A woman tries to breathe fresh air through a crack in the doors when homeowners and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) activists became stuck in a California elevator on March 25, 2009.

David McNew/Getty Images

It was October 1999, and Nicholas White, who was working late at Businessweek magazine, wanted a cigarette. Instead, he got a 41-hour claustrophobic nightmare trapped inside an elevator.

White did as we all would do in such circumstances, especially if we didn't have our ever-present smartphones (and maybe even if we did). He pressed the alarm and intercom buttons -- a lot -- and waited for someone to respond [source: Paumgarten]. Ultimately, he became discouraged when no one did. More than a day-and-a-half later, White was rescued. Although physically unharmed, White became loathe to step inside another elevator [source: Frank].

Suffering the vagaries of a malfunctioning lift can happen to anyone. Heck in 2011, an elderly nun survived four days locked inside the elevator at her Baltimore convent while her sisters were off at a convention. Luckily, she happened to be carrying with her some carrot sticks, water and a few cough drops [source: Daily Beast].

Being trapped in an elevator can be mind-numbing torture. Our pulse rate quickens. Our blood pressure rises. We sweat. We contemplate our life. We think about death. Sometimes we cry. Other times we panic. Some are lucky, others are not.

Many things can shake a person's psyche, and becoming trapped in an elevator arguably tops the list. Even the fear of being trapped is enough to cause panic in some people.

The horror elevators engender is real.