Articles, Blog

Escherian Stairwell Deconstruction

November 10, 2019

Greetings children, it’s me, Captain Disillusion. Too many plot developments have been happening around here lately it used to be about the work not feelings. Debunking hoaxes and solving viral-video mysteries no one else could solve Like this little gem that’s been paying regular visits to my inbox for the past five years. [Jingle music] Host : “Hi and welcome to this episode of “Can you imagine”… A segment in a low-budget promotional webseries from the Rochester Institute of Technology features an unusual piece of architecture. “Here we are in the escherian stairwell. Located in building seven, one of the first structures put up when RIT made the move from downtown Rochester to suburban, Henrietta. The stairwell designed by Filipino architect Raphael Nelson Lagonda was built in 1968 and has been wowing RIT students ever since.” The authenticity of this marvel is then backed up by a bunch of testimonials and demonstrated in various convincing ways making the impossible seem very clearly possible. But relax There’s nothing paranormal about it. It’s just a quirk of design. It’s an optical illusion. Lady : It’s just an architectural trick. It’s a totally normal, what are you talking about? Dude goes up the stairs and comes out from the floor below. Not only is this video fake, It’s not even a video. It’s a multi-layered web endeavor that combines narrative filmmaking, documentary, social media, analytic philosophy and theoretical physics into a creative exploration of how the academic world might respond to the apparent physical manifestation of a logical contradiction At least that’s what it says in this 81 page master’s thesis by Michael Lacanilao, graduate of RIT school of film and animation sci-fi enthusiast and creator of a modern myth. It was the dawn of the third year of graduate school the Escherian stairwell project was a myth given form. A transmedia art piece wrapped in 52,837 dollars worth spinning bullshit all alone on the web. It was a pair of mockumentaries, a network of fake websites and eventually a massive crowdfunding campaign focused on keeping the myth alive. It failed I’m sorry to hear that Michael, but trust me You don’t want to take one little project that gave you validation as a young person and milk it for years into a full-time Crowdfunded career. Before you know it, you’re pushing 40 still slathering on stupid silver mak… I mean spreading rumors about a fake stairwell You’re remarkably skilled as a director and your commentary on your own work is very insightful “I did not treat the “Can you imagine” episode any differently from any of my other films. I wrote a script, storyboarded the whole thing and we started rehearsing it like a play” But you’re strangely coy when it comes to revealing the details “The people in the “Can you imagine” episode are excellent excellent actors.” Yeah, but like Who are they ? Be more specific just say Kevin Schoonover, acclaimed art photographer and proprietor of flying whale studios Rosie Han, fellow RIT graduate and talented filmmaker in her own right. I didn’t have time to hound down anyone else But I think after five years they each deserve an individual credit for their excellent performances. “I don’t really research stairwells that often, I guess” And in a document detailing all the facts behind the project you stopped short of explaining the actual filmmaking techniques used to achieve the Escherian stairwell effect because you might want to continue the myth I’m afraid I can’t allow that Michael deconstructing myths is my mission. Escherian stairwell related keywords in the metadata of this video are spreading through the internet as I speak and a detailed shot-by-shot Breakdown of the visual effects will commence now. Like all convincing illusions the Escherian stairwell video uses a variety of techniques to keep you guessing Scattered among the testimonials are six scenes where the impossible is actually shown. The initial demonstration by the host, two demonstrations with Rosie, two background effects with a boy in a red shirt and the final demonstration with a visitor named Dwayne. To visualize the tricks, we’ll use the latest in machine assisted 3d virtual environment recreation technology powered by a natural intelligence engine : my brain. The first scene is a split screen transition enhanced by a subtle camera move Performing his monologue, the host walks up the first flight of stairs as the tripod mounted camera tilts up slightly. The tilt stops before he disappears behind the wall, taking a specific step during a specific line. Here, action was paused and the actor then walked down to the landing below while the cinematographer was careful not to disturb the camera position. Picking up where they left off the host emerges from behind the wall delivering the same line and the camera tilts down to frame him We can tell these were real nodal tilts and not just digital scrolling up and down a wider image because the slight offset of the cameras sensor on the tripod causes tiny parallax on the handrails But the tilts probably felt too choreographed in the combined split-screen so a gentle digital camera shake was added to the final shot and, no, they didn’t use twins because twins don’t look and sound exactly like each other and everyone would be able to tell! The next scene is more complicated. It starts on the floor below the main staging area which I guess is why we don’t get to see much of it Rosie walks up the stairs and the camera follows her handheld Everything is real until she reaches the last step at which point a carefully choreographed lateral track reveals the host. But he wasn’t really there. The take was over and he had to walk up the stairs the boring way. At the same time Rosie Went up to the landing above while a fake imposter stand-in Rosie took over her position. With everyone in place, the action was resumed. The beauty of this framing is that a blank wall leaves you free to align the host from the second shot with the camera move from the first and makes it easier to blend the two with a soft wipe. We can still spot the first frame where it appears and the distance between the host and the exit sign shrinks slightly But it’s pretty seamless ! The camera then whip-pans to catch the back of fake Rosie running down the stay and right on cue real Rosie emerges from above to finish the scene. Now, strangely, there is another transition hidden in the whip pan I can’t think of any reason for it other than to bridge two different takes containing the best version of both moves That throws a little doubt on whether this is a double. Maybe it is real Rosie and this is a transition again ? But if it is it’s completely flawless and there would be no need to hide her face here. Ideally, you should show it. But then ideally you should also use a plus green gel on a tungsten light when combining with a fluorescent. Mistakes happen. As in the next shot, the host leaves Rosie on the top half landing and walks down. At the end, he leans over to catch a glimpse of her on the floor below and that’s when a huge flashing rectangle tries to distract us from something. What is it? There is this odd frozen matte line on the arm, but to really understand what’s going on, we’d have to spend hours painstakingly restoring the shot frame by frame as accurately as possible and no one is crazy enough to… Okay, here it is. Much more clear. A separately filmed take of Rosie waving was composited into the background But unfortunately in the host’s take, his arm ended up blocking the exact spot where her head w as supposed to be when the two shots are lined up. So her element had to be moved over to make her visible This caused the jump during the transition and a huge misalignment on the overhead light. It just wouldn’t work. In every effects artists life there comes a moment when he just gives up and flashes a big video artifact on top of the problem. But next time in lieu of a plain white rectangle, may I recommend a professional plugin like Red Giant glitch or Video Copilot’s twitch ? Or my own : snitch ! The next two scenes happen subtly in the background of a testimonial. This was done simply by filming the interview as a static shot, then filming the two phases of the red shirt kids action, compositing them all together and adding a bit of artificial camera shake. And it’s a great time for a Hitchcock style director’s cameo Finally the scene with Dwayne involved many people, but only an instant of trickery. The host has a brief exchange with him, then sets off down the stairs and it’s in this moment that the magic happens. With a giddy hop the host covers the entire frame, transitioning the view behind him to a different take of Dwayne by himself during a similar camera pan. It was needed because almost immediately the rest of the shot cuts to yet another take in which Dwayne is already in position on the landing below. The Artificial Dwayne patch keeps it looking like he’s upstairs until it’s softly wiped away off-screen. With the handoff completed, we now follow the host all the way down to real Dwayne who greets him with an exotic double fist bump the likes of which the host has never seen ! Credit where credit’s due : the transitions are awesome. Making them this invisible takes real skill If you sat me down and warned me that I’m about to see a trick video I still wouldn’t be able to tell how it was done on first watch But that’s not what you did, is it Michael ? You wanted the world to believe it was real. You wanted it to go viral, and it did, in a way you might not have been prepared for. When the video’s popularity exploded, you filed copyright takedown notices against hundreds of reposts, enforcing some, releasing others, not because you wanted credit or ad revenue but simply as a mechanism for controlling the spread of the myth to fit with the rest of your production schedule When curious fans from all over were expected to mob the annual ‘Imagine RIT’ Festival, the event the video was designed to promote in the first place, you posted misleading signs around the campus to prevent too many people from finding your exhibit. Those who managed to find it were told the truth and some of them weren’t pleased. Still all attendees were encouraged to keep the secret to perpetuate the deception, and even now, long after you’ve left college behind believers continue to make pilgrimages to the school, seeking the stairwell, only to be casually led to the wrong one by worn-out disinterested faculty members, “Charles, do you know about the Escherian staircase?” “All too much”‘ forever burdened by the consequences of your big, clever myth ! [Panting] I guess I’m being a little unfair. Putting a negative spin on the events that you yourself described in the thesis. After all, you widely-publicized the truth almost immediately and the majority of smart clear-headed commenters seem to, as you put it, get the joke. But artificial myths aren’t biodegradable. The video doesn’t go away. It continues to drift online as an unlabeled artifact in a world that’s currently having just a little bit of trouble with misinformation. And to some who find it, it’s not a joke or a fun puzzle, but ammunition. If this is real what else could be real ? If it’s fake what else is fake? 12 million people can’t be wrong. This reminds me of a cool prop blaster I once built functional but harmless… well, almost. Turned out that strong healthy people were completely unaffected by its powerful energy rate but it tended to cause some weaker, less-advantaged folks significant… discomfort. Now that’s not what I was going for, I didn’t have any malicious intent, neither did you. But now even as you post links under the video to interviews discussing the project, even in response to your own comments explaining that it’s all fiction believers persist. A Myth is a story. Shaped by culture over time. It has a moral, a point it tries to communicate, The notion that a college somewhere in America is home to a physically impossible stairwell is… just a lie. I think I understand what you were trying to do. I’m just having a hard time figuring out… why ? ‘I remember watching films like Close Encounters or something like 2001. Watching those films kind of inspired us with awe and a sense of wonder. How can I create something that would give audiences that type of experience, that type of experience that I remember, which I haven’t felt in a while. And I don’t know what it is : Is it my maturity level ? Is it because movies are getting worse? I don’t know. You know, I, I don’t know what the answer is, like, I just saw Star Trek even Superman, right, Man of Steel. Every time I see a film like that Every time I see a film like that I just hope that I get swept up again, the way I did when I first saw 2001 And I don’t know the answer for why I don’t experience that anymore. All I know is that I don’t experience that anymore Oh…Dude… That’s normal. Those movies affected you so strongly because they were good, but also because you were a kid. The kids of today are just as impressed by creepy all CGI Ninja Turtles reboots, or whatever it is they watch. It’s their turn to be inspired and your turn to create what inspires them. Not by reinventing the concept of storytelling, just by telling good stories. I’ve been listening to this book on edible.gum which I think is called ‘A hero with a million faces’ by Josie camel or something like that. It’s about story structure. The important thing is to have a protagonist which ideally shouldn’t be a slab of concrete but a person. A person with a goal, clear and immediate like a back itch. Have them take steps to pursue their goal in a clever way. But run into unexpected obstacles Rising to each challenge brings the protagonist ever closer to their goal while helping them grow as a person, until finally, a catastrophic setback all but annihilates their progress and all seems lost Then a dramatic solution leads them to success But that success comes at a price, so they return to their ordinary life, forever changed. Or if you’re smart, they’re poised for a new journey full of infinite possibilities, sequels and merch sales and maybe use a cool catchphrase to crystalize the entire franchise, something like : Love with your heart, use your head for everything else ! [Music] You


  • Reply Manoj nayak October 2, 2019 at 2:19 pm


  • Reply B Sc October 2, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Im so fkn sick of Tubers faking so many vids. Same for "uplifting meme photos. Two yrs photo college and todays consumer video software makes most of them blatantly obvious to me (yah sure, elephants "smile like at a dentist office")

    Awesome work, keep liars and crowd funding scammer scumbags in line…. Yah, thats an actual industry now….

  • Reply Henry Finman October 3, 2019 at 2:02 am

    I saw the stairwell video and was confused as hell as an 8 year old. Like 8 years later it comes back to me. Well done

  • Reply Carl Davis October 4, 2019 at 4:02 am

    One of my favorites so far. Pretty deep [email protected]#t when you hear it all.

  • Reply Angel Howlter October 4, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    No thats real

  • Reply SlenderMan Games October 5, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    and one of the best schools in most of the usa makes this and people pay up to 20k for this school -_-

  • Reply Ben W October 5, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    You KILLED me at edible.gum

  • Reply shahid islam October 6, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Sir make a video on Moon Landing

  • Reply 1000 subscribers No videos just makes me happy October 6, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    1:28 that’s what I said at first

  • Reply Chris Piccoli October 6, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    $h1t i go here

  • Reply Crypticmind242 October 6, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Anyone who thought this was real is genuinely retarded

  • Reply Star Child October 6, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    that stair case is an scp, and once you enter it, you will be stuck forever in an endless loop

  • Reply Phosnerd October 7, 2019 at 4:23 am

    im more impresse how you crafted this video, with those exact model replicas of the stairwell and such, than that bs video

  • Reply Adolpho Castro October 7, 2019 at 5:02 am

    The only infinite stairs I believe in and fear is from Super Mario 64.

  • Reply Pyrothief October 7, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Special Effects: exists

    Dr.D: I'm gonna end this man's whole career

  • Reply God October 8, 2019 at 9:44 am

    how long till you get a youtooz figure?

  • Reply Epsilon October 8, 2019 at 10:56 am

    The editing in these videos is absolutely movie quality, you deserve so many more subscribers and likes than you get. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply Hot Pot October 8, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Yep, just learned that this is fake today.

  • Reply MaddRamm October 8, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    I like the Babylon 5 special effects.

  • Reply Dianne castillo October 8, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    What a weird host

  • Reply David Rossington October 9, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Did nobody notice it took this guy over 50,000 dollars to make a video of people walking up stairs

  • Reply YOGESH PATIL October 9, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Who came here after watching insta post…?

  • Reply Rafiqi Haqimi October 9, 2019 at 7:01 am

    This guy have to do a 1h+ make up for a 15min vid everytime

  • Reply I Love Lea Thompson October 9, 2019 at 10:55 am

    He's like the guy from Breaking the Magician's Code, but way silvery

  • Reply Maru Kushii October 9, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    so it was designed by a Filipino Architect Raphael Nelson?

    -sino mga pinoy jan HAHAHAHHA

  • Reply Ajayjenks October 9, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    There’s actually someone who put this video on their insta story today and was like 😮😮 this is amazing!
    Just wait until I show her this…

  • Reply Nabiha Anwar October 9, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    They must use TIKTOK 😂😂 For #Transition 😂😂😂😂😂

  • Reply Xander Ontko October 9, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    How could people think that this is real
    We live in a Euclidean world which means that an object cannot go somewhere and end up somewhere else (Except for wormholes) but that staircase could only exist in a Non-Euclidean world

  • Reply Azadanzan S October 9, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    These are rlly basic tricks, I could do this with windows movie maker

    I mean not rlly but I don’t think it is to crazy

  • Reply Zachary Thurman October 10, 2019 at 3:16 am

    SCP-087-B anyone?

  • Reply Matthias Lim October 10, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Lmao this has more views than the original one🤣

  • Reply vtipoman October 10, 2019 at 4:18 am

    Nice try SCP Foundation

  • Reply Sergio Roche October 10, 2019 at 7:22 am

    Great content and I love the humor

  • Reply igmer barahona October 10, 2019 at 9:11 am

    This is why I follow him

  • Reply SdJ PARCOUR October 10, 2019 at 3:28 pm


  • Reply Hol t October 10, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Speak English please 😂

  • Reply Michael October 11, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Did he just record it twice with the man at the top and the bottom and then mush it together like disgusting soup
    edit: Wow I was right

  • Reply Coopers Not a bird October 11, 2019 at 2:52 am


  • Reply tented joker5327 October 11, 2019 at 3:30 am

    11:16 in that case….

  • Reply Eric Hutchinson October 11, 2019 at 4:11 am

    Okay I hear ya but where is the actual staircase?

  • Reply CraftyBlocks October 11, 2019 at 10:15 am

    The sketch hurts my brain

  • Reply Classic Ninja October 11, 2019 at 11:06 am

    We need fucking answers striaght to the point idiot

  • Reply Sanjay G October 11, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Wow! This video is so cool! How much work did you put into this?!

  • Reply leepinlepin wingadingdong October 11, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    $52,837 for simple camera work and using windows media to put it together…..and people actually believed this…..we are a pathetic lazy minded species.

  • Reply Bilbo_Gamers October 11, 2019 at 3:23 pm


  • Reply NomadOne33 October 11, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    I’m glad you agree your silver makeup is stupid. I get it, you got to stand out on YouTube, but I personally don’t like it.

  • Reply Jack Collier October 11, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    I think everyone knows it fake just people like watching it

  • Reply Vendetta Incognito October 12, 2019 at 3:37 am

    Bad content

  • Reply Eleventy Two October 12, 2019 at 3:57 am

    Its not fake, i have those stairs in my house

  • Reply John paul Lazaro October 12, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    built by filipino architect
    im so proud

  • Reply vlogerhood October 13, 2019 at 3:27 am


  • Reply Gamer 1.1 October 13, 2019 at 3:39 am



  • Reply MrRandomGamers October 13, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Another explaination is that he did go upstairs it’s just a twin

  • Reply IMMENSIVE rocker October 13, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Is Apollo mission video fake ?????? Please revile that!!!

  • Reply R.L. Dane October 13, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    edible.gum… I’m dying!!

  • Reply Nick Ippolito October 13, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    destroyed son

  • Reply Nick Ippolito October 13, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    destroyed son

  • Reply CriticalDamage October 13, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    CD: Hello Children!
    A couple minutes later
    swear words

  • Reply Wibiz October 13, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    6:52 That is the most horror I've seen my entire life

  • Reply Yeetus Matridus October 13, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Who else is waiting for Summer 2058?

  • Reply Heatwave October 14, 2019 at 2:27 am

    who is just here and doesnt understand a thing but still watches it like me

  • Reply Cardboard Hypocrisy October 14, 2019 at 2:44 am


  • Reply Jotbell The memer October 14, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    you just gotta groundpound and slide up it tho

  • Reply reality check October 14, 2019 at 5:06 pm


  • Reply Nick.s1010 October 14, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    If this was actually real then the guy just invented a portal because there is no way to come back and see the same person…

  • Reply CF RF October 14, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Why he wouldn't BLJ into the staircase?

  • Reply H Kay October 15, 2019 at 1:47 am

    I’m just amazed that the makeup he wears stays on

  • Reply Nelson Chien October 15, 2019 at 2:58 am

    Captain disillusion please debunk this

  • Reply lightning _YT October 17, 2019 at 3:19 am

    has anybody ever thought that all these videos are real and maybe he just wanted to make us think that they're fake and he adds all the bad editing stuff

  • Reply Seth Galvan October 18, 2019 at 12:07 am

    Don’t you just think it’s a regular staircase but his twin was standing at the bottom or something

  • Reply special something October 18, 2019 at 6:27 am

    love u man

  • Reply Name Withheld October 19, 2019 at 12:41 am

    We are drowning in a sea of stupidity 🤦‍♂️

  • Reply TʜᴇAʀᴄᴛɪᴄ October 19, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    It's real. I was the stair handle

  • Reply VelociraptorGamer YT October 19, 2019 at 11:15 pm


  • Reply Sokka, Wise Oaf October 19, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    Last part of the video was just amazing. Thank you, Captain.

  • Reply TimWhat? October 20, 2019 at 7:34 am

    11:40 That's 1 way to cremate your Grandma.

  • Reply Bat_Sime October 20, 2019 at 10:56 am

    how are you even supposed to get out

  • Reply slick G October 20, 2019 at 11:28 am

    clearly that stairwell is a paid actor

  • Reply Ezar Khairan October 21, 2019 at 3:57 am

    you see that guys thats 10000 iq guy

  • Reply Dick Johnson Johnson October 22, 2019 at 3:25 am

    2:10 bullshit

  • Reply TUBER October 25, 2019 at 4:12 am

    Hi to all Filipino's

  • Reply ThisIsMyName ThereAreManyLikeItButThisOneIsMine October 26, 2019 at 3:50 am

    I'll be waiting for the summer of 2058 for the back hole chronicles to come out

  • Reply Young Madara October 26, 2019 at 5:25 am

    Whether it's real or it's not, Michael is an absolute legend for being able to make something so simple, yet so amazing.
    This is one of those fakes that you just can't help but be happy about.

  • Reply Joaquin Antonio Villanueva October 27, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    7:10 this is going to give me seizures

  • Reply Celso de Sá October 28, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    13:15 (around) This makes me understand why Interstellar kinda feels like a documentary, neat!

  • Reply Lorelo DahWeirdo October 28, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    3:28 Bruh that's CallMeCarson right there you can't tell me otherwise

  • Reply Dark Energy 37 October 29, 2019 at 3:22 am

    I just thought it was some architectural trick.

  • Reply Jason October 29, 2019 at 4:48 am

    How much does he spend on that silver face paint for each vid

  • Reply Alfredodiaz Diaz October 30, 2019 at 1:02 am

    Gracias… Me volvía loco

  • Reply Son Pikaatoku October 30, 2019 at 8:02 am

    If I don't see a Black Hole chronicles franchise by 2058 I will be very disappointed

  • Reply Ridz November 2, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Myth: *exists*
    Disillusion: I’m gonna end this mans whole career

  • Reply Dominic Woodward November 2, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    Why hasn't anyone thought of an escherian slide?

  • Reply MEGA NTN November 4, 2019 at 12:01 am


  • Reply Art Villa November 4, 2019 at 7:01 am

    I came here for Quick D and got Long D.
    But nice.

  • Reply N November 5, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Still waiting for that sequel Cap. People said that he's still chasing that itchy back

  • Reply Landon Rose November 6, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    I would have loved to work on a project like this in college

  • Reply BagheadYT November 7, 2019 at 2:55 am

    Oh body I’m exited for the new back hole chronicles only a few decades

    Boy I’m wonder how many other people made this joke

  • Reply I Am November 7, 2019 at 5:35 am

    Wtf why would he compare superman with space odyssey? That's like comparing a jet airliner with a jet fighter. Different purposes.

    If he is looking for awe, he should work on compositing images from space to view nebulae larger than our solar system.

    Or he could stab a water filled latex balloon with a knife at the center of a square made from tape to demonstrate laminar flow.

    I spend my time on league and learning new stuff…oh, food and sex are good too.

  • Reply Rocky Theflyingsquirel November 7, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Nice make up, you a RAIDER fan Capn?

  • Reply AmasolonTV November 8, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    You are a genius. I love your videos Captain.

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