Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

“Elephant Man” Pareidolia


elephant-manpareidoliaI received this photo from Carlos Santos, from Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal. “I took this picture of a house near mine, I was just experimenting, but later found the face you can see when zooming in… and I can’t find a valid explanation”, Santos wrote me.

He sent the original file, and besides being a fascinating and slightly spooky image, it shows no evidence of tampering I could find. Perhaps it’s the expression, perhaps it’s because it’s in black and white, or because it does not show a complete face, but it looks eerily similar to Joseph Carey Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man as portrayed in the movies.

Keep reading for a suggested explanation (well, it’s in the title, but anyway).


Though 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 including the light from the flash, that face must have appeared.

I asked Santos if he had other pictures of the same place but from slightly different angles, and he kindly sent me another photo, “taken five minutes after the first”. I post a cropped and enhanced version below:


Highlighted by the circle (click to enlarge) is the area of exposed concrete (it could also be plaster) which I think created the illusion of a face.

A very nice illusion, must I emphasize. Folks suggested it also looks like the Moon Face of George Meliés, the expressiveness of Klaus Kinski, Edward Scissorhands and even Robocop.


Well, for once it doesn’t look like Jesus. [Many thanks to Carlos Santos and Maracuja]

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Posted in Fortean,Ghosts,Skepticism | 3 comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Mike April 7th, 2009 10:54 pm

    Looks like the guy from Eraserhead to me ..

  2. mactonnies (Mac Tonnies) April 11th, 2009 9:41 pm

    The “Elephant Man” and pareidolia: http://tinyurl.com/cttulg

  3. Huberaime November 23rd, 2010 2:52 pm

    I love your blog. But in this case, you don’t explain anything and the mystery remains unsolved.
    Carry on, it’s a very intelligent entertainment, and a treat to read you Huberaime

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