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By on May 18, 2008, with 43 Comments

Best Visual Illusion of The Year contest is something we’ve been covering for two years in a row. Top 10 submissions of 2008 can be found on the Contest homepage. While this illusion hasn’t made it close to top 3, its surely my favorite this year. Here is the explanation: how do we tell where other people are looking at? Conventional wisdom says the dark parts of their eyes give it away. The Ghostly Gaze optical illusion reveals a more subtle process – from a distance, the two sisters seem to stare at each other. But wait! Using the flash zooming slider, if you bring them closer, they turn their eyes to you! This is not a computer trick.

To convince yourself, set the slider to “Close” and walk away from your computer screen while looking at the image. Notice that when you are sitting in front of the monitor, the sisters are looking at you, but when you are about 3 meters away, they look at each other! The illusion is based on the hybrid image technique, developed by Schyns and Oliva. The Ghostly Gaze illusion shows that details such as the outline of the iris can override larger patches of darkness. Which section should I add this article to? I was thinking of “Multiple Meanings” or “Animations”, but am not exactly sure? To check some of the best optical illusions from 2007 (I don’t share the same opinion), visit this article.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, thats really weird, but from far I already say they looked at me though…

    • http://gmail.com Andrewpoky

      this is gonna haunt me in my sleep… ‘~’

  • GossipGirly112

    1st post?!?!

    cool illusion, love the site

  • art

    first of all, nice, second, do something w/ igoogle, the picture looks all blocky

  • Anonymous

    try merging the two faces, like a stereogram, then the eyes look really freaky

  • akane95

    Thanks for sharing the contest homepage. I don’t agree with their winners. I think the “Skyscrapers and Clouds” should be in the top three at least. Check it out here:

  • Andys Alley

    Thanks for getting rid of that damn animated gif file. I hate it when those show up on my Google home-page.

    As far as this one goes, not much of an illusion. Anyone who has worn glasses or contacts could probably tell you that small shadows in the distance can be misleading.

    Still – thanks for replacing that gif file. Every time animated gifs show up, I’m another step close to deleting this add-in.

  • big fan

    hi im bryan i love this site ive been coming to this sight for along time anyways thats a really cool illusion hope to see more

  • Anonymous

    its only because there is a dark shading in the corners that their eyes “travel” to and you cant see the clear eye far away.

  • Anonymous

    not that cool.

  • Anonymous


  • Tri

    Oh, wow! That is so cool! I love it!
    When I look at them individually, their eyes don’t seem to move, but when I look at both of them a the same time, from farther away, they’re looking at me, and then when I zoom them in, their eyes turn to me! Freaky…

  • Anonymous

    it only works because the girls eyes are a very pale blue. The blue eyes blend in with the white part of the eye at a distance and the shadow becomes a brown colored pupil. Amazing effect though.

  • omg.mia.rawr[:

    thats creepy..
    i like it[:

  • ash.hsa

    with the picture of the sister at the top of the post, i got the impression they were both looking outwards and not towards each other at all.

    but the slider did work :)

  • Anonymous

    love the illusion
    love the site!

  • angelaseeangelablog

    ahah it’s pretty good but the shadow gives it away

  • seanki

    Cool but a little freaky.
    İ think the optical illusion is caused from the black parts, witch make the sisters stare at each other.
    The secret is reveled when you come closer..


  • nejixanna

    woah, like, thats weird, it made my dad freak out o.O but it didnt scare me, i jus’ shiverd , hehe.

  • Anonymous

    IT’S A HOAX. Sorry…

    Try this to prove the hoax:

    Zoom out until the faces look small and looking at eachother. Copy your computer display to the clipboard (just push the “hard to find” “Print Screen”, or “Prt Scrn” Key.)

    Open the Paint application and paste the image. Then do the zoom yourself. You will see that no mater how big the faces get, they will still be looking at eachother.

  • Jack


  • Anonymous

    thats awsome ive nevr thought about it that way…

  • Anonymous

    one question, why the heck do they call it GHOSTLY gaze??? it looks nothing ghostly to me!

  • Sophie

    it’s the oposite for me

  • Anonymous

    if u stare closely at the eye balls you can see they don’t move. But if you’re just looking at the image, it appears that the eyes are moving. COOL! :)

  • I_luv_hoses

    not ghostly at all but damb scary!

  • BBall24


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamie-Kenny/592059901 Jamie Kenny

    If you look ot them close then keep watching one it seems that she is still staring at you. If you now look to the other one she is staring at the other lady. Now look back at the other one and you will se that she turned her “ghostly gaze” to her “sister”.

  • !!me!!

    close up shes looking at me nd far away there looking at each other!AGHHHHHHHHHH

  • roelin

    scary MOMY

  • not so smexxi

    weird!! i like the dial thingie!!! fun to play with.

  • juan

    the trick is on the shadow of the left eye

  • nerj

    The “tricks” points at the “dark shade” they put on the “corner side” of the eyeball of the girl on the second/right picture . They changed the position of it, compared to the eyeball of the girl in the first/left picture.

    As you can see both pictures are the same, Why? because, the light that falls on their face, is positioned/coming from “their right side” thus the dark shadow of their nose falls both on their left cheeks.

    Only the 2nd picture on the right has been “touched/photo shopped?”. How? Try this, Put the blue dot of the slider into the “close” level, their highest zoom.

    Then, right click the picture and “zoom in” it, once or twice. Hold and drag/move it sideways left and right. Observe the differences of their eyeballs “shade” on both pictures, particularly on its “side corner”.

    The “right side corner” of both eyeball of the girl in the first picture have a “lighter shade” because of the light that falls on it.

    On the contrary, the “right side corner” of both eyeball of the girl in the second picture have “darker shade, hence, the “trick”

    That’s what make the “illusion”, you just can’t tell the difference until you studied it carefully.

  • Thomas

    This looks even better if you cross your eyes while the pic is zoomed in. Her eyes are amazing in stereovision. Now that is an awesome illusion.

  • PurpleButtons

    Wow!! That is realistic!

  • Babylove

    Stupid shadow. -_-

  • bat

    i can so tell that they are looking at me from far away….. this isnt good at all

  • http://moillusions.com A

    CAREFULL!!! If you do t too quick it looks like a prank e mail! :o

  • erica


  • Person

    For some reason, this really creeps me out.

  • Harveen

    That’s scary…

  • johnny_depp_fan

    Oh hell no ! ! !
    This illusion is way too creepy for my use ! !

  • Amy Goldsworthy

    She is looking front!!!