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Black Bug Room

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"It doesn't kill you. What it does is make you feel like you're in a noisy little dark room...naked and ashamed...and there are things in the dark that need to hurt you because you're bad...little pinching things that go in your ears and crawl on the inside of your skull. And you know that if the noise and the crawling would stop...that you could remember how to get out...but you never will."
Glory describing the effects of her brain suck to Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Evil Counterpart to the Happy Place and the darkest corner of the Mental World, the Black Bug Room is the place inside a person's head where all of their negative feelings dwell and fester. A person's consciousness may get sent there when their mind breaks under the strain, or other characters may end up there by taking a wrong turn during a Journey to the Center of the Mind, and permanent confinement there is to be avoided at all costs.

In movies, entering the Room is often shown with a Madness Montage. Compare Room 101 and Psychological Torment Zone for the non-metaphysical versions with all the same effects. Not to be confused with a Debug Room, or the Black Room of Death in Super Mario 64.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Berserk, this is where every single negative emotion is stored in Guts' mind, especially all of the horrifying memories of the Eclipse. When the Beast of Darkness isn't directly exerting pressure on Guts, this is where it sleeps.
  • Most of Lucy's interior monologue and reasoning in Elfen Lied takes place in an incredibly large black void. Could count as a Black Bug Room given that her reasoning is mostly governed by her murderous instincts and tortured past, so she sees the room as a space where humans remind her that she is pathetic and doesn't belong in their world, with her diclonius instinct sweetly promising that everything will be better if she just kills every last motherfucker in sight.
  • Soul Eater gives us a Black Blood Room that appears in Soul Eater's mind. Manifesting when he got infected with the Black Blood, the Black Blood Imp lives there. Whenever Soul tries to channel the Black Blood's Madness properties, he ends up there. It's a fancy room with a piano (which is how he can use his Soul Resonance in an advanced state) and whoever ends up there ends up dressed to the nines, reflecting Soul's sophisticated tastes (he ends up there in a nice suit with the Imp already having one and Maka, the only person entering there, ends up in a lovely black dress with heels).

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men:
  • Scott Pilgrim
    • Big Bad Gideon Gordon Graves weaponzied this in a sense with "The Glow", a form of supernatural psychological warfare that he heavily implies he made millions with the military. Anyone inflicted have their memories tainted and distorted while their vices are amplified to self-destructive tendencies; their heads begin glowing (hence the name) whenever they are in distress, likely signifying that they are trapped in this. For example, when Ramona's head glows, it's a sign of her currently troubled state. Scott later ends up infected with it. Worth noting that Gideon himself is seemingly immune to the Glow. He explains he's been trapped inside his own head since he was a kid and, as far as the man's concerned, has no personal issues to deal with.
    • We see Ramona's where a subconscious version of her is seen in a rather skimpy outfit, fawning over a subconscious construct of Gideon, showing that a part of her is still controlled and influenced by him.
    • While a variation, Scott's mindscape represents a desert and appears to symbolize his feelings of despair and loneliness as seen in the beginning (he is still recovering from a bad breakup and showing he's in an emotionally unstable state.) It was likely this emotional instability along with the Glow that led to the rise of Nega-Scott (given how he first appears when Scott is first seen glowing.)

    Fan Works 
  • In Tales of a Reset Mind, this is where the Evil Emotions torture Nico. It takes the form of a psych ward room.
  • Being Dead Ain't Easy has one of these as part of Seto Kaiba's Soul Room, and a major problem is the threat of being permanently trapped there with all the dangers conjured up from Kaiba's mind.
  • Invader Zim fan works:
    • In Darth's Vengeance, this is how Darth (an Irken with Psychic Powers) chooses to torment Zim, sticking him in the worst part of his own mind, which is actually referred to as the Black Bug Room. It takes the form of a mixture of the Skool and the restaurant on Foodcourtia that Zim was banished to, where an in-universe Composite Character of Miss Bitters and Sizz-Lorr harasses him. And when Dib and Gaz interfere with Darth's attack, he sticks them in their Bug Rooms too — Dib's is the Nightmare Realm from the canonical Halloween Episode, while Gaz's is an eldritch void. And then it turns out that Gaz is so twisted that her Bug Room is her Happy Place, and she has total control of it; to counter this, Darth sticks her in her actual Happy Place, a Sugar Bowl that disgusts and terrifies her.
    • In Gaz and the Sinister Social Club, Gaz ends up retreating into her Black Bug Room in response to the attempt to brainwash her into preppiness. It's described as a black void full of countless copies of her own eyes staring back at her, while she's left with the feeling of things crawling all over her, as countless voices whisper at her. Getting in touch with her innermost self like this gives her the strength to resist the brainwashing.

    Films — Animation 
  • Inside Out portrays the Subconscious as this, being a prison set in the cliff around the Memory Dump, home to all the things that Riley is afraid of. Of course, since she's 11, it's mostly stuff like broccoli, basement stairs, and a clown who was at one of her birthday parties. Joy and Sadness have to go down there to retrieve Bing-Bong after he's caught being troublesome by mind workers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Cell, a lot of Carl Stargher's subconsciousness functions as his Black Bug Room, from the memory of his childhood home to the display chamber of grotesque dolls (which are actually representations of his victims).
  • Flatliners involves accessing a Black Bug Room during a near-death experience. It turns out by the end that the characters are each experiencing a manifestation of their deepest personal guilt.
  • Inception has this in the form of Cobb's reconstructions of his memories. Specifically, of his greatest regrets in that hotel room.

  • In the Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Room With No Doors by Kate Orman, the eponymous Room (which the Doctor starts dreaming about being trapped in) functions as a Black Bug Room for the Doctor, although its actual origin and purpose turns out to be something quite different.
  • In Hannibal by Thomas Harris, Hannibal Lecter has an 'oubliette' in his memory palace that contains some troubling memories.
  • Black feathers and the yellow feather "Curious Yellow" in Vurt.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager novel Mosaic, Janeway keeps dreaming that she's stuck in a small room with a locked door (mirroring the current crisis, where the Voyager is pinned down by the Kazon while part of their crew is stuck on a nearby planet.) Behind the locked door is the memory of the accident that killed both her father and her fiancée.
  • Described in the Illuminatus! novels as Chapel Perilous. All the principal characters have to "walk that lonesome valley" to the Chapel and confront their deepest and most primal fears before moving on. Some require repeat visits.
  • Room 101 in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is the Black Bug room made manifest. With, for Winston Smith, extra added rats.
  • Uprooted: Those who fall to The Corruption of the Wood have their bodies used as Meat Puppets while their minds are trapped in an endless nightmare of being lost in the trees. Their minds can be located with magic and even rescued, but most are Mind Raped into Empty Shells after a week or so of captivity.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Glory's description of the state of her victims after she drains their sanity is highly illustrative of this. More interestingly, this is also the state Glory herself descends into if she goes too long without brain-sucking anyone.
  • The Attic in Dollhouse.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Terrorform", a planetoid is transformed into a physical representation of Rimmer's Black Bug Room. It turns out to be designed to represent his entire Mental World. Unfortunately, most of Rimmer's psyche is Black Bug Room.
  • Farscape:
    • The episode "Won't Get Fooled Again" involves Crichton becoming trapped in a Mental World that becomes progressively Black Bug Room as time goes on, with plenty of repressed fears and insecurities rising to the surface in humanoid form. Ironically, for someone so traumatized, Crichton does a pretty good job staying out of his Black Bug Room during the rest of the series.
    • "Mental as Anything" gives D'Argo a Black Bug Room in the form of his cell on Moya. At the end of the episode, D'Argo's brother-in-law is imprisoned in his Black Bug Room, reliving his worst memory for the rest of his life: disfiguring the corpse of his sister so that D'Argo would be blamed for her murder.


    Tabletop Games 
  • If you botch a Pilot Safety/Nightmare check in Bliss Stage, this is where you end up. Your Anchor loses control of the dream and the other players get to add personalized horror to the narration.
  • Deadlands
    • This trope is the bread and butter of manitous that animate the Harrowed. Every time a Harrowed goes asleep, the manitou puts them into their Black Bug Room, with the purpose of weakening their will and eventually taking full control of their undead body.
    • Subverted with Jasper Stone, whose manitou is too afraid of him to wield any power over him.
  • The World of Darkness
    • In Mage: The Ascension, this (referred to as "the Quiet") is one of the possible results of botching a spell, especially one that relates to mind magic. The mage goes on a Journey to the Center of the Mind through their Black Bug Room and, if they don't die or go insane, returns cleansed of all their paradox.
    • In Mage: The Awakening, Insanity Realms are said to by far be the most dangerous and disturbing parts of the Oneiros. They're literally the metaphysical landscapes embodying a person's derangements, and anyone who visits them temporarily suffers the derangement they embody...and they don't let go of visitors very easily.
    • Wraith: The Oblivion has a similar example known as the Harrowing, which occurs when a wraith has just lost or is about to lose some key part of their existence (their passions, their fetters, their physical coherence, etc.). It's as much a struggle against one's own personal nightmares as a fight against some of the more insidious influences of Oblivion.


    Video Games 
  • Desmond finds himself in one come Assassin's Creed: Revelations with a twist: he's actually exploring his own memories in an attempt to piece together his past and separate them from those of his ancestors so he doesn't end up like Subject 16.
  • After being temporarily swallowed by Nightmare in Devil May Cry, Dante retreats into his black bug room where he fights off various monsters from his past, at least according to Nightmare's in-game enemy file.
    "When you are surrounded in its gel like form, you will be teleported into an evil dimension. You must destroy the evil spirits that rule the dimension. The evil is a reflection of Dante's trauma that rests in his subconscious."
  • Drakengard 2 features this near the end of the game, when Nowe travels into Manah's mind to save her from a Heroic BSoD. It's freaky enough to begin with, what with the series of empty doorframes, and having to chase around the constantly teleporting Creepy Child. And then you have to fight an army of red-eyed black-and-red-silhouette things. And they keep coming. And then during the second stage, the background becomes row upon row of these things, just watching you.
  • In EarthBound (1994), the Sea of Eden in Magicant is said to be this.
  • The final level of Figment has you traverse one themed after a car accident and composed of smashed car parts and the belongings of the people inside strewn around.
  • The elevator in I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, where Ellen is confronted by a biography of her traumatic life — and a reconstruction of the man who raped her. Whether this place is a physical reconstruction or the literal place within Ellen's mind is up for debate.
  • Thanks to a combination of long-standing depression and a recent mental breakdown, the protagonist of Disco Elysium enters one of these every time he goes to bed, where he's tormented by the voices of his Ancient Reptilian Brain and Limbic System telling him how much of an unlovable fuck-up he is and trying to convince him to take the big black door marked "EXIT ONLY". It's specifically noted that this makes his sleep an absolute horror, turning it into something "dry [and] un-nourishing".
  • Persona: Some of the dungeons are at least partially formed from the minds of the people who are trapped in them, so they're bound to include these.
    • Persona 4: Arena has Labrys' once her Shadow reveals itself. The environment switches from a mostly normal school to a hellish security room with a giant incinerator in the background, dismantled and broken mannequins hanging off meat hooks, and blood running down the windows repeatedly.
    • Persona 5 goes the furthest with this with the Palaces of the installment's resident Mental World—the Metaverse. Here, distorted views of reality are made physical, and the Shadows of their source act as Ruler.
    • Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth has Hikari's labyrinth, a representation of all the trauma heaped on her throughout her life every time she went against the crowd, which by the time of the game has left her a horribly depressed and catatonic girl. The majority of the labyrinth has a bright and cheerful aesthetic atypical of a Black Bug Room, but it's filled with cartoon animals and flowers singing about abandoning your individuality and becoming one with the crowd, and every few floors depicts an event in Hikari's past that led her to become the broken person she is now.
  • Psychonauts
    • A secret room in "Milla's Dance Party" is a cage made of fire with ghostly monsters behind it, whispering menacing things about a tragedy from Milla's past. Keep in mind the rest of the level has a bright, disco/party theme, and this single room is the disturbing exception. They're a representation of a person's nightmares, caged up there because Milla has iron control over them, which, considering what they actually are, is pretty impressive given how relevant they are to her current job. Milla is constantly running this noisy party in her mind to drown out the nightmare-inducing memories of the cries of her foster children as they died in a fire.
    • The game's final level combines the Black Bug Rooms of Raz and the Big Bad, forcing Raz to sort out both of their issues with some help from his dad.
  • Silent Hill: The entire town seems to serve as the keeping place of all its visitors' psychological torments, waiting to be confronted. The topologies and layouts have less to do with being actual places and more with emphasizing what the characters feel and think, and upon entering the Otherworld, the symbology takes center stage under the spotlight, to horrifying or depressing effect.
  • The entire game in Twisted Metal: Black is either Sweet Tooth's Black Bug Room or his Happy Place. He's so Ax-Crazy, it's hard to tell.
  • In Mass Effect 3, Shepard is repeatedly forced to confront their own black bug room, a gray forest mantled in ashes and smoke where the whispers of friends who've died in the conflict haunt them. They try to save a young boy who died as they fled Earth, only to watch him burn as a representation of all the people on Earth that they can't save.
  • Condemned 2: Bloodshot has the main character's hallucinations mysteriously go to a place filled with oily black monsters, getting progressively worse as black oil starts covering everything in that place, and then never show up again.
  • In the final episode of Life Is Strange, Max seriously overstrains her time travel powers and passes out. She spends an extended period of time wandering through a nightmare world, bombarded by all her worst fears and insecurities: that she's using her rewind to make people like her and doesn't actually care, that the tornado might be her fault, that she's too dull for Chloe, that basically all the guys she knows are possible threats...
  • The Personal Hell of D'LIRIUM where you awaken if you die of too much shock, if the name is of any indication. You awaken as an undead ghoul in a dark cavern and must retrieve personality fragments to return to the Heart in order to escape before giant black tendrils engulf the whole map.
  • The climax of The Park features Lorraine finding one of these hidden in Atlantic Island Park's House of Horrors. As it happens, this place is deliberately modeled on her house, specifically during the time when she was left alone to raise Callum; for good measure, the place is littered with evidence of her hardships, from disconnection letters from the power company to rejection letters from her own mother. Attempting to leave results in Lorraine looping back through the house, finding it more and more distorted with each iteration: blood drips from the walls, corpses dangle from the ceiling, dolls are melted in ovens, books rewrite themselves into disturbing new narratives, and notes sudden transform into taunting messages addressed to Lorraine herself. This is actually an illusion created by the Bogeyman/Nathaniel Winter, all with the explicit goal of driving Lorraine into insanity. Worse still, it's hinted that the events of the game are actually Lorraine's memories of what happened to her that day, continuously re-experienced as nightmares: as a result, Lorraine will keep being dragged through her Black Bug Room all the way up to the events of The Secret World.
  • The premise of Sanitarium (quickly explained in the third chapter) is that the protagonist is a mental asylum patient who experienced a car accident. As a result, he has frequent hallucinations set in surreal worlds. As the game goes on, he starts experiencing hallucinations even when he's in the asylum in the "real world". Except that, near the end of the game, it's revealed that the asylum is also a hallucination; the protagonist was in a coma the entire time.
  • In OMORI the black bug room is Black Space, which Headspace is constructed to seal away. When you acquire the right Keys to fill out the Hangman Puzzle, you gain access to it, and everything in Black Space is significantly more erratic and horrific as it tries to force Sunny to face the truth of his sister Mari's death.

  • The Maze of Dreams in Archipelago is a sloppy, shoddy construction built of Black Bug Rooms designed to keep nosy Dream Walkers away, while also tormenting the people who could oppose the builder. Two of the dreams that we get glimpses of revolve around My Greatest Failure, others are built around the dreamers' deep seated fears. One is The Final Temptation, but when the dreamer works this out, it turns into a more conventional nightmare.
  • Blip: Mary, Hester, and Liz take a trip into Bishop's subconscious. In there, they find a room with infinitely tall walls, and every secret in Bishop's life is scrawled on those walls. In the center of the room, there's a small table with a laptop on it, which has a video that shows the trio that certain recent events were not all that they seemed.
  • Daughter of the Lilies: When a person is possessed by a drath, their mind is trapped with the drath's spirit in a black void where it delivers an unending Hannibal Lecture of their deepest insecurities. A wizard can break in and rescue them, but only if the victim can shake off the drath's lies enough to accept the help.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: This is one possible explanation for the entire city in which Zimmy spends much of her time — dystopian, unmaintained, populated by people who drip black smoke from where their faces should be, and containing other such oddities as giant spiders, bottomless trash cans, gruesomely injured mannequins, and glass windows containing incomprehensible silhouettes of people and centipedes. It's even scarier when you discover that Zimmy can accidentally drag other people into it and that things from there can escape and start using those people as People Puppets.
  • Kagerou: Kano Jurgen's mind seems to be one giant "Black Bug Room", called the Zones, where some of his personalities live.
  • Wapsi Square: Shelly's boiler room is a subversion. It is dark, unsettling, and occupied by one of the creepiest little girls in the history of fiction. However, the girl is easily the friendliest personal demon to appear in the comic and essentially acts as a conscience.

    Web Original 
  • In Animerica, Big Bad Kiyone is revealed to have an Enemy Within that was subsequently created from his hidden negative feelings on his brother Kasuse but we don't actually get a glimpse of his mind until next season when he is confronted by his evil side once Ron gives him a moving speech. From the looks of it, it consists of him being tied up in spiked vines to a black pillar in a purple-black hued room with his inner demon smirking at him in a sinister chair across the room. Here, it attempts to give him another Breaking Lecture but then...

    Western Animation 

  • Tangency, the off-topic section of RPG.Net, uses the "Black Bug Room" tag to describe stories of miserable events where the posters reading cannot try to stop things like that from happening again by doing something productive — they're just topics on the deepest of human fuckery (such as animal and child abuse). Inverted in that there are also topics on heartwarming subjects, described with the tag "White Puppy Solarium". Futuba imageboards often fill the /x/ sections with these. The Holders Series was born out of this.