Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Best Pareidolia Ever

unexplained-face

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”.

Child?

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:

jesussimpsonized

[/UPDATE]

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.

WemTownHallGhostGirl 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.

WemTownHallGhostGirlclos32

[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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Posted in Ghosts,Skepticism | 53 comments

53 Comments so far

  1. [...] Mais detalhes sobre a fotografia acima, a fantasma da Wem Town Hall na Inglaterra, na versão em inglês deste post (incluindo fotos com melhor resolução). Atualizaremos a página da seção de fotos de fantasmas [...]

  2. jeff_robertson (jeff_robertson) November 20th, 2008 2:48 pm

    Ok, this is creeping me out: http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  3. mahatmadave (Dave Bastian) November 20th, 2008 2:56 pm

    investigating your favorite six-syllable phenomena (pareidolia) – http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  4. BrandonD November 20th, 2008 6:08 pm

    Interesting article, though to be intellectually honest Occam’s Razor does not favor the pareidolia idea for the fire photo. It only favors that “explanation” if you assume that the existence of ghosts is statistically less likely than a camera snapping a photo right at the moment of an amorphous puff of smoke creating the perfect rendition of a human child.

    Additionally, there are obvious psychological reasons why the first photo inclines the viewer to see a face. Firstly, and probably most importantly, the photo is of very poor quality. One can’t even make out what is going on at first. In the second photo, one can tell right away that one is looking at a burned-out building.

    Secondly, the lower two-thirds of the photo is almost entirely dark, and the largest white space is the area where the “face” is. Psychologically, one is immediately drawn to the area of contrast in a largely homogenous visual space.

    In my opinion, this is another example of how the Occam’s Razor argument generally serves whatever point of view one would like it to serve.

  5. mariachisamurai (Lorenzo Lambertino) November 20th, 2008 7:55 pm

    Word of the day: Pareidoilia… http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  6. mariachisamurai (Lorenzo Lambertino) November 20th, 2008 7:55 pm

    Word of the day: “Pareidolia” http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  7. Hellblazer (John Raptis) November 20th, 2008 10:10 pm

    Spooky! But oh so damn cool! – http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  8. dmduncan November 20th, 2008 10:12 pm

    The first case is obviously pareidolia. I can’t say that for the second though. In the first case you are seeing something that you can look at two different ways: Either as giant bearded profile or baby and vegetation. So you could say that the baby and the vegetation are so perfectly arranged that it looks like a profile. Pareidolia. But in the second case there’s nothing apparently that could be misinterpreted as a ghostly girl. Looking and looking and looking at it, I’m not experiencing that moment of “switching” where I see it as something else. It always looks exactly like a girl. So I could not honestly call that a case of pareidolia; I think as a reasonable guideline, to call something pareidolia, one should be able to experience the moment of “switching” and also be able to identify both halves of the phenomenon, i.e., both what it looks like and what it actually is. And in the second case I am unable to do that.

  9. Líquito 03 | Sedentário & Hiperativo November 21st, 2008 1:30 am

    [...] mais um exemplo espetacular de pareidolia em CeticismoAberto, com a imagem em alta resolução na versão em inglês desta nota. A versão inglesa do que escrevemos foi indicada no popular BoingBoing, onde os fiéis leitores [...]

  10. [...] pareidolia… [...]

  11. Thepunkguy » slinky arms. November 21st, 2008 11:44 am

    [...] Best Pareidolia Ever … THAT MEANS THIS. CHeck out a creepy pict [...]

  12. [...] figures’ habit of appearing in mildew stains and potato chips). A couple of skeptics weigh in here and [...]

  13. fortyseven (Fortyseven) November 23rd, 2008 11:15 pm
  14. Emmet (Emmet O'Neill) December 3rd, 2008 3:10 am

    Always been interested in pareidolia and the relationship between seeing shapes in randomness and creating art. http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  15. Pareidolia | Latente Foto Blog December 3rd, 2008 7:04 am

    [...] via: paolo attivissimo | forgetomori [...]

  16. [...] vero? Un altro sito, forgetmori.com, propone come altro caso di straordinaria pareidolia, la celebre foto di un presunto fantasma. [...]

  17. [...] L’effetto è così marcato che dovreste poter “commutare” volontariamente da una interpretazione all’altra. Se non ci riuscite, date un’occhiata a questa versione colorizzata dell’immagine. [...]

  18. adityab (Aditya Bidikar) December 4th, 2008 1:21 am

    jesus pareidolia: http://is.gd/aaQz

  19. 7c0h » Pareidolia December 10th, 2008 9:07 am

    [...] Imágen cortesía de Forgetomori [...]

  20. Crucified Alien MRI Pareidolia | forgetomori December 13th, 2008 1:35 am

    [...] Pareidolia can be quite surprising indeed, though in these cases it is just slightly amusing. Virgin Mary in a brain scan is more easy to discuss in a dinner table than these ones from the lower parts which end up inevitably involving intestines and bladders, gases and urine. [...]

  21. pickover (Cliff Pickover) December 24th, 2008 7:16 am

    When does a pareidolia pattern become so impressive that we doubt reality, doubt ourselves, doubt what is real? http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  22. Jesus Olmo December 24th, 2008 10:51 pm
  23. [...] sympathize strongly with him. That and his down-to-earth commentary: “Looks like the images are pareidolia. In the first image, they’re shooting through a spider web, and I think that’s what the [...]

  24. Remembering Forgetomori ’2008 | forgetomori December 31st, 2008 7:46 pm

    [...] the best pareidolia ever processed with [...]

  25. [...] the complete reference list for the pics: Now Voyager Noantry Wayfinder Driven, Bioephemera Forgetomori weird-encyclopedia Naked Science [...]

  26. [...] I recall correctly, rational individuals eventually concluded that it was only a case of pareidolia, and that “Simone” was merely a reversal of the word [...]

  27. silent sorrow January 11th, 2009 7:57 am

    Well, I think that the case of the ghost girl is so impressive because we haven’t had such a good colorization like we did in the first case: I looked at the baby-Christ the second time when I showed it to my wife and I switched immediately to the “right” image (and she did not unless I scrolled to the colour photograph…).
    So, if someone tries to make the same “outlining” with colours or shadows it could reveal something different … or maybe not !!!

  28. silent sorrow January 11th, 2009 7:58 am

    … Congratulations for this website !

    Rapidly became one of my favourites !!!

    See you soon …

  29. [...] of this World” did a good take on the Wem Town Hall “ghost” that we mentioned as an impressive example of pareidolia. They present videos of the actual fire, present the case and myth, and the latest information I [...]

  30. fipz (zd??) January 19th, 2009 11:39 pm

    Pareidolia. A beautiful word, and now one of my favorite things in photography http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  31. [...] Mit Pareidolie – vom griechischen “para” – daneben, vorbei – und “eidolos” Bild, Erscheinung – bezeichnet man die Tendez des Gerhins, Muster und Bilder auch in zufälligen Strukturen zu finden. Das bekannteste Beispiel – zumindest jedem X-Com-Spieler bekannt – dürfte das Marsgesicht bei Cydonia Mensae sein. Ebenso ist auch das Sehen des Teufels im Rauch des World Trade Centers eine Pareidolie. Einen sehr guten Fall von Pareidolie kann man auch auf forgetomori anschauen. [...]

  32. [...] the face looks very detailed, we suggest nevertheless it’s merely pareidolia. Apparently there’s a patch of exposed concrete inside the room, and due to various factors [...]

  33. [...] speech, your brain tries very hard to find some meaning, giving way to a sort of auditory paredolia. So, when someone gives you that meaning, you are actually able to hear it.This effect is funny [...]

  34. [...] any rate, I’ve had fun poking around the examples at Fortean Times, forgetomori and Flickr. Sadly, when I filled our water jugs, I accidentally blotted the guy’s eye out and [...]

  35. [...] Pareidolia . tagged under: limerick.pareidolia.tree stump.virgin mary Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumble | Reddit [...]

  36. paranormalteam (Paranormal Team) July 21st, 2009 4:01 pm

    @jrnygirl could be, but it could also be your brain making you see things. look at this for an awesome example http://tinyurl.com/5ja7ke

  37. shamelessmgmt (Seth & Beef) September 17th, 2009 8:46 pm

    RT @MaggieHorn @JasmineSolano your grind is unfuckwittable mama RT @shamelessmgmt: RT @923NowFM: Hello To Jasmine Solano http://bit.ly/x4XY

  38. jasminesolano (JASMiNE SOLANO) September 17th, 2009 8:48 pm

    (A new term, eh?) RT @MaggieHorn @JasmineSolano your grind is unfuckwittable mama RT @shamelessmgmt: RT @923NowFM: http://bit.ly/x4XY

  39. Roberto December 18th, 2009 8:15 am

    In fact, that is pareidolia-inside-pareidolia, since most people will identify Jesus were there is only a bearded man which is not a bearded man either. Very insightful.

  40. [...] On Pareidolia [...]

  41. tribe.net: forgetomori.com March 4th, 2010 7:55 pm

    Re: Earthquakes, Einstein and the Sun…

    Why arrogant? Can you offer a reasonable argument to explain why what you’re……

  42. Joy Maguire March 22nd, 2010 12:13 pm

    why do some just want to write off spirits as real.
    This is not a pareidoia!

  43. [...] ????????: ?-Bad Astronomy, ???????????? (????? ???? [...]

  44. Arlei May 25th, 2010 1:55 pm

    Cetismoaberto.com and forgetomori.com are daily readings for me. Congratulations for the job. About the “Wem Town ghost”, today I found this link:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1279329/Wem-ghost-picture-mystery-resolved-eagled-eyed-pensioner.html

    I think it’s quite clear…

    Arlei Rockenbach, Santa Maria, RS

  45. AorphiA June 30th, 2010 4:00 am

    As per… “Note how her “head” is closely related with the railing, and an horizontal line near her “waist” actually passes in front of the door.”

    I’m not sure if this statement is suppose to be a validation of an illusion or what the point of that statement is suppose to mean.

    Actually ghost are in fact transparent and can appear in front and behind objects all at the same time. In other words, a ghost can be in two places at once.

    I can understand how just a face could come off as an illusion, but to show an entire body with such detail and the face is proof that the girl in the photo is in fact a ghost.

  46. Wem ghost photo solved | forgetomori July 13th, 2010 3:27 am

    [...] it is. As you may remember, we initially thought the intriguing British Wem ghost photo could be an impressive example of pareidolia, but then discovered that Will Stapp from the National Museum of Photography in Bradford, had [...]

  47. Misteri Foto Wem Town Hall « The Kesgar September 27th, 2010 2:02 am

    [...] http://forgetomori.com/2008/skepticism/best-pareidolia-ever/ Awal mula dari foto tersebut mulai di-investigasi. [...]

  48. Quezi » What is pareidolia? February 7th, 2011 2:40 pm

    [...] you see anything but the face of Jesus in this remarkable image? I couldn’t either. In fact, I did not recognize that there were people in the photo until a [...]

  49. [...] We hike to this rock nicknamed ‘the Cathedral’, on the left bank. When I looked at the photo at home, I realized one can sight like a king’s face staring at us severely. This illusion that there are faces everywhere is called pareidolia. See an amazing example of this phenomenon HERE. [...]

  50. Altri esempi di pareidolia July 6th, 2011 6:15 pm

    [...] Mori, Best Pareidolia Ever, "Forgetomori", 20 novembre 2008 http://forgetomori.com/2008/skepticism/best-pareidolia-ever/ [...]

  51. Eric March 30th, 2013 1:41 am

    I don’t know if you know, but The Wem Ghost Photo has been proven to be fake.

    Some sharp-eyed person noticed a very old postcard with the exact same girl on it.

    Google it up, it’s an interesting resolution, and proof that the “photographer” lied until his death about it.

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