More Virgin Mary pareidolia

This time, the Virgin Mary is on a tree:

LOCKPORT — A Harvey Street woman claimed on Wednesday that she heard the voice of the Virgin Mary and has seen visions of the Mother of God in the trimmed branches of a maple tree in front of her house.

Antonia “Toni” Filipertis, 84, a devout Catholic, comes to tears when she relates the story which began about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Her family firmly believes her.

Neighborhood children and adults see and wonder. Several teachers from John Pound Elementary School came across the street to take a look. Principal Roberta Donovan could not swear to the apparition but said, “I could see a figure on one and on the other one I could see a cross.”

What is the figure? Filipertis, a native of Poland who met her husband at the Lady of Czestochowa Shrine, is sure it is the Virgin Mary.

Take a look at the picture below the fold and see if you see it, as I sure don’t:


To me it looks like the face of a dog with dark fur and a white nose, but then I always did like dogs.

(Hat tip to Stupid Evil Bastard.)


  1. #1 Stuart Coleman
    September 2, 2006

    I don’t see anything at all except a tree. But then again, I have always been bad at seeing design where there isn’t any.

  2. #2 Joshua
    September 2, 2006

    Why are these people not being locked away where they pose no danger to society? Nothing other than psychotic delusions could explain this.

  3. #3 Justin Hirsh
    September 2, 2006

    I can only see what looks like a fat South America. I’m bad at this. 🙁

  4. #4 Aerik
    September 2, 2006

    This may sound weird, but like looking at a drawing of the edges of a cube on the chalkboard and letting one eye become dominant and then the next, I can see several different things in this picture.

    The first thing I saw within the knot was more like a portrait of some old colonial man, with his hands crossed over his big stomach and the cuffs of his blouse sticking way out from the sleeves of his coat — The picture cuts his head off just under his nose, and you can catch some of his white wig and left cheek on the top right.

    I can also see a dog, or even a guinea pig, with its head cocked to it’s right.

    Then I also just see a normal tree.

  5. #5 Brent McKee
    September 2, 2006

    People are conditioned to look to see faces in things – hence the “Face” on Mars. I look a this and if I look at it at just the right angle (the one that makes my neck hurt a bit) and squint a bit and use more imagination than most TV writers, I sort of see a silhouette of Michalangelo’s Pieta. But that’s stretching it.

  6. #6 ebohlman
    September 2, 2006

    Joshua: nope, psychotic delusions don’t get shared between multiple people. Rather, what you’re seeing is normal brain function leading someone astray. Our brains are basically pattern-matching engines that behave as if they were optimized for sensitivity at the expense of specificity; i.e. they’d rather find a pattern where one really doesn’t exist than miss one that really does. In this case, Ms. Filipertis detected a false pattern match and the “pattern” happened to be one that had a great deal of emotional significance to her. That reinforced her impression that the pattern was in fact real, again through perfectly non-pathological psychological processes; the whole reason why we have the scientific method is that we have to make a conscious effort to override those biases, attribution errors and heuristics in order to avoid jumping to conclusions. She then shared her interpretation of her observation with others for whom the “pattern” is also strongly emotionally significant, and a combination of social pressures and cognitive biases gave them a predisposition to try to find the pattern as well.

  7. #7 Ahcuah
    September 2, 2006

    No, no, no. That’s not the Virgin Mary. That’s my Aunt Agnes.

    She’s been pulling that appear-on-the-side-of-trees trick ever since she died a few years back.

  8. #8 rehana
    September 2, 2006

    I see a face, looking left, eyes down, mouth puckered. Not quite the expression I’d expect from the Virgin Mary, but what do I know?

    One eye is right below where the cracks cross. It’s not the first thing I saw, but now that I’ve seen it it’s clearer than anything else.

  9. #9 Michele
    September 2, 2006

    I see a bear.

  10. #10 The Ridger
    September 2, 2006

    Wow. Normally I can see the things when they’re pointed out – though I don’t always get the same ID. I could see a movie star in the grilled cheese sandwich, and I could see Ernest Hemingway in the asparagus root … This time I can see the dog. I can see the guinea pig – well, something small and furry. I can even see the colonial gentleman – and that’s an odd thing to see, for sure, but it’s clear.

    I see nothing that might be the BVM. This woman is definitely reaching.

  11. #11 llewelly
    September 2, 2006

    I see the Bloodshot Eye of Orcus.

  12. #12 Eric Wilner
    September 2, 2006

    I see a Shadow ship wibbling out of hyperspace.

  13. #13 Sid Schwab
    September 2, 2006

    It looks a little like an intact hymen, which is, we must admit, not inconsistent with a virgin.

  14. #14 Amy Alkon
    September 3, 2006

    Sid is very funny.

    If you think about it, if you’re a teenaged girl, and you’re knocked up by some hippie stable boy, what do you tell your father, “It was the dirty hippie boy” — or “God did it”?

    Smart Jewish girl, that Mary!

  15. #15 Alison
    September 3, 2006

    I see the profile of one of the Seven Dwarfs. . .

    Since nobody worships them, though, I won’t be contacting the media.

  16. #16 Samantha Vimes
    September 3, 2006

    I couldn’t see anything but a tree until someone mentioned the Shadow ship coming out of hyperspace. *That* I can see just fine.

  17. #17 Pharma Market Researcher
    September 3, 2006

    Why has no one mentioned that this lady also heard the voice of the Virgin Mary? My speaker is muted so I don’t hear anything!

  18. #18 Crafty Witch
    September 3, 2006

    I see a cat grooming itself.

  19. #19 Scott Simmons
    September 3, 2006

    Quoth Stuart Coleman: “I don’t see anything at all except a tree. But then again, I have always been bad at seeing design where there isn’t any.”

    See, you’d be a fun guy to send to a psychiatrist who liked to use Rorschach tests. “What does this look like to you?” “It, um, looks like a blob of ink on a card.” “No, I mean, what do you see in the blob?” “You’re a very strange man. Have you considered seeking professional help?”

  20. #20 Roman Werpachowski
    September 3, 2006


    Why are these people not being locked away where they pose no danger to society?

    What danger do they pose, pray tell me? Are you in favor of locking up everyone who believes in something irrational?

    I just love it when someone’s tyrannism just comes out like that.

  21. #21 Joshua
    September 3, 2006

    We lock up schizophrenics, don’t we? I completely fail to see the difference here.

    ebohlman: I’m well aware of what pareidolia is and how it works. This goes beyond. Most cases at least provide a vague suggestion of a pattern, so I can see how the brain would build an image out of it. This, on the other hand, may as well be snow on a TV screen.

  22. #22 Roman Werpachowski
    September 3, 2006

    We lock up schizophrenics, don’t we? I completely fail to see the difference here.

    I have a surprise for you: no, we don’t. We lock up only people who are really dangerous to other people or themselves. This is not the case here.

    Would you like to lock her up as well if she claimed she had seen Elvis Presley in a shopping mall?

  23. #23 James
    September 4, 2006

    This thread is too funny!

    All i see is a spot on a tree. I would like to be able to see the shadow ship, but i can’t (or perhaps its just gone off to find Mr Morden or something) 😉

  24. #24 Bob C
    September 4, 2006

    Crafty witch, we have a pareidolia match. I see a white cat, body facing the viewer, but with her head turned to the right, as she is licking her fur, so we see the back of the head. And how do I know she’s female? I allow a tiny bit of imagination into my otherwise factual observations.

  25. #25 Meri
    September 4, 2006

    I see Smoky the Bear, but without his hat.

  26. #26 beepbeepitsme
    September 5, 2006

    RE pareidolia
    The Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus Appear On A Potato

  27. #27 Joshua
    September 5, 2006

    Well, don’t come crying to me when the image starts commanding this lady to KILL.

  28. #28 Roman Werpachowski
    September 5, 2006

    Thankfully, in my country we don’t lock up people because they *might* kill someone…

  29. #29 James
    September 6, 2006

    For one thing you would have to lock up everyone.

  30. #30 Andy
    September 7, 2006

    Definitely a squirrel. One of those white ones. It’s cleaning its tail.

  31. #31 gilbert
    June 5, 2007

    image just like the virgin mary face. it is so real.. here i would like to share an images of virgin mary who appears in the coconut three from patikang ulu keningau sabah malaysia.

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