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Touch the Intangible

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No one is untouchable!

A being or object with this ability can, for whatever reason, interact with intangible beings (including Energy Beings, ghosts and spirits) as if they were solid.

Depending on the nature of the intangible being in question, the method of achieving this may vary. Maybe they're a Physical God, maybe they're so in tune with the Spirit World that they effectively exist in both worlds at once, or maybe they're just wrapped in a force field that ghosts can't pass through. In some cases, magic and magical weapons will have the ability to always harm ethereal entities. In the case of beings that aren't normally intangible, though, just temporarily or permanently disabling their intangibility wouldn't be an example of this (but it would if the being is normally intangible).

The most common variant has an intangible being be able to phase through any attack, except for one that will hit them. Another variant has a static object or field that intangible entities cannot pass through, thus forming an obstacle for them.

Compare See the Invisible, See-Thru Specs, Soul-Cutting Blade, Catching the Speedster and Armor-Piercing Attack.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Berserk: Guts's Dragon Slayer is a completely mundane (if large) sword, but when it's used to kill an Apostle some of its demonic power rubs off on it (and Guts has killed a lot of Apostles). This eventually results in it being able to wound a Super Smoke Apostle who even other Apostles cannot harm.
  • Bleach: Living people need a certain amount of spiritual power to interact with spiritual beings, and vice versa. Slightly less is needed for living people just to see spiritual beings.
  • The Garden of Sinners: Shiki's left arm is replaced by a magical prosthetic after the original was torn off by Fujino Asagami's telekinesis. It has the ability to grip otherwise intangible spirits, which proves essential when she fights Kirie Fujou.
  • Love Hina: The Shinmeiryu school possesses the "Zanmaken"Translation  and "Zanmaken: Ni no Tachi"Translation  sword techniques, which are capable of cutting spirits and magic.
  • One Piece: Channeling Haki through an attack lets it harm the setting's Elemental Shapeshifters, most of whom are otherwise Made of Air. When you don't have Haki, using an element that is strong against them can also have this effect, as shown when Luffy tries to use water against the living sand Crocodile; first accidentally, then deliberately.
  • Shaman King: Anna's prayer beads can be used to bind ghosts, and she sometimes uses them to tie up the ghost samurai Amidamaru.
  • Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs: Some supernatural beings and people with spiritual powers like Kogarashi can touch ghosts.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU:
    • Nth metal is a rare element which is able to interact with and harm incorporeal beings, such as ghosts. It's notable for being the material that Hawkman and Hawkgirl's maces are made from.
    • Kingdom Come: Norman McCay is a human pastor who is enlisted to accompany The Spectre as he searches the world for the cause of a coming apocalypse. As the Spectre's companion, Norman is able to travel unrestricted through space and time and observe events unheard and unseen. However, he does not count on The Flash, who has received a power upgrade that causes him to exist on multiple planes of reality at once. The Flash senses Norman observing a meeting of the Justice League, grabs him, and yanks him back into physical reality.
    • In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Warren White gets stuck in Mr. Freeze's cell and loses several body parts to frost bite. When a supernatural ritual causes the ghosts of the patients' past victims to manifest, ghostly versions of Warren's missing fingers also appear. This allows him to touch the ghosts, which he uses to strangle the spirit of a past employee of his and pull apart the stitches holding together the grandma of his cell mate Humpty Dumpty.
    • The Button: Batman pins Reverse Flash in place by exploiting the inherent flaw in his intangibllity: at least part of him has to remain tangible in order to not slip through the floor, so Batman uses a batarang to stab him in that part. Namely, his foot. He then lands a couple of punches while Eobard is still solid and reeling from the pain.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Karnak does this when he fights the Vision. The Vision turns intangible to avoid his attacks, so Karnak vibrates his hand to a frequency where he can strike and hurt the intangible Vision.
    • Magik: The Soulsword doesn't just affect supernatural beings, it also hurts individuals that are trying to be intangible like Kitty Pryde.
    • In MODOK's 11, Temujin, thanks to being a strong chi-adept, is able to repeatedly kick the Living Laser in his photonic state.
    • Moon Knight: Mark got his ass kicked by murderous ghosts so Khonshu tells him to armor up with some magical Egyptian artifacts, after which Moon Knight's punches and kicks are ripping body parts off the ghosts.

    Fan Works 
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script: As per The Silmarillion canon, souls are intangible. In the Halls of Mandos — the Elven afterlife — living elves who are allowed to wander in can't touch the dead (much like elven shades aren't allowed to affect the living). Hence, Amarië and Finrod freak out briefly when the former is able to touch her dead husband. Finrod theorizes that it's due to married Elves being soul-bonded to each other.

    Films — Animation 
  • Coco: Dante can interact with both the living and the spirits of the dead, which the living pass through without noticing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War: Corvus Glaive's glaive can not only pierce Vision's otherwise invulnerable vibranium body, it negates his power to phase through objects at the same time.
  • Ghostbusters: The Proton Packs can be used to damage ghosts or yank them into containment, and are the only things that can reliably interact with the incorporeal beings.
  • John Dies at the End: Amy is an amputee who has lost one of her hands. Unsurprisingly, she has phantom limb syndrome, still feeling like her hand is there. Her phantom limb allows her to turn a phantom doorknob that cannot be seen, let alone touched by a normal hand.
  • The Lord of the Rings: In The Return of the King, Aragorn parries an attack from the leader of the Army of the Dead with Anduril, though this has more to do with Aragorn's (and Anduril's) connection to the one who laid the ghosts' curse than any property of the weapon itself.

  • The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: When she becomes an Empowered Badass Normal, Amina gains the unique ability to perceive magical contracts as cords connecting the participants. This lets her handle those cords as if they were physical objects... and cut them.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Ghost dust is a magical substance which feels "extra-real". It can be thrown at ghosts to disable them, or incorporated into a wall to prevent them from passing through. Harry's recipe includes depleted uranium for weight.
    • After Harry's apparent death and return as an invisible, intangible ghost, what convinces his allies that he's really Harry and not some malevolent spirit pretending to be him is when his cat Mister comes over and headbutts him affectionately, able to touch him just fine.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Some demigods are able to physically interact with certain intangible beings due to powers inherited from their divine parents.
    • Nico di Angelo, by virtue of being the son of Hades, is able to grab a hold of ghosts and spirits that would otherwise be intangible.
    • Jason Grace, as the son of Jupiter, is able to grapple with storm spirits even when they make themselves intangible.
  • His Dark Materials: Will Parry manages, with his subtle knife, to harm angels, specters and even God Himself, albeit indirectly and involuntarily.
  • Nettle And Bone: The third Impossible Task the dust-wife gives Marra is to catch moonlight in a clay jar. It's never explained how it can be done, save that the task would "break" an ordinary human, because the dust-wife has mercy and does it for her. They later use a vial of moonlight as a torch.
  • The Wise Man's Fear: The ancient fae Felurian weaves Insubstantial Ingredients like shadows and moonlight into a Cloak of Defense for Kvothe. When he asks how she can handle such things, she only makes a grabbing motion with her hands. Imitating her, he briefly takes hold of a moonbeam, but it reverts to intangibility as soon as he thinks about it.
  • The Zombie Knight: Only soul-empowered objects (meaning only servant and aberration powers) can touch or harm reapers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Ghost Rider demonstrates the ability to not only touch ghosts like they're flesh and blood, but incinerate them with Hellfire.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Name of the Doctor", the astral projection of River Song is ranting at the Doctor, assuming he can't see or hear her. She goes to slap him and he catches her hand.
    River: How are you even doing that? I'm not really here.
    Doctor: You are always here to me. And I always listen, and I can always see you.
  • Farscape: An episode has medium Stark helping a woman ghost, who is delighted at finding someone who can see her. When in his presence, she seems to be also able to touch things, which she normally can't do.
  • The Flash (2014): Speedsters can vibrate so fast that they "phase" and become intangible, but this also means another speedster can grab onto and counteract their intangibility by unphasing them, which is shown in Elseworlds when Oliver does this to AMAZO.
  • Supernatural: Iron has a peculiar effect on ghosts. If struck or stabbed with it, they will temporarily disappear. Iron chains can also be used to trap and contain ghosts.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): Klaus has the ability to see and converse with the ghosts of the deceased. In "Changes", the ghost of his dead brother Ben manages to punch him in the face, marking the first time Klaus has ever been able to physically interact with the ghost world. Both characters are caught by surprise.
    Klaus: You just Patrick Swayzeed me. How did you do that?
    Ben: Uh, I... I didn't. You did.
  • Red Dwarf: A couple of examples occur before Hard Light is introduced:
    • "Parallel Universe" establishes that holograms can touch each other.
    • "Polymorph": The eponymous monster can attach its proboscis to Rimmer just as easily as the rest of the crew.
    • In "Holoship", Lister refers to a weapon that can do this when being patronised by an Enlightenment crew member:
      Binks: (on communicator) Binks to Enlightenment. The human is under the delusion that he is somehow able to bestow physical violence to a hologram.
      Lister: (pretending to use his cigarette packet as a communicator) Lister to Red Dwarf. The intruder seems to be blissfully unaware that we have a rather sturdy holowhip in the munitions cabinet. Unless he wants his derrière minced like burger meat, he'd better be history in two seconds flat!
    • "Demons & Angels": A holowhip also appears that can be held by a hologram and inflict damage on a human.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouth: Any attack that has the Affects Incorporeal ability (or the Multidimensional ability in 3rd Edition) can do this. These are most often employed against things like spirits and demons that do not have physical bodies.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Magical attacks (including all magical weapons) can harm incorporeal beings, but have only a 50% chance of working each time.
    • Ghost Touch items (most commonly weapons and armor) have this effect. The sourcebooks Libris Mortis and Spell Compendium introduce ghost touch armor and ghost touch weapon as spells.
    • Force effects (such as forcecage and magic missile) are even better as they extend into the Ethereal Plane, allowing them to affect even ghosts that aren't physically manifesting.
    • Mixing gorgon's blood into the mortar used to create a building prevents creatures on the Ethereal and Astral planes (who are intangible on the Prime Material Plane) from passing through its walls.
    • Creatures on the Prime Material Plane can use the Staff of Ethereal Action to attack creatures on the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal dragons of sufficiently great age can do this naturally.
    • The Fist of the Forest Prestige Class gains a Minor Ghost Touch ability, having a greater chance of hurting incorporeal beings even with bare fists.
    • In The Ghostwalk campaign setting the town of Manifest is home to the Ghost Gate, a massive portal to the afterlife, the Reality Bleed is so heavy that ghosts and similar beings are incapable of becoming intangible in the area because everything is functionally on both the Material and Ethereal Planes at the same time.
  • Exalted: The second Step of the Dragon Kings' Celestial Air Path, Touch the Celestial Form, allows them to physically touch and interact with immaterial beings as though they were material.
  • Hero System: This appears as a power modifier called "Affects Desolidified". It costs 50% of the power's base cost, or 25% if restricted to a single type of incorporeal targets (such as ectoplasm).
  • Mutants & Masterminds: This appears as the "Affects Insubstantial" power feat (2e) or flat-value modifier (3e), which grants 50% effectiveness the first time it's taken and 100% effectiveness the second.
  • Pathfinder:
    • Magical attacks inherently interact with normally-intangible targets, but only deal 50% damage.
    • Umbral dragons have the ability to interact with spectral undead as if they were corporeal creatures — a useful trait for them, as ghosts, specters, shadows and the like are their favorite source of food.
    • All Psychopomps' attacks naturally affect incorporeal beings, as do those of crypt dragons, helping them with their tasks of corralling restless spirits and watching over the souls of the dead.
    • Unicorn horns innately function as ghost touch weapons in this manner, allowing them to directly interact with spiritual entities.
    • Tears at Bitter Manor: The Amulet of Grasping Souls zig-zags the trope. A corporeal wearer can physically interact with incorporeal creatures like ghosts; an incorporeal wearer can interact with their surroundings as if they were corporeal.
  • Shadowrun: When mages travel astrally, they can pass through most forms of matter in the material world by virtue of not being in the same plane of existence. However, solid earth and the bodies of living beings (plants and animals) both block the passage of entities in the astral plane.
  • The Unofficial Hollow Knight RPG: Spirits cannot normally be touched or harmed by the living, but there are a few exceptions. A weapon with the Dreamforged modifier works just as well on spirits as it does on physical objects, while a Dreamnail can only harm spirits. The Semicorporeality spell also allows a character to harm spirits with normal weapons by partly entering the Dream.
  • Warhammer: Ethereal creatures are normally impossible to harm with physical matter, but the magical energies of spells and enchanted weapons are able to wound and disperse their intangible forms and are generally the only weapons that can harm them in-game. The Monstrous Arcanum mentions that, according to folklore, weapons forged by Cold Iron can strike incorporeal enemies. The rules for the Cold Iron Blade magic weapon represent this with rules that make it more powerful against Ethereal creatures.
  • The World of Darkness:
    • Vampire: The Masquerade: The powers of the titular vampires are almost completely focused on the material world, so anything from the spirit world or the afterlife is essentially an Outside-Context Villain for them. That said, a rare few bloodlines and Disciplines are capable of allowing communication and combat with ghosts and spirits.
    • New World of Darkness: Ghosts and spirits in the physical world exist in a "Twilight" state where they're usually invisible and intangible, but they will always be vulnerable to their Bane. Blessed objects allow mortals to harm ghosts and spirits. Also, each playable gameline (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, etc.) has a few spells that allow the user to enter Twilight themselves to interact with what lives there.
    • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Sin-Eaters gain their powers through Symbiotic Possession by a Geist. They all have the ability to "reverse-possess" their Geist and interact physically with the ghostly realm of Twilight
    • Also, if a mortal is brave/foolish/unlucky enough to enter The Underworld (for ghosts) or the Shadow (for spirits), those ethereal beings are tangible there all the time.

    Video Games 
  • Cuphead: The ghost enemies in the Masoleums are intangible and cannot be attacked, but you can cause them to disappear by parrying them.
  • The Elder Scrolls: You generally need silver or higher-tier weapons to hurt non-corporeal enemies (like ghosts and will-o-wisps). They, on the other hand, can always hurt you just fine.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Several ghostly enemies are normally invisible and intangible, and can only be seen and attacked while Link is in his wolf form.
  • Mega Man:
    • Mega Man X5: "Sigma Virus" and "Zero Virus" enemies cannot be attacked normally (your attacks will phase through them), but you can hit them if you equip the enhancement part called "Virus Buster".
    • Mega Man Zero 4 has a downplayed case. Scrap Elves are Energy Beings that possess and reanimate broken robots. While you can destroy the robots, you can't really destroy the Elves. However, if you picked up the "lamp" with your Zero Knuckle, you can use it to push the Elves away. If the weather is set to sunny, you can try pushing the Elves towards the sunlight peeking out through the hole in the ceiling, which will kill them.
  • Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon: In Ghost Toys Castle, there are intangible ghost enemies that you cannot hit unless you use the Windup Camera to make them tangible.
  • Pokémon: Ghost-types are immune to Normal- and Fighting-type moves by default. The only way to hit them with those types is to make the ghosts wear a Ring Target, to have the ability Scrappy or use the moves Foresight and Odor Sleuth. In the case of Normal types, the immunity goes both ways.
  • Warcraft III: Ethereal units can only be hit with magic (spells and the Magic attack type), and take extra damage from it.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: the titular character can harm Apparition-type enemies (i.e. ghosts) by sprinkling his sword with Divine Confetti.

    Web Animation 

  • A Souls Tale: Lucas is able to touch his mother Julia's astral projection. Neither of them know how he's able to do it, but Julia says he's been able to do it since he was little.
  • Unsounded:
    • Rahm, a rogue spellwright in the Black Tongue Ancient Conspiracy, can touch and harm the otherwise-Intangible Timofey, to Timofey's considerable dismay. It's all the more impressive because Timofey, as a Construct, is effectively made of Anti-Magic.
    • Sette can touch the intangible aspects of the khert, and even walk in the khert's depths without the khert dismantling her. All of these things are impossible by the conventional knowledge of the setting and when she tears some ghosts out of the silver they're haunting it gives everyone in viewing range pause as they question just what exactly she is.
  • In Dr. McNinja, the titular doctor knows how to enter a meditative trance that allows him to hit ghosts. His personal technique is humming the Ghostbusters tune. His relatives don't share this method.
  • Johnny Wander: Cecilia has one skeletal hand courtesy of a Psychopomp's kiss, and can handle ghosts with it.
  • The Greenhouse: The demon 'Red' is normally intangible, but several spells are capable of affecting her, causing discomfort or preventing her from entering a home. A shower of salt onto her host is also an agonizing experience for Red. Once their bond develops enough and Red is solid enough (and Mica isn't wearing her protective charm), she and Mica can actually touch each other: Red finds poking Mica with her tail to be endlessly fascinating, but is completely thrown for a loop when Mica boops her nose and tussles her hair.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: Magical beings can touch ghosts. Jake Long is able to fight ghosts in his dragon form.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold has multiple episodes where Batman has to fight the Gentleman Ghost, both as part of the episode at large and once in a Cold Open, and shows that he has Nth Metal knuckles and batarangs specifically because ghosts can't phase through that material.
  • Ben 10:
    • In "Vengeance of Vilgax Part 2", it’s revealed Vilgax's Shield of Ziegel gauntlet allows him to grab Big Chill while he's intangible, much to the latter's shock.
    • In "Map of Infinity", Big Chill discovers that intangibility cancels out intangibility, so two intangible Necrofriggians would collide with each other.
  • Danny Phantom: The Fentons have a pair of gauntlets that enable them to bypass the intangibility of ghosts. They were used in The Movie twice: the first to separate Danny's human and ghost halves, and the second to get rid of an intangible pocket-watch that was tethering him to a Bad Future.
  • Wishfart: Ghost hunters can touch ghosts like Akiko who are usually intangible, as was the case with one ghost hunter named Aurelio. However, once he changes jobs via a wish, he becomes unable to touch Akiko.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Using the Reversing Mirror combined with the Serpent's Tail inverts the latter artifact's effects, from turning a solid person ghostly to making a ghostly person solid. Wuya uses these at the climax of the first season to undo the curse placed on her, becoming a flesh and blood witch once again.


Video Example(s):


Vilgax grabs Big Chill

Vilgax's gauntlet allows him to grab intangible beings like Big Chill.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / TouchTheIntangible

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