Page 15 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper February/March 2018 Edition
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Pareidolia: Seeing Faces In Clouds                                                                                 15

            Pareidolia: Seeing Faces

                 in Unusual Places

                By Kim Ann Zimmermann

          To some observers, it looked like an ordinary
          grilled cheese sandwich. But to the Miami
          woman who put it up for sale on eBay, and to
          some people who viewed it, there was an image
          of the  Virgin Mary seared on this seemingly
          run-of-the-mill snack.
                 The psychological phenomenon that
          causes some people to see or hear a vague or
          random image or sound as something
          significant is known as pareidolia (par-i-DOH-
                 The word is derived from the Greek
          words para, meaning something faulty, wrong,
          instead of, and the noun eidōlon, meaning
          image, form or shape. Pareidolia is a type of
          apophenia, which is a more generalized term for
          seeing patterns in random data.
                                                          on Palm Sunday in 2005.                        groups of hills," he wrote in a passage in one of
                 Some common examples are seeing a
                                                                 In 2007 in Singapore, a callus on a tree  his extensive notebooks.
          likeness of Jesus in the clouds or an image of a
                                                          resembled a monkey, leading believers to pay           Sometimes artists use this phenomenon
          man on the surface of the moon.
                                                          homage to the "Monkey god."                    to their advantage by embedding hidden images
                                                                 A cinnamon bun bearing a likeness of    in their work. Observers often view other
          Famous examples of pareidolia
                                                          Mother Teresa was first discovered at the Bongo  objects in Georgia O'Keeffe's flower paintings,
                                                          Java Café in Belmont, Tenn. It was on display  for example.
          A prime example of pareidolia and its
                                                          for about 10 years, until it was stolen on             In 1971, the Latvian writer and
          connection to religious images is the Shroud of
                                                          Christmas day in 2007.                         intellectual Konstantīns Raudive detailed what
          Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a man —
                                                                 In 2012, many people made a             he believed was the discovery of electronic
          which some believe to be Jesus — who appears
                                                          pilgrimage to a tree at 60th Street and        voice phenomenon (EVP). EVP has been
          to have suffered trauma consistent with
                                                          Bergenline Avenue in West New York, N.J., to   described as "auditory pareidolia."  The
          crucifixion.  The negative image was first
                                                          see a scar on the tree that some believed looked  allegations of hidden messages in popular music
          observed in 1898, on the reverse photographic   like the image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe    have also been described as auditory pareidolia.
          plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia,
                                                          depiction of the Virgin Mary.                          The Rorschach inkblot test uses
          who was allowed to photograph it while it was
                                                                                                         pareidolia in an attempt to gain insight into a
          being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral.         Why pareidolia happens                         person's mental state. Since the cards have been
                 Some visitors to St. Mary's in Rathkaele,
                                                                                                         designed without any specific image in mind,
          Ireland, say a tree stump outside of the church
                                                          There are a number of theories as to the cause of  this is an example of "directed pareidolia." []
          bears a silhouette of the Virgin Mary.
                                                          this phenomenon. Experts say pareidolia
                  Damage to the Pedra da Gávea, an
                                                          provides a psychological determination for
          enormous rock outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
                                                          many delusions that involve the senses.  They
          created an impression that many interpret as a
          human face.                                     believe pareidolia could be behind numerous
                                                          sightings of UFOs, Elvis and the Loch Ness
                 Many people thought images taken in
                                                          Monster and the hearing of disturbing messages
          1976 by the Viking 1 mission showed a face on
                                                          on records when they are played backwards.
          Mars that could have been the remnants of an
                                                                 Pareidolia often has religious overtones.
          ancient civilization.
                                                          A study in Finland found that people who are
                 In September 1969, conspiracy theorists
                                                          religious or believe strongly in the supernatural
          claimed some Beatles records contained clues to
                                                          are more likely to see faces in lifeless objects
          Paul McCartney's supposed death. Many heard
                                                          and landscapes.
          the words "Paul is dead," when the song
          "Strawberry Fields Forever" was played                 Carl Sagan, the American cosmologist
                                                          and author, made the case that pareidolia was a
          backwards, a process known as backmasking.
                                                          survival tool. In his 1995 book, "The Demon-
                 This is a common urban legend often                                                                      WATCH
                                                          Haunted  World – Science as a Candle in the
          repeated to this day.                                                                              THE ‘X’ ZONE CHANNEL
                                                          Dark," he argued that this ability to recognize
                 In 1977, the appearance of Jesus Christ
                                                          faces from a distance or in poor visibility was an
          on a flour tortilla set the international standard
                                                          important survival technique. While this instinct
          for miracle sightings. It happened in the small
                                                          enables humans to instantly judge whether an
          town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, 40 minutes
                                                          oncoming person is a friend or foe, Sagan noted
          south of Roswell.
                 Diane Duyser of Miami sold a 10-year-    that it could result in some misinterpretation of
                                                          random images or patterns of light and shade as
          old grilled cheese sandwich, which she said
                                                          being faces.
          bore the image of Jesus, for $28,000 on eBay in
                                                                   Leonardo da  Vinci wrote about
                                                          pareidolia as an artistic device. "If you look at
                 In 2004, Steve Cragg, youth director at
                                                          any walls spotted with various stains or with a
          Memorial Drive United Methodist Church in
                                                          mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are
          Houston,  Texas, discovered a Cheeto that
                                                          about to invent some scene you will be able to
          looked like Jesus.
                                                          see in it a resemblance to various different
                 Donna Lee of  Toledo, Ohio, saw an
          image of Jesus on a pierogi she was preparing   landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers,  
                                                          rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various
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