Puzzling World

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Puzzling World
FounderStuart Landsborough
HeadquartersWanaka, New Zealand

Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World is a tourist attraction near Wanaka, New Zealand. It began as a single storey maze in 1973, gradually expanding to become an award-winning complex of optical illusions and puzzling rooms and the world's first 3-D maze. Puzzling World is best known for its Leaning Tower of Wanaka and eccentric lavatory styled as a Roman bathroom. As of 2013 Puzzling World had received in excess of 3 million visitors and now attracts around a quarter of a million people a year.[1]


Puzzling World, originally a single level wooden maze at Wanaka in the Queenstown area of New Zealand, opened in 1973.[2] It was the brainchild of Stuart and Jan Landsborough who had been forced to sell their house to raise money for the venture after being refused a bank loan. In the first year the park received 17,600 visitors. A puzzle centre was added in 1979 and a second level added to the maze 3 years later. The park continued to develop with the signature leaning tower being added in 1999 with a backwards running millennium clock face.[3] Landsborough credits his father with instilling in him an imaginative business sense and believes that part of the reason for the park's success is because he advertises to attract adults rather than children.[4]

In 2010 the park began a $2.5 million NZD extension with special effects designed by Weta Workshop, props and effects designers for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.[3]

Since 2004 Puzzling World has been run by Stuart's daughter, Heidi Landsborough, and her husband, operations manager Duncan Spear.[5] As of 2016 the site receives in the region of 250,000 visitors per annum.[6]

in 2016 Puzzling World was the overall winner of the Ignite Wanaka Business Awards and was described as "high-performing, unique and sustainable...with very low staff turnover."[5] The SculptIllusion Gallery was recipient of a national award in the New Zealand Commercial Building Awards 2014.[7]

During the Wanaka earthquake of 2015 people had to be evacuated while some visitors reported they thought it was part of the experience.[8][9]

Puzzling World is the official sponsor of Junior Challenge Wanaka, a junior triathlon and part of New Zealand's largest triathlon festival.[10]

A seemingly floating tap in the SculptIllusion Gallery


The SculptIllusion Gallery[edit]

The Sculptillusion gallery is a large illusion room which opened in December 2012. It contains impossible objects, perspective paintings and reversible figures. The sculptures include a tap seemingly suspended in mid air and a floating bench, as well as architectural features such as a stone carpet and living wall, created by New Zealand sculptors and designers. The building also contains several Jerry Andrus illusions including Crazy Nuts (an impossible nuts and bolts interactive illusion) and The Magic Square logic puzzle. There is also an area devoted to advertisements and familiar products which plays with how the viewer sees recognisable company logos.[11][12] Other features include stained glass windows with geometrical patterns and an area for conferences.[11]

The Leaning Tower of Wanaka[edit]

The Leaning Tower appearing to balance precariously on one corner

The Leaning Tower of Wanaka is, as the name implies, a tower that is seemingly impossibly balanced on one corner, making the whole structure lean at an angle of 53 degrees to the ground.[13]

Optical illusion rooms[edit]

Puzzling World wall of faces

The optical illusion rooms include a set of rooms built at a 15 degree angle, containing illusions such as water apparently flowing uphill, the octagonal "Hall of Following Faces" with spot-lit hollow mask illusions on the walls, created by artist and sculptor Derek Ball,[14] and an Ames Room, a perspectively confusing room with a delayed video feed where visitors can see themselves afterwards with seemingly different heights depending on where they were positioned.[15]

Puzzling World also has a tilted house illusion where water appears to flow backwards and perception is unsettlingly distorted.[4]

3D maze[edit]

Puzzling World features a large maze in which the traveller must reach four corner towers before finding the middle courtyard (emergency doors are included for those who struggle).

Psychic challenge[edit]

The operators of Puzzling World have for many years offered a monetary prize for anybody who can prove they have psychic powers; potential winners need to use their powers to locate a specific item located somewhere on the Puzzling World site.[2] When the challenge began the prize was originally $50,000 NZD, for which any participant was required to find two halves of a promissory note which had been hidden within 5 km of the building. This was then reduced to a radius of 200 meters, and finally in 2006, when the prize was doubled to $100,000 NZD, 100 meters. Any 'psychic' participant is required to pay $1000 to take part (apparently to ensure no time wasters). For this they may sit in a room for 30 minutes with Stuart Landsborough seated behind a screen and ask questions while he visualises responses. The participant then has an hour to find the notes. To date the prize has not been claimed, although seven "professional" psychics have attempted the challenge, including a diviner and a man who prayed to locate them but failed to come back with an answer.[12][4][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, Tim. "Puzzling World supreme". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Stuart Landsborough's Puzzling World New Zealand's epic shrine to all things puzzling". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b Haggart, Matthew. "Illusion garden part of $2.5m extension". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Saunders, Richard. "Puzzling World #425". The Skeptic Zone. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Puzzling World wins Wanaka's inaugural business awards". Stuff (business). Fairfax Media. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  6. ^ Miller, Tim. "Puzzling World supreme". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  7. ^ Bryant, Grant. "Wanaka building wins national titles". Southland Times (via Stuff). Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  8. ^ "5.6 magnitude quake strikes New Zealand". RT News. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  9. ^ "Tourists at Wanaka's Puzzling World thought 5.8m quake was part of experience". TVNZ: One News. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Junior Challenge Wanaka". Challenge Wanaka. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  11. ^ a b "New ways to puzzle the punters". Otago Daily News. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b Gerbic, Susan. "Puzzling World - NZ". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  13. ^ 'Leaning and tumbling towers' on Puzzling World website, viewed 2011-07-30
  14. ^ Berwick, Louise. "Artist aims to create illusions". Nelson Mail (via Stuff). Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  15. ^ "STUART LANDSBOROUGH'S PUZZLING WORLD, WANAKA". Exploring New Zealand. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  16. ^ Gerbic, Susan (August 25, 2017). "Puzzling World - NZ". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2018-01-05. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°41′49″S 169°09′43″E / 44.697°S 169.162°E / -44.697; 169.162