Missing Reflection

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Vampires seldom reflect on the emptiness of their unlives. But think of the potential limbo victories!note 

A popular conception about vampires is that they cast no reflection in a mirror and often have an intense aversion to them. Genre Savvy characters may become aware of places that lack mirrors or contain several broken ones foreshadowing this trope.

The reason for the mirror-phobia has to do with the idea that mirrors reflect souls and because vampires don't have souls, they don't have reflections, unless the mirror has a backing that's not silver. There is also the old argument that blood suckers exist in two worlds, in the living and in the dead. But since it isn't fully in either one it will not be seen in a mirror. Mirrors force vampires to confront their nature of existence as an undead, which is why many vampires do not like mirrors.

Depending on the setting, a Missing Reflection may take the form of not appearing on film and/or digital cameras, or being inaudible on telephone or recording.

Note that traditional vampire folklore doesn't necessarily include the lore about vampires and mirrors. In fact, the idea originated from Bram Stoker's renowned novel Dracula (1897) wherein Jonathan Harker notices the Count's missing reflection in his shaving mirror.

Sub-Trope of Glamour Failure and Sister Trope to The Mirror Shows Your True Self. Compare Casts No Shadow, which is to this trope what The Shadow Knows is to The Mirror Shows Your True Self.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • As a vampire, Touta Konoe from UQ Holder! lacks a reflection. It's what tipped off Kuromaru about his true nature.
  • Despite its female lead being a half-vampire and playing classical weaknesses for laughs, My Monster Secret actually avoids this trope. Until very late in the series, where Youko's vampiric nature begins asserting itself and she stops showing up in photographs — which causes her friend Mikan to realize that she's a vampire.
  • This is exploited in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency by Joseph Joestar in his fight against the vampire Straizo, who thinks he managed to score a fatal hit with his Eye Beams, only to realize that Joseph was behind him the whole time and he actually attacked his reflection in the mirror.
  • The doppelganger who appears in one episode of Ergo Proxy does not reflect on the water.

    Comic Books 
  • In American Vampire, European vampires have no reflection while the American species have distorted reflections.
  • Titan's Doctor Who comics: In "The Silvering", the Eighth Doctor has to deal with evil duplicates from a world behind a mirror. They can be identified by having no reflection of their own.
  • Fiends of the Eastern Front: Hans realizes that the Romanian soldiers his company are partnered up with are vampires when he notices that they have no reflections in the water.
  • In Peculia and the Goon Grove Vampires, one of the babysitters is taken to a bedroom to try and shake off a dizziness spell while talking with her charge. She at first thinks she's seeing things when the charge doesn't show up in a mirror she's standing in front of. But soon realizes she really doesn't have a reflection, to which the charge quickly bites and drains her.

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Hotel Transylvania
    • Used for a gag where Mavis practices a speech in front of a mirror even though as a vampire she has no reflection.
    • Used again in the second movie at Johnathan and Mavis' wedding when a picture is taken of both the couple and their parents. Naturally Dracula and Mavis don't show up in the film.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dracula film adaptations:
    • In Dracula, Van Helsing observes that Dracula is not reflected in the mirrored lid of a box, and shows it to the Count, who dramatically slaps it away.
    • In House of Dracula, John Carradine's Dracula throws no reflection. Nor does the evilized Dr. Edelmann.
    • In Jess Franco's faithful 1970 adaptation Count Dracula, Dracula casts no reflection in Harker's mirror.
    • Count Dracula (1977): After Dracula's third attack on Lucy. Helsing goes to check on her, but looks at a nearby mirror and realizes he's too late to save her when she doesn't cast a reflection anymore.
    • In John Badham's Dracula (1979), staring Frank Langella as the Count, Abraham Van Helsing and Jack Seward show Jonathan Harker the fact that the staked Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis) has no reflection they then cut out her heart to finally free her.
    • Two examples in Bram Stoker's Dracula
      • Johnathan pulls out a mini-mirror to shave only for Dracula to come visit in his room all of a sudden. Johnathan is startled by his presence since he didn't see him in the mirror. When Dracula sees it, he hisses and uses his powers to crack it.
      • During the scene with Johnathan and the brides who proceed to seduce him, at one point, the camera cuts to a mirror above their bed. Johnathan is the only one reflected in it while invisible forces pull at his clothes and cut into his skin.
  • The Return of the Vampire (1944), starring Bela Lugosi, shows the corpse of the vampire in a coffin and then a reflection that only shows the clothes.
  • The same trope of vampire lore was parodied in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, where a big dance scene ends up being ridiculous when seen in a mirror, particularly when Dracula is spinning the woman in the air.
  • Exploited during the ballroom scene in The Fearless Vampire Killers. Since vampires cast no reflection, a mirror was used as a trap to indicate who was human during the vampire ball.
  • Rise: Blood Hunter: The main character starts to realize that she has become a vampire when she wakes up in the morgue and goes to inspect herself in a mirror, which doesn't show her reflection.
  • In Van Helsing, a mirror reflects a person dancing, but not their vampire partner. Same goes for the other couple hundred people in the ball room. Those paying close attention can see this Oh, Crap! moment coming.
  • In one segment of the anthology horror film Vault of Horror, a man finds himself in a diner where the staff and the menu are a bit... odd. He realizes too late why when he notices that he's the only person in the diner with a reflection.
  • In Vamp!, AJ reveals to Keith this trope is in effect after becoming a vampire. Later, as Keith is trying to leave town, he discovers Duncan has become a vampire when he doesn't see him in the rear view.
  • Fright Night 2: New Blood: Variation, with vampires not showing up on cameras. In the intro, this leads to a girl being attacked in a convenience store looking she's being held up to the ceiling by nothing but thin air on the security cam.
  • Dracula 2000 had this when Dracula attacks a reporter and her cameraman when they covered a crashed plane he was on. Initially the cameraman can't see him through the camera, so when Dracula grabs the reporter and cuts at her neck a bit, all he sees is her struggling and the cut suddenly appearing. Likewise when the reporter runs to their van, she sees her cameraman being tossed aside by an invisible force on her monitors.
  • In Bordello of Blood, Rafe tries to confront Lilith at a bar where the encounter is shot from afar on a camera. Later in the film, when Catherine is looking over the footage following her dumping him from the case. She finds there's no image of Lilith on the film, making her realize that Rafe's claims of her being weird might have some truth to it. This likewise happens earlier in the film when Rafe takes some pictures of some dead bodies in a coffin as evidence. However since it was the body of a vampire Lilith herself killed. It doesn't show up in the picture when Rafe tries to show police it.

    Literature 
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula: Soon after his arrival at Castle Dracula, Jonathan Harker observes the building was devoid of mirrors. When Dracula silently comes into Harker's room while he was shaving, Harker notices that Dracula, who is standing behind him, does not appear in the shaving mirror as he should have. The Count reacts violently and flings the mirror out a window. The missing reflection is the first solid evidence of his vampiric nature that Johnathan directly observes.
  • Zig-zagged in The Vampire Files, vampires can become intangible and invisible to direct sight, but their intangible forms' reflections are visible as clouds of mist. It takes quite a few books for the vampire protagonist to discover this, as his normal solid form casts no reflection at all, so he normally avoids mirrors altogether.
  • Inverted in Sergey Lukyanenko's World of Watches. Vampires can glamour the minds of humans to hide themselves from sight. This does not work on Others, who can easily see through these mind tricks. The only way for a human to see a hidden vampire is to look at a reflection, as glamour only works in direct line-of-sight. Video cameras work fine as well.
  • In The Nekropolis Archives, vampires look human, but cast no reflection or shadow.
  • The Night Flier: The vampire can't be seen through a mirror, most notably at the end when he manhandles the main character inside an airport bathroom and it just looks like he's being held up by thin air. This is also a Berserk Button for the vampire, who prefers smashing every mirror he sees.
  • In Straight Outta Fangton, vampires lose their reflection when they become Old Ones.
  • In the story "Cast the First Shadow", a man who Casts No Shadow, long persecuted for it, meets with a woman who similarly has no shadow — only to be revolted and turned away from her by the discovery that she also has the unnatural property of having no reflection.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Quantum Leap episode "Blood Moon" has Sam Beckett leap into the body of a madman who lives in a castle and thinks he's a vampire, in order to protect a young woman from being killed by the vampire cult. Throughout the episode, Sam scoffs at the existence of vampires, until just before he leaps out; he finally sees a mirror, only to find that he has no reflection.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Vampires don't show up in mirrors (prompting Willow to ask Angel at one time, "How do you shave?"), although they can be captured in photos and video.
    • One vampire actually makes sure to keep all mirrors out of their surroundings to avoid this. Unfortunately for him, this, along with the heavy curtains and slightly suspicious behavior, causes Cordelia, who has encountered vampires before, to figure out exactly what he is.
    • This is lampshaded when Wesley is impersonating Angel, where he screams at the sight of a mirror and insists it be covered while the people around him stand bemused and point out that they already know he is a vampire.
    • When Angel visits Pylea, he temporarily loses several of his vampiric weaknesses, including the lack of reflection. The novelty of having a reflection takes a while to wear off, and his friends start making sarcastic comments about how much time he's spending looking in mirrors.
    • When Angel suffers from phlebotinum-induced amnesia and doesn't know he is a vampire. Then he looks in a mirror...
      Angel: I'm invisible!
      Cordelia: No you're not.
      Angel: Oh. I'm a vampire. They're gonna kill me.
  • Zig-zagged in Forever Knight. Most vampires don't appear in mirrors, but Nick having a reflection was handwaved as being because of his progress toward humanity. In reality, budget issues prevented the editing out of every reflection.
  • Vampires in Ultraviolet have no reflection, neither can their image or voice be transferred by electronic media such as telephones or CCTV cameras. Even their fingerprints can't be recorded. The government team that's hunting them therefore use small video cameras attached to their weapons to confirm their target.
  • Played with in Moonlight, where vampires appear as blurs in old films, but show up perfectly fine on digital cameras and mirrors without silver backing. The explanation given was that the chemicals used to develop the film included silver, which destroyed the vampire's image. This is actually a problem, as a blurry photo only revealed that the photographer was incompetent, while a clear digital picture of a vampire with a Game Face feeding on someone is compromising evidence. It is not mentioned if the image is blurred in regular silver mirrors (which are still widely used).
  • Doctor Who: In "The Vampires of Venice", the Saturnyns don't show up in mirrors. It is explained that the perception filter they use to appear human "manipulates the brainwaves" of whoever is looking at one, but it doesn't work on mirrors which show them for what they are. The mind however is confused by the two being different, and compensates by simply not showing a reflection at all.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: In vampire Juliet's debut episode, there's a sight gag where she does her hair in her mirror that doesn't show her reflection.
  • In Kamen Rider Ex-Aid's net spinoff Kamen Sentai Gorider, protagonist Emu meets several slain Kamen Riders in a Closed Circle mystery. The room where they spend most of their time has a giant mirror, and none of the dead Riders casts a reflection — but Emu does, which makes them suspicious. This actually gives away real culprit: one of the Riders present is Kazuma Kenzaki (Kamen Rider Blade), who didn't die at the end of his series but rather turned himself into a monster (though he initially claims that's the same thing as being dead). When the real Kenzaki shows up, he casts a reflection just like Emu, exposing the impostor.
  • In Season One of Being Human (UK), there's a weird but tense scene where the three main characters are fooled into watching a vampire who has filmed themselves having sex and then feeding and killing a human... but only the human shows on the DVD (then the vampire's bloody footprints when she walks through the blood pooling afterwards).

    Myths & Religion 
  • A common theme throughout vampire mythology explains that because they don't have souls, they don't have reflections, unless the mirror doesn't have a silver backing (vampires are weak to silver).

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Brain Dead 13, when Vivi looks in the mirror, she has no reflection (save for her lipstick), revealing that she is a vampire. Not like this wasn't obvious before.
  • In BlazBlue, Rachel Alucard doesn't cast a reflection in any reflective surface, be it a mirror, a water puddle or a really reflective floor, due to her being a vampire.
  • In The Sims 4, vampires don't have reflections in mirrors. Somehow this doesn't stop them from using mirrors the same way other Sims do — freshening up their makeup, trying on outfits, practicing speeches, calming down from potentially deadly emotional extremes, etc.
  • When Aqua reaches The World Within in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage, she has no reflection in the mirror she came through. When Aqua completes the first mirror room, a blurry, obscure reflection can be seen, becoming more and more clear until it is completely normal after completing every mirror.
  • When Reinhardt or Carrie passes through the Villa in Castlevania 64, they will encounter a villager who offers to help them. However, he's standing next to a mirror in which he doesn't appear, revealing himself to be one of Dracula's minions.

    Web Comics 
  • In Daniel, a vampire appears in a mirror as a faint translucent silhouette. However, the vampire himself sees something unspeakably horrible in the mirror instead.
  • In Dracula Ruler Of The Night this is used when the hunters are trying to escape from Carfax Abbey, coming across an apparently kidnapped Mrs. Westenra (Lucy's mother) in the process. Johnathan, in trying to reassure her they'll keep her safe, catches a reflection off a metal surface and only see her clothing floating in the air. Revealing to his horror that she has long since been bitten and turned.
  • One xkcd strip compares refracting and reflecting telescopes, listing the flaws of each; the refractor is listed as being more expensive and less compact, experiencing chromatic aberration, and not being able to gather as much light as a reflector of the same size. The reflector's flaw? It can't see space vampires.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Carrie often lacks a reflection and doesn't show up on film, though this trait is frequently ignored depending on the needs of the plot. This is perhaps best demonstrated in "The Tape": the whole episode is a recording, and though her "introduction" just shows blank space, in several other scenes Carrie is clearly visible.
  • A hilarious moment in Avengers, Assemble! where Black Widow, having been bitten by a vampire, attempts to escape from Captain America and Iron Man... and promptly knocks herself out running into a mirror because she didn't see her reflection.
  • Hilariously done on the children's show Count Duckula, where the eponymous duck decides to redecorate the castle and one decorator hired does the place up in all windows. Since the duck is a vampire, he can't see himself in any of them.
  • On The Real Ghost Busters episode "No One Comes to Lupisville", Egon notices that their "hosts" don't have reflections.
  • While she shows up on film many times, the title card for "Marceline's Closet" shows that Adventure Time's Marceline lacks a reflection.

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