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Brain Teaser #16

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Solve the mystery of the blue dragon tattoo.

One day, a man, John, was shopping in Stuff-Mart looking for a curling iron for his wife Jules. As he looked around he decided to begin reading the signs above the aisles to see if he could find any clue as to where the curling irons might be located. When he looked up at one of the signs he noticed something quite strange in one of the mirrors mounted in the corner of the ceiling – a man with a large blue tattoo was placing a hairdryer inside his trench coat. Noting this as a suspicious action, the man went to Stuff-Mart Security and reported the incident. After hearing his testimony the local Police Department was phoned and asked to send out a detective. This is what took place when Detective Rodgers arrived:

“Hello, Mr. …” said Detective Rodgers.

“Smith, John Smith”, supplied John.

“Mr. Smith,” Rodgers confirmed. “My name is Detective Rodgers. Why don’t you tell me exactly what you saw.”

“Well, Detective Rodgers, sir, I was looking for a curling iron for my wife Jules when I looked up at the aisle signs and noticed a man in the mirror placing an expensive-looking hairdryer in his coat.”

“Was there anything noticeable about this man other than the fact that he was hiding a hair-dryer in his coat?” inquired Rodgers.

“Well sir, I did see in the mirror that he had a large blue tattoo of what appeared to be a Chinese dragon on his left arm.” responded John.

“Thank you, sir. If you’ll be so kind as to excuse me for a moment while I phone this into the station so they can be on lookout for anyone with a blue Chinese Dragon tattoo.”

—Moments Later—

“Sir,” Says Detective Rodgers. “Please come with me down to the station, we have picked up several suspects and we would like you to identify the man that you saw.”

“Of course, Detective,” replies Smith.

At the station, Detective Rodgers takes John into a room where he can look in on the suspects and ID the culprit. When he looks through the glass he sees five men all with blue Chinese dragons tattooed on an arm. After looking at the five men John points out the only one who had a blue tattoo on his left arm as the culprit. Detective Rodgers considered this for a moment and then asks John to retell the story of how he came to witness the theft. John, of course, eager to help, complies immediately. The Detective thinks over the tale careful before he comes to a conclusion.

“Mr. Smith,” Says Rodgers in a thoughtful tone. “I regret to inform you that this cannot be the man you saw with the tattoo on his left arm in the mirror.”

How did Detective Rodgers know that John Smith was mistaken in his identification of the culprit?

Show Hint


Think back to how John Smith said he spotted the thief in a mirror.

Show Answer


Detective Rodgers knew Smith was mistaken because John had said that he saw in the mirror that the blue Chinese dragon tattoo was on the man’s left arm. Rodgers took into consideration one thing that John did not: In the mirror it would have seemed that the tattoo was on the thief’s left arm, but in reality it would have been on the thief’s right arm.

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