Daphne: Look! A secret passage!
Fred: You're right! Shaggy, you're a genius!
Shaggy: I am?
In the land of fiction, if you need to find secret passages
or switches in your Temple of Doom
or Haunted Castle
there's not really a point in doing logical things like looking for irregularities, listening for hollows, or other methods. Because the best way to find these things is sheer fluke.
Leaning back for a breather or punching the wall in frustration can end up with pushing just
the right brick. If The Fool
falls over in the ancient mansion, odds are the first candelabra
, andiron or statue they'll grab for support will be the all-important lever to the hidden safe. If you are trying to search logically, step back and assess the situation occasionally: you might just step on the important collapsing floor panel.
Bonus points if you or your friend have been searching for a while. Watch out, though: this is also a good way to find traps
This basically comes about because someone looking for mysterious passages is kinda boring to watch, and finding them normally isn't much more interesting. Related to Bookcase Passage
Named after Shaggy in Scooby-Doo
, who found more clues and secrets through accidents and falling over than any Great Detective
ever could. Any similarities to Shaggy Dog Story
Compare Eureka Moment
and You Were Trying Too Hard
open/close all folders
- Vash appears to do this in the second episode of Trigun. Seeing as he's known for "Playing the Fool", it's hard tell if it was really an accident.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes tries to blast open a secret compartment with a siege weapon. While struggling to aim it, he sets off the opening mechanism. He tries to pretend that that was his plan all along.
- Invoked (with little success) in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: Malicia insists that the best way to find secret passages is to give up after searching, then lean casually against something and accidentally trip the hidden switch. They do find a secret passage, but only by noticing the cleverly hidden switch.
- Good Omens: A variation was subverted in Pratchett and Gaiman's novel. Among the search techniques the heroine attempts in trying to find her lost book of prophecies is giving up theatrically and letting her gaze fall organically on a patch of ground—which, if she was in any sort of decent story, would be where the book was. Unfortunately, this isn't a world governed by the Theory of Narrative Causality, so it's not there.
- Sort of in The Thrawn Trilogy. Leia and others, looking for the Delta Source that is reporting things to Thrawn, rest for a bit in the room where most of the spying happens, and then Leia looks at a droid tending one of the decorative color-changing trees and notices the red ripples forming and spreading each time the droid clicks.
Similarly, in the X-Wing Series Corran Horn, while infiltrating on Coruscant, goes walking without paying attention to where he's going because he's thinking. Yes, he does this on a hostile planet. But the Force was with him, since not only did he not get jumped while contemplating his past, but he ended up outside of a Wretched Hive where an enemy was having a drink, and in the following pages he ends up finding some friends he hadn't seen for a while.
- Happens to Hamlet in Tom Holt's My Hero, during a sequence that's supposed to be demonstrating that the Theory of Narrative Causality no longer applies but keeps getting undermined by the fact that (this being a Tom Holt novel) the Rule of Funny is still in full effect.
- Averted in Darren Shan's The Demonata series in Lord Loss. Grubbs seems like the kind of impulsive young kid to stop searching early and accidentally trip the switch, but he somehow has the patience to try every single wine bottle in his uncle's cellar until he finds the one that's a hidden switch. He goes through dozens of bottles.
- Exaggerated in Arthur Machen's early works, where every single plot development came about this way.
- In Simon Hawke's The Wizard of Whitechapel, an Irish cabbie who drove the heroes to the party independently decides to crash it along with them, purely so he can play this trope straight at the right time.
- A variation occurs in the Austrian children's book Katzenkönig Mauzenberger. The bad guys want to break in the treasure chamber of the king, but only know that they have to press a certain brick to open the secret door. The boss gets angry and kicks the Minion with an F in Evil. Of course, he lands exactly on the right brick.
Live Action TV
- In Five Go Mad In Dorset, a British television special which viciously parodied Enid Blyton's Famous Five children's stories, the titular protagonists open a concealed door by yanking three times on a random tree-branch.
- Lampshade lovingly hung in the Babylon 5 episode War Without End. Ivanova and Marcus Cole are looking for an access panel. Ivanova declares that they'll need some luck finding one. Marcus replies that he doesn't believe in luck, even as he's turning - and his Minbari Fighting Pike (collapsible metal staff) knocks into the panel, causing it to fall open. Quoth Marcus, "Then again..."
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Eternity Trap", Clyde explains how he knew to search for a secret passage by looking for gaps and oddities in the walls. The one he finds opens to a brick wall, causing Rani to laugh at him: which causes her to lean on just the right book on the bookcase
- Arrested Development: George Bluth, Sr. had a tendency to hide things inside walls, and had even designed the model home with a secret room. GOB found a document signed by George, Sr. and Saddam Hussein by taking a sledge hammer to the wall of the president's office because there wasn't enough space to line up a proper cue shot, and apparently everybody in the household knew about the secret room except Michael, who needed paperwork that was stored there.
- In the first series of Blackadder, our heroes are being hunted by drunken knights in a convent. In their despair, they beg the blessed virgin to help them - and when Edmund grabs the statue of Mary, it opens a secret passage. Subverted immediately afterwards when the knights burst in, find the room empty, and immediately figure out that they must have used the statue of Mary to open a secret passage and follow them.
- Doctor Who: In "Black Orchid", the Doctor gets trapped in a secret passage. After searching for the catch to the door and failing to find it, he eventually opens the door when he randomly leans against the wall.
- Dungeons & Dragons: A tried-and-true technique of any party. Let the fighter (or henchman) go first to "disarm" all the traps, and simply heal them later.
- Final Fantasy IX had a list of options to search a secret wall, such as examining it, poking it, shoulder barging it etc. After a while it came up with the option "rest"... which led you to lean back on the wall, and open the door. Justified in that this was in the upside-down/backwards castle, so the the best way to get through the wall was to apply the smallest amount of force possible.
- A similar event happens in Breath Of Fire 3 when the gang of Loveable Rogues are trying to find a way into a mansion early in the game: they search the wall around it for a way in, but give up quickly. Rei then leans against it, causing a large section of it to tip over since it was broken recently and they half-assed the repair job.
- Colette from Tales of Symphonia is incredibly clumsy, but when she trips she tends to fall on the exact thing she's looking for.
- In a lot of Point-and-Click games, randomly clicking on everything is a good way to find things.
- In a lot of First-Person Shooter, sliding along the wall while mashing the "open" key is a good way to find a hidden door or "fall into" a concealed passageway.
- Actually used as a puzzle-solution in Wild ARMs 5. After a puzzle where you follow the direction the flame of a torch points for several rooms, one of them points to an innocuous corner. Investigating the corner causes you to trip and fall through it.
- Ben 10 has Ben doing this with the omnitrix; Rather than trying logical patterns or anything like that, he just randomly rotates the dial. It actually doesn't do anything for many episodes, until he gets lucky and triggers the Super Mode that removes form time limits. Other characters call him on the useless fiddling several times as well. Justified by the fact that he's a kid and no one understands the thing anyway.
- In one alternate-future episode, Ben's son subverts this: instead of just randomly fiddling with his own Omnitrix, he transforms into the alien with Super Intelligence and uses its extra brainpower to hack the master control.
- Danger Mouse: Subverted when DM is trying to find the entrance to a forbidden temple; when he leans on something, a door opens behind him... but he doesn't notice and carries on looking.
- The video version of Garfield: His 9 Lives has this, during Garfield's second life in Ancient Egypt. He's sealed in a tomb, Odie comes sniffing around, looking for a loose stone block, thinks he's found one, and pushes it with all his might. Then he takes a breather, leaning against the stone block next to it, and it slides in easily.
- In the film Igor, the main characters are being chased, so Brain starts trying to find a switch for a secret passage on the wall. Igor tells him there isn't a secret passage and bangs the opposite wall in frustration, hitting the switch for the secret passage.
- Oddly, in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, it's Scooby who does this half the time. Shaggy himself only ever truly finds a clue by himself in one episode, which was the gang's search for the missing Scooby.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros. when Dr. Venture grabs a candle holder on the wall and flips it over expecting something to happen. Dr. Byron Orpheus informs him that it doesn't do anything...except dump wax on his carpet.
- On Filmations Ghostbusters, Eddie Spenser Jr. had this down to an art form. Most of the time, it made things even worse for him and his fellow Ghostbusters.
- In one episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Peabody and Sherman are (literally) looking for a needle in a haystack. Peabody suggests that Sherman simply sit down on the hay. As predicted, Sherman is stabbed in the behind by the needle.
- Beast Boy from Teen Titans does this in "Date with Destiny" when the Titans are searching Kitten's house for Killer Moth's lair. Robin shouts at Cyborg, Beast Boy moves backward in surprise, and when he runs into a statue, it triggers the secret door to the Mad Scientist's basement.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Castle Mane-ia", Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Fluttershy end up discovering a lot of secret passageways and doors in Celestia and Luna's old castle by using this method.