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Detect Evil

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For reference, her ability is detecting the crown, not the dwarf (who is Lawful Good). Nobody said magic was foolproof.

"I think this woman is evil... and not the good kind."
Sailor Mars, Sailor Moon Abridged

A special ability that allows its user to detect the presence of evil. Simple as that. Of course, for this to be possible, good and evil must first be able to be defined in black and white terms, which often leads to the appearance of Card-Carrying Villains. Depending on the work, this ability may pick up not only on those who are blatantly or literally made of evil but even those who are just particularly greedy or spiteful.

Has its origins in Dungeon Crawling games,note  as good and evil tend to be important, warring concepts in these types of worlds; it'll often be a key skill for the goody-two-shoes paladin on a quest to smite evil (which is not to be confused with "bump uglies"). In tabletop roleplaying games specifically, this type of ability is useful not only for players, but for a Game Master as well; when players can easily pick out the bad guys wearing armor from a crowd of other guys wearing armor, gameplay can move along quickly, and the more Ax-Crazy players at the table can be prevented from solving the problem with a process-of-elimination massacre.

When this ability is commonplace, its impact on society is usually not explored.

If a character is harmed by the very presence of evil, regardless of conscious attempts to detect it, then they're Allergic to Evil.

Not to be confused with Excellent Judge of Character, or its sub-tropes Evil-Detecting Dog and Evil-Detecting Baby, where a character uses their instincts instead of magic (though there may certainly be overlap). If a character is picking up on someone else's powerful malicious aura, they're detecting Killing Intent, which can generally be done without special abilities.

Sub-Trope of Aura Vision. See also The Force Is Strong with This One.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • After God: Nyababa's special ability is sensing an IPO nearby.
  • Astro Boy has this power, though it's not often referenced. In some versions, this is toned down to sensors akin to a wireless polygraph.
  • Berserk: The Brand of Sacrifice on Guts and Casca will start bleeding or hurting if demons are near.
  • Bleach characters may have something akin to this. Several characters express the ability to feel killing intent and other negative emotions, but the most apparent examples come in the form of the Always Chaotic Evil Hollow, who have distinctive reiatsu that feels malicious in texture.
  • Daphne in the Brilliant Blue plays this for laughs. Yu can detect Gloria even when she's in Maia's body because she feels like a 'horrendous evil presence'.
  • In Dragon Ball, various characters who can sense energy can sometimes tell if a certain ki is hostile or evil.
    • In Dragon Ball Z, the Namekians seem to be the best at this, knowing right away that Frieza and his men are evil and feeling the hostile energy of the Ginyu Force minutes before they landed.
    • When Piccolo starts to turn good, several characters note that his energy didn't feel as dark anymore.
    • In Dragon Ball Super, this also comes into play with Zamasu; the characters note that his ki feels subtly different before and after he fully embraces evil.
  • The Xingnese characters (Ling, Lan Fan, Fuu, and Mei) in Fullmetal Alchemist use their ability to sense chi/ki in this fashion when it involves the Homunculi. Because of the Philosopher Stone each homunculus has in them, they feel the very unnatural presence of many people in one body.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro: Neuro feeds off of "mysteries" and can sniff out the presence of deceit and cover-ups. Since he seems exclusively interested in murder mysteries, his sense of smell effectively functions this way.
  • In March Story, the eponymous March has a bell that she carries around that rings whenever an Ill is nearby.
  • Naruto:
    • Karin's ability to sense chakra gives her an ability to indirectly detect that person's character. After Sasuke killed Itachi, she noticed how his chakra was significantly colder and darker, signifying his descent into evil.
    • Naruto himself learned how to detect such evil emotions directly as a result of his training to use the chakra of the 9-Tailed Fox without taking in such emotions from it. The 9-Tailed Fox himself had this ability, which was how he was able to start taking control of Naruto's body.
  • The mascot characters in Pretty Cure have the ability to sense evil to varying extents. Usually this only extends to the Monster of the Week and sometimes the Quirky Miniboss Squad, but there's at least one instance of them detecting the arrival of a pair of creepy self-proclaimed "chick magnets".
  • While many characters in Soul Eater can sense souls and tell the difference between a good and evil human's soul, Maka sets herself apart by being able to see through a witch's Soul Protect which basically means that her Detect Evil is extraordinary by the Soul Eater world's standards.

    Comic Books 
  • This is part and parcel of being a Ghost Rider, as a part of the whole "Spirit of Vengeance" thing, though the exact nature can change from comic to comic. Sometimes they can detect exactly what an individual has done, sometimes just how good and bad people are. On a related note, when Danny Ketch first became a Rider, he was only able to/had to change whenever innocent blood was shed nearby until Caretaker helped him overcome that weakness.
  • Green Lantern: Although they don't actually have this ability, this is part of the Green Lanterns' Badass Creed. "In brightest day, in blackest night/No evil shall escape my sight..."
  • Justice (New Universe): Having an absolute certainty as to who is wrong makes the titular character a Well-Intentioned Extremist serial killer. The newuniversal incarnation takes this a step further; because he detects everyone's evil thoughts, all the time, he is completely insane, and firmly convinced that he is in Hell.
  • In Rom: Spaceknight, the main trio of heroes (Rom, Starshine, and the Torpedo) all have this power — or at least the power to detect Dire Wraiths (which in this book was pretty much the same thing). It wasn't always on, though, and it turns out the Torpedo's form of it could be fooled.
  • The Spider-Sense has been known to give Spider-Man a subtle heads up when making small talk with individuals of ill intent. Depending on the Writer, it also has the ability to detect supervillains while disguised. Inverted with the original incarnation of The Jackal. Peter's Spider-Sense is ineffective (or greatly reduced in effectiveness, it's never quite clear which), because Peter considers the man behind the Jackal costume his friend. It also has a lot of trouble detecting Venom owing to the, erm, "quality time" the symbiote and Peter spent together before it latched onto its new partner.
  • Pixie of the X-Men, after losing a piece of her soul to create the Soulsword, claims that it was replaced with a "sliver of darkness" that allows her to detect other "dark things" such as demons.

    Fan Works 
  • Heart of Gold (Cardcaptor Sakura): In chapter 1, Sakura and Syaoran are able to sense right away that there's an evil presence at the Tsukimine Shrine.
  • In Hunter (UnwelcomeStorm), Taylor is granted the Impurity Rune by Valtr, which allows her to see a shining form of the rune on targets depending on a definition of "impurity" she sets when first receiving it. She elects to word her version of the rune to detect enjoyment of violence and disregard for the lives of innocents as her parameters. Following her rampage in Brockton, she starts seeing the rune upon herself, making her realize that by her own definition she had been corrupted.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore tells Harry that dark magic, especially the sort that's used to create horcruxes, leaves detectable traces. This, however, is added largely because the film is a Pragmatic Adaptation of the book, in which Harry and Dumbledore experience several Pensieve Flashbacks followed by dialogues that allow them to determine what objects Voldemort used as horcruxes and where he hid them. Since most of them were cut for time, the film gives Harry the ability to sense the presence of horcruxes, which also foreshadows the fact that he's a horcrux as well.
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The grail knight in the final temple is immediately able to pick up on Donovan's evil intent by reading Indiana Jones's body language and facial expressions.
  • Kong: Skull Island: Deconstructed with Lieutenant Colonel Packard. He claims to "know an enemy when he sees one", with Kong being that enemy. However, Kong isn't actually evil, just an animal protecting his territory from what he understandably believes to be intruders, and Packard, being the unstable war vet he is, is using this excuse to single Kong out as his new enemy.
  • Little Nicky: "You make the Lord very nervous!"
  • In Lost in Space, Dr. Smith utters the line "Evil knows evil" when the crew explore a dodgy area.
  • The Toxic Avenger:
    • The Avenger is a horribly deformed monster of superhuman size and strength who is driven to destroy Evil whenever his "Tromatons" react. This actually became a plot device in Part II when Apocalypse Inc. creates the Anti-Tromaton in the hopes of destroying Toxie.
    • This causes problems for him in the first movie too when he's driven to brutally kill an old lady who's the head of a slavery ring. The corrupt mayor easily turns Toxie into the villain of the situation since his victim isn't Obviously Evil this time.
  • In Unbreakable, David Dunn has something like this. Whenever he touches someone, he gets a glimpse of the most heinous thing this person has done recently.
  • The titular Van Helsing can sense the evil in a person's heart and refuses to harm Frankenstein's Monster because of it:
    Van Helsing: Evil may have created him, evil may have left its mark on him, but evil does not rule him. So I can't kill him.

  • Astral Dawn: Caspian's ability to perceive dark spirits in their true form past the illusions they use is the hallmark of the first novel. His ability to sense and "see" the Defilers beyond the ability of other light spirits continues to evolve throughout the primary trilogy within the series.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: The first book has certain magical artifacts that can apparently reveal ill intent and evil — if they reject a person, for instance. This almost happens to the protagonist at least once. Unfortunately, if a person is sufficiently powerful, they prove to be useless as tests either way, which was one way Big Bad Lord Foul the Despiser was able to do so much damage the last time he was around.
  • In Deltora Quest, a few of the gems of the Belt of Deltora have evil detacting properties in addition to other less significant power. Namely the Ruby which grows pale in the presence of evil or when misfortune threatens its wearer, the Emerald which dulls in the presence of evil and when a vow is broken, and the Amethyst which changes colour in the presence of illness and loses colour near poisoned food and drink.
  • Parodied in Discworld; the Nac Mac Feegle have swords that glow blue in the presence of lawyers.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Knights of the Cross, who are three people who have taken up a Sword that contains one of the Nails from Jesus' Crucifixion in their hilt, gain this passive ability. Each Knight gains an awareness of the darker supernatural aspects of the world and, perhaps because God favors the Truth, can see through some disguises and camouflages supernatural monsters give off. Sanya demonstrates this in Small Favor by pegging Thomas as a vampire seconds after seeing him. Thomas is a White Court vampire, who usually have the best camouflage abilities to hide among humans.
    • Wizards can gain a sense of the magic in a person or the general vicinity. When three Senior Council wizards arrive on the island of Demonreach, each one senses the darkness and foreboding nature of the island. As the island is a secret time-locked prison containing ancient evils and horrors from the world over, the evil these wizards sense is akin to the body heat of these prisoners making it out of their cells.
    • Temple Dogs, who are scions of a mortal dog and guardian spirit, have keen awareness and ability to sense evil. See Evil-Detecting Dog for more.
    • Other natural animals have an awareness. When Harry was in the Shedd Aquarium, several Pacific white-sided dolphins glided past him without comment, but screeched and made a racket further on, alerting Harry to the presence of an ambush by hosts of Fallen Angels.
  • Sousuke from Full Metal Panic! has been shown to have a freaky, almost sixth sense ability to sense Killing Intent (thereby allowing him to know if enemies who want to kill him are nearby).
  • In the Gaea Trilogy, the Titanides can sense when a human has psychotic or self-destructive tendencies. They refer to this as having "worms in the head".
  • In The House of Night, it's apparently a lot harder to do this unless you're familiar with evil. Zoey, Aphrodite, Stevie Rae, the Red Fledglings, and Rephaim can all sense it easily, which is the reason why the Big Bad can fool everyone but make the heroes look like idiots.
  • In Glenda Larke's The Isles of Glory, the Aware can sense sylvmagic (good) and dunmagic (evil).
  • Lord Darcy: At least one Sensitive is able to sense the evil in a person's soul, and act to keep that evil under control. (In our terms, he put a spell on a sociopath to make him act in accordance with conventional morality.)
  • Elvish swords in The Lord of the Rings glow blue in the presence of Orcs and other corrupted beings, although they do not appear to be capable of detecting evil in free races such as Elves or Men. (In The Film of the Book, they keep their swords sheathed when trying to hide, and only unsheath them about an inch to see if they're glowing when they need to Detect Evil.)
  • Darkans in Loyal Enemies are druidic swords that are enchanted to glow green when a darkling is nearby. This is more annoying than helpful, as the darkan in the story is owned by a werewolf. Try to sneak up on somebody with your sword shining like a glowstick.
  • In Piilomaan pikku aasi, the heroes are given a magic lantern that normally glows green but turns red when enemies are nearby.
  • Second Apocalypse: The "Judging Eye" is a very rare ability held by some people since birth. Mimara is the only character with the ability. The Eye "opens" only rarely, and she cannot control when it does. She sees a visible manifestation of people's crimes, making the particularly damned look like blasted coal. She can also identify specific atrocities they have committed. Those who are not damned appear angelic and holy, with divine halos about them.
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, measuring the "inner Light" of an individual can provide clues to their morality because repeated wrongdoing weakens that inner Light, and living by a moral code strengthens it. It's far from perfect, though, as a Knight Templar will still have a bright inner Light due to their firm moral conviction, and low Light can result from very minor moral failings. The Shade are particularly easy to detect, as they're the only ones who have no inner Light at all.
  • Spells, Swords, & Stealth: Thistle, paladin of Grumble the god of the minions, learns that he has this power early in the second book when he realizes that the constant feelings in his stomach while in the town of Briarwillow have been the ability to sense evil around him kicking in.
  • In Velveteen vs., both Santa Claus and the Nanny can detect naughtiness.
  • In Warbreaker, the sentient sword Nightblood was created to destroy evil, but being a sword, it has no real idea on its own what "evil" constitutes, and so was created with a version of this power. Essentially, anyone who would want to wield the sword for purely destructive purposes will be drawn to it, but when they attempt to draw it, then it will attempt to suck out their life force (this is usually fatal, though there's at least one case of a mook who figures out what's going on in time to pull away and gets off with just a crippled hand). People who don't want to use the sword for destruction are made somewhat uncomfortable by its presence but can wield it safely. Unfortunately, this test isn't always reliable — The Dragon in the novel qualifies as "evil" by most definitions, but he's savvy enough to want nothing to do with Nightblood, and as such it has no more power over him than any other sword.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Channelers of the One Power have the ability to sense Shadowspawn nearby, as do their bonded Warders. Unfortunately, the Myddraal who tend to be the commanders of said Shadowspawn have the ability to detect channeling, as well. It is also possible, for an evil channeler, for example, to ward Shadowspawn against this effect.
    • The series also introduces us to Hurin, who is a 'sniffer'. A sniffer is a person who can smell places where violence has occurred and track that smell to the person who caused it. The ability to smell the violence varies by the intensity and also the recentness of the violence. Since Shadowspawn live to kill, they always leave a scent trail stronger than any normal human could.
    • Subverted when Rand lines up a group of nobles and picks out the ones who are secretly Darkfriends: he turns out to have been holding the One Power and using its Super-Senses to read signs of guilt in their breathing and heart rate. His internal monologue notes that the trick won't work on better-informed people.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Robbie Reyes, the Ghost Rider, has the ability to determine the guilt of anyone he sees, but exactly how this works is not examined in depth. Robbie says that the Spirit of Vengeance is the one who decides who deserves to die, but Robbie is aware of their crimes as well. He defends himself for killing a cop and a teacher due to them being corrupt and a pedophile, respectively.
  • Angel. Lorne can tell someone's nature by listening to them sing.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor sometimes describes a "prickling sensation" at the back of their neck whenever he sensed evil, especially the presence of Daleks.
    • Some of the most overt examples do not involve the Daleks: He senses the War Machines (in the First Doctor story of that name), and the Sixth Doctor is certain the Sontarans are skulking about at the Spanish hacienda even though he hasn't seen them: "I can sense their presence."
    • He is characteristically dismissive of this ability in his companions, however, notably Leela:
      Leela: Can you not feel it?
      The Doctor: No, I can't. "By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes" — no, I can't! And neither can you.
  • Zyumans in Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger can also sense evil. Whenever a Monster of the Week is nearby, their tails stand up, even if they are in their human disguises.
  • Erik Gelden from Jessica Jones (2015) has this power. He gets headaches when being around evil people. The more evil they are, the worse the headache, with the very worst people causing him to bleed from his eyes if they touch him.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Zordon's Command Centre was the ability to detect evil all over the Universe. However, "Green with Evil Part 1" also shows the inversion of this trope: a goodness detector. This is implied when Zordon tells Brainwashed and Crazy Tommy Oliver (the new Green Ranger) that only one who has a Power Coin (an artifact of goodness used by the Power Ranger) may enter the Command Centre undetected.
  • The eponymous hero of Night Man gained the ability to hear evil thoughts after being struck by lightning.
  • Supernatural: In "First Born", the veteran hunter Tara's bad knee playing up alerts her whenever a demon is nearby.
  • The Wheel of Time (2021): Mat's dagger can detect the presence of Myrdraals/the Fade.

    Multimedia Franchises 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Blue Rose, there's an artifact called the Blue Rose Scepter that basically casts Detect Evil on people. Anyone who wants to become a noble in the kingdom of Aldis has to pass the test of the scepter. (It only works once on any individual, however, so this doesn't stop nobles from turning evil after their test...)
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 2nd Edition plays with this with Paladins. Before gaining the "Know Alignment" spell (at a very high level), their Detect Evil power didn't actually register evil alignments, but evil intent. Thus, a priest of Bane wouldn't register if he isn't plotting at the moment, while your good-aligned thief buddy would for considering shoplifting an apple.
      AD&D 2ed. DMG:The ability to detect evil is really only useful to spot characters or creatures with evil intentions or those who are so thoroughly corrupted that they are evil to the core, not the evil aspect of an alignment.
    • 3rd Edition has a Detect Evil spell, as well as variations for Law, Chaos, and Good. This can produce Deliberate Values Dissonance, depending on whether the setting treats Evil as an objective cosmic force, a result of divine consensus, or a descriptor of mortal behaviour. Paladins are distinguished by their signature abilities to Detect and Smite Evil — which can cause problems, since the spells can be blocked or fooled quite easily, always register The Undead as evil, and don't necessarily reveal any actual criminality.
    • 4th Edition puts an end to the "detect then slay" paladin by removing all means of detecting alignment.
    • 5th Edition limits Detection to Celestials, Fiends, Undead, and Holy and Unholy Ground. In other words, pretty much only useful against non-mundane threats.
    • Monster Mythology deconstructs this with the story of elven hero Lafarallinn, whose Black-and-White Insanity got him cursed with an object lesson in tempering Detect Evil with compassion and justice.
    • The Ravenloft setting allows Law and Chaos to be detected, but not Good or Evil, to maximize suspense. The proximity of extremely evil forces such as demons could still be discerned by paladins (and only paladins), but not pinpointed.
    • Subverted to highlight the sheer denial of one darklord, Nidalia's Elena Faithhold. She is convinced that she alone of all mortals in Ravenloft can still use Detect Evil, which she constantly exploits in the "detect and smite" fashion. Unfortunately, the reality is that she's no longer The Paladin, but The Heretic, and her "detect evil" actually senses strong emotions, positive or negative, that are directed at her. Consequently, she is constantly slaughtering or torturing people who actually respect, admire, and honor her, as well as people who hate her (who, guess what, now make up the majority of the population, for obvious reasons).
  • Exalted:
    • "Sol Invictus", also known as Ignis Divine or the Unconquered Sun, is the mightiest god, made by the Primordials to be the supreme defender of Creation. As a part of that function, Ignis Divine has the unique power to declare any category of creature or any specific individual a Creature of Darkness, should he honestly judge that creature to be inherently hostile to Creation. As another unique power, Sol Invictus is the origin and source of Holy magic, which may be used to detect as well as smite Creatures of Darkness. This is also the reason why sunlight destroys ghosts and hinders demonic magic (and why moonlight also hinders demonic summoning, as the Moon Goddess is borrowing the power of the Sun).
    • Though the Unconquered Sun's judgment power is entirely up to his discretion (i.e.: he could label anyone he wants a Creature of Darkness), it's against his nature to do so without a damn good reason. Should he decide, for whatever reason, to act against his nature and abuse this power, he temporarily loses one-quarter of his unconquerable power... specifically, the part that makes him invulnerable to harm and death.
    • However, because he's not actually omniscient or omnipotent, he does tend to leave entire classes of beings — such as the undead — as Creatures of Darkness even when most ghosts are no real threat because constantly keeping track of all the individuals who do or do not merit exemption would consume all his time. Also, the undead count among them some really nasty sorts (including dead Primordials), and really, being undead is unnatural in the first place, and they should all "give up the ghost" and let themselves vanish into the reincarnation cycle already.
    • It's also very possible for potential Creatures of Darkness to not get the label, simply because the Unconquered Sun simply hasn't noticed them yet, or considers them not enough of a threat to worry about.
    • The Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, the Solar Exalted, can learn how to mimic the judgment power of their patron, labeling a target creature as Unholy and thus vulnerable to their Holy powers. Unfortunately, unlike the Sun, they don't suffer any inherent consequence for labeling anyone thus, leaving them free to abuse it horribly.
    • In keeping with Exalted's Gray-and-Grey Morality, there are still other examples. Five Days Darkness is quite a nice guy but, since he's the Unconquered Sun's shadow, he registers as a Creature of Darkness. Similarly, there's a line in the Infernals book about the arbiter of good and evil being pretty much self-appointed.
  • GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, in keeping with its D&D-esque theme, has this spell and its opposite available. Creatures descended from angels or demons will always be detected as totally good and totally evil, respectively; humorous sample consequences are provided.
  • Used rather dramatically in the Magic: The Gathering block Shadows Over Innistrad. The archangel Avacyn detected Emrakul's presence, but as she was outside the plane she didn't know where it was coming from or what caused it, so it drove her into a murderous rampage against humanity, trying to purge sin that wasn't there.
  • Rifts has Sense Evil, which is available as a magic spell or psionic. It only works on supernatural creatures, however, not on regular people.
  • Psykers in Warhammer 40,000 can sense the presence of Warp energies, which almost always means Chaos, which always means evil. However, the presence of Tyranids — due to the Psychic Static caused by their Hive Mind — more often causes Psykers to go insane, often with Your Head A-Splode as a side effect. The same mind-exploding effect is caused by lots of daemons. The detecting evil does seem less impressive in a world where basically everything is evil.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • The werewolves in Old World of Darkness have an ability called Sense Wyrm. Unfortunately, evil really does work like a smell, and even completely innocent people can smell rotten if they've been around too much evil. Conversely, some Vampires (a traditional rival) don't register as evil, and neither do Mages. While some people like to believe that it's an infallible tool for knowing who to kill, it just isn't.
      • Eventually, one of the sourcebooks for Werewolf: The Apocalypse outright declared "It's Not Detect Evil", and informed players that "the taint of evil" could mean that someone just works as a ground-level shlub for Pentex, or maybe even just that the guy drinks beer produced by a Pentex subsidiary, and that killing him is not going to help the greater cause.
      • The developers had also clarified that Sense Wyrm only indicated when something Wyrm-tainted was in the area; it didn't reveal exact locations or targets. Considering how werewolves are prone to berserker rages, that doesn't actually help.
    • A more literal example is with the Marauders (mages driven mad by their awakening) in Mage: The Ascension. While Nephandi are innately able to hide their status from other mages, Marauders appear to have the innate ability to sense them; the one thing that is predictable and consistent among Marauders is that if they encounter a Nephandus, they will immediately attack with intent to kill.
    • In Werewolf: The Forsaken, there isn't any ability to smell evil, but there are the abilities to smell "Malice" (i.e.: hate, anger, jealousy, ill intent) and "supernaturality" (i.e.: monsters, other werewolves, wizards).
    • Promethean: The Created has a similar thing with the Sense Flux Transmutation. Although Flux isn't necessarily evil, it is a cosmic force associated with the Pandorans that love to feast on the innards of Prometheans, so having something that can detect it is useful.


  • The Kanohi Rode, Mask of Truth, can work this way in BIONICLE, allowing the wearer to be able to tell the true motives of other characters and see through illusions.

    Video Games 
  • In BioShock, security systems can distinguish between you and the enemy by what is apparently an instantaneous DNA scan... or perhaps because your face isn't on file as a Rapture resident, and Andrew Ryan has some very definite ideas on what is supposed to be done to trespassers in Rapture. The same game also has the DNA-scanning camera.
  • Happens from time to time in Devil May Cry. Dante's sword(s) will crackle with energy or otherwise alert him to the presence of demons.
  • Dragon Age: Origins:
    • A Templar in the Alienage comments that he can sense the presence of demons at work in the nearby orphanage. If the Warden is a Warrior with the Templar specialization, they get a unique dialogue option that they can sense it too.
    • The Grey Wardens can sense nearby darkspawn, though as a downside, the darkspawn can also sense them.
    • Mabari warhounds can detect hidden abominations, and it's stated that part of the reason they became popular in Ferelden was their ability to detect werewolves. Demonstrated when Dog starts barking and growling at Kitty and Sophia Dryden before they were shown to be possessed by demons.
  • Dragon Quest V: Madchen can sense evil presences and direct the party towards them. Gets it from her grandmother.
  • Tellah from Final Fantasy IV is able to tell when they're near an archfiend by noting that dark magic is getting stronger as they approach. In the same way, Palom and Porom can tell that one man is a monster in disguise.
  • Twice in Kingdom Hearts, it has been demonstrated that Keybearers can sense if somebody is irredeemably evil, often through Hate at First Sight. The expectation is that the detected evil is to be killed right away to protect the world from harm. The Tremaines and Prince Hans are the detected evil, and both cases nearly result in the destruction of the universe.
  • Kim Kaphwan from The King of Fighters seems to instinctively know whether or not someone is evil. His special intro against evil characters is typically used to see who is or who isn't evil. Of course, as far as Kim is concerned, morally ambiguous and/or Punch-Clock Villain are the same as evil, so make of that what you will. His younger son inherits this power in Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
  • Parodied, perhaps, in Mother 3. On Tanetane Island, Boney can detect that the apparitions are enemies, but not because of any special power; he just didn't eat the mushrooms, so he isn't stoned off his gourd like the rest of the party and actually sees the monsters.
  • This is one of the basic powers that everyone can learn in Nexus Clash. Since it's mainly used by those who only want to fight Evil enemies and Evil players don't need to care who they kill, simply learning the skill is considered a clue that a character seeks to side with Good.
  • Octopath Traveler II: Ochette the Hunter is a Beastling, a human-beast hybrid. They are a kind people who very pure at heart, but also fierce fighters if provoked. It isn't stated if all Beastlings have this power, but Ochette is able to sense on at least two occasions when two people who are connected to a dark force are near her. She is smelling the connection these two have to Vide, an ancient god of chaos and destruction.
  • Persona:
    • Aigis from Persona 3 was built as an Anti-Shadow weapon, and as such has the capacity to detect them, which is why it's so difficult for her to be in Ryoji's presence... until she realizes why she feels uncomfortable around him. Fuuka and Mitsuru, through some limited form of telepathy, can also do this, but only with the aid of their Personas. They thus relay the relevant information to their teammates while exploring the Dark Hour or informing them of particularly nasty Shadows up ahead.
      "Be careful! I sense Death!"
    • In Persona 5, no one is evil at first, they just become that way by nurturing distortionsnote  in their heart, which manifest as Palaces in the metaverse. A person without distortions won't have a Palace, and therefore, nothing the Phantom Thieves can exploit to defeat them. This is why Makoto is so upset when she realizes that her sister has a Palace. It's more or less a sign from the universe that Sae is not one of the good guys. Or one of the neutral guys.
    • However, distortions can be caused by things other than evil. Futaba had a Palace built around her suicidal tendencies: in that case, the "distortion" was of her natural will to live.
  • Paladins in Quest for Glory have this as a form of Spider-Sense when obviously evil characters or creatures are nearby, they get informed via a narration box. Mind you, it seems to disregard evil humans.
  • Your suit in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey can detect particularly powerful demons. Granted, demons aren't inherently evil in this game, but when it starts beeping and marks them on your map, you can write off getting them on your side.
  • Silent Hill's off-station radio, whose rising and falling static indicates nearby monsters.
  • Lucario does this in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, sensing the aura of people.
  • From Touhou Project, we have Shiki Eiki, Yamaxanadu, who has the ability to magically detect whether a thing or person is good or evil. Since she's a Yama, in charge of final judgement of a soul's morality in life, it's an extremely useful ability for her to have.
  • Warcraft:
    • Demon Hunters in the universe can develop an ability called Shadow Sight, which allows them to see demons and magic-users glowing brightly. They have to burn their eyes out for this, though.
    • In World of Warcraft, several classes can track one or more type of creatures, causing them to be shown on the minimap. The paladin ability to track undead definitely qualifies, same as the Warlock's ability to track demons. Both types generally qualify for being evil, after all. Referencing the above example, there is a headpiece that allows any class to track demons, which drops from Illidan, the most famous demon hunter. Said headpiece is a blindfold, an item every demon hunter wears... because, you know, they're blind.
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, the Lucky Seven resonates in the presence of the Moebius.

    Visual Novels 
  • When Caren from Fate/hollow ataraxia is near people possessed by demons, her body will experience the same pain as the person possessed. She also experiences physical pain whenever people near her do evil things.
  • The Nanaya Clan in Tsukihime is instinctively attuned to detect demons and demon hybrids. However, they do not react to hybrids who have not inverted and are therefore still sane. Inverted individuals are incredibly dangerous and destructive. Upon seeing such people, the Nanayas will kill them. Technically, it's 'inhumanity' they're detecting, but it mostly comes to the same thing.

  • Goblins:
    • Subverted with Kore, a Paladin that most definitively doesn't bother to detect evil; he just kills for even the slightest potential for even the weakest of eventual evil, and yet the Gods won't strip him of paladinhood. Why not is a central mystery of the strip. There is a justification, but with it lies another twist: Kore's axe can detect paladins to spare them, but will not spare any other super-lawful super-goody character types!
    • For a long time, the paladin in question is never shown using any Paladin abilities (just magic items), leading some to theorize that he had lost his powers but no one had noticed. The question of his abilities has been laid to rest. He has cast Paladin-only spells and proven immune to blows from a weapon that does not harm Paladins.
    • Subverted: a goblin smells cheese, and asks his paladin friend to detect evil on it because of the smell!
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • A Running Gag involves an evil halfling, a paladin, Detect Evil, and a lead sheet.
      Miko Miyazaki: Detect Evil!
      Belkar: Too slow, sister.
    • The limitations of the Detect and Smite method are also made clear when Roy detects as evil. He's holding Xykon's crown, which has been around such an evil entity so long that anyone possessing it shows up as evil. Luckily for Roy, Smite Evil is a little more discerning than Detect.
    • It was also clear, though not directly stated, that the nobility of Azure City had access to means of thwarting Detect Evil. Otherwise, Miko would've actually made herself useful by slaughtering the lot of them years ago. According to Kubota, there is a prestige class that allows aristocrats to fool a magic lie detector, so the same can probably hide alignment as well.
    • Belkar apparently taught this basic trick to the resistance fighters left behind in Azure City (the Good-aligned resistance uses lead sheets to block the Evil-aligned Goblin occupiers from finding them using "Detect Good"). Or at least they copied him, as is shown when he wonders where his lead sheet got to.
  • In Rusty and Co., Madeline can detect evil by smell.

    Web Originals 

    Western Animation 
  • Danny Phantom has a "ghost sense" — he gasps whenever a ghost is nearby. To be more specific, he experiences a chill whenever he senses a ghost, and his ghost-sense is somehow linked to the cold abilities he develops late into the series despite having this from the start.
  • El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera: Gatherings of heroes have Metal Detector Checkpoints that sense evil in whoever passes through them, which handily exposes any villain that tries to infiltrate the event. Unfortunately, when Manny passes through, the evil detector can't make sense of his half-good, half-evil nature, and promptly explodes.
  • In Filmation's Ghostbusters, Jake's nose twitches whenever (evil) ghosts are present.
  • Uncle and Tohru of Jackie Chan Adventures get the "willies" when evil is present. Sure enough, evil forces attack as soon as this is stated. Admittedly, they do have magic powers.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: The Trees of Whispering Woods not only detect evil, they serve as a magical barrier that won't allow anyone evil to enter the forest.
  • The supercomputer Teletraan 1 in The Transformers could detect the evil presence of the Decepticons, though it only alerted the Autobots when the Decepticons had already set their plot-of-the-week into motion.
  • Wakfu:
    • The benevolent dragons have this ability, which turns out badly since one of the Five-Man Band is carting around Sealed Evil in a Can.
    • Interestingly enough, this sense tells the dragon in question that the villain is not truly evil at heart.

  • Parodies of the blue-glowing elven swords in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings:
    • Parodied in Irregular Webcomic!, where Lambert's sword, Sting, sings "Don't Stand So Close to Me" in the presence of orcs.
    • And also by the swords of the Nac Mac Feegle on the Discworld, whose swords glow blue if lawyers are nearby.
    • The enchanted sword in Zork, which glows when enemies are near, is presumably a reference to this.note 
    • One short adventure from Dungeon magazine points out the flaw in this variant when an innocent elf charged with a crime has no choice but to steal a magic sword that glows in the presence of liars. That's because he knows that it also glows in the presence of elves, and the human owners who meant to use it to determine the truth at his trial had forgotten about that part.


Video Example(s):


The Toxic Avenger (1984)

The Toxic Avenger possesses the innate sense to detect (and the murderous intent to kill) evil people.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DetectEvil

Media sources: