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See-Thru Specs
"Put the glasses on! PUT 'EM ON!"
Roddy Piper, They Live!

The world is the way it is. Or so they would have you believe but there is something more, something underneath the thin skin of this world, something which can't be normally seen by human eyes. How can you see it then? Why, with special glasses, of course.

These can come in a variety of forms: regular sunglasses, x-ray specs ordered from the back of a comic book, hagstones, or special amulets. You can see By the Eyes of the Blind, those Invisible to Normals, and the Masquerade. You've broken the Weirdness Censor on your eyes.

Now, the only question is: Is this a good thing?

Despite what the title may imply, this has nothing to do with X-Ray Vision. Compare with the Goggles Do Something Unusual. A subtrope of True Sight.


Examples:

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    Advertising 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Tsukihime reverses this. Its main character wears special glasses that hide the "lines of death" which he is otherwise forced to see.
  • Franken Fran took this trope and applied it to a pair of eyes that the title character created and implanted in a painter. The eyes allowed him to see light and color spectra that normal humans couldn't see. Unfortunately, this caused him to see all sorts of Eldritch Abomination that are usually invisible to humans. He ends up falling in love with one of them. It is not insignificant to note that this is one of the happier endings in the series.
  • One chapter of To Love-Ru has Rito put on a special pair of glasses that Lala uses to work on her inventions. As this is To Love Ru, the glasses just happen to make him see through women's clothing.
  • It's not quite the glasses that does it in AR∀GO: City of London Police's Special Crimes Investigator - it's rather the cream that Joe applies to them that gives him the ability to see the monsters and ghosts in London otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
  • This is how Kazumi learned the truth about Yuuji's status as a Torch in Shakugan no Shana, after she was given an eyepiece that allowed normal humans like herself to see the waning flame of a human-turned-Torch (which, under normal circumstances, would mean that said human would soon retroactively vanish from existence).
  • One of the seven detective gadgets in YuYu Hakusho provides this ability. Rarely used.

    Films 
  • The movie They Live! is built around this trope: the main character played by Roddy Piper finds a box of sunglasses and when he puts one on, he can see the hidden aliens among them, as well as signs saying "Consume," "Marry and Reproduce," and money printed with "This is your God" on it.
  • On the pseudo-scientific side, ecto-goggles allowed the Ghostbusters to detect invisible ghosts and other psycho-kinetic anomalies visually. They turn up in the film, the sequel, and much of the spinoff media. There was even a toy.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Johan Krauss obtains eyewear that enables the BPRD team to see through magical beings' glamour.
    • Including that of Hellboy himself. Even though he isn't really using glamour, as he physically broken his horns off and then filed them down.
  • The original movie 13 Ghosts in 1960 used special glasses to see the ghosts. Ditto for the remake, Thir13en Ghosts, in 2001.
    • The original even included faint outlines of the ghosts that could be seen with the complimentary color filter cardboard glasses.
  • For Your Height Only (1981), the Filipino James Bond spoof, has the dwarf secret agent hero equipped with see-through glasses that he uses to check out some secretaries naked and see a couple of villains (also shown naked) hiding behind the curtains.
  • X! The Man With X-Ray Eyes starts out as a straight-up case of X-Ray Vision but the protagonist's eyesight eventually starts to see something that can't be attributed simply to that.
  • The Whisperer in Darkness. The protagonist is unimpressed when a man turns up with a photograph of a creature his father supposedly shot, yet there's nothing to be seen because they're allegedly made up of 'a different kind of matter'. Until one of the scientists uses a parallax viewer, revealing the creepy sight of a Starfish Alien Mi-Go.
  • James Bond had a few pairs. First, in A View to a Kill, he had a pair of glasses with adjustable polarization, which allowed him to see through one-way mirrors. In The World Is Not Enough, the tinted lenses gave him quasi-X-Ray vision. He used them to see concealed weapons and lingerie.
  • In If Looks Could Kill, Michael Corben gets X-ray glasses as part of his superspy gear.

    Folklore 
  • Hagstones, also called "serpent's eggs" and "witch stones," were said to protect against the evil eye and prevent nightmares and cure whooping cough.

    Gamebooks 

    Literature 
  • The Merkabah Rider has glasses which allow him to see spirits and other nasties in human form.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles, the main human characters have to look through a hole in a stone (also called a hagstone or adder stone, in the books, a "seeing stone") to see the fairy creatures when they don't want to be seen.
  • In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality novel With a Tangled Skein, there is a pair of glasses that allows the wearer to actually see the wages of sin people are piling on themselves in Purgatory Hell. Satan was trying to get people into Hell on the installment plan: for each level, you had to sacrifice 1% of your good. (There are hundreds of levels.) These looked tempting to live people and Incarnations without the glasses; with them, not so much.
  • The hole-in-a-stone variation also appears in Neil Gaiman's Coraline, where the heroine used one to find the souls of the other children.
  • William Sleator's The Boy Who Reversed Himself had a set of glasses created by four-dimensional creatures that allowed you to see around clothes (and everything else) by giving you 4D vision, somehow.
  • Vivian Vande Velde's Now You See It...
  • In the Alcatraz Series, many of the Lenses work like this, from the Oculator's Lenses that allow them to detect powerful magic and other Oculators, the Tracker's Lenses which let them track people by magic footprints, to the Translator's Lenses.
  • In the Robert Sheckley short story Is THAT What People Do?, a man ends up with a pair of half-functional binoculars which let him peep in on a series of bizarre scenes which may or may not be actually happening. In the end he looks in the other end of the binoculars, and sees a pair of enormous eyes, one of which winks at him.
  • The Stephen King short story The Ten O'Clock People has the Weirdness Censor become broken by, of all things, moderate smoking. For some reason the chemicals in cigarettes let people see thru the monsters' disguises, but only if you ingest them at a rate somewhere between "smoke occasionally" and "chain smoking."
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth Milo is given a magical spyglass that allows him to see things as they really are.
  • Rather than actual glasses, witches in the Discworld can enter Faerie by "opening their eyes, and then opening them again."
    • Also, the Tiffany Aching books have a stone-with-a-hole-in-it.
  • The Robert Bloch short story "The Cheaters" features glasses that let you read people's minds. Being a Robert Bloch story, it doesn't end well.
  • "Mad" Larkin's scope in the Warhammer 40,000 novel series Gaunt's Ghosts explicitly functions this way on at least one occasion (seeing through a psychic illusion caused by some Eldar in Ghostmaker) and in a less literal sense in general - Larkin is somewhat unhinged, and he mentions earlier in the book that he sees things clearly only when he's looking through his scope. Given how the 40k universe works, it's likely that it was because of his madness and unwaivering faith in his scope that he could see the through the illusion.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen involves a mirror that reflects only bad things. It does technically reveal things about people that are hidden but more importantly it hides the whole truth.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, magicians possess magical glasses which allow them to see into the second and third planes. Djinn and other magical creatures can be invisible/disguised in this plane, and the glasses enable a human to see them in a true(r) form.
    • Some of the citizens rules by magicians develop the ability to see the djinnis in a similar manner without such contacts, or see the aura of magical creatures, which becomes a rather important plot point.
  • The Infocom novel Wishbringer involves a pair of apparent joke glasses that allow one to tell whether something is magic.
  • In Midnighters, anything that hasn't been touched by midnight is blurry to Rex. Since most things haven't, he wears glasses, but if something has, it's blurry when he's wearing them (and clear when he's not). That is, until the second book, when he becomes a halfling, then changes back, and no longer needs them.
  • Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris novel Shriek has the organic-tech glasses that Duncan gives Janice so that she can see a Grey Cap's-eye-view of the city,
  • In Roman Glushkov's Steel Loop (a part of the Death Zone series), Diamond Mongoose has 100-carat diamonds in various parts of his body as the result of an anomalous accident in one of the Zones. One of these is in place of his right eye. This diamond allows him to see trails of moving objects larger than a bird (not that there are any birds in the Zones). This is overlaid over his normal vision like a HUD projection.
  • In Philip K. Dick's short story, "Faith of Our Fathers", it's an anti-hallucinogenic drug that neutralizes the hallucinogen in the water that makes everybody perceive the Party Leader as a human being. In actuality, it's not clear exactly what he is, but it's implied that he's some kind of godlike entity that feeds on humanity.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Luna Lovegood's Spectrespecs, which allow her to see "wrackspurts," invisible creatures that float into people's ears and cloud their brains.
    • Mad-Eye Moody's magical glass eye, which allows him to see in all directions and through solid objects and illusions.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who episodes "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday," the Doctor wears a pair of 3-D glasses designed to see the residual void stuff.
  • The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "Tale of the Super Specs," partially inspired by They Live.
  • The gozarian glasses in The Middleman allow people to see (but not hear) ghosts.
  • One episode of Reaper has Sam get a pair of glasses which will supposedly allow him to see the true forms of demons. This effect has not been shown, though.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scientific Method", the Doctor figures out there are invisible aliens on the ship and modifies Seven's Borg eye implant to detect them. When she opens her eyes again, she can see the aliens — everywhere. And they're doing horrible things to the crew...
  • In the fourth season premiere of Charmed, Piper and Phoebe enchant a pair of sunglasses so that the wearer can see the true form of evil beings.

    Mythology 
  • Myths of The Fair Folk sometimes feature magical ointments which, rubbed on one's eyelids, allow one to see the faerie. One common scenario is when a man accidentally splashes some of this substance on one of his eyes, then is deprived of it — the eye, not the ointment — by an irate fey who dislikes being observed. A variant has a midwife, who is given the ointment so she can assist with a faerie birth, but secretly keeps some of it with the same consequences.
    • This is referenced in one Thor comic - Thor enters Faerie in order to rescue a woman, and is accompanied by a retired soldier. They find a vial of ointment on a defeated fae soldier, but there's only enough for one of them; the soldier gets it, because Thor, being a god, can see the true face of Faerie (albeit hazily) and doesn't need it. When the Dark Elf Malekith attempts to blind the soldier later, the plate in the man's head keeps him from losing his sight... but he does lose the effect of the ointment.
    • In one Slavic tale, such an ointment attracts the attention of a bandit when he accompanies his leader to a peacemaking meeting at the local lord's palace. Using it reveals that the palace is a ruin, the other guests are dead trees, the lord's men are hounds, and the lord is Satan himself.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In FoxTrot, Jason pretends to have a pair of these in order to drive Paige crazy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has a spell called True Seeing which allows you to see through any illusions or glamors placed on an object. In theory, it is possible to enchant any object with True Seeing, including glasses, other clothing items, and even light sources (sort of like an anti-illusion field).
  • Call of Cthulhu campaign The Fungi From Yuggoth. It has a pair of spectacles that allowed the wearer to see into another dimension (with the usual impossible angles and bizarre perspectives). Each time you use them, there is a chance you could see a monster that could attack and kill you if you don't take them off in time.
  • GURPS: Artifacts has "The Mask of Maaukepu". If you look at someone while wearing it there's a small chance you'll see the worst thing that person has ever done.

    Toys 

    Video Games 
  • In Mega Man Star Force, Geo Stelar has the Visualizer, a pair of glasses that lets him see the wave world
  • The Lens of Truth in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask is purported to see through illusions, as well as see invisible or hidden elements. Likewise, the Cross in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link allows Link to see invisible enemies (namely Moas).
  • This is one of the mechanics in The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants. Your x-ray specs show which people are disguised aliens.
  • The Silph Scope in the first Pokémon games. It allowed to see the real form of wild ghost Pokemon.
    • The games set in Hoenn have the Devon Scope, which allows the player to see invisible Pokemon. Though it only needs to be used once to progress, there are several other hidden Pokemon in the routes near Fortree and Lilycove.
    • In the Mystery Dungeon spinoffs, Goggle Specs play a similar role to the Devon Scope, plus the ability to see traps.
    • An eyepiece known as the Aura Reader exists in XD; it allows the wearer to sense the dark aura of a Shadow Pokemon. It also serves as the restraining bolt, locking the Snag Machine's function as long as a Shadow Pokemon is not on the field.
  • Much gameplay in Splinter Cell revolves around using your military-grade goggles at opportune points. Night vision is easily explained away, otherwise you'd be playing a black screen half the time. A data stick provided by a neutralized enemy in the first game reveals that the mines around the compound Sam is infiltrating are designed to be visible to thermal cameras so that allies can see the mines and avoid them.
  • The premise of Flashback is that you created special glasses that allowed you to see the density of objects. As you walked around with them on, you noticed that some people were much heavier than they should be...
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has Detective Mode, which has functions including X-ray, forensic tracker, vital sign monitoring, weapon detection, and point-of-interest detection. This is treated as a combination of a scanner in Batman's cowl, and "seeing the world through Batman's eyes". The Joker, in the PS3-exclusive content, has X-ray specs which have that function and nothing else.
  • Quest for Glory II has X-ray specs which can be bought at one point in the game and serve no purpose other than to let you see pixelated boobies. And take a bite out of your Honor.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, one of the functions of the Demon Summoning Program is to turn the electronic HUD of your Demonica armor into one of these — only someone with this program installed to their Demonica can see the demons inhabiting the Schwarzwelt — and even then, it has limitations.
  • In Bayonetta, Luka can see the angels if he uses Cereza's glasses. Cereza herself says "The glasses aren't magic silly, I can see the monsters without them".
    • When handing them to him though, she does tap the lenses with her finger doing "Something" magical to them, if the brief flash of light that results is anything to go by.
  • In Persona 4, the protagonist and his nakama are able to see inside of the T.V. world and fight the shadows there thanks to special glasses (or, at least the lenses are special) that are made by the resident mascot character, Teddie, because "he gets bored when left alone." Bonus points for, during the game's true ending, having the protagonist discard his glasses—no longer needing them to see the Truth—and use his Eleventh Hour Super Power against the Mistress of all of the fog and mystery, Izanami.
  • The Dark Visor in Metroid Prime 2 allows Samus to see objects and elements that are either invisible, or cross-dimensional (between the Light and Dark Worlds).
    • The X-Ray Visor in Metroid Prime lets Samus see through fake and destructible objects, and reveals invisible things. It is the only way to keep Chozo Ghosts visible.
    • Despite being called the "X-Ray Scope", when Samus uses it, invisible objects appear, objects that aren't really there disappear, objects that require a specific weapon to destroy (Normal Bomb, Super Missile, Power Bomb, or Speed Booster) show an icon of that weapon, and Pit Blocks (the ones that crumble when you try to walk on them) are revealed.
  • As in Film above, James Bond uses these.
    • In Agent Under Fire, they allow him to see hidden panels.
    • In Nightfire, they allow him to see enemies behind walls (their skeletons register as pink blobs against a blue background).
    • Bond's erstwhile counterpart, GoldenEye, has MRI Vision thanks to his bionic eye-implant.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: Using the Scrye magic allows Patrick to see or hear the past, reveal hidden truths or creepy foreshadowing.

    Web Comics 
  • The first storyline of webcomic Veena has the title character find shades that let her see ghosts.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • You can buy glasses that are a sort of prism. They reveal the actual colors given off by lights. These are probably using diffraction gratings — essentially pieces of glass or plastic with lots of tiny parallel lines etched into them (mechanically or by hologram). This separates incoming light into its component colors for rainbow vision. Higher-precision versions are the basic components of spectroscopes.
  • Polarized glasses allow you to see, among other nifty things, density distortions in glass. And it's easy to make a stronger version using something that emits polarized light to see the distortions in water caused by anything moving through it.
    • There's an LCD mod where you can have your LCD seemingly emit white light and by wearing special glasses, you can see what's on the screen. It's actually taking one of the polarization filters out and turning it into glasses.
  • Some material is transparent to infrared rays, but opaque to the visible spectrum. This makes Infrared Xray Camera very partially Truth in Television


Seeker White Blood CellsSpeculative Fiction TropesSelf-Constructed Being
Purely Aesthetic GlassesGlasses TropesSexy Spectacles
Security ClingHorror TropesSenseless Phagia
Sassy Black WomanAdministrivia/Images Without a SourceSins of Our Fathers
They Live!ImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThis Is Spinal Tap

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