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Book Safe
aka: Tome Is Where The Heat Is
"Dear warden, you were right. Salvation lay within."

Priests clutched onto Bibles
hollowed out to fit their rifles
Coldplay, "Violet Hill"

Books are great. Even if you don't like reading, you can use a book for any of a number of handy purposes. One favorite trick is to hollow it out and hide something useful inside it.

Most often this is a gun. Often the book in question is the Good Book. It Gives A Whole New Meaning to "Guns and Bibles." Sometimes a character will go so far as to brandish the Bible while exclaiming "This will protect us!" or some similar line, only to open the Bible and reveal the weaponry within.

But the trick is flexible enough to be used for just about anything small enough to fit. Hand weapons, ammo, drugs, bottles of liquor, software, other books. Whatever.

If you're feeling clever, you can make sure that the object you are hiding goes into a hollow book of an appropriate genre or title: A secret locket in a romance novel, a safe key hidden in a book on finance, or the example below from The Matrix.

A book that is hollowed out and then glued into place on the shelf may be used to hide a secret switch (or the book itself may even BE the switch.) If you're lazy — or don't want to deface a book — you can just pull the book out a small way and stuff something behind it instead.

This trope can be Truth in Television; check That Other Wiki under "Book Safe" for examples.
Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • In the UK, a commercial for the board game Cluedo (aka Clue in North America) showed Miss Scarlet retrieving the revolver from a hollow book in the library.

     Anime and Manga  
  • In Mai-Otome Zwei, the Book of Neptune, from which Nagi alleged to have learned about Yuna and the CHILDs, was really a box with the Neptune Emerald GEM inside.
  • A Detective Conan case revolves around drugs hidden not in a book, but a "fake book" that has four sealed edges.
  • Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade. The protagonist keeps a Walther PPK hidden in a book.
  • In Pokémon Special, it's revealed that Roxanne hides Pokeballs in the book she always carries.
  • In Trigun, a variation on the standard gun-in-the-Bible occurs when that big heavy cross Wolfwood has been lugging around with him everywhere turns out to not only to BE a BFG in its own right but to also CONTAIN a plethora of hand pistols as well. "It's heavy because it's so full of mercy", right...
  • Cardcaptor Sakura started when Sakura opened a Book Safe: the hiding place of the the Clow Cards.
  • In a flashback sequence in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Mokuba uses this to smuggle Duel Monsters cards to Seto after their stepfather stopped letting him have toys.

     Comic Books  
  • Played straight in V for Vendetta, where the corrupt priest Father Liliman pulls out a gun from his Bible when V enters the room.
  • Tintin. In "Explorers on the Moon" Captain Haddock smuggles his whiskey on board the rocketship inside a doorstopper tome, labelled "Guide To Astronomy".
  • Used in one Lucky Luke story - a fake priest keeps a revolver in his hollowed-out Bible. Lucky suspects him and asks him to read some words from the Good Book...
  • Red Hood smuggles a collapsible bow to Arsenal inside a bible in the first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws.
  • In Jonah Hex #14 (original series), Jonah confronts a former gunslinger turned preacher who is killing bounty hunters. The preacher keeps a derringer hidden in his Bible.

    Film 
  • James Bond
    • Live and Let Die features the classic gun in a Bible.
    • Thunderball features a sound-activated listening device in a book, which Bond uses to determine if someone has sneaked into his room while he's been out.
  • Used in Johnny Dangerously: as Michael Keaton is being walked to the Chair, in passing each cell along the way each prisoner hands him one component of a Tommy gun which he assembles whilst walking. The last piece is in the Bible the priest is "reading" from. However, it's a fake gun, that falls apart mere moments after Johnny makes his escape.
  • In The Matrix, Neo keeps his illegal software inside a hollow copy of the real-world philosophy text "Simulacra and Simulation" by Jean Baudrillard. A real copy of Simulacra wouldn't be thick enough to hide that much stuff (it's not a very long book), so one can conclude that the filmmakers specifically worked this reference in as a hint to the nature of Neo's reality.

    The illegal software was hidden in the chapter titled "On Nihilism", again referencing the philosophical themes of the film. It's worth noting that Simulacra and Jean Baudrillard are huge influences to the Wachowskis, as plainly evident in the sequels.
  • In The Addams Family movie, the first stage of the secret entrance to the family vault is accessed by pulling a book out from a bookcase. The book's title? Greed. It's worth noting that ALL of the Addamses' books were like this, and that Greed was the most 'normal' book. Gone with the Wind causes a tornado when opened, and The Sun Also Rises emits daylight and the sound of birds.
  • Young Frankenstein subverts the "book-as-hidden-door-switch": hearing something behind a bookcase, Dr. Frankenstein tries activating a secret door by yanking a seemingly out-of-place book from the shelf — to no effect. When his assistant pulls a candle from a nearby sconce for added light, however, the door is opened.
    Inga: Put...ze cendle...beck!
  • The Shawshank Redemption: The warden of Shawshank prison opens up the Bible to discover that this is where Andy has been hiding the rock hammer he used to tunnel out of his cell. Salvation, indeed. For that extra touch of irony, the hollow section begins halfway through Exodus.
    • When the warden hears the police coming to arrest him, he looks at the picture on his wall that conceals his wall safe. The picture says, "His judgment cometh, and that right soon." Andy had stolen the incriminating documents out of the safe.
  • In The Game, Michael Douglas's character keeps a revolver hidden in a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • One can also conceal documents between the inside of a book cover and its lining without removing any pages at all, as in The Good Shepherd.
  • There's a Western film where a large number of rifles are packed in crates labelled "Bibles".
  • In Cat Ballou, Uncle Jed, disguised as a preacher, produces a knife from his Bible and uses it to cut the rope on the gallows as it is placed around Cat's neck.
  • Alien: Resurrection. A Bible contains the modem Call uses to link to the ship's computer, presumably an electronic book with a 'traditional' cover.
  • In The Three Musketeers (1993), Aramis (who trained to be a priest) at one point pulls a pistol out of a hollowed-out Bible and shoots one of the Cardinal's guards with it.
  • Variation: A making-of featurette on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End revealed that at one point in production the prop-builders had to turn the "Pirate's Code" book into one, to make it easier for the actors to handle. They don't say if anything was stored inside it afterwards.
  • In National Treasure, Ben's dad keeps money between the pages of Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
  • The lead character in Frankenhooker keeps a video tape stashed away in a copy of Gray's Anatomy.
  • A book of Shakespeare with a gun in it is hidden within a Library in Hard Boiled. Alan walks into the library, gets the book and kills his target. Then he replaces the gun and book on the library shelf and walks out. This was apparently done so the hitman would never be armed if he was caught, but the police find the book because of the blood on it.

    Games 
  • The LARP of Killers mentions in the section on concealed weapons that players who hide their guns may have an advantage, but it's still considered legal self-defense to shoot the guy who's dropped into a firing stance and is pointing his geometry text at your heart.

    Literature 
  • Although in Star Wars they don't use actual paper books very often, the Star Wars Expanded Universe has a couple of examples where a tiny hold-out blaster is hidden in a box in Imperial libraries that was supposed to contain datacards: The Complete History of Corvis Minor. Supposedly the topic was so dull that no one who didn't know would choose to pick up the box.
    • When Mara Jade finds one, it's because as the Emperor's Hand she knows exactly where to look. When Corran Horn finds one for himself and a number of other hidden library secrets, it's because he has luck and The Force (which may be the same thing)—not to mention a lot of time to look around, as he was locked in the room alone. Corran being Corran, he cracks a joke to himself that if a blaster is the complete history of Corvis Minor, it must not be a vacation spot.
      • Naturally, Corran responds by going through the remaining datacard boxes, hoping in vain to find additional weaponry.
      He eventually gave up on finding a "Complete History of Corvis Major" that might hold something a bit more substantial, like, say, an X-Wing.
  • An odd variant that might be a subversion, a parody, or completely unrelated occurred in Night Watch, when a young Havelock Vetinari hid all the extant copies of a rare book on concealment inside the cover of Annals of the Great Accountants, Volume 3. He thought the author would have approved.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Mrs Whitlow has cleared Ridcully's chambers of food and smoking supplies on the night before the big match. Luckily, his copy of An Occult Primer contains mints, tobacco, and cigarette papers... along with a note from Mrs. Whitlow that she didn't have the heart to confiscate those as well.
  • Mike Ripley's Amateur Sleuth Angel has a copy of The History of the United States adapted into a fireproof safe.
  • James Bond
  • The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. The protagonists hide their stache of rubles and US dollars inside a book of Pushkin's poems. Disaster is barely averted when the family is burning all their books during the winter of the Siege of Leningrad.
  • In The Baby-Sitters Club, Claudia mentions that she hides some sweets in a hollowed-out book.
  • In the Tim Dorsey novel Stingray Shuffle, a drug ring sells cocaine to its customers by running a book-shop and giving their drug customers hollowed-out paperbacks of a book entitled 'The Stingray Shuffle' (Chosen because it was an unpopular book that a normal customer wouldn't ask for) which had a gram of cocaine contained in the hollow. They sold so much drugs that way that they inadvertently triggered a revival of interest in the author, which caused a publicity event to be held at the shop, which caused normal people to accidentally buy paperbacks filled with drugs, which brought in the cops.
  • In one early Witcher story Geralt, convalescing in the Nenneke's monastery, hides his booze behind the books in the library, because Nenneke disapproved of his drinking. Dandelion, visiting his friend there, promptly hangs lampshade on this trope.
  • In Two Miles to the Border by J.T. Edson, the 'Daughters of the Lord' hide Colt Cloverleaf Pistols inside their heavy bibles.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Smallville, Adam Knight hides his Lazarus serum in a hollow book.
  • On House, House hides a secret stash of Vicodin inside a textbook on Lupus, on the grounds that he'll never need the textbook because "It's never Lupus." (Shockingly, in the fourth season, they did get a Lupus case.)
  • LOST
    • Eko finds pieces of a Dharma film in a hollowed-out Bible in the second season.
    • A different version might be when Penny puts her letter into Desmond's copy of Our Mutual Friend. Knowing that he'll turn to that book at his lowest time, it kind of works the same as a Bible.
  • In the opening credits for Blackadder The Third, Edmund is browsing through a library full of big, heavy history books with titles like From Black Death to Black Adder and The Blackobite Rebellion. He then picks up a particularly hefty tome with Blackadder The Third on the front, raises an eyebrow at the camera, and opens it to reveal a lurid paperback with the episode title.
  • Pushing Daisies: A nun keeps whiskey in a hollowed-out Bible and takes a Quick Nip during a prayer service when no one is looking.
  • The Vicar of Dibley: The eponymous vicar hides chocolate bars inside her Bibles.
  • The Wire: Randy is a group home kid who tries to stash the cash he's been earning in the spine of a school textbook. When he finds it stolen, it's one of the worst gut punches in the series.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody has one of the twins hiding candy bars in hollowed-out cookbooks because his mom never looks at them.
  • When Blanche was going through her father's belongings in The Golden Girls, she came across his Bible, and fondly remembers Sundays at church — before opening it and finding whiskey. Which explains why after every service he would stand up and proclaim "I can lick any man in this church!" Later, Rose brings in some encyclopedias in. Blanche tells her to put them with the Bible in the liquor cabinet.
  • The Colbert Report: Colbert faked out the audience by revealing that he had a secret stash of Eggo waffles hidden inside of Sarah Palin's new book (the Palin story had to wait until the waffle shortage story was done).
  • Once on Just Shoot Me!, Nina says that the only book she owns is the hollowed out almanac from her trip to Colombia.
  • One episode of Square One TV's Mathnet concerned the theft of a carved crystal pigeon. The detectives tracked down the culprit, but discovered the pigeon had been stolen from him in turn. He had been storing it in a book, the pages cut into the exact shape of the statue.
  • On an episode of The Incredible Hulk a hunter who enjoys hunting Hunting the Most Dangerous Game has Dr. Banner trapped in a room; IIRC a clue leads him to a key hidden inside a hollowed out book on chess, which was a major thematic element of the episode.
  • Played for comic effect on The George Lopez Show:
    Benny: If you [Angie] ever tell anyone what's in this book [money] I will kill you with what's in that book.
  • In an episode of Night Court, we discover in Harry's office a bookshelf that has a set of legal texts that hinge up to reveal a secret compartment, holding his pet rabbit.
  • Conversational Troping in Murdoch Mysteries:
    George: I love secret compartments, they're so mysterious. I've been thinking of putting a secret compartment in my book. I mean in the story, not in the actual ... Sir! A secret compartment in the actual book! It could hide a ... a smaller book!
  • Stargate SG-1: Vala and Daniel find two ancient communication stones hidden in a hollowed out "Book of Origin" (basically, the Ori version of the The Bible) when they are transported to the Ori galaxy.
  • Doctor Who: In "Marco Polo", Marco hides the TARDIS keys in a secret compartment in his journal.
  • One episode in season 3 of Babylon 5 shows several religious figures pay a visit. The real reason for their visit was to relay information from Earth, contained in data crystals which one of them had kept hidden in a Bible.
  • In a one-off gag in Community, Shirley opens a library book to find a gun-shaped compartment cut into it. She looks shocked, then decides she wants no part of it and puts the book back.
  • In one episode of Pawn Stars, a completely hollow wooden book meant for pistol smuggling was showcased. Considering all it held at the time was an arrest record, though, apparently it didn't work...

     Music Videos  
  • The video for Spaceship by Phase features a hammer (being used by oppressed office workers to dig an escape tunnel) hidden in a hollowed out book.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • In The Wizard of Id, the lawyer hides bottles of alcohol of some sort within his thick law books.
  • Dick Tracy has when Flattop is hiding out in a boarding house and decides keeping his loot on his person is too risky. So, when he sees an old thick photo album under a table that looks rarely used, he decides to cut out the inner pages and hide his money in it. As it happens, the kid blackmailing Flattop has drowned while ice skating on expensive skates bought with the shakedown money. Those skates led Tracy to the boarding house where he requests the boy's mother to get a photo for the newspaper and so they go to the photo album and the money is discovered. When Tracy asks where this money came from, the mother guesses it must be from her boarder and Tracy proceeds to Flattop's room while the crook is frantically trying to escape.

    Radio 

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • In Realms of the Haunting Florentine likes to hide plot-relevant keys in his journals, making it a vital aspect for the player to actually bother reading/inspecting them.

     Visual Novels 
  • Trying to get word out about Project Hurtful, Nageki hollowed out an encyclopedia and filled it with relevant documents, in the backstory to Hatoful Boyfriend.

     Western Animation  
  • The Simpsons:
    • Homer repeatedly took out a flask hidden in a Bible whenever he claimed he needed guidance ("Now I know why they call it the good book.") He freaked out at the end of the episode when it was somehow replaced with a real Bible.
    • In a Halloween episode he keeps a donut stashed in a book at work. Except when he needs it he finds he's eaten it already and left himself an IOU. He curses himself for always being one step ahead.
  • The Oblongs: The old racist Church Militant woman was made Czar of Child Services. When she was first appointed she took out a Bible and said she had all she needed "right here". She then yelled "Behold, the piece of The Lord!" when she proceeded to pull the gun out (accidentally shooting it into the air.)
  • Helga Pataki of Hey Arnold! often kept her diary inside a much larger book.
  • This happens in King of the Hill, where Dale walks into Peggy's newly-acquired bookstore and buys a book, hollowing it out right on the counter in front of her. This, naturally, gives her an idea for a side-business...
  • Some episodes of Dexter's Laboratory used a book mechanism to allow access to the lab (which was located behind the bookcase in Dexter's room).

     Real Life  
  • Of course, there's the Glurge-inducing short story turned spam-mail about the college boy who, instead of getting a car as a gift for getting in college, gets a Bible. Inside the Bible there's a check for him to buy the car, but he never opens it. This was subverted with a short story about the man opening the Bible after his father's death, buying the car and using it to run over infidels.
  • Secret Storage Books
  • This priceless Amazon review of a book called The Secret may be a Real Life example, or else a mind-bending piece of online fiction.
  • In a book lined room at the British museum, one of the walls is actually a door. You can notice that the gap between the top of the spines and the upper 'shelf' is covered by a leather flap and the key hole is far more substantial than for the glass doors of the real bookshelves.
  • The CIA designed a bug to be quickly slipped into the spine of a book in the target's home or office.
  • Philip Markoff, accused but never convicted of being the Craigslist Killer, had a hollowed-out copy of "Gray's Anatomy" with a gun inside under his bed.
  • On the Kansas/Missouri border shortly before the civil war (which is to say, partisans on both sides were already killing each other there, it just hadn't been declared back East yet), "Beecher's Bibles" was code for rifles being shipped to the Kansan partisans, hidden in boxes supposedly full of bibles.
  • One intrepid maker with an old book and a micro-PC put an entire world in his linking book.


Book BurningBookish TropesBooks That Bite
Blown Across the RoomGuns and Gunplay TropesBoom, Headshot
The Shawshank RedemptionImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThe Old Convict

alternative title(s): Tome Is Where The Heat Is
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