Hoax Museum Blog: Pareidolia

See The Lord! — If you feel deprived because you've never had a vision of Jesus, here's your chance to see him float before your eyes. Just look at the image below and follow these instructions (via somareview).

1. Relax and concentrate on the four small dots in the middle of the image for roughly 30 or 40 seconds.
2. Then, stare at a blank wall near you (any smooth, single-colored surface will do).
3. You will see a circle of light developing—the onset of a holy vision.
4. Blink your eyes a few times as the figure begins to emerge.
5. What do you see? Or rather, who do you see?... Congratulations. You just had a religious sighting!


Once you've had your fun with that, consider this link (getbehindjesus.net) sent in by Phred who writes: "I suspect this was done with Photoshop and that its perpetrators firmly have their tongue in cheek but, see for yourself." I also think "get behind Jesus" was more than slightly enhanced by Photoshop (the superimposed image of Jesus helps to clarify the miracle). The link may not be safe for work (if a picture of a dog's posterior would offend your boss) or for people whose religious sensibilities would be easily offended.
Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006.   Comments (15)

Ghost Tree — imagePeople have been crowding around a seven-metre betel nut tree in Kuala Lumpur. The tree has developed what looks like a human face on one of its fronds, the reports say. The owner, Miah Majid, told reporters that the tree had previously sported the shape of an eye.

"Superstitious village elders have advised onlookers not to make any comments when they pass the tree, reports said. Other enterprising villagers are selling photographs of the face for 2 ringgit (US$0.55)."

Good to see a slightly lower-tech way of making money off it, rather then using eBay...

(Thanks, naiart.)
Posted: Wed Sep 13, 2006.   Comments (23)

Virgin Mary on Turtle — imageI'm posting a lot of these lately. I guess it's Religious Icon season or something.

Shirley McVane believes her two-year-old turtle is developing an image of the Virgin Mary on its belly.

"I told some of my friends, you know, 'I got a turtle,' and I said it has the image of the Virgin Mary on it, and I said it's getting plainer and plainer, and they said 'Yeah, Shirley, you're 81 years old. You think we believe that?' I said it's the truth, so now they all believe it," said McVane.
She has since renamed the turtle and its mate (you guessed it!) Mary and Joseph.

Is it just me, or are these getting weaker and weaker?
Cute turtle, though.

Posted: Mon Aug 28, 2006.   Comments (24)

Jesus in an Ultrasound — imageFollowing hot on the heels of the chocolate Virgin Mary (which, as many people pointed out, looked more like the Maltese Falcon) comes: Jesus as seen on an ultrasound picture.

Seven months through her pregnancy, Laura Turner went for a routine ultrasound. She already knew that her son had a cleft lip, and she and her partner had been told there was a possibility of the child having Down's Syndrome. She says that she didn't notice anything particularly odd about the scan until a friend pointed it out once they got home.

'The pregnancy has been fairly difficult so to see a likeness of Jesus in the picture gives me a lot of comfort.

'It's as if someone is watching over Joshua. It's helped make us feel more at ease and although I'm not very religious, seeing the picture does reassure me that things are going to turn out okay and that Joshua will be our little miracle.'

I suppose that, what with the difficult pregnancy, it's a very heartening sign for her.
Posted: Thu Aug 24, 2006.   Comments (12)

Chocolate Virgin Mary — imageIf the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich wasn't to your taste, how about the Virgin Mary discovered in chocolate drippings? Cruz Jacinto discovered the Holy Mother in drippings she was cleaning from a vat of chocolate in the kitchens of chocolatier to the stars, Martucci Angiano.

I can sort of see the shape of a cowled figure, I suppose, but that's about it.

"When I come in, the first thing I do is look at the clock, but this time I didn't look at the clock. My eyes went directly to the chocolate," Jacinto said. "I thought, 'Am I the only one who can see this? I picked it up and I felt emotion just come over me.

"For me, it was a sign."

For me? Not so much.
Posted: Fri Aug 18, 2006.   Comments (25)

Sun Serpent —
Status: Pareidolia
image Spaceweather.com reports that the Loch Ness Monster has been spotted... on the sun. Check out this picture taken by astrophotographer Gary Palmer of Los Angeles. It does look kind of like a serpent, and by the standards of proof applied to blurry images of Loch Ness, that means it must be a sun serpent! (Apparently the dark shapes are really solar filaments, "relatively cool, dense gas suspended above the surface of the Sun.") (via The Anomalist)
Posted: Thu Apr 20, 2006.   Comments (3)

Fish Spells Allah and Muhammad —
Status: Pareidolia
image Oscar, who's a fish, lives in a tank in Waterfoot, England. He's attracting quite a bit of attention because markings on one side of his body seem to spell out the name Allah in arabic script, while markings on his other side seem to spell out Muhammad. Since I don't know arabic, I'm not in a position to judge how much the markings look like these words. But at least saying that markings spell a word is a bit more cut-and-dry than saying that markings look like Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or someone else whose appearance is unknown. (And now that I think about it, I suppose the Muslim ban on images of Muhammad means that the world will never get to see pieces of toast or frying pans bearing the image of Muhammad.) People who have examined Oscar are quite confident that the markings haven't been painted on in any way. I'm sure Oscar's new-found status as a miracle fish won't hurt the price the pet shop owner can fetch for him. (Thanks to Paul Farrington for the link.)
Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006.   Comments (45)

Jesus in a Warming Tray —
Status: Pareidolia
image Shortly before Christmas workers at a Florida restaurant noticed that mineral deposits had created a face-like image on the bottom of one of the warming trays they were using. They knew right away that this had to be the face of Christ. (Who else would appear on a warming tray?) According to this MSNBC article "A spokesman for the Stadium Club says they will not continue to use the pan." In other words, Jesus has ruined a perfectly good warming tray. Thanks a lot, Jesus. I assume the next stop for the holy warming tray is eBay.
Posted: Tue Dec 27, 2005.   Comments (28)

Jesus Tree —
Status: Pareidolia
image The latest face of a deity to be seen in a random object is the face of Jesus that some people claim they can see in the trunk of a tree on North Clinton Avenue in Rochester, New York. They're now calling it the Jesus Tree. Most of the time, when people start claiming to see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich or Jesus in an oyster shell, I can at least make out the outline of a face. But in this case I can't see anything at all. Maybe you need to have more faith in order to be able to see it.
Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2005.   Comments (37)

Victor the Talking Budgie —
Status: In my opinion, a case of parrot pareidolia
image Victor is (or rather was) a budgie that, according to its owner, could speak in context. In other words, Victor could not only mimic words, as many birds can, but also carry on meaningful conversations. Victor has been a topic of discussion on the internet for over four years. However, I just became aware of him thanks to an email from Gretel Shuvzwichinstov. So here are the basic facts about Victor, as I understand them:

Victor belonged to Ryan Reynolds who, as he became aware that Victor was saying intelligible things, began to record him. Victor's conversations go something like this: Victor so cute. What will you do for Victor? Give me some carrot. I get lots of cheese, mmmm, cheese, cheese. So I talk too fast, so whatever! Reynolds has made many audio recordings of Victor available on his website. There are also videos of Victor speaking. Victor died in 2000, so it's impossible for anyone else to study him. Which is one of the reasons why a lot of people suspect Victor is simply an elaborate hoax concocted by Reynolds.

Another reason why this all might be a hoax is that budgies are not generally known for being able to carry on meaningful conversations. Also, Reynolds seems to be one of the very few people who can extract anything intelligible out of the weird noises Victor made. Though I can definitely catch the occasional word, most of Victor's squawks sound like something out of The Exorcist to me. I half suspect that if you played them backwards, you'd discover Victor was muttering Satanic curses in ancient Aramaic. If the Electronic Voice Phenomena advocates (the people who swear they can hear coffee pots talking to them) got hold of Victor, they would probably conclude he was channelling spirits from beyond.

In Reynolds' favor, he seems to passionately believe in Victor and, more generally, in the idea that birds possess the capacity for complex speech. He states that:

A majority of the people that come to this site embrace it for what it really is. A truthful study of a talking parrot that could speak in conversational language. However the claims that some make about it being a hoax are ridiculous and have no grounds whatsoever. Individuals who make these claims should understand that they are slandering me, especially if they say it in an open forum in writing. I do not take this lightly as I have worked very hard on these sites during the past few years to be libeled so unfairly.

So my hunch is that Reynolds is sincere (i.e. this isn't a deliberate hoax), but he's convinced himself there's something meaningful in a bird's random chatter. Making this an example of audio pareidolia.
Posted: Sun Oct 23, 2005.   Comments (42)

I See Jesus — Pareidolia is defined as the perception of meaningful images in random patterns. In other words, seeing things that aren't really there. For instance, people might see a face in a cloud. Or they might see the Virgin Mary in the window of a Boston hospital. When people start seeing religious images on the walls or windows of buildings, it almost always leads to good business for the business affected, as massive crowds flock there to see the image. So now there's a company calling itself ISeeJesus.com that will facilitate the appearance of religious images at your place of business via 'special prayer techniques.' How you take advantage of the crowds that will then flock to see the image is up to you.
Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2004.   Comments (0)

Pareidolia Collection — A very extensive collection of Pareidolia data has been collected by a guy calling himself The Folklorist. Pareidolia, in case you don't remember this word from high-school english class, is the phenomenon of seeing meaningful images in random patterns. Examples would include seeing the number 666 on the wall of the Alamo, seeing the figure of the Virgin Mary in the window of a Boston hospital, or seeing the head of an Indian chief in your door.
Posted: Sun Oct 19, 2003.   Comments (0)

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