The Invisible Man
- Not to be confused with Invisible Man, a novel written by Ralph Waldo Ellison.
is an 1897 science fiction
novella by H.G. Wells
. Wells' novel was originally serialised in Pearson's Magazine
in 1897, and published as a novel the same year. The Invisible Man of the title is Griffin
, a scientist who theorises that if a person's refractive index
is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible
. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but cannot become visible again, becoming mentally unstable as a result.
The story starts in the English village
in West Sussex
, as curiosity and fear are started up in the inhabitants when a mysterious stranger arrives to stay at the local inn, The Coach and Horses. The stranger wears a long, thick coat, gloves, his face is hidden entirely by bandages, large goggles, and a wide-brimmed hat. The stranger is extremely reclusive and demands to be left alone, spending most of his time in his room working with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus, only venturing out at night. He quickly becomes the talk of the village as he unnerves the locals.
Meanwhile, a series of mysterious burglaries occur in the village in which the victims catch no sight of the thief. One morning when the innkeepers pass the stranger's room, they enter in curiosity when they notice the stranger's clothes are scattered all over the floor but the stranger is nowhere to be seen. The furniture seems to spring alive and the bedclothes and a chair leap into mid-air and push them out of the room. Later in the day Mrs. Hall confronts the stranger about this, and he reveals that he is invisible, removing his bandages and goggles to reveal nothing beneath. As Mrs. Hall flees in horror, the police attempt to catch the stranger, but he throws off all his clothes and escapes.
The Invisible Man flees to the downs, where he frightens a tramp, Thomas Marvel, with his invisibility and forces him to become his lab assistant. Together with Marvel, he returns to the village where Marvel steals the Invisible Man's books and apparatus from the inn while the Invisible Man himself steals the doctor's and vicar's clothes. But after the theft, Marvel attempts to betray the Invisible Man to the police, and the Invisible Man chases after him, threatening to kill him.
Marvel flees to the seaside town of Burdock where he takes refuge in an inn. The Invisible Man attempts to break in through the back door but he is overheard and shot by a black-bearded American, and flees the scene badly injured. He enters a nearby house to take refuge and dress his wound. The house turns out to belong to Dr. Kemp, whom the Invisible Man recognises, and he reveals to Kemp his true identity — Griffin, a brilliant medical student whom Kemp studied with at a university.
Griffin explains to Kemp that after leaving the university he was desperately poor, and determined to achieve something of scientific significance, he began work on an experiment to make people and objects invisible, using money stolen from his own father, who committed suicide after being robbed by his son. Griffin experimented with a formula that altered the refractive index of objects, thus ensuring that the light would not bend when passing through, thereby making them invisible. He performed the experiment using a cat, but when the cat's owner, Griffin's neighbour, realised the cat was missing she made a complaint to their landlord, and Griffin wound up performing the invisibility procedure on himself to hide from them. Griffin theorizes part of the reason he can be invisible stems from the fact he is albino, mentioning that food becomes visible in his stomach and remains so until digested, with the bizarre image passing through air in the meantime.
After burning the whole house down to cover his tracks, he felt a sense of invincibility from being invisible. However, reality soon proved that sense misguided. After struggling to survive out in the open, he stole some clothing from a dingy backstreet shop and took residence at the Coach & Horses inn to reverse the experiment. He then explains to Kemp that he now plans to begin a Reign of Terror (The First Year of the Invisible Man), using his invisibility to terrorise the nation with Kemp as his secret confederate.
Realising that Griffin is clearly insane, Kemp has no plans to help him and instead alerts the police. When the police arrive, Griffin violently assaults Kemp and a policeman before escaping, and the next day he leaves a note on Kemp's doorstep announcing that Kemp will be the first man killed in the Reign of Terror. Kemp remains cool and writes a note to the Colonel, detailing a plan to use himself as bait to trap the Invisible Man, but as a maidservant attempts to deliver the note she is attacked by Griffin and the note is stolen.
Just as the police accompany the attacked maid back to the house, the Invisible Man breaks in through the back door and makes for Kemp. Keeping his head cool, Kemp bolts from the house and runs down the hill to the town below, where he alerts a navvy that the Invisible Man is approaching. The crowd in the town, witnessing the pursuit, rally around Kemp. When Kemp is pinned down by Griffin, the navvy strikes him with a spade and knocks him to the ground, where he is violently assaulted by the workers. Kemp calls for the mob to stop, but it is too late. The Invisible Man dies of the injuries he has received, and his naked and battered body slowly becomes visible on the ground after he dies. Later it is revealed that Marvel has Griffin's notes, with the invisibility formula written in a mix of Russian and Greek which he cannot read, with pages washed out.
is a scientist
living in the town of Port Burdock. He is an old friend of Griffin
, who comes to Kemp's house to hide after his transformation into the "invisible man." Kemp has a hard time swallowing the fact that his friend, who he had not seen for years, suddenly appears uninvited and invisible
, but eventually he overcomes his shock and sits down and talks with Griffin.
Narrative-wise, Kemp then allows Griffin to relate the story of how he began his experiments, and all that happened to him between his arrival on his old friend's doorstep and then. Kemp, realising that Griffin is insane with power, is quick to summon Colonel Adye of the Port Burdock police. Adye fails to apprehend Griffin, who escapes and brands Kemp a traitor, vowing to kill him.
Despite the death threat, Kemp is no coward, and actively assists and advises Adye in quest to find and apprehend the Invisible Man while the police colonel serves as his bodyguard. Eventually Griffin overpowers Adye and comes after Kemp, who, rushing through the streets of Port Burdock, rouses the townspeople into a mob that attacks the Invisible Man and brings his reign of terror to an end.
In the 1933 Universal
film adaptation of the book, Kemp is given the first name Arthur and is played by William Harrigan.
Kemp of the film is a much less likable character, and isn't as fortunate as his literary counterpart. Here, Arthur Kemp is a "friend" of Dr. Jack Griffin, who serves as an assistant to Dr. Cranley. Unlike Griffin, Kemp is a thoroughly incompetent scientist, as well as an opportunistic coward. He continually criticises Griffin for his experiments with monocane, and secretly covets Griffin's fiancé (and Dr. Cranley's daughter) Flora.
When Griffin disappears and goes to the remote village of Iping, Kemp attempts to report his colleague's questionable experiments to Dr. Cranley, and tries to woo Flora. Although he manages to convince Cranley that Griffin is up to no good, however, he fails to persuade Flora to forget about her beloved Jack. Shortly after this, Griffin, now made invisible as a result of his monocane experiments and hunted as a criminal by the police in Iping, turns up in Kemp's house seeking his old colleague's assistance.
Although Kemp initially goes along with Griffin's plans, helping him retrieve his notebooks from the Lion's Head Inn (where, unbeknownst to Kemp, Griffin has murdered Inspector Bird), Kemp soon grows too afraid of Griffin to continue assisting him, and alerts Flora, Dr. Cranley, and the police to Griffin's whereabouts.
Kemp is marked for death by a furious Griffin, and despite intensive police protection and a daring plan by Inspector Lane to get Kemp safely out into the country disguised as a police officer, Griffin manages to make good on his threats: he ties Kemp up, puts him into his car, and then sends the car over a cliff. Kemp perishes in the crash.
BBC television serial
The character of Kemp also appears in the BBC
serialisation of The Invisible Man
screened in the UK in 1984. In this version he is played by David Gwillim and is given the first name Samuel. Kemp is portrayed in this version almost identically to his portrayal in the novel, even down to physical description. Although he enters the story at the halfway mark as in the book, he is introduced earlier on in the narrative when Griffin reads a paper on optical density
written by Kemp when researching in the Coach & Horses Inn, and realises he is the same person he once studied with. Griffin's subsequent intrusion into Kemp's house is therefore planned, rather than purely coincidental.
is the husband of Mrs. Hall and helps her run the Coach and Horses Inn. He is the first person in Iping to notice 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 alright, 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 he is given the first name Herbert. In the film, he is portrayed by Forrester Harvey.
is the wife of Mr. Hall and the owner of the Coach and Horses Inn.
A very friendly, down-to-earth woman who enjoys socializing 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 and given the first name Jenny. In the film version, her primary occupation is to scream.
is a jolly old tramp
unwittingly recruited to assist the Invisible Man as his first visible partner. He carries around the Invisible Man's scientific notebooks for him and, eventually, a large sum of money that Griffin had stolen from a bank. Eventually Thomas 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 to kill Thomas for his betrayal, and even makes an attempt on his life before being driven off by a police officer, he becomes preoccupied with hiding from the law and retaliating against Dr. Kemp, and Thomas is spared.
Marvel eventually uses the stolen money to open his own inn, which he calls the Invisible Man, and became very wealthy. He also secretly studies Griffin's notes, fancying that one day he will figure out the secret of invisibility. Unfortunely because of Marvel's stupidity, the notebooks were in a water filled ditch and pages of notes were washed clean!
In Alan Moore's comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which Griffin is a major character, Marvel is said to be the man killed by a mob at the end of the original novel, after being substituted by Griffin himself.
is the chief of police
in the town of Port Burdock
. He is called upon by Dr. Kemp when the Invisible Man turned up in Kemp's house talking of taking over the world with his "terrible secret" of invisibility. A very able-bodied and reliable officer, Adye not only saves Kemp from the Invisible Man's first attempt on his life but also spearheads the hunt for the unseen fugitive.
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.
is a doctor
living in the town of Iping
Intrigued by tales of a bandaged stranger staying at the Coach and Horses Inn, Dr. Cuss goes to see him under the pretense of asking for a donation to the nurse's fund. The strange man, Griffin, scares Cuss away by pinching his nose with his invisible hand. Cuss went immediately to see Rev. Bunting, who not surprisingly did not believe the doctor's wild story.
Later, after Griffin had been exposed as The Invisible Man, Cuss and Bunting got ahold of his notebooks, but these were stolen back from them by the invisible Griffin, who took both men's clothes. Although the unlucky Reverend had all his clothing stolen by Griffin, Cuss only lost his trousers.
is a constable in the town of Iping
. He is called upon by Mr.
and Mrs. Hall
to arrest Griffin
after they suspected him of robbing the Reverend Bunting. Like most of the people in Iping, Jaffers was both openminded
- He overcame his shock at the discovery that Griffin was invisible
quickly, determined to arrest him in spite of this.
Jaffers appears in the 1933 Universal film adaptation.
The Rev Mr Bunting
The Rev Mr Bunting
is a vicar
in the town of Iping
. Dr. Cuss went to see him following his first encounter with Griffin. Bunting laughed at Cuss' claims of an invisible hand pinching his nose, but the next night his home was burgled by the Invisible Man himself.
Later, Bunting and Cuss tried to read Griffin's notes but were stopped by the Invisible Man, who stole their clothes. Although Cuss escaped missing only his trousers, Bunting had his entire wardrobe purloined.
- 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 spinoffs using the idea of an "invisible man" that were largely unrelated to Wells' original story. These were; The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951).
- Tomei Ningen, a 1954 Japanese film, released by legendary studio Toho. It is a loose adaptation of the story.
- The New Invisible Man, a 1957 Mexican version
- Invisible Woman, a 1983 TV-movie pilot for a comedy series staring 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 last did all his best to kill him (and finally succeeded). The movie remained unknown to the Western audience because of a violation of Wells' copyright.
- 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 comedy version of the theme, starring Chevy Chase.
- Hollow Man, a 2000 film starring Kevin Bacon, and directed by Paul Verhoeven.
- A feature film entitled The Invisible Man is scheduled to hit theaters in 2010.
- The Invisible Man (1958 TV series), the first series was an Associated TeleVision production in the UK. It was distributed by ITC Entertainment to the United States and networked by CBS. The actors playing the Invisible Man were not credited, though the actor whose voice was used was later revealed to be Tim Turner, who also played a villain (visible) in one episode. The series lasted two seasons, with twenty-six episodes.
- The Invisible Man (1975 TV series), a 1975 series on NBC starring David McCallum as scientist Daniel Westin. The pilot film depicts Westin working for a company called Klae Corporation, which is doing experiments in molecular disintegration and its side-effect of turning objects invisible. Using his invisibility device on himself, Daniel becomes invisible but, after the machine malfunctions and is badly damaged as a result, can't return to his visible state any more. He goes to his friend Dr. Nick Maggio, a skilled plastic surgeon, who creates a face mask and a pair of hands. This enables Daniel to appear in public (and the actor to appear on-screen). The Dermaplex side-effect is that Daniel has to remove the mask from time to time because, as Dr. Maggio states, "The beard will be your enemy". While Klae Corporation work on finding a way of restoring Daniel to normal, he begins work for them – with occasional help from his wife Kate (who is also a scientist) – as a secret agent under the codename 'Klae Resource'. Thirteen episodes were produced, but only twelve were initially broadcast (the thirteenth later aired in syndication). The series was not well received by the public.
- Gemini Man, a 1976 series starring Ben Murphy. This time the agent in question uses a device (a digital wristwatch) which turns him invisible for short periods. In the pilot film, the caveat to this power was that it could only be used for less than fifteen minutes at a time, lest the Gemini Man become permanently and irrevocably invisible. The subsequent series lasted only 12 episodes, only half of which were initially broadcast (the entire series was later shown in syndication). Later, two episodes of the series were edited together to create a TV movie, Riding with Death.
- The Invisible Man (TV serial), a six-part TV series screened by the BBC in the UK in 1984, also called The Invisible Man. This version starred Pip Donaghy in the title role, and is considered a more faithful adaptation of the original Wells work.
- The Invisible Man (2000 TV series), somewhat more successful than the previous series, The Invisible Man debuted in 2000 on The Sci Fi Channel and starred Vincent Ventresca as Darian Fawkes, an ex-con recruited by a low-rent spy organization and given the power of invisibility via the implantation of a special "Quicksilver gland" in his head. The gland lets him secrete a light-bending substance called "Quicksilver" from his pores and follicles. The catch is that the Quicksilver gland was sabotaged at its creation to release a neurotoxin that accumulates in his bloodstream and causes intense pain, followed by psychosis and antisocial behavior. He requires regular doses of "counteragent" to keep him sane and healthy, which is controlled by said government agency. This series lasted for two seasons, before being cancelled due to cost issues and internal bickering between the Sci Fi Channel and its then-parent company, USA Networks.
- 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 popular culture
- 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, the character is renamed "Rodney Skinner", and instead of being the inventor of the formula, he is a thief who stole the formula. Skinner was especially created for the film due to copyright issues regarding the 1933 Universal film.
- In 2008, the creative team of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones are creating a limited series called Batman: The Unseen. It will feature Batman fighting against the Invisible Man.
- Invisible Man is Monster in My Pocket #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 reference 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 you 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.
- Rock bands Queen, Helloween and Marillion have all recorded songs called "The Invisible Man"; Scatman John covered Queen's version. The British satirical show Spitting Image also featured a song called "The Invisible Man", sung by the puppet of then-Employment Secretary Tom King.
- In the book The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett the Invisible Man played a important role in the story.
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. However, Wells briefly addresses this in Chapter 20. In the passage describing the experiment on the invisible cat Wells wrote "there remained two little ghosts of her eyes" meaning that its eyes (and retinas presumably) were just visible, and thus able to function by absorbing light.