Yoda: That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.Whether it's The Lost Woods, a swamp, the room at the heart of a Haunted House, or an eldritch Dark World reflection of our own, this place likes messing with your head. It will conjure up phantoms from your past to taunt and torment, force you to face your worst flaws and greatest failures, all while it moves walls and landmarks to keep you lost and trapped until you die... or forever. The place could be tainted with the Dark Side, beckoning ghosts or causing too-real hallucinations. It might be a malicious Genius Loci that feeds on anguish. Whoever or whatever is behind the emotional onslaught won't outright kill anyone... at least not at first. It usually drives those it torments to suicide, uses Fright Deathtraps, or directly pits you against lethal physical enemies such as the Enemy Without. Sometimes however, it can be stopped the moment the victim says "I'm Not Afraid of You!" and/or reaches an emotional epiphany. In fact, the purpose of the place could even be as a center of emotional confrontation and healing. Healing with a high burnout rate, but healing nonetheless. It's also worth noting that individuals may create these places or similar effects themselves. Telepaths and Masters of Illusion absolutely love to use this on enemies, and the Artifact of Doom may use it as a defense. See also Epiphanic Prison, which can overlap, and Vision Quest. Compare Room 101 (which is this trope as a small part of a larger, more general-purpose location) and Black Bug Room (the Mental World equivalent) Contrast Happy Place.
Luke: What's in there?
Yoda: Only what you take with you.
Luke: What's in there?
Yoda: Only what you take with you.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- The Wangst cave Matt and Sora wandered/fell into in Digimon Adventure.
- The cave Yoh has to pass through in Shaman King. Not actually evil, but as you go through the cave, it starts to steal your senses.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica 's barriers tend to invoke this when the character and moment is just right. It is usually a way for the witch to feed. For example, when Madoka gets caught up in H.N Elly's barrier, Elly torments her with memories of the death of Mami, until Sayaka storms in.
- In Puella Magi Suzune Magica, a witch's barrier becomes this for Haruka Kanade, leading to herself becoming a witch.
- Dragon Ball Super has Master Roshi send Krillin and Goku to an island to retrieve a magic flower. The island manifests visions of their pasts foes to haunt them. It doesn't bother Goku much, who just treats it like another challenge and works through it, but Krillin died by the hands of several of them and has a much harder time adapting.
- In the final episodes of Inuyasha, Naraku does this to Sango and Miroku while they're inside his body, showing them visions of the death of Miroku's father, who was consumed by the Wind Tunnel curse. In a twist, this is not meant to hurt Miroku, who was there and is well aware he could suffer the same fate, but to show Sango the horror of it and drive her to prevent it at all costs.
- The Diabloverde jungle in the final mission of the original run of the Suicide Squad. Notable in that it's implied that it's either a malevolent Genius Loci... or a normal jungle which happens to have a free-floating biological agent capable of doing this (Deadshot, who was wearing a mask, and Poison Ivy, who's immune to toxins, were left unaffected).
- D'Spayre catches Doctor Strange in one of these after Clea returns to her home dimension. Rather creepily the entirety of Stephen Strange's life is shown being taken away by stagehands. Strange is nearly Driven to Suicide and is shaken afterward by how close he came to taking his own life.
- In the second story-arc of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) the moon itself is this, as it's tied to the Nightmare Dreamscape, home of the Nightmare forces.
- The fiftieth-anniversary strip in Doctor Who Magazine had the Doctor consigned by an alien Emotion Eater to his worst-imaginable fate - not some kind of Hell, but a Nineteen Eighty-Four/Brazil hybrid world where he was a cowardly, treacherous, Obstructive Bureaucrat Punch-Clock Villain.
- In Star Wars: Paranormalities: Episode II, Zolph is lured into the cave on Dagobah by a Valkoran probe droid as part of a very sadistic trap on Valkor's part. He encounters a hallucination of Dynn Manthis - whom Zolph was forced to kill six months earlier. Zolph knows she isn't real and tries to make her go away, but then Dynn rips his prosthetic arm (nerve connections included) and cuts his eye-lids open to make him see her as a Forceless-possessed monstrosity before almost getting disemboweled. Thankfully, Zolph's injuries weren't real, but because of Zolph's guilt surrounding Dynn's death, his own hallucinations would have killed him had Juganak not hit him in the back of the head. He goes through the experience again a few more times throughout the story with ancient Sith tombs on Korriban and Dxun and a Rakatan temple inhabited by a madness-inducing Eldritch Abomination.
Films — Live-Action
- In 1408, the... whatever is messing with the lead throws an apparition of his deceased daughter and father at him. Though it says it can't kill him since it has to respect free will. It just makes suicide the only sane option. Ironically, bringing up his deceased daughter is what ultimately pushed his Berserk Button and caused him to incinerate the room despite still being trapped inside.
- The quote is from The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke has to enter a cave on Dagobah and face his fears. Yoda tells Luke that he wonít need his weapons but Luke refuses and enters the cave. Inside, Luke sees Darth Vader and beheads him; the helmet splits open, revealing Lukeís own face. Taken at face value, this is a warning to Luke that by ignoring the Jedi teachings, he will become just like Darth Vader. Which becomes beautifully ironic and even more symbolic after the big reveal.
- The Event Horizon is an evil ship that particularly loves messing with people's heads, most often through hallucinations, as a result of slingshotting through a Cosmic Horror dimension comparable in many ways to Hell.
- The oceans of Solaris, a sentient planet that can read the minds of the human astronauts sent to study it. It creates illusions of their dead loved ones, although why exactly it does is uncertain.
- Just as in its equivalent below, The Shining has the Overlook Hotel, which shows the Torrance family visions of the hotel's opulent and depraved past. It mostly affects Jack, whose alcoholic and abusive tendencies render him the most easily susceptible, but by the end of the movie even the relatively normal Wendy is being bombarded with psychic images of the bloody halls.
- A very common premise for low-budget horror films in the 2010s, such as After or Kingdom Come.
- In the first Kushiel's Legacy trilogy, the cave of the thetalos ritual would seem to qualify. It's not evil — quite the opposite, it's sacred to Mother Earth — and you go there to atone for egregious deeds, but the experience is unpleasant and it's implied that many do not survive.
- The Chamber of the Ordeal in Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe books works this way. The idea is to weed out people who aren't tough and morally courageous enough to be knights by "hammering" their weak points. People sometimes die in the chamber, commit suicide when released or Go Mad from the Revelation.
- Nineteen Eighty-Four: The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.
- The "island where dreams come true" from The Chronicles of Narnia. Not daydreams, dreams. With all that that implies.
- The Crystal Maze from The Looking-Glass Wars psychologically torments new queens to test their courage and determination.
- AesSedai in The Wheel of Time have to go through not one, but two of these at certain points in their training: specialized devices are used to force them to face their fears, weaknesses, and hangups. It's mentioned that some never come out of the tests.
- In Counselors and Kings, the Unseelie Fairies Mind Rape anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into their world- and said world itself reacts strongly to thoughts and emotions, so you may summon your worst fears by mistake even if the fairies are currently leaving you alone. Tzigone spends most of the third book stuck there, and her friend and fellow protagonist Matteo spends a much briefer time there trying to get her out. Both learn important things about themselves in the process, though.
- The story "Ghost V" by Robert Sheckley provides a semi-hard science example: a planet whose atmosphere contains a hallucinogenic gas causing all-too-real hallucinations and animating long-suppressed fears of those who breathe it.
- Star Wars Expanded Universe:
- A story in the Junior Jedi Knights series had Anakin Solo, Tahiri Veila, and Uldir Lochett enter the Dagobah cave. Anakin saw himself turning into Darth Vader, based on his fears that he would eventually turn evil like his famous ancestor Anakin Skywalker. Tahiri saw visions of her family. However, since Uldir wasn't Force Sensitive, he only perceived it as an ordinary cave.
- Luke Skywalker later revisited the Dagobah cave. He was shown an Alternate Timeline where Mara Jade interfered in the battle aboard Jabba the Hutt's barge, resulting in Luke's demise.
- In Galaxy of Fear:
- This is combined with I Know What You Fear in the Nightmare Machine, a theme park attraction bringing to life visitor's worst fears. A character wonders why anyone would go in to such a thing and is told that some people like being scared. Of course, when they try it out things go wrong and there's a Failsafe Failure, and they have to Win to Exit - experience worse and worse fears until they've survived the one thing they dread most.
- The Dagobah cave which gave Luke so much trouble shows up, late in the series — it forces some pitiable cannibals to realize that their parents feeding them human bodies was a regrettable thing, not a tradition they should carry on. The experience makes them better people.
- In Andre Norton's Storm Over Warlock, the Wyverns' test of Shann is his ability to reject "dreams" that are his memories by holding in mind that they are dead. One was of a time when a bully tormented him with an Agony Beam; the other was seeing his beloved pet as if alive, and having to summon to memory its death in order to end it.
- In Ordeal in Otherwhere, the Wyverns use a stronger one, which they think will keep Shann imprisoned. Charis, with the help of Tsste and Thog, breaks him out. Later, he voluntarily throws himself into it to avoid questioning.
- The Overlook Hotel in The Shining is a relatively low-grade one of these, tempting Jack Torrance to give in to his predilection for drink and child and spousal abuse.
- The Forest of Gebaddon in the Wraeththu series was created as a prison for the bad guys from the first three books, where they would be kept indefinitely (or ostensibly until they somehow redeemed themselves) to suffer from hallucinations and other such insanity-inducing bad juju. Thankfully, this never comes back to haunt our heroes, except for when they escape in the fifth book and declare war out of revenge, having been horrible warped by their nightmare prison. To say nothing of their children.
- Harry Potter:
- Azkaban is this, what with all the joy-sucking Dementors there.
- In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore traverse a cave where Dumbledore has to consume a "Drink of Despair" to acquire a locket containing part of Voldemort's soul — and it turns out somebody else already swiped it. Then in the next book, when the heroes finally get their hands on the locket, it inflicts some psychological torment of its own on Ron Weasley before he manages to destroy it.
- Angel has a few of these, including the suburban prison Wolfram & Hart sends wayward employees to late in the show's run.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer has Buffy willingly entering one in Helpless to save Joyce's life. While depowered.
- In The Avengers, Mrs Peel is imprisoned in a house that is specifically designed to drive her insane as part of a revenge plot.
- Matt's father Maury uses his telepathy to turn people's minds into this. Matt eventually deals with him the same way, trapping Maury in an empty replica of their house on the day he abandoned Matt and Matt's mother.
- He does it again to Sylar in Volume Five.
- Doctor Who:
- "The God Complex" is all about this trope.
- Amy falls into one in "Amy's Choice" and again in "The Doctor's Wife".
- The Twelfth Doctor is trapped in a very personalized one in "Heaven Sent".
- This is much of the premise of Ashes to Ashes, where Alex Drake is tormented constantly by her parent's death, The Clown of Death and by her thinning grasp of reality (including other torments) while she is in purgatory.
- To a lesser extent, Sam Tyler in Life On Mars also undergoes Psychological Torment.
- The Dark Tower from Merlin. As Queen Mab puts it, "You must beware, Emrys. The Tower is not a real place. It is the heartís rest, the mindís deepest fear, the stillness in the hummingbirdís eye."
- Red Dwarf: The false reality generated by the Despair Squid is designed to break the Dwarfers by making them believe they are people who are the exact opposite of their actual nature.
- The Cat is made to believe he's a colossal dork named Duane Dibley.
- Rimmer is Billy Doyle, the pathetic, homeless half-brother of a rich, successful government worker, removing his ability to blame his parents for his various screw-ups.
- Lister is Sebastian Doyle, the mass-murdering head of the Department of Alterations, in charge of "purifying" the fascistic government of undesirables.
- And Kryten is Jake Bullet, a macho-named man working in Cybernautics (I.E. Traffic Control). He's fine up until he's forced to take a life to defend a child.
- The House in Beyond the Walls acts like this to everyone who enters. Lisa sees the ghost of her little sister and Julien has do deal with a fallen comrade from the first world war. It is implied that the House latches onto the feelings of guilt or even survivor's guilt and makes the people inside deal with them in a rather direct way.
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse is fond of this trope.
- In the 20th anniversary edition of Umbra: The Velvet Shadow, Erebus is described in these terms. Garou who wish to be rid of extreme Wyrm taint are submerged in the silver lake of Erebus, where the realm's guardians compel them to come to terms with their sins.
- In Rage Across the Heavens, Umbral travelers visiting Vulcan must tread the Path of Ashes, where they must master their greatest weaknesses and fears.
- All circles of the Black Spiral Labyrinth inflict psychological torment on those who enter. One's innermost secrets, fears, and pain are laid bare before the Wyrm.
- The main setting of the Luna Games.
- Carnate Island from The Suffering involves personifications of a person's flaws or worst nightmares that definitely can kill you.
- The Megaten franchise has dabbled in this trope many times
- Shin Megami Tensei if... has dungeons based on the seven deadly sins, with each dungeon meant to punish each sin.
- Sector Grus in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is transformed into this by Mother Maya, which answers the eternal question - what happens when a master of Mind Rape designs one of these? In physical appearance, it's made up of pieces of the first four Sectors, which, appropriately enough, mark probably the single worst moments of the Investigation Team.
- The TV World in Persona 4 involves personifications of a person's flaws or worst nightmares that definitely can kill you.
- Tolna's rift from the "A Soul's Bane" quest and Iban's lair from "Underground Pass" in RuneScape.
- This is the premise behind Silent Hill. As evident in all the games except maybe Shattered Memories, Silent Hill in general seems to be fond of doing this to almost everyone who ends up trapped there. And it tends to draw...troubled people, creating twisted monsters out of the deepest corners of their psyches.
- Alan Wake finds himself trapped in one after the events of the first game. Every time he tries to find a way out, he loses his mental stability and goes crazy. The DLC ends with him focusing his escape on something else: his writing...which he uses to escape in American Nightmare.
- The Punga trip sequence of the Fallout 3 add-on, Point Lookout, qualifies. The Lone Wanderer stumbles through the Sacred Bog, seeing hallucinations of corpses of people he's met, fake bobbleheads, and a skeleton labelled "Mom." This culminates with a bobblehead proclaiming "Dead mother, life in a post-nuclear Wasteland and not a friend in it. Yeah, you arenít exactly blessed" before a hallucinated Megaton bomb explodes.
- During the sequel, Starkiller from The Force Unleashed visits the same cave on Dagobah as Luke Skywalker did in The Empire Strikes Back. He is assaulted by clones moaning in pain before receiving a vision of Juno Eclipse being captured. He also enters an area on Kamino where he is repeatedly attacked by a silent Darth Vader and tormented by voices of his friends calling him a freak.
- In Knights of the Old Republic 2, there is the Tomb of Ludo Kressh, where the Exile is forced to relive some of his/her traumatic memories from the Mandalorian Wars, as well as having to face the conflicting loyalties of his/her teammates.
- In World of Warcraft Old Gods and their spawn tend to create these wherever they appear. This is most prevalent in Northrend and Pandaria; Yogg-Saron's presence has driven many of his watchers and unwary mortals insane, while the Sha feed on darker emotions and cause them to overwhelm their victims.
- City of Heroes has the revamped Dark Astoria when Mot, the God of Despair, breaks through the seals protecting the world from him and devours the various ghostly remnants in the area. The story arcs continuously feature heroes and villains driven to suicidal despair, their deaths feeding Mot and making him so powerful that it takes the biggest team-up of villains and heroes in the entirety of the game to beat him. And all that does is seal him in the zone.
- In Prom Dreams, the entirety of the game is spent in one of these, created by the antagonist, although it doesn't appear to at first. Manifesting as an alternate version of St. Giles Academy and its surrounding city, complete with false copies of its students and faculty, it grows more horrific as the game progresses, often tormenting the protagonist with taunts and reminders of his guilt over what happened to each of his love interests.
- Neverending Nightmares: The whole game is this for Thomas, taking place inside of his nightmares and all.
- Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice has the titular Senua travelling to Helheim to save her love Dillion. The only problem is that Senua already suffers from psychosis. The underworld combined with her own madness turns the entire game into this, with only brief instances of light piercing through the ever bleaker darkness, both for her and for the player.
- In Redvs Blue, the guardian of Chorus puts potential "warriors" through this. Note that the test isn't one of morality, but rather of the person's inner strength, resulting in more than a few characters failing, including Locus.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the White House uses one called the Negazone as a security system. Since most of its victims are super villains or the mentally disturbed, they succumb and lose their sense of self rather quickly. This also has the consequence that the visions used by the keeper of the Negazone are less than effective against a heroic character, at least beyond freaking him out briefly.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- The Foggy Swamp in Avatar: The Last Airbender shows those who visit it images of people who meant something to them, or who will be important in their future. This can be horribly upsetting when the person you see just so happens to have died.
- The Fog Of Lost Souls from the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra; essentially the Spirit World's prison for humans, it's a giant cloud of fog that plays upon the insecurities and past failures of those wandering around in it, slowly driving them insane. From the condition Zhao is in when Tenzin and his siblings find him, it's likely that the Fog keeps its prisoners alive for a very long time. Luckily, there is one way out; the Fog is an Epiphanic Prison, and by coming accepting yourself, flaws and all, you can drive it back and regain your senses. This is no easy matter, though, particularly since the Fog makes rational thought increasingly difficult.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) has The Valley of Echoes. Unlucky travelers can get lost in it forever following false sounds and voices that prey on their inner fears.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In the "Return of Harmony" episodes, the mane characters are lured into a Mobile Maze in which the villain approaches them individually in the form of their respective cutie marks. He then exploits their deepest fears, insecurities, and flaws to the point they abandon the element they represent, and become shadows of their former selves.
- The Door to Darkness in "The Crystal Empire pt.2," which forces Twilight and then Spike to live their worst fears.
- South Park parodies the The Empire Strikes Back example above with the Tree of Insight. The relatively well-adjusted (in this episode, anyway) Ms. Choksondik sees nothing, but the closeted Mr. Garrison is tormented by his gay side until he gives and admits to being gay.