A dungeon, prison

The French had a word for it, and presumably a need. Medieval times were not the romantic era we imagine now, but were dangerous times, especially if you were an enemy of a powerful figure such as a member of the nobility or clergy. Many people were held, legally or illegally in castle donjons, whence we draw our word 'dungeon'. Some were held for torture, ransom, punishment or pleasure. Some were simply held because they were considered too dangerous to release.

Some were simply imprisoned to take them out of the way, permanently. These were frequently dropped into deep vertical cells, whose only opening was a trapdoor at the top. Here they might be left to rot and die, forgotten. This, then was the origin of both the cell and the word, drawn from the French 'oublier' (to forget).

The oubliette became a feature of many European castles. Some still exist, and the curious tourist may visit them at leisure. Warwick Castle, in the English West Midlands still has one, as does Amberley Castle in Sussex, but the grisliest must certainly be that at Leap Castle neat Kinnitty in Ireland. Here, the discovery of heaps of human bones on the floor of the bricked-up oubliette is a ghoulish reminder of the horrible end facing anyone thrown into it. This was a lonely, protracted death, certainly worse than being buried alive, as the prisoner would be able to hear people moving about him, ignoring his pleas for help and release.

The word has also been applied to the so-called priest holes, used for refuge and escape during the many periods of religious persecution which tore Europe apart from time to time. It is also used sometimes to describe any place where things may be sent to be forgotten - the most modern of which is the /dev/null device in Unix computing.


The X-files

Episode: 3X08
First aired:11/17/95
Written by: Charles Grant Craig
Directed by: kim Manners

A very cool episode!
Teenagers are having their picture taken for the local high school. The assistant looks intently at one of the girls, Amy, and takes many pictures. That night he comes into her room, clamping his hand over her mouth saying "Nobody's gonna spoil us." At this exact time, a waitress, Lucy suddenly has a nose bleed and falls to the floor saying "Nobody's gonna spoil us."

Mulder arrives at the girl's house expressing sympathy to the mother. Since his sister was taken from him, he knows how she feels. Mulder wants to talk to Lucy since he has heard that she was speaking the kidnapper's last lines (heard from Amy's sister).

Mulder finds that Lucy was kidnapped and was missing for five years before she escaped. Her abductor was never caught.

Lucy has been taken to the hospital and insists she knows nothing about the girl and is eager to leave. The kidnapper, Carl Wade, gets a flat tire and chases away a tow truck with a metal pipe, Amy is in the trunk. Two blood types are lifted off Lucy's work clothes, hers and Amy's. Lucy has a criminal record which prompts suspicion amoung the other agents but Mulder maintains she is a victim.

At a halfway house, Lucy shivers uncontrollably saying that it's dark and she can't see anything. She makes scratches on her face that mirror those on Amy's face, who we see huddling in a cold, dark room.

Mulder takes Lucy to dinner and asks her if she feels better than Amy does. Mulder believes that she can see and feel what the girl does and asks Lucy to help them. In the cold room, Wade snaps flashing photos of Amy who is incredibly scared.

Mulder and Scully watch a video of Lucy shot just after he escape from her captor, exhibiting the damage caused by her ordeal. They find that Amy's pictures are missing and the assistant, Wade, has been fired. Lucy identifies Wade as her abductor.

Alone, Amy pries a board loose, escaping into the woods as Wade returns. He pursues her and Lucy runs too and falls as Amy does. Lucy sobs into Mulder's arms and says that it feels like it is happening all over again.

Scully arrives with two other agents who have come to arrest Lucy because of the DNA on her clothes. When they return, however, Lucy is gone. Mulder suggests that there must have been some kind of empathatic transferance with the two girls so that Lucy bled Amy's blood.

Scully says that Lucy could be working with Wade and warns Mulder that he may be too close to the case because of his sister. The tow truck guy reports that he saw Wade near where Lucy was found 17 years earlier.

They find the house empty except for Lucy, who is cowering in the corner of the basement. Mulder asks again for her strength in helping. Lucy feels cold and wet and Mulder realizes Wade is dragging Amy through the river. Hearing the sirens, Wade forces Amy under water. Mulder shoots Wade and begins CPR on the girl. When they thought it has been too late, Amy suddenly coughs and breathes as Lucy dies.

Mulder rushes back to find Lucy dead. Lucy has, apparently drowned.

Important Quotes:
Scully -- "That's spooky."
Mulder -- "That's my name."

Scully -- "I hate to say this Mulder, but I think you just ran out of credibility."

Back to The X-files: Season 3

Ou`bli`ette" (?), n. [F., fr. oublier to forget, fr. (assumed) LL. oblitare, L. oblivisci, p. p. oblitus.]

A dungeon with an opening only at the top, found in some old castles and other strongholds, into which persons condemned to perpetual imprisonment, or to perish secretly, were thrust, or lured to fall.

Sudden in the sun
An oubliette winks. Where is he? Gone.
Mrs. Browning.


© Webster 1913.

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