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Hidden in Plain Sight
Which one of these people is Superman? Hmm, who could it be?

"The best place to hide something is out in the open. Nobody ever thinks to look there."

Something hidden is looked for in lots of secret places, and in the end turns out to have been plainly visible all the time, usually disguised as an ordinary object.

Can overlap with Failed a Spot Check, It Was with You All Along, Public Secret Message, Shaggy Search Technique, or Taken for Granite.

Sub Tropes include Needle in a Stack of Needles, Wax Museum Morgue, Lost In A Crowd.

There was and still is a rather chilling Real Life version in dictatorships: an object of the size of a military base or town which is not shown at all on a map. Something even more secret, or closed, or shameful than good old Area 51, because not just what happens inside is secret, but the mere existence of the place is denied, or ridiculed, or handwaved as some silly legend. In dictatorial political systems, it's far easier to hide something that way, because people are so accustomed to never asking questions and never wandering away from their path they would ignore the Elephant in the Living Room.

Compare Weirdness Censor (bizarre things are not noticed because they are so outlandish that our minds block them out in the interest of sanity), Contrived Proximity, Refuge in Audacity, Devil in Plain Sight (when a conspicuous villain does this), Infraction Distraction (where evidence is concealed by more minor evidence). For robots in disguise, see Transforming Mecha. If a person hides this way, that person might be taking advantage of being Beneath Suspicion. For poor hiding skills, compare Neon Sign Hideout. May or may not be an Unsafe Haven. Alternatively, a person may decide that the safest place to hide from a crime syndicate is somewhere with plenty of witnesses.

Not to be confused with Right Under Their Noses, when people sneak past someone by doing this.

Examples:

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     Comic Books  
  • Inertia in DC Comics' All Flash #01. Helplessly immobilized and placed on display in a wax museum of superheroes.
    • During Barry Allen's run as the Flash in the Silver Age, Professor Zoom deliberately invoked this trope in the "Death of Iris Allen" storyline where he murdered Iris because she wouldn't leave Barry for him. He threatened to kill her at a certain time if she didn't change her mind, wiped her memory of that conversation so she couldn't warn Barry, then went as himself to a superhero-themed costume party the next night so he could get close enough to Iris to carry out his threat. (She got better, much later.) In DC Comic's published edition of Barry Allen's biopic, Iris (the in-universe author) comments on it long after the fact.
    Iris: (Zoom) couldn't get to me... unless he managed to hide himself in plain sight.
  • From the Bullseye's greatest hits miniseries. Bullseye tells the FBI agents interrogating him that he has hidden the plutonium he stole in a local park under a big X. They assume he's being uncooperative. Once he kills them and escapes, Bullseye goes to meet his contacts:
    Contact: So, where did you hide it?
    Bullseye: In a park about two miles from here, you can't miss it. I even painted a big X on the ground.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, multi-millionaire supergenius Everett Ducklair needed a place to put his gigantic, ridiculously advanced star cruiser. In the end, he made the ship transform into a slightly less sci-fi-ish shape and put it on the top of his tallest sky-scraper, overlooking all of Duckburg. Everybody thought the roof was just overly decorative.
  • In Luke Cage Noir, Cage describes being black in early 1930s New York as akin to this. "We're everywhere... yet no one ever sees us. It's like bein' invisible."
  • Inside Galactus's ship, one can find sitting on a plainly visible shelf the Ultimate Nullifier, the universe's most dangerous obliterator weapon. Thanos lampshades this.
  • One Star Wars comic book had a story about Han Solo and Chewbacca constantly being searched by a certain Imperial captain who was convinced that Solo was a smuggler instead of making honest cargo deliveries like he claimed. However, no matter how intently they searched the ship, they never uncovered any evidence of smuggling. In the end, the Imperial realizes that Han was only travelling one way (away from the planet) on his deliveries. Since Han was constantly leaving the planet on ships made to look identical, he was actually smuggling the ships themselves to the Rebellion.
    • This is based on a joke about bicycle smuggling.
    • Bicycles, wheelbarrows, cars, briefcases, donkeys...
  • The key to Superman's house is a gigantic golden arrow sitting in front of the Fortress of Solitude meant to be mistaken as an old air navigation marker which used to be a thing before modern telecommunications made them unnecessary. Then again, Superman is one of the few people on Earth capable of even lifting it so that helps.

    Fanfiction 
  • In The Man With No Name, the Serenity crew takes on the Doctor as a passenger. They then proceed to forget that a valuable giant blue box from the Earth That Was is sitting around in storage. Also counts is the Doctor himself, as they are supposed to be looking for an alien, but they keep getting sidetracked.
  • The Dangerverse has a textbook example of this: Rather than fleeing to America or the Continent, the Pack—which includes two of the most famous children in the British wizarding world and the only man to ever escape from Azkaban—sets up shop in London. When the fic was discussed on Potter Fic Weekly, "The Purloined Letter" was even brought up.
  • In Dirty Sympathy, Daryan never figures out that Apollo is the one that Klavier was cheating on him for. Apollo is Klavier's opponent in court, was invited to their concert and was one who accused him of killing LeTouse.

     Film  
  • "The Big W" under which the money was hidden in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
  • The last of the engravings in The Ninth Gate is hidden in what, in hindsight, is an extremely obvious spot. "If this is a forgery or a copy with missing pages restored, it's the work of a master," says the master bookbinder.
  • In Men In Black, The Galaxy was "disguised" as the charm on the cat's collar.
    • With the additional benefit that the uninformed assume that a galaxy would by definition be enormous, and thus don't think to look for something the size of a marble.
    • And in Men In Black 2, the Light of Zartha was J's Love Interest all along.
  • The title character form the film The Cat From Outer Space is an alien cat whom, you guessed it. Pretends to be a normal house cat.
  • The "X marks the spot" moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    • In same movie: The Holy Grail is hidden amongst a collection of many other cups. Indy correctly picks it out by looking for the only cup that's not made of gold or studded in gems - after all, the son of a carpenter turned humble teacher would never have had a jeweled golden cup.
  • The aliens in the Alien franchise:
    • In Alien, its semi-mechanical appearance helps it blend into the background of the Nostromo. There's a scene in which the creature is hanging from a chain, completely in the open and highlighted by a beam of light, but its unusual appearance and the fact that it's bunched up make it almost unnoticeable.
    • In Aliens, the Aliens blend in even better with the walls of their own hive. "Maybe they don't show up on infrared" indeed.
  • Marvin Acme's Lost Will And Testament in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It was printed in disappearing-reappearing ink in the paper Roger used to write his love letter to Jessica.
  • The Continuum Transfunctioner in Dude, Where's My Car?, disguised as a Rubik's Cube.
  • Candleshoe: The pirate treasure is disguised as a bronze statue of a treasure chest.
  • In Getting Even With Dad the stolen money is hidden in a duffel bag on a mannequin at a sporting goods store.
  • In Pan's Labyrinth the first scene where the Faun appears, he's standing face towards the wall in the bottom of a cavernous well, but remains unseen to the protagonist and all but the most attentive viewers until he starts to move, due to his skin, which resembles rotting wood.
  • The uncut diamonds that the ex-cons are looking for in Out of Sight turn out to be hidden among the stones at the bottom of a fish tank.
  • Rambo in First Blood manages to hide by lying flat on the ground in a forest, and is almost completely invisible until he jumps up to ambush a cop.
  • In Taken, Brian Mills gets into a fight, and kills everyone in the room. Unfortunately, one of the other men fired a gun, so he knows someone is going to come check it out. So he just lies down among the other bodies, and is able to catch the people coming in to look entirely offguard.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Snape, now the headmaster of Hogwarts, calls all the students into the Great Hall to question them about Harry's location. Harry is standing inside of the crowd.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, François Toulour (AKA the Night Fox) knows Linus Caldwell and his dad will show up on the roof of the "Bank" and has hidden by standing near an elaborately-painted wall and wearing a jumpsuit that matches the wall design. Somehow, they don't notice that his head is still visible. That was all part of the plan.
  • In Alaska, the search and rescue team has a lot of trouble finding a bright yellow plane (the plane of the protagonists' father) stuck in a snowy mountain range.
  • Used almost comically in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Mulder and Scully have been on the run from the FBI for six years after a bogus murder trial, evading an execution order, and breaking out of a federal prison. So, you would think they would go into hiding. Change their names, their appearance, their Social Security numbers, even leave the country. At the opening of "I Want to Believe", where are they? In West Virginia. Using their real identities and appearances, and not making any attempt to deny them when approached by the FBI. Smart.
  • This is a natural part of Transformers. But by the third film, the general public is aware of their presence so the Autobots are less careful about transforming into their robot modes to fight. Played entirely straight with Carly's car which is actually Soundwave.
  • Francisco Scaramanga's titular weapon in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun is distinctive when it's put together (not just because it's, well, gold), but when it's disassembled it's basically a golden cigarette case and lighter, a pen and a cufflink. Several times in the film he casually takes these items out and starts fiddling with them, with his intended victim not realising what he's actually doing until it's too late.
    • Also, Scaramanga keeps a cardboard standee of Bond in the final room of his Death Course, which he makes potential assassins run while attempting to kill him. When he makes Bond himself run the course, Bond gets ahead of him by going Off the Rails and beats him to this room. He then hides the standee and poses like it, waiting until Scaramanga is distracted with waiting for him to enter the room the proper way to shoot him.
  • In Charade, the $250,000 turned out to be a set of antique stamps on a letter that had been among Charles Lampert's possessions.
  • In The Thieves, Park hides the yellow diamond inside the yellow fitting in his hotel room.
  • In Gaslight, the precious jewels are hidden on the costume the singer wore to the opera, amidst all the fake jewelery she wore for her performance.

     Literature  
  • Mistress Of The Art Of Death: You'd think that Excalibur would be locked away in a heavily guarded treasure chest. No, instead it's been slid inside a wooden cross and given to a teenage boy to carry.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Purloined Letter" is probably the Ur Example. A blackmailer's home was searched for an incriminating letter. Even though they searched under every rug, in every drawer, for loose paperwork in every book, and for hollow hidden compartments in the furniture, the searchers never found it because they didn't bother to consider and look closely at a torn and crumpled letter, clearly visible in a card rack hanging on the mantlepiece.
  • Superior Saturday uses and references the trope, as the Simultaneous Nebuchadnezzar is kept on a shelf of similar bottles, which is referred to as the 'purloined letter'.
  • G. K. Chesterton's story The Invisible Man is another well-known case: a murder takes place in a house while witnesses posted near the entrance swear nobody walked in. It turns out that nobody had noticed the postman. Many other Chesterton stories use the trope in various ways.
  • There's a John Dickson Carr story where a killer hides a glass knife by dropping it into a jug of water. This was referenced in a Three Investigators mystery where a glass statue is hidden in a swimming pool. Jupiter Jones figures it out by remembering the Carr story. It's also referenced in Larry Niven's "What Good is a Glass Dagger?", in which a wizard also points out (fatally) that wizards can use non-magical weapons as well as magical ones.
    • This might not work with water and glass, which have an index of refraction of 1.33 and 1.5 respectively, but it works excellently with glass and corn syrup, which apparently have the same refractive index.
  • One of the pearls from "Pearls of Lutra" in Redwall had one of them suspended in candle wax in the main hall.
  • The entrance to Underland in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair is hidden in the ruins of a Giant city, under the remains of a slab engraved "UNDER ME" in lettering so enormous that the protagonists actually traverse it, taking the letters for oddly-dug trenches, without realizing what it is.
  • The Isaac Asimov Black Widowers short story "The Cross of Lorraine" hinges on discovering where a Cross of Lorraine appears in everyday life without anyone noticing. It turns out it's part of the Exxon company logo.
    • The Black Widowers story "Quicker Than the Eye" had a spy somehow pass a small object to his contact at a restaurant without being seen by the counterspies carefully watching for just such a transfer. The object was roughly the size and shape of a coin, and no one thought anything of the spy tipping the doorman as he left.
  • Also, Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy ends with the (First) Foundation hunting for the Second Foundation, and... you guessed it, it was right under their noses. (Although not the way that they think..)
  • A science fiction story by Asimov has the police searching for the coordinates for an uranium rich asteroid. In the end, they find them hidden among the serial numbers of the miners' ship's and its components.
  • Diana Wynne Jones's The Magicians Of Caprona - The true words to the hymn Angel of Caprona that will solve everything are just the old words in Latin, carved onto humongous angelic statues in plain view.
  • In The Pink Motel the kidnappers left a note on the bathroom mirror. The detectives spend a good amount of time looking around before someone suggests looking in the obvious places.
  • The short story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl is about a pregnant woman who, in a fit of rage when her husband announces that he's leaving her, kills him by striking him in the head with a frozen leg of lamb. The police never find the murder weapon because she cooks it before they arrive, and thoughtfully offers them dinner before they leave. During that dinner, one of the policemen remarks that "the evidence must be under our very eyes".
  • In Feet of Clay, the patrician is being poisoned by arsenic from his candles. It wasn't worked out for such a long time because they are what allow you to look, not something you look at. As Vetinari himself says in a possibly poison-induced rambling, don't put it in the last place they will look, put it where they will never look at all.
    • Just to show how badass he is Vetinari actually figures it out much earlier, he would cut the candles down, light them for a few minutes, and hide the cut off part. He faked the illness afterward. The villain of the story meets his downfall this way; as he hid the murderer in plain sight: the fish shaped lamp on the candle maker's crest; the Lampe de Poisson a.k.a poison lamp, along with the family motto "Art Brought Forth The Candle" meaning in Discworld pseudo-latin Ars Enixa Est Candelam. He didn't think that Vimes would be intelligent enough to notice.
      • Sam Vimes later uses the same trick to give himself the advantage in a fight with Dragon, by earlier replacing his candle order with ones that had their wicks soaked in holy water.
    • Referenced in The Fifth Elephant, when Vimes speculates that the missing Scone of Stone could have been on display in the Dwarf Bread Museum all along. Carrot shoots down his theory by pointing out that the museum's replica Scone is marked on its underside to distinguish it as a fake.
    • Vetinari seems to love these. In Night Watch, he hides a book describing the secrets of camouflage by putting it in his library. With the cover "Memoirs of the Great Accountants".
      • Even moreso, when he's using just simple coloration, and other simple techniques like standing perfectly still in a dimly-lit area to give off the appearance of.. well.. disappearing.
      • Vetinari is so good at hiding that his Stealth Instructor insisted he had never attended a single class.
    • In Men at Arms Talking Animal Gaspode claims that Big Fido won't mess with him because he has "the power", though he won't specify what that is. Later in the book, the audience learns that "the power" is speaking Human, which invokes a dog's natural instinct to obey which is the first thing about Gaspode they knew.
    • The whole concept of hiding in plain sight is subverted in the later book Raising Steam, where a footnote on the Battle of Koom Valley notes that a Troll general used Fridge Logic to get around the fact the Dwarfs always knew where to find an army of Trolls was that they'd scout for hidden Trolls in amongst the rocks and boulders. ((Rocks hiding as rocks). Therefore he had the whole Troll army stand motionless out in the plain on the valley floor, while the Dwarfs would fruitlessly search for them in the foothills and boulder fields. We are told this worked perfectly until the morning mist lifted. Then both sides claimed each ambushed the other, simultaneously.
  • In Witches Abroad, Granny Weatherwax is imprisoned within a mirror. Inside the mirror, she sees an infinite number of reflections of herself, as Death asks her to pick the one who is herself. She asks "Is this a trick question?", receives "NO" as the answer, then points at herself. Death smiles and Granny is freed. Sadly, her now-evil sister, Lily will be running forever through the infinite reflections trying to find herself.
  • Belisarius Series:
    • The rescued Indian princess travels with the heroes in the guise of a common whore, while the bad guys scour the entire country for her. At the time they're traveling in a caravan with the bad guys.
    • Belisarius pulls off similar stunts throughout the series:
      • In the first book, his wife hides the meetings of their fellow conspirators by insinuating they're guests at orgies she's supposedly having.
      • Belisarius conceals the fact he's got an entire unit of Kushans (formerly prisoners who change sides) by having them wear different uniforms but otherwise traveling with him.
  • Dick Francis' Dead on Red features an assassin who lives in France, and takes a contract in England. Since he's a licensed firearms instructor, he simply crosses the channel with his guns as normal luggage, having filled out the requisite forms.
  • The narrator of Born Again accidentally opens an anniversary card that acknowledges that her parents had sex before marriage. Knowing she'll get in trouble for seeing it and that her mother regularly searches her room, she hides it on her desk, under a newspaper. She says she saw MacGyver do it.
  • Melisande's plan to escape into La Serimissa in Kushiel's Chosen relied on this trope. Her looks were so striking that anybody looking for her would have an easy time spotting her. She decided to walk out in the open as Prince Benidicte's new D'Angeline wife who wore a veil because of her faith in the goddess Asherat.
  • In Rory Clements's Martyr (set in Elizabethan England), a Catholic priest in London dresses in bright, lavish, fashionable clothes. People trying to catch priests would be looking for people trying to avoid being seen; they "wouldn't suspect what their eyes alit upon so easily."
  • In Jack McDevitt's Infinity Beach, both major MacGuffins — the unaltered Hunter logs and the alien spaceship — turn out to be hidden in plain sight.
  • Throughout the Safehold series, an object referred to only as "the Key" had been referred to by members of the Wylsynn family as an item entrusted to them by the Archangel Schueler. In the fifth book, How Firm A Foundation, we learn specifically what the Key is. Among other things, it's of such size and shape that it can be easily used as a paperweight, which is how several Wylsynns, including its current possessor Paityr, hid it.
  • Used in the Mistborn series. In the second book, the main characters trying to establish a stable, non-despotic government learn that it has been infiltrated by a shapeshifter. The Mole finally turns out to be not the butler or The Big Guy or anyone else the viewpoint characters considered, but the shapeshifter on their own team.
  • In The Haunted Monastery, a missing girl is hidden as one of the statues in a diorama showing the Taoist Hells. She's immobilized and covered with plaster, but manages to move just enough for a spear to make her bleed.
  • There is a mention in the Vorkosigan Saga of a retainer of the Vorkosigan family who did the smuggling gag with pack horses. Miles uses that historical example to come up with a plan to smuggle used spaceships to a station that needs to augment its warfleet in Mirror Dance.
  • Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely contains a case where Moose Malloy is looking for his red-haired sweetheart Velma, who either died or skipped town while he was in prison after being framed. Come the finale, it's revealed that Mrs. Grayle (Marlowe's employer for his second, seemingly irrelevant case) is actually a disguised Velma, and was responsible for framing Moose, murdering Lin Marriott, and attacking Marlowe previously; in other words, the book's damsel in distress was actually the villain disguised as the moll.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, after Joffrey Baratheon orders the death of her father, Arya Stark escapes from King's Landing by having her hair cut short and dressing like a boy.
  • In Bridge of Birds, the main characters are searching for a lost goddess kidnapped by the Duke of Ch'in at one point and Li Kao says that the duke could have asked the Man of the Mountain to transform her into a single petal in a field full of flowers or something else of a similar Needle in a Stack of Needles nature. Of course, it turns out to be much simpler than that: after all, why would the notoriously greedy duke bother to hide a worship-inducing goddess when he can pass her off as his wife and collect all the riches her admirers shower on her?
  • Aly prefers to operate like this in Daughter of the Lioness. When the duke and duchess offer her freedom, she actually asks them not to remove her Slave Collar because slaves have an excuse to be anywhere, plus soldiers and nobles don't pay any attention to them. When she's "promoted" to free servant, she becomes Dove's maid so she can listen in on all the palace conversations Dove is a part of.
  • In the Repairman Jack novel Legacies, a spy spends days watching a lamp-lit window where two men keep standing in silent awe, staring at something. The spy assumes they've got something that requires light sitting under the lamp, because they never turn it off. It's actually the lamp they're staring at, because it's drawing its electricity via a revolutionary new technology and they're amazed that it's staying lit at all.
  • In the Acacia trilogy The Song of Elenet, a spellbook containing the most powerful and dangerous spells known to humanity, turns out to be an unmarked book in the royal library.

     Live Action TV  
  • The titular "Tale of the Big Why" in The New Avengers turns out to be the tail of a big Y - yes, it's a Shout-Out to It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the special "The Five Doctors", the musical code that will unlock Rassilon's secret chamber appears on a piece of sheet music depicted in a nearby painting.
    • In "The Time of Angels", a lone Weeping Angel hides from the Doctor and a team of badass clerics in a Maze of the Dead: an enormous, pitch-black cavern full of statues. In the end, which of the statues is a Weeping Angel? ALL OF THEM!
    • Downplayed in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky": Donna, working her way through the Sontaran ship, hears a group of soldiers coming. She hides in a shadow in an alcove formed by the doorway they march through. Played straight in the sense that the Sontarans are all wearing their helmets, and there's no way they can have good peripheral vision in those, regardless of what they're doing with visual sensors being displayed inside.
    • Played straight in series 6. The question hidden in plain sight? Doctor Who!
    • Double subverted in "The Invasion of Time", the Doctor first attempts to find the Key of Rassilon by figuring "Where would you hide a tree? In a forest!", referring to the large rack of keys in the Chancellor's office. It turns out to be in even plainer sight, in a desk drawer's keyhole.
    • The TARDIS itself. No-one ever expects or believes that the battered old blue police telephone box standing on the street corner could possibly be a majestic living time machine that can take the crew anywhere and anywhen in the universe.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica, a Cylon hid an Incredibly Obvious Bug right in the center of the Galactica's bridge. Everyone assumed that it was new equipment that was supposed to be there, until Baltar happened to ask what it was...
  • Parodied in Scrubs, in which Dr. Kelso once attempted to get out of a conversation with Dr. Cox by pretending to be his own painting on a wall mural. Cox is not fooled, not least because Kelso is, in fact, three-dimensional. Kelso appears to keep the "ruse" up for some time, however:
    Cox: [After grabbing Kelso's arm] Bob, I'm physically touching your arm now. Come on, I know you're here.
    Kelso: ['Coming to', apparently surprised]: ...Perry, hi, how are you?
  • In an episode of Magnum, P.I., the audio cassette of Robin Masters dictating his latest novel is revealed to have been stored alongside Magnum's music collection.
  • Used in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Lamb to the Slaughter", where a woman kills her husband by bashing his skull in with a frozen lamb's leg which she then cooks and serves to the unwitting police officers who are looking for the murder weapon.
  • In Plain Sight is a show about the Witness Protection Program. The title indicates exactly where the relocated witnesses are concealed.
  • Death in Paradise a murder needed to hide a body so what did he do? He dissolved most of the organs in lime but was left with a skeleton. Oh and he happened to be a teacher and that the anatomical skeleton in his classroom looks very real...
  • In one episode of MacGyver, a toy shop owner is questioned by criminals as to the location of some gold they had him smuggle when he snuck across the Berlin Wall some years earlier. The gold is prominently displayed in the toy shop window - as a set of painted model soldiers, which up until that point everyone had assumed to be lead.
  • Monk had a similar example in "Mr. Monk Gets Married". Monk and Sharona visit a marriage counselor to keep an eye on Randy's mother whom has recently married a man Randy is suspicious of. He's actually searching for a cache of gold somewhere around the counselor's estate, reading the 19'th century gold digger's journals to find clues. The gold was literally in the journals all along, as the gold digger had melted it down and mixed it into the ink.
  • The Wire has a character example with The Greek. He rarely meets contacts directly, instead sitting and inconspicuously reading a newspaper nearby while his second-in-command Spiros talks to them, allowing him to know what's going on and remain anonymous.
  • On NCIS an elderly criminal hid the money from a bank robbery by buying antiques and placing them around his house. To most people it looked just like 'old people furniture' and no one suspected that the items were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
    • This idea was recycled in a later season when a former KGB sleeper agent still had control over millions of dollars of fund meant to fund Cold War espionage operations in the US. He bought expensive rare books on the black market and placed them on display in the rare book store he operated as a cover.
  • On Person of Interest Finch uses this to hide himself. He is a billionaire computer genius who faked his own death and now works as a low level white collar worker in his own company. None of the other employees remember the reclusive co-founder of the company who disappeared from public view a decade ago. His coworkers do not know what his exact position is or who he really reports to and when he has to abandon the cover identity, everyone just assumes that he transferred to a different department.
  • In the Whoniverse, everyone knows who bloody Torchwood is: Some annoying government organization. Virtually no one knows their job is investigating alien technology.
  • In Warehouse 13, the Regents have a pattern of doing this. For example, their secret vault is hidden in a grocery store:
    Myka: This is the Regent vault?
    Pete: Of course. Hidden in plain sight. It's what they do.
  • Clues on The Amazing Race are hidden this way all the time, though most notoriously in Season 19, when the clue was a giant flashing sign written in Chinese that many of the teams spotted then disregarded at first.
  • The Titular Aquila (a bright red, car sized space craft) the main characters are hidden was "hidden" in one of the boy's garages with the cover story that it was a prop from a Sci-Fi movie.
  • In an episode of The Mentalist a man hid a fortune in diamonds in the pretty princess "crystal" chandelier in his little daughter's bedroom.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Key, which is why it was so important that Glory not find out that it was a person. If not for Ben's slip up to one of Glory's minions (and subsequent failure to kill said minion), she may never have found out in time.
  • From Merlin, Camelot led a genocide of all magic users, but the man destined to become the greatest warlock ever and bring magic back to the land has never been found. Half the reason for this is that Camelot has little to no knowledge of the prophecies, and what they have they don't believe. The other half is that said sorcerer is living right in Camelot's castle as Arthur's personal manservant.
  • In the Elementary episode "Leviathan," the thief hid the uncut diamonds he had stolen in a jar of multicolored glass rocks. In the same episode, they discover the identity of a legendary phantom thief with the priceless coins he had stolen displayed as his cuffs on his suit and the painting hidden in a replica of that painting displayed in his living room.
  • The killer in the mini-series The Bletchley Circle, they originally think he's a guard or ticket taker, but it turns out he's just using one as a patsy.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "The Sleeper Under the Hill", a criminal hides a stolen painting on his wall, claiming that is a forgery of the famous painting.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Sign of Three", this is a part of the Mayfly Man's M.O. for committing murders undetected. He poses as the photographer at John and Mary's wedding, reasoning that the photographer is the one person that never shows up in wedding photos.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • This nearly happened to Dick Tracy, when he was paralyzed, lightly covered in wax and left to starve to death on display in the middle of his own wax museum exhibit.

     Tabletop Games  
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, some roguish classesnote  gain the ability "Hide in Plain Sight". Normally a character can't attempt to hide if someone is already watching, but the ability bypasses this restriction.
  • Shadowrun has the Ruthenium Polymer Coating upgrade, which allows people to have relatively inexpensive personal and vehicle cloaking devices. Vehicles need sensor jammers and upgraded mufflers for it to really work, though.
  • The hiding place for the Fear has been playing throughout the entire series. The protagonists were practically staring right at the MacGuffin's hiding place on several occasions.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Ghostrick Skeleton's not an exhibit in the museum himself, but he nonchalantly slips around the other exhibits. Although it seems nobody really notices, since he looks like an ordinary skeleton anyway.

     Toys  
  • Transformers is all about this. Most of them have altforms that are indistinguishable from the Earth equivalents, but no one seems to have told them that you don't normally get such a diverse selection of vehicles in any one place.
    • This bit of fridge logic is lampshaded in the IDW comic series, when Optimus some of his Autobots engage a squad of Decepticons in a Russian landscape. The human troops are completely baffled as to why a bunch of sportscars and an American police car are shooting it out with a space-shuttle.
    • The trope name is quoted verbatim by Optimus Prime in the 2007 film.

     Video Games  
  • The Assassin's Creed games feature this. In the first game, Altair is able to stand within a group of monks and guards won't spot him as he and the monks are wearing similar colours. From the second game onwards, Ezio is able to do this with any group of people, based on the idea that he's simply lost in the crowd. Although when hiding in a group of courtesans, Male Gaze certainly comes into it.
  • Mass Effect loves this trope. In the first game, you have the revelation that the Citadel is a gigantic Mass Relay and was built to let the Reapers emerge from Darkspace to cull the Galaxy of all life. Again! There is also the innocuous Statue of the Mass Relay in the Presidium that barely anyone looks at, until you discover its a miniaturised version of one, designed by the Protheans as a backdoor into the Citadel.
    • The Council repeatedly decrees that the "Reapers" do NOT exist! It seems they haven't noticed what the layout of the Council Chamber they are standing in resembles when viewed from above.
      • And the Nebula Citadel is located in bears an uncanny resemblance too. It's even called the Widow Nebula.
    • In the third game, the asari goddess Athame and all the miracles, interventions and gifts of knowledge turns out were actually caused by the Protheans when the asari were still a primitive race, to the point that their ancient artworks of Athame look Prothean, with the more modern stuff shaped more in the asari likeness. Their interventions include teaching them how to farm, saving their planet from a meteor shower and alien invasion, genetically modifying them to use biotic powers naturally, and finally leaving them a fully functional and intact Prothean beacon, which is how the asari have been thousands of years more advanced than the entire galaxy. Where did they keep the beacon? Inside the statue of Athame in the temple on their home planet.
  • From Batman: Arkham City:
    Joker: So, how do you keep a secret from the world's greatest detective? Well, do you know? You stick it riiiiight in front of him, right under his long, pointy nose... and wait!
  • Lampshaded in Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, with a Team Rocket hideout disguised as a gift shop. The sign outside says something like "Just an ordinary gift shop. Nothing to see here..."
    • Pokémon Black and White plays this trope straight with the building directly opposite Castelia City's Gym, which was really Team Plasma's temporary hideout within the city.
      • In the same games, the item needed to summon the mascot Legendary turns out to be the ordinary-looking stone at the Nacrene Museum. Ironically, Team Plasma did go there earlier...but took the wrong artifact.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, Team Flare just passes themselves off as something of a harmless fashion cult, hiding just how extremist their real goal is, and the entrance to their base is a coffee shop only a few feet away from the dead center of Luminoise City.
  • A major point of the Hitman games is you can disguise yourself as almost anyone, giving the option of approaching the target as yourself, his personal guards, or his own butler. In game five, Absolution, there's the added ability of hiding with objects to look busy, such as playing with a socket as an electrician or hanging around the donut box as a cop.
  • In Dead Space 3, the Final Boss is actually visible for most of the game and on many promotional artworks. It is a post-Convergence Necromorph so large that it is mistaken for Tau Volantis' moon. It's the first thing you see when you enter the system, and the only foreshadowing is the broken, jagged hole in its side.
  • Fittingly enough, the Xbox indie game Hidden in Plain Sight has you invoke this trope to win, where you play a character among a crowd of duplicate NPCs and must find a way to achieve your goal without drawing attention to yourself by the other players.
  • A few Ace Attorney cases have the body of the victims being hidden in such a way, that hundreds of people are right near the body, but none of the actually notice it, due to it being disguised or concealed in some way.
    • A good example of this comes from Dual Destinies in the third case, where someone is killed at a academy. It's eventually proven that contrary to what was thought throughout most of the case, the murder occurred where the body was found and was never moved, bringing up the question of how none of the hundreds of students saw the body until the afternoon of the next day. It turns out that the killer kept the body on the stage the entire time, but it was wrapped in a cloth, and placed on a statue plinth, which was supposed to be holding a statue of Wright. The body was put into such a position, such as hands tied behind head to make Wright's spikey hair, to make it look like Phoenix doing an objection pose. None of the students noticed anything, because the humanlike structure looked like it was supposed to be there.
    • In case 2 of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, it initially looks like the victim found on the plane was beaten to death with the figurine found next to him, but Miles figures out that the real murder weapon is something else—something large enough to be completely overlooked by everyone so far. The victim died by being pushed over a railing and falling down hard on the floor of the plane's huge cargo hold. In effect, the murder weapon was the cargo hold itself.
  • Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: To hide his true identity, Freddy makes a false ear for himself (his real ear having been shot off in the prologue). No one seems to recognize him until Penelope removes his ear and is shocked to discover that it's Freddy!

     Web Comic 
  • Girl Genius: Master Payne's circus, in which the actors play famous sparks of the past, is a cover for minor sparks. At one point they take it up a notch by having Agatha hide with them and play her mother on stage.
    • Also, Mamma Gkika. How does a Jäger General hide in a city she's not strictly speaking supposed to be in? Why, by setting up a tourist trap featuring faux Jäger showgirls!
    • Dimo briefs Jenka on the current situation: "Ve is jagerkin charged by the ancient contract" (I.e., We found us a Hetrodyne!)
  • The Wotch: Faustus is a true magician who pretends to just be a stage magician.

     Web Original  
  • Common in pictures of Slender Man; especially obvious in Just Another Fool.
  • Noob actually told the info revealed the Season 3 Wham Episode to the audience as early as Episode 1. The series starts with an ad for the MMORPG in it's set featuring its top player and some text putting emphasis on him being The Ace. One of the snippets says "Cheated?".

     Western Animation  
  • The Venture Bros. episode ORB: The titular Orb is hidden as a normal paperweight on a shelf.
  • Invader Zim: It's me! I was the turkey all along!
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lisa the Iconoclast", Lisa attempts to prove Jebediah Springfield, the beloved town founder, is actually a murderous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld. Her only solid evidence is that both Hans and Jebediah (supposedly) had silver tongues. After she gets the town to dig up Jebediah's grave, they find no silver tongue. She learns later the curator of the Jebediah Springfield Museum swapped the tongue out of the skeleton's skull before anyone noticed it, and hid it as a cowboy in one of the display cases of his museum. The 'plain sight' aspect is slightly questionable, since no one (except Lisa) ever visits the museum.
    • Averted in "The Trouble with Trillions." Homer is sent by the FBI to get the trillion dollar bill from Mr. Burns. On a tour of his mansion, they reach a room full of dioramas of Burns' ancestors. One of them is of Mr. Burns holding what looks like the bill. When Homer asks if that is it right in front of them, Burns says that would be pretty careless as he keeps the real one with him at all times.
  • Cobra seems to live on this in G.I. Joe: Renegades. The truck the Joes swipe from them can change its paint job to blend in with other cars. Their store's shipping network is a cover for their arms smuggling operation.
    • Cobra Commander himself, with the help of a virtual disguise even cuts TV promos for the company.
  • The Young Justice Home Base is Mount Justice, the former base of the Justice League until it was exposed to the world. They gave the black ops team the base that everyone knows about.
  • In Dave the Barbarian, a barbarian hero Fang idolizes comes to Udrogoth to slay a dragon. The only one around is Faffy, Dave's pet, so after failed attempts at using magic and teaching self-defense, Fang (who doesn't want her hero to see what a wimp her dragon is) sensibly tells Faffy to HIDE. The narrator says, "And what better place to hide, but in plain sight?" Faffy pretends to be a head mounted on the wall, a charade made difficult by his tendency to spit lightning.
  • A Villain of the Week in the Secret Squirrel segment of 2 Stupid Dogs was a chameleon that stole art pieces and hid them in the attic of the very same museum he stole them from. When confronted by Secret, Chameleon explained that hiding in plain sight was his specialty and that he stole the art to blend with it. As it usually happens to chameleons in cartoons, he wasn't able to hide in modern art pieces because there were too many colors.
  • The Angry Beavers has Big Byoo-tox combine this with Refuge in Audacity; he stands still in plain sight. And it works perfectly.

     Real Life  
  • Improv Everywhere had a skit where they sent 80 people into Best Buy wearing the Best Buy uniform khaki pants and blue polo shirts. To film the event, they inserted their own memory cards into the store's demo cameras and started recording. Additionally, one of the few photographers to not get caught was the one holding her camera in her hands.
  • Steganography is the practice of hiding secret information inside of ordinary information. That might mean putting your plans for world domination into every hundredth pixel of a picture of Your Mom.
  • Some of the best Geocache hiding places are right out in plain sight, though the cache itself will be concealed or disguised. Stealth on the part of the finder is of great importance in finding these.
    • Speaking of stealth, some geocachers choose to wear a bright yellow reflective vest while searching in public places, making geomuggles think they're workers doing their legitimate work, thus applying this trope to geocachers as well as caches.
  • Shakira once went to college, for a semester, in Canada. She registered using her middle name, and wore plain clothes and little makeup. The famous pop star went quite unnoticed by all of the students at the school.
  • Recently ways have been discovered to store digital information in the genome of microbes. So a spy could carry secrets in his flu!
    • And, when detained, he could sneeze on his captors, and deliver the message to his superiors via a carefully tailored flu epidemic. There was a Russian science fiction story in which two scientists, kept behind too-restrictive security curtains, exchanged messages with each other over the border between two unfriendly countries... and ended up having a baby together, by sending the father's genome to the mother in the same manner. Too bad the story was not called "Cold War".
  • Iconic Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway learned the best way to avoid being hassled by fans in public was to wear his own #7 jersey because after all there would be no reason for the real John Elway to ever do that.
  • Britain's Ordnance Survey maps show many military barracks and training areas, because there is no reason for them not to, and for the utilitarian reason that walkers and casual visitors do not stray into live firing ranges. A military barracks near a city on the Welsh borders is clearly shown on the relevant map. You would need additional knowledge to be aware this is the home base of Britain's Special Forces. However, there are only open rolling fields on the map sections featuring the military research complex at Aldermaston, the American signals installation at Menwith Hill, and the GCHQ communications centre at Cheltenham. You could be standing on top of the massive radomes the Americans installed at Menwith, looking at your OS map, seeing only empty moorland on the map where the base should be.
  • During World War II, MI-5 spymasters would have their coded messages delivered between units by Girl Guides because they were Beneath Suspicion. It worked, too.

Hide the EvidenceMystery TropesHidden Villain
Hidden WeaponsStealth TropesMobile Shrubbery
Hidden DepthsA Safe Index To HideHide the Evidence
Fanon DiscontinuityIgnored IndexI Have No Son
Animal MotifsFridge/Assassin's CreedFriend to All Living Things
Heroic VowNarrative DevicesHigh Turnover Rate
Eye BeamsImageSource/Comic BooksInternal Homage

alternative title(s): Hiding In Plain Sight
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