"Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world. Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear."
A mining operation unleashes the Sealed Evil in a Can
. The Trope Namer
is of course The Lord of the Rings
, and it seems this happens a lot
with little variation because Our Dwarves Are All the Same
. A mine filled with evil is one of the great traditional Dungeons
. Also, evil from mines have so many themes. You've got greed
and it can be a Green Aesop
See also King in the Mountain
— accidentally finding him before the country's hour of need
can be dangerous.
Can result in an Abandoned Mine
. For cases when man's Pride
sends him too far in the other direction, see The Tower
Do not confuse with Digging Yourself Deeper
, which is for awkward one-way conversations. Not the result of Digging to China
either; that one is a comedy trope.
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Anime & Manga
- The creature in the 2008 Wolverine annual "Roar" was unleashed when a town suffering from a drought dug for groundwater where it was lurking.
- In the original run of Swamp Thing, Kentucky coal miners accidentally awoke an Eldritch Abomination.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe miniseries Jedi Academy: Leviathan is all about this trope.
- Xenoarchaeologists in World of Fire find an underground city under their dig site and decide to break through the still-functioning energy barrier put around it. This stirs up the xenophobic, paranoid security system, which kills them all, then people landing on the world to investigate, then ships flying in orbit overhead...
- In a Yoko Tsuno story, where the (mostly) peaceful aliens the Vineans live under Earth's crust, an oil drill damages one of their conduits that happened to be transporting lava. Troubles ensue for drillers and Vineans alike as this means there is now lava flowing close to a pocket of natural gas.
- The Disney Ducks Comic Universe has to deal with these all the time. Most of Scrooge McDuck's riches came from mining, after all.
- Garfield: During a Sunday strip (circa 1996), Odie was shown digging in the backyard for a place to bury a bone; he went sooo deep, that Garfield, who stood watching nearby, was totally freaked out when he saw a giant alligator crawl out of the hole and went away, which meant that Odie had at the very least reached sewer level.
- FoxTrot: One of Jason Fox's ideas for "How Disney could improve its movies" went like this:
We dig-dig-dig and dig-dig-dig and mine the whole day through... Grumpy:
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Rodan was unleashed on Japan by miners breaking into a sealed chamber and allowing the egg to hatch. Not to mention the giant Meganulon caterpillars that were also in there.
- In Godzilla (2014), the Mutos were awakened by a mining operation digging into the cavern where they were laying dormant.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman quotes this trope.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie has construction workers unearthing Ivan Ooze.
- The dragons in Reign of Fire were discovered by underground construction workers as well.
- Possibly in Galaxy Quest: "Where are the miners?"
- The title creatures in The Boogens were initially released due to gold mining in the 20's. After sixty years the attacks restart when the mining starts again.
- Appears in The Descent Part 2. Apparently, many years before the events of the film a mining operation dug just too deep.
- The eponymous creatures in the Sy Fy Channel Original Movie Mongolian Death Worm are unearthed by an oil company drilling in the deserts of Mongolia.
- Implied to be the source of Perfection's Graboid infestation in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, in which Wild West miners uncover "dirt dragon" eggs and unwittingly allow them to revive.
- Reptilicus was unleashed by first drilling too deep, then foolishly digging after what they'd drilled into.
- Ghosts of Mars a mining crew in Mars dug deep and unleashed the ghosts who possessed everyone at the site.
- Lone Wolf: An immortal monster called Shom'zaa was kept imprisoned by the special ore in the rock around it. Very, very valuable ore. Which was dug up by dwarves, thus releasing the ancient evil (which happened to be a servant of the Big Bad from the elder days), which set about destroying the dwarves' underground kingdom.
- In the Fighting Fantasy book Portal of Evil, which is set during a gold rush, miners unwittingly uncovered an Artifact of Doom in the form of an ancient portal to a Lost World. The portal is sentient and causes those to pass through to transform into zombie-like slaves to its will. Or prehistoric mammals. Or dinosaurs.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Balrog was found when the Dwarves of Moria "delved too greedily and too deep." It was Sealed Evil in a Can, but then they woke it up, and it wiped out their kingdom. And according to Gandalf, there are even worse things further down than that...
- In Desperation by Stephen King, Chinese Miners dig too deep and uncover the dwelling of Tak, a sadistic, insane, body-snatching horror from beyond our world. This event also triggers the plot of the King-as-Richard-Bachman The Regulators (an AU version of Desperation).
- Warhammer 40,000 novels:
- Ciaphas Cain example: a Necron base was discovered under a Prometheum Foundry. The Foundry was placed there deliberately to dig them up "accidentally."
- Another Necron base was found in an asteroid mine. Cain suspected, but as there were also tyranids attacking the asteroid, they got the blame for the deaths of the miners. It seems likely the 'nids actually arrived after just about all the humans were dead.
- The same thing happened in the Space Marine novel The Fall of Damos. The Adeptus Mechnicus dug up necron ruins, collected artifacts and did not tell anyone else about it. Some time later the awakened necrons slaughtered most of the human population and were only halted by the Ultramarines.
- Subverted in The Last Continent, where a well-digger remarks that if they dig much deeper, they'll give an elephant a nasty surprise. The Discworld, of course, is balanced on the backs of four huge turtle-riding elephants. In the same novel, an opal miner uncovers the Luggage — not technically evil, but no-one stuck around to check.
- In the Simon R. Green novel Blue Moon Rising the inhabitants of a mining town Dug Too Deep just as the Big Bad awakened. By the time the heros get there it is far, far too late for anything except revenge.
- Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore: manages to combine both Moria and The Hobbit, because the dwarves dug too deep, opening a passage to the Underdark that allowed access to a shadow dragon named Shimmergloom who drove them from their home.
- Miners uncover a dragon in Elizabeth Bear's story "Orm the Beautiful".
- Annerton Pit by Peter Dickinson: According to local legends, miners working in the Annerton pit unleashed something deep underground that killed almost all of them.
- In the Culture science fiction novel Matter by Iain M. Banks, an industrial civilization living inside an artificial world digs up an ancient alien artifact. To communicate with it they get help from a more advanced alien civilization that think the artifact is a member of the species that built the world. Actually it turns out the be their enemy. After waking up it promptly nukes the site of the dig along with a mining town of a hundred thousand people and flies off to the core of the world to make enough antimatter to blow it up.
- Tendrils by Harry Adam Knight has geologists drill right into an Eldritch Abomination. Consumption of random people ensues, understandably. And even before said Eldritch Abomination began consuming people, whatever it was inside of contained a huge quantity of extremely corrosive acid which became a gusher from the well — with many people close by.
- Not exactly evil but what is released by Professor Challenger's experiment in When the World Screamed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is certainly catastrophic for all involved.
- Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Scientists digging for a detected source of power in the Age of Legends released the Dark One, which directly and indirectly destroyed their civilization.
- Invoked in The Heroes of Olympus. Gaea forces Hazel to use her powers to revive Alcyoneus. After realizing this, Hazel buried herself along with Alcyoneus to postpone Gaea's plans.
- The terrible thing in Galaxy of Fear: Spore is deep within an asteroid rather than a planet, at the bottom of an old space slug tunnel, but miners still find it. And decide, upon finding a sealed door and terrified-looking statues, to go in anyway because what if there was something valuable there? The Ithorians who'd sealed it up had put up clearer and more explicit warnings, but something had removed them.
- In Frank Peretti's 1985 young adult novel The Door in the Dragon's Throat features a deep, dangerous cave at the bottom of which lurks a massive, ornate door. Our protagonists are hired by a stereotypical rich local with a bad case of Gold Fever to find the key, which purports to open the way to untold treasure. the Door actually holds back a demonic force of untold power that is strongly implied to be Abaddon the Angel of the bottemless pit himself and his followers.
- Clive Barker's Rawhead Rex. Granted, he wasn't buried very deep.
- In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, data-archaeologists dig too deeply into an ancient digital archive and unleash the Blight, a sort of godlike computer virus that eats minds.
- H.P. Lovecraft had an unpublished story, "The Transition of Juan Romero", which has miners blasting a new area open for work, only to find a bottomless cavern, a horrible pounding noise, and God, I dare not tell you what I saw!
- Subverted in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Devil in the Dark". A monster starts attacking a group of miners after they enter a new level. It turns out to be a Mama Bear protecting her eggs (silicon nodules), which were being destroyed by the mining operation. Fortunately, she's a very reasonable Mama Bear and Kirk and Spock are able to resolve the situation with a mutually agreeable compromise.
- Doctor Who
- In "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit". The title of the latter should explain it all...
- A drill to tap a new fuel source in "Inferno" instead unleashes a substance that transforms people into bloodthirsty beasts, and causes the destruction of a parallel world the Doctor is trapped on for the duration of the serial.
- Subverted in the two-parter "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood" — the Silurians they dig up are (mostly) not hostile towards humans, but are simply trying to defend themselves against the drill, which threatens to destroy their life support systems. They're quite willing to negotiate peace with the humans. Unfortunately, Fantastic Racism on both sides prevent the negotiations from succeeding.
- On Lexx, an Asteroid Miner scouting a test shaft in a small planetoid is possessed by an alien essence, which proceeds to Body Surf while building a 20,000-planet theocracy around itself.
- On LOST, the group of scientists known as the Dharma Initiative uncovered an electro-magnetic hot spot by drilling into the ground, causing a disaster that would result in a hatch being built with a button that would have to be pushed every 108 minutes in order to keep things from going to crap, the failure to push said button eventually causing the crash of Oceanic flight 815.
- Used a few times on The X-Files, usually with geologists whose explorations unleash a hibernating Monster of the Week. Another episode, in which loggers sawed too deep into a really ancient tree and released a swarm of killer bugs, could be considered a variant.
- The Outer Limits (1995) episode "From Within" has a group of miners blast into an ancient cave containing a dinosaur fossil and a crapload of worms that quickly infest the miners and, shortly after, the whole town. Luckily, they hate light and need salt to survive.
- When Mock the Week covered a potential funeral for Margaret Thatcher, Frankie Boyle suggested that "For Ł3,000,000 we could give everyone in Scotland a shovel, and we would dig a hole so deep that we could hand her over to Satan personally"
- In Babylon 5, the Shadows buried their ships scattered around the galaxy after the last war. Archaelogical expeditions stumbled upon several of them, usually with disastrous consequences.
- Superman and the Mole People , which aired as part of The Adventures of Superman had a mine that allowed underground beings to come into our world. Kinda inverted though since they were only trying to defend themselves when they attacked and Supes points this out.
- In the Fringe episode "What Lies Below", a sample unearthed from an oil dig contains a prehistoric virus that controls its victims into spreading the disease, before slaughtering them. One of its hosts infects an entire office building, including Peter. It is only cured after realizing the volcanic ash that killed the dinosaurs also eradicated the virus, necessitating a dose of sulfur into the building's duct system.
- The Gorillaz song "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head".
"The Strangefolk, they coveted the jewels in these caves above all things, and soon they began to mine the mountain...as the Strangefolk mined deeper and deeper into the mountain, holes began to appear, bringing with them a cold and bitter wind that chilled the very soul...And then came a sound. Distant first, it grew into castrophany so immense it could be heard far away in space. There were no screams. There was no time. The mountain called Monkey had spoken."
- Merlin by Doug McArthur and Kathy Mar tells this from the other side:
It's not so dark in the cave tonight
Just over here there's a crack of light
Tomorrow is the day
I heard the voices coming through the wall
They're digging for a brand new shopping mall...
- In Warhammer 40,000, this is usually how people find out that they're squatting on a Necron tomb world. The results of said digging are usually... apocalyptic.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the example of the White Howlers, a warrior tribe of the Garou who often proved their mettle by traveling into both the dark places of the earth and the Umbra, fighting whatever forces of the Wyrm they found. Such history of diving led them deep into Malfeas, the Wyrm's domain, and exposing them to its corrupting influence. Eventually, the tribe was wiped out entirely, with the survivors being subjugated into the Black Spiral Dancers that rose in their place.
- The origin of Deep Crows in Penny Arcade.
- In Digger this is how the story started, and arguably its entire premise. It is however of course deconstructed as unlike the dwarfs of Moria, wombats are Genre Savvy enough to know there are some things in the deeps you leave the hell alone!
- In The Noob, the dwarves "dug too deep", and unleashed... level 200 mining bots. So they turned to the tourism industry instead.
- Parodied in a strip of xkcd.
- The Christmas special of Subnormality.
"I'm not a believer in any supernatural shit, to be honest, but minimum there was something besides oil that came out when the drills got down there..."
- This episode of Irregular Webcomic!.
- In Sluggy Freelance, the opening narration for Torg's comic book Gunman Stan McKurt vs. the Gates of the City of the Damned begins: "Some archeologists were out five miles west digging around where they shouldn't have. Like dropping a hornets nest in a pail of moonshine. And then lighting the moonshine. They uncovered what they say is "the doors to Hell itself." They ran for their lives and for their souls and one of them hired me, I guess as a way to make amends." It's a bit more complicated, though — the gates are not yet open and, well, there's a Twist Ending that kind of changes the whole thing anyway.
- Ruby Quest: The Metal Glen started out as a fairly nice medical facility built on the seafloor. Then one of the administrators heard something whispering to him in the night, urging him to dig the foundations just a litte bit deeper...
- The story detailed on Teds Caving Page. A pair of cavers endeavor to widen a softball-sized hole in the wall of a local cave so that the passage beyond can be accessed. This does not end well.
- This is defied in the Yogscast song "Diggy Diggy Hole", which has the proud line "We do not fear what lies beneath, we can never dig too deep!"
- Sort of inverted in Captain Planet and the Planeteers. When Hoggish Greedly and Rigger use a titanic machine to drill for oil along the shore, their drill goes so deep into the Earth it causes Gaia, the sleeping spirit of the Earth to wake up and take action.
- The Real Ghostbusters had some episodes kicked off this way.
- It sequel series Extreme Ghostbusters was kicked of like this with the opening of a new subway tunnel unlocking new Eldritch Abominations
- In South Park, BP (later DP) does this. Multiple times. We're sorry.
- A lighthearted throw-away gag version in the Donkey Kong Country cartoon. Kaptain Skurvy and his crew are digging for their treasure (in the wrong spot, thanks to Skurvy holding the map wrong), and Green Kroc comments, "If we digs any deeper, we'll sink the island."
- In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, a thumper using deep-penetrating sound waves to gather soil data deep underground Granna's surface wakes up the Scarecrow.
- One episode of Justice League started with an off shore oil rig releasing some creatures from the Earth's core.
- The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded a couple months after it finished digging the world's deepest oil well. Coincidence? Well, yes, although not taking proper precautions when drilling that deep was a major factor. Still 560,000 tons of crude oil in the wrong place is definitely evilish.
- The famous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is concerned with preventing this. The waste will still be dangerous for ten thousand years, and the warning signs need to be comprehensible for that long. One concern is that even if future generations understand the message "warning! This place will kill you!", they'll dismiss it as a way to scare off the superstitious and assume treasure is buried there. One of the many proposed solutions includes covering the area above the site with a landscape of spikes◊. Another is just attempting to make it as plain and unenticing as possible. (Although the actual plan for waste repositories backed up these crude measures with multiple copies of written documentation all over the site, describing what was buried where, what it was, and why it was dangerous— all written in seven languages, including Navajo. See Expert judgment on markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.)
- The Kola Superdeep Borehole is twelve kilometers deep. There is an Urban Legend that they detected a sudden spike in temperature, together with sounds of people being tortured, having accidentally broken through the roof of Hell. This was the recording that had people fooled.
- The spike in temperature, at least, was true: they determined the temperature at the bottom of the shaft to be approximately 350 degrees, instead of the expected 212 degrees. This resulted in the project shutting down, since the drill wouldn't be able to take the additional heat. Of course most likely, the temperature spike was caused by heat rising from the earth's mantle or the like.
- A Weekly World News story in 1992 elaborated this further into an even stronger example, claiming that it had happened in Alaska and that thirteen oil workers had been horribly killed by a demon that emerged from the hole.
- The Sidoarjo Mud Flow. An Indonesian oil and gas company, PT Lapindo Brantas, in its search for natural gas in East Java, created a "Borehole" (a narrow shaft) into the Earth, digging more then 10,000 meters into the ground (a depth no natural gas has ever been found at before). Having ignored sensibility, they decided to ignore the law as well, not using the required protective equipment on the drill. The result? Running a giant drill next to fault lines has consequences, as the poor people of the surrounding villages learned when the drilling erupted a massive mud volcano, making 1.5 million people homeless. The eruption is still going on today, years after the 2006 incident, spewing 88,000 cubic feet of mud every day — and is not expected to stop completely for at least another 25 years. PT Lapindo Brantas was ordered to pay up to $300,000,000 in damages. The higher ups tried to sell the company for $2 to off shore groups in an attempt to avoid responsibility. They were denied.
- The Iron Mountain Mine in Northern California. When this location was mined out, they discovered that in addition to rich iron deposits, the mine contained acidophilic archaea that lived off of the rich iron deposits, metabolizing them and producing sulfuric acid as waste. This created extremely toxic hot springs with a pH of less than 1, which drained into other water sources, making the mine one of the most toxic waste sites in the United States of America.
- Lake Peigneur: The Swirling Vortex of Doom. It turns out you should make very sure that the lake you're drilling is not directly over a salt mine.
- One of the potential dangers of exploiting offshore methane chlatrate deposits. Methane chlatrate is methane gas trapped in the crystal structure of ice, and is stable only at high pressure, and even then it's not particularly stable, with even slight decrease in pressure or increase in temperature liable to cause the methane to escape. Chlatrate deposits contain enormous amounts of methane, but one of the problems regarding exploiting them (aside from the costs associated with deep water drilling) is that drilling might disrupt the deposits, releasing enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane being much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, this would be a very bad thing. Though the possibility of all the methane chlatrate melting due to global warming is even worse threat, considering that's the kind of thing that leads to mass extincions...