"I'll have my tailor shorten those legs for you," he'd say, and carry them into the back room. "Take about twelve inches off the legs, Pierre." Whack! Whack! "Ah, thank you, Pierre!" Pierre himself was never seen or heard, but for a Frenchman he was pretty handy with a machete.
A character who is often referred to, but never quite makes it onto the screen. Sometimes just casually mentioned, but eventually played for comic effect as the camera (or lead character) just fails to catch them.
Sometimes the character is never seen because the viewer is, in essence, this character (and thus share viewpoints). In this case the viewers are probably being used as The Watson.
If a disembodied voice — "Yes Ma, I'm coming!" — they're The Voice.
Not the Great Gazoo, but occurs in similar range of plot devices. See also He Who Must Not Be Seen and Nothing Is Scarier (for when a character remains unseen for the Rule of Scary). For a concept, item, or location, rather than a person, see Cryptic Background Reference. Often overlaps with No One Sees the Boss.
For a character who is frequently mentioned but never seen because they died before the story began, see Posthumous Character and Death by Origin Story. For a character whose existence can only be inferred see Unknown Character.
For actual ghosts and spirits, see Our Ghosts Are Different. Not to be confused with the radio character known as the Ghost, the industrial saboteur of the same name from Iron Man comics, or the film/Broadway musical Ghost.
Sometimes related to Bigger Bad when dealing with villains.
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Ernest P. Worrell, an advertising icon who later starred in a television show called Hey Vern, It's Ernest! and a series of films, often addressed someone named Vern who was (presumably) behind the camera and never spoke or was seen on screen. In fact, Ernest was famous for the Catch Phrase "Knowhutimean, Vern?" This would be one of the cases where The Watson is simultaneously invoked.
Anime and Manga
Tower of God: King Zahard, the ruler of the Tower. Furthermore the Irregulars Phantaminum, and Enryu. And finally the Director of the 2nd Floor, Evankell.
The Shinigami King on Death Note. At least until the one shot sequel was released.
Naota's older brother Tasuku from FLCL, only appearing as a silhouette in an episode 2 flashback and as a picture with his American girlfriend in a later episode, which is of course obscured by glare.
Medical Mechanica remains a near-complete mystery throughout the series. We never see anything of them other than the giant clothing iron in the center of the city, and the occasional killer robot that pops out of Naota's head.
Kyo Kara Maoh: Shinou ('The Great One') up to the end of Season 2.
Mr. Ichinose started out like this, but he did eventually appear (in a story where his appearance was the main focus). Oddly enough, he recognized everyone from Maison Ikkoku on sight, and knew many things about them. However, none of the tenants recognized him. He continued to make appearances in expected places for the rest of the manga's run.
Kyoko's deceased husband, Soichiro. While partly a Posthumous Character, even when he IS shown in flashback any exposed skin (face, hands) is blacked out. In universe, Godai, Kyoko's new love interest, never even gets to see a picture of him until nearly the end of the series when he sees a picture from Kyoko's first wedding. Even then the READER only gets to see a part of Soichiro's hand.
Lina's older sister Luna in Slayers. She's mentioned several times (especially in TRY), but we never do see her on screen, or in the novels that the anime was based on. Word of God says that she'll never appear in canon outside of the opening sequences, because she's so ridiculously powerful that she would unbalance the rest of the cast.
Himeko from SKET Dance will occasionally make a passing reference to "Nakatai-san from Class A". Late in the series, Bossun finally points out that he has no idea who that person is. This leads to an entire chapter where he tries to meet the character, only to keep missing her due to increasingly improbable events. He does manage to catch a partial glimpse of her at one point.
Contrary to popular belief, Yugi Mouto from the original Yu-Gi-Oh!did have a mother, and she wasn't dead. She was seen in one brief scene in the manga, and one scene in one episode after the Duelist Kingdom arc (which was cut from the dub) but that was it. Exactly why she kept herself hidden all the time wasn't clear.
Jonouchi's father was someone who was never seen, except in one panel in the manga, but he was talked about often. Apparently, he was an alcoholic whose illness had caused his marriage to end in divorce. Jonouchi's mother got a small amount of screen time; she kept custody of his sister Shizuka, and was very reluctant to talk to Jonouchi until Shizuka's surgery.
Leina's parents, Owen and The Head Archangel are only mentioned in all the adaptations of the franchise, except in the animated ones when they physically appear for first time, albeit Leina's mother previously appeared in a non-canonical light novel side-story.
A Certain Magical Index has the #6 Level 5 Esper. So far, this person is mentioned to be very anti-social and refuses to go out in public. This person's name, gender, and power has not been revealed.
Mahiro's father in Haiyore! Nyarko-san; when his mother Yoriko first shows up, she implies that Dad'll be stuck at the office for a while making up the time they took off for their most recent honeymoon. As of the 11th novel, he still hasn't made a physical appearance (except in the second anime season where Yoriko flashes back to their courtship, where his face is obscured).
Pokémon - In the first episode, Ash winds up with Pikachu because three other trainers beat him to Professor Oak's lab. One was Gary, the other two are never seen or even given names. However, through the start of season one trainers and gym leaders Ash meets tell him he doesn't measure up to the three trainers from Pallet Town ahead of him. Oak eventually tells Ash and Gary that the other two weren't successful in getting the required badges.
Lawrence and Mobile of Scott Pilgrim, until they both appear near the end of volume five.
Bob's sister (who is the mother of Croix and Hunter)
B.A.'s mother (although she does become The Voice occasionally)
Crutch's 'old lady', Casey Mae
Crowbar, Switch's partner-in-crime was this for years until he finally appeared on-panel in Hawg Waller's.
Brian's uncle (and former guardian)
Dave's father and brother.
Little Ego's therapist.
Believe it or not, Mary Jane Watson was this until her first appearance in Amazing Spider Man #42. Before that, she was sort of a Running Gag by the writers, someone who Aunt May and Mary Jane's own aunt were trying to have Peter meet, but never succeeding. The first time she appeared, her face was hidden. When she and Peter finally met, it came as quite a shock to Peter.
Empowered's mother. (They sometimes talk on the telephone, but we never hear what she says.)
Traditionally, this is true for the original members of the Yancy Street Gang, the ones that Ben Grimm knew when he was a member; they are never fully seen in the comics, only heard from the shadows, from the windows of buildings, or shown with hardhats or other headwear covering their faces. However, the younger "new generation" of the Gang was seen in full.
The "Enemy" in Sturmtruppen is never ever shown, except for one single strip (which is still pitch black).
The Joker was given this treatment in the New 52. After the events of Batman: Detective Comics #1, he apparently "retired", and the only thing left of him is his face after he had another psychotic criminal surgically remove it for some reason. He still manages to cause trouble for Gotham — in the wake of his disappearance, he gets in-universe Draco in Leather Pants treatment from a bunch of idiots who dress up like him to form angry mobs that accuse Batman of murdering the Joker. His face (which is currently being held by Gotham police) is also being treated as an object of worship by the Joker's crazier fans. The few times Joker appeared, it was either in a flashback or an impostor. He finally returns in Batman #13, where he retrieves his face. This leads to an event called Death Of The Family, in which he goes after every member of the Bat-Family.
Boneville from Bone is a whole ghost town. Despite all the references the Bone cousins make to it, creator Jeff Smith has never actually depicted it, saying because Boneville isn't the focus of the story. Whatever Boneville looks like is up to the reader's imagination.
Kind of averted in the Spin-off novels "Quest for the Spark" which was written by Tom Sniegoski (Jeff Smith still illustrated it) starts off at the Boneville adventurer's guild. Yet true to the original story, it still doesn't describe anything of what Boneville actually looks like.
The Director General in Union Jack is never seen, even though she's being scapegoated for British government's lackluster response to the R.A.I.D. attack.
Rafiki in The Lion King Adventures. He is mentioned a few times in the series, but was never seen. He presented Simba at his birth, and also confirmed that he had the Kulaani illness in Sick Simba. Word of God claims he died after Series Three.
Not only is Hayate never shown in Perfection Is Overrated, but nothing is revealed about this person apart from being Toki's most important person, someone for whom she'd risk a temporal paradox- not even Hayate's gender is revealed. The Usurper wonders what Toki sees in Hayate, but she refuses to elaborate, a reference to the shallow and hastily established romances some Mary Sue characters have.
Enforced in The Universiad with regards to the Moderators. Due to Gideon (the author)'s insistence that only the appropriate users can "play" the characters representing themselves, and none of the actual mods deigning to join in, they will remain offscreen for the foreseeable future.
Weiss Reacts has Weiss' grandfather. He set in motion most of the tragedies that befall the characters in the backstory but isn't actually seen during the present as of this writing.
Star Wars: A New Hope had two Ghosts: the Emperor and Jabba the Hutt. Jabba was originally supposed to appear in the film, but his scene was cut, and his character was reimagined as a giant, slug-like alien. His scene was restored in the Special Edition with a CGI version of Jabba inserted over the original actor and his dialogue dubbed over with Huttese. Though Emperor Palpatine briefly appeared in the following film, it wasn't until Return of the Jedi that Jabba finally appeared onscreen.
In the James Bond movies, most of the other 00 agents qualify, with one notable exception. Not counting Thunderball, where they're all seen in the background, at best they're only seen when dead or three seconds from dying. 008 in particular is never seen onscreen, though M always threatens to replace Bond with him if he keeps disobeying orders.
In Waiting for Guffman, the characters spend the entire movie preparing for the arrival of Broadway talent scout Guffman. During their performance, a distinguished man arrives late and takes Guffman's seat, but we later find out that he's just a random guy. Guffman never appears.
The title character of Oscar appears only for a moment in the very last scene.
The title character in Edward, My Son is never seen or even pictured.
Lord and Lady Ferncliffe in the George Cukor classic Dinner at Eight.
Claude Daigle, the boy Rhoada murdered from The Bad Seed, is only referred to in past tense, though he may have been glimpsed at the school picnic.
Al Capone in Road to Perdition is referred to a number of times, but he never appears. A scene was shot with him, but it was cut out to make his presence more abstract and ominous.
Patton does this with General Eisenhower, both on purpose and by accident. They couldn't find an actor that looked enough like Eisenhower, so they decided to have Eisenhower be an unseen, ominous figure.
My Dinner With Andre is full of them. The cast literally conists of two guys, a waiter, and a few extras. Throughout the film, Wallace talks about his girlfriend Debbie, and Andre talks about quite a few people. The closest we ever get to seeing any of them is a single black and white photograph of a Polish woman Andre worked with one time.
The Big Lebowski: Walter's ex-wife, Cynthia. She is mentioned a few times, Walter even takes care of her dog, but she is never seen or heard.
Norman Osborn gets this treatment in The Amazing Spider-Man. We never get a clear look at him and all we hear about is that he founded Oscorp, he's dying from an unknown disease, and he is linked to Peter's parents somehow. The Stinger suggests that he may know more about Spider-Man and everything else going on than he lets on...
Ferris Bueller's Day Off has a few Ghosts, the most prominent one being Morris Frye, Cameron's father. All we know of him is related or implied by Cameron or Ferris, and none of it is pretty. Some film scholars have argued that he, not Rooney or Ferris, is the true villain of the film despite never physically appearing.
Despite having the film named after him, Mohammad never appears in Mohammad Messenger Of God, for very obviousreasons. While the film does show his point of view a few times, the closest the viewer ever gets to seeing him is getting glimpses of his sword, staff, and camel, respectively.
Yield to the Night, a British crime drama, was about Mary Hilton (played by Diana Dors), a woman sentenced to die for murdering her boyfriend's other lover. The victim shows up in the opening scene, when the murder is shown, and a few other times in flashback, but her face is never completely visible to the camera. (The movie was loosely based on the case of Ruth Ellis, and in an odd coincidence Ellis had actually been in another Diana Dors movie, Lady Godiva Rides Again, as a beauty pageant contestant.)
We never see (or even hear) Dwight Eisenhower in Into The Storm, despite him having some bearing in the plot. The same also goes for Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, neither of which ever appears in the movie, but bear heavily in the plot.
A Series of Unfortunate Events has a wide backstory and several characters are only ever referred to. The most notable example is probably R., the Duchess of Winnipeg.
Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle. Somewhat unusual in that he is the Big Bad of the series, at least as of the third book. He finally appears in the last book, Inheritance.
Inversion in Thursday Next: First Among Sequels: Jenny never appears because she's actually a mindworm implanted in the first-person narrator's mind. This was revealed when her family explained it to her to stop her freaking out over an abandoned Jenny - only to have the mindworm blank out her memory of the conversation afterwards.
Not really literature, but who exactly is Uncle John of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader? He's referenced countless times in the series. Its not the person on the back of the books either, they've pointed out multiple times his name is Larry Kelp and he's merely a technician for the Bathroom Readers Institute.
Uncle John just seems to be an alias for whatever persona happens to be convenient for the remarks prefacing an article—in the article on microwaves it makes comments about how he once swore he'd never have anything to do with the device, but now he thanks the appliance gods every time he pulls a pizza out of the freezer to keep the kids from killing each other.
Uncle John might be humorist John Javna, who was one of the co-creators of the series and who contributes to every book, but Javna nor the BRI have ever confirmed it's supposed to be him
The Hittite king Suppiluliuma I is a constant presence throughout The Egyptian — we hear of his plans, we see his armies and what he does, but he never appears on-stage himself.
Eloise Midgen. We know that she has unfortunate acne, that Ron doesn't want to go with her to the Yule Ball, and that she's one of the first to go home in the sixth book during Voldemort's reign of terror, but we never see her. (She does appear in one of the films, however.)
Nicholas Flamel, from the first book. Very important to the plot, but never actually appeared in person.
Professor Aurora Sinistra, the Astronomy teacher, is mentioned but never shown, except for one brief mention of her dancing with Moody at the Yule Ball.
Aside from a tiny mention where she's almost concussed by Hagrid, Professor Vector, the Arithmancy Teacher, is the same.
Ron's Great Auntie Muriel is this until Book 7.
Going to be averted with Newt Scamander, the writer of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As he's getting his own spin-off movie, written by Rowling herself.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is brimming full of ghosts. There's ex-president of the galaxy Yooden Vranx, acclaimed writer Oolong Colluphid, the long-lost Guide editor Lig Lury Junior, and of course, Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon VI.
In The Ambassadors by Henry James, the mother of Chad Newsome, who guides much of the novel's action by sending her fiancee Strether to Europe, never appears in the book.
Margaret, the mother of Alison in Alan Garner'sThe Owl Service. Many of the events pan out as the characters try desperately to keep her happy, but she never appears in the book. Similarly occurs in the TV series, to the extent that you see parts of her clothing and even hear her play piano in the same room, but never actually hear or see her.
Arianllyn, Adaon's betrothed in The Black Cauldron. He references her repeatedly, but since he dies two-thirds of the way through the book, the reader never gets to meet her.
The eponymous character of Daddy-Long-Legs, by Jean Webster. Since almost the entire Epistolary Novel consists of protagonist Judy's letters to her unknown benefactor, this makes sense. Subverted in the end, however, when it's revealed that "Daddy" is Jervis, the man she's in love with and has written about extensively.
Howland Reed of Greywater Watch is a longtime friend of Eddard Stark, and is mentioned a number of times throughout the story, but he has yet to appear himself. What's more, he's the only surviving member of Eddard's group of men that went to the Tower of Joy, and he is probably the only person who knows exactly what promise Eddard made to his dead sister, Lyanna.
Bergholt Stuttley "Bloody Stupid" Johnson, the most infamous inventor. His works are present throughout the series, but Johnson himself never makes an appearance. It's pretty strongly implied that he's been dead for decades.
It's mentioned that Sybil Ramkin's father shot the man when he started to work his particular landscaping genius on their estate, although whether this is what killed him is unclear.
Mrs. Colon was The Ghost up to Snuff; often mentioned, but part of the joke was that she and Fred barely saw each other, and the two communicated almost exclusively through notes left about the house. Vimes at one point wondered how they managed to have kids, eventually chalking it up to some very persuasive notes.
Gravid Rust is mentioned several times, and has a major role in Snuff, but is never seen.
The letters that Last Dragon consists of are addressed to Esumi, a character we never meet in the story and about whom we learn very little.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Jane Gallagher is one of the few people Holden respects and admires. Thinking she might have had sex with Holden's boorish roommate sparks the fight that sets the plot in motion. Holden considers or tries to call her at various points during the novel, but never reaches her.
Show Within a Show example: In The Phoenix Guards, Paarfi compares one of his own characters to the Marquis of Havenwood, The Ghost from the in-universe play The Return of Duke Highwater.
Silver's unnamed wife in Treasure Island. All we know is that she's "a woman of colour" and is trusted with Silver's finances while he's on the Hispanola (specifically, to sell everything, clear the account, and meet up with him somewhere).
Lord Hasting, a powerful noble, is never met by the main characters. He was originally going to have a one-shot appearance when Kelsier was posing as an informant, but his role was given to the much more important Straff Venture.
Crews Geffenry a Mistborn and and knife fighter, who Kelsier frames for an assassination. He never actually appears in the story, unless he was the Mistborn aiding Lady Shan Elariel when she tried to assassinate Lord Elend Venture near the end of Mistborn: The Final Empire.
In Redwall Series: there are many characters mentioned from long ago that never appeared. "King Mortspear" "The First Reguba" "Almost all the Badger Lords/Ladies before Stonepaw" whom if Brian Jacques hadn't passed away, they may have likely got a chance for a story. But then again, he seemed to have made it clear he was finished with prequels.
Lothos is one in the series; he and his minions are vaguely referenced in the first episode. (For context, Lothos was Buffy's arch-nemesis in The Movie, and there he was indeed seen on screen.)
Hank became this after Season Two, the exceptions being "The Weight of the World" (in a flashback) and "Normal Again" (in the Cuckoo Nest).
The Sopranos: Ercole "Ecky" DiMeo, the boss of the crime family, was sent to prison years before the events of the show. Though the crime family still bears his name, it's actually run by his underlings.
Degrassi The Next Generation: Heather Sinclair is a ghost. She's a running joke between the writers and is basically only brought up when there needs to be drama in an episode but it's not between the main characters. Curiously enough, Heather's younger sister Holly J was brought onto the show in later seasons.
Minder: One of the earliest would be "'Er Indoors", Arthur's wife.
Frasier: Vera (A ghost character in Cheers) was reincarnated in Niles' wife Maris in this show. She wasn't originally meant to be a ghost, but by the time they would otherwise have showed her the makers of the show realized that they'd built up such an inhuman woman with their imagery that no actress could play her. You do see a silhouette in one episode and (in a flashback) a bandage-covered woman in another.
The trope and character were referenced in an episode of The Simpsons, where Bart covers Cecil Terwilliger's eyes and says "guess who", to distract him. Cecil, voiced by David Hyde Pierce, Niles' actor, guesses "Maris?"
Home Improvement: Al's Mom. Similarly, they built up Al's mother's weight so long that there was no way they'd actually get anybody to play her. There'd need to be unimaginable amounts of padding. After she dies, we see her casket at her funeral. It's the size of a station wagon and requires no less than seventeen pallbearers.
Similarly (and pre-dating Al's mother) is Peg's mother from Married... with Children. She was audible in several cases, and a few times parts of her massive bulk were shown, but she was never seen fully.
Men Behaving Badly: Gary repeatedly mentions his friend Clive in conversation, but Clive is never seen. (This was a Hand Wave of sorts, to tell the audience the cast did have friends other than each other.) Clive appears in the episode dealing with Gary's non-wedding, as the one to whom the task of filming the whole shebang falls. Needless to say, the only thing you see is his legs, although you do occasionally hear his leering comments.
Both Allie, Jack Gallo's young wife and Binnie, Nina's best friend.
Both characters eventually appeared onscreen. Jack's wife Allie made her first appearance in the fourth season finale, a Cliff Hanger that ends with her sleeping with Finch. Binnie appeared both in a Halloween Episode and as a ghost in one of the final episodes; in both she was The Faceless (covered in bandages in the former, seen only from the back in the latter).
Donald Trump, Jack's friendly rival, also qualifies.
The Season 5 episode "The Girl in Question" revolves around an entity known only as "The Immortal", who only appears on camera once barely visible through the crowd on a dance floor, and Buffy herself, who fills a similar role throughout the season.
Hogan's Heroes: A dubbed example is Klink's housekeeper/possible mistress. Never heard of the her? You weren't watching the dub, where dialogue relating to Hitler or other topics verboten on German television were replaced by more innocent dialogue about Klink's housekeeper. She was never seen because originally she never existed.
The Facts of Life: Snake, Natalie's boyfriend in the later seasons. He does show up in the latter half of the final season, just in time for a Very Special Episode about Natalie being the first of the girls to "get her V-Card punched".
The Children's Corner: Mister Rogers (see the entry for The Unintelligible for more details on this show).
Marion and Geoff: The title characters in the British Black Comedy named after them. Despite the title, the show is all about chauffeur Rob Brydon talking about them and other people. The events are entirely Second-Hand Storytelling. They did eventually appear in the prequel, A Small Summer Party.
That Beryl Marston...: The title character is not actually in the ITV sitcom of that title (it's about a couple played by Julia McKenzie and Gareth Hunt, and the effect of Hunt's affair with Marston on their marriage)
Tweenies: Honorable mention: Bella's Gran. She did make one appearance though, in "Jake and the Beanstalk" (she's watching the Tweenies doing a Christmas pantomime of Jack and the Beanstalk, starring Jake).
Columbo: Mrs. Columbo is a prime example of the phenomenon. Though she never appeared in the series, a spinoff which ran under several titles featured as its lead a character purported to be the detective's wife, in which Columbo himself was likewise a Ghost. "Kate Columbo" is generally considered by the makers of the Columbo series to not, in fact, be the same person, but either the wife of an entirely different detective of the same name, or (in a line cut from an actual Columbo episode) an imposter.
There are fan theories that the missus does not even exist, and is perhaps just something Columbo uses as an conversational technique to get people to open up. However, there has been at least one instance of another character saying he had just met Mrs. Columbo, indicating she does exist.
Enid is seen at least once from behind (without her face showing) in a flashback. Harrison is also (just) seen in a photo that Kelso is holding.
R.N. Laverne Roberts' husband and son.
Possible parody in most/all of the Janitor's anecdotes. He's constantly referencing Ghost characters who never appear, with the reality of those Ghosts being called into question constantly. Even once when his Father made an actual appearance, he later mentions his father having died years ago, when J.D. responds with the fact that he'd met the Janitor's father, the Janitor replies "You met a Man". This also builds up to a subversion of the trope. After an entire series of the Janitor making up people, he mentions a girlfriend named "Lady". You're led to believe she's another made up Ghost for a while until she actually appears and the two get married.
The Mighty Boosh: In the first season, Vince and Howard mention their friend Leroy, who apparently has influence on the show. His face is actually seen in one scene, but only for a few seconds, and covered completely by KISS-style make-up.
Major Atumbe, the third-in-command. Mentioned several times, but never appears because, according to the creator, they didn't want yet another on-screen recurring character. Oddly, David Corwin who started off as a bit part would eventually assume the 3iC role.
Another important faceless is David Sheridan, son of John Sheridan and Delenn. In all flash-forwards, David is never seen, even when John Sheridan dies. David is off training with the rangers, and they didn't want to call him back.
This, interestingly, is because David is too important to the arc. They wanted to keep it open to eventually cast him, and there is a lot of stuff that happened with him. Revealed in the novels, of course.
The Chef on Star Trek: Enterprise. May be a Shout-Out to an episode of the original Star Trek (where the Chef over the comm system was voiced by Gene Roddenberry), though in the series finale, it's Riker from TNG standing in for the Chef. He makes a Faceless appearance in a second season episode, where the lower half of his body can be seen as he passes food down.
Throughout the series, there were many offscreen Star Trek: The Original Series aliens constantly being mentioned, but never being shown. The Orions (yeah, them) were the villains of one episode... by way of non-Orion enforcers, with no actual Orions ever showing up. Star Trek: Enterprise would return them to the television screen for the first time in 35-ish years... and also threw in the Tarkaleans, whose only presence at the time had been their getting mentioned (especially by way of "Tarkalean tea") but not seen in Deep Space Nine.
Lt. Vilix'Pran and his ever-growing brood of budlings were sometimes mentioned. Jake is even supposed to have baby-sat some, which involved keeping their wings untangled.
Jadzia has an ex-boyfriend with a transparent skull who fits this trope nicely.
Bashir's friend Felix is mentioned a few times but never seen. Felix designs holodeck programs which occasionally fuel the plotlines of some Deep Space Nine episodes; notably a Tuxedo and Martini spy caper in "Our Man Bashir" and a '50s era Vegas nightclub, hosted by Vic Fontaine, a self-aware holographic crooner.
Friends: Ugly Naked Guy. He is seen twice, though not completely: his rear end and his hand in "The One with the Giant Poking Device", and also from behind in the episode where Ross is trying to get his apartment.
Life Is Worth Living: In this inspirational television series, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen would refer to an Angel who erased a blackboard used on the program. The Angel is never seen, since the host would move away so the blackboard and whoever erased it was off-screen. When transcripts of the series were published, illustrations would show an angel along with recreated diagrams.
The Red Green Show: Half the cast were ghosts, including Moose Thompson, Stinky Peterson, Buster Hadfield, Old Man Sedgewick, Junior Singleton, Harold's parents, and Red's wife Bernice. Even more ironic is that quite often one or more of these ghost characters (or sometimes a one-off ghost) would play crucial roles in the plot of the episode. This actually becomes funnier because we usually only see the characters' reactions to what happens, and just what sort of shenanigans they got into with Moose Thomson or Old Man Sedgewick left to our imaginations. What the audience pictures in their head based on what is described is probably a lot funnier than anything the writing team could come up with.
Drake & Josh: Bruce Winchill, although often talked about, doesn't even make a cameo appearance. This is probably the one character that should not have been a hidden character.
Blossom: Six's parents. Six's mother was seen in one episode.
Kenan & Kel: Chris's mother. This gets lampshaded in the episode where the boys are housesitting for him, and all the pictures with his mother in them just happen to have her blocked, causing Kenan to realize he's never actually seen Chris's mom.
The Bob Newhart Show: Mr. Peterson's domineering wife, Doris. Unfortunately, she was shown once, which made all the jokes about her much less funny.
Are You Being Served?: Mrs. Slocombe mentions her friend Mrs. Axelby several times, but Mrs. Axelby never makes any on-screen appearances.
The Steve Harvey Show: Makes many references to characters' family members that are never seen: Regina (has a brother who married a white woman and moved to Arizona), Steve (has a sister who is a dentist and whose dental school tuition was paid by Steve writing jingles, also has a brother who married a white woman), Ced (mother), Lovita (many, many family members named for products, but brother Duracell is most talked about along with her mother).
Dorothy's brother Phil, a cross-dresser who is married to Angela, a welder.
Blanche's daughters, Janet and Rebecca, are each featured at least once, but her sons Biff, Doug, Skippy, and Matthew are never seen.
Sophia's sister Angela and brother Angelo make several appearances, but her sister Regina and brother Vito are only ever mentioned.
Only two of Rose's five children, Kirsten and Bridget, ever appear; we do not meet Adam, Gunilla (pronounced Jenella), or Charlie Jr. And most of her family and friends from St. Olaf live on only in legend.
The Parkers: Kim's friend Shaquan was frequently talked about throughout the series but was never seen until the final episode when it was revealed that Shaquan is Asian.
Fawlty Towers: Audrey. She did end up appearing in the episode "The Anniversary."
The re-imagined show had a few. Starbuck's Mom was mentioned now and then through the series and was finally seen in Season 3. Starbuck's Dad, who was also mentioned a few times, was seen towards the end of Season 4. President Adar was mentioned throughout Season 1 and 2 and seen in flashbacks midway through Season 2. In addition, Admiral William Adama and his son Lee often talk about (Adama's father and Lee's grandfather) Joseph Adama and Lee uses his books during Baltar's trial. Joseph isn't seen in the show itself but is a protagonist in the series spinoff, Caprica.
An honorary mention goes to the Cylon Number 7, Daniel. He was mentioned only in one episode and never seen. Thanks to Epileptic Trees, however, speculation regarding his identity and nature of involvement has persisted through the ending of the series and turned him to a near-mythical figure. Ronald D. Moore actually referred to that portion of the fandom as the "Cult of Daniel".
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Cambot. Which makes sense as he is the camera taping the show. However, you do see him in the opening credits (looking into a mirror), though his appearance changes between theme-song updates.
iCarly: Sam's mom - until the episode iSam's Mom - Carly's dad - until the series finale iGoodbye - and Spencer's friend Socko, as well as many of his relatives.
Allegedly, Lane Kim's dad is this. It is a rather strange case because not only is he never seen onscreen, he also is never really referred to, except in cases when Lane would say "my parents" instead of "my mum". Word of God has it he not only exists but also lives together with his wife, Mrs. Kim, who appears quite frequently.
Al of Al's Pancake World is never seen onscreen even though the girls frequent the establishment often, almost as much as Luke's Diner.
The Nanny: Morty, Fran Fine's dad was pretty much this until he finally appeared for real in one of the last episodes. Up to that point he had only had a couple of appearances as The Faceless, even in an episode that was set almost entirely in Morty and Sylvia's apartment. (In the episode where he finally did appear, Max half-jokingly said that he wasn't even sure the man existed.)
The Fast Show: Mareen, the barman's wife in one blackly comic sketch. The barman would chat to his regulars about her, call up the stairs to her - usually "Mareen? It's getting busy down here!" - and when she didn't respond, he did whatever he'd asked her for himself. No-one reminds him that she died several years ago and he's in denial.
Glee: Rachel's gay dads on the show, though they're seen with her in a photo booth picture strip in the pilot episode. They've been introduced and had almost a whole episode dedicated to them as of season three.
The Good Life: A number of Margo's acquaintances including Miss Mountshaft of the music society are talked about regularly but are never seen.
Family Matters: Steve Urkel's parents. In one episode, we see a baby picture of Steve with his mother holding him. The glare partially obscures her face, however.
George Smiley: In the BBC serial adaptations of John Le Carre's George Smiley novels, Karla is almost entirely invisible. He appears once in flashback in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and once in Smiley's People for just ten seconds during his defection. He doesn't speak in either appearance. Despite this he drives the entire plot of both series.
30 Rock: Cerie's fiancé Aeris never makes it onto the screen, even at their wedding.
Tensou Sentai Goseiger: Episode 38 builds up to a visit from Nozomu's mother, with the Goseigers fighting to save the train she is supposed to be on, only to find out at the end that she missed the train and will not be coming. Her voice is heard in a telephone conversation, and the Goseigers look at a photo of her (which the viewer doesn't see) but she never appears on screen.
Abigail's Party: The title character in The BBCPlay For Today "Abigail's Party". The play is about a middle-class dinner party with two married couples and one divorced woman. Abigail is the divorcée's teenaged daughter, who is having her own party at the same time.
Martin: Big Shirley is a woman whose reputed size and appetite make it nigh impossible for her to be portrayed by a real person on screen. However, before her legend grows, she is briefly seen in the Season 2 episode "Got to Be There." Her body is shown while she is asleep on Martin's couch after a party. Martin names her Big Shirley as he is telling Cole she has to leave.
That's So Raven: In one episode, Chelsie and Eddie win a prize from a radio contest that is never actually seen but viewers are given clues as to what it is. (It's implied that it's a toy robot dog.)
Danny, especially in the early seasons. Danny was another FBI agent whom primarily Mulder would occasionally call upon for information. One writer for the show joked that he was "a gnome that lives in Mulder's desk drawer." He was never seen or heard throughout the run of the show.
Scully's younger brother Charlie is often mentioned but never seen, except briefly in a flashback to Scully's childhood.
Dear Ladies: In the 1980s British sitcom starring the female impersonators Hinge and Bracket many unseen characters were mentioned most notably Teddy and Peggy Tranter although Teddy and Dame Hilda would talk on the phone in most episodes.
Only Fools and Horses: Marlene Boyce for the first three seasons. She was frequently mentioned by the characters, usually to wind up her husband Boycie by implying she'd really got around, but made her first appearance in Season 4, episode 5. Luckily they hadn't quite built her up to the point where no-one could play her.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Has Mike, Leo's chauffeur. He's gotten several mentions and has driven several of the characters around (off-screen, of course), but he's never put in an appearance.
Sea Change: A man known only as Bucket is mentioned constantly, usually in humorous circumstances, but we never get to see him. (One time we see a boat he is driving, packed with fireworks, crash into the newly-repaired bridge.) If you piece together all the throwaway remarks people make about him in the show, he becomes a man of very strange appearance and habits: he apparently has no arms, legs or teeth, and he enjoys stealing people's ride-on lawnmowers and drinking out of his dog's bowl when he gets drunk.
How I Met Your Mother: The Mother, the woman who Ted will marry and have the children that he's telling his story to. The reason none of the characters in the present day ever talk about her is because they haven't met her yet, but since the show is told in a flashback, Future!Ted's narration refers to her many, many, many times, yet her face is never seen and her voice is never heard. Her ankle is briefly glimpsed in "Girls vs. Suits", and a dark figure carrying a yellow umbrella (which signifies the Mother, whose yellow umbrella connected her and Ted without either of them knowing it, and will somehow be a part of their first meeting) is seen in "Wait for It" and "No Tomorrow". Even in flash forwards to times after Ted met her, she is conveniently never seen. For example, in "How I Met Everyone Else", when Ted, Marshall, and Lilly are shown hiding in the hall and smoking confiscated weed during their college class reunion in the year 2020, the scene ends with Ted giggling "Dude, where's my wife?"
She is finally revealed in season 8.
According to Jim: Jim has a friend no one else ever meets or sees. His wife Cheryl suspects he made the friend up, since it always seems he's in town and they have to go out whenever Jim wants to get out of something. She's right, Jim made him up, and he then "kills off" this friend so Cheryl doesn't expose it.
Many Game Shows have offscreen judges who are sometimes heard, but never seen. Their job is to determine on the spot if an answer is acceptable (e.g., if the contestant gives an answer on the buzzer, or gives an alternate answer that isn't on the host's card).
The $25,000 Pyramid carried this a step further, as their judge liked to communicate with bells and buzzers for yes and no, respectively (e.g. "Did he get in before the buzzer?" [ding]). Other times, he would jump in with the bell or buzzer if Dick or one of the panelists said something funny.
Deal or No Deal has the Banker, who calls host Noel Edmonds on a large prop telephone to make deals with the contestants. Noel appears to talk to him, but nothing is heard in the studio. (Critic Charlie Brooker suggested he's just listening to voices in his head.)
Raw: Shane's wife Anna. She appears in episode 5 and that's it.
Party of Five: In a What If? episode where the parents had never died, the parents themselves are not seen in the episode apart from a blurry scene at the end and the mother's voice on the answering machine.
Hi-de-Hi!: Holiday camp supremo Joe Maplin. He was intended to be played by Bob Monkhouse, who in the end was unavailable for filming, so it was decided to make him a Ghost.
Pixelface: The boy who owns and plays the games. The characters inside the console just refer to him as 'the boy'.
Game of Thrones: Several characters are this — Stannis Baratheon in Season 1, and Mance Rayder and Roose Bolton's bastard in Season 2.
Castle: Martha's Old Flame/boyfriend Chet never appears onscreen, even after she (sort of) moves in with him.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Played hilariously in one final season episode. An ordinary man walks into an ant shop and gets mistaken for someone named "Michael Ellis" — whom we never see (though apparently he's done something that warrants the store's clerks greeting him by wearing a creepy mask and slowly emerging from behind the counter). Throughout the whole episode this guy keeps getting brought up at random intervals, and just to make things even more frustrating, the protagonist's mother angrily turns off (one of) the televisions just as a newsman is about to explain everything. It also certainly does not help that while Michael Ellis himself never appears, we see a random man who fits the physical description (the manager of the ant shop says he's extremely short).
Lois and Clark: Alice, Perry White's wife. We see her from the neck down in one late-season episode.
Power Rangers Zeo: It is mentioned that King Mondo'sArch-Enemy is someone named King Aradon. Mondo's first-built son Prince Gasket fell in love with Aradon's daughter Princess Archerina, and the two eloped, knowing their parents would never approve of their relationship. Although both Gasket and Archerina are valid threats to heroes during the brief period that Mondo is believed to be dead, Aradon himself is never seen.
Veep: The President of the United States. Word of God has already confirmed he will never appear on screen. He doesn't even have a name.
Welcome Back, Kotter: Principal Lazarus is frequently referred to but never seen. Wise guy Juan Epstein has a friendly personal relationship with Lazarus, referring to him by his first name, "Jack."
'Allo 'Allo!: Clarence, who drives Lieutenant Gruber's little tank or presses his uniforms.
Also Madame Lenard, the attractive local dressmaker.
Modern Family has Phil's mother, who is never shown despite it being implied on a number of occasions that she's just out of shot during webcam conversations with the family. Her death is the central plot point for the Season 4 finale; she dies before the start of the episode, without ever appearing onscreen.
Portlandia: Royce from the Portland Milk Advisory Board mentions his girlfriend Tanya a few times, once describing her as 'Frankenstein-esque'. Tanya shows up in one skit but is not visible to the audience.
Psych: Shawn and the rest of the crew frequently refer to Dobson, an SBPD officer, for eight years, but never actually interact with him.
This is finally averted, appropriately enough, in the series finale. Dobson is seen for the first and last time for less than a minute, in which time he gets a friendship bracelet from Mira Sorvino, and Shawn leaves him a farewell message, saying he heard Dobson was heroic, and the kind of man he would've admired. Of course, knowing the kind of guy Shawn was, he'd have admired Dobson even more if he'd known Dobson looked just like Val Kilmer.
Teen Wolf: Greenberg is on the lacrosse team at Beacon Hills High. Despite never appearing onscreen, he is continuously mocked in class and blamed for the team's failures by Coach Finstock.
All adults in Peanuts, the cat next door who hates Snoopy ... and that little red-haired girl. The TV specials adapt the fact that adult dialogue is never presented as speech bubbles in the comic by making the adults The Unintelligible (Waa Waa wa Wa wa wa Waa).
The Little Red Haired Girl was seen in full in both It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (which also claimed her name was Heather). However, despite the fact that Charles Schulz wrote the scripts for both specials, he claimed both were non-canonical.
Also, the "Girl in the Red Truck", who Snoopy's desert-dwelling brother Spike had a crush on. She was eventually fleshed out for a special It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown that combined animation and live action, where she was named Jenny and portrayed by Charles Schulz's daughter Jill. (Again, the special, which wasn't as well-received as most Peanuts specials, is considered non-canonical.)
Though the not showing adults in any form, is averted in the fourth movie, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And don't come back) in which it shows a female voice speaking through the airport intercom, Charlie Brown's father in a war photo (Looks exactly like Charlie Brown except taller), and a girl's uncle (The main antagonist) who is fully voiced (But granted you only see him as a silhouette)
Roger, Juliette's loud, boorish brother in Nine Chickweed Lane. Mentioned infrequently at best. And it had been so long since anyone had mentioned him in the comic, that when Edna mentioned him at the end of the WWII flashback, many thought Brooke McEldowney had made him up on the spot. When he eventually appears in the flesh, he's mild-mannered and soft-spoken; pretty much the opposite of his passionate, outspoken sister and niece.
In Garfield, Ellen was a woman Jon regularly phoned to get a date, and always failed. We never heard her actual answers, only his reactions to them. She eventually appeared in a storyline where she has amnesia, and therefore agreed to a date with Jon. Also, Jon's neighbor Mrs. Feeny, often the target of Garfield's pranks, was never seen in the comic.
Many of Jon's dates count. Such as Ruby the violent convict who had YBUR tattooed on her forehead. But many we do see as well, such as Bertha (A large woman who loved to eat) and Kimmy (A woman raised by wolves)
Sabrina Thwaite (and husband Richard) in The Archers are often "just missed" on-air, pulling out of Christmas pantos at the last moment and so forth, usually explained by tutting disapproval from the regular characters.
A long-standing trope in The Archers. Mr Pullen, whose troublesome prostate has been a Running Gag for many years, is never heard. Freda the Middle White sow used to be heard sometime but not Freda Fry, cook at The Bull and long-suffering wife of Bert Fry. Most notoriously, the late Pru Forrest went unheard for years only to be lampshaded in a special anniversary episode by being voiced by Judi Dench.
Duffy, the owner of the eponymous eatery in the the 1940s radio show Duffy's Tavern. Every episode opened with the manager Archie answering the phone with the words "Hello, Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin'. Duffy ain't here — oh, hello, Duffy."
Colin Sell, the pianist, has sometimes been assumed by listeners to be fictional too (if you decided they were just playing prerecorded piano music, then Colin would be in a similar position of only existing to be abused in elaborate wordplay). Humphrey Lyttelton once claimed that someone had come up to him to ask whether Samantha and Colin were real and he told them that Samantha was but Colin wasn't.
Stand Up Comedy
A running joke for the surrealist comedy group Stella is for one member to refer to someone named "Marcus." Another member responds, "Who the fuck is Marcus?" The original member just shakes his head in equal bewilderment, saying, "I know, I know!"
In the beginning of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo spends his time indulging in Wangst over his former flame Rosaline. She never appears in the play, and Romeo quickly turns his sights on Juliet. Mercutio's brother Valentine is included with Mercutio in the invitation to the Capulet ball, but never appears or gets a second mention.
In The Tempest, the witch Sycorax is the island's original owner. She is referred to many times throughout the play, but has died before the play begins.
In Act I Scene III of Othello, two characters are mentioned as though significant, but never introduced or mentioned again (this has naturally baffled many scholars). The characters' names are "Signior Angelo" and "Marcus Luccios."
The unseen Mrs. Grundy, in Thomas Morton's Speed the Plough (1798), in which Dame Ashfield continually worries, "What will Mrs. Grundy say?" of each development. Since then the term "Mrs. Grundy" has passed into everyday speech as the embodiment of prudery and censorship.
Arcadia has a bunch, the most prominent of which are Lord Byron and Mrs. Chater. There are several other characters who are mentioned repeatedly but never appear; this is somewhat inevitable given that the play takes place in a single room.
The title character of the opera The Consul, who appears only as a distant, inaudible shadow. As with Godot, the protagonist waits for him in vain.
God in Jesus Christ Superstar, although he is addressed - indeed, harangued - by Jesus in the scene at Gethsemane.
The person(s) operating the eponymous device and sending bizarre messages in Harold Pinter'sThe Dumb Waiter. It may be Wilson, the unseen superior of protagonists Gus and Ben, but this is never made clear.
This is the main joke of Tom Jacobsen's Bunbury: A Serious Play for Trivial People. It features— you guessed it!— Wilde's Bunbury and Shakespeare's Rosaline teaming up and roaming through the Western canon meeting or becoming other Ghosts or imagined characters and changing ends as they go. Romeo and Juliet gets a happy ending; we meet Blanche DuBois's dead husband, Martha's blond-eyed blue-haired son, and a whole slew of unseen characters from ''Three Sisters''; and Bunbury himself becomes or is mistaken for Godot.
Cyrano de Bergerac: Act I Scene III: Cardenal Richelieu, the most powerful man in France arrives to the Burgundy Theater to a box with the bars in front… or at least the public (in the play) murmurs it so, because he is never shown. Anyway, the simple rumor of his presence is enough to command respect from the public, impose silence, and even makes the Pages behave. He will be mentioned again at Act IV, but never seen.
Ted, Joanne's husband in Vanities, whom she finds out has been cheating.
Father Reilly in The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge. Characters worry about how he will react to events, and relay conversations they've had with him since they last appeared onstage, but he himself is never seen.
In The Moon Is Blue, Cynthia, David's Southern Belle daughter and Don's ex-girlfriend, never appears onstage, nor is her voice heard when she phones him; she does appear in the film version. Vicki, Patty's slightly older roommate, appears in neither play nor film.
Lots of characters in Betrayal, since only three real characters actually appear onstage. The most important are Jerry's wife Judith, Emma's lover Casey, and all the children of the main couples.
Pokémon Live! has Ash's father and Professor Xalrons; both are mentioned but never seen.
French play L'Arlésienne by Alphonse Daudet (adapted from one short story Letters From My Windmill). Young man named Frederic falls in love in the titular girl from Arles who never appears nor do we learn her name. He finds out that she has been unfaithful and decides to renonce the wedding. To please his parents, he tries to act happy and marries another girl but after a while unable to forget his first love, he kills himself by jumping off a balcony. In french "Arlésienne" is also the Trope Namer.
In the Zork games, whenever the lights go out you are warned that you might be eaten by a grue, and if you stay in the dark for too many turns you WILL be eaten by a grue, which is described, but never seen.
In Zork Zero, it's slightly averted as you have to play a card game against the Jester, one of the cards is a the "Grue" card, and shows nothing but ominous glowing eyes.
In Zork: Grand Inquisitor, you actually hear it. At the start of the game, if you go down the well without the Lantern, you do not get a warning of the Grue. But wait long enough, you hear a slobbering, chewing, gnawing and then belch. The death text playfully criticizes you for not expecting it. "Going into a dark area in a Zork game? What were you thinking?!"
Ellis' good buddy Keith of Left 4 Dead 2, who must look like a pile of ground hamburger given the outrageous stories he shares at inopportune times.
Oddly, characters like Keith have small, but dedicated fan-followings and Rule 34 dedicated to them, based entirely on Fanon speculations of backstory and appearance, none of which is backed up in-game.
A Ragdoll of Keith has been released for Garry’s Mod, he doesn’t appear nearly as badly beat-up as you’d think.
The Batarians in Mass Effect 1 are referenced numerous times in text and dialog, but, are never actually seen in the game. A DLC module, Bring Down the Sky later adds them to a single mission. In Mass Effect 2 they appear as often as the other major races.
The Shadow Broker was the Ghost for some time, until the aptly named DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker. He's also a Ghost in universe, as nobody has ever seen him or talked to him in person. Turns out the one in the game is not the first one, or the last. Since nobody ever sees or hears him, everyone who can hack into his private terminal can become the new Shadow Broker, with none of the hundreds or even thousands of agents and informants being the wiser.
Many of the characters and races from the Cerberus Daily News "reports" are considered to be ghosts. The only one who ever showed up on screen was Tela Vasir, while two turians from a long-running storyline were briefly mentioned -but not seen- in the aforementioned DLC.
The Sign Painter of World of Goo is only known to exist based on his or her messages left on various... signs.
In the final level, the Sign Painter is supposedly there at the telescope, but nothing can be seen of him but his eye.
The "Rat Man" from Portal, of whom you find only stashes, hidden cubby-holes, and scrawled graffiti that either gives you hints, slightly illuminates the plot, gives you an insight into his increasing insanity, or all of the above.
Until the Lab Rat digital comic, that is, which completely centers around him and gives more insight into his backstory. His name is Doug Rattmann, and his schizophrenia actually helped him escape GLaDOS - he always suspected she'd try to kill them, so when she did, he was prepared. His scrawlings serve as art therapy, and his only companion is the "spirit" (really a hallucinated voice) of his "dead" Weighted Companion Cube.
Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land features 'The Great Warrior Otto' who leaves many rather helpful messages throughout the dungeon in poor handwriting, but you never actually meet him.
The Quest for Glory games had the Night Gaunts, who were never seen but supposedly might kill you. Oh, they will kill you, but you still won't see them. Don't sleep in the forest!
Though we do get an image of them on the death screen. They seem to resemble RingWraiths
The sorceress Erana is a more prominent example. She didn't appear at all for the first three games, but the player could find various sanctuaries created and protected by her magic. In the fourth game, when she finally makes a direct appearance, the player finds out that she's been dead for a long time, but is able to communicate with her spirit and help her find peace in death, and in the fifth game the player has the option to resurrect and marry her depending on their class.
In the Nancy Drew game series, a minor character named Sonny Joon is used as The Unseen in a Running Gag, as Nancy keeps finding out he'd just been working, living, or visiting whichever place she's solving a mystery today. Sonny has never been seen or even heard on the telephone, but his habit of leaving notes and doodles everywhere means that a fair bit is known about him.
Vercci from the Soul Series — he's involved in both the stories of Voldo and Cervantes and by accounts is pretty important in the story. He may have been intended to be a guest character in Soul Blade, but he never made it.
Touhou has several of these, such as Youmu's former instructor Youki, Byakuren's Dead Little Brother Myouren, Marisa's unnamed father, and the Dragon (not to be confused with The Dragon), the single most powerful being in Gensoukyou.
Woodruff and The Schnibble of Azimuth has the eponymous Schnibble, the savior of the city, who everybody the player meets says is just around the corner. Near the end, it's revealed that the Schnibble was a fictional person invented by Professor Azimuth to give the people hope, and inspire people to action, helping the less fortunate. Since the player has done exactly that, he has effectively become the Schnibble.
The apprentice of Ansem the Wise, Xehanort, is responsible for the creation of The Heartless and almost everything bad that happens to the protagonists across the franchise, but only appears in the flesh in a few brief cutscenes and a single portrait. Instead, his heartless, nobody and original self play the role of Big Bad in the games themselves.
In the original Kingdom Hearts, the heroes are searching for Ansem (retconned into Xehanort calling himself Ansem), who created the Heartless. He remains The Ghost until the end of the game when he is revealed to have become a Heartless himself, and has been The Man Behind the Man to Maleficent all along.
This also applies for certain Disney characters. Zeus, The Sultan, and many others are mentioned, but never appear in the game. Subverted in that we've already seen them in their source material
In Dark Souls, the Furtive Pygmy and Gwyn's Four Great Knights besides Ornstein.
In the Artorias of the Abyss DLC, you travel back in time and can personally meet the other three knights (and even kill them). Nothing of the Furtive Pygmy, though. Although it's implied that he became Manus, Father of the Abyss and Big Bad of the DLC.
On a similar note, several of the mentioned gods, kings, and warriors, such as Velka and Allfather Lloyd and technically Gwynevere, as the one you see in Anor Londo is an illusion by her brother.
Tachibana Muneshige from Sengoku Basara has a frightening and bad-tempered wife (for some reason he loves her dearly) who is constantly mentioned during his Inner Monologue and his letters, but never anywhere else. The reason she's absent is because she grew tired of their lord's religious fanaticism and took off. Historically her name was Ginchiyo, but Muneshige always calls her "my wife".
Ulysses acts as this in Fallout: New Vegas. When you first hear about him, you never even learn his name, he just sounds like some guy that used to know the Courier somehow. Throughout the game and the various DLC's we slowly hear more and more about him but never see or hear him while everything is built up about how the final battle between him and the Courier will essentially change the fates of everyone. He's finally revealed in the Lonesome Road DLC which is all about the final confrontation between him and the Courier.
Neo is mentioned numerous times in Enter the Matrix, but only appears once, in a film clip of him saving Morpheus and the Keymaker. Interestingly, he is seemingly aware of your existence, as Trinity passes a message from him to you in the hacking minigame.
Ultimately averted twice in excellent fashion in Cave Story. After Grasstown/Bushlands, Jack, if you talk to him, will tell you about how Arthur drove away a red demon. Later, after defeating the Core, you're told about Jenka, a woman met earlier in the Sand Zone, having a younger brother named Ballos. If you don't get the Booster 2.0, both of these people will never be seen. If you at least get the Booster 2.0, you'll be able to finish what Arthur started and fight the Red Demon/Ogre. If you go for the True Ending, which requires a second item in addition to the spoiler-covered item, then you learn more of Ballos's backstory. The second through fifth parts of the True Final Boss battle is against Ballos, the man who created the Demon Crown.
In the Mega Man X series through the series, the human race as a whole becomes this. Besides Doctors Lightnote An exception, Cainnote Who becomes the ghost in Mega Man X4, Wilynote the ghost for most of the X series, outside of Zero's dreams, Weil and the scientist Ciel, no humans have any appearance. They are repeatedly mentioned as whole throughout both series, but none make an appearance unless they are the aforementioned main characters.
Hilbert or Hilda, the main protagonists of Pokémon Black and White, become this in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. They are mentioned by numerous NPCs across the game, and are even talked about by their names if Memory Link is activated. There's even a random Trainer in Victory Road who fought against them in the first games that ponder on where they are now.
In Fable 2 there is Nicky "the Nickname" Chalmers, who appears to be a crimelord in Bowerstone oldtown, occasionally mentioned by Afur, but never seen ingame.
In the Suikoden games, there is an ancient hero named Hikusaak who is supposed to be ageless. Although he/she has been mentioned in most of the games, they have never been seen. It is unknown if Hikusaak is still alive during any of the games, no one even knows Hikusaak's gender.
Another notable character is Schtolteheim Reinbach III, who was mentioned in the early games but finally appears in Suikoden IV.
Pajama Sam mentions his big brother Mark sometimes, but with the exception of his mom (who is The Faceless), we never see any members of his family.
Technically, he has been heard, but at best he'll only get at least one or two incomprehensible lines at the end of the game.
New Super Luigi U does this with Mario, as he is replaced in multiplayer by Nabbit, and his cap rests where he normally would be in the opening cutscene. Also, the M blocks that appear after beating the game that restore normal physics to Luigi.
Kako in A Profile never makes it onscreen, though she does have a line or two. Maybe. She sounds exactly the same as her sister, you see. Apparently, by the end, even Masayuki has never met her.
There are multiple cases in Shikkoku No Sharnoth. The most obvious being that Watson, Mycroft Holmes, Queen Victoria and Moriarty. Except that in the end it's revealed that Moriarty was the old professor that everyone has been meeting and who may or may not be the Big Bad, depending on how you look at it.
Abe Kroenen has this happen a lot, often with female characters like Ilsa or Liz (until recently). This is not so much because of gender bias in the comic as it is the fact that it's a Toy Comic and the Hellboy merchandising brigade is less than helpful.
Edward James Olmos in the LoadingReadyRun videos, who is mentioned all the time but is never seen. Possibly because it's a small production in Victoria, BC, and he's Edward James Olmos.
OpAphid, Tachyon and Brother in lonelygirl15 are implied to be present in several scenes, but never shown. OpAphid and Tachyon do appear onscreen in their own series, however. Additionally, a character named Cassie is mentioned in several episodes, but never appears. She did spawn a series of Epileptic Trees theories, however.
The Spoony Experiment: Dr. Insano's nurse is often referred to (and even threatened to be killed) but is never actually seen or heard from by the audience.
In Homestar Runner, Strong Badman is created when Strong Bad gets an e-mail from one "Stiny". Within the email, and in several future Strong Badman appearances, Strong Bad imagines Stiny being Strong Badman's sidekick, who he constantly shouts orders or insults toward, but he never appears.
In the DownfallParodies on YouTube, there are a few characters who serve this role (mainly ones who were mentioned in Downfall but never seen). The most frequently mentioned character is Steiner, who is often responsible for providing Hitler's generals with bad news (resulting in a lengthy rant from Hitler) and is often involved with his latest plan in some manner. Also Wenck to a lesser extent, although his name is frequently mistranslated as "fine".
Fegelin serves as this to a lesser degree. There are some videos where he appears, but most just use him as an unseen nemesis for Hitler. There's one video where he finally arrives in Hitler's office and Hitler at last gets the chance to talk to him. Too bad Hitler forgot what he wanted to talk to Fegelin about.
Stan, the camera man from Crash Course. John assures us that he really does exist.
On VlogBrothers, Sarah Urist Green, John's wife, was often referred to but has yet to appear in person. In an early video, John Green referred to her as "the Yeti", because she was an important part of vlogbrothers "folklore" but was never seen, and the name stuck.
All characters in Pittsburgh Dad, save for the title character, are neither seen nor heard, but only reacted to.
One College Humor video is about "five monsters who will be your roommate." (They're not literal monsters, but people who act rather oddly like movie monsters; the neat freak is compared to The Terminator, the slob who steals your homework is a zombie). One of these is "The Ghost," the roommate you never see, but who has to be there because there's evidence of someone else living in the apartment. "He may be trying to communicate with you, but you'll never know for sure."
Ultra Fast Pony is an Abridged Series, so it's forced to keep important characters off-screen when it deviates too far from the original episodes' plots. So, in "Mob Wars", a Canon Foreigner named Snuggle Berry wins an award for being an upstanding, much-loved member of the community, then dies in a rabbit stampede, all without appearing on screen once. And Princess Luna, in spite of having a lot of screen time in the first two episodes, is shoved off-screen for the rest of season one. There are several references to Luna being the royal court's Butt Monkey, and a several-episode-spanning subplot in which she gets kidnapped—all without her putting in a single appearance.
Cazo! was this for The Sharkasm Crew before finally showing up at Paranormal Activity X.
Fire Lord Sozin, the Fire Lord who started the war was initially this in Avater The Last Airbender. He made a surprise appearance in season three however in a backstory episode
Aang's old friend Kuzon is another example.
The Trap Door has 'Im Upstairs who is the patron saint of this trope. Spoken about often, shouts from upstairs... Until he appears in one episode as an Eldritch Abomination.
The Users only appear as the Player Characters in games — though the User's (slow) keystrokes are heard during the system restore.
Mouse was a Ghost for a few episodes after first being mentioned.
Al of Al's Diner appears on-screen all of once, in "The Great Brain Robbery" — completely tied up in rope except for his feet. All the viewer can deduce from this is that he's a "one" binome. The rest of the time Al is The Voice - a voice that only ever says "WHAT?!"
Doug: Principal Buttsavage, Doug never met the principal in the original series, and spent most of the series finale trying to find out what he looked like. (The Disney version had ex-Mayor White serve as principal, and he appeared on camera frequently.)
Skunky Beaumont. Often spoken about, never seen, he eventually had one line in one episode. Doug walks by the guidance office and says hi to him, and he replies "Hey Doug".
In the Disney series, he made his first on-screen appearance in an early episode and remained a recurring character throughout.
Randy Beaman on Animaniacs, who is always being talked about by his friend (originally listed in the credits as Colin, later Randy Beaman's Friend) as the "Friend of a Friend" in some bizarre urban legend (one example being the infamous Pop Rocks/Soda one). May also be an example of Second-Hand Storytelling.
Darkwing Duck had Dr. Slug, who is reputed as being Darkwing's archenemy as well as the #1 most wanted criminal in St. Canard. Despite this, we never actually see him (with one exception, see below,) or know anything about him; the only times he is mentioned is when other villains bring him up, usually to admire his (always unspecified) villainous deeds, sadly wish they could be more like him, or (in Negaduck's case) grouse about being bumped down to #2 criminal. Eventually this was lampshaded by having Dr. Slug actually show up at the start of an episode, only to have Darkwing pause the action two seconds in, and then inform the viewer that they weren't going to show that story and proceed to tell an entirely unrelated one.
In "Operation: MESSAGE" we actually do see Muffy at the end of the episode, receiving a message Numbuh 2 spent the whole episode trying to deliver to her at lunch. The note mentions the Splinter Cell, the main focus of season six...which Muffy had nothing to do with.
Mateo, the bus driver, from Ellens Acres. Ellen waves goodbye to him at the start of every episode, but we never actually see him.
Beavis And Butthead's moms, they are implied to live with them and they sometimes talk about them or call out to them but they are never seen.
In a book, "This Book Sucks", they shown pictures of them in a Family Tree page. Beavis's mom looks like a female version of Butthead and visa-versa.
Lampshaded with boarder Mr. Smith on Hey Arnold!. An entire episode was dedicated to Arnold and Gerald trying to track him down to deliver a package (apparently they had never seen him either). Of course, they were unsuccessful in their attempts.
Sandy Plankton in Finding Nemo is considered among his classmates to be the purveyor of great knowledge. His fun facts are almost right. He and the information he shares are only mentioned; he is never shown.
He does appear on-screen (so to speak) during flashbacks in one arc of the comic series, however.
Leela from Futurama periodically mentions relationship troubles she has with one of her unseen boyfriends (later ex-boyfriend) Sean. He eventually makes a full appearance in season 7, though.
On Franklin, Great Aunt Harriet is this. She's very important as she's known for giving great presents and serves as the inspiration for the name of the title character's little sister. Additionally, in the Franklin and Friends special "Polar Explorer," she provides a navigation bar that leads Franklin and his parents on an adventure to the North and South Poles. Despite all of this, she is never seen, even in pictures.
In League of Super Evil we have Voltar's Arch-Nemesis "Steve" a mild mannered yet seemingly crabby/annoyed neighbour. Whose catchphrase is "I DON'T CARE" when Voltar brags about his plans to humiliate him. We do see him in one episode, but we only see him with bucket fell his head as he walked around dazed.