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Drowning Pit

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Dr. Drakken: First, you will be sealed inside a reinforced, titanium box. Next, you will be dropped into this bottomless chasm. Then, the chasm will be filled with water. Then, man-eating sharks and a giant squid will then be released into the water!
Shego: Huh? Wait — if the chasm is "bottomless", how can you fill it with water?
Kim Possible, "Hidden Talent"

Slightly less perilous than a Lava Pit or Shark Pool but menacing nonetheless, the victim is Locked in a Room that is slowly filling with water. Could be accidental — like being sealed in a room with a busted water pipe — or an insane individual with a penchant for drama could have locked them there as cheap entertainment. Either way, the Big Damn Heroes better bash the glass wall or shut off the water before it's too late.

Another variant involves the villain placing the hero inside some kind of non-buoyant container, a steel drum, vehicle, etc., and then tossing that into a large body of water. If the vehicle is a car, it's Trapped in a Sinking Car. Compare other death traps and Cement Shoes. May overlap with Water Torture. See Rising Water, Rising Tension for situations where the MacGuffin has to be secured from a place slowly drowning in water. May end in someone Opening the Flood Gates.

Not to be confused with the band Drowning Pool.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Amakusa 1637:
    • A pregnant woman named Yone is locked into a "water prison" outside the local daimyo's castle. Another woman named Kichou, The Mistress to the cruel daimyo that had Yone imprisoned, is also put in there for helping the peasants behind the lord's back and because said Lord is already pissed off due to rumors that she has been sleeping with other men (she is in love with one of the protagonists, but they haven't had sex.)
    • What's worse is that this did happen in Real Life. Having a local mom-to-be locked in one of these is what sparked the infamous Shimabara rebellion... which is exactly what the protagonists are attempting to prevent. Natsuki, however, manages to make the guards surrender and rescue both victims in time.
  • Case Closed:
    • Done by a murderer in one episode. In this case, sitting the Asshole Victim in a very deep bathtub, then leaving the faucet slowly running till the water reaches a point where the victim ended up drowning due to being Bound and Gagged — and done in such a way that filling the tub will take hours. Aaaaaaaaargh!
    • Another one was used in the past. More exactly, the jealous magician Motoyasu Tsukumo killed his own disciple Yashiro Kinoshita by transforming the water tank he was performing in into one of these, then leaving Yashiro to drown in public. Everyone thought it was an unfortunate accident since the trick was already very dangerous... but Yashiro's younger sister Mako didn't buy it. And 20 years later, she killed Tsukumo himself.
  • In episode 25 of Detective School Q, Sakurako Yukihira finds herself tied and cleave gagged in a cardboard box with a cinderblock. The one who did this to her, a killer who found her snooping around for clues on the case she and Class Qu are working on, put the box on a raft, punctured a hole in it, and shoved it away from land in the middle of a lake. Inside the box, water slowly fills up with Sakurako inside and right about to drown, but the Class Q kids find her in time and manage to rescue her.
  • Lampshaded in Flame of Recca when Fuko and Domon are dropped into a vast empty pit. Domon jokingly says that there's no way it's going to fill up with water, and that the mystery button on the wall obviously will let them out. Of course, he pushes the button and it fills up with water.
  • Featured as a scenario in Gamble Fish, where the gamblers are chained inside a tank filling with water, with the winners being freed while the loser drowns.
  • In Goku: Midnight Eye, the title character turns to be in this situation into a Moment of Awesome when he is trapped in a hallway section that has been sealed off and is being filled with water. Using his cybernetic eye, he doesn't just open a door to either escape or drain the area, but he waits for a sufficient amount of water to fill in while closing and opening certain other doors on the floor, while the villains in the control room wonder what he is doing. Suddenly, Goku opens one door of his section, and the water is rushed out towards the control room. The villains realize to their horror that he is directing the water and in effect turning the death trap into a weapon heading right for them!
  • Lunlun from Hana no Ko Lunlun finds herself in a standard one in Germany after blowing the cover of a gang that falsifies famous paintings, and later in an airtight bank vault in Sicilia when trying to both stop a robbery and retrieve a Tragic Keepsake.
  • In His and Her Circumstances, Reiji Arima was subjected to this as a child when his mother tries to drown him and herself when she went insane. Fortunately, he saves himself by kicking her in the face.
  • A bounty hunter in Makai Senki Disgaea anime traps Laharl and his vassal Etna in a drowning pit. This is somewhat a variation of the point of a drowning pit, for Laharl and Etna are demons and can breathe and talk underwater. The danger was supposed to be from a sea creature in the water.
  • Maria no Danzai: This is largely how Kowase meets his end. Maria drugs him and cuffs him inside a drowning pit, then gives him two options to escape once he wakes up: either unlock his cuff by inserting the number representing his greatest sin, or use the rusty cleaver Maria left him hanging from the ceiling to cut off his own hand. Long story short, Kowase fails to guess the correct password, and the cleaver breaks before he can cut the bone, leaving him to drown slowly and helplessly.
  • In episode 42 of MegaMan NT Warrior (2002), Lan and the Net Agents (Commander Beef, Mysteriyu, Black Rose) are trapped in a room that's filling up with water by Gauss Magnets. Thankfully, Ms. Madd decides that killing Lan goes too far and sends her Navi, ColorMan, into the computer system to open the room's drain and help Megaman beat Gauss' Navi MagnetMan.
  • In an early episode of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, the kids are locked up for theft in the hold of a ship that is rapidly sinking, and Mendoza must manage to break the chain, let them out, and help them swim to safety. The second time Esteban tries to come up for air, the hold has completely filled and he hits his head on the ceiling.
  • Noein: Haruka's La'cryma captors lock her in a glass pod that slowly fills with water, hoping that her fear and stress will awaken her Dragon Torque powers. They do start to awaken, but she is unaware of them and Karasu rescues her before she drowns.
  • In One Piece, during the Alabasta arc, the saga's Big Bad, Sir Crocodile, leaves four of the six current Straw Hats (Luffy, Zoro, Nami, and Usopp), their Honorary True Companion Vivi, and their Inspector Javert Smoker to die in one of these; the Straw Hats and Smoker are locked in a cage and Vivi is being attacked by giant alligators while trying to save them, all while the room starts to flood. Thankfully, they're saved by the last two Straw Hats, Sanji and Chopper.
  • Pokémon: The Series: A nice inversion: when Ash is trapped in an airtight van, he uses Squirtle to flood it until the water pressure rips the doors off. How is Squirtle holding that much water? Don't ask.
    • Pokémon Adventures has the "make-your-own" variant when Matt floods a cable car to drown Sapphire. It doesn't work, since Sapphire manages to bust a window to drain it.
  • Saori and Gemini Kanon from Saint Seiya were locked in pits like these in respectively the Poseidon arc and a flashback therein. Saori was in hers by Poseidon after rejecting his We Can Rule Together offer, Kanon was locked in his' by Saga after a huge disagreement. And it was through the pit that Kanon reached for Poseidon's realm, summoned him, and then became Man Behind the Man. Nice job breaking it, Saga!
  • In '"Kayokos Diary'', young Kayoko Nakane has a nightmare in which her house floods rapidly until she is danger of drowning, due to her fear of going to the bathroom alone in the middle of the night.
  • In Season Three of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, during Judai's Disclosure Duel with Professor Saito, Professor Cobra traps his friend Asuka in a death trap like this and threatens to let her drown if Judai wins the duel. Unfortunately, losing might put the entire school in a lethal situation. Fortunately, while Judai isn't able to Take a Third Option here (other than stalling against Saito, who eventually tries to Take Him With Him), Jim manages to find and rescue Asuka in time, letting Judai win by protecting himself from the damage from Saito's kamikaze strike.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Divine pushed Yusei and Mikage into a pit, covered it with a metal grate, and started filling it with water. Tetsu Ushio found and freed them in time.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Naturally, Batman has escaped a number of these traps. One of the best is created by the Riddler in "The Primal Riddle"; Batman is caught between drowning and electrocution, and the solution he comes up with is so nerve-wracking that it only works because his soul happens to be outside his body at the time, leaving him emotionally deadened (and thus immune to fear).
    • During Paul Dini's run on Detective Comics, The Joker shoots Zatanna in the throat so she can't recite her spells, and seals her in a water tank while strapping Batman into an Electric Torture device. Batman manages to break free of his bonds and free Zatanna from the tank. Zatanna had healed her wound by writing the words "Laeh Em" ("Heal Me" spelled backward) on the lid of the water tank with her own blood.
    • In Death of the Family, Catwoman is first trapped in a centrifuge by the Joker. Just as she's about to escape it, the centrifuge gets filled with water, turning the trap into this. She escapes that too.
  • The Creeper: Proteus tied the Creeper to the grating of a storm drain that would soon be completely filled with water.
  • Spider-Man: In Ends of the Earth, there isn't an actual pit, but Silver Sable faces the threat of drowning when Rhino, feeling he has no reason to live, places one of his legs on top of her with the intent of taking her down with him once Octavious's lab starts filling with water.
  • Superboy (1994): The "Watery Grave" arc follows S.B. while he tries to help take down a criminal organization in their ocean floor base that is being flooded section by section causing him to deal with multiple rooms and chambers as they fill with water while trying to prevent that water from entering the next dry area he's located. He gets to almost drown a lot.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Queen Clea decides to have a bunch of Navy men who refused to submit to her put in a cage and lowered into a deep column of water for entertainment while she eats dinner. Wonder Woman saves them.
  • X-Men: Done to Storm, with the added cruelty of her being severely claustrophobic. This would normally have been a stroke of twisted genius, but considering it was Arcade who did it, it was more likely just dumb luck. Amusingly, and further cementing Arcade's Butt-Monkey status as a supervillain, this was one of the few instances where Storm found herself in such a situation, and her claustrophobia didn't incapacitate her. (This trap was later adapted for one of Storm's missions in an X-Men/Spider-Man video game where Arcade was the villain.)

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin uses a variant with sand instead of water; the chamber in question is the bottom chamber of an enormous hourglass.
  • Asterix Versus Caesar: The Roman prison Asterix is thrown in after his capture unintentionally becomes one when, during a severe rainstorm, lightning destroys part of the roof, allowing water to freely enter the cell (which is below ground level). Obelix saves him just in time.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: Ellie is trapped under a pile of boulders just as the valley begins to flood. The valley itself is a larger example; one of the vultures describes it as a bowl that will fill with water when the ice dam breaks.
  • Mavka: The Forest Song: Kylina (the Big Bad) traps Lukash in a basement that gets filled with water over time. He's saved Just in Time by his dog and the cat-frog creature.
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers: Disney's direct-to-video animated film has a variant in which the room, a dungeon in Mont-Saint-Michel, is naturally filled with water by the rising tide. Mickey gets locked in there and almost drowns.
  • Onward: Towards the end of the Path of Peril, Ian and Barley find themselves locked in a room that's filling with water.
  • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook ties up Tiger Lily inside a cave in Skull Rock, threatening to let her drown on the rising tide if she doesn't divulge the location of Peter's hideout.
  • The Plague Dogs has a variant in the beginning of the film in which one of the two dogs is dipped in a pool and timed to see how long he can swim before starting to drown, as some kind of experiment. It doesn't fill up with water, but there's no way for the dog to escape.
  • The Rescuers: Madame Medusa forces a little girl named Penny into an underground cavern so she can go get some jewels stashed in there, which fills with water as the tide comes in. Apparently Madame Medusa couldn't be bothered to figure out when low tide is, or figures it'll act as a motivator or something.
  • Rock-A-Doodle: Snipes accidentally causes one of these when his claustrophobia kicks in while they're trapped in a toy box going through an aqueduct pipe. He tries to peck his way out of the box, but this only ends up flooding the toy box. Luckily, they get out of the aqueduct pipe and get the lid of the toy box open before anyone drowns.
  • Tangled: Rapunzel, Flynn, and Pascal are trapped in a cave that fills with water after a dam breaks above it.
  • Combined with Locked in a Freezer in Zootopia; when Tundratown mobster Mr. Big "ices" someone, he actually has them thrown into a tank of ice water.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 10,000 BC, a Sabretooth Tiger is pinned under a log at the bottom of a pit that is filling with water due to rain. D'leh frees it, which pays off when it saves him later.
  • Apocalypto has a natural one in which the hero's wife and their son are trapped in a cave that is filling with rainwater.
  • Big Trouble in Little China. Jack Burton and Wang Chi are trapped in an elevator that starts rapidly filling up with water. They escape when the bottom of the elevator opens up.
  • This somehow happens in outer space in The Cloverfield Paradox when Ling Tam gets trapped in the space station's airlock and water starts pouring through the ventilation system. However before she can drown the external hatch bursts from the pressure, flash-freezing the water and Tam before the horrified gaze of her colleagues.
  • In Das Boot, when the submarine takes water, one section turns into a drowning pit and the crew has to dive under to fix the leaks.
  • Bullshot. The hero and the Damsel in Distress have their feet sealed in giant concrete eggcups, then not only water but also a giant octopus are sent in to finish them off.
  • The Cell: This is the modus operandi of the serial killer. (Hence why it's the page image.)
  • The Jackie Chan police drama Crime Story has Chan being trapped in the hull of a ship filling with water, during the scene where he's double-crossed by his supposed friend and ally, Inspector Hung, revealing his true nature as a triad informant.
  • In The Day After Tomorrow, New York is flooded by a monster storm surge. At one point we see Sam talking to his parents on the library phone while the room quickly fills with ice-cold water. He gets out before the room is completely filled up.
  • The first girl to be murdered in Death Bell is drowned in a glass tank that slowly fills with water.
  • Subverted in Delicatessen. The heroes are trapped in a bathroom that is slowly filling up with water, but they use it to wipe out the villains who are chasing them.
  • In Divergent, Tris experiences one in a hyper-realistic simulation. Such simulations are designed for the Dauntless faction to overcome most if not all their fears.
  • The Drowning Pool starring Paul Newman builds up to this. The hero tries to find a way for him and a woman who is trapped in a locked room (actually a large swimming pool) to escape, by clogging the drain at the bottom, then setting off the sprinklers so they can reach the windows at the top of the room, only to discover as they rise to the ceiling, that the windows are sealed shut, and he can't get the rag out of the drain. The villains come to investigate the captives who have been locked up all night, open the door, and are swept away by thousands of gallons of water.
  • In Francis the Talking Mule, several people are chained to the walls of a dungeon that is being filled with water.
  • In Gravity, the surviving female astronaut finds herself caught in a landing capsule submerged in a lake and rapidly filling with water.
  • James Bond:
    • Dr. No: Dr. Julius No decides to execute Honey Rider by cuffing her to the inclined side of a pool with water pouring in from a large pipe. Bond finds her and releases her.
    • For Your Eyes Only: The secret compartment of the spy trawler St. George turns into this as the ship fishes a Sea Mine and sinks with its British spy crew onboard, leaving no survivor.
    • Die Another Day: Jinx is locked in one of the rooms of Gustav Graves' Ice Palace, and Graves uses Icarus to melt the palace, resulting in her room filling with water. Bond saves her from drowning in the nick of time after disposing of Zao.
    • Casino Royale: Vesper Lynd lets herself drown in Venice after the elevator the Quantum henchmen locked her in gets submerged.
    • No Time to Die: On the ship where Bond, Felix Leiter, and Logan Ash meet after the Cuba scene, Ash reveals himself as a traitor, shoots Leiter and locks him and Bond in the ship's hold then causes an explosion to sink it, filling the ship with water. Leiter succumbs to his gunshot wound and Bond manages to escape.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, the sleeping quarters of the Kingsman candidates are flooded with water right to the brim to observe their survival skills.
  • In Life of Pi, the hero tries to dive back down to the cabins of the sinking ship filled with water. His air doesn't get him far and he has to turn back, leaving his family to drown.
  • Man of Steel: it happens to a school bus with Clark Kent on it. He saves the bus, but it looks like his Super-Strength just freaks people out — which is what his father's afraid of.
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Somewhat Played With in that the hero intentionally enters the drowning pit knowing it's a very, very bad idea. The MIF - specifically Ethan and Benji - have to break into a secure SCIF in Casablanca to retrieve a data copy of a stolen ledger the main villain has been using as his piggy bank. The SCIF is crazy secure with multiple verification procedures that make it absolutely impenetrable. The only way to get in is to discreetly install a profile for Benji. The problem? The profile servers are housed in a massive, deep underwater cooling spool. Which can only be accessed through a huge, long water intake tunnel. And once inside, the cooling spool is spinning constantly, creating a powerful current. Oh, and it's got metal detectors. So no scuba. Ethan literally has to free dive inside with nothing but a wetsuit and plastic goggles, swim against the current, install the profile, and swim to an escape hatch - all on a single breath. In a franchise subversion, Ethan doesn't accomplish this no worse for wear. He actually does drown, but is rescued and resuscitated by Ilsa not long after with some humorous results. In this one instance, the mission really was impossible.
  • Mysterious Doctor Satan (1940 Film Serial). Used for an end-of-chapter Cliffhanger when The Hero and Damsel in Distress are in a diving chamber and an underwater explosion breaks a porthole. The air pocket formed as the water rushes in leads to more plausible survival than some cliffhangers.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child: Alice is taking a shower when it turns out she is dreaming and Freddy Krueger makes the shower stall lock and start filling with bloody water. Before she can drown, she escapes through a portal, but this just leads to another dangerous situation that she has to face while completely naked before she manages to wake up.
  • Now You See Me 2: Dylan's father, the magician and Escape Artist Lionel Shrike, died when Dylan was a child when a trick he was attempting to do (escaping a locked safe thrown to the bottom of a river) went wrong. The villains lock Dylan in a copy of the same safe his father died in and drop it in a harbor to really twist the psychological knife. Dylan is only able to escape because he is wearing his father's wristwatch, which has a pin that works as a failsafe key and a blacklight that shows where the failsafe is even in the dark and underwater.
  • P2: Security guard/stalker floods an elevator with a fire hose (and throws in a dead body, to be sure) to force the lead female out.
  • The capsized ships become this in Pearl Harbor.
  • Resident Evil (2002): One of the many ways in which the insane AI kills off the Umbrella employees.
  • The Return of the Musketeers: Four of the Duke of Beaufort's supporters are chained to benches in a pit of water up to their necks and forced to operate a pump that will keep the water at that level as long as all four never stop pumping. This is treated as a Funny Background Event.
  • Saw:
    • Saw III: There's a really disgusting version of this trope involving liquified rotting pig corpses.
    • Saw V: Strahm has a locked, watertight box placed on his head that fills with water and will eventually drown him. He only escapes by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy with a ball-point pen.
  • The Shadow: The Shadow tracks Farley Claymore down in a pressure testing tank at Mari-Tech labs, only to discover that he's thrown his lot in with Shiwan. Farley then starts filling the tank with water, shoots the Shadow, and locks him in the tank.
  • Superman: The Movie (1978). Lex Luthor hangs a fragment of a kryptonite meteorite around Superman's neck to weaken him and dumps him in a pool to drown. Luckily Otis accidentally sent the second missile to a location Miss Teschmacher cares about, leading her to rescue Supes.
  • In The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, the romantic hero and heroine Kent and Lilli are trapped in a Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere with a time bomb, as a death trap. Kent hits on the idea of breaking a water pipe in the hope that the water will absorb the force of the bomb, but the room fills up too fast and the pair of them nearly drown before the bomb explodes, freeing them without injuring them as Kent had hoped.
  • In Salt, the heroine's husband dies by being drowned in a tank.
  • In San Andreas, Blake, the daughter of the protagonist, is locked in a room where the water level rises (due to a tsunami). Her father must rescue her.
  • In Strange Brew, Bob and the girl get locked in a beer tank by the villain. Bob saves them by drinking all the beer.
  • Titanic (1997): The sinking Titanic becomes this after the collision, especially for the occupants of the lower decks.
  • The 2009 movie Walled In uses a variant of this in which a famous architect imprisons innocent people (including children) inside hollow building columns that are quickly filled up with cement.

  • Alex Rider: In Scorpia, The Dragon Nile knocks Alex unconscious and locks him in a cellar that is filling with water as a result of one of Venice's storm surges.
  • In Bridge of Birds, one of the Emperor's deathtraps is a complex maze filled with water by the rising tide. It's your choice whether you're dashed to pieces against the rock walls or drowned; it's all in how you stand.
  • The short story "Charlie Rabbit" by Garth Nix finds two little boys in a war zone trapped in a bomb shelter with a broken water main.
  • In The Culture novel Consider Phlebas, Horza starts out in one of these, except it's connected to the building's toilet system and thus slowly filling with substances rather less pleasant than water (the locals being really unhappy with him). Being the novel's protagonist, he's rescued just before he drowns.
  • A variation in The Dead Can Wait by Robert Ryan. Dr Watson is examining corpses stored in an icehouse when someone bolts the door and opens a sluice gate to a nearby lake. The icehouse isn't watertight so wouldn't rise high enough to drown Watson, but the object is to kill him with hypothermia.
  • In Divergent, Tris experiences one in a hyper-realistic simulation. Such simulations are designed for the Dauntless faction to overcome most if not all their fears.
  • Eternity Road. The protagonists have located a library of pre-Apocalpyse lost knowledge. However, by forcing the door open, they've exposed the Elaborate Underground Base to a sudden tidal change. They find themselves trapped in the library, trying to haul the books to higher shelves so they won't be damaged, while also plugging every hole in the ceiling so an air bubble will be created and they won't drown.
  • Fablehaven: One of the obstacles in the Dreamstone is a room that fills with water. After the gate to the next room is unlocked, then the water rapidly recedes. Here's the catch: as the water goes down, it freezes — if you're not in a boat, you get trapped as a Human Popsicle.
  • The Heroes of Olympus has one in the form of an old temple haunted by vengeful water spirits. It's left ambiguous if it's an enchantment or a result of his trauma-induced fear of drowning, but even Percy can't breathe the water.
  • The Histories of Herodotus: To avenge her brother, Queen Nitocris of Egypt invites his killers to a banquet in an underground hall, then locks the doors and has the room filled up with water through a hidden duct.
  • In The Kingdom Keepers, Maleficent enchants the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride in an attempt to drown Willia and Charlene.
  • In the Alternate History novel K is for Killing by Daniel Easterman, the 1940s United States is ruled by a fascist government, including concentration camps and the Federal Bureau of Internal Security headed by J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover has a woman locked in a dark chamber that slowly fills with water, and is told her daughter is in another similar chamber (she's not). The woman gives Hoover the information he needs and is then left to drown.
  • Erik turns his Death Trap for Raoul and the Persian into this in the climax of The Phantom of the Opera. Christine saves them by taking his Scarpia Ultimatum.
  • In the Relativity story "Rune Returns", the hero, Black Torrent, actually suggests to the villain that he attempt to drown him and the other heroes in this manner. It's actually a Batman Gambit, however, because Torrent knows that the room in question was designed to bury the heroes in sand. Filling it with water allowed them to float up to the door and escape.
  • In one of the later books in the The Saga of Darren Shan, Darren is called to do a series of tests for the leaders of the vampire world. One of these challenges is to find his way out of a maze that is slowly filling with water. While he has a boulder tied to him.
  • The Lemony Narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events alludes to being trapped in an Italian restaurant that is slowly filling up with water.
  • In Seven Deadly Wonders, there was a Booby Trap version of this involving a cage. Turns out, you have to go into the cage to get past the trap.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, much is made of the ruthlessness of Tywin Lannister, and his slaughter of House Reyne of Castamere is often mentioned, although never entirely explained. Then The World of Ice & Fire came out and revealed that Tywin essentially used this trope. After having defeated the main Reyne army, the household fled into a series of underground mines that would cost Tywin an absurd number of soldiers if he tried to storm it, hoping they could convince Tywin to negotiate. Instead, Tywin sealed the mines and divert a nearby river into them, turning the entire thing into a drowning pit.
    Ser Reynard sent word to Ser Tywin above, offering terms. But Tywin Lannister did not honor Ser Reynard's offer with a reply. Instead he commanded that the mines be sealed. With pick and axe and torch, his own miners brought down tons of stone and soil, burying the great gates to the mines until there was no way in and no way out. Once that was done, he turned his attention to the small, swift stream that fed the crystalline blue pool beside the castle from which Castamere took its name. It took less than a day to dam the stream and only two to divert it to the nearest mine entrance. The earth and stone that sealed the mine had no gaps large enough to let a squirrel pass, let alone a man... but the water found its way down. Ser Raynard had taken more than three hundred men, women, and children into the mines, it is said. Not a one emerged. A few of the guards assigned to the smallest and most distant of the mine entrances reported hearing faint screams and shouts coming from beneath the earth one night, but by daybreak the stones had gone silent once again.
    • Davos is being held by a lord with a castle by the sea, and he makes casual mention of the fate of those who might annoy him: being chained to the floor of his dungeon waiting for the tide to come in.
  • In Vision of the Future, Luke and Mara end up in the secret cavern beneath the fortress called the Hand of Thrawn. There's an underground lake a mere wall away. While the two of them stare at the cavern's secret, floating asleep or not yet alive in a Spaarti cylinder, the cavern's droid defenders open fire. It quickly becomes obvious that the only way out of this is to nick the wall separating the cavern from the underground lake, which they do, but the water comes in at such a high pressure that the way they came in from gets blocked, and the air gets harder to breathe as the water takes up more and more space. Luke asks Mara to marry him.
  • A natural one in Warrior Cats: The tunnels beneath WindClan territory flood when it rains, drowning any cat inside. This is how Fallen Leaves dies and it nearly happens to the protagonists as well when they go in to rescue three kits.
  • In the second book of Wings of Fire, the main cast (except for Tsunami) is locked in a crowded prison which unintentionally becomes this during a hurricane that floods it. They survive thanks to Clay, who has the ability to hold his breath for an hour, staying at the bottom of the cell that is being filled with water, and Tsunami convincing the guards to free them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Adventures of Superman episode "The Haunted Lighthouse", a variation occurs when Jimmy Olsen's evil cousin and a friend lock him into a cave as the tide is coming in. According to Jack Larson, this happened rather often ("they were always trying to drown me, and the water was very cold").
  • In Alias, Vaughn is trapped in a room rapidly filling with water that occurred as a side effect of something Sydney did earlier in the episode. He eventually escapes by swimming to the ceiling of the room and unscrewing a hatch in the ceiling with a screwdriver he just happened to have. This same trope is then subverted with the same miniplot as it turns out that though Vaughn didn't drown, he did get poisoned by the nuclear quality of the water.
  • Baywatch:
    • In the Baywatch: Hawaii episode "Good Man in a Storm", Sean and Jenna escape a hurricane and find shelter in a military bunker, only to be trapped as water floods the room. Jenna performs an Action Dress Rip to help stem the flood. Her strapless dress consequently becomes a conveniently eye-catching Sexy Soaked Shirt.
    • In "The Armored Car", Eddie and Shauni are trapped in the back of the titular car as it falls into the bay. For worse, Eddie is pinned down to the back of the car by a huge box that fell on him when he saved a little girl who was inside the car.
  • Bones: One of many perils that the Gravedigger inflicts on Booth.
  • In Charmed, there's a Warlock who kills people by making them face their worst fear. Since Prue is terrified of drowning, she gets locked into her shower with the water level rising.
  • Cold Case had a flashback of a serial killer's childhood. He passed by a well a woman had fallen into, and instead of getting help, he spat on her. Realizing he wouldn't help led to her crossing the Despair Event Horizon. He then watched happily as she gave up and drowned.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Heathridge Manor" featured a disturbed young man who would place women in a well, fill it up with water so that they drowned, and then attempt to resuscitate them. If he could revive them, they were subjected to further horrors and finally killed.
  • CSI: NY:
    • The killer in "Sleight Out of Hand" is a stage illusionist who does this to his foster mother out of anger over feeling abandoned because he had issues as a kid and she gave him back because she feared for her new baby’s life. He sets it up as a Houdini-style water escape trick that she won’t escape from. Fortunately Mac and company arrive just in time to shoot out the glass.
    • One of the victims in "Death House" is trapped in a sealed room that slowly fills with cold water, subjecting her to hypothermia. The team locate and rescue her just in the nick of time.
  • Featured as one of the possible final scenarios in the game show Dasshutsu Game DERO!, in which contestants have to solve a series of puzzles in a flooding chamber.
  • In the Japanese mini-series The Days, after the earthquake hits the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant workers are sent to investigate the damage. Two of them swipe into a couple of booth-like rooms only to find the doors have been damaged and won't open from the inside. They then look out the reinforced glass windows and see a tsunami sweeping towards them. Water fills the booths up over their heads, only to recede again before they drown. Unfortunately, two other workers who were checking out the basement aren't so lucky. That night they post a lookout to warn them if another tsunami comes, but as the intercom system has been knocked out there's serious doubt as to whether he could reach them with a warning in time.
  • Doctor Who: Ace finds herself in such a predicament in an episode cliffhanger in "Battlefield".
  • Due South: In the second-season episode "Vault", Ray and Fraser are locked in a bank vault that is slowly filling with water from its broken sprinkler system. In a twist, Fraser broke the sprinkler — he knows the bank robbers are drilling through the door, and he figures the water will distract them once they manage to get into the vault. Of course, that means they have to worry about drowning if the robbers don't break in fast enough...
  • Eureka: Jack and Allison were trapped in an experimental submarine that was rapidly filling with water. They combined this trope with Altar the Speed, as they decided that, if Henry's idea to transport them off the sub didn't work, they wanted to get married before they drowned.
  • Get Smart:
    • Smart and another person find themselves trapped in such a situation, but escape when Smart actually finds the room's plug (which is literally a regular size bathtub plug) and manages to drain the room.
    • He and Agent 99 find themselves in a flooding phone booth deathtrap — as they're posing as a married couple, 99 uses her diamond ring to cut the glass open. The booth ended up recycled in a later episode in an underground lair. Yes, Smart ends up in it again.
  • Horatio Hornblower, "Mutiny": Crazy Captain Sawyer orders Marines to arrest his three lieutenants Bush, Hornblower, and Kennedy because he thinks they conspire against him. Sawyer then gets the ship aground and under heavy fire from a Spanish fort they were supposed to storm. The Spanish start using heated shots and the ship gets holed. The prison below deck starts quickly filling with water...
    Kennedy: Heated shot, they're using heated shot!
    Hornblower: I wouldn't worry, Mr. Kennedy. We'll drown long before we burn.
    Bush: [shouting for help] Ahoy there! Ahoy there!
  • JAG: In "Cabin Pressure", Harm, along with the ship’s sergeant-at-arms and an enlisted sailor accused of murder, are trapped below deck on a ship that ran aground. The Dirty Cop left Harm and the sailor to drown before getting rescued, claiming that they were already dead; but in this show, The Hero never dies…
  • An episode of Jonathan Creek features a bathtub that tips downward, dropping its unfortunate occupants into a water tank beneath before tipping back up to seal off their escape.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid pulls a zigzagged version of this in its usual fashion. The pit is a visual metaphor for Parado drowning in his fear as he is hunted down by Cronus in #39.
    • Parado's end in the same episode is signified with an imaginary version of him being pushed into the pit to drown.
    • His revival in #40 continues this impression with Emu diving into the pit to rescue him.
  • In the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode "The Jack Is High", a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits rob an armored car, then make their escape in an unusual getaway vehicle — a gasoline tanker. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Well, for one thing, the gas starts to leak into the compartment where some of the crooks are hiding. They repair the leak, but it reopens at the climax of the episode, killing two of the men.
  • One of the characters on K-Ville was an ex-con who had this happen to him in his cell during Hurricane Katrina.
  • In the Leverage episode "The Gold Job", the team creates a fake drowning pit as part of The Con.
  • Charlie on Lost is killed this way in season three. As are Sun and Jin in season six.
  • Twice in MacGyver (1985), crooks trap Mac in a flooding vessel in an attempt to kill him: a submarine in "Deep Cover" and a fishing boat in "Pirates". In each case he jury-rigs a different means of escape.
  • The Magician: In "Nightmare in Steel", one of the bad guys attempts to murder Tony's Lovely Assistant by sabotaging the lock on the glass tank being used for a water escape trick.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "A Vintage Murder", Tina is Bound and Gagged and trapped in a cellar as wine begins to cascade dangerously from above.
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: In "Death Defying Feats", Phryne is performing 'The Miraculous Mermaid', a version of Houdini's water trap escape. The killer sabotages the act leaving Phryne trapped in a glass tank filled with water.
  • Murdoch Mysteries, "Murdoch Ahoy": A bomb exploded on a cruise ship and the deck is filling with water. The space can't be sealed because of a broken mechanism. Amy happens to be trapped there.
  • Happened on Perfect Strangers in the basement of the apartment building. The danger in this case was not drowning, but the water getting deep enough to hit the fuse box and electrocute everyone.
  • Red Dwarf: The hidden psychopath attempts to dispose of Cat by drowning him in "Cured".
  • Riverworld 2003 adaptation: Emperor Nero leaves Jeff Hale tied up on the beach at low tide, calling him a sacrifice to the god Neptune. Fortunately, Jeff's friends arrive and untie him before he drowns.
  • It happened in the Ernie and Bert skit on Sesame Street with Ernie carrying a glass of water. Ernie told Bert that the kitchen faucet is broken and Ernie wanted to carry the water out before their whole home gets flooded and they did.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World: In "The Knife", a bad guy injects Roxton with a paralyzing poison, then leaves him at the beach at low tide. The man later sadistically explains that the poison wears off eventually, but not fast enough before the tide will come in, all the while Roxton is still conscious. Marguerite eventually rescues him just as his head is underwater.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In the episode "Descent", O'Neill and Carter are trapped in a corridor of an Anubis' Mothership that is now deep in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The corridor starts to fill up with water. Fortunately, Thor is able to override the command and let them out before they run out of air.
    • Also happens in the Season 6 episode "Evolution Part 1". Daniel and Lee get trapped in one of these when the underground temple they're exploring begins to fill with water after they remove the Telchak device, though they manage to swim back through the narrow passageways and make it to the surface.
    Lee: I think I figured out why those passageways were so narrow. It's to prevent people from escaping alive.
    Daniel: You're good
  • Supergirl (2015): In "Alex", Rick Malverne kidnaps Alex Danvers and imprisons her in a cell rigged to fill with water in four hours in order to force Kara and Maggie Sawyer to break his father out of jail.
  • Subverted in Tracker (2001). Cole looks into a case that one of the fugitives got mixed up in when he took over a con man’s body. It looks like a teenage girl has been kidnapped and locked b a tank of rising water, but it turns out to be fake. She’s using it to get money from her rich dad after he cut her off. Cole ends up using the tank to hold the fugitive and he nearly drowns because he had lied about his species and wasn’t actually a water-adapted Nodulian.
  • Done in a very improvised way at the climax of the second season of Trapped (2015), in which the villain ties a woman up and leaves her face down in a stream, which is rapidly rising due to a heavy rainstorm.
  • Underbelly has a storyline where a criminal lawyer is placed on trial, then loses his job despite being acquitted. His entire world crumbles, falling out with George Freeman and Bob Trimbole, his wife leaves him, and he sees no choice but to go to the police involved in the corruption for help, knowing they will probably kill him. His wife won't even let him talk to his kids when he is awaiting his fate. Then he's taken out on a rented boat, where the officers reveal a stove, beat him despite his pleas to be shot instead, tie him to the stove, then throw him overboard, the police laughing all the while, especially at him praying for forgiveness.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger The Villain buries a bus full of kids as part of a ransom plot, but a freak storm causes it to start filling with mud.
    • In the Season 6 episode "No Way Out," Alex and Trivette are kidnapped by one of Walker's enemies (Caleb Hooks, who was previously captured by Walker but has escaped from prison) and thrown into one of these. Adding insult to injury, the water is ice cold, putting them at risk for hypothermia as well. Walker, of course, shows up Just in Time, moments after both have been completely submerged (Walker has to perform CPR on Alex and successfully revives her) ... and things end moments later with an "Everybody Laughs" Ending.
  • In The X-Files episode "Excelsis Dei", Mulder and the Victim of the Week are trapped in a bathroom that is swiftly filled up with water.

  • The Hipgnosis cover for the Strawbs' Deadlines album features a phone booth turned into a drowning pit. (Yes, just like one of the Get Smart examples above.)

    Video Games 
  • BLUE GUARDIAN: Margaret: At one point, Margaret is captured and wakes up naked and tied up in a glass tank filling with water while the villains watch and taunt her as she struggles. She passes out from lack of air, only to wake up in a cell, still naked. She must then break out and sneak through the base to recover her clothes and weapons. However, if she gets caught again, she'll be put in the tank again, this time until she drowns for real.
  • Alissa is kept in one during the final battle with Mortus in Comix Zone, making this a Timed Boss where the Good Ending is at stake.
  • You have to invoke this in the old computer game The Crimson Crown. After the Vampyr has you and your companion Sabrina thrown into a pit to rot, you whistle to summon an owl you had befriended earlier, who leaves a tree branch and a beehive with you. Inside the pit with you is a constantly draining water source; you use the beehive to plug the hole, causing the pit to fill up with water, and then hold onto the tree branch to eventually climb your way to the top of the pit and escape.
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest has this trope in the final but not very final area of the game, just before the final but not really final boss, in a level called "Toxic Tower." The Kongs get transformed into a bouncy snake and must bounce up the tower and away from the ever-rising toxic waste that continuously rises until the level ends. Nice.
  • Dwarf Fortress: Behind the Dwarven Atom Smasher, a Drowning Pit is probably the second most common trap players start designing. Can be combined with Lava Pit for further obsidian-producing lulz. It is also possible, by capturing and relocating dangerous aquatic creatures, to turn a Drowning Pit into a Shark Pool, possibly with Lethal Legendary Carp if the player so desires. However, actually getting that done is a challenge on its own while not substantially increasing the lethality of the trap, making it something of a Difficult But Awesome But Impractical option.
    • Aquifers — layers that spawn water indefinitely, which ensures both access to clean water and "fun" if plumbing is not planned perfectly.
    Player 1: The aquifer giveth and the aquifer taketh away.
    Player 2: First you hate aquifers, then you learn to love them, then you learn to install drainage for your dining hall as a matter of principle.
  • In the first installment of the Fancy Pants Adventures Flash game series, you find an orb that grants you a wall-clinging power-up... if you can make it to the top of a pit before rising black goop does.
  • In Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, the ritual central to the story involved sealing a Virgin Sacrifice into a box that's filled with black water. For one who is chosen for the most honorable type of Virgin Sacrifice, her box, after being filled with black water, would then be placed in a sacred lake in order to purify the water of the mountain where said lake is located at its peak.
  • Final Fight 2's continue screen depicts your bound character (either Haggar, Maki, or Carlos) trapped in one of these.
  • God of War III has you escorting Pandora late in the game. She ends up getting stuck in one of these somewhere down the line, forcing Kratos to come to the rescue before she dies.
  • Early on in Half-Life, in order to get past a barred-off passage you have to drop into a drainage canal and make it through a hatch on the other side. The hatch isn't reachable until you open a valve to flood the canal with water.
    • Half-Life: Opposing Force combines this with a Lava Pit in the form of a room trap early in the game. As you try to cross the room, a fuse shorts out, blows open a tank of biowaste then proceeds to disintegrate the floor bit by bit. After you climb up to the catwalk, you notice the G-Man staring at you from the control room... the electrified waste is still rising... it's almost to your feet... then he opens the nearby maintenance door at the last second.
  • Heavy Rain: Favored method of the Origami Killer, who leaves his victims to drown in rainwater (hence the title). It connects to something in his past.
  • Hector: Badge of Carnage episode 3 starts with Hector and Lambert trapped in a septic tank that is rapidly filling up with sewage. Hector can stop the sewage and drain the tank as long as he is running on a treadmill. Being Hector, he considers drowning in sewage the lesser evil.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker does it after Link eventually rescues Aryll.
  • Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards: Don't flush the toilet, or it will flood the room and drown you.
  • Livestream: Escape from Hotel Izanami: On the second floor, Azusa is trapped in a room. When Mio tries to break through a wall to reach her, the room she's in starts filling up with water, and the pressure seals the door shut. Mio has to help Azusa drain the water before she drowns, communicating with her over the phone.
  • Marathon: This is used sometimes. Water is used to make you lose air, usually this trap will be in a level where oxygen is limited. When it's not, and sometimes when it is, you get lava. Oh, and you run out of air in lava, too. Can't breathe lava.
  • In Natica and Sandy: Underwater Rescue, every stage takes place in one of these, as the main objective is to use Natica to release Sandy from a chain that keeps her stuck underwater before she drowns. This is made more difficult by the fact that there are piranhas constantly out to nibble at them.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors begins in a early 20th Century 3rd class cabin. The window is ruptured and water floods in. You have to find a way to escape.
  • Onimusha: Warlords has at least one example of this kind of trap. On the third floor of a Sengoku-era castle. About 400 years before indoor plumbing was invented. Don't think about it too hard.
  • Early in StarTropics, there is a hidden bonus room from which a similar bonus room can be discovered in the same way. Greedy players who try to access a third bonus room instead find a Room of Watery Death; upon entering it, Mike drowns instantly.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The Labyrinth Zone Act 3 boss.
  • Spider: The Video Game have several pits of water that kill you in an instant, ranging from overflowing sinks to water puddles and filled basins. It helps that you're playing as an andromorphic, regular-sized spider.
  • The infamous Minus World from Super Mario Bros..
  • Super Mario 64: The Secret Aquarium is a giant room where Mario has to swim to collect coins and get a star. Also, because the pause system requires him to have his feet on the ground to leave the level, getting the star is also the only way to escape the aquarium.
  • Tomb Raider: Legend: Happens during a flashback.
  • Trauma Center: New Blood has the surgeons trapped in this. The way to escape? Solve a toy lock. Seriously.
  • In Uninvited, one of the bathrooms contains a surprisingly deadly sink. Namely, it won't turn off once you turn it on, and won't drain, eventually causing the room to fill up with water. This turns out to be the only way to get to the final room in the game. The door is on the ceiling, and you need to swim up there to open it.
  • One of the treasures in Wario Land: Shake It! says this (a message in a bottle) about a bottle factory filling up with water.
  • Yoshi's Island DS does this with lava.

  • Unsounded: When the self-destruct spell for the caverns beneath Litriya Shrine is set off the cavern containing Inaktown starts filling with water from the nearby river. Most of those inside were killed when the spell first went off and blew the walls, but by the time Duane tries to save those still there the cavern has filled entirely and there are no survivors left inside.

     Web Original 
  • OneyPlays- In episode 2 of the channel's Super Mario 64 Let's Play (featuring Chris/Oney, Ding Dong, and Julian), the trio joke about the secret water level being called "The Drownhouse" and that they humanely kill people in Texas by putting people in it and dropping it down from several feet high above the ground ("If the drownin' don't kill ya, the gravity will!"). Later on, they joke that Satoru Iwata died because he asked Nintendo for "all the water they had", prompting them to leave him in the Drownhouse.

     Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "Tear Jerker", a spoof of James Bond films, the title villain (played by Roger) has one of these in his lair to dispose of minions who fail him too often. It even fills via two eye-shaped water spouts so as to look like crying. Unfortunately Roger's contractor for his lair was so inept the slide that was supposed to deliver the victim to the vat is too narrow and said victim invariably gets stuck before making it to the vat, necessitating another minion to use a broom to dislodge them.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Be A Clown", after knocking out Batman, The Joker puts him in a straitjacket and in a glass tank that is slowly filling with water. Jordan, a young boy who had been hanging out with Joker and unaware of his true nature, attacks the glass with an ax and cracks it before Joker snatches it away and chases him. Batman then attacks the crack until the tank ruptures, freeing him.
  • Blue Eye Samurai. Mizu is informed of a Secret Underground Passage leading under the sea to Fowler's island castle. It's full of skeletons of others who tried to use it, and she finds out why when she picks the lock on a door only for the passage to start flooding. Mizu has to get the door open, swim to another door and pick the lock on that one as well before she drowns.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Don't Drink the Water", the villains find out Captain Planet and three of the Planeteers are in the storm sewers and unleash a flood of contaminated water on them. Captain Planet seals the others into a convenient metal tube so they don't drown. While he doesn't drown, the combined pollution comes close to killing him.
  • Code Lyoko:
    • One episode had Ulrich (with a broken/very badly hurt arm) and Sissi sealed in an elevator filling with water, thanks to XANA. Luckily, the others are able to win the day and hit the reset button just as the two fall unconscious.
    • And then used again when XANA traps Odd in a more typical drowning pit — with a grate on top — so that a fake Odd can get to Lyoko and kill the others. Yumi is able to save him at the last second.
  • Family Guy: The Griffins lock themselves in a panic room then accidentally fire off a flare. Which activates the sprinklers and slowly fills the room with water.
  • Justice League: For some reason Atlantis has one of these.
  • Kim Possible as noted above. Almost crossing over into There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
  • Doubly subverted in The Legend of Tarzan when a group of humans and apes are trapped in an uncovered pit. Jane's father comments that they can simply float up to the top. Jane corrects him by saying it would work for the humans, but the apes are not buoyant and would still drown.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: In "Spooky", the episode's experiment transforms into water—which is Stitch's worst fear since he cannot float—and fills up the kitchen they're both in with his watery self. Spooky almost drowns Stitch until Lilo heads to the room, forcing the experiment to flee by draining himself through a vent.
  • The Simpsons:
    • This happens to Bart and Groundskeeper Willie, and it's made even worse by the fact that there are fans (or something with spinning blades) overhead that could chop them up.
    • Parodied in "Simpson Tide".
      Barney: It's filling up with a clear, non-alcoholic liquid!
      Homer: You mean water?
      Barney: Yeah, that's the stuff.
    • A variant in "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish". Bart is kicked into a crate by Mr. Burns, which falls off the boat and into the ocean; the crate slowly fills with water while Grampa ventures down into the sea to save him.
  • In the SWAT Kats episode "When Strikes Mutilor", the titular Space Pirate traps the SWAT Kats in a drowning pit aboard his spaceship, but they escape quickly.
  • Parodied on The Venture Bros. when one death trap doesn't fill with scalding hot oil as intended:
    Henchman: Oh, oil. That makes sense, now. I thought you told me to fill it with hot voile.
    Cult Leader: Wh-what? What the hell is "voile"?
    Henchman: It's a soft, sheer fabric. I warmed some up in the dryer.
    Cult Leader: What the—Are you insane? What kind of torture is that? Get out of here, I'm serious! I don't want to look at you anymore!


Video Example(s):


The Underwater Coffin

Wolf takes the kids to a special cell in the prison with a glass wall open to the water called the "Underwater Coffin". When the tide came in, the cell would flood and drown the convict.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DrowningPit

Media sources: