the pleas for mercy.
  • Aladdin, in the Cave of Wonders, both in the original and the Disney version. Would have worked too if he didn't have a genie with him.
  • Balzac's "La Grande Breteche." A creepy variation on the theme of hiding your secret liaison in your clothes closet when your husband unexpectedly comes home. In this story, a nobleman comes to suspect his wife of hiding a man in her closet. Rather than insult his wife by opening the door and having a look for himself, the husband simply has the servants brick up the wall in front of the closet door.
  • In The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, in order for the titular town to remain a Utopia, one child must be locked away in a dark basement room.
  • Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Room With No Doors.
  • Her Acres of Pastoral Playground by Mike Allen. The Sole Survivor of a Cosmic Horror that has swallowed the entire Earth has sealed himself and his farm off via a spell; but while time flows normally inside the protected area, outside he can hear his future self screaming mindlessly for all eternity as the spell will eventually fail.
  • In Issola, Morrolan and Aliera are magically abducted by the Jenonine and chained up in a room with no doors or windows, that turns out to be on another world which the Jenonine are using to steal amorphia from theirs.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones, Jack and Zoe were sealed in an ancient shrine by their supposed allies. 2 minutes later, they were out to save the day. How? Well, the crocodiles got in...
  • In Animorphs, David is tricked into Mode Lock as a rat to remove him as a threat and because The Heart of the team believed it to be a better alternative than killing him. The process of mode locking was two hours cramped to be sure he couldn't change forms. This rather quickly and apparently becomes a Fate Worse Than Death. The whole two hours, he's pleading, screaming, and threatening the "heroes" to free him through thought speak, now his only means of communication. To be completely sure he's out of the way,[1] they have to maroon him on an island until his rat form dies. He's still screaming, and his thought speak can be heard by passing boats for years, haunting the island. But no one can do anything to help him, short of literal Deus Ex Machina.
  • In the Nameless Detective novel Shackles, Nameless is kidnapped and transported to a remote cabin where he is shackled to the wall. He is left with food and water to keep him alive for a certain number of days, after which he will start to dehydrate and starve.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In an obscure example is in the little-known show called Prey, where one of the heroes was put in cell in the middle of a blank room. The was the Cliff Hanger show finale, so The Resolution Will Not Be Televised, although The Invisible Man gave a Shout-Out to it when the actor who had played the prisoner was let free.
  • Sapphire and Steel. At the end of their sixth Assignment the title characters are suckered into a room that's sent into another dimension with no way back. The twist is that since they can't be killed (at least by conventional means) they'll probably be stuck there with just each other for company forever.
  • An ongoing X-Files story arc involved an alien lifeform which manifested as a sentient black oil. One such alien inadvertently became separated from its spacecraft, and took possession of numerous people in order to destroy the evidence of its existence. The alien's final "host body" belonged to the traitorous Alex Krycek, who (having completed the alien's work) got the unpleasant task of returning the creature to its vessel. After the alien left Krycek's body (by forcing him to vomit oil from every orifice, no less) he awakened to find himself alone in an abandoned missile silo. Twenty floors underground. In the middle of a North Dakota wasteland, no less. The reveal of Krycek screaming in horror was preceded by a quote from Scully that sometimes our dead are "buried alive."
    • In true X-Files fashion, however, Krycek returned the following season without a scratch (or a clear explanation for how he got out of the silo).
  • On an episode of Highlander the Series, an old foe of Duncan's who had been left to rot in an insane asylum locked him in a decommissioned ship's brig, with the intention of letting him out after he'd been there for an equal term. Duncan being immortal, this wasn't quite a deathtrap, but it would have been very, very unpleasant.
    • One episode had an immortal marooned on a tiny barren island, where he starved to death—over and over again—until somebody finally found him. (However, since we've seen that immortals can survive under water, a viewer may wonder why he didn't just walk home.)
  • In Heroes, this was Hiro's way of dealing with Adam, after their little disagreement in feudal Japan. So he cannot kill him nor hurt him in any way? Good thing he can still teleport him to any time and place he wants! For example, inside his supposedly empty tomb.
    • The show does it again but this time Peter and Sylar are trapped inside Sylar's own head with only each other to annoy.
  • A fifth season episode of Angel saw Angel, as branch director of evil law firm Wolfram & Hart, lock a resurrected murderous doctor into a tiny closet where he can't move, can't scream, and can't blink for all eternity.

Eve: If there's anything Wolfram & Hart excels at, it's keeping their unmentionables unmentioned.

    • The same thing happened to Angel underwater in the season 3 finale.
    • And via Flash Back in the first season episode "Rm w/a Vu" where Dennis Pearson's mother walled him up to keep him from running off with his girlfriend. She was planning to let him out after a while, but had a heart attack and died just after finishing the wall.
  • Doctor Who: At the end of "The Pandorica Opens", the Legion of Doom locks the Doctor into a box. The next episode starts out by showing the Bill and Ted scheme by which he arranges his escape.
  • Bones: Dr. Brennan and Hodgins are captured by the serial killer "The Gravedigger", knocked out, locked in a car, and buried four feet underground in the middle of an abandoned coal field.
    • This was standard practice for this particular villain, as the name suggests. Not so much a serial killer as a serial kidnapper BTW—early victims' locations were revealed after a ransom was paid, allowing for last-minute rescues—but the Gravedigger does eventually get pissed enough to do this to people for revenge too.
  • A vengeful serial killer on CSI buried Nick Stokes alive in a plexiglas box, with a video feel to a website so his colleagues could watch him suffer. When the residents of the fire ant nest he's buried next to begin finding the cracks in the box...
  • The MO of a serial killer in Cold Case was to hold his victims captive and psychologically torture them until they lost the will to live, then completely seal them in and let them starve to death.
  • Blakes Seven: In the seminal episode "Rumours of Death," Avon teleports himself and a notorious torturer into an underground cavern with absolutely no surface access, and, after getting the information he needs, leaves him there. He's "merciful" enough to leave the man a gun. This is how the episode begins.

Music[edit | hide]

  • 2D's current location in the Gorillaz narrative is the basement of Plastic Beach, an artificial island in the middle of the ocean. He's being held captive and forced to sing by Murdoc, and the isolation of the place is one of the things that makes this possible.
  • Finnish song Balladi Olavinlinnasta (Ballad of Castle Olavinlinna) tells about a girl who is masoned inside a chamber in the castle wall because of treason.


Tabletop RPGs[edit | hide]

  • The effective purpose of the Dungeons & Dragons spell "imprisonment" is to trap the target in a sealed chamber, deep underground. Granted, they are in a magically sustained stasis until the end of the world (or the spell is removed by it's reverse, "freedom"), so it isn't actually played for drama after the effect, except possibly as a Fate Worse Than Death.
    • Also the spell "maze" for a similar effect which the target will eventually escape on its own.


Theater[edit | hide]

  • The Opera Aida ends with Radames sentenced to death by starvation/dehydration in a tomb for unknowingly revealing the location of the Egyptian army to the king of Ethiopia. It's a happy ending though, because Aida sneaks in before the door is sealed, and they get to die together. What? This is Opera we're talking about, that is a happy ending!
    • The musical makes it a little happier by revealing that Aida and Radames find each other in a later reincarnation.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit is about three people locked in a hotel room. It turns out they've died and gone to hell. Their punishment is to have to suffer each other's company for the rest of eternity. As the protagonist famously says: "Hell is other people."


Videogames[edit | hide]

  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the main characters talk as though this has happened to them when the Vizier traps them in the crypt. Of course, one Mind Screw dream sequence later, it turns out that Farah's easily managed to wriggle out thanks to her extreme flexibility, and the Prince soon discovers that the Infinity+1 Sword is stored one room over.
  • In Persona 3, the party is investigating the presence of a Full Moon Shadow inside an abandoned underground military base when rival group Strega decides to lock them in. Rather than trying to escape, they simply call on outside help after defeating the Shadow.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, a door hooked up to a lever is either "always open" or "closed and locked," with no other states in between. The player can take advantage of this when creating his Death Traps, either for building "starvation chambers" for recalcitrant dwarves or to seal the room off so that you can reroute water or magma into it.
    • A lever is actually completely unnecessary. One can simply mark the door to be "forbidden", and dwarves will never open the door, even if it leads to their death.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has a very literal one.
  • Reversed in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: in one mission you are required to kill a group of construction workers (they looked at your sister funny or something). The mission is fairly routine until the last guy, who runs into a portable bathroom and you push him into a pit and fill it with cement. He doesn't get rescued.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, one of the paths involves the Nazi Villain offering Indy a choice of giving up the Stone Discs (needed to unlock the entrance to Atlantis) or Die. When Indy complies, the Nazi rewards him by sealing him in the room. Luckily, Indy manages to tunnel out in about 20 minutes.
  • In the first Myst game, one possible ending sees you and Atrus sealed permanently into the Age of D'ni, due to your neglecting to retrieve the missing page of the book that would release you, much to Atrus's annoyance.
    • And two other endings have you sealed up in one of the brothers' prison books.
  • A humorous version of this happens in Rayman 2. After The Cave of Bad Dreams, you find a room filled with gold. If you choose to accept the gold, you end up stranded on a stormy island with it... and you're really fat for some reason. Also, Game Over since you're the only one who can save the world.
  • In Lost Odyssey, this happened to Seth at one point in her backstory, when she got captured by rival pirates. Realizing that they couldn't kill the immortal they instead opt to chain her up in a cave on an uncharted island in the middle of nowhere.
  • While it isn't instant death, in Super Mario 64 DS, there is a star hidden in the mirror room you can get as Luigi, by passing through the mirror, and than exiting the door on that side of the room, in which, you access a completely empty white room with a star.
    • Also, the secret white door in the character select room... How many people entered it after earning the star and heard the Boo's screeching on the other side?
    • The "Black Room of Death" in the original SM 64.
  • The titular room in Silent Hill 4: The Room, which is stuck in an alternate dimension, as Joseph's notes say.
  • A very common final challenge for the Nancy Drew series of games.
  • In Half Life: Opposing Force, the player character, Adrian Shepard is trapped in an Osprey in an unknown dimension by the G-Man(A part of his intergalactic Xanatos Gambit no doubt), this dimension oddly enough is the exact same one G-Man gave Gordon Freeman his job proposal in Half-Life.
  • Pathways into Darkness has an airlock-type room on "I'd Rather Be Surfing" where you slowly suffocate to death unless you use the Red Cloak to speed up time. Also, a hidden teleporter in "Happy Happy, Carnage Carnage" transports you to an insecapable room in "Don't Get Poisoned!" full of Venomous Skitters.
  • In Ratchet And Clank 3, Dr. Nefarious and his right hand robot Lawrence wind up on a small asteroid. Also doubles as a massive Brick Joke in Ratchet: Gladiator when the same asteroid floats by the destroyed space station.
  • At some point, Divine Divinity teleported the player into the House of Madness, a locked house seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Outside is a perpetual night, the wind can be heard and the ground is covered with precious emeralds and rubis, but it is impossible to get out as trying to go through a door automatically teleports you to one of the other doors of the same house. To escape, the player has to lie on one of the beds and sleep, as adviced by a talking skeleton tied to a wall. This is not particularly pleasant as most of the beds are covered with rotting corpses.
  • The various Might and Magic games are filled with these. Be it jungle, desert or the middle of the ocean, you will find hidden rooms, locked out of sight, and usually filled with monsters who attack you on on sight.
  • One of many, many ways to kill Sims in The Sims, though the sealed room isn't necessarily in the middle of nowhere.
  • Vampire Saga: Welcome To Hell Lock, where there is a massive hole in the road out of Hall Lock. If David stays where he is, the unexplained goblin comes for him. If he goes in, he risks being poisoned, sucked into the mines, or blown up.
  • The penal zone in Sam and Max Freelance Police episode 301.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • In Girl Genius, the acting troupe manages to stumble into an oubliette. The traitor asks if anyone knows how to get out and then, when everyone answers in the negative, escapes via grapple gun.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Not strictly an oubliette, but Avatar: The Last Airbender's "Cave of Two Lovers" was a death trap (just ask the nomadic music group the Gaang was saddled with for the episode) and the Fire Nation exploited it to easily dispatch Our Heroes.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward temporarily ends up in a blank, white "void" as a result of a time-traveling mishap. Though he's initially delighted by the solitude of the place, the experience quickly turns into a nightmare as his every spoken word becomes visible, turning into garishly-colored fonts that quickly fill up the screen. Attempting to run away in any direction only takes him back to his starting point. (Fortunately, he quickly breaks through the "floor" of the room and falls back into his time machine.)
  • Invader Zim features a rather unique version of this: The Room With The Moose. It is a dimension that consists entirely of just that: one room whose sole occupant is a moose. You can't get any more "In The Middle Of Nowhere" than a pocket dimension with no means of escaping it.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Leap Castle, thought to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, has an oubliette that was discovered to be filled with bones. So many, in fact, they filled three carts when it was emptied. The scariest thing was, a pocket watch from the 1840's was also found in there, long after the castle was thought to be abandoned....
  • Oubliettes in general have some of this, as the name indicates it's something you forget about. After you've shoved someone in there.
  • In 2001, Taliban POW's were reportedly sealed in cargo containers by the Northern Alliance and left in the desert to suffocate or roast.
    • Not quite: POW's were transported by truck in sealed cargo containers; however, once the convoy reached its destination, the men were unloaded and shot. (Of course, the transports took place over many hours, in the midday desert heat, so most of them were dead already.)
  • Elizabeth Bathory. Since she was a noble she couldn't be executed for her multiple murders as her servants were. So she was locked in her room for the rest of her life with no human contact. She lasted three years.
  • Standard punishment for Vestal Virgins who broke (or were accused of breaking) their vows of chastity. Spilling their blood was forbidden, but so was burying someone alive in Rome. Sealing them in a room with a few days' worth of food and water so that the room is 'technically' habitable, though...
  1. there are ways to escape his fate, one of which is actually granted to him