[[quoteright:350:[[Webcomic/MenageA3 http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/darksecret_ma3_7334.png]]]]
[-[[caption-width-right:350:She's quite nice really, but keeping secrets is hard work.]]-]

-> "My swashbuckling fop cannot take the flaw Dark Secret: [[CampStraight Not Gay.]]"
-->-- #90 of Blog/ThingsMrWelchIsNoLongerAllowedToDoInAnRPG

Some characters that just have some dark terrible secret in their pasts that they don't want anyone to know. Sometimes they killed someone close to them. Sometimes they're secretly a double agent. [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking Sometimes they took the last cookie from the cookie jar]]. It doesn't matter how big or small the secret is, it just matters that the person keeping it thinks that it's vitally important that it stay hidden.

There are two standard reactions to these coming out. Either everyone involved is shocked and horrified and lives are ruined. Or it's almost an anticlimax either because [[EverybodyKnewAlready they've known all along]], or it just wasn't as dark a secret as the keeper thought it was.

When it's a whole town that's doing this it's a TownWithADarkSecret. When you get even bigger in scale you get an EmpireWithADarkSecret. MyGreatestFailure is a particularly common type of Dark Secret, and it is often an element of a DarkAndTroubledPast or a MysteriousPast and revealed in a TroubledBackstoryFlashback. Related to TheyreCalledPersonalIssuesForAReason. See OpenSecret for when your secret is not so secret. When they cause you to be suspected of unrelated crimes they become the BigSecret.

This being a trope about secrets there will be '''Spoilers''' ahead.




[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]
* How Tsume got his scar in ''WolfsRain''. When his old pack was [[spoiler:attacked by humans, he ran away, leaving his friends to die because he was afraid. He was exiled,]] and in the process he got his scar.
* Soubi in ''{{Manga/Loveless}}'' never tells Ritsuka anything about his past, especially the parts of it that involve Seimei. There's a reason for that. A twelve year old kid doesn't need to know that his beloved older brother was a [[spoiler:sociopath who physically and emotionally abused his best friend/mentor/partner.]]
* The dark secret held by Hime in ''Anime/HappinessChargePrettyCure'' is the main drive of the entire series: [[spoiler:she opened the [[SealedEvilInACan Axia Box]], releasing the Phantom Empire]].
* ''LightNovel/KokoroConnect'': Taichi decides to reveal a dark secret about himself to Inaba, in an attempt to engender some trust between them. His secret? [[spoiler:He's masturbated to her picture.]] Inaba freaks out in a confusing mix of emotions ("I'm disgusted and shocked and... strangely kind of touched?"), but it does help snap her out of her funk. Later she decides to return the favor by telling him a dark secret of her own: [[spoiler:she's masturbated to his picture as well.]] She then grins broadly at Taichi's flustered reaction.

[[folder: ComicBooks]]
* In ''ComicBook/DeathOfTheFamily'', [[spoiler: Joker claims that Batman has a secret that he has hidden from the entire Batfamily. It remains to be seen if Batman does have one or if it's just a bluff]].
* In the second story-arc of ''ComicBook/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagicIDW'' Nightmare Moon II claims that [[spoiler:Rarity]] has one, which is part of why she [[spoiler:choose her to be her new vessel.]]
* In ''[[ComicBook/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica2013 Justice League of America (2013)]]'', Amanda Waller knows who Stargirl's biological father is and will have him answer for his actions if Stargirl does not comply.

[[folder: Fan Works]]
* ''Manga/{{Evangelion 303}}'': [[OriginalCharacter Jessika]] [[spoiler:lusted after [[FieryRedhead Asuka]] in a very creepy way. She memorized every tiny detail of her body and she fantasized about all naughty, perverted things that she wanted to do with and TO Asuka.]] However she never wanted that her friend found out about it.
* ''Fanfic/{{HERZ}}'': Twelve years before the beginning of the story [[spoiler:Misato was ordered executing Kaji.]] His death was covered up and nobody other than her knows what happened to him.
* There are more than a few dark secrets in ''Fanfic/TheLionKingAdventures'':
** Hago is [[spoiler: Nala's father. He actually covered this up by altering Sarafina's memory, leading her to believe that a lion called Muerto was her actual father. He doesn't reveal it to his daughter until ''The Return of Hago''.]]
** Zazu reveals that he [[spoiler: inadvertently caused his father's death in ''Darkness Falls''.]]
** Haiba certainly [[spoiler: keeps his murder of Tama quite a secret. He comes clean in ''The Message'', only to be rewarded with permanent scars from Simba.]]
* In MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic fan story "Fanfic/FluttershyIsFree", Fluttershy is [[spoiler:half-Changeling, and has the Changeling powers of [[EmotionEater emotivory]] and [[TheEmpath empathy]].]] She tries to tell Rainbow Dash, but RD doesn't believe her.
* In Creator/AAPessimal's take on the ''{{Discworld}}'', Assassin Miss Alice Band has a terrible dark secret known to only a very few. No, it's not [[HideYourGays that she's gay.]] Everybody knows this and only a few think it's an issue. In her childhod, a horrific act of abuse happened to her at school. Against her will, she was forced ''to learn the tuba'' in her school orchestra. She carries the scars - and the tuba - as an adult.

[[folder: Film ]]
* The movie ''Film/IKnowWhatYouDidLastSummer'' is built on a dark secret shared by a group of friends after they accidentally kill someone with their car.
** A similar secret is kept by the protagonists of ''Film/UrbanLegend'', involving the invocation of an urban legend to scare someone, leading to a fatal car crash.
* In the movie ''Film/TheWatcherInTheWoods'', a group of friends have kept the secret of Karen's disappearance since they were children, and are haunted by it.
* ''Film/OneMissedCall'' has [[MunchausenSyndrome Munchausen's By Proxy]] as the dark secret of one character.
* ''Franchise/ANightmareOnElmStreet'''s DarkSecret is the decision by the parents of Elm Street to take the law into their own hands and kill Freddy Krueger, who was known back then as the "Springwood Slasher" and liked to kill children.
* In ''Film/XMenDaysOfFuturePast'', by 1973, Charles had never revealed to anyone--not even Raven, Erik or Hank--that as a nine-year-old kid, he thought he was going insane after his telepathy became active, and he didn't learn until he was twelve that he could in fact read other people's minds.
* In Japanese film ''Film/ZeroFocus'', Sachiko, now the respected wife of a prosperous businessman, was once a prostitute who serviced American soldiers after the war. She kills two people, Kenichi and his brother Sotaro, to keep this secret.

[[folder: Literature ]]
* Zoe from ''[[PercyJackson Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Titan's Curse]]'' is [[spoiler:Atlas's daughter]].
* In Daphne du Maurier's ''Literature/{{Rebecca}}'', the heroine's husband has a dark secret. She believes he can't love her because he's still thinking of his first wife Rebecca who was supposedly drowned in a sailing accident. Turns out he had [[spoiler: murdered Rebecca himself -- and she had goaded him into it]].
* In the [[Literature/WizardAndGlass fourth]] ''Franchise/TheDarkTower'' novel, Roland's friends must see his dark secret to proceed along the Beam. They find out [[spoiler:he shot and killed his mother, upon seeing Rhea's reflection in the Wizard's Glass]].
* In the first ElleryQueen novel, "The Roman Hat Mystery", the murder victim is a blackmailer. No one familiar with the rules of Golden Age mystery novels will consider "murderer is being blackmailed" a spoiler. The secret worth killing over? [[spoiler:One of the murderer's ancestors married a black woman. The line is so diluted that there are no visible signs of African descent in the murderer's appearance, but that "drop" of blood would ruin him socially and professionally.]]
* In the both the books, and the 90s TV adaptation of Creator/PGWodehouse's ''Literature/JeevesAndWooster'' stories, Jeeves reveals British fascist leader Sir Roderick Spode's terrible secret to Bertie: [[spoiler:Spode owns a ladies' fashion boutique]]. Should this become widely known it would ruin his reputation.
--> '''Bertie''': You can't be a successful Dictator and [[spoiler:design women's' underclothing]]. One or the other. Not both.
* ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'':
** Piper thinks she'll have to betray her friends.
** Hazel is directly responsible for Gaea bringing back Alcyoneus.
* The reader is every bit as aware of it as she is, but Gara Petothel / Lara Notsil, in the ''XWingSeries'', is a DeepCoverAgent who's gone through a private HeelFaceTurn, and is unhappily aware that the [[HeroicBSOD badly damaged]] pilot who she's falling in love with is damaged because of her actions.
* In the ''Literature/WarriorCats'' series, many cats' forbidden relationships. The parentage of kits born to said forbidden relationships. Visiting the Dark Forest.
* The Missus and John-the-dig in ''Literature/TheThirteenthTale'' can't let anyone know there is [[spoiler: a third girl in Angelfield]], or else Charlie's rapes and incest will become open public knowledge.
* In ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', Harry treats his possession of [[spoiler:the coin containing Lasciel as this. When he finally speaks of it to Michael, he already knows.]]
** In ''Ghost Story'', Molly's secret is that [[spoiler:she helped Harry- her mentor and Chicago's main protector against supernatural predators- kill himself]]. Her guilt over this fucks up her psyche and relationships with people, but she can't tell anyone for fear that they'll hate her as much as she does.
* ''Literature/SkulduggeryPleasant'': "China Sorrows, China Sorrows. She's the one, she's the one. [[spoiler:Nefarian Serpine killed Skulduggery Pleasant, but China Sorrows led his family into the trap.]]"
* ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'': The Knights Radiant were an order of magical knights tasked with protecting humanity from the apocalypse. Thousands of years before the story, they abandoned their oaths, as well as their unspeakably powerful arms and armor, for unknown reasons. The current religion claims that they used tricks to pretend divine powers and a holy calling and fled when the charade was discovered, but we see the event at one point, and it's clearly [[ScrewThisImOutOfHere something else entirely]]. In the second book, ''Literature/WordsOfRadiance'', [[spoiler:Taravingian]]'s Diagram says (in code) "Hold the secret that broke the Knights Radiant. You may need it to destroy the new orders [[OrderReborn when they return]]."


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]
* In the ''Series/ColdCase'' episode ''The Hen House'' the victim was killed for discovering that her murderer was really [[spoiler: a Nazi pretending to be a Dutch Jew]].
* An episode of ''Series/{{CSI NY}}'' had the Nazi pretending to be a Jew. [[spoiler: Unfortunately for him he married a Jewish woman [[WhatAnIdiot and raised his own son as a devout Jew]] to keep his cover story up]].
* An episode of ''Series/{{CSI}}'' has an episode where a school boy with neo-Nazi beliefs is murdered. [[spoiler: He was growing out of racism after making friends with the school's black janitor. The suspects were other neo-Nazis who not only found out, but for some reason concluded he was also in a homosexual relationship with the janitor.]] The boy was murdered because he discovered an even darker secret: [[spoiler:his new friend was actually [[RetiredMonster a leader in the Rwandan genocide]].]]
* ''Series/PowerRangersDinoThunder'': Trent, the White Dino Ranger, is the son of [[spoiler:Anton Mercer, a.k.a. [[BigBad Mesogog]]]]. When the Rangers find this, they're a bit amused.
* The whole premise of ''Series/{{Dexter}}''. His secret is [[SerialKiller quite dark indeed]]...
* ''Series/BabylonFive'', with Ivanova secretly being [[spoiler: A rogue telepath]]. Sheridan also has a secret, in that he's a member of a military conspiracy to [[spoiler: overthrow [[PresidentEvil President Clark]]]]. Then there's Delenn... you know, with Babylon 5 being a [[CityOfSpies Space Station Of Spies]], it's safe to say that there are many people with [[DarkSecret dark secrets]].
* In Creator/StephenKing's ''StormOfTheCentury'', many of the residents of Little Tall island have [[DarkSecret Dark Secrets]]. The BigBad, being a mind reading demonic sorcerer, lets them know that he knows just to freak them out. He also reveals some of these secrets to the other residents [[ForTheEvulz for kicks]].
* In the ''Series/{{Community}}'' episode "[[Recap/CommunityS2E10MixologyCertification Mixology Certification]]" the group learns that Shirley had been hiding the fact she was a barfly during a more troubled time of her life.
* In ''Series/SwitchedAtBirth'', Regina knew about the switch and had a private investigator keep tabs on Bay for some time.
* Tara's attempts to hide her part-demon-ness in ''Series/{{Buffy|the Vampire Slayer}}'' almost result in her friends being killed. Still, they stand up for her anyway and eventually determine that Tara's family lied to her about her heritage.
* In ''TheMentalist'', J.J. LaRoche has a Tupperware container hidden in a safe, which is later stolen and retrieved, as the contents of the plastic container would ruin his career and reputation. [[spoiler:It's the tongue of his mother's rapist.]]
* PlayedForLaughs in ''DowntonAbbey'', where the butler Mr Carson has a deep dark secret that will lose him Lord Grantham's respect, which turns out to be....[[FelonyMisdemeanor that he used to be a song-and-dance stage performer when he was young.]] When he confesses this in anguish, loudly curses himself for being worthless, and declares that he will resign in disgrace, Lord Grantham merely sighs and says "Oh do stop being so melodramatic, you're not playing [[ATaleOfTwoCities Sydney Carton]] now, are you?"
* In the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episode [[Recap/SupernaturalS01E05BloodyMary "Bloody Mary" (S01, Ep5)]], the ghost's victims all have a secret they do not want anyone else to know, a guilt for another person's death. It is revealed that Sam also has a secret he has not shared with Dean during this episode.

[[folder: Music ]]
* ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S7YxfZiJqM Flower of the Plateau]]'', in which [[{{vocaloid}} Mikulia]] is actually a prostitute. She even [[spoiler: ''kills'' two people, an ex-suitor/client and ''[[OffingTheOffspring her own son]]'' to protect her secret]]. [[BodyHorror The]] [[FanDisservice imagery]] [[FetishRetardant really doesn't help]].

[[folder: Tabletop RPG ]]
* ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'' has a Disadvantage called Secret. If it's revealed, the character loses the Secret, but gains Disadvantage(s) (or loses Advantages) worth twice as many points as the Secret.
* The ''TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness'' had a one point flaw called Dark Secret. That it's only worth one point tells a lot about the setting.
* The GURPS Disadvantage was inspired by ''{{Champions}}'' and its system of Disadvantages. The current edition has Social Limitations that include things like Guilty Secret, Dark Secret, Embarrassing Secret, and so on.
* Similar to the ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}'' example; the TabletopGame/BattleTech RPG ''A Time of War'' has the negative trait "Dark Secret". These can range from things that could harm the character socially up to something that could trigger an interstellar conflict. Should it be discovered the PC can expect to gain Enemy, negative Repuation and [[BountyHunter Bloodmarked]] traits.
* ''TabletopGame/FadingSuns'' has the Dark Secret disadvantage, in three levels depending on the severity of the secret. It also has the Secret advantage, which (among other things) may mean you know someone else's Dark Secret.
* Almost everyone in ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' has their own dark secret, but the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter ''really'' don't want anyone to know ''half'' their chapter joined the other side during the Literature/HorusHeresy. {{Iron|y}}ically, it's implied in other fluff that not only are the Inquisition fully aware of the Fallen Dark Angels, but they don't really care too much. That means their self-appointed mission to keeping the Chapter "secret" a secret and the numerous atrocities they commit in its name are utterly pointless and simply alienating the rest of the Imperium.

* In ''Theatre/PokemonLive'', Delia keeps her past relationship with Giovanni secret because she's terrified of how Ash will take the news.

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* VideoGame/StarcraftII
** [[spoiler: Tychus Findlay]]. The DarkSecret in question is [[spoiler:his deal with Mengsk: he kills Kerrigan, he's free.]] As he says in the end of the game:
--> "I've made a DealWithTheDevil."
** In the secret mission "Piercing The Shroud", it is discovered that [[spoiler:the Dominion is behind the Zerg-Protoss Hybrids, which play a very important part in Zeratul's missions. Yep, that's right: it seems that the Dominion (with some dirty help) wants to bring [[TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt The End Of The Universe As We Know It]].]]
** Mengsk's ''other'' dark secret is his role in the fall of Confederacy, namely that his hand was on the button that [[ApocalypseHow murdered eight billion humans and toppled their government]], leaving him free to take over what was left. Given the magnitude of the crime, he's understandably kept it under tight wraps since becoming Emperor. Raynor's Raiders, naturally, [[CantStopTheSignal have an opportunity to blow it wide open]].
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'' has a number of these. Figuring out what they are is the whole point of the game.
** The sequences with Psyche-Locks involve a person's secrets/lies being locked up with spiritual locks and chains when confronted with a statement or question the person refuses to answer and may go to great lengths to keep that secret hidden. The more locks that appear, the more desperately the person wants to hide their secret. Phoenix can see the locks due to the Magatama item he carries and presenting the right pieces of evidence when questioning the person gets them to "unlock" themselves and reveal the truth. [[spoiler: While a typical Psyche-Lock is colored red and can easily be broken, there's two occasions where the locks are ''black'' and can't be broken by normal means. Phoenix first sees the black locks during ''VisualNovel/ApolloJusticeAceAttorney'' when he asks Kristoph Gavin why he killed Shadi Smith, Kristoph refuses to answer and 5 black Psyche-Locks appear, which Phoenix describes as cold and dark and probably cannot be unlocked. The black locks appear again in ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyDualDestinies'' when Athena is accused of killing her own mother several years ago and the suppressed memory of the event causes her to throw up 5 black Psyche-Locks. Phoenix finds out from Pearl that the black locks mean that someone has a secret buried so deep within their hearts that they are not consciously aware of it and if the Magatama user tries to brute force the locks open (not approaching the topic gently in other words), the person's spirit can become broken beyond repair and they are traumatized for life. Luckily, Phoenix gets past Athena's locks without any damage to her mental state.]]
* ''SwordOfTheStars II: Lords of Winter'' reveals that the [[SapientCetaceans Liir]] have been harboring a dark secret: the [[spoiler:Suul'ka]] are really Liir Elders who have refused to die and became DrunkWithPower. The bit about the [[spoiler:Liir killing all Suul'ka with a bio-engineered plague]] is complete bull.
* The DarkSecret of Nathan Drake, the BadassNormal treasure-hunting descendant of Sir Francis Drake, is revealed in ''VideoGame/Uncharted3DrakesDeception'': [[spoiler:he was never an heir of Sir Francis, merely a ward of the state with a history obsession and a ChangelingFantasy. Not even his ParentalSubstitute or his fiance knew, but the desire to prove himself as Sir Francis' heir is Nate's driving motivation for the first and third games.]]
* In ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'', there's Keiichi's [[spoiler: habit of shooting kids with a BB gun]], Rena's [[spoiler: psychotic episode]], Satoko's [[spoiler: unwitting murder of her parents]], the Sonozaki family's [[spoiler: complete lack of a DarkSecret, despite all their posturing]], and the fact that Rika is [[spoiler: stuck in a GroundhogDayLoop]]. The entire series being based on ThePowerOfFriendship, all of these are eventually revealed and EasilyForgiven.
* In ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'', Monobear threatens to reveal Dark Secrets for every character to the public unless there is a murder.
* [[Franchise/DragonAge Thedas]] is full of these. Every single organization, race, and country with high repute has at least one dark secret. Others don't even bother keeping their "darkness" secret.

[[folder: Web Comics ]]
* In ''Webcomic/DeviantUniverse'', while many characters have their own from their [[BackStory backstories]] or side comics, [[spoiler: Christina Rogers being responsible for the Genocide Wave is considered in-universe to be the most notorious one.]]
* In ''Webcomic/DocRat'', Doc pops the question to Danielle before she learns [[spoiler:he's already married.]]
* Characters in ''Webcomic/MenageA3'' and its {{spinoff}} ''Webcomic/StickyDillyBuns'' are mostly pretty open about sex, but there are things that even they prefer to keep quiet...
** Amber doesn't want her parents to know about her past career as a porn star. How well she can keep this from them if her straight acting career takes off remains to be seen. She also obliged her younger sister Ruby to preserve this secret for several years, which has caused the very truthful Ruby a lot of stress.
** Meanwhile, Ruby tries to keep anything faintly embarrassing or just slightly unconventional about herself, such as her brief (and quite credible) adventure in male disguise, or her liking for {{yaoi|Fangirl}}, secret from Amber. Apparently, her self-image as the serious, respectable one in [[TheGloriousWarOfSisterlyRivalry their relationship]] is vitally important to her, or she assumes for some reason that Amber would taunt her mercilessly given half a chance.
** Tracy, who works as a webcam girl and who let herself almost be drawn into an orgy by her porn star friends at one point, doesn't want these facts know at the games company office where she's working as an intern. When Gary, who knows these secrets, turns up there for a job interview, Tracy's usual niceness slips a little as she persuades him not to say anything.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Sinfest}}'', [[http://www.sinfest.net/view.php?date=2012-05-25 when Tangerine tells Seymour to tell the ring his secret, Seymour flashes back to his and reacts strongly.]]