Wells - The Invisible Man - Pearson cover 1897

Front cover of the first edition of The Invisible Man from 1897.

The Invisible Man is a science fiction horror novel by H.G. Wells which was first published in 1897. It tells the story of a scientist named Griffin who creates a formula which makes him invisible but is unable to change back to being visible again. While he is invisible, Griffin goes mad and hatches a plan to conquer the world through murder and intimidation.


On a snowy day in February, a stranger arrives in the English village of Iping, West Sussex. He is wearing a long coat, gloves, a broad brimmed hat and dark goggles. A bright pink nose and bits of a beard poke out of the bandages that cover his face. At the Coach and Horses Inn, he demands a room and soon sets up a small laboratory there. The stranger appears to be very reclusive because he demands to be left alone and only goes out at night. Not surprisingly, the residents of the village become very curious about the mysterious stranger.

After the stranger's arrival, a series of burglaries take place in the village but the thief is never seen.


Issue #153 of Classics Illustrated contains an adaptation of The Invisible Man.

The proprietors of the Coach and Horses Inn, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, enter the stranger's room one day out of curiosity. They see his clothes scattered on the floor but can not see the man himself. Some pieces of furniture then seem to come to life and drive Mr. and Mrs. Hall out of the room. When Mrs. Hall confronts the stranger, he tells her that he is invisible. He removes his false nose, false beard and bandages to prove it. A terrified Mrs. Hall flees from the room. Police officers arrive at the inn to arrest the man but he has removed his clothes, making him completely invisible, and escaped.

Heading into the countryside, the Invisible Man comes across, and frightens, a homeless man named Thomas Maxwell. The Invisible Man forces Maxwell to become his assistant. Maxwell accompanies the Invisible Man back to Iping. While the Invisible Man steals some clothes, Maxwell is sent to get the man's scientific notes from the Coach and Horses Inn. Maxwell tries to alert the police to the presence of the Invisible Man but the man overhears him and chases after him, threatening to kill him.

The Invisible Man follows Maxwell to the seaside town of Burdock. he finds Maxwell at an inn which he tries to break into. In the process, he is overheard, a gun is fired at him and he is wounded. He breaks into a nearby house to treat his wound. By coincidence, the house belongs to Dr. Kemp, an old acquaintance of his from university.

The Invisible Man tells Kemp that he is Griffin. He reveals that he was very poor after he left university and became determined to make a name for himself in science, financing his experiments with money he stole from his father. His father took his own life after he found out what his son had done. While living in a boarding house, Griffin managed to make another boarder's cat invisible. After the boarder complained to the landlord about the loss of his cat, Griffin made himself invisible in order to escape. To hide what he had done, Griffin burned down the boarding house and found that doing so gave him a sense of invincibility. However, the naked Griffin found that he could not survive long in the open so he stole some clothes and headed to the inn in Iping, intending to work on becoming visible again.

Uomo invisibile H G Wells Carlo Nicco Paravia 1925

Front cover of a 1925 Italian edition of The Invisible Man.

Griffin asks for Kemp's help in starting a reign of terror, Year One of Invisible Man the First. Kemp has no intention of helping the obviously insame Griffin and informs the police instead. After he finds out that Kemp has betrayed him, Griffin leaves a note saying that the first person to be murdered in the Invisible Man's reign of terror will be Kemp.

Kemp's maid is sent to the police station with a note for the chief of police. The Invisible Man attacks her on the way and steals the note. The police take the maid back to kemp's house and at that moment Griffin breaks in. he chases Kemp out into the street. Kemp cries out to a laborer that he is being chased by the Invisible Man. A group of laborers gather and start to beat the Invisible Man. Although Kemp tells them to stop, they continue until Griffin has been beaten to death.

The novel ends with an epilogue which reveals that Thomas Maxwell has become the owner of a pub called The Invisible Man, the sign of which shows a hat and a pair of boots with nothing in between. Maxwell has kept hold of Griffin's scientific notes that explain how he became invisible. Every Sunday morning, Maxwell looks at the notes. They are partially damaged as result of the time that Griffin spent homeless and Maxwell is unable to read them because they are written in a mixture of Greek and Russian. Nevertheless, Maxwell enjoys looking at them and wondering about their secrets.


The Invisible Man (1933) poster

Original American poster for the 1933 film The Invisible Man.

Following the success of their movie versions of The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), in 1933 Universal Pictures released an adaptation of The Invisible Man, directed by James Whale and starring Claude Rains as the title character. Griffin is given the first name Jack and a love interest in the movie. Claude Rains became famous as a result of the movie, even though his face is only seen very briefly at the end of the movie.

Universal Pictures released five sequels to the movie; 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). Due to the fact that Griffin dies at the end of the first movie, the sequels usually feature acquaintances or relatives of Griffin's acquiring his secret of invisibility.

A six part drama series based on The Invisible Man was shown on BBC1 in the UK between September and October 1984. The series was not very popular with British viewers, was never shown again by the BBC and remained unseen again in Britain until its release on DVD in 2005. However, the series was very successful abroad. when it was shown in the USSR, it attracted 64 million viewers.

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