The Art of Darkness

Pareidolia. Probably.

November 22nd, 2008 by Cobwebs

Wem Hall

On November 19, 1995, a resident of the town of Wem in England took some photos of the old town hall. One image shows a little girl gazing placidly out through an open door.

This isn’t at all frightening until you learn that the photos were taken while the building was burning to the ground.

The Wem Hall Ghost is one of the more convincing “ghost photos” ever taken, not only because the face looks so clearly human but because the fire would have prevented a real person from wandering into the picture. It even comes ready-made with a likely suspect for the ghost: A girl named Jane Churm who was responsible for a fire in the town in 1677.

Others just see a really stunning example of pareidolia, humans’ tendency to see faces in completely natural formations (which also explains various holy figures’ habit of appearing in mildew stains and potato chips). A couple of skeptics weigh in here and here.

Even though the face in this photo really really looks like a face, the closeup puts me in mind more than a little of the Face on Mars. It looks human because our brains are wired to interpret it that way. (There’s also the “monkeys and typewriters” issue: Given the sheer number of photos taken around the world every day, there are bound to be a few that catch mundane items at unusual angles.)

So what do you think is the more likely explanation? Falling debris caught at just the right moment, or a glimpse of The Other Side?

Either way, I think it’s a heck of a creepy photograph.

Posted in Whatever | 4 Comments »