Portrait Painting Peephole

"If you're peering out from one of those it's a safe bet that meddling kids will soon cause you not to get away with something."

While visiting a Haunted House, someone sees the eyes of a creepy portrait painting seem to follow them. The other members of the party blame it on nerves, when in fact, the villain really is spying on our heroes through peepholes in the eyes of the portrait.

See Also Stand-In Portrait


  • Such a portrait is seen in a television commercial for the Clue board game.
  • Done in the most recent Aflac commercial... the duck watches some people who appear to be parodying Clue through a portrait.


Comic Books
  • Runaways: Alex looks into Nico's room this way in issue seven.
  • In Excalibur, Kitty Pryde pulls this off once by phasing her head through a painting so that her face appears where the face on the painting should be.
  • In issue #121 of Simpsons Comics, after revealing that he and Smithers were eavesdropping on Homer behind motivational posters, Mr. Burns states "I wanted one of those old paintings with the eyes missing, but Smithers thought it was too Scooby-Doo!"
  • The hero of Ruse, the Sherlock Holmes-like detective Simon Archard, has one of these in his own office. (The subject of the painting is never identified, but bears a striking resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle.)

Fan Fic

  • Used in Disney's Haunted Mansion.
  • Thrice in Neil Simon's Murder by Death: first with a portrait of a baby (starting at 8:25), then with one of a dog (starting at 0:20) and once more not through a portrait, but in the eyes of a stuffed moose head.
  • Happens with a statue in Big Trouble in Little China as well.
  • Monsters, Inc. Randall (who has chameleon powers) blending into a painting, with the eyes lined up with his own.
  • Randy Rides Alone (Starring John Wayne) uses this trope during it's opening scene. The Portrait is of Ulysses S. Grant
  • Used in 1963's Cleopatra.
  • Variation used in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while in the Akator temple, a pair of eyes move in a skull relief on the wall.
  • Done a few times in The Three Stooges shorts, usually in the spookier themed episodes. They'd often have a painting replaced with a person or villain dressed and posed like the portrait they'd just cut away from behind the wall.
  • Roy freaks out when he sees the eyes move on a portrait in Shanghai Knights.
    • Earlier in the scene, Chon noticed the eyes. But Roy dismisses it as paranoia and insisted that its a trick of the painting.
  • In Dark and Stormy Night, two different people using different portraits to spy on others end up noticing the other.
  • Rob and Kit find a painting in their room with moving eyes in April Fools' Day. It turns out that there's just a clock (shaped like a cat, with its eyes moving back and forth) behind it. The same painting later turns up in the basement, with severed head behind it.
  • An interesting variant: in The Goonies, Mouth uses a rip in the painting of a naked woman(conveniently placed at the mouth), to stick his tongue through for a quick laugh.
    Mouth: (In a silly, falsetto voice) Mike-eey! Come here and make me feel like a woman. Come on, give me a nice, wet lickery kiss. Mwah!
  • A similarly silly variant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: When Eddie and Roger are hiding from Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol, they hit the bar where Dolores works and hide in the rotgut room. Roger quickly finds the peepholes and peers out them - by sticking his elongated eyeballs four feet through the holes, knocking over a bewildered man's drink.

  • Some paintings in the Patrician's palace in Discworld have eyeholes for spying, but it's stated in Jingo that Vetinari doesn't use them, they are just a relic from a previous ruler's tenure, like the Ho-ho (like a ha-ha only deeper - it's a landscape gardening thing).
    • Also, references are made to paintings in which other body parts (e.g. a ferret's nose) seem to follow you around the room.
  • Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon. The King kills a dragon in a hunt, and hangs its head on a wall in his castle. The dragon's eyes are replaced with glass ones, and the Evil Chancellor puts a secret room behind the head so he can look out through them and spy on the King. This later turns out to be one of the keys to Flagg's downfall.
  • Parodied in Beyond The Blue Moon, where an inept ghost makes a pair of eyeballs literally pop out of a painting's eyeholes and follow intruders around.

Live-Action TV
  • The Two Ronnies. The heroine sees the eyes of a portrait moving as she is undressing for bed and flings a mug of cocoa at it. The next morning one of the male characters is seen with an eyepatch on one eye. A few moments later, another male character enters with an eyepatch on the other eye.
  • The Monkees when they visit a creepy house to play a gig.
  • The Andy Griffith Show "Haunted House" A con man uses a haunted house as a cover for his still, he scares off Andy and Barney using the peepholes in a portrait to move the eyes. Upon discovering this Andy looks through the peepholes to spook the con right back.
  • Gilligan's Island "The Friendly Physician" While in the mansion of the mad scientist, Gilligan tells the Skipper that he's have trouble following the eyes in the hall portrait. The Skipper tells him he's just imagining it. Presumably they were being watched this way.
  • Highlander: The Series "Unusual Suspects". Fitz is spying on a room of people with one of these. Fitz was killed early in the episode and is hiding in the shadows, trying to solve his own murder. Duncan notices and comments how the eyes seem to move before poking Fitz.
  • And there was an episode of Soap, though it's been a while and I'm fuzzy on the details so another troper might want to fill in the blanks there.
  • In The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Ozzy Osborne has one that lets him spy on his neighbours, Slade.
  • In a Kenan & Kel TV movie, Kel stares at a painting with eyes looking at him through the peepholes. He whispered Kenan to come look at it while the peephole closes. However, Kel only noticed how the man in the portrait looks ugly.
    Kel: Oohhh, you're the ugly dude!
  • Doctor Who: "Marco Polo" The First Doctor and Susan enter "The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes" which has walls painted with two hundred and fifty men. Susan sees one set of eyes moving and screams.

Puppet Shows

Stand-Up Comedy
  • One of Dane Cook's comedy routines contains a bit about his 'dream house' and he spends several minutes talking about painting peepholes. And getting poked in the eye through the peepholes.

Tabletop RPG
  • Two variations in Dungeons & Dragons module I6 Ravenloft. Inside Dracula's Strahd's castle is a portrait with eyes that shift to look at the characters. It's actually magical and can attack the PC's. In another part of the castle are statues whose eyes seem to watch the characters. However, it's just an optical illusion.
    • In the classic module The Keep on the Borderlands, an orc spies on the characters from behind a wall made of skulls.

Video Games
  • There's one of these in almost every room in the first Laura Bow game, and Laura herself can use them to spy on the other guests and gather clues.
  • There's a variant in The Curse of Monkey Island, where Guybrush looks through the blank eyeholes of a painting and manages to convince the hotel landlord that he's a distant relative because he has the same eyes as the guy in the painting.
  • Happens in King's Quest VI.
  • In Haunting Ground, while Fiona is putting on clothes in the mansion, she's creeped out by a portrait that looks like it's staring at her naked body. It turns out that someone was watching her from behind the portrait - her disgusting, creepy grandfather Lorenzo who has incestuous interest in her. Ugh.
  • One of the paintings in Hamtaro Ham Ham Heartbreak is like this in Boo Manor, though you never find out why the eyes are moving.
  • Used in Message In A Haunted Mansion, where a secret room allows covert observation of a suspect. An inversion, in that Nancy finds the hidden room first, then uses its peepholes herself; she never actually catches the painting's "eyes" watching her.
  • Subverted in RuneScape with the examine text for a "creepy painting" in Melzar's Maze: "Disturbingly, its eyes look everywhere in the room but at you." Also played straight (albeit as a mundane optical illusion) with the painting itself, whose eyes appear to follow the camera.
  • The Interactive Fiction game Anchorhead allows the protagonist character to look through the eyes of a Spooky Painting to spy on her possessed husband.
    • Fridge Horror and Paranoia Fuel kick in if you recall that, when in the same room as the painting, it sometimes seems to look directly at the protagonist.

  • Problem Sleuth - Played with - The clown picture has two small holes to see through, but they're too close together to look through properly. But you're looking into the painting, into the other room where the eyeholes are also hidden in a portrait, but in a pig's nostrils.

Western Animation
  • Any given episode of Scooby-Doo
    • A Cartoon Network ad promoting Scooby-Doo once had the characters lampshading the trope and Fred jokingly asking why weren't there any haunted houses with landscape paintings.
  • Mister Burns used this to spy on Homer and Marge in The Simpsons. It even has peepholes for the dog in the picture so Smithers could look too.
    • Also in "Goo Goo Gai Pan" there's a large portrait of Mao Zedong with peepholes in the nostrils.
  • On the Looney Tunes short "Hair-Raising Hare", Bugs Bunny catches one of these being used by the orange monster and gives it a good eye poke. The monster then sees Bugs in another painting and tries to poke his eyes too, but Bugs eye pokes him again.
  • A variation occurs in the Wallace & Gromit short "The Wrong Trousers". Gromit is shadowing the villain in a box, he cuts some eyeholes from the inside and (by a lucky coincidence) they happen to be cut out of exactly the right spot of the box's exterior (a picture of a dog).
  • In Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Ghost of a Chance", a portrait of Sir Colby (and some human) hides Fat Cat, supported by his henchanimals so he can see through the human's eyes. Then they throw him off so they can see the Rescue Rangers themselves, Mepps taking one eye and Wart taking the other. A close-up reveals how weird this looks, as Mepps has a pale yellow sclera with a green iris, and Wart has a green sclera and a brown iris, and because they're looking in different directions. Mole takes a turn, too, and follows Zipper's movements until poked in the eye.
  • On the Futurama episode "The Honking", a painting in the castle of Bender's late uncle Vladimir appears to watch him, but upon closer inspection...
    Professor Farnsworth: It has motorized sensors attached to motion detectors.
    Bender: So does my butt, but I don't frame it and put it on the wall. Although...
    • In the My Three Suns episode, an assassin first watches Fry through a portrait and then tries to drink him through a straw that was hidden behind the portrait.
  • In Darkwing Duck, DW sneaks into a house and sees such a portrait. "As if I haven't seen this in a million movies!" He quips, removing the portrait and shouting "AH-HA!"... except the eyes gain bat-wings and fly away.
  • Homestar Runner episode "That A Ghost" has homestar seeing a suspicious portrait in a haunted house, but removes it to see a pair of one-eyed crows.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Super Show episode "Count Koopula", Luigi notices the eyes moving on one of the hallway portraits. The eyes disappear as he's pointing it out to the others.
  • Helsa learns of Heath disinheriting Hildegard by spying through one of Hildegard's many portraits in The Princess and the Pea.
  • Occurs in The Flintstones episode where Fred and Barney spend a night in Fred's uncle's haunted house.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Castle Mane-ia" the eye of a painting follows Rainbow Dash and Applejack as they run through the hallway.
  • The Fairly Oddparents episode "Meet the OddParents has Timmy's parents hiding behind portraits of themselves to spy on Timmy. They then put the picture on the refrigerator door while they hide inside, and then holding while outside on a tree branch.

Real Life
  • Though no cases of this have been seen in real life, the "eyes following you" effect is often created when the subject of a painting is portrayed looking straight out of the frame.
    • Like the Mona Lisa.