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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 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.

Named after Shaggy in Scooby Doo, who found more clues and secrets through accidents and falling over than any Great Detective ever could. Any similarities to Shaggy Dog Story are coincidental.

Compare Eureka Moment and You Were Trying Too Hard.

Examples of Shaggy Search Technique include:


  • 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!"
  • 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 likely-looking books from a bookshelf, trying to trigger the secret door he knows is on the other side. Inga, seeking to help him, picks up a nearby candle 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 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • 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.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons and 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

  • 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 similliar 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 halfassed the repair job.
  • Colette from Tales of Symphonia is incredibly clumsy, but when she trips she tends to fall on the exact thing she's looking for.
  • In a lot of Point and Click games, randomly clicking on everything is a good way to find things.
  • In Ghostbusters, you have to find a hidden passage in the New York Public Library. The hidden passage is hidden behind a bookshelf, but the idea is subverted twofold: first, the Phantom Librarian guides you to it; second, the PKE Meter and Paragoggles tell you exactly where to look.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The video version of Garfield His 9 Lives, 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.
  • 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.
  • Parodied in The Venture Bros when Dr. Venture grabs a candle holder on the wall and flips it over expecting something to happen. Dr. Byron Orpheus informs him that it doesn't do anything...except dump wax on his carpet.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ben 10 has Ben 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. It may be all justified by the fact that he's a kid and no one understands the thing anyway, but whatever.
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