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Inn of No Return

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"Why do we never break down at the Four Seasons?"

"Relax," said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
"You can check out any time you like,
"But you can never leave!"

Basically, a place of accommodation that kills its customers and robs their corpses. For unknown reasons, this turns up a lot in French literature/works set in France. Sometimes, to "get more bang for the buck," the proprietors will "serve" their guests as well. One wonders how these places advertise and attract guests/victims, other than the possible curiosity if rumors of their crimes are publicized. See also Hell Hotel and Inn Security, although in the latter, attacks on guests are generally not by the inn's owners.

If it is just impossible to leave (without any threats to your safety), and you stay forever because it's pleasurable, see Lotus-Eater Machine.


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  • Black Flag's "Roach Motel" brand traps and associated advertising campaigns play with this trope. "Roaches check in... but they don't check out!"

    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman (1989) issue "The Hunt," the protagonist of the story-within-a-story stops for the night in an inn like this. He survives; it's heavily implied that the innkeeper doesn't.
  • Parodied in Smax when he visits his homeworld that lampoons fairytale tropes. The health department won't let the innkeeper charge any higher because Robyn's room has a pea under her mattresses and the innkeeper will come in to Smax's room and stretch him if he's too short or cut him if he's too tall like in the Theseus myth mentioned below.
  • One Warhammer Fantasy comic has its hero, a Sigmarite Witch Hunter, stay at an inn like this but is smart enough not to trust the innkeeper. Turns out the entire town has dedicated itself to Nurgle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • L'Auberge rouge (The Red Inn), a 1951 French film Very Loosely Based on a True Story in which a couple of innkeepers kill their customers to keep their goods, until the day a monk (Fernandel) comes at the inn. Had a remake in 2007.
  • The bar in From Dusk Till Dawn is really a feeding ground for vampires.
  • Frontier(s) has one run by a family of cannibalistic neo-Nazis.
  • Played with in The Happiness of the Katakuris, where the innkeepers aren't trying to kill their guests. Everyone who stays dies, and it bothers the owners.
  • Hell House LLC:
    • The Abaddon Hotel is rumored to be one before it is abandoned years before the events of the film take place.
    • In the sequel Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel, it's very much the exception for people to leave the hotel instead of the rule. A handful of thrillseekers seem to survive but most don't. Former guests are stuck in the hotel, never able to leave.
  • The Hostel films take this trope and just roll with it.
  • Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons features a large, remote inn in the mountains run by Zhu Bajie, where any unsuspecting guest is killed and made as stuffing to spice up the large roast pigs for the next guest to come along, all covered up by illusions. The protagonist and a demon hunter barely make it out despite being able to see through the illusions.
  • Motel Hell, in which the owner and his sister make sausages out of the guests.
  • The 1992 Hong Kong action film New Dragon Gate Inn features Maggie Cheung as the innkeeper at a remote inn where she occasionally seduces the guests, murders them, carves them up, and makes them into meals for the other patrons.
  • Night At The Eagle Inn: The titular Eagle Inn is a weird hotel managed by an ever weirder man where a pair of twins investigate the mysterious disappearance of their father. It turns out to be an actual supernatural place, bound by a contract to a devil to get 100 souls to commit suicide in each of the inn's rooms and trap them there.
  • Psycho has the infamous Bates Motel.
  • In A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die!, Col. Pembroke and his men encounter a family of seemingly religious homesteaders who invite them in to share a meal and stay the night. However, while searching the farm Will finds the body of the their missing member MacIvers in the barn with his throat cut. The amount of possessions stored in the barn indicate the fanily has been robbing and murdering travellers for some time.
  • A variation of this occurs in Stardust, when the witch Lamia builds an inn out of magic for the express purpose of luring the heroine there so she can cut out her heart. Although she fails to kill her intended victim, she does kill and rob the only other patron who happens to show up at her inn that night; the party who was following them turns up the next morning to find the dead man naked in a bathtub, and no trace of the magical inn.
  • The hotel in Vacancy has owners who use the hotel to make films of their grisly murders.

  • Fighting Fantasy have a few examples:
    • In Spectral Stalkers, if, for some baffling reason you chose to spend a night in a place called the Inn of No Return, you risk getting drugged by the inn's keeper, who will murder you and sell your flesh to goblins for food.
    • A less ominous-sounding example, the second Sorcery! book has a place called the Wayfarer's Rest where you can stop over for a night. The owner won't drug you or anything, but he will strap you to a guillotine while you sleep, forcing you to either pull or release the cord attached to your wrist. Make the wrong choice and your adventure ends immediately, but the right choice will have you leaving without a hitch.

  • Lampshaded and Subverted then Inverted in The Black Company series (The White Rose). A wayside inn is taken over by deserters from the Lady's army. Croaker refers to them as Trapdoor Spiders. The remnant of the Company stays the night, scouting the Deserters as they, in turn attempt to scout the company, and are allowed on their way. The Deserters attack on the road the next day, and get counter ambushed by the squad mages.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Harfang was the castle of the Gentle Giants of the far north. The castle was ruled by a giant king and queen, and housed many giants and dogs. The giants of Harfang regularly consumed Narnians, including Humans and Talking beasts. Humans in particular formed a traditional part of the Autumn Feast as Man Pie, and were served between the fish and the meat.
  • In Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo one of the antagonists, Caderousse, owns an inn of ill reputation. When he receives a diamond from the Count he immediately runs after a jeweler. The jeweler gives him money for the diamond, but has to spend a night in the inn due to bad weather. Caderousse, influenced by his greedy wife, decides to murder the jeweler, so he would have both the money and diamond. He succeeds, but in the ensued fight his wife gets murdered and later Caderousse gets caught.
  • The hero of Larry Niven's Destiny's Road hears a tale about an inn that was run by escaped prisoners who killed and ate travelers. This is a bit jarring, since he was one of the escaped prisoners, and while they didn't do anything illegal there except steal the power to run the place, it does mean the authorities might be aware he survived his escape from prison.
  • The "DON'T GO INN" in Galaxy of Fear. Well, if you see the sign and don't leave within the day it's likely too late. The ground eats people; the whole planet sort of serves as the "inn". In this case the slow rate of very carefully concealed disappearances and the friendly Enzeem work to make sure a small but not insignificant number of people stop by.
  • In a short story by Frank Herbert, a honeymooning couple on their way to Vegas become trapped in a hotel which imprisons gamblers. Although it doesn't actively attempt to kill them, no-one has ever left.
  • High School Prodigies Have It Easy Even in Another World gives us a probably unique sympathetic example: due to cruel edicts driving them to poverty and starvation, a farming village has turned to this as their only way to survive. They know what they're doing is wrong, hate themselves for doing it, and confess when Shinobu confronts them.
  • Used to real Shoot the Shaggy Dog effect in Camus' story "The Inn", which he also wrote as a play titled Cross Purposes. In brief, a guy abandons his family at a young age and then comes home rich to the inn run by his mother and sister with the intent of bettering their lives. They don't recognize him and have gotten in the habit of killing and robbing customers. They do this to him, discover who he was, and suicides ensue.
  • Roald Dahl's story "The Landlady", although in this case, the killer is simply psycho rather than greedy.
  • Venta Quemada in the The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, which is also a Haunted House (it is abandoned and the 'innkeepers' are a pair of shapeshifting ghosts).
  • In "Raven's Eyrie", the eponymous inn. Before Kane's raid, it used to be a popular caravanserai, however, as it turns out, not all of its customers survived the night. Its single rooms—for particularly wealthy guests, of course—had hidden entrances, while a tunnel leading to nearby river Cotras provided convenient means of getting rid of the bodies. And the disappearances could always be blamed on bandits, like Kane.
  • The short story "The Red Inn" by Honoré de Balzac is a good example, and was filmed twice as a horror comedy, even closer to this trope.
  • Kenji Miyazawa's eponymous Restaurant of Many Orders. The "guests" finally caught on about the time they figured out the "cologne" was actually vinegar.
  • The Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet: Crossing a sparsely populated forest on his journey to Sweden, Hallfred meets farmer Bjorn who straightaway invites him to stay with him for the night and behaves "most hospitable". In the night, Bjorn suddenly "thrust[s] a weapon into [Hallfred's] bed", but Hallfred, being suspicious of Bjorn, has already left his bed and drawn his sword, and thus kills Bjorn. Bjorn's wife and farmhands then try to frame Hallfred for murder, but eventually fail.
  • In the H. P. Lovecraft short story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth", the residents of Innsmouth attempt to break into the narrator's room at the Inn. He thinks they want to kill him, presumably to keep the secrets of the town hidden from outsiders. The narrator actually references the trope in the story, wondering if it is one of those hotels where travelers are slain for money (despite his obviously lack of excessive prosperity) and his preparation is what allows him to escape the inn and then the town. The ending implies that they wanted to catch him for other reasons...
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows In Zamboula," Aram Baksh's inn. He survives by murdering only strangers.
  • Happens in "Rattle of Bones", one of the Solomon Kane short stories by Robert E. Howard. The Cleft Skull Tavern is run by a man who claims he was falsely imprisoned in the Karlsruhe dungeons. He now murders all travellers who stop at his inn as revenge on all men for his false imprisonment. Although, to be fair, perhaps the name The Cleft Skull Tavern should have been a bit of a warning.
  • A classic example appears early in Robert R. McCammon's historical fiction novel Speaks The Nightbird.
  • Sbirro's restaurant in mystery writer Stanley Ellin's short story "The Speciality of the House", also adapted as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • In Isaac Bashevis Singer's Stories for Children, one story, "The Fearsome Inn", tells of an inn run by a married couple of two witches/demons who would lure and trap lost travelers.
  • Wilkie Collins' story "A Terribly Strange Bed" is a famous example, and is set in Paris, and has an inn which is in cahoots with a crooked gambling den.
    • Joseph Conrad's story "The Inn of the Two Witches" has a similar premise and an identical method of killing customers. This similarity may have been an accident, the product of both authors hearing similar traveler's tales.
      • William Hope Hodgson wrote a story titled "The Inn of the Black Crow" which again, has a similar plot and murder method. This story was anthologized in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives, where the editor commented something like "no points for guessing the writer Hodgson was plagiarizing."
  • Practically every inn in Water Margin seems to murder and rob its customers at least some of the time. Given Grey-and-Gray Morality of the novel, several of these innkeepers are among the heroes of the story.
  • Das Wirtshaus im Spessart ("The inn in the Spessart") by Wilhelm Hauff - a mixed group of travellers have to stay the night in a creepy inn in the Spessart forest and discover it is a den of a gang of robbers and highwaymen. One of them is sent out to fetch help from the military while the others barricade themselves in a room. To stay awake, they take turns telling fairy tales and other stories. This framing story was turned into a successful West German movie in the 1950s (with two sequels) leaving out the fairy tales.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The eponymous Bates Motel.
  • The Criminal Minds team went after a Bates-style serial killer in "Paradise". Played by Wil Wheaton of all people. So the ending of the episode has Wesley Crushed.
  • CSI: "Check In and Check Out" features a modern take on the trope, with a particular room in a sleazy motel where five brutal murders take place in a space of weeks. It turns out the voyeuristic owner has been dosing the guests in that particular room with LSD to observe the results, which are often fatal.
  • The eponymous pub in the Jonathan Creek episode "Mother Redcap." A bit of a subversion though, as these were planned murders of specific individuals who the landlord had taken money to 'get rid of'.
  • In the fifth series of Supernatural , a hotel sprung up in the middle of nowhere, which trapped tourists in order to feed them to the gods. The gods were there to discuss what to do about Lucifer's return.

  • The Blue Öyster Cult may refer to this in the concept of Conroy's Bar in Before the Kiss - Conroy's may be a place where vampires gather for a convivial social drink...
    • In the song Astronomy, the Four Winds Bar may well be a place that people enter but do not leave - or at least not by the same door... not necessarily because of malevolent intent, but because you might go in through a door on Earth, realise the four winds Bar stands outside time and space, and you cannot find the door again...
    Four doors at the Four Winds Bar;
    Two doors locked and windows barred,
    One door left to take you in,
    The other one just mirrors it...
  • L'Auberge Sanglante, a song by Malicorne, is about a traveler ending up in one such inn. Fortunately for him, he escapes the death trap with the help of a young maid.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism is the dubious hospitality of the wicked blacksmith Procrustes, of Greek myth, and the proprietor of the Ur-example. Procrustes had a spare room and a spare iron bed, which he would offer to people who came past his house (as it was on a major road a little outside Athens, there were a lot of those). The bed would prove either too short or too long for the guests, at which point Procrustes would get his tools out. If the bed was too long, he would stretch the guest to fit it; too short, and he would cut them down to size. (If the guest looked to be about the right size, Procrustes secretly had two beds.) Procrustres then got a big taste of his own medicine when he tried to do this to Theseus. One version had Theseus simply chop Procrustes to bits with an ax; other versions claim he made the evil innkeeper fit his own bed. No one ever said whether he was too long or too short, though, although one version has Theseus keep moving him from one bed to the other, chopping and stretching as needed.
  • There are Chinese tales about bandit-run inns who serve human meat, although this trope is likely to pop up in any culture where people travel. One of these was named "Three Cups and you cannot cross the Mountain," referring to their rice wine-based house drink, which rendered travellers unconscious and ready for butchering.
  • Likewise, Japan has myths about a mysterious "Sparrow's Inn," where shapeshifting birds lure humans in and kill them in their sleep, presumably to eat them.
  • The original Sweeney Todd legend fits this pretty well, as do its adaptations.
  • One of the later miracles attributed to St. Nicholas has him raising to life three boys/young men who were killed and placed in a pickling barrel by an innkeeper during a famine.
  • A story from the chinese book <Hedong ji>(河東記, 'Records from East of the River'), by Xue Yusi tells of a beautiful innkeeper who is actually a wicked sorceress. She would serve travelling merchants breakfast of pancakes which would turn them into donkeys, and then she would sell them and take all their belongings. A merchant saw this, escaped, and managed to trick the innkeeper into eating her own pancake, thereby turning her into a donkey and putting a stop to her scheme.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure module The Apocalypse Stone. The devil prince Moloch is following the players so he can get revenge on them. He has his minions slaughter everyone in an inn and then cast an illusion over the place so that when the party arrives everything looks normal. The minion in disguise offers the party food, mentioning the inn's special pork buns, and after they eat he asks if they want to stay the night. When they wake up in the morning they're all laying on beds of spikes and razors and when they come downstairs they see that the inn is a bloody mess. There is one table set with a tray of pork buns with a note on it that hints at exactly what was in the buns...
  • Often operated by shapeshifting demons in Legend of the Five Rings, to the point where the Crab Clan have code words to warn each other without alerting the proprietors that they've been found out.
  • Several examples in Ravenloft, notably how the Mindefisk sisters made their living.

    Video Games 
  • Avernum:
    • There's a house on an island in the middle of nowhere. When the party gets in, they are served food by invisible servants, and have beds prepared. If they agree to such treatment, rather than violently wreck the place on first sight, they wake up groggy and weak, for they only consumed illusions of food - to fight a horde of hungry spirit creatures.
    • In Avernum 3: exploring further east than the quests provide any need to will bring your party to an isolated town that appears unpopulated and undisturbed, except for a sickly odor, difficult to identify. A single inhabitant welcomes you to his Inn.
  • Breath of Fire II has the Wildcat Cafe, in which you are politely instructed to discard your equipment, pick up your utensils and season yourself liberally, culminating in a fight with the chef after a trip across a hot grill. Partly subverted in that the Wildcat Cafe is happy to serve patrons who are strong enough to fight their way in. They serve everybody else, too...
  • Boxxyquest The Gathering Storm: The inn of the Village of /x/ is haunted by an evil spirit who has killed all the unfortunate travelers that have rested inside and slaved their souls. You are given the option to fight it in the middle of the night. If you do so and defeat the apparition, the souls will be free and the inn will remain empty for the rest of the game. If you lose, then Cathy and Co. will joint the rest of the tormented spirits inside the inn for all eternity.
  • The Gilman Hotel in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, as Jack discovers the owner is a serial killer who tortures his guests to death and eats them, and has a back office full of body parts.
  • Chained Echoes: The White Rose Inn, which seems to be an ordinary inn, but is actually run by a Mad Scientist that uses the place to abduct passing travelers so he can experiment on them, which almost always results in their deaths.
  • In Cthulhu Saves the World, the party goes to sleep in Innsmouth Inn. Just as expected from what work this game references, Cthulhu and his party get attacked by villagers. However, Cthulhu proves why he's the Trope Namer for Do Not Taunt Cthulhu and thoroughly thwacks them. If Cthulhu's quote is any indication, they do that to every outsider, but he didn't expect them to turn on against him. As it turns out, Dagon commanded them to attack Cthulhu, and so he heads out to teach him a lesson.
  • The Rusty Lake Hotel from the Cube Escape series invites 5 guests to the hotel for a week. It is your job to make sure they are properly "served" during their stay.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The Stumbling Sabrecat Tavern in Fort Dunstad, Skyrim. The fact that it is located in a bandit fort could be enough of a warning; however, the bandits in the fort tend to keep to themselves when you approach and enter the tavern, only going aggro when you try to leave. If/when the fort is cleared and reoccupied by the military, soldiers put an end to this business and block the very entrance to the tavern with spiked barriers.
  • The Ultra-Luxe Casino (which includes hotel facilities) is rumored to be this in Fallout: New Vegas. In reality, the only cannibals are Mortimer and a small group of his followers, who want to return the White Glove Society to its old customs. The rest are okay.
  • One turns up in Jade Empire. With a slight twist- everyone apart from the cook is actually a mutant cannibal creature disguised by magic; they keep the human cook around to make things seem more "normal."
  • King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! has the EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL innkeeper who will have one of his goons rub you out, tie you up, and throw you in the basement if you try to check in. And if you escape and try to check in again, YOU ARE DEAD.
  • There was one in Suikoden, but they were actually members of the resistance. Imagine their surprise when they accidentally poison the hero's party, which resistance leader Odessa is a member of.
  • The "Sparrow's Inn" folktale is referenced in Touhou Project with Mystia Lorelei, a night sparrow youkai. People going through the forest are often struck with night-blindness, when they come across her grilled-lamprey stand she tells them her lampreys can cure this condition (lampreys having eight eyes, they actually were thought to heal blindness). Naturally, she's the one who caused the blindness in the first place (as seen in her boss battle, where she causes the visible screen to shrink to a small circle around the player) and just has to lift the curse after they give her money.


    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia had an episode where the Plantars and Anne are nearly eaten by a bunch of Bullfrogs who operate a motel.
  • One episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog features this, with the owner being Katz.
  • DuckTales (2017) features this in "House of the Lucky Gander!" Invited by Gladstone Gander to enjoy a taste of the good life, Scrooge, Donald, the triplets and Webby wind up at a luxurious hotel in Macaw, China. Said hotel doubles as a casino and features everything from exotic animals and water dancing to a buffet. Gladstone spends the majority of the episode hanging around Donald and encouraging him to play all of the games despite Donald's awful luck. Concluding that Gladstone wanted to make himself look good in front of his nephews, Donald tries to leave; when Gladstone tries to stop him, an ethereal shackle appears around his ankle. He reveals to the family that he cannot leave the inn because the owner is a vampiric spirit that feeds on his natural good luck. He was hoping Donald's bad luck would rub off so he could be free.
  • Looney Tunes: Chuck Jones seemed to really like this trope.
  • The Bates Motel is parodied in Rocko's Modern Life.
    "Yes we have a vacancy, and we've got showers in all the rooms. What's that?! Will you excuse me? Coming, Mother!
  • The House of Yesterday's Tomorrow serves as this in Tangled: The Series during a 3-episode arc and the innkeeper is actually a servant for the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • The motel Taz and Bushwacker Bob stay at in the Taz-Mania episode "A Midsummer Night's Scream".

    Real Life 
  • From The Other Wiki article on Cave-In-Rock, Illinois: Isaiah L. Potts operated Potts Inn on the Ford's Ferry Road in Illinois, where travelers checked in, but sometimes failed to check out. It's noted in the Life Treasury of American Folklore p. 123: "Potts succeeded in persuading travelers to remain all night at his inn. Tradition says many a man took his last drink at Pott's Spring and spent his last hour on Earth in Pott's House."
  • H.H. Holmes and his Murder Castle.
  • Burke and Hare.
  • The Bloody Benders.
  • There was supposedly an inn called The Ostrich in Colnbrook, Berkshire, England where the owner and his wife would put rich guests into a special room with a trapdoor in the floor by the bed. When the guest was sleeping the bed would lift up, sliding them through the trapdoor into boiling ale, and then the owners would steal all their belongings.
  • This recent case has been given the moniker "The real-life Hostel murders."
  • Karl Denke's boarding house.
  • There's a Pennsylvania version set on Hawk Mountain about one Matthias Schaumbaucher, who in the post-Civil War period would bump off the odd wanderer for their goods. His misdeeds were only discovered when he confessed on his deathbed and damaged human skulls were found in a well on the property.
  • While not involving murder on the premises, there were a number of old inns around Britain where the innkeeper would inform local highwaymen whenever a rich customer stayed the night, so they could be robbed a few miles on after they left.
  • Dorothea Puente's boarding house in Sacramento.
  • Raya and Sakina, the first women to be executed in modern Egypt (1921), run such an inn for travelling women in Alexandria and killed their guests to rob them of their money and jewels.
  • The Inn of Peyrebeille in France, nicknamed "L'auberge rouge" ("Red Inn") was the site of an alleged criminal affair. The two owners, Pierre and Marie Martin, helped by their employee Jean Rochette, supposedly murdered a traveller and threw his body in a river nearby. They were also accused of up to fifty other murders, as well many rapes and cannibalism, but none of these were considered seriously at the trial, and some scholars have expressed doubts that any crime happened at all.