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Hidden in Plain Sight

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"The best place to hide something is out in the open. Nobody ever thinks to look there."

Something hidden is looked for in lots of secret places, and in the end turns out to have been plainly visible all the time, usually disguised as an ordinary object.

Can overlap with Failed a Spot Check, It Was with You All Along, Public Secret Message, Shaggy Search Technique, or Nobody Here but Us Statues.

Sub Tropes include Needle in a Stack of Needles, Wax Museum Morgue, Lost in a Crowd.

There was and still is a rather chilling Real Life version in dictatorships: an object of the size of a military base or town which is not shown at all on a map. Something even more secret, or closed, or shameful than good old Area 51, because not just what happens inside is secret, but the mere existence of the place is denied, or ridiculed, or handwaved as some silly legend. In dictatorial political systems, it's far easier to hide something that way, because people are so accustomed to never asking questions and never wandering away from their path they would ignore the Elephant in the Living Room.


Compare Weirdness Censor (bizarre things are not noticed because they are so outlandish that our minds block them out in the interest of sanity), Contrived Proximity, Refuge in Audacity, Devil in Plain Sight (when a conspicuous villain does this), Infraction Distraction (where evidence is concealed by more minor evidence), and Stolen By Staying Still. For robots in disguise, see Transforming Mecha. For special gadgets disguised as mundane ones, see Shoe Phone. If a person hides this way, that person might be taking advantage of being Beneath Suspicion. For poor hiding skills, compare Neon Sign Hideout. May or may not be an Unsafe Haven. Alternatively, a person may decide that the safest place to hide from a crime syndicate is somewhere with plenty of witnesses. Also see Secret Identity.

Not to be confused with Right Under Their Noses, when people sneak past someone by doing this.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • During a war game, how does Nagisa Shiota of Assassination Classroom hide in a battlefield full of his fellow assassins? He camouflages himself to match the referee's outfit, and stands back-to-back with him in plain sight of the entire battlefield.
  • In My Monster Secret, the student council president Karen (who is also an angel) lost her Holy Halo 20 years ago and still hasn't found it. It turns out to be hidden as the lightbulb of the student council room all this time. Karen herself even noted "The light reminds me of my own halo", but never made the connection.
  • After the Pravda match in Girls und Panzer, the Oarai teams start searching for more tanks to boost their numbers in preparation for the Final Battle. Some of the girls search around in a parking lot, and manage to walk right past a Type 3 Chi-Nu parked under an awning. Fortunately for them, another student spotted it on her way to go sign up for the club.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash:
    • Inertia in DC Comics' All Flash #01. Helplessly immobilized and placed on display in a wax museum of superheroes.
    • During Barry Allen's run as the Flash in the Silver Age, Professor Zoom deliberately invoked this trope in the "Death of Iris Allen" storyline where he murdered Iris because she wouldn't leave Barry for him. He threatened to kill her at a certain time if she didn't change her mind, wiped her memory of that conversation so she couldn't warn Barry, then went as himself to a superhero-themed costume party the next night so he could get close enough to Iris to carry out his threat. (She got better, much later.) In DC Comic's published edition of Barry Allen's biopic, Iris (the in-universe author) comments on it long after the fact.
    Iris: (Zoom) couldn't get to me... unless he managed to hide himself in plain sight.
  • From the Bullseye's greatest hits miniseries. Bullseye tells the FBI agents interrogating him that he has hidden the plutonium he stole in a local park under a big X. They assume he's being uncooperative. Once he kills them and escapes, Bullseye goes to meet his contacts:
    Contact: So, where did you hide it?
    Bullseye: In a park about two miles from here, you can't miss it. I even painted a big X on the ground.
  • In Paperinik New Adventures, multi-millionaire supergenius Everett Ducklair needed a place to put his gigantic, ridiculously advanced star cruiser. In the end, he made the ship transform into a slightly less sci-fi-ish shape and put it on the top of his tallest sky-scraper, overlooking all of Duckburg. Everybody thought the roof was just overly decorative.
  • In Luke Cage Noir, Cage describes being black in early 1930s New York as akin to this. "We're everywhere... yet no one ever sees us. It's like bein' invisible."
  • Inside Galactus's ship, one can find sitting on a plainly visible shelf the Ultimate Nullifier, the universe's most dangerous obliterator weapon. Thanos lampshades this.
  • One Star Wars comic book had a story about Han Solo and Chewbacca constantly being searched by a certain Imperial captain who was convinced that Solo was a smuggler instead of making honest cargo deliveries like he claimed. However, no matter how intently they searched the ship, they never uncovered any evidence of smuggling. In the end, the Imperial realizes that Han was only travelling one way (away from the planet) on his deliveries. Since Han was constantly leaving the planet on ships made to look identical, he was actually smuggling the ships themselves to the Rebellion.
    • This is based on a joke about bicycle smuggling.
    • Bicycles, wheelbarrows, cars, briefcases, donkeys...
  • In the Pre-Crisis comics, the key to Superman's house is a gigantic golden arrow sitting in front of the Fortress of Solitude meant to be mistaken as an old air navigation marker which used to be a thing before modern telecommunications made them unnecessary. Then again, Superman and Supergirl are some of the few people on Earth capable of even lifting it so that helps.
  • Superman himself is an example of this in the Post-Crisis continuity; he doesn't wear a mask and everyone knows that he's an alien named Kal-El who lives in his Fortress of Solitude. Nobody bothers trying to figure out his Secret Identity because it never occurs to them that he might have one.
  • The Sandman: One of John Constantine's ancestors is tasked by Dream with retrieving the still-living head of Orpheus from revolutionary France. She manages to hide it before being caught- in a huge pile of guillotined heads. When she's made to recover the head at gunpoint, she gets out of it by having Orpheus sing a song so enthralling the other heads join in and the guards are completely stunned (she covered her ears and so was less affected).
  • The acclaimed Usagi Yojimbo arc "Grasscutter" has Usagi discovering the fabled sword, whose owner can lay claim to the throne of Japan. Knowing that the possession of the sword could instigate a civil war, Usagi has to keep it safe. In "Grasscutter II," Usagi hits upon the genius notion of traveling to a town where an exact replica of the sword is kept in a temple for visitors to see. By switching the real Grasscutter with the fake, Usagi will ensure the blade is forever safe by being totally in the public eye.
  • Young Justice: SloBo's final fate is being shot into the future by Darkseid and immobilized in a hall of statues of historical heroes.
  • Robin Series: During Batman: No Man's Land Tim's father makes a media circus of trying to get his son back after learning that he's made his way back to Gotham. While Tim's face is plastered everywhere even inside the condemned city Robin is very openly working in Gotham.
  • In Iron Man, The Greys are secretly running a Vegas casino. Said casino is shaped like a flying saucer and called Area 52. Nobody would believe it contained actual aliens.

    Comic Strips 
  • This nearly happened to Dick Tracy, when he was paralyzed, lightly covered in wax and left to starve to death on display in the middle of his own wax museum exhibit.
  • One Running Gag in Calvin and Hobbes was Calvin's absolute hatred of taking baths. He would frequently hide in increasingly bizarre places, such as up the chimney, inside a vacuum cleaner bag, or on the roof just outside the window of his bedroom, to avoid them. However, in one instance, he decided to hide in a spot he knew his mother would never think to look for him—inside the (empty) bathtub itself.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Man with No Name, the Serenity crew takes on the Doctor as a passenger. They then proceed to forget that a valuable giant blue box from the Earth That Was is sitting around in storage. Also counts is the Doctor himself, as they are supposed to be looking for an alien, but they keep getting sidetracked.
  • The Dangerverse has a textbook example of this: Rather than fleeing to America or the Continent, the Pack—which includes two of the most famous children in the British wizarding world and the only man to ever escape from Azkaban—sets up shop in London. When the fic was discussed on Potter Fic Weekly, "The Purloined Letter" was even brought up.
  • In Dirty Sympathy, Daryan never figures out that Apollo is the one that Klavier was cheating on him for. Apollo is Klavier's opponent in court, was invited to their concert and was one who accused him of killing LeTouse.
  • In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, C.C. decides to enroll as a student at Ashford Academy partly for this reason. After all, who would expect a fugitive to hide out at a school for children of the upper classes?
  • In Black Sky, George Weasley disappears from Hogwarts after his twin's petrification, and the staff and students wonder where did he go. Immediately following his vanishing, a new student came from nowhere, but everyone knows that George Weasley is a flamboyant prankster and a staunch Gryffindor and as much would never assume the persona of Jerry Prewett, the quiet Slytherin well-accepted by the Snake Pit. Everyone's wrong.
    • When Rose Potter vanishes into thin air right after Voldemort's demise, Dumbledore immediately concludes her godfather Sirius hid her overseas in one of the many Potter estates and spends ten years searching for her. He realizes how wrong he was when Dorea Black - the Black Heiress, raised in Britain all along by Sirius' family - comes to Hogwarts.
  • In The Unchained, when the Strawhats Pirates decide to disguise themselves on Sabaody Archipelago, they opt for a traveling circus, with Luffy pretending he's impersonating Straw-Hat himself, and Keimi putting a false zipper on her fin to avoid slavers and bounty hunters.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Izuku is a Kryptonian boy masquerading as a Japanese human in a society filled with supernatural powers. Because of this, he's able to blend in quite easily and his powers make his peers envious. The trope is even lampshaded by his adoptive mother, Inko, who says that people will be looking for a big, green monster man instead of a baby boy while searching for the alien whose spaceship crashed into Mt. Fuji.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Kubo and the Two Strings, Kubo finds a legendary sword deep in a cavern and its corresponding legendary armor at the bottom of a lake. Kubo spends the longest time searching for the helmet to complete the set and ultimately finds it as the bell rung every morning in the village near where he lives. Though this trope applying did slow Kubo down a lot, he would have found it sooner had the Moon King not appeared in his dreams to deliberately mislead him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • "The Big W" under which the money was hidden in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
  • The last of the engravings in The Ninth Gate is hidden in what, in hindsight, is an extremely obvious spot. "If this is a forgery or a copy with missing pages restored, it's the work of a master," says the master bookbinder.
  • Men in Black trilogy:
    • Men in Black:
      • The Galaxy was "disguised" as the charm on the cat's collar. With the additional benefit that the uninformed assume that a galaxy would by definition be enormous, and thus don't think to look for something the size of a marble. The point is driven home with a vengeance at the end of the movie, when a pullback reveals that our galaxy is trapped inside a marble played with by a gigantic alien.
      • There's also a more mundane (but still weird) example earlier when J and K go to see an alien informant at a newspaper stand, which is run by a creepy-looking, pale-skinned man. J remarks that the man's disguise is absolutely pathetic—but then the pug sitting next him starts talking.
      • It turns out that many aliens live among humans and go about their daily lives; they either wear humanoid disguises or look human enough to pass. K also confirms that the stories found in cheap supermarket tabloids are often the MIB's primary source for information on invasions—no one bothers to take them seriously because they seem obviously fake.
      • The spaceship that the first alien refugees used to travel to Earth was hidden by being turned into a decoration at the site of the 1939 World's Fair in Queens.
    • Men in Black II:
    • In Men in Black 3, we discover that aliens pretending to be eccentric humans dates back as far as the 70's, as it turns out Andy Warhol was actually an agent watching aliens from "Glamoria" — i.e., supermodels. In the present, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Danny DeVito continue the tradition.
  • The title character form the film The Cat from Outer Space is an alien cat whom, you guessed it. Pretends to be a normal house cat.
  • The "X marks the spot" moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. From the same movie: The Holy Grail is hidden amongst a collection of many other cups. Indy correctly picks it out by looking for the only cup that's not made of gold or studded in gems - after all, the son of a carpenter turned humble teacher would never have had a jeweled golden cup.
  • The aliens in the Alien franchise:
    • In Alien, its semi-mechanical appearance helps it blend into the background of the Nostromo. There's a scene in which the creature is hanging from a chain, completely in the open and highlighted by a beam of light, but its unusual appearance, the way it doesn't move at all, and the fact that it's bunched up make it almost unnoticeable, so it's first victim Brett and a first time viewer won't understand what they're looking at.
    • In Aliens, the Aliens blend in even better with the walls of their own hive. "Maybe they don't show up on infrared" indeed.
  • Marvin Acme's Lost Will And Testament in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It was printed in disappearing-reappearing ink in the paper Roger used to write his love letter to Jessica.
  • The Continuum Transfunctioner in Dude, Where's My Car?, disguised as a Rubik's Cube.
  • Candleshoe: The pirate treasure is disguised as a bronze statue of a treasure chest.
  • In Getting Even with Dad the stolen money is hidden in a duffel bag on a mannequin at a sporting goods store.
  • In Pan's Labyrinth the first scene where the Faun appears, he's standing face towards the wall in the bottom of a cavernous well, but remains unseen to the protagonist and all but the most attentive viewers until he starts to move, due to his skin, which resembles rotting wood.
  • The uncut diamonds that the ex-cons are looking for in Out of Sight turn out to be hidden among the stones at the bottom of a fish tank.
  • Rambo in First Blood manages to hide by lying flat on the ground in a forest, and is almost completely invisible until he jumps up to ambush a cop.
  • In Taken, Brian Mills gets into a fight, and kills everyone in the room. Unfortunately, one of the other men fired a gun, so he knows someone is going to come check it out. So he just lies down among the other bodies, and is able to catch the people coming in to look entirely offguard.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Snape, now the headmaster of Hogwarts, calls all the students into the Great Hall to question them about Harry's location. Harry is standing inside of the crowd.
  • In Ocean's Thirteen, François Toulour (a.k.a. the Night Fox) knows Linus Caldwell and his dad will show up on the roof of the "Bank" and has hidden by standing near an elaborately-painted wall and wearing a jumpsuit that matches the wall design. Somehow, they don't notice that his head is still visible. That was all part of the plan.
  • In Alaska, the search and rescue team has a lot of trouble finding a bright yellow plane (the plane of the protagonists' father) stuck in a snowy mountain range.
  • Used almost comically in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Mulder and Scully have been on the run from the FBI for six years after a bogus murder trial, evading an execution order, and breaking out of a federal prison. So, you would think they would go into hiding. Change their names, their appearance, their Social Security numbers, even leave the country. At the opening of "I Want to Believe", where are they? In West Virginia. Using their real identities and appearances, and not making any attempt to deny them when approached by the FBI. Smart.
  • This is a natural part of Transformers. But by the third film, the general public is aware of their presence so the Autobots are less careful about transforming into their robot modes to fight. Played entirely straight with Carly's car which is actually Soundwave.
    • Played for laughs when Sam is trying to find the film's MacGuffin, with the Autobots pestering him to hurry up. They take Sam's orders to hide a little... differently.
  • Francisco Scaramanga's titular weapon in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun is distinctive when it's put together (not just because it's, well, gold), but when it's disassembled it's basically a golden cigarette case and lighter, a pen and a cufflink. Several times in the film he casually takes these items out and starts fiddling with them, with his intended victim not realising what he's actually doing until it's too late.
    • Also, Scaramanga keeps a cardboard standee of Bond in the final room of his Death Course, which he makes potential assassins run while attempting to kill him. When he makes Bond himself run the course, Bond gets ahead of him by going Off the Rails and beats him to this room. He then hides the standee and poses like it, waiting until Scaramanga is distracted with waiting for him to enter the room the proper way to shoot him.
  • In Charade, the $250,000 turned out to be a set of antique stamps on a letter that had been among Charles Lampert's possessions.
  • In The Thieves, Park hides the yellow diamond inside the yellow fitting in his hotel room.
  • In Gaslight, the precious jewels are hidden on the costume the singer wore to the opera, amidst all the fake jewelry she wore for her performance.
  • In Psycho, Marion Crane hides the stolen money by taking it out of the envelope she carried it up to the Bates Motel in, wrapping it in a newspaper she bought earlier and just putting it down on top of the cabinet.
  • Early in The World's End, the cast go past a new addition to their old neighborhood: a vaguely humanoid statue that's apparently a piece of modern art. It's actually an alien robot.
  • Used ruthlessly in Vabank, where they get Kramer's fingerprints on a piece of metal that disables the bank security system by fastening Natalie's necklace with the metal bit and having her ask the mark to help her get the necklace off.
  • A New Hope:
    • This was the Rebels' plan to destroy the Death Star. The X-Wings would distract the turrets and TIE Fighters while the slower Y-Wings, unnoticed in the confusion of the X-Wing attack, made their way to the Trench to attack the exhaust port. Unfortunately, Darth Vader is wise to see through that plan and goes after the Y-Wings.
    • Stated in later material as the reason that Luke Skywalker is hidden on Tatooine, despite it having been the home of his father, Anakin Skywalker, who is now Darth Vader, in a Galactic Empire of thousands upon thousands of worlds. As it's explained, even if Anakin did think to look, he'd avoid Tatooine because he'd come to hate the dustball that had been his homeworld. Indeed, as it turns out, he doesn't even have a clue until after Luke leaves Tatooine and starts exhibiting his Force powers.
  • In Down Periscope, the crew of the USS Stingray are forced to resort to this during their first encounter with the USS Orlando. Since the Orlando has already detected them, they can't just go into the Silent Running Mode. Instead, Dodge has the sub surface and the periscope raised with lights on it, while the crew is doing the opposite of "running silent" by drunkenly singing "Louie Louie". Since the crew of the Orlando hasn't been told that their war game opponent is a diesel sub, they assume that the diesel-running target they picked up was a fishing boat. The boat's profile in the stormy night (it helps that World War II-era subs looked more like ships that could dive than modern cucumber-shaped subs) and the singing convince them. Knowing that It Only Works Once, they try other tricks later. Another variant they get away with is when they do get caught during silent running and the sonarman walks around the ship doing whale calls.
  • In National Treasure: Book of Secrets, some of the most important clues to finding the legendary lost city of gold sought for centuries are hidden this way. Both U.S. Presidents and the rulers of England hide individual pieces of information inside the "resolute desks"—that is, a pair of enormous desks that are sitting in the middle of their private offices in the White House and Buckingham Palace, respectively. The current U.S. president conceals the titular Book of Secrets (a one-of-a-kind text that is passed from president to president) in a false shelf in the Library of Congress, using what would be the book's call number as the combination (which would be obvious to anyone who noticed the odd gap in the numbers on the books immediately surrounding that spot). But the biggest clue to the lost city, both literally and figuratively, is Mount Rushmore—as in, the gigantic monument in South Dakota that millions of people visit every year.
  • In Jasminum the prophesied saint is the very first monk we get to see - Zdrówko.
  • In Ocean's 8, how do the gang smuggle a $150 million necklace from a huge gala event? By carefully breaking it into pieces and then each member walks right out of the museum wearing a piece as bracelets, earrings, etc.
  • In Bank Shot, the crew hide the stolen bank by painting it pink and parking it in a mobile home park. FBI agents walk past it several times without giving it a second glance.
  • Dead Again in Tombstone: After searching the town for the Horn of Lucifer without success, Madame Du Vere that the Horn has been hidden in plain sight all the time: it is disguised as one of the hands on the non-functioning church clock.

  • In the Acacia trilogy The Song of Elenet, a spellbook containing the most powerful and dangerous spells known to humanity turns out to be an unmarked book in the royal library.
  • In the opening chapter of Never Say Die (the 11th Alex Rider book), a top-secret helicopter is stolen and disguised, by tilting it vertically and covering the fuselage with plywood, as a windmill. Agents searching the area assume the windmill is too small to hide the helicopter inside and so never look there.
  • Ariel Jardell in Ariel invokes this as her rationale for keeping her Secret Diary in an ordinary spiral notebook with her school stuff.
  • Isaac Asimov
    • Black Widowers short stories
      • "The Cross of Lorraine" hinges on discovering where a Cross of Lorraine appears in everyday life without anyone noticing. It turns out it's part of the Exxon company logo.
      • "Quicker Than the Eye" has a spy somehow pass a small object to his contact at a restaurant without being seen by the counterspies carefully watching for just such a transfer. The object is roughly the size and shape of a coin, and no one thinks anything of the spy tipping the doorman as he leaves.
    • Second Foundation ends with the (First) Foundation hunting for the Second Foundation, and... you guessed it, it was right under their noses. (Although not the way that they think.)
    • His science fiction short story "The Talking Stone" has the police searching for the coordinates for an uranium-rich asteroid. In the end, they find them hidden among the serial numbers of the miners' ship's and its components.
  • Belisarius Series:
    • The rescued Indian princess travels with the heroes in the guise of a common whore, while the bad guys scour the entire country for her. At the time they're traveling in a caravan with the bad guys.
    • Belisarius pulls off similar stunts throughout the series:
      • In the first book, his wife hides the meetings of their fellow conspirators by insinuating they're guests at orgies she's supposedly having.
      • Belisarius conceals the fact he's got an entire unit of Kushans (formerly prisoners who change sides) by having them wear different uniforms but otherwise traveling with him.
  • In Fritz Leiber's The Big Time, a piece of equipment, the "Major Maintainer", seemingly vanishes from the extra-temporal Place. The characters know that it couldn't have been removed from the room, since it is the very machine whose presence maintains the Place's continued existence, but it's nowhere to be found even after they ransack the entire room. It turns out that one of the characters had turned it inside-out, using one of the medical machines, and hid the resulting unrecognizable object among a gallery of equally abstract-looking alien art pieces.
  • The narrator of Born Again accidentally opens an anniversary card that acknowledges that her parents had sex before marriage. Knowing she'll get in trouble for seeing it and that her mother regularly searches her room, she hides it on her desk, under a newspaper. She says she saw MacGyver do it.
  • In Bridge of Birds, the main characters are searching for a lost goddess kidnapped by the Duke of Ch'in at one point and Li Kao says that the duke could have asked the Man of the Mountain to transform her into a single petal in a field full of flowers or something else of a similar Needle in a Stack of Needles nature. Of course, it turns out to be much simpler than that: after all, why would the notoriously greedy duke bother to hide a worship-inducing goddess when he can pass her off as his wife and collect all the riches her admirers shower on her?
  • There's a John Dickson Carr story where a killer hides a glass knife by dropping it into a jug of water. This was referenced in a Three Investigators mystery where a glass statue is hidden in a swimming pool. Jupiter Jones figures it out by remembering the Carr story. It's also referenced in Larry Niven's "What Good Is a Glass Dagger?", in which a wizard also points out (fatally) that wizards can use non-magical weapons as well as magical ones.
    • This might not work with water and glass, which have an index of refraction of 1.33 and 1.5 respectively, but it works excellently with glass and corn syrup, which apparently have the same refractive index.
  • Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci: In The Magicians of Caprona, the true words to the hymn Angel of Caprona that will solve everything are just the old words in Latin, carved onto humongous angelic statues in plain view.
  • Agatha Christie loved this trope, and often lampshaded it. Some examples:
    • In The ABC Murders, the mastermind behind the titular crimes is the brother of the "C" victim, with that particular death as his goal all along; he deliberately murdered three other people with matching initials to create the illusion of a nutty serial killer and thus disguise his motives.
    • In "Miss Marple Tells a Story", the culprit behind a murder turns out to be a woman disguised as a chambermaid; Miss Marple herself points out that no one really notices maids, so even eyewitnesses who saw the woman enter the victim's room wouldn't be able to provide an accurate description.
    • In "At the Bells and Motley", one of the Harley Quin stories, a group of clever antique thieves disguise themselves as a married couple and furnish their new home with their spoils; when the husband mysteriously "vanishes", the distraught wife immediately sells the house, including the furniture, to an overseas buyer. No one questions her actions, because they're totally in line with those of a grieving widow.
    • In "The Sign in the Sky", another Harley Quinn story, the murderer insists on winding all the clocks in his mansion himself; on the day of the crime, he secretly places the clocks back an extra ten minutes, then goes about his day, thus creating an alibi for himself at the supposed time of the murder.
    • In "The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim", a Poirot short story, the titular character finds the perfect place to hide: in prison. He robbed his own safe to frame a visiting businessman for the theft and his own murder, disguised himself as a petty thief, and got himself arrested, thinking nobody would look for a missing man in prison.
    • In And Then There Were None, Justice Wargrave disguises himself as his own corpse, then secretly moves about the mansion when no one is watching, figuring that the dead are above suspicion.
    • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the novel that established her as a master of the crime genre. Who is the murderer? The man narrating the novel!
  • The entrance to Underland in C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair is hidden in the ruins of a Giant city, under the remains of a slab engraved "UNDER ME" in lettering so enormous that the protagonists actually traverse it, taking the letters for oddly-dug trenches, without realizing what it is.
  • Dick Francis' Dead on Red features an assassin who lives in France, and takes a contract in England. Since he's a licensed firearms instructor, he simply crosses the channel with his guns as normal luggage, having filled out the requisite forms.
  • Discworld:
    • In Feet of Clay, the patrician is being poisoned by arsenic from his candles. It wasn't worked out for such a long time because they are what allow you to look, not something you look at. As Vetinari himself says in a possibly poison-induced rambling, don't put it in the last place they will look, put it where they will never look at all.
    • Just to show how badass he is Vetinari actually figures it out much earlier, he would cut the candles down, light them for a few minutes, and hide the cut off part. He faked the illness afterward. The villain of the story meets his downfall this way; as he hid the murderer in plain sight: the fish-shaped lamp on the candle maker's crest; the Lampe de Poisson a.k.a poison lamp, along with the family motto "Art Brought Forth The Candle", meaning in Discworld pseudo-latin Ars Enixa Est Candelam. He didn't think that Vimes would be intelligent enough to notice.
      • Sam Vimes later uses the same trick to give himself the advantage in a fight with Dragon, by earlier replacing his candle order with ones that had their wicks soaked in holy water.
    • Referenced in The Fifth Elephant, when Vimes speculates that the missing Scone of Stone could have been on display in the Dwarf Bread Museum all along. Carrot shoots down his theory by pointing out that the museum's replica Scone is marked on its underside to distinguish it as a fake.
    • Vetinari seems to love these. In Night Watch, he hides a book describing the secrets of camouflage by putting it in his library. With the cover "Memoirs of the Great Accountants".
      • Even moreso, when he's using just simple coloration, and other simple techniques like standing perfectly still in a dimly-lit area to give off the appearance of.. well.. disappearing.
      • Vetinari is so good at hiding that his Stealth Instructor insisted he had never attended a single class.
    • In Men at Arms Talking Animal Gaspode claims that Big Fido won't mess with him because he has "the power", though he won't specify what that is. Later in the book, the audience learns that "the power" is speaking Human, which invokes a dog's natural instinct to obey which is the first thing about Gaspode they knew.
    • The whole concept of hiding in plain sight is subverted in the later book Raising Steam, where a footnote on the Battle of Koom Valley notes that a Troll general used Fridge Logic to get around the fact the Dwarfs always knew where to find an army of Trolls was that they'd scout for hidden Trolls in amongst the rocks and boulders. (Rocks hiding as rocks). Therefore he had the whole Troll army stand motionless out in the plain on the valley floor, while the Dwarfs would fruitlessly search for them in the foothills and boulder fields. We are told this worked perfectly until the morning mist lifted. Then both sides claimed each ambushed the other, simultaneously.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden is at one point given Fidelacchius, one of the Swords of the Cross (aka Kusanagi), for safekeeping. He promptly sticks it, cane-like sheath and all, in the popcorn tub he uses as an umbrella stand. It remains there, undisturbed save for his maintenance, for upwards of five years, through home invasions, all sorts of guests, even his brother living in the same room (it's a small apartment) for almost a year. Divine providence is probably to blame.
    • White Night: Dresden suspects a few different characters throughout the book. The REAL killer is in fact one of the Ordo Lebes themselves, the woman always wearing just enough clothing to cover up her being an effeminate White Court vampire who has been infiltrating groups like this for months now, never being suspected as he acted like "one of them". They're mentioned multiple times, and takes a bit of a more active role in the story towards the end, but not until the very end around when Dresden himself figures it out would you have thought them to be the killer.
  • In Earthborn, Shedemei decides to come down from the colony ship and mingle among her descendants, having had an inkling of brewing conflict. She takes a guise as an itinerant school teacher, under her real name. At this point in the series, her name has been practically deified as "The One Who Was Never Buried". Most people who know her simply assume she's an oddball with Shedemei's name, spelled and pronounced in the old way.
  • Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely contains a case where Moose Malloy is looking for his red-haired sweetheart Velma, who either died or skipped town while he was in prison after being framed. Come the finale, it's revealed that Mrs. Grayle (Marlowe's employer for his second, seemingly irrelevant case) is actually a disguised Velma, and was responsible for framing Moose, murdering Lin Marriott, and attacking Marlowe previously; in other words, the book's damsel in distress was actually the villain disguised as the moll.
  • G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown: The Invisible Man is another well-known case: a murder takes place in a house while witnesses posted near the entrance swear nobody walked in. It turns out that nobody had noticed the postman. Many other Chesterton stories use the trope in various ways.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The third novel, Life, the Universe and Everything, discusses SEP ("Somebody Else's Problem") fields, which hide objects by making everybody think they are Somebody Else's Problem and therefore subconciously ignore them). It is stated that this method is much simpler than making something invisible or (at least in the case mentioned) removing it. However, this doesn't work if the hidden object in question happens to be your problem.
  • In Jack McDevitt's Infinity Beach, both major MacGuffins — the unaltered Hunter logs and the alien spaceship — turn out to be hidden in plain sight.
  • Judge Dee: In The Haunted Monastery, a missing girl is hidden as one of the statues in a diorama showing the Taoist Hells. She's immobilized and covered with plaster, but manages to move just enough for a spear to make her bleed.
  • Keys to the Kingdom: Superior Saturday uses and references the trope, as the Simultaneous Nebuchadnezzar is kept on a shelf of similar bottles, which is referred to as the 'purloined letter'.
  • Melisande's plan to escape into La Serinissima in Kushiel's Chosen relied on this trope. Her looks were so striking that anybody looking for her would have an easy time spotting her. She decided to walk out in the open as Prince Benidicte's new D'Angeline wife who wore a veil because of her faith in the goddess Asherat.
  • The short story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl is about a pregnant woman who, in a fit of rage when her husband announces that he's leaving her, kills him by striking him in the head with a frozen leg of lamb. The police never find the murder weapon because she cooks it before they arrive, and thoughtfully offers them dinner before they leave. During that dinner, one of the policemen remarks that "the evidence must be under our very eyes".
  • In Rory Clements's Martyr (set in Elizabethan England), a Catholic priest in London dresses in bright, lavish, fashionable clothes. People trying to catch priests would be looking for people trying to avoid being seen; they "wouldn't suspect what their eyes alit upon so easily."
  • Used in the Mistborn series. In the second book, the main characters trying to establish a stable, non-despotic government learn that it has been infiltrated by a shapeshifter. The Mole finally turns out to be not the butler or The Big Guy or anyone else the viewpoint characters considered, but the shapeshifter on their own team.
  • Mistress of the Art of Death: You'd think that Excalibur would be locked away in a heavily guarded treasure chest. No, instead it's been slid inside a wooden cross and given to a teenage boy to carry.
  • The point of Nelly the Monster Sitter is that monsters do exist among us, but they don't have babysitters to look after their needy children and therefore cannot leave their homes, which convinces Nelly to become one in her local area. She is amazed at how quickly the responses were after she put an advert in the local newspaper. It's also surprising that many of the monsters live in the suburban neighbourhoods of Nelly's local area.
  • Nick Velvet: This is how Sandra 'steals' a roulette wheel out of a busy casino in "The Theft of the White Queen's Menu". Unknown to the casino owners, the wheel was one gimmicked to drop inside the table when a hidden switch is hit (which is why her client wanted it stolen). Sandra waits till no on is looking, and then hits the switch. She later sends her men in dressed as movers to remove the now 'empty' table.
  • The Jack Higgins thriller Night of the Fox (later adapted into a movie) has OSS agent Harry Martineau posing as an SS officer for a mission in the Jersey Islands. When Field Marshall Erwin Rommel comes for a surprise inspection, Harry decides to kill him to aid the Allied war effort. But he's naturally thrown when he suddenly hears Rommel uttering a Jewish phrase while in private. Held at gunpoint, the truth comes out: Rommel is meeting with German generals in a plot against Hitler and to cover himself has lookalike Corporal Eric Berger posing as him. But Berger was killed three years earlier with his family in a bombing raid. The man before Harry is Heini Baum, a Jewish actor who was on the run when he found Berger's body, with call-up papers in the pocket. As crazy as it sounded, Baum sums it up: "what better place for a Jew to hide but in the German army?"
  • In Ollie's Odyssey, Zozo's minions, which are made out of various pieces of scrap, collapse to the ground whenever a human's nearby so they'll be mistaken for piles of junk.
  • In The Pink Motel the kidnappers left a note on the bathroom mirror. The detectives spend a good amount of time looking around before someone suggests looking in the obvious places.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Purloined Letter" is probably the Ur-Example. A blackmailer's home was searched for an incriminating letter. Even though they searched under every rug, in every drawer, for loose paperwork in every book, and for hollow hidden compartments in the furniture, the searchers never found it because they didn't bother to consider and look closely at a torn and crumpled letter, clearly visible in a card rack hanging on the mantelpiece.
  • Redwall: In Pearls of Lutra, one of the titular pearls is suspended in candle wax in the main hall.
  • In the Repairman Jack novel Legacies, a spy spends days watching a lamp-lit window where two men keep standing in silent awe, staring at something. The spy assumes they've got something that requires light sitting under the lamp, because they never turn it off. It's actually the lamp they're staring at, because it's drawing its electricity via a revolutionary new technology and they're amazed that it's staying lit at all.
  • Throughout the Safehold series, an object only known as "the Key" had been referred to by members of the Wylsynn family as an item entrusted to them by the Archangel Schueler. In the fifth book, How Firm A Foundation, we learn specifically what the Key is. Among other things, it's of such size and shape that it can be easily used as a paperweight, which is how several Wylsynns, including its current possessor Paityr, hid it.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • After Joffrey Baratheon orders the death of her father, Arya Stark escapes from King's Landing by having her hair cut short and dressing like a boy.
    • Littlefinger's illegitimate daughter Alayne is a pretty maid with brown hair, which she must keep dyeing brown since she's really Sansa Stark and her trademark auburn Tully hair screams her true identity.
    • There is in Essos the young son of a hedge knight who dyes his hair blue to mourn his Tyroshi mother or maybe he simply needs to hide his silver-white hair since they scream Targaryen. Or Blackfyre.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Words of Radiance: The Parshendi are a bigger, smarter version of the parshmen that everyone in the world uses as slaves. When the Parshendi go to war with the Alethi, they easily slip a few moles in among the slaves. We first hear about this in one of Navani's journals (seen early in the book, but written after the events of the novel), where she notes that they really should have seen it coming.
      Rlain: We choose a form based on what we need, the job required of us. Dullform, one of those forms, looks a lot like a parshman. Hiding among them is easy.
      Navani: We account our parshmen with precision.
      Rlain: Yes, and we are noticed — but rarely questioned. Who questions when you find an extra sphere lying on the ground? It's not something suspicious. It's merely fortune.
    • While not particularly surprising to the audience, the Voidbringers are this in-story from the human perspective. A number of them actually state outright that it was a bit obvious in retrospect, especially since pretty much everything they did know about the Voidbringers was literally a physical description of them.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, this is how Aly prefers to operate. When the duke and duchess offer her freedom, she actually asks them not to remove her Slave Collar because slaves have an excuse to be anywhere, plus soldiers and nobles don't pay any attention to them. When she's "promoted" to free servant, she becomes Dove's maid so she can listen in on all the palace conversations Dove is a part of.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign:
    • The Founder's Gallery is a collection of valuable secrets, and can only be found by gathering three particular artifacts. After Kyousuke has obtained all three, he realizes that the gallery is on the floor below Aika's apartment. The same apartment he's in right now, which he's been using as a base for the entire series.
    • The seventh volume has the White Queen create numerous copies of herself. To defeat them, it's necessary to first find the original White Queen. She's disguised herself as Aoi, Kyousuke's partner for the volume. This is particularly noteworthy because the real Aoi is physically identical to the White Queen and wears the same dress, so the White Queen literally only had to copy her behavior (and get the real one out of the way). Though unlike the previous example, Kyousuke actually figures this out before the White Queen reveals herself.
  • There is a mention in the Vorkosigan Saga of a retainer of the Vorkosigan family who did the smuggling gag with pack horses. Miles uses that historical example to come up with a plan to smuggle used spaceships to a station that needs to augment its war fleet in Mirror Dance.
  • The Wandering Inn:Rock Crabs hide their massive body under a giant shell that looks like a boulder. Since there are no other boulders in the Flood Plains, it makes them really easy to spot...assuming that you know that the giant rock is a monster.
  • Wax and Wayne: The titular artifacts in The Bands of Mourning grant the holder every power in both of the local magic systems. Where are they hidden? They're in the detachable spearhead in the statue right outside the Death Course protecting the fake Bands.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Birgitte — better known as Birgitte Silverbow, Hero of the Horn, eternally reincarnating Living Legend of innumerable generations — goes by her real name and does nothing to hide her astoundingly good archery. On the rare occasion that someone draws the connection between her and the Birgitte, she pulls some sarcastic variant on Never Heard That One Before.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Used in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Lamb to the Slaughter", where a woman kills her husband by bashing his skull in with a frozen lamb's leg which she then cooks and serves to the unwitting police officers who are looking for the murder weapon.
  • Clues on The Amazing Race are hidden this way all the time, though most notoriously in Season 19, when the clue was a giant flashing sign written in Chinese that many of the teams spotted then disregarded at first.
  • The Titular Aquila (a bright red, car sized space craft) the main characters are hidden was "hidden" in one of the boy's garages with the cover story that it was a prop from a Sci-Fi movie.
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica, a Cylon hid an Incredibly Obvious Bug right in the center of the Galactica's bridge. Everyone assumed that it was new equipment that was supposed to be there, until Baltar happened to ask what it was...
  • The killer in the mini-series The Bletchley Circle, they originally think he's a guard or ticket taker, but it turns out he's just using one as a patsy.
  • Both Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul have Gustavo Fring, who camouflages being one of the biggest drug kingpins in Albuquerque with his legitimate restaurant business and a reputation as a friend to law enforcement.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Key, which is why it was so important that Glory not find out that it was a person. If not for Ben's slip up to one of Glory's minions (and subsequent failure to kill said minion), she may never have found out in time.
  • Death in Paradise a murder needed to hide a body so what did he do? He dissolved most of the organs in lime but was left with a skeleton. Oh and he happened to be a teacher and that the anatomical skeleton in his classroom looks very real...
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TARDIS itself. No one ever expects or believes that the battered old blue police telephone box standing on the street corner could possibly be a majestic living time machine that can take the crew anywhere and anywhere in the universe.
      • And again when the Master disguises his TARDIS as the Doctor's.
    • Double subverted in "The Invasion of Time", the Doctor first attempts to find the Key of Rassilon by figuring "Where would you hide a tree? In a forest!", referring to the large rack of keys in the Chancellor's office. It turns out to be in even plainer sight, in a desk drawer's keyhole.
    • In the never filmed (but eventually novelized) Fourth Doctor adventure "Shada", a Time Lord acquaintance of the Doctor retired from Gallifrey to Earth and has avoided notice by getting tenure at Cambridge. The old instructor who's been around as long as anyone could recall is such a typical part of British university life that nobody had noticed that one of them had been around for three hundred years.
    • In "The Five Doctors", the musical code that will unlock Rassilon's secret chamber appears on a piece of sheet music depicted in a nearby painting.
    • In "Rose", the Doctor is looking for a transmitter. "Round and massive, somewhere slap bang in the middle of London, a huge metal circular structure, like a dish, like a wheel, close to where we're standing. Must be completely invisible." Directly behind the Doctor in the scene: The London Eye.
    • Downplayed in "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky": Donna, working her way through the Sontaran ship, hears a group of soldiers coming. She hides in a shadow in an alcove formed by the doorway they march through. Played straight in the sense that the Sontarans are all wearing their helmets, and there's no way they can have good peripheral vision in those, regardless of what they're doing with visual sensors being displayed inside.
    • In "The Time of Angels", a lone Weeping Angel hides from the Doctor and a team of badass clerics in a Maze of the Dead: an enormous, pitch-black cavern full of statues. In the end, which of the statues is a Weeping Angel? ALL OF THEM!
    • Played straight in series 6. The first question, the oldest question, hidden in plain sight: Doctor Who?
  • In the Elementary episode "Leviathan", the thief hid the uncut diamonds he had stolen in a jar of multicolored glass rocks. In the same episode, they discover the identity of a legendary phantom thief with the priceless coins he had stolen displayed as his cuffs on his suit and the painting hidden in a replica of that painting displayed in his living room.
  • Father Brown: In "The Smallest of Things", the killer hides the newspaper that was stolen from the diorama by placing it in one of the other dioramas.
  • Game of Thrones: How did Ned Stark managed to hide his nephew Jon — the son of his sister Lyanna and the last surviving child of Rhaegar Targaryen? By passing him off as his illegitimate son and raising him as part of the family.
  • In episode 6 of Gotham, when Gordon was on the run from Falcone, Bullock found him in Barbara's apartment. Bullock even lampshaded it because the mob wouldn't look for Gordon at a place they considered to be too obvious.
  • In Harrow, the key to Harrow's locked case of antique surgical instruments (which is central to the first season's resolution) is sitting in the key slot of a windup toy that is sitting on his desk.
  • In Hustle, Stacie smuggles a famous picture out of an art gallery by posing as an art student wearing a T-shirt printed with a copy of the picture. After the real picture is removed from its frame, Stacie attaches it to the front of her shirt and walks out past several security guards.
  • In Plain Sight is a show about the Witness Protection Program. The title indicates exactly where the relocated witnesses are concealed.
  • In one episode of MacGyver (1985), a toy shop owner is questioned by criminals as to the location of some gold they had him smuggle when he snuck across the Berlin Wall some years earlier. The gold is prominently displayed in the toy shop window - as a set of painted model soldiers, which up until that point everyone had assumed to be lead.
  • In an episode of Magnum, P.I., the audio cassette of Robin Masters dictating his latest novel is revealed to have been stored alongside Magnum's music collection.
    • Also, the implication that Higgins may in fact be Robin Masters.
  • In an episode of The Mentalist a man hid a fortune in diamonds in the pretty princess "crystal" chandelier in his little daughter's bedroom.
  • From Merlin, Camelot led a genocide of all magic users, but the man destined to become the greatest warlock ever and bring magic back to the land has never been found. Half the reason for this is that Camelot has little to no knowledge of the prophecies, and what they have they don't believe. The other half is that said sorcerer is living right in Camelot's castle as Arthur's personal manservant.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "The Sleeper Under the Hill", a criminal hides a stolen painting on his wall, claiming that is a forgery of the famous painting.
  • Monk had a similar example in "Mr. Monk Gets Married". Monk and Sharona visit a marriage counselor to keep an eye on Randy's mother whom has recently married a man Randy is suspicious of. He's actually searching for a cache of gold somewhere around the counselor's estate, reading the 19th century gold digger's journals to find clues. The gold was literally in the journals all along, as the gold digger had melted it down and mixed it into the ink.
  • NCIS:
    • An elderly criminal hid the money from a bank robbery by buying antiques and placing them around his house. To most people it looked just like 'old people furniture' and no one suspected that the items were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
    • This idea was recycled in a later season when a former KGB sleeper agent still had control over millions of dollars of fund meant to fund Cold War espionage operations in the US. He bought expensive rare books on the black market and placed them on display in the rare book store he operated as a cover.
  • The titular "Tale of the Big Why" in The New Avengers turns out to be the tail of a big Y - yes, it's a Shout-Out to It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
  • On Person of Interest Finch uses this to hide himself. He is a billionaire computer genius who faked his own death and now works as a low level white collar worker in his own company. None of the other employees remember the reclusive co-founder of the company who disappeared from public view a decade ago. His coworkers do not know what his exact position is or who he really reports to and when he has to abandon the cover identity, everyone just assumes that he transferred to a different department.
    • In episode "Synecdoche", the US President is targeted by American radicals who use their own identities; amateurish yet providing perfect cover as long as no-one realises their group exists.
  • Scrubs:
    • Parodied when Dr. Kelso once attempted to get out of a conversation with Dr. Cox by pretending to be his own painting on a wall mural. Cox is not fooled, not least because Kelso is, in fact, three-dimensional. Kelso appears to keep the "ruse" up for some time, however:
      Cox: [After grabbing Kelso's arm] Bob, I'm physically touching your arm now. Come on, I know you're here.
      Kelso: ['Coming to', apparently surprised]: ...Perry, hi, how are you?
    • Another episode had JD making a valiant effort at hiding in a similar manner by posing and holding still with some lifesize cardboard cutouts of himself. It doesn't work.
  • Sherlock:
    • "The Blind Banker":
      • Sherlock is wondering how to find the book behind a book code, when nobody involved seemed to have any books in common. It was a local directory, available anywhere and eminently disposable.
      • The stolen Chinese treasure is a jade hairpin, which the thief gave to his secretary-slash-mistress and she has been wearing.
    • In "The Sign of Three", this is a part of the Mayfly Man's M.O. for committing murders undetected. He poses as the photographer at John and Mary's wedding, reasoning that the photographer is the one person that never shows up in wedding photos.
  • In the Whoniverse, everyone knows who bloody Torchwood is: Some annoying government organization. Virtually no one knows their job is investigating alien technology.
  • In Warehouse 13, the Regents have a pattern of doing this. For example, their secret vault is hidden in a grocery store:
    Myka: This is the Regent vault?
    Pete: Of course. Hidden in plain sight. It's what they do.
    • The Warehouse itself, while located in the middle of nowhere, doesn't exactly try to hide the fact that it's a warehouse. Specifically, the cover story is that they work for the IRS, and the warehouse is an IRS archive, knowing that most people have no desire to interact with the taxmen or dig through old tax returns.
  • The Wire has a character example with The Greek. He rarely meets contacts directly, instead sitting and inconspicuously reading a newspaper nearby while his second-in-command Spiros talks to them, allowing him to know what's going on and remain anonymous.
    • The "New Day Co-op". A consortium consisting of every major drug dealer in Baltimore. Hold meetings at a very large, and very public hotel conference room, with "Welcome New Day Co-Op" plastered on the main billboard of the hotel.
  • The Wishbone adaptation of "The Purloined Letter" has the namesake letter in a stack of mail on the suspect's desk, so it was both hidden in plain sight and a Needle in a Stack of Needles.

  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has the Bulwark Staff, Lucretia's relic, which appears before the relics are even explained, and is mentioned in almost every arc.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, some roguish classesnote  gain the ability "Hide in Plain Sight". Normally a character can't attempt to hide if someone is already watching, but the ability bypasses this restriction.
  • Shadowrun has the Ruthenium Polymer Coating upgrade, which allows people to have relatively inexpensive personal and vehicle cloaking devices. Vehicles need sensor jammers and upgraded mufflers for it to really work, though.
  • The hiding place for the Fear has been playing throughout the entire series. The protagonists were practically staring right at the MacGuffin's hiding place on several occasions.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Ghostrick Skeleton's not an exhibit in the museum himself, but he nonchalantly slips around the other exhibits. Although it seems nobody really notices, since he looks like an ordinary skeleton anyway.
  • BattleTech has Mimetic Armor (for Battle Armor) and the Chameleon Light Shield and Void Sig System (for Battlemechs). Both use a form of active camouflage to make the Mech or BA look nearly invisible while it's still, even in the middle of an open field, but are subject to Invisibility Flicker while moving.

  • Transformers is all about this. Most of them have altforms that are indistinguishable from the Earth equivalents, but no one seems to have told them that you don't normally get such a diverse selection of vehicles in any one place.
    • This bit of fridge logic is lampshaded in the IDW comic series, when Optimus some of his Autobots engage a squad of Decepticons in a Russian landscape. The human troops are completely baffled as to why a bunch of sportscars and an American police car are shooting it out with a space-shuttle.
    • The trope name is quoted verbatim by Optimus Prime in the 2007 film.

    Video Games 
  • The Assassin's Creed games feature this. In the first game, Altair is able to stand within a group of monks and guards won't spot him as he and the monks are wearing similar colours. From the second game onwards, Ezio is able to do this with any group of people, based on the idea that he's simply lost in the crowd. Although when hiding in a group of courtesans, Male Gaze certainly comes into it. This ranges from plausible to ridiculous depending on the game later in the series, since the assassin uniform stands out like a sore thumb in several of the eras featured.
  • The true identity of the Big Bad in BlazBlue became an epic meta case of this. How well hidden in plain sight was it? Well, in the first game we're introduced to a shady captain from the NOL's intelligence division, referred to as "Hazama," who is revealed to be possessed by an Ax-Crazy spectre, identified as "Yuuki Terumi." In the second game, it's revealed that Terumi was the previous owner of Hakumen's armor, the Susanoo Unit, but that he abandoned it as it bound him to the will of the Master Unit: Amaterasu. Over the course of the second game, Hazama/Terumi also occasionally invokes the name Susanoo as an incantation.example  Come the third game, Terumi becomes a playable character separate from Hazama and his Astral Drive turns him into a black, demonic version of Hakumen who gloats that he's "the one true Susanoo" or, alternatively, that he will show his opponent "the blade of god," before erasing them from existence with a swift slash... "Oh well," thought the fans, "maybe he still has a fragment of the Susanoo Unit's power from back when he used it," thought the fans, "he's having a pretty severe case of A God Am I syndrome," thought the fans. Nope! By the third act of the fourth game, Terumi rips Hakumen's soul out of the Susanoo Unit and reveals that he wasn't just its "previous" owner, he was its original owner. As in, Yuuki Terumi is the soul to the Susanoo Unit's body, not a maniac with delusions of godhood, but the Takehaya Susanoo no Mikoto... It says quite a lot that Susanoo still qualified as an Unexpected Character despite all of that, well, the word "Foreshadowing" might not be applicable to something that's repeatedly stated straight to your face.
  • Mass Effect loves this trope. In the first game, you have the revelation that the Citadel is a gigantic Mass Relay and was built to let the Reapers emerge from Darkspace to cull the Galaxy of all life. Again! There is also the innocuous Statue of the Mass Relay in the Presidium that barely anyone looks at, until you discover its a miniaturised version of one, designed by the Protheans as a backdoor into the Citadel.
    • The Council repeatedly decrees that the "Reapers" do NOT exist! It seems they haven't noticed what the layout of the Council Chamber they are standing in resembles when viewed from above.
      • And the Nebula Citadel is located in bears an uncanny resemblance too. It's even called the Widow Nebula.
    • In the third game, the asari goddess Athame and all the miracles, interventions and gifts of knowledge turns out were actually caused by the Protheans when the asari were still a primitive race, to the point that their ancient artworks of Athame look Prothean, with the more modern stuff shaped more in the asari likeness. Their interventions include teaching them how to farm, saving their planet from a meteor shower and alien invasion, genetically modifying them to use biotic powers naturally, and finally leaving them a fully functional and intact Prothean beacon, which is how the asari have been thousands of years more advanced than the entire galaxy. Where did they keep the beacon? Inside the statue of Athame in the temple on their home planet.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Joker makes Batman think that he's been cured of his blood poisoning by having Clayface impersonate him. Lampshaded:
    Joker: So, how do you keep a secret from the world's greatest detective? Well, do you know? You stick it riiiiight in front of him, right under his long, pointy nose... and wait!
  • Lampshaded in Pokemon Heart Gold And Soul Silver, with a Team Rocket hideout disguised as a gift shop. The sign outside says something like "Just an ordinary gift shop. Nothing to see here..."
    • Pokémon Black and White plays this trope straight twice:
      • Once with the building directly opposite Castelia City's Gym, which was really Team Plasma's temporary hideout within the city.
      • Twice with the item needed to summon the mascot Legendary. It turns out to be the ordinary-looking stone at the Nacrene Museum. Ironically, Team Plasma did go there earlier... but took the wrong artifact.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, Team Flare just passes themselves off as something of a harmless fashion cult, hiding just how extremist their real goal is, and the entrance to their base is a coffee shop only a few feet away from the dead center of Lumiose City.
    • In Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, on a more meta example Ultra Necrozma was shown together with its other forms, though it's recognizable only in hindsight.
  • A major point of the Hitman games is you can disguise yourself as almost anyone, giving the option of approaching the target as yourself, his personal guards, or his own butler. In Absolution onwards, you have the added ability of hiding with objects to look busy, such as wiping a work surface down as a kitchen hand, or hanging around the donut box as a cop.
  • In Dead Space 3, the Final Boss is actually visible for most of the game and on many promotional artworks. It is a post-Convergence Necromorph so large that it is mistaken for Tau Volantis' moon. It's the first thing you see when you enter the system, and the only foreshadowing is the broken, jagged hole in its side.
  • Fittingly enough, the Xbox indie game Hidden in Plain Sight has you invoke this trope to win, where you play a character among a crowd of duplicate NPCs and must find a way to achieve your goal without drawing attention to yourself by the other players.
  • A few Ace Attorney cases have the body of the victims being hidden in such a way, that hundreds of people are right near the body, but none of them actually notice it, due to it being disguised or concealed in some way.
    • A good example of this comes from Dual Destinies in the third case, where someone is killed at an academy. It's eventually proven that contrary to what was thought throughout most of the case, the murder occurred where the body was found and was never moved, bringing up the question of how none of the hundreds of students saw the body until the afternoon of the next day. It turns out that the killer kept the body on the stage the entire time, but it was wrapped in a cloth, and placed on a statue plinth, which was supposed to be holding a statue of Wright. The body was put into such a position, such as hands tied behind head to make Wright's spikey hair, to make it look like Phoenix doing an objection pose. None of the students noticed anything, because the humanlike structure looked like it was supposed to be there.
    • In case 3 of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Lamiroir is singing her song "The Guitar's Serenade" while crawling through a vent in the ceiling. The murderer in the dressing room under the vent didn't notice her presence, since a loud speaker was playing a feed from the concert. Effectively, her own voice hid her singing in the vent.
    • In case 2 of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, it initially looks like the victim found on the plane was beaten to death with the figurine found next to him, but Miles figures out that the real murder weapon is something else—something large enough to be completely overlooked by everyone so far. The victim died by being pushed over a railing and falling down hard on the floor of the plane's huge cargo hold. In effect, the murder weapon was the cargo hold itself.
    • One of the big reveals in Spirit of Justice is an example of this. Queen Amara, thought to have been assassinated 23 years ago, is still alive. Dhurke spent years looking for where the Ga'ran regime had secreted her away. Where was Amara hidden? In the palace itself, disguised as Royal Priestess Rayfa's personal assistant Nayna.
  • Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist: To hide his true identity, Freddy makes a false ear for himself (his real ear having been shot off in the prologue). No one seems to recognize him until Penelope removes his ear and is shocked to discover that it's Freddy!
  • The Desolate Hope: Do you want to know where the much sought after Sample 217 is? Right in the background of Amos room, visible whenever you come in. It's in the cylinder case connected to Amos; you see it clearly at the end of the game.
  • In the game Cadillacs and Dinosaurs the protagonists realize that the villains have an arms factory built under the island. When one asks: "how could they hide the smoke?" they gaze at each other for a moment and then turn to stare at the volcano which has been steadily blowing out smoke for the duration of the game.
  • In Last Word, the titular MacGuffin turns out to be written on the collar of Saymore Family cat, who remained at the Saymore Estate after it was bought out by Chatter.
  • Most of the Keyholes in the original Kingdom Hearts. Atlantica's, for example, is in Ariel's grotto among her treasures, and Neverland's is on the face of Big Ben.
  • In World of Warcraft Warlords of Draenor the Arakkoa outcasts passed down the blades and mask of their revered leader, Terokk. To hide them from their persecutors, the relics were used to decorate plainly visible effigies as they would be dismissed as too obvious. The quest is even titled "Hidden in Plain Sight".
  • The Witness: The environmental puzzles.
  • How does System Shock get players to touch the conspicuous landmines? By mixing them in with inert landmines, of course. Be veeeery careful when picking things up in explosive caches.
  • In Fire Emblem Fates, if you take the Revelation path, In Chapter 14 Orders, when Iago and Hans are talking about how Corrin's slow-growing army, what they don't notice is that Elise is eavesdropping from behind a wall pole.
  • During the Stealth-Based Mission in Gamer 2, Hailey hides from zombies by standing under red lights the same shade as her fur.
  • In Fe, dark-colored grass camouflages the titular protagonist from the Silent Ones, which is necessary when sneaking through their territiories.

    Web Animation 
  • The second season of If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device ends in this way — the Centurion, popping up time and again across the two seasons, is none other than Rogal Dorn beneath that helmet.
  • In RWBY, this is Ren's Semblance. With a little bit of concentration, he can make himself or someone else entirely invisible to the Grimm, despite them being right out in the open and visible to normal people.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius:
    • Master Payne's circus, in which the actors play famous sparks of the past, is a cover for minor sparks. At one point they take it up a notch by having Agatha hide with them and play her mother on stage.
      • Subverted. The plan ends being self-defeating when the intentional quasi-anonymity of the players results in the players failing completely to recognize Agatha's poorly-concealed heritage. They even realize she's a stronger spark than they usually deal with and note that this is potentially trouble, but if their entire strategy hadn't hinged on intentionally downplaying that kind of thing they would have known immediately exactly how extreme their situation was in time to avoid a significant chunk of the plot.
    • Also, Mamma Gkika. How does a Jäger General hide in a city she's not strictly speaking supposed to be in? Why, by setting up a tourist trap featuring faux Jäger showgirls!
    • Dimo briefs Jenka on the current situation: "Ve is jagerkin charged by the ancient contract" (I.e., We found us a Hetrodyne!)
  • The Wotch: Faustus is a true magician who pretends to just be a stage magician.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: The Ruby of Dwarven Might from the Arcane Crown of Power. It's the big red gem on Mordekai's belt.
  • Employed at a Ninja Restaurant in Freefall, where one particular ninja is sent out to chat with customers and act as a distraction.
    Ninja Waiter: That man does not look anything like a ninja.
    Chef: Ah, but that is exactly what a ninja should look like.
  • Similarly done with this strip of Subnormality, where the Overt Operative is just a Sharp-Dressed Man - the actual spy is the one who'd been trying to get the waitress' attention for the duration of the strip.
    Spy: And I don't hide in plain sight. I don't hide at all. I just live in the blind spots that everyone has - the places you would never look because you assume - you know - nothing could be there.
  • One of the branching paths in Bard Quest has the Bard's party look for dragons to slay in their immediate vicinity. One is standing straight up in a forest clearing, but the Bard fails to see it.
  • Never Satisfied: During the fourth test, where all the competitors have removed their magic focus jewelry to avoid injuring each other, Philomena confesses to Lucy that she can't operate the quartz shooters without an emerald to act as a focus. Later, she uses the emerald attached to her familiar's head to shoot Peony and herself, ending the test.

    Web Original 
  • Common in pictures of Slender Man; especially obvious in Just Another Fool.
  • Noob actually told the info revealed the Season 3 Wham Episode to the audience as early as Episode 1. The series starts with an ad for the MMORPG in it's set featuring its top player and some text putting emphasis on him being The Ace. One of the snippets says "Cheated?".
  • Entirely Presenting You: During one particular riot in which everyone's dressed like her alter ego Blank Face, Alexis slips through the crowd by simply wearing a different costume.

    Western Animation 
  • A Villain of the Week in the Secret Squirrel segment of 2 Stupid Dogs was a chameleon that stole art pieces and hid them in the attic of the very same museum he stole them from. When confronted by Secret, Chameleon explained that hiding in plain sight was his specialty and that he stole the art to blend with it. As it usually happens to chameleons in cartoons, he wasn't able to hide in modern art pieces because there were too many colors.
  • The Angry Beavers has Big Byoo-tox combine this with Refuge in Audacity; he stands still in plain sight. And it works perfectly.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Happens with surprising frequency.
    • Zuko and Iroh spend much of season 2 wandering through the Earth Kingdom appearing to all the world like ordinary refugees, even when they get to Ba Sing Se, which Iroh once laid siege to for over six hundred days.
    • In Book 3, the Gaang hide in the Fire Nation by disguising themselves as ordinary citizens. Nobody notices the Gaang's different nationalities, or their differing eye-colours.
    • And in "The Beach", none of the Fire Nation teens peg that the two moody teenagers they're talking to are members of the royal family, one of whom helped end a hundred year long war a few weeks before. Azula is actually puzzled and intrigued by this one.
  • In Dave the Barbarian, a barbarian hero Fang idolizes comes to Udrogoth to slay a dragon. The only one around is Faffy, Dave's pet, so after failed attempts at using magic and teaching self-defense, Fang (who doesn't want her hero to see what a wimp her dragon is) sensibly tells Faffy to HIDE. The narrator says, "And what better place to hide, but in plain sight?" Faffy pretends to be a head mounted on the wall, a charade made difficult by his tendency to spit lightning.
  • In one episode of Garfield and Friends, Jon, Odie, and Garfield visit a small seaside town and discover that Jon's ancestor "Long Jon," who owned a pet cat who's also one of Garfield's ancient relatives, was a pirate for the British during the Revolutionary War. But when Odie starts drooling on the pages of Long Jon's diary—which has been sitting on display in the local museum for centuries—secret writing appears that reveals that the "pirate" was actually a spy for the colonial rebels, capturing ships that were smuggling supplies to the British. The trope comes up again when the trio starts searching for evidence that would exonerate the pirate: a letter of commendation personally written by George Washington. Upon hearing that Long Jon gave his cat the letter to hide, Garfield quickly deduces that he would have placed it somewhere near and dear to his heart—a food dish, which has also been sitting inside the museum. Sure enough, the dish has a false bottom, and the missing note is tucked away inside of it.
  • Cobra seems to live on this in G.I. Joe: Renegades. The truck the Joes swipe from them can change its paint job to blend in with other cars. Their store's shipping network is a cover for their arms smuggling operation. Cobra Commander himself, with the help of a virtual disguise even cuts TV promos for the company.
  • In the two-part series finale of Oh No! It's an Alien Invasion, the kids find out where the Brainlings hid their parents. They were shrunk down and hidden in Emperor Brainlius's belly bag, which he wears all the time.
  • Ready Jet Go! thrives off of this trope. The Propulsions coincidentally look like humans, which allows them to hide in plain sight on Earth easily without anyone discovering their secret alien identity. Averted with Sunspot, some characters like Dr. Rafferty and Mitchell often question what kind of animal he is.
  • In the episode "Shiver and Shake, That Demon's a Snake" of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, a key is found to a secret cache hidden inside a ship. It turns out the keyhole was out in the open all this time—it's part of the lock-shaped logo emblazoned on the side of the ship.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Lisa the Iconoclast", Lisa attempts to prove Jebediah Springfield, the beloved town founder, is actually a murderous pirate named Hans Sprungfeld. Her only solid evidence is that both Hans and Jebediah (supposedly) had silver tongues. After she gets the town to dig up Jebediah's grave, they find no silver tongue. She learns later the curator of the Jebediah Springfield Museum swapped the tongue out of the skeleton's skull before anyone noticed it, and hid it as a cowboy in one of the display cases of his museum. The 'plain sight' aspect is slightly questionable, since no one (except Lisa) ever visits the museum.
    • In "Lisa the Vegetarian", the entrance to Apu's secret garden on the roof of the Kwik-E-Mart is a freezer compartment labeled 'Non-alcoholic beer'.
    • Averted in "The Trouble with Trillions". Homer is sent by the FBI to get the trillion dollar bill from Mr. Burns. On a tour of his mansion, they reach a room full of dioramas of Burns' ancestors. One of them is of Mr. Burns holding what looks like the bill. When Homer asks if that is it right in front of them, Burns says that would be pretty careless as he keeps the real one with him at all times.
    • Played straight in Simpsons theatrical short The Longest Daycare, in which Maggie does this a couple of times in order to save her caterpillar/butterfly from Gerald. Once she hides the caterpillar from Gerald by putting it over her eyes to mimic a Big Ol' Unibrow just like Gerald's. At the end, it's revealed that she threw her blue bow into the window, and that the butterfly hid on top of her hair until Marge came to take her home.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • Kanan wears his lightsaber disassembled into two pieces on his belt, so most people won't realize what it is. Ezra, meanwhile, built his to look like a homemade blaster, which it also doubles as. In season 3, they've both stopped doing this, with Kanan wearing his saber assembled on his belt, and Ezra also wearing his second saber (the gunsaber having been destroyed in the season 2 finale) in plain sight.
    • "Blood Sisters": A boxy, low-mobility GNK power droid, which are common as dirt in the Galaxy Far Far Away, serves as a Rebel courier holding top-secret information precisely because most people wouldn't expect it to hold something so valuable.
  • The Venture Bros. episode ORB: The titular Orb is hidden as a normal paperweight on a shelf.
  • The Young Justice Home Base is Mount Justice, the former base of the Justice League until it was exposed to the world. They gave the black ops team the base that everyone knows about. Since the team uses teleportation devices to enter and leave and Mount Justice has a self-contained power source, from the outside there's nothing to suggest it's been reactivated and thus it takes a while before any villains find out. Building a whole new base from scratch without anybody noticing would've been much harder to pull off.

    Real Life 
  • Improv Everywhere had a skit where they sent 80 people into Best Buy wearing khaki pants and blue polo shirts, imitating the Best Buy uniform. To film the event, they inserted their own memory cards into the store's demo cameras and started recording. Additionally, one of the few photographers to not get caught was the one holding her camera in her hands.
  • Some of the best Geocache hiding places are right out in plain sight, though the cache itself will be concealed or disguised. Stealth on the part of the finder is of great importance in finding these. Some geocachers choose to wear a bright yellow reflective vest while searching in public places, making geomuggles think they're workers doing their legitimate work, thus applying this trope to geocachers as well as caches.
  • Shakira once went to college, for a semester, in Canada. She registered using her middle name, and wore plain clothes and little makeup. The famous pop star went quite unnoticed by all of the students at the school.
  • Iconic Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway learned the best way to avoid being hassled by fans in public was to wear his own #7 jersey. After all, there would be no obvious reason for the real John Elway to ever do that.
  • Britain's Ordnance Survey maps show many military barracks and training areas, because there is no reason for them not to, and for the utilitarian reason that walkers and casual visitors do not stray into live firing ranges. A military barracks near a city on the Welsh borders is clearly shown on the relevant map. You would need additional knowledge to be aware this is the home base of Britain's Special Forces. However, there are only open rolling fields on the map sections featuring the military research complex at Aldermaston, the American signals installation at Menwith Hill, and the GCHQ communications centre at Cheltenham. You could be standing on top of the massive radomes the Americans installed at Menwith, looking at your OS map, seeing only empty moorland on the map where the base should be.
  • During World War II, MI-5 spymasters would have their coded messages delivered between units by Girl Guides because they were Beneath Suspicion. It worked, too.
  • An anonymous individual on Reddit came up with the following trick: Can't remember your work computer's password without writing it down, but don't want some passer-by with nefarious intentions to get up to mischief with your login details while you're out of the room? Use part of an address, a telephone number or something similarly innocuous and write it down on a Post-It note.
  • A similar trick involves using a fake name and fake phone number as a username and password, respectively, and adding them to your phone's contacts list. Even someone who thinks to check will have to fish it out of the list of actual contacts, and that's assuming they are able to bypass the phone's own locking measures.
  • Lots of different species of plants and animals hide by blending into their surroundings using camouflage. They do this to catch unsuspecting prey or avoid predators.
  • Black holes can do this too. They are only recognisable when there are light sources (or any electromagnetic waves' sources for the matter) close or beneath them, but in areas with little to no sources of light or when the black holes are comparatively small, they can be unnoticed.
  • There's an abandoned building in the middle of Times Square in New York City, and no one pays any attention to it. One Times Square was originally constructed in 1904 to serve as the headquarters of The New York Times. They moved out only eight years later. The space sits abandoned, unnoticed because the building itself is now used for billboards and jumbotrons, as well as the New Years ball dropping ceremony.
  • The most successful serial killers tend to be amazingly talented at doing this. If you're curious about this (and have a strong stomach), go to YouTube and watch a video of somebody like Gacy or Dahmer being interviewed, and the most striking thing you'll notice about them is how dull and ordinary they seem, and how hard it would be to pick them out in a crowd.
  • Research labs sometimes do this — there could be a lab that works on a highly dangerous virus in your city, located in an old building decorated with little fanfare, and you would never know.
  • The BT Telecoms tower in London was a state secret for decades after its construction in the 1960's. Officially it did not exist, despite being the tallest structure in London at the time, freely open to the public and including a revolving restaurant.
  • Marilyn Monroe was able to do this by changing her posture. She was once walking down the street with an interviewer. No one was noticing her, and the reporter was confused by this. She then said, "Want to see her?" She changed the way she walked and gestured, and suddenly people started noticing her.
  • Puzzlehunts, or "meta puzzles," often work this way. Ostensibly, each individual puzzle—such as a maze, a cryptic crossword, a word search, or some other game —has a commonplace solution. However, the true goal of the puzzle is to find the "meta-answer," which is hidden somewhere within the solved puzzle itself: for instance, solvers might have to read diagonally down the crossword answers to notice another phrase, or read the first letter of the first answer, second letter of the second, and so on. Truly difficult puzzles can veer into Moon Logic territory — for instance, recognizing that the apparently decorative cars on a grid are actually symbols in Morse code — but the whole goal is that all of the information you need to find it is right in front of you — it's all a question of knowing how to look at it.
  • Some Escape Games (real-life versions of similar online games) use these, often as the starting point of the room (most games basically follow a Linked List Clue Methodology, so you have to solve one puzzle to get information or a key that will lead you to the next one). For instance, there might be something written on the back of couch cushions, or the amount of cash in a seemingly innocuous wallet could be a code that unlocks a safe.
  • British television presenter and serial pedophile Jimmy Savile was incredibly talented at doing this, to the point where his predilections were an open secret within British comedy circles but not much further out. In 2000, he even said on Have I Got News for You that he was "feared in every girls' school in this country" to the laughter of the audience (but noticeably not the panellists).
  • During the Holocaust, writer Ida Cook helped Jews afford refugee status in Britain. At one point, this involved smuggling a diamond brooch out of Germany. Upon seeing how tacky the item in question looked, she just attached it to her cheap cardigan and let border guards assume that it was fake. She and her sister Louise would wind up repeating that trick many times, and then just act offended if people did comment on the disparity between the clothes and expensive jewelry that they wore.
  • Louis CK incorporated his sexual abuse predilections into his comedy for years, including an episode in one series about his character (also named Louis CK) forcing a woman to watch him masturbate.

Alternative Title(s): Hiding In Plain Sight