Bookcase Passage

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You've Seen It a Million Times. At least 90% of all Cool Houses have featured one of these. A Bookcase Passage is where a Secret Path is hidden behind a bookcase or triggered by the removal or manipulation of a book in a bookcase.

It doesn't have to involve books; it could be any kind of hidden or secret passage with a disguised door. It just tends to be behind bookcases an awful lot. Another common form is where the passage is hidden behind a fireplace, and activated by a lever of some kind. The switch is often found using a Shaggy Search Technique.

Occasionally, there's a gag where two characters go back and forth through the passage and keep missing each other because they're on opposite sides of the bookcase. This is most likely to happen when the bookcase doubles as a revolving door - a common design decision.

See also: Book Safe
Examples of Bookcase Passage include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The discovery of one leads to the solution to a murder in Detective Conan, which has at least two mysteries surrounding old houses and the secret passage(s) therein.
  • Code Geass has one at Ashford Academy.
  • The fireplace variant appears in The Castleof Cagliostro. The passage leads to an observation room behind the Count's office, equipped with a portrait peephole.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Sandman Mystery Theatre, Wesley Dodds' basement lab is reached through one.
  • The Batcave in comics-continuity has its access passage hidden behind a large grandfather clock. The traditional trigger to open it is to set the time on the face to the moment of his parent's death.
  • In Land of Black Gold Dr. Müller's study has a trapdoor entrance hidden in the fireplace.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Young Frankenstein has one of these, where the characters think one of the books must activate it, but can't find the right one, so one of them grabs a candle from the wall to bring more light, and that activates it.
  • The Addams Family. Because, you know, they live in a haunted mansion.
    • And the book switch? Greed.
  • One of the Wee Sing videos (The Marvelous Musical Mansion?) takes place in an old house that had a bookcase secret passage.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has two.
    • The fireplace version is used when Indy and his father are tied up in a burning room.
    • A variation occurs when a descending flight of stairs appears after Indy's father leans back in a chair.
  • Shanghai Knights has the firecase version.
  • In X-Men 2 Xavier's School for the Gifted was shown to have secret passages hidden along the hallways.
  • In the movie serials The Green Hornet and The Green Hornet Rides Again, the secret passage leading to the Black Beauty's garage is hidden behind a chest of drawers in Britt Reid's bedroom.
  • Used to access KAOS headquarters in the 1989 Get Smart TV movie. The fact that the Doppelganger posing as Seigfried doesn't know the 'book combination' is used to expose him as an imposter.
  • In The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Luther Higgs discovers one of these by throwing a book at it. It later turns out to play a vital part in solving a twenty year old murder mystery.
  • Batman Begins, like the liveaction TV feature a bookcase secret passage, it's enhanced into a safe vault locked by a finger print lock in The Dark Knight.
    • Begins gets bonus points - the trigger is plunking out a couple of notes on the nearby piano
  • In Igor, when the main character and his sidekicks are being chased and seemingly have no way out, Brain starts fiddling with the wall, looking for a secret passage. Igor tells him not to bother, there isn't any secret passage. He bangs the opposite wall in frustration, only to hit the switch for a secret stairway.
  • Used in several Buster Keaton films (The Haunted House, Neighbors, One Week, Sherlock, Jr.).
  • Home Alone 4 plays this for laughs.
  • The store security room turns out to be hidden behind a shelf and false wall in Cornered
  • The first Scooby Doo film has this lampshaded.
  • In Tron: Legacy, it's a Arcade Game Cabinet Passage.
  • The Rocketeer: Neville Sinclair's mansion has one for his Nazi communications room.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, Lord Vetinari touches seemingly innocuous parts of the wall in order to open the secret passage to the 'apartment' where Leonard of Quirm lives. It also includes an Indiana Jones style security system (or perhaps not).
    • Averted in Guards Guards, where Vetinari revealed he didn't utilize a similar passage in the prison cell where he was being held, because it felt too much like running away.

"Never trust a ruler who puts his faith in tunnels and bunkers and escape routes. The chances are that his heart isn't in the job."


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The way to the Batcave in the Adam West Batman TV series was hidden behind a bookcase (the switch is on a desk, however).
  • In Stargate SG 1, one of these is featured in Merlin's Laboratory. Yes, THAT Merlin.
  • In the original Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, Jeff gets trapped in an oubliette behind one of these.
  • Parodied in Mitchell and Webb, where a Diabolical Genius tries to have the fireplace version installed, only to be informed at length the impracticalities of his request by the contractor. To start with, he wanted it put in a supporting wall, and the trigger would have been "this volume of Ms Katie Price's 'Being Jordan'."
  • In the Doctor Who story Terror of the Zygons, Sarah Jane Smith finds a passage behind a bookcase, leading to the alien spacecraft under Loch Ness. She activates the opening mechanism by pulling out a book, which she could only reach via portable steps fetched for her by the villain.
  • Hidden passages behind bookcases also appear in The Sarah Jane Adventures stories Eye of the Gorgon and The Eternity Trap.
  • In the original Legend of Zorro series, Zorro's massive fireplace is the entrance to the cave where he keeps Tornado.
  • In the first three seasons of Chuck, at least once entrance to 'Castle' is behind a stack of lockers.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Tommy has one of these leading to the home base of the Dino Thunder Rangers.
  • In the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to meet Sting, she starts pulling books on his bookcase looking for a secret passage.
  • In The Monkees episode "The Spy Who Came In From the Cool", there is a secret exit from the pawn shop through a harp case. Micky jokes that he thought it was through the accordion.
  • Angel. In "Long Day's Journey", Gwen Raiden has one to her panic room, saying you should never pass up a good cliche.


Radio[edit | hide]

  • In Adventures in Odyssey, Wooton's secret room where he draws the Powerboy comics is located behind a bookcase.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Theatre[edit | hide]

  • In The Bat, the door to the Hidden Room is disguised as a fireplace.
  • In The Cat and the Canary, the lawyer is last seen alive standing in front of a bookcase with a hidden passage behind. His Peek-a-Boo Corpse appears in a different hidden passage behind Annabelle's bed.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Bebe's Kids (the infamous SNES game based on the movie of the same name) has this in the haunted house level, as the revolving door type. However, going through one side of the opening leads you to another room than the other side would. This doesn't make any sense whatsoever, due to the need for a dividing wall between the two paths that would get in the way of the rotating bookcase.
  • Alone in the Dark [the original game] has one.
  • There are a few instances in Baldur's Gate where hidden doors are behind bookcases.
  • Eternal Darkness has this in the first church level with the passage to the catacombs behind a bookcase. In later visits to the level, that's moved and gets hidden behind wine barrels.
    • Oh, and the room which holds the titular tome is behind a bookcase which required you to set the time on the clock to 3:33.
      • Not forgetting the firecase entrance for the tome's chamber when you play as Max, the game really liked this trope.
  • Near the end of Fallout, the Vault-Dweller has to pass through one of these if he/she is to get into the Master's Elaborate Underground Base.
  • There are oodles and oodles and oodles of these in the video game adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. They are all opened by casting the spell "Alohamora" on them, even though Alohamora is just supposed to pick locks.
  • Myst had a bookcase passage and a fireplace revolving door in the same room.
    • Fireplace elevators have become a sort of recognizable theme in the series, despite appearing only infrequently. Eventually Revelation gives you a fireplace and the option of entering; if you try, it toasts your hand instead.
      • How did you find a lit fireplace in Revelation? Unless I'm forgetting one in Yeesha's room or on Haven, the only fireplace there is hides the entrance to the Spire and Haven books.
  • There are two secret passages hidden behind bookcases in Castle Borgov in Quest for Glory IV.
  • The opening cinematic of Red Alert 3 features one of these.
    • Command & Conquer: Renegade had one in the game, but it's just a weapons cache and not a passage.
  • In Vampire Bloodlines, there is a Bookcase Passage in the Giovanni mansion, and there is also one in Grout's house.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, there are three of them around the Sky Pirate base. One is behind a bookcase in the captain's office, one is a rock wall that splits in two, and one is behind a tombstone.
  • In the Thief series, these are pretty common, particularly when concealed by bookcases or tapestries.
    • In Thief: The Dark Project, the following missions have secret passages: "Lord Bafford's Manor" (tapestry), "Escape from Cragscleft Prison" (tapestry), "Assassins" (bookcase, fireplace), Constantine's mansion (various secret panels and rooms)
    • In Thief Gold, all three missions not in the original game have secret passages: "Thieves' Guild" (various secret panels); "The Mage Towers" ( the Central Library has a secret room behind a bookcase); "Song of the Caverns" (the Opera House has many secret passages, one of which is accessed through the furnace, and most of which are marked on the map you should get from the building's former owner)
    • In Thief II: The Metal Age, both the Rampone warehouse complex and Shoalsgate Station have secret passages or rooms behind bookcases. Shoalsgate and Lord Gervasius' mansion are both riddled with secret passages. Garrett's own apartment has a hidden compartment where his equipment is stored.
  • World of Warcraft has one of these in the Culling of Stratholme.
    • And in Karazan where it leads to an optional boss.
  • Played with in Star Ocean the Second Story the only difference is that it is not a book that triggers the moving of the bookcase but rather something in the same room which leads to the Secret Underground Passage
  • The Laura Bow games have secret passages coming out their ears.
  • In The Sims 2: Apartment Life, you can buy a bookshelf that serves as this. Any Sim you have direct control over can use them, but no Sim will ever use them by their own free will (meaning Sims can become trapped behind them, unable to figure out how to get out!)
  • There's one in Metal Gear Solid, in the room you fight Psycho Mantis.
  • Kingdom Hearts has one of those in the first game. The book's names were mostly references to Final Fantasy.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, with a twist: The books don't trigger anything, but you need return them to their proper place, so you can climb on them later, when shrunken down , in order to reach a Minish-sage who lives on one of the shelves.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, the entrance to the chamber with the six famous assassin statues and Altair's age old armor.
    • There's another one earlier in the game: the fireplace in the Auditore mansion in Firenze, hiding the room where you acquire the assassin outfit.
  • Manannan's study in King's Quest III has a bookcase passage leading to an underground room with a spellbook, magical ingredients and other wizarding paraphernalia.
  • In Beyond Dark Castle, Prince Duncan uses a fireplace passage to access the castle.
  • The Resident Evil and Silent Hill series have several of these.
  • Even Ace Attorney gets in on this act - Investigations features a pair of these (fireplace variant) as a critical clue for the lead-up to its finale.
  • Hugo 2: Whodunnit? kicks off with both characters finding and using one of these (which, for some reason, takes them to different places).
  • The series' successor Nitemare 3D has tons of them. In addition to many actual bookcases (all of which are secret passages), there are dozens of sliding panels per level. Finding them all is necessary for 100% Completion.
  • Doom - pretty much every level had secret doors and passages (Handwaved in the novelisation as being part of mechanisms for transporting and sealing off materials). Doom II introduced a bookcase texture for walls, which lead to many, many, many exact examples of this trope in maps featuring library-like areas.
  • Minor example in Unreal in the Nali Castle: it reveals a super health pack instead of an actual passage.
  • Also used in Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor, where it reveals an actual passage. The book that does it is very difficult to spot, however.
  • In Rule of Rose there is a hidden door in wall panel in the VIP section of the airship, but you need perfumes of four seasons to trade for a key to get through and find the only firearm in the game...with only one bullet in it.
  • One of the most popular inventions in Minecraft since the piston was added, and often new piston inventors' first creation.
  • There's one of these in Blackmarsh's mortuary in Hexen II. It leads to a small cell area and a passage to the hub's boss.
  • City of Heroes: Manticore's mansion, which you visit during the Twinshot story arcs, has one of these in his study; it leads down into a network of caves.


Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In volume 4 of RWBY, Weiss escapes her Gilded Cage through a Bookcase Passage opened up for her by devoted servant Klein.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

Hey, if I pull this candle down, will it-
Get wax on my carpet? Yes.

  • There's at least one in Gargoyles - the Prague episode of the Avalon World Tour had the Allies Of The Week opening up a secret way up into the attic where the Golem was via bookshelf door.
    • The building exists in Real Life, but the said attic is just off limits, not hidden.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Priest holes, during the Tudor anti-Catholic purges.
  • You can also order your own!
  • A Youth Hostel in Scotland has a not-so-secret passage (there's a sign marking its location) underneath an elaborate staircase triggered by rotating a marble statue a few meters away. This was enormously shocking because old Scottish castles aren't exactly the typical location for budget accommodation!
  • The International Spy Museum has one which is a dark twist on the trope. It was in the office of a KGB official and lead to a Torture Cellar where interviewees would be taken following casual conversation in the office.
  • Richard Garriott has one of these, along with numerous other types of secret passages in his house.
  • Speakeasies were often hidden behind these during Prohibition.
  • The actual house, with the secret staircase, used by Hawthorne as the setting for The House Of The Seven Gables.
  • The Eye Spy (aka the spy bar) in Orlando has at least one of these.
    • As does the Safe House in Milwaukee.
  • The only way into the hidden loft that Anne Frank, her family, and a few other Jews used as their hiding place during the Holocaust was a staircase hidden behind a bookcase.