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This Is Not a Floor

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“Watch out for that first step - it’s a doozy”

...It is the image of a floor.

When you have a Master of Illusion or a Lotus-Eater Machine, why bother bloodying your hands or risking the victim fighting back, when you can trick them into walking across empty air? A perfect plot (bar necromancy or mind-reading) when the only evidence that points toward you, or even murder at all, rests in the mind of the deceased. Often, another character will call attention to the character's actions and unknowingly break the illusion, or the illusionist will break the illusion himself at the last instant to play with the victim's mind just to show how in control he is.

This is where Psychic-Assisted Suicide meets Tricked to Death. See also Leap of Faith for a way to invert the trope. For the video game version of this, see Fake Platform.

Trope name references René Magritte's Ceci n'est pas une pipe.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Fractale, the system maintaining a Hard Light town flickers off, and several people fall through the fake floor to their deaths.
  • NEEDLESS inverts this with a character who can turn things invisible - large projectiles, most of the floor except the small patch on which the heroes are standing, the wall between him and them... the trick is to keep them from realizing what he's doing.
  • Shows up twice in Paprika, first from the outside, as a character rants about "the fifth grade class with the photographic zoom lens" and runs through a full-length window, then from the inside, with the main character snapping out of it just in time to avoid going over a balcony.
  • A variant occurs in one manga of Read or Die, where the floor is in fact a lot of paper being held rigid by Yomiko's will. The building was under construction at the time.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, in episode 4 Yugi falls through an invisible hole in the floor and into a trapped room.

    Comic Books 
  • This is part of Mysterio's M.O. in Spider-Man comics and cartoons.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Peters of Event Horizon is killed in this fashion when the evil ship creates an illusion in her mind of a bridge across an open shaft with her son on the other side, resulting in her falling to her death on the gravity chamber floor.
  • Inverted in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Mysterio creates an illusion around Spider-Man that they are on top of the Eiffel Tower, then an illusion of MJ is thrown off it. Spider-Man falls for it and tries to dive down and save her, only to hurt himself when he face plants onto the concrete floor he was standing on.

  • In Point Blanc, the second book in Anthony Horowitz' Alex Rider series, a murder is set up by putting a holographic elevator into an out-of-order elevator shaft.
  • While Calesta, the Big Bad of the Coldfire Trilogy is incapable of hurting people directly, his illusion powers make it easy for people to not notice a real danger, or a way to avoid said danger. At one point he makes an entire city fail to notice an incoming tidal wave.
  • Discworld:
    • In two books (The Colour of Magic and Moving Pictures), the Tower of Art at the University is the scene for this trope. In both cases, the hero has to ascend a spiral staircase inside a crumbling 800 foot tower, trusting to their senses that the stairs are still there under their feet — this is not a given. The trick is to close your eyes and really believe the stairs are still intact and can carry your weight — even when they are not.
    • In Going Postal, Moist has a ghostly vision of the post office at its height and splendor. During this vision, he's walking around and realizes that the balconies overlooking the main hall are long gone, and a section of floor ahead of him is, in the present, the top of a staircase. Moist realizes that two of the previous postmasters hired to get the Post Office working again died because they fell for the illusion; one walked onto a balcony that's not there anymore, and one took a tumble down a staircase that wasn't there in the past.
  • The Corrupt Corporate Executive who tried to arrange an assassination at a major Park reception in The Barsoom Project nearly succumbs to this when his office's private elevator is tampered with, replacing the floor with a realistic hologram. Never mess with the master imagineers of Dream Park, especially when your office is on the top floor and their bosses just bought out your elevator-repair service....
  • Lasciel's shadow in The Dresden Files book Dead Beat pulls this on Harry, filling an apartment with illusionary flame and putting an illusionary fire escape outside the window before breaking the illusion to show that it could easily kill Harry, but doesn't want to.
  • A Force-sensitive Monster of the Week attempts to inflict this on Luke Skywalker in Rebel Stand, but fails because Luke's well-honed combat instincts (especially his piloting instincts — he's used to subconsciously noticing terrain so he doesn't crash into it) raise an alarm at the last second.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: An evil Wizarding School requires all its students to complete a lethal obstacle course before they can become full students. On the day of the competition, the death traps in the course are changed out from the practice ones, and some of the new traps include deep chasms which are concealed by illusions that just look like a normal floor.
  • In Xanth, Iris has the power of illusions, and this is one of the things she can do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One case in the original CSI involved a woman who'd jumped off a high-rise apartment balcony in her bikini. She'd been hypnotized to think she was taking a dip at the beach.
    • Columbo did the same in A Deadly State of Mind, only the woman stripped down to nothing at all.
  • House uses this a lot, in the "patient of the week is hallucinating" form.
  • In the Metal Hurlant Chronicles episode "Back to Reality", the bad guy makes a woman jump off a building by making her think she's about to jump into a pool.
  • Royal Pains does a similar version, where a "haunted" client can't tell the difference between a floor three inches below or thirty feet below.
  • Inverted in Stargate SG-1 when the heroes have to cross a narrow bridge over a deep chasm. One of them falls... and lands unharmed on top of the illusory hole.
  • A Taggart episode involving hypnosis had a hypnotist tell Jardine that you couldn't hypnotise someone to jump off a building (as the Victim of the Week had done) unless they already wanted to, and he comes back by asking her if you could hypnotise someone to not know they were jumping off a building.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 3rd Edition suggested in the Dungeon Master's guide that an effective trap would be an illusory floor over a pit of acid.
    • Shadow magic creates illusions that are just real enough to affect people who don't disbelieve them — like floors that work for gullible meat shields but drop the stronger-willed Squishy Wizard into a spike pit.

    Video Games 
  • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest had fake floors, which can only be detected if you fell through them or if you made use of Holy Water to figure out which floors aren't fake.
  • The Mega Man games occasionally use this trick. Two examples that stand out are Mega Man 2, where they can be detected by a weapon that follows the ground, the Bubble Lead, and 9, where there are actual enemies that fly by to create holographic platforms over pits right by the real ones.
  • The mage tower in Realms of Arkania: Shadows over Riva has a fake corridor that can drop you outside. Falling isn't necessarily fatal, but getting your party back together inside can be a pain.


    Western Animation 
  • In Batman Beyond, Spellbinder uses an illusion to nearly trick Terry into walking off a cliff. He has also tricked Terry into diving off of a building by projecting a waterfall over it.
  • Looney Tunes: While he occasionally does the opposite, Wile E. Coyote is known for his painting of a bridge in front of a chasm. The road runner takes the bridge, Coyote tries to chase it, rips through the picture and falls. And then there was the time that the opposite happened - the Roadrunner rips through the canvas while Wile E. falls off the painted cliff.
  • In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Spider-Man inverts this with one of Mysterio's holocubes by projecting a gaping chasm below Rhyno, making him panic and flail around.
  • In the ThunderCats (1985) episode "Trial of Mind Power", Tigra uses an illusion to trick the Mutants into driving off a cliff.

    Real Life 
  • In 2018, an art gallery visitor fell into an eight-foot-deep pit lined with vantablack, a super-black paint, after mistaking it for a black circle drawn on the floor.
  • One particularly old-school trapping method is to simply cover a pit with sticks (along with other debris to make it look like an ordinary patch of ground) and leave some bait on top.