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Yoda: "That place… is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go."

Luke: "What's in there?"

Yoda: "Only what you take with you."

Whether it's The Lost Woods, a Swamp, the room at the heart of a Haunted House, or an Eldritch Dark World reflection of our own, this place likes messing with your head. It will conjure up phantoms from your past to taunt and torment, force you to face your worst flaws and greatest failures, all while it moves walls and landmarks to keep you lost and trapped until you die... or Forever.

The place could be tainted with the Dark Side, beckoning ghosts or causing too-real hallucinations. Or it might be a malicious Genius Loci that feeds on anguish. Who or what ever is behind the emotional onslaught won't outright kill anyone... at least not at first. It usually drives those it torments to suicide, uses Fright Deathtraps, or directly pits you against lethal physical enemies such as the Enemy Without. Sometimes however, it can be stopped the moment the victim says "I'm Not Afraid of You!" and/or reaches an emotional epiphany.

In fact, the purpose of the place could even be as a center of emotional confrontation and healing. Healing with a high burnout rate, but healing nonetheless. It's also worth noting that individuals may create these places or similar effects. Telepaths and Master of Illusion absolutely love to use it on enemies, and the Artifact of Doom may use it as a defense.

See also Epiphanic Prison, which can overlap. See also Vision Quest. Contrast Happy Place.

Examples of Psychological Torment Zone include:


Anime and Manga

  • The Wangst cave Matt and Sora wandered/fell into in Digimon Adventure.
  • The cave Yoh has to pass through in Shaman King. Not actually evil, but as you go through the cave, it starts to steal your senses.


Comic Books

  • The Diabloverde jungle in the final mission of the original run of the Suicide Squad. Notable in that it's implied that it's either a malevolent Genius Loci... or a normal jungle which happens to have a free-floating biological agent capable of doing this (Deadshot, who was wearing a mask, and Poison Ivy, who's immune to toxins, were left unaffected).
  • D'Spayre catches Doctor Strange in one of these after Clea returns to her home dimension. Rather creepily the entirety of Stephen Strange's life is shown being taken away by stagehands. Strange is nearly Driven to Suicide and is shaken afterward by how close he came to taking his own life.


Film - Live-Action


Literature

  • Harry Potter:
    • Not a place, but the locket in Harry Potter did this to Ron as in self-defense.
    • The dementors, which make you miserable and scared, and force you to live out your worst memories.
    • The potion that Dumbledore has to drink in the sixth book, which is similar to the dementors.
  • In the first Kushiels Legacy trilogy, the cave of the thetalos ritual would seem to qualify. It's not evil -- quite the opposite, it's sacred to Mother Earth -- and you go there to atone for Egregious deeds, but the experience is unpleasant and it's implied that many do not survive.
  • The Chamber of the Ordeal in Tamora Pierce's Tortall books works this way. The idea is to weed out people who aren't tough and morally courageous enough to be knights by "hammering" their weak points. People sometimes die in the chamber, commit suicide when released or Go Mad From the Revelation.
  • Nineteen Eighty Four: The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.
  • The "island where dreams come true" from The Chronicles of Narnia. Dreams, as in nightmares.
  • The Crystal Maze from The Looking Glass Wars, basically a test of courage and determination for new queens.
  • AesSedai in The Wheel of Time have to go through not one, but two of these at certain points in their training: specialized devices are used to force them to face their fears, weaknesses, and hangups. It's mentioned that some never come out of the tests.
  • In Counselors and Kings, the Unseelie Fairies Mind Rape anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into their world- and said world itself reacts strongly to thoughts and emotions, so you may summon your worst fears by mistake even if the fairies are currently leaving you alone. Tzigone spends most of the third book stuck there, and her friend and fellow protagonist Matteo spends a much briefer time there trying to get her out. Both learn important things about themselves in the process, though.


Live Action TV

  • Angel has a few of these including the suburban prison Wolfram & Heart sends wayward employees to late in the show's run.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has Buffy willingly entering one in Helpless to save Joyce's life. While depowered.
  • In The Avengers, Mrs Peel is imprisoned in a house that is specifically designed to drive her insane as part of a revenge plot.
  • Heroes:
    • This is how Matt deals with his father Maury. He traps him an empty replica of their house on the day Maury abandoned his wife and him.
    • He does it again to Sylar in Volume Five.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The God Complex" is all about this trope.
    • Amy falls into one in "Amy's Choice" and again in "The Doctor's Wife".


Video Games

  • The main setting of the Luna Games.
  • Carnate Island from The Suffering involves personifications of a person's flaws or worst nightmares that definitely can kill you.
  • The TV World in Persona 4 involves personifications of a person's flaws or worst nightmares that definitely can kill you.
  • Tolna's rift from the "A Soul's Bane" quest and Iban's lair from "Underground Pass" in Runescape.
  • This is the premise behind Silent Hill. As evident in all the games except maybe Shattered Memories, Silent Hill in general seems to be fond of doing this to almost everyone who ends up trapped there. And it tends to draw...troubled people, creating twisted monsters out of the deepest corners of their psyches.
  • Alan Wake finds himself trapped in one after the events of the first game. Through dealing with his angry, irrational side and becoming calm again, it's implied he'll escape.
  • The bad trip sequence of the Fallout 3 add-on, Point Lookout, qualifies. The Lone Wanderer stumbles through the Sacred Bog, seeing hallucinations of people he's met, fake bobbleheads, and a skeleton labelled "Mom." This culminates with a bobblehead proclaiming "Dead mother, life in a post-nuclear Wasteland and not a friend in it. Yeah, you aren’t exactly blessed" before a hallucinated bomb explodes.
  • Sector Grus in Shin Megami Tensei Strange Journey is transformed into this by Mother Maya, which answers the eternal question - what happens when a master of Mind Rape designs one of these? In physical appearance, it's made up of pieces of the first four Sectors, which, appropriately enough, mark probably the single worst moments of the Investigation Team.


Western Animation

  • The Foggy Swamp in Avatar: The Last Airbender shows those who visit it images of people who meant something to them, or who will be important in their future. This can be horribly upsetting when the person you see just so happens to have died.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has The Valley of Echoes. Unlucky travelers can get lost in it forever following false sounds and voices that prey on their inner fears.
  • In the Return of Harmony episodes from My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, the mane characters are lured into a Mobile Maze in which the villain approaches them individually in the form of their respective cutie marks. He then exploits their deepest fears, insecurities, and flaws to the point they abandon the element they represent, and become shadows of their former selves.
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