I came across this lovely online version of the old ‘appearing man’ illusion yesterday (you may need to click on it to get it to work).  Basically, you count the number of men in the image, wait a few seconds for the top two pieces to switch, and count again.

The question is….where does the extra man come from?

UPDATE: Just been sent this wonderful fire illusion by @damianjennings….love it so much!


  1. it took me a little looking and watching it move back and forth, but i think the “extra” man comes from little pieces of all the men together. if you watch the man all the way at the right in the original, when he shifts, he ends up in the middle and much shorter — i didn’t even try to track others that much, but that’s where i think the answer must lie.

  2. Of course, google has found the answer for you already 🙂

    But what Google didn’t know is that the extra man in fact came into being when the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland did its first experiment. The black holes that were generated were so powerfull that some extra people were created when the black holes came to close to the experimenters 🙂


  3. It’s a geometrical vanish – eric is right, one man is redistributed amongst the others, making them all slightly bigger. I’ve just read about this in ‘Alex’s Adventures in Numberland’.

  4. You go from having 12 complete men to having 13 incomplete men, most of them missing a small section of their body (toes, shins, thighs, stomach, chest, mouth, eyes, hair, etc).

  5. A “man” is but the sum of his parts…

    In the 13-man formation, the man on the extreme left is missing the top of his head… and a few of the men in the middle are missing the bottoms of their feet…

    In the 12-man formation, the middle men are all taller…

    The parts of the 12 men are shuffled to make 13 incomplete men.

  6. This is like that tesselation puzzle with the “extra square” that reappears, because two pieces aren’t quite triangles…

  7. It is always a pleasure to see this old puzzle in new vests, mind blowing like it is. I might be mixing different puzzles but I have the feeling this is related to what happens when we have some vertical lines equally spaced in the interior of a borderless rectangle, do a cut along one of the diagonals, shift the obtained triangles along it until, “miraculously” appears a new extra vertical line. To get the actual illusion, we only have to deform the rectangle until the diagonal appears horizontal and shuffle in some way the lines to account the exchange of the bodies in upper part of the illusion. The last part of this explanation still needs a little work thought (maybe it is two rectangles alongside, not one).

    If this process is the right one, then it is easy to construct new similar illusions. In that case, the true puzzle is to discover why all I see is almost exact variations of the same.

  8. I’m struggling to work out what’s swapping with the gap that the “6th” man stands in when he’s there.

    Bear with me…

  9. I’m counting them from left to right in their lines: So 1 is in the bottom left hand corner, 2 is behind him, 3 behind him near the top and four is at the bottom, 5, just behind him, etc.

    Ok, the man in “position 1” looses hair. The man in “position 12” gets an incomplete face, using his neck line as a chin. Various other characters loose body sections, like the man in “position 5” looses some shorts, “position 10” looses some abdomen, etc. But all of this happens along the cut plane, so WHY do we see “position 6” filled with all the extra body parts??

  10. I didn’t do such a detailed check as the person commenting above, but I did notice that for the person on the far left, he has normal hair in one version, and has hair cropped off flat in another. This suggested that he was made shorter while that body part is now used for someone else. Similarly, maybe this was also happening for other people where they are losing a small part of them to be recombined into a new person.

  11. I get that they’re being redistributed, but I’m with Victoria on this one. HOW are they being redistributed? Maybe Google will know.

  12. The transposed pieces are not of equal sizes. The smaller transposed piece completes five people in the cluster on the right, and completes five people in the cluster on the left, when repositioned. The larger transposed piece completes seven people in the cluster on the right, but when repositioned completes only five in the cluster on the left, and one more in the cluster on the right for a total of six: so we see an ‘extra’ person when it is placed on the left-hand side of the image.

    The transposed pieces, while mapping onto the lower part of the image well to complete whole people, don’t do so exactly. Essentially, no part of the larger transposed section completes the left-most person, which leaves an extra mostly complete – but still incomplete person in the upper section. The ‘extra’ person loses the bottom part of their feet, while the left-most person loses the top of their hair. These changes are subtle, but don’t represent major changes we might notice more strongly, like the loss of a complete body part.

  13. I’ve just had a play around in GIMP and produced this attempt at an explanation:

    Note that in the 12 man image, every top half and every bottom half are matched, whereas in the 13 man image, one chap appears only in the top half, whereas one chap appears only in the bottom half, thus creating the appearance of a 13th chap.

  14. This is similar to the trick of “making money” by lining up a bunch of dollar bills side-by-side, slicing through them diagonally, and shifting the tops one bill to the right. You end up with one more bill but they’re all slightly shorter. Of course, the serial numbers won’t match either.

  15. I got it.

    Instead of thinking “where did the 13th man come from?”, you should ask “where did the 13th man go?”

    In one of the states, the top of the far left man’s head is missing, thereby disallowing the existence of a corresponding man after the switch!

  16. I think I solved it. the man standing at the end of the second row from the right leaves a piece of his shoes but never gets connected to any other piece. so, basically its just that a man breaks into two. if it had broken into two equal pieces everyone would have noticed, but the pieces are so big and so small, that we neglect it. that’s what I think is done.

  17. I spent a couple minutes with the top illusion, which is cool, but that fire illusion is amazing. Seriously one of the greatest live action illusions I’ve seen.

  18. I had to do a screen capture of both images and look at them side by side, then go back and watch the animation a few times. I don’t appreciate having my mind screwed with so much!

  19. I noticed that some of the men were missing bits when there were 13 and looked more complete when there were 12. But couldn’t quite get my head round how it was happening, must show the children now it will keep them quiet for ages!
    Love the fire illusion really well done. It is quite similar to the pavement art we sometimes get sent pictures of on e-mail, really enjoyed that one!

  20. Not necessarily Expensive‘A pair of new shoes might not cure a broken heart or soothe a tension headache but they will relieve the symptoms and chase away the blues’ –these words were written by the famous Fashion critic, Holly Brubach. Well this statement reflects that shoes are of immense importance and they are an integral part of fashion. The origin of women shoes dates back to before Christ.

    Shoes Inexpensive
    Clothes Discount
    Watches Freeshipping

  21. I watched this a long time ago and needed a very long time to figure it out. Now, I already forget the missing parts and have to look for it again….

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