Is there an accepted term to refer to an exterior door in a building which is suspended above ground level so anybody exiting the building would immediately be met with a sheer drop? (Having been installed through miscommunication or building modification or deliberate design)

I've seen the term 'door to nowhere' or 'nowhere door' used to refer to a door that has an unusual position like this, but it also seems to refer to doors that open onto solid walls, and purely decorative non-functional doors set into walls, ceilings or floors.

The context is that I would like to be able to search for images and articles about these doors, their history and so on, but without a common term I haven't had any luck.

Is there a term specifically referring to elevated dangerous useless doors?

  • 2
    Is this really a common enough occurrence to warrant a name?
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 23:32
  • I've seen things like this in fantasy and dream sequences in TV/movie, I didn't know they existed in the real world. I'd call the outside of the door a cliff or precipice. I doubt the door itself has a special name.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 23:34
  • This is an example. cynthiamvoss.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/…
    – Ketro
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 23:36
  • 1
    Hayloft doors (or similar loading features) open to a sheer drop.
    – Hugh
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 0:17
  • 1
    "Suicide door" would fit your description.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 0:19

4 Answers 4


You may refer to it as an elevated entrance:

An elevated entrance is a type of entrance, common in the design of medieval castles, that is not accessible from ground level, but lies at the level of an upper storey [sic].

It is doubtful your examples are meant to serve as a security measure, but it sure seems to follow the same look and feel.

I did find one interesting justification for the existence of such an opening in modern structures. If the upper floor of a building has a need to load large items that cannot fit in the staircase or elevator, a large "door to nowhere" may be created to allow a crane to hoist the items up. See this death-door built into a public library.

enter image description here

  • 1
    I've heard them called 'gantry doors.' No results for image search.
    – Hugh
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 0:30

We have one of these in our work its an access door to a roof space but there has since been another place to access this area from. We refer to it as the dead mans door because although it cant be opened from the inside and is locked from the outside if you where able to walk through it you would be met with certain death. Sort of a fun name for it too "dead mans door"


Useless, but maintained doors, like those shown above, are called Thomassons. [This is hypernymic, referring also to other architectural elements, but also hyponymic, referring only to those that are maintained.]

[T]he term “Thomasson” was actually coined by Japanese artist Genpei Akasegawa.... in 1985 Akasegawa published a book of ... photographs [of such oddities] and writings, in which he called [these curiosities] “Thomassons.” His criteria for inclusion [were] pretty simple. He asked:

    1. Was the object at hand completely and utterly useless? and
    1. Was it being maintained?

... The word “Thomasson” itself can be traced back to Gary Thomasson, an American baseball player who was traded to Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants. Thomasson was paid a handsome sum for a two-year contract, but failed to perform as his managers had hoped. As a result, he was benched for most his contract; In the eyes of Akasegawa, Thomasson was both “useless” and “maintained.”

[HOMES: Diane Pham; Architecture, Brooklyn / Manhattan: quirky]


They are so stupid they defy definition but searching for architectural or engineering blunders or failures will usually throw up examples such as these


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