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What the hell do these open?

Emma src

The Skeleton Keys are items featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. They first appear in the seventh episode of the first season


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Reason: Summary for 111 flashbacks

Before First Curse

During First Curse

Early on, after the casting of the curse, mayor Regina assumes complete control and watch on Storybrooke's residents by having a chain of keys that allow her access to any door in town. The keys also open a crypt that leads to her vault where she keeps a collection of hearts that mimics her collection from the Enchanted Forest. She uses these keys to withdraw Graham's heart when she realizes he is no longer of any use to her as he is beginning to side with Emma. ("The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter")

Searching proof of Regina's misdemeanors as mayor, Emma and Sidney break into her office. While looking for anything suspicious, Emma finds a set of keys and wonders what they give access to. When the mayor suddenly enters, Emma quickly drops the keys where she found them. ("Fruit of the Poisonous Tree")

Regina instigates Kathryn into finding out about her husband, David, having an affair with the town schoolteacher, Mary Margaret. Though upset, Kathryn eventually realizes that she and David have never been in love. She says her goodbyes to Regina during her preparations to leave for Boston. To Regina, Kathryn mentions that she will support David and Mary Margaret staying together and has left him a note. This becomes an obstacle in Regina's grand plan to separate David and Mary Margaret, so she breaks into David's house using the keys and steals the letter so he will never read it. Later, Regina burns it with a lighter. ("What Happened to Frederick")

Mr. Gold and Regina make a deal to help each other out so the opposite parties can be satisfied. Mr. Gold wants Regina's help to drop the charges against him for assaulting Moe French, and in return he advises Regina a solution to separating David and Mary Margaret is to make something tragic happen to Kathryn, so Mary Margaret will be blamed. He also says that once Mary Margaret is arrested and held in the sheriff's department jail cell, she should hide a key so the schoolteacher will use the opportunity to escape. Soon, Mary Margaret is accused of murder when her jewelry box is found containing a heart presumably belonging to Kathryn. Regina's adoptive son, Henry steals the keys from her office and persuades Emma to try out one key to see if it opens Mary Margaret's loft. She picks a random key from the chain and surprisingly, the key opens the door. In her jail cell, Mary Margaret is folding her bed cot when a key slips out. She tests the key on the cell door, which opens, but hides it when Emma arrives to give her breakfast. Emma confirms that the DNA of the heart is a match for Kathryn. Afraid of the false charges, Mary Margaret uses the key and escapes from her cell during the night. ("Heart of Darkness", "Hat Trick", "The Stable Boy")

When Kathryn turns up alive, the charges against Mary Margaret are dropped. August Booth helps installs a new lock on Mary Margaret's door, and she comments that she is relieved as long as the lock keeps Regina from using her "skeleton keys" to get into their apartment. Mary Margaret and Emma also believe that Regina used these keys to break in and plant the evidence to frame Mary Margaret. ("The Stranger")

When Henry's life is in danger, Emma waits for Regina outside the library. Regina arrives, and uses her skeleton keys to open the door, and the two enter to find a potion that can save Henry. ("A Land Without Magic")

After First Curse

While trying to rid the town of a dangerous creature, Emma and Mary Margaret are sucked into another realm by a magic hat. Desperate for their return, Henry makes up an excuse to meet up with Regina at the diner for lunch. While she goes to meet him there, Henry sneaks into her office and steals the skeleton keys. Using them, he enters the crypt and goes down to into the vault hoping to find something of use to bring back Emma and Mary Margaret. ("Broken", "Lady of the Lake")

Struggling to be a better person, Regina tries giving up magic for Henry's sake. During a therapy session with Dr. Hopper, she becomes emotionally distraught after talking about her lost love, Daniel. She admits to preserving his body in her vault as a way of keeping him close, though he is dead. When Dr. Hopper suggests she must let go of the past in order to move forward, Regina abruptly leaves. While driving home in the rain, she sees a hallucination of Daniel. Unsure, she checks the vault and discovers his body missing. Suspecting Dr. Whale, she hurries to the hospital and unlocks a door using a skeleton key to search for him. ("The Doctor")


Production Notes

  • Some of the skeleton keys were supposed to have an apple on them, while the rest were decorated with small skulls.[1] In the end, only the ones with the skulls were used on-screen; making them literally and figuratively skeleton keys.


"Archive" denotes archive footage.


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