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Bookcase Passage

Villain: I wish for the entire wall to rotate, turn upon its axis. Roundy-round!
Builder: Why?
Villain: (beat) I just do.

At least 90% of all Cool Houses have featured one of these. A Bookcase Passage is where a Secret Path is hidden behind a bookcase or triggered by the removal or manipulation of a book in a bookcase.

It doesn't have to involve books; it could be any kind of hidden or secret passage with a disguised door. It just tends to be behind bookcases an awful lot. Another common form is where the passage is hidden behind a fireplace, and activated by a lever of some kind. The switch is often found using a Shaggy Search Technique.

Occasionally, there's a gag where two characters go back and forth through the passage and keep missing each other because they're on opposite sides of the bookcase. This is most likely to happen when the bookcase doubles as a revolving door - a common design decision.

See also: Book Safe and Concealing Canvas.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The discovery of one leads to the solution to a murder in Detective Conan, which has at least two mysteries surrounding old houses and the secret passage(s) therein.
  • Code Geass has one at Ashford Academy.
  • The fireplace variant appears in The Castle of Cagliostro. The passage leads to an observation room behind the Count's office, equipped with a portrait peephole.
  • Smile Pretty Cure! has a very interesting and unusual variation: by moving the books on any bookshelf in a very particular way, the bookcase itself becomes a Portal Door where the destination is based on what or where the traveler is thinking about. This aspect is Played for Laughs in episode 6 where Miyuki has a Teleporter Accident just because she saw a penguin on a book's cover as she's walking through the door and lands in the South Pole! Don't worry about her too much because Exposed to the Elements was thankfully in play.

    Comic Books 
  • In Sandman Mystery Theatre, Wesley Dodds' basement lab is reached through one.
  • The Batcave in comics-continuity has its access passage hidden behind a large grandfather clock. The traditional trigger to open it is to set the time on the face to the moment of his parents' deaths.
  • In Tintin Land Of Black Gold Dr. Müller's study has a trapdoor entrance hidden in the fireplace.
  • In ''ALF, Kate and Alf go to a creepy old house; after encountering a few scary tropes alone, Alf triggers a bookcase, sending him and Kate down a slide into the basement, where they find a control panel, as the house was used for horror movies. It also has a real ghost, though, albeit a friendly one.

    Film 
  • Young Frankenstein has one of these, where the characters think one of the books must activate it, but can't find the right one, so one of them grabs a candle from the wall to bring more light, and that activates it.
    PUT ZE CANDLE BECK!
  • The Addams Family. Because, you know, they live in a haunted mansion.
    • And the book switch? Greed.
  • One of the Wee Sing videos (The Marvelous Musical Mansion?) takes place in an old house that had a bookcase secret passage.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has two.
    • The fireplace version is used when Indy and his father are tied up in a burning room.
    • A variation occurs when a descending flight of stairs appears after Indy's father leans back in a chair.
  • Shanghai Knights has the firecase version.
  • In X2: X-Men United, Xavier's School for the Gifted was shown to have secret passages hidden along the hallways.
  • In the movie serials The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Rides Again, the secret passage leading to the Black Beauty's garage is hidden behind a chest of drawers in Britt Reid's bedroom.
  • Used to access KAOS headquarters in the 1989 Get Smart TV movie. The fact that the doppelganger posing as Seigfried doesn't know the 'book combination' is used to expose him as an imposter.
  • In The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Luther Higgs discovers one of these by throwing a book at it. It later turns out to play a vital part in solving a twenty year old murder mystery.
  • Batman Begins, like the liveaction TV feature a bookcase secret passage, it's enhanced into a safe vault locked by a finger print lock in The Dark Knight.
    • Begins gets bonus points - the trigger is plunking out a couple of notes on the nearby piano
  • In Igor, when the main character and his sidekicks are being chased and seemingly have no way out, Brain starts fiddling with the wall, looking for a secret passage. Igor tells him not to bother, there isn't any secret passage. He bangs the opposite wall in frustration, only to hit the switch for a secret stairway.
  • Used in several Buster Keaton films (The Haunted House, Neighbors, One Week, Sherlock, Jr.).
  • Home Alone 4 plays this for laughs.
  • The store security room turns out to be hidden behind a shelf and false wall in Cornered!
  • The first Scooby-Doo has this lampshaded.
  • In TRON: Legacy, it's a Arcade Game Cabinet Passage.
  • The Rocketeer: Neville Sinclair's mansion has one for his Nazi communications room.
  • In Underworld (1927), there’s a secret hideaway behind the bookcase.

    Literature 
  • The Radix: Instead of a petty bookcase Prince Zaki uses a terrarium full of scorpions.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Lord Vetinari touches seemingly innocuous parts of the wall in order to open the secret passage to the 'apartment' where Leonard of Quirm lives. It also includes an Indiana Jones style security system (or perhaps not).
  • In The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne, the Amateur Sleuth comes to the conclusion that there must be a secret passage from the epynmous Red House to a nearby pavilion. But where in the house does it start? Well, it had better not be in the servant's quarters, because he can't go there without raising suspicion. And the same goes for the master bedroom and other guests' bedrooms and so on. In the end, the only place where he can go look without looking suspicious turns out to be the library. So he looks in the library, and sure enough, there it is! Behind a bookshelf and all.
  • In The Krytos Trap, Corran finds a turbolift hatch hidden in a hologram of the Emperor in a library on the Lusankya.
  • In Andre Norton's The Prince Commands, Michael finds such a passage, in time for some Exact Eavesdropping.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", Brule finds one in Kull's palace.
  • The secret stairway in Hawthorne's House Of The Seven Gables.
  • There's one in the library of Wyrdhurst Hall in Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil, and it's triggered by removing a book from the shelf. The book on the trigger mechanism is a children's book, and the passage eventually leads to the nursery room where the daughter of the house was imprisoned by her father.
  • Mentioned in passing in Skulduggery Pleasant.
  • A staple of many Gothic Horror stories; Ann Radcliffe, acknowledged Trope Codifier (along with Horace Walpole) of the genre, used them fairly often. One which figured particularly critically in the plot was that of The Italian.
  • In Whispers Under Ground, a secret passage from the Underground tunnels is disguised as one of many bricked-up alcoves alongside the rails. Secret-door cliches are Lampshaded when Peter presses one of the bricks at random, thinking to get that corny idea out of the way ... and it works!
  • Two examples occur in the Greyfriars story "Billy Bunter's Christmas Party", with one secret passage and a secret trapdoor where the MacGuffin is hidden.
  • One of these crops up in The Tamuli, prompting Deadpan Snarker Stragen to deride the villain's taste in literature.
  • These are prevalent in the book series based on the Clue board game. One book is even titled, "The Secret Secret Passage".
  • In Doom: Hell on Earth, Fly finds the escape route of the chemist's basement hidden behind a bookcase. There was a fake book to operate it but the bookcase was blown to pieces before he could figure it out.
  • In No Good Deed... there's one in Cuncz's chambers in the castle at Leyen. Its presence is lampshaded by Elsabeth when she finds it.

    Live Action TV 
  • In a Throwaway Gag on Frasier, Niles explains that to get through the secret passage in his 3-story apartment, one must "poke Mrs Dalloway on the bottom."
  • The way to the Batcave in the Adam West Batman TV series was hidden behind a bookcase (the switch is on a desk, however).
  • In Stargate SG-1, one of these is featured in Merlin's Laboratory. Yes, THAT Merlin.
  • In the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Jeff gets trapped in an oubliette behind one of these.
  • Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look, where a Diabolical Mastermind tries to get a stereotypical builder to install one, only to be informed at length of the impracticalities of his request. To start with, he wanted it put in a supporting wall, and the trigger would have been "this volume of Ms Katie Price's 'Being Jordan'." He tries to go for the fireplace version, only to be told the fire will have to go unless he wants smoke everywhere. He eventually settles on a "nice, simple Trap Door." He gets one, albeit one with automatic guard rails and a warning siren.
  • In the Doctor Who story Terror of the Zygons, Sarah Jane Smith finds a passage behind a bookcase, leading to the alien spacecraft under Loch Ness. She activates the opening mechanism by pulling out a book, which she could only reach via portable steps fetched for her by the villain.
  • Hidden passages behind bookcases also appear in The Sarah Jane Adventures stories Eye of the Gorgon and The Eternity Trap.
  • In the original Legend Of Zorro series, Zorro's massive fireplace is the entrance to the cave where he keeps Tornado.
  • In the first three seasons of Chuck, at least once entrance to 'Castle' is behind a stack of lockers.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Tommy has one of these leading to the home base of the Dino Thunder Rangers.
  • In the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to meet Sting, she starts pulling books on his bookcase looking for a secret passage.
  • In The Monkees episode "The Spy Who Came In From the Cool", there is a secret exit from the pawn shop through a harp case. Micky jokes that he thought it was through the accordion.
  • Angel. In "Long Day's Journey", Gwen Raiden has one to her panic room, saying you should never pass up a good cliche.
  • Played for Laughs in a first-season Blackadder episode where our heroes, running from assassins, accidentally discover a secret passageway by pulling a crucifix. Shortly afterwards their pursuers enter the now empty room, quickly conclude that they must have gone through the secret passageway, pull the crucifix and follow them.
  • In the Ripping Yarns episode "Whinfrey's Last Case" our intrepid hero is cornered in his hotel room with enemies approaching. Fortunately he's in smuggling country, which means his small room has dozens of secret passages - his only problem is choosing which one to take.

    Pinball 

    Radio 
  • In Adventures in Odyssey, Wooton's secret room where he draws the Powerboy comics is located behind a bookcase, as is Whit's secret computer room (they key that unlocks the bookcase is hidden a Book Safe of The Last Battle).

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • In The Bat, the door to the Hidden Room is disguised as a fireplace.
  • In The Cat and the Canary, the lawyer is last seen alive standing in front of a bookcase with a hidden passage behind. His Peek-A-Boo Corpse appears in a different hidden passage behind Annabelle's bed.

    Video Games 
  • Bebe's Kids (the infamous SNES game based on the movie of the same name) has this in the haunted house level, as the revolving door type. The added twist is that depending on which side you open the bookcase leads the player to different locations. Though this raises the question why can't you access both areas since there would have to be a gap in the dividing wall in order for the bookcase to open.
  • In Realms of the Haunting you'll find one in the Study early on in the game which leads to the Mausoleum.
  • Alone In The Dark 1992 has one.
  • There are a few instances in Baldur's Gate where hidden doors are behind bookcases.
  • Eternal Darkness has this in the first church level with the passage to the catacombs behind a bookcase. In later visits to the level, that's moved and gets hidden behind wine barrels.
    • Oh, and the room which holds the titular tome is behind a bookcase which required you to set the time on the clock to 3:33.
      • Not forgetting the firecase entrance for the tome's chamber when you play as Max, the game really liked this trope.
  • Near the end of Fallout, the Vault-Dweller has to pass through one of these if he/she is to get into the Master's Elaborate Underground Base.
  • There are oodles and oodles and oodles of these in the video game adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. They are all opened by casting the spell "Alohamora" on them, even though Alohamora is just supposed to pick locks.
  • Myst had a bookcase passage and a fireplace revolving door in the same room.
    • Fireplace elevators have become a sort of recognizable theme in the series, despite appearing only infrequently. Eventually Revelation gives you a fireplace and the option of entering in Tomahna's kitchen; if you try, it toasts your hand instead. You can even increase the fire with a bellows lying inside.
    • Oddly, neither the original fireplace in the Myst Library nor the fireplace elevator in Atrus + Catherine's bedrooms function as fireplaces, as there aren't any chimneys in the ceiling. Yet the latter has tools and fire logs next to it anyway. Also, in URU, apparently the Myst fireplace has no visible source of light.
  • There are two secret passages hidden behind bookcases in Castle Borgov in Quest for Glory IV.
  • The opening cinematic of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 features one of these.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, there is a Bookcase Passage in the Giovanni mansion, and there is also one in Grout's house.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, there are three of them around the Sky Pirate base. One is behind a bookcase in the captain's office, one is a rock wall that splits in two, and one is behind a tombstone.
  • In the Thief series, these are pretty common, particularly when concealed by bookcases or tapestries.
    • In Thief: The Dark Project, the following missions have secret passages: "Lord Bafford's Manor" (tapestry), "Escape from Cragscleft Prison" (tapestry), "Assassins" (bookcase, fireplace), Constantine's mansion (various secret panels and rooms)
    • In Thief Gold, all three missions not in the original game have secret passages: "Thieves' Guild" (various secret panels); "The Mage Towers" ( the Central Library has a secret room behind a bookcase); "Song of the Caverns" (the Opera House has many secret passages, one of which is accessed through the furnace, and most of which are marked on the map you should get from the building's former owner)
    • In Thief II: The Metal Age, both the Rampone warehouse complex and Shoalsgate Station have secret passages or rooms behind bookcases. Shoalsgate and Lord Gervasius' mansion are both riddled with secret passages. Garrett's own apartment has a hidden compartment where his equipment is stored.
  • World of Warcraft has one of these in the Culling of Stratholme.
    • And in Karazan where it leads to an optional boss.
  • Played with in Star Ocean: The Second Story the only difference is that it is not a book that triggers the moving of the bookcase but rather something in the same room which leads to the Secret Underground Passage
  • The Laura Bow games have secret passages coming out their ears.
  • In The Sims 2: Apartment Life, you can buy a bookshelf that serves as this. Any Sim you have direct control over can use them, but no Sim will ever use them by their own free will (meaning Sims can become trapped behind them, unable to figure out how to get out!)
  • There's one in Metal Gear Solid, in the room you fight Psycho Mantis.
  • Kingdom Hearts has one of those in the first game. The book's names were mostly references to Final Fantasy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, with a twist: The books don't trigger anything, but you need return them to their proper place, so you can climb on them later, when shrunken down , in order to reach a Minish-sage who lives on one of the shelves.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, the entrance to the chamber with the six famous assassin statues and Altair's age old armor.
    • There's another one earlier in the game: the fireplace in the Auditore mansion in Firenze, hiding the room where you acquire the assassin outfit.
  • Manannan's study in King's Quest III has a bookcase passage leading to an underground room with a spellbook, magical ingredients and other wizarding paraphernalia.
  • In Romancing Sa Ga 3, instead of a bookcase, it's a mirror, the glassy surface disappears revealing a doorway. Only 2 exist in the game, one in Monica's room and is only used for story purposes, and the other in Maximus' Hideout which holds a chest containing Stardust Armor
  • In Beyond Dark Castle, Prince Duncan uses a fireplace passage to access the castle.
  • The Resident Evil and Silent Hill series have several of these.
  • Even Ace Attorney gets in on this act - Investigations features a pair of these (fireplace variant) as a critical clue for the lead-up to its finale.
  • Hugo 2: Whodunnit? kicks off with both characters finding and using one of these (which, for some reason, takes them to different places).
  • The series' successor Nitemare 3D has tons of them. In addition to many actual bookcases (all of which are secret passages), there are dozens of sliding panels per level. Finding them all is necessary for 100% Completion.
  • Doom - pretty much every level had secret doors and passages (handwaved in the novelisation as being part of mechanisms for transporting and sealing off materials). Doom II introduced a bookcase texture for walls, which lead to many, many, many exact examples of this trope in maps featuring library-like areas.
  • Minor example in Unreal in the Nali Castle: it reveals a super health pack instead of an actual passage.
  • Also used in Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor, where it reveals an actual passage. The book that does it is very difficult to spot, however.
  • In Rule of Rose there is a hidden door in wall panel in the VIP section of the airship, but you need perfumes of four seasons to trade for a key to get through and find the only firearm in the game...with only one bullet in it.
  • One of the most popular inventions in Minecraft since the piston was added, and often new piston inventors' first creation.
  • There's one of these in Blackmarsh's mortuary in Hexen II. It leads to a small cell area and a passage to the hub's boss.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent has two in the main game and one in Justine.
  • Super Mario 64 has one in Big Boo's Haunt that leads to a room with a star.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the secret room of the Blades is located behind a door disguised as a wardrobe. It's a perfectly functional wardrobe, but its back wall can be opened, revealing a secret passage.
    • Similar secret doors are found in other places (though not so functional as wardrobes): one in Hjerim (the house you can eventually purchase in Windhelm) which leads to a secret storage room, and another in Riftweald Manor in Riften (the house owned by Mercer Frey), which has a secret and booby-trapped passage to the Ratway.
    • In Dawnguard, in Castle Volkihar, you have to go through a door disguised as a fireplace, opened by a wall mounted candlestick, to proceed to the portal leading to Soul Cairn.
  • Blood, which is a pastiche of horror of all kinds, including Gothic Horror, has quite a lot of such passages. A good rule of thumb: if you find bookcases, search for secret places.
  • A variant appears in Kingdom of Loathing; here, pulling the book lowers a staircase (which either crushes or replaces the flimsy stairs already present). This is the only time in the game you actually click on a picture instead of one of the choice buttons.
  • The manor house level in Call of Duty has a fireplace passage.
  • The rotating fireplace variant is found in a mansion in the bayou in MySims Agents. You need to repair a nearby clock's mechanism to make it work, and it leads to a passage where you, ahem, break the case wide open.
  • In Paper Mario, there's a switch in Peach's bedroom that makes a grate in the fireplace fall; you walk through into a tunnel that leads to a rotating platform into a certain other room. Peach uses this passage several times over the course of the game.
  • In Penumbra Black Plague, drawing a specific book from a bookcase will reveal a hidden room.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • There are scads of examples in Scooby-Doo.
  • The entrance to Dexter's Laboratory was behind one of these.
  • Parodied in The Venture Bros., when Dr. Venture thinks Dr. Orpheus has one of these.
    Hey, if I pull this candle down, will it-
    Get wax on my carpet? Yes.
  • There's at least one in Gargoyles - the Prague episode of the Avalon World Tour had the Allies Of The Week opening up a secret way up into the attic where the Golem was via bookshelf door.
    • The building exists in Real Life, but the said attic is just off limits, not hidden.
  • In Young Justice, the Cave (headquarters of the Team and formerly of the Justice League) features at least one of these. When Artemis expresses mild surprise at seeing it, Robin replies that she should see the Batcave.
  • In Gravity Falls Grunkle Stan has a secret passage hidden behind the Mystery Shack's vending machine. It's the first sign that there's more to him than meets the eye...
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "Castle Mane-ia" shows that Celestia and Luna's old castle has a lot of these. All three groups (Twilight and Spike, Fluttershy and Rarity, Applejack and Rainbow Dash) stumble across or fall victim to them.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television, as bookcases are often conveniently sized for a door and provide an ideal way to camouflage the necessary gaps.
  • Priest holes, during the Tudor anti-Catholic purges.
  • You can also order your own!
  • A Youth Hostel in Scotland has a not-so-secret passage (there's a sign marking its location) underneath an elaborate staircase triggered by rotating a marble statue a few meters away. This was enormously shocking because old Scottish castles aren't exactly the typical location for budget accommodation!
  • The International Spy Museum has one which is a dark twist on the trope. It was in the office of a KGB official and lead to a Torture Cellar where interviewees would be taken following casual conversation in the office.
  • Richard Garriott has one of these, along with numerous other types of secret passages in his house.
  • Speakeasies were often hidden behind these during Prohibition.
  • The actual house, with the secret staircase, used by Hawthorne as the setting for The House Of The Seven Gables.
  • The Eye Spy (aka the spy bar) in Orlando has at least one of these.
    • As does the Safe House in Milwaukee.
  • The only way into the hidden loft that Anne Frank, her family, and a few other Jews used as their hiding place during the Holocaust was a staircase hidden behind a bookcase.
  • Played very straight in the case of Denmark's Bleking Street Gang back in the 80's. When their covert hideout apartment was finally found, investigators found nothing incriminating at all, until they someone pointed out that the exterior didn't quite match the interior. One bookcase removal later, they were staring at a massive cache of guns, machine guns, hand grenades, RPGs, landmines, etc.
  • The true story which the first Urban Legend on this page is based on: In 1715 at Montségur-sur-Lauzon's castle, Lucie de Précontal disappeared on her wedding day and during a hide and seek session. It was assumed she was a Runaway Bride. Thirty years later, her skeleton was found by complete coincidence, behind a secret wall with a one sided opening way. So Lucie died of starvation in a secret cave, which was destroyed soon after the discover. It is unknown if it was used for hiding Renaissance protestants, or a Middle Ages alchemist.


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