Posts Tagged “apparition”

Angel statueMany of my readers will have heard about the so-called “angel priest” in Missouri. If not, here’s a quick sketch: There’s a car accident and a teen is trapped in a car. Crews are trying to extricate her, but having no luck. A priest magically materializes out of nowhere, prays with her, tells rescuers their efforts will now be effective, and voilà! they free her. The priest then magically disappears. Later photos show no one at the scene who looks like a priest. There doesn’t seem to be any way a priest could have just wandered up to the accident and left without anyone seeing him go, so everyone decides this “priest” is an “angel” and the teen’s rescue is a genuine miracle. It was widely reported, including in this USA Today article (cached), although virtually every media outlet in the country mentioned it in some way.

I’m sure some of you wonder why I never mentioned this story while it was racing through the country last week. The reason is, I was sure there was more to this story that hadn’t been revealed, and didn’t want to remark on it until additional information had come in.

It turns out I was right to wait. There was more to be told about this event. As CNN reports, we now know this priest was no “angel,” but a plain old flesh-&-blood human being (WebCite cached article):

[The Rev. Patrick] Dowling, a priest since 1982, revealed in a comment on a story posted on the National Catholic Register that he was the man who prayed over Lentz, 19, while emergency workers treated her for injuries after an August 4 accident.

Dowling wrote in the comment, which has since been deleted: “I absolved and anointed Katie, and, at her request, prayed that her leg would not hurt. Then I stepped aside to where some rescue personnel and the pilot were waiting, and prayed the rosary silently.”

Dowling’s presence had been a mystery because officials at the scene said it seemed as if he appeared from nowhere, couldn’t be found in any pictures taken at the scene and left without anyone seeing where he went.

Rescuers said the mysterious priest told them to be calm and their tools would now work.

I want everyone to note that Fr Dowling’s account of this event differs a bit from the reports of those involved. In particular, he never says he told crews their equipment would now work, when it hadn’t before. It turns out, there’s a reason they were able to free the trapped teen: Right about then, the car had been righted, and fresh equipment was brought up to the crash, those did the job.

He also mentions that he identified himself to a trooper or deputy, so people later claiming that no one knew who he was, were lying.

This is a sterling example of how “miracle” stories can be confabulated and fabricated from otherwise-mundane events. We have an accident scene with a lot of people around, all trying to get something done (namely, free someone from a wrecked car, and gather evidence for an accident investigation). It’s chaotic and hard for anyone involved to know what’s going on outside of whatever it is s/he is doing. There’s also a little embellishment, plus some strategic omissions (e.g. the trooper to whom Fr Dowling identified himself conveniently failing to mention he knew who the priest was, while this story about an “angel priest” flashed around the country). And there’s also the little matter of lying about the circumstances (i.e. folks insisted there’d been no possible way anyone could have approached the accident scene; obviously that couldn’t have been true).

I have to give credit to Fr Dowling for his honesty afterward in revealing who he was. I’m sure lots of believers out there will nevertheless view this is a “miracle” in spite of his admission and in spite of the fact that it was righting the car — plus a fresh rescue crew with fresh equipment — that got Ms Lentz extricated, not some mysterious “angel priest’s” magical intervention. Believers never let pesky little things like “facts” get in the way of an emotionally-compelling story.

Note: The famous urban legend debunking site Snopes just weighed in on this story (cached).

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Screen shot of video report by KOAT-TV, 'Jesus in Tortilla?'

Screen shot of video report by KOAT-TV, 'Jesus in Tortilla?'

It must be tough for the Almighty, finding things he can do with his infinite power and wisdom. Oh sure, he could probably bring about world peace, end hunger, cure every disease, and all of those other “big ticket items” in a flash. Easy stuff for an omnipotent being! But he can’t do any of that, you see … for some reason only he happens to know. Being boxed in, you’d think he’d find it tough to express his omnipotence.

When you’re the Almighty, though, you manage to find a way, nonetheless. And recently he did just that. The Christian Post reports he branded his own visage (or that of his son) on the surface of a tortilla, in Espanola, NM (WebCite cached article):

Another alleged sighting of Jesus is causing a stir once again, this time in New Mexico where a man claims Jesus appeared to him on a fresh baked tortilla.

David Sandoval from Espanola couldn’t believe what he was seeing last week when he sat down to eat dinner with his mother on Ash Wednesday.

There on one of his tortillas his mother made was the startling image of what resembles Jesus (see the image here, [cached]).

As we all know, seeing divine images in things is not new. People see Jesus and the Virgin Mary in things all the time, and I’ve blogged on some of them. Rather helpfully, the C.P. lists some prior appearances of the specific divine manifestation known as “the Tortilla Jesus”:

Holy images on the tortilla have reportedly been around for decades, beginning in 1977, when a woman named Maria Rubio from Lake Arthur, New Mexico, discovered a thumb-sized print of Jesus while rolling up a burrito for her husband.

Rubio created a small shrine for what was hailed as the first “Holy Tortilla,” and more than 35,000 people reportedly visited her home to see it, leaving flowers and photos of sick loved ones.

I’m sure all those believers would be happy to think their loved ones were cured by the intercession of the Tortilla Jesus. I’m more certain that, if any of them were helped, it was either by the illness or malady running its course naturally, or the intervention of doctors and nurses using conventional medical treatments. Let’s forget all the great work they do and ignore their contributions to our lives, and instead, give God all the credit. Why, how appreciative!

Folks, as I’ve noted previously and will say again, this is the phenomenon known as pareidolia. The human mind is hard-wired to discover patterns, and find recognizable things, in otherwise-accidental formations. There’s nothing magical or divine about it. With millions of tortillas being cooked around the world each day, it’s quite natural that occasionally one of them is going to end up with a Jesus-shaped scorch mark on it. To assume the Almighty branded it himself using his magical power — and that he has infinite power, but expresses it only in ways like this one — is just so fucking ridiculous, I hardly know what else to say about it.

Photo credit: KOAT-TV (screen shot).

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Picture on receipt / WYFF-TVIt’s an old story, people seeing figures in random things. This is a known phenomenon, called pareidolia, and it happens because the human brain is wired to detect and discern familiar patterns in things. It seems to be particularly common among the religious, who are forever seeing the Virgin Mary, angels, Jesus, etc. in things and proclaiming these appearances to be “miracles.” The latest such example comes from South Carolina, as reported by WYVV-TV in Greenville (WebCite cached article):

An engaged couple in Anderson County says a shadowy image that turned up on a receipt from Walmart looks like the face of Jesus.

Jacob Simmons and his fiancee, Gentry Lee Sutherland, said they bought some pictures from Walmart on Sunday, June 12.

The following Wednesday, the couple had just come home from a church service when Simmons spotted the receipt on the floor of Sutherland’s apartment. He says the receipt had changed.

The appearance of this apparition didn’t come as much of a surprise to the couple:

“Then the more you look at it, the more it looked like Jesus, and it was just shocking, breathtaking,” Simmons said.

The couple said the image seemed to answer a question they had just been asked at church.

“We had a message on knowing God, abiding in him,” Sutherland said. “(The preacher asked) ‘If you know God, would you recognize him if you saw him?'”

Folks, blotches of this sort form all the time on store receipts like this one, especially in the summer, since they’re printed on thermal paper, which — by design — darkens with heat. That the blotches can appear to form something recognizable — such as in indeterminate face — is not at all surprising, given the many millions of such receipts which are printed every day in this country. This very well could be a coincidental production.

Or, it might have been by design: One could very easily heat up a plate with a face engraved on it, press it to the receipt, and voilà! instant Jesus-face.

Folks, there’s nothing to see here. No supernatural power is needed in order to explain this. Besides, the idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with the infinite power at his disposal than to imprint his blotchy face on a Walmart receipt (and upside-down, at that!) in South Carolina is, well, laughable in the extreme. Get over yourselves, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: WYFF-TV.

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X-ray jesusThe week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is typically a slow news week. Lots of people are on vacation, including politicians and other notable figures, leaving journalists looking for fluff and nonsense to fill print space and/or airtime. An example of this phenomenon is this non-story about Jesus being seen in an x-ray, dutifully reported by WXIN-TV in Indianapolis (WebCite cached article):

A holiday miracle here in central Indiana is bringing hope to one family. An Elwood woman is battling cancer by keeping Jesus close to her heart, literally.

She has the x-rays to prove it. …

On December 12th, [Karen] Sigler was sick in the hospital with pnemonia [sic]. She says Jesus made himself clear right on her x-ray, “My faith just got a little stronger since I seen that Jesus was sitting on my heart and that he’s there and you can see him. He’s there.”

The problem, of course, is that there’s absolutely no recognizable figure in this X-ray:

A putative X-ray containing a figure of Jesus, courtesy of WXIN-TV

A putative X-ray containing a figure of Jesus, courtesy of WXIN-TV

If you can see Jesus — or anything else — in this X-ray, let me know … ’cause I just don’t see it.

Ordinarily I’d call this story a case of pareidolia, or seeing something definite in an otherwise amorphous shape … but in this case I can’t, because there is nothing here to be seen.

Yet another example of a journalism FAIL — and doubly so, since “pneumonia” is misspelled in the story! Enough already with the dreadful lazy journalism, OK? (Yes, any reporters who may be reading this … I’m talking to YOU. Just fucking stop it with the insipid tripe!)

Photo credit: hfb.

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The Virgin Mary ... in a door? Where?I’ve blogged before about Virgin Mary being seen in things, such as in the murky frost between panes of glass, and in the knots on some plywood. This time the Virgin Mary has shown up in someone’s door in Durham, North Carolina. WTVG in Toledo reports on this stunning revelation (WebCite cached article):

We’ve all heard stories of images of the Virgin Mary appearing on everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to highway underpasses. Now, a Durham, NC woman says the Virgin Mary literally appeared in her bedroom door – and hundreds have flocked to her apartment to get a glimpse.

“It appeared on February 28th on Sunday at about 9:30 in the morning,” Carolina Martinez told ABC11.

Martinez said the image appeared on the door of a spare bedroom after a friend spent the night.

“She called for me and told me that she saw the image and I told her no, that she was crazy,” Martinez recalled.

But she now believes.

Note the common trope of initial disbelief, followed by having been convinced by someone else. Ms Martinez said a church elder told her that the image was “just lines,” which upset her:

“I came home very sad because these are things of God and I would not play with something like that.”

Oh, of course, Ms Martinez. Of course you couldn’t possibly “play with” this, because it’s “of God.” How horrible of someone to make such an accusation?

Moreover, Ms Martinez has many supporters:

But hundreds of people apparently don’t think they’re just lines. The Sunday the image appeared, Martinez said something amazing happened.

“We told three neighbors and we stayed. Because with that, more than 300 people came that Sunday until about 1a.m.,” said Martinez.

And they haven’t stopped coming.

Well, obviously, there can no longer be any doubt! 300 people have spoken, and it can only be a genuine visitation by the blessed Virgin Mary.

That said, I honestly can’t see anything even remotely resembling the Virgin Mary — or any other person — in this door. WTVG has a small gallery of photos; I challenge anyone to show where the image is. It’s not there.

This is, of course, yet another example of the psychological phenomenon known as pareidolia. Nothing more.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: WTVG, Toledo, OH.

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The Almighty has decided to grace this planet with his glorious likeness … on, of all things, a clothes iron belonging to a Methuen, Massachusetts woman. The Boston Globe has the story:

Until this week, Mary Jo Coady had never given her iron a second thought. Then she saw a likeness of Jesus staring back from its not-quite stainless steel bottom.

Startled, Coady called in her daughters, both of them college students, and they saw what she saw. Then she took a picture and posted it on her private Facebook page, giving friends and relatives the same test. Everyone saw Jesus, she said.

“So I said, ‘OK, I’m not crazy,’ ’’ recalled Coady, a 44-year-old who works as a secretary in a medical office. After a challenging couple of years in which she let her Catholic faith wane, Coady found that the image had given her a spiritual boost. So she chose to share it with some others.

For the record I don’t think Ms Coady is “crazy.” I think she is interpreting the appearance of a blob of something on the bottom of her clothes iron as being the face of Jesus. That isn’t insanity or “craziness”; rather, it’s pareidolia, a known psychological phenomenon to which everyone is subject, at one time or another, and which has nothing to do with mental illness, intellect, or anything else of that kind.

For the record, here is a picture of the image in question on her iron:

AP Photo/The Eagle-Tribune, Grant Morris

AP Photo/The Eagle-Tribune, Grant Morris

Having acquired this image — however one believes it arrived there — Ms Coady certainly wasted no time exploiting her Warholian “15 minutes” of fame:

Coady first saw the image Nov. 22. She told The Eagle-Tribune of Lawrence about it and was featured in yesterday’s paper; the Associated Press picked up on it, and by that afternoon a picture of Coady’s iron had appeared on more than 200 news websites. It generated dozens of anonymous comments, and the jeering tone of many of them caught her by surprise.

For all that, however, Ms Coady is kind enough to claim not to be making demands on others:

Coady is not trying to persuade others to see Jesus where she does.

But this seems a little disingenuous to me: If trumpeting this “discovery” to the local newspaper — and being interviewed by every media outlet in Massachusetts — isn’t “trying to persuade others,” I don’t know what is!

At least she’s in good company, because not far away from here in Rhode Island, earlier this year, the Virgin Mary made an appearance in the knots on a piece of wood, and about a year ago the Virgin Mary put in an appearance in a fogged-up window in a hospital in Springfield, MA.

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It’s strange how the Lord chooses to reveal himself. Sometimes it’s in the form of a Virgin Mary apparition, which can show up in odd — and sometimes indiscernible — places like in the mist between two panes of window glass or in a knot pattern in a slab of wood. One would think God would reveal himself in much more efficient, and less fuzzy, ways … but hey, as the theists say, “the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

As if this cop-out actually explains anything.

Well, God has revealed himself once again. This time it’s in Florida, and it was on three slices of fried salami. WFOR-TV (CBS4) reports on this miraculous event:

South Florida woman (sic) is re-examining her faith. She was in the kitchen cooking a family favorite when letters appeared on the salami in her frying pan. The letters spelled out the word GOD. …

We witnessed the letters G.O.D. spelled out on three slices of fried salami. Simoes had placed the pieces of Salami on a plate on the table for our cameras to videotape. …

“You realize people could think you are making this up,” asked CBS4’s Jorge Estevez to Simoes. “I can’t make this up. You see it. It’s there you can see burn marks,” said Simoes as she pointed at the plate of sliced Salami.

Aside from the question of why anyone would want to fry salami — it’s already a dried meat and frying it will just make it drier — I do, in fact, also question whether this is “made up.” It’s not that I don’t question what I see in the picture. Instead, I question the means by which it came to pass.

The salami that spells GOD!Look closely at the picture:

The letters “G” and “O” (and I suppose a misshapen “D,” though it looks like a second “O” to me) are clearly there in the salami. But … the letters are raised on the surface of the meat. The woman who “found” the letters miraculously scarred into the salami, might instead have pressed through the meat on the pan while it was cooking and forced the scarring to occur in that pattern. She would have had to impress a mirror image of the letters in order to achieve this effect, but that certainly would have been only a mild impediment to pulling this off.

In many cases of this kind, such as the wood and the window I mentioned previously, I chalk up these divine appearances to the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia … which is recognizing a resemblance to something else, in an otherwise-random pattern. This “God in the salami,” however, is clearly not pareidolia. That scorched letter “G” (at the very least) is not accidental or coincidental. But it may well have been purposely done by the woman cooking her salami.

So, do I believe this is a true supernatural revelation of God’s awesome power? Of course not. Surely the Almighty has better things to do with his time than scorch letters into pan-fried lunch meat!

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