Optical illusion magic trick

optical illusion magic trick - Thatcher

Last year the local libraries had a theme of “Strange but True”, so I created a Strange But True – Game Show magic show. For that show I wanted something a little bit different than just a standard effect, so I started looking at different optical illusions magic tricks that I could add into the show.

I had seen a couple performers use the Thatcher optical illusion and decided it would be a great addition to my show.

The Thatcher effect or Thatcher illusion is a phenomenon where it becomes difficult to detect local feature changes in an upside down face, despite identical changes being obvious in an upright face. It is named after British former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on whose photograph the effect has been most famously demonstrated. This was originally created by Peter Thompson, in 1980. [Wikipedia link]

The only problem was that I didn’t like the sample faces that were available online because children had no idea who the people were. That’s when I decided to create my own Thatcher Optical illusions out of people that they would recognize.

I created three illusions with famous celebrities children would recognize including Salina Gomez, Justin Beiber, and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter). Upside down the faces look totally normal, but turn them 180º and you’ll discover that the eyes and mouth are facing the wrong way. 

optical illusion magic trick - Salena Gomez

optical illusion magic trick - Justin Beiberoptical illusion magic trick - Harry Potter








Click on the images for the full resolution image file so that you can print it out yourself. Full resolution for these files is 8.5×11 inches. One performer I know blew them up to a huge poster size and used them in his illusion show!

The Routine: I begin by saying that I’ll demonstrate the difference between a magic trick and an optical illusion by showing them a few optical illusions. I tell them that they will see a face, but it will be upside down, and they have to guess who it is. I reveal the upside down Salina Gomez face, and wait until somebody guesses the correct answer. Then I explain that she doesn’t really look like that, and I turn the photo 180º showing the distorted face. Before showing the second face I get the audience to guess who the face might be. Often I’ll have children guess Justin Beiber. (Salina Gomez and Justin Beiber use to date each other, so about 60% of the time somebody will guess this). Then I turn the image around showing that their guess was correct and I look to one of the parents and say “Hey, I know my audience!” I repeat the same process of showing the face and turning it 180º with the Justin Beiber picture and then the Harry Potter picture to finish off the routine.

Give it a try. Its surprising just how effective this optical illusion really is. A few other performers have seen me perform this and since then they’ve also included it in their acts. I get gasps from these optical illusions whenever I perform it and I know you will too!

Currently I’m playing around with the idea of ending the routine by including an optical illusion of MY face, or maybe doing a switch at the end where the face drastically changes from one face into another. If you’re interested in having me create this optical illusion with an image of your face, please contact me and I can make you one for a small donation of your choice.

If you use this illusion  in your show, please let me know! I’d love to know how it works for you.