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Luck-Based Search Technique

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Daphne: Look! A secret passage!
Fred: You're right! Shaggy, you're a genius!
Shaggy: I am?
Velma: Sure. Who else but you could've sat down on the rock that opened the secret passage?
Shaggy: I thought that rock was pretty suspicious.

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.

Compare "Eureka!" Moment and You Were Trying Too Hard. See Chance Activation for luck-based plot device usage.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Fuma Conspiracy the gang (Lupin, Jigen, Fujiko, Goemon and Murasaki) explore a booby-trapped treasure cave. When they come across a dead end, Lupin casually leans back on a wall...only to fall backward into a hidden room.
  • Vash appears to do this in the second episode of Trigun. Seeing as he's known for "Playing the Fool", it's hard to tell if it was really an accident.

    Comic Books 
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: The Legion is hiding from the 30th-Century authorities in a sewer beneath Metropolis. One of them trips, smacks a wall with hand, a trips a hidden switch that reveals a thousand-year-old Lex Luthor lair to hide out in.
  • Sensation Comics: In issue 38 Steve Trevor and the Holliday Girls arrive as backup for Wonder Woman only to discover she seems to have disappeared after entering a room with no other apparent exits and start searching for a hidden passageway. When Etta Candy gives up and sits down on a table it flips open the hidden door to some stairs which lead underground.
  • Superlópez: Twice in Pandora's Box. Played straight the first time, then invoked and subverted the second time, when Superlópez tries to play it smart and make it work for him. (Spoiler: it doesn't)
  • Wonder Woman (1942): When Hypnota takes Wonder Woman hostage and Steve brings Etta and the Holliday Girls to search for her Etta decides to climb a tree to get a better view, and the first branch she grabs is the disguised lever that opens the hidden door to Hypnota's secret lair.

    Fan Works 
  • In Calvin & Hobbes: The Series, Socrates leans on a stray block in a pyramid and triggers a secret door.
  • In one Kim Possible fanfic, Kim and Shego were looking through Monkey Fist's manor for necessary information. Remembering Ron's first experience in the castle, Kim begins searching for a secret passage. Shego then asks why Kim doesn't have Wade scan the castle for passageways while leaning on a bookcase...which pushes aside and reveals a passage behind it, to which Kim says that was quicker.
  • In Pokemon Black & White: Tale of a Legend, Thrin becomes impatient and taps her foot on just the right floor tile, which reveals a computer with video feed of the captured Kyurem.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Amazing Maurice: Subverted when Malicia, who possesses Wrong Genre Savvy, decides there has to be a secret tunnel in the Rat Catchers Guild. She searches and then, believing that the heroine will only find the secret door after she stops looking, starts randomly leaning against walls and grabbing coat hooks, and is surprised when nothing happens. Keith, meanwhile, finds the hidden switch by spotting something that doesn't belong: a rat hole in the Rat Catchers Guild.
  • 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.
    Brain: [smugly] I'm sorry, you were saying?
    Igor: Technically, it's a secret staircase.
  • Daphne attempts to invoke this in SCOOB!, citing it as a frequent method by which Shaggy and Scooby find escapes and secret passages. It doesn't work for her.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, Dr. Winslow opens the door to Sherlock's secret lab when she tries to fix a shelf on the wine rack in the cellar that had been broken by the earthquake.
  • Aquaman (2018). Mera and Arthur Curry go tramping across the Sahara Desert, guided by a miraculous piece of Atlantean technology that Mera is holding. At one point Arthur loses his temper and points out that they are literally in the middle of nowhere, only to vanish into a sinkhole which dumps him in the underground city they're searching for.
  • Clue: Colonel Mustard finds the entrance to a secret passage by leaning against it. Although you could call it a subversion, seeing as in two of the endings Colonel Mustard already knew it was there.
  • In Curse of the Undead, Preacher Dan finds the hidden compartment in Doc Carter's strong box when he knocks it off the desk and the secret drawer springs open.
  • In Frankenstein 1970, Schutter discovers the secret entrance to Victor's laboratory while dusting a plaque in the crypt.
  • The film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. While spending the night in a haunted house, Luther Heggs (Don Knotts) throws an object at a bookcase and accidentally trips a switch that causes the bookcase to slide back, exposing a secret passage.
  • Indiana Jones:
    • The trap variation in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Short Round leans against the wall, triggering the Descending Ceiling plus Spikes of Doom. Why the builders decided to have the trap set off by a protruding block in the wall rather than, say, a hidden floor switch is a question for the ages. Maybe it was only supposed to prevent idiots from reaching the aforementioned Temple. Technically, there was a floor switch, which sealed them in when Short Round stepped on it. Frustrated, Indy tells him to stand against the wall, out of the way...
    • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "I find that if I just sit down and think... a solution presents itself!" And the chair clicks back, while Indy goes bouncing down the appearing spiral staircase.
  • In the Action Prologue of the 2019 Kim Possible Live-Action Adaptation, Kim calls Wade to find out how to destroy Professor Dementor's dissolving-slime weapon. Before she can finish asking the question, Ron leans on the Big Red Button to trigger the lair's Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • In King of the Zombies, Bill and Jeff are attempting to open the door to the crypt where the voodoo ceremony is taking place. Bill reminds Jeff that he had been to the crypt while hypnotised and must know how the door opens. As Jeff tries to remember, he leans back on the door and it swings open.
  • In The Man with Nine Lives, Tim and Judy discovers Dr. Kravaal's hidden laboratory when the rotten floor in the main house collapses under Judy's feet; dropping her into the cellar.
  • Done in The Princess Bride in which ancestral auspex led Inigo Montoya to the Pit of Despair. Or perhaps the spirit of Inigo's father really was guiding his sword to the entrance.
  • True Romance. After beating Alabama bloody without finding out where the drugs are hidden, Professional Killer Virgi is bemused when he accidentally finds the suitcase hidden under the bed.
    "I can't believe you hid it under the bed. I can't believe I didn't look under the bed!"
  • Done by Ernie multiple times in What a Carve Up!. He accidentally activates the secret door in the music room by pulling out the stops on the organ while Syd is searching the walls. He later finds the second secret door in the library when he trips and jams his hands onto the breasts of the fireplace decoration.
  • In Wild Horse Phantom, Fuzzy is roaming the mine tunnels when he picks up a pick to defend himself. he stumbles and buries the point of pick in the wall. When he pulls it out, he discovers the stolen cash Daggett and his gang have been searching for.
  • Young Frankenstein has Frederick yanking a likely-looking book from a bookshelf, trying to trigger the secret door he knows is on the other side. Inga, seeking to help him, pulls a nearby candle from its sconce to give him some light, thereby discovering that the sconce is the trigger for the secret door.

  • The Cat Who... Series: Koko is often responsible for unintentionally revealing the culprit or final clues... or is he? One of the ongoing themes for the series is the question of whether or not the Siamese is psychic.
  • Discworld:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Another variation takes place later in the novel. That same character, Anathema, has file cards with all of the prophecies from the Book printed on them and another character realizes that since the writer of the Book was such a perfectly accurate seer, they can just pull out a card at random and it'll end up being exactly the prophecy they need for their current situation because the writer predicted what card they will pick.
  • 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The fellowship spend ages trying to work out how to enter the gates of Moria, until someone suggests taking the instructions literally!
  • Exaggerated in Arthur Machen's early works, where every single plot development came about this way.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • At one point in the Otherland series, hacker Dulcinea has been trying to break into the laptop of her boss, Psycho for Hire John Dread. The sophisticated hacking software she installed on it manages to reveal the existence of a secret trigger activated by typing a specific password, but when she tries typing it, the only thing that happens is that the laptop's microphone turns on. Whatever the secret is, it must also be protected by a second, voice-activated password. Unfortunately, her software can't tell her what the second password is, she has no information to help her guess, and trying to brute force the password would take forever. Out of frustration, she utters a swear word - and the laptop accepts the password as correct, unlocking Dread's encrypted files. (At this point in the story, the reader knows the significance of the combined passphrase "Dreamtime Bitch", but Dulcinea does not.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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 one UK series of Big Brother the contestants were put in a room full of various stations that allowed them to fill different sized containers with water, rearrange coloured blocks and so on. A giant gauge on the wall would move whenever they performed whatever unspecified actions were required to advance towards their goal. In fact all of the stations were red herrings and the gauge actually increased whenever one of them got bored and left the room. The contestants figured it out fairly quickly due to several of them taking frequent smoke breaks.
  • 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.
  • The Comic Strip Presents:
    • 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.
    • In Detectives on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown the most effective detective turns out to be the Jason King expy, whose technique is to drive around at random sipping claret, yet always manages to end up in exactly the right place to solve the mystery.
  • In Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa, while dealing with a kidnapped professor, Himura figures out that there's something off with the bookcase in the professor's home. It's not Arisugawa thoroughly searching it that provides the answer, however, but his leaning on the shelf afterwards that causes the bookcase to open up into a secret room.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Shada", Clare is searching Prof. Chronotis' study and discovers the controls to his TARDIS by leaning on a bookshelf.
    • 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 deliberately leans against a random wall — and it clicks open.
  • Get Smart: Criminal mastermind Leadside is robbing an art museum when Maxwell Smart comes swaggering in to stop him. When Leadside demands to know why Smart wasn't fooled by his fake tipoff that he was attending a KAOS meeting on the other side of town, Max reels off a convoluted explanation about how he believed the tipoff was actually a code, searched several other locations until he was completely confused, then decided to go to the museum to relax. It's the final straw for Leadside, who decides to have Smart killed as he's tired of being defeated by the Idiot Hero's dumb luck.
  • The Hexer: Invoked by Geralt and Dandelion who were trying to find a way out of the same dungeon Ciri was previously held in. Geralt concluded she must've activated some type of secret passage, so he told Dandelion to touch and push everything on the height of a little girl.
  • Ripping Yarns: The trope is used for parody purposes in the episode "Whinfrey's Last Case", when the hero is locked in a a coastal inn and discovers that, being an old smuggler's haunt in a classic-style adventure story, it is riddled with secret passages; basically, he can't take two paces round the room without bumping into the latch on a secret door.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Faithful Unto Death", Troy is searching an attic when he backs into a wall, and falls straight through the secret door he was searching for.
  • 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
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In "Message in a Bottle", the USS Prometheus has lost weapons, shields and navigation, and is being fired on by both Starfleet and Romulans. Neither Voyager's Doctor nor the Prometheus' doctor (EMH-2) has any idea what to do, when EMH-2 puts his hand on a console and inadvertently activates the Multi-Vector Assault Mode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Attorney: This is Larry Butz's bread and butter. He completely destroys multiple long and complex evil plans by doing something stupid that leads him to witness something extremely important.
    • In Turnabout Goodbyes, he returns a boat he rented at the exact time the victim was killed at the boat rental shop, thus allowing Phoenix to realize that the murder took place before the defendant arrived on the scene, and what everyone had earlier thought was the murder was part of a Frame-Up.
    • In Trials and Tribulations, he spends the night at the Heavenly Hall (really a run-down shack without any heating, so no one else would be dumb enough to do so) because he wanted to hook up with Iris, allowing him to witness the body of the victim being transported away from the crime scene.
  • In Breath of Fire III, 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.
  • Final Fantasy VII has a humorous variation. One of the houses in Kalm has a Megalixir hidden on the top shelf of a high cupboard. Cloud exclaims that its out of reach, but repeatedly examining it causes him to throw a temper tantrum, angrily kicking the cupboard, and inadvertently causing the item to fall off the shelf.
  • 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.
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia is incredibly clumsy, but when she trips she tends to fall on the exact thing she's looking for.
  • 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.

    Web Animation 
  • The Most Popular Girls in School: Lampshaded, parodied, and eventually played straight in Episode 81.
    Mackenzie: (leans against a wall) We're never gonna figure this out!
    Saison: (beat) Eh, Mackenzie, what are you doing?
    Mackenzie: That's how you usually find a secret passage. You just give up and then you lean on something, and it usually opens...

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Adventures of the Gummi Bears, after the destruction of a message machine, Zummi is looking for a message the Great Gummis across the sea sent him just before the machine was destroyed. He finds it when Tummi accidentally sits down on the pen beside it.
  • In an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball and Darwin try to find a secret room in their house by attempting to invoke this trope.
    Gumball: He must have a secret hideout somewhere in the house. And the best way to find a secret hideout... is by accident.
  • Ben 10:
    • Ben has been 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 episode set in the future, 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.
    • In another episode where they are looking for a special cactus, Gwen finds it by sitting down on it.
  • Neil does this a bit in Class of the Titans. While fiddling with a sophisticated broadcast device with thousands of possible frequencies, he stumbles on the right one to contact his friends in seconds. When he doesn't immediately stumble on the MacGuffin while rummaging through the basement, his friends take it as conclusive proof that it isn't there.
  • An early episode of Cyberchase featured Matt evoking this on a pyramid, claiming that in movies, you press a random brick to open a door. He's proven right when Didgit leans against the pyramid and fall backwards upon the door opening.
  • 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.
  • On Filmation's 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.
  • Final Space: In episode 7, Little Cato accidentally discovers Avocato has stored a secret supply of weapons in his room when he strokes Avocato’s bonsai tree, which turns out to be an activation switch that reveals the weapons.
  • 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.
  • Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable has many of these moments. It's even lampshaded once:
    [Ron catches himself on a bit of piping; the piping shifts, and a secret door opens]
    Kim: [to Ron] Mr. Dumb Luck!
    Ron: Not dumb luck, Kim. Dumb skills.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shaggy in Scooby-Doo found more clues and secrets through accidents and falling over than any Great Detective ever could; in fact, this trope even used to be called "Shaggy Search Technique". However, 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.
  • The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror IV's Bart Simpson's Dracula, Bart seemingly does this while walking down a hall with Lisa in Mr. Burn's castle and leans on a statue. A wall opens and reveals...a laundry room. Then they turn around and find Burn's vampire lair just across the hall in plain sight, advertised by a flashing neon sign.
  • Steven Universe: In "Legs From Here to Homeworld", while looking for Pink Diamond's Legship in the desert, Steven accidentally activates it by placing his hand on and leaning against one of the pink "pyramids".
  • 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.
  • Thunderbirds Are Go: In "Tunnels of Time", Gordon, Lady Penelope and Parker are trapped in a pyramid that is slowly filling with toxic gas. Parker sits down to be comfortable while he waits to die, and the stone he sits on opens a secret passage.
  • Parodied in The Venture Brothers when Dr. Venture grabs a candle holder on the wall and flips it over expecting a secret door to open, as he remembered from his childhood. Dr. Byron Orpheus informs him that it doesn't do anything...except dump wax on his carpet.


Video Example(s):


"The Solution Presents Itself"

Sometimes the answer to finding a secret passage is to sit down and think.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / LuckBasedSearchTechnique

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