Concealing objects in a book

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A radio hidden in a book

There are many real and fictitious occurrences of concealing objects in a book. Items can be concealed in books in a number of ways. Small items such as a photograph or a note can be hidden in between the pages of the book. Thicker items can be hidden by removing the interior portion of some or all of the pages, creating a book safe or hollowed-out book. Book safes are easy for their owners to recognise, but they do not stand out to a thief or other intruder.

Another type of concealment is the hiding of messages in the text or on a book's pages by printing in code – a form of steganography. For example, letters could be underlined on sequential pages, with the letters spelling out a message or code. There are a number of actual and fictional examples of items or messages having been concealed in a book.

Illicit chemicals may be smuggled by soaking individual pages with them.

Books are used as a concealment device in part because they are readily available and inconspicuous in many settings.

Methods of concealment[edit]

Hollow book safes[edit]

Prices can vary based on the cost of materials, additional features, and resources used to create the functionality and aesthetics of the hollow book. The main functional purpose aims for the containment of valuables, memorable items, or contraband within the cloak of an ordinary book. Thus maintaining privacy and security from unwanted intrusions and/or theft.

The scale of gadgetry used to create the seal of a hollow book's closing properties have ranged from simple to complex. Simple elastic bands, interlocking rope, and other common book closing techniques are used. Other times, hidden magnets do the task as well as the unusual use of complex locking mechanisms that require a lock and key combinations have also been used to keep a book closed.

Material choices used in the creation of the hollow book's body are usually actual books. However, other plastic, metal, cardboard, or paper materials have also been used to either simulate a real book, or to be used as extra features.

Many book safes are handmade. Structures made from real books are sealed and pressed before hollowing the inside pages with a sharp cutting utility. Sealing the back and allowing the front cover to act as a door that can be opened and shut. While other hollow books are made from cardboard cigar boxes, simulating a book on the outside.

Steganography and hidden messages[edit]

Arrange the letters from Genesis 26:5–10 in a 21-column grid and the words "Bible" and "code" are revealed. Other arrangements can yield many other words.

Messages can be hidden within a book using steganographic techniques. Invisible ink may be used to write words and sentences in the book, or by underlining certain words or letters a message can be crafted.

The author of a book may include coded messages by carefully choosing the wording, such as in a simple acrostic where the first letter of each word spells another word. There have been many claims of a Bible code, alleging that God secretly placed hidden messages in the Torah, and that these can be discovered by suitable manipulations of the text. The 1997 book The Bible Code by Michael Drosnin is one of the most famous examples. On the other hand, it has been shown one may discover "hidden messages" in any book using this method.[1]

Choice of book[edit]

In fictional uses of book safes, the title or subject of the book can be symbolic or related to the nature of the object, e.g., hidden money in a copy of The Wealth of Nations. There are a number of cases from films and television series where an item is hidden in the Bible.

Actual or purported examples[edit]


A book used by the Red Army Faction to smuggle a pistol into Stammheim Prison
  • Recording artist Ugly Husbands released a full-length cassette in a limited edition of 50, each in a different book-safe, on Roll Over Rover Records.[2]
  • Hollowed-out books have been used to smuggle items into prisons, such as tools to aid a prison escape or contraband such as drugs or weapons.[3]
  • Small bombs can be hidden inside books, with a trigger that operates when book is opened. In 1980, United Airlines president Percy Wood was injured by the explosion of a pipe bomb hidden inside a book that he received in the mail.[4]
  • A man in Redding, California was arrested after taking photographs of a young girl with a camera hidden inside a book.[5]
  • In 2005, antiques thieves attempted to use a hollowed-out book to take a precious lead weight out of Israel.[6]
  • Guards at the Washington County Jail in Fayetteville, Arkansas seized a book that had been marked with what appeared to be stains from a leaking yellow felt pen, but tested positive for methamphetamine.[7]
  • Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan used two hollowed-out books to conceal items in their attempts to launder $4.5 billion in stolen cryptocurrency in 2019.[8]

Fictional occurrences[edit]


  • In the series Prison Break, the main character, Michael Scofield, hides a screw in a Bible, which he uses to break out of prison.
  • In the Lost episode "What Kate Did", one of the characters finds some film in a Bible.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Co-Dependents' Day", Homer conceals alcohol in a Bible whilst visiting Marge in rehab, having framed her in a drunk-driving incident to avoid another DUI. He later discovers, to his horror and after promising to cut down on his drinking, that his hollowed-out Bible has been replaced with an intact copy.
  • In the House episode "Finding Judas", the title character conceals a bottle of Vicodin in a textbook on lupus.
  • In the King of the Hill episode "Full Metal Dust Jacket," Dale Gribble attempts to buy a book for the purpose of hiding a firearm in it.
  • In the series Pretty Little Liars, character, Spencer Hastings, finds four small tapes concealed in a book.


  • Red Grant, one of the villains in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love has a gun hidden in a copy of War and Peace.
  • A nail trimmer is concealed in a Bible by inmate Frank Morris in the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz.
  • In the BBC mini-series Smiley's People, George Smiley hides a negative photograph of Kirov and Leipzig in an antique edition on loan from a friend upon Oliver Lacon's intrusion into his study. When Lacon's interest in the book becomes untenable, Smiley remarks that the edition is worth half the national budget and could he leave it alone—thus preserving the cover for the interleaved exposure.
  • In the 1993 Disney film The Three Musketeers, Aramis pulls a pistol from a hollowed out bible to save d'Artagnan from the executioners' axe.
  • In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, one of the characters hides a rock hammer inside a Bible. The first page to be cut into bears the title "Exodus". The line "Salvation lies within" is also repeated more than once.
  • In the 1997 Disney film Jungle 2 Jungle, an item is hidden in the Bible.
  • In the 1997 film The Game, Michael Douglas takes a gun from a hollowed-out copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Lara Croft finds a hidden note from her father bound behind a book jacket in the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
  • In the 1999 film The Matrix, the central character Neo hides several computer disks in a copy of Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation.
  • In the 1999 short film Me and the Big Guy, Citizen 43275-B hides a handwritten 'Guide to Revolution', pen, and pair of glasses in a Re-Education Manual, having intentionally irritated Big Brother to the extent that he no longer wants to surveil him in order to continue writing it in private.
  • In the 2004 film Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Kumar hides his stash of marijuana in his medical book.
  • In the 2004 film National Treasure, Ben's father keeps money in a copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
  • In the 2006 film V for Vendetta, Bishop Anthony James Lilliman hides a gun in a copy of the Bible.
  • In the 2007 film The Invisible, the protagonist hides money he has earned selling essays in a hollowed-out copy of Catch-22.
  • In the 2019 film El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, Todd Alquist initially hid money he earned from manufacturing meth in hollowed-out encyclopaedias originally given to him by his grandmother. After his cleaner uncovered this system, prompting Alquist to kill her and enlist an enslaved Jesse Pinkman in the disposing of her body, he instead hid his money in the door of his fridge.

Fiction writing[edit]


Related concepts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bible code and criticisms page
  2. ^ "税理士に向いている人とは、どんな人なのか". Archived from the original on 9 May 2019. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  3. ^ Woman sentenced for mailing meth in hollowed-out book
  4. ^ * Bomb #4 Victim: Percy Wood Lake Forest, Ill. (6/10/80)
  5. ^ Man accused of taking photos as girl shopped Archived 3 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine By Constance Dillon Searchlight Newspaper
  6. ^ A Just Weight Israel Today
  7. ^ Paperback Novel Laced With Methamphetamine at the Washington County Jail, Fayetteville, Arkansas Archived 12 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine DEA Microgram
  8. ^ Farivar, Cyrus; Jeans, David (10 February 2022). "Hollowed-Out Books, Fake Passports And Burner Phones: What Led To The Feds' Raid On The Crypto Couple". Forbes.

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