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Key Under the Doormat

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"20 bucks says I can get in in 20 seconds."
Dr. Gregory House, House, before performing the trope
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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. Compare We Have the Keys, which often occurs after a door is destroyed or bypassed when a less destructive alternative was available.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • In a commercial for Energizer batteries, Count Dracula, who is hired by the Supervolt battery company to steal the Energizer Bunny's battery, gets locked out of his castle chasing the bunny. He has the key to his castle under his "Velcome" mat, but before he can use it to unlock the door, the morning sun rises, and he says, "Oh... great." before it vanquishes him.
  • Discussed in one of the Fox Kids ads featuring Tom Foolery, in which Foolery advises against this trope and recommends instead leaving a key with a trusted friend or neighbor.

    Comedy 
  • Jeff Foxworthy once told a story of going to visit his brother, only to find his brother had to run to work for a brief errand. He'd left a note on the door saying "the key is under the mat."
    Foxworthy: Your only hope was a blind burglar.

    Comic Books 
  • 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. This backfires when two hostile Kryptonians show up who are also strong enough to lift it.
  • 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. When she points this out Captain America says they'll write her parents a check for a new door.
  • 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.
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    Fan Works 
  • Turnabout Storm: The key that opens the door to Ace Swift's hotel room was located under a mat, according to Rainbow Dash. Phoenix's thoughts claim that he also keeps the key to his office under a mat.

    Film — Animated 
  • 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 weighs half a million tons.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Star Trek (2009): A deleted scene reveals that the young Kirk found the keys to his father's Corvette above the sun visor.
  • Terminator
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 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 above the sun visor first and sure enough finds the keys.
    • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: The scene from the second film receives a Call-Back. When the T-850 steals a car, he looks above the sun visor, but only finds a watch, so he hotwires it.
  • Humorously inverted in Wrongfully Accused where Leslie Nielsen's character picks up a giant key, inside of which is a rock, which he uses to break the window.

    Literature 
  • The AI Gang: As seen in Robot Trouble, Dr. Weiskopf keeps a spare key in a fake rock outside the front door. Wendy calls it "Cute, but not very effective."
  • The Cat Who... Series: In book #9 (The Cat Who Went Underground), when Qwill is staying in the Klingenschoen cabin in Mooseville, he notes at one point that a spare key is hidden in a hollow log at the bottom of the log rack on the porch. When considering other places that someone might look for a key (to get in and feed his cats, if something happens to him), he thinks of obvious places like on top of the doorframe or under the doormat.
  • Hannah Swensen: In Apple Turnover Murder, Hannah and Mike get into a discussion on the subject. Mike doesn't approve of the obvious spots, like under a doormat, a flower pot or inside a fake rock (which is where Hannah happens to keep hers). On the other hand, he thinks Norman's hiding place for his spare key — inside the mouth of a concrete statue of a moose — is brilliant when he finds out.
  • In one of Paul Goble's Iktomi storybooks, there's a "handwritten" note opposite the title page, reading "GON 2 THE POWWOW—KEY IS UNDER THE MAT." Sacred Hospitality, or another case of Iktomi not being as smart as he thinks he is?
  • 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.
  • Subverted in the first chapter of The Temp: While explaining how to make life extremely difficult for your temporary office replacement worker, the narrator gives the advice to lock everything useful into the desk drawers, and not to hide the key under the potted plant, because that is the first place she will look. In a later chapter, she notes that a good place to hide a key is in a pen pot under a single tampon, especially from a man, because every man will be too squeamish to look underneath.
  • Mrs. Tiggy Winkle does this in the story by Beatrix Potter.
  • The Twits: Mrs Twit hides the front door key under the mat, which is how the monkeys get into the house.
  • In the Wyatt novels, one of Wyatt's most common methods of stealing a car is to go to a car park and search around until he finds someone who is keeping a spare key in a magnetic container inside the wheel well.

    Live Action TV 
  • 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.
  • In the cold open of the finale of Breaking Bad, Walt steals a car to get back to Albuquerque. After a vain attempt to hotwire it and a close call with a passing police car, he tentatively pulls down the sun visor and, sure enough, the keys drop right in his hand.
  • Parodied in an episode of ChuckleVision where the duo are delivering and installing a heavy fireplace. They look under the mat and can't find a key so they assume they got the apartment number wrong when they find a key under the other mat. It turns out the instruction was look under the "cat" as in a little porcelain cat so it turns out they've been renovating (read: wrecking) the wrong place.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Hope," Garcia's friend, who's been abducted by this week's unsub, keeps a spare key tucked into her door frame. The team points out that this is because the eponymous Hope is her daughter who was abducted eight years ago, and her mother still has (also-eponymous) hope that she'll return one day, and will need the key to get in. They also point out how much easier it made it for the unsub to get close to her, though he didn't use it to abduct her.
  • In the Doctor Who telemovie with Paul McGann in, the car-key version was done with, of all things, the TARDIS (it's behind the "P" in "Police Box," should you ever need to know).
  • 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.
  • 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 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!
  • 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 "St. Christopher's Prayer" episode of The Fugitive (2000), Richard Kimble tells his sister to leave the front door of the family home unlocked so that he can sneak in to visit his dying father. Unfortunately, another family member unaware of the plan locks the door, leaving Kimble to scramble frantically (he only has a few seconds before the garbage truck that is blocking the view of the house moves and reveals his presence to Inspector Gerard) until he remembers this trope and gets inside Just in Time.
  • In Gilmore Girls, pretty much all of Lorelai Gilmore's neighbors knew that the spare key was in the turtle.
  • The Grand Tour: Lampshaded by Hammond; after May fails to hotwire a truck they need for their escape, Hammond asks him if he's "not seen every movie ever made," and easily retrieves the keys from the truck's sun visor.
  • House and associates break into Cuddy's house at one point. Chase tells House his plan isn't going to work, then House pulls the key from under a vase, later reasoning that a person like Cuddy probably has several keys stashed within 50 feet of her door.
  • In the pilot episode of Iron Fist (2017), Danny Rand tries to enter his former residence from fifteen years ago using a key he knows is hidden outside (on top of the lintel rather than under the mat). Surprisingly Realistic Outcome and it doesn't fit as the lock has been changed.
  • 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.
  • The cold open to an episode of Malcolm in the Middle sees Malcolm and Reese come home from school to find nobody's there and the doors are locked. Malcolm retrieves the fake rock with the spare key and holds it up in front of Reese who grabs it and uses it to break a window to get inside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Parodied on the absurdist show Stella (US), where Michael, Michael & David explain to the landlord that their spare key is kept under the doormat, but it's off at the cleaners and he'll need to go pick it up from there. The landlord comes back about an hour later, flops the mat back down in its place, and lifts it to find the key that suddenly appeared underneath.
  • 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.
  • In Supergirl (2015), Superman leaves the key to the Fortress of Solitude right in front of the door. It gets covered with snow, considering where it is, but he doesn't even bother with a mat. When Kara laughs at it, James points out that Superman and Kara are just about the only ones who can lift the thing, considering it's made of super-condensed white dwarf star matter.
  • In one episode of Superstore it's shown that Glen keeps the keys to his car in the front wheel well when they're locked in the store and he tries to get a passersby to retrieve his phone in the car. Unfortunately the guy steals his car.
  • 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.
  • 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!").

    Music 
  • Allan Sherman brings this up in his song "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli", in which, as Queen Elizabeth, he sings...
    Now don't leave me flat
    The key to the palace is under the mat

    Radio 
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Theme Park 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Not quite a video game, but an old text-based computer Adventure style game where you have to repair a malfunctioning nuclear reactor has you quickly arrive at a locked door where all you can see is the door and the doormat. No prizes for guessing where the key to the door is hidden.
  • 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.
  • Double subverted in Broken Sword: The Serpent's Curse. Nico believes the key to her neighbor's apartment to be under the door mat but it's not there. It's hidden under the door mat's floor board.
  • Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters: In the cutscene just before facing Count Bloodcount, the duo find the door to his tower is locked. Bugs immediately questions if creepy counts hide their spare keys like everybody else does, and checks under the doormat. As it turns out, yes, vampires do hide their keys the same way as regular folk.
  • 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.
  • Descent 3: In mission 10, the door to the CED Lunar Command Base is locked, but there's a keycard in a hollow tower that's right in front of the entrance.
  • Checking under the front mat of Lefty's in Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards gets you a snarky comment from the narrator, wondering why you'd expect to find a key there when the door is unlocked.
  • The first puzzle of Maniac Mansion is getting the front door key from beneath the mat.
  • A key required for Mystery Case Files: 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 Mystery of Time and Space, 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.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, the key to the Tanglebrook Estate is hidden under the doormat.
  • 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.
  • Stigmatized Property: The girl's classmate keeps a spare key under the potted plant next to the door of his apartment. She needs to use it to get in.
  • In Tomb Raider II, Lara Croft finds the keys in the sun visor for the Jeep during the driving cutscene.
  • 2Pac Man: A door in level 6 requires a key to open it. It can be found inside a breakable flower pot next to the door.
  • Early in Vermillion Watch: Moorgate Accord, the key you need is under a planter next to the front door.
  • The Virtual Families game has a key under the doormat that unlocks the shed.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Melody, when Tim lets the protagonist stay at his house after Bethany kicks him out, he leaves a key in the mailbox. He further instructs his friend to leave the key there himself if he ever decides to go out.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Strong Bad email "50 emails", Strong Bad tells an unknown caller:
    Strong Bad: (whispering) "I'll leave the key under the at-may."

    Webcomics 
  • In Latchkey Kingdom, if you find you're not strong enough to move the blocks in the Block Puzzle, the spare key is on top of the doorframe.
  • Ménage à 3 uses the trope once, as a minor plot convenience; when Sonya wants to get into the main characters’ apartment, she remembers that they keep a spare key hidden under a window ledge. (Strip #675, November 22, 2012, NSFW.)

    Web Original 
  • In the Slimebeast story Lost Episodes, when the narrator returns to the house where his friend Sid lived and finds it locked, he remembers that Sid’s parents kept a spare key under a fake rock. Inexplicably, it is still there, in spite of the house being repossessed by a bank.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 the American Dad! episode "Rabbit Ears", Stan has to get into Tuttle's house, so he looks under a potted plant on the porch and finds a spare key. He uses the potted plant to smash a window, uses the key to brush away bits of broken glass, then reaches in and unlocks the door.
  • In the first episode of Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben finds the key to the Rustbucket in a fake rock near the door.
  • In the Corner Gas Animated episode "Bone Dry", Brent needs to get into the trunk of Oscar's car, so he wonders aloud if the spare key is still in the same place. He finds a key above the driver's side sun visor, then uses that key to open the glove compartment, inside which is a lock box with the code 1-2-3. The lock box contains a Russian nesting doll, and the actual spare key is hidden inside the third doll.
  • 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.
  • In the Goofy cartoon "Man's Best Friend", Goofy goes out for the evening and hides the house key under the doormat, and then Bowser sleeps on it. Unfortunately, a robber manages to find the key under the doormat, somehow not disturbing Bowser in the process when he lifts it up.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Sylvester and Tweety cartoon "Tweet and Sour": Hoping to keep Sylvester out of the house when she is gone and away from Tweety, Granny hides the house key under the doormat. Unfortunately, she doesn't count on Sylvester already having hidden under the doormat himself!
  • 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.
  • 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. Chief Wiggum did this to get in the police station while Bart's class is waiting outside during a field trip.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants remembers he keeps a spare key under his doormat after spending one whole episode stuck outside his pineapple.
  • 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.


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