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“Elephant Man” Pareidolia

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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).

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The second-best pareidolia… a hoax?

“Out 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 had that analysis by Vernon Harrison on the negatives didn’t find any evidence of tampering. Thus, it seemed it was either a real ghost or a simulacrum.

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But they went further and had the negative examined at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford. Keep reading to watch the second part and their surprising finds.

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Old Man Winter and a creepy ghost pareidolia

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Another impressive example of pareidolia, found by Jeremy Olden in his house at Lake Stevens, Seattle. Keep reading for the full image and a slightly creepy video showing our brain’s pattern-recognition machine – or something supernatural, you decide.

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Crucified Alien MRI Pareidolia

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The Apparition of Virgin Mary in the inverted MRI scan of Pamela Latrimore’s brain is making the rounds, which was the opportunity for us to show here the exclusive, never-before-seen and almost as moving related religious imagery of the crucified alien above. That comes from a hip MRI scan of another woman. The amount of detail is quite interesting, you can even feel the pain of the alien (or would it be The Passion of the Grey?).

Well, enough of the unfunny jokes. Doctor Marco Lazzeri kindly clarified to us that:

crucifiedalienscanfullthumb432 “It’s a hip MRI, performed in the coronal plane (front to back). This is one of the last sections, far to the back. The black circle, [which also looks like a monster face] up there is the large intestine, sectioned. The head of the alien/anti-Christ is a piece of the uterus, and the eyes are the normal uterine veins. The body is composed of parts of the uterus and the vagina. The arms are the large uterus ligaments. Coming out of its feet, that black line, is gas inside the vagina. Those white “little fingers” a bit further down are the vulva labia. Everything white is fat, in vaginal labia, thighs and inside the pelvis.”

Which means, obviously, that that’s just pareidolia, our pattern-hungry brains recognizing not so arbitrary things in very arbitrary images. Things that are not really there. And Brazil has also been the stage for another interesting example of pareidolia from diagnostic methods.

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Seeing the comparison above, you can somehow see that there’s something like a vague impression of the man on the right in the x-ray on the left. Mostly the ears and eyes. Well, some people think that’s a miracle, or at least, proof of one.

In the cities of Pará de Minas and Leandro Ferreira, Minas Gerais, there are many stories from people who believe they were cured thanks to “father Libério”, a local catholic priest deceased in 1980 who, though not officially, is worshiped by the locals as a saint.

Last year, young student Walace de Souza was hit in a road, breaking his pelvis and suffering from internal hemorrhage. Doctors “gave him three days left to live”, tells his father.

But two months later Walace was not only still alive, he was able to stand up. The recovery was “miraculous”, which only made their surprise greater when they saw the x-ray of Walace’s pelvis. Yes, the man who appears in his pelvis is father Libério, the non-official saint.

The local church is investigating if that would be considered a miracle to be included in the process to canonize Libério, but Fantástico TV show quoted doctor Paulo Bahia classifying it as an “optical illusion”.

“The eyes are formed by the sacrum, that is the bone that makes up part of the pelvis, the ears are formed by the ilia, also a bone structure of the pelvis, the mouth is gas from the intestines, as well as the face is partially formed by the bladder that is full in this case”, he explained.

If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, guess what Walace de Souza was doing when he was hit in the road? He was taking part in a religious procession. I can certainly understand that he and his family were glad with the recovery and were prone to see divine intervention rather than a bad diagnostic, but this is surely a case where faith didn’t help very much in the first place.

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.

Sure, they are, for the exact same reasons, funnier. Haha, this post has the v-word. Three times.

[Many thanks to Marco Lazzeri]

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Best Pareidolia Ever

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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:

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[/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.

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