Arts & Culture News

The New Museum of Illusions Offers a Fun Way to Mess With Your Mind

Museum of Illusions co-founder Subhi Gharbieh (center) attempts to take a drink as a head on a platter at the museum's opening night. The museum encourages guests to take pictures of the exhibits.
Museum of Illusions co-founder Subhi Gharbieh (center) attempts to take a drink as a head on a platter at the museum's opening night. The museum encourages guests to take pictures of the exhibits. Danny Gallagher
One of the West End's newest sights may not appear as it seems.

The Museum of Illusions that opened earlier this month on Ross Avenue features a collection of puzzling art, props and sets designed to screw with your mind without the use of heavy-duty narcotics or a hard blow to the head.

Dallas is the 18th addition to the global museum franchise that houses works of art, sculptures and demonstrations of how the mind and the eye aren't always on the same page.

"It's an 'edutainment' experience because it's educational and entertaining at the same time," says Subhi Gharbieh, the museum's managing partner and director. "You'll learn quite a bit about illusions and how people perceive and see different things."

Guests can experience a series of puzzling optical illusions, including popular works of optical art like the Penrose (or Impossible) Triangle. There's also a sculpted version of Rubin's vase that appears to show two faces or a vase, depending on where your eyes choose to view the negative space.

Some of the bigger bits of eye-trickery include a Vortex Tunnel that can make an ordinary walkway feel like it's rotating against gravity's will, an Infinity Tunnel that isn't for acro- or claustrophobics and a mirror table that appears to literally put guests' heads on a platter. The museum will host seasonal events and regular performances by local illusionist Zak Mirzadeh.

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Neda Khalilian (left) and Wendy Long (right) take a mind-dismantling walk through the Vortex Tunnel at the Museum of Illusions.
Danny Gallagher
The causes for these bits of visual and mental trickery vary from illusion to illusion, though they can be generally explained as the mind trying to make up for incomplete visual information or a "misinterpretation of cues in a situation, in which there is at least a small amount of ambiguity," according to the book The Psychology of Visual Illusion by J.O. Robinson.

"It is easy to invent displays in which the ambiguity is permanent and unresolvable and which make the perceptual system continue indefinitely and mysteriously to vacillate between the possible perceptual conclusions about the 'real' nature of the display," Robinson writes. "But most of the illusions of this sort which one meets in everyday life involve situations which are ambiguous mainly because of brevity of sampling or paucity of cues."

Gharbieh says he's excited not only to open the unique attraction to Dallas, but also excited that it's opening in the West End district.

"The West End is coming back," Gharbieh says. "We're excited to be a little, small part of that." 

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Tour guide Haley Larock takes a peek through a kaleidoscope at the Museum of Illusions.
Danny Gallagher
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.