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By on May 18, 2008, with 43 Comments

Ghostly Gaze Illusion by Rob JenkinsBest 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.


43 Responses
  1. Anonymous says:

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

  2. GossipGirly112 says:

    1st post?!?!

    cool illusion, love the site

  3. art says:

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

  4. Anonymous says:

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

  5. akane95 says:

    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:

  6. Andys Alley says:

    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.

  7. big fan says:

    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

  8. Anonymous says:

    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.

  9. Anonymous says:

    not that cool.

  10. Anonymous says:


  11. Tri says:

    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…

  12. Anonymous says:

    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.

  13. omg.mia.rawr[: says:

    thats creepy..
    i like it[:

  14. ash.hsa says:

    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 :)

  15. Anonymous says:

    love the illusion
    love the site!

  16. angelaseeangelablog says:

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

  17. seanki says:

    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..


  18. nejixanna says:

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

  19. Anonymous says:

    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.

  20. Jack says:


  21. Anonymous says:

    thats awsome ive nevr thought about it that way…

  22. Anonymous says:

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

  23. Sophie says:

    it’s the oposite for me

  24. Anonymous says:

    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! :)

  25. I_luv_hoses says:

    not ghostly at all but damb scary!

  26. Jamie Kenny says:

    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”.

  27. !!me!! says:

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

  28. roelin says:

    scary MOMY

  29. not so smexxi says:

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

  30. juan says:

    the trick is on the shadow of the left eye

  31. nerj says:

    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.

  32. Thomas says:

    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.

  33. PurpleButtons says:

    Wow!! That is realistic!

  34. Babylove says:

    Stupid shadow. -_-

  35. bat says:

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

  36. A says:

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

  37. erica says:


  38. Person says:

    For some reason, this really creeps me out.

  39. Harveen says:

    That’s scary…

  40. johnny_depp_fan says:

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

  41. Amy Goldsworthy says:

    She is looking front!!!

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