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Brown Note Being

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"We still have no clue who we're dealing with...
Pam took a peek at him and her eyes burned out of her skull, and you want to have a face-to-face?"
Sam Winchester, Supernatural, "Lazarus Rising"

When this being sings the blues, people get hurt, which is bad because it can't stop the music. Some quality intrinsic to this being's nature is harmful to those who sense it, named after the proverbial Brown Note whose sound triggers an audience to spontaneously lose control of their bowels.

One sight or sound from this creature turns you to stone, whitens your hair, ages you, leaves you paralyzed, blind, obsessed, insane, suicidal, or dead. Your eyeballs burst into flame, your eye color changes, or some other change to pupil or iris. Whatever the Brown Note effect is, it must be automatic, not a spell, device, or voluntary power. This trope is Older Than Feudalism, since it appears in the Classical Mythology (example: Our Sirens Are Different) of the Greeks and Romans, and also The Bible (example: Angelic Abomination).

More often than not, these characters or beings will be some variation of He Who Must Not Be Seen, with their true appearance deliberately kept a mystery as if it were the work's way of telling you to take its word for it, because you — the audience — do not want to make the mistake of laying eyes upon them. This can be a good way of preserving the being's "Nothing Is Scarier" factor inherent with not being able to see or even get close to it, especially if the work can't figure out how to reveal it without ruining it.

In games, such beings can increase difficulty. Sometimes a damaging being has a curative counterpart, whose presence is intrinsically helpful and healing. This trope is reserved for beings and not microbes.

This is a Sister Trope to Eldritch Abomination since they overlap but not always. Not every Eldritch Abomination causes a Brown Note. Not every being who causes a Brown Note is an abomination; other causes are curses, infections, mutations, The Corruption, or types of undead. Some fairy types can cause a Brown Note, as can some fantasy races with unknown, but not unknowable motives. A being whose true form cannot be grasped will cause this, if they don't take A Form You Are Comfortable With. This trope is a catchall for Brown Note creatures who are never identified.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The very first threat the main characters encounter in Otherside Picnic is the kunekune, a creature from several net-based horror stories that will cause madness in anyone who looks directly at it. The thing is, the only way to defeat the kunekune involves "recognizing" it, meaning Sorawo has to stare at it directly for an extended period of time. She's able to survive because she has Toriko with her, but Sorawo comes close to losing her mind, sputtering gibberish as a fungus-like "foreign body" starts growing out of her face.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: Before Rogue learned how to control her power, touching her skin would cause loss of memories, life, or decreased mutant powers. A non-mutant boy named Cody was put in a permanent coma after their first kiss.
    • In one issue of Ultimate X-Men, a boy discovers he has an uncontrollable mutant ability to vaporize all organic life that comes near him. After he kills his family, his girlfriend and over 265 other people, Wolverine (who is immune because of his healing factor) is forced to kill him.
  • Doom Patrol: Mr. Nobody is a variation on this trope: he doesn't directly induce madness or death in people, but his completely abstract nature has such an effect that even when looking straight at Nobody one can only ever vaguely see him out the periphery of one's vision.
  • Judge Dredd: Judge Fear has a rather esoteric method of killing compared to his more straightforward brethren. Namely, removing the visor of his helmet and forcing people to stare at his face, which induces immediate death in any normal human. It's never shown what it contains, but it's implied to be something like a nightmare. Unfortunately for him, Judge Dredd is not a normal human, and while momentarily stunned immediately recovers and proceeds to punch his fist right through Fear's head.
  • Desolation Jones: Emily Crowe was intended to be the ultimate Honey Trap: her pheromones were artificially enhanced to overpower her targets with lust. However, it backfired; people instead feel overwhelming fear, hatred, and revulsion in her presence. The title character is the only person who can get close to her, as he doesn't feel any sort of fear or pain.
  • Tales to Astonish: Whoever looks at the Creature from Kosmos dies instantly, as happens to Vernon Van Dyne. Makes tracking it down something of a problem for Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: When Mr. Mxyzptlk drops his usual human appearance to reveal his five-dimensional true form, the result makes Lois' head hurt just to look at him.
  • Entities that manifest under shared belief from The Department of Truth instill an inherent sense of fear, dread and curiosity whenever a person sees them since they are these ideas made manifest, made only more and more real when encountered.
  • Anyone who sees DC villain Johnny Sorrow's face is stricken dead by it, even powerful beings like Amazons and Kryptonians are vulnerable. Except for Harley Quinn, who just says that he's "kinda cute" and that "once you've looked into one abyss you've seen 'em all."

    Fan Fiction 
  • Ash Ponies in The Ash don't just look ugly and disease ridden to normal ponies, it takes considerable effort to even look at them without feeling fear and disgust. Rarity is nearly Driven to Madness after trying to make a dress inspired by their appearance because the part of her brain responsible for dress ideas won't let her forget an idea until she can complete at least one dress based on it, forcing her to think about how they look all the time.
  • Star Wars: Paranormalities: Two particular Archfiends are so dangerous from just their presence alone that the Forceless Collective had to take special precautions with their possession:
    • Subverted with Stythanyx. While Stythanyx himself apparently doesn't do anything to affect the senses of other beings, the Hands — which are considered psychic extensions of him despite being four separate beings — are a different story. If anyone has seen all four of the Hands within their lifetime, they will be afflicted with a curse that will cause them to experience hallucinations and die within four days unless Stythanyx is killed. Unfortunately, even seeing merely an image of a Hand counts as a curse point. Emperor Valkor made a point to only possess Stythanyx and just let him control the Hands to avoid spreading the curse to the rest of the Collective hive mind.
    • Xixixix is a being whose power not only drove a planet insane from their presence alone, they have driven themself insane too. Short-term exposure can result in hallucinations, while long-term exposure from being on the same planet as them can turn beings incredibly eccentric at best. Unusually, Xixixix is the only Archfiend stated to have been severed from the Forceless hive mind and abandoned to avoid driving the rest of the Collective insane, making them more of a feral bio-weapon than a feared general like the other Archfiends.
  • Triptych Continuum: The sight of Her cutie mark (or more specifically the fact that it moves) causes overpowering horror and confusion in normal ponies. Chaos children have the opposite effect, finding it beautiful, while non-ponies simply see a moving picture, with no supernatural effects either way.

    Films — Animated 
  • The anime anthology Memories features one short titled Stink Bomb, wherein a man unwittingly turns himself into precisely that — every living creature that gets near him, due to the gas his body is emitting, promptly dies while mechanical and electrical devices are somehow shorted out by it and stop functioning. It's played for Black Comedy, as he's too oblivious to understand what's going on and why everyone is trying to stop him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bird Box: Civilization collapses due to the arrival of entities whose appearance causes suicidal insanity in whoever views them, driving anyone who so much as catches a glimpse of them to single-mindedly try to kill themselves. The exception to this is a small amount of people (apparently the ones who were crazy before the event) who instead develop an almost religious obsession with the entities, becoming driven to try and force everyone else to look at them. That the trigger is the creatures' appearance is emphasized by physical changes in the victims' irises and pupils.
  • Constantine (2005): When John Constantine tries to exorcise a demon from a little girl he tells his helpers not to look. One of the helpers does and his hair instantly turns white, apparently due to the sight of the demons.
  • Doctor Strange (2016): After conducting the forbidden ritual, the skin around the eyes of Kaecilius and his followers dies, dries up and flakes away, leaving shiny, purple, very sore-looking flesh underneath, because they were exposed to what it summoned, Dormammu, ruler of the Dark Dimension, Dimension Lord and Eldritch Abomination.
  • Dogma: Hearing the voice of God would cause death, as demonstrated near the end of the movie. On the other hand, seeing God is no problem, because She has the decency to at least take human form; He appears as both a man and a woman in different scenes.
  • Inverted in The Tingler, where the titular parasite — which feeds on fear — is hurt by the sound of a human scream. The tingler also has a weird way of playing this straight on its human hosts, because if they get scared enough and are unable to scream, the creature can grow too big for the host and violently escape.

  • In All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault, Darklings are said to be able to induce varying negative physical and psychological effects in people simply from exposure to their auras (known as "Shadows"). The most prominent example is during a story early in the book: when a werewolf transforms into its animal form, the effect is so powerful, it instantly causes the character watching, strongly implied to be Lex freakin' Luthor, to piss and shit himself, and vomit uncontrollably.
  • Bird Box plays out mostly in the same manner as the film (above), with a few exceptions. Characters who witness the entities do not display inexplicable physical changes, hallucinations, or indoctrinated behavior, but do still lapse into suicidal insanity. Also differing from the film, animals, or at least dogs and birds, are no less susceptible.
  • Downplayed in The Bluest Eye, as it's a work of realistic fiction. Main character Pecola Breedlove, a downtrodden child and Broken Bird to the extreme, is described as having some intangible quality that makes everyone who sees her become uncomfortable or downright spiteful. It's never made clear why, but there's something off about Pecola that inspires cruelty in others. It's so bad that she spends most of her free time with are a trio of local prostitutes, as they're the only people in town who treat her with even a modicum of kindness (and even that is described as "not despising her" as opposed to actually liking her).
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden regularly encounters inhuman beings like vampires and Fey without batting an eye, but when he catches a glimpse of a naagloshii, it immediately drives him into a catatonic state of weeping horror (made worse by the fact that he was driving at the time). Compounding things is that the glimpse was through his wizard sight, meaning it was completely unfiltered and he will be unable to forget it, ever. The only thing he can do is get to a safe space and deliberately expose himself to the memory over and over to desensitize himself. It takes the better part of a day and only makes the memory tolerable.
  • Generally, saints in The Divine Comedy only become dangerously beautiful in the higher spheres of Heavan, but even on Earth, Beatrice is so beautiful that she temporarily blinds Dante and nearly kills him just by being visible. He later compares her growing radiance in Heaven to what Jupiter must've looked like when Semele was killed at the sight of him.
  • The Creature from Frankenstein is this as his appearance can cause seizures merely by looking at him.
  • The Elder Empire: Any of the Great Elders. Even dead, Nakothi slowly drives everyone nearby completely insane. Her Handmaidens, the creatures that command her forces, have horrific faces that have the same effect, though thankfully just avoiding look at their faces is usually enough to save yourself.
    Meia: Pay attention, everyone. If you hear a mysterious voice whispering to you in your head, giving you instructions, don't listen to it. I'm shocked that I have to tell you this.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them mentions the Nundu, a gigantic leopard-like creature whose mere breath causes a disease bad enough to wipe out entire villages, and the Fwooper, a bird whose song causes insanity.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Simply looking a Basilisk in the eyes is enough to kill you, and if you do this indirectly — as a reflection, or through a camera, for example — you'll still be petrified.
  • Stephen King makes repeated use of this concept in his stories.
    • From a Buick 8 has a portal to another universe populated with alien lifeforms. Exposure to one of these lifeforms caused permanent psychological damage to members of the Pennsylvania State Police. A character name Eddie described rage at the horror of trespass, and a blind need to kill the alien creature. Character memories of the encounter felt real in a dream-like way and traumatic. Ironically enough the trope is inverted as well; the same alien lifeforms view humans as confusing, horrible beings and the most we ever get into the mindset of one is to wonder why these incomprehensible beings are beating it to death.
    • In Needful Things, the shop owner Leland Gaunt isn't human. While he lives in the town, people are more easily induced to homicidal rage or suicide. This effect ends after he leaves.
    • The short story collection Skeleton Crew includes, in "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands", a man whose touch causes death due to a curse.
    • In It, various characters have their sanity completely destroyed by getting a look at the titular creature with all its glamours set aside.
  • The Kingston Cycle: The Amaranthine are so beautiful that their appearance is actually dangerous to human minds. Friend or not, Miles becomes delirious after only a quick glance at Tristan without his Human Disguise, and a famous artist went insane for life after painting an un-glamoured Amaranthine lady.
  • The Nazgûl in The Lord of the Rings cause fear in other creatures by proximity; to the point that their horses have to be trained almost from birth to be able to put up with them. Some other quality about them (it's called the "Black Breath" but they're invincible living ghosts who don't need to breathe) causes deep lethargy that eventually leads to death. Harming them with weapons other than a flaming torch causes weapons to instantly corrode away, and the wielder to take a concentrated dose of "Black Breath."
  • For the most part downplayed in the original Cthulhu Mythos stories by H. P. Lovecraft. While many characters do tend to go mad eventually, it rarely happens just from seeing the various Eldritch Abominations (including the titular Cthulhu himself) or just from reading the Necronomicon. More often than not, it happens as a result of someone reading about all of the freaky stuff in the book, then seeing just one small thing that backs up what it says, and realizing that that probably means that everything else written there is probably true as well. One definite example of this trope, though, is Ghatanothoa, one glimpse of which (or even an image or accurate sculpture/painting) will cause anyone to instantly mummify, being frozen externally but still able to see, hear, and think while in this stasis, for eternity if not killed or cured by magic.
  • The title girl of "Rappaccini's Daughter" has been given a poisonous touch and breath by her overprotective dad in a misguided effort to protect her from the evils of the world.
  • A downplayed example in the Silver John short story "The Desrick on Yandro", when John glimpses a number of Fearsome Critters of American Folklore, including the behinder, a creature so-called because it is always right behind you, and he is, therefore, the first person to ever get a good look at it (it was concentrating on being behind someone else at the time). Although consistently shown to be a very brave man, John is extremely shaken by the encounter, and declines to describe the thing's appearance.
    Thank you, I won't try.
  • One novel in the Star Trek Expanded Universe, The Three Minute Universe, features the Vinithi, who have the dubious distinction of being a brown note to all five human senses. They look like hideous translucent corpses stuffed full of writhing maggots, their body temperature is high enough to cause third-degree burns, their speech is loud and piercing enough to pop your eardrums, and their body odor triggers projectile vomiting. It's frankly an astonishing feat that the author manages to successfully cast them as The Woobie of the story.
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Witnesses describe Hyde as seeming indefinably hideous: there is no specific flaw or deformity to point to but his appearance is still somehow repulsive. Jekyll theorizes that this is due to Hyde's Made of Evil status.
  • In The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign, proximity to the White Queen immediately evokes worshipful mania, with longer-lasting permanent insanity of various types. Only one human is completely immune to it, no-one knows why, and he spends his whole life trying to keep her out of the human world.
    A large man collapsed on the spot and wept like a small child, a holy woman must have been so shocked she entered nirvana because her eyes rolled back in her head and she foamed at the mouth, a group of what looked like indigenous South Americans prostrated themselves before her with their foreheads pressed against the ground, and a gaudy female fortuneteller began gathering up the dirt the Queen had stepped on and stuffing it into a bag like a high school baseball player at Koshien.
  • In Jess E. Owen's Xenofiction fantasy series The Summer King Chronicles, the presence of a wyrmnote  drives any Named creature to mindless terror.
  • In Worm, the Simurgh has a psychic aura that causes insanity in anyone that is exposed to it for too long. It's victims first experience it as a high pitched note similar to a post-explosion ringing in the ears, but over time the single note starts to gain some variation, and will eventually form words. It is shown to affect animals too, as one unlucky person caught in the aura finds a pet cockatoo that is slowly and methodically banging its head against the cage to the point that its cracking its own skull. Oh, and the really bad news? The insanity aura is only a side-effect of what the Simurgh is actually doing; using its immensely powerful precognitive abilities to model possible futures for everyone in its range, analyse which of them are capable of doing immense damage to the world at some point in the future, and set them on the course to do it without them even knowing and without necessarily driving them mad.
    • The sequel series introduces us to Mama Mathers, whose power allows her to inflict hallucinations in whatever sense you perceive her by (see her and she can make you see illusions, hear her voice and she can make you hear things etc.) with the effects growing more powerful the more exposure you have to her. While she can consciously affect the type and severity of hallucinations she gives you (her most severe ones causing you to collapse on the floor screaming) the effect that lets her infect your mind is constantly active whether she's aware of you or not. This even carries over to parahuman senses (scriers who "see" her get a Poke in the Third Eye and precogs who try to anticipate her then find her appearing in and corrupting any other visions of the future they get).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In American Horror Story: Coven, Zoe Benson has no control over her Touch of Death ability, which seems to activate on its own immediately after sexual intercourse. The effects seemed to be intense internal hemorrhage all throughout the body, causing blood to escape from the eyes, mouth, ears, nose, and possibly other places.
  • Angel: Anyone who touches Gwen Raiden receives an electric shock powerful enough to kill them (provided they aren't undead), much to her chagrin.
  • Inverted in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush", where the monstrous "Gentlemen" can be killed by hearing a human scream.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the original series episode "The Robots of Death", robophobia is defined as an intense fear of robots caused by their lack of human facial expression or body language; those afflicted find robots to be like the walking dead.
    • The Weeping Angels are an inversion of this trope, since humans looking at them causes the monster to turn to stone. Downplayed since the stone effect is temporary.
    • The Silence are creatures whose presence causes amnesia, are a subversion, and downplayed as you forget them as soon as you look away.
  • The Munsters: Frankenstein's Monster Herman Munster is so hideous that most people flee in panic at the merest sight of him. To a lesser extent, this is true of the rest of his family (except Marilyn). Mercifully, none of the Munsters ever seem to recognize that this is happening, and go about their lives as if nothing were wrong (except poor Marilyn, who assumes it's her fault).
  • Legends of Tomorrow: Seeing the true form of the Fates is deadly. Sara "only" going blind after taking a peek at Athropos is treated as a miracle (possibly because Ahtropos is the Fate representing death, and Sara came Back from the Dead before).
  • The Medusans from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" can't be seen by organic beings (except Spock, and only with special eye protection). Anyone who lays eyes on a Medusan is driven to insanity and death. They're by all accounts perfectly reasonable, friendly, even benevolent beings (certainly Ambassador Kollos was), so they try to avoid that happening.
  • Supernatural:
    • At the end of Season 2, when all of Azazel's children meet up, they start comparing their powers: super strength, mind control, etc. Then one woman tells Sam Winchester to stop angsting about his death visions and says it could be worse. Her uncontrolled power was killing people she touched accidentally, stopping their hearts, which killed her girlfriend apparently.
    • The Season 4 premiere "Lazurus Rising" revolves around trying to identify the creature who resurrected Dean. A psychic trying to view it had her eyes burned out just glimpsing its face. It turned out that the brown note was a side-effect of the creature's nature and not intentional. The creature in question was Castiel, an Angelic Abomination, but not a hostile one. He usually uses a willing vessel to avoid having this effect on humans.
  • Taken: Due to the aliens' Psychic Powers, people in close proximity to them suffer serious health problems and often die as a result. The first sign is typically a Psychic Nosebleed. In "Beyond the Sky", Sally Clarke develops one after spending only a few minutes in John's presence. It eventually becomes apparent why the aliens are so interested in the Keys family, continually abducting Russell, Jesse and Charlie over the course of almost 50 years, because they are immune to the harmful effects that typically come with prolonged exposure. In "Beyond the Sky", Russell is the only one of the ten men aboard the B-17 bomber who were abducted on August 1, 1944 to survive more than three years after being exposed. The immunity of the Keys family is crucial to the aliens' attempts to create a viable hybrid.
  • Twin Peaks The Return has the Woodsmen, evil beings from the Black Lodge (a malicious Alternate Dimension). They look like mundane dirty hobos, but their creepy, distorted speech puts people to sleep, and they can travel through dimensions and instantly kill people. When they appear, everything turns black and white to signal how reality distorts around them.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • Banshees: In the original myths, their voices weren't harmful in themselves, their wail was only an omen of death to come. In modern versions, however, their blood-curdling screams can kill or paralyze.
  • The Bible: During Exodus, Moses asks to see God, but God said that it would kill him, although God did arrange for Moses to view His back. Viewing angels would likewise cause prophets or apostles to fall down in trembling fear. Holy Is Not Safe.
    • In the apocryphal Questions of Bartholomew, it seems this extends to the Devil as well. After Jesus's disciple, Bartholomew, asks to see Satan so he can ask him some questions about his fall from grace, Jesus has Satan hoisted out of Hell in chains. The sight of this causes all the disciples to die on the spot. Fortunate for them that Jesus was there to resurrect them right away.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Don't shake hands with King Midas, because his Midas Touch will kill you instantly by turning you into a solid gold statue, which happened to his daughter in some versions.
    • Medusa, as one of the Gorgons, can turn anyone who gives her a single glance to stone. The only way to view her head without turning to stone is through a reflective surface, which is how Perseus was able to kill her, and her head still holds the power to turn you to stone even after it's been severed from her body, as both the giant sea monster Cetus and King Polydectes learn the hard way. This is apparently due to her having been turned unspeakably, supernaturally hideous by a Curse from the goddess Athena, hence why her severed head still possesses the power to petrify, but this angle is dropped in modern retellings of the myth.
    • The true form of the Greek gods was said to have this effect on mortals. One famous case was Semele, who was tricked into getting Zeus to promise her anything and then asking him to show her his true form. When she saw Zeus' true, unconcealed divinity, she was instantly incinerated.
    • The voices of the sirens enthrall listeners and lead them to their doom.
  • Basilisk and Cockatrice: Glimpsing these creatures can kill you or turn you to stone.
  • Malawian folklore gives us the Nguluka, a flying snake that looks like a Guinea fowl. Anybody who sees it dies.
  • Japanese legend tells about the kunekune, which will drive you insane if you get a good look at it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Arkham Horror: Most Cthulhu Mythos entities threaten the Sanity Meter of a player character that encounters them, since even the weaker ones symbolize a vast and unknowable universe that's alien to all human experience. In 2nd edition, Sanity damage can usually be resisted with a Will roll, but in 3rd edition, it's automatic for every turn the character is engaged with the entity.
  • Call of Cthulhu: Any human being seeing a creature of the Cthulhu Mythos (even those that aren't Eldritch Abominations) will suffer a reduction of their sanity. If they see enough such beings, they will go temporarily or permanently insane. Some Mythos entities are so horrific (e.g. deities like Cthulhu, Azathoth, etc.) that a person can be driven permanently mad by seeing them just once. The Secrets of San Francisco sourcebook has a scenario, "The Colour of His Eyes", where man assembles an alien looking telescope, uses it, and then has a Colour Out Of Space (a form of sentient, malevolent light) trapped in his eyes. Thereafter, he drains the energy from (and kills) anything he looks at, including a nurse caretaker.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Seeing a human's ghost causes the viewer to suddenly age 10 years, since 1st/2nd edition Advanced D&D.
    • Anyone seeing a nymph is permanently blinded. If the nymph is nude or removes her clothing, the viewer dies, since 1st/2nd edition Advanced D&D.
    • The Obyriths, the primordial race of demons spawned by the Abyss eons before life arose on the Material Plane, tend to be this due to how twisted, horrifying and alien their forms are to more recent lifeforms.
      • Their bizarre, horrifyingly-alien appearances grant the Obyriths an ability called "Form of Madness". Their presence is established to be an affront to all five senses, which causes anyone who so much as senses them to be afflicted by an oftentimes permanent type of insanity (phobias, feelings of being consumed by insects, etc).
      • Pale Night, the so-called Mother of Demons, is ancient even among the surviving Obyriths. Pale Night's "Truth Behind the Veil" rule means that anyone who gets a good look at her true form — normally hidden behind a full-body robe implied to imposed on her by reality itself as a side effect of how alien she is to it — must make an immediate (very high) saving throw; success means that the character's mind refuses to comprehend what they're looking at. Those who fail die outright, and if revived remember nothing of what they saw beyond a feeling of sheer horror.
    • Even some incredibly powerful forces of Good cannot be viewed safely by mortals. The Book of Exalted Deeds sourcebook mentions Zaphikiel, the greatest of the Hebdomad and the ruler of Mount Celestia. Only the gods themselves and the other Hebdomad can look upon him safely; anyone else who does so is said to be consumed by his overwhelming radiant energy and destroyed utterly. (Or maybe ascended to a higher form; it depends on who you ask.)
    • Ravenloft: Ghosts in this game setting have a life draining affect. The touch of lichs and ghouls are paralyzing. Deadly Gaze and other Brown Note curses are common, particularly for main characters.
      • Many freaks within the Carnival were cursed and twisted by the presence of Isolde, the mysterious lord of the Carnival, due to the curse placed on her when she was drawn into the Demiplane of Dread.
      • Desmond LaRouche was cursed into becoming half a flesh golem. Those seeing his face must do a fear check to see whether they fall into terror.
      • Ivana Boritsi and her Ermordenung, in Borca, have poisonous touch.
  • Exalted has the Yozi known as She Who Lives In Her Name. She's called that because those who hear her true name, which is endlessly whispered by the 99,997 crystalline spheres of trapped fire that make up her form, will spend the rest of their days meditating on the harmonic perfection of it, turning into tools of her will.
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Alara block gives us the Nemesis of Rea- THE END.
    Words describing it fail. Pages relating it shrivel. Tales recounting it end.
  • The One Ring:
  • Pathfinder:
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In some depictions, the Emperor of Mankind (a living deity) is so powerful that most mortals cannot gaze upon his true form (he occasionally disguises himself, both to hide his identity and to protect onlookers). Those who attempt to either die, are blinded by the power inherent in his visage (as happens to Astropaths in the ceremony that links their souls to His), or else their minds simply are unable to process what they are seeing. Even those who can safely look at him (generally those who are extremely powerful or have strong wills) see him as somewhat indistinct, with his features constantly changing and shifting. Some of his sons, the Primarchs, inherited this ability.
    • Blanks are this to psykers, who see them as a "hole in the Warp", and ordinary people generally feel disturbed in their presence (although depending on the source, a blank is either a person born without a soul, or just a person with a mutation that gives some humans psychic powers). And then there's the daemons of the Warp, who react very badly to blanks, their temporary physical existence weakening in their presence.
      • Necron Pariahs have a similar effect, inspiring horror and dread in living beings. Oddly, there is one case of a blank causing a similar effect in Pariahs themselves.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The most powerful variant of Supernatural Fear Inducer causes people who see one and fail their Willpower test to gain an Insanity Point and either run away at top speed or curl up in a blind panic. Examples include dragons and especially grotesque daemons.
  • World of Darkness:
    • Predators, a book for Werewolf: The Forsaken, introduces a being known only as the Unseen, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It's said that its form is so blasphemous that reality itself refuses to show it (just like Pale Night). The Unseen is uncannily good at hunting werewolf packs, to the point that some suggest it's a weapon created by a werewolf-hating Eldritch Abomination. About the only way you learn of its presence is when your guts spill out of a seemingly spontaneous slice in your flesh.
    • Mage: The Awakening Any being from this game setting's Abyss is an Eldritch Abomination which warps sanity and reality around it, but not in a good way.

    Video Games 
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent: The game doesn't let you get a good look at the monsters, ever, because just looking at them drops your sanity meter and causes the screen to blur... and makes them notice you. This has a Nothing Is Scarier effect, but it is justified since viewing the monsters drains a game character's sanity. The main monster is the Shadow, an Eldritch Abomination on a mission, don't touch even touch the Meat Moss it leaves behind on its trail. Other sanity draining creatures are the otherworldly, water-dwelling Kaernk.
  • In Ancient Domains of Mystery, a Banshee's scream will instantly kill your character if they're not deaf or put beeswax into their ears first.
  • The kunekune mentioned in the Anime and Mythology folders appears as a rare enemy in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. With a jump scare, no less.
  • Darkest Dungeon: The Cosmic Horror Story setting has preserving sanity from stress as a major game mechanic. Bosses such as the Shambler will cause stress just by existing. Others stress through the senses, like the voice of the Shrieker crows. Even one of the Hero classes, The Abomination, causes stress to his teammates unintentionally upon transforming.
  • Eternal Darkness: Inverted. Most of the monsters cause sanity loss when they see the player character, regardless of what the player character sees. But played straight in some cases. For instance, watching a Bonethief burst from its host will lower your sanity.
  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II allows you to temporarily become one of these with the Force power Deadly Sight. Anything you are looking at on screen begins to take damage as you hear sizzling noises and smoke pours off of their bodies.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords: Darth Nihilus is a wound in the Force whose mere presence drains the life out of everything around him. His own men are shown to have transformed into discolored zombies as a result of being near him for a long period of time. In addition, he talks using Black Speech and his voice is physically painful to listen to.
  • In Loom, it is said that certain death befalls anyone who looks at a Weaver (of whom the protagonist, Bobbin, is one) unhooded. Bishop Mandible's henchman Cob finds the mystery irresistible and wants to try it, despite Bobbin's protests. Turns out, it's entirely true.
  • In Mass Effect, Reapers and Reaper technology can indoctrinate organic beings just from being in close proximity, causing the organics to lose their free will and eventually become mindless slaves or even empty shells unable to care for themselves (or they just throw themselves on the nearest Dragon's Tooth and become a more literal cyber-zombie). More disturbingly, the Reaper does not even have to be alive for this to work, as one Cerberus research team found out the hard way:
    A god — a real god — is a verb. Not some old man with magic powers. It's a force. It warps reality just by being there. It doesn't have to want to. It doesn't have to think about it. It just does.
  • Pokémon:
    • Mimikyu is a Ghost/Fairy Pokémon who's unseen except for a shadowy Combat Tentacle and whose true appearance is said to curse and/or frighten viewers to death. But this isn't intentional, the creature is lonely and longs for human friends, and such keeps itself disguised to ensure others won't see its true body.
    • Encountering Darkrai will leave the observer plagued by nightmares, possibly for months. Story development later shows that this is unintentional. Darkrai comes with an inverted counterpart called Cresselia, whose presence causes happy dreams, and their feathers act as a magic antidote to Darkrai's nightmares.
  • Stretch Panic: Demonica, a die-hard horror fan, was transformed by the demons of vanity into a being so terrifying that merely looking at her is fatal. Rather than fighting her directly, her boss fight has you trying to prevent her from entering the room you're in.
  • The Incognito Princess from Sunless Skies causes interesting things to happen near her. People who see her poke their eyes out because she's the most radiant being they've ever beheld. Starlings spontaneously appear near her, even inside her cabin on your space-travelling locomotive. Poets trying to describe her beauty find that their tongues catch fire making the attempt.
  • Weaponized in Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage where one of Jagi's Signature Moves is to lift his helmet and expose his mutilated face, which can kill and mangle enemies caught in it's range.

    Visual Novel 
  • Saya no Uta: The true form of Saya causes insanity upon sight. It is never certain what type of creature is Saya.

  • In Axe Cop, the Songster uses a song to create the ultimate monster: a mouse that sends you to Mars when you look at it. Then, of course, you blow up like in Total Recall (1990).
  • Freefall Sam Starfall wears an opaque environment suit and an animatronic face mask because his true appearance has a tendency to prompt humans to either vomit or gouge their own eyes out. He's suggested to resemble an octopus or squid wrapped around an artificial skeleton and one comic reveals that he has chromatophores that produce optical illusions that make him look like he's fourth-dimensional or worse (he has a certificate saying he's a strictly three-dimensional being, and has needed it before).
  • Girl Genius's England arc has an extradimensional being that causes madness in Tarvek simply by being near him.
  • Grrl Power: Only one of the alien tourists after their existence becomes public bothers with a human disguise, ostensibly because of this trope. This is demonstrated when he unravels to devour a criminal and his fellow tourists promptly vomit.
  • Marvel's X-Men Unlimited (2021) webcomic introduces Etienne, a mutant who's become a living language. He travels from host to host via speech and anyone who hears (and hosts) him starts to physically burn up until they speak and transmit him to another new host.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-053 ("The Young Girl") is a three-year-old girl with a perfectly ordinary appearance and personality. Yet for some reason, any human being over the age of three who spends longer than ten minutes in 053's presence becomes overwhelmed with Unstoppable Rage and immediately tries to kill her in the goriest and most violent way possible, to the point of murdering anyone else in the room with them to get to her faster—only to die of massive heart attacks if they actually succeed in hurting the child, whose Healing Factor instantly kicks in and lets her regenerate. Worse yet, SCP-053 herself doesn't know why people keep attacking her and is implied to have gotten used to it.
    • SCP-597 ("The Mother Of Them All") is a Blob Monster covered in nipples that compels all mammals near it to start suckling. If they suckle for too long, they turn into toothless Man Children who simultaneously regard SCP-597 as their mother and want to have sex with it.
    • Inverted with the legendary SCP-682 ("The Hard-To-Destroy Reptile"). It's a bizarre lizard-like creature and Omnicidal Maniac with a single desperate urge: kill every single human it sees. Why? Because we are Brown Note Beings to him: human beings inspire such utter, uncontrollable horror and disgust in 682 that completely obliterating them is the only way he can feel even slightly better.
    • SCP-1128 ("Aquatic Horror") is a particularly dangerous example, as simply knowing it’s full appearance is enough to make it capable of pulling you into its realm and eating you whenever you come into contact with water.
    • SCP-2662 ("cthulhu f'UCK OFF!") is a Cthulhumanoid who makes a small percentage of people who spend time around him become his mad cultists. He finds it really annoying.
    • One interesting story that combines two entries subverts the trope. On a whim, Foundation scientists pair SCP-053 with SCP-682 to see what happens when a humanoid Brown Note Being meets a creature that sees humans themselves as Brown Note Beings. After a tense few minutes, it becomes clear that 682 isn't repulsed by 053, and she in turn feels safe around him. The two become buddies almost immediately, with 682 even letting 053 color on his back with crayons. It's never explained why they're able to bear one another's company, but other stories imply that each considers the other their Only Friend: when 053 has her picture taken with an SCP that produces a photo showing the subject's deepest desire, she's depicted happily riding on 682's back.
  • The memetic Eldritch Abomination known as "Zalgo." Expect bloody eyes, tentacles and corrupted text when his name is mentioned.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10, a couple of Ben's aliens seem to have this property: Ghostfreak in the first series could open his "skin" and terrify even Zombozo with his appearance. But that turns out to be nothing compared to the apparent eldritch horror that is Toepick's face.
  • The Ruby-Spears series "Mighty Man and Yukk the Dog" had a rare heroic example (and Played for Laughs example) in the titular dog, who was deemed "the ugliest dog in the world" and constantly moved around with a doghouse on his head. Whenever he needed to intimidate someone (usually a villain) he would just pull the doghouse away from his head and the villain would scream and run away in horror. The audience only ever saw Yukk's head from behind in those scenes.
  • Nemesis the wizard from The Smurfs (1981). A magical accident left him completely disfigured, and thus he hides underneath a hood. The few times he pulled it off to terrify his opponents he was only seen from behind, and his skin was yellowish and covered in boils.
  • Pepé Le Pew the skunk's unbearable stench follows him everywhere he goes, causing even the strongest and bravest to flee from him in horror. Fortunately for Pepé (and unfortunately for everyone else), 99% of the time he's completely oblivious to this fact.
  • The Venture Bros.: Played for Laughs in "Twenty Years to Midnight", an alien appears in the form of Rusty Venture's dead father Jonas to come and kill the Grand Galactic Inquisitor. When Rusty complains that this was traumatizing because he thought he actually was Jonas, the alien displays his incomprehensible true form, horrifying everyone and causing Sally Impossible's mentally challenged cousin, Ned, to crap his pants.
    Alien: Alright, fine, you wanna see? Here! [peels off his face, revealing his true self, which is shown offscreen, but horrifies everyone else] There! That would have been better? If I showed up like that out of nowhere? Look at you! You practically crapped your pants! Except him, he crapped his pants! [points to Ned]
    Ned: (sadly) Boom boom.


Video Example(s):


Cinemaman Titan vs. Overlord

Having found the leader of the Skibidi Toilets, Cinemaman attempts to dispatch the Overlord.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / HopeSpot

Media sources: