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Devil in Disguise

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"You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wise
You're the devil in disguise
Oh, yes you are the devil in disguise."
Elvis Presley, "(You're the) Devil in Disguise"

The Devil is an evil, sneaky fellow who sometimes likes to go incognito among the living to manipulate people and stir up some sin, or maybe just tempt some mortals and secure a few more souls for himself. Alternatively, maybe he has simply sent an agent of some sort to do his dirty work for him. Either way, there's a demon hiding among the living and this time, he may well have a less obvious name than Louis Cypher.

Super-Trope to Louis Cypher, which is a trope where he leaves rather obvious hints as to his identity. For the situation described in the Elvis song, see Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon. Contrast God Was My Copilot.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The titular Black Butler is a demon who has taken on human form.
  • Chainsaw Man: The Big Bad of Part 1 is the Control Devil AKA Makima, who had been there since the beginning as Denji's love interest and Evil Mentor. Unlike many other examples, her human form isn't a disguise — she simply looks nearly identical to a young human woman and can pretend to be contracted to a Devil rather than being one herself.
  • Ronnie Sukiart from Baccano! is the demon who gave the alchemists immortality taken human form.
  • M-Cell in Cells at Work! is a heroic version; he appears as a friendly bartender who provides refuge for invading bacteria to relax and not worry about being hunted by immune cells... up until he leads them into a room packed to the brim with immune cells, revealing his bar is a Peyer Patch that is harmless to normal cells but an Inescapable Ambush for pathogens.
  • Xellos from Slayers. Among his Always Chaotic Evil kind, he's the most powerful one (not counting godlike Dark Lords), but prefers to use manipulation rather than violence. Two of the most powerful Dark Lords actually died from the consequences of one of them employing Xellos against the other — the second-strongest managed to injure him in one-on-one battle, but he still got away. He's also honorable in his own way and can be a good company when he wants. In his world, few humans have thorough knowledge of demonology, so he walks among them under his own name and title. Not to mention that his self-proclaimed title is "Mysterious Priest". If people assume "Priest" always means "user of White Magic", it's their fault.

  • Sistine Chapel: In order to get The Temptations of Christ right, Satan needs a disguise to cover his wild, hideous body. Naturally, he goes for the most innocent thing he can find: a black robe that covers his whole body. Well, the bat wings, but Christ is too polite to make a point of it.

    Comic Books 
  • A common situation in Jack Chick's Chick Tracts (for example, Somebody Goofed). A person is considering accepting Jesus, but a friend convinces him not to — "you'll lose all your friends" or "you have plenty of time for that later". The person dies unsaved, goes to hell, and sees who his "friend" was all along.
  • In the Superman comics in the early 90s, it was revealed that publisher Colin Thornton, who had hired Clark Kent away from The Daily Planet to serve as an editor for Newstime, was a mortal disguise used by the demon Lord Satanus.
  • Welcome to Tranquility has Funky Freddy Beasel, a seemingly ageless radio DJ who turns out to be a satanic demon known as The Host.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Angel Heart: The Devil poses as a human businessman named Louis Cypher to lead a man to his doom who previously made a Deal with the Devil before trying to screw him over. At the end, when the man discovers the truth but is still very much in denial, Mephistopheles suggests he could just turn into a Big Red Devil if that's what it takes to convince him. He doesn't, instead settling for some spooky yellow eyes for a few seconds.
  • The ending of The Butchers implies that the bus driver is actually Satan. (Although it does leave unanswered the question of why he was driving the bus in the first place.)
  • John Milton in The Devil's Advocate. He's actually fully capable of passing for human, only dropping hints about his true nature because he wants the protagonist (who is really his son) to find out that his boss is the Devil himself.
  • This trope was invoked in The Last Temptation of Christ, during Jesus's final temptation while on the cross. A young girl introduces herself as an angel, says that Jesus has done enough, and offers him an escape from the cross. This girl accompanies him as a friend through a happy life with a wife and children. But this "friend" is actually Lucifer, and these years after escaping the cross were All Just a Dream to tempt Jesus into abandoning his role as Sacrificial Lion. As soon as Jesus rebukes this temptation, the illusion ceases and he instantly returns dying on the cross, accepting it as his destiny.
  • Played with the 1989 comedy Limit Up. A down-on-her-luck broker meets a woman named Nike who appears nice with advice that leads to successful investments. But then Nike reveals her devil-like abilities and how she wants Casey to tank the economy to get her own way. Refusing, Casey instead pulls off a great deal that not only gets her some money but paves the way toward a better economy for struggling nations. The final scene has Nike meeting her boss (Ray Charles) reveal she's not a demon at all.
    Nike: See, angels don't get respect anymore. I tell someone I'm their guardian angel, no one listens to me. I say I work for Mr. Doom-And-Gloom, worked, didn't it?
  • Implied in O Brother, Where Art Thou? when the main three pick up a hitchhiker named Tommy Johnson (who may or may not be the real-life blues musician by that name) who claims to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the guitar. He describes him as being a white man, having mirrors for eyes and a vicious dog. For some people, it takes a second viewing to discover that those descriptions perfectly fit Sheriff Cooley, the antagonist hunting the three down.

    Folklore & Oral Tradition 
  • In an old fairy tale from Piedmont (a region of northwestern Italy) there's a tale similar to the one of Bluebeard, where the Big Bad is the devil disguised as a human who takes human girls to his castle (which hides the entrance to Hell in a secret room) to work for him. Furthermore, his nose is made of silver.
  • One popular story that has had variants told for centuries is about a dark and mysterious stranger showing up for a dance and impressing both his partners and the onlookers with his dancing skills... until someone looks at his feet and notices he has cloven hooves.
  • "The Daemon Lover", an old folk song with numerous variants (also called "James Harris", "A Warning for Married Women", "The Distressed Ship Carpenter", "The Carpenter's Wife", "The Banks of Italy", or "The House-Carpenter"), involves a woman being plied by the courtship of a mysterious stranger or old friend, who offers her various assurances of wealth and comfort if she'll run away with him. In the end, she gives in and flees with him, realizing only when it's too late that he's in fact the devil. In some versions, she catches on after committing when she realizes that he has cloven hooves instead of feet.

  • In Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, Blodwen Rowlands turns out to be The White Rider, one of the most powerful Lords of the Dark (the other being The Black Rider).
  • Goblins in the Castle: Helagon, the evil wizard and villain of Goblins on the Prowl, turns out to be one of the demons from the Pit of Thogmoth who's been trying to get back into it this whole time, but disguised himself as a human. He only reveals his true form at the last minute, which is part of what inspires Fauna to banish him back there.
  • Crowley from Good Omens. He is Hell's field-agent on Earth, who has taken the guise of a bon viveur by the name of Anthony J. Crowley.
  • Played in a wonderful subversion in Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice when the protagonist finds out that the only friend he and his wife made through their ordeal was actually the devil himself. Not only had he shown him genuine mercy and friendship, he had turned down the bet with God, thinking it sick and cruel.
  • In the backstory of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron presented himself to the Elves of Eregion as 'Annatar', the Lord of Gifts, and with their help made the Rings.
  • The Master and Margarita: Woland is actually Satan disguised as a professor and magician while visiting Moscow.
  • In My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister, it's revealed that Lilith, the queen of succubi, is none other than the main character Satori's stepmother. Though she's not, strictly speaking, a villain.
  • In Raise Some Hell, this trope is played straight, in the case of Dean Montgomery.
  • The wizard Pralaya in The Wizard's Dilemma (Diane Duane's Young Wizards series) is "overshadowed" by the Lone Power (meaning, possessed by the Devil, basically).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Ashes to Ashes (2008), DCI Jim Keats — who appeared to be a helping hand to Alex — is revealed to be the Devil in the Grand Finale. Gene Hunt possibly knew this right from the first episode of Season 3.
  • Hannibal: Dr. Hannibal Lecter — or at least, that's the subtext of the series. During his audition for the role of Lecter, Mads Mikkelsen pitched his take on the character as a literal manifestation of Lucifer, and showrunner Bryan Fuller ran with it.
    He talked about the character not so much as 'Hannibal Lecter the cannibal psychiatrist', but as Satan — this fallen angel who's enamored with mankind and had an affinity for who we are as people, but was definitely not among us — he was other. I thought that was a really cool, interesting approach, because I love science fiction and horror and — not that we'd ever do anything deliberately to suggest this - but having it sub-textually play as him being Lucifer felt like a really interesting kink to the series. It was slightly different than anything that's been done before and it also gives it a slightly more epic quality if you watch the show through the prism of, 'This is Satan at work, tempting someone with the apple of their psyche'.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: In the final episode of the first season, it is revealed that Loveable Rogue Halbrand is not a lost king as Galadriel had assumed, but Sauron in human form.
  • In one episode of Quantum Leap, Sam discovers that the "Al" who has been advising him is a fake, and is actually the Devil. Or Was It a Dream??
  • In The Twilight Zone, the Devil and his underlings usually appear in the guise of ordinary people.
    • In "The Howling Man", he appears to be some poor guy who's been imprisoned by an apparently crazy monk, but when someone takes pity and releases him his horns and tail reappear.
    • In "Escape Claus", the Devil appears as a man named Cadwallader, although he all but admits that it's a false name "It has a nice feeling on the tongue.", and while he never admits to being the Devil, he makes very little attempt to hide the fact apart from his human form.
    • Mister Pip from "A Nice Place to Visit" is Satan, or at least one of his demons, disguised as a guardian angel... who looks human.
    • Professor Daemon from "The Chaser" is implied to be this trope.
    • Mister Smith in "Printer's Devil".
    • Miss Devlin in "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", although she drops the act once the protagonist figures out what she is.
  • Supernatural: Lucifer, like all angels, needs a human vessel to walk the earth. Sometimes, he doesn't bother to hide his identity while inside a vessel, but there are times when he does. He occupies the body of a fading rock star, the President of the United States and even Castiel for a time.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "Dealer's Choice", a group of friends playing poker suspect that their new guest Nick is the Devil.
  • Ultraman Nexus: Dark Zagi disguises himself as one of the human characters until his body is fully restored in the last episode.

  • Old Harry's Game: Satan disguises himself whenever he visits Earth (except when he's going to scare somebody).

  • The Bible: 2nd Corinthians says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so it's no surprise for his ministers to disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.


  • Applegate from Damn Yankees. Referencing, of course, that particular apple, the first temptation of man; Lola is one of his newer ones.
    Joe: Who are you?
    Applegate: I am quite a famous character, Mr. Boyd. I have historical significance, too. In fact, I'm responsible for most of the history you can name.
Later, a passing stranger asks him, "Are you anybody?" He replies, "Not a soul."

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Demon: The Descent, every demon is in disguise: a demon without a Cover has a lifespan comparable to that of a vampire going for a jog in the park at noon on a sunny day. Many painstakingly build effective disguises by squirrelling away bits of other people's lives or even stepping fully formed into the life of someone who's made a soul pact. Many of the more powerful abilities of the Unchained fray their Cover a bit, and "going loud" — sacrificing their Cover for a massive, if temporary, power boost — is viewed as a Dangerous Forbidden Technique and considered "the nuclear option", because few demons who pull it live long enough to do so twice.

    Video Games 
  • Julie from Confess My Love turns out to be a demon who is waiting to take Willie's soul to hell.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist: The devil Coma disguises herself as a human doctor.
  • In Hellgate: London, the story's narrator / hero's sidekick Murmur turns out to be the Duke of Hell with the same name. To be fair, the name's a lot more subtle than Lou Cypher, and isn't likely to mean anything to players without a background in demonology mythology and/or who aren't Shin Megami Tensei fans.
  • In Phantasy Star IV, you are accompanied for the span of one dungeon by an adventurer named Seth. While his name doesn't really say anything of what he really is, using the Talk command from the menu gives subtle hints, and his abilities (most, if not all of which were used in previous fights by Dark Force) are almost a dead give away if you are paying attention. "Seth" is also the name of the ancient Egyptian god of darkness, as well as the father of all mankind in Judeo-Christian mythology.
  • In Whacked!, the host and producer of the titular Blood Sport game show is Satan. He doesn't look out of place with all of the other toon characters until he reveals himself when his show gets canceled. He invented the game show to attract malevolent souls to claim.
  • In The World Ends with You, The Hidden Secret Reports reveal that Sanae Hanekoma is a fallen angel that gave the taboo powers to Sho Minamimoto.
  • The mysterious stranger in Red Dead Redemption never actually identifies himself (he claims, in a possibly sarcastic tone, to have forgotten his name), but he appears in locations that such a Sharp-Dressed Man has no business in being, knows a huge amount about John's past (including the name of one of the random civilians John's gang killed in their outlaw days), calls himself "an accountant, in a way", and when John gets fed up and demands answers or "[he] will not be responsible for [his] actions" he calmly tells him "Oh, but you will be responsible". John then shouts "Damn you!", the man replies "Yes, many have", doesn't seem to notice the three bullets John shoots at him, and then just vanishes. This is after a conversation where he muses over what a beautiful spot they're at, which is right where John later gets buried. It's not clear who exactly he is; common interpretations are that the man is God, St Peter, Death, or, of course, the Devil.

    Web Comics 
  • In Scary Go Round, it is revealed that Ryan's friend Ralph is actually the devil rather than the figure that the comic had presented as such.

    Web Original 
  • The Man from Tales of MU looks like a normal human but is anything but.
  • The "Gabriel"-Alternate from the Mandela Catalogue is heavily implied to be Satan himself, who simply usurped the role of the angel and tricked people into thinking he is their "one true savior".

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover", Marge's mother goes out dancing with Mr. Burns:
      Mrs. Bouvier: I swear, Monty, you're the Devil himself.
      Mr. Burns: WHA—?!! WHO TOLD Y—! Oh, err, heh heh...
    • Not to mention the Halloween episode where it's revealed the Devil is Ned Flanders. "Always who you least suspect", indeed.
      Devil Flanders: Hey, Bart.
      Bart: [nonchalant] Hey.