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Eldritch Location

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"We're talking about a higher order of reality... The world they come from, the world I come from, has... more of everything. I don't think you understand yet; the light of Heaven would slash open your corneas. The music of Heaven would puncture your eardrums and drive you insane. The air of Heaven would burst your lungs and boil your blood. Only spirit can bear Heaven's touch."
Zauriel, JLA (1997)

In fictionland, some places just don't agree with the laws of physics, geography, and the way we understand the world.

Eldritch Locations take many forms: Lost Worlds, Wonderlands ("Wonder" is not always a good thing), Strange Planets, Incomprehensible Voids (like the Primordial Chaos), Giant Skulls of Eldritch Abominations, the insides of Eldritch Abominations, Alternate Universes, ordinary-looking buildings... basically, wherever the author decides could use some weirdness.

These are usually depicted as bad places, but not always. The ones that aren't are usually sources of wonder, or perhaps forms of outright fun, such as Surreal Humor.

If this place is a planet or country, then it will often feature an Alien Sky, as well as Mix-and-Match Critters or Starfish Aliens by the herd. Expect all geometries to be alien or sinister, and reality to be taking the day off. However, like any self-respecting Cosmic Horror Story, you can bet this is only a small part of its fundamental strangeness.

If it even exists in the same dimension as our seemingly Insignificant Little Blue Planet that hangs somewhere in the perhaps infinite reaches of existence itself, chances are it's either outside the world entirely (and often accessible only by a Cool Gate), or located in a strange, unknown corner of the Earth. It may have never been seen by man before. If so, expect at least one character, upon seeing it, to widen his eyes and gasp: "What is this place?!"

The Big Bad may set up A Very Definitely Final Dungeon or an Amazing Technicolor Battlefield here. This kind of location ranks highly on the Sorting Algorithm of Threatening Geography, being a surreal land where things that should make sense don't and where the hero is definitely out of place. Conveniently for video games, this lets the developers set up gameplay challenges unconstrained by normal physics or geometries. A classic example is Super Mario 64, where the trope-naming Lethal Lava Land is only around halfway through and the final level is just an abstract set of platforms and structures hanging in the sky.

Compare World of Chaos, Lost World, Dark World, Dream Land.

See also Genius Loci, Garden of Evil, Ominous Floating Castle, World Tree, Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, Bigger on the Inside, Year Inside, Hour Outside, Journey to the Center of the Mind, Ominous Clouds, Void Between the Worlds, and Too Strange to Show. Some common settings, such as the Sugar Bowl, can fall right into this trope if you think about them enough. Reality Is Out to Lunch will generally be in full effect here.

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Other examples

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  • This BMW X4 advert has the car driving through several cities in a strange wobbly world where the earth itself undulates and waves like a rolling ocean.

    Alternate Reality Games 
  • Omega Mart: The store itself seems to defy reality, as if it's an Outer God that, for some reason, wants to be a shopping mart. Some products are made from impossible materials/ingredients, the aesthetic is saturated with colors, and the rooms give the impression of being bigger on the inside than what they look from the outside. All of this combines to give an underlying Surreal Horror feeling.

    Films — Animation 
  • The eponymous House of The House (2022) is a very strange and distressing place, especially in Chapter 1. Among other things, it can be renovated without anyone inside hearing the noise, food appears on the dinner table without any sign of servants or catering staff, the upper-story corridors turn into an impassable labyrinth that shouldn't be able to fit in the building, Mabel and Isobel fall asleep in the attic and wake up to find themselves outside the drawing room, and the House somehow manages to survive the drawing room fire. In Chapter 2, the Developer seems cursed with bad luck simply by staying here, as things keep breaking and insects keep returning to the building no matter how many times the developer exterminates them, even mutating them into beings capable of impersonating potential buyers - assuming they weren't like that before. In Chapter 3, Alien Geometries return with a vengeance when Rosa falls into the basement, only to wind up in Cosmos' tent... and in the ending, the house is so weird that Cosmos is somehow able to modify it into a sailing ship with the contents of a standard toolkit.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure:
    • The world outside the Hundred Acre Wood gradually starts to become this, albeit toned down, as the landscape becomes colorless and barren compared the usually vibrant environments the heroes tend to live. We see gray mountainous landscapes filled with dead trees and fog coated wastelands.
    • Skull, which looks like a contorted screaming face. The massive tunnels inside are filled with extensive roots, almost resembling dead oligodendrocytes and blood vessels. Face carvings appear throughout the interior with deep howling winds similiar to moaning cries.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: Central to the film’s plot is the Dark Forest which hides the magical wishing star. The outside is dark and ominous while the inside can be bright and cheerful, dark and fiery, or glum and swampy, depending on who looks upon the map to the star. It has been commented upon that the forest seems to tailor each path to prevent people getting to the star.
  • The "Outside World" as seen by the Anthropomorphic Food of Sausage Party, which is a dark, cold place littered with the remains of half-eaten food and zombified corn coming out of turds. This dark, cold place is no more than the pavement of a central street in a busy city so human locales are just as amplified in the eyes of food as humans themselves.
  • The Creepy Cathedral in the Enchanted Forest in Unicorn Wars: Its made of black brick and surrounded by red haze, couldn't have been built by the unicorns since they can't use tools with hooves, guarded by demonic looking Maniac Monkeys and its inhabited by both the leader of the unicorns who according to local scripture may be the devil and a Blob Monster that might just be the true form of the former.
  • Yellow Submarine: The Beatles' Liverpool abode is a grim little wharfside hovel on the outside. Inside, it's a cavernous palace with endless corridors that open into scenes from King Kong (1933), Magritte paintings, and the like, while various outsize objects, inanimate and otherwise, run in and out of doors when no one's looking. The places they visit on their journey are similarly extradimensional.

  • In Blue Öyster Cult's "Astronomy", the viewpoint character (Desdinova, an alien puppet master) describes a place called The Four Winds Bar, which does not exist on any map, and is located "behind the clock" (outside of time). The bar is the origin of all wars, and its bizarre physical dimensions are described in vague terms of doors and windows. At the end of the song, the two women seeking Desdinova find themselves at the bar despite a lack of guidance.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Name a location originating in myths and if it isn't human homelands, chances are it is this trope.
    • The universe during the primordial times counts in any mythology.
    • From Christianity, Abaddon, an abyss that will open on Earth during the end of the world.
    • Celtic Mythology had a place called the Otherworld, the really weird home to the faeries and all sorts of mythical creatures.
    • From Norse Mythology, the entirety of Ygg-drasill (well, perhaps excepting Miðgarðr (Midgard).). Think about it. The universe is shaped like a tree. We live in one end of a branch. Where the tree grows isn't clear.
  • Almost any concept of the Afterlife.
    • The Bible actually has a lot. What they have in common is that they're not physical places, and no living being can see them. Sheol, the realm of the dead may or may not be this. Gehenna (what most people refer to as Hell these days) is the Lake of Fire which will exist literally everywhere that isn't the New Jerusalem (what most people call Heaven) or "the nations that walk in its light" after the end of the world.
  • The Duat in Egyptian Mythology, which was believed to be simultaneously below the earth, behind both the west and east horizons, and above/inside the sky.
  • Inuit Mythology has the Adlivun, said to lie under the sea and the earth, but only accessible through the Moon.

  • The tapes collected in the titular Archive 81 concern the Visser Building, a strange apartment complex that attracts strange people.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: the titular desert town, where everything paranormal is true, a Faceless Old Woman secretly lives in your home, the city council is a hive mind of eldritch abominations, five-headed dragons get arrested for insurance fraud, the host of the community radio station has apparently been reporting since the 1800s, and the only roads going out of town loop back in on themselves.
  • In Alice Isn't Dead, a long haul trucker Character Narrator keeps encountering paranormal places in the course of her work, from an Evil Tower of Ominousness looming in the distance to Charlatan, a traveling Vanishing Village trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that repeatedly violates the laws of physics in increasingly disturbing ways every time she passes through.
  • In The Magnus Archives, the titular archives rise above labyrinthine catacombs that organize and contain manifestations of primal fear. The building itself is a place of power for the acolytes of one of those forces, the Ceaseless Watcher.
    • Places touched by the other Powers tend to end up like this. One of the early stories catalogued by Jonathan Sims involves a chapel that, in complete darkness, seems to be infinitely long, with silence echoing for miles. When the lights come on... it's just another church.
  • Malevolent gives us two; the first we've only heard about via The Entity/John is the Dark World, which is described as something of an interdimensional junkyard, and that said Entity wants to avoid going back to at all costs. The second is the setting for the entirety of season 2, The Dreamlands, which is a world that abides by a sort of dream logic, that houses all manner of unthinkable horrors.
  • In Midst, the universe is not as we know it. The Fold is an endless sea of microorganisms, or something like them, and it apparently reacts violently to light. Far more people live in the Unfold, which is filled with mica dust but otherwise is far more habitable. Midst is remarkable for floating right between the two.
  • Jar of Rebuke takes place the fictional town of Wichton, Indiana, which seems to be a focal point for various fantasy and horror creatures that thrive there. Enough so that there's a research facility dedicated to studying the area.

  • Sometimes, the Gift Shop of The Museum of Everything will only allow you to leave if you can convince someone else to mind the shop. The museum itself might count, considering that the designer says that when he was commissioned to create a museum that would contain everything, and he realised that necessarily it must contain itself, he got a nosebleed.
  • Quiet, Please (1947): In the episode "Nothing Behind the Door", the nothing behind the door in the mountaintop cabin is...nothing. As in, an empty void of nothingness.

  • The Torn World from Dino Attack RPG, a mysterious, empty void where bricks go after they've been torn out of the Constructopedia. The dimension vaguely resembles space, but despite this, one can breathe reasonably well and there is gravity present (anyone who can't get a hold of a brick is likely to fall forever into nothingness). Also for some reason, no matter what kind of bricks are taken, they always break up into 1x1 pieces.
    • To a lesser extent, the Maelstrom Temple, which has a tendency to change its inner structure whenever your back is turned (making it very hard for one to find their way out), and it can create illusions to mess with your head.
  • Kakariko after it was destroyed by Bongo Bongo, covered with a thick miasma, and had almost everyone that lived there turned into an undead monster in Realms of Hyrule.

    Visual Novels 
  • Demonbane:
    • The first game's final battle took place in a succession of these taken from the Cthulhu Mythos itself, as the sheer power being exchanged between Demonbane and Liber Legis causes "dimensional quakes" that randomly throw them all over time and space. They visit, in order: the chaotic darkness of the Void Beyond, the Great Library of Celeano, a ruined Yaddith of the far future, a living asteroid field, Prehistoric Earth, the Darkness of N'Kai, and in a couple of routes finally end up on the dead world of Yith.
    • The Shining Trapezohedron is itself an Eldritch Location, and sealed within it are all of the evil gods that Demonbane could not kill, trapped within one universe and screaming to get out. Slashing something with the Trapezohedron sends it to that universe... where that thing will be at the mercy of all those extremely angry, immortal, evil beings.
    • The sequel's villain turns Arkham City into an Eldritch Location, as it becomes a patchwork of different time periods, urban city and wilderness melting into each other, buildings that are upside-down and right-side up and everything in between, and time moves faster, slower, backwards, or not at all in various places.
  • Nasuverse:
    • The Forest of Einnashe, first mentioned in Tsukihime. It's a forest that acts like a vampire, in that it eats every person and animal that comes upon it. And yes, it can move and hunt cities on its own. Good thing it's only shown itself every 50 years.
    • It also gives us Reality Marbles. It is a high-level magical barrier that forced reality around oneself to obey your vision of the world. As a result, it turns reality within one's proximity into one's own mental landscape, allowing them to use their ultimate techniques. These are traditionally possessed by Ultimate Ones and high-level spirits.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • Sweet Puttin' Cakes, a miniature golf course "every bit as messed up as the cartoon on which it's based." Residents of Free Country, USA find themselves inexplicably teleported there simply by desiring to play miniature golf. The first hole is the "worm"hole, the 18th hole has par infinity, and the only way to leave is to will yourself back to reality. When Strong Bad returns, he remarks that his mouth "tastes like backwards."
    • We could go ahead and classify the Sweet Cuppin' Cakes world (which is apparently a real location) as an Eldritch Location. Just think of the inhabitants! A Strong Bad with a keyboard head, a black-and-white-talking wheelchair, a talking worm in a hole that appears to be able to warp from place to place. There's also the fact that characters can come from nowhere and that everything appears to be able to utilize hammerspace.
  • hololive ERROR's Aogami Town kinda just decides to follow common sense a lot of the time. Other times, school hallways may seem like they stretch on forever until you spontaneously find the exit, the flow of time may be screwed up to where something takes way longer than you think it does, and the people in it may spontaneously forget that certain other people exist. A combination of it being haunted as all hell and the version of it we usually see being twisted by Shino's subconscious mind may have something to do with it all.
  • The city of Kirlian, in The Kirlian Frequency.
  • The second chapter of Dr. Wolf's Origins Episode takes place in such a place that takes the form of a library in the middle of a vast desert. Time doesn't move in the library, as Wolf doesn't age or require food, water, or rest the entire time he's there. The structure goes on forever in any direction, smells do not grow stronger or weaker anywhere or at any time, and Wolf always sensed a feeling of intrusion, as if the library sensed he and his master didn't belong and desired to expel or assimilate them.
  • Mictlan Wood, an eerie purple tinged forest where the antagonists of No Evil have set up shop, in a complex of pueblo dwellings near the wood's center. The whole place is filled with surreal undead creatures, living dolls, and flying, insect-winged skulls. It also appears to shift location, with entrances and exits to the wood appearing and disappearing throughout the series.
  • RWBY: In Volume 9, Team RWBY and Jaune end up in the Ever After, a strange world that is accessed by falling through the Void Between the Worlds and which doesn't function by Remnant's rules. It is dominated by an enormous World Tree, and is split into acres with self-contained environments linked by bridges. The Jungle Acre has golden skies, two suns and talking mice, the King's Acre has green skies, one sun and a fortress that looks and functions like an M. C. Escher image, and the Gardens Acre is a place of permanent darkness lit only by giant bioluminescent plants and fungi. The world is an Empathic Environment that triggers rain when people are sad or sunshine when they're resolved and hopeful, and anyone who gets caught in a punderstorm will find their inner conflicts or dilemmas manifesting as a visual puzzle they have to solve; if they can't, they must wait for the storm to pass. The only way out of the realm, is to reach the Tree... except any attempt to travel there instantly traps the person in an Unnaturally Looping Location until they stop attempting to reach it. The rule in the realm is that people cannot go to the Tree, the Tree has to come to them which can only occur when the people in question are willing to face their trauma and need for renewal, something that a good chunk of the case, especially the traumatized Jaune, struggle to do.
  • In the original run of Super Mario Bros. Z, Episode 7 introduced the frightening Minus World. Historically referred to by the simple, cold moniker of "World 36", it is revealed to be a pocket dimension from which there is no escape, being a play on an element of 8 bit processors and showing what would happen if such a concept was turned into an actual world. It stands out from the majority of the series for its extremely dark implications about the Mushroom Kingdom's past, a well as it's nature. It was used as a method of execution by both sides during an ancient war between the Mushroom Kingdom and the Koopas, who would throw their prisoners down the warp pipe to starve to death; their corpses, as well as those of anyone unfortunate enough to stumble inside, litter the ground of the zone. What makes this so chilling is how it takes the simple idea of a world that scrolls on and on forever, and reveals how much a hellish prison it would be if it actually existed as a world. The fact that everyone, including Mecha Sonic cannot escape the pull of this world without the benefit of Kolorado's watch pulling a Deus ex Machina is proof of just how dangerous this place really is. The creepy atmosphere of the Pipe Maze and the backstory told by Professor Frankly only adds to the sense of dread that this place evokes.

    Real Life 
  • The page quote from Zauriel, above, well describes the surface of the Sun. The innards of a star, the depths of a gas giant, the structure of a neutron star, and the vacuum of deep space all feature mechanical properties that are incomprehensibly alien in comparison to the natural laws as we know them. Small and frail is the magical bubble in which we live and thrive.
  • Singularities in general are this in whatever system they might manifest in. Simply, a "singularity" is an instance in a system where the normal rules of the system are inapplicable.
  • Notable cases of singularities include Black Holes. Also, Calabi-Yau space, the universe before the Big Bang, and anything beyond the universe. And the inside of an atom. Actually, the modern understanding of physics requires a lot of drugs to understand. The quantum physics as we know it doesn't allow an absolute singularity to form, even though General Relativity does, which may mean that no "true" black holes exist, whereas other theories challenge the idea of the Big Bang as the start of the Universe - it has already been all but disproved in the form it's being taught in schoolbooks, but the event's exact nature still eludes the scientists, and there are multiple conflicting theories without enough evidence to pick one over the others.
  • Planets with exotic atmospheric composition/pressure and/or sufficiently high gravity well can make for some extremely odd locations. There is one exoplanet for example that the scientists believe to be covered in boiling hot ice due to such conditions.
  • Conceptualizing how the world appears to animals with radically-different Bizarre Alien Senses — echolocation, electroreception, vibratory sense, etc — can reveal how different even an ordinary room must seem to them. Any species that can perceive radio signals as sound or sight would be driven blind or deaf immediately, if not completely insane.
  • The Brocken, a mountain in northeastern Germany, has been the setting of all sorts of supernatural stories, including numerous tales of witchcraft and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust. It is a genuinely weird place, with the most precipitation, fog, and persistent snow cover in all of Northern Europe (only the Alps has more snow), extreme winds (highest recorded is 163 mph), spooky optical illusions, animals that aren't found anywhere else outside of the Alps, and plants that would be more at home in Iceland or Scandanavia. It's also a very popular tourist destination, complete with a steam railway up to the top.
  • The Well of Barhout is a hole in Yemen 112 meters deep, almost empty of oxygen and filled with dead animals. The locals are convinced jinn live there, it sucks objects in, and are too scared to even speak of the hole. For those reasons, it's also known as the "Well of Hell." As is described by Salah Babhair, the premier geologist of the area:
    We have gone to visit the area and entered the well, reaching more than 50-60 metres down into it. We noticed strange things inside. We also smelled something strange... It's a mysterious situation.


The Quantum Realm

A dimension beyond the human comprehension of space and time that can be accessed by shrinking down to subatomic levels.

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