Uncanny games with hidden rooms

March 24, 2019
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This piece contains spoilers for Sea of Thieves.

For a while, a university friend of mine rented a bedsit in which one of the walls came with the clear ghost of an old door on it. You could run your hand over the plaster and feel the bumps and ridges where a doorway had been filled in. The weird thing is that there was a room-shaped gap on the other side of the wall, and no clear way of getting into it. It wasn’t like the owner had decided to move the entrance to the bathroom, say. Instead, there was now a hidden room in the house – not very well hidden, granted – and who knew what was in there?

A hidden room. The effect is uncanny, I think – an intriguing, bewildering word which is even better in the original German, where it’s unheimlich. Heimlich itself means secret or concealed, I gather. For years I had it in my head that it meant homelike. (Heim is the thing that got me confused.) Unhomelike is the best of all. What could be less homelike than discovering a hidden room in a place you think you have already come to know well?

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