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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?

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