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"Put the glasses on! PUT 'EM ON!"
Roddy Piper, They Live!

The world is the way it is. Or so they would have you believe. But there is something more, something underneath the thin skin of this world, something which can't be normally seen by human eyes. How can you see it then? Why, with special glasses, of course.

These can come in a variety of forms: regular sunglasses, x-ray specs ordered from the back of a comic book, hagstones, or even special amulets. You can see By the Eyes of the Blind, those Invisible to Normals, you can even see the Masquerade. You've broken the Weirdness Censor on your eyes.

Now, the only question is: Is this a good thing?

Despite what the title may imply, this has nothing to do with X-Ray Vision. Compare with the Goggles Do Something Unusual. A subtrope of True Sight.

Examples of See-Thru Specs include:

Anime & Manga

  • Tsukihime reverses this. Its main character wears special glasses that hide the "lines of death" which he is otherwise forced to see.
  • Franken Fran took this trope and applied it to a pair of eyes that the title character created and implanted in a painter. The eyes allowed him to see light and color spectra that normal humans couldn't see. Unfortunately, this caused him to see all sorts of Eldritch Abomination that are usually invisible to humans. He ends up falling in love with one of them. It is not insignificant to note that this is one of the happier endings in the series.
  • One chapter of To Love Ru has Rito put on a special pair of glasses that Lala uses to work on her inventions. As this is To Love Ru, the glasses just happen to make him see through women's clothing.
  • It's not quite the glasses that does it in ARAGO - it's rather the cream that Joe applies to them that gives him the ability to see the monsters and ghosts in London otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
  • This is how Kazumi learned the truth about Yuuji's status as a Torch in Shakugan no Shana, after she was given an eyepiece that allowed normal humans like herself to see the waning flame of a human-turned-Torch (which, under normal circumstances, would mean that said human would soon retroactively vanish from existence).
  • One of the seven detective gadgets in Yu Yu Hakusho provides this ability. Rarely used, however.
  • Miracle App Store, the protagonist obtains a free item from a mysterious app that allows him x-ray vision.


  • The movie They Live is built around this trope: the main character played by Roddy Piper finds a box of sunglasses and when he puts one on, he can see the hidden aliens among them, as well as signs saying "Consume," "Marry and Reproduce," and money printed with "This is your God" on it.
  • On the pseudo-scientific side, ecto-goggles allowed the Ghostbusters to detect invisible ghosts and other psycho-kinetic anomalies visually. They turn up in the film, the sequel, and much of the spinoff media. There was even a toy.
  • In Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Johan Krauss obtains eyewear that enables the BPRD team to see through magical beings' glamour.
    • Including that of Hellboy himself. Even though he isn't really using glamour, as he physically ripped his horns off and filed them down.
  • The original movie 13 Ghosts in 1960 used special glasses to see the ghosts. Ditto for the remake, Thir13en Ghosts, in 2001.
    • The original even included faint outlines of the ghosts that could be seen with the complimentary color filter cardboard glasses.
  • For Your Height Only (1981), the Filipino James Bond spoof, has the dwarf secret agent hero equipped with see-through glasses that he uses to check out some secretaries naked and see a couple of villains (also shown naked) hiding behind the curtains.
  • X! The Man With X-Ray Eyes starts out as a straight-up case of X-Ray Vision but the protagonist's eyesight eventually starts to see something that can't be attributed simply to that.


  • Hagstones, also called "serpent's eggs" and "witch stones," were said to protect against the evil eye and prevent nightmares and cure whooping cough.


  • The Merkabah Rider has glasses which allow him to see spirits and other nasties in human form.
  • In The Spiderwick Chronicles, the main human characters have to look through a hole in a stone (also called a hagstone or adder stone, in the books, a "seeing stone") to see the fairy creatures when they don't want to be seen.
  • In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality novel With a Tangled Skein, there is a pair of glasses that allows the wearer to actually see the wages of sin people are piling on themselves in Purgatory Hell. Satan was trying to get people into Hell on the installment plan: for each level, you had to sacrifice 1% of your good. (There are hundreds of levels.) These looked tempting to live people and Incarnations without the glasses; with them, not so much.
  • The hole-in-a-stone variation also appears in Neil Gaiman's Coraline, where the heroine used one to find the souls of the other children.
  • William Sleator's The Boy Who Reversed Himself had a set of glasses created by four-dimensional creatures that allowed you to see around clothes (and everything else) by giving you 4D vision, somehow.
  • Vivian Vande Velde's Now You See It...
  • In the Alcatraz Series, many of the Lenses work like this, from the Oculator's Lenses that allow them to detect powerful magic and other Oculators, the Tracker's Lenses which let them track people by magic footprints, to the Translator's Lenses.
  • In the Robert Sheckley short story Is That What People Do?, a man ends up with a pair of half-functional binoculars which let him peep in on a series of bizarre scenes which may or may not be actually happening. In the end he looks in the other end of the binoculars, and sees a pair of enormous eyes, one of which winks at him.
  • The Stephen King short story The Ten O'Clock People has the Weirdness Censor become broken by, of all things, moderate smoking. For some reason the chemicals in cigarettes let people see thru the monsters' disguises, but only if you ingest them at a rate somewhere between "smoke occasionally" and "chain smoking."
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth Milo is given a magical spyglass that allows him to see things as they really are.
  • Rather than actual glasses, witches in the Discworld can enter Faerie by "opening their eyes, and then opening them again."
    • Also, the Tiffany Aching books have a stone-with-a-hole-in-it.
  • The Robert Bloch short story "The Cheaters" features glasses that let you read people's minds. Being a Robert Bloch story, it doesn't end well.
  • Larkin's scope in Gaunt's Ghosts explicitly functions this way on at least one occasion (seeing through a psychic illusion caused by some Eldar in Ghostmaker) and in a less literal sense in general - Larkin is somewhat unhinged, and he mentions earlier in the book that he sees things clearly only when he's looking through his scope.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen involves a mirror that reflects only bad things. It does technically reveal things about people that are hidden but more importantly it hides the whole truth.
  • In The Bartimaeus Trilogy, magicians possess magical glasses which allow them to see into the second and third planes. Djinn and other magical creatures can be invisible/disguised in this plane, and the glasses enable a human to see them in a true(r) form.
    • Some of the citizens rules by magicians develop the ability to see the djinnis in a similar manner without such contacts, or see the aura of magical creatures, which becomes a rather important plot point.
  • The Infocom novel Wishbringer involves a pair of apparent joke glasses that allow one to tell whether something is magic.
  • In Midnighters, anything that hasn't been touched by midnight is blurry to Rex. Since most things haven't, he wears glasses, but if something has, it's blurry when he's wearing them (and clear when he's not). That is, until the second book, when he becomes a halfling, then changes back, and no longer needs them.
  • Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris novel Shriek has the organic-tech glasses that Duncan gives Janice so that she can see a Grey Cap's-eye-view of the city,
  • In Roman Glushkov's Steel Loop (a part of the Death Zone series), Diamond Mongoose has 100-carat diamonds in various parts of his body as the result of an anomalous accident in one of the Zones. One of these is in place of his right eye. This diamond allows him to see trails of moving objects larger than a bird (not that there are any birds in the Zones). This is overlaid over his normal vision like a HUD projection.
  • In Philip K. Dick's short story, "Faith of Our Fathers", it's an anti-hallucinogenic drug that neutralizes the hallucinogen in the water that makes everybody perceive the Party Leader as a human being. In actuality, it's not clear exactly what he is, but it's implied that he's some kind of godlike entity that feeds on humanity.
  • The plot of the Give Yourself Goosebumps book "Zombie School" is kicked off when your character horses around with the teacher's monocle and gets a good look at which of the students are mindlessly obedient zombies. It also provides a good look at the subliminal messages and so forth.

Live Action TV

  • In Doctor Who episodes "Army of Ghosts"/"Doomsday," the Doctor wears a pair of 3-D glasses designed to see the residual void stuff.
  • The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "Tale of the Super Specs," partially inspired by They Live.
  • The gozarian glasses in The Middleman allow people to see (but not hear) ghosts.
  • One episode of Reaper has Sam get a pair of glasses which will supposedly allow him to see the true forms of demons. This effect has not been shown, though.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Scientific Method", the Doctor figures out there are invisible aliens on the ship and modifies Seven's Borg eye implant to detect them. When she opens her eyes again, she can see the aliens -- everywhere. And they're doing horrible things to the crew...


  • Myths of The Fair Folk sometimes feature magical ointments which, rubbed on one's eyelids, allow one to see the faerie. One common scenario is when a man accidentally splashes some of this substance on one of his eyes, then is deprived of it -- the eye, not the ointment -- by an irate fey who dislikes being observed. A variant has a midwife, who is given the ointment so she can assist with a faerie birth, but secretly keeps some of it with the same consequences.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons has a spell called True Seeing which allows you to see through any illusions or glamors placed on an object. In theory, it is possible to enchant any object with True Seeing, including glasses, other clothing items, and even light sources (sort of like an anti-illusion field).
  • The Call of Cthulhu adventure "The Fungi From Yuggoth". It has a pair of spectacles that allowed the wearer to see into another dimension (with the usual impossible angles and bizarre perspectives). Each time you uses them, there is a chance you could see a monster that could attack and kill you if you didn't take them off in time.
  • GURPS: Artifacts has "The Mask of Maaukepu". If you look at someone while wearing it there's a small chance you'll see the worst thing that person has ever done.


Video Games

  • In Mega Man Star Force, Geo Stelar has the Visualizer, a pair of glasses that lets him see the wave world
  • The Lens of Truth in The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask is purported to see through illusions, as well as see invisible or hidden elements. Likewise, the Cross in Zelda II the Adventure of Link allows Link to see invisible enemies (namely Moas).
  • This is one of the mechanics in the Nintendo game Bart vs. the Space Mutants - you get a pair of X-ray specs, and when you use them you can see which people are possessed by the space mutants.
  • The Silph Scope in the first ~Pokémon~ games. It allowed to see the real form of wild ghost Pokemon.
    • The games set in Hoenn have the Devon Scope, which allows the player to see invisible Pokemon. Though it only needs to be used once to progress, there are several other hidden Pokemon in the routes near Fortree and Lilycove.
    • In the Mystery Dungeon spinoffs, Goggle Specs play a similar role to the Devon Scope, plus the ability to see traps.
    • An eyepiece known as the Aura Reader exists in XD; it allows the wearer to sense the dark aura of a Shadow Pokemon. It also serves as the restraining bolt, locking the Snag Machine's function as long as a Shadow Pokemon is not on the field.
  • Much gameplay in Splinter Cell revolves around using your military-grade goggles at opportune points. Night vision is easily explained away, otherwise you'd be playing a black screen half the time. But Thermal vision that lets you see landmines? "Electromagnetic" vision that conveniently reveals only equipment that you can interact with?
    • In a data stick provided by a dead/unconscious enemy, the mines are designed to be visible to thermal cameras so that allies can see the mines and avoid them. Makes Sense in Context
  • The premise of Flashback is that you created special glasses that allowed you to see the density of objects. As you walked around with them on, you noticed that some people were much heavier than they should be...
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has Detective Mode, which has functions including X-ray, forensic tracker, vital sign monitoring, weapon detection, and even point-of-interest detection. This is treated as a combination of a scanner in Batman's cowl, and "seeing the world through Batman's eyes". The Joker, in the PlayStation 3-exclusive content, has X-ray specs which have that function and nothing else.
  • Quest for Glory II has X-ray specs which can be bought at one point in the game and serve no purpose other than to let you see pixelated boobies. And take a bite out of your Honor.
  • One of the functions of the Demon Summoning Program in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is to turn the electronic HUD of your Demonica armor into one of these -- only someone with this program installed to their Demonica can see the demons inhabiting the Schwarzwelt -- and even then, it has limitations.
  • In Bayonetta, Luka can see the angels if he uses Cereza's glasses. Cereza herself says "The glasses aren't magic silly, I can see the monsters without them".
  • In Persona 4, the protagonist and his nakama are able to see inside of the T.V. world and fight the shadows there thanks to special glasses (or, at least the lenses are special) that are made by the resident mascot character, Teddie, because "he gets bored when left alone." Bonus points for, during the game's true ending, having the protagonist discard his glasses--no longer needing them to see the Truth--and use his eleventh hour superpower against the Mistress of all of the fog and mystery, Izanami.
  • The Dark Visor in Metroid Prime 2 allows Samus to see objects and elements that are either invisible, or cross-dimensional (between the Light and Dark Worlds).

Web Comics

  • The first storyline of webcomic Veena has the title character find shades that let her see ghosts.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • You can buy glasses that are a sort of prism. They reveal the actual colors given off by lights. These are probably using diffraction gratings -- essentially pieces of glass or plastic with lots of tiny parallel lines etched into them (mechanically or by hologram). This separates incoming light into its component colors for rainbow vision. Higher-precision versions are the basic components of spectroscopes.
  • Polarized glasses allow you to see, among other nifty things, density distortions in glass. And it's easy to make a stronger version using something that emits polarized light to see the distortions in water caused by anything moving through it.
    • There's an LCD mod where you can have your LCD seemingly emit white light and by wearing special glasses, you can see what's on the screen. It's actually taking one of the polarization filters out and turning it into glasses.
  • Night-vision goggles.
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