The Rose of Death - an optical illusion

The skull rose by Todd Terwilliger

This is an example of pareidolia, where we see something unexpected and unplanned in an image. It's especially striking when we see faces, which our brain seems to be hard-wired into recognizing, even when it's not a real face.

Although it wasn't an optical illusion, the skull and rose image was used as an illustration for the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, a translation of Persian poems.

Illustration by Edmund J. 
Sullivan, 1913

That image might be familiar to you, since it was used by an artist when he was designing a poster for a band called The Grateful Dead.

Grateful Dead poster by 
Stanley Mouse, 1966

For another example of a skull flower, this time created intentionally as an optical illusion, see: The skull flower garden optical illusion, Deceptology>>

More about skull optical illusions: The world's most famous optical illusion, Deceptology>>

- I found the skull rose photo by Todd Terwilliger at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy in Discover magazine, Skull Flower, Bad Astronomy>>
- Photo taken by Todd Terwilliger, Flickr>>
- In case anyone is interested… RobertARood>>

(And in a side note, I agree 100% with Mr. Plait's mini-diatribe about how some sites use images without giving credit to the originator. It's not only the right thing to do, but you never know what you might find.)

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