The setting, the geography, etc. should somewhat resemble the viewer's. The newspapers will have the same headlines, the cities will look the same on the surface, etc. But... hidden below it all, what's really going on is far different. This trope is a tool of the writers to engage Willing Suspension of Disbelief and ensure Plausible Deniability.
At its most basic definition, whatever supernatural or extraordinary groups in the series, often an Ancient Conspiracy (or at minimum Monsters Anonymous) of some sort, must hide their existence from consensus reality, and anything is permitted to maintain this: Laser-Guided Amnesia, Brainwashing, even shaping the natural laws to make themselves Invisible to Normals.
The in-setting reason for this is usually some version of "society in general would object to said group's very existence", more or less plausible according to the writers' skill. The real-life reason is typically that the story is intended to be set in "our" world, and the streets of Anytown USA might seem a bit less familiar if they were filled with vampires and witches and the like who were making their presence obvious. The Masquerade makes it easier for the fans to imagine what it feels like to live as a "normal" person in the setting.
Sometimes, especially in more cynical series, Bystander Syndrome or The World Is Not Ready are used to explain why the Masquerade persists, even if the heroes don't necessarily want it to continue. On the other end, maintaining the Masquerade usually requires morally gray or outright black choices, like discrediting or killing the Crazy Survivalist and Agent Mulder trying to expose it. Even if the character protecting the Masquerade doesn't turn evil doing it, he's likely to end up isolated. The tensions of their role usually engender a bad reputation and kill off their love life.
People who discover the masquerade usually have five choices that present themselves to them.
Join the secret world fully and, in effect, "go native".
The decreasing popularity of Plausible Deniability and the proliferation of social media and information technology has led to this trope becoming increasingly subverted or just ignored.
Alternately, usually in shows that are on the comedy side, a large portion of the general public actually believes the Masquerade exists and the very authority figures whom they assume are covering it up are actually the ones being kept in the dark. The Men in Black may even spread true rumors with the intent that a Crazy Survivalist will deny them. It works, because without enough evidence to unravel the conflicting stories, the general public only get a general idea that they are being deceived.
Other times, it seems like the Masquerade is so paper thin that anyone with two brain cells to rub together should see through it, yet the world at large remains oblivious. If that happens you know you're dealing with an Extra-Strength Masquerade. Taken even further, if the Masquerade is broken in front of the general public with any regularity and yet the public never seems to acknowledge it, then there is likely a Weirdness Censor facilitating that it remain masked. Usually though there's Safety In Muggles, with warring factions inside the Masquerade refusing to go into war in the open. Covert warfare, though...
If the Masquerade does manage to get blown wide open for everyone, The Unmasqued World may result. If the masquerading beings aren't remotely human looking, they will have at least one means to pose as human.
The word "Masquerade" appears with this meaning in the 1958 Robert A. Heinlein novel Methuselah's Children, as the code-name which the extremely long-lived Howard Families apply to their efforts to conceal their longevity from ephemerals (the short-lived three-score-and-ten-years majority of the human race). A later example appears in the Tabletop RPG gameVampire: The Masquerade, published by White Wolf Games since the early 1990s (and its short-lived TV series spinoff, 1996's Kindred: The Embraced). "The Masquerade" referred to the necessity for vampires to hide their existence.
A Sub-Trope of Living a Double Life.
Not to be confused with Masquerade Ball, the short-lived (1983-84) television show Masquerade, the Fan FicMasquerade, the Discworld novel Maskerade or Kit Williams' Masquerade.
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Anime and Manga
The Roppongi Club in Speed Grapher usually covers up everything that goes awry and might expose them by either buying off people or killing them, but this starts getting harder and harder to pull off when Tatsumi Saiga enters the picture.
Mahou Sensei Negima!, a world with similarities to Harry Potter, has as the first defense to magic a simple worldwide spell that prevents muggles from noticing anything really obviously weird. Things like Negi flying on his staff are written off as nobody looking up. However it is possible for magic to be figured out or noticed, in that case the person suffers a bout of forgetfulness. Any mage who does break the Masquerade is threatened with punishment (such as being turned into an ermine). This especially comes up in the second series, Negima?!, when two "observers" threaten Negi every single episode as more and more students become aware of him (and hiding this fact becomes increasingly difficult). The school being an Elaborate University High with oddities like The World Tree and a huge dungeon for a library helps in dismissing the few scattered reports of magic as just part of the package, as does humanity's natural inclination to dismiss the illogical.
An arc about midway through the manga deals with a conspiracy to irrevocably reveal magic's existence. By replacing the spell that forces people to drop their built-in Weirdness Censors while spreading enough evidence to convince them that Magic is real.
And the hero angsts about possibly not being right for about half of it and eventually just accepts that he's probably the bad guy in this arc. He does have the good point that if it was worth being turned into an ermine from his point of view, the villain would have just told him that at the beginning.
In Darker Than Black the existence of contractors is kept secret from the general population with the use of memory erasure devices.
In the original Digimon Adventure and its sequel, the kids try to conceal the fact that they have Digimon from their families. The same thing happens in both seasons: it works fine until about forty episodes in, when all hell breaks loose and the worlds start overlapping bringing them front-and-center. Gennai does a good job rebuilding the Masquerade on a worldwide scale the first time, but the kids are met with considerably less success when they try to re-pull the wool over their parent's eyes (they try, but their parents have better memories than they think).
And as for attempting it worldwide the second time...well, whether they tried to rebuild the Masquerade or not, the epilogue shows that with the original children fully grown, everyone on the entire planet not only knows about the Digital World, but has his or her own partner.
And if there was any hope left of rebuilding the Masquerade, it was obliterated when the D-Reaper came to Earth; it had taken over almost the entire planet before the Tamers finally managed to get rid of it.
Justified in Digimon Frontier. The Digital World and the real world remain separate, with only a handful of humans aside from the series' heroes aware of it in much detail, because according to the Digital World's history logs, Digimon will eventually destroy the human world if they're ever allowed to enter it. And the heroes almost fail to uphold the masquerade; the Big Bad, in his One-Winged Angel form, actually manages to emerge partway into the real world before they drag him back and destroy him.
Subverted in Digimon Savers, when Masaru attempts to hide Agumon from his mother and sister. However, both he and Agumon fall off the roof in front of them within five minutes. When Masaru wakes up he finds that not only is his family completely unfazed, but that his mother had invited Agumon to have dinner with them while he was KO'ed.
This reaction is actually explained around episode 11, when Masaru's mother reveals that she knew about both the existence of Digimon and DATS (her husband created the organization), and realized pretty early on that Masaru's involvement with them was almost inevitable.
Magic in Kaze no Stigma, supposedly a secret between mage families and various government agencies. Stretches disbelief in the modern setting, considering the demons the mages are hired to exterminate and the occasional reckless mage. A giant flaming statue commanded by an heiresswith the high ground fighting a demon down a city street — and the occasional collapsing hotel — can not be that easy to cover up.
The existence of shinigami and Hollows in Bleach is kept secret from humans, thanks to them being Invisible to Normals and copious erasure of memories.
Megazone 23: Despite appearing like an idealized 1980's Japan... the world is actually in a drifting colony ship far in the future, with an AI trying to keep its inhabitants blissfully unaware, productive, and not panicky.
Despite the fact that the existence of Time Travellers, ESPers and Aliens in Suzumiya Haruhi is technically hidden, sometimes it seems as though you can't move for students at North High who turn out to be one of the three. Then again, the three such who are in the SOS-dan have all told Kyon that the school is heavily infiltrated by agents of all three groups. This is more evident in the books than in the anime, where only one character outside their group turns out to be one of these.
One character, Tsuruya, has laughed about how badly Kyon and company cover their activities, but has stated she's not going to push the issue. It's implied that she herself is hiding a plethora of adventures; if so, she's a lot better at avoiding detection.
Tsuruya has a 600 year old titanium-cesium jar buried in the mountain behind her gigantic home that she didn't know about. And since the only other Genki Girl in the series happens to be a reality-warper, it's a pretty good sign that Nagaru Tanigawa has big plans for her.
Subverted in Pom Poko, where the Tanuki desperately attempt to save their habitat from the bulldozers by scaring the developers away. When that doesn't work, one group breaks the masquerade to try to openly fight the human, and lose. Meanwhile, another group decides to arrange TV coverage; they publicly reveal themselves to plead their case to save their home, and that move succeeds in getting public opinion on their side (to some degree).
Kamichu! is exactly the kind of show you'd expect to have a Masquerade, which is why it's so startling that it doesn't. By the end of the first episode, everybody knows Yurie has become a kami (minor god), and no one has trouble buying it. Such gods are all around according to the Shinto faith, but they don't usually reside in people. However, there's only so much room for doubt after a typhoon with Yurie's face on it appears.
Since he can't persuade her not to come to school, Sakura tries to get Dokuro to maintain a Masquerade in Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan. This lasts about ten seconds — when asked to introduce herself, she forgets completely and just says she's an angel. No one has a problem with this, and it saves them the trouble of explaining her visible halo.
The monks in Shikabane Hime go to considerable lengths to hide the existence of Shikabane, apparently to prevent muggles being hurt in the crossfire.
Shakugan no Shana has battles that stop time, but the collateral damage must be fixed with energy taken from peoples' lives, and the heroes always have make sure to fix everything. Thakefully, almost anything can be fixed, including the muggles suspended in time sustaining lethal damage.
Omamori Himari has this more as a side note. The "Public Safety Division 4" usually keeps things secret in Japan and works together with the Onikiri-Yaku/Demon Slayers, other nations are stated to have similar groups.
Kashimashi averts this both by having the Human Alien and his Spaceship Girl prominantly broadcast that they were aliens, just crash landed on Hazumu, and made him a Gender Bender putting him back together. This gets lampshaded when the aliens start living in Hazumu's room, and he/she tries to hide them, only to find his/her parents already know and not only don't care, but are already serving them breakfast.
Ojamajo Doremi lampshades it with reason — if someone calls witch a witch, she will turn into a frog. So obviously, you can't reveal who you are.
Seto no Hanayome does this with mermaids attempting to hide their existence. Given all the weird stuff that goes on, one would think that no one would care about mermaids.
Code Geass has the Geass Directorate, which naturally hides Geass. Also, in a bizarre use of this trope, the vast majority of the world is left unaware of the political turmoil and the Zero Requiem towards the end of the series, which makes this a rare Masquerade set up by the good guys.
On the surface, Ashford Academy is just a high school for the upperclass Brittanians in Area 11. But the entire school compound is wired with surveilance, and an extensive underground headquarters has been set up underneath the school by the military. The hot PE teacher is actually an undercover baron, several of the students have been implanted with false memories, while another student is actually a superpowered assassin masquerading as a younger brother to the protagonist, who is unknowingly the the legendary, mind controlling, and supposedly dead terrorist leader Zero.
Even in season 1, the Academy served as a sanctuary for an exiled prince and princess, who's mother was an imperial consort backed by the Ashford Foundation.
In Super Dreadnought Girl 4946, it's revealed that every major war for the past century or so has been a cover-up for a war against giant alien monsters.
The World of Narue has a lot of masquerade maintainence of the alien variety in it. It's difficult because most aliens(and whole alien battleships) are fugitives and the occasional alien terrorist attack happens as well.
In Ah! My Goddess, it seems to be a combination of Masquerade and Weirdness Censor that's Up to Eleven.
The Tenchi Muyo! OVA series reveals that the Japanese government is in on the fact that aliens live on their planet. It's explained that the Great Seto Bridge's destruction was covered up as a meteor crash, but Noboyuki and his assistant had to let them know that it was because of Ryoko's awakening and Ayeka's arrival.
Katsuhito also employs one on himself to throw off suspicion to the fact that he doesn't age the same as everyone else and so Ayeka can fall in love with Tenchi and not him.
Mega Corp. MBI uses their control over the capital to maintain the secrecy of their plan for the Human Aliens in Sekirei, manipulating the media and using all manner of excuses to keep muggles away from sites of expected battles. Ashikabi are warned about keeping the plan a secret, with various threats about being "dealt with" if they slip up. This leads to hilarity as Minato attempts to explain his growing harem to his landlady. It turns out to be a Mutual Masquerade, as everyone else living at Izumo Inn knows about the existence of the Sekirei already.
The most effort put into maintaining the masquerade in Il Sole penetra le Illusioni is Sephiro Fiore's base officially being a fortune telling school. Since the monster attacks look exactly like accidents to normal people, this is really all that's necessary.
The miniseries Wanted has an almighty Legion of Doom of allied supervillains who exterminated all superheroes on earth in 1986, and keep the world under a delusion that they never existed, as well as covering up all the horrible crimes supervillains can now commit for fun.
Fables has the various fairy-tale and mythological beings of the book living in the middle of New York City, and disguised from normal humans, called "Mundies". Nonhuman fables (Three Little Pigs, Billy Goats Gruff, Etc.) who can't afford magical disguises live on a massive upstate park called "The Farm". They are found out by a reporter who notices that all the property in Fabletown has been owned by the same people for hundreds of years and draws the conclusion that they're vampires. They scare him into silence by using Sleeping Beauty's curse to put him to sleep and setting up a photoshoot with the perpetually youngPinocchio to blackmail him into keeping his mouth shut. Then Bluebeard kills him.
Route 666 follows the adventures of Cassie Starkweather when, after the traumatic accidental death of a friend, she (re)gains the ability to see and talk with ghosts. However, she can also see the true forms of monsters pretending to be normal people. When escaping from an insane asylum run by said monsters, she kills a few of them. Unfortunately, after death, they revert to normal human form. This means she is not only being pursued by the monsters as an enemy to their conspiracy, but by the law as a psychopathic killer.
Hoax Hunters is set in a world where magic and monsters are real, but unknown to the general public. That last part is due to the efforts of, duh, the Hoax Hunters, who investigate incidents, cover them up, and use their TV show to say it was all a hoax.
Proof depicts every manner of cryptid as real, which is covered up by the joint US-Canadian organization known as the Lodge. They mostly capture cryptids who are causing trouble and house them in their huge nature preserve (if possible). Oh, and the Lodge's top field agent is Bigfoot, though he goes by John Prufrock, or Proof, these days.
Films — Animated
The toys of Toy Story drop or freeze in place when humans or animals approach. This is apparently a societal more, as they treat breaking cover on Sid in the first movie as a desperation move. Compare this to Jim Henson's The Christmas Toy, in which toys are animate when humans are not looking at them. Any toy caught out of place is "frozen forever" and cannot reanimate.
In The Brave Little Toaster, all appliances are alive and intelligent beings. For some unexplained reason, they never want their "masters" to catch them talking or moving about, with only functionally communicating machines (such as TVs) being allowed to communicate with them, and only indirectly.
Films — Live-Action
In Highlander, the existence of Immortals is unknown to the general public, and one Season Finale of of the series is based upon a specific threat to reveal their existence to the world.
The movie takes place in a world where Earth as the inhabitants know it is actually a virtual simulation created to pacify the human race while they were being harvested for electricity (supposedly) after they lost a Robot War.
The Resistance has a rule of not revealing the true nature of the Matrix to those they haven't freed yet, and there's a very good reason for it — every human still connected to the Matrix is a potential Agent, and the nature of the trace program that the Machines use means that doing this is a very good way to bring them down on your head.
Richardson: You've just seen behind a curtain you weren't even supposed to know existed.
Fight Club: Tyler Durden's Fight Clubs are a variant of this. Rules 1 and 2 of the Fight Clubs forbid revealing their existence. (At times, it seems like the entire male population of the US is in on it.) This is problematic when the main character wants to go public, and has to deal with protocols he himself has set up forbidding him from doing so. So many people get in on the secret because, as shown several times, members of Fight Club don't always follow the rules. Also there is one point in the film where a politician, who is vaguely aware of Fight Club and its vandalism/terrorist activities, promises to take action against them... then denies their existence after Tyler threatens to castrate him.
The live-action Transformers film is an even better example than its animated counterparts listed below; the Transformers, especially the Decepticons, exist as robots in disguise because if they attract the attention of American's armed forces, our military technology can and will kill them. Starscream may be superior to any two or three human fighter craft, but we have lots of fighter craft to hunt him down with. The masquerade is two-way, however. A bureau of the US Government discovered Megatron and the All-Spark Cube many years before Bumblebee showed up, and so the US presidents and Sector 7 have been aware of the Transformers all that time, never informing anyone else. According to the Sector 7 comic books, the knew that Transformers were out there, but not that they were out here.
In the Blade series, vampires hide from humanity. In the 1st film, Deacon Frost wants to break the Masquerade and rule humans in the open. In the 2nd film, the vampires have beefed up their Masquerade a bit just to hide from Blade. Also in the 2nd film, they promptly show Blade their new security measures. No wonder they had to bring back Dracula... Drake is disgusted with the Masquerade. In a twist of fate, it's a human weapon that kills him.
In Plan 9 from Outer Space, whether or not the aliens want to maintain a masquerade, the government is trying to cover up the aliens, and the civilians or the government are aware of the aliens apparently changes from line to line.
In the Rifftrax for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, as the girl witnesses her fiance morph into a killer robot, Mike lampshades this: "Don't look so surprised. A shapeshifting robot killed your fiance and wants to kill you, this is now the world you live in."
The Terminator movies try and avert this as much as possible. There are robot parts everywhere. A freaked out mother tells the authorities she had a son with a guy from the future and now robots from the future are trying to kill him because he's going to save the world. When she escapes, she goes underground in paramilitary groups to train herself and her son. Also, machines have no qualms in fucking up the timeline in any possible way, kill anyone gets in their way, and they only put on a thin Masquerade themselves to gain access to the human society and technology, which both equal information for their missions. The behavior of the Terminator sent in Terminator 2: Judgment Day to protect John, in the first half of the movie, shows best how any Masquerade is pulled off.
In Freddy vs. Jason, the adults of Springwood have established a Masquerade concealing the existence of Freddy Krueger from the town's young people, to deny him the fear that allows him to harm people through their dreams. Those already aware of Freddy's existence are drugged with Hypnocil to prevent them from dreaming, and are confined in a mental hospital, cut off from the outside world.
In the first Hellboy film (in contrast with the original comicbooks) the existence of the supernatural is a carefully-guarded secret. As far as the public knows, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense does not exist, Hellboy is just an urban myth, and Hitler died in 1948. Then in the sequel, Hellboy goes public.
In The Tooth Fairy, the tooth fairies try to keep their existence hidden. What makes it weird is that they need the belief in tooth fairies to stay around, and apparently belief is waning. Why try so hard to cover up your existence if you need people to believe in you?
The movie Cats & Dogs has the humans unaware of a secret spy war between our feline and canine companions. Dogs are usually agents trained before they are set up to be given to their owners to protect them.
In R.I.P.D. spirits are visible to mortals, but usually stay disguised so as to avoid attracting attention, which neither side wants. A big stink is raised when Nick and Roy chase an undisguised dead-o in public in the middle of the day.
Most of H.P. Lovecraft's work, and the Cthulhu Mythos as a whole, depends on a metaphorical 'veil' that shrouds us from any reality aside from the one right in front of our faces. Only the curious and academic seek to pierce it, and at their own peril. Justifying the veil varies according to its origin; the Mi-Go and Deep Ones are good ensuring they stay a secret for their own convenience and infiltration purposes, and the enormous time gap between now and the reign of Ancient Astronauts and currently-sleeping gods-monsters keeps them out of common knowledge. The investigators themselves, however, often find reason to destroy evidence of strange and powerful beings, not simply to avoid a panic, and certainly not to protect what they have found, but rather to preserve the sanity of civilization as a whole. "The Call of Cthulhu" says it best:
"We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall eitherGo Mad from the Revelationor flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
Most masquerades in Lovecraft's work are of a less esoteric kind, being simply actively maintained by interested parties from alien species who do not care to have mankind at large discover their presence to cultists who'll happily murder any outsiders found to know too much. The above quote gets mined quite a bit, usually leaving out the little fact that it's written in the 'voice' of the deadnarrator rather than that of the author himself.
The Danish Cthulhu Mythos short story Tilfældet H.P. Lovecraft (The Case of H.P. Lovecraft) pulls a rather inserting twist on the usual Masquerade in Cthulhu Mythos stories. The main character, a Lovecraft fan, finds an encrypted blog written by his old friend, an esteemed Lovecraft researcher who recently committed suicide. The blog starts off being written as a project looking into some strange theories about Lovecraft's stories for an even stranger company. It eventually devolves with his friend's blog entries becoming more and more confused and rambling, and finally on goes to claim that H.P. Lovecraft never existed, that and he was just a fictional construct used as a pseudonym for a collective of writers headed by Robert E. Howard, who wrote stories based on the real Necronomicon which the group had in their possession.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter contends that it's "more convenient" if non-wizards (Muggles) don't know about it. This is a subversion of the trope, as the highest echelons of the mundane British government are aware of and work with the Wizarding World, as do the families of Muggle-born wizards and witches. One of the themes of the series is how the WW seeks to isolate itself from Muggles because they think of themselves as better. The Minister for Magic's interaction with the Prime Minister, for instance, consists largely of the MM teleporting into his office, telling him a few terrifying facts about what Voldemort and Friends are up to, and popping out again.
The masquerade is justified in that it started out to protect them in the Dark Ages when witches and wizards were persecuted (though the prosecution was more likely to harm muggles, due to lack of accurate knowledge on wizard behaviour, and wizards having, y'know, magic.) Fast-forward to modern day with more advanced weapons and technology. And many more Muggles. A covert SAS unit tasked with fighting Voldemort and other Dark Wizards would likely have worked very well, if any wizards had had the humility to even consider such a thing.
The Statute of Secrecy, making the masquerade formal, was instituted in 1692. Perhaps it was precipitated by the ongoing Salem witch trials. The date is important, though, for being around the beginning of the enlightenment. In the HP verse, what muggles traditionally think of as a gradual scientific rejection of the supernatural was actually caused by the WW's intentional retreat into secrecy.
The ever-pedantic Hermione recounts from wizarding history that no actual witches or wizards were harmed by the inquisitions, as they could magically protect themselves from things like being burned. It is also worth noting that powerful magic can effectively neutralize technology. For example, nothing powered by electricity functions in the magic-rich vicinity of Hogwarts. Magic can also conceal even very large areas from Muggle detection and entry. Platform 9-3/4, the entire length of the Hogwarts Express train track, schools such as Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, Daigon Alley, Number 12 Grimmauld Place and the massive Quidditch World Cup stadium and surrounding grounds are all impenetrable to Muggles without direction from wizarding individuals. It would seem that wizarding people simply do not want to be bothered by having to deal with Muggles any more than absolutely necessary and thus opt to conceal themselves and their preferred locales. At least until Voldemort makes it a policy that Muggles should be conquered by wizards.
In the seventh book, Harry is reading about Godric's Hollow, and the formation of Wizarding communities, and it says something about them existing alongside "tolerant, and sometimes Confunded, Muggles", suggesting that there are Muggles who are in the know beyond just the government and immediate family members.
Whereas most of the supernatural world tries to keep out of the eyes of normal people, Harry actually advertises his status as a Wizard and assists the Chicago Police Department's Special Investigations branch in mysterious cases. Many people still think he's a charlatan, however. Proven Guilty has a villain tell Harry that he dare not threaten the Masquerade by acting against him in public. Harry comments that he's listed in the phone book, under Wizards.
In one book, Harry specifically notes that involving the general public in supernatural conflicts would result in an escalation into global chaos. However, in a later book, when fighting an enemy faction that refuses to adhere to any of established rules, he seriously considers the option of getting the government to attack them under guise of them being terrorists (which is what they are anyways). Calling in mortals is seen as something of a "nuclear option" in the supernatural world. They may not know what's going on, but they can keep throwing bodies, guns, and potentially actual nukes at a problem until it goes away. Consequently most supernatural creatures keep a moderately low profile, though the mortals' Weirdness Censor means they don't have to try very hard, even if they have contempt for humans individually.
The main reason given for why the supernatural world is hidden is a case of planet-wide denial. People are so freaked out by the supernatural that humanity as a whole will come up with any excuse they can think of to rationalize it away. This isn't aided by the fact that magic fries electronic equipment, leading to any video, audio, or even photographic evidence coming out blank, or glitchy to the point of being unrecognizable. One of the best examples is when Harry is escaping from a fight with his friend, a medical examiner, who has actually seen some weird stuff in bodies before, and has just seen something that is explicitly supernatural, and asks how people can rationalize stuff away. Harry asks him what he's seen, and he starts to rationalize it away. Harry lampshades, it making his point.
The wizarding world also has an internal Masquerade with the Oblivion War, an attempt to destroy ancient evil gods. They have a very good reason for keeping quiet, because the only way for the gods to cease to exist is for no mortal to remember they exist at all. Recruiting more people than absolutely necessary or sharing information is counterproductive, and they have no idea how many gods they've erased, because any record of them would let them hang on.
As said above, the actual phrase "masquerade" appears in Heinlein's Methuselah's Children, in which the "Howards" conceal their long lifespans from the rest of humanity, mainly because their long lifespans come from a program of selective breeding. ("Hey, we live for three times as long as you! Sorry, we're just special, there's no way you can have this.") The novel starts with the consequences of an attempt to drop the Masquerade which has gone badly.
"You all know the efforts all of us are making to keep our ages optimized. You, Maureen, how old are you?"
"Uh ... forty-seven."
"Nancy? Your age, dear?"
Nancy started to say, "Fifty-two." She got out the first syllable, bit it off. "Oh, shucks, Papa Weatheral. I don't keep track of my age."
"Your age, Nancy," Justin insisted.
"Let me see. Mama had me at fifteen, so— How old are you, Mama?"
"Yes, of course. I'm thirty-two."
Justin looked at my granddaughter Roberta, my great-granddaughter Anne, and my great-great-granddaughter Nancy Jane ...
In an interesting subversion, in Gils All Fright Diner the people of Rockwood are completely aware of the zombies, vampire turkeys, evil cults, and other supernatural occurrences that happen in and around their town — and are generally completely indifferent to it. This is apparently because the rising level of weirdness also causes people to accept the supernatural easier — the weirder things get, the less strange they seem. This all works out quite well for the two protagonists of the story, as no one is particularly freaked out or surprised to learn that Duke is a werewolf or Earl is a vampire.note This actually makes for another example of fiction imitating reality. In the real world, most humans, for most of our history, believed in all of these monsters, the beasts and demons and ghosts. They learned to live with their fears, no less than we live with our fears of muggers and drunken drivers.
The existence of vampires and werewolves in Twilight.
Mortal Instruments: Supernatural creatures and Shadowhunters protect their existence from Muggles. Also, a country apparently doesn't exist.
In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, Greek gods are raising hostage children in what appears to be a school; they are hiding this not only from the outside world but from the children themselves.
Subverted in the Mercy Thompson series, where some supernatural races have voluntarily abandoned their own Masquerades. The Fae had revealed themselves (although not all of their abilities and bad habits) before the series began, and the Were come out of the closet (with a fancy PR job) in the first book. By contrast, the Vampires haven't come out, for the obvious reason that it's a little harder to be socially accepted when you freakin' eat people.
Uniquely subverted in the erotic werewolf novel Master of Wolves, in which werewolves have two Masquerades: one to conceal their existence from humans, and another to keep vampires ignorant of their presence. The werewolf protagonist must eventually force his kind to "come out" to the vampires — creatures which they'd originally been created to keep an eye on, and exterminate if they became a bad enough threat to humanity — to avert a still greater threat to all three species.
Vampire Elders and the human governments work together to keep the existence of vampires a secret from the world at large in Night Watcher. This might actually be more of a standard Government Conspiracy according to one mindscrewy revelation that may or may not be entirely valid ( i.e., that vampires are a 20th century military experiment gone useless).
The fairies in Artemis Fowl live underground to avoid humans, although it wasn't always so. Also, the demons in "The Lost Colony used to live in Limbo.
On the Discworld, a long-standing Masquerade exists amongst wizards, that insists they must remain chaste to maintain their power. This mistaken belief was deliberately disseminated after the Mage Wars, as keeping wizards celibate seemed like the surest way to prevent sourcerers from being conceived.
A society where wizards practice the Masquerade is the exception, not the rule. Wizardry is practiced out in the open on most other planets, and cat wizards and whale wizards only have to hide their magic from humans, not other members of their own species. The Language of Magic has acronyms for "place where magic can be practiced out in the open" and "place where magic must be practiced in secret".
Wizards have a spell much more powerful than mere Laser-Guided Amnesia for maintaining the Masquerade. Lets say that a bunch of dinosaurs appear in the middle of downtown New York City and start eating the Muggles. To deal with this, a group of wizards will cooperate on a large spell which will search the Alternate Universes for a New York City who's downtown wasn't invaded by dinosaurs, then copy that version of downtown over their version of downtown so that the invasion never happened, up to and including bringing the dead Muggles back to life. However, this spell can't be used bring wizards back to life, or non-wizards whose Heroic Sacrifice helped defeat the Big Bad, so Death Is Cheap is averted.
In L Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero's Daughter trilogy, the Circle of Solomon goes to great efforts to keep magic away from Mundanes; the only reason The Tempest was not censored out of existence was that it was taken as fiction. This was to prevent people from trying to solve problems by appealing to supernatural beings, many of which demanded worship and some of which were evil. Success resulted in the Industrial Revolution.
In Animorphs, the existence of the Yeerks is largely unknown on Earth. There is one website devoted to Yeerks, but it is run by a Controller. Justified in that Yeerks tend to go for important people, and many people in the media are probably Controllers.
In Robert E. Howard's Kull story "The Shadow Kingdom", the Snakemen disguise themselves as humans and usurp thrones.
In the Alcatraz Series- Most of the world, known as the Hushlands are controlled by Evil Librarians who use their control of information to teach all sorts of lies about history, economics, geography, physics, etc. The Free Kingdoms are continents that have not yet been conquered by the Evil Librarians, so they don't even appear on Librarian-approved maps. For example, one of the Free Kingdoms is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Actually averted in the web-novel Domina. One of the first things the Reasonable Authority Figure does when he finds out the city is being attacked by super-powered zombies is go on TV, explain everything, and warn people not to panic.
Justified in Sergey Lukyanenko's Night Watch. While the Others are powerful, human technology has progressed to the point where they would not be safe anywhere should humans at large find out about them. The novel Last Watch shows how easily Others can be killed using remote-controlled guns, which don't have an aura and have no malice. Luckily, the Others have a host of mind-manipulation spells that they're normally not allowed to use but can break them out in an emergency.
Rivers of London the masquerade is kept up not by deliberate cover-ups, but mainly by a combination of traditionally being discrete and just nobody having actually noticed yet. Between Peter and Tyburn's efforts, this may not last much longer.
Lonely Werewolf Girl has the masquerade being seen as both a help and a hindrance for the werewolf hunters. On the plus side it lets them kill any Werewolves they feel like, on the downside it means they have to be extra-careful in selecting their targets because "I thought they were a werewolf" is not going to cut it as a murder defence. It's not clear exactly what benefit the Werewolves get from the masquerade though, beyond it just being how they've always done things.
The eponymous main character of The Automatic Detective stumbles upon one of these: aliens who believe the world isn't ready for them, and so have been deliberately introducing all manner of mutations into the human population, until they can eventually blend in with them.
In the Philip K. Dick short story, "Adjustment Team", the story's protagonist stumbles into a world that is in effect behind the scenes of the observable world where omnipotent beings alter the flow of reality to fit some kind of ineffable design. He opts to subject himself to Laser-Guided Amnesia at the end of the story.
Deliciously subverted in Seanan McGuire's Discount Armageddon. A character who's been taught to maintain the Masquerade his whole life goes bonkers when the heroine openly discusses the supernatural in a New York coffee shop. He asks her to pipe down and not discuss 'them.' The heroine proceeds to assume seductive pose in her catsuit and openly discuss the supernatural. The point being, it's New York, and people have been so inured by slasher flicks and horror films they aren't going to believe it anymore anyway. Specifically, she says "The only way they'd pay attention is if I stripped on the table top for them."
In China Miéville's The City and The City two cities are juxtaposed in space, yet every single citizen 'unsees' the opposite city which is right in front of them. However, they are allowed to cross the border and be a tourist in the other city, in which case they unsee their own city and see the other one instead. Unseeing is a deliberate act and you can 'see' the wrong city if you want, but you will immediately be 'disappeared' if you do (Children are allowed some leniency while they learn the system). It is never clear if this is a masquerade created by the people who live each city or if there is some other cause.
Front and center in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, where "London Below" is a grubby community of supernaturally gifted and afflicted people living in regular London (though mostly in the underground tunnels and other odd corners), who are completely unnoticeable to normal Londoners, most of the time. The hero, of course, is an exception.
In The Sanguine Chronicles, it's implied there is no masquerade — not that monsters are walking openly down Main Street, they are still keeping hidden — but that they hardly have to try, because people are so religiously skeptical that they wouldn't believe it if monsters DID walk down Main Street.
The Mantically Aware in the Mediochre Q Seth Series. They know about the existence of magic, and have their own governments with their own extra laws regarding the use of magic. Revealing the truth to a mantically-unaware person is forbidden by law unless that person is a close family member (the first book implies that, at least, spouses and parents are allowed) or someone you are going to train as an apprentice. Anyone else who learns the truth gets a healthy dose of Laser-Guided Amnesia to prevent them from talking.
In Beautiful Creatures the Caster world and its secrets are completely hidden from the rest of the world and Gatlin, a town where "Nothing changes". Many mortals themselves are involved, including the librarian, the main character's house mother, the main character's own deceased mother, the town mailman, and eventually the main character and his best friend as well.
In Percy Jackson and the Olympians the mythic world is hidden from mortals by the Mist, a worldwide Perception Filter maintained by the goddess of magic. Passively, it distorts perception so that hulking monsters look like stray animals and a duel with magic swords becomes a gunfight. Actively, it can be reshaped by certain demigods to pull off a Jedi Mind Trick or even create a fake parental figure.
The Heroes of Olympus introduces a second camp for Roman demigods, as opposed to the original series' Greek. In addition to hiding from the mortal world, the two camps and their inhabitants are hidden from each other by the Mist due to a history of civil war.
The Kane Chronicles features the House of Life, a society of magicians who conceal their activities and those of the Egyptian gods by altering the memories of Muggles. Interestingly, the two stories are set in the same universe as shown by the crossover story, but the plots never intersect because each is subject to the other's Masquerade and the gods, while aware of it, try not to interfere with each other.
In Rachel Griffin, the World of the Wise hides from the Unwise by means of Obscurations and Laser-Guided Amnesia. Learning this, one character asks how anyone can be sure that their "true" history hasn't been tampered with by someone else for the same purpose.
In the Rainbow Magic series, Rachel and Kirsty keep their experiences secret to prevent everyone from finding out about the fairies. They break this rule once with Rebecca Wilson, though she saw what was going on and keeps the secret as well.
Present in the setting of Pact, where All Myths Are True and the various supernatural creatures are only kept from preying upon non-practitioners because practitioners have spent the past several millennia dealing with and binding Others into agreeing to follow the standard set by Suleiman bin Daoud, which prohibits them from preying upon normal people without a good excuse. On the practitioner side, the Masquerade is maintained by the ability of every practitioner to create a Perception Filter at will, with those that would want to reveal everything stymied by the functioning of the archaic system of Karma which governs practitioner morality-introducing someone into the supernatural means that any mistakes they make reflect on you, and they will make mistakes, which irritates Others and practitioners alike. Thus, letting too many people know leads to not only other practitioners trying to kill you, but the universe itself will twist and bend events to punish you.
In L Jagi Lamplighter's Rachel Griffin, the Wise hide from the Unwary. It takes one of the protagonists to ask the obvious question: if the World of the Wise uses obscurations and Laser-Guided Amnesia to hide from the mundane world, what protects the same thing from happening to them? Motives are not deeply investigated; however, there are clues that the current state of affairs — and history — is being forcibly held in place by a more powerful group of beings, so it may just be that they want it that way.
Live Action TV
In Teen Wolf, Beacon Hills is currently in one, via the Argents, the Hales, and the Alphas, but with all of the murders and investigations and sightings, the masquerade is under threat of being broken by many individuals, individually.
In The Vampire Diaries, the supernatural world in general, Mystic Falls in particular. Enforced by both the Founders Council and the Salvatore brothers. The ability of the good townsfolk of Mystic Falls to overlook the abnornally high body count and other weird goings on is truly impressive to the extent it may count as an Extra-Strength Masquerade.
The Conspiracy in The X-Files is a prime candidate. Not being known by the public means they can control it.
In the Whoniverse, the Torchwood Institute, while similar to the Men In Black, kept its work secret for a less altruistic purpose — its goal was to adapt alien technology to recreate and maintain The British Empire. In the Spin-Off series Torchwood, a splinter cell of the original institute claims that it is trying to prepare the human race for some unspecified point in the 21st century when humanity will have to confront alien life. For some reason, this means keeping aliens a secret. But also sometimes not bothering to cover things up. This has been lampshaded at certain points by the fact that, while Torchwood is theoretically a secret organization, even little old ladies respond to a car chase involving a fish-man with "Bloody Torchwood".
The Whoniverse as a whole had a Masquerade in contemporary Earth, but it's difficult to tell when it was broken, other than it being somewhere in the revival between "The Christmas Invasion" and "Last of the Time Lords". One of the major alien attacks following this was erased in series 5, though it was probably brought back by the rebooted universe in "The Big Bang". Series 1 (and a sleeper agent character in series 2) of Torchwood is somewhere in the middle, where humans are getting more and more alien tech, but plenty are still in denial about aliens coming through the Rift.
Common in Alien Invasion series such as First Wave, The Invaders, Threshold and War of the Worlds all relied on the notion of the aliens being somehow able to always keep their presence secret from everyone but the heroes. In War of the Worlds, they suggest that this is a combination of alien powers of hypnosis and mass hysteria. In Stargate SG-1 the Stargate program itself is an ordinary government secret, but several alien invasions have been averted with the general public being unaware even when fleets of ships approach the Earth.
If the invasion never actually reaches Earth's surface, it's semi-plausible that it could be covered up. What are the odds of somebody just happening to point their telescope right at the space battle, after all?
Unfortunately, Stargate is one of the sci-fi works that likes to lug around ships with sizes measured in kilometers, and throw around ship-to-ship weapons measured in megatons, if not more. When you use a pair of one-gigaton missiles to hit an equal number of kilometer-wide, gaudy gold pyramid ships, and said ships survive, you don't need telescopes to see, and you'd have to be underground, blind, or comatose to not notice.
The Masquerade came within serious danger of being broken in one episode which revolved around a guy who did just that, and captured some pics of Anubis's invasion fleet above Antarctica, along with some more concrete evidence: a living, but mindless, Asgard clone body. They actually, and believably, manage to maintain it despite the guy going public with his proof.
Half-believably. Attempting to explain it away as advanced holography would ring screaming alarm bells in anyone with even the most basic knowledge of optics. Perfect freestanding, three dimensional, beyond-human-eye-resolution holograms do not spring from nowhere.
Several episodes of SG-1 make it clear that some reverse engineered alien technology has been making its way into the commercial sector, via the SGC and the Trust composed of rogue-NID agents and corrupt businessmen. One episode featured a prototype particle cannon being "developed" by the US military. In the 8th Season finale Moebius, which features an alternate timeline in which the Stargate program never existed, a video camera left behind by a time-traveling SG-1 from the main timeline is described as being more advanced that what was commercially available in the alternate timeline.
And in Stargate Atlantis when McKay goes to a civilian scientific conference, the compound is surrounded by a force field and nobody thinks there is anything unusual in that.
The same episode also reveals that McKay has been publishing papers regarding certain concepts like pumping energy from another universe, which usually got him laughed at in the academic circles. The whole point of the episode is that a scientist didn't think it was ridiculous and built a device that made use of the concept.
The Star Trek universe's Section 31, an organization within The Federation which is dedicated to the dirty things that The Federation won't do. It has become mainly self-serving over the centuries and hides its existence from anyone outside.
Subverted cleverly in Kamen Rider Faiz, and while the Orphenochs are a lot stronger and tougher then normal humans, they can still be hurt and eventually killed by a lot of bullets. They even explicitly point out that while there's a good deal many Orphenochs, there's a lot more humans, with a lot more guns and bullets then they could ever hope to handle.
At its root, though, this is why all of the earlier Riders — more often than not created by evil terrorist organizations — have to henshin. After all, what's the point of an overpowered cyborg agent if they're easily identifiable as such. Also, the Riders don't mind living a normal life while stopping said organization's plans.
Subverted somewhat in an episode of Kamen Rider Amazon. Amazon (that's his actual name) realizes that a scared girl is an agent of the enemy when she isn't frightened of his Beastman friend.
In spite of the mooks being called Masquerade Dopants, Kamen Rider Double lacks one. People know about the Dopants that have been running around Fuuto for at least ten years and refer to them as such. Double himself starts out as merely a rumor, but not out of Shotaro's hesitance to transform in front of people. Admittedly the identities of the Dopants aren't known by the public, but they understand what they are.
Charmed used this as well, in that the sisters had to conceal their use of magic from normals. Not doing so led to disastrous results in a few cases (which were usually able to be reversed, in some cases with help by Lawful Neutral entities called the Cleaners who could just erase things and memories from existence).
What's really weird is that even the bad guys supported the Masquerade, despite the fact that breaking it only ever hurt the protagonists. All the demons were Immune to Bullets.
Considering Warhammer 40,000, having legions of fanatical humans hunting you down every time you popped up to do battle is a bit nervewracking. That, and there's no guarantee humans won't find a way to harm demons. It's much simpler for all parties involved to just keep that variable out.
Most, if not all, Sit Coms that involve magical worlds do this. Examples: Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Wizards of Waverly Place.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, the main setting of the former gave its name to Sunnydale Syndrome. This was eventually subverted in Season 7 when the entire town ups sticks in face of the coming apocalypse. The government also knew about the supernatural and kept it from the public, and occasionally tried to fight it or take advantage of it, with results ranging from ineffective to disastrous.
The masquerade here is debatable, although partially because most people in Sunnydale get beaten around the head with just how many weird things occur. For example, in the Buffy Season Three last few episodes, it's revealed that if not most of the school, than at least Buffy's entire year, has come to realise that something about the town isn't quite right. In the Prom episode, several past examples are mentioned by the crowd (as well as Snyder) before they thank Buffy for keeping them all safe, giving her the title of "Class Protector". Then, in the finale, the entire graduating year bands together to fight off the Mayor and his hordes. It almost seems like everyone KNOWS, they just don't discuss it.
The Masquerade was broken for Los Angeles in Angel: After the Fall, and for the whole world in Season 8 (mostly due to Harmony exposing the existence of vampires). These are both comic continuations. In After the Fall, no one outside of LA knows what is going on there, since even the news is using fake footage. After the Reset Button some people have convinced themselves that it was All Just a Dream.
Heroes involved several factions, such as the Company, which were involved with observing, controlling and if necessary eliminating people with abilities to prevent them from becoming a threat to society at large. In the second half of season three, the President is made aware of their existence by Nathan Petrelli, and a black ops group (currently led by Emile Danko) is set up to track down and lock up superpowered individuals. At present, though, the general public is not aware that they people with powers exist.
Except possibly in Tokyo, where Hiro and Ando are currently advertising a heroes-for-hire service in the phone book.
Also, while the Company and the rest of the not-so-Ancient Conspiracy is probably responsible for a good part of the Masquerade remaining intact, the main reason is that people with abilities don't usually want the world to know about themselves.
In the series finale, Claire breaks the Masquerade by demonstrating her abilities to a crowd of reporters. Had the show continued, the next volume would probably have dealt with the consequences of this action.
On True Blood, the vampire community came out of the coffin about two years ago. Well, glad that's done with. Oh, wait. Sam is a shapeshifter who can turn into an animal, particularly a dog...but he's not a werewolf. Werewolves are also real. Nobody knows this. Nobody knows about the witches, fairies, were-leopards and minotaur-like maenads. Also, the main character, Sookie Stackhouse, is secretly a psychic.
In Being Human, the existence of Vampires, Werewolves and Ghosts is generally a secret. In Bristol (and implied elsewhere), the Vampire community has a relationship with the local Chief Inspector and the Coroner, to help cover up botched feeding attempts.
The premise of season one is that Herrick wants his faction to grow large and powerful enough that he can give up on the Masquerade and just rule humans directly.
The ending of season three suggest that another vampire faction wants to get that plan back on track since they are tired of having to hide from humans.
In the British series Ultraviolet, the vampirescode 5 keep their existence a secret so that human society won't wipe them out. The secret government agency that seeks to eradicate them also keeps it a secret to avoid creating a mass panic.
In Moonlight, the vampires are required to keep their existence hidden from the general public. A few humans can know, as long as they keep quiet. Any rogue vampires (usually newborns who haven't been taught to behave properly) must be "put down". There is also a team of leather-clad female Cleaners who are called in to clean up bloody messes left by careless vampires. In the series finale, they also act as executioners for a vampire who threatened to expose all LA vampires.
There was never a Masquerade to speak of in Supernatural - for a while, it seemed like both hunters and a large portion of monsters just didn't bother to tell the general public the truth because it would be inconvenient for them. Then the leviathans came along, and their leader stated the golden rule to be "There's no such thing as monsters".
The US Federal government created one in Alcatraz to explain the disappearance of all the prisoners and guards on March 21st, 1963 from the titular prison. According to the official record, the prison was shut down as a cost-saving measure, then all of the inmates were issued fake transfer orders, followed by fake death certificates.
First, the employees, who are chosen for their potential and shown what lies beneath the Masquerade at the start, as seen with Pete, Myka, Steve, and to a lesser extent, Artie.
Second, those who know about the Warehouse but are not employed. This role is only given to the few Secret Keepers in the series and the season's Big Bad and their henchmen.
Finally, we have those who find out about the Warehouse through their own endeavors. There are two notable instances of this case so far. The first is Claudia, who sought Artie and the Warehouse in order to save her older brother, who an artifact victimized. Said brother is now a Secret Keeper working at CERN, while Claudia decided to stay at the Warehouse as an agent, and has been a main character since.
The second is Deb Stanley, a pharmaceutical researcher who looked too deeply into one of Pete and Myka's cases. She was adamant about using the knowledge of artifacts to create new, more powerful medical advances, but her motivation was due to a father who died of Parkinson's rather than greed. As such, she was trusted enough to be shown the Warehouse, and after seeing the Rod of Asclepius, and remembering the oath her father took to do no harm, she chose to become a Secret Keeper. She was last seen being asked by Adwin Kosan, an enigmatic man who is heavily implied to be the Warehouse's chief executive, if she wanted to join the Regents, the Warehouse's executive board.
Lost Girl has a fairly robust masquerade. The Fae mostly keep themselves out of sight. Either they live entirely underground (the underfae), they participate in an all-fae black market economy, or they have positions that let them operate/feed in the human world.
Thanks to the Official Secrets Act, no one in The Bletchley Circle can talk about what they did during the war. They all claim they did "general clerical work".
On Grimm, a sizable part of the population are wesen, humanoid beings with transformed animal or monster forms. Only Grimms and other wesen can detect them unless they're being deliberately threatening... or going out of their way to show a tiny amount of normal humans the truth, which is issued out on a need-to-know basis. Since wesen are naturally hidden from non-wesen, non-Grimm eyes, most people would assume anyone who told them the truth was crazy and/or become traumatized when presented with proof.
An episode deals with three wesen who rob banks who woge (show their Game Face to regular humans) as an alternative to using masks. Also, wesen who woge don't leave fingerprints or acceptable DNA evidence. The episode reveals the existence of the Wesen Council of Wallenstadt. The Council's goal is to maintain the Masquerade. This usually involves a very public execution of the wesen who try to break it. After being arrested, two of the robbers (they kill their partner before that) are perp walked through the precinct with the press taking pictures. Based on previous conversations, the robbers look like they're about to woge on national TV, when a hired gunman (human) jumps out of the crowd and shoots them both. The chairman of the Council is happy with the outcome (especially the televised coverage of the murders) and admits they have to do something like this every generation to keep the younger wesen in their place.
A standard part of the Power Rangers franchise. Oddly, the villains always seem to know who the rangers are, so keeping their Secret Identities secret from the general public is likely due to some unwritten code.
It is written, actually, but only for the four incarnations of the Zordon era.
It's subverted with some incarnations, however; the more supernatural Rangers keep their identities secret, but the ones created by manmade technology such as the Lightspeed Rangers, the SPD Rangers, and the Overdrive Rangers make no attempt to hide who they are from the general public. The Time Force Rangers are the exception to that rule, since they're from the future (though their identities ARE public knowledge in their own time).
Manhwa and Manhua
The Breaker (manhwa) has the murim-in, a secret world of superpoweredmartial artists. The government has agreed to keep the murim-in secret and not to meddle in their affairs while the Murim-in have agreed to not have their affairs affect the normal public.
The ManhuaSchool Shock has double masquerade revealed later on: first of, the entire town Ah-Xuan lives in has been built for him to live there, as he is the Child Of Eden, and he is under constant surveillance. After he had several run-ins with military and renegade Vanguards and had a role in a particularly great event, in which he kidnapped his super soldier love interest and a mech to effectively flee out of control, he get his memories replaced and his school life is filled with Vanguards from the local military base, all pretending to be friends and family.
Every supernatural group in the Old World of Darkness games (and by extension in Kindred) — not just the vampires — hides its existence from the "normals", even though collectively they not only control the world, but the fabric of reality. (The werewolves accidentally bred their "masquerade" into humans, and it is at times as troublesome and annoying to them as it is useful; and the Mages are in fact hiding from the Technocracy, a group of Mages that have shaped the modern world the way it is, and strongly object to Hermetic magic, or herbalism, or spirit guides)
Almost every group: the Mage group the Taftani believe the Masquerade to be a lie and therefore immoral. They are not immune to Paradox that punish mages for breaking the Masquerade, but they shun 'coincidental magic' as cowardice, and practice magic that is both spectacular and aggressive (and often suicidal), hopefully with as many witnesses as possible.
Also, Demon The Fallen. Considering that their source of power, Faith, is derived by revealing themselves to humans and making pacts, they have no problem with revealing themselves to advance their powers.
There are given reasons for this including preventing the End of the World as We Know It since doing so would reveal the dark truth around the normals. Vampires hide to continue feeding, werewolves and other shifters hide from both one another and humans to prevent Pentex from finding and experimenting on them, Changlings from being found out by other more powerful Fae who want them dead so that only they survive, Wraiths to prevent their shadows from finding them, and Mages from letting their other members from locating and out right slaying them.
The non-human aspects of changelings' appearance in the nWoD are normally hidden by a powerful illusion called "the Mask." They don't maintain a masquerade so much as they sometimes put out the effort to not maintain one.
Geist: The Sin-Eaters, has no Masquerade-equivalent. None. There's nothing in the book even discouraging a group of Sin-Eater player characters from advertising in the Yellow Pages as a group of ghostbusters... except that perhaps no one would believe it.
The nWoD Hunters vary from Division Six, the Cheiron Group and Task Force VALKYRIE (whose job it is to keep the Masquerade intact, and all of whom are backed by something that isn't a normal human - a pack of mysterious aliens for Cheiron, vampires for VALKYRIE, and the Seers to the Throne for Div Six) to Network Zero, whose sole motive is to blow it wide open, and Null Mysteriis, who intend to do so as soon as they have a decent scientific explanation for all the weird shit that goes on in the World of Darkness.
The Masquerade in the unofficial Genius The Transgression, set in the nWoD, stands out because the Geniusesdon't want the Masquerade. However, the nature of Inspiration enforces a masquerade whether they like it or not. This is because 1) When normal mortals try and fiddle with a Wonder, it either breaks or goes on a homicidal rampage. 2) Even if a Genius is careful not to let anyone touch his Wonders just demonstrating it in public tends to turn people into Igors or rival Geniuses. Between these two reasons, any attempt to break the Masquerade inevitably results in failure and death. They also tend to look as mad as they are when they try.
In Deadlands, both of the setting's dominant governments actively maintain the Masquerade. They do this because they've realized the Big Bads thrive on, among other things, fear...and if people knew about things like walkin' dead, they would panic. There are no supernatural safeguards to keep people in the dark, though, so basic psychology is used instead. The Agency relies primarily on elaborate deceit (and the fact that people don't want to believe); the Texas Rangers are known more for intimidating people into silence. ("Now show me where you didn't see Aunt Minnie crawl up outta her grave. I got some carvin' to do.")
Deadlands is possibly a Deconstruction of the Masquerade, as it has been argued (in-text) that the governments actually aid the Reckoners with their masquerade, as making the supernatural (and the fact that it can be fought and beaten) known to the public would rob them of much of their ability to generate fear. A mysterious creature that prowls the jungle and snatches people from fields is scary, but a tiger is just dangerous. Furthermore, it's also been suggested that their efforts to maintain the Masquerade often lead to them causing as much fear, doubt and suspicion as the ghoulies they put down in the first place. The Agency, which relies heavily on a Western variant of The Men in Black, is usually considered worse; the Texas Rangers openly intimidate people into staying silent, but at least they demonstrate the supernatural can be beaten, but the Agency acts in sinister, suspicious, paranoia-inducing fashions.
In Unknown Armies, hiding your mojo is central, since you'll either be beaten, tied up, and drowned in the nearest holy water fount, or killed by some seriously Big Bads called the Sleepers.
In Paranoia, every Player Character (and almost every NPC) is a mutant and a member of a secret society. These facts must be hidden from the other players and from the ruling Computer, as (barring "registered" mutants) they are grounds for summary execution.
In the Ravnica block of Magic: The Gathering, House Dimir is a guild of spies and information dealers lead by an ancient vampire named Szadek, the Lord of Secrets. The original magical pact that the ten guilds of Ravnica all signed specifically forbids the other guilds from revealing the existence of House Dimir, so only the highest ranking guild officials and members of the Dimir itself know about the so-called 10th guild; the rest of the world believes the Dimir to be only a myth. House Dimir's agents covertly but actively encourage such a belief, so that the guild may accomplish its agenda in secret.
"In a space where there is no room, in a structure that was never built, meets the guild that doesn't exist." — Flavor text for Duskmantle, headquarters of House Dimir.
By the point of Return to Ravnica, the destruction of the magical pact and the death of Szadek has unmasked house Dimir, who have taken over the messaging and official information gathering business. There still appears to be a masquerade around, however: The Izzet League is researching something that their guildmaster is really interested in, and nobody outside the guild seem to know what.
Nobilis has a Masquerade enforced for pragmatic reasons. Exposure to the true reality of The Multiverse usually results in dementia animus (i.e. insanity).
Depending on the Writer, the existence of all of the enemies of the Imperium in Warhammer40000 is kept from the general populace in much this way. It's a slightly unusual instance, since the masquerade is conducted by the good (well, less bad) guys, to keep the population from realising just how crapsacky the world really is. In particular, only a select few not actively involved in combat against them realise the existence of the Tyranids and Chaos. The Traitor Legions are a closely guarded secret. Sometimes. It really depends who's writing, and particularly on the setting, since we rarely see the non-combatants of the 40k 'verse
In a similar vein, any citizen who goes around talking about heretics or aliens can expect a very unpleasant visit from the local Inquisition or Imperial Church.
Recent parts of the Expanded Universe indicate that this might have become a Broken Masquerade at some point near the turn of the 42nd millennium-for the forces of Chaos at least-due to the Space Wolves preventing the Inquisition from executing Imperial Guardsmen who'd been fighting daemons.
The sheer scale of the Warhammer 40,000 universe helps maintain the Masquerade for much of humanity. Countless worlds have never seen an alien incursion, and might even regard the Imperium itself as a myth due to centuries of isolation. Basically all the dark things of the universe are just old stories, until they show up and start eating you.
Warhammer Fantasy's Skaven take great pains to conceal their existence from humankind, presumably to aid in their attempts to undermine and enslave human society without anybody noticing until it's too late. What with regular massive incursions and devastating pitched battles to hush up, this usually involves such extreme measures as stealing back all surviving artefacts of Skaven manufacture, assassinating or discrediting witnesses by the thousand and conducting complex magical rituals every thirteen years to cloud human minds on a global scale. The fact that the Warhammer world contains untold other sinister underworld terrors and chaotic warbands that make no attempt to hide their existence makes things considerably easier, as does natural human superstition and gullibility. In the Empire and Bretonnia at least the Skaven are widely regarded as nothing more than a bad-taste myth put about by bored university students who should really know better. It should be noted, however, that the Skaven only seem to keep their existence a secret from human societies - the dwarfs, elves, orcs, lizardmen and others all seem perfectly aware of their existence following centuries of open warfare.
Witch Girls Adventures has a fairly tame version. Nobody cares if individual humans learn something they shouldn't, so long as they can't prove anything, and witches can in fact operate openly in many parts of the world (mainly Asia and Africa). On the other hand, the world as a whole cannot be allowed to learn about the supernatural; use of magical powers to affect Muggle politics is forbidden (though it happens all the time, especially in the Middle East), and ever since World War II, the Witches World Council has been keeping the magical world hidden from mundane eyes through Laser-Guided Amnesia and toading inconvenient mortals.
The Ascended keep an informal Masquerade within the junctures they control (1850 and the contemporary juncture) in Feng Shui. Since magic is a Bad Thing for the Ascended (as it's the only thing that can revert them to their original animal forms), they have a vested interest in keeping the existence of magic and the supernatural in general unknown or discredited to mere mortals.
Fallout 3's Vault 101 is an odd case. The vault was in originally in place to shelter people from the nuclear war raging overhead, but as generations passed, the motto became "Born in the vault, die in the vault." Eventually this led the people inside to believe that the outside world is completely uninhabitable. Your character quickly finds out that this isn't completely true.
In fact, the Lone Wanderer finds that they themselves were born outside the vault; you can find the room of birth in the Jefferson Memorial basement, along with James' journal entries from the time.
The Vaults were never intended to shelter people. From the very beginning they were designed as social experiments. Vault 101's specific experiment was that it was never supposed to open, hence why it was still occupied 200 years after the nuclear war that destroyed society. This might still count as The Masquerade since only the government knew of this. And it didn't become a completely sealed Police State until Amata's dad took over as Overseer.
The fourth game in the Desert Strike series, Soviet Strike, hints at this. Rather than a part of the Kuwaiti liberation forces or government endorsed strike team, the player finds themselves in spook territory, the pilot of a covert operation that uses false news broadcasts and cyber warfare to prevent military action from escalating. A canny player might be able to hazard a guess that the game's Big Bad was in fact their co pilot, who goes rogue, is apparently killed, then turns up later. The third and fifth stages, at the very least, indicate he was behind the events that took place to scare Mother Russia into playing along with the shadow organization.
In Magical Diary, people who are not witches and wizards are not supposed to know that magic is real. Maintaining the masquerade appears to involve an awful lot of mind-control - even on the families of the students. And on the students themselves, if they get expelled.
Assassin's Creed has an entire underground war going on between the Assassins and the Templar. The Templar write the assassins out of the history books at every chance they get. After all, History is Written by the Winners.
The Android mobile ARG Ingress.
It's happening all around you. They aren't coming. They're already here.
Most people in Vampires Dawn think vampires are extinct since the Holy Crusade. If you do anything obviously vampiric in public, the game will not let you progress until you kill all witnesses. In the second game, if you do that on an open street, bounty hunters will be put onto you. In addition, vampires have several abilities to help them stay unnoticed lore-wise, such as an illusionary aura that makes them seem warm to the touch, hides their fangs etc.
This is strongly implied to be a Justified Trope in the Touhou games due to two reasons: (1. The setting is a Fantastic Nature Reserve for monsters such as Youkai and The Fair Folk, and (2. the monsters can only exist as long as humans keep fearing them and keep believing in them as monsters. As a result, most humans of Gensoukyou are unaware of the fact that the setting is a nature reserve for monsters, that the monsters are (for the most part) harmless and pretty affable, as well as the fact that there's an agreement between the monsters and those who hunt them that no harm is to befall the human inhabitants of the setting. All of it for the sake of allowing the monsters the belief and fear they need to survive.
The concluded webcomic It's Walky! spends many of its plots detailing the fight between the main characters and the aliens that are just begging to expose themselves. And eventually they do, and life goes on as normal (to the point that a talking car showing up in the sequel comic, Shortpacked! merely results in a few raised eyebrows).
It does give our protagonists considerable trouble though, as they now have to chalk up "good PR" among the responsibilities. They manage to pull it off, but not without being chewed on air about whether a bunch of angst-filled teens are adequate defense against the alien menace.
The RPG makes it clear that the Insiders on Earth maintained this until First Contact with the Celeste.
Sluggy Freelance wavers back and forth on this. The World of Weirdness setting would seem to make any sort of Masquerade impossible, except that the average Sluggyverse citizen is gullible enough to believe even the flimsiest of excuses. This still doesn't explain why Aylee needs an elaborate disguise to hide the fact that she's an alien, but Bun-Bun (a talking, switchblade-wielding rabbit) can walk into a bar, order an alfalfa margarita, and not raise a single eyebrow.
It helps that the rabbit would slice off the eyebrow if it was raised...
El Goonish Shive can't seem to decide if there's a Masquerade or not. On the one hand, clearly inhuman people like Hedge walk around in public, and aliens wear shirts with gems such as "Human" on them. On the other, people tend to accept any explanation, or are conveniently not around when people need to use magic.
If I saw someone wearing a shirt reading "Human", I'd just assume it was a joke, not conclude that the wearer is an extraterrestrial.
The point of the shirts is that the Masquerade is so strong, an alien wearing a shirt which says "Human" is automatically assumed to be human unless the observer is aware of the Masquerade.
This has just recently been blown open as a super powered fight has shown up on Youtube, and the weirdness around Moperville (and the fact nobody in the town seems to notice) has been an in comic topic for a while now.
A later comic features Mr. Verres explaining exactly why his organization goes to such lengths to hide the existence of magic. Regarding the latest Monster of the Week:
Mr. Verres: You know that man in the ambulance right now? The man capable of, and having already done, absolutely horrible things? There is NOTHING special about him. He's just an average jerk who, when younger, stumbled on a way to gain use of magic that almost anyone on the planet could use. You want a real-life, non-hypothetical example of why there's so much secrecy? It's lying in the back of that ambulance.
It also calls back to an earlier comment Arthur had made about the Masquerade: that the real secret has never been the existence of magic, but rather its accessibility — the common citizen may well know that there is such a thing as magic, and it is real, but they do not know that it is possible for them to get magical abilities themselves.
Upheld by the Everto, to hide the Everto in Shadownova, a group of normal humans (and a few Espers) who have decided they want complete control over everyone outside their own group.
The biggest difference between the world of TCampbell's Fans! and that of Penny and Aggie, Rip And Teri, and Cool Cat Studio is that the fantastic elements of the latter (only seen in Cool Cat Studio) are still unknown to the general public. Occasionally, versions of characters from Fans! are seen in Penny and Aggie, never having been caught up in the supernatural weirdness (Rikk is a still-awkward grad student, Di in a formal private school, Meighan a Hollywood talent scout), and Charlotte turns up in Fans! as a Dark Magical Girl.
Blip employs this to run two plots in parallel: an Urban Fantasy one and a mundane Slice of Life one. The protagonist K's three gal-pals are a witch, a vampire, and a cyborg, and K herself is closely watched by both Heaven and Hell because she's Immune to Fate. She doesn't know any of this.
Skin Deep is home to a secret culture of mythical creatures functioning under the unsuspecting nose of humanity. There is an assumed threat of The World Is Not Ready that is keeping the non-humans from breaking the Masquerade and exposing themselves to the human world.
In At Arm's Length, magic and magical beings are kept hidden from several mortal races including Earthlings. As part of the deal that allows Ally, Reece and Sheila to stay on Earth, they have to keep their background as Enchanters hidden from everyone, including their husbands. The main characters have issues with this policy, and are increasingly questioning the rationality of keeping the big secret in the face of increasing magical threats to Earth.
Most people in the fictional world of Tales Of Gnosis College seem unaware of the mad science going on in their midst. The mad scientists themselves take measures (not always successful) to keep their activities secret, and sometimes law enforcement itself hides the consequences of their activities for political reasons.
In morphE, as per the New World of Darkness canon the story takes place within. Mundane people exposed to magic tend to go mad or dead. Or so Amical says after killing one.
A usual plot point in Walking In The Dark in that humans don't know of the supernatual elements around them given the rise of the industrial age of the 1930s. The vampire council is trying hard to keep it that way as they don't want their kind to be further hunted. But it's made tricky due to a rebel group of vampires seeking world domination.
In Angel Of Death, the first of the seven conventions all liches are required to follow, the convention of public ignorance, forbids liches from allowing themselves, or the supernatural in general, to become public knowledge.
In the Whateley Universe, everyone knows there are mutants out there. But Superhero School Whateley Academy is kept secret from all the baselines in a giant conspiracy of superheroes, supervillains, and all major law enforcement agencies worldwide. Would you want to have those teenagers learning how to control their powers in your town? Still, there is a village of were-people in the Native American reservation just off-campus, and everybody knows there's no such thing as werewolves, right?
This is more in the nature of "Let's keep the exact location secret from the KKK equivalent so that the resulting conflict won't blow a Texas-sized hole to North-American continent." The Technical term is "Open Secret".
New York Magician: Unless they can See or Hear, people simply can't notice the supernatural events around them. Interestingly, when mundane people find out about the magical world, they usually take a very short time before coming to grips with it.
Paradise: In this setting, human beings randomly undergo a permanent Change into Funny Animals that only other Funny Animals can see—-to everyone else they appear to be their old human selves. Early on, Changed must pretend everything is normal, that they are still the human beings they used to be—-because if they are not able to keep their new differences hidden they will be committed to mental institutions, or worse. A group of cautious Changed formed a conspiracy, the Changed Network, to help newly-Changed keep their secrets; said conspiracy largely fell by the wayside as too many people Changed for them to be able to control. Eventually, the masquerade broke entirely as the "Reality Distortion Field" that kept the changes invisible began to fail.
The SCP Foundation keeps the existence of the paranormal a secret from the general populace, even though neither the Foundation nor its members are paranormal. The ostensible reason for this is the Foundation's mission to "protect normallacy", with a more practical reason being that keeping the populace ignorant of the paranormal in general makes it much easier for the Foundation to keep the populace from sticking their noses into dangerous paranormal situations.
In-universe (and among site-regulars), the Masquerade is referred to as "the Veil Protocol".
In Funny Business Jeannette keeps her Reality Warper powers a secret from adults, especially herparents, though she doesn't mind much if her classmates find out. The reason for this is that she once made her parents disappear during a temper tantrum when she was a toddler, and feels terrible about it now, and is afraid that her parents would hate her if they were to find out.
The protagonist in Hallowed Worldly is trying to break the Masquerade that, he claims, exists in Real Life. He frames his videos as attempts to get the word out to the ignorant public.
The first of "Da Rules" in The Fairly OddParents is that a kid may never reveal the existence of fairy godparents, on pain of separation and memory erasure. While there were exceptions (such as revealing the existence to someone who also has a fairy godparent(s)), Timmy was skilled at using loopholes.
For example: Cosmo and Wanda got away with hanging around in crossovers by claiming they were "advanced computer programs".
Danny must keep his ability to change into a ghost secret from everyone — especially his ghost-hunter parents, or else he will end up being hunted by the ghost-hunting goverment agency. However, he seems to have no problem with every single non-human recurring enemy he's ever faced retaining knowledge of his identity; only once or twice have any of them thought to actually use this against him.
Many fans have tried attributing the ghosts' lack of exposing his identity to many things, such as some sort of ghost laws Danny has no knowledge of (like the Christmas truce). The only one that isn't purely guesswork is the case of Vlad Masters (also a half-ghost, under the name Vlad Plasmius); he and Danny keep each other's Secret Identities secret because if one of them revealed the other's identity, the other would return the favor.
Though Danny sometimes uses that to his advantage; the first time they clashed, he said that if he got exposed, his friends and family would stick by him (and when he eventually does, they do), but Vlad would be in big trouble. Justified, as Danny uses his powers to help people, as seen in "Reality Trip" where after his identity is exposed he has help from his friends and people he saves (though they use a Reset Button to rebuild the Masquerade). Vlad, however, has no such allies...not to mention the fact that its reveal that most of his money was attained through misuse of his powers (e.g robbing banks, possessing rich people). Ergo, if he were ever exposed, he would most likely be prosecuted.
In the series finale, both of these cases are explored; an enormous asteroid is on a crash course with earth, spelling doom for the entire human race if it wasn't stopped. Vlad, who at that point in the series had become mayor of Amity Park, tries and sabotages many attempts to stop it. Then, with the whole world watching, he reveals his true identity and gives the world a Sadistic Choice: pay him $5 billion and name him ruler of the world, and he'll turn the asteroid intangible. Otherwise, extinction. They yield to his demands, but when he tries to follow through on his end of the bargain, he finds out that the asteroid is made of Ectoranium, the spectral equivalent of Kryptonite. With that, he's left with no choice but to exile himself from earth, knowing that he would be endlessly hunted if he ever returned.
Afterwards, Danny comes up with another plan. Since the Ghost Zone's survival is tied to earth's, he recruits the entire population of specters to turn the planet intangible. This also necessitates the nations of the world uniting together in order to create a rig that can be used to transmit the ghosts' intangibility throughout the entire world. After the plan succeeds, he is coerced into revealing his true form, but is hailed as a hero by the entire world regardless.
In Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter "must" keep his titular lab a secret from his parents and most other characters; a recurring exception is Dee Dee (since she breaks through security every time)..
Johnny Test is weird about this. The lab belonging to the title character's sisters seems secret in some episodes. In others, it seems their parents are fully aware of it. It's possible the parents know about it, but Susan and Mary just aren't allowed to be that reckless with their inventions, or else their lab access will be shut down. The reckless part happens half the time.
Technically, this was the entire gimmick behind M.A.S.K, what with the face-concealing helmets and Transforming Mecha vehicles, but seeing as how both factions (and most of the organizations they work with/against) know each other's vehicles and Masks by sight (and don't use code names, and to varying degrees know each other's secret identities right off the bat), such deception doesn't work too well...
Gargoyles largely maintained it partially because there didn't seem enough evidence to conclude the sighting of monsters was the real thing and all parties who did know were content to keep it that way. The Gargoyles were nigh-extinct in most places, the The Fair Folk all incredibly disorganized and generally isolated from each other and humanity. Subverted in the potential Grand Finale when the Hunters exposed the Manhattan Gargoyles' existence to the world once and for all.
Invader Zim maintains a Masquerade of being a "perfectly normal human worm-baby" despite his incompetence, and total lack of knowledge about human norms and customs. This is possible because of the incredible stupidity of everyone in Jhonen Vasquez's universe.
In Ben10, Ben's Grandpa Max was a member of the Plumbers, whose purpose was to hunt down rogue aliens. They hid their existence from humanity and had a secret base hidden inside Mount Rushmore.
In X-Men: Evolution, the existence of the mutants is hidden at first because Professor X does not believe mutants will be accepted by the public yet. The existence of the mutants is revealed to the world at the end of the second season. And for a while, it goes about as well as Xavier had feared.
In both the Hanna-Barbera and The Hub versions of Pound Puppies, both the Pound Puppies network as well as the fact that dogs are able to talk are kept secret from humans. However, there is at least one person in each version who is aware, at least in part: the sweetheart orphan Holly in the H-B show, and the doting little girl Dot in The Hub's iteration.
The show has this with O.W.C.A., the "Organization Without a Cool Acronym" (It Makes Sense in Context), an animal government organization which Perry the Platypus is part of. One of their rules is that they cannot have their agent identity revealed, which is a major plot point in Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension when Perry's identity as Agent P's exposed to the others. At the end, he's given the choice of either letting them know his identity, but being moved to another home or using Doofenshmirtz' Amnesiainator (which apparently worked because Doof didn't know he had built it) to erase his identity from their minds. They choose the latter.
One episode had Stacy use a loophole to avoid the memory eraser; the O.W.C.A. rules say that "the agent's host family" cannot be allowed to discover their secret identity, and Stacyisn't part of the host family. She does this because she doesn't want to have to rewatch a horror movie. The series has yet to do anything resembling a storyline with this.
Professional Wrestling, for most of the twentieth century, existed behind an elaborate charade known as Kayfabe, hiding the fact that it was a staged athletic exhibition rather than an actual, competitive sport. Eventually, said secret came out, and, as it turned out, most fans of the "sport" didn't really care too much. Or already knew.
Several TV quiz shows in the 1950s practiced a similar Masquerade, only in their case the public was royally steamed when the deceptions were revealed.
Certain Internet forums have adopted Fight Club's Rules 1 and 2 (do not talk about this place) in an attempt to limit contact with the outside world and maintain their own lawless environment. Unfortunately, this works about as well as it did in Fight Club.
From time to time, actual Fight Clubs are identified and shut down by police.
In a less violent but equally underground fashion, many LGBT, BDSM and Swinger clubs don't make their presence public. They often enforce strict guest lists and ban anything with a camera or all electronic devices altogether. Plausible Deniability might be harder, but certainly not impossible.
Early in the profession's history, stage magicians maintained their own Masquerade to conceal how their tricks were done, keeping up a pretense that they actually possessed supernatural powers. As audiences grew more skeptical and came to appreciate magic more for its cleverness and theatrics than for mysticism, this ruse was generally abandoned, yet many still adhere to the "Magician's Oath" of secrecy as to how a trick works, if only to hide their trade secrets from rival magicians. Many magicians reveal their secrets on You-tube or in magic books, making it a wasted effort for all but the most spectacular illusions.
National Security services traditionally operate a form of masquerade - traditionally Britain's MI:5 (domestic counter intelligence) and MI:6 (foreign spying) didn't "officially" exist until the mid-80s, even though this was a legal fiction everyone knew about. These days, MI:6 is happy to have its most famous (fictional... probably) operative, James Bond emerging from its (real) London HQ!
The US National Security Agency was similarly officially nonexistent for much of its history. Despite this, it was commonly known to exist, and people often joked that NSA actually stood for "No Such Agency".
If advanced aliens or magical entities lived among Terrans and did not want to be found, they would probably never really know if they are here or not. Then again, Fortean journalism is still going strong.
Many totalitarian regimes throughout history kept their worst acts, such as the Holocaust, secret to everyone until the lid was blown right open. Many others, most notably communist states, kept a "state approved reality" that would be fed constantly to their people, justifying the famine and suffering within their own borders while keeping the prosperity of other nations hidden. How effectively this worked varied.