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File:Innofnoreturn01 79.png

"Relax," said the night man,

"We are programmed to receive.

"You can check out any time you like,

"But you can never leave!"
The Eagles, "Hotel California"

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, and you stay forever, see Lotus Eater Machine.

Examples of Inn of No Return include:


  • 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 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.


  • The hotel in Vacancy has owners who use the hotel to make films of their grisly murders.
  • Two words: Bates Motel.
  • The 1992 Hong Kong action film Dragon 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.
  • The bar in From Dusk till Dawn is really a feeding ground for vampires.
  • Motel Hell, in which the owner and his sister make sausages out of the guests.
  • The Hostel films take this trope and just roll with it.
  • 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 hell out of the owners.
  • Frontiers has one run by a family of cannibalistic neo-Nazis.
  • 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.

Folklore and Mythology

  • 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.
  • Older Than Feudalism: In Greek Mythology is the story of "Procrustes' Bed." It was owned by the bandit/innkeeper of the same name, who claimed it was a perfect fit for everyone: He made sure of it by racking out and flattening too short and hacking off the legs of those too tall. He was Hoist by His Own Petard by Theseus.
  • The original Sweeney Todd legend fits this pretty well, as do its adaptations.


  • The short story The Red Inn by Balzac is a good example, and was filmed twice as a horror comedy, even closer to this trope.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Sbirro's restaurant in mystery writer Stanley Ellin's short story The Specialty of the House.
  • Sort of used in Ian Fleming's You Only Live Twice. Here Blofeld has made a garden full of deadly plants and lava lakes at a castle in Japan. And the more the press and governments investigate the case the more the suicide obsessed Japanese people come to the garden. And should any of those people have second thoughts while they are there, Blofeld has a staff who will be helping with the last step...
  • 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.
  • Happens in Rattle of Bones, one of the Solomon Kane short stories by Robert E. Howard.
  • Roald Dahl's story The Landlady, although in this case, the killer is simply psycho rather than greedy.
  • 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.
  • In the HP Lovecraft short story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, the residents of Innsmouth attempt to break into the narrator's room at the Inn 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 saves his life.
  • Kenji Miyazawa's eponymous Restaurant of Many Orders. The "guests" finally caught on about the time they figured out the "cologne" was actually vinegar.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Shadows in Zamboula," Aram Baksh's inn. He survives by murdering only strangers.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Harfang.
  • 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 hero of Larry Niven's Destiny 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.

Live Action TV


  • Possibly the subject of the song "Hotel California."

Tabletop Games

  • 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 proprieters that they've been found out.
  • Several examples in Ravenloft, notably how the Mindefisk sisters made their living.

Video Games

  • 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.
  • 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."
  • In 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.
    • Also 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. If Genre Savvy doesn't clue you why it's a bad idea to drink the wine or sleep in the beds, Save Scumming will teach you.
  • Breath of Fire 2 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. Of course, they serve everybody else, too...
  • 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.

Web Comics

  • The refreshingly honest Rob-U-While-U-Sleep Inn in Order of the Stick. Perhaps a partial example, since Elan and Sir Francois manage to escape, but the staff is hiding a corpse when they check in.
  • Parodied in this Bob the Angry Flower comic.

Western Animation

 "Yes we have a vacancy, and we've got showers in all the rooms. What's that?! Will you excuse me? Coming, Mother!

  • The motel Taz and Bushwacker Bob stay at in the Taz-Mania episode "A Midsummer Night's Scream".
  • Porky Pig and Sylvester check into a hotel full of murderous mice in the Looney Tunes short Claws for Alarm.

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 allegedly 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.
    • The sheer elaborateness of the story renders it highly questionable; all that preparation when a plain old knife would suffice.
  • This recent case has been given the moniker "The real-life Hostel murders."
  • Karl Denke's boardinghouse.
  • 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.
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