Have you seen Jesus today? The photo above may be a good chance. Sent by Jessica Lundgren from Sweden to paranormal.about.com, you can see the clear profile of a giant bearded man with closed eyes. It does resemble common representations of a fellow named Jesus. Even though that enormous Jesus head doesn’t quite fit into the rest of the image. What’s going on there? Jessica writes that “the child died short after the photo was taken”.
If you look carefully you may recognize that the photo is of a Victorian couple, with a small child sitting on the knee of the man. And then you may realize that that child is Jesus. Or rather that the big white hat of the little one is Jesus’ forehead and his tiny right forearm is Lord’s upper beard. Jesus’ hair is the vegetation in the background. Simply amazing.
[UPDATE] In Simpsons’ colors:
Richelle Hawks makes some further comments, and finds some other less impressive pareidolia in that same old image. “What is most likely, and maybe no less compelling—are the false head and other anomalies just ‘meaningless’ coincidences in which we find/attach/force/desire meaning?”, she asks.
That we first realize a giant face in the photo, even though it doesn’t fit the rest of the image, is probably not a coincidence. We have more neurons dedicated to promptly identifying faces than the ones that recognize Victorian kids sitting on their dad’s lap. That’s why pareidolia happens so often with faces. You don’t usually see Victorian kids in the clouds.
An explanation that I hope doesn’t make this any less compelling: this is really the best pareidolia case ever. Want more? Keep reading for another interesting – and classic, and perhaps controversial – example.
You do see that girl in white looking through the door, don’t you? That’s very clear. And it wouldn’t be scary to anyone if it weren’t for the fact that that photo was taken while that building, which was the Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England, burned to the ground on November 19, 1995. Nobody saw the girl there, including the photographer, and no one could be there during the fire.
The negative was examined by Dr. Vernon Harrison, former president of the Royal Photographic Society, who found no evidence of tampering. And then, there were the stories that there was a little girl that accidentally provoked fires around some centuries ago. Was that little Jane Churm? More on about.com and an interview with David Taylor.
If the photo isn’t a hoax, then the two most common explanations for it must be ghost or… pareidolia. Occam’s razor favors the pareidolia idea, and I think our little child-Jesus may help us realize just how amazing pareidolia can be.
Of course, that doesn’t prove beyond a doubt that that couldn’t be poor tormented Jane Churm’s spirit. Some, perhaps a lot of people, will not be convinced. For my part, I must confess I always thought the Wem Town Hall ghost was an impressive, albeit not supernatural, simulacrum. In fact, it was the best pareidolia case I knew until now.
At least I think we can all agree that the child-Jesus is no real Jesus. As for this little girl, I will let you haunted by these thoughts:
Note how her “head” is closely related with the railing, and an horizontal line near her “waist” actually passes in front of the door.
[Child-Jesus pareidolia via TDG]
UPDATE: Salutations, BoingBoingers! More nice pareidolia examples here: Ghostly Simulacrum.
UPDATE: New analysis suggests the Wem Town Hall ghost photograph is a hoax.
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