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Portrait Painting Peephole

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

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

There also exists a variation on this trope where a good character ends up spying on the villains through an opening or openings in a wall that turns out to be an eyehole or eyeholes on a portrait from the other side of the wall.

Here is a compilation with a lot of examples.

See also Stand-In Portrait, Inside a Wall.


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  • Such a portrait is seen in a television commercial for the Clue board game.
  • Done in an Aflac commercial... the duck watches some people who appear to be parodying Clue through a portrait.
  • One of a series of Second World War propaganda posters on the importance of keeping secrets shows two upper-class twits gossiping in their club — while Hitler eavesdrops from the portrait on the wall between them.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Fujiko uses one of these to spy on the Count and Jodo in The Castle of Cagliostro.
  • A Crayon Shin-chan horror spoof episode has Shin Chan and family entering a Haunted House whose Lord and servants are vampires. One of the spooky encounters have the vampire butler spying on Shin Chan through a portrait, only for Shin Chan to rub his exposed buttocks on the portrait's eyes causing the vampire servant to fall off a ladder.
  • In episode 11 of Heaven's Lost Property, Sugata uses this to spy on the girls' bathhouse.
  • Voltes V: The portrait of Emperor Zambajil in Skullrook has a peephole in it's eye. Zuhl, assuming it's secret, spies on Prince Heinel, Jangal and Katherine talking about executing the traitor in their ranks...only to find out that they knew all along and intended for him to hear them.

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

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

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Monsters, Inc.: Randall (who has chameleon powers) blends into a painting, with the eyes lined up with his own.
  • Helsa learns of Heath disinheriting Hildegard by spying through one of Hildegard's many portraits in The Princess and the Pea.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: In one scene, Ratsputin the dog can be seen watching the gang through a set of holes in Amy Vandergelt's portrait.
  • Wallace & Gromit: Variant in the short "The Wrong Trousers". Gromit is shadowing the villain in a box, he cuts some eyeholes from the inside and (by a lucky coincidence) they happen to be cut out of exactly the right spot of the box's exterior (a picture of a dog).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Rob and Kit find a painting in their room with moving eyes in April Fools' Day. It turns out that there's just a clock (shaped like a cat, with its eyes moving back and forth) behind it. The same painting later turns up in the basement, with severed head behind it.
  • Happens with a statue in Big Trouble in Little China — except when the heroes look behind it, what they find is not a person watching them, but the Yeti monster, resulting in quite the Jump Scare.
  • The Shaw Brothers movie Bloody Parrot has a scene in a brothel where the protagonist is making out with the resident hooker, jugs-hanging-out, until he suddenly noticed one of the murals having eye-holes spying on him.
  • Cadaver (2020): In one scene, when Leonora looks at a painting of a sheep, she looks closely at the eye. It blinks, which frightens her. Later, down in the catacombs, she moves a small circle attached to the wall, revealing that the eye in the painting is a secret peephole.
  • Valeria does this in Carry On Screaming!. Somebody in the room notices that the eyes in a picture are secretly alive.
  • In the 1939 version of The Cat and the Canary, there's one of these in the library, and the bad guy uses it to spy on Joyce.
  • Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (1953 Film Serial). Despite later having sophisticated alien technology that can listen in on Commando Cody at a distance, for some reason the villains have to use this trope in the first chapter, listening from behind a cowboy picture in the Ghost Town where Cody is assembling his rocketship. That might have been because the scriptwriters were still channeling The Western and hadn't gotten used to the Science Fiction thing yet.
  • In The Compleat Al, Michael Jackson's home has paintings with this trope to spy on visitors.
  • The Curse of the Living Corpse: The portrait of Rufus in Abigail’s room has removable eyes through which the killer spies on her.
  • In Dark and Stormy Night, two different people using different portraits to spy on others end up noticing the other.
    • In Fellini's Casanova, the nun's other lover (the French ambassador in Venice) watches her frolics with Casanova through a hole in a fish fresco's eye at the beginning.
  • Used by Genz to spy on Krista while she is taking a bath in Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks.
  • An interesting variant: in The Goonies, Mouth uses a rip in the painting of a naked woman (conveniently placed at the mouth), to stick his tongue through for a quick laugh.
    Mouth: [in a silly, falsetto voice] Mike-eey! Come here and make me feel like a woman. Come on, give me a nice, wet lickery kiss. Mwah!
  • Variation used in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, while in the Akator temple, a pair of eyes move in a skull relief on the wall.
  • In an early script of Labyrinth, Jareth's spies on Sarah this way.
  • Lost in a Harem: Nimativ has one in the room where he meets Hazel. Unlike most cases, he uses it not for spying, but to hypnotize anyone who looks at its eyes after he places his hypnotic rings against the peepholes.
  • In A Man with a Maid, the portrait of Queen Victoria in the Snuggery allows Jack the Ripper, who lives in the walls of the house, to spy on those within.
  • Thrice in Neil Simon's Murder by Death: first with a portrait of a baby, then with one of a dog, and once more not through a portrait, but in the eyes of a stuffed moose head.
  • Nothing but Trouble: A painting of a fat lady in Chris and Diane's guest room at the mansion has cut-out eyes that are used by Eldona to spy on them.
  • In The Pit and the Pendulum (1991), Torquemada has peephole concealed behind a stained glass window that allows him to secretly watch his torturers at work.
  • Randy Rides Alone (Starring John Wayne) uses this trope during its opening scene. The Portrait is of Ulysses S. Grant.
  • In Ridicule, the King peeps into his waiting room through a painting, but rather than an eye, the peephole is in a rider's hat.
  • In the extended cut of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the Sheriff of Nottingham discovers that Mortianna has been spying on his meetings through a hole cut into one of the paintings in his chamber which is how she always "mystically" knew what he was working on before he could tell her.
  • Shanghai Knights
    • Chon notices the eyes in a portrait move, but Roy dismisses it as paranoia and insisted that it's a trick of the painting.
    • Roy later freaks out when he sees the eyes move in the portrait.
  • In Theatre of Death, Davras has a secret passage that allows him to look out through the eyes of his own portrait and study his guests in the library.
  • Done a few times in The Three Stooges shorts, usually in the spookier themed episodes. They'd often have a painting replaced with a person or villain dressed and posed like the portrait they'd just cut away from behind the wall.
  • In Transylvania 6-5000, Fejos plays one of his insane practical jokes on Gil by hiding behind a portrait and peering out through the portraits eyes. He winds up getting his neck stuck between the picture frame and the wall.
  • In What a Carve Up!, the killer spies on his remaining victims when they gather in the library by looking through the cutout eyes in the portrait of Uncle Gabriel that hangs over the fireplace. There is also a hole cut in the mouth that he uses to fire the Blow Gun that kills Janet.
  • A silly variant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: When Eddie and Roger are hiding from Judge Doom and the Toon Patrol, they hit the bar where Dolores works and hide in the rotgut room. Roger quickly finds the peepholes and peers out them — by sticking his elongated eyeballs through the holes, knocking over a bewildered man's drink.

  • Parodied in Beyond The Blue Moon, where an inept ghost makes a pair of eyeballs literally pop out of a painting's eyeholes and follow intruders around.
  • Discworld: Some paintings in the Patrician's palace have eyeholes for spying, but it's stated in Jingo that Vetinari doesn't use them, they are just a relic from a previous ruler's tenure, like the Ho-ho (like a ha-ha only deeper - it's a landscape gardening thing).
  • Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon. The King kills a dragon in a hunt, and hangs its head on a wall in his castle. The dragon's eyes are replaced with glass ones, and the Evil Chancellor puts a secret room behind the head so he can look out through them and spy on the King. This later turns out to be one of the keys to Flagg's downfall.
  • Averted (and mocked) in From The Deep Of The Dark, in which veteran spy Dick Tull dismisses this trope as "penny dreadful" nonsense that any fool could spot: when he needs a surveillance hole, he uses one placed in the ceiling, strategically concealed above a chandelier with discreet built-in security mirrors.
  • In Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy novel Too Many Magicians, that universe's Wolfe-expy, the Marquis de Londres, has a similar painting in his study.
  • In The Midnight Folk, the protagonist Kay finds one in the manor house where the evil coven is meeting, and uses it to spy on the meeting.
  • In Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe there is such a painting in Wolfe's study.
  • In The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, there are portraits of the Headmistress in every building of the school, and every one of them is a peephole painting connected to the network of secret passages the Headmistress uses to keep tabs on what's happening in the school.
  • Something More Than Night: A mansion built by a movie mogul with a taste for horror movie decor includes several paintings with peepholes in the eyes and Secret Rooms hidden behind them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andy Griffith Show "Haunted House" A con man uses a haunted house as a cover for his still, he scares off Andy and Barney using the peepholes in a portrait to move the eyes. Upon discovering this Andy looks through the peepholes to spook the con right back.
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons features this in "The Trap" a painting in the main hall of an old Scottish castle hid a Mysteron agent and a machine gun.
  • Le cœur a ses raisons: Ashley uses this trope to spy on Brad's confession of burying his brother Brett alive... except she is merely standing in the middle of the room while just holding the painting in front of her face. And it works.
  • Doctor Who: "Marco Polo" The First Doctor and Susan enter "The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes" which has walls painted with two hundred and fifty men. Susan sees one set of eyes moving and screams.
  • Get Smart. In "Weekend Vampire", Maxwell Smart decides to block the portrait's eyes with tape to prevent this happening. Cue the mouth opening instead so the villain can peek out there. Then Max accidentally activates the hidden switch to rotate the wall to reveal the villain standing with his face pressed to the hole.
  • Gilligan's Island "The Friendly Physician" While in the mansion of the mad scientist, Gilligan tells the Skipper that he's have trouble following the eyes in the hall portrait. The Skipper tells him he's just imagining it. Presumably they were being watched this way.
  • Highlander: The Series "Unusual Suspects". Fitz is spying on a room of people with one of these. Fitz was killed early in the episode and is hiding in the shadows, trying to solve his own murder. Duncan notices and comments how the eyes seem to move before poking Fitz.
  • Himitsu Sentai Gorenger: An attempt to pull off a Virtual-Reality Interrogation in episode 49 fails because the prisoners notice the eyeholes in a painting used for spying on them and look through them and see enemy Mooks on the other side.
  • In a Kenan & Kel TV movie, Kel stares at a painting with eyes looking at him through the peepholes. He whispered to Kenan to come look at it while the peephole closes. However, Kel only noticed how the man in the portrait looks ugly.
    Kel: Oohhh, you're the ugly dude!
  • The Monkees when they visit a creepy house to play a gig.
  • The Power Rangers Zeo episode "A Mystery to Me" shows a portrait with holes in the eyes being used by Detective Stone to spy on Bulk and Skull as well as by Archerina to spy on Kat.
  • In The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, Ozzy Osborne has one that lets him spy on his neighbours, Slade.
  • The Two Ronnies. The heroine sees the eyes of a portrait moving as she is undressing for bed and flings a mug of cocoa at it. The next morning one of the male characters is seen with an eyepatch on one eye. A few moments later, another male character enters with an eyepatch on the other eye.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Which Eye Jack", the killer uses uses a peephole concealed behind the eyepatch on a painting of a pirate to spy on Jack as he hides the pearl and the Treasure Map.

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

    Video Games 
  • The Interactive Fiction game Anchorhead allows the protagonist character to look through the eyes of a Spooky Painting to spy on her possessed husband. Fridge Horror and Paranoia Fuel kick in if you recall that, when in the same room as the painting, it sometimes seems to look directly at the protagonist.
  • There's a variant in The Curse of Monkey Island, where Guybrush looks through the blank eyeholes of a painting and manages to convince the hotel landlord that he's a distant relative because he has the same eyes as the guy in the painting.
  • One of the paintings in Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak is like this in Boo Manor, though you never find out why the eyes are moving.
  • In Haunting Ground, while Fiona is putting on clothes in the mansion, she's creeped out by a portrait that looks like it's staring at her naked body. It turns out that someone was watching her from behind the portrait - her disgusting, creepy grandfather Lorenzo who has incestuous interest in her. Ugh.
  • The House (a really short online Flash game) have one of these as one of the many Jump Scare(s) the titular Haunted House throws at you. You inspect a painting of the house's previous lord, realize the eyes are peepholes, before blood suddenly gushes out from it.
  • There's one of these in almost every room in the first Laura Bow game, and Laura herself can use them to spy on the other guests and gather clues.
  • Used in Nancy Drew Message In A Haunted Mansion, where a secret room allows covert observation of a suspect. An inversion, in that Nancy finds the hidden room first, then uses its peepholes herself; she never actually catches the painting's "eyes" watching her.
  • RuneScape. Subverted with the examine text for a "creepy painting" in Melzar's Maze: "Disturbingly, its eyes look everywhere in the room but at you." Also played straight (albeit as a mundane optical illusion) with the painting itself, whose eyes appear to follow the camera. The camera that's almost always positioned somewhere other than the player character's line of sight...
  • Paintings of the Heavy King in Mirage Saloon in Sonic Mania will follow Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles as they pass on by. There's no explanation on why they're like that.
  • In Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, one stage is set in Barbaros's art collection. One painting is of his butler, whose eyes will always follow Zack around the room. No one is behind the painting though—the painting really is sentient and animate, and he will pull the nearby rope on a Trap Door should Zack walk across it. Zack needs to grab the broom from another painting and smear it in a puddle of black ink left on the floor after draining the water from the fish painting. Then, Zack can smear the butler's eyes with the blank ink, blinding him and allowing Zack to safely walk across the trap door without him triggering it.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner: The Old-Timey/1936 short "That a Ghost" has The Homestar Runner seeing a suspicious portrait in a haunted house, but removes it to see "two weird, one-eyed crows".

  • Played with in Problem Sleuth. The clown picture has two small holes to see through, but they're too close together to look through properly. But you're looking into the painting, into the other room where the eyeholes are also hidden in a portrait, but in a pig's nostrils.
  • Unsounded: Timofey plays with this concept by lining up his eyes with those of a portrait and then watching people go by, his eyes replacing those of the portrait. Timofey is intangible so the portrait does not require any holes cut in it for this to work.

    Western Animation 
  • In Big Mouth, Judd is heavily implied to have hollowed out his entire house, allowing him to basically fast-travel through the entire structure. One of his modifications is making a peephole out of his family portrait.
    Judd: Well, you really fucked that up.
    Nick: Shut up, you're a picture.
    Judd: No I'm not, I'm in the wall. See? [his eyes dart towards Nick, freaking him out]
  • In the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Ghost of a Chance", a portrait of Sir Colby (and some human) hides Fat Cat, supported by his henchanimals so he can see through the human's eyes. Then they throw him off so they can see the Rescue Rangers themselves, Mepps taking one eye and Wart taking the other. A close-up reveals how weird this looks, as Mepps has a pale yellow sclera with a green iris, and Wart has a green sclera and a brown iris, and because they're looking in different directions. Mole takes a turn, too, and follows Zipper's movements until poked in the eye.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Fungus Amongus", DW sneaks into a house and sees such a portrait. "As if I haven't seen this in a million movies!" He quips, removing the portrait and shouting "AH-HA!"... except the eyes gain bat-wings and fly away.
  • The Drak Pack episode "Package Deal" had Dr. Dred look through eyeholes on a portrait of Big D to spy on the Drak Pack.
  • In the Duckman episode "Haunted Society Plumbers", the titular duck thinks he's being watched by a painting. His partner Cornfed thinks he's just imagining it. As they move away from the painting, the scene shifts to the painting, where hilariously the woman's top is pulled down and a pair of human eyes watches them from her "cleavage".
  • The Fairly OddParents!: The episode "Meet the OddParents" has Timmy's parents hiding behind portraits of themselves to spy on Timmy. They then put the picture on the refrigerator door while they hide inside, and then holding while outside on a tree branch.
  • Occurs in The Flintstones episode where Fred and Barney spend a night in Fred's uncle's haunted house.
  • The Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "Room with a Feud" had Bloo spy on Peanut Butter through eyeholes on a poster of a basketball player.
  • Futurama:
    • In "The Honking", a painting in the castle of Bender's late uncle Vladimir appears to watch him, but upon closer inspection...
      Professor Farnsworth: It has motorized sensors attached to motion detectors.
      Bender: So does my butt, but I don't frame it and put it on the wall. Although...
    • In "My Three Suns", an assassin first watches Fry through a portrait and then tries to drink him through a straw that is hidden behind the portrait.
  • The Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Phantom of Rock" has a brief scene of Ami and Yumi walking past two portraits with moving eyes.
  • The title character of Jem looked through the eyehole on a portrait of Jean Lafitte in the episode "Mardi Gras".
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Hair-Raising Hare", Bugs Bunny catches one of these being used by the mad scientist's orange hairy monster and gives it a good poke in the eyes. The monster then sees Bugs in another painting and tries to turn the tables, but he's dealing with Bugs Bunny, so the Heckling Hare strikes first and eye-pokes him again.
  • The M.A.S.K. episode "Riddle of the Raven Master" had a scene where Scott Trakker looked through the eyeholes of a portrait from behind a wall.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Castle Mane-ia", the eye of a painting follows Rainbow Dash and Applejack as they run through the hallway.
    • In "A Matter of Principals", Discord spies on Starlight in the Friendship School through a portrait of Twilight Sparkle. There aren't really peepholes in this case, it's more like Discord fuses with the painting with his magic.
  • The OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes episode "Parents' Day" shows some portraits with moving eyes in Enid's house.
  • The Quack Pack episode "The Boy Who Cried Ghost" at one point had eyeholes in a portrait being used to spy on the main characters by the vampire and his ghost nephew.
  • In The Real Ghostbusters episode "Boo Dunnit", there is a brief scene of a portrait of a woman with moving eyes.
  • The Rupert episode "Rupert and Ottoline" showed a scene where the episode's villain looked through a peephole on a portrait.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • It's common for shows in the franchise to feature a scene of the characters moving past a portrait with moving eyes. A series of Cartoon Network promos for Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated titled Scooby-Doo: Behind the Scenes has the characters lampshading the trope in the final promo "Those Meddling Kids, Together Again" and Velma jokingly asking why there aren't any haunted houses with landscape paintings.
    • "The Tar Monster" had a variant in which Scooby and Shaggy hide inside hollow lion statues, and the eye of one of them can be seen looking out the eye-hole of one lion's hollow ceramic head.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Mister Burns uses this to spy on Homer and Marge. It even has peepholes for the dog in the picture so that Smithers can look too.
    • In "Goo Goo Gai Pan", there's a large portrait of Mao Zedong with peepholes in the nostrils.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • The T.U.F.F. Puppy episode "Hide and Ghost Seek" features Snaptrap peering through eyeholes on portraits.


Video Example(s):


Suspicious Portrait

While walking through the halls of the C.I.A., Hayley notices a portrait with moving eyes. The person behind the portrait tries to play it cool by closing their eyes and pretending to be asleep.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / PortraitPaintingPeephole

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