Real Life Optical Illusions To Mystify Your Mind
Optical illusions aren’t just found in magazines or optometry textbooks. The world around us is full of visual trickery. Color, shape, perspective, and shadow can confuse our brains and make us question our physical reality.
None of the photos on this list has been doctored or Photoshopped— any strange phenomena you perceive is a product of your own point of view.
The Squiggly Mile
On the right amount of mind-altering substances, this trippy hallway probably just looks like a normal hallway. Although the floor and all of the walls in this space are actually perfectly straight, it looks as though that girl is navigating a dangerously curvy pathway. Lines are amazing.
We wonder how many people can actually walk through this hall without stumbling. This optical illusion would definitely hinder your ability to walk normally.
At first glance, it looks like this guy’s body doesn’t quite match his head. But don’t worry, this is just your eyes tricking you. If you look closer though, you’ll realize that it’s actually the guy who’s sitting down. His girlfriend is hugging him from behind and her head is over his right shoulder.
Either that or somebody skipped leg day…we weren’t there, so we really can’t say after all.
Just Another Wave In The Wall
This mountain range is not really next to a lake. That thing that looks like a lake is actually a concrete wall. The shadows perfectly hit the wall making its white paint appear to be the color of lake water. The sun directly hitting the top of the wall gives it the illusion that it’s a sandy shore.
We hope any travelers that pass by this spot aren’t hoping to go for a swim any time soon.
To drivers about to drive across this crosswalk, it looks like Charlie Brown and his gang are marching across the road. To pedestrians waiting to cross the street, the gang looks 2-dimensional and stretched out.
We love seeing how a small shift in perspective can make everything appear different. Not to mention, this is actually a great way to get motorists to slow down.
Like Oil And Water
See the glass rod in the photo above? Although both of the liquids in this glass are transparent, you can only see the glass rod through one of them.
This illusion happens because light passes through oil at the same speed that it passes through glass. Light passes through water at a different speed, so the glass rod is visible at the bottom of the cup. Science is weird like that.
You’ll Float Too
No, this dude is not casually levitating a few inches above the asphalt. He’s just standing next to a wet spot on the ground that looks like it could be his shadow.
It’s so much easier to pull off magic tricks in photographs than in person. We imagine this trick wouldn’t be so impressive if we could just walk around the guy. Read ahead for the Ponzo illusion in action.
Master Of Disguise
A street artist in San Fransisco painted this utility box so it would blend in perfectly with its surroundings. We have to say that life looks a lot better in the picture on the utility box than in the real world. We’d love a little bridge and river at every crosswalk.
But we have to wonder…has anyone ever walked or biked into this on accident? After all, it blends in perfectly.
This photo is a perfect example of the Ponzo illusion in real life. The two red lines are exactly the same size, but they look different because of the objects in the background.
Want proof? Tilt your head and look at the lines again, or whip out a ruler and measure those puppies. Is your mind blown yet?
The ‘Ole Floating Boat Trick
This boat looks like it’s floating in the air, but it’s really just floating on water. The reason this illusion works is because of how crystal clear the water is. You can see straight to the bottom, where the shadow lurks.
Because of this, the shadow looks like it’s at the top of the water, with the boat floating above it. We promise boats don’t fly though. Just look at the person at the end of the boat dangling their legs in the water for proof!
The Delicate Arch near Moab, Utah isn’t actually twisted. The side of the arch that’s closer to the camera is smaller than the side that’s further away.
Your brain thinks the smaller one should be further away, which is why the whole thing looks cross-legged. This is all about perspective, but it sure does feel like our minds are playing tricks on us!
It hurts our eyes to look at this picture, but somehow, we can’t look away. This makeup artist from Vancouver, B.C. has an Instagram page full of illusory looks like this one.
She calls this look, “onion girl” because she’s made her face look like it has layers. Using makeup, she literally paints these lifelike features next to her real features. It’s almost all a little too real looking if you ask us.
A Rock In A Hard Place
Do you see it yet? Look a little bit longer. Spoilers in 3… 2… 1: See that little rock sitting on top of the brick that is slightly smaller than the other bricks?
That brick isn’t actually smaller. There is a cigar sticking out of the wall and the “rock” is actually the burnt end of the cigar. Trippy stuff.
Can you spot the man hiding in the bags? Look closely at the middle of the image and he should start to take shape. Trust us, he’s there. This illusion has been driving people nuts since it was first released.
Look at the pink bag in the middle of the bottom row. You’ll see the artists feet in the bag. Keep working your way up to see the rest of the body. Crazy, isn’t it?
To See The World In A Blade Of Grass
This patch of greenery is called “Qui Croire?” and it was created by French artist François Abélanet. The title translates to “who to believe?”
Although it doesn’t look that big from this angle, Qui Croire? is made from 3,500 square feet of turf, dirt, and straw. From any other angle, this grassy globe looks like a vast, irregular, weirdly shaped garden.
A Dip In The Road
This misleading floor pattern keeps people from running down the hallway. People are more likely to tread lightly if they think the floor has an inexplicable dip in it. From a different angle, this hallway looks perfectly straight.
We now resort to tricking people into behaving. Read ahead for the illusion that gave us The Flying Dutchman.
While this building looks like a flat slab of concrete, there are actually real, 3-dimensional people inside of it. Contrary to popular belief, this is not where all your favorite cartoon characters live when they’re not inside your TV.
The building is triangular, so you can’t see the sides of it from this viewpoint.
How Many Legs
Obviously this elephant has four legs. Right? The real question is which for legs are real, and which are tricking us into thinking they’re real. We just don’t know! We might never know!
What do you think? Are you going as crazy trying to figure out this illusion as us? The trick here is that the elephants feet have been moved, so what actually looks like the elephant’s legs really aren’t. Or are they?
A Zebra Wading Through Stripes
This optical illusion was created using the moiré effect. The zebra’s stripes go in both directions: horizontal and vertical. The background it’s wading through features horizontal stripes that are interrupted by the zebra’s path through them.
The wavy pattern the zebra creates grabs your eye, pulling it towards the disruption in the pattern. If you’re detail-oriented, you may find the waves very distracting, and possibly uncomfortable.
An Old Couple, A Young Couple
This mind-bending illustration created by artist Octavio Ocampo is called “Forever Always”. At first glance, it looks like an old couple in love, staring into each other’s eyes. But if you look to the left and right, a younger version of the couple is shown in their faces.
On the left, the old woman when she was young, with a bottle next to her. On the right, the old man when he was younger, playing the guitar wearing a sombrero.
How Many Eyes?
What do you see when you look into my eyes? That’s the question we imagine this person is asking. You just have to be able to pick an eye and focus! It’s much easier said than done.
Also, which mouth does he speak out of? Is one for eating and the other for talking? We have so many questions, and really hope he has all the answers.
The Tall And Short Of It
The angle of this photo makes it look like that bridge is a lot shorter on one side than it actually is.
Thanks to a carefully placed camera, the arm of the lift is fully obscured, making it look like the workers aren’t very high off the ground.
It’s A Mirage!
Thanks to an illusion known as Fata Morgana, it looks like the boat in the distance is floating just above the water. The name, Fata Morgana comes from the Italian name for a sorceress who supposedly used false land to draw sailors to their deaths.
Some people believe that this effect gave rise to the myth of The Flying Dutchman.
A Classic Pattern
This pattern is known as the café wall illusion. These rows of black and white squares are actually parallel, even though they appear to be sloped.
There’s a whole bunch of science that explains why these straight lines look crooked — something about retinas and contrast that we still don’t fully understand. One this is for sure though, this makes our minds melt if we stare at it for too long.
Just Another Brick In The Wall
It looks like several of the bricks in this wall were pushed in to create a tree pattern. In reality, a very skilled street artist shaded the bricks so that they only look like they’ve been pushed in.
That mailbox looks pretty jealous that an equally skilled street artist didn’t give him a makeover.
This mural in Sherbrooke, Quebec creates the illusion of a movable wall panel and wide open space.
If only all apartment buildings were this inviting. Leave it to Canada to produce street art this wholesome. We’d love to have a mural like this on the side of our home.
A Simple Circle
Simple illusions can be just as captivating as complex murals. The bars in this railing strategically curve to the right to create a 3D effect.
This railing is completely flat. If only all functional barriers looked this interesting. The world would be a trickier, more beautiful place.
This one is going to cause you fits at the card table. If you look closely, you can see that this eight of diamonds actually has a hidden number eight sitting right in the middle.
Make sure to bring this one up the next time you’re playing poker with your buddies so you can keep track of where the card is at all times.
Follow The Dot
At first, I thought this was a GIF, but it’s actually just one of the weirder illusions out there.
No matter what you do, you can’t really see more than one dot at a time, but they pop up at almost every intersection. How can that be? I can only assume it’s magic.
Give Your Phone A Little Shake
If you’re reading this article on a phone or tablet, give it a little shake. Did you see that? It looks like the Oreo jiggles like it’s sitting on a mound of Jell-o or something.
As much as this creeped me out because I absolutely despise Jell-o, it did make me unusually hungry.
As usual, I have no idea how people were so talented back in the day. With all the technological advances we no have, I could never imagine we could do something like this even today.
This piece was sculpted by Antonio Corradini, and deserves all the credit it can get.
Well, actually, it’s more of a sandfall. This is Le Morne Brabant peninsula off the Island of Mauritius, and this illusion is the result of sand runoff in a deep channel.
Basically, ocean currents are pushing sand and silt down the plate boundary, give us the illusion of a water/sand fall.
High Above The Clouds
I think we can all agree that this looks like the perfect summer evening. There’s nothing quite like laying on the ground staring up at the clouds, but this patch of water perfectly reflected the sky up above.
It almost looks like this place is hovering high above the sky. I’m in love.
Allan Key Stairway
We all have different names for these little wrenches: hex wrenches, Allan Keys, but I think we can all agree that we have 17 lying around the house because they come with every piece of IKEA furniture.
This person decided to make a nice little set of stairs for his collection of wrenches, finally putting them to go use.
What Conditioner Does He Use?
Beards are in right now. They’ve been a staple of modern society for a while now, and seemed to have outlived other trends like the man bun.
However, this guy only dreams that he could get in on all the beard love that’s going around the internet.
Wild, Wild Horses
This fountain made the wildlife come to life in a very simple and effective manner. These horses look like they’re galloping through the waterfall, and honestly, I can feel it.
I especially love the little horse in the back who hasn’t entered the fountain yet. You’ll get there little buddy!
Who’s In Front?
I have a very simple question for you. Which of these buildings is in front? It really doesn’t matter what you tell me, I can argue for either side.
I’m going to choose the building on the right because it pops more, and it looks like it gets better sunlight.
This would totally freak me out. So apparently, this isn’t a real pool, but it looks extremely pool-like. Poolish even.
My guess is that there’s just a piece of glass with some water on top to give the illusion these people are underwater. Suddenly I’m not as impressed at Leo’s death in Titanic.
Has Fashion Gone Too Far?
We’ve taken fashion into strange, new directions, but one trend that just will not die is our fascination with cameo print everything.
What are we trying to hide? No one’s getting drafted into the Army (hopefully). I think it’s time we do away with cameo clothing and accept that it really doesn’t look good on anybody.
Sneak Level 100
I will never get enough of 3D art. Even though I know that this isn’t a little man trying to sneak around the corner of a book, I really can’t help but think this is a little man trying to sneak around the corner of a book!
Considering I can barely get halfway through the game board in a game of Pictionary, these things will never not impress me.
A Devastating Realization
If you don’t like bad news, you’re going to want to skip over this one. Despite everyone assuming that this picture was a llama holding up and ringing a little bell in his little llama hand, it’s all a lie.
That’s actually just another llama wearing a hat in the background. Still cute, but not nearly as iconic.
I Don’t Get It, But I Respect It
So this is an incredibly trippy tattoo. I’m not too sure what the meaning behind it is, but I could definitely find myself staring at it for days.
It really makes his arm look hallow, and I’m not entirely sure if that was the intended purpose. Regardless, it’s eye-catching, and that’s all that matters.
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying
This agency used these pictures to promote pet adoption, and I’m doing everything in my power to not hop in an Uber to pick up 12 dogs right now.
This is beautiful. Not to get all preachy, but there are so many needy animals that could use a good home.
A Bit Bigger Than Uranus
Sorry for the grade school joke. I’m only human.
This person went out and found the perfect side table that resembled the largest planet in our solar system. I’m pretty sure they just found yet another moon orbiting Jupiter. Okay, that’s enough of a science lesson for today.
We’ve Come So Far
Thank goodness we don’t have to deal with these problems with our computer’s nowadays.
Kids have it so simple. They have no idea that the ‘save’ icon used to be an actual disk we had to use to save our terrible paint drawings. On a side note, I assume at least four of these guys are named Chad.
Which Do You See First?
I feel this is one of those ink blot tests that psychiatrists do. I was shocked to discover that I saw the cat first. That head definitely looks as grumpy as any cat I’ve been around.
However, those front paws just scream dog. I don’t know what this says about me other than I clearly need some kind of pet.
Same Here Bro
So, I’ve tried a couple of times to understand how these hair clips work, and I’m totally lost.
I get that I probably don’t have the thick head of hair to really get this thing to stick, but that’s a lot of trust to put in a clip. Also, what if someone actually thinks this is a spider and tries to swat it out of your hair? That could seriously hurt!