25 July, 2014 / Ramazan 26, 1435

Myths & mysteries

Published May 25, 2013 03:01am

The ghostly images of Belmez

We now travel to Spain for this extremely bizarre tale. It all started on August 23, 1971 at a house on Street Real 5, Belmez de la Moraleda in Spain. Maria Gomez was working in her kitchen when the image of a human face started appearing on the cement floor. The face startled her and she called her husband Juan Pereira to show him. He too was amazed at the sudden appearance of the “face” and could find no reason for its being there. Juan and his son Miguel took a pickaxe and broke the floor of their kitchen. A new floor of cement was laid down in the kitchen. But if the Pereiras thought that the strange phenomenon was over, according to them, it was just the beginning. After the new floor was laid, another human face began to form. They informed the mayor of Belmez who came to investigate. He told them not to destroy the image but had the image on the floor cut of the concrete and took it for analysis. The results seemed to be quite inconclusive; anyway we shall come to that later. The incident brought many residents of the area to the house and it became the “talk of the town”. The home became famous as ‘La Casa de las Caras’ — ‘the house of the faces’. The home was built in the 19th century and to get to the bottom of the mystery, the floor under the house was excavated. Interestingly, human remains and bones were found under the house; possibly an old graveyard of some sort. The human bones were removed by the authorities as some thought their restless spirits were forming the images on the floor. But to everyone’s amazement, the faces continued to appear. They would form suddenly and disappear on their own and a new one would form in its place. By 1972, hundreds of tourists were flocking to see the house which became a famous sightseeing spot. The phenomenon went on for 30 years, faces forming with different expressions, some sad, some angry some just like portraits. The family claimed that both male and female faces of different shapes and sizes continued to form on their own. One would think it a truly horrific incident, but strangely Maria Gomez did not take it that way. She felt that they were faces of people trying to tell her something or that they were trying to identify themselves to them for having died either a brutal death or not being buried according to proper religious rites. According to most parapsychologists, it is the best documented evidence and “without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon of the 20th century”. Now we come to the research and theories that are related to the most unique occurrence. The first theory that came forward was that Maria Gomez was capable of psychic ability of a kind of called “Thoughtography”. This is explained by parapsychologists to be a kind of psychokenisis in which a person has the unique ability to form a shape on a surface just by concentrating and thinking about it. But of course there was no way that they could prove it. Parapsychologist researcher of the Belmez faces, Hans Bender, studied the phenomenon for two years. On one occasion, while a face was forming, he sealed it with transparent plastic, but saw that the image was still forming. He mentioned in one of his lectures that “In Belmez, slight changes of the faces’ configuration during the period when the phenomenon was under seal, (attested by a notary), have contributed to ensure its paranormal origin”. A writer Andrew MacKenzie wrote in a book titled, The Seen and the Unseen regarding the scenario. As for the scientific studies, the Instituto de Ceramica, (Institute of Ceramics and Glass), studied samples of the cement and grains and concluded to authorities “that no traces of paint were found at any place”. But even though Institute’s research is widely satisfactory and respected, as far as this phenomenon is concerned, sceptics conducted further studies to prove that the faces were a forgery. Manuel Martin Serrano, from the Complutense University of Madrid was the first sceptic to write a book on the case, as he believed that the Belmez faces were a hoax to gain money and fame. In 1971 the Spanish Ministry of the Interior also asked many different experts who studied chemical analysis of cement and concrete. It was Jose Luis Jordan who was vice president of the Spanish Society of Parapsychology, who stated that the Belmez faces were a fraud. In his interview to the Society, he stated “with regard to the enigma of the chemical procedure, I solved it by discovering that this compound can be found in any drugstore by asking for a German product to remove concrete stains. The mystery that the images were invisible for sometime is hereby solved”. Similarly other chemical researchers put forward several different theories as to how it could be possible to make such images with certain chemicals without the use of paint. In February 2004, Maria Gomez, the alleged psychic died at the age of 85 years. It was supposed that if they were due to her that the strange occurrences were taking place, the faces would stop appearing after her death. Psychic researcher, Pedro Amoros, wanted to see whether any more strange faces would form in the Pereira House after Maria Gomez’s death. Amazingly, more faces did form even after her death. But when the Spanish Media were contacted, they refuted the claims. Moreover, sceptics came to the conclusion that it was Maria’s son Diego Pereira who made these clever images for financial gains. But it is still believed by many that the Belmez faces were indeed a paranormal phenomenon beyond our understanding. Were they really black and white images of lost souls whose bones were found underground or the work of an evil genius? You decide.

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