Is it pareidolia gone rampant, or a snapshot of the supernatural — sort of the “portrait of a portal”?
Pareidolia is when we’re self-programmed to see certain forms in nebulous images like clouds — in other words, to subjectively presuppose something. The mind plays tricks, or so psychologists tell us. You have heard of the Rorschach inkblot test. Different people simply are inclined to see different things.
That explanation may not always hold. There are times that something unusual seems in play.
How about trees, and palmetto fronds, and brush?
When we posted the above photograph taken by a wildlife camera on June 28 at 6:25 p.m. in a small preserve in Flagler County, Florida, it elicited an interesting array of interpretations — from religious to the macabre to the mundane. Most saw holy faces. Some, demonic ones. A number both. Many saw many faces — a seeming crowd of them, at times overlapping and interweaving with the brush. We received dozens upon dozens of e-mails.
Is this nature’s own inkblot — a trick of the mind?
If so, the perplexity is how one of the more prominent forms folks have “seen” in the photograph (if they see anything at all) is what could be interpreted as a Confederate soldier or officer. It’s not what the first person to view it was expecting. (What was expected was a rabbit or deer.)
That’s what some think — “seeing” the hat, the face looking to “his” right, even a uniform with buttons down each side in sort of a circle of leaves in the left-central part of the picture a bit above the photo’s mid-section.
If naught else it is interesting because Confederate soldiers fought what they called “piney battles” — warfare in such thickets — across this general region during the Civil War. Further, a famous Confederate general named General Edmund Kirby Smith was from St. Augustine, which is twenty-five miles to the north. He lived briefly in Florida, was interested in botany and nature, and died in Tennessee. There is currently a dispute over a statue of him in a county just west. The point: though under Union control, there were Confederates in the vicinity. Lord, be always everywhere we go, delivering spirits of the deceased.
But this is no ghost story. Most saw a battle not between the Union and Confederacy but good and evil, angels and demons. It gives us reason all the time everywhere to sprinkle Blessed Salt and pray.
“Here’s my take on this picture,” said a viewer named Sean McDermott of Long Beach, California, in the barrage of e-mails we received. “The most prominent ‘face’ is the one to the extreme right in the photo. It looks like some nasty character with its eyes closed baring its white teeth. The oval one at the top actually looks like a bearded man with a rather pronounced proboscis wearing a hat with his face turned slightly to the left. The large square resembles a bearded man with his eyes closed and tilted to the left as well. The large circle near the bottom looks like someone staring straight ahead, with the palm frond forming an almost pygmy-like goatee. Now I’m curious if there’s a right answer?”
Not really, Sean. Let us here say, In Jesus’ Name, everywhere we go, Lord, cast out negative spirits.
“On the left, two figures, looks like the Blessed Mother resting her head on the shoulder of (Jesus?)” said Chris Montano.
“I see the outline of Mary holding baby Jesus and Joseph embracing them both,” wrote Marianne Litchfield of Orange, Massachusetts.
“In the upper left corner of the photo are tree branches and leaves,” said another viewer, Mary Katherine Lower of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. “Below the leaves, and slightly to the right, I see an Indian Brave with two feathers hanging at the back of his head.”
That’s intriguing because when the property in question recently changed hands, the purchaser found a large white feather on the property — and a second one inside his car. The one on the ground could have fallen from a large seabird (though this is four miles from the ocean). The one in the car was inexplicable. When we looked it up, we noted that the Indians who roamed this region — the Timucua — had headdresses that sometimes had two similar feathers. Lord, heal all the land we traverse upon.
“I see the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem with angels on high surrounding Him!” believes Karen Kabiling. “The Blessed Mother is holding him for us to adore Him! Praise God and thank you!”
“Yes I see Face of Jesus on upper branch,” shared Theresa Maruca from Trenton, New Jersey. But then: “There seems to be a hazy image of the upper half of a man in a fur-trimmed parka, located in the left hand quarter of the picture,” said Louis Guido of Northport, New York. “His head seems to be tilted about twenty degrees to the right. Where did this picture come from?“
As stated, Flagler County, Florida.
“I see a man who is standing in the woods behind and to the left of the white palm frond on the right of the picture,” wrote Dee Kozlowski of Edgewood, Maryland. “He looks like he is ready to set off a cannon which is a bit left of him (in the picture) and behind the center white palm frond.”
“I see an angel with outstretched arms,” said Lynnn Kiernan of New Jersey.
“Divide photo by thirds (nine parts), look in upper center third, and enlarge to see what appears to be an angel riding a white horse in upper left side,” suggested Alan Mast.
As for the demonic visages, they were seen, it seems, especially on the photo’s right.+
A couple of folks saw what looked like a bear, gorilla, or “bigfoot” (in Florida they call this legendary ephemeral creature “skunk ape”).
Lest we leave out: “below thick dark tree branch looks like a leprechaun, clean-shaven, wearing a hat.”
Or — that “general”?
“The answer is no,” says Sheila Bishop. “It just looks like a picture that was taken at night of someone’s garden. No unusual images seen.”
“Wow!” said another who withheld name. ” Very interesting. I’m on a phone looking at the picture and turned it on its side to see it bigger. First thing I saw was what looked like a pig’s face in the front slightly to the right. Then as I was catching my breath I saw what looked like the Sacred Heart of Jesus behind it and more in the middle of the picture. Then it looked like the Immaculate Heart of Mary with her head leaning on Jesus’s shoulder just to the left of Him. As I was able to focus on these I saw a small angel over Mary’s shoulder to the left. Then it seemed there were small figures of people on the right side of Jesus. A large man came into focus behind the angel which slowly seemed to change into a large gorilla.
“I had to stop there and email you. I’ll look at it again but right now I’m a little shook! Sacred Heart of Jesus have Mercy on us, Immaculate Heart of Mary be our Mother and pray for us! I don’t know why I felt that the illuminations in the picture were caused by prayers but I did. I found this picture very unusual. Maybe I should have said which countries that had come to mind when I was looking at the picture (Russia and China). This picture left me in such a foreboding feeling that I couldn’t shake for days.”
“Yes, I see an image of the Holy Family in the photo,” said Timothy Rookey. “I see, on the left side, an endearing image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with her veiled head slightly bowed, lovingly towards Joseph, who is standing on her left, looking lovingly towards her and the Christ Child, Who appears to be in her arms. Joseph’s left arm is turned toward her, and it also looks like the Holy Face in the lower part of his arm.”
“In the left center I see a bearded man with a woman over him a bit to the right,” said Doug Bart of Ave Maria, Florida. “She has a head covering. On the right side I see a rather scary man in the upper branch. About halfway down the right side of the pic is a larger face with a monk-type head covering. Below that and to the right is a small face with bulging eyes and below that is another disturbing face facing down. I am also seeing an ape in the upper left.” (Back to bigfoot?)
“I see Our Lady of Sorrow on the rocks,” said Carol Ann Putzig from Canton, Ohio. “Yes, I see a face of the evil one at the bottom kinda on the left side and other faces too. All weird! Yikes!”+
It gets dizzying.
It is also fascinating.
How about this too: Faith. It is wonderful to see Jesus and Mary everywhere — and also good to know where evil lurks.
We see what we see, don’t we?
And is there anything wrong with seeing Jesus everywhere?
(Below, a photo from the same place and same wildlife camera few days later — this time, a mundane and easily discernible one.)
Peace, peace, peace.
Go to nature and feel the Presence of God’s peace. Pray everywhere for grace. Pray everywhere for the deceased. Pray everywhere in this world of exciting challenge but also exile; pray everywhere and for everyone.
[Let us know ([email protected]) if you see an image in the photo.]