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You Wake Up in a Room

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"My God...they stole everything!"

"You wake up locked in a deserted jail cell, completely alone. There is nothing at all in your cell, useful or otherwise."

A specific type of Ontological Mystery (which covers this trope in passing). There is also a sub-genre of gaming, the Room Escape Game, that virtually always starts with this trope.

A character wakes up in a setting that's unfamiliar to them. They don't know how they got there, who brought them, or for what reason. Frequently, getting out is not so simple as simply walking out the door.

Sometimes the character, or characters, will have no memory of prior events whatsoever, although this is not a necessary component. In more extreme examples, the character may not exactly know even who they are.

If the piece begins In Medias Res and the character wakes up in a room, and the audience has no idea where they are or what has gone before (or the character has only limited knowledge, possibly having been drunk the night before, or something bad happened to him, or he's in an alternate reality that only the audience seems to pick up on) that may be sufficient to meet this trope.

If a character was seen in action and then passes out only to wake up safe but in an unfamiliar place, that's Waking Up Elsewhere. Compare Good Morning, Crono, Abandoned Hospital Awakening, and Waking Up at the Morgue. For extra points, may overlap with White Void Room. For an outdoor version see You Wake Up on a Beach.


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  • "Victory by Computer": Supergirl is investigating a strange house when she gets struck by red solar radiation, falling into a trap door. When she waske up, she finds herself trapped in a strange unfamiliar room which she cannot break out of by sheer brute force because her powers are nullified.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Gantz: Upon their deaths, the main characters are sent to a mysterious room; the room is obviously located in Tokyo, but cannot be accessed unless you are called there by Gantz.
  • Noir: Kirika woke up one day with no memory of who she was in an empty house that despite having photographs of her with a man and a woman who were presumably her parents, had no actual parents in sight. She found with her a pocketwatch, school ID with her name on it and a gun and killed a bunch of Mooks who showed up to harass her shortly thereafter. The rest of the series deals with her trying to discover her identity.
  • Dangaioh: The four ESP'ers are all suddenly find themselves in service to Dr. Tarsan without knowing who they are/were, or how they got there.
  • Psychic Detective Yakumo: In the "Locked Room" arc, when Takaoka-sensei (in the original novels & Ritsu version) / Yuuichi (in the Suzuka version) thinks he killed Yuri after hitting her a little too hard, he hides her body in the basement. Turns out she wasn't dead after all. Until she died trying to get out of the room.
  • Tamagotchi: Episode 27a opens with Mametchi being surprised when he wakes up in an unfamiliar laboratory room with a Tamagotchi in it that looks like him. Mametchi later learns he and his friends were sent back in time and that he's in a past version of Tamagotchi Town.
  • Death Parade: Upon their deaths, humans emerge from an elevator into a mysterious bar with no memory of how they got there. A couple episodes start with a character simply waking up at the bar instead.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Weslie is with the other goats in the Magic Train at the end of Flying Island: The Sky Adventure episode 1. An incident there causes him to wake up at the beginning of the next episode in the house of Aunt Bowie, who had noticed him and taken him to her place to take care of him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: Parodied in one issue, when Amadeus Cho solves a logic puzzle involving this trope by replying that if there is "nothing in the room" then he is not in the room either.
  • Superman:
    • The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor: When Supergirl is preparing to guest-star in a talk show, one member of a gang crook mixes up Kryptonite dust with her makeup to put her to sleep. When Kara comes around, she is imprisoned in an unfamiliar room. The only exits are two metal doors, both leading into death traps.
      Narration: In moments, unconsciousness claims her...But for how long, she doesn't know... She knows only she awakens in a dark and unfamiliar place, to a gruff voice speaking to her from a pinpoint of light."
    • The Phantom Zone: When Charlie Kweskill wakes up from a nightmare, he finds himself in a room inside S.T.A.R. Laboratories, with no memory of how or why he got there.

    Fan Works 
  • God Help the Outcasts: This is how the fic starts, with Susan waking up, her head spinning, in a cell in the Monster Containment Facility.
  • Rainbow in the Dark starts with the main character, Brownie, waking up in a train going to Ponyville.
  • Fallout: Equestria: Project Horizons: Chapter 11: Blackjack after being hauled out of a slaver camp half dead and emotionality worn out from making a Sadistic Choice passes out in a mine-cart... Only to wake up in a room next to a strange stallion named Prist who then explains that she was found unconscious and alone in the rain, a week prior, she has no idea how she got miles away from the slaver camp or what happened to her friends along the way.
  • This happens to the main character of New Stars twice: first when he's teleported from the Star Wars galaxy to the Orville's (waking up in a mostly-empty storage room), then (after the Krill attack) when he wakes up in the Sick Bay of the Orville. The second time, he wonders if he should start keeping track of the number of times he wakes up in a strange room.
  • The first chapter of Composure starts out like this when Princess Celestia wakes up in a hospital bed injured, unable to perform magic, and amnesic. Her last memory is of Princess Luna in her room...
  • The first chapter of Asylum (Daemon of Decay) starts out this way, with Twilight in a straitjacket, no less.
  • Happens to Shadowfax in You Obey.
  • Remnant and Runeterra: A Tale of Two Worlds: Amber and Soraka wake up in chains after being ambushed by Jhin.
  • The prologue of Opalescent has Opal coming to her senses from being sick with the Sillies, finding herself sitting on the sickbed in the Medical Bay with no clue as to how she got there.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Circle, fifty people wake up in a pitch black room featuring only a chess-like floor circled around a device in the center. It turns out that not only will someone die every two minutes, but the people in the room are voting who dies next by manipulating a mechanism on the floor.
  • In Cube, its sequel Cube 2: Hypercube, and its prequel Cube Zero, all the victims of the cube wake up in a cube-shaped room with no memory of how they got there.
  • The teleplay The Cube (unrelated to the above series) where a man awakes in a solid white room with people coming in and out doing various wacky things, but he cannot get anyone to tell him where he is or why he's there, he's only told that somewhere on the wall is a hidden door made just for him.
  • Dark City begins with John Murdoch waking up in a hotel room, where he was lying naked in a bathtub. He doesn't know why there is a dead prostitute nearby, and can't even recall his own name.
  • Friend of the World begins with its protagonist waking up in a room full of corpses.
  • Occurs in both The Hangover and its sequel.
  • Memento: This happens to the protagonist every morning due to his retrograde amnesia, waking up in a strange room.
  • Oldboy (2003): Oh Dae-su is kidnapped at the start of the film and awakes in what appears to be a sealed hotel room. Fifteen years later, he wakes up to find himself outside.
  • Pandorum... in a hypersleep capsule.
  • This is the modus operandi of the Jigsaw Killer in the Saw series. Nearly every victim of his is tranquilized and then wakes up in a room. The punishment for failure, when it's not an immediate death, is usually turning said room into a Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere.
  • In Unknown (2006), the entire cast wakes up with amnesia and locked in a warehouse.
  • Chariot. Seven passengers wake up on an airliner flying high above the United States. The door to the cockpit is locked and no-one responds when they knock on it. No-one has any idea how they got there, but it has something to do with an Operation Chariot, designed to protect crucial people in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States.
  • Resident Evil (2002) has the protagonist Alice waking up in a shower stall, with no memory of who she is. It's not until the final movie that The Reveal comes as to why she doesn't.

  • Fredric Brown's "Knock" begins:
    There is a sweet little horror story that is only two sentences long:
    "The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door..."
    • Brown then subverts the trope by telling a story that ends that way, and isn't horrible at all. The knock signals the arrival of the last woman on Earth.
  • Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber (which spawned two entire five-novel series) begins this way. The first-person narrator doesn't even know his own name when he wakes up in, well, a hospital room.
  • In A Snowball in Hell by Christopher Brookmyre, Darren "The Daddy" McDade wakes up in a hotel room he doesn't recognize. Things... don't end well for him.
  • The Tightrope Men was written by Spy Fiction writer Desmond Bagley as a deliberate evocation of this trope — a man wakes up in a hotel room in Norway with a confused memory and a completely different face. Bagley decided to take the most terrifying situation he could think of, and then write a book explaining it. The protagonist has been abducted, brainwashed and altered through plastic surgery, then put in the place of a kidnapped scientist in order to create a few days confusion so the kidnappers can get away with their prize.
  • Eri of After Dark wakes up in a bed on the TV side. She has no idea how she got there, and neither does the viewer.
  • Animorphs In 'The Familiar', Jake wakes up in a room, his bedroom, only it's a futuristic bedroom, and he's ten years older, with no idea what happened in between.
  • James P. Hogan's "The Multiplex Man" starts with the protagonist waking up in a hotel room with ID that doesn't match his identity, a suitcase full of guns, and the weird conviction that the familiar face in the mirror SHOULDN'T be familiar.
  • "Time & Time Again" by H. Beam Piper - Allan Hartley wakes up in his childhood bedroom from thirty years before... wearing his childhood body. He takes it rather well.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Tezzeret gets this treatment at the beginning of Test of Metal when he finds himself Naked on Arrival in an empty cave with his etherium arm ripped off.
  • Deconstructed in the Turkey City Lexicon under the name "White Room Syndrome". According to the Lexicon, to begin a story with "She awoke in a white room" is "a clear and common sign of the failure of the author's imagination." Not only is it a cliché, it's likely a barely coded description of the writer's own ideas slowly coming together while staring at a featureless blank piece of paper.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400: In the fourth season episode "No Exit" Tom Baldwin, Diana Skouris, Meghan Doyle, Marco Pacella, Brady and P.J. wake up to find themselves locked into the NTAC offices in Seattle where they work joined by Tom's son Kyle and oldest nephew Shawn Farrell, Diana's adopted daughter Maia, as well as Jordan Collier and Isabelle Tyler. During the episode they have to fight the building itself as it turns on them, cooperate, find out why they're there and find a way out.
  • Episode eight from Big Mouth (2022) starts with Changho waking up to find himself wrapped in a straitjacket with his mouth gagged in a White Void Room.
  • In the Black Mirror episode "White Bear", Victoria wakes up in the living room of a house, with a calendar, a TV set to a mysterious image, some pills, a headache, and no idea how she got there.
  • Booth and Brennan wake up buried underground inside a car in Bones “Aliens in the Spaceship”.
  • Castle: The season 4 episode "Cuffed" opened with Beckett and the titular writer handcuffed together in a sealed room, with no memory of how they got there.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "Legacy" features an UnSub who kidnaps transients, knocks them out and throws them into an abandoned factory, where they wake up and are forced to find their own way out of the factory.
  • Dark Matter (2015): This is how the series begins. A group of apparently mis-matched people emerge from cryotanks on a spaceship with no memories of who they are or why they are on the ship. They figure who they are and what they were doing by the end of the first episode (although one character later learns he's actually impersonating the person everyone thinks he is); and spend the bulk of the first season trying to figure out who erased their memories and why, finally learning it in the season finale.
  • Dollhouse plays with this trope in "Needs", in which the Actives wake up in their sleeping chambers with their original personalities before they were mind-wiped, but with no memory of how they came to be there.
  • The first scene of The Good Place is of Eleanor's eyes snapping open, seeing herself in a room she doesn't recognize, and the words "Welcome! Everything is fine!" on the wall across from her. Then Michael comes in, and tells her she's dead and in the afterlife.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries has "Sole Survivor", where Joe Hardy wakes up in a hospital room with no clue where he is or how he got there, only to find out that he's not only been in a coma for a year, but that his father and brother are dead. Of course, Frank and Fenton are very much alive, and the whole thing is a Mind Screw to get Joe to reveal information on a defection attempt.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: "The Murdoch Trap" opens with Murdoch unconscious in what proves to be a cage. He comes to hearing the voice of Julia repeatedly saying, "I forgive you, William," and he sees a mannequin that looks like Julia in a black dress hanging by the neck outside his cage. There's also a phone with a placard that threatens death if used and a film projector with a similar placard that says, "Turn Me On".
  • The captives in Persons Unknown wake up in hotel rooms with little clue how they got there or why.
  • The surreal drama series The Prisoner (1967) begins with this trope: spy Patrick McGoohan wakes up in The Village with a headache not knowing why he has been transported there from London, nor why he is now only Number Six, and realises how difficult it is to escape.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Allegiance" has this, but with a twist. We see Picard wake up in a strange room, while his double walks around on the ship.
  • The X-Files: In the beginning of the episode "Demons", Mulder wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room with somebody else's blood on his shirt.
  • Severance (2022) begins with newly severed hire Helly R on a table in a conference room. It's later revealed that all severed employees first gain consciousness on that table.

  • Lindsey Stirling's "Song of the Caged Bird" video features this — in the beginning, Lindsey gets up off the floor of a small, dirty room with no apparent knowledge of where she is or how to get out. She comforts herself by playing the violin and lighting candles.

    New Media 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon's Wake the player character is a young dragon. In the first level you hatch from your egg in a cave with no knowledge of how you got there.
  • You Find Yourself In A Room by 2DArray, where this phrase is reiterated during many prompts.
  • The 7th Guest, where the "room" is a big, spooky mansion.
    Ego: How did I get here? I remember...nothing.
  • Both Portal games begin this way, although in completely different rooms.
    • You actually transverse through old chambers in the beginning of Portal 2, so pretty much you end up in the same room in both games.
  • Silent Hill 4: The Room
  • Cave Story begins with the player character waking up in a small deserted cavern, after a short cutscene that does nothing to explain who he is or how he got there.
  • The Neverhood. Very literally applied, as Klayman was created only a few minutes prior to the game's beginning and still asleep when the player takes control.
  • 1213.
  • Zork is "you are in front of a small white house." with no reason as to how you got there. The explanation for the starting locations for later Infocom games makes a lot more sense. Except perhaps for Beyond Zork.
  • the white chamber has the main character wake up inside of a coffin on a spacestation with no memory of why she's there or why the space station is completely empty and covered in blood, rust, and limbs.
  • Obsidian/Black Isle loves this trope:
  • Shadowrun, also in a morgue in the SNES version.
  • Galerians opens as the main character wakes up in a hospital isolation ward, Strapped to an Operating Table.
  • A Dark Room, naturally.
  • The Gold Box game Curse of the Azure Bonds opens with the party waking up in a room at an inn, along with unusual tattoos.
  • The flash game Monster Basement has the players character wake up in a Creepy Basement, only able to remember running downstairs after hearing his friend screaming. He (and the player) only figure out what exactly is going on (namely that your kidnapper is a human who was infected with some disease that makes him crave the flesh of monsters and you and your friend are monsters he abducted for meals) as you poke around and find things in the basement.
  • Antichamber pretty much starts this way.
  • Edna & Harvey: The Breakout starts with Edna waking up in a padded cell, having lost her memory. And it's not the first time this has happened to her, either.
  • Silent Hills starts with the player waking up in the middle of a dark, creepy and, seemingly empty room with just a door.
  • Don't Escape has the player character waking up in a room as homage to the typical Room Escape Game. The third game does this too, with the player waking up in a ship's airlock and with no idea why they're about to be ejected.
  • The Japanese flash game TERMINAL HOUSE does this in its first two games (of four). The first adds a little backstory to it, with the main character having spent an unknown amount of time trying to break out, with no success before the player takes control.
  • The Witness: You start in a metal tube which leads up onto a patio, via a small cave.
  • Naissance E has a short intro that shows the nameless character falling into an almost-featureless white room. You then take control and start moving into a *very* weird world, of which you know nothing at all.
  • The Room (Mobile Game): As the title implies, you find yourself in a room. With lots of puzzles to keep you company.
  • Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs begins with Mandus waking up in a room not remembering more than his name, and that his children need him, which he immediately sets off to search for. The backstory is unveiled through Story Breadcrumbs in shape of journal entries, which are scattered around the building.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild begins with Link awakening inside a resurrection chamber, with only the strange machine he lay in and a mysterious tablet computer. The way out is locked; however, Link can just use the tablet to unlock the door. Of course, as standard for this trope, Link has Laser-Guided Amnesia and possibly Identity Amnesia to boot. Since Link had to be left in the shrine for a hundred years to recover from near-fatal injuries and overexertion, the door was locked from the inside for his benefit.
  • Imscared starts the player off in a room with a door that requires a human heart to open, along with a bloodstained closet and a ladder leading downwards. No explanation or plot is given.
  • The Last Guardian begins this way, with the protagonist waking up unexpectedly in a cavernous room, beside a giant beast chained to the floor. Much of the game's storyline revolves around how both the boy and the beast got there in the first place.
  • The Dark Brotherhood questline for "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" begins in this manner. The Dovahkiin is kidnapped and locked in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, where they are taunted by Astrid, the leader of the Dark Brotherhood.
  • Voyage Inspired By Jules Verne begins with Michel Ardan, the Player Character, waking up in a space shuttle bound for the moon, with the only other two people with him dead.
  • Dark Souls has the Chosen Undead, awake in a rotting prison cell with (presumably) no knowledge of why they are there or why they are Hollowing. The game's narrator, however, does know: the Kingdom of Lordran gathers up the Undead - who are branded with the Darksign - and sends them north to the Undead Asylum note  where they await the end of the world.
  • You Wake Up In A Train Tunnel at the beginning of Dark Fall : Lost Souls, and initially have no clue where it is. Then when your character does recognize the location, he has no clue (save possibly the bottle of vodka he's carrying) why he'd ever have come back to a place he loathes.
  • The beginning of One Shot starts off like this, with the Kid Hero Niko waking up in a dark room. In fact, it was even mentioned in the prophecy of the world Niko and you are supposed to save. You return to the room near the ending(s).
  • Your Toy begins with your character waking up in a bathroom stall.
  • Disco Elysium starts off this way, with the Player Character awaking in a trashed hostel room, surrounded by empty booze bottles, stripped to their socks and underpants, with a killer hangover and complete blackout amnesia. Amongst the first "quests" presented to the player is getting a look at yourself in the mirror, and getting dressed (which involves trying to get your tie down from the loft ventilator). It isn't until you manage to stagger out into the hall that you find out you're a detective with the local police force from a fellow guest, then you discover that you were investigating a murder, and things just sort of escalate from there...
  • In Trace you wake up in a bathroom, and it's locked. It serves as a warm-up of sorts, as Trace is a Room Escape Game.
  • Murder in the Alps: Forgotten Memento begins with Anna Myers waking up in a dark cell with no memory of how she got there. The rest of the chapter is spent with Anna gradually remembering through flashbacks the events of the past few days leading to her capture as well as trying to make sense of her surroundings before she's able to make an escape attempt.

    Visual Novels 
  • Happens at least twice to Rosa in Umineko: When They Cry. The first time is in the second arc's tea party. The second time occurs in the fourth arc, in what is implied-ish? to be a Dream Sequence Maria had.
    • Happens to somebody (actually Battler) early on in the sixth arc.
  • All three Zero Escape games open this way:
    • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors starts with your character waking up in the cabin of a large passenger ship. Of the nine characters involved, however, only one has amnesia and it isn't yours. In fact, Junpei only needs a few minutes to get his bearings before the player sees exactly how he was abducted from his apartment.
    • The sequel, Virtue's Last Reward, starts out similarly, with the protagonist waking up in what appears to be an elevator with no idea how he got there — and with a total stranger who happens to know his name.
    • To finish the trilogy, Zero Time Dilemma also starts off with people waking up in some sort of cell, unaware of how they got there.

  • In Awful Hospital, it's a hospital room.
  • A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe begins with the protagonist waking up in an apartment building floating in a white void.
  • Blood is Mine starts with the protagonist waking up wearing a bloodied nurse uniform in a hospital room.
  • In an example without the room, Willow of Earthsong wakes up under a purple willow/wiple tree with no idea whatsoever of what's going on. This is echoed in a later wake-up, though she quickly remembers and the audience knows.
  • In Fleep, the "room" is a phone booth encased in concrete.
  • Furrocious starts with the main character waking up in a a gray room with a large door.
  • Heroes of Thantopolis Cyrus wakes up in a castle, with no memory but his name.
  • morphE begins with 8 people waking up inside crates being moved in the back of a truck. No one knows how they got there and when they are released they are pit against one another in combat.
  • MS Paint Adventures likes this trope. Jailbreak fits the definition perfectly, Problem Sleuth plays around with it, and Homestuck begins in a similar manner (three times).
  • Oceanfalls: "You wake up in an unfamiliar place."
  • Unity begins its first story the protagonist waking up in a hospital room with no memories.
  • White Rooms: The comic begins with Ed waking up in one of the rooms, not knowing anything about the place or how he got there.

    Web Games 
  • In both Mata Nui Online Games, your character wakes up with no memories — on a beach in the first, and in their own hut in the second. MNOG II explains that your temporal memory-loss is due to a storm, but the first game offers no explanation, as it's a direct continuation of the Game Boy Advance game Quest for the Toa, which ended with a bolt of energy launching you into the sky and sending you slamming into the sand.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: In "Mystery Dungeon", Ice King wakes up in a dungeon with Tree Trunks, Shelby the Worm, NEPTR, and the Earl of Lemongrab, and their only way of escape is to make their way to the center. Turns out Ice King kidnapped the others because he needed their skills to find the way to the lair of the Life-Giving Magus, in an attempt to bring the characters from his "Fionna and Cake" stories to life.
  • The Hollow starts with the three protagonists waking up in a room with no idea how they got there or what their names are. The room's only exit is a air duct too high to reach and it has a strange typewriter in the middle of it.
  • Infinity Train: In the first episode, protagonist Tulip is knocked out after boarding a mysterious train in the middle of nowhere, only to wake up in the daytime in a snowy landscape. She assumes she must have hallucinated the train... until she gets to a door and opens it to discover she was in one of the train's cars, now much larger than they were previously.
    • This is what happens to all passengers. Book 2 reveals that between boarding the train and waking up in one of the cars, they have memory tapes made and are given numbers based on what the tapes show, before being sent away.
  • Kaeloo: The premise of Episode 161 is that the main four wake up locked in an escape room with no recollection of how they got there.