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Hidden Doors – Then and Now


Hidden doors, secret rooms and secret passageways are a common element in fiction as well as in history. They have enabled people to hide treasure, escape from enemies or carry out religious, political or illegal activities without detection.

Medieval castles often had secret hidden doors and hidden passageways to provide an escape route in case of an enemy siege. Other hidden doors concealed secret passages leading down to underground water sources which provided access to drinking water during a prolonged siege.

Before and during the Civil War era, hundreds of runaway slaves were shielded behind hidden doors in safe house rooms in private homes. This became known as the Underground Railroad.

Not all hidden doors were used for serious purposes. If you remember what was behind Dean Martin’s hidden door, it will bring a smile to your face. Dean’s hidden door rotated to reveal a fully stocked bar.

Hidden doors are popular features in mysteries — especially when they are staged in castles, dungeons, old mansions and haunted houses. Can you imagine the Nancy Drew, James Bond, Batman, or Harry Potter “impossible crime or escape” stories without hidden doors and secret passageways?

Today, a hidden door can be disguised as a bookcase, cabinet, a sliding panel in a fireplace or a piece of furniture that rotates to reveal a hidden door. The most popular is a hidden door bookcase, and that is our specialty. All our hidden doors are meticulously crafted to be virtually concealed when closed. Your hidden door can be painted or stained to blend with your existing cabinetry to help conceal its identity. Sometimes a wall of bookcases in an office hides the fact that one of the bookcases doubles as a hidden door bookcase.

Secret Rooms – Then and Now

Secret rooms have been used throughout history for a variety of purposes.

To keep them safe from tomb robbers, ancient Egyptians buried their dead royalty and royal treasures in secret rooms within the pyramids. Hidden passageways and booby traps were used to protect the burial chambers. Some secret rooms were so well hidden that they have only recently been discovered with the help of sophisticated detection equipment.

History has many incidents of secret rooms used by religious groups who worshipped in hiding to avoid persecution, which often meant death. To avoid persecution from the Roman authorities in the 2nd century AD, early Christians used secret rooms to conceal their gatherings for worship. During the 15th century, Protestants in Great Britain and Ireland worshipped in secret rooms to avoid persecutions from Catholics. Beginning with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in Britain, some Catholic priests visited loyal followers to conduct private worship services in their homes. To avoid detection from the Queen’s men who roamed the countryside in search of priests conducting these private services, priests often hid in specially designed, tiny secret rooms called “priest holes.” With a search lasting many days or weeks, some priests suffocated or died of starvation in these cramped secret rooms.

During the Prohibition era in the United States, secret rooms were concealed in seemingly legitimate businesses. These secret rooms were used for gambling dens, brothels and illegal bars called “speakeasies.” One famous example of a speakeasy during the 1920s and 1930s was on the third floor of a building in Decator, Illinois. Customers entered a legitimate appearing sporting goods business on the first floor. After passing through shelves displaying dusty sporting goods merchandise, “enlightened” customers slid open a secret door disguised as a wall panel to reveal the entrance to the secret room – a popular speakeasy.

Today, some celebrities and other prominent individuals have secret rooms called “panic rooms” or “safe rooms” built into their homes. Concealed behind hidden doors, these secret rooms provide secure hiding places in case of a break-in or intrusion.

Even though our hidden doors are not the “vault type” doors that some people require for panic rooms, many people do use our hidden door bookcases and cabinets to conceal secret rooms. The optional magnetic locking system that we build into our hidden doors provides a nice level of security. If an intruder broke into my home, I know where I’d go! I’d head straight for the secret room behind my hidden door bookcase.

Secret Bookcases - Then and Now

During WWII, a hidden door bookcase concealed the entrance to a secret attic room in a family-owned office building. It was here that Anne Frank, her family and four others hid for two years before being discovered.

In 2002, priceless books starting disappearing from the 8th century Mont Sainte-Odile convent library in France. After police installed security cameras in the library, the mystery was solved. An engineering student by the name of Stanislas Gosse was the culprit. Gosse had discovered a centuries-old hidden door bookcase that led to the library. He would enter the convent during the day with tourists, hide in an unused corridor and then enter the library at night through the hidden bookcase door.

In fictional stories and films, hidden bookcase doors often conceal secret rooms or passageways. Sometimes, a certain book in the bookcase serves as the hidden mechanism that opens the hidden door.

For most of us, intrigue and mystery are left the movies. Maybe that’s why many of us love having a hidden door bookcase or a secret room in our own home. Is it because there’s a little “James Bond” in us, or it is because a hidden door bookcase is a clever conversation piece? Whatever the reason, when we show customers our hidden door bookcases, we love seeing their faces when they press down on a small artificial plant and our hidden door pops open!

You never know what an innocent-looking hidden bookcase door may be concealing. Sometimes it is a secret room, furnace or storage room, office, playroom, laundry room or closet. Sometimes a hidden bookcase door keeps a safe or gun collection out of sight.

By replacing an ordinary door with a hidden bookcase door, you’ll have a lovely place to display your books as well as adding a designer’s touch to your room. Add doors or drawers and a hidden door bookcase provides you with storage for games, toys, DVDs, clothing, linens or just about anything. Simply by adding a few more shelves, you can have a great shoe storage hidden door. Select our pull-out shelves and, voila, you have a hidden door pantry cabinet.

When you decide what you’d like to hide, check out our products:/products section. It’s easy and fun to design your own hidden door bookcase or cabinet!

Will your new hidden door bookcase be your secret or your favorite conversation piece? The choice is yours.