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We Have Questions About This Viral Video of a Person Turned Into A Tree

The truth is...complicated.

Tree spirits exist in many cultures, from the famous dryads of Greek mythology to the Green Man or wild man of the woods from Medieval European folklore. Other cultures do not turn their tree spirits into humanoid shapes, but instead believe the trees themselves have souls. This viral TikTok video, which already has 1.4 million views, purports to be of a person who has somehow become merged and trapped with a tree.

But what is actually going on? Turns out, the illusion is the result of a bizarre natural formation, some artistic ingenuity, and our human brain’s ability to fill in the blanks.

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Though the thousands of people sharing and commenting on this video are concerned that what you are seeing is indeed the remains of a human being that has either been trapped or claimed by the roots of a tree, the truth is more complicated and less fantastical. 

The “body” of this shape is indeed part of the trees root system, which looks very much like the torso and legs of a human being. However, the head is an art project—a skull that has either been covered with tree bark to make it look like part of the tree or painted in a similar manner. The hair coming from this skull is also part of the fake. In fact, once you examine the torso without the head, it doesn't look all that human after all. 

Our ability to make a whole out of this conglomeration, to see human body in a tangle of tree limbs, is called pareidolia.

Pareidolia is the human brain’s tendency to see patterns or lifelike figures in random shapes in nature. If you’ve ever looked for pictures in clouds, or agreed that constellations do indeed look like belts or water dippers, you can thank your sense of pareidolia.