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Unseen Evil

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Are you ready to see true darkness?

"You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible,' the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall.'"
Stephen King, Danse Macabre

A villain-specific type of He Who Must Not Be Seen, the Unseen Evil is something so horrifying it cannot be shown on screen. Used when nothing the art department could come up with could possibly be horrifying enough. Or because you have no budget for effects, and need an easy out (see Shaky P.O.V. Cam).

In some cases the Unseen Evil is eventually shown on screen, perhaps because the heroes are finally at the end of the Sorting Algorithm of Evil and need something tangible to oppose. These cases usually end in disappointment, and prove the original decision not to show anything correct. If said disappointment is intentional on the authors' part, then the villain is just The Man Behind the Curtain.

Compare Monster Delay. Sister trope of Nothing Is Scarier, where an entire story's terror factor relies on the invisibility of... whatever it is. You Cannot Grasp the True Form is sometimes used in conjunction with this trope; even those who attempt to look at the Unseen Evil are unable to do so, in which case it's probably an Eldritch Abomination. Contrast Obscured Special Effects, where we may catch glimpses of the monster but never get a good look.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Mao-chan parodies the trope with an alien that is too cute to be shown, as it causes all who gazed at it to swoon with heart shapes in place of their eyes. While the program never reveals the alien to the audience as per the trope, the shadow of the creature suggests an amoeba-like form with eye-stalks and possibly small tentacles as well.
  • Berserk: The Greater-Scope Villain of the manga appears only in a Missing Chapter that was never reprinted because the author felt it revealed too much too soon. We only catch a brief, unclear glimpse of the Idea of Evil, the entity responsible for Midland's woes that only the Godhand have met.
  • Baccano!: While Ronnie isn't technically a "demon", much less pure evil, supposedly his true form is such that humans can't even grasp it. Apparently, the only thing that registers in people upon seeing his true form is an utterly overwhelming feeling of fear. In series, this form is portrayed as just a fluttering shadow on a wall accompanied by a creepy, echoing voice.
  • Sebastian's true form in Black Butler. Although it has a physical manifestation, Sebastian tells Ciel to close his eyes, and the camera only gives us glimpses. There are black feathers. A lot of black feathers.
  • Sedna in Umi Monogatari has no real form, only seen as a cloud of red sparkles.
  • In Fairy Tail, Zeref is played up as this for 200 chapters, with characters commenting on what a horrible killer he was whenever he's mentioned, several demons he created nearly killing people or being part of a character's tragic past, powerful wizards reacting to his name as though he were Voldemort, and evil cults forming dedicated to his worship. When he finally makes his debut...
    • And now we have E.N.D., Zeref's most powerful demon and the Guild Master of Tartarus. Compared to Zeref, he's far more confusing: though most have claimed him to be a perfect example of this trope, Igneel and Zeref himself have claimed that there is more to him than that, such that the former he refused to kill him even when he had the opportunity and the latter claimed to Natsu that, upon encountering him, it would be his choice on whether to kill him or not. His true name is Etherious Natsu Dragneel and he is in fact the undead demonic brother of Zeref Dragneel.
  • Death Note has the Shinigami King, the master of the creatures that feed on human lives. Word of God said that his image is too evil for human eyes. He was finally shown in a bonus chapter.
  • Diavolo, leader of Passione in Jojos Bizarre Adventure, tries to invoke this on himself by erasing all traces of his existence, including killing anyone and everyone who's so much as even seen his face including trying to kill his own daughter. His own Stand makes a full on-screen appearance long before he does, and anyone who even sees that is targeted for death. Ultimately this comes back to bite him in the ass, as not only does this obsession with not revealing his identity prove to be a Fatal Flaw that makes it much harder for him to defeat the heroes, not only is he forced to reveal his face to the heroes anyway in time for the final battle, but after Giorno subjected him to an infinite death loop with Gold Experience Requiem, supplementary materials reveal that he then stepped up and proclaimed that he was the leader of Passione all along, and nobody can say anything to the contrary because nobody alive outside of Giorno and his allies knew the boss' true identity anyway.
    • Yoshikage Kira also attempts this, by blowing up anyone who even figures out his name, because as one chapter tells us, "Yoshikage Kira Wants a Quiet Life".
  • The Akuma - the rank-and-file enemies in D.Gray-Man - are each powered by a human soul that gets more and more tortured and twisted as the Akuma grows in power and changes form. When a Level 4 Akuma - the most powerful form of Akuma seen thus far, each individual one being a One-Man Army that even Exorcist Generals struggle with - finally makes an appearance, the audience doesn't get to see what its soul looks like as they did whenever a new level of Akuma made an appearance, but it was apparently so grotesque to behold that one look caused Allen to double over and vomit at the sight of it.

    Comic Books 
  • Depending on the Writer, Doctor Doom's face is either apparently one of the most horrible visages in the Marvel universe or has scars that are either entirely absent or extremely small, exaggerated by Doom's ego as life-endingly horrific. We never see under his mask.
    • Current consensus is that both versions are true—originally it was a small scar, but the armour he has made to hide it was put on too early, before it was cooled, so he really does have horrifying burns all over his body. Also the scar was not caused by a laboratory explosion but by the demon Mephisto scratching his face (the result of said experiment, followed by the explosion) and thus it wasn't simple vanity that drove him to do that; he rushed to put the armour on because he could still feel the demon attacking his face.
    • A guess from an artist on deviantArt.
    • Count Otto von Doom's is shown for one panel in one of the Marvel 1602 spinoffs. It's...not particularly pretty. Especially dark because Count Otto's sobriquet in the original series is "the Handsome".
    • Doom's face is eventually shown in Secret Wars (2015). Interestingly enough, it was fully restored afterwards by Reed Richards at the end of the story.
  • The Celestials in Marvel Comics are a group of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that, for unknown reasons, judge whether worlds and their inhabitants are fit to continue living. Their motivations and origins are unknown, they never speak, and nobody even knows what they look like beneath their armor. The most recent time they visited Earth, they may have listened to the New Gods' arguments (as they judged in favor of Earth) but it's impossible to tell if this was truly their reason for doing so. The Celestials may in fact be Energy Beings, with their "armor" actually being Humongous Mecha bodies.
  • In El Eternauta, the true invaders are never to be seen, relying on several enslaved races to carry out their bidding. Essentially, all we get on them is that they are the "cosmic hatred".
  • The fourth volume of Nova has Abyss, a terrifyingly powerful necromancer with a knack for escaping from any prison. He spends his only appearance locked inside of a high-tech casket, so we don't get to see what he looks like, though we do get to hear him speak and see his nightmarish powers in action.

    Comic Strips 
  • The monsters under Calvin's bed are rarely seen (apparently because they shrivel up and die upon exposure to light). Sometimes, though, you'll see parts of their body in the dark, which don't look terribly cuddly.

  • In Challenge of the Super Friends: The End, the Eldritch Abomination known as the Benefactor is never seen. Only its voice is heard arising from the air, and it sounds oddly comforting, parental, like a patient teacher.
  • Based off To Love Ru, "To-Love-DEATH" has a main antagonist that's a galaxy destroying zombie alien. Earth is next and nothing can be done to defeat him. He cannot be stopped
  • By the time of Eugenesis, Unicron has become this, what with being stuck inside the Matrix. Some of the villains of the piece worship him, but they don't make any effort to free him.
  • "Doctor Who" Fanfic The Door of the Demon has the titular monster imprisoned in another Universe that can be accessed through a sealed door hidden on a deserted moon. Only its claw is seen before the door closes. It is stated at the beginning of the story that "The Demon was said to have a face so hideous that anybody who saw it would tear their eyes out rather than see it again."
  • Webwork has the entity referred to only as "IT", which represents Darkness in the Balance Between Good and Evil, and manipulates causality in Darkness' favor in its Cosmic Chess Game with "OTHER", its Light counterpart. IT is never described, never speaks, and is so immensely powerful that merely being in its presence terrifies Tarakudo.
  • The mysterious inhabitants of the Black Tower in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. Some people think they're an evil mirror image of the good Pyar gods in the White Tower. Some think the inhabitants were destroyed but their evil lives on. Certainly, no one has ever seen them. What's definitely known is that they're responsible for unleashing the Tayhil and their monsters on the unsuspecting world of C'hou, and that the only way to prevent total disaster is to put together the Nine-part Key and enter the Black Tower.
  • In The Shape of the Nightmare to Come, the Nex is a literally unspeakable entity residing under the deepest levels of the Warp. All that is known about it is that it did... something to the one ship that delved deep enough into the warp to encounter it. The author begins vomiting and babbling for a few minutes whenever the subject is brought up.
  • The crossover fic Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters has the entity living at the bottom of the Shadow Realm. Whatever the hell it is, it's described as being like a god, being so powerful that it can control the Cavalcade of Horrors and terrify Tarakudo (who, it should be noted, has no problem standing up to said Horrors).

    Film — Animation 
  • In Disney's Bambi, the evil known as "Man" is never shown on-screen.
  • Pooh's Grand Adventure: Owl warns the gang about a horrible monster called the Skullosaurus. As they goes though their quest they keep hearing terrifying noises following them but the monster is never seen. It turns out they were just hearing the sounds of Pooh's empty stomach rumbling amplified by their fears.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A magnificent example of Unseen Evil is The Last Wave, which is all about the end of the world and about doom. There isn't a single effects shot.
  • Unseen Evil is the entire premise of The Blair Witch Project. This is because the makers couldn't afford a really scary monster effect or suit. It ended up working better than if they had. There were, unfortunately, a few toy releases of the witch which portrayed it as a stereotypical movie monster. To be fair, these toy releases are not official.
  • The same goes for the demon of Paranormal Activity, in which only footprints and the shadow of the demon are visible (3-toed footprints to make clear it isn't human).
  • Many of the tenets of this trope evolved from the 1942 horror classic Cat People. In that case, the film's budget was very low and the only special effects the production could afford was tatty off-the-rack "man in a cat suit" suits; the director thought it would be much scarier to not show the creatures at all but merely use cinematographic tricks and the actors' performances to suggest them. The effect worked, and has been endlessly copied ever since.
  • Similarly, Jaws also used this trope as a loophole to film a movie about a shark attack virtually without a shark, due to the ceaseless problems with their mechanical substitute. Given how bad the props are in the sequels, the wisdom of this move is all the more apparent.
    • Robot Chicken, in a parody of the reediting of the original Star Wars trilogy, had a sketch where Steven Spielberg announces his decision to redo the special effects in Jaws. The results are not pretty, to say the least.
  • Alien pulled the same trick; the director realized that while H. R. Giger's design was awesome and the creature did look scary in glimpses in the dark, it ran the risk of looking fake if it was too visible. When the special effects caught up with the design, we got Aliens. Although not really, because Nothing Is Scarier fully applies here.
    • The design of the suits in Aliens were actually simplified (some only being leotards with bits and pieces of skin), not just to cut costs (because they needed a lot more suits), but to allow the actors a greater range of motion. In a well lit room the original would look far better, but because James Cameron kept them either in the shadows or moving too fast to clearly see, he gets away with it beautifully.
  • Bubba Ho-Tep of the eponymous Bubba Ho Tep was shown in shadows for the majority of the film; it was handwaved that he's so powerful that he sucks the energy out of light bulbs, so whenever he's walking down a hallway the lights in front of him will suddenly flicker out, etc.
  • Throughout most of the original Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader's mask symbolized not only his evil, but the notion that his face must be so horrifying concealing it could not make it worse. The fannish disappointment was rife when the mask was finally removed, and revealed what one fan called "Uncle Fester with blue sparkles". This was probably an intentional subversion. The notion that Vader underneath the frightening armor was intentionally made to be a broken and pathetic individual has been noted in numerous interviews. In Lucas's own words, Vader is less a monster and more "a sad man who made a deal with the Devil...and lost".
  • Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is only shown as a massive cloud of smoke. This is likely because his common depiction in the comics is, frankly, rather silly looking. This helps because Galactus doesn't actually have a set form in the comics; different species perceive him differently, because his true form is incomprehensible to lesser beings.
    • This is also similar to his depiction in the Ultimate Galactus Trilogy. There, he is a gigantic hive mind of city-sized robotic drones.
  • SKYNET, the Big Bad from the Terminator franchise, has never been depicted on-screen (except for in various non-canonical video games and Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time ride). Justified in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines when it turns out that SKYNET is, in fact, the Internet. An avatar of SKYNET appears as a character in Terminator Salvation, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Another avatar played by Matt Smith appears in Terminator Genisys.
  • In Children of the Corn (1984), He Who Walks Behind The Rows is never openly shown on screen. Presumably, the kids' murderous fanaticism was sufficiently horrifying that seeing the god/demon/spirit/whatever which they followed wasn't deemed necessary.
  • Subverted in Scrooged, where a character actually calls the bluff of the menacing hooded figure that claims to be a supernatural creature, and looks under its robes. The ghost is genuine, and the view is not pretty.
  • This was the original intent of Jacques Tourneur (who directed the above Cat People) in his 1957 Night of the Demon, preferring to show only smoking footprints and fiery clouds, but Executive Meddling had a rubber-suit monster put into the ending and the beginning. Still, most critics of this move agree it ultimately doesn't hurt the movie, and even those who think Tourneur was probably right agree that it is, at least, a really good monster suit.
  • Used humorously in Beetlejuice when he demonstrates to Adam and Barbara that he can be scary. Something happens with his face, but we only see him from the back. In a movie filled with fun creepy special effects, the best one is the one we have to imagine.
  • This trope can apply to mortal humans, too. In Road to Perdition, Al Capone is deliberately kept off-camera to evoke a sense of mystery and dread about the most powerful criminal in Chicago, and the power that rests behind Frank Nitti.
  • The monster from Cloverfield is never directly seen until the end (and even then, it isn't that clear). We see glimpses of it at times earlier in the movie. There is, however, an official toy release of the monster showing its full body.
  • Similarily, the alien from Super 8 (made by the same creator as Cloverfield) is never directly seen until the end, when it is very clearly shown. Although, you can look closely to see its reflection sneaking up on someone the second night. Somewhat subverted in that it isn't really evil, it just eats humans, and wants to go back to its home planet. And when we do see it, it appears as an oddly noble, sympathetic, and frightened creature.
  • Death from Final Destination, whose presence is usually indicated by things like shadows, gusts of wind, ominous phrases, etc. Its true form does show up in one of the spin-off novels.
  • Satan in The Golden Child is portrayed in this way. We don't see him, but see a typical Fire and Brimstone Hell through his point of view as he speaks in the Voice of the Legion.
  • In The Evil Dead (1981), and for most of the second (up until the end), and for the entirety of the third again, we don't actually see the spirit that is chasing the characters through the woods; it's represented almost entirely in point-of-view shots. What makes this so weird is that the characters being chased will often look into the camera, scream, and flee, but then the camera will cut to another angle (not a POV shot) and the characters will seem not to be running from anything at all.
  • The Cabin in the Woods both subverts this trope and plays it straight: we get to see almost all of the monsters in their full glory, under bright lights and for extended amounts of time- but the most we ever see of The Ancient Ones is a giant fist rising out of the ground at the very end of the film.
  • This is the main point of the first Cube movie. Apart from Worth's connection to the titular cube, no information whatsoever is ever given about the titular cube's creation, purpose or nature. The sequels give us progressively more information.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit never shows the true appearance of the Toon who killed Eddie Valiant's brother. Mind you, this Toon does eventually show up in the movie, but he's disguised as a man. All we see under the rubber mask are his red eyes — which are nightmarish enough on their own, given how they're constantly shifting and at one point morph into knives when he's "staring daggers" at Eddie.
  • The Abominable Snowman never gives us a good look at its very mystical take on the yeti. We see claws here and there, and at the climax, a few of them appear in heavy shadows. As with many examples, though, they're not so much evil as they are beyond our understanding.
  • James Bond:
    • In both From Russia with Love and Thunderball, SPECTRE's Number One is only shown from the chest down, leaving his face a mystery. Even the credits didn't reveal the actor who played him in either movienote , in order to invoke this.
    • For the first two thirds of Dr. No, the titular doctor isn't shown, giving an order to one of his subordinates via a voice in an empty room. When he finally makes his first appearance, he's shown from the waist down to keep his face mysterious. It's only when he invites Bond to dinner that his full appearance is revealed.

  • Lone Wolf
    • Appears in the first book of the series, Flight From the Dark. If Lone Wolf ends up in the Graveyard of the Ancients, he'll stumble upon the tomb of an ancient king. If you hand him an Idiot Ball and he opens the sarcophagus...
      You are in the presence of an ancient and timeless evil, far older and stronger than the Darklords themselves.
    • Revealed in the remake to be Naar, the King of the Darkness, the true Big Bad of the series.

  • The stories of H. P. Lovecraft used this quite a bit; sadly, movies and TV shows based on said stories don't use it nearly enough.
    • Lovecraft himself is speculated to have been parodying overuse of the concept in the story "The Unnamable", although it's hard to tell since he always wrote like that. It's definitely parodied here.
    • Ghatanothoa in "Out of the Aeons" was a kind of meta-example. It wasn't just that the readers weren't ever "shown" it (the narrator gave a partial description but didn't think he could even try to really explain what he had caught a glimpse of), but the real catch was that within the story, you really, really wouldn't want to see it. Just the sight of Ghatanothoa would turn a living human being into a petrified but living mummy. If you were magically warded against this effect, you might still die.
    • At the end of At the Mountains of Madness, as the only survivors of the expedition are flying away from the titular location in Mysterious Antarctica, one of them looks back out the window and sees... something. He never tells the narrator what it was, but it gradually drives him mad.
  • The Crimson King, Big Bad of Stephen King's meta-continuity among his novels, possessing various incarnations across dimensions, such as The Man Behind The Big Bad of The Stand, is constantly said to be the horrific source of all evil. However, behind-the-scenes Villain Decay sets in, and by the time he's revealed, he's a gibbering old man in a red cloak, who attacks the hero with weaponized Harry Potter toys while continually screeching "Eeeee!" and is then erased by Patrick. Given the absolute terror he inspires in his subordinates (some of it due to firsthand experience), there has been elaborate Fanon created to explain this inconsistency.
    • The degeneration of the main villain fits in with the overall theme of The Dark Tower, where everything is breaking down. Things fall apart, the center cannot hold...
    • Just look at the Gunslinger Born Prequel comics—the Crimson King is this scary spider-demon-thing that is eating a person.
  • The title character of It. The forms that ARE seen, such as the infamous Monster Clown Pennywise, are based on childhood fears. The giant spider form at the end was meant to be the most terrifying of the forms that humanity can "safely" comprehend. Beyond that, madness ensues.
    • A secondary human villain was manipulated into bringing It a hostage and looks at It when It's not wearing a form and promptly keels over dead.
    "It did not bother to dress when at home."
    • Poor George Denbrough, who made the mistake of reaching down into the sewer for one of the Monster Clown's balloons.
      George reached.
      The clown seized his arm.
      And George saw the clown’s face change.
      What he saw then was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke.
  • The Lord of the Rings, the eponymous villain Sauron is this, although he's not the biggest bad in The 'Verse. He's mentioned often but never actually appears, deliberately, to heighten the sense of his unfathomable, mind-breakingly evil power. He is, however, given some description in supplemental material, and going by those it's better that we don't see what's really behind all this craziness.
    • In the film adaptation, Sauron was given a full costume for the prologue, and was even intended to appear in the climax and duel Aragorn, before filmmakers realized how goofy that would be and digitally replaced him with a big troll. Still follows the trope though, in that we never see what he looks like underneath his armor.
    • Sauron appears as the Necromancer in the film adaptations of The Hobbit, and takes the appearance of a black, humanoid ghost.
    • The Silmarillion suggests that it was difficult for him to take physical form, at least without The Ring's power.
    • In the film he was never seen during the Third Age, although the giant fiery eyeball was mistakenly identified as his physical form by some viewers, including the 'Sauron blogger' who stated "I am not an evil lighthouse."
  • The Minotaur in House of Leaves. In reality, the Minotaur isn't so much a character as it is a concept invented by characters journeying through the house to explain the uneasy feeling that they're being watched, followed, and hunted down by some horrific creature. Tom Navidson even calls it "Mr. Monster" at one point. It is only called the Minotaur by Zampanó, who later struck through every passage containing that title. The strike-throughs are actually provided by Truant, who reconstructed the passages after Zampanó attempted to destroy them. On at several occasions, he succeeds, most notably on pages 372-373, the former of which contains the phrase [2 pages missing] and the latter of which is a series of XXXXXXXX interrupted only by one word and one partial word, though the footnotes survived.

    However, it's not simply that there is no such as independent thing as the Minotaur. People even seem to get killed by it.
  • A series of short stories by Robert W. Chambers leave us (and a young fan named H. P. Lovecraft) wondering, "Just what the hell is The King in Yellow? Within the stories themselves it seems to be the script for an unproduced play, whose plot we only ever get glimpses of, but it's apparently incredibly disturbing and will usually drive those who read it insane.
  • Just after the stoic Doc Savage escapes through the entrance of a strange underground cavern he looks back to see something or SOMEONE reaching out to him and screams for the first time in his life.
  • In Beyond the Deepwoods, the first book of The Edge Chronicles, the Gloamglozer is handled this way... but according to its descriptions, seems to be a fairly underwhelming bogeyman not much worse than some of the threats you actually do see. In an inversion of how this usually works, when it actually shows up toward the end of the book, it turns out to be something far, far worse: a grotesque and malevolent trickster with more than a little in common with Satan.
  • Unseen Evil is the subject of Arthur Machen's short story "The White People", with elements of The Fair Folk. As written by Lovecraft:
    "In Machen, the subtlest story The White Peopleis undoubtedly the greatest, even though it hasn't the tangible, visible terrors of The Great God Pan or The White Powder."(to Robert E. Howard, 4 October 1930)
  • Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe features a classic Eldritch Abomination as its Unseen Evil — a galaxy-sized region of space in which no matter or radiation exists. Moreover, it is sentient and mobile, traveling across the universe in search of new galaxies to devour. It has been discovered by several species at various points in galactic history, even the most advanced of which could barely do more than find a way to flee. Naturally, Flinx, the protagonist of the series, is the Chosen One who is said to be the key to its destruction. However, as scary as the concept is, the thing never actually gets to our galaxy before Flinx manages to destroy it, leaving its implacably hostile nature something of an in-universe Take Our Word for It.
  • Played with by both main villains in Mistborn. The Lord Ruler is kept off page for most of the first novel, building up an air of mystery and fear about him; as a result, even though other main characters have met him before, Vin is stunned the first time she sees him and realizes he's a pretty ordinary-looking man. Later on, the real Big Bad, Ruin is portrayed for the first part of the third book as a completely inhuman force of nature. Later, it starts interacting with mortals in suprisingly humanlike fashion, using images of people they've known as its avatars. Vin speculates that this is just a mask, though and she's proven right when she becomes a god herself and sees Ruin in his true form. What little description the reader gets could easily be summed up as "Eldritch Abomination", proving that while the heroine can now face the villain on his own terms, he's still brain-breakingly horrible to mortals.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Dark One fits this trope perfectly. It's a nigh omnipotent evil god that has existed since the beginning of time and is the ultimate cause of all the conflict in the series. So far it's still mostly sealed away from reality, and even if it does break free, it's been implied that it probably doesn't have an actual physical form. The only time anyone has encountered it directly is when it communicated mentally with one of the Forsaken. Even then, we only hear its voice, and that alone was enough to make the person hearing it weep from a combination of agony and ecstasy. Even when partially freed it takes the form of a vast void rather than anything humanlike.
  • The Nothing in The Neverending Story. A bit more prominent in the film adaptation. It's not an entity or being so much as it is a cosmic force, simply erasing the world form existence.
  • The Otherness in the Repairman Jack and The Adversary Cycle books.
  • The One, a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere that shows up at the end of Animorphs.
  • Mog-Pharau, the No-God from the Second Apocalypse series, is so unnatural and Eldritch that during the First Apocalypse, for the entirety of the time when it existed, literally no creature could be born living. No one knows what it looks like or what it even is. It is sealed in an enormous floating black obelisk in the center of a furious whirlwind. Needless to say, those who believe the stories of the Apocalypse are very keen on preventing it from being resurrected.
  • Manly Wade Wellman's short story "The Desrick on Yandro" has protagonist Silver John encounter a number of Fearsome Critters of American Folklore, including the Behinder, which is normally known for hiding behind things (as the name implies), so nobody has ever seen it. John gets an eyeful of it, and immediately wishes he hadn't.
  • In Caitlin Kiernan's The Red Tree, the protagonist gets fixated on a large oak tree and becomes convinced that it's really the mask for some sort of abomination. Of course, she's also suffering from Sanity Slippage and has read her fair share of Lovecraft, so who knows.
    . . . [The tree] seemed, in that moment, to have sloughed off whatever guise or glamour usually permitted it to pass for only a very old, very large oak. Suddenly, I felt, with sickening conviction, I was gazing through or around a mask, that I was being allowed to do so that I might at last be made privy to this grand charade. I saw wickedness. I could not then, and cannot now, think of any better word. I saw wickedness dressed up like a tree, and I had very little doubt that it saw me, as well. . . And I knew, if I did not look away, and look away quickly, that what I saw would sear me, and I'd never find my way back to the house.
  • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, the presence of the Hound is implied in various ways — legend, footprint, howling, rumoured sightings, the fact that people seem to have been chased by something — but it's not seen by Dr. Watson (the point of view character) or other protagonists until the climax. Of course, a major part of the mystery is just what it is in the first place. Ultimately, it turns out to be simply a large dog that is being used for a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • The Graveyard Book features an unseen Eldritch Abomination called the Sleer, which remains under this trope until the book's climax.
  • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell: The story takes place in an endless forest filled with the shades of the dead, which will instantly murder anyone who breaks a few specific rules. Humans fled to this place in order to get away from "the Evil" in the old country. No detail on what exactly the Evil is, but it was considered worse than the continent full of ghosts.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Wolf, Ram, and the Hart, aka the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart from Angel. A powerful and ancient cabal of demons that are the true power behind the series' main antagonists, they are never seen or even heard once. The demon that appears for the Review was just possessed by one of them. Yet the series makes their influence an undeniable and terrible thing. By the end of the series, they ultimately prove to be an unstoppable force of Evil that Angel and company can only fight, but never defeat. In contrast to the First Evil, the Wolf, Ram, and Hart were once ordinary (and quite lowly) demons in primordial times. But when most of the more powerful demons died off (first by warring with each other, then being defeated by early humans and the original Slayer), and they managed to survive in the shadows, scheming and building up their power to the point that they're even more threatening than the First Evil.
  • Babylon 5 gives us the Shadows, who are seen, but relatively rarely. They look like giant, really nasty spider/mantises, but they're usually invisible—saving on the CGI budget and adding to the fear factor: a Shadow could be anywhere, lurking, spying.
    • The Vorlons, who eventually prove to be evil (or rather, Lawful Blue to the point where it's indistinguishable from Evil), are only ever seen in their encounter suits—again, their natural form is too CGI-heavy to be used that much.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the First Evil, a primordial being which claims to be the will of evil itself. An incorporeal being, it can take the form of anyone who has died (even if they're The Undead or currently alive again), which it uses to very creepy effect. Then, about three times in the whole series, we get a brief glimpse of its apparent "true" form...which demonstrates the reason for this trope. Random demony face just isn't a match for one of our beloved main characters acting like a twistedly cruel version of themselves.
  • The Source on Charmed. A good example of what's problematic with showing the Unseen Evil, as well — after several seasons of only being mentioned in passing he's finally revealed as a mysterious cloaked figure. With each sucessive appearance, the Source gets more stupid looking and more like a traditional Big Bad, until finally he's killed off and replaced with new Big Bads. (At this point, "Source of All Evil" is eventually revealed to be a title rather than a literal descriptor.)
  • Doctor Who: "Midnight" has a chillingly effective Unseen Evil. Unlike all of the Doctor's other adversaries, it has no shape or form and is only known by its influence on others. The Doctor proves to be utterly mystified and helpless against it, and were it not for a Heroic Sacrifice by the tour guide, it would have succeeded in killing the Doctor. In its one appearance, it evokes the same fear from the Doctor that the Doctor usually inspires in other alien menaces, such as the Daleks.
  • Reavers in Firefly are never seen on-screen; only their ships and the after-effects of an attack are. This got turned on its head when they got revealed in Serenity and proved, once again, why Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • The Great Leader of Shocker in Kamen Rider only communicates through a speaker, leaving his true appearance mysterious.
  • Once Upon a Time has two: the Darkness, an Eldritch Abomination made from the darkness of all souls it ever bonds itself too all the way to its latest carrier (Rumpelstiltskin), and the Black Fairy, one of the most powerful practitioners of dark magic and the one who created the Dark Curse that the whole series was built around.
  • The Family Channel had a short-lived series called Scariest Places on Earth which would use a night vision camera to capture the horrified expressions of those visiting the eponymous places and seeing the eponymous scary stuff, but that was it. Short-lived because nobody who watched the show once was stupid enough to want to watch it twice.
  • Smallville portrays Darkseid as this.
  • Ultraman Gaia has its Big Bad, the Radical Destruction Bringer (sometimes called the Root of Destruction). It's never actually seen or appears, but is responsible for the events of the entire series either directly or indirectly. All that we really know is that it hates Earth and sees the planet as a threat to the universe. It pretty much vanishes after the final monster Zogu is destroyed, so many fans speculate its identity to have been Zogu.
  • Ultraman Mebius's big bad, the Alien Emperor/Empera Seijin, could fall into this category, an evil alien from a dead star that was very similar to the Ultra people who commanded the Four Heavenly Kings and armies of monsters and aliens throughout the millenia. For the longest time he was only mentioned and not seen beyond a black silhouette shown in a flashback in Ultraman Taro.
  • The aliens in The X-Files were, for the entirety of the first season, represented by slo-mo and flashlights.
  • Supernatural: While all angels only appear on screen using human vessels due to their true forms being too intense for humans to perceive, Lucifer takes this farther than any of them. His true form is apparently so unbelievably horrible that Sam and Rowena, having managed to see it only due to being in a metaphysical realm that allowed them to, are left utterly traumatized by it.

  • Old Harry's Game: More like He Who Must Not Be Heard but the most frequently mentioned of the damned outside of the main characters is Adolf Hitler, yet he never has any speaking roles, is never spoken to, and with the exception of one scene where he is explicitly in disguise, is never even spoken about in such a way that one can infer his presence.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Pale Night, a demon lord. She appears as a ghostly woman wearing a shroud. Her true form is so horrifying, though, that reality itself rejects it; the shroud is not hers, apparently, but something the multiverse forces on her. (This is implied to be because Obyrith demons themselves are chaotic beings of entropy and madness; the reason for their hideous forms is because the, for lack of a better term, intelligence of the Abyss is forced to adhere to the rules of a lawful universe to bring its servitors into being. Pale Night's true form, though, managed to break those rules.) Her deadliest attack is the ability to suppress her shroud for an instant. Unlike almost every other example in the game, if you succeed on the Will save against this ability, your character is considered to have NOT comprehended what he saw, and blocked it out. Whereas if you fail they understand what they see and die instantly. If the character is resurrected, they will have no memory of what was seen.
    • Late 2nd Edition and early 3rd Edition D&D also had Asmodeus, the Dark Lord of the Ninth, ruler of the Nine Hells of Baator. For much of 2nd Edition, particularly the Planescape setting, the highest lords of Baator (especially Asmodeus) were shrouded in mystery, playing this trope conventionally. Then after the Archdevils were revealed, the mystery around Asmodeus had to be reestablished with A Guide to Hell, a sourcebook that suggested Asmodeus is an illusion maintained by an impossibly ancient... thing that resides at the bottom of the Ninth Hell, in a miles-long spiraling trench called the Serpent's Coil. A later 3rd Edition book (Fiendish Codex II) gave more details, once again pulling back the veil of mystery on Asmodeus. Pathfinder and 4th Edition have further rewritten Asmodeus for their own purposes, as he has become more popular among fans and writers both.
    • D&D 3.5 supplement Lords of Madness gives vague description of beings that predate even the Aboleth, all of which are Lovecraftian entities that aren't even given statistics (unlike the aforementioned Pale Night), only how their influence shaped Aboleth societies. Aboleths are creatures for whom the writers had to invent a new word to describe: unhuman.
  • Gwydion, a powerful Sealed Evil in a Can from the Ravenloft setting, is never seen or described in the published products, except for a few giant clawed tentacles reaching through the Obsidian Gate.
  • Eberron has Khyber, the Dragon Below, who is one of the three beings from the beginning of time and now is the underworld. Same goes for Eberron, who is the world, and Siberys, who is the Sky, but they are not considered to be evil. It's entirely possible the three progenitor dragons are just myths and metaphors for the surface world, underworld, and the planet's ring, though.
  • Forgotten Realms Lawful Evil greater god Bane was originally portrayed this way, maintaining a grim mystique by operating secondhand through agents and only manifesting as a shadowy, faceless, menacing shape or a black gauntlet. The Avatar series put an end to this depiction - and to Bane himself for a few Editions - by trapping him in a mortal form and then killing him off.
  • Warhammer 40,000. The four Chaos Gods and the Emperor of Mankind all get this treatment to varying degrees. The Cosmic Horror Story-flavored C'tan, sadly, do not.
    • Not on the table, where they've basically been torn out of space and rammed into an airtight liquid metal skin. In their natural form they operate on a scale so large they were surprised when they found out that planets exist, let alone the little noisy things on them.
    • It's hinted, barely implied by a few lines of text here and there, that something makes Tyranids flee to Warhammer 40000.
  • Yawgmoth, Big Bad of Magic: The Gathering's Weatherlight saga and the biggest villain the game has ever had, has never been depicted on any card. Even the tie-in novels are vague about his actual appareance. When he did finally appear in card form, it shows him as his human self before he ascended godhood.

    Video Games 
  • King Stan in Okage: Shadow King is trapped in the form of a shadow for 95% of the game, citing that the entire world will shake in terror once he regains his True Form. It turns out to be less than impressive (although that chin is pretty scary).
  • Demonica of Stretch Panic is a monster so horrifying that merely seeing her causes Linda to die of fright. You must prevent her from entering the shack you are inside by following her shadow in the windows and attacking through the entrances she tries to use.
  • Giygas, the Big Bad of Earth Bound, is an Unseen Evil in similar ways to Cthulhu. And he's a rare case where he's finally revealed, and he's not only still terrifying, but probably even more so than he was before, due to how bright and kid-friendly the game was beforehand. This was probably more creepy for those who played the original EarthBound Beginnings where he was just a kind of creepy thin alien in a fancy fishbowl. According to Giygas' right-hand, Porky Minch, when Giygas was just an alien, he exerted a gigantic amount of energy and literally embraced the "Evil Power," becoming the Embodiment of Evil itself. Now Giygas manifests as a blood-red, swirling, spectral vortex emitting his screaming face; an incomprehensible being composed of raw Psionic power and pure evil. He's so evil now that he's devolved into a literal storm of negative power that can encompass the Universe and sentence it to eternal darkness. In this state, he's incapable of rational thought and can no longer perceive the world around him, so Porky constructed a fleshy apparatus called the Devil's Machine as a way to re-allow Giygas to think straight. In the final battle, Porky decides to shut it off so he can present Ness and his friends his master, believing they are hopeless now as his master is nigh-invincible. In battle, Giygas spews out random, unintelligible attacks so unknowingly strong that the Chosen Four are simply unable to decipher what's coming at them. Ironically, if you're wearing the Franklin Badge, you actually can grasp the true form of one of his attacks, as the Badge, which repels electricity-based attacks like PSI Thunder, will reflect the attack back, revealing it to be electrical in nature.
    • Mother 3 has a time-traveling Porky. Just like Giegue/Giygas, one of his battle messages reads as "...?! What did Porky do...?!".
  • Parodied in Star Control II: The cowardly Spathi live in perpetual fear of the Ultimate Evil. They know absolutely nothing about it, and have never even seen it, because (they claim) it always lurks just outside the range of their most advanced sensors. This is, of course, further proof of its nefarious intent.
    • The player may discover that the Spathis' next-door neighbors are avatars of a real Ultimate Evil from another dimension. Hilarious as it would be, there's no way to point this out to the Spathi in the game.
    • The Spathi already know about the Orz, but don't associate them with the ULTIMATE EVIL.In fact, Word of God suggests that it's merely a product of their paranoia.
  • Lucifer in Darksiders II and Darksiders II, the Dark Prince of Hell himself, only appearing with his voice in the post-credits cutscenes in a dark hallway filled by mist and ghostly wind noises, to reveal that he has shady plans to come for the imminent Endwar. In the second game he then berates his demonic lover Lilith for failing to give him the army of Nephilim she promised, and proceeds to punish her; promising that she will not receive pleasure from it this time, while the camera fades to black and we hear her turning her masochistic smile into a rare scream of terror. Lucifer is also directly mentioned in Darksiders Genesis as the ultimate Big Bad that set the plot in-motion off screen, in the end indirectly appearing in the epilogue after mind controlling a boy to taunt the two protagonists.
  • The Watchers in Drakengard are made out to be ineffable and all-powerful by their servant, solidifying their position as the Unseen Evil in the game. Except when they appear near the game's finale, they take a form that is indeed horrifying and morbid. Part of it probably comes from expecting the writers to play this trope straight, and the other part comes from the symbolism latent in their appearance.
  • Drakengard 3 and its side materials reveal that the true Unseen Evil of the Drakengard multiverse (and by extension NieR) is the Black Flower. This dark malevolent entity was somehow sealed away within Cathedral City, but not before a small piece of it was able to infect Zero, manifesting as the flower in her eye. Its influence slowly turns its host into a Grotesquerie Queen, the source of the lesser Grotesqueries aka the Watchers. The reason Zero sought out the strongest dragon Michael (and later raises his reincarnation Mikhail to become stronger) was because dragons, being the natural predator of the Flower, are the only ones who can truly destroy it.
  • Subverted in Darkened Skye, where the Big Bad, known as "He whose face must not be glimpsed" and universally feared by all, is ultimately revealed to literally be a tiny maggot. As the heroine puts it: "He Whose Face Must Not Be Glimpsed? That's because he's too small to see!".
    • Deliberately or not, this might be a Shout-Out to Captain Marvel's enemy, Mister Mind. When he first appeared in the 1940's, it was over a year of comics before he appeared as anything but a voice over a radio, sending his Monster Society of Evil to wreak havoc. When he was finally revealed, his true form was... a superintelligent alien caterpillar about 4 inches long, wearing glasses.
  • The Legend of Spyro: The Dark Master Malefor is not seen in the first two games (except in animated cutscenes which are not very representative of his real appearance) or heard, until he finally appears at the very end of The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon, fulfilling the trope completely. And he actually is every bit as horrific, powerful, and monsterous as he'd been made out to be. He's a purple dragon like Spyro, but he's far larger than normal and looks like a dragon straight out of the pits of Hell. He's also an Omnicidal Maniac whose sole goal is to destroy the world, and he comes so close to succeeding the world is already starting to break apart when Spyro lets loose a World-Healing Wave.
  • The eponymous Siren. You hear its cry — something like a distorted, unearthly air raid siren, in a play on the dual meaning of the word — but you never actually get to see it. The Sorting Algorithm of Evil skips right over it, taking you straight from the shibito to Datatsushi, The God That Fell, the creator of the siren, the shibito, and the red water.
    • Word of God is that the siren is just the sound of Datatsushi, but this contradicts the game itself; a secret cutscene shows the fall of Datatushi and the first appearance of the siren, and there, the cry of the siren and the cry of Datatsushi are clearly two entirely different sounds, the siren responding to Datatsushi's scream.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, you never actually see Darth Nihilus's face. The only scene where his mask is removed is done by a different character and his corpse is destroyed before you can look yourself. According to other sources, Nihilus is actually dead, and just takes the form of a mask and cloak through the force.
    • Kreia implies that he has, through eons of hate, malice, dark side power and soul draining entire species, become literally nothing but Evil with a lightsaber- making him possibly the only villain to ever hate himself out of the laws of reality.
  • Inverted in Riddle of the Sphinx: when you finally look inside The Ark of the Covenant, all you see of the Unseen Good is blinding white light.
  • Zork has Grues, which will eat you, but can only exist in darkness. And in the fourth Zork game, they introduce the Ur-Grue, which is the progenitor of all grues and is capable of creating an aura of utter darkness around itself. Ya know how Grues don't show up if there's light? Yeah. He doesn't have that problem.
  • The Vasari from Sins of a Solar Empire are running away from a terrible, nameless evil that destroyed all of the inner colonies of their once-great empire. We never learn much more about it, because in their eagerness to get the game out, the developers forgot to include a campaign mode, and as a result the plot ends at the beginning of the game and (until the expansion) the lore serves only as an explanation for why the sides' units look and act the way they do.
  • At the end of Commander Keen 4, Keen is shown what his new enemies the Shikadi look like. All we're shown is his face going through horrified expressions. This game is shareware and its full version is free; naturally the player is promised that they'll get to see what the Shikadi look like if they buy the next game. Apparently they don't look all that special.
  • The menace in Dark Fall: The Journal is never seen, although a monstrous figure does appear in ancient engravings and Room Full of Crazy art. Lost Souls, a direct sequal, forgoes even this much, using an enigmatic symbol to represent the entity's presence and power.
  • Silent Hill. The town itself. Especially in Silent Hill 2. This particular game is where this trope gets applied the hardest, as the town is unquestionably malevolent, and capable of shaping itself to inflict the most pain possible on its victims. However, despite multiple possibilities being offered, nothing ever really confirms for sure what makes the town the way it is, or why it does it. There's even some speculation that the God of the cult that lives there is actually also an illusion the town has created to inflict more suffering on the world. This probably done on purpose since ultimately, the town would be less scary if we knew why it was the way it is.
  • This is invoked in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura in regards to Arronax. Arronax was a very real and very dangerous elven mage way back in the Age of Legends, and was sealed in the Void for his crimes. In modern times, he's treated as the ultimate evil, turning him into a folklore symbol instead of something real. This allows the dark elves to infiltrate the Panarii religion, which was tasked with maintaining the seal that keeps him from returning, and trick them into ignoring their duty.
  • Amon, Greater-Scope Villain of the StarCraft franchise, was only ever seen as a distorted, possibly illusory face taunting the player in one mission, and a (possibly metaphorical?) dark cloud in space in the ending cinematic of Heart of the Swarm. He intends to annihilate all life in the galaxy, for unclear reasons. In Legacy of the Void, his true nature is revealed as a Xel'Naga who turned against his own kind and exterminated them down to three individuals, himself included. He does have a physical form, hidden away in the Void, which pretty much resembles Cthulhu. He can also only be killed in the Void: if his physical incarnation in this universe is destroyed, his spirit will simply jump back to the Void where he can begin again.
  • Eve, the titular antagonist of Parasite Eve, is an in-universe case of this, seeing as no one except Aya and Klamp can ever get to personally see her, only the results of her "handiwork" on humans and animals. That said, the awakening mitochondria life forms that Eve manifests from are an invisible and omnipresent menace.
  • Undertale has two, both at the Genocide route: The Fallen Child, who only briefly appears at the end, and The Anomaly who being the player, never appears in the game, in fact almost no one knows you exist. Who turns out to be the bigger evil depends on whether or not the Anomaly has a change of heart and tries to make things right (and fails) or they decide to keep doing Genocide routes, which makes The Fallen Child marvel at your depravity.
  • AI War: Fleet Command: Whatever it is that is fighting the AI in the Extragalactic War. We know Spire remnants are a definite enemy and that stuff like the Nanocaust could well be "one of those things" that the AI needs its true fleet to battle. But the rest is apparently a damnably huge, permanently unidentified threat that could well be unified. We only know the AI believes it would kill humanity if left alone (something the AI itself is putting off in the meantime), and that it's apparently so bloody huge and dangerous it takes 99.9% of the AI's industrial might to merely keep it at bay. A unified, giga-industrialized intelligence with access to things like Motherships, Planetcrackers and Flensers is throwing everything it has at the Extragalactic threat and it is not working. The game's creators have stated that the main body of the Extragalactic Threat is the Obscura; Absolute Xenophobe particulate life forms that in another time, another game, took a massive coalition of alien empires to beat.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the pitch-black areas of Mouldwood Depths harbor a Grue-type entity that devours Ori should he linger in the darkness for more than a few seconds.
  • Azur Lane: The Sirens are apparently fighting an even bigger threat offscreen, one that they are throwing their best at and still losing to, which is why they are using humanity as a petri dish instead of just steamrolling us. As is the case with this trope, this alleged greater enemy is never depicted onscreen, never mind openly confronted by the player's forces.
  • Throughout the lifespan of Destiny, the Darkness responsible for leveling human civilization (and empowering several of the enemy factions trying to finish off the survivors) never received a depiction or even a coherent description. One Grimoire Card was even dedicated to listing various in-universe theories about what it was, ranging from an invading alien armada to a metaphysical corruption. This was due to the developers themselves not knowing what the Darkness was at the time of release. Further details emerged over the years, in which it became clear that it was a Sentient Cosmic Force of selfishness and violence, but it was only until Destiny 2 that its physical avatars were revealed, first as the Black Fleet, a fleet of giant black pyramids, and secondly in the Witness, an Uncanny Valley Humanoid Abomination that commands the pyramids. Even then, it's questionable whether the Witness is truly the mind and embodiment of the Darkness, as its stated goals and speech patterns are different from what we've previously heard from the Darkness itself.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, the heroes eventually find out that the MacGuffin they are fighting for was actually corrupted some time in the past and has become the home of Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastrian Devil. He is a being that is 60 billion curses personified and the antithesis of human goodness. And he hates back. The only thing we get to see is basically pure evil that is leaking from it, and it is implied that it has no 'real' shape. Except in the Heaven's Feel route, where it finally manages to manifest itself as a vaguely humanoid tangle of limbs and eyes. Luckily, it does not succeed in being properly born before it is obliterated.
    • And then in Fate/hollow ataraxia, the trope is subverted. Angra Mainyu didn't exist until the Grail created him in accordance with the "wish" of the people who martyred Avenger: For there to exist an unseen evil which they could blame for their own sins.
    • There's also the Beast-class Servants, seven (eight since one has two halves) powerful beings that each pose a threat to humanity simply by existing. There are several mentions of them and their members in various other Type-Moon works, but they come into prominence in Fate/Grand Order. Seven of them have been confirmed thus far:
      • Beast I: Goetia, the aggregate body of the 72 demons pillars of the Ars Goetia. He was created by Solomon to watch over mankind. However, he decided that humans are so pitiful that it would be better to incinerate the human order and use the energy produced to travel back in time to create a new humanity.
      • Beast II: Tiamat, the primordial Mesopotamian Goddess of Chaos who wants to exterminate all life so she can go through the experience of giving birth to all life once again.
      • Beast III/L: Kama/Mara, the Hindu/Buddhist God(dess) of Love having fallen prey to her darker half who wishes to drown humanity in depravity and pleasure until society itself breaks down.
      • Beast III/R: The Demonic Bodhisattva, a Dark Messiah who seeks to fulfill her twisted idea of salvation upon the world.
      • Beast IV: Primate Murder, a being said to be the best existence at killing humans. Fou, the Ridiculously Cute Critter who's been accompanying you, turns out to be an alternate universe version of it.
      • Beast VI: The Beast of Revelations
      • Beast VII: U-Olga Marie, the mysterious Foreign God that attacked Earth and bleached the planet white with no life in sight and set about creating Lostbelts to fight each other and ultimately take the place as the "new" Proper Human History, with herself as its ultimate new ruler. She previously attempted to have the protagonist killed during a prototype Lostbelt experiment through her proxies, and for some reason she wears the face of the apparently deceased Olga Marie, before said reveal always acting through her emissaries and the Crypters but never actually appearing.
  • Depending on how you view them, the titular Villain Protagonist Saya in Saya no Uta could count. All the viewer gets to see is her almost angelic-looking human form that only Fuminori can see (at least, angelic-looking compared to all the revolting Meat Moss that constantly assaults his vision,) and the occasional tentacle from their true form, which has driven everyone who's seen it insane (unless they were already insane).

    Web Animation 
  • The Forbidden Power in TOME is this for a good chunk of the series, mostly in Season 1. Becomes less so once its true nature and appearance are revealed towards the end, though literally being Made of Evil gives it points for the Unseen Evil category even when one considers its "Kajet" body.

  • The Other from Girl Genius has never been seen on screen and it's true form is unknown to everybody. The closest we get is Lucrezia but that is likely a product of Brain Uploading.
  • Homestuck's requisite example is Lord English, the Eldritch Abomination summoned by the death of the universe so he can feed upon its remains. He isn't constrained by things like time, though. In fact, he's already here. However, in the intermission between the 5th and 6th Acts, he does appear.
  • In Kaspall, a box shaped robe with one arm and a cane becomes horrific this way. Of course, knowing the things that it DID to its victims helps.
  • Parodied with The Monster in the Darkness in The Order of the Stick, who is obliged to stay in complete darkness all the time to avoid revealing what he is. Later he starts carrying an umbrella so that he's always got a shadow to stay in. Mind you, he's not very evil. It is hinted that he's powerful and has a fearsome appearance.
  • Schlock Mercenary features the Pa'anuri, a species of Dark Matter entities. They're unable to directly interact with baryonic (i.e. 'normal') matter in any way, and therefore cannot be seen, heard, or in any way detected or interacted with, with the exception of gravitic manipulation and wormhole generation. They also plot to destroy all non-baryonic life, due to the fact that baryonic life keeps learning to do manipulate gravity and create wormholes, and they find that annoying. A few books and a few years later, digital imaging with gravitic instruments shows that they resemble twisted tendrils.
  • unOrdinary: Spectre is an odd case, all members of the violent, teenager targeting, illicit experimenting criminal organization are shown greyed out with no identifiable features or with their faces in shadow and given no personal names except when they are posing as being unaffiliated with the group. The only exceptions are two members that have broken away from the main group and claim to be benevolent, though their trustworthiness is still in question.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-055 is the most mysterious and potentially dangerous SCP contained by the Foundation. Its only known property is that it somehow erases any other information pertaining to it from all records and memory. As a result, no one remembers when or how the Foundation first acquired it. While it's entirely possible that the SCP is otherwise completely harmless, the Foundation isn't taking any chances and treats it like any other Keter object. It is possible to remember what it isn't. Which somehow makes it worse. And what, so far, do people remember it isn't? Round, safe, or contained.
    • Simliar to 055, SCP-579 is apparently so utterly horrible that the description is censored. All that's revealed is the containment procedures...which involve sealing the thing in an alternate universe (which is itself created by another SCP—something that's strictly forbidden by the Foundation's MO). And the protocol in case of a breach? Destroy the alternate universe. And if even that doesn't work? Well...
    In the event of an unsuccessful Action 10-Israfil-B, no further action will be necessary. [DATA EXPUNGED]
    • SCP-231, a group of women impregnated with Eldritch Abominations by an evil cult, is rife with this. Of the seven, six have already given birth, resulting in greater casualties every single time, with implication that the seventh giving birth may cause The End of the World as We Know It. There is no description for any of the six Abominations already born. The photo that came with the document - whatever it depicted - has been censored away by the O5s. We don't get to know either what is the mysterious "Procedure 110-Montauk", regularly performed on SCP-231-7 to prevent her from giving birth to the final Eldritch Abomination, only that it's something very cruel and inhumane which probably involves violent rape but has been confirmed by Word of God to be even worse than just that.
  • Zalgo, an Eldritch Abomination whose mere existence causes things to distort in gruesome ways. The results of Zalgo's handiwork are seen often, but its true form is unknown (though a lot of fanart of it exists).
  • The "evil force" in Greek Ninja. At first, no one knew who or what was behind it.
  • "Cjopaze" from Ruby Quest. Weaver was very, very careful to not reveal too much about the horror at once.
  • Quite a few elements of Welcome to Night Vale, including the indescribable horrors that form Station Management, and, of course, Kevin's smile, which is... oh God... that is not a smile. There's also the Man in the Tan Jacket, whose presence is instantly forgotten the moment he leaves, and who may quite possibly be Satan himself.

    Western Animation 
  • Dr. Claw, the villain from Inspector Gadget was never shown on the original animated series. For the first movie, he was played by Rupert Everett, but was clearly meant to be a completely different villain. An action figure of Dr. Claw was made, when it was revealed that he disappointingly looked like your stereotypical "Mad Scientist". There was also a video game that showed half his face that used the same design.
  • Dungeons & Dragons (1983): The Nameless One, boss of Venger, is a hugely powerful and evil being that destroys worlds only because it feels like it. Its body is permanently wrapped up in a massive tornado that reaches the clouds, and its real aspect is never shown. You can only see its glowing eyes.
  • Gormiti: The Lords of Nature Return gives us Obscurio, the supremely powerful leader of the Darkness Gormiti. While the toyline does feature a figure of him, he has not been seen in the series proper, only appearing as a spiritual entity which hides in a specially-forged crown that possesses Toby in Episode 6.
  • Masters of the Universe gave us Horde Prime, the man behind both Skeletor and Hordak. All we ever saw of him was a greenish glow, beneath which an outline of his body can be conceived, a section of his face with red eyes, and a huge mechanical fist.
  • Similar to Darth Vader, Slade's mask is generally used as a symbol of absolute evil on Teen Titans. Unlike Vader, the viewer never gets to see what's beneath it- whenever it's torn off, what's revealed is either one of Slade's robot body-doubles, a quickly-concealed silhouette, or an undead skull. Of course, in the original comics Slade's a fairly ordinary looking middle-aged man, so the animated version probably shares that appearance.
    • Subverted with Trigon from the same series, who for his first few appearances is just a deep voice, glowing red eyes, and a silhouette, but is ultimately revealed in all his glory when he breaks through into the mortal world. Think Satan on steroids.
  • Nergal Jr. of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy takes the form of a small boy with green eyes, as his real form shown off screen in his first appearance freaked out anyone who saw. However, in a much later episode when Billy angers him, he takes the form of a demonic creature for a few seconds. Whether this is his true form is uncertain, but it looks horrifying enough to be so.
    • Even that green-eyed boy form is one he stole from the first person he met when he came up from the core of the planet. His original form is not shown except that horrifies the child (who is never heard of again in the show).
  • Code Lyoko: XANA, to the point it doesn't even have a face or even body to begin with, being an AI. For the whole series, the only thing we saw of it was its mooks, its attacks and a mysterious Faceless Eye-like symbol.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, the Evil Entity is not shown to have a definitive form until the last episode where it's a mass of darkness with a mouth and eyes.
  • The Overlord in Ninjago, is the source of all evil in the world of Ninjago, and was responsible for the actions of several other major antagonists in the show.
  • Mentioned by name in Transformers: Prime by Agent Fowler to describe Unicron, who in this version is the Earth's core. That is, the Earth accreted around the dormant body of Unicron.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy Eddy's brother is kept from being seen, his presence only indicated by the stories Eddy tells, and his legacy only shown by the terrified reactions of Rolf, Kevin, and Eddy (when they thought he had come back). When we do finally see him, we see that he does mostly just look like Eddy, but coupled with his behaviors and the wildly frightening evil smiles and rather evil expressions he gives everyone, it's clear he is by far the greatest villain above the rest the show has to offer.
  • Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender was kept from being seen for most of the series, and all we usually saw of him is a shadowy figure in his throne room. When he finally shows himself, he didn't look so intimidating. In subsequent episodes after this, however, his actions very much affirm how horrifically and terrifyingly evil he is out of every villain Aang has faced.
  • The Beast from Over the Garden Wall is ordinarily completely silhouetted. The one time we see him in full is briefly when the Woodsman shines his lantern on him, where his skin (or rather, his bark) appears to be covered in screaming faces.
  • Downplayed in Steven Universe with White Diamond, the leader of Homeworld's totalitarian regime. While she is depicted in the iconography that we see in various ways, she doesn't physically appear at all until the Season 5 finale. What makes her case notable is that she's so beautiful (to represent her ideal of "perfection") that she looks less like a person and more like a part of the scenery.