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A Common Tear.

…there's a world of difference between what we see, and what is.
― Elizabeth, explaining her knowledge of Tears to Booker[src]

A Tear is a rip in dimensional time and space, revealing an alternate universe which does not exist in the current world of Columbia.[1] Every inhabitant of Columbia is able to see Tears; but ElizabethAnnabelle Comstock, the Boys of Silence, and the Lutece twins are the only ones able to create and interact with them. When tapping into these Tears, they are able to transport objects from the other side to the current world and vice-versa.

Throughout his adventure in Columbia, Booker DeWitt may encounter multiple Tears to help him fight back against the city's inhabitants. Elizabeth is able to transport these to Columbia's world at Booker's request.


In 1890, quantum-physicist Rosalind Lutece discovered a method of suspending an atom indefinitely, naming it the Lutece Field.[2] Father Zachary Comstock was inspired by his "vision" of the Archangel Columbia commanding him to build a city of perfection in the name of God. Utilizing Lutece's mechanism, he set out to build the City of Columbia for his Project Icarus.

The US Government, after Comstock demonstrated what could be done, saw Columbia as an opportunity to spread the ideals of American society and success. They drafted Rosalind and her technology to make the floating city a reality.

By 1893, when Columbia finished construction, Rosalind was observing an atom in her Lutece Field when she noticed she was not the only one interested in the particle. The same atom was being observed from another reality by her counterpart, Robert. They managed to slowly & painstakingly communicate across realities by turning the Lutece Field on and off, affecting the atom to create a crude Morse Code.[3] The two managed to design a device capable of breaching the fabric of space and time, to open portals between realities; these open windows to other dimensions were known as Tears.

After the creation of the device, Zachary Comstock utilized the machine to maintain his status as a religious leader and prophet of the city. By using the device, he could see every possible future and outcome of Columbia and its people. However, his frequent observations to the multiverse caused Comstock's physical form to dissipate and blur, causing physical damage which became evident as rapid aging & sterility. Despite being around twenty years old, Comstock was left with the physical attributes and appearance of a man almost three times his true age. 

Concerned with his lack of an heir, Rosalind proposed to Comstock that they simply travel to a dimension in which an alternate healthy version of himself had conceived a child. Robert revealed that Comstock did not exist in his reality - Booker DeWitt refused the baptism that led Comstock down his zealous path, fathering a healthy baby daughter. Comstock entered Robert's reality and, using him as an agent, offered to erase DeWitt's debts in exchange for his newborn daughter, Anna. DeWitt reluctantly obliged but quickly regretted his decision, rushing after them to get his daughter back. DeWitt found Comstock, Anna, and Robert about to enter the Tear and a struggle ensued when he attempted to snatch her back. Comstock gained the upper hand and pulled Anna through, with the Tear closing on Anna's finger as she reached back towards her father.

Robert and Anna remained in Comstock and Rosalind's universe, where Anna was renamed Elizabeth and heralded as Comstock's heir. As Elizabeth grew and matured, it was discovered that she had the ability to open Tears to other dimensions just as the machine had done. Because Elizabeth's body existed in two separate realities at once, her physical form was spread out across dimensional space. With Elizabeth's power and Comstock's overuse of the Lutece's machine, the fabric of space and time weakened. All around Columbia, Tear anomalies began to appear — connections to other realities. Citizens of Columbia could see through these Tears; some used them to plagiarize works and inventions that were seen in other realities. This knowledge greatly furthered the progress of Columbia's technologies and their resulting wonders.

BioShock Infinite[]

Main article: BioShock Infinite

At several points in the game, Elizabeth and Booker choose, for various reasons, to step through Tears, rather than bring the contents of a Tear to them. These Tears take them into alternate universes in which critical events occurred differently. Elizabeth has limited control over what kind of world these Tears lead to (she always thought of them as a form of wish fulfillment), but is unable to open a Tear leading back to a previous universe, making Tear travel a one-way journey. These Tears are occasionally unstable, leaving people who were nearby in either universe in a state of flux, which is especially traumatic if they are dead in the previous reality.

Rosalind Lutece devised a way of making and opening Tears through technological means, and opened one to bring her "brother" (her alternate self) Robert to her world. During an attempt on their lives, Rosalind and Robert Lutece were scattered across the multiverse, and became able to create and open Tears without using their device. The Tear experience (at least the first trip) can be traumatic for the one crossing over and can cause amnesia, and often result in new memories being formed from old ones. The Tear created by the prototype device that allowed Robert to enter Columbia seems to work slightly different than other Tears seen in the game. Not only does it appear somewhat different, it allows people to enter another reality without suffering the negative effects associated with a "normal" Tear. However, if the Tear closes and the person has stayed in the alternate reality, then the negative effects will occur as normal as seen with Robert Lutece when he didn't get sick until after the Tear had closed. For Comstock his prolonged exposure to the Lutece device cost him his fertility, health and sanity, but no one else exposed to Tears is known to have suffered from similar problems. The Boys of Silence have a limited use of Tears, and can use them to phase minions in and out of space-time to fight enemies.

Burial at Sea - Episode 1[]

Main article: Burial at Sea - Episode 1

Tears began to appear in Rapture after Elizabeth entered the city. The Tears did not go unnoticed by Rapture's populace; however, many believed they were simply a hallucination brought on by the 'Plasmid Blues', or one of the many strange sights to be had in the city of tomorrow. In an alternate universe, Jeremiah Fink used the Tears to plagiarize Rapture's technology. Tears that opened up to the Columbia timeline began appearing in Rapture by the mid-1950s. This caught the attention of biologist Dr. Yi Suchong, who was initially shocked when he saw Fink plagiarizing his own work. In a form of payback, Suchong stole Fink's idea for Vigors and marketed them to Fontaine as "drinkable plasmids". Some of these Plasmids were stored at Fontaine's department store, including Shock Jockey and Old Man Winter. It is likely that most of them were never manufactured in bulk (some of them were planned to be released by 1959, when the civil war broke out). Suchong also managed to gain glimpses of Columbia, and hypothesized that the source of the "phenomena" was a strange young woman who appeared and disappeared from the Tears.

The Tears functioned with almost the same mechanics, save for several new functions. They could bring objects from Columbia into Rapture, such as Freight Hooks, weapons, turrets, and even Motorized Patriots. The Tears also opened up to other time periods, possibly outside of both Rapture and Columbia — Samurai from Feudal Japan could be brought into 1950s Rapture.

Burial at Sea - Episode 2[]

Main article: Burial at Sea - Episode 2

Soon after the ending of the previous episode, Elizabeth is killed by the same Big Daddy that killed Comstock. Due to this she has lost her Tear-abilities. However, Dr. Yi Suchong built his own Lutece Device and reopened the Tear Elizabeth used to travel to Rapture, in the Silver Fin Restaurant. In order to help Atlas escape the department store, as an attempt to rescue Sally, Elizabeth must travel back to Columbia via the Tear in the Silver Fin to obtain the Lutece Particle. But the Lutece Device has been vandalized and must be fixed before she can return. When she entered Columbia, she finds herself on The First Lady and easily gets the particle, but when she tries to go back to Rapture, Suchong blocks the Tear and blackmails her to get him a Hair Sample, in exchange she can return.

Types of Tears[]

In battles, the player will be presented with choices of what type of Tear Elizabeth should open. Once one of them is activated, the others will become temporarily unavailable. Some Tears appear individually and are only limited by Elizabeth's inability to open Tears for a set period of time.


Opening a Tear of this type will bring in items that can be used as supplies or even a vending machine.


Main article: Salts

This variation will bring forth a barrel full of Salts to refill the player's Vigor bar.

Medical Kits[]

Main article: Medical Kit

This variation will bring forth a crate full of medical supplies or a broken Medical Kit vending machine to fill the player's health to full.


Opening a Tear of this type will bring an object primarily used as cover by the player.

Freight Hook[]

These Tears will summon a Freight Hook, which Booker can latch onto with his Sky-Hook. In the BioShock Infinite downloadable content Burial at Sea - Episode 1, Art Deco lighting sconces that function just like freight hooks may be summoned.


Opening a Tear of this type will bring in barrels or crates of weapons, or munitions to the player. The type of munitions provided varies. These Tears, coupled with destroying a Motorized Patriot, are the only ways to get ammunition for the Peppermill.

Gun Automaton[]

Main article: Gun Automaton

This variation will bring in a friendly Machine Gun Automaton that does not require Possession to fight for the player.

Rocket Automaton[]

Main article: Rocket Automaton

This variation can be used to warp in a friendly Rocket Automation that does not require Possession to fight on behalf of the player.


Main article: Mosquito

This variation will bring in a friendly flying turret, known as a Mosquito. Like the other machines, it doesn't need Possession.

Motorized Patriot[]

Main article: Motorized Patriot

This variation summons a friendly Motorized Patriot to fight for the player until its destruction, or at least until Elizabeth is ordered to open another Tear.

Environmental Manipulators[]

Some Tears bring environmental hazards into the environment, allowing Booker to make use of certain Vigors to use them to great effect.

Oil Slick[]

Main article: Oil Slick

Brings in a puddle of flammable oil into the environment, which can be ignited with Devil's Kiss.

Water Puddle[]

Main article: Water Puddle

Brings in a pool of water from a busted fire hydrant. Electrifying it with Shock Jockey will cause it to electrify enemies in contact with the pool to be shocked for massive damage.

Tesla Coil[]

Main article: Tesla Coil

Warps in a powerful Tesla Coil, which will shock any enemies nearby. Any enemies under the effects of Undertow will be dealt extra damage.


This Tear will bring in a stationary version of Booker that distracts enemies from the player's location while they attempt to attack it.


In Shantytown, a Tear will bring in a supply of food sacks to draw away people banging away on a vending machine, allowing the player to scoop up some Silver Eagles without creating a conflict.


Main article: Samurai

Only appearing in Burial at Sea - Episode 1, a Samurai is a helpful ally, and it functions and attacks the same way as Thuggish Splicers. This ally is useful to distract enemies and can take many hits before falling.

Old Man Winter[]

Only appearing in Burial at Sea - Episode 1, this Tear is required to gain access to Old Man Winter and progress through the story.

EVE Dispenser[]

Only appearing in Burial at Sea, a Pneumo Tube can be brought in to Rapture, giving the player a phial of EVE.


Behind the Scenes[]

  • According to an article from Gamasutra, the massive Tear that opens after Elizabeth's horse revival attempt was originally going to open to a primeval forest, not the 1980s. Ken Levine felt that world didn't have much of an impact to sell the concept for the Tear, so it was substituted with the 1980s world which reused building models from a canceled Irrational Games project.[4]
  • In the factory tailor shop next to the Good Time Club, there is a glowing red "Time Tear" that neither Booker or Elizabeth could explain. The song coming from the Tear is "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, a song popular during the Vietnam War. This song is later reprised by an unnamed civilian during the Vox revolution.
  • There is another "Time Tear" that is open in the late Albert Fink's studio, playing the song "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper. Albert had plagiarized the song and turned it into a steam organ ditty, which the player may have previously heard in Battleship Bay.
  • Boys of Silence are the only people besides Elizabeth, the Siren and the Lutece Twins capable of manipulating Tears, and it is implied they were granted their abilities through painful and mind-warping experimentation.
  • When Elizabeth opens the Tear to Paris in the 1980s (from the painting of the Eiffel Tower), in the cutscene used for the demo/trailer of the game the advertisement for the film shown in the cinema reads "Revenge of the Jedi", while the final version of the game has the more appropriate "La Revanche du Jedi". Revenge of the Jedi was actually the working title of Return of the Jedi during its production. But it was changed, since the Jedi are not typically seen as vengeful. In 2005, Revenge of the Sith was released.
  • Tears in Burial at Sea can bring objects from the Columbia timeline into Rapture, such as freight hooks, automatons, guns, and a Motorized Patriot. This is due to the fact that Columbia and Rapture are connected by being the constants in each universe: "There's always a man, there's always a lighthouse, there's always a city".