Concealment device
Concealment devices or diversion safes are used to hide things for the purpose of secrecy
Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups, perhaps while sharing it with other individuals...

 or security
Security is the degree of protection against danger, damage, loss, and crime. Security as a form of protection are structures and processes that provide or improve security as a condition. The Institute for Security and Open Methodologies in the OSSTMM 3 defines security as "a form of protection...

. They are made from an ordinary household object such as a book, a soda can, a candle, a can, or something as small as a coin. The idea is that such an inconspicuous object would not be expected to contain anything of worth.

Examples in espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

 include dead drop spike
Dead drop
A dead drop or dead letter box is a method of espionage tradecraft used to pass items between two individuals by using a secret location and thus does not require them to meet directly. Using a dead drop permits a Case Officer and his Agent to exchange objects and information while maintaining...

s for transferring items to other people, and hollowed-out coins or teeth for concealing suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 pills. Examples in smuggling
Smuggling is the clandestine transportation of goods or persons, such as out of a building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable laws or other regulations.There are various motivations to smuggle...

 include suitcase
A suitcase is a general term for a distinguishable form of luggage. It is often a somewhat flat, rectangular-shaped bag with rounded/square corners, either metal, hard plastic or made of cloth, vinyl or leather that more or less keeps its shape. It has a carrying handle on one side and is used...

s with false bottom
False bottom
A false bottom is an internal partition in a container, typically at the bottom of a drawer, suitcase or similar item, enabling the concealment of objects from a cursory examination of the item's contents...

s for hiding contraband
The word contraband, reported in English since 1529, from Medieval French contrebande "a smuggling," denotes any item which, relating to its nature, is illegal to be possessed or sold....


During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, a British organization called MI9
MI9, the British Military Intelligence Section 9, was a department of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office...

 was responsible for creating many concealment devices for "escape aids" to assist prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 to escape.


Starting in the First World War and still continuing today, military personnel use ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 casings to hide small amounts of critical information e.g. encryption/recognition codes or navigational grid references etc. The hiding place is very easy to prepare: the bullet is removed from the cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

 and the propellant powder poured away. A small piece of paper with writing on it can be stored inside. Given that ammunition can be found everywhere in a combat zone, it is very easy to hide or discard such items because they blend in easily. Similarly, if a soldier is captured, the enemy expects that soldiers will have ammunition in their pockets, so little attention is paid, beyond confiscating and discarding it.


A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

s are possibly the most common concealment devices in usage. They are easily made and can contain quite large objects. They are also very difficult for outsiders to spot but easy to recognize for those that are looking for a specific book on a shelf.

Book safes are often seen in film and television series, with the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 being the most commonly used one.


A new type, the hollow candle looks like a large scented candle
A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

 but is largely hollow. The bottom comes off and rolled papers and small articles of jewelry can be placed inside. The most clever of these contraptions looked like large, ordinary black candles, with a felt base denying entry. To open it, two metal needles are poked through the felt at certain points and an electric current passed through, causing the lid on the bottom to open.

Cans and Jars

Also a new type, mock spray cans of various household chemicals or food or drink cans can be purchased. A wide variety of commonly used personal care, household products and food containers with removable tops and bottoms are available. Valuables can be discreetly stored inside these look-a-like containers and kept in their seemingly rightful places. Each of these diversion safes are indistinguishable from the genuine product and they are even weighted to feel full.


A hollow container, fashioned to look like an Eisenhower dollar, is still used today to hide and send messages or film without being detected. Because it resembles ordinary pocket change, it is virtually undetectable as a concealment device. If a hollow coin is suspected, it sometimes can be easily confirmed by weighing against a normal coin on a simple balance. However, more sophisticated hollow coins have had their weight adjusted to match an unaltered coin by including a ring of a dense metal such as lead inside the coin. Typically coins that have no Gold or Silver content are used so as to further avoid suspicion.

Such hollow coins were created from two ordinary coins, by milling
Milling machine
A milling machine is a machine tool used to machine solid materials. Milling machines are often classed in two basic forms, horizontal and vertical, which refers to the orientation of the main spindle. Both types range in size from small, bench-mounted devices to room-sized machines...

 out one face and the interior of both coins (to create a cavity), and the edges of one (so it could slide into the other). The half coin with intact edges would also have a pin-prick size hole drilled through its face, so the device could be opened by inserting a pin. A scratch may be added to help line up the faces while closing it—although it is very difficult to detect a slight misalignment by casual inspection. A device of this nature was famously discovered by a paper boy in the "Hollow Nickel Case
Hollow Nickel Case
The Hollow Nickel Case , refers to the method that the Soviet Union spy Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher used to exchange information between himself and his contacts, including Mikhail Nikolaevich Svirin and Reino Häyhänen.-Background:On June 22, 1953, a newspaper boy , collecting for the...

". U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 pilot Francis Gary Powers was issued with a hollow silver dollar containing a tiny, saxitoxin
Saxitoxin is a neurotoxin naturally produced by certain species of marine dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria Saxitoxin (STX) is a neurotoxin naturally produced by certain species of marine dinoflagellates (Alexandrium sp., Gymnodinium sp., Pyrodinium sp.) and cyanobacteria Saxitoxin (STX) is a...

-impregnated needle, to be used to commit suicide
Suicide pill
A Cyanide pill is a pill, capsule, ampoule or tablet containing a fatally poisonous substance that a person ingests deliberately in order to quickly cause his/her own life to end...

 in case of capture by enemy forces.

Diversion safe

A device whereby a safe-looking safe is left open but has a hidden compartment (e.g., in the door) where small valuable articles can be hidden. As an alternative variant, a safe may be "stocked" with some lesser valuables, with the expectation that it will be burgled, but that the real safe or hiding place for the important valuables will be missed.

Electrical outlet

A fake electrical outlet, which can be pulled out from the wall and which contains a hidden compartment for storage.


Thin objects such as papers/money can be concealed in or behind the frame
Picture frame
A picture frame is a decorative edging for a picture, such as a painting or photograph, intended to enhance it, make it easier to display, or protect it.-Construction:...

 of a painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...


Computers and consumer electronics

Computer equipment and consumer electronics can easily be used for concealing goods and information. Usually the only tool required is a screwdriver, the device can be opened up, have the majority of the electronic and mechanical components removed and replaced with the goods to be concealed. Some of the more common devices used for this purpose are video players such as VHS, DVD and Blu-ray players, computer accessories such as DVD-ROM drives and hard disk drives, battery packs or even a laptop computer itself. More often than not, the majority of the components will be removed to allow more space to conceal an item, but that will render the device inoperable and may arouse suspicion, and it may be of more benefit to preserve the operation of the device at the sacrifice of space. Additionally, the electronic device itself may be subject to theft, thereby defeating the purpose of such a concealment device.

See also

  • Concealment
    Hiding is obscuring something from view or rendering it inconspicuous.Concealment is obscuring something from view or rendering it inconspicuous, the opposite of exposure...

  • Rudolph Abel
  • Dead drop
    Dead drop
    A dead drop or dead letter box is a method of espionage tradecraft used to pass items between two individuals by using a secret location and thus does not require them to meet directly. Using a dead drop permits a Case Officer and his Agent to exchange objects and information while maintaining...

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