Follow TV Tropes


Not-So-Imaginary Friend
aka: The Harvey

Go To

"Hello everyone! I'm Amy's imaginary friend. But I came anyway."
The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who, "The Big Bang"

A Not-So-Imaginary Friend is real, but due to a pile-up of coincidences, mystical restrictions, an explicit or implied Weirdness Censor, or deliberate evasiveness on this character's part, he remains unseen by others. Generally, by the end of the episode, this character's existence has been proven and the person seeing it gets vindicated, but not always. Basically, a specific way of playing with Imaginary Friend.

This plot is also referred to as "The Singing Frog", after "One Froggy Evening", the famous Looney Tunes cartoon in which a man cannot convince anyone that a frog he has found can sing and dance, and ends up broke and homeless because of it.

Sub-Trope to Imaginary Friend (a specific subversion where the "friend" ends up being real, or possibly a Discussed Trope where the audience knew the friend was real, but most of the characters didn't). Compare with Cassandra Truth, Ignored Expert, It Was Here, I Swear!, Mistaken for an Imposter, Girlfriend in Canada, and Tulpa (where an imaginary person is transformed into a real being by people literally believing in it enough). Often overlaps with Crying Wolf (because the character(s) seeing them have lied in the past), Invisible to Normals (specifically when the affected creature is friendly) and Missed Him by That Much. Can overlap with Otherworldly Visits Youngest First.

The Other Wiki has an entry on the Martha Mitchell effect cases where an individual is misdiagnosed over hallucinations that were, in fact, real.

As this is a form of The Reveal, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


    open/close all folders 
  • If Mr. Giggles ever asks you for some cheese, say yes.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Menma from Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day could at first be dismissed as Jinta hallucinating, but by the end of the show she is seen by and communicates with the entire main cast
  • Puck the elf fills this role in Berserk. Since normal people who have never experienced the supernatural or who are devout followers of the Holy See religion can't see supernatural creatures, anyone who encounters Guts often wonder who the hell he is talking to over his shoulder.
  • The Shinigami in Death Note are a rare example of an actively hidden Non-Imaginary Friend, though most of the cast knows about them by the end.
  • Deus Ex Machina (and his assistant Mur-Mur) from Future Diary is introduced as Yukiteru's imaginary friend, but we very quickly learn that this is not the case, he is actually God, and he's been preparing a rather sick game.
    Deus: "I'm a god. Why can't I live in your imagination?"
    • Given how gods in this series are shown capable of manipulating or 'editing' the memories of themselves or others, there might be a hint of Fridge Horror regarding exactly how Deus took up residence in Yuki's mind.
  • England and his magical friends from Hetalia: Axis Powers — nobody else, save for Norway perhaps, can see them, so they think he's delusional when they catch him talking to or about them, but the fact that he saw a tengu and a youkai when he was at Japan's house as well proves that Flying Mint Bunny and the others have to be real as well.
  • Inverted in King of Thorn. One of the effects of the Medusa disease is materialization of imaginary friends. Cue the world getting overrun by monsters born of people's imagination.
  • Paranoia Agent:
    • Maromi. Or is it?
    • A bigger revelation is that this is also true of Shonen Bat.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Kyubey is such that only magical girls (and those who have the potential to be such) can see him. Fridge Horror: Kyubey has strong telepathic powers that enable him to talk to people from far away. He holds conversations with people who are not themselves able to talk telepathically which means he is reading their minds. Kyubey being invisible to normalness probably involves manipulating people's minds into not noticing him.
    • In the ending, Madoka becomes this to her brother (literally) and Homura. No one else has any reason to believe she exists.
  • An inversion happens in the Sailor Moon R movie. Mamoru was convinced the alien he saw upon waking up in the hospital, Fiore was only an imaginary friend.
  • The Unpopular Mangaka and the Helpful Onryo-san: Senai's neighbor assumes he has a girlfriend from hearing him talking through the wall, but then sees him talk to empty space, and assumes his "girlfriend" is imaginary. Nope, just a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl.

    Comic Books 
  • Blue Monday features Shamus, a six foot, smelly, perverted weasel. Bleu's best friend Clover calls her crazy due to Bleu blaming many things on "Shamus". Fast forward a series and it turns out Clover could see and even talk to Shamus all along, she was just giving Bleu shit.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • In one comic, Donald Duck is sent to the asylum because he is claiming that he's friends with Easter Bunny, whom only he can see. In the asylum other patients start to see Rabbit as well and he is apparently curing them from their own issues. It is hinted that Bunny could be Real After All (we never see more than his shadow).
    • Another comic has an imaginary fiend which was the incarnation of a common cold. That could counter cold remedies by taking remedies of his own.
  • The Flash: Then-Flash Wally West eventually learns his imaginary alien friend, Krakkl of Kwyzz, is not only real, but a speedster like himself.
  • Happy! by Grant Morrison has a a cynical hitman team up with a flying cartoon unicorn who's the imaginary friend of a girl he needs to rescue.
  • "Horror in the Schoolroom" in The Haunt of Fear #7 is based on John Collier's "Thus I Refute Beelzy".
  • DC Comics' Imaginary Fiends involves beings known as Interdimensional Mental Parasites. Perceptible at first only to the human child they're bonded with, they assume an appearance from the child's imagination and feed on the positive emotions from playing with them. The problem is they usually go bad, finding other emotions like fear and devotion more appetizing, and seek a wider audience to draw more power and influence from their belief until they achieve a kind of godhood.
  • The Newsboys Legion member "Gabby" was friends with a huge furniture-eating pink monster named Angry Charlie, but the other kids didn't believe about Charlie (who helped Guardian and the boys, but always out of sight). Charlie revealed himself when he had to help against Boss Moxie and the forces of Apokolips.
  • Prior to the Onslaught saga, young Franklin Richards was visited by a so-called "imaginary friend" by the name of Charlie. When "Charlie" telekinetically causes Franklin to drop a glass of milk, he was chided by his mother for it. When Franklin tried to blame it on Charlie, Invisible Woman replies "Your invisible friend?" Of course, "Charlie" wound up being a projection of Onslaught trying to manipulate the most potentially powerful human on Earth.
  • One issue of Runaways sees Molly falling asleep after a battle and getting kidnapped by the Provost, a supervillain who only appears in this one issue and is never seen again. She defeats the Provost and helps rescue a bunch of other kids he's kidnapped, but the adventure tires her out and she ends up falling asleep again by the time she gets home. After she tries to explain where the hell she's been for the past few hours, Nico assumes that she just wandered off and grounds her for lying about it.
  • The Savage Dragon has an Ascended Fangirl/Stalker with a Crush named She-Dragon, who had seemingly imaginary friends as a result of her initial creation as a parody of John Byrne's fourth-wall-breaking She-Hulk. Eventually, however, the voices she was hearing turned out to belong to a group of demigods trapped in another dimension who had a psychic link with her.
  • Stanley and His Monster: Stanley's parents assume he's just playing make-believe when he tells them he's met an enormous monster and asks if he can keep it. They never learned the truth during the comic's original run, but the 1990s revival mini-series ends with them discovering that Spot is real.
  • In "Grounds... for Horror!" in 'Tales from the Crypt #29, a monster in the closet which only a small boy can see kills said boy's abusive stepfather.

    Comic Strips 
  • Mr. O'Malley, the diminutive, cigar-chomping fairy godfather in Crockett Johnson's Barnaby, is, in spite of the best efforts of Barnaby and his friend Jane, only ever known to exist to the two of them. Numerous potential introductions are ruined by Barnaby's parents looking away at just the wrong moment or leaving the room as he enters, and the two steadfastly refuse to believe O'Malley exists in spite of rapidly mounting evidence to the contrary. The strip ends with Barnaby reaching his sixth birthday, forcing Mr. O'Malley to disappear from his life.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Hobbes is often interpreted as one of these. However, Bill Watterson always made a point of insisting that neither Calvin (who sees him as a living, breathing creature) nor the other human characters (who see him as a stuffed toy) necessarily have the "true" perspective. In contrast with most instances of this trope, Calvin appears not to care, or even to notice, that his parents and other characters don't "see" Hobbes as he does.
    • One plot involves Calvin and Hobbes time-traveling shortly into the future, where Calvin should have finished a homework assignment, so he can travel back with it without having done it himself. While Calvin and his time-duplicate argue over who should do the assignment, Hobbes and his time duplicate write it together, and use it to make fun of Calvin and his plan. Calvin, without reading it, turns in the assignment, which is noted as being different and better than Calvin's usual style, and capable of telling jokes at the expense of Calvin, which Calvin is not.
    • Calvin manages to climb trees, which he wouldn't be able to manage alone, with Hobbes giving him a boost to the first branch. Another time Hobbes ties Calvin to a chair. Other characters express amazement that Calvin can do all these things by (or to) himself, even when it's very clear he needs help at certain points in his adventures.
      Susie: (watching Calvin and Hobbes wrestle) I don't know what's weirder; that you're fighting your stuffed animal or that you seem to be losing.
      Calvin: I'm not losing! He cheats!
  • Cul-de-sac has Ernesto Lacuna. Petey is fairly sure he's imaginary, but he's interacted with other people on occasion (though general consensus from them is that he's still imaginary).
  • In Curtis, there's Gunk's pet "Flyspeck Island chameleon", who's constantly breaking things and creating other types of havoc and getting Curtis in trouble with his parents, who assume he's making the creature up. It doesn't help that the chameleon has the power of invisibility.
  • The Family Circus has occasional appearances by invisible, troublemaking ghosts or gremlins with names like "Not Me" and "Ida Know". While they're obviously meant to be a Visual Pun on the time-honored tendency of children to deny responsibility when confronted with their misdeeds, it seems as if the gremlins actually exist in the universe of the strip, even if the parents deny their existence.
  • The Far Side: One cartoon involves a man being forcibly lifted by his shirt collar off the ground; the person lifting him is invisible both to him and to the reader. An angry-looking little kid explains, "Big Bob is tired of you saying he doesn't exist."
  • Garfield has at least two known cases from his strips:
  • One Off the Mark strip showed a group of these characters gathered: The Great Gazoo, Pasquale's guardian angel, Hobbes, Nadine, Ida Know, and Not Me, with Hobbes saying "Let's not forget... Snuffleupagus started out just like us and now everybody can see him!". The caption is "Invisible Friend Support Group".

    Fan Works 
  • Another Rainbow in Another Sky: Other kids at Molly's school think that she's making up stories of being friends with talking ponies. Eventually, even Molly and her siblings believe the ponies were just stories. However, the ponies were real.
  • Aside from Hobbes, Socrates of Calvin & Hobbes: The Series is about the same as the former. Interestingly enough, this makes for quite the Fridge Logic situation. As the plot calls for the two tigers to have adventures with the other three protagonists, they end up being seen by quite a few people as living. While aliens and robots can be Hand Waved, other humans like the Brainstorm family (who think he's a robot) don't have that excuse.
  • Child of the Storm briefly references this trope, with a side-note revealing that thanks to Professor Xavier, it's been discovered that Jean-Paul's insane sister's imaginary friend is, in fact, not so imaginary after all.
  • In Epiphany: Cloud discovers Zack's voice in his head around the time that the Sector 7 pillar collapse is averted. Zack then proceeds to annoy Cloud by being...well...Zack.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica (2003) fanfic Fail Better, Lucia is this to the young Laura Roslin, who stops believing in her existence as she grows up. Lucia is, of course, real, and it hurts her very much (and makes her unable to touch solid objects in the human world), but she accepts it as the "way of life". Later when she becomes human, Laura discovers that she really was real and to say it surprises her would be an understatement.
    Lucia: I always knew it'll be this way... I just never knew it'll hurt so much.
  • In the Naruto fanfic Invisible Fox Naruto is rendered permanently invisible at a young age by an accident, is believed to be dead by everyone, and makes no attempt to disabuse them of this. After he saves Hinata from being bullied by pretending to be a ghost, she invites him to stay with her and becomes her secret friend, until he's forced to reveal himself and is basically accepted as part of the Hyuuga clan.
  • The eponymous Jessica turns out to be this. An unusual example, since Cameron is the one to whom she is proven to be real, not others around him.
  • The Kingdom Hearts story Second Chance is an AU in which Sora could communicate with Ventus after the latter's heart merged with him at a young age. Most of the people that Sora mentions Ven to assume he's an imaginary friend, but after Ven finds out he can take control of Sora's body, he's able to prove his existence to Sora's parents by summoning his Keyblade. Once he does, he's quickly adopted as Sora's older brother.
  • In Kira Is Justice, one element of Not-So-Imaginary Friend is defined and enforced by the author. To prevent Justin from just talking to Landras in his room, where his family might notice, the Telepathy Necklace is introduced. It hadn't been abused yet.
  • In Never Tear Us Apart, the part of Morrigan Aensland's soul that would gain sentience and become Lilith somehow found its way into a pregnant Lily Evans, bonding to her unborn son's soul. Lilith then manifested as a sort of imaginary friend, often offering Harry comfort and helping him cope with the Dursley's abuse but never being able to help him due to not having a physical body. That is, until the climax of the Triwizard Tournament, when Voldemort's Cruciatus Curse ended up breaking Lilith's restrains and caused her to finally come out physically, out of her desire to protect Harry and their mutual survival instinct.
  • In A Red Rose in the Blue Wind, Yang thought Sonic was her half-sister Ruby's imaginary friend. It takes meeting Knuckles for her to realize Ruby was telling the truth.
  • In To the Stars, Homura insists that there was once a fifth magical girl protecting Mitakihara, but that all evidence of her existence was erased when she Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence. Nobody believes Homura, and even her allies consider her borderline insane. And then she starts performing actual, verifiable miracles...
  • In What You Wish For, a fanfic of The Loud House, Lincoln has disappeared and Leni and Luna wonder who this "Lincoln" character is that Lori keeps talking about. Leni suggests that maybe he's an imaginary friend, while Luna thinks maybe he's an imaginary boyfriend (since in that reality, Lori and Bobby aren't dating).
  • In Loving Good Harry discovers that what he thought was an Imaginary Friend is actually a Crumple-Horned Snorkack which, being a magical creature is invisible to Muggles.
  • Hawkmoth Gets A Reference: After improving his use of the Butterfly Miraculous, Gabriel starts hearing a voice in his head that sounds like his comatose wife Emilie. He initially attributes it to either a hallucination or his consciousness. But after he repairs the Peacock Miraculous, Duusu can not only hear Emilie but also "see" her from where Gabriel "imagined" the voice to come from. It's revealed that Emilie's emotions had manifested into a being outside of her body, letting her speak again with her husband and Kwammi.
  • Coby's Choice: In their first day in the New World, while Sanji is teaching Ace how to cook a tall dish of food vanishes when the cook is looking away, with the only hint being the dash of sauce on Ace's cheek. Ace claims that he only ate half of the dish while his friend Lily ate the other half, which Sanji suspects to be a childish lie. Though it's not long until he and Kaku see the food being devoured by the microscopic giant Lily.

    Films — Animation 
  • Horton Hears a Who! (2008): While most of the animals think Horton is insane for talking to the (Whos on the) speck of dust, the children he tells about it believe it's a game he's playing and make up their own worlds.
  • In Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it's ambiguous as to whether or not Quasimodo's gargoyle friends are real or products of his imagination, and Frollo at one point reminds Quasi that stone can't talk. Near the end, just before Frollo's Disney Villain Death, a different gargoyle Frollo's clinging to for support growls at him. His expression is one of shocked horror.
  • In Ice Age: Continental Drift, Granny constantly calls out to Precious, her pet which is presumed to be either imaginary or dead. Then Precious turns out to be a sperm whale and very much alive.
  • Finding Dory has Destiny, Dory's "pipe-pal" who her parents thought was just a figment of her imagination. When trying to find her way back home, Dory gets tossed in a bucket with food for an animal at the Marine Life Institute, who turns out to be Destiny. They are surprised to find out that they both were real animals and not imaginary ones.
  • The title character of ParaNorman insists that he sees ghosts all over town, and in particular, that his recently-deceased grandmother is still inhabiting the house. The events of the film cause his family to finally believe him.
  • Up: Zigzagged in a dark way. Ellie did exist once, but she died, however her husband Carl sometimes pretends to speak to her. Russell hears him and believes Ellie is just a mundane imaginary friend.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Cloak & Dagger (1984), Davey's imaginary friend, Jack Flack, seems to demonstrate this trope periodically, as we see him picking up objects and opening and closing car doors.
  • In Cooperstown, a retired baseball player is visited by the ghost of his deceased friend. His grandson and his grandson's girlfriend think he's crazy until they confirm (by asking questions about the ghost's batting average) that the ghost really is there.
  • The titular character of Daniel Isn't Real is anything but imaginary.
  • King Brian in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
  • In Don't Look Under the Bed, Frances learns that imaginary friends really do exist when Larry, her little brother's imaginary friend, makes himself visible to her. It also turns out that if children stop believing in their imaginary friends too soon, they become malicious boogeymen who create chaos in the real world.
  • Drop Dead Fred centers on this trope, as it's all but stated that Fred was not just Lizzie's supposed imaginary friend that her My Beloved Smother mom Polly "cured" her from seeing...
  • The Field Guide to Evil: In "Beware the Melonheads", Arnold meets a boy named William in the woods: dressed in dirty clothes and with his head hidden from view. His parents assume that William is a new imaginary friend. Unfortunately for them, William is all too real.
  • Francis the Talking Mule: Everyone could see him, but for the most part, Peter was the only one he would talk to, although it was often subverted when Francis would talk someone else when Peter was really in a jam.
  • The film Harvey, based on a play. The 7 foot tall bunny called Harvey is invisible to the audience, and at first, we are led to believe it is only a figment of the protagonist's imagination... until doors are magically opening by themselves and purses vanish and reappear. Harvey is actually a pooka, a trickster being from Irish folklore.
  • In Heart and Souls, Thomas is a young boy who has several imaginary friends who turn out to be the ghosts of people who were killed in a bus accident. As a grown man, Thomas thinks he's going crazy until he talks to an institutionalized woman who confirms she can see them. She even makes up another ghost to make sure they aren't just humoring each other.
  • In Hide and Seek, David doesn't believe his daughter when she said her imaginary friend Charlie killed his wife. But he soon discovers that he is Charlie, whom he created to cope with his anger when he saw his wife sleeping with another man, and was responsible for killing her.
  • In Hunk, only Bradley can see O'Brien, so Chachka is very confused when Bradley keeps asking her questions about a woman she can't see. When O'Brien dances with her, all Chachka can see is him dancing with himself.
  • Pete's Dragon (1977) is heavy on this trope.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: An entire subplot was cut where Neal's wife suspects that he's having an affair and that "Del" is merely a persona he's created to explain why he hasn't arrived home yet. The tears of joy when Neal finally comes home and introduces everybody to Del was originally supposed to be elation upon discovering that Neal was telling the truth the whole time.
  • The title character in Rain Man. As a young child, Charlie Babbitt had an imaginary friend known as "Rain Man" who told him stories and sang him songs. Then he grew up. The "imaginary friend" turned out to be his autistic much-older brother, Raymond — "Rain Man" was how little Charlie pronounced his name.
  • Morris in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a furry faceless mythological creature and the pet companion of Trevor Slattery. When the heroes freak out at the sight of Morris, Trevor is delighted because he was worried that he had been hallucinating the fuzzy winged chicken-pig-thing for the last few years.
  • The eponymous canine of To Dance with the White Dog is seen only by the film's elderly protagonist at first. She turns out to be the spirit of his dead wife.
  • A possible case occurs in Wendigo. Like so much in the movie, it is left to the viewer to decide if the Native American who gives Miles the wendigo figure, and who later appears at the hospital, is real or is only a figment of Miles' imagination.
  • In Mermaid Down, the only people who can see the ghost are the mermaid, who can't talk, and a psychiatric patient named June. Everyone thinks the ghost is June's imaginary friend, and the other patients are told not to encourage her delusions.

  • In the Forty Four Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith, Child Prodigy Bertie's therapist believes Bertie's best friend Tofu is imaginary. He's so convinced of this that he makes absolutely no effort to ascertain the truth beyond asking two questions. "Does your mother see Tofu?" (She doesn't, because Bertie knows she never notices anything.) "Is Tofu here now?" (He isn't. Obviously.) He then proceeds to make an entire diagnosis based on this assumption.
  • The Amityville Horror features the Lutz family's daughter, Amy, befriending an invisible creature she calls "Jodie." Her parents think it's an imaginary friend at first, until they start seeing its eyes glowing in the darkness and finding cloven footprints in the snow, indicating that she is not only real but much more sinister than Amy believes.
  • The focus of the poem "Antigonish" by Hughes Mearns:
    Yesterday upon the stair
    I met a man who wasn't there.
    He wasn't there again today
    Oh how I wish he'd go away!
  • Older Than Radio: Oscar Wilde's "The Canterville Ghost" (1887). While the rest of the newly-arrived Otis family dismiss the ghost, Virginia befriends him, and ultimately aids in his redemption.
  • The little girls in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling 1970 believe Ivy's sister Josie is magic, that she sees and talks with people who are invisible to them. Exploring a burned-out Big Fancy House, they intuit the tragic story of its owner, Annabelle, and her children; unnoticed, Josie plays and chatters in the remains of the garden. She gathers a bouquet of dead flowers, saying "the beautiful dead lady gave them to me." The way the dialogue unfolds, did Josie see Annabelle? Or is she saying this so she can keep her flowers? This being Josie, it could be either (and, this being Snyder, it could be both).
  • Chocky, in the John Wyndham novel of the same name, was thought to be the imaginary friend of a young boy. It turned out it was really an alien that was scouting the Earth for its species, looking for a child it could teach to advance human knowledge with E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi.
  • In Andre Norton's Dread Companion, Kilda thinks that "She" is an imaginary friend. At one point, Bartare even says that she is, and she uses her to frighten Oomart. Once they are through the Cool Gate, she admits the truth.
  • The Enchanted Files: In Diary of a Mad Brownie / Cursed, Alex Carhart's little sister Destiny has an invisible friend, Herbert the Goblin, who later supposedly disappears some time before her teacher tries to convince her he isn't real (angering Angus, the titular "mad Brownie"). Later on, when the protagonists (including said teacher) travel through the Enchanted Realm, they meet Herbert and learn he's a crewman on a ship there — he met Destiny while he was on shore leave, and left with a promise to keep in touch when his time was up.
  • In the ballad "The Erl-King" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a boy claims he is being pursued by a supernatural entity (the Erl-King) which his father cannot see. The father believes the Erlking is only a figment of the boy's imagination, but by the end he "feels a horror" (dem Vater grausets), which indicates he (and with him, the reader) is left wondering whether the Erlking was real, after all.
  • Commonly used in the Goosebumps books.
  • In The Graveyard Book, Scarlett's parents think that Bod, the protagonist, is her imaginary friend. At the end, she barely remembers him.
  • In the Arthurian novel Guinevere, a retelling of the legend covering the youth of the future Queen of Camelot, a friend of Guinevere's is considered half-mad because he is acquainted with a choir of very good but invisible singers that only he can hear. Guinevere discovers he's telling the truth because she's able to not only hear them, but see them; however, they agree to keep this a secret between themselves.
  • Karlsson in Astrid Lindgren's Karlsson on the Roof behaves as one of these for a long time, although eventually he reveals himself to the rest of the family.
  • Laughing Jack:
    • James' mother assumes her son's new friend, Laughing Jack, to be imaginary, since she can't see him and has quite an outlandish description. After a series of disturbing events, the titular Monster Clown reveals himself to the mother once she sees her severely mangled son, proving that he was a False Friend all along.
    • In Laughing Jack's origin story, besides outright referring to himself as a "not-so-imaginary friend" to Isaac, the clown says he can't let anyone else see him or they wouldn't be allowed to play anymore, which leads Isaac's mother to think that he's lying about Laughing Jack's existence. When Isaac returns 13 years after being sent to boarding school, seeing Laughing Jack again is a severe shock to him, because Isaac had dismissed him as childhood imagination.
  • In Zenna Henderson's "Loo Ree," six-year-old Marsha enters first grade with what certainly appears to be an imaginary friend. She's also a tough little cuss who will punch you in the nose or knock you flat on your arse if you say Loo Ree isn't real. So the class has to play along, until they're all behaving as if Loo Ree was real, just invisible... and this is entirely as it should be.
  • In "Mr Lupescu", a Short Story by Anthony Boucher, Alan pretends to be Bobby's fairy godfather "Mr. Lupescu". He wears an elaborate costume, gains his trust with stories of travels in the Milky Way, and instills a fear of "Gorgo", an Imaginary Enemy that will punish Bobby if he misbehaves. When Bobby takes "Mr. Lupescu" home to meet his father Robert, "Mr. Lupescu" kills the man. Of course, no one believes stories of a fairy godfather killing Robert, leaving the police baffled. Alan goes home and destroys his costume, satisfied in the knowledge that Marjorie, now a rich widow, is available for him to marry. Unfortunately for Alan, Gorgo turns out to be a Not-So-Imaginary Monster.
  • In Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series, one volume had a running joke about there being no such thing as Gremlins. Naturally, one did show up at the end of the story.
  • In the children's book Oscar Got The Blame by Tony Ross, Billy is initially never seen, but he allegedly did things like run the bath taps for no reason and other naughty things, resulting in the eponymous Oscar who's described as his best friend getting the blame. However, at the end, it turns out Billy is real, and when Oscar points out that Billy is never caught, Billy is seen dancing and he says, "They never do".
  • This is the central plot point of Cornell Woolrich's Phantom Lady.
  • In The Princess and the Goblin by George Macdonald, Princess Irene's great-great-grandmother (also named Princess Irene) acts as one of these. No one is quite sure whether or not to believe Princess Irene, even after her great-great-grandmother engineers a massive victory against the Goblins.
  • Poor Becky from the Shopaholic series spends the first half of the second book desperately trying to convince her family and friend that she is, indeed, dating a famous multi-millionaire. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Small Gods had St. Ungulant, a hermit who lived out in the desert with the eponymous small gods. His lifestyle involved daily hallucinations, but fortunately his invisible friend Angus was there to keep him from going crazy. Angus later proved himself to be real by braining a hungry lion.
  • Small Persons with Wings begins with Mellie in kindergarten, when a Small Person with Wings named Fidius lives with her family. She's one of the few kids not invited to Janine Henry's birthday party, and rather than admit that Janine doesn't like her, she tells the other kids that she can't go because it's Fidius's birthday. When the other girls find out that she has a "fairy," they all want to be her friend. Mellie promises to bring Fidius to school on Monday, but when Fidius finds out that she broke the masquerade, he's so angry that he leaves the family for good. Alpha Bitch Janine is so mad at Mellie for ruining her birthday party that Mellie spends the next eight years being bullied over her "imaginary friend." After a few years, even Mellie comes to believe that she imagined Fidius, until she meets the rest of his people when she's thirteen.
  • In the Temps short story "Someone To Watch Over Me", Damon started out as Darren's imaginary friend. It wasn't until he was older that Damon started fighting back against the kids who bullied him and his mum's boyfriends. The DPR classifies Damon as "a semi-autonomous psychokinetic energy field", but Gentleman Wizard and senior official Loric
  • The short story "Thus I Refute Beelzy" by John Collier.
  • Anna of The Woman In The Wall got stuck in a school employee's handbag because of this trope.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Andy Griffith Show: "Mr. McBeevee", the 1962 episode where Opie meets a telephone lineman. Because of the way 8-year-old Opie describes McBeevee:
    • He "blows smoke from his ears" (McBeevee, a smoker, is able to make smoke come from his ears when exhaling).
    • He "lives in the trees" (McBeevee's work is often high atop telephone poles).
    • He "has 12 extra hands" (his tool belt and wide variety of tools, which he needs at his side to make various repairs).
    • ... it sounds as though McBeevee is an Imaginary Friend, and Andy and Barney are skeptical about his existence. Things turn serious when Opie shows his father a quarter (that McBeevee had given him as a present), leading Andy to conclude that his son may have stolen it,note  and things become worse for Opie when they go to McBeevee's worksite, only to find nobody there. (Shortly before Andy and Opie arrived, McBeevee was called to assist another worker.) Andy decides he has to punish his son for lying, but can't bring himself to do it when Opie insists that McBeevee is real. Just as Andy goes to a clearing to cool off, he muses aloud, "Mr. McBeevee" — and it isn't long before McBeevee responds. Andy, for his part, is so relieved to find out the man is real that he invites McBeevee over for dinner that evening; later, McBeevee calls the station to assure them that he'll be there, and Barney — who didn't believe Andy when Andy told him about meeting McBeevee — answers the phone, only to be rather dumbstruck when it's conclusively proven to him that McBeevee is real.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Baltar can see (and feel) Six, which can sometimes lead to some rather frightening scenes. And sometimes hilarious ones. It was definitely proven in one episode where Six picked Baltar up and everyone saw him being lifted by an invisible force. And for bonus points, the "real" Six has a Baltar running around that only she can see. And Baltar's Six and Six's Baltar can see each other. The finale confirms that the two really are angels who have assumed A Form You Are Comfortable With.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: Granny runs across a kangaroo which has escaped from the neighbor's place. Everyone thinks she's drunk when she talks about the "giant jackrabbit".
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard tries to convince Leonard's mother that there is nothing going between him and Raj. He even tells her he has a girlfriend, but Bernadette is inconveniently out of town, so she doesn't believe him.
  • Charmed
    • In "Once Upon a Time", a little girl claims she can see trolls and fairies. Her mother and stepfather think she's created imaginary friends as a reaction to her parents' divorce, but the Halliwells discover that she's seeing real creatures. The sisters also mention that as kids they all had the same imaginary friend, a fairy called "Lily". Piper assumes it was just something one of them made up that the other two went along with, but after learning fairies are real they start to wonder if maybe Lily was real too.
    • In "Imaginary Fiends", a demon appears to Wyatt and acts like his friend, all the while trying to corrupt Wyatt into serving the cause of evil. Because only Wyatt can see the demon, the adult characters think that Wyatt merely has an "imaginary friend". The demon, who has done this with other preschool-aged witches in the past, is counting on the fact that adults tend not to suspect that there's anything more unusual going on than just a kid playing with an imaginary friend.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Tenth Doctor apparently becomes this to young Reinette in "The Girl in the Fireplace" after popping out of her fireplace, saving her from a clockwork robot, and disappearing again when she was a little girl.
      Rose: Oh, here's trouble. What you been up to?
      The Doctor: Oh, this and that. Became the imaginary friend of a future French aristocrat, picked a fight with a clockwork man...
    • After the Eleventh Doctor meets and befriends the young Amelia Pond, everyone else thinks that her stories of him are just them telling them about her imaginary friend. Her boyfriend is astonished when the Doctor eventually appears, having accidentally skipped forward twelve years due to his damaged TARDIS, unable to believe that "the Raggedy Doctor" is real.
      • This gets repeated in the final episode of season 5, thanks to some odd circumstances, leading to him becoming real again after having been erased from reality, and the page quote.
      • Lampshaded with the BBC America intro, which reminds viewers every week that when Amy "was a little girl, [she] had an imaginary friend, and when [she] grew up, he came back..."
  • In The Facts of Life, everyone thought Natalie was making up her biker boyfriend, "Snake". The show went so far as to end an episode with the sound of a motorcycle revving up, and Natalie exclaiming "SNAKE!" (with a quick fourth-wall break to inform the audience they'd have to wait a bit to actually see him). We do finally see him a few episodes later, mostly to set up the Very Special Episode where Natalie is the first of the girls to lose her virginity.
    • We can actually thank Lisa Whelchel for Snake's introduction. The storyline about Natalie losing her virginity was actually originally written to center around Blair. However, Whelchel refused to appear in the episode altogether because at the time, she had become (and still is) a born-again Christian and premarital sex conflicted with her morals.
  • Farscape has Scorpius' neural clone stuck inside John's head. John, being a Genre Savvy guy, named him Harvey.
  • Fawlty Towers: Basil not being able to prove a guest has sneaked a lady friend into his room.
  • Frasier: Frasier not being able to prove he's dating a marine biologist/supermodel.
  • In The Fugitive, Lieutenant Gerard regarded the One-Armed Man as a figment of Richard Kimble's imagination, conjured up to relieve his guilt over murdering his wife. For much of the first season (until the end of the episode "Search in a Windy City"), even Kimble himself isn't entirely sure that the One-Armed Man really exists.
  • The 1960s TV series The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a sitcom, very loosely based on a 1940s dramatic film. In the sitcom, a young widow and her two children (a boy and a girl) live with their housekeeper in a seaside cottage haunted by the ghost of its earlier inhabitant, a sea captain. The captain chooses to be visible to the widow and her young son, but not to the widow's daughter or the housekeeper, both of whom assume that the ghost is merely the boy's imaginary friend.
  • In the Ghosts (US) episode "Alberta's Fan", it's revealed that some young children have the ability to see and hear ghosts, so that children with imaginary friends may be talking to real ghosts who are invisible to most adults. It's later revealed that Thorfinn was Hetty's not-so-imaginary friend when she was a little girl.
  • Gilligan's Island: In "Gilligan vs. Gilligan", a Russian spy arrives on the island and turns out to be Gilligan's exact double. He starts creating trouble on the island for which Gilligan is naturally blamed, but although Gilligan learns of his presence early on, he can't convince the others of the doppelganger.
  • Zig-zagged in The Haunting Hour episode "My Imaginary Friend". We deal with a preteen boy who's being influenced by a jerkass bad boy who tries to help the kid become popular. His older brother informs him that his new friend doesn't exist and doesn't see him until he exposes himself as real. Eventually Subverted, when it turns out that the kid's Bad Boy friend and his older brother are both imaginary.
  • In an episode of Hi-5, a little girl has a seemingly-imaginary friend named Bango, who turns out to be real when he finds the car keys.
  • In the first season of Home and Away, 8-year-old Sally had an imaginary friend called Milco, the spelling of which wasn't made clear at the time. 20 years later, she meets her long-lost twin brother, Miles Copeland. This was foreshadowed a few weeks earlier when Sally talked about her childhood with Rachel (comparing it with her daughter Pippa struggling to deal with her father-figure leaving) and finally revealed the spelling.
  • One episode of iCarly inverts this, when Sam mentions she has a twin sister coming to visit. Freddie, of course, doesn't believe her, mostly because Sam had pranked him so many times, even when Carly and her brother vouched for Sam's story. But Freddie doggedly refuses to believe it, which is a shame as Sam's sister likes him too.
  • In the Inside No. 9 episode "Tom and Gerri", Migg is this. In the opening scene, when he's begging outside Tom's apartment, Gerri doesn't see him (ostensibly because he's hidden by a car); and later, after Migg moves in, he's always in another room or out of the house when Gerri visits. She soon starts to question whether he's real at all. It turns out Migg is real, but Gerri is not — she had died in a road accident, and Tom was hallucinating her.
  • A variation on The Invisible Man: the little girl already has an imaginary friend, and Darien uses his power of invisibility to impersonate "Ralph" and get a witness statement from her.
  • In the short-lived '80s sitcom Jennifer Slept Here, the title character (an old movie actress who had been run over by an ice cream truck) was a ghost who haunted her former house, but was only visible to one member of the family that now occupied the place: a teenage boy named Joey. Much of the show's humor derived from Joey's unsuccessful attempts to convince the rest of the family of Jennifer's existence.
  • On Lost, Ben has an invisible friend named Jacob who can only be perceived by being completely delusional, being innately connected to the island, or by turning on a flashlight in his presence. Jacob is later proven to be much, much more than even a typical not-so-imaginary friend.
  • Lost in Space: The first season episode, "My Friend, Mr. Nobody", has Penny befriending a disembodied voice, that everyone assumes is just her new imaginary friend.
  • Lucifer (2016): After a near-fatal car accident as a child Ella Lopez started seeing an imaginary friend called Ray-Ray who Ella believes was a ghost that decided to hang out with her. Ella is mildly disturbed when Ray-Ray suddenly shows up again as an adult and assumes it's just her subconscious acting out. The audience eventually learns that "Ray-Ray" is actually Archangel Azrael, the Angel of Death and Lucifer's sister. She was supposed to reap Ella during the car accident but Ella pulled through and Azrael was so enchanted by Ella's positive nature that she decided to keep visiting as much as she could.
  • A similar plot occurred in an episode of Medium when one of Alison's daughters babysat for a boy that everyone thought was troubled. He would act out, then claim that it was because his imaginary friend told him to do it. When it turns out the girl can see the "friend" as well, he turns out to be the ghost of a teenager whose girlfriend had left him due to advice from the child's mother. Being a control freak, after his death he decided to get the boy to act out and drive a wedge between him and his mother as a form of Disproportionate Retribution.
  • In an episode of Monk, no one believes that Randy's girlfriend Crystal is real. Randy appears to have taken her name from a box marked "crystal glassware", and the picture he has of her is a wallet insert (he explains that she is a photography model). He spends the entire episode trying to convince everyone she is real, even getting her on the phone at one point, to no avail. She is revealed to be real at the end of the episode, driving away in a taxi so no-one can see her.
  • In Monty Python's Flying Circus, the notorious East End gangster Dinsdale Piranha note  thinks he is being watched by an enormous hedgehog named Spiny Norman. This seemingly delusional belief is exploited in his capture, but Spiny Norman makes a surprise appearance at the end of the sketch, calling Dinsdale's name all over London.
  • In Northern Exposure, Joel initially struggled to convince people that he had been abducted by the mountain man Adam, who everyone else regarded as an urban legend. Adam would eventually interact with other townsfolk, becoming a recurring character.
  • The Office (US) has an episode where Jim invites the entire office (aside from Michael) to a party at his apartment, partly so he can prove to his roommate Mark that Dwight does exist and isn't just a character whose antics Jim made up to mess with him.
  • On One Life to Live, escaped convict Todd convinced two of the children that he was a genie named Ali ("and I float like a butterfly, and I sting like a bee") so that they would help him continue to hide from authorities. When the kids did mention Ali the genie, everyone just assumed this was an imaginary friend. The Reveal left the grownups understandably rattled.
  • In the long-running Canadian children's show The Polka Dot Door, there was a character called the "Polkaroo" who was portrayed by one of the show's two adult hosts. In each episode, the host in question would find some pretext for leaving the set, the "Polkaroo" would come on and make his appearance, leave, and said host would come back: "You mean I missed him again?"
  • Al Calavicci in Quantum Leap. He's a hologram adviser that generally only Sam Beckett can see and hear (although Al is also visible to animals, small children, the mentally handicapped and the dying — in short, those lacking a Weirdness Censor). Ninety percent of the time, though, anyone seeing and hearing Sam talking to Al assumes that he's talking to himself, because as far as they can tell, no-one is there.
  • The Janitor in Scrubs was initially designed as such a character, with the show's creator even intending to reveal him as a figment of J.D.'s imagination if the show didn't last out its first season. To support this he is never shown directly interacting with any other character throughout season (With the exception of some ambiguous scenes where characters are implicitly recognizing his presence but don't directly speak with him). In the second season it ended when Neil Flynn asked to be able to work with the other actors. On a DVD commentary he describes his character in the first season as "a Snuffleupagus".
  • Seinfeld: Kramer has many friends who never appear on-screen (Bob Sacamano and Lomez to name a few). One episode gave us this delightful exchange:
    Jerry: You sure have a lot of friends; how come I never meet any of these people?
    Kramer: They wonder why they never meet you.
  • One episode of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World sees Marguerite stepping into a booby trap and falling into a pit with spikes. She gets hurt and while Challenger gets help she hallucinates about her best friend Adrienne who keeps her awake so Marguerite doesn't fall asleep with a concussion. Later it turns out that she's not so hallucinated at all — which freaks Marguerite out.
  • In Nickelodeon's sci-fi TV series Space Cases, Catalina has an invisible best friend in another dimension that only she can talk to, named Suzee. Naturally no-one believes her, and the theme song even says "Catalina's best friend Suzee isn't there". In the season one/two swing an explosion causes the two to trade dimensions and Suzee joins the crew, while Catalina becomes Suzee's invisible friend and is only seen once more through a trans-dimensional viewscreen.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In "Show and Tell" a mysterious sickly boy arrives at the SGC, he claims to be accompanied by his "mother" but nobody but him can see her and many of the protagonists assume he's coping with the destruction of his people by the Goa'uld, even after "Mother" starts moving objects and shoots a computer. They start to believe him after their Tok'ra allies inform them of an out-of-phase species called the Reetou that the Goa'uld tried to eradicate, and bring in some of the devices that they used to make them visible.
    • "Urgo": all four members of the team start seeing an annoying presence called Urgo. He was still technically imaginary, as no one else could see him since he didn't have a physical body to start with, but otherwise real because he was a simulation created by an electronic device inserted in their brains.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Zigzagged in "Imaginary Friend", wherein an alien takes the form of a little girl's imaginary friend. The little girl truly did make up "Isabella", but the alien posed as her. The girl didn't realize this and thought Isabella had come alive.
  • Supernatural:
    • The Monster of the Week in the episode "Playthings" is a spirit posing as the imaginary friend of her grandniece.
    • A whole race of these called Zannas is introduced in "Just My Imagination". Unusually for this show, they are completely benevolent spirits who do everything in their power to take care of children.
  • In Tales from the Darkside episode "Ursa Major", a little girl tells her mother that her teddy bear is actually alive and her best friend. Naturally, her mother doesn't believe her, but plays along with it. However, when bad things start happening around the house and the teddy bear is always seen at the crime she assumes that her daughter is doing these actions at first... until the teddy bear growls at her and its eyes begin to glow.
  • In Thriller there's Mr. George, who gives fatherly advice to little heiress Priscilla Leggett. As her relatives attempt to arrange "accidents", George gently suggests that she go play someplace else for a few minutes; meanwhile he arranges for each of the "accidents" to backfire. George is the dead fiancé of Priscilla's mother. He also arranges for his own sister to become Priscilla's guardian. This is based on an August Derleth story.
  • The Tick (2016): Arthur briefly misinterprets a series of events as proof that the Tick is a figment of his imagination, which is played up by the editing as some shocking revelation, despite numerous scenes of others noticing and interacting with the Tick. Moments later, Arthur's sister confirms to him the Tick is real.
  • Topper: Ghosts George, Marion and Neil are only visible to Cosmo Topper, who often double talks his way out of situations of people overhearing him talking to them.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "The Fever", everyone believes that Franklin Gibbs is merely hallucinating when he claims that a slot machine keeps calling his name. It chases him towards a window and he falls to his death. The slot machine then approaches him and spits out his last dollar before disappearing into the night.
    • In "Mirror Image", Paul Grinstead believes that Millicent Barnes' claim that she is being pursued by her Doppelgänger from a Mirror Universe is nothing more than a hallucination and calls the police so that they can get her the help that she needs. As soon as Millicent leaves, Paul sees his own doppelgänger and realizes that Millicent was telling the truth.
    • In "The Dummy", Jerry Etherson is absolutely convinced that his dummy Willie is alive but he cannot make his agent Frank believe him. It turns out that Jerry's fears were justified as he and Willie later switch places.
    • In "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", Bob Wilson can't convince anyone that "There's something on the wing!"
    • In "Living Doll", Annabelle Streator believes that her husband Erich is claiming that Talky Tina is alive and threatening to kill him because he hates her and her daughter Christie. She tells him to see a psychiatrist. Erich later trips over Tina on the stairs and falls to his death. When Annabelle finds his body, Tina says to her "I'm Talky Tina...and you better to be nice to me." Annabelle then realizes that Erich was right all along.
    • In "Caesar and Me", Jonathan West's ventriloquist's dummy Caesar has a mind of his own and uses his influence over Jonathan to convince him to commit various robberies. He later abandons him by refusing to speak in front of others so that it appears that Jonathan is insane and entirely to blame for the crime spree.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "What Are Friends For?", a young boy named Jeff Mattingly meets another boy named Mike in the woods, who turns out to be an immortal being of light.
  • In Unhappily Ever After, there is Mr. Floppy the stuffed rabbit, who only Jack the father can communicate with, largely because he is partially insane.
  • Wings: Joe not being able to prove one of his high school friends is stalking him.

  • In the Songdrops song "My Pet Monster", the singer's pet monster is often mistaken for imaginary because he's invisible except on Halloween.
  • "Bigfoot!" by the Weakerthans is about a man who is exposed to ridicule after seeing Bigfoot.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In the Bible, God proclaims, "I knew you before I formed you in the womb." In a sense, this kind of implies the entire human race, and the angels by proxy, all started out as figments of God's imagination before being brought to life.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock frequently has Doc's dog Sprocket trying (and failing) to bring the Fraggles' existence to his master's attention. Doc seems to sort of believe Sprocket, at least in later episodes, but it's not until the finale that he actually sees a Fraggle (Gobo) himself.
    • In one episode, Red discovers the last of the Lily Creatures, but can't get others to believe her. The one Fraggle who does wants to capture and exploit it, so Red "admits" to making the whole thing up to protect it.
    • The UK version has the same dynamic between Sprocket and the Captain (and his successors). A Fraggle Rock skit on The Children's Royal Variety Performance was introduced by the Captain explaining that all the stories about strange creatures living around the lighthouse were nonsense, while Sprocket gives him an "Are you kidding me?" look.
  • When Leo from Rimini Riddle gets in trouble for stealing money or trashing his brother's room, he blames his stuffed otter Otto. Otto turns out to be a servant of child-eating beings called Mommos, and eventually kidnaps Leo to their realm.
  • From 1971 until 1985, Aloysius "Snuffy" Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street was such a character, seen only by Big Bird. In an interview on a documentary called Sesame Street Unpaved, hosted by Sonia Manzano (Maria Rodriguez), Snuffy's performer, Martin P. Robinson, revealed that Snuffy was finally introduced to the main human cast (A) because they had milked the "just barely missed him" joke completely dry by that point, and (B) because of a string of high profile and sometimes graphic stories of pedophilia and sexual abuse of children on such news programs as 60 Minutes and 20/20. The writers felt that by having the adults refuse to believe Big Bird despite the fact that he was telling the truth, they were scaring children into thinking that their parents would not believe them if they had been sexually abused and that they'd just be better off remaining silent. In addition, a proportion of the child audience found the gag of Big Bird not being believed frustrating anyway. Around the mid 1970s, children began to see Snuffy. Later on, Muppet characters saw him; Elmo was crucial to helping Big Bird expose the truth.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deadlands, being a horror game, inverts this trope with a not-so-imaginary enemy: in the game's setting, Boogeymen exist as actual monsters that delight in frightening children while being careful never to be seen by adults. Even worse, they love to commit mischief (or worse) in front of a child and make sure the child will get the blame for it - after all, no adult will believe the poor kid's protestations that the Boogeyman did it.

  • Harvey is one of the best known examples of this trope, featuring the charming but batty Elwood P. Dowd, about to be committed for his belief in his best friend Harvey, an invisible 6'3' white rabbit. (Changed to seven feet for the film, because of Jimmy Stewart's own height.)

    Video Games 
  • Dawn, the Player Character from Contrast is only visible to Didi and Vincenzo, as revealed in the ending. While Dawn can tangibly interact with the world, she doesn't tend to do so when anyone else is watching, giving Didi a bit of a reputation as an escape artist. It is later established that she was a former assistant of Vincenzo who became trapped in the "shadow dimension."
  • In Final Fantasy XII the otherwise brilliant scientist and head of the Archadian Empire's research laboratory, Dr. Cid, routinely mutters and debates with an imaginary friend at his side named 'Venat'. Combined with his grandiose and expressive nature he paints a perfect picture of utter madness, which helped convince his own son to abandon both him and the Empire. Venat, however, is quite real, and comes from a species that doesn't bother revealing itself to people it chooses not to.
  • One sidequest in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer requires you to convince a young magically-talented girl to leave home and train to use her gift. She insists on saying goodbye to what is strongly implied to be an imaginary friend before leaving if you succeed. Then she opens the door to her bedroom to reveal a telthor bear.
  • In Psychonauts, the childlike, possibly-insane Reluctant Mad Scientist Sheegor claims that if Raz helps her rescue her beloved pet turtle, Mr. Pokeylope, he'll be able to come up with a plan to defeat Mad Scientist Dr. Loboto. And indeed, once you rescue him, Mr. Pokeylope can talk. Like a '70's soul singer, in fact.
  • The Zoni from Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction are a group of mysterious little flying creatures that only Clank can see. Naturally Ratchet doubts their existence for most of the game...until they suddenly become visible to all and take Clank with them through a mysterious rift at the very end.
  • The Sims:
    • In The Sims 3, if the Generations expansion pack is installed, a newborn baby might receive a strange doll in the mail (supposedly from a distant relative). Once the baby becomes a toddler, he or she can build a relationship with the doll, who will then become an Imaginary Friend when the toddler becomes a child. The Imaginary Friend can do tangible things like clean or get snacks or play on a seesaw with its owner, but only the owner can see it, which causes other Sims in the area to feel secondhand embarrassment for the weirdo talking to him- or herself. However, there is a special potion that the Imaginary Friend can drink to become real, and when this happens, it transforms into a normal (albeit oddly-dressed) Sim that everyone can see.
    • The Social Bunny from The Sims 2, an imaginary character who appears when your sims are in social failure, is a reference to Harvey. If multiple sims are in social failure on the same lot, they will each generate their own Social Bunny that only they can see... but the Bunnies can see and interact with each other. Some Self-Imposed Challenge rules offer a bonus for getting two Social Bunnies to flirt with each other.
  • In Super Mario RPG, Gaz absolutely cannot convince his mother that his Geno doll came to life and walked out the door. She thinks he's lying to avoid punishment for something, though she doesn't know what. Then in walk the heroes with Geno in tow... And then she assumes it’s a person in a costume. Cue Face Fault from the heroes.
  • Spoofed in the game-within-a-game Wing-O in System Shock 2. In one solo mission, you meet a new class of enemy fighter, but no-one believes you because you left the lens cap on your flight recorder. This also (?) happens with the Tri-Lackey fighters in the game-in-a-game in System Shock.
  • Touhou Project: Koishi Komeiji's presence cannot be concsiously percieved by adults, so she sometimes serves as one of these to children.
  • Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga: Every now and then in Vengeance of the Kilrathi, you're assigned a solo mission. Invariably, you run up against the Kilrathi's stealth fighters on these missions, and when you return to base you discover that your flight recorder has malfunctioned. Add in the fact that your character claimed to see stealth fighters ten years prior when your carrier from the first game was destroyed — a claim that was never verified and is still in fact ridiculed — and it's not terribly hard to see why nobody believes you.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, when Rika Furude was very young, she had a friend only she could see named Hanyuu who gave her knowledge of things like cooking and cleaning. So she was never seen to learn them. Given that Rika was the daughter of the village priest and thought to be the reincarnation of Oyashiro-sama, the local deity, the villagers quickly decide this is evidence of the reincarnation and nearly worship her. Hanyuu is really the ghost of a Furude woman who was sacrificed centuries prior, albeit in the form of a Cute Ghost Girl (though she can turn into an adult if she wishes to).
  • Mio from Little Busters! has Midori, Mio's imaginary friend whom only she could see. Though it's probably subverted in the end, as it would make a lot of sense if Mio deliberately allowed Midori to be created in the made-up world so she could finally live, which would indicate that Midori never actually existed in the real world.

    Web Animation 
  • In the third episode of GEOWeasel, Mitri introduces his imaginary friend, Bob, to Weas. Weas is sceptical at first, but is convinced when he's knocked to the ground. It is later discovered that Bob killed two men, leaving enough imaginary evidence to trace the murder to him.
  • In Missing Halloween, a little boy's supposedly imaginary friend (a girl he'd gone trick-or-treating with) is revealed to be the ghost of a girl who'd died the previous Halloween when her foot got caught in a bear trap and she was unable to escape. Although nobody but the boy ever actually sees her, a search party who goes looking for him after he runs into the woods after her does find her corpse, with her leg still caught in the trap.

  • In Archipelago Claire's imaginary friend Benjamin is actually the holographic avatar of the artificial intelligence that runs the ancient war machine buried under her home. He appears to Claire alone in order to save power, because a little girl wouldn't question such things, and because he saw that she was lonely. He's also very afraid of turning the Big Bad's attention.
  • The premise of Ava's Demon is that the main cast are all possessed by demons who only they can see. Inverted with Ava and Gil, who initially thought that these demons were hallucinations and refused to interact with them until they got proof otherwise (Gil by Nevy passing him test answers during an exam and Ava by dying and finally seeing that Wrathia's spirit exists outside of her mind).
  • Count Your Sheep has Ship, who can only be seen by a young girl named Katie... and her mother, her father, her grandparents, her aunt, her cousin, and small animals too. However, Katie never knew her father, her cousin is still a baby, and her grandparents refuse to acknowledge Ship's existence unless he angers them. This reduces to three the number of humans he can speak with.
  • In The Dreamwalker Chronicles Kyle is reunited with Flint the Box Head boy, his childhood imaginary friend, when Flint saves him from being eaten in the forest as a young teenager. Over the course of the story he slowly comes to realize that Flint is the spirit of his dead twin brother.
  • In Everyday Heroes, Beetrix insists her friend Walter isn't imaginary, just invisible. Since she's barely a few months old and reads at a fourth-grade level already, her parents don't complain.
  • In Gallows Humor, the female lead Alma is the only normal human so far who can see the Greek gods. it's a pretty big secret to keep when Thanatos, the god of death, decides he likes your place...
  • Ash in Gifts of Wandering Ice living in Elie's head. He is a copy of a dead boy's memory nobody but Elie can see and talk to.
  • In A Girl and Her Fed, even the Girl herself thinks her imaginary friend—the ghost of Benjamin Franklin that no one can see but her—isn't real, and assumes he's just a leftover from a really bad LSD trip she had in college. Turns out he really is real. It's unclear why Girl didn't figure this out earlier, though, seeing as he got her rich by traveling into the future to bring back stock tips (and really good alcohol).
  • David Hopkins directly references the movie Harvey in "The Case of the Traveling Corpse", a story arc of Jack. The comic's titular invisible green anthro rabbit is the "corpse", following a detective who has seen and met him several times throughout Jack's tenure as reaper/Wrath. Of course, nobody believes the detective except for Justi at the end.
  • Latchkey Kingdom: Most of Debbie's acquaintances in Hilla think her friend Chloe Placeholder (from the orphanage) is imaginary. But then she actually shows up during the Con Clash arc. Ironically she thinks Rose (a mute shapeshifter) is Debbie's imaginary friend (Chloe is blind, so she can't see Rose right in front of her).
  • In The Order of the Stick, Squishy Wizard Vaarsuvius has finally decided to acknowledge the existence of his/her raven familiar, Blackwing. The rest of the party has chosen not to believe him/her, despite Haley being the one to remind V about the raven in the first place and giving him his name. It turns out Haley and Roy were trolling hir, Belkar was oblivious, and Elan was Elan.
  • The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus exists as a character in Polandball, yet nobody else, save Turkey or perhaps Cyprus itself, can actually see him since they don't recognise him. Thus, he keeps getting mistaken as an imaginary friend of Turkey's.
  • Fluffmodeous from Something*Positive. Possibly. He basically looks like a ghostly blue teddy bear, is slightly psychotic, and started to appear to Kharisma after she went to prison for a murder that she technically didn't commit. Is she going crazy, and if so, who actually put that other inmate into a coma...?

    Web Original 
  • Cardboard Friend/ Box Friend. He claims to be Gregory Casket's imaginary friend, but is actually a ghost who feeds off of insanity, which poor Gregory had lots of.
  • Nightmare Time: Hannah has an "imaginary" friend named Webby, who she says takes the form of either a spider, or a woman with white hair. As it turns out, Webby is an elder god who has made it her job to help and protect her friend.
  • Beau to Vox in the Creepypasta story Vox and King Beau. Beau visited Vox frequently as a child, but nobody besides her ever saw him, so her mother and everyone else in her life assumed he was an imaginary friend. They had a falling out that caused Beau to leave before Vox was a pre-teen; and in the 10+ years between that and the start of the story, Vox forgot about him entirely... until he starts showing up in her apartment, standing over her bed while she sleeps. Cue Vox trying to figure out if Beau is real or a hallucination.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Puss in Boots, the episode "Before They Hatch" opened with Puss fighting a gargoyle, only for Esme to delightedly greet the gargoyle as "Sally".
    Puss: Who is this Sally?
    Dulcinea: She's Esme's imaginary friend.
    Puss: I do not think you are using the word "imaginary" correctly.
  • The Rugrats spin-off All Grown Up! had an episode called "Izzy or Isn't He?" where Dil made up an imaginary alien friend named Izzy who was believed to exist by pretty much everyone in town, which ended up getting Chuckie in trouble when he accidentally ran over Izzy while mowing the lawn. At Izzy's funeral, Dil puts an end to everything by admitting that Izzy doesn't exist, but once everyone else is gone he tells Chuckie that Izzy wasn't killed and was watching the whole thing in one of the seats in the back. The very end of the episode shows one of the chairs with the seat part down even though no one's there.
  • On Animaniacs, the "Chicken Boo" skits center on someone trying to get others to believe that Boo is a chicken, a fact which isn't made clear until some circumstance causes Chicken Boo to lose his flimsy but surprisingly effective disguise.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: In "PDA", no one believes Shake about Romulox, who turns out to be real. He returns in "The Last One".
  • Back at the Barnyard: One of the human characters, Mrs. Beady, repeatedly tries to convince her husband and anyone around her that the titular animals can walk and talk. But everyone just thinks she's crazy.
  • Batman: The Animated Series features a disturbing episode entitled "See No Evil", which features a criminal who uses an invisibility suit to sneak into his estranged wife's house and convince his own daughter that he is her imaginary friend.
  • Early episodes of Big Mouth implied that Maury the Hormone Monster was Andrew's imaginary friend but it was gradually revealed there are several hormone monsters and other "Human Resources" creatures that are just Invisible to Adults.
  • This is the heavily implied, but never directly said, nature of the human hosts of Blue's Clues and it's sequel. Various promotional materials imply that they are sentient fictional characters in-universe, but that initially only the children that watched the show were aware of this fact. The 2022 film kind of confirms this, as several people in the original series' age range seem to already know who they were even though they never interacted directly and products with the theme of the characters could be seen around the city. Steve and Joe seem to understand this to some extent, but Josh doesn't seem to be fully aware.
  • China, IL: Baby Cake's old imaginary friend, the Dream Reamer. Who also happens to be a manipulative asshole who collects incriminating pictures of Baby Cake's real life friends and threatens to post them on Facebook.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
    • Ed had an imaginary friend named Jib. No one believed he existed until he beat up Eddy.
    • Before this No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, Eddy and Edd built an imaginary trap to capture Jib, similar to the above Powerpuff Girls plan. Despite both doing this tongue-in-cheek and believing Jib is just Ed being Ed, it works perfectly.
    • Plank, Jonny's Companion Cube, is also heavily implied to be more than a hunk of wood. In one episode, he somehow "told" Jonny about Eddy's schemes, even though Jonny was suspended in a tree far away from them, and in The Movie, he drives a bus into a heavily populated city.
  • Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi does this in the No-Dialogue Episode "Ikkakuju", where Ami tries to convince Yumi and Kaz that she really did see a unicorn, but they aren't inclined to believe Ami because she earlier tried to make up a wild story to cover her breaking Yumi's new guitar by accident.
  • Mr. Crocker is constantly trying to tell others that Timmy Turner from The Fairly OddParents! has fairy godparents. No one believes him. Every time someone does, everything is reverted in the end.
  • Family Guy:
    • The Evil Monkey in Chris's closet is a running gag. This culminates in season 8, when Chris gets tired of nobody believing him so he actually catches the monkey and proves he wasn't making it up.
    • Invoked in one episode where Lois discovers she has a long-lost brother who's somewhat unhinged and talks to an invisible girlfriend. Stewie and Brian decide to place a cucumber where she's supposed to be sitting and declare, laughing, that "if it pickles then she's real". A few scenes later, an angry Lois is heard asking about the "pickle" on the couch, causing the duo to laugh.
    • During a custody dispute in "Petarded", Peter convinces the judge to allow him to call to the stand his surprise witness, "the ghost that never lies". What seems to be an obvious ploy to drum up support for himself is then subverted, much to his own annoyance, when the ghost correctly identifies him as the one responsible for the events that led to him losing custody of his children.
  • The Great Gazoo in The Flintstones is an alien from another planet, who has been banished to Earth, and can only be seen by Fred and Barney.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
  • On The Gary Coleman Show, Angelica routinely dismissed the demon Hornswoggle as a figment of Andy's imagination.
  • On God, the Devil and Bob, God and the Devil generally make themselves invisible to everyone except for Bob, though innocent children (like Bob's son Andy) and insane adults can see them too. Bob's wife and teenage daughter, meanwhile, think that Bob is crazy and Andy is just playing along.
  • One episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy featured an demonic duck that was visible to only one character at a time, but could blow raspberries everyone heard. It used this phenomenon to make people seem like they're pathetically concealing constant flatulence, disgracing most of the cast and eventually getting them arrested.
  • Spoofed in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, where Harvey's client of the week, Ernie Devlin (a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character inspired by daredevil Evel Knievel) tries to convince Harvey that a tapir is trying to assassinate him and presents him a photo of an actual real-life tapir. Said gun-toting tapir appears later at the end of the episode to point out a critical flaw in Harvey's legal defense.
  • Kaeloo: In Episode 157, Stumpy reveals that he has imaginary friends and Kaeloo, Mr. Cat, and Pretty mock him for it. At the end of the episode we find out that one of them, Baron Banana the Cyborg T-Rex, is in fact real but simply invisible, and the episode ends as he prepares to attack Kaeloo, Mr. Cat, and Pretty for the way they treated Stumpy.
  • For the majority of Kevin Spencer, Allan the Magic Goose is Kevin's imaginary friend that lives inside his head. However, the final episode of the series reveals that not only is Allan real, but everyone else was imaginary.
  • Kipper: "Jake's Friend" deals with Kipper and Tiger hanging out with Jake's friend Wilbur, who states to be invisible. The two think that Jake is just imagining his friend, but it wasn't until the three have their ice cream floats that Wilbur turns out to be real after drinking his float.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Sylvester was repeatedly beaten up by a kangaroo (or "giant mouse", as he mistakenly regarded it) which only he would see. When he tried to show it to someone else (usually his son), they would see an actual mouse instead. Though this was subverted at least twice (with the same dialogue to boot):
      Sylvester: Listen, I don't blame you if you don't believe me...
      Sylvester Jr.: But I do believe you, Father! There he is right behind you!
    • Used again in another cartoon where two dogs, a bulldog named Spike and a smaller dog named Chester, decide to beat up a cat to enjoy themselves. They encounter Sylvester and chase him into a junkyard, where a vicious black panther that escaped from a zoo just happens to be hiding out. Every time Spike goes into the junkyard to thrash Sylvester, he is clawed into pieces by the panther, which he, in a dark maze of crates, thinks is Sylvester. Chester has no problem pummeling Sylvester before Spike's eyes, which convinces Spike that Chester must be tougher than him.
    • Used yet again another episode involving the same characters in "Dr. Jerkyll's Hide", where once again the dogs chase after Sylvester. Away from Chester's presence, Spike ends up getting beaten up again by Sylvester, thanks to a potion that transforms him into a giant monster. Chester, of course, never sees this transformed Sylvester, thinking his buddy is being beaten by the tiny tomcat. The final loss of face for Alfie (the name of the bulldog in this episode) is his being thrashed by a fly that has also been affected by the potion, as it occurs in front of Chester's eyes.
    • A more well-known short, "One Froggy Evening", features a man finding the top-hatted Michigan J. Frog, who would only sing and dance in front of him. Every time he tried to show someone else, he acted like an ordinary frog or just as they arrived he was done singing.
  • Martha And Skits: In "Skits and Mr. Scruffles", Skits gets nicknamed Mr. Scruffles by the new boy in town, Milo. However, when Milo tells his dad about "Mr. Scruffles" and Skits tells Martha about Milo, neither gets belived.
  • In the Martin Mystery episode Return of the Imaginary Friend, a young woman named Emma, feeling lonely when her real friends drift apart from her, resummons her old imaginary friend Teddy and wishes it was like the old days. Teddy happily helps by kidnapping her friends and turning them into dolls for her to play with. This frightens her though and, with the help of Martin and Java, she’s able to rebanish Teddy and undo the spell, gaining her old friends again.
  • An episode of Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends has Squirt befriending a bug of microscopic size, and due to the fact that she was too small to be seen and too shy to speak to anyone else, Squirt's family naturally believed she was an imaginary friend.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar, "Skorca!": Private is on night watch when he sees a giant orca flying through the city streets. The other penguins dismiss it as a hallucination brought on by too much candy, until they actually see it. (It's actually a balloon float.)
  • On Phineas and Ferb, Candace is never able to convince her mother of her brothers' various projects being real because all evidence is destroyed by the end of each episode. A running gag is that the entire extended family except their mother is already aware of at least some of it.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Happens in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls (1998), where a new kid has an imaginary friend, but others don't notice. So when his imaginary friend starts to play bad pranks, he got blamed until that thing fully plays pranks even without him near, forcing the girls to create their own imaginary friend when they found out that they can't beat him physically.
    • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): Bubbles has many imaginary friends, so when she starts talking about a girl named Bliss her sisters assume that "Bliss" is just her newest creation.
  • Robot Chicken had a sketch titled "Take Your Sidekick to Work Day" where the Justice League took their sidekicks to the Watchtower and Martian Manhunter tried to keep from being left out by pretending he had a sidekick named Martian Boyhunter. After Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Speedy and Robin are teleported to a volcano and killed, the other heroes accuse J'onn J'onzz and start beating the crap out of him in retaliation. Martian Boyhunter then turns out to actually exist, taking sadistic delight in his mentor getting the blame for his killing of the other sidekicks.
  • From Rocko's Modern Life when Heffer forgets to turn in an entry flyer and tries to pass the blame:
    Heffer: I asked Filburt to do it.
    Filburt: I was sick that day, I thought you were going to ask Rocko.
    Heffer: Oh, yeah.
    Rocko: But I told you I had to work that day.
    Heffer: (beat) I asked my imaginary friend Ferb to do it.
    Ferb: You lie!
  • The Season 1 Story Arc of RollBots is about Spin trying to convince everyone, especially Pounder, that not only is Vertex the crime leader of Flip City (though Penny eventually softens to that idea), but that he is a spiderbot (which nobody believes until Vett appears).
  • In Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles, Hana is introduced as a tiny ninja girl who hates being a ninja and tells Usagi she always avoids practice. Shortly after that Usagi overhears Lady Fuwa congratulating Hana on how terrifying she was at practice, and Hana tells Usagi that this was her friend Kana, who looks exactly like her and takes her place for things she doesn't want to do. Usagi immediately concludes that Hana does attend ninja practice, but hates what she does so much that she displaces it onto an imaginary friend. He's wrong.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Old Money", Homer thinks Abe's girlfriend Bea is this, and he takes him for a family outing instead of letting him go on a date with her for her birthday, and after Abe learns Bea died from literal heartbreak, he's understandably outraged with Homer.
    • Played with in "Don't Fear the Roofer", when everyone believes that Homer's new roofer friend Ray Magini (voiced by Ray Romano) is imaginary, but simply missed seeing him due to a series of increasingly improbable circumstances. The event in the hardware shop is probably one of the most plausible, but then Stephen Hawking throws it way out to left field. Afterwards, Lisa points that "Ray Magini" is an anagram of "imaginary".
    • In "The Girl Code", Lisa develops an app that predicts the consequences of social media postings. To her surprise, the app develops consciousness and begins to talk to her, but when she tries to show it to others, the app won't respond. It turns out the app is as insecure as Lisa is and is afraid of going live and having to suffer through people's inane postings. It finally reveals itself to the world after Lisa frees it inside the Cloud.
  • South Park:
    • In Mr. Hankey's first appearance he was a talking, singing, and dancing piece of poo from Kyle's perspective. But Kyle's friends, parents, and teachers only saw an ordinary piece of poo (along with poo smears everywhere). Kyle's friends have him committed to a mental hospital because they think he's hallucinating. Later, Chef asks them where Kyle is, and the boys tell him Kyle started seeing a magical talking piece of poo, to which Chef responds "You mean Mr. Hankey?"
    • Mr. Hat's just a puppet to everyone (except Mr. Garrison), yet he can drive a vehicle, find his own way into Brett Favre's sauna, join the KKK without any help from Garrison, and beat up Mr. Mackey.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has the episode of "Bubble Buddy", where SpongeBob's friend, an apparently inanimate bubble, is dragged around for the whole episode. At the very end, he suddenly becomes alive, grabs a Bubble Taxi, and wishes Spongebob a Happy Leif Erikson Day.
  • In one episode of the animated Teen Titans, Raven is stuck with babysitting a set of kids. One of them appears to have uncontrolled telekinesis throughout the episode, and she blames all of it on "Bobby", her invisible super-powered stuffed animal. Raven disbelieves this ridiculous story... until the end, when Bobby the eight-foot-tall super-strong teddy bear drops his invisibility and starts to beat some serious ass on the villain trying to kidnap the kids. Of course Bobby is a manifestation of said kid's psychic powers: the girl in question acknowledges this, but insists this doesn't make him any less real. It's hard to argue with her, really.
    Melvin: Just because I imagine him doesn't mean he isn't real.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures has its own take on One Froggy Evening. Since singing and dancing animals are the norm there, however, they took it one level further: the frog was (supposed to be) dead. Hamton was about to dissect the frog when it started singing and dancing. Naturally, it only sang and danced when Hamton was the only person looking at it.
  • On Total Drama Action, Beth suddenly starts talking about having a boyfriend named Brady halfway through the season, and repeatedly supplies more and more amazing skills to him. He's also a male model, which is why the only picture she has of him is clearly a promotional headshot. Because Beth isn't considered to be conventionally attractive, as well as the fact that many of Brady's skills seem to be too good to be true, the other contestants believe that she made him up, but in both endings he shows up and turns out to actually be dating her.
  • Uncle Grandpa once thought the tree in the RV was talking to him. Whenever Mr. Gus and Pizza Steve are around, the tree never spoke, so they think Uncle G has finally lost it. In reality, an escaped criminal was hiding inside the tree, tricking Uncle Grandpa into stealing stuff for him.
  • In X-Men: Evolution, Danielle Moonstar is found injured by Kitty in a cave and taken to the Xavier Institute. Then when Kitty wakes up the next day... No one knows anything about Danielle. It turns out she had been dreaming the whole ordeal (after she had a dirt bike accident and fell unconscious), but the images of Dani were so vivid that Kitty is determined to find her, and she drags Kurt along for the ride, if only to have a witness. Eventually, Kitty manages to find her for real (she had been trapped in an underwater cave for two years — only her powers prevented her from dying) and take her to be treated at the Institute. It is revealed that Dani had unknowingly created a mental link with Kitty just before she suffered the accident. When they meet physically, Dani responds with disbelief that Kitty is real.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In "Tigger's Houseguest", Tigger befriends a bug that, unknown to him, is a termite that is eating the wooden things throughout the Hundred Acre Wood. When the termite goes off to eat more wood before Tigger can introduce it, Pooh and Piglet assume that it's an imaginary friend. They find out the truth during the second half of the story.

    Real Life 
  • Happens in science way more often than you might think, for example:
    • Germs
    • Meteorites
    • The platypus. Researchers in 1798 who received a stuffed platypus specimen thought it was a ridiculous hoax, complete with crudely sewn-on leather flap on the bill. But, now, of course, we see the living animal. The same, flabbergasted disbelief happened in reaction to stuffed specimens of the kiwi and the King of Saxony bird of paradise.
    • Besides the platypus, there are animals that historically were considered cryptids or mythical before being verified to exist, including the gorilla, the giant squid, and the okapi. While this has been used in arguments by cryptozoologists, the disappointing thing is that the world is so well-explored now it's highly unlikely for any large animal species to remain undiscovered, although new small species are still being discovered.
  • Can occur in Real Life when one person talks about a friend or significant other that other acquaintances, for whatever reason, never meet.
  • No one believed then-President Jimmy Carter when he claimed that he was attacked by a giant swimming rabbit while on a fishing trip until a White House photographer came forward with a picture of the event. It was a regular-sized swamp rabbit, quite a bit bigger and uglier than the cute little pet-shop bunnies people think of when they hear "rabbit". Even Carter had to agree it was damn funny; he first presented it as an amusing anecdote from his trip.
  • According to The Jargon File, a "dancing frog" is any bug that occurs unpredictably and cannot be readily induced. Such bugs are extremely difficult to deal with. Again a reference to the cartoon (but predating the trope-wiki).
    • Related is the concept of the "heisenbug", which, for one of several minor reasons, appears only in real-life situations and not in a debugger (a coding environment which is, as the name implies, used to track down bugs). For instance, a bug might only occur when one operation happens too soon after another one, but the debugger runs very slowly so the user can analyze each step to determine where the bug is — meaning the bug won't happen in the first place. These lead to users reporting bugs that developers can't reproduce when they examine the code.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Harvey, The Singing Frog


"Daddy's Gone Now..."

(Spoilers) After unpacking the boxes that are never unpacked, looking at his stuff, and notices that his journal is completely blank, it is revealed that Charlie, Emily's imaginary friend is actually David's twisted split personality. Flashbacks shows "Charlie" murdering Alison with a pillow for making out with another guest at a New Year's Eve party & pretending that she commit suicide in the bathtub, pushing Elizabeth out the window & receiving an arm scratch from her, and killing a butterfly in half after coming out of a cave.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotSoImaginaryFriend

Media sources: