You may not know the word "pareidolia," but you definitely know what it is — it's the thing that makes you think you see identifiable objects in otherwise random patterns.
In other words, that rubber duck you saw in the clouds yesterday? The pirate captain I’m convinced is in the swirl of pattern in my shower tile? Jesus in a tree stump? All pareidolia—though you might have a hard time convincing some people that the savior’s appearance in a rotten log is anything but a sign from above. Pareidolia or miracle? We’ll let you be the judge of these 10 examples.
1. Jesus after a Colombian rockslide
In March, a landslide cleared the side of a hill in the Putumayo province of Colombia—and some people think it left more than just dirt and rubble in its wake. If you want to witness the miracle in person, be prepared to pay: Some locals are charging visitors to see it.
2 Jesus in a tree stump in Belfast
What started out as regular maintenance at Belfast City Cemetery became a religious experience when the cemetery grounds crew noticed this dark pattern in the stump of a tree they had cut down.
3. Jesus in the Cone Nebula
Some people believe they see Jesus in this shot of the Cone Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA, on the other hand, describes it as "resembling a nightmarish beast rearing its head from the crimson sea." Not seeing it, either? Here you go.
4. Jesus in a rock in Ghana
In 2004, thousands of people flocked to a Catholic church in Ghana to gaze upon an image embedded in the pattern of the marble inside a grotto on the grounds. In fact, so many believers showed up to pray at or be healed by the image of Jesus that officials feared a stampede and called in police to control the situation.
5. Mary in a pebble in New Zealand
Kirk Hargreaves // The Press
In 2007, New Zealander Lisa-Marie Corlet sold this pebble emblazoned with the image of Mary for $50,000. Unfortunately, the online bid was a hoax, and Corlet was forced to relist it. "I won't take less than $50,000 for it," she said. "If someone is willing to pay $28,000 for a piece of toast, I'm sure someone out there would pay at least that for rock."
6. Mary in a tree
A resident of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., discovered this image of the Virgin Mary in 2012—across the street from a church, no less. "I could kind of see the resemblance," one eyewitness said.
7. Mary on a tree
For a depiction that's a little bit bigger, head to Polk City, Iowa, where a six-foot-tall Mary adorns a tree near a bridge.
8. Mary in a bush
In 1953, three Catholic school girls from Philadelphia were on their way home from class when they saw a vision of Mary coming from a bush in a nearby park. Their claim was enough to bring 70,000 people to the site, many claiming they felt the bush had healing powers. Some even smelled roses emanating from the plant. (It wasn't a rose bush.)
9. Mary on the face of a cliff
Known as "Madonna of the rock," this image began to take shape in the cliffs near Casaletto Spartano in Italy last year when a piece of rock broke away during a landslide.
10. Mary in a splatter of bird poop
It's not quite as elegant as the other examples on the list, but it's definitely nature. In 2009, a family in Texas noticed that a certain splatter on the windshield of the family truck looked a lot like the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We'll let you be the judge.