The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man
The Invisible Man  
First edition cover
Author(s) H.G. Wells
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction novel
Publisher C. Arthur Pearson
Publication date 1897
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 278 pp

The Invisible Man is a science fiction novella by H.G. Wells published in 1897. Wells' novel was originally serialised in Pearson's Weekly 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.


Plot summary

The book starts in the English village of Iping, 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 sleeved, 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 the stranger 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 recognizes, and he reveals to Kemp his true identity — Griffin, a brilliant medical student with whom Kemp studied at an university.

Mr. Griffin explains to his old friend Kemp that after leaving university he was desperately poor. Determined to achieve something of scientific significance, he began to 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, which resulted in light not bending when passing through the object, thereby making it invisible. He performed the experiment using a cat, but when the cat's owner, Griffin's neighbor, realized 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 boarding 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 the First), using his invisibility to terrorize the nation with Kemp as his secret confederate.

Realizing 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, and 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 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, and with some pages washed out.



"The Invisible Man" cover art.

Griffin is a fictional character, the eponym and antagonist of H. G. Wells's science fiction novel The Invisible Man, first published in 1897. Griffin is a young scientist who wants to create the ultimate humanoid by creating a race of invisible people.

Dr. Kemp

Dr. Kemp is a scientist living in the town of Port Burdock. He is an old friend of Griffin, who comes to his house to hide after Griffin's transformation into the "invisible man." Kemp has a hard time accepting 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 and betrays him.

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, realizing 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 which attacks the Invisible Man and brings his reign of terror to an end.

The film

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 criticizes 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. Although Griffin is delighted to be reunited with Flora, his increasing madness frightens her away.

Shortly after, Kemp secretly alerts the police, but is unaware that Griffin is standing beside him the entire while.

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.

Mr. Hall

Mr. Hall 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 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 he is given the first name Herbert and seriously injured by Griffin. In the film, he is portrayed by Forrester Harvey.

Mrs. Hall

Mrs. 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 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.

Thomas Marvel

Thomas Marvel 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 becomes very wealthy. He also secretly studies Griffin's notes, fancying that one day he will figure out the secret of invisibility. However, he cannot read the foreign language that Griffin has written it in, and some pages have been washed clean after being in a ditch.

In Alan Moore's comics series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in which Griffin is a major character, people have suggested that Marvel may have been the man killed by a mob at the end of the original novel, after being substituted by Griffin himself. The only problem with this suggestion is, as Campion Bond introduces the league to Griffin, he commented Griffin made a half-wit albino invisible first.

Marvel does not appear in the 1933 film.

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 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.

Dr. Cuss

Dr. Cuss 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.

J. A. Jaffers

J. A. Jaffers 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 and adaptable - 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.


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 spinoffs 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, 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 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 centered 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 TV series), featured a sympathetic Invisible Man, who used his strange abilities for good—and was a far cry from Wells' bitter, destructive character. As with The Six Million Dollar Man before it, the pilot was surprisingly dark in tone, the regular series that followed lightening things up considerably. It began with Doctor Daniel Westin (David McCallum) accidentally rendering himself invisible in a lab accident, while working for the sinister KLAE corporation.
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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 modernized 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.
  • A feature film entitled The Invisible Man is scheduled to hit theaters in 2013. The Invisible Man is an upcoming 2013 monster horror film, a remake of the 1933 film The Invisible Man. It will be the second film in the Universal Horror Revival series of remakes, following 2010's {The Wolfman}.


  • 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.

The cast for the production at Stratford East in 1991 was as follows -; Jon Finch [Griffin], Brian Murphy [Thomas Marvel], Toni Palmer [Mrs Hall], Andrew Secombe [Squire Burdock], Geoffrey Freshwater [PC Jaffers/Dr Kemp], Caroline Longo [Miss Statchell], Liza Hayden [Millie], Miles Richardson [Dr Cuss/ Fearenside/Wadgers/Col. Adye], Philip Newman [Wicksteed], Jonathan Whaley [MC/ Teddy Henfrey/Rev. Bunting].[1]



Currently (started 13 November 2010)The Invisible Man is being shown at the Menier Theatre (Menier Chocolate Factory) London until the 13th of February 2011.It has currently received a good review from the The Guardian, which gave it four stars. However the Financial Times gave it 3 stars out of five, criticizing the plays lack of including the darker elements, this may be due to the fact that the show targeted a broader audience. Readers from gave the play a better review than the website. There was a slot of BBC London news 26 November 2010 that talked about the production.Paul Kieve the illusionist was called on to provide the special effects for this, and all the actors were told to keep a tight lip on the special effect secrets (source:BBC)

In other media

  • 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 novelization reveals that the inventor was Hawley Griffin. Skinner was especially created for the film because of copyright issues regarding the 1933 Universal film.
  • In 2009, Canadian Cartoonist Jeff Lemire released an Original Graphic Novel under 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 from the book.
  • In 2008, the creative team of Doug Moench and Kelley Jones created a limited series called Batman: The Unseen. It features Batman fighting against the Invisible Man.
  • The 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 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 one-shot comic Van Helsing: From Beneath The Rue Morgue, which presents 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.
  • 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.


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.

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.[3]

See also

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External links

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