Relax, Drift Away and Enjoy Playing the Fool

For the caffeinated legions who see in stereograms nothing more than television static, here’s a good place to start: Relax. Open your mind.

“You have to let yourself drift,” says Tom Baccei, the former hippie who created the images.

Another good idea is to practice in private, away from the true believers who will be eager to flaunt their perceptual superiority. This can be quite embarrassing, as Magic Eye’s chief marketer, Mark Gregorek, explains: “After a few minutes, the question inevitably arises: ‘Am I making a total fool of myself with this book up my nose?’ ”

Gregorek says it took him three weeks of staring at one of Baccei’s pictures before he finally saw the hidden images.


“One day, I was on the phone, leaning back in my chair,” says Gregorek, president of Blue Moon, a marketing firm in Ramsey, N.J. “I looked out the window and then ‘Bam!’ it popped out at me, a World War II bomber. It was like, really cool.”

For those unwilling to invest that much time, Baccei recommends the following approach: Hold the image up to your nose and let it blur. Move it away very slowly, an inch every two seconds or so. While keeping focus, try to get two parts of the picture to coalesce, as if you are looking through it. Without warning, an image such as men fishing in a pond will seem a foot deep, revealing a 3-D flying fish.

The American Academy of Ophthalmologists has a second option: Place a piece of transparent glass in front of the image. Stand about four feet away and stare at the reflection. Eventually, you’ll perceive depth, followed by the 3-D image.

And if that doesn’t work, you can always break your mother’s cardinal rule. “I tell people to cross their eyes,” says Patty Aleman, manager of Mr. G’s Expressions, a Downtown gift shop that carries several Magic Eye products. “It always works.”


Maybe so, but don’t push it, says Dr. Sandy Feldman of San Diego, a spokesman for the academy. “Your mother was wrong. It’s not dangerous. Of course, like any muscle, your eye is subject to strain, so you shouldn’t do it for too long.”

He adds: “Don’t tell my mother I said that.”