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Take Our Word for It
Yeah, because we can never get to see how awesome that book within the book really is. note 
"Uh, remember us? The audience? Can we see it, please?"

When something is supposed to be breathtakingly good or astonishingly bad - such as a really moving poem or a really hideous person - a frequent strategy is to not show or describe it at all, to instead give us only the characters' reactions. This allows the audience to imagine exactly how good/bad it is, manipulating their emotions indirectly and relying on their minds to create something more effective than an actual example. It can come across as a violation of Show, Don't Tell if it is used poorly, and there's always the risk that The Reveal later on will be terribly underwhelming in the face of all that build up, resulting in Humor Dissonance and/or Narm.

A staple trope of comedy and horror genres, albeit for different reasons. In comedy, often the humour revolves around the characters' reactions instead of the item itself, such as their exaggerated disgust over something that couldn't possibly be that bad. In horror this takes advantage of Nothing Is Scarier, fear of the unknown creating greater fear than actually showing the horrible thing, and a character reacting with terror at some unseen menace or horrific scene helps the audience to internalise that character's emotions. This can also be invoked in works- especially those which are "family friendly" that wish to portray something in the story that could offend their target audience, so, in order to keep the show from being too salacious, if a scene is extremely disgusting or lewd, all we'll get is the characters describing it (or just their reactions) instead of actually seeing the scene play out.

Smells and tastes are a common form in visual media, as the audience has no other way to detect these aside from character reactions. Literature doesn't have this limitation, although as everything needs to be described anyway it's usually less overt.

This trope is Older Than Feudalism, dating back to The Iliad where Helen is never fully described, especially by the standards of the rest of the work which has long, detailed descriptions of just about everything.

See also Brown Note, Undisclosed Funds, Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure, Ultimate Evil, Noodle Incident, Informed Ability, Orphaned Punchline, Lost In Transmission, You Cannot Grasp the True Form, You Do NOT Want To Know, Head-Tiltingly Kinky, Offscreen Afterlife, Offscreen Moment of Awesome, Narrative Profanity Filter, Nothing Is Scarier. Compare Showing Off The Perilous Power Source, where the characters are the ones who can't have the direct experience; Great Offscreen War, where a vast budget-busting world-changing war is only obliquely referred to as backstory; and Obscured Special Effects, where the special effects assets are partially concealed to prevent budget-busting.

Examples

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    Advertising 
  • Heavily lampshaded in a series of commercial for Sharp Televisions featuring George Takei, which constantly reminded us that, if you don't have a TV like this which is based on four colors instead of three, you can't actually see how the picture quality is any different.
  • In a radio commercial for GEICO, part of their rhetorical questions campaign is, "Could switching to GEICO really save you 15% or more on car insurance? Does a rolling stone gather no moss?" We hear the sounds of a stone rolling, then he says "No moss. You'll have to trust me on this one." (Well, MythBusters back them up, at least.)
  • In a "This is SportsCenter" commercial, San Francisco Giants Pitcher Brian Wilson shows two sports anchors why people should "Fear the beard," after they say that it's not intimidating. We then go behind his head where we see tentacles coupled with a roaring sound. Apparently seeing the sight from the front is so scary, one of the sportscasters claims he's going to be sick.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Azumanga Daioh
    • In one of the summer trip episodes, "responsible" teacher Kurosawa-sensei has been drinking pretty heavily (to keep Yukari-sensei out of the stuff). When the girls bring up the subject of boys/men, she cuts in "let me tell you about men", at which point we cut to a series of head shots of all the girls, with steadily deepening blushes on their faces (except for Child Prodigy Chiyo, who looks completely puzzled, and Osaka, who's intensely interested), interspersed with Relax-o-Vision shots of peaceful meadows and the like, with equally serene music playing in the background. Next morning, Chiyo approaches Kurosawa to ask for clarification about last night. The same music cuts again just as Chiyo gets to what was said, while we are shown a head shot of Kurosawa becoming more and more freaked out. The other girls show up and bow to her and thanking her for the "enlightenment". She's so hung-over she (and the audience) isn't even sure what she said.
    • This also happens before the first summer trip, when the series shows Yukari's car in a beat-up state and heavily implies her traumatizing driving (showing Chiyo and the other passengers as white as ghosts immediately afterwards and having Chiyo suffer PTSD in other scenes afterwards in which she recounts some of what happened) while never showing just how bad it is.
  • The final episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has Relena reading a birthday card left for her by Heero. We don't see what it says, but in the end it's sort of irrelevant, as she tears it up (part of a Call Back/Book End) and tells him to deliver his message in person next time. The novelization has the note being a farewell since Heero is heading to help with the colonization of Mars; presumably this isn't what the note says in the anime, since that was a rejected Alternate Ending. The manga Blind Target shows a simple torn-and-taped-together Happy Birthday note next to the teddy bear Heero gave Relena, strongly implying that it was the letter in question.
  • Sakurako of Hana Yori Dango is stated to have been an intensely ugly child before her plastic surgery, but her face is never shown.
  • Similar situation with Full Moon o Sagashite with Madoka Wakamatsu/Chisato Kurebayashi.
  • In Starship Operators whatever tactics Shinon devised when Amaterasu and Shenron are fighting the Kingdom (no, not The Kingdom) was not shown to the audience, and the tactics failed to execute, since they are supposed to win. Of course, the look of everyone when she presents it means that the plan must be really good.
  • In the Rurouni Kenshin manga, the details of Kenshin's ultimate maneuver is not shown except for a dramatic spray of Clothing Damage until his battle against Shishi-O; the anime adaptation chooses to cut away to a rainbow-colored lens-flare/halo irising out.
  • Naruto
    • Temari vs Tenten, during the manga. We didn't actually see the fight, we just saw the reactions after the Curb-Stomp Battle. While the anime shows this battle in full, it's not much to look at.
    • There's a chapter and an episode devoted to finding out what is under Kakashi's mask. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura (and the viewers) never see it, but the ones that do (the ramen shop owners) are absolutely stunned by what he looks like under the mask.
    • The fact that Naruto hasn't used his sexy jutsu since the Time Skip because he has a new "even more perverted technique", and when he uses it later it's offscreen (Kakashi just barely missing seeing it) and Konohamaru describes it as even better looking than before. However, the second fanbook has an omake about when Naruto trained with Jiraiya that actually does show it.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima! has Jack Rakan telling Negi about the huge, important, and extremely epic war that his father Nagi fought in. Needless to say, his description was rather... undetailed.
    Jack: A thrilling series of battles that would take a whole trilogy of movies or about 14 volumes to actually illustrate!
  • In the karaoke episode of Kannagi it is stated that Shino would have to "open her eyes" to sing leading to the only point in the anime that she does. All the viewer sees is her profile against the setting sun as the light shines past her eyes hiding them from view, the other characters obviously see them and by their expressions Shino's eyes must be of godly radiance
  • Blue Seed references Monty Python below, with an Omake about the TAC testing out their latest weapon: A sign with a lethally-funny joke on it.
  • Soul Eater: We don't actually know what Crona's poem consisted of, but it must have been depressing if it was able to send anyone who read it into a Corner of Woe wishing they had never been born (Or brought back to life, in Sid's case).
  • D.Gray-Man:
    • At the end of the zombie arc, after everyone (yes, everyone) in the Black Order has been turned into a zombie infected with Komuvitamin D, we are told that Bak managed to make a cure for everyone "after much hardship."
    • The soul of lvl4 Akuma.
  • One Piece
    • During chapter 561, we are expected to take Oda's word for it that the Whitebeard Pirates vs. the Marines and Seven Warlords of the Sea "hardly appears to be of this world" and is "a true ultimate battle". This would be all well and good if they didn't then go on to say that they skipped almost an hour and a half of battle.
    • In the special Chapter 0, the battle with Shiki and Garp and Sengoku isn't shown. However what is known is that half of Marineford (the battleground) was destroyed, and apparently at one point, a battleship was thrown with only half of it sticking up to the sky.
    • The early chapters give an estimate of a pirate or Marine's worth either through bounty or just second-hand accounts of feats. Good examples include Iron-Fist Fullbody, Alvida, and Axe-Hand Morgan.
  • Franken Fran: In one chapter, a painter who is losing his eyesight allows Fran to help him, and ends up seeing many, many more visual spectra than humans should. Some of the things he sees are horrible (including a Cthulhu cameo) and he flees into the woods, where he meets a pretty girl, falls in love, and finds true happiness. He later gives Fran a painting of his sweetheart (who looks pretty to him), and while we don't see the painting, Okita's truly horrified reaction (this coming from a cat-man who lives with Fran) suggest that the image is not nice to behold; common fan theory is that the girlfriend is something like Saya.. Since the artist is pushing the envelope enough already with the guro and horror, anything this revolting would be beyond anyone's ability to show.
  • Episode 17 of Keroro Gunsou features a scary-story contest between the Keroro Platoon and the Pekoponians. We only hear snatches of Fuyuki's story, which is apparently enough to terrify everyone else (including an actual ghost!). In Funimation's Gag Dub, the narrator explains during this part of the episode that he's talking over Fuyuki's story so they don't get sued for scaring anyone to death.
  • In Bleach, when Mayuri fights Szayel, Szayel uses his Gabriel ability on Nemu. In the manga (though not the anime) this leaves her body as a dried husk, but Mayuri does something off-screen which instantly restores her. Renji and Uryu had an obscured view and mostly just heard it and still find it incredibly disgusting, though Mayuri calls them stupid for not understanding what it was or suspecting it was something lewdnote .
  • Comedic example from Slayers: Ultra-powerful sorceress Lina Inverse is so utterly terrified of her elder sister Luna (who never appears) that just a letter from Luna is enough to send her into hysterics.
  • In Rave Master when a the leader of the Jiggle Butt Gang distracts Haru by talking about his past we only get to see his two lackies trying to figure out how to disarm a bomb they'd intended to hijack a train with. Then we cut back to Haru, the guy with a Disappeared Dad from age 1 and a mom who died when he was 6, crying like a baby saying "That's the most depressing story I ever heard!"
  • In the Read or Die manga, Joker plays an audiotape recital of a cursed book to a pair of prisoners he's interrogating. Of course, we never actually get to hear the audio, much less find out what is written in the book. However, by the time he's finished, both prisoners are complete psychological wrecks.
    • The same thing happens in the OVA, with Beethoven's "Suicide Symphony". A team of unwitting audio analysts off themselves gruesomely as soon as they listen to it. The audience never hears a note of it.
  • Blue Gender: Supposedly, the Blue are immune to standard weapons and tactics but we just have Marlene's word for it. The only times we see humans engaging the Blues in combat is with single-handed firearms or with the pathetically designed melee mech that seem designed to give the humans a staggering disadvantage.
  • As horribly graphic Berserk is in every damn possible way, we never clearly see Griffith's post-tortured face, as Guts and Judeau are so horrified at what the torturer did, they can't bring themselves to show the rest of the team and quickly replace his helmet onto his head.
  • Code Geass's ending gives us a time skip, then another time skip, then says that Lelouch has done stuff in the first time skip that is so horribly evil that his death makes the entire world less racist, bigoted and selfish by the end of the second time skip. We're not sure how. Indeed, this is a poor usage of the trope, as the conclusion of the entire premise of the series hinges on something that we don't really understand. As such, the fan base is split between those who accept that it's true because they say it is, and those who can't accept it because that part is so vague that they don't know how to fill in the gap.
  • Apparently, the scars that make a Claymore are so disgusting and grotesque, that they have the capability of turning off an entire horde of raping bandits. Eventually we do see them for ourselves. And it's safe to say that a single massive cut from neck to genitals that never, ever heals and must be held together with stitches is, in fact, pretty horrible and disgusting.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Kurama causes Kaito to lose at his own game by making a face, causing Kaito to laugh and lose his soul.
  • Buddha's manga in Saint Young Men, which is apparently extremely funny for people in Heaven but too in-jokey for mortals. All that's shown to the readers is the first panel featuring a pun on Ananda and a few hints about something called a rib dance.
  • In Kanamemo, Kana is at one time asked to practice smiling to her customers. She gives a smile that, while unseen by the audience, scares the wits out of those watching.

    Comics 
  • Nearly any time someone performs music in a comic, for obvious reasons.
  • We almost never see Doctor Doom's face. Any time anyone else sees it, he's facing away from the reader. The person seeing him isn't, and always reacts with horror. By now, it's clear they can never show us Doom's face: nothing could do all those years of horrified reactions justice. Later writers upped the Nightmare Fuel (and the irony) by saying the original scar was nothing much, but he was so desperate to hide it, he put on his mask while it was still redhot, and that's what created the visage that horrifies everyone. Jack Kirby intended Doom to look like this, his normal, unscarred face and a burned mass of scar tissue is seen in the Secret Wars miniseries, and there's an alternate-continuity Doom IN THE 17TH CENTURY! in Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four who takes off his mask exactly once.
  • Jack Hawksmoor of The Authority possesses genitals surgically enhanced by time aliens from the far future, weird enough to make a seasoned Secret Service agent vomit uncontrollably at the sight of them. This apparently didn't stop the Engineer from having sex multiple times with him though.
  • Done in The Sandman, where Death holds a speech at Morpheus's funeral. The only thing we're told is that "She gives you peace. She gives you meaning."
  • Done in the more-than-a-little-terrible Marvel vs. DC, in which Wolverine and Lobo allegedly have a fight. Ultimately, the fight is decided behind the counter, since no professional artist could possibly have rendered a realistic picture of Wolverine (without his adamantium at the time, I remind you) dealing damage to someone who is nearly as strong and fast as Superman and armed with an afterlife contract that makes him immortal.
  • In a 1970s issue of Green Lantern, GL and Green Arrow meet "The Most Beautiful Woman in The Universe". However we never get to see her face. The artist probably assumed drawing someone that beautiful was beyond his skills. Green Arrow refused to look at her face, claiming it might ruin every other woman for him, and make him give up give up his preferred lifestyle. GL didn't have that problem, though.
    • This is essentially a distaff version of Downwind Johnson, pal of the title character in the Smilin' Jack comic strip.
  • Gary Larson once drew a strip for The Far Side with the caption "Suddenly, two bystanders thrust their heads into the frame, ruining what would have been the funniest cartoon ever." Behind the huge heads of the waving "bystanders", all the reader can make out is a man sitting in a chair holding a chicken and a woman standing beside him. We are left to speculate as to what the strip might have involved.
  • Calvin's favorite bedtime story, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie", in Calvin and Hobbes. As Bill Watterson explains in the comic's 10th anniversary book, "Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie (like the Noodle Incident I've referred to in several strips) is left to the reader's imagination, where it's sure to be more outrageous." May be inspired by Emil, who's basically Calvin a hundred years earlier, and has been involved in one incident the narrator repeatedly informs us he or she "Has promised the parents not to talk about."
    • Taken to another level where Calvin's father is frustrated with Calvin wanting to hear the story every night despite having heard it enough to have the whole thing memorized, so he changes it a bit. The only clue we get is a terrified Hobbes asking Calvin "Do you think the townspeople will ever find Hamster Huey's head?"
  • In Li'l Abner, a woman named Lena the Hyena showed up for one Story Arc. She was so ugly, so incredibly hideous, that her face was never shown because one look at her would cause anyone to go mad. In reality, Al Capp realized that this way would simply be funnier. Still, readers wanted to know what she looked like, so he held a contest where he picked a face drawn summoned up by cartoonist Basil Wolverton, something that Don Markstien described as "a quasi-human creature that simply can't be described, the only way to do it justice is to show the picture itself." A toned-down version of Lena the Hyena showed up in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
  • Deadpool was once hired to assassinate someone who spread a rumor about a classmate in high school years ago, a rumor so vicious and appalling that it destroyed her life forever. This was so vile that even Bullseye was disgusted by it. An unfortunate bystander is shocked that a man should die for this, but once Deadpool whispers the rumor to him changes his mind, and even agrees to give the merc a head start before calling the cops on him.
  • In Excalibur, Rachel Summers (Phoenix) gets out from a party, with a gentleman, Nigel, asking what he said to piss her off. She transforms his clothing into tar and feathers. The Captain Britain reprimands her. She shows, telepathically, what the "gentleman" thought. The next second, all the group is needed to hold the Captain so he doesn't beat the shit out of Nigel.
  • Preacher, despite all its goriness, does a perfectly standard Reaction Shot when showing (the back of) a photo of someone who attempted suicide with a shotgun and lived. And then, being Preacher, you turn the page and there is "Arseface."
  • In the Scrooge McDuck story The Treasury of Croesus by Don Rosa, the first page shows the end of "Magica de Spell's most complex and bizarre scheme yet". The only things shown include magical explosions and foam coming out the windows of the money bin, a pig in a Groucho Marx disguise, a lizard with its tail tied to the tail of a vulture with a party hat... and Magica, wearing a viking helmet, an apron, a thick glove on one hand, carrying a thin wooden mallet in the other, an ice skate on one foot and a roller skate on the other, shouting "Curses! Foiled Again!"
  • Squirrel Girl has defeated some of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe, including Thanos, Galactus, Fin-Fang-Foom, Deadpool (twice), and Terrax; however, this Trope applies to most of them, because all except her battle with Doctor Doom have occurred off-panel.
  • The stink of Tona, the dog of Dori Seda. Of course, smells are especially difficult.
  • Baron von Helsingrad of Atomic Robo has committed a number of atrocities, most of which are left to speculation.
    Robo: By the authority of the League of Nations, Baron Heidrich von Helsingrad is hereby placed under arrest as an enemy of all mankind for the crimes of kidnapping, human experimentation on unwilling subjects, and... Wow. Jeez, that's a lot of atrocities. Where the hell did Helsingrad find the time to sleep? I don't even know what this one means.
  • In the story "A Strange Undertaking" from the EC comic The Haunt of Fear, which involved vengeful corpses, they didn't mention what said corpses actually did. In the final panel, the narrator said to imagine the worst thing the reader could think of, and that would be what had happened.
  • Identity Crisis features a whole page of captions describing how awesomely beautiful and moving Wonder Woman's speech at Sue's funeral is.
  • For Better or for Worse: Lynn Johnston has Michael Patterson get some very sweet book deals from a book he wrote. You might think that Johnston would use this trope. Instead, she gave an excerpt of Michael's writing, which people will tell you stinks. So remember, folks! Sometimes it's better not to avert or subvert this trope!
  • Garfield's and Jon's reactions upon seeing the picture of Doc Boy's girlfriend.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Atlantis The Lost Empire. Milo and his crew are sharing their personal stories around the campfire. The discussion ends with a cut to Mole excitedly lowering himself into a hole; Milo asks "What's Mole's story?" to which Dr. Sweet replies "Trust me on this one. You don't wanna know. Audrey, don't tell him. You shouldn't have told me, but you did, and now I'm tellin' you— you don't wanna know!" In the sequel Audrey ultimately tells Milo Mole's story, which can induce a Double Take.
  • Princess Mononoke goes to great lengths to build up a climactic battle between the representative factions for man and nature near the end of the movie. They even go as far as to throw the title character into the fray. What the audience sees is a brief storm and the sound of gunfire in the distance after the scene switches back to the hero. The aftermath is what will stand out. A mound of rotting animal carcasses, lines of fallen men from Iron Town, the leader of the boars covered in blood... There may only be a few visions or flashbacks to give you an idea of what took place, but it was brutal. This was actually quite effective in staying true to the movie's theme of the horrors of war by simply giving you a few pieces and some enough grisly evidence to leave the rest to your imagination rather than actually depicting the kind of epic battle that few movies can resist.
    • It's also a very spirited attempt at proving the old adage "You can't make an anti-war movie" wrong. If you don't show the actual battle, you can't make it accidentally seem glorious, which is a fairly clever way of getting around the problem.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Neil witnesses Victor Kulak rescuing young campers from falling over a waterfall in Wet Hot American Summer and simply shouts, "Whoa! Whoa! You're a master! What the! What the fu- you're doing it! You're actually doing it! You saved them! You saved them!" This could also be considered a an Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: "Where's Fluffy?"
  • In the Firefly movie Serenity, a recorded message ends with the horrible death of the person giving the report at the hands of Reavers, but during this part the camera focuses on the faces of the cast and we only hear the sounds — and then not even all of them, as Mal shuts off the playback before it goes too far. To be fair, this may be due to keeping the movie below NC-17 — as Zoe explained in the pilot, Reavers will "rape you to death, eat your flesh, and sew your skin into their clothing. And if you're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."
  • In All About Eve, Eve's on-stage performances are described by the narrator as magnificent, but not a single one of them is actually shown. Then again, most of her screen time is a performance, and a damn good one.
  • In Stranger Than Fiction, the book being written by Emma Thompson's character throughout the movie is supposedly so beautiful that it justifies dying for. It's so beautiful, in fact, that even the person who would have to die agrees , it helps that his death would save a young boy from being run over by a bus.
  • In Beetlejuice, when Adam Maitland asks Betelgeuse if he can be scary, he turns and shows them. The camera shows things sprouting out of his face, but not what his face looks like. An actual scary face was created, using several pieces of large animatronics that were filmed separately then overlaid photographically, to make a single, highly detailed, highly articulate monstrosity. Tim Burton eventually decided to scrap it in favor of...nothing. Pictures of the pieces can be found on the Internet.
  • Forrest Gump
    • When Forrest delivers a short speech on Vietnam, his microphone gets unplugged, so we can't hear it. Abbie Hoffman, the only person close enough to hear what Forrest actually said, is reduced to tears, saying, "You said it man! You said it all!" Apparently the words we see Tom Hanks mouth are, "Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that."
    • Also done with the wound on his buttocks, which Forrest shows to LBJ in full view of the cameras. His mother is shocked, but the President just says, "Goddamn, son."
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Chilton has that great speech about Lecter, ending in, "When the nurse leaned over him, he did this to her," and hands Clarice a photo. All we see is Clarice's expression of shock, and then Chilton adds, "His pulse never got above 85. Even when he ate her tongue." We do see footage of the attack, however, in Hannibal.
  • In Wayne's World, Garth's rant at Wayne, triggered by the latter walking off the set of the TV program he was hosting with the former, is 95% obscured by the noise of a passenger jet coming in for a landing not far behind them, except for the bit at the end: "... until the handle breaks off and they have to find a doctor to pull it out!" It is clear that Wayne hears it just fine, though, to judge by his expression of astonishment throughout and his response: "Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?!"
  • In Mr Frost, the titular character's psychiatrist receives a videotape from the police detective who originally captured the mass-murderer. We never see the tape, only the psychiatrist's reaction to it.
  • The audience never sees the glowing object in Marsellus Wallace's briefcase in Pulp Fiction. One character asks, "Is that what I think it is?" Judging by the reactions of all who see it, it's pretty fantastic.
  • We never see the eponymous character in Rosemarys Baby, probably because it is the Spawn of the Devil himself. One character states, "He has his father's eyes."
  • In The Ipcress File, both Ross and Dalby remark that Dalby doesn't have Ross' sense of humour, which is nowhere in evidence.
  • Subverted in Theres Something About Mary when Ben Stiller's character gets his genitals caught in the zipper of his fly. The results are only visible to several characters, and each gives a flamboyantly shocked reaction. Just when it looks pretty clear that the film is going to leave it up to the audience's imagination, it flashes an extreme close-up shot of the whole thing. They should have let us take their word for it!
  • Used for excellent dramatic effect in The Third Man. Holly is finally convinced that his friend Harry Lime is completely evil and needs to be killed when he sees some of the children who took Lime's phony black market penicillin. We don't see the children, but from Holly's reaction it isn't pretty, and probably far beyond what could be depicted onscreen at the time anyway.
  • Used and then inverted in the feature version of Up Pompeii. References are made to some erotic frescoes in a Roman building, but they cannot be seen. Then, in the final scene, Frankie Howerd gives in and says "Oh, go on then" and the frescoes are shown over the closing credits. They're not actually that erotic, which is not surprising considering that the film was R-rated when it was released in 1971.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novel Murder Must Advertise, an advertisement has to be changed at the last second because, while the illustration and the headline are individually inoffensive, put them together and they somehow become indelicate. In the book we get the headline ("Are you taking too much out of yourself?") and a description of the illustration ("A (male epithet) and a (female epithet) who look as though they'd been making a night of it"), but when the BBC made a movie of the book, they pointedly did not let the camera ever see the illustration in question.
  • Hal Hartley's Henry Fool has a character who writes a literary work of life-changing brilliance, which we never get to hear/read. Also understandable considering how much of an effect it is supposed to have on people who read it. One person commits suicide, one woman's period is brought on early, and one person breaks out into a sad song. Henry Fool's work is also the trope, but for a totally different reason.
  • Guy Ritchie's Rock N Rolla. The painting that is a main plot point of the film is never shown. From the reactions of several of the characters, one would assume that it is very beautiful, even to serious gangsters.
  • In Clerks II, Elias tells Randall about his girlfriend's "pussy troll". According to Kevin Smith, the studio wanted him to film a pussy troll, but he told them nothing he could come up with would be nearly as funny as what the audience is imagining.
  • In The Next Voice You Hear (1950), God pre-empts radio programs all over the world for six consecutive days to address the human race. The audience never gets to hear what God said. For the entirety of the film, people discuss what God said. Finally at the film's end, people the world over gather 'round their radios to hear God's seventh message; the scene is given a huge build-up, with the strong implication that we, the audience, will finally ourselves get to hear the message. At last the announcer intones reverently, "Ladies and gentlemen, the next voice you hear will be the voice of God." There's a lengthy pause ... and then the announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen, today is the seventh day. We must presume that God is resting."
  • In Dogma, Bartleby and Loki enter a board meeting for the presidential staff of Mooby's, and go around the table, listing off all their sins. One of the members is so 'disgusting', Bartleby whispers it into the president's ear, then leans back, allowing Loki to say, "You're his father, you sick fuck!"
  • In The Impossible Years, the psychologist's older daughter is involved in a protest on campus where she held up a sign saying "Free Speech!" There was something else on the other side; the audience never sees it, but it is something very shocking.
  • In the French comedy The Wing or the Thigh, Louis de Funès' character and his sidekick research a factory of an evil fast food magnate, where they find among other things, chicken bred to cube form. But we only see their faces when they make the discovery.
  • In the film adaptation of Get Smart, when the Chief, and Agents 23 and 99 are talking to the President about the nuclear threat from KAOS, the President asks the Chief what the Vice-President had to say about the issue:
    The Chief: I'm afraid the vice-president and I had a less than cordial encounter yesterday, sir.
    The President: "Less than cordial", you say?
    The Chief: Yes sir.
    The President: [is handed a cell phone] Chairman of Joint Chiefs, he sent me this little movie. Put it right here on my cell phone. [presses play and shows it to the others; we only see the characters' reactions to what is shown]
    The Chief: [on video] I just got a new pacemaker! I can go all day! [A scream and loud crashing sound is heard on the video]
    Agent 99: Oh, Chief!
    Agent 23: Very sweet tackle.
    The President: Look at the surprise on his face!
  • Used to haunting effect near the end of the film The Messenger.
  • Larry Cohen's werewolf movie spoof Full Moon High makes a joke of its own lack of budget for decent special effects by at one point breaking the camera, and having characters tell us about the amazing scene that's happening over a completely black screen.
  • In the beginning of When a Stranger Calls, the police arrive to find the remains of the serial killer's latest victim, and not only does the detective put his hand to his mouth in horror, we are told soon after that no weapons were used.
  • Whatever Samara/Sadako does/shows to her victims to leave them looking like that in The Ring and Ringu. One of the milder instances occurs in The Ring 2, where a Samara-possessed Aidan apparently psychically shows a child psychiatrist something that makes her commit suicide by air embolism.
  • In La Vie en Rose, the audience don't actually hear Edith Piaf sing in her breakthrough performance (though we do in all other performances in the movie)- just the piano, and we see Marion Cotillard mime the songs (actually, all the performances were dubbed by a sound-a-like). At one point we also here the audience laughing.
  • Babydoll's dancing in Sucker Punch is never seen, covered instead by the bizarre metaphorical battle sequences.
  • Deliberately invoked during the Terminator films in regards to John Connor's tenure as leader of the Resistance. During the first three films and the television series, every character who comes back from the future is in awe when they talk about John Connor's legendary combat prowess and leadership skills, and are willing to throw down their lives at the drop of a hat to protect him. In flash-forwards, of the two times the audience ever sees Connor, he's looking through a pair of binoculars at a ragtag Resistance outpost, and cheering on his soldiers after the Battle of Crystal Peak. Terminator Salvation toyed with this - John Connor is serving as an ineffectual lieutenant midway through the Future War, and never gets a chance to take true command until the last major battle sequence.
  • For fairly obvious reasons, the audience of Labyrinth doesn't get to experience the odor of the Bog of Eternal Stench themselves.
  • When The Picture of Dorian Gray was adapted into a film in 1945, The Hays Code dictated that Dorian's perversions and debaucheries couldn't even be named, let alone shown or described, so the narrator just tells the viewer that he has done such terrible things that he is a social outcast among most everyone who isn't blinded by the idea that Beauty Equals Goodness.

    Literature 
  • The self-published and somewhat infamous Felsic Current relies entirely too heavily upon this trope, much to the detriment of the story.
  • In the The Gunslinger, first of The Dark Tower novels, Walter revives a man from death and tells Allie that the once dead man will say what lies beyond death if Allie says "19." When she tells him 19, we don't hear his response, but apparently it's so traumatic that she begs Roland to shoot her dead. He does.
  • H.P. Lovecraft and other contributors to the Cthulhu Mythos wrote of fictional books, such as the Necronomicon, which drive men mad upon reading them; we, of course, are "spared" any more exposure to their contents than a few short excerpts and quotations.
    • The actual creatures in Lovecraft and his followers are barely described to evoke the feeling that the protagonist just can't understand what he or she is seeing and is too terrified to look.
    • Jorge Luis Borges deliberately echoed this conceit, as concerns unspeakable creatures, in the short story (in English translation) There Are More Things, which is dedicated "To the memory of H. P. Lovecraft". It ends with the lines "My feet were just touching the next to last rung when I heard something coming up the ramp - something heavy and slow and plural. Curiosity got the better of fear, and I did not close my eyes."
    • Likewise, Greg Farshtey, writer of the BIONICLE books, comics, and serials with his Shout-Out to Lovecraft, Tren Krom. He only gave us a vague description, stating we'd go mad if we ever saw a picture of him. One thing's for sure, the characters in-story freaked out and fainted upon seeing him. Those that didn't were either extremely strong minded, or already cuckoo.
  • Robert W. Chambers' collection of short stories The King in Yellow focused around a play called, you guessed it, The King in Yellow. Characters in the book would often discuss the events of the play, mention a few names, quote it a little, and yet the audience never gets any idea what the play is about. Like the Necronomicon, it is a Brown Note of madness and/or death. We only get to hear bits from the first act, but... "The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to fall afterward with more awful effect."
  • Averted in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the reader actually is provided with an excruciatingly bad example of Vogon Poetry, the third-worst in the Universe; the second-worst and worst poets in the universe are mentioned, but fortunately not quoted. However, in the TV series version, samples of all three are displayed in readable text on the screen as they are discussed by The Book. The very worst is quite bad indeed.)
  • In The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, detective Dirk Gently has to explain the supernatural murder of a client as an elaborate suicide to the skeptical police. His explanation is sufficient to convince the forensics team, but we never get to hear what exactly the explanation was. Take Our Word For It comes in, not because of any qualities of the explanation itself, but that there was any explanation at all.
  • In the original "Beauty and the Beast", the Beast was not described so the reader would think of him as whatever scared them most. Of course, when the story was adapted to film and television, it became necessary to show him.
  • Appears a number of times in the Discworld novels.
    • It's the point of Granny Weatherwax. She's got a reputation as one of the greatest witches of her age. Whenever we do get to see her do real magic it's generally not that impressive. She really is that strong however, but she knows that using her 'headology' tends to be a lot easier and effective. (It's a key theme of both stories of the witches of Lancre and the wizards of Unseen University that the major part of magic is knowing when not to use it, because it always comes at a cost, and it's likely to be much more than you can afford.)
    • The Stick and Bucket Dance from Lords and Ladies is supposedly not only suggestive (performing it with women present can lead to charges of "sexual morrisment"), but dangerous: "We are not doing the Stick and Bucket Dance! I still get twinges in my knee!"
    • In Jingo, Nobby Nobbs tells off-color jokes to a bevy of women, who are rolling on the floor laughing. Although we get a few of the general ideas as being rather famous real-world jokes (like the one about the "small man and the piano"), we only get the punchline for the one Nobbs is telling when we come on the scene.
    • And in The Last Hero the bard writes the most beautiful, most moving heroic saga ever. And then claims to be able to improve it even further. For obvious reasons, we never actually get to know what it sounds like or what the words are, though it might be power metal. We do know what it's about at least.
    • We hear bits and pieces of it, but never the entirety of what Granny Weatherwax refers to as "that song" — "The Hedgehog Can Never Be Buggered at All". This has, of course, led to the fandom coming up with their own versions of it. The animated adaption of Wyrd Sisters also gives us a stanza, perhaps the opening lines, of another infamous innuendo-filled song of the Disc, "A Wizard's Staff" ("... has a knob on the end.") Wizards traditionally don't get the innuendo, and are known to occasionally demand people explain what's so funny about there being a knob on the end of their staffs, their being proud of their staffs and polishing them so often, or how the size of the knob/length of the staff is important.
    • Of Lorenzo the Kind, a former king of Ankh-Morpork who met his fate at the hands of Suffer-Not-Injustice Vimes, we learn little save that he was "very fond of children" and had "machines for-" (the speaker is cut off mid-sentence).
    • Doubly subverted in Nanny Ogg's Cookbook in the part about etiquette, the part about the language of flowers to be more precise. Right after the sentence "Here are some pretty flowers and their meanings:" the entire text is gone and replaced with memos sent from the overseer to the publisher and vice versa. For a moment it seems like a case of this trope, while the reader is wondering what Nanny Ogg wrote about peonies. It's subverted when you realize what the word "peonies" sounds like and it stops being all that cryptic. The double subversion occurs when you realize that you still haven't been given any details about what, exactly, it says about peonies.
    Publisher: I knew this would happen! Every single meaning she gives is highly suggestive, except the one she gives for the peonies! Get rid of them all!
    Overseer: I'm afraid the one for peonies is also obscene, sir.
    Publisher: Is it? I thought it was rather charming.
    Overseer: I'm afraid so, sir. I have removed the whole section.
  • Much like Lovecraftian monsters, the Minotaur in House of Leaves is never depicted, only described in terms of the fear it strikes in people contemplating it. There's one point when it might be reaching out of the wall to grab the dead body of Holloway Roberts, or maybe that was a glitch in the dying video camera.
  • In a probable Shout-Out to Lovecraft, who he'd apparently read and liked, Tolkien invoked this trope to (refrain from) describing Gandalf's trip Beneath the Earth, in The Lord of the Rings:
    Gandalf: Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.
    • (Keep in mind, Sauron is older than the entire universe, and he helped build it.)
    • Beren's trip through the Mountains of Terror, Ungoliant's old lair, in The Silmarillion, where none had ever gone and lived to tell the tale. Possibly due to Tolkien's own fear of spiders.
    • Gollum's ordeal in Mordor at the hands of Sauron's torturers ... we never find out exactly what they did to him, just that he is afraid to the point of psychosis of entering Mordor again.
    • The origin story of the orcs ... it's difficult to put words what an elf would have to go through to fall that far.
    • The wars between the Valar and Morgoth are skimmed over, mostly because the sheer scale of the forces involved are impossible to visualise.
  • In The Hobbit, Bilbo bonks his head at the beginning of the Battle of Five Armies (the climax of the book) and misses the whole darn thing. This is convenient for the animated version, which didn't have the budget for a full-scale battle scene.
    • And then in The Lord of the Rings, the same thing happens to Pippin. And he has to be told the whole battle by his comrades when he wakes up.
  • In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado", the narrator Montresor complains of "a thousand injuries" inflicted on him by Fortunato before sealing him in a catacomb to starve to death. Since Fortunato treats Montresor as a friend, and Montresor's behavior is rather unbalanced, it's implied that the injuries were either trivial or completely imagined. Fortunato slips several snide insults into his conversation with Montresor in the story, particularly concerning the falling grace of the Montresor house, so it's also possible these "injuries" were insults along that line.
  • Similarly, in Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum", we never see what's actually in the pit.
  • This blog deconstructs the Left Behind novels page-by-page, repeatedly pointing out where the authors mention huge events (like the Rapture and attempted Nuclear War) with extremely little detail.
  • Graham Chapman in A Liar's Autobiography lampshades the trope more than once, describing something as "fortunately indescribable" because it saves him the trouble of describing it.
  • P. D. James' detective Adam Dalgliesh is a famous poet, when he isn't being a policeman. James refrains from giving us any examples of Dalgliesh's verse, which is probably all for the best. The author once stated that she'd got W. H. Auden to agree to provide a small piece of poetry to be used for Dalgliesh's, but it never came to pass. James said that she only wanted to bait the critics into sneering at her presumption to attempt poetry so she could laugh at them and reveal the truth.
  • The Todal, in James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. What little description is given of it is deliberately either nebulous or nonsensical. And it gleeps... which is never actually explained, although it's strongly hinted that you don't want to know.
  • In Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John short story "The Desrick on Yandro", the narrator sees "the Behinder":
    The Behinder flung itself on his shoulders. Then I knew why nobody's supposed to see one. I wish I hadn't. To this day I can see it, as plain as a fence at noon, and forever I will be able to see it. But talking about it's another matter. Thank you, I won't try.
  • This was necessary to an extent in The Fountainhead, to get around the difficulty in depicting buildings through prose. Howard Roark, who is for all intents and purposes one of the greatest architects of all time, designs many buildings during the course of the book, only a handful of which are described in detail (and even then, many of the descriptions are delivered by his antagonists with an obvious negative bias).
  • The Sherlock Holmes mysteries do this with the case of "the giant rat of Sumatra" and other stories "for which the world is not yet prepared."
  • At the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne spends some time telling his readers how moving Dimmesdale's final sermon is, and how hardly a person in the crowd is unmoved, but we don't see a word of the speech.
  • At the end of Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game, Eve's disfigurement at the hands of her plastic surgeon husband is never described in detail, though the effects it has on the character in question and those around her are.
  • In Jack Vance's Liane the Wayfarer, the title character makes the mistake of going on a quest to recover a tapestry stolen by the mysterious Chun the Unavoidable. Vance never describes what Chun looks like (aside from the cloak of eyeballs), but judging from Liane's reaction, Chun's features are horrific.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caufield's description (or lack thereof) of an attack by a group of bullies on a weaker classmate tells us all we need to know—"I won't even tell you what they did to him, it's too repulsive." The only thing left unclear is whether the boy's eventual death (he jumps from a window) is the result of suicide or murder.
  • In Edward Monkton's The Penguin of Death, said penguin kills its victims by saying one word, a word of such incredible beauty and power that the victims simply explode from the brilliance of it. We never find out this word.
  • Lampshaded in Vladimir Nabokov's Bend Sinister. At one point the protagonist, a famous philosopher, wonders if his supposed brilliance really amounts to anything, then thinks of this trope.
  • In Rilla of Ingleside, the final Anne of Green Gables book, Anne's son Walter is credited with writing a magnificent poem (a la John McCrae) that inspires and stirs the hearts of soldiers everywhere. We never get to read a word of it.
  • The title game of The Glass Bead Game is never described in much detail due to its complexity.
  • Much the same thing happens in The Player of Games with Azad. The brief descriptions seem to imply that the three major boards are akin to table top wargames or a Civilization game, but with the addition of card based sub-games which are played beforehand to determine who starts off with the advantage.
  • The manuscript in The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers is simply the best story ever written. (Nearly) everyone who reads it goes through a series of ecstacy, melancholy, incredible joyfulness, worst sadness and finally lapses into hours of silence. The only thing we ever get to know about the story is the general theme and the last sentence.
  • A similar thing is done with the manuscript for Mobile, America in Ben Bova's Cyberbooks. We never see any of the text, or even discover what it's about. All we know is that it's The Great American Novel and a great work of literature.
  • Malevil uses this during the off-screen nuclear war, the narrator struggling to describe the sound produced by the detonating nukes. He states that any familiar example like thunder or a sonic boom are "ludicrously inadequate" and claims that the sound is simply beyond human perception. He also reminds the reader he is experiencing all this from inside the cellar of his castle: a story underground and between seven-foot thick stone walls.
  • C. S. Lewis used this a few times in the Chronicles of Narnia, and one of the first to come to mind was in The Last Battle with his description of the fruit in Aslan's country.
  • The Divine Comedy: Dante evokes this in the first canto of Paradiso
    To represent transhumanise in words
    Impossible were; the example, then, suffice
    Him for whom Grace the experience reserves.
    and at the end when beholding the Godhead
    Shorter henceforward will my language fall
    Of what I yet remember, than an infant's
    Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast.

    Live Action TV 
  • Hal's abstract painting in Malcolm in the Middle was not shown; all we saw was people's jaws drop the second it was completed.
    • In another episode, Hal convinces Lois to fulfil one of his sexual fantasies. When she agrees, he spends the rest of the episode excitedly running around town buying props for it, but we never see what he buys or hear what he's going to do. (This is for the best.)
    • In another episode, Hal is given power of attorney over whether a comatose neighbor's life support should be switched off. He agonises over this for most of the episode. At the end, Lois is praising Hal for making such a great decision about what to do, and asks him to summarise (presumably repeat) what he did, but he declines, as he wants to go to bed.
    "When I learnt he was a bird watcher, it all made sense"
    • One episode starts with Reese doing The Worst Thing Ever. Whenever it's described, we get a jump cut to the reaction of the person hearing it. All we know about what happened comes from the therapist asking, "What was the cat for?" (the police still haven't figured that out)
  • iCarly: The neck infection video.
  • In the fifth season episode "Bones on the Blue Line" of Bones, page 187 of Brennan's latest crime novel describes a too-steamy-to-say-out-loud (on network TV at least) sex act, inspired by Hodgins, as dictated to Brennan by Angela. The episode has reaction shots of various characters reading the page and several extremely vague bits of dialog between characters about the maneuver, but the details are left entirely up to the viewer's imagination.
  • The West Wing: When Josh wrote a note to Donna on the inside cover of an antique book that he gave her for Christmas, we saw her reading and her tearful reaction without having a clue what was in the note.
    • Another notable example is in the last episode, with the note Bartlet leaves for the next president.
    • Averted, though, when Bartlet convinces his VP not to quit by telling him four words. At first, it seems like this, but at the end of the episode, we find out what they were: "because I could die".
  • Great tastes and awful smells (or vice-versa, though this is rare) are always particularly easy, because no editing or camera tricks are needed to get the idea across. Witness the horrific BO in Jerry's car in Seinfeld, or the Soup Nazi's knee-buckling soup from the same show, as well as Reese's cooking in Malcolm in the Middle, and the cheesecake Chandler and Rachel fight over in Friends. Kids Next Door, "Operation Snowing", does it with soup (although with added fumes to get the point across further). Likewise anything made by a Lethal Chef in an anime.
  • More Seinfeld examples:
    • In "The Hamptons", there was that really ugly baby.
    • In "The Muffin Tops", Kramer told Jerry about the dangers of continuing to shave his chest, that the hair would keep growing back, fuller and darker. Jerry blew the claim off as an "old wife's tale", until Kramer went off-screen, opened his robe, and showed his utterly horrified friend compelling proof, saying he shaved "there" when he was a lifeguard.
    • In "The Old Man", the characters volunteer to help the elderly; Elaine is assigned to an old woman, who has a goiter so big, that according to Elaine, it looks like she "almost has a second head." Of course, we never see that.
    • In "The Red Dot", where a cashmere sweater is rejected by everyone, because it has a red dot on it, which is invisible to the audience.
    • In "The Tape", Elaine leaves an erotic message on Jerry's tape recorder as a joke, which eventually causes all the guys to become attracted to her. The audience, of course, can't hear it.
    • In "The Cheever Letters" Jerry tells George about his date's dirty talk, which causes George to squeeze a ketchup bottle hard enough to squirt a stream far off camera, but the audience never hears it. We hear Jerry's pathetic attempt at playing along though, which was "You mean the panties your mother laid out for you?"
    • In "The Pick", Elaine accidentally sends Christmas cards with photos of her showing a nipple; those are — obviously — never shown to the audience.
    • In "The Nose Job", George's big-nosed girlfriend gets a rhinoplasty, which is botched up so badly, that George faints when he first sees the results. The audience never sees her nose, only after the mistake is fixed.
    • We hear lots of horror stories about Kenny Bania's Ovaltine-obsessed standup comedy routines but never get to see them.
  • Friends has a few:
    • One of the most well-known examples could well be the Ugly Naked Guy, whom the various characters frequently watch, but we never see. In one episode, we see a part of him, and he's apparently hairy.
    • And the writers eventually yielded to the temptation to let us see Monica in the days when she was fat... which precipitated a certain amount of Flanderization.
    • There were two straighter examples of this trope: in "The One with Ross's Sandwich", a note to prevent sandwich stealing (students became afraid of Ross, and he was called by his boss, prompting to a reveal on the previous sandwich stealing), and in "The One with Phoebe's Uterus", a drawing with "sensitive female points" to explain how to completely satisfy a woman.
    • In "The One with the Joke" the characters are talking about a joke we never get to hear in its entirety. We only know that involves a "Doctor Monkey".
    • In "The One with All the Candy", there are two: a pornographic figure Rachel draws in Tag's work evaluation, and a threatening note to Monica.
    • And then there's "The One with the Videotape", in which we hear the beginning of a story that makes people want to have sex with you when you tell it to them. The writers did a really good job on that one; the part of the story we hear doesn't suggest anything sexual at all, so the viewer really wants to hear the rest.
    • In "The One Where Rachel Has a Baby", when the child of Janice is shown (not to the audience), we see the faces of Ross and Rachel freeze up, followed by a poor attempt at complimenting the baby. After Janice takes off, they turn to each other: "Did you see the kid on that nose!?"
    • In "The One with Ross's Thing", Ross has a thing on his upper buttock and goes to get it removed. The doctor, having never seen anything like it in 19 years of practicing medicine, calls in every other doctor in, seemingly, the county to have a gander.
    • In "The One with the Birthing Video", the titular video of a Screaming Birth horrifies Chandler and Monica. For obvious reasons, it's not shown to the audience.
  • Done in every episode of The Red Green Show. It's a sketch comedy show framed by Red Green and Harold Green trying to produce a TV show admist the daily antics of the Possum Lodge members, and Red regularly provides personal updates about the latest big event affecting the lodge. This got more and more elaborate as the show progressed through its 15 seasons, with each episode's final update usually beginning by Red and other members coming into the lodge covered in soot, soaking wet, with shredded clothing, and/or just in time to see something crash through the ceiling before the audience, always due to the adventure they had just finished having.
  • Three episodes into Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, there was one notable example, "Crazy Christians," a variety-show comedy sketch of which we hear much but see nothing. (It's not until "Friday Night Slaughter" that we even have the slightest idea, beyond the title, what it's about.) There are also a number of smaller examples — usually just the first five seconds of a sketch before moving to the next. Then again, one of the problems that killed the show was that many viewers agreed that what we did see wasn't that funny anyway.
    • The "Peripheral Vision Man" sketches in the pilot episode are considered to be so bad that, when a sketch that "killed in dress rehearsal" is sidelined for an installment of PVM, former showrunner Wes Mendell (Judd Hirsch) snaps and insults the network executives on live television, and characters later mention that the two men who wrote the sketches were "hacks". Considering what the new writing staff comes up with, it's hard to see what exactly is so bad about Peripheral Vision Man.
  • Peggy Bundy's mother in Married... with Children is very fat. How fat? Well, so fat that earthquakes accompanies her every move, she eats with a pitchfork, Al claims to have "gone blind" when he sees her naked, and just about every fat joke in the book is made at her expense. We never actually get to see her, though. (Though this was done because the actor chosen to play her died while the part was being held for him. Yes, him). We actually got to see Peg's mother in one issue of the comic book series based on the show, and she looked a little on the slim side. This also extends to the horror stories of the fat women who come into the shoe store, which are told by Al but never actually seen by the audience, a trait copied by Bud and Kelly when they deal with fat women in their jobs.
  • Captain Mainwaring's wife, Elizabeth, in the British sitcom Dad's Army is another character who is never seen or heard on screen but who is frequently mentioned so much can be inferred about her.
  • Doctor Who
    • In "Remembrance of the Daleks", the Time Lord superweapon called the Hand of Omega was never shown on screen, but only displayed abstractly in terms of the golden glow it cast on characters' faces.
    • The Daleks, up until "The Power of the Daleks", were never shown outside of their travel machines. Previous to that, they were merely described as horrifically mutated monsters. (Most people forget the appearances of the organic Daleks prior to "Genesis of the Daleks", when they first appeared in color.)
    • "The last, great Time War" took place at some point between the old series and the new series. We never, ever get any details or specifics. All we know is that Something Really Bad happened and now the Doctor is the Last of His Kind (except when he isn't) as is that remnant of the Daleks that got un-sealed for this encounter only (and the same will go for the next batch, and the next...) The general idea seems to be that the Time War was so apocalyptically HUGE that the biggest Hollywood budget movie wouldn't even begin to approach how big it was. A glimpse of the Time War is finally seen in "The Day of the Doctor"... and it resembles every other generic sci-fi battle since Star Wars. There's a reason this trope exists, after all.
    • In "The God Complex", everyone is said to have a room somewhere in the labyrinthine hotel in which the episode is set. One is said never to know what greatest fear of theirs they will find therein, only to realize, upon seeing it, that it could never have been anything else. When the Doctor finds his room (conveniently numbered 11) the audience is not shown what is inside. We see only a rueful look on his face and the sound of the TARDIS' cloister alarm ringing.
    Doctor: Of course... Who else?
    • "The Day of the Doctor" has it's own example with The Moment, a superweapon so powerful even the Time Lords wouldn't use it, which ended the Time War in an instant by annihilating both sides. It isn't used on screen.
  • The first episode of The Sarah Silverman Program centres around a TV show called Cookie Party, which involves viewers phoning in to vote for which of the cookies presented this week they prefer. This is apparently a long-running series. Although the opening titles of Cookie Party are shown on screen, the show itself is not, leaving the viewer to speculate as to how such a programme could possibly work. In the second season, we actually do get to see how the show works, when Sarah and Laura end up as contestants. It... doesn't make terribly much sense.
  • Farscape has the "place I once saw" that Stark shows to calm or comfort people. Obviously, only they get a glimpse, via psychic link, leaving the audience out. Stark states that he saw this place as a boy, and having grown up on Katratzi he is almost certainly showing them the Strelitzia garden (the only remotely beautiful place on a Scarran military base), which means the audience only gets to see it three seasons after it is first mentioned.
  • Frasier never shows us Maris, making a full character based entirely on this trope. (Reputedly, they did plan to introduce her sometime, but built up such a bizarre legend that no human could ever actually play her.)
    • The episode where Roz meets her unborn baby's grandparents: we don't get to see the photo of the father pre-nose-job, or Roz's childhood photo which shows her with sticking-out ears.
  • Maris, of course, is an Expy of Norm's wife Vera from Cheers.
    • In the first season episode "Truce or Consequences", Carla convinces Diane that Sam is the father of her youngest son Gino. When Sam finds out about the lie, he bursts into laughter. Diane is offended until Carla shows her a picture of Gino, which the audience doesn't see, and she, too, bursts into laughter. Then Carla shows Diane a picture of Gino's actual father, and she, Diane and Sam are on the floor.
  • A sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus is centered around a joke, untold to the audience, that is so funny that anyone who happens to read or see it dies from laughter within seconds, including the joke's own writer. The joke catches the eye of the Ministry of Defence, and was translated for use against the Germans in WWII. To prove its danger, they told us that one of the translators had accidentally seen two words at once, and had to spend a month in the hospital.
    • The sketch shows some captured British servicemen reciting the joke in German to their captors. Supposedly the British men are safe because they don't speak German and just learned the joke parrot-fashion. But since what they say is actually mock-German, the audience still doesn't know what the joke is. Though there are two actual German words in it: beige dog.
    • Also, there's the famous action sequence from And Now For Something Completely Different, as summed up on the Quotes page.
  • New Tricks features Gerry doing something particularly gross (but never shown or explained) after being hypnotised. The trigger was certain song. The other characters even swore never to talk about it. The episode ends with the song sounding and the others screaming 'no!'.
  • In one episode of Lovejoy, Eric's astonished reaction at an auction to an antique sculpture entitled "My Adonis" wins him the item, and he spends the rest of the show trying to sell or even give it away to anyone who'll stand still long enough to look at it. Not a straight example of the trope, as it is finally revealed to the audience in the very last seconds of the episode to depict a man with an erection at least half the length of his body.
  • Monk
    • In "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpieces," Monk takes up painting as a hobby in one episode and paints a portrait of his (beautiful) assistant Natalie Teeger. Nearly everybody's reaction to it is one of disgust, and the model herself is mortified to find it on display at an art show. It even goes so far as to her trying to burn it, even though it's evidence against a counterfeiting ring. There is a glimpse of it during the scene where Randy is trying to restrain Natalie as she tries to burn it. The result looks a bit like a very bad MS Paint doodle.
    • In "Mr. Monk Fights City Hall," Monk and Natalie are searching the love nest of city councilwoman Eileen Hill for evidence of her disappearance. Natalie opens a drawer to find something surprising and possibly dirty (in both ways), and then right after, she repeatedly tells Monk to never open that drawer.
    • And it happens again in "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show". Natalie and Lt. Disher are reading a former TV star's memoirs, which apparently go into disturbing detail about her sex life. They are visibly shocked, especially at page 73, which Natalie then rips out before Monk can get his hands on the book. Monk is also devastated when he eventually reads the book.
    • In "Mr. Monk Goes to the Bank," when Monk and Natalie find Peter Crawley's dead body stuffed in the trunk of his Jaguar convertible, we don't see the gory aftermath, but we instead get a complimentary Trunk Shot. Natalie is shocked. We do learn from Stottlemeyer that Crawley was shot twice in the head, which implies his head may have been blown off.
  • During Buffy the Vampire Slayer's seventh season, Buffy takes the Potentials to Willy's bar, where they meet Clem, a kitten-eating demon who is otherwise really quite friendly and, apart from an excess of skin, looks fairly normal. When she sees that the Potentials aren't getting the right message, she asks Clem to show them what he really looks like. We see from behind that his face opens up and something comes out, but not any details. It does, however, set a group of girls training to save the world from horrific evil to screaming.
    • In "The Zeppo" (season three), Xander is deliberately excluded from a struggle to save the world; the most intense parts of the battle are shown in the reactions of Xander and his undead opponents as they happen to pass by.
    • The monster that everyone but Xander is fighting in this episode is barely seen (aside from a few tentacles), but is ostensibly the same demon that tried to escape the Hellmouth two seasons earlier in Prophecy Girl, where again all we saw was tentacles. The demon itself is apparently terrifying though — Willow's reaction: "Every nightmare I had that doesn't revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test, and naked."
  • In the Gilmore Girls episode "The Festival of Living Art", several art works reproduced using actors (hence Living Art) are shown, but for Picasso's Guernica, all the viewer sees is the curtain closing and the MC saying "Wasn't that something?".
  • Home Improvement has two of these as running gags. The first is Al's mother, who is reported to be very obese and is yet never seen on camera. The other is Tim's eccentric neighbor Wilson, whose face is always partially obscured by props and scenery (generally the fence between the two yards, but when he is in a different scene the length that the set designers go to to obscure his face is very funny). One such incident involved Wilson showing Tim an unfinished self-portrait that lacked any marks beneath the nose.
    • In one live episode the cast came out to acknowledge the audience at the end — including Earl Hindman, Wilson's actor, who arrived on the set with a miniature of the fence held in front of his face.
    • The series finale had all the actors walk out and take a bow. Hindman's appearance got a particularly loud round of applause because his face was totally uncovered.
  • The game of Parrises Squares in the Star Trek universe is repeatedly mentioned, but we never saw an actual game or learned what the rules were. The game has two teams of four who wear matching padded uniforms and wield "ion mallets". The playing field has a ramp, and players can suffer severe injury up to and including facial laceration and broken bones.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In one episode, the Doctor programs a holodeck routine to simulate a real family since he figures, since he's stuck on long term duty (he's a hologram who's intended as an emergency measure until flesh-and-blood medical help arrives, but since that can't happen he's more or less on duty at all times), he might as well grow as a person. Throughout the first half of the episode, he argues with one of his daughters, who wants to move to a higher Parrises Squares league. He repeatedly puts his foot down — he's not happy she's playing the sport at all, because it's so dangerous. Then, she ends up getting a severe head injury (playing in the Minor Leagues, even) and is rendered a vegetable. The rest of the episode hinges on the Doctor's struggles with whether or not he should continue the program (he doesn't want to, because he doesn't want to deal with the tragedy, but the rest of the crew repeatedly tells him that while he's free to make that choice, it would defeat the purpose of the program), but still, if you're willing to consider Voyager canon, it's a pretty unambiguous sign of just how dangerous the sport is.
    • In the episode the "The 37's", we are told that humans abducted to an alien world in the 1930s have built incredible cities. Take our word for it.
    • In another episode Neelix praises the performance of an offscreen juggler. SF Debris is amazed that they apparently couldn't afford to actually have a guy juggling onscreen.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In the episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty", the sight of a Medusan is so hideous it drives one of the Enterprise's chief designers completely insane.
    • In "The City on the Edge of Forever", Kirk remarks that ruins extend to the horizon. Only a few fragments are visible in the static shot. (In the Enhanced episode, a skyline was added in the background to indicate buildings in the distance.)
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine we have to take the other characters' word for it that Morn never shuts up any time he's off camera. He also has a lovely singing voice.
  • Consciously played with in Top Gear, in the Three Presenters On A Couch section of the show, each week Jeremy Clarkson announces he's found "this" on the internet, the camera then quickly cuts to the audience and other presenters wincing with squick before continuing to some more mundane internet-related news. Averted though in the Polar Special: "Shall we go straight to the frozen penis?" Yes. Yes, they do show it.
  • On Desperate Housewives, Julie is so moved by a letter that her ex-boyfriend Austin wrote that she considers taking him back. Considering that Austin was good looking but a moron and a bit of a jerk who cheated on her with one of her friends, getting that friend pregnant, that's got to be a romantic message rivaling Shakespeare. Shame we never get any hint of what it is.
  • Many of the battles in Rome are only described afterward. This is likely for budget reasons, given that historical accounts of the battles are quite clear what happened.
    • Also used memorably for the two famous orations by Brutus and Mark Anthony after Caesar's murder.
  • A Red Dwarf episode features Rimmer going insane from a holographic virus and talking to a hand puppet. At one point the puppet whispers a suggestion about what to do to his shipmates, and he simply replies, "Oh no, we can't do that. Who'd clean up the mess?"
    • There's also Kryten's picture of his erect penis when he becomes human. For obvious reasons we don't see it, but we do see that it stretches across two Polaroids. Although the take used in the episode did feature an actual photo of an erect penis to get an appropriate reaction from Craig Charles.
    • Also, when Lister and the Cat are imprisoned on Waxworld by the evil wax droids, Lister watches from his cell window as a firing squad executes Winnie the Pooh.
    Lister: (shaken) That's something no-one should ever have to see!
  • The Good Life did this with the music society's performance of The Sound of Music. We cut from leading lady Margot leaving her dressing room for the stage to the speechless after-show reaction from her husband and neighbours. The first line to break the bewildered silence is '... that was The Sound of Music, wasn't it?' (we hear a couple of details, notably that Margot panicked at some point and sang "Maria" from West Side Story...)
  • In an episode of Scrubs, Elliot has a huge bunion on her foot that she wants removed before her boyfriend comes back. Apparently the bunion is so hideous that seeing it causes J.D. and Turk to feel ill, nurses scream and the surgeon who is supposed to remove it faints.
  • Then there is the "Venus Butterfly", a sexual technique described in the L.A. Law episode of the same name. The technique is never described on-screen, although it is described to the character Stuart Markowitz, who tries it on his girlfriend, Ann Kelsey, and finds it is as irresistible as advertised. Although the writers made a point of not describing the technique, that didn't stop people from trying to figure it out (possibly in an effort to get useful tips in bed, whether or not it was the "Venus Butterfly"). Most notably, Playboy had a contest on its letters page, which lasted for months, for the best unnamed technique to which the term could be applied. The eventual winner was a combination of cunnilingus and vaginal and rectal stimulation with the fingers. Perhaps intentionally as a nod to the '80s series, that was the definition given nearly two decades later on an episode of Rescue Me in 2004. In 2006, 20 years exactly after the fictional sexual technique was first described, an entire book entitled One Hour Orgasm: How to Learn the Amazing "Venus Butterfly" Technique was published describing in detail the technique eventually chosen by the editors of Playboy.
  • A lot of the epic battles in Heroes take place offscreen... or just on the other side of a door.
  • In the 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Paul Rudd, Rudd and Andy Samberg appear in a digital short in which they paint a picture together that ends up causing anyone viewing the painting to kill themselves. An auction of the painting results in a room full of people committing suicide.
  • Subverted in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Wormhole X-Treme". In the show-within-the-show, the producers plan to show only the reactions of the characters to the arrival of an alien spaceship because they don't have the budget to show the spaceship itself. Until a real spaceship shows up.
    Producer: [pitching dialog to the writers] "Oh, my God! Look at that spaceship! It's...indescribable!"
    • Later, in the epic "200" episode, Wormhole X-Treme returns. This time they have to show how the cast gets to finish an army of Jaffa to reach the gate in 10 seconds (or so) while they are pursued by Replicators. The only thing they'll show? "Wow, I can't believe we did it."
  • Subverted in the 3rd season opener of NewsRadio: Jimmy shows Matthew an old picture of himself with a mustache. At first he seems to play this trope straight, until later that episode where the picture is blown up and displayed on an entire wall.
  • Paintings are so common on this page they should maybe be their own subtrope. The Dick Van Dyke Show got into it with the episode "October Eve," though it's possible that the abstract painting of a nude Laura may have been seen at the very end of the episode. They also tried hiding Alan Brady's face for a while, but then gave up and showed it. (Both Brady and the painter were played by series creator Carl Reiner.)
  • Two occurences of "Footage not found" in Arrested Development. Especially the one after Lindsay said she and Tobias used to be happy once.
  • Kerry's painting in 8 Simple Rules that didn't get to the exposition because it was deemed "too controversial", and Paul turns away in shock when the picture is shown to him.
    • A few episodes later, Kerry shows the video she took where Paul breaks Bridget's nose while playing tennis. We never get to see this moment, but the whole family turns away in disgust when they see it.
  • There are several of these on Better Off Ted, all related to past Veridian experiments, but the most notable is the octochicken. Assorted references to it indicate that it has eight legs, spins a web, and lives in a tank. Veronica's threat to throw a group of misbehaving employees into its tank is met with looks of pants-wetting terror.
  • When Heath comes out of the closet to his frat brothers in Greek, they reveal they were more worried about Wade hitting on Heath's underage sister. His defense is, "she did not look fifteen." She's mentioned a couple of more times, but we never see her to judge for ourself. Just as well; they'd likely cast a 21-year-old for the role.
  • Inspector Columbo's wife is often mentioned, but never shown. In one episode we see a picture we are told is of Mrs. Columbo, but at the end it is revealed to be her sister. That woman named Columbo who solves crimes? No relation.
  • In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode "The Weatherman", a close-up photo of Larry's teeth horrifies everyone who sees it. It's not shown to the audience.
    • In the episode "The Benadryl Brownie", Richard Lewis's girlfriend eats peanuts to which she's allergic. As a result, her face becomes hideous, and, of course, it's never shown.
    • The episode "The Nanny from Hell" features a little kid with an impressively large penis. For obvious reasons it's not shown.
  • In an early sketch on MADtv, we hear about an "insanely bad" report(?), apparently so bad that anyone who reads it instantly goes insane. The boss of the man who wrote it tells of how when he read it, the next thing he remembered was standing naked in a field, howling at the moon. He then goes on to tell the man that his report is out there somewhere causing untold destruction.
  • Subverted in the first season of Peep Show, there's an episode where Jeremy and Super Hans go on a major drugs binge, which they cannot remember. Jeremy remembers doing "the bad thing", but not exactly what it was. He gradually starts to remember some of the stuff they did, but none of its "the bad thing". Just as it seems the episode is going to end without us finding out, he remembers: they sucked each other off.
    • Played straight with Super Hans' New Years party. Mark and Jeremy arrive to find Super Hans sitting outside, since whatever's happening inside is too depraved even for him. Jeremy goes in alone to investigate, but we still don't see anything after he comes back looking visibly shaken and eager to get out of there.
  • In the eighties Twilight Zone revival, there was an episode where a man who discovered the meaning of life. Anyone he told it to instantly became batshit insane. This meant that when the man broadcasted his message on a local radio station, the hero managed to turn off the radio just before it was announced. And when he finally heard it, it was whispered in his ear.
  • The Famous "Banana Sketch" Running Gag on The Muppet Show. Every time they try to explain why it's so funny to an increasingly irate Kermit, everyone starts laughing too much to get beyond "So these two bananas were walking down the street...". Eventually Kermit has enough and snaps, yelling at them that they must be pulling an elaborate joke, certain that there is no such thing as the Banana Sketch.
  • In Im Alan Partridge, Alan has something embarrassing in a drawer of his hotel room. We never see what it is, though throughout the first season several characters do open the drawer while looking for something else, and do a double-take when they see it. In the final episode Alan throws a party to celebrate his new job: when he emerges from the bathroom he catches everybody looking in the drawer and sniggering.
    • Also a photo of Alan's daughter, Denise, which causes hotel staff member Sophie to burst out laughing, saying "she just really, really looks like you...", much to Alan's confusion and disgust.
  • In early episodes of Last of the Summer Wine Compo carries a matchbox containing something which disgusts any women he shows it to. One episode ends with his friend Clegg looking into the box with an "Aah, cute!" expression.
  • In one of the A Touch of Frost episodes, the pedophile they'd just arrested asks Frost "What do you think it feels like to..." and whispers something in his ear.
  • In Being Human, after several unsuccessful attempts to haunt and torment her ex-fiance/killer Owen, Annie whispers a secret to him that "only the dead know." We never hear what it was that she whispered to him.... only that it was so frightening that it led Owen to turn himself in for his crime and go completely insane.
  • In Castle, there are many mentions to the books the main character writes, particularly a series protagonized by character Derrick Storm, which are good enough to become best-sellers but, according to Castle, "aren't Shakespeare". Averted with the Nikki Heat books: in one episode, Beckett hides away because she really wants to read the book, and when Castle finds her, he tells her that what page the sex scene - which many have talked to her about - is; she immediately turns to that page in order to read it, and she is surprised by it. The aversion comes from the fact that Nikki Heat books have become a Defictionalization and have been published for real. And the much vaunted sex-scene is there.
  • In an episode of the TV adaptation of Just a Minute, Sue Perkins gets the subject of "Chat-Up Lines". She starts describing how the worst chat-up line she ever heard was by a ten-year-old boy in Paisley, and it's so disgusting she cannot say it. Ruth Jones challenges due to a misunderstanding, while Paul Merton tells her to write the chat-up line down. Ruth discusses the challenge with Nicholas while we see cuts back to Sue writing — she then hands the paper to Paul, who bursts out laughing. "He was ten?" He says, before folding the paper up and "keeping it for future use".
  • In the finale of series 3 of Merlin, an immortal army marches on Camelot, overtakes the city, and imprisons King Uther and the Knights of Camelot. According to an eyewitness, it was extremely terrifying. The audience only sees the army preparing, and then the aftermath as Arthur and Merlin sneak back into the destroyed city.
  • In Dirty Jobs, Mike repeatedly laments that there is no way for the audience to smell whatever horrible stench he is smelling on his latest job. In one of his milestone specials, he talks about how much work the show puts into trying to convey an experience covering all five senses to the audience using only visuals and audio (their solution, he explains, relies a lot on extreme closeups and Camera Abuse).
  • Father Ted often features characters talking about a mutual acquaintance, Father Bigley, who has a number of repulsive physical features including enormous fish lips and a deathly-palid complexion, as well as a number of unlikely life stories (including performing OJ Simpson's wedding). Writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews have indicated that Maris (above) was their inspiration for this perennially unseen character.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, the episode "Game Night": The group is going around the table sharing their most embarrassing stories. When it gets to Victoria's turn...
    (pause)
    Future Ted: Kids, I tell you a lot of inappropriate stories, but there's no way I'm telling you this one. Don't worry, it wasn't that great.
    (unpause)
    Marshall: That is the greatest story ever!
  • It took quite a long time for the Smoke Monster on LOST to be revealed. For a long time, the audience only had tantalizing hints. One standout example was a Reaction Shot of Locke, staring at it as he crawled away from it on his back. Even Terry O'Quinn, the actor playing Locke, had no idea what it looked like. When asked how to react in the scene, he was told to look as if it was the biggest damn thing he'd ever seen in his life.
  • In season 5 of Charmed, Phoebe becomes a successful advice columnist, has her own billboard ads, gives radio interviews and is generally said to be really funny. Of course the audience never hears more than a single sentence from her columns. She also ends up sleeping with the boss. We got a little insight when Phoebe first got the job. The person wrote in saying she was still living with her parents and was afraid of living alone. Phoebe's response, which seemed like something of an Ass Pull, was that she should get a dog for a companion. The previous columnist praised this for being proactive (it actually got her out of the house) and for being nonjudgemental. Both her (and Piper's) response was simply "Get a therapist, and get a life." The columnist said hers was better and handed the job over, so she must have done something right.
  • In the pilot of Babylon 5, Dr. Kyle is the first known person to have a look inside a Vorlon's encounter suit. Prior to this, there was only a legend that the only human to do so turned to stone. The only thing shown on screen is rays of light coming out of the suit, and later, he warns another character that "it is for the best" she not look for herself. In the end, unable and/or unwilling (due to medical confidentiality and the diplomatically delicate nature of the situation) to describe what it was he saw, he instead waxes hauntingly poetic with a bit of a Thousand-Yard Stare:
    There are moments in your life when everything crystallizes and the whole world reshapes itself right down to its component molecules. And everything changes. I have looked upon the face of a Vorlon, Laurel. And nothing is the same anymore.
  • Although Criminal Minds isn't too averse to showing the gruesome results of a crime (or even the act), many times, if the crime is especially heinous, we'll just hear the characters talk about it instead of actually seeing it occur. Some notable examples:
    • "The Caller" has the team come across a murdered child. Perhaps afraid of the audience reaction if it was shown, the episode does not actually present us with the dead body, leaving the father's grieving cries upon discovering the body and the team's description of how the body was left behind as the only indicators that a child has been killed.
    • "The Apprenticeship" has one of its suspects be revealed to be someone who is cruel to animals. When the team finds him but before they arrest him, we hear the screams of a dog and see the man from his back, appearing to lord over the animal. The abuse to the dog is never shown, with the team's description and the poor animal's wails being the only indicator that the suspect is abusing the dog.

    Music 
  • Tenacious D
    • The song "Tribute" is about the Greatest Song in the World, but isn't itself the Greatest Song in the World, so we don't know what it sounds like. The original version of "Tribute" includes a sequence from "Stairway to Heaven" at the point in the story where the Greatest Song gets played, which tips their hand just a bit, and in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny the song is heavily implied to be Beezleboss.
    • In "Warning" the pair are "not at liberty to say the details of our most peculiar warning. Suffice to say, all of you here are in grrrraaaaavvvveeee danger!"
    • The feats mentioned in History.
  • Paul Simon has no idea what "the mama saw" in "Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard".
  • In Swedish comedy singer Povel Ramel's Den franska biljetten, a French girl gives the singer a note, and every time he asks people to translate the note for him they get angry with him. (He is thrown out of his hotel, fired from his job, etc.) Finally he buys a dictionary and translates the note himself. This makes him laugh hysterically, and the audience never finds out what the note says.
  • In the 1950 novelty song "The Thing", the narrator finds a box, which has something in it that scares and disgusts everybody. When the lyrics call for it to be named, the vocals simply pause for three drum beats.
  • Gorillaz bassist Murdoc Niccals has never canonically been heard to sing, but apparently his Giftedly Bad voice is a big part of the reason why all his bands prior to Gorillaz never got signed. He has been described as sounding "like someone treading on a duck".
  • The narrator of Such Horrible Things states that "nothing much happened" when he was fourteen. Except for "that ONE TIME..." There's no description of what he did, just people screaming, meaning that you should be able to tell that it was probably the absolute worst thing he ever did in his life.
  • From Tom Lehrer's "My Home Town:"
    "That fellow was no fool
    Who taught our Sunday school,
    And neither was our kindly Parson Brown.
    We're recording tonight so I have to leave this line out.
    In my home town."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • In the WWE, before his climactic unmasking, the character of Kane was said to be hideously scarred by burns. Some characters had even seen him unmasked before (notably DX) and reacted, horrified. A later Retcon after his unmasking explained that his scars had healed, but that he can still see them in the mirror.
  • Another time is when DX had a bounty on them all night, Triple H has to use the bathroom and has Shawn watch his back. When HHH enters the stall, Chris Masters is seen waiting for him. We don't see what exactly happened other than it ended with Masters unconscious.

    Radio 
  • The game Mornington Crescent, as featured on the Radio 4 comedy panel game Im Sorry I Havent A Clue, is played (allegedly) according to a set of arcane rules (several variants exist) which are never revealed to the audience except through gnomic and unrevealing references by the players. All we can be sure of is that it is based on a London Underground map, and the players have to jump from station to station, following these unknown rules, the goal being to reach the Mornington Crescent station first.
    • At least one game was won by a participant shouting "MORNINGTON CRESCENT!" as soon as the game began. This led to some grumbling from the chairman, Humprey Lyttleton. "I can't stand frivolous Mornington Crescent."
    • An ISIHAC special centers on finding the origins, and the rules, of the game. The outcome is, predictably, somewhat less than enlightening.
  • The Goon Show used this trope for comedic effect on a number of occasions, for instance in The Spanish Suitcase, where Neddy Seagoon is smuggled into prison:
    Grytpype-Thinne: We would like to show you how it was done, but well... we may want to use the method again.

    Stand Up Comedy 
  • Brian Regan's comedy album All By Myself opens with Regan doing a double back flip and landing on his pinkie. Naturally, this being a CD, we don't actually see him do it... but the audience goes wild.
  • Neil Hamburger's album America's Funnyman includes a track called "The X-Rated Hot Dog Vendor": It's supposed to be some sort of raunchy physical humor sketch with no dialogue. Of course, because it's on a comedy album, you don't actually get to see anything, so you're left with 5 minutes of nothing but sound effects and roars of audience laughter.

    Theater 
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Between Act I and Act II, Cyrano fights (and defeats!) one hundred thugs. Between Act II and III, he saves Raguenau�s life doing an Interrupted Suicide. Between Act III and IV, he manages to write love letters beautiful enough to make Roxane an heroine and to pick De Guiche�s scarf from the battlefield. It would be impractical to show all those things in scene, so other characters refer it, and at Act I Cyrano has been firmly established like a character that can do every one of those things.
  • In Shakespeare's Henry V, the Chorus specifically serves to stand on stage and basically say, "Look, we don't have enough space, not to mention enough money, to make it look like a real war is going on here, with thousands of soldiers and and horses and a sea of tents and trenches and fortifications all that, so just take our words for it, okay?"
  • This was the Greek rule of ''decorum'' in a nutshell. A particularly egregious example occurs in Medea when her two children describe their own murder from off stage while the Chorus wonders if maybe they should do something.

    Video Games 
  • Sega's games Project Rub and The Rub Rabbits have the lead characters as shadows. The idea behind this is that the gamer will think of the girl character as whatever is attractive to them, not what the developers thought was attractive.
  • Disgaea:
    • Laharl is blackmailed with a humiliating photo of himself that leaves both Flonne and Etna on the floor laughing. It's never shown, however, and the only hint we get is Flonne's, "I didn't know you were into that." (Fanon takes a stab at it in fanart here, at about 0:50.)
    • In an earlier scene, Volcanus comes across a book with something both horrifying and fascinating on its pages. It's only until the Prinny Commentary from the Updated Re-release that we get a hint as just what was in there.
  • In Quest For Glory 4, after retrieving Punny Bones's funny bone, he tells you the worlds funniest joke, that will make absolutely anybody fall into uncontrollable laughter (but only once). Instead of him telling you the joke audibly, the narrator mentions that he whispers it into your ear. Later, when you actually use the joke, since you don't have an actual voice, the narrator mentions that you tell him "the one about the wizard and the farmer's daughter" and can barely keep himself from falling into laughter.
  • At the end of the second Golden Sun game, the first town of the first game has been destroyed, but none of the effects are shown on-screen—only the characters' reactions are shown, and for that matter, purely as white text on a black background.
  • Most of the second half of Xenogears is told via narrative, sometimes using still pictures. There are only two navigable areas in the entire disc. This was due to budgetary constraints.
  • Tales of the Abyss: Whatever happened in Keterburg Hotel.
  • Silent Hill overlaps this trope with Nothing Is Scarier more often than one would care to count, for the purpose of making the player void themselves. The most famous example is whatever happens to Lisa near the end of the first game, the player only seeing blood oozing from her head before Harry flees and blocks the door.
  • In Persona 3, Chidori is supposedly an astonishingly good artist, eliciting surprised reactions from her peers and seniors. Even when one of her sketches becomes vital to the characterization, we only ever see her sketchbook from the back. (One of the Japan-only sourcebooks shows her sketch of Junpei. It is quite good.)
    • Mitsuru's "execution," which has the effect of the victims "not wanting to talk about it" or simply describing it as a "fate worse than death." The Manga implies that the "Execution" is her freezing them; because this breaks several elements of the plot (The Masquerade and the fact that it was stated Persona can't be summoned outside of the dark hour), as well as killing the unknown, fans tend to ignore it.
  • In Sam & Max Hit the Road, If you try to get the main characters to go upstairs in their office building, they'll say they don't go upstairs, "not since the accident".
    • In Night of the Raving Dead, the game is told in flasback as Sam is reminding Max of how they got here. When Sam gets to "the most epic battle of our career", Max interrupts and says that he remembers the rest now.
  • Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones does not have a facial portrait for Orson's dead and reanimated wife. After beating Orson, our heroes are visibly disgusted when they find his wife and immediately destroy it. Orson never noticed, probably because he was mad with grief.
    • In Path of Radiance, after rescuing Leanne and investigating the tower where she was imprisoned, the characters presumably stumble upon the results of the experiments done with the drug used to turn Laguz into insane killing machines. They are utterly horrified.
  • Players of Knights of the Old Republic are treated to this little exchange on Dantooine:
    C8-42: I'm afraid my owner became a bit too attached to me. Obsessed even. She...she tried to treat me as her dead husband. It was not healthy for her.
    Player: Er... ALL the time?
    C8-42: You don't want to know...
    Player: Um... probably not...
  • The Secret of Monkey Island: The battle in the governor's mansion surely belongs here. All we see/hear are sound effects, and vague descriptions once the scene is over. Although we get a bit more than that, thanks to the status line showing up the various commands. Guybrush pushes a red button and uses the wax lips on the 500-pound yak, among other heroic actions....
  • In Runescape player has to help a dwarf to get some rats out of his home. The dwarf is also a heavy smoker, and the player character has to help him to catch his breath, so the PC pats his back and he dislodges something nasty from his lungs then comments it to player that he does not want to look at it and we should take his word that you do not want to know about it.
    • Also happens for certain "gore shots" that take place in certain quests. For example, in The Great Brain Robbery, instead of seeing our hero return the brains to the bodies of zombie monks (Long story), we're treated to pleasant imagery of kittens and soothing music, leaving us to imagine what a medieval brain surgery would look like...
  • The instruction manual for the original Super Mario Bros. game actually shows sprites of each character from the game accomanying their descriptions, but for some reason Princess Peach's description is accompanied by a question mark! And for a good reason: GAH!!!
  • The NES game Nightshade includes a sequence where the titular hero rescues a cat from a lamp post it has climbed up. Though it is a graphic game, the cat's rescue (which involves amazing feats of acrobatics) is described all in text.
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow makes reference to the extremely epic Demon Castle's Wars in which Dracula was finally defeated and Castlevania was sealed in the eclipse. Aparently the thing was so awesome that, to this day, Konami thinks no game should represent those events as it's ought to be the best Castlevania game ever made.
    • In the same vein, Julius Belmont full power. He is considered the most powerful and badass Belmont in history, though his powers are never shown in all their might thanks to Laser-Guided Amnesia, also his age turned him into a Semi-Badass Grandpa (Just Semi-Grandpa, still 100% badass).
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages, Link has to tell a joke. Since Link is a Heroic Mime, this results in a bizarre interpretive dance.
  • In MapleStory, after the player had rescued a mushroom princess from an arranged marriage they get to see her face. The character's speech under their breath indicates that they're revolted and the princess's face is obscured by a text bubble reading "Oh~!!", implying that her race's standards for what qualifies as "beautiful" are far, far lower than the player's.
  • Cave Story only makes a few oblique references to the war ten years ago, which nearly wiped out the Mimiga and scared the people of the surface so thoroughly they sent an army of Killer Robots to try and destroy everything on the island. The characters' reactions to the prospect of the another war like it tells the player all they need to know.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the CLANNAD visual novel, we are told that Kotomi's violin playing is absolutely unbearable, but thankfully, the audience isn't privy. In the anime we aren't so lucky.
  • A critical portion of Danganronpa's backstory revolves around something called "The Worst, Most Despair-Inducing Event in the History of the Human Race." The nature of the event isn't elaborated upon, but purportedly it caused human civilization to collapse entirely.
  • In Little Busters, if you choose to go on the test of courage with Kurugaya and Mio, you'll get this after Kurugaya decides to abandon Riki and Mio and scare them herself:
    What we heard was a [voice to instill fear from the deepest pits of man's subconscious]. For humanitarian reasons, the voice is not replayed here.

    Web Comics 
  • 8-Bit Theater. Thief and Fighter consider it unbelievable that Red Mage was capable of getting them out of a burning Deathtrap (an airship) with the use of an Ice spell, an immovable rod and a Bag of Holding. The audience is left to wonder.
  • In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja the Dinosaur/Human ambassador's speech isn't shown. Readers are informed that the text was omitted because of the effects it had on early readers, and if you had read it then best case scenario, you would leave your family, and go do nothing but hug dinosaur bones. Or you'd be dead.
  • Bob and George has an example which is both played straight (in the comic) and subverted (in the commentary). The creator admits that the best way to make something sound good is to not show it, and proceeds to say that he probably wouldn't be able to make it look as good as it sounds. Here's the quote:
    In this case, I knew I could never do the super-cool battle between Proto Man and his imposter justice, so I just had it take place off-screen, where you could only hear it and see how other characters respond to it, making it more super-cool than I could possibly hope if I'd actually shown it, especially using the spriting skills I had at the time. That and this was way easier to make.
  • The Zombie Apocalypse finale of Brawl in the Family. We have no idea how it specifically ended, but it was horrific enough to make King Dedede's mouth drop in shock and leave everyone else queasy.
  • Near the end of Darths & Droids Revenge of the Sith arc, the characters roll a giant custom-made die. Since we only see what happens in-game, we never see this die, but it has to be taken outside to be rolled, the roller must wear gloves and goggles, and eventually the die falls apart and catches fire.
  • Sam Starfall's appearance, from Freefall
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Zimmy's science fair entry. Annie calls it "an abomination," none of the other students will even stand near it, a demon is afraid to touch it, and it eventually is carted off by a hazardous material response team (in spite of Zimmy's protests that it is not dangerous). All we ever see of it is a microscope on a bare table.
    • Also, we don't see much of Annie's entry proposal, but the whole class reacted towards it with "Ewww!"
    • We only see Annie's rection to Jones's unsmile.
    • "Catalyst" features a subversion. The chapter opens with Annie and Smith running away from something that we don't get to see. The action cuts to Annie narrating the story to Kat—and Kat protests the use of this trope. "Whoa, whoa! You can't just tell half a story! What were you guys running from?" Annie eventually retells the story from the start and, after some more buildup, we finally do see what she and Smith were running from.
  • Homestuck: Gamzee's and Dave's rap-off, stated to be "one of the best rap-offs in the history of paradox space".
    • Subverted with Gamzee's and Tavros' rap-off, stated to be "one of the worst rap-offs in the history of paradox space" since it is eventually shown.
    • There is also a conversation between Jade and Dave that the former shares with Kanaya; the contents of daveisafunnyguy.txt are not shown, but Kanaya assures us that she is Laughing Pretty Hard At All That.
  • The exact nature of "robot sex" in the Insecticomics has always been kept a secret from the humans (and thus, the readers). When Wreckage finally shows Sassy Devine one of the "Debbie Does Daebola" films, all we get is her reaction to the film (mostly confusion).
  • In this strip from Narbonic, Dave's drunkenly expressed lustful desire for Helen is apparently not physically possible.
  • Nodwick did it in this strip. They also had a story arc which revolved around "That Which Man Was Not Meant to Know," which reportedly made your head explode. It turned out that women could know what it was just fine, leading to the following exchange:
    She Who Must Be Obeyed: "This? This makes male heads go pop? This?!!"
    Piffany: "Uh huh. They're kind of sensitive about stuff like that..."
  • The Order of the Stick: All we see of Vaarsuvius using the spell Evan's Spiked Tentacles of Forced Intrusion ("Wait, what?") in this strip is the horrified reactions of the rest of the party and screams of the victim. Never mess with a wizard if he/she hasn't used up all his/her spell slots.
    • In the prequel book Start of Darkness, we see varying reactions of a crowd seeing the Monster In The Darkness. Reactions range from vomiting to "Hideous, yet strangely beautiful..."
  • There were two interesting cases in Something Positive:
    • Mike's baby has a gut-wrenchingly horrible face that only his parents can love. Davan, at one point, goes as far as comparing the baby's face to decomposition. Unfortunately, the example wasn't at all intentional — it's just that it took over six years for the artist to nail down a sufficiently hideous character design.
      So, yesterday I finally revealed the face of Shazzy, Mike and Tamara's son. A few people have asked why it took me so long. The truth is I'd never really intended to drag out the "unseen face" thing as long as I did. The problem was getting his face design right. I felt i'd built up how horrifying the kid looked that there was no way he could actually live up to the awful

      More than a few of you have happily informed me he lived up to your expectations.

      I dunno if I should be proud of myself or apologize.
    • The comic that reveals his face also has Meta Guy Silas musing that the unknown scares people to build it up to a greater horror, leading to disappointment when it comes to light.
    • We usually see very little of the terrible plays the core cast are involved in in the earlier years, and nothing of Aubrey's TV sitcom My Neighbour Cthulhu, which was so bad that the State of Massachusetts issued a restraining order to keep her away from cameras and production equipment.
  • In Joss Whedon's Sugarshock, Dandelion saves mankind by playing the saddest song in the world. We're told it's, well, very sad. (Unless you're a squirrel.)
  • In Tweep, Julie makes a list of things Milton could do if they hired someone new at the coffee shop. Thing #17 is apparently of some interest.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: A number of details about each SCP are covered up with Censor Boxes or deleted text marked with [REDACTED] or [DATA EXPUNGED]. These are usually the worst results of the SCP's unchecked behaviour or influence, because leaving them to the reader's imagination makes for better horror or comedy than pinning them down.
    Once a normal community of 387 [Lego that becomes animated when built into objects] was constructed, a small mound of Megablocks (a common copy of Lego) was placed near the community. When this happened, everything constructed of 387 stopped moving, turned slowly towards the Megablocks and [EXPUNGED].
    Addendum 387-6: Jesus fucking Christ. - Dr. Arch
  • Whateley Universe example: Chaka's combat final happened all off-screen.
  • From The Onion: "New Study Too Frightening To Release."
  • The Cinema Snob used this in a episode reviewing Caligula. Since he couldn't actually show the infamous orgy scene in a blip video, instead we just get shots of him reacting to it, along with various comments describing the action: "Wait... is that a fucking snake?"
    • Also did it when discussing the depiction of a talking vagina in Pussy Talk, a certain sex act in Beaver and Buttface, and how he recognizes how the actor from Italian Batman is the same guy from Porno Holocaust.
  • The apocalyptic battle between interdimensional conquerer Tyros and Quantum of the Global Guardians was all off-screen, and the only thing that appeared in the story was the general public's reaction to it. This is because it took place on the moon... though the lightshow from it was still visible in broad daylight on the Earth.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Luann van Houten (Milhouse's mother) answered her husband's challenge in a game of Pictionary, to draw "dignity". We don't see what she draws, but everyone in the room is impressed.
    • Homer becomes super intelligent, and writes on a piece of paper proof that God doesn't exist. Ned looks at it and, and even he says it checks out.
    • Homer was broke and, desperately needing money, he dreamed about an invention that would make him instantly rich. We didn't get to see that invention, and neither did Homer.
    • When there was a gas leak at the nuclear plant, the gang runs for the exit, only to find that the emergency exit is actually just painted on the wall. The next thing we know, "after our miraculous escape", the gang asks for a real emergency exit... with predictable results.
    • In the 400th episode, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Snowball V and Santa's Little Helper all hear Kent Brockman says something so horrifying, that Bart must use an Etch-A-Sketch to pass the profanity to Marge and Kent himself described it as something that "Should only be said by Satan sitting on the toilet". Ned Flanders actually said it was God's least favorite word and a super swear. We never get to see it, despite it refusing to leave the Etch-A-Sketch. All we know that the word is four syllables.
      • Also, the episode ends with Homer telling Lisa about something really bad Kent told him about FOX. Unfortunately, it gets redubbed with an announcer stating that FOX has amazing shows that everyone should watch. D*** you, FOX!
    • Bart forces Skinner to tell him a swear word he doesn't already know, in exchange for going undercover with Jimbo's gang. Skinner agrees and whispers it to him.
    Bart: Wow! That's a swear?
    Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.
    • Mr. Burns, Homer, Willie and Prof. Frink search and eventually find the Loch Ness Monster. Out of all people, Mr. Burns is the one who defeats and captures Nessie all by himself! We never learn how he did this, we just see Burns saying "I was a little worried when he swallowed me, but, well, you know the rest."
    • When Bart and Milhouse get a sugar high on all-syrup Squishies, Milhouse ends up with a dirty word shaved in his hair. Principal Skinner is quite appalled by it, but we never see it.
    • One episode begins with Bart's class watching a sex-education video starring two anthropomorphic rabbits. Narrator Troy McClure states that after the rabbits got married, then came the honeymoon. Cut to the kids yelling "Ewwwww!" as porno music plays, with Ms. Krabappel stating "She's faking it."
    • Marge and Lisa spend some quality time together, and decide to watch movies about horses with sad-sounding titles, with one so sad Marge can't even say it. She shows the cover to Lisa who immediately breaks down in tears. The audience never gets to see the title.
    • In the Simpsons Comics, Homer and Bart are arrested for possession of "obscene" horror comics. After they're released pending trial, Bart draws several sketches (unseen to the reader) to show Lisa the sort of material in question. As Bart shows sketch after sketch to Lisa, she remains unimpressed until the last one makes her cry "GAAAAK!" and gape in mute horror for three panels.
  • An episode of Duckman was built around this joke. After talking to a sweet, beautifully voiced 911 operator over the phone, Duckman agrees to a date, only to find that she is hideous (or so we can surmise from everyone's response to seeing her). Eventually she gets a makeover, making her beautiful and causing Duckman to decide he is no longer good enough for her.
  • The Weekenders, "The Perfect Weekend": Out of sheer boredom, Tino goes to a music contest Tish is in. Cut to Tish holding a trophy for winning a contest and Tino congratulating her for it.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door, "Operation B.U.T.T.": Subverts it. The other kids comment on a picture of Numbuh 1's butt they found (basically, it's really big). They also comment on this later on when Numbuh 1 secures the negatives for the photo. All this time we're not shown the butt, and the ep plays out the "end transmission" end title card ... and then it shows this.
  • In Transformers Animated, Optimus Prime asks Sari how the "smaller organics" are made. He listens for a few moments as Sari whispers an inaudible answer to him, then looks absolutely horrified.
  • The Venture Bros., "Careers in Space", where Lt. Baldovitch is only ever shown with a face-shielding space helmet on or from behind, and it is implied that her face is catastrophically ugly, in stark contrast to her beautiful body.
    • Done again in "20 Years to Midnight" when an alien disguised as Jonas Venture Sr. gets angry over the characters lack of appreciation for saving the Earth for them and shows his true form. All that we see is their horrified faces.
    • Done in the entire series with the Monarch's hatred of Dr Venture. The only clues are in one episode The Monarch mentions hating Venture since college, and several lines which hint that it's not really a very good reason. (Venture doesn't even know what it is)
  • In the Sealab 2021 episode "Neptunati", Captain Shanks does battle with the Kraken offscreen. We don't see a thing of the supposedly epic battle, but the rest of the crew is impressed enough that Quinn remarks "Anyone who missed that better just kill themselves right now!"
  • In the old cartoon Mighty Man and Yukk, Yukk was meant to be "the world's ugliest dog". Whenever his face (normally kept hidden under a small doghouse he wore on his head) was revealed, people would scream, mirrors would shatter, and general havoc would be wreaked, all while earthquakes rumbled and screaming sirens wailed... but the audience never once saw his face.
  • In an episode of South Park, the numerous Legions of Hell did battle with the outnumbered 10,000 angels at the gates of Heaven. We don't get to see the battle, but archangel Michael assures us that it's "like ten times cooler than the final battle from The Lord of the Rings films!". This is actually a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, because the animators really didn't have time to make the real battle in under three days.
  • In The Boondocks Christmas episode, Huey wrote an play called "The Adventures of Black Jesus", which apparently recived outstanding reviews and revolutionized theater. However, we don't get to see much of it, and a PTA protest prevents the play from ever being shown again (the high production cost may also have been a factor). All we can say is that somehow, a samurai is involved.
  • Freakazoid! does this in one episode as a joke. The "Professor of Broadcast Standards" decides the show is too violent and decides to implement "Relax-O-Vision", a new system where violent scenes are replaced with calm scenery and music. After one of the fight scenes is replaced and all we see is a field of flowers, Freakazoid exclaims "I probably blew the animation budget for the whole season on that one fight..." which we never get to see. Here's a video of the episode. The scene can be found at 9:45.
  • Danger Mouse once asked Master of Disguise Agent 13 what he really looked like. We don't see it, but DM does, and he is horrified.
  • In Rocko's Modern Life Rocko is filming his dog Spunky, with constant references to "this really great trick" Spunky can do. Most of the video consists of the dog just sitting around, accompanied by Rocko's constant urging to "just wait, it's really reaaly neat!", and by the time Spunky finally does do his trick the camera's battery has run out, though you do hear Rocko keep exclaiming just how amazing it is.
  • On Futurama, Amy mentions that the primitive TV sets in Fry's time could never be able to show her obscene tattoo. We then get a shot of the tattoo, and sure enough, it shows up blurred in our primitive, turn-of-the-21st-Century sets.
    • Morbo the newsmonster removes his shirt (It Makes Sense in Context), and thankfully the only thing the audience sees is his co-worker screaming in horror.
    • Parodied in the Vignette Episode "Reincarnation". Each segment features something incredible (a new color of the rainbow, the secret of the universe, an incredible dance), but it's done In The Style Of something that makes it so the audience can't see it (a black-and-white cartoon, an 8-bit video game that represents the secret as a single black pixel, and a Limited Animation anime).
    • Fry, being from the past, is overwhelmed by a marketing gimmick that we never get to see:
    Fry: I just saw something incredibly cool. A big floating ball that lit up with every color of the rainbow, plus some new ones that were so beautiful I fell to my knees and cried.
    Amy: Was it out in front of Discount Shoe Outlet?
    Fry: Yeah.
    Amy: They have a college kid wear that to attract customers.
  • In Clerks the final episode (appropriately titled "The Last Episode Ever", as it was the last episode made before the series was suddenly canceled) consists of Dante and Randal remaining in the store while incredibly interesting things happen outside. Jay and Silent Bob occasionally come in to detail everything (included are a fair with rides, an escaped gorilla, and Dante's ex-girlfriend making out with everyone in sight), and others come into the store who seem to support what Jay is reporting, but neither the clerks nor the audience ever get to see any of it.
  • The Invader Zim episode "Room With A Moose" has two consecutive examples of this trope, with Zim showing Dib other places he could have used the wormhole to send him. The first is "a universe of pure itching" which is only shown as a green mist, Zim assuring Dib "you can't tell, but that stuff is really itchy", while the second is "a universe of pure dookie" which isn't shown at all, only Dib's horrified reaction visible.
  • An episode of the animated version of Fraggle Rock involves "The Funniest Joke in the Universe" which makes whoever hears it laugh uncontrollably until they drink from the "Well of Forgetfulness". Everyone hears it, including Boober, who doesn't get it, and is left to be the one to go to the Well. At the end of the episode, he gets it, though. The audience never hears the joke, however, since it's only whispered in other people's ears.
  • The one time Jérémie is virtualized in the digital world of Code Lyoko, his avatar is described as "ridiculous" by his friends. The audience never gets to see what Jérémie looks like on Lyoko. Whatever it is, he swears he's never going back — though, even if it may have contributed, this decision is less about his appearance and more about the fright he got from being attacked by Megatanks.
  • One of the season finales from Justice League Unlimited has some of the modern-day heroes go to the Batman Beyond timeline. Modern-day Batman tries to intimidate some information out of a thug by dangling him off a ledge. Future-Batman (a.k.a. Badass Grandpa Batman) mutters "I can't believe I was ever that green. This is how you interrogate someone...." Scene fades, then we see the thug sitting on the roof with his knees drawn close to his chest, babbling the last of the Big Bad's plans, as well as confessing that he wet the bed until he was 14.
  • Batman Beyond has one of its own with the assassin Curare: we never see her face, but Batman does and has a look of either shock or surprise.
    • In the pilot episode Rebirth, Powers shows the Kaznian ambassador a series of time-lapsed photos to prove the effectiveness of his flesh-eating nerve gas. The audience gets to see the first few pictures of a man with black rashes spreading over his body, then it cuts to the ambassador's horrified face.
  • In one of Tex Avery's Screwy Squirrel cartoons at MGM, a scene takes place in a darkened room with lots of random sound effects. Then Screwy lights a match and proclaims, "Sure was a funny gag! Too bad you couldn't see it..."
  • In the Droopy cartoon "the Three Little Pups", one scene ends with the pursuing dogcatcher swallowing Droopy's tv set whole. A couple of scenes later, Droopy and his brothers are watching tv again, and he says to us "Now don't ask how we got the television back." Probably just intended as a wink toward cartoon continuity, but, bringing it up like that, one can't help wondering how they got it back.
  • An early episode of the original G.I. Joe animated series features Destro walking into Cobra Commander's office while he's dining without his mask on. Destro is immediately horrified at the sight of Cobra Commander's face and asks him to put his hood on.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Road to the Multiverse", Stewie takes Brian to a technologically-advanced alternate universe where Christianity never existed. While they're there, Stewie shows Brian this universe's version of Meg, who is much more attractive than the regular Meg. Stewie goes on to tell Brian that she's still the ugly one, and if Brian saw Lois, he would have to put his penis in a wheelchair. The audience is never shown this universe's version of Lois.
  • Danny Phantom uses this to leave it up to the viewers how Danny's human side was killed in "The Ultimate Enemy". Instead of being treated to the scene itself, we are given a Shadow Discretion Shot, and the only thing Vlad says about it? "Some things are better left unsaid." Considered one of the most chilling moments in the show.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy there is a battle between the barbarians and Keebler elves, before the battle begins a drill sergeant advises the audience that the scene is too violent for children (despite the show being full of Family-Unfriendly Violence) so he shows the audience a koala chewing on a leaf until the battle is over. At one point he accidentally cuts back to the scene in the middle of the battle, and it is very violent.
    • Another example is Nergal Jr.'s true form. We see black skin and tentacles, but we never see anything else. However, Billy does describe it as being the most horrible thing he'd ever seen, and this is coming from a boy with the Grim Reaper for a best friend.
  • An episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law has Harvey showing footage of his client, Apache Chief's, various feats of heroism. The "footage" ends up simply being civilians describing AC's feats while not showing him at all (a satire of Hanna Barbera's Limited Animation).
  • In Wakfu episode 10 ("Gobbowl Hell 1"), the girls go shopping for clothes. Walking out of the dressing room, Amalia asks Eva what she thinks of her dress — but we don't see it, only her head, her body being hidden by furnitures. Evangelyne answers that "it's a bit short." One can only wonder what could be shorter than Amalia's usual Stripperific outfit.
  • Dave the Barbarian:
    "And so our heroes defeated the muffin in an exciting battle, which we can't show you because it would be much too expensive for a cheap show like this."
    • And then in "Slay What?", Oswidge turns Faffy into something. The only thing we can hear is a growling and gurgling sound, making Oswidge shudder and tell us, "You do not need to see that."
  • Titan Maximum: "Oh my God! Titan Maximum is raping the Statue of Unity!"
  • In the Kick Buttowski episode "Gift of Wacky" Kick has Brad make him a present to give to Jackie that will make her hate him forever. It's apparently so horrible that even after the box is opened we never see what it is. Just kids running off screaming and Jackie adoring it.
  • American Dad!:
    • Stan gets abandoned by his co-workers in the hands of a drug lord who wants to cut off his leg with a chainsaw. When he shows up to work safe and sound the next day, the co-workers ask how he escaped. Stan replies that his pet mouse came to his rescue.
    • Francine gets her face doused in acid. She's so unattractive that nobody wants to flirt with her, but her face is covered by various objects. And then it subverts it by showing her face right before it gets fixed...it's pretty bad.
    • A cloaked Karl Rove visits the Smiths, and at one point, Rove lifts up his cloak, showing them his naked body. We only see the family's horrified reactions, including Steve's response: "Where does your food go?"
    • During a fundraising telethon to raise money to torture suspected terrorists ends up with a terrorist threatening to blow up the entire event, Stan manages to raise enough money right as the clock nearly hits zero to torture the terrorist into giving up the code to disable the bomb and does so from behind a curtain. All you hear are screams and see the rest of the cast's disgusted reactions.
  • Iroh's awesome jailbreak in season three of Avatar: The Last Airbender , which viewers had watched him train for all season, was ultimately not included in the show. All we get is Zuko's arrival, after his heavily postponed Heel-Face Turn, to rescue his uncle, only to find a wrecked jail and a battered guardsman babbling, "He was like a One-Man Army!"
  • God, the Devil and Bob - When the Devil disguises himself as an ordinary teenager and starts dating Bob's daughter, Bob snaps and demands God explain why he allows evil to exist in the world. The viewers are prevented from hearing the explanation by the sound of a train going past - all we hear is "like a cork circling a drain." Bob is awestruck, but God asks him to keep it under his hat, as "people are passionate about this issue."
  • On at least two occasions Ed and Eddy gets to see what's underneath Double D's hat on Ed, Edd n Eddy and it's met with disgust, laughter and awe.
  • On an episode of Regular Show , Rigby makes Mordecai do 10 solids (favors) in exchange for going on a double date with Eileen and Margaret. He pretty much uses all the solids to ruin Mordecai's night. The 10th is so horrible, the only part shown is a brief shot of Mordecai squatting down and making noises resembling a truck backing out, then the others' faces as he does it.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doof, Rodney and Lawrence once entered a contest to become leader of L.O.V.E.-M.U.F.F.I.N. (Lawrence misread the address of where he was supposed to go and believed he entered a contest to become king of pharmaceuticals) and, after he was hit by a ray that turned him evil, there was an event where each contestant had to scare the others with their evil glare. We never get to see Lawrence's but all characters who saw it were horrified.
    • Ferb once entered a debate championship. We never learned what he said but his opponent claimed to see the world in a different way because of that. Later, Perry somehow gave a better argument.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: In "The Price Of Power", Shadow Weaver showed her face to a boy who wanted to be her apprentice. The boy's reaction suggested the face to be hideous but the viewers were never given a chance to see for themselves.
  • In the My Gym Partners A Monkey episode "That Darn Platypus" when Principal Pixiefrog and Mrs. Warthog are searching through the student body's records to see if any of them are aliens, Mrs. Warthog advises him not to go through Dickie Sugarjumper's file saying simply that "it's creepy".

    Real Life 
  • In 1637 Pierre de Fermat wrote, in his copy of Claude-Gaspar Bachet's translation of the famous Arithmetica of Diophantus, "I have a truly marvellous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain." It wasn't until 1995 that anybody actually managed to prove this theorem — with a proof lengthy enough to fill an entire book and using mathematics unknown in Fermat's time. It is still unknown what Fermat's proof could have been.
    • The general consensus among mathematicians is that he thought he had a proof at the time he wrote that note, but realized later that his proof was flawed, or that he was simply bluffing from the start.
  • This website is a (worksafe) collection of photographs of people looking at Goatse, a notorious Shock Site image of a man's distended anus, for the first time. We don't see Goatse, but God, do we see the horror.
    • One of those pictures is of Ron Jeremy... and he looks horrified.
    • Similarly, there are several sites out there dedicated to capturing the unsuspecting's first exposure to "2 Girls, 1 Cup". (don't Google it if you're not already aware of what 2G1C is.)
    • Most "reaction videos" rely on this for their humor. We never see what it is that they're watching... but most of us have a pretty good idea of what it is.
    • One memorable picture is Christoph Waltz's reaction upon seeing Inglourious Basterds yaoi fanfiction for the first time.
  • No known film footage exists of The Doors' notorious 1969 Miami concert, where Jim Morrison got arrested for indecent exposure. Some people said he unzipped his pants and dangled his finger to the audience, while others said that he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Either way, it's a mystery as to what really happened at that concert. Only bootleg audio recordings survive, which show Jim Morrison drunkenly slurring and cursing through the songs, abruptly interrupting his songs with rants at the audience ("You're all a bunch of slaves!")
  • During the 2006 World Cup Final, an Italian player named Materazzi insulted French player Zidane. Though the incident was caught on camera, there were no microphones pointed at the pair at the time. The insult was apparently so vile that Zidane headbutted Materazzi and was ejected from the game, which France ultimately lost. This led to enormous speculation about what could have caused this reaction; popular consensus holds that Materazzi said something lewd about Zidane's sister.
  • In 1956, Infante Alfonso of Spain went into a bedroom with his brother, Juan Carlos I. A shot was fired and he died. To this day, Juan Carlos I does not say if Alfonso accidently committed suicide or if he himself did it by accident. He just says that he "felt responsible".
  • Albert Einstein's last words were spoken in German. The only other person in the room was a nurse who didn't speak or understand German, so Einstein's "last words" remain a mystery.
  • Grizzly Man mentions that there is an audio-only recording of the fatal attack that killed Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend. Director Werner Herzog is the only one who listens to it. Herzog refused to put it into the film and informs Treadwell's ex-girlfriend to destroy the tape. There are some descriptions, including evidence of a desperate fight against the bear.
  • Steve Irwin's final moments were caught on tape as he filmed a nature documentary. The only footage of the incident was turned over to his widow, who says it was destroyed unwatched.
  • Invoked on this wiki's page for The Human Centipede. Trust us, you do not want to know.

Stop Motion LightingUniversal TropesThat Satisfying Crunch
The StingerThis Might Be an IndexThrough the Eyes of Madness
Nothing Is ScarierShow, Don't TellTime Skip
Soap Opera Rapid Aging SyndromeThis Index Happened Off ScreenTeleporting Keycard Squad
Housepets!ImageSource/Web ComicsRape Is a Special Kind of Evil

alternative title(s): Take My Word For It
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