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Shackle Seat Trap

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A stock Booby Trap used by Mad Scientists, Supervillains, and other mechanically-inclined bad guys to take prisoners captive, a Shackle Seat Trap resembles a normal chair, sofa, or bench, at least until someone sits down on it. Once they're seated, either the act of sitting itself or some secondary trigger causes sturdy restraints to pop out of its armrests and/or back, ensnaring the sitter and holding them in place. Miraculously, these restraints will always prove just the right size and length to bind them snugly, whatever the sitter's size and height.

Variants using beds, car seats, operating tables, or other places a potential victim might settle into also occur, though rarely.

Often a form of Schmuck Bait, if the victim already has cause to be wary of traps in the vicinity.

Murphy's Bed is its reclining sister trope.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Nina Paley's Joyride, the seats of the spaceship Puddlejumper have wrist-clamps that trap Hoyt when he sits down. When Patty the hacker suggests she reprogram the ship's AI to stop it from doing things like that, it traps her wrists too.

  • Battle Beyond the Stars. When Shad lands on the space station of Dr. Hephaestus, an automated vehicle with a bench seat turns up to receive him, but when he sits down on it restraints snap shut around his arms and throat, choking Shad so he's unable to speak. The vehicle then takes Shad to Nanelia for repair, apparently in the belief that he's one of their Ridiculously Human Robots who has malfunctioned. She only finds out otherwise when she touches Shad and is shocked to find his body is warm.
  • Live and Let Die. When James Bond sits down inside Mr. Big's headquarters, steel bands in the chair's arms snap shut on his wrists, holding him prisoner.
  • In The Wolverine, the title character is tricked into extending his adamantium claws while he's sitting on a chair in Viper's lair, at which point the chair locks his hands and wrists in place, rendering him unable to retract them. Then Silver Samurai appears and uses his super-heated adamantium blade to cut Wolvie's claws.
  • In A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, when Freddy attacks Sheila in the dream-classroom, hers and Alice's desks sprout extra bars to trap them both.
  • In Ghostbusters (1984), Dana slumps down into a chair, which sprouts grabby demonic arms. These hold her captive as the chair itself slides into a gateway to Zuul's realm.
  • In The Muppet Movie, Mel Brooks forces Kermit into the seat of a brain-scrambling device, and plastic restraints clamp shut on the frog's skinny wrists and ankles.
  • The Super Mario Bros. movie has a chair in Koopa's devolution chamber that straps people in and forces them into the machine. Mario and Luigi later use this against Koopa by knocking him into the chair, briefly de-evolving him so they can escape.
  • In Hardcore Henry, Punk-Jimmy coaxes Henry into one when he realizes that Akan is tapping into Henry's visual feed. It fails to hold Henry for long.
  • 12 Monkeys. When James Cole is brought in to meet the panel of scientists, his guards caution them about how dangerous he is. A scientist assures them that Cole isn't going to do them harm, and asks him to take a seat. Cole sits in the only chair available, whereupon metal clamps close over his wrists and the seat elevates halfway up the wall.
  • The school bus to Sky High (2005) sprouts seat belts and shoulder straps, securing the students in their seats, just before it drives off the unfinished highway and transforms into an aircraft.
  • Prince Naveen from Disney's The Princess and the Frog visits the voodoo villain Doctor Facilier, and finds himself restrained in his chair by armrests that have transformed into serpents. The serpents hold Naveen securely in place while Facilier extracts a blood sample.
  • The Haunting (1999): When Crain's ghost animates the woodwork in Nell's room, ornamental spikes above her bed extend to pierce the mattress all around her, boxing her in.
  • The reclining sled used to launch Runners into the game zone in The Running Man has automatic restraints for ankles and wrists, that pop out and bind whomever sits down in it.
  • Madhouse (1974) features a shackle bed trap. When the victim lies upon it, shackles lock around his wrists and hold him in place as he is crushed to death by the descending canopy.
  • At the climax of Beetlejuice, the titular ghost animates two of the ugly abstract statues. They move up behind Lydia's parents, press against them from behind so they're forced to recline on the awkward sculpted shapes, and enfold or entwine the hapless couple in their protrusions.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: At the lab, Doc Ock hurls Peter B. into a chair which subsequently shackles his arms and legs, allowing Doc Ock to take a cell sample from his cheek.

  • Late into the Fighting Fantasy book Crypt of the Sorcerer, you'll need to get yourself trapped in one of these on purpose in order to confront Razaak, the titular necromancer. Entering a bare room with a single chair built into a wall, you take a seat (choosing not to seat will have you leaving the room and going nowhere), at which point you're suddenly shackled as a disembodied voice from the chair demands you to identify yourself. If you have a zombie's tag, the chair and wall then flips around and the chair released you into Razaak's innermost sanctum; if you don't, a spike then extends from inside the wall and through your back.

  • In Casino Infernale, Molly sits down in an office chair while she and Eddie are searching a room for traps, and metal restraints pop out of it to hold her in place. As Molly is a very powerful witch who doesn't need her hands free to use magic, she just sends them snapping back into the chair with a Word, then glares at Eddie daring him to laugh at her for falling for the chair's Schmuck Bait.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Harry views Dumbledore's memories in the Pensieve, specifically of the wizarding equivalent of the Nuremberg tribunals after Voldemort's defeat. The accused is placed in a chair equipped with chains magicked to automatically bind them when they sit down. When Harry himself is tried for underage magic in Order of the Phoenix, he's relieved when the chains stay still for him.
  • The villains trap Erast Fandorin in one of these during their final confrontation in The Winter Queen. Fandorin manages to escape by pretending they've sedated him with chloroform, when they unshackle and try to move his "unconscious" body.
  • Villain-free variant: In Strata, Kin climbs onto a mechanical horse, only to find her legs trapped by metal bands that spring from its sides. She'd have been quite alarmed, except that the bands are comfortably padded, being a safety measure to ensure riders can't fall off or be crushed if the horse is knocked on its side.
  • In one of the Eric Van Lustbader novels, a KGB general is killed this way during a deadly demonstration of a virtual reality interrogation room. He's told to sit down in the sofa, which restrains him, then the subsequent images cause him to die of a heart attack. It was mentioned earlier that he had a phobia about being restrained as well.
  • In The California Voodoo Game, Captain Cypher accepts the challenge of a loa-possessed video arcade game, and sits down on its contoured seat to play. The plastic seat immediately re-molds itself to wrap around his body, leaving only his arms and head free.
  • Referenced in "The Gypsies in the Wood", in which an agent of the Diogenes Club feels a brief interlude of anxiety when he sits down in an examination chair at the village doctor's office. He knows this particular doctor is no Mad Scientist, but his personal experience with ones that were is such that he can't help but suspect this trope may come into play.
  • In From The Deep Of The Dark, villainess Gemma hauls her captive brother from his cell on board her morphic-matter submarine. She uses her mental domination over the vessel to make tentacular bindings sprout from the chair she forces him into, immobilizing him for interrogation. Subverted, because she's been mesmerized to think she's got her brother at her mercy, while he's actually escaped. Her co-conspirator soon finds Gemma beating the hell out of an empty chair, its shackling tendrils entwining only air.
  • Downplayed in Tomorrow Town. The protagonists get into the Zee Rust monorail train of a community-of-the-future and find that automatic safety belts are being strapped around them. They brace themselves for the implied high-Gee launch, only for the train to amble along at 25 miles an hour. It's an early sign that everything in the community is Awesome, but Impractical.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Deep Breath", the Doctor and Clara get snared by restraints that pop out of the upholstery of a restaurant booth. The whole booth then drops through the floor like an elevator, carrying its captives with it.
    • In "The Androids of Tara", Romana lies down on a bed for examination by a doctor, and metal brackets pop up and encircle her body to hold her there.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess. Celesta, the embodiment of Death, comes to take King Sisyphus to the afterlife at the start of the "Death In Chains" episode. He offers her some food before she takes him. After she sits down, restraints snap around her wrists and he takes away her Eternal Flame, trapping her there.
  • In the Night Gallery episode "A Question Of Fear", Leslie Nielsen gets trapped by a bed that's rigged this way.
    • Another variant in "The House That Cried Murder" features a man being psychically 'trapped' in a vision in which he's chained down to the floor under a swinging blade, The Pit and the Pendulum-style.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Where The Wild Things Are", Spike is sitting in Haunted House, smirking at all the running and screaming going on, when suddenly straps whip across his arms and mouth.
  • On The Orville, Alara gets strapped down by automatic restraints on a sick-bay examination table during a fear-testing simulation she had Isaac design for her.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Strictly Business", Murdoc rigs a Death Trap in which metal clamps spring out of a chair to hold him place, a statue of Cupid spins around automatically, and a candle burns through a string to launch a cyanide-coated dart from Cupid's bow at Mac's heart.

  • Famously used by Hephaestus to prank his mother, Hera.

  • Happens without a seat in the video for Asia's "Don't Cry", when one of the ill-fated explorers leans against the wrong wall and his wrists are trapped this way.

     Tabletop Games 
  • One odd trap in Undermountain, an infamous Forgotten Realms dungeon complex beneath Waterdeep, consists of a canopy bed with a suspiciously-lumpy frame. This is because the "frame" is an animated owlbear skeleton, stretched out on its back. Intruders who sit or lie on the "bed" are subject to its bear-hug attack.

    Video Games 
  • Bioshock Infinite. Near the beginning, the only way for the plot to proceed is for Booker to sit in a chair in the top floor of the lighthouse. Bands snap down trapping him and a lift-off sequence begins.
  • The Evil Within: The chair that you have to sit in to upgrade your abilities does this. The first time it happens, Castellanos freaks out, but afterwards he knows it's coming and just puts up with it.
  • Shantae and the Pirate's Curse: The opening scene shows Shantae taking a bath in her home while reminiscing about the consequences of her previous adventure. Then she remembers she doesn't own a bathtub, and shackles appear, imprisoning her.

    Western Animation 
  • In Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, Colonel Calloway learns too late that he sat in one of these when he visits Ms. Grimwood.
  • Runaway Brain: This happens to Mickey Mouse when he applies for a job under Mad Scientist Doctor Frankenollie. He drops through a Trap Door into exactly this kind of chair, and remarks "Talk about your ironclad contract..."
  • In one of the Wallace & Gromit Cracking Contraptions shorts, Wallace's device for clearing the table includes shackles on the chairs so that he and Gromit don't get sucked in by the vacuum that removes the dirty plates. Unfortunately, the power goes out before they can be freed.
  • Parodied in "Treehouse Of Horror XVIII" episode of The Simpsons, where Bart, Lisa, Milhouse and Nelson are whisked away into Hell and are put in chairs with demon arms that bind them. Nelson pulls his hands upward before he can get bound, but another set of arms pops out.
    • In the episode Burns' Heir, Mr. Burns hits the wrong button and the chair Bart is sitting in suddenly sprouts shackles.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, just about any time Perry the Platypus sits down whenever his nemesis Doofenshmirtz is around, it's in one of these.
  • Spongebob falls victim to this after being crowned the King of Karate in the episode "Karate Island". He is shackled to his own throne.
  • Wild Kratts: In "Octopus Windkratticus", Martin sits down in one of the Octo-pod's seats and is wrapped by eight flexible appendages that hold him down. He initially assumes they're automatic seat belts, but they're the arms of a giant Pacific octopus that's clinging to the back of the chair.
  • Ruby-Spears' Mega Man cartoon had Roll thrown into a makeup chair in episode 2, which restrained her.
  • Used on Zach and Ivy in an episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?. Ivy, however, was able to stand up in the heavy steel chair, and nearly burst her restraints, when a rogue judge pushed her Berserk Button by threatening to jail Carmen Sandiego without a fair trial.
  • Teen Titans Go!: When Robin finds Terra hacking the Titans' computer in "Terra-rized", he sics the T-Tower's defenses on her. Among the resulting auto-defenses is a set of restraints that pop out of the couch cushions and entrap her arms and torso.
  • The Magic School Bus Rides Again: When the bus takes on tree-like qualities for the communication-in-Nature episode, leafy vines sprout in the interior as animated seat/shoulder belts for the students.
  • Futurama:
    • In "2D Blacktop", the safe-but-boring replacement ship has seats equipped with what Bender assumes are cup-holders. They're actually arm-holders, which flip around and restrain his wrists when Leela activates the seat.
    • In "The Honking", when rampaging were-car Bender captures Fry in his driver's seat, the seatbelts animate and wrap around Fry to secure him in place. Then the belts tighten so Fry can't avoid Bender's steering wheel, which smacks him repeatedly in the face.

    Real Life 
  • According to Russian legend, Catherine the Great employed a torturer named Sheshkovsky, whose main implement was such a chair. Sheshkovsky invited his victim to sit in a chair, then the mechanism locked the occupant in place, and the chair lowered midway to the floor below to expose the occupant's rear end to the two burly men with whips who were waiting downstairs and whipped the victim hard. One intended victim of the device, one Count Razumovsky, allegedly forced the torture master to sit in his own chair. The mechanism worked, and the burly men with whips unknowingly whipped their boss instead of their proper victim. While Sheshkovsky is known to have truly existed, no proof of this particular device has ever been found.
  • A very dubious source claimed that in ancient China there was an invention named the "Collapsing Chair", solely intended to assist in raping peasant maidens (and for this reason the state outlawing it by death penalty). Given that any landlord getting away with that wouldn't have needed a device, anyway, it is very probable that the author made it up for titillation of the reader.
  • A harmless joke version can be seen on display in Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen; it grabs a sitter with levers hidden in the armrests, then soaks them with water from a container hidden in the back.


Video Example(s):


Ghostbusters (1984)

Dana Barrett is abducted by demonic arms sprouting from her sofa as the demon Zuul reveals itself before possessing her.

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Main / ShackleSeatTrap

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