"20 bucks says I can get in in 20 seconds"
— Dr. Gregory House
, before performing the trope.
Do you need to get into your house... or perhaps someone else's house... quickly? Have you suddenly realized you locked your keys inside
your house, so that now you not only can't get your car started, but you can't get into your house to get your keys? What do you do? Why, you look under the doormat, of course!
Occasionally, the spare key isn't hidden under the doormat, but is rather hidden inside a fake rock, or in a ceramic animal near the door, or even concealed atop the frame of the door itself. There is also a vehicular variant wherein the spare key is hidden above the driver's side sun visor.
Often Truth in Television
, despite the advice of pretty much every crime prevention leaflet.
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- The parents of Jean Grey keep their spare keys under a fake rock. Unfortunately, Hercules (in The Avengers crossover where she resurfaces after The Dark Phoenix Saga) kicks the door down before she could get to it.
- In All-Star Superman the key to his Fortress of Solitude is kept under the welcome mat by the entrance. But it's made of White Dwarf star matter and only he can lift it.
- In one Spy vs. Spy strip, the Black Spy hides a key to a door in this fashion, fully intending for the White Spy to steal it, use it and set off the booby-trapped door.
- Doc Brown's laboratory in Back to the Future has one of these.
- In the movie Following a burglar named Cobb uses a key under a doormat to break into an apartment.
- Subverted in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Ferris looks for the key, but his Genre Savvy principal has already taken it.
- Terminator II: Judgement Day. The Terminator goes to rip off the steering column housing to hotwire the car when John Connor smugly shows him the keys are hidden in the sun visor. The next time the cyborg has to steal a car, he looks under the sun visor first and sure enough finds the keys.
- In Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder, the key under the staircase carpeting is a key plot point.
- In Gran Torino the key is in the porcelein frog.
- In The Railway Children movie, the man who takes the children to the house in the country from the railway station says that the people who live out there usually leave their keys under the door.
- Independence Day uses the "Sun Visor" one.
- The Ring 2
- This is how Colt gets into the Big Bad's hideout in Loaded Weapon 1.
- A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner!: Magnate's headquarters has the key hidden under the doormat.
- A deleted scene in the 2009 Star Trek movie reveals that the young Kirk found the keys to his father's Corvette above the sun visor.
- One is mentioned in The Cat Who Went Underground by Lillian Jackson Braun.
- Mrs. Tiggy Winkle does this in the story by Beatrix Potter.
- Discussed Trope in Mr. Bean's Scrapbook, a tie-in for Bean, in which Mr. Bean easily finds the key to get into an unfamiliar house because "if you have the choice of hiding your key under a brick or under Kermit the Frog, which do you choose? EXACTLY". In a bit of Hypocritical Humour, the appendix indicates that Mr. Bean also keeps his spare key under a model of a frog, albeit a photorealistic one.
Live Action TV
- House has them breaking into Cuddy's house at one point. The key is under a vase while Chase is busy telling House that's not going to work.
- In one LOST flashback, young Miles found a dead man's apartment key under a white stone rabbit. White rabbits are a motif on the show. As Miles talks to dead people, it was implied that the man told him where the key was.
- Lowell did this on Wings, revealed in an episode where the whole gang goes to Boston to be in the audience of a talk show. Thinking that he may have left his iron turned on at home, he announces to the camera his address and key hiding place, asking someone to check for him. Predictably, this leads to thieves stealing everything he owns. ("Except the iron...which was off!").
- Subverted in an episode of The Drew Carey Show, where it was mentioned that Drew kept a fake key in a fake rock under his welcome mat.
- In Psych, Gus wonders how Shawn was able to get into his house, and Shawn points out that the key hidden under a fake rock is a bit obvious for a second-floor apartment.
- In Gilmore Girls, pretty much all of Lorelai Gilmore's neighbors knew that the spare key was in the turtle.
- In the Doctor Who telemovie with Paul McGann in, the car-key version was done with, of all things, the TARDIS.
- On Friends one of Ross' dates kept hers in the light fixture near her apartment door. It made the key hot, though. Seriously lady, that's a stupid place to put it!
- In the first episode of Two and a Half Men, Alan gets into Charlie's house as his fake key-hiding rock is kept out in the open, due to Charlie often coming home so drunk he wouldn't be able to find it if it was in a pile of rocks.
- Fringe has Olivia go to a alternate universe where she breaks into her counterpart's apartment because they hide the spare key in the same place. However, they do not keep their guns in the same place.
- In The Bernie Mac Show, Bernie gets locked out of his house by the children in a hot day after he punished them and had the air conditioner fixed. With every door and window locked, the last place to look for is the key under the doormat. Brianna was sent to get the key, but was taken by Bernie and leads to a negotiation with the other two kids.
- Starsky & Hutch: Hutch keeps it on top of the door-frame. None of the repeated times the bad guys break into his place ever seem to convince him to stop doing this.
- In one episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Jordan and Danny are locked on the roof of the studio. They try to get the attention of a bum by throwing a rock
at near him. Then Danny remembers there is was a hide-a-key rock on the roof.
- Power Rangers Zeo: When Rita and Zedd are fleeing from the Machine Empire, she asks her father if they can stay at his place. He agrees and says he'll leave a spare key under the mat.
- An episode late in the run of The Facts of Life played an interesting and somewhat clever variant. Tootie and Natalie go to the city to visit an artist friend of theirs and find a bum sleeping next to her door. They check the instructions to find the key and they're directed to the bum's head. Sure enough, they remove the bum's hat to find the key resting on his scalp. The "bum" turns out to be a dummy.
- On A Prairie Home Companion, there's a fictional inventor that attempts to avert this. He sells Cowpie Key Hiders. In Minnesota, lumps of cow manure are supposedly ubiquitous, and who's gonna look for a key under that? What if it turns out it's not fake? So instead of putting your key under the mat like an idiot, you can put it where nobody wants to look.
- In the Radio Drama The Father Gilbert Mysteries "Where The Heart Is", Mr. Eckhart concludes that someone broke into the church's crypt by using the key hidden under the flower pot beside the door. Father Gilbert chews him out for keeping a key there, as it's the first place anyone would look.
- Similarly in Adventures in Odyssey Connie jumps from tree to ledge to window in order to get into Mitch's apartment. Mitch tells her that she could have just used the key under the mat. A rather unsafe place for an FBI agent to hide a key though...
- At the queue for Muppet*Vision 3D at the Disney Theme Parks, there's a mat with a sign pointing at it, saying "Key Under Mat." Sure enough, anyone curious enough to look will find one glued to the floor.
- In Neverwinter Nights, the key to the Tanglebrook Estate is hidden under the doormat.
- The Virtual Families game has a key under the doormat that unlocks the shed.
- The first puzzle of Maniac Mansion is getting the front door key from beneath the mat.
- Checking under the front mat of Lefty's in Leisure Suit Larry 1 gets you a snarky comment from the narrator, wondering why you'd expect to find a key there when the door is unlocked.
- In Alone In The Dark 2008 you can sometimes find a car key in the sun visor, saving you the tedious business of hotwiring the vehicle.
- Lara Croft finds the keys in the sun visor for the Jeep during the driving cutscene in Tomb Raider II.
- In Rhiannon, you're told outright that the key to the house is under a flowerpot. Note that the keys to everyplace else you'll need to unlock are well hidden.
- A key required for Return to Ravenhearst is on the front porch, under the cat. No, you can't pick the cat up to get it, but bribing it with a mouse works fine.
- In "The Cat Lady", there is a puzzle where you have to get the key to break into someone's apartment by cracking open a cat statue holding said key.
- In the Strong Bad email "50 emails", Strong Bad tells an unknown caller:
(whispering) "I'll leave the key under the at-may
- In the online flash game MOTAS, there is a key under a doormat. The doormat is on top of a grate for some reason, so after you accidently knock the key down you have to go down and get it.
- SpongeBob SquarePants remembers he keeps a spare key under his doormat after spending one whole episode stuck outside his pineapple.
- In the first episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben finds the key to the Rustbucket in a fake rock near the door.
- Bart did this in an episode of The Simpsons. In order to get into the locked school, he...yeah. Homer also did it it one episode TWICE, the first time to get into the nuclear power plant, the second time to get into the reactor! And furthermore, even the key inside the plant was hidden under a small rock lying on the pristine floor, potentially subverting this trope.
- In the second episode of X-Men: Evolution, Rogue accidentally touches a football player and takes his running/tackling skill and memory. And the knowledge that a spare key to his house was in the gutter above the door.
- There is a key under a doormat in an episode of Ned's Newt. On the doormat is a huge picture of a key and an arrow pointing to one corner of the mat.
- In the All-Star Superman movie the key to the Fortress of Solitude is kept under the doormat. Lois is bemused and asks where the big gold key (a staple in Silver Age comics) went. Supes remarks that the doormat method is more secure. This is because the key is made out of dwarf star material and is really heavy.
- In an episode of Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog where Scratch loses his memory and thinks he's Sonic's ally, he recalls that Robotnik leaves the key to his fortress under his "unwelcome" mat.
- In Gargoyles Elisa knows that Matt keeps his on top of the doorframe to his apartment. Let me repeat, on top of the doorframe. No tape, no string, just a key ready to be knocked off if someone slams the door too hard.