What Are Liminal Spaces?
The term “liminal” refers to a threshold that’s almost imperceptible. In that sense, liminal spaces can be defined as ambiguous spaces of transition. Examples of liminal spaces in architecture or nature can often be perceived as ghostly areas with unknowable qualities. Many people can find liminal spaces fascinating or downright scary because of the way they look real yet strangely fictitious at the same time.
If you ever find yourself in an empty parking lot during a foggy night, the eerie silence surrounding you can bring out feelings of unease. It can trigger some involuntary reactions such as checking behind your back and feeling the hairs on the back of the neck rise. Defining liminal spaces into words isn’t very simple because ideally, you need to experience the feeling of such a space to fully understand it. Essentially, it’s like becoming trapped in an alternate reality and sensing that something is slightly off.
Concept Of Liminal Spaces
The concept of a liminal space tends to revolve around transitional areas such as rest stops, hallways, and waiting rooms. This kind of place fits the aesthetic of liminal spaces quite precisely according to the definition of the concept. When it comes to the generated emotional response, liminal spaces can often involve a mix of eeriness, apprehension, and nostalgia. Strange feelings arise when you look at a particular place outside of its designed context.
It might seem like a horror movie cliche but there’s an important reason why empty stairwells or corridors at night appear very scary. Instead of bursting with life and movement, these areas can suddenly feel like harboring something sinister. It’s a good example of a haunting liminal space that you might encounter in a nightmare. Not all liminal spaces create otherworldly atmospheres with unsettling qualities. Some can simply hit you with a wave of nostalgia or appear vaguely dreamlike.
If you’re interested in the concept of a liminal space, check out the following examples that illustrate its unsettling nature making you feel as if you’re transported to a surreal world.
1. Dark Snowy Path
The right balance between light and darkness can create a strangely eerie effect for any snowy path. In this liminal space example, you can clearly observe the path you need to follow while the foggy, low-light conditions make navigation harder. The haunting visual appeal of this photo is also accentuated by the blurriness that creates a strong vintage vibe. The concept of wandering the woods aimlessly brings the right feelings of uneasiness characteristic of liminal spaces.
2. Empty Ferry Ride
Mundane settings can often function best to illustrate the concept of a liminal space. A ferry is designed to accommodate and transport multiple people. You can easily get a feeling of unease when you realize you’re the only one traveling. Whereas facing an expanse of empty seats conjures up eerie feelings, other people might become more relaxed or experience a deep sense of serenity. Depending on your perspective, the endlessness of liminal spaces can seem either haunting or cozy.
3. Foggy Ski Lift
There’s something about foggy weather that can easily create a haunting atmosphere. Perhaps it’s that feeling of the unknown barely hinted at from a distance yet elusively hidden from your view. This ski lift shrouded in thick fog can be considered a classic example of a liminal space that can truly fascinate you with its uncanny look. It feels like an infinite ride into a vast, never-ending abyss. This feeling is accentuated by the lack of other visible reference points other than the ski lift itself.
4. Plain Waiting Room
Here’s another example of a mundane place that can appear oddly terrifying. It’s a sparsely furnished waiting room with just a single chair. There’s definitely something intriguing about the use of such a room. Seeing it can evoke a strange mix of feelings as if you can imagine yourself sitting there waiting anxiously just staring up at the fluorescent lighting and listening to the quiet ticking of the watch on your wrist. Waiting rooms are transient areas that perfectly embody the concept of a liminal space.
What is it about laundromats that makes them good liminal spaces? It’s hard to explain but it’s probably how these places are essentially unchanged since they first appeared. Maybe the machines are a bit more advanced or the interiors feel slightly modernized compared to other times but the laundromats as a whole still feel the same. This is another example of a liminal space that can feel haunting and strangely relaxing at the same time. Feelings of unease can arise from the general melancholic vibe of these lonely places.
6. Flooded Metro Station
Some of the most haunting liminal spaces are those that appear to be shrouded in a surreal atmosphere. This flooded metro station is a perfect example because seeing water in this place is both unexpected and bizarre. What makes this a liminal space is the presence of something somewhere it doesn’t belong. The flood here is caused by damage from a tropical storm. When taken out of context, this gives off solid liminal space vibes.
7. High-School Exam Room
This photo conjures up some dystopian vibes that contribute to its overall strangeness. Considering the perspective and emptiness of such a large room, it’s certainly a unique liminal space that can make its way into your dreams. It seems like a surreal room found in an alternate reality. The area can make you feel uncomfortable because it’s simply not a practical learning environment. It’s actually designed for taking exams but still oddly appears like a classroom initially.
8. Haunted Event
Parties are fun and exciting, full of people having a good time. This image seems like the antithesis of that. It gives off a sensation of bleakness due to poor illumination and empty seats. In the right settings, the same place can feel cozy and pleasant. Places can become liminal when things feel off and there’s an air of mystique surrounding them. Even the most casual and mundane spaces can appear creepy and weird.
9. Endless Hallway
Whether from hotels or apartment complexes, the utilitarian design of hallways in these settings can easily create the sensation of a liminal space. It’s quite unsettling to look from one end of the hallway to another and notice the symmetry and sameness of everything blending together. The eeriness also comes from the lack of people as well as the haunting mix of lights and shadows.
10. Abandoned Nuclear Plant
Foggy liminal spaces are probably becoming a cliche at this point but this abandoned nuclear plant feels deeply haunting compared to others. It’s incredibly eerie to look up to this massive structure simply silhouetted in the fog. The color scheme makes the visual impact of the photo feel even more pronounced. It’s particularly strange to observe the bleak light globe of the sun close to the nuclear plant. The megalophobia (fear of large things) in the photo is accentuated by the seemingly small tree in the foreground.
11. Hellish Atmosphere
The theme of abandoned things without any people in sight seems very common for liminal spaces. Here’s a truly haunted example of a driverless delivery van that, judging by the red sky, seems to have been abandoned in an end-of-the-world scenario. Although it looks like a camera trick, the intense red color is actually real because the photo was taken during raging wildfires in the Bay Area. Somehow, that makes it scarier. Just imagine waking up one day and going out to be greeted by this uncanny experience.
12. Tunnel To An Alternate Dimension
Perhaps the best way to describe this picture is “hauntingly beautiful”. Not all liminal spaces need to feel unsettling and creepy to match this specific aesthetic. Some hallways or tunnels can bring liminal vibes through stylish color mixes and weird visual effects that make you feel lost in an alternate reality. The perspective on this photo gives the impression of walls closing on you. The changing colors have surreal qualities as well and create an odd sense of urgency.
13. Plane Without Seats
This photo can help you visualize more effectively the real size of a commercial plane. The lack of seats makes it unusual and strange enough to make it feel like a liminal space. Planes can sometimes need to be stripped of the seats for various purposes such as deep cleaning. While there’s nothing particularly haunting about this liminal space, it’s still an interesting example of the subtler side of the aesthetic. You’ve probably thought about how the inside of the plane looks without the seats so there you have it.
14. Dreamlike Road
Like a scene from a dream, this road is curving upwards appearing to rise infinitely. The strange visual effect is enhanced by the lighting while the lack of cars and people ties everything together into a classic liminal space. Even though most people don’t have roads built like this in the areas where they live, the picture creates a weird feeling of nostalgia. Walking or driving on bizarre roads is often encountered in dreams and nightmares so that’s a possible source of familiarity.
15. Vintage Motel Room
This is the kind of liminal space where you can have a hard time explaining what exactly feels off about it. The eeriness is captured through many details that make you uneasy and weirdly calm at the same time. It’s as if you can grasp the stillness in the air. The old motel room conjures up lots of nostalgic memories for many people. Even if you haven’t experienced a family vacation in this kind of place when you were young, it can still haunt you with a sense of vague familiarity.
16. Empty Supermarket
Supermarkets are supposed to be full of bustling movement as shoppers search around the aisles for products. When people disappear from the picture, the vacant place suddenly becomes weird and unsettling. If you were in a horror movie and found yourself entering a completely empty supermarket you’d be very anxiously asking “where is everyone?”. This is a very uncanny liminal space indeed.
17. Submerged Staircases
As if abandoned industrial staircases weren’t creepy enough by themselves, these are also partially submerged into the dark water. The stairs feel useless now because you can no longer keep going down. They appear to continue to unknown depths adding some powerful liminal space vibes. It’s a haunting picture that illustrates a weird transitional area. Just by looking at it, your imagination can run wild expecting radioactive creatures hidden beneath the water or other scary unknown things.
18. Exit Door
Side exits in malls can appear very strange depending on your perspective. This liminal space example creates an interesting contrast between the illuminated and darkened areas. It turns the creepy factor to a new level when you also consider the ominous exit sign above the door. The path outside appears darker the farther you look. It’s an eerie visual effect that contributes to the overall uneasiness conjured up by this liminal space. If you ever feel confused about the concept of a liminal space, this photo explains it pretty well.
19. Edge Of The World
Have you ever played an open-world video game and reached the end of the map? You would be usually greeted by a message like “You can’t go that way” and the game would simply prevent you from going any further. This snowy path here can remind you of that weird feeling. It appears as if you’ve come to the edge of the world and you’ve discovered something you were not supposed to. This liminal space makes you feel aware of the boundaries of your own reality through its uncanny vibes.
20. Eerie Woodlands
Some of the best examples of haunting liminal spaces are those that appear to be passages to other worlds. This woodland path lures you deeper into the unknown depths in total blackness. It’s not exactly an inviting proposition if you’re faced with this view. The scariest liminal spaces are the transient areas that feel never-ending and hopelessly unknowable. Even though your rational mind tells you that it’s impossible to stumble upon some mythical beast’s lair, the eerie atmosphere can influence your imagination in strange ways.
It’s a strange feeling to navigate a labyrinth and take the wrong path that leads to a dead end. That’s typically something you see in movies or dreams so it’s certainly bizarre to experience that in real life. Stairs leading nowhere can create a particularly haunting liminal space, especially when you consider the slight claustrophobic vibes of this picture. The walls appear to come down on you the farther you go up. Some people find indoor liminal spaces often creepier because of that strange feeling of having nowhere to go.
22. Empty Gas Station
Have you ever had weird dreams where you keep wandering aimlessly and somehow stumble upon the same area? This liminal space seems to give similar vibes. The eerie emptiness of this gas station combined with the flat space look can make you question reality for a split second. You might be wondering whether you’re dreaming or feel as if you’re trapped in an ultra-realistic video game. There’s so much desolation captured in a single picture making this a classic liminal space.
23. Upside Down Pool
Whereas some liminal spaces can feel calming when seen from certain angles or even appear hauntingly beautiful, this one is purely uncanny. It’s a photo of an upside-down pool that puts your visual sense through some difficulty to figure out. The color scheme adds to the overall strangeness enhancing the liminal space with dreamlike qualities. This image can make many people feel uncomfortable like being trapped in a bizarre alternate world.
24. Unknown Destination
Liminal spaces can often remind you of dream scenarios such as riding down a strange path into the unknown. This underground tunnel looks particularly trippy considering the curved walls and illumination system. It provides an eerie atmosphere that can remind you of weird nightmare experiences. Similar to other liminal space examples, this one gives off an impression of exploring an infinite path to an unknown destination.
25. End Of The Sidewalk
When it comes to liminal spaces, an abrupt end can sometimes feel weirder than a path that goes on infinitely. The unnecessary sign placed at the end of this short sidewalk can provoke a mix of different emotions. It’s somewhat absurdly humorous and strangely uncanny at the same time. The haunting visual effect is amplified by the pure blackness in the distance that seems to suggest you’ve reached the end of the map in a video game.
26. Alternate Realities
Contrast plays an important role when it comes to the concept of a liminal space. A bright apartment seen from outside at night can easily give off liminal vibes assuming the right contrast intensity and image composition. This photo takes it a step further by showcasing different apartments with each appearing to have its own distinctive atmosphere. The pure blackness surrounding them gives an eerie sensation as if they’re completely separate alternate dimensions.
27. Dystopian Looking Apartment Block
Although it looks like a tunnel seen from a weird perspective at first, this is actually an apartment block with an eerily curved look. It certainly gives off dystopian vibes and makes you feel uneasy when seeing the same urban architecture style that seems to repeat endlessly. Staring down from above this apartment complex feels somewhat nauseating. It’s a good example of a liminal space that can haunt your dreams.
28. Nostalgic Vibes
The transient beauty of this liminal space offers some solid nostalgic vibes only slightly tinged with creepiness. Thanks to being bathed in bright light, this water park pathway evokes a positive mood despite the suggestion of wandering aimlessly into the unknown. The surrounding architecture can easily remind you of vaporwave aesthetics that are heavily based on inducing nostalgic feelings.
29. Arcade Area in a Dead Mall
Not all haunting liminal spaces have to refer to creepy darkness and abyssal pathways into the unknown. Some fairly mundane settings can bring strong melancholic vibes such as this arcade zone in a local dead mall. Seeing this photo can remind you of a fun pastime that’s no longer popular. From the dim lighting to the tacky carpet patterns, everything in this picture can bring a surge of nostalgia to anyone who’s ever spent a big part of their youth at the arcade.
30. Vibrant Color Mix
Oddly reminiscent of video games, this high school’s contrasting color scheme creates solid liminal vibes. Both the staircase and corridor to the classrooms can be considered transient areas. This fact is more obviously emphasized by the use of distinctive colors to separate them clearly. The result is a liminal space that conjures up weird otherworldly feelings as if experiencing an alternate reality. It’s somehow creepy and cozy at the same time.
31. Foggy Lake
Have you ever seen something that looks strangely fake as if simulated by alien beings attempting to copy our natural world and manmade structures? This is pretty much the vibe of this liminal space. Despite its comforting and relaxing initial impression, this area has an eerie atmosphere primarily due to the sameness of the trees and light poles stretching endlessly into the fog. Notice how the most distant trees appear to have not been rendered properly making you feel like living in a simulated world.
32. Creepy Sign
Like a scene from a nightmare, this bizarre sign shrouded in darkness can make you feel truly puzzled. It seems to point to some attractions in the area but where? Why is it empty? It can remind you of weird dream experiences where you’re looking at all kinds of strange things with a sense of detachment as if it’s a totally ordinary thing. If you look at this blue sign closely, you can notice its misaligned legs that hauntingly indicate movement to raise the creepiness factor even more.
33. Liminal Food Court
A completely empty food court in a mall can easily illustrate the concept of a liminal space. It’s such an out-of-the-ordinary sight. The usual context is lacking and the oppressive silence can almost be felt through the picture. There are no cashiers serving people, workers preparing orders in the background, customers eating and drinking at the tables, or groups of teenagers laughing while waiting in line. It all seems so surreal in its emptiness making you feel like the last person on the planet. This isn’t just an eerie liminal space because its atmosphere can also evoke deep nostalgia for long-lost times.
34. Abandoned Roller Coaster
Abandoned man-made objects can often appear sinister once degradation sets in and when nature reclaims the area. It’s safe to say that roller coasters or amusement parks are some of the creepiest abandoned things out there. This photo reflects the concept of a liminal space pretty well considering the melancholic vibes and eerie atmosphere of the fog. It’s a place of transformation where an object created for a specific purpose becomes useless and forgotten.
35. Surreal Train Platforms
This image looks as if it’s captured from a dream setting where you’re waiting for the train for what seems like an eternity. It’s a classic liminal space that illustrates the idea of transition into the unknown. The sameness of the platforms brings out some trippy vibes while the depth perspective gives the photo artificial qualities. It resembles a computer rendering unless you’re observing it more closely.
36. Office Liminal Space
Poor light conditions give this empty office an uncanny liminal space vibe. Something feels off about this photo. The strange shadows and floor texture make it so the area doesn’t look like a real place. The haunting emptiness of this office space reflects the soul-sucking drudgery experienced by this kind of mundane atmosphere. Perhaps in a fresh light with proper furnishings, you might be able to take advantage of some promising productivity potential in this space.
37. Infinite Cars
Have you ever experienced strange video game glitches where objects erratically made multiple copies of themselves? This liminal space example can remind you of that weird feeling. The only difference is that it’s a real place, a dealership with countless same-model cars perfectly aligned. The result is particularly surreal thanks to the angle of the photo allowing the vehicles to seemingly blend together while stretching endlessly.
38. Nostalgic Bowling Zone
This is a particularly depressing liminal space because it can remind you of some better times filled with fun memories of the game. The colorful decor and lights were supposed to enhance the atmosphere and contribute to the overall excitement of bowling with friends. Now, devoid of people, this desolated place seems strangely unsettling. You would feel anxious being there by yourself most likely hoping to exit the area as soon as possible.
39. Airport Terminal
When taken out of context, airport terminals look very strange. They’re like quintessential transient places from a dream. Moving around the airport by yourself can sometimes feel like navigating a giant spaceship. The color scheme, lighting, as well as the wide and curved walls shown here contribute to the uncanny vibe of the place. It can make many people uncomfortable hoping to escape quickly.
40. Around The Corner
There’s something really scary about the experience of driving at night on forested roads. This liminal space takes the haunting vibe to a new level considering the narrow pathway and the anxious expectancy of what’s around the corner. The silence of the woodlands can make you particularly uncomfortable emphasizing the eerie atmosphere of the place. The shadows of the trees can look creepy as they’re silhouetted against the dark background. This liminal space can be revisited through recurring dreams that may be oddly terrifying.