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By on July 31, 2011, with 48 Comments

Pareidolia is what happens when someone sees the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast or Jesus in Google Earth. Essentially, it is the result of our minds taking a random image or sound and turning it in to something more significant. Some scientists, like Carl Sagan, speculate that this message is hard-wired into our minds to help us identify human faces as quickly as possible.

One of the most famous non-divine examples of this phenomenon was the Old Man of the Mountain located in The White Mountains of New Hampshire. If you were wondering why I chose to say “was” instead of “is,” it’s because the Old Man is no more after the face fell from the cliff side in May of 2003. Even so, the face is still remembered by all of the world and it was such a major part of New Hampshire’s identity that it was used as the image on their state quarters that were released in 2000.

Here’s a composite image of the Old Man of the Mountain before and after the rock face crumbled.

If you’re looking for a similar natural illusion that is still standing, you can always head to Ebihens, France and explore the much less famous Apache Head in the Rocks pictured here.

Do any of you guys know other places where you can find human faces in nature?

  • Dave Swan

    Try these on Google Map

    50° 0’38.20″N 110° 6’48.32″W Native American

    ‪+50° 1′ 6.38″, -110° 8′ 38.38″‬ Viking in Helmut
    ‪+50° 4′ 4.77″, -110° 11′ 2.23″‬Rip Van Winkle

  • MikeInSpain

    Sleeping Indian mountain range in Jackson Hole, Wyoming: http://www.jackson-hole-adventure.com/jackson-hole-vacations.html

    • Allan Frolick

      You said Jackson HOLE. hahaha

  • How about the Sleeping Lady mountain in Alaska. The pictures I found weren’t all that great. In person she’s much more identifiable.

  • Charles

    Try Grandfather Mountain NC US

  • Hans M

    On the south end of the island Gotland in Sweden. It’s called “Hoburgsgubben” wich means the old man at Hoburgen.

    • Tommy

      The north side of the island Gotland (Fårö) in Sweden has a number of rocky formations called “Raukar” that looks like faces.

  • J Kess

    The “Indian Head” in Upper Michigan’s Pictured Rock Lake Shore has been revered for centuries. I’ve found a few pictures of it, but it’s much more realistic in person. The one found on this page: http://www.daysinnmunising.com/index.php?page=Pictured_Rocks

    is pretty good.

  • Scott

    Beautiful photo; vivid colors.

    It’s not just faces…

    While this page was loading, I was in the mindset “I’ve seen this before” and therefore I was letting my mind wander…

    In my non-attentive state, I saw a HOUSE on top of this natural wonder!

    I’m *SO* used to seeing man-made structures in nature. Nature is no longer natural any more (to me).

    The “house” in this photo turned back to a rock when I woke up and paid attention.

    I wonder if pareidolia isn’t so much of “we are thrown to see faces” but rather “we are thrown to see what we have become accustomed to seeing.”

  • Alin
  • michelle

    if u look the rock still looks like a face!!!! i think he just got a face lift.all famous celebrities do.

  • Dan

    The Old Man was well loved here in NH and lives on as a state emblem on license plates, signs, and anywhere else you look. When the face fell, many proposals surfaced to rebuild it out of stone, concrete, or fiberglass. The final solution is now under construction and should please visitors to this site, as it involves construction of multiple granite blocks that must be viewed from the proper angle to recreate the original sight. The eventual design is discussed on the official site at http://www.nh.gov/visitors/oldman.htm. While the granite blocks are under construction, temporary versions known as profilers are in place to give visitors a glimpse of the Old Man (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/us/12memorial.html?pagewanted=all).

  • Tony

    Another example coming from Pipestone. MN at the the Pipestone National Monument



  • Sinal

    try the Winking Man in the Peak District in Northern England


  • dada

    in Italy there is a small village named Cefalù which lies at the foot of a mountain said to resemble a head. the name of the village, in fact, comes from greek “kephalos” (head).

    actually, I was there and the illusion is not so “stunning” :-)

    here a photo: 1439_cefalu_veduta_aerea_del_golfo.jpg


  • BK


    Interstate State Park Old Man of the Dalles

    • BK

      Or on Google Maps

      50° 2′ 42.05″, -110° 0′ 4.67″

      Zoom out to about a 1 Mile scale

  • Darm58

    We may have lost Old Man of the Mountain but it appears to have been replaced with a canine face…

  • papasan99

    Sedona, AZ has many rock formations: merry-go round, Cathedral rock, snoopy, coffee pot rock and lots more.

  • Ant

    I remember seeing one in Grand Canyon back in the early 1980/80s as a child/kid.

  • Terryjw

    Indian Rock- because it looks like a native american head with head dress in Menorca

  • Alex

    The cliff face silhouette on Stac Levenish, St Kilda, Scotland

  • ZL123

    Quite nice.

    I just saw a documentary on TV about a place just FULL of mountains with faces on them. It was somewhere in South America (Peru, if I’m not mistaken), but I’ve forgot the name. There was a face of a Middle-eastern man, an African man, a Westerner, and other animals’ faces, like frogs and horses. It was so cool. They were probably not carved, as a face stretched over kilometres. You should go check it out, but as I said, I forgot the name of this place.


    • ZL123

      Ooh, just saw the Google Jesus Illusion. I happened to look for the place I was talking about earlier, and I saw the Jesus Illusion on another site. It appears it’s on bing too.


      They said there was a portal or a wormhole that an ancient man went through (in Peru, of course :P), and never came back.

  • A.J.

    There is another natural mountain “face” just south of the “Old Man of the Mountains” in Lincoln, NH, USA.
    It is called the “Indian Head”, and there is a resort of the same name across the road from it.

  • A.J.

    Here is a phot of the “Indian Head” in Lincoln, NH.
    Not as striking as the Old Man of the Mountains, but a tourist destination nontheless.

  • A.J.

    Now here is the URL for the photo – I forgot to add it to my last post…picc39948.php

  • Glenn

    Try the “sleeping giant” to the north of Helena Montana.


  • Phil Terry

    I believe this is the coolest post ever, due to the contributions of readers. Many thanks.

  • Hypersapien

    There’s a rock face (no pun intended) in Hawaii that looks like John F Kennedy


  • Arny

    look at Externsteine in:
    look in the right lower corner of the picture; I did a graphic interpretation, but I am not able in sending the picture; I can I do?

  • Tina

    Lincoln’s silhouette in Mulu national park in Borneo.


  • avi spier

    Am I crazy or does this mountain have a devil facejpeg.20110804214108

  • Abob

    Okay, i dont no wht its called but if u go to the spanish island of mallorca on holiday, go to the puerto pollensa resort and go to the espirea block of the apartments of the flora aparthotels, then go up the staircase to the top floor and stand in front of the door to room 23. look at the mountains in front of you and you should be able to see a womans face in one of them.

  • xntrkman

    There is one in Bullhead City, AZ. It looks like a Old Native American elder. I have pictures but GOD only knows where THEY are. That was YEARS ago. But I must say, I remember it very well and it looked more real than ANY of the pictures posted above. I’m sure there MUST be pictures SOMEWHERE of this face looking towards the heavens. As the sun appears to progress through the sky the face changes. It’s magnificent!

  • stuart

    Never new there was a technical name for it…359486

  • Kaz
  • bill

    This Native American keeps watch over the entrance to Covered Portage Cove just west of Killarney in Ontario’s North Channel.


  • Suor de Sapo
  • Suor de Sapo

    I call them ‘Cydonia faces’ because of the gigantic face found on Mars in the region of Cydonia.

  • Suor de Sapo
  • Serge
  • Monica

    there is a face of a man in the mountain in Lincoln New Hampshire

  • Christopher

    very cool !

  • Monkey face- Terrebonne, Oregon . A climbing attraction for serious climbers. I live a hop , skip and jump away : )

  • Magic & Abstract Nature :-) Please Tilt your neck a little & and tell me what do you Think !!!

    AMAZING WATER REFLECTION of Snow Covered Hills; All Photos taken of the same Place … From different Angles… At DIFFERENT TIME


  • DP

    I seem to remember a formation called Indian Head at Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania.

  • Mike

    The Great Stone Face in Pennington Gap, VA in my home county. It’s likeness has graced the front page of the local paper for decades.