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.
- 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)
- 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.
- In Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, Socrates leans on a stray block in a pyramid and triggers a secret door.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 Fifth Element, the Apocalypse clock has minutes to go, with the heroes still baffled over how to get the MacGuffin stones to open. Vito's lackey, David, resigns himself to their fate and sighs, accidentally triggering the "Wind" stone with his breath.
- 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.
- 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. The result can be summed up as follows:
Frederick: PUT! THE CANDLE! BACK!
- 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.
- 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!"
- 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 Frankenstein 1970, Schutter discovers the secret entrance to Victor's laboratory while dusting a plaque in the crypt.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Vimes tries to blast open a secret compartment with a siege weapon. While struggling to aim it, he sets off the opening mechanism. He tries to pretend that that was his plan all along.
- Invoked (with little success) in The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents: Malicia insists that the best way to find secret passages is to give up after searching, then lean casually against something and accidentally trip the hidden switch. They do find a secret passage, but only by noticing the cleverly hidden switch.
- Good Omens: A variation was subverted in Pratchett and Gaiman's novel. Among the search techniques the heroine attempts in trying to find her lost book of prophecies is giving up theatrically and letting her gaze fall organically on a patch of ground—which, if she was in any sort of decent story, would be where the book was. Unfortunately, this isn't a world governed by the Theory of Narrative Causality, so it's not there.
- 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.
- Happens to Hamlet in Tom Holt's My Hero, during a sequence that's supposed to be demonstrating that the Theory of Narrative Causality no longer applies but keeps getting undermined by the fact that (this being a Tom Holt novel) the Rule of Funny is still in full effect.
- Averted in Darren Shan's The Demonata series in Lord Loss. Grubbs seems like the kind of impulsive young kid to stop searching early and accidentally trip the switch, but he somehow has the patience to try every single wine bottle in his uncle's cellar until he finds the one that's a hidden switch. He goes through dozens of bottles.
- Exaggerated in Arthur Machen's early works, where every single plot development came about this way.
- In Simon Hawke's The Wizard of Whitechapel, an Irish cabbie who drove the heroes to the party independently decides to crash it along with them, purely so he can play this trope straight at the right time.
- A variation occurs in the Austrian children's book Katzenkönig Mauzenberger. The bad guys want to break in the treasure chamber of the king, but only know that they have to press a certain brick to open the secret door. The boss gets angry and kicks the Minion with an F in Evil. Of course, he lands exactly on the right brick.
- 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!
- 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.
- Lampshade lovingly hung in the Babylon 5 episode War Without End. Ivanova and Marcus Cole are looking for an access panel. Ivanova declares that they'll need some luck finding one. Marcus replies that he doesn't believe in luck, even as he's turning - and his Minbari Fighting Pike (collapsible metal staff) knocks into the panel, causing it to fall open. Quoth Marcus, "Then again..."
- In The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "The Eternity Trap", Clyde explains how he knew to search for a secret passage by looking for gaps and oddities in the walls. The one he finds opens to a brick wall, causing Rani to laugh at him: which causes her to lean on just the right book on the bookcase
- Arrested Development: George Bluth, Sr. had a tendency to hide things inside walls, and had even designed the model home with a secret room. GOB found a document signed by George, Sr. and Saddam Hussein by taking a sledge hammer to the wall of the president's office because there wasn't enough space to line up a proper cue shot, and apparently everybody in the household knew about the secret room except Michael, who needed paperwork that was stored there.
- In the first series of Blackadder, our heroes are being hunted by drunken knights in a convent. In their despair, they beg the blessed virgin to help them - and when Edmund grabs the statue of Mary, it opens a secret passage. Subverted immediately afterwards when the knights burst in, find the room empty, and immediately figure out that they must have used the statue of Mary to open a secret passage and follow them.
- Doctor Who:
- In "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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Final Fantasy IX had a list of options to search a secret wall, such as examining it, poking it, shoulder barging it etc. After a while it came up with the option "rest"... which led you to lean back on the wall, and open the door. Justified in that this was in the upside-down/backwards castle, so the the best way to get through the wall was to apply the smallest amount of force possible.
- A similar event happens in Breath Of Fire 3 when the gang of Loveable Rogues are trying to find a way into a mansion early in the game: they search the wall around it for a way in, but give up quickly. Rei then leans against it, causing a large section of it to tip over since it was broken recently and they half-assed the repair job.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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...
- Subverted in Girl Genius by Agatha who uses logic instead and Tarvek who uses psychology.
- Invoked in The Order of the Stick by Roy in "All Available Resources". Elan manages to find a treasure chest while walking around.
- Chasing the Sunset: Suggested as a possible method for finding a secret door in this strip.
- Played straight in this Ctrl+Alt+Del strip.
- And in this Strewth! strip.
- 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 alternate-future episode, Ben's son subverts this: instead of just randomly fiddling with his own Omnitrix, he transforms into the alien with Super Intelligence and uses its extra brainpower to hack the master control.
- In another episode where they are looking for a special cactus, Gwen finds it by sitting down on it.
- Danger Mouse: Subverted when DM is trying to find the entrance to a forbidden temple; when he leans on something, a door opens behind him... but he doesn't notice and carries on looking.
- The video version of Garfield: His 9 Lives has this, during Garfield's second life in Ancient Egypt. He's sealed in a tomb, Odie comes sniffing around, looking for a loose stone block, thinks he's found one, and pushes it with all his might. Then he takes a breather, leaning against the stone block next to it, and it slides in easily.
- Oddly, in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, it's Scooby who does this half the time. Shaggy himself only ever truly finds a clue by himself in one episode, which was the gang's search for the missing Scooby.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros. when Dr. Venture grabs a candle holder on the wall and flips it over expecting 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Beast Boy from Teen Titans does this in "Date with Destiny" when the Titans are searching Kitten's house for Killer Moth's lair. Robin shouts at Cyborg, Beast Boy moves backward in surprise, and when he runs into a statue, it triggers the secret door to the Mad Scientist's basement.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episode "Castle Mane-ia", Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Fluttershy end up discovering a lot of secret passageways and doors in Celestia and Luna's old castle by using this method.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!