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Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere

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"I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on ... hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me — as you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet. Buried alive. Buried alive."
Khan Noonien Singh, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Also known as an Oubliette, the Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere is the least dramatic Death Trap of all. Not being an elaborate plan of disposing of enemies, the sealed room is usually more of an opportunistic ploy — the good guys have gone into an Abandoned Mine or ancient crypt or isolated cave of their own volition, and the villain just takes this lucky chance to seal them in forever. Of course, forever turns into the twenty minutes or so it takes the hero to find an alternate way out, hidden door, or occasionally to be rescued. Sometimes the stakes are raised by having the room slowly fill with water, lowering a bladed Pendulum of Death or hearing the hiss of poison gas.

The quiet solitude of this trap can be used to effect a Locked in a Freezer plot between two characters.

Sometimes the tension of this Death Trap is increased by use of a good old-fashioned slowly-sealing door, which the good guys fail to squeeze through at the last second, or using a very small and unventilated space like a bank safe where the trappee will theoretically soon run out of air.

This trope might have roots in the Greek myth of Antigone, who performed funeral rites for her dead brother — a traitor to the state — and was sentenced to death by her uncle, King Creon. The death sentence was, simply, being sealed in a cave to die of hunger/dehydration. In the play by Sophocles, Creon later had regrets, but when he tried to let her out she had already hanged herself (It is a tragedy, what did you expect?).

This trap is often encountered in Medieval settings — the original Oubliettes were cellar rooms at the basement of the heaviest fortified tower in the stronghold, called the donjon (hence dungeon, an alternative spelling) with access only through a trap door at the upper floor.

See also Tailor-Made Prison and Closed Circle. Compare And I Must Scream and Maximum Fun Chamber. Super-Trope to the various structures with No Entrance.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Acts of Vengeance, Loki gathers several supervillains together for a scheme against The Avengers. Among the group are the Red Skull and Magneto. The Red Skull was Adolf Hitler's right-hand man. Magneto is a survivor of The Holocaust. So, in the Captain America portion of the crossover, Magneto takes the opportunity to seal the Skull in an underground chamber with just enough water to survive, but no way to escape. The Skull is eventually rescued by his henchman Crossbones, who has to hire a Seers-type Occult Detective to find him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW): Twilight and Fluttershy fall into an abandoned one of these in the first story arc. A trap like this is of course no problem for Fluttershy, a pegasus... especially since Twilight just teleports them out anyway. Twilight helpfully defines the term "oubliette" for the target audience.
  • Superman: Red Son: The Soviet Batman attempts to trap Comrade of Steel in a bunker permanently illuminated with Red Sun lamps. However, Superman manages to break free with Wonder Woman's help.
  • Ultimate Comics Thor: Loki was trapped by Odin in the Room Without Doors on the Island of Silence... until he managed to escape.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Pooh nearly suffers this fate in Pooh's Grand Adventure by getting trapped in a pit in a cavern with walls that are too slippery to climb, with seemingly no possibility of rescue because his friends think that he was killed. Before getting rescued, he realizes that he is never alone so it isn't so bad.


  • 2D's current location in the Gorillaz narrative is the basement of Plastic Beach, an artificial island in the middle of the ocean. He's being held captive and forced to sing by Murdoc, and the isolation of the place is one of the things that makes this possible.
  • Finnish song Balladi Olavinlinnasta (Ballad of Castle Olavinlinna) tells about a girl who is masoned inside a chamber in the castle wall because of treason. Castle Olavinlinna is a real castle. According to the legend, her tears watered a rowan tree which grew on the bailey wall. The rowan, which was centuries old, finally fell on a stormy night in 1950.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • This trope is well encountered in Nordic folklore. A traitor — usually a young lady who has fallen in love with an enemy warlord — is masoned inside a castle or town wall as punishment for her treason and left to die of starvation. This trope is present at Castle Olavinlinna in Finland, town of Visby in Sweden, Castle Kuressaare and Põlva in Estonia and town of Haapsalu in Estonia.

  • The episode "No Way Out, No Way In" of Adventures in Odyssey has Mr. Whitaker waking up severely injured and in need of medical attention in a room with no doors or windows and no memory of how he ended up there. His only hope of survival is to convince the mentally disturbed man that lives in the room to go get help.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The effective purpose of the spell "imprisonment" is to trap the target in a sealed chamber, deep underground. Granted, they are in a magically sustained stasis until the end of the world (or the spell is removed by its reverse, "freedom"), so it isn't actually played for drama after the effect, except possibly as a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Also the spell "maze" for a similar effect which the target will eventually escape on its own.
  • Baron Lyron Evensong, a minor darklord of Ravenloft, is cursed with a version of this trope. Every evening, he's compelled to return to the music room of his residence and close himself inside, remaining until dawn. To the rest of the world, he's there overnight, but to him the world outside the room vanishes and leaves him stuck there for 100 years: magically-sustained and ageless, but stir-crazy and bored out of his mind. Any unfortunates he can lure into staying in the room with him through dusk experience this trope also... unfortunately for them, without the benefits of agelessness.

  • The Opera Aida ends with Radames sentenced to death by starvation/dehydration in a tomb for unknowingly revealing the location of the Egyptian army to the king of Ethiopia. It's a happy ending, though, because Aida sneaks in before the door is sealed, and they get to die together. What? This is opera we're talking about, that is a happy ending!
    • The musical has both Radames and Aida sentenced to this, with Amneris interceding to give them the small mercy of being allowed to endure it together, but also makes it a little happier by revealing that Aida and Radames find each other in a later reincarnation.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit is about three people locked in a hotel room. It turns out they've died and gone to hell. Their punishment is to have to suffer each other's company for the rest of eternity. As the protagonist famously says: "Hell is other people."
  • Some of Samuel Beckett plays (Waiting for Godot, Krapp's Last Tape) have elements of this.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zero Escape series:
    • In Virtue's Last Reward, 9 people are trapped in a warehouse not knowing the exact location. They are forced to play a game where they need 9 points to open a door that leads outside. However, the door only opens once and once it closes, it stays closed forever trapping whoever didn't make it outnote .
    • In Zero Time Dilemma, 9 people are trapped in another warehouse in the middle of the desert. This time, the rule is that 6 people must die in order for the door to be opened and just like the prequel, the door only opens once and anyone who didn't leave are trapped.

    Web Animation 
  • In The Amazing Digital Circus, the cellar is where many abstracted creatures are locked away so that they do not rampage through the circus or do further damage. These monsters used to be people, but they lost stability while trying to leave the software. The tortures in the simulation along with the inability to die caused them to become so insane that they get corrupted and start spreading the glitch.

  • Madness Combat: Scrapeface was locked inside of a room somewhere in Nevada. His hands were locked inside of a trap. Despite not having arms, his hands have a magnetic pull towards his body. The trap sealed the hands away and pulled them upwards above the ceiling, repeatedly scraping both them and his body on the concrete walls.

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, the acting troupe manages to stumble into an oubliette. The traitor asks if anyone knows how to get out and then, when everyone answers in the negative, escapes via grapple gun.

    Web Original 
  • In The Onion's reality TV series parody, the eponymous Sex House appears to be this.
    Derek: "I wanted to take a walk, and get some food, and think about why I'm here, but the door was locked. And we had to give up our phones, and we don't have Internet access."

    Western Animation 
  • In Archer, at one point Barry kidnaps Malory and locks her, Bound and Gagged, in an underground chamber with air provided by a pump. The rest of the main cast have to help him before she runs out of air. However, since she's a Retired Badass, her escape makes up the B-plot of the episode.
  • Invader Zim features a rather unique version of this: A Room with a Moose. It is a dimension that consists entirely of just that: one room whose sole occupant is a moose. You can't get any more "In The Middle Of Nowhere" than a pocket dimension with no means of escaping it.
  • Part 2 of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic's season 2 finale opens with Twilight having been trapped in a secluded, crystalline cavern. Princess Cadance's imposter explains that these are the caves beneath Canterlot, which have been almost entirely forgotten and block all sounds made from within, meaning that Twilight has no hope of being rescued (the implication being that she'll eventually die of thirst or hunger). Fortunately, Twilight is so powerful that, in a fit of rage, she manages to magically blast her way through the magically-resistant crystal walls.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, Squidward temporarily ends up in a blank, white "void" as a result of a time-traveling mishap. Though he's initially delighted by the solitude of the place, the experience quickly turns into a nightmare as his every spoken word becomes visible, turning into garishly-colored fonts that quickly fill up the screen. Attempting to run away in any direction only takes him back to his starting point. (Fortunately, he quickly breaks through the "floor" of the room and falls back into his time machine.)
  • Star Wars Rebels, "Path of the Jedi": Masters whose Padawans failed the test remain trapped in the hall of the Lothal Temple forever, as the temple will only open for both Master and Padawan in either direction. This ensures that a master who failed their padawan by taking them on such a vision quest when they weren't ready dies alongside their student instead of going on to take on any more padawans.
  • The episode "Friend Ship" of Steven Universe features Peridot attempting to trap the Crystal Gems inside a very old, abandoned gem spacecraft. Fortunately, her inability to work the archaic technology (as well as Pearl and Garnet making up after a recent conflict and being able to fuse into Sardonyx once again) enables them to catch up to Peridot so she is forced to escape, leaving them with a way out as well.

    Real Life 
  • Extreme cases of solitary confinement combined with life imprisonment can border on this.
  • Leap Castle, thought to be the most haunted castle in Ireland, has an oubliette that was discovered to be filled with bones. So many, in fact, they filled three carts when it was emptied. The scariest thing was, a pocket watch from the 1840s was also found in there, long after the castle was thought to be abandoned...
  • Oubliettes in general have some of this, as the name indicates it's something you forget about. After you've shoved someone in there.
  • Elizabeth Bathory. Since she was a noble, she couldn't be executed for her multiple murders (as her servants were). So she was locked in her room for the rest of her life with no human contact (save for a slot in the door, though which they'd slide her food). She lasted three years.
  • Standard punishment for Vestal Virgins who broke (or were accused of breaking) their vows of chastity. Spilling their blood was forbidden, but so was burying someone alive in Rome. Sealing them in a room with a few days' worth of food and water so that the room is "technically" habitable, though...
  • There are legends in several countries in Southeastern Europe about people, usually women, being "built in" as a form of human sacrifice into a newly constructed building or bridge, so that the construction will hold. Some later versions tell that the person's shadow was walled in, which soon after led to their death. These legends have inspired many similar folk songs and tales in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, though whether such a practice truly existed in these regions in ancient times is still up for debate, since there is little proof.
  • In ancient Egypt, a dead pharaoh was typically buried with all the things he would need to ensure a comfortable afterlife - such as food, fine clothing, and all his favored servants. However, the servants were not required to be dead at the time the tomb was sealed...
  • When Napoleon was exiled a second time, it was made sure that he would never return. He spent the last years of his life on St. Helena, a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,000 km from the nearest coast, which he shared with a small British naval base.


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Trapped in the Well of Souls

The Nazis seals Indy and Marion in the snake-filled Well of Souls.

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