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She's quite nice really, but keeping secrets is hard work.
"My swashbuckling fop cannot take the flaw Dark Secret: Not Gay."
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Some characters 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. 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 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 Town with a Dark Secret. When you get even bigger in scale you get an Empire with a Dark Secret. When it's society-wide in general, you get Masquerade. My Greatest Failure is a particularly common type of Dark Secret, and it is often an element of a Dark and Troubled Past or a Mysterious Past and revealed in a Troubled Backstory Flashback. Related to They're Called "Personal Issues" for a Reason. See Open Secret for when your secret is not so secret. When they cause you to be suspected of unrelated crimes, they become the Big Secret.

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Supertrope to Coming-Out Story, a whole plot trope where the Dark Secret is being LGBT+. May overlap with Beneath the Mask if they care about hiding their true personality from everyone else. Hide Your Otherness may overlap with this if the reasons for it are personal. If the secret is something you can lock up, it will lead to a "What's Inside?" Plot.

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


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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Don't Meddle with My Daughter!
    • For the first 10 chapters, Clara is the only one who doesn't know that her mother was the original "Eighth Wonder" because Athena hid it from her. She feared what Clara might think of her if Clara ever found out why she retired.
    • In chapter 16, Hana reveals that Blowjob was created 20 years prior to the manga's main story, by the Japanese government. They attacked Zenovia when she first descended to Earth, then used her as a Breeding Slave to create an army of superbeings. Zenovia was eventually rescued, but remained bitter over the ordeal and eventually sought vengeance against all of humanity.
  • The dark secret held by Hime in HappinessCharge Pretty Cure! is the main drive of the entire series: she opened the Axia Box, releasing the Phantom Empire.
  • Kiznaiver: Each Kiznaiver had a dark secret, their first mission as a team is "to get to know each other", with the threat of being destroyed together with the hospital they are locked in if they do not tell the others something that they never told anybody else.
    • Katsuhira: He is actually happy he is in the Kizna project, because he thinks it might bring him close to others.
    • Chidori: She was in love with Katsuhira when they were younger.
    • Yuta: Was Formerly Fat.
    • Nico: Doesn't really believe in fairies, she pretends to do so people will think she is weird and not be cut off by being rich, cute and smart.
    • Tenga: has fear of dogs
    • Maki: killed someone, though it's Metaphorically True.
  • Kokoro Connect: Taichi decides to reveal a dark secret about himself to Inaba, in an attempt to engender some trust between them. His secret? 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: she's masturbated to his picture as well. She then grins broadly at Taichi's flustered reaction.
  • Soubi in 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 sociopath who physically and emotionally abused his best friend/mentor/partner.
  • Very early into The Promised Neverland, you find that Isabella, the caretaker, is harboring one of these. More specifically, the orphanage where she raises the children is actually a farm where they're being prepared for consumption by demons.
  • Sarazanmai: Whenever the three boys-turned-kappas defeat a kappa zombie, two things happen; the zombie kappa's most secret desire that led to its transformation is exposed, and the three boys go on a mind trip where they learn each other's deepest secrets. The boy whose secret gets exposed usually lets out a pained wail at others learning about it.
  • How Tsume got his scar in Wolf's Rain. When his old pack was 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In Death of the Family, 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 Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Lex Luthor pretends he is a good guy and a philanthropist, backing the Justice Society and treating Supergirl like a daughter. However, Batgirl knew that he murdered baby Kal-El several years before the beginning of the story and got many people murdered, including her own parents. And she saw that everyone found out about it.
  • In the second story-arc of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW) Nightmare Moon II claims that Rarity has one, which is part of why she choose her to be her new vessel.
  • In 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.
  • The small-town America of Revival seems quiet because most of the citizens are silently carrying one of these. At least a dozen citizens are in a love triangle of one kind or another. Thang Vang stole an item of enormous emotional importance from her employer. The sheriff crashed his bike while drunk, killing his wife. The Check brothers murdered their transgender father. These are all from before the Revival sets off the action of the series...
  • Promotion within the Mueller organization of Clean Room requires confessing these. They are recorded with one's personnel file in a red envelope. In the event of Demonic Possession the secret will be triggered to cause massive psychological trauma that ejects the demon.
  • The Red Ten has the Alliance which is an expy of the Justice League. Each member of the Alliance has a dark secret and it all falls apart with the death of Red the World's Greatest Detective and here it is:
    • While interrogating her archfoe Oxymoron, he asks Red some Armor-Piercing Question such as "Where does Master Mage get all the blood for his blood magic". This leads her to investigate and discover the secrets of her comrades and she plans on taking them down. She gets shot in the head for her trouble and Oxymoron is framed as the killer
    • Justice America the Ultimate Human actually killed Red. He's the brother of an expy of Lex Luthor and was uplifted by alien technology to be little more than a corporate enforcer. Besides Red, he's also murdered his reporter girlfriend and other girls before he was introduced to the world. He gets comeuppance when he's exposed to an engineered virus that removes his invulnerability and he's beaten to death
    • Mold is debuted as a friendly alien shapeshifter. He's actually a pedophile in prison, who's also a brilliant inventor. The corporation behind the Alliance free him for one of his invention and he's given the identity of Mold. Was puppeted to be a weapon by the hero killer and was killed by Justice America in self-defense
    • Mazu had her aquatic minions drown a love rival in a bathtub. The rival's lover gets the blame for the crime despite being innocent. Mazu gets lured to a dry room and disembowelled by Mold in the form of that rival
    • Master Mage fuels magic by murdering prostitutes. He's killed when his magic staff is tampered to open a portal to Hell
    • Bellona is the queen of the Amazons and had been trying for centuries to have a daughter. She lures sailors to their island and kills them after sex, if she finds out that she's having a boy she has it killed. Dies in a fight with Justice America when her jaw is blasted through
    • Magnitude is a brilliant scientist and Serial Killer. He keeps going out with women to shrink them down and crush them into microscope slides. When Bellona finds out, she fights him and he swallows her alive, where she guts him from within
    • Androika killed her inventors when she's first brought online, she self-destructs when her killer uploads virus in her
    • Orion is not supposed to inherit the power belt from the alien cop, it was his identical twin brother. The brother used the belt to save Orion from thugs, later a drunk Orion snatched the belt from his brother and accidentally pushes him off a cliff. In a panic from all the people dying, he flees to outer space where he's caught by space police who punish him by taking his belt while he's still in Earth's gravitational field and he burns on reentry.
    • Throttle was a junkie who gained his speed powers when he got doused by chemicals during his attempt to rob a chemical plant. He's still on drugs and accidentally ran into a car while high, killing the family. He's murdered when his drugs have been poisoned.
    • Oxymoron is actually in love with his nemesis, Red and is the one to set her on the trail of her comrades. He's been on the prison island the whole time and he helped design the plans to take down the Alliance. He gets his neck snapped as he's too psycho to leave alive and to fulfill a promise
    • Red's ex-sidekick Crimson Kid is the killer. He received a post-death message from Red telling him about her investigation. She wants him to take the Alliance down but leave them alive. But he's opted to kill them instead and he's also executed Oxymoron as he's promised his replacement who got murdered by Oxymoron on her first outing
  • Young Justice (2019):
  • Original Sin is an entire event centered around the uncovering of numerous dark secrets in the Marvel Universe and dealing with the consequences thereof. We learn that the Hulk's creation could have been prevented if Bruce Banner had simply bothered to read the emails Tony Stark sent after discovering Banner's method of radiation control meant the resultant explosion would've been far bigger than it was, Thor and Loki have a sister, Angela, who was presumed dead after the forces of Heavn, the lost tenth realm, took her, and that another person, Cindy Moon, was bitten by the same radioactive spider that created Spider-Man and was placed into a secret bunker by old Spider-Man foe Ezekiel.

    Fan Works 
  • Evangelion 303: Jessika lusted after 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.
  • HERZ: Twelve years before the beginning of the story Misato was ordered executing Kaji. His death was covered up and nobody other than her knows what happened to him.
  • Intercom: The emotions, when they first introduce themselves to Riley, don’t mention any of the events that happened during the film (though Fear almost let it slip when he said that Riley might become "apathetic again" in chapter 5). So this secret of how Joy and Sadness got lost hangs over the emotions while still trying to have Riley like them. It finally comes to light in Chapter 15, thanks to Forgetters Bobby and Paula Saying Too Much.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel fic "Home Before Dark", when Buffy assists Angel in stopping the raid on Caritas in "That Old Gang of Mine", Lorne takes the opportunity to reveal what made Gio leave Miami; he and his younger cousin Lietta were attacked by vampires, and when Lietta fell, Gio deliberately chose to leave her behind to distract the vampires when he had time to help her get up and get to safety.
  • There are more than a few dark secrets in The Lion King Adventures:
    • Hago is 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 inadvertently caused his father's death in Darkness Falls.
    • Haiba certainly keeps his murder of Tama quite a secret. He comes clean in The Message, only to be rewarded with permanent scars from Simba.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan story "Fluttershy Is Free", Fluttershy is half-Changeling, and has the Changeling powers of emotivory and empathy. She tries to tell Rainbow Dash, but RD doesn't believe her.
  • In A.A. Pessimal's take on the Discworld, Assassin Miss Alice Band has a terrible dark secret known to only a very few. No, it's not that she's a lesbian. Everybody knows this and only a few think it's an issue. In her childhood, 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.
  • Thousand Shinji: Subverted when the Keeper of Secrets -a daemon of the Warhammer 40,000 universe- reveals that Shinji finds his guardian Misato attractive and Shinji thinks that information is neither secret nor important.
    “That is the best you can throw at me? Those are the terrible Secrets you Keep? That I’m a horny fourteen year old living with a sexually aggressive and experienced woman and I wouldn’t mind getting in her pants? By the Warp, this shocking revelation changes everything. Quick, call up the Gods; we have to get this critical piece of information to them in time!”
  • Dark Secrets unsurprisingly has one: that Ron is a Death Eater.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters:
    • The early part of the story has the truth of what happened at the village of Carhaiz years before the start of the story, on the mission where Caleb's father went missing. According to the Rebellion's propaganda, the village was the site of a new weapon Phobos' forces were creating, and they valiantly destroyed it. It's eventually revealed, however, that in truth, Carhaiz was the nobility's attempt to create a society for the smallfolk free of being controlled by either Phobos or the rebels, who viewed such a hope as a detriment to their goals, so they slaughtered the village.
    • The first epilogue chapter reveals that a thousand years ago, something was done on Meridian to secure peace that was so terrible, only the council of Kandrakar and the Escanor Queens have been allowed to know about it, all of whom have treated it in a I Did What I Had to Do sort of way. Jonathan Ludmoore learned of this and was banished to Earth, under a curse that kept him from speaking of it to anyone, in order to keep him quiet. This is the origin of his family's grudge against Kandrakar.
  • In Old West, the serpentine lovers Grace Glossy and Rattlesnake Jake both have a certain secret they want to take to their graves yet are at different points forced to confess to each other.
    • Grace had laid ten eggs but has only one child. The other nine were killed in their eggs by robbers who were then killed the furious Grace. After burying the bodies, she has presented herself as a law-abiding woman who disdains outlaws like Jake initially. Jake's absolutely disgusted when he learns this, thinking Grace hypocritical for thinking him the same as the baby-killing robbers.
    • Jake says himself to have come from Hell. Only when he's bedridden does he confess that Hell to have been a rattlesnake round-up he was caught in by humans right after he lost his mother and tail as a child. He escaped with Reth the Carpenter's help after witnessing other snakes getting killed and skinned. The sadistic human was the first creature Jake killed, and he began his career as a contract killer after that.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell:
    • Page Turner has been keeping one from the griffon who raised her for her entire life, and from Night Blade for fourteen years, at the time the story starts. The spirit of Balance indicates that the longer she keeps it, the worse off things will be. He's right, as after it's revealed she's a Changeling/unicorn hybrid, Night Blade sees her in her true form and freaks out, mistaking her for an impostor and nearly beating her to death before he comes to his senses.
    • Chapter 29 of the sequel Picking Up the Pieces reveals, via Discord, that Rex's apprentice Secured Connection is hiding one that, if it came out, would see her lynched within the hour. The Guard Captains, on hearing this, decide they need to take her into protective custody for her own safety, but then find that she's somehow managed to escape the guards who were already watching her for her own protection (as an associate of Rex).
  • Forged Destiny: In a world where one's class is always displayed above their head, Jaune was born a Blacksmith, a member of the Labour Caste, but desired to be a Hero, something that became possible once he obtained a magical amulet that changed the words above his head to "Knight". What would happen if his secret were ever revealed is unknown, as such an act may have never been done before. Once his secret is exposed, the rest of the guild no longer trust him as he neglected to inform them of his true Class and he is expelled from Beacon. It is stated that if the king of Vale ever heard that Jaune not only disguised himself as a Hero but was actually succeeding as one, he would be made an example of so as to deter the rest of the lower Caste from ever staging a revolt.
  • In From Muddy Waters, Izuku is desperate to keep his parentage under wraps, lest he be thrown out on the streets for his father, All For One, to grab. He also limits his usage of his Quirk to strength and enhancement Quirks, lest he catch All Might's attention and expose himself to the world.
  • In Fractured Fates, towards the end of the second trial, Monokuma reveals one the victim had: that Kaneki was indirectly responsible for the death of her little sister when the two were young.
  • The Night Unfurls has the Night of the Hunt and The Good Hunter's true nature as a great one. The reason why he keeps his mouth shut is not because he fears that everyone would think ill of him, but rather he is sparing them from a more horrifying fate. While a select few (Celestine, Olga, and Kyril's four apprentices) eventually have the privilege of getting closer to his secrets than anyone else, and hence realizing what he had to endure to become the hardened killer he is today, they still don't understand the full picture. In particular, they only have an idea that he is far from human, but not exactly what he is. It is implied that the only person who has full knowledge about him is Evetta, who's been with him throughout the whole night.
  • In the Thomas & Friends fanfic The Brother's Grimm, upon learning about Seymour Murphy and how his hatred of engines lead him to team up with Sailor John to terrorize Sodor, Bernard (Emily's brother) reveals that HE was the engine who accidentally killed Murphy's father, which lead to Murphy's hatred and future actions.

    Film 
  • The movie I Know What You Did Last Summer 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 Urban Legend, involving the invocation of an urban legend to scare someone, leading to a fatal car crash.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, people tend to keep dark secrets reveal of which would benefit the plot greatly.
    • The Axe and Cross hides one from Kaulder: the hunter's continued eternal life depends on the life of Witch Queen's heart, meaning the heart was never destroyed and the Queen can come back to life.
    • Chloe is a dreamwalker, meaning she can access a memory Kaulder needs to solve the mystery of the plot, but hides it because it's Dark gift and she once accidentally hurt her little brother with it.
  • The hereditary curse in The Lodgers, along with its nature, origin and all that results from it, is rooted in an abominable family secret unknown to the outside world.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street's Dark Secret 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.
  • One Missed Call has Munchausen's By Proxy as the dark secret of one character.
  • Prom Night (1980) begins with four children causing the death of a classmate by scaring her out a window, vowing to tell no one of the incident. Six years later, it’s prom night, and a mysterious figure appears to take revenge on the teenagers for the little girl’s death.
  • In the movie The Watcher in the Woods, a group of friends have kept the secret of Karen's disappearance since they were children, and are haunted by it.
  • The World Is Not Enough: M is so ashamed over how she handled Elektra King's kidnapping that she sealed Elektra's file so that no one else can access it. When Bond requests the classified information as an employee, M flatly refuses with a stern warning ("I will not tolerate insubordination, 007"), so he resorts to using their implicit mother-son relationship (the gentle way he asks, "What happened?") before she willingly discloses a painful part of her past.
  • The World of Kanako: Kanako appears to be a nice girl until she disappears. Her father Akikazu finds out that she was involved into a prostitution ring and blackmails their members, she teamed up with school bully Matsunaga to set up the narrator and was at least indifferent with Ogata's fate, she dealt drugs in school and helped old men get to young school girls. In the very end, she makes clear to her teacher which murders Kanako that she absolutely regrets nothing.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past: By 1973, Charles Xavier 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 the Japanese film Zero Focus, 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.

    Literature 
  • Kingdom on Fire: Quite a few.
    • In A Shadow Bright And Burning, Lord Blackwood reveals to Henrietta that his father, Charles Blackwood, helped Mary Willoughby and Howard Micklemas open the portal to release the Ancients into the world.
    • In A Poison Dark And Drowning, Howard Micklemas reveals that he, Mary, and Charles opened the portal to try and save Henrietta's father, William Howel, after he got sucked into the Ancients' world in 1822. However, by then, he'd been in the Ancients' world so long that he was warped and twisted into a creature that's now known as R'hlem.
  • Zoe from Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Titan's Curse is Atlas's daughter.
  • In Daphne du Maurier's 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 murdered Rebecca himself — and she had goaded him into it.
  • In the fourth The Dark Tower novel, Roland's friends must see his dark secret to proceed along the Beam. They find out he shot and killed his mother, upon seeing Rhea's reflection in the Wizard's Glass.
  • In the first Ellery Queen 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? 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 P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories, Jeeves reveals British fascist leader Sir Roderick Spode's terrible secret to Bertie: 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 design women's' underclothing. One or the other. Not both.
  • Harry Potter : Dumbledore was responsible for the death of his sister Ariana (possibly even directly- there was a magical fight and even he wasn't sure who cast the fatal blow) when he was a teenager. Everyone knows she died but they don’t know how exactly it happened, it was assumed she was just sick. Only he, his brother Aberforth, and Grindelwald know for a fact what happened and two of them are dead by the time Aberforth tells Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
  • The Heroes of Olympus:
    • 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 X-Wing Series, is a Deep Cover Agent who's gone through a private Heel–Face Turn, and is unhappily aware that the badly damaged pilot who she's falling in love with is damaged because of her actions.
  • In the Warrior Cats 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 The Thirteenth Tale can't let anyone know there is a third girl in Angelfield, or else Charlie's rapes and incest will become open public knowledge.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry treats his possession of 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 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.
  • The International Patents Office is the most powerful institution in Rod Duncan's The Fall of the Gaslit Empire trilogy. They came to prominence after "The Great British Revolution" which divided Britain into the Anglo-Scottish Republic and the Kingdom of England and South Wales. The purpose of the Patent Office is to protect humanity by preventing "unseemly science" from advancing and causing harm. The Patent's Office has a Dark Secret. The Patent Office did extreme historical revisions including eliminating mention of the Napoleonic War, which weakened Britain to the point where a Luddite revolution was possible. Additionally the Office did not just prevent the development of new technology, they actually forcibly regressed technology of the past. For example the breech-loading guns of the Napoleonic War is Lost Technology as the guns in the late 20th century are now front-loading, flintlock muskets and pistols. Meanwhile the Office uses some of the prohibited technology, including electrical lighting, for their own benefit. The protagonist's discovery of the Office's secret in 2009 will eventually lead to the Gaslit Empire's collapse ten years after.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant: "China Sorrows, China Sorrows. She's the one, she's the one. Nefarian Serpine killed Skulduggery Pleasant, but China Sorrows led his family into the trap."
  • The Stormlight Archive: 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 something else entirely. In the second book, Words of Radiance, Taravangian's Diagram says (in code) "Hold the secret that broke the Knights Radiant. You may need it to destroy the new orders when they return."
  • Murder at Colefax Manor: The manor is the base of a cult for an Eldritch Abomination and all but one of the manor's staff are in on it.
  • Shaman Blues: The reason Konstancja ran off from Witkacy was that she was pregnant with his child, and was terrified what kind of a parent a depressed junkie would be. She only tells him about it because Wiktoria starts to display the same powers he has.
  • The Girl from the Miracles District: Nikita hides the fact that she's a berserk, which in the world of the story is basically equivalent to a magical Super Soldier. If her mother was to find out, she's turn Nikita into a virtual slave to be let off the leash whenever someone had to be killed.
  • The Traitor Son Cycle: The abbey of Lissen Carak hides the fact that all of the nuns there are sorceresses, as well as the interdimensional gate in their basement. By the end of the first book, however, the former is pretty much an Open Secret.
  • Chain Letter: The plotline is similar to I Know What You Did Last Summer in that a group of friends killed a man with their car, and agree to never tell anyone about it. Then, they start getting blackmailed.
  • Half the main cast in The Overstory are hiding the secret that they were all involved in an arson during which one of their group was accidentally killed.
  • Forges of Mars: Roboute Surcouf's darkest secret isn't the fact that he shot and killed his captain during his time in the Imperial Navy, or that he spent a year living amongst the Eldar after they rescued him from a wrecked ship. It's the fact that he's a fraudulent rogue trader with a counterfeit Letter of Marque, which he forged himself.
  • Cradle Series: The Dreadgods are four immensely powerful dreadbeasts. Normal dreadbeasts are animals corrupted by Hunger madra, gaining immense power which quickly destroys their bodies. The Dreadgods are perfected dreadbeasts, so powerful that they are more akin to living natural disasters than monsters. Only the Monarchs, the most powerful sacred artists in the world, can hope to fight them—and even then, killing them is impossible. Millions die to them every year. In book 10, we find out that Hunger aura is a corruption caused by the Monarchs. The Monarchs are ascendant beings who are supposed to leave the world, but who have selfishly decided to stay. The more Monarchs there are, the more powerful the Dreadgods. If all the Monarchs left, the Dreadgods would starve to death within a few decades. It is impossible for a Monarch not to know this, as the world continuously tries to force them to ascend. Any time anyone gets close to this truth, the great powers of the world force them to swear an oath on their soul not to reveal anything, and if they refuse they are forced to ascend.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Cold Case episode The Hen House the victim was killed for discovering that her murderer was really a Nazi pretending to be a Dutch Jew.
  • An episode of CSI: NY had the Nazi pretending to be a Jew. Unfortunately for him he married a Jewish woman and raised his own son as a devout Jew to keep his cover story up.
  • An episode of CSI has an episode where a school boy with neo-Nazi beliefs is murdered. 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: his new friend was actually a leader in the Rwandan genocide.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Cersei and Jaime's twincest.
    • Ned promises his bastard son Jon Snow upon returning from King's Landing, they'd finally discuss his mother. Ned never made it back for that talk but it was finally revealed that Ned is actually Jon's uncle and his sister Lyanna birthed him, while his true father is Rhaegar Targaryen. Out of respect for her Lyanna's wishes, honorable Ned Stark lies not only to his wife and his best friend but the entire world, in order to protect Jon. To make things even more complicated, Jon is not a bastard of theirs either; Rhaegar did not kidnap and rape Lyanna. Instead, the two were in love, with Lyanna leaving willingly with him to elope after he annulled his marriage to Elia Martell. Since Rhaegar's children with Elia were killed at the end of the rebellion, that makes Jon the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, trumping all other claims, including that of his aunt/lover Daenerys. Needless to say, if this secret were to ever become public, it would change the political landscape of Westeros on a monumental scale.
  • Power Rangers Dino Thunder: Anton Mercer, father of Trent, the White Dino Ranger, has a split personality, the Big Bad Mesogog, and his son is aware of it. When the rest of the Rangers find out, they're pretty angry about Trent not telling them.
  • The whole premise of Dexter. His secret is quite dark indeed...
  • Babylon 5, with Ivanova secretly being A rogue telepath. Sheridan also has a secret, in that he's a member of a military conspiracy to overthrow President Clark. Then there's Delenn... you know, with Babylon 5 being a Space Station Of Spies, it's safe to say that there are many people with dark secrets.
  • In the fourth season of Bunk'd, Destiny and Ava discover a huge secret about Camp Kikiwaka's founder Jedediah Swearington: when he started to suffer misfortune, he decided to quit the camp and start up the rival Camp Champion.
  • In Stephen King's Storm of the Century, many of the residents of Little Tall island have Dark Secrets. The Big Bad, 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 for kicks.
  • In the Community episode "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 Switched at Birth, Regina knew about the switch and had a private investigator keep tabs on Bay for some time.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tara's attempts to hide her part-demon-ness 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 The Mentalist, 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. It's the tongue of his mother's rapist.
  • Played for Laughs in Downton Abbey, where the butler Mr Carson has a deep dark secret that will lose him Lord Grantham's respect, which turns out to be... 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 Sydney Carton now, are you?"
  • In the Supernatural episode "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.
  • Several characters in Scream Queens have some dark secret that they don't want getting out. Chanel #3 believes that her father could be Charles Manson, Chanel #5 touches herself to Dora The Explorer and Chad is extremely ashamed of his lactose intolerance. Kappa keeps an entire room filled with the evidence of their more disturbing acts, most of which we don't learn the whole story of, but there is one event that leads to different people's own secrets. In 1995 members of the sorority allowed a girl to die in a bathtub in order to continue a party being hosted in Kappa House. Dean Munsch, to save her own career, helped cover the incident up.
    • In episode 8, we learn Wes'. His wife was the president of Kappa at the time of the Bathtub Baby incident and the guilt caused her to a life of drugs and crime. To protect Grace from the truth he went as far as to burn down their house and created an ideal image of her mother.
  • Simon Tarses in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Drumhead had one that he lied about on his Starfleet application because he feared that he would be suspected because of it. The events of the episode validate that fear he claimed his grandfather was Vulcan, when actually he was Romulan. This is arguably more politically than genetically relevant, as Romulans and Vulcans are the same species, or at least very closely related, but Vulcan is a key and founding member of the Federation while Romulus is the centre of the original rival empire to the Federation. Thing is, once this is found out that's the only thing driving the proceedings against Tarses — his personal feelings and political leanings about Starfleet and the Federation aren't even looked at. While the future of his career is uncertain at the end of the episode (the investigation dramatically fell apart, but he did still lie on his Starfleet application), Expanded Universe materials tended to take pity on the poor fellow, and have it eventually recover.
    • In her final appearance on the series, Lwaxana Troi is revealed to have a dark secret: in addition to Deanna, she had another, older daughter named Kestra who fell into a river and drowned during a family picnic when Deanna was still a baby.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a dark secret in Dr. Julian Bashir's past: he is an Augment, having been subjected to genetic experimentation as a child, not dissimilar to Khan Noonien Singh.
    • Constable Odo has a dark secret of his own: when he was the chief of security during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, he allowed innocent Bajorans to be charged with, and executed for, crimes they didn't commit.
    • Another concerns the Trill, specifcally regarding Joran, one of the hosts to the Dax symbiont. The violently unstable Joran was joined with Dax for six months before being joined with Curzon (the predecessor to Jadzia), with a memory block implanted into Dax to wipe all memory of Joran. Joran however is just the tip of the iceberg, as it's revealed that as many as half of the Trill population is eligible to be joined... but there aren't enough symbionts to go around and a power struggle to acquire symbionts would ensue should this secret come to light.
  • Everybody in Quantico has a dark secret, to the point where it's a frickin' joke.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Subverted by the blue-eyed, blond Jacqueline's dark secret that she's actually a Native American woman. Only the loathsome people in her aristocratic WASP circles would find that objectionable.
  • The dark comedy Imposters has con artist Maddie going after a rich mark, marrying them and then leaving with almost all their money. Ezra, Richard and Jules (a woman) all fell victim and in each case, Maddie left behind a video admitting to what she did. She then warns them that if they come after her, she will reveal the secret each one of them has which will just end up destroying not only them but their families. Despite this, the trio decide to still team up to hunt their mutual "ex" down.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 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 GURPS example; the 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 Bloodmarked traits.
  • The Old World of Darkness had a one point flaw called Dark Secret. That it's only worth one point tells a lot about the setting.
  • Fading Suns 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 Warhammer 40,000 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 Horus Heresy. Ironically, 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 Shadowrun it is assumed that every Player Character has one of these (after all, sane people of good upbringings do not run the Shadows). The players can instead choose from a wide variety of Negative Qualities at character creation that decides exactly what kind of dark secret you harbor, and how much it burdens you day-to-day as well as the fallout if someone discovers it. The smallest dark secrets (1-5 karma) involves things like 'a Mega-Corp has a file on you' or 'a big regret in your past that gives people blackmail material on you'; the big ones (20+ karma) involves things like 'secretly an undercover cop' or 'actually a Corporate Samurai hiding in the Shadows' which are practical death sentences if the wrong people (like your party) find out.

    Theatre 
  • In Pokémon Live!, Delia keeps her past relationship with Giovanni secret because she's terrified of how Ash will take the news.

    Video Games 
  • In Hello Neighbor, this is the main plot. The protagonist, Nicky Roth, is trying to break into the basement of his neighbor, Mr. Peterson, who is keeping his own son, Aaron locked down there.
  • Starcraft II
    • Tychus Findlay. The Dark Secret in question is his deal with Mengsk: he kills Kerrigan, he's free. As he says at the end of the Wings of Liberty chapter:
    "I made a Deal with the Devil, Jimmy..."
  • Ace Attorney 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. 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 Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney 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 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies 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.
  • Bloodborne's DLC revolves around your quest to discover Byrgenwerth's worst atrocity, which they've long since buried and which has caused the creation of the Hunter's Nightmare. A fellow hunter named Simon (and appropriately called 'Seeker of Secrets') points you in the right direction after warning you that the Healing Church (a Byrgenwerth offshoot) will try to stop you. Note, the secret is not how all hunters will inevitably go Ax-Crazy and that all of the first few generations of hunters (and Healing Church clergy, for that matter) have succumbed to this fate- that's confirming what the main game already hinted. It's also not that the Church's early experiments turned patients into featureless blobby lumps- that's just a sideline and you'll only be attacked by two anonymous church hunters for peeking. The real secret, which you have to fight Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower to reach and that will get you repeatedly invaded for discovering, lies in the third and final area: the Fishing Hamlet. The Hamlet had a mutually beneficial relationship with the Great One Kos. When Byrgenwerth found out, they sent some of their scholars and the first few hunters over to massacre/experiment on the inhabitants, and they either ended up killing Kos or violating her corpse (and may have killed her unborn child). For this, the survivors cursed all of Byrgenwerth's successors to fall to bloodlust and the Hunter's Nightmare. The unborn child exists in a strange limbo as the Orphan of Kos.
  • Sword of the Stars II: Lords of Winter reveals that the Liir have been harboring a dark secret: the Suul'ka are really Liir Elders who have refused to die and became Drunk with Power. The bit about the Liir killing all Suul'ka with a bio-engineered plague is complete bull.
  • The Dark Secret of Nathan Drake, the Badass Normal treasure-hunting descendant of Sir Francis Drake, is revealed in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception: he was never an heir of Sir Francis, merely a ward of the state with a history obsession and a Changeling Fantasy. Not even his Parental Substitute 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.
  • Dead Secret: Harris Bullard's notes reveal that he has a deep, dark secret that he has been intent on hiding for decades. And that someone calling themselves 'the Woodcutter' has found out said secret and has begun to blackmail him because of it. Harris' dark secret involves him taking on the identity of a dead squad member of his; with him actually being Josie Herrera's biological father being a mere by-product of said secret.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, there's Keiichi's habit of shooting kids with a BB gun, Rena's psychotic episode, Satoko's unwitting murder of her parents, the Sonozaki family's complete lack of a Dark Secret, despite all their posturing, and the fact that Rika is stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. The entire series being based on The Power of Friendship, all of these are eventually revealed and Easily Forgiven.
  • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Monokuma threatens to reveal Dark Secrets for every character to the public unless there is a murder. The Dark Secrets that are revealed to the player anyway are:
  • 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.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: The Seekers' initiation is outright horrifying: first they are lobotomized with a magical process called Tranquility. Then they have an emotional substitute injected into them by a spirit of emotion in the fade. That's right, they had the cure to Tranquility all along. It did have major side-effects in mages, but that's kind of expected.
  • This is the main drive of Final Fantasy XIV's Heavensward expansion: the heroes learn that Ishgard's 1000-year war with the dragons was actually caused by King Thordon I and his 12 Knights, who murdered a dragon desiring their power then stealing Nidhogg's eyes. The main expansion and the first three major patches afterwards are about revealing the truth and forcing both sides into peace.
  • All over the place in Dead In Vinland, including some real doozies. The Player Party tends to be... untrustworthy.
    • Eirik never warned his family of his suspicions about his true parentage: he's the bastard son of the old jarl, and the men who nearly killed his family and chased them into exile were trying to eliminate the heir's potential rival. Eirik's Guilt Complex kept him silent about this matter even after the fact. He also participated in a Viking raid in his youth, which he regrets.
    • Tomoe broke her own code of honor as a samurai. Her husband and children were killed by attackers, but rather than staying and fighting to the death to avenge them she fled for her life.
    • Knut was actually exiled from his homeland because he beat a man to death for looking at his wife Solveig, a fact he hasn't even told her. He also beats Solveig.
    • Yaghoub isn't actually a merchant — or at least that's not his primary occupation. He's a Hashhashin, and the new jarl hired him to kill Eirik. He also kidnapped Parvaneh several years ago, knowing that a cruel king wanted to take her as his bride and would likely murder her soon after. He's kept her in a Gilded Cage all this time, protecting her from the king's agents but also keeping her prisoner against her will.
    • Eustache WAS a monk... once. His father, a French nobleman, was assassinated, so Eustache left the monastery, became a swordsman, and vowed revenge. He became a warrior in the service of a count who refused to take action against the killer... so Eustache killed him and burned his castle to the ground, then discovered the count had put out the hit himself. Eustache then spent a decade as a pirate.
    • Angelico is in fact a devout monk... but his Dark Secret is a secret even from him. He's a Self-Made Orphan who killed his abusive father at an early age and has killed numerous other people since, either in some sort of dissociative state or under some sort of Demonic Possession. He doesn't remember doing this and has no idea why he has lots of scars and people he knows keep dying mysteriously...
  • Mega Man X At first glance, Zero acts like a typical Anti-Hero who still does what is needed to set things right However... As Mega Man X5 reveals as the story progresses, especially if you use Zero himself throughout the story, you'll discover that, not only was he the original source of the Maverick Virus, he also was, unbeknownst to Zero himself, created by Dr. Wily himself to be the next-generation rival to Mega Man X originally. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Maverick Virus got passed to Sigma after Zero nearly brutally took down Sigma, only stopped after an intense stimulus renders Zero temporarily stunned so that Sigma cracks Zero's forehead jewel, knocking out the then-rampant Zero and thus begins the events that lead to the Mega Man X stories and beyond

    Visual Novels 
  • Amanda from Daughter for Dessert is attracted to her own father and has been since she was very young.
  • Multiple characters in Double Homework have these:
    • The protagonist and Tamara are covering up their role in the Barbarossa incident, and just how much they knew what would happen beforehand.
    • Dr. Mosely has her secret identity as Zeta, the rogue scientist.
  • Amy from Melody was in an abusive relationship around the time of her sister’s death. Neither Melody nor Arnold knows.

    Web Animation 

    Webcomics 
  • baalbuddy's comic for Final Fantasy XIV shows the dark secret relationship between lalafells and goblins, and the elezen who stumbles upon the truth.
  • In Deviant Universe, while many characters have their own from their backstories or side comics, Christina Rogers being responsible for the Genocide Wave is considered in-universe to be the most notorious one.
  • In Doc Rat, Doc pops the question to Danielle before she learns he's already married.
  • Characters in Ménage à 3 and its spinoff Sticky Dilly Buns 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 creditable) adventure in male disguise, or her liking for yaoi, secret from Amber. Apparently, her self-image as the serious, respectable one in 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.
  • El Goonish Shive: Mrs. Kitsune is very much aware of the magical world. She is absolutely determined to not let Nanase know that she's in on it.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: Marcy knew all along what the Calamity Box would do and stranded herself, Anne, and Sasha in Amphibia on purpose. She did it because she'd learned that she was going to move due to her father getting a new job out of state, and she wanted to run away to a place where she could have fun with her friends forever.
  • Steven Universe: Rose Quartz was Pink Diamond. Only Pearl knew this, but was forced to keep it a secret due to a geas placed on her thousands of years ago. Rather understandably, when the other Crystal Gems found this out, they did not take it well.

 
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Frond's Dark Secret

Frond reveals when he run for class secretary as a kid he stole some ballots for his opponent and hid it in a vase. He was going to confess but the ceramics room was sealed up.

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