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Hand in the Hole

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I'll bet there's treasure in there!

So. There's a hole in a wall or floor filled with an impenetrable, inky blackness and the vague promise of a great reward to those who stick their hand in. Should the character go for it?

Was that a question? Of course! Treasure! Well, that or a giant catfish ready to bite off the whole arm and/or deliver an incredibly lethal and painful poison.

This conundrum has plagued protagonist and player alike for eons. At best, Curiosity Is a Crapshoot which will yield a Plot Coupon, and at worst it will kill the cast because it's a Death Trap. Even when there's nothing dangerous there (or there is, but the character pulls their hand out just in time) expect another threat to use Offscreen Teleportation while they were distracted. You can also bet most villains and Temple of Doom architects will count on the protagonist/player's greed to make them go for it.

And of course, you can expect the Jerkass high on the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality to pretend to have his arm bit off to scare his companions... only to have it really bitten off or something even worse befall him.

The "modern" version involves a garbage disposal that's "on the fritz" and the owner sticking their hand in to remove the jam. In that case, the tension comes from "will the bad guy (usually some supernatural evil) turn it on and cut up the hand?" Or it could be that the audience starts fearing the same risk on grounds of mere incompetence or bad luck, especially if the character seems like the type who it would happen to.

(Note that in Japanese media, many of these are direct shout-outs to Roman Holiday, which remains an icon of pop-culture.)

Can be a type of Schmuck Bait. A more sexual-nightmare-type example incarnates as Vagina Dentata. Compare Clutching Hand Trap and Help, I'm Stuck!.


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  • This figured into a series of ads for Vanilla Coca-Cola. There's a clip at Metacafe.

    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the first indications that Tsukasa actually has a sense of humor in .hack//SIGN is when he reaches into a one of these holes; and then pulls out just his sleeve; with his hand hidden tucked inside it. For the record, it is also a reference to Roman Holiday as Tsukasa's mother used to watch Audrey Hepburn movies.
  • In the Blue Dragon anime, Shu is almost tricked into sticking his hand into a suspicious hole during a test to unlock the full power of Blue Dragon with a warning that he would lose Blue Dragon if he failed, but at the last second he realizes that Blue Dragon is acting out of character and has been replaced by a fake.
  • GTO: The Early Years: While peeping on his neighbor, Ryuji sticks his penis in a hole in the wall and gets it stuck. He manages to bluff his way through an attack by the Enoshima High gang, but then the neighbor, who is actually a drag queen, notices a "strange mushroom" growing out of the wall and moves to put his face next to it. Ryuji pulls so hard he brings down the whole wall, trapping himself underneath. What a great time for his girlfriend Nagisa to show up! Not What It Looks Like... okay, it's exactly what it looks like.
  • Hamtaro uses this in "The Reconciliation", when Oxnard appears to get his paw caught in a miniature replica of the Mouth of Truth (see "Real Life" examples below), only to find that it was actually his sunflower seed that had gotten stuck. Much groaning ensues from his fellows.
  • In Macross II, Hibiki re-enacts the below mentioned Roman Holiday scene with Ishtar (it is even implied to be the same carving, La Bocca della Verità).
  • In a Naruto manga chapter, Naruto is told to place his head in a statue's mouth. If he has overcome the darkness in his heart, the way forward will open. If not, the statue will come to life and bite his head off. Yeah, things didn't go well for Naruto. Gotcha!note 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! manga:
    • Yami Yugi challenged a corrupt store owner to a Shadow Game where they fill a shoe with coins and a scorpion, then take turns sticking their hands in to fish coins out and avoid getting stung. Whoever got the most coins wins. After a few turns, the store owner got fed up with it and stabbed the shoe with a knife, then stuck his hand in, gloating that now he can get all the coins. However, he missed the scorpion and it stung him, sending him to the hospital.
    • One of the portions of Seto Kaiba's sadistic "Death-T" course has a contraption with a hand-hole for each of the four characters running the course, each marked with some two-digit binary code (how Kaiba knew to use four holes when he was after Yugi specifically is anyone's guess). The contraption turns out to be a miniature guillotine ready to cut off their hands at the wrist if they don't press the button in the right hole before it drops. The proper hole is the one that Anzu puts her hand in, marked "11". The only clue is a sign marked "bllood". Yugi realizes at the last second that it's spelled wrong, and is a clue that it is made up of binary symbols (10,11,00,01). The misspelling is a clue as to the right button.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • There was a hilarious one-off story in Knights of the Dinner Table where the characters found a hole in the wall with a big ruby visible behind it. Bob's character immediately reached in to grab it, only to have his arm guillotined off by a trap. Dave reached in to retrieve Bob's arm, and lost his own arm to the trap. Then, a rat started to drag the severed arms away, and Bob's knee-jerk reaction was to reach in with his remaining arm to stab the rat, with predictable results. The last line of the comic was Brian saying to Sara, "We're going to pick their pockets while they stand there and watch."

    Film — Animation 
  • As the page quote notes in The Beatles full-length animated feature Yellow Submarine, they find holes that you can reach in — or even jump in — that are basically hammerspace's version of a computer jump drive or Doctor Who's TARDIS, something a lot bigger inside than outside.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The garbage disposal version is double subverted in 100 Feet, where Famke Janssen's character is being haunted by the ghost of her abusive husband. The suspenseful moments she spends fumbling around the drain pass without incident. She retrieves the item safely and removes her hand from the sink, but as she's turning away, the disposal comes back on and a ghostly hand reaches out of the drain and pulls her hand back in.
  • In an infamous scene from the made-for-TV Amityville: The Evil Escapes, Amanda has her garbage disposal jam on her while doing the dishes. The teenage son of the electrician shows up instead of the electrician that another lady called to deal with the problems of the house, and when he sees her reaching in there to clear out the jam, he tells her that she should have taped the thing off. She does so, but then he reaches down there himself. Due to the house's problems being due to an evil possessed lamp (no, really), you can pretty much guess what happens...
  • In The Blob (1988), a cook reaches into a plugged up sink and gets gooey pink stuff on his hand. The Blob reaches out and pulls him down the sink head first.
  • Creepshow. In the "Crate" segment, Mike the janitor immediately sticks his hand into the crate after he sees the creature's eyes shining and mistakes them for a couple of gems.
  • Dune (1984): Following the example of the book, Paul is subjected to the Gom Jabbar test, where he sticks his hand into a blacked out box and made to suffer excruciating pain (complete with an Imagine Spot of his hand burning away) to show that he has the willpower and self-control to not pull his hand out of the box before being given permission. Failure of the test means immediate death by poison needle instead, but Paul passes with flying colors.
  • In Escape Room (2017), the clues indicate that Tyler or Natasha will need to stick their hand in the mouth of the stuffed bear head on the wall in order to open the final door. Given everything they have encountered so far, they are reluctant to do so.
  • The garbage disposal version happens in Final Destination 2 with a character dropping a ring down the drain and him reaching for it while the microwave shorts out the outlet on the other side of the room. There was a shot of his fingers poking between the grinder blades while the audience watches as nothing happens.
  • Flash Gordon. While Flash is in Arboria, he's forced to participate in a Death Game (Sub-Trope of Duel to the Death) with Prince Barin. They take turns sticking their arms into a hollow tree trunk that contains a Wood Beast. It has a sting that causes death after tortured madness. Eventually, Flash pretends he was stung, then attacks Barin when he lets his guard down.
  • The garbage disposal variant is subverted in Halloween (1978), but not until the suspense is built up to some levels.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Indy and Short Round are going to get crushed to death in the trap full of bugs because Willie doesn't want to stick her hand in the dark hole to release the trap. In a subversion, it's not the dark hole that she's squicked by. It's the fact that the hole is literally crawling with bugs of all types.
  • Invoked in The Killing Room (2009). Several people are locked in a room and forced to take part in a lethal Mind Control experiment. At one point a delivery hatch opens, but nothing comes through. One character reaches into the hatch and gropes about, cringing at the expected nastiness...but there's nothing there, it's just another Mind Screw. Only later when he reaches through the hatch, it slams shut on his hand.
  • In Leprechaun, the little guy hides in a hollow tree and bites an idiot who reaches it.
  • The garbage disposal version occurs in Mirror Mirror (1990). The garbage disposal is playing up and Susan turns it off and reaches in to try to clear it. After a few tense moments, she pulls at the rag that was jamming it and it starts functioning normally. However, a few minutes later, the mirror causes it to malfunction again, and this time when she reaches into it, the mirror switches it back on; grinding her hand off.
  • The Mummy Returns, where the high minion puts on the scorpion bracelet and sticks his hand with it into the mouth of a giant scorpion statue, to release the army of Anubis. His hand isn't bitten off, though. It gets sucked dry, and he's left staggering around clutching his now-skeletal arm until the Scorpion King seizes him and rips him apart.
  • Spoofed in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. Gates sticks his hand in a hole to uncover a treasure, and then starts screaming bloody murder to scare his companions. Nothing happened, it was just a lever.
    Gates: (laughing) Sorry, I couldn't resist.
  • Referenced in Only You, where both Faith and her love interest claim to have seen Roman Holiday. They both pull their pretend stumps out at the same time. The love interest actually has been lying to her, but he escapes with all his fingers.
  • In Roman Holiday, Gregory Peck's character sticks his hand in the mouth of La Bocca della Verità, a face carving claimed to bite if someone tells a lie with their hand in its mouth, and pretends that this is exactly what happens. Audrey Hepburn wasn't told about this prank beforehand.
  • If you are in a Saw movie, and you see an invitingly hand-sized hole, it is probably a really bad idea to do the obvious. To be fair, if you're in a Saw movie, no matter what you do, you're going to die a horribly bloody death. It just depends on what gets damaged first. You could die from blood loss from the aforementioned "sticking you hand into a hole," you could die from having Your Head Asplode because that door you just opened was rigged to a shotgun, or you could die from inhaling toxic gas that was pumped into the room because you didn't kill your friend/close relative fast enough. It should go without saying just how sadistic Jigsaw and his followers actually are.
  • In The Scorpion King, Memnon tests his sorceress with a combination of this and Russian Roulette. Four snakes are put in six large pots and the table spun to confuse which is empty. She's then instructed to use her seer powers to pick the right pots. After getting it right the first time, she gets tired of the game and drags out one of the snakes, which obeys her rather than biting her.
  • In Silent Hill, Rose has to reach into the mouth of a corpse to retrieve a key.
  • In Splice, the female lead reaches into the artificial uterus to extract the transgenic life form inside, without knowing anything about its properties. It stings her hand repeatedly, rendering her helpless.
  • In a fully-lit variation, a man taken captive by the Mad Scientist in Sssssss is chained up, then given a choice between two glass tanks to reach into. One contains the key to his chains and a harmless snake, which is virtually indistinguishable from the other tank's lethal viper and phony key.
  • In Star Wars: Ewok Adventures Caravan of Courage, Mace sees a cute furry critter sticking out of a hole in a tree so against the advice of everyone else present he tries sticking his hand in the hole to catch it. The "cute furry critter" turned out to be the lure of a much larger creature that promptly bites his arm and the only reason he gets away is because the Ewoks fight it off.
  • In The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Curtin dares Dobbs to put his hand into the hole where the gold — and apparently a deadly lizard — are hidden. Luckily Dobbs refuses the offer.
  • In When Evil Calls, the girl who wishes she could lose a stone in weight has her her right hand and arm ground off in a garbage disposal.

  • This one subdues the trope to a finger rather than the whole hand: guy takes a dump at a public restroom, but there's no toilet paper and the sink has no running water. In desperation, he resorts to wiping his butt with one of his fingers. Thinking about how to clean it up, he notices a hole in the wall with the message: "INSERT DIRTY FINGERS HERE TO CLEAN THEM". He decides, "eh, what the hell", and sticks his crap-dirty finger in, only to pull it back and sticking it in his mouth after feeling a pin prick. Hey, at least he did get his finger clean.

  • In book 1 of 99 Fear Street, the garbage-disposal variation occurs, apparently because a ghost turned it on at the worst possible moment. In book 3, a (very fictional) movie about the haunting is filmed on site, and an actor puts his hand in a fake garbage disposal to film a scene of this—which cuts off his hand anyway, despite the lack of an actual blade. A ghost did it.
  • In Dune, the ritual of the gom jabbar is a test employed by the Bene Gesserit, performed by requiring the examinee to put her hand into a box that causes excruciating pain by nerve induction. A poison-coated needle is then held to the "victim's" neck with the threat of instant death should she withdraw her hand without permission. The test is whether the person can master her instinctive desire to flee the pain, thus proving her "humanity". Paul Atreides is one of the few males to be administered the test, and his passing of it is seen as a sign of his future role as the Kwisatz Haderach.
    He thought he could feel skin curling black on that agonized hand, the flesh crisping and dropping away until only charred bones remained.
  • These show up frequently in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. As per the typical style of the books, there's usually no clue whether sticking your hand in is a good idea or not.
  • In Firestarter, there is a concept known as a psychic "ricochet". If someone exerts psychic influence on another too carelessly, a single concept or idea will bounce around in their mind until they are driven to act in dangerous extremes in deference to this concept. For Dr. Pynchot, the ricochet involves an incident of sexual hazing in college, so he becomes obsessed with his new "vulva-like" garbage disposal and suicides by forcing his arm inside.
  • In Jean Ray's short story "Gold Teeth", a professional graverobber cuts four-inch holes in coffin lids to reach in and remove the occupants' valuable dental work. This works fine, until someone who's figured out how he makes a living beats him to a target and installs a small wolf trap...
  • Played with so frequently in Goosebumps books that this line of a review sums it up best:
    This event comes at the end of a chapter, so I'll let you be the judge as to whether Carlo really did get his hand bitten off or whether he I really shouldn't have to finish this sentence.
  • In Joel Rosenberg's Keepers of the Hidden Ways trilogy, the heroes are required at one point to have one of their members take part in an initiation ceremony with the "Brothers of Fenris". The ceremony involves sticking one's hand in the mouth of a statue of Fenris, which will cause it to be burned off. A somewhat shell-shocked war veteran volunteers to undergo the ceremony and comes out of it stronger than before. The burning was caused by Mjölnir, and weapons of the gods could only be touched by gods without harm; mortals would be burned. But the being who had made Mjolnir admitted he had been distracted while making it, which led to it being able to be picked up by some mortals, though the reason the soldier can and others can't isn't explained in that book.
  • In R. A. Lafferty's "Old Halloweens on the Guna Slopes", Austro claims that in his day, neighbors would retaliate for potentially-lethal Halloween pranks by replacing their doorbells' black buttons with booby-trapped holes. He professes that he lost his fingertip trying to ring a "doorbell" that concealed a miniature guillotine.
  • In Legacies, a thug who's searching Repairman Jack's booby-trapped decoy house reaches into a safe to retrieve the money he sees inside, and gets his hand pinned by a mechanical spike. And that's just the start of his troubles.
  • There's a book in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, The Cestus Deception, which is not dissimilar to the above. Obi-Wan has to prove his goodwill by reaching into a basket with something moving inside. He wonders if it's something venomous and this is a test, but although there's something alive and moving and wet inside, it doesn't hurt him. It's one of the native Force-Sensitives testing his intent.
  • A variation of this concept occurs in Where the Red Fern Grows. A simple way to catch raccoons involves drilling a hole in a log just big enough for them to get their hands in, and placing a bit of butter at the bottom. Then some angled nails are installed that would prevent the raccoon from getting its fist closed around the treat from getting out. The main character only does this once, as he finds the practice needlessly cruel.
  • This happens accidentally to a hotel maid in The Witches. When the hero is turned into a mouse, he hides in a shoe when he sees the maid coming. The maid picks the shoe up, and puts her hand inside; and the hero instinctively bites her, causing the maid to scream and drop the shoe.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Herpetologists on Animal Planet regularly deal with this trope, either while extracting reptiles in the wild from holes in the ground, or removing trespassing serpents from under the junk in somebody's garage. Often averted by using a snake-handler's hook.
    • Jeff Corwin was fond of sticking his hand in dark holes and then pretending to have been bitten by something horrible.
    • On his trip to the Congo, Jeremy from River Monsters had to reach bare-handed into a basket containing an unidentified eel-like creature, without knowing if it was aggressive or not. In this case, the uncertainty came from the language barrier between him and the man who'd trapped it, not an inability to see the fish was there.
  • In the Castle episode "Get a Clue", Castle and Beckett follows the clues to a church and a mural with a hole inside the mouth of a figure. Castle slip his hand in the hole to find the mechanism of a secret passage. Of course, he can't resist yelping to scare off Beckett.
  • Fort Boyard:
    • "The Jars of Fear" challenge, in which a contestant has to hunt for the key by putting their arm deep into a jar containing something unpleasant, such as worms, rats, or slime.
    • Played with if the team decides to sacrifice a player for an extra clue. The player has to put their hand in a tiger's mouth to find the clue, but they are then manacled to the tiger's head.
  • Frasier. One of the funniest moment of the series is when Daphne asks Niles to retrieve a ring from the garbage disposal. Niles proceeds to look for it, while complaining about the ickiness. Unfortunately, Martin picks that point to use the coffee grinder; when he starts grinding beans, Niles reacts predictably at the noise, thinking the disposal was turned on.
  • Heroes. It's a nice way to test your invulnerability - stick your hand in the garbage disposal - then turn it on.
  • One of the trials on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, under the title of "Hell-Holes". Most memorably played by Paul Burrell, whose frantic squealing at everything he touched (ants, snakes, spiders) had Ant and Dec in hysterics.
  • The IT Crowd: When Douglas sticks his arm in a stone face's mouth, he pulls it out seemingly missing a hand. He reveals it was just a joke only when he's already being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, making this an in-universe usage of Overly Long Gag. Although it's implied that he's so stupid that he doesn't realize it's a joke.
  • On Lost Girl episode "Vexed," vampire Siegfried is hypnotized into sticking his own hand in the garbage disposal and turning it on, as punishment for selling secrets.
  • One opening scene of Malcolm in the Middle showed Francis reaching into the garbage disposal to remove a jam and not paying attention to how close he is to the on switch, until he accidentally turns on... the garbage disposal in the other sink. After breathing a sigh of relief at the close call, he goes right back to trying to remove the jam.
  • In the pilot of Smallville Clark, who doesn't know he's an alien, demonstrates his invulnerability to his father by sticking his arm in a running wood chipper.
  • In Star Trek: Voyager ("Sacred Ground"), Captain Janeway has to stick her hand into a basket with a nesset — some creature that makes hissing noises — as part of an alien Vision Quest. It bites her.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Home", a repairman suffers the full-on gruesome consequences of reaching into a garbage disposal in the Winchesters' childhood house.
  • Done with a booby-trapped vending machine in the miniseries of The Tommyknockers.
  • Total Blackout often require contestants to reach into tanks or cages without knowing if what's inside is alive and/or dangerous.
  • This is one of the standard challenges on the British kids game show Trapped!.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Norse Mythology, Tyr puts his hand in Fenrisulfr's mouth to prove that the Norse Gods are sincere about their promise to let the Wolf go if they manage to hold him in their bondage games. They weren't, which is why Tyr is depicted with only one hand. It differs in that Tyr knew exactly what was going to happen to him and so it can be considered a Heroic Sacrifice; Tyr not only had strong feelings in the matter (having raised Fenris from a pup), but also the fact that as the God of War, his hand is pretty important to him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu, adventure "The Underground Menace". A farmhouse has a hole in the wall: if a character reaches into it to grab the book inside, he's bitten by black widow spiders and could dienote .
  • Dungeons & Dragons adventures:
    • "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan". A bat statue's mouth (which will bite down and drain blood) and a stone head (which will bite down if the PCs try to grab a ring in its mouth).
    • "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth". A stone head, which will bite down if the PCs try to grab a gem in its mouth.
    • The Tomb of Horrors module has this as one of its more infamous Death Traps. The hole in question contained a sphere of annihilation (which annihilates anything it touches), and stories abound of hands or even heads being lost to the hole when they were stuck in; in the original first edition, the sphere only destroyed what touched it. Stick in a hand, pull back a stump. The Baldur's Gate reference below may be a Shout-Out to it.
    • The book Fiendish Folio II has a bas-relief of former Devil Prince Geryon, which is missing its head and hand. Sticking one's hand into the hand-hole gets it cut off, but a new one grows in its place that has supernatural powers. Sticking one's head in the head-hole is instant death. Probably a reference to the infamous Head of Vecna incident. The reference is supported by the relief's Knowledge listings; the second-highest result informs the adventurer that placing your hand in Geryon's hand replaces the hand with a powerful one, "and rumor has it that even greater powers await those who offer their heads to Geryon". The highest? "None who have offered their heads to Geryon have ever gotten them back."
  • A running gag in the Grimtooth's Traps series. Given how ruthlessly Grimtooth punishes people for the most minor failures of foresight, taking the Schmuck Bait like this will make Too Dumb to Live literal.
  • Magic: the Gathering has the card Wild Guess.
  • One suggestion for sadistic Paranoia gamemasters is to proffer a physical box with a hole in it as a "fingerprint scanner." When the player puts their hand into the box, the gamemaster grabs it.
  • The Shadowrun 4th Edition book Runner's Guide opened with a story of several characters reviewing a video of a young would-be Shadowrunner who's getting wireless advice from an older, more experienced 'Runner that, after helping him out multiple times, tells him to stick his hand in the garbage disposal of the apartment he's staying in for a reward. The "reward" turns out to be a discount for a cybernetic replacement for the hand that was just mangled, as the older 'Runner was, in fact, a very sophisticated ad program for a street surgeon.

    Theme Parks 
  • Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster at Universal Studios in Orlando has a conspicuous hole in one part of the queue line with an image of the key to the Book of the Dead inside. Reaching a hand inside causes a puff of air to blast your hand and makes the lights flicker and dim.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate II:
    • Double subverted: one quest requires you to do this to get an item and you'll only suffer minor damage. That item? A severed hand.
    • There's also an entire frieze of faces you put your hand in. However, each simply asks you a riddle and shoots a fire arrow at you if you answer wrong.
  • Breath of Fire II had this in the thieves' hideout, when you were told that the switch to open the door was in a dark hole. You could either stick your hand in the hole, get bitten (and subsequently poisoned), and end up in battle with a spider, or you could refuse, and get attacked by the spider anyways, but without the poison.
  • The Cat Lady has one of these to escape the Queen of Maggots' realm at the start of the game and return to the land of the living. It's a gigantic saw mechanism that lops off the protagonist's arm when she activates it.
  • A fairly creepy example occurs in Dark Fall: Lost Souls, with a minor Plot Coupon hidden inside a wall.
  • In The Dig, a character puts his hand through a crack in the wall, trying to reach a life crystal in the hole. It doesn't end well: The rock shifts as he does so, and his hand becomes stuck in the rock, requiring the player to use a jagged-toothed alien jawbone to saw his hand off, without any kind of anesthetic to boot. Parodied in The Curse of Monkey Island, if you have your character put his hand through a similar crack. "Aaah! My hand's stuck! You'll have to cut off my arm.... Just kidding."
  • Dragon Age: Origins invokes this trope in one of the main quests, where one of the options to retrieve a minor plot device involves digging around in a 'dark hole' (implied to be the home of a very crazy mage), which will activate the trap hidden inside the hole. If Zevran is brought along for the quest, he offers to help the Player Character, and while he is searching in the hole he cheerfully remarks:
    Zevran: Ha! Let's see... When was the last time I slipped my hand into some dark hole? Hmmm... Long story, that.
  • In the first dungeon in Dragon Quest VII, you have to stick your hand inside a lion statue's mouth in order to proceed.
  • In Hugo's House of Horrors, if you investigate a mousehole by putting your hand in, you are rewarded with touching mouse droppings.
  • The fourth Mega Man Battle Network game has an example similar to the one in Roman Holiday. The statue asks Lan to stick his hand in its mouth so it can confirm his identity and says it will bite it off if he's lying. Lan is creeped out but does it so he can participate in the Tournament Arc. Lan's hand comes out okay, and there was a biometrics authenticator inside which he needed to interact with.
  • In Prince of Persia 3D, a guard opens a door sticking his hand into a hole in the wall. If you try exactly the same immediately your arm is trapped and it's game over. You need a bracelet for it to work.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land: in the Underwater Ruins dungeon Tethyth, protagonist Ein is asked to put his hand inside the gaping mouth of a lion statue. It results in an increase to his stats. However, you can also put the Team Pet in, with humorous results.
  • RuneScape during one quest you have to retrieve some dog hair to make a potion, and the only way to get some is to stick your arm into a dog kennel that is the home of a horrible unseen monster (or maybe just a normal dog). The game gives you detailed creepy descriptions of what you feel as you move your hand around inside the kennel.
  • Silent Hill:
    • James of Silent Hill 2 has no problems sticking his hand down an incredibly filthy toilet (without even rolling up his sleeve first!) to retrieve a clue; in the next game, if you have a save on the same memory card, Heather approaches a similar toilet and recoils, wondering out loud who would do such a disgusting thing.
    • Also in Silent Hill 2 there is a scene when James has to reach into the hole to obtain a key. In Silent Hill: Homecoming Alex also has two "hole times" and he can even be killed when doing this if he fails a Press X to Not Die prompt.
    • In the fourth game, Henry's irrational fear of toilets seems a bit silly given how he'd been crawling through or jumping down plenty of mysterious holes without hesitation, and even reaches into the pocket of a corpse to retrieve a Plot Coupon.
  • These were added as part of the tombs in The Sims 3 World Adventure. They can hide switches to deactivate (or sometimes activate) traps or hide treasure. They are also sometimes full of bugs that causes sims to freak out in addition to the switch or treasure. Sims without the Brave trait will refuse to stick their hand in one if they were recently covered in bugs.
  • In Space Quest, don't look in the hole in the cliffside, or the creature in the hole will eat you and spit your bones out.
  • Two Tomb Raider games feature this as part of the game mechanic: The Last Revelation and Chronicles. It gets clever later on when Lara has to stick her hand in a hole from which flames shoot out intermittently.
  • Hilariously reversed in Acclaim's NES adaption of Total Recall (1990), where enemies will punch blindly through holes in wooden fences in a desperate attempt to hit the player character. The Broken Pixels crew and the Joueur du Grenier identified these as glory holes:
    "Aaah! What's coming out of this hole?! Maybe I should put it in my mouth..."
    "I have my idea about what this is, but I heard children are watching this video..."
  • Uncharted:
    • A variant without a hole in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: Nathan Drake carefully pulling a scroll from the clutches of a skeleton. He screams in terror when he touches the scroll but Nate being Nate, merely turns out to be screwing with his companions.
    • Drake's Deception has a true example, wherein there are switches located inside suspicious-looking holes in a hidden pillar somewhere in Syria. If you stick your hand in willy-nilly, Elena will warn you just when Nate gets his hand nearly crushed, and you take some damage. Nate can also take damage without a warning and complain that something bit him, which foreshadows the re-appearance of the spider swarms.
    • A Thief's End also has this with the first pirate puzzle in Scotland: you have to stick your hand in one to pull a switch to complete a puzzle and open the door forward. If the puzzle solution is wrong, you get impaled with spikes from the wall and floor, which you have to stand in range of to lean in and pull the switch. It claimed a poor soul 600 years prior, and Sam will abjectly tell Nate to check the puzzle again if you haven't gotten it right.


    Web Original 
  • From a YouTube video, The Black Hole.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-645 references the Bocca della Verita sculpture mentioned below. Then takes it to its logical conclusion of sorts.
    • SCP-688 can easily produce this.
  • The web novella Ted's Caving Page revolves around the title character, an amateur spelunker, discovering a fist-sized hole in a cave and endeavoring not just to stick his hand in, but to open it up and crawl through to find out what's on the other side. Cosmic Horror Story ensues.
  • Whateley Universe: Tennyo's Easter (Chapter 3) has The Captain’s Chest, which generations of treasure seekers had tried to open. Tennyo could only open it because of her regeneration. She had to squeeze a handle to open it and when she reached the handle, her hand was disintegrated multiple times before she could squeeze. Presumably, anyone else trying would have lost their hand as well, just without being able to regenerate it.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens in the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Scratch and Grounder are sent to find Robotnik's new invention, "Speedamint Gum" when it goes missing. Scratch tries to look for it in a treehole, describing the feeling as "sticky, nasty, ikkey, and gooey". It turns out to be treesap, to which Grounder takes offense to every time Scratch tries to explain what it is.
    Scratch: "It's sap from the tree! I'm not calling you a sap!"
    Grounder: "You're not?"
    Scratch: "No. I'm calling you an idiot!!!"
  • Bob's Burgers: Louise plays with this trope in the Halloween episode "Full Bars" when confronted with an unattended 'honor system' bowl of candy. She muses "I wonder what happens if I take two?", reaches in and screams in horror. The other kids react in terror and she chirps "What do you know — nothing!"
  • Drawn Together parodies the Wood Beast from Flash Gordon by using it as a test to see if someone is gay. Xandir had to stick his hand in a hole and if the Wood Beast bit him, then he was gay. It took off his entire hand (it grew back of course).
  • In the Family Guy episode "Peter-assment", while Peter is continuing being harassed by his boss Angela, she tells him to put his hand in a hole.
    Peter: Ohhh...ohhh...oh, god. I really hope there's a hungry horse back there.
  • Futurama: During a Robot Uprising, the garbage disposal assures the team that it's still on their side, and hey look, someone dropped a shiny ring down here! The others have to stop Amy from going for it.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Dipper vs. Manliness", part of Dipper's manliness training with the Manotaurs involves putting his hand in the "Pain Hole". Judging by Dipper's reaction, whatever's inside of it must have been very painful to touch.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy did a Shout-Out to the Dune example above, having Mindy take the gom jabbar test as part of a talent show. She withdraws her hand from the pain, and the judges take some points off her score for doing so.
  • The Simpsons: Homer tries to get a free Buzz Cola by sticking his hand up inside the vending machine but it gets stuck. The fire department is called and they're going to cut Homer's arm off; then it's discovered that Homer is holding on to the can. Once he lets go his arm comes out easily.
  • South Park: At a Halloween fun house Cartman is blindfolded and then sticks his hand up what turns out to be a horse's ass.

    Real Life 
  • A little rhyme once heard at an aquarium, regarding certain eels: "Stick your hand in a crack and you don't get it back, that's a moray."
  • A number of kids games, like "what's this slimy object?" Also "Lucky dip".
  • A coin-operated fortune-telling machine exists that challenges people to stick their hands into the mouth of a carved stone face to have their fortunes told. That stone head is "La bocca della verità" (the Mouth of Truth), a stone face made in ancient Rome that originally was probably a waste disposal. Many legends from medieval times tell that if you insert your hand into the face's mouth and tell a lie it will eat your hand whole (even if some people managed to trick it through Logic Bombs), and even nowadays it's a major tourist attraction. (Incidentally, it's the one used in the Roman Holiday example above.)
  • The practice of "Noodling," a sort of redneck extreme sport that involves catching catfish by hand. It's done at a time of year when the big she-cats dwell in holes at the bottom of lakes. You swim down to the bottom until you see a likely looking hole, then reach in and try to taunt the catfish into biting down on your arm, so you can drag it out and wrestle it to the surface. (A catfish you catch by noodling is likely to weigh upwards of sixty pounds and have jaws nearly a foot wide.) This is particularly insane for three reasons: first, that the hole could very well contain a nest of poisonous snakes, or a large snapping turtle that could de-finger you with one bite; second, even though catfish don't have sharp teeth, they have VERY strong jaws; and third, your arm is likely to get infected from whatever's in the water. There is an account of a noodling expedition where one fellow caught an ENORMOUS catfish... and had to have it removed from his arm with a car jack, losing a good deal of skin in the process.
    • In an episode of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls demonstrates this procedure, although he doesn't dive all the way underwater to do it.
    • This was also featured on an episode of Wreckreation Nation. There they made it clear that noodling is a catch-and-release activity, so after going through that insanity you don't even get dinner to bring home.
    • And, of course, Dirty Jobs did it. It was apparently not catch-and-release there, and Mike did get a nice dinner out of the deal.
    • Also done in Survivorman. Les quits after a few minutes when he decides it's a pretty stupid thing to do.
    • Hillbilly Handfishing is a reality show competition built entirely around doing this.
    • Not exactly noodling, but the principle's the same.
  • Try this in Australia and you will either get your hand crushed into a bloody pulp by a wombat, or be bitten by a spider with half-inch long fangs. This is because the Land Down Under is an Everything Trying to Kill You level.
  • This is one way to catch a monkey. Put something that the monkey wants, like a piece of fruit, into a hole in a tree where the hole is just the size of the monkey's hand. The monkey reaches in and grabs it but then its fist is too big to pull out of the hole. Then you run up and grab the monkey before the monkey realizes that it has to let go in order to run away.
    • This also works on raccoons, and any other animal with vaguely thumb-like appendages and a love for food or shiny things. (Some of whom end up having to be taken to the ER by their frat brothers.)
    • Also, a climbing technique called "hand jamming" involves sticking your fist into a small hole, and clenching it, much like the monkey, but specifically so that it can't be pulled out. Done right, it can save you a lot of energy that would otherwise be expended in holding yourself against the wall. Done badly, it could rip most of the skin off your hand.
  • In the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum there is a hole that says Don't stick your hand in here or something like that.
  • Glory Holes. For men to stick their penises in, and hopefully receive some sort of sexual gratification.
    • Reddit has r/dontputyourdickinthat, for people posting images of things you should not put your dick in, and probably other body parts too.
  • The Twitter user who posted this is clearly fully aware of this trope. As well as at least one of is appearances.
  • From Irish History, there's a story from the 15th century that during a violent feud between the Ormonds and Kildares, the Ormonds sought refuge in a church and barricaded themselves inside. The Earl of Kildare, sick of the feuding, had a hole chopped in the door and thrust his arm into it. If the Ormonds were determined to keep the feud going, he could have lost his arm; instead, the Earl of Ormond grasped his hand, and peace between the families was restored. This story is said to be the origin of the phrase "Chancing your arm", but the evidence doesn't quite support that, as the oldest known use of that phrase in print dates to about four centuries later.
  • The Mawé people of Brazil have a male initiation rite that involves taking hundreds of bullet ants and weaving them into a glove, which the boy must put his hand into for 5 to 10 minutes. When finished, his hand and part of his arm are temporarily paralyzed from the sting, and he may shake uncontrollably for days. And to fully pass the ritual, he has to do it 20 times over several months or even years.


Video Example(s):


Dipper vs. Manliness

For the manotaurs' first test towards manliness, Dipper must plunge his hand into the Pain Hole. Whatever is inside the hole is definitely painful to the touch, if Dipper's Scream Discretion Shot is anything to go by.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / HandInTheHole

Media sources: