Secret places to put secret things!
January 9, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I like secret compartments! My car has one. I just found a vintage handbag with a hidden umbrella compartment. What are some more things - besides the obvious hide-a-key rocks and hollow books - that have unique secret compartments? Please list/link to specific examples!
posted by katillathehun to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
Tilley hats.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can make hiding spaces in most anything. Wikipedia has a page on concealment devices, with only one pic at the moment. Here are some retail hidden compartment items (false bottom coffee mug, fold-out wall socket safe, soda can diversion safe, etc).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2012

I make book compartments all the time. My Nook Color one is here. I don't have pictures of the various ones I've made for computer CDs; they're just to keep the bookshelves looking reasonably "book-y."
posted by introp at 3:49 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

See also: secret drawers (Popular Woodworking article, follow-up blog post; de-mystifying secret drawers post on the same blog)
posted by filthy light thief at 3:52 PM on January 9, 2012

My bedroom has an electrical outlet that has no wiring. I don't know if the previous owner put it in as a secret hiding place, or intended to have it be a real plug but never ran the wires. It would be a neat place for cash or jewels, if I had any worth hiding.
posted by Corvid at 3:53 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

19th century desks. If you buy one, draw a sideview on graph paper and find the hidden space. Push and pull everything. Found a first edition of E. A. Poe's "The Gold Bug" in one.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:55 PM on January 9, 2012 [22 favorites]

You'll probably love Yiting Cheng's "Secret Stash" project
posted by argonauta at 3:57 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

A house I lived in as a kid had a hollow fireplace mantle made of wood. One end pulled off and you could store stuff in it. It also had a hidden room in the workroom - it looked like a pegboard and had tools hanging on it, but you could swing it open and go inside.
posted by tacodave at 4:04 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've seen more than a few hollow mantles with storage inside. A common construction technique is to build the mantle in the shop and have it slip over a tongue or pair of bars attached to (or embedded in) the brickwork. Since there's already a hollow there, I guess all it takes is a trim carpenter with an appreciation for nooks and suddenly you've got a side piece or bracket foot that comes off.
posted by introp at 4:14 PM on January 9, 2012

Fake plate covers and fake bolts (the kind for outdoor metal construction, like guard rails). Popular, along with the rock, for geocachers.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:40 PM on January 9, 2012

I own two sets of antique tails, both of which have a profonde in each tail.
posted by plinth at 4:52 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's a unique and awesome pneumatic puzzle desk; I think it's been on Metafilter before.
posted by kprincehouse at 5:04 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you will love this New York Times article about an apartment full of hidden puzzles.

Expensive handmade furniture may come with hidden compartments (see "The Premier Slant-Top Desk," $16,200) and when you're talking that kind of price for that level of workmanship, you can probably request the addition of as many hidden compartments as you damn well please.
posted by Orinda at 5:07 PM on January 9, 2012

Love my hollow coin. And lust for a hidden room.
posted by Marky at 5:17 PM on January 9, 2012

These aren't quite secret but they're more than one-offs, so I think that tops up the excitement:

Kaidan-dansu (step-chests)
Under-floor storage (more modern versions)
posted by carbide at 5:27 PM on January 9, 2012

My old Triumph TR3 had a unique spare-tire compartment underneath the trunk. I used it to store illicit beer when I was in high school.
Er. Or, I would have used it thus, if I'd had any illicit beer.
Totally unrelated question, totally: what is the statute of limitations for minor in possession? *cough*
posted by zomg at 5:31 PM on January 9, 2012

We lived in a rent-house once that had one of those cheapy mirrors that was held to the wall by flat screwed in brackets. We decided to move the mirror and discovered, when we took it down, that there was a square hole carved into the drywall behind it, on top of a wooden brace, forming a perfect place to stash something. I assumed "weed" at the time, but that would require a lot of effort to get to; it was probably for jewelry.
posted by emjaybee at 5:48 PM on January 9, 2012

A Money Belt with the zipper hidden on the inside (and not concealing anything larger than the normal belt) has been my go-to method for transporting cash.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:36 PM on January 9, 2012

I once lived in a house that had a hollow newel post. It would be a great secret compartment.
posted by GreenEyed at 6:55 PM on January 9, 2012

Picture frame from old VHS case.
posted by raisingsand at 6:59 PM on January 9, 2012

I bought a black boucle wool sweater at a thrift store (almost identical to this one, but with more of a funnel neck) and it has a very discreetly hidden zipper pocket in the left sleeve, down near the cuff. Just big enough for a credit card and maybe a key or two. It's the classic size for "you could keep your weed in there!".
posted by padraigin at 7:44 PM on January 9, 2012

Wallets routinely have secret compartments.

Also there are these thongs with a secret compartment.

FYI: In BC a vehicular secret compartment not installed by the OEM has to be registered with the police.
posted by Mitheral at 7:45 PM on January 9, 2012

Maybe this is too not-secret and it's only for things you don't want to retrieve, but I like when I spot a razor-blade disposal slot in an old medicine cabinet.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:13 PM on January 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

All Tilley garments have hidden pockets, not just the hats.
posted by scruss at 8:44 PM on January 9, 2012

The corpse in the library: Maybe this is too not-secret and it's only for things you don't want to retrieve, but I like when I spot a razor-blade disposal slot in an old medicine cabinet.

Whoa, those were intentional? I was replacing a bathroom mirror once, and found a load of rusty razor blades, and imagined the shadiest sort of people had rented the house before me.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:57 PM on January 9, 2012

Early on "Razor Blades" was stamped into the metal nearby, either above or below, on the back of the medicine chest; but then they eventually figured everybody knew what the slot was for. I always wondered about the discovery, decades later, and wouldn't somebody be injured, maybe?
posted by Rash at 9:36 PM on January 9, 2012

I still haven't quite forgiven myself for passing up this adorable liquor cabinet disguised as a wall painting.

posted by Space Kitty at 11:52 PM on January 9, 2012

Many jackets (formal, leather, parka) have little pockets hidden away. An ex assures me that he bought a leather motorbike jacket second-hand and discovered money hidden away in all the little pockets for ages after. A total of about $350, apparently. This may be an urban myth but I remember, when flush with cash once many years ago, putting $50 bills in every zippered compartment of my favourite black bag so it doesn't seem too implausible.
posted by h00py at 3:19 AM on January 10, 2012

I have a pair of pants with a pocket that is accessed through a zipper running right next to the fly, which I thought was hilarious when I first discovered it.
posted by RobotHero at 6:09 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

During last year's Doors Open Ontario I toured a local mansion (now a law office) that was built by the Seagrams family in 1913. At the bottom of the stairs near the front door is a thick post with a carved knob on top. Lift the knob, and you would pull up a wooden box just large enough to hold a bottle of whisky.
posted by Gortuk at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2012

My parents have the 2000 Stickley collector's piece, a blanket chest. The arched piece on the bottom flips out for a thin, hidden compartment, probably intended for documents like a will or the receipt for the chest.
posted by hmo at 7:00 AM on January 10, 2012

> I always wondered about the discovery, decades later, and wouldn't somebody be injured, maybe?

Anyone who's demolishing a wall is already in a situation where a few razor blades don't significantly add to the risk -- you'd have work gloves, already be cautious, etc. If people tossed their blades in the garbage without really paying attention it would be much riskier, as kids and other inattentive people take the garbage out to the trash can.

That said, I've never demolished a wall in my life and I haven't looked into statistics. Maybe razor blades in the wall are a significant danger to people doing remodels, to this day.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:33 AM on January 10, 2012

As a kid I was always amazed by the secret passages and rooms in Casa Loma.
posted by devonia at 9:58 AM on January 10, 2012

I know of someone who keeps condoms inside an unscrewable brass bedknob.

Secret compartments interested me greatly as a kid, after my mom showed a few in her old furniture to my great and googly-eyed amazement. As far as I know, she still keeps a couple of old muskets in the belly of a grand cabinet from the mid-nineteenth century. Thank you for reminding me - I'll ask her to show them again on my next visit!

My sister would build things for me in Lego with hidden compartments where I would find a small Lego piece or sometimes a piece of candy. Quite a sweet thing of a big sister to do, don't you think? I made them for her too, but she's six years older and was a lot better at it.
posted by springload at 4:55 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

These are gorgeous, and functional, too!
posted by spinturtle at 8:14 PM on January 13, 2012

The Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool are kind of interesting in that they are pretty much inexplicable.
posted by srboisvert at 9:39 AM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

My next door neighbors growing up bought the house after it was foreclosed. The people who'd lived there before were motorcyclists and often had a few dozen shady characters over at once, coming and going at all hours - they were well out of place in our very quiet suburb. When the new neighbors went to fix up and remodel the house to their liking, they quickly discovered that there were a good half-dozen "power outlets" with little blank areas behind them instead of, you know, electrical wiring. We kids were all really excited about the notion of all these fun little hidey-holes to explore. The neighbors were a little less thrilled.
posted by troublesome at 5:24 PM on January 15, 2012

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