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 »

4 Responses

  1. Memarie Lane Says:

    the close-up still looks like a girl to me. new mexico magazing published a pic a couple years ago that a tourist took in the hall of governors in santa fe. it clearly showed a figure of a man in a dark vest and cowboy hat on the stairs.

    i think it doesn’t really matter whether it’s real or not. no matter what it is there will be someone with another explanation. but i’ve had too many encounters with ghosts not to believe in them.

  2. alejna Says:

    Oh, wow. That is a creepy photo.

    And pareidolia is a very cool word. I’ll have to remember it.

    There was some wallpaper in the bathroom of my grandmother’s house with a sort of swirling marble pattern on it, and there were 3 or so (repeating) swirls that looked like faces to me. When I was little, they creeped me out.

  3. Tabitha Says:

    The close-up looked even more real to me, too. Of course, my brain could be quite hard-wired to see those things–wouldn’t suprise me a bit.

    I do tend to see (even look for)faces in wallpaper, stucco, and any other non-solid surface.

    Creepy photo either way!

  4. Pam Says:

    It is way too real looking. I’m with one of the commenters above: pareidolia is a cool word.

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