Pretty Puzzling Pareidolia: The False Head Photograph
I am not easily impressed with supposedly paranormal photos. Orbs have simply been explained, and mists, light anomalies, unexplained objects, etc. are often due to mundane factors: flailing camera straps, breath, cigarette smoke, digital camera artifacts. Besides all this, they're usually not all that interesting anyway.
Although they are a bit more intriguing, instances of pareidolia—objects that appear to take on meaningful significance via an illusion of sorts—are often fairly mundane as well. Faces among the rocks, bigfoot in the trees, angels in the clouds: they're usually kind of fun, but often fairly superficial and happenstance.
Every now and then, a photo comes along that seems to have layers of meaning. I recall a photo of Art Bell that was taken by his webcam, while he was chatting evil with "Harlot the Witch." I can't recall the story exactly, but at some point the "reverse speech" Coast to Coast guests had taken snippets of that infamous C2C conversation and played it backwards. Deeply creepy, it was like poetry; dark and desperate, from some gothic-bad afterlife. Unfortunately, I can't find that transcript anywhere online—it seems to have been removed from the reversespeech.com website.
I was recently browsing the gallery at the About.com Paranormal site that my husband, Stephen Wagner, runs. I came across a large icon of what appeared at first to be consistent with a Victorian era spirit photograph. There seemed to be a couple of "sitters" with a large head floating between them. Clicking on the image, and thus enlarging it, it seemed an unlikely spirit photograph—it was taken outdoors, not in a studio. So, what in the world is the strange, blatant profile-portrait in the middle of this photograph?
I had to block the false hair with my hand to see it. And there it is—a toddler dressed in white, a large cap over his face, bended elbow—creating a perfection simulacrum of a man's profile. When I spoke to Steve about this photo he'd posted, his response was something like "Oh yeah, that is strange…" I had a feeling he hadn't seen the child on the knee, and when we looked at it together, I blocked the false hair out with my hand and described the child's hat covering his face, the bent elbow…and he literally jumped.
The sender of the photo states it is a family photograph received from her grandmother, that the child had died soon after the picture was taken. She referred to the false head as "Jesus." There's an obvious similarity to standard Jesus portraiture, certainly.
However, note how the false head may actually resemble the seated man in the photograph. Although the quality is poor, it appears he has a beard, and interestingly, the right side of his face is entirely in shadow, mimicking a bit the idea of the left-sided portrait false head. The sender noted there is an "angel's face in the hair of Jesus" as well. I don't see that clearly, but careful examination reveals some other anomalies that seem to mirror the photographed family.
There are some other anomalies within the photo that seem to be more on a more mundane level—for one, there is what appears to be a "shadow" image of the seated man. To the far right, there is a light face at the same level, in a very similar position, very similar proportions, including a similar hat and collar. I say this is mundane because it's not as striking as the false head, and not a photorealistic as the imposed images. Nevertheless, it does add to the unfolding strangeness of this very anomalous photograph.
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