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"That was too close. You were almost a Jill sandwich!"
Barry after saving Jill, Resident Evil

File:IJ TOD Trap 8844.png

Deceptively simple-looking Death Trap intended to turn tall, dark and handsome heroes into short, red and gruesome meat patties. Usually doesn't work because the villain stupidly leaves (or allows a hero to retain) some object capable of holding back the ceiling long enough for an exit to be made, for the motor powering the ceiling to burn out or simply able to turn the damn thing off. Or he may forget the Five-Man Band has a Load-Bearing Hero with them.

Deluxe versions include sharp, pointy spikes that grow out of the moving surface.

Occasionally some factories have a Descending Ceiling built in, possibly part of or at the end of a Conveyor Belt O' Doom. These places clearly have lost their OSHA compliance.

The impending danger is usually emphasized by multiple shots of the ceiling descending.

Often subject to Magic Countdown—the ceiling moves back with each shot. The reverse is Lift of Doom. When the walls threaten to crush a character, rather than the ceiling, that's The Walls Are Closing In. Whatever they do it's always Just in Time. This may also be a form of Advancing Wall of Doom. Video game levels based on this may be Escape Sequences.

Examples of Descending Ceiling include:

Anime & Manga

  • Yu Yu Hakusho had a variation on this, where the Descending Ceiling was precisely calibrated so that it took all the strength of Yusuke, Kuwabara, Kurama, and Hiei to hold it up and keep it from crushing them; it was set up to let the most traitorous member in, with the first one to let go being able to escape in time while the other three were crushed.
  • Happens during the House of Sagittarius episodes of Saint Seiya. The cavern beneath the Gold Saint's House, already filled with traps, was rigged to collapse and crush the one escape corridor underneath. Dragon Saint Shiryu stays behind, as is his wont, to prop up the collapsing ceiling with his bare hands. When the pressure forces him down to his knees, he has a flash of inspiration and punches the ceiling into rubble. Considering he prides himself on reversing the flow of waterfalls with his punches, and all Saints can reduce cliffs to pebbles with their Cosmo, letting the drama trick him into a Heroic Sacrifice was a bit of an Idiot Hero moment for him.
  • In Angel Beats this is one of the traps set up to protect the Guild against Angel. Unfortunately, it works for the SSS as well, meaning TK has to sacrifice himself. Luckily for him, Death Is Cheap.
  • In Ghost Hunt there is a ghost who makes the ceiling collapse in a school.

Comic Books

  • Deadpool was placed in one of these, except that the ceiling was a giant teddy bear. It was constructed by a villain with a very Saw-like mentality (though he predates the film). The rate at which the bear descended was linked to the victim's speech. All he had to do to survive was shut up. Being Deadpool, he instead dislocated his limbs to get out, talking all the while.
  • Cherry Comics: Cherry and Adventurer Archaeologist Oklahoma Smith have sex while one is descending on them in "Oklahoma Smith and the Lost Temple of Doomed Raiders".


  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Descending Ceiling. Also involves spikes that spring out of the ground carrying mysterious impaled skulls that weren't there before.
  • Parodied (like so much else) in Neil Simon's Murder By Death.
  • D.E.B.S. (the feature) has a sequence where our heroines get trapped in a safe with descending Spikes of Doom. Amy manages to persuade Lucy to deactivate the trap.
  • A variant in the remake of The Haunting has the heroine's entire bedroom turned into this trope by a hostile supernatural force. Pretty alarming, as the walls, ceiling, and spikey ornamentation writhes and contorts like a living thing rather than closing in mechanically.
  • From the silent film The Golem: When the Rabbi's magic show at the Imperial court is interrupted by the frivolous courtiers, the magic backfires and causes the ceiling of the palace begins to descend. Luckily, the Golem saves the day before the worst happens.
  • Highlander II the Quickening had one of these with a rotating blade attachment, it shredded Ramirez.


  • This trope may have originated with the Sherlock Holmes story The Engineer's Thumb, in which the titular engineer almost gets turned into a hamburger.
  • Animorphs #32 had a variant where the purpose was psychological torture, rather than death. (Except the trapped character wasn't the open-space-loving alien the Big Bad thought she was.) In fact, the trick to stopping it proved to be threatening suicide.
  • The gruesome short story The Iron Shroud by William Mudford, published in 1830, has this trope as its entire plot.
  • In "A Terribly Strange Bed", a short story by Wilkie Collins, some innkeepers murder (in order to rob) their guests by giving them a canopied bed where the canopy can be silently lowered to smother the sleeper.

Live Action TV

  • Stargate SG-1 includes at least one episode with two chambers with Descending Ceilings.
  • Jonathan Creek does this, in one of the episodes, a legendary escape artist attempts to escape from an ancient well, which was believed to be a "doorway to hell". The escape artist isn't there when they check later. And he is later found dead in a river. Jonathan deduces that the well actually had a massive false Descending Ceiling that descended upon people in the room. The rest is too spoiler-y.
  • In the MST3K episode, Hercules Versus The Moon Men, a hokey spike trap, inspires Joel and the Bots to recreate a classic "booby" trap trick. Hilarity Ensues.
  • This was actually used on a Game Show: One of the games on the Japanese game show Dasshutsu Game DERO places a team of players in a room where they have to solve a series of puzzles via Linked-List Clue Methodology while the ceiling slowly descends. (Unlike most examples of this trope, the ceiling actually seems to pause if it's about to render the game Unwinnable by blocking access to any items needed for an unsolved puzzle, but will speed up afterward to compensate.) The puzzles eventually lead to a way to open up a duct at the bottom of one wall, after which one member of the team must crawl in to reach the button that raises the ceiling back up and wins them money. If time runs out and the ceiling reaches 3 meters below its initial height (this seems to be the height at which it would start to block the duct if it went any lower), the team fails and leaves empty-handed.
  • This was used as a torture device in Allo Allo by the Gestapo to get information and once Rene and the German officers told Herr Flick (who was playing an organ at the time) the truth he refused to believe them and went to kill them. They took the cyanide pills their friends had given them by they didn't work and the General came just in time to free them. This was all Played for Laughs.
  • Doctor Who: Barbara is almost killed by one (the deluxe spiked version) in "The Keys of Marinus".

Puppet Shows

  • There was an episode of Captain Scarlet where Col. White and Captain Blue were trapped in a hunting lodge with a Descending Ceiling.

Tabletop Games

  • In the Dungeons and Dragons module Tomb of Horrors, one of the false entrances to the the tomb traps the characters in and then hits them with a Descending Ceiling trap.
  • The lurker above, from older editions of D&D, is a Descending Ceiling Monster. Apparently, enough stupid adventurers wander into this trope for an entire species of predators to make a living emulating it.

Video Games

  • Final Fantasy VI: Inside the Zone Eater, there is an area with a ceiling that slams onto the ground every few seconds. There are holes in the ceiling that you can hide in, but if you slip up and get crushed, the screen slowly fades out to a Game Over. Fortunately there is a Save Point in the preceding room.
  • Resident Evil series:
    • The infamous "Jill Sandwich" moment. Notable in that it really was inescapable from within the room once it triggered. Either you had to replace the shotgun (whose absence on a wall rack triggered the trap) with a rusted one... or hope you were playing Jill for a conveniently timely rescue by Barry.
    • Resident Evil 4 contains two rooms with a spiked ceiling, with four sensors that need to be shot out—this apparently tricks the ceiling into thinking it's hit the bottom, causing it to retract.
    • Resident Evil 5's "Lost in Nightmares" add-on, which was heavily influenced by the trap in the first game.
  • King's Quest VI had a Descending Ceiling halfway through a labyrinth with an exposed gear mechanism inside the room. It'd be laughably easy except the only way to jam it is a brick found mere inches from a instant-death trap three islands over and several hours back. Oh, and you can't exit the labyrinth once you enter it. Better hope you've got a save before that! (Or you bought the guide.)
    • Extra-cruelly, if you try to jam it with the convenient object-to-hand, it almost works.
  • Used in Banjo-Kazooie in the Shifting Sand Land.
  • A popular variant seen in both Marathon Infinity and Shadow Warrior is one where there is a Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence that you can't fit through but can shoot through, and a tiny, non-notable-looking switch in the distance you have to hit with a high explosive weapon to get the barrier out of the way before you're flattened.
  • Radical Dreamers, the Japan-only semi-sequel to Chrono Trigger that was made obsolete by Chrono Cross, had a room trapped with a Descending Ceiling. Amusingly, the game used the same animation clip each time the player looked up to see it, giving the impression that the ceiling was falling almost onto them then teleporting back to the top when nobody was looking at it.
  • Doom uses many areas with crushing ceilings to inflict critical damage on any poor soul unfortunate enough to get caught under one. In fact, in Level 6 of Doom 2, the player pitted against a Spider Mastermind that one would normally be ill-prepared to fight at this point in the game. Fortunately for the player, a switch near the elevator you get off lowers down a crushing ceiling to kill the Spider Mastermind for you. Thus, the level is appropriately named "The Crusher".
  • The trailer for the video game Portal shows a crushing ceiling (with spikes no less!) coming down to crush the character (while there are flames coming out of the pit next to you). In the video, the player simply fires a portal across the room, and one into the wall, and walks through it. The interesting thing about it is that there are no fires anywhere in the game except near the end, and there are no crushing ceilings—and none with spikes—anywhere in Portal.
    Someone developed an add-on room for Portal that includes the crushing ceiling (with spikes) and a fire pit next to it. The add-on can be downloaded into the maps subdirectory for Portal and run from the Bonus menu in Portal. The map is called and the Zip file of the map is available at Hetzchase Nailway. Although the video doesn't quite match all of the map, the crushing ceiling is present.
  • Silent Hill series:
    • Used during the latter half of Silent Hill 3. During the Borley Haunted Mansion segment, the spiked-ceiling can fall and kill Heather—if the player avoids being killed by walking forward in a combat stance (she will be crouching slightly, just out of reach), the narrator of the mansion's tour promptly apologizes and assures the player that the contraption was not supposed to stop there.
    • Silent Hill 4 includes such a ceiling (a very fast one, to boot!) in one of the rooms on the upper floor of the hospital. These rooms are also randomized, so you never know which one is going to have the descending ceiling until you get there. Fortunately, it can't hurt you: a grating prevents it from going down the whole way, and the descending ceiling is mainly there to give you a quick scare.
  • Several levels in Serious Sam: The Second Encounter have crushing ceiling traps both of the "pillar" and "entire ceiling minus a few safe holes" variety. One of them, upon completion, treats the player to a round of applause.
  • Occurs in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time in the Forest Temple. Not only is the ceiling falling, spiders hide above the safe squares to doom you.
    • You could also count the spiked weights in Shadow Temple. You know, those that you need to place a massive block under in order to avoid getting squashed.
  • Yoshis Island has a level with this and ascending ground.
  • Paper Mario series:
    • In Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, has a room like this in Hooktail's Castle, with one twist: the door remains easily opened, but a spiky maze prevents a straight run to it.
    • Super Paper Mario has a similar trap in Merlee's Mansion. You escape by jumping on top of the descending ceiling. And then again in the final level, after a battle with O'Chunks. This time, he and Bowser stay behind to hold it up while the rest of the heroes continue on.
  • A few levels in Super Mario World such as Ludwig's Castle, Valley of Bowser 2, and corridor #5 in Bowser's Castle (with Spikes of Doom and Thwomps).
  • Tomb Raider III. Along with the traditional descending Spikes of Doom in several areas, there's also the "drill of doom" in the Aldwych level.
  • A few are found in the Mega Man franchise. including:
  • One of these may spawn in Spelunky to punish the greedy, unprepared player in the later areas of the game. Hope you saved some bombs to blast free.
  • Skies of Arcadia had an interesting subversion of this trope. One of the villains tries to crush Vyse and his crew beneath a spiked ceiling... but the mechanism to start the ceiling doesn't work.
  • Puzzle Bobble (Bust-A-Move) and PB 2 (BaM2) have a variant that pushes the stacked bubbles closer to the line at the bottom and threatens the player's character(s).
  • In La-Mulana, one room in the Chamber of Birth has a switch that causes a spiked ceiling to descend. You need to activate a hidden switch to open a wall that suddenly appears to trap you in, and then use the spikeless other side of the ceiling as a platform.
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves features one that is defeated by shooting the teeth of the gears on a nearby wall, causing it to go in reverse.
  • Contra 4 has something like this in the final level.
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards has this on Shiver Star Stage 4, which makes it probably the toughest level in the game.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 map "Egypt", there are antechambers between some defender respawn rooms and the map at large. Should players get trapped in there when the first point is lost, the ceiling will descend and crush them, prompting them to respawn in the fallback room.
  • The ceiling presses down (or the level rises up into the ceiling, it's a bit vague) in Marble Garden's second act in Sonic3, as well as the second act of Planet Wisp in the DS version of Sonic Colors. The latter of which occurs while Sonic is underground as a drill, in a bizarre twist.
  • In Fable III, during the quest "Gone, But Not Forgotten" the ghost of Max (one of the two brothers from Fable II who kept getting involved in supernatural trouble), having gone mad with power after getting his spectral hands on the Normanomicon again, traps your hero in a room with one of these. His brother Sam shows up to save you, but ends up going on a tangent that results in him not stopping the descending, spiky ceiling until the very last second.
  • In God of War, Kratos must hold one up and slowly inch his way to the exit while being attacked by dogs. Hilariously, if you stick around after escaping, you'll see the dogs get crushed.
  • In Little Nemo the Dream Master, the auto-scrolling House of Toys level has a part in which a ceiling covered with Spikes of Doom repeatedly tries to strike Nemo from above. There's a similar but more drawn-out example of this in Nightmare Land.

Web Comics

  • The trap-filled Castle Heterodyne in Girl Genius naturally have these. One squashes Dr. Silas Merlot and his mech after the portion of the castle he's in gets activated.

Western Animation

  • Code Lyoko: This is a staple of Sector 5 in Lyoko (along with rising floors and crushing walls). Poor Odd got squashed at least twice.

 Odd: (groans) Ever been flattened by a steamroller?

  • Word Girl's villain Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy toys with a new evil lair, which includes one of these that almost leads to Wordgirl's demise.
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest plays this deadly straight with a pair of scientists off-screen.
  • Done in the Mega Man cartoon, complete with spikes. Unlike most examples, Mega was bound to the floor, unable to move as the ceiling descended. Luckily, the handcuffs weren't of the strongest material, which was made sillier by the fact that Wily left Mega Man in his base unattended.
  • Inverted and double subverted on The Magic School Bus, when the class shrinks down and explores the bus's internal workings. Inside a piston chamber, they're afraid they'll be crushed when it moves upward, only to have it stop shy and move down again. They weren't in any danger from the piston ... but the bus itself is placed inside a car crusher in the very next scene.