An enormous pit has many benefits to the evil supervillain who can appreciate its advantages: centrally located at the lair, it materially improves ventilation in humid climates, in a dungeon, it provide ingress and egress for monstrous bats, and when situated at the entrance to one’s fortress it can block invading heroic forces (at least those who do not possess the foresight to bring their own 2x4s to bridge the gap). Unlike many of your possessions, it will be of little or no use to your foes, as the forces of good and of order will generally have no interest in a dark fearsome chasm.
- Location, location, location. Most evil geniuses want to have their bottomless pit somewhere conveniently located close to their lairs or bases of operation, which makes good sense if they have the opportunity to put up new construction around existing pits or to acquire title to old compounds already equipped with a suitable dropoff. If, however, one happens to be constrained as to where one can set up one’s seat of strength, it is also possible to create a bottomless pit from scratch as well. To do this, you had best have access to some high tech or magic or else you will have quite a lengthy project completion schedule to manage. Despite the popular notion, you do not have to drill it clear through center of the planet (technically, you need only an opening a few meters wide extending down below the crust and at least a half kilometer in depth). But if you do go with the planet-spanning design, remember that the hole becomes a sort of “topless pit” when considered from the other side: be sure to implement the security measures appropriate for its location. If you carve out the rock using by diverting a river to erode its way into a deep chamber, you will gain the benefit of the highly prized drip-drip-drip effect afterwards.
- Install the amenities. While a plain pit can still strike terror into the soul of most viewers, there are a few additional items which can boost its effectiveness: a pitiless wind (either bone-chillingly cold or searingly hot) seemingly from Hell itself, grotesque tentacles or arms reaching up over the edge, a pile of dropping pebbles conveniently located to demonstrate the lack of any bottom. In addition, you can make some less visible additions of a functional nature, such as small video cameras connected to monitoring equipment to record any intruders plummeting to their doom while you are not around. Use infrared illumination so as not to destroy the unnatural inky blackness.
- Housekeeping. If the pit is of natural origin, having been delved by some unknown dreadful creature or the result of titanic geologic forces, one must not be fooled by an appearance of timeless dread. As nature abhors a vacuum, so does she also a lacuna, and all manner of processes will tend to clog up a crack or burrow left to its own maintenance. This does not even include the willful acts of those who would seek to ruin that which you own. Stick to a regular schedule of inspection and repair of your bottomless pit, so that litter and vandalism is corrected, small fissures will not grow into major structural faults, and cave-ins will not end up narrowing and choking the aperture to the point of unusability.
Strokes of genius
- The Freudian pit. Part of the grimness of an unwilling descent into the maw of a bottomless pit no doubt takes place on the unconscious level. It is possible to capitalize on this tendency, piping in the proper organic sounds and applying the very best slime coatings to amplify the dread. A number of symposium contributions and graduate theses have been devoted to just this topic over the years and are well worth the investment in time spent searching out.
- Torture chamber. A hellmouth is a welcome addition to a chamber of horrors, not only to dispose of the subjects of those ministrations but also to instill its own primal fear synergistically along with the other techniques of coercion. Consider adapting some of your equipment to make the most use of the pit, for instance turning a rack up on end so the subject is being pulled down into the abyss. For villains on a budget, the old classic pendulum plus pit arrangement, whether equipped with or without moving walls, is a reliable standby.
- Trapdoors. It may be considered to be overkill to install a false floor over a bottomless pit when a shallow drop equipped with spikes or acid will do its lethal work equally well, but there are times where the lonesome shocked cry fading into the unimaginable distance is precisely what is called for and nothing else will suffice. This is also a good way to use chasms which are narrower than a few meters wide at the top which sometimes inspire contempt on the part of the passerby who can simply go around it when they see it. One should try to make the trap blend in with the decor as skillfully as possible, avoiding clichés such as an Oriental carpet placed suspiciously in the middle of a featureless corridor.
Traps for mere fools
- Ledges. You do not want to have any that are wide enough for someone to stand on.
- Handholds. Crevices large enough to accept the point of a grappling hook are best covered over with concrete.
- Wandering monsters. Trolls, in particular, generally do not know any better not to tumble in. You can temporarily install handrails or a metal grating, which are also useful when you are vacuuming around the mouth of the pit.
- Should have read the blueprints. Though they have many other virtues, pits are not portable; they must in almost all cases stay at their original location.
Precious and needful
- Acoustical engineer. This person can tweak the design of the pit to get the maximum sustain on the screams of those falling into its depths, as well as assist in concerts you might wish to have with this as your venue.
- Mole people. These generally can be found to make their consulting services available for hire at a reasonable rate.
- Pills for vertigo.
- Teflon walls.
- Fog machine.
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- Image credit Long by Thomas Hawk
- Image credit Pozo en el Patio del Cortijo Jurado by carloscASTROweb