Secret passages are one of the tropes of
horror and related genres (e.g., murder mysteries, thrillers,
live in a somewhat-large, somewhat-spooky, and genuinely-old house, so
I started thinking about how neat it would be to install a secret
passage somewhere in the house (or maybe more than one). So far
haven't, but a lot of other people have! In thinking about
one, I started researching secret passages and making note of their
appearances on film and tv as well as occasional real-life examples.
- Bookself - It's the most common
secret passage I think I've seen in movies. As such, there are
several versions of this.
- Sliding wall panel - Sometimes this
is behind wainscoting or other figured wood.
- Trap door - Allows passage
vertically from one space to another.
- Behind a large painting - I've seen
entire paintings used as doorways into hidden rooms.
Additionally, there's the classic Scooby Doo cliche of the paintings
with removable eyes that double as peep-holes.
- Back of the fireplace
- Under the stairs - Most houses
already have a sort of dead space behind their stairs that represents a
hide-away, if not a passage to the basement, etc.
Where do they lead?
- Secret laboratory
- Dungeon/prison cell/torture
- Passage with peepholes (e.g., eyes
- A way to steal something small or
pass a note.
- Panic room
- The Batcave!
- Book in bookshelf
- Candle/wall sconce
- Hidden button under the desk
- Keys on an organ or piano
- Linear actuator - This is a type of
motor that extends rather than rotating. They can be found in
lift chairs for the elderly, for example. As with any motor, you
can find a variety of sizes and strengths.
- Casters - Can be hidden under, for
example, bookshelves behind trim so that it isn't obvious that a
section is designed to move.
- Counterweight (or balance) - Allows
a heavy section of wall to open with minimal effort. An example
of this are the weights hidden in the wall on either side of a
window. The window and balance are joined by a rope run over what
is mistakenly referred to as a "pulley" (It's just a wheel).
There's no way to ever compile a complete list of all the secret
passages that have appeared in various movies and tv series, but here
are some prominent ones and a few others I've noticed since I started
Batman - Everything
from the '60s tv series to the Christopher Nolan movies featured a
passage that allowed Bruce to slip from Wayne Manor to the
Batcave. Additionally, it could be said that the Batcave itself
allows access through secret passages for the Batmobile and other
The Changling (1980) - Not a
secret passage per se, but there is a hidden doorway to a forgotten
attic room. (Note: Also a great movie worth checking out!)
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) -
The access to the attic where Anne Frank and her family hid from the
The Munsters (1964) - Secret
passages under the stairs and a rotating wall behind the suit of armor
at the top of the stairs.
Night Monster (1942) - No creepy
old mansion is complete without a secret passage. This one
doesn't figure into the movie prominently; it's just a given that
creepy old mansions always have at least one secret passage!
Phantom Of The Opera (1925) -
There are secret passages throughout and under the opera house.
The most prominent is the one behind the mirror in Christine's dressing
room. There are others through which the Phantom delivers
messages and places other items. The majority, however, are trap
doors: one into his lair, another to escape from the hot chamber, and
another still into the Phantom's room from the chamber full of gun
The Private Eyes (1980) -
According to the IMDb, the secret passages featured in the film
actually exist in the Biltmore Estate mansion in Asheville, NC.
The only portion of the passage that was constructed is the rotating
wall, and the owner of the house liked it so much that he decided to
keep it. (Note: The film was among a number of pictures, mostly
comedies, made and released between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, that
revived the old-dark-house movie. These films include: The Spiral
Staircase (1975), Neil Simon's Murder by Death (1976), The
Cat and the Canary (1978), The Private Eyes (1980), House
of the Long Shadows (1983), Kenny Everett's Bloodbath at the
House of Death (1984), Clue (1985), and Haunted
Son of Frankenstein (1939) -
Secret passages between the castle and below. One of these is one
of the columns against the wall. It moves to reveal a
passage. (The sequel, Ghost of Frankenstein, had a secret
passage in the floor to the forbidden portion of the laboratory.)
There are a great many examples of real-life secret passages that folks
have built. Here are a few I enjoyed:
See also: http://www.instructables.com/id/Wireless-light-switch-or-bust/