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By the Eyes of the Blind

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Greta: As a Keeper, I have the gift of Sight. I can pass this into few chosen people, and you, Elena, are one of them.
Bombo: Hi, Elena!
Elena: Huh? Bombo, I… I can see you! The Bobaks, Bursties, Snyakutz Bu, I can see all of you!

A creature, or entire race of creatures, can only be seen by individuals who possess a certain trait. For anyone who does not share that trait, the creature cannot be perceived at all. Usually, losing the trait will also cause you to lose the ability to perceive them, though in some cases, once you have encountered the creature, you will always be able to perceive them.

In the most common situation, only children can perceive the creature. Another typical example is when animals fall under the rule, but humans do not. Occasionally, although you won't be able to sense the creature, their presence will give you an inexplicable Gut Feeling.

In some cases, the creatures can appear as people but the people possessing that trait can see them as what they really are.

This is the supertrope to Invisible to Normals and Invisible to Adults. Please place examples of those subtropes under the proper subtrope.

See also Weirdness Censor, Magnetic Medium, and You Can See Me? Compare True Sight, when one only needs to have an enhanced sight to see something normally unseen.

For the literal version of this trope, see Blind Seer.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Blue Drop, Mari is the only one who can see the holographic projection of Tsubael, the Bridge Bunny from Hagino's spaceship, Blue. It is hinted that Michiko can see her as well.
  • In Charger Girl, Charger Girls use a cloaking system to hide themselves from the populace of Earth (normally, they're transparent, but can still be seen), and while cloaked, can only be seen or touched by other people from Life Core and Sento, for some reason. Sento's ability to see and touch them is never explained in the anime, but he does briefly lose the ability to do so while depressed.
  • Shinigami in Death Note can only be seen by people who have touched a Death Note belonging to that particular shinigami.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • The spirit of Mavis Vermillion, Fairy Tail's founding master, can only be seen and heard by wizards with the Fairy Tail guild emblem. It's indicated by Jacob Lessio (the only outsider who can sense her) that she could choose who else can see her if she wanted, but limits it to those she can trust.
    • In the prequel, Fairy Tail ZERØ, Mavis's friend Zera turns out to be an illusion based on the real Zera, who died and unwittingly triggered Mavis's illusory magic; because Mavis didn't realize she was an illusion, she couldn't make it so others could see her, and Zera can't exist as long as Mavis is aware of her true nature.
    • The sequel, Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest, features the ghost of a dead Dragon Slayer named Wraith who can only be seen and heard by other Dragon Slayers.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure from Part 3 onwards, Stands can only be seen by other Stand Users. They're invisible to everyone else.
  • My Neighbor Totoro: The Catbus can be seen by Satsuki who wants to find Mei who also sees it while desiring to see their mother. To everyone else, it's a sudden gust of wind. The soot spirits and totoros can also be seen by the two girls but the adults can't see them, probably because they don't want to be seen by folks.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Mana is the only one capable of seeing Yugi and co. (and Bobasa) when they're present in the Memory World.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Beetlejuice, only Lydia can see the Maitlands. According to the "Handbook of the Deceased", this is because ghosts cannot be seen by the living because they are "strange and unusual", something that Lydia herself is.
  • Drop Dead Fred, whom only the protagonist can see. There are other "imaginary friends" in the film that only one person can see as well; they can all interact with each other, but each only has one human who can.
  • In The Frighteners, those who have a traumatic experience sometimes have their perception altered. This allows them to see ghosts, the white light/stairway to heaven, and other... things.
  • In It Follows, the monster can only be seen by its designated victims. It still has a physical body, so when Jay manages to convince her friends of the monster's existence, they do tricks like throwing a blanket over it so they can tell where it is.
  • Dream-dwelling killer Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street can only be seen by someone asleep and dreaming.
  • Upside-Down Magic: Reina is the only one who can see Chandra, a manifestation of Shadow Magic.
  • Wings of Desire: It's only certain people that can perceive the main characters, who are angels. Children can see them, and a blind woman also senses them.

  • How the Animorphs learn about the existence of the Chee, a race of androids living among humans through the use of holograms: in dog morph, Marco notes that Eric has no smell (though he was carrying smells picked up from touching other people), but because dogs have mammalian eyes, he still looked normal. It takes a spider morph, with completely different eyes, to reveal the machine under the hologram.
  • Discworld:
    • Death can be seen by animals, witches and wizards, occasionally small children, and people about to die or who are having a near-death experience — in brief, anybody whose Weirdness Censor is off... and Carrot, who used him as a witness for a murder in the short story 'Theatre of Cruelty'. The book Wyrd Sisters states that Death can also be seen if people truly expect to see him (which may explain Carrot's ability to use him as a witness). In Wyrd Sisters, Death walks on stage during a play at a time when the audience expects an actor playing Death to show up — and is seen by everyone in the audience. He gets stage fright.
    • Discworld also brings us the expression "First Sight" from the Tiffany Aching books. Apparently Second Sight is the ability to see things that aren't really there (most people have this), but First Sight is the ability to see things that are, whether or not you're expecting them. Wizards are trained to have this ability basically as soon as they start at the Unseen University, and it's a great help to naturally have it if you're going to be a witch. Carrot's extremely straightforward nature may correlate somehow.
    • Ghosts can, according to Death, be seen by close relatives, the magically-receptive, and cats.
    • The Bogles (weird humanoid demon-animals that inhabit the Underworld) from Wintersmith can only be seen by people who have their eyes shut at the time. This might be a deliberate parody of the Blind Seer trope.
  • Dune inverts this in the latter books. Siona and her descendants are invisible to prescience. This is important both to humanity's survival so no one threat can target all of humanity ever again, but it is the only thing that saves Chapterhouse planet from destruction by the Honored Matres.
  • The classic short story Eight O'Clock in the Morning by Ray Nelson has monsters who can only be seen after awakening from hypnosis. Under normal circumstances, the aliens are visible, but appear to be average human beings. It was adapted into They Live!, in which the monsters can only be seen by wearing special sunglasses.
  • The Emperor's New Clothes plays with this trope. The cloth for the titular garb allegedly can only be seen by the wise, or those well suited to their jobs. Of course, there is no cloth, so the emperor is nude. The Fridge Logic is, of course, why anyone would want stupid people to see them naked. It's based on a swindle, which in turn is based on the natural human fear of looking stupid. Hence, everyone who looks at the "magic cloth" pretends to see it, based on the "rules" that the con-men have given to the Emperor, for fear of losing their jobs. The "innocent" child who sees through the scam does so because he (or she) has not been trained to tell the Emperor and those around him what they want to hear (i.e., to lie in order to preserve the feelings of the powerful, and the life of the speaker). The story itself is a metaphor for how a powerful idiot can only be challenged by someone who has nothing to lose. (One Whole-Plot Reference makes it ambiguous whether it's a con... or whether the cloth really does work and the reason the viewpoint character could never see it is that he's indeed foolish and unfit for his position.)
  • Fate/strange Fake has Watcher, an Irregular Servant that manifests as shadows only visible to its Master. No one else can see or hear them, and Sigma, the Master in question, cannot touch them - but he can feel it when one shadow puts its hand on his shoulder.
  • Thestrals in Harry Potter can only be seen by those who have witnessed someone die. Harry joins this group in the fifth book after he comes to terms with being there at Cedric's murder. It comes as a bit of a shock when he arrives at Hogwarts and sees that the "horseless" carriages are actually pulled by skeletal, reptile-faced, winged horses.
  • The Spectres in His Dark Materials can only be seen by children, but feed on the minds/souls of adults.
  • In Jessica's Ghost, the titular character wonders why Francis is the only person who can see her. Turns out Andi and Roland can, too, and the latter figures out why: all three of them have been suicidal, and Jessica's final purpose is to stop other teenagers from committing suicide like she did.
  • Sidhe in the universe of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell can only be seen by the insane unless they reveal themselves. Jonathan Strange therefore takes a potion of distilled madness in order to see his fairy foe.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Into The Out Of features three characters who are the only ones who can see the supernatural creatures infiltrating the world in order to destroy it. For two of them, it's a literal case, as both of them have lost an eye and can see the creatures with their glass eye. The third has a Third Eye.
  • In the novel Kit's Wilderness, the main character gains the ability to see ghosts after suffering a mysterious near death experience, but a few other major characters of all ages claim to see them as well, but there is no way of knowing whether they are telling the truth or not, and his closest friends seem to know when he is looking at them or in their presence.
  • In Gustave Le Rouge's La Guerre des Vampires, Martians can only be seen by blind people (or by someone who's wearing a special Martian helmet).
  • In The Last Unicorn, normal humans can't see the titular unicorn (or unicorns in general). All they will see is a white mare at best. It is implied that only humans who deeply believe in their existence, such as Molly, or possess magic, such as Schmendrick and the witch who captures her early in the movie, can see her as she truly is. Said witch has to create a fake horn in order to make people believe she's a true unicorn, since they can't see her real horn. Haggard himself can see through her human disguise because, as he puts it, everything in her behaviour betrays her real nature. Finally, the skull sees right through her disguise.
  • Inverted in Fredric Brown's Martians Go Home. The Martians are real, and everyone on earth can see them — in fact, it's impossible not to — except for one guy, thanks to a Martian-caused nervous breakdown.
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Hollowgasts are invisible to all but a very few peculiars with the unique peculiarity of being able to see them, such as Abraham and Jacob Portman.
  • Lucinda from Miss Prince is able to see a job advertisement for a fairytale prince in a normal newsagent because she believes in that world.
  • In Myth-ion Improbable, the lurking dust bunnies of the Vortex dimensions are invisible to guys. Of course.
  • The Pilgrim's Regress: Only John can see the brown girls who follow him. It's not said why, but it's presumably because they were created from John succumbing to lust.
  • In James Clemens' novel Shadowfall and sequels, one character, due to her unique heritage, has a companion which only she can see or touch. (It can be made visible and tangible to others by her blood.)
  • Faeries in The Spiderwick Chronicles can only be seen by people with the Sight. If you don't have it, you can get it by rubbing faerie ointment, faerie bathing water, or hobgoblin saliva in your eyes, or by carrying a Four-Leaf Clover or a seeing stone.
  • Star Trek: New Frontier, "Gods Above": No one but Moke can see Woden and an ascended McHenry at first, but that's because 1. Moke is Woden's son; 2. Woden's enemies are keeping them concealed, and 3. They don't see them because they don't believe they're there.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Dark Apprentice, Luke Skywalker's Force ghost can be seen only by the Solo twins, Jacen and Jaina. Although they see him through the Force, the trope still applies since the other Jedi were unable to detect him.
  • In the Eoin Colfer novel The Supernaturalist, the Parasites can only be seen by those who have experienced a near-death experience, and the ability to keep seeing them is sustained by the excess of chemicals in the air. However, Ditto can see the Parasites because he is a Bartoli baby and also notes at the end of the book that there are much worse things out there that even the other supernaturalists can't see.
  • Stephen King:
    • The Ten O'Clock People has monsters that appear as human but can only be identified by people who smoke a certain amount (roughly a couple a day, but not heavily).
    • In Insomnia the supernatural beings in question can only be seen by the sleep-deprived.
  • Central to Theodore Sturgeon's classic novella, "The Widget, The Wadget, and Boff".
  • The Stormlight Archive: Out of the many varieties of "spren" spirits, deathspren can only be seen by people on the verge of death, and are therefore sometimes believed not to be real. When Kaladin recovers after seeing deathspren, he's uncomfortably aware of just how lucky he was to survive.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, ghosts can only be seen by cats who have the ability (and sometimes only a specific individual at that). Occasionally there are scenes where Tree is talking to one, and the POV character thinks he's talking to himself until they realize what's going on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Vorlons in Babylon 5 cannot be seen by those who have been touched by the Shadows.
  • In both versions of Being Human, only people who are somehow supernatural (including vampires, werewolves, and zombies) can see ghosts.
  • The Vorvon in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Space Vampire" could only be seen or heard by its intended victim.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Dawn's true nature can only be seen by mentally unstable people. Mentally ill or psychic people can see the energy of the Key that's hidden inside her.
    • The child-killing demon Der Kindestod from the Season 2 episode "Killed by Death" can only be seen by young people with fevers.
    • In Angel, only people whose blood has mixed with Jasmine's can see beyond her beauty to see the creepy maggot-infested walking Eldritch Abomination she is. Subverted with Connor, who always saw her as a maggot-infested walking Eldritch Abomination because he was her father. Yeah. Talk about a face only a parent could love.
  • Charmed (1998):
    • Only magical beings, such as witches, demons and Whitelighters, are able to see ghosts.
    • One episode had a demon who acts as a Not-So-Imaginary Friend in order to corrupt children, who could only be seen by his victims. This is not Invisible to Adults, because (a) only the child he is targeting at any given time can see him, not children in general, and (b) when Time Travel gets involved, his target's adult counterpart is also able to see him, which even he didn't anticipate.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Vincent and the Doctor": Only Vincent van Gogh can see the Krafayis. No explanation is given for this, but it has something to do with his artistic mind and/or depression.
    • "Mummy on the Orient Express": The Foretold, the titular mummy, can only be seen by its intended victims, who then have roughly one minute before the Foretold kills them. The Doctor ultimately manages to take the place of one potential victim to see the Foretold and figure out how to stop it.
  • In both versions of Ghosts, the titular spectres can only be seen by the female lead, who has suffered and survived a head injury. For bonus points, she can hear them too... to her intense frustration.
  • In Grimm, the many types of monsters that inhabit our world, as seen in certain fairy tales, appear to be normal humans to everyone except other monsters and members of the Grimm family.
  • In Kamen Rider Dragon Knight, mirror monsters can only be seen by Riders and those few Muggles who have been to the mirror world. The same goes for being able to look into a reflection and see battles taking place in mirror world. When a fight takes place in reality, most people tend to see Riders punching and yelling at thin air.
  • Al, the hologram sidekick from Quantum Leap could only be seen by Sam, animals and 'the very old, very young and very crazy.'
  • In Lost, Hurley theorizes that only he, Locke, and Ben can see Jacob's cabin because they are the craziest ones.
  • The Outer Limits (1963): In the episode "Behold Eck!", a two-dimensional creature from Another Dimension accidentally enters our world. It can only be perceived by people wearing glasses made from a special prescription that uses meteoric quartz.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Music of the Spheres", the alien audio signal is only recognizable as music to teenagers, but not to adults or younger children.
    • In "The Beholder", only people who have been given a treatment with iridium can see the ghost-like alien Kyra.
  • In Teen Angel, Grandpa Jerry can see angels and Rod because of a near-death experience.
  • In Sesame Street, only Big Bird could see Aloysius Snuffleupagus until 1985.
  • In the final season of Slings & Arrows, Geoffrey and his ghostly mentor Oliver Wells hazard that the only ones who can see Oliver (besides Geoffrey ... who is is probably mad) are people near death.
  • The insect-like creatures from a parallel universe in Stargate SG-1 could only be seen by those irradiated by the alien device brought by SG-1, or those who touched them. Interestingly, the creatures themselves did absolutely nothing (since they had always been there), but suddenly being able to see them led to some... panic.
    • Also, beings with Naquadah in their blood (Goa'uld symbiotes and by extension anyone who has ever had a symbiote in their body) can sense when others have Naquadah in their systems. After Carter is briefly taken as host by a Tok'ra, her ability to sense Goa'uld comes in handy. Goa'uld can also sense Reetou, an insectoid race that exists out of phase from our universe.
  • Played with in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Imaginary Friend". Young Clara originally has a not-unusual imaginary friend named Isabelle who she pretends to play with. Then an alien presense reads her mind and manifests itself as the physical embodiment of Isabelle. It's not really that no one else can see her though, just that she vanishes whenever someone else enters the room.
  • Supernatural:
    • Reapers are only visible to people who are either already dead or close to death.
    • Hellhounds are only visible to people who have made a Deal with the Devil and are nearing the end of their contracts.
  • The X-Files: The episode "Folie à Deux" features a monster disguised as a human working in a telemarketing company, escaping detection by apparently "hiding in the light", and able to kill people and control their corpses without anyone else noticing they're dead. An employee named Lambert, however, is able to see him as he is, as well as those whom he killed. Everyone thinks he's crazy, but he manages to get Mulder to see the monster as well.

  • In the Gorillaz song "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head", the Happy Folk were unable to see the Strange Folk, because the Strange Folk wore dark glasses, hiding their eyes. 'Without the truth of the eyes, the Happy Folk were blind.'
  • Billy Joel uses this trope word-for-word as a lyric in his song "River of Dreams".
  • In the music video for Lordi's "Blood Red Sandman", the monsters/band can only be seen at first through a handheld camera.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the tabletop role-playing game Changeling: The Lost, a Changeling's mien (that is, their true, Fae-inspired appearance) is virtually impossible to detect against a Changeling's will, even to other magical folk; though there may be enough bleedover to make their mundane appearance unique or unusual enough to make others suspect there could be something wrong, the illusion of a normal visage, called the Mask, is complete and almost impenetrable. However, one book lists optional conditions for people who are naturally capable of seeing through it, such as the seventh son of a seventh son, a person with heterochromia, or someone born on Leap Day.
    • The same book has a sample character who can see through the Mask - when he was a kid, he took a bullet to the head, and it hit him in just the right way that his perceptions were opened for good. It scares the shit out of him.
    • Then there's the fact that most things from the Hedge, such as hobgoblins, can only be perceived on Earth by changelings or any humans a changeling has chosen to ensorcel.
  • In the 3E Ravenloft supplement Dark Tales & Disturbing Legends, many bogeymen can only be seen by children.

    Video Games 

  • The gods of A Moment of Peace are invisible to the stick figure humans they walk among, but apparently Monster Food, limbless worm-like creatures hanging from the very bottom of the food chain, can see them. Or at least this one can.
  • Monsterhood has an interesting variation. The monster town is contained in an energy field that makes those outside it believe that whatever is inside is fantasy — they'll rationalize their experiences within as a dream, a movie they were acting in, or anything else, and monsters trapped outside too long will even forget they are monsters, as monsters exist inside the field and are thus fantasy. The "Blind" here? People who can't distinguish between fantasy and reality are entirely unaffected, as what's within the field doesn't seem any less "real" to them.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • The world accessible through SCP-093 is almost immediately found to be full of strange figures that are visible on the monitoring cameras, but which the people exploring the world can't seem to see. They turn out to be the "ghosts" of the Unclean and those absorbed by them — they can only be seen by machines or those affected by His Tears. They show no ability to speak, but seem able to communicate textually through machinery that allows it, and communicate telepathically with the affected.
    • SCP-870 can only be seen by schizophrenics, which causes everyone but the Foundation to dismiss them as hallucinations. It doesn't help that they have biologically impossible appearances which one would expect to only see in nightmares.
  • Implied in many works from The Slender Man Mythos. Typically, only Slender Man's intended victims can actually see him unassisted. However, he always shows up in pictures and videos, which is why savvier characters (i.e. Alex Kralie, Milo,) start keeping a camera with them at all times. Then, when other characters review said pictures and videos, they end up going "Hey wait, why didn't I ever notice that rather obvious tall, faceless guy in the business suit when I was actually there?" Unfortunately, realizing that Slender Man exists is an easy way to get on his list...

    Western Animation 
  • One of the reasons the Ice King from Adventure Time went insane from his original transformation via the crown is because he has been seeing spirits ever since he donned the artifact.
  • One episode of Danny Phantom was centered around Danny childishly breaking stuff and blaming a ghost that no one else could see. Turned out, he was right; the ghost was only visible to children or those with a similar mentality. Jazz was eventually able to see him once she was forcibly reminded she's not as adult as she likes to think.
  • The Lion Guard: Only Kion can see Mufasa's spirit in the clouds and interact with him (aside from Simba), as shown in "The Rise of Scar". Whenever someone else comes upon them, all they see is an empty space in the sky that pulses with a light breeze.
  • Mighty Magiswords: Only the zombie pumpkin magisword (and anyone who has been given his eyes) can see ghostly apparitions.
  • Spoofed in The Simpsons with Osmodiar, an alien that can only be seen by Homer. Indeed, the audience can't see it either.
  • In an episode of Skunk Fu!, the invisible ninja monkeys can only be seen by stupid people, so Ox, the dumbest cast member, is the only one able to see and fight them. Skunk and the others think of stupid thoughts and are then able to see them.
  • Star Wars Rebels has an unusual, literal example. In "The Holocrons of Fate", only Kanan — who was blinded by Maul in the Season 2 finale — can see in the light unleashed by the holocron fusion. Everyone else is blinded by it.
  • In the Sushi Pack episode "The Thing That Wasn't There", only Maguro can see the electrical monster that's wreaking havoc in Wharf City. Whether or not this is due to her mental powers is never explained, and she herself says she doesn't know why she can see it while the others can't.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): The episode "Fathers and Sons" features a demon that can only be seen by the innocent, thanks to an amulet it wears.


Video Example(s):


The Lion Guard

Kion is the only one other than Simba who can see and hear Mufasa's spirit.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ByTheEyesOfTheBlind

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