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Lie to the Beholder

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A spell or other mysterious effect is placed on a character to make them look and sound like a completely different person, to select people. The user is usually unaffected, meaning that the character hears and sees their true form at the same time as they are deceiving others.

A type of Glamour and related to Weirdness Censor. A Form You Are Comfortable With and You Cannot Grasp the True Form are often forms of this. The Master of Illusion is likely to perform this.

See also Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder and Holographic Disguise.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Wolf's Rain, the wolves can appear human, but they often appear human to each other even when there are no humans around.
  • This is played with in A Certain Magical Index as a spell is cast worldwide that makes everyone look and sound different, but only four people are immune (and notice the difference). This turns out to only be 3, as the "Russian Mage" turns out to be an angel who caused the whole thing to happen when she descended, body swapping in the process. This is really confusing for the audience, as Touma has lost his memories, and this is also the first time we meet his parents, leaving us to be unsure whether it's a dream sequence or a massive hoax played on Touma by the rest of the characters.
  • In Code Geass, where Lelouch geasses Guilford into seeing and hearing Lelouch as Cornelia.
  • A light example in the Tsukiuta anime. When famous idols Shun and Hajime go on a date, Shun casts a spell so that they won't be recognized, so that they can enjoy themselves like normal people.
  • Shakugan no Shana:
    • When Yukari Hirai suffers a Ret-Gone, Shana steals her identity. Everybody except for those in on the Masquerade perceive Shana as Yukari Hirai, though they get confused because Yukari was a Shrinking Violet, while Shana is a Tsundere.
    • An OVA revealed that earlier in her career, Shana stole the identity of Junko Ogami when she suffered a Ret-Gone, with similar results.
  • In the anime adaptation of Namu Amida Butsu! -UTENA- where the Buddhas are not Invisible to Normals like in the game, they have to use this to appear as humans while traveling among them and interacting with them.
  • King Arthur of Nobunaga the Fool appears in different forms to best brainwash whoever sees his "true" face: a mighty conqueror to Alexander, a beautiful woman to Caesar, and so on. Nobunaga and da Vinci are stated to be the only people to perceive his true form, a decrepit old man.
  • Kagerou Project: This is Kano's ability in a nutshell, as he can make others see him however he wants, explaining how he manages to pull off stunts like taking selfies during a terrorist hostage situation, or how he is able to Mind Rape Shintaro and Ene by appearing as Ayano and Haruka, respectively, when he wants to make them suffer.

    Comic Books 
  • In the canon Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, it is revealed Dracula uses his hypnotic abilities to make people see him as his younger self, rather than his true form, which is that of a very old man.
  • The Incal: In the first issue, John Difool is signed to escort a beautiful aristo called Nimbea to the crimson ring and bring her back home before midnight. However, after she met Kill Wolfhead, she was so, uh, enthralled with him that she refused to go with Difool in the agreed time - and told Kill to 'tear him about'. When Kill was about to comply, Nimbea reverted back to her real appearance - a very old, ugly woman, because her holomask (a sort of hologram) ceased at midnight.
  • In the Marvel Universe, the Planet Eater Galactus appears to any observer to be a gigantic member of the observer's own race. What his true appearance is like is unknown.
  • When a woman walked in on Morbius as he was shifting from human to vampire form, he used his hypnotic abilities to make her perceive him as perfectly normal.
  • The apparently shape-shifting Geltmenschen in Über actually create illusions in their observers' minds that cause them to be seen as a different person - they can be detected by photography, which can't be fooled.

    Fan Works 
  • Divided Rainbow: This is an aspect of the Swap. If a document/photograph/recording/whatever that includes one (or more) of the Swapped Five as its subject matter exists, and was created before the date which Twilight Sparkle cast the Swap, those who aren't on Discord's Exemption List will perceive the ponies to be in each other's roles. For example...
    • In Chapter 8, Lero shows Mr. Cake an old picture of himself with Rainbow Dash, and Mr. Cake insists the picture shows him with Rarity.
    • In the same chapter, Lero asks Swapped!Rainbow Dash to read a newspaper article about herself winning the Best Young Fliers' Award out loud. The article she 'reads' is about Applejack winning it instead.
    • In Chapter 16, it is revealed that Rarity perceives the cyan feather Lero wears in his hair to be a white rose she 'remembers' giving him. She even smells the feather in front of him and insists it has a rosy scent to it.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami has Jered, Umbra and Mareki using a Glamour to pass as orcs and ambush a vampire.
  • Phoenix's Tear: Reignition: The titular Tear enables Hare to alter his appearance to resemble other types of hares. He can do this on two different levels; a quick-and-dirty surface illusion more prone to Glamour Failure and a more involved version that requires weaving magical flames around himself, which also enables him to alter his appearance to the point of successfully passing himself off as a full-grown monster.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The film Here Comes Mr. Jordan (and its remake Heaven Can Wait as well as the 2001 remake of the remake Down To Earth (2001)) is about a man who dies before his time and is sent back down to earth in the body of a recently deceased millionaire. To the audience, he looks like himself but to the characters, he looks like the aforementioned millionaire.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine: When the main quartet of characters Time Travel back to 1986, the fully-grown middle-aged adults appear as their younger 1986 versions to everyone but them. Adam's nephew, Jacob, however, is the only one who appears as his 2010 self perhaps through some weird effect of not even being conceived yet in 1986.
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie: In the segment "Time Out", the extremely bigoted Bill Connor appears as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France, a black man to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s Deep South and as a member of the Viet Cong Army to American soldiers during The Vietnam War. He protests that he's not Jewish, white, and American, respectively, but to no avail.

  • In The Black Unicorn, by Terry Brooks, the hero, Ben, has a spell cast on him by an evil wizard that causes him to look and sound different to everyone except his enemies.
  • In Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords, this is the main power of the sword Sightblinder. Its wielder appears as someone the viewer either loves or fears. The downside is that this makes it very hard for the wielder to be inconspicuous.
  • In Broken Sky, Gerdi's spirit stones allow him to disguise himself as anyone, but can only work on so many people at once. Thus, he'll often be walking around looking to the townsfolks one way, while still looking like his true appearance to those who know him.
  • A Slaaneshi sorceress tries to pull this on Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM), along with the squad of Guardsmen he's with, appearing as Amberley to him. When the spell wears off, he shoots her with the Pre-Mortem One-Liner "Impersonating an Inquisitor is a capital offense". Strangely, no one, including Amberley, comments on this.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel The Crystal Star, Luke Skywalker uses the Force to make everyone other than Han Solo see him as a generic stranger. When he realizes that the titular Star interferes with his Force powers, he comes to wish he'd followed Han's example and used a regular disguise.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Done by Thomas to allow Harry to avoid The Fair Folk for a while.
    • In the Backup novella, the villain hits Thomas with one of these, changing his appearance to match that of the man she'd told Harry had kidnapped her child.
  • Mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Gimli muses that he wishes to see if Saruman resembles Gandalf, as has been said. Gandalf responds that Saruman might look like him to Gimli, if it suited his purposes.
  • The disguise spells in the Myth Adventures series appear to everyone but the caster. This can be inconvenient, as the caster can't know if the spell succeeded or not, and can forget to deactivate the spell afterward. The spells are also tied to the caster, not the target, so if the caster has to rush off in a hurry, it can be problematic.
  • In Paths of Darkness, drow wizard Rai-guy magically dons the guise of Cadderly Bonaduce to dupe Drizzt and his friends into not visiting the real one. Luckily, Rai-guy is a wizard-cleric hybrid so his disguise doesn't fall apart when the companions ask him to heal the injured Regis.
  • In Rogue Sorcerer, Ankoku is constantly masking her appearance, to the point where we are told that nobody knows her true form.
  • The Talismans of Shannara features the Mirrorshroud, a cloak that makes the wearer appear to be someone the beholder trusts when worn.
  • This happens several times in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • In A Dance With Dragons, Melisandre uses this to make Mance Rayder appear to be Rattleshirt, and vice versa, as part of a scheme to have Rattleshirt be executed in Mance's place so Mance can still be a useful agent for her. It's noted to be a difficult magic and she has to have Mance wear Rattleshirt's Iconic Outfit of bone armor 24/7 in order for it to be truly effective. Even then, when Mance acts unlike Rattleshirt or different from how people expect Rattleshirt to act, they start noticing something is odd and that his appearance seems... off somehow...
    • The Mystery Knight, the third short story of the prequel Tales of Dunk and Egg strongly implies that one of the hedge knights at the tournament is in fact The Spymaster Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers using this enchantment. This case seems more effective, as it requires Dunk to be wounded, bleeding out, and on the edge of unconsciousness before his Weirdness Censor starts getting tripped. It's also implied that this ability, combined with being able to see through the eyes of animals and Weirwood Trees is why Bloodraven is so ridiculously effective as a spy.
  • In The Wheel of Time, this Functional Magic ability is known as the Mirror of Mists, and can also be modified for invisibility. It's not perfect: fast or abrupt movement exposes flashes of the person's actual appearance.
  • In Wizard's First Rule, Richard is at one point subject to a spell that makes everyone see him as an enemy. To his enemies and himself, he looks and sounds normal, but to his friends, he appears as someone they hate.
  • In the Young Wizards series, when Dairine is taking a trio of extraterrestrial exchange students on a tour of the local mall, the walking Christmas tree and the giant centipede have to use a disguise spell (the third alien, a Human Alien, needs no disguise). The tree's disguise spell temporarily fails when he's trying out a baseball cap in a changing room, leading to a very startled store clerk.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 4400:
    • In "Being Tom Baldwin", Boyd Gelder, a 17-year-old member of the Nova Group who disappeared in 2000, possesses the ability to fool people into thinking that he is another person using optical camouflage. He pretends to be Tom and frames him for the murder of T.J. Kim, the only member of the Nova Group in NTAC custody.
    • In "Terrible Swift Sword", Boyd infiltrates the US Army base where the promicin procured from Isabelle is stored by posing as Dennis Ryland. As such, he is able to steal all 17,432 units of Isabelle's pure promicin in the possession of the government.
    • In "Fifty-Fifty", Boyd's ability is powerful enough to work on Isabelle as he fools her into thinking that he is Jordan Collier.
  • In Big Bad Beetleborgs, this was combined with The Nth Doctor when Shannon Chandler left the series: Halfway through Season 1, Wolfgang, while playing with a magic book, accidentally caused Jo to change in appearance. To counteract this, Flabber used his magic to make her look and sound just like herself, except to the people who saw him do the spell. So the viewers, Flabber, Drew, and Roland could still see Jo in her new appearance, played by Brittany Konarzewski, but the Hillhurst monsters as well as their family and friends could see her as she looked before. The psychological impact this would have on her brother and best friend was never addressed.
  • The very special glamor spell used by The Charmed Ones in the early part of season 8 of Charmed (1998) allowed everyone who knows them well enough to see them as they are (most notably the child who couldn't recognize his own mother anymore otherwise) but everyone else will see the glamor.
    • Though they will see the glamor, and not themselves, in the mirror.
    • The Stillman Sisters' identity theft spell, from The Power of Three Blondes, worked this way as well.
  • In Dead Like Me, the reapers look different from their true form to living people. We see "UnGeorge" in scenes through a living person's perspective.
  • This shows up a couple of times in the Doctor Who episodes "City of Death", "The End of Time", and most notably "The Vampires of Venice", in which the "vampires" are actually fish aliens; they're disguised with a Perception Filter, which makes you ignore what you're seeing, instead of actual disguises. Your brain's doing the heavy lifting in making them appear human, hence the usual vampire Glamour Failure: they bare their teeth, and your brain puts it in above the human face that it's also generating, hence fangs; your brain doesn't know what to add for the sides of them you're not seeing, so they appear to have no reflections.
  • Game of Thrones: It is implied that all the Red Priestesses of R'hllor are Really 700 Years Old, but use a magical necklace to appear like young attractive women to make the religion more appealing to prospective converts. The only person to have ever removed it, Melisandre, immediately looked like a withered old crone.
  • In one episode of Legend of the Seeker, a witch casts a spell to make another man appear to be Richard, and vice versa. He doesn't realize it until they start treating him weird.
  • In Quantum Leap, Sam Beckett takes on the "Aura" of the person he has leaped into. Several episodes, such as the one where Sam leaped into a monkey, confirmed Sam is actually leaping with his own body, and merely appearing as the host to those around him. Of course, just as many episodes demonstrate the opposite to be true.
    • In one episode, Sam leaps into the body of a war vet who has lost both his legs. Al warns him not to try to get up. When Sam does get up at the end of the episode, the other person sees a guy with no legs floating in mid-air.
    • Kids, animals, crazies, and psychics can see his true self.
  • In Shadowhunters, the Shadowhunters have a rune allowing them to take on the appearance of another person. It is first demonstrated in "Bad Blood," when Lydia Branwell arrives in disguise as Valentine to test the Institute's reaction. Later, it plays a more significant role when Jace's father "Michael Wayland" turns out to be Valentine in disguise. Clary used the same or a similar rune to disguise an ordinary coffee mug as the Mortal Cup.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In "The Man Trap", the salt vampire could make itself appear to be a specific person to everyone looking at it. Because of his long experience with it, Professor Crater could always recognize it no matter what form it took.
    • In "Spectre of the Gun", aliens put Kirk and company into a simulation of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. They, and the audience, still see each other normally in their Starfleet uniforms, but the other people in the simulated town react to them as though they were Ike Clanton and company.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Tapestry", when Q brings Picard back to the time when he got into the fight that left him with an artificial heart, he sees himself normally, but everyone else sees him as the young man he was.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Reoul venom can do this. Daniel Jackson uses it to infiltrate a Goa'uld summit meeting at one point, masquerading as a System Lord's personal trusted slave. At one point he questions what happens if you use the venom on yourself. Selmak replies "I don't actually know, and that alone should scare you." However, he has to inject every person he wants to see him as someone else. This becomes a problem when Osiris shows up in the host body of his ex-girlfriend Sarah, immediately recognizing him. Osiris then confronts Daniel, allowing Daniel to inject the Goa'uld. Osiris then forgets why she arrived.
    • This is reused a few seasons later by Mitchell when infiltrating the Lucian Alliance as Netan's trusted advisor. It works because no one but Netan really knows what the guy looks like, so Cam only has to inject him. Then Tenat shows up, who has met Cam before but thinks that Cam is a bounty hunter who's running a con on Netan. Cam injects Tenat and convinces him that he's Netan.
  • Taken: In "Beyond the Sky", the alien John obtains the human image that he projects from an illustration accompanying the Thrilling Space Stories short story "The Star Tracker" that Sally Clarke had been reading immediately before she found him in her shed.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "What Are Friends For?", an Energy Being appears to Alex Mattingly and his son Jeff, thirty or so years apart, in the form of a young boy named Mike. Alex always thought that Mike was simply his Imaginary Friend but learns that he was not so imaginary after all when he sees him again as an adult. Mike tells Alex that he got the image that he is using from Alex's mind when he was a child.
  • The X-Files: The two-part episode "Dreamland I & II" follows this trope when Mulder accidentally switches minds with an employee of Area 51. Mulder, due to his career in weirdness, is able to BS his way through the other man's life fairly well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Changeling: The Lost, all changelings have been twisted and become inhuman, but normal humans instead see their mask, a slightly altered human guise. The changeling, and other changelings (as well as the Fey), however, are all capable of seeing the changeling's true form. The "Rites of Spring" sourcebook has a segment that explains that the Mask actually covers all aspects of the Mien (true form), but it is weakest in disguising scent and taste.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons spell "Disguise Self". Unlike more advanced transmutation spells, viewers can shake off the illusion if they touch the disguised person and realize that what they feel doesn't match what they see.
  • The "Illusion Disguise" spell in GURPS: Magic works like this. "Perfect Illusion Disguise" will actually fool all five senses.
  • In Promethean: The Created, The Divine Fire projects a human disguise over a Promethean's true face. Given that Prometheans are animate corpses, this is pretty much the only thing that keeps them from getting killed on sight (and Disquiet means sometimes even that isn't enough). Prometheans can see each other's true faces, as well as how humans see them overlaid on it. There are, however, several ways to cause Glamour Failure, and those usually cause a world of problems...
  • The "Familiar Stranger" power of Vampire: The Requiem's Obfuscate Discipline makes the target view the vampire as a person he knows or expects to see. What the target perceives is not communicated to the player. The example given has a Nosferatu use the power when entering someone's house; the owner's child sees his father, and the child's babysitter sees a man she assumes is the boy's father based on the available evidence.

    Video Games 
  • A spell that disguises Owyn as a moredhel in Betrayal at Krondor works like this.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: Blackberry manages to infiltrate a Dark Force attack ship by quickly using magic to swap her appearance with that of Idea, who Mensouma was intending to kidnap as part of their theft of magic items.
  • In the first Legacy of Kain game, Kain can get two spells that make him look like how he was when he was alive. These allow him to walk through towns without alerting the people.
  • Pokémon: Zorua and Zoroark have the "Illusion" ability, which makes them appear as another Pokemon (to the opponent) when sent out. Successfully hitting them dispels it.
  • This is how the Spy's disguises in Team Fortress 2 work, in practice. It's speculated that his disguise kit uses some form of holographic technology. Still, to his team it just looks like he's wearing a a cardboard mask of the guy he's disguised as, so maybe they're all just idiots.


    Web Original 
  • Happened a few times during the Crossover Wars: during the Forum Wars the Evil Overlord forces attacked the Wotch forum disguised as members of the EGS & CRFH forums; during the Adult Wars, Terry Dix cast a spell to make her and Miss Violence appear to be EOU droids and later convince the droids that M.Organ was Deception of the EOU.
  • Slender Man was originally portrayed as this, to the entirety of humanity. Only cameras saw him as faceless, because, y'know, they're not alive. This was quickly dropped for plain facelessness.

    Western Animation 
  • In X-Men: Evolution, Nightcrawler uses a kind of hologram field device to appear as a normal human being. It was pointed out in an episode where he had to wear gloves to the prom to prevent his date from catching on to the fact that he had two fuzzy fingers. He originally used one in the comics as well, but he mostly toyed with it to transform into famous movie stars or as a disguise. He stopped using it after a trip through space — mostly because Freaky Is Cool. And because he felt it was contrary to the mutants-are-okay message.
  • On Young Justice (2010), Artemis infiltrates the villains with a new persona, courtesy of a magic necklace that Zatanna supplied. The spell works on everyone but herself and the three others (Dick, Wally and Kaldur) who are in on the plan. This possibly extends to M'gann later on when she accidentally discovers the truth.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Death takes Peter back to the 1980s, where he makes it so that everyone sees Peter as he looked in the period, including himself when he looks at his reflection.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero has the heroes and villains have recognizable features and accessories that remain with them no matter what form they take (Larry and Sashi's glasses, Boone's braces, etc.), but the resonance can only be seen by other part-timers. Normal citizens of that dimension just see them as the person they're pretending to be.

Alternative Title(s): Alternate Appearance Aura