Hoaxes & Rumors

Magic Stairwell: Real or Hoax?

Magic Stairwell: Real or Hoax?

A video circulating online shows what appears to be an impossible stairwell which seems to violate laws of physics by creating a never-ending loop. Is this video real or fake?

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The Video is a Hoax.

It was created as part of a Kickstarter project entitled, “The Stairwell Project: Building a Modern Myth” created by Michael Lacanilao. The project did not reach it’s goal of $12,000 by the deadline of April 22, 2013.

The Myth

The introduction to the original video contains an explanation of the project. Copies of the video circulating online have stripped away the introduction and presented the video as fact. The introduction stated, “So what we’re doing with this project is building a myth about my school, the Rochester Institute of Technology. The myth is that located somewhere in this campus is this architectural marvel called the Escherian Stairwell.”

The term “Escherian” refers to the art of M.C. Esher, a Dutch graphic artist whose drawings depicted mind-bending architectural impossibilities.

More information on the project is provided on its Kickstarter page:

The myth is that located in Rochester, NY, is the Escherian Stairwell, an architectural marvel that seems to violate the laws of physics and basic logic by looping back into itself. In order to lend credence to this myth, we’re creating an episode for a family-friendly science show that demonstrates the staircase in action, various clips from a 1997 documentary with prominent thinkers grappling with the existence of this apparent contradiction and pontificating on its implications, and a whole slew of supplemental online materials for today’s internet savvy audience to stumble across while trying to see if this thing is real (websites, scholarly articles, fan-pages, blogs, etc.). Help us build the myth!

Watch the video

This is the original Kickstarter video which contains the introduction about the goals of the project.

Bottom Line

The “Magic Stairwell” is a myth created as part of a 2013 Kickstarter project. The video is not real, but simply employs clever editing techniques.

The Stairwell Project: Building a Modern Myth (Kickstarter)

Updated January 30, 2015
Originally published May 2013

  • cheryl

    You do know that you broke my heart. I love the concept, have always from the fist time I saw an MC Escher Painting. I don’t get the delight of playing hoaxes on people. I don’t like all the enhanced bodies and colors already on line. I do get the need for more science… i am not sure how this will do anything of the sort. My son is going into Game Art and Design and we have played with this concept many times… I am Just so let down, I was going to plan a trip and everything… Took the wind right out of my sails!

  • Errol

    I love the reactions of some people who are ‘sucked in’ by these videos and other illusions. Funny how they feel stupid and then hate the world for it. As a few have stated, the government works pretty much like that too, just like the twin towers thing which was a more costly exercise than the stairwell project. Carry on and stay calm.

  • kramer

    Well made video and funny too. To the debate about sacred rules of magicians, I’d like to add that the people that uses fake audience members are NOT magicians, but con-men. This video is neither though, it is an elaborate study in social engineering that shows you the basics of how to manipulate the public into believing anything. That’s the really creepy part, because it devices people on how to do it and gives wouldbe con-men and anti-democratic forces further tool to reach their ends.

  • webanalog

    It would be possible to build an Escherian Stairwell by creating a Mobius strip structure angled at a 45 degree slope to the earth-sky (vertical) axis. The walkers would need to wear special boots which allowed them to remain attached to the surface and walk at any angle including inverted. Alternately, easier to do in a zero gravity environment.

    • waffles

      Sounds easy enough. When will you get started building one? 🙂

  • PeacePeople

    I think you are missing the bigger picture here. What this “hoax” or myth should teach people is critical thinking and nothing less. To not trust entirely anyone that says something is true just cause a credited person said it. To explore, and study, and understand why and why not certain thing can and cannot work. I find this a pretty good eye opening hoax or myth or whatever you want to call it. They show you how important is critical thinking in your life and how important it is to research stuff you’ve been told and not follow people blindly. I mean for all it matters, when I saw the video about the Magic Stairwell, I research, for an explanation, IF there was one. the fact that they state from the beginning in this explanatory video should be a big shake for people who actually believed that this could be true without trying to find the reason WHY it could be true..

  • Graham

    @Ben “A sacred rule among magicians: you can’t plant someone in the audience to claim that they are an outsider or skeptic when they are an insider assisting with the illusion. ”

    Really? I thought that was how a lot of tricks work.

  • waffles

    “Myth” is the term the creators used.

  • Jon

    The illusion works nicely in a 2 dimensional space as drawn by Escher. It has some interesting mathematical properties, and if the video has the effect of getting people to think about them, it’s a good thing.

  • jeff

    Ben, if you think that project is ugly, maybe you haven’t yet realized similar projects happen all the time in the world of “news” and “government.”

    Perhaps the point of the project is to show how people follow illogical credibility indicators and are thus susceptible to anyone willing to “be unethical.” That’s a pretty positive outcome if that’s what the kickstarter project was for, but not everyone who views it will learn positively from it 🙂

    • bannister

      Ben, if you think that project is ugly, maybe you haven’t yet realized similar projects happen all the time in the world of “news” and “government.”

      Yeah, like 911. Now THAT was a ugly project of deception if there ever was one.

      • Dan Francis

        Very poor analogy. I spent 9 months digging at “Ground Zero” as a member of the PAPD Rescue and Recovery unit. I also lost 37 friends.There was no deception. Period

        • Factoid

          Sorry you lost 37 friends because of Bush’s wrong doings. Biggest deception of the century so far.

  • Ben

    Ridiculous. Even if you take away the smarmy, cynical decision by “maniacworld” to introduce the trick-edited video with “there are no video tricks going on here”, this kickstarter is unethical and ugly. The hosts represent themselves as a science and technology show, and they recruit people to claim that they are objective subjects. A sacred rule among magicians: you can’t plant someone in the audience to claim that they are an outsider or skeptic when they are an insider assisting with the illusion. Portray fiction only when people know they are witnessing fiction.

    • Harry

      @Ben, did you really just suggest no magician uses plants (people that they know who understand the illusion but are chosen to suggest they are unaware of them) because this is one of THE oldest tricks used in the magic industry.

      To fool you into believing something is true when it is false is what is known as an illusion, the basic setup of ANY magic. There is no such rule, that suggests otherwise.
      The only rule of magic is to never reveal how the trick is accomplished!

    • Rockette

      You may see it as ugly and unethical. It goes to show you that not everything you read on a “screen” is to be taken as truth. I work with SEO and we can make anything seem bigger than it is what they did was awesome.

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