Town with a Secret Dark Secret
When even the townsfolk are in the dark
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(permanent link) added: 2013-02-15 14:49:39 sponsor: Cassis (last reply: 2013-02-21 14:17:24)

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{Note: I wanted to add Storybrooke to TWADS, but that description specifically mentions the townsfolk being in on the dark secret, which in OUAT they’re not. The trope examples had several aversions, though, and I could think of a few more off the top of my head, hence this YKKTW. This may not be common enough to trope—but if it isn’t, I think it is common enough to add as a variant to the main TWADS entry. If it’s tropeworthy, then I’ll beef up the description and of course it Needs a Better Name. Also needs suggested potholes for related tropes.}

There are towns where the shifty-eyed inhabitants are clearly concealing some mystery from outsiders. And then there are places like this, where most or nearly all of the townspeople are oblivious Muggles who are as likely to become monster munch as any unfortunate tourist or newcomer.

The holders of the secret are usually members of a family, secret society, or conspiracy, or even, rarely, a single Evil Overlord. The new resident, out-of-town relative, or returning prodigal may have to convince his/her friends and family that there is such a secret before they can even worry about surviving it.

Note that to qualify as this trope, the secret must affect the majority of the population, not merely the occasional unlucky victim. A single serial killer or vampire working an area would not be an example—unless the local authorities were covering up the crimes. Or he was the local authority.

May very well be located in Lovecraft Country, the Deep South, or other out-of-the-way place. May be a Utopian Uncanny Village but is just as likely to be a mundane-looking Anywheresville.

Film:

Literature:
  • Is Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot an example? A few vampires move into a small town and begin converting it…
  • In Stephen King's Under the Dome, only a select few town leaders are aware that their small town contains America's largest meth lab. This becomes a problem for everybody when the meth lab explodes, starting a fire that kills most of the townspeople.

Live-Action TV:
  • Haven, Maine--A small town that has for generations hosted individuals with various curses. The mysterious “Troubles” have recently returned, causing the deadly powers of some citizens to reactivate with horrible consequences. Troubles are usually passed down in families, and it appears that most nonafflicted people are convinced that they are just legends. The local police chief employs a “fixer” to remove evidence of Trouble-related death and mayhem, and the newspaper regularly ascribes strange events to gas leaks. Loosely based on a novella by Stephen King (who obviously loves this trope).
  • This trope may have been first used on television in The Twilight Zone episode "Walking Distance" (1959).
  • American Gothic has Trinity, South Carolina, a town whose dark secret is that its sheriff is the Devil Incarnate. No one knows this fact at all (except Merlyn, it seems), while only the few who run afoul of Buck's wrath, dare to cross him, or refuse to obey him ever even discover what a Magnificent Bastard he truly is.
  • Played with in the case of Sunnydale, California. It's a medium-sized city conveniently located on a Hellmouth and overrun with demons and vampires that treat the place like a buffet. Most of Sunnydale's citizens at first seem hilariously oblivious to the many, many mysterious deaths that occur there. The only humans in on it are the heroes and various characters who tap into the dark powers of the place for their own ends, such as the Big Bad of S3. (There’s a reason Sunnydale is a former trope namer for Weirdness Censor.) However, later in the series it becomes clear that most of the residents actually do have a pretty good idea of what’s going on; they just choose to live in denial, making it a classic Town with a Dark Secret.
  • Mystic Falls, Virginia, has been home to supernatural creatures—witches, vampires, and werewolves—for hundreds of years. The Founders’ Council is to keep these in check and protect the townsfolk—as well as keep them in the dark. Lately they haven’t been doing such a good job…There’s been a rise in “wild animal attacks” and “accidental” deaths.
  • Storybrooke, Maine, is a town under a curse—the residents are actually fairytale characters ripped from their magical world by the vengeance of the Evil Queen from the Snow White tale. Time is suspended in the town and the people live in an unaging, semi-amnesiac haze as shadows of their true selves. At the beginning of the series, the only ones who know the truth are the Evil Queen herself, Regina, and her ten-year-old adopted son. In S2, after the curse is broken, the fairytale characters remember their former lives but need to keep the outside world from learning about them, and it becomes a classic Town with a Dark Secret.
  • Torchwood: Most people don't know there are Aliens in Cardiff.

Web Original:
  • In the Whateley Universe, Whateley Academy is literally in Lovecraft Country, since the closest town is the Dunwich. Only maybe half of Dunwich is in on the dark secrets, since the town has been gentrified.

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