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The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man
First edition cover
Author H.G. Wells
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Horror, Science fiction novel
Published 1897 (C. Arthur Pearson)
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 149

The Invisible Man is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells published in 1897. Originally serialized in Pearson's Weekly in 1897, it was published as a novel the same year. The Invisible Man of the title is Griffin, a scientist who has devoted himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body's refractive index to that of air so that it absorbs and reflects no light and thus becomes invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but fails in his attempt to reverse the procedure.

While its predecessors, The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau, were written using first-person narrators, Wells adopts a third-person objective point of view in The Invisible Man.

Plot summary

A mysterious man, Griffin, arrives at the local inn of the English village of Iping, West Sussex, during a snowstorm. The stranger wears a long-sleeved, thick coat and gloves, his face hidden entirely by bandages except for a fake pink nose, and a wide-brimmed hat. He is excessively reclusive, irascible, and unfriendly. He demands to be left alone and spends most of his time in his rooms working with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus, only venturing out at night. While staying at the inn, hundreds of strange glass bottles arrive that Griffin calls his luggage. Many local townspeople believe this to be very strange. He becomes the talk of the village (one of the novel's most charming aspects is its portrayal of small-town life in southern England, which the author knew from first-hand experience).

Meanwhile, a mysterious burglary occurs in the village. Griffin has run out of money and was trying to find a way to pay for his board and lodging. When his landlady demands he pay his bill and quit the premises, he reveals part of his invisibility to her in a fit of pique. An attempt to apprehend the stranger is frustrated when he undresses to take advantage of his invisibility, fights off his would-be captors, and flees to the downs.

There Griffin coerces a tramp, Thomas Marvel, into becoming his assistant. With Marvel, he returns to the village to recover three notebooks that contain records of his experiments. When Marvel attempts to betray the Invisible Man to police, Griffin chases him to the seaside town of Port Burdock, threatening to kill him. Marvel escapes to a local inn and is saved by the people at the inn, but Griffin escapes. Marvel later goes to the police and tells them of this "invisible man," then requests to be locked up in a high security jail. Griffin's furious attempt to avenge his betrayal leads to his being shot. He takes shelter in a nearby house that turns out to belong to Dr. Kemp, a former acquaintance from medical school. To Kemp, he reveals his true identity: the Invisible Man is Griffin, a former medical student who left medicine to devote himself to optics. Griffin recounts how he invented medicine capable of rendering bodies invisible and, on impulse, performed the procedure on himself.

Griffin tells Kemp of the story of how he became invisible. He explains how he tried the invisibility on a cat, then himself. Griffin burns down the boarding house he was staying in along with all his equipment he used to turn invisible to cover his tracks, but soon realises he is ill-equipped to survive in the open. He attempts to steal food and clothes from a large department store, and eventually steals some clothing from a theatrical supply shop and heads to Iping to attempt to reverse the invisibility. But now he imagines that he can make Kemp his secret confederate, describing his plan to begin a "Reign of Terror" by using his invisibility to terrorise the nation.

Kemp has already denounced Griffin to the local authorities and is waiting for help to arrive as he listens to this wild proposal. When the authorities arrive at Kemp's house, Griffin fights his way out and the next day leaves a note announcing that Kemp himself will be the first man to be killed in the "Reign of Terror". Kemp, a cool-headed character, tries to organise a plan to use himself as bait to trap the Invisible Man, but a note he sends is stolen from his servant by Griffin.

Griffin shoots and injures a local policeman who comes to Kemp's aid, then breaks into Kemp's house. Kemp bolts for the town, where the local citizenry comes to his aid. Griffin is seized, assaulted, and killed by a mob. The Invisible Man's naked, battered body gradually becomes visible as he dies. A local policeman shouts to cover his face with a sheet, then the book concludes.

In the final chapter, it is revealed that Marvel has secretly kept Griffin's notes.



Griffin is the surname of the story's protagonist. His name is not mentioned until about halfway through the book. Consumed with his greed for power and fame, he is the model of science without humanity. A gifted young student, he becomes interested in the science of refraction. During his experiments he accidentally discovers formulas that would make tissue invisible. Obsessed with his discovery, he tries the experiment on himself and becomes invisible. However he does not discover how to reverse the process and slowly discovers that the advantages of being invisible outweighed the disadvantages and the problems he faced while being visible. Thus begins his downfall as he takes the road to crime for his survival, revealing in the process his lack of conscience, inhumanity and complete selfishness. He progresses from obsession to fanaticism, to insanity and finally to his fateful end.

Dr. Kemp

Dr. Kemp is a scientist living in the town of Port Burdock. He is a former acquaintance of Griffin, who knew Kemp to be interested in strange, bizarre aspects of science. Kemp continues to study science as he hopes to be admitted to The Royal Society. His scientific temperament makes him listen to the story Griffin tells him. He does not become hysterical nor does he behave like the locals. Griffin hopes Kemp would support him in his evil schemes and help him live a normal life. But Kemp is too decent to join him. He is repelled by Griffin's brutality and considers him insane and homicidal. He betrays Griffin to the police. He keeps his cool throughout the plot, when the final hunt for Griffin begins. Kemp helps in the final capture and killing of Griffin.

In the 1933 Universal film adaptation, Kemp is given the first name Arthur and is played by William Harrigan. Unlike the novel, Kemp in the film does not survive to the end of the story.

Janny Hall

Janny Hall is the wife of Mr. Hall and the owner of the Coach and Horses Inn. A very friendly, down-to-earth woman who enjoys socialising with her guests, Mrs. Hall is continually frustrated by the mysterious Griffin's refusal to talk with her, and his repeated temper tantrums.

Mrs. Hall appears in the 1933 Universal film adaptation, where she was played by Una O'Connor.

George Hall

George Hall is the husband of Mrs. Hall and helps her run the Coach and Horses Inn. He was the first person in Iping to suspect that the mysterious Griffin is invisible: when a dog bites him and tears his glove, Griffin retreats to his room and Hall follows to see if he is all right, only to see Griffin without his glove and handless (or so it appears to Hall).

Mr. Hall appears in the 1933 Universal film adaptation, where his first name is changed to Herbert and seriously injured by Griffin. In the film, he is portrayed by Forrester Harvey.

Thomas Marvel

Thomas Marvel is a droll tramp unwittingly recruited to assist the Invisible Man as his first visible partner. He carries the Invisible Man's scientific notebooks and stolen money. Eventually Marvel grows afraid of his unseen partner and flees to Port Burdock, taking both the notebooks and the money with him, where he seeks police protection. Although the Invisible Man is furious and vows revenge, he becomes preoccupied with hiding from the law and retaliating against Dr. Kemp, and Marvel is spared. Marvel eventually uses the stolen money to open his own inn, which he calls the Invisible Man, and prospers. The novel ends with him secretly "marvelling" at Griffin's notes. It turns out Marvel kept the notes and only views them when there is nobody around so nobody can know Griffin's secrets — or that Marvel has them.

Marvel does not appear in the 1933 film adaptation, but does appear in Alan Moore's comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Col. Adye

Col. Adye is the chief of police in the town of Port Burdock. He is called upon by Dr. Kemp when the Invisible Man turns up in Kemp's house. Adye saves Kemp from the Invisible Man's first attempt on his life and leads the hunt for the unseen fugitive. He mostly follows Kemp's suggestions in planning the campaign against the Invisible Man. He is eventually shot by the Invisible Man with Kemp's revolver. Upon being shot, Adye is described as falling down and not getting back up. However, he is mentioned in the epilogue as being one of those who had questioned Thomas Marvel about the whereabouts of the Invisible Man's notebooks, and is never made clear whether this occurred prior to his being shot, or if it occurred afterwards and Adye survived.

Dr. Cuss

Dr. Cuss is a doctor living in the village of Iping. Intrigued by tales of a bandaged stranger staying at the Coach and Horses Inn, Dr. Cuss goes to see him under the pretence of asking for a donation to the nurse's fund. Cuss is scared away after Griffin pinches his nose with an invisible hand. Cuss immediately goes to see the Rev. Bunting, who, not surprisingly, does not believe the doctor's wild story. Later, Cuss and Bunting obtain the Invisible Man's notebooks, but these are subsequently stolen back from them by the invisible Griffin, when he also takes both men's clothes.

J.A. Jaffers

J.A. Jaffers is a constable or "bobby" in the town of Janny Hall to arrest Griffin after they suspect him of robbing the Reverend Bunting. He overcomes his shock at the discovery that Griffin was invisible quickly, determined to arrest him in spite of this. The Invisible Man knocks him unconscious in his flight from Iping.

Jaffers appears in the 1933 Universal film adaptation.


Films and TV series

  • The Invisible Man, a 1933 film directed by James Whale and produced by Universal Pictures. Griffin was played by Claude Rains and given the first name "Jack". The film is considered one of the great Universal horror films of the 1930s, and it spawned a number of sequels, plus many spin offs using the idea of an "invisible man" that were largely unrelated to Wells's original story and using a relative of Griffin as a secondary character possessing the invisibility formula. These were; The Invisible Man Returns (1940) with Vincent Price as Geoffrey Radcliffe, the film's Invisible Man; The Invisible Woman (1940) with Virginia Bruce as the title character and John Barrymore as the scientist who invents the invisibility process; Invisible Agent (1942) and The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944) both starring Jon Hall (as different Invisible Men); and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) with Arthur Franz as Tommy Nelson, a boxer framed for murder who takes the invisibility formula to find the real killer and clear his name. Vincent Price also provided the voice of the Invisible Man at the conclusion of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
  • Tomei Ningen (1954, Japanese), released by legendary studio Toho; a loose adaptation of the story.
  • The New Invisible Man, a 1957 Mexican version starring Arturo de Cordova as the title character; this film is a remake of The Invisible Man Returns (1940).
  • The Invisible Man, a 1958 TV series that ran for two seasons and centred on espionage. Created by Ralph Smart.
  • The Amazing Transparent Man, a 1960 science fiction/crime thriller about an invisible safecracker.
  • Mad Monster Party (1967) included the Invisible Man (voiced by Allen Swift) as part of the monster ensemble.
  • The Invisible Man (1975) featured a sympathetic main character who used his abilities for good. As with The Six Million Dollar Man before it, the pilot was dark in tone, but the regular series that followed was lighter. Doctor Daniel Westin (David McCallum) accidentally renders himself invisible in a lab accident, while working for the sinister KLAE corporation.
  • Gemini Man, a 1976 TV series using a "DNA Stabilizer" to allow Agent Sam Casey brief periods of invisibility.
  • The Invisible Woman, a 1983 TV-movie pilot for a comedy series starring Alexa Hamilton.
  • Человек-невидимка (Pronunciation: Chelovek-nevidimka; translation: The Invisible Man), a 1984 Soviet movie directed by Aleksandr Zakharov, with Andrei Kharitonov as Griffin. The plot was changed: Griffin was shown as a scientist talented but not understood by his contemporaries, and Kemp (starring Romualdas Ramanauskas) as a vicious person who wanted to become a ruler of the world with Griffin's help. When Griffin rejected Kemp's proposal, the latter did all his best to kill him (and finally succeeded). The movie remained unknown to the Western audience because of a violation of Wells's copyright.
  • The Invisible Man, a 1984 television adaptation in six parts, shown on BBC 1.
  • Amazon Women on the Moon, a 1987 comedy anthology film featured a spoof titled Son of the Invisible Man, with Ed Begley, Jr. playing the son of the original Invisible Man who believes he is invisible, but is in fact visible – creating an awkward situation when he confidently disrobes in front of everyone.
  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man, a 1992 modernised version of the story, starring Chevy Chase as a man who is accidentally made invisible and is then hunted by a government agent who wishes to use him as a weapon.
  • Hollow Man, a 2000 film starring Kevin Bacon, and directed by Paul Verhoeven; this film spawned a 2006 direct-to-video sequel Hollow Man 2 starring Christian Slater as "Michael Griffin" and directed by Claudio Fah.
  • The Invisible Man, a Sci-Fi Channel television series aired from 2000 to 2002, lasting two seasons. It revolves around Darien Fawkes (Vincent Ventresca), a burglar who gets arrested and goes to jail, eventually negotiating his freedom to serve as a guinea pig to a government secret project run by his scientist brother Kevin through "The Agency", a low-budget US department. After being submitted to a surgical procedure to have a synthetic gland implanted in his cerebral cortex, he is able to secrete a substance called "Quicksilver", which coats his skin, hair, nails and clothes and renders him invisible. However, the gland is sabotaged to leak Quicksilver into the host's brain, creating the "Quicksilver Madness", a state in which the host becomes mentally unstable (and consequently more violent and dangerous). The series was somewhat more successful than the original 1975 series, but was cancelled due to cost issues and internal bickering between Sci-Fi and Universal.
  • The Invisible Man (2011) an ongoing animated television series produced by Moonscoop which is loosely based in the book.
  • A feature film entitled The Invisible Man is currently in development. It will be the second film in the Universal Horror Revival series of remakes, following 2010's The Wolfman.
  • In the 2013 film The Book Thief the protagonist, a girl growing up in Nazi Germany, saves a copy of "The Invisible Man" from a Nazi book burning and on several scenes reads parts of it aloud. H. G. Wells was an author on the banned authors list during Nazi Germany.


  • Ken Hill adapted the book to play form in 1991, and it debuted at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1991. It played in the West End in 1993 with Michael N. Harbour as Griffin. In November 2010, the play was revived at the Menier Theatre in London running until February 2011.


  • The 2001 Radio Tales drama "The Invisible Man" is an adaptation of the novel for National Public Radio.[1]
  • In 2009 New York Public Radio's The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space premiered "The Invisible Man" a multimedia audio play written by Arthur Yorinks. The play takes place during one evening in a contemporary New York City homeless shelter and in its minimalist fashion, speaks to not only the timely subject of homelessness and abandonment, but to the timeless and tragic existential human condition of invisibility. A collage of sound, live voices and sound effects was joined by a never-before-heard original piano score composed and improvised by Michael Riesman, director of the Philip Glass Ensemble, in a rare live musical performance. Lighting, video and conceptual design were by Mark Stanley, resident lighting designer for The New York City Ballet. Arthur Yorinks directed.

In other media

Cover of Classics Illustrated issue 153
  • The character of the Invisible Man, given a full name of "Hawley Griffin", appears in the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore. In the film adaptation, he is replaced with a different character named "Rodney Skinner", and instead of being the inventor of the formula, he is a thief who stole the formula. The film novelisation reveals that the inventor was Hawley Griffin. Skinner was especially created for the film because of copyright issues regarding the 1933 Universal film.
  • A character in the television series Sanctuary was named Griffin. He was one of the Five, a team of scientists who injected themselves with a blood serum and gained special abilities. His ability was to make himself transparent at will.
  • In 2009, Canadian cartoonist Jeff Lemire released an Original Graphic Novel for DC Comics/Vertigo titled "The Nobody". This story was inspired by The Invisible Man with "John Griffen" as "The Invisible Man". There are many other allusions to the book.
  • The Invisible Man is Monster in My Pocket No. 46. In the comic book series, he was allied with the good monsters. In the animated special, he was rechristened Dr. Henry Davenport and became leader of the good monsters.
  • Castlevania often has enemies and bosses that refer to old literature and films. In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, The Invisible Man makes an appearance as an enemy that dwells in the sewers. His clothes (before he discards them to stalk players unseen) reference those in the novel The Invisible Man: he wears a long, thick, tall-collared coat, gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat. He also dies in a similar fashion.
  • In the Van Helsing and Dr. Moreau, there is a monster created by Dr. Moreau that is invisible. Van Helsing finds the papers of this invisibility cure and remembers something about an Englishman who turned invisible in West Sussex.
  • In Queen B Productions December 2003 issue of the Elvira Mistress of The Dark comic, an invisible woman appears in the second story "Mallville", a "Smallville" parody, as one of the "Miss Mallville" beauty contest contestants. She's only seen by facial features, her bikini, and sunglasses.
  • Another British rock band called Marillion also has a song called The Invisible Man. This track opens the album Marbles, released in 2004.
  • In the anime series Naruto, the Second Tsuchikage, Muu, is probably based on Griffin, the main character of "The Invisible Man" due to his combination of bandage-covering appearance and the invisibility technique he uses to avoid being spotted.
  • In the Monster High media, including video games and web animations, there is a teacher named "Mr. Where", who dresses in the Invisible Man's bandages, trench coat, and gloves (however, he usually wears a beret and sunglasses as he is the drama teacher). He is confirmed to be invisible beneath these coverings on more than one occasion, where his sleeves are shown bunching up to reveal his invisible limbs. He also seems to have the ability to turn further invisible, making his clothing disappear as well.
  • In addition to Mr. Where in the primary Monster High line, in the tie-in novels by Lisi Harrison, there is a teenage boy named Billy Phaedin (jokingly called "InvisiBilly"), in reference to the teenage main characters being the children of Universal Monsters and other historical "monsters". It's mentioned repeatedly that he is usually naked, otherwise he'd just look like floating clothing. In the third novel, a friend attempts to use modern cosmetics to make him visible, with limited success, but he ultimately goes back to being invisible once these techniques fail in a public setting.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer featured an episode in its first season, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind", that involved a young teenager who becomes literally invisible due to her being ignored by her classmates and teachers. At the end of the episode, the FBI grab her so that they can train her and other invisible kids to be assassins.
  • In Team Fortress 2 a set of clothes is wearable by the Spy called 'The Invisible Rogue' which is based on this novel.[2]
  • Classic Monster Novels Condensed[3] by Joseph Lanzara includes an abridged version of The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, along with short adaptations of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and Dracula by Bram Stoker. 2012. New Arts Library. ISBN 978-1-4791-9322-6.
  • There is a "The Invisible Man Monument" (1999) in city of Ekaterinburg (Russia). ( )
  • In Donald E. Westlake's Smoke, career thief Freddie Noon is turned invisible by an attempted cure for cancer by two smoking researchers. The book pays homage to aspects of The Invisible Man by having Noon have to struggle with exposure to the elements and having to starve himself to avoid boluses of undigested food hovering in the air.


Russian writer Yakov I. Perelman pointed out in Physics Can Be Fun (1913) that from a scientific point of view, a man made invisible by Griffin's method should have been blind, since a human eye works by absorbing incoming light, not letting it through completely. Wells seems to show some awareness of this problem in Chapter 20, where each of the eyes of an otherwise invisible cat retains a visible retina.

Origins and moral

As a moral tale, The Invisible Man can be seen as a modern version of the "Ring of Gyges" parable by Plato.[4]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Invisible Rogue". Team Fortress 2. Valve. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^

External links

  • The Invisible Man at Project Gutenberg
  • The Invisible ManLibrivox recording of —free, human-read audiobook
  • 3 may 2006 guardian article about Milton and Nicorovici's invention
  • Horror-Wood: Invisible Man films
  • Complete copy of The Invisible Man by HG Wells in HTML, ASCII and WORD
  • Audio review and discussion of The Invisible Man at The Science Fiction Book Review Podcast
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