"What is it that's not exactly water, and it ain't exactly earth?"Quicksand is a common and deadly element of jungle and desert terrain, and its most dangerous feature is its ability to suck people and animals down and drown them in a malevolent blend of sand and water. Although most victims blunder blindly into quicksand, it sometimes seems that the merest touch of an extremity is enough to pull the unwary into its muddy and all-consuming depths like iron filings to a magnet. Originally a movie serial and B-film device, this trope has been carried over to television by way of programs that mimicked or paid homage to those films, or to pulp fiction in general. Then it also moved to Video Games. This trope is pretty much a Discredited Trope nowadays, although the Shifting Sand Land of video games is still allowed to play it straight, as a gameplay challenge if nothing else. In truth, quicksand (while real) isn't terribly common, and exerts none of its movie counterpart's mythical "sucking" power and isn't nearly the Sticky Situation the movies made it look like. In fact, real quicksand is so dense that you can't sink in it; the usual advice for someone who finds themselves caught in deep quicksand is to simply relax and float on their back. Struggling in a panic may actually cause you to drag yourself down instead of up, and survival guides stress the importance of staying still if this starts to happen. While animals and people do sometimes die in quicksand, it's almost never from drowning — it's from exposure, dehydration or predation after exhausting themselves struggling to get out - with the right combination/consistency of sand, clay, water, and salt, it is nearly impossible to escape the stuff without help. If you are weighed down by something you can't remove, you could sink, but that would happen even in boring, old regular water. Speaking of water, real quicksand requires it and writers are traditionally unfettered by such technicalities. Fictional quicksand tends to be placed in the desert or away from a river or any apparent source of water, although a hidden spring could in theory create quicksand in surprising places. In live action, budget and set-design constraints sometimes lead to a "quicksand pit" barely large enough to hold the actor. Technically speaking, desert quicksand is hand-waved as being very loose sand that looks normal but is incapable of supporting a large amount of weight. Although not always strictly "sand", tidal flats (mudflats) have mud which is actually closer to the danger portrayed in fiction as quicksand. The tide regularly refreshes the surface and smooth implies solid to people. Viscosity decreases after an initial stress. More to the point, being a tidal flat, it's a case where people actually ARE at risk for their lives, since tides have this funny way of coming back in after going out. There are tidal flats which have seen so many deaths the locals are tired of watching stupid people die, but it's not wholly clear how much that is getting stuck in one specific spot versus getting trapped some distance from dry ground on slow-to-traverse terrain or attempting to wait on an insecure bit of slightly higher ground as the tide comes in around you. There is also a hazard in nature called a "predator trap," where an animal gets itself hopelessly stuck in thick, sticky mud or tar and its corpse attracts the attention of multiple carnivores, causing them to become trapped and die of exposure as well—sometimes becoming fossil goldmines (the La Brea tar pits are one example). See also Sand Is Water, Mucking In The Mud, Swamps Are Evil, and Bubblegloop Swamp... Also compare Unrealistic Black Hole because both black holes and quicksand are portrayed in media as pulling in anything nearby whereas both only consume things which have gotten too close in the first place.
— Bart, Blazing Saddles
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Mikan and a friend of hers encounter this in episode 3 of Gakuen Alice.
- A scene of this happens in episode 5 of Deltora Quest.
- A scene of this happens in episode 8 of a forgotten anime known as Fortune Quest L.
- Sir Crocodile's "Desert Girasole" attack in One Piece involves him using his sand-controlling powers to create a giant whirlpool of quicksand. He does explain, however, that he's tapping into an underground water source to do this, and he's never seen doing it outside of a desert.
- Caribou's devil fruit basically allows him to transform his entire body into this trope, though he's never seen using it to suffocate anyone to death, simply using it to knock them out and preserve them so he can sell them for slavery.
- In one episode of 'Pani Poni Dash!, the whole cast collectively walk into quicksand, and once they realise it, they're instantly sucked in, fall through the center of the Earth, and end up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
- In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the heroine is sucked down by quicksand but surprisingly is not killed but instead sucked into a subterranean world.
- In one comic, Spidey is facing Kraven the Hunter in the jungles of Africa. Kraven uses a blowdart to drug Spider-man, making him lose most of his strength and his spider-sense, then tricks him into falling into quicksand.
- This is also a common tactic of spidey villain Sandman, though the fact that he's a man made of sentient sand means he could consciously pull Spidey down in a manner like Hollywood quicksand.
- Beetle Bailey. In the strip for May 17th, 2013, when Beetle finds himself walking on some quicksand he immediately sinks below the surface.
- ''Garfield gets sucked under in a bowl of Oatmeal◊
- Averted in a Hägar the Horrible strip. Hagar and Lucky Eddie seem to be sinking in a quicksand, but a local (whom only Eddie can speak to, so we only see gibberish) informs them that it isn't quicksand. It's concrete.
- A favorite of The Far Side, with a collection of hats usually floating on the surface to indicate who the last unlucky victim was.
- An old Esquire cartoon showed two very proper British explorers up to their necks in you-know-what captioned 'You know Smithers, I've half a mind to struggle.'
- One entry into a Miniatures forum about what to do when you have nothing but standard bearers in your army is to plant the standards in a sandtrap; the enemy will waste a lot of time to "avoid the quicksand".
Film - Animated
- In The Brave Little Toaster, Kirby and the others trying to pull him out get sucked into a mud pit in a swamp that acts much the same way.
- Averted in Once Upon a Forest. The quail firmly believe this trope, leaving one poor bastard who gets stuck in the mud to die. Luckily for him, the party comes through and the Smart Guy has them build a lever device to pry him out.
- In The Secret Of NIMH, A house made from a cinder block is disposed of like this-after being dropped by crane onto Nicodemus. As a murder weapon. The residents are also still inside.
- Wreck-It Ralph: Nesquik Sand! Calhoun has to smack some sense into Felix to get him to stop making it worse with his panicking, which actually helps them figure out an escape via slapstick.
- Fondly parodied in the book and movie The Princess Bride, which featured a super-quicksand called "lightning sand," which is dangerous because its grains are so small that you fall straight through it.
- At least as dangerous (in the novel, at any rate) is the way the stuff gets into your lungs.
- While it may be a magical plant rather than quicksand, the devil's snare in the film version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone fits the functional parts of the trope perfectly. When it grabs the heroes and starts crushing them, Hermione remembers that devil's snare only reacts to panicked movement, so she and Harry relax, slipping through the plant's vines. Ron, on the other hand, is so freaked out that he keeps flailing around and will obviously get strangled. Hermione manages to remember another weakness of devil's snare and uses it to free him.
- Stephen Sommers loves this trope:
- The live-action film version of The Jungle Book starring Jason Scott Lee had this happen to a villain. He even explicitly states "It's sucking me down!" while struggling.
- In The Mummy, a biplane sinks into a pit of quicksand... in the middle of a desert. The protagonists stand atop a dune and solemnly watch it sink. The sequence takes so long that it's hard to tell if it's Lampshading its own absurdity or just deathly oblivious to it.
- A cave in The Scorpion King featured this.
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull provides a Hand Wave for the inaccurate depiction by having Indy explain that what he and Marion are sinking into is not actually quicksand, but some sort of collapsing dry sand pit.
- Slightly parodied when Indy starts to lecture Mutt on the difference between quick sand and dry sand, only to be interrupted before he can actually explain anything informative.
- Tank Girl. A non-liquid version: the dust/sand covering the Rippers' subgates.
- In the film Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence has two young servant boys, Daud and Farraj. Daud falls into quicksand, and Lawrence and Farraj try to save him, but fail. In real life, Daud died of hypothermia—in Arabia, no less.note Also, in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence describes his own fall through a crust of ice into mud, in which he is trapped until his obliging camel pulls him out.
- In Pure Luck, Martin Short's extremely unlucky character manages to walk into a quicksand pit in the California desert.
- The NeverEnding Story contains a particularly heartbreaking scene in which Atreyu's horse Artax sinks to his death in quicksand in the Swamp of Sadness. It is explained, however, that Artax' sinking was not due to quicksand, but sadness.
- One of the policemen in Kekexili: Mountain Patrol dies from this.
- In the climax of House of Frankenstein, the finally powered up Frankenstein's Monster grabs the Mad Scientist and tries to evade the local Angry Mob, whose purposedly chase them straight into a nearest bog where it sinks with the scientist.
- One of the Sheriff's attempted duels in Hot Lead And Cold Feet ends with him sinking in quicksand brought about by heavy rains.
- The Hallelujah Trail: The opening narration tells you that there is going to be a disaster at Quicksand Bottoms.
- A pit appears early in Blazing Saddles; other than the fact that it shows up in the middle of an arid desert, it's actually a pretty accurate representation.
- The first Dungeons & Dragons movie had a magic quicksand trap disguised as a rug. Presumably, it was solid when the Evil Sorceror who cast the spell was about.
- In A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Kristen finds herself trapped in the beach dream when the sand beneath her turns into quicksand. Freddy Krueger places his foot on her head, and pushes her down.
- A realistic depiction in Hidalgo. The Prince is thrown from his horse and ends up neck-deep in a quicksand. He stays there for hours, solemnly waiting to die of thirst. Frank rescues him, however.
- Done in The Return of Count Yorga which the titular vampire has a pit right behind his house which uses to conveniently dump bodies of those he doesn't want turned undead, or dealing with meddling priests.
- The moondust version is seen in 12 to the Moon (1960). One Red Shirt gets sucked under 'pumice dust' while dramatically clutching at nothing, while the lead character is pulled out by a 'magna-buoy', which MST3K mockingly refer to as "some sort of anti-sand device".
- In Apocalypto the protagonist falls into a quicksand pit, but he manages to escape, signifying his prophesied "rebirth from mud".
- The porn director Dave Lodoski specialises in fetish films which feature women (usually naked) sinking, and usually drowning, in quicksand; their last words are invariably, "This SUCKS sooooooo bad!"
- The heroes in Krull run afoul of this in a swamp. It is heavily implied The Beast is using his dark magic to make them get sucked in.
- In Southern Comfort, one of the National Guardsmen meets his demise in sinking quicksand.
- Probably the most accurate portrayal of quicksand in a film is the notorious scene in "Ice Cold In Alex", in which Anthony Quayle's "Nazi Spy Disguised As South African Officer" falls into some, and is exposed by his inability to remember the Afrikaans for "Quicksand" ("Wilsand").
- Alluded to in HP Lovecraft's short story "Dagon", where it is mentioned that after the narrator's boat landed on what he claims to be a piece of the ocean floor brought to the surface by volcanic upheaval, he had to wait three days for the land to dry sufficiently enough for him to walk on.
- Nick Cave's novel And The Ass Saw The Angel uses this as a framing device. The narrator recounts his story while sinking into a bog. The unlikelihood of this contingency is easy to swallow compared to some of the other stuff we're asked to believe, or asked not to believe.
- During a stint of being Reassigned to Antarctica, Miles Vorkosigan runs across a nasty arctic version called a "Permofrost Inversion Zone"; this appears to be solid ground, but has the potentially lethal property of unexpectedly thawing into a gooey sea of mud. Miles manages to sink an entire "scat-cat" (a kind of arctic all-terrain jeep) in one after he parks on top of it rather than try to drive back to base at night, and very nearly dies because he chained his tent to it.
- In the Known Space stories of Larry Niven some areas of Mars have sand that is so fine that it essentially is a liquid and people can sink in it.
- Many older science fiction stories portrayed the Moon as having areas very fine dust that functioned like quicksand, A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke being a good example.
- In The Takers (a modern Two Fisted Tale-homage by Jerry Ahern) the protagonist and his Plucky Girl get caught in quicksand while wading through a swamp on a Caribbean island.
- Occurs in Book 7 of The Hardy Boys Casefiles, Deathgame. Joe starts sinking in the quicksand and knows enough to float on it, but then has to force himself to sink below the surface to hide from his attacker. The caked mud later serves him as improvised camouflage.
- The Hound Of The Baskervilles uses the swamp version, which is dangerous to enter even if you know the way, and nigh impossible to traverse without a guide. Stapleton, who boasts that he is the only one who can safely cross, falls victim when he tries to escape justice in a hurry.
- In one of the smaller, chapter Dinotopia books, Magnolia and Paddlefoot, her dinosaur companion, get mired in quicksand. However, the author has done their research — Magnolia and Paddlefoot are experts about water, so they simply lie flat and float. Eventually a boy and his Triceratops come along and give them a hand out.
- The Shivering Sand in The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Dangerous, but not an impossible trap. It's used by a certain character to hide an incriminating piece of evidence, using a locked box and a chain, and to commit suicide.
- The NeverEnding Story contains a particularly heartbreaking scene in which Atreyu's Sapient Steed Artax sinks to his death in quicksand in the Swamp of Sadness. It is explained, however, that Artax' sinking was not due to quicksand, but sadness.
- In Dream Park, when Griffin enters the South Seas Treasure Game as an alternate, the party finds him trapped waist-deep in quicksand.
- Galaxy of Fear: Eaten Alive features a similar effect on D'vouran, but it happens because the ground itself is an organism that pulls people down and suffocates them.
- In The Law of the Gun by J.T. Edson, the main bad guy perishes when he attempts to escape the heroes by diving of the trail through the cane brakes along the Rio Grande and plunging into quicksand where he vanishes without trace.
- The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear plays a little with the trope, in that the Minipirates mix quicksand in the soap when swabbing the deck, to avoid the deck getting slippery. More dramatic is the intelligent quicksand encountered by Bluebear note . This quicksand is not only intelligent, but benevolent and can communicate telepathically with potential victims to warn them away. However, if someone chooses to ignore the warnings and step into the quicksand anyway, there's not a lot the quicksand can do about it other than say "I told you so" and offer its condolences as the poor victims sink to their deaths.
- In Bram Stoker's short story "Crooken Sands", rich Englishman on a vacation to Scotland is menaced by a ghostly Doppelgänger who is constantly sinking into quicksand, and tries to lure him into same fate.
- During Dinoverse: Raptor Without A Cause an Acrocanthusaurus ends up in deep mud that is noted to be "like quicksand". She panics and thrashes, sinking, and the other Acros make a Chain Of Dinosaurs to get her out. The closer ones all also sink somewhat, but are pulled out by their fellows.
- In Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey, walking on the Yorkshire moors in fog, accidentally strays into a notorious local bog with the coincidental but appropriate name of Peter's Pot. It immediately begins to suck him in; the suction is so powerful that Bunter is entirely unable to pull him out, and just barely manages to hold onto him until help arrives. The incident is also notable for the normally made-of-iron Wimsey being prostrated (although not for very long) by the strain of the event.
- This trope has been disproved by the Mythbusters.
- And disproved earlier by Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- Even Power Rangers has used this, a couple times over the years. "Ninja Quest" in season three, and "Fire Heart" in Mystic Force.
- One episode of The Man Show has a segment advertising fake products. One of those was "Quicksand Kitty Litter," which causes cats that step in it to sink in and drown. Technically, it does what it's advertised to do: free you of the responsibility of cleaning the litter box.
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, one round with Xena's Evil Counterpart, Callisto, culminates in Xena and Callisto falling into this, Xena manages to get out, Callisto doesn't. Not that her death lasted long
- Larry and Balki get trapped in quicksand on an episode of Perfect Strangers. Watch it here.
- In Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls demonstrates how to escape from a quicksand in the middle of the Sahara Desert and prevent health problems as a result from having clay on your skin.
- In an episode of Lassie, Timmy gets stuck in the swamp version of this.
- In Sea Patrol 2Dads sinks into a pit, briefly going under before he's fished out by a team member. It's described as 'swamp', not quicksand, but it works the same way and when he falls in he's immediately buried up to his chest.
- Subverted in an episode of Magnum, P.I.: Rick stumbles in what he believes is quicksand and yells for help; when TC and Magnum arrive, Magnum tells Rick he's in a swamp - "There is no quicksand in Hawaii."
- The Big Bad in The Wild Wild West's "The Night of the Bottomless Pit," who absolutely hates muck, meets his maker that way.
- In one episode of Merlin, this happens to Arthur on his quest but he manages to pull himself out.
- One episode of Gilligan's Island had Skipper stumble into a pit of quicksand. While Gilligan is preparing a rope to throw him, a vine conveniently dislodges from a treebranch and lands right next to him. He uses it to climb out, and taps Gilligan on the shoulder. Gilligan replies, "Do you mind, I'm trying to save my..." And notices it's Skipper.
- This effect was used in one of the reality shows on Discovery Channel. They put an area of sand with perforated pipes in front of a bank door, with brick pavers over the top and a similar larger and deeper one at the exit to the parking lot. When the simulated bank was simulatedly robbed, the air was turned on, he sank to above his knees and was trapped when the air was turned off; the driver of the getaway SUV was sunk in the other one to the point where he couldn't open the door.
- Alan Davies laments the decline of quicksand in an episode of QI.
- A version appeared in an episode of seaQuest DSV. A French leisure submarine was lost and the SeaQuest was sent to investigate. Their findings? Small underwater caverns were filled with fresh water, and they caved in like undersea potholes. Rather than aerated water causing the issue, the freshwater mixed with the sea water and desalinated it through dilution. This made the vessels too heavy to remain buoyant in the brackish zone, and they fell to the bottom of the freshwater pockets, unable to escape as their oxygen dwindled.
- In one episode of Small Wonder, Ted walks into quicksand on a camping trip, and Vicki can't save him due to being ordered not to use her powers for the rest of the trip. It then turns out that the quicksand is only three feet deep.
- Conversed in an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles between Callen and Sam when they visit the La Brea Tar Pits on a case. Specifically, Callen wonders why it's not used so much anymore.
- The song "The Legend of Wooley Swamp", by the Charlie Daniels Band, involves quicksand.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- Supplement I13 Adventure Pack I, adventure "The Weird Woods of Baron Orchid". Several patches occur near a lake.
- Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. One of the rooms in Lolth's spider ship has a quicksand floor to trap unwary PCs.
- OA6 Ronin Challenge. Can be encountered in the Kutuk Valley. Anyone falling in sinks at a rate of 2 feet per minute.
- OA7 Test of the Samurai has several patches in the other-dimensional plane of Qui.
- AC3 The Revenge of Rusak. One of the traps in Rusak's lair are areas of quicksand. A character who falls in can sink at a rate of two feet per minute and thus be pulled under the surface in three minutes.
- Bog Imps, swamp-dwelling Fey introduced in the supplement Heroes of Horror, have this as an supernatural ability for anyone not standing on solid ground. Guess where one might find them. Gibbering Mouthers have a similar ability, but in their case it's more about being stuck and eaten alive than sinking.
- World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting boxed set (1983) "Glossography" booklet. One of the many terrain dangers in Greyhawk is quicksand. Anyone who falls in cannot swim their way to safety: if they attempt to do so they will sink under the surface at a rate of two feet per minute and drowns three minutes after their head goes under.
- Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement Dark Folk. Quicksand is one of the many dangers of the Jovian Swamp. The PCs will encounter a will'o'wisp monster that will try to lure them into some quicksand.
- Several Classic Traveller adventures and one supplement have this as a possible encounter on alien planets.
- Adventure 3 Twilight's Peak has quicksand as a possible encounter in wetlands on the planet Fulacin. If PCs got into it they would be trapped and sucked down with no chance to save themselves.
- In Double Adventure Marooned/Marooned Alone, PCs can encounter dangerous quicksand in the jungles of the planet Pagliacci. If trapped, they'll be sucked under in 4-9 minutes.
- Supplement 2 Animal Encounters. PCs could randomly encounter quicksand in swamp terrain on two types of planets: small worlds with thin atmospheres and medium sized worlds with standard atmospheres.
- Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #2 article "The Bestiary". One possible encounter in chasm floor jungle terrain was quicksand that would pull anyone trapped in it under its surface in a couple of minutes unless they were rescued.
- Some older editions of Warhammer had random terrain features that included dangerous Khemrian quicksand regions. As a general rule, if you failed your armour save, you got to live, because you obviously weren't wearing enough to drag you down. Funnily enough, you could get an armour save penalty from having your equipment turned into lead by the Lore of Metal, leading to the odd situation of lead armour being easier to swim in than its steel equivalent.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement Fragments of Fear, adventure "Valley of the Four Shrines". While traveling through the jungle the PCs can fall into quicksand. If they do, they will be sucked under and start to drown in about 1 minute unless they either (a) realize they can use their Swim skill to stay afloat or (b) pull themselves out or are pulled out by their fellow PCs.
- Rolemaster Shadow World setting
- Demons of the Burning Night. The PCs can run into this deadly threat in the Elder Swamp near the city of Tarek Nev.
- Nomads of the Nine Nations. The Deadmar Bog near the town of Batai has this peril.
- Carcosa: Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. Hex 1613 has quicksand that can trap travelers. If the victim is unlucky they will be pulled under the surface and die of suffocation.
- Marvel Super Heroes supplement Uncanny X-Men boxed set "Adventure Book". In chapter 5 "Nightmare in New Guinea" the PCs can accidentally fall into pools of quicksand while trying to rescue a woman. If they do, they will sink at a rate of one foot per minute.
- DC Heroes adventure When a Stranger Calls. While traveling through a Central American rain forest a hero can fall into a pit of quicksand. When the hero sinks beneath the surface of the pit they will drown.
- Midkemia Press' Heart of the Sunken Lands. One of the hazards of the Sunken Lands is quicksand. Any party encountering it will have 1-4 people fall into it. They will sink under the surface in 1-8 minutes (1-6 minutes if wearing armor or carrying a pack) unless pulled out by someone else.
- In Prince of Persia 2, an early puzzle required you to jump between a set of stone platforms in a displayed but randomly-selected order. Quicksand comes in because the platforms are suspended in it, and if you miss a jump, or jump onto a platform not in the sequence, you're sucked in.
- Super Mario Bros. franchise
- Super Mario 64 and its DS remake play this on the "Shifting Sand Land" level with three intensities. First there is light quicksand where you slowly and steadily sink in; you can eventually free yourself by jumping. Second a middle type that sucks Mario in quickly but not instantly. It's the most common type. Last is dark quicksand that instantly sucks you in, thus counting as a bottomless pit.
- Of course, quicksand first appeared in the Mario series in Mario 2, probably one of the elements borrowed from its source material Doki Doki Panic. At least one hidden area involved going through quicksand.
- And again in Super Mario Bros. 3 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
- Subverted in Mario Teaches Typing 2. During a cutscene, Mario and Luigi fall through a hole in a bridge and are saved by a pool of quicksand below.
- Super Metroid's many quicksand pools present no danger at all, because Samus wears a sealed space suit and can't drown. If you don't feel like jumping out, you can sink all the way in and walk around on the bottom. In a few places this allows access to new areas.
- The Legend of Zelda franchise
- The Arbiter Grounds in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has quicksand, including the instant-death type, as a frequent and dangerous obstacle.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time's Haunted Wasteland has a river of no-escape quicksand that you cross by either using the Longshot or the Hover Boots. Once across, you are still in danger of sinking if you stray off the path.
- The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks has quicksand pits in the Sand Temple and parts of the Tower of Spirits.
- You fight a Lanmola in a pit of quicksand in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. You only get sucked downward (to a cave you must traverse to get back to the surface) if you get put in the center of the pit; the rest of the quicksand simply pulls you toward that center.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link can keep from getting sucked into the quicksand of Lanayru Desert if he sprints across it. Also, the Timeshift Stones can change it back into the solid, grass-covered ground it once was Before The Dark Times.
- Subverted in Banjo-Tooie. While there is quicksand in Mayahem Temple and Terrydactyland, it doesn't pull you down, the Dragundas living in it do, then spit you back onto solid ground. The wading boots are used to cross the quicksand. The Dragundas are also in Grunty Industries' toxic waste and polluted water.
- Sonic the Hedgehog franchise
- Used in an absolutely laughable manner in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Wherever sand appears, expect it to be quicksand. And if you fall in? You fall straight through like there's nothing there. In other words, another Bottomless Pit in disguise, much like water in that game.
- Used rather realistically (given the medium) in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. In Sandopolis Zone (and the 2-player mode Desert Palace level), quicksand would slowly pull the character under but it could be escaped by jumping properly. Marble Garden Zone also featured surfaces that acted the same way, but looked like black water.
- Used in Sonic Adventure 2. Sonic and Shadow can easily jump out, like mentioned above. Tails and Eggman sink and die on touch, though.
- Appears in Toejam And Earl which makes the protagonists start sinking and move slower. The sand also resembles a desert, complete with cacti.
- Mega Man franchise
- In Mega Man X: Command Mission, one character falls into a quicksand trap, which pulls him and his two friends down into it. Which wouldn't make sense in the first place, but made even worse by the fact that all three are super-strong reploids that could have easily pulled themselves out (especially since one was still on firm ground). They even treat it like it's deadly, despite the fact they don't even need to breathe and would, at worst, just be stuck.
- In Mega Man 10, Commando Man's level has Mega Man rushing through quicksand pits. Although he can move and shoot normally in them, even completely buried, he needs to jump to exit it, and if he's dragged to the bottom of the screen, he dies as if he had fallen in a bottomless pit. Mega Man 4 has it as well.
- Ground Man's stage from Mega Man&Bass also feature quicksand.
- Ratchet & Clank has the planet Aridia, a desert planet with massive LAKES of quicksand. You can hop out, but only three times before you sink, for whatever reason.
- Final Fantasy franchise
- Final Fantasy VII. It doesn't pose a direct hazard to your player characters, but Corel Prison is described as "a natural prison in the middle of the desert... surrounded entirely by quicksand."
- Final Fantasy IX has sand whirlpools on the path leading up to Cleyra. Iif you end up in one, you whirl towards the centre, sinking in. Mashing X repeatedly allows you to jump out, failing to do so will land you in a fight with a sand scorpion. The scorpions are presumably causing the whirlpools in order to trap prey.
- This appears in the Egypt levels of The Lost Vikings. You have to get across by having coconuts drop into the quicksand and landing on the coconuts.
- The ZX Spectrum game Where Time Stood Still, being a tribute to old movie serials, makes use of lethal quicksand as a hazard.
- The Nintedo DS game Summon Night: Twin Age has around 60% of different sinky stuff in the game, like "Poison Marshes" and "Desert Quicksand"...
- NES game Day Dreamin' Davey. There are floors in Hades' Underworld lair (Ancient Greece) and the Medieval Swamp (Medieval Times) that can make you sink down like quicksand and swallow you up if you stay on the floor for too long.
- The Death Marshes in Turok 2 have insta-death quicksand.
- Averted in The Curse of Monkey Island. Guybrush gets trapped in a pool of quicksand, but only up to his waist, and he sinks so slowly that the player has ample time to figure out how to use a balloon, a rock, and a nearby thorn bush to get him out before anything unpleasant happens to him. The quicksand does suck a lot of his inventory away, however.
- Adventures Of Dino Riki has quicksand whirlpools popping up from the ground.
- There is a pool of this in Metal Gear Solid 2, where its dangers are carefully described by Vamp. Who then, seconds later, starts swimming through it with ease (He does have superpowers). This has been implicated in the loss of ships at sea, because of a subsidence or other event on the seabed which causes a dramatic release of gas.
- Shows up in Survival of the Fittest, where it's used to kill both Melina Frost and Beth Vanallen, one getting stuck in the sand long enough to be stabbed, the other being pulled in head first and drowned.
- This Homestar Runner cartoon involves Homestar making this type of overestimation, as applies to a sandbox crudely labeled "QUiCK SAnD". "If you have any vines or roots you can toss my way, I would be really, really still alive."
- Ninjai The Little Ninja has the Big Bad leave people to sink in a "swamp" which, despite being explicitly referred to as quicksand, seems to be a very stick, viscous fluid.
- Several websites specialize in fetish videos involving women either stumbling or being forced into quicksand or mud and struggling (and failing) to get out, or sensually playing in and letting themselves sink into the murk. Since a lot of the "quicksand pits" are artificial mudholes a fair bit of disbelief suspension is required, though natural muddy areas and silty riverbanks are used a bit as well (the models still have to force themselves deeper to give the illusion of being sucked down).
- Roy and Valerie get stuck in a pit of quicksand while traveling across the Second Dimension in Journey of the Cartoon Man.
- Duke falls into a pit of quicksand while escaping from Cobra in an episode of G.I. Joe and goes in over his head in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, this convinces his pursuers that he's a goner, allowing him to grab a nearby vine and pull himself free after they leave.
- Happens in the form of dry desert quicksand The Transformers episode "Countdown to Extinction".
- Happened to the whole cast of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. They were rescued by BEES. A bit perplexing, even if you DO accept imaginary beings springing into life for no explained reason.
The ending of the episode implied it was All Just a Dream, with the whole camping trip being imaginary, but, possibly, Your Mind Makes It Real. Not that that makes it any less perplexing, as imagination, despite its life-giving powers in the setting, was never shown to have power to that degree before or since.
- Max Steel both plays this straight and partially subverts it. In season two, Max and Berto walk in to quicksand and start sinking, having to use a vine to pull themselves out. In season three, Berto and Kat walk in to quicksand; however, Berto says that the human body is lighter and they manage to swim out of it.
- Crossing the line between research failure and Rule of Cool, the Recycled: The Series of The Little Mermaid had underwater quicksand.
- Catwoman leaves Batman and Robin in a quicksand Death Trap in the Filmation series episode "The Nine Lives of Batman".
- Happens with Shareena and Gug in this clip from a Detention episode. Actually, the "quicksand" is just a sinkhole.
- There were at least two occasions on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show where the good guys found themselves getting stuck in quicksand. In a strange mistake in relation to the games, they apparently forgot they had the ability to hop out of the quicksand and needed to be rescued.
- The Wild Thornberrys subverts this completely, as the "evil swamp" Darwin was so worried about was only about two inches deep. Eliza still lost a shoe, though.
- The mice run into this a couple of times in the Pinky and the Brain episode "Welcome to the Jungle."
- Heloise throws a bunch of pandas into a quicksand pit on an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes. They only approve of the mudbath.
- A Robot Chicken sketch has a giraffe step into quicksand and, because its tall body takes so long to go down, goes through the five stages of grief as it sinks. The giraffe's life is saved when its feet hit bottom!
- Subverted in Ed Eddn Eddys Big Picture Show. Ed and Eddy at first appear to be sinking in quicksand, and appear to die as Edd attempts to save them. However, as Edd mourns their deaths, it turns out it was just a joke that Ed and Eddy played on him. Naturally, Edd gets pissed off at the two and immediately leaves them to return to the cul-de-sac, preferring to be punished by the kids for the scam that backfired and sent them on the run in to first place rather then continue on the journey with Ed and Eddy.
- Mozenrath's Black Sand in Disney's Aladdin: The Series. The heroes didn't even have to step in it, it reached out to suck them in, an act that was, in one episode, disturbingly referred to as eating. (Of course, it's not normal quicksand, since A Wizard Did It.
- In Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, the gang loses footage of all the paranormal things they witnessed after their camera falls into quicksand.
- In the Total Drama Island episode "Up the Creek", Chris intentionally made a quicksand trap on Boney Island, which Trent accidentally stumbles upon. Lindsay tries to save him; however, she falls in herself, leading Cody to swing on a vine to attempt to save both of them.
- Several episodes of the Disney's The Legend of Tarzan cartoon had this happen; Tarzan always rescued them before they drowned, however. Unless, like in the books, it is used to dispose of an antagonist (in one episode, a Giant Ape-Eating Python).
- Kissyfur: In "The Birds And The Bears", gators Floyd and Jolene cross the line when they steal Gus's paddlecab and lure the poor papa bear into quicksand to drown and die while they use the paddlecab to catch some of the cubs for dinner. Fortunately, fate deals him a winning hand when Kissyfur, Beehonie, Toot, and Miss Emmy Lou manage to free him from the quicksand, giving him the chance to once again put the gators in their place and rescue the cubs and retrieve the stolen paddle cab.
- One episode of The Fairly OddParents has Jorgen turn the floor of a room into "quicksand" that is a black hole in all but name. Rather than sinking in it, the kids in the room get sucked into the centre at hyper fast speeds and then fall into it. Its appearance is also clearly modelled after a black hole (albeit probably an unrealistic one) as well.
- Averted in the Skatoony episode "Hoo Loves You Baby". When Chudd, Earl, and the Quizblock end up in a pool of quicksand, not only do they sink slowly enough that they can complete a full round of quizzing while doing it, but it's shallow enough that their heads never go above water. It turns out they were in the shallow end of a quicksand swimming pool.
- In The Smurfs episode "Handy's Sweetheart", the mean Custodian of the pools of Avalon makes the waters turn into quicksand to trap the three Smurfs who were trying to take his lilyroot without paying him gold in return.
- Parodied in an episode of Rugrats, where the babies didn't know the proper term for it, but Chuckie described it as "some kind of sand that I'm sinking into really quick".
- Water with a great deal of gas bubbling through it behaves suitably, in that a human would sink like a rock in it, and subsequently drown. This isn't encountered very often, however.
- An example in real life which has taken many lives is the Niagra Falls. The massive amount of fallen water has the same effect of the aerated water of Metal Gear Solid 2 and has resulted in many people drowning.
- Rodolfo Fierro, a General at the service of Francisco Villa died this way. He fell along with his horse and fell to the bottom because of the weight he was carrying (it's said it was gold). He was very well known as a sadistic bastard so his death could be a Karmic Death.
- The effects of The Princess Bride's "lightning sand" can be mimicked by forcing a burst of air through sand (a phenomenon that happens daily in the Fire Swamps, of course). An object placed on top sinks instantly to the bottom. Fortunately the events required to create this dry quicksand are highly unlikely to occur in nature.
- Large heaps of loose sand can stop a vehicle. In the rare situations this is life or death (when a stranded car in the desert means a stranded driver for instance) and it can be fatal. And in any case, it probably isn't something you wish to explain to your insurance agent.
Sometimes, getting stuck in the sand is the desired effect. Some steep roads have sand or piles of other things to give truckers a chance to stop relatively safely in case their brakes fail. Some airports seem to have something similar at the end of the runway in case the plane doesn't stop for some reason. Locomotives and trams may carry sand for traction help.
That's why gravel traps are so common at racing circuits. No matter if a car that goes screaming off the tarmac is doing it forwards, backwards or sideways, loose sand and gravel stop it up since the vehicle digs into the gravel, pulling itself in and creating resistance. However, since this also tends to ruin the underbody and wheels of a car, another option that's become popular in recent years is to create a large tarmac runoff area so a driver can recover from a loss of control or error in judgment and quickly rejoin the race. On cars with slicks, especially light ones such as Formula One cars, they're so grippy that gravel traps actually cause more slippage in comparison.
- An interesting article on the rise and fall of this trope can be found here.
- Non-Newtonian fluids behave in a similar way; they are so viscous that if a great deal of force is applied to them in a brief time, they behave like solids, but if the same force is applied slower it will allow it to pass through. It can be very difficult to get something out from being trapped in a pool of a non-Newtonian fluid.
- Soil liquefaction, a rare phenomenon associated with earthquakes, can cause water-saturated sandy ground to temporarily turn so slippery and unstable that it becomes too weak to support buildings' foundations.
- Mont Saint-Michel in France is a tidal island, and the ground exposed during low tide is known for its rampant patches of deep mud and quicksand. For this reason, tourists are advised to either stick to the causeway or travel with a qualified guide (who will know how to both avoid and escape quicksand), as the intensity and fickleness of the tides creates the drowning hazard mentioned above.
- Grain bins are a common artificial source of quicksand-style danger, where one false move can get a worker pulled down in a matter of seconds and suffocated under all the grain.
- During the North African Campaign in World War 2, an entire Nazi tank division disappeared in the Al-Qattara Depression, an enormous quicksand in the centre of Egypt, while trying to bypass the British defences at El Alamein; only one man survived (presumably by jumping out of his tank and crawling away on his hands and knees), and was found several days after the battle of Alamein, staggering through the desert, completely insane, laughing unstoppably.
- After signing the Magna Carta, King John of England (Robin Hood's enemy) tried to renege on the deal by raising an army to fight against the rebellious barons; his plan was foiled when the packhorse carrying the Royal treasury (i.e all his gold) and the Crown Jewels fell into quicksand while crossing The Wash (a large bay on the English east coast) and sank immediately; realising they would not now get paid, all his knights deserted. The next King, Henry III, had to be "crowned" with a plain gold ring, as the country could not afford to replace the Crown.