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"Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world. Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear."

Attempts to exploit a resource (as the name suggests, mines are a popular way this occurs) unwittingly unleash a Sealed Evil in a Can. The Trope Namer is of course The Lord of the Rings, and it seems this happens to dwarves a lot because of their tendency to delve in underground spaces. A mine filled with evil is one of the great traditional Dungeons.

Beneath the Earth is the imagined location of The Underworld and Hell, which in many stories are prisons for the worst monsters in the cosmos. The fear of coming into contact with one of these mythical horrors is likely an inspiration for this.

See also King in the Mountain — accidentally finding him before the country's hour of need can be dangerous. Unwitting Instigator of Doom may overlap this trope.

This typically takes the form of mining through rock and earth, but more exotic variants can also occur — it's not uncommon for drilling through a glacier to unleash a Monster in the Ice, for instance.

Can result in an Abandoned Mine. For cases when man's Pride sends him too far in the other direction, see The Tower. Also contrast Journey to the Sky and Gave Up Too Soon.

Do not confuse with Digging Yourself Deeper, which is for awkward one-way conversations. Not the result of Digging to China either; that one is a comedy trope. Compare Planetary Core Manipulation.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • Superman: This is the most common reason why Krypton was destroyed in most Superman stories. The Kryptonians were furiously drilling all over Krypton for resources to fuel their advanced technology, but this drilling caused the planets core to become dangerously unstable. This eventually caused Kyrpton to implode, destroying the planet and killing all the Kryptonians except for a few like Superman who managed to survive through various means. Usually either escaping via rocket like Supes and his cousin Supergirl, being trapped in the extra-dimensional prison called the Phantom Zone like General Zod (In some continuities, Zod was responsible for all of the drilling), or being a citizen of the Bottle City of Kandor, which was snatched up by Brainiac and turned into a bottle city just prior to Krypton's Destruction.
    • In Legion of Super-Heroes story The Great Darkness Saga, the United Planets send robot-probes to investigate an uncharted, uninhabited planet which has drifted into the middle of major interstellar trade routes. Said probes accidentally awaken the Master of Darkness, who after a long slumber sets out to plunge the galaxy into darkness and chaos.
  • The Disney Ducks Comic Universe has to deal with these all the time. Most of Scrooge McDuck's riches came from mining, after all.
  • In Lands of Arran, the Dwarves' constant mining regularly unearths things that were better left buried. In Tome 3 of Nains, minors digging deep into the mountain stumble upon a lost Dwarven city from which a Hate Plague takes over the populace.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • This is generally what provokes most hostile encounters with the Mole Man, Tyrannus, the Deviants, and various other underground menaces in the Marvel Universe.
    • Wolverine: The creature in the 2008 annual "Roar" was unleashed when a town suffering from a drought dug for groundwater where it was lurking.
    • In Scarlet Spider, one of Roxxon's oil digs drilled too deep and unleashed an Energy Being that they named Mammon.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The story of the miniseries Jedi Academy: Leviathan is set off when the titular creature, an ancient reptilian monster created by dark Jedi as a living weapon thousands of years in the galaxy's past and which had been slumbering since the end of the conflict in which it had taken part, is awakened by a mining colony digging into its lair.
    • Xenoarchaeologists in the Star Wars (Marvel 1977) story "World of Fire" find an underground city under their dig site and decide to break through the still-functioning energy barrier put around it. This stirs up the xenophobic, paranoid security system, which kills them all, then people landing on the world to investigate, then ships flying in orbit overhead...
  • Swamp Thing: In the original run, Kentucky coal miners accidentally awoke an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Yoko Tsuno: In one story, (mostly) peaceful aliens known as the Vineans live under Earth's crust and an oil drill damages one of their conduits that happens to be transporting lava. Troubles ensue for drillers and Vineans alike as this means there is now lava flowing close to a pocket of natural gas.

    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot: One of Jason Fox's ideas for "How Disney could improve its movies" went like this:
    Dwarves: We dig-dig-dig and dig-dig-dig and mine the whole day through...
    Grumpy: Balrog!
  • Garfield: During a Sunday strip (circa 1996), Odie was shown digging in the backyard for a place to bury a bone; he went sooo deep, that Garfield, who stood watching nearby, was totally freaked out when he saw a giant alligator crawl out of the hole and went away, which meant that Odie had at the very least reached sewer level.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge: It turns out that the Big Bad Bagan was unleashed this way when a young archaeologist accidentally drilled into the seal keeping him imprisoned. Word of God said he would've inevitably escaped someday, but this caused it to happen much sooner than it would've had this not happened.
  • Child of the Storm implies this in the sequel, with a dilapidated fortress and a vast tunnel network beneath on an island in the middle of the Hogwarts Lake being inhabited by a colossal Elder Wyrm, an ancient dragon spawned of Jormungand, that's spent most of the last million or so years asleep — despite the fact that the ruins don't date back anywhere near that far. The assumption is that the previous inhabitants delved too deep, woke it up, whereupon it killed them and went back to sleep. It's woken up again in the sequel, partly by witches and wizards preparing the cave network for a Triwizard Task.
  • Children of an Elder God: The story starts out when a team of spelunkers met an Eldritch Abomination while they were exploring a vast network of deep, unexplored caverns. Said Eldritch Abomination decided to kill all them and go outside, setting in motion the world-ending prophecies that the main characters intend to avert.
  • The plot in The Unfantastic Adventures of Bizarro No. 1 is kicked off when spelunkers digging into the wrong place lure the Blue-Kryptonite Men back to the surface of Htrae.
    Bizarro-Mayor: Big excavation near Bad Carl's Caverns. Spelunkers trying to fill up caves, took rock away from wrong place to put it somewhere else, uncover lair of Blue Kryptonite meanies. Them am come out in droves. All spelunkers dead but one, and him alone am escaped to tell me.

    Film — Animation 
  • Superman: Doomsday: This is how Doomsday is uncovered by Lex Corp.
  • Justice League: Gods and Monsters: This is the reason why Krypton was destroyed. General Zod and his forces were furiously drilling all across the planet in order to acquire resources to fuel his advanced military technology. However, all of this drilling destabilized the planet's core and caused it to implode.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts. In "Ore", the miners are worried the Company will abandon the colony of Bowen's Landing because they haven't been making any new strikes of platinum. Their Company supervisor reassures them they just have to keep digging deeper. Turns out they've already hit paydirt; several alien eggs that are more valuable to the Company than their own lives.
  • Boa: Reckless drilling into the Antarctic ice sheet releases a Lost World containing a giant boa constrictor.
  • The Boogens: The title creatures were initially released due to silver mining in the 1910's that got its start in the 1840's. After several decades the attacks restart when the mining starts again.
  • Cockneys vs. Zombies: The undead menace is unleashed because a pair of demolition workers unearthed a centuries-old crypt.
  • The Descent Part 2: Apparently, many years before the events of the film, a mining operation dug just too deep.
  • Ghosts of Mars: A mining crew in Mars digs deep and unleashes ghosts that possessed everyone at the site.
  • Godzilla:
    • Rodan was unleashed on Japan by miners breaking into a sealed chamber and allowing the egg to hatch. Not to mention the giant Meganulon caterpillars that were also in there.
    • In Rebirth of Mothra, Desghidorah is released by Belvera after a construction company find the amulet used to seal the giant monster, this amulet later being stolen by Belvera to unleash the monster it sealed away.
    • MonsterVerse: The majority of the Kaiju have existed in hibernation underground for thousands to millions of years before the present day, and it's explicitly noted in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) that human activities including strip mining and seismic surveys are triggering their gradual reawakening and return to the world. Adding more to this trope, it's heavily implied some of the creatures such as the vicious Skullcrawlers on Skull Island might've influenced humans' lore of The Underworld.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Saruman quotes this trope.
    Saruman: Moria. You fear to go into those mines. The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of Khazad-dum...shadow and flame!
  • The Meg: Dove Too Deep in this case, but the concept is still the same. Taylor comments that maybe the cloud of hydrogen sulfide that separates the above ocean and the hidden world beneath it might be there for a reason: there are monsters living down there, specifically the megalodons. The cloud is there to contain them within the deepest depths where no human is meant to go.
  • Megalodon involves the construction of a new oil rig in the North Atlantic that can drill deeper than ever before. Inevitably, it runs into trouble when it punctures into an ancient subterranean sea beneath the ocean floor, (and as one could probably guess from the title) unleashes sixty-feet of prehistoric terror.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie has construction workers unearthing Ivan Ooze. However, in this case Ooze remained Sealed Evil in a Can until Lord Zedd released him.
  • Mongolian Death Worm: The eponymous creatures are unearthed by an oil company drilling in the deserts of Mongolia.
  • Reign of Fire: The dragons awakened and ravaged the world when were discovered by underground construction workers.
  • Reptilicus was unleashed by first drilling too deep, then foolishly digging after what they'd drilled into.
  • The Silence (2019): The movie's monsters, the vesps, had been trapped in a sealed-off cavern for millions of years. At the beginning of the movie, they're released into the world when a spelunking team, while pushing deep into their cave, digs away the rockfall that had sealed away their chamber.
  • Slaughterhouse Rulez: Fracking unearthes carnivorous subterranean lizards driven down there in the 14th century.
  • The Superdeep: It turns out Russia has built an entire research facility at the bottom of the facility at the bottom of the Kola Superdeep Borehole. In the process, they unearth a body jacking parasitic fungus that may or may not be sapient.
  • Tremors 4: The Legend Begins: Implied to be the source of Perfection's Graboid infestation, as Wild West miners uncover "dirt dragon" eggs and unwittingly allow them to revive.
  • How the Dark Giants are revived in Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey. The GUTS archeological crew excavating the ruins of R'lyeh Island (the same location where the finale of the series took place, years earlier) uncovered the resting place of the Dark Giants, ancient Ultras whom dominated the world in prehistoric times, and decide to dynamite the entrance to investigate despite Captain Iruma telling them to reconsider their actions (she gets a slap from the obnoxious excavation leader for her efforts, who tells her "he's in charge" and to "know her place") Sure enough, upon blowing up the entrance, the Dark Giants awakens immediately, kills every single member of the excavation (save for Iruma) and begins waging war on the world outside.
  • In Underwater, a deep-sea mining crew dig too deep and end up awakening Cthulhu.
  • X the Unknown: An indirect example - a recent abundance of radiation draws, from two thousand miles beneath the Earth, a sentient, radiation-hungry blob of living mud.

  • Fighting Fantasy: In Portal of Evil, which is set during a gold rush, miners unwittingly uncovered an Artifact of Doom in the form of an ancient portal to a Lost World. The portal is sentient and causes those to pass through to transform into zombie-like slaves to its will. Or prehistoric mammals. Or dinosaurs.
  • Lone Wolf: An immortal monster called Shom'zaa was kept imprisoned by the special ore in the rock around it. Very, very valuable ore. Which was dug up by dwarves, thus releasing the ancient evil (which happened to be a servant of the Big Bad from the elder days), which set about destroying the dwarves' underground kingdom.

  • Annerton Pit by Peter Dickinson: According to local legends, miners working in the Annerton pit unleashed something deep underground that killed almost all of them.
  • Aurora Cycle: The colonists of Octavia III encountered the Ra'haam dormant in the planet's mantle while doing geological studies. It promptly assimilated them into its gestalt and took over the planet's surface.
  • The Broken Earth Trilogy: The cause of the current dangerously geologically active planet is how the ancient city of Syl Anagist dug into the core of the Earth to use its magic as a power source which turned out to be a bad idea when the Earth turned out to be sentient and lashed out against them.
  • The Divine Cities: In City of Blades, the second book, the people of Fort Thinadeshi have found an ore with odd miraculous properties in the ground that they wish to mine and likely use for weaponry. Of course it turns out that the ore is what's left of a giant grave of buried swords which are directly connected to tens of thousands of undead Voortyashtani warriors bent on destroying the living. And mining the swords woke them up. Oops.
  • In the Copper-Colored Cupids short story The Resurrection of the Wellsians, Digger accidentally unearths an ancient crashed Martian spaceship on Venus while trying to dig a personal swimming pool for the Governor.
  • In The Culture novel Matter, an industrial civilization living inside an artificial world digs up an ancient alien artifact. To communicate with it they get help from a more advanced alien civilization that think the artifact is a member of the species that built the world. Actually it turns out to be their enemy. After waking up it promptly nukes the site of the dig along with a mining town of a hundred thousand people and flies off to the core of the world to make enough antimatter to blow it up.
  • In Desperation by Stephen King, Chinese miners dig too deep and uncover the dwelling of Tak, a sadistic, insane, body-snatching horror from beyond our world. This event also triggers the plot of the King-as-Richard-Bachman The Regulators (an AU version of Desperation).
  • Discworld: In The Last Continent, parodied when a well-digger remarks that, if they dig much deeper, they'll give an elephant a nasty surprise. The Disc, of course, is balanced on the backs of four huge turtle-riding elephants. In the same novel, an opal miner uncovers the Luggage — not technically evil, but wisely no-one stuck around to check.
  • The Door In The Dragons Throat features a deep, dangerous cave at the bottom of which lurks a massive, ornate door. The protagonists are hired by a stereotypical rich local with a bad case of Gold Fever to find the key, which purports to open the way to untold treasure. The Door actually holds back a demonic force of untold power that is strongly implied to be Abaddon the Angel of the bottomless pit himself and his followers.
  • In A Fire Upon the Deep, data-archaeologists dig too deeply into an ancient digital archive and unleash the Blight, a sort of godlike computer virus that eats minds.
  • Forest Kingdom: In book 1 (Blue Moon Rising), the inhabitants of a mining town Dug Too Deep just as the Big Bad awakened. By the time the heroes get there it is far, far too late for anything except revenge.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Invoked. Gaea forces Hazel to use her powers to revive Alcyoneus. After realizing this, Hazel buried herself along with Alcyoneus to postpone Gaea's plans.
  • Gods and Warriors: In The Burning Shadow, the Crow chieftain Kreon has copper ore excavated so deep from Thalakrea's volcano island that the underground spirits called the snatchers are angered by the slaves trespassing in their domain. He also offends the Lady of Fire for not following the natives' example of avoiding too deep digging into the Lady's "entrails" and giving her time to heal. With the Crows' act of siccing the spirits of air and darkness called the Angry Ones on her being the last straw, the Lady releases her fury in the form of a volcanic eruption that destroys Thalakrea and blots out the Sun with a great ash cloud for seven months.
  • Goosebumps: The Ghost Camp book involves a campfire story about a group of campers whose leader insists on going as deep into the forest as possible. When they finally reach the heart of the forest and set up camp for the night, they hear a thumping coming from the ground, followed by the cry of a gigantic monster demanding to know why they're on its heart.
  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy: Streams of Silver manages to combine both Moria and The Hobbit, because the dwarves dug too deep, opening a passage to the Underdark that allowed access to a shadow dragon named Shimmergloom who drove them from their home.
  • The Laundry Files: It is mentioned in passing that the British deep mining industry was shut down in the 1980s "ostensibly for economic reasons," but really to stop miners from finding relics of the ancient subterranean race DEEP SEVEN.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Balrog was found when the Dwarves of Moria "delved too greedily and too deep." It was Sealed Evil in a Can, but then they woke it up, and it wiped out their kingdom. And according to Gandalf, there are even worse things without names further down...
  • "Orm the Beautiful": Miners uncover a dragon in this Elizabeth Bear story.
  • Perry Rhodan: Thanks to the prevalence of Ragnarök Proofing in the setting, this and variations on it can happen with some ease. One famous example involved an undersea mining operation right on Earth discovering an ancient base dangerously close to an active volcano. It was opened and explored as much as possible in the limited available time on the assumption that it would simply be another old Lemurian outpost — then it turned out that it in fact wasn't, and shortly after its inevitable destruction an alien "death satellite" alerted by it started to slowly work on trying to blow up the Sun, kicking off the next story arc.
  • Rawhead Rex: The monster is unleashed when it's dug up by an unsuspecting farmer. Granted, he wasn't buried very deep.
  • In The Silence, by Tim Lebbon, cave researchers doing a live TV special for the Discovery Channel break through a collapsed passage in a cavern network, unleashing hordes of Explosive Breeder subterranean flying reptiles that'll kill anything that makes the slightest noise.
  • In The Sister Verse and the Talons of Ruin, a salt mine accidentally uncovers a gateway to another universe, and the Eldritch Abomination that lurks within it.
  • Star Wars Legends: Galaxy of Fear: Spore: The terrible thing here is deep within an asteroid rather than a planet, at the bottom of an old space slug tunnel, but miners still find it. And decide, upon finding a sealed door and terrified-looking statues, to go in anyway because what if there was something valuable there? The Ithorians who'd sealed it up had put up clearer and more explicit warnings, but something had removed them.
  • Tendrils by Harry Adam Knight has geologists drill right into an Eldritch Abomination. Consumption of random people ensues, understandably. And even before said Eldritch Abomination began consuming people, whatever it was inside of contained a huge quantity of extremely corrosive acid which became a gusher from the well — with many people close by.
  • H. P. Lovecraft had an unpublished story, "The Transition of Juan Romero", which has miners blasting a new area open for work, only to find a bottomless cavern, a horrible pounding noise, and God, I dare not tell you what I saw!
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Brothers of the Snake story Black Gold, the reason the refinery went silent is that the drillers reached the end of the oil field and some substance so filled with Chaos, it possessed them upon emerging.
    • Ciaphas Cain:
      • A Necron base is discovered under a prometheum foundry. The foundry was placed there deliberately to dig them up "accidentally".
      • Another Necron base is found in an asteroid mine. Cain suspects, but, as there are also tyranids attacking the asteroid, they get the blame for the deaths of the miners. It seems likely that the 'nids actually arrived after just about all the humans were dead.
    • Space Marine: In The Fall of Damnos, the Adeptus Mechanicus dug up Necron ruins, collected artifacts and did not tell anyone else about it. Some time later the awakened Necrons slaughtered most of the human population and were only halted by the Ultramarines.
  • The Wheel of Time: Scientists digging for a detected source of power in the Age of Legends released the Dark One, which directly and indirectly destroyed their civilization.
  • When The World Screamed: Not exactly evil, but what's released by Professor Challenger's experiment is certainly catastrophic for all involved.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Superman: "Superman and the Mole People" has a mine that allows underground beings to come into our world. Kinda inverted though, since they were only trying to defend themselves when they attacked and Supes points this out.
  • In Babylon 5, the Shadows buried their ships scattered around the galaxy after the last war. Archaeological expeditions stumbled upon several of them, usually with disastrous consequences.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A drill to tap a new fuel source in "Inferno" instead unleashes a substance that transforms people into bloodthirsty beasts, and causes the destruction of a parallel world the Doctor is trapped on for the duration of the serial.
    • "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit": The title of the second episode should explain everything...
    • "The Waters of Mars": Bowie Base One gets its water from an underground glacier that, as it turns out, contains nasty body-stealing micro-organisms imprisoned in it that start infecting crewmembers after the failure of a water filter.
    • Subverted in "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood": The Silurians they dig up are (mostly) not hostile towards humans, but are simply trying to defend themselves against the drill, which threatens to destroy their life support systems. They're quite willing to negotiate peace with the humans. Unfortunately, Fantastic Racism on both sides prevent the negotiations from succeeding.
  • In the Fringe episode "What Lies Below", a sample unearthed from an oil dig contains a prehistoric virus that controls its victims into spreading the disease, before slaughtering them. One of its hosts infects an entire office building, including Peter. It is only cured after realizing that the volcanic ash that killed the dinosaurs also eradicated the virus, necessitating a dose of sulfur into the building's duct system.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • In Kamen Rider Kuuga, an archaeological dig unearths Kuuga's tomb, releasing the Grongi King N-Daguva-Zeba, who slaughters them and heads off to unearth the rest of his tribe.
    • Kamen Rider Build, the second-to-last Heisei Rider series, also has this trope at play. A Mars expedition unearthed Pandora's Box and brought it to Earth were it was activated, unleashing the Sky Walls that split Japan in three and a Hate Plague turning everyone present when it opened into hyper aggressive warmongers. If fully opened, Pandora's Box will bring about a Class 6 global apocalypse. It's eventually revealed that the expedition also released Evolt, an Ancient Evil spirit that'd been stranded on the planet for millions of years after destroying all life on it with Pandora's Box and having his body destroyed by Vernage in her Last Stand, who promptly possessed the astronaut who found it to hitch a ride back to Earth so he can eventually destroy it like he did Mars.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker: In "The Sentry", subterranean workers discover a clutch of eggs underground which they steal. This causes the eggs' mother to hunt them down and kill them.
  • In Lexx, an Asteroid Miner scouting a test shaft in a small planetoid is possessed by an alien essence, which proceeds to Body Surf while building a 20,000-planet theocracy around itself.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Durin III warns his son that if they will delve into depths beyond the darkness to help the Elves cheat death, they risk damning themselves instead. Durin and Elrond secretly find during the mining an endless inner chasm full o mithril in the heart of the mountain. A Balrog also resides in its depths.
  • In Lost, the group of scientists known as the Dharma Initiative uncovered an electro-magnetic hot spot by drilling into the ground, causing a disaster that would result in a hatch being built with a button that would have to be pushed every 108 minutes in order to keep things from going to crap, the failure to push said button eventually causing the crash of Oceanic flight 815.
  • When Mock the Week covered a potential funeral for Margaret Thatcher, Frankie Boyle suggested that "For £3,000,000 we could give everyone in Scotland a shovel, and we would dig a hole so deep that we could hand her over to Satan personally".
  • The Outer Limits (1995): The episode "From Within" has a group of miners blast into an ancient cave containing a dinosaur fossil and a crapload of worms that quickly infest the miners and, shortly after, the whole town. Luckily, they hate light and need salt to survive.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: Subverted in "The Devil in the Dark". A monster starts attacking a group of miners after they enter a new level. It turns out to be a Mama Bear protecting her eggs (silicon nodules), which were being destroyed by the mining operation. Fortunately, she's a very reasonable Mama Bear and Kirk and Spock are able to resolve the situation with a mutually agreeable compromise.
  • The X-Files: Used a few times, usually with geologists whose explorations unleash a hibernating Monster of the Week. "Darkness Falls", in which loggers saw too deep into a really ancient tree and release a swarm of killer bugs, could be considered a variant.

  • Clamavi de Profundis: In "Boic Bravesoul", the dwarves' greedy, excessive mining for wealth ends up leading them to the home of a demon that promptly enslaves them.
    Our fathers sinned through avarice; the open hand became a fist
    And greed: a miser's drunkenness.
    The dwarven treasure trove increased, incessant mining roused a beast
    The eldest born of fire released.
  • Gorillaz: "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head" which is a song about avarice where people literally mined too deep.
    "The Strangefolk, they coveted the jewels in these caves above all things, and soon they began to mine the mountain... as the Strangefolk mined deeper and deeper into the mountain, holes began to appear, bringing with them a cold and bitter wind that chilled the very soul... and then came a sound. Distant first, it grew into castrophany so immense it could be heard far away in space. There were no screams. There was no time. The mountain called Monkey had spoken."
  • Merlin by Doug McArthur and Kathy Mar tells this from the other side:
    It's not so dark in the cave tonight
    Just over here there's a crack of light
    Tomorrow is the day
    I heard the voices coming through the wall
    They're digging for a brand new shopping mall...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Not especially deep, but there's a small gnome/dwarf mine in the adventure "B10: Night's Dark Terror" in which the miners really shouldn't have broken through a barrier of stalactites to unwittingly release an imprisoned monster.
    • This is the 5e origin of the duergar, the dwarves' evil cousins. One day, Clan Duergar of the dwarves became obsessed with a mother lode of gold and iron they believed to be lying beneath their lands. They began digging feverishly deeper and deeper, forsaking every other aspect of their lives to toil in the mines while seeking the treasure they believed would be revealed with the next swing of a pick, or the next, or the next. They never found any metal, but they did eventually tunnel right into a city of mind flayers who had been psychically compelling them into digging down and down down…
    • Eberron's dwarves broke through to the ruins of their long-lost underground kingdom, and discovered it was utterly infested with aberrations created by the daelkyr Dyrrn the Corrupter. Some have proposed that one hold, which suddenly went dark 400 years ago, may have broken through back then and been destroyed, but hard evidence is hard to come by.
    • The nation of Q'barra in Eberron has based a lot of its economy on rich harvests of Eberron dragonshards. Unfortunately, a lot of those Eberron dragonshards are being used to bind Masvirik, the Cold Sun, an Overlord with themes of malevolent reptiles and snakes, and the settlers don't know, leading to a situation that is unlikely to end well for anybody.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
    • The White Howlers were a warrior tribe of the Garou who often proved their mettle by traveling into both the dark places of the earth and the Umbra, fighting whatever forces of the Wyrm they found. Such history of diving led them deep into Malfeas, the Wyrm's domain, and exposing them to its corrupting influence. Eventually, the tribe was wiped out entirely, with the survivors being subjugated into the Black Spiral Dancers that rose in their place.
    • The Wyrm-infested corporation Pentex came about when Premium Oil drilled into the binding place of an ancient and powerful bane.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, this is usually how people find out that they're squatting on a Necron tomb world. The results of said digging are usually... apocalyptic.

    Video Games 
  • Absolute Zero has a mining operation on Europa unearthing (Er? Something like that) a buried race of belligerent aliens that immediately attack. With nothing else to use, the colony repurposes mining tools into weaponry.
  • Alpha Prime has a variation where what caused the disaster from digging too deep was exactly what the Company was looking for, and they still wanted it. At the end, they more or less get it, though the ending implies it won't go so well for them after all.
  • In Armor Mayhem, the player's company, which was red, dug deep into the game's locale, only to discover living caves and corridors. Still, they dug deeper. Smart business decisions.
  • Arx Fatalis: Presumably the fate of the dwarves. When you visit their mines in the lowest levels it's discovered that their entire population was destroyed by the Black Beast, an indestructible monster. The last entry of a journal found in the ruins indicates that in their search for mithril they discovered an odd cavity in the rock which reeked of an animal, presumably the Beast's lair.
  • Avernum: This is so common that it's considered an inevitable result of mining. Usually, crypts full of undead turn up, but ancient ruins aren't unheard of.
  • Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout manages to pull this off in broad daylight: A colonizing empire steals the water of the angry natives to subjugate them, only to get overrun by monsters that were being held back by the rivers they dried up.
  • In Betrayal at Krondor, the dwarves in the Mac Mordain Cadal accidentally mined their way into the nest of a Brakk Nurr (Essentially a living rock golem), which naturally started attacking the miners. The party eventually has to fight their way past it to travel under the mountain, as it's blocking the path.
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • Baldur's Gate: Yeslick's clan was destroyed when their mining unleashed... an underground river. A lot more mundane than most of the examples on this page, but no less devastating.
    • n Baldur's Gate II: The player is asked by a svirfneblin (deep gnome) to use a scroll to seal a shaft the little munchkins dug and released something that slept far under the earth. It then turns out the protagonist has to defeat the creature in question before the shaft can be sealed, which turns out to be a demon. A balor, no less.
  • In Brood Star, the in-game Codex's level descriptions strongly imply that humanity colonized a seemingly uninhabited planet and began to mine it extensively, only to unleash a Horde of Alien Locusts lurking deep beneath the planet's surface. Cue the Bug War that makes up the game's plot.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies, in the map Origins, the opening cutscene depicts a bunch of German miners during the First World War digging through ancient tunnels in search of lost secrets. One of them digs into a sealed cavern and unleashes a Zombie Apocalypse that kills literally everyone at the dig site within a matter of minutes.
  • Cold Fear, a knock-off of Resident Evil, revolves around a tanker and later a drilling platform infested by re-animating parasitic terrors from the deep, unleashed by the drilling platform delving into the wrong place.
  • In Darkest Dungeon, an excavation by the Player Character's ancestor that unearths something far worse than all his experiments provides the impetus for the game's campaign. After you clean up the mess he left behind, you're tasked with delving down into the title dungeon and ending the evil that dwells there. Except that the Thing that dwells down below cannot be killed for good, and you've only prolonged the inevitable.
  • Dark Souls:
    • The people of Oolacile were convinced by a "toothy serpent" to unearth the grave of Manus. It ended about as well for them as you'd expect.
    • Dark Souls 2 features an area called The Iron Keep, which was originally the castle and home of a minor lord who rose to power known as the Old Iron King. He gained power through the help of an Eastern knight and all the iron under his land. This in turn caused the awakening of dark forces and his land sank into lava.
  • Darwinia features an alternate take on this. In an attempt to contact their creator Dr. Sepulveda, the Darwinians rig a trunk port to be able to access his computer. When they start downloading files off it, they end up downloading a few infected spam e-mails, thus unleashing The Virus that nearly destroys Darwinia.
  • Dawn of War:
    • An excavation team accidentally uncovered a marker on Tartarus which, through a series of events, eventually led to the release of a daemon. Another one opened up the necron catacombs on Kronus. You'd think they'd learn to keep their spades out of the earth.
    • This is also how the Imperium had their first contact with the Necrons. On the Mining Planet of Damnos it was an ordinary day in the ice mine... until they struck something. Cue tomb scarabs coming up and slaughtering most of the miners, followed by the tombs waking up legions of Necrons and slowly slaughtering their way across the planet until only the capital city of Kellenport is left. Even the Ultramarines couldn't stop them and eventually the planet was destroyed via Exterminatus.
  • Dead Space has a mining operation unearth an artifact that turns corpses into belligerent aliens.
  • Deep Rock Galactic sees the titular company mining the depths of Hoxxes IV, home to the richest deposits of gems and minerals this side of the outer rim. It wasn't long after operations began that they caught the attention of the glyphids, an unending Swarm of Alien Locusts infesting every corner of the globe, as deadly and ravenous as they are numberless. Of course, it's not like that dissuaded DRG from continuing to pilfer the planet for all it's worth.
  • Delve Deeper is all about digging too deep. The best relics and treasure (including mithril) are in the "deep" parts of each map, but so are some of the toughest monsters. If you do happen to dig too deep too quickly then you will quickly be swarmed with goblins and slimes and whatever else.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Inverted in Dragon Age: Origins where, during the course of the Dalish elf origin, you can find "a strange statue commemorating the emergence of — and short-lived trading partnership with — dwarves who dug too frugally and too shallow and struck elves."
    • Also played with with the Deep Roads, the Moria of the setting, where the problem wasn't that the dwarves dug too deep, but that the subterranean tunnels were taken over by the darkspawn, who were themselves digging for their old dragon-gods (although a few old dwarven records you can find insist that at first contact the darkspawn were digging up.
    • Invoked by the darkspawn, who endlessly tunnel beneath even the Deep Roads in order to unearth the old Tevinter gods, which they corrupt into archdemons. The archdemons then lead the darkspawn up to the surface for another Blight.
    • In the sequel, Act 1 consists of Hawke trying to scrounge up both the finances and the necessary materials for an expedition into a "lost thaig (Dwarven city-state) older than anyone's ever seen". Once you get there, it's old alright; so old that it's completely alien, which is shocking since Dwarves are kind of famous for ancestor worship and not having changed their style or culture since what was believed to be the origins of their race. So, does it actually predate that? Or was it corrupted and changed after long isolation? Nobody can figure it out, and the old denizens are dead. Or rather, transformed into Rock Wraiths after untold centuries of eating raw lyrim. You do find a nifty idol, though! It tends to drive people with already-extreme personalities off the deep end. The already-greed Bartrand locks his own brother and the rest of the party away seconds after taking hold of it, and ends up a gibbering idiot after years of exposure to the incessant whispering. It later ends up in the hands of Knight-Commander Meredith, who goes from a literal Knight Templar to a mage-hating Blood Knight and semi-accidentally sparks off a civil war in Kirkwall due to her abuses.
    • To a lesser degree, the Bone Pit Mine is repeatedly beset with infestations of spiders, walking corpses and dragonlings, forcing Hawke as part-owner to step in and save their employees. In Act III, it gets even worse when a High Dragon decides to make its home there.
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, a series of war table operations revolves around an Orlesian marquis who conducted illegal mining operations, allowing a group of darkspawn to come to the surface and besiege her town. After seeking the Grey Wardens' help to deal with the problem, she tries to cover it up by hiring mercenaries to kill the Grey Wardens who break the siege.
  • Dungeon Keeper:
    • In many balanced scenarios, digging too much too early is a recipe for disaster, as this usually uncovers zones patrolled or inhabited by powerful and numerous creatures that easily outmatch your puny and untrained forces.
    • In a more meta sense, this occasionally happens to the good guys — they dig too deep, penetrate into your dungeon and unleash you.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • In general, mining into the map's three cavern layers brings very real risks of getting the attention of things whose attention is often best avoided, ranging from tribes of hostile Beast Men and giant cave spiders to immensely powerful forgotten beasts. The deeper you dig, the worse things get.
    • Mining to the very bottom of the map (which generally involves digging through all three cavern layers finding a way to get through a magma ocean or three) will result in you breaking through into Hell itself. Of course, as the Lord British Postulate is in full effect in the game, this can lead to the Deep being colonized to build a colony in Hell or to grow strawberries. In earlier versions of the game, breaking into Hell ended the game immediately, with a Tolkien-esque "You have dug too deep" message. But that wasn't dwarfy enough.
    • The Steam update added a lesser version with Unusual Volcanic Walls, pockets of gems and obsidian that when dug out usually hold a demon or two... or if you're less lucky, a Fallen Angel equipped with divine metals. At least there can be a plus in sometimes finding artifacts of those same divine metals scattered in the pocket within.
  • Dragon Quest IV has the mining town of Mamon, which is slowing dying out because of poisonous gas leaking from town's mine. Later in the game, the remaining miners show that they didn't have enough sense to get out of dodge, and dig even deeper... until they accidentally unseal Estark, the Lord of the Underworld. In this case it's humans, not dwarves, who are at fault. It's implied that the humans were both operating under the Sunk Cost Fallacy ("Hey, we dug this deep and did all this damage, there must be something good down here!") and that they're not entirely in control of themselves.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In the series backstory, the highly technologically advanced Dwemer dug beneath the Red Mountain volcano and uncovered the still-beating Heart of Lorkhan, the "dead" creator god of the mortal world. They would later attempt to do something with it that caused their entire race to disappear from all known planes of existence.
    • Skyrim:
      • There's a DLC quest where you help fund a mining expedition. Since it's under this trope, they awaken the local equivalent of graveyard zombies and get slaughtered, and you need to clear it out so another team of miners can be sent in. Then it happens again. The third time around, your partner hires mercenaries, but this means that only some of the miners are alive when you get there. The fourth time, you finally kill the Dragon Priest causing all these problems. Your partner's journal implies that unleashing the Priest was his goal all along. The miners were deliberately set up to be sacrifices in the Priest's name.
      • Miners tunneling into draugr barrows, miners tunneling into Falmer caves, miners tunneling into Dwemer ruins... It's a wonder anyone dares to dig at all by this point.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout 2, the miners of Redding presumably dug too deep in the Wanamingo mine, and unearthed massive amounts of the immensely strong Aliens. The player character can buy this mine, clear the mutant creatures out, and sell it for a large profit. This area of the game (along with the rest of the town) is known to be very hard despite being available early in the game.
    • The miners of Redding seem to be particularly unlucky when it comes to digging, as when they are hired by the Enclave to dig up the remains of the Mariposa military base, they are greeted with massive amounts of mutagenic vapors which slowly turn them into brutish super mutants. They kill their Enclave masters and take over the base. Two notable super mutants are created in this mess, Melchior the magician and Frank Horrigan. The Player knows about this because by the time s/he arrives, all the Enclave are either gone or dead, and they left behind graphic holodiscs on their corpses.
    • In Fallout 3, the Raiders in Springvale Elementary were trying to mine their way into Vault 101, when they ran into a Giant Ant hive.
    • In Fallout 4:
      • The Dunwich Borers excavation leads to a shrine worshipping the Lovecraftian entity Ug-Qualtoth, previously referenced in Fallout 3's Dunwich Building, and the environment has similar paranormal effects on visitors.
      • In Vault 81, a boy named Austin has stumbled upon the vault's hidden Abandoned Laboratory and contracted a lethal infection from the Mole Rats living there, so you have to go in there yourself to find a cure for him.
  • Fate of the World: The destabilization of methane clathrates, caused by countries drilling too deep to get natural gas, can be a game-ending event. Even a player who does not believe in banning the use of certain resources in Real Life may consider banning clathrates in this game.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • Five Nights at Freddy's World: Inverted. Digging too deep into the game's code doesn't let something out. It traps people in. Go down into the fourth sub-tunnel, and you won't be able to climb back up. It's implied this is what happened to Old Man Consequences, and... well, if you're meeting him, it's too late for you too.
  • Freelancer. Explorers visiting the Omicron Major system awoke the Nomads which possessed them, hitched a ride to human space, and tried to exterminate us.
  • Gears of War: The entire premise of the series revolves around the government mining the crap out of resources and unleashing a horrible plague of locusts. The locusts in this case aren't small bugs that mercilessly devour crops: they're pale man-sized monsters. And in Gears of War 3 from the trailer we learn that there is something far worse than the locusts living underneath.
  • Guild Wars:
    • The Deep, where miners in search of high quality jade unearthed a powerful demon. The demon drove them mad, and now claims dominion over the Deep and its corrupted denizens.
    • Also, in Nightfall, Kormir's excavation into Fahranur awakened the Apocrypha, which helped weaken Abaddon's prison further.
  • Halo: In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Covenant are responsible for unleashing the Flood after exploring Halo's secrets. As the Monitor explains, "their kind seems most persistent in accessing restricted areas". In Halo 2, the UNSC and Covenant both end up giving the Flood the means to leave Delta Halo's quarantine zone, with even worse results.
  • In Hollow Knight, the miners of the Crystal Peak unearthed a statue of the Radiance, whom the Pale King had gone to great lengths to hide the existence of due to her need for memories for her to manifest. This all leads to her return, the Pale King's desperate attempts to contain her, and the spread of the Infection.
  • Kingdom Rush series:
    • Kingdom Rush: Frontiers, one level has you join forces with a dwarven mining crew that dug too deep; they come with some towers already built and a special Hero Unit in addition to your own. You will need them, as you have to fight hordes of Lizard Folk with some very dangerous weapons.
    • Kingdom Rush: Origins has the bonus Campaign "Forgotten Treasures". Just like in The Lord of the Rings, the Dwarves had dug too deep and uncovered a Balrog expy, who slaughtered them all/turned them into his slaves via his "Dark Blood" and acts as the boss of the campaign.
  • Legend of Mana has two of these: the mine in Gato Grotto and the Ulkan Mines.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom:
    • During the game's prologue, Link and Zelda venture through the deepest caverns beneath Hyrule Castle to find answers regarding the Zonai civilization. Unfortunately for them, their presence awakens Ganondorf, whose thought-to-be dead body was being kept sealed until that point. This leads to a severe rift in the geography of Hyrule (causing many chasms to appear) and the surge of Gloom.
    • As Link progresses in the Lomei Labyrinths' challenges, he discovers that their construction not only reached the ground and the skies, but also the dark, foreboding Depths. And in each case, Link has to face the most powerful variant of the Flux Construct boss while also dealing with the darkness.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has a Session Play in the Mines of Moria where you're part of the party of dwarves that actually uncover the Balrog. Your job is to survive until you can escape.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect, a survey team digging on a world that was being terraformed found a cache of Dragon's Teeth, which turned them into Husks. The exact same thing happens in Mass Effect 2, though to miners. The miners at least had the presence of mind to leave an Apocalyptic Log.
    • DLC for Mass Effect 3 seems to suggest this in the Leviathan trailer and a demo. It involves going deep into a sea rather than the ground, and the devs cheerfully admit to taking inspiration from the Lovecraft mythos.
  • Metroid: Although Samus intervenes (read: blasts their plans to hell) before it can happen, one could interpret this as the direction the Space Pirates were headed in in Metroid Prime with the Phazon Mines.
  • Miasma Chronicles: The miners from Sedentary found a big Miasma deposit in Mineshaft A, which causes havoc. The Mayor even says "they dug too deep."
  • Minecraft: Somewhat ironically, one of the few games where mining is a major mechanic doesn't really go in for this trope. The biggest hazard of tunneling into the lowest strata of the map is the rather abundant lava pools. That said, exploring natural caves and tunnels and especially underground ravines runs into the possibility of monsters lurking around any corner, as they naturally spawn anywhere that isn't well-lit—and have a habit of jumping down from ledges to surprise unsuspecting players. Also of note:
    • Abandoned Mineshafts feature the occasional spawners for poisonous cave spiders. In this case it's more like someone else dug too deep and you're left to deal with the aftermath.
    • Then there are strongholds, sprawling maze-like underground complexes. These were originally planned to have boss monsters added in a later update. Instead, they feature portals to The End, a bizarre dimension from which the Endermen originate, ruled by the Enderdragon.
    • An early update tried to invoke this by allowing monsters to spawn at ever-increasing light levels; near the bedrock layer monsters would spawn in the equivalent of direct sunlight. This proved too brutal for players, and the change was reverted, with Notch saying other methods would need to be used to invoke the trope.
    • The second attempt involved adding a black fog that gets thicker the further one descends, to the point where you could only see a few meters in any direction by the time you hit bedrock. Incredibly scary, but not really dangerous unless you ventured out of your well-lit mine shafts (you have been diligently placing torches every few meters, right?) and into a natural cave or ravine. This, too, was eventually removed, this time for performance reasons (the increasingly-dense fog turned out to slow the game down considerably when near bedrock level).
    • The third attempt is more fleshed out in the form of The Deep Dark, a biome of a darker (and harder) stone called Deepslate entirely in the negative Y axis coordinates of the overworld. Said biome can also have ancient ruins taken over by the Sculk and a mysterious, blind and deadly creature known only as the Warden.
  • In Motherload, when you dig too deep, you encounter your boss, Mr. Natas.
  • In MySims Agents, one of the side missions has the construction worker Patrick drill too deep and accidentally awaken a subterranean lava monster, and you have to send a squad to subdue it.
  • In Night in the Woods, it turns out that the old mine shut down for more than just economic reasons.
  • The Penumbra series heavily implied this in Overture but outright stated so in Black Plague that the source of all the deaths and strange creatures was the Tuuurngait, an otherworldly hive mind alien creature which shared its knowledge with the Inuits until humans became corrupt. The Turungait then dug into the earth and remained peacefully sealed away until it was disturbed first accidentally by miners, then intentionally by The Archaic.
  • Phantasy Star Online: Both the Caves and the Mines qualify for this. Really, everything after the forest is digging deeper. You dig so deep that you find the spaceship of the final boss. Each dungeon is deeper and more monstrous that the previous.
  • This is part of the backstory of racing game POD. It results in a fungal virus that is destroying the planet Io, there is only one ship left and only one way to decide who gets to leave.
  • Pokémon X and Y has an Abandoned Mine where Zygarde can be found. According to in-game notes, the mine was abandoned because it excavated a very dangerous monster. It's left up to the player's imagination what exactly Zygarde did to terrify the miners into leaving.
  • In Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, this is what happened to the town of Folsense, when gold miners discovered a metal that released a toxic, hallucinogenic gas.
  • Radiant Silvergun's plot is jumpstarted when the Stone-like is excavated from an ancient ruin, and proceeds to wipe out the entire population of Earth.
  • Resident Evil 4: In the backstory, the Las Plagas were discovered this way.
  • In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, this is intentional on the SS Paranormal Division's part in a bid to revive Heinrich I.
  • The Secret World: Happens frequently: chances are if anyone's digging for something, they usually end up stumbling headlong into an underground reservoir of Filth, or a Gaia Engine ready to start leaking Filth; among other things, this has led to massacre-prone Blue Ridge Mine, the Orochi Group's failed attempt to unearth the secrets of the Ankh, the excavation of the Gaia Engine in the Carpathian Mountains, the unexpected discovery of a Filth well in an offshore oil rig...
  • Shining the Holy Ark: This is what kicks off the whole plot, as the residents of a mine stumble upon an ancient temple buried into the mountains. The evil spirits locked inside were able to get out through the newly created passageway.
  • In Sonic Unleashed, a monster, Dark Gaia, is sealed in the core of the planet, prompting Eggman to crack open the Earth's crust in order to set it free so he can use its power to build Eggmanland.
  • In Starbound, this is what happens in the Erchius Mining Facility mission, where the Letheia Corporation had inadvertently unleashed an Eldritch Abomination while digging for erchius crystals, which then proceeded to mutate the human workers into "moontants", prompting them to lock down the facility with the survivors inside. It falls onto you to go through the facility, braving all the hazards and moontants that get in your way and destroy the monster at the end.
  • In Star Control II, you learn that this happened to the Androsynth. Since their human creators made them unable to reproduce, they've been desperate to figure out how to continue their race. One of their experiments involved studying something called "Inter-Dimensional Fatigue". It's heavily implied that the experiment unleashed something, and now Eta Vulpeculae II (their new homeworld) is a Ghost Planet, with not a single soul in sight. One of your scientists reads one of the datalogs, then seems to go crazy and kills himself. The only ones who may know something about the fate of the Androsynth are the Orz, mysterious fish-like creatures that consistently stump the Translator Microbes and get very upset if you persist in asking them about the Androsynth. The third game seems to reveal what happened, but it's not considered to be canon by most.
    Orz: Nnnnnggggaaaahhhhh!!!!!! It is *dancing*!!!! (cue battle)
  • Star Fox Adventures: In the lowest pits of the Darkice Mines lurks the Galdon. Reaching there is not a pretty experience, but it's necessary to reach there and challenge the monster in a boss battle to retrieve the first SpellStone.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, a Czerka archaeological team on Tatooine discovers a Rakata mind prison and opens it, allowing the Imprisoned One to infect them and turn them into zombie slaves. Both the Republic and Imperial quest lines involve cleaning up their mess.
    "Dear Czerka, please stop discovering horrible ancient things. Love, Kira."
  • In SteamWorld Dig, going deeper into the mines starts revealing more unsettling enemies and obstacles, such as the Shiners and the mysterious technology in Vectron. The sequel downplays this due to splitting the areas up, but there's still a teleporter to the ruined Vectron at the bottom of Archaea.
  • In Stellaris, there's an event where, if you have the right origin, you can keep digging well past where others would stop. Fortunately for the player, this can provide an incredible resource boon... unfortunately, to get it they have to kill a monster; making matters worse, to get the best boon, you have to kill it with armies, which are nowhere near as strong as the monster.
  • Tales Series:
    • Tales of Phantasia. Part of the game sees you access the abandoned Morlia Mineshaft, recently discovered. When you travel to the future, you can access the end once more and go even further, to the Dwarven Ruins—the game's optional dungeon.
    • In its prequel, Tales of Symphonia, there is a closed off tunnel in the Toize Valley mine, which is hinted to lead to Morlia.
    • Tales of the Abyss: The miners of Akzeriuth dug deep enough that they released the miasma from beneath the Outer Lands, kickstarting its Scored destruction. This is where Fridge Horror kicks in: until much later in the game, the world is essentially a floating shell above a layer of poison miasma and bottomless mud. If you dig too deep in this world? You'll go right into the layer of bottomless mud. Now consider what might have happened in Akzeriuth...
    • Tales of Xillia 2: Jude's second Character Episode involves a fractured dimension, where a group of miners has dub too deep into the Tatalian Abyss and has unleashed a monster that has begun attacking them.
  • Team Fortress 2: Parodied in one of the comics. Ready Excavation/Demolition and Builders' League United have the brilliant idea to dig through an Indian Burial Ground and tunnel into Hell itself. Their CEOs immediately question why they would dig through an Indian Burial Ground when they could have picked an Indian-free spot two miles away.
  • Tekken: In the Time Skip between Tekken 2 and 3, the Sealed Evil in a Can Ogre is released during an archaelogical expedition by the Tekken Force. This was probably intentional on Heihachi's part.
  • In Temple of Apshai (1979), part of the backstory was that greedy people tried to excavate the buried temple of the Apshaians, releasing the evils hidden inside.
  • Terraria:
    • Dig far enough and you'll enter the Underworld, a Fire and Brimstone Hell filled with large lava lakes and stuffed with some of the toughest mobs in game prior to Hardmode. Without special equipment even the rock you came for, Hellstone, burns you on contact.
    • Inverted in the "Don't Dig Up" secret seed. The Underworld is the starting location and its middle portion is rebranded to a safe forest made of ashy trees, while digging up leads to a pseudo-surface, then an increasingly dangerous cavern system. Ignoring the seed's name and reaching the actual surface will reveal that the Corruption or Crimson has overtaken everything, the Sun and Moon are both gone, and enemies are much more frequent. This is intended to be the most dangerous location of the seed.
  • Tomb Raider: At least two times in the series — the demon Seth in The Last Revelation and the Giant Space Flea from Nowhere in Legend — a Sealed Evil in a Can ends up being unleashed this way.
  • Torchlight's Ember miners dug into a whole maze of buried civilizations, necropolises and Lost Worlds.
  • Warcraft:
    • The fall of the Nerubian Empire is attributed to this. This underground empire of anthropomorphic spiders waged war against the Undead sent by the Lich King. As they lost land, they dug deeper until they reached the zone of influence of Yogg-Saron. Beset from two sides, the Nerubian Empire collapsed. It's a shame really. They had a real shot at ending the Undead Scourge before it took off.
    • The corruption of Neltharion has a similar reason. As the Earth-Warder, his workplace was very literally the depths of the Earth. It is commonly believed that over the course of his work, he came across the prison of an Old God and was put under the collective influence of three Old Gods (the aforementioned Yogg-Saron was one of them). The rest is history.
    • A partial example is the failed World Tree Vordrassil. The roots plunged deep into the soil and reached Yogg-Saron's prison; his corruption flowed upward through the tree and remains present even after its destruction. Tragically, later added lore revealed that this was also responsible for putting the Old Gods into contact with the Emerald Dream, allowing them to corrupt it into the Emerald Nightmare.
    • Gnomeregan fell in a similar manner. The gnomes were tunneling out more earth for their city, minding their own business, and bam! Troggs everywhere!
    • There's an excavation site in the Southern Barrens with a dwarf standing in front of a collapsed tunnel. If you talk to her, she tells you that they dug too deep and found... something. And then she lets you know that you better start praying to whatever you believe in that the cave-in was enough to keep it down there.
    • In the Blasted Lands, one of the most demon-populated areas in Azeroth, Alliance miners dug too deep and found... a demon! They got absolutely terrified. The Horde questgiver who tasks people to kill the demon finds it rather hilarious.
    • You, the player, can do this in Pandaria while excavating Pandaren and Mogu digsites. Every so often when you dig up an archaeology piece a random Sha enemy will appear for you to fight. Later expansions see enemies themed to each archaeology type (Ogre spirits of Ogre artifacts, etc.)
    • The Greenstone Quarry in the Jade Forest has a relatively low-key version. Miners accidentally opened a nest of shale spiders, which proceeded to go crazy eating everything in the mine.
    • There's a daily quest for the Horde's Dominance Offensive that involves a goblin mine. The quest giver starts by telling the player that sometimes they dig too deep and uncover something terrible... then says she's just kidding. They just found some neat ore and need you to collect it.
    • Taken to new heights in patch 5.4, when Garrosh Hellscream's endless search for artifacts of power obliterates an entire zone — and one of the most beautiful zones in the game, to boot. Even the autumn trees and two mogu statues featured at the expansion login screen are destroyed.
  • In The Way (RPG Maker), a mining operation results in a demonic outbreak.
  • In Ys I and II, the demons were unleashed when the buried Cleria left behind by the Ys civilization was rediscovered by the people of Esteria. This also resulted in the abandonment of the town's mine.

  • In Digger, digging too deep (while a bit loopy from toxic gas) lets an insane, possessed, half-dead god magically redirect Digger's tunnel to parts unknown. She also lampshades the trope:
    Digger: It's just that we find a lot of old gods underground. They're kind of a nuisance.
    Also Digger: Generally we don't cut [gods] loose. Presumably if you've been bound in the bowels of the earth with a giant serpent dripping poison into your eyes, someone had a damn good reason!
  • The Dwarfs, the Spirit and the Sorceress: Happens to the Seven Dwarfs, as they accidentally break Zoso the Evil Spirit's rock-shaped prison while digging in their mine.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: Parodied when a delve unearths a cyclopean city of twisted geometry, stirring dread Cthulhu from his rest and loosing him into the world… when rabbits dig into R'Lyeh.
    "I thought we were playing Bunnies & Burrows..."
    "Fluffytail needs to be more careful when digging."
  • In The Noob, the dwarves "dug too deep", and unleashed... level 200 mining bots. So they turned to the tourism industry instead.
  • Ruby Quest: The Metal Glen started out as a fairly nice medical facility built on the seafloor. Then one of the administrators heard something whispering to him in the night, urging him to dig the foundations just a litte bit deeper...
  • In Sluggy Freelance, the opening narration for Torg's comic book Gunman Stan McKurt vs. the Gates of the City of the Damned begins: "Some archeologists were out five miles west digging around where they shouldn't have. Like dropping a hornets nest in a pail of moonshine. And then lighting the moonshine. They uncovered what they say is "the doors to Hell itself." They ran for their lives and for their souls and one of them hired me, I guess as a way to make amends." It's a bit more complicated, though — the gates are not yet open and, well, there's a Twist Ending that kind of changes the whole thing anyway.
  • Subnormality: The Christmas special focuses on miners on a planetary colony unearthing the vengeful spirits of an entire biosphere when digging for oil.
    "I'm not a believer in any supernatural shit, to be honest, but minimum there was something besides oil that came out when the drills got down there..."
  • xkcd: Parodied in a strip where the dwarves dug too deep... to get out.
    • They also had this strip referencing the Kola Borehole Incident (see Real Life section) with Hat Guy suggesting they dig a canal to the ocean in order to flood Hell.

    Web Original 
  • Bedtime Stories (YouTube Channel): The Bulgarian Army sets up a digging expedition near the village of Tsarichina in order to investigate something there. What they end up coming across is an Ancient Evil slash Eldritch Abomination capable of wiping out entire squads of soldiers which is practically Immune to Bullets. Thankfully, Army Engineers attached to the expedition blow up the cave it was found in, preventing it from wreaking havoc on the surface.
  • This tweet by A Small Fiction is about a canary brought into a mine to test for danger. Then it starts speaking on the behalf of some presence...
    They brought a canary down to test for danger.
    It began to whisper.
    Dig deeper, it said. Come closer.
    They left it, and sealed the mine.
  • Ted's Caving Page: A pair of cavers endeavor to widen a softball-sized hole in the wall of a local cave so that the passage beyond can be accessed. This does not end well.
  • Yogscast: This is defied in the song "Diggy Diggy Hole", which has the proud line "We do not fear what lies beneath, we can never dig too deep!"
  • Parodied in a Facebook meme: "Congratulations, you scrolled so far that you have found a Balrog."
  • Mystery Flesh Pit National Park describes a mining and tourism company doing exactly this to the titular Mystery Flesh Pit, a kilometers-wide subterranean super organism, looking for valuable organic compounds. Eventually the entire organism "Gagged" and collapsed almost all of the structures (and personnel) established inside.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, a thumper using deep-penetrating sound waves to gather soil data deep underground Granna's surface wakes up the Scarecrow.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers:
    • Inverted in the pilot episode. When Hoggish Greedly and Rigger use a titanic machine to drill for oil along the shore, their drill goes so deep into the Earth it causes Gaia, the sleeping spirit of the Earth to wake up and take action.
    • In "Missing Linka", everybody in Linka's hometown starts getting sick. It turns out that the town's miners were unknowingly digging up deposits of mercury, which then seeped into their groundwater.
  • Donkey Kong Country: A lighthearted throw-away gag version in the cartoon. Kaptain Skurvy and his crew are digging for their treasure (in the wrong spot, thanks to Skurvy holding the map wrong), and Green Kroc comments that "if we digs any deeper, we'll sink the island."
  • Extreme Ghostbusters starts with the opening of a new subway tunnel unlocking new Eldritch Abominations.
  • Final Space: A variation in the setting's backstory. The Arachnitects reveal that they and the Titans first came into contact with the Big Bad Invictus because they expanded their reality-constructing efforts too far out, unwittingly stumbling across Invictus in the darkness at the edge of the universe.
  • The Hole Idea (McKimson, 1955). Not dug, strictly speaking—the hole is technically poured from a flask, like a liquid—but man, is that last hole a lu-lu.
  • Justice League: One episode starts with an offshore oil rig releasing some creatures from the Earth's core.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Fire Phantom", a living flame from Earth's core makes its way to the surface through an old abandoned coal-mine near Metropolis and sets off a mammoth forest fire.
  • South Park: In the Coon and Friends trilogy, BP (later DP) does this in the Gulf of Mexico. Multiple times. The first pollutes the ocean. They attempt to fix the damage by drilling some more, which taps into a rift between dimensions and allows several Eldritch beings to infest the Gulf. The CEO of BP then figures that they should drill on the Moon in a bizarre attempt to control the ocean. This just summons Cthulhu. But they're sorry.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "From Beneath", Kaz and company visit the fuel refinery run by Flix's family only to discover they've accidentally awakened something monstrous with their drilling.

    Real Life 
  • The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded a couple months after it finished digging the world's deepest oil well. Coincidence? Well, yes, although not taking proper precautions when drilling that deep was a major factor. Still 560,000 tons of crude oil in the wrong place is definitely evilish.
  • The famous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository is concerned with preventing this. The waste will still be dangerous for ten thousand years, and the warning signs need to be comprehensible for that long. One concern is that even if future generations understand the message "warning! This place will kill you!", they'll dismiss it as a way to scare off the superstitious and assume treasure is buried there. One of the many proposed solutions includes covering the area above the site with a landscape of spikes. Another is just attempting to make it as plain and unenticing as possible. (Although the actual plan for waste repositories backed up these crude measures with multiple copies of written documentation all over the site, describing what was buried where, what it was, and why it was dangerous— all written in seven languages, including Navajo. See Expert judgment on markers to deter inadvertent human intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.)
  • The Kola Superdeep Borehole is twelve kilometers deep. There is an Urban Legend that they detected a sudden spike in temperature, together with sounds of people being tortured, having accidentally broken through the roof of Hell. This was the recording that had people fooled.
    • The spike in temperature, at least, was true: they determined the temperature at the bottom of the shaft to be approximately 350 degrees, instead of the expected 212 degrees. This resulted in the project shutting down, since the drill wouldn't be able to take the additional heat. Of course most likely, the temperature spike was caused by heat rising from the earth's mantle or the like.
    • A Weekly World News story in 1992 elaborated this further into an even stronger example, claiming that it had happened in Alaska and that thirteen oil workers had been horribly killed by a demon that emerged from the hole.
  • The Sidoarjo Mud Flow. An Indonesian oil and gas company, PT Lapindo Brantas, in its search for natural gas in East Java, created a "Borehole" (a narrow shaft) into the Earth, digging more then 10,000 meters into the ground (a depth no natural gas has ever been found at before). Having ignored sensibility, they decided to ignore the law as well, not using the required protective equipment on the drill. The result? Running a giant drill next to fault lines has consequences, as the poor people of the surrounding villages learned when the drilling erupted a massive mud volcano, ultimately destroying those villages and making several hundred families homeless. The eruption is still going on today, years after the 2006 incident, spewing 88,000 cubic feet of mud every day — and is not expected to stop completely for at least another 25 years. PT Lapindo Brantas was ordered to pay up to $300,000,000 in damages. The higher ups tried to sell the company for $2 to off shore groups in an attempt to avoid responsibility. They were denied.
  • The Iron Mountain Mine in Northern California. When this location was mined out, they discovered that in addition to rich iron deposits, the mine contained acidophilic archaea that lived off of the rich iron deposits, metabolizing them and producing sulfuric acid as waste. This created extremely toxic hot springs with a pH of less than 1, which drained into other water sources, making the mine one of the most toxic waste sites in the United States of America.note 
  • Lake Peigneur: The Swirling Vortex of Doom. It turns out you should make very sure that the lake you're drilling is not directly over a salt mine.
  • One of the potential dangers of exploiting offshore methane clathrate deposits. Methane clathrate is methane gas trapped in the crystal structure of ice, and is stable only at high pressure, and even then it's not particularly stable, with even slight decrease in pressure or increase in temperature liable to cause the methane to escape. Clathrate deposits contain enormous amounts of methane, but one of the problems regarding exploiting them (aside from the costs associated with deep water drilling) is that drilling might disrupt the deposits, releasing enormous amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane being much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, this would be a very bad thing. Though the possibility of all the methane clathrate melting due to global warming is even worse threat, considering that's the kind of thing that leads to mass extinctions. There is an acute effect of the sudden methane release as well. Besides the obvious flammability issues when it breaches the ocean surface, it also completely disrupts the buoyancy of seawater, easily causing ships to sink that would otherwise have no problems floating.
  • This may very well be Truth in Television if someone were to somehow dig deep enough to disturb the mantle and/or core of the Earth. Considering the intense pressure down there, it's not hard to imagine how a breach could potentially spell disaster for the entire planet. Thankfully, it doesn't seem likely anyone could do that even intentionally, if the sheer difficulty of digging even a tiny fraction of the way there is any indication.